Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

A series of storms continues to pummel the Ottawa region here in Ontario. Someone I know in Quebec lost her greenhouse and is currently hunkering down in a berm house. (Three sides of it are underground, and the wind is still shaking it!). She reports that she has decided to move because she just can't take the extreme weather anymore, making her officially the first climate change migrant I'm acquainted with.

Here in Mississauga, the weather was cool and autumny with an occasional shower of rain and some wind, but nothing remotely worrisome. In fact, the air had a deliciousness about it, a cool scent, a clear light that made everything seem sharp-edged and brilliant. Something undefinable that reminded me of autumns of my childhood. Walking along College Street in Toronto on my way to the subway, I was suddenly seized with nostalgia for aspens changing to yellow, the cool air flowing down mountain canyons bringing the scent of damp rock. After-school daylight spent rollerskating on the back deck with Janice Gill. Roasting marshmallows over the backyard fire pit. Watching the sunset turn Mount Timpanogos salmon and crimson. Sitting under the pear tree in the front yard with my guitar until dusk grew so thick I couldn't see the strings anymore. The smooth surface of my desk that sounded hollow when I put pencil to paper. The joy of buying back-to-school zippered binders with section tabs and built-in pencil cases. Walking home from grade school in my winter coat and kicking the horse chestnuts fallen from the Andersons' tree. The fat lines on the off-white paper waiting for my careful cursive. Mom's pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting, made with pumpkins from the garden. The magic of waking up to find frost on the window and crunchy leaves on the ground.

Certain scents or a certain quality of the air can send us spinning back forty years in the blink of an eye. I had such a great childhood, and so many of my happy memories are linked to autumn. For a brief moment today I wished so intensely to be that child again, to do it all over again and appreciate it more this time. To walk in my parents' door and smell that pumpkin cake baking.

Well, I'm not sure how I started out this post with tornadoes and ended up with cream cheese frosting...

Sunday, 23 September 2018

The end of summer

Summer went out with a bang here in Canada. We got the tail end of Hurricane Florence -- not nearly what people in the Carolinas have had to deal with, but tornado, microburst, winds up to about 130kms an hour... Several homes and businesses destroyed, power outages, some people injured, but no fatalities. Someone I know of lost her greenhouse and all the plants inside it that she needed for her market garden business. But it could have been much worse.

Where we live, I shuffled home from work in a stiff wet wind, and my husband had to fish a chair out of the pool, but that was all we got in my area! Feeling very lucky.

As I heard of the extreme weather the market gardener has had to deal with in Quebec (15-ft snow drifts, temperatures ranging from -53C to 49C in a year), I am more and more amazed by the tenacity and determination of the early settlers in this region. They came to Ontario (Upper Canada, then) and took on thick forests with axes and managed to turn vast swaths of them into wonderful farmland. I can't imagine what it took to do that. I whine when I have to face weeding a 30x20' garden.

My hypothetical hat goes off to all those who have a dream, pick up their tools, and forge ahead against all odds. And my gratitude especially goes out to the farmers who produce the food I eat every day, because I know what work went into it.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Fallow Fields

Sorry I sort of disappeared for awhile, there. Life got crazy busy. We have two new boarders living with us now, and the piping season wrapped up, and harvest season is upon us and...well, I won't bore you with all of it. Suffice it to say it's been a bit exhausting. But when I take time to lie around with a book and say no to things, I feel guilty. What is it in me that can't sit on the couch and listen to a neighbour mow his lawn without feeling I need to jump up and mow mine too (even though I just mowed it two days ago)?

I got an email from my sister that I found very comforting, though. She reminded me that fields need to lie fallow now and then to remain productive. They can't keep producing at high intensity without a resting period. She's right, of course. I know this, but it helps to be reminded now and then.

Winter is coming and life will slow down, and I look forward to long dark evenings by the fireplace. I have read a lot about how to extend the growing season in your garden, but I think it's wiser not to. The earth and I both need the sleep.