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It Had to Happen Eventually

Last night we let the dog out to relieve herself before bed, about 10:30. She was out just a few seconds when she came asking to be let in. Not enough time to have done anything, but likely in her mind enough to convince us to give her a treat. Scam artist. I was on the verge of sending her back out when I saw it. A flash of white under the cherry tree. Crap. A skunk.

Needless to say, I let Maxi in and thanked my lucky stars. I’d rather clean up pee than skunk spray.

Fast forward to tonight, about 11:30.

Maxi had already been out and was in bed, but Boo came downstairs so she asked to go out again (i.e., she saw an opportunity for a second bedtime treat). He let her out and pretty quickly started calling her back. “Momma, I think Maxi is chasing something.”  Yep. Tonight the skunk was back and Maxi got far enough into the yard to see it.

She saw. She chased. She got sprayed.

I could smell it as soon as I got to the door. Then I saw her frantically rubbing her head and face in the grass.

It’s way too late at night to be dealing with this.

We’ve been in this house 12 years, and we know there are lots of wild creatures in the neighbourhood, including skunks. But we’ve never had any of our animals get sprayed. I guess it had to happen eventually.

Last year. When I still thought skunks were cute. At least once their stinky gland has been removed.

I yelled to Boo to start the tub as I attempted to keep Maxi off any soft surface. Hubs went online to research remedies while I gave her an initial bath. It might not be the most effective thing, but it wouldn’t hurt, and it kept her contained.

One good wash during the research phase, with lots of doggie shampoo. Hubs found info that essentially said speed is of the essence – you need to get to the oily spray before it dries, so at least we had that one covered. The advice suggested using tomato juice, which I’ve heard before, but we have none, or mouthwash, which I hadn’t heard, but we do have on hand.

I felt a little mean making Maxi stay in the tub while it drained and refilled and Hubs went to retrieve the mouthwash from the other bathroom. But really she brought this on herself.

Doused her in minty mouthwash and let it sit for a bit. Then another good lather and a lot of rinsing in clear water. She smells pretty good now, but we’re not convinced where we’ll let her sleep tonight. I am voting for putting her dog bed in a bathroom and closing the door.

Oh! Which brings up a piece of advice. If your dog is like ours, she goes immediately from the bath to a bed, the better to dry off by rolling around in the soft sheets. If you are bathing your dog after a skunk spray incident, I recommend you close every door you can, to shut off any access to upholstered furniture, carpet, textiles, etc. Just in case the bathing doesn’t quite do the trick.

And – before you attempt to wrangle your pet into the tub, either strip yourself down or haul on some old clothes you don’t mind throwing out if needed.

The article we found actually suggested not letting your dog in the house if at all possible (obviously not an option we would go for). I can see why. The whole darn house smells like skunk. Or at least it did. We’ve sprayed the heck out of place with Febreze, and I have a Lampe Berger going now as well. But the smell has worked its way up into my nose and it will likely be days before I’m convinced the house is ok. I considered turning off the A/C and opening the windows to air out, but considering the stench in the backyard, that’s not a great option.

So, wish us well. In the morning I’m heading out to pick up skunk shampoo and tomato juice. Maybe if we have those on hand it won’t happen again? Maybe?

It’s a good thing she’s cute.

UPDATE: She is dumber than I think she is, apparently.  I checked for the skunk before I opened the door tonight, didn’t see it, so I let her out. And suddenly there’s a skunk and she’s chasing it and I’m yelling and she gets sprayed. Again. Right in her eye apparently, given how she was squinting. Another bath. Another round of Febreze. From now on she goes out on a leash after dark. And I need another bottle of Scope. Did I mention I didn’t make it to the pet store today? Sigh.

Thanks for your tips and sympathy!

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Halfway There: Kitchen Renovation Survival #RMBReno

I know some of you have been wondering how the renovations are going, so here’s a little update after the first week. What’s been accomplished? Well, the cabinets are in, electrical outlets have been moved, a partial wall has become a full wall, my house is dirtier and more cluttered that it has ever been, and I am slowly losing my mind.

But it will all be worth it in the end, right?

