Gardening in a Sundress: Retired in the Shuswap

Warning: my beautiful pictures have posted upside down again. I do not understand. sorry for the discombobulation…I hope you will enjoy the post anyway.

The early morning air is cool when I step outside and stand for a moment on the front porch. I’m savouring the start of the day, before heat drives me inside to take refuge under the ceiling fan.


Noticing the flower pots are thirsty, I uncoil a bit of hose and turn on the tap. Water wand in one hand and coffee cup in the other, I douse the containers before moving on to the small raised garden where zucchini hang off the vines and nasturtiums tumble over the side. The sun is warm, but not too hot to stand under yet, so I uncoil more hose and move along the perennial bed, admiring the plants that I put in when I built the bed last year.

IMG_0033I need to research August-blooming plants because there isn’t a lot of colour in the perennial bed at the moment But, I note how each plant has grown and imagine how it will look after another two years pass. I remember reading that a perennial bed takes three years to mature. It won’t be until the fourth summer that it will be in its full glory.

IMG_0041I wander down the length of the bed slowly until I reach the friendship rose, a Blanc de Coubert Rugosa that I brought with me from Whitehorse. I call it the friendship rose because years ago, three of us (Kim, Candy & I) used to get together at each others homes over the summer for tea and a garden tour. We’d admire the progress of our gardens, dream over seed catalogues, plan for the next year. Sometimes we’d go out for lunch or visit a garden center. One time, on the spur of the moment, we all bought the same rose bush. Kim and I have remained in touch, but I haven’t seen Candy in years. I wonder if she still has hers? Sadly, although it is a zone 3 plant, the Yukon is not the ideal climate for a Blanc de Coubert, and my poor little bush just barely survived. It hardly grew larger than it was the day we bought it. Kim’s rose has fared equally poorly. When we moved, I couldn’t bear to leave it behind, so I dug it up and brought it with me. In two summers, the rose has already doubled in size.  A little bit of the Yukon in Sunnybrae. :)

Mine isn't in bloom at the moment, so here is a picture I got from the internet.

Mine isn’t in bloom at the moment, so here is a picture I got from the internet.

I water the friendship rose and move on to the blueberry bushes and the rhubarb. This end of the yard is still in the shade, lovely and cool. I see weeds. Oh, the bane of my existence! Beautiful green leaves that display dainty blue flowers in the spring. Foolishly, I encouraged them last year. Now I know better. And daisies, too. Back in Whitehorse I used to chastise Mr. C. when he’d mow them down in the side lawn. I worked so hard to encourage them to grow. But here! Here they grow everywhere. They take over the bed like a cuckoo bird pushing its host’s eggs out of the nest and leaving behind its own to flourish in the rich soil.

IMG_0050I march to the garage. Put my empty coffee cup down and don my gardening gloves. Three-prong hand-rake in hand, I march back across the lawn, drop to my knees and start digging and pulling. Inch by inch the area around the blueberries bushes returns to black soil. I move down the bed, leaving the shade and entering the sun. Under the lavender, more baby daisies are hiding, just waiting to grow up and assimilate the brethern. I yank them out.

IMG_0048A wasp buzzes by on its way to breakfast at the hummingbird feeder and I swat it away from my ear. I think, “here I am, weeding the lavender in the sunshine,” and I can feel myself smiling from the inside out. Did you know that lavender propagates by the root? I didn’t. I don’t think lavender grows in the Yukon, so how would I know how it propagates?  Lo and behold, when I lift the lavender to pull the weeds hiding underneath, I find lavender spikes coming out of the ground more than six inches from the parent stock.

After a while I sit back on my heels and take a little break. My back is sweaty. My head is hot. In only an hour the sun has gone from pleasant to brutal. I stand up and brush the grass off my knees. Suddenly, I realize that I’ve been gardening in flipflops and a dress.

IMG_0032This fact makes me smile, because back when I worked at Yukon College, I used to fantasize about my retirement. One of the things I wanted to do was learn to sew my own dresses. Another thing was to go out in the mornings and water the garden with a hose whenever I wanted to (not just on Saturdays & Sundays during July).

Well, here I am, this morning. I’ve just come inside, to wash the grass stains off my knees with a cool washcloth. to scrub my wrists and arms, and wash the sweat off my face and neck. And I am wearing a sundress that I made myself.

It’s pretty awesome.

Posted in early retirement, garden, Just Write, retirement, Shuswap, Summer, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

The Simple Woman’s Daybook: August edition

It seems as simple-woman-daybook-smallthough I do a Simple Woman’s Daybook post about once every three months.  Today seems like a good day for one. Check out the link to see what other women are up to today. And if you’re a blogger, join in! :)

Outside my window… the sun is breaking through the clouds and it’s starting to warm up again. It was quite cool when we started out on this mornings walk, and I was wearing a sweater. By the time we got home, though, the sweater was tied around my waist and I regretted not putting on sunscreen.  Those sunbeams feel like lasers when they hit the skin! I didn’t have a hat, either. I should have known better. But my goodness, the air smells wonderful right now after a night of deep soaking rain! When the sun warms the wet soil & trees it just smells like summer.

I am thinking…about the novel I’ve been working on. I’m thinking about where the story is going and how I want to get one of my characters from here to there. I’ve skipped ahead and written a couple of chapters out of order. Now I have to go back and connect them. It takes a bit of thinking, and like Winnie the Pooh says, “…that’s a very good habit to get into.”

I am thankful…Yesterday we went for a hike with our friend Rebekah (remember the one who got locked in the outhouse?). We’d just started going up the Upper Margaret Falls trail when suddenly a big whoosh of wind came down and knocked a tree down right behind us. Crack! The air filled with needles and floating debris. A moment later, another Crack! and a second tree came down. Right after that we heard the sound of electrical wires humming and popping. Well, crap. We turned around and descended to where we could see the power lines along the side of the road. Sure enough, a tree lay suspended over the line, and both downed line and tree hung right over the trail. Not wanting to go under the line, we bushwhacked our way down the hill, slid down the embankment and crossed the road to the parking lot. The sky had opened and let go a deluge before we got there, of course, so we were fairly soaked by the time we made it back to the car. My pedometer said we took a total of 650 steps. So much for the hike. I am thankful that nobody was hurt.

In the kitchen…In just a minute I’m going to put a batch of sourdough bread on in my breadmaker. I love having a breadmaker in the summer because we can enjoy fresh bread for toast and sandwiches as well as loaves of banana bread without turning on the oven and heating up the kitchen. Mr. C has gone to visit his cousin in Vernon for the day, so I’m looking forward to having fresh toast with my soup at supper time. What kind of soup? Zero-point home-made broccoli. Yum!

I am wearing…a comfortable khaki-coloured skirt, apple green sleeveless t-shirt top and flip flops.

I am going…Mr. C and I have been talking about how we want to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary next month. He will be in Whitehorse on the actual day, and is feeling bad about it. But I said not to worry about it. We’ll celebrate when he gets back. We’ll do something we used to do on our anniversary but haven’t done for many years…go on a camping adventure! So I am going to spend some time on the internet and look up campgrounds and National & Provincial parks, hiking trails and things to see around Nelson and Cranbrook in the Kootney region of British Columbia. That’s where we’ve decided to go for a couple of days because the last time we were there was more than 30 years ago.  That’s waaaaay more fun than dinner in a fancy restaurant in my books.

I am wondering…I put the wire laundry rack out on the lawn yesterday morning instead of the covered deck. We were having company and the deck isn’t really big enough to entertain on if the laundry is drying there, too. So I thought why not let it sit out in the bright sun. Maybe the whites will get whiter. Well, of course, it rained. And then it rained again. So I’m wondering now if the sun will be out long enough for it to all dry before the end of today. It looks promising so far…

Update from 5 minutes ago: a sun shower! At least the laundry will smell really really fresh, lol!

I am reading…The Sign, by Raymond Khoury. I don’t think I’ve read anything by him before. It’s a pretty good SF read and I’m enjoying it. I’ll read one of his other novels when I’m finished with this one.  It’s one I picked randomly off the shelf at the library. Those librarians are so clever, the way they stand books up at the ends of the rows just to entice me to take them home and read them, lol!

I’m also reading The Secret Life of Charlotte Dodd for one of my critique partners, Holly Kerr. It’s really cool to be a beta reader for a real working author. Man oh man, you’ve no idea how cool. Especially when she critiques my work in turn! Look for her books on Amazon!

I am hoping/I am looking forward to/the future holds… getting involved in some new things. We’ve lived here a year and a half now. I am hoping that I can start finding a place in the community now. I’d like to do some things this fall like get involved in a new quilting guild I found in Blind Bay. They are a fun group of ladies whose company I enjoyed the few times I met them last year. There’s also the Shuswap Quilters Guild which I got involved with last year and will probably continue with. BUT I really don’t want to become a middle-aged lady who only just quilts, ya know? So I want to learn line dancing, too. Problem, is, it meets on the same day/time as the Shuswap Quilt Guild. So I don’t know what I’ll do about that. And I’m once again considering teaching a dance class or two. And I might give the local writers group another shot. I wasn’t too impressed (didn’t feel welcome) when I tried last fall, but maybe they deserve a 2nd chance…I like to be involved in things.

