Friday, August 29, 2014

Ralph's Romas

I talk to my garden as I work in it... and imagine it might be funny for someone on the other side of the fence to hear me tell my strawberries to stop hiding when it's time to be picked, or explain to the pumpkins that they shouldn't be taking over the broad beans' patch. This week, they might have laughed to hear me exclaim over Ralph's tomatoes!

Ralph's banana tomatoes
Ralph is my Italian friend who lives about a block from me. Last fall, he gave me some plums and grapes from his yard, and I gave him some pears. His lovely wife, Lydia, poured me a glass of orange juice and we had a lovely visit at their kitchen table. Ralph told me that he had grown a seven-foot zucchini that put him on TV and in the papers some years ago, and showed me a five-foot one hanging from a vine on his greenhouse. We had a nice visit, and he promised me some cuttings from his grape vines in the spring.

So this spring, I went back to visit Ralph and get the grape cuttings, which are now doing quite well in my yard. I took him two of my heirloom tomato plants, and he gave me two banana tomato plants in return, and a few weeks later, two more plants that are now known as 'Ralph's Romas.' I suspect both are heirloom varieties that Ralph brought with him from Italy back in the '50s.

So I've been watching Ralph's Romas and bananas growing this summer, but I was paying more attention to the banana tomatoes because I've had Romas for years... and last night, when I was checking to see if any of the Romas were ripening, I got the surprise of my life. I knew there was one big one on there, and I told it, "Look at you, you're huge." It is -- the size of two of my fists held together. But then I peeked further under the plant and exclaimed, "Holy ....!!!" Hidden behind the big one was the mother of all tomatoes, the largest I've ever been able to grow, so big I can't get two hands around it.

Ralph's Romas
It seems Ralph's Romas don't want to let his zucchini put them to shame or something. I'll save seed from the monster/mother tomato, and make a whole pot of spaghetti sauce from it, I suspect. I'm guessing my rather ordinary heirloom tomato plants have no power to impress the Tomato and Zucchini King! But life isn't about impressing people... though his tomato varieties have impressed me! Thanks, Ralph!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The garden takes over my life

Twin squash! And more where they all came from!
Online moodling gets erratic when the garden is doing things like this. For the last few evenings, it's been processing time. Tonight I worked on pickles, jams, zucchinis and beans. There are already two pails of tomatoes in my freezer waiting to be turned into spaghetti sauce. I haven't even looked at the kale, broad beans, and beets, and the spaghetti squash is a story unto itself! In short, the garden has outdone itself this year, and I'm struggling to keep up. (Mom and Dad K., shall we bring you some spaghetti squash? Anything else??)

Even as I deal with produce, there's plenty of moodling going on in my head... and I promise, once the garden has been cleared out, more than video clips will appear here... Watch this space.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Some unusual Vivaldi on a Sunday

This past week, my wonderful mother-in-law sent me a link to Beethoven's 5th Symphony as rendered by a group called Carmel-A-Cappella (a fun name, don't you think? I like saying it with the emphasis misplaced, CarMELa CapPELLa, though I'm sure that's incorrect.) I was amazed by the video Mom sent, and thought I might share it via these moodlings... but then I did a little snooping around and found out a bit about Carmel-A-Cappella...

They're from Haifa, Israel, and they sing all sorts of a cappella music -- everything from Mozart to the Muppet's Theme. Here's a different video for Mom to enjoy -- a unique version of Vivaldi's Spring from the Four Seasons, which I find even more amazing because of the variety of vocalizations these women come up with. I can hear the birdsong the composer was trying to emulate even more clearly in these voices than in the strings on classical recordings, can't you? I suspect Antonio Lucio Vivaldi would be delighted! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

More non-violence, please

My journey into the practice of Voluntary Simplicity began with a weekend workshop entitled "Simplicity and Non-violence," led by Mark A. Burch. It focused on the meaning of voluntary simplicity and how it necessarily involves a deep commitment to non-violence. If we really want to keep our one and only beautiful planet in decent shape for future generations, we need to do our utmost to ensure that the choices we make now aren't harming the lives of others in the great web of life within which we are just one tiny part.

But human beings have become too accustomed to thinking of ourselves as the top of the food chain or the pinnacle of creation or whatever other superiority-complex phrase comes to mind... and as a result, our world is full of violence of many different kinds: social, spiritual, physical, racial, international... and on it goes. I've had my fill of it on the news lately. That's why I was delighted to run across this video of Julia Bacha, a film maker who is onto something. We need to focus on the planet's non-violent leaders and empower them wherever we can if we truly want to make a difference in a world weighed down by international media that focuses on sensational violence rather than those who are quietly making a difference and winning in more positive ways. Perhaps then the non-violent will be able to actually convert oppressors to working for the common good.

Julia Bacha says it much better than I do in this eleven-minute TED video.

How do you support non-violence in your life? In the weeks ahead, I'm going to look out for things that I can do to reduce violence by my choices... If you have any to share, I'd love to hear them! Really! (It's been a while since anyone left a comment...)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Simple Suggestion #212... Meet a farmer or two...

I've taken a long break from my Simple Suggestions for making life easier on the planet and us, but I'm a long way from running out of them! They just keep coming, fast and furious, and I could probably post several a day... but my friend SuperSu does that already on Twitter (you can find her by clicking here), and besides, with various beds in the garden demanding the hands of a harvester, I don't have enough time for dealing with all that produce plus moodling AND tweeting! (Besides, I've never really gotten into Twitter much...)

Here's a suggestion for Albertans this weekend -- it's Open Farm Days August 23rd and 24th -- the weekend that farmers welcome visitors to meet them and learn about their operations and the local production of the food we eat. This video made my mouth water a few times... and has me hoping to spend Sunday visiting a few farms.

For more information, check out And if you're not from Alberta, check around and see if there isn't something similar in your neck of the woods. You might be happily surprised!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A harvest psalm

Evans cherries --
Thanks to my sisters for letting us pick!
You, O God,
are generous
beyond our understanding,
and abundant in love
beyond our belief.
We give you thanks
for the richness
and goodness of your creation
with which we have been blessed.
Help us to appreciate
the wealth in our midst
and put it to good use,
that we cannot lay claim to anything
except to share it
with those who hunger and thirst.
We praise you
for the abundance of your lavish love,
and we ask that it flow through us
to those who need it the most.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Happiness is...

... the first bowl of our own strawberries.
I had to wear full combat gear in order to wrestle these away from the mosquitoes.
Only made them sweeter!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August garden report

It strikes me today that I haven't given a single garden report this summer for faraway family and friends. I'm almost afraid to because so many people I know have been hailed out, and it could happen here just as easily with global climate change creating these mega storms all over the place. But I braved the crazy mosquitoes to get these shots, so I won't be superstitious that this moodling will bring on bad weather. Here's what's going on in my yard, pictures in the order they were taken because I'm too hot to fuss about the order they're in...

Red peppers are still green...
Zinnias add a little colour...
My new favourite heirloom tomato, a Black Prince
(definitely a fruit, it's so sweet!)
Time to make some kale chips, yum!
Cukes are coming on fast and furious...
Strawberries are bigger than ever...
Squash and pumpkins are trying to take over the world...
I've never grown purple peas before (thanks for the seed, Darcy!)...
Carrots are doing well...
As are kohlrabi and beets...
Between Suzanna's herbs and Julia's tomatoes,
I think we might have some tasty bruschetta for supper tonight.
Already picked 4 gallons of beans, and there are more to come...
My favourite zinnias...
Cheerful heliopsis (false sunflower) near the front door...
Love those little monk's hoods...

And finally, the view from our "sitting stone." Unfortunately, if you sit very long, you have too many unwanted companions (mosquitoes). But I did sit and watch the bee balm's visitors (it's not named that for nothing!) until I got bitten. 

I guess that's the thing about organic gardens -- all creatures, great and small, are welcome! You included. Come visit, anytime!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

DANCING on water...

Every time the gospel of Jesus walking on the water comes around, I'm afraid I zone out of what's happening at church and return to a favourite memory.

Some years ago, our family attended a production of The Cotton Patch Gospel -- sub-titled "The Greatest Story Ever Re-told." Basically, it's a bluegrass musical of the life of Christ set in the 1960s in Georgia. I'm not joking. It was performed at the Rosebud Theatre in Rosebud, AB, by five men with a lot of talent, each of them acting several different roles, singing close harmonies and playing different instruments.

The memory that distracts me from homilies and other goings on at mass is the scene from the production where Jesus, standing stage left, invites Peter, standing in the boat on on the stage right, to step over the side and come to him. But Jesus doesn't just invite Peter. He dances a little jig on the water, halfway across the stage to the boat and back to The Sailor's Hornpipe that he's playing on his banjo.

Of course, Peter and the disciples are astounded, mouths hanging open. So Jesus dances a little more, and a couple of the disciples get into the spirit, instruments kicking in as Jesus starts jigging and reeling to beat the band, reaching an arm out to Peter, encouraging him to join the dance. Peter's internal "Do-I-or-don't-I?" doesn't last long as Jesus, smiling broadly, steps up the pace. Cautiously, Peter climbs over the side, feels the water's solidity with one foot, then the other, straightens up, takes a tentative step away from the boat, and then a few more, as Jesus jigs a circle around him.

Before you know it, the two have joined hands and their feet are flying as they dance all over the "water" in a jubilant and rather hilarious parody of Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance. The disciples are cheering and Peter is grinning wider and wider as he and Jesus sail about... and in the midst of everything, Jesus lets go to do a little dance solo to a bit of Duelling Banjos -- at the end of which he puts out his arms in an "over to you, Peter." So Peter gives 'er, clearly having the time of his life... until he realizes, like a cartoon character hanging in mid-air before falling down the Grand Canyon, that something isn't right. You can see him thinking, "Jesus is... way over there?? I'm dancing on water?? Isn't this impossible?? I don't know how to swim!!" And Peter sinks (plunges off the edge of the stage) and flounders until Jesus dances over, pulls him up, and walks his spluttering friend back to the boat.

