Monday, 31 August 2015

Natural-born Tree Huggers

The other day I saw a little girl at the park, perhaps three years old. She was running delightedly from tree to tree and throwing her arms around each one in a big hug. I thought this was sweet. And then today I saw another child in downtown Toronto, about five years old, leaning against a tree on the street with his arms wrapped around the trunk as he waited for his mother.

Do children have a natural affinity for trees? Do they recognize them for the benevolent and precious friends they are? Why do we, as adults, lose that wonderful spark within us and grow too self-conscious to throw our arms around trees?

Saturday, 29 August 2015


Bottling peaches this morning with my friend Heather. She graciously came to help and to learn at the same time. To thank her for helping, I told her I'd send four jars home with her. I keep a notebook in which I write down what I paid for fruit each year, who I bought it from, and how many jars it made, to keep tabs on what I'm spending and producing. Well, when I went to write the results in the notebook this year, I found that my bushel of peaches (purchased for the same price as last year and from the same farmer) made exactly four jars more this year than last. Exactly the amount I'd told Heather I'd give her.

Little blessings sneaking into my life here and there, easy to miss if you aren't looking.  :)

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Mike Holmes and Home Free

I wouldn't ordinarily say watching TV is a life-changing experience, or even a life-enhancing one. But last night I watched an episode of "Home Free," and I've been thinking about it all night.

The show has been running for a few weeks, but last night was the first time I'd tuned in. The basic premise is that a bunch of couples spend each week renovating houses for needy families while hoping to win a house for themselves at the end. All of them are in urgent need of a home themselves, but they spend their time and effort helping others who are equally or less fortunate. Every so often, one couple is sent home (like so many other reality/competitive shows). What makes this one unique, though, is that every contestant gets a house in the end; they just don't know it. They think there will be only one winner: the couple left standing at the end. They don't know that the "losing" couple sent home each week is given the house they just spent their week renovating.

On last night's show, Mike Holmes asked the "losing" couple if they would like to meet the deserving family for whom the house was built, and they said yes. Even though they were disappointed that they had been eliminated from the contest, they were happy to think they had provided a home for someone else. I watched the shock and amazement in their faces when Mike told them this beautiful house they'd worked on was actually for them (and it really was perfect for them), and I got goose bumps. The disbelief, the joy, the astonishment that they would be given such a gift...and then their dawning realization that all the other couples (with whom they'd formed friendships over the past weeks) would also be getting houses. The woman broke down and cried -- not at the thought that she was getting a house, but that the other couple would be getting one too. She wailed into her husband's chest, "Ben and Kasey will get a home for their children!"

I looked around the living room, and I wasn't the only member of my family who was damp-eyed. And it occurred to me that Mike Holmes had picked out an appropriate house for each couple who would be on the show ahead of time, planned whom he would eliminate from the show in which week, and masterminded an incredible charitable act. This show doesn't flash a lot of product names or give air time to manufacturers. It doesn't have a lot of fanfare and hype, and it's all quietly done, not with a megaphone à la Ty Pennington. Mike stands in the living room of this lovely new house and simply says "It's for you." One man being kind to others. The quiet impact of that was amazing.

Cheers for Mike Holmes, and cheers for these couples who are willing to reach out to needy families and their fellow competitors. The world needs more of this.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Bottling Tomatoes and Redesigning Houses

Yesterday I put up two bushels of tomatoes, made two batches of gherkin pickles, and froze a quantity of green beans, peas, and bell peppers. Somehow the list doesn't seem very long, but I was at it for twelve hours. The back is feeling it today. Someday I want to design a kitchen where the sink juts out a little, so you can sit at it on a high stool with your knees under it. That would make canning much easier!

While I'm at it, I'd create a secondary canning kitchen altogether, out of the family's way, with a heavy-duty stove that can handle high heat for twelve hours at a time. Even with a special canning element, the burner gets discoloured and it's a pain cleaning up the mess that magically forms...I guess it's the sugar or vinegar in the steam that makes everything so terrible to clean up.

And hey, while I'm revamping the house anyway, I'd form all the rooms into a square with a big atrium in the centre, with windows or moveable walls on every side so I could open everything up and get a good cross-breeze going.

And I'd create a main-floor store room with temperature and light control, lined with shelves the perfect size for four hundred mason jars, barrels of flour and sugar, and #10 cans of dry goods. And a climate-controlled place for apples, potatoes, and pumpkins. And a cistern for water storage tapped right into the house.

A girl can dream, can't she?

Friday, 14 August 2015

Weird Weather

When I was in Utah, my dad told me that the weather had been about a month "early" all summer. June felt like July, July felt like August, and in August autumn was already creeping up. They got a major rain storm too, while I was there, which is really weird for a desert in August.

When I got home, I found maple leaves already starting to turn, the vegetables in the garden winding down, and the temperature fairly chill.  The lawn is dormant and doesn't need mowing. My cucumbers never did make a showing and now I doubt they will. (Too bad. I was looking forward to trying Crystal Apple white cucumbers this year.) The tomatoes are plump and the cherry tomatoes are ready to eat. Some of the dry beans are ready to harvest (my favourite part of gardening), and the peas and beans have gone to seed. I think that's the shortest growing season we've had.

Tomorrow I will spend the day bottling whatever is ready at the farmers' market. Every year I bottle tomatoes, peaches, pears, apples, pickles, and grape juice. I will buy peppers in bulk to freeze because mine never do well in the garden. The herbs and beans will be dried and stored away. The green beans, peas, squash, and pumpkins will be frozen. And then it's done.

Wow, that means winter coming after that. I usually don't think ahead to winter this early in the year. I must concentrate on the harvest right now and push away dread of the coming dark. If I think about it now, I'll only suffer twice, and I'll miss the joy of the abundance I have right now.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jog

No time to write yet, but just posting a quick note to let y'all know I'm home again from the family reunion in Utah/Idaho. It was awesome and I have the best family on the planet. Kayaks, moose, about 35 dozen cookies, songs, and long walks with my sisters. The absolute best!  More later.  - K