A Return to my Salad Days

When I first moved away from my parents’ home in the 1990s, I spent a summer buying basic household items at eastern Ontario yard sales. Dinnerware, mixing bowls, a giant sunflower print … and cookbooks. Nearly all these things are long gone—the giant sunflower print, having hung in various narrow apartment kitchens and then in our basement stairwell, finally went out to curbside a few months ago after a quarter century of service—but I still have two of the first cookbooks I ever bought: Anne Lindsay’s Smart Cooking (1986) and her follow-up, Lighthearted Everyday Cooking (1991).

In the eighties and nineties, Anne Lindsay was a Canadian household name. A longtime home economist and food writer for numerous Canadian publications who was named to the Order of Canada in 2003, she partnered first with the Canadian Cancer Society and, later, the Heart and Stroke Foundation to produce cookbooks featuring healthy recipes geared to reducing diet-related disease risks. In keeping with the understandings of the era, the recipes were lower in fat than many contemporary recipes—although, as Lindsay herself has noted, they were not usually low fat. Lindsay’s balanced approach to fats was a prescient choice, given subsequent medical research finding that a balanced intake of carbohydrates, proteins and unsaturated fats is the cornerstone of a healthy diet.

My interest in Anne Lindsay’s cookbooks was not so much dietary (although in those days I was, like most young women of my generation, usually trying to lose weight) as being about developing a basic recipe repertoire.  I did, of course, like that the recipes were healthy, but even more than that, I appreciated that they were simple and unadorned. They used ingredients that even I, on a grad student budget, and living in an area with limited grocery options, could find and afford.

Two of the early recipes I learned from Anne Lindsay remain standards in my household: chick-pea salad with red onion and tomato (from Smart Cooking), and red bean salad with feta and peppers (from Lighthearted Everyday Cooking). After all these years I no longer need to consult the cookbooks to make these salads, but for some reason I almost always haul the books out and prop them open on the counter. I have adulterated both recipes over the years (I add avocado and often fusilli to the chick-pea salad, and always make the red bean salad with red cabbage and dried hot peppers) but they remain essentially as Anne Lindsay intended them: straightforward, healthy, and delicious.

Earlier this week while out running errands, I stopped in at a thrift store  to look at (among other things) the cookbooks. Among dozens of discarded paleo, vegan and celebrity cookbooks (one can always trace the downward trajectory of dietary fads and celebrity chefs’ careers by the appearance of their related cookbooks in thrift stores) was a ‘new’ Anne Lindsay cookbook: Lighthearted at Home (2010). I pulled it out and assessed the book, wondering whether it was worth adding to my already burgeoning cookbook library.

Unlike a lot of the cookbooks I see (and buy) these days, Lighthearted at Home is not filled with glossy food-porn pictures. The recipes are plain and unadorned. But as I flipped through the book (at 486 pages it’s a hefty compendium), a feeling of something like solid familiarity filled me. “I could make this for dinner tonight!” I said about one recipe after another. “I already have all these ingredients in the fridge!” So with real regret I put Crissy Teigen’s Cravings back on the shelf and brought Anne Lindsay home instead.

I must pause here to note that I love fancy food-porn cookbooks. I love their glossy pictures. I love the long preambles to the recipes. I love the stories about how the recipes came to be, especially when they involve travel to the south of France or anecdotes about the author’s Kurdish grandmother. I love hearing about the glittering dinner parties where these dishes have held centre stage. I love to imagine the glittering dinner parties at which I will serve all these delectable dishes.

The problem is that between Covid lockdowns and three years of 24/7 caregiving to someone with dementia, there haven’t been a lot of dinner parties in my life lately. The days when we catered our own wedding reception, and hosted midsummer garden parties for years thereafter—those days are long past.

It’s tempting, now that the pandemic is over, and with our elder in long term care, and especially after having redone our dining room, to send out invites, plan table settings—and haul out the most lavish recipes I can find.

But I’m busy, and tired, and sometimes think I’ve forgotten how to cook food. Real food, not the delicious but hours-long effort of making, say, the Barefoot Contessa‘s roasted eggplant parmesan (worth every minute, by the way). Real food, not hot dogs and Caesar salad, which were the only foods we could get my mother-in-law to eat in the last months before she went into long term care. Real food I could make for dinner any night, without a great deal of fuss—real food I could even make tonight. Anne Lindsay’s cookbooks fit the bill perfectly.

Tonight, for example, I am going to make pasta with sweet peppers, cheese and basil from Lighthearted at Home. It’s a simple, straightforward, healthy recipe that doesn’t take long to prepare, of the sort one could make any weeknight while casting about for something to cook. It reminds me of the recipes and ingredients included in meal delivery kits (which may well crib their offerings from cookbooks like this one). It’s almost a stretch to call it a recipe: just pasta, some vegetables, some cheese, olives, and some herbs. Lindsay recommends serving this dish with broccoli or green beans; I think it would also be great with chicken on the side. I think this dish would also be excellent as next-day leftovers chilled in the fridge, by which point it would be more like a salad (I have a thing for salads, in case this is not already obvious, and am happy to call almost any chilled leftover a salad if it has any vegetable matter in it at all).

No, it’s not exciting. But this dish, this cookbook, and Lindsay’s entire oeuvre, is ideal for when you are either starting out and don’t know what to eat, or have been making dinners for so many years you’ve run out of ideas, or have glutted yourself on so much food porn you’ve forgotten how to cook the basics.

Update: Here’s tonight’s dinner! I wilted in some fresh spinach greens, because I love spinach and throw a few handfuls of it into just about everything. I also stirred some dried hot pepper flakes (from Apache peppers grown in our garden) in with the onions while they sautéed. I should have saved a cup of pasta water to stir in for extra creaminess. And maybe poured in a glug of red wine vinegar, just to take Lindsay’s recipe, already half Greek with the feta and Kalamata olives, the rest of the way (and, if so, I would substitute oregano for the basil).

This is the great thing about this kind of recipe: you can add or substitute ingredients to suit your preferences (Lindsay encourages this very thing) but always have, at base, a solid recipe you can count on to get something good to the table any night of the week.

The Changing of the Clocks

swamp milkweed

Unusually this year, although I had made a note in the calendar, I forgot that the clocks ‘fell back’ an hour overnight. It was about 10:30—er, 9:30—before I looked at a digital clock this morning and realized our daughter, whom we’d hounded out of bed already exhausted from the first day of her Bronze Medallion qualification course, still had an extra hour to get ready for swim.

The extra hour is illusory, of course: a reminder that there is always a cost to playing with Chronos. An extra hour on a November morning is lovely, but by mid-afternoon one looks up at the clock, thinking it must be getting on to dinnertime, maybe even bedtime, and is dismayed to see how many more miles hours there are left to go before sleep.

As I write this it is 5:15 pm, and outside it is at the tail end of twilight—as close to dark as it might be at 9:30 pm at midsummer—and this makes me feel as if rather than gaining an hour with the changing of the clocks, we’ve actually lost about four.

These lost hours are what propel us toward hibernation, or at least carbohydrates and cozy mysteries. We turn inward, measuring the hours by midnight snowfalls and mugs of cocoa, and remain that way until New Years’ resolutions and the blinding January sunlight drive us out of our dens.

With the coming winter in mind, I went out today and, in the bleary November sunlight, put the gardens at the circle park to bed. Yesterday my excellent neighbour and I planted about 100 bulbs as a springtime surprise to our community, and today I mulched the beds with fallen leaves, swept the walks, and communed with the native plants tucking themselves in for winter.

Swamp milkweed pods
habitat logs

I am so pleased with what we accomplished this year at the circle park. In April the park was barren, much of its soil compressed into hardpan. In a single growing season we have transformed much of it into a living green space, replete with native flowering plants buzzing with insects. But I think the real measure of the park’s progress has been its late-season appearance–seed-heads bursting with promise, habitat logs settling into the soil, fallen leaves laid down like a blanket. It looks like a healthy woodland, a place possessed of its own sense of time, whose rhythms are closer akin to Kairos rather than to any arbitrary changing of the clocks.

Treasures from the Victoria College Book Sale, 2023 Edition

Every September my pulse quickens as book sale season rolls around. Book sale season is, of course, the time of year when the University of Toronto’s colleges hold fundraising sales—collectively known as Bibliomania—to support their libraries and other college projects. The books are donated, and include castoffs and sometimes entire collections from Toronto’s bookish set—university faculty, readers, writers: anyone who loves the printed word but finds a need to cull a few shelves. The sales are massive and attract huge crowds, particularly on opening day when the lineups even before opening can be hundreds of people long.

I started attending the UofT book sales as a grad student, and became a regular while working on a Toronto-focused research project. When my daughter was a newborn 15 years ago, I brought her into the Victoria College book sale in a chest carrier, and jostled with her down the aisles while wondering how many books I could stuff into the stroller I’d checked outside. Quite a few, it turns out, although I remember it listing a little on the subway.

These days I look for two kinds of books: domestic manuals, decor guides, and old cookbooks dating up to the mid-1950s, for another research project; and just generally quirky books that suit some of my more ridiculous sensibilities. I love that weird old books are still out there for the finding.

The Victoria College Book Sale was a couple of weeks ago. I always try to go as early as possible to get a decent place in line, but this year I was only able to get to Vic about an hour before the sale started, and as a result was quite far back in line. Still, I managed to get into the ‘specials’ room (rare, antique, quirky) immediately upon opening, and after that was able to navigate the crowds through the large halls where most of the sale is held fairly easily, digging through the well-sorted boxes with tremendous joy.

Some of this year’s special finds:

I don’t think I had never heard of Dora Hood or her ‘Book Room,’ which Hood operated on Spadina Avenue near Bloor from 1928 to 1954 before retiring and selling the business to successors (who, variously, ran the business until it closed in 1981). The Side Door: Twenty-Six Years in My Book Room (Ryerson Press, 1958) is an unassuming-looking book with a rather uninteresting title—but is actually a fascinating read. I bought The Side Door mainly because I didn’t have it already, and because I was mildly interested in what the author might have to say about bookselling in Toronto during her era.

Hood was a purveyor of rare and antiquarian books, and a renowned dealer in Canadiana. Her memoir details a selection of these books with relish, making it a kind of catalogue in itself. Hood’s stories about how she acquired books, and from whom, and to whom she sold them, are amazing and envy-inducing. Hood lived a remarkable life, and her contributions to the book trade, to the preservation of old books, and to Canadian history scholarship more generally, were immense.

While researching Hood and her Book Room, I was unsurprised to see that Toronto historian Jamie Bradburn (a fellow book hound whom I run into at nearly every book sale) has previously written about her life and times: please visit Jamie’s blog to learn more about Hood, her shop, and her era.

[P.S. Looking at the font on Dora Hood’s advertising makes me think I have seen it somewhere … possibly on a bookmark found, perhaps appropriately, in an old book.]


A completely unexpected find this year was Horse d’Oeuvres (PaperJacks / General Publishing, 1975)—a collection of works by avant-garde Canadian sound poets The Four Horsemen … published in a mainstream pulp paperback of the sort one could have bought at any Coles Bookshop or even the local drugstore. And not that kind of drugstore, either. It blows my kind that there was ever a time, in Canada or anywhere, really, when weird poetry could produce mainstream publishing success.

The Four Horsemen were Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton, Steve McCaffery, and bp Nichol. Nichol is perhaps the best known of the Horsemen outside poetry circles, having published prolifically across genres and having contributed extensively to children’s television programming, but all four were gifted, multidimensional poets and performers. The works in Horse d’Oeuvre are strong and varied, and wow: I’d have loved to be a 14 year-old coming across a book like this while spinning a paperback rack at the local pharmacy, because this was about the age I started producing, on the heavy old manual typewriter in my bedroom, things (‘compositions’ would be too strong a term) I called ‘pomes,’ which played with words, syllables, and the space on the page. I had no idea these textual / spatial experiments even counted as creative work, however, and soon gave them up, not knowing I was making crude attempts at concrete / visual poetry.

Of all the pieces in Horse d’Oeuvre, I think my favourite is Paul Dutton’s ‘this is a poem:’

this is a poem for my father’s gravestone
a grave poem for my father’s stone
a father for my poem’s gravestone
a groan for my father’s grave

Dutton’s poem is deeply (pre-post) modern, but also reminiscent of eighteenth century poets in its cadences and tone (an elegy of sorts, it of course reminds one of Thomas Gray).

Bonus: my copy is signed by two of the Horsemen (by Dutton; and by McCaffery, who inscribes his section, via a simple code, to Mary) although not, sadly, by bpNichol. [Although to be frank, bpNichol’s poems in this collection are among his more self-indulgent, and lack some of the vital fervor of his subsequent work.]


I have an enduring love for twentieth century design of the pre- and immediately post-war period. There is something about the clean lines and pale, earthy tones that seems fresh and genuinely modern. This promotional guidebook is from 1938, and features Asbestos (!) Flexboard suitable for use in commercial as well as residential settings. The brochure references the 1934 National Housing Act (US), which was New Deal era legislation intended to reduce foreclosures, and which also provided and insured loans for home repairs.

Behold the colour tints available: “rich and distinctive” Rose, Green, Light Gray (a “shade of unusual adaptability”), “admirable” Buff, and Slate. I also love the concept kitchen (in Green and Buff) with its streamlined appliances, colour-coordinated canisters and nook for radio and cookbooks.

Did any real people have this sort of decor in their actual kitchens in the late 1930s? While I’ve seen concept kitchens of this sort in quite a few magazine spreads of this era, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an archival photo of a real, lived-in kitchen like this. I wonder if the tail end of the Depression, followed so quickly by the war with its attendant restrictions on non-essential manufacturing, meant these concept kitchens were destined to remain dreams. There are hints of these stylings in 1950s diner-era kitchens, but after the war modernism turned in different directions—to international influences, or to kitsch. The cool, clean stylings of the 1930s seem to have vanished.


Another, related, find was this Plan Book of Charming Exteriors and Livable Interiors, produced in 1938 by Bennett Homes and Lumber Co. of upstate New York. Books of home plans were common until the early 1960s (Sears Roebuck being the best known); from these books, property owners could order entire house-building kits, including architectural plans and all lumber pre-cut to size. This book includes 50 home plans, most of modest size, with two or three bedrooms.

The original owner of my brochure marked house designs of special interest to her, and appears to have settled on the Columbia, a fairly simple 1 1/2 story home with a gable over the front door. From her notes it appears that a complete kit for the Columbia (plans, lumber, and kitchen cabinets) could be bought for $3,769, and financed at 3 1/2 percent. Her annotations include notes about additional costs, estimated as follows: “Mason Work 750.00, Plumbing 450.00, Wiring 125.00, Heating 250.00, Painting 225.00, Carp(entry) labor 600.”

If the costs for this home seem low—in 2023 dollars, $3,769 works out to a little over $81,000—it is worth noting that this amount covers only the architectural drawings and lumber. It would not include HVAC, plumbing, wiring or foundation work–all costs that would now be many magnitudes greater than the estimate indicated by the prospective homeowner. Nor would it include the cost of the land. The 1938 design, however quaint, would also not conform to contemporary building codes in terms of structure or insulation.

Still, the Columbia, like the other house plans in this brochure, is lovely and deeply evocative of its era. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that there is a fair amount of historical interest in Bennett house plans–here’s an interesting account, complete with images, of the Dresden, another of the Bennett kit houses, and here’s some more commentary on Bennett’s 1920s offerings. And click here for home plans from a variety of manufacturers.


To my small library of practical guides of yesteryear I add Handy Farm Devices and How to Make Them (1909; 1928). It is a dear little book with a lovely, arts-and-crafts-inspired cover and interesting illustrations accompanying instructions for (among many other devices) devising sawhorses, sowing machines, fruit picking devices, adjustable clotheslines, and smokehouses. I’ve added it to my bookshelf, alongside Boot Making and Mending (1898; 1912) and Practical Buttermaking (1924), because after the zombie apocalypse these skills, alongside blacksmithing, dowsing and witch hunting, will probably come back into vogue.


The Hawks and Owls of Ontario (revised edition; 1947) was one of my favourite finds at the Victoria College Book Sale. It is a charmingly illustrated guide published by the Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology during that long and sadly long gone era in which governments and cultural institutions made efforts to share accessible information about Ontario’s flora, fauna, fossils and geology as an important part of public education. My copy is signed by its author, Lester Lynn Snyder, a noted ornithologist, “curator of birds” at the ROM, and co-founder of the Toronto Field Naturalists.

It’s very interesting to note that some of the birds of prey once reported uncommon and in decline in Southern Ontario, mainly due to deforestation (and, later, pesticides)—e.g. sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, and Red-tailed hawks, and peregrine falcons—are now seen regularly in this part of the province, having adapted to urban life and benefitted from cosmetic pesticide bans in cities. If only the many other animal species now in decline could enjoy such comebacks. I love the cute saw whet owl on the cover — a bird I’ve never seen in real life.


Insect Life: An Introduction to Nature Study (1919) was written principally for middle-grade school children interested in exploring outdoor life. The book, which is organized by locale (various chapters are titled ‘Pond Life,’ ‘Brook Life,’ ‘Orchard Life,’ ‘Forest Life,’ and ‘Roadside Life’), encourages students to venture out into natural environments to observe insects in their natural habitats, and sometimes to collect and mount them.

