Monday, May 25, 2009

Welcome to My Garden

Way back in January, while I sat at home and did very little, thanks to some virally induced PVC's, I dreamed of my summer garden. I lovingly perused the Vesey's Catalogue, picking this variety over that and planned what I was going to grow. I also designed an L-shaped garden for the corner of the yard that would house all my tasty veggies.

Well, it was time to make my dreams a reality.

On Saturday, with the help of our fabulous friends Skye and Erik, we built our garden. It took 11 hours of some back (and often head) breaking labour, but by God, it is a thing of beauty. We had several projects going at the same time actually, so it will take a little explanation (as if you were expecting any less, no?) ;)

My yard is a neanderthal's forehead. This in itself really shouldn't pose too much of a problem, except that our neighbour behind us is another six to eight inches below us. As a result, my yard is slowly washing into theirs and without intervention, might have me walking out into my very own eroded wasteland one morning. There was also a "pit" on the one side of the gazebo... a sudden ankle breaker of a drop that you could not see as it was covered in grass until "whoops!" you were stumbling around in it. I knew that in particular would pose a problem for me, never mind anyone else. I would also be remiss if I did not mention now that my fence is a) crooked, b) uneven, c) in need of attention and d) originally constructed by drunken morons. It's lines wave gently back and forth across the span that is my yard. It's hypnotic, really.

There was also a pole in the corner that the former owners had a street sign on top. I thought it was just resting there until I went to move it one day and with a small tug came off it's mooring, which is in effect, a two and a half foot spike. I had originally designed it to go in the garden to hang planters and run beans up, but that was not do-able in the end. The spike had to go.

The master plan was this: pull back the sod in the pit, dig out the garden, fill the pit with the dirt from the garden, replace sod, build the garden. We have steaks and beer. Giddie up.

Mommy Needs a Garden!

This corner needs a garden. You can see the pole and under the hanging pot of fuschia is the start of "the pit". You can see I had started digging out the spike that held that pole up.

Saturday morning, I got up at 6 to putter around a bit before the Quinnster got up and started running around looking for Ty and Erin. We tidied up a bit and I headed outside to find something for me to do first. I started grubbing up the sod in the pit by hand, which was going pretty well actually, considering I only had a trowel to work with. It went faster once Skye and the shovels arrived.

Meanwhile, Sean had started work on excavating the spike in the corner. It took him no time at all it seems to rip the thing from the clay. The kids kept themselves occupied. Ty and Quinn proved once again, if you give a couple of guys a nice sunny day, drinks, snacks and an easy chair, they will have a great time.

Ty and Quinn

Say cheese!

The rest of the construction went in a series of stages. First the pit needed a set of "retaining" boards to keep the new backfill in the yard.

One Pit with a Retaining Wall

One retained pit.

As that was finished, the area designated for the new garden had to be dug out. The dirt from that was to go in the pit, to make it more or less level with the rest of the yard.

I am Helping

I am helping.

Once the garden area was dug out, old rotten boards had to be removed from the fence and new ones added to "retain" and form the back wall of the new garden. You can see them going up in the next photo:

Caution:  Children and Adults at Play

Caution: Children and Adults at Play. Wait, they were there a minute ago... Must be break time.

With the pit now full of dirt and sod from the garden, the rolls of sod were replaced and tramped down as best we could. The result is amazing... No more pit!

No More Pit!

We are pit-less. Yay!

Now came the really tricky part; the aforementioned neanderthal slope of the yard meant that in order to have a level garden that matched up with the existing one, there was going to be a lot of geometry. A LOT. Thankfully, Erik is a whiz at this sort of thing and we were able to puzzle through what was needed. In order to be three rails high, it really had to be four on one end (most of which was buried) and five on the other. That's a lot of levelling. I suck at levelling. Skye and I went to RONA and bought a hose instead.

Trying to lay out the first layer (on an uneven yard)

The garden slowly takes shape...

From there, it went together fairly quickly. Erik and Sean worked on it primarily as Skye and I had our hands full keeping the kids busy, fed and away from the power tools.

Sean Measures Up

Sean measures up.

Little by little, my garden took shape. As each rail was added, I felt happier and happier. It was almost if by it's construction alone, the garden banished once and for all the depression I felt during the winter; the feelings of despair that arose as I was sick at home and unable to do much more than walk across a room without becoming breathless. It was gone and my garden was becoming more than a pencil wish on graph paper.


Finally, the construction was complete!

The Construction is Complete!
A Marvel of Modern Construction...

The yard and garden, from start to finish took just over 11 hours. We fired up the BBQ and cooked up a feast worthy of our labours; steak, asparagus, corn on the cob, baked potatoes and sour cream with two kinds of ice cream for dessert. Oh yes... and BEER! After a long dusty day, it went down really well.

Sunday morning found me shuffling outside to start filling my garden with black earth. The final tally goes something like this: 32 bags of black soil from the co-op, one bag found in our magic garage, one giant bag of peat moss. That's a lot of dirt! Once it was filled, I had to lay out my strings. Since I decided to use the Square Foot Gardening method, I had to find a way of marking out my "squares". I used one continuous piece of string and a staple gun... much easier than nails and tying a million knots. It meant more geometry however, as I had two choices: 1' squares with a decorative border around the outside, or larger squares. I opted for larger squares.

Quinn is Happy with Our New Garden

Quinn is delighted too

I had 4 hours Monday morning to plant my garden and was delighted to find that it only took one! I guess Mel knows what he is talking about. I spent the rest of the time planting my hanging tomato planters and generally cleaning up the yard. I even planted some "leftover" nicotiana around my maple tree in the front... why not?

I looked at my yard one last time before going indoors for my pre-night shift nap, and I was very happy with what I saw. Yes, my back and knees are aching, yes my finger hurts from where I nearly ripped it off hanging a tomato planter... but it was totally worth it. Is it a sense of ownership? Of pride? Maybe. It think it's a little deeper, a little closer to the heart... As I took my last look before I went indoors, it came to me;

It's a sense of home. An elusive thing, to be sure... but a most welcome and magical feeling.

I am home. In my garden.

Finished Garden

The finished garden. Now I need to seed the lawn and hang trellis strings and...

“I never had any other desire so strong, and so like covetousness, as that.... I might be master at last of a small house and a large garden, with very moderate conveniences joined to them, and there dedicate the remainder of my life to the culture of them and the study of nature.” -- Abraham Cowley

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gender Bias

I know, I know... it's probably just my electrolytes being out of whack, but I'm tired of all the girlie crap.

Yes, you will all cry out in unison, there was that brief period in your early to middle thirties with the blonde-on blonde hair, the fake nails, the yo-yo dieting, the obsessive working out, the jewelry... and I will concede your point. What I'm talking about here is the seeming bias towards little boys.

Yeah, a bias against males. I said it.

I've been a feminist long before it became a dirty word. Like the word liberal, which I was too, long before it became a dirty word south of the border and a joke above. I'm also a nurse, which confuses the hell out of some people as they could never see me in such a traditional female role. Well, that makes two of us ok? But I am.

What's got my (much needed) bra in a bunch at the moment is my other traditional female role: mother. I've been blessed with a wonderful, bright little boy. He's three now, and this weekend is (finally!) getting that big boy bed that has been long overdue. Where's the problem, you ask?

The problem lies with our society, more specifically, the shit that is marketed towards our kids. This comes up every time I have to shop for Quinn, especially now that frugal is the order of the day. Go into any department or children's store and do a quick check: how much is available for boys and how much for girls? Depending on the store, anywhere from 55 to 80% will be girl oriented. Even my much beloved Please Mum falls into the numbers trap. It's not just the volume either, it's a whole spectrum of colour and style that is available only for girls. I thought it was bad when I was growing up: blue for boys, pink for girls. Pastels for girls, earth tones for boys. This is probably why I wore (and wear) black so much. Now it's an overwhelming rainbow of colour and glitter and style and fashion and fun... if you are a girl. This leads to another argument regarding little girls growing up too fast (I saw black fishnets on a little girl the other day), and I wholeheartedly agree; I'm also going to leave that one up to mothers of little girls. They can run with that ball as it is the little boys that I care about at the moment.

Sure, I dress Quinn in a lot of blue. He has brilliant blue eyes and blonde hair and he looks great in it. If he had my colouring, my choices might be different. It's not just the colours I'm on about tho', it's the themes and the role models and the lack of overall imagination for our boy children. Take my bedding dilemma: I've been searching all over town for bedding for this child for months now. Am I that picky? Ok, I am, but that is beside the point and I need you to focus here... Let's take Sears. Good ol' middle of the road Sears. Here's the link to the kids bedding.

Assuming you take the "Krazy Kritters" (which is no longer available anyway which sucks as I would have considered it) and my much beloved Spongebob Squarepants out of the equation, 51% of that page is still aimed at girls. Sure, there is the stereotypical Princesses and Tinkerbell and yes, even f'n Dora. There is a lot of other brightly coloured stuff too, with flowers and whatnot. Non-branded, in other words. 8 out of 27 choices are colourful, fun, non branded choices for a little girls room. So, what is there for the boys?


Unless you like Disney/Pixar or superheroes or Dora's bastard half brother Diego, you're out of luck, bud. The other two options involve sports: NHL and snowboarding. Sure, I think some of those things are cool. I know Quinn thinks some of these things are cool... now, when he's THREE, but not cool enough to put up with them for the next 4 or 5 years or so. It's pretty much the same story in "youth bedding", the exceptions being a fighter jet set that would be awesome for our buddy Ty, but not for Quinn. There is one. It has cars on it. I'm sure that was a stretch for the designers.

So, to recap; If you are a boy, you'd better like superheroes, vehicles or sports. Even plain is not an option. Jeezus, even in the 50's they had cowboys and shit... Can we do blue? Plain blue or green? Maybe a plaid? Oh wait, sorry... that's girlie too.

Why do I care so much? Probably because I've read too much psychology and seen too much psychiatry to know what forcing someone to be something they are not does to a person. My son may love hockey like his dad, or he may not care about it like his mom (yeah, I said that too). He may be mechanically inclined, he may not care. Maybe he will like Batman, maybe he'll prefer Rorschach or one of the Endless (and I guar-an-damn-tee there won't be co-ordinating bedding for them). He's adorable and charming, so at least one sex will be lining up around the block and (newsflash!!) we don't decide who that is.

My point is this: We do this to ourselves. This is how we suck the creativity out of our kids, specifically little boys. You would think in this day and age that this dead horse would have been picked clean long ago, but obviously it hasn't. You want true equality between the sexes? Make it equal. Little boys grow up to be men: let's creatively liberate them too, ok? Give them some paint splotches or some animals (might be the only way they ever see an elephant or a gorilla the way we are going) or music or bugs. Give the girls some space themed stuff, or trucks. Give boys some colour for heaven's sake... give them some choice. It's not going to dictate who he takes to the f'n prom.

It may however, set the tone for how he approaches a problem, how he copes with life or maybe even how he treats his fellow human beings. Just throwing it out there...