Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pasta Picassos

I'm up bright and early this morning.  My eldest starts her summer job today.  She is doing the continental breakfast, from 6:00 to 10:00, at the hotel where she has worked for the past few summers.  Breakfast is a new venture, and she will be doing at least two mornings a week along with her regular cleaning and laundry assignment.  She was a bit surprised to get called this quickly, because the hotel trade does not usually pick up much until after the May 24th weekend.  As we came within site of the hotel, though the reason for her being called became quite evident.  There were hydro boom trucks everywhere; hardly room from me to even turn the van around in the yard.  Obviously our big wind of two days ago is creating quite a lot of work for the electrical boys.

Multiply that by ten, and you'll get the picture!
I know there are still a lot of customers without power in the region.  The missus and I did an art workshop at one of the local schools last night, and that seemed to be the beginning theme of every parental conversation.  "Have you got power back yet?"

Actually the school that this activity night was originally scheduled to be in, still is without power and will be until tonight, at least.  The organizers had to do some last minute scrambling and reorganizing yesterday, to move the entire thing to another school, and notify all the registered participants.

Ma and I were scheduled to do some sort of art activity.  It is a challenge to come up with something particularly meaningful that can be completed in half an hour, with groups of kids ranging from 4 to 12 years of age.  My brain has been a little fried over the past few weeks, what with finishing up the LTO, prepping the rental house for market, and getting the garden and greenhouse going, so my beloved kind of took over this detail.  

Yesterday afternoon when I got home, she was busy boiling up all manner of pasta.  When they were half cooked (just soft) she started adding paint to the various bowls.

The kiddies learned to freeform with paint-laden pasta.  It was a bit like finger painting, but not quite as messy.  They could drop the noodles on their paper, they could drag or roll the noodles across the page, or they could try to carefully place and then lift the noodles off.  We quickly discovered that egg noodles disintegrate rapidly to mush.  Rotini noodles make wonderful parallel lines, if you roll them across the page.  Spaghetti is a willing, but unpredictable paint brush. Some of the students were quite imaginative, others just slopped the spaghetti on, and then moved on to the next sheet of paper.  It was fun to watch the parents, pretending to be 'oh-so-proper' and then gradually getting into it themselves.

We ran four half hour sessions, back to back. We had anywhere from 8 to 14 children, plus the parents in each group. By the fourth, we had more parents participating than children.  Some of the dads got quite creative (boys will be boys).  And then we had two little unchaperoned charmers, who started pitching noodles at each other.  The school teacher in me, came out pretty quickly, and they exited the room immediately.

All in all it was a great family night though.  I was very impressed with some of the other workshops that were offered.  Kids built birdhouses, constructed model airplanes (that flew, propelled with elastics), played baseball, did scrapbooking and learned Zumba, to name but a few.  It was also great to meet and greet parents of students that I have taught around the district, and to watch the interaction of children with parents away from school.  It's always a challenge to try and tack a name and a school to a particular child, when you meet them completely out of their usual context.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Friday, April 29, 2011

April Winds

We've certainly experienced some major wind in the last 24 hours.  On my drive home from work last night, I saw numerous trees fallen in people's yards and the end of one old barn was down, that was standing tall when I drove through in the morning.  At one point over 10000 hydro customers were without power in our district and there are still up to 3000 that may not have it back until Saturday night.  Our fair city was cordoned off in several sections because of downed hydro wires in the streets.

We have been fortunate here, in that the only damage I can see is the mast of our internet aerial appears to be listing to one side.  Last night I could not believe how such a little item could be catching that much wind, as it was whipping about in the upper currents (it is 50+ feet above our house).  Our pool had whitecaps on it at the peak of the big wind - well perhaps I hyperbolize slightly.

Anyway, speaking of big winds, we have our federal election coming up early next week.  I just find it really difficult to get excited about the whole thing.  Yes, of course I will vote, I always do, but I just feel complete apathy toward the whole fiasco.  The candidates are all promising huge things in the job creation field - but since we haven't seen many new, lasting jobs created here in the last few years, I cannot picture from where these opportunities are all going to magically materialize.  I note that none of the candidates have touched the minefield of our exponentially escalating gas prices.  If someone would promise to regulate fuel costs to some degree, I might sway my vote in their direction.

