Note: This is my digital diary.  With props to my journalist niece for framing the concept, this is me being my own journalist.  Too many people live largely uncelebrated and die largely unremembered; everyone else is too consumed with their own lives to make a big deal of yours, so if you want to celebrate and you want to be remembered by current friends and maybe also by distant descendants, you have to record your own life.  I have ancestors about which we are very curious but who left very little behind to help us know them.  I have a few friends who blog about their lives and travel, and that helps to keep them in my thoughts and up to date on their lives, so I know that it is a positive and useful pursuit. 

    Current slideshow of garden flowers and produce, and other topics


2023 December 25th, Christmas Day.  For the balance of October we helped Evan and Connie set up their cradle, attended haul-out to give them confidence, and taught them to wrap the boat in tarps for the winter.  They had a scare at Haul-out when the sling crew got the back sling under the motor stub and didn't realize it until the boat was in the air.  It was dusk, they were the last boat, and one assumes the crew were tired and eager to go home, but it was still a dangerous moment for the integrity of the hull.  I was already waiting by the cradle for the boat to arrive, and it hadn't occurred to me that the sling crew wouldn't put the rear sling on the marks we'd indicated.  They'd always done it correctly in previous years.
    On the 22nd we got Winston to do oil changes on the RAV and the truck, but he took about four hours and didn't have or couldn't find the simple set of tools he needed.  I took lots from my own tool boxes, and helped him, but it seemed that he just doesn't have his wits about him anymore.  His garage is in disarray, and time has run out for him to get it all organized again, I suspect.  One vehicle got a new filter but we had to return the other.
    I played my last house league games, and we got our flu and our seventh covid shots.  We had regular dinners every week or so with the three couples we usually do those with, and we began bringing in produce: peppers in pots, cherry tomatoes, etc.  We cleared our eaves and put the back door on.  Dr. Nicholas gave me another stamp of approval for my endocrinology test results.  On Nov 18th Samuel Troncoso from Chile arrived for the afternoon for turkey soup and a visit.  He was studying English downtown for a month.  That evening we saw Connie Kaldor live at St. Paul's church on our old street, at an Acoustic Harvest concert.
    On Dec 6th we performed our second annual Holly Jolly concert at the community centre.  We still don't have the promised video from the concert (same problem the previous year).  We had a roti re-connection with Moe and Jennifer, and attended a semi-annual seasonal dinner at Jackie and Don's. We went to the travel clinic and got treated like pin-cushions, having many vaccine updates.  I think we've had ten in the past two months, some in preparation for our winter escape and others just for general health because previous ones were ten years or more before.  I converted my RRSP to a RRIF because I'm now 71, and that is required.  Who knows why?
    We're having a quiet Christmas, by choice.  The temperature is unusually balmy.  There will be highs of six and seven all week, and we will go each day to Rosetta McClain to stretch our legs by walking the pathways, and feed the squirrels.  It's the only place we know around here that we can find the aggressive little American red squirrel along with the Eastern Greys, which are more often black than grey.  I enjoy them both, with a slight preference for the red squirrels but the grey squirrels are fat and bushy, well fed by visitors (and by us) so they are particularly handsome with their gray and brown coats and luxuriously bushy tails.  There are also lots of Northern flying squirrels in Ontario but we never see them because they are nocturnal.  I'm not sure if any live at Rosetta McClain.  We should have Eastern chipmunks as well, one of five kinds of chipmunk in Canada, but we rarely ever see any.  Eastern greys are ubiquitous at our house, where they treat the phone and internet cables behind our house as a squirrel highway.
    We'll still have two music events for this week between Christmas and the New Year, and then the four-a-week routine will return.  On New Year's Day afternoon we'll attend the annual levee at HYC.  Then our minds will stray toward our month in Guadalajara, which will be our winter escape this year.  We'll begin planning and packing well in advance.

    Oct 15th.  On the 4th we taught Connie and Evan how to drop the mast, wrap it and put it on the mast rack.  On the 8th we had a Thanksgiving dinner at HYC, in the tradition of Barb Bruyea.  The tradition disappeared during the pandemic, and was restored by Linda Jarrett, who bought two 20 lb turkeys.  All the guests brought side dishes.  Deborah cooked up one of our squashes to contribute.  The next day we had another turkey that Deb cooked for my birthday, and we invited Ian and Ursula; however, the bottom element of our oven cracked (the crack had begun six months earlier) and we had to take our turkey to their house for Ursula to finished it, but we had a good dinner and game of Chicken Foot back at our house.  On the 11th Lissie and Noah were here for a couple of hours in the afternoon.  We sat on our verge while Noah slept in the car, and ate birthday cake that Ursula brought me the day before.

    On Friday the 13th we dressed up a bit for a New Members party at HYC, which Connie and Evan attended.  There were fifteen new couples in the club this year, about a ten percent turn-over of members.  We're all getting older. 

    On Saturday the 14th we took the subway across the city to the Old Mill Hotel, where we played fourteen tunes for Ian Darragh's birthday party.  There was a grand piano in the Home Smith Bar, so I played that and only took my trumpet and melodica along.  Malcolm and Elizabeth joined us, and Ian sat in for all the tunes with his guitar and with his flute for one of them.  It was fun, and I still have chops on the piano, but we found that the grand piano was a little too loud to accompany the strings - a modern keyboard is preferable, because it has volume control, is more portable and can generate other sounds besides piano. 

    It has finally turned cool, especially in the mornings, but temperatures remain fairly high now and probably for the balance of October, so I haven't stripped the tomato plants or taken much else of the garden apart.  I'll try to do a little each day.  Rumour has it that temperatures will be higher than normal right up to Christmas because of another massive El Nino.  Apart from the garden and a few medical appts (we had our seventh covid "update" booster last Thursday) there won't be a lot going on from here until a BCC/BBNC Christmas concert scheduled for December 6th, at which we may do some of the same tunes we did for Ian's party, along with some others that the BBNC Glee Club has been practicing.

    Oct 1st. 
Toronto: our Goldilocks summer continues into October - daily highs of 25 (27 forecast for tomorrow), nights in the high teens (we continue to sleep with the bedroom window open) and no downward slide forecast until almost Thanksgiving. There is an annual wave of mauve asters in my garden, but we're still harvesting much of our supper each day with more maturing. Beans, carrots, squash, indeterminate cherry tomatoes...no let-up. Deb still picks a litre of raspberries each day.

Yesterday we drove to Lakefield Park Campground (trailer park) and played music with the HYC guys for three hours. Two hours drive each way plus packing, setting up, tearing down and unpacking made it a pretty full day. The park residents enjoyed it. They brought their camping chairs to Carlo's parking area and the street past his trailer and applauded generously. At four we quit because the campground kids dressed up and visited every site to do trick-or-treat. It's a month early, but the park shuts down and the community of people there breaks up for the winter, so this is an annual celebration for them and for the kids.

    Sept 22nd.  I'm attending (via Zoom) my last HYC budget meeting and Elections meeting as I write this. On Sept 11th we had our last official sail on No Egrets, coaching the new owners on their first sail.  We will have to teach them how to drop the mast in October, be there for them as the boat gets hauled out, and launched in the spring.

    We will be "Life Members" at HYC going forward, able to enjoy the facilities without keeping up boat maintenance and expense or paying any fees.  It feels odd to go down and see No Egrets at her slip, like seeing an old friend or a family member that no longer lives with you.  We took Ian and Elizabeth there for a hike around the island and a BBQ burger on the 16th. 

    On the 17th Lionel and Silvia arrived.  Lili and Delio joined us for supper and crockinole on the 18th, and on the 19th they took Lionel and Silvia kayaking.  On the 19th L and S hiked the 5.3 mile Rouge Valley loop trail up one side of the river and down the other, and then made Deb and me a tasty dinner, in true couch-surfer tradition. 

    Apart from that, as Deborah wrote to Silken earlier today, "
We are fine - doing music/jams 3+ times week, keeping fit with either tennis (Steve) or zoom classes (me). Enjoying the garden produce - we are having an amazing raspberry production this year, and tomatoes, zucchinis, onions, beans galore, buttercup and butternut squashes, carrots, swiss chard, amaranth/callaloo, lettuce, kale, anise/fennel, a variety of hot peppers, ever-bearing strawberries, honeyberries/haskaps and arugula.[On Sept 24th I took apart all my squash vines and delivered a wheelbarrow load of buttercup and butternut winter squashes to the back door for Deborah's kitchen.]
 

    Meteorologists are scratching their heads over the summer we've had.  There have been heat emergencies, fires, floods and climate trauma all over the world, including Canada, but not in Toronto.  This has been Goldilocks summer - "not too hot, not too cold, but just right" - and the harvest is astonishing and bountiful.  The usual July heat wave didn't arrive until September, and August temperatures are extending right now into October.

    Aug 28th.  In the past week we completed the sale and transfer of ownership of our sailboat to Connie Spence and Evan Jones.  We're still providing after-sale support to the new buyers, mentoring them into their  new club, etc. We'll revert to "Life Membership".

    I took apart the squash pyramid made with old wooden ladders, and harvested eight buttercup squashes from it.  I have another dozen on the gazebo frame in the main garden and two or three more in the new middle bed in the lawn, plus about eight butternut squashes.  The summer squash are almost finished but there are a few still coming. 

    Lionel and Silvia from Australia and Uruguay will come for a visit for three days in September, arriving on the 17th. 

    On International Play Music on the Front Porch day five of us from the string band played in the Rosetta McClain gazebo for a couple of hours from one until three, until another group showed up to hold an engagement party.  They'd arranged to meet there at two but heavy rain kept many of them away until almost three, so the early arrivals became an audience for us, which was kinda fun.

    July 8th.  We served quesadilla to Don and Jackie on May 20th.  In June
Jackie fell and broke an ankle, and some toes in the other foot, as well as spraining it.  She'll be getting the cast off next Wednesday, after a month.  She already had a pin in the other ankle when she broke her leg in Malawi a decade ago. 

    We got our squashes started, along with many other plants, but the packet of buttercup squash seeds seemed to be a mishmash of cucumber and yellow crook necked squash rather than vining winter squash- which of course, we only learned by early July when they grew enough to be identified or to begin to fruit.  On May 27th we put out the cucumber, pepper and tomato seedlings.  We ate delicious sweet fresh green peas through the month of June and that harvest continues; some plants are aging out now and I'll replace them with more bush beans or tomato seedlings that are too crowded.  We've enjoyed hascaps for two months, raspberries in late June and now July, including the golden raspberries on the cane from Davin that is finally producing, and strawberries that came from Marg's garden.

    On the same day, we watched Christoph Chung perform at St. Mary Magdelene church, trying to fundraise for his attendance at Julliard.  Today Andrew told me that he'd achieved 80% of his goal, with the help of some recent private donors. [Update: July 16th, Andrew says Christoph has achieved his funding goal with the help of a couple of private wealthy donors.]

    In early June we finally got the new AMSF account set up for IECA funds to finance the schoolteacher's salary; Eleanor came to our end of the city to visit her favourite hairdresser, and stopped at our house to sign the forms. 

    Music continued, six times a week for me including two Jamulus sessions with Anne, and once a week with the guys at the yacht club. 

    Tennis continued twice a week, but often both games happened on a Monday.  On the 3rd we had dinner at the Sortwells.

    We stepped our mast on the 7th, and attended Sailpast on the 10th.  We attended Ian Darragh's presentation about the park he loves below his balcony. 

    Allen Scobie gave me a mini 5 string "traveler's" banjo.  I put a set of standard G strings on it and a lower bridge - it came with a 5/8ths and needed a 1/2".  It had to be tuned in C, and I'm not that thrilled with it.  I might research and source nylgut strings with the correct gauges to tune it in A, which would work for playing along to fiddle tunes in A and D.  It is also easy to use to learn claw hammer style. 
I might begin recording 5 string and tenor banjo and guitar tunes just to have some videos of what I've accomplished with those instruments; maybe also some fiddle tunes, before I get old and inept.

    We planted out squashes and cukes on the 13th, and had a ride on an electric "Trishaw" rickshaw that morning as well. 

    We finally got rid of our copper phone line after weeks of crackle; everything in the house is now fibe.

    On the 23rd I bought income producing stocks for the IECA acct, which was good timing.  The market was lower on that day, so now I'm showing a capital gain as well as more income than we'd have had from a higher price.  We managed to get more stocks for the same amount of money. 

    Smoke from Quebec forest fires forced us to close windows and begin using our air conditioners, and we also bought an air purifier for the bedroom - I didn't like the thought of breathing in particulates all night.  Under PM 2.5 is the particulate size to worry about; our purifier cleans down to PM 0.1 or 0.01, I forget which.  The AQI (air quality index) in Canada goes from 1 to 10+; we were at 6 and 7 for several days, and at 10 or 10+ for one day.  Lately it has been 2 and 3, which is considered low risk.

    On our anniversary, July 1st, we went to Arc's second annual Canada Day music party in Pickering.  Our Sunday family zoom calls continue.  Medical appts have been unconcerning and tests all positive, and today we'll get another set of orthotics.  Life proceeds in a straightforward and generally unstressful way. 

    May 18th. 
By the end of 2022 the airlines were still in a terrible mess of cancelled flights, stranded passengers, ruined vacations and lost luggage.  We'd had five vaccinations for covid by the end of 2022 and had experienced a fairly mild case of it ourselves in July 2022 - in addition to one in January of 2021, I believe, that happened before they were diagnosing the virus.  That bout resulted in organ damage for me, and triggered a rapid escalation of type 2 diabetes.  We got flu vaccine both years as well, and although covid had been increasing in China subsequent to their lifting of lockdowns and restrictions, we hadn't seen a spread of new and dangerous variants yet.

     We decided to take a chance, and indulge in some "revenge travel" - a current term for the surge in people taking flights to vacation destinations.  The first obstacle was getting Deb's passport renewed - staffing issues and long line-ups and wait times threatened to scuttle any plans we'd dream up, but eventually everything settled and we were able to obtain her passport. 

     Then there was the question of choosing a destination.  I wanted a place where I could walk around a lot in shirtsleeves and that had enough activities of interest to keep me from getting bored, which happens to me on beach vacations if I'm not scuba diving.  We're both getting a little old for scuba diving.  So the museums, zoos and botanical gardens of Mexico City seemed appealing.  I'd learned how many museums there are in the city, and that they are relatively cheap and often free.  The city is safe compared to many other cities and to some other parts of Mexico, the people are gracious and helpful, and the public transit system is extensive and inexpensive.

    We spent 33 days there from January 31st to March 5th, and came home to spend a week building our large album of trip photos and a long diary entry.

    Upon our arrival, we were confronted with a snow storm and a driveway to shovel out, but our friends had graciously fed our cat, shoveled a path for the mailman, and checked on the house regularly in our absence.  We attended our music groups, which had survived our absence; Arc and Linda kept the Wednesday evening one going.  I have six going throughout the week, including two on Jamulus with Ann Delong, and one at the yacht club with Don, Carlos, Paul and Martin.  Deb joins me for in-person musical activities three times a week at the community centre.

    We chatted with Lily and Delio at our first evening back, and made plans to meet on Thursday evenings to speak Spanish socially for one hour, to melt away my frozen oral Spanish speaking ability.  We kept it up weekly with games and conversation.  I resumed my Monday evening Meet-Ups to get more Spanish practice.  Laurence and Joan came for dinner upon their arrival home from Baja, and in April we went to their house.

    We tried to open a parallel AMSF acct at iTrade to manage the cash infusion from Etta Snow's bequest, but were faced with months of red tape and delay over their cautious approach and lack of staff, who I assume were still all working at home.  Many requests that I made to move the process along were met with "crickets" for weeks at a time.

    In April Deb made her version of a quesadilla in a pan which could be sliced and served with a spatula.  We had the Sortwells for dinner to test the dish, and it was a success.  We went for a sixth covid vaccination.

    We began yard work when the snow melted away, took the tarps off the boat and got gas for the outboard, serviced it and started it up.  We launched on the 29th, and I got to work the registration desk.  I germinated peas and planted them.  Our green onions were an early success as always, and I seeded lettuce and radishes.  We ate kale from plants that came back on their own from the previous year's stalks.

    In May I had a very successful medical with Dr. Nicholas, continuing my careful diet and sixteen hour daily fast.  We mowed the lawns for the first and second time, set up the back patio and opened the umbrellas.  Then it got cold again, but some of my beans began to sprout, so I kept them covered to fend off the risk of frost.  Greg and Christine came for Deb's quesadilla and we taught them to play Farkle.  It has been a good month so far.  We tend to lean toward "retiring in place", not moving to a nicer climate or better surroundings.  It is difficult to imagine that we'd be better off anywhere else, in terms of climate, nearby access to shopping and medical/dental needs, and a musical community.  Now we just have to get the boat sold, maybe also the truck, and spend more time traveling locally, camping and playing campfire music, or doing gazebo performances at Rosetta McLain gardens during the warm summer days.