I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
John Burroughs

Friday, May 19, 2023

The glories of spring!

Friday May 19, 2023

What an absolutely superlative morning! It was a touch nippy earlier, but no frost last night. Yesterday morning there was a good frost that even made some leaves on native plants go dark and limp. 

There is a bit of breeze that keeps the black flies minimal, although the temperature is rising rapidly, and today they will be out in force.

All the apple trees are coming into full bloom, and the wafting breeze carries the scent of apple blossoms everywhere. 

Standing in any one spot in the clearing, and turning full circle, one can count 8 or more blooming trees, be they apple, or various wild cherry trees.

The buds on the vole-chewed crab apple tree are starting to open, their edges a little scarred by the frost yesterday morning,

and a big surprise, are the two little blooms open on one of the baby plum trees!

It is only slightly over waist high! Even the old, gnarly apple tree out to the west of the house is covered in bloom. Every year we cut off another dead branch. Even on this, an off year, the bi-yearly blooming and bearing big crab-apple tree has a few branches adorned with blooms. Standing close to the trees, one can hear the reassuring hum of pollinators. 

Bird song is everywhere, so intermingled, it is difficult to differentiate all the different species. The Black Billed Cuckoo was heard yesterday for the first time. A Northern Mocking bird was teasing us with his repertoire last night. A Baltimore Oriole showed up a few days ago, and has been hanging out around the clearing... maybe, just maybe he is claiming it as his territory...as he is singing from every quadrant. Is there anything prettier than seeing that brilliant slice of orange colour sitting in a blooming apple tree?

(Sorry for the fuzzy picture of him on the feeder)

Red-breasted grosbeaks are singing their operatic arias, and are also no slouches in the beauty department. At night, an owl has been landing on the trail camera aimed across the pond, and almost daily the camera is swiveled down, staring at the water instead of across it. Last night the owl left a calling card.

One can see the soft feathering at the tip, which enables an owl to fly silently.

I greeted the tree swallow this morning, as he was sitting on the clothesline close to the house. He nonchalantly lifted a wing and did a little grooming. They don't seem perturbed in the least, by our presence. The robin in the woodshed is sitting on eggs, and if I don't pause while walking by, she doesn't even fly out and chastise me.

The raised beds are ready for planting now, onion sets are in, as well as beets and some greens.

All the other spaces are marked out for where all the plants are going. This morning I planted my watermelon seeds into plastic baskets on my heat mat, where they will stay until sprouted.

Once it is warm enough to plant them outside, they will go into the soil, basket and all, as vine crops do not like their roots disturbed. The roots will push through the baskets and in the fall, the baskets can be retrieved and used again. My winter's accumulation of compost material has been shoveled out and re-layered, the thermometer showing a dramatic rise in temperature. By early June, a good shovelful of that warmth will go in each melon hill to hie them on their way.

The forecast shows only one more coolish night in the near future, so perhaps we are on our way to a beautiful, productive summer.


Friday, May 12, 2023

Spring stuff, and first harvests....

 Friday May 12, 2023

After the week of rain, the sun came out, the temperature rose, the excess water soaked away, and every growing thing went into overdrive. The world is green again.

In the woods, the orchids are poking up.

The red trilliums are blooming.

We found one morel...so far.

Lovely young, fresh stalks of rhubarb.


One morning a pair of geese were regally floating on the pond. Sorry...you have to go...
A robin has made a nest up on top of the last pile of wood in the woodshed by the house. Thankfully the heating season is pretty well over, so we won't have to disturb her.

 A pair of tree swallows have claimed the bird house mounted on the clothesline pole. The male guards the area and chirps encouragingly at his mate as she diligently gathers nesting material, and flies it into the box. Another pair of swallows showed up, the nesting pair put the run on them with a lot of bad language, then flew a chittering victory circle around the clearing and went back to preparing for their brood. Thankfully tree swallows only raise one brood per year, so once they fledge, I will be able to use my clothesline again. That box will be moved for next year!

Hummingbirds zoomed in Monday evening, vireos are here, yesterday I heard the first oven bird, and this morning the first chestnut-sided warbler was tuning up. Toads are trilling all around, and frogs are at full voice overnight. 

My grow table has been disassembled, the plants have had a week out on the verandah, and are now in full sun on the picnic table. They will come into the porch overnight if temperatures are forecast to go low. One of my baby geraniums has oddly put out one pretty flower.

A new to me plant to grow this year, is a ground cherry. The four seedlings are looking very robust and healthy.

Onion sets were planted yesterday. Other cool weather crops will be going in very soon. There are buds visible on some of the apple trees, and the baby flowering crab that was chewed by voles over the winter seems to be okay! It is leafing out, and there are at least 8 bud clumps on it!


Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Making 'lemonade'.......

Wednesday May 3, 2023

It has been raining since Saturday.

Spring water levels from snow melt, plus all the rain has put the Ottawa Valley under flood watches and warnings.

We are sodden.

When life gives you lemons.....

So, I went for a paddle..... on the front lawn,

and then on the pond.

My daffs refuse to open until the sun shines again.

Friday, April 14, 2023

From snow, to ice....to summer?????

April 13, 2023

This afternoon, as I write this, the temperature is 28C (82F). It has soared over the last couple of days and the snow is literally disappearing as I watch. The pond, sealed in ice a few days ago, is now full to the brim and just has a final small floating pan of ice which will be gone before nightfall tonight.

April 8

April 11

This morning

The ice storm on April 5 brought down lots of small branches and twigs, and a few fallen trees required a saw, to get them off of the road. Thankfully the temperature warmed enough to melt the ice before any appreciable wind occurred.

Over Easter weekend, the Chickadees were still looking for handouts, and one was not happy with me when I had no seeds in my hand, so hopped from hand to shoulder, to head, and proceeded to pull my hair. Ouch!

 Obviously nest making was on his/her mind! 

A lone Snow Bunting has been hanging out, and we captured this shot of it on a snowbank.

We've had an influx of Red-winged blackbirds and Grackles. The Eastern Phoebe arrived on Monday, and has staked out the barn as it's territory, singing from up on the peak of the roof. On Tuesday, a pair of Bluebirds came through, perching quietly on a tall plant trellis for a while, but moved on, probably looking for someplace that wasn't still covered in snow. Song Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, a Savannah Sparrow, Juncos and American Goldfinches in their bright yellow spring plumage are here. Yesterday we spotted the first Northern Flicker probing the sodden lawn between patches of snow. The morning bird chorus is growing, with the sparrows and robins providing more melodious sounds amid the hoarse 'chekking' of the grackles and red-wings. A friend just told me her farm is inundated with Woodcocks, so I will be out listening tonight to see if any have made it over our way.

This crocus must have been all set to bloom under the snow, because the snow just melted off this morning, and here it is!

Garlic was poking up beside snow this morning,

but this afternoon, the whole bed is encircled by melt water. I sure hope it soaks away quickly!

Today I wandered around, checking my row of small fruit trees, and sadly found out that this crab apple tree has been girdled by some vermin under cover of the snow.

My fault, as I should have protected it last fall. 

This morning, I turned over the dry, warm soil in my old cold frame and planted small rows of greens.

I'll lower the lid at night, but leave them to sink or swim on their own. I usually use that frame for hardening off seedlings, but could not resist getting my hands dirty. Next week's forecast calls for more seasonal temperatures, and that is just as well, as today is JUST TOO HOT!!!

Addendum April 14: Last night we heard the first frog peeps out of the pond! This morning there was a lone male Mallard on the melt-water pond,

and the gardens are free of snow!


Friday, March 31, 2023

Its time!!!!

March 31, 2023

There is nothing like a walk in the early spring woods.

Milder daytime temperatures have melted and compacted the snow down a bit, but after a cold night, walking pretty much anywhere in the bush, or across the field without snowshoes, is possible, at least until the day warms up.

The stronger sunlight is melting the cowls of snow away from tree trunks,
and sweet water is rising in the maples.

The air is crisp and clear, the sky bluer, and there is more active bird life. The woodpeckers are vigorously tapping out their spring messages, Barred owls are talking, and the Chickadees are making their 2 note, “sweet spring” song. A few Red winged blackbirds have arrived, their somewhat raucous, ”oak-a-lees”, resonating from the treetops. They are giving the greedy Blue Jays a run for the seed tray. The first Robin was spotted here a few days ago, hopping along the edge of exposed lawn beside the driveway snowbank.

The garden beds at the end of March are just vague humps in the snow, only the taller edge of the strawberry bed frame is visible.

But....planting has begun!

It is about 8 weeks until we should be able to plant outdoors, so time to get some pepper and tomato seeds into soil. Despite mapping out a strict garden plan, I always end up starting more plants than the plan calls for...but they'll fit in somewhere....or I'll share!

There have been a few blustery days recently, with strong winds, snow flurries of huge flakes, whiting out visibility; and a few nights with actual snow accumulation, but it melts off rapidly on the next sunny day. Slowly, bits of bare ground are melting out on the south and west facing banks of the pond, and melt water is flooding out over the ice, looking very blue, reflecting the sunny spring sky.

Recently, some productive time has been spent crafting a few things in my sewing room for fun.

I recently purchased a bias tape maker, and used it to make tape to encase cording, to put piping around the edge of these bags, a technique new to me. 

This bag is made from old jeans.

There are many different ways of making a fold able shopping bag, and this one appealed to me because of the little quilt sandwich the bag rolls into.

It opens up the possibility of using up scraps of different fabrics, or even making mini quilt squares.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Beasts and butterflies.....

 March 6, 2023

The latest snow storm on March 3, that came up across the States, dumped about 6 to 8 inches of snow on us. It seems like that may have been Winter's last hurrah, (but we won't count on that!!) as we are now being blessed with gorgeous sunshine, just below freezing temperatures at night, and just above freezing temperatures in the day...perfect for maple sap to run. There is a different feel to the air...it is balmy and soft...the sun so warm. There are degrees of Spring, and we are in the first degrees of Spring here in the north woods. 

Wherever snow has been ploughed away, patches of bare ground are quickly appearing. Snow banks along the road are high, but the strength of that sunshine will soon have them melting down. 

Camera was held at eye level for this shot.

The first job after a snowfall, is to clear the panels, to get whatever light is available.

March 4

Clearing the lane is next, ploughed into a middle ridge, then blown off.
Photo bombing Chickadee

We have been seeing Marten tracks around the house on a daily basis, and they often appeared going across the back step, visible in any new skiff of snow. One day we actually saw the critter bounding across the garden area, coming toward the house, her face stuffed with what appeared to be leaves. On back-tracking her later, it seems she has been helping herself to leaves out of a bag stored in my garden shed. Being curious about what she was up to, we looked around carefully, and discovered a tunnel going in under the back step, heading under the back porch. After the dump of snow on March 4, the tunnel was filled in, then a little later....ta da! 

You can even see the bits of snow on the step that has come off of her paws. We think we have a female marten who is bringing in nesting material in preparation to raising her brood under our porch. Martens give birth in March-April. In the fall, Hubby had positioned thick hemlock planks around the base of the porch, so we could bank the perimeter with insulating snow, so under there is a clear, dry space. We usually remove the planks once the snow has melted away...but.....

On a recent snowshoe hike, we discovered our neighbour's property riddled with moose tracks, some very fresh. The moose had been stripping the bark off of soft maples, pushing over young poplars and browsing their buds.

Hubby is just over 6 feet, and is on snowshoes on top of 2+ feet of snow, so one can see how far the moose can reach up and bite strips of bark. It is amazing what food sustains that large animal throughout the winter.

On the needlework front, the Papillon shawl is finished. It really was so much easier to do than it looks. Basic knitting skills are all that is needed, L and R increasing, and doing wrap and turns....and being able to concentrate and count!!