And speaking of apathy, I gather the Royal Wedding has occurred.  Youngest just finished offering the tidbit that the royal affair only cost a meagre 36 million.  I wish them well, but they are just human like the rest of us.  Would the public be as excited if they were homely commoners?  But of course, they are "pretty people" whose visages have been splashed across every tabloid from here to kingdom come.  I figure the divorce rumours should start to pop up by late next week.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Spring Evening

Last night I cut some of the lawn for the first time this season.  Not much of the lawn needed a trim, but the south slope in front of the house and along the back of the perennial bed, were beginning to look a little shaggy.  I must check back and see how this compares over the years for the first cut of the year.  I have a feeling it may be a bit later than usual because of all our wet, cool weather of late.

Early Darwins

Love the Rembrants!

As I was cutting I was enjoying the next round of flowers starting to make their appearances.  As promised I took the camera out to capture a few more.  Everything is so fresh, no spent flowers and the greenery is so      ........ green!

I know they are just weeds, but they are very pretty weeds!

I need to get tackling some of my clients' gardens as well as my own.  This time of year is just too hectic.  But I have vowed to take the time to stop and smell the roses along the way too.  If nothing else, this blog forces me to get out with the camera, and capture some of the floral journey -- maybe I'll have more time to enjoy looking back over the blog later on.

Wow, the heat really turned on yesterday afternoon.  I felt my classroom heating up as the day progressed -- grade six yesterday.  Rather a nice group, except for three lads with zero respect for anything, including themselves.  I had outdoor duty and a phys-ed period in the afternoon, and to say the least, I was overdressed.  Why is it that the required reflective vest offers no warmth in the winter when you might like it, but feels like a wool coat this time of year?  And of course I forgot to wear a hat, so my little bald pate was looking tomatoish last night.

The forsythia usually winterkills, but not this year.

Tamarack, one of my fav's.

A few days of this and the leaves will be popping and the whole lawn will need a going over.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Done My LTO

I'm done my LTO!  An LTO is a Long Term Occasional teaching position.  On February 21st I started teaching a grade 7 class for a teacher who was off having surgery.  When I was hired, it was to be three to five weeks duration.  Nine weeks later, my tenure finally came to an end.  Actually the classroom teacher is not back for another week, but the board caught wind that I was not intermediate qualified (grade 7/8) and board procedures demanded that I be removed and a intermediate qualified teacher brought in to replace me.  In the end, she will teach a total of five days, before the return of the teacher, quite a kafuffle, just for the sake of protocol.  The teaching profession in not necessarily about what is best for students.

I'm not bitter....much!  Actually I am just as relieved to be finished with the class, but I know they will learn nothing for the this week, as they took me a couple weeks to get settled into a routine, and the teacher who replaced me is more easy-going than me.

So did I enjoy my stay?   I'm not sure enjoy would be the word.  There were days I felt I endured it, and then there were some days, that I actually felt somewhat successful.

I had my five corners, as I described it.  These were five lads with varying behavioural issues who had to be separated as far apart as possible and constantly monitored.  In addition to these I had three with major learning disabilities: one non-reader and the other two basically non-writers.  I scribed a lot of material, over nine weeks.

One of my corners only attended sporadically -- thank goodness.  When he did arrive, he was completely uncooperative and usually spent most of the day at the office, where he was just as disruptive.  I figure he'll excel as an inmate.  I lovingly referred to my entry into class each morning as my swearing-in ceremony, because aforementioned delinquent usually greeted me enthusiastically in navy-blue language.  Can you tell I dearly loved him?

One of my other corners had a tongue attached in the middle that flapped at both ends....incessantly.  It did not matter the situation, silent reading, classmates' presentation, he could always be counted upon for a continuous stream of verbage - completely and utterly starving for attention.

But at the risk of sounding too negative, there were several students I grew quite fond of over the nine weeks.  The twins and G. were always bright and entertaining.  A. always asked for a hug (no I did not reciprocate) and on the final day, asked for a handshake, vowing to never again to wash his hand.  The few ladies in the group were at least somewhat enthusiastic and did a mass ambush after final dismissal, engulfing me in a group hug.

Grade sevens are an interesting lot.  My analogy is that the boys' brains fall out (be careful not to step on them as you may pick them up again by grade 10 or so) and the girls get catty.  The boys become so asinine.  They react without thought, always seeking the maximum reaction and approval from their peers, at all costs.  The interesting thing is that anything derogatory is 'gay', and yet groping, pawing and cuddling between the boys, seemed to be their most common behaviour - honestly they were the huggingest, touchy-feely bunch with each other.

I often felt all I did was yell, reprimand and generally micromanage classroom behaviour.  I wasn't sure I was much appreciated, but on my last day, a parent brought in a tray of cupcakes and then I was handed the card.  One of the girls had taken it upon herself to purchase a lovely Thank You card and had all the class sign it with little messages... some of them very meaningful.

It will be nice to just go back to regular supply work for a while.  I will enjoy exiting the class at 3:30, not having to stay and mark or plan the next day's lesson.  Having said that, though, I will miss the freedom to be creative, and have on-going, long term projects.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting Poop

As mentioned yesterday, I went to pick up a load of manure a few miles away.  Fortunately it was a reasonably dry yard and I was able to back the truck right up to the pile.  Eldest and I forked the first load on by hand and then headed home.  Home was a little more difficult, because we had to wheelbarrow it to the garden, but with the two of us, it didn't take long to get it unloaded and head out for load number two.

One load, now multiply by four.

Number two (how appropriate) was uneventful.  Load number three was a little more challenging as I got the truck in too tight along side the pile, loaded it up and then went to pull away.  Unfortunately, the footing was a little softer and I found the wheels spinning down into mire.  I got out and took stock of the situation -- got the fork, dug a trench in front of the tires, so I was able to get the truck rocking back and forth.  Eventually the old girl pulled herself up onto drier footing and away we came.

Load number four was the easy one.  When we arrived, there was the jolly farmer with his new play toy, just begging to load the truck with his front end loader.  Not being one to disappoint, I let him toss four bucketfuls in the back of my truck - much easier than hand bombing.  A very friendly chap, he was most anxious to chat about his livestock.  I noted three horses and about eight yearling calves -- the creators of said poop.

So it is all unloaded on the garden, and what a difference it should make.  I would like one more load in a week or so, for the far end of the garden.  I will have to get permission to park in the neighbour's lane for that one though, as it is much handier than my driveway, to that end of the garden.

A pair of fashion plates!

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Day Plan

As a supply teacher I'm used to working from a dayplan.  However today is another holiday, and I have my day plan all worked out for myself (no it is not a honey-do list).  Yes I am aware of what often happens to the best laid plans of mice and men.

As I planned my day, I took a few snaps of what is actually starting to appear in the gardens.  Spring bulbs are so trustworthy. The daffodils are starting to really ramp up the blossom.  Note to self: plant more daffodil and narcissus this fall. The first clump of tulips are showing a bit of colour ( I know I planted orange bulbs, but obviously someone got their wires crossed). 

Yesterday I started a project I have been planning for some time.  One corner of my veggie garden is eternally wet and nothing grows well there.  Now we have had three wet summers running since we moved here, so a dry summer may prove things differently.  Anyway, I determined that if I could dig a trench across the garden from the wet spot to the roadside ditch, I could probably take some of the moisture from the offending corner.

Armed with my trusty shovel, I began the digging.  I had several lengths of drainage pipe (salvaged from landfill of course) which I laid carefully in the trench.  I left it overnight to see just what would happen.  Unfortunately I appear to have dug a trench which is virtually level, no fall towards the ditch.  I'm not sure how to proceed, but I guess I will fill it in and see if it can get rid of water, once the ditch is dried up. As you can see there is the same level of water lying in the trench at either end, and if I slope it any further toward the ditch, it will only backfill from there.  On to plan B (which make take a year or two to even percolate).

Period 2 of my day, is getting manure.  A week or so back, an ad for free manure appeared on Kijiji.  I emailed the poster telling them I had zero time last week, but that I would be interested this week.  Last night I phoned the lady, and she gave me directions on how to get there this morning.  So eldest and I are off to collect poop, once she rolls out of bed.  Youngest abhors anything either horticultural or excretory.

Period 3 is in the greenhouse.  I moved all my wave petunias from the basement to the hoophouse yesterday afternoon.  I did another few flats of cuttings last night.  This morning we will start transferring the plants from 4 packs into 4" pots, so they can expand their little horizons.

Looks pretty sparce, but wait until everything has found its new home
Period 4 is planting all the rhizomes and tubers into pots.  I've stored sweet potato tubers, calla and canna lilies and dahlia bulbs, all of which need to be potted up and started growing in the greenhouse, to set out after danger of frost has passed.

And then I'm off to Melodia Monday practice tonight.  Sounds like a full day, and I see the sky is darkening in before I even begin.  Will be fun to see how much of my dayplan actually sees fruition.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

What a wonderful time of year.  I love Spring.  It is my favourite season, except for the busyness of it all.  There is just so much to be done.  And of course, I put undue pressure upon myself to complete all the tasks, by yesterday, which is a difficult thing for the King of Procrastination to accomplish.  Imagine the wars that rage within in me!

Another heavy white frost - please warm up soon!  But what a great photo op for many of the emerging plants as well.  I need to stop and enjoy the process.  I know that soon enough a riot of colour will be here, and the haze of summer heat will be upon us.

