Thursday, May 31, 2012

Exquisite Poppy

 I'm obsessed with the poppies in my garden. So far, they are the only things in this backyard that I haven't touched since we moved in six years ago. They have stayed quite to themselves in one clump in my garden. I have re-worked the garden around them.

A friend of mine thinks it's unusual, since her poppies run amok in her garden, that mine stay in place, but I'm sure it's just the variety.

I'm actually a bit scared to upset them in any way. As hardy as the plant seems to be, the blooms look so delicate and only last for a scarce couple of days. Is that why I love them so much? Because of their fragility?

Bold. Strong. Exquisite and alien, the poppy never fails to impress.

Missing it Already

Looking up the hill, towards the house on a misty spring morning

My parents have sold their house.
I'm surprised by how wistful I'm feeling for a house and a place I didn't grow up in. I suppose I hadn't realized until recently, that I've become attached to the place.

I'm not sure exactly when my parents bought the ranch style house in the "middle of nowhere", (in reality, on an old dirt road in the country, about a 20 minute drive from where we grew up) it may have been just before we bought our first home. I'm going to say less than ten years ago. Funny, how a place can grow on you so quickly, but then, a lot can happen in ten years! LOL.

I will never love another place like the home I grew up in as a child.  I lived in that home from Kindergarten, until I moved out after College. I still had a bedroom there when they sold it. My Dad has said that they never should have sold that house, our childhood house, but I think it was time. Everything in life happens for a reason, and some things you just outgrow.

I learned in high school, that a House is not a Home. How did I learn that, you ask? Well, let me break it down for you. Our old, century home was getting a new basement put in, it had to get lifted up and moved from its foundation, so we all went to live with my Grandma for a few weeks... A month? I can't even remember. It felt looooong. I loved my Grandmother (rest her soul), but her house, was not my home.

A House is not a Home. You always hear people throw around old platitudes like that. I just did, and I'm about to do it again. ( They're so overused because, they're usually true.)  You see that phrase  painted, Folk Art style, on little plaques. "A House is a not a Home, unless it's filled with Love", blah, blah, blah. Right?!
Well, I say, A House is not a Home, unless you're comfortable enough to walk around naked in it. A House is not a home until it has shared your treasured memories, your tears, your fears and your dreams. A House is not a Home until you know all of the noises and creaks it makes when in settles at night. Sometimes, you realize, a House is not a Home, until you sell it and have to move away.

My Dad, giving Griff a ride, the way my Pop used to do for me.

Oscar, on the hill in the side yard

So, now my parents have sold their house. This house I didn't think I was so attached to -- this is the only house my sons have known their Grandma and Pop to live in.

My eldest son has been anxiety-ridden since he first heard that my parents were going to be selling the place. He keeps thinking that they will have already moved by the time we visit again, or the house will be gone when we go back. He keeps asking "Why are they selling their house?" and I have to explain that it's too big. The house is too big for the two of them. The yard is too big. On the only free weekends they have in the summer, in the evenings after work, they are cutting the grass. Seriously. It's a lot of grass. Even with a riding lawn mower, it's a good 4 hours.

Looking out over the pond

"Peep" The neighbor's duck that waddles over for  visits

One of the many Hummingbirds 

Going for walks in the field beside the house

The house itself is lovely. Nice layout, big, beautiful kitchen, great deck. But, it's not just that.

They have amazing neighbors.
On the one side, an old cemetery, (They're quiet and they never complain. Can I have a rim-shot, please? Budum-ching.) Behind them a little forest, the other side a nice field surrounded by farmland and neighbors across the road who cut their grass for them when they're away on vacation. You couldn't ask for better.

Nature, steps from the door. They have a great pond in the backyard full of frogs, fish, even a big snapping turtle named Prehistoric Pete, until it was discovered "Pete" was laying eggs. They now call her "Petra". The pond attracts all sorts of woodland creatures, from birds of all varieties to Deer and mink. The woods behind them and fields beside them are full flora and fauna. Great for a walk with my camera and the kids.
Wild Ladies' Slippers at the edge of the forest

old apple tree at the edge of the field

Back of the field

Tiny mushrooms on the forest floor

Little froggy found in some leaves

Walking in the field

Praying Mantis in the long grass

There is nothing like the country life. Just down the road, there is a sign in a field that reads " You are in Corn Country, EAT CORN" and it's not long until you get to one of the stands at the side of the highway that sell corn on the cob, vegetables from the farm, honey from the hive or freshly baked goods.

