A Good Home, Afternoon Tea, Friendship, Gardens, Joyful Moments, July Garden, Kindness, Nature, Ontario, Outdoor Living, Red currants, Relationships, Summer Garden, Vegetable Garden, Vegetables

Food, Friends, Verandah

Everybody was complaining about summer.

Not me.

Blog Photo - Muskoka Chairs and Flowers

After a painful several months – much of it spent in bed – I welcomed the summer by taking to the verandah.

Colourful cushions, simple wood furniture and time-worn rugs created a homey feel.

Blog Photo - Verandah chairs

A verandah is a place for serious summer reading….

Blog Photo - Verandah - Reading intently

Or some serious hanging out….

Blog Photo - Verandah - dogs on old rug

Blog Photo - Julius lying down

In the nearby garden, sometimes it rained and hailed and the wind was crazy.

Blog Photo - Rainy Peonies

But flowers bloomed everywhere.

Blog Photo - Peony deep pink single

Birds sang.

The air was fresh.

Blog Photo - Blue-Pink clems

Family and friends came to visit.

Some invited themselves, which I loved.

Blog Photo - Verandah - Bee Balm Single

“How are you coping these days?”

“I’ve taken to the verandah,” I replied.

“I’m coming to visit!”

It was the summer of the verandah. Of  kindness and affection. Laughter and quiet moments.

My editor Tim, returning home to South Africa, spent most of his last week in Canada with our family. He held court on the verandah like an eminence grise, saying wise, cryptic and funny things to everyone.

Blog Photo - Verandah - Tim Mischief

Some people wondered how he’d handle returning to a country which he left decades ago. Tim’s enigmatic reply: “Did I mention I’ll have the use of a heated swimming pool?”

“Long way to go for a heated swimming pool,” we laughed.

Blog Photo - Verandah Visitor 2K

Of course, one should always feed one’s visitors. Despite one’s lack of cooking talent.

“You are the best cook I’ve ever met,” Tim declared, straight-faced, to loud laughter.

I swatted him with my dinner napkin.  He complained  – theatrically –  of “the abuses I suffer in your home”. 

Blog Photo - Verandah Guest 1

We alternated between joking, serious talk and companionable silence.  If tears were hovering, we didn’t let them show. This man has been a stalwart friend to me through life’s challenging times and I shall miss him.

Blog Photo - Verandah - Tim says something wise

Marilyn visited next. Marilyn’s the doyenne of tea (See Simply Splendid Victorian Afternoon Teas.)  She kindly admired my floral arrangement and I wisely served a cold lunch… no cooking required.

Blog Photo - Verandah Guest 3M

“I caught that salmon, smoked it and sliced it,” I lied.

“Well done,” she praised, playing along.

Blog Photo - Verandah - Salmon and lettuce

Seriously, though: the lettuce, tomatoes and red currants came from our garden.

Blog Photo - Verandah - Red Currants

Longtime friend Dale arrived late one night, on her way back home from visiting family out west. I made breakfast, the only thing I cook consistently well, and we caught up on family news.

Blog Photo - Verandah Path

Marie, who lives way up north, took an evening break from her role in an important cross-country hearing. My husband cooked supper that day, as he did for my childhood friend, Angela and her family. Wonderful occasions.

Jacqui dropped in and lucked into one of the nicest dishes I made this summer.

Blog Photo - Jacqui on verandah

“But this is GOOD!” she declared.

“Don’t tell anyone!” I pleaded. “You’ll ruin my reputation.”

Blog Photo - Verandah - Dogs in Foregorund and Visitors in BG

Anthony Trollope once asked: “What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book and a cup of coffee?” 

My answer: “A verandah, a garden, and loved ones to share them with.”

Blog Photo - Verandah - Garden bed outside verandah

Dedicated, with a grateful heart, to my caring family and friends… and everyone who appreciates a verandah.

Advertisements
A Good Home, Aggie and Lou, Environment-friendly, Farming, Farms, Flowers, Gardens, Living sustainably, Organic Farming, Organic Food, Peonies, Spring garden, Stewards of the land, Texas, The environment, Vegetables

Blooms for Aggie (and Lou)

Aggie asked me to publish blooms of peonies from my garden.

