Thursday, May 29, 2008

Living and the garden

I guess I have some fairly unusual ideas of what constitutes an "education". I don't necessarily agree that having someone "teach" bits and pieces of disconnected information - a curriculum - to a child makes for a proper education. I don't believe that this makes for a "smarter" person...or for a more "successful" life (and I certainly don't agree with our society's definition of success). For my children, it has always been more important to me that they learn about things in context as much as possible - to learn through living and doing. I think of my children (as well as myself) as life-long learners and so I feel no need to make sure the years from age 5 to 18 are taken up with filling them full of information that someone else has deemed necessary. In general, it seems to me that a little more priority placed on learning "real" things wouldn't be a bad idea - common-sense (not so common anymore), practical, real-life things like an awareness of, and respect for, the natural world (which most of our ancestors came by naturally). So, while some parents might thrill that their kids have memorized the periodic table, aced a test in algebra or are able to recite one of Shakespeare's sonnets I tend to find pleasure in different things (although I do love Shakespeare). The other day E was out in the garden and I mentioned to him that he might want to check if he needed to weed his garden bed. He went to have a look, pulled a few things and then told me that the remaining tiny sprouts were lamb's quarter and he would leave those to grow so he could eat them. I went over to have a look and sure enough, he had identified some tiny sprouts as the lamb's quarter that we had eaten often in the past. I said that I was impressed that he could recognize them when they were so small and he told me that it was because they had a bit of a silvery look to the leaves - this made it easy for him to identify. Can I tell you how pleased this makes me? That an 8 year old can recognize wild foods when they are tiny. I really don't see what can be a more essential part of an "education" than how to get or grow our own food. Really...I see it as essential. Vital. How far would we get in life without food?

I often wonder how different schools would be if every one of them had a huge garden in the schoolyard, if every child had the opportunity to dig in the dirt, observe the insects and other critters and taste the products of their own work. I'm so pleased to hear that some schools are starting programs like this and I hope that the children taking part are given the chance to "just be" in the garden. I think there is a lot to be learned when we have the chance to just be.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Victory Gardens

I am a big fan of Victory gardens; I find them to be a very inspiring example of what can be done and what has been done when necessary, I would like to see more of these gardens just because...not because we need to but because we want to. I came across this link to the 100 foot diet (or Victory garden) this morning on the Path to Freedom sight, this is a very inspiring family from California. I think it is worth a watch.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Oh how I love my columbines. And, I love gardening quotes too. Thought I would share some of each today.
In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful. ~Abram L. UrbanI never had any other desire so strong, and so like to covetousness, as that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last of a small house and a large Garden. ~Abraham Cowley, The Garden, 1666It is utterly forbidden to be half-hearted about gardening. You have got to love your garden whether you like it or not. ~W.C. Sellar & R.J. Yeatman, Garden Rubbish, 1936 (hee, hee) It takes a while to grasp that not all failures are self-imposed, the result of ignorance, carelessness or inexperience. It takes a while to grasp that a garden isn't a testing ground for character and to stop asking, what did I do wrong? Maybe nothing. ~Eleanor Perényi, Green Thoughts, 1981 (this one, I think, is a good lesson for all of life, not just the garden)Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than emperors.~Mary Cantwell
Isn't that one above such a beautiful colour? It is the softest shade of dusky mauve. And can you see the little critter in this one below? So many wonders in the garden.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Roots and shoots

I love seeing plants send out roots and shoots. Yesterday I was planting some more beans and pulling a few weeds out of the bean bed; I found this little one and only noticed what it was after I had ripped it out.It looks like a peach tree to me. I called the boys over to show them and instead of admiring its beauty, they asked me why I didn't plant it. I like the way the inside bit of the peach pit looks so much like an almond.Anyway, W took it off somewhere and planted it. They come by this honestly as they know that I have such a hard time tossing baby plants in the compost bin. Then when I was planting more cukes I found this.We often have walnut trees springing up and I have no problem ripping them out, but this year, when I actually wanted a walnut tree for a friend, I have had a hard time finding any (I think it is because our dog has done such a good job of eating all the one we didn't pick up). I tucked this one into a pot just in case someone wants it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Love that chocolate

Not that I think plain dark chocolate has any need to be improved upon but every once in a while I like to make these chocolate treats for my boys. They are quick and easy and chock-full of good stuff.
All I do is melt some of the Rancho Vignola dark chocolate chips that I have stored in the freezer and then add whatever fruits and nuts we like. This time I added our homegrown walnuts, some coconut and Rancho Vignola raisins, dried apricots and hemp seeds.

I mix the fruit and nuts into the melted chocolate and then drop the mixture by spoonfuls onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Put them into the freezer for a bit to set and then they are ready.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Testing, testing, one, two, peas??

