Odds & sods

November turned out pretty well for us. This is remarkable because for the past few years November has been pretty hard. Between the anniversary of Matt’s death, an increase in tantrums (an annual event for some reason), illnesses, the time change, darkness, and cold temperatures, it tends to be a tough month.

We’ve gone through all of the usual hard stuff, but we’ve also had some good times. The month started off with very warm weather, so I blitzed through outdoor projects like the garden and wood chipping. We watched my sister run her personal best marathon to celebrate her 40th birthday.

Then we went straight on to winter with cold and our first (and several more) snows. We embraced it, changed the art in the mudroom and built our first snowmen. Along the way I still managed to squeeze in one more big outdoor project, even if I had to scrape off some icicles first (more on this to come).

Before we look ahead, let’s look back at some of what caught my attention this month:

We hit 1,000 hours outside. This is our second year doing the challenge, and our first time making it to 1,000. I’m really proud that we did it and am excited to start counting again in January.

What happens to your soil in the winter?

Ontario’s premier is opening up greenbelt land for development. Ontario is losing 319 acres of farmland daily. Once farmland is paved it’s gone forever. Farmland produces food. Let’s keep it that way.

Media paywalls and democracy

Ellie and I love variations on the three little pigs story. This Canadian hockey version is a winner.

I consistently let go of things that weigh me down so that I can hold on to laughter, kindness, joy, compassion and love–and those things give me strength and fuel my power.”

Jillene Joseph


How did November go for you? Have you transitioned to winter where you are?

Unconventional living room reorganization

The living room is still most definitely the playroom. My campaign to convince Ellie that her room should become a playroom has not yet been successful. But I have successfully reclaimed part of the living room.

I started thinking about how I could better deal with the toys and the mess.

My first idea was moving the television farther out into the room. There was already an empty corner behind the TV. I could make that whole corner a play zone. Tucked behind the TV, it would be her own little secret spot.

But then I realized she wouldn’t like being tucked away. Part of the appeal of playing in the living room is that she can spread out and be close to the kitchen or wherever I am.

I also realized the toys are used much more often than the TV. So I decided to tuck the TV away. I pushed it back into the corner and made a play zone in front of it.

I grabbed a shelf that had been dumped at the side of the road. After adding some more shelves and giving it a coat of paint, it is perfect for holding a whole bunch of things. (Some bins would help it hold even more.) All of her kitchen and grocery toys sit on top of the shelf, instead on on top of the coffee table.

The TV isn’t useable now. But we can slide things around pretty easily if we ever want to watch it. And if we really find we miss the TV, I can mount it on one of those extending, swinging arms. We also have the basement TV.

The coffee table still gets covered regularly with crafts and colouring, but now there’s usually a spot to set down our afternoon snack or a book. Progress.

The toys still win, but so do Ellie and I.

Who else’s living room does double duty? How do you handle toys at your house? Do you have a TV in your living room?

Brush clean-up with a borrowed wood chipper

Back in the spring, I started trimming branches, brush and trees that had sprouted up around the farm. I kept clipping and cutting for weeks. (Matt’s Dad even came out to help with some bigger trees). By the time I stopped, I had two very large piles of brush.

I asked our farmer (who rents our fields) if I could borrow his wood chipper. He was willing to loan it to me, but when I asked if our tractor could run it he laughed at me. So I needed to borrow the chipper and a tractor. Well, the weather shifted soon after that, hay season started, and our farmer and his tractors were busy.

So the piles sat.

I waited until we were well into fall, and I reached out to our farmer again. A giant tractor and an equally giant wood chipper soon arrived.

And I got to work.

The chipper blasted through our brush. It was awesome. Matt’s Dad came over and cut a few more trees, so I added them to my pile and kept going. When I finished one pile, I moved the tractor (slightly terrifying to drive something that big) to the next pile and kept going. It took several days, but finally all the brush was gone.

I spent another day cleaning up and moving the piles of chips. I have one pile on the turnaround where it will be spread on our new flower garden next spring. I have another pile tucked beside the compost bin for wherever else we need it. And I still have half of the load that a local tree service delivered back in the spring. (Comparing piles, I estimate that I chipped another truck load.)

With my focus on no dig gardening, the chips will be useful. I’d much rather make the brush into something useful than burn it. Plus having all of the brush finally cleaned up feels like a big win.

