Sunday, 27 April 2014

Busman's Holiday

So...a week into my new job. 5 days and a bit actually, since we worked for a few hours on Saturday. It's mostly fun - I'm liking it, despite the part where I have to get up before 5am. Get to see all sorts of gardens while we're out doing spring clean-up on them, and a fair handful of wildlife to boot. There's been a pair of ducks swimming in someone's pool, a curious robin who hung out to watch us, and several dogs either in the house we were at or at a neighbour's. Of course there are the drawbacks, like the rain all day Tuesday, and the very dead rabbit I found in a heap of fallen leaves at one garden.

And there's the learning curve. Not as much about gardening at this point (although I am picking up a few tricks from my supervisor) as the associated stuff. Here's me, coming in with about 10 minutes total experience ever with a cell phone, some ancient experience in city driving, and no experience at all with a pick-up truck - and a week in they've got me driving myself around the city in a truck, and using a Blackberry to text and call. I tell you, if I was into drinking, this week would have been the time to do it. I did go through a bag of chips in reaction, but so far so good - I've managed to recover when I missed my turn-off on a large road a couple of times, and haven't injured any people or property that I know of, even if I did scare a few.

And with a day off finally, what did I do? Finished the spring clean-up at my apartment's gardens, natch. Edged the beds, turned the compost and spread the finished stuff, weeded, and bundled a whack of prunings to go out with the yard waste. (Whoever prunes around here just leaves everything where it falls, and it drives me nuts). Indoors, most of the little seedlings I've started are coming along well, and I'm looking forward to planting things out later on - tomatoes and lettuce, sunset runner beans and cucs, and maybe a daylily from the seeds one of mine produced last fall. It's nice to be looking forward to summer.

Friday, 18 April 2014

More Spring Gardening

Out at the parents' for Easter weekend, and my last free time before work starts on Monday. Been warming up for the job, cleaning out my dye garden, and helping Mom to clear what she refers to as the 'cochonerie' - all the weeds and undesirables - on the back peninsula. The area has been overgrown with raspberries and stuff, and some escaped goutweed, which we're trying to eradicate - two feedbags full of the stuff today, plus a lot of branches and vines to heap up. Once everything is cleaned up, Mom is thinking she'll make a rockery there.

The chickens have been enjoying their last hurrah, since things are coming up, and they make too much of a mess in the flowerbeds to be allowed to run loose. So they go in the pen tomorrow.

And all day a verse I picked up somewhere has been running through my head, as it does every spring, when the flowers start.

Now winter's rains and ruins are over
And all the season of snows and sins

And time remembered is grief forgotten
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten

And in green wood and undercover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins

Saturday, 12 April 2014

New and Notable

Look at that. Crocus tips sticking out last week - and first flowers of the season this week!

I've been knitting a crescent shawl - Indian Feathers pattern by Alina Appasov, a free download on Rav - out of some silk-blend laceweight I dyed a few years ago, testing the possibilities of doing a shaded yarn. I've been picturing it as a shawl all along, so I've been happy to see that it looks as neat as I thought. (Not the best picture I admit, but I just got it blocked this morning. The structure of the crescent, knitted from the edging inwards, really lent itself to getting the best look out of the yarn. Must dye a few more skeins this way.

This actually got knitted twice, since the first time I got to about the 80% mark, and decided it was turning out too short. Ripped and reknit, adding 4 repeats to the edging, and less decreases in the top of the edging. The blocked measurement is now 72" across, so perhaps I overdid it a little - but it will be long enough to wrap and knot, good and versatile at least.

Friday, 4 April 2014

In the Garden

As far as I'm concerned, the garden season officially opened yesterday. I planted a window-box full of Japanese indigo seeds, and managed to fit it on the actual windowsill, in-between the rest of the pots of Mom's cuttings of coleus and iresine.

Then I went outside and cleaned up a bunch of the dead stuff in the garden that I never got around to last fall. The snow has retreated from the west and south sides of the building, even if it will be a while before I see some of the other beds, and it was a lovely afternoon. I even had to take off my coat after a few minutes, which hasn't happened in, oh, 6 months!

And voila, there are things growing! Even if the snow hasn't retreated far yet, all the bulbs and things are eager to get going as soon as possible. The chives are up. The daffodils are up. There are little points of crocuses coming through.

There are clusters of red-tinged tulip leaves.

And the brighter red buds of rhubarb are breaking the ground as the snow retreats.

No doubt about it now, winter is over!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Out Like A Lot of Lambs

April finally, and warming up. Potholes on the roads, puddles on the laneways, sap in the maple bush, and lambs in the barn.

Which is to say I was out at my cousins' today for shearing day. Meat sheep they may be, but some of the fleeces are lovely, crimpy, soft things (and how they got it in a Rideau/Dorset/Finn melange of a flock, I don't know), and they are planning to send some of the best to a mini-mill this year. My job was to help them identify and sort out the best of the fleeces. Mom came along as well, but she spent half of the day enjoying the cousins' baby and taking her for a sleigh ride.

Each batch of sheep got shooed into the corridor and vaccinated, then into the chute one at a time to await the shearer.

Last year's shearer was not terribly fast, and they ended up with an 18-hour day to shear the lot. There were more sheep this year, but it only took the new shearer maybe 6 hours total for the 110-140 head in the barn - a huge improvement for everyone concerned, including the sheep, who were eager to have a bite to eat. It seems shearers prefer the sheep to be fasting 12 hours ahead, so they're lighter and not farting while you work. Completely understandable - but yeah, after shearing, the sheep all wanted to hang around in the corridor where there was a hay bale they could snack on.

Lambing was planned in stages this year, so one batch had lambed a while ago, and the babies are still nursing, but strong and fuzzy. The pen beside them had the ewes who were clearly pregnant, but not due yet.

Of course, there are always surprises as well. Under all the wool, it's hard to tell who's expecting if it wasn't a planned pregnancy. It seems one of the ram lambs from last year got left in with the girls a little too long, and this morning there was a new baby lamb in with the ewes who were supposedly not expecting! He was snuggled with his mama under a heat lamp, and wearing a cute little sweater. So cute you can't help but say Awww!