Wednesday 30 September 2015

Felt like Fall

Last night before the light faded too much I thought I should pop out to grab the last few tomatoes out of the garden. The temperature had cooled off and there was a "feel" in the air. The sun was just beginning to set and as it continued, the colours were magnificent. It was like the sky was on fire. Of course, you just can't catch the true essence with a cheapo camera, but I tried.
Here is our backyard shed as the sunset began.

 gorgeous sky

black-eyed Susan with the sunset peeking through the trees

Sunday 27 September 2015

A Beautiful September Day

I love autumn. I love the colours and cricket sounds and pumpkins and sweaters. Autumn also means yard work for me. Today I managed to get a few things done before I knew I should stop or I would not be able to move tomorrow morning.
I had two beautiful crazy mandevilla plants hanging on my front porch which got chopped up and added to my compost as well as my red geraniums that hung at the arbour. There used to be a time when I would pot up those geraniums and try to keep them alive over winter so I could use them again next year. Yup, well, I don't do that anymore. I have gotten over my plant guilt.
Years ago I received two little clumps of forsythia from a wonderful woman that I worked with. That wonderful woman has since retired and amazingly survived an almost fatal brain aneurysm. Her two little clumps of forsythia have thrived and grown so much that they got a little out of control. They share a bed with perennials and have shaded and crowded out some of their neighbours. So today I ruthlessly cut back the forsythia. It was a big job. My son helped by pulling the "Gorilla Cart" filled with branches back to the burn pile about four times and dumping it.
Although it just looks like some sticks coming out of the ground right now, the forsythia will put on some new growth in the spring, although it probably won't bloom like it usually does.

As well, I have cut back the dead hollyhocks from various places around the property. I love hollyhocks when they are blooming, but when the blossoms fade they just look mangy. Not only do they look horrible, but their big circular shaped seeds drop everywhere, like the walkway, the grass, and the soil all around them, and they reseed very well! Of course as I am cutting them off and moving them to the cart, the seeds are scattering anyway.
We have a very big Norway Spruce in our front yard and it is now dropping sticky cones all over the grass and in my beds. I raked a whole bunch up and added those to the cart to be dumped in the burn pile (which now has taken on rather scary proportions). My leather work gloves can now stick to things all by themselves, they are so covered in sap.
big spruce with lots of cones

Although I have only just put a dent in things (WHY do I have so many perennials??), it feels good to get some things done. It is warm today, but there is a lovely breeze. Unfortunately it is a breeze from the south. Why is that a problem, you ask? Well, because there is the world's most gargantuous pile of turkey manure in the field to the south of us. Every year or two the farmers who own the land around us clean out huge turkey barns and create this behemoth which sits there for weeks, even months until it is spread on their fields. The stench on certain days is unreal.
You can't really grasp how huge this pile is by looking at a photograph, but trust me, it's massive.
One job I didn't have to do was "tucking the pool in" for the season. Husband and son did that.

I grew up in the country. I am used to the smell of manure. In fact, I quite like the smell of a horse barn! I rode along with my uncle in his tractor when he spread manure on the fields from his dairy cows. I have shovelled my share of chicken manure when we had our little backyard flock. But where I grew up, NOBODY created giant mountains of manure like that! Oh, and the farmers do not live here, they are a couple of concessions away, so they do not have to smell this.
O.K., back to something a bit more positive. For supper tonight I am putting in a beef roast. It will cook away in the oven in something I like to call my "magical cooking pot" because everything I cook in there ends up moist, tender, fall-apart succulent. It is made by Kitchen Aid and I got it at a greatly reduced price last year. It is called a Dutch Oven.

Magical cooking pot. Love it for anything from roasts to stew to chili!
So we shall have potatoes from the garden, the last of the beans from the garden, tomatoes from the garden, roast beef and some wonderful french bread (no, I did not make that!).
Hope everyone's weekend was productive and enjoyable!

Sunday 20 September 2015

Revisiting an Old Pasttime

I was inspired recently by a close friend of my daughter. She was describing how her older sister had been invited to two weddings this summer, and being a university student for about three years now, she had very little extra money with which to buy wedding presents. So, her grandmother offered to create two beautiful cross stitch pictures in frames that she could give as presents. I know her grandmother. She and I used to work in the same place. She retired just a year ago. I have been the recipient of two of her wonderful cross stitch designs for different occasions. Hearing about this got me to digging around and unearthing a cross stitch that I had started years and years ago.

I looked at the date on the "For the Love of Cross Stitch" booklet that the design came from and it was September 1989!!! My children weren't even born then. I wasn't even married then! Granted, the booklet may have been a year old or so when I purchased it and began the cross stitch, but still, this is a project that hasn't been touched in years.
This is the design to follow in the booklet.

I love the picture. It is everything autumnal. It features a scarecrow, home canning, apples, pumpkins, pretty leaves... I will likely hang it up all year, regardless of the subject matter, unless I make a different seasonal one with which I can interchange it.

This is my cross stitch, getting close to being finished...

The other reason I have rediscovered cross stitching is it gives me something to do with my hands in the evenings while watching something on tv. This is an alternative to shoving way too much food into my mouth. Let's just say that age and declining hormones have made it harder to lose and easier to pack on extra weight. Unfortunately, age also means that my once perfect eyesight is not so perfect anymore and I have to wear reading glasses (nonprescription, got them at Dollerama, refuse to invest more money because I refuse to accept that my eyesight isn't that great anymore!!) I perch the glasses part way down my nose so I can look down through them to see the stitches, but overtop of them to see the tv. Sigh.

I have done other cross stitching in the past. Some was given away (baby gifts), some packed away (Beatrix Potter designs that used to hang in our childrens' rooms when they were very little), and one still hangs in our home. I got it framed and still love it. It features spring violets and I really like the soft purple and green combination.

With my current project, I have all of my embroidery floss in a fantastic plastic box with dividers. Unfortunately I am running low on a very necessary floss that is a blackish brown which is used to outline various parts of the design. I checked our local Walmart which had a few colours of floss, but nothing even close to what I needed. The closest decent craft store (Michael's) is 45 minutes away and I can't justify driving 45 minutes there and 45 minutes back just for one tiny purchase. So I am stitching everything else and will wait until we need to go to the town where Michael's is located for other reasons as well and pick it up then.

I will post later and show you the finished project, hopefully framed.

Friday 18 September 2015

The Ducks

For a few decadent years, I had a lovely neighbour lady come and clean my house. I was working full time and our two children were still quite young. Our neighbour lady cleaned other people's homes and charged a very reasonable rate. Well, the lovely neighbour lady's husband had, and still has, a fantastic collection of birds. He has large walk-in cages and shelters for a variety of birds like peacocks, quail, and pheasants. He also had a gorgeous Tom turkey, some guinea hens, and a collection of comical ducks. These were Indian Runner Ducks. They are slim and very vertical. I had mentioned that I would love some ducks. I thought they would be a really nice addition to our flock of chickens and they were just so funny to watch, running around upright like that.

A while later, I bought two of the young ducks and they were brought here to come live with our chickens and make use of the chicken run and chicken coop. Chickens and ducks together. A real little farm!! One was named Jemima (after Beatrix Potter's Jemima Puddle Duck) and the other was named Bolt (named after famed Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt because it was a runner duck).

The chickens hated the ducks and attacked them to the point of damaging them. It was horrible.

We created a very temporary "duck run" from which one of the ducks escaped and ran into the neighbouring field. We could hear it quacking and ran around with a net in our hands, but we were dodging plant material, and the duck was wiley and fast. We were pretty sure we would never get the duck back. So, we devised a plan. In the evening, after the chickens went in to roost, we put the remaining duck in a cage in the chicken run and left the gate to the run open. We hoped that the duck (safe inside the cage) would quack pathetically and the escaped duck would be lured back to be with its sibling. Sure enough, we checked later on that night and the duck had come back!! It was inside the chicken run close to the cage, so we shut the gate and had both of our ducks back.

We then sectioned off a part of the chicken run (or did we actually expand it? can't remember). Then my husband built a charming little wooden duck  house, since Jemima and Bolt would not be hanging out with the bully-chickens in the coop and we didn't want to risk a predator eating the ducks at night. These two young ducks were becoming an incredible hassle and took far too much of our time and emotional effort. And they wouldn't even let us get close to them, or hold them. Yes, they ran away from us. Bloody runner ducks!
Jemima and Bolt beside their charming little duck house.

So... time went on, and a couple of bags of duck feed later, it was becoming winter. We have a heat source in the chicken coop, but not for the ducks. However, lots of fowl winter just fine as long as they have some shelter. So, they managed o.k. until we went away to a family Christmas gathering and when we came back, we only had one duck and some blood smears in the snow. Not good. So, we asked our lovely neighbour lady's husband where he kept his ducks in the winter. He had a little barn that he put them in, so I asked if he could keep our remaining duck over the winter. He kindly agreed to do that. We gave him our remaining duck feed.

A few weeks after that, he came around to our house to tell us that our other duck was found keeled over in the barn. He didn't know why it died.

I vowed never to have ducks again.