Polská. (Not about gardening.)

Poland so far.

I’m in Poland. Here’s some stuff I wrote yesterday in my French school notebook:

—-

So, Poland. A land that makes fools of us all. At least of me, anyway.

The last  few weeks of work have made me extremely stupid and deeply unprepared for this much-needed holiday. A key thing that I should have done, for example, is learn some Polish.

Instead, I have thus far been a near-mute asshole, saying ‘Cześć’ and ‘Dziękuję’ once in a while, but generally just standing there like a fool, pointing at things on menus (in touristy places in Kraków, these are bilingual even when the staff aren’t, though), and hoping that I’m pronouncing Okocim correctly.

Unfortunately, aside from my tendency to gap at ancient churches and taking photos of graffiti I enjoy, I don’t look like a typical tourist. How do I know this? I get asked for directions frequently. Three people had stopped me to ask me for advice before I even got on a train to Kraków Główny from the airport. I have a Polish face (or a British one or an Icelandic one) or an air that I know what the fuck I’m doing. I don’t, I assure you. I’m generally, if possible, more lost than you are. Do not trust this face.

Anyway, here’s a list of some of the things that I did and saw in Kraków:

1. Watched a really keen (is there any other kind?) British trainspotter who took dozens of photos and extensive notes on the airport shuttle, then inserting his papers into a book on “Key Phrases for European Rail Travel” (or similar).

2. Saw/heard the bugler of Kościół Mariacki in the town square (more than once).

3. Ate pierogi ruskie (yeah, I don’t know either).

4. Went to a chamber music concert in an ancient (well, to Canadian standards) church. The first violinist looked like Burton Cummings and was clearly fighting off the flu or something. Still brilliant, though.

5. Went to bed early-ish (10:30) and was awoken an hour later by a shouting couple in the street, then by several more people over the course of the night.

6. Queued for almost an hour for a ticket to Wawel Castle. Then said ticket blew away (I think – it vanished, anyway) while I was eating lunch. As a result, no state rooms for me, but I did see the archaeological bits and the Dragon’s Den (no investors there, though).

7. Found out that Kraków Głowny makes Birmingham New Street look like the Taj Mahal.

8. Visited the Galicia Holocaust Museum (no, didn’t make it to Auschwitz this time), which was excellent, and walked around Kazimierz (the old Jewish Quarter) for ages.

9. Forgot to take a photo of the Bonerowski Hotel (sorry, Jovana).

As I write this, I’m on my very long train journey to Gdansk to stay with Piotr and Chelsea. I’m hoping to have a lazy few days with them (ed. note – day one a total success) and let my finances recover after the money-sucking, yet lovely, stay in the UK before heading on to Germany on Saturday morning.

Do widzenia!

May Day, May Day.

No posts since last year and now two in one day? What fresh hell is this?

I came back from my Toronto 10K/Eddie Izzard weekend and found that my back yard had turned yellow. Un peu problematique. It’s a delicate operation to clean up, especially in the big box (heh) because my carrots are finally coming up (the ones I put in early April and the ones I put in two weeks ago are at the same “blink and you’ll miss ’em” stage.

Little green carrot shoots surrounded by tree seeds.

Little green carrot shoots surrounded by tree seeds.

Keep in mind that it is May 3. Some of my plants are doing stupendously.

The beans plants and corn ( yes, I am starting some of it indoors, which is a controversial thing to do, but eh, I thought I’d try). These are only a week old.

This wee self-watering trays from Lee Valley are awesome, BTW.

These wee self-watering trays from Lee Valley are awesome, BTW.

The roots are almost as long as the plants themselves are tall.

Peas and flowering beans (three weeks old)

In the left corner are the peas and along the rest of the back of the box are the flowering beans. Cant wait to see if theyll climb the wire.

In the left corner are the peas and along the rest of the back of the box are the flowering beans. Can't wait to see if they'll climb the wire.

Radishes (the green things on the right – what a terrible photo. Sorry.)

The radishes are on the right. They are a month old.

The radishes are on the right. They are a month old.

No sign of the beets I planted. The onion sets I put in three weeks ago are starting to peek out. I should plant some more this week.

And now….name that plant!

