Friday, August 29, 2008

A walk around the farm...

Fall is in the air, and I can't say I'm thrilled. Much as I enjoy autumn, I am not ready for it yet! This is a bittersweet time of year for me anyway. Both of my parents coincidentally died on the same day in September, five years apart; last year our sweet Zöe-kitty died unexpectedly at the end of September. I lost the first dog that was truly "mine", Chelsea, in mid-August five years ago. And we always seem to be moving at this time of year! So late summer/early fall has always been a time of change and loss for me. I am hopeful this year will be different.

It's looking quite nice around the farm. The soybeans are maturing in the fields and some are already starting to die back and dry out...

We have a spring-fed, natural pond on our property that desperately needs a source of aeration in order to prevent this:

One day we have visions of having a windmill-propelled pump here so that it doesn't get clogged with gunk every summer. That said, the frogs love it. In this pond we have Spring Peepers, Bullfrogs, Leopard frogs, Wood frogs, Mink frogs and Northern Green frogs. (And I found a Tree frog dead on the mesh covering the top of our rainbarrel!) Frog paradise around here (toads, too.) They leap out of my way every day as I walk the cow lane down the middle of our farm all the way to the river. I believe this one is a Northern Green frog...or is it a Mink frog? I have asked my herpetologist buddy for help with the i.d.:

The dogs also love the pond, and they leave the frogs alone:

Here we have the ubiquitous goldenrod, with some bugs on it I haven't yet identified. They remind me of lightning bugs. Anyone? (Click on the photo to enlarge.)

Here is some variety of ladybug on Queen Anne's lace...

And the ever-lovely Monarch butterfly. It was difficult to get closer, because Sophie helpfully ran up and scared the butterfly away:

I think this is a Clouded Sulphur butterfly, with another one of those mystery bugs. This is Joe Pye weed, is it not? I a not good with wildflower i.d. but I'm working on it (thanks for that orchid i.d., HWB!!)

And in the woods, bazillions of mushrooms:

But the dogs were anxious to get down to the river for a swim. These pics were taken last week before Tristan became cowphobic and started refusing to walk in the fields!

Looking back through the back pasture towards the woodlot:

And eeeeeeeeeekkkkk!!! Do you see the leaves turning??!! Lalalala, I can't see you, lalalalallala!

Sophie is enjoying the Beaudette River... is Pincushion. I mean, Tristan...

Nothing like a cooling swim in summer!

Oooh! Hellooo! Is it time to go?

Enjoy your Labour Day weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tristan the pincushion

There has been more than just cow excitement here lately...

My souvenirs from Saturday evening.

On Saturday evening, Tristan met a juvenile porcupine in the field of soybeans right by our garage. The porcupine left a calling card, or rather, about 20 calling cards.

Gordon was mowing the lawn and I was playing with the dogs, who kept running in and out of the soybeans. The plants are so tall now that you can't even see the dogs when they are in there, and I do my best to keep them out, period, so that they aren't damaging the crop.

But this time, after I called them out, the two dogs went dashing back in. Sophie was sproinging around like a superball, something she does when hunting meadow voles, and Tristan was barking. "Hmm," I thought, "How interesting. Tristan almost never barks! What's up?"

I called them again, and shortly thereafter, Tristan burst out of the field, stopping to paw frantically at his face. With a sinking feeling, I ran over and as I feared, he'd been quilled. Little pointy needles were impaling his delicate, velvety skin, giving him a hedgehog-esque appearance. He had them just under his nose, (in the split!) and in his lower lips and lower front gums. Obviously he had tried to taste the porcupine and had gotten a nasty surprise.

I flagged Gordon down off the lawnmower, and while I calmed our frantic dog, G called the emergency vet. Thirty minutes later, we watched our dog slowly succumb to heavy sedation. The vet then went to work extracting quills, which took more force than I would have imagined. Luckily Tristan was in la-la land, as it all looked quite nasty and bloody. Some of the quills had completely penetrated the upper lip area and ended up inside his mouth.

The vet commented that it had likely been a young porkie, as the quills were quite short. He told us that Tristan's case wasn't bad at all; he had before seen up to 1,000 quills in a dog!

While we waited for Tristan to come out of his sedation, we had a nice chat with the vet and got some good restaurant recommendations. I also asked the vet about the weirdest things he had ever extracted from a dog (for our vet in Nova Scotia, it was a cactus that had been eaten by a clearly insane Basenji!) He said he once extracted a dart from the heart of a dog, during a postmortem (sadly, yes, the dart had killed the dog.) He also said that he once had a patient that had eaten a popcorn Christmas garland made with pins, and that FIFTY pins had passed through the dogs without harm, no surgery necessary!

Finally our groggy goofball got to his feet and we drove him home. I took the quills with me as souvenirs. I am quite proud that I had resisted the urge to photograph Tristan for the blog before taking him to the vet, choosing instead to comfort him in his hour of pain. But it was close; it took all my strength not to run for the camera.

It is to hope that in the future Tristan will avoid all things quilled, but I'm not holding my breath. Meanwhile, he acquired the nickname "Pincushion."

Ah, the rural life!

So I came back from walking the dogs on Tuesday to find this note on the door:

Um, steer? The closest thing I have to a steer is the organic hamburger in our freezer, left over from our BBQ party two weeks ago.

There was a phone number on the note, so I gave it a call. It was a fellow who runs an agricultural business down the road. Apparently some woman had run into his shop looking petrified, crying that there was a giant black BULL in the middle of the road. The fellow decided to try to figure out who owned the steer, and because our farm is called "Big Angus McDonald" farm, he thought perhaps the black angus cow in question might be ours. Alas, no. Or perhaps, fortunately, no.

My hubby called the local police to say there was a cow on the loose, but a squad car had already been sent out from our local OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) detachment.

Perhaps more alarming than the note was what was on the back side of it:

Uhhh... just what is on fire there?

I should mention, the escapee cow thing has been an ongoing concern for the past week or so. REcently I was walking the dogs down the path (known as the cow lane, actually, from the time that there were cows being kept on this farm) that runs through our property to the river at the back. All of a sudden I stumbled across this:

Yes, a cowpat drying in the sun. And at that very moment, there was a terribly loud MOOOOO erupted one of the cows next door. Evidently our dog Tristan has a phobia about cows, because all of a sudden he was nowhere to be seen. Finally I could pick him out on the hill next to our barn, where he had run in a panic. Nothing I did persuaded him to return, and in fact, I have been unable to walk him on the path since this happened. We are currently trying to lure him back with gentle therapy! He needs his walkies.

Anyway, we don't have cows, so clearly some cow had escaped and taken a fertilizing dump on our land. Hmmmm.

The next day, I let the dogs out and Sophie began barking maniacally. And there they were, two large black cows and a calf, grazing off in our soybean fields! I called my husband at work and the search for the cow owner began, but none of our neighbours seemed to know who owned the herd of black cows (and one llama) on the vacant pasture land next to us.

Then yesterday morning, Gordon saw FIVE cows in our fields. He decided to call Dave, the farmer renting our land, to let him know what was going on, and that we were trying to find the owner of these beasts. Not long after, a large, shiny pick-up truck pulled up our laneway. As it turns out, a nice guy named Aurele owns the herd, and he and his friend Rejean had arrived to figure out how the cows were escaping. Five minutes after Gordon called Dave and left a message, Dave, who knew who owned these soybean-munching bovines, called Aurele, and Aurele came zooming over.

So it is to hope that the cow mystery is solved, and that Tristan will soon be able to walk the fields again free of fear. And we'll see what other notes turn up on my front door in the future!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Can't you just find a toilet?


JUGS OF PEE! Who are these people? Who pees in a jug, then tosses it to the side of the road? Probably the same people who crap in public toilets then refuse to flush. Or pee on the seats. Or worse. Or refuse to wash their hands afterwards, even as a token measure when other people are watching. Well, admittedly these instances would involve women, since I haven't been frequenting men's rooms as of late. I presume the jug-peers are guys, since it's a little iffy for girls to aim that precisely. Were ya all raised by barbarians?

I first read about this issue on Sunnyside Dr., where a picture is worth a thousand words.

My next question is, does this happen in Canada? Are roadside workers mowing over urine-bombs and horrifically spraying themselves like they are in the USA? Given that twice this year I have driven past truckers standing beside their rigs peeing into fields, without an ounce of shame and with their own "rigs" on full display, I am thinking that perhaps Canucks truckers are more environmentally-friendly and just like to water the grass, sans plastique.

You know what? I'm a middle-aged woman with a middle-aged girlie bladder. I have driven across Canada twice, and one of those trips took nine days. Not once did I pee in a jug and toss it out the car window. Not once did I stand by the side of the road, cascading yellow in full view of the Trans-Canada. If I can hold it, so can you, Mr. Trucker Buddy with the way-bigger and strong bladder than me. Or for the love of God, at least hide behind a damn tree. Or use a bottle and dispose of it properly!!

