28 April 2008

I know I complained about lack of water last year...

... but please, please could we just get it distributed a bit more evenly?

Vegetable garden underwaterThe vegetable garden had just dried out enough for me to feel brave enough to plant the garlic, shallots and onion sets yesterday. Then today's rain arrived - 38mm (1.5 inches) so far and it's not even midday yet. I'm expecting to see the onions floating past any minute.

Rainwater diverters divertingThe basement cistern is nearly full, the water measuring 47 inches (120 cm), so I've had to make use of the diverters on the drainpipes for the very first time, to stop the rainwater from filling it any more.

I think sorting out the drainage in the garden is going to have to be a priority. The annoying thing is that I can be fairly sure that in three months' time I'll be struggling with a drought again.

I've probably been slow on the uptake here, but Google has introduced a really neat conversion calculator - so if you put "47 inches in cm" (without the quotation marks) into the Google search box, it gives you the answer. Very handy.

The only good thing about the rain is that the tulips look just as gorgeous in the wet as they did in the sun.

27 April 2008

Tulips x two

My mother-in-law was closely monitoring the tulips' progress when she was staying here during the last three weeks. Typically, they reached their peak of perfection two days after she left. So these pictures are for you, Mum!

26 April 2008


Red catkinsThese startlingly red catkins were out along the lake shore in Wellington when we took my mother-in-law there for a stroll along the new boardwalk on Thursday. There were lots of tree swallows darting about, making the most of the insects that had been brought out by the sunshine.

Yesterday I took Mike and Mum to Toronto to catch their flight back to the UK. I'd arranged to pick up my fruit trees on the way back, so did a detour of 70km or so up to Siloam Orchards, near Uxbridge, to collect them. The apple whips were fairly small, but the apricot, pear, plum and cherry trees were all over six feet long, so I was glad that there were only three of us in the car.

Line-up of fruit treesI won't be able to get the trees in the ground until Wednesday at the earliest, so I've lined them up against the north wall of the small barn and put shovel-loads of wet soon-to-be-orchard soil on the roots so that they won't dry out.

There are 13 apple trees in all, mostly historical varieties and a mixture of cider and eating apples, some which will store well, some which will be good for turning into apple purée. I've never had fruit trees before, so it's really exciting to be able to plant my own orchard.

24 April 2008

Asparagus and rhubarb

Heap of old tyresThe original plan was to have one bed as the perennial bed, holding rhubarb, asparagus and soft fruit. Given the dampness of the patch at this time of year, we decided to make use of the heap of old tyres/tires behind the big barn and plant the rhubarb and asparagus inside them, so that they wouldn't get waterlogged.

Today the rhubarb and asparagus roots arrived, so we lugged six tyres into place. Then I opened the box holding the plants and realised that the six asparagus roots I thought I'd ordered had somehow become THIRTY six. So we used up the remaining tyres and placed them onto the bed immediately to the south of the perennial bed (this area had originally been earmarked for a 'three sisters' Mohawk-style planting of beans, corn and squash). Even then, I ran out of space in the tyres and had to plant the remaining eleven roots in the soil. In puddles in the soil, to be precise. We used up more of the manure and borrowed topsoil from what will be the brassica bed to fill up the tyres. I'm worried that there's too much manure in the mix, but we'll have to wait and see how they all do.

It may not look aesthetically pleasing, but it is satisfying to know that we've recycled the tyres. It'll be even more satisfying if everything grows.

Shiny green bug

The warm weather is bringing out the insects. This one is a Six-spotted Tiger Beetle:

Frogs are emerging and I visit the pond daily, waiting to see frogspawn, but so far there hasn't been any. Quite a few pond-skaters though.

This time last year we were back in the UK after our house-hunting trip, arriving here permanently in June. Spring is the only season we haven't experienced here and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

22 April 2008


Potatoes ready for chittingMy seed potatoes from Eagle Creek arrived yesterday. As the bed which will hold them is still pretty boggy, I've placed them in egg boxes (saved for the output from my future flock of chickens) on top of the basement freezer (empty but ready for all the amazing produce that I intend to harvest this summer), where they'll get some light and the right temperature range for them to start sprouting.

Potato bed, 21 April 2008Mother-in-law and I spent some time weeding the front flower beds in the early afternoon (the tulips are ready to burst open any minute) and later I worked out back on the plot that will hold our perennial vegetables and fruit, removing more of the infernal quack grass/couch grass and digging in some of the manure we obtained last October. Mike watched me struggling for a while then offered to till the plot over with the tractor. I gratefully accepted, so that's one plot that's now looking fairly good - just another seven to go! They're all still too wet to plant or sow anything into, but they have dried out a lot in the last week, so it shouldn't be too long.

21 April 2008

Eating for England

St George's Day celebratory foodThe St George's Day celebration went off swimmingly - helped by beautiful weather. The food went down well (although we will be eating leftovers for the rest of the week, I think!). All the Banbury Cakes were eaten and the Bakewell Tart and Wensleydale Tarts proved very popular. Eating scones with jam and cream seemed to be a new concept to people and generally I had the impression that my guests felt they'd been eating strange and exotic food, which felt a bit peculiar!

Red and white buntingWe decorated the porch with some suitably-coloured bunting and Mike managed to get hold of red and white carnations and roses, so the house looked quite festive (and we can always re-use the bunting on Canada Day). I even managed to pass on some of my Riesentraube tomato seedlings to new owners, so a good day all round.

