16 June 2015

Family portrait

These chicks hatched on Friday and Saturday, but today was the first time I managed to get all five of them in shot (barely!). Their mama has been highly protective of them: I hear her making a warning call to the chicks every time I open the door at the back of the barn and up to now at least one or two of the chicks have always been hidden underneath her wings.They're getting a bit more adventurous now, though.

Three of the chicks were from Ameraucana eggs, and the other two were either Welsummer or Barnevelder eggs (I haven't been able to spot the difference between those). The father was most likely the younger Buff Orpington rooster who is currently Top Bird, but it's just possible that the browner chick had the Welsummer cockerel as its sire. That one hatched from a blue egg, not a brown one. Three of the chicks are almost identical at present, with a small brown mark on their heads and otherwise golden. The chick on the right of this shot is all golden and a bit paler than the others. It will be interesting to see what colours they turn into as they grow up.

13 June 2015


May was very dry: our big water tanks in the barn never got properly full after the winter and by May 29th the well had run dry. Things were getting desparate! Luckily, the weather changed on May 30th and we got about 10mm/0.4 inches of rain that day. June has been providing some good downpours, too - so far this month the Trenton weather station is reporting 50mm/2 inches of rain, where in the whole of May it only received 30mm (just over an inch).

My Fling swag included a rain gauge - it recorded 0.8 inches (20mm) just yesterday.

The grass around the upper vegetable garden beds was looking very brown at the end of May and the beans I'd sown in the bed to the left of the centre of this shot had stubbornly refused to germinate, so I'd sown some more:

But yesterday it had turned a more respectable shade of green:

 and I've got beans popping up all over!

This morning I noticed some yellow patches in the grass. On closer inspection I could see hundreds of small yellow balls on the grass. I think this is the lawn rust fungus - not something I've ever seen before - these wet conditions must be just right for it.

And more unexpected fungi - these shaggy ink caps were growing out of the side of the chicken manure heap I excavated from the small barn in April.

Our barn water tanks are now full up - to the point of overflowing, in fact - and our basement cistern is also full. Such a relief!

09 June 2015

Garden Bloggers' Fling, 2015

I'd been aware of the annual Garden Bloggers' Fling since the first one, back in 2008 when it took place in Austin, Texas. I didn't think I'd ever get the chance to go to one, but when I realised that this year's was in Toronto, I jumped at the opportunity.

I wasn't disappointed. The event was superbly well organised and in total we visited 30 gardens and parks in the three days that I attended. Those doing the optional Niagara excursion on the fourth day would have seen even more. It was a real pleasure to spend time with so many passionate gardeners and designers. I feel like I have learnt a tremendous amount and have definitely made some new friends.

It's hard to know where to begin with describing the Fling: there was so much crammed in to the three days. I'll just pick out a few themes from the 563 (!) photos I took.

There was an interesting variation of scale, from the huge formal garden of the Aga Khan Museum

 to the intimate gardens of Cabbagetown, once home to Irish immigrants.

The Toronto skyline was ever-present throughout the Fling, either up close when we headed by ferry to the Toronto Island gardens on Friday,

or glimpsed from a distance as it was from the Aga Khan Museum

and from the Hugh Garner Co-op roof garden.

This coming weekend is the Peony Festival in Oshawa, and peonies were a noticeable feature in many of the gardens we visited. From the subtle and understated,

to the bold and beautiful,

and the downright outrageous.

There were a lot of Alliums around, too,

The importance of pollinators was another theme of the Fling: we learnt about the Fairmont Royal York's rooftop garden and bee hives on Friday and at the Toronto Botanical Garden on Sunday we were told to plant up our containers to 'attract guests'  like this honey bee who was busy visiting the salvia 'May Night' at the TBG.

We saw some interesting human-made objects, too, in the course of the Fling. I completely fell in love with the reclamation work going on at the former Don Valley Brick Works, where an industrial site has been turned into a fascinating space for people and wildlife. The 'Watershed Consciousness' artwork on the site is amazing.

I also (inevitably!) loved the way that archival images have been used to tell the story of the site's past.

You don't need a lot of space to make effective use of objects. I'm not generally a huge fan of garden art (or of city skylines, now I think about it) but I did rather like this little elephant in a Cabbagetown garden.

All in all, this has to be one of the most exhausting three days I've had. It was packed full of sensory, social and learning experiences; I will be thinking about this event for days and months to come. A hearty thanks to the Toronto Fling Committee for all their hard work!