Can I Get A ‘Do-Over’?

Monday, April 16th, 2012

I had to take a hiatus from blogging – started a new job with a steep learning curve – but you didn’t miss much in my garden last season. Spring was cold and rainy so the mosquitoes were horrendous and the aphids prolific. I put in the garden about 6 weeks too late so the tomatoes didn’t ripen well before the first frost. The slugs chewed up every broad-leafed vegetable I planted because I just didn’t have time to constantly troll for them. And it wasn’t just the insects and diseases my plants had to contend with – they also had to compete with each other for space and nutrients. And when it’s a battle between the zucchini and the carrots, guess who’s going to win?! I have to say, though, it’s impressive what my poor little neglected garden was able to produce despite my absence and the horrible weather.

2011 Season...Yes, I know it looks lush but where's all the fruit?

2011 Season...Yes, I know it looks lush but where's all the fruit?

So, despite my threats to turn to plastic plant gardening, last year’s little successes have encouraged me to get back in the garden again (and, hopefully, back to blogging) because, as we all know, gardeners are an optimistic lot – and there are so many things I still haven’t tried growing yet like strawberries from seed…and Brazilian verbena…and tuberose…and black radishes…and purple carrots…and there are some interesting new/old lettuce varieties…

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16 Days…

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

…until the last frost! We’re coming down the homestretch to spring, to digging in the dirt, to sowing seeds. But we’re not there yet so, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’m still depending on CBC Radio to keep me sane until the snow melts, and, specifically, this morning, it was a Spark interview that I enjoyed with my morning coffee – an interview with Ingrid Fetell and her research into the “aesthetics of joy”.

I felt she made a convincing case for the importance of designing for joy but it’s probably because I already believe that we need more joyful spaces – more places that lighten our mood, make us smile, engage our hearts. It’s why I designed my kitchen garden the way I did.

Believe it or not, but I’ve gotten flack for my kitchen garden. I’ve been told it’s not efficient, it doesn’t make the best use of the space, and some parts are too tight to work easily in. These things are all true, to a certain extent, but only if the goal of my kitchen garden is to produce the most amount of food in the allotted space with the least amount of effort.

Hear that sound? That was the sound of joy being sucked out of my garden!

That’s not my goal for my kitchen garden. My goal always has been for it to bring me joy - in the looking at, the working in, and the eating of.

I designed the garden with raised beds because I like tidy edges; with bamboo trellises because I like the feeling of walls; and with lots of flowers…because I like flowers. These things also allow me to control the type of soil I use, provide support for tomatoes and climbing vines, and attract pollinators, but that, to me, is secondary to the joy it brings me to see these elements.

I decided to lay down gravel for the paths – I love the crunchy sound it makes when I walk on it and raking it smooth reminds me of those Japanese sand gardens. Okay, so it’s an inexpensive and easy to lay surfacing material – that’s so not the point.

I plant things we love to eat fresh – peas, radishes, tomatoes, lettuces, beans. These are almost all consumed during the course of the growing season because to me, the flavor of food harvested right from the garden, sometimes still warm from the sun, brings me intense joy. Frozen beans eaten in the dead of winter don’t always produce that same intense sensation – although the Romano bean I grew last year tasted better after being frozen, which was a joyful discovery (Ingrid talks about surprise being one of the elements in creating joy).

And the other thing that gives me joy in my kitchen garden, when the snow is white and thick on the ground, is the designing of it. Below, is this year’s plan for the garden. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

2011 Kitchen Garden Plan; click on plan for a larger image

2011 Kitchen Garden Plan

53 Days…

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

…Until the last frost date. And I’m still (relatively) sane thanks to an Internet connection and a world of bloggers out there.

Last post, I wrote about how CBC Radio keeps me from being isolated and insulated from the world around me. I think that during this long winter, when the snow builds up white walls around me, I miss the feeling of connectedness with my neighbors and community that I develop over the warmer months when we all spill outside to (finally) bask in sunlight and heat and share experiences over the garden fence (although I have to hand it to Edmontonians – it has to be -20C before they stop riding their bicycles). But since the snow is too high for me to even get near the fence, and my neighbors are likewise barricaded indoors, I find my communion online among a group of bloggers.

I discovered a new one the other day while checking in with Only Here for the Food, an enthusiastic Edmonton food writer who blogs about local food happenings. She mentioned a guy called Kevin Kossowan and his family’s food system which had me intrigued enough to click the link. I’m so glad I did!

Although he makes me feel even more unproductive and consumptive than I did before, I’m also inspired by what he is doing to feed himself and his family locally, frugally, and deliciously. Really, this is no purely subsistence eating he’s doing – in addition to growing some unusual things on his urban plot (and storing some of it in his root cellar), he also makes fruit wines, ages cheese (that he’s traded for from a local cheesemaker), puts up any number of preserves, forages, and hunts, butchers, and smokes his own meat. And he has a day job! And 2 little girls! And he blogs frequently and amusingly about his experiences! If you have any ambition to produce even a tiny bit of your own food, how can you not be inspired by that?

Other bloggers also inspire me, of course, but because it would take way too much space if I rhapsodized about them all here, check them out on my blogroll instead – there are some talented, inspiring, amusing people out there, all unknowingly helping me get through my longest winter yet.