I’ve been back from vacation for a few days now; long enough to be pining for days spent by the water and evenings with a bottle of wine and a few dozen mosquitos.
I’ve got what feels like a few million posts to write, but I’m not quite ready to leave holiday mode just yet. So instead of diving back into talking about gardening, I’m posting a few vacation pics. These are of our week in the Okanagan, where we stayed in a little bungelow on an apple orchard beloning to my parents’ friends.
BC’s Okanagan is semi-arid, with cool blue lakes and dusty hills, scorching days and thunderstormy nights. It used to be BC’s fruit basket, and still is, for a large part, but orchards are slowly giving way to vineyards. The number of wineries now rivals the number of roadside fruit stands. We went for both.
Probably the highlight of our trip was an alfresco orchard dinner hosted by Joy Road Catering. Picture a long, white-linen draped table set under mature trees strung with twinkling lights. It’s perched on a cliff overlooking a lake with a mountain backdrop. The sun is slowly sinking behind the hills. The food is divine (and local, and seasonal). The wine is perfectly paired. The people are friendly, beautiful. It’s warm. Everyone’s happy. It could be a spread in Martha Stewart Wedding…except you’re there. This was that. The only word for it was enchanting.
Another before-and-after post for you this week. This, of course, is a caterpillar, the larva of a painted lady butterfly.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of Lila’s favourite books, so my mom thought she’d enjoy seeing the transformation process up close. Like in a box on the mantle.
A few days after my mom brought over the caterpillars (two, each in their own individual plastic cup), they fixed themselves to the lids of their cups, and transformed into chrysalises. Then we took the lids off and taped them to the lid of a more spacious abode (a plastic salad box).
Another few days passed, and the butterflies emerged! Unfortunately, both chose to leave their chrysalises at night, so we didn’t actually see it happen.
Hello, you! Welcome back – you’re looking better than ever.
That red stuff? Butterfly pee. (Who knew?) We fed them thyme flowers for a day, then let them loose in the wilds of East Van. Far thee well, ladies.
Part of Vancouver’s Green Streets program? These tips are for you.
Gardening at home, with easy access to seeds, tools, and water? Easy. Gardening several blocks from home? A bit more work. Gardening several blocks from home when you don’t have a car and your garden doesn’t have a tap? Call me lazy, but that sounds like a lot of work.
Having gardened at several locations not actually at my residence, I’ve become familiar with having to carry tools, seeds, and water to my various “away” gardens, and I thought I’d share a few tips to make it easier for you.
1. When looking for a community garden to join or a yard to share, think about how convenient its location is. In the summer, you’ll need to visit your plot almost daily, so make sure it’s close to home or on your route, otherwise, you may find yourself resenting or neglecting your plot. Guerrilla gardens, which usually have little or no available resources (such as water access or shared tools), can be even harder to maintain, so at least make getting there easy.
2. Invest in an all-purpose hand tool. The two most common garden tasks are planting seed(ling)s and weeding. You want a tool that can do both, eliminating the need to carry multiple tools. I like the CobraHead (buy it here). Of course, for larger jobs, you’ll still need heavy duty tools, but for everyday jobs, something like the CobraHead does just the trick.
3. Package all your seeds together, so that they’re ready to grab and go. This is especially handy when you’ve got more than one away garden. I use resealable sandwich bags labelled “community garden,” “balcony,” “patio,” and “townhouse bed” to keep the seeds for my various gardens separate and easy to find.
4. Consider keeping a portable garden kit handy, containing your tools, seeds, gloves, a jug of water, and other necessities. Just grab and go.
5. If there’s no water source available at your garden (which is pretty common for guerrilla gardens), save water in large, empty plastic bottles, such as a 2- or 4L (qt) milk jug with a handle. Punch several holes in the lid to act as a convenient watering can if you don’t plan on carrying the jugs in a backpack. Wagons and bike trailers or carriers are good for transporting large amounts of water without a car.
6. Consider sharing the work (and fun!) with a friend. Take shifts, or set up a watering schedule.
7. Plant lower-maintenance edibles such as perennial veggies, potatoes, and herbs, so your harvest won’t be a wash-out if you can’t visit your garden for a week.
Have any great tips for “away” gardening? Share them in the comments!
For Lila’s second birthday, we had a garden-themed party. Of course. What two-year-old doesn’t prefer gardening to Dora or dinosaurs? (Actually, Lila is way more familiar with turning the compost (she loves worms. Parenting success!) and picking greens than she is with cartoon figures. She still refers to her preferred (Dora-branded) toothpaste as the one with “that girl” on it. (Another parenting success!).)
But seriously, until she has a strong enough opinion on such things, I get to choose. And so she’ll go out for Halloween dressed as a beneficial insect, and her loot bags will include soil.
Yep. I gave a bunch of kids dirt.
Here’s the close-up, and a recipe for a garden-themed “loot bag”:
1 small container (we used biodegradeable Fiskar’s Eco Pots, which come in really nice, muted colours.)
2 children’s gardening tools (we bought a couple sets of five tools from Lee Valley and broke them up. These are great kid’s tools – plastic, but really sturdy.)
1 bag of container soil (packaged in a plain, 1lb coffee bean bag – ask your local coffee shop for some.)
1 packet of seed (we used purple bush beans – easy and fun to grow – and packaged them in pretty paper envelopes made using a template found online.)
1 wood tongue depressor, stamped with child’s name.
The cupcakes were fun to make too. I love to bake, but rarely get beyond my basics: cookies, scones, muffins, and biscuits. Birthday parties offer a nice change, and a challenge. I made simple chocolate cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream or chocolate frosting, then topped them with fondant flowers.
Now, I am not the type of person to casually whip up a batch of fondant. In fact, fondant – which is basically really, really stiff icing that can be rolled out or molded like plasticine – has always seemed out of reach for a kitchen novice like myself. It’s supposed to be difficult. Tempermental. But I have a two year old, I thought. I can work with that.
Now, if only I could master child-rearing in an evening.
We held the party at Little Nest, an awesome child-friendly cafe in our neighbourhood.
I recently had the opportunity to watch The Botany of Desire, a two-hour special that will premiere on PBS on October 28 at 8pm. You should make a note of that date, because you won’t want to miss this.
Subtitled “A Plant’s Eye View of the World,” The Botany of Desire is based on the best-selling Michael Pollan book of the same name. It examines the unique relationship between humans and plants, with the premise that plants use us for their purposes just as we use them. Linking our fundamental desires for sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control with the plants that gratify them — the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato — The Botany of Desire shows that humans are intricately woven into the web of nature, not standing outside it, as so many of us like to believe.
This is a beautifully-shot film that is as fascinating as it is entertaining. Watch it on PBS on Wednesday, October 28 at 8pm, or buy it online.
She kept us waiting, but when she decided to arrive, she really committed.
When we first found out we were having a kid, she was the size of a lentil. From that point on, despite tracking her developmental size as it related to various fruits and vegetables such as eggplants, jicama, cantaloupes, pineapples etc., she remained, “The Lentil”, her sex a surprise until Sunday, April 27, 2008 at 11:27pm. Weighing in at 8lbs 6oz, in the polka-dotted swaddling blanket, we introduce:
Lila Rose Bellamy Garfinkel
Asleep for the entire car ride home, she’s not really sure where she lives; just that there are two loving people caring for her every need and whim, and a cat feigning indifference but secretly plotting how to reclaim laps and prime-time attention. Everyone is doing fine, and getting a sense of what other new parents meant when they talk of lack of sleep and a more intimate association with vomit and poop. And of course, that unimaginable and overwhelming love and affection for this thing we just made.