Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In the Studio

The major work in the studio is done. I still have a pile of boxes and bags to deliver to the second hand store, a mirror to hang- possibly some magnetic paint to go up on one wall in strips- and a few bags of dried clay to move out to the shop- but basically it's done. The shelves were the finishing touch. K found them on ebrandon for 25 bucks, they're pretty basic veneered particle board- but they will work perfectly in the studio- and give me enough empty space to store greenware. I'm just blown away by the fact that I have empty shelves! it feels so good to have uncluttered this space.

It's pretty sparse in there right now- deliberately so- just a canvas topped table, shelves, and a stool with a plant on it- ( my post-apocalyptic looking peace lily- which was getting burned in the sun, and eaten cats- but is now recovering nicely out of direct light). It's got just enough space left over for some crawling practice, (I think the storing of stuff on my lower shelves will be short lived- once baby A gets going in earnest) and some clay work.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


The light has changed this week- it's more full of sun- and promising of spring- not a moment too soon. Baby A spent this week fighting off a cold- and nursing in a restless- yet continuous manner which I think heralds more teeth, also, I think I have tennis elbow in my left arm from carrying her around, she's been a bit of a barnacle this week. N seems to have shot up again in height; her legs looked so long and grown up in these stripy tights, it has me itching to paint her or draw her or sculpt her to capture this girl-child phase she's going through.

posting with Che and Fidel.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Garden Planning

My initial must buy list- that has a few things crossed off and some things added,
 after the final tally.

Last years' ridiculously detailed garden plans- I think there's
10 pages detailing different crops- pregnancy makes me crazy.

My big garden plan- the only one I really need- to scale though,
with measurements clearly marked.

Well- it's that time of year- garden plan time- I'll tell you how I do this phase of the garden- though it's by no means the most efficient way I'm sure. I'm a big dreamer, so I tend to go big- and then scale it all down once I get out to the garden, but the big dream part is helpful too- it gives me somewhere to reach to- and helps me to realize my long term plans. So I always start by just looking through the catalogues, and writing down everything I would buy if money was no option (which of course it is- especially when you have two kids under five and one income), I tend to limit this stuff somewhat by thinking of what I actually have time to do in one year/how many fruit trees I want to be watering through the summer, or holes I want to be digging in the spring, but otherwise I just write it down.

Then I go through and see what seeds are left over from last year- and what I can stand to let go- keeping what I really feel we need. I buy seed and plants from a few sources so I also go through each catalogue and see if I'm buying from the most cost-effective source. I like to buy local- and also buy heirloom, but sometimes that's not so important to me, and I'm usually willing to pay a little more if the seeds are actually produced by the people selling them- also if it's something that I can save seeds from easily- like tomatoes- I feel like it's okay to splurge- other things- like broccoli, leeks, onions, I don't want to spend too much on- because you have to buy them over and over. Once I've gone through and pared it all down, (this year my original list was 401 dollars at first go- 200 of that being perennials, and fruit trees, but I got it down to around 350, after I checked through my seeds, and did my mini reality check-( no arnica or sea holly for me- at least not this year, well maybe not...)

The next step is to plan out the garden on paper- making sure that I keep my rotations in mind, I did a super detailed garden plan last year- I'm not sure it was needed- I don't think I followed it at all once the reality of planting set in, but I have it now forever- so I know how far apart I like to plant peppers- for what it's worth- I also write down what worked and what didn't in fall (peppers growing next to corn was not good- not enough sun, summer squash need ridiculously wide rows on either side if we want to till them, the borage, tomato, tomato, borage routine worked well- though I should plant the borage earlier). I keep a simple plan every year so that I know where I planted stuff and I try to rotate as much as possible to help avoid disease and bugs.  This plan is pretty much what happens in reality- and I update it once we're done planting too- but it does have a fair bit of room to move around too- plus a few overflow rows, where I can stash extra plants I pick up on a whim, or can't bear to not let grow.

I sometimes feel like our garden is not the picture of sustainable, Eco-friendliness I'd like it to be because we have so much bare soil- our paths are five feet wide- the rows are three, so that we can till it, and drive the 'gator down the row to harvest. We offset this 'un-greenness' by tilling the weeds into the pathways, so we're essentially green manuring, and also by rotating the paths and rows each year- so each garden row gets a fallow year between growing- it's not ideal, because driving and walking on the soil compacts it- so we have to till in order to aerate it- and that's hard on the soil.

This year I think I may plant five foot rows and five foot paths- to make it easier to rotate them and also because the plants need more space. I like to grow certain plants in blocks- things like carrots and beets, and greens grow in short rows across the wide garden row- so I have 10 short rows growing north/south, in my long east/west row- once they grow in a bit I don't have to weed at all, and they maintain more moisture so that's a real bonus- by July most things have grown in enough that the only weeding needed is in the paths, and only things like peppers, onions and eggplant need grass mulch on them.

We're a bit detailed with garden planning, I think, compared to most people- but we both worked/still work in agriculture research, and that stuff rubs off on you- don't even get K started about straight rows, and marking them, and tilling them, also there's nothing better than anticipating the garden in the middle of winter. The next step is my favorite: planting the seeds. Growing heirlooms usually means starting your plants from seed- which is not as hard as it sounds, but takes a little effort and a good space, I'll be starting some things inside this week- as well as getting my winter sowing on the go too. How do you plan your garden? what tips have you come up with over the years?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Garden Goals

This time of year is usually when I get semi-serious about my garden daydreams. I like to make lots of plans and lists, I usually have a lot of dream plans that won't actually happen, and some garden drudge work that I forget to plan for and end up not doing in the summer for that reason alone. I've joined up with Emily though for her Make it Happen in 2013 challenge, so this year I'm trying to seriously plan out and set specific goals for the garden. Here are a few:

  • Compost- we don't have a proper compost bin, it's shocking I know, but it's something I'd like to remedy this year.
  • Plant some more fruit trees- on the slate for this year- apples, cherries,hazelnuts, hardy kiwis, a rose bush that sets hips, and a fig tree.
  • Winter sow some perennials to beef up that corner of the garden- including- creeping thyme and coneflower, oriental poppies and some edible dianthus.
  • Try out and keep a good record of (this is the key part- a good record) new varieties of heirloom veggies.
  • Keep seed from everything I can this year, and try some hand pollinating to that end.
  • Build a wood fired oven outside, and possibly a foot washing station- and prep the area around it for a patio.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Inspiration: William Morris

William Morris, Tulip and  Willow design, 1873 (source)

William Morris, Honeysuckle, 1883 (source)

I love William Morris, his designs are so complex- and the wildness of them is contrasted so well with the symmetry. He is the one that said "have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful". I just really like his style, it speaks to me.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Little A beaming a serene and lovely smile outside as she lays on the snow. This week she is cruising around somehow- sort of like stealth movements- where you  put her down in one spot, and through a series of squirmy movements which don't appear to be moving her at all- she ends up in another location- mysterious.

And N being silly and lovely in turns, as only a 3 year old can, while she has some warm milk, after we iced the valentines cookies (the residue of the icing is all over her shirt), and played outside.

posting along with Jodi at Che and Fidel.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


N went to pre-school for a day this week- it's a pretty light curriculum there- and we're not entirely sure that we want her to go again- it just seems like she's a bit young to jump into a school situation- no matter how pseudo school it is. This preschool resembles a really good playgroup- but with no Mama, and I think that I'd prefer to be there with her still. Also she's only 3 and a half- so we have one and a half years before we get into the whole school fundraising, and valentines, and school clothes, and groups of friends, and potential mean kids, and "what if my valentines are not as good as someone else's "- or too good, and they single her out and tease her for that- I'd really just rather put all that off a bit more y'know?

It really brings back to me that I'd like to be the main influence in her life for a little while longer (that makes me sound like a megalomaniac doesn't it?) but really, there is only so much influence you can stop them from picking up in that situation, and when it comes right down to it, I think it's best not to put her in that situation too early. Anyways... on to what I sat down to write about...

Valentines- we made these mixed up colour crayons that I've been wanting to try for a while, and man were they ever cool! we found a silicone ice tray in a heart shape (from Ikea- and it does work well in the oven if you ever wondered), of course once you use it for Crayon melting- you can't use it for anything else- so you have to sacrifice the tray to craft use only- but you'll probably want to make more of these- so it might be worth it.

The idea is simple- peel and break up crayons, and then put them in the molds- filling them pretty full- because the crayons will melt down quite a bit. You could use just one colour per hole as well- but I like the multicolored  it's so fun to see what comes next. After filling the tray put it in the oven at 250, and check often every 3-4 minutes, to make sure that it melts, but doesn't mix together too much- you want the distinct colours still.  Then let it cool and pop out of the tray.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


This week the stomach flu hit our house hard- taking everyone down at some point- luckily the adults got sick in staggered format so that we had one 'live' adult at all times- man being sick sucks, but what sucks worse is having a sick kid. I happily called Health Links twice this week- I love that service (in Manitoba- maybe in Canada?- you can call a toll free number and speak to a registered nurse about your problem- it's fantastic, I've used it lots- so worth the tax money). By now we're all on the mend- though our stomachs are slightly touchy, no real harm done.

This week was mostly a jammies and bed head sort of week though, lots of movies, lots of naps, lots of ginger ale and ice chips and nursing sessions (also thank goodness for breastfeeding- A was only briefly sick, I guess some immunity passed through to her- solid little baby).

Posting along with Che and Fidel.

Friday, February 8, 2013

It Blooms!

My Amaryllis "Red Lion" has finally re bloomed  it's been a couple of years of patient growing, and fertilizing since I first got it off the shelf at Walmart for 4 bucks, already trying to bust out it's flower on a tiny 4 inch flower stalk inside the box. Last year it just produced two long glossy leaves, and soaked up the energy I guess. But now it's got two lovely flower stalks. And just in time too, at the height of winter despondence.

February- ugh- what a month, there is nothing quite like February in Manitoba, not close enough to spring to have a breath of warmth, and too far from Christmas to have that pleasant mid-winter festivity glow. The most bleary month of all, and then this little fellow opens up it's head, and at least you've got something growing and thriving. It has me fully committed to buying more Amaryllis this fall- for sure.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday Inspiration: Dante Rossetti

Dante Rossetti, The Bower Meadow, 1872, (source)
Dante Rossetti,  Astarte Syriaca, 1878, (source)
I sort of love the weirdly masculine, yet uber romantic female figures of Rossetti's paintings, I think he could only paint a beautiful pouting lip, even his self portrait has those lips. I feel as though the people he paints are not quite real exactly, they just seem like illustrations, but really really beautiful ones. He's an interesting figure- along with William Morris, and worth reading about-especially if unrequited love and star crossed lovers are your thing.


N: A girl and her pony- also called 'girl'. This is the hobby horse I made for Christmas- it was a huge hit- and very simple and fun to make.  I will have to post more photos of 'girl' later.

A: A very cheeky baby- all smiles- this week was full of milestones- two teeth, sitting up alone, pushing up and rocking, moving backwards, this wee one is on the move rather frighteningly for a girl who is only 4 3/4 weeks old! Also she has grown out of almost all of her clothes- the ones I have for N at this size are for warm weather, or people who are walking around. I must be missing a box of clothes somewhere- finding it is today's challenge.

posting along with Jodi at Che and Fidel