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

Monday, July 27, 2020

Data Limtations...

Our data here is limited, and apparently, I've used a bit too much this month. Re-evaluating my posting frequency. Will be back after Aug. 4 when the data renews for the month.

Thursday, July 23, 2020


In 2018, a friend grew several different varieties of beans, and saved some seeds. For Christmas, she gave me a jar of an assortment of the beautifully coloured dried beans. I sorted them out according to their colours and got her to name them, and tell me which were climbers and which were bush. This year, I planned space for them in my garden and planted them.

Last night, we had the first picking of some of the Mosteller climbing beans. They were delicious, steamed about five minutes, until just a little tender. Beans are such a rewarding crop, and climbers keep bearing until frost. They don't usually have many pests, and they bear enough at once to make it worth while getting out the steamer for processing. Processed and frozen beans are nothing like fresh, but in the middle of winter, they taste wonderful.

I think I am throwing in the towel on peas. They are fun to get in the ground, something you can plant early when it is too soon for a lot of things, when you are itching to get planting. They pop up fairly quickly, giving gratification...but after picking and shelling, there doesn't seem to be much there! They are delicious, but I think next year, I'll just plant the few I had no room for this year, and call it quits on peas.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


One day near the end of June, Hubby was coming out of the garage and happened to look down beyond the barn near the bush edge, and there was a small, spotted fawn. He assumed that the doe was with it, just out of sight in the bush, or behind the barn. The next day, after lunch, we were togging up in our grubbies to return to our respective tasks, Hubby to the shop, me to the garden. There, over to the west of the house and beyond the field garden, was the fawn, walking alone. It walked down the east side of the cleared area, across the front, keeping near the bush edge. We followed it's progress, moving from window to window, then to the open front porch door. As it crossed in front of the house, it made several soft bleats. It crossed the driveway, then went down the main trail to the west of the house. There is another trail back there that forks off the main one, and curves around to come out back by the barn where Hubby had seen the fawn the previous day. A little later, I could hear it bleating loudly and repetitively all along the west side of the clearing, in the bush, presumably on that trail. It was heartbreaking, as we realized it was alone. Somehow, doe and fawn have become separated. It can't be more than a couple of months old, as the peak deer birthing time here is mid-May. We have spotted it twice more since. Both times it has been in the edge of the cedar bush behind my garden shed. It still seems to be alone, but is no longer bleating, and is browsing happily. Does it somehow know that it is safer hanging around here where predators are less likely to approach?

This is a trail camera picture, taken within the last week. It is a doe with a fawn coming along behind her. It is about the size of the one we are seeing, but is not it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Foxy and the Scalawags

Last summer, there was a family of foxes around, which we saw regularly, a vixen and two kits. The dog fox was very wary, and we only saw him once with the others, but often on the trail cameras. In late June and early July, there was a lot of overnight digging in the garden beds. I had hardware cloth and rocks covering any bit of bare ground. I did have some plant causalities, but it wasn't until later in the summer, that we really laid eyes on the culprits.

One early morning late in July, I was just getting up, when Hubby, who had come down to put on coffee... whispered up the stairs..."Foxes are right behind the house." I tumbled (quietly) down the stairs, and crept out to the back porch. There was Mrs. Fox and both kits down in front of the barn. She was going about her business, hunting around the barn. They were wrestling, chasing each other, tumbling together, fluffy, bushy tails whirling. I spoke to Mrs. She stopped and listened, the kits rushed into the edge of the woodshed at the sound of my voice, then when she carried on unconcerned, the kits came back out and started wrestling again. They tumbled over and over, then stood up on their hind legs facing each other like little boxing kangaroos. Mrs. went over and joined in, wrestling one kit to the ground, all four of its black legs were in the air. She groomed him vigorously, then walked on, toward the back of the barn. Then the chase was on...the kits ran, one chasing the other, across the lawn at the north end of the pond and disappeared into the entrance of the trail around the pond.

As the summer progressed, we saw the family often. We always spoke softly to them, and they showed no alarm at our presence. The kits grew, and became more and more independent. One morning I watched them in my garden beds, playing hide and pounce around the broccoli stems.

In late September, the kits had moved on to establish their own territories. Foxy was still around. She watched me dig the potatoes and settle the gardens in for winter, keeping a distance, but showing curiosity in the things I was doing. I had many one-sided conversations with her.

About the middle of November, we stopped seeing her. This spring, the dog fox has a new mate. They are both very wary, and it is rare to catch a glimpse of either one.

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Rock Garden

At the end of September of our first year here, (2017) I finally tackled the Rock Garden, formerly known as "The Snake Habitat". It was a weedy, overgrown mess, full of brambles, small poplars, and clumps of sad, congested day lilies.

I laid a tarp down and started by digging up the lily roots, and putting them on the tarp. Spadeful by spadeful, I dug up the grass and pried out the little trees, carting many wheel-barrow loads back to the brush pile down the adjacent bush trail, and discovered that, yes, indeed....it was a rock garden! The two large immovable rocks at either end had been the starting point for piling more and more rocks..a literal rock garden. At some point, someone had thrown a bit of soil over it all and planted some lilies. From an e-mail to a friend back then, a quote:
"Today, I tackled the 'snake habitat'. It is cleared out! What a job. I ache. A tiny little guy came moseying along just as I was calling it a day. He looked so lost, I felt a pang of regret, but, its not like there are no other rock piles around!" 
I spent the better part of the next day prying up rocks, and trying to level the soil out. There was no way I was going to remove all the rocks, although I made a good attempt, and Hubby will attest to the fact that he carted off 3 ATV trailer loads to fill holes on the bush trails. I saved rocks that I thought would be good to border the sides between the end behemoths, and also did some scouting around to find more. I shook the lily roots out, making sure there were no weed or grass roots in the clumps, replanted them along the back side and watered them in well. I then had a pretty much barren garden-scape. Its been a work in progress...still is. A wonderful surprise the next spring, was the emergence of a bud from one of the lily clumps that was a little different, not your run of the mill day lily. I have since separated it out and given it its own space, and this year there are 4 buds rising up! A beautiful, apricot coloured lily.
I have creeping thyme spilling over the sides now, a pretty red dianthus, (a red version of Maiden Pinks), and herbs that prefer a dryer space, sage, lavender, thyme and rosemary.

Sunday, July 19, 2020


Its that time of year when I start regularly scouting the milkweed patches, looking for Monarch eggs and larvae. The eggs are tiny. I use a 10X eye loupe to examine any little yellowish bump I find. The eggs look like tiny bee hives, only the striations are vertical, rather than horizontal. Monarchs have always fascinated me.

They were very scarce where we lived before we moved here in 2017. The summer before we moved up, I saw just 2. What a delight to see them here in numbers that first summer! Last year, the first Monarch butterfly came floating across the front lawn on May 28. I was so surprised that I had to check with binoculars to be sure. As the season progressed, there were so many Monarch larvae feeding in the milkweed patches, sometimes more than one on just one leaf, that the plants were looking ragged and tattered, even from a distance.

I collected a couple of larvae and raised them to adulthood in a big jar with cheesecloth for a lid. The day that one of the darkened chrysalises split, and the brilliantly coloured adult emerged, I watched the process. The new Monarch, with its crumpled wings, clung to the chrysalis shell, and slowly the wings expanded as hemolymph was pumped through them. It began to periodically open and close its wings, expanding them into black and orange perfection.

Last summer, after diligent searching, I found an egg, and successfully raised it to adulthood, something I'd never done before. The tiny, pearlescent baby worm with the black head was in the 'nursery' one morning, and it gradually grew and grew, going through its 'in star' stages, until it transformed into a chrysalis, and finally into a beautiful adult.

This summer, I didn't see my first Monarch until June 14, and there are no where near the numbers around as there were last summer.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The evolution of my garden shed...

It was intended, we think, to be a shelter in which to boil maple sap, built by previous owners. It was off in the bush behind the barn. Shortly after settling in, and getting the house organized, I had a light bulb moment, and claimed it for my garden shed, something I've always wanted. My husband went to work preparing to move it. He dug up the footings, braced the building, jacked it up and put skids  under it, wrapping them in roofing steel to make them slide. Not one for superfluous profanity, he did state that it was built like a brick s***house, and perhaps regretted his willingness to agree to my idea!
We cleared out the place it was to be situated, slightly south-west facing, beyond the gardens and beside the pond. That clearing out involved a lot of brush cutting and removal of a large clump of dead elms. We had to make sure there was a clear path beyond the desired final placement of the shed, so Jeeper could drive on out once the shed was in place.That involved  moving some large rocks that had been deposited in a pile when the pond was dug. In the process of clearing out the space, we discovered shasta daisys, an echinacea, lupines, sweet williams and a lone peony, all struggling to survive in the overgrown mess. Someone had at one time tried to create a wild garden there!

Jeeper stepped up for the job, and we only had a few minor adjustments to make with the ATV's winch,  cables and strapping around adjacent trees, to situate it. Once leveled on cottage blocks, gravel from its original placement was carted up and spread inside, and 2' square patio slabs laid for a floor. Hubby installed a window he found in the barn loft and inside, under the window, he built a full length shelf.  I then had the fun of organizing the inside of my shed. Later, Hubby built, then mounted a window box under the window. The following spring, having found a discarded window along the highway in the winter, he built a cold frame to fit the window, and we put it in front of the shed.

Friday, July 17, 2020

There's always one....

.....in every crowd. That over-achiever. That louder and bolder one.
Look at the marigold on the left. They all came out of the same seed packet.
I grow marigolds every year, those short, pungent French Marigolds. This year, I had a few extra, so thought I'd put them in the window box on my garden shed. Why do I grow marigolds? Well, for inter-planting, but..I grow them every year in memory of Aunt. She always had a bouquet of them on the table at her cottage, just the flowers, a bright yellow-orange ball, tightly bunched into a small vase.
Aunt was a courtesy aunt, who was really a many times removed cousin. We just called her Aunt, with a capital A. She was a small person, with short, curly brown hair, that gradually turned grey, very alert snapping brown eyes and a ready smile. She was a registered nurse and stayed single, married to her career. She owned a cottage in Muskoka, and spent summers there later in life when she semi-retired. Every summer I would go and stay for several weeks with Aunt. We wandered over the hills and old, growing up farm fields, examining plants and insects, and watching birds. A favourite walk was down to a fern shaded gurgling brown creek where there was a spring gushing out of the side of the bank under the gnarled roots of a big old White Pine. We'd cup our hands and scoop up a drink of that bubbling effervescence on a hot day...pure nectar. Every winter during school holidays, I'd board the train, and Aunt would meet me at the station in the big city where she lived and worked. We explored all the tourist sites, went to theaters and attended concerts, traveling on the subway and buses, all a very new experience for a small country town kid. She had a big and wonderful influence on me. So....every year...I grow marigolds and think of her. Thank you Aunt.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

North American Beech

Our large beech trees are dead and dying. Late last summer, we noticed leaves withering and falling before their time. This year, the dying and dead trees are very noticeable. We have some beautiful big ones on the property. They are one of my favourite trees, those smooth, grey-barked beauties. The trees are succumbing to Beech Bark Disease. The disease is caused by an introduced beech scale insect from Europe, that has enabled a native nectria fungus to find a new host in beech trees. The insect makes holes that allows the fungus to attack the tree.

We have been harvesting the dead trees, so at least they can be used for firewood.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

What a frustrated gardener does....

Up until June of 2017, we lived in town.You do what you have to do ....live where the work is....For 30 years, give or take a few, we lived in a house in a nice, old, well established neighbourhood, in a nice little town. The big trees were nice, the privacy in the yard was nice...BUT....how to grow a garden when the very middle of the yard only got about 6 hours of sun a day, and the big black walnut trees around dropped their spent blossoms in the spring, nuts late summer, then the compound leaves in the fall, all with plant unfriendly juglone in them? With walnut trees come squirrels burying nuts. With towns come cats using your gardens as a litter box.
Well...you build a box, a raised box. You fill it with soil and squeeze all the plants in that you can. You encase it in hardware cloth, sides and top, until the plants grow and totally fill the space.You fill any container you can find with soil, then plant, sticking in sticks and spreading blood meal to deter the critters.

When the box rotted out, because of all the watering it needed, we built a 4' X 12' raised bed in its place with a sturdy fence for climbers at the back, then two more 4' X 9' beds right behind it. We brought in soil, and enriched it every year with all the compost I could make. Each spring, the invading roots from the surrounding trees had to be dug out. I unhappily knew that my plants did not live up to what they could be, if they'd had enough sun, but we made do, and did harvest good food from all those boxes, pots, barrels and beds.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

A Canoeing Phoebe....

The Eastern Phoebe is one of the very first migrants to come back in the spring. It is always a happy dance day when we hear the first "phoebe,phoebe' echoing across the sometimes still snow covered yard.
We have an old log barn with a good roof, but the chinking has long been gone from the logs, that we use for storage.

Phoebes always nest in the barn, sticking their nests up near the roof, and access it by flying through the gaps in the logs. We have our tripping canoe, 'Ripples', up in a sling, covered with a tarp to prevent the bird droppings from marring her paint job. Well....Phoebe has decided that up on the gunnel, over the yoke, is a good place to raise a family!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Cookie pucks....

Finally, the heat has broken. Yesterday, we had an afternoon of thunderstorms and about half an inch of rain fell. Today, the temperature is a much more reasonable 25 degrees C or so, with a lovely breeze and a lot less humidity. We got a full day of work in today, instead of hiding inside all afternoon like we've had to do for several days this past week, while the sun beat down and the temperature rose to 30+C, and with the humidity.....40C. Just nasty.
Anyway, I took the morning and processed beet pickles, then mixed up batches of 3 different cookie doughs. Being still leery about how the day would go temperature wise, and not wanting to heat the house up by turning on the oven, I scooped the cookies and froze them on waxed paper covered cookie sheets. When frozen, they were stacked into a large cookie tin, wrapped in their separate pieces of waxed paper. So now, whenever we want a little treat, a pan of 6 fits nicely into the toaster oven which can sit out on the table on the screened verandah, and all the heat will stay outside. Some days, you just need a cookie!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

What a little heat does...

We have a trail camera aimed over the field garden to actually see if it is raccoons or baby foxes, that are visiting at night, and digging things up. Anyway, the series of photos taken by the camera over a 10 day period is quite interesting. As we clicked through the pictures, the plants grew before our eyes!