Up Close and Personal with a Sunflower

Inspired by Kelly at http://redandthepeanut.blogspot.com/2009/08/beauty-and-bee.html
I grabbed the new toy (which I love ) and headed to the garden. We have a few sunflowers growing...none where we planted them, thanks to squirrels, chipmunks, and birds who put them where they wanted them, and ate most of the seeds, save four, while doing so. But this one! This one is doing just what sunflowers are supposed to do: look great, and attract bees and birds and cameras.
A closer look at the flower reveals a little guest looking for some dinner...

There's a relatively famous book (if you are interested in communications or advertising especially) called Ways of Seeing by John Berger. In it Berger says "It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it...In the act of viewing, we situate ourselves in the image we view, thus taking on a special, perspectival relationship to the things viewed." He says so eloquently what I'm feeling...which is to say, a tad voyeuristic...I like viewing the bee so closely, but I feel a bit like a Peeping Tom too!

Imagine what Galileo or Hans Lipperhey would have done with today's super zoom lenses! What spin would they have put on the stars and the moon and the sun?


93 Reasons to Garden

Our town participates in Communities in Bloom,( http://www.communitiesinbloom.ca/ ) in fact, Pembroke won the national competition for its population category in 2007, and one of the reasons that we won is because the local community has come on board in a big way, supporting the program through their efforts at recycling, renovating, restoring, conserving, volunteering, and of course, gardening. Some way more so than others!
Like Lola.
Lola is 93 years old, and lives on her own in an apartment in Pembroke. She still drives, and she still has many hobbies. She loves to go to yard sales every weekend, tole paints, collects china, and she gardens. Boy, does she garden!

Her apartment is adjacent to a meadow, and Lola decided one day that it would be nice to turn that meadow into a garden that the people in her apartment complex could enjoy. (Did I mention that Lola is 93?) She started fairly small, a plant here and there to catch her eye from her balcony...but like all good things it just kind of grew, and got bigger and bigger!
It's now about 60 feet long, and meanders up and down a slight slope for the full length of the apartment building.
There are little foot paths leading from one section to another with lovely stepping stones (that Lola made in her spare time) and little hidden pieces of garden art that delight the eye once found.

As I was there today taking pictures of this testament to the healthy effects of gardening, I heard a little voice: "Yoohoo! oh, yoohoo!". I looked around, seeing no one, til again "Up here dear!".

I looked up and there was a little white haired lady waving at me from a 4th floor balcony. I waved back, and she said "Would you like to come up?" (Note to city dwellers: this is what living in a small town is like.) "The view of the garden is lovely from here".
And so she told me how to get in to the building, and up I went and met Vera, and she was right, Vera's view of Lola's garden is quite lovely. Vera said she helps Lola out with the watering, "because she's 93 you know, and the hose can be pretty heavy." Vera's a spry 87.

When I grow up, I want to be just like Lola and Vera!


A Hoya! Howare ya?

My maternal grandmother's family was part of the wave of Norwegian immigrants who landed in North Dakota in the late 1800's. They settled around Minot for starters, and then slowly spread throughout North America - a Grambo here, a Grambo there, everywhere a Grambo. Including one who ended up in Canada and married my Grandfather. Here a Brown, there a Brown...
Anyways! The man that Gramma married was seriously into plants, in fact, so serious that he became a plant doctor - with a PhD in Horticulture. They had beautiful gardens in every home they lived in, and naturally, many, many houseplants.

One of those plants was a hoya, in fact, it was a Hoya Diversifolia with thick rubbery leaves. It's the kind of plant that sits quietly in a corner, pretty much minding its own business, demanding little in terms of food or water. Actually, it's pretty much the perfect plant for busy people who like a touch of green but might forget to water for a few months. Not that Gramma and Grandpa would ever do
that ! I'm just sayin'...that someone like me might let the watering slide on occasion.
So, they lived many long years together, and raised five kids who grew into adults and had kids of their own - some 21 grandchildren, some of whom even display a talent for growing plants too.

