A collection of my favourite daily moments in the last 1-2 weeks.
I never considered myself to have a green thumb.
My gardening attempts were always clumsy guesses and hopes that often turned out to be terribly disappointing.
When we moved to this property, I was determined to have a vegetable garden that would provide food for the family for a good chunk of the year. (Until I get an actual root cellar built, storage until about December or January is the best I can hope for.*) So, I started collecting gardening books. Thanks to the ultra-craziness of my home-schooling lifestyle, I didn't read nearly as many as I collected, but a few were my "go-tos" every spring when it came time to put in the garden.
The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food: 765 varities of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and nuts was--and is--an indispensable reference each year when it comes to putting in my vegetables.
However, this year I have also discovered the benefits of Lois Hole's work, since she ran a farm and greenhouse in Edmonton area (only one gardening zone off of where I live) and has great wisdom to share when it comes to knowing what does and doesn't work in Alberta.
This year, I decided it was time to read a few of those books getting dusty on my shelf, and excitedly dove into about four volumes at once.
I also excitedly started putting seeds into dirt, eeking out precious space in sunny windows where it could be found--next to my houseplants, on the ironing board, wherever.
I didn't start my indoor seeds until around May 1, as I was still a little disorganized. (And by "little", you can read "not really organized at all, just pretending I am, so don't spoil my delusions.) Fortunately, within about two weeks, the weather started warming up enough that I could bump some of those first starters out onto the deck during the day and make room in the windows for another batch.
Thank goodness I did, because although I was checking the weather diligently most nights, I forgot to one night when there was a very hard frost, and didn't bring in my tender tomatoes and pumpkins and squashes. I had to start new ones.
(Although that second batch of squash is now mostly planted out in the garden, last week there was another frost that took out the upper leaves and my marigolds, too. Apparently, my plastic vinegar/milk jug "cloches" were not sufficient protection against that typical early June hard frost. Noted for next year.)
This year is my most ambitious garden year yet. Not only do I have more raised beds in my vegetable patch than ever before, I am actually starting a few flower beds, and am putting in some of my favourite perennials. Shasta daisies, lavender, a hosta, bleeding hearts, lilies, and California poppies will be sharing space with a few food crops to make use of the all-too-precious black dirt I had hauled here from Mom and Mike's place.
I'm a very impatient gardener, though--I check my seeds several times a day until they come up, barely restraining myself from the child's trick of digging up the seeds to see if they have sprouted. :-)
I took these photos last week, before I had completed my front flower bed (which now has the hosta, strawberries, and morning glories snug as a bug inside.)
Last Monday, I wandered around our yard, capturing all the beautiful signs of what it looks like in late spring:
Jason has done a beautiful job of keeping our yard mowed so far, which is quite the feat considering his hay fever, and that he uses the push lawn mower. Yes, the older boys have helped, but it is just a lot of mowing. Jason did this patch last weekend, and it took him four hours:
That is only half the yard! (Actually, it's only the part of the half that I could fit into this picture!) However, it has been so wonderful to go out my door and be in a park.
As a "thank you", and to hopefully help maintain it, I am getting him a riding lawn mower for Father's Day. :-)
Gardeners are pretty much the ultimate optimists, I think. No matter how bad your garden turned out the year before, THIS is the year it's going to be amazing! Caterpillars, craziness, and cold weather be darned!
Perhaps because last year was such a gardening disaster for me, I really, really want to have the magnificent garden I am imagining this year. And honestly, this is the first year where I really feel like I am starting to "get" this gardening thing.
As they say--"Hope springs eternal within the gardener's breast." No, wait, that's not it. "Tomorrow is another day." Closer. How about, "The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies." (Gertrude Jekyll)
(*This year--after only three or so years of looking at the spine on my shelf--I plan to actually read the book "Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables" by Mike and Nancy Bubel, so watch for what I am sure will be some rather amusing anecdotes as I think of ways to get creative with Vegetable Storage--and possibly a book review.)
That's what my weather app readout has said all morning. I keep tapping the "refresh" arrows, hoping that those numbers will change, but they haven't. I'd almost think they were lying, but it has been confirmed by outside sources.
And I sit and debate whether or not it is worth bundling up a little man, warming up the van, and braving the cold to pick up milk, cream, and printer ink. I could have Jason get them on his way home from work, after all.
The sun is shining, at least--clear skies and no snow make for lifted spirits, even on the coldest days.
The weather has been a little nasty all week--first, it was snowy, blizzardy, icky, and now it is just clear and cold.
My poor rooster has already got clearly-defined gray tips on his comb and wattles where the skin is dying from frostbite. So far, we haven't lost any chickens, though. Soon, the eleven pullets that survived Thunder, our malamute, to make it to winter will join my one mature hen in laying eggs, too--Yay! One started this week, and although the eggs have been frozen, there have been two per day coming in.
Weeks like this, when I have been housebound by weather so much, send me into more introspective moments. I find myself missing my dad, and my brother, and Jason's mom, and those family that I wish with all my heart weren't so far away. The way my dad would tell a joke about a certain thing, or how I can talk with my mother-in-law about so much, or even just hanging out with my brother... this is the time of year when warmth is not inherent, it's created by the activities we do, and the people do them with. And I am missing that.
