The flurries have begun and the 2015 garden $$ totals are in…Picked (but not so much planted) Sept 22nd – Nov 18th

The garden is tucked in for the impending winter season.  Will it be soft, gentle, fluffy and peaceful or a raging onslaught of freezing rain, blizzards and hurricane speed winds?  In Nova Scotia one never knows.  I have been holding off on doing the final tally of what we picked, weighed and calculated this season thinking that we would have stopped bringing in a regular harvest long before now.  But blessings be acknowledged, the girls continued to haul in buckets of treasures up until last weekend!  We did have to buy some tender veggies and extra salad greens from the market last week – the first real time since June!!  There are still beets, carrots, kale, chard, leeks, onions and mixed greens tucked under hoop tunnels and snuggled under frost blankets for special treats between now and full freeze up, but I think it is safe to say that the majority of our harvest is now in! We had our first flurry today, winter is unavoidable.

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When we began asking ourselves how much we could be saving in produce, we never expected that the totals would be so high.  We also never anticipated the volume of veggies that we could actually consume as a family of four during 1 season, nor how much we would be able to freeze and jar to extend our feasting. And we certainly didn’t even stop to think about how much fun it would be to weigh, track and tally our bounty – who knew kids could get so excited about book keeping?!

 

In the end it is safe to say that this experience has been far more worthwhile to us than any actual $$ total.  It has taught us to be less wasteful by ensuring we consumed what we picked, less picky because even ugly cucumbers taste great and save us money and to be even more grateful for our ability to “shop” for dinner right in our own backyard.  It is amazing how much more we appreciated our own produce when we compared what the weekly prices were in the market for what the kids simply pulled out of the (non-chemically treated, clean earth, worm filled and flower kissed) dirt. Dirt is amazing!  And seeds, well they are just mind blowing. Really.

 

So without further adieu…..drumroll please…..the totals for Sept 22- Nov 18th of our 2015 season are:

Approx savings compared to local market: $972.75!!!!

Total since May 26th – $2355.45 WOW!!!

Total weight picked this period: 136.09 pounds!!  That is almost as much as I weigh….

Total to date: 341.15 pounds (That is a lot of veggies!!!)

These totals are compared to local produce when possible but not specifically organic produce – we would prefer to eat local than purchase organic food that has had to travel very long distances, using wasteful packaging and not being allowed to ripen to perfect.  We do use organic methods in our own garden, so the estimated savings would likely be much more significant had we compared to local AND organic produce!  Not to mention the savings in jams, jellies, spreads, sauces, salsas, dried and frozen herbs, saved seeds, compost, cut flowers…you get the picture!

 

Dollars and cents may speak to some, time outdoors and exercise to others, quality conversations and relationship building to most…how do we put a price on the value of our family garden?!

 

 

 

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Tomato-geddon begins! Little hands strike again….

“Mama!  I dropped some on the floor, so I picked them up and threw them in too!” Pause, 2, 3, 4….

“Mama!  Did you say 6 or did you really mean 14?!”  Pause 2, 3, 4…

“Mama!!  I really like purple, so I added 7 extra seeds.” Pause 2, 3, 4…

“Mama! If the seeds are a little furry, is it okay if I just plant them all?  I think there were about 18, but only 3 weren’t furry…” Pause 2, 3, 4…

“Mama!  Is it okay if I added 2 for good luck?”

These are actual quotes that I managed to write down while suppressing giggles, a few tears and trying not to panic out loud.

Yup – little hands were at it again!  “Tomato-geddon” officially began for the 2015 season on March 31st.  “6 of each kind, except the orange ones, you can plant 12 of those. But no more.”, I said.

We had carefully selected 9 varieties of tomatoes to try this year after looking through our notes, checking out the catalogues and reading reviews on our new favourite blogs.  We picked 9 types knowing full well that we would inevitably find a 10th seedling variety that we couldn’t survive the summer without at one of the greenhouses we frequent in the summer (well, okay, maybe 2 more types if we happen to black-out a little from all the excitement and the heat)…that would give us no more than 66 plants if all the seedlings made it.  My plan was for 30, max, to go into the garden, a few in big planters and a few to share.

I should have known better!

Here is how is went down…

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First we set up our starter trays – we thought it was oddly amusing to plant tomato seeds in tomato containers…

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Then Little hands filled them about 2 inches full with Pro Mix…only a bit ended up on the floor…

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She wet the soil to nice and moist with warm water…

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Then she began planting her seeds.  She planted determinate and indeterminate, both heirloom and hybrids (we need some to survive the late blight).  I had my back to her as I was washing up some other trays to plant annual flowers.  I thought I could trust her to stick with the limits!  I forgot that she was my kid!  Bahahahahaha!!!

