Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dreamin' Green, Part II

Earlier I outlined my designs for the new "L" shaped garden I plan to have built in the spring, now it's time for the rest of my mad plans (to make up my goal of "more than half the yeild in less than 1/8th of the space").

Our gazebo is on a raised platform in the corner of the yard. The gazebo itself sits in the middle, allowing for space around the outside on three of the four corners (the fourth is taken up with a planter type thing housing what I think are current or possibly blueberry bushes). There is plenty of space at these three corners for some large planters or groups of planters, which is exactly what I intend to do. I have two large cedar containers (moved here from the apartment) that I will put on two of the corners with Salad Bush Cucumbers.

Salad Bush Cucumbers
Salad Bush Cucumbers

I have two large urn like pots that are destined for cherry tomatoes (at least; I will probably add more). I chose two varieties this year: Tiny Tim which I have had great success with in the past and Ildi, a yellow grape tomato that I tried last year. It was the only tomato that got to the flowering stage before frost killed it (I was late starting them and if you remember, last year was not optimum for growing anything, let alone on a north facing balcony).

Ildi Tomato

My herb garden will not be in the traditonal sense either. Other than some Lavendar Lady to plant by my garden gates, my herbs will be in pots scattered about the yard (depending on how much sun they need). I've had little pots of basil and oregano and the like for years; although they don't yield much, it a treat to cook with herbs that you have grown yourself. On the list this year are: Sweet Basil, Cilantro, Bouquet Dill, Oregano, Italian Dark Green Parsley, Rosemary, Sage and German Winter Thyme.

Lavendar Lady
Just to allay any fears, I'm not all about the veggies this year. I've also chosen quite a few flowers to brighten our happy home. I plan to purchase two large urns for the front porch; in them I plan to grow Ballet Mix Asters and White Fountains Lobilia. I actually got both to bloom last year on the balcony, so a deck drenched in morning sun should provide a happy home. While I'm out shopping for brackets, I plan to pick up some to hang my window boxes off the front railing; in those will go more lobelia and Perfume Mix Nicotiana. In one of my crazier ideas, I will get yet another large planter and either grow the Morning Glory Trio up the side of the house by the garage or up one side of the gazebo. We'll see how I feel in the spring.

White Fountains Trailing Lobelia
Perfume Mix Nicotiana
Finally, in the "fill in the cracks" category are two old favourites of mine. In the front garden there seems to be a rose bush, some garden lights and little else. For now, I will add some Bleeding Hearts which will (hopefully) bloom in the spring. To fill in any gaps in my flower beds this year, I will sprinkle in some Mirabilis (or as I grew up knowing them "Four O'Clocks) of the Four O'Clock Mix.

Four O'Clock Mix Mirablilis

That should keep me going for now. Other than trying a pepper plant in the remaining Veseys Revolutionary Tomato Planter and a field trip to a local nursery for some fuchsias and to investigate peony bushes, that is it.

You may laugh, you may scorn... but I have been waiting a lifetime to have my own garden paradise. It will be a lot of work, that I do not doubt. It will be a labour of love. Yesterday my friend Skye placed our seed order; both of us are determined to make our gardens a success. I have a spot already picked out in my living room for my seed trays (many of mine have to be started indoors early). I'm already starting to tap my foot impatiently waiting for our package to arrive...

As the summer winds on, I can totally see us sipping something lovely under her gazebo or mine, looking out at our handiwork and sighing with contentment. It's better than any spa, better than any retreat. I can't wait.

"The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses." ~Hanna Rion

Dreamin' Green, Part I

It's that time of year again. After all the Christmas paraphernalia has been put away and winter's chill starts to erode all hope, there comes a new season for gardeners.

The season of The Seed Catalogue.

Like many, I have been pouring over the coveted Veseys catalogue for weeks, visions of vegetables dancing in my head. As the snow continued to blanket everything, I planned my summer greenery. This is the first year that I have an actual yard in which to garden, so you can imagine my state of botanical bliss as I weighed this variety over that and hybrid vs. heritage.

We have a small yard. We also have a small boy who likes to run about our small yard, so we have to really think this through to get the highest yield possible (and still be pretty) in the small amount of space that I have allotted. Sometime during the late eighties, my mother stumbled across a book called Square Foot Gardening which has forever changed my thinking on the subject, but not hers. Now in all fairness, my mother constantly has this battle waging in her: to embrace the concepts of square foot gardening or listen to her farmers DNA which makes her stubbornly attempt to scratch life from barren soil. I don't seem to have this problem as what little farmer's DNA I managed to get will not offer any argument as I pick up the phone and have bags and bags of manure, vermiculite and Black Earth delivered to my door. But I digress...

The whole idea of square foot gardening is to level the playing field. Instead of spending years tending and rotating and trying to cook up the best growing soil possible for a few veggies, you remove the crap soil (in this case Brampton clay) and replace it with highly nutritionous earth. Then, by knowing a little bit about your plants that you plan on nurturing, you can plan out a much smaller, higher yielding garden. I watched my mother spend thirty years tilling and almost killing herself wrenching life from her huge clay-filled garden in the hopes of putting a few beans in the freezer for the winter. Uh uh. Not me. My goal is more than half the yield of her old garden(s) in Brampton with less than an eigth of the space and a helluva lot less roto-tilling.

