Saturday, May 22, 2010

First harvest

We have new neighbours! Sure they may be of the small, furry variety, but it's still exciting!

I am sitting here in our playroom feeding Marcus, staring out the patio doors at our backyard, and just noticed a group of black squirrels playing in one of our trees (which caught my attention, as I've never seen 5 squirrels staying together on the same branches at one time - and not be fighting!). Then I see them go in and out of a hole in the trunk. And then I notice that two of them are babies, probably from this year!. I don't know why I found that so exciting, but I love that our property is now providing a home to two families! It just caught me by such surprise that I thought I'd share it!

In garden news, Chris went shopping today and got some new toys! We now have a hose (no more hauling a watering can to and from the kitchen!), and the hanging baskets for the arbours. He also stopped by his Uncle's to grab the last vegetables for our garden; we now have six pepper plants and eight tomato plants hanging from the arbours, and several more in pots on the ground. That will make for some tasty eating!
We also got to harvest our first veggies yesterday, and brought in over a dozen radishes! I'll admit the majority went to our neighbour (it was at his suggestion that we even put them in this year!), but we got to feast on some sliced with dinner tonight, very yummy! After we finish harvesting the two rows that are fully mature tomorrow, we'll replant them (there is a third row that has just started sprouting), and at this rate, we should have at least four harvest over the course of the summer!

Chris also picked up about 6 lbs of fresh rhubarb from his uncle as well, which he has just finished stewing. He made some like an apple sauce (which we just had over ice cream, deliciously sweet with a surprising tart bite at the end), and then strained some juice as well. Apparently it is great if you are constipated. The recipe was very simple, for about 6 lbs of rhubarb he added 3 cups of sugar, and let it simmer until the fruit was tender. Then he strained the fruit, blended it until smooth, and let it cool. Voila! I'll be able to add that as a base to pies, or just do what he does and top vanilla ice cream!

It is wonderful to see the garden come to fruition - pun intended. And it hit us today that we have many types of garden going on: raised beds, level beds, hanging planters (both with veggies planted upside-down and right-side-up), and veggies planted in regular pots. All we're missing is the rice paddies and large fields of grain! Now all that stands between us and a bountiful harvest is many hours of watering, weeding, and maintenance!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


..It's our one year anniversary! (Of owning our house, that is.)

I had every intention of writing another post before this, but in lieu of certain events last weekend (which I will post about, I promise!), I just didn't have the heart to. But on to the happy news!

We formally took possession of our home May 19, 2009, and oh, how much has changed!

The front entrance was tiled; our picture wall painted black (still sans the pictures though); the playroom painted green; the nursury painted and trimmed; and of course, the garden! Though perhaps the most dramatic change since moving to our new home was the addition of our second son, Marcus!

So Happy Anniversary to us!

In other news, Chris finished the arbours last night, here are some updated pics!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mermaids and Crocodiles

Today the boys and I started a new routine.

I got up early with Chris, made his lunch, dressed, fed Marcus while drinking my tea, and then bundling Lucien in a blanket in the stroller and Marcus in the moby wrap (still in their pyjamas, I might add!), we followed Chris out the door for a walk at quarter to eight. Whereas I usually try to stay in bed to feed Marcus, and don't leave the bedroom 'til that time!

We headed down towards the harbour, leaving the chaos of the morning rush behind and took the sidestreets; the last person scrambling to their car nothing but a distant melody.


We reached the water, and suddenly the calmness enveloped us. The sky a bright blue with the sun just breaking above the trees cast a pale golden light across the harbour. There was not much of a breeze, a soft cool breath that was barely enough to break the glassy surface of the water. We found a bench and sat, serenaded by the red-winged blackbirds, geese, and occassional chickadee, and watched a lone man in a canoe cast his line. Lucien pointed out to me everything he saw; from mermaids, to crocodiles, to dolphins. I never knew there was such an ecosystem in our little patch of Georgian Bay!

It was hard to make myself get up to leave, but already the air was getting warmer, and the sound of the town coming to life was starting to reach our ears. As we walked back towards the hill home, we passed several elderly couples, just starting their morning walk.

I really do love the morning, the thought that you are the only one awake; one with the silence of human noise, but alive with the sounds of nature.

Once the sun comes up though, it's as if the spell is broken and we have to head home once again: to start the day.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What's old is new again

I often wonder if we were born in the wrong century.

I have always enjoyed working with my hands, both in a crafting sense (needlepoint, sewing, knitting, and hopefully soon crocheting), in creating our food from scratch, and working in the garden.

I find it relaxing, and there is something rather wholesome knowing that the results you see are directly related to your hard work and sweat equity. It is so different from our "day jobs" where both Chris and I stand in front of computers. You can work for an entire day and at the end of which, not really have anything to show for it (other than a paycheque, that is!). That is probably why I have such urges to work on some sort of knitted/sewn projects; they may be time consuming, but once I am finished I can look back and say I made that.
Now Chris too is able to experience and reap the rewards of working with his hands in all the improvements he is making around the house, and in the gardens. Last weekend, he came in from a full day of working in the pouring rain, and commented on how even though it's physically hard work, he never thought he would actually enjoy the labour the way he does.

And of course, we have to do things the hard way.

When I want a loaf of bread or other baked good, I can no longer justify buying it, now that I have the time to make it. And I do not own a bread machine or mixer; each loaf/pastry is mixed and kneaded by hand.

And when Chris made the raised beds, (and he is doing the same working on the arbours) his brother had brought over a circular saw for him to use which he is refusing, and instead has cut each piece of lumber by hand with a small wood saw. It's not that we are Luddites; not by any stretch of the imagination. We both embrace technology, particularly when it helps our goal of becoming more sustainable (I cannot wait until we can add our first solar panel or the wind turbine!) or has anything to do with computers!

I suppose it is just that fact that we can no longer justify using an outside power source if it can be avoided, especially when we have perfectly good ones built right in!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

We've started a trend!

...Okay, maybe not. But it is so neat to see an idea we had years ago suddenly become commonplace.

Much to the chagrin of our friends and family, we do not own a [gasoline powered] vehicle. Yes, that's right; a family with two small children, living in a rural area, does not have a car. Or truck. Or van.

For the most part, we walk where we need to. And living close to the centre of town certainly does help. If we need to travel a little further, like to the adjacent town (which is larger and has more amenities - and is also where I work) we can either hitch a ride with someone, or take a taxi. Our families have been wonderful in accommodating us when we need it (though they all think we're crazy!) in driving us to family functions etc., though it does involve extra planning whenever we want to travel a greater distance or for a longer period of time.

Two years ago, when I got a job in the next town (which is only about 4 km away - but is literally uphill both ways!), we started looking at other methods of travel. Though taking a taxi was less expensive than having our own vehicle, it was still an expense we wanted to minimize. We looked at mopeds and scooters, and during our research we came across some power-assisted bicycles that were on sale at Canadian Tire. These have mountain-bike type frames (though a little more heavy-duty) with a battery cell mounted just behind the seat, and then attached to the gears of the back wheel is the motor. On the front handle bar is the throttle so you can adjust the amount of power, or decide to not use it at all.

Unfortunately, the battery cell itself is quite heavy (it's almost 50 lbs!) so if you go up any sort of incline (or are pulling a trailer) you almost always need to use the motor (unless you have thighs of steel, which I do not). The batteries have a fairly good range in between charges (we've gone out to Chris' parents, a distance of over 20 km on a single charge - with pulling Lucien in a trailer), though we just recharge the batteries each night by simply plugging the battery into a wall socket. The newer models are much more light-weight and have a very small battery cell (and look like a regular bicycle with a netbook attached behind the seat), but apparently they are still working out issues with the amount of power and time between charges for the batteries, they just aren't as powerful as the 'ol clunkers we have!

We have had to replace the batteries every year, but the bikes were designed for 'leisure' use, not the two trips a day, 5-7 days a week (whenever there is no snow on the ground) that we've put them through. We can even go grocery shopping with them; by hooking up the trailer and filling it with our bags. Right now Marcus is too small to go in the trailer, but once he hits one year, we'll be able to pile him in beside his brother and then the whole family can go on an outing!

So back to us starting a trend....

When we bought the bikes 2 years ago, I had never even heard of them before let alone see one in person. Then last year I saw a couple people riding around on them, and now, almost every day I see or hear someone with the distinctive whine of the motor our bikes produce. It is so exciting!

Now we've had many people give us comments such as "hey, that's cheating" or "that's not a real bike!". What they forget is that we are not using them to replace bicycles (in fact, I have my eye on a beautiful little street bike... but I'll have to wait for next year to get that), these are our version of a car. When you think of them as our vehicles, they don't seem so silly. In fact, even with them being so heavy, and the fact you can not put conventional fenders on them (because of the layout of the battery) and thus get soaked when it rains, they are a great alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles for shorter distances. All we need to do is hook up an outlet to a solar panel or small wind turbine, and they would be completely self-sufficient!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

New sprouts!

We have had very warm, humid (and very rainy!) weather the past two days, and as a result, the garden has sprouted like proverbial weeds! (Okay, some of them have been weeds...)

Now we understand that it is still very early in the season to be planting anything other than frost-hardy vegetables such as onions, but with the unusually warm weather we've had this April, we've taken a gamble that the growing season started early this year. (Here's hoping we were right!)

Here's a quick peek at what's come up so far:

the raspberry bush


a lone zucchini

green beans

cooking onions


beets, with radishes behind

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