Derecho Aftermath

Derecho

Ten days later, residents of Ontario and Quebec are still dealing with the aftermath of the derecho that hit here recently. Originally no one knew what to call it; however experts soon weighed in to label it a derecho. Google says that’s pronounced dr·ay·chow.

What is a Derecho?

The dictionary describes the phenomena as follows:

a line of intense, widespread, and fast-moving windstorms and sometimes thunderstorms that moves across a great distance and is characterized by damaging winds.

Oxford Dictionary

My brother, currently living the good life in Mexico, pointed out that derecho means “straightforward” in Spanish. Both descriptions make sense as the distinct path spread across Ontario and Quebec from the Toronto region heading northeast, wreaking havoc on its way. Winds were clocked at up to 132 km (82 miles) per hour.

I am still shaking my head in awe at the fact that plastic chairs on our cottage deck were untouched while three trees crashed to the ground all around the same deck. Unbelievable! Big Bird didn’t even bat an eyelash, while we were hiding out in the basement in shock.

Dealing with the Aftermath

Downed hydro wires, poles, and transmission towers as well as magnificent, mature trees ripped out by their roots or split in two (or more) are still being repaired and cleaned up. We have now reached the first day of June on the calendar. Many people just regained their electricity within the past few days while others, including our cottage, are still out. Over 900,000 homes were without power at some point. We have been keeping an eye on the (very convenient) Hydro One Storm Centre site for updates in the rural areas of Ontario so we know when to head back to the cottage to begin the massive cleanup.

One of the advantages of our (Ottawa) suburb of Kanata is that most hydro wires are buried underground. So, while we lost lots of trees, the streets and neighbourhoods within the heart of Ottawa were strewn with hydro wires, poles (last count is 200), and transmission towers.

Insurance Coverage

The Insurance Bureau of Canada advises those policyholders affected to be sure to:

document storm damage to their homes, belongings and automobiles using video and pictures. It has also prescribed that policyholders should keep the receipts if they are having a crew help with the cleanup or remediation of their properties.

IBC

In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

Ten victims of the storm paid the ultimate price with their lives when they were unable to get out of the way of falling trees. Many of us were warned to take cover from severe thunderstorms just before the derecho hit. That was helpful if you were close to your cell phone or TV and close enough to a shelter from the storm.

Sadly, not everyone was. My heart aches for the victims as well as their families and friends.

Our cleanup pales in comparison. For that fact I am grateful!

Shepherds of Good Hope Grateful for Donations

Recently I was helping a friend clean out her closet in anticipation of a move to a retirement residence. We ended up with three large bags of clothing, purses and the like to donate. I promised her I would look into donating her beautiful (she has great taste in clothing) and cherished items to a women’s shelter or a similar organization. Thanks to Google, I discovered there is a branch of the Shepherds of Good Hope not far from my home here in suburban Kanata.

The Shepherd of Good Hope is a haven for both men and women requiring shelter, support, stability, and as their name implies, hope. Our original intention was to donate the clothing to a women’s shelter, but those I contacted were not accepting clothing at this time.

When I dropped the donations off, I was offered a tour of their “boutique” where volunteers organize and display all donated items. Whatever they cannot use onsite, they take to the Shepherds of Good Hope downtown Ottawa location.

When I called my friend to tell her that her donations were well appreciated, she told me she has more to go. I guess I inspired her!

My favourite lunch on the run spot is Glen’s french fry truck at the Canadian Tire store in Kanata

My favourite “lunch on the run” spot is Glen’s french fry truck at the Canadian Tire store in Kanata.  When I am driving between my clients’ gardens, I have stopped at this spot for french fries a few times…

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It is especially nice when the weather is as beautiful as it was yesterday.   No, I did not drive while eating.  All of the picnic tables were full with others enjoying the uncommon November warmth and sunshine at this popular lunch spot, so I sat in my car to eat my lunch, with the windows down and the radio turned up loud!

Toro Ultra Plus, My new Garden Toy

I love my new garden toy.  It’s a Toro Ultra Plus leaf blower, vacuum and mulcher all in one.  I spent a few hours in a client’s garden today sucking up leaves with the vacuum attachment, then dumping the leaf bag full of finely mulched leaves onto her gardens.  I then covered the mulched leaves with a commercially prepared triple mix of soil, peat moss and compost.  This procedure is a great method for improving the quality of the soil in your gardens, especially if your soil is full of clay like most soil here in the Kanata suburb of Ottawa…

I also discovered, inadvertently,  if you forget to zip up the leaf bag after emptying it, the leaves you suck up off the lawn will get mulched as they enter the bag, then go right through the bag back onto the lawn.  I might try this on my own lawn, as mulched leaves are great for lawns too!

I researched this type of garden tool before purchasing the Toro Ultra Plus.  I chose an electric one as I did not want to be hauling oil or gasoline around in my van.  The battery operated ones were an option, but we have several battery operated tools at the cottage and the batteries always seem to need recharging, not to mention the batteries are expensive. The electric Toro Ultra Plus that I decided on was awesome to use; not too heavy (about 10 pounds), easy to assemble, and not too loud. The mulch came out incredibly fine; I estimate one bag of mulched leaves is the equivalent of at least 4 regular lawn bags.