Seriously, yo, I need this blog to keep track of things. I planted a heap of bulbs last year (mostly daffodils, tulips, and crocuses of various types – there was a Vesey’s sale), but I can’t remember what these are. Any ideas? Or should I just wait until they bloom?

Note to self - take notes.

Note to self - take notes.

Sorry for the mishmash going on. I will endeavour to make more theme-y/organised entries from now on. Sometimes.

The Story So Far…

Hey, what the *arse* happened?

Last summer, with hope in my heart and armed with a black thumb, I tried to grow stuff in my garden. For the three people wondering what happened next? Disaster.

Last July was not just the rainiest July ever, but it was actually the rainiest month Ottawa had ever seen. EVER. My backyard, which isn’t terribly sunny at the best of times, was a big puddle. From the 12 bean plants I had, I got six beans. None of them were very good either. My tomatoes, which, if you read back you will see I put outside in MAY, did not mature until October. One got one green tomato on it. The frost destroyed it.

Important lessons learned:
1. Drainage is your friend. First thing I did when gardening weather rolled ’round (in early April), I put crushed brick in the bottom of all my garden boxes and added Perlite to all my soil.

Drainage, drainage, drainage in the form of crushed bricks. I also added Perlite to mix.

2. Water is good, but not all you need: I bought some acrylic panels to put over my boxes to make de factor greenhouses for some of my seedlings to keep them warmer and keep them from drowning.

Acrylic panels. They were already cut this way, so there are gaps I filled in with bits of wood when it got really torrential

Acrylic panels. They were already cut this way, so there are gaps I filled in with bits of wood when it got really torrential

3. Squirrels suck: I planted dozens and dozens of daffodil, crocus, and tulip bulbs last fall and have been finding them dug up and scattered. A lot survived, though, only to be ravaged later.

Nice tulip, dug up and mangled bulb.

Nice tulip, dug up and mangled bulb.

4. Warfare requires good defense: There’s so much wire fence out back that it’s starting to look like Troubles-era Belfast.

Nice broken shovel to smackdown squirrels with. (Kidding! Kidding!)

Nice broken shovel to smack down squirrels with. (Kidding! Kidding!)

Ah well, onward and upward. Here are some more photos:

This barrel has been slowly mouldering for years. I put it out of its misery. I should use the wood for something.

This barrel has been slowly mouldering for years. I put it out of its misery. I should use the wood for something.

The squirrels nipped the heads off of the first two to bloom a couple of weeks later.

The squirrels nipped the heads off of the first two to bloom a couple of weeks later.

Im not proud, but Im too lazy to check what the other thing is, but on either side is English lavender. The lavender I bought last year was in a pot that didnt have enough drainage, so it didnt. And no, lavender is definitely not an annual. (That was French lavender anyway.)

I'm not proud, but I'm too lazy to check what the other thing is, but on either side is English lavender. The lavender I bought last year was in a pot that didn't have enough drainage, so it didn't. And no, lavender is definitely not an annual. (That was French lavender anyway.)

Stringed off a bit of the back yard and seeded it with clover, grass, and wildflowers. Fingers crossed something fun grows.

Stringed off a bit of the back yard and seeded it with clover, grass, and wildflowers. Fingers crossed something fun grows.

Yep, succumbed to the charms of a discounted amaryllis kit. This thing just finished blooming and now looks pathetic.

PS The first few images are from THE FIRST WEEK OF APRIL and most of the rest are from a couple of weeks later).

Baffles.

Gah, between throwing my back out and my internet at home being down for long stretches of the week, I have totally been neglecting my tiny audience.  I did have ten new spam comments this week.  No, I don’t need Moldovan Propecia, thanks.

Anyway, last week, I mentioned that I had cleared a space for a new bed.  But how to keep squirrels out?  Especially as I had no staples for my gun?

Ooo, Blair Witchy!  What does it all mean? It means the fuckers cant dig everything up.  Booyah!

Ooo, Blair Witchy! What does it all mean? It means the fuckers can't dig everything up. Booyah!

Did a similar thing in the newest raised bed/box as well.

Okay, so half of it wasnt baffled.  As a result, when I checked in today, there were holes where I had planted zucchini seeds.

Okay, so half of it wasn't baffled. As a result, when I checked in today, there were holes where I had planted zucchini seeds.

Hey, look at the far end here!  This photo is from last week, but the beans were doing well!

The musical fruit isnt doing too badly in the face of juglone.  The ones in the box are doing even better.  Hooray!

The musical fruit isn't doing too badly in the face of juglone. The ones in the box are doing even better. Hooray!

This week’s even more awesome!

Huzzah!  Now I have taken up the chicken wire up and put bricks and sticks around in hopes that the squirrels dont eat them/dig them up.

Huzzah! Now I have taken up the chicken wire up and put bricks and sticks around in hopes that the squirrels don't eat them/dig them up.

Yup, the squirrels are still the biggest blight in the garden.

I bought these mums and sunflowers last weekend.  By Tuesday, the latter were headless.

I bought these mums and sunflowers last weekend. By Tuesday, the latter were headless.

This is whats left.  All thats left.  I love sunflowers, dammit!

This is what's left. All that's left. I love sunflowers, dammit!

What to do now?  I had scattered blood and bonemeal around them and everything!  I want sunflowers!

Now that I have staples, I finished a giant cage for over the first bed.  Half of it didn’t grow at all, though carrots and radishes are coming up.  Now, I’ve put in spanish onions (which were on sale today) and some spring onions.

This is the most lopsided cage ever.  The fence is in the way, I got tangled in staples and chicken wire, and have no knack for building.  Ah well, itll do the job.

This is the most lopsided cage ever. The fence is in the way, I got tangled in staples and chicken wire, and have no knack for building. Ah well, it'll do the job.

Also, last night, I heard a giant crash and some crazy yowling.  I jumped out of the bath and ran downstairs in case Hamish had a) knocked over a bookcase and pinned himself under it or b) had escaped outside and started a fight.  It was neither.  The motion detector light was out already, so I figured that there was a cat fight somewhere nearby.  Hamish was looking out the window, but didn’t seem agitated. This morning, I found this:

Fur flew!

Fur flew!

Lots of it!

Lots of it!

I’m serious when I say that I am surprised I didn’t find blood splatters or something worse out there.  There was half a cat’s worth a fur out there.  Yikes.

Balm blam.

Okay, so I spent all day in the garden, but forgot to take some key photos.  Here’s a mini-update, though.

First, I cleared away a whole heap of lemon balm.

Its not really a path.  Its a new patch for experimentation.  Photos of what it looks like tomorrow.

It's not really a path. It's a new patch for experimentation. Photos of what it looks like tomorrow.

Seriously, this was all lemon balm with a couple of violets thrown in for good measure.  Look how tall!  And dense!  And this is just what’s left (in this corner – the stuff is all over the place):

Okay, so maybe the height isnt *that* clear.  But its a bit taller than knee-height on 510ish me.

Okay, so maybe the height isn't *that* clear. But it's a bit taller than knee-height on 5'10ish me.

Some of this lemon balm got composted, which, yes, is a shame.  I am keeping some to dry.  The rest is being given away in cheap pots that are not sitting on my front lawn:

Three pots about this full for giveaway.

Three pots about this full for giveaway.

In non-balm news, all my tomatoes are now outside.  They are still small, though.  It’s been a cool spring.  No sign of fruits.  The first two from the left on the top row (including the one that toppled over – I’ve tied it back up now) have been outside for about a month.  The others are not in great shape having not been watered properly while I was in Iceland, but I think most of them will make it.

Tomatoes!

Tomatoes! There is a mixture of coffee grounds, bone meal, and egg shell scattered around them.

Please note TWO OTHER pots of lemon balm on the steps to the left.  They are from a previous cull and are going to friends.  Five pots of lemon balm, plus more composted.  Gah.

More demain, including a juglone experiment update!

Chaos and progress.

Well, remind me next time I go away that I need to leave explicit instructions on watering.  All my indoor seedlings are dead.  Argh.  Have to start from scratch with my herbs and I’m down to my last two tomato plants (I had already given one away to a friend).

I have one other, in similar shape.  Fingers crossed, yall!

I have one other, in similar shape. Fingers crossed, y'all!

In other news, the front garden and back yard look completely mad, but largely in a good way:

Total violet and periwinkle dominance.

Total violet and periwinkle dominance.

Except here, where the coral bells (which I had forgotten about) are going mad.

Except here, where the coral bells Bleeding Heart (thanks Jackie!) (which I had forgotten about) are going mad.

Squirrels decimated these marigolds completely.

Squirrels decimated these marigolds completely.

Man, there is a lot of stuff in here.  Gah.

Man, there is a lot of stuff in here. Gah.

A mix of nasturtiums and wildflowers. Guess whats dominating? (I have another of these boxes, but it needs more drainage - everything is drowning.)

A mix of nasturtiums and wildflowers. Guess what's dominating? (I have another of these boxes, but it needs more drainage - everything is drowning.)

Whats the story?

What's the story?

Also, things are justjust sprouting in the latest garden box.  Squirrelproofing was a total success.  YAY.

No, really, that thing is a sprouting plant!

No, really, that thing is a sprouting plant!

One wee broccoli!

One wee broccoli!

There’s also one beet sprout.  And the lettuce continues, against all odds, to thrive.  Holy craps.

I really should harvest some soon.

I really should harvest some soon.

I will update again soon. Was defeated by a vicious cold for the last week (including while I was in Reykjavik).  Much to do this week.

So, no garden updates right now because I’m in ICELAND! I couldn’t resist taking photos while walking around Tjörn (wee lake in the city centre), despite the clouds of midges.

Trees!  And pretty little white things!

Trees! And pretty little white things!

It was pretty weird/cool coming in from Keflavik this morning because the landscape is all lichen, volcanic rock, and, well, not much else.  So little height from plants.  The above shows that there are still trees, though!

Pretty happy with this macro experiment.  New camera = much confusion.

Pretty happy with this macro experiment. New camera = much confusion.

Those have got to be some kind of sedum cousin, right?

Speaking of plant cousins, these two are very rhubarb-esque, no?

Phalluses!!

Phalluses!!

Only one here!

Only one here!

I wish I knew a) what these are and b) whether they would grow chez moi.

I wish I knew a) what these are and b) whether they would grow chez moi.

More soon!  Gonna have a nap before dinner.  Almost might be going on a “Haunted Walk” later.  WOO!

This means war.

Morning.

Phew, less than twelve hours later and I’m back!  Daylight is pretty.

Anyway, established plants are always squirrel-resistant:

Honestly, I do *not* remember this hosta being so huge last year. Maybe I have a greener thumb that I thought?  Or ripping out violets helped?  Or maybe its just matured and I have nothing to do with it.

Honestly, I do *not* remember this hosta being so huge last year. Maybe I have a greener thumb that I thought? Or ripping out violets helped? Or maybe it's just matured and I have nothing to do with it.

Spooky. With added shadow!

Spooky. With added shadow!

The success of the above makes me happy.  Under this lie the disintegrated corpes of pet hamsters, gerbils, and a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest. Don’t want to go digging around under there. Pet Semetery!

Something old, something new.  Planted blueish one yesterday.  Lower left corner is three years old (or so).

Something old, something new. Planted blueish one yesterday. Lower left corner is three years old (or so).

I had forgotten about that fern-y looking thing as well.  It was obscured by violets.

Years-old clematis still trying hard, but looking sad.

Years-old clematis still trying hard, but looking sad. (This was one of my mum's favourites.)

Sedum gone wild!

Sedum gone wild!

And now the established, but unwanted.  Virginia creeper.  Originating under my neighbour’s patio, it cannot be killed.  We’ve tried.  For more than a decade.

I mean, creeping vine-y things are nice, but not when they start spreading across the whole yard, tripping you up, and generally being a nuisance.

I mean, creeping vine-y things are nice, but not when they start spreading across the whole yard, tripping you up, and generally being a nuisance.

Onto to the veggie battlements, since vegetables don’t have the advantage of age to defend them:

In addition to the pumpkin cage, I have pinned down chicken wire with sticks and taken advantage of a collapsed shoe rack to protect my leeks.

In addition to the pumpkin cage, I have pinned down chicken wire with sticks and taken advantage of a collapsed shoe rack to protect my leeks.

Not only that, but I sprinkled red pepper flake is stuck in bits of cat fur to keep the fuckers out.

Not only that, but I sprinkled red pepper flake and stuck in bits of cat fur to keep the fucking squirrels out.

My tomatoes were big, but leggy, so they are stilted.  Note, again, the cat fur tuft tucked into the pot.

My tomatoes were big, but 'leggy', so they are stilted. Note, again, the cat fur tuft tucked into the pot. This has worked in the past.

On notes (almost) completely other, I bought a Black-Eyed Susan for the big barrel.  Fingers crossed.  Mum was not black-eyed, but her name was Suzan.

Planted on Mothers Day.

Planted on Mother's Day.

C’est tout for now.  Building more boxes in the next week or two for beets, parsnips, broccoli, and something I’m not remembering right now.

Invasions.

My front and back yards are under constant threat from invaders.  I will talk about three today.  First up, the violets:

This is a wee part of the front yard.  Violets everywhere.

This is a wee part of the front yard. Violets everywhere.

No, really, they are fucking everywhere.

No, really, they are fucking everywhere. I don't even care about the dandelion.

Yup, they are all over the front too.

Yup, they are all over the front too.

Next up, the maples:

No lie, I rip up some of these suckers every day.

No lie, I rip up some of these suckers every day.

I don’t have photos, but I also sawed down two trees that had grown to my height.  There are three or for more to go.

However, I did have fun tackling these two invaders, plus some of the vine-y periwinkle today.

This is a tall wheelie bin full of garden detritus, composed almost entirely of maple and violet corpses, with a few periwinkle thrown in too

This is a tall wheelie bin full of garden detritus, composed almost entirely of maple and violet corpses, with a few periwinkle and bits of lemon balm thrown in too. Note the woody roots on those violets. It's almost like the whole yard is a single organism. A single organism trying to eat my brain.

I’m also putting some clumps of lemon balm and periwinkle into pots to give to brave friends, especially those with balconies.

The cull was in large part a first step in my quest for a path to the garage and composter.  I think I made great strides:

A path!  A path!

A path! A path!

A totally heinous photo, yes, but it was night time.  All told, I probably spent about seven hours in the garden this weekend.  And it rained yesterday.  Addiction!

Anyway, the other day, on a whim, I bought some cauliflower plants and put them in the box.  Within 36 hours, this happened:

Squirrels.  Again.

Squirrels. Again.

Detailed damage.  So frustrating.

Detailed damage. So frustrating.

So I bought provisions.

A heap of marigolds from the local farmers market and a fake owl (!!!).

A heap of marigolds from the local farmers' market and a fake owl (!!!).

This actually confused the hell out of my cat.  Hes perched atop a steel pole that has been in the garden for years, but seems to be immovable.  Finally, it shows its usefulness.

This actually confused the hell out of my cat. He's perched atop a steel pole that has been in the garden for years, but seems to be immovable. Finally, it shows its usefulness. The owl's head moves in the wind, by the way.

The marigolds were put in pots in strategic places throughout the yard.  But then this happened:

Shredded!  What the hell?  Squirrels are supposed to hate them!

Shredded! What the hell? Squirrels are supposed to hate them!

They also tried to dig UNDER the veg box:

Notice all the roots despite the clearing?  Lemon balm remnants, mostly.

Notice all the roots despite the clearing? Lemon balm remnants, mostly.

So, the owl hasn’t caught on yet. Nor have the marigolds done their job.  Now’s the time for the big guns:

This is my first chicken wire experiment, over the pumpkin plants I started indoors a few weeks ago.  I fail at arts & crafts.

This is my first chicken wire experiment, over the pumpkin plants I started indoors a few weeks ago. I fail at arts & crafts.

Coming soon, more chicken wire experiments and weird sculptures/barriers I worked on today.  Got too dark to take good shots tonight.  But I leave you with some good news:

Combo of tall pot and marigolds did the trick for this.  Hurrah!  Fingers crossed that it holds up.

Combo of tall pot and marigolds did the trick for keeping the squirrels out. Hurrah! Fingers crossed that it holds up.

Also?  My twig battlements are still holding up, though I suspect that this pots perch atop a stack of patio chairs is partly responsible.

Also? My twig battlements are still holding up, though I suspect that this pot's perch atop a stack of patio chairs is partly responsible.

Also coming up: Hostas!  They look amazing.