Sunday, 21 September 2014

Autumn Garden

Tomorrow will be the first day of autumn and I am looking forward to the official end of summer. I feel alive during the summer and I revel in all the outdoor activities we can easily do during the hot months, but like many people, autumn may be my favourite season. This year I have more reasons to say good bye to the summer than in previous years.

The leaves have begun to show their first blush of autumn. On the eve of what should have been the first day of school we spent time at my old alma mater, Simon Fraser University, and enjoyed the beautiful leaves. 

We are fortunate here in the pacific northwest because we can often have an extended summer in September and a long autumn with cool, crisp mornings and warm afternoons well into October. We make up for it in November with the famous Vancouver rain. 

While the intense growing season of the summer has all but ended, I like to extend the backyard harvests with colder season growing. In fact, last year I harvested various Asian greens and kale on December 1st. 

Bok choy, kale, sui choy, turnips, cabbage, marigolds and sunflowers.

I began planning and organizing my fall garden back in late July and early August when I started seeds in a mini shelf greenhouse unit in my backyard. I had to finally say goodbye to the summer and yank up some plants to make room for the new ones, which was hard. 
Beans and tomatoes in the mini greenhouse in the spring.

At the moment my garden beds are looking a little shaggy as I wait for the remaining sunflowers and cucumbers (which as still producing).

Things are looking a little sad with the squash gone and droopy sunflowers.

Growing in Two Raised Beds:

four varieties of kale 
bok choy
sui choy (Chinese cabbage)
leafy lettuce
cauliflower and cabbage (for the spring)
garlic (to be planted in October)
parsnips (very hard to germinate; out of two dozen seeds I have three seedlings so far. I don't have high hopes that they will survive)

* This is my first year not growing Brussels sprouts. In the past I have harvested some for Thanksgiving dinner and the rest for Christmas dinner, and now I am regretting not growing them.

Lettuce, spinach, chard, bok choy, sui choy, parsnips, cauliflower

I have plans to build hoops and cover two of my beds with plastic when we have regular frost. I was able to harvest through mid fall frosts last year because we had a warm season and the frosts were intermittent. However, once winter hit we had to wait until late January before the kale was defrosted and edible again. I am hoping to have kale through to the spring with covered beds, as well as cauliflower next spring. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

This Moment

{this moment} - Inspired by Amanda Soule at SouleMama
"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments."

Why I Gave Away My Books

Before I begin, please let me unload my baggage.

I love my stuff. I am constantly fighting my ego's urge to own more things. One of the things that makes me deliriously happy is books. Not only do I love reading (I often stay awake into the wee hours of the morning to finish a book), I also love the physical being of books and I have a visceral connection to them. I am the type of person who, upon purchasing a new book, likes to open it up and smell the pages. Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this.

Back in the day when good, local book stores actually existed, my idea of a good Saturday night out was to spend hours browsing the aisles for books. I have even been asked to leave a book store because I sat down on the floor and started reading some books (before book stores became a destination with coffee shop and couches). It doesn't help that I am a teacher, and we are famous for spending a great deal of our disposable income on books.

My obsession with owning books received a turbo boost when my future husband became a manager of a big box book store for a. Hello employee discount! Every available space in our home had stacks of books, some beloved books, some perpetually on the "to read" list. 

When we moved to a larger home and had to go through the effort of packing up and transporting the dozens of book boxes, we realized we had a problem. We made the difficult decision to deal with our problem and sorted our books into approximately seven piles: favourite books we reread, books we are positive we will read in the near future, resource/information books that we use on a regular basis, books we want to save for our children to read, books we have read but will not read again, books we have never read and do not see reading in the near future, and university textbooks. We promptly loaded the books in the latter three piles back into the moving boxes to give away. 

Some thoughts on giving away our books:

Friday, 5 September 2014

Cheapskate Soup Stock

I have already shared my love of freezing the excess summer bounty to eat during the cooler months here, and I am going to share more freezer love.

I love composting kitchen scraps, but sometimes I like to freeze them instead.

Why would I do this, you ask? I like to use leftover vegetable scraps in homemade soup stock when I am able to instead of buying new vegetables.

Image source

Continue reading at The Green Phone Booth>>>

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Garden Art

I am a bit of an Instagram addict, and my gallery is filled with photos of my backyard garden. But this summer I grew bored with the same old photos and began playing with my veggies and flowers, which developed into some photography fun. I began with making faces, or veggie selfies. 

Then I started getting more creative and playing with colours and patterns, which developed into garden mandalas. 

Despite feeling wistful about the turning of the season soon, I am looking forward to trying some leaf and pinecone mandalas in autumn.

If you are on Instagram, I am crustyroll35. Find me and say hello.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Summer Bounty

It's been a busy gardening summer, so busy that I haven't really blogged about my garden at all. On top of weeding, cleaning and reseeding, I water every day, which alone takes 30-40 minutes. It is a labour of love, and the time spent in my garden is my personal therapy session.

There is nothing more satisfying than walking out my back door and picking my food, and nothing compares to the taste of fresh, homegrown food. Recently I had a greek salad for dinner at a restaurant and it tasted bland compared to what I could make at home.

Every summer I am reminded about the true cost of our food. I am much less prone to wasting food when I have grown it with my own hands because I understand the effort that went into growing it. When I walk around farmers markets and groceries stores I'm astounded at how reasonable the food actually is, even though people complain about the high cost of fresh, healthy food.

I have four raised beds and multiple containers around the beds. Here is a selection of photos of my summer harvest:

For a family birthday party: greens (kale, chard, lettuce, beet, arugula),
cucumbers, carrots, dragon's tongue beans, tomatoes, peppers.

I tried something new this year: potatoes in grow bags. It was successful,
but next year I will go back to the garden beds to get a higher yield.

Asian greens, so good! I am currently starting new greens (sui choy and
bok choy) for my fall garden.

This mini harvest turned into pesto.

It has been a pretty good year for tomatoes, despite a rough start. The hot
summer has provided the perfect conditions for them. Now to pick them
before the squirrels eat them all! 

I like growing heirloom varieties too, like these yellow pear tomatoes.

The pride and joy of my garden: garlic! It was a bumper crop this year.

Speaking of bumper crop, my cucumbers have been amazing!

I'm trying four different varieties of hot peppers this year: jalapeƱo, habenero
yellow and red.

My beautiful yellow peppers, so sweet with a little kick.

My beets did very well too. There were a few gargantuan sized ones, but
these ones are so pretty when sliced.

It was my first year growing spaghetti squash and I have enjoyed it. This
is my first squashed harvested, and it was delicious.

My first successful year with onions, and the difference was buying the bulbs.
I have learned a lot this season, such as not planting onions with garlic.

Perhaps the hot, dry season wasn't as good for my zucchinis, which
did not produce as many as previous years.

Another first for me: edamame (soy beans), and I will definitely be growing
these again. 

Finally, the harvest today. I gave much of this to my neighbour who
has helped me so much by building my raised beds and fixing
my fence. He's so awesome.

My Garden This Season:

basil, thyme, cilantro, sage
arugula, salad bowl lettuce, mustard
four varieties of kale
three varieties of beets
spaghetti squash
two varieties of potatoes
yellow onions
four varieties of carrots
multiple varieties of sunflowers
multiple varieties of heirloom tomatoes
green beans and dragon's tongue beans
four types of hot peppers
bok choy 
hard neck and soft neck garlic
snap peas