I actually don't have an issue with roadside weeing in desperate situations, so long as the pee-pee person takes the time to hide him or herself so I don't have to witness the action (little kids get a total exemption, btw. They can barf by the road, too.) I myself have peed in the woods more than once! But peeing in jugs and tossing them out the window? Even in barren Canuckistan, there are enough fast-food joints and gas bars around to make this completely unnecessary. Okay, so maybe it's a problem in Nunavut, but then again, there ain't many highways up there either. And pee would freeze on contact with the ground for a large part of the year.

Take the five minutes to pull over and USE A TOILET. Cuz jugs of pee being tossed out windows are not only disgustingandgross, they are environmentally harmful and a health hazard.

Now excuse me. I have to go use the ladies' room.

Fantastic new dog treat!

On Sunday, I noticed Tristan gnashing away at what I thought was a small stick. I decided that he perhaps didn't need a stomach full of wood chips, so I took it out of his mouth, only to discover that it was not any sort of part from a tree, but instead a dessicated portion of a well-dead garter snake! Eeeeeeyuw.... and might I add, “poor snake,” although I don't think Tristan was the murderer.

I gave it back to him and went off to wash my hands. I really have to learn not to grab things out of my dogs' mouths before figuring out beforehand what they are.

Snake jerky, the fantastic new dog treat your furry friends are sure to enjoy! Get 'em now, before the turkey vultures do!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Let's go to the fair!

Last weekend, we visited the Williamstown Fair, the oldest annual fair in Canada at 197 years young. We had a blast. Friday night we spent most of our time watching the Eastern Ontario Horse Pull. Alas, no pics, as I left my camera at home that night. But it was amazing watching these beautiful draft horses pull humungous loads. I think the pulling finished at 9,000 lbs! The horses clearly loved what they were doing and were fantastically well-muscled.

We went back Saturday and were entranced by...

...tractors! Lots of beautifully-restored antique tractors, here, there and everywhere.

Gordon had to buy a hat at the fair, as he foolishly forgot to bring one with him. He is very fair-skinned and tends to fry like bacon in the sun. So he got himself a spiffy cowboy-esque noggin-topper, and fit right in. Well, sort of. I mean, what farmer wears sandals like that?

He here is, worshipping at the New Holland shrine ...

...not that he'd buy one. He's a Kioti/Kubota sort of guy.

Ahhhh, that "new tractor" smell!

Posing with an oldie! (Other than me, that is.)

And now for something completely different. Litte Ray's Reptile Zoo was also at the fair, and I got to hold this little scorpion girl for a very long time:

She was green and African and I forget her species. Scorpions are so misunderstood! They are not going to kill you or eat your baby or whatever. This one didn't move a muscle the whole time she sat on my hand, although we did evoke some interesting looks from passers-by!

And here's a shot of one of the fair buildings in Williamstown:

After the fair, we saw an altogether freaky sight in the streets of Williamstown (note: Williamstown is extremely cute and picturesque and I unfortunately managed to take this shot in front of the one derelict building in town!)...

Yes, it's young men in dresses. What else would you expect in a tiny, rural Ontario town?

According to rumour, these three were members of a football team that lost an game the week before, and as punishment, they had to wander the streets in girly clothes during the fair. Ahem.

You can read about the area, sans transvestites, here. You can read about The Manor House, a national historic site, here. We visited the Nor'wester and Loyalist Museum, which is an excellent museum. More about that here. For eating, I really like the restaurant attached to A. L MacDonald grocery store. Or Jack's Pub.

Or you can just visit Williamstown to watch boys in dresses!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Gordon is releasing his inner chef

...and I am most pleased!

We have loved southeast (and east!) Asian food for a long time, but since our honeymoon in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong, and subsequent travels in the region, our love for this cuisine, and each other of course, has only grown.

Until lately, I have been the one who cooks the Thai and other such meals, but lately Gordon has taken an interest. Last week, he stopped by Lim Bangkok grocery in Ottawa and picked up the ingredients for a few Asian feasts. First he made tom kha gai, aka chicken coconut soup, which happens to be one of my Thai favourites. Then he made this:

Do I remember the names of these creations? Naturally not, but it was coconut rice with mango and crispy shallot, and this amazing stir fry of shrimp and chicken and rice noodles and peanuts and it was sooooo good!

He is stopping at Lim Bangkok again tonight and making me more feasts this weekend, including green curry chicken, which I specifically requested because my garden is currently overflowing with Thai basil!

My favourite Thai cookbook is Real Thai: The Best of Thailand's Regional Cooking by Nancie McDermott. Apparently she has a new book out called Real Vegetarian Thai.

Meanwhile, Gordon owes me a batch of chocolate cinnamon cream cheese muffins. Did you get that, GORDON?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A visit to Cooper's Marsh Conservation Area

Cooper's Marsh is a lovely conservation area not far from here. It is on the shores of Lake Francis, aka the St. Lawrence Seaway. I love it there... lots of birds and wildlife, and three nice trails to walk. Here are some pictures from a recent visit. While there, I saw Black-crowned Night Herons. Oh, and muskrats galore.

The place has full of pretty but invasive purple loosestrife:

Some orange flower I've seen before but forget the name of: (Update: it's spotted jewelweed. Thanks, HWB!)


Water plants:

A female wood duck. (I think!) Her babies were trailing behind her, but I didn't manage to get them in the photo. I was using my little camera with the not-so-impressive zoom lens. Male wood ducks are much fancier. I have photos of them elsewhere on my blog.

One of the lovely boardwalks at Cooper's Marsh:

Northern leopard frogs:

The marsh:

Hmmm, I think it's time for me to go back for another walk!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Big things in small spaces...

Oh it's okay, Tristan, really. I don't need to put my feet under there while I work. You just enjoy while I take out my footrest for your snoozing comfort.

84 pounds of dufus-y love!

It has grown a bit since May.

Remember back in May, when things were just starting in ye olde veggie patch?

Things have grown just a smidge since then....

Look! A wee little teeny pumpkin, with a #@$@#&*%^ striped cucumber beetle on the blossom end. This pumpkin is about the size of an overgrown golf ball. I found a few more yesterday. I had forgotten how monstrously huge pumpkin plants get, but fortunately I left plenty of space around them. I could carve the world's tiniest jack-o-lantern right NOW.

What do we have here? Various pepper plants! So far I am just picking yellow Hungarian wax peppers, garden salsa peppers,and jalapenos. Olé!

It's a jungle out there. Really. Tomatoes on stakes at the back, a row of really tall sunflowers, and in the front, many, many potato plants.

Mostly pumpkin plants.

Rosa bianca eggplants. Whether I get any actual EGGPLANTS off them remains to be seen!

Scallions, spring onions, whatever you want to call them. I have purple ones (Red Beard) and regular. I love being able to walk down and pick scallions of my own.

Some mutant hybrid Sunburst summer squash.They are supposed to be all yellow but I think they are reverting to type. They still taste good, though. Tristan is always trying to steal these things right out of my hand. This could have something to do with why he's farting up a storm in my office this morning!

Cute little mutants...

Some of my onions. I'll pick the majority of them later, when the stems have died back and they can be stored, but they're plenty tasty right now.

This is what happens when you don't pick your mesclun mix frequently enough, and it gets really hot outside...

Pak choi, not unlike bok choy. For all I know it IS a form of bok choy.

On the right, garlic and onions. On the left, spinach that has bolted, and the very tall sunflowers (taller than me!)

Scallions, mutant and non-mutant Sunburst summer squash, and a misshapen Italian largo zucchini.

Kale, kale, kale...

"Lime salad" tomatoes. There are a zillion blossoms.

Unknown tomatoes. I planted many types, and all the tags seem to have blown away!

Garlic,and Royal Burgundy string beans, which turn green when cooked.

Broccoli, a little bug-eaten. They had these revolting green worms on them, but then the assassin bugs move in and seem to have eaten every last worm, bless their little cotton socks! My garden is organic, well, as organic as it can be when the farmer renting 50 acres of our land is growing GM Monsanto soybeans that get sprayed with Round-up. Anyway, I let things be in the veggie patch and have been doing just fine. A little superficial bug damage here and there, but nothing worth getting my knickers in a twist about. I just squash the cucumber beetles when they piss me off. It's cathartic.

Carrots (left) and beets.

A pumpkin blossom with the aforementioned eeeeevil striped cucumber beetle. Actually, most of the squash plants have survived the infestation and are doing fine. Next year, floating row covers!

Jungle, with tomatoes and whatever else is in there.

Hope you enjoyed the garden tour and didn't fall asleep. I have to go. CBC radio is about to play a segment called "The Joy of Sex, Evangelical Style" Hmmm.....