Archive for May, 2008

Shook off my mob cap and pinny this weekend to check out R.E.M.’s new tour which kicked off in Deer Lake Park. They played a great mix of the tried and true, along with a number of songs from their new album, Accelerate. Great sound, plus intriguing light show made for an amazing concert experience. Opening acts were the National and Modest Mouse. You have to love an open-air concert on a fine evening. If they are coming to your town, I recommend you check ’em out.  And now, back to my mild observations on gardening…

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Like a bolt out of the blue, I opened my morning paper yesterday to learn that country style-guru Mary Emmerling has written a book on beach cottage decor:  Mary Emmerling’s Beach Cottages: At Home by the Sea .  My birthday is just a few weeks away . . . so hopefully I can provide a full review mid-July.  Meanwhile, there are some juicy tidbits in this interview from the Washington Post, in which she dishes on her favourite white on white Benjamin Moore paint combination. (Linen White and Decorator’s White) and throws out some great ideas – and a few impractical ones. 

My favourite idea, from this short article, is planting mint all around your outdoor shower (I don’t actually have one of those, but I know a good place for one!)  Less charming is the idea of ‘putting flip-flops everywhere’ – My life is one long battle against scattered shoes. Sorry, Mary, but I will NEVER deliberately toss flip-flops around a room for aesthetic purposes. 

Update:  August 2009  – See the Solar Shower we just installed at the cottage

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It only LOOKS safe and peaceful.

A long weekend and a great forecast had us heading to the cottage for three nights, where we were joined by some of our city neighbours for barbecues, campfires and lots of laughs. We have an enormous deck on the steep slope behind the cottage where a previous owner had a hot tub, and it seemed like a natural spot for a tent. The three boys opted for the tent, our neighbours happily claimed the bunkroom and it was all good.

On our first night, just before bedtime, Little Urchin (Lu) was feeling a bit queasy, and since a late night, some pop and snacks and a lot of excitement has been known to affect him in profound ways, we made up a bed for him in the living room, handed him an empty ice cream bucket, and were all tucked up in our beds, bunks or tent by around 11 p.m.

At 3:30 a.m., I came wide awake at the sound of something moving between our bedroom window and the tent platform. Since Big Urchin (Bu) is known to sleep walk, I immediately had visions of him crashing down the embankment. So I insisted that Cottager go and have a look. He found his glasses, and a flashlight and his shoes and toiled up the dark trail, reporting back that all was well. Next morning, the kids remarked that an unfinished bag of nacho chips they’d left outside had mysteriously disappeared, and we chalked it up to feckless kids and a happy raccoon.

Next night, and there were three kids in the tent, until Bu appeared to advise us that Lu had tossed his cookies in the “door to Narnia” – their name for the box built to hold the mechanical offshoots of the long-vanished hot tub. So Cottager found his glasses and his flashlight and his shoes, and escorted the over-excited camper down the trail to his waiting trundle bed and bucket, and we all went back to bed.

…Until about an hour later when the phone rang and I answered to hear Bu whispering urgently and only semi -coherently from his cellphone (yes, he got my old one -pay and talk)

“Neighbour’s son was telling me . . .  true story . . . Discovery Channel . . .  attacked by . . . attracted by the vomit on his shirt . . . . hear a noise . . . can we sleep on the floor? . . . please come and get us . . .

So Cottager found his glasses, shoes, flashlight and went back up the trail to rescue the boys, whom he found sitting in the dark, jack-knives at the ready. Meanwhile, I stayed in bed and had a really good laugh. You see, while we sometimes debate and fine-tune our parental roles, Cottager is and will ALWAYS be the go-to guy for situations involving vomit – seeking monsters.

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The first weekend market was held in Gibsons Landing over the Victoria Day weekend, and I scored a hat trick when I found some great plants, supported a worthy cause and made a new friend.  But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

When I posted photos of the mirrored planter given to me by a neighbour, my cousins in Buitenpost, Friesland (Netherlands) pointed out that succulents or cacti would be my best bet for a smallish container likely to see water only every second week or so. 

So that is how I met Bente. She was selling plants at the weekend market to raise money for the Gibsons Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Many of her wares come from donations. I bought two sedum, one escheveria and one hens and chicks for my mirrored planter, then invited Bente to pop by the cottage one day to help me identify some of my overgrown perennials and to take a selection of them for her next sale. 

Now the succulents can’t live in this planter forever, so I just left them in their containers with some beach stones and drift wood tucked around them. For this summer, they look quite sweet. 

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My sister, helping me fight back against over-zealous green thingsFor the first time in my life I have fertile earth to play with. But not as much as I expected. Everything is growing so fast at the cottage, that instead of putting my own stamp on the garden with some of my favourite plants, I am really just thinning and weeding and discovering in the process – ever more plants! Recently, enormous hostas began shooting up everywhere! I am nearly drowning in green things.

