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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Wildlife Wednesday, May 5th, a guest post

My eldset daughter decided she would start to follow the Wildlife Wednesday meme, here is her first encounter and entry!  Enjoy!

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This is a chickadee.  I decided to take a picture of him one because the golden finches were apparently busy and two “stormin Norman”  (our pheasant) might’ve been with his lady friend Norma. All the better for this little chickadee who was the star today.  I sat on the patio tiles waiting for some sort of wild life to come to me even though I knew that if I wanted to find stormin Norman than I would have to look but…I am too lazy.

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I just sat and waited until a little Chickadee (whose name I decided would be Moonlight because of all the beautiful dark colors) flew over.  I was delighted.  I snapped as many pictures as I could and then decided to try to hand feed the other Chikadees.  It didn’t work.  But one did come about two feet from me and then stared at me like I was ridiculous. I gave up.  At least I had figured out how to do it before so I wasn’t at much loss.  I threw the seeds aside and ran inside.  I sit here now wondering what happened to that one little Chicadee.  Maybe he joined the other birds.  Maybe he was staring at stormin Norman and Norma trotting around yards.  But what I’m guessing is that Norma doesn’t know stormin Norman is a player.  He can sometimes be seen with a smaller pheasant named Gladys. So maybe that one little chickadee is watching them and chirping hysterically knowing who stormin Norman really is on the inside…a scoundrel.

image So that’s why I have a picture of a little bird named Moonlight.

Ally Griffin (not my real name!)

Finally Filthy Fingernails

The sun is out, the glaciers are receding and I have proof of life after all of that snow!  The gardens are slowly melting and and revealing their treasures (no sign of the veggie garden yet….).  What else would I do but dig?!

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Slowly receding snow banks force me to pace myself…which is good because I hate weeding…

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The problem with not really knowing how to garden is that I don’t really know what I planted and what I should pull out…Oooops!

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Hair cuts for the Goji berries , lavender and oregano!

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Even my wee girl’s flowers came out for a coffee and some sunshine – the snow in the background makes me giggle as I sit in my short sleeves and rubber boots…

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Big hands with happy, filthy fingernails, finally!!

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Can’t wait for more life to pop!

“I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbors children.  I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. 

I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”

~ Marjorie Pay Hinckley

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

Nova Scotia Treasures

IMG_3107Buried treasure, shipwrecks, legends of smuggling and piracy fascinate my family, young and old. Growing up in Atlantic Canada provided so many opportunities to become engrossed in tales of lore.  On the South Shore is Oak Island, a small, mysterious isle where treasure hunters have been trying since 1795 to unearth what could be one of the biggest troves, ever!  6 people have died trying, millions have been supposedly spent on excavating and countless hours have been spent dreaming about what could be buried hundreds of feet underground in booby trapped vaults! My big girl’s voracious appetite for theories and speculations cannot get enough of Templar intrigue and Capt. Kidd rumblings.

Cape Breton’s natural beauty is booty enough for me, but for treasure hunters the call of hundreds of shipwrecks cannot be quelled.  In 1965, wreck hunter Alex Storm and his crew brought up gold and silver from the treasure ship, Le Chameau. It was rumoured to be worth almost a million dollars, but given a political scandal and settlement, no one knows for sure!  Another Cape Breton legend holds that the Louisbourg treasure, mysteriously missing following the siege of 1758, contained the annual gold and silver payroll of the French colonies, priceless relics and religious artifacts.  It has never been recovered, nor its resting site located…some think it is hidden on a small island in a lake off Mira Bay that was once an estuary, safe from the invading British forces and blockade.

As a kid, my Papa would take us on boat rides looking for the island and the booty. If the motor was out of commission, he would resort to rowing us, dory style, on our epic hunts. Now that my Dad is the Papa, the legend of the Louisbourg treasure and the traditional excursions to “Treasure Island” continues to have deep roots in our family. Annual trips still elicit squeals of delight from my little buccaneers, curious cousins and any little scallywags who visit!  Of course I can’t share the name of the lake, that would break the treasure hunter’s solemn code.

Maritimers are blessed with other treasures as well! Though my girls don’t find my adimageventures seeking out new garden markets to visit, farms to explore on Open Farm Day, or digging for buried treasure in our potato plot nearly as mystical, they indulge (read: put up with) me!  We hide our treasures throughout the house for the winter. In the garage we store root veggies, pumpkins, squash for a mid-winter homegrown pot of soup, rich as any king. In the windows, we hang herbs as decorations to dry and enjoy warm, aromatic teas all winter.  My little one loves delivering her prized mint next door on a regular basis!  The pantry is full of jars of pickles, beets and salsa. We freeze and puree and jelly. We even keep a few greens growing under the lights! There is no greater gold to me than that of sparkling crab apple jelly on a hot biscuit after a great day of skiing!

Lastimage fall, I tried to “overwinter” some cold hardy root veggies and kale in a secret spot in the garden.  Sadly, the strong North east winds and sly deer who share our inclination for treasure hunting had other plans.  They found them. My PVC hoop tunnels and frost blankets were no match for them; somewhere a very content deer is gloating over his victory in securing my garden’s plunders. Next year I will have to reinforce my tunnels with better support, stronger plastic, bigger rocks and more insulation. Lesson learned!  The only thing they left alone were my leeks and a few rogue kale, both of which are quite a treat to dig out from under the protection of the snow in the middle of January.

My big girl (staff photographer) thought it would be fun to share a bit of our winter treasures by taking pictures of a yummy winter soup we made on a blustery day and providing a “treasure map” of how we made it.  It is not exactly a recipe because I tend to measure by tasting! image First she roasted pie pumpkin, acorn squash and butternut squash with garlic hidden under the cored out centres. Next the last of our stash of potatoes were chopped and sautéed with fresh picked leeks, dried sage, thyme, chilis and chives. By accident I added nutmeg instead of pepper – I told you I was easily distracted!  I get that from my Grandma. image Chicken stock was added to the potatoes and leeks to simmer while the squash cooled and sweat under foil, making them easier to peel.  Once cooled and peeled, the were blendered with the roasted garlic and added to the soup. image We added some fresh cilantro, easily grown in windowsill pots, for a little something extra!image Though we may never actually uncover the Louisbourg treasure, I hope my girls will never lose their innocent sense of wonder and adventure. In time, they may even come to treasure all the spoils this beautiful province has to offer, especially those from our own back yard. Who knows, maybe one day they will take their own kids hunting for buried treasure, even if it is only potatoes.

When planning our garden for the year, we try to think about what we will grow to store for the winter, here are our thoughts..

Things we grow to store: Pie Pumpkin, Acorn squash, Butternut squash, Cheiftan and Norland potatoes, carrots, onions

To freeze: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, Haskap berries, beans, shell peas, beets and greens, Swiss chard, basil, dill

To can: Salsa, berries for jam, jalapeños for pepper jellies, beets and pickling cucumbers

To dry: Mint, oregano, sage, thyme, chives, tarragon, savoury, rosemary, I would like to try chamomile this year!

To tunnel: Beets, carrots, leeks, kale, chard, spinach, bok choy, mustard, parsley, mizuna

Under the lights:  Mesclun, romaine, cilantro, basil, arugula

Riches do not consist in the possession of treasures, but in the use made of them.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

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.