The Golden Era of Hay

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Golden hour in the hayfield

The golden hour just before the sun sets is a magical time in the country.  The sky to the east is a subdued version of the sunset to the west.  The light is a warm glow.  When the hay is growing the sun catches the tips of the hay, and if there is a slight breeze to cause them to sway like waves – it is a sight to see.  I also save a little piece of my heart for round hay bales.  I love how they sit out in the fields silently waiting to be collected and taken to feed livestock.  There is also something almost architectural about hay bales.  I don’t really want to know exactly how they are made as I prefer to just see them as little mysterious hay rolls.  During the golden hour they are organic monuments to farming in the golden age.

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The Illusive Owl

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An rare daytime owl sighting

We have been hearing screeching at night and I did a little internet research as to who might be making this sound.  In our area it is likely the Great Horned Owl.

One very early morning  in early summer, my husband popped outside the cabin and suddenly realized that there were three large owls.  Two on the roof of our cabin and one on the garage roof.  As he realized they were there they all flew away.  Each in a different direction and each with a huge wingspan.

Since that day we have had a few owl spottings – mostly down by the pond.  Just as you realize what you are seeing it has swooped eloquently overhead and through the trees out of sight.  The illusive owl is a wonderful prize.  It is interesting to note that we have very few, if any,  hawks around this summer.  They too are well aware of the appearance of the owls this year.

I captured this photo today down by the pond.  I patiently waited until the owl became irritated enough by my presence to fly out from his tree overhead.

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Promises to Keep

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Beauty fills the moment

Some times after a week of trying to fit too much into every minute of every day – I am out in the country and a moment will just make me pause.  The beauty in the moment forces me to take it in.  Pause. Focus. Breathe. Exhale.  repeat.

I captured this moment by the back gate.  It was one of those stunning Alberta skies filled with the colours of Easter eggs. The moon was unexpected, bright and lit up the darkening clouds.  I was smitten by the deep rich green tones of the grass.  My eyes were drawn to the rhythmic lines of the brown fence.  As I stood and took this photo I promised myself to remember to grab these moments.  Pause. Breathe. “Keep your promises,” I whispered to myself.

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A Month in the Greenhouse

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Everyone continues to grow

The plants have all been in the greenhouse for one month now.  Many seeds were started three months ago and it is hard to believe how far these plants have come in that period of time.  Most of the tomato plants have been moved down to the floor now to give them room to grow up toward the top of the greenhouse.  I have pruned the plants to keep them focused on growing the main stem.  Most have the telltale yellow flowers and a few have small tomatoes starting.

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Might have peppers, eggplants and melons after all

My plants that were all so small I wasn’t sure they would make it have started to show real progress.  For the first time I think it is possible that I might actually harvest some peppers, melons and eggplants.  All were so small that they would have been dwarfed by large pots so I chose to grow them in the smaller peat pots.  It is exciting now to see the melons reaching up the twine and starting to form yellow flowers.

The real early producers have been my cucumber plants.  Outside of the greenhouse these failed in my garden the past two years of attempts so this is particularly exciting for me.  In the greenhouse these plants are easily reaching up the twine to start to grow along the wires.

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Socrates cucumbers are the early stars of the greenhouse

My little cucumbers are developing and will soon find themselves on my plate! One month in the greenhouse and I am still excited with our success.

 

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Celebrating in the Country

 

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Canada Day #150

I am old enough to have been alive when Canada celebrated its 100th birthday so when the 150th came along I wanted to make sure we recognized it with a memory that would stay with my son for the rest of his life.  Everywhere in Canada there were increased efforts underway to celebrate the day.  The large centres were increasing their fireworks budgets and bringing in music acts to thrill and entertain the large crowds that were expected.  We decided to have a low-key country experience.  We spent the afternoon reflecting on Canada in our own way.

In the late evening we drove into a local town for the fireworks.  On our way there we noticed that fog was forming in the valleys we drove through.  We saw two deer along the highway including one that darted across the highway in front of us.  We had to be vigilant – watching for wildlife.  We sure didn’t want our Canada Day memory to include hitting a deer.

The fireworks were held in a high school football field.  There was the usual excitement as people from the town drove and walked toward the field.  We found a spot on the grass and settled in for the show.  There were no crowds at all.  Children gathered in the field and you could see them as silhouettes lit up by the fireworks show.  Their laughter and squeals filled the space between the streaming rocket sounds of the fireworks.  All the sounds were echoing against the high school which added to the magic of the whole moment.  Our Canada Day experience carried us back in time to our childhood.

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Our own magical kingdom

After the fireworks we drove back to the cabin through significant fog banks which again required vigilance.   It was spooky and magical driving down the country roads.  For us,  our choice to celebrate in the country delivered.  Our son will be an older man when Canada turns 200 and we hope he tells his children about his wonderful memories from #150.

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All that is good in the world

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Late Afternoon in the country

Late afternoon when driving back to the cabin after a long emotional day of cleaning out my late father’s house –  we came upon three young male deer in this field.  This one in the photo was the last one to try to get over to the security of the long grass.  They were all so beautiful to watch. They bounced effortlessly across the grass.  The clear blue sky with the light fluffy white clouds above the vibrant green countryside was breathtaking. Everything that is good about life was there in that moment in stark contrast to the earlier part of the day spent sorting out the humble possessions that stay behind after a life is over.

Everything that is good in the world was in the endless blue sky, the pastoral fields, the vibrancy of the young bucks, the classic structure of the fencing, the whisper of the breeze in the grass, the patterns of the crops in the distance and the quiet in the moment.

My brother and I paused for a time by the side of the country road.  I took this photo but we didn’t speak.  We didn’t need to speak.  The wonder was unspoken.  All that is good in the world was present in us in that moment.

