I’m a Christmas Tree Genius! Than Again, Maybe Not.

This morning I realized the house we bought in April and have been madly in love with ever since, was, in fact, a terrible mistake.

Simply put, there is no room for the Christmas tree.

Back in April all I could think of was the garden. Where the Christmas tree would go was the furthest thing from my mind.

But now, standing in the living room in late November, with the partially assembled tree swelling up like an inflatable elephant in a mouse house, it was clear there was only one viable solution.

Put the house back on the market and find another place to live. Preferably within a week, so as not to lose too much decorating time.

And breathe.

I sat down to consider other options, trying to ignore the fact that when I pulled the leg rest out on the couch, my toes were in the tree.

There was only one spot the tree could go and it simply didn’t fit.

I then landed on a second solution.

We would close in the deck, knock out the wall of the living room and voila! There would now be space for the tree in all its glory.

Again, we would have to build this new addition within a week so as not to slow down my decorating schedule.

If only the tree were half as wide, it would have fit perfectly.

And then I had a third idea, only this time it was a really good one.

I would simply leave off the branches on one half of the tree and smoosh it against the wall.

Not only did this solution work, it looks fabulous. You would never guess the entire tree wasn’t there. Only the bottom four rows needed to be halved. Once I got to the top I was able to fit the branches all the way around. This configuration also made the tree far easier to string the lights and garland on.

I figured I had landed on a solution of genius proportions. Well, maybe not genius exactly, but moderately inventive and game changing.

A quick google proved otherwise. Turns out “my” idea has been done plenty of times before. What is that old saying? Necessity is the mother of all inventions. In fact, you can even buy trees already halved.

While I’m a little disappointed my idea wasn’t unique, I am beyond relieved that we don’t have to move or build an addition. So is Darcy.

 

 

 

Whose Grousing Now?

I am a bit OCD with my bird feeding. Every feeder gets a measured cupful as this seems to be just the right amount. Any less and the birds are hanging around looking hungry, any more and seed gets scattered EVERYWHERE and this drives me to distraction.

It’s not just an aesthetics thing, though it is partly that. I worry about attracting mice, or encouraging birds to spend time on the deck where they might fall prey to the neighbourhood cats that prowl through from time to time.

Darcy accuses me of simply being stingy with the feed. On his days off he fills the feeders to the brim and seeds fly EVERYWHERE.

This morning I looked out at the sunflower seeds all over the deck from Sunday’s exuberant feeding, with much irritation, until I saw this…

A prairie chicken!  The big bird was happily pecking up all the scattered seed like a barnyard hen. Whose grousing now, right?

I am sure the bird is more than capable of perching in one of the large feeders, but somehow he looked far more at ease pecking up seed off the deck.

There will be no stopping Darcy now.

How Many Plastic Pots and Trays Are Used in the UK Every Year?

According to a 2018 episode of Gardeners World the UK uses half a billion plastic pots and trays per year. Gardening expert and designer Arit Anderson  estimates that if all these trays were spread out over the grounds of the Chelsea Flower Show they would cover it 149 times…per year!

Fortunately the plastic tide is slowly starting to turn with introductions of bioplastics and other alternatives.

Most plant pots are made of post consumer waste. That’s the good news. The bad news is standard black nursery pots are themselves, difficult to recycle. Many depots use a light scanner to sort the plastics but black pots don’t reflect the light back to the machines, making them hard to sort mechanically.

The industry is doing some testing with making lighter colours of pots to offset this problem. There is some concern that the lighter pots will do a poorer job of shielding roots from sunlight, resulting in less healthy plants, but hopefully that won’t be a problem.

You can learn more about all of this by viewing the 2018 Episode 25 of Gardeners World.

Gardeners are connected to the earth by the very passion that defines them. If they demand changes, the industry will have no choice but to listen. We need to continue to come up with viable solutions together.

 

Keeping it Even – The Secret to Wintering Tender Perennials

It’s not the cold temperatures that kill borderline hardy perennials in your garden, it’s the fluctuating temperatures. Plants prefer predictable stability when it comes to putting down roots. Once it gets cold, they can be perfectly fine with that. It just needs to stay that way with minimum fluctuations until spring.

If you live in northern Canada, as I do, this is an impossible scenario. I have seen a Chinook blow in and temperatures go from -30 C to +10 in a single day! During a warm spell in the winter our heaps of snow shrink to almost nothing before we get slapped with another round of cold.

We might celebrate the winter reprieve, but this can spell death to a perennial who doesn’t know whether to start sending up leaf buds, or tucking in for another couple months of cold.

