Saturday, June 30, 2012

Potatoes at Dusk

the garlic bed, after weeding, watering and mulching.

I'm so impressed with these potatoes, heirloom varieties that are produced locally, and are growing so great. Maybe it seems amazing because last year all the potatoes failed, so we only harvested four tubers. But this year we're really going to have some potatoes, and we're so excited. Also I was excited to be outside as the sun was setting, something that doesn't happen too often around here at the height of summer, now that N is attached to her nine o'clock bedtime. It's funny how kids get on a schedule and it totally messes thing up when they get off of it. If we keep her up that extra hour, you would think logically she'd be so tired that she'll sleep in a bit- like say maybe get up at eight instead of seven, but really what happens is that she gets up at six, or five thrity. And it really kills you. Incidentally if you put her to bed early she'll often sleep in a bit more, kids are so wierd, you think you've got them figured out, and they go and change on  you.

Night Flowering Catch fly

We've been leaving this weed out among the tomatoes, because it looked like it was some sort of flower, and I couldn't quite figure it out, I thought maybe it was a calendula that self seeded, or some sort of other wild flower. Well- we figured out what it was as soon as it flowered- Night flowering catchfly. It's got very a very distinctive veined base on it's flower- which is sticky to the touch. It's not a noxious weed- but not good among clover and forage crops. I think we'll let it grow for a bit here- though maybe we'll dead head it. It's not among my worst weeds, though I suppose if I let it go to seed it will be. I think the flowers likley attract some beneficial insects to the garden and it doesn't seem as prolific as some weeds, like shepards purse which produce seeds like crazy.

Anyhow- here's a link to a good weed i.d. website for manitoba weeds.

Friday, June 22, 2012

In the Garden

these lovely heirloom potatoes are really growing well- seems amazing after our potato flop last year.

"Speckled Trout" lettuce- almost ready for eating.

"Bright Lights" swiss chard- our favorite garden staple

Tansy in bloom by the asparagus

The Peonies are buzzing with bees- and smelling delicious.
 It's starting to grow well this garden, we're starting to catch up on weeding, and looking forward to some first harvests of Lettuce and Strawberries and Rhubarb. I was happy to find a few volunteers while weeding- some Borage re seeded itself and Dill. I'm always on the lookout for beneficial volunteers in the garden but so far haven't really had much in that way- tilling the pathways probably stops them in their tracks. This year I've planted things that are notoriously good self seeders-Bachelors Buttons, and Poppies, Cilantro and Dill. Apparently Calendula will self sow too- but I've never had it happen for me- though this year I've planted a lot of it- hoping to save the petals to add to soap and salves.

Anyways things are getting bigger out there- the garden is looking more full than ever before, and I'm hoping to make a couple of scarecrows this weekend to try and keep the deer away. We've been very lucky so far but it looks like we're going to have to fence the darn garden at some point, because the deer are randomly eating things, it's seemingly impossible to detect what they're going to try next. Every other year they've demolished the peas and left everything else, and I'm sort of okay with that- we were going to fence the peas in this year, and I've planted twice what I think we need/want to shell and freeze, but they've left them alone so far, and have instead nibbled at my beans, and sunflowers, and eaten the entire grape vine which was finally ( three years after transplanting) growing pretty well. I wouldn't at all be suprised if they started eating the prickly squash plants and Rhubarb too.  Anyone have any ideas about how to keep those deer out of the garden?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In the Garden

Some random garden photos from the last week; bees are loving our no pesticide lawn- the dandelions are flourishing- lovely maple seeds hanging from the trees providing a nice frame for my garden helper- the heart warming blooms of the strawberry plants, can't wait to pick those babies.

All of these photos have been edited in Picmonkey- a very cool and free photo editing program. I haven't played much with this type of thing (outside of photoshop in school- which was not so much fun as it was an exercise in patience- not an easy program to drop into and use without spending considerable time learning how it works). Picmonkey is very easy to use, and  I can see that once you start fiddling with the photos it's pretty addicting. I tried to post a few photos that were just edited in my regular way (we use Irfanview for every day editing- colour adjustments, resizing, cropping etc. but it doesn't have any fun special effect filters) along with the ones that I toyed with, but they looked pretty bland next to the super saturated colours in the filtered ones.

The nice thing about Picmonkey is that you can make things look like a Polaroid or daguerreotype, or give it rounded corners and a vintage feel- and they do all the work for you- but you can still customise the degree of the effects. It takes seconds to use it, and you can also make collages and give people hats and mustaches if you want to- plus loads of other things. Of course I'm still thinking that you've got to start out with a basically decent photo if you want to get any sort of great result, but this program is super easy to use, so it's ideal to play around with every once in a while.

Friday, June 15, 2012

In the Studio

I think I have to face the music and say that the clay work is going to be over until after the baby is born. I kind of hate saying that because I had just looked up a bunch of glaze recipes to try and bought some new stains that I wanted to check out- and I just bought more boxes of clay. But, in all honesty the physical nature of the work is probably too much for me right now. I'll have to save what energy I have for weeding (have you ever stood in your garden that needs weeding, and not been able to do it? It's darn hard to resist the urge to just bend down and pull out some plants).

I may get a couple more firings done before the baby arrives, those luminaries I made are just waiting to be loaded in the kiln and fired to cone 10, and then they'll be done and I'd love to have them finished this summer. But yesterday, when I realised that I would have to actually take it easier, not just think about taking it easier- I dug out the old samsonite cosmetic case I used for drawing and watercolour in university, and we had a little painting session.

I love the way that old case smells- musty and slightly unpleasant thrift store mixed with charcoal dust. It reminds me sharply of the basement drawing classes in university. The night classes, where we would all sit silently and draw in a darkened room, soft music playing whispering if we had to talk at all- our usual relationships and chat non-existent because of the models. I think it was my favorite part of school- the night classes, they were like a time out of time- occupying a space all their own.

I think I'll re-jig this case to allow for some outdoor work this summer- restock it with drawing and watercolour stuff and maybe make a special spot in it for the camera to sit as well. I've been thinking more and more about the camera as a creative tool- really trying to be mindful when I take my photos and edit them, to think of the end result as more than just documentation of my day.  So I'll put more energy into that camera work as well. It'll be nice to get into some paint again though,  a way to get some creative work in, while taking it easy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bleeding Hearts

 My bleeding heart plants are blooming right now, and they are so lovely as cut flowers. I dug out a couple of pieces of the main plant this year and put them in a couple of other spots, and I really just wanted to write about how easy it was to divide this plant. I really only wanted one plant, but in the process of digging, I split a little more than I meant to and figured I would plant it anyhow and see what happened, and it grew, and is blooming now. It was honestly only a very small portion of root- more like bark from the root really, but in a couple of days it had shoots, and now blooms!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pacing ourselves

The old iron bed I made an outdoor cushion for will eventually go by the garden- but for now it's sitting in between the spruce trees on the lane, and it's a wonderfully private place to relax and enjoy a cuddle.

The remnants of some cold sticky treat are ever present around N's mouth these hot days.


I've been trying to learn how to pace myself this last little while. You see, this whole making a baby inside me thing is sort of tough work, and for some reason this pregnancy is taking a little more effort on my part. I don't know if I just don't remember how it felt the first time- recalling only those last super nesting days (months) when I was like a hurricane of weeding and pickling and baking and sewing, and painting and redecorating, and blanching and freezing.  Seriously, I kept a journal of my daily chores- it is mind boggling- on the day N was due I made two types of pickles (which included pulling the veggies from the garden, and cleaning them), baked a pie- (peach raspberry with a lattice top- hands down one of the best pies I've ever made), and cleaned the house in preparation for a new couch being delivered. I am not feeling that Superwoman vibe this time around, and I think I've got more on my plate now too.

So  I'm trying to adopt a pace somewhere between toddler and my normal non-hormonal self, which would be a good one I think, if I can garner enough patience to immerse myself in it. I've been paying attention to my girl a lot lately- the way that she can focus on a task for about 30-40 minutes and then it's time for a break, a snack, a rest, a story, just something different. When she starts fidgeting or filling my shoes with dirt- or trying to sit on my lap while I crouch down to weed plants it's a sign that she's had enough for now, and it's probably time for me to have a break too.

I'm really trying to take my work and fit it into little bite size chunks, to accept that what would usually take me a day or two will take double that time right now. I'm trying to remind myself to rest now and again, to take a page from the toddler's book and set aside a few moments to listen to the bees, or play with the worms, or to just do everything a bit  more slowly. Sometimes I find myself rushing around doing something harmless, but the speed I'm doing it at is totally too much, it's like extreme kitchen cleaning or something, and that will wear a person out.

The funny thing about all this is that normally my Toddler's pace drives me crazy when I have stuff to do. I also get frustrated with the way they are so intense and busy at certain times, then totally lackadaisical other times. I like to get stuff done, I like to get it done efficiently, both my husband and I value timeliness, and concise working habits- which are not big on the toddler skill list. Sometimes though, you miss things when you hurry about your work, and there's something magical about the way that a Toddler will take their time to do things and allow their curiosity to choose their direction. It's sometimes frustrating as a busy parent- but you have to admire it as well, you know?

I feel like one of the things that N has taught me is patience, and I value that immensely- the biggest compliments I've gotten as a parent have been when someone tells me that I'm so patient with her (usually after hearing me coerce her to do something, like try to sit on the potty, or put clothes on). Patience is a value that doesn't come naturally to me, it's probably the thing I work hardest at cultivating in myself. It's also one of the first things to fly out the window when I'm tired or stressed or whatever, that's why it's such a big compliment to hear how patient I am with N. It's an effort for me to be that patient, but I want her to learn that skill early on, to learn that it is something you can learn to be. Maybe the thing that this yet to be born babe will teach me is how to be patient with myself- because that is way tougher than just being patient with the adorable blondie who will cry when I'm not patient with her.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mulch Mania

My struggling tomato transplants. I like to imagine them sighing with relief when I put the mulch down

This week's task is mulching the garden- not all of it- but as much as we can get done, to try to help the plants fight this dry windy spell we've been having. Last year was the first year I'd used mulch in the garden- I had always associated it with those horrible cedar bark nuggets that don't ever ever go away on their own- so not something I thought I'd like in a vegetable garden where we till and change things every year. But I know it's a big part of bio dynamic/organic/good gardening practices, so I gave it a try.

We chose to use grass clippings instead of straw mulch, for a couple of reasons- firstly we have a lot of grass that we keep mown, close to 10 acres all told I think, so the grass clippings are readily available to us, and secondly they decompose easily- easier than straw anyhow- so you can just till them in at the end of the season, and they won't tie up as much nitrogen while breaking down as hardwood chips or straw. They also look nice drying out to resemble a fine straw- which looks better (to me) than plastic or newspapers (though I hear that newspaper blocks weeds better).

Anyhow last year we mulched for weed control- this year we're mulching to keep moisture in. It's a big job, but it's pretty satisfying to know that you can do something (besides watering for hours) to help the plants cope with these 30 degree windy days.

Friday, June 1, 2012


We gardeners always seem to be longing for some sort of weather different than what we have, last year too much water, this year too little rain, but this week we've sort of remedied that, it's been a little wetter, mostly on the days that I wanted to get some work done outside, but hey it's tough to complain- when things are taking so long to germinate because it's so dry. We've had really windy days out here, and that makes things dry out quicker. We bought a little 50 gallon tank that fits the back of our 'gator, and so far it's been the best investment yet- we've been keeping the strawberries watered and they look really good so far, only two of them haven't taken- so two out of sixty ain't bad.

Anyhow- we've been out transplanting, and my mom is visiting from out west, so we've been soaking up Nana, and doing some sewing, and planting and mulching and weeding, and making chocolate chip cookies, and perogies, it's been a nice visit. As always, when Mom visits I plan too much stuff to do and we only get a portion done, but I'm pleased to say that we got some cushions sewn up for some outdoor furniture, and I'm excited to get it outside and take some photos of it, not to mention enjoy the summer out lounging on it.