Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dear Mommy Deer

The sun has come out and it appears, hypothetically speaking, that spring has at long last arrived. We have had a week of wonderful weather and I have stopped whining about least for now. Many signs of true spring around the Garden Yard. The two Starling families have fledged their babies, although the babies are seemingly reluctant to leave home. I see and hear them in the nests throughout the day. The other day I came across a small Garter snake near the shed. Our Garter snakes here are different colored than on the Prairies - out there, they are dark green with yellow stripes. Here they are more brown with orange stripes.

The Garden Yard is being slowly whipped into shape. Richard and I have been working hard...he cutting grass, hauling in the stock tank and filling it with dirt for a Tomato emptying potting soil from dozens of pots, whose occupants winter killed this year, into the Tomato bed. He also dragged in an old white bathtub that has been sitting in the yard for eons. I emptied potting soil into it too, and will fill it with flowers and herbs. We have moved several pots and things that sat on the driveway side of the yard, giving a nice clear sight line to the garden boat. Oh and Richard also brought me in another tub, this one out of an old dryer, to fill and use for flowers or vegetables.

I found a unique way to grow lettuce on the Internet when I was looking for something else one night. You use pieces of PVC pipe, cut holes in the top for the plants, fill pipe with dirt, and suspend from a fence or other such supports. Gonna try that one for sure. Richard was really excited about that idea. We have the PVC pipe, we have a stand to suspend short lengths on, and we have the lettuce seed and soil. What more could you ask for.

The Garden Boat is beginning to look really good. Still a long way to go, but each day as I walk around it, it takes shape in my mind. Some things that survived the winter were a huge Yarrow plant, two mini roses, Bergamot, White Echinacea, an elderly lemon thyme plant that is really doing well, chives and purple sage. Oh, and one mustn't forget the 1000 Feverfew seedlings. Good grief, but who knew they would seed like that? I planted Blue Lobelia and Yellow Pansies in the prow of the boat. Then in a row behind that are Blue and White Pansies. My adorable little Hummingbird feeders are also in the boat, two at the back and one at the prow. Today I am planting Sweetpeas, finally, along the one remaining pieces of chicken wire Richard put in the boat for me last year.

Some things I have discovered along the way this Spring:
1. I am addicted to buying Tomato Plants. More on that later.
2. When you move a plant pot that has been sitting there for months, you will find a pile of earth worms.
3. The easiest way to pick up those aforementioned worms is not with your thumb and forefinger as one might think, but with your forefinger and middle finger, gently pinching the worm with the middle finger pressing against the top, or fingernail, of the index finger. Really. Oh stop shuddering, it's just a little worm.

Back to the Tomato Plant addiction. One of my lifelong vegetable passions has been Tomatoes and the growing of same. The first time I grew tomatoes from seed, I planted 72 tomato plants. Yeah, I had a bumper crop of tomatoes. I found a source locally for Heritage Tomatoes, which I love, and last year planted several terrific varieties. This year my source let me down and I couldn't find all the varieties I wanted. I got the ones I could and a few I haven't tried before. I whined to Kate about the lack of plants here so she went out on her days off, Bless Her Heart, and purchased some for me. Now here is the list, and brace yourselves, it is extensive:
Ailsa Craig, Big Rainbow, Black Krim, Black Prince, Bulls Heart, Cheesmans, Cherokee Purple, Dixie Golden Giant, Galina, Giant Belgium, Green Zebra, Isis Candy, MIcro Tom, Mortgage Lifter (AKA Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter), Ox Heart, Pineapple Beefsteak, Pink Brandywine, Pomme d'Amour, Tumbler. I am still looking for Brown Berry, Tumbling Tom, Yellow Mortgage Lifter and Striped Cavern. I plan to grow the tomatoes upright on supports, and only let them get so tall before nipping them off so they set fruit rather than putting all their resources into the plant.

Just for today...

I was given a real blessing yesterday afternoon. I had gone to the store for a few things, and as I drove back in the yard, I saw a Cute Little Island Doe Mule deer under the large Pear tree. I slowed right to a crawl, but she never moved, so I stopped the van and sat their watching her. Suddenly, I thought I saw something moving under her feet. "Is that..." I spoke to myself "It is!" There beneath her was a brand spanking new baby fawn! She must have just dropped it, or only a short while before. I grabbed my camera, snapping away, shot a couple of videos. What an amazing sight! I have seen fawns before, but not one newborn and up close. The Doe stood there watching me knowing they are safe in our yard. Soon she licked the baby a bit, then moved away a short distance. The baby slowly got to its tiny feet and tottered after mommy, searching under her belly for milk. I sat there in awe watching as they wandered slowly through the yard to the bushes near the road. My photo's aren't great but you can see how tiny the baby is.

