Garden Update

We are now at the point in the season when my enthusiasm for gardening has begun to wane.

The weeds are getting out of hand and I’m losing my footing in the battle against the backyard critters and crawlers. My strawberry patch was ravaged by squirrels and when they’d had their fill, the robins came along and finished them off (I watched this all play out from the dining room window one afternoon). There’s also something munching holes in my radish greens and digging up my onions, beets and carrots.

I had to rip out my spinach, as well. It was infested by leaf miners, which are also tearing through the nasturtiums that I’d planted because I’d read they were good for deterring pests.

*Sigh*

It’s not all bad though. Some things are thriving:

The cilantro I started from seed is coming up beautifully.

I think I transplanted my squash a bit too early and some of the plants didn’t make it. This one looks promising though.

A local woman was thinning out her raspberry bushes and offered her surplus to anyone who wanted to come over and dig them out. I transplanted about six of her suckers in a giant pot on our deck since we don’t really have anywhere else that would offer them enough sun to thrive. They weren’t doing so well at first. I didn’t think any of them would survive, but most of them are bouncing back.

I bought a blueberry plant in the spring and it’s actually still alive. Winning!

Lettuce is so easy to grow. We have a bumper crop.

I can only hope that in a few weeks, the insects and animals will leave me something for another update!

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Inch by Inch, Row by Row

I’m really excited about summer this year, for all the usual reasons that we Canadians look forward to the season, but because I’m also finally getting serious about growing food in our backyard.

This had been my original plan when we moved into our house many years ago. The previous owners had a vegetable garden in the corner of the yard. When I first looked out there from the deck during the open house, when we were sure that we’d found our home, I’d pictured myself out there wearing clogs and overalls, with a basket full of tools from Lee Valley, tilling my fertile soil.

We moved in October that year and the following spring I did plant a few things in that garden – some tomatoes that did well, and some pepper plants that did not. Then, one evening I went out to do some weeding, and as I made my way through the tall tomato plants I walked into a giant spider web that was, at that time, occupied by a very large spider, which may, or may not have touched me. I let out a Hitchcockian shriek, ran into the house and showered for about three hours to ensure that my hair and person was creepy crawly and web free.

That was the last time I set foot in the garden. I planted grass there first thing that next spring.

I’ve never completely abandoned that vision of myself as a suburban vegetable gardener though, it’s just been low on my list of priorities. Then, last year I was talking to my Uncle at a family dinner and we were reminiscing about my grandparent’s house. This is where my mind always goes when think of growing food. They had a huge garden and I remember picking green beans, breaking open pea pods and eating fresh warm raspberries, straight of the bushes. My Uncle then pointed out something I had never considered: gardening wasn’t so much a hobby for my Grandpa, it was a way to help feed his growing family, a skill I sure he’d honed growing up in rural Alberta during the depression. His father had come to Canada from Sweden to be a homesteader and it seems my Grandfather brought a bit of that spirit with him to the town where he’d settled with my Grandmother when he returned from the war. Thinking about this inspired me to try again.

Now, we are not in a position financially or geographically where we need to grow our own food but fresh produce is getting increasingly expensive, even when it is in season locally. Plus, we have a big backyard that we haven’t been doing anything particularly useful with. It just makes sense to try to grow a few things back there. The timing is right too, I have a flexible schedule this summer and now that Britta is getting bigger, we’re spending more time out in the backyard where she will sometimes play independently for a while as I putter around.

I also love the idea of Little B experiencing fresh from the backyard food and being exposed to the growing process. After all, I’ve listened to enough lectures from Jamie Oliver about the importance of teaching kids about food.

So, we begin. Back in April, Jeremy built four 4×4 foot raised boxes that I’ve planted full of salad greens, along with root and cruciferous vegetables. I also have tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in pots, as I’ve always had some degree of success with container gardening. I bought a blueberry bush for our deck and in addition to my already well-established strawberry patch, I’ve planted more berry plants anywhere that needed some extra ground cover.

There is still work that needs to be done. I’d like some gravel or mulch between the beds (we currently have mud), another rain barrel (we have one at the other end of the garage but it needs some repairs), and eventually, I’d like some nicer benches for the containers. Right now they are sitting on scrap wood and cinderblocks. All in due time though. In the meantime, I feel like this is a great start.

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The 1000 Islands (or at least a few of them…)

Jeremy took the tarp off the camper last weekend in anticipation of another season of camping. Although we won’t be going anywhere for at least a month, it reminded me of all the places we went last year that I never got around to writing about.

While we wait for camping season to start, I thought I’d pick up where I left off with my accounts of our summer adventures in the tiny camper.

A few weeks after our trip to Pennsylvania we headed northeast to the 1000 Islands. This is an area we’ve driven though in the past on the way to other places but never stopped there although we’d always meant too.

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The great thing about camping with a trailer is that weather is no longer a big concern. For this reason, we weren’t worried about this dark, looming cloud that chased us for hours on the 401.

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The storm finally caught up with us around dusk.

Since we’d crossed the border, we needed to pick up food and supplies (the US is really weird about bringing perishables into the country), so we unhitched the trailer at Wellesley State Park and drove to Watertown, NY to buy groceries. We decided to wait out the storm there. By the time we’d sat down to dinner in a restaurant in town, a torrential downpour, along with thunder and lightning, was in full swing.

We eventually returned to our campsite and the storm continued overnight and well into the wee morning hours. The only issue with being in a trailer while it rains, is the fact that it’s noisy. It’s basically like sleeping in a tin can and the precipitation that night was not a gentle pitter patter. It was coming down in buckets – and it was loud. At least we were dry though and that was it for the crummy weather; the rest of the weekend was gorgeous.

We spent the next day driving around stopping in some of the small communities in the area, including Clayton and Alexandria Bay. My favourite Thousand Island Park Historic District with its pavillion on the water.

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After touring the Newport Mansions we in June , we decided earlier in the day that we would not be taking the ferry to Bodlt Castle – a major attraction in the area. We both agreed we were completely mansioned out. I suggested we check out the adjacent boat museum though. However, when we got there, we saw that the castle was only a few minutes away by ferry and admission was cheap, so the next thing we knew, we were on the damn boat.

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Boldt Castle has a sad history. It was never lived in, or even finished. Construction began in 1900 by George Boldt, an east coast hotelier, as a summer home for his wife. She died suddenly in 1904 and construction came to a halt. It sat empty for over 70 years, when it was turned over to the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. The organization has been restoring the property since the late 1970s.

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While the exterior and gardens are impressive, the inside is not so much. Since it was never completed, it lacks the detail and ostentatiousness that the once inhabited homes of the gilded age usually have. Boldt Castle’s interior only displays a modern, budget conscience interpretation of the era.

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When it was time to head home, we couldn’t bear the thought our going the way we came, which was across Toronto. Spending an afternoon sitting in the GTA gridlock with the cottagers didn’t appeal to us at all. Instead, we took the long way around on the American side of Lake Ontario, stopping in Syracuse, where we visited the Erie Canal Museum because I’m a huge history nerd. If you find yourself in the area, and are into that sort of thing, it’s definitely worth checking out.

We returned home to find out our neighbourhood had been hit pretty hard by the storm we’d been driving away from. There’d even been some speculation that something tornado-like had touched down in our area. Our property had minimal damage though – some fallen tree branches, over turned potted plants and according to our cat sitter, a pair of traumatized kitties. They quickly recovered, our neighbourhood was cleaned up, and all’s well that ends well.

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