CDR for May 22, 2020 – Friday – the leaf that was

Today we got bedding plants at Costco. It would have been great to support a local nursery, but they have huge lines and can’t serve many people the way they are set up. Costco has opened a side door to part of the parking lot, and you can walk out to select your plants. If you have an empty cart, you can take that with you. The plants were very reasonable – a tray of 24 was $12. We got a tray each of marigold, alyssum, and coleus. This evening, while Stuart mowed the lawn, I planted most of the flowers, after re-weeding the beds. Face it: It will take a year or two to completely overhaul them.

In the photo above of part of one bed, you can see some of today’s plantings; one of the large bleeding heart plants; the lily of the valley plants; and in the left at the center, the large leaf of one of the Japanese butterburs. These butterbur plants start in the spring as large pale green flowers close to the ground. Then the flowers become brown and look dead. Then the big leaves start to appear.

Front bed plants – alyssum, marigolds, coleus, lily of the valley, tulip, bleeding hearts, peony bush, butterbur leaf

Between the time I took the photo of the bed at about 6 PM and when I watered in the plants tonight at 8:30, some critter had come by and eaten the large leaf. So, I guess we know the leaves are edible.

Butterbur leaf

We have a lot of wildlife, so I don’t know who to blame for eating the butterbur leaf. While I was preparing the beds for planting this afternoon, two chipmunks came out to play together within 5 feet of me. I was armed with a cultivator not a camera, so, no photos. I’m pretty sure it was not them, though. They don’t seem to be the vegetable-eating types and they are small to have eaten a giant leaf. Around 7:30 PM while cleaning up after dinner I saw a very fat racoon in the back yard. It waddled away when it noticed I went to get the camera, so there’s no photo of the racoon, either. It could have been the racoon. Or it could have been the woodchuck, who hasn’t been spotted lately. Or the rabbit, who has not been around for weeks.

Butterbur flower

It sounds like lots of gardening today, but there were several errands related to our ill cousin that took up lots of the day, and it always takes a while to get through Costco. Never mind. The weather will be hot and dry for the whole weekend.

Be well. Stay safe. Don’t let setbacks get you down.

CDR for May 18, 2020 – Monday – Turkeys it is

Well, I have been photographing rocks, as promised, and it turns out the trilliums are blooming right now, so I have been photographing them. And the knitted hat is just about finished. But we’ll deal with those issues later. Today, it is turkeys.

We took a short ride today to get the 2nd propane tank for the grill filled. This is the Monday of the Spring Long Weekend, in Ontario, but in Quebec it should be an ordinary workday. The sign at the propane place in Kazabazua says it is open, but it is not. Well. Kaz is a very small town. Most of its businesses are one-person operations. Sometimes they are just randomly closed for whatever reason.

We took the long way home. By which, I mean, we checked out the golf course (not open, but the flags are up) and a couple other short side roads. This brought us by two wild turkeys lurking beside the road – one a little north of Kaz and one along the road just past the back nine holes of the golf course.

The choice today was between trillium photos and turkey photos. So, I chose the turkeys. They are pretty good-looking birds, and I think they are both females because their wattles are small and coloring is more inconspicuous. This part of Quebec is at the north edge of their range, but with the warming temperatures, their range is extending northward.

I am definitely missing my gardening. Next time we come up to the chalet, I will bring my work gloves and some garden tools. There’s overgrowth and fallen junk that should be tidied up, for one thing.

Be well. Stay safe. Time for appetizers and a cold drink on the deck!

CDR for April 18, 2020 – Saturday – Zooming, Yogurt, Gardening

Today started with Breakfast with the Boys on Zoom. Zoom can be perplexing, and today almost everyone had trouble signing in. But it ended well. The conversation involved a bicycle one of the participants (lets call him “Dave” – because that is his name) is converting to an electric bike. Dave has a problem with a sprocket or bolt or something and Kevin is going to find him one, once Dave gets him the correct measurement. And the usual topic, grocery shopping, was covered. It is a constant issue, there are constant problems, and everyone’s got a strategy.

In fact, I will start an order tomorrow with one of the grocers in order to reserve a place in line for curbside pickup. We are blessed to be well stocked with staples, but produce does not last forever.

Wildlife report: we’ve been visited by the blue jay, a cardinal couple, and the squirrels (all three colors). I am thankful that I have not seen the rabbit recently. I am especially thankful that I have not seen the skunk that was raiding the garbage on Wednesday. I don’t know where either critter lives, but I hope far, far away.

The yogurt started in the Instant Pot last night was poured into a strainer to drain following Breakfast with the Boys. It had firmed properly, but there’s a lot of whey left in it. The photo shows the yogurt just at the start of draining. It lost about half it’s volume with the whey drained. A three-bag (remind me to show you how milk comes in Canada – in bags) batch makes about 2 large yogurt containers full.

Is it cost-effective to make your own yogurt? Barely. Is the yogurt better? Yeah, somewhat – the flavor of the final product is better than the yogurt I used as starter, and the texture is a lot better. Is it necessary to make yogurt? It may prove to be. (Remember, I have huge doubts about the food distribution system.) I will be saving a starter from this batch of yogurt for the next batch. You are supposed to freeze the starter so it will be fresh for the next batch.

