Happy Birthday Dad!

happy birthday Dad

Today, September 19th, would have been my Dad’s 94th birthday.  Although he left us sixteen years ago already, I think of him in some context daily. Happy Birthday Dad!

These pictures were taken on Dad’s surprise (sort of) 75th birthday where he was celebrated by his family and friends.

A Broken Heart Took Him Too Early

After my mom died in 1994 at the age of 65, dad’s love of life and will to live seemed to diminish.  He was only 66 at the time, and the quality of his life deteriorated quickly after her death.  He used his advancing age as an excuse to prevent him from enjoying his golden years, but we all knew it was the void in his heart that was the culprit.

Happy birthday Dad, we are all thinking of you today and hope you are celebrating with Mom and others that left us too soon.

happy birthday Dad
my parents

Memories That Make me Smile

A few years ago I woke up to frost on the rooftops and lawns on this date, an early appearance even here in Ottawa, but somehow appropriate for Dad’s birthday.  As I looked out the window at the whiteness, I could hear his voice saying “HAH, frost in September!”

The really cool thing is that many of his unique expressions and habits live on in my children and grandchildren. His premature white hair lives on in moi. As my three brothers age, I see many of Dad’s personality traits in them too. Here are just a few memories and the things that evoke them:

  • his affectionate phrase “dum dum” when someone did something silly, often used on his children and grandchildren.  I must admit to using it in my own household too, softened with a giggle, just like he used to.
  • his use of the expression “HAH” as used above, meaning “who would have thunk it?” or “I don’t think so” (when he didn’t want to do something) or when he found something funny or ridiculous.
  • his ride-on lawnmower that his six children purchased for him on his 75th birthday.  It currently resides at my cottage where the lawns are big enough to need a ride-on mower.
happy birthday Dad

  • when I am out “puttering” in a garden as he used to love to do.  In his latter days he would have a list of things for me to do in his garden each visit.  As a youngster, I remember my mom picking out the plants, but Dad was always the one planting and looking after them.  I know he would be proud and not the least bit surprised about my new profession, Gardens4U.
  • when one of my sons (or me) yell at the TV during a hockey game.
  • one of his sweaters that I found in his closet when cleaning out his house, barely (if at all) used, that I now use as garden apparel on cool days.
  • his use of an accelerant to start the campfire at the cottage, especially after a week of rain when everything is damp.  My husband calls it “grandpa’s firestarter.”
  • wandering around my gardens in sandals (Dad often wore his slippers to do this, much to my Mom’s dismay)  with a cup of tea in hand, stopping here and there to pull a weed or two, or to “stop and smell the roses.”
  • My youngest grandson was named after you, although he is still too young to realize it. He will though, I will make sure he does.
  • his goofy grin, that fortunately (for me) lives on in my middle son and also my oldest grandson.

The list goes on and on….

Happy Birthday Dad, I miss you! Oh, how I wish you were still here to visit with my sons and my contribution to the great-grandchildren in your family tree.

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!

Storm Hits Ontario, Hard but Selectively

storm

Parts of Ontario were hit hard by a violent storm yesterday. Depending on where you live or happened to be at the time, you may or may not have experienced incredible damage. Most of the damage was to trees, some completely uprooted while others literally split in half. I was one of the (un)lucky ones to have the storm visit both of my properties. The first map shows you the extensive power outages in the Ottawa area. The second one shows you those affected in Ontario:

Cottage Property Damage

We were working outdoors at our cottage when the storm hit. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the tornado that destroyed neighbourhoods in Ontario back in September 2018, came close to our cottage property too. I thought I had posted about that story, but apparently not. I’m sure many of you heard the details though and have stories of your own. In short, two sons and a friend just finished installing a new roof on our cottage and were heading home when one son called to tell us of all the trees down and power outages on their way home to Ottawa. We had no damage to our property.

Yesterday’s (? tornado, the verdict is still out) storm hit closer this time. Hubby and I were working on outdoor renovations when the skies got dark and the wind picked up. That was the only warning we had. Others have said they heard warnings on TV and on their phones. As mentioned, we were outside with neither technological device handy. Just like last time.

