Leaves, and acorns, and cookies. Oh, my!

The cold weather is finally starting to really set in, we’ve even had snow a few days in the past couple of weeks. The push is on to get the land and the house ready for winter. We need to string new roof cables for keeping the snow off the eaves, we’ve just noticed that all of the windows need new caulking on the outside, and all of summer’s bits and bobs need to be put away. On top of that, the greenhouse needs to come down before winter, thanks to a haphazardly blowing wind that tossed a couple of tree branches across the yard through both the roof and the side of the structure. So much for tempered glass, it’s no match for an angry wind and a solid oak branch.

The bazillion trees surrounding the house dumped their entire bounty of leaves in the same windstorm, leaving a hell of a mess to clean up.

We raked for days.  And days. And days. And we really didn’t rake that big of a space, but holy hannah, it was deep. When I walked out to the chicken coop, the leaves came up to my knees. Good compost fodder, though. Thankfully, we were able to get most of it raked before the fall rains hit.

Since then, we’ve had frost every morning. COLD frost, sheet of ice covering the deck frost. Frost that kills whatever’s left in the garden frost. I managed to get some fall sedums out of the gardens for drying and have the bunches dangling around the wood stove. There’s nothing more country then bunches of drying goods all over the house.

In an odd little twist of fate, the cut ends of the sedums have started to bud! The bunches are hanging upside down, as is done to dry any sort of flower, herb, etc. and I guess there is still enough moisture kicking around inside the stems to encourage growth. All of the stems have budded, and rooted into mid-air in a hundred little sedums shoots.

I haven’t decided if I will let them all die off, or if I will separate them all from their host stems and transplant them to a seed tray to overwinter. I’m not entirely sure I’ll be in need of a hundred or so sedums transplants come spring!

I totally gapped in my attempt to gather the last-minute herbs to dry for the winter before the frost, so here’s hoping I have enough to get us through. So long as nobody gets sick…I’m such a lazy little Witch.

This must have been the year of the Oak Tree. Every oak tree on the property shed thousands upon thousands of acorns this fall. We’ve never seen so many acorns fall from the trees. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to walk across a  lawn covered in acorns, but it’s a bit like trying to walk on a treadmill covered in marbles.

We literally shovelled buckets and buckets of acorns off of the grass. It wasn’t all in vain however, the acorns will be put to good use. After a light smashing with a mallet, acorns will make a great  treat for Lilliput and the chickens and I’ll use plenty in future craft projects.

In the midst of all this, and other stuff, I have been spending almost every spare moment working on the studio. It’s amazing how much stuff you forget you had when it’s been packed in storage for a year. How the hell did it all fit before?? The studio, as much as it shouldn’t be, is the lowest “to do” on the priority list. We still need to finish the bathroom which has been under construction for just over a year now. You’ll wonder why when you finally see the before and after pics. It’s a VERY small bathroom.

I’ve had to purge a lot of art and craft supplies. Which isn’t necessarily the problem. The problem is, every time I unpack something new, I get inspired. When I get inspired, I get distracted from the task at hand, and before you know it, I’ve spent three hours priming canvases or coating images in gel medium.

Yesterday, I claimed a day of complete rest. Sort of. I’ve gone back to spending two days a week with my godson, Riley, and yesterday he and I made cookies. Batches and batches of chocolate chip cookies. He was so proud of himself, and it was so much fun. It’s been a long time since I spent time with a 2-year-old baking cookies, and I forgot how much of a blast it is. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon.

Randomness

Just some random photos from the summer, in no particular order of importance…

An angry Thing One, flapping and squawking because I shooed her off the deck

Sunset at the lake.

Storm clouds bringing in three days of rain.

If you're caught running around in nothing but your Wellies, you might be a redneck. This is my 2 year old Godson, Riley.

Hubby builds a new twig fence, to keep the chickens out of the front yard.

At this time of year, the gardens are covered in Monarchs.

A rather spooky fog rolls into the marsh across from our house.

It almost looked more like a bed of snow.

The escape artists get a treat.

I swear, whoever gets out first opens the gate for the rest.

Riley paints a masterpiece...

