Saturday, May 31, 2008

GT: Random Rhetoric

This post is inspired by Wende's wistful wishing for a book on the rhetoric of garden design. I've been pouring through the dozen gardening books I got from the library today. One which caught my attention for some actual reading is The Rusty Rake Gardener by Cathy and David Cummins. In it they discuss the differences between rural gardens, city gardens and suburban gardens--and their distinctions are easily re-cast into musings on rhetoric (in the broad sense of the term, obviously).

A successful rural or country garden, such as Lorijo inhabits, "usually becomes more integrated with its surroundings than a small city garden" (or, as in Wende's case, a balcony). Boundaries in the country garden will be rambling fences, wood lots, mature trees, ditches and the like. Shape is determined by the gardener. The successful country garden will meet the needs of the surrounding plants and wildlife as well as those of the gardener. These will be its companions in conversation. Will it play "nice" with the forest creatures or turn them away? Will it fight with rigid borders or get along with the rural landscape with natural plantings and "inevitable" looking groupings? Olmstead (who designed both Central Park and Mount Royal in Montreal) was a master at creating the "wild" landscape. In fact, things are so wild on Mont Royal that I wonder if they have, indeed, "let the place go."

Urban gardens, on the other hand, are defined by exterior walls and inflexible fences or, shall we add, balcony railings. Thus, they are extensions of the home: open-air parlours, as the Cummins's put it. The conversation, therefore, is with the interior.

A suburban garden, like mine, writes these authors, begs for a decision: "Will your garden extend the country to your back door or be an annex to your house?" To whom will the suburban garden talk?

I don't know. I do love the vernacular of this design. It comes from another tome called The Landscape Make-over Book by Sara Jane von Trapp. This is a simple historical plan for the front yard of a Colonial. (It is well worth enlarging):

(Unfortunately, there is no credit given for the sketch in the book. Perhaps it is by the author?)

It speaks to me because of the juxtaposition of its formal layout and the practical, useful plantings. To me, it is the ultimate expression of conquering nature. It has a short conversation both with the parterres of the upper classes and the kitchen garden of the lower while remaining completely unique with its emphasis on herbs and all things which can be dried to service the colonial pastime of creating sachets and potpourries.

So, here's another question to ponder, if it works for you: What sort of language do you want your garden to speak? To whom shall it speak? The Living room? The deer? Or could it speak to the past? Your sense of aesthetic? Your morning coffee?

For me, I want my garden to have a conversation with my children, strangely enough. I want it to be a place for them to learn in and a place for them to explore. I have no idea what that means in terms of design. It could mean secret passageways and hiding spots. It could mean plants which attract birds and butterflies. It could mean a little plot for each child to grow things. It could mean planting vegetables to cultivate and preserve. It could even mean, gasp, planting things for drying to be made into sachets and potpourries for gifts.

Garden Therapy: Defining Our Terms

We went to Ikea to get our new outdoor table and chairs this afternoon, but they only had the table (marked down from a whopping $49.00 to $39.00). No chairs until next year. I'm trying to persuade the husband that making (temporary) benches from the remains of the picnic table is a good idea.

Here's what we had this morning:

And now:

I should have "planned" the look further than I have--but after all--I just got the books out of the library a few hours ago! For example, I'm not as enthused about blue as I used to be. So, I too am doing things "out of order" but it doesn't matter. "Gardening Therapy" like WT and AT is a way to think about and, if time, budget and interest permit, execute a plan for living well in whatever outdoor space you have.

So, in this post, I'm going to begin by explaining what will be meant by the breath, bones, heart and head distinctions.

Bones: The hardscaping. Paths, structures, fencing, and necessary bits (like sheds and composters). I've even seen these items referred to as the "bones" of the garden.

Ailments: Paths are cracked or dysfunctional, sheds or other structures are falling apart. The soil is in poor shape.

Breath: The positioning of the objects as well as the plants should encourage health. Weeds and pests are akin to clutter. Things should be arranged so that these are kept to a minimum.

Ailments: Weeds have taken over. Structures block activities or don't exist where they should. Certain parts of the garden aren't used or are boring beyond belief.

Heart: This is defined as "style." Colour, texture, materials. Will the landscape be welcoming? Will it be peaceful? Will it be interesting and full of something interesting each season?

Ailments: Too many plantings of one type, or not enough. There's too much colour or not enough. Everything is concrete. The privacy fence clashes with the house.

Head: What is the purpose of the landscape? Does it support all the activities you want to do in it? Is it a living, welcoming part of your home? Does it welcome wildlife (if that's a goal)?

Ailments: It cannot be used the way you want it to be used.

Will planning and planting a garden change my relationships and make them healthier, the way apartment therapy does? We'll have to see.

If you choose to accept an assignment, answer the following:


1. What is the problem with your yard/garden/balcony/potted plant?

2. What would your garden/landscape say?

3. What is lacking that you would like to do?

4. How would you like your garden/landscape to be described?

Stay tuned.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Meme of Me.

Love it! Of course I want to.

What a great way to get back into the swing of things--though, honestly, I have two posts already in the queue. But this is irresistible.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?
Looking after a seven month old , a husband and a house. My memory is dim--probably sleep deprivation. I do know I had a terrible time adjusting from being single, employed and lonely, to being married with a child. The husband worked at his job and then put in long hours after work at his business. I spent a lot of time at my mother's. It was a tough time.

2. Five non-work things on my to-do list today.

What do we mean by "work?"
For a sahm, it's all work. (Or none of it is.) OK, OK, I'll try.

  • Put away the suitcases. It's a Chinese puzzle fitting various bags inside one another. And we left with two and came home with three. That'll be fun.
  • Go to Ikea and buy four chairs and a table. Strange, but they do not appear to be on the website, though we have seen them here and at the Ottawa Ikea*. The chairs are already assembled, though, so it'll take two cars and no kids to get it all home. (Hooray for my Mother who will lend us her car and keep the kids.)
  • Go to the library. Yay!
  • Drink coffee and enjoy the sunshine.
  • Write up a post about our trip (maybe). Definitely post about GT.

  • 3. Snacks I enjoy

  • peanuts mixed with chocolate chips in a bowl.
  • Cadbury's Burnt Almond dark (and only dark).
  • Yogurt mixed with granola topped with fresh fruit. (Yes, I realise that for most people this is a meal. It's usually my bed-time snack when I'm trying to "eat well." Breakfast is Red River cereal with a teaspoon of brown sugar (a real teaspoon, not a measured one. And nicely rounded) and dried fruit.)
  • that's all you need to know about for now!

    4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire
    I hate these questions. What am I supposed to say? Oh yeah, travel, buy mosquito nets and a goat for all the people in Africa, book a private concert with U2.
    Frankly, any amount of money over $500,000 would probably ruin my life. (With that amount we could be assured of a comfy old age and buy my mother a condo--and travel).

    5. Places I have lived
    Ottawa, Yellowknife, Edmonton, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London (Ontario) Sarnia.

    6. Jobs I have held
    Food related:
  • A delicatessen. Learned to count back change in a jiffy during the lunch rush.
  • Dairy Queen ice cream maker extraordinaire.
  • Dishwasher at a Spaghetti House.
  • McDonald's. When I went in to quit, the manager told me they were about to make me "Employee of the Month." As if.
  • "Dietary Aide" at a Hospital. (I enjoyed wheeling the snack cart around on the wards in the afternoon. I did not enjoy the six am breakfast slog.)

    School related:
  • Marked papers for five or six intro classes.
  • Taught Introductory Logic (a nightmare).
  • Held the cushiest Grad Student post ever as the "Advisor to Students who have no clue how to write A Philosophy Paper and need to know NOW." Pure fun.

  • Marked exams and packed off study materials for those exams to folks wanting accreditation as Engineers.
  • Worked in two separate accounting offices during tax time.
  • Input data for hours and hours for a Fitness centre. There may have been more, but I doubt it.

    Freelance radio journalist.

  • Baby sat. I took it very seriously. At 13-14, I made $300 in a year at the astonishing rate of $0.75/hour. (Yes, I kept records).
  • An Usher for live theatre as well as the rep theatre which had "Chinese" movies a couple of nights a week. I enjoyed looking at all the variances in the "same" ethnic faces.

    7. Tag
    You're it.

    *What were we doing at the Ikea in Ottawa, you ask? No interesting reason, really. My brother-in-law, cook though he is, did not have a non-stick spatula for his non-stick frying pan. He used a metal one and "turned things very carefully." So, we bought him, not one, but two at Ikea.
  • New Project: Garden Therapy.

    Let's admit, right off the top, that this is not a good time for this. It really is too late in the season. It probably would have been best to start this about four weeks ago, so that one could actually purchase plants after one had done some planning.

    But that's OK. One has to start sometime and the cusp of the first week of June seems as good as any.

    I have no idea if anyone out there in blogland will join me, or if this will merely be a solitary exercise. If it is solitary, I'm not sure I'll have the stamina to continue (in any case I welcome input and advice (as always)).


    But, like my basement, I can't stand the state of things any longer. Summer is really here and the beds are bedraggled. (We missed Spring. When we left my lilacs looked like this:

    Now they look like this:

    At least I didn't miss them! They are already "done" in so many parts of the country.)

    The inspiration comes from my sister-in-law's house in Ottawa. We stayed with her family for a week. (My brother-in-law and 14 year old niece also inspired me food-wise. Oh, man, could they cook!)

    This is her front yard:

    And this is mine:

    And buried in there is this bit of uninspiring border:

    See what I mean?


    And so glad to be here.

    The trip was wonderful but at two and a half weeks, a tad long.

    There is so much to say: about the trip, what happened when we were gone (apparently the dog dissappeared for two days and he ate most of my cushions, to boot) to the way the house looked when we got back (wonderful) that I don't know where to start.

    However, I have uploaded all my pictures (300+) and this one stood out.

    It's from one of our best days: Upper Canada Village on the North shore of the St. Lawrence River. After a bucolic afternoon in the pastoral re-creation of a "typical" village in the 1860's (the kids even milked a cow for the first time and saw a calf less than 24 hours old) we had a picnic supper at Crysler farm (One site of the two pivotal battles of the War of 1812 against the Americans. PS: We won. Really.)

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    One Last Thing Before I Go...

    I don't want to go.

    I do want to see my Grandmother; I miss her.

    But I want to stay here and work on the garden and ask your advice. I want to stay here and whine about my clothes to you. I wanted to re-read the library book I just read (I had to return it). I want to do some scrap pages and post them for you to ooh and aah. I want to stay here and try freezer cooking--and share the odd recipe with you. I want to stay here and get caught up with the kids' schoolwork. I want to stay here and implement a chore system for them and a schedule for the family which will include basic hygiene routines for me. I want to stay here and get serious about my weight and exercise and health issues. I want to finish the projects in the basement and show you pictures.

    In short, I guess, I'm going to miss all of you. I'm feeling weepy. (I believe I'm entering that "time of life" which once its through with me in a few years, I'll be, as the Bible says, "too old" to have children. At least, I'm guessing that's what it is--otherwise I don't know where all this emotion is coming from. It's strange.)

    It feels funny; unnatural, almost, to be connected with women I've never met--though I'm comforted by the thought that it really isn't that strange if I take the view that it's really just having an electronic system of great pen-pals who can talk to each other all at once (or something like that).

    So, Lorijo, Wende, Beth, Anne, Mella, Colleen, have inspired me beyond all reasonability. Sometimes just knowing I could post the project and solicit your oohs and ahs spurred me on to finish when I felt like "leaving it for later" which, for me, is the same as quitting.

    This whole projects was full of snags and fits and starts. But this particular project was especially like that.

    The wall of shelves on April 26th:

    And, finally, today:

    (PS. The punching bag is still there--it's just trick photography.)

    Thanks everyone.
    We leave dark and early tomorrow morning and return at the end of May.

    Take care. Keep bloggin'.

    Sunday, May 11, 2008


    I'm not friends with my sewing machine.

    The reverse is broken which means I have to tie my seams by hand. That wouldn't be so bad if I didn't always seem to run out of bobbin thread in the middle of a complicated manoeuvre. The tension seizes regularily. And let's not forget the many, many times the thread pulls out of the needle just as I prepare to position it over the fabric.

    I knew my relationship with the sewing machine would be less than cordial that day in Home Ec class, oh, it would have been Grade Seven or so, yes, the day I put the sewing machine right through the tip of my index finger (nail and all). It wasn't a freak accident either. I managed to do it again, many years later, as an adult.

