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:

Friday, 5 September 2014

Cheapskate Soup Stock

I have already shared my love of freezing the excess summer bounty to eat during the cooler months here, and I am going to share more freezer love.

I love composting kitchen scraps, but sometimes I like to freeze them instead.

Why would I do this, you ask? I like to use leftover vegetable scraps in homemade soup stock when I am able to instead of buying new vegetables.

Image source

Continue reading at The Green Phone Booth>>>

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Garden Art

I am a bit of an Instagram addict, and my gallery is filled with photos of my backyard garden. But this summer I grew bored with the same old photos and began playing with my veggies and flowers, which developed into some photography fun. I began with making faces, or veggie selfies. 

Then I started getting more creative and playing with colours and patterns, which developed into garden mandalas. 

Despite feeling wistful about the turning of the season soon, I am looking forward to trying some leaf and pinecone mandalas in autumn.

If you are on Instagram, I am crustyroll35. Find me and say hello.