Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Victorian Building Blocks


One summer, my brother-in-law Peter pointed out a little paw print imbedded on the surface of a brick of the back wall of our house. This led to the discovery of numerous “imperfections” in the bricks and the realization that no two bricks on our house were the same. The bricks of the Dusty Victorian look very weathered with their uneven colouring, pockmarks, scratches, waves and ripples, but what is most interesting are the prints left by the workers and animals of the time.

In the nineteenth century brick making was an occupation at the absolute bottom of the ladder, associated with the most degrading poverty. The work was low skilled and seasonal. I think the bricks on our house is a testimonial of that hardship.

Look closely.


Raccoon or cat prints.


Testing with his finger to see if the clay was ready.

Grabbing the brick, thinking it was firm enough to handle. Four finger tips, from the index to the pinky. The thumb print is probably on the inside of the wall.

Don't know what these numbers mean. They are quite high up on the wall.

These angled prints were numerous all over. I think they are prints of other bricks from stacking.

I'm not sure what that print is, but if I let my imagination run free, I would say that this brick was made in autumn and a leaf fell on wet clay. The worker grabbed the stem, leaving behind
his clumsy prints.

This is a relatively recent print of the boy who lived here before us. Love it.

More on Victorian brick making can be found at this site.

Friday, August 26, 2011

My Peppers Look Like Popeye

Now that autumn is around the corner, I thought I'd give an up date on the fruits and vegetables planted last spring. First, I should mention that only compost from my kitchen waste was used to nourish the plants, and that only egg shells sprinkled were used as bug and slug repellant.

My red peppers turned out to be green peppers; I guess they had been mislabelled. Regardless, the turned out to be quite delicious despite the fact that they were not as plump as the ones you get at the grocery store. Weird that most of them looked like Popeye the Sailor Man.

The cucumbers came and went really early in the season, perhaps because of all that early rain, but they were delicious and very aromatic. When peeling one, the entire kitchen would smell of fresh cucumbers. I'll stagger the planting next spring so that I get some through the summer.

The strawberries were disappointing. The problem was that they were growing too low in the box and were overcrowded. The plants weren't able to fan out and get the full effect of the sun. The few I got to sample were small, but sweet. Not worth the trouble considering that we are surrounded by farmland and that I can easily buy them fresh.

My tomatoes were a disaster. Most of them had black rotting spots under them. In some cases, half the tomato was black. I was told that I'd overwatered them. When I'm insecure about something, I tend to overdo it. The one in this picture kind of looks like the elephant man, but it was delicious.

The real surprise were my raspberries. I did not expect much out of them this first year; but from mid-August, I started picking a few a day and soon after, had enough to garnish my bowl of cereal in the morning. At this point in time, there are a lot of branches loaded with fruits. My autumn raspberries will make it feel like summer is lasting a little longer.

The lettuces, chives and garlic plants were simply fantastic. We had salad almost every day during the summer.

The blueberries, yielded no fruit this year, and did not grow very much. I'll change their location to an even sunnier spot for next season and see what happens.

Well, live and learn, but it was fun to collect the fruits and vegetables of my labour. I may have been bitten by that special bug.