November Weather

So far, our November weather has been incredibly beautiful. At least it has been here in eastern Ontario. We are enjoying this fall bonus as it’s not going to last for much longer I hear.

Garden Blooms Still Glorious

With the warmer-than-usual October and November weather, our perennial garden blooms are still hanging in there. A few light touches of frost have killed off some annuals but even many of them still look lovely. These are from the butterfly garden at our local hospice. I have been hesitant to replace the annuals in my containers for fall and winter decor because the annuals still look great.

Yard Work

Home and cottage yard work has actually been quite pleasant with this nice November weather. In fact so pleasant that fall is fast becoming our favourite cottage season. Warm days and evenings with an absence of bugs have been a bonus.

Even though we are missing a few trees, the deciduous (with leaves that fall) ones make for lots of leaves. It takes days to rake and mulch them, then add them to gardens. Every bit we get done this fall means less to rake in the spring!

I’ve also been granted a few extra days to clean up gardens for clients in my gardening business.

Lakeside Sunsets

The extended fall weather means we have been able to enjoy more lakeside sunsets than usual too. I cannot remember enjoying weather like this in November. When the weather is warm, my arthritic bones and joints are keen to stay at the cottage as long as possible.

Even the turkeys have been enjoying the weather (in the trees, third picture) Hopefully, your fall weather has been nice enough too. What bonuses have you experienced with this November weather?

Endy Mattress, Chiropractor Approved!

endy mattress

We just purchased a new Endy mattress for our cottage. Now that we are spending more time there and less time at home, it was time for an upgraded mattress at the lake. After researching our options online, we ordered the mattress and it was delivered to our door (at no extra charge) two days later. We transported it to our cottage easily in the back of our minivan, took it out of the box, and voila, the mattress developed right in front of our eyes.

Who is Endy?

If you have not yet heard of Endy, let me educate you by leading you to their blog. Learn why buying an Endy mattress online might be the way to go for you too. These are just a few of the reasons I was convinced. The fact that they are endorsed by chiropractors helped too.

Endy Mattress

The comfort level is incredible too. I also love the fact that I get a good night’s sleep regardless of how restless my husband sleeps. I used to complain that when he flipped over, I flopped too; I’m hoping the new mattress will lessen the flips and flops. After all, a good night’s sleep is important for overall health and wellness.

Made in Canada

Of course, I love the fact that these incredibly comfortable, supportive, and convenient mattresses are made right here in Canada. Shopping local has become increasingly important to many within the past few years, including me.

Endy mattress

Accessories to Endy Mattress

On the Endy website, there are many accessories to choose from as well. From bed frames to pillows and sheets, everything you need to complete your new sleeping quarters is at your fingertips.

Referral Link

If you decide to order your own Endy, use my referral link to earn us both money!

photos from Endy.com

Evergreen Identification: Pine, Spruce or Balsam?

evergreen identification

After the derecho ripped through Eastern Ontario this past summer, I learned lots about the evergreen trees on our cottage property. I must admit identification of trees is not something I spent much time on with my gardening business.

When we finally got a specialist to assess the tree damage on our lot, he mentioned that the balsams (AKA firs) are not as strong, hard, or healthy as spruce or pines. Firs are not suitable for lumber but are often used for pulp and plywood. Although balsams make pretty and aromatic Christmas trees, they are not as long-living as spruce or pines and are more susceptible to spruce budworm. After their needles are stripped by the insect larvae, the trees die and their bare branches then become fuel for forest fires.

I love and appreciate the evergreen population on our cottage property. While I could always pick out a cedar or pine tree, I did not know much about the difference between spruce and balsam. Now I do. They are differentiated by their bark, needles or leaves, and cones.

Spruce vs Balsam

SpruceBalsam
barkrough withsmooth with
vertical cracksresin filled blisters
needlespointyblunt, flat
woody attachmentsuction cup attachment
conesgrow/hang downwardgrow upwards, like candles

Pine Tree Facts

Pine trees can easily be identified by their needles which grow in clusters, although that distinction varies between red, yellow, and white pines. To be specific, red pines have two long needles in each cluster, yellow pines have three, and white pines have five. Needles grow up to 6 inches long.

White pine needle cluster

Western pines grow taller and wider than their eastern cousins.

Red pines are denser and harder than white pines and therefore considered stronger. Neither are resistant to rot though. Pinewood is considered softwood, best used for carving, construction, and millwork.

Red pine cones are shorter and more egg-shaped than longer, skinnier white pine cones.

Conclusions

Evergreens are beautiful with a backdrop of storm clouds or a sunset in summer, snow-covered in winter, in contrast to the colourful leaves on deciduous trees in fall or new growth in spring.

I now look at them a tad differently though, in terms of which ones will still continue to grace our properties.

There are lots more evergreen varieties around the world…I only researched the three discussed here for obvious reasons.

Fall Leaves: Rake, Blow or Mulch?

fall leaves

Fall leaves certainly are beautiful in this neck of the woods. At least they are while they are still on the trees. Not so much when they cover every inch of your lawn! If they don’t get removed from the lawn, they will smother the grass making it weaker in the spring. So, should you rake them, blow them or mulch them?

Raking Fall Leaves

Raking is the old-fashioned way to rid your lawn of leaves. Some (my husband included) still swear by this method. We use plastic bags saved from new mattresses years ago to haul the raked leaves to a designated leaf (AKA compost) pile. This procedure works well if you have an area to store the leaves. (which we do at the cottage) I don’t mind raking but when we are talking about a huge property, a blower or mulcher is called for in my humble opinion. These contraptions also create great mulch for gardens and/or compost bins or piles. If you don’t have a blower or mulcher, you can run the leaves over several times with your lawn mower, then rake the crumbled pieces onto your gardens or into a compost bin.

Leaf Blowers with or without Mulcher Options

I first purchased a leaf blower several years ago, early on in my career of looking after peoples’ gardens and yards. I loved it so much I was collecting leaf-filled yard waste bags from my neighbours’ curbs to mulch. I love mulched leaves on my gardens. So much so that one of my neighbours gives me his mulch too.

Precautions

Most models are quite noisy so earplugs are recommended. The first time I used one without ear protection I wound up with a massive headache.

Although the models I’ve used have all been electric, there are battery-operated or gas-powered, cordless options available. If you are using a long extension cord or several combined (for large properties) be sure your extension cord is a heavy-duty one. According to Copper.org:

An improperly sized extension cord can cause a tool or appliance motor to burn out if allowed to run for too long. It can also cause a dangerous situation if it overheats.

Blower and Mulcher Brands

Toro Ultra Plus

I liked the Toro but found switching the blower to the mulcher tedious. You had to remove one attachment and trade it for the other. This switching back and forth was not only time-consuming but hard on my arthritic wrists.

The bag that held the mulched leaves had a zipper on the bottom to contain the leaves. This zipper was handy, but if you forgot to close it before you started the motor for the next batch, the leaves would fly all over. I did that a few times.

When I graduated to a fancier blower and mulcher, I donated my Toro to the hospice I volunteer at.

fall leaves
Toro Ultra Plus

Worx Leaf Blower and Mulcher

My next garden toy was made by Worx. I prefer it because you can switch from mulching to blowing leaves with a simple turn of a dial. Very convenient and much easier on my wrists. It too has a zippered mulch bag, so the “don’t forget the zipper” rule applies here too.

fall leaves

Black and Decker

The most recent blower and mulcher I’ve used is a black and decker model. It was given to me by the son of a client after she passed away. I took it to the cottage as I had one at home.

This model is quite impressive although it is now an older model. It seems more powerful than the others in both blower and mulcher mode. This is awesome while you are using it but it means the unit is heavier. I could feel the workout in my forearm muscles the next day. And the arthritic wrists well before that.

You do have to switch between the options by removing and installing the motor component but the process is so simple even I can do it without complaining. There is no zipper on the mulch bag. Instead, you insert the bag onto the mulcher head with a plastic latch. In theory, this works well but the latch seems flimsy, so after several batches of mulch it was getting loose. I’ve noticed the new models don’t have this latch.

Another downside to this model is that it has no shoulder strap on the mulch bag to distribute the weight of the tool as well as the bag of mulch. The other two models had a strap, perhaps that is why my forearm muscles and wrists felt the workout with this one.

Black and Decker

Conclusions

It doesn’t matter which method you use to remove the fall leaves from your lawn. Just be sure to do so, your lawn will thank you in the spring with a quick recovery from winter stress. So will your gardens and compost pile if you add the mulched leaves to them.

mulched leaves

End of Cottage Season

end of cottage season

The end of cottage season has arrived, regrettably. Closing our summer home (as our four-year-old granddaughter calls it) is lots of work, as any cottage owner will tell you. This time of year is not nearly as much fun as the beginning of the season when the anticipation of summer weather motivates you.

Outdoor Chores

This week the weather has been especially nice, great for outdoor things like removing docks, storing outdoor furniture, winterizing the boat, cutting the lawn one last time, emptying containers of annual plants, and more. This year we are still cleaning up trees from the derecho that swept through our area in May.

The beautiful weather is also perfect for one last lakeside coffee and bonfire. And capturing a picture of one lone monarch still hanging around, gorging on nectar before his long trek south.

Inside Jobs for end of Cottage Season

Inside the cottage fridges have to be emptied and cleaned out, freezers defrosted, and any liquids moved to the basement pump room. We keep this area a bit warmer than freezing temperature so our water pipes don’t freeze up. The water gets turned off and the pipes are emptied with antifreeze run through them.

Food items get sorted into “home” and “stay”. This means I will have two of many things in my home fridge. Any nonperishable food that does not expire before next summer stays here, also stored inside the pump room.

Bacon on the BBQ? Try it, You’ll Love it!

Do you love the taste of bacon (who doesn’t?) but hate the greasy smell that lingers in your house after cooking it? For that reason, as well as to prevent the (non-air conditioned) cottage from overheating by using the electric range, I decided to try cooking bacon on the BBQ at our cottage recently.

To me, nothing says Sunday morning like the smell of bacon.

The trick was to start cooking the bacon in a fry pan to contain most of the grease. This pan has ridges on the bottom, perfect for crispy bacon.

bacon on the bbq

When the bacon was almost crispy (the way we like it), I removed it from the pan and put it directly on the BBQ grill (perpendicular to the grill rack to prevent pieces from slipping through the cracks).

bacon on the bbq

I’ve tried the black silicone mats at this stage, but they get greasy and gross for the person on cleanup. Not to mention the grease accumulating on the mats is very flammable.

Try cooking bacon on the BBQ, you wont be disappointed!

Cottage Wildflower Garden

cottage wildflower garden

We have a large space on our cottage property that acts as a buffer zone between the road (a major highway in those parts) and the cottage. A 2-foot strip of vegetation along the road is cut by the township each year.   Adjacent to that the land begins to slope downward for an approximate width of five feet before it levels off.   A row of cedar hedges was planted approximately 40 feet from the road many years ago, but the area between the bottom of the slope and the cedars is rarely maintained, left to grow wild. I have always felt this whole area was wasted space.  What does a gardener do with wasted space?  Turns it into a garden of course, in this case, a cottage wildflower garden.

The first season (2018) we planted several evergreen trees (pine, balsam, and spruce) at the bottom of the slope.  Next season we planted more, spaced throughout the flat area to create (eventually) a forest of evergreen trees as a visual and noise barrier between the road and the cottage.

