Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas in Canoe Cove

It's that time of year again.  December here we come.  If you haven't received your Canoe Cove newsletter or you live outside the Cove please take note and mark your calendars!!

The annual Christmas Concert (songs, Santa and Mrs. McGillicuddy!) takes place at the old schoolhouse on Friday, December 14 at 7 pm.  This annual event is put on by the Canoe Cove Women's Institute and is free for the community.  Get there early for a good seat as it's always a packed house.

Coming back for a second year is the Living Nativity.  Jenkins farm is once again playing host to Mary, Joseph, Kings, Shepherds, angels and carolers, not to mention showcasing an impressive array of donkeys, cows, alpacas, sheep and goats.

And LIGHTS, lots and lots of LIGHTS.

So come one and come all on Saturday or Sunday evening, from 5:30 - 8:30 pm, on December 1 & 2 or 8 & 9.

All donations from the nativity go to the Upper Room Food Bank and the Canoe Cove Community Association which maintains the old Schoolhouse.

Yours truly and dear sweet Jody have been hookwinked I mean happily volunteered to play the parts of Mary and Joseph on December 2.  So it's also your chance to check out our acting chops.  Jody says eat your heart out Daniel Day Lewis.

Directions to the Nativity from Cornwall, PE:

View Larger Map

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

2012 Vegetable Garden Review - The Triumphs

Where bad things happen so do good things.  Life is all about balance.  We harvested more food out of the vegetable garden this year than we ever have before.

We started harvesting early in spring which was new to us.  The asparagus was finally mature enough to pick, I planted out hardy greens earlier than usual and we had our first crop of strawberries.

There were a lot of firsts this year.  I planted an array of veggies that we haven't tried before.

Dragon's Tongue Beans were a new addition
Peas, beans, rutabagas, zucchini, cucumber, and arugula were all new plants in this garden.  The Dragon's Tongue beans were a gift from a blogging friend.  I haven't voluntarily eaten a bean in years but since these were on hand I thought why not try them?  Turns out I love these.  Makes all the difference when it comes out of your own garden doesn't it?

While the peas and rutabagas had some issues, it was the opposite situation with zucchini and cucumbers.

Zucchini's quickly grew out of control
I was giving away bags of cucumbers and zucchinis to my co-workers as there was no way we could possibly keep up with all the produce I was generating.  Even nicer though was how much my co-workers liked them.  One person in particular was thrilled to receive garbage bags full of basil for making pesto.

So many of the plants, like basil, loved the hot dry summer we had.  Peppers are an iffy crop here as we don't have hot weather for long enough.

But I even managed to grow a few sweet red peppers this season.

The real star of this year's garden though had to be the tomatoes.  Red ones, yellow ones, purples ones.

We ate them fresh, we made soup, we made chili, we froze them and we gave them away.  If you're interested in a review of the different varieties we trialed click here.  Overall a great gardening year and now I need to start planning for next season!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

2012 Vegetable Garden Review - The Tragedies

Vegetable gardens consist of mainly annual plants which we harvest or pull out at the end of each season.  This is a fantastic opportunity to start fresh each year.  I learn from the previous years problems and plan on changes for the season ahead.

The weather is finally taking a turn for proper cold this week and it's time I took a look back at the 2012 gardening season.

Late frosts killed some early seedlings
Overall I really don't have any major complaints this year.  After 3 years of expansion the space I have cultivated is quite substantial and I'm able to grow most everything I want.  However, I'm still working on getting the soil to a point where it's nutrient rich enough to support heavy feeding vegetable crops.  In one particular bed I added bonemeal, bloodmeal, lime, manure and compost.  After a lot of work that bed finally produced a decent crop of spinach.  But that kind of work needs to be done to every bed.  Something I haven't yet accomplished.

This resulted in yet another poor year for beets and rutabagas.

Cuttings from a rutabaga with brown heart
My beets continually germinate and then refuse to grow.  I'm lucky to get more than 4 or 5 beets every year.  Rutabagas grew but were continually bothered by cabbage caterpillars and when I finally got a look at the roots they were riddled with brown heart.

Good soil promotes healthy plants so before anything else I need to keep working on that soil so that my plants are better able to fend off pest attacks.