We just finished celebrating Hannukah, which was quite early this year. Since we started celebrating it a few years ago, I have struggled with figuring out what traditions we wanted to assimilate with the holiday. I knew it was a minor holiday, but it seems that some people really go overboard with it--blue and silver and white garlands and banners and glitz all over their house until it seems to be merely a misplaced Christmas celebration. That's why I was so glad to read this post by Melissa Ford yesterday. We celebrate this holiday because Jesus did, and there are layered meanings that carry deeper overtones to a Christian--it is the Festival of Dedication, remembering when the Macabees took back the defiled temple, cleaned it up and rededicated it. The Bible says that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so we re-dedicate ourselves at the same time. It is also sometimes called the Festival of Light, and Jesus is the Light of the world. Just like the Hannukiah sits in the window to shine light out in the darkness, Jesus is to shine out through us to show the Light of his love and the good news of his salvation to the world. It is a beautiful holiday that I am really beginning to enjoy.
But this year, it nearly caught me by surprise because it was so early. We lit our Hannukiah each night (for which we now simply use tealights in votive holders and a tall tapered candle in a brass candlestick for the shamash), and we went through the Hannukah story (our boys remembered none of it--one of these years it will stick) and the meaning for us, but we didn't have a single latke, or spin any dreidles, or eat chocolate gelt coins, let alone make Hanukkah cookies and give gifts to everyone we know--I almost forgot the small gifts that we give our boys on the last night in place of gelt! And I was feeling a little guilty about that, until I read Melissa's post.
We do NOT celebrate Christmas, the main reason being because the holiday is completely pagan in origin, and at a certain point in history it was "Christianized"--but putting chocolate icing on dog poop doesn't make the poop any more wholesome or appetizing. The Holy Spirit dealt with us on it about ten years ago, now, and we refocused our attention away from the glam of Christmas and onto the good news of Jesus' gift of salvation for us, celebrated by remembering his death and resurrection.
When we decided to stop, it was a relief--the commercialization, the political pressures of who gets a gift and who doesn't, the massive outlay of cash in this single month to buy things for people they don't even want or need... it was such a relief to leave it all behind. I miss the shiny decorations, just a little, but I have found that I can still decorate for winter without including a single Santa Ornament or sprig of mistletoe--and a sparkly snowflake or two doesn't look strange, either. (Not that I have done it yet, this year--that would mean braving the cold to go dig out the winter decorations from my Sea Can!)
So I was unsure about the extent to which I have seen some others assimilate those same Christmas "accessory" traditions into their celebrations of Hanukkah. Even plastering the Star of David all over their homes seems a little iffy to me--it also has roots in paganism and the occult. Besides that, we aren't Jews. I don't feel like we should pretend we are.
For now, I think we will continue to celebrate Hanukkah as we have been--except maybe with a latke or two thrown in next year. (Because latkes really are delicious!)
And although we are far away from many of those we love, we will hold them close in our hearts through this season of cold and darkness. We will also cherish the time we get to spend with those who are near. Except, not today--today is a day for staying home and staying warm by the fireplace.
Oo! -31, now! Maybe I'll brave the cold after all...
Stay warm, friends.
Okay, I haven't been that many places over the last few weeks, but I have been extremely busy--as usual, lots to blog about and no time to do it in. So, I will try to recap:
- We have been going strong for three weeks now, and have got to do such fun things as making the colour wheel out of frosting, hitting up the library, painting a giant sun on butcher paper, and doing a field trip to the Telus World of Science. Jabin comes home from kindergarten every day talking about a new friend, and enjoys his "home days", too. So far, so good.
- We spent last weekend in S.L., the official reason being to attend my cousin Riley's wedding reception. It was great, but also a perfect excuse for a "mini family reunion" with my brother and dad. Logan had not been to Canada for almost exactly two years, as he was waiting for his Green Card paperwork to come through, which it finally did about a month ago. Thankfully, we have all managed to travel his direction a few times during the interim--well, all of us except Jason. We had a great weekend of hanging out, playing board games, and laughing--a LOT. I love my family.
- On the Labour Day weekend, our friends B. & L. came out to educate us on the ways of butchering a chicken. L. has plenty of experience from her childhood days on a farm. I had two roosters whose doom awaited them--one for the demo, and one for practice. I'll spare you the grisly details, but considering the fact that I used to have my friend Amanda do all the actual dissecting when we were in Biology together, I'd say I did pretty good. I only felt queasy once, and that was when my attempts at neck-breaking only stressed out my poor boy instead of achieving the "quick demise" I was going for. We ended up using the axe. Anyway, on Monday they looked like this:
And on Wednesday night, one of them looked like this:
(The other one is still in the freezer.)
Kinda scrawny, I know, but there were just too many roosters for my "girls", so they had to go.
I don't quite have the whole garden in, yet, but I managed to save the last of my potatoes from the ravages of my chickens today--the "turkeys" were digging them up and eating them! I still have two of my five raised beds to empty, but I'm not in a hurry to dig up my carrots--they'll keep much better in the ground, for now.
I'm sure there is much more that could be said, but my clock just informed me that the party's over, folks--it's after midnight. I need to get my rest, so Teacher Mommy will be reasonable tomorrow. I'll try not to stay away so long, this time!