poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘competition

have grape vines, will not prune

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I have planted grape vines in quite a few places on our properties over the years.


At our cabin, one vine survives, climbing an inch or two each year on an arbor we built. The cabin lot was supposed to be great for growing grapes — a sunny slope, the temperature-modifying lake and breezes to discourage insects.


However, the vines have not been thriving. This year for the first time, I have a scrawny bunch of grapes.




The vines at home in our garden do thrive, although the light is scarce. Each year I have a few small bunches of grapes.



my grapes, wandering about in the birch tree


The vine at the back of the house is amazing. Without pruning, it has climbed high into the maple and fir trees. But an unpruned apple tree keeps the light low. Pruning, that must be the key!







Grape vines climb

high into maple.

Feign kudzu.

Burden the balsam,

bend branches.


Grape leaves flare,

arrange themselves, nip

every ray.

Mosses and bracken

starved for light.


But apple

demands its revenge.

Sends shadows

to starve chlorophyll.

Bullies grape.


Teases leaves

with flecks of half-light.

Grapevine sets

no fruit this season.


Not a single grape.



All my best!






Written by jane tims

September 17, 2018 at 7:00 am

Gardening in my Veg-trugs

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In late May, I planted my Veg-trugs. Veg-trugs (available from Lee Valley Tools, Halifax) are small portable garden troughs perfect for a deck garden.




This year I have planted three vegetables:







yellow wax bean



As you can see, all are up. The maple seeds around each plant will sprout and will take lots of time to remove.


I’ll update on progress as the summer unfolds.

All my best,


Written by jane tims

June 15, 2018 at 7:00 am

abandoned meeting house

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the meeting house



crooked clapboards

doors nailed shut



they argued

into the supper hour

words threaded, knotted


violent voices

eyes wool, ears cotton, lips

flax flayed to linen


over wages paid

to the man who splits

the wood, stokes the fire


at home, needles

slid, silent, through layers

of quilting


women forgot their thimbles

pricked thumbs

left blood on fabric



Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

November 5, 2014 at 7:37 am

bringing nature into the town

with 4 comments


rows of trees

rows of trees and flowers along la Place de la Mairie in Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud (image from Street View)


Day 12 1 map


Day 12 map

map showing distance travelled (map from Google Maps)


On my virtual bike trip on April 3, the images made me think about how we bring nature into our cities and towns (or allow it to stay!).  Sometimes, the only bit of nature is a stray weed, growing in a crack in the pavement…


Day 12 u

streetscape in Grande Rue, Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud – actually, there is lots of greenery in other parts of the town (image from Street View)


Sometimes, property owners try to leave trees, only to have them toppled – perhaps a wind storm blew through Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud …


Day 12 l

toppled tree (image from Street View)


Sometimes people bring the country into the town – all part of eating local …


Day 12 r

this is the first time I have seen chickens in a yard in a town on my virtual bike tour (image from Street View)


Of course, I have seen a lot of vegetable gardens in France, planted in every available corner …


vegetable garden

vegetable garden in Saint-Hilaire-la-Palud (image from Street View)


Best View: a small yard overflowing with greenery in Saint-Hilaire-la Palud…


'green garden'


Copyright  Jane Tims  2013

competition for space

with 9 comments

One of the discouraging aspects of our lake property is how fast everything grows.  In 2005, we bought 7 1/2 acres of field…

in 2012, we have 7 1/2 acres of alders and young trees…

I actually like the lush vegetation and we intend to always keep the forest of trees down by the lake, to help protect the lake environment.  But we humans need a little room to move!!!  Although we knew we would eventually have more trees than field, we always thought we’d be able to:

  1. keep the road and turning area at the lake end of the property clear of weeds and wide enough for a vehicle
  2. keep the area around the camp clear
  3. have some trails for walking and access to the various parts of the property
  4. keep our blueberries – they have trouble competing with the taller vegetation
  5. begin to groom some specific groves of maple and birch
  6. keep a small area of field so I can watch the grasses blowing in the wind.

The farmer next door was willing, for a price, to continue bush-hogging the area, just as he had done for years.  But there were trees and various herbaceous species we wanted to keep, so we bravely set out to manage things on our own.

For me, that means snipping away with my shears.  I get tired/bored very easily, so I am not much help.  I mostly spend my time discovering new plants to protect and putting wooden stakes up to mark their position!

me with trimmers and marking plants with stakes

My husband has tried to keep back the growth with his bush-saw, and last year he was able to keep the road clear and even cut a new trail to access our blackberries.  But progress is slow and within a few weeks, the alders, saplings and weeds have all grown back!

Finally, we became so discouraged, we began to think of alternatives.  In the last two years, we have tried pulling the alders and I planted beans in the holes left all over the place.   The deer really enjoyed my bean plants!

