29 September 2009

It never rains...

The rainfall distribution for this month was a little lop-sided:

Like all those 'long tail' graphs, but in reverse.

25 September 2009


It's probably going to sound silly, but I was a little nervous about breaking open the first eggs from our hen(s). We had three eggs in three days: all laid in different nest boxes (there are only four to choose from). I don't know if these were all from one doughty hen or from three separate birds.

Today I plucked (ooh, sorry) up the the courage to crack the eggs. No unpleasant surprises inside them and everything you hear about the colour of free-ranging hens' eggs seems to be borne out. The picture shows the three eggs from our hens (or hen) and a shop-bought supposedly-free-range one on the left.

23 September 2009

An hegg

"I expect they'll start laying when I'm away," I gaily predicted, not believing any such thing.
When I got back home last night from a week in the UK, I took my mother-in-law out to see the chickens, as she hadn't met them before. I demonstrated the little flap in the coop which gives access to the nest boxes, explaining that in theory we'd be able to gather eggs without disturbing the hens. And blow me down, there was a single, perfect egg sitting in one of the boxes, waiting for me to find it.

I half-suspected that Mike had put a shop-bought egg in there to trick me, but it is significantly smaller than the eggs we get from the supermarket and is a completely different colour. I was so proud and pleased!

14 September 2009

Mystery wildflower: please help!

Found an unusual plant in the woods yesterday. I thought I'd seen all the wildflowers that we have here, but this one is new to me. I'm sure that it must be easily identifiable: the leaves look almost like those of a banana plant, they're so large.

It would have been simpler to ID the plant if I'd come across it while it was flowering, I'm sure, but all that is left of the flowers are very long stalks and these dried heads. Leave a comment if you can help me out!

I'm not entirely sure which type of asters these are either (there's a long list of possible candidates). But they looked lovely with the sun setting behind them.

13 September 2009

Greenhouse gleanings

The greenhouse has been a real help for the more tender crops this summer as the weather has been cooler than we might have expected. Last year was similar: we had hardly any eggplants and none of the peppers ripened. With the additional heat captured inside the greenhouse this year I can't complain about either. This view of the centre raised bed shows the bumper crop of Corno di Toro Rosso peppers (with one of the eggplants peeping through towards the back of the shot).

I picked two pounds (850g) of these today and froze them.

Last year we had just one melon ripen in the garden. Which the dog stole because he thought it was a tennis ball. Well that's what I assume he was thinking. Maybe he just likes melons. This year we've had five so far and there are three more which are still green. The three in the photo are 'Golden Jenny'. The other variety I'm growing is called 'Tigger' and the fruit have an attractive stripy skin (you may have guessed this already). I like looking at both types - the Golden Jenny ones have an interesting embroidery effect on them - but I have to admit that I really don't like eating either of them. I'm just not keen on melons and the rest of the family are either ambivalent or hostile to them. I don't think I'll bother with them next year.

The raised beds in the greenhouse are so much a part of the garden now that they even have their own amphibians. This is the frog who inhabits the bed next to the water tank. This bed is now home to kale and broccoli plants (as well as the rainbow chard (and the clover (and the grass)) visible here) which I'm hoping will provide some winter greens for us. They've proved to be a target for cabbage white butterflies, so I'm relying on this frog to help me get rid of the caterpillars.

09 September 2009

A long gestation

One of the promises I made to myself on emigrating from England was that I would use some of the extra time I thought I'd have (hah!) to go back to the story I started writing on 17 November 1985. Which was a little while ago now. It had been knocking around in my mind for far too long and I needed to get rid of it and move on. I started writing it in pencil in a spiral-bound notebook all those years back, often while travelling to and from school on the bus. In later years, I used a computer to re-write the same scenes when the mood grabbed me. All of those early versions of the story are now lost, which is probably a good thing (although it doesn't reflect well upon my skills as an archivist, I do accept...).

Manchester Cathedral through raindrops
At Christmas in 2007, the year we emigrated, I did manage to get going on it again, but got stuck after I'd written down all those original ideas I'd had. Luckily, before I'd left Manchester* I'd confided my ambition to finish the story to a friend. On a visit back to the city in May this year I had dinner with her and she asked about it. Her enthusiasm for the basic plot outline re-energised me and over this summer I was able to craft it into a (short) novel. I was so pleased to have finally got this thing out of my system. But what was I going to do with it next?

I read Chris Anderson's book Free the other week. Free of charge, online (though it's now only available in that way in the US). This method of accessing the book was inspiring, especially when combined with the book's subject matter. In the old days, you needed to have agents, publishers and printers involved in order to share a story with other people. Which meant that you had to tout the manuscript around until someone decided it was worth smearing dead trees into sheets for (to borrow one of Anderson's phrases). Nowadays, it is easy to publish things online and the whole middle-person thing is less necessary. OK, that also means that there are some terrible pieces of work around, but at least they can find their own market and writers are able to get on with writing and to share if they choose to.

Which is all a round-about way of saying that my story is now out there: set free, sitting on a server somewhere for its audience to find it. Which I fully expect is not going to be the same audience as the people who read this blog (as it's basically a school story aimed at young adults). Oh well, I had to pimp it somewhere and if you've got a teenager lurking around the house, they might like it! I had a lot of fun writing it and testing it out on my not-quite-teenage daughter. I'm pleased with the way that self-publishing this book fits into our general ethos of self-sufficiency. There's another blog out there too, which covers the background to the story and my observations on the whole experience of self-publishing.

*The picture, in case you're wondering, is of Manchester Cathedral, as seen through raindrops on the Big Wheel in Exchange Square. Old, new and raining. Everything Manchester means to me, summed up in one photograph.

08 September 2009

Before the Fall

Nothing says 'Fall' to me as much as the sight of squashes and pumpkins. Of course I'm still thinking of the season itself as 'Autumn', but the way that these fruit are used here as decorations is sufficiently different to the way things are done in the UK to make the North American word the one that comes to mind when I admire my gourd, squash and pumpkin harvest.

I've just gone to the Oxford English Dictionary, to find that the word Fall was used in Britain, in the past, to describe the season. It originally appeared as a phrase: 'Fall of the leaf'. Which is rather lovely, don't you think?

06 September 2009

A glimpse of times past

Had a lovely walk around the Massassauga Point conservation area on the north coast of Prince Edward County this afternoon. This spot was once home to a hotel and was a popular resort. Now it is a pleasant tree-shaded place for an afternoon stroll, with good views of the Bay of Quinte.

One of the few passenger ships that is still cruising these waters went by as we got to the end of our walk. This is the Kawartha Voyageur, which does a five-day cruise from Peterborough to Kingston. Sounds like a lovely way of seeing the waterways.

One hundred years ago, these waters would have been busy with steamships. I love this view of the Brockville, anchored at Massassauga Point on 9 July 1908, with a party from the Presbyterian Sunday School in Deseronto on board for their summer picnic outing:

04 September 2009

"Daddy's on YouTube?!!"

This was the reaction from our children when they heard that Mike's green home interview was up on the internet. I think YouTube just lost its status in our house as a cool website to look at.

Here it is:

The videos of the other homes featured on the tour are all available from the Quinte Sustainability site.