31 August 2008

Historical digression (with squash)

I mentioned the Quinte Exhibition yesterday. The word 'Quinte' is an interesting one; it seems to me to be a perfect microcosm of the recent human history of this part of the world. It's pronounced Kwintee and is an anglicisation of the French word Quinté, which itself is a frenchification of a Cayugan word which is usually written as Kente. French missionaries from Québec were invited to this area in 1668 by the Cayuga people who had some settlements here (though the main Cayuga territory was on the southern side of Lake Ontario), including the village of Kente. The blue plaque in Consecon tells part of the story.

The Kenté (Quinte) Mission: In 1668 Claude Trouvé and François de Fé, Sulpician priests from France, established this mission to serve Iroquois Indians on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Kenté, the Cayuga Village which had reqested the missionaries, became the mission's centre. Buildings were erected at this village, which was probably located in the Consecon area, and livestock was brought from Ville-Marie (Montreal). Under Abbé Trouvé's direction, various resident Sulpicians served the mission but from 1675 their activities were largely confined to the village centre. An early outpost of French influence in the lower Great Lakes region, the mission was abandoned in 1680 as a result of the moving of the Cayugas, heavy maintenance costs, and the growth of Fort Frontenac as a major post.
(Click on the picture for a closer look.)

A report of the missionaries' arrival here was published in 1879 by Charles Hawley as Early Chapters of Cayuga History: Jesuit Missions in Goi-o-gouen, 1656-1684 ; Also an Account of the Sulpitian Mission Among the Emigrant Cayugas about Quinte Bay, in 1668. I don't think succinctness was one of Charles's strong points. Anyway, the book has been digitised by Google, so we can see how Claude Trouvé, writing in 1672, was treated by the Cayugas when he arrived here. This must be one of the earliest European descriptions of squash in this area:
Having arrived at Kenté we were regaled there as well as it was possible by the Indians of the place. Some of my squash harvest this yearIt is true that the feast consisted only of some citrouilles (squashes) fricasseed with grease, which we found good; they are indeed excellent in this country and cannot enter into comparison with those of Europe. It may even be said that it is wronging them to give them the name of citrouilles. They are of a very great variety of shapes and scarcely one has any resemblance to those in France. There are some so hard as to require a hatchet if you wish to split them open before cooking. All have different names.
After the mission closed down, however, the Great Canadian Lakes site informs us that:
A brutal fate awaited the natives that were left behind. In 1687, from his base at Fort Frontenac, a new French Governor, the Marquis de Denonville and his Iroquois allies attacked and tortured the remaining Kente natives, taking those who survived back to France to work as galley slaves.

The mission and the village were short-lived, but the area now called Prince Edward County became known as the Isle of Quinte (or Quinte's Isle) and the stretch of water between it and the mainland to the north is still called the Bay of Quinte. Not much comfort to those poor Cayugas, I'm sure.

30 August 2008

Best viewed in black and white

When did the prizes at fairs become so terrifyingly garish? I think these would have given me nightmares when I was a child. In fact I think they may give me nightmares as a grown-up.

We spent an hour or two at the Quinte Exhibition in Belleville this afternoon. The busy part was a regular fair, with the usual rides and sideshows.

In the buildings around the fair were more traditional displays of preserves, fruit and vegetables (almost as good as those in the Emsworth Village Show (but not quite)):

There were cows too, a display of splendid chickens and a 'cuddle a chick' feature which Child #1 took full advantage of. I think the chick might have been rather traumatised by the experience.

28 August 2008

Production lines and Paul Simon

Here's the first stage in our attempt to produce electricity from the sun - these are the solar panel frames that have been put up on the roof of the big barn over the last two days. You may notice that the barn roof is wet. I think that is the god of the weather you can hear in the background, sniggering at our temerity.

This time last year I was saying "This time next year..." a lot and imagining picking our own vegetables and putting them by for the winter. The produce that we're getting from the garden has really gone beyond my most optimistic hopes. I know I've put a very similar picture up only a short while ago, but I can't resist showing today's harvest here. It came at a bit of a cost as the solar panel guys had their car stereo on full blast and I had to listen to a Paul Simon album (The Rhythm of the Saints, I think) while I gathered in my crop. If I'd wanted to listen to music from other people's cars while I gardened I would have stayed in Manchester and got an allotment on a busy road instead of moving to the country.

Though I probably wouldn't have got as many tomatoes.

27 August 2008

Summer's shutting down...

...but dewdrops wrung from cooler nights bring consolation.

Dew on Bird's-foot trefoil

26 August 2008

Late developers

There are so many things that I've never grown before this year that it feels like most of the vegetable garden has been an experimental plot this summer. Some of the more exotic things (to me, anyway) are now catching up with everything else. The 'Ping Tung' eggplants/aubergines that looked so tiny and pathetic when I put them out in early June have caught up enough to put out some little purple fruit. They are supposed to grow to 18 inches long. They're in the same bed as the drowned tomato plants, so it's a bit of a miracle that they're still alive, let alone fruiting.
Some melons are beginning to form, too - 'Golden Jenny' and 'Tigger'. They're only tennis-ball-sized at the moment, but I'm hoping they'll put on a spurt of growth, too, in the next few weeks.

25 August 2008

Up and down

I notice from an earlier post that it's been almost exactly a year since our last trip to Kingston. We went there this weekend on a new-kitchen-related mission (the kitchen seems to occasioning a fair bit of mileage at the moment) and, as last year, we came back on the Glenora Ferry. It isn't quite as hair-raising a trip as the picture might suggest!

Work began again on the geothermal system this morning. I had just started a load of washing when the men and machine arrived, so had to use the dryer for once as putting it on the washing line would have caused the driver of this digger a few problems. They are linking up the holes that were drilled last week with the unit in the basement. The forecast for next week is for it to get very hot again, so I'm hoping they'll have it all hooked up by then so that we can test its cooling capabilities.

This is how the trench looked by the evening:

Where it certainly confused the dog.

20 August 2008

Crushed velvet

I grew Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea 'Star of Yelta') and Black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata 'Blushing Susie') from seed this year with the aim of covering the trellis at the side of the house. The Morning Glory has just started to bloom. In the morning the flowers unfold like a new butterfly's wings.

Morning Glory (Star of Yelta) flower opening
The 'star' is very obvious once the flower fully opens.

Noon Glory
In the evening the blooms fade, but they look lovely with the sunlight behind them.

Evening Glory

18 August 2008

Bolts into the earth

The geothermal drilling guys were back at work today and managed to drill three out of the five holes that we need for our system. The holes are 150 feet deep and progress on the drilling was pretty rapid - the rock beneath us is mostly shaley, rather than thick slabs of limestone, so they were pleased with how quickly their carbide drill got through it. In the video you can see how steadily the drill is descending.

Lucky we're not the type of people to worry about having a perfect lawn, I think.

Here's the piping that goes into the hole:
And here's the end piece, which the piping is attached to (not in this picture, but it was later) and which is weighed down with a long metal rod to ensure that it reaches the bottom of the hole:

The pipes are filled with water for the moment, which will be replaced with a glycol/water mix later. They've nearly finished for today, which is just as well because the satellite picture is showing a beefy line of thunderstorms heading our way (we're on the sticky-out bit of land between Peterborough and Kingston).

The sky is already looking a bit peculiar - rather the texture of a brain, I thought.

Ah, here it comes. Over and out.

15 August 2008

Geothermal progress

There have been guys in the house on and off for a couple of weeks now, putting in the ducting for the geothermal system. Today the drilling rig turned up and started on the first of the five deep wells that will be needed to sink the pipes down into the rock (we don't have enough depth of soil to lay the pipes horizontally). They needed 300 gallons of water to do the drilling, which they took from our well. It's lucky they weren't trying to do this last year, as there wouldn't have been 300 gallons in there then.
Geothermal drilling rigUnfortunately the weather decided to bring a slow-moving thunderstorm to the Bay of Quinte area this morning, so they didn't get very far before deciding to give up for the day (being understandably reluctant to stand next to a tall metal post in such conditions). The Weather Network's satellite picture shows it pretty clearly:
satellite picture of thunderstorm over Bay of QuinteInside the house, conversely, the work is continuing apace - there are now grilles like the one below in the floors of the downstairs as well as vents in the ceilings of the upper floor (those look a bit like smoke alarms). In the picture below you can see through to the window in the basement, but they're busily connecting all the grilles up to ducting and the geothermal unit in the basement, so that won't be the case for long.
Grille in dining room floor

Here's the view in the basement. Very shiny. The big silver box in the lower middle of the shot is the geothermal unit.
Basement ductwork for geothermal system

14 August 2008

Great Spangled Fritillary

Isn't that a great name for a butterfly? I went up to the hayfield this afternoon to see whether we had any Monarch caterpillars on the milkweed plants up there. In late August last year they were being chewed to stalks by them. I saw this fritillary instead:

We have seen fewer Monarch butterflies than we had this time last year - but that might be down to the dampish nature of the last six weeks. When I found the patch of milkweeds they looked completely unscathed:

But on my way back home a Monarch appeared and posed for me in the clump of trees next to the pond, as if to reassure me that they haven't deserted the farm completely.

10 August 2008

Post-holiday harvest

It seems to be customary among vegetable-gardening bloggers to post images of the heaps of vegetables they've harvested after a break from their gardens. I feel compelled to join in with my contribution - here's today's swag:

Heaps of veggies

The sharp-eyed reader may notice that there are some tomatoes in amongst the bounty. There may not be many more, unfortunately, as the majority of the tomato plants have not recovered from their earlier dowsing and are now dead or dying. The weather has not been kind: more rain fell while we were away and the lower vegetable garden is still under water. I had to throw all my Florence fennel plants onto the compost heap as they had rotted and died (shame they weren't Venetian fennel, eh?). The peppers are clinging on to life, but only just, and even the rhubarb is looking a bit sad. The contrast with last summer's drought is so extreme that I feel it is deliberate. Maybe next year we'll be shown the happy medium.

No, I don't think so either.

There were the usual overgrown gherkins and zucchini (is it OK if I just call them zucchini now? Calling them courgettes/zucchini is cumbersome.) and lots of beans. Before we went away I'd been picking the yellow wax ones, but now we've got the (green) Blue Lake bush beans and the first runner beans (Wisley Magic), too. All the beans went into the freezer this afternoon, except for a few of the Blue Lake ones which went (with cucumber and tomatoes) into a Salade Niçoise for supper.

The wet weather may have been lethal for some vegetables, but it has been great for the cucurbit family. I never used to like cucumbers much, but the Telegraph Improved variety that I've been harvesting taste wonderful - much sweeter and more flavourful than anything I've ever bought from a store. I always thought that the 'home-grown tastes so much better than shop-bought' hype was a bit over-stated, but it really is true with cucumbers.

The winter squash shown here are Small Wonder spaghetti squash (on the left) and two Winter Luxury pie pumpkins. I'm really proud of those (my first-ever winter squash) and am particularly pleased with them because they don't need processing immediately, unlike nearly everything else. The plants are enormous and look like something from outer space, the way they're spreading over the upper vegetable garden. Getting through them to pick the runner beans is a precision exercise.

Squash plants expanding everywhere

08 August 2008

Olympic wanderings

We've been in Montreal for the last week. I was at a conference and the family came along for the ride. There has been much museum-visiting, walking of city streets and dodging of hefty Montreal showers. I'm not a huge fan of cities, but if I had to live in one I think Montreal might get my vote. Today we went out to the site of the 1976 Olympics (I had actually forgotten that the current Olympic Games started today). The Biodôme is a conversion of the 1976 Olympic velodrome into an indoor zoo with four ecosystems. It was very busy (probably due to the damp weather today) and overrun with kids from various camps who really made the experience quite grim. On a quiet day I think it would be a good excursion, but today was not that day.

To the north of the Olympic park are the city's Botanical Gardens, which were wonderful. I didn't see as much of them as I would have liked (having the children along limits the distance I can walk), but the vegetable gardens were great. We learnt in the Musée d'archéologie et d'histoire that 70% of Montreal's land was given over to vegetable gardening in 1720, so it was good to see this tradition continued in the Botanical Gardens. We also saw the First Nations garden, which comprises native plants in three distinct zones. The leaves in the picture belong to a sugar maple in the hardwood forest section.

03 August 2008


The Striata d'Italia courgettes/zucchini have been doing brilliantly, necessitating the testing of new dishes as ways of using them up. Over Friday and Saturday I made Rick Stein's piccalilli recipe (except replacing runner beans with the yellow wax beans that are also being prolific at the moment). I gave them a final boil in my home canner to be on the safe side, although the recipe didn't call for it. Reading North American books on home-preserving has made me a bit paranoid about botulism!

Despite dubious noises from Mike about the idea of cakes made from courgettes, I gave a Zucchini Muffin recipe a try this morning (except that I replaced the canola oil with melted butter - yes, I'm incapable of just following a recipe). By the time I came to take a photo of the finished muffins there were only these four left, so looks like they were popular (I told the children only that they were 'cinnamon muffins').

I don't know how the piccalilli tastes yet, though it looks OK. I did the bottling part before I had anything to eat yesterday morning - I don't recommend this, as the smell of hot vinegar on an empty stomach is a bit overpowering.

01 August 2008

Hornworm again (warning: bad language)

Just the one, but I was amazed and affronted to find it tucking into one of my still-droopy and pathetic-looking waterlogged tomato plants. As I had the camera handy, I thought I'd make a video of me picking it off the plant, to show just how disgusting the procedure is. Unfortunately it doesn't really work as a demonstration of how the caterpillar reacts to being removed, as my response to its spirited defence ruined the carefully-scripted piece.

It squirted green, er, stuff all over my camera too. Everyone's a critic...

Great Blue Heron

We see a heron up at the pond quite often, but it always flies off as we approach and I've never managed to get a satisfactory picture of it. Last night (as if to underline how wet the vegetable garden still is) it visited the barnyard. We were sitting outside, so it didn't stay around for long when it realised that it had company, but it was just long enough for me to run off and get the camera for this snap.

Great Blue Heron