Friday, March 30, 2007

The garden of spark plugs.


Now that we can see the yard of our new house, I'm trying to clean up the back garden. The end of our yard slopes up to the fence; the bottom of the slope floods every spring, and is right where the last owners tried to have a garden...of something. Yesterday was the first day that it wasn't underwater since the snow melted. I mucked around in there for the first time, and found that the last owner used it to chuck detritus. He died about fifteen years ago, and I can't imagine his timid widow chucking what I found out there, so I know this stuff is quite old. I found squished lengths of heavy pipes, a rotted tarpaulin, a shower curtain liner that disintegrated on contact, spark plugs in plastic wrappers, a rusted metal canister, a golf ball, a carpet, a gear belt, Indian arrowheads, Jimmy Hoffa, Atlantis, and Waldo.

How the hell will I plant vegetables there? Of course we'll clean it, but the water! The pipe lengths speak to a previous attempt to drain the garden, but they were all full of muck. The tarp was probably another relic of an attempt to keep the water away. It's sodden and brown now. The neighbours have a sump pump to deal with the water, and a beautiful garden. I'll ask them for advice.

B's stepmother came yesterday to help me organize the main level of the house. She also brought two clumps of chives from her garden for me to plant in my own. They're idiot-proof, apparently, and grow like crazy. Perfect, because I have no idea what I am doing. I planted them yesterday while Iain looked on in the stroller, babbling happily.

Earthworms! I've only planted balcony containers before, so it was a new challenge to avoid bisecting any worms. Poor little guys.

Towards the end of her life, my mother abandoned gardening. And when I was a child, she didn't garden with me. I think an incident involving my throat and a tomato stake when I was a toddler convinced Mom that a garden was no place for children, so she never shared her efforts with me. I now know zilch. Sigh. But I'm happy to take my time and learn, and this is a wait-and-see year for the garden anyway. The beds surrounding the house itself are fine - no lost aircraft in sight, and I can't wait to see what pops up in them!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Closing day.


We're homeowners. I feel like throwing up.

Our house is part of a suburban subdivision that was built in 1958. We are just its second owners. Just as many young families are buying new houses in developments further afield these days in Durham, York and Peel Regions, just outside Toronto, that's Scarborough was all about in the '50s and '60s.

My parents hated development, and twenty years of driving to Parry Sound every month showed us clearly how development was chewing up farmland. I hated it because they did, but less so now. There are few choices for young families who want to own an affordable home in an area they feel safe in. I grew up in an area where I could walk in the evening and feel safe. We knew our neighbours - they were ordinary folks with kids, and not obsessed with the curb appeal of their houses. That's what I want, and you just can't get that in most parts of the city for our price. Two years ago, it was a possibility, but house prices have just gotten so damn silly that we can't even afford a semi in East York now. So a fair handful of our friends and their families have headed out to these new developments, and we're heading into the 1958 version of the same dream.

It's a cookie-cutter, typical '50s house, just the kind my mother taught me to make fun of. (You can see it two posts down.) But it's ours, and it was loved by the original owners. They didn't do much with it - no renos, additions, patio or anything. The kitchen is small and dated, with avocado-coloured appliances, and the plate on the light switch says "Kay's Kitchen". We learned yesterday that Kay and her husband had passed away. Their son was selling the house on behalf of Kay's estate, but he has the same name as his father, and so we had bought the house thinking that the father, not an estate, was the vendor. All they left behind, besides the light plate, was a wall clock with a picture of a little dog (it will go into Iain's room) and a fridge magnet with a reading about grace. I will keep it.

I'm sad that they have both passed on - I wanted to ask the original owners about their home and the neighbourhood, and maybe send them a friendly note. I'll pick the next-door neighbour's brain instead. I met him on Tuesday. He was on his roof, shovelling it. That was surreal. He's about 70, and he and his wife have been there for 35 years. He was lovely and pollte, and told me that the street was pretty stable, a mix of old-timers and young families with kids. Perfect. I want to feel like we're in a community, not a question mark. They have a backsplit like ours, only they've added a sunroom to the back, without taking away much of their yard at all, and put a carport over the driveway. If we stay there, it looks like a great kind of addition to consider for our own house.

Anyway, we'll move two weekends from now, if I can get my mover on board. He's been a bit flaky and difficult to reach. He moved my mother and me into this apartment, and says he remembers my mother as a hero for treating him and his guys like royalty, even though she was terminally ill and moving under unhappy circumstances. I spoke to him about two weeks ago - he agreed to do it and said he'd visit me last week to give me an estimate. Haven't heard from him since. Eeek.

Well, pray for us.