Monday, July 26, 2010

I Picked a Bean...(& quick photo update)

I picked a bean and then threw it across the yard. It was the first bean I've picked...guess what made me throw it away. Yep, an earwig had burrowed into it and when I picked it, the ugly thing scurried into the hole, leaving just it's butt sticking out. Aaargh!

Ok, so I told my husband I would post some more pics while he is somewhere that approximates civilization. So I'll get to it.

The first of the large tomatoes are starting to ripen

A plate of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil. 
The cucumbers are amazing. I picked another 5 tonight.

The salad I made with my plate of goodness.

And now, what you've been waiting for! These ground cherries were grown from seed that we saved and that sat in a glass on our window sill all winter.

Overview of bushes.

Close up of the second-largest bush.
You see all those "lanterns"? We are going
to have a lot of ground cherries!

Part of the largest bush.

I got another good haul of earwigs. This is a new picture and I counted 128!

The numbers are in red.

At least someone is relaxing around here!

Oh, and there is definitely a skunk around tonight. Good times ;)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oh, for the love of pesticides!

Ok, ok, so I don't use pesticides on my property. Still, this is my new favorite curse. Some of you might recall that when I moved in to my house one year ago (!!) we soon discovered we had a major issue with earwigs. It is actually a rather comical post, if you want some background.

Our main arsenal was to locate the nests around the foundation and pour boiling water on them. That worked well enough that I was no longer finding as many in the house. It rained a LOT last summer and the yard was still quite a jungle, so I really didn't spend much time out back, especially in the evening or at night. That was probably a very good thing for my sanity.

Naturally, earwigs thrive in moist environments. This, I believe, contributed to the abundance of them this year. I've also been out there a lot more, attempting to tend to (read: save) the vegetables, so I see them more. Also, I often don't have time to get back there until late evening, just when they are becoming active. Either way, there are a LOT of earwigs around here.

We did the same boiling water procedure this year, only we had the advantage of doing it in the spring while they were still immature. I really can't imagine what it would be like without doing this because you literally kill hundreds at a time. I do use soap and water which is mostly effective at killing them on direct contact and does little to protect plants directly. So I focus my efforts on areas they collect, such as the corners of my raised beds.

When I built the beds, I didn't worry about them being perfect. This was a mistake! They are good and solid but there are some corners that have small spaces between the boards where they aren't quite square.  I didn't even consider it at the time but these are spaces that the earwigs LOVE. Bah! In my defense, I don't think they could be perfect enough, especially once the boards weather a little.

I have lost all of my Swiss chard, beautiful rainbows of completely eaten leaves, they are. And there is no longer any hope of eating my beet tops. The cucumbers, a small pickle-like variety that are also tasty for eating raw, are the most recent hosts. Some of the leaves curl, especially as they work their way through the chicken wire they were meant to climb. These are earwig hotels. Room service at it's finest. Eat, sleep, and s**! all in one place.

The one other successful method I use, one that my sister discovered, is quite simple.  Fill a container with water, oil and soap. This is certainly a familiar recipe to me but I had tried to use it in little traps with minimal success. My sister told me she had great success with open containers and using more oil than we had in the past. I used ice-cream tubs from a local shop that we had been saving for "something".  A couple inches of water and a few good glugs of any cheap vegetable oil on hand - I really only use olive and grapeseed oil in cooking, but I happened to have some corn oil around, so I used that. Also a touch of dish soap, to break the surface tension. Just don't use anything citrus, like I did last year. Original palmolive seems to work best.

Are you ready for the results??

I mean really, really ready?

Oh, for the love of pesticides!
One night!

I have a hard time determining numbers from just eyeballing it, so I decided to count them out, roughly.

I'm not sure how well this will show up, but I counted 115! Bottom right corner is where it ends. I suspect this is an under-estimation because some are on top of others.

I have to admit, sometimes it's a good thing that you can't buy pesticides in my province any more. Some days, I think I would break down and get some earwig pellets, if I could. I would never use a broad spectrum spray - I've worked hard to keep bees in my garden all season, I'm not about to kill them. But targeted pellets....well, I could make a case for them when I'm most desperate.

Instead, I will keep trying to fight the good fight. But if I occasionally wish for total earwig annihilation, you'll understand, right?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Photo Update - First "Big" Harvest!

