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.


57 Days…

Friday, March 11th, 2011

The beauty of ice on the window.

The beauty of ice on the window.

…Until our last frost date. Am I going to make it, I wonder? Oh sure, physically I’ll probably get through – there is all that snow to shovel which keeps me mobile. It’s my mental state I’m concerned about. Word around town is that this is the coldest, snowiest, darkest winter we’ve had in 20 years…and I’m worried I’m starting to experience syptoms of the dire condition we in Canada know as being ‘shackwacked’, which, in my case, means drinking too much, eating too much, shopping too much, turning on ALL the lights in the house in an effort to chase away the gloom (figuratively and literally) and, basically consuming too much and producing too little.

But as I watched a neighbor push another neighbor’s car out of an icy snow rut for the umpteenth time this season, I realized that I am not alone – all gardeners who can’t garden year-round are experiencing this aimlessness, this frustration, this desperation! So maybe, if I share what I am doing to keep my sanity intact until I can get my fingers in the soil again, I won’t feel so unproductive, and maybe you can share what keeps your sanity intact and together we’ll pull ourselves out of this icy snow rut.

Let’s start with yesterday…

I’m a huge fan of CBC Radio (I’m listening to Radio 2 right now as I write this post) and listen to it during the week on that ancient thing called a radio, and then catch up on programs I missed online. While I love TV and could, technically, be called an addict to it, let’s face it, it’s not a medium designed to make you think. CBC Radio, on the other hand, allows me glimpses into other countries, other cultures, other minds – it keeps me from feeling isolated and insulated from other people which is very important during a season when it’s all too easy to burrow inside the house (and under the covers).

Weekday mornings usually start with Radio 2 Morning with Bob Mackowycz, a music program that features a fair amount of Canadians, until it’s time for The Current on Radio 1, a current events show that delves into national and global issues. After that, I sometimes listen to Q, a pop culture program that can have me feeling my age and questioning why no one sees that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes (is anyone else familiar with old fairy tales not co-opted by Disney and Pixar?). (Oops, another symptom is irrational ranting!) The afternoons have me flipping back to Radio 2 and listening to Drive with Rich Terfry (aka Buck 65), another music show that plays tunes I can bop to while cooking dinner (dancing is another important technique I use to shake off the shackwhack but more on that another time).

The weekends start with Radio 2 Morning with Molly Johnson, a Canadian singer with the best laugh you’ve ever heard and excellent taste in music (at least, I think so). And then I catch up on all the shows I missed during the week, specifically…

The Age of Persuasion – Terry O’Reilly hosts a clever and witty show about how we are sold stuff…Ideas (and its lighter version, Ideas In the Afternoon) – but only when I’m feeling deeply introspective and highly intelligent…Spark – a show about technology that’s understandable for people who, like myself, are technologically-challenged…Tapestry – an exploration of faith and disbelief…White Coat, Black Art – an emergency room doctor hosts a show highlighting issues facing our healthcare system.

And when that’s all been covered, I go online to Radio 3 (head’s up – this link will automatically play music which can be startling if you’re not expecting it) where a bunch of Canadian artists have uploaded their music, and I tinker with my playlists.

I just re-read that list and realized it’s pretty overwhelming if you’re not familiar with any of those shows. So, to give you someplace to start, here’s my favorite from this week, Spark’s Nora Young interviews Guy Kawasaki on his new book, Enchantment. Prepare to be inspired!