Monday, August 24, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Native Ground Cover for North America

I enjoy receiving the Lee Valley newsletters -- I always learn something new -- but I was disappointed with the recent article "Alternatives to Grass Lawns". With the many hardy, drought-resistant, and beautiful native lawn alternatives, I was surprised that not one North American species was listed. In fact, all 5 plants discussed are considered invasive non-natives. These aliens have escaped cultivation, disturbed our ecosystem and crowded out the native species our wildlife depend on.

It used to be difficult to find native plants, however nursery-propagated stock is now widely available across North America (avoid plants collected from the wild). From zone 1 to 10, east to west, north to south, dense shade to full sun, clay to sand, dry to wet, there's a native plant for every application. Top picks include Kinnikinnick (Bearberry), Running Strawberry Bush (Running Euonymus), Partridgeberry (Squawvine), Wild Ginger (Canada Snakeroot), and False Lily of the Valley (Canada Mayflower). The Common Blue Violet and Wild Strawberry are pretty in spring and both withstand frequent trampling and mowing.
I hope Lee Valley will consider highlighting some of these great native plants in the future.

Here's a short list of common native ground covers (I live in the Northeast, so it's a little biased):

Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum) Zone 4-8
Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum) Zone 4-10
Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis) Zone 2-9
Pussytoes (Antennaria dioica) Zone 1-7
Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) Zone 2-10
Canada Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) Zone 3-8
Buffalo Grass (Buchloe dactyloides) Zone 4-9
Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) Zone 3-9
Gold-star (Chrysogonum virginianum) Zone 4-8
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) Zone 2-6
Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) Zone 3-9
Running Strawberry Bush (Euonymus obovata) Zone 4-9
Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) Zone 3-7
Teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens) Zone 3-5
Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) Zone 4-9
False Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum canadense) Zone 3-6
Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) Zone 3-8
Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens) Zone 4-7
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) Zone 3-9
Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera) Zone 3-8
Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) Zone 3-9
Silverweed (Potentilla anserina) Zone 3-7
Three-toothed Cinquefoil (Potentilla tridentata) Zone 2-9
Eastern Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) Zone 4-9
Mountain Cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) Zone 2-6
Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) Zone 3-7
Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides) Zone 4-7

Remember, it's always best to use plants native to your region. Many east coast natives have become invasive weeds on the west coast, and vice versa.

I have also found these books to be incredibly helpful:

Native Ferns, Moss & Grasses by William Cullina
Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants by C. Colston Burrell
Armitage's Native Plants for North American Gardens by Allan M. Armitage
Native Plants of the Northeast by Donald J. Leopold

Thursday, March 19, 2009


So... now that we're buying a house, and getting a yard, I'm really interested in finally getting a dog. Nathan's none to pleased about this current fixation, but I'm hoping I can ease him into dog ownership by fostering rescue dogs for a while.

As with all my interests, Google has become my best friend... I probably spend far too much time researching different breeds, breeders, rescue groups, genetic disorders, behavioural issues and the like. I've narrowed down the breeds I'm interested in, but as I browse PetFinder for rescue dogs, my heart strings are pulled by more and more breeds...

- Non-Drooling: I know some people can overlook this, but I have a deep aversion to drool

- Shedding/Non-Shedding: This is no longer a concern for me -- it was before I had cats, but now... The only annoying thing would be dealing with allergic guests.

- Terriers & Hounds: I'm just not a fan of small terriers and scent hounds. Terriers are usually non-shedding which is a pretty solid redeeming quility, but hounds tend to smell, well, like a hound. Overall, The only terrier I have much experience with is the Schnauzer (my cousins' had the cutest personality), the rest I could live without.

- Unusual: I don't want a golden retreiver/chocolate lab/german shepherd... I'd rather be asked a dozen times on a walk "What type of dog is that?" than have a breed that's too popular for it's own good. I was leaning towards Portugese Water Dogs (aside from the health issues), but then I found out Obama's getting one for his girls... greeeaaat.

- Size: I like *some* small dogs, but really, I prefer the large /x-large breeds. They're more expensive to feed/vet, but.. they're real dogs.

- Athletic: I want a dog to run with me... maybe do some agility or flyball.

