On Top of Mount Scio

On Top of Mount Scio 1

On Thanksgiving weekend, the Pie and I decided to take a hike to somewhere we’d never been.  St. John’s has an extensive concourse trail system and in our four years here, we’ve explored a good part of it.  Gren definitely has his favourites, as well.  On this day, though, we left him at home.  He doesn’t have the same energy as he did when he was a puppy, so we knew that he would get tired long before we did.  If you’re ever thinking of getting a dog to encourage you to exercise, don’t get a corgi.  They are so lazy.

Anyway.  We took the Long Pond to Oxen Pond Walk.  One of our regular walks with Gren is the Long Pond walk just behind MUN’s campus, so it was familiar territory.  The trail to Oxen Pond, however, is a bit more of a hike.  In fact, it pretty much goes straight up Mount Scio, which is kind of the backstop for the city.  There are a good many stairs, which my poor battered knees protested before long.  The view once you reach the top of the mountain is pretty epic, though.  You can see all of the North Valley, which is where we live and where Memorial University is.

On Top of Mount Scio 2

You might want to click on the photo above and zoom in on my Flickr page.  MUN campus is in the foreground in the middle, hiding our house, with the Health Sciences Centre and hospital at the left side of the photo. At the centre of the shot you can see the two clock towers of the Catholic Basilica. To the right of that are the red roofs of The Rooms, our museum. On the other side of the Rooms is a giant hill leading downtown, which you can’t see in this picture. The vee of water behind the church and museum is the opening to the Narrows and St. John’s Harbour. The water to the left is Quidi Vidi Lake, which empties into Quidi Vidi Bay. The river that feeds Quidi Vidi Lake, Rennie’s River, actually gets some of its start from tributaries up here on the mountain. And that’s your geography lesson for the day.

From the top, we took the trail along and down a ways until we crossed Mt. Scio Road and entered the MUN Botanical Gardens.  Because we are Memorial students, we got in for free!  Of course, it being October, much of the showy summer foliage has died back, but we spent a good 25 minutes tooling around the edible and medicinal herb gardens, marveling at how people figured out which herbs did what when you ate them or boiled them or steeped them.  This one was of particular interest to me, a long-suffering victim of chronic UTIs.

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Another part of the ornamental garden illustrates the various plants that live in Newfoundland’s climates. Many of these plants adapted well to extremely harsh conditions, and some of the environments in this province have been re-created here. I took a picture of this one because it grows in our backyard (on almost pure gravel) and I can never remember what it’s called.

MUN Botanical Garden 2

Inside a shelter there was also a neat little succulent and cactus garden, with a few flowers thrown in.

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A little of a last hurrah for warmer weather.

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Once through the ornamental garden we finished the trail down to Oxen Pond. We had self-righteously refused to buy duck feed at the admissions desk, because as a rule we try not to feed wild animals. However, as soon as we arrived at the pond we were greeted by some very hungry ducks.

Mobbed by Hungry Ducks 1

Who soon called in all their friends.

Mobbed by Hungry Ducks 2

From all the way across the pond.

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Mobbed by Hungry Ducks 6

Eventually we were mobbed and had to leave when they started yelling.

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With angry quacking ringing in our ears we continued along the trail to the fen, admiring the lush moss along the way.

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In the summer in a bog you can see all manner of cool things, like orchids and lady’s slippers and iris and stuff like that. You might remember some of that from our trip to Gros Morne last summer. But most of those flowers have died back by this time of year. What remains, however, are representatives of the province’s official flower: the pitcher plant. I think carnivorous plants are so cool.

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I petted this one (though I probably wasn’t supposed to). Those little hairs are quite soft.

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On the way back, we marveled at some more Leslie damage.

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A moose path leading who knows where.

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And some truly epic fungus.  Here is a small sample.  I don’t know why Newfoundland doesn’t have a booming mushroom industry, considering how damp and dark it is.

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MUN Botanical Garden 1

Not to mention this poor tree, which was covered in galls. Galls are reactions to irritants for trees. Like an oyster covers a grain of sand in mineral deposits to make it smooth, a tree grows these bulbous things around stuff like insects and worms and fungus and stuff to protect itself. Neat, huh?

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So even if it wasn’t summer, we still got to see some cool stuff, which we probably would have missed had it been overshadowed by the more ostentatious products of warmer weather.

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Wattle Fencing

Gren pees on my peonies.  It’s annoying.  He also gets his lead tangled around some of my more delicate plants, and he’s already dug up and eaten an entire lupin.  I needs me a fence.

When Doodle and I were last in Ferryland, we saw these lovely wattle fences surrounding the 17th century kitchen gardens.  This ancient style of building was very popular in rural areas, like most of Newfoundland, where scraggly vegetation was everywhere and iron nails were at a premium.  Settlers clearing areas of land for their houses and farms could easily re-use the saplings and brush they removed in making strong wattle fences to keep their livestock and gardens separate.

Photo by Doodle

I showed pictures of wattle construction to Cait, extolling the virtues of its sturdiness and simplicity — just sticks!  Cait then raised the counterpoint to me that the little pig who built his house out of sticks didn’t fare particularly well against the big bad wolf.  I rebutted by saying that if you saw the illustrated pictures in the books you could CLEARLY see the pig did not use the wattle method and his shoddy construction was at fault.  Cait then informed me that I was the Mike Holmes of fairy tales (which is only funny if you know who Mike Holmes is).  I take that as a great compliment.

You can use any flexible sapling for your weave, the longer and straighter it is the better.  We used mostly maple, as there are no shortage of those around.  In fact, there is a vacant lot about half a block from our house that has recently been sold to a developer for condominium building.  We figured that the property was going to be razed anyway — who would miss a bunch of scraggly teenaged trees?  Still, we did feel like we were trespassing, no more so than when an unmarked police car pulled up to us.  It turns out the officer was just there to get some paperwork done, but for a moment we thought we were going to get in big trouble.

Use pruning shears and a pruning saw to cut your saplings and remove any smaller branches and leaves.  Make sure to use the branches relatively soon after you cut them so that they maintain their flexibility.

Now I’m not making a particularly tall fence here, nor is my weave going to be all that tight.  I just want to use it as a barrier to keep out small dogs and children, but I still want to be able to see the plants that are behind it.

All the information I found about these fences told me that I would need wayyyyy more branches to do it than I even thought of.  I probably used a hundred or so sticks for a fence 12.5m long and 30cm high.

First I needed stakes.   I sawed off the thickest 50cm at the bottom of each sapling, cutting it at an angle to make a sharp edge.   I ended up with 25 stakes for my 12.5m garden bed.

Using a stout hammer (you can use a mallet as well), I pounded in the stakes, spaced about 50cm apart, as far in as they would go, which was about 20cm in most cases.  If you have one or two that hit rocks or aren’t as firmly embedded as the rest, don’t fret.  The more you add to the fence, the stronger it will get, and the more-stuck stakes will help to hold the less-stuck stakes into place.

Once you’ve got the stakes hammered in, you can start to add the saplings.

Start at one end of your fence with the thicker part of a sapling, and weave the sapling between the stakes until you reach the end.

Repeat with more saplings until you get to the end of the row.

Reverse the direction of the saplings for the next row, so that the thick and thin ends alternate, and make sure to work the saplings around the opposite side of the stake than you used in the previous row.  Use a hammer or mallet to wedge the saplings closer together if you want a tight weave.

Keep going and going.  And going.

Until your fence is as high and tight as you want it to be.

I used smaller branches to help hold in some of the more recalcitrant sapling ends.

But of course I ran out of sticks.  So I’m not finished yet,  and it will be a while before I can get the Pie to help me steal saplings again.  I’ll post a picture when I finally do finish, though.

For more information on wattle fencing, you can check out these links here:

Allotment Forestry

Heritage Foundation

I Can Garden