Alas, eventually time claimed them both -Grandpa in the late 60's and Grandma in the early 80's. She lived a good life, in relative good health 'til she was 94. When she died, and her personal effects were all sorted out by her daughters, one of the things that was kept by one of them was her hoya plant. It moved from a corner perch in a southern Ontario bungalow to a highrise apartment in Canada's capital where it was kept entertained by Aunt Marg and Uncle Orv and their interesting friends for almost another 25 years, 'til it was their turn to shed this mortal coil. I tell you, if that plant could talk! It would have some great stories to recount! and lots of funny anecdotes, and a few tunes as well. So when the cousins cleared out the Aunt's personal effects, one of the things that was kept was Gramma's hoya. Only this time, clever cousin Margie decided it would be a good thing to divide the plant up, and share it with the other cousins. Which she did. One branch of that hoya now sits quietly in a corner in my home, where I regularly forget to feed or water it. In fact, I hardly notice it, until one day last week I did happen to see this thing hanging down from one of the tendrils it seems to have grown. Sure enough...closer inspection revealed a flower type growth... pale pink and pretty in a waxy sort of way. Yesterday it looked like this:

And not even 24 hours later, it now looks like this! Amazing! Just like my grandmother, Marie Pauline Grambo, was. I promise to try and take better care of it ....


A Trifle Little Thing

About a week ago I came across an article on rustic summer desserts on www.cbc.ca and the author chatted merrily away about Trifle and all the variations -should one use Lady Fingers, Sponge Cake, or Pound Cake? Real whipped cream or spray can stuff? Fresh or frozen fruit? Cointreau or rum or Grand Marnier?
So many decisions!
I pondered about all of this for awhile, 'til it drove me crazy. And then I made my own version, which is quietly waiting in the cool darkness of the fridge for me and 12 other people we are having dinner with to taste its boozy, fruity, creamy lushness. Just a trifle summer food fling.
But, I digress. So, this gathering of the senses stars the following:

Spongecake, liberally doused with amber rum.
Wild blueberries.
Plump, just picked raspberries.
Gorgeous, juicy Ontario peaches.
Beautiful red and tender plums.

All chopped up nice and politely.

Then the layers begin.
Rum and sponge.
Fruit mix.
Creme Anglaise -kind of a looser version of Devon Cream. Extraordinarily yummy.
Chantilly Cream, which is another name for whipped cream, with real vanilla.
Then repeat two more times until your trifle pedestal bowl is full.

To finish, top with pretty little flowers from the garden, garnish with some fresh mint, a touch of grated nutmeg, and voila! Dessert fit for friends, family and fotos.


A New Viewpoint

There's nothing quite like a fresh dip in the river to clear your head and give you a different viewpoint...which is what happened to me on Saturday. I took a lovely, leisurely kayak up to the swamp at the end of our beach, just about an hour's worth of paddling and sheer entertainment, looking at all the reeds, the dragonflies, the lily pads, and Ottawa River. Once home, I promptly tucked the camera under my bathing suit strap to bend down and haul the kayak ashore. And just as promptly, it fell straight into the water! Damn! However, truth be known, I had been complaining about this particular camera for awhile - I had outgrown it basically, and was ready for a bit better model. Not that it was a Freudian slip (ha ha), but there were no tears shed, except for the great photos I had just taken. (Which John says he will try and retrieve for me. Fingers crossed on that score.)
Ah well. This new camera (Canon SX110 IS) can catch the whiskers on a weary Eastern Red Squirrel!

It can capture the lacey leaf of a White Birch that some tiny visitor has created. Go ahead, click on the photo! The detail's amazing.

It knows that a nasturtium leaf is actually a runway for nectar seeking insects...how else to explain the pattern?

And it can capture a quickly moving mystery bird that lands in the thick of the leaves...I haven't been able to identify it, a juvenile red eyed vireo perhaps? Maybe you know?

I hate to state the obvious, but a zoom lens is pretty spectacular! Just like this little American Goldfinch caught by a sunbeam (and me) with his flock.

Happy tonight.


Hot August Night

Hot August night...
And the leaves hanging down

And the grass on the ground smelling sweet

Move up the road

To the outside of town

And the sound of that good gospel beat

with thanks to Neil Diamond...never, ever (!) thought I'd remember the lyrics to any of his songs, but it's 30 C right now (for Americans that's 30 x 2 + 32= 92 F) and I'm not complaining, given the cool, wet summer we've had up til this past week. So the heat is great, and Hot August Night just came in to my little head. The photos are all within 5 minutes of here.
Time to go jump in the river!
Also,thanks to National Geographic, for the shot of the Pileated...we have them, but my camera just ain't up to it. ( note to self: time for a new camera!!!)


Cuppa Tea and Some Morning Mergansers,please

It's 6:30 am on Friday morning, all is quiet as I putter around, slowly waking up.
I love this time of day...my quiet time when I collect my thoughts, and bit by bit, get ready for the day ahead. Until, that is, I look out the window. Then I may as well phone in late right now, because the view on the river is far more interesting than anything I need to do today!
There's the beach flock of Common Mergansers out for their morning swim with Mom.
We've been watching this particular flock for the past 2 months, first as cute little fluff balls that seem to run on water, and now they're almost teenagers! Mom's still in charge though. Every day, she's got them out of the nest and on the river swimming laps up and down the beach. They practice their synchronized swim routine - heads down, under water. Go! Go! Go! Make waves, git those webs workin'! Now dive! Make no waves, leave no trace, leave'em wondering WTF, where'd they all go?
Now, up up up UP!...hey, you out front, you're too far ahead! Get back here! We're supposed to resemble a flock of geese in flight,as in s,t, u, V not p, i, d you daffy duck you!
There's a lady standing in the window up there, trying to take a picture, and your job is to help her!

Now, all together, let's do this again, from the top, 5, 6, 7, 8....

Sheesh! You boids need a lot more practice, but one thing's for sure. The lady with the little grey box in her hand is totally distracted now - completely featherbrained no doubt! She'll probably have to make a second cup of tea 'cause we made the first one go cold. Good Job!


ABAB Ad Hock Committee

In a former life I had an ad agency, and many clients. Now I work for a municipality, and it is technically speaking my one client. Part of my job is to communicate the public face of the community to investors, visitors and residents...and I like doing this. But, over the years, when it all gets to be a bit much, as it sometimes does, I turn to abab type poems and just let it out there.or, here as the case may be! Found this old nugget while cleaning up files and trying to take up less space on the network...
Warning! There are more where these came from ;>)

The Client Presentation
I gave the presentation,
I really did my best.
I hope the clients liked it.
Oh Shit!
There's mustard on my vest!

Was it there before I met them?
I'm afraid that must be so,
For we didn't nibble hotdogs.
I wonder, did it show?

While I spoke of all the things
That I could do for them
Based on past performance,
Did they see one messy fem?

When I raved about our attitude
And strategies and such,
Did they think behind their lowered lids,
This woman is too much!

We're not a graphic house, I said,
We really do much more.
Did they notice that my mustard was
The same shade as their floor?

And when they finally make a choice
Between the others or us,
Will they bother with the golden splotch
Or fuss about the muss?

I have a vested interest
In the outcome of this session
As we only get one chance, they say,
To make a first impression.


I ate Ireland.

I believe that carrots, onions and green peppers are called trinity in most cook books, and the combination forms an essential taste base that sets the tone for the entire recipe. The carrots add sweetness, the peppers a tang, and the onions keep them from fighting with one another.
That said, I am sitting here at the table, munching away, and pretty much in a state of bliss! There is absolutely nothing in the world that tastes better (in my humble opinion) than a raw carrot, quickly pulled, rinsed, and still warm from its earthy sheath. Except of course, another one or three.
The second best taste is a cucumber, twisted off the vine, peeled, salted and sliced, then straight into the mouth. My mouth. Slightly sweet, a tad tart, it is the taste of summer.

Add to this some cottage cheese, and a little pepper, and you have created Irish Sue! Enjoy!


Lilies of the woods

Driving home from Lindsay, Ontario last week, through the woods of eastern Ontario a river of red and yellow suddenly appeared on the left. One of those sights where you think, "What's that, that's, uh, that's flowers, holy crap, that's a whole huge road of lilies!Who puttemtherelet's stop!" And so, we did.
We were somewhere near Bancroft, and there was nothing else nearby, except of course, the proverbial little cottage in the woods. We pulled in to the driveway, and there was a sign, "Lilies For Sale" a slight understatement I'd say! There were literally 1000's of flowers!
My Grandfather, Dr. Arthur Brown, was a renowned Canadian horticulturalist and educator, and was also known as "The Prairie Gardener". He had a gardening show on CBC radio back in the 50's and would talk about plants and growing things and how it was all connected - an eco-warrior just slightly ahead of his time. I thought of him immediately when we saw all these lilies, as he had propagated his own variety.

Turns out the elderly Dutch couple that live in the little cottage in the woods, have been here for the past 40 years, and the husband grows lilies to sell to collectors. I couldn' t afford any of them (at least not with my not so great gardening abilities.) He had varieties set aside that were going for the north side of $200. Huh! Who knew!?
Their yard, naturally, was spectacular, and we were free to wander around engaging all five senses. The lovely wizened wife told me that as her husband had been ill this past winter, he had only managed to propagate and pot up 1000 containers for sale in the past month. Hmmm. 1000 x $200...you do the math! Unbelievable! Puts a whole new meaning to having a green thumb doesn't it?


Moon Rise

Random Moon Thoughts:
The moon is not made of cheese. It is made of pink cotton candy.

I have tried many times to recreate these colours in a bedroom and nature always does it better.

It must have been incredible to actually stand on the moon -I know, I know - understatement of the century! but still...

There's a child's poem I used to recite to my kids...part of which was.."I see the moon, and the moon sees me."

I know that I'm very very fortunate to be sitting at my dining room table, looking at the moon as I tap away on the keyboard. Can't imagine not living this close to nature anymore. I sit here, the moon rises, fish jump, waves lap on shore...I'm healed.

Manet got it right.

Goodnight moon.


Green Herons Up There

My friend Fred lives on the Ottawa River, as do we. However, his property has a lot more cedars than ours, and consequently, a lot more Green Herons than we do. In fact, the score right now is three nests at Fred's place to none at our place.
So when Fred called to say come see the Green Herons before they're completely fledged, we went with binocs and lousy camera in tow...or toe...doesn't really matter which. The photos could have been taken by toes judging by the quality. You be the judge.
First up, er, down...proof of nesting activity. Note to nest site seekers...wear a hat and keep your mouth shut. Lots of activity here, at the first of Fred's nests. Didn't see any Green Herons, but did see an empty egg shell...smooth, light green, no one home.
So we wandered across the yard, past several more cedars over hanging the water's edge, down the driveway and into the woods beyond the house. Site #2 had the same signs of life - lots of white wash, lots of empty shells on the ground.
And a million branches getting in the way of actually seeing the nest, which if you look really really carefully is the blob of twigs at about 11 o'clock. Hah! I didn't see it either until I had total birder's neck going on.
Then there was a slight movement that didn't bend with the gentle summer breeze, but went the opposite direction, and sure enough! A bird! Not just one but three of them sitting on branches near the nest...
This little Green Heron seen through binoculars has really bad hair, all spikey, and big yellow eyes, and is very very cute. The mother was lingering near by as well, so we didn't spend a lot of time looking...besides, they were at least 30' above us, and the neck thing was starting.
This picture of a Green Heron is a really great one. I can say that because I didn't take it. Tom Hughes did...kudos to Tom wherever you are! Some day I'm going to get a camera with a big honkin' zoomer on it too!