Friday, April 29, 2022

Our Sunday Afternoon Drive, Continued

We were down in the swamp when I left you, listening unsuccessfully for frogs calling.  But there were several other things that caught my attention.  We drove across the narrow bridge and turned at the corner.  This is a popular put-in spot for canoeists, in the middle of a canoe route through the swamp, and the parking spots off the road were full - in April!

A nice view of the swamp we were leaving behind.

A closer shot shows the open channel of the river in the background, a route I've canoed several times in the past.

There are obviously beaver that live in the area, though they are probably what we call bank beaver, creating a home in the bank of the river rather than building a lodge in a pond.

The bark on this fallen willow caught Mrs. F.G.'s eye.

While I really struggled to get an appropriate exposure for these bright yellow Sweet Coltsfoot.

Along past the swamp and we passed this nice old one-room schoolhouse, now converted to a residence.
It's one of the better conversions I've seen, retaining its old belfry for the school bell and windows.

Turning around we headed up the long Epping hill and passed this beautiful old barn, much more easily visible in April.  This style of barn is called a 'monitor barn', though I've seen no explanation of why.  The raised central roof provides good ventilation for both animals and stored grain or hay.  I can only ever recall seeing two barns of this style.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Sunday Afternoon Drive

We always used to laugh at the couples out for a Sunday afternoon drive, just moseying about the countryside, slowing down traffic.  Now we're one of them and on a warm sunny day like last Sunday, it was wonderful!  We went in search of cranes, frogs calling, and Skunk Cabbage.  We found two of the three.

The first thing we stopped for was a pair of very blue Tree Swallows who have obviously claimed this nesting box.  Driving by you can easily mistake the flash of blue for Eastern Bluebirds.

A little further on we stopped to photograph these Pussy Willows, always a welcome sign of spring.

And off in the distance to the east there was still snow on some of the runs at Georgian Peaks, the north-westerly most ski club on Blue Mountain.

We ended up stopping and taking a good look at the large Red Price apple orchard just west of Clarksburg, noticing especially the large bulge at the rootstock grafts near the ground.  It makes quite a pattern looking through this very high density orchard.

So I got online today and started researching apple rootstocks and grafting.  It's a fair bit more complicated than I realized.  Apples are generally not grown from seed, because they won't be 'true-to-type'.  So to get an orchard of Red Prince you need to choose a rootstock and graft a 'scion' or healthy Red Prince twig onto the rootstock of every tree.  The scion determines the apple type.

The rootstock determines the relative size of the tree, from dwarf to standard.  They need to be held up by trellising, especially once they are laden down with fruit.  The bulge is the location of the graft.  I've looked to find out why the bulges here are so prominent, but the only thing I can come up with is that there are still several types of rootstock among dwarf trees bred for resistance to cold, fire blight, insects and disease, and woolly apple aphid.  

Most breeding and research comes from universities or agricultural research stations like Cornell in New York, or Malling in England..  In our case the Vineland Research Station of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food is important.  Dwarf trees do tend to fruit earlier, after only 2 or 3 years, but research has not determined exactly why this is.

We carried on down to the Epping Road through the Beaver Valley swamp, a place where we hoped we'd hear frogs calling.  We didn't, but the reflections among the Silver Maples were good for a picture.

Along with some dry seed heads of last year's Queen Anne's Lace.  Part 2 tomorrow or the next day.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Daffodils and Hyacinth

With the heat of yesterday our Daffodils and Hyacinths in the front island have burst into bloom!  It was an unseasonably hot day for April yesterday, actually hot!  We went for a nice drive searching for Skunk Cabbage and frogs calling, successfully I might add.  And we now have the most colourful front yard on the street.  

This is the island out front, now in full bloom.  It's so encouraging to see the colour after 6 months of winter.

We've never had many Daffodils, but when we built the island last year I was inspired by a couple of houses I ride by to suggest it, and we think it's been very successful.

The Hyacinths have been in a cluster around the White Birch trees for 3 years I think.  Did you notice the two deep purple ones in the lower left?

Of course the Daffodils open facing the sun, so most of my pictures are from the back, though the yellow is just as bright.

But when I went for a ride I snapped one from the road; this was the best I got.

And in the back yard our Forsythia burst into bloom overnight.

A wonderful time of year for seasons changing and flowers blooming!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Happy Earth Day!

It was 1970 when the first Earth Day was celebrated, hundreds of thousands of people all across North America drawing attention to the environmental issues of the day.  Many of them were students, and I was one of them.  I was in third year at that point, and ready to join the protests, though at Western in those days we kept it quite civil!

Inglis Falls, 
long one of my favourite little bits of nature around here.

Within a very few short years the first Endangered Species Acts were passed, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was passed, and the Environmental Protection Agency was formed.  We began to get a handle on air and water pollution, as well as protecting rare species.  The Kent State Massacre by the U.S. National Guard seemed to make the protests justified.  

In those days climate change wasn't even an issue, but today it is undoubtedly the major environmental issue we face.  Take a few moments today and celebrate the small corner of nature that you love, and support political action on climate change when you get the opportunity.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Garden Project

I got some pretty creative guesses for how we're going to use our big steel rectangle.  I liked the spa bath for Mrs. F.G. best, but a couple of you got it right, it was intended as another raised bed.  It got rejected in the end, but the three smaller circular ones like it are all ready to be planted now as soon as the weather warms up.

This is the before picture, the plot of grass left in the back yard that will gradually be transformed into garden this summer.

Mrs. F.G. decided the rectangular box would be too big, but here are the three stainless steel fireplace rings that will become raised beds, placed where we want them after much fussing about.

Our assistant gardener there is digging them in and levelling them.

He also brought some garden debris, leaves and mulch from the neighbours (who happen to be his aunt and uncle), and Mrs. F.G. had some too.  That went in first.

Next he's adding purchased triple mix.

It's beginning to look like a garden construction site, always a good thing.

Now Mrs. F.G. is adding a good helping of perlite to each bed for improved drainage.

And finally a good layer of potting mix.

The beds have been levelled off and Mrs. F.G. was very pleased, though it will be some time before the weather is warm enough for planting the tomatoes and cucumbers here.  She'll go ahead with some cold weather crops like peas and lettuce.  This will give us the space we want for veggies, together with the side garden and the planters on the deck.  The grass here will gradually be killed off and planted to other things.

Here's the rectangle that got left out of the picture; it will go to our son we hope.

So another garden project successfully completed, though there is lots of work to do yet before plants are growing!

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Garden

It was a warmish day one day last week and I got out into the garden for the first time this year.  Of course nothing is up and blooming yet, but there are numerous little bits of green rising above the ground.  It will be fun to watch the transformation in the next few weeks.

The garden itself is still looking mostly brown.

But we do have this 'green man' sitting up among the dried leaves, still visible until all the hostas start to grow.

Once I got down onto the patio a bit I got quite a different view of the golf course, including both those big Sugar Maples I enjoy so much.

We're certainly seeing more birds than over the winter.  The male Goldfinch are turning bright yellow, and for the first time we saw a small flock of Wild Turkeys out on the golf course.

Just a few of the green leaves coming up that I can see from the window, here two day lilies, one Leopard's Bane, and the 4th (closest) I don't remember.

Can you see them?  One day we had all kinds of maple keys stuck upright in the grass.  No idea where they came from at this time of year!

Another view of the golf course and part of the garden from up on the deck.

And finally a mystery object of bright corrugated stainless steel sitting on the deck.  Can you guess what this is for?

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Sandhill Cranes

It's the time of year when we watch for Sandhill Cranes, returning from their long migration and pairing off to nest.  We took the back road home from physio and watched for them where we've seen them before.  And sharp-eyed Mrs. F.G. spotted two of them!  All of these photos are by Mrs. F.G. since she was on the same side of the car as the cranes, but I did the editing, which included a lot of cropping.

This turned out to be our best photo, a single crane stretching its neck high.  We were a long way from them!

I don't know how Mrs. F.G. spots them but here they are, meandering among the Red Osier Dogwood near a large swampy wetland.  Can you spot them both?  They're masters of disguise!

Now they're a little more obvious.  When they're among tall vegetation, unless they have their head up, they are exceedingly difficult to spot!

Now they've come out into the open, making them much easier to spot.

And on they go heads down, searching for more food.  We were gratified to have spotted this pair.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

First Ride of the Year

Last Thursday it began to get actually warmish, and I got out for the first ride of the year.  Just up and down our own street a couple of times, but it was enough to break my six month winter hibernation.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting a little fresh air.

Not much has changed on the street, but I was pleased to see two homes had yellow and blue ribbons out front, in solidarity with Ukraine.  Good idea.

And yesterday I rode further afield, my easiest local walk without going downtown, and found these big sunflowers tied to a tree.  Sunflowers are the flower of Ukraine.

I trust the weather this week will get warmish again after our colder weekend (even a touch of white Sunday), and I'll be able to get out and head still further afield.  Unfortunately the weather forecast is for more colder days starting Saturday.  It's April!