I have a heritage

Harold Dettweiler, first-born son with (oldest to youngest) Margaret, Mary and Ruby. Year - 1925.
Harold Dettweiler, first-born son with (oldest to youngest) Margaret, Mary and Ruby. Year – 1925.


This photo of my father speaks volumes to me.  I love reading and contemplating history.  The best kind is the history that has shaped your own life.  My father is still with us in 2016, passing his 94th birthday!

In the midst of the “roaring twenties” my grandparents had the family put on their Sunday-best clothes and document themselves at a photographer’s studio.  Dad knew the Great Depression of the thirties. There’s a story of my grandfather going to market with piglets and coming home later with more than he took as someone else had slipped their own that they didn’t have the means to feed in with the Dettweiler stock.  The Christmas gift one of those lean years, shared among his sisters was a simple enamel or steel comb for their hair. Dad was finished his schooling at the Riverbank school, just down the road from home, in 1936.Harold, Clark, Ward and Glen Dettweiler in dad's teen years  The future, from that point was working on the farm.  My Mennonite heritage, through my father, is evangelical Christian.  His father’s barn impelled passers-by with the words of John the Baptist from Mark 1:15, “Repent, and believe the Gospel”.

In 1942, my dad was sent, along with other conscientious objectors to alternative service which began, for him, at the Montreal River camp in Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior.  An autograph book my father kept from those times makes me think that my father experienced an extended bit of camp-comradery as his co-workers there in the 6 or 8 months he spent there shared on those pages scripture verses or perhaps a witty poem.  His alternative service then continued near home as he worked for the local dairy right through the very end of the war in 1946.

After the war, life continued on the farm.  Dad travelled several times during those years between the war and the meeting-my-mom and marriage in 1952 to Alberta, at harvest-time to work on harvesting the grain.  In winter, when farm work was less intense he attended this Bible School held at First Mennonite in Kitchener.  The photo below is only half of a huge panorama shot of the students involved with him in learning from the Bible in January of 1948.  My dad is in the top row the second from the right hand side of the photo.My dad among other Bible School students at Kitchener in January 1948

From all this history of dad, I learn that I didn’t invent life out of nothing (ex nihilo?) I just continued it.  Like I would walk behind my dad as he tilled the soil of the garden in spring with the roto-tiller, I followed in the way that he had established.  If I like to dress well, I continue the lines established by father’s very non-plain ties.  I eat simple food and enjoy it; I love adventure that takes me from home and I love returning.  I can make my own way through life and I’ve been informed by God’s word.

Thanks, Dad for all of this.

Bees welcome here

Butterfly on salvia sauge flower


There are small things that make me disproportionately happy.  A bee, whether bumbly or the honey-making variety, checking out the flowers in my garden pollinates satisfaction in my soul, and it has come to be one of the goals of my gardening.

The bee magnet of my garden, without contest is the salvia sauge.  At the peak of its flowering, perhaps mid-June, the small violet flowers – last year more toward purple, this year closer to blue – are beautiful to look at.  It is a beauty whose glory lies in the collectivity.  Go to the Mandevilla flower if you want a solo star, but the bees and the butterflies won’t come for these more tropical blooms, they come to work on the small, grouped flowers of the salvia sauge.

Today, they are a month past their prime, but they are more than a fleeting attraction for these industrious insects, they are a regular stop on the bee tour of the neighbourhood.  I could run to get a camera, because at the moment that I am writing, past 4 pm, a honey bee works at the white flowers of my prolific genoa basil plants.  If this is not enough, a bumble bee now works the salvia sauge and makes passing acquaintance with the basil, as well.

God has ordained Sundays as my day of rest.  As an adult, I acknowledge my need for a day set apart unto the Lord.  God is not a man that he should slumber…

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever more.

Ps. 121: 4-8 ESV

Gardener in springtime


 This evening’s work included planting these seeds from my 2015 garden: echinacea, yellow dahlia, red dahlia, cosmos, salvia sauge & basil – Thai or Genoa?  Didn’t label my egg carton seed container very well, so I’ll have to wait too see. How much time before. Seedlings pop?  Not much experience in this but with the warm, humid days- maybe one week.

used this bumper stickert to separate out the seeds from a dried flower

so I could worship

Do you know the Scripture where Jesus passes by a fig tree, somewhere near Bethany, if my memory is correct? [Matthew 21:18-22. We do fact check our blog so as not to lead the Internet-gullible astray.] There are a whole range of trees mentioned in the Bible and while many of the references are figurative, some are literal trees, like the oak or terebinth trees of Moreh (where Abram built an altar) and then his living place for a long time became the oak trees belonging to an ally, Mamre.

Nothing roots a story in history, so much as a tree. I guess it is because trees outlive the humans who live near them. If I am a Canadian who knows something about sycamore trees, it’s not only because I’ve been reading Annie Dillard, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”, but because, as every Sunday School kid can tell you, Zaccheus was in that kind of tree and he was destined to meet Jesus.

This infamous fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22, however, was not mentioned because of what it bore, but because it did not bear any figs. So Jesus cursed it; the disciples heard him doing this, saw the result and reported it in Scripture; and almost 2000 years later, one Saturday night, I’m Googling “fig trees” so I can make sense of the story to my grade 2-3 Sunday school class. You might say like I did, “Do we have to incorporate in our Sunday school curriculum stories like these that are placed among the difficult-sayings-of-Jesus?”. But it was right there in the middle of the lesson plan with a Sunday school moral like, “Be fruitful, or else…” attached to it. As a responsible grade 2-3 Sunday school teacher I felt I had to give the kids something more than this, so I delved into fig tree research.

I learned many things about fig trees and when they should bear fruit and all, but the thing that sticks with me that has me writing this blog today was about a particular variety of fig tree that has male and female trees or flowers or something (don’t make me do the research again) and there is this one particular type of wasp that hangs around the male tree long enough to get pollen on the feet and then flies into the female flower and dies there. The wasp gets incorporated into the fruit, the fig, and it is only by this wasp that the tree can produce figs at all. Now don’t worry, adults, I was discrete in how I passed on this VERY interesting bit of fig info along. The author who put this info on the internet made it clear that it was only one particular type of rare fig variety that had these male / female trees and associated wasps. This wasn’t something I used to explain Jesus cursing the tree as it is highly unlikely that the type of fig tree between Bethany and Jerusalem operated like that. This was treated as bonus info for a grade 2 / 3 Sunday School teacher who has a keen interest in nature but, who, unfortunately already had enough science credits in high school so he never took biology [sad, but true].

Right after the fig tree lesson we served up the name brand Christie Fig Newtons which I had splurged on since my kids deserve only the best. There was a higher than normal amount of half-finished cookies that day, which I put down at the time to “kids-these-days” but, now that I think of it, might also have been accounted for by a certain wasp-like crunchiness to that snack.

Now that I’ve raised this difficult-saying of Jesus in a blog, some of you might want to know why Jesus, indeed, did this. Was the fig tree symbolic of Israel? Maybe, but I wasn’t using that with my grade 2 / 3 kids. Don’t want no part in raising more miss-guided anti-Semitics. Here’s what I take from this story: Jesus, knowing that this would be reported in Scripture, taught in church (and even in some Sunday school curriculums), and studied by teachers, wanted to create a special “wink-of-the-eye” to me and my kin in the 21st century who would delve deeper and learn something of the intricacies of creation as it pertains to figs. I don’t write this tongue-in-cheek, as my reaction at the moment that I read about the wasps was nothing more or less than throwing up my hands to creator-God and Lord of all trees in WORSHIP. He knows my name. He knows how I hang out on my terrace garden at watering time happy that my flowers have created an urban environment for bugs and bees. He knows each tear that falls and, believe me, my tears are all about God’s goodness.

Picture of a half-eaten fig

Nature will succeed

…with or without my help.


    Much of my garden work (serenity therapy) in the spring season involves taking the life that is already happening and arranging it so that it might have a future.  So far in May / June 2015 I have moved around plenty of sweet pea and today I played God with a maple seedling which had established itself in the wrong neighbourhood.  My street is lined with maples and all the cars, sidewalks and fertile soil that happens to fall under those maple branches were littered with billions (my block alone must account for millions) of maple keys.  Some windy day brought keys into the in-ground planter in my back terrace that the wall-climbing vine happens to draw life from.  It’s not a spot that has resources to expend on anything other than said vine, but the maple sapling that sprang into life here had already 8 fully-developed leaves balanced above its crooked trunk before I took notice of it.  I imagined a future for it, but certainly not there – a mere 4 inches from the brick wall.   I called into service a rather large pail, cut some drainage holes in the bottom, got a spade under the still compact root ball and introduced the maple to its new interim home.

I don’t have a history of tree-sapling transplantation, but my father, while he owned his two acres of Waterloo Township (to become South Woolwich eventually) transplanted many maples, many pines, willows, fruit trees and a black walnut tree or two.  He loves elderberries and I believe he even imported a bush or two to grow at the edge of the backyard swamp, hoping that he would enjoy better access to his beloved pie-berries.  I seem to remember that the elderberry bush took in the damp soil there, but no person was fortunate enough to enjoy the wild fruits as the sometimes pond / swamp neighbourhood was the delight of many birds and one or more of those species enjoyed the elderberries while they were still green.  By the way, happy father’s day 2015, dad!  I’ll be calling you before supper tonight and comparing my elderberry memories with yours.

This spring I’ve been transplanting like never before.  It’s been 5 or 6 years since I planted my first dollar-store Life_from_a_crackpacket of sweet pea seeds.  Since then I’ve been reaping dividends on that investment as the vines which climb the fence bordering my planters hold their seed pods through the winter and then self-seed the following year. Last year McGill put up a huge trellised barrier between the driveway running past my garden and the little-used terrace area of the student residence.  My imagination soon populated the barrier with the surplus sweet pea plants that literally sprang up out of the cracks between paving stones, but the reality that I had to overcome was that, on the McGill side, there was 12 inches of concrete at the base of the trellis and on my side there was the driveway and then 30 inches of concrete before the trellis structure began.  I called into action some discarded corrugated plastic drainage pipe which I cut open and tucked one side between the top of the concrete and the bottom of the trellis.  This hanging planter could hold plenty of soil for the sweet pea vines that I foresaw taking over this huge trellised square footage.  The trellis panels, all greenish-yellow treated wood, were not entirely an eyesore, but the sweat peas, if they could wind their way up and eventually dominate the structure, would definitely improve upon my terrace view.  I succeeded in this plan to a small extent, but the drainage-pipe planters didn’t hold up so well and soon looked shabby so I’ve decided to take a different tack this second year.  It involves a bit of guerrilla gardening as I am placing small planters sitting on the 12 inches of concrete on the McGill side of the wall.  I see that the sprinkler hose has been set up by McGill (not in use yet due to almost daily rain this spring) so my vines, still crouched at the bottom of the trellis wall will enjoy consistent watering through the heat of the summer.  Some of the candidate sweet pea vines that I am using to conquer McGill’s wall sprang from seeds that took root between the paving stones on my garden terrace.  Left alone these vines would never get to the stage where they climb the adjacent fence as when the heat of summer comes the vines would be scorched off, having very little root to draw water from.  I’ve found that when I pull these plants from the cracks they have enough of a root structure that they can be transplanted into the planters which, once proven, will make their way to the base of the wall.  It takes a special kind of will-to-live to spring up in a crack and I’m counting on that same vitality that nature has in spades to be put to use to improve my neighbourhood.


Garden Stew

stew contents
stew contents – fresh from the market or rescued from the fridge

I was able to finish up work soon after 1pm today, which usually means that I’ll stop somewhere on the way home.  Very near to the sausage plant in Laval is the Marché 440.  I don’t know if it is the only market in Laval but it is an excellent place to buy fruits, vegetables, honey and much more.  Wanting to make it quick – just needed a flat of raspberries while they are in season locally – I transacted for the fruit at the closest vendor, one of the best – but since I had to pay across the aisle where they have an extensive selection of vegetables, I quickly added a cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots, string beans, tomatoes and new potatoes to my bill.  And then I stopped at my favourite supermarket on Avenue du Parc  where I have learned to speedshop. 50 cents of metred parking only buys me 10 minutes. Let’s just say that I didn’t have to use any of my time today in the produce section.

The original idea was to make raspberry jam when I got home, but since neither Carol nor I had had any lunch and I was bringing home some freshly smoked sausage from work, I knew I had all the ingredients on hand for a hearty lunch on a rainy day.  Put the berries on ice and pulled out some cooking pots (des casseroles, comme on dit ici).  I think I have a garden stew recipe posted on my original personal website. Yes, still there at:

http://home.ican.net/~clarkent/ted/porksausagestew.htm Continue reading