Friday, 23 January 2015

Goals for 2015

Never mind New Years resolutions, this year I have made myself a set of goals for 2015. These goals are simply things I want to achieve through the year - do more of this, less of that, try some new things and get some essentials done around the house. I plan on revisiting this list of goals every so often and I will let you in on the progress I am making. Does anyone else out there have a list of goals for 2015? What do you want to accomplish this year?

1. Get Betty house trained
My number one goal is to get Betty house trained. Some puppies seem to be easier to train than others. I am sure Betty is not the worst but she has been frustrating. I plan on having her fully house trained as soon as the good weather rolls around. I also hope to have her trained fairly well in the areas of sit, stay and leave it. Right now she is doing pretty well with sit (when a treat is involved) but leave it is a biggie we need to get sorted! I would also like to improve her walking on-leash skills. She loves walks, no doubt about that, but walking nicely without ripping my hand off? We will see!

2. Organize and clean the basement
I started on this almost right away, but whether anyone besides me could notice the difference in the dungeon of doom, its hard to say! I figure this will be a long term project and will require weekly maintenance because of the nature of our basement and the state it is currently in. To sum it up, the house is over 100 years old, the foundation in referred to as a "rubble foundation" and it is in need of repairs and until the repair work is done by a professional (this is NOT the type of foundation fix a DIY'er can or should try solo) the walls continuously "shed" dust, sand and dried mortar. In case the crumbling walls weren't enough of a messy challenge, the main floor of the house has no sub floor, so there is a constant flow of dusty debris raining down through the cracks in the floorboards creating a layer of yuck on everything stored in the basement.

3. Increase the vegetable garden in both size and yields
The summer of 2014 was my first year at growing veggies in the garden and for my first year I think I did pretty well, but improvements can always be made. I am hoping to expand the garden this spring, build some additional raised beds, make better use of the raised beds I already have and try some new crops. I also intend on setting up a dedicated seed starting space in the basement.

4. Attempt canning and preserving what I grow
For a long time now I have been interested in canning and with last summer's veggie garden I had good reason to start canning to preserve some of the veg I was knee deep in! I didn't give it a go last year so this must be the year! I was gifted some canning supplies for my last birthday and I plan on putting them to good use this year.

5. Use my studio space
Lucky me, I have studio space in my home! I hijacked the smallest bedroom to use as my very own creative space and to date I haven't put it to good use. More often than not it has become extra storage space, a dumping ground for stuff. This year I plan on using the space as I originally intended: to get back to making things, working on the artsy stuff that I have always wanted to dedicate more of my time to. To up this goal a notch, I also hope to re-open my Etsy store (pretty sure I said that last year...regardless this will be the year!).

6. Eat more real food, less processed crap and get healthy
I suppose this must sound like a typical New Years resolution of "lose weight", but I am not cutting out anything cold turkey, I'm not starting some crazy trendy diet and I am not setting unrealistic goals or sinking money into gym memberships that will go unused. I know I need to lose weight and make improvements in my life to get healthier and there is no better time to start making those improvements than right now. I am trying to make slight adjustments here and there by cutting back on some things and substituting good foods for the bad ones. I have a target weight that I would like to reach by the end of the year - nothing outrageous or unrealistic for my body type, just something that would make me more comfortable and that might help alleviate some of the health issues I have had that can be attributed to being overweight.

7. Be more active
For starters I need to do more walking, less sitting on my butt, no excuses now that I have a dog to walk! At the moment the weather has not been good for going for walks, its been pretty cold and icy out - too cold to take the puppy out but I should still be getting out there...and I will! In the better weather I am aiming for two walks a day, I need it and Betty needs it, she is a very high energy dog. I expect to start and end my days with a walk with the pooch, along with all the other walking around and physical activity that will take place in the garden. I also aim to use my bike more. This past summer I failed at getting on my bike and I don't know why? There's no shortage of trails around my house. This year I intend on a bike ride a week (once the weather is right). I have not decided yet, but I may look into some exercise classes this year (like I did in 2014). I found some to be really enjoyable and they really made me push myself, the down side was the classes were a drive to the other side of town - there wasn't anything very local.

8. Get my drivers licence
Have I mentioned that I don't drive? Yup, I don't drive, don't have my licence, have never driven a car (with the exception of a spin around an empty parking lot with my dad when I first got my learners permit, which expired so many yeas ago!). Oh, and did I mention I live in a town where you really REALLY need a car to get from point A to point B? My goal is to take my written test for my learners permit (G1), get some practice driving in, take driving lessons and attempt to get tested for my G2 as soon as possible. This one is a big goal for me because I cannot continue relying on other people for drives everywhere, I want to be able to go on a road trip across Canada one day and must be able to share the driving responsibilities with my trip-mates and there are some people (cough *husband* cough) that have said they don't believe I will ever drive, so I must prove them wrong!

9. Finish all the DIY jobs I have started
So there are a couple (okay, maybe more than a couple) DIY jobs that I have started but failed to finish around the house. I am vowing to complete the half done projects before diving into any more. For starters, the shelves in the dining room - the brackets I needed that were back-ordered at Ikea for about 8 months FINALLY came in, I can get cracking! Oh, and there is another unfinished dresser in the basement that needs a coat of paint...the list goes on!

10. Hold a yard sale
I have wanted to do this for some time now and this summer feels right! I hope to hold a yard sale to help get rid of some of the excess amounts of stuff I have in this house - it is scary to think that barely 3 years ago I moved from a 1 bedroom apartment to a 3 bedroom house (with a basement and garage) and I still have managed to over-stuff the place! It's time to de-clutter and let go of things I have been holding on to for far too long.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

2015 What, already?! And a Betty update

So a bit of time has passed since my last post...oh and also Christmas and New Years! I hope everyone had a great time over the holidays and got their 2015 off to a great start! Christmas was good but a little hectic for me, having to deal with the world's craziest puppy and all! Betty has been doing pretty well since New Years but the month of December was difficult. She is one stubborn little puppy that does not want to be house trained and that wants to grab anything and everything with her little razor blade teeth! We started a new puppy class on January 3rd and it has been going pretty well. There are only 3 other puppies and their families attending the class and the instructor could not be more patient, friendly and in love with what he does.Overall Betty is taking steps in the right direction but I am hoping that with her puppy teeth due to start coming out any day now, the biting and random chewing on things will ease.

As for house training, great progress has been made over the past 2 weeks. Betty is not getting me up in the night anymore AND as a bonus she is not having accidents in her crate! She had stopped getting me up in the night at one stage but continued to pee in her crate. I cannot begin to explain how frustrating it is to have to change the blankets and towels in her crate once, sometimes twice a day! Betty is now having very few accidents in the house - when she does its usually because she has been playing and gets distracted and out of nowhere a pee hits her! She is almost exclusively using the training pads stationed at the back door. I would like to get her going outside and abandon the training pads but it has been pretty cold lately and she seems just too small to handle the cold (and when it takes 2 people 10 minutes to get her coat on each time she has to go out I haven't bothered).

One big regret I have with Betty so far has been my lack of picture taking with her. I had grand ideas of getting videos and photos to document every step of her journey with us...that has been really difficult. I am at home with her all day myself and I have been kept so busy running around after her, cleaning her messes and being chewed on that I haven't really had time. She also tends to not want to sit still, and to top it off she is a black dog that doesn't photograph well - especially with our dark wood floors (sometimes she is nearly invisible). It doesn't help that I have a crappy camera and that with it being winter and all, by the time the husband gets home from work and could potentially help with handling the moving target known as Betty, it's just too dark and any attempt at a photo comes out looking dreadful. One of my goals for 2015 will be to get more photos of Betty - its just sad that I have very few photos of her as a squishy teeny-tiny little puppy. I am hoping this winter doesn't drag on like last winter and we can get outside more and snap some photos.

Along with taking more photos of Betty, getting her fully house trained and hopefully morphing her into the best behaved little doggy on earth (yeah right!), I have several other goals for 2015...I will post more about them later and I promise to share my progress with reaching these goals as I go.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

What has been keeping me busy?

As my last post mentioned, I have kept quite busy since the summer. September started off with me getting the finishing touches completed on the spare bedroom. There was a massive cleanup that happened, the closet/office was finished with some shelves we made, the empty bed frame finally got a mattress and bedding, curtains were hung and an old dresser I bought from a thrift shop almost 2 years ago was finally refinished and given a proper home! I wish I had some photos to share but didn't get any when the room was all clean and set and since then Buster cat has made a mess of the bed to an extreme - getting fur everywhere wasn't enough, he had to get sick all over the new duvet!

The spare room was completed as we were having visitors from Ireland. In traditional fashion, when you live in Ontario and have guests visiting Canada for the first time, we went up the CN Tower immediately following their arrival. Let me tell you, it is worth going up for dinner. Let's be honest, going up the CN Tower is an expensive elevator ride and depending on the time of day and weather, you never know what kind of view you will have. If you go up the tower for dinner then the elevator ride is free - and the fixed price menu makes it really worth while. The food was fantastic, and what luck did we have?! There was a massive thunderstorm happening during the dinner - we are talking MASSIVE thunderstorm! From the time we sat with our drinks until well after we left for the night, a lightning storm hit the tower - now it would be difficult to plan a trip like that if you wanted to see such a light show, but if you have the chance to be at the top of a giant lightning rod during a storm, take it, its madness! The tower is so solid you couldn't really hear the thunder but the flashes of light were something else! The tower was hit repeatedly while we were there and it was spectacular. The only downside is that the outdoor observation deck is closed in such weather...boo! The following day we packed our bags and car and took our visitors for a week of Canadian cottaging on Georgian Bay. As this all happened the week school started back there was virtually no one in the area staying in the surrounding cottages so it made for a quiet and relaxing time. The weather was good for the first half of the week before we got a good dose of rain and cooler temperatures. We still managed a splash in the lake and a hike in a near by park where I saw my very first porcupine up close and personal! I love porcupines and have always wanted to see one and in the excitement surrounding the sighting I forgot to take photos.




Almost immediately after our visitors set back off for Ireland, the husband followed - for a week long visit for a friends wedding. Left on my own I made the crazy decision to take a part time job when offered a position by a former employer. What was I thinking?! It was not bad at first, getting back into the swing of working outside the home and going back to a job I was very familiar with, but very quickly I remembered some of the reasons I had moved away from that job all those years ago. I stuck with it for a short while but this week is my last and then I'm back to being productive at home in my studio...also...I'm at home taking care of the newest member of our family...meet Betty!


Betty is a Boston Terrier Pug cross and she is super cute but the biggest (little) devil of a puppy. I have been kept running around non-stop since we brought her home (towards the end of October). What a handful a puppy makes and what a mess when this stubborn little ball of energy does not want to get house trained! She is currently sleeping on my lap while I type this...I am enjoying the 15 minutes of peace I will have before she gets up to terrorize me once again! I have been doing my best to train her but she is stubborn and possibly a bit mental (like all puppies). We have been going to puppy school, which was a waste of time and money - we are going to look for a new school after Christmas where we hope to learn more of the basics with her and have a chance to get her better socialized with other pups. She absolutely loves people, a few people in particular she is so crazed over she cries uncontrollably when their visit comes to an end. She has been pretty good with any other dogs she has met but she is just so much smaller than all of the other dogs and puppies she has encountered that she hasn't had a good chance to play with someone her "equal". She does however love terrorizing my mum's dog Millie (a 12 year old miniature dachshund). Betty thinks the world of my mum's house, full of carpet and used dog toys! She also loves driving Millie mad - Millie is good to put up with her but has definitely had to grumble at her and show her teeth to get Betty to settle.




I hope to post a bit more often than I have been lately, especially since I won't be working odd retail hours anymore, so I aim to keep you up to date on the progress Betty (and I) are making with puppy training. I also hope that once this little fur ball gets more trained I will have the freedom to get cracking on some projects in the studio - when that time comes I will update you on what I'm working on.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Where did the summer go?

No posts (garden or otherwise) since the middle of July?! I'm terrible, I know. All I can say is that I became so involved with the garden that I barely touched the computer unless it was to do veggie-related research. Along with being up to my armpits in soil and tomatoes, we had visitors from Ireland (which meant finishing the guest room), a trip to a cottage on Georgian Bay, I started a new job and there has been a new addition to the family (more on that later!) so blogging took a back seat. I will do a slight recap of what has happened since July, but as it's NOVEMBER I won't spend too much time going too far into detail.

Let's start with the garden...

After being excited and snapping so many photos of the first few vegetables I quickly became overwhelmed by the volume of veg that the garden was spitting out that I stopped taking photos. What more can I say?! Below are some snaps of the garden that stole my heart this past summer.




 


I dare not take and post photos of what the garden looks like now...lets just say there are four empty boxes full of soil in the back yard, covered in leaves topped with a light sprinkling of snow! As far as garden successes and failures, there were many! One of two zucchini plants was extremely productive, the other not so much, but I still managed a total of 51 zooks that were all a very decent size. The chard and kale (the few plants that survived the caterpillars of doom) showed their worth towards the end of the summer, in fact I harvested the last of both just a few weeks ago (blanched and frozen into cubes). Lemon cucumbers were a winner, producing so many so fast I couldn't keep up with them. I only got about two dozen carrots but what I did harvest was great and I can't complain since the seeds were free! As for tomatoes?! I harvested over 85lbs! That was far more than I expected, especially since the weather was pretty rainy and damp and we didn't have as much heat as we often do through August. Sadly there was a lot of lost veg from the week away at the cottage - a soggy, rain filled week that helped rot take hold of the few remaining toms. Radishes were great, beets and turnips didn't do so well and the parsnips? I got about 10 parsnips, some a bit small, others a great size but taste-wise they were lacking. I suppose they could have used longer in the ground (several frosts?). I waited until they had experienced two frosts but perhaps they needed more? Now what on earth did we do with all this produce you ask?! Well there is still a considerable amount of veg frozen in the freezer, we ate veggies non-stop through the summer, I supplied family with more tomatoes than they could handle and box after box of veg went with the man to work!

Of course now that the growing season is finished all I can do is daydream, research and make plans for next years garden - I cannot wait! And stay tuned, my recap of the past few months will continue with a post on our visitors from Ireland, the Georgian Bay cottage trip and I will reveal the new addition to our family!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Garden snaps and a harvest update

I will keep this post short-ish and simple because I have to dash outside and get to weeding the back lawn (boo)! Below are some garden snaps over the past two weeks along with some of what has been harvested. To date I have picked 8 zucchini, several bunches of chard, 8 little spring onions, 65-70 radishes and 3 turnips and 3 beets - both of which were small, I picked too soon (I was excited!). Here is hoping I get much more in the weeks and months to come!











Oh, one more thing: what to do with your zucchinis? Anyone who grows zucchinis knows you can easily get overrun with them - chocolate chip zucchini loaf is great (just supply your mum with one or two zucchinis and hope for a loaf in return!). But have you tried zucchini fritters? Best. Ever. I whipped up a batch on Wednesday, they took no time to make, were so easy and yummy. Give them a try when you are up to your eyeballs with zucchini! The recipe I followed can be found here.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The garden is out of control!

So, my bad. I hadn't realised how long it has been since I last posted. I suppose I got caught up in gardening and yard work and all of that fun, time consuming stuff. Since the last time I posted, the veg garden has got out of control - in good ways and bad. I won't go into too much detail, but take it from me, you don't want to plant zucchinis in a raised bed...unless that raised bed is huge...and you don't want to grow anything else in that raised bed! I have learned the hard way. Below are some snaps from the past few weeks, just look at everything grow!

Remember this? The zucchini plant on June 3rd. How amazing is it that I grew this from seed?

This was taken June 17th. Everything was really starting to take off at this point.

July 1st...what the heck, right?! The marigolds have taken over and the zucchinis...

...out of control!

Some advice from me, the beginner gardener who has been doing lots (but maybe not enough) gardening research online: if you research square foot gardening and find the same information I did, that 1 zucchini plant can be grown in a square foot, it is a lie. Someone out there is having a laugh at me right now for believing it. Also, companion planting, a wonderful thing - marigolds and tomatoes, magic right?! Do your research before planting your marigolds...turns out one marigold can easily grow to fit a one foot square (in your square foot garden). So don't plant 3 marigolds and then scatter your remaining seeds to "see what happens". You end up with a massive, solid as all hell marigold bush that slowly but surely spills over its 1 foot allotment and consumes your beets and carrots. Bad marigolds...and bad me for not doing more research. This will be my summer of learning!

This is a battle between a marigold, tomato and zucchini. I honestly can't tell who is winning.

Carrots!

Tomatoes!

And chard, oh my! Note: this chard and only this chard became riddled with perfect little holes, why?

Yesterday I harvested some chard. The few kale leaves to the right are the only ones to survive the dreaded green caterpillars of doom! Where did they come from?! I don't know, but what I do know is they made short work of the kale and to top it off, they left nasty kale poops everywhere!
In the coming weeks I hope to be doing more harvesting, so stay tuned. I promise to keep snapping photos and posting about my garden adventures along with some of the finally completed projects that have been happening around the house!

Friday, 13 June 2014

My first zucchinis

Today I picked my first two zucchinis! I didn't know how large they should be before picking, but after doing some inter-netting, it sounded like if I wanted a tasty zucchini with good texture, I better not let them get to big. As it is, these two are pretty solid, they aren't the usual shape of zucchini I would buy at the farmers market or grocery store - a different variety maybe? Or maybe I did wait too long to pick them...will wait until dinner this evening to tell how they are.


I shouldn't complain, because there are far worse things to complain about, but this weather and the frequency with which I step outside has lead to a certain someone crying constantly to go out in the backyard with me. I mean constantly. All. The. Time. I cannot go to the kitchen without Buster running after me and standing at the back door crying to go out. I do take him out on occasion on a leash and harness, but I cannot keep up with his demands. I am cooking, he's crying. I do dishes, he's crying. I am anywhere on the ground floor and you can bet he is crying. And if I am upstairs he follows me upstairs and annoys the crap out of me until I follow him downstairs, where he cries, cries and cries some more. I took him out this afternoon for his usual wander around the yard, grass eating.



Typically something will startle him and he will make a dash to get back to the house but not today, he was going to keep me outside until I had a decent sunburn! I finally hauled him back in, where he protested by crying at the back door before finally giving up and lying beneath an open window. What a tough life he lives.


If this kind of weather keeps up, I will be spending plenty of time outside with the cat...nevermind the garden! If the weather is nice where you are, I hope you are enjoying it as much as Buster is!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

One of these things is not like the other!

Today I decided it was time to clear the remaining seven radishes from one of the veg beds. Five of the seven picked were good looking radishes, while the other two must have been crowded and didn't form properly. Of the five good ones, one in particular stood out.



Can you guess which one?! Maybe the giant purple one on the end?! Believe me, this photo does not do this radish justice. It is much bigger than any of the other radishes I have picked to date and it is purple! Not pink or red like the others. What a thrill...sorry to those of you who have grown veggies for years who have seen it all - this is new for me and the little things - like purple radishes, are really exciting!


In other exciting (for me) garden news: the sad little lemon cucumbers have actually started to flower! This is a thrill, since the seedlings could barely handle life outside their greenhouse dome, I definitely thought they would have died by now, never mind actually produce flowers! Will see where they go from here. I had trellis for them for the longest time but they just didn't seem to be budging (not growing, but not dying) so I got rid of it. Now they are growing a bit, still not much and they have flattened to the ground. I'm going to let them do their thing and see where they go.


And last but not least, the most beautiful zucchini I have ever seen (obviously, I grew it myself!). Pay no attention to the protective netting - that net will go nowhere as long as I have successful veg growing in that bed! I can't wait to harvest what I hope will be the first of many zucchinis this summer.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

What to do about garden pests?

When I started the vegetable garden this year, I didn't really think I would have a huge problem with pests. I figured the resident rabbits might try to get in the beds and nibble away at the tasty goods and that squirrels and chipmunks might snack on some tomatoes later in the season...I was somewhat prepared to deal with these situations if and when they occurred. But what I was not prepared for was for this year to be the year of the CHIPMUNK.

Last year I don't recall seeing too many chipmunks in the yard, maybe the odd one here and there, cute little guys, right? This year the chipmunk population has boomed - not just in my yard, my mum who lives on the other side of town has had a constant flow of chipmunks running through her yard as well. This years chipmunks are fierce, nasty little jerks hell-bent on ruining everything in my garden.

Before there was anything planted in the raised beds, I would notice the dirt all dug up and tossed about, I naturally assumed it was the squirrels up to their tricks. Soon enough I was seeing more and more damage, and fewer squirrels. As soon as I started to plant anything (vegetables, seeds, flowers - you name it) they were being dug back up. In one case, within an hour of planting a flower I started from seed (in a peat pot) I watched from the kitchen window as a CHIPMUNK dug up the peat pot and tried to carry it away!

Obviously the vegetable garden has been a big target for the 'munks. I quickly got tired of smoothing over the soil every morning and knew that no seeds were going to survive at this rate. So I netted each bed. I got a bamboo pole in each corner, topped with a plastic cup, and strung animal netting over each bed. Using dollar store garden clips and some leftover stones and bricks, I tucked the netting down as secure as I could around the base of the beds and then covered the edges with the surrounding cedar mulch. This has been working pretty well. The plants have taken off, seeds that were left in peace have sprouted, garden life was pretty good. Little did I know the chipmunks where laying low and plotting against me.

After a week of peace, I noticed everything that was not netted was being hit extra hard, the 'munks were clearly trying to send me a message. One evening a friend brought me some of her rhubarb plants (yay!). By the time I was up the next morning to plant them, the plants were destroyed - I mean obliterated! I salvaged the root balls and planted them, fingers crossed...until this happened:

This is a chewed up piece of the rhubarb I had salvaged. All hope lost!

And it hasn't stopped there. Sunday morning, all was good in the garden. In the afternoon it rained and by dinner time when the rain slowed and I could poke my head outside I saw I site that made me sick...a 'munk had found its way in to one of the four beds and had torn up every last turnip, flattened all green onions, smothered my marigolds and had a good dig around all of the tomatoes. Why?! I had to wait until Monday to fix and re-seed the turnips. I checked every bed and secured the netting as best I could. This morning, as usual, I checked the beds to see if they survived the night only to discover a violent little 'munk trying to get in to one of the beds! It was thrashing around, so much that I thought it was stuck in the netting, then I realized it was throwing a full-blown chipmunk tantrum because it couldn't get in! It then proceeded to knock over the remaining tomato plants I had on the deck and further chew up the remaining rhubarb stumps. It has been back to taunt me through the day. I am going to lose my mind.



Cute as they are, they are nasty little buggers. I have whipped up a batch of pepper spray, hoping that will deter the little devils. I have also scattered blood meal around the beds. As well as the vegetables are growing now, I feel the threat of terrorist chipmunks is only going to grow and that this year, my battle will not be getting my plants to grow as much as it will be protecting my plants from the dreaded chipmunk.

Friday, 6 June 2014

What's growing?

I must confess, I am obsessed with going out into the garden and just staring at it...the neighbors must think I am a nutter. I just can't help it. I am so excited that everything growing in those four raised beds was started from seeds I planted - why didn't I start vegetable gardening sooner?! Since I am so addicted to garden watching, I am seeing some incredible progress but I am sure I am also missing some things, like just how big some of the plants are getting. Not until looking back on photos today did I realize just how big the zucchini plants are getting - BIG.


Today I picked 6 more radishes for a total of 13. The largest of those radishes were growing along side mustard greens - I guess they grow well together? There are also two teeny tiny zucchinis developing, they are looking great so far. Next year I am not sure I will grow zucchinis in the raised beds since they seem to already be taking up a load of space...must get to work on planning more beds for next year (too soon?!).



What else is growing? The parsnips I planted are starting to make an appearance. As per some information I found online about parsnip growing, I placed seeds in wet paper towels in an air tight container for about a week until the seeds started sprouting, then I planted those seeds that had sprouted - that way I am not planting any dead seeds, and the seeds get a head start. The turnip seeds planted at the same time as the parsnips are also surfacing. The spring onions are looking good, although I am, having a hard time believing they are going to grow into the lovely green onions I pay too much for at the grocery store (and that usually only last 2 days in my fridge before flopping into rubbery green nastiness). Time will tell! The kale is looking well, as for the swiss chard, its kind of hard to say; some look pretty good but they are starting to flop over a bit. The tomatoes are all looking pretty good, some of the weakest plants are looking quite strong now and I think I have even spotted some flower buds forming!

Unfortunately I did not get any photos, but over the past two days I have spotted several honey bees in the garden - that makes me all kinds of happy! Don't get me wrong, I love the bumble bees that usually hang out in the yard, but this is the first year I can say I have witnessed honey bees! I better get planting more bee-friendly plants in my flower bed.