Sunday, April 30, 2017

Dispatch from the Garden - 1 of many

There's been many good days spent outside lately. I've been dodging raindrops until this weekend, where despite weather reports saying otherwise, Saturday was rain-free. And today was full sun!

The waterfront path is still on hold, for no reason other than things in the backyard have been more interesting. 

I managed to take a few pictures while I was out today. I worked out a process that helped me be more productive (spending 30 minutes doing an outdoor task, 30 minutes on an indoor task, or more accurately, a fun task, then a necessary task) I got so much done in the last two days!
I even had time for dog snuggles!

This following picture represents so much progress!

The square foot gardens!
The patio area at the top of the picture used to be covered in debris to be burned, much like the top left. We've gotten so far, but still so far to go! I mulched in between the beds, adding a newspaper barrier underneath to discourage the weeds from growing into my garden beds. The newspaper you can see at the front of the bed at the bottom left was where I ran out of mulch (I only had a part bag on hand) and used some rocks I had laying around to hold it in place. The plastic bag covering the peas and beans on the trellis was one of my tasks on Friday. Today I added cucumber, beets and radishes under little plastic cloches. I also laid the heavy black plastic that I'd pulled up from another part of the yard to prevent weed growth while I plan and build the new bed. 

I'm planning on elongating the bed on the right, I accidentally built it a foot short. So much for measure twice cut once :P But now that I'm trying to expand the amount of food I grow, the extra 4 feet will come in handy.

Elsewhere in the yard, things are getting a little more colourful :)
The first daffodils!
Last year I bought some pansies, thinking they'd be a nice pop of colour in a bed that I've not committed to, yet. When I bought them they were labeled as annuals, and yet, here they are, even more prolific than they ever were last summer. Minimal research has introduced me to biennials, so that's a thing I need to learn about now.

The Undead Pansies

I got a multi pack of colours, including orange and yellow
So things are progressing in the garden. I will try to take more pictures of the different areas I've been improving, but sometimes the work I'm doing it's obvious in pictures, like pruning, or weeding. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Good Hard Work

You get a blog post today because it's pouring rain and I'm stuck inside!

I've been spending a lot of time in the garden. Partly because I'm taking a break from the waterfront path. There's a lot of downfall and its harder to get through than I expected, and getting around it makes my skin crawl because fungus creeps me out. But also because I need to keep up on maintenance in a garden this enormous.

On the weekend I finally completed the long-planned expansion of the slightly shadier garden at the side of the house. I was shocked to find garlic - that I thought I had harvested last year - was sprouting. So I had to dig it out before installing the bed, which also gave me an opportunity to weed the area, a former flower garden left to the weeds.

The upper left is the old raised bed, containing asparagus, garlic and rhubarb.
The new bed is below. And yes, I ran out of soil. 
I've been a little scattered in my garden clean up. I raked out a bunch of beds (and had a few bonfires in the process), and decided it was time to trim Simon and Nick, the holly, again. In the process of also weeding around the holly, I started cleaning up around the pavers. And then I decided to add some decorative stones along the edge to soften it and make it look a little more intentional.

Its a work in progress.
The picture above hints at some other work I've done, trying to expand the paving stone area so we're no longer backing the bikes up on the lawn.

M wants three move above these ones, even.
The paving stone path that runs from our driveway to our shed is old, though it's still in pretty good condition, considering the possibility of heaving through our Canadian winters.

We do have one problem area, however. It appears a large rock (it's MUCH bigger than the 18"x18" pavers) was under one of the pavers which we removed, and it's heaved one particular section. M and I are hoping to lift these pavers, level the area, and lay the pavers again. Including one over the rock.

You can see the heaving, and the stone under the missing paver. 
Hopefully that solves our problem.

I'm desperate for a new garage. We could build one ourselves for about $5k (ouch), but we need to make a decision whether we will hire someone to lay a slab foundation, or whether we will have a wood foundation on a larger shed structure. Cost is going to be a huge factor, of course.

There will probably be lots of dispatches from the garden in the coming weeks :)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

DIY Waterfront (Too many words, not enough pictures)

So it's been a few weeks since I got home, and after recovering from 40 hours door to door, losing at traffic court after almost 2 years (what a waste), and hearing nothing back after the FIRST response from the plethora of resumes I've sent out, I was feeling a little... deflated.

I've continued to pound the proverbial pavement, applying for some interesting and hopefully lucrative opportunities, and have also begun investigating a really exciting venture with a friend.

I've also spent lots of time with friends, trying to be present, not let the doldrums effect valuable time with people I care for and who care for me. Fortunately I have the kinds of friends who I can be absentminded with and they get that its a now thing and not a me thing.

Something that has given me some overdue motivation is this plan M and I started talking about last fall.

We're making a path down to the water on an unassumed piece of land behind our house.

I wanted to do it over the winter but the forest floor is too dangerous when covered in snow. It's dangerous enough not covered in snow, since it's mostly made up of deadfall and trees. I've been slowly picking my way through the forest, first cutting out the trees that block the path, then cutting down the branches on the remaining trees so no one gets poked in the eye.

This picture is not helpful.
The above picture just looks like a forest. What I can tell you is this: Everything green on the bottom third is stuff I've cut down. The brown blob in the middle is the remaining stifled branches that occur in dense evergreen forests. They all need to be cut down to open up the path. I actually took this picture with a focus on the top portion of the image, so that I could maybe get my bearings from the water side, which was my next step in the plan. I needed to make sure I wasn't on the neighbours property, or listing to far towards the highway, since there's a specific spot on the waterfront that I want the trail to end at.

In the dense evergreen overgrowth I was making progress of maybe 2 feet every 30 minutes.

Today was supposed to be a day off, since the forecast was for rain, and I'm bone tired from my previous days efforts. But I got restless, and suckered encouraged M to join me in a walk through the forest by the water. Our neighbours son has created some trails he rides his dirt bike through, but eventually the deadfall takes over and it turns into a forest shaped jungle gym.

Oddly, we didn't find my trail even though we came out the bottom side of our brush pile (which the trailhead is beside). It turns out had we even looked right when we came to a specific pile of deadfall, we would have seen the marker I had left at the end of the trail. But after 20 minutes of hurdling spikey, pokey logs, I'd lost my inability to focus on anything but stabbing myself in the leg.

Slightly more determined, I went back to the end of the trail, and hacked away some more. In about 10 minutes, I was through the dense evergreens and into one of the clear, deadfall filled areas.

Suddenly I was able to make progress of about 40 feet in 30 minutes.

Until I couldn't anymore.

I had to decide whether the path would continue through a massive amount of deadfall, or through another stand of dense evergreens. I initially tried for through the evergreens, since I knew the cutting tools I had (pruners of varying sizes) would work, but after another few feet I hit more deadfall.

So I went back around to see if I could assess from the other side.

I had a companion with me this time, too.
Basically the conclusion is, eventually I'm going to have to saw my way through deadfall, regardless of which path I take.

So tomorrow, I'll head back out there. This time armed with bigger, better saws, and hopefully make some more headway.

I *will* have an accessible waterfront this summer! :)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Belle Paris! And Home at last.

My flight landed in Paris at 5:40am. Grateful that I didn't have to pick up my luggage, I headed for the nearest exit, and towards the trains. Now, I had done a LOT of research on how to get from Charles De Gaulle to the Seine. I was anxious about using the public transport of an unfamiliar city, alone, and as it turned out, in the dark. 

It turned out okay, though. I even made it to Notre Dame before the sun had made it over the horizon!

This photo needs so much editing :P
 For the next 3 hours I walked around the city. One of my big goals was to drink a fancy coffee and eat pain au chocolat by the Seine. Considering I was wandering around before even most coffee shops opened, I settled on this one.

Add caption

I couldn't see the Seine from my table, and they didn't actually have pain au chocolat, but the cafe creme was just what I was after. The gentleman who served me suggested some apple cake, which turned out to be a golden pound cake with apples on top. Still, it was surprisingly good.

The Louvre at the Pont du Carrousel

Pont du Carrousel

Look at that detail!!! 

Those balconies!

Magnificent sunrise
 I was walking in the direction of the Eiffel Tower. I knew it was about an hours walk, but that wasn't including all the stopping and looking I was doing. And because my grasp on the local public transit was tenuous, I knew that as far as I walked towards the iconic tower, I'd have to walk just as far back to the train station.

 But then, there it was, peeking over the buildings.

This selfie didn't work to well :P

Palais Bourbon

A not very good picture of the fun angles Parisians have to deal with :)

Eiffel Tower and Pont Alexandre III

After Amsterdam and Paris I now want to live on a house boat :P

Sainte Chappelle (spire) and L'Institut de France (dome) on the horizon.
Musee D'Orsay on the right.

Place de la Concorde

I cannot find any reference of what this building is.
But holy shit, look at it!

Musee D'Orsay

The Pyramid at the Louvre is just through that arch.
I thought I got a good picture of it, but I must have messed it up.

 L'Institut de France

In a guise of taking a picture of the Louvre's bell tower, I tried to capture the
automatic rifles these, what, traffic cops? were carrying. 

Fontaine St Michel

I had found my way back to the train station, and figured out which train I needed to get on to get back to Charles de Gaulle. The rest of it was smooth sailing. Once I was through security I had to check into my flight from Toronto to Halifax and I realized there was a pretty good chance I wouldn't make the flight.

On the flight out of Paris I had an upgraded seat again, and I slept for about 4 hours of the 7 hour flight.

It became clear to me around the time I was picking up my baggage that I wasn't going to make the flight to Halifax. I had declared that I had animal products (biltong, or dried game meat for M), which put me in the inspection line. I swear I do not understand the point of declaring items. The Canadian Customs websites states the following "If you do not declare, or falsely declare, goods, the CBSA can seize them." Except I did declare items, items that I checked the fucking website to make sure they were allowed, and they seized my stuff anyway. The thing that irritates me the most is that the only item, ostrich biltong, that was in question, was only one of three packages that were seized. The other two were not in question, but they were seized anyway.

I also managed to make the customs agent stab me with his pocket knife, cause I'm special like that.

Honestly despite my anger over the customs debacle now (15 people in line, 3 people doing actual inspections, many other customs agents standing around presumably doing nothing. Plus having my stuff confiscated when it shouldn't have been. Dude had seriously never heard of a kudu before. Read a book!), the customs agent I dealt with was very nice, and we laughed a fair bit throughout the process. He's just doing his job, and while he should have been more familiar with the rules he was enforcing, he was kind and sympathetic throughout the potentially stressful process.

But it was past my flight's departure by the time I was released. I found my way to Terminal 1, and asked an Air Canada agent what I should do since I missed my flight. I dislike Air Canada immensely. They charged me $175 for a "same day flight change" for missing my flight, in order to book the next flight to Halifax. Fortunately it was less than 2 hours away. I paid the extortion fare, checked my bag and got through customs.

The rest of the evening wasn't notable. I let M know I would be arriving late. I texted with Steph. I got on the plane and watched Lion until I landed in Halifax. M was there waiting for me after I got my luggage.

I had full intentions of taking a picture of him as we met again after 17 days apart. My brain was so fried I forgot.

But of course we couldn't just go home. We got stopped by some eager RCMP officer wanting to check M's license and registration at 11pm on a Tuesday. He made a point that he had some sort of special jurisdiction to pull us over where he did. Whatever, guy, just let me get my tired ass home.

I unpacked my bags and threw everything in the laundry. I gave M his port, which he opened and sniffed immediately, appraisingly. But I was more interested in taking a shower and getting into bed.

And so it ended, the second trip of a lifetime. There's so many details I've missed, I'm sure. And so much I've glossed over. But now that I have some time, hopefully some of the finer details can be captured, for posterity.

Thanks for following along. Hopefully you'll stick around and hopefully I can do something worth writing about ;)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Homeward Bound

Monday morning I woke up, and wandered around the yard, taking pictures. I had been keeping my eye on Doreen's famous fig tree, hoping to find a ripe juicy fig before I had to go home. 

Today was the day. Enjoying a tree-ripe fig.
After a leisurely breakfast, finishing packing the last of the laundry and, yeah, doing my fair share of pacing, we got ready to head to the airport.

A photo for the road
I took about 100 more photos of the mountains.
I couldn't get enough of the clouds.

In Canada people rarely see off their guests at the airport. Part of it is the fact of going through security. Part of it is the astronomical parking fees.
Neither deterred Doreen & Glynis from seeing me off. They laughed, kindly, at my eagerness to go through security. "Oh, it's nothing. You'll be through it in no time." I thought of my preferred airport, Hamilton's John C Munro, and their piddly, lovely, security set up. Still, the George Airport was unfamiliar and I just wanted to get through and calm down. Anxiety knows no logic.

Suffice to say, they had ever reason to giggle at me. I was through security in approximately 2 minutes and stood on the other side, flight delayed, and an hour to kill in an area probably with as many square feet as my home.

Getting on the plane in George.

I'm not normally a fan of pictures from the plane (too much like pictures from the car, which I'm also guilty of this trip). BUT LOOK AT THEM! The geography was mind bogglingly beautiful. Though, I suppose, that's not as apparent in these photographs.

The peninsula at the top is very likely Mosselbaai

The Outeniqua Mountains

Getting closer to Johannesburg

Landed in Johannesburg
In Johannesburg I did a lot of walking around. I had just over 2 hours to kill by the time I found my way through the terminals and security. I browsed some stores, I had a leisurely dinner at an airport restaurant, I paced to and from the departure gate.

Despite all of this, I didn't sleep a wink on the flight to Paris. I was pleasantly surprised to discover I had been upgraded to "Economy Plus", so I had a few more amenities and definitely more space than the flights East. But still, no sleep.

There's no time zone difference between Johannesburg and Paris, so I landed 11 hours later, nearing 6am, to embark on a whole other adventure....

Monday, April 3, 2017

Last Day

Sunday Morning I woke up to an empty house. Mom, Doreen & Glynis had all left for church. I spent the morning packing and trying to check into my flights. 

I could not. 

Hadedas on the fence :)

After they came home we were to go to lunch, and Doreen knew that I couldn't check into the George-Johannesburg flight without going to the airport, so that became part of the plan. I had a few last things I wanted to purchase from the grocery store, and they wanted to take me to the beach again. Sunday was filling out. But I couldn't keep my mind off checking in. 

Doreen & Glynis napped in the car while mom and I dealt with checking in.

There were issues with the booking, which was why I couldn't check in online (for the subsequent flights, we still couldn't have checked in for the George flight even if the information had been complete), but the kind woman at the service desk got me straightened out, and mom now knew what needed to be done for her flights the following week.

On the way to the beach I stopped to take a picture of the mountains I'd been wanting to capture.

Outeniqua Mountain Range

Then, back to Heroldsbaai we went. The surf was much more aggressive and I found myself fighting the current sweeping across the beach more than the waves coming in or the undertow going out.

A moment of calm, mid-pummelling.

What I didn't know was that there was a pod of dolphins hanging around the bay as well. After I got out, we followed them to the far west side of the beach.

Glynis' zoom is much better than mine. 
After the beach we headed to the grocery store, and on the way home I couldn't get enough of the sun set.

Plattner Blvd, George.

Outeniqua Mountains

Sunset punctuated with razor wire.

We had a wonderfully casual dinner and I finished pack prep (including doing laundry). Despite being tired travel anxiety kept me up late, and woke me early the next morning. Of course it did.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Oh right, the blog!

It's been more days since my last post than I intended. Those of you on Facebook have seen some of the journey home, and some of what came after for me.

I have never felt so tired in my life.

40 hours of air travel (more than the original estimate because Canadian border control kept me from making my final flight) is not something to sniff at. Even my flight home from Thailand (30 hours of travel) didn't feel nearly as gruelling as this (the night I returned from Thailand I went to a New Years party that had me out until 3:30am!). But part of this was probably due to my determination to make something of a 9 hour layover, resulting in additional anxiety and physical fatigue on top of not sleeping on the 11 hour flight from Johannesburg.

Ahem. Enough excuses, back to the photographic goodness.

The last day I posted about was our Friday in Oudtshoorn, also known as the day I was savaged by an ostrich ;)


Saturday morning we got up early with full intentions of going to two farmers markets. We stopped for breakfast along the way, and spent a wonderfully leisurely morning strolling the grounds, looking at locally produced foods and beautiful handcrafted items

The food side of the farmers market

Mom and I still made it out of there empty handed :) Happily so, we had so much stuff to bring home as it was.

On the way home we stopped at the Kaiiman's River Railway Bridge lookout (overlooking Leentjies Klip). There used to be a train that ran through this area, but after part of the track washed out, that's no longer an option.

Leentjies Klip

Leentjies Klip

Kaaimans River Railway Bridge
Me, Doreen & Mom

Leentjies Klip from the look out.
On the drive back to George from the market we happened to pass one of the wool shops that I had found using google maps while still in Canada. We also determined that we'd spent enough time farmers marketing, and we should find something else to do instead. Which lead us to the beach! It was the first opportunity, since that day that turned foggy, to get into the water.

And it was glorious.

Those are some big waves, and yet not the biggest I got to experience :P

Enjoying some soft serve post swim!


Mom and Doreen enjoyed their ice cream from the relative shade of the car.

Most of the real estate in this area is vacation rentals,
though a famous golfer, Ernie Els, also has property - and a golf course - here.

It was a beautiful day, and a wonderfully relaxed way to spend a Saturday.