On Finding Spring (and stopping the grumpy)

A couple of days ago, I was feeling kinda bummed out about the lack of Spring. I think it’s something a lot of people are experiencing this year since it’s almost all I hear people talking about. It’s tough after a long, cold winter (which it was) and lots of snow (which we had this year) to be patient when we see the calendar roll over into spring. I think we’d all love for the weather to just magically turn around on that day and never look back. Because I was feeling a little down, I started thinking about why I was feeling that way and whether I could reframe my feelings (yes, I’ve spent time in therapy) and make myself feel a little better. Patience isn’t my strong suit (pretty sure I’ve mentioned this many times!) and it’s something I should probably work on actively!

Anyway, I forced myself to wander around outside, even though the temp was barely above freezing (celsius) and I was feeling grumpy. And of course, I found spring! Nature doesn’t forget to wake up! I imagine there are trees out there that just wish they could roll over and press ‘snooze’, but they don’t. They persevere! They grow. I found buds everywhere and many green things popping out of the ground – some actual plants and many weeds (of course, they would never miss an opportunity to grow!).

Then I reminded myself that a slow start to spring is always better than a false start in February. Even though I love warm spell in February, we’ve all seen the havoc that can wreak on our fruit trees. No one wants a summer without peaches! Well, unless you don’t like peaches (then please, insert your fruit of choice here).

I should have known that just getting outside in nature would fix my mood. It always does. Life just makes more sense to me when I’m in the garden.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go see what else I can find out there! Looking for asparagus…..I didn’t find any, but I found all of this:

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Always eager Poppies.
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First buds on the Peony Tree
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Lots of new growth on our Cherry Tree and a fuzzy doggy wanting to play ball.
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I hope this is Chamomile.
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Comfrey just trying to survive the recurring frosts.
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Is there anything more weird looking than Rhubarb?
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Magnolia! This small tree of mine makes me so happy!
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Early risers! Yay for Chives!
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Yarrow trying to grow through the winter layers of straw and leaves.
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Great Canadian Seed Companies

Updated: I realized my links weren’t working. Sorry for that! I think they’re fixed now.

When we moved out here in 2014, I decided to start growing everything from seed. Before then, I bought little baby plants from nurseries and while they were a success, I wanted more variety and more control over what I was growing. I dove head first into researching Canadian seed companies and through a course I was taking at the time, found a whole booklet of companies. Unfortunately, many of these companies didn’t have websites and I’m a little lazy so I didn’t feel like calling them all to see if they’d ship me a seed catalogue. Not having a website made it very easy to narrow down my choices. Originally I was planning to stick with only companies in Ontario, but I was tempted by pretty pictures and different plant varieties all over this great country, so I expanded my search.

Over the past 4 years, I’ve whittled down the list of companies I order from, mostly to save money on shipping. There are a lot more companies out there, but this list is made up of companies I’ve ordered from and have had good experiences with.

A couple of notes:

1. Not all of these companies ship internationally. Many of them will ship seeds to other countries, but can’t ship garlic, seed potatoes, or any live plants out of the country.

2. Be aware of what’s native in your area. I order from companies on either coast, but what’s native there likely won’t thrive here. Since I’m mostly ordering veggies, I don’t worry about it too much, but if I were ordering ornamental or perennial plants, I would try to stick with ‘Native to my area’ plants.

3. I try to order organically grown, open-pollinated seeds as much as possible. Not all of these companies are certified organic, but many of them follow good, sustainable practices. Many of them are also small, family operated businesses and it always feels good to support ‘mom and pop shops’. While I may not be shopping locally, I do like shopping from small companies as much as possible.

And now (drumroll please):

Ontario:

Urban Harvest

Cottage Gardener

 Hawthorn Farm

British Columbia:

Salt Spring Seeds

Full Circle Seeds

Saskatchewan:

Prairie Garden Seeds

Manitoba:

Heritage Harvest

Nova Scotia:

Hope Seed

There are also some larger companies that I’ve ordered from that have great customer service and a wide range of gardening products and books. Some of them also provide great gardening resources as well.

Halifax Seed

West Coast Seeds

Stokes Seeds

Veseys

And for your organic fertilizers and microbial inoculates:

Gardener’s Pantry

Are there any companies you could add to this list? Please share!

 

Cookbook of the Month (04/18)

It’s been a long while since I’ve shared a favourite cookbook. For awhile there, I was buying a lot of cookbooks, but my collecting has slowed down quite a bit in the last two or so years. Partly because of my one-year-no-book-buying challenge, and partly because my kids just aren’t always in love with my choice of cookbooks. They like simple flavours and comfort food (Noodles with Parmesan, rice with Parmesan, quinoa with Parmesan, that sort of thing) and I really like to try food with, well, more than parmesan. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid cheese lover, but I like to vary my taste intake. I don’t hold it against my kids because I remember being one and being afraid of new flavours too. But I’m an adult now and I like pesto and cayenne and salsa verde and curry. Not all in one dish, but spread over a week or so.

In the last 4 or 5 years, I’ve added many vegetarian and vegan cookbooks to our collection, and while we’re still meat eaters, we’ve been eating less and less of it and having lots of meat-free options has been very exciting for the beekeeper and I. It can be tricky to find vegetarian options that aren’t covered in cheese and I’m the first to admit our go-to meat-free options are frequently covered in cheese. I know our kids will eat these foods and I know I’ll get a stink face when a food has beans (gasp!) or too much spice. I have found that the kids really like the flavours of fresh herbs and don’t notice when chickpeas or beans are smooshed into something (it’s not the flavour our oldest doesn’t like, but the texture. Texture offends her easily).

That’s why so I’m excited to try the Falafel Waffles from Naturally Nourished by Sarah Britton. The chickpeas lose their chickpea form and are combined with parsley and garlic and cilantro (all things the kids like) and are mixed with coriander and cumin (and they love those flavours from tacos!) and pressed into a waffle shape. I’ve never had a savoury waffle, but I’m sure it will be delightful.

I’m also looking forward to trying Quinoa Corn Muffins for our oldest who tries to stay away from gluten-y things. Included in the book is a recipe for Zucchini Fries (always in need of another way to prepare zucchini in August!), a Spicy-Sweet Pumpkin Seed Snack and Spicy Fritos (a Parmesan recipe that doesn’t include a carb base!). The book is also filled with amazing soups and salads and I actually didn’t bother flagging the recipes I wanted to try, because it was most of them. These are my favourite kind of cookbooks!

And doesn’t this book just have a nice Spring-ish sort of cover?? Look at all that green!

As always, if you have a cookbook recommendation, I’d love to hear it!

Happy Cooking!

What I’m Reading (03/18)

While I’ve been away from here, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I haven’t purchased any books (I put my self on a one year no-book-buying challenge on July 1st – nearing the finish line!) so I’ve been borrowing books from the local library. And I have received books from my family for special occasions – don’t think I wouldn’t work in a loophole to keep my collection growing. That would be crazy!

Every few weeks, I randomly type some garden related topic into my library’s search engine to see what pops up. That’s how I found The Garden Design Bible by Tim Newbury. As you can see, I don’t take a very scientific approach to discovering new things, but I’ve found some real gems using this very simple method. This book is no exception. If, like me, you love seeing those 2D garden designs in gardening magazines, then you’ll love this book. This book includes all sorts of 2D and 3D renderings of many different types of landscapes. Even if you’re exact landscape doesn’t fit in any of these boxes, you’ll be sure to find some inspiration in these pages. Everything from Scented Gardens to Balcony Gardens to Kitchen Gardens are covered in this book. It also includes some building projects, like a tiny pond, a trellis, modular decking and more. He even provides you with alternate planting plans. The one drawback is that he refers only to the scientific names of the plants, so if you don’t speak science, it might be handy to keep a Google browser open while you read the book.

When I saw Gardenista on a ‘Best Gardening Books’ list, I knew I wanted to borrow this one from the library. Then I loved it so much that I put it on my birthday list and lo and behold, it became a part of my collection (thank you blackwellbeekeeper). This book is brought to you by Michelle Slatalla of the renowned website Gardenista (amazing Instagram @gardenista_sourcebook feed as well). It’s just simply a gorgeous book filled with amazing photography and loads of aspirational gardens. If you’re someone who likes jaw-dropping beautiful gardens, this book is a great read. While it’s maybe a bit more of a coffee table book than a reference book, the appendix at the back lists her top 100 items, lots of design elements and a few pages of expert advice. While one may feel discouraged by their own lack of money while looking at the gardens of the wealthy, I actually just felt awed and inspired. I was able to see lots of ideas that I could borrow for my own much-smaller-budget garden. And I’ll be honest, if money weren’t an issue, I’d be spending it on my backyard (and my bookshelf).

One of the books I hope to get for Mother’s Day (hint, hint, hubby) is Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix. Do you get bored by just plain red and yellow tomatoes? Do you like to try new things in your own garden? Do you like to grow things that make your friends scratch their heads and say, ‘You can grow that here?’ If you answered yes to any of these questions, run, don’t walk to your favourite bookstore or library! The book is beautiful, filled with varieties that you’ve maybe never heard of and you’ll get a glimpse of Niki’s own home garden (it’s amazing!). For more inspiration, check out her Instagram feed (@nikijabbour) – she posts really beautiful pictures. She’s a fellow Canadian gardener which I always appreciate and there’s a good chance another of her books will be on my April book list.

Happy reading everyone! Never stop learning!

Growing our Family

Three months ago, we added a new family member. Silas needed to leave the rat race of corporate life and get out into the urban countryside where we live. He’s happy to have simplified his life and says that seeing the sunrise is worth leaving behind the 7-digit paycheque. Welcome, Silas!

Of course, I kid. Silas is a six month old puppy who hasn’t worked a day in his life. But he does seem happy here! And we loving having another homestead doggy.

Unintentionally Long Hiatus

Oops! I knew last June that I wasn’t going to be blogging as much during the summer months, but I had no intentions of dropping entirely off the map. I’m back! I’m not planning to do a recap of the last year’s whole garden, but I’ve got a few posts brewing.

Here are a few of my favourite pictures from last summer. And that will conclude this post. I’m looking forward to sharing What I’m Reading and some little Beautiful Surprises!

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I couldn’t get enough of this weirdo sunflower!
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Magical combo, isn’t it?
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July 23 – being all crazy and growing and stuff.
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Once a week in the summer, I go outside and realize we live in a jungle.
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Aug 3 in the garden.
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This was my spot last year, when I need to breathe and think and cry. This cosmo (this very one) helped me though a bunch of stuff last year.

What I’m Reading (06/17)

I’m a book whore. That’s not really a nice word, but I’m not sure there’s another way to describe it. I feel like I’ve moved past “collector”. Collector might imply an enjoyment of  a certain genre or time period or style of writing, but what is it called when you like all the genres? (I don’t like ALL the genres – only about 90% of them!) What’s it called when you buy a lot of books, but then only hope to have time to read them? I’m an avid reader, for sure, but housework, volunteering and laundry always get in the way of my spending quality time with my books. 

I’m not a hoarder. Don’t laugh! It’s not hoarding if it’s books. I saw a meme on the internet, so it must be true. 

To be clear, book buying is not something I hope to seek help for any time soon. The mortgage is paid and my family gets food on a very regular basis. I’m just trying to be set the stage for the three books I’m reading this month. They were all purchased in May. A month when I actually read very little. Yes, I grew my collection of books, therefore growing my “to-read” list all while not ticking any off the list. It’s terrible, really. But I’ve convinced myself that just being surrounded by good books is enough sometimes. And when I do ever have time to read, I’ll have a large list to choose from. 

See, I’m a book whore. 

When I saw Welcome to the Farm at my local bookstore, I picked it up to purchase immediately. I did do the obligatory flip-through, but given the title alone, I was going to buy it. It might have been a joke book for all I knew and the joke would have been on me, but it appears to be a legit homesteading book. It’s totally the type of book I love. It’s part “how-to”, part recipe, and part story, combined with great pictures. 



Home Grown Pantry was another impulse buy, I’ll admit. One of the reasons it grabbed my attention was right on the front cover “Selecting the Best Varities & Planting the Perfect Amounts”. If someone is willing to take the guesswork out of a seed catalogue for me, I’m in! I thumbed through it and really enjoyed the layout and information presented. It discusses the main points of food preservation and how to choose the best varieties to grow. It covers veggies, herbs and fruit. 

You might be proud of me for the next choice. Cut Flower Garden was published way back in February and I didn’t buy it until May. That’s right, it was on my “wanted” list for nearly 3 months. While I’m not sure I’ll ever have a flower farm, I love the idea of this book. It’s organized by seasons, which is perfect for a flower book and the photography is stunning. I’m looking forward to diving right in. 

Our kids have three weeks left of school, so summer vacation is just around the corner for us. Even though summer is busy in the garden and around the homestead, I still find more time to read than during the school year. Anyone else out there have seasons of reading? 

What’s on your “to-read” list this month? 

What I’m Reading (05/17) 

Do people read in May? Apparently, I do not. I’ve completed one of my April books and finished a juvenile fiction book I started 4 months ago. Not exactly something to write home about! 

But, the garden is weeded, planting is about 80% done and the kids have eaten three meals a day all month. 

So, yeah. Hoping to read books in June. Stay tuned for that list because I’ve purchase a few new books that I’m excited about. 

Before weeding
After weeding

Happy Spring! 

Homestead Tour in Photos

While I’ve been mostly absent from the blog-o-sphere lately, lots of things have been happening around here.

Here’s a photo tour of what we’ve been up to lately.

In the Grow Zone:

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Ready to be potted up.

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It didn’t take long for them to outgrow the growzone. They’re now sunning themselves by the window.

 

In the Greenhouse:

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The tomatoes outgrew the window so they were transfered to the greenhouse.
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Where they were followed by more and more growing plants.
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The best luck we’ve had with strawberries and pineberries is to pot them first, let them grow a bit, then move them to their permanent home. It’s more work, but at least they live.

 

In the Garden:

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The only surviving pineberry from last year. The original plant is right at the bottom of the photo. This is the little berry that could!
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Fourteen yards of mulch! Thank you Chad for moving ALL of it!
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This picture should be called “Correcting a Wrong”. We skipped the cardboard under the mulch last year and it had me wishing I could put “less weeds” on my Christmas List.
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In this photo, I see all the things we still need to do. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s reality.
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The Spring 2017 Balcony Shot.
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Garlic growing and looking pretty great. Hopefully it likes rain!
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Garden bed expansion project. We ran out of cardboard so the bed is still sitting like this. It’s been a week. Maybe I should make a bet with myself to see how long it will stay like this…
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Transplanting some strawberries to a better location. That means we didn’t really plan ahead when we planted them in the first place.
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The crazy blackberry patch.
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Check out these Aspara-guys!! Is the plural form of asparagus just asparagus? We should change that.
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Daisy is posing between our new peach trees. She’s still out there waiting for them to produce  juicy, ripe fruit.
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They’re not in the garden, but they want to be. I think they’re trying to be statues so I don’t see them.

 

In the Garage:

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Prep work for the new babies. We build very fancy digs for our chicks, as you can tell.
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Daisy knew exactly what was going on and kept hopping around waiting to see the chicks. Fun Fact: they hadn’t arrived yet.
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Here they are! Six baby fluffy butts.
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Meeting for the first time. Is Daisy thinking, “They’ve brought home something even cuter than me!” or “Little nugget, you’d taste delicious with some honey mustard.”?
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Did she just lick her lips?

That sums it up for the last bits of April and the beginning of May. I didn’t capture rain photos, because, let’s face it, we all know what that looks like by now!

Stay dry!