So, what's the plan?

I have an existing flower garden in my yard that is made out of railway ties. It has a rosebush and some purple cone flowers and heaven only knows what else in it. I plan on leaving it alone for the most part, just so I can see what is in there. What I plan on doing is building an adjacent garden, continuing that one along the fence and wrapping around the corner to make an 'L'. That is the sunniest part of the yard and gets a lot in the afternoon (if the fading paint on the fence is any indication). That's where the majority of my veggies will go. There is a fence pole in the corner where the former owners had a street sign; I have incorporated that into my designs. Once the garden area is dug out and the pole re-planted, I plan on getting some metal brackets and hanging two of Veseys Revolutionary Tomato Planters with, you guessed it, tomato plants in it. They aren't really all that revolutionary as it is an old concept, but I like the adaptations they have made, including the water resevoir and it beats ruining buckets. The tomatoes I have chosen are called "Big Beef" and the picture makes my mouth water. At the base of the pole I plan to plant "Scarlet Runner Beans" which should run up the pole and drape the fence. I chose these over conventional pole beans as the numerous bright red flowers are gorgeous and attract hummingbirds. The beans are edible when small and tender and if you need seed for the next year, just grow some pods to full size.

Scarlet Runner Beans

In the rest of that box, on the outside of the beans, I have planned a spot for "Parade" Green Onions and "Lancelot" Leeks.

Lancelot Leeks

In the small wing of the "L" I plan three different plants. This is the part where it gets a bit wierd as two of these plants I am only growing because I can. Alternating in this space will be Jerusalem Gold Sunflowers and Bon Appétit Corn. Yes, I said corn. That would be how my farmer DNA kicks in. Around the front of this part of the garden I will plant Early Butternut Squash. Call it my tribute to the "Three Sisters". The vines can snake in and around the corn and sunflowers (as the vines lay on the ground) and can spill out over the grass for all I care.

Early Butternut Squash
Early Butternut Squash

In the other half of the "L" will be more traditional crops: Lettuce, carrots and peppers. I have chosen two varieties of lettuce, both provided success last year.
Black Seeded Simpson and Greenvale Mix were hardy enough to grow in boxes on my balcony last year, so I should do ok with them this year. Sweetness III is our carrot of choice, while my peppers will be Fat 'n Sassy (just like me). :P

Greenvale Mix Lettuce

Whew! Seems like a lot... but I have barely scratched the surface. This covers my plans for the "L" shaped garden, but I still have my pots, planters and gazebo to divulge. There are herbs, flowers and all sorts of things to cover. Have no fear gentle reader, I will offer those shortly. In the meantime however, this gardener needs a nap.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Mini Update

Quite a few of you are asking for updates on a few items... I figured it would just be easier to post them here.

On the heart front: I'm waiting for the results of all my tests (which will be back in a week or two). Then, as my cardiologist has informed me, he will tell me when I can go back to work. Pretty much his words, actually. I've been poked, prodded and almost passed out on a treadmill twice. I'm still huffing and puffing when I go up the stairs and every morning fluid rattles around my lungs until I get moving. My feet are perpetually cold and although my nails aren't blue, they aren't pink either. My favourite part occurred during my echocardiogram:

Tech: "Oh... Umm... do you have any more tests today?"
Me: "No."
Tech: "Ok... Do you see... [the cardiologist] today?"
Me: "No. Why?"
Tech: "When do you see... [the cardiologist]?"
Me: "In two weeks. Why?"
Tech: "Oh Ok."
[Big silence]

So, that should give me something to obsess over for the next few weeks.

On the sister in law front, the majority of those who took the poll suggested I let karma deal with it, which is pretty much what I did later on in the day. I end ran her by arranging transportation with a friend and informed the brother in law we would be picking it up after nine. Which they did, and kindly installed it in our bedroom (with the brother in law's help I will add). We now have the furniture and I won't be dealing with her again, I can promise you that.

So, that's about it. I'm keeping busy by hugging the stuffing out of my almost three year old son and planning my summer garden.

It's all good...

Monday, January 12, 2009

This Week's Poll

Ok, it's really catty.

I get it.

But it's true. The poll question space is too short to put all that I wanted in there, so allow me a little explanation....

I never expect help from anybody, nor do I consider myself to be the centre of the universe.

My brother in law's girlfriend is a different story however.

What has really gotten my back up as of late (and this is only the recent big stuff) is the following:

1) When we moved into the house, family and friends helped out where they could. Some with the physical stuff, others made lunch, offered support, made arrangements, that sort of thing. Thank you all and I love you for it. My sister in law did nothing other than be upset that the brother in law was helping us move and then called him all day to ask him when he was coming home to "do things around the house". We booked him a month in advance, BTW.

2) She cannot sell her house due to the "junk" in it. Some of the junk that she is referring to is my dear departed mother in law's dresser and beside tables. I have always loved those... they are Shaker, solid wood and I know how much she loved them. They are in the in-laws basement. B-i-L offered them to us when he found out we lacked dresser space and we jumped on the idea. The S-i-L knows that we do not have a van, yet refuses to let the B-i-L drive them over to our house in theirs. "It's not like we are selling them to them... this is not how that works" is exactly what she said. She would rather we rent a truck. I don't think I'm outta line here.

3) She arranged a family get together at my house without telling me. Yes. You heard me. As you well know, I've been off work since before Christmas as I am having a heart issue explored. Yet, because she "hasn't seen the house yet" she planned a get together here and was annoyed when Husband told her no.

4) She has repeatedly told anyone that is listening that she has not been to my house yet. I wonder why?

So, this is why the claws are out. I hate stupidity and stupid, self centred people. For the record, I have also tried to discuss this with her, but she was "busy watching a movie" and too busy to call me back when she was done.

Maybe I am a crazy biatch, but I'm pretty sure that all of you (statistically) can't be. So, vote in this weeks poll. Let me know what I should do...

Mee-f'n-oow, baby.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

To New Beginnings and New Hopes...

Once again, gentle reader, we find ourselves at the start of a New Year.

What did 2008 hold for you?

One year ago I resolved to continue forward on our course towards reduced stress, reduced consumption, increased savings... I was to pay it forward, make healthier choices and "keep my head down and do my own time". I also vowed that come hell or high water, we were getting out of that apartment building and into a house.

I do believe I paid it forward, if the comments from family, friends and colleagues are any indication. I can't count how many times I've been thanked for my generosity, for being courteous, for being kind, for providing an ear where necessary and generally bolstering the team's spirits. I've been complimented for my "diplomatic skills", so you know I must have been trying! (Either that or they've all gone mad.) I've even taken that one step further and despite possessing common sense, took the ER position to advocate better for our department and for our patients in general. I love my new job; once again I feel like a nurse, once again I feel like I am accomplishing something.

I made a few healthier choices along the way as well. I gave up aspartame and "sugar free" products; as a side benefit, started to lose a *bit* of weight. It was a testimony to how much aspartame and the like will mess with your blood sugar as I immediately started eating less. As someone who consumes pop like some of you consume water or coffee, this was a big step. I then cut down my cola consumption again, which on a breakless 12 hour night, is pretty hard to do. In general I tried to reach more for the veggies and less for the meat and potatoes, but as a true blue carnivore, I can't really say that I accomplished this each and every time. I am getting better, however.

This year also saw the death of the original Secret Evil Plan and the beginning of Project: Homecoming. With the economy rapidly spiralling down the toilet, it would have been totally irresponsible to leave my seniority at Willie-O and move to the hinterland where I might just be laid off a month later. Unlike here where there are a handful of hospitals within a short distance, there is one in Peterborough. Two, if you count Lindsay...

On November 12 of 2008, we took possession on our first house. It has been a magic month or so as we try to sort ourselves out while basking in the glow of our accomplishment. It was an accomplishment... for those of you not in the know, neither Sean or I come from wealth by any stretch of the imagination. We've also made some stupid choices over the years and had a year of separation/almost divorce that just piled on the debt. Other than good advice (and some manual labour!) from a few friends, we've had little or no help and we have done it ourselves. Just like everything else in our lives that is worth anything... But, we did it. We own a house.

2008 was a good year.

As I sit here now, on the first day of 2009, my thoughts unfortunately are turned inward a bit. A recent virus has caused some health concerns for me personally... tests later this week will show if there is any lasting damage to my heart. As I write this I have no idea what this will mean for my life, family and career. This little scare has forced me to once again confront my mortality and make some sudden dramatic changes. In the last week I have had to forgo caffeine, alcohol and chocolate. The caffeine I have remained faithful to, the alcohol and chocolate I have had regrettable relapses. On Christmas Eve I had a thimbleful of sherry only to spend most of the night feeling my heart trying to hammer it's way out of my chest. A few stolen chocolates have unfortunately produced the same effect. So can a call from my mother, but that is beside the point. As of Tuesday, my doctor took me off for two more weeks. It's been a bit tricky...

I suppose I could sit here all glum and let what may or may not ruin my hopes for the new year, but I can't. Aside from my "house glow" I have another reminder of the good things in my life: wonderful friends. I answered the door yesterday to have a beautiful bouquet of tropical flowers thrust in my grumpy hands. The friend on the other end of the flowers stayed to chat for a few minutes and in that time, tidied up my kitchen for me... just because she could, and she knew that I couldn't.

A Cheery Pick Me Up
Click to see the "notes" version on Flickr...

If I have to make a resolution for 2009 (and you all know how I feel about them) it would be to continue to reduce the stress levels in my life. This house, the new job, the organization projects, all of these things help to set the table, now I have to pull up a chair and actually dig in. To quote my friend Skye (who brought me the flowers) "I couldn't take you to Hawaii to relax, so I brought a bit of Hawaii to you". I'm going to have to continue to find the bits of Hawaii in my day to day life.

Here's to 2009. May she bring us all happiness, may she bring us all health. May she bring us good friends and family. May she bring us prosperity.

May she bring us a little bit of paradise.

A Little bit of Paradise
A Little Bit of Paradise