...On the inside of the chicken coop door, with a corn broom and the mud in the wheelbarrow.

Drew learns to recover the "Topper"

The boys give Sara the lowdown on how to be a working sailor.

The kids take their first independent voyage aboard "The Mandy Patinkin".

Riley and Sara pick blackberries...enough for 16 pints of jam!

One for the mouse, one for the crow. One to plant, one to grow. And one for the chipmunk. They like blackberries too.

The newest member of the family. We deliberated for about a month between a Tundra and a Chevy Camaro. Sensibility won out. But we've promised each other to have a mid life crisis in a few years, and THEN buy the Camaro!

All in due time…

Ah, summer is winding down. Perhaps now I will be able to find the time for the calmer things in life, such as blogging.

It’s been well over a month since I was afforded the time to spend a day at my computer reading and writing, there’s a lot to catch up on.

Our summer has been, in a word, busy. It was filled with triumphs and failures, friends, family and fun.

How ’bout a ten-day long family reunion to reaffirm your views on life?

How’bout coming home from said reunion to find that the livestock had not only nibbled at your life’s work, but ate the ENTIRE crop?  Yep, the biggest failure of the summer, by far,  was the fencing for Lilliput and the chickens. It gave way to a smorgasbord of leafy greens and red-wigglers. There isn’t a lettuce head to be found, nor a single worm left in the vermicompost pile. One might think the livestock were left unattended, but no, they’re just very capable escape artists.

On a brighter note, the kids are well on their way to mastering a sailboat, which in this family is a worthy accomplishment, and my studio has been reclaimed. It has been freed of any adult children in residence, been given a fresh coat of paint and some new cabinets, and once again stands available for inspiration. I’m eager to make use of the blank canvases lying in wait, and the bolts of fabrics neatly stacked, and of course, the inks and paints that have not stained my hands in months.

I’m excited about the time ahead. The children will be returning to school in a few short weeks. The heat of summer will abate soon, leaving me free to crank up the oven and although there won’t be much canning/preserving done this fall, I’m still looking forward to the season.

But first, I’ll spend any free time catching up with some treasured folks. You. You’re like that “good book” I’m just itching to get back to. The one waiting patiently on the bedside table for the day to wind down.

A push in the right direction

Allow me to introduce you to my friend Diane, who has opened a shop on Artfire.com.

Diane has been working her ass off, making the most amazing shopping totes and bags. Have a look around her shop, but stay away from the Tomato Tote. It’s MINE.

SpeedKin On Artfire.com

Note to self *

Karma has just taken a ginormous bite out of my ass.
I hate spiders. I hate spiders with a passion.
Normally, I have respect for all walks of life here on Earth. I consider myself a “steward” of nature. Nurture it, care for it, remember it is a part of me.
Except for spiders.
Most times, I just walk away. And let others deal with the spider. I will avoid a room for an entire day, until I am notified that the spider has been “dealt” with, or has simply gone away.
I’ve come face to face with bears. I’ve come face to face with rattlers. I’ve even had an experience with an alligator that was almost too close for comfort. I stood strong in all of those confrontations, remembering they were a part of the circle of life I believe so strongly in.
Just now, I stomped on a Dock spider.
Fucker was roaming around in the veggie garden.
I went to shut the sprinkler off and there it was, all big and fat and hairy and juicy. And I STOMPED on it.
It was a reaction. I lost my senses. I had no wits about me.
I stomped on it…and about a million baby dock spiders scattered from its back into every corner of the garden.
Fuck my life.

Garden Porn, Then and Now.

A month ago today, I posted a few pics of the gardens as they were just starting out. These are perennial gardens, any “annuals” are ones that seed themselves, so all I really need do is clean them up every spring, and the life cycle will take over from there. The joy for me comes in clipping blooms through the summer for bouquets to fill the house, and for sharing with friends. Everyone loves receiving a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers.

Here we are, a month later, with some BEFORE and I suppose what’s really “DURING” photos, since the season is only a month in, and there’s a whole lot of growing to be done from here.

My favorite part of this garden is the enormous patch of Solomon’s Seal at the back. Unfortunately for the world, Solomon’s Seal is an endangered plant species, but this makes me feel very fortunate to have such a large crop of it to nurture. It is my favorite medicinal plant, a remedy for everything from menstrual cramps to an upset stomach.

I know the gardens are doing well when the ornaments get lost under the leaves!

I love to walk by the herb garden and just brush my hand across the top of the plants, the scent wafts into the air, filling the senses with deliciousness.

 We’ve had some warm and gloriously sunny days, so the kitchen garden is almost planted, tomatoes are starting to bloom and the cabbages are forming heads. The only downside has been the lack of rain, which means the gardens need to be watered by hand. We need a new pump for the old dug well, and the lack of rain means the rain barrels are empty, so the water is coming from the drilled well. And what a vicious cycle that creates. Although the water levels have not dropped, without rain, they won’t increase either, and having to water with the drilled well will have an impact on the house. Ultimately, we’d like to re-route the house’s grey-water, but that’s not quite feasible at the moment, so I’m on the lookout for a gently used pump for the dug well. It’s at the perfect place for watering the kitchen garden, only about 10 feet from the edge, so even a hand pump would do. Found a nice antique one at the salvage barn, for the dear price of $450! NOT!

Oh, wait! The lack of rain wasn’t the only downside of getting the garden planted. The worst was the pain of being bitten by a TICK. Now, normally, a tick bite doesn’t hurt, the victim doesn’t even feel it happen. But if you’re fortunate enough to be like me, you’ll have an insanely rare, insanely painful ALLERGY to said tick bite. Not the bite exactly, but the anesthetic the tick injects so that the bite-ee doesn’t feel the bite. Enter my absurdly swollen, blazingly red, hysterically itchy ankle, stage right. No amount of salve relieved the damn thing. Lucky me.  I stumbled around like a soul with a broken ankle for days on end, highly, highly tempted to drown myself in Benadryl. I still have a lump, which still gets itchy from time to time, and in the event that you’re worried I’ve acquired lyme disease from the tick, you’ll be happy to know that I can’t be tested for at least another 3-4 weeks, since lyme disease needs an incubation period to be detectable.  (I’m honestly not concerned, the chances are low, it’s almost unheard of where we live)

I had hoped to type and type, since it’s been unusually long between posts, but the hour is getting late, and the sun rises early these days.

Perhaps tomorrow, I’ll stay locked indoors where it’s cool and surf blogs, catch up on all of you whom I adore.

Before I go, one last pic.

Meet Lilliput, she’s new here.

The cure for separation anxiety? The future.

In the city, there are two seasons, winter and construction. More often than not, both seasons are messy times and I don’t miss either. When I first decided to make the transition from urban life to rural, many people in my life at the time said it would never work and we’d be back in the city in no time. “I give them six months, and they’ll be back.” A few people, like my mother, grandmother and the odd friend, knew that I was never meant to be an urbanite in the first place. Those people wondered why it took me so long to figure out where I belonged.

The “naysayers” in our life held their biggest argument in my children. They (and there were many) were in agreement that removing my children from the city, thereby from their family, friends and all they had ever known, was the most selfish thing Paul and I could ever do. They believed my children would be devastated and never willingly adapt to the new life we had planned for them. It was an angry time amongst my extended family, who often looked for every tool they could use in their fight to block us from leaving.

The area in which we now live is a place I have been coming to off and on my whole life. When I was a child, long before my parent’s divorce, we camped here, “roughing it” in the bush of Algonquin straight through to Georgian Bay. Paul and I have friends who’ve always lived in this area and we had visited quite steadily, consistently spending the majority of our weekends for most of the past 10-12 years in the bush and on the land. To us, it seemed natural to migrate to where we were most comfortable and we were confident that our children had the ability to adapt to what they were already familiar with.

Although the transition was not without struggle, heartache and heartbreak, it’s been four years since we packed the necessities, kids included, and started out on the trek to salvation.

While looking for a recipe I’d copied a few years ago, I found in my paper journal an entry I made at the beginning of it all…

I am so eager to start our new life that sometimes it takes my breath away. My heart starts beating out of my chest every time I start daydreaming of the future. What’s worse, is that most days, the future is all I can think about. It gets so overwhelming that I seem to spend the whole day hyperventilating.

There were struggles with the children, I’d be a liar if I said things were all peaches and cream. My oldest daughter did in fact return to the city within six months of moving to the north. And my oldest son had issues with the kids in his new highschool who felt he needed to prove himself worthy. My youngest two adapted the easiest, due to their age, I’m sure. They only found the solitude the most daunting, but quickly found new ways to entertain themselves. My daughter has since moved back to the north and is setting down her own roots in the area with a fiance and a home of her own. My son, who found his inner redneck, is temporarily (wishful thinking?) in a city spending the next four years with his girlfriend doing the student living/University thing. One would be hard pressed to believe the youngest two weren’t born and bred here…Drew’s favorite chores are splitting wood and grooming trails, and Sara…well, Sara is a whole other story. It’s not odd to find her down the road in a pair of welly boots, jeans and a tank top, sporting a cowboy hat, (or a fedora, depending on her mood) elbows deep in fish guts or skinning pelts for the local trapper, with perfectly polished fingernails and an iPod in her back pocket.

 Although we all still keep a little bit of the city buried deep inside (we do afterall, stress the importance of remembering where one comes from) we’re adapting to our surroundings rather nicely. We’re finding our own true natures, naturally. In the North we have more seasons than one can keep track of…there’s snowmobile season, reno season, the spring thaw, planting season, black fly season, ditching, dog days of summer, BBQ season, the gathering time, mosquito season, deerfly season, the harvest, the fall, the freeze, the snow….

 I rarely venture outdoors without a camera in hand and this morning was no exception. Some times I capture the fantastical things and on those occasions I pause to contemplate my place amongst them. Sometimes, I capture the typical things, and I pause to reflect the contentment of being.

As I’m sure you all know, the gardens are vastly important to us, providing us with food, entertainment and an opportunity to connect to the cycle of life. I’ll let you decide what is what.

To some, there might not yet be much to see in our gardens, as the season is short and just kicking off. There’s little sprigs of lettuce popping through the ground and soon we’ll find cold hardy foods making an appearance. The flower beds are taking life by the horns, I’m halfway through making this process easier for them.

The main garden, freshly weeded, tilled and mulched.

Our smallest garden, off the back deck, leading around to the blackberry bramble.

The herb garden, which is always the most evolving, never looking the same two years in a row. Off to a mediocre start perhaps, but the smell is amazing nonetheless.

Unlike my fellow gardeners Willow and Diane, and the rest of my southern friends, there isn’t much in bloom yet in our neck of the woods.

Just some English primrose…

Blood trilliums…

Periwinkle…

Cushion Phlox…

Pulminaria…

And of course, the daffodils which are now in full swing…

And let’s not forget the wildlife, who keep a steady eye, ensuring that we always put our best foot forward…

All in a day’s work

Although I have worked off and on at random things over my time on Earth, a stint as a publishing exec, a tour of duty as a project manager, even a career as a contract painter, I’ve been a stay at home mom for the vast majority of the passed 21 years. Both my husband and I are of the belief that if you’re going to have children, you should attempt to raise them yourself, rather than leave the job in the hands of a daycare centre. I realize this is not always the case for most families; they either can’t afford to survive on one income or both parents are career oriented or what have you. The logistics of such arguments aside, we agreed that I would stay home for my children and keep house. I’m sure many self-professed *feminists* out there are going to have a shit-fit reading my homesteader attitude, but know that I’ve had that confrontation on more occasions than I can count, and I’ve always won the debate.

Fortunately for our cause, the finances are such that there is no inherent need for me to work. There’ve been rough patches over the years ( let’s face it, raising four children is damned expensive) but for the most part, we pulled it off and made it through. The jobs that I have had were purely out of boredom during those times in my life when I wanted something else to talk about other than potty training and parent/teacher interviews.

