26 October 2009

Greenhouse goodies (and baddies)

The protection of the two layers of plastic sheeting have kept the greenhouse tomatoes going long after the outside ones were killed by frost. The chard and the parsley are still looking good, too, although the basil has succumbed to the colder weather.

The other things that are thriving are the cabbage (white) caterpillars. I haven't seen a butterfly for weeks, but there seems to be a healthy crop of caterpillars on the kale and broccoli plants in the greenhouse every time I go in there.

Having feasted on my brassicas, the caterpillars are in turn feasted upon by the chickens. They come running if I go anywhere near their orchard run, in the hope that they'll get caterpillars or something else that's good to eat.

The chickens then convert the caterpillars into eggs for us to eat, so I can't complain too much!

25 October 2009

Dark as December

In the mornings, anyway. As the clocks don't go back until the early morning of the first day of November, the sun will be rising at 7.45am here by Hallowe'en: exactly the same time as it will be rising in late December/early January. Last year, when the clocks went back a day later, the sun rose at 7.47am, causing our darkest morning of the year to happen on November the first, rather than around the winter solstice. Which seemed very wrong.

I hate the dark mornings (can you tell?), although I suppose they do give me the chance to see the sunrise more often.

18 October 2009

Cabbages again (and again)

...bread and margarine for breakfast, boiled potatoes and cabbage for lunch, and cabbage soup for supper. Sundays were a bit better. They all looked forward to Sundays because then, although they had exactly the same, everyone was allowed a second helping.*
I've been a bit haunted by the Bucket family's diet lately, as the cabbage crop has been the runaway success (I'm not sure if that is actually the right word) of this year's vegetable garden. I've already blogged about the sauerkraut I made in the summer. On Friday I pulled up a lot of the remaining cabbages. Many are hanging by their roots (that sounds terribly cruel doesn't it?) in the root-cellar part of our basement.

This weekend I have pickled about two and a half pounds of red cabbage:

And there are still more cabbages out there:

I haven't tried making cabbage soup yet, but it might be on the menu soon...

*Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

15 October 2009


Was compelled to stop driving twice in the last two days in order to record some of the glorious colours of the season. The trees above are on Burr Road in Prince Edward County, next to the cemetery there. The pumpkin patch below is just south of Highway 401 near Trenton.

13 October 2009

Bird trouble

Since June we've been getting our meat from a CSA (community-supported agriculture) scheme. The farm is run by Colleen and John Nyman and is a mere 20 miles (32km) from our house. It is much harder to buy free-range meat here than it was in the UK and I'm a lot happier now that I know that the meat we're eating came from animals that have been treated humanely.

When I heard that the Nymans were offering turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas I was thrilled. John told us when he delivered them that they had come from the same supplier as our chickens - they hatched about a week later, I think. It's the first year that the Nymans had reared turkeys and they did rather too good a job - the birds we received were both around the 25lb mark. Yikes!! As you can see, the one we had for Thanksgiving just fitted in my oven (and yes, I did take the bag off before roasting it).

Despite my misgivings about the size, the turkey cooked beautifully, and in much less time than the experts would recommend. I don't know if it's just the convection oven that makes the difference, but this bird was perfectly cooked after three hours at 325°F. If I'd left it for the five hours that it should have had, then it would have been dry and inedible.

All the vegetables for the Thanksgiving feast came from our barnyard, meaning that about 90% of the food we ate came from very local sources. Flour and dairy products were the exceptions. Overall, that is something that I am truly happy to give thanks for.

Our own birds caused me some heartache today. There were only eleven in the run when Mike opened it to let them out into the orchard. I thought I'd counted all twelve back in there last night, but must have missed one. I was very depressed to think that we'd lost a chicken - and of course it would be one of the hens and not a rooster. Two hours later I noticed a hen in the vegetable garden so went out to return her to the orchard. I counted eleven again, but then checked in the barn and there was another hen sitting in one of the nest boxes. The one I found in the vegetable garden did look a bit bedraggled, so must have been out all night (it was raining for much of it). I hope she's learnt her lesson!

07 October 2009

Furry and unfashionable

I'm not the person you'd consult on any sort of fashion, be it haute couture or horticulture, but I recently read a remark about sumac (sorry, can't remember where!) that suggested this is a deeply unfashionable plant among UK gardeners. I do recall my parents putting a sumac tree into our 1970s garden. Mind you, they painted the walls of the bathroom orange at around the same time, so maybe the current unpopularity of sumac is a response to 1970s bad taste in general (sorry, Dad).

Staghorn sumacs (Rhus typhina) grow wild here (often in large groups along the side of the roads) and I'm going to thumb my nose at those who dislike them because I think they are beautiful plants, particularly at this time of year, when their colours are so vivid. I took a series of photos of a big clump of them on my way home tonight to prove my point. Then found I'd left my camera cable at work, so couldn't download them. Bah. This picture is from an obliging Flickr user called tboard who has allowed others to make use of it. It's even better than mine would have been, as the sun is shining through the leaves, which it wasn't here today.

04 October 2009

Return on investment

Now that the chickens are beginning to pay for their keep I've been turning my attention to the ways in which the other living creatures I feed are contributing to the household. As far as I can see, neither the dog nor the children are really turning any sort of profit. I saw this dog-powered treadmill in the Ameliasburg Historical Museum yesterday. I'm sure it could be adjusted to run on kid-power, too. Would just have to find a way of attaching it to the TV so that they could only watch it while walking or running...

Barn views

A heavy shower last night produced a once-in-a-lifetime rainbow that perfectly echoed the arch of the greenhouse, as seen from the doorway of the chicken's barn. I couldn't fit the whole thing into one shot, but it was a pleasing sight.

Today I discovered that we have at least two laying hens. They were sitting in their respective nest boxes when I visited the barn to feed the chickens some leftover spaghetti squash. There were two eggs when I went back just now. This is the first day we've had more than one egg, bringing the average since they started laying up to one a day. Is it a bit sad of me to have set up a spreadsheet with this information in it?

So the only two productive members of the flock were the two who failed to benefit from the extra food, which was quickly demolished by this bunch of slackers:

Get to work, you lot!