Sunday, 19 September 2021

Wisdom from a Copse

"Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management which exploits the capacity of many species of trees to put out new shoots from their stump or roots if cut down. In a coppiced woodland, which is called a copse, young tree stems are repeatedly cut down to near ground level, resulting in a stool. New growth emerges, and after a number of years, the coppiced tree is harvested, and the cycle begins anew.

Typically, a coppiced woodland is harvested in sections or coups on a rotation. In this way, a crop is available each year somewhere in the woodland. Coppicing has the effect of providing a rich variety of habitats, as the woodland always has a range of different-aged coppice growing in it, which is beneficial for biodiversity.

Trees being coppiced cannot die of old age as coppicing maintains the tree at a juvenile stage, allowing them to reach immense ages. The age of a stool may be estimated from its diameter; some are so large that they are thought to have been continually coppiced for centuries."  (

A July storm toppled a number of trees in our neighbourhood including this moderately large basswood (genus Tilia) which landed on a house. The city removed the tree and placed the stump and grass back in their proper positions. 

Basswood trees are one of many species that produce new growth from felled stumps. In past centuries, woodlands were systematically coppiced as a source of fuel and building materials. The trees were never destroyed. Ancient coppices are found in Europe, with France having the greatest number of hectares of this type of woodland. 

In the past two months, vigourous new growth has virtually hidden the basswood stump, and if properly pruned, new trees would continue to grow from the mature root. 

So many life lessons...!!

I read a comment recently that described how people will update their clothing, their furniture, their kitchens, but they resist updating their thinking and stop learning. People think older citizens are the only ones who bemoan "the good old days", but I have met people in their 20s and 30s with very rigid thinking. The mature tree, whose individualistic trunk is removed, becomes host to the vigourous growth of many juvenile shoots. Just as the mature root is untouched, our morals and values do not have to change in order to support new ideas that bring progress.

I highlighted two characteristics of coppiced woodlands in the Wikipedia description.

  • They provide a rich habitat for biodiversity
  • Coppiced trees cannot die from old age
I am currently reading Adam Grant's latest book, Think Again: The power of knowing what you don't knowThe author discusses the need to examine our opinions, and describes how to unlearn so we can relearn from our own experiences as well as from other people. He encourages positive "cognitive conflict" with productive disagreement and discussion. This is not the same thing as "emotional conflict" which can be very destructive. I am halfway through a library copy but feel the need to underline many good points in the book. 

The most beautiful biblical picture of growth from a stump is found in Isaiah 11 where the prophetic words concerning Christ are written. 

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord...

Colossians 2:6-7 continues the theme, encouraging us as we grow and mature in Christ.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, 
continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, 
strengthened in the faith as you were taught, 
and overflowing with thankfulness...

I want to live in a figurative coppiced woodland with the freedom to prune away old traditions so that new growth can appear. I want to hear the voices of others and demonstrate the ability to say "I was wrong", forming new perspectives and thinking. Well-rooted generational interdependence flourishes in this environment.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

"Dead Family Tour" Road Trip

One of my daughters and I took a two day road trip this week which we nicknamed "The Dead Family Tour". She had an appointment in Toronto and we wanted to visit out of town family whom we have not seen for many months due to COVID restrictions. Along the way we planned to stop at some towns where our ancestors lived as well as old graveyards where they are buried. 

My brother lent me his GPS unit in 2008 when we drove to New York City for the first time. I didn't think I needed such a unit as I had worked in the home care sector for several years and felt that a map was all that was needed for navigation. We had planned a two week holiday in 1998 to Canada's east coast just using a CAA TripTik. However, the GPS unit was extremely helpful and I bought one for myself after that trip. I did learn that a GPS unit is fallible and should not be relied on completely when driving.

Before going on a road trip, I research routes on Google Maps and write the details down in a notebook, using the GPS unit as a backup only. I like the option of choosing from several routes and having the beginning and end of the trip clearly visible. Getting the big picture helps me remember the directions by memory. 

Putting the same destination in the GPS unit gives me a map that shows only a kilometer of distance at a time. I am given an arrival time, but have no idea of the where I am going beyond the next turn. If I decide on an alternate route, the device may try to override me, which can be annoying. I use this short-sighted navigation tool as seldom as possible. It is valuable for unexpected detours and for getting around an unfamiliar urban area.

Life is more like a GPS unit than a Google Map tool. While we plan for the future, we do not see the end from the beginning and are often navigating a short distance ahead at a time. The future may be uncertain and we wish we could see the road ahead. We need courage, faith, optimism and good travel companions to complete our journeys well.

Today is the second anniversary of my father's death. He enjoyed a fulfilling life and travelled widely in the world. His final few years were marked with illness and loss, and it was a good thing that he did not know the struggles he would face at the end of his journey. We are grateful that his suffering is over and now remember the happier days of his life. 

L-R, top to bottom: Queen St Toronto, Park Lawn Cemetery, Barrie ON waterfront

The road trip this week was a great success with the right balance of planning and spontaneity. I had never visited the scenic area between Collingwood and Thornbury, Ontario and hope to go back and explore it in greater depth. We had the chance to remember and honour a number of family ancestors who have completed their life journeys well.

Collingwood waterfront, Union Cemetery in Thornbury, Georgian Bay at Blue Mountain

Saturday, 11 September 2021

9/11 Twenty Years Later

 My husband and I visited NYC in August 2018 and spent a day at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and Ground Zero area. We saw evidence of the devastation as well as new developments and structures, including the unique Oculus. It was sobering and hopeful and the same time. 

I remember September 11, 2001 well. I was on a home care visit with a patient on David St, in a 3rd floor apartment. The patient was an amputee and the TV was on as the second airplane hit the tower. Details of days like this remain etched deeply in our memory, even if we experience no direct impact related to the incident. The world has changed greatly in the past 20 years and the unity shown by Americans in the face of the attack has all but vanished. 


We enjoyed the Broadway show, Come from Away which told the story of Canadians in Gander NFLD who opened their hearts and homes to stranded travellers. Twenty years has not changed Newfoundland significantly!

Today I looked through the photos taken during our week in New York City and am thankful we had an opportunity to visit at that time. It is important to remember the lives lost and the sacrifices made on this day. It is more important to remember current injustices and conflicts and to continue to work toward peace and reconciliation for the future. I want to unite with others to make the world a better place for my children and grandchildren. 

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! 

Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, 

be of one mind, live in peace. 

And the God of love and peace will be with you.

2 Corinthians 13:11

Friday, 10 September 2021

What Do You Eat?!

One of our daughters was born with an aversion to meat and milk. As a baby, she spat out puréed meats. We could not trick her into drinking cow's milk and when she was older, she chewed meat forever but refused to swallow it. As a toddler she lived on egg sandwiches, kidney beans and vegetables. Around 2008, I decided to follow a plant-based diet and my daughter happily joined me. I won't go into all the reasons for changing my diet as I do not try to convince others to follow my personal decision. 

It is much easier to find excellent vegetarian options in restaurants compared to a decade ago, and many ethnic cuisines have delicious meatless options. No matter if you are a meat eater, a pescatarian, a lacto-ovo vegetarian, or a vegan, eating more vegetables is important for good health. You can avoid meat and still eat a very unhealthy diet. One of the first vegetarians I met lived on french fries, potato chips and crackers. My great-uncle, who was born at the turn of the 20th century, was a vegetarian who ate a lot of processed meat substitutes. I avoid meat substitutes such as Beyond Beef and processed veggie burgers. I do not miss meat textures and prefer to use eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds as protein in my diet. 

Autumn is my favourite time of year! I love visiting the market and buying fresh squash, peppers, root vegetables, beans, stone fruits and APPLES! It is the best time of year for simmering soup, making stews, and roasting vegetables. Roasted vegetables are sweet and delicious and dinner comes together quickly with a bowl of grains, legumes, roasted vegetables with some sort to sauce or dressing;- curry, salsa, peanut, avocado, cilantro, tahini or hummus. I had my first vegetarian burrito bowl many years ago at the Houston TX airport and was immediately hooked on the rice, beans, roasted peppers, guacamole and salsa, served with freshly fried tortilla chips. 

So what is on my roasting pan today? (Every day is different)

I chop the vegetables in uniform sizes and roast them with a little olive oil and salt at 425 F until they are tender crisp. Cruciferous vegetables like brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage all roast up well and I try to have one serving of them a day. Golden beets are another favourite, sliced in thin rounds. Green and yellow beans are surprisingly good, and radishes taste a little like potatoes when cooked. There are many other vegetables on my regular rotation including white and sweet potatoes, butternut squash, turnip, asparagus, tomatoes and corn. Leftover roasted vegetables go well with a lunch or dinner salad. They can be also be cooked in vegetable stock and puréed to make a hearty soup.

I am grateful for the great variety of food that is readily available at a reasonable price where we live. Eating a plant-based diet is very economical for us and is never boring. 

And here is dinner;- roasted vegetables with roasted potatoes and crispy tofu instead of beans. 
The meat eaters in the family had some pan-fried pork loin on the side, but vegetables were the main feature as they should be. 
The chosen sauces ranged from ketchup to salsa to coconut curry sauce. 

Tuesday, 7 September 2021


There are many types of hospital isolation and precautions that we must observe as we work with patients. People with COVID-19 have airborne precautions requiring the use of N95 masks along with our other protective gear. Others, with infections such as MRSA, require contact precautions. Today I had a new patient with a less commonly seen precaution.

The outer and inner boundaries of the room were marked with special tape indicating bed bug isolation. Paramedics who brought the patient to hospital noted bed bugs in the home and on the patient's belongings. Somehow, the thought of inadvertently bringing bed bugs home with me is far worse than the idea of carrying an invisible viral or bacterial infection! My immune system can mount an attack against viruses and bacteria, but not against bed bugs.

The tape on the floor made me think about other types of important boundaries we sometimes need in life. Our society has laws that define boundaries of acceptable social behaviour. Sometimes we need to set personal boundaries to protect ourselves from the abusive behaviour of other people. Forgiveness is an important step to take when we have been wronged, but that does not mean that we must be door mats and offer ourselves up for further abuse. 

Luke 14:3-4 sets boundaries for forgiveness. People are quick to quote verse 4 out of context. 

“So watch yourselves! If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. 4 Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.

Offering forgiveness does not mean there will not be consequences for bad behaviour. In Numbers 14:17-23, God said he would forgive the rebellion of the Israelites as Moses asked, but none of that generation would see the promised land. 

Coming to forgiveness may take time and it should not be a flippant promise. Reconcilation, which is not the same as forgiveness, is an even longer process, especially if there has been repeated abuse and breaching of boundaries. 

We live in an increasingly polarized world where personal attacks and opinions can quickly spread in emails, forums and social media. I have set personal boundaries regarding my use of the internet and social media in an effort to prevent myself from being in a state of perpetual indignation. I find far more good in the world than bad if I limit my exposure to click bait headlines and biased reporting. Time is valuable and as I get older, I am constantly reminded that I have used more time than I have left. I want to use it wisely and be a positive influence in my circle of family, friends and community.

And I wish that maintaining important boundaries in my life was a easy as placing sticky tape on the floor!

Thursday, 12 August 2021


I walked into the isolation hospital room where a newly admitted patient lay on a bed with high flow oxygen running. He was drenched in sweat and needed his gown and bedding changed. He asked if he could have help getting to the bathroom. My job was to assess his ability to walk safely, so I gowned up, adding an N95 mask, face shield, gloves...

The assessment involves asking where the person lives, who they live with, if they have stairs, and if they have mobility problems.

"Where do you live?" I asked.

"I have been living in the woods for a while", he replied. 

The blue hospital gown, oxygen mask and IV pole hid the look of homelessness. 

As I changed his soaked bedding he told me of his previous life, of the wife and children he had not seen for many years. He held onto hope that his children fared better as adults than he had with his mental health and addiction issues. I didn't delve into his past or explore the traumas that caused his life to go in this direction.

He was a very nice, soft-spoken man, regretful for the loss of important relationships in his life. He was gasping for air after the short walk to the bathroom and later in the afternoon, test results were positive for COVID-19. Our marginalized community members have been hit hard by the virus. 

As I finished my assessment he said, "Everyone in this hospital is so kind."

I know that to be true. I am privileged to work with amazingly kind and caring people who will treat this sick, homeless man no differently than a wealthy benefactor of the organization. 

Maintaining good family relationships can be challenging at the best of times, and even more so when behaviours, differences of opinion and mental illness create wide chasms between members. If my patient recovers, what does life have to offer him? I can only hope that he finds human kindness, acceptance and assistance outside the hospital walls. 

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Tiger Lily Confusion

Tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium)

Last spring we visited a small Old Order Mennonite shop in the next county where dry goods and delicious baked goods were sold. A few perennial plants were available and I selected a pot labeled "Tiger Lily". It did not bloom last year and the flowers finally opened this week. I was very confused as this is an Asiatic lily, not the common lily that grows in ditches in Ontario. I always thought that the widespread orange lily was a native plant called a Tiger Lily. 

Not so...

What did we do before information was instantly available on the internet, particularly on Wikipedia?!

The flower in my garden is a Tiger Lily and it is a non-native Asiatic plant. I knew Old Order Mennonites would not deceive me.

The roadside plants we saw in abundance on our trip to  Manitoulin Island are Orange Day Lilies (Hemerocallis fulva), called day lilies as the blooms only last one day. They are non-native plants, also originating in Asia, and are even not even true lilies. They have naturalized widely in North America and have many nicknames including ditch lily and tiger day lily.

Orange Day Lilies (Hemerocallis fulva)
Orange Day Lilies (Hemerocallis fulva)

All parts of the Day Lily are edible, and to quote Wikipedia

"The flowers, leaves, and tubers of the orange daylily are edible. Leaves and shoots can be eaten raw or cooked when very young (or they become too fibrous). The flowers and young tubers can also be eaten raw or cooked. The flowers can be dried and used as a thickener in soup. The cooked flower buds, served with butter, taste like green beans or wax beans.The tubers are a good potato substitute."

There is a native plant called the Canada Lily (Lilium canadense) but I do not recall finding one in the wild. I will have to look for it next year in June and July, but it is most commonly found on the east coast of North America and is threatened in some areas. 

The Tiger Lilies in my garden are lovely, even if they are not what I expected. Time will tell if they will thrive in our soil and if they will attract the dreaded Lily Leaf Beetles. Most of my lilies have succumbed to these imported pests in the past. 

Monday, 9 August 2021

Tea Granny

Abigail's Tea House, St. George Ontario- a favourite of ours!

 The first thing I do in the morning when I come into the kitchen is to put the kettle on for a pot of tea. I cannot imagine starting the day without this routine. I always take my S'well insulated bottle to work, filled with either hibiscus flowers and cinnamon sticks or rooibos mint tea with a dusting of cocoa. The other favourite household beverage is Chai, prepared from scratch with cinnamon sticks, ginger root, cardamom pods, whole cloves and black tea. The kitchen smells wonderful when this is brewing. 

I have never been a fan of green tea even after trying numerous blends. The health benefits of green tea have been widely studied but it has a bitterness that limits me to a few sips at a time. I was intrigued to notice that Tetley had a black/green tea blend available in United States. Black and green tea leaves usually steep best at different temperatures, green tea requiring water that is just under a boil. While looking up more about this tea blend, I came across a very happy discovery... Murchie's Tea!!

Murchie's Fine Tea and Coffee is a Canadian company based in Vancouver and Victoria BC. It was founded by John Murchie, a Scottish immigrant who had blended and delivered tea for Queen Victoria at Balmoral Castle. His brought his passion for good tea to Canada and established Murchie's Tea in 1894. 

The company has nine different Green/Black tea blends and I have loved every one that I have tried so far. Right now I am using No. 22 Blend in the morning. Murchie's offers many other teas and we have enjoyed a variety of them including Irish Breakfast, Prince Charles, and Murchie's Afternoon Blend. I buy loose tea leaves but the teas are available in bags as well. I was in Victoria BC and few years ago and definitely would have visited this shop had I known about it. They have excellent online service and fast shipping times, even though I would love an excuse to visit Vancouver Island again. 

Tea is something I always pack when going on a trip. In Mexico, the default tea in the area where my parents lived was chamomile tea, which is not on my list of essential brews. 

I took my own tea and used this Mexican pottery teapot when I visited Mom and Dad. When Dad died in 2019, I brought the teapot back to Canada with me.

I do enjoy a good cup of coffee from time to time, particularly cold brew iced coffee served with lots of ice in the summer. We make this at home too, "steeping" the grounds overnight. I made kombucha tea for several years, caring for my SCOBYs diligently. I buy a bottle now and then for a treat or if I feel the need of a good dose of probiotic bacteria. 

But hot, brewed tea is Queen for me.

* I am not being paid to promote any businesses mentioned in this post*

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