28 March 2008
At the side of the house, the buds on the lilac trees are swelling. Prince Edward County is famous for its lilacs, so I'm looking forward to seeing these flower. They do need a bit of pruning, though, which I think is best done after they've flowered, so a job for late May.
27 March 2008
We're beginning to see the end of winter outside, too. As the photo below of the northern shore of Prince Edward County shows, the Bay of Quinte was still frozen and snowy when we came back over the Norris Whitney bridge from Belleville on Easter Monday. But yesterday afternoon when I came over the Skyway Bridge from Deseronto, there was a fair bit of water visible in the middle of the bay, which hadn't been there in the morning (well, it was there of course, but you couldn't see it!).
There was no ice at all in the Bay when we came here for our reconnaissance trip last Easter, but I suppose that was two weeks later than this year's, so there's still time for it all to melt, unlikely as it seems right now.
22 March 2008
While the kids were at their swimming lesson we did the usual mad dash round the library and supermarket in Picton, followed by a trip to a garden centre. This is a small business, comprising three or four polytunnels and a small barn which houses the shop. The shop had a sign by the till saying "We're in the greenhouse, come and find us!". This is fairly common for businesses here, which are often small family concerns run out of the owners' homes. This style of doing business took us a bit of getting used to - there isn't always an obvious 'shop front' to go to, for example.
I used to spend ages of indecision looking at all the different types of compost when I bought it from garden centres in the UK - peat free? multipurpose? sowing and cutting? brand or own brand? moisture-retaining or not? So it was quite refreshing at this establishment to be offered the choice of either a 10 litre bag or a 107 litre bale. And that was it. So I plumped for the bale (Mike was with me to carry it, luckily (or maybe not, from his point of view)).
I've just looked at the ingredients and it's 70-80% Canadian sphagnum peat moss. Cue feelings of guilt about destruction of peat bogs, followed by superficial internet research, which seems to suggest that there are an awful lot of peat bogs in Canada:
...more than 270,000,000 acres, 25% of the world's supply, of which our industry harvests on less than 40,000 acres, or one acre in 6,000.
According to the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association, anyway. They harvest the stuff, so they might be just a teensy bit biased. Not sure now whether I should be feeling guilty or not. Maybe I should make myself a hair shirt out of sphagnum moss to be on the safe side.
Anyway, we hooked the propagator up to one of the voltage regulators we had to buy to save getting all new electrical appliances, so that works fine. Now I couldn't resist starting some seeds. What did I sow, you may or may not be asking. Red tomatoes in this batch - Riesentraube (an heirloom grape-style) and Amish Paste (another heirloom plant, ideal for tomato sauces). I think of the propagator as an incubator or intensive care unit, so once they're up I'll replace them with peppers, chillies or aubergines and get a little production line going.
21 March 2008
The snow was much easier to walk on - yesterday it had the texture of slightly melted sorbet, but today it was crispy and hard. Here's Mike standing next to the footprints I'd made the day before:
It was so pleasant to walk on that we crossed the hayfield for the first time in months. Well, actually we'd never walked across the field diagonally before, just in the mown strip around the edges. It was cold, but beautiful.
We'd been gone so long that the buns had grown quite significantly - allow me a small moment of domestic-goddessy pride:
20 March 2008
"Plant potatoes on Good Friday" was something that came up a lot. Well, that might be possible in the UK, but I'm blowed if I'm going to dig through the snow to do that here. I wondered if this tradition might be related to the moon phases - since Easter Sunday is the first Sunday following the full moon after the Spring Equinox. But after reading up on the matter, advice about moon-planting of potatoes seems contradictory: a New York Times article from 1991 makes this point too. So maybe I won't bother waiting for a full moon and will go by the soil temperature instead!
I had no idea how many seed potatoes to order, so have probably ordered either far too many or far too few - time will tell.
18 March 2008
09 March 2008
This was how our driveway was looking first thing this morning:
...before Mike got to work with the tractor and snow-blower attachment:
The front path and steps had to be done with a shovel and it was quite a good workout (though I realise now that I was doing it all wrong).
The new composter is looking a bit buried, too:
07 March 2008
I've been composting all the vegetable waste we produce in two plastic compost bins that were here when we arrived, but it seems this isn't that common a practice here. Recently the County advertised in the local paper, asking people to apply for a rotating composter as part of a County-wide trial. I've always fancied one of those, so I applied and was thrilled to find out the other week that I had been selected to take part, along with 19 other households around the County (75 applications had been received in all). Last night there was a meeting about the trial and I got to collect my new toy.
The Council don't currently provide a separate kerbside collection service for compostable materials, so a lot of it is going into landfill at the moment. It costs them $225 per tonne to dump things in landfill, so this trial is looking at ways of reducing that cost. As well as the composter, they provided us all with a green bucket for use in the kitchen and a scale to weigh it with. We have to weigh the waste that we put into the composter and record the amounts, until the end of October. Then these figures will be used to calculate the savings for the County. I didn't like to point out that I would have composted my materials anyway...
There were some interesting talks, including one from Doug Parker, who farms on an organically-certified farm in South Marysburgh. It was great to listen to someone who is so passionate about compost (which, by the way, is mainly pronounced to rhyme with 'post' around here). He had even brought some of his compost along for everyone to examine. Then two representatives of the manufacturers described the features of the composter. It's supposed to be pest-proof (which is good, as we had a rat living in our compost bin in Sale for a while), although they had heard of one installation in Vermont which was regularly played with by a bear.
This morning Mike and I set up the composter and I placed it next to the back door (this involved shovelling out a big snow drift). It's made by Sun-Mar, who started out making composting toilets and this is built on the same principles. The rotating drum speeds up the composting process, so that compost can be extracted from the centre in as little as two to four weeks. Although it might have to get a bit warmer outside before that's achievable, I suspect. The retail price of one of these is $250. I've paid $50 to take part in the trial, but I think $30 of that is refundable at the end of it, so I'll get my composter for $20. Bargain!
06 March 2008
Apparently there's another big storm heading in for Saturday, so all the families heading off for a Spring Break holiday abroad might have problems leaving the country this weekend. They don't have an Easter holiday here, just Good Friday and Easter Monday off, and the (inappropriately named) Spring Break, which is all of next week. So they won't be getting a lot of 'instructional time' this month, one way or another.
Yesterday's storm started off with ice pellets, for a change, but then turned into snow again. It made shovelling it off the path harder, as the ice pellets form a hard, caked layer under the snow. I had a vivid Technicolor dream last night about all the snow melting and spring flowers and vegetables emerging from beneath it. Even my subconscious is yearning for spring! This image from Flickr was the closest I could find to my dream, so I'm putting it here to cheer the blog up a bit and make a change from the never-ending views of ice and snow.
Image from QuintanaRoo on Flickr.
03 March 2008
01 March 2008
Last year I didn't bother with party bags and I was planning not to this year either. I even deliberately ignored the party bags in Bulk Barn this morning. But by this afternoon I was feeling mean about it, so I made some fudge and then roped Child #1 in to help me make the wrappers. She found some silver ribbon lurking in a drawer and made name labels, then we wrapped baking parchment squares around the fudge and tied them up. It was an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon and I think they looked quite good in the end: not a bit of plastic tat in sight!
Postscript: The girls were all delightful and behaved beautifully. I might have to revise my feelings about birthday treats - or maybe 10/11 year olds are just more mature than smaller kids. Their class teacher and her two daughters ended up seeing the movie at the same time us, which may have been an added incentive for good behaviour, I suppose!