This picture was taken by my daughter-in-law who was visiting her sister in Carleton Place. They were hit there about 20 minutes after we were hit in Ompah. The storm was cutting a swath from southwest to northeast Ontario, at least according to my contacts. From the map above it appears to have hit further north and west as well.

We quickly stashed our tools in the garage and headed indoors to watch the approaching storm from (relative) safety. I watched in disbelief as the first tree split and crashed thirty feet in front of me, then a second snapped like a twig landing on our paddle boat that was leaning against the tree. That’s when we ran for cover in our basement. These fallen trees were tall, healthy, mature evergreens (pine), part of the skyline I love so much on our property. They now lie across our lawn, between our cottage and the lake…this could take weeks to clean up….so much for renovations……again.

Many of our neighbours were not so lucky. Right next door, three massive evergreens were uprooted, two falling on their roof and one hitting the (old, unused) antennae on our roof. If not for the antennae it would have hit our roof. The good news is since these trees were uprooted, they fell slowly, so there is no damage to the roof.

Many of our other trees remain intact and unharmed, thankfully. Walking around after the storm subsided we could see an incredible number of downed trees and wind-blown furniture. What I found amazing was the sporadicness (?word) of the storm. We have a row of plastic, kid-sized lawn chairs on our deck, a few feet from the downed trees. The deck was littered with leaves but the chairs were unscathed, not even moved an inch!

Kanata (Ottawa) area Damage

Shortly after the message from my DIL in Carleton Place, I received pictures and messages from a neighbour in Kanata. I could follow the sporadic yet destructive path of the storm from my contacts. It was eery how some trees were demolished while others missed completely. Some areas (just) received heavy winds with patio furniture rearranged, but undamaged.

The trees on our street (Katimavik area of Kanata) were hit hard, at least those on the south side of the street. We live on the (north) lucky side, let with just a few small branches littering our lawn.

Upon return home, we walked around our neighbourhood gawking at all the damage. This is a video posted today.

Ontario Hydro and Hydro One

Both hydro companies are working overtime this weekend, trying to restore downed power lines and outages across the region. Reports of downed lines, towers and power outages are rampant on social media and news stations. These pictures are from Ontario Hydro:

Tree Removal

Tree removal services are also in great demand this weekend. Davey tree services were on our street shortly after the storm, working well after dark, then back again this morning.

Update

As time goes on, we have several updates. Environment Canada now calling the storm a derecho! Huh, a new word in my vocabulary. Here’s another one… atterradora is Spanish for scary! I’ve never heard of a derecho, but I’ve survived one! My Mexico-residing brother tells me derecho is Spanish for “straight-ahead” ………..interesting!

I hope you were one of the lucky ones that could watch the storm on the news, from a safe distance.

Freedom Convoy of Truckers

freedom convoy of truckers

The freedom convoy of truckers is making its way to downtown (the nation’s capital) Ottawa right now. Momentum is snowballing (pun intended as Ottawa has lots of snow) as it rolls along. The problem is it remains to be seen if this momentum will be a good thing or a nightmare.

Regardless, history is in the making, and people are flocking to see it happen. Mind you, we are not allowed to do much else these days, so the mounting excitement may be contagious to some, but I digress.

freedom convoy spectators

Original Intent of the Freedom Convoy

The convoy was a peaceful protest, initially. The Liberal government suddenly removed the exemption on vaccinations for truckers traveling between Canada and the USA. In the middle of the highest inflation rate in years to boot. And, very close to the scheduled date for lifting pandemic restrictions. Why now?

Most Canadians agree that truckers are essential to the maintenance of our economy. Unfortunately, the pandemic tanked our economy. That being said, it made sense that truckers were exempt from vaccinations; they rarely come into contact with other citizens.

What Happened to Those Good Intentions?

Well, that depends on who or what you believe.

Many believe that citizens of any democratic society have the right to decide if they wish to be vaccinated. And, that their jobs should not be jeopardized for refusing to get vaccinated. To them, we should be free to choose without facing discrimination or restrictions. In other words, democratic governments don’t order vaccines mandates.

Freedom or Responsibility?

Right off the bat, these views are considered selfish. They erode support from many believing vaccines are not about protecting your own rights but supporting the health of others. Less selfish, they get vaccinated to protect the elderly, immunocompromised etc. If you don’t want to get vaccinated or don’t believe in them, stay home. In short, get vaccinated or suffer the consequences.

Health care workers were mandated to receive their vaccinations or face losing their jobs in several provinces. So why should truckers receive exemptions? I’m sure the exhausted nurses and doctors would love to protest their mandates. The problem is that they don’t have the time or energy to do so. Actually, some did, but not to this extent. They certainly didn’t have much support from the general public.

freedom convoy

Covid Fatigue

Then you have the group of citizens sick of the restrictions imposed by our government. Who isn’t tired of this pandemic and its rules you ask? Well, everyone pretty much is sick of them, but some are more willing than others to risk the perceived consequences.

freedom convoy

The willingness to conform to government mandates or lack thereof is what is dividing the country.

Media Attention on the Freedom Convoy

Organizers of the Freedom Convoy believe that the media is not sharing all the facts. This belief is in fact now inflammatory. The movement is being promoted within the media as an anti-vax, anarchist, potentially hazardous movement. A Go Fund Me account in their support is apparently inappropriate.

Disputing the Media

This quote, disputing this representation, is from a Toronto trucker:

The trucking convoy is NOT anti vaccination. It is anti government mandates. Many of us are vaccinated. Truckers will NOT block emergency vehicles at any point, ever, and will even assist any person in need at any point in the convoy or protest. Safety plans are in place. Drivers have been briefed and signed documents at their respective checkpoints. – The money raised (now over $4,000,000) will be distributed following a a strict procedure. Drivers must register, check in with their respective road captains and submit receipts in order to be reimbursed. All remaining funds will be donated to a Veterans Association in Canada. There is a lawyer and accountant overseeing this. – This could be the single largest protest in Canadian history. People who oppose government mandates are not the tiny group that the media has tried to make us believe.

Government Reactions

Trudeau claims only a small “fringe” minority of Canadians are involved in the freedom convoy and the movement it represents. Thousands of people contradict this claim though. The routes of the truckers are lined with cheering supporters. Not to mention the millions of dollars raised so far.

Government officials stand firm on the stance that truckers must now be vaccinated. It will be interesting to see if any of them meet with the protesters. Meanwhile, our MIA prime minister is the butt of many jokes. Apparently, he is (coincidentally) isolated at his Quebec cottage after a covid exposure. Isolating or hiding?

The Downside of Large Protests

All roads into and around Ottawa will no doubt be bottlenecked for several days. Hopefully, emergency vehicles will be able to maneuver through the chaos as needed.

In addition, large protests attract media and attention-seeking groups. Anti-vaxxers, anarchists, radicals, and the like are now on the bandwagon.

Remember the chaos at the Capital in the USA recently? It should be worrisome that violence may erupt at this demonstration.

Violence will swallow up any peaceful, honorable intentions. As a result, an “I told you so” will reverberate across the country.

This opinion belongs to Elon Musk:

What is your take?

Fun (and safe) Things to do with Kids During a Pandemic

Are you having a difficult time keeping your kids or grandkids entertained during the pandemic? Luckily for me, my grandchildren love the outdoors and nature, giving us lots of options to choose from.

Last week we took a road trip to my grandparents farm where they could run around outside while I had a socially distanced visit with my aunt and uncle.

This week we stayed in Ottawa, driving a short jaunt to the Log Farm. Pandemic precautions were in place, but fairly inconspicuous for the children.

  • lots of hand sanitizer around the spacious farm yard
  • masks mandatory in the gift shop and indoor bathroom, but not outdoors
  • tickets purchased online to control number of visitors
  • two 90 minute sessions available with farm yard activities cleaned between sessions
  • attractions, activities well spaced out to encourage social distancing
  • outdoor bathrooms available

It was a beautiful fall day, perfect for checking out the animals and exploring the farm yard activities. Check out the pictures!


