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

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Garden bits and pieces...and black gold

 We've had a couple of quite cool nights recently, but now the temperature forecast looks like we are heading into some much warmer weather. My cool weather crops, (cabbage, greens, beets, peas), have been coming along well. 

There is the odd bloom on some tomato plants, and one has a small green fruit forming, although they aren't in any hurry! The peppers look pretty sad, but are recovering from the frost singeing they got at the end of May. There are some blooms on them, and on doing a closer examination of the plants this morning, this is what I found!!

This a sweet variety called Carmen, and it supposedly turns red immediately. With our short seasons, there isn't enough time before frost, to wait for the California Wonder peppers to ripen to red. We like red pepper jelly, with a little added heat of a hot pepper or two, so I am trying this variety this year.

Here is a shot through my asparagus patch. It is thriving.  They were all started from seed I harvested from wild patches here and there. Next year they will be big enough to cut.

When we moved up here, there were 'sort of ' windows on the back porch. They were ill-fitting squares of framed Plexiglas,  on hinges, that lifted up in the summer to let the breeze in through screening. Hubby replaced them with proper windows we scored at an auction sale. (The windows were still in their factory wrapping!) This made the back porch more secure and weather-proof. We stored the old 'windows' up in the barn just in case we found a use for them. 

I've been frustrated each spring when my greens finally get big enough to eat, and then everything bolts because Mother Nature turns up the heat. I had a light bulb moment, dismantled the two biggest Plexiglas windows, (one is just over 4 feet wide, so fits right over my raised bed), removed the Plexiglas, wrapped the frame in two layers of row cover fabric, stapling it on, put little legs on the frame and placed it over the 'greens' bed. So far, maybe because it has been a coolish late spring, or, hopefully because of the shade cloth, my greens are looking good and the spinach is not even hinting at bolting!

Each spring, after the gardens are in, I like to put away a few pails of any remaining compost for future reference. Hubby made me a frame covered in half-inch hardware cloth, that fits over the wheelbarrow. I shovel the finished compost onto it, push it through with the back of a spade, and end up with some fine textured black gold.

It gets sprinkled along the rows of the little seedlings, and the courser stuff gets spread along the bean and onion rows. It is a little top dressing of nourishment for them.
Baby carrots

Next spring, I will have some nice compost to mix in with the potting soil when my spring seedlings are ready to have their pots up-sized.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Expanding, 'scaping....and a turtle

I've been increasing the size of the field garden a bit every year. The best soil is on the north and west sides, where the lawn has been over-sown with clover and mown regularly. Usually I dig a foot wide strip down the side or across the end, removing the sod and shaking it out. This year I've expanded the garden by a 5' X 12' chunk across the north end, and am trying a different method.

With a good sharp spade, I cut the sod and removed it, a spade's width strip at a time, then loosened the soil down another spade's depth, trying not to disturb the soil strata too much, but just loosen it up. Each sod clump was turned upside down, and placed back in the row. I didn't want to lose the good, clover enriched soil in the sods.

Once completed, the whole area was covered with several layers of cardboard to block out the light, and rocks were placed around the perimeter to keep it all in place. The last bit of last year's manure is on top, and we'll add more when we get a new load later this summer. I plan to also add grass clippings. The cardboard will rot away.

Next spring, it should be ready for a shallow tilling with the rototiller and be ready to plant. I have made almost all of the raised beds this way, except I didn't dig up and turn over the sods in them. They have worked out very well, giving me nice, relatively weed free beds. Several layers of cardboard do an amazing job of killing out the sod.

We had a wonderful rainy day yesterday, culminating with a fairly lengthy, vigorous thunderstorm late in the afternoon. The rain gauge read a good inch this morning. Today the sun is out, and you can practically watch the plants grow.

Its time to harvest the garlic scapes.

We'll eat them in salads, make some pesto, and blanch and freeze some. Yummmm.

We have a turtle in the pond this summer. We have no idea where it came from, but we floated a nice cedar log out and it seems to enjoy sitting on it to bask in the sun. It is very skittish, so I'm still trying to determine what variety it is, trying to take it's picture from a distance. I'm leaning toward it being a Northern Map turtle.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Floral rewards....

 When we moved here in 2017, there were areas around the perimeter of the clearing that had been mowed in the past, but were filling in with young poplars, and lots and lots of Spreading Dogbane. In fact, when I hand dug out the field garden, which is next to one of these areas, I dug up a LOT of Dogbane roots, and was still removing some for a couple of years. So far this year, none. Victory is mine! 

Yes, Dogbane is a member of the milkweed family, and the Monarchs nectar in it, but they do not lay their eggs in it. We started mowing this area after the plants bloomed, but before they set seeds. Gradually, the Dogbane has disappeared, and replacing it, all the native meadow flowers and grasses, which had been choked and shaded out, have emerged and have been getting stronger every year.