When snow falls on a garden it is like throwing a lovely warm blanket over the bed. When the snow melts, the blanket is removed. If cold temperatures return before another dump of snow there the perennials are, in bed without a blanket. Not pleasant and not all perennials will survive.

Fortunately you can make sure whatever happens, the perennials have a blanket to insulate their roots. The answer comes in the form of mulch.

Once freezing temperatures settle into your garden you can help prevent fluctuations on the soil level by adding some kind of organic matter around your plant. It doesn’t really matter what you use; compost, wood chips, sawdust, leaves, straw, hay, even gravel…it all works. A depth of six inches (15 cm) to as much as a foot (30 cm) will do the job nicely.

Compost makes wonderful mulch material.

Spreading the organic matter after freezing temperatures settle in – not before – will prevent critters with the nibbles from setting up their winter home in your lovely mulch.

In the spring you can begin to slowly remove the mulch until temperatures are done with dropping below the freezing mark.

If this sounds like too much bother, simply stick with perennials that are naturally hardy to your zone. There are lots to choose from.

Crocuses are hardy in most zones evident in how they brazenly burst through the snow to announce the start of spring.

However, if you like to push the zone envelope and plant things that are a zone or two above where you live, mulch could be your ace in the hole. Or on the hole, in this case.

 

Share Your Nuts. That’s All I Know.

 

 

We have six backyard bird feeders, which we fill with an assortment of seed, fruit and nuts.

It amazes me how quickly the birds find it.

At first we just fed the black oiled sunflower seeds and got thousands of sparrows for our effort and a few (too few in my opinion) chickadees. When I put out the peanuts it took about three hours for the first blue jay to show up.

How does that work? Do they talk to sparrows or chickadees?

”Hey bud, the feeder over there has some of those horrid big seeds that you yammer on about all the time.”

”Big seeds? What are you talking about little bird? You mean peanuts? They have peanuts? OMG! SQAWK! SQAWK!”

Or maybe they smell them. Do birds smell things? I suppose they must. For some reason I only associate sniffing abilities with soft flesh covered noses, not hard beaks, which is kind of a weird assumption when you think about it.

Anyway, now we have lots of blue jays, as well as sparrows, chickadees, magpies and the odd raven and woodpecker.

About a month ago a singular Stellar blue jay showed up and she has been a daily customer at the feeders ever since.

I don’t really know if the stellar jay is a she, but I like to call her Stella so it works better that way. When I see her at the feeder I announce it by theatrically yelling (in a stage whisper so as not to scare her away) Stella! Stella! Stella!

You know, like in Streetcar Named Desire.

If I learn more and can figure out the difference and I’m wrong, I guess I will just have to call Stella Stanley instead.

Stella doesn’t care what I call her, so long as I fill the feeders with nuts.

She’s bold and bossy. While other birds fly off when I come outside, Stella flies in. When I go back inside and the other birds return, she tries to chase them away. However, with six feeders that can prove an exhausting undertaking and eventually she just chills out, settles in and eats.

Apparently stellar jays can mimic the sounds of other animals and birds, often parroting (stellar jaying?) birds of prey to scare other birds away from the feeders. Maybe Stella does this as well.

No one chases Stella and this worries me. Why is she the only stellar jay? Did her flock move somewhere for winter and leave her behind? Did her mate dump her or maybe die? Is she grieving and is that the reason she seems indifferent to human stranger danger and is so grouchy and bossy with the other birds? Or did her mate and/or flock dump her BECAUSE she is so grouchy and bossy?

Though generally no one becomes grouchy without someone else inflicting pain, even if that someone is the simply the voice in ones own head.

That certainly can be the way of things in the human world.

A few hard knocks and a person withdraws. A couple more and they become defensive and grouchy. Eventually they are making sure they’re the ones actively doing the rejecting. Get within feeder distance and they will run you off before you can so much as muster up a, “Hey, how ya doing?”

I don’t know what the answer is, but sharing your nuts is always a good place to start. Even if some won’t share them back. Maybe especially if others won’t share them back.

As the saying goes, “Hurting people, hurt people.”

Maybe hurting birds, hurt birds. Or maybe Stella just really, really, likes peanuts.

Short of settling Stella onto our couch while I sit nearby with a pad and pen on my knee, ready to record her fears, tears and anger issues, I will never know. And would it matter if I did?

When all is said and done, what really matters anyway? Heartache, gender, marital status, a beings disposition or the fact I have some seeds to share and we are all sharing a planet together?

What I know for sure is we are currently under a winter storm alert and the snow has been falling for hours and will continue to fall for several more hours to come.

It’s time to throw my coat back on, shovel the deck and share some more nuts.

Because I have some.

And Stella likes them.

 

 

 

*The picture of the stellar jay at the top of this post is a stock photo and not an actual shot of Stella. Here’s a shot of our Stella in the feeder that I snapped a couple of minutes ago…

And now you know why I use stock photos! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Love

I have a love/hate relationship with marketable quotes.

You know, those pithy signs you find in the decor section of stores.

I love to read them and so many strike a chord, change my outlook or make me smile. Other times I get comically cranky about the whole industry.

Like when I snapped a picture of the one shown above. On one hand the words instruct you to collect moments not things; a very wise instruction. On the other hand, you are being asked to shell out $21.97 to collect a thing, rather than a moment. Shouldn’t you just tuck the sentiment in the memory bank and leave the thing on the shelf? (FYI I came within a gnats eyebrow of putting this one in my cart before taking the message to heart and deciding to snap a picture of it instead. I don’t need any more things).

Depending on my mood, I can get downright defensive.

Be Calm.

Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

Stay in the Moment.

Live, Laugh and Love.

Just Breathe.

Relax.

I start to feel like I am being peppered with unsolicited advice until I’m like, DON’T YOU TELL ME WHAT TO DO! Who ARE these people with all these smug quotes and instructions who think they hold the answer to my head? You don’t know my head. You don’t have a clue. You can take your chalk paint and barn-boards and stuff them right where…and that’s when I realize I really need to breathe. And relax. Be Calm. And so forth.

At times it seems a tad ambitious to sum up and solve all our problems with a one line instruction beautifully painted on a piece of barn wood.

And yet…that is exactly what I want.

An infallible one line instruction to guide me through life.

It’s a human head and soul thing. You can go back over two thousand years and there you have the disciples of Jesus begging Him for The One Instruction. He tells them parable after parable after parable, but they still keep hammering away at him. Tell us, tell us, what should we do?

Finally he sums the whole shebang up by saying “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

That’s it.

That’s all there is to it.

Love.

Simply love.

Not judgement, finger-pointing, condemnation, preaching, ridiculing, bullying, punishing or rampant posting of nasty comments in the below section.

Just love.

Just.

Love.

Maybe I’ll paint that on a piece of wood and hang it on my wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Night, A Near Miss and A Direct Hit

Well, we woke up to winter as so often happens in the Peace Country on November first.

It always amazes me how that works. Obviously, we expect winter to arrive in November, but how it almost always shows up Halloween night speaks to something regimented and predictable, which is never how I have pegged Mother Nature.

Halloween night started off cold and rainy, before turning to sleet and finally full-on fat flakes of snow. Despite the seasons turn, we still got some brave and hardy treaters, for which I am grateful.

After four Halloweens in an apartment it was thrilling to hear the excited giggles and awkward clumps of costumed feet coming up our steps.

As our first Halloween in our new home, I was anxious to make a good impression on the neighbourhood children. I wanted the kids to be sure to program our house into their route for next year. And the one after that and…well, you get the idea. So with every giggle and clump on the steps, I rushed to the door eager to fill their bags with impressive treats.

Turns out not all treaters giggle or clump.

At one point in the evening I decided to check the sidewalk and steps to make sure they weren’t getting too icy. I was two steps from the door when the doorbell rang. I let out a (thankfully) small yelp and shot three feet in the air.

As I dropped treats into the bags, I thanked the Universe for her timing. Had I reached the door just a second sooner, I would have lost my mind.

To say I startle easy is an understatement. Not only that, I am not quiet about it. There’s a running joke in our family over how easily I am surprised. A family member can simply come around a corner of a room, and it is enough to make me scream. Opening a door to check on the weather only to find a punk rocker and a gorilla six inches from my nose…well, I assure you there would have been plenty of screaming.

And how confusing would that have been?

The poor treaters would have been wondering several things.

One – Why did I open the door prematurely?

Two – Given that I was the one opening the door unexpectedly, why was I the one screaming?

Three – It’s Halloween lady. You should be prepared for scary sights on your doorstep.

And finally, Four – We’re a gorilla and a punk rocker. That’s not so scary.

Fabulous costumes and all of that, but not exactly terror inducing.

Instead of being locked into their GPS for next year, we’d become known as the house with the scary, crazy lady who opens the door before you even knock and then screams so loud your ears ring.

Close call but crisis averted.

As for winter, it’s not looking like a close call at all. It is looking like a direct hit.

And that’s okay. As my sister shared with me this morning, if we don’t get winter how will we ever get to spring?