Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dartmouth Gothic

Dartmouth Gothic

Across Portland Street, one block away,
They are flashing the church tower
and caulking windows. Someone dangles against the siding
over there from a nylon apparatus,
poking and prodding the long-gone Scottish masons'
monument to Providence and economy.

Man-sized dentures tremble
from the passing buses. Tim Hortons teems
with humanity, And Value Village
touts its bargain prices and quality used goods.

That picture is incomplete, part left out
that might alter the whole Dartmouth landscape:
The canal that lies buried beneath pavement, empty lots,
and condos. The Irish shantytown disassembled
or rotted away a hundred years before:
The factory where the first Modern Skate was born,
old blockhouses and Mi'kmaq encampments,
Duc D'Anville's failed expedition
sails limply in to the harbour, and the sound of wooden pegs
being pounded into obsolete wooden schooners.

Do the men work for those people long gone?
Or for the man in holey jogging pants, thinning hair in disarray,
who waits for the 58 bus, for the youths who show up
for their weekly bagpipe session
or the women dropping by Antoine's for their weekly
set and curl.
Something is about to happen. Plastic bags lie still.
One block away, a man hammering in the sky.
Harnessed.


Yeah, so I totally spoofed Al Purdy's Wilderness Gothic. It's killer! One of my favourite poems. I just thought it suited this Dartmouth take on the image.

Feels like...

I puttered around the yard yesterday, belatedly covering over and mulching some plants. The sun was shining and the temperature was about 8 degrees Celsius. It felt like this:

Rudbeckia

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cyril the crow

injured crow

Dad found an injured crow in the back yard yesterday evening, picked him up, and placed him in our old bird feeder cage. It was a very blustery night, I could hear the roof and walls creaking and heaving with each gust, and I was glad we were able to give him shelter. The crow was quite calm the whole time, did not peck or hiss. He felt warmer than I thought he would, and his feathers were firm and soft. Yes, I totally want a pet crow now.

He made it through the night and I brought him to the Eastern Shore Veterinary Hospital in Porters Lake today. They are one of the animal hospitals that provide wildlife care for the Hope for Wildlife Society (an animal rehabilitation centre in Seaforth). Hopefully they were able to treat Cyril (that is what Dad is apparently calling him) and he can be rehabilitated. I will be able to call tomorrow to get an update.

I think it is interesting that the night there was a crow under our roof, I dreamed that my cat Willow came back after being gone for ten years. Do crows bring dreams?

Monday, November 24, 2008

I crochet it back

Perhaps my blog the other day was a little premature. It was poorly titled, at least, because I haven't really been blue this November (I chose the colour because of the reference). And second, I have actually been doing some creative things. Cooking and baking, for one, which I consider a creative activity because it is all about knowing your ingredients and I never stick to recipes. But as well as practicing my culinary skills, I taught myself to crochet. Why? For purely self-interested reasons - because I love Christmas ornaments, and I wanted to make them for myself.

snowflake in progress

Snowflakes

The stitches are easy enough in crochet - the real challenge is in figuring out what the directions mean. It's a great activity for long winter evenings spent by the fire. The one downfall is that you can't read and crochet at the same time. Maybe it's time to bring back those pre-radio-era evenings when families read out loud while spending time in the sitting room. But not if that means I have to stop watching Lost.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Creative November blues

I have not been terribly inspired since the month started, especially as far as photography goes. I have been making plenty of messes in the kitchen - from cashew chicken curry, to cranberry scones, to apple pumpkin muffins, to rosehip jam, to leek soup - but artistically I am trying to soldier on through until the bug hits me again. Maybe it is some kind of ancient human behaviour, that we put aside art for the month of November in order to prepare our homes and larders for the long winter ahead.

Last night as I was ready to stumble (okay, jump; can I help it that in my mid-20's I still jump into bed? No. Fear of things that grab you by the ankles is timeless, just ask my father and his prankster boss) into bed, I decided to quickly take a picture of a messy little corner of my dresser. Was it inspiration hitting me, or merely a half-asleep delusion?

feather abstract

Who knows, but I am happy with the result - this abstract little feather photo. Past blog posts have focused on the inspiration I find (only somewhat oddly) in feathers. But more importantly, capturing this image reminded me that you can't force anything in November, unless you are forcing bulbs (which is a great way to cheer yourself up in the winter, hint hint - those cheap amaryllis and hyacinth bulbs at the grocery store are worth it).

Maybe I wish I was being more productive getting the garden ready for its winter sleep, painting trim in the garage, editing my semi-abandoned thesis, or sketching new garden plans and doing some watercolour painting. But November is for roosting - for gathering around you all the warm and comfortable things that will help you make it through the winter - and if that means creativity is put on the back burner for a while, you can't think of that as a negative thing. And if you are lucky, while you are off doing other things, inspiration will find you, if just for a moment.

chilling hyacinth

Hyacinth bulb waiting in the dark of the coldroom until it is time to come out

Friday, November 14, 2008

Allee

gold allee

Taken at the K.C. Irving Botanical Gardens, Wolfville, N.S. 30 Oct. 2008.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Poxy Foxy

baby arctic fox

Foxes are great. They're one of my favourite animals. And you can't really blame one if he accidentally comes down with rabies and just happens to bite a human, can you? It's what rabid foxes do. Nevertheless, it isn't the fox in this story that deserves all the attention - it's the female jogger who "ran a mile with the animal's jaws clamped on her arm and then drove herself to a hospital."

It bit her foot, and when she went to pry it off, it bit her arm. So she continued jogging back to her car, threw it in the trunk (so it could be tested for rabies, naturally), and drove to a hospital. That woman is badass and street/nature smart. Awesome.

The fox at the top of this post is of course not the fox in question, but rather a totally adorable and absolutely menacing baby fox that was at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park last summer. For illustration's sake.

**Update: I found this story on a couple blogs, and it looks like it is getting picked up now by the news organizations as well. The BBC version is here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Rosy autumn

The foliage of the wild roses has been positively glowing lately. I'm not terribly sympathetic to roses in gardens - they always seem to be so much effort, and I never seem to like the shape of their growth habit. They seem a little too fussy, a little too demure. When I first smelled a rose as a child, I was nonplussed - all it smelled like was soap (I only realized much later that some soap smells like roses). I don't mind the idea of roses, but whenever they appear in fairy tales, it often leads to other flowers getting shorter shrift (note: that's how I fell in love with poppies. I read The Wild Swans fairytale, and I loved that the poisoned frogs turned into poppies, not roses).

But

I do love wild roses, and crazy cultivated roses that just want to run amok (like rugosas). In fact, I rather like their exuberance. It's like their economic use of petals allows them to direct their attentions to their roots and suckers and, most importantly, their fall foliage and rose hips. I loooove rose hips, so much more than the flowers that precede them. I am desperate to make rosehip jelly, and I don't even know what it tastes like.

If you read my blog regularly, you know where this is going: Pictures!

Wild rose foliage actually makes it to frost, and as a result, you get this lovely autumn rainbow of foliage colour, all on the one plant.

wild rose foliage

And the rosehips look so delectable, I completely understand why birds and rodents like them. Unfortunately, we humans have to prepare them in order to really enjoy them.

wild rosehips

Friday, October 24, 2008

Crossings colour

I did get at least one picture of fall colour before the wind started whipping the leaves off all the trees. I took this last Friday at the edge of (believe it or not) Dartmouth Crossings. You can find beauty in odd places, even though the park itself looks like one giant scar on the landscape. (Dartmouth Crossings is a big-box store commercial park, for those of you not from around here)

Dusk glow

I actually give Dartmouth Crossings credit for their plant selection for the medians and sidewalk plantings in the park. They have lots of grasses and hardy roses and even Russian sage and profusely flowering lavender, and the shrubs and trees are all well chosen for their fully grown size. I have been known to grab a few lavender flower stalks on occasion, they make the car smell heavenly. I have to approve lavender in a business park.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Golden age of sail

Sailing is over for the year and the boat came out of the water yesterday. Today we received an email from our skipper about boat improvements, including an exciting addition to the boat* - a swanky new mainsail.

