Living rural in the city is great – you can do it, too.

Tag: Redevelop (page 1 of 2)

How to plant rhubarb seeds

This March, I avoided planting my garden seeds until this past weekend. Though I knew I was blowing the schedule for many seeds, I hadn’t done any additional homework about them until last week. I’ve not even completed the list, but the image above shows you the crops that I should have started earlier, based on our May 3rd frost-free date. See, last year, I thought frost-free was three weeks later; no wonder I had such a paltry garden.

Even starting late, it’s still worthwhile planting your own seeds. I found out last week that a lot of greenhouse seedlings are treated with neonicotinoid pesticides at the seed/seedling stage, and I don’t want anything that will harm native pollinators in my garden. So I used seeds I’ve saved, and some I bought.

Here is a little pictorial of how to plant rhubarb seeds (complete description at this link), which I collected when I was in Ontario and saw a plant that had gone to seed.

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Saving electricity in winter

First, do this test for your electricity efficiency!

the reno-climat program

There’s a difficulty with most so-called economic behaviour in the world: it pays attention only to the first price tag, and rarely to the second. The first price tag is the sticker at the store. The second price tag is the cost of operation and maintenance. Then, there’s the third — the price you don’t pay, but someone else does. It’s called an externality, and there’s a lot of that going on, and it usually falls to government to pay it, or no one at all.

Truly economic behaviour would consider all prices, including these externalities. For these, a mitigation fee could be paid. I’m going to talk about this now, but first, admire this rubber coaster:

Ontario has a Tire Stewardship Program;
this is one of two coasters I have of recycled rubber.

In Quebec, we pay the Electronic Waste fee when we buy electronics. We also pay an environmental tax when we buy tires – at $3 per tire. Then, when you want to scrap your tires, you can bring them to any garage that does tire service, no questions asked. Many go to developing countries for a second life, and those that are not fit for reuse go to a recycling plant. They used to be stockpiled — a good practice where recycling technology hasn’t kept pace with the supply — but then, in the early 1990’s, someone accidentally set one ablaze both in Quebec and in Ontario. That kicked recycling into high gear! Quebec announced last summer (2012) that the last stockpiled tires from its various dumps have now all been recycled.

These three price tags (in fact, there are more) also exist when you buy a home. After the purchase price, you first have to pay the excise/land transfer/”bienvenue” tax (and the seller has other closing/selling costs to pay at end of ownership). Then you have the necessary mortgage and condo fees on a weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly basis. After these, the cost of upkeep: annual taxes, house insurance, and the energy and other utility (e.g. water) bills. Lastly, and inescapably, repairs and renovations.

(When shopping for a home, it’s good to consider all the costs. I created a spreadsheet to track these, along with square footage and features. It helped me consider the objective value of what I was looking at purchasing. I gave properties a star rating for meeting critiria and also the important, subjective value of how the place felt.)

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Raccoons and other garden visitors

I love having garden visitors of any kind.

A few weeks ago, these two young raccoons spent the day in the tree overtop of my backyard. And then, a couple of nights ago, close to midnight, I heard a sound out back; another raccoon, of course. A young, healthy one had raided the eggshell supply that I keep to mix with the bird seed (or dig into the garden). He had also pulled the pet laundry folded on the park bench down. He seemed to like rubbing his paws all over the towel, that was fun!  Then, he ate some stuff in the garden – leaves, slugs, who knows.

As I started to eat my yogourt, watching him, he fixed his eyes on me in a dim, myopic way, and came up to the patio door to poke his nose into the screen: “Got some for me?” I told him I had a water gun and he better not mess with the screen. Then he picked up and “washed” the spilled eggshells. I turned the patio light off. He quietly retreated back to the park bench; I went to bed.

Squirrel on the shed roof garden

Now that Clyde and Rufus have raised their kids, we have a new squirrel visitor coming by to beg. This one (pictured) wasn’t begging, she was hanging out. The moment I opened the patio door, she scampered off. A favourite spot for the squirrels, they have scooped away the dirt on the shed roof, which has not helped the herbs there keep their moisture. Some play dead until the rain comes back.

Grackle visiting the pond waterfall

If you have a great tolerance for bad photography, you can see the grackle bathing here in the waterfall of the pond. The rocks are submerged below the surface, so bigger birds have confidence to get themselves wet. The pond is a mainstay for the house sparrows, but I have chickadees – I love hearing their arrival! – as well as grackles and starlings visit, and the occasional robin, cardinal, house finch, and rare downy woodpecker also come by.

Two keys to having wildlife enjoy your garden:

  1. have a source of running water, and
  2. have a “messy” garden, with brush piles and lots of wood for perching and shrubbery for hiding in.

The presence of nature in my immediate back yard gives me and my human guests a great feeling of peace – and of course, occasional excitement.

Wild birds need water in winter

I enjoy looking after the birds out back. Even out front, as the Virginia creeper produced berries that the starlings raided one day. Enough berries remain that the house sparrows come and get some from time to time.

It’s good to have plants that produce food for birds, and also a water source. Since September, pairs and trios of chickadees come by, and I’ve seen many different warblers come and have a prolonged drink in my pond. My pond is what makes my backyard home to so many creatures, besides myself.

So today, I heard a bird out there that sounded unusual, but I couldn’t see it. I’m reasonably sure it was a Northern Cardinal again, but if it was a Downy Woodpecker, as has happened before, I hope he or she comes back. I hope some Dark-eyed Juncos and some Common Redpolls visit, or at least a White-throated Sparrow, as one stayed at my feeder for a week a couple of winters ago.

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