Friday, March 29, 2013

Cautiously Spring

While the temperatures are still cold, the skies are blue and that makes all the difference.  A bit of sunshine the past couple days has pushed back the snow once again and I decided to wander through the garden today and perhaps start a few spring chores.

My buddy decided to come along for the walk and inspect the premises.

Mostly everything is a dull brown right now but there were a couple signs of things to come.

Buds starting to green up and shockingly,

the noses of tulips pushing through the muddy soil.

I was pleased to see that my burlap tent managed to stay intact all winter long protecting my rhododendron.  

So if you were wondering, clothespins will hold up in 80km winter winds.

There are a half dozen mature white birches on our property and every year since we have lived here our first chore of the spring season has been tree cleanup.  

Numerous branches are shed throughout the winter storm season and must be removed before the grass gets cut.  It seems like a simple task but some years it has taken me several days to get it all done.  

Luckily it wasn't too bad this year.  I managed to clear the whole yard in just one day.   Now what's next?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

After a false start to spring we've had two storm days this past week.  I've spent a lot of time cooped up in the house wishing for spring.

Fresh fallen snow is pretty but it means it's STILL winter
Finally on Saturday I decided enough was enough.  We were getting outside no matter the weather.

It's a beautiful day, let's take the long loop
Luckily it turned out to be a gorgeous day.  The sun was shining and new snow was beckoning.  Time to get our walking (snow)shoes on.

We made our way to the local nordic ski park.

The ski park is a great spot all year round.  In summer these are hiking and biking trails (see the trails in summer here) but in winter they are a quiet retreat for snowshoers. 

We had our work cut out for us.  It's a lot easier hiking these hills in summer.  After our recent storm the fresh snow dragged on our weary legs.  I started out the day wearing a scarf and hat but after 6km a cold snow bank looked too good to pass up.

Hoping you too are finding ways to get through these last few days of winter.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why Grow Vegetables?

I've been spending some time lately preparing for the upcoming gardening season.  Specifically the vegetable garden.  Each year I plot out the rotation of vegetables, and consider any new varieties I would like to introduce.  Starting in February I planted onion seeds indoors, and soon there will be tomatoes and cucumbers among other things.  Small seeds planted with great hopes for the coming season and all that it will bring.

Hoping for a lot more of this in the coming season
Admist all this I have wondered why?  Why bother doing all this work each year?  What am I getting out of it?  What possesses me to dig up all this dirt, plant seeds, weed and water?

And why should other people be doing it too?

If you ask people why they should grow vegetables often the immediate answer is to save money.  I think this is a half-truth.  Starting a vegetable garden from scratch isn't easy.  Building beds and enriching soil can be back breaking work.  Purchasing tools, seeds, and plants can be expensive to start.  But like many things, once you have the equipment for the job, you are set.  Tools, given they are good quality, should last a lifetime.  Instead of purchasing seeds each year, you can begin to gather seed from your own plants.  So while there is an initial investment of energy and money, that cost will be offset by years of gathering food for free.

A fraction of the cost of store bought but what else?
I actually think money is the least important consideration when growing food.  There are many more important benefits we should be taking note of.

Preservatives, genetically modified seeds, pesticides, and fertilizer.  All of these can be found in food we purchase at the grocery store.  But do we know exactly what sort of chemicals are involved, and in what quantities they can be found in our food?  Probably not.  Even the most diligent shopper might have trouble with these issues since, for instance, genetically modified food in Canada is not required by law to be labeled.  Are we aware of what these agricultural alterations do to the environment and to our bodies?  When you grow your own food there is no question.  It's your soil, your seeds.  My veggies get water, sunshine, and homemade compost.  I have no questions about what they contain.

Do you know what your food is being sprayed with?
Not only does garden fresh food lack an unexplained chemical component, it actually has a higher vitamin and mineral content.  Fresh food, ripe and picked straight off the vine, has had a chance to develop vitamins and minerals that vegetables that have been picked unripe and shipped will not have.  The quality of your homegrown vegetables will make you healthier and they also taste better.  After eating heirloom tomatoes all last summer we've had a hard time adjusting to shop bought tomatoes this past winter.  There is a distinct lack of flavour that is hard to ignore.