Today I bit the bullet and harvested more beets as well as a bunch of carrots. It was surprisingly a little nerve-wracking. I absolutely love harvesting my own produce...but at the same time I feel this sense of not wanting to stop the growing or not wanting to take too much. It's hard to explain. I'm like a hoarder over my own vegetables! Fortunately I can push that desire aside and get to the business of enjoying the fruits of my (ahem, our) labour.

Everything is looking good. 
These are the first carrots I've ever grown!

Hey, honey? Eat your heart out!

Now, on to a few other pictures.

Peppers. It is oddly difficult to photograph these. It would help if I got closer but I didn't want to bother moving the fencing. I could step over it but I am convinced that if I don't have a quick escape route the earwigs will get me. I'm only half kidding.

We have SO many peppers. 
It's hard to capture in a photo, 
so here is a semi- close up of a couple.

The full sized tomato plants are absolutely heavy with fruit. I have never had such healthy, productive tomato plants. Since they are still green, they don't photograph all that well, so I'll just post the little guys, who are ripening up.

Cherry tomatoes.

Yellow cherry tomatoes.

The big picture, taken last weekend. Thanks to Melissa & Jason at Paradigm Farms, now all I think when I look at the shed is how fabulous it would look with a cupola!

Hydrangea and beans in the background. I just realized
there are many bean pods that I think are ready to be
picked. If only I knew what to do with them once I do! 

That's all (for now) folks!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Meal Fit for a Queen.

Well, not quite the Queen, but I had the pleasure of having my mom stay over Friday night, so close enough. The plan was that my mom would come over in the early afternoon (I took the day off).  We would do some gardening, since I've really been wishing for some company to combat the creepy-crawlies (more on this in another post!). Then we would have an early dinner and go to my riding lesson. It would have been the first time my mom has seen me ride, outside of photos and video, since I was a kid. I was pretty excited about it!

Of course, weather did not cooperate and it was still hot & humid as hell. So, my lesson was rescheduled for Sunday. Therefore, instead of showing off my riding for my mom, I figured I'd show off my cooking :)  We took Hazel for a swim and then I got to work.

Pork Chops and Shitake Mushrooms with Red and Gold Beets, Snow Peas, and Roasted Potatoes.

We picked up a couple of bone-in pork chops and went from there. I decided that everything would have a herb theme since I have many readily available in the garden. I chose a mix of rosemary, thyme, and some mystery herb that came with my produce delivery. 

Pork Chops
These were simply lightly oiled and rubbed with the herbs and pepper. A gave them a sprinkle of kosher salt just before pan frying. I would have grilled them but it was raining at the time.

Shitake Mushrooms
These were to garnish the top of the pork chops. I removed the stems and sliced the mushrooms and finely chopped some red onion. I don't know why I didn't add garlic, I think I had too much going on! The mushrooms & onions were sauted in a bit of butter and olive oil. I will salt lightly once they get some colour, if you salt mushrooms too early they lose some of their "meatiness" or firmness. Shitakes are fairly dry, so I like to add a liquid towards the end, they absorb it and it helps deglaze the pan. First, I sprinkled in some of the herb mixture and let that heat enough to release the herb-y goodness. Then, I added a splash of sherry. You could use white wine or a herb-flavoured vinegar.  Once that was reduced, I removed it from heat.

Beets - Just before I dinner, I harvested a couple nice beets from the garden. A very exciting moment for me!  I sliced these in big "coins" tossed with olive oil and herbs. They were roasted in the oven.

Potatoes - also tossed with olive oil and herbs and roasted in the oven.

Snow Peas - steamed on the stove top. I wait until the pork is done and set to rest, then throw them in a small pot of boiling water (have the water ready) for 2 minutes.

It was SO good to have someone to cook for. We were stuffed!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Photo Update, July 9

I told my husband I would post photo updates of the garden so that he could see what was going on whenever he has access to internet. I haven't done this yet since I've been preoccupied with Hazel and life. He has about half a day in semi-civilization tomorrow, so here is my update.

Hey love, hope you enjoy the tour. These photos are a few days old and things are already so different. Without further ado, here is our garden.

I think these are called "Stargazer" lilies but I can't quite remember. They have a lot more of the purple than I expected but I quite like them.

