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mandala

Crocheted Mandala

Back before the pandemic struck, when I was still able to go into stores, I came across some beautifully coloured cotton yarn in our neighbourhood yarn shop. Around the same time, I borrowed this crochet pattern book from our local library:

***Mandalas to Crochet, 30 Great Patterns, by Haafner Linssen***

Having been an inveterate crocheter for over fifty years (!), I always have a project on the go. During the current very unsettling and rapidly changing times, I find that creating something can be calming and centering. I chose the “Granny Circle” mandala pattern, based on the good old Granny Square which I love so much.

Here’s a link to my four previous posts on the craft of “Crochet”:

https://joiedusoleil.wordpress.com/?s=crochet

As I’ve written before, crocheting can be quite meditative for me. Gardening comes a close second:)

Mandala: The Sanskrit word for circle.

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Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.

—Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

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Anemone, rescued from a long-since demolished neighbourhood garden.

Anemone nemorosa–Wood Anemone? OR Anemone blanda–Windflower?

Simply beautiful, whatever you choose to name it!

Joie du Soleil’s blog is focussing on three main themes: Beauty, Positivity, and Simplicity.

***PLEASE NOTE!! These blog posts are not meant to be preachy “sermons”, but are merely my own “musings” about life in general. Whatever works!

The two previous posts were about Beauty and Positivity. With today’s post, I will attempt to write a little about the subject of Simplicity. The times we are all living through during the current worldwide pandemic have made me think about what is really important for people, and for Mother Earth. During our social distancing, and with most of our usual daily activities curtailed, I’ve begun to ask myself, “What is most meaningful to me? What is absolutely necessary?” The answers are simple. The bare basics, for me, are ideally as follows:

***AIR (un-polluted)

***WATER (clean and pure)

***FOOD (mostly plant-based)

***PEOPLE (who care for and about each other)

***SHELTER (small, simple, clean, dry, warm, or cool, as needed)

***A HEALTHY BODY (goes without saying!)

***THE MEANS TO AFFORD FOOD, SHELTER & NECESSITIES (just enough, without greed)

And for an “ideal world“, I would add the following:

***A HEALTHY EARTH AND ITS BIOSPHERE

***RESPECT FOR AND CARE OF ALL LIFE ON EARTH

***MEANINGFUL ACTIVITY WHICH HELPS OTHERS & DOES NOT HARM THE EARTH

***HARM NO LIVING THING (at least harm as little as possible)

***LOVE OF NATURE

***CREATIVITY

***SHARING

***COMPASSION

***AND FINALLY, LOVE!

Maybe I’m an idealistic dreamer, but I’m also realistic, and I think that humans have the ability to adapt to new conditions, and to make some much needed, simple, and positive changes in the way we live with the Earth, and with each other. It looks as though we’ll have to! We “Earthlings” are all in this together! It’s taking a pandemic to show us that.

There is a destiny that makes us brothers; none goes his way alone.

All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.

—Edwin Markham, (1852-1940) (from the poem, A Creed–to Mr. David Lubin)

Of course, I would add the word “sisters” to the first line of the above poem.

Here’s one more quotation from Thoreau which might help us all to slow down, and to simplify our lives:

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.

—Henry David Thoreau (“Where I Lived, and What I Lived For”, in Walden, 1854)

I can’t resist one more:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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bread

YEAST-FREE BREAD, BAKED YESTERDAY!! Yes, baked by my husband. And does it ever taste great! He even “kneaded” it a little. No bread-making machine for this baker;)

Continuing on with the three themes of this blog: Beauty, Positivity, and Simplicity, this post is focussing on the positive. (The previous post, last month, was on “Beauty”.) World-wide, everyone is facing challenging times right now, to say the least. I’m not even going to name what we’re all going through. There’s more than enough about it in the news, online, and in our day to day lives. I’ve discovered that, for me, it helps to actually focus on the positive, rather than dwelling on the negative. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort.

Baking bread is such a positive, creative endeavor, and since we had run out of bread, and our yeast was outdated, the baker had to get inventive. He used beer and baking powder to get the loaf to rise. It worked! This loaf tastes wonderful toasted, with a bit of honey spread on top. Or, you may prefer it with hummus, or avocado!

Being confined to our homes, except for the occasional out-trip for essentials, seems to promote creativity. I’m also noticing a whole lot of spring cleaning that needs to be done! But, that can wait, because the garden is calling, and the sun is shining today.

Here’s a quotation from one of my favourites, Albert Einstein:

I lived in solitude in the country and noticed how the monotony of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.

—Albert Einstein

To help fortify us during the current situation, here are a few more positive quotations:

Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wherefore thou be wise, Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson

And finally, the following statement from one of the world’s great artists is meaningful to those of us who are not afraid to admit that we are feeling somewhat afraid at present. That’s OK! It actually takes courage to admit to feeling fear in warranted circumstances! That doesn’t stop us from keeping on with our gardening, painting, baking, knitting, writing, offering help to others, and whatever else we may choose to do:

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.

—Georgia O’Keefe

Here’s where our daughter found the “BEER BREAD” recipe:

http://www.shaneandsimple.com

Easy 5-Ingredient Whole Wheat Beer Bread

Shane and Simple offers all plant-based recipes. Delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All works of healing are works of beauty, and all beauty heals.

—Matthew Fox

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CROCUSES, a little patch of them bravely appearing in a pot out by the garage, in the back lane. Aren’t they amazing? Tiny “works of beauty”, in amongst the Sedums and last Autumn’s fallen leaves and twigs. And I didn’t do a thing to make them bloom. Some mysterious energy within these old bulbs just knew it was time to send the flowers out into the world again. Spotting them brought a smile to my face.

With our world in such a state these days, we beleaguered humans need to stop and see whatever beauty still exists all around us. This blog aims to focus on “Beauty, Positivity & Simplicity”. And these crocuses seem to be offering all three of those attributes, don’t you agree? I think we could all use some healing! “All beauty heals”.

 

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White horse being walked at Southlands, in South Vancouver, on a sunny late winter day.

Today’s quotation: “When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.”

—Minnie Aumonier

And, there is always walking outdoors, in the fresh air! Nature heals. These photographs were taken during a walk in Southlands, a neighbourhood in South Vancouver, bordering on the Fraser River’s North Arm.

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Early-blooming Rhododendrons, (or are they Azaleas?) and Poplar trees.

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How gratifying that there are still some wild birds and fish left in Vancouver. Amazing, in such a hugely populated city! We all need to protect whatever life remains on this fragile, (but hopefully resilient) Earth.

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Water is precious, even in a ditch!

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I grew up by this river, many moons ago! We rode horses here, and played on the banks of the mighty Fraser River, back in the days when children were allowed to roam more freely than they are today. Little did we realize how lucky we were!

Paul walkingMy favourite walking companion. He knows how to saunter along, while I take photographs (I mean, while I “point & shoot”)!

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My Mom always told me to “Look up!” while I was walking. She was right. Can you believe the beauty of this incredibly blue sky?

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Remnants of an old bridge.

Even after walking in certain areas over and over again, I always discover something new, something never before noticed on these walks. Everything changes, while at the same time the place seems familiar in many ways.

Two of my favourite quotations come to mind:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

—Marcel Proust

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower…

—William Blake

And finally, here’s a great little video about two men who live in New York City, and who both walk every block in that metropolis, discovering new people and new places along the way:

https://video.newyorker.com/watch/why-two-men-are-walking-every-block-in-new-york-city

In case the above link for the Two Men Walking in New York City video doesn’t work for you, here’s the film:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“The Studio Boat”, by Claude Monet, 1876

While sailing on this uncharted sea of “elderhood”, I’ve been gaining a few insights.

Instead of fighting the inevitability of the “aging process”, I’ve decided to accept it. Certainly, there are things we can do to be fit and healthy. However! The fountain of youth has not yet been discovered. I’m learning to admit that time does march on, and takes me with it! Everything changes, including our bodies.

Recently I bumped into an old high school acquaintance whom I hadn’t seen for years, and was saddened to see that she has fallen into the trap of having botox injections on her face. Why is it that, in our youth-oriented society, some elders feel the need to desperately try to look younger, even at the risk of harming themselves? Not only the media, but also the pharmaceutical firms and some doctors are to blame, in my opinion.

On a more positive note, the other day I was gently reminded by a friend of my daughter’s that there is no need to try to turn back the clock. Better to accept the changes, and live in each precious moment, she suggested! Wise young woman.

Being a collector of quotations, I’d like to include a few favourites:

The secret to living well and longer is: eat half, walk double, laugh triple and love without measure.

—Tibetan Proverb

The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.

—Alan Watts

He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the Universe.

—Marcus Aurelius

My life is my message.

Mahatma Gandhi

If you’d like to check out Parts 1, 2 & 3 of “Beautiful Elders: Sailing on an Uncharted Sea”, here are the links:

Beautiful Elders: Sailing on an Uncharted Sea–Part 1

Beautiful Elders: Sailing on an Uncharted Sea–Part 2: “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.”

Beautiful Elders: Sailing on an Uncharted Sea–Part 3: Take Heart!

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Snowdrops symbolize rebirth and hope. What a good message for all of us (Beautiful Elders included) on this eve of a new year and a new decade!

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

—Percy Bysshe Shelley

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Above photo: January 8th, 2019, downtown Vancouver rally

“An immense increase of scale in endeavors to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis.”

—the above quotation is from the BioScience Journal, in a report published on November 5th, 2019. See link below for the report:

https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biz088/5610806#

—This journal is published by the American Institute of Biological Sciences, (AIBS). 11,000 (that’s eleven thousand) world scientists have signed this latest report.

—the word “Biosphere” (in above quotation) means:

The regions of the surface, atmosphere, and hydrosphere of the earth (or analogous parts of other planets) occupied by living organisms.”…from the Oxford Dictionary.

and from Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere

I took the following photographs during nine rallies/marches/strikes for the climate/actions which friends, family & I took part in during 2019.  The photographs, showing signs, banners and crowds speak for themselves. I’ve selected twenty photos in all, though there are plenty more in my cell phone and camera!  The worldwide Climate Strike, which took place on September 27th, 2019, drew 100,000 (that’s one hundred thousand) people here in Vancouver alone. It was very energizing and heartening to be marching across the Cambie Bridge with so many like-minded fellow citizens, all of us trying to convey our concerns about the climate emergency to “the powers that be”. Serious changes to the way we all live on our beautiful planet have to be made, as quickly as possible. “Old habits die hard” is a saying from the past which fits our current challenging situation here on Earth. But old habits CAN be changed! Taking part in rallies and demonstrations is one way in which we can all take action, however small our individual actions may seem. There is strength in numbers, and these rallies keep getting larger all the time. The message is clear: millions of humans are now awake to the need for changes in the ways we live, in order to lessen carbon emissions and keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and in order to lessen our footprint on the planet, for the sake of all living things.

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February 22nd…Climate Convergence…No Pipeline Expansion…Extinction Rebellion sign in the foreground

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April 8th…Convention Centre…Senators’ Meeting

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May 3rd…Strike for the Climate…Vancouver Art Gallery

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May 3rd…Strike for the Climate

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May 3rd…Strike for the Climate

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May 22nd…Coast Protectors…Trudeau at the Opus Hotel…

No Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

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May 22nd…No TMX

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May 22nd…rallies are usually peaceful, but on this day, one rowdy was arrested.

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June 9th…Science World…Wilderness Committee…No Pipeline Expansion

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June 9th…Science World…No TMX

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July 17th…at the CBC building…350.org & Our Time…asking media to report on the climate crisis and demand that political party leaders speak about it during the upcoming federal election campaign in October, (and they did…some of them).

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September 27th…at Vancouver City Hall…worldwide Climate Strike…100,000 people marched in Vancouver!

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September 27th…at Vancouver City Hall…Climate Strike

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September 27th…heading down Cambie Street, towards the bridge and downtown

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September 27th…100,000 strong, Strike for the Climate

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September 27th…Respect Your Mother (Earth)

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September 27th…Climate Strike…we reach downtown

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October 25th…Strike for the Climate…Vancouver Art Gallery…15,000 people,organized by Sustainabiliteens

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October 25th…back at the VAG after the march…Greta Thunberg on the Gallery steps, just to the left of the flag, preparing to speak. Strike for the Climate.

To sum up, the following four quotations are from people I respect:

Any culture that devastates its air and water and soil, and refuses to admit that it’s behaving in an unreasonable way, is pathological and needs to be reinvented.

—Thomas Berry, in conversation with Nancy Ryley, from: The Forsaken Garden, l998

Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Unless you believe the future can be better, it’s unlikely you’ll step up and take responsibility for making it so.

—Noam Chomsky, political activist and philosopher, as quoted in British Country Living magazine, October 2019

The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.

—Edward O. Wilson, in Biophilia, 1984

We need to get angry and understand what is at stake. And then we need to transform that anger into action and to stand together united and just never give up. We are striking to disrupt the system, to create attention. And I just hope that it will turn out well.

—Greta Thunberg, climate activist, leader and visionary human being! (age: 16) 2019

If you’d like to read my previous blog post about the climate crisis, here’s the link:

https://joiedusoleil.wordpress.com/2019/05/31/the-only-thing-that-matters/

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), July

A strange and wonderful thing happened this past July: our Snake Plant bloomed! Almost hidden behind a couch in the living room, it’s usually “out of sight, out of mind”. When I finally discovered where the mysterious and beautiful fragrance was coming from, I was delighted to find that it was this rare bloom sending forth its perfume. It lasted for many days, with a fragrance lovelier than the lily’s, and quite intoxicating. Apparently they bloom more readily if neglected, which this long-suffering houseplant definitely is! Here’s more information:

Snake Plant Info – How To Grow A Snake Plant And Snake Plant Care

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARhododendron (a small, unknown variety), Spring

I’m including this unusual-looking Rhodo because I’ve never seen one bloom in this manner before. It seemed to go rather wild this year. Maybe it’s suffering from a bit of neglect just like the Snake Plant is, and is valiantly trying to reproduce itself…who knows? Can anyone name this Rhodo?

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Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), Spring

It may be considered a weed by some, but I love it anyway! Here’s the Ajuga, bravely flowering in amongst the Sedums, Valerian and bamboo shoots. Such a gorgeous shade of purplish blue.

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Japonica (Chaenomeles), sometimes known as “Ornamental Quince”, Spring

Possibly my favourite flowering shrub in our garden, this particular beauty has survived two changes of address in the past 25 years. It produces plum-sized fruits every year, which the squirrels cart off with some difficulty.

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Camellia japonica, Spring

Another hardy survivor, this healthy shrub was given to me by a good friend, many years ago. It, too, has lived through two garden moves…maybe three. Such resilience!

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Lewisia, Spring

While it bloomed brilliantly on the deck, this Lewisia’s container remained upright when the raccoon scaled the railing behind it! You can see the raccoon’s paw prints on the white boards in the background. City raccoons are resilient, too…they have to be, to survive the traffic in Vancouver!

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Sage (Salvia officinalis), Summer

And over in our daughter’s garden, here’s the ever-hardy Sage plant. I only wish that I used it in my cooking! However, the bees do love it, and its strong fragrance is quite refreshing.

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Seaside Plantain (Plantago maritima), Summer

Yes, this is usually classified as a weed among the gardening aficionados! But the lowly Seaside Plantain leaves are actually edible, and this native plant could be classified as a (an) herb. Besides, I like the look of it!

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Basil (Ocimum basilicum), Summer

Who can resist Pasta with Pesto, made with fresh basil leaves? Delicious!

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Sun Rose or Moss Rose (Portulaca grandiflora), Summer

This reliable, colourful little plant is actually a tender annual, and is not hardy. I used to plant it in a boulevard bed, but have resorted to potting it in a container, because the dogs and squirrels tended to interfere with it every summer. Portulaca flowers make me smile!

I’ll end this post with a couple of thought-provoking quotations:

***Garden as though you will live forever.

                                   —William Kent (1685-1748) British architect & Landscape architect

***You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.

                                     —Jane Goodall (b. 1934) English Primatologist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kabocha Squash on the front boulevard… August, 2019.

Instead of growing troublesome and thirsty grass on the boulevards and in the front and back gardens, our family is growing FOOD!! I don’t want to sound egotistical here, but we are pleased and surprised at just how much food can be grown on a city lot. It’s quite amazing, and gratifying, to head out to the garden and pick a bowlful of vegetables for dinner. Anyone can do it! Thanks to my husband and son-in-law, we’ve had a steady supply of veggies, and even raspberries, all summer long.

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All sorts of lettuce in a pot.

Every few weeks throughout the spring and summer, more lettuce seeds were planted, resulting in an ongoing supply of fresh salad greens. Some seeds were planted in the raised beds, some in pots, like the one above. Outer leaves were harvested at intervals, leaving the plant to reproduce more leaves…”cut and come again”, as some gardeners call this method. It’s now September, and we’re still enjoying fresh, sweet lettuce!

