Thursday, May 29, 2008

warblers as I wander

One bright spot during this year's rather dismal birding season has been a trail I love down by the river at school. There are short sections I occasionally wander and I have yet to come away without seeing or hearing something cool. This is mostly because it's along a major river, I think; but also because the trees are mature and the vegetation is wonderfully lush. This morning I was running late, but as I was rushing I still managed to hear two different kinds of vireos, a catbird, and yellow warblers. This afternoon, wandering and weeding garlic mustard as I went, I heard:
  • a chestnut-sided warbler
  • yellow warblers
  • a rose-breasted grosbeak
  • catbirds
  • goldfinches
  • house wrens
  • red-eyed vireos
  • mallards
  • Canada geese
  • robins
  • a downy woodpecker
  • cardinals
Not bad for a ten minute stroll.

Monday, May 26, 2008

progress update: goodbye lettuce, hello tomatoes

I have replaced the lettuce. In my imagination, it is growing strong and beautiful and big. In my garden, it is non-existent. If I am not careful I'm going to lose the carrots and the beets, too. Although the carrots are currently being protected by the interplanted radishes, which are far too bitter for bunnies, I think.

So, instead, I am going to use the space from the lettuce rows to grow two more tomatoes; the beefsteaks that I got from Grandma. I still have not started the basil, but hopefully this week, and the beans can go in this week too.

Everything else seems to be growing according to plan. fishy and I did some heavy-duty cleanup in the front garden yesterday. There are a couple of clear dead spaces now, but that means more plants, right? Next weekend I intend to find some of that salvia I love so much ('May Night') at a nursery around here, although I am concerned I won't have much luck. I tried to order it from Veseys last year and got daylilies instead. I should probably have complained, but I didn't.

I will be planting the butterfly flowers I have, the little seedlings are just about ready to go out. That will be either today or Wednesday. I am a little worried that they're going to get stomped on before they get big, but I'm still going to try. The one front corner of the garden looks like absolute hell.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

May Long Weekend 2008

Every year on the May long weekend we go birding with my mother's family. We have done this since I was eight. It started just being my mother, my grandparents, my great-aunt and great-uncle, and my uncle and I. It has expanded in recent years to include as many of my mother's siblings and their spouses and children as can arrange to come along, as well as the occasional poor soul who is a friend of a sibling or a child. These poor, unsuspecting folk never seem quite prepared for the intensity with which we attack this weekend birding sojourn. We are out to see birds. Rain (or sleet, or hail, or snow, as has been the case sometimes) is no barrier. Freezing cold winds? No problem. Hunger? There are muffins in the car. And bathroom breaks are for the weak and whiny.

You are, however, welcome to look at/for other wildlife, and maybe even plants. So this trip, despite the annual grousing about the weather (which was awful, except for the two hours during which fishy took these photos) we had a great number of sightings. Not just birds, but enormous rainbow trout, a muskrat, a garter snake, dragonflies, turtles, leopard frogs, green frogs and a bullfrog, schools of dace, and a fox. One of my favourite flowers, the marsh marigold was blooming:

There are always at least a few good birds to see too, and this year was no exception. We had fantastic luck at a couple of flooded field patches; at one we saw a stilt sandpiper, which I believe is a first for me, and at the other we saw black terns, which I have never seen outside of Point Pelee and which we failed to see there this year. They're one of my favourites, so I was really pleased that we had the chance to see them after all.

It's one of my favourite spring rituals. I had to miss it a couple of years ago, and I cried. I always wish the weather was better and that we'd seen more (four warblers! that is not enough!) but that, I think, is part of the fun.
(photos by fishy)

rain, rain, go away...

There are veggies up in the garden. And since I didn't really plant anything last year that animals would be interested in, I wasn't prepared for the combination of irritation and sadness that set in this morning when I discovered my lettuce had been "thinned" without my supervision... It's cayenne and blood meal to the rescue! After the rain today.

There has been so much rain, and it has been so cold. Now, the rain is good, and I think a lot of things went a little nuts yesterday because it was sunny and almost warm, and there is lots of water to be had. But today it is grey and cold again, and it looks like it's planning to stay that way. Everything seems to have stalled. I just did the first deadheading of the tulips in the backyard this morning -- way behind.

Grandma provided me with two plants of heirloom beefsteak tomatoes this past weekend (from which I will have pics, by the way) but I'm not exactly sure where to put them. I already need all the space I have for the Roma tomatoes and the cayenne peppers. I might attempt to stick one of them in a large container I haven't dragged out of the garage yet.

I also need to rescue the worms in my vermicomposter from themselves. They are going nuts. I love the castings they produce, and I want to use it to fertilize the houseplants, but what I really need is a nice warm day above 15 Celsius when I can take them outside for the separation work. When it gets warm, too, I'll take a bunch of the worms out and stick them in the composter where they can get to work on that. They won't survive the winter, unfortunately, but when it comes down to it, they won't survive their overcrowded vermicomposter either.

More on the weekend birding trip later today...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pelee trip 2008

(Bennett Rd. in Rondeau PP, by fishy)

The birding weekend was cold, cold and rainy, except for Saturday. Saturday we got sunburns. No going halfway, apparently.

Due to the weather and our own chickening out (which I prefer to think of as our pneumonia prevention program), we didn't quite hit 100 species, which for a Point Pelee Mother's Day weekend is not awesome. But, we did see some awesome birds. We got a lifer, the Mourning Warbler (Oporornis philadelphia). I know they're supposed to be "common within their range" but they are very secretive, and have always been one of the warblers I wish I could see. I identified it myself, too! That was at Rondeau Provincial Park. The next one to tick off the list would be the Cerulean Warbler (Dendroica cerulea) but I am afraid that will have to wait until next year, unless something very spectacular and unusual happens at MacGregor Point Provincial Park this weekend.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

April showers brought May flowers

Today has been a super-productive day. I can see one advantage to the literary appreciation course I'm taking: I can read an entire novel in a day and call that homework. Hooray! And yes, I did like Pride and Prejudice after all. I have ordered the next book to read from the library, and I am wondering if it is cheating to get it as an audio book to listen to during my commute?

Aside from that, it has been raining all afternoon, so I didn't get much done in the way of gardening. This is all right, I think I burned out on that on Monday and Tuesday. The seeds needed the water, and I needed the break. Friday I will finally take the pruners out of their hiding spot and apply them to the raspberries. After this rain, there will be no shortage of weeding to do, either.

I did pop trimmings of my sole geranium in water to try to root them. Grandma gave that geranium to me and I'll be upset if it goes south. On the other hand, I suppose she could always give me another cutting... I'm just really lazy with geraniums. This is the only one I like. If it ever flowers I'll take a photo; the colour is quite stunning.

Speaking of photos, I'll post two. The first is of some of the bulbs in the garden. The second is of the garlic doing it's thing.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

the vegetable garden is in

Whew. My back, it is sore. Yesterday I did more digging than I should have, after going months with no digging at all. The plan changed from digging an entirely new third vegetable bed to just expanding one of the beds that's already there. Frankly, it is a better plan. Less digging.

But the good news is that things are planted! I got the lettuce and the beets in last night, and then the carrots, shallots and cilantro in this morning. I need desperately to pot up the tomatoes, which probably can't go in for another week but are far outgrowing their little peat pots. There are five peppers up now, of which I am only going to need two. The African daisies are starting to pop up, although once they're out they're growing quite slowly despite the sun they're getting. And the asclepias are not quite ready to plant out. I figure another week or so for them. Have to remember, too, that the last frost date in this area isn't until May 9, which is the end of this week.

I have no place to put the beans I bought, or the basil, or the brussels sprouts. I think the brussels sprouts are going to go in where the lettuce and beets are planted once those have sort of done their thing. The brussels sprouts apparently do better if planted a fair bit later, so that they get a bit of frost once ripe. I might actually get a crop of basil in there before the sprouts go in... have the lettuce and beets out around the end of June, basil in until the end of July, and then the sprouts after that?

I'm just thinking out loud here.

Will have pictures of the newly planted currant and dogwood, as well as of the amazing garlic. It occurs to me that something else is going to need to go where that garlic is, actually... hmm. Sprouts there, perhaps? Or beans...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

home at last

I am home! I am home and I am so glad to be here. I have missed my husband and I have missed my house. And my garden is growing on without me!

That's okay, though. The front bed is gorgeous. The bulbs are all out and blooming in force, and because it's been so cool the past couple of days they are lasting quite well. Only the very early species tulips, Dutch iris and the croci seem to be past their best. The fritillary is absolutely amazing in the back yard, one of the cornflowers is already blooming. And so is the little prairie smoke I planted in the front yard:That isn't the best picture, but it's not bad. The other photos I took of the front bed are all washed out. Today is very grey. It is too wet to do much other than weeding today, but that's okay because there's weeding to be done. "One year seeding makes for seven years weeding"? Yeah, I get it.