Friday, June 22, 2007


I've been meaning to do a post with this title for months now, ever since I first ventured into the garden and cleaned up the organic debris that should have been cleaned up last fall. What a release of energy that brought! I hadn't realized how the tattered old garden was weighing on my mind and spirit.

But before I got the post done, my intended planting dates were passing, and the weeds were growing, and I was needing to reconcile with the garden all over again. Gardening has been a struggle this year, but in the last week or so, with some help from the kids, it is starting to feel okay.

If it seems like there is an awful lot of bare soil in that picture, you're right, there is. Next year I want to try some extremely early spinach planting, and have it harvested in time to start the turnips in the same bed. Otherwise that soil is left open to parching sun and pounding rain for too long, I figure. The turnip bed runs from lower left to near centre of the photo above. Beyond it to the left is more bare soil, where I planned to put beans, but I still haven't got my later bean plantings in yet.

This corner seems happy, although the onions in the foreground are a bit sparse (and weedy) so far. Those I grew as transplants and set out much earlier than other years, so they are doing much better than any onions I ever grew from seed before EXCEPT . . . see that tall thick green patch in the background, with the handle of the hated lawnmower sticking up behind it? That's my crop of onions from the sets I grew last year. Yippee! This year I am growing more sets, and next year I don't think I'll bother with the transplants.

And here's my favourite part of this year's garden.

I wanted to reduce the bare ground around my tomatoes and peppers, so I surrounded them with carrots. I didn't realize how pretty those double rows of carrot leaves would be, bordering the taller tomatoes. And like last year, James has been praising my "formal" garden, saying it is so much nicer to look at than all the gardens he has seen with straight rows. Thanks, James. Praise from my kids feels wonderful.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Frost Warning?

Ouch! How come the text forecast says low of 5 degrees C, but that little icon thingy in my sidebar says 3? That's it. I've got work to do.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bedpost #2


Wish I had progress to report...

Gotta go whip up something that looks like progress in the kitchen...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bedpost #1

The Daily B.E.D.

This foray into daily posting is conceived as a sort of bedtime evaluation of my day, except that I will probably write it the next morning, after everyone else leaves the house. Might be only on weekdays.

B: for Being. Being here. Here in the eternal now. Mindfulness - the "attention" of Timothy Miller's "Compassion, Attention and Gratitude".

E: for Emotions. My emotions. My very own. Somebody quoted somebody the other day, saying (roughly) "The only things that are truly your own are your emotions. Use them well." That might sound frustrating, except for this: in the one week or so that I attended a university psychology class, I learned how to own my emotions. They don't just happen to me. They are not the automatic result of some outside factor. That factor acts on a belief, to trigger the emotion. Change the belief, and you change the emotion. Any emotion arising, then, is a clue pointing the way to the belief behind it, and thus pointing the way to change. (Thanks, Paul.) In the same vein - did you know that Happiness Is a Choice?

D: for Day. This day - and only this day. Day by day, bit by bit - but for now, just this one. This moment of this day.

I was thinking all this yesterday morning, and it felt good, felt hopeful. Got up with good intentions. Found myself at the end of the day with not much to show except a very sarcastic blog post. Much the same sad situation as I'd sat in all last week.


Well, it could be partly this thing that's going around, but still.

This morning, as I slumped through another utterly pointless computer-simulated card game, I asked myself why I was doing it. And the answer made sense. The game represents a clearly defined and limited problem, with a high probability of successful resolution. (I play FreeCell, and I nearly always win. I do allow myself unlimited restarts.) The reward comes quickly.

Faced with a choice between the messy, no-quick-fix problems of daily life, or the straightforward, get-'em-done problems of a computer game, I've been choosing the latter.

Similarly, I've been blogging a lot, tackling big problems, except not really tackling them, just talking about them. I love to write, and it doesn't even matter if anyone reads it (that's a bonus). Again, the satisfaction is that I get a quick resolution to the problem I set myself: writing a blog post. It's a comfy substitute for doing some concrete work on an infinitesimal bit of the real problem.

