Archive for October, 2010

We Win Ribbons


On Saturday, Ivory and I participated in a Fun Day at her new stable. The event, as the name suggests, was a fun get-together for horses and riders to mark the end of the summer riding season. Ivory has never had experience in an indoor arena, nor with riding with other horses, or even ring work, so Ponygirl and I were delighted when she won two ribbons. Her behaviour was outstanding for a youngster. She won third prize in the ‘command’ class. Horses and riders had to walk and trot and stop at the judges command. Ivory’s extraordinary patience set her in good stead as she stood calmly while others fidgeted and fussed and were eliminated. Her fourth place was a lucky turn at musical chairs. Actually, musical socks. Instead of chairs, which are challenging for the four-legged, horse and rider just had to be the first to reach one of the socks tied around the ring.

As this was her first event, we only participated in part of the Fun Day. But I stayed and watched the others. Entries in the costume class are shown below. At promised, it was a fun, light-hearted day.


Geneva and Willa clown around.


Bucky and Kathy get ready to hula.


Eddie, in cap, sunglasses and bow tie, with Jean.

Read Full Post »


Soyfield Treeline


Blue Sky Red Trees


Forest Fire





Read Full Post »


When we were driving down through New York state on our way to Pennsylvania last month, we saw a moose standing by the side of the road.  He was a big moose and he was casually watching the traffic go by, unperturbed by the vehicles intruding into his domain.  On the contrary, he seemed to be expecting company and we stopped and said hello.


Quite the looker, isn’t he?  A sign nearby told us that we had found Frog Pond Farm, and the moose was part of a folk art menagerie.  I looked Frog Pond Farm up when I got home and enjoyed seeing their diverse creations featured on their website, FERROart.  When we returned to the road, I glanced back.  The moose was still standing their, majestic green hills rolling out behind him.  He seemed a bit forlorn to see us go.


Read Full Post »


Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15. The object is to unite the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. In 2010, the topic for Blog Action Day is water.

You would think that recognising access to clean water as a basic human right would be a no-brainer, right? But you would be wrong. Recognising the human right to access clean water proved very controversial. Many wealthy nations dragged their heals and fought against the UN resolution on this issue. Finally, on July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly agreed to a resolution declaring the human right to “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.” The resolution, presented by the Bolivian government, had 122 countries vote in its favour, while 41 countries – including Canada, the UK and the U.S. – abstained.

There are many, many issues relating to water that urgently need addressing. We are blessed, here in Canada, with abundant fresh water, yet even here, clean water can be in short supply. Ninety percent of Canadians live in a narrow band along the southern edge of the country, while 60% of the freshwater supply is found to the north. This concentration of people places high demands on local water supplies and leaves little flexibility for coping with water shortages. In picking a topic for Blog Action Day, I chose an aspect of individual water use, the virtual water we eat as food.


Some of the ways in which we use water are obvious. You use water from the tap when you brush your teeth or make coffee. However, a lot of the water we use is less conspicuous. Eating meat, for example, has a huge cost to water supplies. The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound.

Meatless Monday is an international movement. The goal is to encourage the reduction of meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of the planet. Meatless Monday has a great website where you can obtain more information about the movement. There is also an interesting index of recipes to inspire you.

My favorite vegetarian cookbook is Ontarian Evelyn Raab’s “The Clueless Vegetarian” (Reissued in 2008 as Basic Vegetarian Cooking by Raab). Wherever you find your inspiration, join in the movement. Save water. Improve your health. Give Meatless Monday a try.

Read Full Post »


I thoroughly enjoyed the ornamental grasses in my garden this fall. So much so that when I came across a selection of grasses that had been marked down for ‘end-of-season’ sale, I took advantage of the great prices and picked up another six varieties. Because the gardening season is nearly finished here, I just tucked them into an open space near the house. It should be a nice, protected spot for them to overwinter and then next spring I will relocate them to a permanent home.


Miscanthus gigantus

Grasses don’t look like much when they’re just potted-up youngsters, a few wispy blades. You’d never guess that the Giant Maiden Grass (Miscanthus gigantus), above, has the potential to grow into a big, sturdy clump standing up to 12 feet tall!


Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'

Here is another miscanthus, Zebra Grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’), which has interesting striped foliage. It gets to be 5 or 6 feet tall and makes an interesting accent.


Pennisetum Alopecuroides 'Moudry'

I also purchased three fountain grass varieties. These are more compact plants than the two miscanthus varieties above. Black-flowering Fountain Grass (Pennisetum Alopecuroides ‘Moudry’) forms a compact clump 2 to 3 feet tall and produces interesting dark seedheads. The latin name, pennisetum, translates as “feather bristle”, referring to the bristly structures surrounding the flowers on the inflorescence.


Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Redhead'

The bristles referred to in the name show up well in the above photograph of Redhead Fountain Grass (Pennisetum Alopecuroides ‘Redhead’).


Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Piglet'

The third fountain grass I picked up is Piglet (Pennisetum Alopecuroides ‘Piglet‘). It forms a neat little clump that grows to about 18 inches tall. What’s not to love about a grass called Piglet?

The grasses I currently have in my garden are native to North America, while these new additions are imports. I did get one more native grass to add to my collection, however, Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). Its seedheads are very different from the plumes of miscanthus or stems of pennisetum. The geometrical-shaped seed pods hang on gracefully arching stems. I look forward to seeing all the grasses next spring. Sleep tight!


Chasmanthium latifolium

Read Full Post »


Autumn is a beautiful time to take a walk in the woods. The trees are dressed in their most brilliant colours. The mosquitoes and deerflies have finally disappeared. The lush undergrowth that catches at your feet has died back. It is quiet and serene, just the crunching of the fallen leaves underfoot and the occasional cry of a jay. The wildflowers and dragonflies and other more conspicuous attractions are gone too. But there are still interesting things to see, although they may require a more careful eye. Birdgirl and I went for a walk on Sunday, and here are a few of the things we saw.


It’s a good time of the year to look for fungi and lichens. Shown above is a Fly Agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) that we found nestled amongst the leaves. This fungus is common and widespread, found on forest floors. Pretty, isn’t it? However, it’s also poisonous.


This Pear-Shaped Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme) was close by. These little puffballs fruit in clusters on rotting logs or stumps. Puffballs produce their spores inside the fruitbodies, where they mature as a powdery mass. There is a pore at the apex of the puffball and when rain strikes the outside wall of the spore sac, the pressure forces a puff of spores out through the pore, to be carried away by the wind.


We saw a number of sizeable clusters of Pholiota malicola, another common fungus that fruits on or near stumps.


Rotting stumps are a good place to look for mosses and lichens such as these red-tipped British Soldiers (Cladonia cristatella), always fun to find.


The weeping sap of a fresh excavation on a nearby tree shows where a Piliated Woodpecker has been working. On the other side of the tree there were several larger cavities created by the woodpecker’s drilling.


We saw a number of ladybugs on several trees. Birdgirl identified them as a native species based on their more oval shape than the typically rounder Asian Ladybugs (Harmonia axyridis). The Asian beetles were introduced to North America to control aphids on commercial crops and are now considered an invasive species, threatening the 450 to 500 species of ladybugs native to the continent.


These little guys were really cute. What look like little bits of bluish lint on this tree are Woolly Aphids. The “wool” is actually a waxy substance that the aphid secretes to form long projections. The fuzz is thought to aid in protecting the aphid from predators and may provide some insulation benefit. There are a number of kinds of woolly aphids. To see close-up photos and learn more about these insects, you can visit a post by Birdgirl over at The Marvelous in Nature.

After a pleasant stroll, we headed back to the house. Our progress as we walked up the field was scrutinized by two curious donkeys, Louis and Teddy, who keep an eye on local comings and goings.


Read Full Post »


One of the nice things about keeping a blog is the people who drop by and share their thoughts and views. When I wrote about my squash harvest, Shanda left a comment about her Squash Bread and I asked if she would mind sharing her recipe. She very kindly took the time to write it out for me and I couldn’t wait to try it.

Here at Willow House, turkey soup follows turkey dinner as surely as day follows night. Today was soup day, and it offered a perfect opportunity to make squash bread to accompany our soup dinner. It turned out beautifully and was delicious! Thanks again, Shanda! If you would like to try it too, here is Shanda’s recipe.

Shanda’s Squash Bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup squash puree
1/2 cup veg oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I use either toasted pecans or black walnuts, yum!)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift together flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Mix the squash, oil, eggs, water, and spices together, then combine with dry ingredients. Stir in nuts. Pour into well buttered pan (I’m serious, you better well butter it!) Bake 50-60 min or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Turn out after about 20 min to cool on rack.

This is a recipe for one loaf, just double it! If I’m gonna go though the labor for one loaf, I’ll just make it two (share or freeze).



Read Full Post »


I recently harvested a bountiful crop of small decorative gourds from my summer garden and was on the lookout for ideas as to how I might make use of them. Therefore, when I visited the Canadian Gardening magazine website recently, my attention was grabbed by a photo featuring little gourds as candleholders. Set your Thanksgiving table with nature finds, the heading read. I recruited Railguy, and with a one inch hole drill he was able to quickly convert my little gourds into holders for tealight candles.


We celebrated Thanksgiving with our turkey dinner on Saturday. Fiddlegirl has a long drive, over 3 hours, to get here, and everyone has a busy schedule these days. I was thankful that we were all able to get together for a very relaxing and enjoyable day. The dinner was delicious and the little gourd candles, one for each place setting, were a hit. Coming up next on the menu: turkey soup! Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian visitors, and I hope everyone everywhere enjoyed the weekend.


Read Full Post »

Sunday Snapshot: Red Leaves


Red Leaves

Read Full Post »


Shoreline, Fitzroy Provincial Park

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »