The snow was almost gone from the front yard and little spikes of bulbs were spearing their way up all over the place. On the south bed, up against the house, one daring little crocus even burst into bloom.
Today, while out snow blowing the driveway, there was no sign of life. Or lawn. Just lots of the white stuff and I don’t mean crocus petals.
Every year spring arrives and we lose our minds. Every year, just as the last bit of snow is about to melt, winter makes a comeback and every year we are equal parts outraged and surprised.
As that old joke goes, winter in the north is like an angry person who storms out of the room only to return and say, “And another thing…”
Today we woke up to another thing which turned out to be several inches thick. Which is also a good thing, given the amount of life that was starting to bubble to the surface. When temperatures drop, the snow acts like an insulating blanket keeping all that greenery protected until winter decides to exit again, which, according the forecast, will happen tomorrow with highs of +11 C.
So once again, we are looking forward to spring casting off its white comforter. But this time we are keeping a wary eye on the door in case winter has a few last stormy retorts.
Spring is being generous with our town this year. She showed up soft and slow, giving the city some time to sort out the sewer drains before hitting double digits this week.
I went for a walk along one of our many paved trails. The snow had melted into a small river running alongside the walkway, the sun shone warm and the pavement beneath my feet was bare and dry for the first time in months. I turned my face up to the sun, closed my eyes for a second and was suddenly struck with an overwhelming urge to lay down on the warm pathway and soak up the heat like a cat.
Only two things stopped me.
One, the pathway is frequented by dogs who make generous daily deposits. While there was no actual evidence of this in the stretch of pathway in front of me, I knew the residue was there.
Two, at my age, laying down on a public walkway would end in chaos and ambulances. Well, I suppose at any age it would cause a bit of eyebrow raising, but with me the assumption would be stroke or heart attack related for sure. How to explain I was just experiencing a bout of spring madness?
And so I carried on walking, keeping my reckless ideas safely in my head and up off the pavement for the sake of all things sanity and sanitary. But oh how warm that pavement looked after weeks of crazy cold.
People have already started shovelling the snow off their lawns and into the streets. Last year, our first spring in a house in town, I was bemused by the practice. I figured it was just a case of some home owners being anxious for spring and desperate to start mowing their lawns.
Why bother I thought to myself. Another couple weeks and everyone would have a bare lawn one way or the other. Plus all that snow could have been soaking in and watering their front yard instead of the street. It seemed a terrible waste of both time and moisture.
This year I know better.
It’s the gravel on top of the snow, tossed there during the necessity of winter maintenance, that makes returning the snow to the street such a savvy move. It is much easier to shovel snow, gravel and all, back to the street for the sweeper to reclaim than it is to rake it out of your lawn when the snow is gone.
Right now the big bank of snow along our curb is still a few feet tall, but lowering fast. I am eyeing the shrinkage and waiting for the opportune moment to start shovelling.
Things are moving faster closer to the house. Look at this!
I call it the great receding snow line. There is no sweeter sight than a flower bed emerging from the snow. This is my first spring in five years that I can step into a garden and see what has returned from all the mad planting I did the year before.
Am I excited? You bet. I could just roll around on the ground kind of excited. But I won’t. At least I am pretty sure I won’t.
I do a variety of art projects for no better reason than when I dabble with paint or mosaics or mixed media the world slips away and for a few blissful moments it feels like I am in conversation with The Universe.
Once the conversation ends I am left with a piece of what could loosely be called art that sometimes makes its way onto a wall or a shelf in our home. More often than not, the piece ends up being recycled for a second go around in another “conversation” to come.
Sometimes I like the pieces well enough, but too many accumulate and I end up donating a few to a thrift store. I confess that on a few occasions I have returned later to see what they have priced my work at and if it sells. I don’t know if that is weird, pathetic, completely narcissistic or all three. Don’t judge me.
A couple weeks ago I was in one of our local thrift stores when I spotted a mosaic piece I had made well over a decade ago. For years it had hung by the wood stove in our kitchen on the farm. When we moved into town, almost five years ago, I had donated it, not to see if it would sell, but simply because I was purging for the move.
I frequent this thrift store often and hadn’t seen the mosaic hanging there before, so I knew it hadn’t been there the whole time.
Plus the frame had been scuffed and damaged since I donated it. I figured someone bought it, hadn’t loved it much and then donated it again, or maybe it had just been kicking around the back storage room all these years and had suffered damage that way.
The only thing I knew for sure was the sticker read $3.99 and I felt sorry for it. I grabbed it off the wall like I was rescuing a puppy from a dumpster and carried it over to the till.
The ego part of me was hoping the salesperson would say something complimentary about the mosaic or perhaps marvel at the surprisingly cheap price tag attached.
“What? 3.99? There must be some kind of mistake. It should be at least 39.99!” but all she said was, “That will be 2.79 please.”
I handed her the two toonies I had ready and she quickly deposited a loony and a couple dimes back into my hand.
“Actually that’s not right,” I told her, trying to return the change. “It’s 3.99.”
She stared at me for a long moment, looking a bit like a deer in the headlights, before cautiously saying, “Um, it’s Senior Tuesday so I gave you your 30 percent discount.”
Bad enough my art was abused, rejected twice and mockingly priced, but now here I was finding out I look a full ten years older than I actually am.
But then I thought, hey, that’s what happens when you enjoy a lifetime of summers gardening in the sun. I can almost buy a pack of garden seeds with that buck seventy-nine savings. AND I get a mosaic piece I know for a fact cost at least twenty dollars in ingredients to make, all for a mere two dollars and seventy-nine cents.
Spring arrives tomorrow at 1 pm. How is that for precise? That is when temperatures are supposed to creep up to the plus side of zero and-according to the forecast-stay there for the daytime for the next 14 days.
With daylight savings kicking in tomorrow for much of the country, that’s 1 pm Pacific not Mountain. For us it is simply Peace Country time, which is the same time all year long. While everyone around us switches back and forth, we just keep our clocks unchanged, only it’s not the same time because half the time we’re the same as the rest of BC and the other half we’re the same as Alberta so we’re always having to adjust for that. Confused yet? Me too.
Animals in the Peace have no such problems. Dinner time never changes. If dinner is 5 pm it is 5 pm 24/7/365.
What is about to change is this…
So. Much. Snow. I took this picture this morning. Beneath that heap of snow on our front lawn is my newest garden bed which I loaded up with bulbs last fall. I am giddy with anticipation. On the far right corner buried beneath soil, mulch and six feet of snow is a giant allium bulb that is meant for Zone 5. Living in our land of Zone 2b or not 2b, splurging on this bulb was a bit of a reckless gamble, but look at that snow cover!
Thanks to the city and their snow truck spewing ways, the amount of insulation on the allium makes the four inch layer of mulch I carefully piled on top of the precious bulb laughable. I have high hopes for the bulb’s survival.
I guess we will find out soon enough. Time to put on the gum boots, stand back and let ‘er melt. Hello spring!
Many North American indigenous cultures referred to the first New Moon of the year as the Moon of the Cold Exploding Trees.
This is a phenomena that happens when the temperatures plunge so low the water in the sap freezes, expands and causes the trees to burst their bark.
It is not a silent process. People who have heard it liken the noise to gun fire.
Indeed, many a wilderness dweller has been catapulted out of bed on a frosty night, thinking they were under siege, only to realize they were surrounded by trees exploding in the cold winter night.
Nature is incredible, adaptable and resilient…to a point. Sort of like the people who live here. For months we stay surprisingly cheerful, shoveling our driveways, donning toques, gloves and all manner of winter gear before heading outdoors, dealing with cars that refuse to start, ice on the windshield, eyelashes freezing shut and ice. So much ice. We wave at neighbours, laugh at the cold and view the snow as frosting on our fabulous winterland cake of life.
And then one day we fall on the ice, or our scraper breaks while cleaning the windshield or we just get tired of being cold. Whatever the reason, our inside happiness temperature plunges and it just becomes a bit much. We lose our shit. We burst our bark.
Some people go south for a holiday and litter Facebook with photos of snorkelling, surfing and sunbathing. They send up pithy quotes to their northern friends such as, “We woke up to six inches of sand this morning.”
I click the like button, turn up the heat and brew a cup of tea and question the meaning of life. I get through the bark busting days by looking at seed catalogues, reading garden books and doing that magic thing that we gardeners do so well…looking out at our snow covered yard but seeing the potential beneath it instead. You could call it Mind Melting.
Today the thermometer reads -30 C while the weather report tells me it is -40 C with the windchill. It is a Mind Melting Bark Busting kind of a day.
None of our trees have exploded, thank goodness. At least not yet. It is incredible to think how they adapt and more incredible still, to know they are in a holding pattern. Despite the frigid temperatures and their lifeless appearance, they are just biding their time until they reignite in a froth of green buds and colourful blossoms in a beautiful circle of life.
What hope. What beauty. What a remarkable world we live in.
We have been under an extreme cold weather advisory for well over a week. Today it is -25 with a windchill of -38 C. Balmy compared to Monday when it dipped to a windchill of -50 C
I can picture my father coming into the sunny farmhouse, a blast of cold swirling around his knees as he stamped the snow from his boots, proclaiming with a twinkle in his blue eyes, “When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen!”
And so it always does. There is no cold like the cold that follows the shortest day of the year and the slow return of the light. It is a special kind of cold that reaches its icy tentacles into the months of February and March and on down into your bones.
On the upside, the days are getting longer, which is a welcome salve to our frostbitten souls. And then there is the sunshine! The Peace Country excels at serving up generous portions of sunshine and cobalt skies. It may be cold, but it is rarely dreary and I am always grateful for that. And for a warm house with central heating.
It’s been a year since my father passed away and a year and a couple months since my mother died. We miss them. A lot. The grieving process has been a bit of a strange process because they were both so sick and losing their minds for such a long time, so the grief started long before they died and now it keeps morphing around like a shape shifter or something.
I miss who they were when they died, but I really miss who they used to be before that and then all their personifications from the parents of my childhood to becoming grandparents to my own children. Sometimes it feels like I am grieving for several different people, instead of two.
As a farmer and gardener, memories of my parents inevitably end up entwined in memories of plants. I went to Violin Nidra last night, which is this amazing thing that happens every few weeks, where an incredibly talented violinist comes in and plays music while the yoga instructor leads a roomful of stressed out people in a guided meditation. It lasts for an hour, but feels like fifteen minutes. It is beautiful and a great lesson in learning the art of being present.
Of course, the mind is sometimes a mischievous thing that likes to dart off here and there like a hyper chichuaua instead of just staying with the breath.
Last night, in the middle of meditation, my mind unexpectedly filled with wild roses, asters, yarrow, paintbrushes, golden rod, arnica daises, alfalfa, saskatoons, wild strawberries and red clover. While the instructor’s voice urged presence and the violin notes soared over our still bodies, my chihuahua mind furtively began to dig a garden bed in tribute to the Peace Country, to my childhood, to my parents.
I decided that come spring I would see about getting a few rocks and roots from the piles that edge the fields out at the farm. Piles that my sisters and I once helped our parents build as we cleared the fields in preparation for seeding. Laying on the yoga studio floor, no one knew I was busily positioning roots and rocks around wildflowers and berry bushes. Which was kind of a shame, because the result was quite spectacular, if I do say so myself.
Since most of the plants are on the invasive side, I decided to make the bed in the “dead strip” against the shed so it would be safely bordered by the building and lawn. I was just entertaining the idea of transforming the shed into a log cabin (how fitting would that be, right?) when Violin Nidra came to a close. My plans would have to wait.
Today there is a pile of snow against the shed, but soon it will melt and make way for my new bed. That is the magic of gardening. It heals, it offers hope and it can take an idea dreamt up in a yoga class and turn it into something real, something solid, complete with roots, stems, leaves and blossoms; well, solid and real for a season anyway.
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.
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.