It looks like I used a flash but it's just 
because the evening light was strong.

Tomatoes. Better if you click images for larger.

Plum tomatoes. 

We have a pepper, finally! 
Actually the little one you can just
make out is about 2-3 inches now.

The little corn patch. 
Umm, it's a little sad.


I'm afraid the swiss chard has completely succumbed to the earwigs, so I won't show any photos of that. Also, I plan to harvest some beets tomorrow so next time you're in town I'll have pics of those. Yum!  I love you. Take care of yourself.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Celebration, doggy style.

Hazel has been a-okay for more than 24 hours. It seems the set-back was indeed weather related. It has been ridiculously hot. So hot, it's been impossible to properly exercise - be it dogs or horses. Or myself, for that matter. In this kind of weather, there is only one way to give Hazel the exercise she's used to - swimming! 

It is difficult to be good to dogs in my city. I often find myself doing things on the sly just to get her real, diverse exercise. I get away with it because she is so good and also well trained. In Guelph, where she spent her first 18 months with me, we had so many more options. Many of them included swimming. Unfortunately, that has not been the case here. I know of one pretty good place that was close to our last apartment but would be more difficult to get to from our house.

I had scoped out some options last week, in anticipation of this heat wave.  Since I was finally confident that Hazel was completely fine, it was time to celebrate!

So, naturally, I took her swimming!!

She just LOVES chasing sticks in the water. I know, it's a bad photo. The sun was low and I was almost out of batteries.  When people see Hazel swim, the conversation usually goes something like this:

Person: Wow, look at her swim, she must be part lab.

Me: Actually, she's a Plott Hound. There is probably something else in there too but she definitely takes after the Plott almost exclusively.

Person: Well, the other part must be lab. I mean, look at her swim!

Me: Maybe...but I really doubt it. Plotts are known for having fully webbed feet, so it's no surprise she can swim well [better than your fat lab, I think, but don't say]

Person: Well, I bet there is lab in there.

Me: Sure, maybe. [I acquiesce]

Person: What's a Plott hound anyway?

Me: Um, I'm never sure how to answer that question. I mean, what is a Labrador Retriever?

Person: It's a lab, of course.

Me: Exactly.

Person: ...

Me: Well, a Plott hound is originally a German bred hound, unlike most others which have British origins. Now, they are more popular in the Southern states, at least in the East, and they are the state dog of North Carolina. They are bred primarily for large game, such as bears.  They have finer "hound" features than other hounds, like the smaller ears. They are very active yet also have very calm temperaments. [Well, they asked for it!]

Person: ...[blank stare]...oh. neat. She sure is a fast swimmer.

Me: yeah.

Lol. Honestly, I've had that conversation so many times. Nevermnd, today we celebrate.

One wet dog with a good stick. 
She was not being cooperative 
with looking at the camera.

But very happy, all the same!
That tail seriously cracks me up.

Monday, July 5, 2010

50/50 and 50.

My lesson last week was very interesting - 50% the best work yet, 50% not so hot. Kind of a microcosm of the overall experience with this horse, I guess. My coach had ridden him in a bitless bridle the week before to see how he went with it. You know, take the bit out of the equation and see what you've got. She was thinking it might help encourage him not to curl behind the bit since that issue has been fairly persistent. She found it helped a lot, so I tried it in my lesson too.

He was amazing! I know I said awhile back that I was starting to get some of the best canter ever. Well, this week was SO much better! I've never felt anything like it. His head was up but still in a hunter frame, perhaps a touch higher. It felt great not to suddenly be riding a headless horse, as it does when he tucks in. His front end was up and I could feel the impulsion from behind. You can probably tell from some of the photos that he doesn't always engage his hind end well.  I describe them as leaking out the back door.  That day, I really got to feel what it was like to ride the back end for real.

The funny thing is, I wasn't riding any differently. So it was a good lesson that sometimes it's not all my fault, lol. I never just "ride the front end" but that didn't help the tucking behaviour or the lack of hind end push consistently. Having our coach ride him has helped her realize what issues originate in the horse versus rider. And it was a good test to see how I got him to go in the bitless, I think.  If I still had the behind the bit stuff, it would have been a sign that I needed to do something differently.