Books like this challenge the commonly held view that, until the rise of critical pedagogical theory in education, all learning had been rote learning, and consisted mainly of memorization and repetition. Much of it was, but in the natural sciences at least, Darwin’s investigations prompted several generations of educators and natural science writers to see nature as a classroom, and science as a subject best explored in the field.

It’s a pity this approach is no longer standard in elementary schools. Budget cuts, risk aversion and ideological intrusions from the left (e.g., the rise of critical animal studies) and right (especially among religious fundamentalists seeking to replace science with theology) have made educators reluctant to have students do more than look at YouTube videos and memorize taxonomy. It seems to me that kids would be far better  equipped to handle the very severe environmental challenges of our era if they knew a little bit more about how ecosystems actually work from spending time out exploring them.


The Natural History of the Year (1896; 1901) is a delightful guide, written for young people, to nature throughout the seasons. It is charmingly illustrated and slightly florid in its language—but no less intelligent for it. The author cites the discoveries of numerous 18th and nineteenth century naturalists and recommends scientific works for further reading, even while quoting bits of doggerel and comparing winter to the story of Sleeping Beauty.

At the same time, the book is definitely influenced by late Victorian sensibilities, as this text on the withering of leaves in the fall suggests:

But there is something very beautiful in the manner of their dying. For before they fall they surrender all their worldly goods to the plant which bore them; all the useful material–sugar, green pigment, more complex substances, and living matter itself—retreats into winter quarters in stem or root.


I will include one final treasure before this post gets any longer. It is Strange Customs of Courtship and Marriage (1942; 1949), written by William J. Fielding, apparently a noted American sexologist, albeit one who left school before finishing grade 8. But, presumably with an adolescent’s fascination for all things sexual, this autodidact seems to have spent his life researching and writing about sex—his side gig while also working as a secretary at Tiffany’s.

Strange Customs of Courtship and Marriage was originally published in 1942 and appears to have been reprinted repeatedly up until the mid 1960s. It is one of a number of rather surprisingly well-researched books about salacious or at least eyebrow-raising subjects published for general audiences in inexpensive pocket paperback editions, among them Daniel P. Mannix’s A History of Torture and Burgo Patridge’s A History of Orgies.

Wherein I Enter my Luddite Years

circa 1988 Kenmore electric rangeLate last week we took delivery of our new stove—a circa 1988 coil-topped Kenmore electric range with analogue dials and a large capacity oven. Behold it in all its glory—brown-black back panel, wide coil burners, styled with a set of Merry Mushroom salt and pepper shakers, and an of-the-era apron to match.

The story of this stove is a bit involved, so you might want to stretch out on a Dacron upholstered colonial patterned chesterfield  with an acrylic crocheted afghan (in, say, brown and orange stripes) to read it.

Over the decades I have cooked on quite a few different stoves, including, for ten long years, an electric hot plate. My favourite stove, the one still standing in the secondary kitchen of our formerly apartmentized and then multigenerational family home, is a gas range that generates a lovely and responsive heat. But there is no gas line to the ground floor kitchen, and after 40 years of hard use, the rusted old electric stove with wonky burners and a malfunctioning oven element was overdue for replacement.

In 2020 my mother-in-law’s dementia had progressed to the point where she could no longer live on her own, so we sold her condo  and moved her into our home. We had hoped that inhabiting the ground floor unit would help her retain some sense of autonomy—but  shortly thereafter realized we needed to disable the stove for safety reasons. In August, after moving my mother-in-law into long term care, we plugged in the stove for the first time in three years and realized it was too far gone to fix.

That was when our difficulties began.

At Home Depot we learned that coil-top electric stoves are a species in decline. The coil-tops they do continue to carry include safety devices that limit cooking duration and temperature—a problem for a cook like me during preserving season, when water-bathed bottles of jams and jellies require a steady rolling boil be maintained under them for long enough to ensure a shelf-safe seal. Most of the ceramic-topped stoves now available are not designed for the weight, kettle diameter, or heat requirements of preserving. And buying an induction stove would mean replacing most of my cookware.

I considered buying an electric canner or portable hotplate so I could continue to make preserves—but it seemed ridiculous to buy a new stove and then still need to buy another device to use for canning.

Fellow preservers, including kind fellow members of the Culinary Historians of Canada, offered helpful advice—some people continue to make preserves just fine on their coil burner or ceramic-topped stoves; others have gone with high wattage portable cooktops—but it seemed that most of the people happily preserving using their ordinary stoves are using older models.

Of course they are.

In our household we take care to reduce our environmental impact. We are longtime thrift hounds, always brake for yard sales, and have picked up so many useful things at curbside over the years that we once published an essay about them. We walk, bike or rollerblade whenever it is possible to do so, and gas up our 14 year-old car about once a month. We limit our energy use, compost, make do and mend, and generally try to live as lightly on the earth as is practicable in  contemporary urban Canada.

When it comes to appliances, however, we’ve found our options increasingly limited. Not so many years ago there was an appliance repair place in every neighbourhood. Here in the Junction even a decade ago there used to be four or five storefronts selling second-hand appliances lined up along Dundas Street West.

It’s not just rising commercial rents that have priced these businesses out. It’s that contemporary appliances are simultaneously vastly more complex and much more fragile. Most appliances—even fridges—now have motherboards. When something goes wrong, it is often cheaper to just replace the whole appliance. In many cases the internal workings are simply not serviceable, no matter how skilled the repair person, meaning that many broken appliances are suitable only for the scrapyard. A salesperson at a midtown appliance showroom told us frankly that the ‘sunset’ on new midrange fixtures is about eight years.


By good fortune and Google, we found a small used appliance shop called Appliance Specialist located about 10 blocks from our house. We went in and sitting in the shop was the perfect stove—electric, coil-topped, large, white, made in Canada and, as a bonus, fully analogue in its operation. The owner, a gentleman originally from Guyana, knows a great deal about appliances, digital and analogue, new and old. He is also, it turns out, an ordained minister, a songwriter, and a gifted landscape photographer. Within the hour our new stove was nestled into our kitchen, where it has been put to daily use ever since.

In my local parent network someone posted a few days ago seeking advice about sourcing a new washer-drier set. In response, commenters extolled the virtues of analogue-only machines, and detailed the troubles they’ve had with the digital components even on expensive machines. Most of these commenters are thirty-somethings with young children, meaning they are what sociologists call ‘digital natives‘ who have likely transacted their entire lives in a post-analogue world.

It occurs to me that there must be a huge potential market for well-built, lasting analogue equipment. At a time when the environmental consequences of human consumption are deeply evident, when the mined materials that go into computer components are increasingly short supply, and when international conflicts have disrupted global supply chains, it seems more than a bit risky to rely on an appliance that will likely require replacing in a few years, and whose cheapness may come at the cost of labour and environmental protections. Economists and policy makers have begun talking about ‘nearshoring’ and ‘reshoring’ manufacturing to reduce some of these risks—what a boon it could be if well-built, truly durable goods came back into vogue.

And don’t even get me started on furniture.


exquisite milkweed pod

This morning a sense of turning. The sunlight slightly muted, the clouds luminous but shadowed underneath. A cool undercurrent on the breeze. Two days ago robins massed in the cedars, and today they have gone. Birdcast (a wonderful resource powered in part by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) reports a peak of bird migration is expected tonight, with 337 million birds expected to cross the night sky, navigating by the signals (cues in the quality of light, currents in the air and soil) that send them south.

Those of us who are earthbound prepare in our own way. I gather my preserving equipment and assess the ripening crabapples. It is time to pick sumac. On some bright, breezy day next week I will harvest my herbs and hang them to dry. In the coming weeks it will be time to make preserves.

I need to stain the front porch, and do some tuck-pointing of the bricks.

squash plant losing its gourdOne of my major projects this year has been establishing a natural garden at the circle park down the street. This work has been supported by the efforts of many community members as well as the City of Toronto, which provided us with a starter set of native plants. The park, long a desolate and derelict space, has been transformed into a living landscape of native plants and shrubs that has hosted many native species of bees, butterflies and other insets. Early in the summer I brought over all my not-quite-finished compost, figuring it would continue to break down in the soil, adding much-needed nutrients to support the new plants. As a bonus, a surprising number of garden plants have self-seeded, including tomatoes, dill, and several kinds of vines. This morning the melons and squash look ready for harvest; the pumpkin, still green, is nearly the size of a soccer ball; and the tomatoes (possibly Black Krims or, more likely, Green Zebra) are developing their distinctive stripes.

Soon, though, the garden will start to go dormant, and I am looking forward to ensuring it has a good cover of mulch to protect tender roots throughout the winter. But until then the asters, just beginning to flower, will bloom all wild and wooly, feeding wasps and bees right up until frost.

flowering aster with bumblebee