 But…my yard at home is a debacle. A desperate lack of topsoil is the first problem. Since our townhome is not an end unit, bringing topsoil in requires much goodwill from the neighbour (which we have) and a lot of energy (which we apparently do not.)

What soil we do have is very acidic -possibly owing to the 200 ft. firs towering all about. What grows well is Oregon grape, ferns, periwinkle, salal, huckleberries – and weeds. 

About 10 years ago – it seems like 2 – we planted three blueberries and some grass and generally tried to impose some order out there. Haven’t done much since though. The blueberries, starved for sunlight, have soldiered on but have never produced more than a handful of berries. The grass is kaput.

But now that I have a real garden, seething with green vitality, fresh motivation has arrived and a cunning plan is dawning.

Step 1: Remove the excess vegetation from my scruffy westcoast backyard. Give the blueberries a second shot at leading a productive life by transplanting them over to the sunny hillside behind our cottage.

Step 2: Bite the bullet (Cottager’s bullet too!) and haul in some topsoil.

Step 3: Try, once again but with feeling, to whip our yard into shape. Draw up a plan that includes a path to the forest trail. Give up on trying to grow sun-loving plants and grass. Split up those ebullant cottage hostas, dig up some of the smaller shade friendly shrubs and transplant iris and other well established plants that have over-reached their potential at the cottage into the least shady areas of my city yard. (That will teach them to be so keen!)

This will allow me to tame the cottage garden – possibly even freeing up some space for a jasmine and a lilac. It will allow me to improve my backyard without a big investment in plants.  It will doubtless please my townhouse neighbours, who have reserved comment – likely with difficulty.

Please don’t imagine this is going to happen quickly. The clearing out and making a plan cannot be rushed.  The topsoil project will have to be pitched to my foreman at just the right time, and probably with top-level incentives. But I’m thinking that this time next year, instead of looking like this….. (Oh the shame!)





 It might look more like this…. Yeah, that’s the neighbour’s place…

Yeah... that\'s the neighbours yard

So really, this is a tale of THREE gardens. 

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I saw some cute little paintings in a local shop, and couldn’t stop thinking about them.

Went back a few times, and the shop always seemed to be closed, and I would look at them through the window; four small, square canvasses painted with summery stripes and one word apiece. 

So I bought two 2-packs of 10 inch “Buzz” canvasses and ten small acrylic paints at Michaels, and I thought I’d have a go.  I used painter’s masking tape to get my stripes straight, but there was still some bleeding.

I didn’t free-hand my chosen words either: I produced them with WordArt, then cut them into stencils with nail scissors.  Some time after they were up on the wall, I happened past the store again, it was open, and I finally got a chance to inquire about the price:  Fifty dollars – each! 

Mine aren’t quite as nice, but they cost less than thirty-five dollars, all in. So I am alternately happy about my thriftiness, and guilty about my theft of artistic intellectual property. If the artist ever happens upon this post, I hope she doesn’t decide to egg my house. 

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I got a lot of great advice from the GardenWeb quilter’s forum and About.com’s quilter’s forum, and met some nice people too. I learned about adding perspective through shading, and definition by way of a machine free-quilting technique, ‘couching’ (adding texture by attaching fibres with invisible thread), fabric painting, using netting, and much more. As a largely self-taught, trial-and-error sort of quilter, many of these ideas were entirely new to me. Many who responded included photos of quilts in which they had used these techniques. The projects shared were just amazing.

I feel quite inspired and even a bit spoilt for choice in terms of the ways that I could transform the big green blob into a more accurate representation of the mountains across the lake.  I’ll be sure to post a second photo – that promise alone will help to keep me on track.

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problem quiltI started this quilt top in a fit of inspiration – but without any real plan – quite a few years back. It depicts my favourite view from the old family cottage porch. Those are my boys jumping off the dock, though they are quite a bit bigger now. And the chair in the foreground is my ‘happy place.’

From time to time I dig this quilt out to add a few more details, but there is a problem that I just can’t get past, and until I do, it will never be finished.

My musings last week on the old cottage collided with my discovery that GardenWeb has a quilters forum, so I dug this out, determined to seek advice, choose a course of action, and – as noted in my blog mandate – “finish that (darn) quilt.”

So here is the problem: Whatever idea I had for the mountain background when I sewed in the green wholecloth outline has deserted me. It desperately needs shading and definition. I have photos to work from, but I can’t figure out how to go about it.

I solved a similar problem in another quilt with 1 inch watercolour squares, but I don’t want to do that again. My best idea at present is to use snippets, but I feel there is a better idea waiting for me out there. 

Please click on the image for a larger view and if you have a thought on how to resolve my dilemma, do share! My adopted weekend community of Gibsons has a Fiber Arts festival each August, and my goal is to finish and submit this quilt for display in the 2009 festival. Thats leaves me about 15 months, and with my busy life, that is a realistic goal.

Thanks for visiting and for any advice you can offer!

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