No wonder I can't help but smile when I hear the reading... and think about how Jesus invites us all to trust, we of little faith. Only now I can't think so much about walking on water... If Jesus, the one who invites us to live life to the fullest, could walk on water, why wouldn't he dance? All I know is I wanna dance with Jesus, too!

It's been a while since I've had a jigging and reeling fix, so here's little one I just remembered -- Canada's own Natalie McMaster... and some very special guests. So cute!!! Happy Walking/Dancing on Water Sunday!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The horrors of war on the France/Belgium Border

The only part of this summer's vacation that I haven't moodled about is the time we spent at Vimy Ridge in France and Ypres (Ieper) in Belgium. We chose to visit them because we wanted our girls to get a sense of war and its effects, so we left Paris a day early, and Belgium a day late.

Vimy Ridge is the site of an important WWI battlefield where Canadian troops succeeded in defeating the German forces along a seven kilometer front. A white marble monument now stands at Hill 145, the highest point of the area. Canadian troops spent months preparing for an attack which took place on April 9, 1917 by digging underground tunnels through which they reached and overran the German front. Though the assault was a success, 3,598 Canadians were killed, and over 7,000 were wounded. The names of 11, 285 Canadians who lost their lives in France and have no known graves are engraved on the sides of the Vimy monument.

While the monument itself is an amazing and inspiring thing, war is not. At Vimy we were able to walk down into the tunnels under the trenches, and I shivered to think about all those young men who waited in silence in the dark for many hours, knowing that at 5:30 am on April 9th, they would be expected to run up the tunnels to the German front and bayonet anyone they found alive after a two day shelling, and possibly be killed themselves. 

At the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, there were many displays and videos telling the stories of soldiers and officers as well as ordinary citizens who became refugees during the worst days of the First World War. There were rather graphic displays of war wound x-rays and artistic representations of what it feels like to be injured in battle, with figures composed only of skeletal spinal cords with broken, disconnected jaw bones and naked eye balls moving around.

After a couple of hours in the museum's gloomy atmosphere, where so much destruction and loss was made evident, one of my daughters said she'd had enough. I wondered at the war video games our youth play and whether they'd be so popular if the kids had any sense of the reality of war. Pictures of the beautiful buildings in Ypres' town square ablaze and reduced to rubble made me wonder how we can bear to sit still as the same kinds of things happen in Palestine, Syria, Central Africa, and other war torn places around the world. When will human beings learn that militaristic power and fear don't bring about the kind of necessary change that compassion can?
Canada Bereft
The great wars fought in Europe have forever marred the landscape and the collective consciousness of those who live where the battles raged and those who lost loved ones to conflict. Monuments like Vimy Ridge and the Meningate in Ypres where The Last Post is played every night almost run the risk of romanticizing and glorifying large-scale human conflicts. But the In Flanders Fields Museum did an amazing job of showing the human cost of war, and the many war cemeteries carved into the farmland in Northern France and the Flanders region of Belgium are constant reminders that war is not glorious, but horrible, as are the very human stories and statistics from present day war torn regions.

A field of unknown soldiers
We owe it to future generations to ensure that they get the message that war and military might are not to be glorified, but abhorred.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday reflection: The many guises of God

Yesterday, my husband and I attended the 50th wedding anniversary celebrations of the parents of a dear friend. Mina's dad and mom, Mukund and Mrudula, were married just a few weeks after mine were back in 1964, and they are celebrating big birthdays this year as well, so it was time for a party.

And a lovely party it was, held at the Hindu Society of Alberta. We arrived in time for icecream, and then settled ourselves at the puja, where Mrudula and Mukund were seated on a platform at the front, participating in the prayer with the priest. I didn't understand what was being said, but could imagine that with every rose petal they tossed, they were giving thanks for their blessings to God -- whose many aspects were portrayed in the statues and pictures adorning the walls and altars all around us. Toward the end of the celebration, everyone stood and sang a song together to the rhythm of drum and bell, and tears came to my eyes. The smiling statues and bright colours of the saris worn by the women around me were beautiful, and I couldn't help but think that God is beauty, generosity, and goodness in all guises. The welcome and hospitality of the Gujarati community yesterday was a clear sign of God's presence in our world, and the food was heavenly!

And as much as Westerners would like to think that Christianity has it all, being in the Hindu temple yesterday reminded me that there are faiths that go back much further than Christianity, and which address our human need to understand and give thanks for the blessings of life. But no single religion can express the fullness of God, which is why the human family has so many expressions of faith. And if they are about love and kindness and non-violence and making the world a better place, they're all good!

Thanks to Mukund and Mrudula for including us in their celebration. May God in Her and His many guises bless them and their family, and give them many more years of happiness together.