Monday, November 29, 2021

Visiting the St. Pierre River

An article in the Montreal Gazette (Friday, 19 November 2021), "City to Bury St-Pierre River on court order", got me to finally visit what is left of the St. Pierre River, and I am glad that I did. I've been interested in the St. Pierre River for several years, but as for visiting this last surviving section of the river, it never happened until the other day. My only experience of the river was when walking through the underpass on Westminister Avenue just above Cote St-Luc Road, you can hear the sound of the river as it runs through underground pipes. Today, located in Meadowbrook Golf Course, you can see the only part of the St. Pierre River still above ground, and this will soon be buried. The Gazette article says that the river is polluted, so surrounding trees should be cut down, and the river should be buried, not exactly an approach that fits into our present age of conservation and climate change. In fact, the more I think about it the more ridiculous it becomes, what ever happened to cleaning up the source of the pollution. 

Other cities have buried their at-the-time inconveniently located rivers and some of these cities are working at recovering--better to say, "uncovering"--these rivers. Here we are making sure whatever is left of the river is buried. Sometimes I think of how different Montreal would be had the St. Pierre River not have been buried. Imagine owning a house in the city with a creek running by in the back yard; okay, maybe you wouldn't like this but this is something some of us would love to have. A friend in Baltimore grew up with the Herring Run River across the street from where he lived and where lived later in life. Birds, wild life, even deer could be seen going to the river, it's a green space for animals and people, a sign that some little bit of nature still exists. But it is not to be here. 

Personally, I think this court order only suits developers who have big plans to build on the site, no doubt just what we need, more condos. I am told that the site is protected but, as with most things, I am a skeptic. Here are photographs I took of the St. Pierre River the other day.

Just above the culvert pipe in this photo is the Toe Blake Park; the culvert pipe is for water from the buried
St. Pierre River but it also contains contaminants from local residences. This contamination is the reason given
for burying the river after the area has been decontaminated. The extent of this pollution is unknown to me.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Garden at St. Philip's Anglican Church

Stroll down Pollination Street and take a left at Butterfly Way, you're now at St. Philip's Community Garden, the corner of Brock and Sherbrooke Street West in Montreal West. These people have their heart in the right place, openness, generosity, human kindness. A garden at a church is doubly meaningful, it shows the propensity to want to help, nourish, and feed people, but it is also symbolic, it might even be a reference to the original biblical Garden of Eden. 

I remember walking by this garden a year ago; I think they began the garden last fall and I thought, at the time, it's a bit late in the season for gardening... But they continued and made the garden larger and better than ever.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Garden outside Hingston Hall

This seems to be some professor's university garden project for their students, not for outsiders, so don't touch those tomatoes or you will find your photo on Instagram! 

What bad PR for this garden. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

"No", by Thomas Hood


No sun--no moon!

No morn--no noon!
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
No sky--no earthly view--
No distance looking blue--
No road--no street--no "t'other side this way"--
No end to any Row--
No indications where the Crescents go--
No top to any steeple--
No recognition of familiar people--
No courtesies for showing 'em--
No knowing 'em!
No traveling at all--no locomotion--
No inkling of the way--no notion--
"No go" by land or ocean--
No mail--no post--
No news from any foreign coast--
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility--
No company--no nobility--
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds--

Friday, November 19, 2021

Community Gardens, Garden Sheds, Homeless People

Here is a community garden behind Reno Depot, the garden is on West Broadway, a half block north of St. Jacques. One time I walked by this garden and there was someone sleeping on the grass; one evening I spoke to someone in this area, he was homeless and said that sometimes he sleeps in one of the garden sheds sold by Reno Depot.  Garden sheds, cabanon in French, are just little houses; it is possible for people to live in them until something better is found. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

Indigenous Garden at Loyola College

I read something about this Indigenous Garden in The Suburban, but the only way I found it was by the photograph attached to the article, and then only with some difficulty. The garden is located behind the psychology building on the Loyola Campus of Concordia University; it's located in the shade of the building. I often walk on the campus and there are many, better, sunnier places where this garden could have been located. Since it was only planted in late summer it should be more substantial next year. What I would like to see here are plants that are native to this area, plants that attract birds and insects in our area. We think of some of these plants as weeds but they are important for whatever urban wildlife we have left. The Audubon Society has a service regarding native plants, it is "Plants for Birds" and this is a great way to attract birds and insects to one's garden at home. 

