Archive for October, 2010


Along with the squash, I also planted some Atlantic Giant pumpkins. Just two pumpkins developed, but oh! What pumpkins! With the holiday weekend upon us, Railguy carried them up to the front porch to decorate the entrance for visitors. We weighted them on the scale and the larger of the two weighed 61 pounds, with its smaller sibling registering 57 pounds.


Buddy checks out the 61 pound pumpkin

I didn’t do anything special to encourage my giants. Expert giant pumpkin-growers feed their vines and protect the pumpkins and otherwise do their utmost to produce a giant specimen. You can even buy a book of tips if you’re interested in reaching the upper echelons of giant pumpkin production: How to Grow World-class Giant Pumpkins II, by Don Langevin. I was pretty satisfied with 61 pounds.


Buddy and the 57 pound pumpkin


Read Full Post »


While some plants have a long blooming period, and continue flowering well into autumn, others wait until the very last minute to do their thing. The asters in the garden bloom at the same time as the wild asters. This is Aster novi-belgii ‘Professor Kippenburg’. Although it looks very like its wild cousins, it is a very well-behaved species. It grows in a neat, dense clump, about a foot tall and blooms profusely.


Bluebeard, or caryopteris was new to me when I came across it last summer and bought a couple of plants for the garden. I have been waiting anxiously all summer to see it bloom and had just about given up hope when it finally flowered. This is Caryopteris x clandonensis “Longwood Blue”. It is said to be attractive to butterflies, but it is blooming so late that it has pretty much missed the butterfly season. However, the bees seem to like it, and it is nice to have something for them this late in the season.


The last,the very last plant in the garden to bloom is my monkshood, Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Barker’s Variety’. While the bluebeard is new, I’ve had this monkshood in my garden for quite a few years and moved a clump to Willow House a couple of years ago. I wouldn’t want to be without this amazing champion of the latebloomers.


It has a pleasing presence in the garden all summer, growing in a tidy clump. It’s long stems, which are over 5 feet tall, are very sturdy and I’ve never needed to stake them. It is just now starting to bloom. It is usual for this plant to still have a few flowers blooming when the first snow flies, long after the rest of the garden has settled into its long winter’s nap.


As suggested by their common name, the flowers have an interesting hooded appearance. They have been attracting lots of attention from late-flying bees and other pollinators, and when they visit the flowers, the bees disappear from sight, entering deeply into the blossoms.

Not all monkshood blooms at the end of the summer. There are early summer and mid-summer bloomers as well. The flowers may be ivory coloured, like those of Aconitum ‘Ivorine’, which blooms in late spring, or pink, like Aconitum x cammarum ‘Pink Sensation’. They grow to different heights, too. There is even a dwarf variety, Aconitum ‘Blue Lagoon’, which reaches just 12 inches (30cm) or so.


The plants are well-known as among the most poisonous of garden varieties, but they’re not a problem to work around. Just don’t eat them or use them for herbal purposes.

If you are interested in learning more about aconitum (ak-on-EYE-tum), Canadian Gardening magazine has an article about monkshood in the Fall/Winter 2010 issue.


Read Full Post »


With more rainy weather in the forecast, I decided to harvest my squash crop yesterday. Today is a miserable, drizzly day, so it’s just as well I gathered in the squash.


I grew these squash from seedlings that I purchased at the local nursery in the spring. The vines spent the summer gambolling about the tomato plants, in and out and over. Just on a whim, I purchased some small decorative gourds and these little rascals outperformed all the other vines. They were everywhere! I got a good crop of wee gourds, but apart from Thanksgiving Day table decorations, I’m not sure what to do with them.


There’s a good sampling of vegetable spaghetti squash and acorn squash, but certainly the stars of the crop are the two mammoth hubbard squash. I’ve never grown hubbard squash before and I was quite enchanted with them when I discovered these two blue giants hidden under squash leaves.


I set the larger hubbard on my bathroom scale and it weighed in at 13 pounds. Ha! Fiddlegirl suggested that I bake the pair and then freeze the cooked squash for future use in appropriately sized portions. In the meantime, I’ve just been enjoying their considerable presence and was inspired to capture them for posterity. Here they are, three shots of hubbard squash as still life.




Read Full Post »


After Diva and Ivory had a couple of days to settle into their new digs, Ponygirl and I were anxious to check out the trails. On Sunday, we saddled up and enjoyed our first survey of the new area.


Diva has a long, groundcovering stride and likes to be in the lead. Ivory is happy to stroll along behind, so with Diva showing the way, we set out to explore the trail network that crisscrosses some 140 acres of mixed meadow and forest.


From the barn, a driveway leads through woods and opens into hayfields. As we approached the first field we could see that someone else was already there: deer! More than half a dozen white-tails bounded gracefully away at our approach, their namesake tails raised like flags as they disappeared into the forest.


The sun was shining, but a skyfull of white clouds often blocked its warmth and a cool breeze was blowing. Still, it was pleasant to be riding throught the fall landscape.


The brilliant goldenrod is finished for another year, and the trees now outshine the browning fields. Chickadees and woodpeckers and small, migrating warblers flitted among the branches.


The horses took everything in stride. Even a Great Blue Heron, rising up suddenly from a streamside didn’t startle them.


In an hour or so, we were back at the barn. After unsaddling, a quick grooming and a couple of carrots, Diva and Ivory were back in their field and Ponygirl and I were ready for some hot coffee.


Read Full Post »


When I went out Friday morning, I noticed that the water level in the little river was very high. The water was flowing just below the top limit of the two big culverts that direct the river under the road. Back in August, the river had been reduced to a trickle but all that changed in September.


In September, the rains came. It rained and it rained, and then it rained some more. We came within 3 mm of setting a new record for September rainfall.


The previous record of 177 mm was set in 1945, more than half a century ago. On September 30th of this year, we reached 174 mm. After all those rainy days, it was rather sad not to break the old record. As I drove over to Ponygirl’s place on October 1st, I could see water everywhere, in swollen creeks, roadside ditches, and flooded fields.


By the time I returned to Willow House in the afternoon, the water level had exceeded the tops of the two culverts. Whirlpools had formed at the edge of each culvert as flowing water was sucked into the pipe.


I stopped the car and climbed out. Standing watching the swirling water was mesmerizing. The water surface was eerily still and quiet. No waves or wind-whipped water. Just the gentle gurgle of the whirlpool, which undoubtedly represented a powerful surge quite different from the calm appearance presented by the water surface.


Over the weekend, the water level gradually receded and the river returned to more modest proportions.


When I walked down to see how the river looked this morning, I noticed that there was an orange mark spray painted on a rock. Presumably, it was a town employee who recorded the high water mark reached by the swollen river. The mark seemed like a dare, September saying to the incoming month: “Check that out, October! Beat that!”

But today is bright and sunny, if a bit on the cool side. No rain in sight. Hopefully, October has other plans.


Read Full Post »


Red Barn, Whitney Point, New York.

Read Full Post »


A few years ago, Birdgirl and I spent a few days camping in Algonquin Park. In the park guide, it said that moose were often observed in the park, but that it was rare to see a black bear. Over the period we were there, we saw black bears on three separate occasions, and a bear visited our campground and raided a nearby tent. But moose? Nada. Zip. Not one. I’ve never seen a moose in the wild. Until yesterday!


Yesterday morning, when I was driving to Ponygirl’s place, I was just a couple of kilometres from home when I noticed a large shape emerging from the trees at the side of the road ahead of me. I was in an area of agricultural land, cornfields and pasture. My first thought was that someone’s horse had got loose. Then I realized that this was no horse! It was a moose! I stopped the car and watched as the moose crossed the road while I rummaged for my camera.


I took the first shot through the windshield, and then opened the car door and stepped out. As I watched, the moose, confronted by a fence in its path, turned and headed up the road toward me. As it approached the car, it turned into a section of rough wet ground and set out away from the road. The moose wasn’t overly large, for a moose, and I think it may have been a youngster, looking for its own territory. I don’t know how pleased the moose was, but the encounter made my day!


Read Full Post »


Baby wearing her shipping boots to protect her legs

Today I was up and out bright and early (for me), on my way to Ponygirl’s place to help with moving her horses.  After a couple of years in her pleasant but rather cramped apartment, Ponygirl is moving to a larger place, a rental house on a horse farm.  Naturally, this means the horses, Diva and Baby are moving too.


Baby is first in the trailer. Driver Dave checks the ties.

I hadn’t seen Baby in a while and couldn’t get over how much she has filled out. She turned 4 years old on May 25th and is no longer recognizable as the starved-out, malnourished little filly we purchased 3 years ago. (You can catch up on her story here.) It’s a thrill to see the transformation in her.


Diva with Ponygirl, dressed for travelling

Ponygirl was justifiably nervous about the move. Would the horses board the trailer without incident? Would they be upset in their new surroundings? Would they get along with their new fieldmates? But everything went smoothly.


Diva backs out of the trailer at her new home

While our other horses are Arabians, Baby is a Quarter Horse. Arabians are typically small and wiry, marathoners built for the long haul, tough individuals with their own opinions and lots of attitude. Quarter Horses have the build of sprinters, with big, well-muscled bodies and a laid-back, easy-going approach to the world. True to her breeding, Baby hopped into the trailer, no problem. “You want me to what? Sure, whatever. Is there hay?” And Diva followed her lead.


Baby looks around the new barn.

At the new barn, the horses were soon unloaded and were tied in the new barn for a few minutes to have their shipping wraps removed. Then it was out to the pasture to meet the new crew.


Baby sniffs noses with Kala

Kala and Raleigh came over to check out the new arrivals and arched necks and nose-touching ensued. It will take a little while for everyone to sort out the pecking order, but the transition was progressing smoothly.


Diva and Baby greet Raleigh

Ponygirl and I have often discussed updating Baby’s name, now that she is anything but a baby. Her registered name is Leo’s Tuff Jackie, a good, sound Quarter Horse sort of name, and I favour Tuffy for short. However, Ponygirl dislikes this, and at the moment we are trying out Ivory. The move brings Ponygirl 45 minutes closer to Willow House, so we hope that we will be able to get out riding on Diva and Baby/Ivory/Tuffy more often in the coming months.


Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts