Tuesday, 30 July 2013

I Love Where I Live: Garry Point

There are so many reasons why I love living in Steveston, in the southwest corner of Richmond, B.C. but I have to start somewhere, so I'm going to begin with Garry Point, which is at the mouth of the Fraser River where it meets the Gulf of Georgia.

The Gulf Islands can be seen in the distance.

Garry Point was once the fishing home of the Musqueam First Nation, who later worked in the canneries in the area at the height of the fishing industry in the area. The slough and tidal flats were home to Japanese-Canadian boat builders, a cannery, and housing for the cannery workers. The slough was later dredged and a fishing fleet was moored at Scotch Pond, on the northern side of the point.

The Kuno Japanese Garden

Today the park has links to the past, with the Kuno Japanese garden celebrating the centennial of the first Japanese immigrants to Canada, the Fishermen's memorial honouring the lives and deaths of Steveston fishermen, and Scotch Pond, which is still home to a few boats of the Steveston fishing fleet, which is is largest in Canada today.

Fishing boats in Scotch Pond

I have memories from my childhood of sliding down the giant sand dunes, which today are covered in various grasses and flowers. We enjoy riding our bikes down to the park year round, as every season has something to offer.
My younger two daughters enjoying a windy day, flying
their kite with the Fishermen's Memorial in the distance.

In the spring and summer the park is ideal for flying kites and riding kite buggies. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to see teams practicing their tandem kite flying.

Kite buggy riding looks exciting!

In the winter, if we are lucky, the soggy ground freezes, making for a very temporary outdoor ice skating rink.

The ice doesn't last for long here on the west coast.

Perhaps my favourite thing to do when I visit is to just go to one of the small sandy beaches and watch the fishing boats and ocean-going cargo ships travel up and down the river.

One of the fishing fleet going out to sea.

Although my girls and I like visiting other local beaches as well, Garry Point is our go-to beach and is ideal for a last minute adventure when we to need to get out of the house. There are driftwood forts to explore where my girls like to pretend they are shipwrecked.

The forts are a favourite of my girls.

The water is pretty murky, being at the mouth of the river with lots of silt (the riverbed is routinely dredged for the larger ships), but it is still fun to play at the water's edge.

Sand + water = happiness

Sand really is all kids need for imaginative play. I leave buckets in the back of my bike trailer so we are always ready for an impromptu visit to the beach.

They love pretending to be mermaids.

Many photographers are drawn to the area for the spectacular sunsets and views of the Gulf Islands.

Looking out over Scotch Pond.

In the summer it is hard to leave with park without a snack at Pajo's for fish and chips...

...or an ice cream cone at Timothy's.

I love that all of this is just a short bike ride from my home.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Summer Reading

While I was out today I stopped in at West Coast Seeds in Ladner, B.C. I was child-free for a couple of hours so I thought I would enjoy just browsing, instead of the power shopping I do when I have everyone in tow.

Of course I only meant to window shop at my leisure. I had no intention of buying any gardening books.

So imagine my surprise when these jumped into my arms!

How could I resist two books about organic vegetable gardening in my particular area? I mean, really. I had no other option.

I put another book back and added it to my wish list. To my delight, in the book I found a high school friend, and local agronomist and agrologist who has been involved in the Terra Nova Sharing Farm here in Richmond.

Now I just need to book some time in the Mama Do Nothing Chair and get reading.

Friday, 19 July 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Amanda Soule at SouleMama.  
"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments."

Perfectionism Detox

Over at The Green Phone Booth I'm pondering the impact of perfectionism on an eco-conscious life.


Monday, 15 July 2013

A Garden Transformation

When I decided to move from container gardening to raised garden beds, an idea was planted (pun intended) to slowly, over time, replace my lawn with a vegetable garden big enough to feed my family.

It wasn't hard to make the decision to cover my grass with a garden, and raised beds were necessary because most of the existing soil is full of clay. The previous owners ensured that most of the gardening area has unusable ground. There was once a swimming pool in our backyard, and instead of removing the concrete and fill with soil when they no longer wanted the pool, they filled it with rocks then covered everything with a thin layer of soil and sod. The grass on top now requires a great deal of moisture to remain full and green. In our Wet Coast winter, when we have week after week of rain, my lawn is lush and green. In the summer heat my lawn becomes patchy and brown.

The two beds in late spring last year.

We started with one raised bed three years ago. In it I grew tomatoes that suffered from blossom drop for most of the summer, chard, kale, and potatoes. The second year we added another bed and expanded to peas, beans, radishes, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, beets, zucchinis and pumpkins. In containers I grew carrots, lettuce and a host of herbs. And yes, it was all very crowded.

This year we increased our raised beds to four. I was excited about all the possibilities. I have added quinoa, garlic, mustard, some heritage greens, horseradish (in containers) along with increasing the amount of everything I planted last year.

The four beds in early May.

But I had even bigger plans than doubling our garden space. I wanted to create a definite garden space by mulching around the beds and creating some extra space for my current containers and a mini raised bed for my daughters.

This photo has nothing to do with my garden transformation, except that
it is taken near my garden. I just wanted to sharehow awesome my daughter is. 

It's funny how I have no eye for decorating my home. I cannot walk into a room and visualize how amazing it can be. I have always been envious of friends whose homes are spotless and stylish, seemingly with little effort. Similarly I cannot plan how to make a flower bed look full and colourful but I do have a crystal clear idea of what I want my veggie garden to look like in the long term.

Mid June

So I set about planning how I was going to mulch my garden area. After reading about green methods of mulching, including straw or layers of wetted newspaper, I settled upon using garden fabric (plastic). Neither the straw nor newspapers would be aesthetically pleasing for me next to our eating area on my patio, and although I have read that the newspaper would be very effective (for the season), and straw would reduce the amount of grass and weeds I would have, I wanted a more permanent solution. I spent a great deal of money on the bark mulch and I don't want to be redoing the things each year. In the end I think I spent about $350 in total on the mulch (the bulk of the total cost), the plastic fabric, mini garden bed kit for my daughters, some additional containers, another hanging basket of flowers and some solar lights. I could have reduced the cost by getting fine wood mulch, but I was worried about it getting tracked into my home on little feet or blowing away in a strong storm. I went with small and medium sized bark pieces.

Early July. Everything looks so scruffy to me because of the patchy grass.

Of course I picked the three hottest days over the past week to start. I realized that while I have a vision, I have absolutely no knowledge or experience. Laying the fabric, while time-consuming, was not challenging. As soon as I started trying to put dow the garden edging I figured out that it was pretty much impossible to dig deep enough in our lawn to place the edging because it is so hard and dry. I sat down, dripping in sweat and gave up. I started to cry because I had just spent two 7+ hour days getting to that point and I couldn't turn back. My daughter saw me and came out to give me words of encouragement and a hug, which made me cry a little harder. I decided to take a break, and after a long afternoon nap and subsequently staying up half the night fretting about what I was going to do, I figured it out.

You can see how awful the lawn in in this pic. I was happy to cover it up.

Thanks to a couple of hours of labour on my husband's part, we finished the edging and I could pack soil down next to it to ensure it was firmly in place. Over time the grass will fill there and it will look a little more finished. By the end of the day I had my daughters' garden area built, everything put back and my outdoor "room" decorated. It may not be perfect, or exactly what I saw in my head, but I am proud of what I have accomplished. The best part is that I now I have greatly reduced the amount of lawn I have to cut with my push mower, one of my least favourite garden jobs.

The mini garden bed kit was very easy to put together. My three year old decided that we would be garden fairies for the day so we wore fairy wings while we built it. She loved helping to bang the pieces firmly into place using a mallet while I screwed other pieces together. She's been banging things with her toy hammer ever since. 

It doesn't show up well in the photos, but the mulch has created a nice defined space for my garden. Now something that is growing food for my family looks, and smells great.

I like the extra space on the left side that I added for all of my container plants. I have tomatoes, horseradish, celery, basil, thyme, rosemary, strawberries and additional greens growing. I love how I don't need to move all the containers around to cut the grass, which is really more weeds and clover than anything now. 

The bark mulch has created a pleasing path around the beds. The bonus is that I don't have to use the weed whacker to get rid of the long grass that grows beside them. The space between them is too narrow for my push mower to fit. 

Here is one more gratuitous shot of my daughter, standing next to the quinoa, which is now taller than our fence. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Time for a Tune Up

Time for clean eating. Luckily my backyard garden can
provide delicious meals like this salad.
Lately I have been feeling not quite right after eating. Bloated, gassy, cramps, lethargic, acne, weight gain. I knew what I had to do - detox.
The time wasn't right until school was over for the year when I would have more time to plan, shop, prep, cook and clean up every meal, as I can have no processed, convenience foods that I occasionally rely on when I am busy working. I have detoxed many times in the past so I knew what I was getting into with this. Before having children I did an extended candida cleanse for a year and then at regular intervals throughout the year (aiming for two to three times a year). With what felt like almost constant pregnancy and breastfeeding this wasn't possible for the past eight years (I did one or two in the short breaks before getting pregnant again). 

I decided to start the new year by giving up coffee as a first step in detoxing and making myself feel better. I knew that coffee "owned" me and I didn't like it. I wanted to see if I could make it one month and reevaluate at that point to see if I wanted to go back to drinking it. To my happiness I discovered that my PMS symptoms, which had gotten quite unbearable, vanished. So that was a no-brainer: coffee was out! Except for one mocha frappuccino in Disneyland after several 12+ hour days in the park, I have been coffee and caffeine free for almost seven months. I still enjoy a morning hot drink ritual so I have found several herbal teas I enjoy (rooibos teas for their boldness). The difference this has made for my monthly cycle cannot be overstated. 

From food and allergy testing I know I am intolerant of dairy, corn, sugar, caffeine and chocolate (!). I have found that in small doses I can have these foods in my regular diet and if I notice any issues I cut back or cut them out for a while. However, I am wondering if I should be retested for gluten because of the bloating and cramps I have after a heavily carb centred meal. 

These fruits are out. Good thing I don't really like them.
These are for my daughters.
The detox I am following is similar to the candida diet I followed over a decade ago. I have eliminated dairy, sugar (including honey and molasses) and sweet fruits (limited to "local" fruits like apples, berries, and non sweet fruits like lemons and limes), flours (even gluten free flours), fermented foods (including soy sauce, vinegars), peanuts, mushrooms and alcohol. I am eating a lot of quinoa, rice, beans, lentils, leafy vegetables and root vegetables, onions, garlic, cherries and local berries, among other foods. 

As I write this I am halfway through the extreme phase of the detox. I plan on continuing some of the healthy habits after completing the detox. There are, however, some negatives. 

Pros of the Detox:
  • I don't feel bloated, crampy and gassy in the hours after eating. This took a few days but now I don't feel so lethargic and cranky after eating. Goal achieved!
  • I am rediscovering foods and ways of cooking that I have enjoyed in the past. 
  • We have had some amazingly delicious guilt-free food: My husband cooked a yummy meal seasoned with nothing but tonnes of garlic, ginger and coconut oil. Best meal this detox!
  • I know that this a short term food plan and I can slowly add in foods I want to eat again at my leisure. 
  • We are cooking whole foods and eating at home almost exclusively. No processed food at all!
  • I do not miss dairy as much as I have in the past. 
  • Avoiding flours and starches has not been as challenging as I was worried it would be.
  • Doing it at this time of year when there is so much delicious local produce has made it easy to avoid all sugars.
    All local, all delicious! I can eat as much of these as I want.
  • I know this is short term.
  • I needed a kick-start to eating more whole foods and this has worked. 
  • Planning meals for our whole family has not been hard. Our daughters largely eat what we are eating (or at least portions of what we are eating), but they are still enjoying limited processed food (one battle at a time) and sweets. 
  • Avoiding ice cream has not been hard at all. Even though it is summer I don't miss it because my last experience with ice cream is what clinched the deal on this detox for me. Gut. Wrenching. Cramps.

Cons of the Detox:
  • I have to plan my outings around mealtimes as I either have to bring food with me or choose where I eat carefully. We have had one meal out and I found one dish I could order, minus the sauce.
  • Socializing, which usually involves food, is difficult. I dislike giving a list of food restrictions to hosts. We have had to time this detox to be in between family celebrations.
  • It has been a challenge to make sauces without soy sauce and balsamic vinegar (staples in my cooking repertoire) and salad dressings without vinegar.
  • I miss chocolate so much. 
  • I miss alcohol almost more than chocolate. I enjoy having a nice drink while cooking dinner and I am looking forward to having it again.
  • It has been challenging watching our daughters enjoy cold treats like the Hawaiian shaved ice treat at the farmer's market and freezies in the summer heat.
    It was a hot day and I was jealous
    that I couldn't have a taste of her shaved ice.
  • I have been crankier and more hungry, although that is definitely getting better. Sorry family.

I intend on adding alcohol and my homemade chocolate (made with coconut oil and honey) almost immediately upon finishing the detox. Unless my problems persist I am crossing my fingers that flours can come back, albeit a bit more limited. I will be a little slower adding flours back into my diet and I hope to make more with alternative gluten-free flours such as amaranth, kamut, and coconut "flour" for treats.

Overall this detox has been a good restart for me. I knew that making gradual changes to move away from the processed food I eat would never happen because I am an all or nothing person. I needed this "shock" to my system. For that reason alone the detox has been successful - I have had zero processed foods and I am surviving quite nicely. 

Friday, 5 July 2013

Small Space Gardening Methods

Over at The Green Phone Booth I'm blogging about how I increase garden yields when space is limited.


{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Amanda Soule at SouleMama.  
"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments."

Monday, 1 July 2013

Happy Canada Day

The Salmon Day Festival in my community Steveston is the kick off to the summer. I am proud to be Canadian, although this has been tempered by actions by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. I worry that Canada's reputation has taken a hit with pulling out of international agreements on the environment, promotion of the tar sands in Alberta and the Keystone pipeline proposal, muzzling of scientists, cutting funding to much needed programs and labeling of environmentalists as "radical"

Are we radical if we care about the air
we breathe, water we drink and food we eat?
picture source: David Suzuki Foundation

I hope to do my part to make Canada a peaceful home to all. It is even more important now to walk the walk and live as I believe. 

Salmon Day Festival parade in Steveston for Canada Day today.