In the end she started:

Heirlooms:

3, or maybe 18, Gold Dust

6 Mennonite (orange)

8 Alaska

8, or maybe, 20 Scotia

6 12 Sub Arctic Plenty (they fell on the floor)

6 Ha! 13 Black Plum, and maybe more…

Hybrids:

14 Sun Gold cherry – 2 for good luck, they are her favourite!

6 14 Big Beef, because 6 really does mean 14…

8 Lemon Boy, we ran out of seeds…

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Before I could get an accurate head count, they were snuggled under a fine layer of soil and spritzed oh-so-carefully…

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After they were all covered up, they got placed on the heat mats to speed up germination – which amazingly only took 3 or 4 days to start.

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One week later, here were about 92 happy little seedlings reaching up for the lights!

I feel another epic potting up party coming up this weekend.  I hope I have enough yogourt containers saved up! I love those Little hands so very much…

It is still 6 weeks until we should be able to plant tomatoes out into the garden without extra protection- there is still time to start some from seed!

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” ~Brian O’Driscoll

A glimpse under the grow lights – April 7th (or Survival of the fittest and vegetable infanticide…)

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Nova Scotia continues to be buried in feet, yes FEET, of white stuff. In fact, we woke up to another 5-10 cms this morning.  Usually by this time we are prepping early beds, assembling poly tunnels and seriously considering planting the early veggies outdoors under cover (peas, kale, bok choy, onions, beets, carrots, chard and spinach)…not this year. There is some hope in that the temperatures are warming up and there has been some melting but at this rate I am afraid it will be a very, very late start to the garden. Thankfully the grow lights are shining away and the early starts are doing well – the veggie babies may not have a nice dirty outdoor place to move into before they peak, but they seem happy for now.

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Potted up veggies, herbs and flowers patiently waiting under the lights until they can move outdoors.

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Columbine reaching for the light.

Many have been potted up to larger pots and some have graduated to another location with less direct light as we have started to run out of space under the lights.  My wee girl has a nice sunny window and found a little greenhouse unit that has moved into her bedroom as well for her maturing flowers(she simply had to have it…and I simply couldn’t say no…) !!

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She simply HAD to have it!! We added some lights to the bottom for a little something extra…

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A few of my Wee girl’s Coleus plants happy in the sunshine! (This is about half of them…oooops!)

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Chamomile, Impatiens and Rudbeckia – also in her greenhouse…ahem…bedroom…

We have had some casualties, sadly. This weekend, as we were potting up seedlings and starting new seeds (the 6-8 week prior crowd), we found many seedlings that had been burnt by organic seaweed fertilizer. Yup, unintentional vegetable infanticide. We had diluted the fertilizer even more than the directions had stated and waited until at least 2 sets of leaves had grown, but it was still too strong and in the end, only the strong survived….fail.  The bok choi and chard were hit the hardest, with jalapeños suffering a fair amount as well.  The cauliflower and broccoli fared somewhat better, with the strongest seedlings overcoming the weaker ones.  Survival of the fittest. And unfortunately this is the second year in a row we managed to do this…double fail.

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Damage from the fertilizer – discolouration and stunted growth. I am not sure if they will pull through. Has anyone else had this issue?

My wee girl was pretty sad and after we gave the lost seedlings a little burial in the compost bin we had a big chat about the circle of life. I never expected that gardening would lead to philosophical discussions of life, death and the afterlife, but am glad that I had the opportunity for this talk to happen over vegetables before she really has to deal with a loss of someone close. So as we continue to wait, and wait, and wait for the snow to melt, at least I can pass on a few life lessons and we can peek under the lights (instead of under frost blankets) to see what’s poking up!

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“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” ~ Rafiki (after bonking Simba on the head – probably what I deserve!

My top ten steps for starting a new veggie bed…maybe it will help a few dreamers?

Beginning any new task is very daunting for me.  I like to know what I am getting myself into and I like to know all the steps before I begin.  I don’t mind adjusting on the fly, but flying blind is not for me. After writing about a few of our successes, trials and plans in seeding, gardening and lighting I received a request for a specific post – How do I get started on a small veggie garden without getting overwhelmed?  I am certainly no expert in this area – but this is how I started laying down roots, how I dreamed and triumphed and of course how I could have done it better.  I hope it helps a bit.

MY TOP 10 STEPS FOR STARTING A NEW VEGGIE BED

10 – SUCCESS! Site Selection – The soil in my yard is quite heavy with a lot of clay.  I also have a lot of trees that cast weird shade.  We started by finding a flat site and staked out a 10×20 foot square.  We watched where the shadows were throughout the day and adjusted the location of our square to make sure we had as much sun as possible throughout the day.  We also made sure the hose and sprinkler would reach. I use a lot of planters on the deck and patio and fill them with veggies – even my 2×2 planters produce a pile of tomatoes and chard and are very pretty when planted with a few annuals or herbs for a splash of colour. Added bonus – planters can be hauled inside during summer hurricanes!

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9 – FAIL – Could have done better….Soil Preparation – The first year, we dug out the sod (we needed it in other places anyways…), pulled as many big rocks out as we could and turned the “soil” (it was really clay) with shovels.  We added bags of peat moss and compost and had 2 yards of garden soil dumped in the back of our truck and dug that all in too.  I did buy a soil test kit and a pH tester, but I am not sure they were ever very accurate and never repeated the process out of laziness and distractedness.

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The start of year 3.

What we have since done better – in subsequent years of expansion we borrowed and then purchased a root-tiller to till the original plot – soooo much easier than hand-bombing it with shovels. We also lost the rock and clay battle and chose instead to have more garden soil or triple mix delivered to “build up” our soil.  Instead of cutting out the sod, I laid cardboard down in the area to become the garden.  We then dumped 10-12 inches of soil on top of the cardboard.  By the end of the summer, the cardboard had broken down the sod and the garden soil was much more productive than our natural soil even with the amendments.

Better still – 2 years ago we bought composite raised bed kits.  We placed a few inches of crusher dust and gravel underneath the boards to level them, lined them cardboard and then filled with garden soil and triple mix. Each bed is 4×8 feet and 12 inches deep. They were much more expensive, but by far the best approach for us.  After we clean up the gardens in the fall, I cover the beds with straw to keep weeds down and turn it under in the early spring with a fresh top up of organic fertilizer and compost – less weeds, more yield and no boulders to be dug!  SCORE!

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A lot of work to set up, but so worth it!

8 – SUCCESS! Hilling my rows – We get a lot of rain and I found that in the main garden, I lose less soil and seedlings to run off and drowning if I create hilled rows. I mark where my rows should be (they are pretty set now after 6 years and it reduces work and soil compaction by keeping my rows in the same places.) I make my rows approx 2-3 feet wide by 10-12 inches high with a hoe so I can plant a few rows of treats in each hill or plant in clumps.  The water runs off into the lower paths between rows and it seems to keep the roots watered while keeping puddles in the actual rows to a minimum.  This doesn’t apply to my raised beds as the drainage is really good and we don’t walk in them anyways.

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7 – SUCCESS!! 2 foot paths between rows – just enough space to kneel in and get the wheelbarrow through! Enough said…

6 –SUCCESS!!! Weed barriers – I HATE WEEDING!!!  We almost plowed down the dirt and seeded the plot with grass a few summers ago because the weeding was becoming all consuming!  They were shading out veggie babies, providing hiding spaces for slugs and bugs and smothering everything edible (as well as smothering my desire to garden anymore….) With two busy girls, a full time job and the desire to do something other than pull weeds every non-scheduled waking moment, I caved and bought weed barrier. AND THE ANGELS SANG – AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! (That was supposed to be angels singing in harmony with the sun shining brightly and me frolicking in a long shimmery dress with flowers in my hair! Yup, the result was that good!!)

The cost is not prohibitive – less than $60 per season.  I place cardboard or wet newspaper between the rows, then place black bio-film over my prepped rows as tight as I can, staking it with ground stakes or rocks.  I then cover the newspaper or cardboard with clean straw (not hay!!!) In order to seed, I use an exact-o knife to cut slits or small holes and plant seedlings or seeds through the holes.  The black film does triple duty – it heats the soil, prevents run off and SMOTHERS THE WEEDY INVADERS!!!!  It is the rock star of my garden.  I haven’t had to use it in my raised beds yet because the soil was relatively weed free, but I will as soon as I get overrun again.  The prep work is a lot more but last summer I spent less than 10 hours total weeding the veggie beds.  FREEDOM!!!

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5 –Success, partially –  Electric fencing.  This was a must for us.  The deer were eating the veggies faster than we could grow them.  A simple electric fence made for small animals was cost-effective, not too unsightly and keeps the deer out magnificently! It does not keep out racoons or rabbits….that is a battle for next summer….If your garden is small, a fence would be ideal.  Mine is 40×24 and it would far too expensive to do a pretty fence.

4 – SUCCESS (after a few years) – Bird netting, frost blankets and hoop tunnels – These little beauties did not come until 2 years ago, but I wish I had started from the get-go with them.  They can be easily thrown up quickly and protect veggies and berries from animals, frost, hail, winds and sun.  I found frost blankets at the Dollarama last year – JACKPOT!

Hoop tunnels are just 6 foot long sections of 3/4 inch PVC pipes. I slide them over 1 foot rebar stakes that I pound into the ground on each side of the row. They act as mini greenhouses and allow me to plant much earlier and later than the frost dates. I use 4 hoops for a 14 foot row.  As a cover, I bought 6 mm vapour barrier plastic, laid out 18 feet of it (it was 8 feet wide) and stapled 14 foot decking boards down the two long sides.  I rolled the boards in the extra plastic (since the hoops were 6 feet wide – the extra is nice as it keeps the staples from being pulled out).  Hubby helped me carry the boards and plastic to the garden and laid a board in each path on either side of the row, with the plastic resting on the PVC pipes. I can easily lift one board up and over the hoops to uncover or recover as necessary for picking or airing out. I found green plant clips at the dollar store that clamp the plastic to the hoops nicely. Niki Jabbour’s book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener has some easy instructions for making these.

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3 – FAIL – High quality sprinkler – cheap ones just don’t cut it. I have spent more in cheap sprinklers than I would have had I sucked it up in the first place.  In ground drip irrigation would be lovely….someday maybe!

2 – SUCCESS! Strong vertical supports – for peas, poles beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.  I use everything from cages to bamboo to saplings.  Vertical supports make the garden interesting, pretty, save space and keep produce off the ground.  Plus there is nothing neater for a little kid than a pole bean teepee or a squash house to hide in!

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AND MY NUMBER 1 STEP FOR STARTING A GARDEN….drumroll please…..

1 – Minions for planting!!!! The more hands, the better!  Little hands are capable of so much and bring so much joy, excitement and fulfilment to the garden, as long as I am willing to have a few crooked rows and a few surprises!

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I have made lists of veggies that have worked well for our family in Nova Scotia.  I use calendars to remember when to plant what – you can find them in O-Seed-D if you’d like to take a peek.  I found the best way to decide what to grow is to figure out what we will actually eat and ask other gardeners around me what varieties  have worked best in our area.  Nova Scotia is full of great resources, I only listed a few in Borrowed Wisdom, but I go back to them all the time – I learn something new every time I read the same old books!

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ~Marcus Tullius Cicero

But for now, we wait…

imageSooooooo…..The garden plans are set.  The new seeds are mostly ordered.  The calendar is marked up. The early seedlings are started and some seedlings have already passed on to greener pastures because we forgot to water them. Ooopsies… More little seedlings are poking up every day.  My wee girl’s flower babies are growing bigger everyday and are slowly inheriting names as she decides what suits them (I will admit that I cannot possibly remember them all.  2 years ago she became particularly attached to her tomatoes that we started far too early – it was a very awkward affair when we started to eat “Isabelle’s” babies!!!) I guess perhaps I should make some new name tags for the Coleus clan. There is not a whole lot more to do right now.  A few more trays of marigolds, zinnia, ganzania, snapdragons, tomatoes, cucs and squash will be started in 2-4 more weeks (doesn’t that seem like an eternity!?).  It would be really nice to get outside to start some prep work…

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Isabelle, Gracie and Tinkerbelle. In March…Ooops. Sorry about the picture quality….

Buuuuut…..(insert large sigh, the baited breath and the big exhale here…) The gardens are covered in about 3 feet of ice and snow.  I guess if it is truly a “poor man’s fertilizer”, then Nova Scotia gardeners have struck it rich this year! BINGO?!  It has been a bit warmer, but the forecast is not warming up by very much anytime soon and as a bonus we are still enjoying many great days of skiing. Last year we had a massive storm on March 27th, so it is entirely possible that we will be waiting for quite some time yet to get our hands dirty outside. But on the other hand, the year before I had the veggie beds roto-tilled, composted, tunnels set up and cool weather veggies seeded by the 30th of March. It is hard to believe when I look out the back windows and I can hardly see where the raised beds are buried that in less than 1 month we could actually be starting the garden for this year! Fingers crossed…

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Early beds poking up in April of last year. Frost blankets are an amazing tool for gardeners…ahem..me..with very little patience!

I don’t want to wish the winter away because I love the snow. I love sledding with the kids and skiing as a family.  There is nothing quite as satisfying as a full day in the fresh, crisp air, filled with fun, adrenaline and true time spent together.  (Well maybe the glass of wine in front of the fire when every, single muscle and joint is worn out is almost as satisfying…) I love the lack of lawn mowing in the winter and I really love the lack of bugs in the winter! More than anything, I love the lack of weeding.  Yup, I said it.  I hate weeding. I will do just about anything to avoid weeding. I will pawn it off an anyone else who can be suckered, administer it as a punishment, convince myself weeds are pretty, figure out if I can somehow make tea, wine, jelly or find some redeeming use for them, you get the point…boy…do I hate weeding.  Unless it is with a flame thrower or a roto-tiller, both of those tools can be incredibly therapeutic!  But I digress.

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If you can’t beat the snow……

Spring can even make me a bit sad.  As a mama, the coming of spring and summer means two more birthdays, 2 little girls getting a bit bigger, 2 little girls who need me just that little bit less…BUT WAIT!  Because they will be a bit bigger, a bit tougher, a bit stronger, it also means they can pull a few extra weeds!  They will be able to drag a heavier bag of compost, and best of all – maybe this year, just maybe, my big girl will be able to mow the lawn!!!  Bring on the Spring!!!

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Chives are usually the first herb to say hello in my spring beds.

But we have no control over Mother Nature.  We can knock on wood, cross fingers, pray really, really hard and do all the spring fling dances we like, but in the end, it is a waiting game. For now, all we really have are some pretty forced Forsythia and apple blossoms to give us hope that spring is on the way. Maybe some forced spring bulbs will finally pop and there are always the pictures from last year to swoon over. I guess I could head to the freezer and pull out some apples and berries from last year and make some of Grandma’s recipes with the girls- maybe that will be next week’s post! Mmmmmmmm….Blueberry grunt…. But for now, we wait…

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Nothing like tulips to brighten the winter!

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“Lemony Sunshine” – Our little lemon lady comes inside for the winter and keeps us smiling with her little lemon babies!

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Hope for what is to come!

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I love to force Forsythias and Crabapples in February or March – just a nice little “Pop!” of life!

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A lone forced Daffodil my big girl planted last year – it opened on Easter morning!

“God has perfect timing; never early, never late. It takes a little patience and faith, but it is worth the wait.” ~ Unknown

Nightmares about Hares – a “Guest Post” (written by my daughter!!)

Encouraging my children to get involved in our garden has been quite the adventure…  Even though we don’t necessarily take the same lessons out of the garden, it has had an impact on each one of us in one way or another.  This rambling…ahem…memoir…was prepared by my eldest daughter as a “guest blogger” who apparently found our encounters with a very hungry bunny last year very unsettling!  Watching her read, edit and re-word this narrative has once again provided me with yet another special memory of my big girl growing up. This little glimpse into her budding imagination has been a very entertaining (and sometimes humbling) view of a shared event from my child’s perspective, so neat. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have!

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The nemesis.

I am not a gardener… but I will help from time to time with watering. Occasionally if I’m in a good mood, I will also help with planting. When I read this blog it brought back some pretty annoying memories. My mother is very big with gardening, meaning me and my other relatives come a close second to her beloved veggie babies. Sometimes she would come from work and she wouldn’t say hi to us or our dad but just stomped towards her garden and violently started to weed. That’s how we knew it was a bad day at work. She takes very good care of her plants and even my “less than inclined gardener” father was on the scene when an unexpected visitor started to make unscheduled appearances.

The bunny.

Can I have some of those garden goodies? Please? I am hungry!

His plan must have been to show up right when my mom was leaving for work so that all she could really do was yell for the little bunny to go away. He just stood on his two paws with his ears up, usually munching on some lettuce, peas or kale. My mom was furious just watching the thing sit there happily munching. We also had other problems as well, such as deer trying to eat our flowers. So the next summer, after my mother spent weeks of planning, shopping and researching, we finally put up our electric fence. It may have kept wild animals partially out but it also kept our dog out as well. He like to eat kale too. We were working in the garden one day when he ran up and got shocked. He shrieked and started to run around the yard in circles yelping. (It won’t actually hurt him though.) So we had succeeded with keeping the dogs out who would sit in the garden eating our kale and the deer when it was actually turned on. (It is my job to make sure it is on at night. I have really bad memory).

So we were set for a while until the little bunny returned. Sometimes we would send the dog in after him but the dog isn’t all that smart and didn’t have a chance of catching the bunny. And in the slim chance that he did, he probably would have no idea what to do with it. So he was usually just our “back up” in those situations but only really succeeded in chasing it away.

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Wouldn’t you be afraid of this face?!

When my dad got in to the action he brought up the idea of just using a paintball gun and shooting the thing to get it moving but was quickly extinguished when my mom thought the idea was crazy. He is from Northern Ontario and used to hunt with his dad. He was astonished when he found out that kids in Nova Scotia didn’t get a week off in the fall to go goose hunting with the whole family. One day my dad walked in the house with a new slingshot from Canadian Tire. He said that it wouldn’t really hurt the bunny, just get it to go away. He asked me and my sister to fill up a red bucket full of small rocks. By the time he actually hit the bunny – after many, many, many attempts – he simply jumped up in the air landed back on the ground and continued his business eating. Later on in the year the slingshot broke and we just had to accept the that was life and in life there are bunnies. So if you ever had a bunny don’t try to hurt it or scare it away you just have to accept that he’s there and you’re helping him live. It’s not like he can eat all your garden in one day. Or you can just get a dog. Either way embrace the fact that your garden is so great that you even attract nightmares of hares!

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It does look pretty tempting!

– Ally Griffin (not my real name!)

A heart of gratitude…and an award?!

liesbster 2I am grateful.  For many things; my children, my health, my husband, my family.  I am grateful for those in my life who have influenced me, who have challenged me, who have nearly broken me and for those who have held me up. I am grateful to come home to a warm house and plenty of nourishment every night.  I am grateful that I am safe and loved.

This past month has been a new adventure for me!  I am not a writer, I certainly did not think that I would enjoy it at all.  I started this little blog more as a repository of memories about some of the things in my life that I am most grateful for – my home, my family, my friends and my garden.  The garden seems like a silly little piece of the big picture, but it is a very fitting foundation upon which to build my story.  It is such a perfect backdrop for so many things and there are so many puns to be worked in!! I had hoped a few people would enjoy my ramblings…ahem…memoirs… about my trials in the garden of course, but most importantly, I hoped that as my girls get older they see past the posts about seeds, weeds and dreams and recognize these tales for what they really are. They are for them.  I am trying to share with them a bit of myself that they don’t see day to day by planting memories for them “on paper”.  I am trying to bury the little things they don’t hear from me (as we rush out of the house in the morning or to soccer after dinner or when I am upset that they are arguing again) in the little stories I share about “gardening”.  I hope they one day unearth what I set out to achieve. I hope they discover the meaning of the words even if they are covered in a bit of “dirt” and I hope that this little time capsule helps them get to know me a bit better. And if they learn a little something of the importance of knowing where their food comes from or discover the beauty in a blooming flower along the way – so much the better!

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When I turned my computer on 2 nights ago, I had a notification that someone else is reading these memoirs and maybe even enjoying them a bit!  Lynn from WordShamble had selected me as a Leibster Award Nominee – I am not sure if this like a blog chain letter disguised as an award for new Blogs, but either way, I am grateful!  So thanks Lynn!

Apparently, there are rules that go along with accepting this award, so here they are:

1) Put the Liebster Award logo on your blog.

2) Thank and tag the blog who nominated you – Again, thanks Lynn!

3) Answer their questions and come up with 10 new ones for your nominees

4) Nominate 8 blogs (with less than 200 followers), let them know you’ve nominated them and link them in your post.  I was not sure I had even read 8 blogs, so this led me on another adventure searching for some like minded gardeners (I apologize if you have more than 200 followers – that part was tricky)

5) No tag-backs.

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So these are the questions I was asked…

(1) What was your favourite book as a child and why?

The Poky Little Puppy because the drawings were sweet, the adventures were grand and the puppy was so naughty. It gave me hope that someday, maybe, being naughty would pay off in Strawberry Shortcake. Still waiting… 

(2) If you were a Supervillain, who would you want to be and why?

Dr Doofenschmirtz from Phineas and Ferb – deep down he isn’t really evil and he has some phenomenal ideas!
(3) If you could only save one animal from a global extinction, what would it be?

My dog Gus.
(4) Where’s your happy place? Describe.

In my garden, with my girls – guess you will just have to read all my other posts to find out why!
(5) E-readers or conventional books?

Always a real book.
(6) If you could choose one piece of tech from a Bond movie, which would it be?

I would choose Pierce Brosnan – is that an option?!
(7) What are the three foods that you wouldn’t want to live without?

Brie, pepper jelly and chocolate.
(8) If a griffin fought a hydra, which would win?

I couldn’t even venture a guess.
(9) What’s the favourite post you’ve posted?

Little Hands, Little Seeds, Very Little Patience – I love that little girl to bursting.
(10)What’s the best piece of conversation you’ve ever overheard?

My two girls whispering behind my back after a very bad day at work…”Uh oh, Mama is getting out the rototiller, we’d better go inside and hide!”

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I am grateful to have discovered the following blogs and nominate:

Plumdirt

New Gardener Blues

Garden Fairy Farm

DirtnKids

The Gardeners Notebook

Garden and more

The Bent Trowel

Gardening Hands

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My 10 questions for you are:

1) Favorite flower

2) Favorite veggie

3) Favorite garden picture (insert it if you can)

4) Favorite season

5) Biggest defeat in your garden

6) Biggest challenge in your garden

7) Your next big project

8) Your gardening partner you are most grateful for

9) Your favourite quote

10) What are you grateful for?

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So the first month has been a truly great experience!  I have discovered that writing can be a lot of fun and a great distraction – even if it only lasts for this one season, for that discovery I am…. grateful.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” ~William Arthur Ward

Best Laid Plans…Ironically, Version 2

IMG_1387I am a planner. I really, really like spreadsheets, notebooks and lists. I especially like the feeling of checking things off my list.  I am ashamed to admit that sometimes I even add points to my lists just to get extra check marks. (Make list, check!  Complete first item, reward yourself with a cup of coffee, check! Do that thing that you actually already finished but are adding it to the list just to cross it off, check!) I can be impulsive, don’t get me wrong, but I like it when a good plan comes together. Despite my best efforts, life has thrown many curveballs at my plans. Career starts, start overs and changes, long commutes and time away from my family have taught me many hard lessons. New additions to our family have tested me and taught me things about myself I may never have known otherwise, wonderful and not so wonderful. Losses have proven to me how strong I actually can be. Moving around Canada has led me to appreciate home and family more than I could have ever imagined. What I have learned most is that despite my best laid plans, the experiences of actually “doing” are never what I had anticipated.

IMG_0656If everything happens for a reason, then I am so grateful to have met some truly amazing people, encountered sheer beauty and joy and been touched in ways no list or spreadsheet could ever capture.  When faced with challenges that were nowhere to be found in columns a, b or c, I have had to learn to let go, give up my plans and embrace what God has laid out in his plans for me. As long as I have faith in myself, my family and God, I am never disappointed in the outcome, even if at the time the experiences have been painful or confusing.

imageGardening has been no exception to the rule of “best laid plans….”! Each winter I plan out how our main growing season will look.  I calculate the amount of compost or triple mix I need to order and I draw out planting diagrams based on last year’s crops (I try my best to rotate crops). I sort seeds collected and left over from last year and I start watching for sales on weed barriers, mulches and plant supports. I test soil pH levels and nutrients when the snow melts. I fill out calendars with planting dates and set up my indoor lights for seedlings. But I live in Nova Scotia!  Anyone who lives on the east coast needs no explanation on why this is the main reason my plans need to be fluid.  We have heat, we have cold.  We have long periods without rain followed by hurricanes and hail in July.  We have hungry wildlife! Each and every season has been different from the last for both veggies and flowers.  Things pop up that I have IMG_1472no recollection of planting and some prized perennials never seem to reappear. Kids happen! Plants get picked, trampled, nibbled and drowned. It is all part of the experience.  Regardless of the outcome, whether as planned or as complete surprises, my gardens and the time shared planning them and caring for them with my girls bring me growth, serenity, joy and clarity that I could never plan for; nor would I wish to.  It amazes me what life brings when I unplug, go outside and just be present in the moment, watching plans unfold.

This is the “plan” for this year’s main veggie garden compared to last years – this is very fluid:

Ironically, after posting this memoir, a comment triggered me to have a second look.  I realized that I had been so distracted by my wee girl that I completely missed carrots, beets and a whole bed in the 2015 plans!  Here is version 2....best laid plans!

Ironically, after posting this memoir, a comment triggered me to have a second look. I realized that I had been so distracted by my wee girl that I completely missed carrots, beets and a whole bed in the 2015 plans! Here is version 2….best laid plans!

2014's plans...not everything went exactly according to plan!

2014’s plans…not everything went exactly according to plan!

*** I have used some great online planners in years past, though I find it easiest to just do it by hand.  The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Mother Earth News and Garden Supply Company have some great plans! Niki Jabbour from Nova Scotia has also written a great book called Groundbreaking Food Gardens: 73 Plans That Will Change The Way You Grow Your Garden, that I can’t wait to read…

I will need this much compost and extra soil to make sure I have 12 inches of good soil in most of the beds***:

Triple mix – Width – 16 feet x Length – 30 feet x Depth – 3 inches = 4.44 cubic yards for main garden

– Width – 4 feet x Length – 16 feet x Depth – 3 inches = 0.60 cubic yards for garden beside shed

Garden soil – Width 2 feet x Length 40 feet x 12 inches = 2.96 cubic yards for additional section to be added to finish the raised beds at the back of the main garden

***I use the soil calculator on Kel Ann Organic’s website

Other supplies:

– 24 feet of 3/4 inch PVC to complete raised bed tunnel for early greens, I already have lots of 6mm vapour barrier left

– Bird netting/rabbit barrier for blueberries and strawberries

– Trellis wire for grape supports (last year’s snapped…)

– 12 x 6 foot bamboo stakes  for pole beans and tomatoes

– 1 roll chicken wire to attach to frame of squash house

– 4-5 bales of clean straw

– 3-4 rolls of black bio film mulch

– 1 bale of peat moss for blueberries to raise acidity slightly

– Some form of posts and 3 feet of barrier to keep out racoons and bunnies….hmmmmm…..not sure about this one yet. These cute little critters give us all nightmares!

Next Step…Seed planning.  But that is a whole ‘nother story!!

“If plan A fails, remember that you have 25 letters left!” ~ Author Unknown 

Roots Grow Deep

IMG_1439In Nova Scotia, roots grow deep in culture, families and gardens.  Growing up around the country, I always knew where I came from and how important it was to know my roots, thanks to my parents and extended family.  It didn’t matter which province we lived in, home was always here. “What’s your Fathers name?” is a phrase that is as common to identification as Black Eyed Susan’s  are to the side of the maritime roads. Every summer was spent from beginning to end with grandparents, aunts, uncles and hoards of cousins, nuturing our relationships and honing our berry picking skills. Most days were spent in bathing suits, running around in the fields, using outhouses, playing cards, baking and creating. There were bonfires, sing alongs, epic games of Lee Hockers in the dark and of course music, dancing and food.

Cape Breton Wildfowers, Grandma’s lupines, Aunt Pat’s tiger lilies, and Grandma D’s dahlias were the stIMG_1386art of my fascination with flowers. They were centrepieces for every table and window sill. And what an honour it was to have your garden’s splendours displayed on the altar in mass on Sunday morning!

Papa’s rhubarb, blueberry patch and crabapple trees were treated as precious as gold, we all drooled waiting in anticipation for his applesauce, jellies, stewed rhubarb and blueberry pies.  I was taught by a great many of relatives that to let a wild berry go unpicked was next door to a mortal sin.  Bugs, bogs and thorns were very weak excuses indeed. My gardens are now home to many “roots” transplanted from many generations of my family.  I get to remember precious moments shared with now passed loved ones every time I sit in my garden.

Before any seed can grow, it needs a solid foundation.  A fertile, well planned plot with lots of sun, good drainage, special friends (bugs) to pollinate it and defences to ward off those pesky invaders who may try to take advantage of good intentions.  This time of year, January, is when I start to dream and plan.  Of course I have helpers!  My littlest daughter is my biggest ally.  We love to sit together and list out what we liked about last year, what new ideas we may have for this year and look through pictures that lift up our spirits while it is still too cold outside to play in the dirt. I like to think that even something as simple as planning our veggie rows or speculating on how tall our sunflowers may grow this summer is laying down some firm roots in our own little family.  Her vivid imagination never ceases to amaze me and I cherish listening to her thoughts, even if it means we will end up with a “purple veggies only” plot this year!

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Dreaming of what is to come!

It isn’t quite time to start sowing seeds, but it is never too early to dream, share and get prepared!

My to do list for this week:

– Pull out old garden plans and pictures to make sure we don’t plant the same thing in the same place as last year.  I can’t grow everything in our zone 5/6 garden, or without an infinite amount of space and time, so planning what we really want to plant now saves a lot of impulse buying when the seed catalogues and greenhouse adventures begin. I also “weed out” anything we tried last year that was not a hit so as not to make the same mistakes again.  I was the only one who liked turnip…60 pounds may have a bit excessive in hindsight!

– Draw out any new planned development and start thinking about supplies, I really want to finish my raised bed border around the main part of the veggie garden and attempt a “squash arch”. And what the heck am I going to do with the garden beside the shed??

– Make a seed starting calendar, so I know when to get started.  I have jumped the gun far too many times and have had 4 foot tomatoes in the porch in April….websites for local seed companies, “like-climate” blogs and books by gardeners from our local area are fantastic resources.

– Dust off my favorite books and magazines to scour through again and again, always finding something new and exciting to try this year…I am thinking maybe peanuts?

– Connect with friends who are looking to share ideas, seeds, separated plants and a cup of tea (or glass of wine).  It is far more fun to plan with friends – even a yoga class can be a place of veggie inspiration.  Bok choy is a great veggie to meditate on!

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Kind hearts are the gardens, Kind thoughts are the roots, Kind words are the flowers, Kind deeds are the fruits.  Take care of your garden, And keep out the weeds, Fill it with sunshine, Kind words and Kind deeds.” – Longfellow

Seeds, Weeds and Dreams

IMG_0841The first post in a (hopefully) series of gardening ramblings…ahem…memoirs…seems a lot like trying to pick out seeds for the first time of the season.  I haven’t a clue what the garden will turn out like this year, no idea what will grow well and what will fail, which varieties will thrive in our wacky weather or if an early July hurricane will leave me crying in my bean patch having to decide whether to start over or pack it all in.  Just as when opening up my seed catalogues for the first time in the dregs of January, the first question is – Where in Heaven’s name do I start?

Me, I guess.  I am a thirty something, working mother of 2 very busy girls who fill my heart to bursting. I love to watch them grow and develop as I try my best to feed and nurture them, weeding through what is needed for them to blossom into kind, caring, spiritually rooted young ladies who respect themselves, others and our environment. I have an extremely understanding hubby who lets us turn the house into an indoor incubation station, a legal “grow-up” with plant lighting the neighbours can see 5 doors down at night, a porch plant nursery and he pretends that he cares as much about our “veggie babies” as we do.  Plus he willingly helps out with the heavy lifting and looks really good while he does it!  And of course, I have the cutest fur-baby ever who welcomes one and all for a visit and a snuggle and guards the garden from the sinister rabbits and deer.  I am pretty blessed.

I have no formal training in horticulture, am too distractible to really be bothered to learn the “proper” way of doing things and thoroughly enjoy just spending time experimenting in growing – vegetables, flowers, shrubs, relationships with anyone who will spend some time with me in the dirt or enjoying what comes of out of it…

I don’t suppose to have any answers or wisdom, just passion to share with those who are willing to spend some time with my thoughts – who knows maybe someone else will become a bit more inspired in the end.

Ramblings…ahem…memoirs will simply chronicle my sometimes successful, sometimes not-so-successful attempts at planting roots of all sorts in the beautiful place I call home, Nova Scotia.