This year it is absolutely beautiful. (just click on the pics to make them bigger.) There are Buttercups, Oxeye daisies, red clover, white clover, yellow clover, tiny stars of white Stitchwort floating in the mix, orange and yellow hawkweed, several Cinquefoils, Fleabane, and many other plants I haven't identified yet. I just stand there looking at it and smile. This plethora of blooms is
alive with the buzz of life, bringing pollinators close to my gardensThe butterflies waft across it, sampling here and there, and I don't feel so guilty mowing the rest of the yard, when there is this bounty of food for the butterflies and other insects. We also avoid mowing all the big patches of blooming white clover, and don't cut them until they are brown and full of seeds, to hopefully spread them over more of the yard.

I rescued this Peony from along the side of the pond. A previous owner had planted a few things there, including Sweet Williams, a yellow lily, Shasta daisies and an Echinacea, then left the bush to encroach. It was a pretty sad specimen that I dug out two autumns ago, rinsing its roots free of their entanglements, then planting it on the far side of the rock garden in some good compost enriched soil. This year, what a reward it is giving me!

These Flanders poppies, I started from seed, and this year they are bigger and bolder than ever. I just love them, although, they don't last too long, breaking free of their bud scales, looking like crumpled red paper at first, then expanding to waft in the breeze for about two days before the petals drop off, leaving that big poppy seed pod.

This is a native wild iris. We call them Blue Flags, and they grow along lakes and waterways. I dug this one up from along a local shoreline on one of our fishing expeditions, and planted it beside the pond two years ago. It is thriving and producing baby plants and lots of blooms this year.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Rocks and Orchids

Recently, we went for a road trip south, to visit a quarry that  Karen had mentioned. I am a bit of a rock nut, so this definitely went on the 'to visit' list.

Tatlock Quarry is the largest calcium carbonate mine in Canada and is said to produce the purest calcium carbonate in the world. The calcium carbonate is derived from a natural marble (or limestone) rock formation. The Tatlock quarry is about 900 meters long, 400 meters wide and 110 meters deep.” (from their web site.)

The quarry has a fenced viewing area where they also leave piles of samples. I brought home some beautiful rocks, a couple are blindingly white, as well as one that is faintly pink and one faintly green.

While in the relative vicinity, we visited the Purdon Conservation area, operated by the Mississippi Valley conservation authority. (Yes, there is a Mississippi River in Ontario.)

 Lanark County, butts up against the SE side of Renfrew county. We had previously visited Purdon in 2016 when the orchids were in bloom.


We were a little early this year, but could see the plants coming up all over the fen.
It would be worth a visit in a later in June, when the orchids are blooming.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Starting over

What a roller-coaster ride the weather has given us of late; from heat during the second last week of May, to brutal frosts the last week of May, to energy-sapping heat and humidity today. It has been very dry, and the township is under a fire ban, but late yesterday, we had a lovely quarter inch of rain, and this morning the yellowing spots in the yard are all green, green, green!

After taking a chance on that warm weather in May, and planting out my tomatoes and peppers, the frosts in the last week of May pretty much did the tomatoes in, but surprisingly, the peppers were only singed here and there, and are coming back now, and blooming! I double covered the tomatoes and peppers, and left the covers on well into the mornings, as the day temperatures did not even rise into double digits. The cool days and cold nights all in a row stopped all the growing things in their tracks. We were lighting the fire each morning! The frost even did in native plants/weeds. The Milkweeds are burnt, the Spreading Dog bane is toast, and even the base leaves of the Orange Hawk weed look shriveled.

I had to buy new tomato plants, and when they were rung up, realized how much money I save by starting my own! Choice is also limited when buying starts.

So, I am starting over, and spirits are again on a positive swing. Yesterday I finished planting the warm weather stuff, cucumbers, squash and beans. Two bare places are left in the beds, one for the second planting of beans and one for a later planting of carrots.

There isn't much green to be seen yet in the beds, an 8 foot row of peas had their top leaves scorched yellow in the frost. The 8 foot row of climbing beans have just popped through the soil. The blue rounds in the third bed were cut from a leaky water barrel, and sunk into the ground, as there is bedrock just below the surface there, and the rounds increase the soil depth, and hopefully will contain the mint and oregano, which are just starting from seed in them.

The garlic had their tips yellowed in the frost, but otherwise had no issues.

The rhubarb wilted a bit, but is going great now. Some of the stalks are almost as big around as my wrist!

This is a baby white oak tree that we planted when we moved here. It has been doing very well. The brown leaves are frost damage, but it will come back. It got singed badly because we planted it out in the open.