Monday, November 29, 2010

Golden Lawn

Okay! So I (accidentally) lied…

A few blogs ago, I mentioned that my gardening stories had come to an end for this year. Winter is just around the corner and soon my yard will be filled with snow until next Spring.

Just today, I opened up my photo files to find inspiration for this week’s blog and I found some more pictures of my back garden! Ooops! It seems that I missed these… so I will share them with you, today.

It has been an interesting and colourful year for my back lawn and garden. I remember sharing a story about how my lawn changed from green to light-brown in a matter of three days - - when my Maple tree dumped about 2 million keys – LOL!

A very short while later my lawn changed from green to white - - in a matter of minutes, when a Springtime hailstorm blew through parts of London.

Another day later, my lawn was green again, but a slightly different shade, as thousands of damaged leaves covered my yard and the back part of my roof.

This story is about how my back yard changed colour, once again - turning into a golden lawn, over the course of three days and nights. This story begins with a certain tree…

This is my neighbour’s glorious and beautiful White Pine tree! The White Pine is a very spiritual tree, for me, because of the experiences that I had in the Temagami region of Northern Ontario… many years ago. This year, I learned something very interesting about this species of tree – something I never realized before…

The White Pine – like a dog or a cat – likes to have an annual shed! It lasted for just a few days and in that time my entire backyard became covered in it’s golden needles.

I was completely shocked when I first saw the phenomena occurring. It was 5:30am and I took Koly outside for his morning run around the yard. Everything seemed normal. When I returned home from work, that evening, Koly and I both discovered an interesting change in the colour of our backyard.

The air was filled with thousands of golden needles, spilling out of the limbs of my neighbour’s tree. It was quite an elegant dance and I simply stared up in wonder!

The next day witnessed an even greater amount of golden confetti spread over my yard and by the third day my lawn was completely blanketed.

On this third day, the sun was shining a bit more brightly than on the previous days, and because of this I became inspired to get my camera out to capture this occurrence.

I crawled around on my hands and knees taking photos from the ground level, looking upwards at my Autumn flowers.

I took photos from some other flowers, looking downwards towards the blanket of gold.

Even my Juniper hedges were covered in thousands of golden needles.

Whenever I’ve shared blogs talking about how to take an interesting photograph, I always say that you have to get close to your subject…

… and think about the angles and shapes that will be in your photo. I really enjoy the textures, shapes and forms in this photograph – it creates a unique response in each person viewing it. For me, this photo touches my soul in an ancient and tribal sort of way. I’m not sure why, but that is the magic of photography… and our imaginations!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Speak Out! Act Out! Make A Difference!

In many of my blog stories I write about the many things that each of us can do to make this world a better place for future generations. I think about the future a lot and I have ever-growing concerns when it comes to matters regarding our global environments. Many of my actions are geared towards educating others through my music and art - to inspire others to realize that we must become more conscious of the consequences of our actions.

This story is meant to inspire you to realize that we also have responsibilities to make our present world a better and safer place, too!

Since I started driving for Voyageur, I’ve become more aware of the intricacies of human travel within the city. I’ve started to feel ‘plugged in’ to the heartbeat of London as I pulse along its streets in my mini-bus, traveling from one vein of traffic into another.

Continuously, announcements are fed to all the drivers about which intersections are to be avoided due to car accidents, trailers that have lost a load of construction materials, etc. These FYI’s (For Your Information) help us navigate safer routes throughout the city. Sometimes, it is the actions of the drivers that make the streets safer for everyone.

One morning I was travelling down a long and narrow street. The street was sloping down, so I could see many blocks ahead. I could see that all the cars ahead of me, travelling in the same directions, were swerving to avoid something that was on the road. As I got closer I noticed that the something was a garbage can and a blue box that had fallen off of the curb onto the street.

This was a dangerous situation for all drivers. The drivers that were swerving around these large plastic bins were using the oncoming lane as their pathway. Twice I noticed, in the 20 seconds it took me to reach this obstacle, that the oncoming traffic also had to swerve dangerously to avoid the cars swerving around the garbage bins. I shook my head at this continuous example of human selfishness.

As I approached, I slowed my vehicle, turned on my emergency lights and came to a stop. As quickly as I could, I got out of my bus, grabbed the two bins and tossed them lightly onto the lawn out of everyone’s way. There! No more obstruction! Now all the traffic could continue safely. It took me 15 seconds to ensure the safety of thousands of other drivers. Maybe… possibly… this action also inspired the other drivers – who saw me do this – to take similar actions in their future.

Late, one evening, I had finished my route and I was driving my bus back towards the Voyageur base. As I came to a railway track crossing the lights began to flash and bells began to chime – indicating that traffic was to stop for a passing train. The traffic stopped and we waited and waited and no train came. Many drivers grew impatient and because there were no railway arms to stop them, these drivers began to cross the tracks.

I, too, crossed these tracks – I could see quite clearly in both directions and could see that there was no train in sight – and as I went on my way, I thought of all the confusion that this situation would continue to create for other drivers as they stopped waiting for the train that would never come.

I called the LTC (London Transit Commission) Dispatch and informed them of the situation. I requested that a call be sent out to the proper authorities to correct this matter. Half an hour later I was travelling on this same road, but in the opposite direction. I was homeward bound. As I approached these railway tracks, the lights were still blinking and the bells were still chiming, but there was also a police officer in the middle of the road directing traffic safely across the tracks. I felt very happy about the fact that my simple action had helped to recreate this situation into a safer one, thus benefiting thousands of other motorists.

As for the cartoon-like story that I’ve been sharing throughout these words…

After I had made that call to the LTC Dispatch, I continued on my way to drop off the passengers I was transporting. I had to drive past the intersection of Highbury and Oxford Street again, to get to my next pick-up location. A total of 7 minutes had passed. I was actually quite shocked to see that three emergency vehicles had already arrived on the scene - a police car, ambulance and a small firetruck. The elderly lady was nowhere to be seen – possibly in the ambulance at this point in time – and the elderly man was talking with a police officer and fireman with an expression of relief and thankfulness!

I always like stories with happy endings. I think that it is important for each of us to realize that we are the characters in our own personal stories, as well as other people’s stories (even though these connections may seem less obvious). It is our responsibility and duty to be conscious of the scripts that we create – to ensure a safe passage through our present tense so that more happy endings can be enjoyed by everyone!

As Geddy Lee ( of one of Canada’s most influential rock bands says…

All the world’s indeed a stage

And we are merely players

Performers and portrayers

Each another’s audience

Outside the gilded cage

Living in the limelight

The universal dream

For those who wish to seem

Those who wish to be

Must put aside the alienation

Get on with the fascination

The real relation

The underlying theme


Monday, November 15, 2010

Greatly Yield

I had heard that the first frost of Autumn was soon coming. This meant that I had to finish harvesting the rest of the veggies from my garden. Everything had to be picked before the frost spoiled the, as yet, unripened tomatoes, beans, etc.

From previous experience, I had learned that it is perfectly fine to pick tomatoes while they are still green. These green tomatoes will slowly ripen in my home and I can continue to enjoy them for many weeks to come.

After each section of my garden was harvested, the plants were pulled and the soil was raked flat again. A few weeks later, I had my annual Autumn ‘burn’ where I burned all the tree branches and other dried vegetation (plant stalks, etc) that I had collected since my last fire in the Spring. The ashes from this fire were spread over the area to add nitrogen to the soil for next year’s garden.

I thought that it would be fun to show you the photos of these proceedings and share the lyrics of one of my favourite Grateful Dead songs, at the same time…

Let It Grow

Morning comes

She follows the path to the river shore.
Lightly sung

Her song is the latch on the morning’s door.

See the sun sparkle in the reeds

Silver beads pass into the sea.

She comes from a town where they call her the Woodcutter’s daughter.
She’s brown as the bank where she kneels down to gather her water, and
She bears it away with a love that the river has taught her.

Let it flow, greatly grow, wide and clear.

Round and round

The cut of the plow in the furrowed field.
Seasons round

The bushels of corn and the barley meal.

Broken ground, open and beckoning to the spring,
Black dirt live again!

The plowman is broad as the back of the land he is sowing,
As he dances the circular track of the plow ever knowing
That the work of his day measures more than the planting and growing

Let it grow, let it grow, greatly yield.

What shall we say, shall we call it by a name,
As well to count the angels dancing on a pin.
Water bright as the sky from which it came,
And the name is on the Earth that takes it in.
We will not speak but stand inside the rain,
And listen to the thunder shouting I am! I am! I am! I am.

Nothin more

The love of the women, work of men.
Seasons round

Creatures great and small

Up and down

As we rise and fall.

These words sound so much nicer when heard within the structures of the song’s melody, so I’m including this link - to a really great live recording from 1989… ENJOY!!!!

This is what my kitchen looked liked, later that evening, after my garden was taken down for this year. The large potatoes and carrots were put into storage while I prepared this meal using all the ‘runts’ of my harvest :) The beans were steamed and the potatoes were mashed. I shredded the small carrots and added them to the mashed potatoes. The cherry tomatoes were sliced in half to show the interesting textures of their insides (with the seeds and all that) and placed decoratively around the rest of the meal. I always have fun when preparing my meals and it is especially more satisfying when I get to use the results of my labours… yummy vegetables!!!

Well, that is the end of my garden stories and pictures for this season and this year. I hope that you have enjoyed my successes and failures and I hope that I have inspired you to get a little Earth underneath your fingernails… next year!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Garden Harvest!

During the late part of June I wrote about an experiment that I had tried in my potato patch (in 2009) that had failed and how I was trying this experiment again, this year.

The idea, as it was explained to me, is simple…

When the potato plant reaches a height of 7 inches, 5 inches of soil is added around the plants. To keep the soil in place I used some round plastic barrels.

By doing this I was ‘tricking’ the plant into producing another set of potatoes in this added soil, thus increasing my harvest! The 2009 experiment failed cuz I had added the extra soil too late in the season.

This year, I kept a close watch on the growth of these plants and added the extra soil at the perfect time.

As you can see, the potato plants (and the rest of my veggies) grew very well! I had to find a new kind of patience as I waited and watched, waited and watched until it was time to harvest this crop.

When the potato plants started to die I knew that the harvest would be soon coming.

This seemed to take forever!!! :)

By mid-September all the plants had died and it was now time to dig up my potatoes!

I pulled the barrel sections out of the way and I became very excited. This was the moment that I had been waiting for!!!

Inside this pile of dirt I was going to find an extra crop of yummy potatoes!

With great care I started moving the soil aside. My eyes grew wide, awaiting the moment when I would see my first potato…

… but that moment never arrived! :(

My experiment had failed again. I’m not sure if I had done something wrong, if my timing was off again, or what the problem was. Hmmmmm! I’m going to have to rethink this whole idea and see if I can further these thoughts in my garden next year.

Well, that’s what gardening is all about… LEARNING… and enjoying all the trials and tribulations along the way. Failing isn’t failing if you’ve learned something, made genuine observations to enrich your knowledge about the processes of growing something. All of these actions help to connect your spirit with the Earth… and that is the most worthy of experiences!

After I had moved all of the extra soil away, I dug a little deeper to find the potatoes that I knew would be waiting for me. Boy! Don’t these look great!!!

I was very pleased to see that I had a rather nice sized tub of potatoes to show Joanne when she came home later that day.

Nothing tastes better than a vegetable that grew in your own garden. They are more flavourful, denser and full of more nutrients than anything you can buy in a grocery store - that has its produce transported from across the country or imported from overseas, thus needing this produce to be harvested early to prevent spoiling.

It’s very important that all humans become more conscious of where the food that we eat comes from. I’m very grateful for my garden and I’m also very grateful for the growing trends that are seeing more Farmer’s Markets popping up throughout the city. What I don’t – or can’t – grow in my garden I buy from these markets. If I can supply my needs for foods that embrace the ‘100 Mile Diet’ philosophy then I am lessening my ‘carbon footprint’ on this planet. Having a vegetable garden takes this idea one step further and I hope that I’ve inspired all of you to create your own ‘100 Feet Diet’ program.