Monday, 14 November 2016



The Garden Committee of the Place Under The Pine took the easy route this year relying on low maintenance plants such as the raspberry to make up the bulk of this years garden produce. The other extremely low maintenance plant, the parsnip, was recently unearthed, with happy results.

Why so late in the season? This particular vegetable requires a good frosting to improve the flavour.

How easy was the parsnip to grow? In early spring a few small seeds were late fall a shovel was pushed into the ground and a game of hide and seek (parsnip style...similar to carrot style) was played.

The result:

The parsnip is well loved by the citizens of the PUTP, especially when roasted. Great taste and low effort to grow makes this plant a new staple of the garden.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016



On Monday, Olivia (our 10 year old daughter) asked me, "Did Donald Trump win the election in the United States?" (we are Canadian to put this into context). She had run across a news headline while working on the ipads at school proclaiming 'Trump won and the world is going to end'.

I calmly replied that there is no way that anyone with common sense would allow a Donald Trump to run their country.

Lolli then started asking really tough questions. "Why does he want to get rid of Muslims? All the muslim people in my class are really nice."
"Why does he want to put up a wall?"
"He sounds racist, is he racist? That is not ok."
I tried to explain that the US is a different country, with different beliefs, a different social structure, a history of racism and slavery and all, what a complicated thing to try and explain and even harder b/c I don't understand the thinking behind a vote for Trump at all.

What makes it even harder is the extreme difference between Trump and our new prime minister Justin Trudeau. Justin is all about breaking down walls, helping refugees, bringing people together, trying to solve our own racial problems dealing with our native people, and he is just a happy positive guy...with great fashion sense to boot (when he is out and a'boot).

I'm very thankful that we have a leader I can tell my children to look up to.

PM Trudeau | "Wheels"

Monday, 24 October 2016



The Place Under the Pine is down one TV screen (good life lesson: toy cars thrown by three year olds and screens do not mix), but, that is not the Tube we are referring to. YouTube, that is the TUBE that has been generating a lot of discussion lately around the PUTP.
The PUTP YouTube channel / memory preserving experiment has gone extremely well. Dozens of weekly vlogs have been made and shared with friends and family.
Here is the latest - Apple picking | Sports | Rubber Boots
Recently, the channel has expanded with videos on cooking (Cooking With Olivia) and what the young ones take in their school lunch.
Lolli makes oatmeal choc chip cookies
The increase in Tube-talk has been about one of these lunch videos. We had one go 'viral'. Not take-over-the-world viral, but to put it into context, typically a video hits between 30 - 60 views ... this 'viral' lunch video's count was over 8,000 at last check (and still growing). 
Be the 9,000 or 10,000th viewer. Here it is:
This is very exciting for all the citizens of the PUTP. YouTube is probably the most popular site visited, and everyone has their favourite channel. Being part of the "Tube" is a way of life around the PUTP, which is why having a little bit of success generates so much buzz. 

Monday, 26 September 2016



Baseball has always been one of the underrepresented sports in the Place Under The Pine. Historical records indicate Matty played the '87 season with little success (other than a monster triple on the last game of the season!), there are no recorded stats but heresay says 'that's probably a good thing'.

The 2013 T-ball season was Lolli's one and only year. She posted a 1.000% batting average, but, hung up her glove after that long summer.

The most fun she had was posing for baseball pics
The 2015 T-ball season was Elli's first attempt with the ol' bat and ball. He had some skill, he had a good time, and was very successful. But, his mind seemed to be stuck in winter mode (aka hockey brain) and he also struggled with playing two summer sports (baseball and soccer) and picking a that point soccer seemed to be winning the favourite-sport race.
It seemed that maybe baseball would follow the regular Place Under The Pine path and become a 2nd tier sport.

That was, until this year.

What a snag!

2016 has turned things around. The summer of 2016 saw hours and hours and hours of time spent on the baseball diamond (and not on the soccer pitch). The fire for Baseball has been lit in Elli. It seemed to be a mix of things that have brought Baseball to the forefront of Elli's sporting life.

Potential homerun swing
The format of the games changes slightly, from the casual 'everyone wins' to a game where there were actual outs (scores and standings were even kept!). Elli is that kid that thrives on competition. He wants to be the best and tries extra hard to get there.

Yes, another win!
He also had a great team made up of fun loving, spirited kids, who also seemed to be interested in being competitive. He also had a super duper coach who brought out more than the just the basic hitting and catching skills in every kid, but, so much extra. With bubblegum blowing contest, team cheers, and waterfights the kids had so much fun. Extra fun. That kind of fun that made them excited to go to every game, practice, and even head into their backyards just to throw the ball around with ol' Dad. All this fun (and time spent practicing) made the team better and better and better - it was a vicious a point where they were just slaughtering every team they played.

