A conversation with the sun, revisited


(Not much has changed since I first published this two years ago in a lot of ways. Old age continues to creep up on me, but I give myself a push and go outside to plant some garlic, or otherwise plant seeds. But I must confess to feeling somewhat less hopeful about the state of the world, driven downward by an increasing level of anger and hatred on social media and other forms of public discourse, and made worse by unprincipled, political opportunism pandering to the worst in human nature. It is, I confess, discouraging, even depressing. I find myself having to turn it all off for a while and increasingly find solace in solitude. And yet I am a social creature, and fundamentally believe each of us in our own way has a responsibility to pay attention, think carefully about what’s happening, and do what we can in a loving way, to help make it better. And then I think it can begin in a modest way, with a simple, personal expression of appreciation for the gift of life, and what the moment we’re in now — the only one we’ve truly got — may bring us: wonder and surprise in so many forms, including an unexpected visitor from nearby or the other side of the world who has a story, their story, to tell. Open your heart to them, I tell myself, and your eyes.)

Another cloudy day in late October with the front field to cultivate before it starts to rain, as forecast. I’m out beside Mr. Massey Too, checking his fluid levels before connecting the cultivator, when I get that feeling, you know, like somebody’s looking at me. So, I look up right where that feeling is coming from, just above the treetops of some tall spruce, and there it is, the sun – a faint light in the clouds, so faint that I can look right at it, face to face, as it were.

I get the sense the son wants to tell me something; so, I say, “What? What’s up? What’s on your mind?” Continue reading

Growing your own food: gardening and weather, the first learning experience


I’m Canadian, eh. And a modest market gardener, living and working in a sparsely populated rural area. So, I guess I’m more culturally obsessed with the weather than a lot of people in Canada who now mostly live in big cities. It wasn’t always so; but more about that later.

I have been reminded yet again that keeping tabs on the now-frequent wanderings of the Jet Stream is key to understanding Canadian weather; and in particular, here on the Saugeen/Bruce Peninsula, and elsewhere in southern Ontario. This comes in the midst of winter’s virtual return, several days of freezing cold weather, a month into the spring season of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s supposed to be a lot warmer than this. Gardeners are supposed to be busy planting hardy, early crops like snow peas, even potatoes by now; and rejoicing that a healthy-looking crop of new garlic has emerged, not worrying about even it, surprisingly tough as it is, being damaged by one hard frost after another. Continue reading

And now for some good news


Far be it from me to traffic in dangerously unrealistic comments and other false hopes about the current Coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis. But for what it’s worth, regarding the lifting of essential spirits, I humbly say the following:

The garlic is up, here at the end of Cathedral Drive, Hope Ness. Just an inch or so, mind you; and a little touched by frost at the tip. But garlic is tough. It will survive. It already has. Continue reading

The earth quakes in Hope Ness

In the 40 years since I first came to live in Hope Ness I’ve seen, heard, and felt a lot of memorable natural occurrences: a few specially intense, zero-visibility blizzards; the sky turning green over nearby Hope Bay as a tornado approached; a ball of lightning rolling across the kitchen floor after the house was struck; the explosive crack of a thick, old hardwood beam as the old drive shed collapsed under the weight of snow; half a dozen deer caught nibbling on my rows of beans in the glow of my flashlight. They ran off, and we continue to co-exist peacefully.


But I never heard and felt the earth rumble and roar, as in an earthquake. Never, that is, until yesterday evening, December 13, 2019. And yes, it was a Friday. But just a coincidence, of course.

Continue reading

A hard morning frost, joyful wild apples, the soul’s journey, and Putin’s plan.


Hope Ness, late October, 2019. The heart cries out with joy at the sight of such a tree.

A hard frost covered ground-level Hope Ness this morning as the dogs and I went for our early-morning walk. ‘Early morning’ is a relative thing though: as one day follows another it gets a little later and dusk a little sooner as the sun goes south. The dark, clay-loam soil I turned up in the front field a couple of weeks ago was white with the fragile lightness of frozen dew as the sun began to rise above the line of the woods to the south-east. Continue reading

Old Man Apple Tree


This old apple tree has seen better days, but none better than this, if one takes into consideration its defiant struggle to stay alive, and much, much more. I call it heroic, glorious, the way it stands there still, among the rocks and the tall grass just beyond the far side of the garden.

Its wonderful abundance of blossoms suddenly awakened after a long cold and wet early spring season virtually cries out, “look at me, world, I’m still here, I’m still alive; and not only that, I’m beautiful.” Continue reading

I do (gardening); therefore, I am

DSC00552I look out my window and watch the winter storm blow in and get steadily worse. I don’t have to go on-line to check if the roads are closed: that’s obvious enough. The line of the forest trees to the west has all-but disappeared behind the blizzard. After just a couple of hours, drifts have filled in the driveway I blew clear yesterday.

At my age now, I should be celebrating every moment as a gift. Surely, there’s no sense in looking forward to better weather, or to a spring season still a couple of months away, at best — let alone the early summer, when I may have a modest crop of strawberries to pick from the 100 dormant plants I just ordered from a nursery. Continue reading

Making the best of a Canadian winter, mindfully


I hear spring flowers and blossoms are starting to bloom in Victoria, on Canada’s Pacific Ocean, west coast. But everywhere else in this country, known for its long, cold, snowy winters, such a thing is still the stuff of day-dreams. The reality of spring is three months away here in Hope Ness, Ontario, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole; more if spring is late this year like it was last. Continue reading

Morning surprise is thought provoking


A stoat, or ermine, caught in my live trap, soon to be released back into nature

I got quite a surprise when I checked the live-trap this morning in the basement cold room where I store produce from last summer’s garden. I’ve been setting the Havahart trap with pieces of squash for several weeks to control an over-abundance of red squirrels getting into this old farm house. So far, I’ve caught seven of them, which I take down the road, far enough I hope that they won’t return.

But this morning, when I saw the trap door had dropped and I took a closer look, I was amazed to see a pure white creature that looked far more like a small weasel than a squirrel. The long, sleek torso was the big difference, though, otherwise, there were many similarities as you can see. Continue reading

Walking after sunset


After Sunset, 5:00 pm, in Hope Ness, Canada, December 15, 2018

Sunset comes early in Hope Ness, Canada a week away from the winter solstice. If I don’t feed and walk the dogs before sunset it will soon be too dark. I admit, however remote, the prospect of running into some member or members of the local wildlife community concerns me. Is it possible, with the unseasonably mild weather in the past few days, one of the black bears living in the nearby woods may have postponed hibernation?

One of the larger members of the weasel family, fishers, are in this area. An “exceptional predator,” according to Canadian Geographic, they are one of the few animals to prey on porcupines, and a host of other small animals, including even baby deer. They have a frightening, chilling scream when aroused. Their range extends from coast to coast in the forests of Canada. It historically included here, in what used to be called the Saugeen or Indian Peninsula, more recently, the Bruce Peninsula. But fishers must have been hunted, trapped or run out of existence here, until they were introduced again years ago to control porcupine damage to local woodlots. It’s fair to say they’ve flourished.

So did coyotes — and the stray dog, coyote hybrid known locally as coydogs — for a long time. It was common here in Hope Ness up until a couple of years ago to hear coyotes yipping and howling in the nearby woods as they began their evening hunts. Lately the woods have been quiet. Coyotes have lately been heavily hunted, sometimes by the pick-up truckload, as nuisance animals known to attack livestock. But to virtual extinction? That can’t be good. They have their role to play in nature’s wildlife balance. Whether or not a pack of coyotes would take on an angry, aroused, fisher, I do not know. I just know the silence in the woods is ominous

My little cockapoo dog, the irrepressible Sophie, wouldn’t stand a chance against a fisher if one ever came that close on our evening walks; or, I daresay, coyotes. My big German shepherd, Buddy, would put up a good fight to defend her, but regardless of the likely outcome in his favour, I’d rather that didn’t happen.

Deer hunting season is over now, both regular rifle for a week in November, and musket for a week just passed, as well as bow. I heard a few shots fired fairly close by. I turned around and headed back to the farm with the dogs. So, that’s how we got into the habit of taking our evening walks through the relatively small window of opportunity between sunset and the darkening sky.

In the time it takes to get to my touchstone and back daylight has just about gone. Today was special though: unlike most days this time of year, it was at least partly sunny, rather than overcast. And then on the way home the sky above was a beautiful rose after sunset. But it was receding toward the western horizon, over beyond the woods fairly quickly.

I thought, maybe I should just let it go, enjoy the passing moment. But then I thought again, grabbed my camera off the kitchen table, went outside, and took that photo you see above, to share with you my cyber friends, wherever you may be in the world.