The Power of a Sign


Every time I did a load of laundry I contemplated the paper sign you see above. It was like one of those paper tags that come on pillows that say “Do Not Remove”. It just makes you want to rip those suckers right off on the spot.

Of course, there was a tiny difference. Rip off a pillow tag and what’s the worst thing that can happen? You lose the cleaning instructions or country of origin. Or maybe a few bits of foam or feathers. Or the clerk gets really annoyed with you and makes you buy it. Flip a breaker that has emphatic instructions that it is not to be flipped under any circumstance and who knew what might happen? Well, Mike obviously. But not me.

I wanted to know. I wanted to know so bad.

Some days I fought the urge to open the breaker box and flip every switch, just to see what would happen. Maybe a big, burly, angry Mike would show up at the door in a rage. “What the hell’s the matter with you lady? Did you not read what it said on the box? You were supposed to call me first!”

Images of explosions, chain reactions and irate neighbours poking their heads out of their apartments up and down the hallway danced in my head. I pictured myself standing in the parking lot surrounded by all our neighbours and a fleet of fire trucks.

“What do you suppose happened?” someone would ask.

“Some twit flipped a breaker without calling Mike,” the Fire Chief would yell, as we watched the building collapse.

So I continued to do laundry and wonder about breaker boxes and Mike. And then came the kitchen light dilemma.

We don’t have a light over our kitchen table. This has always seemed like a strange oversight to me. Almost as strange as the daunting note taped to our breaker box. As our days began to get shorter, the lack of light in the kitchen area began to eat at me. I decided to see if one could be installed.

The electrician came by just to take a quick look and somewhat unhappily sized up the situation. Turns out installing a ceiling light in a finished apartment is no small task, but it can be done. Before he left he said, “Oh, and call Mike before I come back to see why you aren’t supposed to flip a breaker.”

I was delighted. At last I had a legitimate reason to phone Mike and get to the bottom of the mystery. I punched the by now familiar numbers into my phone and waited with great anticipation. The number was no longer in service. Mike had left the building.

I phoned the contractors that had built our condo.

“I can’t call Mike,” I explained.

Turns out the sign was temporarily taped in place for safety reasons during construction, but should have been removed two years ago when they finished. All this time it turns out we were free to switch our breakers as we saw fit. A fact which has been a total buzz kill. Doing laundry will never be the same.

I am going to miss Mike. But I won’t miss eating in the dark.

Amaryllis this Morning

Ack! My Amaryllis bulb has officially left the station and is on track for another round. I bought the bulb as a post-Christmas gift to myself back in 2014. I always go into a bit of a funk after Christmas. After all the excitement of our kids coming home etc. there is that period in January where the place feels empty. I settle in for the long wait until spring with nothing but Facebook photos from friends and family in tropical places to keep me entertained.

My Amaryllis bulb helps get me through. Watching those thick green leaves knife their way towards the ceiling renews my faith in life. They grow so fast it is amazing. But then again, nature is always amazing. And then there is the Amaryllis blossom. There is nothing quite like it. Mine is a brilliant red and white. Very colourful against the white winter backdrop and very Canadian.

Last year after the foliage died down in the fall I let the bulb dry out a bit and then packed it in newspaper and put it down in our storage locker in the basement. After Christmas I brought it up and started the Amaryllis show all over again. I was smitten with the ritual and looked forward to repeating it for many seasons to come.

This fall it died down as usual and I kept meaning to remove it from its pot and put it into storage, but somehow I kept forgetting. Then disaster struck. A couple of weeks ago I forgot what I was doing and accidentally watered the Amaryllis pot. I should have yanked it up then and there, patted it dry and stored it. But I did not.


This morning I woke up to this. Note the Amaryllis in the forefront in its white pot. It is no longer dormant. In fact, it is a full eight inches beyond dormant.

Get back in there! I told the leaf, very firmly I might add, but to no avail. The cycle has started and there was no growing back. Life is like that.

And then there is the Christmas cactus. No sooner had I noticed the Amaryllis than I looked down and spotted the Christmas cactus. Taking a leaf from Amaryllis’s book it has jumped into premature action as well.


