Friday, December 6, 2013

Frost Bite and Gas Fumes

I woke up this morning and instantly knew it was bitter outside.  The smell of car exhaust hangs close to the ground on days like this, burning your lungs (as it the cold doesn't do that on its own) and sticking to your clothes.  I walked to the end of the driveway at 8:00am to leave something in the mailbox for a friend to pick up.  By the time I got back in the house, I was wheezing and had a lopsided headache.

Yep, bloody cold.  -34, "feels like -40", according to The Weather Network (and my body).  

I am so glad I don't have to walk to work every morning in this frigid hell anymore, at least not for the time being...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Came Early!

It started snowing in earnest yesterday afternoon, continued through the night, and didn't let up until mid-afternoon today.  About 20cm has fallen.  I keep telling myself, "At least it's a dry snow".  Not like the wet, heavy, Maritime snow I experienced growing up.  Still, it is icy, it accumulates, and it has to be shoveled.  It is also -18 out there.   Boo, hiss.

I was catapulted out of my winter doldrums when my seed swap package from the 3rd Annual Canadian Autumn Seed Exchange arrived in today's mail!  (See my earlier post about this exchange HERE).  In early October, I sent in my contribution of 40 seed packs to trade (the maximum allowed), plus 17 bonus seed packs to be distributed to anyone having those seeds indicated on their wish lists.   I received 58 packets back and almost every wish I had written on my list was fulfilled. 

The swap package I received included:

Barley - Tibetan Hulless
Vermont Cranberry Beans
Herbs - Purple Basil, catnip, White Feverfew, Italian Parsley, Garlic Chives, and Thyme
Peppers - Chocolate Ghost pepper (super hot!), Feher Ozon paprika, Gypsy, Italian Sweet, Nardello, Sweet Chocolate, and Sweet Red Cherry
Greens - Tronchuda Collards, Dwarf Green Curled Kale, and Malabar Spinach
Melon - Mini Honeydew
Leeks - Broad London
Eggplants - Black Beauty, Casper, Green Apple, and Rosa Bianca
Beans (dry) - Arikara, Kenearly, Orca, and Vermont Cranberry

Rosa Bianca Eggplant
Beans (snap/wax) - Provider, Beurre de Rocquencourt, Royal Burgundy, and Tendergreen Improved
Tomatoes - Amish Paste, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Black Brandywine, Red Brandywine, Bonny Best, Early Annie, First Mate, Indian Stripe Potato Leaf, Isis Candy, Mazarini, Opalka, Rose de Berne, Rutgers, San Marzano, Sweet 1 Million, and Yellow Pear
Pumpkin - Sugar Pie
Squash - Buttercup and Red Kuri
Flowers - Polar Bear Zinnia, Starlight Rose Zinnia, Pink Snap Dragon, White Snap Dragon, Pink Double Poppy, Purple Peony Poppy

Starlight Rose Zinnias
The majority of seeds I received were ones that were new to me.  Some varieties I have never heard of and look forward to researching.  I can't wait to grow the zinnia seeds that were included with the package.  Nicky, the seed exchange organizer, included a note regarding the Chocolate Ghost Pepper seeds.  *If* I plant them, it will be using tweezers and wearing gloves!  Apparently, even the seeds are ridiculously hot.  The peppers have a rating of 1 million SHU, for those of you familiar with this term (I am not - yet).

Very glad to have participated in this exchange, and I plan to join in again next year!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Meet Your Urban Farmer

A neat short film series looking at 12 urban farmers in metro Vancouver, BC.  Produced by the Fire and Light Media Group.  Their films can be found on YouTube or on their Vimeo channel.

Here are a few to get you started...

A short film series looking at 12 urban farmers around Metro Vancouver.
In these interviews you will get to meet 12 urban farmers in and around the Metro Vancouver region. You will get to hear what gets them up in the morning, why they love farming in the city, what they’re passionate about, hurdles they face and some less known things to add some spice!
- See more at:
A short film series looking at 12 urban farmers around Metro Vancouver.
In these interviews you will get to meet 12 urban farmers in and around the Metro Vancouver region. You will get to hear what gets them up in the morning, why they love farming in the city, what they’re passionate about, hurdles they face and some less known things to add some spice!
- See more at:
A short film series looking at 12 urban farmers around Metro Vancouver.
In these interviews you will get to meet 12 urban farmers in and around the Metro Vancouver region. You will get to hear what gets them up in the morning, why they love farming in the city, what they’re passionate about, hurdles they face and some less known things to add some spice!
- See more at:
A short film series looking at 12 urban farmers around Metro Vancouver. - See more at:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Refuge in the Plant Room

There is snow on the ground outside, but two neighbours' cats are enjoying some warmth and sunshine in our plant room this morning.

Neighbour kitty, Butters...

Neighbour kitty, Karl, by some catnip...

Our kitty, Saj, is in hibernation mode, snoozing in a dark, quiet nook on top of R's armoire.

Video - Why Bees Are Disappearing

TEDTalk - Marla Spivak on Why Bees Are Disappearing

Friday, November 8, 2013

Christmas Cactus

One of my Christmas cactus plants has bloomed!  This one has "branches" with red flowers, others with pink flowers.  The first of the red flowers opened this morning.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Frosty Morning

Yesterday afternoon, I pulled out the dried up calendula, gomphrena, pansy, and scarlet flax plants from the flower bed. Into the compost bins they went.  I couldn't budge the rose mallow plants - deep roots - or the kale or Swiss chard, so those will have to wait until the Spring to be removed.

I'm glad I did that yesterday.  This morning, it is -11 degrees and everything is covered with a heavy frost.  Butters (neighbour's cat) spent her second night at our house, even though her people only live two doors down.

Today I'll be making a run to the post office to mail some Speckled Algonquin beans to the Populuxe Seed Bank in Edmonton for their collection.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Hallowe'en!

What a difference from a year ago today.  Outside, it is sunny, breezy, and a mild 12 degrees.  I had my cup of coffee sitting on the front step this afternoon.  A rogue pansy is still thriving at the edge of the driveway.  My kale and Swiss chard is still growing, as are little clusters of dandelions around the base of the raised beds.  Birds are singing.  I can hear little chickadees at the back of the house.  The grass is still green, and I have several little pumpkins sitting on the front step to mark the holiday.

Last year on Hallowe'en, it was around -22 degrees (I should have recorded the actual temperature) and we had a half foot of snow.  Needless to say, there was little, if any, door-to-door trick-or-treating!  No doubt that was disappointing for the little guys, though I suspect more than a few of their parents breathed a sigh of relief.  There were several organized Hallowe'en events in town for the children, so costumes could still be worn and candy collected.

No pumpkins last year.  Instead, I made this for my front step:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

First Snow of The Season

Merry Hallowe'en!

It was only a matter of time.  This was taken at 7:30am, zero degrees outside.  That snow is wet, crunchy, and full of big, sparkly ice crystals.  I think it will melt soon.  I'm not ready for winter.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Days Getting Shorter...

Good morning!  It is 7:30am.  It's 6 degrees Celcius.  Supposed to get up to 18 degrees today.

I'm loving October this year.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Maple-Roast Parsnips

Oh, boy.  This is good.

Instead of roasting my parsnips with the usual salt-pepper-garlic-olive oil, I followed this recipe for Maple-Roast Parsnips.  The only thing I did differently was add a light sprinkling of salt before roasting.  They are very mild, sweet, caramelized, and delicious.

Maple-Roast Parsnips
  • 2¼ lbs parsnips
  • 125ml  vegetable oil 
  • 80ml maple syrup 


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
  2. Peel the parsnips and then halve them crosswise, then halve or quarter each piece lengthwise.
  3. Place the parsnips into a roasting tin. Pour the oil over the parsnips and mix them well so that the oil covers all of the pieces.
  4. Pour the maple syrup over the parsnips and transfer the roasting tin to the oven. Roast the parsnips for 35 minutes, or until they are tender and golden-brown.

Burn, Baby, Burn

We have a LOT of compostable matter from the gardens and not many places to put it.  R thought he might try to burn the pea vines I'd rolled up and stacked in the front garden earlier this summer.  As predicted, they are still too damp to burn well.  

The remaining peas and their pods snapped and popped loudly as the vines burned.  Peas were whizzing through the air.  Lots of thick smoke, too.  Quite entertaining.  The poor man's fireworks!

Cutting back the lilac bush...

Piles of branches from the lilc bush and a crab apple tree.  The birds will enjoy hanging out in them this winter!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Planting Space and Parsnips

R. decided to move the plastic containers we had lining the south side of the house and build wooden containers instead, using left over fence boards from last summer.  The plastic containers will be placed elsewhere throughout the yard.  The plastic containers are not what you would call elegant looking (*cough*) but they give us space to grow.  The composters will be placed near the back fence, making room for a wooden container in their place.

I pulled a parsnip this morning to see how they were doing.  Very well, it appears!

Saj enjoying a "salad" along the walkway.

(Sunny and 10 degrees - a beautiful Fall day!)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Seed Swaps and Exchanges

Last week, I mailed in my contribution to the 3rd Annual Canadian Autumn Seed Exchange.  It is hosted by a woman named Nicky who lives in Ontario and has a great gardening blog.  Participants send in a maximum of 40 packets of heirloom and/or open pollinated seeds to exchange, along with a list of wished-for seeds and return postage.   This year's exchange was posted on various gardening forums two weeks ago, and already 44 people have joined in.  It is my first time participating, and I am eager to see the different varieties of seeds I get back.  I'm hoping for lots of beans.

Details about the 3rd Annual Canadian Autumn Seed Exchange can be found HERE.

Other Canadian-friendly seed exchange sites

Canadian Exchange on GardenWeb  - the best year-round exchange group I've found online.

The Secret Seed Exchange - Canadian, a basic mystery swap modelled after "Secret Santa" exchanges. 

Seeds of Diversity  - Canadian, must be a member to receive their annual trading catalog.

Seedy Saturdays - in-person events held across the country.  This list is updated throughout the year.

I Dig My Garden - in the Trading Bazaar thread

Folia - under Seed Swaps in the top menu

Free Heirloom Seed Swap - not the most convenient for Canadians, in my experience, but I have done a few trades.  

Canadian Heirloom Seed Swap - group on Facebook.

~*~  For a list of Canadian Seed Libraries, check out this LINK. ~*~

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Voodoo in the Garden

Well, voodoo had nothing to do with it, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the greens that were done for the season - stripped to the bone by cabbage moths and no longer green, but grey - have started to come back to life.  A second-wind crop of kale, collards, and endive!


Frisee endive (Swiss chard to the left)

Lacinato/Dinosaur kale  (Red Russian kale to the right)

Red Russian kale

The Swiss chard continues to grow, and the remaining beets still look good.

Cloudy outside and 8 degrees today.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

End of September

A mild, overcast day.  (14 degrees)   It feels and looks like Fall.

I spent most of this morning blending tomatoes to freeze and chopping up green peppers.  The peppers were very small, but we still ended up with a good amount, about 2 medium freezer bags full.  I harvested 14 more leeks, washed them, and will chop them up tomorrow.  

R took down the corn stalks and removed the pumpkins from their vines. 

My poor little eggplant, with shriveled up leaves and no hope of producing anything I can harvest, still stands in its raised bed!

Many of the flowers have seeds or seed pods ready to collect.  I`ve gathered some calendula, Giant Swiss pansy, rose mallow, and Scarlet Flax seeds to dry.  Lots to trade and still have some left to plant next year.

Winter Luxury pie pumpkins

Big "Droopy Sunflower" head

More sunflower heads drying out.

A small bucket of Tene`s beans, with more drying on cardboard beside it.

Potatoes, Butternut squash (underripe, I fear), tomato seeds, and assorted beans drying in the plant room.

What`s left of the south garden.  Neighbour cat Butters happily exploring the new piles of plants.  End of season clutter makes me edgy.  Must remember to breathe, resist the urge to tear everything out at once so it will look neat, and just allow things to be.

What`s left of the potato patch (there are still a few marigolds in there!)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

First Frost 2013

The grass is crispy underfoot this morning and everything is covered with a sparkly layer of frost.  I brought my little containers of sage and rosemary indoors, and last night picked most of the peppers and tomatoes.  The ones that are unripe will be wrapped in newspapers for several days. The rest will be chopped or blended this afternoon and put into the freezer.

Anasazi beans

Red cabbage

Sunflowers with frosty leaves



Beurre de Rocquencourt beans drying on the stalks

Discovered a Butternut squash has split.  Not sure what causes that to happen.

Another Butternut squash with a thin layer of ice on top.

Frosty gomphrena

Scarlet Flax seed pods

Wooly Thyme

Close-up of Wooly Thyme

Little pumpkin

The marigolds are still going strong.

Drying Specked Algonquin beans

Plant room - Tene's beans strung on thread and hung to dry.