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May 2018 Garden Update

We finished one of the coldest (but not record breaking) Aprils on record with one of the coldest (but not record breaking) starts to May. We are now baking in a powerful (but not record breaking) heat wave for the end of May. My point is our climate in Manitoba is one of extremes. You have to garden by going with the weather nature sends. I folded up my wonderful greenhouses and put them away until next year four days ago. While we may have more cold yet, (and that would not break a record unless it got colder than the -6.0C high of 1983) with severe storms in the forecast and the plants having outgrown their shelving, it was time. I had great fun with the greenhouses this year. That is especially so because of the cold spring delaying the normal greening I would otherwise have been outside enjoying. I look forward to being able to enjoy them again next spring.

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Spring was unusually cool though not record breaking. I used my greenhouses daytime but for many nights had to bring plants indoors for the nights. This picture was April 26 which shows how cold our spring was.

I was concerned that the extreme cold we had this winter combined with low snowfall meant that many of the precious trees I had so carefully planted would die. I was delighted to discover I only lost one tree. We planted nearly 200 little spruce trees that were government giveaways to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. These trees were once abundant in our quarter section but spruce were largely extirpated by settlers for use in making furniture and they used spruce for firewood. The majority of the seedlings we had went into our quarter section so we could help restore the natural state of it. We planted 12 in our yard and all but one survived so I am hopeful it will be the same on our quarter section. About half, like this one, had some cold damage but also have new growth and should recover.

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Little spruce coming back after some winter damage.

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I am most excited to see my Saskatoons are taking off. They seemed to spend most of last year and their first year just kind of sitting there. I know they were putting in deep roots in preparation for the big take off but it was discouraging to have to wait for visible signs of growth. This spring it’s there. I am still years away from any substantial crop but this sweet blue-apple berry is a special favourite of mine and it has deep historically important roots for our area. Because of the dry weather I have been diligently watering all my little trees. This had no doubt helped even though well water is never as good as rainwater for trees.

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Due to the weird weather, very cold spring followed by a week of steady 30C+ (86F) daily heat in extreme dry conditions (for the end of May) an explosion of blooms has taken place. Normally we have one thing blooming and then the next. Right now it feels like everything is blooming all at once. I am enjoying the insane catch up blooming a lot. I have never before had so much in bloom all at once. You have to watch where you step because of all the bees feasting in the grass.

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I planted the seed part of my garden in a frantic rush because of the prediction for rain. I rototilled twice, added peat moss and fertilizer and then seeded. I spaced my rows at least double wide from previous years. Hopefully I finally got the rows wide enough to actually run my tiller between the rows. This has meant some downsizing in what I am planting. This year I dramatically reduced certain things we had too much to use last year, like beets. I also switched my cucumbers to the same pot method I use for zucchinis. I moved my green peppers from the main garden where they never did well, to my herb garden. Hopefully they will do better there with more sun and better drained soil. This year, with the bigger greenhouse giving me more room, I also started flowers. They are now in pots hopefully planning to bloom soon too. Morning glories are a special favourite of mine and I have had no luck at all with them here near the 51st parallel. This year I started them early in pots. Maybe I will finally get to enjoy their blooms again. I also found that the heat caused my tomato plants to take off so quickly that their tops quickly outgrew their pots. Even though it is entirely possible to have more frosts, I relented, perhaps foolishly, and set them out in the tomato garden. I moved six plants into bigger pots. That way I can still have a few tomatoes even if I get frosted out and I am also going to be trying growing tomatoes in pots if it doesn’t freeze.

Of my garden vegetable/fruit perennials all of them survived and are growing nicely. I have rhubarb, chives, horseradish, asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, and garlic in abundance. It has been very dry so I have been watering even the established plants. I also kept red onion seeds and I have planted them among my tomatoes to drive off aphids. I have already said the special blessing for great events, the shehecheyanu because I was able to use chives from my garden in my potato salad which I have not been able to do since the last Jewish new year.

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Our stately Manitoba Maples were the only plants that did not seem bothered by the strange weather. They were covered in their hanging blooms the bees love so much that the whole tree buzzes each spring. For a while they were the only food available for the poor little bees. The maples have long since dropped their blooms and are fully leafed out right on schedule, oblivious to the crazy weather. My hammock was out once the weather warmed up but I took it in because of the rain forecast. It has been too hot to use it since the rain. We had an extremely dry spring. I put in my potato plants the standard eight inches deep and the ground  was bone dry even that deep. I postponed the planting until the day before the rain was due. We had about an inch and the garden is now in better shape water wise but we need a lot more rain.

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There is a spot near our garage which I have left to go wild. For the last three summers I have enjoyed blue bells in this location and it looks like I will again this summer.

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Finally there are the nuisances. Each year I have to hunt up new thistle plants and pour boiling water on them or I end up with giant ugly plants that are a danger to everyone. And the maple trees drop seeds everywhere and they grow fast and would soon wreck walls and foundations if not removed. It was apparently a good year for both thistles and maple seedlings. Dandelions are both in and out of this category. I love their bright yellow blooms but they are growing in a lot of places I don’t want them.

My rain barrel is full and I have a new garden box the will remain covered for this season. The result should be the grass and weeds underneath will be killed and with the additional some soil I will have a new garden box for next year. I have a lot of weeding and cleaning and mowing ahead. The grass is out of control. Bring on summer. I am so ready for eating fresh veggies and fruit from my garden.

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Migration Home 2018 – Leaving Florida

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Kack Rudloe, Jane Brand Misty, Rita and me with Dick taking the picture after our last beach walk of 2018.

We had a lovely nearly three month stretch in Florida. The first week was warm like spring with temperatures reaching the 80s (27C) every afternoon. We arrived to discover that Bugula neritina was in full bloom and Gulf Specimen Marine Lab had an order for 1000 pounds so everyone was busy gathering the purple stuff. The temperatures dropped in time for Christmas and everyone disappeared for their holiday time with family. We were privileged to join the Skye Rudloe’s in laws, the Haberfields, for a lovely dinner. As the weeks went on, we regularly feasted on special southern coastal delicacies like the award winning hot fish dip made with mullet, grouper and sheep’s head fish, fresh veggies (especially jalapino peppers) and secret herbs that make a literally award winning combination.

The cold came and with it the great turtle rescue. Soon after that the great turtle release. I am very glad we were able to be a part of that. After that, the heat came back and and humidity. We were soon gasping every afternoon and sweating without blankets at night, praying for a cross breeze. The Floridians laughed at our discomfort over heat in the mere 80s. We had several days with very heavy rains and the humidity stayed near 100% for days at a time and everything in the trailer began developing a dank smell. My asthma flared and I was mildly wheezing constantly and living from antihistamine to antihistamine. The no-see-ums and deer ticks awoke with a vengeance and I spent time walking the corral and sprinkling poison on the rapidly sprouting fire ant hills. Every day we went to one of the local beaches to walk and enjoyed the sun and fresh air but the climate had shifted to uncomfortable. While I hated the thought of leaving my friends, I was beginning to really look forward to heading north.

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Monsoon time in the corral looking at the guest house.

March 1 arrived and it was time to hitch up and begin our trip home. We decided to repeat last year’s nice trip. We would take the trip in our now favourite long and slow manner. This means trying to not do more than 200 miles in a day and staying two nights at each stop. Before we could start our trip we had to make a side trip to Charlotte NC where my husband had a meeting over a business venture. So our trip began by breaking our own rules. Business is business after all. And so, with no small amount of sadness and a bit of relief we rolled down the highway and headed north.

 

Storm Stayed

HighwayMapDick finished up his conference in a fine mood. I was watching the forecast because a storm was coming in. The weatherman said snow would start 11:00am Friday morning. It would end before midnight followed by some wind. Dick was finished at 12:30pm. I decided to pass the time by making fresh bread and preparing a nice dinner. Our plan was to leave the next morning. Men plan, God laughs. He had a good chuckle that day. Promptly at 11:00am the snow started. By the time I went to pick up Dick the roads were icy and a real mess even in town.

A young man, a student, attending the conference caught a lift with us to our end of town where he was supposed to catch a Greyhound bus to Denver. To save money the student had been staying in a tent in the same campground as us so we were giving him lifts back and forth. Due to the imminent wet snow he had taken his tent down and packed everything into his back pack. Now his bus was delayed and he literally had everything he owned on his back. So we had a guest for dinner.

We monitored the continuing deterioration of the highways by the progress of his bus. Finally, we headed over to the bus station and dropped him off at 7:44pm. Just before I went to sleep the highways map showed conditions so dangerous that sections of the highway were now closed.

We are near the interstate and I was awoken about 1:00am by a weird quiet. I peeked out the window and saw rows and rows and rows of semis on the side of the highway. A check of the map showed everything was red, closed, for miles in all directions. The back end of the cold front moved past shortly afterward with intense rocking winds that made our trailer sway alarmingly.

We woke up ready to get on the road. We had a nice breakfast, showered and packed everything up. The map said the highways would open between 10:30am and 12:30pm. Due to the cold meaning the furnace ran a lot overnight, we had an empty propane tank. We decided to head into the town and get that filled before we left. While we were doing that, we ended up talking to several of the locals about the road conditions. Everyone said we should not head out as soon as the highways opened. One man in particular was adamant. The roads might open at 10:30am as we hoped but there was no way the highway would be safe for us pulling a trailer. He strongly advised us to wait a day.

We had some time to kill so we left the store and took the dogs for one last romp at the dog park. In the dog park we got the same advice. Wait. On our way back to the campground we could see lines and lines and line of semis. Every back street, parking lot and empty space had a semi parked there. Among the semis were a few recreational vehicles, buses with passengers and weaving in and out with flashing lights, highway patrol. We looked at the highways map one more time and it said the road was open going west, closed going east and in several places there were high winds with an extreme rollover danger. Semis began pulling out of Laramie to head west in long lines. I went and paid for another night instead.

I have always made it a policy to follow the advice of the locals. If they say something is dangerous, I assume they are right and I listen. We had a nice quiet day of fixing items and relaxing and watching TV. About 5:00pm, I checked the highways map again. A huge exclamation mark brought up a message saying a vehicle had been blown over and caused a multi-car pile up and the highway was now closed to west bound traffic. That could have been us. I am so glad we stayed put. The highways map now shows almost all green. A few spots are orange and there are only two black ice warnings. Hopefully, we’ll get up and find the highway all green and be on our way early in the morning. If not, well there are worse things than spending another say in a safe campground with full services, good WIFI and cable.

Life with Misty and Fred

If you thought babies grow fast, you have never watched a puppy. When we got Misty she was 13 pounds (5.8 kilos). By her second vet check she was 23 pounds (10.4 kilos) and on her latest vet check she hit 33 pounds. (15 kilos). She has had all three rounds of puppy shots and her rabies vaccine. She has her own tag and last visit she got a microchip. She turned 4 months old on September 2. Fred by contrast is 88 pounds (40 kilos) he turns 12 on September 20. Almost every day Misty has grown bigger. She eats about four cups of puppy food each day but she has hungry days where she will pack in as much as seven or eight cups. We are feeding her the highest quality puppy food and I must admit I will be glad, for the sake of our budget, when we can switch her to adult dog food. Hubby Dearest makes many jokes about Clifford. She has begun losing those needle sharp puppy teeth (thank goodness!) and clean large new white adult teeth are coming in fast and furious.

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Our vet surprised me by recommending we do not spay Misty at six months. Given her parental breed types and their bigger but slower growth, he recommended we wait until she is at least a year old. This will give her bones time to fully develop and growth plates to close before cutting off her estrogen supply. Given her breed and size she probably will not have a heat in that first year. We had a discussion about handling an early heat if she does, and preventing pups, as well as the pros and cons of letting her have one heat cycle before spaying her. Apparently you trade one set of risks for another but overall it is better to wait because her breed types (given both her parental breeds) are prone to hip issues and tears in ligaments in the knees and early spaying and neutering seems to increase those events. There are cancer risks decreased by early spaying but there are also different cancer risks increased by early spaying. There isn’t really a right or wrong answer. As always, it is about weighing risk versus benefit so we will revisit the issue at her next check up at one year. I always thought spaying at six months was the absolute normal standard but times are a changing and apparently the thinking on this is changing as well.

Misty is a delightful dog and we feel very blessed to have her. She is still a puppy and as such is subject to those bursts of bad puppy behaviour that result from overwhelming exuberance with life and the itch of new teeth. Even so she had learned several commands including “off”, “off cat” (for small animals including our cat), “come”, “sit”, “lie down”, “shake paw”, “quiet”, “out”, “truck” (go to the truck so we can drive somewhere) and of course her favourite “walk”. She will fetch if prodded but it is not her favourite game. Balls, however, well balls are joy. She has also acquired a lot of the manners essential for successful living with humans. She has a pretty solid grasp of the idea that most things in the house are not hers to chew and some things are. We have had very little trouble of late with her chewing things she is not supposed to have. Constantly rescuing objects from her and substituting toys and an abundance of bones and chew things has helped a lot. The puppy mouthiness improves daily.

Walks are the highlight of Misty’s day, no surprise there. She minds very well on the leash and can now heel on command. She is also pretty trustworthy off leash. We leave her off leash for part of almost every walk now and she stays close by but also thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to run flat out. We take her into our back unfenced yard when we work and she stays in the yard and runs herself to exhaustion in great fast circles.

Misty also loves swimming. We were going to the beach on a regular basis while the weather was warm and it took little urging for her to start swimming eagerly and freely. She has big webbed feet, a legacy of her Golden Retriever mother and those make for great paddles.

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One of the pleasant surprise bonus of her temperament is she is what my husband calls “a contemplative dog”. She likes to spend a lot of quiet time just watching the world go by outside, taking it all, watching everything with great interest but quietly. Fred suffers from such severe separation anxiety that he simply will not sit quietly outside. If we are not with him, he wants in right away. A dog who seems to enjoy sitting outside is a real pleasure. I have known a few German Shepherds who like contemplating the great outdoors so I will give her father credit for that. She daily develops more bridling the most recent being new shoulder brindle marks. Genetically she is a “trindle” i.e. a tricolour dog with brindle as her second colour. That is obviously from her father as well. Her ears are still going between up and down. In these picture they are down but when she is alert and attentive outdoors they stand up like a German Shepherd’s. I think Golden Retriever will win on that account long term though. The older she gets, the more the ears spend time down.

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Misty will sleep anywhere but given a choice she takes the big comfy dog bed or she sleeps at our feet. At night she will sneak into our room so she can sleep at the foot of our bed or on my side on the floor near me.

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Today a proper new big steel kennel arrived for our girl. It is currently large enough for both dogs in a pinch. Fred already has his own big kennel. We learned early how important it is for each dog to have a sturdy steel kennel. Many hotels, shelters and home owners who otherwise will not tolerate dogs, are happy to accommodate them if they have a proper steel kennel. After Irma and Harvey the necessity for each animal to have a proper kennel is even more obvious.

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Another thing that is different about Misty is she is clearly my dog. All the other dogs in our life regard me as a useful pack member but Hubby Dearest is clearly the Lord and Master of the Universe. For some unknown reason of dog brain functioning, Misty seems to have concluded Fred may be the big guy’s dog but she is MY dog. This is not to say she doesn’t like my husband, especially at mealtime because he is in charge of food, but if he gives her a command, she will look to me to reinforce him before obeying. If I get up in the night to use the washroom, Misty always gets up and follows me. She doesn’t follow him. Where I go, she always tries to follow. I must admit after 25+ years of playing second fiddle master, it is very nice to have my own dog at long last.

Misty is an easy going puppy. You expect all kind of trouble with puppies. She still forgets her manners and jumps all over me on occasion. She still will give a puppy nip and then be all contrite when scolded for it. But I see improvement every day. She is also endlessly and totally loving. When she runs on our walks she careens off exploring the world and then runs back for a reassuring pat and some praise. Then she is off again. It has been fun seeing the world through puppy eyes again. It is a marvellous wonderful place. Still, I am looking forward to the day we get past puppy antics and I have a quiet well behaved adult companion. Each day I see that adult dog a little more and the EF5/Category 5 puppy little less.

 

Migration Home – First Stop Miller’s Ferry Campground Alabama

Our first trip after leaving our Florida stop in Panacea was a rather standard one for us of about 300 miles (500km). We traveled 289 miles (465km). We avoided big cities and interstates as much as possible. It was tempting to stop in at the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna Fl as we had such a great time there before. However we were still planning on getting to Utah at this part of our trip. We wanted to get some mileage under out tires so we left Marianna without stopping. We made only one stop at the Walmart outside Mariana to stock up on some groceries. We planned on stopping two days at an Army Corp of Engineers campsite which we assumed have very limited shopping opportunities.

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We arrived just before 6:00 and tired and ready to stop. We were grateful that the nice lady at the office agreed to wait while we found a nice campsite. We had only enough energy to unpack and settle in. We walked the dogs and got lost in the dark. We fell into bed early. We have no pictures to show since we were too busy unwinding to care about documenting anything.

Miller's ferry Campground

The next day we awoke to the sight of a huge eagle sitting in the tree right outside our campsite. What a way to start the day. Drinking coffee with an eagle perched right nearby. Later we walked the park again. We decided a bike ride was in order and we ended up at the Sandy Shores Road on the opposite side of the lake. We chatted briefly with some local fishermen at the narrow bridge past the marina. We saw a lot of wildflowers as spring was in full rage here. After a relaxing lunch we did a load of laundry. It was weird having no internet and no TV reception after working hard all winter. So we just relaxed and unwound in a very pleasant fashion.

This is the review of the campsite I posted elsewhere:

This is an exceptionally nice Army Corp of Engineers campsite on a lake produced by a dam. Fishing appeared to be exceptionally good judging by what we saw being pulled in by fellow campers and the huge number of cormorants, pelicans and an eagle perched in a tree near our campsite. The campground is really large and wide with wide paved roads with easy turns and paved pads and drives. There are a variety of sites, pull through and back in, but all of them are huge. You can get sites right on the lake for an additional $2 charge ($1 if you have senior America pass.) The lakeside plots range from ones where you could walk straight out into the water to those raised up on ridges. We took a ridge site as we have a dog who loves to swim and we were warned about gators in these water. Presumably this is why they only allow swimming in designated areas which are closed in winter. This position also gave us an exceptionally lovely view of the sunset over the lake. Showers and laundry were modern and clean. No charge for showers, $1 for both the washer and dryer. There was only one dump site which meant waiting in line on the way out and the campground was half empty while we were here. I was told it fills right up in summer so the line must get very long. There are a couple of very nice children’s playgrounds next to the showers and with campsites right around them. All were full and the playgrounds were busy with happy children and parents watching from their campsite. The campground has a lot of additional services like free life jacket loan service and horseshoes. There is a very nicely designed boat launch. This is an exceptionally lovely campground and we will be back. I’d give it a ten except for the lack of sewer hookups and the line to dump. We camped at Miller’s Ferry Campground COE in a Travel Trailer.

The next morning we got up and left early for Mississippi.