Thursday, September 12, 2013


September is my favourite month. For me September is all about warm fleece on cool mornings, sunny afternoons that are a gift instead of a given, and the collective deep breath that comes as things slow down in the perennial garden. The demands of spring and summer have been met (or not) and the massive job of the fall clean up is still a month or two away. This is a time for sitting on the porch swing, enjoying some quiet and appreciating the beauty of the garden that is.

Much of the garden is showing its age, crispy and dry after the heat of the summer, or showing the effects of damage by pests. But there's still some colour to be found. The asters are just beginning to flower...

... and at the other end of their life cycle, the very last of the hosta flowers are hanging on for a few more days.

The wild and crazy dianthus is making a second showing...

... while the butterly weed I planted from seed this year is making its first bright orange showing.

The red valerian wins the longevity prize - it has been flowering non-stop since May, and shows no sign of calling it quits.

The fuschia, which for much of the year is so straggly I am always tempted to take it out, is looking like something from a Japanese block print. A graceful, gentle rebuke. 

I'll be taking a pause for the next month or so. Until I get back I wish you warm days, cool nights, and someone you love to share them with.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Growing up

Remember these fuzzy babies, the Buff and Welsummer chicks we hatched about 11 weeks ago? They don't look like that anymore. Say hello to our teenagers.

The Welsummers are a new breed for us, and it has been so interesting to see the differences between their growth and behaviour and that of the Buffs and Australorps. They're quite a bit smaller, for one thing, and are maturing much faster. The cockerels, who started crowing at about 9 weeks, are showing some spectacular colours...

...and even the pullets' more subtle colouring is just beautiful.

There's nothing like a new breed to show you all the ways in which you have been taking your old breeds for granted. Buffs and Australorps, being as big as they are, are not flyers. Sure, they'll flap their wings to soften a landing as they jump down from the roost, or to give some acceleration as they run, but they never fly. The Welsummers, on the other hand, have taught us all about verticality. Boop-booping is a whole different business with them: it's not enough to usher them along with a boop-boop stick, you have to factor in the likelihood that they will fly right over the stick, you, and anything else in the way.

Postscript: The Welsummers have matured into a much more dignified adulthood! They have lots of personality, curiosity and energy, are great talkers, have been consistently good layers, and the verticality issue is not a problem any longer. And they can boop boop like the best of 'em!

The baby Buffs, on the other hand, now that the feather picking issue has resolved itself, are a more predictable bunch. Kim has been away the last few days so I've been on Chicken Management duty, and I've appreciated their willingness to come, predictably, thankfully, back into their enclosures at the end of the day. No chasing them around the bushes, no fishing them off the rafters of the coop, no wings beating in my face.

Thank you, baby Buffs. What good chickie-chickies.

Thursday, September 5, 2013



This has been a bit of an odd summer here at Mucky Boots, at least for me. A taking stock kind of summer. I've been taking a close look, in as gentle a way as I can, at what I can realistically commit to on the garden front, given that my arthritis seems to be a more constant presence in my life. It's not only a question of  what I think I can do, but what I want to do. What am I good at growing? How much can we reasonably expect to eat? How can I cut back or adapt what I do to make it a joy instead of a constant game of catch-up?

Part of what's needed is a change in expectations, and I am happy to announce that I think, finally, I have graduated from the Remedial School for Perfectionist Gardeners. My garden hasn't been perfect for most of the year (so what else is new...) and I've been fine with that. Really.

After four growing seasons here, Kim and I are also taking a hard look at what's working and what's not, what we're good at and what we probably need to give up on. And first on that list, for both of us, is fruit.

We're pretty good at berries: strawberries, raspberries and especially blueberries. But we suck at growing tree fruit. We had big plans for our orchard, and added a number of trees when we first got here, but we have learned that growing fruit organically is tough: there's a disease and a pest for every season and every kind of fruit tree, and I think we've encountered them all. Throw in the demise of the grand dame of the orchard, our Pink Lady apple tree, and we're ready to throw in the towel. So we decided this summer that we would take out a few of the trees that are either dead or on their last legs and transition into more blueberries.

And then Mother Nature gave us this gift: plums.

We planted the Italian plum tree in the vegetable garden a couple of years ago. Last year it had one blossom. This year it had more, many of which transformed into fruit. And this afternoon, while seeing to the chickens, a lovely purplish-blue hue caught my eye and I realized the plums were ripe and ready to be picked. Not too many - about three pounds, I would guess. But they're everything a plum should be, the essence of plummy goodness.

All of which adds to my conviction that to be a Happy Gardener you should hope for the best, accept that this year's garden will be different from last year's, marvel in the miracles that present themselves every day, forgive yourself for the things that don't work, and be grateful for the gifts Mother Nature bestows.

Like a handful of plums.
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