Tag Archives: vegetable gardening

Sea, prairie, mountains: Whirlwind 1300 km road trip, Part IV

Sunday morning came too soon and I was still tired. Not the best way to start the day, so I decided to take it easy and to just hang out at my mom’s house until it was time to leave at 1 p.m. As Jane Austen said, “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” As a result, we all had time to visit in an unhurried manner. One of my brothers was mowing the lawn when I got up, so I got to see him, and my other brother called. Everyone’s tired the day after a big family wedding! So much goes into preparation, anticipation and, for some, travel. It was nice to just relax before we left. My mom is an ace gardener and I regret not living closer, in part, so I could learn from her. It was fun walking around, just seeing what she was growing. The gourd plant was going strong and it got plenty of sun alongside the house. Her pepper plants were also doing well. I don’t have much luck with peppers here in Southwest British Columbia. Others here might but I don’t get enough direct sunshine. Her back yard was a riot of color and, while she wasn’t very satisfied with it, I thought it looked great. The mountain ash tree was heavily laden with  berries. Interestingly,  all the mountain ash I saw during our road trip was drooping from the heavy weight of a bumper crop. It reminded me of the drunken birds I saw once in Missoula, Montana. They were intoxicated from eating fermented mountain ash berries. Birds were stumbling around in the snow and we thought something was seriously wrong until our neighbor told us they were simply drunk. Bird booze! Inside the house, Mark was packing us a good, healthy lunch. It was warming up and was going to be a scorcher of a day. We we decided to take the freeway back to Canada to save time and that meant we were going to be driving through quite desertous areas. Years and years ago, I used to get heat stroke about the time we reached Moses Lake. Thank God for air conditioning!

It felt peculiar staying so little time, but it was a whirlwind trip, so we said our goodbyes and headed to the freeway. Soon we were driving east on Interstate-90, the longest  highway in the United States, running from Boston, Massachusetts, to Seattle, Washington. We would only be covering a short length, cutting north to Interstate 5, which parallels the Pacific Ocean, from Mexico to Canada. That was many miles in the distance, though. To the west of Spokane, the air was hazy. When choosing this route, I had forgotten about the fires that had torn through the areas we would be passing through. The vegetation was so dry, it looked like tinder. That dangerous. Miles away, it was still hazy when we dropped down to the Columbia River. I love descending the plateau to the river, a steep grade with incredible vistas. Never tire of it! Just over the bridge, we stopped to stretch our legs at the rest area near Vantage. I have never  seen giant wind turbines so close. The blades were not spinning, which made them even seem more unearthly.  The linearity of the base and blades, along with the smoothness of the white metal contrasted well with the desert. It looks like a creature looming over a ridge in the photo at the right. From here, we’d gradually start rising in elevation till we reached the apex of Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Range. The mountains are the dividing line between east and west in Canada and down through the States. Terrain to the east is uniformly dry and wet. We hadn’t reached the top yet, though. Soon, we were driving right through the fire zone. We had yet to reach Cle Elum, where fire claimed 61 houses, burned 3000 acres, and required 1000 firefighters. We were driving next to another burn area near Kittitas. The fire had not jumped the freeway, but it got very close. We passed miles and miles of burned ridgeline. The area is little more than a wind tunnel! Driving by this burned area made me remember that real estate development and common sense have been moving in opposite directions for some time. In the 1980s and 1990s, building began to take place on sites that never would have been considered safe before. In a fire zone? On a barrier island in a hurricane zone? Below the 100-year flood mark on a river? Newcomers are often unfamiliar with the areas into which they’re move and don’t know about the hazards. No one tells them and they often haven’t researched it on their own. Of course, it does come down to what is allowed to be built where. Here’s a good article on the subject about these burn areas: “Fire-prone areas: to build or not to build,” by the Seattle Times. (No burn policies, too, but that’s a different story.) After Cle Elum, we started to climb. The terrain changed and soon we were in the mountains. The approach and decline from Snoqualmie Pass is so gradual, it feels like Sunday driving, but at a certain point, you’re over the top and have entered the temperate rain forest, similar to the zone in which we live. We’ve just dropped from mountains to sea level and our ears have popped. Several times. Cutting north on Interstate 5, we bypass Seattle, but not city. Soon the traffic thins out, as we enter the corridor north of Everett. We’ve come full circle because this is where we cut east when the journey began, two Fridays ago. I try to catch sight of Mount Baker, but the sun is going down and when I do see it, the light quality is poor. I just savor it with no camera lens between me and it. We reach the border. Short lineups, so only a half-hour wait, which was great. It was cloudy but not rainy and we barreled home through White Rock and over the exhilarating Alex Fraser Bridge, the second longest cable-stayed bridge in North America. We were thinking of our cat Rosie, who our friends had cared for in our absence. New Westminster shot by, then Burnaby and Coquitlam. Soon we were in Port Moody. On Jane Street. Home sweet home….


Filed under Articles and Interviews, Current Events, Fun, Home and Garden, Videos/Photos/Slides

The greenhouse is done!

I overdid it a bit yesterday, so stay tuned for “Gold and silver leaf on ceramics, Part 2” am working on it and soon soon… In the meantime, I want to show you our finished greenhouse! (We still have a bit of work to do with the floor and outer perimeter, to seal it, but it’s up and ready to go!) After I finish my mushroom projects, morels, chanterelles, and fairy ring, it’s on to garden markers! Big thank you to Mom and Mark!! It creates a lovely new space, inside and in front of it.  I am not ready to do any full-on gardening yet, so we will shop for the right kind of tomato plants and place them inside first. I hadn’t known that greenhouses require different plants than those grown outdoors , so am on a learning curve, thanks to our library. It makes sense for tomatoes…after all, they can reach 10′ tall! So mine will likely be the bush variety…indeterminate, for lots of fruiting. So we’re off and running. This is the coldest spring here for 50 years, so the greenhouse is also very timely. Will start seedlings for outdoors in it and hope to begin that quite soon….

Exaco EasyStart Season Extender greenhouse, louvered window open, 4'4"x6'4"x6'


Filed under Current Events, Fun, Home and Garden, How-to-do-it

Our DIY greenhouse takes shape!

I’ve been posting about the little greenhouse we’re putting up to use as a season extender. We live in the shadow on the north side of a hill in a temperate rain forest. To date, there hasn’t been a long enough growing season, enough sustained light or hot weather to produce a decent tomato. My Mom graciously gave us a greenhouse kit for Christmas and my husband started putting it up last week, during our first patch of sunny weather this spring. It’s a 4′ x 6′ Exaco EasyStart that we bought through WoodlandDirect.com. It was shipped from Texas to Washington, then I dropped down below the border to pick it up, thereby saving myself cross-border brokerage fees and shipping charges. We are setting it up pretty much opposite our front door, which faces west. This spot gets the most light, except for where my raised bed lies. I promised Mom I’d get a dwarf lemon tree and, besides that, I intend to grow tomatoes and peppers, red, orange, and yellow. Will start seedlings to transplant outdoors, too. It’s small and in proportion to our tiny cottage. The greenhouse has a heavy-gauge aluminum base, coated aluminum frame, and polycarbonate panels. It will have louvred windows for cross-breeze and is embellished with Victorian-style finials across the roof ridge.  We’re happy and thankful! After this project, a new covered porch is next….

Exaco EasyStart Greenhouse


Filed under Fun, Home and Garden, How-to-do-it

Clay & Self-Sufficiency

I  was at a garden centre yesterday, one that I particularly enjoy: Brian Minter‘s Country Garden. You can find ordinary and rare or unusual plants there. I saw saffron crocuses being grown for the first time… He also sells about 15-20 different kinds of seed potatoes. I finally decided on Norland, an early red. I trust his quality and selection and have listened to his shows and read his articles for years. I have his videos and really rely on them. In addition, he has a beautiful botanical garden, Minter Gardens, which rivals Butchart Gardens. Brian Minter is always willing to answer any question you might have and he is very approachable. Yesterday, I noticed that he’s getting ‘up there’ but he still has loads of get up and go. The centre also has beautiful gift items and curiosities. My friend Minoo and I slowly worked our way through the aisles and displays, clucking over this and that. As I was weaving my way around, I was, once again, struck by the fact that there were quite a few things on display that I could make. Knowing this affords me a sense of self-sufficiency. Yet, it’s one thing to know how and another to act on it. If I am truly interested, I’d better jot down some notes and make a few sketches before I forget. The fact remains: clay folk can make just about anything they want. Growing up with brothers and a father who were handy helped me immensely. That atmosphere informed me and I became conversant with electric and hand tools. By my teenage years, I was very comfortable making things on my Dad’s workbench. My mother’s father was also very handy and I spent enough time around him to bolster all these parts of myself. And my mother taught me everything I needed to know about cooking and sewing. It feels good to be able to do these things, but I am not talking about pride. I don’t like the word ‘pride’ or ‘deserve’ and I steer clear of them and what they represent. I don’t mind ‘gratified,’ though. Yesterday, it felt good recognizing that I could make some of the things I saw as we roved around Minter’s garden centre. I am eons away from ceramic mastery, but I’ve reached a point where I’m confident in ability. Technically, I can put something together according to plan. And ideas come to me. I have also worked in clay for so long now that I am so comfortable with the stuff it almost feels like an extension of myself. I identify with it. I’m happy to be where I’m at and happy to be doing what I’m doing. It feels good to become inspired and to know things are within reach if I want to travel a certain path. I’ve lived many places and moved many times, originally as a result of my father’s career and, later, out of habit and because of schooling. During those periods of my life, I was more interested in working with sculpture and abstraction. Now that I’ve ‘settled down,’ I am seeing myself making functional things I’d have never dreamt of making in the past and it’s sort of ironic. I recognize that my values, priorities, and tastes have changed or shifted. Some not all that much, but my needs certainly have. I ordered a greenhouse yesterday, my mother’s Christmas gift to us. As I was ordering it, I thought, gee, I could make some nice ceramic finials to run across the top of it after it’s up. Yes, I’m enjoying a sense of place and an inherited can-do mentality.


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