I'm going to miss the Auction Barn down at the corner. If you have never been to a country auction here are some tips:

Wear comfortable shoes. Nothing open-toed.
Be prepared to get dirty.
If you do not like the smell of body odor or manure, breathe out of your mouth.
If you do not have a pick-up truck, find someone who does and borrow it, because you may purchase furniture you were not intending to buy.

I'm going to miss walking with my kids down the old country road, seeing the farms, the cows, the horses, the fields. You get it by now, right? It's pretty idyllic if you like that sort of thing.

And so, next weekend will probably be my last visit before they move in July. We're putting on a Baby Shower for my sister, so, they'll be some more happy memories in that house. I hope to do lots of walking, laughing, playing and picture-taking. After all, "A House is not a Home unless it's filled with Love" ;)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Visit to the Fire Station

My group with their new hats!
I went on my first tour of our local fire station with my son's Junior Kindergarten class today as a parent volunteer. If you've never been inside a fire house before, you're not alone. (If you have - - maybe you can tell me just how similar our local fire house is to the one you've visited.)

I really wasn't sure what to expect, myself. Was their any truth behind the shows and movies full of hunky firemen sliding down poles, clanging alarm bells and firehouse dogs? Was I going to catch a scantily clad woman leaving, a-la Samantha Jones in Sex and the City? Or, would it just be a bunch of firefighters hanging around, eating chili, waiting for an alarm? Those were some of the unlikely scenarios that ran through my head this morning. I became rational again, and hoped (as exciting as it would be) that there wouldn't actually be a fire call while we were there.

Getting an official welcome and preparing the kids for a short film about Fire Safety


The class (made up of four and five year olds) was introduced to some Fire Safety Tips from an animated film, starring Sparky - - The ABC's of Fire Safety. I thought it was a little dated, but it was well-received by the kids. By using the Alphabet, it was actually quite memorable, so it did its job. The kids were asked questions afterwards including the following: 

Q: How do you know if a smoke detector is working? 
A: You need to push the button and hear the "beeps". This should be checked every week! 

Q: What do you do if your clothing catches fire?
A: Stop. Drop. Roll. (cover your face with your hands for protection)

Q: If you find a lighter or matches what should you do with them? 
A: Give them to an adult 

What struck me the entire time we were there, was how quiet and calm it was! 

Wow, that's shiny!
Next, we were divided up into our groups. "Our" fireman was the driver of the fire truck that carries all of the "tools" the firefighters might need. He explained that there was no water on the truck, but it carried very important equipment for water rescues, rope/rappel rescues and vehicle extrication amongst other things. He rolled up the sides of the separate compartments and revealed all of the tools of the trade. It was really interesting when he pulled out a large axe, and one of the boys said,

"Hey, I have one of those in my dresser drawer!" 

Okaaaaay. LOL!

 He kindly lifted the children into the truck and let them check out the inside. They used a portable radio, and even got to try on a real firefighter's hat, which, they all agreed, was very heavy!

Inside, each of the kids took turns holding a fire hose, pulling it back and turning the nozzle. (Not attached to any water source, to the dismay of some kids.)
They were then allowed to try out the portable hand pumps that are used on small bush and grass fires. 

Looking Up, up, up!
We walked through the building to the other side, to see a ladder truck, lifting a fireman high into the sky. 

Is he scary? NO!
Lastly, one of the firefighters volunteered to put on all of his gear to demonstrate to the kids that a firefighter looks really different when he puts on all of his equipment, and the kids should never be afraid of them. He even received a hug from one of the little girls when he was done. They went through all the steps, starting from the boots - - all the way to the helmet. In all, it's about 60 - 70 lbs of gear!

The tour went quite smoothly, the kids behaved. There were no alarm bells, no dalmatians, no shirtless, musclebound calendar pin-ups. The firemen we met were kind, calm, professionals. They were down-to-earth and good with the kids. All-in-all, it was a really nice little class trip.

I hope to never be in need of any of the gentlemen I met today, but I know, someone will, and they will be in very capable hands.

