Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, art, travel, make-up, cooking and the occasional rant!


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April has been busy

I love Spring. All the shades of green start appearing, flowers start blooming, babies start arriving out on the moors… and the gardening at home gets underway.

This year I helped with a massive back garden overhaul and reconstruction which has been extremely satisfying. It is your typical terraced house walled and fenced back garden… approximately 20 x 22 feet so not all that huge, but we’ve got a lot of things in and are really thrilled with what we’ve accomplished.

We took 4 or 5 loads of stuff to the tip, put a lot in the regular household waste, and got rid of other things. Some things are being repurposed. We also scrounged up some paving bricks and stepping stones for free. And spent quite a lot too, on paving slabs, lumber, plants, seeds, etc. with some more spending coming in the next month when I have to pot up the summer plants.

Neither of us thought to take before photos, which is annoying as we were planning this serious project involving removing soil and sod, pavers, laying new pavers and moving others, adding concrete and generally building new things and doing repairs. But there you go. I am the worst about remembering to take photos of things.

I pulled out a large dead cedar shrub, yanked out other large shrubs and plants, and pruned a couple of boxwoods within a inch of their lives and a lot of other plants were seriously hacked back as well. We hauled out old plastic mini-shed, old planters, wood edging from around all the beds, metal, broken swing, etc. Anne tore up the old sod and dug out where it had been in order to lay new pavers – we filled up dozens of rubble bags with that. She also repaired the shelter roof which had been torn off in the winds storms back in Feb/March.

I had to dig out two manhole covers – storm drains apparently. I cleared away the dirt and other debris that had built up on top of them as access is supposed to be available. Well… Anne stepped on the top of one and the lid flipped up and down she went! One leg, down the hole. She was spectacularly bruised, but no other injury, thank goodness. They are now each covered with a large, heavy, paving slabs with a water fountain sitting on the back one. We filled the area with gravel to level up the slabs. Hopefully Anne won’t end up in the drain again.

We bought lumber to create new edging for the flower beds – I directed and Anne cut and screwed it all together. I moved pavers that I uncovered buried in various parts of the garden, cleaned them up and paved other areas with them.

I bought a large raised planter, more pots and lots of seeds and plants. We’ve spent close to four weeks all told and I’m calling Phase One complete now. The rest of what is planned is summer planting – so we have to wait for the warmer weather at the end of May.

The photos start looking out of the kitchen door, then work around to the dining room door, then towards the back fence.

My herbs and vegetables will all be in planters, including the large wooden trough against the wall – that’s my salad garden. The fish pond has been cleaned out, new filters in, new pond weed and the fish seem happy.

Anne bought a heated propagator . the heat was NOT required, but we didn’t realize that until the giant cucumbers and squash started pushing the lids off 4 days later! We’ve named them Audrey Three through Fourteen. We now have them in larger pots and recycled coffee cups… we won’t have room for everything that needs potting up! We can’t put the rest out until the end of May at least.

I’ve been productive out at the glass studio too this month, making more sunflower items – bowls, clocks, etc. We’ve been very pleased with the response to our Ukraine Appeal fundraiser – 50% of the sale price of all sunflower themed items is donated to the DEC Appeal/Red Cross.

Large Bowl (sold)
Small bowls in progress – second batch
Small bowls – two still available
Clock faces – hands and mechanisms will be added this week
Tealights, hangers and parts of a mobile
Mobile, laid out… awaiting the chain to link it all together

Spring has also been productive out on Dartmoor! All the babies bounding about, blocking the roads -but really, who minds waiting when you can watch a lamb or foal nursing?

The bluebells are out now too… but I haven’t managed any flower photos… yet.

Hope you’re having a good Spring.


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Another Summer winding down

Today was my last day at my summer job at the college. I was asked to stay on so will now be a “Work/Study Student” which is a work program for full-time students at the college. Your work schedule is flexible to fit your course timetable, up to 12 hours per week and is only during regular business hours so no evenings or weekends. I am really happy to have been asked to stay on, and for being approved to do so.

Fall orientation is on Tuesday and classes start on Wednesday. I am so excited to be getting back to class! I’ve always loved school.

This semester I will be taking classes in Drawing, 2D Design, Painting, Photography, and a couple of others that cover resources for art and design in different ways.

I’m going to be spending a bit of time over the weekend seeking out my supplies from where I stashed them at the end of last semester! There are things all over my suite in different places. One of the professors posted projects online so I can see the supply and equipment list for her class so I know what I have to find for that course at least. Hopefully more will be posted before the first classes happen.

I was expecting the weather here in the southern Ontario to be super unpleasant for me – I used to hate heat and humidity. However, ahem, post-menopause I am always cold. Freezing cold. While everyone was complaining about the heat and humidity all summer, I was wearing long-underwear, a heavy sweater and then going outside at lunch to try to warm up before going back to my desk. It never worked.

After work I get into my car – with its all black leather interior – and just sit there with the engine off and the windows up. Waiting for my fingers and toes to thaw out. It feels wonderful to sit on a nice hot seat and feel the warmth start to seep into me.

The house has air conditioning and I had to shut and cover all the vents into my suite. I swear it is sub-zero down here. I have a duvet and a fleece blanket on my bed – I did have three fleece blankets at one point. I’m hoping once the heat is on for winter I’ll be more comfortable.

The plants in the yard are doing well. My sister and family only bought the house last year so a lot of the garden plantings were unknown. So we were watching and figuring out what various things were, and then planting more things. I also had scattered all the hollyhock seeds I’d brought with me last fall and have to say they are thriving here.

The existing hydrangea is a gorgeous rich pink. I haven’t previously seen one this colour – blue and purples and very light pinks, but not this bright. And the Rose of Sharon hibiscus – the neighbours on a couple of sides have a purple version. The daisy we planted this year. And the darker Mallow we planted, the lighter one is coming up so there must have been some here previously.

My sister’s goal is a self-generating perennial garden that appeals to butterflies and bees. I think we are well on the way. There are numerous other things: herbs, a rose, lavender, a white peony, black-eyed susans, sweet-william in a deep red, butterfly bush, milkweed, snapdragons, bleeding he rts, lilies, iris and several others. Next year the hollyhock will bloom so there should be quite a show.

One house down from us has a giant hibiscus… the flowers are over a foot across. I tried to discreetly get a shot of it without walking into the yard. The bloom is a bit droopy here – it was in full open position the evening before but I took too long to decide to get my camera out.

DSC06936

We’ve been harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, beans and zucchini. Also lots of herbs. My sister planted about 12 different kinds of basil all in one huge pot. There is dill, sage, lemon balm, cilantro, thyme, chives, rosemary and parsley too. I love fresh thyme and rosemary!

I did some face painting over the summer for events and birthday parties. I am now starting to get inquiries for Halloween. As Halloween is on a Wednesday this year I expect that the weekends before and after will be quite busy with parties. The last time it was mid-week I was booked solid for three weekends back in Grande Prairie.

I also worked with Theatre on the Ridge in Port Perry – rebuilding a dragon into a Lake Monster and wig work for some shows. I’m hoping to get more involved in the local theatre scene over the fall and winter. There are local groups all around with lots of productions of various sizes.

Fall will be here before we know it! Unfortunately the pumpkins plants failed – well, actually it was the squirrels, they ate the baby pumpkins. So we’ll have to buy some again this year.

I am thinking about taking a trip next summer. Just need to find out final costs and decide if I can swing it. There are still so many places to see and I’m not getting any younger, so want to get to as many as I can, while I can.

Hope you all had an enjoyable summer!