“Espresso doppio, proszę.” “Yes, anything else?”

(Written in the Old Town this afternoon, between rainstorms)

I kinda feel like I’m on that school trip to Quebec City in grade 7; even when I try to use a word in the local language, I get a reply in English.

Sitting in a café (my second of the day) listening to seemingly the only accordion-playing busker who isn’t a) a 14-year-old girl, b) sour-faced, and c) in possession of a tiny, apparently dead (but actually just exhausted) puppy.

After a couple of days spent primarily sitting on patios, enjoying local brews (although, I did make it to the EXCELLENT Solidarity Museum yesterday), I decided to make use of my Karta Turysty and hit up some more educational haunts, which, it turns out, is quite tricky. The archaeology museum was great, but several exhibits/displays offered no English descriptions at all. (This is fine, really. I am not so arrogant as to be think that there should be English everywhere, but, yeah, bewilderment was at maximum a few times when facing endless pots of who-knows-what origin.)

Ditto at the Maritime Museum (though English descriptions were more available there), which had the additional complication of being one way only. So, despite being exhausted (have I mentioned the sinus-y, mucous situation I have going on in my head?) and wanting to head out early, I had to go through ALL of the exhibitions since I got shouted at in Polish by little old ladies if I tried to turn around. Everything on the third floor and above got pretty cursory glances, I’m afraid. Apologies to 20th century shipbuilders.
As I can’t drink vodka, my souvenirs so far are the nearly-as-stereotypical mead (which is more like wine than liqueur here) and amber.

I am really digging Poland. I hope I can make it back before Piotr and Chelsea leave (Euro 2012, maybe?). Tomorrow, I embark on my journey West to Berlin, then on to Paris. It will be sweet relief to have at least a primary school reading level (in Germany). Still haven’t made a single decision on what to see there yet, though. The dream of renting a bike and exploring has been quashed by five days of torrential rain in the forecast. Ack. Must buy an umbrella. OK, jetzt habe ich einen Plan für Berlin.

(Photos of Gdansk will be posted here am Morgen, or maybe the day after.)

Sopot. (Also not about gardening.)

So I didn’t write about London. Here are a few words:

1. Annelouise, Joe, the other Jo, Alan, and Mark Watson are great.

2. Paul Merton touched my leg when making his way through the Comedy Store with a tray of drinks. This is slightly better than making an arse of myself by babbling in his face in Edinburgh a couple of years ago.

3. Greenwich is lovely and highly recommended, but don’t have a giant lunch before climbing that hill.

4. Churchill’s War Rooms are definitely worth a visit, but do not count as one of the free museums for some reason.

5. Curly Wurly was unfindable. This is terribly upsetting.

As for Sopot, we went there yesterday and met up with Piotr’s de facto aunt (one of those older relatives who you know you have some kind of DNA relationship too, but aren’t 100% sure how), her partner, and her mother. The three people we met live in/around Ottawa too and it turns out Teresa delivered my friend’s kids (she’s a midwife). Ottawa: A Small Town of a Million People.

In actuality, we spent the afternoon drinking and eating and wandering (a bit). Here are some photos:

Sopot lunch. Sturgeon with mushroom sauce, potatoes, and salad.

Sopot lunch. Sturgeon with mushroom sauce, potatoes, and salad. Oh, and beer. So good.

Sitting, chatting, drinking near the sea.

Sitting, chatting, drinking near the sea.

This is quite near the station and the church where Piotrs parents got married.

This is quite near the station and the church where Piotr's parents got married.

This is where Chelsea, and later Piotr, lived when they first moved to Poland. This is a pretty swanky area of the Tri-Cities, but ultimately too loud and too expensive.

This is where Chelsea, and later Piotr, lived when they first moved to Poland. This is a pretty swanky area of the Tri-Cities, but ultimately too loud and too expensive. (Western European prices have invaded, mostly on stuff like clothing, electronics, and real estate.)

Manscaping and being mahogony-coloured are all the rage on the Baltic coast.

Manscaping and being mahogony-coloured are all the rage on the Baltic coast.

You can rent this stilts on the beach. We did not.

You can rent these stilts on the beach. We did not.

It was a grand day out.  Today, I’m going to learn something, though. We’re going to the old city of Gdańsk (which, of course, was mostly razed in the Second World War since, y’know, the conflict started here and all) and going to the Solidarity Museum. Will report back soon.

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.