Friday, 19 December 2014

{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."

Connecting With Nature: Winter Solstice

This time of year in our society many people (ok, most) are focussed on the holiday season of peace, joy and gift giving. It is not a time when people look to spend time outdoors. In the northern hemisphere it is either too cold, too wet or too dark to do much at all outdoors.

But it is important to remain connected to the cycles of the Earth and seasons year round. As the season darkens and the natural world goes to sleep, we, too, turn inward and slow down.

The solstice, the longest night of the year, and a turning point for the return of the sun, is a time of inner reflection, but should also be a time to connect with the natural world.

Many of our seasonal traditions and images stem from natural winter elements, such as holly, pine boughs, pinecones, mistletoe and evergreen trees.

Here are some suggestions for connecting with nature in the darkest days of winter:

Friday, 12 December 2014

{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."

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Beginnner's Guide to Knitting Socks

My first successful pair of socks.
I am a knit nerd, and especially a sock knit nerd.

I love spending time alone in a yarn shop feeling the fibres and browsing the patterns. I am willing to spend a ridiculous amount of money on beautiful needles.

After several failed starts and knitting yoga socks (no heels, no toes), I decided that this was the year I was going to learn how to knit socks.

For some reason turning the heel and picking up stitches for the gusset intimidated me.

When I found the book How To Knit Socks: Three Methods Made Easy, by Edie Eckman, I finally found my key to successfully tackling my own socks. It gives very clearly explained step-by-step procedures for socks, along with photos to show what each stage should look like.

Youtube has been a wonderful self-teaching tool for crafters, and I have used video tutorials to see the process for a few stages of knitting socks.
Yoga socks

I discovered that turning the heel (knitting short rows) was not difficult for me, but picking up the gusset stitches after knitting the heel just didn't feel or look right the way I was doing it. This youtube video is excellent and I love the nice braided edge it gives my socks.

Ankle socks

Then once I had knit a few pairs I purchased the basic sock pattern from Churchmouse Yarns, which expanded my repertoire and gave me another way to knit a sturdy heel that I now use for all my socks.

I love ribbing all the way down
for a snug fit.
I started learning socks using four or five double pointed needles (the yoga socks were made with two small circular needles), but several knitters I follow on Instagram raved about the magic loop method using one 32" circular needle so I knew I would have to give it a go. The Edie Eckman book teaches this method so I was set, and I can now say that I, too, prefer magic loop for socks.

I have tried several different patterns for my socks and I love seeing the different textures as they develop.

There are several things I love about knitting socks:

Grain stitch socks
  • they are easy to transport and I often have my project bag in my purse, ready to work on if I have a few spare moments
  • it is easy to adapt patterns and customize them once you understand the basic anatomy of a sock
  • they are relatively quick to knit; I can knit a pair in approximately 6 days with dedicated knitting time
  • they make great presents that everyone is happy to receive
  • homemade socks feel so cozy and warm and it is satisfying wearing something homemade

My next challenge is to learn a different heel method, the fish lips kiss heel.

Harris tweed rib stitch
But currently I am knitting socks like crazy for Christmas presents for all the men in my life.

Here are some tutorial videos that have helped me on my sock knitting journey:

* I used my own money to purchase How To Knit Socks: Three Methods Made Easy and I have linked to it because I think it is an excellent beginner's sock knitting book.

Friday, 5 December 2014

{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."

Last Minute Present: Plastic Free Food Wraps

I believe in the personal touch for the holidays and I always try to make at least some of my gifts. Sure it takes more effort, and at this busy time of year homemade gifts may be the first thing to go when schedules fill up. But I believe that I have the perfect last minute homemade gift: plastic-free food wraps.

There are commercially produced beeswax food wraps if DIY really isn't your thing, and I do love supporting companies who make environmentally friendly and ethical products. Abeego is one such company, and I am proud that it started as a home-based business in my province. They have many options for food storage including large bowl covers as well as handy snack and sandwich pockets.

In keeping with my DIY spirit, last year I decided to try making some of my own, and they were a hit with everyone. I made a dozen or so in one afternoon, with minimal prep and clean up.

Because the wraps are made from beeswax they must be washed in cold water and a little bit of dish soap if required. Obviously warm or hot water will melt the wax, make a mess in your sink and ruin the food wraps. I have had no difficulty caring for my wraps in this way, and after a year they are still in very good condition.

Here's how to make your own reusable food wraps:

Continue reading at The Green Phone Booth>>>

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Planting Garlic

Before we had our first frost at the beginning of the month I managed to get all my garlic planted. After separating the cloves and sorting the intact ones from the ones with broken skins, I got outside in between rain showers. This year some is grown by me, some by the Sharing Farm, and some by Westcoast Seeds.

Last year I grew enough in one raised bed to hopefully last until late spring. This year I increased the amount I planted, hoping it will take me through until the next backyard harvest.

For a full description of how I plant garlic, click here.

Friday, 21 November 2014

{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."

Extending the Harvest with Covered Hoops

Last year I began experimenting with extending the growing season and harvesting fresh food through autumn. In fact, I was able to harvest backyard veggies for the last time on December 1st! After that we had an unseasonal cold snap and early snow (I live in the moderate pacific northwest where we are increasingly finishing winter with little to no snow). Luckily some of my cold resistant veggies bounced back enough by late winter that I could start harvesting them again in February and March.

But one of my faults as a backyard gardener is that I often forget to harvest the veggies before they bolt (go to seed) in the summer or freeze in the winter. I'm always disappointed that I didn't pick something when I thought of it instead of waiting just that one more day or week. Hardy plants like kale did well with limited frosts and bounced back quickly, but my turnips, carrots, and cabbage were turned to mush in the freezing temps and never rebounded.

Through the summer, after doing more reading about fall and winter gardening, and weighing the pros and cons of cold frames versus covered hoops (an excellent discussion here), I decided to try covered hoops this year. Sometimes plastic covered hoops made with flexible tubing are called low tunnels, and the taller variety are called poly tunnels. I guess mine are a hybrid (not low but not tall enough to walk in).

My wonderful neighbour (really, he's amazing) and built my covered hoops once I'd cleaned up the fall garden and mulched everything for warmth and moisture retention. Unfortunately we'd already had a frost, so there has been some damage to the lettuce and Asian greens, which I'd hoped to avoid.

With the sides down for full protection.

With the sides up for moisture in warmer temperatures.

So how well do the covered hoops work to protect my plants?

Continue reading at The Green Phone Booth>>>

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Lest We Forget

My homemade felt poppies that I
proudly reuse year after year.
Each year for Remembrance Day I wear my homemade white peace poppy along side my red poppy, so that not only am I remembering all the soldiers who died for a cause, but also all the civilians, animals and nature, who had no choice in being involved in a political conflict. In the past I have been criticized for my choice to wear a peace poppy, but this year I feel more confident thanks to my administrator who shares my views. She wore her own crocheted peace poppy, brought peace poppies for staff to wear and shared on line resources to use with our classes.

My thoughts in previous years can be read here and here.

I am always trepidatious discussing the peace poppies and the impact of war beyond soldiers because I have been told it is disrespectful to soldiers. I am still unclear how advocating for peace and safety for all in any way diminishes the sacrifices of soldiers. I believe that it only serves humanity to discuss the impact of war upon everyone, including the environment. If we do not truly see war for what it is, for the true impact that it has, we are not doing everything we can to ensure that it will not happen again. But this year I felt emboldened by the actions of my administrator, and teacher librarian who read picture books with my class focussing on the impact of war upon animals. I also had a great conversation with another colleague who discussed the origins of the peace poppy movement with her class and how it started with mothers in the UK who were tired of seeing their husbands and sons die in wars.

As with previous years, I used the peace poppy web site to discuss these issues with my class, as well as looking at images of the aftermath of battles and the destruction of the environment. Then we made our own paper peace poppies to wear alongside the red poppies.

The list of countries represented in my
school's parade of nations. 

I am especially proud of my school and colleagues for the wonderful job they do with the Remembrance Day ceremony and its focus on peace. Each year my colleague organizes a parade of nations to highlight the countries of origin for our multicultural community. I always have goosebumps watching the children proudly walk down the gym holding the name of their home country, some wearing clothing symbolizing their culture. We are from all over this world, but we are all of THIS world, living together, and it is for the good of all that we see beyond national boundaries and geopolitical battles and connect with one another. I always look forward to it.

I borrowed a student's hat from Kyrgyzstan
after the parade of nations for a quick selfie.
My peace poppy is hidden underneath my hair.

So today I will not forget the deep psychological sacrifices my grandfather made in World War II as an RAF navigator, nor will I forget all the women and children around the world who are raped as way to create terror in war-torn communities, the innocent families who are torn apart, and the fertile land that is destroyed by toxic warfare, land mines and drone attacks.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Overcoming Nature Anxieties

I am passionate about gardening as a way to connect us to our food, and I enjoy spending time in the outdoors, connecting with the plants and animals that live amongst us. I believe that this may be the only way to have people truly care about protecting the environment and see that our well being is tied to a healthy planet. I also believe in the power of modelling and education to shape children's perceptions and behaviours. The best way to desensitize children to the "ick" factor and sensitize them to the diversity of life around us is to spend time in nature.

My daughter mistakes any flying insect for the stinging
variety, even harmless flies. 

However, I am also aware that children often come out with their own fully developed personalities and temperaments, and this has been one of the most challenging aspects of parenting for me.

Continue reading at The Green Phone Booth>>>

Friday, 3 October 2014

{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."

Kitchen Scraps Garden Part Two: Carrot Seeds

Most kitchen gardeners grow carrots, and I am no exception. My daughters love eating them, and generally I find them easy to grow. While seeds are not overly expensive, I find I go through a great deal of them each year because of having to sow so many then thinning the seedlings to allow for adequate growth.

I have been experimenting with growing food from kitchen scraps, and I saw a post somewhere about planting the tops of carrots to produce seeds. As a novice gardener I am beginning to delve into seed saving, which has so many benefits. This seemed like a perfect fit.

Continue reading at The Green Phone Booth>>>

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunflower Feast

I love sunflowers "just because."

They are bright and they make me happy. They have faces that smile as they look down on me.

But I also love sunflowers for all the critters they attract to my garden. I have had much joy taking photos of ladybugs, flies, bees, ants, sunflowers and beetles climbing over my sunflowers.

Lately my backyard garden has been looking all kinds of shaggy because we are in transition to the cooler months of the year. The sunflowers are drooping. The once bright yellow petals are turning brown and falling off.

But this brings a different kind of happiness. For one, the plants coming to the end of their cycle and producing seeds is it's own kind of gorgeousness. One of my favourite hashtags on Instagram is #lovelydeadcrap. The feed is filled with amazing photographs of decaying plants, which is often overlooked as a source of beauty.

For another, the seeds the plants produce are a source of food for critters like squirrels and birds.

This morning the sunflower stalks moved and swayed but not from the breeze. There are a dozen little birds feasting on the sunflower seeds that are exposed. We don't see as many little birds as we used to, so this is a welcome sight.

We have seen chickadees, finches and sparrows swooping in and dashing away. We don't need a bird feeder because we have nature's bird feeder. It makes me happy that I decided against pulling up most of the sunflowers to make room for my fall garden.

Image source

Gardening brings such joy year round.

If you are on Instagram, I'm crustyroll35. Let's connect!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Autumn Garden

Tomorrow will be the first day of autumn and I am looking forward to the official end of summer. I feel alive during the summer and I revel in all the outdoor activities we can easily do during the hot months, but like many people, autumn may be my favourite season. This year I have more reasons to say good bye to the summer than in previous years.

The leaves have begun to show their first blush of autumn. On the eve of what should have been the first day of school we spent time at my old alma mater, Simon Fraser University, and enjoyed the beautiful leaves. 

We are fortunate here in the pacific northwest because we can often have an extended summer in September and a long autumn with cool, crisp mornings and warm afternoons well into October. We make up for it in November with the famous Vancouver rain. 

While the intense growing season of the summer has all but ended, I like to extend the backyard harvests with colder season growing. In fact, last year I harvested various Asian greens and kale on December 1st. 

Bok choy, kale, sui choy, turnips, cabbage, marigolds and sunflowers.

I began planning and organizing my fall garden back in late July and early August when I started seeds in a mini shelf greenhouse unit in my backyard. I had to finally say goodbye to the summer and yank up some plants to make room for the new ones, which was hard. 
Beans and tomatoes in the mini greenhouse in the spring.

At the moment my garden beds are looking a little shaggy as I wait for the remaining sunflowers and cucumbers (which as still producing).

Things are looking a little sad with the squash gone and droopy sunflowers.

Growing in Two Raised Beds:

four varieties of kale 
bok choy
sui choy (Chinese cabbage)
leafy lettuce
cauliflower and cabbage (for the spring)
garlic (to be planted in October)
parsnips (very hard to germinate; out of two dozen seeds I have three seedlings so far. I don't have high hopes that they will survive)

* This is my first year not growing Brussels sprouts. In the past I have harvested some for Thanksgiving dinner and the rest for Christmas dinner, and now I am regretting not growing them.

Lettuce, spinach, chard, bok choy, sui choy, parsnips, cauliflower

I have plans to build hoops and cover two of my beds with plastic when we have regular frost. I was able to harvest through mid fall frosts last year because we had a warm season and the frosts were intermittent. However, once winter hit we had to wait until late January before the kale was defrosted and edible again. I am hoping to have kale through to the spring with covered beds, as well as cauliflower next spring. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

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."

Why I Gave Away My Books

Before I begin, please let me unload my baggage.

I love my stuff. I am constantly fighting my ego's urge to own more things. One of the things that makes me deliriously happy is books. Not only do I love reading (I often stay awake into the wee hours of the morning to finish a book), I also love the physical being of books and I have a visceral connection to them. I am the type of person who, upon purchasing a new book, likes to open it up and smell the pages. Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this.

Back in the day when good, local book stores actually existed, my idea of a good Saturday night out was to spend hours browsing the aisles for books. I have even been asked to leave a book store because I sat down on the floor and started reading some books (before book stores became a destination with coffee shop and couches). It doesn't help that I am a teacher, and we are famous for spending a great deal of our disposable income on books.

My obsession with owning books received a turbo boost when my future husband became a manager of a big box book store for a. Hello employee discount! Every available space in our home had stacks of books, some beloved books, some perpetually on the "to read" list. 

When we moved to a larger home and had to go through the effort of packing up and transporting the dozens of book boxes, we realized we had a problem. We made the difficult decision to deal with our problem and sorted our books into approximately seven piles: favourite books we reread, books we are positive we will read in the near future, resource/information books that we use on a regular basis, books we want to save for our children to read, books we have read but will not read again, books we have never read and do not see reading in the near future, and university textbooks. We promptly loaded the books in the latter three piles back into the moving boxes to give away. 

Some thoughts on giving away our books: