The house I live in is over a hundred years old and it has seen many tragedies, of that I’m sure. It was once the home of a famous Canadian composer and her almost equally famous musician mother. Many a child in the surrounding area has attended piano lessons in our house which at one time supported 3 pianos on its hundred year old maple floors. There is a grave marker in my backyard that recalls the names of 2 small ones, brothers, that passed away too soon. The dog refuses to travel up the back stairs but has no problem with the front stairs. She won’t enter the bathroom at the top of the backstairs but I don’t really blame her. It can be really cold in there and the light shuts itself off all the time. The switch is sort of loose but it only happens sometimes…usually when you’ve settled yourself into the tub (unfortunately). The cats, by the way, love the back stairs. And I love my house.
We did not purchase our house from the family of the famous composer. Instead we purchased it from a very nice lady and her husband who had been here for 17 years after buying the house from the well known family. A family whose name, by the way, will forever be associated with this house in the minds of most of the local gentry. That lovely lady and her husband had many good years here. Several years ago health issues began to weigh on the couple. First her and then him, until sadly, the husband passed away from cancer. This is a large house with an acre of land and it was felt that it was too much for just one person to take on. The lovely lady’s children were too far away to be an effective presence.
So in September she left and we came here. I think it must have been very hard to leave. This house was their life and they did everything they could to make it a beautiful home. Even as she was leaving she went out of her way to make sure that we would feel comfortable and welcome. She left hand towels, matts, houseplants and cleaning supplies. She even left icecubes in the freezer.
September and October passed. Even though the gardens hadn’t had much attention for the past year and a half, as the prior home owners had more pressing issues, they were still beautiful. With November the snow came and covered it all. We’d been told that this area did not see much snow but this year was to be an exception. The winter was incredible. Cold but beautiful. Our husky-malamute-sheperd cross would spend hours at a time out in the snow. When she came in the long fur on her webbed paws would be crusted with hard packed snow.
Finally spring was here but the garden would still have to wait. There was time enough but we had yet to know what surprises the garden would bring. There is no way to know what’s been planted until the passage of time has made it plain. It is now the end of May and I feel a little more comfortable starting to make forays into the taming of my garden. It is a heritage garden so I’m trying to be careful. There are some plants my mother (who is the Gaia of our family) does not recognise. There are hostas galore, tulips, daffifils, oyster ferns, triliums, chicks and hens, wild pansies and too many more to mention.
Today I was out near the shed clearing away weeds so that the hollyhocks could breath a little when I came upon a trio of toads. They were lovely and perfect. They’re probably Foster’s toads which are common to this area. I felt horrible because I was taking their home apart by removing all these weeds. I decided that I would make them a little home from broken pavement but they didn’t care for it. Tomorrow I’m going to make 2 little houses from old upside down flower pots that I’ve made little doors in. Then I’m going to plant more hollyhocks along that wall. There’s already asparagus and strawberries growing there so there is still ground cover.
Toads are absolutely lovely in the garden. They make me shriek a little when I don’t realize they’re there but they take care of all sorts of obnoxious garden pests. They are the little sentries in the garden. I don’t feel like it’s a proper garden without them. They’re so solid and a little bit mysterious as they hold so still waiting for you to pass by. As I start to shape this land and care for those things that have grown wild, these little soldiers lift up my spirits. They are a tangible symbol of the importance of this place and its role as a home for more than just our family.
I really hope they’re still there tomorrow and I hope they’ll like their new houses.