Saturday, July 31, 2010

Growing awarenes

It's funny how your perception of when harvest time is changes once you actually have a garden. For my own part, I always thought of late August onward as harvest time; and have images of farmers toiling in golden fields, or in large gardens full of rich green bounty with Autumn leaves hanging overhead.

Our own experience so far has been somewhat different. As early as May we were able to harvest the first few crops of radishes and beets, and we also started trimming the tops of the cooking onions to use in salads and as garnishes. June came and suddenly we had lettuce, green beans, swiss chard, and raspberries. Then this past month our zucchini plants have exploded with new growth, almost daily Chris has been finding and harvesting squash that are all well over 5 lbs each! Our cucumbers too have been very productive, and from the amount of blooms still on the vines, it doesn't show signs of ceasing production any time soon. Carrots too, I am now able to start uprooting, though I have to work my way through the bed, only taking the largest ones as many are still too immature.

Zucchini, being grated and prepared for freezing

Many of the vegetables are still not ready for harvesting; the acorn squash are just starting to become the right size, the peppers are still tiny, or not formed at all, and our tomatoes are still green. Chris dug up one of the potato plants to see if they were ready to harvest (as the plants had all started to fall over), but most of the potatoes were still just forming. We managed to get 5 good sized tubers off that plant, so we'll leave the other 7 plants until Autumn.

I had the idea (I really don't know why!) that all the plants would mature around the same time for harvest, and that come Autumn, all the beds would be full of an assortment of ready-to-eat goodies. And though there are some beds that the vegetables have completely taken over, some like the onion and potato bed are now half empty: Chris just harvested all the onions last week! All 70+ of them are currently hanging in nice braids in the kitched, drying out, preparing for storage. But now the very front garden bed has a gaping hole in it! Not a problem really, we just need to decide now what to do with the space! Should we leave it bare, and prepare it for the Winter, or try to get another quick crop in before the frost hits. Not quite sure at this point.

The amazing thing though, about all the vegetables riping at different times, is that we've had such a bounty and variety of rich things to eat the last two months. And last week, I prepared my first meal, completely either from scratch (like the home-made hamburgers) or from our garden (grilled zucchini with roasted potatoes, onions, carrots, and garlic).

The taste was just amazing; I purposly left out any seasonings - and it just didn't need it! In fact, the meal prompted a whole discussion between Chris and I about commercially-produced meals, and how we are now more concerned about what additives are put in to give flavour (such as MSG). Our tastes are changing; as we realise that food can have a few, simple flavours, and yet remain delicious. It's all about quality. I do not need  to add a lot of salt or other seasonings, just enough to compliment and let the flavours of the vegetables take centre stage.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nature Corner

A big part of the sacrifices we have made over the past few years, and the changes to our lifestyle we have adopted have been for our children. Most of them have not been any easier, but we have made them for the simple fact that we are offering our sons a better life because of it. We do our part socially, economically, and environmentally so that they may have a brighter and more rewarding future.

Our sons will know the meaning of living sustainably; of how to live frugally; and where their food comes from. Often times we are teased for going about things the hard way, but we can rest assured that our boys will understand that the best things in life come after working hard for them. This usually means not using electricity or tools with an outside power source, but they will learn that they can take pride in what their hands create. That there is almost nothing better than the satisfaction of accomplishing a difficult task, and being able to reap the rewards thereafter.

Knitted mushrooms, for Autumn

Yet I have my own personal reasons for wanting my children to live this way. In doing so, I am connecting them closer to nature, and Mother Earth. Though my religious and spiritual beliefs have soften somewhat over the past few years, I still have a great Reverence for the natural world, and want both Lucien and Marcus to learn respect and have a love for natures rhythms.

Part of how I will bring the natural world into our home is through a nature table, or nature corner. This is something I learnt while attending elementary school at the Alan Howard Waldorf School. It is simply a small shelf or table, where each season or holiday is set a different scene. Little creatures or spirits can be sewn (or in my case, knitted) to represent different aspects of the season (such as flower children for Spring, or Autumn leaf fairies), and organic matter brought from outside, like branches, pine corns, or acorns.
The table should be set up within reach of the children so they can help set up each season, or play while they are learning about the natural world. For me this is important as we will celebrate harvest time, the Winter and Summer Solstices, planting season, and the new year. As they get older, they will be able to help create the scenes, and it will become a focal point of their nature education.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shiver me Timbers!