It's funny, though. In a teamwork situation, I tend to pick the hardest or most unpleasant tasks for myself. Why pick the easy stuff when I'm alone?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Not Daily Anymore

I'm trying to get back to doing a "daily bed post" - might get there yet. I could go back through all the beds and make sure I noted varieties, spacing, what worked and what didn't. That could be useful next year.

But next year is the problem. I have already lost interest in this garden. Not that it's a disappointment; it has done better than any garden I've ever tended before. But it's not enough. It's too small, and any expansion would run into droughty saline soil, or shade, or resistance from Garth. It needs more water supply, and that means a new roof, and when I think about the new roof, I want to change the roof to expand the house (and put in a cistern, too), and that means permits and planning and way more time than I can realistically imagine finding in my life.

So instead I dream about climbing an even larger mountain - moving back to the hills, where there are rich moist low areas just waiting to grow food. There's just the small problem of a house. And an agreement from Garth. He worries about disagreements with my family over land use, so he'd rather buy his own land. So, then, we would have free rein to do whatever we wanted with the land - and no money to do it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Lettuce Update

The Cimarron Red Romaine in the foreground is still okay, but better if mixed with other greens. It was planted around June 8th, a little later than the now-bitter leaf lettuce in the background, which is about to be pulled for mulch or compost. I hear that Garth gave away several pails of it.

And here's my current delight: a couple of rows of fresh lettuce, just coming into their own. I planted these on July 3rd, under the mulch, and kept peeking underneath until they appeared, just five days later. Then I parted it gently to let them out, and away they went. The soil was cooler under the mulch, and this part of the garden is shaded for part of the day, which may have helped too. Next year I want to pay more attention to successional planting, but for this year, with so many of us away in the latter part of July, it worked out okay.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Now it's a maze

Here's the spaghetti squash again. And the pumpkins, and the "west squash," all blending together. There used to be a path through the middle there. No more walking the labyrinth these days, but it's fun to pick my way through there and come across startlingly large squashes swelling under the leaves. Just a couple of weeks, and I'll start pinching the vines back.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Spaghetti Squash

Labyrinth Location: 2nd yin-dot arc, 1 to 2 o'clock
Vegetable: Spaghetti squash
Seed/Transplant Date: June 5 or so?
Soil Preparation: Rototilled lawn, with some grass rhizomes pulled out, and hills made with a shovelful of manure underneath

The spaghetti squash are the two hills near the centre of the photo, with pumpkins in the background and the "west squash" crawling across the path from the bed on the right. Tomorrow I leave for the Great Sandhills, and I won't be back for over two weeks. It could be a jungle when I get home. If you see Garth, remind him to train those vines, will ya?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The West Squash

Labyrinth Location: 1st yang-dot arc, 2 to 5 o'clock
Vegetable: A winter squash
Seed/Transplant Date: June 5 or so
Soil Preparation: Rototilled lawn, with some grass rhizomes pulled out, and hills made with a shovelful of manure underneath

I mentioned the South Squash a couple of weeks ago; these are the West Squash. One direction is acorn and the other is butternut squash, but I don't know which is which.

I've been training some of the other squash vines along the empty areas between the hills, to keep them out of the labyrinth paths, but these vines don't seem to be vining along the ground. They are reaching for the sky, and quite uncooperative about being twisted into the desired direction. Maybe I just need to wait until they get too heavy for themselves.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

And How They Grew

Labyrinth Location: 3rd yin-dot arc, 9 and 11 o'clock
Vegetable: Green peppers
Seed/Transplant Date: Same as tomatoes
Soil Preparation: Same as tomatoes

Those are Mary Milligan's above. These I got from my mom:

They're taller, but a bit lanky looking.

And these are my own.

Wow, that middle one looks fantas... wait a minute, that's a sunflower.

I've been meaning to transplant that volunteer out of there, but I'm starting to think it's too late.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Got 'im

Bet you never expected to see me proudly displaying a dead varmint on this blog. I'll spare you the pictures, then. (They turned out rather blurry anyway.) Above you see the trap, sprung - there is indeed a dead pocket gopher in there. At the lower left you can see the carrot we placed for bait. It's one of our own carrots, and it probably would have been gopher food by tomorrow if we hadn't resorted to this small violence. The little white archway is a piece of a plastic yogourt tub, which had a previous incarnation as a cutworm collar but got cut in half for this gig. We were trying to simulate the original tunnel opening, and it looks like we were successful.

There were several surprises here.

For one thing, I didn't know pocket gophers were so big. I expected something mouse-sized, but the one we caught was more like a Richardson's ground squirrel in girth, though not so long in the body.

Secondly, I was amazed by its digging claws. The picture on the site I linked above doesn't do them justice. If we catch another one, I'll try to get a better picture.

Thirdly, I definitely hadn't expected to find a tunnel open to the surface. When we set out to place my new traps (acquired in Carlyle's amazing Home Hardware store this afternoon), we just assumed we would have to dig to find a tunnel. We started right in next to the mounds, sacrificing a few carrots in a row where several plants had already gone missing (pulled down from below). Not so easy. Apparently the gopher had plugged the tunnel there. Garth went to look for a rod to probe around the mounds, and I gazed around, wondering where to start. I noticed a very small pile of what looked like gopher-pushed dirt, away on the other side of the next bed, close to the edge of the lawn. When I took a closer look, I found an actual opening down into a gopher tunnel. I don't think I'd ever seen one before - not a pocket gopher tunnel. Ground squirrels make their front doors obvious, but pocket gophers will have mounds of pushed-up dirt dotting the landscape and not a single hole in sight.

We think maybe the lawn edging had something to do with it, forcing the pocket gopher to either surface or dig deeper.

And one more surprise: catching a pocket gopher so fast. I think we had it inside of an hour after the trap was set.

We reset the trap (or, to be precise, replaced it with a second trap while the first one gets rinsed and aired out). Here it is being buried.

It's a Victor "Black Box" gopher trap. They recommend setting two traps end to end, which is why I bought two, but in this instance we figured one would do. And it did.

I feel like I should make some witty remark, or say something apologetic. Yes, folks. Things die in my garden.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Mary's and Mine

Labyrinth Location: 2nd border arc and 3rd yin-dot arc, where they meet
Vegetable: Tomatoes
Seed/Transplant Date: I dunno. Sometime after May 21 and before June 5th, I'd say.
Soil Preparation: Existing garden, the usual.

Manitoba tomatoes on the left, Beefsteak on the right. I got the seedlings from Mary Milligan. She said they were her best ever, and they have done beautifully. Transplanting didn't seem to bother them in the slightest, and look at these fruits already!

(See what I mean about the mud?)

Now for a peek beyond the Manitobas, between them and the shrouded turnips.

These are the Roma tomatoes I started indoors. When I transplanted them (at the same time as Mary's), they were barely starting to grow some true leaves. They seem to have recovered from whatever I did wrong (letting them get chilled, I think), but I will be amazed if they grow more than a handful of fruits.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Good News and Bad News

Sometimes it's more of a nightly bed...

Labyrinth Location: Outer border arc, 11 o'clock
Vegetable: Lettuce
Seed/Transplant Date: Monday (July 3rd)
Soil Preparation: Mostly existing garden bed, I think, but near the edge and rather grassy. Has been under mulch for a week or two.

The good news - it worked! I planted this lettuce by peeling back some mulch, seeding the row, and covering it with mulch again. That kept the soil cooler, and the lettuce grew in spite of the hot spell we've had. I pulled the mulch aside a little bit this morning to let the plants out into the sun.

The peas I planted at the same time aren't up, but I'm still hoping.

Now for the bad news.

Those mounds appeared just this afternoon. Pocket gopher, I think. They were common on the farm, but I have never noticed any sign of them in town before.

The disheartening thing is, immediately off the right-hand edge of the picture is my carrot bed.

Battle strategy, anyone?

Friday, July 07, 2006

What Happened Here?

Much of the garden has a bit of a lean to it, but it's worst among these broad beans. The lettuce just looks sort of sprawled. Anything that wasn't mulched is mud-spattered, as much as a foot up the stems.

When we left this morning everything was dusty dry. As we came back from the city this afternoon, there were thunderheads off in the distance, and I looked at them longingly. We did some errands around town before actually coming home, and suddenly I noticed the puddles on the streets. Hurrah! We got rain!

As soon as we parked in our driveway, we jumped out and headed for the rain gauge. But Garth stopped at the rain barrel, and I could hear his disappointment as he announced, "Only about an eighth." He was a little off, I think. Actually the rain barrel had come up about what we would expect from two tenths.

But the rain gauge showed nearly four tenths.

And the lawn didn't seem squelchy at all. In places it still seemed dry.

Brian cleared up the mystery. He said all that rain came in one short burst, in wind-driven sheets. Some of it must have flowed over the edge of the eavestrough instead of into the barrel. I suppose a lot of it must have run right off the garden, too. Maybe two tenths is the best estimate after all.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Drought Stress

Labyrinth Location: Outer border arc, 9 to 10 o'clock or so
Vegetable: Beets
Seed/Transplant Date: May 22?
Soil Preparation: Not enough. Rather grassy yet.

I never think of watering these. I pay more attention to the small seedlings of later planted things, and the tomatoes. But they wilted yesterday, and even after a good dousing, they don't look quite themselves yet. My record keeping is a little erratic, but I think it's been almost two weeks since we had any significant rain.

Mulching seems to help a lot, and I'm trying to get more done, but my supply of clippings has nearly dried up. The lawn is growing very slowly, in the shade; out in the sun, it isn't growing at all, except where I moved sod this spring. Strange - I haven't given it any special attention, but it seems to be the most lush grass of all.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Limited Success

Labyrinth Location: 3rd border arc, 11 o'clock
Vegetable: Basil
Seed/Transplant Date: Around the end of May? (started indoors, mid-late April?)
Soil Preparation: Existing garden, rototilled with well-rotted manure tilled in

That's my biggest basil plant. Here's the other extreme.

I think all my transplants got chilled sometime during their stay in the porch across the street, and went dormant. They are finally starting to recover from that and the transplanting. Here are two of the three surviving oregano plants.

In more than two feet of row, I got two plants less than two inches apart. It was awfully tough transplanting these, when they were just a pair of cotyledons and one pair of true leaves, all together making a circle about the size of a capital "C" in a book.

Basil, oregano, and parsley are all close together near the middle of the garden. I also planted a few of each in a small bed right at the entrance to the garden (outer border arc, 6 o'clock). The basil are doing okay, but the peas are looming.

Yesterday I was freezing spinach, since some of the plants were bolting already (perhaps partly due to crowding?). I wonder if I'll still have any fresh spinach when the basil can spare its first few leaves. Spinach pesto is so-o-o tasty.

Monday, July 03, 2006

And the Basic Beans

Labyrinth Location: Outer border arc, 7:30 (green); 2nd yin-dot arc, 9 o'clock (wax)
Vegetable: Beans
Seed/Transplant Date: May 21 or 22
Soil Preparation: Variable; partly existing garden, and partly sod swapped out for garden soil

These beans were featured in the stepping-stone photo in my introductory post. How things have changed! Here's another photo from way back then (June 14th).

Aside to self: today is the day I planted lettuce and peas under the mulch near the South Squash. Check for germination this weekend.

Aside to anyone listening in: How many days to germination for leaf lettuce?