Archive for May, 2011
Although the weather of the past few weeks has often been wet and dreary, I’ve tried to make the best of it by working on the yard and gardens. The entire front yard is now fenced – some parts rather wimpily, but plenty strong enough to contain my collies. Fortunately, they are not much for testing boundaries by leaping over, crawling under, or pushing through any kind of barrier. They are quite content to patrol the garden, wagging their tails as they bark at anything that seems out of place, but soon returning to sit or lie next to me while I work. They are such great companions and friends often remark on how the three of us seem like some kind of tribe. Perhaps our nomadic life is responsible for our tribal behaviour, looking out for one another, and never wandering out of sight or earshot. Whatever, it is a comfortable relationship.
As described in my last post, there is now a strawberry bed where once was a heap of rotting planks. Fifty new plants are doing well. Never one to let unoccupied garden space go to waste, I stuck a couple of dozen red onion seedlings in between the plants, reasoning that they can spend the summer growing and provide me with green tops and the odd onion for a salad as needed.
The perennial flower garden has been greatly expanded to accommodate about forty new plants. Half came from a friend’s flower garden at Bear River. A few more came from the plant sale held during the Annapolis Royal Magnolia Festival. The most recent batch came from the Champlain Garden Society sale held at the farmers’ market last weekend. My bill came to an even fifty dollars, and everyone was of the opinion that I was probably their best customer of the day. I returned home with the van jammed full of foxgove, hostas, daylilies, lady’s mantle, and other wonderful plants. All of this goes some way toward lessening the sting of abandoning a good many plants when I sold our farm two years ago. Of course, it’s difficult to replace plants given to you over thirty-plus years by friends and family, but I’m feeling more philosophical about things these days and beginning to regard plants dug from new friends’ gardens as being part of something larger – a great web of old favourites that everyone has been sharing with fellow gardeners. Different faces, but the same roots.
Anyhow, added to all of the above are two new rhododendrons which join the three planted last year – the one in the above photo is Nova Zembla (click on all images for larger views).
To round things out, I purchased quite a few herbs and some tomato plants – medium-sized yellow “Taxi” and “Green Zebra” – as those are low acid varieties. Everything is doing well, thanks to all the rain. The garden actually looks pretty good – as befits a much nicer house. Although it may not look too bad from the outside, it’s still at the “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” stage.
This year, I’ve made it my goal to try to visit the Annapolis Royal Farmers’ Market as often as possible. As most of you know, I am a notorious recluse when not traveling across the continent. It is not unusual for me to avoid going anywhere I can’t walk to on my own two feet, for at least two or three weeks at a time – which is actually not such a bad thing from an environmental standpoint. However, I’ve been thinking that perhaps a little contact with the human race could be beneficial, so I’ll make the weekly effort to drive the five or so kilometers to town on Saturday mornings. I’ve been twice now and have purchased excellent bread from a local bakery, the above-mentioned herb and tomato plants, some handmade soap from one of my Round Hill neighbours who got started into that business last summer, and two gorgeous glass insulators which I shall have to flaunt on m blog once I get round to taking some photos. In any case, I’m doing my best to help support the local economy.
To add to all of this excitement and activity, I’ve begun this season’s effort at photographing nocturnal moths and already turned up a couple of new (for me) species. More about that sometime soon. Also, I decided to sign up with the Maritimes Butterfly Atlas project to do the atlas square in which Round Hill is located. As many may remember, Don and I used to participate in several nature-related citizen science monitoring programs before our lives went to hell in a handbasket in 2007.
Little by little, I’m trying to carry on alone, picking up our lost trail. My hope is that, by getting involved in this and other similar programs, I will gradually feel more a part of this place.
Lastly, over the weekend, I began what will probably be one of those epic projects that takes a whole season of spare hours when a break is needed from working on the house. I plan to build a walking trail from the house down to the river – a steep and slippery slope – and from there, carry on along the shore until looping back through the trees. This would give me better access to this rambling bit of property which, although not all that large, seems bigger than its footprint due to the irregular shoreline and terraced woodland. The photo below is the view looking down the steep hillside from the house. I’ve progressed about a third of the way to the shoreline. It’s a start.
The dogs and I have returned to the old house at Round Hill. The weather has been very cold and damp – a familiar scene around much of North America this spring. I was feeling as though I must be turning into a wimp, but after overhearing a few conversations at the hardware and grocery stores this week, it appears that I’m in good company as there was much cursing and moaning on the part of the local population.
In spite of the weather, the dogs and are are doing okay, but have had to spend an inordinate amount of time holed up in the living room which has been converted into a bedroom-office. I have taken to calling it my Cape Evan’s hut. Although much work on the house is planned for this summer, for now, it’s too wet and miserable to work up much interest in carpentry. Instead, I’m devoting my time and energy into yard clean-up and gardening. Two new rhododendrons, fifty strawberry plants of two varieties, and about two dozen large perennial clumps were purchased for the garden and I have been busily working up garden space and planting the latest acquisitions. Also added is the Mexican Talavera ceramic coyote which I carefully packed and brought back from Bisbee (see above). To me, he seems like the embodiment of desert light, brightening up an otherwise misty coastal garden. I had hoped to bring back a large iguana as well, but after packing my van for the trip home, I realized that the iguana would have made an already crowded situation even worse. Maybe next year.
About the middle of last week, I was struck by a brainstorm for solving the problem of what to do about a big heap of crumbling planks in the back garden. It was too large and rotted to load up and move to a waste disposal site. However, I reasoned that it would make good organic fill for the hollow at the end of the yard. It took about fifteen wheelbarrow loads to move everything to the new location. During the clean-up process a 4.5 cm red eft was exposed (see above). An eft is the terrestrial juvenile stage of a newt – in this case, of the Red-spotted Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens). Sorry for having disturbed the eft, I relocated it to the end of the garden where I dumped the rotted wood. Hopefully the little creature will find adequate food and shelter.
After removing the last of the wood, I dug up a bed in which to plant two varieties of strawberries – Annapolis Early, and Bounty, which is a late season variety.
Also found in the tangle of grass and rotted wood was the above snail. I wrote to my friend, Dr. Fred Schueler, to find out which species it might be. He identified it as Cepaea hortensis. Here is another view showing the working side of things.
A few hard days of digging and now I am sitting in my room waiting for the rain to stop. Today, I made periodic trips outdoors to empty the five-gallon collector pails that catch water from the drip edge of the roof. There are two large rainbarrels for water storage, and I am thinking of adding one or two more. I store the water to use for washing laundry and watering the garden.
On dreary days when the rain is pounding down, I sometimes wonder why I am doing any of this. I work quite hard just taking care of the daily stuff as the house has no modern conveniences. Basically, it’s just a step above camping. However, finding a little newt in the garden, seeing an Osprey winging over the rooftop clutching sticks for its nest, or having an enraged Pheasant pace back and forth outside the kitchen window screaming at his reflection in the glass, help to remind me that this is why I am here, doing what I set out to do when I bought this place. Not to try to make the house into something it can never be, but to live in harmony with whatever exists here. I will write more soon.
P.S.: I would like to call attention to two posts on Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ Artlog, at this and also this link. Clive has provided a wonderful “tour” of the retrospective exhibit of his art at the National Library of Wales. Be sure to click on at least a few of the photos to see much larger views. It really is quite something. I regret that I can only attend via the internet!