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! 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 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.



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.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

A vegetable in the garden!

Today is a wonderful day! Why you ask? Well for starters, we finally got some much needed rain, so I now have two very full rain barrels at my disposal and the vegetable and flower beds got a decent watering. Last night there was torrential rain, high winds and the power was knocked out for a short while - I know the garden needed the rain but I was a bit nervous I would wake up this morning to see all my baby plants destroyed. Well, not only were the plants NOT destroyed, some were ready for picking - that's right, I picked my first vegetable today! A lovely hot pink radish. I am the first to admit I am pretty impatient, and that isn't going to work in my favor when gardening, but today I just couldn't help myself. I could see the pink of the radishes poking up above the soil and thought it wouldn't hurt to pick one to see how big it is (and how it tastes). So I did it and woo-hoo! Now I will hold off on picking more for a few more days, I think they could use a little bit more time to get a tad bit bigger, but I am so pleased to see an actual edible vegetable come from my garden - that I grew all by myself from seed. Happy day!

One of the benefits of having the netting up over the beds is obviously to keep the animals out, but it also helps keep me out! I have been bad for poking around in the beds when I don't need to (like I said, I'm impatient), the netting being such a pain in the butt to put up and take down, keeps me from rummaging and disturbing the goods that are growing.

I also spotted the beginnings of a zucchini today. I am so glad, especially since I put the zucchini plants out during a few warm days we had, then I was hit with the threat of frost and the plants looked a bit traumatized for about two weeks following that time - dodged a bullet!

The southern curled mustard greens are looking well, along with some scattered lettuces. I didn't expect anything to come of these old seeds, so I just threw them in the beds and didn't save enough seeds to do another round of planting, so I will harvest these as baby greens instead of letting them grow to full lettuces.