Monday 23 May 2016

(Mostly) About the Gardening

A three-day holiday weekend with warm weather - so definitely what you might call a busman's holiday for me, naturally. I've been out in the garden all three days, besides one trip to buy plants, and one to a friend's to do a little help with her garden weeding and clean-up. But really, how can you resist being out in such nice weather?

I got all my plants in the ground and the planters, except the still tiny things from seed. Man, I've been adding a lot this year. It didn't really hit me until I saw the pile of plant tags.

The biggest garden splurge this year, however, was good old-fashioned manure. And a serious shout-out to Manotick Gardens, who delivered the stuff on the Sunday of a holiday weekend. I finally had a chance to call on Saturday to order, and the woman on the phone said, 'You're not getting it today.' I said, no, that was fine, if I had wanted it for today I would have called earlier in the week. Frankly, I was just glad the office was open so I could order. Then she said, 'How's Sunday?' What, like tomorrow? Hell, yeah. Deal. And sure enough, yesterday evening I came home to a cubic yard of 5-year-old local manure. Which proved to be enough to top-dress everything in the place, down to my planters, so I am thrilled. And all the plants look great against the dark-brown background, laid on like a mulch.

Even pre-manuring, though, things were looking nice, and I spend half the time outside admiring flowers. Pure white apple blossom:

The lilacs and the ground phlox end up nearly the same color:

Veronica whitleyi is in full bloom. It's a ground cover, low and grey-green most of the season but a carpet of blue-purple right now:

The bleeding heart, I think, will look good behind the euonymus, once it's established itself and gotten bigger:

With all this, of course, the knitting is going slowly, but I have hopes of getting some good work done today on the diamond-patterned gloves on the needles - the afternoon is supposed to be pretty hot, so indoor pursuits sound like a good idea.

Sad news from home, though. Turns out we were overly optimistic about the prognosis for the dog's Lyme disease. She did perk up for a while, but then started going downhill again, and the vet said the Lyme had damaged her bone marrow and she wasn't producing red blood cells anymore. No cure for that, poor Vicky, and I don't think she'll be around when I get to the country for Jo's alpaca shearing bee next week.

Saturday 14 May 2016

Not Quite Friday the 13th

Another Saturday off, loving it, despite the fact the weather's turning chilly again, and I will have to bring my plants back in and hope that the fruit blossoms don't get frozen.

Coolest thing this week (although I didn't get a picture): we saw a fox one morning across the road from one of our jobs. Just walking through someone's front yard in the Alta Vista area. I do love that aspect of working outside in the mornings. It's quiet, and you never know what you will see!

I was rather wondering what yesterday would bring, being Friday the 13th, and rain predicted. But I would say it was rather good for a 'bad-luck' day. Sure it rained, but only a few hours, and we were warm and dry by the end of the day's work. And I am rejoicing, just a little, because it was the last day for one of the new garden guys - he has decided on a nursery job. And another new gardener starts Monday, a woman this time, so I am being cautiously optimistic. It sounds really sexist to say it, but really, in three seasons and something like 9 other gardeners and students I've worked with, the guys have been very disappointing compared to the girls, in terms of combined speed and ability. I expect there are good male gardeners out there, but I haven't met them!

Just to round out a nice Friday the 13th, my tax return arrived (with an adjustment in my favour even!) and my lettuce is up, and the lilacs and my little apple tree are starting to bloom.

My Hypnosis socks are finally finished, so that is exciting. Even if I can't wear them until after fair season, because I want to enter them in the fair. I am tempted to make something else for myself (after the gloves for Johanne's stash I cast on the other day), but I know I need to start prep for shows and such...we shall see.

Oh, and good news on our side, at least, from the Fort Mac fires. People are starting to go back home, and my cousin reports that things look better than they did on the news, and in particular, his truck and buildings are safe and sound. Plus there's now lots of work for him in helping with rebuilding.

Sunday 8 May 2016

Spring Scramble

First three weeks of work already done, and busy - we did two Saturdays in a row, and having yesterday off felt like a luxury. So much free time! Two new faces on the garden crew and both, um, not up to the speed of our other (amazing) gardener, who has been helping out with the lawn stuff as well as gardening this spring. This week there was some improvement, so with any luck we won't be running behind all season...Only I'm waiting to see how this works out when one has grass allergies and back pain, and one has pollen allergies and can't kneel for long because of pins in one ankle.

Most of the back bed I wanted to rearrange is done and replanted. What's left is mostly the things that have come from a greenhouse and are still being hardened off. Mom was nice enough to take my wish list with her to a local plant sale at a horticulture school, and brought me piles of pretty things - a fragrant white clematis with a purple centre, and some liatris for the back bed, a ninebark and a fuzzy annual lamb's-ears for the front, and a bunch of things for a planter in yellows and whites - variegated ivy, daisies and coreopsis, New Guinea impatiens, and lantana, plus a few herbs. And since my veg bed is now free, I may just put in my lettuce today.

Knitting pace, of course, slows significantly now we're working. Especially since I'm nodding off in the bus half the time when I could be knitting. But I'm now on the leg of my second sock, and I did a pair of mitts for Johanne's pile, with duplicate-stitched roses on a diamond trellis background.

The cat let me sleep in until 7:30 this morning, presumably as a Mother's Day present, which was much appreciated, since a friend and I went out to contra dancing last night, and bedtime was late. Yesterday it was 5:30 when I gave up the battle and got out of bed, but it was such a lovely morning I forgave her, and went out and gardened for a few hours after breakfast. Actually, I kind of felt sorry for the people who were still asleep and missing the birds twittering, the mild air, and the sweeps of geese going north against the morning sky.

Such a contrast to what it must be in Alberta. I'm keeping an eye on the news from Fort Mac wildfires. A cousin and his family live (lived?) there. They got out safely, but financially it will be awful for them - his work truck and all his equipment left behind, and the two buildings he had bought as an investment (and was still paying for) - not to mention all the personal stuff lost. And to think it will be essentially a whole town in the same boat. It's been great to hear of so many people stepping up to help the evacuees though.

Friday 15 April 2016


The chiengora scarf I was working on is done, shipped and received.

Now I'm trying to get my quilt square done this weekend, and working on my Hypnosis socks, which are coming along slowly (I'm still on the first sock).

And since it's supposed to be a gorgeous weekend weather-wise, there will be garden time. I want to re-arrange the back garden here, maybe turn the compost (if it's thawed), plus all the plants I was holding over the winter for a friend get dug up and go back to her this weekend.

It's kind of a warm-up and finish-everything-else idea for the weekend, because work starts Monday. Well, I suppose it's about time. It will be nice to get back to work, once I get used to the waking-up-early part again.

I tell you though, one thing I'm going to be doing more of this year is checking for ticks. I've been lucky so far, and never had one. Not sure how prevalent they are in the Ottawa area, even. But my parents aren't that far away, in southern Quebec, about two hours from here, and the tick situation seems to be getting bad there. Several people in their area have been diagnosed with Lyme in the past few years, one probably from a bite months, if not a year, earlier. Both parents and almost all the pets have had ticks, and get checked almost daily. This was a warm winter, with lots of mice around (which are carriers), and the first ticks on the pets showed up before the snow was off the ground. And one of those ticks gave the dog Lyme disease. She was all lethargic and not eating, and seemed in pain, so Mom took her to the vet. And this one vet said she's seen 13 cases of dogs with Lyme so far this spring.

It's treatable, especially if caught early - the poor dog is on antibiotics and vitamins, and is starting to feel better. But obviously the ticks are out there already, hungry, and infectious. So please, keep your eyes open. Check yourself and your pets. Save your ticks if you get them, so they can be tested if necessary. Watch for symptoms in yourself and your pets. Untreated Lyme can cause permanent damage, and it's not pleasant. The Canadian Lyme Foundation is a good place to start for info on prevention, symptoms, and treatment.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

A Little Bit of Everything

So what about this weather? Can't make up its mind - Easter Sunday it was so warm I sat out on the porch at the parents' in a t-shirt and bare feet and was too hot, then it got cold again this week, and today it's snowing. My library pile, with books on famous English gardens at Sissinghurst and Munstead, seems a nice escape from the snow.

The preparations for spring are moving forward, though. Clean-up outside is mostly done. My seeds have all arrived, and all the windowsills are occupied by flats (spaced so the cat can still jump up in her usual places, though). The zinnias and salpiglossis are up already, and I check the window boxes more often than I check my e-mails, waiting for the next little plants. I feel really happy about the salpiglossis, since they haven't had a textbook life so far. The package said they had to be sprouted in the dark for 20 days at 80 F. Well, I wrapped them in black plastic and put them in the windowsill right by the stove, since I couldn't think of any other way to keep them warm. After less than a week (!) they were up, tiny, pale,  spindly things, so I thought they might be better off with light, and switched the black plastic for clear. And promptly managed to drop the flat upside-down while putting it back on the windowsill. But there were still seedlings on top, in the soil, when I turned it back over - thank goodness for that bag I had over it - so I thought no harm in seeing if they'll live. And they are - they are bigger and they have little green leaves, so all is well!

Assorted items done: Got things up in my Etsy store again - and this time they are set up to auto-renew if they expire. Yay, because I'm really bad at paying attention to that little job. Got my taxes done today. Finalized the garden plans I made for Liz last spring (she had a busy year too, so it wasn't like she was twiddling her thumbs waiting on me), and did some estimating for a patio a friend wants.

Work hasn't started yet, except for our first job of the season, which was building a garden at the Home and Garden show the other week. We took a day and a half to do the planting, between deciding how things would look best, and juggling the plan when some plants didn't show up in good condition. Trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs in bloom, we had it all, in a stone and wood backyard patio setting the construction team built. I was worried tear-down would be a long job also, but it went like a team of army ants had gotten in. Three hours only, and we kept all the plants for use this summer.

A treat Easter Monday - a whole flock of Bohemian waxwings showed up and hung around for a while, eating the little crabapples on a tree in the front yard at the parents'. Gorgeous birds, and watching them eat crabapples is a hoot. They were eating them whole, but if the apple is too big...bird opens beak wide, apple slides down, bird closes beak, apple slides back up!

There has been fibre stuff going on as well, of course. Mitts for the ranch store, and now I'm on an interesting project; a request for a chiengora lace scarf. The dog is more of a hair than a fur type, so I mixed it with half Romney wool, spun a couple bobbins of fairly fine 2-ply, and now it's on the needles in an Estonian floral lace pattern.

The mitts are both from a book by Solveig Larsson, and it is a lovely book.

Monday 14 March 2016

Spring On The Way

Baby socks for a friend of my sister's, finished this week just a little after the baby made her appearance:

Little people, and now little plants. Several days of mild weather means the snow is retreating, and in its wake, the daffodils in front of the building are coming up already.

And that means I have to get my act together and order seeds. I don't usually do that - it's a small garden, and what I need can usually be assembled from what I save myself plus some extras from my mother, and the occasional purchase at the store or garden center.

This year, however, I got a catalogue from Heritage Harvest Seeds in Manitoba when I was demo-ing at the Farm Show last week, and I couldn't resist. Plus I have a gift certificate from Stokes that should be used. So I've been hemming and hawing over decisions. Flowers from Stokes, veg from Heritage, that was pretty straightforward.

After that...well, there's less varieties for a lot of the veg, but Heritage has something like 200 types of tomato, and I have space for maybe 6 plants, so no point getting more than one type. I settled on Forme de Coeur, a nice multipurpose, productive, Quebec heirloom. But I could have had anything from White Currant (cream colored and half the size of a cherry tomato) to Ferris Wheel (where a slice is bigger than a piece of bread), or Silvery Fir Tree with delicate ferny foliage as well as nice fruit, or red-and-yellow-streaked hollow stuffing tomatoes, or a long-term keeper that ripens from the inside out... Deciding on beans was just as hard, but I ended up with 2 dual-purpose (fresh or dried) ones - Blue Jay, a green bean with navy blue and beige seeds, and Dragon Tongue, a yellow wax bean with purple-streaked pods and purple-striped beige seeds.

And it will be nice to have some pretty annuals to start from seed and pop in gaps in the beds for colour. I'm getting multicoloured zinnias and pink and cream celosia, and multicolored painted tongue (salpiglossis), which I've always liked the look of but never tried. I can hardly wait!

Saturday 5 March 2016

3 FOs and a 30-Year Photo

My sister and her partner Erik made it down to the parents' to visit this past week, so my brother and I both took time to visit also. First time in over a year I think we've all three been there together. And in chatting over the supper table, somehow the subject of family photos came up, and someone mentioned the time we all went to get one taken at the photography studio in Malone (which, even though it's in a different country, is actually the closest place we had a movie theatre or a large library or chain restaurants or such things). And then the notion of recreating it came up. So we did - kind of. Mom found the old picture, and my sister even managed to find the same little teddy bear she had been holding in that photo, and we all headed for the living room couch with Erik for our photographer.

So this is us, roughly 30 years ago, based on how old us kids look in the picture. (Apologies for the flash).

And now you get this.

Teddy is obviously the one who's changed the least!

Our generation is the one with kids now. My knitting for the visit included two baby sweaters - one for my sister to give to a friend who is expecting, and one in handspun for a cousin's baby. And I finally cast off  the shawl that's been on the needles for a while!