This is the centre of the year. Half behind us. Half ahead of us. A reason to celebrate, in my opinion. And it is doubly meaningful for me. I birthed my middle child on this day twenty-eight years ago. Happy Birthday, Kiddo!
Pipe cleaners and plasticine. Building design tools extraordinaire.
Several years ago I was playing around with pipe cleaners and the shape of three arches intersecting seemed to have potential. Not having enough hands to anchor all the ends, my eyes wandered around and made meaningful contact with the plasticine figures one of my sons was using in his animation. Knowing even chunks dug from the backs of the characters would not be smiled upon I hunted down the source in his room. I will not mention all that that involved but if you have had the experience of an adolescent male's bedroom you will likely just now have given a small shudder at the thought and a bit of an applaud for my audacity.
Back to the pipe cleaner saga. I put three blobs of plasticine on a table forming a triangle and then the ends of two arches in each of these blobs. Overlapped the rounds of the arches. Wow! Instant gazebo.
By adjusting the width at the base of the arches and the length of the pipe cleaners all sorts of possible structures presented - mini greenhouses, large garden dining areas, trellises.........
Solving the equivalent of pipe cleaners for these ideas took some perusing and experimentation. Smooth quarter-inch rebar finally met all criteria. It was flexible enough to bend, could be painted if desired, was budget-friendly - and - a twelve-foot length, bent, fit in my car. (Beware of the springback when unloaded: experience speaking here: it took two weeks for the bruise on my leg to go away.)
Having worked out the dimensions with the pipe cleaners (a 12 inch pipe cleaner to a 12 foot rebar) an appropriate size was decided upon and a pattern developed.
For the first gazebo an eight or nine (possibly ten, I forget exactly) foot base for triangle was measured out on the ground, a sunny spot in the long front yard, and a hole made at each corner by pounding in a foot long rebar stake and jiggling it around. (The man at the rebar store generously supplied this from the remnant stack.)
The best way to bend rebar and 'plant' it (one person can not do this, trust me!), is to have a person hold an end of the rebar at about waist level horizontally and then slowly walk towards each other until a nice even bend is achieved and then walk the arch to the first two holes. Do same for the next two pieces. If the holes in the ground are a foot or more in depth the arches will support themselves. Don't forget to allow for this foot or so in the original design.
Once all three are in the ground adjust the angles and then secure the rebar where they cross once the ideal structure has been achieved. Nylon rope will last, or heavy duty fishing line, but I then cover it with a more natural material like jute twine or rope or strips of burlap.
For the gazebo that was to be a seating area I let one arch dominate as the entrance, facing the view southward. A square piece of plywood, painted forest green, provided instant flooring and after a few years, when it had started to decay, enough earth worms had turned the clay-like soil underneath it into something more conducive to planting a living floor.
The covering on the gazebo varied - in the spring a large lacey tablecloth gave dappled shade, in the summer different colored shawls pegged onto the rebar frame with wooden clothes pegs provided more serious sun protection.
The latest structure is a gazebo trellis over a contained front garden. A wisteria vine that formerly chummed up a tree reached out almost instantly to the trellis and keeps a yearly hold. I planted a potato vine solanum jasminoides (gorgeous, underrated) on the second support and climbing nasturtium have yet to decide to do their thing up the third.
On the deck the same design has been used with four-foot lengths of a slim (1/8th inch perhaps) golden dowel over large flower pots in which red malabar climbing spinach has been planted. The result is very functional and beautiful.
The 'planted' rebar can also be used to form curvy and straight letters and spell out names along fences, against walls. Like MIMI. ANNA. Anything, really. It shifts and 'sings' in the wind.
All of the gang were sitting around in the empty lot at the end of the block.
Joshua was polishing his glasses with spit and his shirttail. Ingrid was wrapping her incredibly long braids around and around her neck and then holding the ends of them in her teeth. Piya was wondering why Ellen and Lucy, who were twins, dressed alike but did not look at all alike. Bill was biting just a tiny bit off his nails so his mother would not know that he had. John and Sam were sitting comparatively still.
Suddenly Sam shouted. "I'm starving. I want a sangwich!"
"It's not SANGwich. It's SANDwich," said Lucy, precisely, who knew about such things.
"I say sangwich," shouted Sam. He had five older brothers and sisters. He had gotten into the habit of shouting.
"What kind?" asked Ingrid, talking around the ends of the braids in her mouth.
"Peanut butter'n'jam," hollered Sam. "What else?"
"I like peanut butter'n'honey," said Joshua. He was trying to balance his glasses backwards on his nose. The glasses were brand new: he had to get used to all aspects of them before he could just wear them.
"Yuck," said Ellen. "Honey sticks to my braces." She displayed them in a wide grin. Nobody else had braces so nobody else could comment.
"Banana. I like banana on my peanut butter sandwich." John sliced an imaginary banana with an imaginary knife into neat rounds. He did it so cleverly that everyone could SEE the banana wheels falling onto the bread spread with peanut butter.
Ingrid could SEE it so clearly tht she said, "Hey, you're using chunky peanut butter."
"Sure," John grinned. "Doubly peanuty."
"Yuck," said Ellen, "Peanuts - "
"We know, we know!" the rest yelled, "Peanuts stick in your braces."
Ellen was too proud of her braces to be upset. Besides, her mother told her the others were jealous of her braces, even her twin sister Lucy, who had perfectly straight teeth. Ellen felt sorry for her.
"I like lumpy peanut butter if it's on white bread," Bill explained, "but when my mom buys lumpy bread I want my peanut butter smooth."
They all stared at him except for Lucy who was busy trying to pick a knot out of her shoelace.
"What's lumpy bread?" asked Ingrid.
"The kind with seeds. Mom says it's healthy. I say seeds are FOR THE BIRDS," Bill made a face and laughed.
Ellen opened her mouth to say, "Yuck," but decided not to.
Someone shouted, "Bill! Bill!" out a window down the street. "Not for me," Bill said, "She's calling my dad."
"How can you tell?" Piya wanted to know.
"She says Bill different when she's calling me."
"Bill, Bill, Bill," chanted Ingrid in three different tones, but Bill pushed his lips out and shook his head.
"I tell you what I like in my sandwich," said Piya, "Cauliflower and peas."
"Yuck," said Ellen and John and Sam and Bill.
"It's good. My mom spices them and mashes them and puts them inside two flat pieces of dough and then she fries them and they go all crackly and tasty. I love them."
"That's not a sangwich," said Sam.
"Sure it is," said Piya, "It's an East Indian sandwich. Who says a sandwich has to use normal bread?"
"Hey, she's right,/"Hey, she's right," said the twins exactly at the same time. They liked it when this happened and they smiled at each other in a secret, sharing way. They wished they were proper twins and looked alike.
"What do you mean she's right," Joshua demanded.
"Well," said Ellen, "Our mom and dad make all sorts of sandwiches - "
" - for their catering service - " said Lucy,
" - and some are round with filling wrapped up in the bread. And some are puffs with stuff in the hollow. And some are layered - " said Ellen,
" - so sandwiches can be all different shapes and sizes," Lucy finished.
"Seaweed!!!!" Sam hollered and everyone looked at him. "Seaweed!" he shouted again. "My mom uses seaweed for bread."
Everyone stared at him. Ingrid could SEE a peanut butter sandwich with smelly, dripping, green seaweed like the stuff that got caught in her toes at the lake, on the top and the bottom of the peanut butter. It looked AWFUL.
"In sushi," Sam explained loudly. "Mom takes sheets of seaweed and wraps fish and rice up in it and slices it and we eat it. It's a Japanese sangwich."
"SANDwich," Lucy said under her breath. "Will he ever get it right?"
A seaweed sandwich!!!! Everyone had stopped staring and started laughing.
"A sandwich should LOOK like a sandwich," Bill stated.
"Yeah," some of them agreed. Not Piya or Sam, however.
"My gramps favourite sandwich is mashed potatoes," Bill remembered. "I had one when I visited him last summer. It was yummy."
"Mashed potatoes?" asked Ingrid. "What else did he put in it?"
Bill opened his mouth and went, "chomp, chomp, chomp" to show what else his gramps put into the sandwich.
When everyone had stopped laughing - Piya didn't laugh but she giggled - Joshua put his glasses firmly back on his nose and said, "I make fly sandwiches."
"Aw, go on."
"Don't be silly."
"I do," said Joshua calmly. "I collect dead flies and I put them between little pieces of bread and I squish them flat and - " he paused.
"And WHAT?" four or five of them demanded.
" - and I put them in my aquarium," Joshua finished.
"Oh, for the fish," John groaned.
"That's a different kind of fish sandwich," Ingrid said and Lucy wrinkled her nose at Ingrid to show her she appreciated the joke.
"My dad picks up squirrels that have been killed on the roads," said Ellen, quietly, so that they all listened carefully. "Then my mother makes a loaf of bread as big as the kitchen and I make squashed squirrel sandwiches and feed them to the monster in my closet."
She told them this in such an ordinary voice that it took a moment for them to realize JUST what she had said.
Then they all hooted. Sam picked up a piece of dirt and threw it at Ellen. "You ninny," he screeched cheerfully.
"I make sandwiches with the MONSTERS in my closet and feed them to the SQUIRRELS," said Lucy.
"I used to dream of feeding the monsters in my closet to ANYTHING," shuddered Piya.
"I once made a sangwich with so much inside," yelled Sam, "that we didn't have groceries for three weeks and it took us six weeks to eat it all and when it toppled off the table the house started to fall over and - "
"SAM!!!!!!!!!" the rest of them shouted even louder than Sam was shouting so he stopped.
"Of course we can't forget REAL sandwiches," John said. "I mean what has to be in real sandwiches?"
"What?" asked Lucy.
"Sand, of course."
"Oh, phooey," said Joshua.
"I'm serious," John nodded solmemly. "My dad puts butter on the bread and then he sprinkles sand. He calls it brown sugar but I know it's really sweet sand. That's how the first sandwich got made."
Piya pushed John off the old box he was sitting on. He caught her as he fell and she landed on top of him. Sam gave a yell and threw himself on top of Piya. Ingrid said, "Oh, look, we've got a real, live, human sandwich!!!! John and Sam are the bread and Piya is the filling."
"We'll be the lettuce,/ "We'll be the lettuce," said Ellen and Lucy together and together they leaped on the heap.
"Here comes the salad dressing," called Ingrid and fell on top.
Joshua looked at Bill. "Kid stuff," he said.
Bill shrugged. "I guess I'll be the plastic wrap," he said and joined the pile of wriggling gigglers. Joshua took off his glasses and polished them on his shirt.
The SUN at this time of year brushes broad strokes across the northern side of the house in the earliest morning and makes me pause and be a guest in my own guest rooms thinking of the 'larks' to whom this is inviting and welcoming, the 'owls' who would either not be aware of the event or shove nose, with eyes following, deep under covers.
Previously I've been drawn to the books with the picturesque covers that are about an AFRICAN LADY DETECTIVE but only recently did the first one, The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency travel home with me on that magic carpet of a library card. I am so happy that there is a series which indicates how much I enjoyed the first. In most characters in books (and maybe in life!) we are introduced to their bodies and then, hopefully, get to know their souls. With Precious Ramotswe we are entrusted with her spirit immediately. I felt embraced also by the culture, the country. One intriguing thing -a major character at one point is described as widowed, at another as never having married. I wondered if this was done on purpose and would be 'revealed' before the end of the book. Alas, no, and I am left feeling faintly and wryly smug at my editorial skills.
Two large fluted flower pots have been lounging around for months waiting on some suitable plantings but none have occurred so I used an old trick and upended one on the other and came up with a rather Doric GARDEN COLUMN. (I may have used Doric incorrectly but that is what popped to mind and my dictionary doesn't elaborate.) It's at the end of the garden with a backdrop of rock and looks quite stunning. Now I need something to top it. Nothing I've tried so far works. Something will 'present' and I wait on this with contented anticipation. Will likely look out and see a cat sitting serenely on it and think, "that's it! that's it!" but not be able to convince the cat.
Saturday morning and the unique schedule of that day - coffee instead of tea, toast/peanut butter/jam/cheese instead of a muffin, garage sales instead of Deli and homestuff. The sun is in sight. Now that I am paying attention to how important its appearance is in my life the sidewise aspects of increased awareness are apparent and one of these is that slight angst, that slight fear of loss that accompanies gain. You know what I mean. If I allow myself to realize how much that skyball means to me, what if it doesn't appear..... How we love to throw stones in our path instead of enjoying the ease of the journey. But those 'stones' are worthy of note also. Sun had me soonest out of doors and burying nose in heliotrope. Noting that house finches and sparrows were sharing the bird feeder without fuss. Surveying the climbing spinach which has discovered the mini gazebo I made over it (how to construct such a gazebo will be in Tuesday's Homefree columnblog) and is gracefully twining up and around the support. A most beatiful work of art, that living vine, the curve, the green against the golden wood, the pulsing movement that my eye is yet too slow to 'see' but the soul can.
Victoria is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own personality. Fernwood is one of these. It is funky and free-spirited, both established and perchable, tolerant in that we seem to somehow include everyone, creative, precedent setting.
Fernwood is defined by Fort Street to the south, Shelbourne to the east, Hillside to the north and Quadra to the west. It includes North Park, Oaklands, Harris Green, Central Park, Quadra Village, Haultain Corners etc. Fernwood accomodates.
Fourteen years ago I moved to Victoria and Fernwood 'chose' me: I rented a house sight unseen, a last minute occurrence when the carefully researched plans fell through. Except for a two year sojourn in Rocklands, I've lived in Fernwood as a homeowner, house sitter, renter. It suits me. I feel at home.
The Rest of Victoria May Walk - FERNWOOD STROLLS is a series of walks through the area. I have walked and biked, driven and bussed through these streets. Explored and garage saled, visited and searched for houses to buy, to rent. Fernwood Strolls is a personal odyssey: observations, thoughts, ideas that I offer for sharing. Curiosity and enthusiasm motivate. If you have the 'book' in hand(yes, copy and carry!) you can experience the walks on site. But this is also meant for travel companions far from Victoria as well.
STROLLS is a work in progress and I will post as it unfolds.
Need new toothpaste. It's not just a matter of chucking what's on sale into the grocery cart. It's a quest. Having awhile ago realized there is a real choice available with regards to what I swish around my teeth three or more times a day I enjoy the search. The toothpaste just being finished has a kangaroo on the container and I thought it was Australian - there are even the words "Down Under" in the type I can read without my glasses. But further investigation - with glasses - (is this right, Truss?) - brought forth a "goshdarn". It's made in Canada! I got distracted by the ingredients: fennel is likely what makes it so nice. I am heartily tired of mint of which most toothpaste seems to taste.
Got me thinking about what do they use in Australia. Got distracted again by memory of the public showers on Caye Caulker in Belize where shampoo containers with only a bit remaining were left, not being worth packing. I loved the opportunity of washing my hair with what people wash their hair with in - yes, Australia, and Germany and Argentina and Kentucky.
Elimination 'gardening' occurs in the process of working along with Nature to create a habitat. (The initial 'commas' around gardening are used to acknowledge that this differs from what mostly pops to mind with regards to gardening.) The area under the bird feeder grew two or three large mustard plants (gorgeous yellow flowers winked along with the forsythia in spring) and several sunflowers. These were all in a chummy group and gave a bit of a crowd scene to that section of the garden. Last evening, when it was cool enough to inspire and motivate a garden stroll (yes, heatwave continues!) it felt time to relieve the mustard of one duty and embark them on another. Up they came. Was surprised to feel prickly stems: I had not put on gardening gloves not expecting to garden. The plants got tossed on nearby ground where they will look perky for a day or so and then wilt and wane and join the soil in enrichment. The whole aspect changed around the sunflowers. Now they are revealed, center stage. The earth bared by the removal of the mustard will have something green showing within a few days. I wonder what......