Sunday, May 1, 2016

SUNDAY STROLL

 On warm, sunny Sundays at this time of the year we enjoy a little stroll around our landscape, checking the progress of blooming shrubs and perennials.  This beautiful Muckle Plum is an early bloomer and lives just opposite our back door.



A little farther toward the vegetable gardens at the back you'll find the Double Flowering Plums, just beginning to burst into bloom.  That's the deep pink at the center, in front of the Blue Spruce.


At the front near the road is a very tall Spruce that was here when we bought our acreage in 1997.  I was surprised to see these bright buds at the tips of the branches.  Are they cones or just new growth?  (I live at a Garden Centre, but that doesn't mean I know a whole lot about plants!)


Then it's time to look into our three greenhouses and admire the healthy plants there.  Here's what we call the #1, just because it was the first one we built.  We keep the annuals here.  This greenhouse is the largest and has two gas furnaces to bring the tender annuals through the frosty nights.  The thermometer stood at 0ÂșC this morning when we got up, although now we're enjoying what feels like a summer afternoon with the temperatures well into the 70's (F).

The #2 greenhouse (second one we built) is almost as large, but a simpler building.  We keep our perennials and some shrubs in this greenhouse.  The heating, when needed, is provided by an old wood stove that used to be in the house and a propane heater that Jim refers to as "his flame thrower."


And last on today's tour is the #3 greenhouse, quite small and not heated.  Right now it's home to our pansies, which prefer cool weather and can even stand some frost and some snow. 

 

A WORD ABOUT COMMENTS: I would like to hear your input on my posts, but it seems that it's difficult to post comments.  I have the settings for accepting comments done correctly, but there's some kind of gremlin there.  If you have anything to say, you can email me at grammilou@hotmail.com and I will post your comments where we can all read them.  I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

DEER DEPREDATIONS

We were having a peaceful morning, sipping our coffee after breakfast, when I happened to go into the sewing/computer room which faces the backyard.  Three deer were "pruning" the Nanking Cherry bushes.  No, there were three deer on this side and three more on the other side.  Jim ran out with the pellet gun to scare them off.  They left.


Less than ten minutes later I happened to look out back again, and saw four deer even closer in, munching up the perennials and shrubs nearer to the house.  There were probably a few more hidden behind the shrubbery.


How in the world are we going to be able to grow our vegetables this year with all this destruction going on?  We really, really need a cull here.  These deer are only the tip of the problem.  It was a mild winter and there are herds of deer numbering close to 50 in the nearby areas.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

PART OF THE FAMILY

The Mallards have been back for quite some time already, but until this week I wasn't able to get a good picture of them.  They were always too far away, or were frightened away when I opened the back door.  This year we see them walking along the driveway behind the house or pecking their way through the landscape there.  I don't know where their nest is located this year.

One year they nested on the little pond near the road out front and raised a whole brood of twelve darling little yellow ducks there, and in the dugout to the south of the driveway, and even took a side trip across the road to the dugout there.  She's a very good mother, quite calm and very capable.

As they walk through the landscape, it's generally Mrs. in front and Mr. a few paces to the rear.

Our place is also the summer home to a family of Canada geese.  There seem to be three in that "family" which quite surprises us as Canada geese mate for life.  What's the third one doing there?  With the ducks the male/female differences are very evident, but not with the geese (unless there's some trick to differentiate them that I haven't heard of.)

It's always so interesting to watch the bird life here.  Our acreage is a true bird sanctuary because of all the trees and shrubs we've planted.  Many of the shrubs are fruit bearing.  On the north side of our shelter belt we have four long rows of Saskatoon bushes, which are just so very attractive to robins.  If you walk among those rows when the berries are ripe, flocks of robins wing out ahead of you.  Robins also really love strawberries.  We used to cover our strawberries with netting, but so many young robins would get tangled up in the netting and either perish or have to be cut loose.  Now we have large wooden framed screens in place to both protect the berries and spare the birds.

