Guelph “Ice” “Storm” FebRuary 23rd 2016

the Guelph ice storm

in verse

the umbrella


the pitter patter

of tiny sleet

work piles on


wet winters day

the slush



slovelling slop

plows slobber slush

slippy slidey


sheety ice

on stairs

and everywhere



so pedestrian

so cold..



I went by Play with Clay to say hi. On the table were subway tiles, looking ever so much like clean slates or blank canvasses. The thoughts of what a person could do with these were incredible. I have already talked to my daughter to get her to start the first tile. Hopefully, if everything works out, we will have our retirement kitchen back splash ready in time.  (two weeks until I am a carded senior)

The idea is simple. Make tiles with the same colour back ground paint. On the face of it have the kids paint “fridge art”. These include their hand and foot prints, pictures of dogs that closely resemble cats and trees that look like rockets. When the time comes remove them from the box they are stored in and mount as a back splash. You could also do a height chart for each child or a tub surround. The ideas are many.

If you are worried about the resale value of your home there are some elements to consider when doing the math.

Neutral makeovers do not always a home make.

The value of scratches and nicks increase over time. These touch neurons that remind you of something….memory exercises.

Old age makeovers are done 20 years before you are actually old and finally wise. They get done and then you find yourself content and relaxed not thinking it worth changing again. To the future buyer your home will always be quaint; something out of the 70’s.

The longer you leave the nicks and funky in place the more you will have conversations about how you should really do a make over. This will give you the opportunity to say to your kids “when I was young” and convey contentment and sage advice. (hopefully friends will not comment, just the kids)

Come on. Think about it. No one wants to see a slide show about your grandkids, especially when you are inept with your phone. Those tiles though are perfect. How can anyone miss them and visitors eyes will not roam to their watch or phone. They are bound to make excited comments like “cool” and “cute”

What people sometimes think when you have renovated. “They are wearing too much makeover and should add more blush”

Makeovers do not make a coffee taste better or your smile more penetrating. 





A hat your sister encourages you to buy (and wear), a deck built in the most unlikely place and a new concrete slab purposely flawed. What do all these have in common? They are all crazy ideas with just the right amount of tenacity and they all work.

There are times to branch out or go out on a limb and what better place than in your garden where trees can actually grow. Think about what is holding you back. What will people think, its too corny or it will never work are a few statements I have run into. There have been enough posts I have written about yards renovations and makeovers that are outside of the box that I will not bore you with another one. When you look at seed catalogues and dream about your yard do not exclude the odd ideas that many tend to put to the side. A garden is a forgiving place to express yourself after all. Our garden coaches/ consultants can help with sound advice and ears that listen carefully to what your goals are.

I am attaching one of the stories I wrote about in Holland. It should be noted that my aunt was shocked at how manicured the lawn are on North America and when visiting the different outlook held in Holland really came through. We are bound in many ways to what we envision and culture is a very powerful one. This story is one from my first book if anyone is interested.


Day 1 Our Host

It is one thirty in the morning and I sit on the logs provided for the sitting.  They are still fragrant from having just been cut and from not being hauled.  They have been placed perfectly on the patio and they are the best of companions to their elders in the driveway.  On those the potted plants thrive.

When we arrived yesterday everything was just as expected.  The lawn perfectly manicured; some having been cut last week, some this week.  Her hedge along the drive is trimmed but there are no other shaped hedges.  It is better to say that there is nothing unkempt, and that every single plant belongs and thrives together.  I consider weeding the drive edges and the undergrowth under the trees in the back but have this feeling of uncertainty of not knowing where to start or why I would.  So I sit in it, on a log, and write about it instead.

I would be amiss if I did not tell you of the real beauty of her garden.  It blooms while we are conversing on the patio set in the drive, my sister, my aunt and I.  The petals sharply defined and soft as fluff, all perfectly spaced.  There are no forced blooms here and no bag of dead heads exist.  There is such a fragrance that it follows us as we bike and as we dine together that evening.  I play with names for the fragrance like “tweed and loafers” or “wool and enamel”  but I am at a loss.  Perhaps “chopped onions and coffee”?  I think “smiles on a breeze” is the best though.

amongst those

2015-09-12 10.55.39 2015-09-12 10.55.45 2015-09-12 10.57.55

Buckets and buckets of buckets. These are filled with sand, cold patch, gravel and screening. They carry our hardware,tools and buckets and buckets of etcetera. When you market the small and intimate, breaking down hours into minutes, you need to think small and “bucket” is either a prefix or suffix to these thoughts. The use that fascinates me the most however is the bucket brigade. (and who invented the first one…)

Free Buckets

Free Buckets are great eh.  (ask me where)


I am going to start in an odd place with my thoughts on Bucket Brigades. (as per usual) They are my excuse (or justification) for being a “rubbernecker” at accident scenes. Helping hands; gracious helping hands, are just plain beautiful. No one likes the horrors we at times face in life but there are countless stories of heroes and heroines when these tragedies do arise. Communities pull together, individuals shine and we are all encouraged. In fact it is almost a sadness that in Canada with our infrastructure and experience we have very capable professional help. There are fewer opportunities to be needed for us all and so rubbernecking is obsolete. It is a habit though. I think it is safe to say that it would be better to be one small part of a bucket brigade in someone’s time of need than to just hear about it.


bucket Brigade 1bucket brigade 4

The actual workings of the brigade is also fascinating. When pouring concrete steps or when working in rear yards with no access for equipment we have had countless opportunities to form a line and dig in. The conversations that arise and the over all mood of the work make it worth participating in, even if there is no purpose. As an owner I love how the tempo and efficiency of the day need absolutely no overseeing. It is choreographed without input and a very natural reaction.   Sure water and sand slop out. Yes the buckets could be filled just a bit more. Yes there is always that “glitch” in the line and maybe having a Viking beat on a drum could speed things up. These tendencies to manage and to fine tune are however counter productive and should be done minimally and with great care.

Would you allow me another tangent? You have a choice. A story or an extra paragraph or two to explain how what is already written applies to management. I prefer the story….

There could be a lot more about the following moving story.   I will only add one key lesson to the main goal of singing workers. That is to not be too proud and Dutch, thinking that moving everything yourself is cost effective.. When the movers from Swan’s Moving came to get the piano I could not get myself they laughed at my stubbornness. They said, “You could get all that was left moved for the price of that one piano, all I had to do was ask about the services and rates offered.”

The most moving and favourite part of the tale however is the Viking Song the four men naturally made as they grunted and groaned (sounded like and was a dirge lol). I told them as we left the first house that if they made these grunts and groans into a proper viking song they would sound much better and I would buy them breakfast. When we got to our new home they did just that and I got to hear one of the most beautiful sounds one could ever hear. At our little home on a hill the acoustics are exceptional and I am sure that it was not just me therefore that was rewarded. Think Vikings, deep bassy Vikings. Think smiling loud and enthusiastic deep bassy vikings at my house. Gorgeous.  You can’t manage that.




How many jars of jams do you eat in a year? Not knowing seems silly. I say this for two reasons; to remind you where jams come from and to encourage people to budget.

Jams are one of those tiny joys for so many people and yet they have no idea just how few they really need to have enough. Take the time to budget not so that you can save money but so you can know. Start by budgeting jams. In our case we have 10 jars of jams prepared for the year. Looking at our consumption we will have two left over by next canning season. We neither conserve nor splurge; knowing this information just brings us peace.

I am a gardener though and do not intend to teach budgeting and forecasting so take from the latter what you will. Oddly enough this post is not about the need to prune properly or garden intensely either. Sure I think it is worth reading but it’s intent is only to give an inkling and to spurn an idea in the reader. There is morals to my tale but no curriculum will come of it.

For years I stewed about the neighbour’s crab apple tree destroying my pond and littering my lawn. I filled in my pond, pruned my side and gave him back what apples I could without breaking his windows. There were no mumbled comments made to him and I did not become that guy who grumbled to his wife (not too much but you should see if she agrees.) Frankly I handled myself quite well.

In the back of all this was Crab Apple Jam. Every year I was going to make a jam and not waste the resources. Well this year my granddaughter and I did it. There is nothing like showing off to her that brings out the best in me. Oh the talking that took place as we picked, chopped and prepared. In the end there were ten little jars of jam which were shared; canned translucent Rubies are valuable. We also made translucent Amethyst grapes and pondered what fruit will make translucent gold so our shelves would be complete.

Just because many people reading will forget what to get from this I will point you in the right direction.

In business and life there are granddaughters and waste. Both are as important as the bottom line. Be wise.

There are existing resources all around to draw from that you are likely not accounting for. Maybe next year?

There are abilities and a sense in you that you can draw from. Maybe next year?

Follow the easiest recipes. There are too many made up by pedantic people that forget simple.

Do not get carried away. It only took about two quart baskets to get more than enough. When you start picking apples it is very easy to try to think you can do the whole tree. That is likely 20 bushel baskets. Think calluses, a bored granddaughter and the smell of rotten apples.