Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Greetings from Gougouneville

No, it's not a village in Senegal.  Gougoune is the Quebecois word for flip-flops, and it's my riff on the popular Montreal expression of Balconville.  If you're like us and stay home during summer vacation, well, you're staying in Balconville.  I washed Cooper this past weekend, and decided it would be appropriate to own a pair of shoes that could get wet, other than my ubiquitous rubber boots.  With a visit to the grocery store and 4 loonies later, here are my new gougounes:

Summer can officially start now.  I own a pair of flip-flops, a first for me, believe it or not.  While my feet look like they belong to a lady of leisure, my hands look like a diesel mechanic's at this time of year.  They should be OK by the time October rolls around and the dirt wears off and my nails grow back.  Right now, they're so unpresentable as to be terrifying.

The weather in June has been fabulous!  It's been bright, sunny, breezy, and with our early spring, it feels like it's been summer for-ev-ah.  This coming week we'll have temps in the mid 30C's, which translates to low 90's on the Fahrenheit scale, and if that weren't enough, this coming Monday is a statutory holiday.  So is the following Monday, it's our little way of kicking off summer with a double-whammy.  St-Jean-Baptiste day marks the beginning of school vacation in Quebec, and the unofficial start of summer.  Canada Day on July 1 is celebrated by the entire country, but we Quebeckers enjoy the double-header.  It's how we make up for our long and often miserable winter.  So let the games begin!

On the "projects" front, I have asked, begged and pleaded for a clothes line for the past ten years.  This year, I took matters into my own hands because my patience was wearing thin.  (I'm tolerant like that LOL!) I was sure a regular clothes line spanned between two trees or posts wasn't going to happen when Eric started to talk about putting in posts with 4000 psi air-entrained concrete complete with rebar, (Eric over-engineers, dontchaknow?).  I broke down and bought a Brabantia rotary clothes dryer at our local Crappy Tire.  It was 30% off, it's not made in China (it's made in Latvia), and it can be easily stored during winter months.  Since I took this bull by the horns, apparently I am in charge of installing the ground spike that holds the dryer into place.  With our hard clay soil, I'll need a sledge hammer or a backhoe (a thought I did entertain momentarily) to drive it into place.  I was hoping for a nice downpour to saturate the ground, but I think I'll be waiting for a while with the hot spell we have forecast for the next week.  I've decided to just water down the spot where I want the spike, and hope that I can drive the anchor in straight.  Clean laundry flapping in the breeze, here we come!
This year, our field is planted with soy, one of Quebec's largest crops, and it's growing by leaps and bounds.  Obviously, we have corn across the street, because crop rotation ain't happening here, and even though it was planted late, it shot right up with the recent hot temperatures.  We also replaced the two trees in our windbreak that were bulldozed over by the drainage work on the new highway 30, and planted 4 more alongside our driveway.  Hopefully we'll get the chance to plant another 4 on the opposite side of the driveway this week, so eventually, we'll have a sort of tree alley leading to the house.

This year, all I planted were annuals for a punch of colour around our slate patio.  The peach-coloured begonias above come courtesy of my grocery store's garden centre that gets set up in a corner of the parking lot every year.  President's Choice "Gigantico" plants have yet to disappoint me.  This begonia hybrid is called "Dragone Sunset" and was one of the 15 noteworthy plants at Canada's 2012 Blooms show in Toronto.  This photo was taken a few weeks ago, and the leaves have almost been obscured by the vibrant blooms.  I am in love with this begonia!  I also found some large Quebec-made planters which I filled with red geraniums, white wave petunias, dracaena, vinca, ipomoea and euphorbia.  Again this photo was taken right after it was planted, and it's exploded with blossoms and foliage since then.  This is my first time using wave petunias, and it most definitely won't be the last.

I did some planters with coleus and dusty miller, and others with gazania.  I threw some lobelia in with a flat-leafed parsley plant and it's turning into a nice combo.  I have a few herb planters I do every year with the standard list of characters:  sweet basil and "regular" basil (because I wanted to know, once and for all, what the difference is!), Thai basil, Greek oregano, sage, rosemary, cilantro and thyme.  I planted one "El Jefe" jalapeƱo pepper in a huge pot supplemented with lots of chicken manure and shrimp compost, plus I'm still on the look-out for a yellow cherry tomato plant.  I bought one at Quinn's Farm last year, and the little tomatoes were sweet like candy.  I'm not a big tomato fan (hello heartburn!) so this is a huge admission coming from me.  This year - the clothes line - next year - raised garden beds!  I've got to fight my battles one year at a time.

Eric is conducting phase II of a potato experiment in our sole garden bed that's not planted with our wind-break trees.  His father sent us true potato seeds from France (yes, seeds from the potato flowers he pollinated himself) which we planted last year.  I found an interesting article on growing potatoes from seed "seed" here, as opposed to growing potatoes conventionally from tubers.

A more in-depth read on potato breeding can be found here, courtesy of Raoul A. Robinson.  From the plants we grew last year, we harvested lots of teeny tiny baby potatoes, the largest of which was the size of an egg.  This year, we're growing plants from those tiny potatoes which we kept in the crawl space this winter.  When I took them out this spring, they were already sprouting, and we finally got them into the ground about a month ago.  Eric took the old rototiller he inherited from his father when his parents moved back to France years ago, and went to town preparing the bed for planting.  Our soil is very clayey and needs lots of amending.  We've brought in tons of manure with our tractor's front loader from our neighbour's farm, and put in tons of leaf mulch.   Eventually, we'll get there.  What we really need is a 48" rototiller for the big John Deere, and believe me, we're working on it.

The field right beside the house was left fallow, which is the second year running if my memory serves me well.  The hay fields are full of bobolinks, whose crazy songs fill the air.  In past years, the hay was cut before the baby birds could fledge, but I think they're safe this year.  Today I noticed a proliferation of birds which I'm going to attribute to our early spring and the head-start the birds got nesting.  In past years, the hay was cut before the baby birds could fly, and crows could be seen for days on end, feasting on the remains.  It made me sad to see, but this year I'm convinced the babies are safe.
BobCat surprised us this past winter, with his level of devotion and his Velcro-like behaviour.  He did two things that surprised me this week.  First, he hates it when I take a bath.  He circles the tub, meowing all the time, and won't leave me alone until I'm out of the water.  The other day, he circled the tub, and put his paws on a shelf in the tub, trying to get close to me.  Then he reached out for me, and grabbing hold of my scalp, dug his claws in.  While I appreciate Bob's concern, I'm not about to drown in the tub, but I guess he's not quite convinced about my ability to extricate myself from harm's way.  Second, Cooper got attacked by a friend's psycho Bernese Mountain dog, and although no blood was drawn, BobCat came to Cooper's defense, and puffed himself up and screamed bloody murder, ready to take on a foe 85 pounds heavier than himself.  Bob and Cooper aren't even buddies in the sense they don't cuddle together, but they are mutual in their respect for each other, and I found it remarkable that Bob would come to Cooper's defense like he did.

Another one who surprises us:
I cannot tell you how many times I hover over Schatzie's sleeping body, checking for signs of life.  Sometimes, she sleeps with one eye open, and I think - that's it - she's finally kicked the proverbial bucket.  I never cease to be amazed by this cat's perseverance.  This May, we started year 8 of her presence in our house, and it's hard to believe she's still around and kicking, considering the old snaggle-toothed hag was 20  when we adopted her.  With the warm weather we've been having, she stumbles outside when I get home from work and lays down on the slate tiles, warming her old arthritic bones.  This evening, BobCat went and lay down beside her, as though he knows she's old, frail, half-blind, stone-deaf and completely defenseless against a predator.  I'm not anthropomorphizing, because I am convinced he was looking out for her.  BobCat's that kind of cat.

That pretty much summarizes the month of June so far, but it's not over yet.  We still need to get a few more trees planted, the ground spike for my rotary clothes dryer driven into the ground (the laundry's piling up and I'll be damned to turn on the dryer once more this season...), plus all those other summer rituals like mowing, mowing and more mowing.  Summer is the busiest time of the year on so many fronts, hence this long and disjointed post.

Until next time, greetings from Gougouneville.
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