Friday, 28 November 2014

The secret Lorna not very many people know

The other day, as is my wont, I sent a “bread and butter note” to a friend for inviting us over for a meal, as I do believe in the grand Anglican tradition of sending thank you notes. However, I now use electronic cards — tastefully provided by Jacqui Lawson. Imagine my surprise when I chose a card, composed a thoughtful message, and then hit “send” only to find a red notification at the top of J-Law’s web-site that my planned recipient no longer accepts electronic cards.

Well, that set my back on my heels, not to mention plunged me into the morass of my hurt feelings.

I got to thinking does this person really receive so many cards on a daily basis that they are irredeemably clogging their inbox? Couldn’t my friend, like a few of my other recipients, just decline to open the card and quietly delete it?

Or are they receiving cards only from me and do not want to get them, but for some reason don’t want to tell me directly? Why would they not courteously let me know in advance!

Or is it all a mistake? Might they inadvertently changed a cookie or some other arcane mysterious inner working on their computer? Maybe they don’t even know the e-cards are being blocked.

Or maybe they just don’t want electronic cards and I shouldn’t take it personally? I try so hard to take the high road and be polite, sympathetic and endlessly forgiving when I really thoroughly enjoy being sarcastic, judgmental, superior, and hurt. Really, what is wrong with me?? Or what is wrong with that!

I suppose partly it is so easy to be witty and sarcastic, but it is not so easy to be witty and kind. I like being witty. Being witty is revenge in words and it’s often very funny (to me anyway).

So I say to myself and my significant other (who is the soul of patience and must think I am the worst person in the world), “When I get a paper card from my friend, maybe I’ll return it and write on the envelope, the recipient doesn’t accept paper cards anymore.” So there!

I won’t really do that, of course, just think about doing it. Why is it so important to me to access my sniffy little prissy self? I suppose recognizing I have an S.L.P.S. is a good thing. I can stand back from my little Slips and observe it/her/them without inflicting the results on others.

Maybe it’s good to balance one’s good behaviour outwardly to the world with a little dose of bad behaviour inwardly. A lot of my life seems to spent being a good, kind, sympathetic person when I really just want to say, “Oh, give me a break” and be as judgmental as all get out!

All this mental stewing  reminds me of St. Paul’s words to the Romans: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.(7:15)” Except that in my case, I keep the thing I hate under wraps and don’t actually do it, but I do let it fester. 

However, in a sidebar to that on-line quotation was this one from Ecclesiastes 7, “All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, I will be wise, but it was far from me.” Well, that seems to sum me up even more accurately.

So I sent my friend a nice paper note with a nice message, and one day I’ll get up enough courage to ask them about what happened around blocking electronic cards. It will be the mature, sensible, kind thing to do!

( ... although possibly not as much fun...)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Rock on!

The last time I wrote, I had just finished getting the path cut out and spread with mulch. I decided not to use plastic sheeting under the mulch because it felt too slippery.  Admittedly the grass and weeds will grow through, but I leave that for next year.

There is still lots of mulch to spread if needed: 

My next challenge was to make sure the path was visible even if choked with weeds. Thanks to our friends on Howe Point Road, we found someone with rocks to spare.  Several trips  down the road to her place, and we had enough to begin outlining the paths:

The shot below shows the geometric and what is called the geomantic centre of the labyrinth. The geomantic centre is what is decided upon as the best place for the labyrinth design to start. There is an element of divination in deciding upon the correct place (more on that later). It is the rock in the centre of the picture where the path ends.

The geometric centre is the centre which is the result of having built the labyrinth around the geomantic centre.  It is the oddly shaped (sort of a blob with four arms) at the lower centre of the photo wherein sit the two flat rocks. 

At least I think is the case. I am unclear about this and may have them backwards, as I tend to be a bit dyslexic. If I can get something backwards, I inevitably will. Corrections welcome if kindly stated. 

I am referring to what I read in this web-site about how to design a seven-circuit labyrinth:

Anyhow, I will leave augury for a later blog. 

This will finish as much of the labyrinth as we can do for this year. What I would like to do eventually is to plant wild flowers along the path between the stones. As you can see things quickly become tousled.

For reasons which remain opaque to me, Greg really enjoyed harvesting and placing the stones. It was heavy work. Some mysteries are just as well left that way especially if one wants to have the same behaviour repeated at a subsequent time ...

Off he goes to pick up another load:

Later on, we planted three daffodil bulbs in each of the 28 holes I had dug around the perimeter of the labyrinth. They will make a great spring-time display, that is unless the skunks dig them up in the interim. Not shown here is the sprinkling of moth balls I provided as a discouragement to more uprooting. The skunks don't eat the bulbs; they just hurl them over to the side with what I imagine is skunk disdain for their not being grubs.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

More about the labyrinth: the sod-cutter cometh

I spent some time mulling over how on earth to make the labyrinth permanent — but without spending a lot of money.  Labyrinths can cost into the six-figure range and even higher, as you can see by clicking on to this link:

My preferences fell into the under-$1,000 range. After a wide-ranging Internet exploration, I was taken with the labyrinth at the convent of  the Sisters of St. John the Divine in Willowdale, Ontario. I walked it one chilly day in winter several years ago while on a retreat.  In fact, I wrote a poem about it earlier in this blog.

Here is a picture of their 11-circuit labyrinth. The path is a bit too narrow for my liking, but the mulch works well, and I like the rocks.


This is the URL for a description of how the sisters constructed their labyrinth:

When I consulted with Rick, our landscaper, about how to make the paths of the labyrinth permanent, he had a few suggestions that seemed to fit the bill and one that, as it turned out, didn't.  

He recommended using an 18-inch sod cutter to remove about two inches of thatched grass and roots. On top of the newly scalped path would go a layer of mulch to squelch the weeds.

The question was how much mulch. I determined the diameter of the labyrinth, and then Rick estimated six cubic yards would fill the path. As it turned out, we have some to spare but better than not having enough.

So this is how it all played out: First of all, the heavy equipment arrived. The young guy is trundling the sod cutter off the trailer.

The dump truck backed down to the labyrinth; six cubic yards seems ... well ... a lot;  we won't run out for a while!

Down it went into a handy pile: 

I suggested starting to cut the sod first from the centre and then going outwards would be easiest, as the turns would get progressively less tight. Also, they would end up with the cutter in the open not in the middle of a series of trenches to bump over in order to extricate it. However, after providing them with this illuminating advice, I left them to their own devices. Men seem to appreciate that.

There is no doubt that lifting sod is heavy work

Eventually, using the wheelbarrows got too onerous, and the front loader was brought in to help haul the sod bits to the sod pile. 

When this all breaks down, I'll have some really great compost.

This is what the finished path was like. We plan on putting rocks beside it. Fortunately there are a lot of rocks on PEI. More on that later. 

It felt good to walk the labyrinth. You may be wondering if I ever change my gardening clothes. The answer is no. You may also be wondering what I was carrying. It was a piece of plastic, which Rick felt we should put under the mulch to deter the weeds.

I experimented with  the plastic sheeting, but it felt very slippery underfoot. We have an endless supply of mulch, so adding more next spring might be the better plan. As a result, I decided not to use it after all. We now have the rest of a box of house wrap for our as-yet-to-be-built garden shed.

Next step was spreading the mulch. This necessitated buying a wheel barrow. I digress, but I may fill you in later, as this decision is a story in itself.

Anyhow, next time I would take a look at the mulch before buying it sight unseen. This has a few too many sticks in it, but frugal soul that I am, I will separate them  for use as kindling.

It took me about four or five  hours, spread over as many days, to carry and spread the mulch. This is our handy light-weight, two-wheel wheelbarrow.

I am not sure if I have spread it thickly enough but I have used trial and error as my modus operandi successfully so far, so we shall see. 

The next challenge will be what to do about the rocks for the edge of the path. 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

I play with grass clippings

When I was a child, I loved making leaf houses in the fall. Little did I know that my talents in that direction would be useful again decades later. 

Once the mowers had cut the large circle in the field for the labyrinth, I had to decide where to place it inside that area  and then  get it "drawn" on the ground.  Here is the tiny slip of paper which was the road map. If you look carefully you can see where I have put dots indicating where to start the next line. Without the dots, the whole thing began to run together and swim before my eyes, so this one little addition was an invaluable help.

There are many ways to temporarily outline a labyrinth. You can use corn meal, that orange spray paint used to mark hydro and telephone lines, or even a stick drawn through the sand on a beach, just to name a few. I debated what to use, as I wanted to be able to change things easily if I miscalculated. Paint and cornmeal were therefore out. I had asked the mowers to leave the grass clippings in a pile in the centre, and I went from there. 

The first thing was to determine the diameter of the finished labyrinth. I decided on an 18" wide path with about six  inches for the boundary. That was about two feet, multiplied by seven for the circuits, then  multiplied by two to give the diameter: about 28 feet across

The rake was conveniently long, and I used it to measure off the general area on the mown grass. I was not too fussy about absolute accuracy — more about that in a subsequent blog.

Then I had to determine the initial layout or seed pattern: the cross-shape, the four L-shapes and the dots. Here is a sketch I just made. It's large enough to see the shapes. It is very important to get this right, as the whole rest of the design flows from this.

Making this configuration on the ground took a little bit of trial and error before I was happy with it. I am very concrete mathematically speaking. I had to try it out and see how it looked. (Glad I was not in Egypt when they built the pyramids or in medieval Europe with the Gothic cathedrals). 

By coincidence, the rock at the centre of the cross piece looks like a face. I thought this was a bit spooky but kind of cool. It bespeaks ancient wisdom perhaps.

So here is the cross piece: 

Now I have added the L-shapes, in such a way as to allow for an 18" path and, of course, the 6" boundary of grass clippings:

And finally,  the dots:

The distance between the dot and the L should allow for an 18" path. As I've noted, the windrow of grass gives about a 6" boundary:

It occurred to me that I could lose track of this original "seed" template once I got going with all the circuits, since the grass would just blend in, so I decided to use rocks to mark the sixteen points. The rocks are the green blobs  numbered from one to 16 in the drawing below:

We had accumulated a pile of rocks I'd gathered from the lawn periodically last summer before it was seeded. I had  saved them thinking they could be useful someday, and lo and behold they were:

Nice to have a strong person around to do the heavy lifting!

So here are the rocks placed at the ends of the cross-piece and the L's, and on top of the dots:

Here I have joined the first rock to the second and have started to join the 16th to the third. I kept checking my little slip of paper to make sure I was doing it correctly. 

Here I have begun the next circuit, heading from 15, just out of the picture to 4:

Now 15 to 4 is complete; at the right, you can see where I started to go a bit off-track before making the needed correction:

I checked now and again to make sure the path was close to 18" in width. This was a bit too wide. Fortunately, with grass clippings, all I had to do was rake them where I wanted them.

And around it went. Once I got the hang of it, I enjoyed the rhythm.  However, I kept checking to make sure I was joining the circuits properly.

The whole process took several hours, but I enjoyed it! Here is the finished template. Stay tuned: the next step is to make it more permanent.

Below, I have posted a link showing a faster way (15 minutes)  to do the same thing. Mind you, the preparation for the 15 minutes is so complicated it would have driven me crazy trying to get it right.

Also,  it seems overly mechanical: almost too fast and efficient. Joining things "by hand" felt more organic and I just felt good while raking it; it morphed into a sort of odd dance (start, go around, join, go back, then repeat getting wider and wider). The labyrinth came together little by little rather than all at once and as if by too swift magic. I guess I like my magic slow.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Mowing the labyrinth area happens unexpectedly

I am not sure why I decided to make a labyrinth. Mostly I just wondered if I actually could. I would like to think I had a deeper purpose. I probably do, but I am not good at articulating that sort of thing. Concrete practicalities are where I shine.

The first thing I did was to decide where it was to be. Putting it in the lawn would have inconvenienced the lawn mowers to no end, and it would have to be a very spiffy, well-kept version. That required too much maintenance from me as well.

I had no idea lawn mowing was such an exact science. The zen of mowing kicks in too, I've heard.

I tramped around the field for awhile musing. The marker shows where we planted our $10 sugar maple tree. In a few years it will be visible above the grass and in the meantime I didn't want it to be accidentally mowed.

This was taken back in June. Now the tree is no longer visible. Golden rod has replaced the dandelions. 

So  I made a sketch, which shows the two existing paths, which join up further down the slope and end up at the water's edge. I liked the idea of coming upon a labyrinth in the wilderness, as it were.

This shows the view from the back of the cottage and the Friendly Giant's grave aka veggie garden.

Steering well clear of our maple seedling, I placed two markers at what would be the tentative  entrance to the labyrinth area and then four more outlining the circumference to which I tied plastic bags  so they could be seen:

Going down a path to a path seems like fun to me; here is where it will go.

It seemed no sooner had I arranged with our lawn-mowing company to do this work, than the mowers arrived. I was pleasantly surprised. I showed the  foreman my little sketch of the work to be done and brought him up to speed about the meaning and purpose of labyrinths. He looked a bit taken aback, but I figured he simply had not done a lot of labyrinth preparation. He was right into it and suggested using corn to mark the side of the path, as someone had done this effectively in another part of the island. This struck me as a good idea especially as we could later eat the cobs, a strategy that seemed to surprise him for reasons which still puzzle me. In any event, he went ahead and made the initial big circle:

I love those little mowers; they buzz around like hummingbirds.

The labyrinth project gets off to a good start. This is the first circuit.

However, several hours later,  a large truck appeared towing a flat bed trailer on which was a much  larger piece of heavier equipment. I watched as a large burly guy with a shaven head approached the deck where I was standing.   I wondered why the crew had returned. It turned out they hadn't.  It was a different burly bald fellow  Seems the first crew had been there only for the weekly mow.  This explained Burly One's demeanour; I  must admit his sangfroid in the face of what must have been surprising information was impressive.

This job in the field apparently required heavy-duty bush-hogging, hence the new guy and the impressive equipment. I told him his twin had done a very careful job with the smaller mower, which seemed to be still in fine shape upon departure. After a few moments' conversation about other things, which is de rigeur down here,  Burly Two then departed. He seemed slightly disappointed. He told me his next job was to help move some cottager's newly purchased 400-pound statue to a different place on his property.

Of all the crackpot schemes.