- Low prey drive: I absolutely love the look of Salukis, but sighthounds and cats just seem like a *very* bad recipe -- Butters moves too quickly, and suddenly she's lunch. A pointer would be preferable *lol*

- Rough & Tumble: A beefy dog to wrestle with. I love my Mum's poodles, but you can't roll them on their back...

- Child-proof: Not entirely breed specific, but some breeds are just better with children (ie. pain tolerant, protective, etc). The more research I do into (American) Staffordshire Bull Terriers (aka "pit bulls"), the more annoyed I am with Dalton McGinty & Ontario for enacting Breed Specific Legislation.

Great Dane: Absolutely gorgeous, big sucks, but bloat really scares me.

Irish Wolfhound/Scottish Deerhound
: Stately, but more independant than Great Danes, bloat

Black Russian Terrier/Standard Poodles:
My Parents poodles have really grown on me. I guess it helps that my Mum is an expert groomer and makes her dogs look abolutely splendid (modified puppy cut, not a show cut). Too bad Nathan *really* hates them...

Bernese Mountain Dog/Leonberger:
huge wooly creatures to satisfy my facination with carting

German Pointers/Catahoulas:
Not big dogs, but having lived with both these breeds, they've definitely grown on me.

Gorgeous, but not rough & tumble, problems with off-leash, bloat

Shiba Inu/Chow Chow/Husky:
Very pretty. but can have issues with aggression/dominance

Fluffy and fun

Rottweilers/AmStaff/Bull Terrier: Huge sucks, good with children, unfortunately American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier & anything else that even *looks* like a "pit bull-type dog"= muzzle in Ontario

On the smaller side, there are a couple breeds I wouldn't mind looking into. TBH, I see them as a starter breed to ease Nathan into the idea of dog ownership. They don't require as much exercise, they don't cost as much to feed/vet, and they can curl up on your lap more easily. On the down side, because they're so small, their training is more easily overlooked (Small Dog Syndrome), and... they're small >.>

Whippet/Miniature Pinscher:
tiny but elegant, cute personalities

(Toy/Miniature) Poodle/(Miniature) Schnauzer: Probably biased, having grown up with these breeds

Lhasa Apso/Lowchen/Shih Tzu: My Gramma had the sweetest Lhasa, and I just love the overall look and temperment of these little dogs. Being related to an expert groomer is probably influencing my opinions of these dogs... I know how good they can look with a great haircut!

I have to say -- I'm leaning towards the "pit bull" type. There are a couple 4 year olds available through rescue groups/humane societies. I would love to have a well socialized, happy "pit bull" as a spokesman against BSL. Having to muzzle the dog would be annoying, and I worry about how negative reations would affect her socialization skills. Not being able to play with other dogs in an off-leash park -- would she learn proper play techniques? I'd have to invite dogs over to my fenced backyard for unmuzzled doggy playdates.


We bought a house in Kingston!

And it's huge! Ok, well, when you've been living in 2 bedroom apartments for 4.5 years, *most* houses are rather large by comparison, but still... >.>

It's a raised 1950's 3-bed, 2 bath bungalow with an half-finished basement, and room for a decent workshop (yay). Now I just need tools >.>

It also has a pretty darned big yard (the lot is 70'x180', so the backyard is probably 70'x100'), which I'm hoping to fill with flowers, vegetable gardens, fruit trees, a playstructure and a green house.

I'll also need space for the dog(s) I'm hoping to get by next year. Aside from reinforcing/replacing the current fence, the only major obstacle to that goal is my Dear Husband. If you know him at all, you'll undertand why that's a pretty big problem... *sigh*

Who ever heard of a man who prefers cats to dogs? I mean seriously... he *really* dislikes dogs. According to him, they're ugly, slobbering, stinking, loud, & expensive, and you have to do responsible things like walk & feed them several times a day, take them to the vet, and board them when you go away for the weekend. Cats, on the other hand, are adorable, don't slobber/smell, they're quiet (well, more so than dogs), much less expensive (no obedience/agility classes), they don't want to be walked (trust me, I tried), and a large bowl of good food will last a week. You change their water and litter every day (ok, every couple days), and (let's be honest) who really takes their indoor cats to the vet for regular checkups/shots? Ok, maybe if you fed your cats Iams/Eukanuba or some other crap you'd have more reason to go to the vet, but's a lot easier to just feed your pet better food in the first place...

((yes, I am a pet snob -- purebred, genetically tested, sound animals from responsible, kennel club breeders (or rescue mutts) fed healthy diets and given proper training, motivation, care & excercise. There is no reason to purchase an animal from a pet store/mill nor backyard breeder. If you don't know what genetic defects your dog/bitch is carrying, DO NOT breed them -- neuter/spay them ASAP))

Anyway, I digress.... we move in May 1st! We bought a decent fridge, a a fairly new secondhand stove, and pine buffet/hutch. We're on the lookout for a nice sofa set, dining table & chairs, microwave, toaster oven, washer/dryer. printer, and possibly a second queen bed for the guest room. We'll have to wait on painting until we have a better idea of the whole colour scheme we're going for. We still don't know what style we want (Nathan says we *have* a style -- I keep telling him "cheap" is not a style >.>), so finding furniture is a bit of a pain. We found the perfect brown leather sectional at Sears (not shown -- it's a rounded corner wedge with a loveseat on either side), but we just couldn't justify spending $$4100 for the equivalent of a sofa and loveseat... plus, we can't spend that kind of money when we don't know how badly our cats could scratch the leather (not necessarily on purpose, but just jumping up, and running around they tend to dig in their claws).

The absolute best part about buying a house is having a dishwasher again :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

So we're looking for a house in Kingston...

... and this is our search area. It extends down to Lake Ontario's Shore. While it would be cool to live on Wolfe or Howe Island, I don't think Nathan would enjoy taking the Ferry to work every day >.>

View Larger Map

It would be larger, but those long lakes are a real pain to drive around. I guess it would be easier if we stayed within Kingston, but I have this dream of raising alpacas and spinning their fibre on a beautiful spinning wheel I designed and carved myself. Somehow, I don't think I can do that within city limits, aye?

On the other hand, being close to everything Kingston has to offer (I'm still trying to figure out exactly what that is) would be handy. Buses are handy (although I got my G1 last week, after letting it expire nearly 2 years ago, so I can do my G2 test as soon as I practice parking >.>), and I think it would be easier to resell if the house weren't in the middle of nowhere.

I still want to build my Timber-Frame Strawbale house, but I think that might have to wait until I can get Nathan to warm up to the idea.

So we're living in Kingston...

... and I'm getting home sick. If you know me, download skype and call/msg me. Seriously -- it's free, and it's cool.

Short Story: Nathan got a job in Kingston. When he first mentioned the job opportunity, I was like "Ummm... No. I'm not moving to Kingston." Then, through the many trials leading up to the job offer, I could see God's Hand leading us to this place. I began praying that Nathan *would* get the job. Then he did, and we spent a week in a motel trying to find a short term-lease (which we found), we moved that weekend, and I left for Florida the next day. After visiting my new Snowbird Mum for nearly 3 weeks, I came back to our new home. A week later, it's starting to settle in that we're not moving back to Ottawa any time soon.

It's cold outside, and I don't know anyone. How do people make friends in new cities? I mean, seriously. In grade school, you'd walk up to someone and ask them if they wanted to play tag, or build a snowman. Bang! Instant friend. I might not have been a social butterfly, but I didn't have to drive 2 hours to play Settlers, or "talk about feelings." This whole finding new social circles sucks.

I need to find a church... I did some research last month and found half a dozen in Kingston that didn't scare me (okay, I guess the rest weren't that bad -- just theologically stunted -- but I'm sure they have a heart for God). Nathan went to the closest one a few weeks ago (while I went to a Southern Baptist church in FL -- but that's a whole different story), and he seemed to like it. So maybe we'll go back this Lord's Day.

It would be a lot easier if there was an RP church in Kingston...
Sovereign God? check. Biblical theology? check. Covenental relationship? check. Singing the Word of God? check. Yeah.. I love my Psalms. Give me 119x over "Here I am to Worship" anyday of the week. A few years of singing lessons and I might post some youtube videos... Until then, you can listen here. I've had a Psalter on my wishlist for a few years now... I think it's time to order one myself. But I digress...

I should take some classes... Bellydance, woodworking, art, acting. Something. I should also probably look into getting a job. Sigh... Is there anything in Kingston aside from prisons and universities?

Staying indoors makes it easier to pretend I'm not completely alone in a new city, miles from anyone I know... well, aside from Nathan, but he's at work >.>

I think I'll go outside now.