Sunday, September 30, 2012


I used to walk 5 km every evening until my knee surgery almost 4 years ago. Pounding pavement after work is not kind to my joints so I tend to meander along natural trails at a slow pace when I go for a walk. My aerobic fitness level took a big dive so this summer my husband and I each got a new bicycle. A co-worker recommended a certain bike shop and for the first time in my life I was fitted for a bike by people who really know and love bicycles. This Giant Suede is a cruiser with a slightly recumbent frame. I started slowly by going around the block a couple of times and then through the neighbourhood park. At the end of the first week, my knees were swollen and painful and I wondered if I had wasted money. But after another couple of weeks of gradual training, the pain was gone and my strength and endurance increased daily. I have worked up to 10 to 12 kilometer rides at this point.

I found the web tool where joggers, walkers and cyclists can plot their routes. I enter my postal code to zoom into my neighbourhood and all the local trails are well marked on the map. The bike allows me to explore linear trails like the one above that are too long to round-trip on foot. 

We are fortunate to have many kilometers of well groomed trails in our region. This one used to be a rail line along the Grand River. The scenery is beautiful and wild life is abundant. I saw many birds today and deer and other mammals are often about.

Northern Flicker
The days are getting shorter and cycling season will soon be over as winter approaches. We have a stationary bike but you cannot coast down a hill and feel the cooling breezes before you pump up the other side. And nothing on a television screen compares to the discoveries made on a trail.

I will have to use the indoor bike through the winter in order to avoid another painful initiation to pedalling in the spring. There are a few more weeks of beautiful fall weather to enjoy and I hope get out frequently before the snow comes. Toronto Island, the Niagara Parkway, the city of Ottawa... My list of places where I want to cycle is getting longer. It isn't hard to keep up something you love to do!

The other bike- A Giant Sedona- (distorted perspective)

Monday, September 03, 2012

On the Seventh Day...God Played Ball

Our society as a whole no longer observes a seventh day or first day of the week pause in commerce to focus on rest and worship. But members of our large Mennonite population who live in rural parts of our region will not sell you one brown egg on Sunday. Handwritten signs at the end of farm lanes advise customers of "No Sunday Sales". After morning chores are done, long lines of horse-drawn buggies drive to simple white meeting houses. By early afternoon long lines of horse-drawn buggies leave for dinner, perhaps at the home of friends or relatives. It is not unusual to see fifteen or more buggies parked at a farm on a Sunday afternoon.

In fine weather the men lounge outdoors in their Sunday clothes as they visit. During the summer you are sure to find several baseball games in progress in farm fields or village parks. Many men travel to the games on bicycle, black pants, white shirts and blue suspenders the uniform worn by both teams.

These young men, clean-shaven, strong and fit, sported fashionable sunglasses as well as the occasional cell phone. The game was was less competitive and more social in nature than organized sports in the city.

Around four o'clock the roads are lined with horse-drawn buggies and people walking or biking home for afternoon chores. Perhaps they will attend an evening hymn sing later or just rest in preparation for another week of hard work.

These pictures were taken yesterday along the Trans-Canada trail near St. Jacobs, Ontario. The trail winds through the heart of Mennonite country along the Conestoga River.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Summer Garden

Autumn Joy Sedum, a perfect poor soil succulent
This summer has been hard on our lawn and garden. We have poor, sandy soil that absorbs topsoil and compost causing it to sink and disappear from the surface. We had cooler, rainy summers for a few years in a row recently but last summer was hot and this summer was scorching for weeks on end. Our trees are stressed, several cedar shrubs are dead, and the perennials bloomed poorly. Hot summers, a big dog, a city watering ban, a scourge of earwigs, and time contraints require analysis of what works and what needs to be changed next year.

Squirrel leftovers
I planted a dozen tomato plants of various varieties. In spite of tender care, they did poorly. The neighbourhood squirrels ravaged whatever fruit was ripening. The patio tomatoes did better but the pesky rodents enjoyed them most of all. That is what I get for feeding critters in the backyard in the winter months.

Cascading Nasturtiums
Most of the patio pots with mixed annuals did well and provided colour that was lacking in the flower beds. The only plants that were eaten to skeletons by earwigs were the marigolds. I have not planted nasturtiums in years but bought six small plants in the spring. I did not know they were a cascading variety and that they thrive in poor conditions. There is only one plant in the pot in the picture above. Strangely though, none of the nasturtiums attracted aphids and none of the abundant flowers developed seed pods. It appears that some selective tampering happened when this variety was "created". This was my most promising food crop of the season even though we haven't added any flowers or leaves to our salads.

Many herbs grow well in poor soil. Basil, thyme, sage, tarragon, chives and cilantro grew well in sun. The cilantro bolted and flowered too quickly but basil is very forgiving when pinched back on a regular basis. A few basil leaves go a long way in flavouring a salad.

A late summer rain brought these to bloom although the Shasta Daisies failed earlier
Our lawn is the most expensive and time-consuming item we need to deal with. My husband is a perfectionist and works hard outside but there is nothing perfect about the grass after the drought, especially since herbicides and insecticides are prohibited in our area. As I ride around town I see  front yards gravelled or mulched over. It looks like a good idea except that we have a large corner lot to deal with and there is cost for materials. But maybe next year will be cool and wet again and we will forget the struggles of this season. I am happy I do not have to make a living from the land!