Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Newfoundland, Part 3

*Note: I started this post on November 19th. I've left the text as it was then, decided to be brief with the rest, with the aim of actually finishing and publishing this post, finally.*

nfld18 lookout caterpillar.jpgI have been a little lazy with uploading and editing pictures from my camera, so I am here to finish off my October Newfoundland trip instead. I know you have all been waiting desperately for this post. I have to warn you, though, it's going to be quite the epic; a riveting story that is full of suspense, mind-blowing special effects, and contains the heights and depths of human emotion. And because every good epic contains a preview or foreshadowing of some sort, I will share with you the following words: climb, animal tracks, ptarmigan, moose.

Oh yes.

Monday morning was bright and still and a sort of innate atmospheric energy. Well, I that's how I would describe it in my fancier moments, but in simpler terms, I might call it a sort of energizing potential. Mom and I went to the visitor centre and paid a park admission fee, and settled on the Look Out Hike for our first walk. It was strenuous to say the least - not for difficulty level, but because the walk was a good kilometer or two straight up a mountain.

The first picture is of a caterpillar along the trail - Mom was a bit irritated I kept stopping to take pictures, but I know for a fact she secretly appreciated the chance to catch her breath.

lookout branch

A dead tree, taken from the top of the trail. There were actually still some blueberries up there - they were delicious.

lookout trail

The view from the top of the trail, and the wind in the grass (sedge? I have no idea).

lookout trail descending

The trail loops around the top of the mountain, and much of that descending loop is boardwalk. About three minutes after this picture, while passing through a small copse of spruce trees, I asked Mom if she would like me to take the lead. "Why?" Because those are fresh moose tracks we're following. "Oh." Two minutes after that, we saw our first close-up moose, unprotected by a metal frame and four tires powered by gasoline. It was awesome. He ran away.

ptarmigan2

Ptarmigan are supposedly timid, but this guy (girl?) was so cute! I think the beeping sound Mom's camera makes when it focuses intrigued him - he kept coming closer, and we kept taking pictures, so he kept coming closer. He was only eight feet away when he finally took off! I want one.

This is on the trail to Western Brook Pond. The sun was low in the sky, but we wanted to get as far as we could before we had to turn back. Unfortunately so late in the season, the boat tour was only operating once a week.

moose tracks

More fresh moose tracks.

West Brook Pond Trail

Western Brook Pond Trail - Western Brook Pond is where those amazing pictures of fjords are taken in all those beautiful Newfoundland and Labrador tourism commercials. It's actually landlocked!

Berry Hill sunset2

Sunset from Berry Hill - we went up there hoping to see some moose, but we only spotted one shy young bull moose, peeking around bushes as hikers came out of the woods.

Port aux Basques

We spent an evening watching a Gene Simmons reality show marathon on TV in our cottage, and left early the next morning to drive to Port aux Basques. We had another close moose encounter - an indecisive cow moose waiting to cross the road (we stopped for her, it's the Bluenose in us - you know how Nova Scotians stop for pedestrians) - but made it to the ferry terminal in good time. This is a picture of Port aux Basques lighthouse as we leave port.

Jaws of the ferry

The Muppet Ferry, jaws open wide.

Taking the ferry during the daylight hours is completely different. Instead of dealing with snoring hunters, we faced down cheerful bus tours, and had those kind of shallow and yet deeply personal and revealing conversations that often spring up among acquaintances of three hours. I think it's one of the best parts of traveling.

We made it to North Sydney, and stood outside as the ferry made port. The wind was formidable, it blew so strongly it took your breath away. We took the scenic way for as long as the light lasted, and got home at 11:30 p.m. in good spirits, but very
tired. We definitely want to go back.

*P.S: Okay, I take it back. I was exactly as wordy as I intended not to be. But it's written, ain't it?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Newfoundland, Part 2

After the looooong wedding day (I ended up going downtown with two of my cousins and some of the wedding party after the reception ended, and got to bed at about 5:30 a.m.), Mom and I woke up at 8:30 a.m. to start our drive back across Newfoundland. Remembering how grey and blustery St. John's looked from Signal Hill the day before (see the Newfoundland post below), the change this morning was sure to put a smile on our faces, even though the air had turned nippy.