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Jute String Theory

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The String Experiment

After adding yet another five tomato plants to the greenhouse – we moved them around and reset up the irrigation system to handle the additional plants.  The indeterminate tomatoes in large pots were moved to the ground so they have the most space to grow vertically.  Vertical is the theme of the greenhouse.  After watching a number of YouTube videos of other greenhouse enthusiasts I decided to give the string theory a try.  We placed three wires across the greenhouse.  Two along the sides and one in the centre.  Then for all the plants that need support and will grow up a string (cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes) we attached jute strings that either connect with the wires or wrap directly above on the rafters.

 

The cucumbers seem quite happy to have the support of the string and the space to stretch out.  The melons aren’t all large enough to even reach the string but in time hopefully they too will grasp the jute and head upward.

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Happy Yellow Flowers

The tomatoes will apparently need coaxing to use the string.  I almost feel like I can watch the tomatoes grow in the greenhouse.  They have been very happy with the heat and the drip irrigation system.  The top of the soil looks dry but the water has been flowing out the bottom of the pots when watered.  The plants all look so healthy and happy so I am presuming that the roots are having to find the water deep in the pots which is making them that much healthier.  They seem to all be standing a little bit taller with the string supports.

Happy healthy plants make for a happy healthy gardener.  Another little experiment I am trying is to place milk jugs full of water in the greenhouse on the north side.  The theory is that they heat up during the day and release that heat at night which will help keep the ambient temperature a bit warmer on our cool Alberta evenings.  Though I read that I should paint them black – I went with motivational statements instead which make me happy regardless of whether or not they are doing their job.

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Gardening is a series of learning moments.  This jute string theory is yet another opportunity for me to grow.

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A Week in the Greenhouse

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Everyone has grown

After only one week the plants have all clearly grown and settled in to their new home.  All week I was worried about how they were doing.  We had a few very sunny days so I knew they were feeling the extreme warmth of the greenhouse effect.  I was also concerned about whether or not we were watering them appropriately with our irrigation system.  Too much and they would all be over watered or too little and they would be completely parched in that heat.

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Healthy Happy & Green

One tomato plant didn’t make it through the week but most had nearly doubled in size and are looking vibrant and healthy.  I am excited as all but the basil has been grown from seeds.  It makes the successes that much more satisfying but it also makes the losses that much more disappointing.

The seedlings that were small to start with – were my biggest concern but they seem to have weathered the change and are all showing signs of growth and happiness.  My melons, peppers and eggplants all seem much happier in this warmer environment.

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There is hope for the little guys.

I planted a tomato outside the greenhouse and though he was doing ok – I can really see that the greenhouse experience is successful at providing a better environment for growing tomatoes in Alberta.

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The Greenhouse Experience

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The plants settle in to the Greenhouse

Today was a busy day of planting.  We brought up a huge bag of self-serve compost and nine and a half bags of soil as well as some vermiculite to lighten the soil mix.  We used it all and still need to fill a few large fabric bags.  I also planted some corn, cucumbers, scallopini and tomatoes in the garden today.  All the bending, shovelling, reaching, dragging, and walking – was followed with a few advils and some quiet time blogging! I am going to be sore tomorrow!  Gardening is lovely but these annual planting days are absolutely exhausting.

The plants which were grown from seeds made the trip up to the cabin Friday night. The car was so full of soil and plants that we had to leave the cat at home this weekend.

The seedlings spent their first night in the greenhouse and then were potted in a variety of pots including fabric, plastic, and fibre.  It is a year of experimentation.  It will be interesting to see which pots, which tomatoes, which cucumbers, and which peppers we prefer – or at least which ones are successful.

 

After all the planting was completed the irrigation system was set up.  We went for a drip irrigation set up and we are experimenting with two ten minute sessions per day to start.  I have read that as the plants increase in size we may have to double that timeline.  It can get quite hot in the greenhouse.  We have seen the thermostat up to 50c but some days it is more in the 30c range.  It is hard to say what the right amount of water will be when we are only here on weekends (and the occasional mid-week visit).

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The steady flow of water

The greenhouse experience will be a season of learning.  So far we are really excited to see how this experience goes for us.  The optimism is palatable.

 

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The greenhouse awaits

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Crab apple blossoms signify that Spring is officially here

Last fall we had a fully built greenhouse delivered to our property but then the snow came and so it sat and patiently waited all winter.  Spring is here and we cut out the lawn, and pulled the greenhouse into some trenches that we dug.  Now all nestled into its new home we had to install the floor, shelves and next the drip irrigation system.

The floor is dirt covered with garden fabric and then patio stones and pea gravel.  It has the quaint country greenhouse feel that I wanted.  I feel like I have travelled across the pond to a small town in the United Kingdom when I go into my little greenhouse oasis.

Inside we have installed some initial shelves that still need to be secured in to hold all the weight from the garden pots that will sit upon them.  We will also add some lower storage shelves and hooks to provide for winding twine or hanging small pots.  There is room for pots to sit on the floor or for us to even add a potting bench at a later date.

We still need to add the drip irrigation system…and of course all the plants!  I hope to grow primarily tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and herbs.  I will try some eggplants and melons as well.  I would love to try a cold box inside the greenhouse in the fall and see if I can grow some winter kale and other greens throughout our freezing cold winter.  The possibilities are endless!

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The door is open – awaiting the opportunity to host some plants!

As we continue to work away at setting up the greenhouse my seedlings await in small pots by a warm south window in my house – waiting to be transplanted into large growing pots and to make the journey to this warm and welcoming greenhouse.  The greenhouse awaits their visit.

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