Blog Photo - Peonies almost open Light pink

I promised I would.

Blog Photo - Peony and bee

Who is Aggie, you may ask?

Blog Photo - Peony Rust

Aggie and husband Lou run Isis Farms near Avery, Texas. They call what they do “beyond organic”.

“We want to grow and supply ‘real’ food, for ourselves, and as many people as possible. We think that good, whole food is a key to health.”

They describe themselves as stewards of their 30-acre land.

“As stewards of this land, we want to nurture a healthy ecosystem, maintaining the forest, reintroducing native grasses, and keeping the chemicals out.”

Blog Photo - Peonies in Bloom

Aggie and Lou believe the planet cannot possibly sustain the average American’s lifestyle. So they are doing their part to reduce their impact on the earth.

“For example, we are planning for solar power, and rainwater collection and drip irrigation to minimize water usage. Our home is small, and we heat with wood, which creates no additional greenhouse gases, and is freely available in our forest. We purchase used items when practical.”

Aggie and Lou have been working very hard to realize their ideals. And they continue to do so, through what seems to be every single day. This kind of work and vision take commitment, but they seem to have it in spades.

Blog Photo - Peony and weigela

So these blooms are a tribute to Aggie and Lou and Isis Farms.

And because Aggie asked to see them.

Blog Photo - Peony deep pink single

This post is dedicated to Aggie, Lou, and all who are doing something to “reduce their impact” on the earth.

*The second and third images above are by my wonderful photographer Hamlin Grange. (The rest are by that awful photo-taker who shall not be named.)

A Good Home, Aging Well, Apples, Architecture, Autumn, Canada, Childhood Memories, Country Living, Couples, Flowering shrubs, Flowers, Following your dreams, Garden, Gardening, Home, Home Decor, Homes, Interior Design, Life in canada, Lifestyle, Lunch, Physical challenges, Physical health, Renovating, Vegetables

At Home With Valerie Rowley – Pt. 2

Interior designer Valerie Rowley and her husband Chris took a big risk in 1993 when they bought their future home.  For one thing, the countryside house north of Toronto was quite run-down.

“We immediately saw the potential but we hadn’t sold our existing house and it was during the recession.  So did we play it safe and wait?   Nah!  We bought it and just fervently hoped our other one sold (we were up against another bidder so really had no choice).”

The other house sold, in the nick of time.

Blog Photo - Val house steps with flowers Looking at the house today, you wouldn’t know all the work Val and Chris took on. Blog Photo - Val Patio “We virtually rebuilt the interior of this home.  And made the garden almost from scratch – unless you count the few scrubby six-foot cedars that we inherited. It took many years which is why we feel we have so much of ourselves invested in it.” Blog Photo - Vals Kitchen Val’s favourite interior spaces are the kitchen and sunroom.  Blog Photo - Val Sunroom“The sunroom is full of light all year round. It’s also where I raise my vegetable and flower seedlings, grow watercress, herbs and salads through the winter, take cuttings of summer geraniums. To have this area full of pink, salmon and red blooms through the snow season makes the monochrome of winter bearable.” Blog Photo - Val Homegrown SeedlingsFavourite outdoor spaces?
Blog Photo - Val flower Bed The garden is an important part of “home” for Val and Chris. Blog Photo - Val Peonies on hillside “Luckily, Chris enjoys physical work a lot more than I do, so it’s a good partnership.   I grow things and prune and he digs holes and chops down branches.  And we have a young weeding lady who is also a budding opera singer!” Blog Photo - Muskoka chairsIn late summer and early fall, there’s the harvest. Blog Photo - Garden Produce
It takes work. But as you can see from Chris’ smile, it’s work they love doing. They plan to keep doing it for as long as possible.

Blog Photo - Chris Apple Picking

Many people today are drawn to houses that look like they belong in a glossy interior design magazine. Valerie, an interior designer, and her husband Chris, a TV producer, didn’t do that.  They bought a run-down place and worked hard at it for 20 years.  Today, for this couple, this place is  — quite simply  — home.

