Grow

It is of course still too early to do much gardening…well at least too early for planting. But I always yearn to do something green at this time of year, in anticipation.

I’ve got a few pots of mesclun growing. I’ll try to get them to the eating stage by potting them up and transferring to the little portable greenhouse. There are a few herb seeds attempting to germinate. We did a full inventory of the seeds we have leftover from last year and the seeds we saved from our own plants. I made a small order from the seed company.

There are things to be trimmed out in the actual garden, leaves to be raked, compost to be turned. I honestly think I get as much pleasure from the planning of my garden as I do from the planting or harvesting.

I have big plans to do more container gardening, we have lots of room here, but much of it is sloped which causes problems. But I had some success with potatoes in bags last year and that salad mix above is destined for a pot on the front porch if I can keep it alive for long enough.

I over-winter a big pot of chives in my wee barn and I’m looking forward to going down and climbing over the garden tools to get to the window where it sits. I am always so happy to see those little green shoots.

I’m impatient to get out there, but many things take extra patience these days, the seasons change at their own pace, but they do change. This time of isolation will change as well and hopefully we will come out on the other side with a greater understanding of ourselves and our society.

Creativity

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As I sit here today it is a gorgeous sunny day and the world feels like it is spinning on a totally new axis. We must learn, all of us, all at once, how to function in a world were we choose to take responsibility for our behavior so that we make room for others to survive. I feel overly dramatic for writing that but it is true. By stepping back from being out there in the world we may slow this bloody virus and allow the health care system to care for the ill, and for themselves as well.

This is going to be a long haul and now that most of the world is stepping up by stepping back we have so many opportunities to do something NEW. My plan is to fill my days with as much creativity as possible. I want to follow my creative heart and do all the projects I have been thinking about for ages.

I finished the little wool embroiderery table mat above, I’ve melted some beeswax and made a pretty shape to have in my sewing basket. If you pull thread through a bit of bees wax it will strengthen it and help it to sew with less tangling.

Two of my favourite knitting designers Arne and Carlos have started a knit-a-long on their social media and I have just the yarn to begin that tonight, and I’m working on the yoke of a colour work sweater.

I know I am in a very lucky position as I have a safe and comfortable house on a large plot of land so I can spread myself out and still get some quality outdoor time everyday. I am very worried for others who are not so lucky. Many people have been inspired by the Italian people singing from their balconies, who knew such a beautiful choir could come from the devastation that country has endured. Earlier today I heard someone say that we will come up with more innovative ideas to make this trying time more bearable. Some of us may just start blogging again…..

Thoughts….so many thoughts

 

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Hello all,

As we enter this new world I have been thinking a lot….you too? And in the middle of the night I realized that we are all participating, every single person on this planet, (even if you don’t think the virus is a big deal and are ignoring the warnings, you too get to participate!) in the largest social experiment the world has ever known.

Millions of people are either in lock down, quarantine, self isolation or denial. The words “social distancing” are being repeated over and over. When did you ever say those two words together before? This weird new world is just something we need to learn to cope with.

I like a good strategy for my life so I have come up with a few things I’m going to do.

I have always journaled, all my life really, so I will continue that but I am putting a little side intent into it. Just before this all went wild here in Canada it was February 29th, leap year, and in my journal I realized that at the time of the next leap year I will be 60 years old. That gave me a huge shock! Surely that is not possible? But after checking my drivers licence and doing the math, it is indeed real. WTF?

Occasionally I pull out old journals and look back at my life. Sometimes joyful, sometimes sad, often empowering. So I was already writing about looking back to these pages in 2024, and now I can see an opportunity to really record this extraordinary time for the future.

I have been a great fan of Julia Cameron and her book “The Artists Way” for many years. So I am re acquainting myself with morning pages. Three sheets of long  hand writing first thing in the morning. It is a wonderful way to brain dump on the page and sort out what is on your mind. Don’t think too much, don’t edit, just write. How will I feel when I look back on this time What changes will be seen in the world of the future. This may not be something for everyone, but I am fascinated by it.

This blog is of course another form of journaling, and I believe it is coming back to life! It is another way of recording my thoughts and feelings about life in a pandemic, but this format is about sharing more curated thoughts with all 6 of you who read this.

I am also thinking about starting a small art project. I have followed similar projects where a creator posts a new creation every day….I’m still working out how I want to do this one, but it feels right so I think it will happen.

It is easy to get disheartened about all of this crazy world stuff and to allow the uncertainty to follow you around, but I’m making choices to try to do some different (or at least modified) things to make it …what more manageable?  more memorable? an opportunity for growth?

In no way do I want to minimize the tragedy and hardship that will be happening in all of our communities, I am not looking to make light of what is is uncertain, I am just one woman coping with a new world, all the while approaching 60 at a faster pace that I realized.

 

What’s on my bookshelf – Agatha Christie

 

Recently I’ve had an idea for a new series of blog posts and today is the first one. Welcome to “What’s on my bookshelf?”

I’m going to photograph and talk about individual bookshelves around my home. I’m already stretching that plan with this first post as the books I am going to tell you about are spread over several shelves, in fact an entire bookcase. But here we go.

When I was a little girl every other Thursday evening we went to the library. I looked forward to it all week. In those days – before the library was renovated in the 1980’s, it had two very separate sides. If you went straight in from the door you entered the children’s section, if you turned right and went past the circulation desk, it was the adult section and that was strictly forbidden territory. Or at least I felt it was so.

In “my” room (for I felt very possessive about the library) there were the low picture book bins with a little table and chairs, then shelves with juvenile non-fiction books, (I soon learned to trove those for my special interest research into important things like secret code breaking and nature crafts skills) to the right of that were the shelves of juvenile fiction novels. It was there I truly discovered my own world of adventures. I fell deeply in love with the stories of girls who were brave and solved mysteries.

I worked my way though those books over the space of a few years. It was a different time and I was a mostly obedient girl so I never really ventured into the adult section into which my parents disappeared. But at some point I did bravely step around the corner, past the card catalogue and started to scan the A – C fiction shelves. I think I expected the librarian to tell me I was too young and not allowed, but she never did. As I worked along that first section I was too short to see the very top few shelves but luckily it was along the very bottom row I discovered a shelf filled with a single author. It was a treasure trove of Agatha Christie. The memory of exactly where those books were, and how I knelt on the ground and marveled at how many titles there were is clear in my mind. I made a pact with myself that I would read them all. In fact it was not even close to the entire Christie back list, but I had no idea at the time how prolific she was. I was allowed to try out one or two. I wish I could remember which ones I read first but I really believe I started with Miss Marple, maybe the librarian gently nudged me that way.

I’m not sure that in the jump from Nancy Drew to Miss Marple I completely understood all that was going on in the stories. Christie’s plots are a bit convoluted for a pre-teen, but I loved a good mystery, even if there was a disappointing lack of secret passages.

Over the years I regularly picked up paperback copies of my lovely Agatha at auctions, yard sales and second hand shops, and before long I had amassed a good collection. I did move on to read other writers, discovered the joys of a historical romance, lived for an entire summer in James Herriot’s Yorkshire, and methodically worked my way through the fiction alphabet.

I miss that library so much. It had alcoves of books on tall dark wood shelves that felt like little rooms, and a squeaky floor so you knew if someone was sneaking up behind you. I loved it with the kind of deep satisfaction that you don’t often find in life today. I’m sure it was in those stacks I determined my life goal of bookshelves in every room of my house. While I’m happy to report this is an achieved goal, I have drawn the line at the bathrooms, but only because the damp from the shower is horrible for the paper.

So these are my Agatha shelves. I have plans to re home them on to a proper book-case one day, but for now it s more important to keep them together. Is it sad that I take so much care to shelve them chronologically?