When we talk about the colour gold in autumn, we're usually talking about the changing leaves, but since I have sailing on the brain, I want to share this picture instead, taken during a race in July. The breeze can drop off dramatically in the July and August evenings. This is not usually a problem for us (so long as we stay ahead of the pack), but the slower boats are often still racing when the evening land/sea breeze change happens. This makes for a sometimes-difficult tactical decision; do you take the shortest course to the finish line, which may mean being blanketed by McNab's Island, or do you take the longer course, where there may be more wind?

golden age of sail

I'm glad I will have pictures to help me remember those golden evenings when the north wind is whipping around the eaves and blasting ice against the windows.

*exciting if you are a sailor and like high-tech sails, that is.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Refired Retired

Motoring across the harbour on Saturday morning on the way to the race start, we saw smoke coming from the Dartmouth Shipyards. Later in the day (much later - it was a long race), as we rounded the buoy at Dartmouth Cove we saw the cause of the black smoke - a Canadian Coast Guard ship, which was being refitted, was apparently/possibly the object of an arson attack. Since they moved the race finish to the Dartmouth Cove buoy, I had time after the race to take pictures.

Burned-out ships aren't normally my preferred photo subjects. I prefer flowers and kitty cats and teddy-bears, dontcha know. But my mother likes to document odd things - dead rats, broken appliances, that sort of thing - so I thought she might appreciate some pictures of the ship, since she was not sailing with us. And since I don't have any other pictures from this past Thanksgiving and birthday weekend, you get to see one too.

Refit up in flames

Friday, October 10, 2008

On cats

I know I mentioned it before, but I have a lovely cat. I have had her for just over five years now, and she gets more delightful every year. Of course, the hairballs, shedding, and litter box remains the same, but that's cat ownership for you, especially if it's a long-haired tortie in question. These are sacrifices I am willing to make (and willing to force upon roommates or parents) because having a soft, warm cat curled up at my side, and snorgling sun-warmed fur, makes them worth it.

L.M. Montgomery was an avid cat-lover, as you probably noticed if you have read any of her novels (primarily beyond the Anne books, although the story of Rusty in Anne of the Island shows that L.M.M. was more sympathetic to cats than Anne was). The Emily trilogy is full of adorable cats, and The Blue Castle
is not devoid of cat-worshiping as well. I particularly like Valancy's observation that,

"People who don't like cats always seem to think that there is some peculiar virtue in not liking them."

(If I were writing an academic paper right now I'd have to 'explain the significance' of the quotation, but I'll just let you puzzle that out.)

Montgomery put her cats' fur in her scrapbooks. I'm rather comforted to learn I'm not the only weirdo who saves their cat's fur. I have fur from my dear departeds, Dusty and Willow, in a little keepsake somewhere in among my many storage boxes. Did I read too many Dickens novels growing up? Am I a hair away from Victorian mourning lockets? Maybe I was just channeling L.M.M.

And, of course, this blog post is cat-themed, because I plan on sharing a picture of Olivia. I make no apology, first, because I've already shared my wacky cat-love above, second, because I haven't shared a cat picture in a long while, and finally, because Livy is Totally Cute.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Quarter Century musings

It's the end of the sailing season and the end of a quarter century for me. We have two races left, and I am turning a majestic and impressive (hah) twenty-five.

Sometimes I feel a little sad, pensive, and quite frankly, 'failed,' when I consider the last three years. I don't know that I have done enough to have really "earned" 25, and it's a little depressing to turn a personal milestone while feeling that I haven't achieved enough (without firm goals, it's hard to measure my amount of success or failure, but I am, overall, dissatisfied). If I were going to be morbid (I just finished re-reading North and South, and poor Miss Hale is bombarded by death, hence the direction of my thoughts), I would make a comparison between "milestones" and gravestones, or maybe millstones, you know, the road of life and its markers, things that weigh us down, etc., etc., but I know you all come here for my sparkling wit and steady optimism, so you can just pretend I didn't say that.

low tide at night

Because other times, I'm just really grateful that I am able to spend another year in a province that I love, and my heart just expands with thankfulness and joy in living and liking living and being alive and seeing other live things and watching the seasons turn and laughing at myself and daydreaming and, well, generally when I am in a good mood my thoughts get a little fragmented, but I start to feel like maybe enjoying life is enough. Then I take a picture of our yard monster:

Seed monster

It's Calendu-La, the wicked seedster! Beware his wrath and spiny talons. Rawr!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Faerie seats

Conditions were perfect in Nova Scotia this summer for fungi, and I have been seeing interesting mushrooms everywhere. Even so, I was very impressed by these toadstools growing under a tree on my brother and sister-in-law's property in the Valley last week. The toadstools were as tall as my hand! I really do think Nova Scotia is probably only second to PEI among Canadian provinces for its faerie-friendliness, and September and October are their golden months.

Toadstools

Monday, September 15, 2008

Convoy Cup 2008

I didn't take any pictures from the Convoy Cup, but I may "borrow" some from my mother later. Briefly, the Convoy Cup is a sailing race from Halifax Harbour down to Cross Island (near Lunenburg), and back. We took about 20 hours to finish the race, and placed 4th in the spinnaker class of (I believe) 15 boats. We did shifts of 4 people, 3 hours on and 3 hours off, and made a number of sail changes, from the #1 jib, down to the #2 and back up again, an A-kite run, and a full spinnaker run.

One of the bloggers I follow wrote a post about the shift towards autumn and the thinning veil - one symptom of which is the behaviour of animals all around us. I certainly have been noticing more and more animal activity lately, and our sail was no exception. We had a number of whale sightings, the odd seal, fish jumping in the harbour, hunting osprey, the ubiquitous flocks of seagulls, and even, on my 10 p.m. - 1 a.m. shift, a porpoise swimming alongside us and playing in our bow wake.

It was cloudy throughout the night, but the race wasn't entirely without starlight - as the boat moved through the water, our wake triggered a phosphorescence that made the water glitter with hundreds of infinitisimal little sparks of light. It was the first time I have seen ocean phosphorescence, and it was entrancing.

I can't believe sailing is almost over for the year!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Ghost Trees

I sat down to edit/process some pictures tonight and was bogged down by my indecisiveness. You can only edit a picture of clouds for so long before you go crazy, so to maintain my sanity I let myself go crazy editing this picture of some trees burnt during the forest fire in June. And then I watched "She's the Man" on television, because Amanda Bynes and that joke with the tampons is hilarious. Or at least my funny bone thinks so.

Anyway,

Ghost Trees

Ghost Trees

Monday, September 01, 2008

Changes in the wind...

The news from me will be along shortly - but the primary note of interest is that I have put off my next degree for another year, and will be able to spend another blissful autumn and damp winter here in my beautiful home province. It also means more sailing, a definite doubleplusgood.

Hopefully I'll be able to start going through pictures soon and posting them along with some words about my doings in August (Chester Race Week, nephews, forest fire scars, gardening, blueberries, and so on). But since it is Labour Day, I naturally intend to do some fun labour - we have a few plants (oh, just a handful really!) strategically hidden around the yard that need to be planted.

Think that "few" and "hidden" doesn't really reveal the true state of things? Well, they were all on sale, at least...

Anyway, until my next photo editing mood, I leave you with this peaceful scene from the Public Gardens. It definitely helped me on the day that I took it. At the risk of over-explaining its appeal to me, I like the combination of blur and texture from the leaves and grasses.

grasses

Monday, August 04, 2008

Ghost Plant

Aka Indian Pipes, (although I dislike that name), aka Monotropa uniflora. Apparently these are not fungi, but they are saprophytes (live on decaying matter), and are related to blueberries and rhododendrons!

Indian Pipes

Indian Pipes are best known facing down, but these ones turned face-up sometime over the last day or two. Taken in our woods.

There are some lovely, much better photos of these on flickr.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Triptych in macro

Vertical, rather than horizontal, by virtue of blog templates.

Allium christophii

bee

Frog

Today I wrote about paving. Yep.

(Okay, okay, I admit it; I actually like talking about paving. I'm a historian, so sue me!)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thesis causes rift in space-time continuum. Plus more flowers.

I did the unthinkable last night - skipped sailing in order to work on my thesis! It paid off more or less, though, since my second chapter is mostly finished. I'm thinking positive thoughts once again, and whenever things get a bit grim, I contemplate the california poppies in the front yard.

self sowers

I also keep a little sprig of lavender with me at the computer, I smell it when I get a little anxious. Is that odd? Well it works, so it can't be that strange. The bees remind me to stay busy, too.

lavender collage

It's a bit busy at 400 pixels - best viewed large.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Balm

Last week I saw this picture over at a blog I read and was absolutely entranced. It's beautiful. It also reminded me that hummingbirds like bee balm, and my one-year-old bee balm was planning on finally blooming (its first year was rough).

I was very, very pleased, then, the first day the flowers were fully open, to meet a male hummingbird while I was out admiring the bee balm, yarrow, and blanketflower. He doesn't come to the feeders (I think he's a polygamist, honest, he likes to keep his home life and his home life separate), so I'm glad to see I can nourish him somehow. Anyway, the very next day I was contemplating the flowers (yes, I do that a lot, but I'm a gardener, remember?) when a female hummingbird started feeding from the bee balm, less than an arm's length away from me.

Anyway, long story short, my picture isn't half so lovely as the one over at Blue Ridge blog, but she's a professional, and I'm just glad I got the chance to document a little slice of summer! Without any further ado:

afternoon snack

Ankles Schmankles

I'm up to my neck in thesis, a little water is nuttin' (knock on wood, obviously, I don't need a downpour in my office while I'm writing).

I'm up late writing tonight, but felt like a little procrastination was in order as well. We are putting in a patio, and Mom has done a lot of backbreaking work to clear out the grass and clay soil. Then we got a month's worth of rain in two days. And this was what our new patio looked like:



The water mostly drained away (we have drainage issues; one of the reasons for the patio), but not before our backyard lake was discovered by a frog. No pictures of him at the moment, but he's totally adorable.

P.S.: I'll have the silly/cheesy photo editing out of my system soon, I swear I half-heartedly commit no, really.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Scanner



We bought a scanner in preparation for today's trip to Pleasant Point/Kent Island, my grandmother's family home, for a small reunion and a chance to look at photos and family memorabilia. Today's event followed the death of my great uncle, Ivan Kent, in March. He was a great story-teller, a real troublemaker (with his brother Graham), a welcoming host alongside his wife Mildred, and much more besides.

In the end, though, we weren't really able to get through much family lore at all, although I did find one of the most confusing postcards ever (and quite a few racy, risque, and often highly offensive sailors/soldiers postcards from the Second World War. The most common punchline involved a woman's rear end being shaped like a heart). Tell me, do you think the viewer is supposed to assume most of these babies are going to drown? What is the point of sending them to their deaths on a play train? Do you think the little girl in the bonnet has masterminded it all? And do you think this early form of photo-shopping is more or less appealing than Anne Geddes' baby-in-a-pumpkin-type work?



The first picture above, by the way, is in fact the Kent family lighthouse, viewed from the house. It is also a very recent photo, as the power lines indicate - May 2008, in fact. Please forgive me my own immoderate photo editing, whether or not it is as heinous as the Victorian example above.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Allium Christophii




It's been very dry by Nova Scotian standards, but I took this picture one day last week when we had a little bit of light misting. The Allium Christophii are almost completely open now.

(Also testing some photo software that came with a new scanner - more on the reasons for the scanner tomorrow).

Monday, June 30, 2008

Feeling bluuuuue

Well, I glumly admitted over a month ago that none of the meconopsis seeds I planted were going to come up. I did have two seedlings before I left for Cyprus in April, but those were obviously doomed from the start - no offense to my father who looked after my plants while I was away. Meconopsis seeds are notoriously fussy.

So if I can't have a Himalayan blue poppy of my own (despite the fact that I have the perfect spot for it, queue dramatic sigh), I can enjoy them in other ways. To whit:

spanish poppies blue full

This is an edit of a photo of my beloved orange Spanish poppy, which blooms its little head off from mid-June into October! If you were to zoom in on this snap shot, you'd notice it's a bit out of focus, but I don't mind. The flowers sway like crazy in the littlest breeze, making it hard to get a good shot, but excellent for dreamy contemplation.

double spanish poppy

Not that I'm ever dreamy these days. Darn thesis!

Also blooming, Jacob's ladder.

jacobs ladder

The leaves smell like skunk spray, the flowers smell like grape kool-aid. Go figure.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Forest Fire in Porters Lake

Smoke over highway 107
It's been an anxious couple of days here in the Porters Lake/Mineville/Lake Echo area, but I have just come down from the roof after watching the Quebec water bomber take care of the fire closest to us, I feel like I can relax a bit (and our internet is back!).

