Obsessive Yard Work

Because my house is on a small hill, my priority for gardening is always this top area around it.  However, I have a greenhouse and garden in the lower part of the yard and over the years I allowed it to turn into a helluva mess.

For the past few weeks Nicky, Margaret and I have been working on restoring the beds.  I had Dean from Redline Bobcat, who’s a genius by the way, put in a gravel path to make it easier to access.  Tomorrow a company’s coming to remove all foliage and then rototill so the entire area will be a sea of dust.

Alfalfa will begin to grow again next spring, and then I can buy a ride-on tractor mower and it’ll be all nice and flat and I can turn it into something lovely.  But for now, my days are spent lugging grass-laden sod from beds via a shovel so we can plant vegies.

I’ve always alleged this yard’s gonna kill me one of these days.  I’ve already dealt with the two trailers of mulch, and the other day when Juergen phoned to ask if I was ready for a third, I said absolutely not until I get the lower area into shape and then I can use more down in the vegetable beds.

But I don’t go to the gym anymore so the garden’s my way of getting worked out.  It’s just too bad a lot of the workout leaves one so crippled that straightening up is a painful experience.  I sure slept well last night after two solid hours of heavy, heavy shoveling.

Margaret participated and we were both happy when the ordeal had ended, and we could reward ourselves with a libation followed by dinner.  And speaking of dinner, I had the Persnickety Women again the other evening and all the food was well-received.

When we do those happy hour events at each other’s homes we like to try out adorable little appies that women like to eat at that hour.  I made a Jewish dish called knishes which none had eaten before and they all said they loved them.  It’s a puff pastry filled with mashed potatoes and baked, so it’s a nice hot appetizer.

I also made little cocktail meatballs, deviled eggs, stuffed cherry tomatoes (with sour cream, cream cheese and dill) and skewers of kalamata olives, ham and sharp cheddar.

For dessert I made panna cotta which I’ve never tried before, and it was fine however a bit too stiff, so next time I think I’ll ace it.

I’ve taken a hard line with a lot of my plants as I removed all Russian sage because I just don’t like it.  I had a pyracantha removed.  Have you ever heard of it?  The common name is Fire Thorn, and man, is that ever accurate.  This plant can draw blood with its vicious big thorns.

I have about 18 dahlias in pots in the greenhouse ready to be planted so that’ll happen in the next week or so.  Ditto with getting bedding plants for my pots around the house.  What a joy May is, other than the body pain stuff of preparation.

I remember when we first moved here 29 years ago and a retired couple two doors down spent their days killing themselves in their yard and I thought wow, those people are nuts.  And now I am the nut.

Blimp in Pain

I asked Juergen my neighbour, who’s also a handyman, if he could get a trailer full of mulch for me, and he delivered it last week.  Today I finished shoveling the last of it into the wheelbarrow and distributing it throughout the yard.  I need an awful lot more as this yard is pretty neglected.

However after a winter of sedentary fun on the couch, shoveling and pushing, bending and hand-distributing a lot of the mulch has made this old body say uncle.  I can’t fully open my right hand and I noticed back muscles I’d forgotten about.

But that’s why I keep this property; I need the exercise.  Juergen is so funny as he’s about five years older than me and when I said I was half dead he said “I don’t doubt it.  This is a big yard for a girl your age.”  Isn’t that adorable?

I’ve tried everything to get myself to exercise over the winter and not a thing worked.  I thought maybe if I brought the exercise bike upstairs it would help but it didn’t.  I have a rebounder I won’t use.  I won’t do any on-line weight training or yoga.  I therefore have to count on my yard to give me a work-out.

And here’s a new fun thing that burns a handful of calories, tap dance.  I had my first class last week and it was so much fun the 50 minutes flew by.  There are eight of us in the class, all in a similar age group, IE old.