I am learning…is there such a thing as an introverted extrovert? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what I am. And it feels a bit silly to still be figuring myself out at 54 years of age. Eee Gads.

Around the house…the radio is off for a change. The fridge is humming. the two wind-up clocks are ticking (cuckoo and mantle). A cool breeze is wafting through the curtain hanging in my door. The sounds of crickets and birds chirruping have made their way through the windows, which are wide open.

In the garden…zucchini!

I am pondering…a title for my work in progress. A novel needs a title, even if nobody but me and my critique partners will ever read it. I’ve gone just past 50,000 edited words now, and it feels like it’s time to give it a name. The one I’m contemplating is Holding Space. But Double Exposure is in close second place.

and also…is it time for a new banner on this blog?

A favorite quote for todaythink think thinkA few plans for the rest of the week…I don’t really want to have to DO anything, actually, but I’d like to look through my dress patterns and think about maybe making another shift dress.  And I’ll probably take advantage of Mr. C being busy at the airport for the next couple of days to do some writing. Lots of writing, actually.

A peek into my day…a bit of this, bit of that, some of the other thing.


Posted in The Simple Woman's Daybook | Tagged | 6 Comments

Trifle Dish Quilt

You must have guessed that I did some quilting during my recent 2 months visit in the Yukon, right?

Robinson Road House 3Well, of course I did…and I took some pictures, too. Enjoy!

bicycle I know what food will taste like when I get to heaven…it will taste like Dee’s trifle. So when the Moda Trifle Dish sew-along happened, I knew who I was going to make this for.

fox lake 2Each row was designed by a different Moda Bakeshop guest blogger. I found that to be a bit of a challenge…

robinson road house 4…because I had trouble getting them to all go together smoothly. I ended up adding or subtracting spacers between blocks, jigging things to get them to fit. But in the end, they did fit and I was pleased with the result.

ice cream shop 2Trifle is a sweet, old-fashioned dessert, so I decided to use sweet, old-fashioned 1930’s reproduction print fabrics, along with a variety of whites and a little bit of grey for the background. Everything came from my stash.

truck 2And speaking of sweet, old-fashioned, this truck belonged to Dee’s grandfather-in-law. Yes, this truck – the one right here in the picture! I think she’ll be surprised when she sees this photo, don’t you?

truckI added a row of decorator trim to the top edge to simulate whipped cream. Because, you know…trifle.

fox lake 3The backing is adorable! Look, it’s all baking items in lime green and bright pink! Dee is going to looooove it!!!

067Trifle Dish was hand quilted with a #10 John James needle and 40-weight ecru-coloured hand-quilting thread in a shell pattern. I did actually start to do it by machine, but then picked it all out and did it by hand instead. Crazy. I know.

train tracksI wanted the photos of this quilt to be meaningful to Dee, so some of the pictures were taken in Carcross, Yukon, where Dee’s in-laws hail from (Hi George! Hi Millie! Hi Donna & Heather!)

tutshiAnd guess what…so do mine! (Hi Cal & Norma!). Now you know it’s a small world when your good friend’s in-laws and your in-laws all come from the same place that has a population of under 300.

tiny cabinCarcross is the sweetest little teeny tiny town about an hour from Whitehorse, on the shore of the spectacular Bennett Lake. Keep going further down the South Klondike Highway and you’ll find yourself in Skagway, Alaska in about an hour.

mathew watson general storeI had some help, of course.

helpersOther pictures were taken at the Robinson Roadhouse…a historic site on the South Klondike Highway, half-way between Whitehorse and Carcross. A convenient place to stop and use the outhouse (because I take pride in knowing where all the outhouses are… Hello! Yukoner!)

Robinson Road House 2Pictures were also taken at our cabin on Fox Lake, because that is where Dee’s and my friendship takes place.

Fox LakeI mean, we’re friends wherever we are, of course. But here at Fox Lake is where the magic happens for us. Back in the day when we were full-time Yukoners, she and George used to come out on a Saturday afternoon. Dee would always bring her knitting or her sewing along, and would sit on the deck and have a good old-fashioned stitch & bitch while our guys fished off the dock or did whatever guys do together when they’re at the lake.

wild roseAll those good times were stitched into this quilt along with every delicious yummy bite of Dee’s trifle I ever ate.

hand quiltingThere ya go, Darling Dee. She’s all yours. :)

Posted in Cabin, fabric, Fox Lake, Friendship, Hand Quilting, Memories, Quilting, Quilts, Yukon | Tagged | 8 Comments

Watching the laundry dry

My favourite room in the house is my covered porch. It’s a living room, dining room, library and laundry room and solarium all rolled up into one special space. Today it’s the laundry room.

002I don’t have a clothes line yet. For now, I use a laundry rack. And I dry the sheets and towels over the railing. They benefit from a bit of solar bleaching, too.

001It smells really nice, sitting out here surrounded by the smell of fresh laundry drying in the sun. And it feels kind of cozy and secret, the way the sun filters through the cotton.

003Sitting here on the porch swing watching the laundry dry reminds me of being a little girl. I loved walking between the lines of damp laundry on the line, my hands trailing along the lines of cool drying sheets…a secret hide-away.

004Misty certainly isn’t complaining.

Do you have childhood memories of laundry drying on the line?

Posted in Cats, furry helpers, life, Memories, outdoors, Philosophy, Salmon Arm, Shuswap, Summer | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

DIY: a thrifty alternative to the screen door.

I love screen doors, but I hate having to open and close them all day long, every time a cat or a dog wants in. Or out. Or in again. Years ago I devised a solution…curtains instead of screens!


I love the way they waft in the breeze.

Dogs, cats & people go in and out as they please, all day long. Okay, a few bugs, too, but not too many. Not even enough to wrinkle your nose at.

014We needed a new one for the front door, so yesterday I went to the thrift store, spent $2.00 and came home with three lace curtain panels.

016The one I decided on for the front door wasn’t quite long enough, so this afternoon I sewed a sleeve from a fun pink and yellow print from my stash. The colour of happiness is pink (with yellow.) Did you know that?

013And because it’s so friggen hot today, I couldn’t be bothered to pull out my Janome and fuss with setting it up. All those cords, and a foot petal and all. Jeeze, Louise.   I used my pretty Singer hand crank instead.

009I like the way the pattern sort of mimics the lace. And I love the bright colour of the quilting cotton.

006Do you want to make one, too? Here’s how I did it: I used a tension rod on the inside of the door frame. An 8″ strip folded in half makes a generous sleeve. Be sure to leave at least an inch of space between the bottom of the curtain and the floor; otherwise, people and pets will step on it and pull it down. Don’t worry, it’ll still keep 99% of the bugs out.

021Voila! Beautiful and under $2.00. My little hippy heart is so happy! Take that, retirement budget!

Posted in Blog Categories, Crafts, Creativity, sewing, Thrifty | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

a Moneta Pas de Deux (a bit of Moneta Madness under the Midnight Sun)

So you thought I was just sitting around smelling the fresh air for the last two months in the Yukon, eh?


Actually, my friend Dee and I had a sewing date and we made matching Moneta dresses: a Moneta Pas de Deux!

017Dee came out to the cabin for a weekend and we sewed. It was a lot of fun. I’d brought my sewing machine up the highway with me, and we plugged it into the solar battery system.

018Dee brought this fabulous salmon & teal roses fabric to sew her dress. My eyes turned instant jealousy green as soon as I saw it. And then, O happy day! there was enough left over for me to piece a dress, too!

021I think I was a little rude about it, actually…I just sort of said, “I’ll take that!” when we saw how much was left over…

011I had to piece the back skirt piece, which is just fine. Nobody would ever know that it isn’t supposed to have a back seam.

012I graded the bodice pattern for both Moneta dresses that I’ve sewn from the L at the shoulders up to the XL at the waist, but the dress is still too big across the top of the shoulder. So I’m going to grade the bodice pattern on the next one…the M for the shoulders, grading up to the XL at the waist.

013the neck isn’t really as bad as it looks in this picture. I’m standing wonky or something. The neck doesn’t actually slip down quite that far when I’m wearing it around.  On the plus side…Pockets!

007Cheers to Dee for doing such a great job on her first time ever sewing stretchy, slippery, slithery ITY fabric!

bonesAnd since Dee and I live 1700 miles apart, we don’t have to worry about being caught in the same outfit, lol!



Love ya, girl.

Posted in Creativity, Friendship, Made by Me Clothing, me-made clothing, sewing | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments