Monday, 25 April 2011


Each week, we see tangible progress on the house and slowly, as the snow melts, we see glimpses of what's to come in the way of garden progress.  The soil is demurely revealing itself after a long hibernation under a thick blanket of snow.  A nice stretch of sunny days will hopefully take care of some evaporation over the coming weeks.  I have my fingers crossed for May long weekend planting but I have my doubts given how water logged the soil is.  In the picture below, you can see our chickens grazing in my garden area.  There is very soggy looking soil in the rear of the photo and of course more snow in the background.  There's no rushing this process... it's out of our hands entirely :)

Kelly has been hanging siding at the front of the garage, and what a difference it makes in the look of the place!  The winter snow and frigid temperatures came before he could get the job finished, forcing him to put away the tools and tarp the stack of siding.  Honestly, he was so tired from a long season of hard physical outdoor work, I know he secretly welcomed the forced stopping point.  The garage was exposed plywood for the whole winter and it looked rather shoddy - now it's looking much cleaner.  Here in Alberta, many people use vinyl siding due to the fact that our harsh climate is really hard on paint and stain.  Stucco is very expensive, as is Hardi-board, so we've stuck to a cheaper solution that we can install ourselves.  It has a 20-25 year life span, needing only cleaning and no other maintenance.

The cold frames are now planted with greens and I couldn't resist planting a package of lovely heirloom cascading petunia seeds.  They are supposedly quite rare and are very beautiful with their uniquely shaped star shaped flowers.  I can't wait to see them grow and bloom.   This woman cannot live on food alone ~ flowers are a must for me, so I boldly claimed half a cold frame to start them.  My intent is to fill my hanging baskets with these lovelies, leaving the deck pots dedicated solely to food production (herbs and some patio/cherry tomatoes).   Dashing out to the deck to pick fresh herbs while cooking is much more convenient than running all the way to the garden.  I get horribly side tracked, picking a few more things, weeding here and there - checking for eggs, and then many minutes pass before I remember that I have things cooking on the stove.  Sound familiar, anyone?

Speaking of getting side tracked - I've set several alerts on my cellphone to remind me to lock the chickens in at night and cover the cold frames.  One forgotten night can lead to DISASTER on all accounts (frost, coyotes and fox).   I've also set an alert to remind me to open the cold frames in the morning so I don't "cook" my new seedlings ~ the temps get VERY high in there in the daytime so I'll have to monitor them closely.

Tweaking my garden plans is continual these days as is succession sowing seeds (in the house).  My goal of doubling the garden size this year has left me wondering if I've got enough plants started.  That's a good job for today although my distractibility is at an all time high with so many chores calling my name.  The garden shed needs cleaning out, the chicken coop needs another muck out, the trim needs painting, the new beds need marking out, the raspberries need pruning... ahhhh, so much to do and only 24 hours in a day!

I wanted to mention a tip that served me well this winter keeping rabbits from stripping the bark of our fruit trees.  I wrapped chicken wire roughly around each trunk all the way from the soil level to the first branches.  I made sure to use many layers to create a barrier that rabbits couldn't chew through and it seemed to work.  We frequently see rabbits stripping bark off of deciduous trees in late fall and winter when there isn't much for them to eat.  This can and does kill trees!  We invested a lot of money and time planting our orchard last Spring and I wasn't about to let the rabbits decimate our trees.

More news on the garden front ~ my 100' row cover for the brassicas arrived in the mail.  We have terrible problems with white butterflies laying their eggs in the brassicas and in just a few days an entire crop of brassicas can be destroyed.   In talking with the neighbours (successful local organic gardeners), they all agree that covering the rows is the only way to successfully harvest ANY of these crops here.  Alrighty then.  One 100' row cover.  Check.  I'm nothing but obedient when it comes to the advice given by people who have grown all their food organically across our country road for 40 years.

Another challenge I face at this time of year is feeding my family when I am so busy dealing with the demands of Spring.  I have found that making a huge batch of homemade pizzas is the perfect solution.  Everyone can help themselves as needed or we can simply broil one to warm it through and crisp it up which takes just a few minutes.  The investment of an hour of my time yields us many quick and easy meals/snacks that are healthy as we add vegetables and use home-made dough made with whole wheat flour.  When I have home made garden tomato sauce - wow is it EVER good!  I'm out of that sadly, so we use store bought bruchetta instead, which is a nice flavourful alternative.   My husband loves to take cold pizza to work as a nice change from sandwiches.

I've had several loads of laundry out on the line this weekend for the first time this year!  What a nice feeling to be able to smell those wonderfully fresh clothes and linens and of course save electricity.   Honestly, one of my favourite things in life is crawling into a freshly made bed with line dried sheets on it.  So fresh and inviting, especially after days like we have had recently - full and very busy :)

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