You have no idea how complicated tap is.  I think Sharon said she’s taking level one for the third time as there are only five classes in total.  Someone else said they’d tried level two but it was way too hard.  So doesn’t all of that sound like an insanely fun challenge?

Apparently my grand niece, River, is also taking tap dance, and she’s eight years old.  So I told them to bring her tap shoes when they come at Easter and the two of us can tap ourselves into a stupor.

Denis was over last week and I mentioned I needed a piece of plywood as the instructor had said you can dent your floors from the taps.  He kindly asked if I wanted him to help me and I said sure, so we headed to Rona where I got a three foot by three foot square piece so now I can practice.

Now here’s something odd: I find it very hard to practice either my singing or tap dancing with Nicky in the basement.  He really and truly could give a rat’s ass what I do upstairs, but for some reason I have inhibitions that prevent me from properly belting out tunes or seriously stepping.

The good news is he’s gone to Vancouver and won’t return until Sunday so I have a few days in which to give it my all.  The sad thing is I’ve now probably crippled myself so badly from the mulch distribution that any attempt at dance might be too painful.

But nothing can stop the voice, as this week I’m practicing Who’s Bed Have your Boots been Under?  Oh my, what a great tune!

Stupid and Dangerous Things to Do

I’m very happy and excited as my niece Sunny and her family are planning to come here for Easter.  They were here in 2015 for Luke and Jan’s wedding party, which happened to coincide with Easter, so their two girls had a mad egg hunt on this property and just loved it.

So I suggested to Sunny the girls might like to do that again and as she replied they would, I raced to Purdy’s to get some stuff for the hunt.  This is where I made the stupid and deadly decision to purchase two large bunnies and two bags of individually wrapped eggs and little bunnies.

I kept the practiced neutral expression on my face that I need whenever I’m in this type of retail situation.  The girl said “That comes to $77.45” and I replied “Okay thanks.”  I should’ve said here, take this, I have to get out of this mall, but no.

I then drove home thinking oh well that’s a bunch of lovely chocolate for the girls.  Because Jan had never in her life heard of or participated in an Easter egg hunt, she was voracious and easily out-hunted the little girls.

So this year I’ll have to warn her in advance that we mustn’t take chocolate from children if at all possible.  By now she’s had four years of chocolate so I think that’s settled her down quite a bit.

Here at home all went well the first night, but by the second night the bag of chocolate weighed on my mind.  I thought well gee, if I just open the bag of individually foil-wrapped eggs, I can eat one or two and no one will even know.

By the second night as I was polishing off the last egg from the giant bag, I realized I had no one to blame but myself.  Who buys Easter chocolate three weeks before they need it?  Only a person with a very serious addiction to chocolate does that.

Now I’m down to the two large rabbits and the one bag of individually foil-wrapped bunnies so I’m really hoping I can pull myself together until Easter.  However at this point in my life I know it’s folly to make predictions about what’s going to happen so I won’t make any.

Margaret bought a very handy brush for her cat which I used when I was babysitting him the other week so I bought one for my cats.  The chairs on which they lie are thickly coated with black fur so I thought it’d be so nice for the cats to get their loose fur removed.

The “brush” is actually all soft plastic with nubby bits that stick out and really pick up gobs of hair in one go.  So I thought this’ll feel good and grabbed George and started to brush his back.  I knew I’d have to hold the cat as he’s not used to that kind of thing but I didn’t suspect he’d use his back claw to anchor himself into my bare forearm to aid his escape.

With extra fat on my gut and a wound on my arm I regret doing stupid things.

Learning New Things

Tomorrow I’m getting my first lesson in Windows 10, which will hopefully not be crippling. I then need to learn how to create a bulk e mail, as the person who helped me with my computer decided to delete Windows Live Mail, from which my newsletter used to be sent.

Once these two tasks are accomplished, I may be able to continue sending out my newsletters.  The other day my friend Nancy was over for coffee, and she said hey we haven’t had a newsletter from you for a while. I replied it was due to “technical difficulties.”

I asked Luke if he’d be able to set up a method for bulk e mailing but he said I had to figure it out myself.  He said, “you’ll have to Google it.”  I then e mailed Nicky, who lives downstairs but that’s the way we communicate, if he would help me.  He didn’t reply so I’m guessing that’s a strong no.

If one day you receive my newsletter you’ll have to imagine all the Hell I’ve gone through to get it to you.  Just from what I know of myself I’m guessing I’ll have aged from the  frustration and stress, and be a lot poorer as I’ll have to pay for help.

I prefer learning about things in which I’m interested, and the above tasks are the kinds of activities which leave me cold.  But once I’m able to produce a lovely newsletter all on my own, I’m sure I’ll be quite proud of myself.  See above for cost.

For way more fun, I want to take tap dancing starting in April, and that’ll also be good for lengthening telomeres and building strong synapses in the brain.  I must ask Nancy about a language-learning program she was telling me about and see if I can get anywhere with Japanese.

Last time I visited mom she said she was reviewing her journals and said when she was my age she was on four different boards, flying to Ottawa constantly for meetings, and travelling all over the world with Gerry.  She said to me, “your life can change in an instant.”

I said, yes, as I’ve ordered a new bee hive, and also plan to mulch the hell out of the yard this year.  Mom stared at me blankly.  Her life and mine have been complete opposites, as mine involves bees, dogs, cats, gardens, singing and tap dancing.

I haven’t told many people yet, but I’ve passed the test to be a standard dachshund owner and will be getting a puppy sometime this year.  What test you may ask.  I had to fill out a four-page questionnaire, and only then with appropriate answers is one given the green light to own one of these dogs.  After 24 years of dachshund ownership I was able to convince them I would be an okay owner.

Miniature dachshunds can be found everywhere, but there are only three or four breeders of standards in Canada.  So you can see how important it was for me to pass the test and be able to get one.  It’s as mom says, life can change in an instant.

Mexico 2019 was another great trip

Getting up at 3:30 AM for the flight was the most challenging part of the trip for me, but was just the beginning of two big problems for Margaret.  One was her computer stopped working entirely on Day 4 of the trip, and on Day 6 she was awakened by the bank telling her that her credit card had been hacked.

Nonetheless, she bravely carried on before, during and after these setbacks as though they hadn’t occurred.  The worst thing I encountered was my camera breaking on Day 3 so that was quite the annoyance, but luckily Margaret had both her phone plus a camera so I ended up with a lot of pictures after all.

We really dislike Cancun due to the throngs of tourists, so landed, got into our rental and drove two hours to the largish town of Valladolid in the state of Yucatan.  We had our own little house there with a tropical garden out back.  Lots of wild cats so I put out a bowl of cream before bed and it was clean in the morning.

From there we saw both Chichen Itza and Ek Balam, which is smaller but was our favourite ruin due to the beautiful thatched roofs.  We made fun of a fat woman climbing down a pyramid then had to turn around and crawl down on our hands in the same embarrassing fashion.  Instant karma.

On the way to Merida we wanted to have lunch somewhere and saw a sign that said Izamal, and went let’s pull in there.  Little did we know we’d stumbled upon one of the oldest towns in the Yucatan with a 500 year old convent.

We had a very nice lunch there, then toured the convent as the bells tolled and three monks in brown robes tied with belts appeared, then a nun in a habit walked by.  The whole exterior, which is huge, is painted mustard yellow so it was a gorgeous sight on a sunny hot day.

We had an absolutely magnificent house in Merida, the capital of the Yucatan, and an old colonial city of about two million people.  Our house was a few metres from the fabled Paseo Mantejo the ‘Champs Elysees of Mexico.’  A great old colonial house, and a fabulous location made for a particularly enjoyable visit.

The only downsides were we weren’t able to figure out how to use the TV or watch a movie, and again, I’d noticed a black and white wild cat on our wall, so decided it’d be nice to put out some chicken, however was probably wrong.

My bedroom was at the front of the house, and Margaret’s was at the back, so while I heard a bit of caterwauling outside, I could put in ear plugs and close my door, so thought nothing further of it.

In the morning Margaret came into the kitchen pale, frazzled and saying there’d been hours of cat fights right outside her bedroom, sometimes with the sound of cats bouncing off the wall.  She said she had a few hours of sleep at most and said maybe it’s better if you don’t feed the cats tonight.

We spent four days exploring Merida, and one day we went to the town of Progresso right on the Gulf of Mexico and perhaps a twenty minute drive from our place.  We walked along the beach and took a boat out to a mangrove swamp filled with tame raccoons and several cenotes where one can swim.

In Merida there’s a lot to see and do, and I had the blistered and bandaged feet to prove it.  Plus the heat there is unimaginable, and what we found particularly fascinating were the old colonial mansions and the descriptions of people’s dress at that time.

The women would have on stockings, corset, slip, bustle, bonnet, dress, boots and gloves, and we were in sleeveless tops and shorts and bathed in sweat, plus in those days there was no air conditioning.  The natives must’ve really shaken their heads at that.

The former governor’s mansion is now used for government offices, however the ballroom contains 11 large murals depicting the history, and is open to the public.  It’s the usual disgusting tale of domination of the Maya who were minding their own bees wax but were unfortunate to have things like gold.

In both Valladolid and Merida we found ourselves shopping for hand made Mayan products, and came home with a few nice things.  It’d be wonderful to be able to buy things right from the producers as I’m sure those poor women embroidering away all day are given a few pesos for their efforts.

I bought a Mexican style Barbie dress with hand embroidery from an old gramma who was standing there crocheting as she waited for sales, so felt good about that, though it was only something like $4.  Needless to say, I didn’t haggle with the woman.

Our last five days were spent in Tulum, back on the Mayan Riviera, and just south of Akumal where we stayed last year.  We thought it’d be a quiet little town and were surprised by the volume of tourists there.  The only positive result of that is the haggling is good due to the competition.

Our condo wasn’t great, but turned horrible when on night #3 Margaret was awakened by the sound of something on her water bottle.  She turned on the light and a cockroach the size of a lighter was a few inches from her face, antennae waggling.

The manager came in the next day and together she and I lifted the mattress and saw a couple of them hiding on the slats.  We killed those and at least one or two more, but it meant Margaret had spent two nights with a family of cockroaches partying underneath her.

Once again we carried on, Margaret slept in the single bed in my room, and we went out to the beaches daily and often headed north to favourite spots from last year.

If you go to Akumal, you must find the Beached Bikini Bar and Restaurant.  It’s not only fabulous to sit there, eat and drink, or just drink, but they’re also very successful with their turtle conservation program.  Their website is easy, savemexico.org.

My final tip: stay the hell out of Cancun, there’s so much more of the Yucatan peninsula to explore.

Margaret and I are off on another adventure

You’ll recall Margaret and I went to the Yucatan last February and we loved it so much we’re returning in a few days.  I’m already frightened of how angry the cats and dog will be, but they’re absolutely safe in their own home with Nicky living right in it with them.  However Nicky isn’t their mom hence their ire over my absence.

And speaking of ire, last week I had to accompany mom to a couple of appointments.  The first was to her lawyer as she wanted to update her will and discuss some parts of it.  So picture this, the lawyer knows I’m the sole executor, and there I am sitting with mom, and she turns to me and says “now why am I here again?”

I said “oh um, to update your will”, and then she mercifully snapped out of it and said “oh yes” and began to address the areas she wanted to discuss.  But I was sitting there imagining what the lawyer was thinking, given mom’s 94 and I’m the executor taking her in to see him with mom starting out like a dementia victim.

The next morning we went to see the doctor.  We’re sitting there, he comes in, and mom turns to me and says “why are we here again?”  This time, I’m the sole person with power of attorney, taking her to the GP and so I replied nervously, “oh um, you’re here to discuss end of life planning.”

As with the lawyer, I was imagining the poor doctor’s thoughts, looking at this senior citizen who doesn’t appear to know why she’s there, and who’s been brought in by the daughter who has power of attorney.

At that point mom once again snapped out of the fake dementia, and started to discuss in rational detail why she didn’t want any heroic interventions in case of traumatic illness.

It’s particularly funny for anyone who knows mom, given her mind’s razor sharp.  She can recall things I can’t, and is able to correct people on facts regarding the Trump fiasco, one of her favourite topics.  So to begin those particular appointments like that was quite the amusing shock to the old senses.  I have to say it keeps me on my toes.

And I was hoping to visit mom on Tuesday, prior to our trip, but at this moment highway 97 is closed at Summerland due to a rock slide.  As you may know, I like to cook and bake for mom and have all manner of delectable foods frozen and ready to transport to her.  It’s really annoying as if that highway’s closed, there’s no other route south.

Though apparently one can detour west through Princeton, thereby making the trip something like four hours in duration which I refuse to do.  But can you imagine living south of Summerland and having to catch a flight or get medical treatment in Kelowna?

I’m grateful I live on the airport side of the slide, that’s for sure, as now that I know what awaits, I’m completely ga ga with excitement over the impending flight to Cancun.

The Retired Life

Today is one of those days I used to dream about when I was a working person.  I’m watching bits of CNN on You Tube, sitting in a clean and tidy house, and hanging with two cats and two dogs.  It’s almost too good to be true.

Once I’ve written this I plan to grab some pruning shears and try to tame the pyracantha bush in the xeriscape garden.  If you own one of these you’re wincing as you read this, as this horrible bush is covered in mean thorns.

But it seemed to be such a good idea 25 years ago when I bought it as a small potted plant.  It’s now the size of a Volkswagen beetle, so clearly I’ve allowed it to get out of hand quite badly.

It’s odd to be out gardening mid-January, but this winter it’s so mild there’s no point in waiting.  Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to the heat of the Yucatan in February when Margaret and I return for another bit of Mayan adventure.

On days like this I think of my mother-in-law who had raised 11 children.  She retired to Sechelt and lived very close to the local seniors centre.  Her kids would urge her to walk down there and partake, and she’d always reply “I just want to be quiet.”

Her idea of bliss was her cigarette, CBC radio, the dog on her lap, while completing a crossword puzzle.  I can totally relate to that level of excitement after raising just two kids but working 40 years on top of that.  I always say I have PTSD from work.

Last night Margaret was over for dinner and I was telling her how I always wanted to be at home, and she said she feels the same way.  I was recalling my early days as a teacher of the deaf in Prince George.

I had three students in my class, while next door there were 30 kids in each of the other grades.  As a result I could arrive when the school bell rang, and leave as it was ringing to end the day.  I always went home for lunch.

I guess you’re thinking well there’s nothing much to have PTSD about there, and it’s true.  That was a sweet gig.  But after ten years of that when we move to Kelowna and no teachers of the deaf were required, I had to reinvent myself and then ran a business with a partner for 15 years.

I think that’s when the PTSD set in as we were overachievers.  At one point we had several contracts and 10 staff and I was one of those working moms who tried to pretend to the kids that all was normal at home.  As a result, I always made us lovely dinners so no one would notice.

And not to mention other work I’ve had including a terrible stint at a bank, waitressing, having a fruitcake business, medical office receptionist, and self employed vocational rehabilitation consultant.

And so today on a dreary, overcast gray Okanagan day I’m very happy to reflect back on the working life, but can honestly say I prefer the life I’m now able to live.  I suppose the truth of it is I’m content to do very little.