I Am A Clueless Gardener

Some people are really great at growing things. Is this because they instinctively know what to do, or because they do a lot of research? I will confess that all of my growing skills are the direct result of chance. I can’t stand doing research because I find it totally overwhelming. There’s just too much information on the internet. As it stands, I’m a clueless gardener.

I’m feeling totally daunted by our garden this year. We have to install the expensive irrigation system we bought last year, and I’m dreading adding this to the to-do list of my poor, busy, fella. WAIT!! HOLY CRAP! Stroke of genius moment over here. Isn’t Sunday Mother’s Day? I’m totally going to make that my Mother’s Day request. Keep the breakfast in bed baby, just get my irrigation system running. Ooh yeah, just like Mama likes it.

We planted vegetable seeds about three weeks ago. The seedlings are looking spindly and sad on the floor of the classroom. I didn’t think they would make it until the last frost, which I assumed was on May 24, until I finally looked it up. This handy website told me it was May 2nd. This means it’s go time, but I can’t plant anything until the watering system is all set, and until I get some compost. Will the seedlings make it? You tell me…


Why are they so limp and spindly? Is it too much sun? Too much water? Not enough? Looks like this year will end up the same as last – with an expensive trip to the garden centre for plants! Veggie gardiners, help!

Sowing Our Seeds

The women in our family, even the children, haul soil to our new garden beds

A week ago we planted our vegetable garden at the Niagara house. I’d started some seeds earlier in the week, and they’d sprouted just as we were heading out-of-town, but of course there was still much work to do on our beds before we could put the little plants into the earth.

My seed starting was pretty basic. I used a collection of paper egg cartons and some basic potting soil for planting, and little wee wooden craft sticks marked with a Sharpie to indicate which plants were which. The girls love planting, and Ayla was a big help with this task. We worked in the full sun on our front porch after school. The seedlings lived on dollar store plastic trays on the desk in my room, where they would get the most sun, but still be protected from the elements. There were several seeds I should have started earlier, so I’ve saved them until next year. Some seeds I will start in time for a later harvest, like our broccoli and our cauliflower. The little plants all seemed to do well, but I worry about how they will make the transition into the actual garden.

We compromised on lumber to save some costs when we built our raised beds. Instead of cedar, we chose fir framing lumber, so it was critical for us to treat the wood to protect it from the elements. We had to be very careful about treating the boards for our vegetable garden that will hopefully yield food that we will eat. Daddy found this awesome Eco Sealant that is allegedly suitable for docks and marinas, and made of completely safe materials. He then went through hell trying to get the Canadian-Made product to us on time from a Canadian supplier. In the end, we had to buy the product’s American counterpart via good old Amazon, our safest bet for shopping and getting things delivered reliably and on time.

Saturday morning was an early start, and a full day. We had a good breakfast, courtesy of Amma, and then tackled our project. Daddy came up with the genius idea of using the pump-action deck sprayer to treat the wood, and so we made short work of this part of the project. I have no idea whether this stuff will stand up to a Canadian winter, but it did change the color of the wood on contact. That must mean something, right?

Next, we lined the beds with landscape fabric to try to help control weeds and pests. There are so many slugs and snails in the country, I think we’re going to need a generous sprinkling of diatomaceous earth from time-to-time. This product is an amazing pest-control solution in powder form that is safe enough to eat. It works by clogging the insects’ exoskeleton and suffocating them. There are acres and acres of tall grasses just beyond our lawn, and near where we’ve built the beds. These acres of tall grass lead to the deer-infested forest at the end of the property. I thought we’d have to worry about Bambi and co. devouring our crop, but so far it turns out that the ticks will be the real bitch of it all.

These hearty little bastards were so plentiful that we could see them on the wooden beds. I counted about ten myself. I had to pull one out of Chacha (my brother-in-love) and we were all properly skeeved out. It turns out that only 3% of tick bites end up with some kind of weird disease being passed on, but still…We’re going to need light-colored long-sleeved, long pants gardening outfits. We will enforce socks pulled over pant cuffs, and a mandatory change of clothes, tick check, and an hour-long clothing tumble on the high heat of the dryer after gardening. It turns out our old friend tea tree oil is handy for repelling ticks too. We’ve armed the girls against the epic lice problem at school with a weekly spray down of their bags and jackets with this handy solution.

An enormous spider from our garden

This guy was as big as my hand. No joke.

Somewhere between sealing the wood, screaming about ticks, and laying down the landscape fabric our massive dirt delivery arrived. We ordered a safe blend of soil and compost from our local supplier Trails End Landscaping. I wasn’t sure there was enough, until I realized how long it takes to move dirt.

With the landscape fabric secured (using a desk stapler because we desperately need to organize the tools in the garage) we got out the wheelbarrow and some shovels and began moving the dirt. I’d never done anything like this before.

Thank god we had the cranky-ass delivery guy drive his dump truck up on the lawn to deposit the dirt on a huge tarp we’d spread out. He was afraid he’d get stuck on our property but moving dirt is insanely slow, and incredibly hard work. It felt great to push my body, and we all worked so well together, even the girls were digging.

We had to break for lunch, but after lunch, Mama S and I had to make a run to a nearby garden centre for some vegetable plants. I figured having some heartier plants to pop in the dirt would be a better guarantee of a harvest. After all of this hard work, I’ll be mortified if we don’t get at least a couple of zucchini!

We discovered a garden centre called Sunshine Express, and I expect to spend a LOT of time there this summer. It’s beautiful, and massive – something you don’t see in the city. Also, one must pass the Avondale Dairy Ice Cream Bar to get there. BONUS! We picked up various veggies that we knew we really wanted (tomatoes, kale, chili peppers, acorn squash) and a few splurges that will be so wonderful if they work out (a raspberry bush, blueberry bush and some watermelon plants).

While we were gone, Daddy gave the girls permission to roll around in the pile of dirt. This began when he shoved Hannu backwards down the dirt hill. So, Mama S and I returned to two very, very filthy children. We chipped in to help finish with the dirt (the crew made so much progress while we were gone!) and then the girls enjoyed the freezing cold terror of an outdoor shower. There was much shrieking, and streaking. We gave the helicopter tours of the nearby vineyards a very amusing show.

Our little girls roll around in the pile of soil for the garden

Sunday was planting day, and the wind was mad, but the weather was beautiful – cooler than Saturday but sunny. My mom and Aunt Delores dropped in for a quick visit, and Delores brought some of her oregano, French tarragon and rhubarb for us to plant. I have such wonderful memories of eating rhubarb in my Auntie’s garden when I was a little girl – stalks taller than me, and a little bowl of sugar to dip in. Thank goodness Auntie D was there. She’s a seasoned grower of things, and she inspired confidence in my own abilities. She also fashioned some really beautiful tomato cages from some twigs in our kindling pile.


I think the hard work of Saturday was catching up, because it was much harder to get my butt in gear on Sunday. The girls helped with the planting, and they were really into it but little Aylu is really challenged by the calm and care required for working with tiny plants. I’m hoping working in our garden will be one of our calming, meditative homeschool practices. I’m sure this will be great experience for her.


So after much hard work, we got everything planted, and transferred the rest of the dirt (there was LOTS left over) to the front of the house, which we will tackle once we’ve officially moved. Here’s a list of what we’re (hopefully) growing:




Chili peppers

Brussels sprouts


Spring onions


Cooking onions



Acorn squash



For later planting:



We planted marigold seeds around the perimeter of each bed because I read that the flowers keep rabbits and deer away. We’ll see about that…

Making Our Beds


This past weekend, we ran away from the city to begin work on our vegetable garden at the Niagara house. Our goal was to build four raised beds – three for veggies and one for cut flowers – using this tutorial from the awesome Pioneer Woman blog. We packed up the car and a small mountain of laundry (our city dryer has been broken for over a month and it’s hard to keep up with the laundry demands of six people) and we set out at seven p.m. which is the time to travel on the Friday of a long weekend.

Saturday was a late start. I needed the extra sleep, because the Noodle has taken to waking as of 2:30 each morning, and then every hour or so after that. At first, he was just interested in eating during these waking moments, but now he’s into trying out all of his new moves; scooting, crawling, sitting up, standing, all with his eyes closed and mostly still asleep. Thankfully, on Saturday he was into sleeping in, and when he was done, extra hands made it possible for me to get a little bit of extra rest. After a leisurely breakfast, Nekky and I set out for the Home Depot at around noon, while Mamma S stayed behind to tackle the epic chore of lawn mowing. Both adventures turned out to be day-long investments.

The finished product

The finished product

Nekky and I took Noodle with us because he’s a fussy monkey these days. His little teeth are ready to burst forth, and he can fight a nap with UFC flair. Once he was secured in his car seat, he was k.o’d and remained that way for the two hour duration of our Home Depot visit, where he slept in a cart, still in his car seat. He really must be a man’s man (whatever the hell that means) because the smell of sawdust and paint and dudes really lulled him into deep sleep. Not even my stacks of garlic and onion bulbs disturbed him from his reverie. Also, if you want to see cute, take a wee baby to a hardware store. Even the burliest men were cooing at him, and straining to get a look inside the cart to watch him sleep.


We cut down on some material costs by choosing untreated fir over cedar or pine, and we’ll be sealing it with an Eco wood treatment. Our real surprise came in seeing just how much wood we ended up with. There was no way it was fitting in the car, so we had to rent a Home Depot van to drive it back to the house, ten minutes away.

Of course the baby’s car seat wouldn’t work in the cargo van, so I hung behind with the Noodle, who was still out. I grabbed myself lunch at Subway, and got three quarters of the way through it before the baby woke up, all smiles and game show host charm for the seniors lunching around me. Man this baby can work a room!

He can also work his shorts, and so after I finished lunch, we wheeled back into the Depot for a bum change and some boobie. By now we were on a first name basis with the staff, who were all happy to see the awake Noodle, riding in the cart like a pageant queen on a pride float, clapping his hands and squawking with glee. (Our baby is so happy to have everyone’s eyes on him. I don’t know where he gets that from.) The restroom was kitted out with a big comfy leather chair so we had more privacy than the patio furniture section afforded – this is where I’d scoped out some breast feeding real estate earlier.

After Noodle’s snack we waited for daddy (and Ayla, who decided to come for phase two of the shopping excursion, which was Costco) in the garden centre. Noodle loves flowers, birds and old ladies and all were plentiful in the garden centre.

So, yes we tackled both Home Depot and Costco on a long weekend Saturday and lived to tell the tale. Needless to say, not much building got done on day one, though us three parents ran outside after dinner to take advantage of the waning sunlight and cooler temperatures. We got quite a lot of the more tedious stuff knocked out too – measuring and drilling pilot holes and such. There was also some beer drinking, which we all know is essential to any home improvement project.


Sunday was building day, for real. We got a much earlier start and got a lot of work done before noon, when the sun became unforgiving. There isn’t a lot of shade at the Niagara house, so our veggies will be happy, but us laborers were not. Coconut water has become a staple for us and the kids. It’s a greater source of electrolytes than those sports drinks, and it’s delicious, especially with vodka and a twist of lime. No, the kids don’t get vodka.

We took a break for lunch, and then hit Home Depot again, because one trip is NEVER enough, no matter how thorough you think you’ve been. After lunch I got to learn how to use a jigsaw (terrifying) and a drill. Yes, it’s true, I’ve barely used power tools. I’m more of a sanding, staining, finishing, painting kind of worker bee. I’m also really good about planning, and I quite like being the foreman.


I’m very pleased with the results of our efforts. Lulu got in there and worked with daddy, and was very proud of herself. She was also thrilled when I pointed out that she’d been in homeschool wood working class all day.

Next we’ll need to seal the beds and line them with landscaping fabric, then order dirt and compost and get planting. I can’t wait to get my hands in there and plant our little seeds. I’ve never attempted a vegetable garden before, so I have no idea how successful this project will be, but it’s really been wonderful working together towards a common goal.

50 Days to Go

How can it be only 50 days until my due date? I just don’t know where the time went! I’m so glad I’ve been conscious of trying to savor as much of this as possible, and I’m overjoyed at how largely pleasant the pregnancy experience has been. How lucky, really.

My days now look a little something like this:

Every third day I can sleep through the night without having to pee at 3am or waking with aching hips. Lying only on my left side is hard work!

My fingers have that early-morning “I can’t move them properly” feeling all day long.

I have the feet of Barney Rubble (though I still benefit from clearly indicated ankles).

I get winded when I talk too much (Daddy is happy about this one, I think) never mind when I climb the stairs or go for a walk.

My irritability and impatience has been largely replaced by crying. Happy tears, sad tears, scared tears. I’ve stopped wearing mascara.

I can no longer re-purpose my own clothes for maternity wear.

Baby kicks can now be spotted from across the room, and it’s getting really Ridley Scott in my belly.

While the girls were folding the laundry the other day I overheard A say this: “These undies must be Mama C’s because they are GINORMOUS!!”

I am so, so anxious about EVERYTHING except for birthing this child and caring for an infant. This has resulted in an epic plan for purging our basement, incessant spread sheets and docs with to-do lists and plans of attack for almost every facet of life, and lots of tears (see above). My belief is that if I put it all “out there” now and try to exorcise these worries, then my subconscious and conscious life anxiety won’t clamp my cervix shut on the big day. At this rate, I’ll be birthing the child alone because I’m pretty sure I’m driving everyone else nuts.

I no longer care about missing out on what’s happening with my first baby (my theatre company) for a couple of months. I went from crying over having to step down and miss out on a show to choosing to miss two shows to relax and enjoy my early days of baby love.

Meeting this little man seems like it will be the greatest moment of my life, and that prospect can cheer me out of almost any state. A tall glass of carbonated water over ice also seems to be a serious mood enhancer, and now that I’ve typed that I can think of nothing else…

In other news, the morning glories I started from seed have taken over our garden. Nothing I’ve grown from seed has ever worked, and I’m so thrilled with these happy little flowers at the start of each day. They bloom in the morning and then they are done, replaced by new blooms the next day it seems. A short life to be sure, but such an impact – they make at least five people smi every morning.