I have one very long bed that I usually plant peas in. I start mid-March and continue for about a month and a half so that we will have fresh peas for awhile. I usually do at least a double row on each side of the wire support that lines one side of this bed. Still, I rarely get many of these since my pea-lovin' son tends to go out first thing and eat them each morning. This Spring I was reading Dick Raymonds' Gardening Year and he suggested that peas don't need to be planted against a support, that you can plant them in blocks and they will mostly support each other. I wanted to test that theory out because then I would be able to grow peas anywhere without the need for support and it would also make rotation easier. (I tend to always plant my peas in the same place just because I already have the sturdy support in place)Here is my test block about 10 days ago and here it is today. We will see how it works.

If they do hold up well I can see that we might have a lot more peas next year.

Since I tend to get a tiny bit carried away with talk (and pictures) of gardening, I thought I would post most of my flower pictures over here and keep this blog for veggie gardening. (until I bore everyone there with too many flower pictures and then have to start posting them here) ;-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tree Peony

When we moved to this house we fell in love with the huge tree peony up front. It has been slowing dying over the years but it still manages to give some gorgeous blooms. When I was pregnant with E my midwife suggested that I choose an image to focus on for labour. I thought the peony blossom would be perfect - the buds are so tight and closed but within days they open so fully and beautifully. It's a good image to use when your goal is the opening of your cervix. Anyway, my labours are so fast that I don't really get time to use any kind of image or focus on anything other than the fact that I am having a baby - Now!!
But, every time I look at this tree peony in bloom it reminds me of being pregnant with E, so that is a pretty lovely thing to focus on too.

Monday, May 19, 2008


So, about those peppers I mentioned. I meant to get a few and came home with this many.Let's see, here's my excuse. Last year I went to someone's garden and they had pepper plants like you have never seen pepper plants...well, at least I never have. They looked about the size of a healthy blueberry bush with loads of lush green foliage and dozens (no, really!!) of peppers on each plant. My peppers, by comparison, looked scrawny and had only about 4 or 5 peppers on each, which I had always been satisfied with before, but now I know what they can look like I want to do better. I'm not really one to do jealousy (I've never understood the point? Why waste energy being jealous? If it is something you want badly enough that you would feel that way then find a way to make it happen in your own life, you know?) but I have to admit that looking at those peppers I could understand envy. So, before jealousy could rear its ugly head I decided that I too would grow peppers like that next time. Here they are, all tucked in with some compost and (mostly) mulched with grass clippings. (I need to find more mulch!!) I have my pigeon poop tea brewing and plan on topdressing with compost and fertilizing with comfrey tea often. I am determined. I will have lush peppers this year. ;-)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What I have been doing yesterday and today

I think that I had almost 70 tomato seedling that I had started from seed, some were big and healthy, some were quite small. I went to a local nursery Saturday morning intending to buy a few pepper plants only - I need peppers for salsa. I just happened to peek at the tomato plants - mostly just to feel pleased that I had all my homegrown ones at home just waiting to go into the garden- as I was looking (somewhat disparagingly) at the usual tomatoes that you always see at nurseries I noticed some names that sounded like heirloom tomatoes to me. I found Striped German, Old German, Purple Cherokee and Black Krim, all for just $1.49 per 4 pack. I know, $1.49 for could I resist? How could I? Well, obviously I couldn't, and I think I showed admirable restraint in buying only one carton of each.
When I got home I googled them all and they sound delicious too.

They look so big and healthy too. I brought them home and added them to my stock of other tomatoes to go into their beds. Here they all are yesterday at lunchtime.I spent most of yesterday afternoon and most of today so far putting in all these.

Here are three beds - the two biggest and one regular size.

I have also put cages around most and done some more mulching but am quickly running out of mulch.I have finished two more beds since these pictures and still have more seedlings - my mom brought me 8 that she started. I am thinking that I can still find spots here and then to tuck some in. You can never have too many tomatoes...right? More later....

Friday, May 16, 2008


Tuesday it was rainy here so I used the time inside to stock up on more snacks. It is so convenient to have snacks on hand for outing days and I especially like to have enough to stock the freezer. I made a big batch of maple syrup roasted almonds and enough energy orbs to last us a little while.This batch started with the usual equal-ish amounts of ground almonds and dates with some ground flax, cinnamon and a bit of concentrated orange juice, then I added some hemp seeds and ground dried apricots. Yum!

The next morning I made some more pumpkin muffins with some of the vast quantity of pumpkin I froze in the Fall. I thought these would be a great snack for an afternoon at the BMX track with our homelearning group. Too bad I forgot the container I packed them in at home.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Saving seeds

I have always saved flower seeds (it's just so fun to be able to spread flowers around wherever you go. When I first read Miss Rumphius I wanted to be her, and I just happened to already have a lot of Lupin seeds in jars) but it was these beans that got me into saving vegetable seeds.
They are a simple pole bean but what I like about them is that they seem to stay tender for a long time (for those sort of people who forget to pick regularly or go camping lots). They are also very productive and they taste good raw or cooked (especially cooked and then topped with ground almonds toasted in butter with a sprinkle of Parmesan and lemon).