At this point I am what my husband and I laughingly refer to as “semi-retired”. Two of my children have grown and left home, only two remain, both of them heading into their teenage years. All in all, I have enjoyed my life and look forward to its future. Parenting has been fun for me, always challenging and having a homesteader attitude has benefited me greatly in all of my endeavours. Today, for several reasons, I’m going to post a photo journal of my day, lest you, dear reader are like my in-laws and believe my time is filled with soap operas and bon-bons. I also, for myself and posterity’s sake, wish to journal my accomplishments today, in the possibility that someone may use what I post to their advantage.

I grant you fair warning, this post is long, this post is involved and it has the potential for being mundane for those whole-heartedly against a woman with a homesteader attitude. For RSS subscribers, I’ve cut down an excerpt, to save your load time, incase you’re not inclined to read on.

If you’re so inclined to turn down my street, click to continue reading about my day.

Little Miss Sunshine

The couple who built our house were Dutch, and being Dutch, the welcoming neighbors felt obliged to offer up a selection of Daffodils for Mrs. Von B’s new garden. It is a small town “vernacular” to provide new-comers with the fruits of your talents and many of the ladies in the area are avid gardeners.

Daunted by planting hundreds upon hundreds of Daffodil bulbs, Mrs. Von B, unaware that Daffodils are poisonous, scattered the bulbs through the woods surrounding the house in the hopes that the local wildlife would snatch them up for lunch.

Daffodil bulbs will grow anywhere. ANYWHERE. They need not be planted, they need zero tending, and they’re a naturalizing bulb, meaning they will happily multiply without so much as a wish.

Being poisonous, Daffodils are not a staple in the diet of the deer. In fact, none of the wildlife will even approach a Daffodil bloom, nevermind the bulb. Imagine Mrs. Von B’s surprise the following spring when her scattered bulbs sprang forth in a field of sunshine.

Each spring, I have a conversation with the owner’s of the local General Store, that’s become as much of a tradition as our annual foray into the Sugar Bush.
Mike: “Garden’s ready for planting season, Jenn?”
Me: “Not yet, Mike, waitin’ on the mulch.”
Mike: “Time’s a-comin’, gonna be ready?”
Me: “Here’s hopin’, You?”
Mike: “Not this year, too much construction goin’ on in the yard”
Steve: “Daffodil’s are looking nice, you’re off to a great start.” [insert sarcastic snort]

One for the mouse, one for the crow. One to rot, one to grow.

Seed prep day! One of the best days of my year!

I love playing in the dirt, today was spent making my personal recipe for dirt batter. Not that it’s spectacular or original…but it’s free!

First step: sifting some top grade Canadian sphagnum to get a nice fine fill for the seed plug trays.

Time consuming, but truly the best way to loosen up the peat, meaning more of it in the plug, less sticks and bark.

LOOSE! *Warning* – it is hazardous to the health to breathe in powdered peat.

Yay! Composted sheep shit. Sifted of course. Properly composted manure has no smell…no smell means it shouldn’t burn plant roots. Chicken shit is the best, but takes FOREVER to compost.

A luscious crumb topping.

Toss in a couple handfuls of exploded vermiculite…okay, this wasn’t free.

Ready to fill. These are my seeding trays, which were free and are the absolute best thing I’ve ever encountered in my life of plants. Each tray holds over 200 seed plugs. Seed plugs, rather then their big brother, seed cells, are the thing that works for me. They take up less space, create a stronger root ball and are all-round more productive. Less dirt required per seed and it means I can get over 400 seedlings in under one lamp.

DUMP!

and SPREAD!

After a light spritzing I tamp down the peat mix. Looks like a monotonous project, yes. But, it’s very therapeutic and with some grand tunes thumping on the iPod, one can turn it into a work-out.

Yes, I use an AfterBite pen. Works perfect and it’s fitting, don’t you think?

And Voila! Two of the dirtiest hands in the neighbourhood and a bazillion seed plugs ready to nurture life.

I started seeding the trays tonight, got the peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower done, along with a few random herb plugs.

Tomorrow, the onion sets go in the kitchen garden at the side of the house, along with the lettuces, carrots, and  peas. If I have the time and energy, I’ll get the rest of the seeds started. Hope there’s no mosquitoes out tomorrow, I’m sleeping with my fingers crossed.

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