Barren now but this is September-October, next summer I expect a real garden here.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Cottage Pie for Supper!

Here is my Cottage Pie, not really very good...

What I grew up calling Shepherd's Pie is not really Shepherd's Pie, it is Cottage Pie; in the UK and Ireland Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb or mutton while our Cottage Pie is made with beef. The French call Shepherd's Pie pâté chinois or pâté à l’anglaise, but they differentiate between the two, as we should. If you live in a cottage and you have a cottage garden then why not make cottage pie for supper? What we call supper some people call dinner; but supper is our last meal of the day, the third meal of three. At supper you sup if you are sipping a bowl of soup, or not, and it comes from the Middle English, mid-1200s AD, to eat. We have three meals a day, breakfast (when the fast of sleep ends), lunch (which some people call dinner or used to call dinner back when we were farmers and needed a large midday meal). And supper. People today have snacks and are referred to as grazing, eating all day and anytime you want like a cow in the field; no wonder we're so fat. 

My grandfather, from Blackburn, Lancashire, I am told by my mother, used to eat tongue and other animal parts we wouldn't want to eat. Maybe the words breakfast, lunch, and dinner are a part of my northern English heritage, working class and less trendy than the south of England. But breakfast, lunch, and dinner are, for the most part, what they're called in Canada. When my mother passed away in 2014 I inherited a copy of Mrs. Beeton's Cookery Book (the 1923 edition) from her, it had belonged to her mother who moved to Canada around 1911. I understand that Mrs. Beeton never actually tried out her recipes before publishing them in her cook book, and most of her recipes would not satisfy the taste of people today. Mrs. Beeton's Shepherd's Pie is unlike any recipe for Shepherd's Pie that I have seen, many of the ingredients in today's recipes are absent from Mrs. Beeton's book; they are plain and simple cooking. My copy of her book is well-worn and contains this recipe for Shepherd's Pie: 

Mrs. Beeton's Cookery Book (1923)

In the left column is Mrs. Beeton's recipe for Shepherd's Pie

Now, I turn to my Cottage Pie. I don't really know what I've done wrong but it wasn't all that good. I've done better in the past. Where did I get the idea that I should place a layer of frozen peas or corn between the mashed potatoes and the meat? My layer of mashed potatoes was too thin, I ended up with a large slice of meat and very little potato, but I love potato. The ground beef, the leanest variety, came out kind of thick and hard... Overall, a disappointment. Three out of ten.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Roses, The Regenerative Power of Nature

These three photographs were taken in July 2021.

When we moved into this house in June 1997, a neighbour remembered the previous owner for her garden. I am not sure that she was accurate, there was very little sign that any gardening had gone on here. But there were two rose bushes behind the house; I am told that the way to get roses to bloom is to feed them, make sure they are in the sun, and in the fall to cut them back to about two feet from the ground and wrap them for the winter or cover them with mulch. I did none of these. Time passed, years passed, and these two rose bushes survived my neglect; they didn't thrive but they didn't die. I found a plastic label for one of the roses in the earth, they are Tea Roses; I know so little about roses that, to me, their flowers don't even look like roses.

Then, a few years ago, I began to work on the backyard garden and I called it a Canadian cottage garden as distinct from the much loved English country garden. I noticed that the two rose bushes, planted by the previous owner, were still alive; I bought and planted a third rose bush even though I've never had much luck with roses. I am not, I guess, a rose person... Early last spring, 2021, one of the two original rose buses looked as though it had died; I tried to dig it up but I was lazy and gave up on it; that rose bush was more tenacious than I realized. For a few weeks the two surviving rose bushes thrived, I've never had so many roses! Then, one day, I noticed a neighbour's roses, they were incredibly abundant and remained so all summer and, even yesterday, they had flowers although now covered with the first frost of the season. My roses lasted a few weeks, died, and that was the end of them; my neighbour's roses bloomed all summer and fall. Looking at the photographs of my roses leaves me wondering what kind of roses they are. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the rose bush I thought had died was still alive, it had survived the previous winter, it had survived my neglect. Well, what do you know? All three rose bushes are now alive; I will wrap them with burlap for the winter and look after them better in the future.

