Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Still a Few Flowers in this Crunchy Summer

I don't water my perennial beds, just my small vegetable garden. We have been fortunate enough to have a little bit of rain (enough to fill my buckets under my downspouts, but not more). Despite these arid conditions, I do have a few things which have managed to bloom. Perhaps you have also had these same blooms in your gardens.

Delphiniums which usually get beaten down by the rain have stood tall for a greater length of time this July.

I love how iridescent they are. They remind me of carnival glass.

This dark wine, almost "black" daylily is one of my favourites. I don't get many blooms from it, but it is thick and meaty, unlike my other rather spindly daylilies.

Very dependable snowball bush which just seems to thrive on either neglect, or severe cutting back. It doesn't wilt like my little decorative pink hydrangeas.

My trumpet vine took forever to become established enough to bloom. This year it is doing very well and the hummingbirds are enjoying it. It is difficult to tell from the picture, but it is covering a wooden arbour attached to rail fences.

I'm not totally certain what this flower is, some sort of coreopsis, I think. It is tall and big and doing very well. I don't even remember its origins, whether I purchased it as a plant from a garden center, or whether it was gifted to me from someone's home garden. Regardless, it provides nice, bright colour right now.

My hollyhocks have been dwindling over the years. I had so many that were gorgeous dark pinks, light pinks, and a whole variety of other colours. Now many of them are washed out shades and too solitary to make much of an impact. I'm considering whether I should renew my supplies, or do away with them altogether.

You simply cannot go wrong with limelight hydrangeas. It would be the one I would recommend to anyone in any setting.

A traditional daylily. I have others which are more orange in colour, as well as a pure lemon yellow. Even though daylilies tend to be pretty bomb proof, mine are suffering in this drought and aren't putting on much of a show.

Of course, I don't feature my sad, dry, lifeless plants, or the strangulating bind weed which threatens to take them down, or the grasses that grow amongst all of them. I did pick a cucumber this morning and I have eaten three tiny tomatoes - candyland is what that variety is called- smaller than cherry tomatoes.

How doth your gardens grow?

Monday, 16 July 2018

Waterfalls and Wine

Yesterday was my birthday, the big five-two. I'm not much of a birthday person. I don't like get-togethers. I despise birthday phone calls, I don't require presents, and I cringe at the thought of being sung to, especially in public. So... both "kids" were working yesterday and husband and I decided to do something during the day. Our daughter, the communications major, put together a day for me (she's working this summer in tourism), knowing her mother well (i.e. no ziplining, no big city travel, no crowds).

In the morning, we left to drive to a very pretty part of Ontario, to go for a late breakfast. We ate outside in the shade in a little village. I had the vegetarian crepe (not a vegetarian, but the "innards" sounded yummy - onions, goat cheese, mushrooms...). Yes, I took a picture. Note the flowers as decoration!

After breakfast, we drove to a lovely conservation area that includes a waterfall. We've been to this waterfall before but it's been a while. Being in nature makes me contended. It was a scorching hot day, but we were in amongst the trees. And when a hot flash hit me, I just leaned against the stone wall which was nice and cool! (Why, why do hot flashes come back when you are quite sure they were all done? Happy birthday.)

You can see the wall to protect people from their own stupidity. I love the old cedars.

The gnarled root systems with all of their glorious texture and hidey holes make me imagine gnomes and fairies and other magical tiny beings living amongst them and emerging when all of the people go home.

This is one view of Eugenia Falls.

Here is a better view.

This is probably the best view. Don't ask how far the drop was. I read the info, but forget it now and I'm a terrible judge of distance. Suffice it to say that I would not want to look over the edge.

And now for your amusement, here is a selfy (selfie? the ie ending doesn't make sense...). Is there anyone, besides a Kardashian, over the age of 25 who can properly execute one of these things? I ended up looking like an elf and husband looks like he's trying to read the small print. Good god.

Now, onto better things... we then drove a short distance to another waterfall, different in nature and size. This one assumed that you were smart enough to stay away from the edge as there were no walls. We were also in amongst beautiful old trees with limestone rocks and a pretty river.

The river was shallow and there were many, many butterflies flitting around.

After a bit of a walk, we came to the falls. I could have walked right out to the edge if I wished. I did not wish to. I'm not great with the edges of talls things and have these irrational thoughts like, "What if I just inexplicably threw myself over the edge??"

These falls were not nearly as large, or as big of a drop as Eugenia. They are called Hoggs Falls. There was actually a fellow at the bottom fishing. We didn't wait long enough to see if he caught anything.

I'm pretty sure gnomes and fairies live here, too. There is nothing like the sound of water.

After the waterfalls, we were directed, according to daughter's itinerary, to drive to one of the many wineries that are becoming established in the general area. There are also many craft breweries and cideries as well.

This is the view from their parking lot. Just a gorgeous valley and the picture doesn't do it justice. It was so hot, the earth seemed to shimmer.

The winery was named The Roost, because the owners, after being part of the banking / advertising world of the big cities, including London, England, decided to 'come home to roost', establishing this winery on the wife's home farm. They've done a fabulous job creating a beautiful setting in the building itself.

After enjoying a wine tasting, we decided on this red and brought home two bottles.

We shared the charcuterie board in the shade with a glass each. (Isn't the whole charcuterie thing such a trend now? It used to be called wine and cheese. Now it's like a competition to find the weirdest crackers and the thinnest slices of meat.)

We toodled around after that, enjoying the drive and ended the day with a dip in the pool. We had cake with the kids (purchased... oh the horror! But I'm not baking my own cake. I gladly make a birthday cake for husband and kids, but I draw the line at myself). We amused ourselves by noticing the cicadas emerging from their outer shells and then administering to son, as he didn't quite escape from the wasps that he disturbed as he was shooting baskets in the driveway. They had been making a happy little wasp nest in the hollow post that the basketball net is attached to. He's fine - only one sting.

This was the perfect birthday. No party. No attention. I didn't announce to people at the restaurant or the winery that it was my birthday. I was out amongst the trees and the water, and then back in an air conditioned car. As a bit of an introvert, and a private one at that (who has a blog, I know, but I pick and choose what I share), it was lovely.

Monday, 2 July 2018

The Nose Knows

Quite a number of days ago, when daughter and I came home from town, my husband responded to our, "Hi!" with "We have a problem."

This was the problem. While daughter and I were out and about, tabby cat, Samson (he of the header picture) came in through the cat door with a rodent in his mouth. My husband only noticed this when said rodent was dropped in the kitchen and ran. It ran under our dishwasher (which had the bottom panel removed because of the repeated attempts by service people to fix the leak because it is under extended warranty, but that's a whole other story...)

Husband told us it was large and held his hands up to show the size. He was demonstrating 'rat size'. Great, so now we had a rodent in the house, potentially a rat, hopefully just a hefty mouse. Traps were set. Nothing. Time went on. More traps were set. Daughter slept with towels jammed under her bedroom door (we have an old house with gaps under the old doors).

Two days ago, I thought, "Boy, I really need to dump the compost regularly in this heat!", which I did. One day ago, I said, "Something smells in this kitchen. No, it's not the garbage." I contemplated going through the bag of potatoes, thinking one was rotting which can happen sometimes. There was also a niggling worry in my mind. "You don't think it might be..."

This morning, the stench was undeniably that of decomposition. It would seem the run under the dishwasher was the last physical exertion that mouse had experienced. Husband started to maneuver the dishwasher from its spot in the kitchen (it's built in), but it would only go so far. Both of us laid on the floor (yup, nasty smell just wafting out at us), flashlight in hand, hoping we could see the deceased in the back recesses of the dishwasher hole. I thought I saw some dark grey fur in the back corner and asked husband if he had one of those skinny grabber tools (mechanic types use it when they inadvertently drop something that's hard to reach). Yes he did and within moments I was rolling around trying to grab onto the "mouse". Well, in reality it was just a clump of the sound-deadening fabric that is wrapped around the machine. No mouse.

However, our olfactory senses told us that it was still in there, somewhere, so husband went to the basement and detached various lines so the dishwasher could be pulled out even more. And voila!! There it was (mouse, not rat). Plastic gloves were donned, mouse was deposited into a plastic bag and taken out to the burn barrel, and I proceeded to bleach and disinfect the area until absolutely no stench remained.

Have I mentioned we've been under a heat advisory these past couple of days. There's nothing more delightful than dead mouse on a hot day!

I know someone out there has a 'dead animal in your old house' story. Feel free to share.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Happy Canada Day

I'm sharing some funny bits with you, because as a Canadian, I'm allowed to make fun of myself and my country. Honestly, though, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. Also, we don't all play or love hockey, just so you know.

We are polite, and we do apologize a lot. I don't know why. Sorry.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

We're Having a Heat Wave...

And so, after a little musical interlude... we are indeed, having a heat wave. I personally don't mind it, but I know a lot of people tend to melt in these circumstances and find it difficult to function.

I'll begin by saying that I made a small batch of strawberry jam about a week or two ago. This year I did some things differently. I did use my own strawberries, but as I mentioned previously, they weren't stellar. I decided to use liquid Certo. Usually I use the packages of powdered Certo, so we'll see if this is any better (when I try the jam in the winter).

Have any of you tried the liquid before?

Trust me, it doesn't change the indecent amount of sugar you use to make jam.
That's only part of the sugar required.

Here are the berries before being cooked with the sugar and Certo. One other thing I did differently was using this:

Instead of using a potato masher to crush the berries before cooking, I just put the berries in a big pot with the sugar and Certo, then once everything was mixed up nicely and starting to heat up, I used the hand blender to mash up the berries. I think it might make a more consistent jam with smaller bits of strawberry.

I've already given away two small jars to co-workers as an end of the year thankyou.

This morning, before the extreme heat set in, I set to a task that has been bugging me, but I've been stretched in too many directions and have been to exhausted to get to. Our front walkway to the porch:

What a mess! I had weeded it much earlier when Spring first arrived, but the weeds and some perennials have been growing pretty steadily in the cracks ever since. So I grabbed my trusty kneeling pad, a big bucket to throw the weeds into, and my handy slicer that gets between the cracks.

With sweat literally dripping off the end of my nose, shifting between kneeling, standing and bending, squatting, and sitting on my rear end, I worked my way down the path until it looked one hundred percent better. I even tackled a few weeds in the beds on either side of the walk. I massacred my fingernails in the process. I am NOT a high maintenance woman with manicured nails. Quite frankly, they are still slightly stained from strawberry juice and previous weeding.
But they really took a beating with this job.

However, after a quick sweep, things look so much better. I even shared a moment with a hummingbird just a few steps away at the hummingbird feeder.

Husband and I ended up having a dip in the pool in the afternoon and again with the "kids" after supper when everyone was home from work.

If you have any doubt how extremely hot it was today, here is a picture of Samson melting on the concrete bench in the shade.

His face says it all.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Late June gardening

I'm here to declare that my strawberries have made me sad this year. Last year I had huge berries in abundance. I do not know if it stayed too cold for too long, or if there wasn't enough rain in the late spring, or if the bindweed has simply won. (What do you do with an infestation of bindweed short of nuclear annihilation? )

I have picked some berries, but they are small and don't even have that delicious aroma of ripe berries when I have a bowl of them in the kitchen. They are quite seedy, which may seem a strange thing to say since all strawberries are quite seedy, but they are more seedy than normal. And so it makes me sad because I was looking forward to many bags of frozen berries as well as replenishing my jam supplies. I did make one batch of jam, but I like to do two or three. Maybe by the weekend?

I have referred to my increasingly shrinking vegetable garden and here it is in all its glory. Three quarters of my garden is strawberries and a big ol' rhubarb which you can see in the corner, gone to seed but still producing. I guess I should say strawberries and weeds, with a couple of paths thrown in.

This year my husband made four protection "cages" for my seedlings. He used fencing boards and chicken wire. They are heavy enough to stay in place, but light enough to be easily lifted and moved. I've lost so many young plants and seedlings to rabbits, birds, and other critters, so I asked him to create something like this. He's so talented that he whipped these up in no time. In the foreground you can see tomato plants with tomato cages in place. The blue strips are plastic bag that I cut into strips to flap around in the breeze with the hopes of deterring birds. I've had birds come along and snip young tomato plants right off. These are surviving nicely.

Underneath my protection frames I have: beets, two kinds of lettuce, green beans, peas, onions, peppers and basil. The peppers and basil are too tall to fit under the frames, so I put rocks under the edges to raise the frame up. I also have cucumbers, zuchinni, and potatoes. The potatoes are just starting to come through the soil.

Here is a closer look at one of the frames. They are as long as the length of a fence board. They are as wide as a fence board cut in half. They could probably be a little longer, but that would have made them harder to build quickly and cheaply. Yes, I am still using white plastic spoons as row labels, written on with sharpie marker. The protection frames are definitely doing their job. The beans growing under it are healthy and getting bigger. The beans that are not covered by the frame are chewed and half the size.

My vegetable garden is not very big anymore, but I try to cram a lot into a little space. And I plant throughout the season. I can't wait for the "firsts" - first lettuce in a salad, first ripe cherry tomato, first beans eaten right in the garden.

We are in for a few scorcher days in Ontario. I honestly don't mind and we don't even have air conditioning. Our old house stays quite cool, on the first floor. The upstairs bedrooms do get warm, but every room has ceiling fans and we have a small window air conditioner in our bedroom. I'll keep the garden watered and watch things grow!

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Guardian Angel?

Friday evening came with complete and total exhaustion. I normally do the cooking and we've been severely cutting back on eating out, but since husband and I were alone for this evening (both kids working, or out), we went out to a "local" restaurant for good, simple food and a beer. It was much needed.

After supper, we just drove around a little. It's amazing how you can live somewhere for as many years as we have and still find roads you've never travelled on. We drove past a farm that seemed to have every kind of animal - cows, goats, sheeps, horses, and a llama. Stop the car! I needed to spend some time animal watching. So husband turned around and pulled over. I put the car window down. Every animal seemed totally contented, eating grass, and none of them were making a sound. I really wanted to hear the goats and the sheep.

I took a picture of some of the animals, including the llama. It saw our car and heard me talking, and it came closer and closer and closer. Here is a succession of pictures of the Guardian Llama, clearly on the job.

This llama was no doubt a guardian animal. It had no qualms about getting closer to our vehicle. If you are not familiar with the concept of a guardian animal, many farmers use llamas as protection for their sheep or other livestock as llamas will alert livestock to a predator, such as a coyote. Llamas will also physically ward off a predator. Some even get to know their people so well, that they will chase away other humans. This llama didn't seem particularly aggressive, more curious.

Sometimes I just need animal therapy. I love seeing a flock of sheep, or a herd of cattle in the grass, or even wild turkeys strutting their stuff in the mornings on my way to work. If money were no object, I would love a little hobby farm. But money, and time, is a consideration, so presently it is two cats. I am, however, toying with the idea of having a small flock of chickens again. Husband seems to be on board. There are just things that need improving with the chicken coop (which is still standing on our property), and putting in a water line so I am not lugging buckets of water through thigh-high snow.

So, here's the question: if you had an animal guardian, what would it be? I think I might choose some muscular sleek big cat, like a panther or cougar to protect me (do cougars purr?).