Sunny St. John's

It was such a beautiful day, in fact, that I even got a photo of my mother sans photograph smirk.

nfld11 mom breakfast.jpg

I slept less than you would expect (and even the sleep was more of a half-awake, eyes-open, zombie state of mind - you should see the picture I took of myself. Except, you shouldn't). Our drive back across a road we had travelled only 48 hours before could have been boring, but the blue skies made everything seem fresh and vivid. We stopped to photograph this broad, shallow river full of boulders. Someone familiar with the area later told my mother that the river is like this for its entire length.

nfld12 river rocks.jpg

A lake (or pond, as it is likely to be called in Newfoundland), bog, spruce and fir, and hills, a pretty typical Newfoundland landscape, with a surprisingly intense colour palette.

nfld13 bog hills.jpg

The drive through Gros Morne was longer than I expected, with some amazing scenery and a brilliant valley rainbow (no pictures, alas!). We got in to Rocky Harbour as the sun started to set. After we dropped off our bags in our vacation cottage and stopped to turn the heat on, Mom and I walked briskly down to the waterfront to get some pictures of the sunset. I didn't get a really good picture (even this one is a bit blurry), but I did commit it to memory. It was a wonderful sunset. The air was just pulsing with the mauve and pink light, the wind was icy and bracing, and the lonely quiet of a vacation town abandoned by tourists was incredibly peaceful.

nfld14 rocky harbour sunset.jpg

The next day dawned clear and fresh, and Mom and I hit the road to explore the park by car and foot.

nfld15 gros morne morning.jpg

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Newfoundland, at last

At last is right! Mom and I arrived home from Newfoundland a month and a day ago today, and I am finally here to post about our adventures. Hopefully you don't mind seeing more photographs and less writing?

We left Halifax on a Thursday afternoon and made good time to Sydney. There were plenty of bugs on the window to really spice up the photo opportunities, but I decided to post this image of the highway anyways. It's about 20 minutes outside Antigonish, and one of my favourite parts of the highway.

Highway to Antigonish

I have already told you about the snoring, camouflage-bedecked passengers on the ferry. We arrived in Port aux Basques at about 6:30 a.m., and started the looooong drive across the province. It was a dark blustery morning, and we hit pockets of rain the whole way across the province. This was the view of the Table Mountains as we headed through them:

table mountains

Quite atmospheric. The thing about being part of the ferry traffic is that you are in company with many of these cars and trucks and tractor trailers for the rest of the way across the island. You may stop at the Grand Falls-Windsor Tim Hortons, and the other van may stop in Gander, but maybe you will see them again somewhere out of Clarenville. It's a lot of pass, be passed, pass again, look, dead moose! Pass, pass, get passed... you get the idea.

The morning of the wedding I met my friend Caroline for brunch (finishing up her MA in Nfld, but I met her at Dal), and walked up to Signal Hill. I liked the look of this stone building, because it reminded me of a Scottish croft:

Signal Hill

And this was the view of St. John's from Gibbet Hill:

Cloudy St. John's

I like to commend myself for taking some landscape shots, because, naturally, I spent most of my time on Signal Hill looking at the details. A curious flower, a rock and grass-like plant, and of course, a lime sorbet-coloured, leopard-spotted lichen:

nfld10 signal hill flower2.jpg

Signal Hill LichenSignal Hill lichen

I'm skipping over the details of the wedding we were actually in Newfoundland attend, not because it isn't relevant, not because the bride wasn't photogenic (she looked lovely), or that the setting wasn't nice (the reception was held at the Fluvarium, I never knew brook trout could be so cute), but because I didn't take many good pictures (Especially none of me, although I really liked my dress).

On Sunday, we started the drive back across the province! I will finish that up later, but don't worry, it shouldn't take another month to write.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stalling

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So I really do intend to do a post for my Newfoundland trip, but the prospect of selecting and editing so many photos has me procrastinating. Which means I am a champion procrastinator - procrastinating my procrastination activities? Smooth.

In any case, I did choose a less-involved, much shorter task yesterday. As far as procrastination goes, it was a good one, too, because it was something that had to be done. What was it? Well, I picked the seeds off a dried cilantro plant that had gone to seed - coriander seeds for my aloo gobi in the winter ahead.

And look! I also provided a wider angle for context. Macros are all very nice, but I have been thinking lately that it's hard to tell a story with them.

Coriander macro
Dried coriander seeds


Coriander harvest
Mason jar and coriander seeds. Oooo, snazzy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

In Progress

I plan on writing a Newfoundland post for those of you who I haven't gushed to in detail, but I want to get further along on the first chapter of my thesis (or save it for a Really Important Procrastination Session), so it will be a few more days yet.

In the meantime, a picture. This is from the Table Mountains (or just past them?), a couple minutes outside Port aux Basques. What a way to start the long drive across the province! I like how the clouds and mist are whipped by the wind into wave shapes.

Waves

Friday, September 28, 2007

Nfld. update

I generally only post when I have pictures to share, but the camera is out in the car, and it is windy, dark and wet tonight here in St. John's. My first impressions of Newfoundland? I love it.

My lasting impression of all those hunters with freezers in the backs of their pick-ups and camouflage gear? Snore. No, really. Snore. Don't expect to get any sleep on the NS-Nfld. ferry during hunting season.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Nephew blogging: Yes, Peas!

I have a few things coming up shortly: The Silver Sail Ocean Race this weekend, a trip to Newfoundland with Mom, next week, and a chapter deadline. I am, respectively, nervous-excited, excited, and just plain nervous.

But when the anxiety hits (and the multiple coffees and teas I am consuming guarantees that it does), I can just remember Sunday, when Kohl and Kamron (and their mom) came to visit:

Playing nice
Playing nice.

Eating Peas
Eating Peas - Kohl identified everything growing in the garden, told me about how his Daddy's was progressing (two watermelon!), and then we had a great conversation about whether we prefer peas to beans, caterpillars, and how slippery these chairs are (equally slippery, according to Kohl, but I think the blue one is just a *tad* more slippy).

Looking cute
Kam looking cute, and not falling on his face (for the moment. What an adorable klutz!). (The highlights are blown out on this one, but that's the problem with shooting in shade against the sun)

(JO, if you want these in a larger size to print off, let me know)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The duck that laid the golden day

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You know your day is going to go well when you start it off by spending ten minutes watching ducks attack sunflowers at the Public Gardens. I walk through the gardens every day after I leave the archives, as it fits into my diagonal shortcut across town to the ferry. Sometimes I cut through the gardens in the morning, too. Usually the only people sharing the gardens with me at 8:20 in the morning are groundskeepers and a few other people on their way to work.

The empty gardens are a boon, because it allows me to, without embarrassment, do what I am sure you must all admit you want to do sometimes: Quack at ducks.

C'mon, you know you want to. You know that every time you see a duck waddling across your path, or blink at you as you disturb his nap, or cock her head at you looking for food, it makes you want to quack.

Well I say go ahead, do it. It will make your day. And the ducks like it too. No, really. Just don't steal their sunflower seeds. There is nothing more threatening (to a 3 year old, at least) than a team of ducks barrelling down at you looking for food. No amount of quacking will save you then.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sailing update...

Mom's new cast is working a little better when it comes to sailing activities she should not be doing because of her broken finger. In other words, it allows her to do more, and therefore strain herself more. Don't tell the doctor.

We finished second over the line last night, and would have taken 4th place on corrected time, but a boat that placed ahead of us took a mark to the wrong side, and was disqualified.

We placed third!

I'll take it.

And for your viewing pleasure, a completely unrelated picture of a glorious sunset, taken on the way home after my cousin's wedding in July. This is just outside of Amherst, on the way back from Tidnish.

Sunset

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bet I'm less competitive than you are



I'm not a competitive person. Really, I'm not. But boy, does this feel good. If you can't make that picture out, maybe this will help:







We won a race! Now, last year we might not have been so pleased about finishing first - happy, yes, but not still smiling about it a day later - except the boat hasn't been performing so well this year. I say the boat, because as a crew we are doing quite well. Last night was special because it was only the second or third race we have won this season, and because we had a few issues to overcome.

