A classic Queensborough moment

Step 1 in the process of getting rid of the large maple-tree stump that was front and centre in the front yard of the Manse: using a special chainsaw with an extra-long blade to cut it down as close to ground level as possible. (Photo by Elaine Kapusta)

The exciting news is that the stump of the long-dead (and much-mourned) maple tree that was the best thing about the front yard of the Manse back in the day is that it is no more. Gone. I have already reported on how the plan was to chainsaw it down to as close to ground level as possible, after which the stump-removers would come in and grind the remains away. (This was all very kindly and helpfully arranged for us by our friends Elaine and Lud, who had some tree stumps of their own to deal with; we got a package deal.)

(And by the way, the very important next step is to plant a new maple tree in its stead, so that as soon as possible we will again have a beautiful tree in the front yard.)

Where once there was a stump, now just a huge pile of sawdust. (Photo by Elaine Kapusta)

The final part of the deed was done yesterday, and last night Elaine sent photos of the stump-grinding in action, which really is something: a remote-controlled operation that results in a whole lot of sawdust where a stump once stood.

Elaine also sent us a short video, which is cool in that it shows the remote-control unit that gets rid of the stump, but also in that it has some great colour commentary and good fun in it: stump-grinding going on, neighbours watching, and our excellent friend Johnny Barry, who has been so great about looking after the lawn and the grounds for us, making a surprise appearance at the end. Everyone having fun, and all for a good cause: that’s the way we do things in Queensborough. Here’s the video; enjoy!

The zen of weeding

One-half of the front garden, post-weeding. Actually: is one ever finished weeding?

When I was growing up at the Manse, we had a large vegetable garden beside the house and, later, another even bigger plot across the street beside the home of Will and Isabelle Holmes, after they grew too elderly to keep a garden themselves. Weeding the garden was a regular chore, and I was never at all fond of it – though I was very fond indeed of the big ripe tomatoes and the sweet corn and the lovely freshly dug baby potatoes that came out of those gardens. As an adult, I have demonstrated an utter lack of skill with gardening, and I know next to nothing about how to do it properly. The fact that I’ve lived for almost 20 years in places with no land, a balcony at best, means that I haven’t had to fuss much with anything other than geraniums, which even I can’t kill, and pots of herbs.

But now that I am a part-time inhabitant of the Manse once again, the Garden Question looms. For sure Raymond and I will have a nice big vegetable garden eventually; I wrote about my hopes and dreams for that here. But it will have to wait until we are able to be in residence a lot of the time through the gardening season. For now, there’s just the extant perennial garden by the front steps to think about.

This garden did not exist in my childhood, and even if it had it wouldn’t have lasted long, what with all the resident and neighbourhood children and dogs bombing around the yard all the time. But some green-thumbed parishioners at St. Andrew’s United Church were thoughtful enough to create a really nice little garden there, and keep it up. Now that everything’s blooming, it looks really nice. And I didn’t have to lift a finger to make it happen!

The garden with piles of weeded greenery in front, before the post-weeding cleanup.

But I do have to lift a finger to keep it up. When Raymond and I were last in Queensborough, I was kind of horrified by how much tall grass had sprung up among the plants that actually belong in the garden. And there were also baby trees trying to take root, and dandelions, and milkweeds, and assorted other intruders.

So I got started at the weeding, and soon discovered that it is a very satisfying task. It’s a quiet operation, and you can think about life and the meaning of same while you’re doing it. You can feel increasingly pleased with yourself as you keep an eye on the growing pile of wilting greenery that you’ve yanked out. And it’s kind of addictive. You can go through a whole section and think you’ve got all the weeds, but a second inspection will inevitably turn up more that need to be pulled, and a third still more, and so on. You’re never done. It’s kind of like infinity. Or the universe. Or eternity. Or something.

The ash tree

The ash tree. We thought it was dead, but it is very much alive. Lovely.

There are trees all around our property of about half an acre in Queensborough. Beautiful trees. Unfortunately, most of the nicest ones are not on our property; they are immediately adjacent. We get the benefit of the proximity of these trees, but we can’t claim them as our own. Such is the case with the Tree of Life across the street (my post about it, complete with awesome photo by Raymond, is here) and two huge and beautiful evergreen trees in the southwest corner of the place – just over the fence line. Early in the spring I was feeling rather blue about the fact that the trees on the adjacent properties were nicer than the ones we have on our own. I was particularly glum about one of our own trees, due south of the Manse, visible from the pantry window. It looked utterly dead through the winter, utterly dead in the early spring, utterly dead even in the late-mid-spring. We were sure we’d have to bring in the tree removers to cut it down and take it away.

But it is alive! When we were at the Manse a week and a half ago, its branches were covered in small green shoots. Yes, there are some dead branches that will have to be cut away, but this tree is very much with us.

Our wise-to-Nature neighbour, friend and Manse-watcher Ed Couperus dropped by on our last visit and helped us identify all manner of plants in the small perennial garden at the front of the house – and also the trees. When we expressed our wonderment at the tree we had been convinced was a goner, Ed explained (in his laconic way): “It’s an ash. They’re the last to bloom in the spring.”

We have much to learn. Amazon.ca can expect an order soon for the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees – Eastern Region.

Meanwhile, I’m just happy about how beautiful our ash tree is. Our ash tree that is alive.

Let’s talk about beautiful refrigerators, retro-style.

