Long Weekend-ey Things To Do

Being Easter weekend and all, my inbox was empty aside from my e-mail news alerts and Malaysian spam. Nobody is updating their blogs, and judging from my stats, no one is reading them, either. So I decided to try and do some Easter weekend-ey, internetty type things.

My mom was in town for a few days, and she brought this quilt she made for my sister and I like when we were kids. I remembered it and when she found it again in the house I asked her if Neptune could have it. Problem is that it’s pretty ratty in places, so my mom and I did the ultimate, Easter weekend, family thing: we quilted. We went to the fabric store and matched the almost garish pink and light green squares with a retro pattern that added a yellow element (to match Neptune’s room, of course). My mom did most of the sewing and it still needs a bit of work but it’s looking really good and I’m pretty proud of my mom and I for fixing it up. It’s gonna look great. Thanks mom!

Today I spent my free time in the afternoon redesigning our oppressive, concrete backyard. Murray and I have been toying with how to revitalize it on a budget, including taking up the concrete. Because we’re not really up for backbreaking work, and since the reasonable quote from our contractor was still too much, we’re opting for some decking, raised bed planters, pot gardening and zen-like pebbled borders. I downloaded this 3D drawing program called SktechUp, which I’d seen once before when a carpenter designed some really nice built-in bookshelves for us. It’s a neat program, and is surprisingly easy to use. Last summer I had taken precise measurements of our backyard’s ground plan, and just started working on the layout and adding the third dimension. I haven’t take any Z-axis measurements so there’s a bit of eyeballing going on…can’t wait for the four feet of snow to melt so I can get out there again!

Anyway, if you care, then Happy Easter, and if you don’t, then enjoy the long weekend!

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OUR WEIRD CEMENTY BACKYARD

It’s a Friggin’ Snowstorm!

Having a baby makes you sleep a bit lighter, sleep with one ear open for one cough too many, or for that “for serious” crying out. So this morning, while Neptune was still asleep, my slumbers were stirred by the prickly sound of tiny ice pellets against the bedroom window. I opened the curtain to an intense snowfall. The cedars in the front all weighted down and saggy, and I don’t know if the acacia tree my mom brought from her garden last year is going to make it…the branches keep snapping off. We can’t bully the forces of nature, I guess.

This could be dangerous weather; this could transform into some kind of mini-ice storm overnight. Over the past few weeks, around when I bought firewood for the season, I felt pangs of survivalism, a hanging desire for emergency preparedness. I went to the Government of Canada’s getprepared.ca (does that mean I’m cynical?). I think we already have all the stuff they recommended so I didn’t feel so bad. I was a bit weirded out by the idea of making the emergency kit ready to go. Evacuation seems really extreme but…tap tap tap…knock on wood, you never know. The notion of a 72-hour survival kit hurries my desire to move to the country.

Yesterday, It Snowed

It was the kind of snow that’s very round, like lightweight fertiliser pellets, but that just blows away and is gone forever. I always curse the first signs of winter; though here in Montreal there is only one sign: snow. It dictates the beginning and end of each season. Autumn ends when snow falls; Spring starts when it melts away. So officially winter started yesterday. Suddenly my coat didn’t feel thick enough, I needed a real sweather, and maybe some real gloves. Anyhow, it’s the beginning of the end, time to hole up, get some new video games. Murray might get an XBox 360; I might get the new Zelda for DS. Time to get cozy.

The Environment

I try to be environmentally conscious. Really, I do. When we moved and had to buy appliances, we bought all of the most enegry efficient ones we could afford. We put in flourescent bulbs in almost every room, and installed all new programmable thermostats to keep our energy usage down. We updated our windows and now our house is somewhat of a sealed tomb against the elements. If we could afford to put solar panels on the roof, trust me, we would have done that already too.

On a smaller scale, we get most of our fruit and veg at the Jean-Talon market, buying local whenever we can. We use cloth shopping bags, or opt to not take a bag at all. Of course there are a million other things we do, or could be doing (next year we plan to grow our own veg in the backyard), but some efforts will just have to wait until we move out to our hobby farm/off the grid compound in the mountains (aahhh, dreams).

Anyhow, this whole train of thought started as I was loading the dishwasher (Energy Star rated) and remembered my recent stint with eco-friendly dishwasher detergent. Basically, if you have a kid, then you will instantly recognise the necessity of having a dishwasher. You don’t know how many pre-dishwasher hours I’ve spent sterilising Neptune’s baby bottles and cups in pots of boiling water, when now I just toss them in with a load of dishes. SO…that eco-friendly detergent? It was basically useless. I don’t prescribe to the “wash the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher” method…it wastes tons of water and defeats the purpose of a DISHWASHER. Just get the big bits of food off and that’s it, in the dishwasher. But the eco-friendly stuff demanded a severe pre-wash of the dishes and I had to ask myself which is worse: using double the amount of hot water or dumping trace amounts of phosphates (we use Cascade, which has 4.5%: 2.2% being considered “phoshate free,” 18% being the most damaging, according to the Gazette) into the water stream? The debate is prominent.

My paranoia escalates as I read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which talks about the industrialisation of food. Already I look at corn differently. We don’t eat processed foods as a general rule (when we’re on tour, we are forced to eat truck-stop crap all the time so when we’re home Murray cooks), we’re vegetarian, and as I mentioned try to eat local produce (even organic foods aren’t as eco-conscious as we think). My friends Bryan and Lis who recommended the book said it would make us bigger food snobs, and they were right! What a true dilemma. My first slip back towards the bottom of the pit happened with coffee beans: social responsibility twarted by flavour.

What happened to the real life notion of the earth as a living organism? Now it’s every person for themselves. Universal misanthrophy is impossible: the earth and its people need each other. Sadly, money and capitalism has obscured our purpose here; it has, in fact, replaced it. North American society has forgone the agrarian ecosystem for success and progress. We are so lost. We would rather drive to Wal-Mart than walk to the General Store, but we’re not even sure why. It’s just been created that way for us. Dependence on petrol has usurped how much an individual is allowed to control their own life.

Oh, wow, this is turning in to one of those beastly posts with a million tangents waiting in the wings. To be continued when I finish reading my book…

Projects: The Hose

This past Thursday I fixed the hose. The pipes in the back had all burst. It was just like that when we moved in, so I’ve spent the past two years watering my plants with a watering can filled from the kitchen sink. I would have to go in and out of the house about eight times, and also fill a smaller watering can for Neptune, too, so she wouldn’t feel left out.

So getting a hang of the blow torch, and hot, dripping metal took a bit, but soldering pipes is really kind of easy. I burned my finger and there is solder everywhere, but it’s kind of like the bad guy from Terminator 2, so that’s pretty cool. Before I made a move, I would call my dad to get all the info…it was pretty hilarious. I had a scrap of paper that in big writing said:

1. Clean pipe
2. Flux
3. Heat pipe
4. Solder

Those were my instructions, and I referred to them before connecting each joint. I did the plumbing for the kitchen sink with Rob when we moved in, but I was pretty terrified. That time, I did the solder and Rob did the blow torch. But with the hose, I was outside so aside from leaving some burn marks on the bricks, I wasn’t really too worried about setting the house on fire or anything like that. Honestly, it was fun and I felt really good about it when it was done. I now water my plants with pride, but also realised that this sprinkler I got is totally lame. It’s one of those arching ones that goes back and forth, and the places I need to use it are basically not big enough. I was in the back yard yelling: “This sprinkler is BOGUS.” Good thing I only paid $10 for it.

NBA (Nail Biters’ Anonymous)

So basically I bite my nails. Its a terrible habit of mine, along with very bad posture. Lately I have been biting my nails a lot, (though I usually tell myself I’m not biting my nails but just trying to clean up the uneven parts). Basically each of my fingers has been nibbled down to its quick, but I could also say that as a keyboard player, I can’t really have nails. And actually that is true, but they don’t have to be quite this short. Now the other night I was assessing each finger and got to my right hand thumb. I was surprised to find that I’d actually still had a normal nail there and I wondered to myself: “Why?” and “How?” I was so filled with surprise and a nominal amount of pride over this nail, that I left it untouched. “Grow on, my friend,” I thought to myself as I drifted into sleep. The next day I was in the back garden weeding and deadheading the cosmos, when I realised why I had inadvertently left my thumb nail: without it I could never break a stem, pop off a shrivelled flower head, or gather herbs from the garden. I had left it for a purpose…though I bet you a million dollars that in about four or five days I will have bitten that last nail off, too.

Thursday in the Garden

I have taken on an adversary larger than myself. It looks unassuming now, a short, yellow cornflower-like weed. A fluffy line of them, cute against the stone of the house. But its been growing unchecked for years now. Its growing underneath rocks, hugging the foundation, hiding in the armpits of other plants. I don’t even know its name, but it is shameless. In a few weeks it will sprout with tiny leaves, which will grow and grow into 4-inch, pubescent webbed leaves. It will then spend the summer growing and growing into an undefined, front-garden’s worth of boring leaves. My baby cedar trees standing over it, rolling their eyes and how lame their feet look. So when the lovely weather kicked in on Thursday, after our ridiculous, post-Easter snowstorm (sooo Montreal), I tackled it. I thought about buying a hand tiller (I thought the spiky wheels would eat through the roots like a carnivore), but, as any good vegetarian would, decided to try first with the following tools: pitchfork, hand rake, gardening trowel, hand claw thing and work gloves. Unfortunately for me, I was the most useful tool, alongside work of a back-breaking calibre. Two words describe the menace: tap roots. An unrelenting underground network of soft, thin arteries, linked to other plants, the next clump of flowers, woven into the soil by tiny veins, adored by worms. I must have chopped a dozen worms in half while hacking at uprooted clumps to shake off the soil. But cut worms just grow back into two new worms, (right?) so I was doing everyone a favour. After an hour of investigative extractions, they appeared to be all gone. I’ll give it a few days and see what’s left, wether or not they stay down or try to make a comeback. We will see wether or not more drastic measures are required. For now my garden is a block of overturned dirt, three little cedar trees and a handful of struggling crocuses.