I rescued this cactus from a grocery store 15 years ago. It was mid-January and it was sitting all by its lonely self in a corner by the Valentine vases. To add insult to injury the forgotten Christmas cactus was marked down to a humiliating .49 cents. For an investment of a couple of quarters it has been faithfully blooming in our house around Christmas ever since. Until this year.  Maybe it has been watching all our October snow and decided its calendar was off.

Ah well, it is what it is. Let the blooms fly. Nature always has the final say, which is as it should be. Of course that doesn’t mean I won’t find another Amaryllis bulb or some such growing thing under the tree this Christmas for my January pick-me-up. Who knows, I might even find two.


I’ve Got Worms

I’ve had worms for just over a year now. Okay, that doesn’t sound right. What I mean to say is that a year ago my sister gave me worms. Wait, that doesn’t sound right neither.

The worms I have are red wigglers and they live in my coat closet.

There. That sounds much better.

I think.

When we first moved from the country into our apartment, friends joked about how I was going to keep goats, chickens and bees on our balcony. I laughed, but there was a small part of me that tried to work out the logistics in my head.

Okay, obviously goats were out of the question…though Strata rules do allow for one small pet. But keeping a goat in an apartment would just be cruel. And not just for the goat. Chickens wouldn’t be any kinder. Or less messy.

But bees…a hive of bees could be very happy on a balcony. For several weeks plans buzzed about in my head. Plans that would have given the Strata Council a collective stroke had they known about them. I figured I could conceal at least one hive in the corner of our balcony and no one would even notice. You see rooftop hives in cities all the time. A hive on a rooftop, a hive on a balcony…tomato tomahto, right?

After harvest, I would show up at a council meeting bearing a basket filled with jars of honey as a thank you for the bees no one even knew were there. With a jar of fresh honey in hand and perhaps a few candles, my future as an apartment dwelling beekeeper would be ensured. Or so the fantasy went.

In the end I settled on a hive of worms in our coat closet, otherwise known as a worm factory. Far less likelihood of controversy or lawsuits.

I comforted myself with the fact there are a lot of similarities between a worm factory and a beehive.

Here are some of the hives I had when we were in the country.


And here is the worm compost “hive” aka Worm Factory that I have stowed in the closet.

See what I mean? Of course the harvest is used for different purposes and comes from opposite ends. Bees fill a little pouch inside with nectar and then cough up the golden, gooey product we know and love as honey. So yes, essentially honey is bee vomit. Sort of.

Worms, on the other hand, digest kitchen scraps and squeeze out a black, tarry, substance we know and love as worm compost. Which is just fancy speak for worm poop. No sort of. That is exactly what it is. Black poop.

Both are lovely products. Both are great for tea. Honey for sweetening and compost for growing a bumper crop of tea herbs. See? Same thing, only different.

As bees fill the frames in their hives you add on another super of frames as needed.

As worms fill each layer of their worm factory you add on another frame as needed.

Again, exactly the same, only different.

Both bees and worms are equally fascinating. I loved having the bees around as much for watching as for the honey they produced.

I feel the same fascination working with the worms.

Without a compost bin to take my table scraps out to, I appreciate being able to recycle table scraps into valuable soil for my houseplants and balcony garden rather than adding to the landfill. Watching the speed with which the worms consume a cantaloupe is amazing.  Last year I even got enough of a harvest to add a healthy scoop of their black gold to the transplanting holes at my Community Garden. A little goes a very long way.

You can buy a great looking worm factory from Veseys in PEI or on Amazon or you can take in a few YouTube videos and learn how to make your own out of plastic totes. The worms themselves can be a bit more difficult to source. I was lucky enough to get a small margarine tub of “starter worms” from my sister who has been keeping her own Worm Factory going for years. For a successful worm farm you want red wigglers that thrive in the top few inches of soil and have voracious appetites suitable for creating worm compost; not the earthworms that are native to the Peace.

Unlike bees that hibernate over winter, an indoor worm farm will keep you entertained all year round. Depending, of course, on your idea of entertainment.

Cute worm cartoon