Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Virtual Pottery Classes & Errant Trees

 It used to be the kids brought home mugs that they'd painted at a class or shaped themselves with clay.

Now they bring home mugs they've made in computer class.

 Looking out my bedroom window at about 7:45 am this morning.
As I took this photo, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that while I complain constantly about the overbearing, protected-by-rigid-city-ordinances Garry oaks in our neighbour's yard (trust me, I complain constantly), they DO add to a photo. They slouch so dramatically. I love the artistic angle of them. I don't love how they shade my garden, but I have at least 489 photos of them under various conditions. 
That said, don't loiter around them: they snap and break in unpredictable moments. Never when you'd expect it - a high wind or a hard, cold rain (when you're least likely to be under one). The oak to the left lost a massive bough last year, a gnarly old branch 20' long, which fell so hard it sank 4' into the ground. I was out in the garden one warm, June day, looking up at the sky, when I heard a huge CRACK! The branch broke away quite slowly, considering, then fell heavily to the ground, smashing through a few other branches as it went. The whole side of the hill we live on rumbled as though there had been an earthquake. The neighbours poured out of their houses, and we all stood staring at what looked like a (wooden) missile crash. And even after all that the city refused to let anyone give those bloody oaks a good prune.

Look at this. I don't know about you, but my letters never look quite like this.

Wish they did.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bigger On The Inside

 I don't think this needs much explaining, do you?
And in the event that you DO need an explanation, well, this is what Google did for their part in the 50th anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who. Headers of all kinds and they even had puzzle games attached to them. The twins were riveted. And look! All the Doctors running along with their Sonic Screwdrivers at the ready.

Something else I found on Google Maps. Street level. I feel confident in saying that the hearts of all four of us leaped slightly at this (except for Richard, who doesn't believe in Santa Claus Doctor Who).

Did you watch the anniversary show? So did we. We were in an anticipatory tizzy all day Saturday. Or maybe it was just me. I wore out the battery on my little Doctor Who In Your Pocket, playing the sound of the Tardis coming and going all afternoon.

We all liked the episode. It was fun. I feel vaguely disloyal saying this, but I felt a little ambivalent afterwards. Much of it seemed awfully frenetic and, well, almost silly. Not a fan of the Queen Elizabeth I segment at ALL. That was so not Tenth Doctor behaviour. Richard and I watched An Adventure in Space & Time afterwards. Filch from the Harry Potter movies played the first Doctor in a positively poetic performance.

We've been having a spate of clear cold weather, which means far attention has to be paid to animal water feeders and greenhouse heating systems. Pip the Alpha Female chicken decided to moult at long last, and she looks freezing with all her feathers falling out. I fully expect the other two to take their grievances out on her, because she was so mean to them when they were moulting. Stupid chickens.

Northern Flicker pushing the small birds out of the fat feeder one cold morning. These birds can cling to anything. I've got this feeder wrapped slightly in chicken wire so the starlings can't access it. They can't hang upside down like the other birds, so it's an easy way to fox them. The flickers are probably the loudest right now in the back yard. They perch at the top of the fir trees and send their very piercing screeches across the valley. It's an extremely recognizable call. They don't seem aggressive at all, just very large, yet the small birds are respectfully wary of them.
Can you see the little junco perched on the trough of strawberries? Waiting for a turn.
There is something so tough about strawberries; they grow in just about anything, just about anywhere. I can leave this planter here, sitting on the deck rail, all winter. Exposed. Wet, then freezing, then wet again, depending on the weather. Come spring it will burst forth like nothing happened in the interval. They remind me of pansies in this regard, although they don't dwindle and get weedy like pansies do.

And finally, this morning shot of the moon and some planet. I think it's Venus. If I'm wrong please correct me. It's so bright and the sky is so clear and the temperatures are so crisp. Lovely days.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Winter is a-comin in

But there's to be no loud singing of cuckoo! just in case winter decides to come in quicker than it would otherwise. It's cold here. Really cold. Cold in the way that has you thinking "Whoa! What happened to fall?!"
Last night, as I lay in bed wondering why I wasn't sleeping, something I seem to be doing with more frequency of late, I heard the heat pump come on no less than 4 times over the space of a couple of hours. I was fairly distracted by the charms of the BBC World Service, but still, this seemed excessive. I started getting uneasy about the greenhouse. Twice I leaned out the bathroom window with the little flashlight, checking to see if the greenhouse heater was on. I might have been a little sidetracked by the charming visibility of my breath suspended between the light of the LED and the moonlight, but I was not making a racket, no matter what Richard tells you. That's the lot of the obsessed gardener. The wakeful mind does strange things to rational thought and one is always worried about one's citrus.

