Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Was going to show you the roses on my balcony ... but how about a potato instead

It was a jaw droppingly bad week, and I struggled to write anything. The only upside to the week was watching our modest little balcony garden grow.   Good news on the aphid front - I haven't seen one in almost a week.  They little invaders seemed to enjoy the soap bath, but they didn't survive the water spritz. I put some tomato leaves in a water spritzer and sprayed the peppers and morning glories. What do you know, it worked! Not a sign of an aphid.

I'm sure if any of my neigbours are on their balconies at night, when I'm doing my perimetre check for bugs, they must think I'm a mad woman. I mutter to the plants non stop. I'm embarassed to say, I even took a photo out to one of my under-performing pepper plants to show it what it's supposed to look like. Didn't help.

The little rose bush we planted is doing surprisingly well. I wasn't sure it would. I bought it at the tail end of winter to cheer up the apartment and didn't think it would do much. It's tripled in size and beautiful, perfect little roses are now appearing. I tried to get a photo of the first rose, but I couldn't get a decent shot, no matter what I tried. The colour balance was way off and the wind is a bit much today so nothing was in focus. I'll try tomorrow.

So how about a potato instead?
 Photo of potato plant growing on my balcony

We planted a potato in the late spring, more as a joke than anything. Didn't expect it to grow and ... well ... there it is. Growing rapidly. If we get potatoes out of it, I think I might pass out from surprise. After no activity for a month, it's grown over an inch in less than a week. And yes, those are weeds. Hard to fathom, but we get quite a few weeds up here on the 20th floor. 

Quite happy, roses, potatos (ok, potato plant, no potatoes), tomatoes are starting to bud, one pepper plant is covered in itty bitty peppers, nasturiums in overdrive, cucumbers starting to show, herbs herbs herbs ... not to bad.

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The Aphid Wars: The Battle of Chili Pepper Pass has begun

Aphids to right of me,
Aphids to left of me,
Aphids in front of me
(with apologies to all Tennyson fans)

The little beggars have breached my defenses again. On routine patrol, checking the Morning Glory carefully and was lulled into a false victory. Only a few of the enemy aphids were hanging around, sluggish and easy to pick off. I flung their carcasses over the ramparts (balcony to civilians) and did my victory dance. I turned my attention to other potential weak spots in my defenses and felt satisfied all was good

But … then I spotted them  …

… aphids. APHIDS! On. My. Peppers.

The sneaky bastards skipped past the rose bush, and landed on the pepper plant with the chives moat. They must have tunneled underground, coming up under the chives. Tell-tale signs of their encroachment alerted me to the first wave’s advance. Sure enough, skulking under new leaves and on the budding peppers, they’d already laid in their defenses. Dozens of them were swarming for a full attack.

No time for a battle plan … I plunged headlong into the fight with my water bottle and blew them off. Each leaf was inspected carefully until the all clear was sounded. Tonight, when the sun goes down, I’ll return with a soap bath to get the rest.

The Battle of Chili Pepper Pass has begun.

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Keep your camera in pocket - mental health & compassion are not mutually exclusive

If you learn one rule in life, let it be this: Just because you have a camera handy, it doesn’t mean you need to take that photo. 

Today I was reminded how truly stupid some members of humanity can be when faced with someone in distress.  We were on our way down to Yonge & Bloor this afternoon, when we heard screaming and shouting. It didn’t take long to find the source of the noise – it was a large man in the street shouting. Thing is, he had stripped off all his clothing and was completely naked, shouting incoherently.   

Now, to any mature, compassionate person, that means the person is having some sort of mental health crisis. It’s not the time to whip out a smartphone, giggle in a group and start taking videos and photos to send off to the internet.  It’s the time to use that phone to call the man some help. I counted 5 people snickering as they madly took pictures. When the man kneeled in the middle of the road, gesturing to the skies, some of the on lookers began to laugh. Ah .. no … this really wasn’t funny, it was distressing.

