Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cats on the Corner

More favourite photos from this year that did not make it to publication.  Perhaps I don't write enough about my cats?  Well I'll make up for that now and focus this series on our feline friends.

Cat number one, Gino, has been with us some 7 years now.  He's a little cranky as he approaches middle age and doesn't like sharing his space with those outdoor felines but he does love to putter along behind me through the garden.

While perusing the photographs I realized that cat number two, Funnyface, is by far the most photographed cat of the trio.

He was very very scared of us when we first moved here and would hide at the sight or sound of us but in the last year, with a lot of coaxing, he has become my pal.

You wouldn't even guess that he was the same cat.  I mean, who could have suspected this?

He wants a belly rub.  Seriously.  This former feral feline, tom cat on the prowl, loves belly rubs.

Most often though he be found with his best pal, cat number three, Priscilla.

They're a team those two.  That is unless herself is off hunting.  Her favourite past time it seems, lurking out in the field.  She never fails to bring us home a varmit or three and proudly displays them at the front door for us to find.

Lucky us.  (but perhaps not so lucky for the varmits)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Year of Sunflowers

It feels like months ago I started reviewing this year's garden photos, deleting the excesses that digital photography seems to bring with it.  And here I am still, slowly working my way through the images.  I looked at my posts throughout the summer and compared it to the photos.  It seems I took far more photos than I actually posted.  Lots of time spent with the camera but not nearly as much spent writing about the goings on in the garden.

Ruby Eclipse sunflower
A good portion of my photos this year were of sunflowers.  I've never had a garden sunny enough to grow these before and I was thrilled to grow my own for the very first time.  Apparently I photographed them every step of the way.  Starting with the shoots that immediately grew gigantic heart shaped leaves.

Those shoots then formed buds which contained massive spikes encasing the jewel inside.

Slowly emerging

into a flower

The flowers with the red center are called Ruby Eclipse and formed many flowers on each plant.  The yellow flowers were a breed called Giganteus.  Only one large flower formed on each stalk.

Much taller than me at 5 feet 6 inches but not so high the bees can't reach them.

And then the petals began to fade and fall

Leaving behind seeds which the birds plucked and ate.

Some of the blooms were left to fade in the garden and sprinkle their seeds

Others appeared in mysterious locations

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Just in time it arrived

It will be a white Christmas after all

Joy to you this holiday season

and best wishes in the coming new year

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Last Look at Autumn

I just realized that the autumn screen saver on my computer at work was slightly out of date.

This display was made of coloured leaves
and mystery squash from the garden
It's Christmas already!  Although the late removal of autum photos was partly due to laziness it was also because it really hasn't felt like winter in these parts until just recently.   Just a couple weeks ago the roses looked like this.

We were very fortunate to have temperatures in the double digits lasting right into December.  Those warm temperatures kept the garden active and I was finding flowers in bloom what seems like only days ago.

This photo of the gaillardia still in bloom was taken November 20!
The weather seemed to affect the apple trees as well as we were picking much later into the year.  I recall doing a last sweep of the orchard in late October or early November last season and this year we picked right up to the end of November.

The leaves on the apple trees are always the last to turn colour and drop.  This year as they dropped we could still see apples clinging to the branches.

Over the last month though storms have started to slowly set in, signalling a change in season.  Wind and rain has been pounding and we've lost a couple of trees.  One old apple tree in the back field was pulled up by its rotten roots and toppled.  And our 'watch tree' met it's final demise. 

The watch tree was a standing dead snag that the crows loved to perch on and watch the proceedings in the yard.  Even though the top had already broken off it was still much taller than the other trees around it.

After the high winds the watch tree is no more.

This last week the temperatures have finally dipped below freezing on a regular basis and it seems winter has finally come.  And with it comes Christmas, a new season to look forward to with all that it brings.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Garden Plans and Budgeting

Since budget is on my mind I might as well address my garden plans as well.  Part of figuring out my garden budget has meant figuring out what work I intend to complete in the garden.

Starting at the far end of the property is the crescent garden.  This year I planted it with dahlias, amaranthus and sunflowers and the easiest thing to do is to continue just as it is.  

Next spring I'll put the dahlia tubers back, and perhaps some of the sunflower seeds that fell will sprout.  If there is time I might consider expanding this bed but rather than plan for that I'll just see what happens so I don't overwhelm myself.

The next garden over is the garage bed.

So far this bed has done remarkably well and I have no plans other than to keep an eye on the hollyhocks I planted this year.  Despite cutting back the leaves infected with rust and thinning the plants in late fall I saw new leaves emerging covered in rust.  If things are still bad come spring I may need to pull these plants and think about replacements.  Okay, I'll admit I'm already thinking about putting in some large grasses but I need to give the hollyhocks a fair chance first.  I will put $25 in reserve though just in case some new plants need to make a home in this bed.

The vegetable garden is next and there is always work to do here.

Edging the beds, cutting the grass and weeding take up a lot of time but the biggest chore will be to dig over all the beds and amend them.  I've been doing some reading lately and I think I know the reason why my spinach and beets do so poorly.  It's a combination of acidic soil and not enough manure.  I already have some lime in the garage but I'll put $50 aside for manure.  $20 for seeds as previously mentioned will go to new veggies like peas, turnips and zucchini.  Last but not least another $20 should be put aside for nursery bought plants like rosemary and peppers.

Beyond the vegetable garden is the circle bed.

I started the ground cover Aguja 'Chocolate Chip' here this summer so hopefully that will spread over the next season limiting the amount of weeding I need to do.  Some expansion could be done in this spot but like the crescent garden I'm not going to count on it.  If there's time that's great but I won't plan for it.  The only thing I would like to add here is another evergreen.  I really covet those threadleaf false cypress so I'm putting aside $50 for a fancy new evergreen to add to this area.

The front entrance bed is where all the work is needed this coming spring.  

Removing weeds, moving existing plants, and edging will take a lot of time but it won't cost me a dime if I'm careful.  I bought more than enough plants for this space last year and hopefully they will start to take hold and expand.  I have good reason not to want any more plants as well because I don't want to overcrowd.  Too often I've crammed plants together in the past.  I'm trying to avoid that mistake this time.  If I keep myself in check this area should expand nicely without overflowing.

The final piece of the garden puzzle is trees.

This white birch was planted in spring 2010
To me, trees are the backbone of the garden and our large property needs more trees.  We have decided to allow our meadow (former lawn) to transform into a wooded area.  The grasses are beautiful but trees will provide wind protection and habitat for insects, birds and animals.  We have set a goal of planting 100 trees in our back acre and we've only planted about 20 so far so there's a long ways to go.  Some trees will be freebies, we find them in ditches like the squirrel planted horse chestnuts we have recently discovered growing in the ditch at the far end of our property.  I have a budget as well though for harder to find specimens.  Several local nurseries stock native trees at a price of approximately $10 each so $40 will buy me 4 trees like red maple, ash or balsam fir.  Last but not least I have my eye on a specialty purchase.  We have one dead and one dying apple tree standing in our front lawn.  These trees won't likely be standing much longer so I'm looking for a replacement.

The tree on the left just faded away this season and is now dead
Since this is such a prominent location I'd like something eye catching in this spot.  I've been thinking about Katsura or Persian Parrotia.  A local nursery carries these trees and more for a cost of around $20 for a small tree.

The final budget then comes to $225 which, while still a lot of money, is more manageable than what I've been spending.  And the work is much more manageable as well.  No big expansion plans just take care of what I have and hopefully find some time to enjoy the other pleasures of summer.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Garden Budget

Considering we have some serious house repair bills coming up I've decided to put the garden on a budget this coming year.  Well, truth be told, I was considering a cut back in gardening this year anyway.  After two seasons working in the yard many of my major goals have been met.  I have a compost bin, a veggie garden, some flower beds and lots of trees planted.  My big plans in the upcoming season are to finish what I have already started.  The veggie garden will be planted of course but the big task will be completing the large flower bed at the house entrance.  Overall I intend to try and keep it simple next spring so I don't get overrun with too many tasks.  Hopefully the side benefit of this plan will be a decrease in spending.  I can already tell though that I'm going to need to hang on to my purse strings tightly.
I need to finish what I started - like digging over
 this veggie bed that did not get used this season
I just received my Veseys Seed Catalogue in the mail this past week and immediately began circling all the 'must have' items.  I got about half way through the catalogue when I realized I needed to stop and rethink.  My priorities are saving money and not creating any extra work in the garden.  Buying up a lot of seeds won't accomplish either of those goals.  So I looked over the seeds I wanted to purchase and thought about the seeds collecting dust in my refrigerator.  Right away I knew, no flower seeds will be ordered this year.  There, I've said it, now there's no going back.

The reality is that I have seeds falling out on the floor every time I open up my fridge door to grab some food.  Why in the world do I want to order more of them?!  It's true that I used the last of the chamomile this year, and there are no more zinnias or bachelor buttons but it's also true that I have leftover sunflower seeds, borage and nasturtiums.  Not to mention the seeds I bought last season and never even planted!
Chamomile and bachelor buttons looked great in the garden
this season but I'll try something different next year
Worse still I have packages of gifted seeds that have been languishing for years.  I think I've discovered a major issue here.  I hoard seeds.  I buy them, receive them as gifts and collect seed from my own plants and I don't plant nearly enough of them in the ground.  It's time to change that habit.   Now I have run out of some vegetable seed and I will have extra space in the veggie garden this year so I'm not cutting out a seed order completely.  But  I'm vowing right now to put a maximum limit of $20 on this years seed order.  And further, that order cannot contain any flower seed. That's a good start I think on my budget and besides, less money on flower seeds means there's more money for new trees right?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Realities of owning a Historic Home

In addition to cleaning up the orchard and preparing for Christmas we've been doing a little house work lately.

We bought this old girl knowing there would be work ahead of us.  Not to say she's in bad condition as there many good things about her.  Considering some of the old farm houses we had seen, this house was in great condition.  But her maintenance had faltered prior to our purchase and we took her over with stars in our eyes thinking we would have her ship shape in no time.

So pretty but hiding so many problems
It started off well, we installed a new furnace, a hot water tank and did a major bathroom renovation.  But two years has passed quickly and there's still so much to do.  Some of those renovations cannot wait anymore.  A few weeks ago I ran upstairs to fetch something and heard an odd sound.  Looking around I realized it was coming from the doorframe of the guest bedroom.  Water was dripping between the wood panels onto the carpet below.  How can a door frame spring a leak?

oh wait, it wasn't the door frame, it was the roof.  In the attic above the door frame.

We had previously discussed putting a new roof on the house but the amount of money had us stalling.  Obviously it can't wait any longer.  So we started discussing our options and considering our finances.  Not for too long though as the old girl reminded us, not so gently, that a roof was absolutely necessary, as soon as possible.  This time I heard a noise coming from the living room and sure enough, drip drip drip, through the dry wall and onto the carpet.  A second leak.  Time to take immediate action.

So despite a fear of heights it was decided hubby would go up on the roof with a bucket of tar and temporarily fix the impending disaster.  We've discovered home ownership means a lot of things, one of those is a fear of heights must be pushed aside.  There are greater issues here.

Emergency roof repair goo
The second leak turned out to be easily repaired.  It's a small side roof on the back of the house that juts out just a couple feet.  Luckily it's not far off the ground and easily reached by ladder.  An hour of painting and the problem was solved.  No more leak.

Luckily we've had good weather this fall so it was
easy to find a nice day to do this work
That first leak though proved to be much more difficult.

The leak is SOMEWHERE up there!
This time the fear of heights won out.  Getting up on that roof was downright dangerous.  What were we to do?  We were pretty sure we knew where the crack was but had no way to reach it, unless, that is, you have a very long pole.

We took some long boards and nailed a bucket to the end.  Filled the bucket with tar and pushed it far up to the peak.  Some twisting and turning and the bucket was tipped releasing the tar which rolled slowly down the roof covering the shingles.

Now, if anyone is thinking this is a brilliant idea you might want to reconsider.  Things were going well until the bucket came loose off it's nail and barreled down the roof sending tar flying in all directions.  Hubby was covered literally from his head to his feet in tar.  I was holding the ladder and found I couldn't let go as both my hands and the ladder were now covered in tar.  Even the cat managed to step into a puddle of tar coating his foot.

Have you ever tried to clean tar off a cat?  Difficult is an understatement.

His ears are back for a reason
Tar is nasty smelly toxic stuff and I could see that the cat was going to try licking it off his foot so there was no choice but to pin him down and use a different toxic chemical to remove it.  Ironically the cat was completely okay with this process, that is, until we removed all the tar and then had to use soap and water to then remove the toxic alcohol from his foot.  Why in the world are cats so cranky when it comes to water?  At one point the cat was attached to my head and Jody kept telling me to let go.  Let go?  I wasn't even holding on!  In fact the cat was embedded so deeply into my skull that I was worried I might have to wear him in to work the next day as a hat.

The good news is that hair, hat, hands, carpet and pets have now all been de-tarred.  The bad news, after two tries we still weren't able to find and tar the exact spot of that first leak.  So for now we're living with buckets in the attic and hoping for freezing weather so we won't have to worry about dripping.  I can't believe I'm actually wishing for colder weather!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

An End to Fall and a Start to Christmas

My apologies to my blogging friends as I have been terribly neglectful lately reading others posts.  I had thought that fall would bring some respite but my schedule is busier than ever.  Even the garden still has chores that need doing.  We have been deluged with apples to the point that even today at the end of November I found myself working in the orchard picking up fallen fruit.

Even as the leaves yellow and fall there
are still apples to be cleaned up
While some of you may have started your Christmas shopping on Black Friday we are trying to finish up our shopping.  Living on the opposite site of the country from family and friends means that gifts must be shipped out early to reach their intended destination before the big date.

We've been hitting up craft fairs and stores for several weeks now and many presents are on their way west.  Normally I wouldn't decorate our house this early but I have pulled out a few bits and pieces as I wrapped presents to get me in the mood.

Speaking of decorating, the old Canoe Cove Schoolhouse has been dressed up in its finest this past week for the Canoe Cove Christmas House Tour which will take place this Friday, December 2, 2011 from 6:30 - 9 pm.  Four homes will be opened up for viewing as well as the School House which will feature an assortment of Christmas treats, apple cider and a door prize.  Any locals looking for tickets to this event can contact myself or visit the Canoe Cove website.

No time to rest after the House Tour as it is followed the following weekend by a Live Nativity.  Every year Jenkins farm puts up a fantastic display of christmas lights and this year they decided to expand and include actors, a choir and animals including cows, horses, donkeys and llamas.  Yours truly will be singing in the choir so I've been exercising my rusty pipes in preparation.  More details can be found here.

And if that isn't enough the annual Canoe Cove Christmas Concert will be held December 17 at the Old School House.

It's a full schedule of events here on the Corner, I just hope I have energy enough to keep up with it all.  Perhaps the nanaimo bars cooling in the refrigerator will help give me an added sugar boost?


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November Bouquet

This might look like a re-post but it isn't.  I just liked last November's bouquet so much that I decided to recreate it this November.  I picked these dried flower heads just in time as today we had our first legitimate dump of snow this season.  15 - 20 centimeters of the white stuff (that's 6 or 7 inches for those using Imperial) is now coating the garden.

Same vase as last year.  This is one of my favourites as it catches the light wonderfully and is very heavy so it won't fall over.

Many of the same plants were used such as yarrow, sedum, ligularia and hydrangea

And a few new ones too, like these rudbeckia seed pods

And dried astilbe

This dried arrangement keeps all winter long in our house ensuring I have a reminder of the garden for months to come.