    Anyway, in an effort to be frugal, I have at last tackled the pile of clothing I sorted from the basement as "worth saving."

    Mended (ie, seams that were ripped are now sewn):
  • one pair of hubby's PJ pants.
  • two pairs of children's shorts (left over from the days when my son wore them, they are now almost too small for my daughter).
  • one pair of shorts for me (I had thought to pack them and take them, but they have a small hole in the front. So, technically, I now have zero pairs of shorts that pass the "Grandmother test".)
  • one pair of kid's flannel PJ pants.
  • a pair of kid's stretch pants.

  • Patched:
  • one pair of work jeans for my husband.
  • one pair of jeans for my daughter.
  • no, I didn't patch my own jeans, yet. I want to do something "funky" with them, so they can wait 'til we get back.

  • Awaiting decisions and folks to try them on:
  • two pairs of kid's pants that if they fit should be made into shorts
  • another pair of kid's pants which need re-hemming

    Gave up on:
  • a pair of kid's shorts.
  • a pair of kid's PJ bottoms.
  • a pair of kid's PJ's (both top and bottom need work).

  • Oh--and just in case you don't believe my sewing is cursed--remember the curtain panels I hemmed in the Fall Cure for the bedroom? One of them turned out to be about 1 1/2" too long. So, last Saturday, I took them down and washed them. The dust didn't come off too well, so I spent a lot of time and used up a lot of tape taking it all off. I re-hemmed the panel that was too long and hung them back up yesterday. (Yes, it took a week.)

    I hemmed the wrong panel.

    Saturday, May 10, 2008

    Strange, but True

    Well, not that strange, really.

    I went into a clothing store, tried on a few items, picked out what I wanted and then paid full retail price.

    People do it all the time, whether they need what they get or not.

    I went back to Pennington's and bought two T-shirts. Nice ones. I actually tried on a few styles to pick out the best fitting one. This time the link goes right to it!
    The website doesn't show the colours, unfortunately--but I'm pretty sure you can all visualize red and lilac!

    And you know, the success of yesterday and today is the result of Wardrobe Therapy last fall. I knew exactly what I wanted and I didn't even bother with anything lime green, orange or shell pink. I already have a perfectly good black t-shirt, so that decision was made, too. It doesn't matter when we do WT, whether it's the "right time" in the retail season, 'cause WT isn't about shopping. It's about being equipped. And we are.

    So, for at least two days of our vacation, I'll look good!

    Friday, May 9, 2008

    I found them.

    Of course I did.

    That didn't stop me from nearly crying with joy and gratitude as I sat down to check their fit.

    Dark Jeans, natural waist, straight leg, the only one its size in the store. Mark's Work Wearhouse. Second store I went to--recommended by a salesgirl in the first.

    Then, I happily went off a bought two new bras.

    Maybe there are some tops in my future too.
    Who knows?

    Clothes, Fear and God

    I have to go shopping.

    I hate shopping. Always have, even when I was skinny (though I forget exactly why). When I go shopping, every single self-hate tape ever made in my life seems to run through my head. My head also runs hate tapes about other people, too. "How can she walk in those heels? She'll cripple her feet. Oh, lok at her--that top is brazen. Why do fat people insist on wearing tight clothes?" And so on, ad nauseum.

    When I shop, I feel doubtful, desperate, and poverty-stricken.

    But my favourite (and only) jeans have rips in the knees. We're three days away from leaving. And I am not wearing them on this trip--not even patched which I've seriously considered.

    We will be visiting with my 96 year old grandmother. As a child, I had a fairly complicated relationship with her--and one of our most vociferous battlegrounds was clothes. I want her to think she's finally won all those fights. (Since I am wearing the ripped jeans, still, it's questionable whether she actually has won those old fights.) I want her to know that I really do believe that I'm worth dressing well. (Even if I am scared to death to act from those beliefs). And as the rubber hits the road, I must be honest and admit, showing up in ripped or patched jeans may just be the equivalent of throwing her ammunition--and, I don't want to do that. The fight is over between us.