“I guess because everywhere  I look, what I see is immensely satisfying to me,” says Valerie.   “The flowers (growing, not cut) that I always have everywhere, the artifacts that Chris and  I have accumulated from numerous foreign countries over the years, the carefully chosen furnishings and the general knowledge that we have constructed a home  that is very personal and comforting to the two of us.  It all works.”

Blog Photo - Val Home2

“We have no intention of leaving,” says Val, “ until we physically can’t handle the work it entails – and it does entail work!”

“It’s about staying as healthy as one can as one ages,” says Val.   “I think it’s important for everyone to realize life doesn’t have to stop when the wrinkles and aches and pains start. “

Bravo, Val and Chris. You’re an inspiration.

A Good Home, Autumn, Garden, Homes, Jelly, Nature, Thanksgiving, Vegetables

The Harvest

Photos by Hamlin Grange

It’s just days before Thanksgiving here in Ontario and the harvest is in.

So much to give thanks for, once you think about it.  From having a family and a home to having food to eat.

At this time of year,  I’m reminded of something my mother used to say: “You don’t have to be rich to plant a garden.” No matter how little money our families had, my mother and my husband’s mother always planted a garden.  (My mother-in-law still does.) And I have lovely memories of their abundant produce that sometimes came from just a small plot.

Our own vegetable garden has yielded abundantly this summer and fall:  eggplants, beans, peppers, onions, zucchini, cucumber and raspberry. And a profusion of tomatoes.

Blog - tomato harvest

In a fit of late-day ambition, the pumpkin vine has even flowered again and put out several perfect tiny pumpkins.

It’s a Jamaican pumpkin, grown from a seedling that came from neighbours Paddy and Jacqui. Only one of its pumpkins made it to maturity this summer, and now, in early October, this intrepid vine is trying again. I thank it for the effort, but warn that it’s indulging in a lost cause.

“You’re in Canada now,” I tell it – one of the foolish ‘conversations’ I tend to have with plants and shrubs when I walk through the garden. “Cold weather is just around the corner.”

But last time I checked, the vine had sent out yet another flower, atop yet another tiny pumpkin.

We’re thankful for the one mature pumpkin it gave us, and decide to treat it as if it’s a whole crop. So we call Paddy and Jacqui to come get their share of “the pumpkin harvest”.

Blog - Veggies in basket2

“What about the bird pepper I gave you?” asks Jacqui soon after she comes through the kitchen door.

“It got overshadowed by the asparagus and raspberry bushes”, my husband says. “We realized it too late. It’s just blooming now.”

“But the raspberry bushes you gave us a few years ago are on their second or third yield this summer,” I chime in, wanting to atone for our inept treatment of the bird pepper plant and our failure to get more than one mature pumpkin.

Along with a half of the pumpkin, we give Jacqui and Paddy tomatoes, herbs and garlic. They’re happy with their share of the harvest.

The garlic bulbs were yanked out of the soil in late summer, and left to dry in baskets and boxes. The biggest ones are given to family and friends like Paddy and Jacqui, the smaller ones left behind for our own use. These garlic bulbs have grown by themselves each year. Untended, even unplanted, offspring of the seeds of a single garlic plant my mother-in-law gave us years ago. Who was to know that garlic is so easy to grow?

Blog - Red Currants

Before the harvesting of the garlic, there was the red currant.  For years the birds got to the currant bushes first, picking them clean before we got to them. So now we get to them first, leaving behind about a third of the crop for the birds. The result of that harvest is beautiful red jelly, a surprising taste of sweet and tart. It’s perfect with cheese, crackers, toast, ham or even as a baste for roast pork or chicken. Or Thanksgiving turkey.

Here’s my question to you:  What are you harvesting from your garden, if you have one? And what will you be giving thanks for this Thanksgiving (whether it’s the Canadian one in a few days,  the American one next month or wherever you are?) I’d love to hear from you.

Blog - Red Current Jelly in Jars