What can be more perfect than that on a sunny day?

Not too much, I don't think.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I Got Rainfall, on a Cloudy Day

Did you enjoy our summer? It's +8 here today...+8! For those of you South of the border, that is 46F. THIS IS MAY, PEOPLE! Where is our sunshine blue skies and hot weather??!!!? Time was, you got a sunburn here the end of March. Now we are still wearing our "woolen undies" if you catch my drift and it's the 6th of May. Siiigggghh. Yes, I AM bitter. So what.

Ok, on to happier things. No more grouching about the weather.

Kate's Bread Machine died the other day, the one she bought last September. Talk about withdrawal symptoms. Kate makes bread almost everyday so it nearly drove her crazy when the machine coughed it's last gasp. Like me, she lets the machine do the work of mixing, kneading and first rise, then shapes and puts in pans for second rise before bakeing. She is quite adventurous for a novice bread baker too. Her favorite recipe is for Cinco de Mayo bread, which is full of yummy stuff like green chili's, corn meal, kernel corn, jalapeños, and for an added zip, she adds chili powder, then sprinkles the top with Tex/Mex grated cheese just before baking. This bread is amazing.

So today she made the trek into Victoria to exchange it for one that does work. She came home and immediately started making another loaf of bread to test it out. Addicted to bread baking?? Oh yup, but I know the feeling. Just talking to her about it makes me want to go and make a loaf or two as well. What better thing to do on a cold and rainy day. Oh, and just for the record, she gives a lot of her bread away to friends and co-workers who are getting quite addicted to her bread.

I think I have mentioned in a previous post that I lost a lot of my perennial plants over the past nasty winter. Some i was surprised about and some not so much. For instance, I lost my Rosemary, not surprising, it is a Mediterranean plant after all, used to warmer winter weather. I also lost some Rose bushes, and that was surprising, although some Roses I thought I would lose, I didn't. Go figure. My various and sundry varieties of Mint all seem to be coming back, with the exception of the pot that Mason used as his personal urinal during the winter months. Gee, can't imagine why it didn't survive!

Looks like my Hydrangea's have gone to the big nursery in the sky as well. That's too bad as Bente gave them to me several years ago. She got the cuttings from different plants while out for a walk one day and rooted them for me. I LOVE Hydrangeas; have since I was a little girl and my dad brought one home for Mom for Mother's Day one year. I thought it was the most beautiful plant I had ever seen. Guess I will have to ask Bente to start me another plant.

One plant that did do quite well over the winter was my Feverfew. It self seeded to the point where there must be...oh, lets least a thousand tiny Feverfew plants coming up in the environs of the mother plant. I guess I will wait to see which will be the hardiest seedlings and then, gulp, pull up the rest. Gosh that is a hard thing for me too do, destroy seedlings. Maybe I can pot them up and give them to people. Then I can't be accused of planticide.

Have I mentioned our Resident Starling Population? I have been trying to figure out how many Starlings have fledged in our yard, just from the two nests I know about. We have lived her for 20 years. During that time, there has been a Starling nest
inside the roof overhang on the East side of the house. Every year for 20 years, they have fledged at least 2, usually 3, nests full of babies. Conservatively, lets say there were 3 babies per nesting. That would be...hmmmmmm, wow, a whole lot of Starlings! Now, consider that those Starlings all have babies, and oh my goodness, no wonder we have such a large population of Starlings. Maybe we should put a Starling cam up under the eaves so the world can watch. Well, gee, there are Eagle Cams and Canada Goose Cams, why not a Starling Cam?

When we had our big Golden Shepherd dog Sparky, and again with our Malamute, Willo, we fed them dry dog food outside. Generations of Starlings were fledged on Purina Field and Farm Kibble. We used to get such a kick out of watching the Starling parents sneak up on the dog's dish, fill their beaks with kibble and then go poke it down the babies beaks. Nowadays, they have to rely on worms and bugs.

Richard keeps threatening to put up an electric fence around the garden yard to keep the bears out. I still am really apprehensive about that. You know me, I mentioned this last year. Stumbling out to the Garden Yard in the early morning with the dogs, accidentally touching that hot wire on top of the fence, and finding myself admiring the blue sky from my prone position amongst the plant pots. Shudder, not a pretty sight. So I will continue to come up with other cute Little Island Bear deterrents. And I am definitely open to suggestions. Feel free to leave a comment. Best one gets a prize, to be announced at a later date.

Time to make dinner, Chicken Quesadillas in George. So quick and easy and tasty. Just the thing for a cold winter', that is spring, day.

Summer is coming soon, right? I mean, really. Right?

