As promised, here is a quick look at our garden here in NW Alberta, Canada. We`re at about 55 degrees Latitude, for reference. Our soil is decent for the most part, though there is a lot of clay so we have had to add a lot of organic matter.
The pictures were taken in late June, I`m just really late posting them. I will put up some updates soon as there have certainly been changes.
This little patch has always been one of the productive parts of our garden. We could put a lot more into it, but my parents have developed a pattern of spacing wide enough between each row that the rototiller can pass through. I do make little exceptions here and there, like the patch of garlic in the top right corner. It is double rowed and each pair of rows is only spaced about 18" apart, just wide enough to move for weeding and hilling.
The productive qualities of this patch mean it usually gets seeded with things we want to start eating as early as possible and grow 2 or 3 crops. Down at the bottom you can see some weeds left in a row that had contained radishes. By the time this picture was taken we had already consumed two rows of spinach as well as some of the Romaine lettuce which can be seen.
Garlic is a new addition to our garden. I decided to try growing it this year after reading on the Sugar Mountain Farm blog that garlic is an effective de-worming agent for pigs. Plus I am fond of roasted garlic/bell pepper seasoning so I want to try to make my own over the next couple of years.
This view shows most of the rest of the garden, looking north. The picture is taken from the other side of a small cabin that my Granny used to live in. The cabin basically turns the garden into an upside down Y. It does extend further behind where this picture was taken but the ground was wet from the sprinkler so I didn`t go as far back as I could have. There is basically a large patch of tomato sets, some cabbage sets and a couple more rows of radish. Probably something else that I cannot remember as well.
Speaking of the sprinkler, here it is in action. Here you can see our one long row of beets. Up top and to the left are some broccoli and more cabbage. To the right are two long rows of bush beans.
Here are the beans again, then one row of peas (now producing finally!). You can see a couple of volunteer sunflowers as this is where mom had two rows of sun flowers last year. One the other side of the peas are two rows of potatoes, the first ones we planted. They have been hilled well and I wish I had the time to bring more dirt to them to have buried the plants one more time. The soil here is probably the healthiest in the garden right now so I think we could have got a LOT of potatoes out of those two rows. As it is they should still do pretty well. We ought to be eating from them soon actually.
Next are a couple of rows of mom`s begonia bulbs from last year, but they didn`t winter very well and so they are not coming along terribly well either. I think they don`t like such a clay based soil. The picture shows another couple of rows of cucumbers from seed, then a couple of rows of zucchini and pumpkin, both of which are exploding now.
This year`s sunflowers are doing fairly well too. As is the swiss chard next door to them. On the other side of the chard are three more double rows of peas. I still think we should have done a couple more double rows.
There is another patch of potatoes in there but they were quite small still so I didn`t take any pictures of it. Then comes my 2010 corn patch. Last year`s patch produced very well but mom felt that it didn`t freeze very well so we tried a different variety in the big patch this year. The center two rows contain runner beans as well as I had some seed remaining after seeding my Three Sisters mounds. They are out-growing the corn now!
This is the view from the north end of the garden, back towards the south. You can see the small cabin that I mentioned earlier, as well as the Three Sisters mounds down at the bottom of the picture. Down by my feet are about 3 more rows of leaf lettuce and yet a couple more rows of radish.
And that`s basically it. I`ll take some more pictures and update soon.
It has been pointed out to me recently, including a response to one of my recent rants, that (and these are my words) I must find pause to remember the importance of balance. Even as the world goes crazy, on both micro and macro levels, we must not dwell totally on the negative. In my case, I must remember that it is not being unrealistic to look for and acknowledge the positive that is always present.
Now I don't mean to be too hard on myself. This blog is one of my outlets for negativity so there are just going to be times when the tone here is negative, especially as the world grows more dark. And one thing I will never do is sugar coat reality, that is not true positivity.
Yet I must remember to work towards balance, including here. There have certainly been positive occurrences in the time I have been writing here. In terms of the blog itself, I have met many very interesting and relatively like-minded people. This has been so very important when I live in an area where this is so very rare normally. And I am making progress in the last year with a few things that I felt needed changing.
My intention upon returning from Cuba last April was to quit smoking and really make an effort to start getting myself back into better physical condition. I was at a point where I knew I was at least 25 pounds heavier than I should be...perhaps closer to 40 pounds actually. While not what I'd consider obese, I knew I was going to start facing some health issues as I get closer and closer to 4o years old. Plus, I have several pairs of pants that I am determined to wear once more. I will be a 34 waist again dammit! I think returning to a 32 waist is probably just a bit too unrealistic at this point, though.
Luckily, the lifestyle change that was also coming has helped with this immensely.
I started being at the family farm on a full time basis, or more, and I just continued my already established habit of not smoking around my family. I had another aid or two, but this ended up being fairly easy. And I did come back from Cuba with a few cigars that got me through the reeeeally bad moments. Now it has been over a year and, barring just giving up on everything, I feel confidant that my time as a cigarette smoker has come and gone.
One of the reasons I knew I had to ditch the cigs was that I knew I had to get back into shape. As I said, I had gotten much too flabby for my own liking. But in the same time as quitting smoking, I have started to make good strides in reversing that trend as well. I have no idea what I weigh now but I know I am in much better shape. I think I am probably below 200 pounds now, but its hard to say as I have been building muscle as well as burning some fat. But this was the goal anyway. I am naturally a fairly stocky fellow and I suspect that even at 5'7", my ideal weight is around 200 lbs because I am able to carry a good deal of muscle. A body builder roommate I had in college for a year used to give me such a hard time because he had to work so hard to build muscle. I could work out for a couple of days (which did not happen very often!) and show muscle gain/definition.
Now, at 36 this certainly hasn't been as easy or as painless as it was at the time. My joints have not enjoyed the extra attention and for several months one upper body joint and then another would endure a bout of what felt like tendinitis, slowly migrating around my upper body. But this has lessened drastically over the last couple of months. Mind you, now that the manure clearing is mostly done (more on this in an upcoming post), I am not working my joints hard for 8 hours a day either. But be that as it may, I think it was just my body readjusting to the new expectations after several years of fairly sedentary living.
Next is the part I have NEVER liked...increasing my cardiovascular activity. I still have some fat that I need to burn off and I just want to increase my stamina overall. I stay on my feet a lot these days but I am trying to prepare myself to a point where, if I must, I can walk for 8-10 hours a day, at a good pace. And to where I can run for an hour. I'm not sure if I will ever achieve this last goal as I have suffered from extreme shin splints and bad lower legs ever since I was about 17. But the time may come when I must, and I want to be able to do so, if that time does come.
I'm taking another shot at the Three Sisters gardening method this year. I took a stab at it last year with little knowledge and had limited success. This year I tried to do it a bit more properly. I laid out a few beds, raking them into raised beds as Three Sisters should be planted in mounds. I seeded runner beans this year, instead of bush beans like last year, and I seeded them after the corn had started out of the ground. And instead of seeding squash, my folks picked up two kinds of sets, although I should have seeded as well, as some mounds got no cover plants at all. This isn't a big loss as two of these mounds didn't germinate anything very well.
But, despite some setback due to late frost again this year, I am quite happy with the progress on 4 or 5 of the mounds. 3 of them are looking quite lush and I'm hopeful of a decent harvest. I think the worm composting is helping as the mounds have gotten a few good dowsings of compost tea and 3 mounds got the remnants of compost that went into making the tea.
I took some pictures of the rest of the garden as well, so I'll try to get them up soon. We're quite happy with the way it is coming this year so I am looking forward to sharing the pictures.
*Thought of the Day: Why does it always seem surprising to people that I am so passionate about not just letting shit happen, especially control-oriented shit?*
I wanted to spend a little more time on this topic, since it's in my head so much lately. Something I didn't mention in the last post, and I think it probably factors heavily into my recent "unsettledness", is the fact that I feel rather unsure of my own immediate future. I cannot whine too much as my health is fine but I have to admit a certain amount of stress bears on me...as it bears on many I'm sure. I know it bears on my parents at a time in their lives when stress should be less and less of an issue.
In my case, it's that I find myself terribly unsure what direction to head in from here.
The options seem to be:
1) Go back to what I was doing 6 years ago. This would mean a move back to Edmonton and finding somewhere to crash for a few months while I either settled into freelancing or took whatever steady gig I could find. I suppose it could even mean trying to go back into cruise ship tech work or seeing if the Cirque opportunity was still available. The thing is, it would mean going back to looking out pretty much just for me, and having as much fun as I could before whatever end is coming gets here. If you are familiar with Aesop, I see this as my Grasshopper phase. As easy as it would be to return to that and as tempting as it is, I know it would be turning my back on wisdom and balance...again.
2) Accept as reality that we are fighting a losing battle here and make plans to find and relocate somewhere to make a fresh start. This is tempting as well, especially seeing how much ranch land can be purchased for good price in the Caribou region of BC. One could set up one's own operation or purchase a variety of different sorts of already established ones, albeit at higher price. The main drawback here is isolation. Admittedly this would be some benefit as well, I think, but it makes servicing a local food market pretty hard to achieve. It does present some interesting intentional community opportunities though...
3) Dig in here and build infrastructure towards a multi-generational commitment to sustainable food production in this area. I won't elaborate here now as I talk about it often.
Ugh, my writing of this post was interrupted by a call from the property manager for my condo, continuing the suite door re-keying fiasco. This Board of Directors/property manager bullshit is certainly not making matter easier. It seems that my pointing out of the fact that this action was reached without due process and is therefore of highly questionable legality is being ignored and the lock company will be changing my lock next week. Luckily I have learned that they are only changing the deadbolt so I will be able to re-key it myself afterward. I will be doing this but I am also pursuing the matter legally. I cannot see the logic in letting them get their legal foot in the door with this issue, even if it may seem a small issue.
By the way, don't expect to call and ask the police to come and arrest someone who says they have the legal right to break into your place and change the locks without legitimate proof that that is so. I think I just about got arrested calling ahead to ask and then wanting clarification for the reasoning. I wonder what would happen if I just stood between the locksmith and the lock though. I would think he'd pretty much have to assault me to change the lock.
There are probably more real choices but this interruption has been sufficiently distracting and frustrating to continue the line of thinking just now. But again, it certainly explains the feeling of "unsettledness".
"Man’s conquest of Nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized, means the rule of a few hundreds of men over billions upon billions of men. There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well." — CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man