    As I was pondering all of this, it occurred to me that the Good Lord would not have let my jeans become irretrievably rabbity at this exact moment in my life if there were not a better pair of pants out there He wants me to have. Sound crazy? Maybe. But for Mathew 6: 25-34, promises of light burdens and His Provision for ways out of temptation. (1 Cor 10:13)

    I had planned to waken early and take the car today to find those pants. But Aurelia is suffering with a cold and I didn't get to bed until 5am this morning. So, here I am, with the clock ticking down, waiting for the husband to get home so I can go out, face my fear, trust in God and make my Grandmother happy.

    These are the stars which must be aligned to motivate me to take a little trouble over my self.

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    History of Drain Pipe.

    How does a drain pipe collapse?

    It collapses over time, when it is under a shifting concrete floor, when it is made of clay.

    The washing machine and the laundry tub were both originally connected to the hole in the floor on the upper right. (Now covered with a tin can.) It runs under the floor to the floor drain at the lower left--and that, in turn, runs back to the sewer stack (the thing with the black face-plate beside the tin can). When my husband was snaking the pipe from the old laundry/washing machine drain to the floor drain he said he was bringing up bits of mud. That was his evidence that it had "collapsed."

    A few years ago we replaced the clay drain pipe that ran from the house to the city's sewer pipe. My husband snaked that thing once a year (we rented a machine) until it became obvious there wasn't any drain he knows the signs.

    I'm not sure there is anything we can do to make the laundry tub drain functional again.

    Monday, May 5, 2008

    This Close--and yet--Too Far.

    I'd been noticing sudsy water backing up from the drain in the basement for the last couple of days. Today the husband tried to snake it out and pronounced the drain "has collapsed."

    We were able to easily reroute the drain for the washing machine, but there's no way to hook up the laundry tub. Here it is elegantly capped off:

    (That's the hose for the laundry tub drain on the right.)

    Shattered drains, shattered dreams.

    Sunday, May 4, 2008

    Sunday's Project 1

    Oh Happy Day!

    The city is putting on something called the Big Bin Event* all through the summer. They set up locations where you can take stuff you can't normally put out for garbage pick-up; stuff like old mattresses, box springs, appliances, etc.

    The Big Bin location for our area of the city is open this weekend--so we resolved to get the crap out of our yard and drive it down in the back of the car today.

    I firmly believe there are some "before" pictures which should not be shown unless there is an "after" immediately available.

    This is one of those:

    We figured out a way to lift the back seats so that the back of the car is one flat surface under the hatchback. My mom came and watched the kids for the hour or so it took to get the job done. And there were even members of the Rotary Club at the dump site who emptied the car out for us!

    It was so easy. I am full of glee, of good cheer, and I'm thinking of utilizing other locations at later dates to clean out the garage.

    I am a happy woman.

    *Just to clarify--all of these items would normally be accepted at the dump. The dump, though, is a long way away and involves paying a fee (about $12.00 plus so much per pound above a certain base weight). This was free--and close by.

    Saturday, May 3, 2008

    Saturday's Project

    Cleaning the master bedroom!

    I knew I wouldn't finish and I didn't. After dusting from top to bottom, it took me much longer than I'd thought it could possibly take to wash the wall behind the bed. It was a streaky mess. A long time roommate/housemate of my dear husband had painted this room with great gobs of paint on his brush--drips and bubbles and rough patches abound.

    That's all I had time for this morning. And this afternoon all I had time to do (between returning from Tae Kwon Do and going to pick up the husband from work) was vacuum the lampshades and the window screen.

    This evening I went upstairs to take this picture for you--and I was about to clean the window and mirrors when an irresistible urge came to lie down.

    So I did.

    (That's the new duvet cover I bought from AS IS at Ikea for $8. I think it's soooo purdy. The matching shams (also $8 for the pair) are in the wash.)

    Spring Cleaning

    It's time.

    I've been so envious of Lorijo's Spring Cleaning Cure that I have to do my own, though less thorough and significantly condensed.

    My mom will be staying here, as I've mentioned, while we're away for 2 1/2 weeks. She cleans houses for a living and has volunteered to clean mine while we're gone. She works hard, my mom. I want our house to be a true sanctuary and rest place for her. (My sister who is much younger than I, and though an adult, still lives at home with the baby she had in December. It's not a terribly restful place.)