I did call, as did a number of others as it turned out. The man was in the middle of a breakdown and was a danger to himself – which became painfully obvious when he wandered onto Yonge St. (if you aren’t familiar with Toronto, it’s one of the busiest roads in the city).  I redialed 911, and updated them on where the man was heading, which wasn’t good. He wandered onto a construction site and had made his way onto the top of the building. There was a collective gasp as we watched him navigate a ladder onto the top of the structure and then wandered close to the edge.  I won’t go into any more details, except to say police and paramedics arrived and the man was safely removed from the roof. He’s now in hospital where he needs to be and taken care of.

This brings me to the point I want to make –  those photos and videos people were making are now out on the internet forever. What could possibly be this man’s worst-day-ever will be immortalised by people with no compassion or understanding.  THIS WAS NOT A KODAK MOMENT. The man was in distress. Why? No idea, but he needed help, not ridicule.   

Just in case you really, really don’t know what to do if confronted with a situation where a person is having a crisis here are a few tips:

1 – move yourself to a safe distance and dial emergency.  

2 - Don’t assume “someone else has called”. I overheard a number of people say they were sure someone had called. People die because no one wants to make that call. Just call. Use your common sense about what is or isn’t an emergency call. If someone smacked their fingers in a door <- NOT an emergency.  If someone is wandering into traffic after they’ve stripped down naked <- That’s an emergency.   

3 – take a deep breath and speak clearly, don’t shout into the phone or rush through what’s happening. It’s not easy to do, but try.

4 -  tell emergency services exactly where you are. What street, cross street whatever. Give them all the info you can.

5 – describe the situation as clearly as you can. Is the person a threat? Or are they in imminent danger? Is the person aggressive? DETAILS help keep both emergency services and the person who needs help safe. The more relevant info you give, the better it will be for the person who needs help.

5 – if the situation changes CALL EMERGENCY SERVICES BACK and tell them.  It was imperative police and paramedics were updated that the man was no longer going east, but had done an about face, changed directions and went into a construction site. They could have spent time looking in the wrong place.

6 – don’t laugh or do anything to further agitate the person. Back off and simply observe … and if you feel the need to take photos just fuck off down the road Ok?

7 – when emergency arrives, make sure they know where the person is.   

It really isn’t rocket science. Put the camera down. The person having the mental crisis doesn’t need your shit.  You have no idea what sparked the crisis – don’t make it worse.  

Compassion counts.   

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Dispatches from the Aphid Front – balcony garden war continues

Although I thought the aphid invasion was stopped in it’s tracks, I continued doing daily patrols, checking each plant for signs of enemy activity. Nothing but dried up bug carcasses as far as the eye could see.  But tonight   … signs of a renewed aphid entrenchment in the morning glories. They must have snuck in while I was out at work.  The devious little peckerheads are skulking in the new growth and under the bodies of their mates.

If you don’t see any posts in the next 48 hours that means the aphids have gained the upper hand and have cornered me on the balcony. Send reinforcements.  

 … wish me luck. 

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Dispatches from the urban garden front - the great aphid battle of 2016

During my daily garden check Saturday afternoon, I spotted a few aphids lurking on the morning glory.  For some reason, I found their mere presence an affront.  After last year's pepper plant infestation debacle, I plotted and planned my little balcony garden layout with a ruthlessness that was sure to frighten off any invaders.  I posted herb guards around each pepper and went so far as to form a chive moat around one of the larger pepper plants. “HA … get through those defenses”. Who knew aphids liked morning glories? I was so obsessed with keeping them off my peppers, it didn’t dawn on me, the squishy pests would latch onto something else.

With embarassing glee, I flicked the few aphids I found, off the balcony and thought “Got ‘em”. Well … sometime during the night an entire battalion of aphids parachuted onto our 20th floor balcony and infested the entire plant. How could I go from a couple of aphids to a full blown invasion in 12 hrs? The plant was swarmed. I stomped up and down the balcony for a full 5 minutes berating the enemy...

... it soon became painfully obvious aphids don’t have ears.

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