Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city is hip and urban – and you can, too.

Month: August 2012

Last week’s roadtrip to Ontario

Last week, I went to Ontario for a little family/business/pleasure roadtrip. I went to volunteer at Gami’ing Nature Centre.

So I took a little walk around Fenelon Falls. Here’s a pic of the cabin built by a store and put in the store’s backyard. I’m fascinated with tiny houses. I simply must buy myself some land and have one where I can get away any time I want! I like this design, though I’d have side and back windows and a loft window or skylight as that would be the sleeping area. I’d want less of a porch than this, so I’d pull it out into an L shape, leaving the windows just as they are. (I sense a topic for a winter blog post in the making!)

About 3 kilometers east of Fenelon Falls, I went to a farm where they had a table selling produce. Since I’m the special kind of stupid that forgets I’m a blogger, I forgot to take pictures of the farm stand, and the turkeys making a ruckus at the farm gate. Instead, I get to show you the giant zucchini, the dozen corn, some tomatoes, and the cabbage I bought, right here on my kitchen counter.

 The people I stayed with down the road had to spend about an hour a day out in their squash patch, vacuuming the squash bugs off the leaves. They let me harvest purple beans from their box garden full of them. And even though I’d found my good camera, I forgot to take pictures of that, too.  So the basket of beans is in this picture.

 


But since you know I’ve got a soft spot for animals, I did take pictures of the one lonesome Muscovy duck, Mamma. Mamma used to look over the chickens – and, at 9 years old, if she survives over the winter, she’ll do so again in the spring. She apparently likes to kick the hens off the eggs (though I wonder, with broody hens, if they’ll give up easily) so she can hatch and look after the chicks.

 


Meanwhile, over at Gamiing, a family of wild turkeys passes by the Discovery Shack and heads over into the farmer’s soybeans. The first pic is pretty good of the trailing adult, but you can also see the miniature young adult in the background by the fence.


This picture of the first adult with one of the youngsters gives you a better idea of their relative sizes.

On my drive back to Quebec, I passed a farmer’s field in Martintown with its straw all rolled up and ready to take back to the farm, to use for bedding. It’s wrapped in a nylon net rather than bagged in a wrapper that protects hay from the elements and converts it to haylage or silage – meaning it’s partly fermented.

That’s actually a majestic view of a well-kept field, with hedgerow fences in view and a forest to the left. Eastern Ontario has some gorgeous farm country. My only complaint is they are too permissive about deforestation. I’ve seen too many woods ripped out there. This is not the world we need.

A few garden photos – the harvest slowly begins

Dammit, Janet! I misplaced my good camera, the one I used to take the following photographs. Until I find it, I’m limited to grainy iPhone snaps, or the marginally better (or not) pictures I might take if I dig out my old Sony Ericsson CyberShot cell phone. That camera was good but became distorted through the kinds of mishaps that phones can get into.

And more bad news: the beautiful cucumbers that made up for the dismal start to my backyard garden? Most of them got cucumber wilt, a bacterial disease transmitted by cucumber beetles. I wrote a paper on them only a few months ago. The paper is dry, chunky, and a synthesis of a lot of information out there. It’s useful to the organic farmer planting a good couple of rows of cucurbits.

As the growing season soon will be over, I’m planning my garden changes so that next year is more productive – other gardens near me were lusher. This is what I want: a proper fence down the meridian of the front yard, and a rain barrel with a seeping hose so that I can better serve the water needs of my front garden. The back garden wants lots of compost enrichment this fall, soil testing in the spring, liming it, and getting things better prepared earlier in the season.

Here are photos of my garden two weeks ago, when the drought finally ended. You can see tiny watermelons (they didn’t make it – it’s a mystery what happened to them) and a new watermelon sprout with attendant tomatoes, basil, and a small pepper plant.

The chicken-wire barricade there is my rabbit fence – not like it stops them, it only slows them down. There’s tasty, tasty clover to be had…

And my first fruits of the garden – not counting a handful of curly yellow beans – are these delicious cherry tomatoes. The parent plant is very prolific. I am looking forward to having more of them this coming weekend, when I return to Montreal from my parents’ home in Ontario.

The cool weather has brought on more new growth. So at least there’s that.

If you want to follow along with my garden adventure, each of these blog posts has “Previous post – Next post” navigation buttons at the bottom. They take you through my writings in chronological order, but the previous post was A Few Garden Photos – The Harvest Slowly Begins, and the next post is:
The Garden Harvest, Pickling, And Homemade Sauerkraut

Charlotte has a web in my kitchen!

