Saturday, August 11, 2007

October skies are most spectacular in the Valley, but the serene skies of summer can sometimes set the heavens ablaze with a gentle fire. And sometimes they are polka dotted with pink chiffon.

Enjoy a quiet moment.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

We get a varied selection of donations at the Bargain Centre....

The volunteers who work there on behalf of the Church get quite adept at recognizing the rarest of objects, from old fashioned tools to new fangled gadgets whose uses sometimes seem hardly plausible, so frivolous they be.

When most of the donations had been sorted and hung up this morning there remained on the table a small tin from Winnipeg, labeled Water Glass. This object certainly qualifies as a most practical commodity, and as I picked it up and read the label memories of my childhood engulfed me.

The crock which contained the Water Glass (Isinglass) lived
down the stairs and off to the right.

It sat on the basement f
loor, and despite it's goodly contribution to the household it was a vile and slimy concoction to any small child who had to plunge her hand in it to retrieve the eggs that were being preserved therein.

Baking day had its ups and downs, and
one of the downs was being asked to go and put your poor wee hand into that gelatinous mass, and then having to carry the eggs quickly up the basement steps with who knows how many monsters behind you in the dark.

Eggs PLUS Waterglass PLUS basement steps all added up to a scary experience.

My Sister remembers this part of childhood with as much horror as I do, except she may not have been afraid of the monsters that lived in the coal bin in the far corner of the basement.

I have to say that the results of baking day were worth the dangers and the revolting insult to the senses.

If you have it in your mind to strengthen your child's character and are looking for novel ways to do so, here is a receipt from our Agricultural Past...

In the Spring of the Year when the hens are laying well, put aside the surplus to preserve for that time of the year when the produce found in the nests is liable to be less lavish Try not to use fertile eggs (alas, poor Rooster, - banished from the henhouse).

Obtain a medium sized Medalta stoneware crock. manufactured in Medicine Hat, Alberta (not too large, - one doesn't want small children to fall in). Trudge on down to the pharmacy and purchase a pint of Sodium Silicate, which is a thick liquid about the consistency of molasses. Boil TEN QUARTS of water and allow to cool.

Place the eggs, narrow end down in the crock - mix the waterglass (Sodium Silicate -oh devilish brew) with the cooled water , and pour the mixture over the eggs in the crock.

The eggs should keep one year - to the day. The mixture may become cloudy and resemble soft soap, but do not let that deter you, - the more glutinous it becomes the better suited it is to forming and strengthening character in the young and impressionable. This amount of mix should be enough to preserve 12 or 13 dozen eggs, which eggs should be used mainly for baking.

And that brings up another consideration, - if you, as mother, are used to buying your baked goods from the deli, you are going to be in line to have your character strengthened too. You are going to have to suck it up and make time to bake the cakes and cookies and puddings and cream pies to use the eggs that you are going to send the innocents to retrieve.

Well, good luck to you and to all the little children who get to benefit from this brave adventure.

P.S.......Husband contributes a story of his own childhood demon, - his brother whispering to him "frog's legs, frog's legs" whenever Sago Pudding was served as dessert, - but he didn't actually EAT the Sago Pudding. His brother enjoyed every last spoonful, so I'm not sure that this could be the cause of the strengthening of his backbone?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Early this morning - out in the garden with my trusty machete, harvesting the Hollyhocks.........and watching with dismay as a trillion seeds escape with glee into the fertile soil, readying themselves to spring up next April to confound me again.

I also put my back to reducing the size of the clump of mint.....

Plucking all the baby sun flowers that have sprung up where the birds have spilled the sunflower seeds.......

Tugging at the cool, green chickweed, where the domestic tiger likes to lie........

Admiring the turtle flowers which have started blooming while my back was turned......

Dead heading the roses, and pondering the sea holly, trying to decide what to do about all these great, huge plants that are drunkenly leaning on the standing hollyhocks and sunflowers.....

Noting that the volunteer seed geraniums bear a few buds, and wondering if they will remain true to the brilliant red their Mama was...

Along the edge of the little patio a small hollyhock has persisted all summer, and has finally blossomed with a beautiful peach coloured flower.

The dill is past time to harvest, and the little grocery store rose is once again covered in buds.

I have stopped dead heading the heritage sweet peas, giving them a chance to produce more seeds to fill the demand from friends and family.

My eye catches a flash of sky, down on the ground where it shouldn't be, and it is the blue delphinium, adding a little spot of glory with a second blooming.

Towering in splendour over all - of course, the sun flowers....

In the meantime Husband is tending to his fence screen, tying up scarlet runners and sunflowers, ready to burst into bloom.

Time now to take him some cool water, and some coffee, - the sun grows warm as the morning advances, and it is time for a break.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Husband and I have been discussing the circumstances which led to my father's wounding at Cambrai, on the 11th of October, 1918.

I am putting away the file which contains an account of that particular battle, along with my father's military records, when my eye is caught by a small faded book on the next shelf up.

It has survived the general dissolution of the library which we downsized when we moved, mainly because of great sentimentality. It was among the few books we have that belonged to Husband's mother , and contains within its pages some of the poetic clippings which she saved during the war years, when her three sons were Overseas.

It is many years since I took the book in hand, and this afternoon I have been re-discovering its treasures.

The book, - well, really the April 1936 issue of "An Intimate Magazine for Garden Lovers", edited by Theo. A. Stephens of London, England, is enchanting in many ways. Just the era during which it was produced is enough to beguile me. Those simpler years, when hard times produced an appreciation for the basics of life, and joy could be found and engendered in small things and cherished relationships. The English are such ardent garden lovers, and I hope this venture of Theo. A. Stephens was a success. Seventy years later it is still bringing pleasure and information to those who read its pages.

One of the plants which traveled with us from the Lost Garden, - unbidden, but welcome in small doses, was the Chinese Lantern. A plant of fiendish invasive ways, but a delight in the autumn garden as the brilliant orange lanterns herald the close of the season and cry to be picked and dried for a prolonged life amongst the other dried grasses and blooms.

F.C.L.S. (Devon) has a little page about the Chinese Lantern, but it is entitled "Physalis" and reads in part:

"What do you call it, Physalis - how do you spell it? The querist was a man, just a mere man, and perhaps I should not have expected him to know what it was though I believe he is a gardener - of sorts. We were looking at a very large bunch of Physalis Franchetii which had been cut and dried last year and had now been put aside for spring greenery......... anyone who has a love for honesty with its satiny seed covers must also love the glowing orange lanterns that hang on the long stems of physalis."

With that I could agree, but then she (for she must be a SHE, judging by her snide remark of the gardener-of sorts) remarks that the plant may be considered rather rampant in its habits. Ah, there's the rub - it comes up in the midst of Iris, through the centre of peony bushes, amongst and around the white Phlox, even in the middle of the raspberry patch - anywhere the speedily traveling roots will take it. And I must tell you that it can appear right on the other side of the garden, with no hint of its presence in between that and its source. Rather rampant is a kind understatement!

However, F.C.L.S. goes on to comment that the green leaves of physalis are pushing up amongst her oriental poppies, but that "it will perhaps be rather nice to think that when the poppies have died down the glowing lanterns of physalis will be swinging over them as they sleep."

A nice and redeeming thought.

There are pages and pages of lovingly written stories about cherished gardens and plants, and I will be off now to spend a little time before supper losing myself amongst the article on "Choise Flower of Delight" (the violet) by Mrs. Stanley Wrench.