If a tree falls… will the neighbour hear it?

Well they didn’t hear it but they did see it.

I got a text message last week from my neighbour with this photo attached and the subject, “Did you know?”

I did not.

I made my way up this weekend. It’s going to be tough to tie a yellow ribbon around this oak tree now. Or the pine tree it took down. Must have been that bad storm everyone was talking about.

No real damage and no one hurt. Only a foot or two away from the powerline into the house though. Close one.

Well my neighbour and I cleared what we could and the pros are coming this week to buck up the rest. We will have campfire wood and my friends who rely on wood stoves will get the rest. Oh and there may even be some chips for the garden that can kill off the rest of my evil vines and general pile of crap near the septic tank.

So I guess just as nature intends, everything comes full circle. From mighty acorns…etc.

Oh poop! What to plant on the septic bed?

When you have a place in the country you think about poop a lot.

Wait, let me clarify. When you aren’t attached to a municipal water system you generally have to rely on a septic system. Or outhouse if you are particularly rustic.

With a septic system comes great responsibility. You yell at people who try to park on or near it. You chuck yeast and yoghurt down the drains to keep it healthy with good bacteria. And you rue the plants with thick, virulent roots that grow nearby in the fear that one day you will have to dig up the whole stinky mess.

This is what we are dealing with now. I’ve cleared out all the vines and junk from this spot last year. Now I need to find some solid, hardy perennials that will not interfere with the septic here, cover up the general ugliness of this side and potentially high “White October” the giant submarine sized propane tank.

I want to keep that Orange Blossom shrub but I’ve got an empty canvas other than that.

I found this great resource from Purdue University. I think I will use a lot of their advice. Of course I will listen to any advice from anyone out there as well.

Landscaping Over Septic Systems with Native Plants

That’s some good poop to ponder.

Humming along

Last year saw the demise of our hummingbird feeder.


Apparently we were attracting that rare breed of hummingbird that looks a lot like more like a black bear. And they have a little more force behind them than their ruby-throated counterparts.

So I just bought myself a new hummingbird feeder. Stopped off at the Urban Nature Store in Etobicoke and saw this feeder. With a name like this, it has to be good right?

Best Number 1 Hummingbird Feeder

We have had a feeder for as long as I can remember. We would sit on the front porch and quietly wait for that unmistakable buzz and watch the hummers dive bomb each other. It is always so tough to tell if you have one or a family around because they all look alike. This feeder has a measurement down the side that states if you watch the use within a 24-hour period you can determine the number of birds you have. I am curious to find out how many might appear.

1/4000th of a second

I have always admired their desperate efficiency though I have admired it from my comfortable lawn chair, generally with a beverage in hand. Fuelled by sugar, they are much less annoying than a sugar-driven child or drunken stumbler who just won’t quit trying to get out of said lawn chair.

If you don’t know much about feeding hummingbirds, here is a nice little site with loads of information I could repeat ad nauseum but it is easier if you just visit them.


This site also has a nice list of plants that help attract hummingbirds. I can personally attest to the benefits of the butterfly bush. It is a humdinger!

I placed my feeders in the apple tree at the front of the house as it has always been there. Let’s hope my little friends return.

Growing with hydro (not that hydro): What to plant near powerlines

Our entire front yard is graced with powerlines (or hydro lines as we say up yonder).

While this isn’t the front of our house, it might as well be. Between oak, spruce and pine, there are a lot of powerline/tree interactions.

So we get power but that also means every few years we get the folks from Ontario’s largest power distributor visiting with their chain saws and aerial devices to trim our trees back that grow directly underneath the powerlines. And while arborists are trained and skilled folk that know just how to cut a tree so that it remains healthy and vibrant without interfering with the lines, due to a lack of time no doubt, they seem to just lop the tops off of my lovely trees or cut great gaping holes in their branch systems.

It’s not really our fault. When the property was still a school, I have been told the students would plant trees around the property in honour of Arbor day, which has meant our house is surrounded. Weird since we don’t seem to celebrate it here in  Canada. Let’s see what Wikipedia says about this:

In Canada, Maple Leaf Day falls on the last Wednesday in September during National Forest Week. Ontario celebrates Arbor Week from the last Friday in April to the first Sunday in May. Nova Scotia celebrates Arbour Day on the Thursday during National Forest Week, which is the first full week in May. Prince Edward Island celebrates Arbour Day on the 3rd Friday in May during Arbour Week.

I knew absolutely none of that. Is that true? Anyway I am digressing here…

I understand that lilac are useful in these situations as they aren’t too tall and we certainly see they remain after the cutting crews are done. There’s a snowball bush as well and a couple of apple trees but they seem to be an acceptable height.

The folks at BC Hydro have provided this information for homeowners which I found useful:

Planting near power lines

I am fortunate to work with a lot of folks who know about these sorts of things and have been able to glean a lot of information on this stuff. Generally, just don’t go anywhere near powerlines whether they are above you or below you in the case of underground electrical plant. If there is underground, like in a subdivision, hire someone to conduct a locate. If your trees are too tall and anywhere close to the lines, just don’t touch them. Let the professionals handle it.

If you are going to plant anything near them think about the eventual height of the plants. Trees like lilac, dogwood and dwarf spruce seemed to be the key items during my informal Twitter poll I conducted last week.

Does anyone else have any suggestions? I am going to look at syringa reticulata as I have heard it is hardy to zone 3 and within the limits of the powerlines. In the end this all comes down to the need to have privacy at the front of the house so  passersby aren’t shocked by nude sunbathing and other potential shenanigans. Just thinking of the neighbours!

Seriously great infographic with loads of planting tips for your veggie garden

While we aren’t growing a proper vegetable garden at the schoolhouse (condo balcony veggies only!) this is a great infographic for planting, seasonal timing etc. Enjoy!

Things Could Be Worse

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The value of change

A lot of people don’t like change. I might be one of the those people.


I don’t like new Star Wars movies (despite the Ewan McGregor Factor), I hate most cover songs (OK Catherine Wheel and Cartman from South Park, you’ve done some good ones) and I especially don’t like thinking about making drastic changes to my historic summer home.

It’s a tough idea to get your head around. How can the rooster jug we bought at an antique shop in Northern Ireland in 1979 go on the window sill when we buy new windows? I still look at the blank living room wall to fix my hair because a few years back Pat moved the “awesome” flamingo mirror that adorned the wall for as long as I can remember.

But I guess if we are going to do it right, we should do it, right? Though these days we are merely patching the holes in the boat, so to speak, eventually we will have to move onto larger projects and make sure we are getting our money’s worth. And though we won’t sell the schoolhouse (read introductory paragraph about my thoughts on change) we should make sure the place is worth more than when we started.

I found this infographic that explains some of the more important renovations you can make. It covers all of the basics and seems to make a lot of sense.

I like this. It sort of sets out a plan for the future big jobs.

The bathroom and kitchen are definite jobs at some point. The basement is sort of a no go as we only have a root cellar as you all know. Windows will be tricky for us and would have to be custom but in the end I think they would be worth it.

What would you consider renovating at your home?