Posts Tagged ‘Fall’

It is time. It is time to bid summer farewell. The trees at the bottom of the garden are changing colour. Iridescent green has given way to a hint of gold. Each day we notice a few more leaves have succumbed to the transformation. Some are further along the path and have curled up and fluttered across the deck. There they await the Fall clean up in the ever increasing pile.

The first signs of Fall...

The first signs of Fall…

I have always been fascinated by trees. In South Africa I could rattle off the names…..White Stinkwood, Ficus Ingens and Acacia to name but a few. But here in Canada I am a mere novice and a maturing brain does not permit me to commit so many of these names to memory! This does not deter me appreciating them. They stand tall and stately at the bottom of our garden and along our meandering creek. As I observe their changes, they prepare me for the different seasons.

There is a flurry of activity as the squirrels gather up their supplies in our garden for winter. They are strategic about their placing too. The larder is scattered around and some have even been dug into the pots at the front door. I do hope they are plotting the whereabouts of these nutritious nuts and that the position will be recalled after their long winter sleep. I find myself committing to memory some of their hideouts along with all the other irrelevant things that we mothers are required to memorise.  For example……where are my socks?

Josh squirrel hunting.

Josh is a keen observer of his environment too!

The animals are not the only ones who have read the signs. The builder next door is racing ahead to get the walls up and the roof tiled on his new dwelling. There is a bulldozer across the street digging a huge hole. Road works are being completed down the street and everyone is resurfacing their driveways.
Across the way a tree was felled…..a majestic maple tree. I heard the squeal of the saws all day as they worked at reducing this beautiful specimen to pile of logs. I felt sick as I looked across and decided to walk over once all the workmen were gone home. There was a huge sign FREE FIREWOOD. I wanted to pay homage to this gracious lady. I stood a while, moved closer and ran my fingers along where the blade had sawn through the golden wood. The moisture that had been drawn up by the roots clung onto the wood in vain. Amongst the pile was the largest of slices. My fingers traced the growth rings……..she had seen 50 Canadian winters! This maple syrup- producing grand dame  had once had a twin. Inside the tree were 2 separate crowns that later decided to collaborate and had become one enormous tree!
Need I say that I am partial to twins, as we have had a double feature in our family too.

Our wiggly twins....

Our wiggly twins….

As I gazed across at the sad pile I decided……this baby has to come home with me! I scurried off and fetched the wheelbarrow along with my long suffering male contingency. We loaded our slice of gold up and gently wheeled her back to the safety of our back garden. No fireplace for this beauty! She will be well cared for and is at present attending the Morkel Spa where she is being exfoliated and oiled.
She will rise again on her new legs and will grace the Morkel household in the Great Room with her beauty.

The Morkel Spa hard at work....

The Morkel Spa hard at work….


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Another year another turkey……

“Which one do you think would be better?”

My question was directed at an experienced looking housewife. She had tossed the birds around, examined their weight and made her decision. I marveled at her expertise and the swiftness of her decision making process. After all she had been doing this for years and I had 3 years under my belt!

“ Should I go with the 7 kilogram one or should I go a bit bigger?” The humble pasty- grey bird peered safely up at me from the supermarket fridge. Much deliberation went on.  A few women had gathered around me now and eagerly offered this newbie advice. More questions were asked and preference for white or brown meat was discussed. This was a serious matter. Eventually the decision was made and it was unanimous.

“So this is the one then.” I heaved the 10 kilogram bird into my shopping cart. My back muscles twinged under the strain. It was one hell-of-a fine bird!  Of course I won’t mention this to the family. There is no need for them to know that I was ably assisted by my experienced new helpers. After all, us girls stick together!

My shopping cart trundled off to the check out. The humble bird’s destiny had been sealed.  It was bound for the  Morkel’s Thanksgiving table.





It is our third Thanksgiving here in Canada and it is probably one of the best times of the year. People scurry around and prepare for winter. Gardens are cleaned up and anything that could be ravaged by the extreme temperatures is packed away. The leaves have begun to add colour to our walks around Oakville. Roads and paths are covered with ‘the drop’ and we notice and appreciate the hues of orange, yellow and the red. We savour the swansong of summer in the form of Fall and recognize that the burst of colour will have to tide us through till Spring next year!

Josh is sue that a skunk lurks nearby....

Josh is sure that a skunk lurks nearby….

But for now we celebrate the bounty of the harvest and all that it brings with it. One such event is Thanksgiving where a feast is held. Each family prepares a sumptuous meal to enjoy with family and friends. Around our table this year will be our adopted Canadian family.( I must add that they have not had much say in the matter….they are family whether they like it or not! ) I am thankful to them for all the support that they have offered us in this our new country. Distance dictates that a few people will be missing from our table. Our family from the US and our beautiful brand new grand children will be with us in spirit.

God only knows what I would be without you……

Happy Thanksgiving!






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Feel the rain on your skin……..

The rain falls softly on the carpet of leaves in my back garden. The drops glisten on the reds and yellows. Nature’s blanket is a burnished patchwork quilt lovingly stitched together. These little food factories have done their job well! They have sustained the giant maple and elm trees in our backyard. It is time to return their nourishment back to the soil. Fall has begun. The leaves give us one final display with their deep maroon and orange before they drop to the soft earth.


The splendour of Fall....

The splendour of Fall….

Reaching for something in the distance, so close you can almost touch it….

Last night I stood on my friend’s terrace in the city. They are leaving Canada for a while to follow a job opportunity in Europe. It was time to say ‘au revoir.’ We looked over the bustling streets and enjoyed the warmth of the Indian summer. The sun was setting in the distance and the stately CN Tower presided over all her shorter subjects. It stood silhouetted against the backdrop of the orange sky. It was a panorama to behold! I turned my face to the setting sun and squeezed out the last few rays. It was not to last……the sun slid behind the frames of concrete. It was gone; the orange hue was but a lingering memory. Shelved away safely in my memory bank and to be drawn upon in those long Canadian winters! The interesting conversation and my fine glass of merlot was a comfort.


The CN Tower at dusk....

The view……

 Live your life with arms wide open……

It is Thanks Giving weekend and time to give thanks for our bounty. Orange pumpkins and crisp red apples are plenty.  Mothers scurry around and plan the feast for the family. Dusty recipe books are being consulted and larders are bursting with supplies. The poor ‘frozen bird’ hangs on for dear life on the shelf in the fridge! One can get nothing else to fit in there when the ‘resting turkey’ awaits its fate. It too will have its moment of splendour. It is, after all, the honoured guest at our table adorned with its white frilled legs and laced with delicious gravy.


" e Fagalo bench'......

” e Fagalo bench’……

No one else can speak the words on your lips……

  One realizes that with all things here in Canada, there is a time for everything. As the leaves drop to the ground, it is now the time to celebrate and rejoice in our family and friends. We have been blessed with kind neighbours and wonderful friends in this our new country. But there will also be a special place set at our table for our family and friends that are far away.

Let the sun illuminate the words that are written…..



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Yes, Joni is Canadian!  A firm favourite of mine when I was growing up in the 70’s and Woodstock was all the rage.


The salmon flicked its tail once more. The silver hue poked above the brown water as it struggled against the current. A bald eagle circled overhead as it surveyed the ‘easy pickings.’ It swooped across and settled in its vantage point, an undressed maple tree. All its finery lay strewn around on the ground….dry and spent. Although a hint of colour still prevailed. The last few reminders of Fall!   The eagle ogled down at its prey while the salmon struggled to get further up stream. It had dropped its precious cargo and the drive to survive began to wane. Some would try to make their way back to Ontario Lake. For others the effort would just be too great. Their prodigy would have to ensure the dwindling numbers of the Atlantic Salmon.

16 Mile Creek…..just down the road from us




The sixteen mile creek meanders on regardless of the traffic that races overhead across the huge cement bridge. No one cheers the salmon as they continue their struggle to complete their run. They have responded to the primitive urge to ‘go forth and multiply.’ Their job is done. It is as if they know it is all part of the cycle of life that must be completed.

We were the lucky ones who were able to stand and stare………

We begin to cover up as the colours of Fall begin to fade….


Salmon Run Bronte Creek


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The warmth of summer……

This song had plagued me for days and seemed to turn up on the radio each time I switched it on. I sang out at the top of my voice as I made my way down to the shops. ‘Everything is going to be fine….fine…fine.’ What was the significance of these strange words where some of the opposites were totally unrelated? Is free the opposite of focused?

I have one hand in my pocket and the other one is giving a high five.

I sink my hand deeper into my pocket as I do my morning ritual of walking Josh. He jumps like an antelope through the piles of Fall leaves that have gathered on the sidewalks. I love watching his enthusiasm for his morning exercise. He is undeterred by the fact that it is the same route as yesterday and finds squirrels to chase and dark holes to investigate. The burnished maples are holding onto to their leaves as if to prolong their beauty. Maybe they are just not quite ready for their dormancy or the harshness of the cruel polar winds. I comfort myself that we have a way to go before I don my goose down coat each day.

I am sad but laughing……

How can I forget the pure exhilaration of chasing about on the snow on skiis? I fell and laughed and fell some more ……and screamed! I did more manipulation of my back then my chiropractor had done all year! Then we ventured out on huge tubes and reached hair raising speeds down the smooth slopes. We played like kids…. But when the ‘really bad weather’ sets in, you scurry indoors and lap up the warmth of a crackling fireplace.

The lack of sun in winter can play havoc with the demeanor. Preparation is made for all eventualities and the days that we are housebound. We are like the squirrels and eagerly prepare for our winter confinement. I peruse the book stores for exciting reads and have built up a pile on the coffee table. I have everything from romantic reads about the Russian nobility to a book that dares you to dream. Ha! Ha! There will be a long winter for that! Along with my basket of soft mohair wool that I hope to create into something devastatingly beautiful!

I have not got it all figured out just yet…….

There are days when I still get lost and resort to my GPS to get me home. There are no mountains or mine dumps to guide me! The Canadian monetary system is still a challenge and I have not got all the coinage waxed yet. Thank goodness the usage of a debit or credit card is universal! I still convert into South African rand when I am shopping and almost have a coronary every time! I use words that the locals do not understand and often I get a blank stare in return. But have not resorted to ‘voetsek’ or ‘donder’ as my permanent residence has not come through yet! I have not mastered the politics. I am trying to work from the known to the unknown. So I have got to enjoy the antics of our portly mayor of Toronto but am still vague about the central government. I know that Canada is ‘vrekgroot’ but I have yet to know where to place each town on the map.  And so the learning curve continues…. I drink my gingko biloba each day and hope that my menopausal brain will continue to keep absorbing all these new things……..


What it all comes down to my friends…

Is that everything is going to be quite alright…..

Braving the winter chill!


PS. Need I say that Alanis Morisette is Canadian. I found out that she has a show in Toronto next week. No wonder she was riding my head side sadle!




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Josh on the clean front porch!


The tell tale sign of a ladder at the side of the house informed me that something was up! Legs dangled over the side as rears pointed skywards. My men were perched precariously on the edge of the roof. Ok, so now what? The task in hand was to remove all leaves from the gutters otherwise the snow would push moisture into the house. A cold house at minus 20 degrees is one thing, but a wet one ….. I don’t even want to contemplate it!


The masterminds had grabbed a metal plant stake and were scraping out bunches of wet leaves from the gutters. You need to remember that these Canadian houses are 3 stories high and have a steep pitched roof. Each stroke caused them to wobble tenuously and I wondered if these two engineering brains could not come up with a safer plan. They were not about to be coaxed down either so I had to devise my own plan B in case one of them were to topple off the edge. The thought of it sent a shudder down my spine. They enjoyed my concern and proceeded to do various attics to tease me. Unrelenting they carried on and sodden wet leaves came flying over the edge. My recently swept front porch was a sea of brown sludge and Josh whimpered as another leaf bomb flew past his face. He had been tied up against the railings to watch the passing parade as he is finding all the indoor activities far too tiresome. As an action man himself, he would have far preferred to be part of the roof team. But I was not about to have the dog bounding around up there too!


Little did we know but our roof attics were being watched by our neighbours. They were obviously taking great delight in the activities on the roof and one of them, a South African, decided to come to the rescue. He came racing across the street with a large piece of apparatus which I was to learn was a gas leaf blower. One strong tug and the engine kicked in, this workhorse was bound to make a difference. The house vibrated and the sound permeated every room as this little gem went to work Leaves flew everywhere including over our neighbour’s car but the mission was accomplished. We now have clean gutters and I still have all the men in my house in tact. We have also learnt a bit more about the way things are done here in Canada.

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The songs that were written in the northern hemisphere seem to make more sense now and I quite understand the meaning behind the words of the Mammas and the Pappas all those years ago……


We live our lives here in Canada according to the weather outside and so you make your plans as you put your nose out the door in the morning. The last of the Fall leaves have turned brown and are dropping onto the soft, lush green lawns and the fastidious homeowners rake them up as fast as they fall. Fortunately we don’t consider ourselves as part of that group and leave them a while as Josh likes to do his springbuck leap through them. He has started to hesitate in the mornings when I open the front door as wet grass is not his favourite. Oh dear, we are not the only one learning our life lessons here!


The rain has swelled the banks of our small stream at the bottom of the garden and we brave it each time we go outside. It reminds me of the days in Cape Town when as a new teacher I would make my way to school without a car. Those Cape winters were harsh and we would have weeks of continuous rain at time. You would think nothing of packing a different pair of shoes and a change of clothing in for the day. Although my mom always maintained that we, Creech children, had the ability to dodge rain drops. Well, I know for sure that my talent for evading them has somewhat subsided but am grateful for all the under cover bus shelters and underground pathways that we have here. Yesterday in Toronto I managed to get half way across the city like a mole when I used The Path. It is a 27 km underground path and shopping centre that links different parts of the city together. This subterranean lifestyle will force us to stock up on the bottles of vitamin D so that we can indulge in a bit of liquid sunshine over the next few months!


The water has changed the habits of our kleinwild (small wild life) in the garden. The squirrels are less frantic as they seem to have filled their larders and just pop out now and again to taunt Josh and to prove to him that they still reign supreme in the trees. The birds have gone south and we only hear the sad lament of the die –hards, namely the black crows, and we catch the odd glimpse of a magnificent raptor who always gazes quizzically across at Josh on the deck. I have these visions of a fish eagle gracefully picking up a stray fish from a river while it shouts out its majestic call over the plains. I shudder at this thought!


The salmon have done their frantic swim up the rivers at Bronte Creek and have deposited their precious eggs in the safety of the small pools. And so with life, there is a time for everything….A time to enjoy the sunshine and a time to make the most of the inclement weather!

 So a good read, hot homemade soup and a reconnection with forgotten hobbies are the order of the day……

The splendour of Bronte Creek

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We all dread the call that comes in the early hours of the morning when there is bad news from home and today was one of those days. It got me thinking about the things that I write about in my blog. So far I have tried to be positive and hopefully sometimes amusing, when I relate stories about the customs we have tried to absorb, the places we have seen and the new friends we have made. But today I feel like putting down on paper the reality of what it feels like to be far away from the people that you love.


Firstly there is the feeling of guilt: One feels guilty that you cannot be there for the people that still need you. I have tried to be supportive at a distance but it does not make up for my absence. I think that what people must realize that I am needed here in Canada too, I know it is primarily as cook and bottle washer for the men in my life but know that if I was not here, settling in would be much harder for them. There is a continual feeling of being torn between my commitments here with my family and those that I have left behind in South Africa.


Secondly there are feelings of loneliness and newness: There are plenty of people here, South African and locals, that have stretched out their hands in kindness towards us and for that I am grateful. We have had to have instruction on how to close up a house for winter which entails the draining of pipes, covering of external structures and the carrying in of all garden pots to name a few. Our garage looks like a tip! But it does not take away the fact that you have not walked a long road with these people and they do not know your essence yet. Where ever you go you are exposed to this whole new culture from the types of food to way you are supposed to drive. Everything is a new experience! Maybe I am showing my age but my brain goes into overload some days with this whole newness that surrounds me. I still have not mastered the driving here and have failed my first attempt at the test so I am back on my bicycle.


Thirdly there are the scared feelings: These are usually present in the early hours of the morning when you lie awake and think things through. There are the worry thoughts on: What will I do if I don’t manage to get my license? Will Philip be safe when he has to journey into Pakistan? Will David settle into the Canadian school system? Will Bryan find a job that suits him? Will I be able to fill my day with meaningful deeds?


Fourthly there are the feelings of loss: Besides the deep loss of the closeness of my loved ones, I feel a great sense of loss with the sudden termination of my career as a teacher. I miss the feeling of making a difference in children’s lives. I miss the adventure of each day being with my classes and I miss the wonder on their faces as I impart new facts or experiences to them.


So this blog has been all about me and my feelings but as any good psychologist will tell you, that you need to work through all of these feelings to get to the other side. So I apologise for making you endure this sorry tale today but I know that it takes bravery to say it like it is and it takes bravery to do what we have done as a family….. scoop ourselves up from our comfortable life in SA and to venture into the unknown. So you will still get the ‘other type’ of blog but know that there is an element of sadness and that it is not all milk and honey on the other side but hopefully these experiences will enrich our lives and ultimately make us better people.

Fall at the bottom of our garden



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Fall is upon us and the cold winds have begun to whistle across the deck. The back garden is a carpet of bronze and yellow with maple leaves and the gnarled boughs that stand out against the icy blue sky. We know that it is time to brace ourselves, these sunshine children from Africa, for the Big Freeze.


Josh braces himself for the Big Freeze.

A large group of migratory birds have been circling overhead for the last few days and regularly gather in our trees at the bottom of the garden and make a huge din as they squawk at each other. I presume this is to discuss the best route for the trip down south and have finally gathered up all their clan and the strength and set off on their long journey this weekend.


We rely on local knowledge to do all the necessary things around the house like draining the irrigation pipes, covering up outdoor furniture and carrying garden pots into the garage. We have acquired snow shovels, snow boots, thick coats and snow tyres for the car and have brought in books, puzzles and movies for those long, cold nights. The preparations are done and now we look forward to enjoying the last of the colours of Fall. There seems to be a definite time for everything here and nature gives us the clues. So if I cannot venture south then I need to just gather up my nuts and bed down!




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Watch this just to get into the ‘gees.’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjnhjM80rjU by Briana Haynes 2010

Ontario’s rich harvest has tempted me back into the kitchen, much to my family’s delight! The supermarkets are full of the summer produce as nature churns out the last of its season’s bounty before it shuts down and rests for the winter. It is the time for apple picking, corn roasts, hay rides and more!

Comfort foods start to beckon as the nights become longer and cooler and as we start to plan the Thanksgiving Dinner or just a soup and sandwich evening with friends. Free magazines and newspapers abound with recipes reflecting the glow of Fall, like roasted garlic and pumpkin soup and toasted almonds and quinoa pilaf. I have to study the recipes intently as some of the ingredients are totally foreign to me; it is almost as if there is a gap in my culinary exposure.

In the past I had to churn out in the shortest time a high carbohydrate meal for hungry men! There was no time to fiddle-faddle, it was just good wholesome food that was required! What can I say? It has been a long time since I have really been able to put some thought into what I serve up to my crew of in-house food critics! Watch out, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

It is definitely pumpkin time. This colourful vegetable appears on front door wreaths, graces table decorations and is in every recipe you could imagine. There is my favourite, roasted pumpkin soup with heaps of garlic but I am also keen to try pumpkin cupcakes with brown sugar frosting and pumpkin pecan bake. My mouth waters at the thought of this!

I still have to get my head around a cocktail made with pumpkin! It does tempt me as it is made with rum and amaretto and the warming spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Yes, after a long day in the kitchen, one of those might just go down well. Cheers!

Josh is a willing participant in the Thanksgiving preparation….he loves the scraps!

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