The feeling of his back was even better than just being uphill and carrying himself. He really lifted his back and I was surprised at how dramatic the difference felt to my seat. It's amazing how something can feel so powerful and relaxed at the same time. I think it's a feeling I could get addicted to :)  My coach had me get off his back for a while to encourage him to keep moving that way. Even in two-point, I could feel the difference in the shape of his back. It's as if it resonates through your legs or something.

I suspect I tend to sit quite deep normally. I'd like to get my coach's opinion because I was wondering if maybe I've been blocking some of his motion and therefore discouraging that kind of movement. I'm kind of like a burr stuck on his back, I don't think I inhibit his motion but rather go with it...but you never know. It's probably something that changes depending on how free and loose my own back feels.

Oh, on top of that, we did some haunches-in at the trot that was really good! Brumby is just learning this and I'm no dressage expert, so I'm not talking about doing it the whole length of a dressage ring or anything. But I got about 4-5 strides of correct haunches-in, in both directions.

Then, we did some more gymnastic work. I was glad to see I didn't feel any residual lack of confidence after the last time, I was in a better frame of mind. Still, the line was extremely hard. My biggest issue is keeping the nice steady rhythm coming into the line. Brumby gets so strong and doesn't listen to any aid. It's not too bad when we are moving away from the barn but towards the barn is almost hopeless.

Oh, he jumps everything, alright. Jumping is his "thing"! But we end up doing one stride when I was aiming for 2, or even a bounce in what should be a one stride. It's rather hard to stay with a horse that ignores you and does a 14+ foot stride and takes off long! I try so hard to do everything I'm supposed to but it does get frustrating when none of that amounts to anything. It's not always horrid but it is not the nice cadenced gymnastic I'm aiming for. I felt like the last half of my lesson was completely different from the first half, hence the 50/50.

The other "50" is that my lease rate is going up by $50/month. It's a pretty big increase but I have to admit it's fair. I've been getting a pretty good deal compared to other leases in my area. Not by a lot, but a little. Now, we have the wonderful (insert sarcasm) HST (harmonized sales tax) which affects board rates and therefore Brumby's owner had to increase her rates. Again, completely understandable, just unfortunate for me!

Hazel update - for those who might be interested, Hazel is doing ok but not 100%. She seemed to be improving a lot but then tonight we had a set back in terms of what she was "producing".  Her behaviour is great, though. I think the crazy heat today might have played a role in our set back, even though she was in air conditioning all day. Let's hope so!

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Never-Ending Story!

My gosh, when I saw how long that last post ended up being I was tempted to delete it! It didn't seem that long when typing in that little window :)  This is what happens when you are alone babysitting a sick pooch! A little pathetic. All I really had to say was Hazel is sick, I'm not getting any sleep. So don't bother with the post unless your bored. Do look at the picture though because Hazel is the cutest!

One Sick Puppy

I'm sure you all agree, there is just about nothing worse than a sick pet. Unfortunately, that's exactly what I have on my hands. Hazel has pretty bad diarrhea and I was up on and off all night last night with her.

I have 2 theories as to what's going on. One is food related. Without going into a lot of history, Hazel has a tendency to being sensitive to some foods. I've found a lot of the higher-end dog foods are too rich for her...blueberries, apples, and salmon, oh my! This goes back to when she was a puppy. But I've suspected lately that some of the wet food isn't working for her.

What I think is more likely, given the severity of the situation, is that it is something she ate last night. You see, I have this neighbour.  I've seen this woman regularly for several years while walking Hazel. She has two Golden Retrievers. It took her two years to remember our names and sometimes still asks. When we moved into our house, we soon discovered she lived one street over. This woman is very nice, although eccentric.

I often walk Hazel at night by myself, especially on weekends. A few times, I've run into this neighbour and taken the walk with her. It always ends up WAY longer than I wanted or needed but she really seems to need the company. I've been invited to her cottage several times :)

Last night, I was walking Hazel pretty late since I had been at the barn and had today off. Hazel had been at daycare all day and really only needed a walk around the block to relieve herself. I ran into this neighbour and we started to talk. I had NO intention of going on her crazy walk with her. Somehow, I couldn't just continue. She clearly needs some company and, quite frankly, so did I. But I didn't need over an hour! I went with her to a park nearby to wait for her dogs to do their business. One of them never did, which meant we walked for a long time!

