Sunday, January 29, 2012

authenticity and perfectionism

I've been reading 'The Gifts of Imperfection' by BrenĂ© Brown.

What a great book, full of ideas to help us develop our self-awareness and encourage us to embrace our vulnerability in order to live a more courageous and authentic life....and so therefore, a happier life.  Lots of inspiration here for me.

I'm especially interested in the concept of shame resilience and the idea that to be human is to experience shame.  So it's not about if we do or don't feel shame but whether we're aware of it when it's happening (or not) and then if we are aware, what we do with that feeling and how we move with it.  There are choices to be made and things to be learned. Good stuff!!

BrenĂ© Brown's website is full of good stuff too.  (I like following the blog and you may too.)

And if this all looks interesting to you, you'll probably enjoy this TEDTalk video.

Lots has been said about the garden as a metaphor for life.  Gardens show us the many gifts of imperfection, oh yes they do!

So here's to our authentic creativity blossoming in the garden along with those flowers, fruits and veggies. Garden on!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

a summer wedding on Mayne Island

Most weddings on Mayne Island happen in the summertime when couples can take advantage of the beautiful natural landscape and warm sunshine to gather outdoors with their family and friends for happy times.
Michele-Lee and Clint were married at Oceanwood last July.  The ceremony circle was on a grassy clearing looking south to the ocean.  I created four flower arrangements that represented the four directions: North, South, East, West using four colours: red, purple, yellow and white.  We placed another neutral green arrangement in the center of the circle where the bride and the groom stood with the officiant.  Guests all stood around the four directions creating the circle while a special couple (parents and siblings) stood at each direction and read something they'd prepared for the event.

Michele-Lee's bouquet was mostly orange (her favourite colour) with chartreuse which worked well with all the other ceremony arrangement colours.

It was really pretty....what a beautiful day!

Behind the scenes:  the table centerpieces in process.  From the garden: sunflowers with grapevine, lady's mantle and feverfew for a sunny day at a casually stylish afternoon wedding reception.  Loved it!
The tall arrangement adorned a table with the guest book at the entrance to Oceanwood. Salal with berries (a flora ode to Mayne Island), astilbe, hydrangea and green tassels amaranth.

All boxed up and ready to be delivered.

A table centerpiece decorating the dessert table at Oceanwood.  Very Mayne Island natural.

I really dig these iron urn arrangements.  White astilbe flowers and spearmint with clematis vine, flowers and buds.

Michele-Lee, Clint and I got together the day before wedding day to map out where the four direction arrangements and ceremony circle would go.  We measured and set the direction points.  Then we wanted to create the outline of the circle to subtly and naturally lead all the guests to gather around it.  We began by setting down pebbles to join the directions and create the outline.  Clint had the idea to gather some dried grass that was lying around after being cut a few days before and he set it down along the outline of the circle.  Brilliant!  It looked great and felt beautifully natural. ....and I was thrilled to be having a bit of an Andy Goldsworthy moment too!

A couple days after the wedding M-L and C dropped in at the garden on their way to the ferry to say goodbye and thanks with a lovely card, a bottle of wine and a gift certificate for dinner at Oceanwood.  Wow!  So nice.  They made me feel very special.....I'm so lucky to get to work on weddings here on Mayne Isl. Thanks M-L and C!!

photo #1, #2 and #5  by Valeskca Photography.
If you're considering a wedding on Mayne Island feel free to contact me with any questions you have.  I'd love to help!
More photos of last summer's weddings to come.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

seeds and sweet peas

It's always fun when a seed order arrives in the mail. 
I discovered Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds a couple years ago and this year, I made an order for the first time.  I ordered their new book too. (take a look!)
So much good stuff from these folks, especially for those who want to learn about growing open-pollinated varieties so they can save their own seed.
(by the way, if you live in my Canadian neck of the woods, there are lots of local heirloom seed sellers to discover at Seedy Saturdays in Victoria and Vancouver) 
Seed is hot stuff these days!

I like how Baker Creek sells a good selection of sweet pea seed in individual colours rather than a lot of  mixes...good for me when I'm growing for market. And the heirlooms have a stronger fragrance. So as soon as I got the box, I was in the greenhouse sowing the sweet pea seed that I found inside.

 I hope to have lots of lovely colours this summer for the Farmer's Market and for the early summer weddings.  I offered up little bundles like this one at the Farmer's Market last summer.  They sold out  in the first hour.  Beautiful and oh my....the fragrance!  I plan to have lots more this year!

Striking, bold colours are my favourites.  When I first started gardening, I had a bad attitude about sweet peas...didn't like 'em.  I only really ever knew of the pastel mixes but then I saw some of the these rich beauties and now I just can't get over them!  Real eye catchers both in the garden and in bouquets.

well, ok some pastels are beautiful too when in a bundle all on their own  : )

Last year I ordered my single colour sweet pea seeds from Thompson and Morgan.  The above colours are 'Midnight''Matucana', 'Apricot Sprite', and 'Orange Dragon' the names!...almost as good as paint colour names.  
The lighter lilac blooms were from seeds I picked up at the garden shop 'Dig This' in Victoria (impulse buy!)  They're from Renee's Garden, 'Mary Lou Heard'.  
This year, I'm starting 'Black Knight', 'Miss Willmott', and 'King Edward VII'.....and a few others.....

If you want to grow some of these gorgeous, frilly, fragrant beauties, now's a nice time to get them going inside for a good start...I soak the seeds overnight first.

Friday, January 20, 2012

greenhouse improvement project

This is the new shelving that we've just put into the glass greenhouse where I grow all the shoots, microgreens and late winter/early spring transplants.  Our friend and thoughtful carpenter/builder Tony just finished this job for me last week.
I'm so thrilled to have four levels of sturdy growing space now!
Still to do:  grow lighting installed under the bottom row of shelving where I'll grow some of the transplants I start for the outdoor garden and for market sales.

A few folks have asked if I've decided to stop winter shoot growing because they haven't seen them on the shelves at Happy Tides and Farm Gate since Christmas time.  No!! is the answer, (I love growing them in winter) ....just needed to do this work in the greenhouse and it meant that I couldn't grow for a short time while we reorganized the space.  January seemed like the best time for that.

This is what it looked like before the new setup.  

By the way,  I took the above photo on the day of the winter shoot growing workshop that I mentioned way back in October.  It's the only photo I have of that day.  Seems that once everyone arrived, I was so busy talking that I forgot to snap some more shots.  Ten of us squeezed into the greenhouse to talk about growing pea shoots, sunflower shoots and purple radish shoots.  This photo shows the containers I planted for a couple weeks before workshop day (one a day of each) to show the succession of growth in an unheated greenhouse during the cool season. 
Radish on top shelf, pea shoots on second shelf and sun shoots on bottom.  On the table in front, the pea and sun seeds are soaking in bowls.  Everyone chose one and planted a container to take home.
There wasn't room for everyone who wanted to join in because the greenhouse just isn't big enough  and it was too cold outside to gather out I'll probably have another one of these workshops this spring sometime and if it's warm enough for us to be outside, more people can come.  

So back to the new shelving project:  While I liked the old metal wire shelving, it didn't fill the whole length of the greenhouse wall, it was wobbly,  saggy, not strong enough and not the right width for the trays.
  So it was time to get the space working more efficiently since I'm beginning to need more of it. 

We took out the old tables and shelving and piled everything up on the other side of the room so Tony could get to work.  A good time to wash all the indoor glass too!

Building in progress......there is now space for 325 grow trays and a possibility of 400+ with another couple minor shelving/table additions in the future.  Exciting!  That'll keep me busy...and a couple other people too!

More greenhouse improvement:  In December Tony built this addition onto the back of the greenhouse.
  For the last couple years, I've had a lot of troubles trying to grow pea and sun shoots effectively in the warmer summer months.  The greenhouse gets too hot.  Especially for the pea shoots.  They overheat  and rot and it's just not any fun.  So, first time this happened, I moved them to a growing area I set up outside. Seemed like a reasonable and good idea.  Except that sprouting pea seed is mouse and bird candy and it looked like they were coming from all corners of the island to congregate on my trays and have a feast. What a mess!  Gross.  And heart breaking too...all that work, what a waste!!

So after a couple years of persevering and fussing over the problem,  this is my more determined effort to solve it.  I will outsmart the varmints, once and for all, oh yes I will!  A cooler pea shoot growing screenhouse (other shoots are happy to continue to grow inside) with a skookum foundation and 1/4 inch hardware cloth to keep out the birds and mice.  I hope it works!  fingers crossed.  Thanks Tony for your great work!

A serious concrete foundation to seal the ground from determined varmints.

Taking no shortcuts!

Tony with bags of concrete.

This was a significant investment for my small operation......a real commitment.  But with more and more requests from off-island stores and restaurants for the shoots and microgreens I grow, it seems like a good idea.  It's time to get ready to grow microgreens and shoots more efficiently and expand production!

Getting the frame up.

While regular window screen would be fine to use to keep the birds out, mice can chew right through it at alarming speed.  Hoping this 1/4 inch welded and galvanized steel hardware cloth will do the trick!  The roof can be covered with hoophouse plastic, if I need to keep rain out.
 Still to do: shelving installed in the screenhouse just like inside the greenhouse.  We'll paint and stain the new wood in the summer after the rains have stopped and things dry out.

Here we go!  The first trays of 2012 have been planted a couple days ago.  Since it has been -7 degrees C at the garden overnight, I've sat them on heat mats and covered them up.  

They're sprouting now and they'll be fine 'til it warms up a bit in a couple days.  So look for pea shoots and sunflower shoots back on the shelves first week of February!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January reading

It snowed last night and we're snowed in. Time to get out the woolly socks, put some more wood on the fire and get out a book or two.

January (especially when it snows!) offers up more time for me to reflect, take inventory (personal and business), set new intentions and work on projects that there's just no time for during the spring and summer seasons when Mother Nature determines that my priorities involve outdoor work as much as possible.
It seems this is true for many of us who get to live a lifestyle that's in harmony with the flow of the seasons.  Not if you're a snowplow operator, tho'   : )

 This morning's snowy walk from the house to the garden.

At the garden gate.

The plum tree by the cob wall.

Shadows and light on the cob wall.

So these days there's more reading for me.  Books, magazines, the internet and of course, seed catalogues are great sources of beautiful images and inspiring ideas.  Fun and important refueling....because there's going to be so much other stuff to do starting in just one short month.....

Organized seasonally,  by month.  I'm reading March right now.  A few folks I know who visit this blog may like this book too!
I like that the author writes from her own experience and I love this book (you can take a look inside at that link) for all the little details it sheds light the real-life practicalities and changes that are necessary in order to make the sustainable, local food production so many of us talk about really attainable in our households and in our communities.
For example, if you grow tomatoes and want to make your own sauce, planning vacations around the same time as tomatoes are ripening just doesn't work! 

Yes, of course!....if more of us are thinking about growing, harvesting and putting away our own food, we need to think about when we'll take our vacations.  Seems there's a major societal shift needed here since so many of us go on summer vacation.  If we want to be more self-reliant for our food needs, it doesn't work so well to be taking vacations away from home when it's the busy planting, harvesting or processing time.   
I love when a book shows me an enhanced way of thinking about something that I thought I already knew all about!  That's what this book does.  Overall, it's very basic but it's all in the details born of the philosophy at it's heart: "Householding is in form and function the foundation for a home-based economy because it is in our homes, gardens and communities that the work needs to be done. " (pg.17) yep, I agree!  Seems to me this is quite a challenge for us in this world we've created.  At least for the little North American bubble in which I live!

For Mayne Islanders who're interested in this book, Lynn at Miners Bay Books has ordered it in so you can get it on-island!  And while I'm thinking of Miner's Bay Books, the Microgreens how-to book is also in stock.  This is the book I showed everyone at the workshop in November and the one I mentioned in this post last year.

Another book I'm liking these days and a nice companion to A Householder's Guide to the Universe is "Canning for a New Generation: bold, fresh flavors for the modern pantry" by Liana Krissoff.  Nice recipes and photos, ideas.  I'll be coming back to this one all year long, I'm sure.

More shadows on the cob wall.

Casting shadows.

Lots of wintery beauty in our neck of the woods today!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

winter time cabbage

Snow is in the forecast this week and it looks like it's going to get cold.  This winter has been quite mild so far except for a wee frosty spell in November when we had a dusting of snow.  This is one of the red cabbages back then.

And after the snow melted.  Such a striking colour in the winter garden landscape.  I think every coastal flower garden needs a few of these for the winter time!  They'll stay happy outside through quite a bit of west coast cold and snow. 

The little slugs that live in the garden at this time of year really like to snuggle in with the cabbages.  They hide between the outer leaves and create spots that are pretty darned unattractive when you look closely.

But a few leaves removed and they become beautiful, tender, sweet cabbages.  Jewel-like in colour with not a blemish on them.  Ready to look gorgeous on the kitchen counter....and in a yummy, good-for-ya salad.

Did you know that if you harvest a cabbage in the summer and leave the plant in the ground, it'll begin to grow new little cabbages at all the remaining leaf nodes?  My Mom taught me this.  They look a bit like brussels sprouts which makes sense of course, since they're related.  But they get much bigger and I like that they're ready in time for winter meals. This is a second growth cabbage I harvested in November.  Isn't it cute?...and oh so tender and delicious.  A really fun thing to do and it feels so efficient and frugal too.  Getting the most from my cabbage plant.....the plant that keeps on might want to plan to try it this year!

If you try this and your garden is like mine and has lots of little slugs, don't be deterred by them.  They're just on the outside : )  This is the plant I cut that cabbage from.  See the little slug, I removed him.

Quite a pretty plant with all it's baby cabbages...if you'd like, you can remove some of them to give  a couple some more space to grow larger.

This is a January King cabbage that my Mom grew.  It's a favourite to grow for overwintering.  Very hardy and is just as eye-catching as the red cabbages with it's burgundy and pink outer leaves and veins.

Another photo of my Mom's garden in SW Ontario, early winter.  Lacinato or Tuscan kale and RedBor kale.   Two more gorgeous and edible winter landscape plants of the cruciferous family for the garden!
I see that I posted about yummy winter cabbage salad two years ago around the very same time of year. I'm envious of that year tho', I had carrots and beets in the ground for the winter too!   Not this year.  Every year is different.
Looking through some of my photos, I found some summer time red cabbage snapshots from a few years ago.  So beautiful in the summer too!  These photos make me want to go plant some cabbage asap!!

Planted at the foot of a scarlet runner bean teepee with tangerine gem marigolds, peas in front and lettuce behind....and green cabbages in the far background.

Red cabbage and fuchsia red roses are a beautiful combo.

A few along a pathway.

Young red cabbage plants are beautiful in the flower garden with lady's mantle blooming throughout.  Time to dream and scheme about next summer's garden : )