Now that we're in a stretch of sunny but significantly chilly weather everyone is busy reflecting on how low the mercury will drop, because that's what we do here on the balmy coast. It's rarely cold here and a snap of icy weather has everyone scurrying, but this year it has me outside clearing up the yard, which, when I stop to think about it, is a rather novel experience. Every garden I've lived with up till now has been a relationship based on term limits. Mostly short-term. But this will be the sixth winter we've spent in this house, and unless something untoward happens, we're likely to spend much more than that, and the thought has me contemplating gardening in a new light. There's a permanence, the possibility of extended familiarity with plants and plans. Cleaning up previous gardens used to mean upending the pots into a large pile at the side of the house, then forgetting about them till spring. Rental houses don't led themselves to the long-term, particularly with things like roses or artichokes or garlic, so it was always pots of sunflowers or summer annuals. In spring I'd see what the garden centres sold and buy it. Now I'm clearing up debris from a garden that will likely look very much the same five years from now, and sowing seeds in various winter experiments, like these peas in guttering.

One good thing about the advent of winter: I'm delving into my hoard of garden magazines again. It always seems vaguely wasteful to be reading about gardening in the summertime, when I should be out there doing it, so most of the magazines collect in a basket in the kitchen, where I can contemplate their quirky headers: Banish Bindweed! Protect Your Pollinators! Autumn Action Plan! Make Peachleaf Curl a thing of the past! Alan Titchmarsh: Why every garden needs an acer! (don't laugh but last week I almost bought an acer because Alan convinced me that I DID need one)

There are a lot of local gardening magazines, but I favour the BBC Gardener's World magazine. It's not cheap; in fact it's a shocking price, and most of the time I vacillate wildly when buying it, but it is a useful read. Yes, it's the cost of a nice hellebore, but it's encouraging in ways that most gardeners need now and then. It's got me wanting to revisit the peach leaf curl on my nectarines. Apparently they are too exposed to the winter rains, even though they are against the house. I'm covering them up with a sheet of plastic while I rethink their trellising. I watched a video on Gardener's World about trellising nectarines and let's just say that Monty's nectarine trellis was way nicer than mine. I know it's very shallow of me to vacillate like this, but suddenly I felt ashamed of my Left-over Garden Stake With Broken Pencil Post look. I'm going to have to redo it, or get Richard the Wonder Builder out there. I think there might even be an article in one of my magazines on that too: Build The Perfect Trellis (one you won't be ashamed to show your neighbours).

I had white rot on my garlic this summer, which means that I have to buy new seed all over again. And when I use my garlic I can't compost the skins - they have to be thrown out in case they infect the compost. I had never heard of white rot before, but one look at the white moldy cores of my bulbs and I knew something was wrong. I googled "white mold + garlic" and lo and behold but that was what I had. It can persist in the soil for twenty years or more, which means that site is off limits for a good long while. Sob. Here's the new site: I've covered it with old greenhouse shelving because while Richard might be a Wonder Builder, he's also rather inconsiderate when it comes to pussy footing around the plants. We try not to let him weedwhack if we can help it. My pulmonarias still quiver when he passes. The new garlic bed is right beside the electrical conduit that leads into the greenhouse, and last week, as he was fiddling with the cables he was squatting right on the bed itself. "Get off the garlic!" I told him, with some annoyance. "Is that what's under there!" he said. "I thought I felt something snap." "Then why did you continue to stand on it?" I said. "Because it's your job to worry about the plants, I just build stuff," he said, with rather more mirth than the situation warranted.

I'm back to digging out pernicious weeds, thanks to BBC Gardener's World magazine. I'm attempting to get a handle on the Bishop's Weed Situation in my yard. I'd say "garden" but it's now taken over the entire yard. Stupid stuff. When the kids and I see it as a bedding plant in someone's yard we're always incredulous, because, like vinca, it might masquerade as a bedding plant, but it's just a bloody nuisance. It always gets out of control. I've haunted online garden forums - organic ones and non-organic ones - for three years now and the responses are always the same: Roundup won't kill it, brush killer won't kill it, smothering it with weed fabric/cardboard/mulch won't kill it either. Nothing will kill it. There is no answer but constantly and consistently digging it up. It came to this yard in a nursery plant, and now it's everywhere. I'm trying, one bed at a time, to remove any trace, but it's disheartening work, because even an infinitesimal little sliver will pop up with hearty vigour in the spring, and multiply within seconds into a forest. I gave up last summer, but I feel like trying again. Stay tuned to this channel, because I'm sure the wind will change and I'll feel that same sense of defeat come spring, when it all comes popping up once again. Until then I'll look at this newly weeded bed with a feeling of triumph, even if I do hear the soft ticking of the Spring Weed Clock in the background.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Confessions of a Facebook Failure

I'm gradually coming to the conclusion that I am just no good at Facebook. It brings out the Sarcastic Hag in me, it really does. 

I don't play Candy Crush, I don't have the urge to breed dragons, I have no interest in Slotomania, and I'm terrible at giving rampant, unbridled praise at the slightest provocation. 

What? You just made a really good pot of tea and you're drinking it right now? HIGH FIVE! 

You made a Middle Eastern stew with the new tagine pot you found at Value Village for ten cents and the family all love it? HOW THRILLING! I BET IT TASTES AMAZING! 

You called your miserable sourpuss of a husband to tell him that he's awesome, because you believe in miracles? YOU'RE EVEN MORE AWESOME! 

You made pancakes with bacon and it was so delicious you're making them again tomorrow? I WISH I WERE THERE EATING THEM WITH YOU!

See what I mean? I have to fight the urge to say things like "I'm drinking a glass of Scotch - with no ice! - and it's only 11am. I'm sure I'll be drunk by noon!" Or "I like swearing!" Or "The cat just puked in Max's runners! If I clean them now he'll never know!" Sometimes I even want to post updates on how many times I've said F*CK so far that day: F*ck, the kids pissed me off! F*ck, that driver took my parking spot! F*ck, my library fines are building up!

But I don't. Instead I grit my teeth and hit the LIKE button every now and then, just so they know I'm listening. And reading. 

F*ck. Where is the Facebook for Sarcastic Hags?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Yes on 522

I don't live in Washington State, nor am I an American, but I want to help publicize this upcoming vote.

(and yes, I also happen to love the Dr Bronner people)

If you live in Washington State - vote! If you know someone who lives there - tell them to vote!

Don't let other people be messing with your food.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Post Hallowed Evening

 FDPG and I found this so wildly funny yesterday that we looked at it over and over again. You may think us shallow, but each time we found it equally hysterical.

I guess we're essentially Cat People when it comes to the category of General Pet Jokes.

It was a perfect day in the neighbourhood for trick or treating. Rain was threatening, and a few times there were brief sprinkles, but we were still able to put out our life-sized paper skeleton and Mr Pumpkin Head, which made the yard much more atmospheric. Nothing says BE SCARED! like a large smiling skeleton, glowing in the dark, right?
Fall has been superlative this year: we've had about 17ml of rain this month, compared to the usual average of 84ml, leaving the leaves in piles of golds and yellows and reds. The rain is due any minute, sadly, so I'm memorizing the colour in this photo for when all those lovely leaves are soggy, brown, and very very slimy.
The Little Chief has been working overtime on the deck, given the perfect dry conditions. The same deck that has been holding court with a baited rat trap.

Yes, Gentle Reader, there are many advantages of having chickens... okay, maybe only one real advantage, but it's mostly definitely NOT the sudden surge in visits from members of the rodent and avian populations. You won't need bird feeders any more because the chickens have a giant one - in their coop - just waiting to be plundered. Rats and birds alike will also love how unconcerned the chickens are around such creatures. They could care less if Ole Ratty or a village of sparrows nip in several times a day for a snack. Mice they will go for, but the others? They don't even LOOK at them. Thanks to our newly acquired rat traps, I now know that rats look JUST LIKE the rat in Ratatouille. Big, gray, and long-bodied, they are. Spread fast, they do. Get into lots of mischief digging holes and tunnels, they can. Not welcome in yard, they are. Sigh.

 FDPG is getting older, and with age comes self-consciousness. This year was all about the Tasteful Kitty. Not a Wild Crazy Out There Kitty, as she might once have insisted upon. Distressingly, it was all I could do to get more than 6 whiskers and tiny black nose on her. I begged to do a little Cirque de Soleil-ish facepainting, to appease my inner Liberace, but in the end I was forced to subterfuge: I whined told a friend, a friend that she likes a lot because he is very tall, very funny, and very generous and kind to her. He told us both that we needed to MAKE THAT FACE UP STAT.

FPDG, ever the rationalist, pointed out that this same person - a teacher - wears a costume to work every year, that he dresses as a Giant Pink Bunny in front of his students, so he was hardly the sort of person she'd listen to in terms of Tasteful Halloween Costume Advice, but she acquiesced in the end. We used a faint smear of white base, a teeny tiny bit of eye liner, and the barest hint of gold glitter stripes. I even think she was surprised how low-key it ended up looking. You can hardly tell, right? (feel free to point this out in the comments section)
Dominic, who is still captivated by the Rabelasian aspect of Halloween, recycled a former costume from his brother: Dr. Arthur O. Pod, field entomologist for the National Geographic Society.
Here he is in the bathroom, looking for errant insects, spiders, or crustaceans. I won't tell you if he found any though.

And now we're dragging somewhat through the morning, watching the rain headed our way.