We also have fruit trees, apples and pears, and many berries: raspberries, gooseberries, Saskatoons, Nanking cherries, Schubert chokecherries, pin cherries, Evans cherries and Mountain Ash.  There are sand cherries (bushes with thorns), red currants and black currants; all besides the strawberries in the garden beds.  There are also Seabuckthorn (very tart orange berries) and high bush cranberries (also very tart).

In addition there are spruce trees, larches, poplars, Russian olive, Maydays, and oaks and elms, Ohio Buckeye, Butternut and White Birch.  Nonfruiting shrubs include junipers, lilacs, and willows.  I may have missed a few!

I haven't mentioned the merely decorative shrubs, including MockOrange, cottoneaster, Alpine currant, Amur maple.

When we bought this place (20) acres in 1997 the only trees on the place were a three rows of small spruce and four rows of Saskatoons as a shelter belt on the north.  All the rest we planted.  I'd like to call this place "NewEden" but then we might get a few snakes!

Monday, April 25, 2016

PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

I've been working intensively on the Tradewinds quilt this weekend.  Tomorrow evening the town quilt club has their "Show 'n Tell," a windup evening to which we invite anyone we think might be interested and set out the quilts we've made this year for everyone to admire and enjoy.  At least, the quilts we've made that haven't been given away yet.

I have just two lap quilts to show, because everything else has been given away already.  But there is that very large quilt that I'm working on, and I'd like to get the top sewed together to show.

First step was to sew the vertical seams within the blocks.  Second step, shown here, was to sew two rows of blocks together along the vertical seams.  That involves laying the second row of blocks on top of the first row and pinning them together.  This shows row two being turned over onto row 1.


I've pinned them on both sides of the block to keep them from getting twisted.  They made quite a pile on the sewing table!


After the vertical seams were finished, I sewed them together horizontally.  I'd been using the recommended "scant" 1/4" seam, and was very unhappy with the way the intersections turned out:

Just not acceptable.  This was a blow!  Up to that point the quilt was a pleasure to make: the squares (four to a block) were very simple to sew and "square up."  I stopped sewing for a while to ponder how to fix this.  The problem seemed to be in the "scant-ness" of the seams.  If the seams were a generous 1/4" would the intersections be better?  It was late on Sunday evening when I took rows 3 and 4 tried out the fix on the first two horizontal rows.  It worked!!!

I was actually glad to see a gloomy, snow/rain day this morning!  That meant I could devote my time to sewing!  After 2 1/2 hours of effort, which included resewing the vertical seams and then sewing the horizontal seams, rows 3 and 4 were together, looking good!

Then it was time to do some kitchen work.  We've run out of breakfast goodies, so I made a dozen Saskatoon muffins, a large batch of granola and a fruity scone (eight pieces).  Also cooked up a batch of cranberry sauce to go with the roasted chicken breast, curried cauliflower and oven roasted sweet potato sticks for dinner.  Was that ever delicious!  Then it was back to sewing.

I follow Bonnie Hunter's method of "Webbing the Top" which you can find on her web page.  Just go to Quiltville.com.   Here are rows 5, 6 and 7 webbed.  All the vertical seams are sewed.  The horizontal seams will be sewed after all this is very carefully pressed.  That's a job for another day!

In this last photo you can see how I've pinned the outside of the set of blocks together to keep them from flopping around.  I start doing that when I sew two rows together.  Otherwise the blocks twist around each other and you have a real rat's nest.  Pinning everything keeps things organized.


I wonder if I'll get the top far enough to display tomorrow evening.  Rows 1 and 2 need to be picked apart and resewed, and then the three separate section can be sewed together.  Probably a good 2 1/2 hours of sewing left, and that doesn't include all the "unsewing" that needs to be done first.  I'd better get at it!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

MISSED OUT!

Today was the last meeting day for the country quilting group.  We planned to sew in the morning, go out to a restaurant for lunch (we usually take turns bringing lunch), and then sew some more in the afternoon.  I had said I would not be able to come because we expected a shipment of trees and shrubs for the garden centre and I would be needed here.

The truck arrived yesterday morning, 8:30 and by 9:30 we had unloaded everything and spent the rest of the morning potting up.  That left me free to attend today's gathering of Shirl's Girls.

Because M. and I had not had our morning walk yesterday I decided to do that first and then go to quilting.  When I arrived at the church all was dark and there was a note on the door (I'm so glad they thought to do that!).  Because of a power outage they had decided to take a little trip up the road to the nice quilting shop in Delburne.  Should I quickly try to catch up with them?  It was 10:15.  They might have left as early as 9:30, so I simply stopped in town to check the mailbox (zilch) and then treated myself to a little fabric shopping at the local IDA.

I'm planning a black and white quilt with red accents, as per the experimental block a few weeks ago, and have lots of black on white and white on black, but not the red I wanted.  I bought 1 1/2 meters of a lovely shaded red.  Because I'm a senior I get a  10% discount, which comes in handy!

So this afternoon I did the sewing I had planned to do at Shirl's Girls.  I put together the last few 1/4 blocks for the TRADEWINDS quilt that's in process.  Then I put some batting on the floor downstairs and laid out the 1/4 blocks.  I had thought that there were enough 1/4 blocks for 49 complete blocks, having counted and recounted, but alas! there were only 45 1/2 complete blocks.  So the quilt will be 7 (15") blocks by 6 1/2 blocks.  That's still plenty big, as it should finish in the neighbourhood of 105" x 97.5".  I suppose that's big enough.


Here's the quilt laid out on the floor.  Nothing is sewed together yet.  I suppose I need to make sure that all the colours are well distributed, but right now I just feel like sewing the top together.  There's so much variety in the blocks it should be fine.

Monday, April 18, 2016

FIRST PICKING

Several weeks ago I planted spinach in a large oval pot.  At first it was in the dining room window sill.  Then it was moved to the greenhouse when we turned the heat on there.  Just recently we moved that pot to the backdoor patio.  This morning I harvested the "first picking."  What lovely spinach.  We had a large spinach/onion/cranberry salad with our dinner today.  What a great way to get your vitamins and roughage!  We'll be able to pick from the pot for several weeks, just removing the large outer leaves and leaving the center plant to produce more.

There's another large pot on the patio: one containing two big heads of Buttercrunch lettuce.  Have you seen "Living Lettuce" in the supermarket?  It comes in a rigid plastic container and the lettuce head has its roots still attached.  That lettuce stays good in the fridge for weeks.  When most of the leaves have been picked off I take the center core, still attached to the root ball and plant it in a pot.  They do wonderfully well in the greenhouse when it's still too cold outdoors, and now for about a week they are thriving on the back patio.  That one pot with two heads of lettuce will keep us well supplied until the lettuce in the garden is ready to harvest.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

FORSYTHIA

This Forsythia was planted about ten years ago.  It has bloomed faithfully each year, but the blooms were always limited to the very bottom of the shrub--the area that was covered with snow each winter.  The flower buds on the upper branches, not insulated by snow cover, froze each year.  This past winter was mild, and the Forsythia has never looked better:


We see the shrub in the upper picture from our living room window, silhouetted  against a dark green spruce--so lovely!  The three separate shrubs in the lower picture are on the slope leading up to the house, and are visible when you come up the driveway, also very nice!

You can see from the pictures that spring is not very advanced here.  The trees are just leafing out and the tulips are poking out of the ground.  The daffodils next to the house, where it's warmest, have flowered already, as have the snowdrops, always the first to dare to bloom!

Jim learned once from a nurseryman that this shrub was named after a Mr. Forsythe, and should really be spoken of as "for seye thi ah."  I don't think that pronunciation will ever become common.