Saturday, October 13, 2012

Frantic squirrel activity

Years ago, at the beginning of what was perhaps my second autumn here in Ottawa, I remember waking up one morning early in October, to find that there had been a sudden hard frost. It was so unusually cold for the time of year, they mentioned on the radio that the weather had resulted in "frantic squirrel activity", as the unprepared squirrels rushed around to finish their food stockpiles for the winter. The phrase has stuck with me ever since, and I use it whenever the weather seems to lurch toward winter.

Yesterday, we actually had some snow. Only tiny little flurries, not even settling on the ground, but still. It's been several years since we've had snow here before November. Last week there was a frost, but my morning glories managed to struggle through with the loss of only the top vines. But last night did it - the morning glories have bit the dust. A lot of trees which were looking charmingly yellow and red last week are suddenly completely bare.

I've still got to rake up leaves in the backyard (only one tree has even dropped any yet) but on Thanksgiving last week I finally got around to raking the front. I got out my electric leaf blower/shredder and filled up some leaf bags. Then I started stealthily raking up my neighbours' leaves. They have several trees in their front yard, and they seem to produce the very best dead leaves - brown and dried up like potato chips. I've done this in past years, because I know they just put their leaves out for garbage pickup, so I figured they wouldn't mind if I took them. But this year they came home as I was raking, so I confessed that I've been stealing their leaves, and asked if they'd mind if I took them. They were most magnanimous about it, so today I went after the second fall of leaves and got them all. Unfortunately, mine had been raked into a pile a few days ago, and were still damp underneath; the ones next door were nice and dry. I hope the damp ones eventually dry out; I'd hate them to start rotting, or worse, heat up!

I'm so vigilant about leaves because I keep the full bags of leaves stored in our backyard shed all winter, and use them in the summer to mulch the potato plants. They're a perfect natural mulch, keeping the plants moist and suffocating weeds; also, potato plants need to be "hilled" with mulch or dirt to keep any potatoes from getting exposed to the sun and turning green. I need at least 20 bags of leaves to cover the garden, and I'd prefer to have 30. Then I don't have to worry about thin coverage anywhere. In the fall, when I'm putting the garden to bed, I just rototill them under and they rot and enrich the soil. At the moment, I'm up to 13 bags.

This summer was so dry, our potatoes ended up being a bit undersized, even though I watered as much as I could. The tomatoes had a nice flavour, but they weren't as numerous as in years with normal rain.

One odd thing happened this summer, due to the drought: my beautiful Eglantine rose out front, which usually blooms continuously the whole summer, seemed to go into a coma because of the heat. It didn't die, but it just sat there, doing nothing. When the rain finally came in mid-August, it suddenly began blooming again. It's an English rose, and obviously it needs something similar to the English climate to do well.


Blogger Priscilla said...

I remember being so put-out at Halloween, one year, (I think I was 6) because it snowed on Halloween and I had to wear a coat over my costume.
Her in Portland we went over 70 days without rain. I rained Friday and we are expecting more this week.
I'm glad you are having some success with the new green shoots project. I hope it continues.

12:11 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

That was like our summer - no rain for June or July. It was a catastrophe for the hay farmers, they only got one crop and many are selling their livestock because they won't be able to feed them through the winter. By the time it started raining in August, it was too late for a lot of people.

12:24 pm  

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