    I found my plan of attack--where else--at the Martha Stewart website. I've decided to take a room by room approach, starting with the top down and working from the visible to the invisible--from the stuff in the open, to the stuff in the closets (though last night's project seems to belie that, it doesn't really, because I was moving stuff that was sitting out, homeless, into the closet. That's different that just "cleaning the closet").

    It can't be as thorough as I'd like--no pulling books off the shelves and dusting, no vacuuming of the refrigerator coils, I don't have time for that. I guess it's really more of a "thorough house cleaning" than a true "spring cleaning."

    Room by room:
    1. Dust from top to bottom
    2. Wash walls and doors (where noticeably dirty), switch plates, windows.
    3. Wash/vacuum sills and screens, wash/vacuum upholstery, bedding
    4. Wash curtains (if machine washable)
    5. Tidy and clear surfaces.
    6. Wash lamps, vacuum lampshades
    7. Wash floors and baseboards.

    I have already done the downstairs bathroom and the dining room (with the exception of the windows). Today I hope to get our bedroom done (I washed the bedding and flipped the mattress yesterday).

    Unfortunately, I have to be in a school gymnasium with lots of noisy children and sweating bodies for five hours today. My son has his Tae-Kwon Do testing today from 10-3.

    Friday, May 2, 2008

    The Friday Night Project

    It was only supposed to take 10 minutes, tops.

    All I wanted to do was clear out the mess on the bottom of the closet and move in dog food, hay and food pellets for the Guinea Pig. (Stocking up so Mom doesn't have to deal with it while we're away.)

    However, once everything was out, I was greeted with this mess:

    I'm pretty sure it's toilet bowl cleaner. I found the bottle over-turned on the shelf above.

    As I was happily scrubbing away at it, it occurred to me that we could put down a piece of the left-over bathroom flooring. A few days ago, as I was cleaning out the coat closet, I noticed that while the floor in the closets is the same hardwood as the rest of the house, it had never been finished. It's like whomever had finished the floors had just kept the closet doors closed, the cheap you-know-whatses.

    So, I measured the closet, and went downstairs to measure the left-over flooring, explaining my idea to the husband as I went, and asked him for measuring tape which should have been on my project table. He promptly took over the project arguing with me over how long the piece of flooring ought to be in the closet. However, once I was persuaded that he was indeed right, he continued on with cutting the flooring and I did I don't know what until it was done.

    Looks good, though:

    Then, almost nothing went back into that space that had come out and here we are, all done. (I also straightened the next to bottom shelf. Obviously, I have to do a few more!)

    And here is the coat/broom closet:

    Crunching Numbers

    Toss Total:
    535 lbs.

    Donations: 307 lbs
    Garbage and recycleables: 228 lbs.

    Numbers do not include a dresser left by the curb, nor a chair put out for garbage, but they do include the small fridge which went to my mother's.

    57% of the stuff I got rid of was at least 1/2way decent and re-useable. I could feel badly that I got rid of so much "good" stuff, or I can feel good I kept so much out of the land-fill. I choose the latter!

    Amount Spent

    Living Room:

  • Curtains: $7.00

  • Supplies for the Trunk re-do: $64

  • paint: $16
  • legs: $32
  • Side boards: $16

  • Napkin for pillow: $3.50
  • Pillow: $10.00
  • Lampshade: $25.00
  • DVD holders: $18.00

  • Total: $127.50


  • New duvet cover and shams: $23.00

  • Total: $23.00


  • Plastic Storage bins: $60.00

  • Curtains: $35.00
  • Curtain hardware: $4.50
  • Velcro: $9.00
  • Hanging clothes protector: $14.00
  • 50 clothespins: $2.00
  • Plastic cage for light bulb:$4.00
  • 3 sheets for wall o'shelves curtain project:$12.00

  • Total: $140.50


  • Picture frames: $18.00
  • Shingles for dog house: $20.00

  • Total: $38.00

    Grand Total Spent: $329.00

    If you had told me I would throw out more than 500lbs of stuff, I would have been mildly skeptical, but not disbelieving. But if you had told me I'd spend more than $300.00 this Cure, I would have said, "No way. We can't afford that!" But it's done.

    So, for every pound I tossed, I spent $0.61. (Is that right?)
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