Friday, 18 October 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."

This week my moment will include words. I went to the Jack Johnson concert at the gorgeous Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver and it was so fabulous. I love Jack's laid back music and the values and lifestyle he promotes. He cares deeply about the environment and there were various local environmental groups promoting their causes at his concert; he matches the donations that these groups receive. His concert lived up to all my expectations. My favourite part was during the encore when he experimented with going completely unplugged, no mics or amps. The audience was absolutely silent in order to hear him. Then he invited his band and the opening act, Bahamas, on stage, and along with the audience singing along, it was magical.

Feminism Versus An Eco DIY Lifestyle

I am passionate about gardening, the environment, my family, and making things with my own two hands. Now that I have gotten off my lurking behind and fully embraced social media with a Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest account, and a personal blog, I feel like I have found my tribe. I used to be more quiet about my crunchy leanings, but now I feel more confident to embrace what makes me happy.

After seeing author Emily Matchar interviewed on television talking about her book Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracingthe New Domesticity, I was intrigued enough to buy the book. She spoke about the rising trend of people, with women leading the charge, who are moving toward a more sustainable, eco-minded, DIY lifestyle, and she cites the thousands of blogs about modern homesteading, slow food, natural parenting, knitting, sewing and overall eco DIY lifestyles. Sounded good to me!

The subjects of her case studies are primarily American white, middle class, educated women who have left lucrative jobs because of the economic downturn, disillusionment with the corporate world, or to start a family. This is the first area of her book with which I have problems. This is hardly a wide cross-section of society and it is not representative of all people who are moving toward the "natural" DIY lifestyle.

She goes on to state that women who are growing their own food, raising backyard chickens, practicing extended breastfeeding, and making their gluten free food and personal care products from scratch are not only doing a disservice to the women's movement but are also taking away from the fight for more socially conscious programs and leaving the economically disadvantaged behind. In fact, she feels that these more educated and liberal women may have more in common with their conservative counterparts than they realize. These are very bold ideas that got my blood boiling almost immediately.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Gratitude List for Thanksgiving

It is Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and in keeping with my one little word for 2013, I would like to share all the things I am grateful for this year.

  • I am grateful for the health of my loved ones. This has been a very hard year for my mother, who has had one major health crisis and now is working through another one. We have also had cancer in our family two times over the past several years, and I have worried about my own children's health at one time or another. It is very clear to me that good health should never be taken for granted.

  • I am grateful for the Canadian health care system, especially after needing it for the well being of my loved ones. It may not be perfect but it is there for us when we need it. I am also grateful for all the people who work in the health care system and make the best of it even when it is underfunded.

  • I am grateful to be a mother. There was a time when I thought I couldn't be one, so I am thankful to be a mother to my three beautiful daughters, who bring me joy, and keep me on my toes when I need it. 

  • I am grateful for my husband who knows me so well, puts up with my crap when I dish it out, and supports me when I get a bee in my bonnet or a crazy idea in my head.

  • I am grateful for my backyard garden. It has provided me with fresh, organic food right outside my door and hours of enjoyment in the sunshine.

  • I am grateful for where I live, in my community and in my country. I feel safe, peaceful and happy here.

  • I am grateful for the delicious, organic meal we had this weekend. It was a group effort and we pulled it off well. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Garlic Planting Time

A sure sign of fall is planting bulbs in the garden. I have a bunch of daffodils and tulips I need to get into containers, and some new bulbs that I bought from my daughter's preschool fundraiser that I am excited to try. My big bulb project, however, is planting my garlic.

This is my second year planting garlic so I am still a newbie who has much to learn, and I hope to apply what I learned from my experience over the past year for next year's garlic.

Last fall I planted five rows of hardneck garlic in one of my raised beds, with about 5 bulbs in each. I added some of my own compost to the bed, but no other fertilizer. A few weeks after planting, when I was cleaning up my yard and raking leaves I added some dried leaves to the pile for mulch (to protect the bed from frosting, to keep weeds down, and to retain moisture because raised beds drain easily).

I was both pleased with and disappointed by my garlic this summer.

As the garlic began sprouting above the soil in the spring I noticed that many of the plants were being smothered by the leaves, which I had not mulched into small enough pieces. By the time I took all the leaves off the bed it was too late for some. Others that sprouted did not thrive, and I have to wonder if I didn't do enough to prepare the soil in the fall. Garlic is a heavy feeder and I planted them in a bed where I previously grew summer squash, which are also heavy feeders. I was worried that I wouldn't have any useable garlic at all!

I planted garlic from two different sources - West Coast Seeds and The Sharing Farm. Initially I thought the garlic from The Sharing Farm was doing better (was thriving more), but in the end the garlic from West Coast Seeds had a higher success rate when I harvested them. I was thrilled with the garlic scapes that I harvested in late June / early July, and for I while I was thinking hat this was all I was going to get out of my garlic. I made scape pesto and sautéed the scapes in stir fries as I would with garlic cloves. So fresh and summery!

In the end I pulled about fifteen bulbs out of the ground, but after drying only about eight or nine were edible. I could have saved all my precious garlic bulbs for myself, but what fun would that be? I shared with garlic loving family members and they all reported that the garlic was pungent and delicious.

So this year I did things slightly differently.

I didn't have any of my own compost ready so I bought organic manure and added it to the beds. Turning the soil and taking out all the left over plants and weeds was a back breaking job because I had some volunteer grape tomatoes in my squash this summer. There were so many little green and rotting tomatoes that I had to pick out because I don't want my bed to be overrun by them next year, as much as I want to encourage tomatoes in my garden.

Next I dug five troughs lenth-wise in my bed, rather than 5 width-wise as I decided to increase the amount planted. Then I added a commercial organic fertilizer liberally to the troughs before adding the cloves.

Before planting, I separated all the bulbs into individual cloves, selecting only the healthiest and largest cloves from each.

Into each trough I planted about a dozen cloves, making sure to plant the cloves the correct way with the pointed end up and the rooting end down. Two thirds of my garlic bed is hard neck garlic again because I love the bonus of scapes before the bulbs are ready. The remaining third is some soft neck varieties because I want to experiment with braiding the garlic.

After covering each of the troughs, I covered the entire bed with glacial rock dust just to be sure that I'm adding back essential minerals to the soil.

The last step was to mulch the garlic bed. This time I decided to use good old fashioned straw, just like all the books and websites recommend. The straw will not smother the seedlings but it will retain moisture. I bought some at our local pumpkin patch and I am using the remainder of the bale as part of our Autumn / Hallowe'en display in the front yard.

To summarize the steps I followed this year:

  • prepare the soil by removing weeds, plants and adding in compost and fertilizer
  • dig troughs or holes approximately a few inches deep
  • separate the garlic bulbs into individual cloves
  • add additional fertilizer to each hole
  • plant the cloves root end down and pointed end up
  • cover holes
  • add any additional fertilizer or glacial rock dust 
  • cover garlic bed with mulch, preferably straw, although leaves could work if they are mulched into small enough pieces. 
  • cross fingers and wait patiently for next spring to see the results

I have recently learned about people planting their garlic on the full moon for increased production! Too late to try that this year - already something to add to the list for next year's garlic planting.


Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for any of the products shown in this post. I purchased them myself and included them because I like them.

Friday, 4 October 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."

Lazy Composting 101

After reading Eco Novice's post seeking suggestions for a lazy composting method, I decided to share how I compost. I have avoided talking about what I do because it didn't seem interesting or blog-worthy. I don't do funky, cool composting like worm compostingbokashi or even one of these rotating compost bins. I don't use a compost pile because we have neighbourhood "friends" like rats and raccoons. I have read that this shouldn't be a problem but I don't want to risk it because we live close to a river and ditches, and rats are an ever present problem. I really don't do much, and that suits me fine. Despite being passionate about gardening and composting, I am really lazy, and I do things in bursts of energy, interspersed with great periods of inaction. I need a method that works with my natural tendencies.

What I do is really very simple.

Continue reading at The Green Phone Booth >>>>>

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Fall Garden

Autumn is upon us in great force here on the Wet Coast. I am sitting here listening to a storm passing by, with rain bouncing off the ground and wind whipping the trees. I have been hoping for a few more sunny days to do some much needed garden clean up, taking out some more summer plants, weeding and preparing one of my gardens for garlic planting. I had to use the one sunny non-work day this week to cut the lawn which has recovered from our summer drought like gangbusters! The continuing fall clean up will have to wait for the next sunny day

There are still some summer crops growing, like my cucumbers and tomatoes. I don't think that the smaller cukes will grow with the reduced sunlight, and I have brought in some green tomatoes to ripen inside (in a paper bag with an apple). Unfortunately many of the unripe tomatoes are beginning to rot.

My Banana Girl planted seeds from my cilantro in mid August and now we have delicious, fragrant cilantro for my salads and sautés. Yum!

The everbearing strawberries are at it again. After a lull in August due to the heat, they have produced berries again. 

The mini garden that my daughters planted mid summer is doing very well, and we have been harvesting lettuce and carrots for some time, and their kale is ready to start using now. Given how shallow their raised bed is and how crowded it is, I'm not sure how well their beets will do, but the carrots have grown so perhaps the beets will be fine. I am interested to see how their broccoli does, as the ones I planted in a container are not looking as good. They also have chard in the mix. 

Speaking of kale, I planted two different kinds in the spring and they are both going strong, which is a good thing as my girls love kale chips. I hope to have these plants last all winter. I learned an interesting fact recently while researching perennial plants for veggie gardens - kale is a perennial that we usually grow as an annual! I can see that because I overwintered my kale last year and it was still going strong in the spring. I took it out, though, because it was getting woody unruly. 

In September I planted a couple of Asian greens, pac choi and gai lan, which I have never grown before. The first batch I planted were completely eaten by something. I suspect snails and slugs so the next time I planted them I sprinkled crushed egg shells to repel them from the seedlings. While there are still bite marks on the leaves it seems to be keeping the plants alive. 

Cauliflower is another new plant for me so I have no idea of what to expect. I am watching this one with great interest. I think I planted them too close to the turnips, which are taking over, however. 

Mustard greens were the hit of our summer garden so I decided to try a different variety in our fall garden. Red mustard is supposed to have a spicier zip, and these are ready to start picking so we will find out soon enough. 

Look at these turnips! Wowzers! I'm excited because I love stews and soups in the cold months and turnips are a must. I've also discovered that I like turnips in my homemade fried rice. I wish I had planted more.

The pride and joy of my fall garden is my Brussels sprouts! It is a tradition for me to grow these and harvest some for our Thanksgiving dinner and the rest for our Christmas dinner. I don't know why I didn't realize this before, but I just learned that the leaves can be used much like cabbage leaves. I've been using the more tender looking leaves sparingly. The sprouts seem smaller this year, although there is still a couple of growing weeks to go before Thanksgiving. 

Next up is preparing my beds for garlic as soon as we have a dry day for me to get outside.