Here is the gist of the story from my perspective: Friday afternoon and evening, I was stuck at work while feeling the wind whip in from the north and watching the fire build and seem to engulf Mineville/Porters Lake. I had a long, cold ride home on my bike following another friend from the area in her car, rather than have to stay at a comfort centre overnight (the only road in left to take - it took me 1 hour 50 min to get home, rather than 14 minutes). I'm glad I did, too, because while we were optimistic there would be roads open in the morning, the authorities actually closed everything down even firmer, and I wouldn't have been able to get home at all. Saturday we spent doing yard work, getting updates about who in our church was evacuated next, and who may have lost their homes to the blaze. We listened anxiously to the news station (95.7, God bless you), keeping an eye on the weather vane and watching the fires from the roof as they built. Around 1:30 p.m., we quickly packed everything we may want or need, while I looked at the rest and thought only about how much of our "stuff," in the end, is merely kindling for a fire.

water bomber from roof

The water bomber stopped at sunset and most of the firefighters in the woods were pulled out, with enough left to defend the houses that were threatened. Last night, we went up on the roof and saw the glow from the fires, seemingly just over the ridge. From our house straight across to Mineville is only 5 km, and the fire was 3 km wide. Do you call it a miracle or God's hand, that if the wind were more easterly or more westerly, we could have lost all of Mineville or all of West Porters Lake? Or is it just good luck or nothing at all? I'm just grateful.

The wind died a bit overnight, not that I slept any better for it, waking up every ten minutes to sniff for smoke (if I smelled smoke, it meant the wind direction had changed and we were in its path), or to see if that car going down the road was the RCMP to evacuate us. A friend who lives a kilometre away was evacuated at 10:30 p.m. Earlier in the evening, he went up to Snow's Lake and saw three fires burning, one of them on the Western and Northern shore across from him!

water bomber in to fill

By today, the Newfoundland water bomber was accompanied by bombers from New Brunswick and Quebec. Dad and I went down to Capri Island to watch them take on water in the lake. For the most part, I handled the excitement of the conflagration pretty poorly - I couldn't focus, relax, or keep busy. But watching the water bombers at their work has been such a comfort, and so cool. Those guys are amazing, going nonstop hour after hour, dumping the water right where they want it. I feel so warmly towards them, like I have just been liberated by the Allies during the Second World War (on a small scale, of course)

water bomber

We're feeling pretty optimistic tonight. The authorities are still saying the fire is "out of control" and won't even call it "contained" but this evening from the roof, the smoke is not even an eighth of what it was yesterday. The fact that the largest bomber, the Quebec plane, was focusing on the fire over the ridge (rather than the fire near Mineville or Lawrencetown), makes me think they're getting close. Let's pray and hope that the wind favours us this evening, blowing the fire that remains back in on itself.

water bomber

Thanks for all the messages of concern.

Note: the first two pictures are by my mother, taken Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon. The pictures of the water bomber are by me, Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fog rolls in

Fog rolls in

At the yacht club last night after the race. We came in first, but only three boats finished since the winds were so light. They had to monitor the (shortened) finish line from a boat because the fog was drifting in so thickly. The breeze disappeared as the fog moved in, but the temperature rose too. You've heard it before but I'll say it again: Nova Scotia; Don't like the weather? Wait twenty minutes. It'll change.

Garden power

I've been stepping out into the yard a few times a day to recharge my batteries as I (attempt to) forge ahead with this thesis. One of the plants that I watch with great pleasure is this Centaurea montana "Gold Bullion", which has two or three flowers starting to open.

Centaurea Montana

Just look at that blue and purple! And the gold-chartreuse leaves are a sight for sore eyes. Well, a sight for eyes that have been staring at a computer screen all day. And then that busy little ant reminds me to get back to work.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Still here...

... But busy. I've started a new job working at a local garden centre, where I unfortunately have more hours (all of them on cash, pah) than I can manage. Things will be changing on both counts, I have decided. The thesis is languishing, incomplete on my hard drive, even as our garden forges ahead for summer.

