Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Creeping In On Little Cat Feet

The fog, that is. We've been sitting in the middle of a large bank of it all week.

It amplifies the rustley noises in the trees, which causes me to jump a lot when I'm in the garden, listening to all those rustley noises.

It also hides the hawks until they are just overhead, which is causing the chickens to spend a lot of time hiding in the coop.

Given that they look like this right now, I think I'd be hiding too, but I'm superficial that way. For those of you on the fence as to whether you want chickens or not, this is a photo of a moulting chicken. They do this once a year. This moulting chicken has her quills growing in: before those quills come in they look like an inflatable chicken that had its plug pulled. It's three parts gross, two parts weird and fascinating, and five parts creepy.

The first time the chickens moulted we thought they were dying. Some of us might have panicked a bit as to whether this might be a form of bird flu. After consulting a chicken book I discovered that this is an annual event, which was kind of comforting because none of my friends who kept chickens knew what I was talking about - turns out they get rid of their chickens after a year, so they never got to this stage in the relationship before.

Brings up all sorts of very shallow issues for me, I must confess. It's definitely the low point in MY relationship with the chickens, that's for sure. They feel the same way: they spend more time in the coop than ever and always look rather embarrassed when I take their photo. This particular shot took me 22 takes, because Fern went and hid in the layer box, Pip shoved in there with her, and Prunella (who is a bird of very little brain) was left trying to squeeze her way through the wire. Which she can't do, even with fewer feathers than usual.

Here's the greenhouse getting ready for winter. I'm trying something new in terms of keeping the warmth for the citrus: a ceramic heater. I usually use those old-fashioned Christmas lights, but they really light up the back yard, and given that I am rather intolerant of don't particularly like our neighbour's penchant for leaving their outside lights on all the bloody time, I thought it might be rather, err, hypocritical of me to leave two sets on this year, as opposed to one (the lemon arbor). Wait for it - I bet no one but me will notice the lack of outside light on this year. Sigh.

Here is something I'm rather excited by: I've fixed up a heat mat under my bench, and covered it with a few pieces of guttering. The gutters have some pea sprouts in them, which I think might come in handy in a few weeks, once they've sprouted and formed nice long salad-y tendrils.

I even buried the electrical cord under the gravel. I'm getting neat and tidy in my dotage.

With winter coming the statuary have to come in. In the old days they covered them with burlap and left them out, where they would weather the weather in grand, if somewhat muffled, style. These days everything is made of pulpy crap so we have to bring them in or they melt in the rain. Not as stalwart as their forebears, obviously.

I bought this last year at Costco. It was labelled as a Calamondin Orange. Beware O' Innocent Gardener: I saw that label and thought "Oooh! an orange tree! Just what I need!"


I got it home and googled it. Turns out my orange tree is a fussy, miniature orange-like tree that needs care, attention, space, and attention. Did I already say attention?

So I sulked for a year, wishing that I'd googled it before I bought it. I mean, I've always wanted a kumquat, but a miniature orange-like object? Who wants one of those?

Then it fruited. I decided I liked it after all. So it doesn't have oblong fruit? Round is just as nice.

And look at all the fruit to come. I feel somewhat abashed admitting this, but giving a citrus plant care, attention, space - and more attention - works out in the end.
Fragrant heliotrope blooms at long last.

So does the Braveheart mallow.
We put in some new beds in the lower garden last weekend. I say WE but I really mean Richard. He watched me struggle rather wimpily then went and got his saw and made me some stakes and planks. He even put them in for me. I added the stepping stones and tidied up the beds. I'm rubbish with a saw but I'm very good with stepping stones.
Remind me to show you what this bed used to look like. Once upon a time it was a grassy hillside. Then it was an awkwardly placed garden, with higgeldy piggeldy beds.

Now it's a navigable space. I no longer see myself falling over. Tripping. Tipping. Tumbling.

It gives one the illusion of level ground.

Bright lights chard.
Brighter lights chard.
Spider webs through the breaking fog.
The last of the raspberries.

