Sunday, November 8, 2015

Metatarsal Fracture - Jones

Today is exactly eight weeks and a day since I stepped in a pothole, rolled my left foot over, and fractured my fifth metatarsal bone. The fifth metatarsal is the outside bone on the foot, and the type of fracture that I have is the dreaded Jones fracture. Why do I say "dreaded?" Well, this fracture is known to be resistant to healing. For athletes such as soccer players, basketball players, and runners, it can be a career-ending injury. However, I knew none if this when it happened to me. 

On September 12, a beautiful warm Saturday, we went to the mountains for our last camping trip of the season. We pulled into the campground late in the afternoon, and I took the dog on a leash and my purse and walked down the road to go and register while Rob and Alex got the campsite set up. It was glorious. The trees were in full colour and the sunshine was sparkling on the lake. The high rocky bluff where we planned to hike the next day was dramatically lit. I was staring about at the beauty of the place and not really watching where I was going. I somehow stepped into a pothole, turned my foot, and fell hard. 

I immediately knew I had injured myself seriously. I thought it was either a sprain or a fracture. I also was bleeding from gravel cuts on both hands and legs. I hobbled back up the road, probably a distance of about two bocks, trying to put minimal weight on my left foot. Back at the camper, I cleaned up the blood and elevated and iced my foot. We decided to stay the night and see how the foot was the next day. 

The next day, the foot was badly bruised and I could not put any weight on it. However, the pain was not very bad, so Rob and Alex went hiking while I hung around the camper. I had not brought my painting equipment along, so I sat outdoors taking closeup photos of the autumn foliage. 

That evening when we returned home, Alex went and got my old crutches (from the days of the medial meniscus tears in both knees) out of the shed. I drove myself to the emergency room at the hospital  and used the crutches. They took an X-ray, and the doctor diagnosed it as a Jones fracture. He said that a fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone was the most common foot fracture. He recommended that I arrange to be fitted for an air cast, a type of walking cast. In the meantime, he put on a fibreglass backslab (splint) and tensor bandage, and told me not to weight bear on the foot. He also said that I probably would be in the air cast for seven to eight weeks. 

My question to him was whether I would be ready for ski season. I didn't think to ask whether it would impact my work, or daily life, or whether there was anything in particular that I should do to aid the healing of the bone. I didn't ask whether I would be able to weight bear in the air cast. I heard "walking cast" and thought I knew the answer. I thought a fracture was not a big deal and that it would be healed up in seven to eight weeks, and in the meantime I would be walking around in a walking cast.

It was the orthotics guy who fitted me for the air cast the next day that alerted me to the fact that although the cast could be used for walking, I shouldn't walk in it unless the doctor had said I was ready to weight bear. So, it wasn't time to ditch the crutches yet. 

Regular readers will know that I have a demanding job with extremely long hours. Having not considered that the injury would impact my work (I work with my head and computer, and through interpersonal relationships and meetings; how would my foot have anything to do with that?), I went off on crutches to my usual hours of work, eleven-hour days. By the end of that first week, I was miserable. My shoulders, wrists, back, and right leg and foot were so sore from trying to get around at work on crutches. My usual parking space suddenly was way too far from my office, and it was impossible to even get to meetings in distant buildings. I did paperwork to get a special parking pass at work and for the city. I was exhausted. 

When I saw my doctor ten days after the injury, she told me that I had to continue to be completely non-weight bearing. She told me to reduce my hours at work to four hours a day (plus four hours a day at home), and to rest and put my foot up. But work was extremely busy, with some difficult issues facing me. I cut back my hours a little to about nine hours a day, and spent my time at home with my foot up, being waited on. 

Two weeks later, at the three and a half week mark, I saw my doctor again and she did an X-ray. She said that she saw very little healing. She shook her head about the hours I was working, and wrote a note restricting me to four hours a day at work. She told me to come back in three weeks for another X-ray. She acknowledged that sometimes the early healing does not show up well in an X-ray, and said I could start putting a little weight on my heel as I felt ready, then begin to wean myself off the crutches. 

I started putting my heel down for balance. At about five weeks post-injury I started weight bearing a bit on the heel. It didn't hurt to put a little weight on it, so by the sixth week I was walking short distances in the house with one crutch. A few times I actually forgot to grab my crutches and walked away across the room. I felt so thrilled to have some mobility back, and some of my independence! It was wonderful to be able to pick something up in one hand instead of having to have people bring me everything little thing. I wrote a post about it called I Cleaned the Toilet. A few times, I slept with a bare foot rather than wearing the backslab or cast. 

At the six and a half week mark, I had another X-ray. The doctor said that the bone was starting to heal, but very slowly. She said the bone was filling in on the inside (medial) side, but the bone separation was still clearly visible on the outside of the bone. I told the doctor about sleeping with a bare foot, and sometimes taking the cast off when I was resting on the couch with my foot up. She said that I must not put any weight on my heel/foot with the cast off, but that I could continue with light weight bearing with the cast on. I made another appointment to come back in three weeks. I was pleased that some healing was happening but disappointed that I would still be in the cast for another three weeks. 

During all of this time, work continued to be extremely busy and difficult, and I was getting little sleep because I kept waking up in the night with insomnia, worrying about work issues. This was exacerbated by not being able to exercise (walk, cycle, hike), participate in social events, cook, garden or paint. These are leisure activities that are great stress relievers, but now I seemed to have nothing to distract me from work thoughts. Also, my time at work was creeping upwards again, and even included one fourteen hour day.

The next day, a Thursday, the doctor's office phoned our house and left a message to call. By the time I returned from work, the office was closed. I returned their call late Friday afternoon. It was bad news. The radiologist had taken a look at Wednesday's X-ray and saw very little healing. I was told to stop weight bearing, and to keep the cast on at all times. I was told that the doctor was referring me to an orthopedic surgeon. When I asked how long it would take to see the surgeon, the staff member said typically five to six months. 

I was devastated. I hadn't anticipated that the fracture would not heal. I had thought that I would be out of the cast after seven or eight weeks, then have a few weeks of physio, and then be ready for the ski season. Going back to no weight bearing after a week and a half of greater mobility was very difficult. The thought of being on crutches for another five months while waiting to see the surgeon, then having to undergo an operation was horrible. And of course there would then be a couple of months of recovery time after the surgery. I became grumpy and depressed (which did not endear me to Rob). 

I decided that I needed to make a greater effort to rest, stop working so much, and to elevate my foot as much as possible. I contacted my supervisor at work and explained the setback that I had experienced regarding my healing. He was very supportive, and he, another colleague, and the members of my leadership team met with me this week to help identify what tasks could be taken on by each of them and what could be deferred. I am now strictly obeying the restriction of four hours a day at work. I have accepted my immediate future as a couch potato. If this is what I need to do to help the bone heal, this is what I will do. 

Although up to this point I had done a little reading on fractures and healing processes (which had led me to start taking calcium and a multivitamin, as well as to avoid ibuprophen and other NSAIDS), I had not researched my condition very thoroughly. have now begun doing more extensive research on Jones fractures and approaches to treatment. These fractures are often slow to heal and sometimes result in non-union of the bone. The section of the metatarsal where a Jones fracture occurs is poorly served by blood flow. I plan to write another post on what I have learned about fractures of the fifth metatarsal bone, and in particular Jones fractures. 

In the meantime, I am trying to rest, rest, rest. I am trying limit my focus at work only to those critical pieces that I must do, and let others do the rest. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

I Cleaned the Toilet

Today I cleaned the toilet. Not only that, I also wiped down the bathroom counter and scrubbed the sink. I also did the laundry. I baked a cake. I went shopping. I cooked supper. These things feel like a huge accomplishment. 

You see, six weeks ago today, I broke a bone in my foot. To be exact, it was a Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone. My left foot is in an air cast. I have been getting around on crutches for six weeks. 

As anyone who has ever been on crutches can attest, it is not all that fun. For the first three weeks or so, I could not put any weight on the foot at all, even to balance myself. I quickly discovered that I don't have very good upper body strength. My shoulders, arms, and wrists became very sore from hoisting my weight around on my arms. My right leg, although quite strong, and my right foot ached from bearing all my weight. I was quite unsteady on the crutches. Going between buildings at work, usually a short walk and sometimes a longer walk of up to a kilometer, became next to impossible even for nearby buildings, especially if there were stairs involved.  I could manage only one trek a day of up to two blocks each way and that took lots of time and sweat. 

I discovered that there were so many little ordinary things that I could not do for myself. For example, because both hands were on my crutches, I could not carry a file folder or a cup of coffee. I had to leave a light on at night because I did not feel safe moving around on my crutches in the dark. 

I discovered lots of strategies to cope with my lack of mobility. I rescheduled meetings to my office whenever possible. I obtained a disabled plaquard so that I could park close to buildings. I had Rob move a chair into the bedroom so that I could sit to dress myself, and I learned to lay out all my clothing within easy reach. Similarly, Rob put a plastic stool into the shower so I could sit to shower. Getting ready for work in the morning took so much longer. Wherever possible, I simplified things - no hair products, no scarves, little or no jewellry. 

I have spent a great deal of time this last six weeks either at my desk at work or on the couch at home with my foot up. I have missed a beautiful autumn, unable to go out and walk, cycle, or garden. I have stopped painting (except once). I have stopped shopping, except once with Rob's help. Initially I couldn't cook, then I began some limited cooking with Rob and Alex helping (although with a team effort, we did have a full turkey dinner on Thanksgiving). Initially, I could only do the laundry with someone to help by carrying the laundry baskets, and then I mastered pushing the basket along the floor with a crutch.

Finally, this week I have been able to put significant weight on the left foot in the cast. I am putting most of my weight on my heel, not on the whole foot. I can get around in the house with only one crutch. I can even take several steps without a crutch. It is so wonderful to have one or both hands free! I can pick up the laundry basket and carry it. I can cook a whole dinner without help, including bending down to lift hot things out of the oven. Today, for the first time, I was able to carry a cup of tea from the kitchen to the living room, which involves going down three steps. Today I also went shopping by myself. 

Probably I overdid it a bit today, as my foot is quite sore tonight and swollen.  But it is so wonderful to be recovering, and to be able to to do even mundane things again, like cleaning the toilet. It has helped me appreciate the little ordinary things of life and see them not just as unwanted chores but as the elements of life that make up my existence in the world. 

My therapy cat.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Memoir and Story

I am reading a book called The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr. It is a book on writing, specifically about writing memoir. Karr has written three best-selling memoirs helping to popularize the form, and also has spent more than three decades teaching a writing course on memoir. A fundamental premise that is central to memoir, Karr says, is that a memoir demands truth.

She goes on to talk about what she means by truth. She says that "you're seeking the truth of memory -- your memory and character -- not of unbiased history" (p. 11). That is, the truth is not objective truth but the writer's or narrator's truth. She addresses ways in which the mind can be "wiggly" and not fully remember some scenes or events in detail, and also how retold memories (remember the time you did xyz) can insert themselves in your memory as if they were your real memory of the original event. She talks about how the writer can and should signal areas of doubtful memory rather than fictionalizing or, as she puts it, lying to the reader. To be a memoir, the acount must be true. Nothing else will suffice. 

Although I agree with Karr that a memoir must yearn toward an accurate recounting of a remembered event, and that this is how it differs from fiction and also creative nonfiction, I believe that one's memory does not record a "true" record of any experienced event. Rather, even the very first time a person tries to recall an event that occurred, he or she creates a narrative of the event, and that first narrative already has shaped the memory of the event. Essentially, the event has been turned into a story. 

The memory of the event shapes the narrative, and the narrative in turn shapes the memory. With each recall or retelling, the story (and thus the memory) evolves and becomes a little different than it was the previous time. Perhaps the individual doing the recalling now has some new piece of information that sheds a different light on the past experience and therefore gives the memory of it a somewhat different gloss. Or perhaps the memory story is told a particular way to suit a certain audience (e.g., a daughter, or a lover, or a social worker). Or perhaps the adult recalls the event with different developmental insights than the child would have had. Or the event may be remembered differently when one is exuberant and happy than when at the bottom of a pit of depression. 

These different variations of the remembered event layer over each other and each can feel true. Sometime multiple competing versions can feel true simultaneously, or sometimes only the most recent reworking is the memory that feels most true. It may be that there are a few core elements that do not change -- the image of the way the knee was twisted at an unnatural angle, let's say, or the three words the narrator screamed as she ran from the room. But the remaining details and interpretations will vary over time. This slipperiness of memory makes the capturing of one precise truth challenging for the memoirist. 

Consider that as autobiographers, each of us tells a story about our own life that gives our lives meaning. That means that our life story (and therefore the memories it is based on) will be shaped differently depending on whether we see ourselves as the hero, the villain, the victim, the incompetent, and so on. We benignly leave certain bits out and highlight other bits that support this point of view. 

I know that my own life story and my view of myself as the protagonist of my life changes depending on circumstances. For example, I may have led a highly successful project to completion at work recently and received accolades, and for a time, I will tend to recall memories or reshape memories that support my current view of myself as indispensable and a heroic problem solver. Or perhaps someone breaks into my car overnight while it is parked right in my own driveway, and it happens to occur the same week that someone steals my purse out of my office at work. I may for a period of time see my protagonist self as a victim, and begin recalling those times in my childhood that I was taunted at school, or beat up by a sibling, or scapegoated by a teacher. I will call memories to mind that support this new victim view of myself, but also I will inadvertently reconstrue memories to glean evidence for this current view of myself. 

So, I have argued that while a memoirist might strive for the idea of truth, truth itself as presented in one's episodic memories is not that easy to pin down. As a writer, the truth that I reach for is emotional truth. How did I feel when that experience occurred? If I can nail that emotional truth, I am less worried about getting all the facts and sequences right. And as I recount that past event, I also want it to be a good story. That might mean that I compile a series of observations that took place over time into one scene. Or that I have an antagonist say something that perhaps he did not actually say in exactly those words, but that would have been typical of what he would have said. So maybe I'm just not a memoirist, but really a novelist writing novels that are based to a greater or lesser extent on memories. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Crazy-making by Design

In my job as an academic administrator, I am so embedded in the organization that it can be hard to think of my work with any sense of separation. Stepping in the door in the morning is like shooting out of the gate of a ski race onto a mogul course: the moguls are coming at you, you're going as fast as you can, the side of the course is lined with spectators shouting things, and if you don't make a great time you might be dropped from the team. And before you step through the door, you're thinking about the course - how you will take this section of it, preparing your mind and body, trying to quell the anxiety. After the race, you mentally go through the critical turns where you lost a second or two, or caught an edge, or made up time, and you're thinking ahead to tomorrow's race on the same mogul course but it will be different because it's going to warm up and there will be a huge dump of wet snow and one of your top team members will be out of the race because of injury.

Okay, enough with the skiing metaphor. It works for me because I am a skier and because skiing a race, while challenging, still gives the competitor some control. But in fact, many days at work feel way more out of control than that. Daily, I am bombarded by problems and bizarre situations that seemingly come out of nowhere, and have expectations thrust upon me over which I have little choice. Maybe a more apt metaphor would be that of being thrown into an old fashioned wringer washer. In the washing machine, you are being vigorously agitated, crashing against and becoming entangled in poorly defined problems spinning about in murky water, and then at some point being dragged out and squeezed dry.

The point of all this is that, it seems to me, academic organizational structures have evolved to be such that leadership is doomed to be done poorly. The lived experience of leadership is extremely frustrating to boot. I have read many leadership books and attended many workshops and courses on academic leadership. While I have gleaned useful tips along the way and some strategies to survive, it seems to me that the books and courses are missing the boat. They focus on skills,  strategies, and leadership styles rather than addressing core underlying issues. I will talk about some of these as I perceive them: the macho culture, the career ladder, the collaborate/compete conundrum, and the confusion of purpose. 

The Macho Culture

Although women now proliferate at the bottom levels of the academic hierarchy and some are even inching onto the upper rungs, the overall institution is steeped a macho culture of, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." No matter what they throw at you, you take it like a man; you are a wussy if you cry; you suck it up; you don't complain. Being way too busy at all times is a given, as is working long hours every day and showing up for evening and weekend events as well. Leaders who don't let it get to them or who can feign that they don't, who float unscathed above the mess, and who can crack an inside joke are admired as successful, regardless of what they actually accomplish. For here's the thing: this culture of being the tough guy leads to a lack of reflection and real acknowledgment of the practical challenges of leadership. It breeds a context of overwork where there is too much too do and little time to think, so therefore projects may not be clearly defined, completed in a timely way, or done as well as they might. Triage is necessary, and without time to reflect or consult, many times the urgent will trump the important. 

The Career Ladder

One result of the culture of of machismo pervading academia is that people who are willing to play this game and who master the art of of looking like they are unruffled and in control are more likely to be seen as successful and rise on the career ladder. Hence the culture perpetuates itself. Another career ladder factor is that whatever leadership role people are in, they have risen to it from some other lower  step on the career ladder, probably quite recently. As an example, recent statistics show that the average length of time that a university president remains in his/her position in Canada is three to four years. I don't have the statistics on other academic leadership positions, but I would guess they are somewhat similar. This means that most academic leaders are beginners at their job. They are just learning. They haven't completed the seven years or ten thousand hours of experience that research suggests is necessary to achieve mastery. By the time they have completed the seven years in their role or before, those with ambitions as administrators have moved on and up. 

The Collaborate/Compete Conundrum

Academia is a fishbowl in which all the members are under surrveillance by all the others. It is called "peer review" or peer evaluation. Peer review is used to determine whether research is worthy to be published or presented at a conference. Committees of peers also decide whether professors should be promoted or receive tenure. This kind of committee approach has been extended to most aspects of decision-making in academia. Just about every decision, whether regarding program development, curricular change, hiring decisions, or the annual budget goes through a consultation process and approvals by various committees. There is an underlying tension between collaborating to get broad buy-in for your project and competing to make sure that your pet idea wins approval over the many other proposals vying for attention and approval. Status also plays into this. The big fish's proposal is likely to slide through the consultation process with only minor feedback (e.g., change this comma on page 17), whereas the little fish's proposal will be shot down (if it even makes it to the table). So the little fish get together or cozy up to a big fish to win support ahead of time. The status of the little fish goes up for each visible win, so picking easy projects rather than hard ones is rewarded, as is self-promotion (which to avoid the appearance of hubris has to be framed as "communication").  It would be naive to think that this type of personality politics could be avoided - it is after all the way the game is played - but it does not ensure that the best ideas come forward or ultimately win support. 

Confusion of Purpose

Canadian academic institutions do not exist in a vacuum. They exist within a local, provincial, national, North American, and global context. Each institution looks to its peers and also to broader societal trends. So while on one hand, universities are resistant to change because of their structure and by necessity on a slow change curve, on the other hand they are subject to being judged on the latest trend or hot topic. This leads to a "follow the shiny squirrel" mentality, whereby each institution copies other institutions, says the same buzz words and implements the same initiatives, but with just enough differentiation to brand them as unique. This investment of effort in copying each other on rapidly changing issues of the day uses up our precious energy and time and distracts us from the very real challenges universities are facing. 

I believe that globalization, the new Information Age created by the participation in and affordances of the Internet, and the sustainability challenges facing humanity have created a context in which universities as we currently know them may not survive. But we the leaders are not putting our brilliant minds to work on this huge issue facing us because we are caught up in and exhausting ourselves surviving the macho culture, climbing the career ladder, building local alliances, and chasing shiny squirrels. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fall Plein Air

Fall At Police Outpost, oil on canvas board

Today was one of those fabulous early Fall days with the sun shining brilliantly and all of the trees in colour. We went to Police Outpost Park, a beautiful place at the foot of Chief Mountain, Montana. On the Canadian side of the border, this park has lots of history. During Prohibition, it was an outpost of the Northwest Mounted Police, who were stationed here to intercept the cross-border trade in whiskey. Some of the original log buildings are still standing. 

It is also a great place to hike, camp, fish, and paint. It is hilly and has a large lake, several smaller lakes, forested areas, open fields, and some marshland. It is an important nesting area for birds, including species like the mountain bluebird, common loon, eastern kingbird, American golfinch, common snipe, and the sandhill crane. It is on the western edge of the prairie flyway for migratory birds. In the past, Rob and I have explored all of the trails on our mountains bikes and on foot. 

Sadly for me, I have broken a bone in my foot. My left foot is in a cast, and I get around by hobbling on crutches. So this afternoon, while my companions went off on a hike, I set up my painting things on a picnic table and painted a small plein air painting of the fall colours. For a quick little painting, I am fairly pleased with it, although if I had had more time, I would have added some shadows to the path and made it a little less straight, and also worked on the grass, trees, and shadows on the righthand side a little more. But the light was going, my companions had returned from their hike, and the temperature was dropping, so I signed it and that was that. 

It was a lovely day. The final bonus of the day was that as we drove back, we had the opportunity to see the super moon go into full lunar eclipse. It was an amazing sight, something that only happens every few decades, and something I have never witnessed before (I have seen a super moon, and I have seen an eclipse before, but not an eclipse of the super moon.) Also know as a blood moon, in our sighting, the moon was huge and yellow, not red. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Helping the Earth for my Grandkids

I began to become concerned about the long term environmental sustainability of human behaviours before I reached my teens. I remember doing a science project when I was about 11 or 12 or 13 in which I implemented several rules at my household that involved reducing, recycling, and reusing. This was long before awareness of environmental issues was a common thing, and before these words had become a mantra for us all. This was around 1969-70. I can no longer remember all of the environmental rules I presented to my family, but I do remember two that "stuck." I created a compost bucket for kitchen vegetable waste, and I put concrete blocks into the tanks of our two toilets to reduce water usage. My family was somewhat bemused but went along with it. It was one of my first lessons that one person's actions can influence others' beliefs and behaviours with respect to big social and environmental issues. 

Some 45 years later, I am still concerned about environmental sustainability, and I still compost and try to use water wisely. I am far less sure, however, that my small actions are enough to make a real difference. Although I am am quite diligent in many small environmental actions, I am uncomfortably aware that some of my large actions are many magnitudes more damaging to the environment than the little preventative things that I do to increase sustainability. A list of some of my environmentally reponsible behaviours follows.


- Grow some of my own food in a backyard garden
- Garden organically
- Use square foot gardening method (intensive rotated plots)
- Compost vegetable waste and yard waste
- Use compost to build the soil
- Avoid the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and inorganic fertilizers
- Use the least amount of water necessary in the yard and garden
- When possible, choose food grown locally, humanely, and organically
- Buy groceries in smaller quantities and use leftovers to reduce food waste
- Bring leftovers home from restaurant
- Choose items with less packaging
- Use reusable cloth shopping bags
- Recycle cans and plastic and glass bottles
- Take newspaper and cardboard to recycling depot
- Take paints and other chemicals to recycling depot for proper disposal
- Donate used clothing and household goods
- Bring my own mug or water bottle
- Reuse plastic bags and glass jars
- Choose environmentally sustainable household cleansers (e.g., Citrus cleanser)
- Cloth diapers rather than disposables as much as possible
- Plant trees
- Use short cycle on washing machine if possible
- Turn off lights and electronics when not in use
- Eat less meat
- Reusable lunchbag
- When possible, choose glass, metal or paper over plastic
- Installed water cooler at work to reduce staff use of bottled water
- Use the items I have until they wear out, and avoid shopping unnecessarily (eschew materialism)


- Water by hand or with soaker hose
- Water in the morning or evening, not under the hot sun
- Have planted drought tolerant perennials 
- Choose wild salmon, not farmed salmon
- Purchased low flow toilets
- Purchased hot water on demand system
- Wash in cold water
- Wash full laundry loads rather than a few items
- Don't run the tap when brushing teeth, or only a trickle
- Do not use the garburator


- Do not use air conditioning in my home
- Turn the thermostat down at night and when away
- Chose a smaller more fuel efficient car over a larger gas guzzler
- Sometimes walk or bike rather than drive
- Carpool when possible, e.g., to social or work event
- Live relatively close to work so don't have to commute far
- Have natural gas furnace and fireplace rather than oil, coal or wood
- Do not purchase aerosol cans
- Do not use motorized "toys" for entertainment (quad, motorboat, motorcycle, sled)

These are strawberries that I grew in my garden.

However, there are other bigger things that I do that are not very sustainable. I fly in airplanes far too much, both for work, and to go visit my grandchildren as often as possible. We own two cars, and one is a big truck and camper rig that is not fuel efficient. We live in a house that is much larger than we need. We have not invested in household systems that are more environmentally friendly, such as solar panels, a grey water system, or energy efficient new windows. We had begun doing this in our previous house, but not since we moved here. My house is not close enough to my workplace that I can walk or bike to work. Much of my pension funds are invested in energy funds and other big corporations that are engaged in non-sustainable practices. Rob and I like to go on long driving/camping holidays. We have backyard and camping bonfires. I eat sushi that is made with farmed Atlantic salmon. 

I feel conflicted because some of my behaviours are not aligned with my beliefs and values. I guess it is still worth doing the environmentally conscious things that I do. But I know there is a lot more I could be doing. Those remaining things are the hardest kinds of behaviours to change, however.

Monday, May 18, 2015

May Long

This weekend was the Victoria Day long weekend in Canada, fondly known as May Long. The May long weekend is one that people especially look forward to, as it seems to mark the beginning of the summer season. It is the weekend that locals will tell you is the earliest date to put in your garden. As well, most parks and camping destinations open on the May long weekend and close the Labour Day weekend, the first weekend of September. For us, the dilemma this weekend was whether to go camping or to plant our garden. 

The garden won out, as it almost always does on May Long. I had already cleaned out and weeded the perennial flowerbed in the front years a couple of weeks ago, and the plants are coming in nicely although nothing but the tulips have flowered yet. This weekend we dug up and planted the annual flowerbed at the front of the house. It is a raised bed that Rob built with garden ties two years ago. There are three bushes down the middle of it - a spirea and two pontentiallas - and we planted wave petunias in assorted colours around the front and sides. 

We also planted a container of pansies and more wave petunias in pipe planters on the back patio. 

Rob built the pipe planters out of ABS plumbing pipe. They have a concrete base. In past years we have planted trailing strawberries and cherry tomatoes in the pipe planters, but I like them best for flowers, especially trailing ones. 

I also planted potatoes in potato bags. I tried this for the first time last year. Basically, you start with a few inches of soil in the bottom of the bags, and put about three seed potatoes in each. Then you cover them with an inch or two of soil. As the potato plants begin to show, you add another layer of soil and another layer of seed potatoes. You should be able to get about three layers of potatoes in each bag. It is a great solution if you want to grow potatoes but you don't have a lot of garden space. The black bags also seem to catch and hold the warmth.  

This weekend, I also turned over most of the soil in my vegetable plot. When we first moved here, the soil was terrible, all clay and rocks. Now, going into our fourth summer, I finally have built up the soil to be better for vegetables. I have used compost, manure, black humus, and sand to improve the quality of the soil. I garden organically without the use of chemical fertilizers, so it is especially important to have good soil. 

The weather has been unseasonably cold all week with the possibility of minus temperatures and frost, so I have held off on planting much so far. However, I did put in some herb transplants: dill, thyme, and parsley, and I also planted some celeriac transplants. The oregano, sage, chives, and savory have all come up again and are doing well. 

My fruit garden that I just started last summer also is doing well. It is a tiny triangular bed with raspberry canes along the fence, a rhubarb plant in the middle, and strawberry plants at the apex of the triangle. Everything seems to be thriving and the strawberries are all in bloom. 

I have always loved to garden ever since I was a teen. Wherever I have lived, I have always created a garden. 

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