Humming Rosemary

There isn’t much in bloom at this time of year around our place. Daffodils, crocuses, a few early daisies and other weeds in the lawn.

And the rosemary.

Rosemary is perennial here, and grows into a large shrub unless regularly trimmed. The rosemary in the herb knot in the front yard is kept quite small, but two bushes by the side of the house are allowed to range more widely. They’re about two metres tall, and almost as wide. Right now they are in full bloom.

And they are absolutely filled with bees. I swear, there’s an entire hive there right now. The hum is audible from five metres away.

I love to watch bees on rosemary. Not only are they incredibly enthusiastic about the nectar, but they collect the purple pollen, which looks really cool in their pollen baskets.

We’ve been talking about re-envisioning the plantings at the side of the house. The new plan doesn’t have giant rosemary plants in it. Watching the bees enjoy the blooms in early spring, though, we might just have to rethink that.

The Road

Road smI have always liked this photo. There are so many stories here. I’ve actually looked at it regularly as inspiration for blog posts, but can never decide what story to use with it.

This was the road to our house in Panama. Cars could sometimes make it this far, rarely farther. I always considered this slope to be one of the better parts of the road, though it deteriorated rapidly after this point. Down at the bottom, around the curve and hidden from the camera, there was usually a large deep hole in the middle of the road, through which ran a stream.

I walked this slope regularly. It was the way to town, the way to the houses of many of the farmers I worked with. In the dry season, it was nothing to walk up and down it. In the wet season, it became a slippery mess. I can’t tell you how many times I fell on that slope. One time in particular, I remember vividly. I was heading to the city or somewhere else I needed to look respectable. I was wearing a dress, and as I started climbing the slope, I worried I would fall and have to show up at my destination covered in red mud. I was more careful than usual, placing my feet tentatively, keeping to the drier parts of the road.

Naturally, I went down in spectacular fashion. I ended up sitting in the mud and sliding downhill.

But as luck (or, rather, Newton’s laws of physics) would have it, I went down so fast, that the skirt of my dress didn’t come down until after I was seated in the mud. Yes, I essentially slid down the slope with nothing but my underwear on. My legs, bottom, and underwear were caked with red mud, but the dress was miraculously clean. When I stood, the mud was all covered by the skirt.

With no time to go home and change, I carried on, and proceeded through my day, looking perfectly clean, but with mud caked all over the inside of my clothes. I never did get the red stains from that clay out of my underwear.


Crocuses to the Rescue

2016-08-29 18.00.55It was a long day. I was working in town. At the library. Trying to focus sitting next to a man who spent the day ripping pungent farts, then next to a pair having a loud business meeting. It was a spectacularly unproductive day. I went for groceries, and the store smelled of rotting fish. I sat in the hot car waiting for the kids, who were late getting out of their after-school activity.

With a splitting headache, I drove home, an hour later than I expected, and two hours later than I’d hoped. I took the route with fewer intersections, knowing my exhaustion and pounding head would throw my judgement off.

I got home (thankfully to find my husband was making dinner) and raced to do the afternoon chores before the light was gone. I was ready for some good rural silence, but the neighbour was ploughing next door, and the rumble of the tractor rattled my brain. Last thing I had to do was go collect the mail.

On the way to the mailbox, I saw the crocuses—the first of the year. They were as limp and spent as I was, but they made me smile. The rest of the unpleasant, frustrating day didn’t matter—the crocuses were enough.


When Summer Meets Winter

2016-08-21 10.36.07Early spring is an awkward time in my office. The office is used, not just for work, but also for sewing, crafts, and as a heated greenhouse.

In springtime, it can get awfully crowded in there.

I do a lot of sewing over winter, when the garden doesn’t demand so much of my time, and it’s not particularly pleasant outside. In summer, I do almost none—I have little free time, and my hands are so garden-rough that working with fabric is a lesson in frustration.

But in springtime, the two often overlap. My winter sewing list is always longer than I have time for, and I try to squeeze as many projects in as possible before I run out of time. That means I’m usually still frantically trying to finish the last project when it’s time to start vegetable seeds. The plant shelves go into the office and are filled with seedling trays while the sewing machine and iron are still set up.

It’s crowded, fabric invariably gets dirty, pins and scissors end up getting dropped on fragile seedlings.

Some day, maybe I’ll have a dedicated, heated greenhouse so that sewing and gardening can be separate. Until then, winter will rub shoulders with summer for a few weeks every year.

Saturday Stories: Gardener’s Ballad

DSC_0003 copy

I couldn’t resist a story in verse this week…

A gardener’s life is full of shit
And compost is the best of it.
Now hear a tale of a gardener who
Rose to fame on a pile of poo.

T’was springtime when, as all do know
Young green things are apt to grow.
And Sally, your young gardener fair
Prepared the soil with skill and care.