It's ok, you can lie to me and tell me it is.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Rhubarb Fool

We are back finally. It's been a rather long hiatus, but during that time spring has managed to, finally, arrive. Everything here is at least a month late. For instance, the Holly bushes usually bloom by mid March and here it is the 5th of May - Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone - and it still hasn't bloomed. Cherry trees are all in full bloom finally as are the Plums. Apples are leafing out, oh and Pears are blooming. Haven't been too many bees around although the little Rufus Hummingbirds have been busy pollinating where they can. And of course, the not-so-cute Island Black Bears are back. That's right, I said bears, plural.

I spotted a huge one across the creek when I let the dogs into the garden yard last week. Richard, on the outside of the fence and I, on the inside, stood watching it as two Cute Little Island Mule Deer stood in the field to the North of the house watching us. Suddenly, one of the deer started to trot away while the other twisted her head around to watch something over on the drainage ditch.

"What's she looking at all of a sudden?" Richard asked.
"No ide...oh crap, look, there, over by the drainage ditch!!!" I hollered. "Another great big Black Bear!"

Richard took off for the truck and chased after the bear to scare it away. One can only hope the two of them were just passing through on their way to higher ground up in the Beauforts. We think they were males as there were no cubs in evidence. So now our minds are working on bear defenses for the yard. As if that will work...

We have had a few warm days, nothing to write home about as the saying goes. Warmest it got was +20C or 68F. When you are used to having +30 by the end of March, +20 in May is rather chilly. It is a welcome relief after all the nasty weather this winter, but still. The good news is you should see my Rhubarb! Wow! My dad sent me a piece of his 50 year old Rhubarb plant last summer. We planted it in a big plastic tub, until we had something to put it in permanently, in a very sunny spot in the garden yard. Well, the tub is full of Rhubarb and I have to harvest it. Rhubarb pie, Rhubarb Crisp, stewed Rhubarb...I can't wait. Rhubarb is one of my favorite fruits, even though it started life as a vegetable. Mix it with Strawberries and you have the best ever.

Richard moved the big old water tank into the yard in the opposite corner from the Garden Boat. It will hold the tomatoes this year, as well as some herbs and flowers. He has another smaller oval shaped water tank that is going to be moved in where the Rhubarb tub is. The Rhubarb will get transplanted into it with some other plants. I have several rectangular window box planters that are going to be planted with soup mix beans and scarlet runner beans. These will sit along the back of the shed where the stucco wire will facilitate their climbing. I have so many seeds to plant, I almost don't know where to start.

And did I mention the two "found" tubs I have that are going to be filled with flowers? They are the drums from two old dryers Richard brought to me to use as planters. Now I have to decide where to put them in the yard. Oh, and I got the neatest idea for planting lettuce and things of that nature in. I was searching for info on making your own upside down tomato planters - more on that later - when I stumbled upon info and photo's of using 4" PVC pipe hung on the fence to plant in. Cover both ends of the pipe with landscape fabric, drill 2 - 3 inch holes in the top of the pipe about 6 inches apart, fill pipe with soil, plant seeds and before long you have a lettuce patch, up and away from Mole People and cute Little Island Bush Bunnies. We have some old eavestroughing that we are going to suspend on the fence inside the garden yard and try this idea as well as using the PVC.

As I mentioned above, we are going to try a couple of pots of upside down tomatoes. From everything I read, this is a successful method of growing them. Time will tell. I have two plastic pails, about 5 gallons each, and will plant tomatoes out the bottom and herbs out the top. Efficient use of space. And to water them, will get a couple of those goofy looking glass globe thingy's with the long glass spike on the bottom that you can use for house plants. Should do the trick, as getting water to the roots is what it is all about.

Oh and getting back to the Hummingbirds, Richard discovered the cutest little Hummingbird Feeders at Walmart. If you haven't seen them, go look for them. They are designed to hang in your hanging baskets or large flower pots, are clear plastic with a red bottom, have a single feeding spot on the feeder and cost under $5.00 for two of them. A lovely decorative and functional accent for any flower pot. I, um, er, ah, bought 4 packages of them, blush.

Healthwise, I am getting over a cold, the third one this winter. Managed to keep it from going into a lung infection, but took a lot of hard work, believe me. And the thing is, I don't get colds as a rule, nor flu either. And the only thing I will say about the current H1N1 flu scare is, STOP PANICKING!

This weekend is Mother's Day, and we hope to meet Hammond, Megan and Rylan at Ladysmith, half way between Port and Sooke where they live. We are really looking forward to seeing our granddaughter, who will be 4 years old in a couple of weeks, and our son and daughter-in-law. Rylan takes dance lessons and she and her troupe are having a dance recital in June, which she reminds me of every time we talk on the phone. We can't wait and are looking forward to seeing her dance.

Well, time to get dinner started. What's that? What am I making for dinner? Well, pork of course. You
don't stop eating pork just because they called it the Swine Flu. That's just silly.

I mean really...