Our Domicile

Icon

Our Life at Home

Fall Veggie Planting


  gorgeous chard 
  Originally uploaded by emira.

If you, like me, have been out in your garden wondering what you’ll be doing for Fall planting, then head over to You Grow Girl for Renee’s helpful post about Fall veggie planning. If you follow her advice you’ll barely have to think, which is in my books: super-awesome.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Fences & Roses


  climbing rose 
  Originally uploaded by emira.

Whether he is propelled by grief or the absence of the X-Box (which has been on loan to his neice and nephew all month) I may never know, but Martin just can’t stop getting stuff done. Like building a new fence. Our new fence is beautiful, functional and really just the thing. And for a better look at it and not the roses climbing up it see here. The impetus behind the new fence project was the rapid deterioration of the old fence, however a happy side-effect is that my climbing rose which had been suffering from a nasty case of powdery mildew seems thrilled at the added air flow that has come out of the new fence and serious removal of weeds/dead wood that was a part of this project. I thought it was possibly a lost cause as all the buds on it earlier in the year whithered and died, but since finding this new structure to support it and more room to breath it almost immediately sprung into flower and has started putting out heaps of healthy green leaves.

I played my usual part in the endeavour which is to say, with paintbrush in hand I stained it all "Evening Smoke" which was supposed to be a charcoal grey but at this point is really pretty darned close to black. I assume it will fade a bit. But the bulk of this project has been fueled by the endless reserve of energy that is Martin.

We’re facing the first morning of a three day weekend here (though Martin is at work for another few hours) and as we lay in bed this morning we discussed what to do with a rare opportunity to have two days off together this Sunday/Monday. Martin made murmerings about building a deck. My "should-do" list includes starting to think about residing the lower half of our house and prepping to paint it. And as I sit here typing this I can see that one of the gutters off the mudroom has come undone, which should be seen to before the Fall and rain sneak up on us. But if I had my druthers? I’d spend it near some sort of body of water with a good summer read. I have a feeling the driving force of Martin won’t let that happen though.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Square Foot Gardening July Update #2


  back box 
  Originally uploaded by emira.

Taken only a week ago, this photo is already bordering on total obsolescence.  My boxes seem to be loving the local heatwave and are thriving like the dickens. Regardless, the update generally still holds true, so if you’re interested in knowing more about what’s growing our backyard, check out The Dirt at You Grow Girl.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Square Foot Gardening July Update


  squares emptied for replanting 
  Originally uploaded by emira.

For those of you interested in finding out how I’m making out with this square foot gardening method, I’ve got an update on one of my two boxes over at You Grow Girl. An update for the second box will becoming later in the week.

There’s also a lovely make your own bird bath project up, posted by Renee. I would so love a bird bath but think that might be a bit too sadistic with Mr. Pluto there to taken down the bathers.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Cottonwood & Strathcona Community Plant Sales


  Entering Cottonwood Gardens 
  Originally uploaded by emira.

Hey there Vancouverites! One of the year’s best plant sales is coming up this weekend at the Cottonwood and Strathcona Community Gardens. I’ll include details below, but first some thoughts and photos from my recent visits to the Cottonwood side of the gardens.

My friend Michelle is a longtime member of the Cottonwood Community Gardens and last week she took me on a tour of the lush and vibrant acreage of those gardens. I’ve been to both Cottonwood and Strathcona before, but embarassingly not for years considering how close they are to my home, bike path and favorite gelato locale. The experience was incredible. Everything you could imagine a thriving community garden might be in terms of both the bounty and diversity of  plants as well as the incredible respite the whole place provides despite being right next to an industrial zone. While you’re in the gardens you can easily forget about the warehouses and train tracks only a stones throw away, and I found myself day dreaming of sunny afternoons spent on Gulf Islands, or at the Hollyhock gardens on Cortez, places that usually require a concerted travel effort not a five minute detour off my daily bike route.

Cottonwood was begun in 1991, growing out of the success of the nearby Strathcona Gardens (both gardens border two sides of a big park), which was at full capacity. Both gardens include private plots as well as communal garden spaces for things like a kiwi arbour, common fruit trees, a native plant garden, asian species garden, espalier apple orchard, and shared compost, green house and garden tools. Michelle has some great photos of both gardens up at Flickr, you can see Cottonwood here and Strathcona here, which includes some great historic photos and their espaliered hierloom apples.

I went by Cottonwood on my way to work this morning to take some photos to try to convey the magic and beauty of the place. I woke up this morning with a killer headache (likely thanks to some nasty oil painting I did to prep some fence posts yesterday) and nearly talked myself out of going. Fortunately I didn’t as the only relief I’ve had from that headache today came while I was in the garden taking half an hour to explore with my camera. I’m definitely convinced that making time to take this detour more often would be in my best interest. If you’d like to see the photos they’re up here at Flickr, and I’ve included a few with this post.

Really, my words can’t do this place justice. I am inspired to all kinds of ridiculous heights by these recent visits. Thoughts of tearing up all the grass at our house fill my dreams now, to replace them with winding paths and fruit trees. I’m also having crazy thoughts of trying to find some land in my neighbourhood for just such a project, though I can’t imagine when I’d have the time to get involved with that what with all the gardening to be done at my house already.

Whatever project these visits inspires, I’ll definitely be at the sale on Sunday. Here are the details if you’d like to check it out as well. Unless we’re faced with another scorcher of a weekend, I’ll have my “What Would Nature Do” (You Grow Girl) shirt on if you think you see me and you want to say hi.

Strathcona & Cottonwood Community Gardens Plant Sale & Open House
Prior and Hawks St., Vancouver.
Sunday, July 9th, 10:00am – 2:00pm
Come explore seven acres of unique community garden space in Vancouver.

Find a wide variety of inexpensive perennials, annuals, groundcover, shrubs and more to fill your garden.   Purchase delicious honey made by bees right in the gardens.

Participate in free workshops, tours, and live music.

Admission is free, and all sales go towards the non-profit volunteer-run gardens.

Don’t miss exploring this urban oasis and example of sustainability in action.

(Cross posted at You Grow Girl).

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Hard Beans!


  Spotted rooster pinto beans for planting 
  Originally uploaded by emira.

A friend came by the office today and dropped off a wee package of GE Free "Spotted Rooster" pinto beans which I’m pretty damn excited about growing.

Last week, said friend and I were having a drink and discussing the ups and downs of local eating. He happens to be something of a literal expert on the subject and is a true wealth of info on all foodstuffs local. In my dream universe of local eating, life would work as follows: I’d have the time to tend a very large garden that would allow me to support most of our fresh fruit and veggie needs in the backyard; I would can and preserve like a 60 year old Italian Grandma for the winter months; I would supplement my backyard crop with the bounty of my own grandma’s backyard; I’d get the odd harvest from the Farmer’s Market to stock up on things like blueberries and flour; and, we’d indulge in the odd tasty exotics from the Italian deli up the way. (This might not be Martin’s ideal, but he types too slowly to butt in). The biggest thing missing there would be local sources of protein (canned legumes from the deli not counting as local obviously). I’ve always kind of assumed that save being able to raise goats for cheese, or maybe having a hen house for eggs (something I’m actually increasingly finding myself daydreaming about which is so very ridiculous that I laugh at my own daydreams), that there weren’t that many local resources for vegetarian protein. And here is where the hard beans came in. According to my drinking buddy the local edibles expert, it would seem that you can successfully grow hardbeans in this climate. With abandon! Who knew? (Likely many people, just not me). I always thought that our climate was limited to the regular green, wax and odd purple bean for eating at their young and fleshy stage.

My enthusiasm for the hard bean growing project was such, that my friend dropped off a wee paper packet containing some pinto beans this afternoon. Fun times. According to the somewhat bombastically labelled package, the "spotted rooster" bean variety that I’m holding in my hand there hails from Peru and is over 7,000 years old. (Older than Jesus!)

I’m going to take advantage of the current warm season and get these little dudes in the ground quickly (probably on Sunday morning to coincide with the new moon for good luck). I’d like to end up with enough of them to harvest some beans for drying/storing, which may mean going outside of my two square containers. I may just fill up the empty spots in the flowerbeds with a few bush beans, and then pot some. If we can hurry up and eat tonnes of lettuce, I should also be able to squeeze in a square or two.

So thanks James! We’ll see how much protein we can grow here in East Vancouver.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Seed Ratios


  cucumbers 
  Originally uploaded by emira.

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve taken the Square Foot Garden approach to my veggie garden this year, and am so far growing and harvesting a fair crop of our most regularly consumed veggies. I’ve been taking advantage of the very mild climate of the West Coast here and so far have direct seeded pretty much everything (save some cheater lettuce seedlings I bought early in the season, and the basil I bought from my favorite herb lady at the Farmer’s Market). I’ve had surprisingly good ratios, which I’m almost too superstitious to brag about here, lest the gods of the veggie seeds hear my bravado and punish me for the rest of the season. But really, I’ve been lucky. Of my 3 bean squares that I planted I’ve had 1:1 success so far (though beans aren’t exactly tricky stuff), my lettuce has been almost the same, though I often put two seeds in each hole and just thin out if necessary, but I’ve always ended up with a full square. And my radishes, for whihch one 1′ x 1′ square will accommodate 16 seedlings have so far shown about a 7:8 ratio of success at worst (we’re on our 5th replanting already, though they’ve been staggered).

In fact, the only problems I’ve experienced so far have been directly related to my planned dill pickle canning blitz. For starters, the dill that I seeded a good month ago or so now, refused to grow more than two of the four spots alotted it in the square. I’ve reseeded twice now and nothing. Not sure if there’s some dill seed loving ant somewhere in my garden or what, but it looks like I may have to pick up some dill seedlings from my herb lady. Perhaps more importantly only 5 of my 8 cucumber seeds seem to have taken, which isn’t too bad in the scheme of things, but when it comes to pickling time I’m going to want a full crop (I’m already regretting not having more room for growing goods for canning projects like this). So this weekend I reseeded the missing 3 and with the clarity of the computer here in front of me it strikes me that I should perhaps seed a few in some currently dormant squares and just move them over as they take.

As I’ve already said, I think I’ve been extremely lucky with my direct seeding experiments, but given the limited space I have to work in, and my desire of even more veggie goodness I’m starting to see the ways of the seed starting and transplanting route. So far my gardening experiments of this year continue to point in the “oh boy would I ever love a greenhouse” direction, so I think I may have to officially write that on the wish list for household projects.

{Cross posted at The Dirt}

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Hostas Glorious Hostas


  glorious hostas 
  Originally uploaded by emira.

As I’ve noted in my bio over at the You Grow Girl blog, I’m a big fan of plants with stories. By that I mean plants that come to me with more than a little identification tag and receipt from the garden centre. That’s not to say that I don’t buy the odd thing from the "Mega-Plants-R-Us," when I’ve decided I simply must have one more hot pink geranium stat! But my favorite plants are always the ones that have been given to me by someone either as a gift, or as a simple spreading the plant bounty. My grandma and Martin’s mom are both awesome at this.

My grandma is forever dividing things up and sticking them in pots under her balcony to give away to the next visitor who shows an interest, and I’ve got a number of beauties I think of as extra special because they’ve come from her. On Easter weekend this year Martin’s mom and I spent an hour or so digging around in her beds (or rather she dug and I tried to keep up, which considering I was at her 80th birthday party a few summers ago is pretty impressive) while she shared some spares.

I got some gorgeous columbines this way, some lillies, geraniums, a  flowering quince that I’m hoping will make it (it’s not looking so great), parsley and a shovel full of hostas. Now back at Easter the hostas were not really showing off their splendour yet, being just little nubbins of hosta in the dirt (which Martin described as alien spores) but I was glad to have something to stick in the shadey bed in the front. I remember my mom being a fan of hostas when I was small and thinking she was kind of weird. As a little girl the mass of green with little in the way of showy flowers didn’t really inspire much of my devotion. But as with so many things, maturity seems to have inspired an appreciation for the subtle beauty of life and I can not get enough of these hostas. They’re particularly lovely ones, blueish/grey in tone and they’ve filled in the spot that used to house a rose that I moved to a sunnier bed beautifully. I spent yesterday evening before dinner weeding that bed and couldn’t stop admiring them and the landscape of different greens that now make up that bed. Funnily enough, the one bed that I thought would be the most challenging to manage (the one that gets the most shade) has ended up as my favourite and I’d say is really one of the nicer beds in the yard.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Out of the Woods


  roses 
  Originally uploaded by emira.

For those of you fretting over the fate of the roses in my front yard (the ones that earlier this year suffered a nasty case of blackspot/aphids) a bit of visual proof that I did the right thing. In spite of a painful evening of pruning nearly all the buds and more than half the branches and leaves off it to banish the infestation they have just this week burst into bloom. I’m still remaining vigilant with the blackspot and removing leaves where necessary. And this morning I discovered some aphids again and so did another dose of Dr. Bronners/baking soda spray (for those interested in the mixture I got it from the You Grow Girl Forums here), but overall they seem to have come through the other side in gorgeous form. Yippee! Now for the mildew infested climber in the back….

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Square Foot Gardening Results Are In!


  flourishing squares 
  Originally uploaded by emira.

This year, as I was faced with the task of starting up our veggie garden relatively from scratch, I did a bunch of research into garden design, veggie growing, etc and settled on trying the Square Foot method. I did this for two reasons really. The first being that it gave me a pretty straightforward plan that was easy to follow and had decided boundaries. That made the project of starting a veggie garden from scratch seem manageable what with the working full time and such. Second, that kind of regimented, planned gardening kind of runs counter to my entire gardening nature and I was sort of curious, in an admittedly twisted way, to see what I could learn from trying something kind of outside of my normal pattern.

I picked up the first edition of Square Foot Gardening from the library and surprised myself by reading it pretty much cover to cover. And, I continued to be compelled by all the talk of how easy it was to maintain such a systematically planned garden, once you’ve put the initial work into setting it up. And so, I pressed on. Martin (my partner) helped me build two 4×4 ft squares, I made a plan (with a schedule!) for what would go where and when I would plant it, and eventually replant as squares became available. And off I went.

As of this weekend I have four squares left to plant and have already moved onto replanting one of the radish squares that has been harvested, and so I figured the time was right to share my thoughts on this process so far.

I love it. Much more than I thought I would. And primarily my reason for loving it is that it is exactly as easy as promised. On the weeks when I’ve thought that I didn’t possibly have time to go out and fuss planting vegetables that won’t really give me much return for months to come (so why not wait a few more days… weeks… oops too late), I’ve remembered that to go out and plant two squares of lettuce will take me about 5 minutes including washing up afterwards. Weeding is a breeze in the raised beds, and watering has also been pretty low maintenance (though here in Vancouver the rain has done much of that for me so far). And I have, somewhat to my surprise, stayed pretty close to my original plans. I’ve made a few shifts here and there, ditching a scallion square for extra radishes to meet the in-house radish demand, or deciding that one of the kale squares could instead be planted amongst some of my flower beds to free up a square for example. But, overall, I’ve stayed pretty close to my original plan. And that’s the other great bit: going into it with a plan has been wonderful in that I don’t have to really think about anything, I just need to remember to check my book each week (which I do every Saturday morning) and make sure I’m on track. If I don’t have time to daydream and do web research, or pour over seed catalogues I don’t need to worry. Typically any one week’s tasks (exclusive of watering) can be done in a few 10 or 20 minute stints, leaving me time to worry and fuss in the flower beds.

In fact, my only complaint so far is that I didn’t plan for enough. I should have done three boxes, and I’m regretting that now. In the planning stage I thought that 32 squares (each 4×4 ft box contains 16 squares) would be enough for our family, but I’m not sure that it really is. I had wanted to replace most of my farmer’s market produce shopping for the summer, but I’m not sure how realistic that is going to be. I may need to try growing some regularly consumed extras (like those radishes) in pots or in other beds. And now that summer is coming, I’m already regretting the fact that I definitely won’t be getting quite enough of some of the staples (tomatoes, cukes, beets) for much in the way of canning or pickling, so would need to go to the market for those which seems a bit of a shame. But really, that’s a minor complaint. And I’m already looking forward to setting up a third box next year and may even see if I can maneuver a fourth box for "production" growing of items for canning etc.

I know it is typically a method lauded for small space gardening, and I can certainly see it working well in community gardens. At this point, though I’d recommend it for many folks. It really has allowed me to be pretty utilitarian about my food growing, freeing up much needed time for more creative thoughts about the rest of the garden.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Photos

emira. Get yours at bighugelabs.com

Currently Reading

Image of Beautiful Ruins: A Novel (P.S.)
Fantastic escape & perfect summer read. I'm starting to day dream about a trip to Italy and signing up for Italian conversation classes..
Image of Extra Yarn
Quite possibly the perfect children's book. Creative. Awesome female protagonist. Cheeky and fun to read aloud.
Image of What Katie Ate: Recipes and Other Bits and Pieces
Rosemary Blood Orange cake. Need I say more?

My Book

My book for women entrepreneurs is available at Amazon. How fun is that? The Boss of You is a business book for women looking for advice to start or run a successful small business. The book features advice from some pretty smart gals including Jenny Hart (Sublime Stitching), Grace Boney (Design Sponge), Alex Beauchamp (Another Girl at Play), and many others.

The Boss of You