Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A Rhubarb Garden - Finally!


You may look at this photo of four rhubarb plants growing alongside a garage,
and you may think,
Also: the grass needs trimming. 
And why the flimsy chicken wire fence? To keep the chickens out, of course. 

But I assure you -- this is a very exciting photo!
For two reasons:

1) I have finally -- FINALLY - established a rhubarb patch. After 14 freakin' years in Nova Scotia. I know it's not up to the local standards, I mean, seriously 4 plants? For a proper rural rhubarb patch, there should be at least twenty plants and it should take up a huge amount of space. 
Whatever. Considering I've been trying to establish any kind of rhurbarb patch for six years, I'm calling this a win. 

2) There is HERITAGE rhubarb in that patch. That's what's making my patch a patch, in fact. My two plants, put here last year, were joined a few weeks ago by two plants from my mother-in-law's patch at the home place (what Dwayne calls his family's home on the farm). I'd been meaning to get some rhubarb plants from down at the farm, in order to have some "family rhubarb" growing -- proper thing. But my sister-in-law's big patch was already too mature -- long-established, it grows quickly in the spring -- but Joan remembered that our mother-in-law had a few plants along a shed. She said the plants never took
but I tell you,
they took off when they landed in my garden. 
Normally, a plant has to get rooted and acclimated to a new spot; it may not grow well after transplant. 
Not the "Mary Mattinson Heritage Rhubarb"! They are the plants on the far right and the far left and they are growing faster than the two plants I've been carting around the property since 2015. My original plants grow well, no worries; I get lots of fruit from them. But Mary's rhubarb? Now that's true sturdy country rhubarb there, folks. 

So my small patch -- which may expand as the summer progresses, if I get the urge to dig more garden -- is growing well and making me very happy. 
First we brought "Dad's couch" up from the home place, and now we have "Mom's rhubarb". I love legacies. I love keeping the memories alive, the stories flowing, and the love fertilizing my life with Dwayne. 

I'll stop now. That metaphor might get out of control! 

Monday, May 24, 2021

In Praise of the Potato Pollinator


I've been writing a lot of poetry this year. Apparently, once I stopped writing articles and columns, a vein of creative writing opened up. Interesting... and enjoyable. 

It means that every ponder, every phrase, every word has the potential to form a poem. Like the following, formed just as the dog and I were a couple of hundred metres from home at the end of our walk this morning. 

It started with a title -- In Praise of Bumblebees -- followed by the first line -- Dear Bumble --

By the time I fed the pets and sat down with my first cup of coffee, the poem's opening lines had wandered off but I just started writing. Normally, my poetry is spiritual, and serious, so it was nice to write something fun. 

I don't have a photo of a bumblebee at a dandelion but this photo of mine, of the fireweed in late August, shows the bumblebee in flight which is very cool. 

Dear bumblebee
dear large body
dear small wings
dear mystery
how you fly
how you lift
what looks bulky and cumbersome
with those papyrean wings
paper and weight
as if there is a lightness
inside you
a sense of divine purpose
that levitates you and propels you
into the flowering world
even though that flight
seems impossible
It is a miracle
every day
yet so
extra ordinary
for you
king of the dandelions
fuzzy lion of all the flying insects
are the great agricultural pollinator
the one who gives us
tomatoes and peppers
blueberries and strawberries
the only one who pollinates potatoes
without you
dear bumblebee
dear flying mystery masterpiece
dear miracle
we would not have
French-fried potatoes
So we thank you
dear bumblebee
for the miracle of
turning potatoes

~ Sara Jewell  

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Rainy Day in Rural Nova Scotia


Absolutely nothing makes me happier than a rainy day. Yesterday's sunshine had me twitching to plant gardens, but I know better -- our clay ground is still too cold -- yet the whole time I was inside working, I felt guilty that I wasn't outside planting. 

Rain is much easier. Only one option with rain. Stay inside and write and read! 

I must say, however, about gardening that moving the greenhouse, pictured to the right of the chicken coop, remains the best thing we ever did -- at least in the last ten years. Digging the pond, which you get just get a hint of at the top of the picture, is a close second, especially when the Canada geese hatch out their goslings. 

I'm in and out of the greenhouse now at least twice a day. I'm hardening off the annuals I bought, and talking to the perennials I'm waiting to plant - Lily of the Valley! First time ever. Why do I bother to say, "No more gardens!" There always seems to be a spot that needs plants and flowers, and I'm happy to oblige. 

The greenhouse is a very relaxing space, even as crowded as it is with shelving and bags of soil and planters waiting to be fill. And reams of chicken wire used to keep the chickens out of the gardens! They can scratch a garden bed to death, let me tell you. The greenhouse is warm and quiet and, I don't know why, but soothing. It's just a space, but at the edge of the field, and filled with plants and gardeny things, it feels like a little house of hope of possibilities. 

Let's hope the two sunflower seedlings I dug up from the garden under Mother's balcony feel the same way, and keep growing. 

Monday, May 03, 2021

Ospreys Return


Not sure how I feel about two ospreys claiming the nest this year. 

Those of you who are loyal followers of this blog know the last few years have not been kind to the ospreys. Those of you who follow this blog and read my book will know these ospreys have been constant throughout my life in rural Nova Scotia; they claimed the nest the summer after Dwayne and I married. 

The last time babies fledged from this nest was the summer of 2017. In each of the following two years, one of the parents disappeared and the babies perished, as eggs then the following as young birds dying in the nest in the heat of July. The grief from that was excruciating; these birds are like family to us and to see them suffering, and being unable to help, was horrible.  

Also, eagles have moved in across the river so the ospreys may fish elsewhere and someone near us has a fish pond. Did he shoot one or both of our ospreys? (This is illegal; ospreys are protected migratory birds.) 
The eagles also prey on the fledglings; in August of 2015, all three not-yet-flying fledglings were picked off by an eagle. 

Oh my heart.
I never thought I cry at the sight of the ospreys returning to the nest. It was always a moment of relief and joy. They're back! It was good for our hearts; now we are filled with dread. 

Last year, ospreys checked out the nest but did not stay. We thought we were "safe" this year, figured with no babies, there was no one to come back, but this morning, one osprey is sitting on the nest and the other is bringing in sticks. 

We need a summer of the ospreys like the one I wrote about in my book; we need to hear them calling to each other and watch them bringing in fish and celebrate the babies flying. We desperately need to experience the joy of those first ten years with these beloved neighbours. But we are fearful, for them and for ourselves. We need their success this year; we can't handle more tragedy.
Neither can their species.

These aren't great photos. I was using my cell phone because it was handy and I couldn't get close because I didn't want to disturb them. They're not used to us. 

Saturday, May 01, 2021

A Poem: COVIDeer

Photo courtesy of  Shaun Whalen - thanks, Shaun! 


She grazes close to the house
on her own
feeding on the new spring grass

She eats
ears flicking
then picks up her head, looks around
her ears unmoving

She bends again
eats another mouthful
then again
her head comes up and she looks around
a sound spooks her
and she runs across the low end of the field
behind the chicken coop and the shed
but she’s not running fast
just enough
just in case

She pauses along the far side of the yard
where the grass is growing long and green already
bends down to eat
walks forward
stands and looks around 
for the longest time

and eats
and listens
and looks

Her journey is moments
relaxed grazing
to nourish her body
total alertness
to keep herself safe
graceful and watchful
in equal measure

Ears and eyes tuned to the world 
what was that?
do I need to pay attention?
do I need to run?
or stand quietly?
am I safe here?

And I think
she is

our pandemic journey is moments
tweets and posts and videos
watching numbers rise and fall
walking alone
staying close to home
but ever vigilant
for danger
do I comment?
or stay quiet?
gracious and malicious
in equal measure

A virus stalks us
hunting us down
in the air
without a sound

Our eyes and ears are tuned to the world
are we safe here?

We are
the deer

~ SJ, April 26, 2021