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Cherry tomatoes in the greenhouse.

Here’s a quotation I like, which connects vegetable gardening with helping the environment:

Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the care of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if she/he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. She/he is producing something to eat, which makes her/him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but she/he is also enlarging, for her/himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.

–Wendell Berry (from: “Think Little”, 1970)

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A forest of kale!

Healthy soil is the basis of a productive veggie patch. We augment the existing earth with organic soil from a local company, along with compost from our own back yard compost bins. These bins get a steady supply of organic, only plant-based kitchen peelings and scraps. It’s all vegan. Also important to note: no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers are used in the garden.

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Amaranth plants, growing at the foot of a Columnar Apple tree, and sharing the bed with some young raspberry bushes.

Amaranth leaves are delicious, lightly stir fried with a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of water, along with whatever other veggies you fancy. The leaves are almost too beautiful to eat, resembling Coleus plants, to my eye.

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Potatoes, Amaranth & Cherry tomatoes.

These delicious potatoes were grown in buckets of soil, using eyes from potatoes which had gone to seed, in the spring.  We’d already eaten the larger ones by the time I took this photo. Honestly, they were the best potatoes I’ve ever tasted! (The buckets are the standard white, plastic variety, with drainage holes drilled in the bottoms. Not that we like to use plastic, but since they had already been produced, they were at least put to good use! And they will be used for years to come.)

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Potatoes, onions, carrots & peas.

The potatoes pictured above were planted directly into the ground, rather than into buckets. And these were edible pod peas, growing in a container. Delicious!

I’ll end with another favourite quotation:

We’re a rambly type of garden. We can’t make it all immaculate. A certain amount of romantic disorder is a happy compromise.

–Henry Robinson (from: The English Garden Magazine, January 2001)

Right on, Henry!

To be continued…

September 13th, 2019: Here’s a wee update about AMARANTH:

Amaranthus viridis, or slim amaranth, is known as “VLITA” in Greece, where it is a common green vegetable, grown in gardens all around that country. There are about 60 varieties of Amaranth throughout the world, and at least one of them is grown for its seeds. Back in the 1970’s, when we were first becoming “vegetarian”, my husband and I ate Amaranth as a cereal. The seeds are used as a grain, and as a flour. What a wonderful, beautiful plant!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaranth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum) in a container in our back garden. Canary Island Ivy (Hedera Canariensis) leaf peeking through the fern fronds.

I’m more relaxed about gardening than I used to be, and am enjoying letting Mother Nature have her way. She creates beauty at every turn, with little interference from me! Green is her colour of preference, which is obvious to anyone who walks through a forest.

These days, green is my favourite colour in the garden, and elsewhere. Being a cool colour, it provides a sense of calm and peacefulness, similar to the effect of blue. Because green plants appear to be in the background, they add a feeling of spaciousness to garden beds. For me, green represents Nature at its best, and is the colour of life and hopefulness. The following photographs were taken while we were on a walk in Pacific Spirit Park, in July, 2019, on one of the many beautiful trails there. Each photograph shows only native plants, which have grown here on the southwest coast of Canada for many centuries.

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Salal (Gaultheria shallon)

***Green is the prime colour of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.

                                                               —Pedro Calderon de la Barca

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Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium)

No white nor red was ever seen

So amorous as this lovely green.

—Andrew Marvell

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Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) trees among the Douglas Firs ((Pseudotsuga menziesii)

This is second-growth forest, re-planted in the early 1900’s, following intensive logging. The original evergreen trees were massive giants, and a few of their trunks are still visible throughout the park. They were mainly Western Red Cedars and Douglas Firs.

It was with awe

That I beheld

Fresh leaves, green leaves

Bright in the sun.

—Basho

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Moss on Douglas Fir bark

***If there is a future, it will be Green.

—Petra Kelly

By “Green”, I think that Petra Kelly means that humanity will be using renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and other clean methods which do not emit carbon, and will thus help to slow down the rate of global warming and climate change.

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Vine Maples and Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) tree.

***A forest is green for a reason.

—Anthony T. Hincks

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Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum) and Salal

***Green is a soothing colour, isn’t it?

—Jack Thorne

Here’s a little song some of you may remember, from Sesame Street:

It’s Not Easy Being Green (Kermit’s Song). Kermit is a frog, of course! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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