I think these Big Chill fridges are the most beautiful I have ever seen. You can even commission a custom design, like the one on the left. Information: bigchill.com

One day recently I plugged some combination of “retro” and/or “vintage” and “appliances” into a Google Images search, I think during my research into the names of the colours those early-’70s beauties used to be. (Avocado Green and Harvest Gold and so on.) Up popped photos of possibly the most beautiful refrigerators I have ever seen. They look totally retro, but are in fact very modern. The styling, the colours: gorgeous.

They are made by an outfit in Boulder, Colo., and the brand name is Big Chill. The company’s website is here. They started out making fridges but now also make stoves, dishwashers, etc.

You’ll never guess what I especially like about this one. Okay, yes, you did guess: the colour.

One photo that particularly caught my eye is this one, and you can probably guess why: the great turquoise-and-white colour combination. (Has anyone else, by the way, noticed that turquoise seems to be popping up everywhere these days? In fashion spreads, in home-design spreads, in store windows – everywhere I look I seem to see turquoise. I guess lots of people know a good thing when they see it. Anyway, I digress. A bit.) Now, this one looks as 1950s as they come, doesn’t it?

Retro on the outside, modern on the inside.

 

But take a look at this next photo, a white model, and you’ll see that, once opened up, it’s a very modern fridge. (No having to use the electric kettle to defrost the freezer, in other words. Man, that brings back bad memories from the Manse era! As I recall my mum and dad would kind of take turns wrestling with the electric kettle and whatever came to hand to chip away at the thick buildup of ice, and the job always made both of them very grumpy. It certainly was messy. There is definitely something to be said for self-defrosting freezers and self-cleaning ovens, I have to say. I’m sure Betty Hofstadt Draper Francis would agree.)

Anyway, as you can doubtless tell, I’ve got my eye on a Big Chill refrigerator for the Manse. Next up: to find out if there are any Canadian dealers.

The Montreal “casseroles” and the Queensborough chivarees

The “casserole” protests are taking place nightly in Montreal. (Image by Jérémie Battaglia (jeremiebattaglia.com) via vimeo. Photo used by permission.)

If you’ve been following the news about the student unrest in Montreal, you’ll have heard that this past week a new twist emerged in the protests. Each night at 8 p.m., people all over the city emerge onto their porches, balconies and lawns, or head into the streets, and for half an hour or so bang on empty pots and pans (casseroles, in French) as a noisy but peaceful way of saying that they’re unhappy with the provincial government – over its stand on raising university tuition fees, but perhaps even more so over its emergency law that sets some rules for protest actions against the tuition increase. This is what it sounds like (or at least did, from our front balcony last night):

Casseroles in Outremont, May 25, 2012

The casserole protest was an idea born in the 1970s in Chile, when ordinary citizens unhappy about shortages of goods would beat on pots and pans to indicate that there was nothing in those pots and pans to cook. You can read about that here.

What’s the connection between all this and Queensborough, you ask? Well, as I was reading a story by the Montreal Gazette’s Jeff Heinrich about the casserole protest, I was struck by this sentence:

“There’s an even older tradition in New Brunswick called ‘le tintamarre’ (itself inspired by the medieval French custom of ‘le charivari’ – banging pots and pans as a wedding celebration).”

What Jeff, urban-type reporter that he is, might not know is that in parts of rural Canada – or Ontario, at least; or Queensborough, at the very least – the word “charivari” became “chivaree” and the old French tradition continued, at least into the early part of the second half of the 20th century.

I confess I was never part of or witness to a chivaree – no doubt because of my being a little kid – but growing up in Queensborough in the 1960s and early ’70s I frequently heard that one had taken place in the village and environs. My understanding of what would go down is this:

A newly married couple just returned from their honeymoon would be minding their own business in their own home. Under cover of darkness in the middle of the night – because that’s when the couple would be expected to be sleeping or, perhaps more to the point, enjoying “marital relations” – a group of friends and neighbours would arrive (perhaps in the back of one or more pickup trucks?) banging pots and pans and generally making as much noise as they possibly could. I confess I do not know what happened after the couple was rousted from their bed; were they taken away for a celebration somewhere? Did the celebration happen on the premises? Was there food and/or drink involved? Music? Costumes, even? Perhaps some readers will know more about that. What I do know is that a noisy and merry time was had by all, and everyone eventually went home happy, the newlyweds having been sufficiently disturbed/embarrassed/fêted.

And here’s a word to add to your vocabulary: a couple who had undergone the chivaree treatment were said to have been “chivareed.” You have to love that.

Raymond has his red truck.

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We picked up our new (13-year-old) truck today, and it’s happily parked in front of our house in Outremont. The plan is to take it to Queensborough the next time we go, and it will primarily be used there. A great way to transport to the dump the horrid 1970s “wood” panelling that can’t come off the kitchen walls soon enough.

Raymond seems quite taken with his truck, and continues to cackle when friends ask when he’ll be getting the requisite gun rack. Me, I think the right accessory for a truck is a dog. A beagle named Kip.

One other bonus of our truck: it has a cassette player. Gracious, a chance (because, yes, there are still cassette tapes hanging about our place) to enjoy that primitive, fragile and clunky technology all over again!

Goodbye to all that waspiness. (And I mean that literally, not figuratively)

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As I type this, the multitude of wasps who buzzed around the Manse and all too often made their way (dopily) inside it, making life scary and frequently miserable for Raymond (who is straight-to-the-ER allergic), should be: dead. The exterminators were to blast the exterior of the house and the garage yesterday. If all goes well, this will be a vast improvement in our quality of life at the Manse.

Sorry about that, wasps. But it had to be done; it was you or Raymond. You lose.