Then, just when I'd finished this post and thought "Gosh, the fog is so beautiful!" it completely disappeared and the sun broke through.

And it looked like this.

Monday, October 14, 2013

How I Spent My Sunday

Driving up the island to the site of so much summer fun.

Taking out water pumps, draining water lines, filling toilets with antifreeze (so they won't crack in the winter), raking leaves, listening to the kids run around in the back yard exclaiming at the cold, looking at the beach from a fall perspective instead of a hot summer sun perspective.

 Watching the boats go up and down the coastline. Tugs. Sailboats. Ferries.

Seabirds scattering at the approach of a few intrepid kayakers.

People hauling seaweed for their gardens.
Lunch on the beach. 

Then back in the car and home again, home again. 

Jiggedy jig.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dear Target Canada

When I first heard you were coming to Canada, I was probably the only person I knew in a radius of 500 miles who wasn't wildly excited. That's because I knew what "coming to Canada" would mean. It wouldn't mean American Target prices. It wouldn't mean American Target clearance deals at the end of every aisle. It wouldn't mean American Target stock, either.

I wanted to love you, I really did. Your commercials were a hit: the patch-eyed dog riding shotgun on the motorbike was irresistibly cute (being a non-dog person, this was an odd place to find myself), the poppy tune was catchy, and the charm of all those Canadian landmarks had us by the heartstrings. FDPG was agog by the clever juxtapositioning of the Target symbol alongside a solid red heart and a maple leaf. "LOOK! Target loves Canada!" she would shriek delightedly every time we drove by. All the pre-teen and teen girls I know were in a palpable tizzy, plotting their pre-dawn raids at the two store openings. Even more telling, the local retail competitors: London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart, Save On Foods, even Walmart, were slashing prices left right and centre as they quaked ever so slightly in their boots. Slashing prices is SO not the Canadian way, which is how I know they were quaking. We do things quietly.

So it was hard to remain both silent AND in a state of anticipatory gloom, but for the most part I managed. I AM Canadian, after all.

When you finally opened, Dominic, FDPG, and I waited until the second day before we went on a tour of inspection. We'd been warned that this particular store had had a "soft opening" (read: wasn't fully stocked), but even I was taken aback. There were entire aisles of empty shelves, plastered with tiny signs saying things like "We're in the process of stocking up. Thanks for being patient!"and distressingly large spaces of...nothing at all. Even worse, the store takes up two giant floors, with the children's section on the lower floor and the change rooms on the top floor. I don't know about you, but I LOVE having to navigate several sets of busy escalators while my kids sit half-naked in a change room, waiting for me to get 6 more pairs of jeans, dresses, or tops for them to try on (there is a 6 item limit in the change room).

FDPG's mission was to wheedle the cost of an ice shaving machine out of my wallet, so we went to inspect them. They were $10 more here. I know this because I was in Bellingham three weeks before that and I'd taken careful note of the prices. I also noticed that there were 5 varieties. Target Canada had 1. I am not one for reading the stock market pages in the newspaper, but even I know that the exchange rate is better than that.

So we trundled over to the cosmetic section. If the aisles had had any stock in them they would have been impressive, but again, the emptiness was a bit disconcerting. The prices were also higher than most places I shopped at. I asked a stock girl if she knew anything about Target bringing in any items in the Boots line, because if there is one line cosmetics that thrills me, it's the Boots line, but she knew nothing of this. "The what line?" she said uncertainly, "don't think so." "Can you check?" I asked. "No, sorry," she responded. And yes, that WAS how we left it: me wondering why she couldn't check and her wondering why I wanted so much effort of her.

FDPG thought we could salvage the situation by checking out the food aisles and doing some cost comparisons, but again, the prices weren't great and the products we loved most in the American Targets just weren't there. In most cases we noticed that Walmart is cheaper, too, by about 10%.

Nice one, Target. I mean, we're glad to have you, but we're not that stupid. We won't willingly pay more just because you're you. It's almost insulting, to be honest. If you're going to do well here you have to do your research on what it is that Canadians like about Target. It's not what you think it is.

And fill those shelves while you're at it.