Tuesday, November 29, 2011

O Christmas Tree - How Lovely Are Your Branches

We had convinced ourselves (at least I had) that we would buy an artificial tree this year.  After 7 years of a near-empty living room, we had finally filled it with wonderful furniture just after Christmas last year.  So I was sure we couldn't fit our usual monster tree anymore (see our trees from 2010 and 2009 and 2008), we would need a more "slim" tree.  And part of me dreaded those first couple of weeks, when the tree would need water 3 times per day - like a new baby in the family.

I searched high and low, and there were very few options for trees in the 12' + height.  A few posts on Craigslist, and a couple of trees in retail stores.  Nothing worked out.  So this weekend, we finally gave up and decided to get a real tree one more time.  I'm so glad we did.  This is not a great photo, but look at this beauty we found:
It is a bit shy of 12' this year, but a wonderful, strong (and very prickly!!) Grand Fir, beautifully cultured by what seemed to be a very kind and friendly Christian couple, who operate a small Christmas tree farm in a residential area of Surrey, BC (which is a shorter drive than we usually make, to get our tree).  Most of their trees are more in the standard manageable size, but they had a few tall ones which they posted on Craigslist, and were only asking $32 each.  What a deal, and a gorgeous tree.  I think it has narrower profile than many of the previous trees we've had, which was ideal this year.  With some rearranging of the furniture, we managed to fit it in the room very nicely.

So far, we only have lights on it, but this is not even December yet.  It feels like we are behind in just about everything else recently, but at least we are well ahead of our usual schedule for getting a Christmas tree!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Scary Gardener and other Musings

I have to admit, I am scary when I'm gardening.  I find it amusing to read blog posts or advertisements for cute gardening boots, or pretty gloves.  No matter how much I tell myself I will only do "light" gardening, I nearly always return to the house frightfully dirty, wet, sweaty, and with twigs in my hair.  My garden gloves are all in a state of disrepair (most of them should have been thrown away long ago), wet, and dirty.  All three of my garden clippers are crippled in some form or another, and I keep going with them too.

Today I decided to take advantage of my day off work, the beautiful clear skies and balmy 8 C (46 F) weather - rain/snow is forecasted for the next few days - to "tidy up" the front yard a bit.  At first I started with pruning some wayward branches from my shrub, which would otherwise sag across the walkway once the snow weighs it down, and picking up leaves and twigs which were cluttering the garden or walkway.  But by half hour into it, I was cutting and struggling out large branches with the pruning saw.  I even started to cut a few branches which were above my head.  The last couple of times I did that, I ended up throwing my neck out of alignment, and needing a chiropractor to straighten me out.  After I cut two branches, I felt an odd feeling in my neck, so started praying and doing some neck exercises which could help.  I seem to have come out of that okay.  A bit stiff, but I think the neck is still safely in place.

Not deterred by that close call, I kept going with the pruning, and cutting out large grasses and other branches, until my large garden clippings bin was completely full.  I considered asking one of the neighbours if I could keep going and fill theirs too, but by then, my attention was turned to the driveway.  It was a great day for pressure washing the driveway and walkways.  So I fought my hose off the hose cart, and started spraying down everything in sight.  Although it is not a real pressure washer, we have one high pressure hose connection which does a pretty good job of spraying off most of the grime and certainly the sand and leaves and other debris.  I've always wanted a real pressure washer, but it's probably a good thing that I don't have one, since I've heard the horror stories about people who accidentally chop into their legs or other body parts with the pressure washer.  I'd be very likely to struggle with the hose, or get distracted, and do that to myself.  So I stick to my hose, and dream about one day hiring someone to do some real pressure washing.

I learned a few things when building our house, such as the importance of those grooves in the sidewalk and driveway, to allow the concrete to expand and contract.  So ever since then, I've been very careful to wash out those grooves a few times per year.  (Fortunately for him, my husband, who was less involved in the building of the house, is unencumbered by the need for any type of house or yard maintenance, happy to leave these matters in my capable hands.  On a good day, he's the first one to suggest going to the park or another nice place.  What does he think I'm trying to create in our own yard?)  Winter and very early spring are my favourite times, since I don't have to feel guilty about using water.  At this time of year, the water reservoir is more than full.  By summer - almost every summer now - there is crying about water shortage, and restrictions on its use.  It seems pretty funny, in a city which probably gets more rainfall than any city in North America, and which probably pays more local taxes (or any taxes, for that matter!) than any other.  Somehow, all those taxes we pay end up being squandered - I mean spent - on other activities, with not much planning on expanding the reservoirs which are now serving a population which is likely multiples of what it was when the reservoirs were built.  Anyhow, this time of year, I felt quite okay spraying good clean water down the driveway, clearing it off.  That allowed me to cool down a bit, since I had gotten myself a bit sweaty doing the garden cleanup.

When I'm deep into the driveway cleanup, having a solid line of dirt and moss and other gunk which I am systematically spraying down the drieway, I hear the phone ringing inside.  I turn off the hose, and head toward the house.  By then, my cell phone is ringing inside.  I catch neither, and notice only that it is from the office.  Most likely my husband.  So I phone him (busy), send him an Instant Message and email, and finally a voice message, asking if he is trying to contact me.  (An hour later, I hear back that yes, he was trying to call, and he answered his own question.)  By then, I have taken off my gloves, which are soaked through with cold water, but can't bear to put the cold wet gloves back.  So I decide to go with bare hands to finish the driveway and walkway.  The water is freeeeeezing cold.  Wow, I didn't know how much the cold wet gloves had helped to keep my hands warm.  But I am determined to finish, despite the cold hands.

By the time I arrive back in the house more than 2 hours later, I notice the bottom of my jeans are wet, and take them off.  By then I am shivering, sore, and otherwise feeling like I have been run over by a small car.  If I had been successful in borrowing a yard waste bin from my neighbours, I would have felt like I had been run over by a truck, which is the state I usually find myself in after being in the garden for a few hours.

It's funny, when I am in the garden, the cold or pain or anything other sensation is only a minor distraction or amusement to me.  I am so focussed on the task at hand that I lose myself quite completely.  I am not in the least bit lady like.  In fact, I don't feel much of a female at all, and hardly even human for that matter.  I am just determined, fighting, struggling, making progress one handful at a time.  I must be a pretty entertaining sight, if any neighbours were to notice me.  Not to mention that my standard gardening gear consists of my Victoria's Secret tank-style bra top with lace back, and a cut-off (yes, the real thing) pair of jeans.  Pretty scary sight, at my age and size, come to think of it.  In the winter, I add a T-shirt on top, and wear full length jeans.  But no matter what I wear, I almost always need to change, and often take a shower too, when I return.  But I wouldn't change it for a moment.  I love the challenging terrain (more on that in other posts) and the feeling of losing myself completely, to where I can only keep struggling away, musing about various things while I work.  But not thinking of what else there is to do - my TO DO list keeps growing longer and longer, despite how many items I finish and cross off.  There is no energy to spare for that.   Just the musings.  That's one of the things I love about gardening.

Happy late-season garden cleanup, everyone!
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