Waterfight! Perfect timing after a hot midday game.
Their coach went above and beyond setting up a home & home series with Napanee's rep team. It was amazing to see that our team held up pretty well against this all star team.
This year was such a great experience and not only for Elli, but, for the whole gang of the Place Under The Pine. It was so much fun that they are even considering rep baseball for next season. Yes, rep sports, an unprecedented idea in these parts!

Like the socks Elli!
And, with a .933 batting average, and a dedication by Elli to get even better, it would be a real shame to deny him a chance at higher calibre baseball - and most likely a career in the major leagues. Probably with the Blue Jays.
The elders of the PUTP have called this idea 'The Retirement Plan' (no pressure).

Wednesday, 21 September 2016



A brand new pair of rubber boots is a rarity in the PUTP. The typical rubber boot is bought used, passed down through all kids, and is still in good enough shape to resell. Rubber boots are one of those essential pieces that seem to last forever.
Recently a shiny new pair of Elliot sized rubber boots were purchased. Being brand new they had that brand new smell, that brand new shine, and that brand new stiffness - they needed to be worked-in before actually being worn to school for a day.
Here is how Elliott achieved the worn-in look and feel.
Step 1 - Fill in the rustic sandbox with water (get your little brother to help)
Fill mudpit until water reaches edge of boot top

 Step 2 - Swish around with tools (and boots) until the water and clay/mud form into a thick soupy consistency.
This will be a messy job so wear appropriate clothing
Shovel in extra dirt if needed
Step 3 - Submerge your boots in the mudbath. Ensure you push down hard to really get into the muck.
Step 4 - Remove boots from the mud hole. It is important at this stage to leave some mud on the boots, this will remove all shine from the toe. Allow to dry naturally outside.


Thursday, 15 September 2016



Not far away from the Place Under The Pines is this wonderful place called Prince Edward County. PEC (for short) is an agricultural wonderland filled with apple orchards, grape vines, wineries, pumpkin patches, maple syrup bushes, and berry farms. Earlier this summer the citizens of the PUTP visited PEC and visited the U-Pick blueberry field. 
If you haven't watched our adventures in The County here is your chance -
It was these blueberries that caught the attention of the PUTP citizens. Like most produce when you eat it right off the plant it is delicious and flavourful and usually there is no comparison to what you get at the grocery store. This is the case with blueberries, but, to even greater extreme. The blueberries were out of this world flavourful. On a scale of 1 to 10 they easily hit an 11...maybe an 11.5!!!

This experience solidified the idea of planting blueberry bushes in the Place Under The Pine. The idea has been floating around for years, but, never prioritized until now. Expect to see a row of bushes come next spring.

Saturday, 10 September 2016



The week before school started was a busy time around the Place Under The Pine.

There was a flurry of scootering, biking, skateboarding...really anything you could ride with wheels...savouring the last few 'free' days of non-scheduled daytime.

Helmet, check. Scooter, um, I'll get it

There was more screentime than it is almost non existent after school starts.

Just one more Pokémon...
There was also time to finish up the to-do list from summer - one thing on the to-do list was to smash the rocks brought back from our diamond mining trip.

*Smash* Add another diamond to the pile

The citizens of the Place Under The Pine like to finish off their summer with an out of town trip. This year it was a few days in Ottawa.

Be sure to ride the dinosaurs outside the Museum of Nature

The Parliament Building - that's where the Prime Minister works kids.

Everybody ready for the light show?

Tuesday, 30 August 2016



The kitchen was bustling with activity. A small mountain of cucumbers, peeled garlic cloves, the smell of dill in the air, and a simmering pot of a mysterious vinegar mixture was all the evidence one would need to know that it was PICKLING TIME! 

This would be the first batch of pickles ever made in the Place Under The Pine.
Everything seemed to be in order - dill & garlic were placed into a jar.

Then cucumbers crammed in.

The special mixture of vinegar, salt, and secret ingredients was added and the jars were given a hot bath to seal them shut.