The weather today was sunny, cool, and only slightly breezy. I dug in the front garden bed and won the initial battle against the day lilies. It was a long battle, 3 hours plus. I also trimmed back the dead stems of a couple of peonies. That should have been done in September of last year, before we left for the States, but I don’t know much about peonies. They also need to be staked because they have very heavy flower heads, but maybe we will get to that next year. We have some vegetable gardening plans that supersede peony-staking, and there’s another long front garden bed to tackle. (And garden railroad plans.)

I completed 8 facemasks today, streamlining and tweaking my assembly procedures as I have gained experience. A few people already have one or two of my homemade masks, but we need to start distribution soon. It’s strictly family and friends first. BTW: For those who requested masks from the States: when I go to the drugstore next, I will check on the procedure for mailing packages to the States. I don’t know what the current regulations are and whether shipping is possible. There are post offices in the Rexall stores, and sometimes that’s where I get eggs or milk.

When I started writing this CDR, something tingled about the date, April 18. Now I remember. Today was the day we were to leave from the port of New York on a cruise on the Norwegian Escape, to end up in Rome. Now this seems like it was going to happen in another lifetime and another era.

Be well. Stay safe. Stay home.

Wildlife, wineries, fairy penguins, and the Australian Grand Prix

Kangaroo Island kangaroos at the Healesville Sanctuary

Yesterday we went to a wildlife sanctuary, a winery, and St Kilda’s beach to see the fairy penguins. The wildlife sanctuary is called Healesville Sanctuary, and has koalas, wombats, wallabies, platypuses, emus, parrots, lorikeets, parakeets, rare black cockatoos with red tails, lyre birds, several kinds of kangaroos, and other animals we didn’t have time to see, including reptiles and dingos. We learned lots of interesting facts. Like, did you know, wombats, which are marsupials like koalas and kangaroos, have pouches that open toward their bottoms rather than toward their tummies. That is because wombats are diggers and tunnellers and as they dig they push the dug dirt under them. A top-opening pouch would tend to get dirt in it whereas a rear-opening pouch does not.

Also, koalas and wombats are close relatives, but koalas evolved to go up into trees and wombats evolved to be diggers of tunnels and caves. Koalas eat eucalyptus leaves, which are fibrous and don’t have a lot of food value. They therefore sleep for about 19 hours a day, to conserve their energy. If they are stressed, they get sick easily and stress can kill them by lowering their immune system.

Wombats don’t sleep in trees. They are diggers, and are very solid, sturdy creatures.

We had a wine tasting and lunch at a winery in the Yarra Valley, which has been compared to the Sonoma and Napa Valleys in the US. We tasted 6 wines, got to order a glass of the wine we liked best, and had it with our lunch. We learned about grape phylloxera, which is a mite that eats the roots of grape vines and kills them. This is the bug that killed most of the vineyards of Europe in the late 1880’s. Australians say they saved the world of wine because they alone had the stocks grown from old vine cuttings that had not been devastated by phylloxera and that could be grafted onto native American grape stock roots that were resistant to phylloxera.  

After lunch we returned to our hotel for a short break. Then we took trains and busses to St Kilda’s beach where we had dinner at a respectable but not fancy Italian restaurant and then walked out to the end of the breakwater to watch the fairy penguin colony that has made the rocks of the breakwater their home. The adventure of the trams and trains to get to St Kilda’s (because so much of the public transportation system has been diverted to handling traffic to and from the Melbourne Grand Prix) and to get home from St Kilda’s (because young Aussie sportsmen drink a bit and are very enthusiastically rowdy on the trains/trams.) Overall walking was about 11 thousand steps.

Today (Sunday, March 17th) was a free day, so, after Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, I went to the Australian Grand Prix which was being held at the Alfred Park, close to where the hotel I’m staying in. This was the final day of a several-day event, the highlight of which was the running of the Formula 1 race. I am not an aficionado of car racing, although I expect it can be a thing of beauty if you know what you are looking at. However, desultory watching of NASCAR races on television is the closest I have come to car race participation. (No, wait. There was that one time John took me out ice racing on the Red River up near Winnipeg. I was in the car. That would be closer.)

I was tipped off that the Grand Prix is a big deal, and seeing it in person in Australia is a rare opportunity. There are, in fact, more than 20 Grand Prix races each year, but you have to travel far afield to attend them, and typically the tickets are quite dear.

I bought a general admission ticket (that means no seat in the stands and generally not much of a view) for today, Sunday. It cost $106 AU dollars including the Ticketmaster fee. It merely got me in the venue. It didn’t even get me a program. There’s not much shade in Alfred Park, and the park is fairly flat. There are small elevations that have been built up where general admissions ticket holders can stand. There’s not much shade and not much of a view, but you can see cars racing past.

I was warned the noise would be terrible. It was not. I was told there would be music and food for sale.OK, sort of. There was an Australian military rock band that was quite good. They were the only band I heard and they were valiant to play so many sets. The lines for food were very long and slow. Advice to next year’s attendees: bring your own food. Also, photographing very fast cars through a heavy wire fence from a distance isn’t worth the megabytes. Advice to self at the next race: Just watch the race. Or the people.

The racing was interesting, the people watching was interesting, and the cars on display by the local car clubs were beautiful, if a little dusty. And the crowd was well behaved and family friendly. There was a full minute of silence at the start of the race for the New Zealanders killed in the mosque masacre.