I then whippersnipped the flat area around the evergreens, avoiding all of the frogs (there were tons), then sprinkled seeds (pink and white coneflowers, Queen Anne’s lace, black-eyed Susans, pink and red beebalm to name a few) along the slope and flat strip close to the road. These plants are not exactly wildflowers, more hardy, and tall perennials, but I mixed all the seeds in one large bag as I was collecting them to achieve a wildflower look.

Next Season (2020) Update

The first set of evergreens we planted have grown even though gypsy moths have persistently tried to hamper their survival.

cottage wildflower garden
Spruce, balsam, and pines

The most recent set are coming along well too; they love the full sun and lots of space to put down roots, literally…

cottage wildflower garden
Newest evergreen plantings

After a few arguments with hubby over what grass to cut (he likes the manicured city lawn look, I prefer a more natural look here) we compromised with some of each. To mark my territory of where I want the cottage wildflower garden, I trampled down the grass to create a “line” he was not to cross with the lawnmower. You can barely see it on the right side of this picture, but he saw it and that’s what counts.

Cottage Wildflower Garden
Wildflower ridge…coming soon!

The area is not very garden-friendly, sloped with sandy soil enhanced (not) with salt and bits of gravel from the road.

Unfortunately, many of the seeds I spread over the past few seasons migrated to the designated lawn area at the bottom of the slope. The soil is very sandy in this neck of the woods, so removing the errant plants and transplanting them to wildflower ridge was easy.

2021 Update

Now that I’ve trained my husband to cut the grass properly around it, (or I cut it myself) my wildflower ridge is currently chock full of daisies, black-eyed susans, malva, white and pink achilea, Queen Anne’s lace, viper’s bugloss, and milkweed. My cottage wildflower garden is coming to life!

The milkweed attracts monarch butterflies. They lay eggs on the leaves which hatch into caterpillars (you can see 2 in the picture below) which in turn morph into more monarch butterflies.

Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s lace is dominating right now; I may have to selectively remove some of it next season if it takes over the other wildflowers.

I love the white lacey flower heads that ruffle in the breeze. The bees do as well. Queen Anne’s lace was my mom’s favourite wildflower, so they are obviously now one of my favourites as well as a sentimental touch in this garden.

cottage wildflower garden
Queen Anne’s lace

I also have a patch of Queen Anne’s lace closer to the cottage interspersed with black-eyed susans, my mother-in-law’s favourite. I love this random patch as it reminds me that both of these wonderful women are always nearby. In spirit only, unfortunately.

Globe Thistles or Echinops

Thriving within wildflower ridge are the vibrant blue globe thistles, AKA echinops, that I planted from seeds last fall.

cottage wildflower garden
Globe thistle/Echinops

Wild Chicory

Slower to thrive in wildflower ridge are the wild chicory plugs I pulled from the roadside on a trek back to the city. It’s a good thing I picked them when I did, this weekend they have all been cropped off.

A member of the daisy family, the pretty cornflower blue blossoms of wild chicory are quite common along the roadsides here in Eastern Ontario.

The chicory roots were only recently transplanted in my wildflower ridge though, so I may have to exercise some patience with them.

Not so Wild Cultivars

Mingling nicely with the wildflowers indigenous to this area (those mentioned above as well as daisies, vipers bugloss, milkweed, pink thistles, and achillea) are some not-so-wild, cultivars. These all love full sun conditions and are hardy to zone 3. Coneflowers, malva/mallow, yellow daisies, monarda, and even the recognizable leaves of a hollyhock have sprouted from the seeds I collected and sewn over the past few seasons…

Collecting Wildflowers

I’ve used a combination of seeds collected in the fall and root plugs borrowed from the roadside. For obvious reasons, the root plugs offer quicker rewards, although require more maintenance in the form of supplying them with water. This south-facing strip of property bakes in the sun, the hose doesn’t teach that far and water from the lake is a chore.

To keep our local bees and butterflies content and thriving, it is important to choose native wildflowers (ones that you see growing naturally in your area) for your gardens.

2022 Update

This year I have purple asters, white and pink achillea, and more traditional daisies blooming in addition to the varieties listed last season. The wild chicory did not fare so well, I will have to try it again. Unfortunately, some of the perennials (coneflowers and monarda) that looked so great last season did not return this year. I am discovering that the seeds work better than trying to transplant divided plants from my home gardens. This could be a result of the incredibly sandy soil here or the full sun location. Or a combination of both challenges.

I will keep trying though. Recently I added joe pye weed, and purple creeping bellflower plugs (yes, I’m aware they are invasive, but I like them in this spot), as well as cosmos, zinnia, poppy, flax, and blanket flower seeds from the butterfly garden I created at my local hospice. This process is slow, will have to wait until next spring to see the results of the latest additions.

I am hoping the bees and butterflies like my cottage wildflower gardens as much as I do! Shortly after I captured a picture of this yellow butterfly feasting on asters, a fat bumblebee buzzed in, shooing the butterfly to the next blossom.

Cottage Wildflower Garden at the Water’s Edge

The next spot I plan to transform is the shadier slope at the water’s edge. Stay tuned for more details on that project!

This is a much shadier site, so will require some research to find suitable new occupants.

Please let me know if you can think of any other plants I can add to either site. I prefer natural looking (no city slickers allowed) perennials.

Gypsy Moths and Caterpillars

what are gypsy moths

This story was posted last August…please visit the update at the end.

Gypsy Moth & Catepillar Damage

Gypsy moths, at least the caterpillars that morph into the moths, have completely defoliated many deciduous trees and devoured the tops of evergreens in Eastern Ontario.

The trees at our cottage on Palmerston Lake in Ompah, Ontario have not been spared.

gypsy moths and caterpillars

What do Gypsy Moths Look Like?

First we noticed lots (more than usual) of these brown moths flying around our property…

gypsy moths and caterpillars

Curious, I googled them to see if they could be responsible for the defoliation of our trees.

Sure enough, the brown moths pictured above are the male gypsy moths.

The males fly around looking for the white, non-flying female versions to inpregnate. The females crawl on the ground, attracting the males with a sex hormone, after which the females crawl onto a tree trunk or any other vertical surface (including our garage wall) to lay their eggs.

gypsy moths and caterpillars

The eggs are enclosed in a oval-shaped, soft sac. Once the eggs hatch, the caterpillars crawl further up the trees to continue the destructive cycle.

gypsy moths and caterpillars
female gypsy moth with egg sac

Once we discovered what they were, my hubby went around the property scraping (the ones he could reach) the egg sacs off, letting the eggs fall to the ground for the birds and other insects to enjoy.

Perhaps we are tampering with nature, but the damage these caterpillars inflict on.our trees is incredible.

Here’s hoping the trees will recover!

Update

Fast forward to spring 2021…the deciduous trees have leaves and bright green, new growth is visible on the evergreens. Sounds good, except for the webs at the tops of many of the trees housing thousands of tiny caterpillars. Yuk!

gypsy moths and caterpillars

Plan of Action

Apparently, simply knocking the egg capsules to the ground last season was ineffective. We should have destroyed them by putting them in a bucket of soapy water…

To try to break the destructive cycle of these gypsy moths, we spent the long weekend spraying the webs with soapy water.

gypsy moths and caterpillars

Fortunately I have several of these sprayers for my landscaping business

gypsy moths and caterpillars

I purchased this brand at Princess Auto in Ottawa, but you can purchase a similar one on Amazon.

Stay tuned to see how successful we were with the soap treatment!

Cottage Season is Coming

Cottage Season is Coming

Cottage season is coming, fast. With increased COVID numbers and resulting restrictions, it cannot come too soon. Isolating at the lake is something we were grateful for last summer, although spending time there is always a relaxing, “unplugged” experience, regardless of what is happening around the world.

Ice on the Lake

A few weeks ago we visited Palmerston Lake to check on our cottage. We took our four year old uber-adventurous grandson with us to show him what the place looks like in winter. He was thrilled to walk on the ice and climb on the frozen pile of leaves. He was disappointed however, that the snakes and frogs were still sleeping…

This Easter weekend, less than three weeks later, we visited again to begin the annual spring cleanup. The grandson stayed home to enjoy Easter festivities, but I couldn’t help reflecting on how much he would love to see the ice breaking up.

It always amazes me how quickly the ice leaves the lake every spring. The property is now snow-free even though we had to park on the road and wade through the snow last visit. By next week the ice will be totally gone!

Cottage Season is Coming

Spring Cottage Chores

Even though we rake up most leaves in the fall at the end of each season, there are always some that are still clinging to the trees as we are closing up. That means there are still lots to rake up in the spring too.

That’s the downside of a heavily treed lot. The advantage of course, is the natural beauty and shade these trees provide in the summer months.

We use plastic bags saved from new mattresses to collect and transport the leaves to the huge leaf pile. These bags make the chore much easier, and fold up for storage between uses. Over the season the leaves break down, providing soil amendment for garden areas.

lots of leaves

Unfortunately, a cold north wind was blowing off the lake during this visit, much to the annoyance of my arthritic hips. I paid for that in pain on return to the city. Once the cold gets in my bones, the ache is hard to dispel.

Gypsy Moth Damage

Last year I told you about the infestation of gypsy moths at the lake. Apparently it was a record year for them in Eastern Ontario, affecting not only deciduous trees but evergreens too.

We have been praying that our trees will survive this onslaught. While the deciduous trees don’t appear to suffer long term, (their leaves return each year) the growth of the evergreens (spruce and pines) is much slower. The needles take much longer to regrow, if they do at all.

I hesitate to cut the damaged tops off these pines and spruce as that would alter the natural shape of the trees, making them bushier and rounder at the bottom. Instead we will wait to see how much regrowth they put out this season.

COVID Affecting Cottage and Campsite Rentals

Last summer Canadians stayed close to home, visiting local cottages and campgrounds more than ever before. We were no exception. With the heat wave we experienced it was a no brainer to isolate at our family cottage. While visitors outside our immediate family were not invited, we managed to get our sons’ families to join us, albeit separately.

Conclusion

This season promises to be even busier for cottage and campsite rentals as we head into a (possible) second summer of isolation restrictions. I’ve heard that campsites are booking up fast as families know to expect availability shortages this summer. If you haven’t already, you might want to get on it soon!

As spring weather warms us up, we relish the fact that cottage season is coming!

Cottage Season is Coming

Lumber Shortage Slows Summer DIY Project

Anyone trying to complete a DIY project involving wood this summer knows what I mean about a lumber shortage. I’m not sure just how wide spread the shortage was, but we sure felt it here in the Ottawa area. Of course the shortage is COVID related, isn’t everything bad related to the dreaded virus these days?

Last fall, when we dug up most of our cottage property to install a new water pipe, we decided to replace and widen the ancient steps and base to our dock. We figured we could get them replaced before cottage season began in earnest.

Enter the pandemic, throwing everything and everyone into chaos, even the best laid plans.

Luckily hubby had some pressure treated lumber stashed away, remnants from our deck project several summers ago. I won’t be living down this (only) advantage of his “discard nothing” personality anytime soon!

We were able to get started using this leftover lumber, but had to wait (what seemed like) forever for the floor boards. I was finally able to locate some 12 footers we needed to finish the project this past week. Thankfully, our son has a large truck and could transport the boards from Ottawa to the cottage for us.

We finally completed the project, a few months later than planned. This base will look awesome next summer when the cedars are trimmed and a few of my specialties, planters full of colorful flowers, are added.

Next!