Sunday, 24 May 2009

'Big Garden' 2009

I think this year I may have managed to get the best of both worlds: raised beds without having to build any actual raised bed structures. For this idea I have to thank Steve Solomon and his book, Gardening When it Counts.

Last year when we first put in the 'big garden' I had yearned for nicely enclosed raised beds. That didn't happen (we had mistakenly bought treated lumber instead of untreated) and it turned out just fine. But I so loved the neat orderliness of the raised beds. Then, over the Winter, I started reading Solomon's book, and thought it sounded like a good idea when he suggested shovelling the dirt out of what I wanted to be pathways (for ease of weeding and watering) and onto the adjacent part of the garden patch. So I shoveled out a central path, and then three cross-paths and lo and behold, I had eight nicely raised beds. Plus I didn't 'waste' the dirt in the pathways by just tromping down on it - it was moved over to where it could do the most good - i.e., nourishing my veggies. What with this and my new rock pathway to the garden itself, I am one contented gardener!

Saturday, 23 May 2009

A New Path

Yesterday our very helpful neighbor and friend, 'Farmer Joe', came by with his tractor-sized rototiller and enlarged my veggie garden plot. He also kindly tilled the pathway to the garden, so I could properly lay down the flat rocks that I was given last year, care of one of my parents' neighbors. I've had a picture in my head of how cute a rock pathway would be, with herbs growing on the side and maybe some hardy thyme or other ground cover plants in between the rocks. I actually had the energy to lay all these rocks out and dig them in, just the way I've been wanting to. They still need some adjustment, but I was able to get enough accomplished yesterday to be able to visualize my new path.

Which brings me to a story about another fairly new 'path' of mine: being a vegetarian. I've been vegetarian for about 3 years or so. While I have eaten meat about four or five times in that time frame (it was served to me and I hadn't made other arrangements in advance), my intention was and still is not to eat anything that can move about on its own. Making this choice necessitates paying attention to a few things, to ensure my nutrition is complete. Well, it turns out I've been a 'bad vegetarian' and haven't been paying attention to everything I needed to, specifically getting enough iron. This was made very clear to me when my doctor (also new) called earlier this week and said I needed an "urgent" blood transfusion, because my hemoglobin level was so low. I was mildly reprimanded by the doctor, and when at the hospital itself two days ago, I was told by the nurse I was "lucky" to be getting the transfusion. I certainly did feel somewhat guilty for taking two units of blood that should have been left available for car accident victims, or the like. It was a strange, strange day. I have since begun taking an iron supplement liquid, and I will be more diligent in taking my other vitamins as well.

I do feel better after having the transfusion - I can go up the stairs without running out of breath with a pounding heart, and yesterday I could do a morning's worth of dirt-shifting and rock-lifting without feeling drained. (It's amazing what having enough cells to carry oxygen to your heart can do!) In fact there are a lot of symptoms of iron deficiency I'm looking forward to not having any more. And there was no way I tied all these things together as being related to something like anemia - I just figured I was wimpy and had to suck it up. So, if there are any other new-ish vegetarians out there, you may want to have your iron levels checked at your next doctor's appointment!

New path, or not-so-new path, there is always, always something to learn.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Everything and Nothing

That title makes it sound like I might have some kind of profound, yin/yang type of post coming up, but actually it is just a description of the state of my brain right now. It seems crammed full, yet completely blank at the same time, leaving me in a state of bla.

On the one hand, I am so happy to see the Spring birds back again - I spied a pretty house finch in our woodlot and a neat redhead duck on one of the local sloughs. Leaves are popping out and the grass is greening up nicely. I had a nice time working out at the CSA farm again this weekend. The wildfires are under control and Gord is on the mend from his hip surgery.

But on the other hand, I am so disgusted by our Alberta provincial government. Bill 44 - are you kidding me? What an embarrassment. Parents can remove their kids from class in a public school if they object to the teaching of any topic (but particularity evolution or homosexuality) on religious grounds? So if I had kids I could remove them from any class that teaches about Conservatives, right?

And today, Bill 48 - are you serious? You want criminals to pay for their own health care costs if they injure themselves during a crime, but you want to sue big tobacco if smokers get cancer or other diseases. So criminals are personally responsible for their own ill health but smokers are not? And these are subsections of the SAME BILL? Seriously Ed, look up the word "consistency" and try that concept out some time.

All this just pushes my brain into overload and it just shuts right down. It's pretty sad when you have to put your fingers in your ears and sing 'la la la' just to stomach living in your own province.

At least the birds are pretty.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Of Fire and Impermanence

There are several wildfires burning in and around our area this very dry Spring. Two days ago, the fire was within a few miles of our place: the picture to the right is the view from the top of our driveway that evening. There were burnt pine needles and ash floating around and down - we could see them on our driveway and sidewalk. We've had fires around here before, but never one so close that we had ash floating down on us. That evening, we received news that both the mandatory and recommended evacuation areas were expanding, and that they would likely include us. So, we started packing.

Making things even more interesting was the fact that I had just picked Gord up from the hospital a few hours earlier, having been released that day following hip surgery earlier in the week. So we packed even more lightly than we otherwise would have, since any time we had after receiving evacuation notice would be better spent getting Gord and our two guinea pigs into the car rather than putting any material goods in there. It was a surreal experience to say the least.

We had our garden hoses hooked up to the taps outside, and fire extinguishers at both doors. I had the car turned around in the driveway, ready to head out if we got the word to leave. About halfway through the evening our telephone landline died, lending an even stranger tone to the evening. We have poor cell phone service but managed to call my parents to make arrangements to stay with them if necessary.

What do you pack when your house might burn down and as a set you can't move very quickly? As it turns out, not very much. Looking around the house while packing, there wasn't a lot that I decided was essential. I packed a change of clothes and some toiletries, an emergency radio, the mortgage papers, a handwritten book of recipes from my mom, our wedding photos and DVD, an album of childhood pictures, and that was about all. Gord hobbled around on crutches getting together his laptop, external hard drive and some business papers. We had our guinea pig carriers and some guinea pig food at the ready as well.

It was a strange evening, watching the news on TV, wishing the phone would start working again, checking Twitter and the internet for updates, listening for a knock on the door from the firefighters telling us we had to go. Thankfully, that knock never came, but needless to say we did not have a restful night.

Today, two days later, most of our gathered things remain packed and by the door. Phone service is restored. The fires have not gotten bigger, but are still burning close by. The ash has stopped falling from the sky, and the winds have died down. There was even a bit of rain overnight, and some more again today. We hope that in the next couple days the fires will be put out or at least become controlled.

The whole "wildfire coming this way" experience got me thinking. Most profoundly, about how much of the stuff I have that I didn't even consider packing - which is 99.99% of the stuff I have. And about how quickly things can, and do, change. One minute we're looking forward to just getting comfy and watching the hockey game, and the next minute we're getting ready to bug out in a hurry, maybe for a good long time.

Nothing's permanent, anything can change at any time. Getting a hands-on lesson about this was a good thing, and it sure does make me appreciate the here-and-now in a much more authentic way. The trick is to remember this even when the ash has stopped falling from the sky!

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Last of the Saskatoons

In today's oatmeal are the last of the saskatoons (aka service berries) I picked from our acreage last summer. I froze a bunch of them, and then a few weeks later in the summer I dried some too. The ones in the picture are the last of the frozen ones - I used up the dried ones long ago. This year I think I will dry most of them instead, because:
  1. It is really easy to do (i.e., spread on cookie sheets and leave on the counter for a few days)
  2. They take up less storage space that way (they shrink to half their size)
  3. It uses no extra energy to store them, and
  4. They are amazingly delicious that way!
They become like little raisins or currants, much sweeter than the original fruit. They are so good in oatmeal or any cereal, cold or hot, and also just a nice snack on their own. The fresh berries are a lot like blueberries, and are delicious in baking or on ice-cream, or just picked right off the bush. Mmm....sun-warmed berries...mmm.

Because I loved these so much, I splurged and bought a special berry picking thingy so I can harvest even more saskatoons this coming summer. Then maybe I will have enough to last me right until August, when the next crop is ready!