Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Raised Front Yard Boxes - A throw-back!

During the winter of 2010, I got a little stir-crazy. I was running a home daycare and knew that the backyard was 100% reserved for the children to roam and play freely. I also knew that I didn't want to sacrifice plants at the expense of innocent little rubber boots.

Our front-yard gets a FULL days worth of sun anyways, and is the ideal place on our small property here in Niagara to grow veggies and fruit.

Colin and Jessica are wonderful friends of ours, and Colin was apprenticing for carpentry  I wanted an excuse to see them, and he needed an excuse to show us his newly developing carpentry skills.

Enter the concept of raised veggie beds. We had a whole winter's worth of blackberry messenger back-and-forth about what they were going to look like, how much lumber I would need, what kind to use, etc.

While I can't tell you how much I paid for the entire project... because my husband would spit out his smoothie... I will tell you that it paid for it's self last year (2 summers worth of fresh veggies) that we would have bought in the grocery stores.

Materials: We used kiln-dried, untreated local cedar. That was THE most expensive part of the project, but it's supposed to last 25 years. If we ever move... they are coming with us :o) Colin told be exactly how much we needed, and the dimensions were perfect.

Regarding the price.... ok. ok. If you really are curious... it rhymes with Spine Rundred for the entire project. (wood, rentals, paying friends, and soil)

We rented a SUPER noisy sod cutter. The thought of doing a 6 x 77 foot
space did not appeal to me.
This baby did the work in 15 minutes, and saved my back.
Sorry Environment... I won this round.

All tidy, level, and trim.
Here is my hired help. :) He's not actually camera shy.

I asked Colin to make the boxes with a "sitting lip" for when you want to rest your elbows or bumm while weeding and harvesting. We had a few folks drive by and ask of we were building sandboxes... or if the boxes were for sale.

Noppers! These babies are ALL MINE!

The cedar lumber smelt SO GOOD when Colin was cutting it.
Jessica and I spent some time indoors during the weekend making some laundry soap together, and cooking some yummy meals for the working men. I am thankful for her listening ears and heart. She is one of the BEST listeners I know. In the above photo you can see is was raining the morning Colin started the project. He was not phased by the wet weather, and hummed the Mike Holmes theme song :o) By noon, the sun came out, and the remainder of the day was lovely.

Beginning to lay out the lumber

Obsessed with helping "uncle Colin" all day

Progress! Box #1 is complete!
Box #2 Ready to ROCK!

I had to put SK down for a nap, and missed 3 and 4... but here they are.
Colin is seen here observing his terrific handy-work!
Shortly after this photo was taken, we treated Jess and Colin to ice cream at the Avondale Dairy Bar.

This photo is of the boxes filled with soil (Thank you Tom from Tree Amigo's Landscaping for your delivery of triple mix!) We grew our first front yard harvest that season with virgin soil, no pests, and has LOTS of goodies to share with friends and neighbours. 

June 2011 - First Season of Front yard beds

June 5 2012 - Second Season
Knowing that next season would be different (the virgin soil honeymoon would be over) we started getting vigorous with collecting leaves, kitchen waste, and started our compost. More about that project shortly :o)

A special Thank you to these wonderful people! They made my raised box dreams a reality :)
This photo is from another trip they took to visit us.
They are spiffed-up here for Geoff and Violetta's Wedding.
I can't wait till they have kids, cause they will be gorgeous!
We are so thankful for the freedom to grow our own food on the soil we own. The first weekend in May I am hosting a little neighbourhood seed sowing event with the children. I have sent out invites to most the children on our street (10 homes), and have had 15 RSVP for the event! More about that event, after it takes place. 
April 22 2013 - Third Season

Monday, 22 April 2013

Spring Time Garden Update

I wrote a post here a few weeks ago about how the city left a nice pile of mulch on our front lawn (A gift from sweet-baby-Jesus Himself, as I frequently remind myself!) This Sunday the two amazing men in my life worked diligently to get that pile distributed over our front and back beds. Again, the heavens parted and I heard trumpets and angels singing, and if I would have squinted into the lovely sun... I'm sure there was even a dove and a lamb and a lion up there in the clouds dancing around.

Why do I get so fired up about mulch and getting "thing done" around here?! Because I can.

6-8" of FREE and LOCAL (how much more local can you get than getting it from the trees on your street!)
mulch lovin' for the soil to feast on this summer. ps. Does anyone see Joe in this photo?
We also tackled the lovely task of getting the raised beds ready to rock and roll for the gardening season of 2013. I had covered them with a THICK layer (6+ inches) of maple leaves this past fall, and under that was 4 weeks worth of Hard Winter Wheat I had sown. While raking the leaves out (because they were not broken down enough to leave in there yet), I uncovered a HUGE surprise... GRUBS! White, brainless grubs!

Head Gardener on Sunview St.
Now... We have a policy here around these parts about killin' and all things mean and terrible. There are two things I give the go-ahead to kill... and that's RED ANTS (the bane of my 2011 summer existence  and white brainless grubs. 

That's it.

Everything else can be saved, relocated, or prayed over in hopes that it dies of natural causes on someone else property. :o)
The squish site... TMI?

So, I gave son-ski full permission to "do what is needed" and he was a big boy about it, and did the squishy deed to about 10 white guys. 

I didn't praise him for it, but rather just said: "Son, sometimes mamma is going to ask you to do somethings that just have to happen, and then we move on" and he nodded and asked more questions about planting seeds and if we could hook up the garden hose yet. And it was a good day. 

I have been busy with more transplanting. Today was ground cherries and orange pepper day. Thank God they are going in the ground in the next month. The poor babes are ready now... but I think I can help them off for another little while.

Here is a visual update on the tomatoes growth to the left

<--- They are doing very well, and I have had to pinch off suckers already. 

Here is the garlic we planted this past fall... in-between the rows are spring peas that were planted last week. There is Joe, smoking his pipe under the cedars, keeping an eye on my leaf pile :o) He also has a friend who we have yet to name.... both are SOLID concrete... and I'm thinking "Tubby" might be appropriate for the one off to the far right.

Far left is ever-bearing strawberries, and to the right (out of view) is our raspberries we planted in 2011.

We planted these last fall too... I didn't know they were variegated foliage tulips (nor do I know their colour of bloom) so I am excited to see what happens here shortly. Pink I am thinking... maybe a prediction of the baby within!

These are one of my favourite signs spring is DEFINITELY on the way.

Can you see the tomatoes crying in the back ground cause they want to be out of their containers and into the rich soil!?

I can.

Tomorrow I have the honour of watching my girlfriends little guy for the day. He's a very helpful little man. I hope to be outside working away at raking and weeding if time allows. I love little boys, cause if you give them a job to do... it does not matter what age they are... they (for a limited amt of time, depending on their age) will do it! So Win has the job of being helpful with raking and shoveling tomorrow. I cleaned up some dump trucks and diggers, and I'm sure his mother will wonder why he's so messy and tired... but hey. 

These things happen :o)

Friday, 12 April 2013

Learning to {Knit}

This past winter I was in super nesting mode. We primed and re-painted. Re-arranged. Purged. Cleaned. Stored. Etc. I think this baby is going to have great work ethic! There are somdays when my energy is so high that I tend to "look for" things to do to help me fall asleep at night. I wish I could bank this energy. I would have a big-ol-vault to draw from once the baby is here.

Anyway. I took a photography course with the lovely Estelle at a local church this last fall (I blogged about how much I love her in another post here). Once I completed her course, I looked into the other cutie-pie lessons that were being offered. I needed something I could put my hands to that didn't take up too much room, was low-cost, and that was "functional".


I am able to say with great pride that I now know how to knit. I have made several gifts for friends (and their babies), a few things for our family, as well as "Doggie" - also blogged about earlier this year. He "needed" a new collar, and Stephen was more than happy to see that his little friend is now "cosy" and "safe" with his tan coloured collar.

Here is the group I spent every (almost every) Tuesday this last winter with. It was a GREAT privilege  and I am SO thankful for their skill, patience, and encouragement. Our instructor, Erna, is the lovely lady on the far left with the gorgeous red hair. She became my "knitting mom" and sat beside me enduring the "can you show me that one more time" requests from yours truly.  I spend hours sitting and listening to these wonderful women chat about their grand children, trips they were planning, and trips they had just arrived back from. I hope one day to be just as active and cool as the women in this little room. They all have so many gifts and talents to offer. I look forward to returning in the Fall again to re-connect.

Pictured below, the ladies knit the patches in this quilt and will be raffling it off to raise money for the Cancer Unit locally. They also made a number of lap blankets.

Such giving and wonderful hearts. God bless them all!

Mu[l]ch to be Thankful for!

This past week our city crews were busy trimming the maple trees on our street. They were past due (in my opinion) because the garbage truck began taking out a few upper branches nearly every time it came down our street.

If you know me, I am a sucker for all things soil building. When I saw them shooting mulched branches into their truck... I plotted and planned me best "poor pregnant lady" ploy. I made sure that when I went out to speak to them that my round belly was exposed (under a shirt for pete-sakes, I do have class!)

I asked if they knew when the Jaycee Park mulch site would be opening (even though I have a count down on my calendar) and if they would be willing to save me some back ache, and just off load some onto my front lawn. {tee hee}

At first, they both said "maybe" --- and ---"we won't have much to give you"...but after persistently batting my eyelashes at them through multiple trips outside to plant peas, radish and some Asian greens... they crumbled and dumped some delicious mulch on my lawn. WINNING!


The heavens parted that morning, and we all rejoiced. This rejoicing included my husband (for the sake of his little car not being abused this year with multiple trips to the mulch pile and chiropractor (for saving my back) --- and our baby-within who would have felt the strain of mamma being her overly ambitious self.

SK was SUPER excited too!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Peter is shredding

My hubby is a personal trainer and owner of More Fitness here in Niagara.

And a hottie-biscotti.

He and a handful of his friends from Bible school have been doing a cute little competition for 12 weeks.

I don't know exactly what it all entails, and or a "winner" will be decided.

Once I do, I will post.

They are on week 11, and Peter is taking this whole thing really seriously. I have never seen his body transform like this before. (....well, there was that one year early in our marriage when we had $25.00/week to spend on groceries, and we both became sticks for a season....) but this is a different kind of incredible!

He has 1 more week to go, and this week he is "shredding". That's when you take all of the muscle you built, and then moderately cut-out a portion of your carbohydrate intake and shed fat.

It's temporary, and he likes the challenge he is putting his body through. Its for a small season, and he knows its not "ideal" for everyone. aka. don't do it without a professional giving you guidance.

And so am I shedding too... Carrots! --- I love juicing these babies!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The {unwelcomed} Guest

Oh Lord.

Since we moved into our home here in Niagara 6 years ago, we knew something "lived" under our shed. There was always a hole.

I spoke to the "whom ever" everything I thought of it while back there, and basically said... Hey, you live here. We live there. Let's never meet. I won't bother you. You don't bother me.

That agreement worked well for the last 6 years.

Until this week.

Enter Madam Possum.

So. She has been into my brown-gold... aka compost pile, eating my kale, as well as generally frREAking me out ever since I saw her. My son actually spotted her. Right on.

I don't blame her for living in our cosy shed. I mean. Come on! It's like living next to the supermarket with an all access pass!

Ideas on how to humanely irradiate her would be appreciated.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Pottery with Mamma

Here is my Mamma
I have always loved these hands

My mom started me up with a small obsession with handmade pottery when I was a girl. We would attend the Waterloo Potter's Christmas and Spring sales, and if we were really lucky... their famous "seconds" sale at the Waterloo Park every Summer. When I was in grade 9, my friend Valerie and I took a March Break kids pottery course, and I 100% fell in love with the art. Our teacher, Neil was kinda a tweed wearing, elbow pads on the overcoat kind of guy (and likely a total hippy/trendy guy in his prime days). He taught our hands what to feel for in the clay, what to look for in building up a lump in the middle of a spinning wheel, and then bring the clay to life, making something out of it. Over the course of the March Break, I made a few cute kiddy pieces, but wanted to get a little deeper into the concepts and technical side of making pots and forms from clay.

Since then, I have taken a few more courses, and my mom took off on her own journey too. She joined the workshop and developed her skills alongside some interesting and incredibly gifted people. My mom met a lady named Harriet Falk (get this... my mom's name's Harriet too... what are the chances!) and the two of them became "Harriet Potters" --- Harry Potter... get it.... no?

They are two hens in a nest together, and balance one another out. My mom is the kind of gal who likes structure, rules, control, and step-by-step instructions... where as Harriet #2 is kinda opposite! They get along well together, and Harriet even made Peter and I's wedding dishes. (a beauitful full set of pottery dishes!) HOLY SPOILED BATMAN!

When I get the chance while visiting my parents, I will slip downstairs for an afternoon and make a few pieces. I prefer to hand build (for the moment as least) because truthfully... there is less clean-up!

Here are a few photos of where I hide and play in the mud.

My gorgeous mother and me... I look like I may have ill intentions with that knife!
Mommy Being Magical

My Little Helper 
Dreamy Tools

Leather-hard garden markers
Wheel work - bowl

Christmas Ornaments - I sell these at the Heidehof
Senior Citizen Home in St. Catharines, ON annually
Snazzy Reindeer :)

Square Foot Gardening

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Coconut-Lime Macaroons

Far from being a "local" food... I admit that this pregnant has caused me many strange cravings. I wanted Thai food in the worst way on Thursday of last week. I suffer from terrifble heart-burn while I carry my babies, so I knew enough not to go for it... but the craving for something coconut didn't go away.

I blame this post on Etsy: LOOK AT THOSE BABIES!

I adapted the recipe a little bit... (reduced the sugar, and didn't have any coconut slices on hand, so I used shredded, and I used a lime rather than a Meyer Lemon) ... OK so a lot a bit.

Mine turned out NUMMY!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Seedling Update {growth!}

We went away for Easter to my parents home in Kitchener, ON. I set up our light timer for our plants while we were gone, along with a fan. 14 hours/day. Upon returning back to Niagara, I was stunned to see the dramatic growth of the seedlings over the course of 2.5 days!


In hindsight, I wish I would have known to take a "before photo" to show you the difference.

At any rate, you are all about due for a photo update on the growth of the garden babies.

This week in Niagara the wind chill is supposed to be -10... but by Friday and into the weekend, I should be able to begin hardening them off so that we get nice and well-adjusted plants.

Bushy and lush. These babies are ready for
their third(and final pots) 

Green Machines

Future home for the Fox Cherry, Yellow-pear and
 Roma  Heirloom Tomatoes
My incredible friends are saving these for us. They will be nice and deep for LOTS of root contact,  we'll bury the tomatoes so that only 2-4 leaves show on top.