31 October 2010

Last harvest?

There were a few snow flurries today, and tonight the temperature is supposed to drop below freezing. I thought it best to pick most of the greenhouse crops. I love walking back to the kitchen with a container full of vegetables under each arm (although I do worry that I might be developing some sort of Demeter complex) and today I was sad that this might be the last time I do that this year.

There were a lot of green tomatoes, which may or may not ripen by the kitchen window. I blanched the spinach and froze it and the cayenne peppers. The aubergines/eggplants are destined for a moussaka that I'm planning to make for lunch on Tuesday. They've done really well this year. There were some Hungarian Hot Wax peppers too, which I've pickled. Here's a picture of those, (a special request from our neighbour, Elizabeth).

Mike and I were busy in the lower vegetable garden this morning, pulling out the old corn, sunflowers and squash plants and then adding chicken manure to the beds and tilling it in. In the process, we turned four smallish beds into two large ones, to give us more growing space and to reduce the amount of grass-cutting that's needed in the summer. I'm delighted with the way the chicken manure turned out - it's rotted down to a rich brown material which I hope will do wonders for the potatoes next year.

Manure is the only useful thing that the chickens are producing at the moment: the older ones are in a moulting phase and have stopped laying, while the younger ones have yet to start. The new feathers are starting to come through on the older hens, making them look rather piebald and scruffy:

I hope they all start laying again soon: we had to buy eggs this week for the first time in a year, which was most upsetting!

28 October 2010

Molten silver

High winds and bright sunshine conspired to turn the lake into something quite bewitching today:

24 October 2010

Catching up

Nearly three weeks is a long time to be away. The garden has changed considerably, with two frosty mornings in my absence. The outside tomato plants which I'd left green and fruiting are now brown and dead and the basil plants are blackened skeletons. Other vegetables are still going strong: there's a fair broccoli crop and the spinach is looking fantastic.

The new chickens are now as big as last year's hatch, but they're not yet laying. The feathers of the older hens look quite faded in comparison to the younger ones:

There has been an excellent crop of shaggy ink-cap mushrooms in the orchard, although I've missed the peak of production. We did manage to gather enough for the three adults to have a pleasant supper of mushrooms-on-toast last night. This year, with the losses to the May frost, we've actually picked more mushrooms from the orchard than we have fruit!

I transferred the wormery from the garage to the basement, to protect the worms from the frost. They'd converted two trays of kitchen waste into crumbly black compost, which I've added to one of the greenhouse beds. Mike and Child#2 put three tractor-loads of wood into the garage, ready for the days of wood-fires.

In England, the trees were still mainly green. Here, the ash trees have lost all their leaves. The only deciduous trees with leaves still attached in our little bit of wood are the oaks. And we only have two of those, so it's looking pretty bare. Considering that the temperature in both countries is similar at this time of year (and that we're further south here, and therefore get more daylight), it's quite a striking difference.

21 October 2010

Adventures in public transport

I've been on a trip to the UK since the beginning of October, which I hope explains my blogging silence. It was a strange visit, starting in Aberdeen and ending up in Kent, with lots of buses, trains and walking in between.

One of the big differences between living in rural Ontario and living in a British town is the availability of public transport. In my trip away I saw the best and the worst of UK public transport, from severe overcrowding on trains in London and Leicester, to punctual and frequent bus services in Aberdeen and Dundee. OK, the bus from the airport into Aberdeen on my first day wasn't so good - I had a half-hour wait in wind and rain and then the woman who was sitting behind me vomited into her bag as we got into the city. But otherwise, my bus experiences in Scotland were fairly positive.

In Leicester I enjoyed the scenic environs of the New Walk very much. Except for the point when a man entered the park and urinated against a tree just twenty feet from where I was sitting. That was another low point of the trip. As I walked back to the station, a couple were having a screaming row on the path. So loud and passionate were they ("This time I never slept wiv no-one!"), that I half-suspected it to be a piece of street theatre, with hidden cameras recording the responses of passers-by. At times on this trip I wondered if all these people had been sent to misbehave around me just to reassure me that I'd made the right decision about emigrating.

The only other note-worth journey was the experience of going into and out of London's St. Pancras station on the Southeastern Highspeed trains. It was novel to get from Kent to London by first travelling through Essex. The trains had a mildly annoying three-note chime before every announcement.*

On my journey back into Kent something had gone wrong with the automated announcements altogether and it seemed to be stuck on a continuous loop, repeatedly informing us that the train was on its way to Faversham. This began by being irritating, but soon I became close to breaking into unseemly giggles, as everyone else in the carriage was studiously ignoring the repetitions. Perhaps it happens every night. I began to feel that there was some deep significance to the brief pause and then seductively breathy emphasis that the female voice gave to the final word of the announcement "and...Faversham". It was quite a relief to get off that swish, clinical and high-tech train at Rochester, to board a smelly regular train, whose digital display insisted, for the remainder of the journey, that the next stop was going to be Bromley South.

Where we are now, there isn't much public transport at all, so I miss these delights, in a perverse way. Now, when I go back, I feel like an outsider and observer of British life, rather than a part of it. It's an odd feeling.

*British readers of a certain age might remember a similar arrangement in announcements made in the 1980s sit-com Hi-de-Hi. It was very similar to that.