Now, we have the solution.  We bought a rough mower that pulls behind the ATV.  It is awesome!  My husband has fun and is able to make huge progress.  In just a couple of days, we have our road clear, there is a labyrinth of trails where we can walk, we have trimmed a selection of blueberry patches and we have our turning area restored at the lake end of the property.   Notice the use of the word ‘we’, although my husband does all the work!

our new Agri-Fab Rough Cut Mower, designed for use behind an ATV

You can see the before and after shots of the road trimming in the three photos below.  What you can’t see in the middle photo is the smile on my husband’s face as he mows!  He was able to trim, in a few minutes, the trail it took him days to cut with the bush-saw last year.

Now, my husband can use his bush-saw time to work on his groves of maple and birch.

the first path cut by the new mower, to the right of the road

The only problem so far has been the hawthorns.  We had a very flat tire on the mower after the first day.  The man who fixed it said it looked like a porcupine on the inside, it had been punctured by so many thorns!  Now, we are having each tire filled with foam!

5 cm thorns on the Hawthorn easily punctured the mower tires

©  Jane Tims   2012

Written by jane tims

August 22, 2012 at 7:24 am

a botany club excursion

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Earlier this summer, we went on a hike with other members of a local botany club to the Cranberry Lake Protected Natural Area, an area protected for its extensive forest community of Red Oak and Red Maple.

The New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources website describes the Cranberry Lake Protected Natural Area as follows:

An extensive Red Oak forest community. Predominantly Red Oak – Red Maple association. Red Oak make up a large percentage of the regeneration, most likely the Oak component will increase as the stand matures. The individual trees are impressive size.
This type of forest is rare in New Brunswick.

The woods were open with a thick understory of Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn, var. latiusculum (Desv.) Underw. ex A. Heller), Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), Common Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium acaule Aiton) and some of the other species of the Canadian Element associated with woodlands in the Maritimes (see my post for April 30, 2012, Trailing Arbutus, ).

My husband standing in the thick growth of Bracken… it was about waist-height… he says he was standing in a hole!

It was so much fun working with the other botanists and enthusiasts to identify the various species we encountered.  The plant lists prepared during the day will be part of an effort by Nature New Brunswick to update a database of Environmentally Significant Areas in New Brunswick.  During my years of work, I was privileged to work on the development and use of this database.

I saw many familiar species during the hike, but I was so excited to see three plants I have not seen in a while.

I renewed my acquaintance with Witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana L. (notice the asymmetrical shape of the leaves)…

and Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica Nutt.), identifiable by its thick oval leaves, longer than the leaf-stalks or petioles…

a single plant of Shinleaf, with its straight stem of small creamy flowers, growing among Blueberry, and Red Maple and Red Oak seedlings

I also was introduced to a plant I thought I had never seen before, Cow-wheat (Melampyrum lineare Lam., a branchy variety found in dry woods).  When I looked it up in my Flora, though, I found a notation to say I had seen this plant in the summer of 1984.    It is always good to record the plants you see and identify!

While there, we saw a perfect example of the interaction of species.  A bright orange fungus, known as Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), growing on an aged Red Oak, was being consumed by a horde of slugs.


A hike with a group is a great way to expand your knowledge and boost your confidence.  Everyone benefits from the knowledge of the various participants, and being with like-minded people is good for the soul!

©  Jane Tims  2012

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

a moment of beautiful – bug-shot shadows

with 13 comments

the space: the surface of the power pole in front of our house

the beautiful: the pattern of shadow through bug-eaten leaves

The power pole in front of our house is habitat for a vine of Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia (L.) Planch.). also known as Woodbine.  I brought the vine home about thirty years ago, as a slip collected from a plant in the park beside the St. John River.  Over the years, it has struggle against the winds, determined to blow it from its perch, the power company, unhappy with its use of the pole, and the lawn mower as it snips away at the horizontal tendrils.

This year, it has a new challenge to overcome.  An insect has chewed the vine full of holes… probably not a severe problem for the plant.

On Friday, I caught the shadow pattern created by the bug-eaten leaves as the sun shone at the right angle for a moment… a new way to see the consequence of belonging to the food chain!

©  Jane Tims  2012

growing and gathering

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Many of my recent posts are associated with my writing project, ‘growing and gathering’.   My aim is to write a poetry manuscript about collecting and producing local foods.  So far, I have concentrated on ‘edible wild plants’ in my blog, but the full scope of the project will include poems on gardening and other aspects of aquiring local foods.

My process so far has included research into a particular wild plant, a trip to see it in the wild and perhaps gather it for eating, a piece of prose on the characteristics of the plant, a pencil drawing (becoming more and more a part of my thought process), and a poem or poems about the edible plant.

As my project progresses, I am generating many poems.  I am also starting to think about how I will assemble this information into a manuscript.

