HELEN LANG: Summer is a time for family

Almost the end of summer and relatives have suddenly realized that they haven’t visited dear old Granny this year

Almost the end of summer and relatives have suddenly realized that they haven’t visited dear old Granny this year. They arrive without warning, sure of a warm welcome, only to find that Nanny has taken refuge in a motel and is hiding out there under a bed. (I’m lying, of course.)

There are a few older kids but they are more interested in their mobile devices than in discussing the coming school year, the world news or even the wonderful weather. The younger ones, bored out of their minds, whine and complain, wanting to go to the beach, to the park, to a candy store, just any place but where they are. So I flee!

I didn’t really, although I considered it (briefly) but decided I didn’t see them all that often, probably only once a year since some of them live a long way off — Alberta, for example. There is just one family yet to come and these young ones are teenagers. They may also be bored but are too well trained to show it in public.

Shortly after arriving they will decide to go for a walk and after politely excusing themselves, depart (breathing a sigh of relief). I do have a basket of small toys, which  briefly interest the younger ones and they will eat quite a number of cookies, but all too soon they want to leave and begin to wander around fingering small  items such as a collection of sea shells from different parts of the world, or a tray full of silver family heirlooms I have just polished. I put out paper and crayons and for a few minutes they will draw but boredom soon takes over and they want to go … anyplace. “Just let’s get out of here!”

It’s really not easy travelling with children, even older ones, but younger ones are murder. Someone always either gets car sick or has a weak bladder and demands frequent stops. No wonder there are so many divorces immediately after a summer holiday travelling with kids!

The maple trees along the roadsides are changing  colour although we haven’t had even a hint of frost. Some of you may recall a song that starts “the leaves of brown came tumbling down, remember, that September in the  rain.”

We aren’t quite there yet but there is a definite flush of reddish-brown on these maple leaves and I realize we should be planning for a fall garden. It’s a good plan to dead-head spent flowers but leave the stems and stalks of lilies, dahlias, fox gloves and other perennials to replenish the roots as they die back. It gives you something worthwhile to do when you want to get outside later, or when you decide to turn the compost pile. I know this is a tedious job, but it really gets the compost “working.” When it get cold sometimes you can actually see steam rising from the decomposing compost. You’ve done something right.


Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.