This year I feel lucky to know some other gardeners who are also interested in seed saving. These carrots were seeds given to me by two garden goddesses. I have two little rows coming up and I just planted two more. I think they are multi-coloured ones, aren't they Andrea?
And these are some beets that are finally sprouting. I was reminded yesterday that I want to plant extra this year so I can make huge vats of borscht to freeze for the Winter months.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rhubarb sauce

Well, I was going to show you a picture of our first rhubarb didn't last long enough to photograph. (OK, actually I was distracted by how yummy it looked and we ate it before I even thought to take a picture)

It was a rhubarb strawberry sauce that we ate over custard. I have never made a baked custard before and it was not a particular hit, we ended up just eating the sauce on its own...and that was a hit. Next picking of rhubarb will be made into rhubarb cake, this is something that I have found even people who don't like rhubarb will want seconds of.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


The same asparagus sharing friend also sent me home with a clump of comfrey. I've planted it next to one of the cherry trees and can't wait for it to start spreading. I plan on using it as fertilizer and in my compost piles. (I decided not to plant it in a way to contain it, D, I decided that I would go ahead and let it spread - all the better to use and share more. Could those be famous last words??)
There is a blurb about comfrey here that I like...not too sure about the bit warning that comfrey fertilizer will smell like open sewage. Neighbours might not like that!!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Even more flowers

My husband and I enjoy our flowers for many reasons, one of the reasons is that we very much like to photograph these willing subjects.

This is the kind of bleeding heart that my mom used to first teach me this story of how the bleeding heart got its name. These used to grow wild where I grew up and I used to pick bouquets of these, wild forget-me-nots and other flowers to sell for 25 cents a bunch.

This flowering quince also came from my childhood home, I dug up a piece before my parents sold the property. I think it is a very simple, elegant and lovely plant.

Even a fallen petal can have extraordinary beauty - just look at the "veins" in the petal. So delicate.

If you aren't all flowered out yet and want to see more flower pics, check here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Handmade fun

I was telling someone recently about the years of enjoyment my boys have found in this swing my Dad made.Everyone visiting our house always wants to try it, and I will confess to spending my fair share of time on it when we first got it (I always wanted a horse but never got one, this'll have to do). It is made from an old tire, a little creativity and a bit of patience. This is a good example of some frugal fun.

A handmade gift

From 8-year-old E to me for Mother's day.How cool of a gift is that? He took something that he is passionate about (Lego) and turned it into a gift for me. I love it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Yesterday, after 3 weeks of running out to check the mailbox each day, E rushed into the back yard with a cheer and an envelope. (I'm talking a really big cheer and arms up in the air with victory.) He was thrilled to get his seeds in the mail and immediately wanted to plant. We had already spent some time that morning preparing his garden bed because he was determined that his seeds would arrive that day. (Normally the seeds would have come much more quickly but apparently the seed company - The Cottage Gardener- has had such an increase in orders that they were not able to keep up. I think that hearing that a heirloom organic seed company has had such an increase in orders is such good news that it easily made up for E having to wait.)
So he spent yesterday afternoon planting two different mixes of lettuce and a variety of carrots in his bed. He also planted his Moon and Stars watermelon inside. (oh, he is so excited about this, and has great plans to supply all his friends and family with seeds from his crop so that they can also grow this melon next year).
I also noticed that three of my zucchini are spouted. I had planted three seeds and covered them with a milk jug to keep them warm a few weeks ago; I love to get an early start on zucchini.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Abundance, actually quite often, the abundance of this earth astonishes me. These past few days as I have spent time in the yard I look around in awe, really. All of our fruit trees are in some stage of blossom. The apricot is just finishing, the ground beneath it littered with blossoms; the big old cherry trees are in full, stunning bloom, even though one of them is almost at the end of its life; the peach tree has its lovely dark pink flowers; the Saskatoon shows off its gorgeous blooms as if to make up for the lack of regard we have for its fruit; the Santa Rosa plum has long graceful branches sweeping upwards filled with blooms - white showing on blue sky; the apples, pear and Italian plum are just beginning to show some colour on their blossoms and the air in our yard seems perfumed with the scent of all these mixed together. The whole world seems gorgeous from where I stand. I mentioned to a friend that this past week I have felt as if waking from a long winter nap...the cooler Spring weather has had a bit of a damper on things in the garden; it seems as though nature is now trying to make up for it in one gorgeous non-stop show of blooming. It's wonderful.