One of the first steps toward assembling the manuscript is to decide what themes are emerging.   This will help me decide how the poems relate to one another, as well as identify the gaps.

Major themes so far are:

~ companionship (for example, picking berries with a friend)

the results of an hour of blackberry picking with my husband

~ competition (for example, trying to get those hazelnuts before the squirrels)

hazelnuts on the tree…almost ripe…who will get them, the squirrels or me?

~ time (this includes historical uses of wild edibles, as well as seasonal and lifetime components of eating local)

a ‘graveyard’ of old apple trees

~ ethics (this includes ecosystem concerns about eating wild plants when they are struggling to survive in reduced habitat)

a patch of Trout Lily in the hardwoods… edible… but should I harvest when this type of habitat is disappearing?

~ barriers to gathering local foods (for example, why do I buy bags of salad greens when Dandelion greens, Violet leaves and Wood-sorrel grow right outside my door?)

a salad of Dandelion greens and Purple Violets

In my upcoming posts, I want to explore each of these themes.



berry picking


fingers stain indigo

berry juice as blood

withdrawn by eager



berry picking sticks

to me, burrs

and brambles

hooks and eyes

inseparable as

contentment and picking berries


even as I struggle

berries ripen

shake free

fall to ground



©  Jane Tims  2012

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

Dutchman’s-breeches (Dicentra Cucullaria (L.) Bernh.)

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Our first summer home was located in a rich hardwood of Sugar-Maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.), Beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) and White Ash (Fraxinus Americana L. ).  In these woods, in early spring, as the snow melted, wildflowers found ideal habitat.  Many plants take advantage of the few days when the leaves of the overstory trees are still developing, and there is bright light in the understory of the woods.

One of these wildflowers is Dutchman’s-breeches (Dicentra Cucullaria (L.) Bernh.).  This charming little plant blooms early in spring, in rich, rocky hardwoods.  The white flowers are two-spurred, in groups of four to ten along a stem held just above finely divided, feathery leaves.

The plants is also known as breeches-flower, cullottes de Hollandais, and dicentre à capuchon.  The generic name is from the Greek di meaning twice and centron meaning a spur.  Cucullaria is the old generic name meaning hoodlike.  The plant was named by Johann Jacob Bernhardi.

The flowers of Dutchman’s-breeches are an example of plant adaptation for pollination.  The flower has a clever mechanism, in the form of fused flower parts, to ensure only certain insects (such as the bumblebee) can access the nectar and pollen.

In my copy of Roland and Smith (The Flora of Nova Scotia),  I recorded my first encounter with this little plant – April 28, 1985, during one of our first visits to our property before we purchased it.  We called our cabin Whisperwood, in part because of the subtle breezes in those wildflower-dotted spring woods.



Dutchman’s Breeches

Dicentra Cucullaria (L.) Bernh.



Dutchman’s breeches

brighten in sun

woodland washdays

have begun


spring-clean trousers

hung in rows

inflated with breath

the May wind blows


sprites are playing

tossing their hoods

above the damp

in the spring-fed woods


little fairy laundry

trembles on the line

before greening trees

block spring sunshine



© Jane Tims 1993

Written by jane tims

April 6, 2012 at 7:02 am

jane 9 squirrels 1

with 4 comments

Again, I am in competition with the squirrels (see ‘competing with the squirrels #1 and #2’, in the Category ‘competing for niche space’). 

Christmas is coming and this year, I am decorating with natural elements.  One of these is a ceramic bowl of large pine cones. 

We have several large White Pine (Pinus Strobus L.) on our property and from time to time, they produce masses of beautiful pine cones, perfect for my decorations.  White Pine are easy to remember in this area, since they have their needles in bundles of five.  The cones are between 10 and 15 cm long and are a favourite food for squirrels.   

My husband came in last weekend and announced there were lots of the big cones in the pine tree next to our lawn. “Watch for them to fall, and then you should hurry to collect them,” said my savvy husband (he remembers the sad tale of the ripening hazelnuts). 

I waited a couple of days and then went scavenging.  And now, I am supreme.  I have gathered enough cones for our Christmas.  I saw a few cones with the lower scales and seeds nibbled away, but I found plenty for me.   My hands were sticky, true, but I was so happy.  All I can say is, with an emphasis approaching smug, “CH-CH-Ch-chchchchch-ch.”

just to show that the squirrels do have lots of pine nuts… these cones are about half eaten


in November


we gather pine cones

snakes of lion’s paw


cedar boughs

and holly

we walk the wild ways

pruners and scissors

baskets and stout cord

bind bunches

of branches

balsam and cedar  

blood berries

and evergreen

garlands of fir

rosehips and acorns, gilded


and prickles

and thorns


©  Jane Tims 2011

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