29 September 2010

A bit garish

As a new undergraduate, all those years ago, I was waxing enthusiastic about the autumn colours to an American student who lived on the same corridor* as me.

"This is nothing!" she assured me. "I'll show you proper Fall colours**."

She dashed off and came back with a series of photographs which she had taken the previous year on her New England campus.

They were gorgeous. Vivid reds and oranges under a clear blue sky. But I wasn't going to admit that her American Fall was better than my British autumn.

"They're a bit garish, aren't they?" I sniffed.

I remember that the woman's first name was Susan. I'd like to take this moment to apologise to her for being so snotty. I'm cringing in embarrassment at the memory and trying not to let it prevent me from loving every minute of the Fall colours we seeing right now.

*In a room on the same corridor, of course. We weren't so hard up as all that. Still had student grants in those days...

**Being American, she probably would have said 'colors', of course.

22 September 2010

20 September 2010

First-time crops

A couple of success stories for the 2010 harvest, both vegetables I've not grown before and both plants that seem to thrive on neglect. Which is always good...

The swede/rutabaga were a surprise success. You can see from the photograph how stony our soil is, but these sturdy little plants have managed to produce good-sized roots despite that.

I've been growing winter squash of various types since we moved here, but this year was the first time I've grown butternut squash. These five fruit were all from the one plant. Next to them is the only pumpkin I've picked so far - there are two more on the plant, but they're still green and I'm not sure they'll reach maturity. The yellow ones are 'Small wonder' spaghetti squash, which have done brilliantly this year. I've picked over twenty so far and there are more still ripening on the vine.

19 September 2010

Just add water

Yesterday's not-so-fun job was emptying the chicken's stall of litter. There were about seven barrow-loads of it, which are now sitting outside the greenhouse, ready to be turned into chicken manure. Of course when you want it to rain, it doesn't, so I'll be watering this heap along with the greenhouse beds for the next week or so, to get the process going. Then once it's good and hot, I'll cover it with tarpaulin and let it rot down over the next few months.

When I look at this pile I'm planning how it's going to help improve my vegetable garden next year. I certainly hadn't thought about it as a source of food for anything other than my plants. But while doing a little research on how best to turn it into chicken manure I came across this disturbing article from last year about how cattle are being fed poultry litter to bulk out more expensive animal feed. This practice is illegal in Canada, but not in the US. How can anyone think that it's a good idea to feed faecal matter from one animal to another? Poor cows.

In case that has left a bad taste in your mouth, here are a couple of photos I took today of flowers and insects, to change the subject.

18 September 2010


The lake had its own blanket of mist, first thing this morning, forcing me out with my camera again.It was impossible to see to the other side, at first.

Away from the water, all was crisp and clear. The maple trees are beginning to show their autumn colours, tucked amongst summer's green:

By the time I got back to my starting point, the lake-cloud was thinning and the southern shore was just beginning to appear:

10 September 2010

The deep dark wood

Yesterday, Mike asked me if I wanted to see the area where he's been cutting up fallen trees (this question possibly being the homesteader's equivalent of 'Come up and see my etchings'). It's quite impressive, the amount of clearing that he has managed to do - there's a passable trail into the wood now. In some ways it's like a sculpture walk, with Ice Age granite rocks and striking lumps of wood from tree roots marking the way:

This second one is Halloweenish in nature. Like a ghoul, or the figure in Edvard Munch's The Scream.

02 September 2010

New order

The look of terror in the dog's eyes - and the supreme indifference in the cat's - sum up this new relationship perfectly.

Things are going slightly more smoothly in the chicken house, where Operation Chickentegration has been a success and the two flocks are now living in the same space. There's a bit of argy-bargy going on, but it's not just the older chickens occasionally pecking the younger ones: I saw one of the young hens having a go at the rooster twice this morning. Brave beast.

The chicks are happy to stay in the relative security of the barn and the adjoining run and they don't mix with the older hens much at the moment.