Shop bought tomatoes just do not compare
Once you've discovered the taste of fresh veggies chances are you might be more willing to experiment.  I used to hate beans.  I'm not sure I've ever voluntarily eaten a bean in my entire life.  Until last summer that is.  I was gifted with a handful of beautiful seeds that I couldn't resist tucking into the ground.  I thought if I couldn't eat them surely someone else would be glad to receive fresh beans as a gift.  Well, I didn't gift that many.  Turns out, fresh beans were far better than I could have ever anticipated.  So are radishes, garlic scapes and mustard.  All vegetables that normally I would not eat from a store but when they come out of my garden they might as well be different vegetables entirely.  I know now that if I grow it, I'm more likely to eat it and enjoy it.

If you didn't grow your own garlic would you know about eating garlic scapes?
The truth is our society in general has lost touch with our food.  Many people, particularly children, are so far removed from their food they don't even know where a potato comes from.  We are unaware of how pesticides and fertilizers are used in agriculture, and how pervasive genetically modified crops have become.  This lack of knowledge has led to weight problems and poor health.  Even the act of cooking has become a lost art.  The reality is that food has become a commodity.  Corporations are routinely changing it to make it cheaper and faster to produce.  Their goal is to make money.  Do we really want our food, something we require in order to survive, to be left up to corporations whose only goal is profit?

I invite everyone to take back their food.  Grow a tomato in a pot on your balcony.  Plant a tub full of lettuce  There is joy to be had in bringing your own food to the table.

Growing your own food just makes you feel good!
If you're interested in knowing more about why growing your own food is important I encourage you to look at the following:

Argentina's Bad Seeds - People & Power - Al Jazeera English

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Don't Say That!

Several weeks back Jody said something about ain't it great that the cats haven't had to go the vet recently.

Why in the world would you say that?

Me and my boy
On cue, several days later, Funnyface got in a fight and had his ear punctured by another tom cat.  A trip to the vet and antibiotic shot followed.  The ear is healing nicely and you would think we learned our lesson.

This week we had temperatures of 10 degrees celcius and plenty of rain.  The lower garden looked like this on Friday morning.

I was so excited thinking spring was here.  I toured the garden, envisioning the projects I was going to get up to in the weeks to come.

At work someone mentioned to me that we were still due for our St. Patrick's day storm.  In response I noted that although everyone TALKS about a St. Patrick's day storm, in the almost 4 years that we've been living here there has never been one.  That was dumb of me.

Here's what the lower garden looked like this morning.

Apparently there's more on the way too.  

I think I've learned my lesson now.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Feels Like Spring

There are signs I look for each year to indicate the change of season.  Some of them more reliable than others.

The disappearance of the ice from the Northumberland Strait.

The ice that covers the sea water between PEI and Nova Scotia
each year is now gone - except for that lonely iceberg
The honking of geese.

Muddy laneways.

One of these days we'll get our laneway fixed
RV's parked at the local Walmart.

The disappearance of snow,

and the appearance of barbeques

Might be time to remove the Christmas decorations now hey?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Writer's Block

I've got plenty to say.  Half written posts lined up in my drafts folder taunting me.  But I seem to be distinctly lacking the energy to say anything these days.

Instead I would rather be out doing.  We are enjoying what remains of the winter.  Taking rides a long ways up ...

And then racing all the way back down.

It has occurred to me lately that I'm getting older (it is a matter of perspective I know).  There may come a day when I won't be able to move the way I used to and I want to be able to move as much as I can right now.

So in addition to ski hills we have also been hiking.  Strathgartney Park is relatively close to us and provides a great getaway any time of year.  During these quiet winter days though it's particularly nice as we pretty much have the place to ourselves.  

No one here but the trees
A little closer to home we walked down to the beach to see the iceberg floating just off shore.

Not to worry though, I haven't completely forgotten about gardening.  I did start my onion seeds a week or two ago.  Little green shoots are poking up.  And I wrote a list today of all the other seeds I need to start.  Poking through the too large pile of tomato seeds and debating the merits of each as I only have space for half of what's there.  I'll get back on track soon.