This was Thursday I believe, the end of Day 4. Upper cabinets in, lowers in place but not secured. Pantry in. Friday was the lower cabinets and prepping for the countertop, which should arrive tomorrow.

I am in love with the cabinets. And, as you can see, we can still use the stove. We actually have had our stove and fridge throughout, though it’s been awkward to get at them at various points, especially during the day when the contractors are here.

Light switch is still hanging out of the wall until the tile goes in. (Today maybe???) Saturday one of the guys came in for a few hours and prepped the walls for tiling and painting.

So it was quite the week. I almost cried when I walked in the door after Boo’s karate class one night and saw the cabinets had arrived. I still walk into the half-done kitchen and sigh with contentment. The space looks bigger and happier and I can’t wait to cook Thanksgiving dinner in there!!

In terms of surviving the reno process, flexibility has been key. When we first talked about this project, Hubs commented we’d be eating out every night. I said a quick “No way!” I planned to prepare some meals in advance, use the BBQ a lot and maybe have one dinner out. Well, life got in the way of pre-prepared meals, but we have cooked/grilled most nights. There have been a couple of evenings where the guys worked a little later and we just couldn’t face cooking once they’d left, so we picked up subs or ordered pizza. Lunch has actually been more difficult. The guys do take a break, but the kitchen is fairly crowded with their stuff, so we’ve been opting for take-out a lot, especially if one of us has been out running errands.

I kept some dishes, glasses, mugs, and pots available, but the only space for them is the dining room. So we’ve been eating at the coffee table. Not the end of the world.

I’ve been washing dishes in the bathroom sink, which isn’t easy, but it works. It feels really weird, but water is water, and a sink is a sink. Flexible.

And to save my own sanity I’ve become super flexible about cleanliness. Meaning there is none. Everything is covered in dust and dirt and yuck, in spite of the plastic sheeting the contractors hung. There is zero point in cleaning any of it, as I learned after my first attempt. So we are living in a dusty, cluttered mess until the kitchen is done. Once I get my sink back (Tuesday? Wednesday?) I can start washing all the things and putting them into their new homes. (Yay!) Then I can dust and clean and mop the main floor and get our house back in shape. But until then I’ve had to let go of my need for clean and order.

So, that’s where we stand. I seriously hope that by this coming weekend I’ll be able to show you final photos. Well, almost final. We are waiting for Home Depot to get our flooring in. It’s on order and should arrive October 15 or so. The contractors will come back then to lay it down and add the kick plates on the bottom cabinets. And then we’ll be done.

Wish us luck this week!

Update: So, after I published this yesterday, we got a call to let us know our contractor broke his ankle on the weekend. Yeah. Definitely focused on being flexible now. It’s not clear yet whether they have someone to fill in, or how long he’ll be off. Monday was a write-off, other than a couple of drawer dividers I picked up. Just got a call saying the counter guys will be here around noon to install the counter top, so today will be productive.

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Garage Sale Survival: 10 Tips to Make This Your Best Sale Ever

Another sure sign of summer – the garage sale. They start popping up on lawns and driveways near you as soon as the ground dries and the weather warms. Our neighbourhood holds a huge community garage sale event every May, which is awesome for both sellers and buyers because of the pure volume of opportunity in a small area. We’ve participated a few times in the past and done really well. But this year we knew we had a lot to purge, and we just weren’t ready in time – so we went it alone this past weekend.

Did you know the humidex was over 40 degrees Celsius in Toronto last weekend? Yeah. I think I sweated off about 5 pounds.

We had a lot of stuff

Hosting a garage sale is a lot of work. Hard, heavy, dirty work. It can also be a lot of fun. But you have to like people and you have to have a bit of a sense of humour.  And you have to be organised. Apparently we did a great job on that last one, as we had quite a few people compliment us and comment how easy it was to shop our sale. So I thought I’d share a few tips here to let you know how we approach the preparations and set-up.

Have enough stuff to make it worth their while. Have you ever done that slow drive-by of a yard sale and thought, “Wow. Why are they bothering?” If you don’t have enough merchandise, potential buyers will be hesitant to stop. Save your stuff until you have enough to make your sale enticing from the road.

Have variety. While you can potentially have a successful sale with just one category (e.g., housewares, or music, or tools, or toys) you will need to work harder to target the one specific audience who will be interested. Variety gives you a broader base and will bring more people in with less effort.

Advertise. Regardless of how much or how great your stuff is, no one (other than your neighbours) will come by if they don’t know about your sale. I checked into advertising in our local, free paper, but they are charging $40 to list yard sale ads in just one issue! Not happening. We got excellent traffic by posting free ads online with VarageSale, Kijiji, and Craigslist. We also bought bristol board at the dollar store and posted signage on telephone poles at major intersections leading in to our ‘hood. Make sure your signs are clear and big enough to be seen from the road.

Have change ready. This one’s a bit of a no-brainer or course. Be sure to have a float ready in the morning, and a safe and secure way to carry it with you. Don’t leave money lying around! You will likely need at least one or two 20s and a couple of 10s and 5s. Lots of loonies, twoonies and quarters, and even a few dimes or nickels if you have some really low-priced items. We had a number of people pay with 50 dollar bills, and even one 100 dollar bill. A fanny pack, although a fashion faux pas, works great for this. Or if someone will be sitting at a table all day, they could have a box with them. Count your float so you know what you’re starting with. Then at the end of the day you can subtract that number and know exactly how much you made.

Have enough bodies. Enlist friends if needed. Be sure you have enough people to cover you if you need to run to the bathroom or grab a beverage. You’ll need enough coverage to be able to monitor the activity and make sure everyone is being helped and nothing is walking away unpaid. Judge your needs by the amount of merchandise you have out. Oh! And be sure to have some chairs for you and your helpers to take a breather as needed. Plus, having friends help makes the event more fun 🙂

Sort and Organise. Make your sale easy to shop.  If you can organise a night or two in advance, inside your home, so much the better. This time we were actually purging so much stuff that we ran out of room to organise it. Oops! But DH and I planned out where each category would go, and brought it out accordingly on the morning of.  Higher priced items, like electronics, should go closer to the house – loss prevention! Keep housewares together, create a toy/kid’s items area, sporting goods, etc. Use tables wherever possible to keep items up where buyers can easily access them. This is especially important for anything breakable. Kid’s toys are great on the ground to entice kids to play with them and thus their parents to purchase them. Avoid placing out boxes filled with items as it’s harder for potential buyers to see what you have. The exception would be for very low value items – feel free to have a box or bin of 25 cent items for people to pick through. These items are not worth your time to display prettily.

Pricing. Price your items! You can buy sets of yard sale pricing stickers at the dollar store, print your own labels at home, or use masking tape and a marker. Whatever works for you! Feel free to negotiate, but give folks somewhere to start – they will feel more comfortable approaching you if they have an idea of what you want for something. Also it will cut down on the number of “How much do you want for this?” questions that will be thrown at you from across the yard. Related – it’s wonderfully efficient to group items at the same price point and collect them on a table with an “Everything on this table $1 each” or whatever. Items you will price individually can be priced a night or two before to save time on sale day, if you have the room left to get at them.

Setting up. Be sure to factor in enough time the morning of your sale to have everything out and set up before your sale is scheduled to begin. Put you signage up the afternoon or evening before. Set your coffee maker to be ready to go when you get up, then just grab a cup and get at it. We needed two hours for ours this time – both because of the volume of stuff we were moving and because it poured rain the day before so we couldn’t do our signage.

Be ready for the early birds. It doesn’t matter what you say in your ads, the early birds will still come. Our sale started at 9, but the first people arrived about 7:45. I find this incredibly rude myself. I just told them politely that we weren’t prepared to sell until 9am and would be happy to talk to them then. Not one of them caused a fuss. Most left and came back. A couple waited on the sidewalk and sized up what we were unpacking. Just be polite and firm.

Be ready for the latecomers. This one was an eyeopener for me. Our sale was slated to end at 1pm, and I expected people to still be arriving up to about 1:30 – great time to get deals since we really just wanted stuff gone. But people were still coming at 3:30!! And not only that, some of them had the gall to open up boxes we had packed to see what was there. Appalled! We were happy to have them look through anything still not packed up, or to ask us if we had a particular item they were looking for, but if we’ve closed a box, please don’t open it. So be prepared with some patience, and don’t put your float away too soon.

Oh. And I have a bonus tip for you – nothing comes back in the house! Nothing. Unless it’s a higher value item that you intend to try to sell online or something like that. Or if you plan to have regular sales and will be pulling it out again next month. (More power to you if that’s the case – once every couple of years is all I can handle!) If you were ready to part with it before the sale, you cannot change your mind now. Pack it all in the car and drop it off at a Salvation Army Thrift Store, or Value Village, or Goodwill, or wherever you prefer to donate. Then come home and enjoy your newly purged space. We treated ourselves to a restaurant dinner that night to celebrate our successful sale. Also we were too tired to cook. But it was a lovely way to end the day!

What do you think? What tips would you add to these? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

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Empty Nests

I had intended to tell you a story tonight about my wonderful week. You see it’s been one of those weeks where my job really rocks. I’ve seen friends and movies, and friends at movies. I’ve had spa treatments and enjoyed cocktail parties and helped to launch charitable events. My work isn’t always this eventful or “in-person” social, so this week really stood out. And I’m now exhausted, but in a really good way.

But something not very awesome at all happened at some point Wednesday evening or overnight.

The baby robins are gone.

Hubs had chased away some crows earlier in the day who’d been showing a little too much interest in the nest. And then all seemed well. The parents were taking turns watching and feeding the babies. I got to see them lifting up their little beaks to accept the worms. I didn’t have time to grab the camera and take a picture, and told myself I’d get one another day. But it was not to be.

When I got home Wednesday evening, there was no parent at the nest. And no parent when I glanced out the window while making coffee.  When I came back to pour my first cup, there was again/still no parent, so I went to investigate. And I found an empty nest.

I talked to Hubs and he commented that he didn’t see any robins when he got home the night before either, and had worried. It’s all very sad, but I guess it’s the circle of life, right? Crows and Common Grackles are known to be natural predators to robins and likely one or the other of these chased off the parents and grabbed the babies while we were away.

So now I feel guilty for being away for 7 or 8 hours. Like the babies were my responsibility, which I know they weren’t , but still.

I’ve read that robins build a new nest for each new clutch of eggs, plus I don’t think this was a great location for them anyway. The hanging basket kept the babies safe from squirrels and chipmunks, but there was no coverage to hide the nest from flying predators. So, I removed the nest, intact, and sent it in to school with Boo.  His teacher said she will use it in the science curriculum. It is in awesome shape, since it didn’t fall out of a tree or anything. You can really see and appreciate the amount of work that went in to weaving the grasses and twigs and cementing it all with mud. The structure also includes some strings and ribbons momma found, and the nest is lined with really soft grasses. It is a thing of beauty.

I truly hope that momma and daddy robin have better luck with a second set of eggs, and that they find a more secret place to safely raise their family.

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Spring Is Finally Here!

It’s really amazing what a little sunshine and warmer weather can do for my mood. Things started to look up earlier last week when I caught my first sight of a DVP groundhog (if you live in Toronto you likely know what I’m talking about – they live on/under a grassy median along this urban highway). Then there were 3 robins on my lawn, followed the next day by a pair of house finch in my pussy willow tree.

male and female house finch
I think Spring has finally arrived!

With the sun shining brightly, and a temperature approaching 20 degrees Celsius, yesterday was all about the outdoors. Some of that outdoors time was less than fun (read – cleaning up a winter’s worth of dog poop in the yard), but it was all really good for the soul.

Boo and I did some tidying up in the garden and were delighted to find life poking up out of the soil. There are lots of bulbs coming through, and the peonies are just peeking above the ground. Chives are doing great and can be clipped already. And I am estimating that my rhubarb is about 2 weeks away from harvest! I simply couldn’t stop smiling.

Naturally we couldn’t let this day go by without a nice nature walk with the dog. For a bit of variety we headed to Sunnybrook Park, on Leslie St. The park is huge and beautiful, with 9 parking lots and 2 picnic areas. And it was packed. Seriously packed.  We ventured along a wooded trail for a while, and Boo collected a series of sticks. Nothing new there. Maxi made friends with everyone we met – both human and canine. Most of our walk was along the road and through the picnic areas, so not exactly what we were after, but we really weren’t familiar with where to park. A few years ago Boo and I went there on a weekday morning, and we had an amazing walk through the woods, checking out streams and wildlife and cool bridges.  I just have to figure out where the heck I parked that time.

What is it with boys and sticks??
Maxi was crazy excited to see all the people and smell all the smells.

Sunnybrook Park is a great spot for hiking, biking, chilling, sports, picnics, and more. You can apply for a permit to use one of the fire pits in the picnic areas. And I noted a few geocaches as well – we’ll be going back to look for those without the dog. So many families had clearly settled in there for the day. Portable BBQs, water and snacks and full meals, bikes and games for the kids. You could feel the excitement as everyone dove headfirst into the best day we’ve had so far this year. Yay Spring!

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Chasing Flies

My housekeeping skills may have hit a new low. Either that or one of the boys has hidden a moulding sandwich somewhere I can’t find it. You see, our home has been invaded by what seem to be millions of little flies. I’m grossed out and embarrassed and really want everyone to know that my house isn’t actually THAT dirty.

Our first thought was fruit flies, but the usual remedies (apple cider vinegar with a dash of Dawn, or a small bit of red wine in a glass) that worked this summer weren’t cutting it, and on closer inspection, these guys seem a bit bigger than fruit flies.  But they definitely loved all the cookies and leftovers we had around over the holidays, sneaking in under plastic wrap to get at the goodies. So first step – remove all food from the counters, close the bread bin, thoroughly clean counters, sink and floor.

Still flies. Still centred in the kitchen, with seemingly more each day. Drain flies maybe? I scrubbed and disinfected under the sink and cleaned the drain with lots of vinegar and baking soda. I ran a cleaning cycle through the dishwasher and cleaned the filter. And that seemed to help for a bit, but when we came back from vacation they were worse than ever. (Now that I think of it, my kitchen sounds super clean after all that. Good for me!)

How I feel right about now …

What did I just do? Well, since you asked, I just spent the last 20 minutes chasing flies around my kitchen and dining room, hunting them with a hand vacuum. Yep. I did indeed. A whole new level of crazy, but fairly effective if I do say so myself. And totally satisfying.  I collected a surprising number of the little pests and then clogged the vacuum hose with a paper towel so any survivors can’t escape.

The vacuum is sitting on the counter ready for the next assault, once the flies feel safe enough to pitch again.

Meanwhile, I’ve done a little research online and am pretty confident these are in fact drain flies breeding in our pipes. There’s a detailed account of how to rid yourself of a drain fly infestation here. I don’t have a plumber’s snake to hand, but am happy that my vinegar and baking soda treatment was on the right track.

The basic steps:
1. Dry your drain and partially tape over the opening overnight. Check in morning to see if flies are stuck to the underside – confirms they are coming up from the drain.
2. Physically remove grime/organic build-up in the pipes (plumber’s snake, metal pipe brush, remove hair from shower drain, etc.)
3. Chemically clean pipes with drain cleaner/vinegar and baking soda.

Once your pipes are clean, the drain flies have lost their breeding ground. You’ll still have adults around to deal with for a couple of weeks, but at least there’ll be no new ones. The site I referenced suggests a fly swatter, which is probably fine. But I think I like my vacuum solution. I’ll stick with that one.

Now, I’m off to up my game and pull out the big guns – chemical drain cleaner. Judge or curse me if you must. I’ve tried the gentle way, and now it’s time for Plan B.

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Putting the Garden to Bed

Having a healthy, productive garden is really a year-round affair. Even in the winter wonderland that is Canada. Every season has its particular tasks from planning and ordering seeds in the winter, to prepping the ground and planting in spring, weeding and cutting and feeding all summer, and harvesting in the fall, there’s always something to be done. And one of the most important fall chores is to put the garden to bed for the winter.

