Category Archives: The Garden Project

Pretty Eyes

I have been waffling on what to write about this summer, if I should write. I will write. I have decided that I like the idea of writing seasonally, it is less stressful, finite in expectation and can easily be started up again.

This year I was going to document season two of the garden – while the garden is starting to sprout, and a self watering system was retrofitted in April, it just isn’t doing too much right now. It could be construed as an example of what my (our life) is like these days. Seeds sown, water applied and I am patiently (?) waiting the plants to grow and bear fruit. Undoubtedly, there will be some garden commentary but I don’t feel it will be the primary focus this season.

This past winter while mild, seemed a very long one. Transition, growth, expansion, change – not always welcome at the time. When I’ve moved through them and can reflect, it is possible however to see the lessons, and feel true gratitude. Of course I am not going to claim those feelings are instant! There are some changes that are never expected and certainly never easy to experience.

If you have ever had a pet, one that you’ve cared for and grown attached to, you will know what I am talking about. If you have never had a pet that you truly loved, told your secrets too, and recognized unconditional acceptance in their eyes, I feel badly for you. I hope you may realize there is still time and that you may in your lifetime know the calming affect a beloved pets presence can have at the end of a long trying day. That you will feel joy in your heart as they run toward you in a delirious state welcoming you home. That you might have the privilege to love and care for a pet, that will leave you feeling profound loss, knowing you did all you could as your hand strokes their downy soft brow, while they exhale their final breathe.

I have had dogs since I was a nine years old. To this day I tell everyone with babies and small children that mention getting a dog, “wait until they are nine”. No scientific reason, other than it was a good age for me to experience my first dog. Needless to say 22 years later, RC & I just adopted dog number seven. We’ve had four pedigreed registered dogs, and now three mutts. More about number seven in a bit.

Cider, aka Cid, Cidre, Cidey, Cider Jane, dog four was my first mutt. I found her on Kijiji – for sale Bullmastiff Shepard Mix. We had a bullmastiff – so that was good. I refer to her as my trailer park rescue, from a litter of twelve.  When I first went to check out the puppies they were just lying on a blanket on the floor. I was mortified. I was let into the house by a young boy about fourteen years old, and his younger sister led me to the closet where the pups were. There were no adults or parents in sight. I left there a bit worried for the children, and the puppies. Needless to say about 6 weeks later I went back and picked up my girl.

Fast forward nine years. Cider started limping out of nowhere. Maybe she’d slipped on the ice, it was everywhere. That didn’t seem right. I watched and observed, and things did not seem to be getting any better. I had my suspicions – bone cancer – but didn’t want to be accused of being a hypochondriac by proxy. After two weeks, and several vet trips it was confirmed. By now she was uncomfortable, and staying still most of the day. We couldn’t risk having her leg break, so we made the appointment and held to out promise to always care for her and never let her suffer.

Cider wasn’t the first trip to the vet – and it doesn’t get any ease.  I really think she knew, and that she was grateful. That being said, I was not expecting the devastation that I felt as I lay on the clinic floor next to her, babbling on, attempting to make it seem better, knowing I couldn’t. Just being there for her, and thanking her for the lessons she provided. She was the hardest dog I have ever had. I had to be pretty innovative at times – and (thank her for the carpet finally being removed)… Oh Cider. She was gone – Home to Frankie and Diesel, without her.

This is the part where I could go on at length about how they knew when we left what was up. They knew she wasn’t coming home. They got to say “good-bye”. I wish that I had brought them (note to self). They knew. When I brought the ashes home a few days later, I showed them to Frankie and Diesel. Frankie turned her head away, and Diesel went crazy trying to get at them. I have never seen him behave like that before.

By the end of April, two months later he was still moping. On friend described him as melancholy and morose. I knew he was glum, but again wasn’t sure if I was simply transferring my emotions about Cider onto him. Multiple people commented on his obvious sadness. I wasn’t really thinking of getting another dog, but as fate would have it I stumbled across one on a local rescue group’s page about 3 weeks ago. More about him soon.

As I write these words, I have to note, that all of my dogs found their way to me. The right place, the right circumstances. Whatever pre-conceived ideas I may have had about what my dog might be, or look like always get thrown out the window as the right beastie finds me. They have found me via classified ads in a printed news paper, magazine articles, chance encounter at a dog show, friend of a friend, kijiji, spca blog, and most recently a Facebook page. Always when just turning pages, scrolling through or innocently watching confirmation and wondering – “hey what kind of dog is that”?

Cider lived a good, and full life. Well cared for and loved by many. A dog that suffered from severe separation anxiety, and a multitude of behaviours I could never quite put my finger on. I am so grateful that RC and his friend were studying together everyday in January, so she was never alone and had company and walks for what turned out to be the last weeks of her life.

I must give thanks for Cider, and all the lessons learned. She was a good teacher – and touched me in a way I had never expected. She was my brown eyed girl. I love all my dogs past and present, but she was the dog that took care of me. When I was sick she would fret, she would check on me. When I was rushing she made me slow down. When I was sad she would do something to make me laugh. She taught me about boundaries, and body language, and how to accept her just the way she was. I know she is barking and running through the brush with her old pals Guinness and Duncan. Cider Truck WindowDSC_0059DSC_0165DSC_0119

 

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Ostara – Spring – Abundance

Spring is finally here… according to the calendar. This year just may be the year of the greenhouse! There is a lot of thought going into this project. I don’t want to mess it up, type, size, materials, location. There is still snow on the ground here, with shaded areas continuing to hold moisture in the form of ice. Wandering around the property yesterday, it occurred to me that although it’s ten acres, we have a tendency to keep things in a little island clump surrounded by prairie. If only roads and gravel didn’t cost so much!!

I am so grateful for the internet and the opportunity to access the experience of others with the ease of a few keystrokes. Location location location is critical when building this greenhouse. According to Michelle Moore in her article “The Sunny Side of Life”

“If you are going to purchase or build a greenhouse, you’ll want it in the best place possible. The ideal location for a greenhouse has five attributes:

  • enough space
  • level and well drained
  • maximum sun exposure
  • easy access and proximity to your house
  • protection from potential hazards such as falling tree branches.”

All of the above! However, the location will need reclaimed. A small chain link pen with designed to protect the cats heated winter shelter, that has become a crap catch all for broken down pots, and random bits and pieces will need to be cleaned up and relocated. A little extra work that I am ok with. Ironically when I suggested this location yesterday (before finding the check list online) I was met with opposition. Today is a different day. Reclaiming the location is the perfect opportunity to continue the Buddhist practice of non-attachment that will weave itself through the the season.

The easy location is wrong on most counts except protection from falling tree branches, and only because there are no trees. This exercise in determining greenhouse location is proof that doing the lazy, easy thing so often becomes preferable to doing the right thing. Could this be the theme of this year gardening/food growing journey taking shape? The easy/finite way or the value generating/capacity building way? There have also been a lot of references to Nordic culture, and celebration of events like Yule, Imbolc, and Ostara so perhaps a little blend.

I am so blessed with the little piece of sanctuary I live on. To not consider the value generating capacity would be to actively reject this blessing. My thoughts turn to other events of the weekend. Time spent with family, sunny afternoons contemplating and planning the greenhouse and gardens, and an Easter morning visit from a moose cow and her yearling twin calves. They didn’t stick around too long, but they are proof of abundance, a reminder that I made it through another winter and that optimism is good.

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Cider a True Dreamer 12/06-02/16

 

 

 

 

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The Sturgeon Moon, Red Moon,Grain Moon, Full Moon

  Standing in the garden this evening, the sun hot, the dry plants making crinkling noises, grasshoppers looking like pea pods it seemed fitting to acknowledge that the growing season was over. Time to practice non attachment and move into the next phase – final harvest and seed collection. 

One week ago, a frost hit and I picked as many tomatoes as I could. They are in a box ripening. Today – the tomatoes are clinging on and ripening. Go figure?

   
    
 
Start to finish I’d have to say I’ve learned a lot about the garden. It’s moods, the vegetables and flowers growing there. Lists of changes I’ll make for next year. Adjustments to soil, locations, plant choices and watering systems. 

The full moon arrives at the perfect time to wrap up the journey of Winking Beagle Gardens until next spring. Setting intentions for the next lunar phase and preparing for back to school fresh starts and winter projects. Northern Lights have been seen in the past few days – in the upcoming darkness I’ll be more present and ready to enjoy the nature on my doorstep.  

   

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How Does my Garden Grow?

August 20, 2015

So much happening, it’s back to school prep time at work, and “summer” is over. The garden is really starting to slow down. However, the bounty continues. I just bagged and froze over four cups of rhubarb from my one little plant. I also made my first batch of mustard pickles!! The cucumbers from the garden, and I splurged on an organic Cauliflower. I was smart (I think) and canned multiple small bottles to avoid having to store a giant bottle of pickles in the fridge for an undisclosed amount of time. Fingers crossed!! I also tested my canning skills re-using jars without snap lids. Everything has popped and sealed so I am very optimistic. The mustard tastes just like the mustard in our favourite commercial brand Rose Pickles, that should be well received. At this point, I am waiting for them to cure and eat them with roast beef  and classic Newfoundland Jigs Dinner.

The tomatoes are taking over – I picked a handful of Cherry every morning, and come home each evening to couple of beautiful yellows. The Romas and Beefsteak are coming along nicely. Contemplating trying tomato jam – that will be a first. Carrotts, potatoes and herbs going strong!! I have to confess when I placed my rhubarb next to my Saskatoon berries in the freezer, and little surge of pride had to be acknowledged. Of course I then went straight to thinking about frozen food in the event of complete power grid break down and possible Zombie Apocolypse… Where do these thoughts come from??

Today- August 23, 2015

I don’t think will be much tomato canning. Frost arrived two nights ago and while the fruit wasn’t damaged the plants are rough and I don’t anticipate them having much time to keep growing 😦

A few photos of the harvest while I contemplate the next phase of the garden and impending weather changes. Surrender and non attachment in full force this Sunday!!


  
  

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Dust Bowl 

Yesterday I watched episode 1 of The Dust Bowl an amazing documentary mini series on PBS. I feel that in a previous post, I had no idea what I was talking about when I was complaining about the wind and that is what the Dust Bowl must have been like. Well so wrong- yes it’s windy here but nothing to complain about. 

Tonight I’m watching the second episode and they talk about the drought and grasshoppers. It has been dry here, and every step in the garden flushed out hoppers. They haven’t destroyed my garden, but I can see how they could. 

Yesterday I found this guy about an inch long- the biggest one so far. 

   
 
Imagine them flying through the sky in swarms so large they blocked out the sun. I can’t. 

If you can take a few hours to watch The Dustbowl. The kosmos and planet earth will show us the way..,

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Regroup

I was away for six days at the Integral Theory Conference 2015 upon my return the garden had exploded once again!! Home for a few days now, thoughts turn to conference impact & the next phase of the garden. I realize I’m not exactly sure when to harvest certain foods or how I will be able to eat all of it! It is amazing to have fresh vegetables!

 It is also amazing to reflect on the fact the speedy travel to Northern California exists – I think about the Edson Trail and how it could take up to three months to travel from Edmonton to Grande Prairie. This is currently a 4.5 hour drive. This leads me to thinking about transport of food and associated costs. 

Food waste on a personal and commercial levels is a hot topic this month. With France declaring it illegal to throw food out, and Jon Oliver showcasing food waste in the U.S. (I’m sure Canadian waste would compare) and knowing how much work went into my small garden I feel compelled to review and modify my shopping, and waste habits. 

One day last year I decided to only purchase Canadian products with a preference for Alberta grown, then any other province. It was eye opening. My cart had about twelve items and the cost of anything Canadian was considerable higher than produce from California or Seafood from Malaysia or India. What sticks outs is prawns from Asia about $8, white spot prawns from British Columbia $30. Access to food and affordability, a topic for another post. Not to mention production processes, labour standards and factory farming. Front yard gardens should be the norm

Specific Winking Beagle Updates – beans have arrived, peas are crazy and even a single cucumber showed up. My dad was up for a few days and built the best climber for the peas – I’ll admit mine was dismal at best! I’ll be adjusting the pea location next year as well, I have to climb into the box to reach all of them. Oops! 

 

 

Hillbilly Pea Climbers (according to dad)

  
  

Peas…

  

Beans…

 
  
Happy to report that between myself, RC, Milena, Uncle Murray and the dogs everything picked; including pea shells and strawberry tops has been consumed. More picking today!

I almost forgot an amazing surprise (sort of) from Mother Nature was also waiting for to get home – an abundance of Saskatoons! 

Saskatoons waiting for harvest

Berries!

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Resilience

I repeatedly hear my friend DA telling me “slow is fast”. Sometimes I listen sometimes I don’t. This week he couldn’t be more accurate. Reflecting on past garden projects, life pathways, how I end up where I’m at and what if anything it means. Slow is Fast is perfect. 

48 hours in Noerthern California – a year ago I would have never imagined attending thus amazing Integral Theory Conference and meeting so many people that engage, interest, entertain and listen to me! Wow. 

I need a little more time to digest things, but in a fleeting moment yesterday, I saw just a little more clearly. On the subject of wind- and the garden. Persistence, resilience and the potential to apply AQAL to the experience of gardening. Still new to me, the integral approach of all quadrants all lines can clearly become part of my garden, and life in general. I’m not comfortable writing or quoting the theory at this point, but am excited about it. 

Resilience, strength, processes. My garden has been all of this- I noticed last week that the potato plants bent in half during intense winds, all returned to their original form- stronger than ever. Wind helps trees to become strong why would it not have the same impact on plants? 

  
   

Kennebec Potatoes w Icelandic Butter

 Another Califirnia observation is how many of my garden annuals grow here year round. I love the realization that I can have a physical representation from anywhere in the world in my garden. Always connected.  

    
  

surburban Rooster outside coffee shop

  
 

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Commitment 

I have to confess – I knew the garden would be work, but for some reason I didn’t really think it would be that much work. Wow was my ego ever playing tricks on me!!! 
This garden has been a challenge. The physical actions of putting boards together, shoveling dirt, painting, planting, and watering were work, but really that was almost the easiest part.  

  
The real work has been in the commitment – the proverbial chase and honeymoon phase was over once plants started to sprout. There were certainly times I thought about just letting everything dry up and blow away. 

The relentless wind of May and June, brought so many doubts for the garden’s success. Wondering to myself what the hell I had gotten into, and most days having unrealistic expectations of how fast a plant will grow in less than ideal conditions. Then a little sprout would appear providing hope of great bounty; only to have my horn of plenty vision, quickly destroyed by a moth laying eggs or cats digging up a row of carrots. 

Walking away was considered, I could justify quitting. Forget my practice of non attachment, ignore the pleasure daily strolls and weeding provide me, and choose grief over gratitude. 

 

velveteena wakes up

 
 

Some carrots survived the cats

 
This evening I was wandering through the garden thinking about this and that, whistling to the Western Meadow Lark I thought about how fortunate I am to live in my place and time.  I picked a few weeds, ate some peas off the vine, and checked on the strawberries it struck me- no single part of the garden was ever the same!! Each square inch unique, brining its own magic to the garden. 

I could stand on the south side of a square box and think “I’ve got all the weeds!” Then lift up a plant, walk around a corner, peer down a row for an entirely new perspective. Each angle, every minute something new to see, taste or pick. 

The concept of commitment to my garden, the plants and my vision has become very important today. Commitment paired with patience. I’m not sure they can be separated. I don’t know enough about plant biology to explain how they grow and produce food. I just know it’s amazing to watch it in real time. 

  
  
Another surprise discovery about myself in the garden. Weeding – for me (with the easy access of the raised beds) has become meditative. When I’m in the garden weeding, that’s all I’m doing. It is relaxing and makes me feel productive, like no matter what went on during the day- I’ve accomplished something! A reminder of what I love about the garden that quickly washes away all the complaints. Not unlike human relationships 😉 

With renewed commitment to my garden, I now need to do some research on how to get the most from my plants. I realize there is a lot going on in the garden and a lot that I don’t know. Topics to review this week are, when to harvest, fertilizing and in the event my horn of plenty vision becomes tangible, how to cook and preserve. 

Today’s Harvest

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Garden Keepers

After six nights away I returned home to a beautiful garden just bursting at the seams. I realized as I got out of the car that a week is a long time. My daily checks don’t make things grow faster ha ha!! My mom was right again, “a watched pot never boils”.

  
RC took great care of things – I did have my fears. Shame on me! Wandering around tonight, it was beautiful to see things growing, to pick a few weeds (that are so courteous as to grow between the vegetables) and enjoy being present.  

At the same time I started to think about what happens in a garden when I’m not around. I see evidence of birds, cats, insects. Thoughts turn to stories of fairies, garden gnomes and my own garden keepers. They are not unlike the plants I choose to grow, or souvenirs I might pick up on a holiday. Guardians of their mini domains…  

  

Nibs – valiant mouser, grasshopper eater and garden guardian. Coming alive in the dusk as the sun sets and weather cools down. 

  
 

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Solstice Seeds of Intention

This week my garden has been getting a little online attention. Exciting but also a little bit crazy – people out there are finding and reading my online rambles… It is obvious that using tags helps with this. Do folks search tags when looking for stories to read? I will have to try this out myself.

  
In the past 48 hours  we have had some torrential rain, and it remains over cast and drizzly. What a difference a generous soaking has made in the garden. All of the plants are standing up strong, and full. Hydrated, nourished ready to have their cells multiply and divide. The energy in and around the garden can only be described as vivid. It’s as though you can hear the plants chattering – an extensive variety of weeds have also appeared. I didn’t think we could have an exclusive relationship – I  like to reflect on the integration of “weeds’ and “food” or I guess “not weeds”.

This year, the bird life on the land has been exceptional. I don’t recall hearing and seeing so many species hanging around the place.The number and variety of birdsong is even greater than those I can actually see and identify. This afternoon – there were killdeer, red wing black birds, robins and swallows – interestingly in groups of three. I don’t know enough about numerology so I won’t attempt to read into it. At any rate the bird life is a rewarding gift of the garden and rains…

All of this is leading up to June 21 – the summer solstice, and father’s day. I do love this time of year, and realize it is another opportunity to practice non-attachment. In one way it is a potentially sad reminder that the days will begin to shorten, and in the immortal words of Jon Snow “Winter is coming”. At the same time if provides an opportunity to stop and be present and enjoy every second of daylight- while setting intentions for the next six months.

Planting the seeds in the garden roughly six weeks ago – was an exercise in setting intentions. The intention to water, weed, care for and harvest – the intention to write about the experience. A joyful feeling.

Reflecting on my garden, I realized the influence my dad has had on me and my yard work projects. As a child I was always attempting to grow things – some grew, some didn’t. My parents gave me free reign, and I took to gardening and lawn care like a natural. I never totally knew what I was doing, I still don’t!! I have however always enjoyed it.  Wandering through the beds, I see the rhubarb, and hollyhocks sprouting up from seed. These plants take me to my childhood backyard where the rhubarb and hollyhock are still growing thirty years strong.

   
 

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