Here is part of a longer quotation from Karl Ove Knausgaard's novel, Autumn, in which he mentions the regenerative power of nature: "Life is so robust, it seems to come cascading, blind and green, and at times it is frightening." Written after he hacked away at an apple tree, then was concerned that he might have killed the tree, and a few months later had more apples than ever before. Despite everything, nature affirms life. And this is one of the things that gives me hope, no matter what terrible things people do to the world, to Earth, nature will soon return and reclaim what we have leveled, built on, destroyed, polluted, and desecrated.

These three photographs were take in July 2020, also an excellent garden summer.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Mother of Muses, sing for me, by Bob Dylan

                                                Mother of Muses, sing for me

                                                Sing of the mountains and the deep dark sea
                                                Sing of the lakes and the nymphs of the forest
                                                Sing your hearts out, all your women of the chorus
                                                Sing of honor and fate and glory be
                                                Mother of Muses, sing for me
                                                Mother of Muses, sing for my heart
                                                Sing of a love too soon to depart
                                                Sing of the heroes who stood alone
                                                Whose names are engraved on tablets of stone
                                                Who struggled with pain so the world could go free
                                                Mother of Muses, sing for me
                                                Sing of Sherman, Montgomery, and Scott
                                                And of Zhukov, and Patton, and the battles they fought
                                                Who cleared the path for Presley to sing
                                                Who carved the path for Martin Luther King
                                                Who did what they did and they went on their way
                                                Man, I could tell their stories all day
                                                I'm falling in love with Calliope
                                                She don't belong to anyone, why not give her to me?
                                                She's speaking to me, speaking with her eyes
                                                I've grown so tired of chasing lies
                                                Mother of Muses, wherever you are
                                                I've already outlived my life by far
                                                Mother of Muses, unleash your wrath
                                                Things I can't see, they're blocking my path
                                                Show me your wisdom, tell me my fate
                                                Put me upright, make me walk straight
                                                Forge my identity from the inside out
                                                You know what I'm talking about
                                                Take me to the river, release your charms
                                                Let me lay down a while in your sweet, loving arms
                                                Wake me, shake me, free me from sin
                                                Make me invisible, like the wind
                                                Got a mind that ramble, got a mind that roam
                                                I'm travelin' light and I'm a-slow coming home
Songwriters: Bob Dylan
Mother of Muses lyrics © Special Rider Music, Universal Tunes

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

To the Muses, by William Blake


                                        Whether on Ida's shady brow,
                                        Or in the chambers of the East,
                                        The chambers of the sun, that now
                                        From ancient melody have ceas'd;

                                        Whether in Heav'n ye wander fair,
                                        Or the green corners of the earth,
                                        Or the blue regions of the air,
                                        Where the melodious winds have birth;

                                        Whether on crystal rocks ye rove,
                                        Beneath the bosom of the sea
                                        Wand'ring in many a coral grove,
                                        Fair Nine, forsaking Poetry!

                                        How have you left the ancient love
                                        That bards of old enjoy'd in you!
                                        The languid strings do scarcely move!
                                        The sound is forc'd, the notes are few!

William Blake, Poetical Sketches (London, 1783)

Monday, November 1, 2021

Invocation, by Denise Levertov


                                    Silent, about-to-be-parted-from house.
                                    Wood creaking, trying to sigh, impatient.
                                    Clicking of squirrel-teeth in the attic.
                                    Denuded beds, couches stripped of serapes.
                                    Deep snow shall block all entrances
                                    and oppress the roof and darken
                                    the windows.     O Lares,
                                    don’t leave.
                                    The house yawns like a bear.
                                    Guard its profound dreams for us,
                                    that it return to us when we return.

November 1969

Friday, October 29, 2021

Community Gardens, Rosedale and Cote St-Luc Road

 This community garden is just two blocks from where I live, on Rosedale Avenue just above Cote St- Luc Road. This isn't a mini-farm, it's gardeners growing vegetables and flowers for their own use. These are quite large gardens, tools and supplies are stored in a locked shed, compost bins near the gardens. Photos taken in May 2015, but not much has changed since then.