28 April 2012

Cold dawn

They were right about the temperature: it did go down to -4°C/25°F last night, as this frosted dandelion demonstrates.

The greenhouse and yesterday's additional precautions seem to have done the trick in protecting the young tomato plants. Although they still look a bit pathetic. It's hard to imagine that these will be six feet tall by the end of the summer. Some sunshine over the next few days and the warmer weather promised by the end of the week might make them look more respectable.

27 April 2012

Hot bed

I've got my young tomato plants in the greenhouse and potted most of them on into small pots two weeks ago. Since then, they hardly seem to have grown at all, as the weather has turned colder.

I was dismayed this morning to see that the forecasted temperature for tonight was -4°C/25°F. Even with the protection of the greenhouse and a covering of horticultural fleece, I wasn't sure that they'd survive that. 

Luckily, I had cleared out the chicken coop and made some chicken manure at the weekend by mixing the litter with water. I checked the temperature of the manure this morning and it has reached a respectable 40°C/100°F. I thought I'd give the tomatoes a bit of help by shovelling some spadefuls of hot manure onto the greenhouse floor underneath the cart they're sitting in:

Having made all these elaborate preparations, the forecast has now changed to -2°C/28°F, which probably wouldn't have been a problem. Oh well, better safe than sorry!

23 April 2012

Unexpected guests

I collected our new chicks today, bought to replenish our flock after the fox and weasel depredations we've experienced over the last twelve months. Unfortunately the weather is being unco-operative, with rain, snow and well-below normal temperatures today it was too cold, even with a heat lamp, to put put the chicks in the corner of the barn we had planned to use. Having chicks in the house is the way we reared our first batch in 2009 but since then we've also gained a rather efficient domestic bird-killing predator in the form of Minnie the cat. This meant that we couldn't keep the chicks in an area which is accessible to Minnie and, since our downstairs is pretty much open plan, that left us with little choice.

The chicks have therefore taken over our spare bedroom (one of the few rooms the cat can't get into) with an improvised heat-lamp bracket made out of a step-ladder:

We'll keep them indoors until they've got some feathers or until the weather warms up a bit. It's lucky we haven't got Mike's mum staying here at the moment, as she often does at this time of year - I don't think she'd have a very peaceful night with this lot cheeping away at the end of the bed!

17 April 2012

Change of scenery

I've often travelled to Toronto on the train, but haven't ever headed east of our area by rail. Yesterday I took the train to Ottawa for the first time and was looking forward to a new view through the train window.

Once you get past Brockville, the landscape is very different from the more heavily-populated Toronto-Montreal corridor. The stretch between here and Toronto is a mixture of farmland and industrial development, with a few sections of park and beach. The lands either side of the line to Ottawa from Brockville are very different: evidence of human activity is much less obvious and there are lots of pines, boggy open areas and stands of dead, waterlogged trees.

The weather changed suddenly yesterday evening, as I came home. First the wind got up, producing a fairly scary dust-storm as the dry soil next to the road near the station in Fallowfield was lifted into the air. Then the rain poured down, settling the dust and drenching the commuters returning to their cars from the bus stops. The storm clouds transformed the landscape again. This is the view from Fallowfield station:

The reflections of the huge clouds in the pools of the wetlands we went through were beautiful, but hard to record with a camera because of the speed of the train. This next one is the best I could muster. This view is typical of the boggy nature of the scenery. I can't help but feel sorry for the men who laid the tracks in the first place: they must have been eaten alive by biting insects...

16 April 2012

Five-years on

It's been pointed out to me that I haven't blogged for a while. Looking at the date of my last post, I have to admit that this is true. It's not that nothing has been happening, just that most of it is business-as-usual and probably not very enthralling.

Five years ago today we were on our first visit to Prince Edward County, hoping to find somewhere to live. It was a cold, blustery day; sometimes raining and sometimes snowing. One of the first things we saw as we stepped into the house was the woodburning stove; warm and welcoming. The kitchen has changed completely since then. All except for the woodstove which continues to be the heart of the house (but without the faux-brick surround it had then).

Out in the barnyard, an almost blank canvas awaited us. We didn't venture into it on the first visit (much too cold and wet), but on our second viewing, three days later, the weather had cheered up and we explored the barns and woodland behind the house.

The concrete pad next to the small barn looked like this:

Now that same space is covered by the greenhouse we put up in 2008. I spent some time on Saturday tidying it up and hoeing weeds out of the cracks in the concrete. This is how that space is looking today. Maybe it doesn't look terribly tidy to you. But you haven't seen the 'before' picture (which I conveniently neglected to take).

The raised beds are looking good and already producing some food. On the left of this photo is the purple sprouting broccoli which I left growing over the winter. I've tried this most years and this is the first time that it hasn't been killed by frost. We had some with our lunch last weekend and there are new sprouts coming. The rest of this bed is filled with young peas, growing up tomato cages. They don't seem to mind that the supports were designed for another plant.

In the bed which held tomato plants last year I've got radishes, beets and salad greens of various types growing. I'm trying to get better at timing my succession sowing of salad leaves: too often I end up with a glut followed by a few weeks of no-greens-at-all. Not this year. Oh no. This year I'm going to get it right.

Today I sowed another few rows of greens in one of the barnyard beds, along with some parsnips, carrots and some more beets. It's a lot drier outside than it usually is at this time of year: five years on, we could really do with some of 2007's rain.

But maybe not the snow, if everyone's OK with that.