Another popular outing for us takes advantage of the many groomed woodland trails throughout the Ottawa area. My grandkids love to wander through the forests and across the wetland boardwalks, feeding the birds and looking for frogs, turtles and the like.

Hazeldean Woods is right in my neighbourhood, so readily accessible. Now that kids are allowed back on play structures at the city parks, we can walk to the park and through the woods. And back to Grandma’s house, without encountering the Big Bad Wolf!

When the weather keeps us indoors, baking is always a hit, especially the mixing bowl clean up and taste testing!

By the way, in case you were wondering, the feature picture (top of article) is a reflection of my 3.5 year old grandson and I looking for frogs, lying on our tummies on a boardwalk, along one of the mentioned trails.

Pussy Willows and Double Digits: Signs of Spring

Yesterday (Monday) the temperature rose into the double digits here in Ottawa. That’s incredible (although not unheard of) for early March. Although, as forecast, this spring-like weather is already less exciting today…

While the sunshine and warm temperature teased us of things to come, I changed up the décor in my urns flanking my garage and the milk can (from my grandparents’ farm) on my front porch. The evergreen boughs that looked so nice late last fall, have looked a little sad lately, not the lush green their name implies…

not so evergreen boughs

I also removed the Christmas/winter decorations (shiny bulbs, pinecones and a very cute owl), but saved them in my seasonal stash for next winter, leaving the (still attractive) red dogwood twigs in place. I found a few (artificial) sprigs of forsythia in said stash and tucked them into the dogwood twigs, then promptly texted my neighbour to brag that my forsythia is blooming before hers…

At my local grocery store I was delighted to discover bunches of pussy willows in the floral department. I can never avoid perusing any floral department, in any store, especially in spring. The pussy willows were calling my name, or maybe my spring fever was running rampant. Whatever, they created an awesome addition to my spring displays at home…

The rain in the forecast should help melt the still-existent snowbanks away. Every (rain) cloud has its silver lining I say. With colder weather (back) in the forecast later this week, I may have to bring some of these floral harbingers of spring indoors for some temporary respite.

I’m sure later this week I will be reminiscing the too fleeting sneak peak at spring.

Heatwaves and Air Conditioning

The worst part about heatwaves is the air conditioning you need to keep your home cool.  I hate air conditioning, at least my body does because it does not like to be cold.  I hate feeling like it’s cold outside too, reminds me too much of the winter months where we can’t wait for the weather to warm up. When the air conditioner is on, so is my sweater. And socks.

Every year at this time we (my family members and I) have the same argument on whether to open the windows to cool the house or turn on the air conditioner.  I favour open windows, they favour the air conditioning.  I usually win until a heatwave arrives.  If the temperature does not cool off at night, I cave in and the air conditioner has to come on to keep our upstairs bedrooms cool for sleeping. I do admit, it is much easier to sleep in cooler temperatures.

Me, I sleep with lots of blankets regardless of the temperature.  When the air conditioner is on I really need the blankets, even to sit around watching TV.  Even though we keep the setting to 22 degrees, (a concession to me as they would prefer 18) I still get chilled.

We are expecting a heatwave here in Ottawa over the next week or so.  Brrrrrrr.

air conditioning and heatwaves

Final garden chores

Well, our beautiful fall weather has come to an end here in Ottawa, so I am closing out my GARDENS4U season with some final garden chores:

  • cut back any perennials that get mushy or moldy (hostas, peonies, tall phlox)  Leave the rest for the birds, rabbits, squirrels etc.
  • mound clean soil (just plain, new soil,  no fertilizer) around the crowns of roses and any other less hardy plants.
  • mulch leaves and spread them around the plants in my gardens.  I will probably have to borrow some leaves from my neighbours or clients to do this as the trees in my yard are predominantly evergreens.
  • take any frost tender potted plants indoors (there are a few I overwinter)
  • put containers that are not cold hardy into the garage (those without drainage holes are especially susceptible to cracking) Store them on a shelf or other spot off the floor.
  • remove any cold sensitive decorations from the garden and store them (not on the floor) in the garage
  • pick any blooms still thriving; the frosty nights will kill them fast

That will probably end my garden posts for a while, I will have to look elsewhere for inspiration…

Which plants you should prune back in the fall

For some reason, the fall season is when many gardeners get the itch to prune back plants in their gardens.  The guidelines are as follows, at least for our zone 4 to 5 gardens here in Ottawa, Ontario:

  • if a shrub blooms early (before June) wait until after flowering to prune.  Some examples of early bloomers that need that old wood to bloom on are lilacs, forsythia, bridal wreath spireas, sand cherries, weigela, ninebarks, rhododendrons, viburnum, cranberry bushes, flowering dogwoods, and magnolias.
  • if the shrub blooms after June, it can be pruned back in the fall or in the early spring when new growth is visible.  Examples include Snowball and PeeGee Hydrangeas, spireas (except for bridal wreath), Butterfly bush, smoke tree, hibiscus (rose of Sharon), and red-stemmed dogwoods.
  • woody shrubs like boxwoods, junipers, and cedars can be trimmed back in the fall too, but also throughout the growing season (spring and summer)
  • some shrubs are best pruned while dormant (late fall to very early spring, late February to early March)  These include barberries, smoke bush, crepe myrtles, spireas (except bridal wreath variety), dogwoods, and cotoneasters.
  • to rejuvenate shrubs that flower poorly, are overgrown or straggly, cut them back to just above the first bud above the soil while the plant is still dormant.  Shrubs that do well with this drastic treatment include spireas, lilacs, ninebarks, forsythias, barberry, weigela, blue mist, forsythia, honeysuckle, and potentilla (cinquefoil).  You may sacrifice the flowers the first season after this rejuvenation, but the plant will be healthier.
  • deciduous (non-evergreen) trees are best pruned when dormant (late winter) as well.  It is much easier to see the structure of the tree before the leaves come out.  Winter pruning also prevents the formation of bacteria and disease in the cuts. The wounds will heal quickly as new growth starts shortly after pruning.
  • dead branches can be cut off any time in the season.
  • after the first frost, remove any leaves from roses and apply mulch to the crowns. This prevents the plants from heaving from the ground during freeze/thaw cycles. You can cut the longs stems of the most tender floribundas, hybrid teas, and grandifloras back to 20 inches before winter too to prevent them from breaking off under a heavy snowfall.  Another tip for tender roses is to apply a collar around the bush and fill it (loosely) with leaves.  Wait to prune others back until daffodils start to bloom in the spring to ensure the ground temperature is sufficiently warm.  Dead or broken branches can be cut off in the fall or any other time of the season.  Suckers can also be removed in the fall, cutting them out as close to the base of the plant as possible.

rose-1744950__340

Perennials can be, but do not have to be, dead-headed (remove dead blossoms) and cut back in the fall.  Remove sturdy flower stalks (coneflowers etc) right back to the foliage at the base of the plant.  Some gardeners like to leave these stalks on the plants over the winter for birds and their snow-covered beauty.  On softer plants simply remove the browned and dead looking, limp, or soggy foliage (daylilies, peonies, bleeding hearts, etc) and cut back their stems to six or eight inches from the ground.  I like to do everything I can in the fall because spring seems to be so short-lived these days and I run out of springtime hours in the gardens.  Whenever you clean up your gardens, remember to harvest the seeds for future (freebie) plants as I did for my cottage garden.

In bloom this second week of August in my Ottawa zone 4 to 5 gardens

Here are the newest perennial blooms in my own zone 4 to 5 gardens this second week of August;

 

This ornamental grass is my favourite although it is only an annual here in zone 4 or 5.  It makes a beautiful centerpiece for a container or it can be planted right in the garden!

grass 1

 

Still strutting their stuff, these perennials are still looking great:

 

On their way out (unfortunately) are my gorgeous lilies.  They will return bigger and better than ever next year though!  Every client I have planted some of these lily trees for have commented on how spectacular they are, well worth the price.

 

I hope you are enjoying these weekly walks through my gardens…

whole garden