Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Best Part

This summer has been relatively dry.  Dry enough that the grass on my front lawn is a disappointing shade of dead but in the back yard, where the lawn is shaded with large trees, it is green. The kind of green that does not come from newly laid sod but from dandelion leaves, creeping charlie and clover.  And since there hasn’t been enough rain the few stubborn blades of grass have not grown high enough to warrant a pass of the mower.  So my backyard has swaths of flowering clover. 
And that clover is host to hundreds of honey bees.

So much good can come from just letting it be. 
Some would call that lazy. But truly, let the lawn go in the spring and it will be covered in dandelions and swarming with bees and the first butterflies and beetles and flies. Then the clover over the summer and voila! Nature happily taking up residence in your very own backyard. No intervention and manipulation required, just restraint from weeding and feeding and mowing and spraying. ‘Cause, really, all that would be left are manicured but barren blades of grass with literally no life in it.

Much like what Charlotte Mason calls Masterly Inactivity.  No need for manicured lesson plans and long lectures but just living books and things in the hands of a child and voila! Ideas and questions will sprout to be examined and narrated. Mason says, “We ought to do so much for our children, and are able to do so much for them, that we begin to think everything rests with us and that we should never intermit for a moment our conscious action on the young minds and hearts about us. Our endeavours become fussy and restless. We are too much with our children, ‘late and soon.’ We try to dominate them too much, even when we fail to govern, and we are unable to perceive that wise and purposeful letting alone is the best part of education.”

Purposeful letting alone allows your yard, your children’s education, an opportunity to be rife with life.


Not fussing nor restless but watching bees pollinate while lying in the grass.


Friday, 25 September 2015

The Cache

Corner Pocket

"The best feeding time is autumn when, in a good year, the trees are laden with nuts and acorns. Some of this bounty is consumed, but many nuts are cached. Because they are industrious hoarders, they become thoroughly engrossed with their task, and frequently seem oblivious to the hazards of traffic. From the beginning of September, many are killed by cars when they attempt to cross busy streets."

Top Shelf

"Winter is a harsh survival test. By the first week in January, their buried larder is empty and to live, they are forced to eat pine seeds, buds, twigs, and bark. Even squirrels in the city feel the pinch of hunger at this time, and resort to raiding bird feeders...Tests have proved that peanuts, the staple "handout", contain insufficient nourishment to keep squirrels in good health."

Fast Food

 "A high percentage of nuts buried in autumn are never recovered and eventually take root.  Thus the grey squirrel makes an important contribution to the renewal of the trees upon which he feeds."

Yea, squirrels!
 
Could take Root



from: The Squirrels of Canada by S.E.Woods Jr. 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

"Best Looking Corn in Essex County!"

I say this out loud to myself every time I drive by the fields my son-in-law planted. This is a very prejudiced thing to say as I know nothing about corn but I do love the young man who planted it.  I know he planted it with great excitement and trepidation and faith and prayer. And he visits his corn often to have a chat with it and see how it's coming along.

This is his passion.  
So I ask him about it.


A good crop is measured by the number of rows on a cob and how far to the tip the kernels grow.  This one has 16 rows and covers almost all the cob.  These results are determined by the quality of the soil and the fertilizer it's able to take up, the amount of rain and sun, and pest infestations. Corn removes a lot of the nutrients from the soil so it is only planted in the same fields every two years.


He tells me that farmers call the dimples in the kernels dents. And funny enough, it is officially called Dent Corn (Zea mays indenata). Around here we only make two distinctions; it's either sweet corn that we steam and eat in great quantities while the season is on, or field corn that is used for everything else. Dent corn is used for livestock feed, in industrial products, or to make processed foods. These dents signify that the corn is drying out. In order to harvest, they want 15% or less moisture in the corn so they can sell it right away.  If there is too much moisture the corn must be put in the dryer before stored in an elevator or it will rot.

 When it is this dry the kernels are spongy in the cob, like rows of loose teeth.


 
 An attentive farmer, like my son-in-law, will often check his crop and pick out one kernel to check for the telling black layer. The corn needs this layer as it is an indication of its starch content and must be at this stage before the first frost. When the time is right the harvester will cut the stalk, the thrasher will remove each kernel, and a conveyer will move them up to be put in a wagon. Then off to market it will go.


You may have remembered my mouse issue. I recently relented and bought the non-catch-and-release type and one mouse was removed from my house. One mouse, I am told, means many more. My gift of Dent Corn was placed on my counter with the bet that a mouse would eat the corn before entering the trap.  Neither of us won. I think my mouse problem has ended. Smart mice.