room to grow

Ah, summer. It feels like it’s been here for ages as we’ve had an unusually warm spring. I feared a cold dose of “June-uary” (aka days of rain as in January) so didn’t set some things in the ground as early as I could have, but that’s been okay.

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It’s so wonderful to have our garden beds full of rich soil and producing tasty rewards. We’ve been waiting for years to have room to grow like this and we’re making the most of it! In May I harvested my first ever good beets. In May! The carrots weren’t much further behind and the lettuce and chard crops have been amazing. I’ve also taken more than 12 pounds of potatoes from three plants to give the others room to grow.

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The garlic grew so quickly and so strong but then I think I forgot to water in our unusually warm spring. (I don’t recall ever watering garlic in past years) but they were showing signs of stress and it made sense… there was no moisture in the top 3″ of soil at least. In time that nasty rust took over so I cut off the scapes and ripped off every bit of rust-infested stalk I could. They were pretty sad looking for the month of June but wowsers, what a haul when I ripped them out of the ground (to make room for the leek transplants) yesterday.

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I’d never come across the dry bundle of onion sets in our garden centres before but over March break I did. Wow, they are so much easier than starting from seed and they’re prolific too! The bundle I had got split between 3 households and I got nearly 50 walla wallas. It meant there was no room for my leeks right away but we’ve been eating our onions for weeks now.

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One of the first things on my list this spring was getting rid of weeds. I wish I’d taken pictures of the mess I’d made with all the flattened cardboard along the sides of our property. It was pretty ugly but I figured it was the easiest way to keep from having to weed all the time. I’d wanted to avoid a lawn completely and put wood chips down where we used to have sand and weeds but it took a while to dig out the soil and build a support to keep the chips from landing on our neighbours lawn. At that time we added some plants (including a Japanese maple that should grow to obscure the view of our kitchen from the neighbours bedroom window) and some rocks to soften the edges. It’ll be a while before things fill in but for now I’m quite happy with the result.

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I was getting a little distressed with the lack of room for our brassicas, beans and peas and since the sale of the house next door didn’t immediately result in the construction of a carriage house or fence I convinced Kevin to build another box along the property line. I also found a spot for some blueberry bushes and an asparagus bed. I was a little late getting the asparagus started so we’ll have to see how that goes. I have some new starts in pots near the front door so I can make sure they’re healthy (since I lost a few in the main spot right away).

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Blueberries were a bit of a surprise. It started out that I bought one as a “just because” gift for Kevin a few months ago but it turns out I like them now too so we have 4 different bushes. There are two of the itty bitty 2′ x 2′ variety, a full-sized one, and another that’s in between. Yay for growing food! We also added 3 little apple trees earlier this year too – a 4-variety espalier, a golden sentinel (the stick kind you can grow in a pot), and a mini-dwarf honey crisp. It’s been fun to make space for all these much needed sources of nourishment and to watch them grow!

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In the “landscaped” parts of our yard the yard things are coming along. The vine maples are getting bigger, the bunchberry is becoming more carpet-like and the huckleberries…. oh, those are the best! I also like that the birds come to visit our trees and the smoke bush that hangs in from the neighbours side. I get to hear them at breakfast and dinner and watch them when I’m out on the deck for lunch. Oh and those rudbeckia’s are out of control big this year. I can’t wait for them to bloom.

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a different kind of stay-cation

Computer difficulties mean this post from a month ago is a little late in getting finished…

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Last weekend marked the start of our little stay-cation. The goal was to finish up the bulk of the landscaping so we could relax and enjoy living here a little more.

In addition to the garden boxes and river bed that we built on the weekend, we also got help from two of the guys who were with us through most of the build. The sun was intense but we were all motivated and it was really nice to work and eat together.

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In just one day we were able to get the front and back yards planted. There was a LOT of road base to dig up and replace with suitable growing medium before adding the plants, the bark mulch and soaker hose irrigation.

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I’m really excited about what we planted. As I’ve mentioned before, much of the vegetation is what we see in nature only a few blocks away: red huckleberries, vine maples, bunch berries and ferns. There are also some flowers for colour, grasses for year round interest and some Saskatoon berries. Next year I’ll add some more of the low-lying native vegetation such as bleeding hearts and false solomon’s seal. We also hope to get an apple tree in the sunniest spot near the shed and another tree for out in the front.

Planting at this time of year isn’t ideal (although rain is on the way) but by next year we shouldn’t need to water these things at all.

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Planting wrapped up shortly after lunch and then the guys also helped to level out of our driveway/deck approach and cleaning up the remaining construction debris. We were tired at the end of it all, but it felt so good to have it done.

The next day we tried to take it easy, tending to other things on our list, but before dark we had managed to use up all the mulch, make a dump run of the rotten stuff that came with our site, and place all our granite chunks in the patio space.

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That was one of the most amazing things of all. We had simply planned to bring the massive pieces closer to the patio and try cutting one or two. In about 2 hours though we had placed all but 3 of the pieces that we’d ordered and hadn’t had to make a single cut!

We still need to get more road base and sand to level things out since our slabs are of various thicknesses, but for now it will do.

For the next little bit we’ll just relax and enjoy. Levelling the patio, chipping the pathway and installing the rain water tank will just have to wait!

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with a little help from mom and dad

Wow, there is so much work to do with a new house. Somehow I figured getting inside the house would be the big step. Now I know that’s not quite true!

In the past we’ve taken on the landscaping that was left for us – from a well established tiny back yard where perennials covered the ground and brought pleasant new surprises every few weeks to the weed and fairy ring filled lawn with a few sparse perennials in poorly kept beds. Neither of us much enjoyed maintaining a lawn so this time we’re doing things quite differently.

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On this property our landscaping will focus on providing food for us and the birds, bees and butterflies while using as little water as possible. The wildlife-oriented landscape will double as a pleasant landscape for when we’re relaxing with family and friends outside. Doing away with the lawn should help to reduce my knack for getting mosquito bites and it means no more lawn mowing. That’s something we’re both quite excited about! More wildlife viewing is sure to satisfy us too.

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Since we moved to town a few years ago I’ve become much more knowledgeable about growing food and have been practising in pots and a community garden. I had hoped to have a lot more food growing in our yard by now but everything takes time. It was worth it to spend more time finishing things up on the inside so we can enjoy it now.

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We still have quite a bit of work to do but this past weekend was a quite a break through weekend. My folks drove up to visit with the full intention of working hard in the yard. With their help we were able to take care of a lot of the things on the list like levelling out the back patio, shaping the dry creekbed/runoff swale, and creating the foundation for the vegetable garden beds in the front. My dad also cleaned all the moss off of the shed!

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It was heaps of work and we were all tired every evening but it was so great to learn from such experienced landscapers and re-live how it was when I was young. (After we moved into our family home when I was two, my nan and grandpa became regular visitors. They’d work all day in the yard with my folks, taking care of the landscaping or picking all the garden harvests. I clearly remember when grandpa dug the big hole in the back yard, and picking shucked peas out of the bucket when nan and my mom were preparing food for the winter. And just like when it was my grandparents that were visiting, the older generation worked the younger generation under the table!)

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We’re so lucky that both of our sets of parents have been so keen to help us out.

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looking a little more finished

I’m beginning to see a trend… long weekends are becoming work weekends. I remember doing that a bit with our first house, but so far we’ve made them all that way in 2014. It’s a good thing too, because our house is now finally starting to look a little more finished.

May 19 - built in book case under the stairs.

We had unseasonably warm weather last week but by the weekend it had faded into perfect weather for getting things done on the inside. After taking a carload of construction waste for recycling, we were able to pick everything up off the floors and get ready to seal them. I cleaned, re-cleaned and triple-cleaned the floors while Kevin did the rounds on all of the unsealed fir trims. Then he oiled the stairs while I sealed the concrete floor in the front of our house. It was so nice to have a three day weekend so that the floors could have an extra day to dry before the tradefolk return.

May 19 - finished LR floor as viewed from the sink.

May 19 - osmo oiled fir treads

The lack of rain this weekend also made it a bit easier to work outdoors and start tweaking our landscaping plan. There are so many things about the front yard that we have to figure out so I spent some time in the back looking at the placement of our trees and the otherwise dry creek that will help manage run off during big rains.

dry creekbed (most of the orange flags). Future bridge is sort of shown by that floor/joist sample and trees are indicated by stakes.

Our architect took into consideration our desire for green and a “woodland forest” kind of feel in the backyard and it’s been so nice to walk out in nature and see just what he called for in the plans. I think naturescaping is probably the best way to describe it, and given the birds, bees and butterflies we see in similarly landscaped areas, it really should be the right kind of thing for our backyard.

A lot of what we like doesn’t look so great in the winter so there are some other hardy grasses and shrubs called for too. That, and we realize we’re going to wanta bit more space devoted to food growing.

May 19 - garlic, tomatoes, herbs and raspberries in the back.

I started this little garden last year before we had access to water and it did quite well, so with my mom’s help it grew a bit this year. I took this photo and then a few hours later we were given raspberry canes from a generous nearby neighbour. I’m so looking forward to home grown food again!

Until next time, happy May!

Week 5

This construction project moves in fits and starts. It’s an interesting thing to observe really. Yesterday, there were 6 guys on site – two digging trenches and laying pipe outside of the foundation, another dealing with us landowners, and another 3 working out the interior sewer drains. Then today everything stood still as we waited for the inspection of the drain pipes. Wouldn’t you know though, the plug couldn’t handle all the head and now we have to wait another day for the testing of the pipes before they can be covered up.

July 22 - backyard drainage

Work moved in a similar fashion last week too. We had a foundation ready to be filled but every dump truck in town was committed and it took 4 days before we could get our first load of pit run. (I was out and about that day and it was true – there were loaded dump trucks everywhere!) Our truck arrived and filling and compaction went quickly. We even got our own water hose functioning that day too!

July 22 - sewer pipe stacks

Yesterday we went to look at rock for the backyard since some of it needs to go in next week. Needless to say, we were a bit blown away at the prices. We came back to the site to get input from our digger and found that there were some suitable specimens in the pile of pit run that is currently our front yard.

We have a river feature planned for the backyard too so we spent an hour after dinner pulling out river rock for that too. Kevin’s the strong arm of this part of the operation!

July 22 - collecting river rocks

July 22 - river rock collecting