Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June, wonderful june

Say hello to Bob, a Great Horned Owl of the genus Bobblehead. Here he is on the job, guarding the strawberries. He manages to intimidate the berry thieving robins but the crows just laugh at him. Crows love a good joke.

They know how to pull out the new corn seedlings to get at the kernel beneath the ground and got nearly half the crop before I saw what was going on. We re-planted in the blank spots, (thus the two sizes of corn plants. ) We put Bob on the fence and the crows were furious, roundly cursing him out til one brave soul landed on the fence, slowly sidled up to him and announced to the others, " He's a fake!" and dinner was back on. The corn has been under cover ever since but should be safe at this size to unwrap.

The first of the strawberries are ripening but since we havent had a decent rain in a month they are small and sparse. No berries for market this year, I will need what there is for jam.

The grafting workshop I went to at Corn Hill Nursery in April paid off for me. More than half of my grafts took! Eventually the host branch beyond the grafts gets cut off and the new grafted branches grow to take it's place. ( I didn't have grafter's bees wax so I melted an old beeswax candle, That's what the purple is.)

Every day has a multitude of tasks, I wake up in the night thinking I want to do this and this and this...Some of it gets done, everything takes longer than planned. A whiff of lilac on the breeze can put me off track til I go bury my nose in a blossom...June has so much to enjoy. This month watering and weeding are eating up the days. Already we are by our 5th Farmer's Market in the Village of St Martins.
So far I have had lots of different salad greens, radishes, beet greens, kale, chard, chinese cabbage, granola, chewy healthy bars, and hummus.
Next week I will have the first...


Dear little Freckles is dutifully raising another brood of 11 meat chickens. They are now at the gangly teenage stage but still try to crowd in underneath mama hen when they get cold. At this point about 3 will fit so when one crowds in under the front 2 come rolling out from behind. She is extraordinarily patient and loving with them.

May was a sad month for us. We lost Chicken Little, star of my children's book, and a fox got Thing One, my Polish pet hen with the wild hairdo topknot. The fox took 2 more good young laying hens so the flock has been confined to their run since then. They are not at all pleased.

The worst thing that happened in may was losing Celine, my mini mare I had for 20 years. She went way overdue with her foal and it finally presented in an impossible way with no front legs forthcoming. It was a nightmare and the vet could do nothing but euthanise her, so we lost both.

There is an indefinable sadness in the barnyard that doesnt seem to be abating, Celine was such a long term presence...we have decided to buy back one of her foals, now 7 years old and we look forward to her coming back home in mid august.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

April nearly gone..

Not much blogging going on this month because there is so much to do in the garden and greenhouses. No end of seeding, transplanting and transplanting again. The mesclun salad mix and radishes planted in the soil of the high tunnel look to be on schedule for their first harvest for our St Martins Farmers Market, opening may 20th.
Sometimes I imagine the plants are looking at me reproachfully.."Put me in a bigger pot, NOW !"
Things are more or less on schedule but for the end of the month cold snap..2 more nights of -3C forcast , 2 more nights of scurrying bleary eyed to tend the wood stove in the tunnel greenhouse twice a night. At the same time there are nocturnal visits to the barn to see if the mini foal has landed yet. The mare looks at me as if to say, "What you again? Go to bed and stay there!"

Instead of a series of young Wwoofers helping and learning this year we have Gudrun from Germany, here for 6 weeks to learn about growing for home and market in the Maritimes. A formidable woman with a set of bush nippers, here she is pruning the shoots off the big linden trees after singlehandedly pruning all the nasty thorny blackberries and the remaining raspberries.
We had a fun day off and did a road trip to Corn Hill Nursery near Petitcodiac for a learning seminar on grafting and pruning fruit trees, where we learned a lot. I bought my replacement raspberry and strawberry plants there. The raspberry patch ran down years ago but it was only last summer I was able to prepare new ground in an area with better drainage.

This is the new garden that grew a crop of buckwheat last summer, that was green manured, horse manured and had bags and bags of leaves turned under. Its a crumbly joy to work with and so full of earthworms. There are four  95' rows of raspberry plants (hard to see but all 200 of them are there) and a row of potatoes between each raspberry row.  I like to get the early potatoes in asap for market, and then I take my time with the late storage types. We should get a decent berry crop next year and a really magnificent crop the third year. Which is when I will probably be hanging out the u-pick sign.
Today the leeks finally got planted, we really do need more hours in the day...Gudrun is making holes with the dibble and dropping a baby leek in each hole , followed by a small bit of soil. This gets the base of the plant down deep where it will blanch. The rain will gradually wash in more soil as the top of the plant grows up out of the hole.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Little plants everywhere

Soooo busy with seeding and transplanting, moving flats about to keep tender seedlings in the warmest places, keeping the fire going at night in the plastic high tunnel... it feels like I have a large ever expanding green family to take care of.
Most things start off in the house under lights, with the really fussy stuff like peppers and tomatoes germinating all cosy and warm on a plug-in heat mat.

Then the messy transplanting work  to individual pots takes place in the glass greenhouse.

There is supplemental electric heat at night when it's needed.
In the plastic high tunnel the salad greens and radishes are up .
Here's the nasty surprise we woke up to yesterday ! Two very different perspectives in this house...Jimmy : " Wow ! Look at the beautiful winter wonderland !'
Me : "Oh noooooo!! #**!!%*!
We put a woodstove in the tunnel a few weeks back, which has enabled me to plant in late march.

I'm so glad I got this garden tilled up the day before. That's last fall's composted chicken house litter, all winter's wood ashes, a layer of grass clippings and some patches of fall rye being mixed under. Good stuff.
And here is tomorrow's project. I was SO excited to open this package today! I think this material from will be perfect to go with the painted compass in the cottage reno project 2 posts back. There should be enough to make two sets of curtains and a cover for the mattress in the kid's reading corner. Rain forcast for tomorrow...perfect!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ouch! that had to hurt!

My poor hen! This egg is HUGE! After a scarcity of eggs all winter the girls are making up for lost time and really cranking them out. I never cared much for eggs, its the icky texture i guess...but made into a kale omelet I can eat them even without a piece of toast to help them down.
This is the neverending kale, planted from seed last spring, transplanted to the garden where I picked it all summer and fall for the Farmers Market and csa boxes, then transplanted yet again in November back into the glass greenhouse, where I picked it all winter. It was unheated except for the winter sun, and unfazed by regular freezing and thawing. Now I need the bed space in the greenhouse for seedling trays so it's being transplanted back to the garden again.

I take a handful of leaves and chop them..
Whisk together with one or two eggs from happy free range hens. Those deep orangey yolks show that they're finding lots of green feed. Way less cholesterol and way more omega 3's and vit E than factory eggs.
Of course you can add chopped mushrooms, onion , whatever you like. I cook it gently with a lid on so the greens sort of steam a little.

Flip, add a bit of cheese and fold over... Flip
Enjoy a very healthy breakfast!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Slow and steady progress on the reno...

This cottage reno project is taking for-EVER. It's because one thing keeps leading to another, like you paint the new section of wall and its so clean and fresh it makes the ceiling look dingy, so you paint the ceiling and then notice how banged up the baseboards and trim are ...and on and on. Then a notion comes along in the middle of the night when I cant sleep for the wheels turning, that some specialty cut shingles would look nice on the outside project so the last two days I have been in the workshop making 214 pointy shingles for just one wall of a wrap around the house design.

Ben is applying them with his fancy air powered stapler. Makes my previous efforts with shingle nails look downright archaic. The old board and batten underneath was badly cracked and letting in a lot of air. He took off the battens, applied tyvek vapor barrier, then a layer of foil backed insulative foam sheets and then the shingles. It's so great to find a concientious carpenter, I've never seen anyone use silicon caulking so diligently! He will do just this side wall and the back wall at this time, as the budget allows. That ratty looking eave board will be covered with white metal cladding. At this stage of life it's all about no maintenance.
Here's the new kids playroom upstairs over the kitchen. I'm waiting for just the right fabric, with blue and brick red to come along, for curtains for the 3 windows and a cover
for the cot mattress in the reading corner. There are lots of picture and chapter books for tots to teens. I was the kind of kid who would have made a beeline for the reading nook. The toy box is one I made for my boys who are now in their mid and late 20's and it always reminds me of how adorable they were when I see it.
The pair of doors in the knee wall open to a storage area and a great hiding place.

I think this will be a real plus for our summer tourist renters, to have a separate kid's play area, especially on rainy days.
Back to cutting more pointy shingles tomorrow...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reno project chapter 4 and some more work on the current painting..

This compass design, adapted from an old map image has kept me busy at the cottage the last couple of weeks. It's handy to the little upper deck  looking out on the Bay where we can see the lobster and scallop boats coming and going. The biggest part of the job was getting rid of the plasticy varnish finish on the hardwood floor, in the circle and the diamonds. That stuff is thick and hard as nails. Using an electric sander just gums up the sandpaper in no time. Next I tried an environmentally friendly stripper, which was supposed to work in less than an hour, but 3 hours later had done nothing. Finally I went at it with a couple of paint scrapers which I sharpened countless times. At last the bare wood appeared and was ready for sanding and staining. Next came the design, based on concentric circles using a stick with holes drilled in it. A nail goes through the hole which will be the center, and a pencil lead goes through the other holes.
    This is the area I have been working on to make a playroom for our summer cottage rental kids, and also I'm looking forward to a visit from the western grandchildren come fall.
Lovely little sisters, can't wait to see them.
So here is the new whitewashed t&g v-groove ceiling over the kitchen, finished except for doing a spot of white paint on the bottom of the joist hangers.
I'm really really happy with it. The top side of this is the rest of the playroom floor, yet to be sanded, stained to match the background of the compass, and varathaned a number of times. This has been a satisfying winter project, although it's been hard to get anything else done.
Like this watercolor that has been hanging on and on. Since the last post I have tightened it up some, mostly darkening the darks to create more contrast. I'm not sure if it's finished or not, wondering if I should re-paint the tractor in red or green (?) for more visual impact. That blue t-shirt kid 4th from left on the load, who was me, remembers clearly it was a gray tractor... I call this "Farmer's Heyday".

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reno project chapter 3 and a bit of painting

Here's my new best friends, an electrician and a builder, arriving today. Young people with good backs who can wrestle those floor joists into place that I was preparing 2 and 3 posts back.
Here's Misty organising some pot lights upstairs. Electricity and all its hidden wires is a complete mystery to me. When Ben gets the new ceiling in over the kitchen, she will install a couple of track lights down there.

Most of the joists are up, tomorrow I'll be excited to see the T&G floor/ceiling go on and the railing come out.
It's been hard to get any pictures painted with all this other stuff going on. Here is an old photo I thought I'd use as a reference for a watercolor.
1958, Canning , Nova Scotia, what a wonderful carefree time to have a childhood...nowadays those kids would have hemets on and safety harnesses... or more likely be on the couch in front of a screen. The 4th kid from the left is me at age 8. At another farm closer to home, I was usually the only kid around at haying time and I got to drive the tractor as the men forked up the hay and built the load.
I stretched a piece of watercolor paper, did my pencil drawing and washed in some sky, blotting out clouds with a tissue. I dabbed on bits of masking fluid here and there to protect areas I wanted to keep white as sun highlights, and most of the rest got a warm yellow ochre wash.
Next I made up some background, painting  each section more bluish towards the horizon to make the landscape recede. The tractor is going to be gray so I wet the area plus anything else that will be dark with plain water, and then dab in watery colors that will blend on their own to make a neutral gray, cobalt blue, aureolin, and rose madder. I left this alone knowing it would dry lighter .
 With a damp brush I loosened the color in the spots where the sun would make a highlight and blotted off most of the color with a tissue. Then came some darks for the underneath layers of the hay. Now it's at the ugly stage where it's easy to get discouraged and go do something else. More progress in the next post.

Monday, February 6, 2012

DIY - Easy garden seat/kneeler

Every year the Vesey's seed catalog has these dream items in their back pages, (as in "Look at that price! Dream on!")
And every year my knees and hips get a year creakier and this bench looks more and more appealing, especially the kneeling side with those 2 legs to use to push oneself back upright.
So with recycling close to my heart, I had an idea to make such a bench with that great $4.00 piece of 3/4" plywood I picked up at the Re-Store, just in case I might need it someday.
Here's my version , yet to be painted or stained. The dimensions are basically the same as the $55. model, but it weighs less, 6 3/4 lbs. I'm glad to say my behind is not 24" wide but I guess the seat has to be that wide so that when using the kneeling side, the uprights don't get in the way of working arms. The ends are 3/4 " plywood, the seat is a 5/8" plywood scrap rabbeted into the ends . The purple pads are those dollar store children's foam mats that fit together in squares. They are held on with elastic til I find some big rubber bands.

Underneath I used L brackets to stabilise and strengthen the glued joints. Next trip to the dollar store I think I'll add another layer of foam padding to the knee side of this creation.
A fun and satisfying day in out of the cold, tinkering in the workshop with a pot of tea on the woodstove. And one more thing crossed off the summer to-do list.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Reno project chapter two..and other ramblings

After an awful LOT of tedious sanding, crack and knot filling, and then sanding again, now this floor space making project is getting to be more fun. Today I started the whitewashing of the underside of the 2x6 t&g that will be the kitchen ceiling. After a bit of trial and error I settled on a mix of 1 part water to 3 parts paint to make a wash that will reflect light but still show the pretty grain of the wood.
30 pieces of 12' t&g and 14 2x8 joists to paint, I might be finished by the end of the week...

You just slop on the paint and rub it into the wood with a rag.

Then follow with a dry cloth, wiping off any excess paint. This is just some ceiling paint I had leftover from a couple of years ago. Easier to do this now than up over my head once it's in place.
Yesterdays storm has left us with a couple inches of icy snow. Here is a crowd of robins from 2 days ago. Poor things, I don't know how they're going to find anything to eat now. When I hear their calls it sounds like spring can't be far away.

Spring has sprung for sure in the plant room upstairs. Delicious mesclun mix is ready for salads and sandwiches. I plant a few varieties of seeds every day. A great discovery this season was Gardens North in Annapolis Royal , NS. where I found seed for Trailing Arbutus, mayflower, my all time favorite flower fragrance. I have missed mayflowers in spring ever since I grew up and left Nova Scotia. As kids we would pick bunches and stand at the side of the road holding them out to passing cars. People would stop and buy a generous bunch for a nickel and a really big bunch for a dime. That was our Juicy Fruit Gum money.
Sure hope these tiny seeds will germinate...but I'll be keeping the flowers this time around.