Do you use woodchips in your gardens? Have you ever used a woodchipper? Or driven a big tractor?

Getting the vegetable garden ready for winter

Garden month kicked off in September. Now, in November (two months, but who’s counting?), I am declaring it done.

I am also declaring it a success.

You may recall that by mid-October I had one task left on my to-do list: clean up the vegetable garden.

My focus was on the one quadrant where Ellie and I grew some things this year. That quadrant definitely was my main priority, but two other quadrants also got some attention. That means three quarters of the garden is in pretty good shape for next year.

In our growing quadrant, I laid out planting beds and pathways mulched with woodchips. I had researched the best dimensions for no dig beds, brought my measuring tape outside, laid out one piece of string… and then I just went for it. We ended up with three wide beds. My plan was to seed them with a rye cover crop, but it’s too late in the season, so I covered them with leaves instead. We have ample supply of leaves right now.

I laid down cardboard under as much as I could, but I quickly ran out. Some weeding will be in my future, but hopefully the mulch is thick enough that it will help a bit.

Ellie wanted to plant some garlic (part of her birthday present to me). So we set up another wide planting bed and another mulched pathway in an adjacent quadrant. Then we tarped the rest.

Two quadrants done. Now onto the raised beds around the edge.

These beds hold our asparagus and grapes… and a lot of weeds. I’m embracing no dig, so my clippers got a workout as I chopped the weeds as close to the ground as I could. Around the grapes, I laid down my last stash of cardboard (pizza boxes) and topped them with more woodchips.

There was one last thing on my to-do list and it was outside the garden. So, so many weeds had grown up around the fence. I still don’t have a working weed eater, and the mower can only get so close. So my clippers went to work again, and I edged the outside of our growing quadrant. It didn’t take that long, so I kept going. Then I did a bit more and the whole perimeter was cleared. Next year, I will get the weed eater running and keep the edge tidy.

I was on a roll with my clippers, so I ventured back inside the garden and went to work on another section of raised beds. I managed to clear it. Then the mower handled a third quadrant.

Finally, I stopped. (Though I am coveting bundles of cardboard set out for recycling at local stores and eyeing the leaves that are covering so much of our lawn… I could mulch the rest of the garden and it would be so good!)

As it is now, three quarters of the garden are pretty useable. Since my goal at the start of garden month was one quadrant, we’ll definitely be ahead when spring comes.

To-do list over-achievement rarely happens for me. Does it for you? Are your gardens ready for winter? Have you planted anything this fall?

Odds & sods

Sometimes I think, “Oh I should post this on Instagram.” It could be my morning hike, or a home project, or a beautiful view at the farm.

But I rarely do.

With projects I usually don’t want to take the time to stop (I’ve learned to take pictures, at least most of the time). But mostly, my choice is about focusing on real life. I don’t live my life online. I enjoy the bit I share here on the blog and occasionally social media. But my life exists in the real world, and consciously staying offline keeps me focused on what’s real.

Do you feel a tug between real and virtual?

Here are some of the things that happened both offline and on this month:

What ancient cultures can teach us about the lost art of raising happy, helpful little humans.

“We can identify which parenting practices persist across the vast majority of… cultures–practices that have stood the test of time or cropped up over and over again throughout human history… ancient parenting traditions and techniques that Western culture has lost. Put simply, many hunter-gatherer communities have an enormous amount to teach Western moms and dads.”

Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff

A hallucinatory vision of modern hippie-luxe Not a typical interior design description

The Colonizer Playbook A great presentation of a heavy, hard topic.

Visualizing the climate future. I’m not as optimistic as this presentation. What do you think?

We’re ending the month with, of course, Hallowe’en. We’ve carved our pumpkin (and tried the hand mixer hack), made Ellie’s ghost costume, and I expect to kick off November with lots of candy. A different sort of treat arrived at the farm yesterday, on loan from our farmer.

Putting it to work will take up the rest of my week (don’t expect as-it-happens social media coverage, but I’ll share a blog post here once I’m done).

How do you find balance with online and off? Do you have a favourite parenting book or tip? How do you feel about modern hippie-luxe decor? Are you hopeful about climate change? Did your mixer help carve your pumpkin? What’s your favourite Hallowe’en candy?

Vote

Forest of autumn leaves

Once upon a time, some people thought the earth was flat. Once upon a time, some people thought it was okay to own other people. Once upon a time, some people thought it was okay to exterminate people who were different from them, Indigenous peoples, Jewish people.

Some people thought they could do anything to Mother Nature, and she would take it. Some people thought there were only men and women in the world. Some people thought if you believed differently from them you were wrong. You shouldn’t learn about things that are different. You should be quiet.

Times changed.

People opened their minds. People opened their hearts. They listened. They learned. They voted.

Sometimes it seems like we teeter backwards. Toward a place where people close their minds. Close their hearts. Don’t believe others. Only see their own point of view. But we can tip forward again. And we can vote.

I don’t know what it feels like to be a woman who loves another woman. I don’t know what it feels like to be a woman who doesn’t feel female. What it feels like to be Indigenous.

But I believe you do.

I believe we should know about each other and make our own choices. I don’t have to believe what you believe. You don’t have to believe what I believe. But we can learn and choose and respect and each have space for our own beliefs.

If you say you don’t care? It doesn’t make a difference?

Someday you will. Sometime there will be something that makes a difference to you. And you will care then. So it is time to vote.

Closing our eyes perpetuates problems. Going back to sleep is not an option. Vote.

Today is election day in Ontario. Please vote.

Garden month… part 2

Last month I declared September garden month. I was cleaning up, wrapping up, and setting up for next spring.

We have now passed the middle of October, and gardening month(s) is continuing.

The photo below shows some progress that has been made.

Ellie and I transplanted about half of the well garden to the turnaround, and I spread top soil.

Transplant well garden

I feel like the turnaround is a great start. The transplanting was a bit haphazard. We didn’t peel back all of the sod on the turnaround. There was no planting scheme. We didn’t get quite everything out of the well garden. But there are bright sides.

The plants in the well garden were so large that each plant split into many other plants, so we filled a large area of the turnaround. I can see where this garden is going, and I’m hopeful that we’ll make good progress next year.

Spread topsoil

The top soil had sat beside Ellie’s treehouse for nearly a year, so getting rid of the pile was a big accomplishment. In the end, it took me two hours with the tractor to spread and level it all. (I’m not very skilled with the loader, so finishing everything in so little time feels like a major win.)

The garage got a little top-up where the backfilling had settled, and then the rest went to the solar trench. It’s been eight years since that trench was dug and the ground has settled very unevenly. The tractor is good at finding the low spots and ends up spinning its wheels as they hover above the ground. Hopefully mowing will be a bit easier next year now that the worst dips are filled.

Clean up vegetable garden

The vegetable garden is the reason garden month is continuing. I pruned the raspberries, but that’s it. I am aiming to layout paths and rows in the quadrant that we planted this year, so that we’re ahead when spring comes. Ellie bought me garlic for my birthday, so we also have to plant that.

Maybe I can say garden month has successfully concluded and vegetable garden month is now beginning.

Is anyone else still gardening? What outside chores are you trying to finish off? Have you done any fall planting?

Thankful

Matt sitting on a fence

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough”

Aesop

We celebrated Thanksgiving this weekend. When I think of what I’m thankful for, my answer is everything.

I can’t write a list like I did in the past because the list wouldn’t stop. I can’t single out one thing because they’re all magical.

We live each day with so much love and joy. And I try to make it enough.

I’ve been thinking of this Thanksgiving post all week. Trying to figure out what to write. When I found this quote it summed up what I felt. It was enough.

But tonight. Late at night. As I tap away on my phone (not my preferred way to write), my thoughts are different.

I am still filled with love and joy. Always.

But when I think about what comes after Thanksgiving three years ago this becomes a very hard time of year. I slide back easily and remember what each day was and what we were marching toward.

One giant, terrible hole. That is still with us. All the time. I am not grateful for the hole.

What I have of Matt is not enough.

So I live with the hole. I live with the love. I live with the joy. I am thankful. And I work to make it enough.

Inspiration for a girl’s green room

I’ve been trying to convince Ellie to move into the guest room for awhile. Our rooms join with a pocket door, which we leave open. I think we’d both sleep better if we weren’t quite so close. (I could do without a little voice calling, “Stop snoring, Mama!”)

Also the guest room is larger with a double bed.

Aaaand… her current room would make a great playroom, which would mean the living room no longer has to be overrun with toys.

(Am I selling you on this idea?)

Ellie is change averse, so she has not been a fan of my plan. But she is a big fan of green. So when I mentioned we could paint the guest room green, she was a little more enthused about the idea of relocating.

But don’t tell Ellie the guest room is already green(ish).

Ellie’s definition of green is G-R-E-E-N. Something like this colour from The Makerista.

Source: The Makerista

My inspiration is slightly softer. In fact, I’ve been planning a green room for a hypothetical little girl long before I ever decided to have a baby, all due to a special gift from my grandma.

My grandmother made all of the girl grandchildren quilts for their weddings (she knit afghans for the boys). The one she gave me is girls with umbrellas–with a green backing.

I thought it would be perfect for Ellie. Though when we unfolded it the other day, her first words were, “That’s not my green.” I also realized that it’s sized for a single bed, not a double. So the quilt will not be the inspiration for Ellie’s new room, though I do hope to use it somewhere.

But, I have another option. An old chenille bedspread from my grandparents’ cottage was folded alongside the quilt. It’s the perfect size for a double bed and it includes a nice dark and saturated yet soft green. Plus Ellie’s first words on seeing it were, “It’s so flowery!”

My Mom has this lamp, which she had in her childhood room, and I think the two would work really well together. (She needs a new shade and some new wiring.)

So now to find a green that is sufficiently saturated for our girl, but sufficiently mellow for Mom.

House & Home tells me that juniper green a “softer, more saturated green” is trending. They cite Webster Green from Benjamin Moore as an example. I think this green would look great (and sufficiently farmy) on our (fake) paneled walls. As long as it’s green enough for Ellie.

The brass-ish bed would contrast with the green, so we could keep that. We’d also keep the dresser that Matt’s parents bought for her nursery. Then it’s what else do we need? Nightstands? A desk? Bookshelf? Some fun, colourful, flowered curtains?

The move is likely a ways off. Moving one room has a domino effect with the rest of the house, as I would need to relocate everything that’s currently in the guest room. Plus then there’s redecorating, and it might take some time to negotiate the final design with my partner/client.

For now, I’m having fun thinking about it. And it was really special to pull out the quilt and the bedspread and share them with our girl.

Are there any other green fans out there? What’s your favourite shade? What’s your must-have for a kid’s room? Do you have any special gifts from your grandparents?

Odds & sods

A groove, productivity, balance–I felt like they all eluded me this month. We’re in a transition of back to school and work. Summer to fall. And I’m still adjusting.

I went into this month with plans and ambitions and long to-do lists. I’m ending the month in much the same place. I’ve done things. Just not as much as I planned to do.

Though there is the done-for-now mudroom.

As usual, we have made time to embrace fun. We started the month with another campout (our last one of the season). There have been lots of hikes, bonfires with my friends and my birthday celebration. Even school has been fun, as Ellie is loving it.

Fun is where we find the most love and joy, so that’s always most important in our lives. Finding my groove and being productive come much farther down the list.

In keeping with my current mood, this month’s links are a mix of dark and light. Some both at the same time.

A friend of a friend died in August of breast cancer. 34 years old. 4 little kids. While she was sick, she started @putakinddeedinyourfeed, and for her birthday earlier this month people did just that. A breast self exam could have saved her life, so make a point to feel yourself on the first.

you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down

Comes The Dawn by author unclear

I’ve followed Tim for a while, so seeing his condo on the cover of House & Home was fun. Also, his living room is beautiful.

I finished this dress for my summer sewing project and am looking forward to making this sweatshirt for the fall.

“there is no going back. That every good thing must end. That every bad thing does too, that everything does… In a life where so many things have gone wrong, there can be beauty too. That there is always hope, no matter what… I will never again have everything, and so all I’ve wanted is to believe that someday, again, I’ll have enough.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Is a farm the best place to survive the apocalypse? Some tech billionaires think so (but their apocalypse scenarios are much more selfish and scary than bucolic). Definitely worth a read.

I don’t agree with everything in this article, but it’s an interesting look at farming, food security, and the future.

Are you ready for the second half of your life?

We made our thankful turkey yesterday. It’s a great way to make gratitude tangible and visible. You might want to try it too.

How was September for you? Who else finds transitions hard?