Mom and I planted some tulips back in September and tried to time the early, mid and late-bloomers with phases of cheerful colours. The results were surprisingly successful and beautiful (beginners luck?), and certainly helped us work out the last, lingering winter blues. I cut some tulips on Saturday as carefully as I could so I didn't leave any empty spots. I photographed them against a cloudy sky, over-exposing to get the blown-out white background.

Tulips

also:

Tulip bunch edited

Two weekends ago was my older nephew's fourth birthday. We found time to stop at a few nurseries on the way. This was the display of Japanese maples at the Briar Patch in Berwick:

Briar Patch Japanese maples

I couldn't stop looking at it. Well, those, the affordable peonies, and the 'Sweet Kate' Tradescantia (we bought two!). In other plant purchasing news: I think the "Kim's Knee High" coneflowers at my workplace were mislabeled at the nursery, and are actually "Green Envy." A half-open flower on a customer's plant last week got my suspicions up, and I would have kicked myself if I didn't buy one just to make sure. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Finally, we had a visitor a few weeks ago! We have had two new warblers pass through in the last week (a Magnolia Warbler and a yellow-rumped warbler pair), but this one was in the finch family - an indigo bunting! Unfortunately, he didn't stay long. Our gang of juncos were so jealous of his blue feathers, they wouldn't even let him browse the lawn. Darn juncos. At least I got one semi-decent photo before he was chased off.

Indigo Bunting

I haven't decided if I would do another Cyprus post, this one on "old things." The pictures aren't anything special, but I think I should round out the trip. Honestly, it's not really high on my priority list, but maybe someday soon.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Avakas Gorge, Cyprus

The first day we had a rental car, we drove north out of Coral Bay towards Lara. We decided to hike the Avakas Gorge, which was pretty positively reviewed in our guide book and seemed like a safer drive, considering Cyprus drivers are crazy and we weren't used to left-sided driving.

Avakas Gorge steps

Most of Cyprus is composed of different types of limestone, and the Avakas Gorge cuts its way through some of the most brilliant stone. Mom and I were wearing sturdy day-hikers, and I felt a bit out of place at first, walking along a gravel trail and meeting people in flip-flops and ballet flats making their way out. I realized pretty quickly, though, that the funny looks I was getting were probably approval (or perhaps envy), because the path got rocky and slippery and rough not even a kilometre in.

I took many, many pictures of plants while in Cyprus. Not only were the plants 'different,' but nature just seems to be such a clever gardener there, full of perfectly mounding plants and different leaf textures and colour combinations. This picture, for instance, doesn't do Nature's vignette justice. I know as gardeners we "imitate nature," but it never really hit home just how true that is until I was in Cyprus. I would love to have thought up this kind of visual statement! I'd love to plant something similar using local plants and stones.

Avakas rocks

Speaking of plants - this was growing in the shade sort of close to the stream that flows through the Avakas Gorge. It looks a little bit like an allium, but I'm not certain at all.

Avakas Gorge wildflower

The upper part of the gorge has had a number of rock falls, it seems, and Mom and I were just not determined enough to try and make our way over them, without any probably reward for our effort. These goats weren't having much difficulty making their way, however (did you know they were there before I mentioned them?). Most of the goats we saw in the gorge were tagged, so they must belong to somebody. I'd hate to be the goat herd rounding them up.

Avakas goats

This is a view from the rockslide area back toward where the gorge narrows. There were actually quite a few goats climbing around on the cliffs. Their bleats were very piercing, even louder than the swallows and crows.

Avakas gorge wide

This is Mom in the gorge. It really was magical.

Avakas gorge boulder

The weather while we were in Cyprus was, for the most part, unseasonably warm (Thirty degrees C, and I melt anywhere above 25 degrees). Not knowing there was a closer parking lot, we parked half a kilometre away from the trail head, on the far side of a very exposed, hot hill (with a lush, enticing orange grove mocking us in the valley down below). We rewarded ourselves for our hard, sweaty hike by jaunting a bit further up the main road, to the north beach at Cape Lara, best known for being the breeding site of Leatherback turtles. It was still a month or two before egg laying season, though, so the beach was still open to visitors. We dipped our feet in the Mediterranean and then sat on the sand and ate greek-style pitas with eggplant dip before calling it a day.

Lara beach