Sunday, June 25, 2006

Lordy, Lordy, look at the Garden now

We've had a wonderfully cool and wet beginning to summer. So far we've had sun in the mornings and rain in the evenings. Not so much rain that I fear the garden will drown, but enough rain that I've only had to water the garden once in the last three weeks.

The garden is loving it and producing very well indeed. There are a few dozen baby pea pods on the peas. The spinach is growing full as are the beets, carrots, and bush beans We have blooms on all the squash and gourd plants and quite a few baby squash too. There are three small zucchini and at least six baby summer squash. It's hard to keep my fingers away from them. I want so badly to have fresh squash for supper tonight but I am being good and letting them grow a little bigger.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Someone is in the Kitchen

I have many pleasures in life, one of them cooking. I grew up in the Southern USA so there are many cultural meals we cook for ourselves that we can't get anywhere else. In the area I grew up in, it was easy to find pulled pork sandwiches, cornbread, fresh cooked greens, black-eyed peas, and biscuits at the local eateries. Here in Canada, those every day, common man, meals can only be found in my own kitchen.

I'm not sure that PeterC really enjoyed my cooking when we first got married. PeterC is of French - English ancestry and quite unused to the common meals of my old home. And, if I am completely truthful, I wasn't the best cook when it came to my cultural meals. I could cook a mean pulled pork sandwich but the finer points of southern cooking resisted my attempts.

It wasn't until we moved to Sparrow Haven that I finally learned how to cook southern style meals correctly. I can only attribute that to an old, 1932, Watkin's Cookbook that I purchased on Ebay. It didn't teach me southern style cooking but it gave me the recipes for frugal, common, everyday foods which is the quintessential essence of Southern Cooking.

Or maybe, I matured enough to appreciate the simpler fare that has allowed poor families to survive on what little food they could scratch from the dirt. Perhaps that is more the truth for as I age I find myself thinking fondly on those meals that I detested as a child. At the rate I'm going, I will be my mother in another twenty years or so.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Spring to Summer, Overnight

We've gone from a cool, wet spring to a hot, dry summer - overnight. Yesterday morning it was cloudy and warm but a breeze kept us cool. By yesterday afternoon the wind had died, the sun had come out, and the temperature started climbing.

It's a blistering day here at Sparrow Haven. At the time of this writing it is 33C. Even the birds have decided to stay in the shade and try to keep cool. The garden is showing some signs of wilting under the sun but the meteorologists are predicting rain tonight. Of course, they are also predicting a low of only 19C tonight. Summer is truly here.

With an older home like Sparrow Haven we have an advantage over many of the newer homes being built. The walls of the house are 10 inches thick, and the house has a 6ft deep crawl space that stays 15C year round. Besides acting as a great cool storage cellar, the cool air radiates up through the floors of the first level. With the 9ft ceilings on the first floor the temperature downstairs stays 23C as long as we keep the windows closed and the blinds drawn.

Upstairs is a slightly different story. The upstairs' ceiling is barely 7ft so all the heat from down stairs rises up and heats the small space. We keep one or two windows on the shady side of the house open to allow the hot air to escape as much as possible. The roof is galvanized tin which also helps to prevent heat build up. Still, the temperature in the second story is 25C. Once the sun goes down we will open all the upstairs windows to flush the heat out and draw more cool air from the cellar, before we go to bed.

Even with all the advantages our older home offers us, I suspect we will have the air conditioner in the window by the 2nd week of July. But if luck and weather holds out we will only use it until the end of August, when the temperatures start dropping at night allowing us to use our natural cooling system once again.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Sunshine at Last

I didn't think we were going to see sun this year but believe it or not it's been sunny two days in a row. The weather casters are calling for more rain tomorrow but today I am happy. The garden has responded very well to the recent change in the weather.

New leaves are coming out all over and the Alaska Sweet Peas are blooming even though a rabbit did its best to eat them all back to six inches high. The lettuce is beginning to thicken up in the center, getting ready to create a head. The second spinach bed we planted is doing so well that we could eat spinach every night for supper and not pick it all. Definitely a good chance of at least some of the peppers surviving and maturing.

The biggest surprise was how well the various kinds of squash are doing. We planted Buttercup, Spaghetti, Summer Hybrid, Butternut, Yellow Crook-Neck, and Zucchini this year. The Spaghetti squash didn't come up at all and the Crook-Neck hasn't sprouted yet but everything else is growing strong and putting out new leaves on an almost daily basis.

The pole beans I planted are really coming up but the corn we planted with the beans didn't sprout. I'm not sure why I plant corn every year but each year I try a different kind, or a different method of growing it. Each year it will either ignore my attempts or send up weak little sprouts that succumb to the ravages of raccoons and squirrels.

All in all not a bad turn out this year at all.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Holy Toads!

I learned something new today that I would like to share with you. Toads can climb fences and are quite good at it too.

During our daily tour of the garden to see how things are progressing I noticed this fellow cruising along at a pretty good clip up the plastic fence around one of our raised beds. While PeterC ran for the camera, I watched our little dare devil climb confidently higher one step at a time. He would reach up with his front foot, grab the plastic, then bring his hind leg up to the next strand. First his front right and left rear, then his front left and right rear. Hand over hand like an experienced mountain climber. Quite amazing and amusing to watch.

When PeterC finally arrived with the camera, the toad stopped climbing and held on while the photo was being take. PeterC took several pictures to make sure we got one good one and it was a good thing too. Out of seven photos taken only one turned out nice and clear. Finally the toad jumped from the fence and headed into the higher grass. I'm pretty sure he would have finished his climb up if we hadn't bumped the fence trying to get one more close-up photo. Isn't nature fascinating?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Throw Away Pets

One of the more unfortunate things about living in the country, even a more urban area such as ours, is the number of pets who get abandoned and left to fend for themselves. The owners seem to think that pets are throw away toys to be used, abused, and tossed when it is no longer convenient.

Even though many of the residents live here year round, there are several part time residents. In a few of the cases of abandoned animals these part time residents are to blame. They bring a kitten of puppy out to the summer cottage to keep the kids busy, but when it is time to return to the city they assume their neighbours will be more than happy to take on one more mouth to feed. Unfortunately, most of these poor creatures are hit by cars or accidentally poisoned. I'm sure more than a few get completely lost and end up starving to death. A few of the lucky ones will be taken in by a local resident or at the very least delivered to the OSPCA for care and hopeful adoption.

Most of the blame lies at the feet of people who have no attachment to the area at all. They drive through, seeing homes ranging in size and value from hovel to palace, and figure this is a good place to dump their animals. These drive bys will drop an animal off in front of a home or worse yet near the pier under the assumption that because people live here year round they must be able and willing to take on yet another animal. Some get lucky.

Sunday, while PeterC and I were doing outside chores, a bedraggled looking mutt wondered into the yard. He had a collar but no tags and it was obvious he hadn't been brushed or groomed in a very long time. Even though he was friendly enough we could not take in another animal so he was taken to the OSPCA in the next town over. There, we hoped, he will be cleaned up and find a good home where he will be taken care of and kept for the rest of his days.

Animals are a life long responsibility but it is possible to get in over your head. Instead of dropping your unwanted pets in a community in the hopes that someone will take it in, please take it to the local animal shelter where it will be given a chance to survive and find a loving home that can take care of it.

Even though each SPCA has different rules and regulations about drop offs, in our case there were no accusations, recriminations, or even fees. The people there took our phone number and the location the dog was found. In the end he is being given a chance that so many other throw away pets don't get.