And this is a task at which I suck.

I think part of my problem is that I put it off and put it off, with the optimism of a summer heart, believing that there are still lots of warm days left. And then out of nowhere the weather turns and suddenly I realise I still haven’t harvested my lavender or taken the dahlia tubers out of the ground for storage. Sigh.

gardening toolsToday it snowed. So I figured I’d better get to it. I’d dealt with 90% of the vegetable garden about a month ago, but the herbs and flowers were pretty much overrun. There’s a lot to cut back.

I thought I’d share a few of the tasks needing to be done at this time of year. Some of them I’ve completed, others I’ll get to this week. I hope.

1) Cut back your perennials. First off, know what you have. Perennials with woody stems that flower on old growth can be pruned, but cutting them back heavily will ruin your next growing season. I have a gorgeous clematis that blooms on old growth, for instance (not all clematis do). I basically stare at ugly brown stems for half the year so that I’ll get the incredible blooms in June. It’s worth it. Other perennials that are going to grow back from the root in the spring should be cut back to 3-6 inches from the ground. The few inches of stems above the ground will allow snow to accumulate and insulate the roots. If you don’t cut them back, you’ll just have to clean up a soggy mess in the spring.

2) Remove your annuals. Again, if they haven’t already died right back to the ground, pull them out. They’re not coming back, and they’ll be gross to clean up in the spring. Plus, you don’t want them molding into your soil. If you’ve had pest or disease problems during the growing season, definitely pull out the plants. That being said, if you have some lovely seed heads to leave for the birds or for winter interest, go ahead. Just be conscious of how much cleaning you are willing to do in the spring.

3) As with the annuals, remove any plants remaining in your vegetable garden – tomatoes, peppers, cucumber vines, etc.

4) Do you have tender perennials you’d like to see again next year?  In this Zone 6 climate, tender perennials don’t survive the winter. Certain plants, like canna lilies and dahlias can be taken up in the fall and stored over winter, to be planted again once all danger of frost is passed. The bulbs/tubers should be allowed to dry for a couple of days. Then clean off the dirt and store in a bucket or pail (covered in sand or sawdust ideally) in a cool, dark location. Not freezing. When you take them up will depend on your climate. I should have taken mine up a couple of weeks ago.

5) Plant spring bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, crocuses, glory of the snow. These are all so lovely and hopeful when they poke through the ground after months of snow and ice. Plant these in October or November. As a rule of thumb, bulbs should be planted to a depth three times their height. Groupings of odd numbers seem to look best.

6) Once you have cut back your dying plants and planted any bulbs you want, it’s time to apply mulch. A thick layer of mulch will help to insulate the roots underground, moderate temperature fluctuations, and can add needed nutrients to the soil. All I do is rake leaves into my garden plots after the first hard frost. Then I rake them off in early spring. Really the leaves should be shredded, or just run a mulching mower over them before you add them to your garden. This will speed up decomposition and the leeching of nutrients. If you don’t shred, be sure to remove the leaves promptly in spring so air and moisture can get to the soil and sprouting plants can get through.

Maxi is a big help. See how she gathers up the sticks? 😉

Basically you want to do two things – get a head-start on spring cleaning, and protect your perennials and bulbs from extreme weather. It’s messy work, but so is all gardening, right?

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My Grandmother Would Be Appalled

image from Kozzi.com

You never truly realise what an awful house keeper you are until you get the brilliant idea to invite a bunch of people over for a party. And then you look around your house through the eyes of your potential guests.

I’m not talking about the 4 best friends who really don’t care that you just pushed a pile of toys and magazines and unpaid bills (and dust) off your coffee table into a basket so you could make room for the wine and chips and dip. I’m talking about your husband’s friends from work, and friends you mostly keep in touch with through Facebook (so they only see the good stuff) and other moms from school.

Suddenly I see all the marks on the cupboards and the stain on the family room carpet, and the dust. Everywhere the dust.  Then there’s the toys and shoes and bags and assorted detritus of family life that cover the living room. We’ve gotten so used to the clutter we almost don’t notice it. But the guests will.

I was basically raised in my grandmother’s home. And it was spotless. Always. She was the ultimate housekeeper. And baker. And cook. Neither my mom nor I come close to measuring up to her standards of clean. But even then, I remember my mom carving out Saturday morning every week as the time to clean the house. And I did the same for a long time. As a single childless gal I did a pretty good job of the house keeping thing. Turn up the music open the windows to air the place out (in season) and clean clean clean.

But life changed, and there were things to do outside the house, and exhaustion from work and commuting, and then came kids and lessons. I got lazy.

For the record, you won’t catch any dread diseases if you visit, or even eat at my house. The garbage gets put out, the dishes get washed (in the dishwasher) and the counters get wiped down. But things like a kitchen with white cupboards and white ceramic tile floor make any dirt very visible (not my choice – came with the house). And having both a cat and a dog who shed constantly doesn’t help matters.

So, this week Hubs and I are cleaning. And he’s fixing a bunch of things on the neglected “honey do” list. For the record, he’s much more thorough with his cleaning activities than am I. He doesn’t do it any more often (much less to be truthful) but when he does, he really makes it count!

The moral of the story? I need to entertain more, not less. Then this place might stand a chance of getting a good cleaning on a more regular basis.

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5 Tips for Gardening with Kids

My Nan patiently showed me how to use the cultivator to create a long furrow in the ground where I would plant my seeds.  First sprinkle in the fertilizer, then the seeds. Careful! Spread them out so they have room to grow. Then cover and pat down the soil on top. Water, and you’re done.

Well, until it’s time to thin out the growing plants. And weed. And water again. And check for pests. And so on.

I started gardening with my grandmother when I was a toddler. She loved to involve me and my brother, though she was careful to give each of us our own area to plant. She was a bit of a perfectionist, and it wouldn’t do to have us mess up the half acre of crops we were actually planning to eat over the winter! We each had a space for vegetables, and another for flowers. We learned about transplanting, how to identify weeds, how much fertilizer to use, and more. It was a great lesson to learn where our food comes from. Actually, I think I was in school before I realised most people bought their potatoes at the store! Who knew!

These days I try to involve Boo in the garden as much as possible, and he does enjoy helping out and watching our plants grow. But it’s not always easy to drag him away from his Lego and his games. Here are a few tips and ideas that I’ve found work well to engage kids in the garden.

1. Let them choose the plants. Vegetable garden? Ask what your child would like to grow, with the knowledge they’ll be able to eat it later. Flowers? Do they have a favourite colour they’d like to enjoy in the garden? By letting them make these decisions, they’ll be more inclined to get involved in the planting and care of the plants. For instance, Boo really wanted to plant milkweed in our garden, to encourage monarch butterflies and aid in their conservation. So we did that this weekend, and he was 100% engaged in the process and super excited to see how they do.

2. Set them up for success. Some plants are easier to grow than others. Nan set us up with radishes and leaf lettuce because they were fairly foolproof, meaning we would have a high chance of actually getting an edible harvest. Success is encouraging and much more likely to lead to a continued love of gardening.  I planted asparagus this year, but I’d never suggest this for a child, as you have to wait at least two years before you can begin to harvest. A crop like peas or beans will show quick results that will be much more satisfying for a child.

3. Tap into their interests.  There are lots of different pieces to gardening – digging in the dirt, choosing plants, watering, weeding. Boo loves to draw and is proud of his writing as well. So, last year I got him to make the row markers for our veggie patch.

4. Put them in charge.  As my grandmother did for us, give them their own little plot of land or a special container for their chosen plants. Give them full responsibility. Let them do the work and feel the full pride of a job well done.

5. Let them get wet. If nothing else, what kid doesn’t love water play? Give your child special responsibility for watering the garden. Let them play with the hose while they’re at it. Be sure to give lots of praise.

Do you garden with your kids or grandkids? What are some of their favourite garden tasks? Do you have any tips to share to help keep them engaged?