She turned it with her spading fork.
And pulled the weeds, such heavy work.
Then went she to the compost pile.
Which had been rotting for a while.

Cow pies, weeds and chicken poo,
Mouldy hay she’d added, too.
It made a rick and crumbly mix.
The deficiencies of her soil to fix.

Into the soil her compost went.
She mixed, raked it, then she bent
And lovingly she planted seed
‘Atlantic Giant’, yes indeed.

For this year, she would beat them all
Win biggest pumpkin in the fall.
All summer she did weed and water
As though the pumpkin were her daughter.

The pumpkin grew, and grew, and grew.
Drawing nutrients from the poo.
And Sally grinned as the contest neared.
She thought of past competitors who jeered.

But this year, she would have last laugh.
She had the biggest pumpkin by half.
Fifteen hundred pounds it weighed.
A large blue ribbon on it laid.

Sally was famous, her gardening lauded.
And all the spectators loudly applauded.
And when she was asked, just what did she do,
She calmly replied, “I just fed it some poo!”

Neptune’s Daughter

DSC_0009Rock and limpet,
Sea and shell,
Oh, what stories
You might tell!

Of mako shark and
Shipwrecked sailors
Lost at sea.

Love songs of
The humpbacked whale,
Farewells as a ship
Sets sail.

Jellyfish that sting
With grace,
Corals waving
Fronds of lace.

Sea slug, starfish,
Kelp and ray,
Eel and flounder
In the bay.

Squid and seahorse
Swimming by–
All the things
That you and I

Will never see.

Unless, one day
By unknown magic
Or perhaps by
Accident tragic.

We find ourselves
Beneath the water,
Swimming free
Like Neptune’s daughter.

Ode to a Seed


Oh, little seed
Barely a speck.
Germ and cotyledon armoured
In seed coat.
You hold such potential–
A pea, a bean, a sprawling melon
Waits inside your humble shell.
Such modest desires you possess–
Soil, sun, water, warmth.
It is my pleasure to provide for you
Knowing you, someday, will provide for me–
Succulent tomatoes, crisp lettuce, spicy radishes.
I can taste your future.

Grow, little seed.
You are my sun, my life, my lunch.
You are spring itself.


DSC_0033 smWhat is this in my chair?
Who spreads tail across the couch?
You leap upon the windowsill
You howl at night atop a wall
You catch a mouse and eat it whole
You please yourself and that is that

Sedgemere Haiku–Spring

In honour of National Poetry Day this Friday, the remainder of my posts this week will be in verse.

2016-04-18 14.50.46 cropFog billows in wet.
Frosting hair, spider webs, grass
With silver gilding.


Magpie warbles loud
In early morning darkness,
Waking up the sun.


Bees hum in purple
Lavender blooms, blue pollen
Dusting hairy backs.


Seedlings defy frost,
Growing tall in warm sunshine,
Sheltered under glass.


Sparrows descend to
Old sheds, bringing straw, grass, noise
Leaving poo, feathers.


Ploughs plough, seagulls wheel
Overhead seeking
The freshly turned worm.

Competition Ploughing

2016-08-20 11.18.35 smThis past weekend was the annual Ellesmere Vintage Club’s Ploughing Match. Our neighbour hosts the event, so we walked down there on Saturday morning to watch the action.

It was slow-motion action. No big thrills or adrenalin. Just the rumble of diesel engines and the smell of freshly turned soil. It was clear the point was a perfectly-turned patch of ground, not speed. There was a lot of starting and stopping, and adjusting of freshly-painted ploughs.

2016-08-20 11.22.21 smA pair of horses joined the 1940s and ’50s era tractors. Watching them work, it’s clear why tractors have taken over on the farm—there was significantly more fiddling to be done by the horse team in order to perfect their rows.

The demographics of the crowd were predictable. Before we arrived, I commented to my daughter that we might be the only women there. Her response was that she would likely be the youngest person there…by about 70 years.

2016-08-20 11.32.18 cropWhile the majority of competitors were as vintage as their tractors, there were a few younger ones. Two or three other children were there, too, though they were sitting in a car playing on an iPad. And there was a small contingent of women. A few wives watched from the sidelines, and a woman drove the horse team.

It was a true small-town event—25 competitors, and perhaps 40 people in total at the event when we were there. Participants were shuttled to the local hall for lunch on two long benches, set back-to-back atop a flatbed trailer.

2016-08-20 11.33.12 smLater, as the event broke up and tractors motored past the house, we laughed—it was hard to tell which vehicles were en route from the competition, and which ones were simply on their way from paddock to paddock. Many of these vintage tractors still get regular use on the farm.

Of course, I have to wonder what will happen as the vintage tractor enthusiasts and their machines age further. Will younger farmers grow nostalgic about tractors from the 60s and 70s as they age? If not, we’ll see a lot fewer than 25 contestants at vintage ploughing matches in future years.