The end product looks amazing, the process smelled amazing, therefore, they should be amazing pickles. Only time will tell - three weeks to be exact.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016



There has been a resurgence of interest in the Harry Potter franchise lately. Various books in the series are being read by 4 out of 6 citizens. All ages are reading them - and the ones that are not of reading age are playing with Harry Potter toys. 
Oskie playing Harry at Hogwarts
It is reminiscent of a time, many moons ago, when Lolli first read the Sorcerer's Stone and she had a Harry Potter party. And, even a decade before this party when Jen and Matt first read the Harry Potter books.
Lolli's bedside table
It is almost magical how Harry Potter has remained so popular over such a long period of time in the PUTP. The story is so well written, so creative, so imaginative, that minds off all kinds enjoy it...even obsess about it.
Journal found on Lolli's desk
The battered copy of The Philosopher's Stone has been read over and over and over and over and over and over (at least 10 times) by everyone over the age of 5.
Elli's first round with the old copy of The Philosopher's Stone
Matty just finished rereading it and commented, " really it magical, in a fun whimsical way...there is adventure, wit, humour, friendship, and the triumph of good over evil." No sooner had he turned the last page of book one he picked up book two.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


The plant that asks for so little, yet gives so much.

The raspberry plant has been named the official plant of the Place Under The Pine. It is a plant that has given nourishment, piece of mind, and pride to the citizens of the PUTP - and in return it has asked for so little.
Congrats Raspberry
Seven years ago three small, gnarled, unspectacular looking stalks were plucked from a friend's garden. They were planted in the backyard in the only spot available at the time - a tiny gravel and clay patch right beside the fence (in 23.5 hours of shade to boot). This spot was so undesirable to plant life that grass would not even grow there! Yet, out of this lifeless plot the raspberry thrived; it spread; it filled with berries.
As the garden expanded so has the raspberry. There is a thick bush now where there was once three piddly stalks. The rogue shoots that pop up out of the garden have been transplanted - there is now a row of fruiting plants that line the wall along the front yard. There are plans to export surplus stalks to neighbours and friends who want to start their own raspberry patch.
This plant continues to delight not only the citizens of the PUTP, but, visitors. Earlier this summer a young visitor commented, while eating a handful of berries, "your backyard is so amazing - you grow your own food!'.
' amazing - you grow your own food'

Later when Elli retold this story he implied an increased sense of security knowing that we could "just eat raspberries if we ran out of food".
During every summer get-together our visitors pick tart raspberries and praise their taste. It is a real showpiece and source of pride for the citizens of the Place Under The Pine.

And, in return all this plant has ever asked for is a small cutting in the fall. 
Cutting day is fun for the entire family
 What an amazing plant.

Sunday, 24 July 2016



Garden committee experts are happily surprised every single year as the raspberries start to ripen. Other than the annual cutting in the fall very little is done for the raspberry bushes. There are no fertilizers added, no fancy soil aerating machines used, even regular watering is not done. It seems the more neglected the plants are, the more they thrive. This is a plant everyone needs to have in their garden. It takes very little yet gives so much. 
Every morning Lolli pops out to the garden to pick some raspberries to put atop of her yogurt.

The heat wave, combined with some added watering, has done wonders to the peas. They have become so big they are falling over and intertwining into neighbouring plants. 

Plump peas
The parsnips had a slow start, but, as of late have flourished. The garden committee is excited to see what is happening below the surface.

Pretty Parsnip
And, some late planting (beans found in the bottom of a junk drawer) of beans are starting to flower.

Blossoming beans
Fine times in the garden this week.

Thursday, 21 July 2016



Ready to rock
The earth is such an amazing place. The variety of rocks, plants, and animals to study and learn about is endless. The citizens of the PUTP love to learn about the earth by getting out into nature - seeing, touching, and getting dirty  - and even better if it involves sledgehammers! It is one thing to read about how the right conditions of a water molecule under tons of pressure at extremely high heat can make a diamond - and, it is another thing to smash a rock, see the sparkle, and pick out a shining gem. 

You may recall last year our family rockhounds, Uncle Al and Auntie Amber, brought some boulders to the Place Under The Pine and let the younger citizens smash them to bits in search of gems - click here. Well, recently the entire population of the PUTP took this geology lesson one step further and took a trip down to the rocky lands of northern New York, to the land of the Herkimer Diamond. They visited a site (just north of Herkimer, NY) rich in herkimer diamond deposits, a rustic site full of potentially diamond filled rocks - where one has to smash their way to treasures.
Our guides brought their special tools, safety equipment, and geological knowledge (look for the rocks with black holes in them) and we got started. It did not take long for us to find the gems we were looking for. 

Through the scorching heat, a mid afternoon thunderstorm, and the sore muscles that come with carrying heavy rocks and tools for hours on end, the citizens ended the day with smiles on their faces, great memories, and some unique rock knowledge. The day was so enjoyable that there is already a plan in place to visit the mine next year. 

You can watch the citizens in action in this video.