Much appreciation to all of those who took part in our little tour today at Fire Station One in St. Catharines! Thank you for all that you do, everyday!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Importance of the Woods

Listening to the water, trickling beneath the rocks

On hot, humid days like today, I feel lanquid and sticky, and very thankful to be able to come inside where it's air conditioned. Is this what the summer will be like? I hope not. Considering the winter we just had, and the serious lack of snow, I'm beginning to think this summer is going to be very hot and dry indeed.

It's days like today that I think back on a hike we had earlier this Spring, and how I would love to be in the shade of the forest, surrounded by cool moss, damp earth and the sound of the water trickling beneath my feet.

Cascade of moss


I wonder if all of the small, unfurling things have burst open, and are growing wild now. I'm sure there's a jungle of large ferns where there were fiddleheads before, tight and full of promise. Would the same path we took earlier be unrecognizable now?

There are many memories of my own childhood that I reminisce on and hold dear to my heart. If you ask me about outings and family trips, the small day trips that were not far from home, mean just as much - - and if not more, than the trips my parents spent money on. (Note to self. LOL) 

We didn't have to travel far to go to the Enniskillen Conservation Area, or Jackson's Bush. 
Clyde, the family dog - - My dog, happily joined us on these excursions and would go bounding with all the joy and unrestrained spirit that all dogs embody. 
I'm sure us girls looked just as carefree, running through the long grass to the forest, wide-eyed and amazed by the "untouched" green woods, carpeted with rotting logs, rocks and plants. 

My Dad would always point to the trees and identify them to us by their leaves or bark, eagerly listening to the way they sighed and rubbed against one another high above our heads. I've never known my Dad to be a religious man, but I have always known that he's a spiritual one, and the forest is his church. 


Tiny growing things
I do recall my Mom, excitedly showing us a Jack-in-the-pulpit once. 
Maybe they were always there, on the forest floor and I never noticed them. Maybe back then, I was more enthralled with the creek and stepping stones, or crossing falling logs and looking into the deep pools for minnows. It was later, as a teenager with my camera, exploring a wood lot near my home, that I "re-discovered" the plants for myself. Now, every time I see those tell-tale leaves and the pitcher plants' silhouette, a thrill of that old excitement runs through me. This year, our walk coincided perfectly with Jack-in-the-Pulpits being in full "bloom". Trilliums, however, were just finishing, and the only blossoms I found were wilting, or had been slightly chewed by bugs. 

My parents must have instilled in us a "leave only footprints" mentality, because I cannot remember ever picking a wildflower (aside from daisies or asters by the roadside). They're like the wild animals that inhabit the same space, admired from afar, but left well enough alone. 

I hope my boys will learn to love and appreciate nature in the same way we learned as kids, through peaceful exploration on lanquid days. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A look at a flower






Considering the amount of rain we've had,  (see : None) my garden isn't doing too badly this year. I thought I'd add a few photos I took today.

"Stop and Smell the Roses"
There you go, I've said it. Very cliché, I know. Also, my roses aren't blooming, yet. But, take a moment and have a good look at a flower the next time you're in a garden, or are given a bouquet. They are amazing things! Every year, those same poppies come up and I try to find a way to photograph them that can show the detail and texture, and every time, nature says, "Good luck, lady."

I never have to go very far to find something inspiring to paint. The colours in these few flowers alone are amazing. Also, I found a dead bumblebee in the grass which I have put aside to paint later. Am I the only one here who does that kind of thing?

I'm becoming known for collecting "natural wonders"for reference for my art.
Someone brought me a dead butterfly the other day, and I just received two lovely old nests (a tiny one woven with birch bark and what may be spider webs and pine needles) possibly a hummingbird's and an empty wasp nest from Mike's Aunt and Uncle up in Verner.

I have a frozen hawk in my downstairs freezer awaiting a permit and a bird wing in my upstairs freezer awaiting painting. I found the wing of a woodpecker on the road the other week when I was on a walk with Oscar. It had been run over a few times, but cleaned up pretty good. It's sitting with my acorn collection in an old robin's nest by my front hall mirror at the moment.

I need my own studio space! I paint in my livingroom at the moment and must take out and put away everything each night. It's getting quite cluttered here!