With the beautiful weather we are experiencing this week, I hope to get a few gardens prepared for spring using this method, including my own. Perhaps I will do the lawn too…

Dog strangling vine prevalent in Kanata, Ontario

This dog strangling vine is one of the vines I was telling you about in a recent post that are very invasive, but also dangerous…

I have seen lots of these vines in my fall cleanups of gardens here in Kanata, Ontario. The leaves of the dog strangling vine are unremarkable, blending in with others in your gardens.  The seed pods are more distinctive; they look like yellow string beans, making it easy to recognize the vine this time of year.  If you encounter this vine in your gardens, pull out the vine by the roots before the seed pods burst spreading seeds everywhere.  Be sure to discard the vine, its roots and seed pods into your yard waste; do not add them to your compost bin.

I haven’t seen or heard of this vine strangling any dogs, but I have seen it strangle the life out of a fully mature tree, so beware!

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

As Thanksgiving approaches here in Canada (and in the USA in the near future) we should take a moment in our busy lives to contemplate what we are thankful for.  Here is my list:

  • I am thankful for my three wonderful sons, each one with different goals, dreams, skills and personalities.  I am thankful they are all still working and living close by and thoughtful enough to share their lives with me!
  • I am thankful for my husband of thirty one years, for his love and support, not to mention providing me with and helping me raise the above mentioned three sons.
  • I am thankful for my good health as well as the good health of those dear to me.
  • I am thankful for this wonderful country called Canada that we live in and the particular neighbourhood here in Kanata, Ontario that I live in.
  • I am thankful for the job I have where people pay me to play in their gardens.
  • I am thankful for the materialistic things in my life too, such as a warm and safe home, clothes on my back, food on my table, family vacations etc.

When you sit down for your Thanksgiving dinner, or before then, be sure to list the things you are most thankful for in your life.  Then remind yourself often of your good fortune, especially the non-materialistic things!

Gardens4u presents the hibiscus, another late blooming perennial for your garden

This hibiscus is a favourite late blooming perennial, now available in hardier versions that are suitable for my Kanata Ontario gardens…

Hibiscus are apparently available in many colours, although the ones I have seen recently are in the pink and mauve category.

Previously not hardy enough to overwinter in our Ontario gardens, these new and improved cultivars of hibiscus are a welcome addition to my gardens.  Look for some in the garden nursery near you and enjoy their beautiful, late blooms.

Beware of wild parnsip, but leave the goldenrod

Wild parsnip has made its appearance in Eastern Ontario, introduced from Asia and Europe for its edible root.  A tall wildflower or weed with yellow flowers, it can cause severe blistering and burning when the sap within its stalks comes into contact with skin that is exposed to sunlight.  As goldenrod is also a tall wildflower with yellow flowers, and very common along roadways in Eastern Ontario, I thought I would compare the two…

Wild parsnip has lobed, sharply toothed leaves, a grooved stalk and yellow flowers that form a flat topped, umbrella-like,seed head…

Goldenrod has elongated, swordlike leaves, a smooth stalk and plumes or spikes of yellow flowers.  Once you compare the two, the only thing they have in common is the color of their flowers. Goldenrod is harmless, and growing in a field or along a roadside can be quite beautiful.  Some claim it is the cause of their seasonal allergies in late summer, but others claim its leaves and flowers have medicinal properties, even helping to alleviate seasonal allergies.

Armed with the details of what these two plants look like, I searched through our cottage lot for signs of wild parsnip.   I did not find any wild parsnip, but did find several clumps of goldenrod…

I have seen clumps of wild parsnip in the vicinity of several gardens I work in though, the largest area is within the Beaverbrook area of Kanata, behind Borduas Court and Carr Crescent, between this residential neighbourhood and the Kanata Lakes Golf Course.  This clump of wild parsnip has gone to seed, meaning the flowers have faded to a beige brown color and the seeds are blowing in the wind, spreading through the neighbourhood.

There is a path between the two streets with wild parsnip close to the edge of the path.  The plant growth along the path appears to have been mowed recently, but mowing often causes the dangerous sap to leak out of the stalks, especially if a weed wacker or whippersnipper is used.   I would hesitate letting my dog or children walk along there!.

If you spot any wild parsnip in your neighbourhood, notify your local authorities, and do not attempt to eradicate large patches of it yourself.  To remove one or two plants, you can try to dig up the long taproot, but be sure to wear long pants, sleeves and waterproof gloves.  Try not to break the stalk, place it in a black plastic bag, and leave the bag in the hot sun for a week to kill the plant.  Remove the gloves last and wash them several times with soapy water.  Clothing can be washed in the laundry.

Beware of wild parsnip, but leave the beautiful and harmless goldenrod.

Just how cold was this past winter in the Ottawa area?

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This past winter was so cold our buried water pipe running between the lake and our cottage froze in Ompah, Ontario.  This has never happened before and the cottage was built way back in 1972.  Apparently the frost line was deeper than normal for this area of Canada this winter.  Digging down to find the buried water pipe, we found the ground frozen solid six feet down!  Fortunately, the soil at the cottage is sandy rather than full of clay as it is here in Kanata, although it was still a big job.  The pipe was rerouted so it no longer goes under the covered patio, but instead will be snow covered for better insulation in winters to come.

The good news is we had planned (eventually) to rebuild the patio, so the frozen pipe turned out to be motivation to start the patio project…