Imagine the best pirate voice you ever did hear...

Hallo me hearties! Mommy-pirate here, and I'm gonna regail you with such a tale as to make your head swim like th' fishes! It all started last Sunday, when a wee pirate, Captain Lucien, decided he wanted to throw a deck party for all his skurvy dogs on account of it being the day I did birthin' him.

His own pirate prize, that me and his pirate-king father did see fit to give him was a set of brand new slops,  fashioned after the greatest of all pirates, Captain Jack Sparrow (at least as far as the wee lad is concerned!) complete with tricorn, linen pirate shirt, and many belts to hold fast his saber!

So we hoisted the anchor, raised the main sail hull, and took off to the grandest party you ever did see! There was much lootin' and pillaging and all 'round debauchery. We showed those landlubbers how to party! Yarr!!!!

We brought out plenty of grub and grog, enough to have everyone three sheets to the wind, and our cook even prepared a cake with the pirate Sparrow taking on the British Surprise!

And what would a pirate party be without a treasure hunt! All the scallywags came out to search, and after finding loot enough to kit out the Royal Navy, they at last found their prize: a chest full of [chocolate] gold!

Even our more gentler guests got into the spirit of it, and Captain Lucien made off with all sorts of pirate-themed swag!

All around it was a grand affair, and lasted well past nine bells! After all, it was have fun, or walk the plank!!!

Bake of the Week

I've started a new addition to the blog; a weekly post entitled "Bake of the Week." I started a new page to cover it, though I think the topic should be pretty self-evident. To access, simply click the image to the right, I am working on getting a better one soon!

Bon Apetit!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dealing with loss

This is a post that was supposed to be completed back on the 16th of May, but just didn't have the heart to finish. The feeling of loss is still there, but its faded now from an overwhelming sadness to a almost an inaudible crack in my heart, an empty sort of whole that just sits there. We havn't had much luck with a surveyer yet, but at any rate, to have a survey done (which must happen in order for us to pursue any sort of recourse with our neighbour) will set us back about $1,000.00; no small sum. I think we are trying to just forget it ever happened, which is near impossible: to walk in our backyard and see the stump, and the glaring heat on our deck, which at one time was mostly shade. I still don't fully know how to describe how this has left us....

We lost a member of the homestead yesterday.

Both Chris and I were awoken to the sound of chainsaws and powertools, which is really nothing of note for a Summer Saturday morning. We got up, and went about our morning routine without giving it much thought, other than for me to post on Facebook "I wonder what poor tree is being mutilated/destroyed outside..." It wasn't until Chris went outside to let our dog out back that he came back in, fuming.

Apparently the tree was one of the large, 100 ft tall, 100 year old maples that straddled the border between our backyard and our neighbour's.

There was no warning, no consultation with us. And because we do not have a survey of where the property line actually is, so far it looks as if we cannot do a darn thing about it. Chris went right away to go talk to them, but our neighbour was not home, it was his father overseeing the job. And because it was a Saturday, we were unable to contact our municipality, or a by-law officer. In desperation, Chris phoned the OPP, hoping to just get some information, but even after talking to a couple officers, all they could tell us was that it was a civil issue (which we knew!).

Now it's Sunday, and every time I look out the back I am overwhelmed with grief. That tree provided so much shade to our yard (the deck is now almost unbearable at noontime), not to mention privacy and noise reduction from a major street. I am so upset - cutting down that tree just seemed so random and senseless - it will be a lifetime before another one will ever be that big.

I can understand if they were afraid of it rotting and falling on their house (which could have been a possibility, though so far none of the branches I've seen so far looked like they had any rot whatsoever), but the fact that they did not even mention it to us, let alone get our permission just galls me. But apparently, in the town of Penetanguishene, you do not need a permit to cut down a tree, no matter how large. All you need it to have a licenced arborest take it down. Chris even went over to ask what was happenening with the wood, but it's already been sold. We shall see. I need to talk to the town on Monday, and see what recourse we have, if any. Even without a proper survey, the trunk was so large, and because of the position, there is no doubt that it falls on our property as well as theirs. But it is looking more like it may have been entirely on ours....

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Garden Update...

Since it has been so long since I posted, I figured I should show how everything is growing!
We have already harvested all the radishes and beets, and planted a second harvest, and the cooking onion tops have started to fall over, and will soon be reading for harvesting as well.
The raspberries are coming in larger than ever (as are the cucumber, acorn squash, and zucchini plants - we can hardly get by the path now!), but perhaps the most exciting thing is that Chris dug up our first potato! He just wanted to see if any were growing, and sure enough, they're huge!

Furry Companions...

I know a post is long overdue, and I apologise.

Part of what's kept me busy and away from the computer, has been a new addition to our family; Norah. She is a 15 week old Siberian Husky/German Shepherd cross, and we've had her now for just over a month.

I have wanted to write a post about her, and all the wonderful changes that have happened to our family since the last time I posted, but I would be lying if I said it was just the family and housework that kept me from writing. To be perfectly honest, I wanted to write about Norah, but was finding it very hard to find any positive things to write about the whole experience.

When we first moved back to Penetanguishene from Toronto, Chris started talking about getting a second dog. Not right away, but he wanted one before our current dog, Lexxy, got too old: he wanted her to teach and train the new pup with all the positive behaviours she has, such as her playful yet gentle nature with the children, her abilities as a guard dog, as well as her wonderful sense not to close her mouth if your hand or any body part is near it.

When we started to look for a house of our own, I promised Chris we could get a new dog then, as she would be 9 years old, and we would actually have the room for two of them. Well that date came and went, and when we found out that I would be on maternity leave, we thought that would be a great time to start looking, as that would mean someone would be home with the puppy 24/7. We had a couple leads, both which fell through, and throughout the disappointments we kept telling ourselves that we were waiting for the right one. Finally, through Kijiji, I saw a post about a litter of puppies that were Shepherd crosses. The information looked promising, and after contacting the owner, decided that we had found "the right one." She was born and raised in a family with similar views about dogs as our own, and it sounded like their human "mother" was as enamoured and crazy about her dogs as Chris himself; it would be a good match.

Yet once we made the decision, and had confirmed plans to go pick her up, I started dreading the whole situation. Marcus by that point was only just under two months old himself, and I knew that having now a newborn, toddler, and a young puppy was going to be a LOT of work.

Needless to say, it was, and still is, a lot of work. Trying to potty train a 3 year old, as well as house train a puppy all at once is probably not the smartest of ideas.

Yet I have learned more already from this new puppy than I could have ever imagined.

It is only too easy to see the difficulty in life; to only dwell on what is hard work, and inconvenient. It is easy to complain. And for my part, I do not think I was even willing to give her a chance. I wanted my life to be simpler again, and back to how it was. I was not ready for change. I started looking at everything that I felt went wrong in my day, and placed the blame and anger onto her little shoulders. It was not fair to her, it was not fair to me, it was not fair to my family.

In not being able to see past my own frustrations, and my feelings of being overwhelmed, I failed to see the joy she had brought to our family.

Lucien has a new companion. She has taught his little hands, often over-excited and careless, that they have to be gentle and caring. Our home is now constantly bright with the sound of his squeals and laughter as he devises new games to play with his dog. Even the mischief they get into has been rewarding, as I can almost see the neurons forming as he plans new and more devious ways to get around locks and closed doors, all the while Norah patiently standing behind him; awaiting the spoils of their working together.

Even our old girl Lexxy, now in her tenth year, acts more like a puppy than I have ever seen before. The two play almost all day, running up the stairs, then down, or out in the yard, chasing, wrestling... Lexxy is also learning proper dog etiquette - she no longer barks non-stop when playing, but instead only lets out the odd one to emphasise a point.

Chris is of course loving having two dogs around. I know this has been a dream of his for a long time, and he is beyond happy to have that dream finally realized. Even I, against what I thought possible, have developed a soft spot for her. At the end of the day, when I finally have the chance to sit, exhausted, she is never far - often her favourite spot is right at my feet, her soft fur gently pushed up against my skin.

The warmth and love that our pets bring to our home is something that should never be overlooked. For a dogs love is truly unconditional; what other being is so excited, no matter what the day, no matter what has happened, to simply see you walk in the door, no words or actions needed. When the day has been long, or fraught with sadness, a simple head in the lap, or a few friendly kisses, are all that is needed to lift the spirits, and tell you that you are home.

I for one, must never forget that. No matter how troubling the days are, no matter how tired your back is, or your hands are worn. No matter how alone you feel, or isolated in your thoughts; there is someone who loves you, and his happy to be with you, for the simple fact of being with you, no strings attached.

Welcome Norah, and may we have many happy and fun-filled years together as a family.
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