17 April 2008

Warm sunshine brings forth first tulip ... and first snake

Small yellow tulip

Our first tulip bloom. Soaking up the sun nearby was an Eastern Garter Snake, which must have emerged from hibernation quite recently:

Garter snake basking among the tulips

It was a lovely day yesterday too, polished off by a gorgeous sunset. I made Mike stop on the Skyway Bridge on the way back from Deseronto last night so that I could take this picture of the Bay of Quinte, looking towards Tyendinaga:

Sunset over Tyendinaga, taken from the Skyway Bridge

14 April 2008

My house is being taken over by tomatoes

Scilla flowers and iris shootThis scilla came into flower this morning and next to it is a shoot from one of the iris rhizomes that I painstakingly planted last summer.

I spent a companionable hour this afternoon in the sunshine on the front steps with my mother-in-law, potting on the tomato seedlings into their own pots.I now realise that I've got far too many of the Riesentraube variety, so may have to find new homes for some of those.Re-potted Riesentraube seedlings I've got the same number of Amish Paste, but I'm planning on turning those into freezer fodder, so the quantity won't be such a big issue.

Peppers (Corno di Toro Rosso), aubergines/eggplants (Ping Tung) and chilies (Hungarian Hot Wax - which sounds like something you could opt for at a beauty salon to me) are coming up in the propagator now and will need potting-on themselves before too long. I'm running out of space to put the pots!

Aftermath of tree-root removal in the orchard areaMeanwhile, in what will become the orchard, Mike has been valiantly digging up the roots of the dead trees that he cut down last year (with the help of the trusty tractor). The area looks a bit like the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme at the moment - or the playground of enormous moles.

13 April 2008

Good drying weather?

14-day forecast from the Weather Network for Wellington, Ontario
Yes, I know long-range weather forecasts are even more of a work of fiction than party manifestos, but I can't help but feel encouraged by the Weather Network's view of the next two weeks. Maybe my vegetable plots will finally dry out enough for me to be able to start sowing seeds!

10 April 2008

First bloom

CrocusThe first flower of the year. There were four of these in the front garden and shortly after I took this picture the blasted dog ate great chunks out of all of them. Hope they give him indigestion.

England, and St. George

House decorated with cross of St. GeorgeI'm planning a (slightly early) St. George's Day celebration for the weekend after next. Not because I've suddenly come over all patriotic since arriving in Canada, but because I feel I owe our new friends and neighbours a party and it seemed as good an excuse as any. I'm intending to serve an afternoon tea with an English theme (of course) but I'm getting a bit stuck with finding suitably-named savoury items.

For sweet treats I seem to have quite a lot of things to choose from:
  • Bakewell Tart
  • Manchester Tart
  • Chelsea Buns
  • Bath Buns
  • Banbury Cakes or Eccles Cakes

Plus the obligatory English Cream Tea ingredients of scones with cream and jam.

But for savoury things with an English name I can only think of Cornish Pasties and the various English cheeses (oh, and Yorkshire Pudding, naturally - but I don't think that's a tea-time dish!). I know cucumber sandwiches are supposed to be traditional afternoon tea food, but I would be embarrassed to serve up a sandwich containing just cucumber! Are there any other obvious savoury foods with English names that I'm forgetting about? Or maybe it's time to start inventing a few?

Photo from Nick Corble on Flickr.

08 April 2008

A week is a long time...

...when it comes to weather conditions.

This was the view down the western boundary of our property on 29 March:

Front garden, 29 March 2008

And here's the view today:

Front garden, 8 April 2008

The lake in the background is still frozen, but our neighbour, David, reckons it won't be by the end of the week. Everything's still very soggy, as this picture shows. My vegetable beds are more like vegetable ponds at the moment. Watercress, anyone?

On my way up to the field today I saw my first butterfly of the year. Goodness knows what the poor thing is going to live on - not many flowers out yet. I've spent a fruitless half hour on the internet trying to find out what it's called, but with no luck. So if you recognise it (or are better at finding out butterfly names), please let me know!


Postscript: The butterfly is known as Mourning Cloak here, and Camberwell Beauty in the UK

Bird's eye view

Aerial view of sea ice off LabradorI've never quite grown out of the childish joy I get from seeing the earth from an aeroplane. It's particularly enjoyable if you recognise the places you fly over, of course, but this view of the sea ice off the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland really took my breath away on Sunday.

Aerial view of farmland surrounded by forest, north of OttawaFlying towards Heathrow last week was great too, as it was clear over the western half of the UK and there were great views of southern Ireland, south Wales and the M4 corridor. The contrast between the UK and Canada from the air is quite striking. The UK has small patches of wilderness surrounded by carefully tended fields, while in Canada it is the other way about. It probably is hard to see, but this photo is of a patch of farmland, north of Ottawa, surrounded by more rugged countryside.

When I was a teenager there was a poster on the wall of my English classroom for a production of As You Like It, which depicted a partially-forested hillside. Eventually I realised that the hillside was in the form of a naked woman (and I could never see it as just a hillside again). England from the air reminded me of that poster - a land that has been extensively trimmed and manicured and is essentially feminine in nature. Canada is more untamed and masculine. Perhaps I should have got more sleep on the plane...

02 April 2008

Spring preview

BluebellI'm having a week in the south of England, attending the Open Repositories conference at Southampton. Of course it's a lot milder here, with daffodils, snowdrops and new leaves visible. These bluebells were blooming just outside my window here, so I couldn't resist taking a photo. Mike tells me that the snow is melting fast back in Ontario, so it sounds like Spring is finally making an appearance over there, too.