Pumpkins and Tomatoes

Molly’s Pumpkins, year 3!  This year, Eric started some of the seeds he had saved from last year’s crop, and Molly sent us a packet of pumpkin seeds.   This was a banner year, with six pumpkins.

The real story, though, is tomatoes.   In Spring 2015, Lisa’s school welcomed our family with an heirloom tomato plant, grown in the school’s greenhouse.   When ripe, these tomatoes are big, yellow, flavorful things.   We planted it, amazingly, it grew.  When ripe, these tomatoes are big, yellow, flavorful things.  We harvested a half dozen ripe heirloom tomatoes, and several dozen unripe green ones.  Eric saved the seeds, and started them early, in the hope that the plants would have enough time to ripen.   We plant our vegetables in  the front garden, amongst the daylilies.  (Some people call it “edible landscaping.”  We call it “planting fussy plants where they won’t die.”)

We didn’t hoop the tomato plants, and they spread throughout the whole garden.   Tomato plants make a lovely ground cover, and this summer we had a nice mix of tomato leaves, wild jewelweed, and daylilies.    We only harvested one or two yellow tomatoes, and it was a bit of a disappointment.

I went out of town this week on a business trip, and when I got home, I noticed that a hard frost had killed the tomato vines, and now my front garden looked like someone dumped three tons of boiled spinach on top of a family of giant tarantulas.  I pulled it out, and underneath the mess were several dozen green tomatoes.  We made garlic-and-green-tomato spaghetti sauce.

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The Interview

I have to take Tuesday off work next week.       Eric and I have rented a cabin for a weekend in June, and the cabins don’t allow dogs, and so we need to find a place to board the dogs.  My dogs have an interview at a local kennel.  I am as nervous as a Manhattan mother signing her kid up for preschool.

This is no ordinary  kennel.   This is the Google of dog kennels, the Ivy League of dog kennels.  I really want the dogs to go there – Brownie, in particular, needs lots of daily exercise – and they won’t let me book the weekend until after the interview.

I hope the dogs will get in, but right now, it’s a little iffy.  They’re usually good with other dogs – unlike Bear, who loved to show who was top dog, especially with Golden Retrievers and similar tough cookies.  But..come to your name?  That’s a tough one.

Then there’s the pit bull thing.  No pit bulls.  No pit bull mixes.  No dogs that even remotely look like a pit bull.  Brownie is clearly not a pit bull, but Cocoa?  The dog that every canine professional looks at, shrugs, and says “mutt?”   The Dean of Admissions said that a brindle coat means Cocoa is either part Boxer or part pit bull.   (Or Whippet. Or Bulldog.  Or Great Dane, Greyhound, or Tennessee Brindled Treeing Hound.  But never mind.)    I’m crossing my fingers, hoping that a dog that looks like Yoda coated in tiger fudge will pass as a Boxer mix.

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An Easter to Remember

We used to be able to let the dogs run, but about 6 months ago someone dumped half a deer carcass on the road near our house. Now when Brownie gets out she heads out to the road, so we can’t let them out, which is a problem, because Cocoa has to be walked every 90 minutes or else she pees in the house.

Eric has spent the last month building a fence, and on Easter he finished it, just before dinner, at about the same time I had converted the Easter eggs into deviled eggs. I put them in a Tupperware container, set it on the dining room table, and went out with Eric to check out the new fence. When we came back in, Cocoa was on the table. She had opened the Tupperware and was eating the deviled eggs. She had eaten 10 of them & would have polished them all off if we hadn’t caught her.

At the end of the evening, at dusk, when we normally walk the dogs on leashes, Eric said “Let’s let the dogs out in the back yard!” One of the gates hadn’t been latched firmly, and unknown to us, had blown open. Cocoa saw that, made a bee line straight through it, and headed off for the woods along the driveway. She found a racoon, and instead of running up a tree, the racoon ran all the way to the end of the driveway.

When we finally found them, they were inside a 12″ concrete drainage culvert that runs underneath our driveway. Cocoa was barking her head off inside the culvert, and the racoon was blocking the nearest exit. The only thing worse than hearing the occasional yelp was when they would both go silent. We stood there, in the dark, trying to figure out what to do. I don’t think I have ever felt as stuck as I did then, with my dog inside a concrete culvert with a racoon.

After about 30 minutes, the racoon makes a break for it and runs through the trees & bushes near the B&B, with Cocoa tearing after it. Instead of climbing a tree, the stupid racoon circles back and goes into the culvert AGAIN, and Cocoa went right back into the culvert after it.

Fortunately, this time the racoon knew it could get out of the culvert, so after 5 minutes or so, it came out. It started to head for the bushes again, but this time Eric and I were blocking it’s path, and so it turned left and ran across the road instead instead. Cocoa came out more slowly, and we were able to grab her and carry her back to the house. Amazingly, she was unhurt, except for a few scratches.

My sister had the perfect response to this story: “..And now we understand how she ended up alone and abandoned in a state park. “

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Pumpkins, Year 2!

Two years ago, Eric’s cousin Molly sent us some pumpkin seeds.  We planted them and, much to our surprise and delight, got 3 pumpkins.   Eric saved the seeds from those pumpkins, and we planted pumpkin seeds again this year, some in the front garden (for lack of a better word), and others in a clearing created by all the dead ash trees that were cut down during Arborgeddon.

The front garden vines produced 3 pumpkins again this year.  These vines died early, and we’ve harvested the three pumpkins:

porch pumpkins

The vines we planted near Arborgeddon took some time to get their legs, but one sure did:

pumpkin vine

We have three more pumpkins suspended from the vine that has climbed all over Arborgeddon:

pumpkin 2pumpkin 3pumpkin 1

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Night Critter

At about 7:30 tonight, Brownie wanted to go for a walk.  Normally I’d just let her outside and let her run, but Eric had just fed Willow, the outdoor cat, and I didn’t want Brownie to steal her food.   I put the zip lead onto Brownie and opened the door.  Our new dog, Cocoa, heard the door open and came running.   Cocoa (unlike Brownie) stays near us when we go for walks, so I waited, with the door open, for her to come.

I wasn’t holding Brownie’s leash tightly, and when she saw something outside, she bolted for it, ripping the lead out of my hand.  She tore into the brush, barking madly, dragging the zip line behind her.    To make a long story short, Nathan caught her, and noticed that she had treed something.  By this point it’s pitch dark.  Nathan took this photo of the critter:


We have no idea what this is.  Cat? Raccoon? Ewok?

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The Moose are a Lie.

We just got back from vacation: two weeks camping, hiking, biking, and kayaking in Northern Ontario.    Northern Ontario is a beautiful, wild area, and one of our favorite places.  This is our sixth trip there in 12 years.

All along the roads in Northern Ontario, there are signs warning about moose.  Simple moose crossing signs like this:


and evocative, glow in the dark signs, like this:



I would love to see a moose in the wild.   We’ve driven all over Northern Ontario, past countless Danger! Moose Crossing! signs.   In 12 weeks of driving around Northern Ontario,  I’ve seen at most, one moose.  This one:

Algonquin Moose

Which, you’ll notice, bears a distinct resemblance to an old  stump.

I want to believe it’s a moose.   I really do.  But I have to be honest.   We don’t have moose in this area, but we do have white tailed deer, and lots of deer crossing signs, too.  I guarantee you — if a Canadian family spent 12 weeks driving around here, they would see plenty of deer, unmistakable, side of the road, in your face, deer.  Not one, off in the swampy the distance, that kind of looks like driftwood.

It saddens me to say it, but I’m forced to come to one inescapable conclusion.

The moose are a lie.

It’s a conspiracy of the Ontario highway department (the OPP) and the Canadian tourism industry.   What better way to keep tired drivers alert on a lonely, empty highway, except signs urging them to keep alert for moose?   And moose —  moose calendars, moose posters, moose pens, moose tracks ice cream — sell.

It’s true, Canadians tell great stories about the moose — the night they saw 14 moose on Highway 17, the bull moose that jumped through a windshield and impaled the steering wheel on his antlers, how “no one sees moose now, because they sleep in August.”    That’s what’s Canadians do in the long, cold, dark, snowy winter — they enter  Tall Moose Tales competitions.  The winners get a cash prize from the OPP and a free moose mug.    An entire industry builds fake moose and plants them in the swampiest, most bug-infested parts of Ontario.   (Where? Moose Factory, of course.)

Yes, I know there are countless photos of Canadian moose on the internet.   It’s amazing what you can do with Photoshop.

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Grandpa Jim gets more than he signed up for

All the fields around the house drain into a creek that runs between the house and the road.   At our end of the drive, the north bank of the creek is wooded,  low and flat.  The driveway follows these woods from our house down to the road.  At the other end, where the driveway reaches the road, the woods give way to tall grasses.   After  a period of heavy rain, the ground becomes saturated, and the creek floods.  When the creek floods, shallow water quickly spreads through the woods at our end and across the grassy area at the other end.  This end of the driveway usually doesn’t flood, but the part near the road often floods.   It’s never truly unpassable, but it gets close.  A few years ago Eric built a wooden walkway and a footbridge, so that we can get through the woods and across the creek whenever it floods like this.

So yesterday, Grandpa Jim and Grandma Carol came to visit from Alabama, and while they were here, there was a heavy rainstorm.   When the rain stopped, the woods near the house were entirely flooded with at least 3 inches of flowing creek water. Brownie and I walked down the driveway to see how just badly the driveway had flooded.   (Yes, it had. Badly.)

On the way back — splash! Brownie heard something in the woods and took off after it, right into the flood water.    I see a flash of something furry.  I was hoping it was a deer, but Brownie cornered it in the flooded woods, and I could hear lots of barking and growling.

Grandpa Jim and I walked down the Eric’s boardwalk to see if we could get a look at the dog.  No luck.  Up on the bridge?  Couldn’t see anything there either.   I was getting worried about Brownie, so I jumped off the walkway into the floodwater (“Watch out for snakes!” Jim yelled. “I hope you don’t have any water snakes around here!”) and then up onto the Arborgeddon logs that fill the woods, toward the dog.

Brownie had cornered something in a rosebush.  (Multiflora Rose. Invasive. The only kind that grows in our yard.)  It was grey, with a pointed nose and ears.  At first I thought it was a  coyote but it seemed too small — about the size of a large terrier.    Now I think it was a grey fox, which is the right size and coloring.  Poor thing was miserable, standing in 3 inches of floodwater with a large dog running around it, snapping at it and running away just so she could charge back at it.

After about 10 minutes of futilely trying to catch the dog, while Jim yelled about snakes and swamps in the background, and asking if I needed anything that Eric could fetch, the fox made a break for it, right past Jim.  Jim said the fox ran through the flood and over the walkway.  Brownie came by a few seconds later, but had lost track of the fox.   She ran over the bridge, then jumped into the flooded creek.  The creek itself is at least three feet deep, and fast, during these floods.    Jim said she got caught in a bush, got loose, climbed out of the creek, ran back through the flood then over the bridge, and jumped into the flooded creek again.

When we finally caught her, Jim said “When she got stuck in the bush, she looked at me as if to say “get me out, I’m stuck!”  but she got on her own.  I thought she was a pretty smart dog..until I saw her jump back into that same creek.”

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