Long story short: Wednesday night we had light winds, which was a good thing, since Mom broke her finger while racing Saturday and it was just Andrew, Mom and I on Windseeker. A full crew would be 6 people, we had two and a half (Mom was the one-armed sailor last night. Too bad she didn't have an eye patch, too. What a buccaneer!). About a quarter into the race, I took the tiller so Andrew could launch the spinnaker, and I drove for the rest of the race. We (I?) luffed Windspirit into McNab's Island (that means we used a racing/sailing rule about who has right-of-way to force George to sail towards the shore), where he ended up in a hole (no wind), and he had to jybe (put the tiller over and change direction) to get out of it. We had time to make up some ground, were only stuck in a hole for a few minutes, and because we hadn't jybed, had a clear line to our next mark.

Can I just say how much fun it was to be so close to another boat, absolutely have the right-of-way, and force them to change their course? Naturally, I wouldn't have attempted it if Andrew hadn't told me to. But I would like to take the teeniest bit of credit for actually moving the rudder. There's a kind of puckish glee in willfully throwing someone off their course, and leaving them in bad winds. But don't think I can't handle what I dish out - goodness knows we have had our fair share of luffings and tactical mishaps. George is a great tactician. Which is why last night's win was so sweet! Sometimes the winds just align. As do the mixed metaphors, apparently.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Peas and tranquility

Most of the gardens in the gardening blogs I read are past the time for harvesting peas, but our Nova Scotia summers just keep giving. My pea plants, eaten to the ground by rabbits in early July, knocked over by last week's wind, and chilled by Atlantic fogs, are slowly coming into their best producing time. It means I have been eating peas straight off the vine for the past week, but only tonight did I have enough to harvest for supper. Because of our foggy Eastern Shore nights, they were crispy and sweet, even though it is half-way through August.

Our earliest tomatoes, on the other hand, probably have another week to go. But you won't hear me complaining. The dahlias and gladiolas that bloom well into November make up for it. Gardening certainly reminds me about the balance that life can offer us. Now if I can learn to integrate more of that gardener's equanimity into the other areas of my life...

pea curl

Pea tendrils make me happy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Call me Lady Skipper

Or, An Absurdly Long Meditation on Driving a Boat, Considering It Was a Very Short Race



Today was the first of SYC's Lady Skippers races (an earlier scheduled one was cancelled). I skippered, Andrew (the boat owner/skipper) and Mom did the rest. The winds were perfect - enough pressure I could feel the boat respond, but not so much we were overpowered - and I really tried to 'get in the zone'. I have no way to evaluate how well I performed, other than the results, which are not so positive - out of five boats, we finished fourth, however, we were the first to cross the finish line. Also, I had fun, Mom seemed calm, and I didn't break the boat. That sounds like a successful sail, right?

Shearwater Yacht Club
Sunset at Shearwater Yacht Club - I have so many of these shots. But Nature and its endless variety, etc., right?

We have a bigger handicap than every other boat at the club, and we often have trouble overcoming it (I think it's the highest - certainly of the boats that race on Wednesday nights). A handicap is a rating that a boat is given, based on how it "should" perform, which means that different makes, sizes, and rigged boats (ideally) compete on an even playing field. It means that the higher handicap boats "owe" slower boats time - it is not enough to cross the finish first, you have to put sufficient time between you and the other boats. Windseeker is rated at 118. The other boats in today's race ranged from 95 to 105. That means if we raced for 100 minutes, we would have to finish at least 13 minutes ahead of the 105-rated boat, and 23 minutes ahead of the 95-rated boat.

Tactics, then, are as important as speed (since lighter boats with lower handicaps may go faster in light winds than a 118-rated boat which weighs more) - and today, we (wait, I guess that is "I", since I was the skipper) took the start line in the wrong place, which meant we did not put the distance on the other boats that we could/should have.

But it's all about having fun, right? While I hope you know a bit more about how we race (since sailing is such a big part of my life this summer), I mainly want to share how much fun I had today. First of all, you get bashed around a lot less when you skipper. You also spend more time understanding the boat and the weather. A sailing book I bought Mom last year, for instance, talks about how, as well as sailing by telltales (bits of yarn or ribbon on a sail that tell you to let it in or out), wind guages and compasses, you should feel the wind on your face. Is it on your cheek, your mouth, or your ear? How does the tiller feel in your hand. Smooth? Biting in? Does the boat want to head up into the wind, and how should you respond? Sailing is, in short, an activity that requires not only strategy and knowledge, but a sensory 'connection' (how cheesy does this sound, and yet it is true) with the boat and the wind and the water.

You remember in Junior High English class, where you learn there are three plot types? Man against man, man against nature, and man against himself? Well sailing comprises all three. And I love a challenge.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Still Sailing

Windseeker spinnaker


Or rather, was sailing - six days in a row, last week. Metro Race Week is over now, though, and, beside the usual Wednesday races and this Sunday's Lady Skippers Race (where Windseeker will be skippered by yours truly, although sometimes I shudder at the thought), I think I have my sailing problem under control. I think. Those of you similarly afflicted may be aware that unlike arthritis, gout, nicotine addiction, and other similar afflictions, you never know when sailoritis is going to flare up.

And I hope none of you are affected by gout. Stay away from the salmon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A week with the nephew

Mom and I drove up to the valley two Sundays ago and brought home my three-year-old nephew to stay for a week. He attended Daily Vacation Bible School in the mornings, and then Mom (and sometimes myself) found something to entertain him with for the afternoon and evening, before hustling him off to bed in a timely fashion. He is an adorable kid, very bright, inquisitive, and affectionate, and given the somewhat-unfamiliar circumstances and the occasional bout of homesickness, behaved very well for a little boy!



Monday after DVBS, we took Kohl in town to buy him a life jacket and watch the Parade of Sail, as the Tall Ships left the harbour. After explaining to him what we were looking at, and why they had sails, and once the popcorn chicken in the travel mug was gone, he decided to roll down the hill at the Dartmouth Commons. Thinking it a little steep (I imagined a little boy hurtling down the steep grassy slope, looking like a skiier on one of those "Deadly Sports Disasters!" clip shows), we walked down the hill a little further to where it was a gentler slope.



I don't think Kohl has quite mastered the concept of hill rolling, yet; there was a lot of limb flailing and leaping half-somersaults, and not really any proper rolling. I didn't want to get stains on my good jeans, though, so I will have to wait for another opportunity to pass on my auntly hill-rolling wisdom.



Thursday, I took Kohl to the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park. I think the beavers were his favourite (probably because they were the most active). And although he found the word "Caribou" so troublingly bizarre that they required multiple viewings, I think he liked the wild sheep second-best.



Or, rather, he thought it pretty funny that it was peeing in front of him. I never begrudge little boys their potty humour, though, so naturally I took a picture.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

If you give a hare a cauliflower...

He's going to ask for broccoli.

I really am going to try to get into some more regular posting soon. I want to get some Tall Ships pictures, and some more garden pictures of the garden that aren't macros, and actually show plants in situ.

Also, I haven't said much about our bunny problem yet, although chasing rabbits is one of my new pastimes. They have already decimated one planting of cauliflower and broccoli, my new columbines, chewed all my Shirley poppies down to stubs, munched on the pink allium (leaving the ugly yellow ones alone, naturally), chewed our Explorer rose to twigs and defoliated the climbing rose, bitten off my Spanish poppy blooms, the flower stalks on our heucheras, massacred one asiatic lily and the leaves along the lower foot of every other one, started on the portulaca as appetizers, munched off some immature yarrow blooms, the scarlet runner beans down to the ground, eaten half a green pepper plant, and that's just the beginning.

Cute little white head patch or not, I want them gone.

So we surrounded our lovely new raised bed garden with a rusty metal fence. Oh, it's charming. I feel bad, wishing such harm on an animal, but seriously. They are pests. Cuteness will only take them so far. I want to kick one.

Anyway, a plant they haven't gotten to: this anemone. It's my first year growing them, and I didn't know what to expect. The flowers have a definite poppy-like charm, and in this cloudy, foggy weather, are lasting quite a while. They're in the planter in front of the bay window. I love the way the afternoon light hits them.

White anemone

And of course, I forgot to mention, the peonies! My blight-prevention worked (so far), and they smell heavenly.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Fly By post

If I don't post tonight, it's going to be another few days, and my deadline guilt just won't allow this. Just call it a fly-by post.

Speaking of flying! There has been a lot of flying activity in our yard the last week or so. Hopefully you won't mind that the friendly pollinator in this first picture is a little blurry. It's very hard to get such busy insects to sit for their portraits. Although, in my defense, when I zoomed in on the original picture, his "fur" was quite fine and detailed - I think maybe this bee is just so soft and cuddly, he looks a little blurry.

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Next up? Butterflies. A herd of five or six descended on the garden by the basement windows for a week or so (there are still some around now that the allium is blooming). Once they got comfortable with me, I could get quite close. So close, we have a little butterfly mooning going on. Behold, the butterfly 'tocks!:

butterfly tocks


Here, this one is a little less insectobscene:
butterfly eyes


Yeah, that's a little freaky, too. Butterflies are lovely until you look them in the eye and remember, "oh right, this is an invertebrate animal, an arthropod of the class insecta, defined by Googlae Eyepodipous, Creepi Mouthitis, and plethora olimbs. I dare anyone with a butterfly tattoo to get something like that tattooed on their, erm (and that's not a typo, btw).

Okay, okay, I think this one is family-friendly and nightmare-free:

butterfly


Much better.

Finally, a hummingbird, of sorts - a hummingbird moth! He has been hanging around the house for about two weeks now, and I really like his company when I'm in the vegetable garden pulling up chickweed. He lets me get really close, and I like to hold my hand underneath him as he hovers, and feel the cool breeze off his wings.

hummingbird moth

The common theme in all these pictures seems to be "chives," and as far as the onion family goes, I guess they aren't so bad. Certainly not so invasive as those annoying yellow alliums we have. They're really one of those workhorse plants in the garden. Hey, if the butterflies, moths, and bees like them, they're all right with me.

Up next: Mating moths! Not just little moths, either. Big 'uns! In the rain! It's a veritable Romantic Comedy Happy Ending, moth-style! Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gone Sailing

Inbetween interminable hours staring at my computer, the mad dashes outside to scare off the FOUR rabbits gorging themselves on the garden, and sleep, I have been sailing.



I sailed the last two weekends, and the last three Wednesdays. In a period of 15 days, I sailed seven of them. Racing, of course. Although I imagine the man I crew for puts in a fair amount of leisure cruising, I'm generally only present for the somewhat pressure-filled racing sails. This is my sixth year sailing, the third on Windseeker, and while I have always loved it, between this year's sailing conditions (some pretty hairy moments in strong winds, and I'm ignoring the rainy race with no wind where we drifted backwards into the harbour with the tide) and our racing team, things are better than ever.

I'm not the kind of person who loves high-stress situations (academic deadlines aside), heck, I can't even watch a Die Hard movie without biting my fingernails down to the quick, but the high-pressure moments of sailing, when your heart starts racing and your breath come shorts just from the adrenaline rush, are addictive. It's great. So if you want to find me, just check out the harbour. I'll be on the boat with "J 30" on the mainsail, and "Allstream" on the spinnaker.

I'm going to try and post more shortly!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Nature's grace

Sometimes the best flowers in your garden are the ones you don't expect. And I don't mean weeds (we're all realists here, right? Weeds are expected). While it seems like we have had day after day of rain and fog, there have been enough pauses for me to run out and take pictures. Wildflowers are sprouting up out of the moist soil and showing the blowsy, rain-beaten tulips and other flowers the graceful beauty of small things. Cloudy days provide such lovely light for capturing woodland wildflowers. Does anyone know what these are called? I haven't taken the time to research yet.


wildflower

wildflower


The next two are my favourites:

wildflower

wildflower

I really love to look at these two in their largest size (you should be able to click on the picture to see them, and then click "all sizes," or else click my flickr badge on the right). I think the last one is a type of lily, but I could be mistaken. There is a large colony of them out by the fire pit, and I just love how they stick so close to each other, as well as that great limey yellow colour. The raindrops are also lovely, aren't they? They pretty much make up for all the mildew that I expect to see covering my plants in the next few days.