In truth I eventually worked in that very library – sadly after it was renovated – and a former librarian has to have systems.

I feel like Agatha was my jumping off point for adult fiction and is still a comfort read to this day. I loved that she wrote so many different things, short stories, plays, romance novels, different detectives (Tommy and Tuppence!) In my 20’s I was thrilled to get to see a production of The Mousetrap in Toronto.

Slowly I learned more about Agatha, the woman. The unanswered questions around her brief disappearance, her happy marriage in later life  to Max Mallowen an archaeologist. and their travels to the Middle East which became  a new set of locations for her novels.  I briefly dreamed of a career in archaeology. I read her biographies and even fiction about her life and of course I avidly watched all TV productions of any of her stories. There is so much to admire about her and so many ways to enjoy her stories.

In the 1960’s and 70’s  Fontana Books published a series of her novels in paperback with cover illustrations by an American artist, Tom Adams. The surreal and often macabre paintings sometimes give clues to the plots. I have quite an extensive collection of those. 

More recently my daughter gave me a graphic novel edition of Halloween Party. It does cover the high points of the story but misses some of the nuance.

I have tried to cull the doubles from my collection and keep it to one shelf unit, but I suspect I will still feel a thrill when I see her name below the little blue Fontana symbol as I eagerly check to see if it is one I have. I do spend a lot of time in bookshops and Goodwill.

Her plots may be dated, and many other writers have imitated her detectives so that even when reading the originals they can seem like a parody of themselves, but she rightly deserves the title of the Queen of Crime.

Many of you may not be able to understand my …obsession with collecting books – it certainly doesn’t stop with Christie – but those who share this book fever will get it entirely.

Until next time happy reading.

 

Book review – Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

 

I am a big fan of a good story. One that captures my attention, has at least one or two characters that I can identify with, and leaves me with a satisfying conclusion. I am happy to say I found all of those things in Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.

I read her first book The Thirteenth Tale when it was released a few years ago and enjoyed it very much. In fact I had not only read it but later listened to it as an audio book.  However, her second book Bellman and Black, did not capture me at all.

Hearing good reviews of Once Upon a River I dove in and was immediately dropped on to the edge of the River Thames and I pulled up a stool in The Swan at Radcot ready for a good yarn.

One of the central themes to the book is the telling of tales and how the telling and retelling changes and molds them. The Swan has the reputation as the place to go for a tale and the regulars are suddenly thrown into the middle of a very perplexing story indeed.

On mid winters night the door flings open to reveal a man, grievously injured, with the body of a small girl in his arms, . The girl, whom many of them had assumed was a doll, returns to life a few hours later and the epic tale of the girl who died and lived again is gifted to Radcot.

The cast of characters are well drawn and though there are a lot of them, they remain clear individuals in my mind. Life on the river is woven into the story and the Thames is as much of a character in the novel as any other.

The child remains mute, the injured man recovers but is not her father as some supposed. In fact nothing is known for sure about who this child is or why she ended up dead in the river. Unraveling her story without her input is the rest of the tale and it takes as many twists and turns as the river itself.

Setterfield uses rich language to draw the reader through the year that follows. The landscape she describes so well is dead at mid winter and is alive again by mid summer. What was dead is alive again; life and death are everywhere.

Also throughout the book is the concept of family. What makes up a family and what responsibilities do the people within them have towards each other? How do love and loyalty bond people? How are bonds tested?

Like most good tales there are secrets, because when the reader knows something many of the characters don’t know it keeps the story exciting. And there are ghosts. But are they real or are they a creation?

The conclusion was as satisfying as I could have hoped for, those caught up in this tale can go on to live and tell the story for years to come. I expect, if the Swan was real and you asked for a pint today, it would come with the story of the girl.

As I read I could see this novel as a 3/4 part TV adaptation, I hope someone has snapped up the rights and does it justice. But before that happens, I know I will be reading (or listening) to it again.

 

A Room of One’s (My) Own

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Virginia Woolf is well known for pointing out the obvious – that creativity needs space to be free. She also mentioned money…but let’s deal with one thing at a time.

I just don’t think I truly appreciated her point until now, as I sit here in my own room.

It’s a space that has no other function except to serve my creativity. This room does not have to do double duty as a guest room or a shared family space, it is mine all mine. I fully acknowledge how lucky I am to have this space, though it took more than a few years to achieve, I am blessed.

 

 

So how did this miracle come about? Well, start with a large dry basement, a husband with incredible skills, a pinterest board full of plans, and more than a little effort.

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I was initially skeptical about this space, “I’m not a basement person.” I said, “I’ll feel cut off from the rest of the house”. But in truth, I am very happy with my hedgehog den. Rather than feeling cut off, I feel able to tune out of the chaos that is the rest of the world and focus on doing my own thing. I can have a project on the go, take a break to get a meal, and I don’t have to tidy anything up! It is all right there where when I return.

I do allow the rest of the family in…. there is a little comfy love seat for visitors.

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Being able to make the design choices has been great. I must say, my Hubby and I work well together when it comes to design. I come up with a basic idea and he either convinces me that it won’t work or gets right into making my dreams real.

I chose the colour based on a favourite mug, but have realized as I put all my fabric away, this is a colour that features often in my choices…

I knew I wanted a sitting space, crafting is as much about sitting and thinking as it is doing, and I knew I wanted lots of drawers. (they are in phase 2). He made the shelves super strong so they can take big tubs full of fabric, and he made all the shelves adjustable so I can easily move the around.

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All of these pictures are of the building and moving in period, there will be more finished pictures to come.

 

So now I happily fold and shelve material, dream of projects yet to come, and look forward to phase 2 – the counter tops and cupboards.

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And maybe go through a few inspiration books. (please ignore the waste basket!)

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Hedgehog Hill garden 2018 April 1st

Recently I’ve been watching “The Good Life” not the recent American series, rather the BBC sitcom from the mid 70’s. It was based on a husband and wife  who decide to try for a life of self sufficiency in suburban Britain. Of course they run a-foul (or fowl – Ha!) of everything from chickens that won’t lay to disapproving neighbours. It made for great comedy.

Years ago I watched a few episodes (before the days of the PVR so only when I was lucky enough to spot it in the TV Guide….remember that publication?) and I was desperate to have that kind of life. I wanted sheep and chickens and a big garden, real a life in the country. I think I had forgotten how much I yearned for that when it was only a pipe dream. But fast forward a couple of decades and here I am sitting on my dream and not utilizing as I once wanted.

Oh yes we garden, but not as much as we could. The sheep are a bit beyond our reach, but I’m still considering chickens….except for the cat who might consider them a perfect challenge. But I hope this year to roll up my sleeves and expand the good life here at Hedgehog Hill.

The six  main raised bed gardens are looking a bit forlorn.  we added lots of compost and mulch in the fall and I’m hoping they are in good shape for planting. I have some ideas about extending a small in-ground bed to the front of this photo to add some larger space crops like squashes. another bed is to be converted to more herbs.

Our herb drying was very successful last year and I’ve been loving adding them to cooking all winter. I’m considering branching into teas. Specifically chamomileThe front flower bed is mostly brown but there are a few signs of spring with Daffodils peaking through. they were covered in snow just a week ago.

We planted some garlic in big pots last fall. They seem to have survived the winter. I would still like to find a spot that we can put garlic permanently, but this was a temporary trial.

But most exciting of all are the little sprouting plants in the sun room. It’s been hard to know when to start things as winter has been lingering, but the temptation was too great.

Spring can’t arrive soon enough. I don’t think I’m ready for an off-grid hippy life, but I do long for those tomatoes from last year.