28 February 2011


I found some instructions on how to sprout alfafla seeds on Saturday. I started the process off and was pleased to see that on Sunday afternoon many of the seeds were already sending out small roots:

It works!

26 February 2011

Seedy Saturday

There's a seed-swapping event going on today in Picton. I've never been to one before, so wasn't sure about how they worked. But taking seeds seemed to be a key part of the whole concept, so I spent some time this morning bagging up some of the parsley, dill and coriander seeds I collected from the greenhouse herbs last summer.

There was a long table at the event, with different containers for different categories of seeds. I deposited my collection in the 'herb' basket and was then free to browse the others. I came away with some Dakota Black Popcorn, Green Arrow peas and a packet of Nicotiana sylvestris.

See those brown envelopes? They're just made from single sheets of paper. I felt bad about my seeds in their plastic bags when I saw them - I think they're great. Maybe next year...

There were seed vendors there, too, with a wide range of seeds for sale. I couldn't resist a packet of alfalfa seeds: I've been meaning to have a go at growing some seeds for sprouting for ages. Child#2 was given a packet of mixed sunflowers by the lady at the Edith Fox Life and Loss Centre's table and I listened to Vicki Emlaw of Vicki's Veggies give an interesting talk about the concept of seed sovereignty and how to go about saving lettuce seeds.

I'm glad I went along. Now I need to do some research to find out how best to sprout these alfalfa seeds...

23 February 2011

Early start

A dentist's appointment at 8am had the children and me on the road early this morning. We were rewarded with sparkling trees and bushes, coated with hoar frost. Not sure that these photos do it justice, though.

20 February 2011


I keep forgetting that I need to shut the cupboard doors these days.

18 February 2011

Chickens out

The cold and the depth of snow have kept the poor chickens confined to their coop for much of the last month-and-a-half.

With a few days of above-freezing temperatures at last, enough snow had melted to reveal some small patches of grass for them to eat today. It's been such a contrast to last winter, when they were out in the orchard much more often. I love seeing them scratching and pecking about outside.

14 February 2011


Last May I wrote a short post about how we're sponsoring Mike's mother to come and live with us here. We knew it was going to be a long wait before she would come out: parents and grandparents are not a priority for the immigration service.

Today's news about immigration rates is not good for our family and many others like us. There are 140,000 people in the parents-and-grandparents queue, it seems, and now they are only going to allow 11,000 in, each year. At this rate, it will be more than 10 years before our family will be reunited.

It's so frustrating and upsetting. A lot of new immigrants have no vote (ourselves included), so it's an easy way for the government to save money without losing the good opinion of voters. Indeed, reading the comments on that CBC article would suggest that this move is popular with many Canadians, who see immigration as a problem and people like my mother-in-law as a potential burden on the state.

All we want to do is offer my children's grandmother a place in our new life and the comfort of having her only family members around her. Apparently, it's too much to ask.

12 February 2011


The snow drifts are still getting bigger.

But so are the lettuce seedlings on the windowsill in the living room.

I am beginning to get tired of the snow, but not enough to stop taking pictures of it yet!

10 February 2011

It'll come in useful, one day

My parents had one of those fundamental personality differences in relation to 'stuff'. I think it's like the cat person/dog person distinction. Dad's tendency is always to keep a thing in case it might be useful, whereas Mum had more of a 'chuck it' mentality. My sympathies were with Mum, generally, and I am usually fairly ruthless in trying to keep the number of my possessions to a minimum.

This little trug is an exception. I received it as a Christmas present from a colleague, ooh, probably about 10 years ago now. It contained some hand-cream and hand-scrub for gardeners. It's too small to be of much use in harvesting garden produce, but I've always kept it, as it seemed too nice to throw away and I thought that maybe, one day, I would come up with a use for it.

Now we're getting a respectable number of eggs, that day has come, at last.

05 February 2011

Temporary installation

Art Gallery of Ontario: first impressions

It's hard to do justice to a gallery or museum on a first visit - there's always far too much to see and my legs always give up before I feel I've done the place justice. My overall impression of the AGO was positive, and my response to the physical space that was the Galleria Italia (below) was one of 'Wow!'.

I had time to visit the current exhibition on the Maharajas (worth seeing for the amazing restored Cartier diamond and ruby necklace towards the end, alone (the photo in that article doesn't do it justice)), the Canadian artists section, most of the European section on level 2 and the ship models in the basement. These are watched over by a splendid lion figurehead. Which I wasn't allowed to photograph and which isn't online anywhere, so you'll just have to imagine it. You can see highlights of the Canadian Collection on the gallery's website. It's a shame that you can't click from one image to the next, rather than having to go back to the list all the time, but at least you can see some of the artworks without having to visit Toronto.

My favourite piece of art in the Canadian section was Franklin Carmichael's Cranberry Lake (1931) - the way he's captured the sun on the water and the eerie shapes of the dead trees in the foreground. In the European section the image which caught my attention the most was James Tissot's The Shop Girl
- I love the tangle of ribbons on the counter. I was also fascinated by the carved items in the Thomson Collection - some of them quite macabre, such as the rosary pendant showing a skull being eaten by worms and lizards. The incredibly intricate wooden carvings in prayer beads were also amazing - such detailed work in such a tiny space.

I paid a visit to the basement café, which was rather a disappointment after the rest of the gallery. Like having a cup of tea in someone's basement, in fact. I think they could have made it a more interesting space. But, perhaps, as so often happens, the money ran out before the basement could be properly finished. ;-)

03 February 2011

More white things

The promised storm left us with some impressive snow drifts yesterday. The tractor's snow-blowing attachment hasn't seen a lot of use this winter, but it was proving handy this morning. Yesterday was the first Wednesday when I haven't driven to Deseronto because of the weather. In our first winter I drove through a few storms like that (they always seem to happen on a Wednesday), determined not to be thought of as wimpish and probably giving myself a few more grey hairs in the process. These days I'm more sensible.

The dog disturbed an animal in the barn yesterday - all I saw of it was its tail, which was rather like a cat's in shape and size, white with a black tip. It hid in the woodpile before I could get a better look at it. At first I thought it was a cat, but a bit of hunting around on Wikipedia suggests that it was a stoat in its white winter coat. Which is ermine, of course. Nice to see it on the animal instead of trimming someone's robes. Not that I spend an awful lot of time with nobles in full regalia, it has to be said. If the stoat's going to eat the rats and mice in the barn, then I'm quite happy - but I am worried about the chickens...

Talking of pests, I had to do a bit of snow-clearing myself. While Mike was negotiating the tractor around one of the trees at the back of the house, the blowing snow hit the back door, forcing it open. Our utility room rapidly filled up with snow:

Mike's slippers were one of the main casualties. Which I feel is a suitable penalty for making me shovel snow indoors.

This evening, Mother Nature is the one doing the snow blowing: