Tuesday, June 16, 2015

fall in love with gardening...

Ask any gardener and they will tell you that no matter how small a garden, it is a time and labour intensive undertaking - and one that to an outsider may not seem worth the effort for the yield a home garden often produces.

However, I am of a mind (and am certainly not alone) that we get so much more out of gardening than the end result of food.

It's therapeutic. Today was an incredibly stressful day at work. Now don't get me wrong, I love my day job. I have the opportunity to help people become more financially literate and independent, and best of all it allows me to afford to have the home life and gardens that I do. And for that I am grateful. Yet like any job, you have your great days and days that you question why even got out of bed. Today was one of the latter. So after dinner I escaped to the quiet of the garden to clear my head and just breathe.

At first the quiet allowed my mind to run circles around everything I felt had gone wrong today. But slowly, without even realizing it, I was relaxed and instead focused on every weed I pulled, every vegetable I fussed over.

Perhaps it's the repetition, though I'm not 100% convinced. I've participated in repetitive chores before: machine sewing (but not hand sewing - that I love!), grass mowing, washing dishes, etc. But I do not get the same enjoyment or calmness that I do in the garden. You just can't beat the fresh air, singing of the birds, and smell of moist soil to calm a turbulent soul.


It's gratifying. It can be difficult to have an appreciation for the food you purchase at the grocery store. Even I (who knows the effort that goes in to growing even a single tomato) do not pay the fruit and vegetables I purchase much more attention that to make sure they're ripe and unspoiled. And pre-made items? Even less so. But when you've spent a month and a half coaxing a small tomato seedling in to a giant, covered in delicious red fruit? That's appreciation.

Even better is when you know that the beautiful fruit you are about to eat is the direct result of your time and effort. There are few things in life I have found to be more satisfying that to look at a full garden in early August bursting with food and to know "I grew that." Unlike many other tasks that are more abstract in nature, gardening allows you to see the physical fruit of your labours. (And I will not apologize for the pun!)


It's educational. I've already established that growing your own food gives you an unsurpassed appreciation for the true value we should be placing on what we consume. With gardening, I get to share that realization with my children.

I cannot stress enough the importance of educating the next generation on where their food truly comes from. Whether it is the plants we grow or the meat we consume; knowing not only where you food comes from but what journey it took to get to your plate is crazy-important. Firstly, it gives us a greater appreciation for the food we eat, and helps us to become less wasteful. Secondly, by knowing the journey our food takes to our homes we can demand higher standards. And by higher standards I mean the treatment and final moments of the animals we consume, and the products and methods that are used to grow our produce.

In ignorance we allow atrocities to happen everyday in the name of greater yield and production (and this coming from a self-proclaimed meat-avore), and so-called pest-reducing chemicals that are poisoning and stripping our soil of all nutrients. Then we add more synthetic chemicals to replace the nutrients we destroyed. Does this sound logical to you?

Sharing gardening and farming with our children is the first step towards ending that ignorance.


It's inspiring. Many times Chris and I have encountered situations were the topic is "taking away the magic of childhood." I'm sorry, but that is rubbish. Childhood is inherently magical. Life is magical. How can one tiny seed, smaller than my finger, eventually turn in to a towering maple tree with just the rain from the sky and the warmth from the sun? We get to experience that every year. We watch as our yard goes from a freezing, seemingly barren environment to a lush tropical oasis in a matter of months.

And within each plant is a small ecosystem all it's own. Worms and ants build and thrive beneath the soil, butterflies and bees grace the flowers. Birds, absent in the winter months, grace our little "homestead" with the beauty of their songs from dawn to dusk; feeding on the unwanted insects that might otherwise spoil our crops.

In as many years as I've been gardening, I find I am still excited when I see the first sprouts push through the soil. Even when we are visited with blight or another calamity that affects our crops, the following year those same plants develop again unharmed. With or without our guidance, life perseveres.

Perhaps that's the most important lesson of all. Some years it is the tomatoes who fail, other years it is the squash. Yet every year there is bounty, and a diversity in the plants, animals and insects that follow our garden. With or without us, our garden would thrive, and the same can be said about the rest of the world. Changes will happen as a result of our actions, but life on our planet itself will continue. It is up to us to ensure we continue along with it.

Friday, June 5, 2015

First sprouts, and then some...

Last weekend we finally finished the last of the planting, late as it was. By this point we are usually thinning the rows of beet and radish, this year the first of the latter are only now poking through the soil. That being said, we've added some new additions to our plant list; sunflowers, and these little green gems:

tiny bok choy sprouts - these are excellent eaten raw or lightly steamed
 I love bok choy. Just ask my husband, who is less-than-thrilled when I try to sneak the veggie into every Asian-themed stir fry or salad I make. I can't help myself, it is just so darn tasty! And this variety I discovered from our seed company are meant to be picked young when just 3 inches tall which means I should get at least two, maybe three crops out of them this summer!

Another aspect I love from our garden is the sheer variety of shades of green. From the muted blue-ish green tops of mature onions to the bright green of the raspberry bushes I am constantly amazed at the tonal cornucopia nature provides us. Have I mentioned green is my favourite colour?

an apple beginning to take shape

cooking onions and garlic

raspberry flowers - I believe this means we have missed our window to transplant
 

Much to my delight the new annual vegetables we planted are not the only things sprouting; some of the perennial edibles have begun to bloom their flowers as well.

thyme flowers are known to be one of the favourite nectar sources for bees

our "grape" clusters have also begun to flower - here's hoping we get fruit!

a tiny fly collects nectar from a rhubarb flower - can you spot it?
So far I would say it's been a good start to the growing season. Now will come the more difficult part of keeping the gardens weeded. Any helpers?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Compromise, or cake?

One of the aims of this blog is to show other families that it is possible to live a more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable life, and yet not have to sacrifice every comfort and convenience. As much as I sometimes think I would love to live in a backwoods off-the-grid cabin, the reality is I love my toilet paper, my Kitchenaid stand mixer, and my internet.

Being sustainable does not always mean making one, drastic change in lifestyle. Often it is the smaller, everyday things you do that add up to the bigger difference.

And I will be the first to admit it, I can be lazy. I want to be as sustainable as possible, yet I also want to keep the conveniences I've become accustomed to.

I want my cake, and eat it too!

One such example is our Keurig. Now I know, that in itself is probably the furthest thing from sustainable I could have mentioned (short of saying I have three Hummers and a racing boat in my driveway).
Behind are the 16 cups that would have ended up
in a landfill. Instead, the components have been
separated and are ready for recycling and
repurposing!

Chris happens to be the only coffee drinker in the house. With the Keurig he can make himself a coffee whenever he wants and not have to brew a whole pot. This saves energy (either the gas of the stove or the electricity to run a coffee machine) and water; the only amount heated is the exact amount for his cup.

But what to do with all that waste? It is true that the used coffee cups are supposed to go into the garbage. That is ridiculous, when what you are left with is a giant mountain of plastic, metal, and organic matter in a just a few weeks.

To offset this we began to remove the lids and separate the different parts of the K-cups. The metal foil lids can either be recycled or thrown out, depending on your municipality. The paper coffee filters we put in our green bin, and the coffee grinds themselves are composted and used as fertilizer for our houseplants.

That just leaves the plastic cups themselves. I have discovered they have a myriad of uses: from crafting supplies, to seed starting cups, to toys (the boys like to stack them into castles); and once you are done reusing them they can be thrown in the recycling bin.

Now that may seem like too much work to be bothered with. But I've found that if you separate the k-cups as soon as your (or your husband's) coffee is done brewing it only takes a moment and is in my humble opinion completely worth the time. Not only are you avoiding unnecessary waste going to our landfills, but are reusing the items again, all while enjoying the luxury of a single cup brewer.

So go ahead, enjoy that slice of cake!

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