One Critter Is Eating Well

 

The storm appears to have subsided for now. It’s still snowing, but not as heavily as it was. Cars are moving and driveways are getting plowed out.

This clever little red squirrel knows where to find food. After fighting off a bossy blue jay and some chattering chickadees, he moved into the bird feeder and spent most of his morning there.

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Digging himself a tunnel through the snow, he has all the food he could want and a place to get out of the wind.

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“If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence.” ~ George Eliot

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“Living is no laughing matter: you must live with great seriousness like a squirrel for example – I mean without looking for something beyond and above living, I mean living must be your whole occupation.” ~ Nazim Hikmet

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Here Comes The Sun

I love midwinter. I love the themes of new beginnings, renewal and rebirth. As the snow begins to fall, I resign myself to arm chair adventures and internet gardening until spring returns and the earth is once again fertile.

The winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, and the longest night. After the solstice, which typically falls on or around the 21st of December each year, the cycle reverses and the day once again grows long. It is the point when the year is reborn and daylight hours begin to increase. We may have several cold months before spring arrives, but already the light is drawing nearer.

Photo credit Mr. Objective | Creative Commons Attribution License

Photo credit Mr. Objective | Creative Commons Attribution License

The December solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southern decline. This is when the North Pole is tilted furthest from the sun. The earth’s axis to the sun changes throughout the seasons. This is why the sun appears in different places on the horizon through the year. It also affects the intensity and duration of the sunlight we receive.

Monuments like Stonehenge in Britain and Newgrange in Ireland were aligned so that the primary axes pointed to the winter solstice sunrise (in the case of Newgrange) and the solstice sunset (in the case of Stonehenge).

The earliest sunset actually happens before the solstice. True solar noon happens as much as ten minutes before noon on our clocks. Due to the tilt earth’s axis and our planets “egg shaped” orbit of the sun, solar noon and clock noon don’t always match. By the time the solstice arrives, solar noon is much closer to the noon on our clocks. By this time, solar noon is happening almost ten minutes later than it did earlier in the month, making sunrise and sunset happen ten minutes later as well.

In the mid-northern regions of the globe, the earliest sunset occurs sometime around the middle of December, the solstice itself around the 20th-23rd of December and the latest sunrise happens in early January.

The solstice occurs tomorrow, and Christmas will be just after it. It is a beautiful time to go for a drive and look at decorations and lights. In spite of the increasing darkness, everything is covered with a brilliant layer of snow. No night is really dark in winter.

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Putting the Gardens to Bed

Fall seems to have come and gone before I could really wrap my mind around it. As is usually the case, harvesting lasts until just about the end of October, and then it is time to put the gardens to bed, move the hardier crops to  sheltered cold frames and make a lot… A LOT.. of spaghetti sauce.

The gardens did well through all of September. By the time the first snow fell on October fourteenth, the Swiss chard was the only thing still growing. I managed to use everything that came from my gardens this year. Not much made it to the freezer at all. This means more gardens will be built for next year. From halloween onwards it is time to move indoors, await the seed catalogues that should be turning up any day. It’s time to curl up with a good book, surf the web, play video games or  Cheekybingo and experiment with all kinds of herbal teas.

“Every life needs a little space. It leaves room for good things to enter it.” ~ Sarah Addison Allen, The Peach Keeper

Putting the gardens to bed is the process of cleaning them out and topping up soil where needed. It’s a good time to dig out the roots of any weeds that may have popped up. Rhubarb and strawberries and other perennials will benefit from mulching or covering if you are so inclined. Mine are in perfect little microclimates that protect them from cold and snow. The composter is getting fat on trimmings and leaves.  Now the days are chilly and the nights are even colder. We are well into bonfire season.

It surprises me that Guy Fawkes, or Bonfire Night is not celebrated in New Brunswick. It’s one of the things I miss about Newfoundland. I miss gigantic community bonfires with the fire department managing things and the whole town standing around chatting and drinking hot chocolate cut with too much water, or something else.

“All night I dreamt of bonfires and burn piles and ghosts of men, and spirits behind those birds of flame. I cannot tell anymore when a door opens or closes, I can only hear the frame saying, Walk through.” ~ Ada Limon

When the air turns cold and hard frost finishes the rest of the garden off, my focus shifts to inside tasks. It’s the time for getting ready for winter, decorating for Halloween and eventually Yule. I no longer wake up wanting to go outside and putter. My mornings are filled with warm slippers, hot coffee, procrastinating under the blankets and this year, oddly, pinterest.

Fall is the time of pumpkin spiced everything, and homemade soup. It is the time for cayenne and cinnamon, for good books, and epic movies. There is no time quite like fall for cleaning out and organizing cook books, closets, drawers and all the myriad crafts and projects I began with good intentions and abandoned for shinier things the year before.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Winter is arriving any day now. The first snow was not enough to cover the ground and no snow has managed to stay yet. I am looking forward to mild nights with fat snowflakes falling in the moonlight and digging Trixhe out of snow that is deeper than she is tall.

In the town of The Pas, Manitoba
It snows on the first of Octoba
From then, for six months,
It thaws only once
And never when I am quite soba.
~Author unknown

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Garden Updates

 

July just flew! What a busy time, and the garden has grown up and spilled over the sides. I’ve been out picking beans and peas and swiss chard and lettuce at least every couple of days.

Butternut squash is climbing up the net, and I think I may have planted more than I need, but I hated to pull any out.

One of my gardens practically exploded in a day and a half after a big rain.

Beans are climbing up the trellis and anything else they can reach.

Purple beans are my favorite thing to grow. I think I will plant twice as many next year.

The peas also did very well this year, and there are dozens of tomatoes loving this heat.

The swiss chard is about the only thing that was touched by pests really, other than the odd nibble on some lettuce.

I have not has as much time as I would have liked to spend in the garden but what minutes I could spare have been fantastic.

I will be sad to see fall come!

 

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Rainy days

Me and Jenny goes together like peas and carrots.” ~Forrest Gump

It turns out, Forrest knew what he was talking about. Peas and carrots actually do make fine companions in the garden.

I think I am getting cabin fever. We have had a lot of rain in the past two weeks. I have made a few trips around the garden but there hasn’t been much opportunity to actually do anything out there. Everything is now up and growing, with some of my latest carrots lagging a little behind in the shade of the tomatoes.

The peas are reaching for something to grab onto, clearly ready for a tripod or trellis.

There is no water quite like rain water to feed plants. After a good rain everything seems to grow faster – especially weeds. If you live in a city or have chlorinated water, it is a good idea to let it sit for 24 hours so that the chlorine has a chance to evaporate. If you live in the country, well water is more than likely just fine, but waiting is still a good idea. Cold water can cause stress and shock plants. Letting water sit in the sun and warm up before applying it will avoid these problems.

The general rule of thumb is that plants require an inch of water per week, preferably not all at once. This is not entirely accurate for plants such as tomatoes which have a greater water requirement due to the amount of moisture that is required to produce fruit. During damp weather and high humidity, it may not be necessary to water at all. When it is hot or dry, that small drink of water will help your plants to withstand the temperatures and make the most of the sunshine.

Some people choose to water their gardens in the evening, believing that this will give the plants a chance to drink deeply before water begins to evaporate. Evening watering can cause problems. Some types of root rot and some pests (slugs for example) thrive in these wet conditions.

“Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.”  ~Lou Erickson

Watering plants in the morning helps to prepare them for the day. It allows excess water that may hit the fruit or foliage to evaporate before the sun is at it’s peak. Watering during the hottest part of the day is never a good idea. Those tiny droplets of water can become little lenses in the sunlight, magnifying the sun’s rays and burning plants.

Staggering plantings of various crops can help you to make the most of small spaces and produce a continuous harvest. Some crops, such as radishes will grow to maturity in a very short time (23 days for the variety planted here) and can be planted in bare spots to make every available space productive.

Carrots and tomatoes are old friends in the garden. Carrots can be tucked into open spaces and grow happily in the shade of established tomatoes. While tomatoes like to be planted deep, the roots do not seem to bother the carrots in the least. Tomatoes repel pests that might otherwise harm your carrots, and carrots grow deep into the soil making pathways for water and air and reducing soil-compaction. Both prefer to grow in the same conditions and soil types.

Having some knowledge of gardening is good, but there is no substitute for actual experience. Zone maps, farmer’s almanacs, gardening books and websites can supply a tremendous amount of information – usually suited to the authors particular climate and location. These are valuable resources, but every garden has it’s own rules too.

As a general rule of thumb, when unsure of what, where or when to plant – stick something in the ground. I have yet to find any theory or equation that can compete with a plants will to live.

 “My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view.”  ~H. Fred Dale

 

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