Yesterday afternoon 20 gorgeous, and very large pumpkins/winter squash arrived on my doorstep courtesy of my friend Uli. She had gone out of her way to purchase many of them from a local farmer to use as Halloween decor, and a few others were given to her for free. Knowing that they would only rot outside, she offered to pass them onto me so that I could use them for taste-testing, cooking, and preserving.
One doesn’t come into a windfall like this very often so while it is probably a little bit crazy, and may very well drive me nuts, I accepted the challenge enthusiastically. Very enthusiastically, in fact. Realistically, I know that I will not be able to deal with this volume of squash in quick order, so some of these will be going off to friends once I’ve had a chance to take photographs and Davin has had some time to draw them.
Colourful fall leaves collected from the 7 small Japanese maple trees I am growing in my garden.
The colder days and nights of fall have really brought the city’s Japanese maples (Acer) trees into full form. Lately, as I walk through Toronto neighbourhoods, I am blown away again and again by the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows on display. This is their season.
Japanese maples are the perfect urban tree: they grow slowly, are fairly hands-off, have beautiful form, and they bring a pop of colour to a small space that shifts and transforms through the seasons. You can also eat them (battered and fried) or use them to dye threads, yarn, and fabric. While a mature tree can be quite expensive to buy, a small seedling of some of the more interesting types can run about $20-35. And if you’re lucky (as I have been), you may know someone who has seedlings popping up in their garden that they’re willing to part with freely or cheaply.
It may come as no surprise that in addition to plants, I also collect things that are connected to the world of plants and horticulture in some way: old books in the categories of gardening, botany, or nature; prints that feature images of plants, birds, insects, and other things of a scientific nature; old gardening products and packages; vintage seed packets, catalogues, and ephemera; plates, cups, and other dinnerware with botanical motifs; and still other things not related to plants at all… the list goes on and on. From my background in graphic design and art comes an interest in printing processes of a bygone era, the result of which is a small printing press, and a collection of assorted metal and wood print blocks and type. What don’t I collect? The only honest answer I can give is things that do not catch my eye.
UPDATE: Marilyn is the chosen-at-random winner of this giveaway. Please feel free to keep adding your words in the comments.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about this short passage, an exchange between writer Alice Walker and her mother that appears in her memoir, The Same River Twice.
“…”You(‘re) a little mess, ain’t you.” Meaning someone selfish enough to fully express her being.”
The concept of messiness is a theme that has made repeat appearances in my life, most especially within the last year. I like this positive interpretation of a psychological and physical state of being that is typically negative and often associated with becoming unhinged, unglued, or downright filthy. Messy is an ugly crying jag in public and wearing your bra on the outside of your clothing. It’s lashing out on social media, putting your foot in your mouth in a professional meeting, and dirty dishes that have been sitting in the sink, around the sink, and possibly on the floor beneath the sink for days.
Dear Margaret: Those two words are how each “letter” in this series of letters to my friend Margaret Roach of A Way to Garden begins. This is letter number four. The entire archive of my letters so far can be read here. Margaret’s most recent letter to me is here.
It was the day of our 20th anniversary, but I COULD NOT miss the annual Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society sale at the Toronto Botanical Garden (a different account of this story appears over here). Davin entertained my desire to go — an anniversary gift of sorts and one that he has been generously giving over and over through the years. So we rented an expensive, pay-by-the-minute Smart Car and made our way well across town. We took a different route than usual and got lost. I swear, I can’t imagine how I would have learned to drive 20 some years ago without the aid of technologies such as GPS maps and smart phones. When we arrived the place was packed. We drove around in circles endlessly, mentally watching the rental fee rise before a plan was hatched that I would run inside and try to buy my plants as quickly as possible while Davin continued playing musical chairs in the parking lot.