Since it was late and her dogs were off-leash, I let Hazel go. I don't worry about her, she is very well trained and really never wants to get too far from me. She also doesn't eat stuff when out for walks. It's just never been an issue, she seems to know I have to give it to her.

However, I think she ate something last night. I was distracted by eccentric neighbour obsessing over beer bottles in the park. Ok, seriously, I admire anyone who picks up other people's trash, I've done it myself several times. And if you can make a couple dollars by doing so, great! When it gets to the point of worrying about whether someone else will take 6 bottles before you come back with a big enough bag, well, that's a little strange to me. It's not like that dollar (if that) is really needed, trust me.

But I digress. While we were stashing beer bottles, Hazel wandered onto a playground where I think she got into something yummy. I suspect this because I had to call her twice and she just seemed like she had been eating something.

I got home from this epic walk after midnight and had a glass of wine to unwind. This was harsh since I had to get up early to watch my 4 year old neice in her first horse show. I'm used to not getting enough sleep, so I wasn't too worried. I woke up at about 2:30am to pee - I drink a lot of Gatorade/water while at the barn and I had 1 beer after the barn and that glass of wine. As I sat up I realized Hazel was sitting beside the bed, staring at me. Uh-oh.

My wonderful, stupidly stoic, dog will not make any noise or indication when she wants to go out. Not even when she needs to go out. So I knew this silent presence by my bed meant something wasn't right. "Hazel, do you want outside?" I asked. She shot to the back door, panting. Poor girl. We repeated this the rest of the night. I was too worried to sleep, so every time she shuffled in discomfort, I got up to let her out. She was so uncomfortable that she would pace and pace before being able to do anything. I gave her space but after each "episode" I was out with a flashlight to make sure nothing critical was going on.

Come morning, I took Hazel for a walk with much the same result. I didn't feed her for several reasons. In situations like this, I usually like to give her system time to relax without trying to digest anything. I like to do 24 hrs, if possible, but usually give in after 12 or so. Also, I had to be away for several hours in the morning and it wasn't going to help if I added load to her system without being there to let her out. I know her enough to know she won't "go" in the house, though I wish she would when she is that desperate. I also wanted to make her some very bland food to help her out and help determine if I was dealing with something more serious.

I was away at the show for 3 hours and then I knew I had to get home. I stopped to get rice because my dear husband bought brown rice when I asked him to pick up some emergency stock for Hazel. I don't think brown rice is the best because it is harder to digest and the higher fibre can complicate things. It was more difficult to find a store open since today is Canada Day.  Hazel was in quite a rush to get out to do her thing when I got there. I observed her stretching down in front and passing gel-like stools. Talk about guilt! I felt so bad for leaving Hazel and also for leaving the show. Can't win.

I made up some ground meat and rice for her. I like a ration of 1/3 meat to 2/3 rice to start. After 2 days I will either start adding in some of her food or a bit more meat, depending on how she is. It had been about 16 hours since her last meal and she was begging for food, so I started with a very small portion. Then we both had a nap!

On our walk later I could tell she wasn't quite herself but she was still inquisitive, though slightly less energetic than I would have expected for such a cool, breezy day. I've been checking her hydration as best I can. I don't have much faith in the skin tent method, I believe they have to be very dehydrated before you will see anything with this approach. I also check gums and monitor drinking behaviour. I want to see her drinking regularly, perhaps a bit more than normal, but not excessively. Excessive drinking would mean we were heading to the vet.

The next real problem was that it is Canada Day and it seems that every park nearby has small fireworks. Hazel hates loud noises and was shaking most of the night. It's the last thing a dog with digestive upset needs! I turned up the TV, sang and did silly light-hearted stuff but I didn't fool her much. I want to look into calming herbs, or even drugs, in the future. I might not use them, but I definitely want to see if there is something that could help that I'm ok with.

I was able to take her for a relaxing walk eventually and now she is sleeping and seems relaxed. I'm very glad that I started her heartworm late this year, otherwise I'd have to stress her system with dewormer on top of everything. As it is, I get to wait a couple days before giving it to her. Hopefully her gut will have settled by then.

I want my happy, healthy hound back!
What's up Mum? Why ya worried?