Friday, March 24, 2017

Garbage Garden

I have become obsessed with planting literal garbage.

Sprouting garlic? Planted.
Sprouting onions? Planted!
Carrot tops? Hand me the soil!

While the seeds planted for the garden, get the benefit of grow lights this 'garbage garden' has to make due with the little natural sunlight that Yellowknife in March affords but, all things considered, they are doing pretty well.

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The end of my coffee table - the closest flat surface to the window - quickly became full of recycled milk containers and DIY newspaper pots filled with plants. I decided to double down on the 'garbage' in the 'garbage garden' and made a quick drip tray of reclaimed pallet wood lined with dog food bags!

While not the most beautiful thing I've ever constructed, looking at my 'garbage garden' makes me very happy!

Why plant garbage?
I planted the garlic to eat garlic scapes.
I dream of collecting seeds from the onion bulbs.
The carrot tops make for a beautiful natural dye.

Almanac 84 Mini Zine

It's been about a year since we closed on our 84 acres of land in Manitoba. I have spent a lot of time over the last year developing skill-sets and researching with specific land projects in mind. I managed to put together a mini zine round-up of those skills along with a few short essays.

This small zine is available as freebie if you order Plot 13

Or contact me ( if you would like to trade! 

Friday, March 17, 2017

DIY Flower Press

I have been kind of obsessed with flowers lately (Exhibit A) so I decided to spend the afternoon making a flower press. I had one as a kid and always loved the idea behind them - preserving a bit of summer's beauty into the white winter.

Flower presses are nothing more than a bit of wood, a few bolts, and few pieces of cardboard so it did not take me long to finish this project. I enjoy every second of using my manual hand drill so a small project that required me to use boring drill bits was a bit of extra pleasure. I did use my electric sander to do the bulk of the sanding but found the noise distracting so I finished the project by hand sanding it. A project this small would not take very long to sand entirely by hand anyways so in the future I will forgo the use of the electric sander for small projects.  

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The completion of this project reminds me how quickly farm related skills develop. Just a few months ago the construction of a bench was arduous and overwhelming but now I can complete a simple project in a few short hours and be relatively stress free while doing it!

And now to we wait until flowers bloom.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Growing and Using Nasturtiums

I've been reading gardening books for as long as I can remember (the fact that 2016 was my first actual garden is irrelevant) and whenever I came across  a profile of Nasturtiums and the often stated "Nasturtium seeds can be pickled and used as caper substitute." I would make a mental note... make sure you experience that someday Sarah!

This winter, researching for my second ever garden, whenever I come across a profile of Nasturtiums I think... those sure are tasty. Make sure to do that again this summer!

I enjoy knowing plants in this way - this way that is specific to growing them. I watched those Nasturtiums grow from the very first day. I watched them bloom. I watched how the seed pods formed. I watched how the ones I did not pickle dry into the seeds for next year's garden. That visceral sense of knowing  - that comes with a sense of ownership - is unique to gardening.

Nasturtium Capers
(This recipe works well but I'll be playing with seasonings in the upcoming season!) 

2 tablespoons salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup green Nasturtium seedpods
several cloves of garlic

Boil salt and water. Pour over seedpods and garlic cloves. Let sit at room temperature for three days. Drain. 

3/4 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 cloves garlic

Combine ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour boiling vinegar over the seeds and let cool. Refrigerate. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Review: Garden Design by Alice Recknagel Ireys

This is not something I would normally have picked up as I do not intend to have detailed, manicured garden beds that would include something as high-fluting as a 'garden design' but I found this slim book for 50 cents at my local thrift store and you simply can't bet a price like that!

I enjoyed reading through this book and several of the garden designs caught my eye. For example, "A Garden of Annual Everlastings" offered some inspiration as far as seasonal cut flowers as well as dried flower for winter bouquets. I also enjoyed "A Salad Garden by the Kitchen Door" for its practical inspiration. Several of the solid-colour bed designs intrigued me as well.

Overall this book offered a very approachable viewpoint toward garden design. The information presented in the book is enough for a beginner gardener to make a passable attempt at any of the designs but I would do fair amount of additional research on each plant mentioned before I felt ready to actually put together one of the designs. I like the information presented for each design as a graphed layout is included as well as a chart showing details of the plants included. I think this book is best used by beginners by following a design accurately. There are several general design principles included in the book but they are not detailed enough to allow a beginner to deviate much from the proscribed plan.

Overall, I'm glad I took the risk and spent the 50 cents on this book!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Indoor Worm Composting

Indoor worm composting has long been on my to-do list as I think it is a wonderful way to compost in small indoor spaces. Worries about escaping worms and smells kept me from starting a indoor worm composting system for many years but I found a DIY system using 5 gallon buckets and a local place giving out free starter worms so I decided that with low financial inputs I could give it a try! I was also excited to have my first 'livestock'!

Benefits of the bucket worm composting method

  • Stacking five gallon buckets took up a lot less floor space than the traditional plastic tote. 
  • Holes drilled in the bottom of the buckets allow for easy worm migration which means no messy separation of worm casting and worms. 
  • Affordable system that can be reused if worm composting doesn't wind up working out. 

Worm Care:
Feed worms vegetable scraps but avoid meat, oil, and breads. 
Bucket should contain 'browns' which include newspaper, cardboard, and/or egg cartons.

The food is mouldy! I sometimes over-fed my worms and some of the food gets a bit mouldy. When this happens I simply add more newspaper or cardboard and reduce food for a while. This seems to quickly resolve the problem. 
What should it smell like? I love the smell of my worm bucket! It smells like warm, damp, earth!  

Friday, January 27, 2017

Seed Purchases

It is easy to overspend on seeds as each package is only a few dollars and you have to purchase a certain amount to justify the shipping costs. Here are a few ways I keep my seed spending under control.

1. Limit the number of seed catalogues. If you do not like the selection of seeds, the business practices, the customer service or the germination rate from one company stop getting that seed catalogue. It will reduce temptation and help you spend your seed money wisely.

2. Save seeds. While seed saving from some plants are more difficult there are plenty of easy seeds to save. Seed saving will eventually result in plants that are ideal for your micro climate, save you money, and you will be able to trade with others for different varietals.

3. Make a plan. Before I even crack into a seed catalogue I have a list of the seeds I saved and have left from the previous year as well as a plan regarding new varietals and new plants I want to try for the upcoming year. This plan includes broad garden goals such as 'some plants for dye' and 'some plants that are unique and catch my eye'. This ensures that I purchase required seeds and limits my need to make just one more seed order and simultaneously allows for spontaneous experimental purchases.

4. Order from a set number of companies. I always make a large purchase from Heritage Harvest because it is a small Manitoba company that I love supporting. Limiting the number of orders I make ensures that I plan my purchases and minimises the cost of shipping small lots.