In my house, I have a rule: All rooms can have a resident spider, but only one per room.

It also depends on what kind of spider. A daddy long legs in the bedroom is OK, but my kitchen spider – a fierce and fast little predator – I’d move it elsewhere. Outdoors if the weather is ok, but in winter, to the garage or the cold cellar.

You may notice a little spider in the photo between the mouse figurine and the medication bottle. With its previous moult exoskeleton hanging above. If you really look, you’ll see that there is greater clarity in a circle around the spider. This is Charlotte’s cave.

Charlotte has been a very subdued presence on the window sill, hanging out at the mouth of her cave but retreating whenever I startle her. As she has been such an effective hunter there, I decided not to interfere — there’s no need.

But since I had to wreck her extended web today by taking away the medication bottle (using a pair of chopsticks), I removed her exoskeleton and her discarded prey. I was really quite surprised how small she started out when she moved in — she was a very tiny spider.

Now when she comes out of her cave, she’s a bold thing with a leg span greater than a 25¢ piece. Since the destruction of the cave, she hides behind the mouse figurine.

Last week, after more than a week without prey coming to her web wound around the frame of the window and various doodads not pictured above, she got off the window sill and wrapped a new web around the — I kid you not — handle of the kitchen faucet.

The first morning I just removed the web, but on the second morning, I felt a little sorry for her because the energy expenditure to do that work must mean she was hungry. I left the web intact, and just handled the faucet when I needed to use it. The web sagged with the direction the handle was throttled. Eventually, the web tore off.

I’m sure she’ll build a new web configuration overnight. If it starts expanding again, I might have to relocate her, with care, to the outside or to my garage. I have guests coming on the weekend and I won’t be around to supervise — I don’t want to freak them out too much. A sticky note with her name on it is insufficient information to say “this spider is ok by me.”

An update: Charlotte moved her web over to the left corner of the window, which is a great spot for her.  

The orb-weaver spider

spider and prey in web
Look at the detail in the web!

We have this spider in Quebec. It’s perhaps all over the world. It weaves a web between plants in meadows. Because it is so energetically costly to weave a web, the spider creates a zig-zag pattern across with silk that is coated with proteins that show up in UV light (or else the zig-zag renders the view more obvious), so that birds don’t fly through in pursuit of insects. This idea is now being applied to glass, to reduce bird impacts. Read about it on the BBC website.

And now, a jumping spider!

Checking out the links on the side of Jim McCormack’s  blog, “Jumping spider!” jumped right out at me. I would write his blog if I had his unique set of characteristics, and he always matches the enthusiasm nature calls for. “Cute” is definitely the word I apply to jumping spiders, and I’m glad to see someone in the comments rethinking her relationship to spiders. It comes with a great macro picture of a little guy in full-on “you lookin at me?” mode.

Check out this great video of a jumping spider.

Yesterday (no macro lens or better-than-iPhone camera available) I had a wee Zebra spider, black and white striped, this guy, hanging out on the floor by my bag while I was working at my desk. An hour or so later, I turn around, and there he/she still is.

Now, these spiders are everywhere, perfectly harmless, and at times perfectly helpless. It just seemed terribly out of place sitting by my shoe, and a little listless when I went to pick it up. It didn’t want to climb onto my finger despite making it a finger-jail, but it willingly got onto a scrap of paper I offered. So I took it to the bathroom where the window was open, and let it go.

It explored the sill for a while, but then decided the great outdoors was really where it wanted to be. So my one good deed was done for the day. (I try not to tattle/brag about these acts, but I keep on doing it. Bragging negates valour, dontcha think?)

So I took it to the bathroom where the window was open, and let it go. It explored the sill for a while, but then decided the great outdoors was really where it wanted to be. So my one good deed was done for the day. (I try not to tattle/brag about these acts, but I keep on doing it. Bragging negates valour.)

Rewilding is about converting your lawn to groundcover (bit by bit!) to native species. This fosters biodiversity. It also creates habitat for urban wildlife. Finally, you'll only trim it 2-3 times per season rather than every 7-10 days!

The green driveway gallery shows you how you can DIY a driveway conversation using my first model as an example. There are other ways to do it, and things I learned in the process and afterward. Please call me at 514-815-5163 for my landscaping service, or to discuss upgrading your driveway.

The work season is April 1st through June 30th, but I install bird strike prevention (to stop birds from crashing into windows and glass balconies) whenever the temperature is above 5ºC. Call the number above or email. It's important to do this earlier rather than later,  in time for bird migrations in late April to end of May, and late August to mid-October.


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