I am most looking forward to the show of tulips in the next few weeks.  Last fall I planted several hundred new bulbs.  I've always been a fan of tulips, but hate the straggly leaves that linger on into summer.  What I did to alleviate this problem was to tuck them all in around the roots of existing perennials, who will hopefully be tall enough, and showy enough to distract from the browning tulip leaves surrounding them.  Whether my strategy is successful, remains to be seen.

The perennials seem to have survived the winter in great form.  Adequate snow cover and a relatively mild winter seem to have provided protection enough.  Most everything, with the exception of the hostas, is making itself known already.  Two hundred clumps of newly moved, tall-bearded irises, even seem to have established remarkably well.  Whether the trauma of their displacement, will affect their bloom is another question.

 But for now, I vow to try to enjoy each day, as the season and the buds unfurl.  I'm going to try to have a daily stroll about the property and share with my blogging friends the wonder that is Spring.

 And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Behind the Scenes

Two down, one to go.  We did two performances of our Passion Play, One Voice,  yesterday.  The first one is always high energy, with a huge crowd.  The second is a much smaller crowd and after standing so long, it is hard to keep the enthusiasm up.

The tomb, part of the set, I helped paint a few years back.

I thought I would take you behind the scenes to see some of the prep work involved in a large production like this.  Most of the sets are used from year to year, just spruced up and altered to fit the chosen script.  Our church has about six different publications that they rotate through.  This years is a particularly long one (hour and forty-five minutes) primarily between two key players, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.  It is a good insight into the political and historical times of Biblical Jerusalem.

There are close to a hundred people involved in this particular production, from sound and lighting technicians, set design and construction, directors, costuming, makeup, actors, soloists, choir, orchestra, and one very friendly and cooperative little donkey.

 Louise lives across the street from the church.  She stands very patiently tied to the lamppost outside until her triumphal entry into the streets of Jerusalem (she attends church on Palm Sunday and usually at Christmas in some capacity, as well) in the script.  She seems pretty much oblivious to the crowds, noise and carpets as she proudly walks up and down the aisles.

 Probably the two characters who undergo the greatest change in the makeup room are Jesus and John the Baptist.  Unfortunately I have not got a photo of either in an untarnished, unvarnished state, but they are two normal looking men, prior to the process.

In the process.

The finished product.

My missus was in charge of creating wounds ... an auspicious role.  Being the artist she is, she has done a lot of experimentation and finally came up with something, somewhat lasting.  Jesus gets beaten and pummelled quite severely even prior to the removal of his cloak, and by that point often the carefully executed cuts and bruises have faded and tranferred to the inside of the cloak.  So last night it was out with the Sharpies (indelible ink) and rubbing alcohol.  He'll have scars for the next month!

Jesus and two of the centurions (sans glasses might have been more authentic!)

John the Baptist presented other challenges.  He has a beard (but of course neatly trimmed).  It was bushed out with extensions.  Fluffy eyebrows and a wild, unruly wig and a rough burlap cloak completed the cave-dweller look.

Make up artist and director handing out last minute cues.

One more performance this afternoon and then we pack everything away for next year.  Last performance is always a bit nostalgic, but also a bit of a relief as well, as the busyness of the weekend finally winds down.

Some of the cast (minus techies and orchestra etc)

Happy Easter weekend.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

Friday, April 22, 2011

From The Ashes Shall Rise...

Wow, it's Good Friday.  We have survived the week, and what a whirlwind it has been.

Monday: taught, dealt with realtor issues, Melodia Monday practice.
Tuesday: taught, dealt with more realtor issues, Passion Play practice.
Wednesday: taught, last day of LTO, drove across province (6 hours) amid rain and snow. Hotel in London.
Thursday: drove to the University, packed up daughter's dorm, walked campus, talked to counselors, drove back across province (through holiday traffic, 8 hours), Passion Play dress rehearsal.

So we have our eldest home for the summer.  She has finished her first year of university.  While it was not a great experience for her, it is behind her, and now how to salvage the maximum from it, as she switches majors next year. O the wisdom we've gleaned in a year! 

Now if we could just snap our fingers, and have the van cleaned out, and all of her stuff put away and organized for the move back, next fall.

It was one of those wonderful foggy, frosty mornings.  I went out for a quick morning stroll around the yard and snapped a few shots.  It is remarkable to see all the new growth rising up through the dead leaves and refuse of last years harvest.  The promise of spring is so evident, despite the ice crystals coating most everything.  And maybe half the beauty of spring is in the process of new life emerging from the old, before the riot of colour actually erupts.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.