Saturday 27 June 2020

June 27th

Today is my first official day of holidays. Finishing the school year on a computer, instead of getting together with my colleagues for a well deserved gathering in someone's back yard, was anti-climactic and felt very "off". A tradition that we teachers and other staff members have at our school, and have always had, is gathering at the front of the school around the bus loop and waving off the kids as they walk to their homes, or pull away in school buses. The bus drivers always get into it, sometimes decorating the inside of their bus, or at the very least honking their horns as they leave. The kids wave and shout goodbyes and it's a great tradition. 

A colleague, who knows how much I love "waving off the buses" made a little video for me. She had cut outs of all of the staff (again, produced on the app called Bitmoji) and a little play school bus which was being pulled slowly by a thin wire, or fishing line, or something that was barely visible.  The staff cut outs were all lined up, and as the little bus rolled past everyone, the quintessential song, "School's Out" by Alice Cooper was playing. It made me laugh and cry at the same time. 
Today was a grocery day, and picking up a few things needed by my mother-in-law who is in a long term care home, but is safe and well taken care of. We can drop off a package, then it sits for a certain amount of time, and then delivered to her. 

I am quite bothered by how expensive groceries are. I'm not sure how much is because of the lack of workers, in areas such as harvesting and processing, or is it just price gouging? Meat in particular is something for which there are no bargains to be had! We are back to having four of us around the supper table so larger quantities are necessary. I really tried to pinch the pennies this time, but it's hard. I couldn't imagine if someone was buying for an even bigger family. 

I was thrilled to find cherries, however and boy, are they perfect right now! They are so sweet and juicy.

Back home, I decided I had to do something with all that rhubarb. I looked up a recipe in the recipe book from our little village's 150 year Homecoming . I found this one:

Do you write in your recipe books? I often do. I used to ask everyone to rate the outcomes on a scale of one to ten and then I would put the ratings in the recipe book. From back in my Weight Watcher's days, I have the number of points written beside some recipes. I also have calories per serving written on some. Or just a message like, "really good!" or "don't bother making this again", or "needs more time to bake". 

This one turned out really good, but the "custard didn't set up as much as I would have liked. It was still delicious. Husband and I had second helpings! 

I realize that picture is not a great advertisement for this dessert, but underneath that meringue with coconut on top, is rhubarb in custardy goodness atop a pressed crust that's a bit like a sugar cookie. Trust me on this.

After supper it rained - big fat rain - for several minutes, then stopped. With heat tomorrow, there will be a jungle of plants - wanted and unwanted - to contend with. It's a great year for my perennials, but as discussed in a previous post, not so much for some of my vegetables. 

I'm so happy to discover that Netflix (Canadian version) has the next season of Marcella on now. I watched a few episodes today in between baking and other things. I don't know if you know it - it is British and hugely suspenseful and sometimes a bit graphic / violent. That's when I have the pillow up to my face, or I watch between my fingers in front of my face. Anyone else do that? Regardless it is a fantastic programme and not one where you can predict what is going to happen.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

The Cucumbers

I planted my vegetable garden quite a while ago. The potatoes have come up well, the tomatoes that I started indoors seem to be doing o.k., many of the green beans are up and growing, although a few have been eaten, some of my tiny lettuce seeds must have been washed away in a big rain we had soon after I planted, the others things are hit and miss. But what the heck is going on with the cucumbers?

I had started some cucumbers indoors - some for pickling, some for slicing and eating. They were good healthy plants but the root ball wasn't really a ball, more a gathering of roots. I hardened them off on the porch for a bit and planted them the same as everything else. Within a day or two they had all shrivelled up and died. Yes, I watered them. 

Not to be deterred, I planted seeds in the ground. I've certainly done this before and it has worked out just fine. 

Nothing. I think maybe one came up and then most of it was eaten.

I planted again. A different one came up. By the next day, it was eaten. But what about all the others?? I was starting to feel a bit like this:

This last time, I was on the war path. I planted and then took my handy frame that husband made for me (wooden sides with chicken wire across the large rectangular side) and placed it over where some of the seeds were planted, at the same time sacrificing the beans that it had previously covered. Yes, I saw a rabbit already! For the other spots where I planted seeds, I devised other ways to protect them - a chicken wire dome, a wire fence castle. I planted them yesterday. I was already, like a fool, looking for signs of life this morning. I know, I know. It's far too early, but I'm on a mission here. 

I also replanted some peas that didn't come up. We had a cold snap after I originally planted, so that may have affected things at the beginning. 

Do you have certain vegetables that you have to replant?

Tuesday 16 June 2020

"Try New Blogger"

O.K., I'll bite. This is my first attempt at trying the "New Blogger". It can't be any worse than learning how to teach online. I'm going to test adding a picture now.

O.K., there I am in Bitmoji form (I put that out for my students - the likeness is "uncanny" - ha ha, could use an extra chin and some dark circles but those aren't options).

Do you have a Bitmoji? Of course, I never knew what one was until my daughter showed me. Now it's kind of fun. Want to see me in my frizzy summer hair?

O.K., I think I can live with the new blogger (like I had a choice?). I'm on my "lunch break" from my classroom which is actually a chair in my living room! Better get back at it. Thanks for all your nice comments about my flowers. 

Sunday 14 June 2020

Garden Tour June 14th, and Squirmy Cat

We had two very cold days, but today has started out promisingly. I know that my perennials are a little behind schedule. Normally my darker pink peonies would have been in full bloom and they aren't yet, but there are still lots of lovely blooms here and there. Let's take a walk:

We will start on what we call the front porch, although it is actually located at the side facing East. This tree was gifted to us when we first moved in twenty some odd years ago. It is kind of like a lilac tree, but it's not specifically a lilac. The bees and butterflies love it. Purple sandcherry is spilling in at the side, too. I love sandcherries but they are short lived. I have one that is totally dead on the other side but is almost impossible to dig out without crushing plants around it.
The bees love this tree and I enjoy watching them. They are extremely tolerant of me taking their picture.

These "white" peonies are the first to open. They start out looking very pale pink, then inside the blooms you can see a bit of yellow and pink as well. I literally sink my face in them and breath deeply.

I used to have many more patches of irises than I do now. I got tired of the grass growing up amongst them, so I dug many out. Irises are their best when you look at the up close. There are so many intricate details.

The name of the purple plant in the foreground escapes me (salvia?). I'm sure someone will remind me.

Weigela - forget the specific kind - but you can't go wrong with this shrub! (Also, that's another word I always have to look up the spelling of - weigela. I always want to put "ia" at the end.)

Spiderwort - terrible name for a beautiful plant. This one is just starting to open. I've divided and transplanted to various locations around "the grounds" (sounds fancier saying that).

Opening soon! This is a darker pink peony. It's about a week behind schedule.

This rather washed out pale yellow iris isn't much for colour, but it does help to break up a sea of green.
Iridescent blue centura in front of a Hansa rose which is just starting to bloom.

I have very few of these irises left. I think, perhaps there are two patches. They are bigger than most irises and are a gorgeous meaty wine colour.
Silky soft pale pink peonies.

Finally, it wouldn't be much of a garden tour without a friend to come along with you. Scooter won't sit on your lap, and prefers to be outside rather than in, but he's a mighty fine roller and squirmer. Yes, you can pet his belly.

I imagine these pictures set up like an old fashioned flip-book, where you flipped the corner of a book between your thumb and first finger to create motion. He's rather difficult when you want to take a picture of him. Also, Rian, if you are reading this, he is the one that I think looks a lot like your stray cat that you've shown in your blog, although, from this angle, it is likely hard to tell!

Wednesday 10 June 2020

June 10th - hot and stormy

I woke in the middle of the night last night, 3:25 to be exact, because I realized the ceiling fan was no longer on. The power was out - again. This is the third time in the past few weeks that we've lost power. It was very windy last night, so maybe a tree branch took a line down somewhere. I got up and was concerned about the strong winds (a tornado swept through the area in which I grew up in 1979 and I still get a little bit cautious when the sky looks ugly, or hot and cool fronts come together - no the tornado did not damage our home, but did damage some in our general area), and closed some windows for fear the rain would come sweeping in. I think I woke again when I heard the hydro truck just down our road - I could hear the workmen talking back and forth.

Well, I did manage to get back to sleep, and then slept longer than usual this morning, but of course was awake in time to open up my virtual learning page and get onto my work email and start my day. It was very, very hot today with heat warnings. Then as I was putting the sausages and a chunk of beef on the barbecue for supper, the sky got dark grey and the wind picked up and there was a general flurry of securing things and closing up the chickens, and I kept the meat on the barbecue as long as I could, moving closer and closer to the house under the porch so I didn't get hit by the rain or by spruce cones that were flying off the blue spruce at the back of the house. I managed to get everything cooked enough and we ate supper and the worst of the wind died down and then we moved to the other porch and enjoyed the cooler temperatures and the rain was falling gently. Still, the hummingbirds came to their feeder and we watched gold finches flit around and a robin with something in its beak called and chirped and hopped around, but whoever it was calling for didn't show up while we were watching.

I received notice just a couple of days ago that we could return library books to the library in the town closest to me, but only by putting them through the book return slot. We could go online and reserve books and then we would be able to pick them up "curbside" - which is now a regular term, isn't it? Business being done "curbside". I still can't see my own family doctor and have to wait more than a month to even talk to him on the phone, but I can do other business "curbside". Anyway, I reserved two books and got notice just one day later that they were ready for pickup. The lady from the library called me and told me which entry to drive to and so after I picked up this week's groceries, I drove to the library, pulled my vehicle up, a girl was in the entry way, she held up a paper bag with my initial and last name on it. I gave a nod and a wave and she came out, masked up, I put the window down on the passenger side and she basically tossed the bag of books in and I said thank you very much and off I went. Life is so strange now.

We can now have gatherings of ten humans as long as we distance between people with whom we do not currently reside. No dentist appointments or doctor appointments, but I think we can get our hair cut. I got two hanging ferns for the front porch and I wove my way through a literal maze at the garden center. I was stuck behind two individuals (I actually knew them from years and years ago) and a garden center cart and they were completely oblivious to me standing there, waiting while they pondered over every herb on every shelf, and because it was set up like a maze, I couldn't just jump over to the next aisle. Eventually they started to round a corner and move over to one side, so I scooted past them and continued through the maze until I got to the check out.

Coming up this week, I am to go to my work place (my school) and assist in parents coming to pick up their child's or children's belongings. We left for March Break and never came back, so running shoes, desks full of notebooks and pencil cases and doo-dads are still at school, as the virus made it impossible for anyone to just nonchalantly pop into the school to grab some things. The older students will have lockers full of things - and oh yes, there will be sandwiches and apples, and heavens knows what else in those lockers... There are very strict guidelines and protocol as to how this is going to happen, and likely not everyone will come. I get one hour before people start to arrive to make sure that text books and classroom reading books don't go home with children's belongings. I have fewer and fewer students visiting my virtual learning page, which is understandable as it basically feels like summer and it was never business as usual, or a continuation of our classroom learning, but I still provide activities, and videos of myself explaining things, and assignments for those whose parents are no doubt nudging them in the direction of the computer for something to do for an hour or so. They will all still receive final report cards - mailed to their homes I would imagine.

My vegetable garden is now all planted and I've gone out a few times looking carefully at the rows to see if I can see anything sprouting, but all I see is a couple of random potato plants where last year's potatoes were! Obviously something was left in the ground and not rototilled too far away. I don't know if I'll leave them to mature or not - they are messing up my "perfect" rows! But with this rain and heat, I should be seeing something soon. Bye for now.

Thursday 4 June 2020

Plant / Weed indentification, please

Calling all gardeners (probably North American, but you never know). Apart from lily of the valley and the dreaded bindweed, this weed (?) is my next most loathed plant. I really have no idea what it is, it comes back every year and has thready roots that seem to have a more vibrant under-network that I don't reach when I try to dig it out.

It is the kind of elongated heart-shaped lighter green leaf in the picture.
Another shot of it trying to choke the life out of a Siberian iris. Again, it is the smaller, more lime green leaves, not the larger notched ones on the left-hand side.

Here's another picture in a different location - healthy stuff! It has engulfed some irises. That's cranesbill in the foreground, bottom right hand corner.

I would love to know what this is. To dig it all out, I would have to completely dig out the entire bed (much like the lily of the valley), as it is growing in amongst other perennials. But just knowing what it is would be helpful. Thanks to all who try to identify!

Tuesday 2 June 2020

June 2nd - put the garden in

This is truly one of the earliest I've ever put my garden in. I'm usually so busy with work at this time of year, and beyond (school goes until almost the end of June), there that are often times when I'm planting at the end of June. I worked very hard last year digging out every strawberry plant, as they had taken over three-quarters of my vegetable garden. I absolutely love strawberries, but I wanted an old fashioned vegetable garden with lots of room to grow many different things. I covered a big portion of the bed with an old carpet and pieces of our old pool liner to try and choke out weeds as well. I then raked a fairly thick cover of leaves onto the area of the vegetable garden that was still bare.

This late spring, I peeled back the carpet and the pieces of pool liner. They had done a pretty good job, but wouldn't you know it, that bind weed still managed to curl itself up and even attach to the back of the carpet! Well, we all know bindweed comes from hell anyway. Then I used my beloved rear-tine rototiller and worked the soil in one direction, old half-decomposed leaves with it. When I was done one round of tilling, I shovelled out about three-quarters of my compost, made up of old leaves, clippings, kitchen scraps, and chicken manure mixed with wood shavings. It was on its way to being fully decomposed, but not quite, however I think it will still add great nutrients to the soil and help keep in moisture. I covered as much of my vegetable garden as I could with compost, then roto-tilled the other direction, working everything in. I followed up with some raking to smooth things over. I was pretty pleased with the results. My garden is about 22 feet by 22 feet with a compost "bin" in the corner made from old pallets.

Today after "work" I got out my plan, and started marking out my rows. One thing you need to know about me, is I don't do "straight". I can't eyeball things and be able to tell if they are straight. I hate sewing curtains because I'd always have one a bit wonky, a slightly different length than the other. Pictures on the wall are checked by husband, as I'm probably incorrect as to whether they are hanging straight or not.

I realized that if I was going to pack vegetables into this bed with any success at all, I was going to need actual straight rows, so I grabbed, yes actually, pieces of rebar left over from who knows what building project. They are a dream to hammer into the soil. I rigged up my string and paced out my rows (did not use a tape or ruler for measuring, instead relying on my feet in my Birkenstocks to be almost one foot long - so much for accuracy, but it worked).

Do you see my humungous rhubarb in the corner?? I think I fed it some extra chicken manure in the fall.

I even stuck my tomato cages in the ground to make sure I had enough room, and the little pea fence as well. Both are very difficult to see in this picture. I don't have the tomato plants in the ground yet.

Back when the sky was falling and nobody even knew what reality would look like, I decided to order some seeds and start some plants because I wasn't sure if I would be able to buy bedding plants and such. Well, as it turns out garden centres are open and I could have bought any number of vegetable plants, and will still be buying some flowers for urns and window boxes. But I did start some seeds - tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and zucchini (yup, had to look up the spelling again!).

Here are some of them on the back porch, becoming acclimatized. Most of those will go in the garden in the next day or so, but that one collection of tomatoes is still way too small. I think they can stay on a window sill indoors for a while longer. I planted two kinds of beans, two kinds of peas, carrots, beets, potatoes, and two kinds of lettuce today.

There aren't many perennials or shrubs flowering quite yet, even though we had a heat wave (followed by single digits at night and cool, windy days), but here are a couple:

This is centaurea which takes on an iridescence in the early evening. You cannot kill this stuff!

This is a type of viburnum shrub. The clusters of blossoms have a unique sweet smell.

Of course, because I was wandering around outside taking pictures, the girls rushed to the fence, wondering if I might have something for them. They go crazy over dandelion leaves (no shortage of those here!) . Today they got a cucumber that was in the beginning stages of being mush in the crisper and the outside edges and core of a pineapple. Life is good.

Yesterday, we lost power for a little while in the morning. Our neighbour told our son it was because a squirrel got into a transformer. It wasn't this guy, because we've seen him and his double since then.

Mr. blond tail lives to dig another walnut out of my window boxes!