Another issue this year has been weeds.  I have a real problem with sheep sorrel on my property.

This perennial weed spreads very aggressively via rhizomes and I have a really hard time keeping it out the veggie beds.  Even the raised beds are no match for this beast.  I really don't have an answer to how to deal with this.  Short of spraying all three acres with Round Up (which is not going to happen) perennial weeds are here to stay.

A big issue in spring was poor germination.  It seemed to be a combination of bad seed and bad conditions.  We had so little rain throughout the spring and summer and although I did water I don't think it was enough.  The result was a handful of stunted parsley plants, a dozen carrots, and a pretty gappy looking row of peas.  I will be throwing out a number of seed packets and starting fresh next season and remembering to water well those first weeks seeds get planted out.

There were supposed to be peas in that bed
My last big issue this season was onions.  Some days I question my sanity when it comes to onions.  I have never grown a satisfactory onion and yet every year I try to no avail.  If anyone out there has some advice with regard to onions I would be forever grateful.  I have tried seed and I have tried sets.  I have tried different varieties in raised beds and in the ground.  Each year the plants grow a few inches and then suddenly shrivel up and die.  Is this another issue with my soil or is there something else going on here?  One day I hope to solve the puzzle.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What is Content Curation?

Does anybody know what content curation means?  I didn't. At least not until recently when I received an email through my blog and thought - huh?  What is this person talking about?

So many yellow flowers
So started several hours of research, not to mention a lively household discussion.  This article has one of the most in depth definitions I have found so far.

In simple terms, there are now websites that are taking the most applicable content they can find on various topics and filing it in a manageable and accessible way.  In a sense this has been happening for quite some time.  Search engines are the most simple example of this.  Type a search term into Google and pages of results will come up related to that term.  Other websites take it a step further.  For instance, the website AllRecipes contains lists of recipes.  You can search through those recipes by ingredient or rating.  The recipes have been curated in a way that they are easily searchable based on personal requirements.

New platforms using content curation are emerging daily.  Some of these sites, like AllRecipes, are focused on a single topic.  Other sites, like Brain Pickings, cut a wide swath across many disciplines.  The idea is that the information you find on them is exclusively picked and considered to be of good quality.

Certainly there's some value to this.  Using search engines to find information can at times be tedious. Like the searching I did for this post in particular.  I came across multitudes of articles but it took a long time to really find what I was looking for.  The internet provides thousands of sources of information on any given topic.  Help in narrowing down the focus is appealing.

But how you do you pick...
The email that started all this discussion was from a new content curation website.  They were asking that I submit my blog posts to their site as curated content.  I found the attention flattering to be honest and some of my research seemed to indicate that I would attain a wider audience for my blog and greater credibility by becoming curated content.

BUT I have some concerns.  Who is doing the curating and what gives them the ability to decide what is the most useful information?  Isn't the very nature of curation to limit content?  Is that what we really want?  An unknown machine or person working behind the scenes limiting the information that we see and deciding what is relevant for us.  Sounds a bit Big Brother doesn't it?

And what is the motive of the website that provides the curation?  Money, as with most everything, is the driving force.  This is business after all.

One interesting aspect of the research I did was that I found information promoting, discussing and rejecting content curation.  On one side people are saying this is the way of the future and on the other people are saying that it is essentially legitimized theft.

Scraping can be a major problem to many bloggers.  But with content curation you are actually giving permission to another site to use your information.  On one hand you get a link back but when you hand over permission you ultimately lose control.

just one?
After hours of debate I still don't know -  am I in support or steadfastly against?

What about you fellow bloggers - have you heard of content curation?  Are we being led down the garden path by those who are looking to make money off our original content or is this a useful function that we should support?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Autumn Garden Chores

The weather this past weekend was nothing short of spectacular.  13 degrees on the holiday Monday.  So warm we had the doors wide open to let in some fresh air.  Warm enough to get out in the garden and continue picking away at my list of fall chores.

November 12th!!  I can't believe how nice it was so late in the fall.
Fall in this climate brings with it a number of necessary tasks.  Digging over the beds in the vegetable garden is one of them.  With such a large space it's taking me quite some time to get through each bed.  As you can see above I tackled this job yet again this weekend.

Another big job is digging up all the tubers and corms for winter storage.

I chose a pretty picture of dahlias as opposed to one of me covered in mud,
which is what happened when I tried to dig out the tubers.
We've had our first hard frost which means the dahlia's and gladiolas turned black and withered.  The plants were cut down and the tubers and corms had to be dug up.   I have addressed storing dahlia tubers before but I'll make an addition to that post.  Make sure you do NOT drain the hose and turn the water off BEFORE digging up your dahlias.  Pressure washing the dirt from the nooks and crannies in the tubers is the only way to properly clean them.  Swishing them around in a bucket of water, as suggested by my dear spouse, simply doesn't work.  I tried that and spent a good part of the day covered in mud and water only to have to set up the hose once again.

The gladiola corms are much easier to deal with than the large dahlia tubers.  I planted these in handy plastic trays - just dig out the tray and all your corms are right there.

These trays made digging up the glads really easy
I was surprised to find all the gladiola bulbs, when pulled out of their trays and washed down, are multiplying like crazy.

The plastic trays contain lots of holes for roots to grow through.
Looks like I won't be short of glads in the future if this keeps up.

Baby corms clustered around the roots.
This was also a good time for gathering some last seeds.  Nigella seed pods look pretty in the garden but I want to be sure to have some seed to scatter in new spots next spring.  I pulled several plants and hung them upside down in the garage to dry.  As the pods dry out I'll collect the seed in the coming weeks.

Winter winds are quite severe here and many people wrap their shrubs to protect them.  Last year I wrapped some of my newly planted evergreens in burlap.  However, I neglected to wrap my rhododendron and paid the price.  The evergreen leaves were shredded by spring so this year I made sure to erect some protection.

The clothes pins were a last minute choice to try and keep it all together but thus far it seems to be holding.  Cross your fingers my little burlap tent makes it through the winter.

The final task will be wrapping our trees.  After learning the hard way that voles can do extensive damage to young tree trunks over the winter we make sure now to protect them.

Red oak is a big temptation for voles
We have some plastic wrapping which works well on single trunks but we also purchased some plastic pipe to cover up those trees with multiple stems.

I think I'm ready for winter now.  Well at least the garden should be ready.  I wouldn't mind traveling to the tropics for a few months.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Triumphs and Tragedies - Feral Cat Edition

Feral cats are funny animals.  They aren't completely wild but they aren't pets either.  There is a fine line you walk when a feral cat is in your life.  Like any cat they are the ones in charge and you are there simply at their whim.

It's a hard position - like any pet you want to do what's best for them and protect them but there is only so far you can go.  You may be able to provide food and even shelter.  It is their choice though if they will show up to eat or use the shelter provided.

Despite our help they live difficult lives.  Living outdoors in the elements, facing the dangers of cars and other animals.  These lives are often short.

Over the years we've been fortunate to know a number of these cats.

It seems almost every place we've lived cats have come to our door.  They have a sense of where they will be welcomed I think.

Tom Jones
Sadly, their time with us never seems to last nearly long enough.  I don't often write about these cats because their lives are so precarious.  They come and go at their own leisure and sometimes they simply don't show up again.

This time though is different.  A week ago Priscilla disappeared.  Some of you may recognize her as she's been a permanent fixture here on the Corner for the past 3 years.

Priscilla this past August
She is such a sweet girl and we're missing her terribly.  Knowing the lives of feral cats you shouldn't get too attached but regardless we loved her.

Priscilla and her companion Funnyface
It's been a tough week, every day the chances of seeing her again dropping significantly.  Her constant companion, Funnyface, is still here so we know she was on her own when she went missing.

And yet despite the heartbreak we had good news today.  Back in April we took on a new feral cat named Pixie.  The house she was residing at was being sold and we decided to try and rehouse her with our own cats.  It did not work out.  Despite keeping her in our house for a month to try and acclimatize her, the minute she stepped outside Pixie ran away.

Today I received a phone call.  Pixie is alive and well.  After spending the summer on the run she has decided to settle down with a nice family up the road from us.  I'm so very happy for her.