Thursday, April 30, 2009

Neat Cheap Garden Marker Idea

temp_spoon_markersIdea stolen liberally from this British blog.  (I love the word “beetroot”!)

I may actually do this – I mean, how cheap are these wooden spoons???

They wouldn’t last forever, but they’re way better than popsicle sticks or the multicoloured plastic markers I bought last year.  The dark colours (red, blue) were so hard to write on visibly!

Plus, I like the idea of tossing the markers in the compost bin when they wear out.  I’m sick of finding little white tags everywhere I look. 

Naomi does love them, though.  She collects them and feeds them to her cow - or something.  There’s a whole pile of them right now in the “trunk” of her little toy car.  More souvenirs… she’s always picking up souvenirs…

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wintersowing follow-up

I had forgotten this from last year:  for some reason, the exciting part of wintersowing is the sowing, not so much the sprouting.

I think I know why, too… because when you sow the world is white and grey and cold and you’re sowing dreams of green and warmth.

But when they finally come up, in April / May, well, everything around you is green and warm, and the sprouting is, sad to say, just a bit anticlimactic. 

Just more green stuff to find a home for, you say, with a shrug.

Still, in the spirit of February, here are some of the more exciting results from my wintersown garden:

DSC03098Columbines harvested from my own plants – about a bazillion of them!  The seed I “stole” from the gardens at Casa Loma has not performed nearly as well so far as my own seed has.

Growing along very happily in nothing more than a large ziploc baggie.


DSC03099Liatris – hopfully white, to make up for the expensive ones from Vesey’s that I am now very certain Naomi and I planted upside-down last week.  Growing in a cut-in-half and taped-together large-size plastic white vinegar bottle.


DSC03100Amaranthus (Velvet Curtains)!  Tried hard to grow these last year and they turned out shrimpy and undersized in my underfed front bed.  I can see a couple of weeds in here, but so far, so good.



DSC03101Poppies (Black Peony).  I loved my shades-of-pink peony poppies so much last year (even though one got stolen!), but wanted to try them in a less-tacky colour.  These are papaver somniferum, or breadseed poppy, an annual better known as (gasp) the opium poppy.


DSC03102Parsley.  I already have lots of parsley, but this was an experiment, since we can never get enough parsley.  Because it sprouted so well by wintersowing, that means (hopefully) I won’t have to waste time, energy or space on growing it indoors in future.  Great success!

Maybe I’ll take spares to the swap, or pot a few up to build Freecycle karma and hopefully get some good plants back in return

DSC03103Chamomile:  I said a month or so ago that something was growing in the chamomile pot (actually a reused container from hydroponic lettuce), but that it couldn’t possibly be chamomile.  I was suspicious because it was only growing directly beneath a vent-hole, so I figured it had to be a weed.  Apparently not… this looks like a pretty vigourous, healthy plant to me, and thus – however unglamourously; I mean, chamomile??? - emerges as the winner of the “First Up” award in my wintersown garden!  

Laughing all the way to the grave

stoneGot this a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t get a chance to post it... here is the official proof from the monument place for the stone that will be laid on my father's grave. My mother emailed it to me as a PDF so I could proofread the Hebrew... lucky thing for her I checked the English, too.

Spot the booboo? 

YM & I almost fell over laughing when we saw it. In case you don't know us, I'll fill you in. His name was not "Charlies" but Charles Paul. Never understood why his parents slapped that name on him, then proceeded to call him Paul his whole life. Nobody called him Charles, Charlie, Chuck, Chaz, or any Charles variant. Just wouldn't have suited his personality. (growing up, some people actually called him "Pinky," for his Hebrew name, Yechiel Pinchas, but that never suited his personality either - at least, from the time I met him)

Free cone night at B&R tonight!!!

Oh, yeah, plus pizza supper (paid for by Ted’s brother Bobby), plus Elisheva’s art class, plus Ted’s pottery class, plus the littles’ swimming lessons, plus YM’s homeschool shop project each demanding every second of our attention.  Gah.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009



DSC03054 DSC03059 Tulip kisses?

Double daffodils?



Svetlana does not approve.DSC03095

Recent garden acquisitions

I know I mentioned most of these already, but it’s so much better in pictures…

DSC03056Home Depot was selling these clichéd emerald cedars (Smaragd?)  for $14.99, so my mother picked me up one in return for planting her two, which are now sitting expectantly in her backyard where brambly roses once grew.

I’m calling it Big Daddy.

Other newcomers this week:


Heliotrope!  At last!  (two of them) My intention is to dig it and overwinter at least part of it indoors, ‘cuz I hate the thought of replacing them every single year.



DSC03071Vinca – variegated, to light up the corner where I have mostly green vinca growing now.





DSC03068White Bleeding Heart – lovely!





And now here come the daylilies, added on Friday as mentioned in this post.

Gay CravatDSC03080






DSC03082Startle (x2)DSC03079





DSC03081Pandora’s Box

(with a spare “weed” strawberry)




DSC03097Compare those beautiful healthy plants, at $5 apiece, with these pathetic straggly Night Beacon daylilies which cost over $10 for 2 packages (this is both packages, right here, what you see in this pathetic picture).

Blah.  Why by plants at Home Depot again???

Testing… and Rhubarb

DSC03066What could go better together than a new blog editor (Windows Live Writer by Microsoft) and my new crop of rhubarb?  Okay, strawberries and rhubarb is the more traditional pairing, but what the heck.  The rhubarb is doing incredibly well this year!  I think this (year 3) is the first we will actually be able to pick a few!!!

So far, I am enjoying the WYSIWYG capacity of this editor, which includes my own blog colours, fonts, etc.


DSC03046Unlike Picasa’s blog post editor, it seems to allow me to dynamically include additional pictures – like this one!  And specify how I want individual pictures to be aligned.  Which blogger itself never seems to let me do.

With Picasa, you have to select your pictures before hitting the BLOG button.  Otherwise, you have to ctrl-C everything you’ve typed, close the edit box, select the additional pictures, then carry on.

Picasa also limits your posts arbitrarily to four pictures.

So what are those books in the picture?

(up there… crane your neck way up!)

Those are the new kiddie books by Jan Pienkowski that I ordered – the big red one from, and the three slightly smaller ones on eBay.  Less than $20 and they’re beautiful, shiny and new.

Oooh, this blog editor puts typos like kiddie, pienkowski, and “oooh” in bold print with the squiggly underline I have grown to hate so much in MSWord.

What it doesn’t seem to have included are the “span” tags in my template that allow me to include a short version of each blog post on the main page, with a “read more” link for those very select few who choose to read further.

Well, that is a pain.  And now, to click… what?  Send?  Save?  Ah!  “Post draft to blog.”  And see what it does.  (correction – there is a big “Publish” button in the top-left corner; that is the one I’m about to push!)

Oh – supper!  Not rhubarb just yet, but…

Chili with cornbread on top.

We love chili and cornbread, and Ted’s brother is staying with us, so I can make a huge quantity of it so he can have leftovers when he arrives at 9:30.

Funny; nobody here likes cornbread all that much, or chili.  But if I make both together in a pan, it goes SO fast… weird.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Supper: First BBQ of the season!

Ted spent the BEAUTIFUL day clearing out the garage, culminating in finding (rescuing?) the BBQ and hauling it out for the first "Q" of the season!
Hot dogs, hamburgers, and even a couple of steaks... lovely, lovely.
I spent the better part of the day edging the front-garden beds... they look utterly marvellous now - pictures forthcoming when daylight returns.
And yes, we have phone service restored.  Yay!  They'd better not try billing me for today's service call.
(postscript:  they tried…)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Things not working today

~ Phone line (!) - I was wondering why Ted hadn't called... no fair, not our fault (this time) - we don't owe them any money and haven't for a while!!! (June p.s.  later fixed, which is good… then billed, which is bad!)
~ Printer
~ Webcam
~ Microphone built into webcam
I haven't installed Microsoft Office yet on this computer and don't even want to...
So tired.
Nothing works.
I was wondering why my mother hadn't called to ask about supper.  Maybe she has.

The vermicomposter is here

Through Craigslist, I have purchased/inherited this lovely homemade vermicomposter.

It comes from the owner of this blog.

I have mixed feelings on vermicomposting in general. More trouble than it's worth? Especially since corporations are getting into the vermicomposting business on an industrial scale?

From speaking to a vermicompost distributor at Canada Blooms, it looks like that's the direction the curbside organics program may be going.

But anyway... it's educational for the kids, right? Learn all about worms, their life cycle, what they eat, etc!

And this one appears to have been well-designed to assuage my "escape" fears. All the airholes are sensibly patched with screening material. It's only held on with duct tape, but the tape appears pretty solid so far.

The only catch is... the bin is FULL. Lots of excellent, rich compost for my garden - as long as I can sit down and sort it out somehow. What you see in this picture is about 1/3 of the bin, full of worms swimming happily (for now) in their own end-products.

The former owner tried the new-bedding-on-one-side strategy (the worms are supposed to abandon the yucky old stuff and move into the new bedding right away) at one point, but apparently had not as much success as I would have liked with that. But the alternative seems to be dumping it and sorting by hand.

OR - some kind of screen? That will retain most of the worms, while allowing the crumbliest bits of compost to run through??

This calls for some big-time Google!
Unfortunately, both kids are awake now, and I have done nothing around the house today. So, so tired; last night was another 2 a.m. night fiddling with the computer.

This is my first time blogging with Picasa in XP. None of the bazillion annoying popup error messages it's always given me - yay! Still sticks that annoying Picasa logo in at the end, though. I have to go in and manually remove the one it sticks after every single Picasa-based post. Like the one I'm removing right now. Aargh.

Adventures in Daylilies!

A miscellaneous late-night search for "daylilies toronto" found a guy practically right around the corner from here who sells daylilies, mostly mail-order, from three locations in the GTA.

His operation is called Arcadian Daylilies, and it seems to be run in the most wonderful, professional manner.
Most of the daylilies are in 2 gallon containers. He's developed a special technique for overwintering them in containers, which is apparently not easy to do, as they don't deal well with repeated freeze/thaw cycles. Some are in the ground, and some, mostly leftovers, missing-label and discontinued plants, are in 1-gallon containers, which he sells off for an amazing $5.

When I heard 1-gallon, I wasn't expecting much, but these are actually nice, big pots, quite deep, with well-grown, obviously healthy clumps with 3-5 fans. Especially compared to the almost $7 I spent at Home Depot for a one called Night Beacon. Those (I bought 2 packages) were basically 3 straggly bare roots dying neglectedly in a bag. I hope they rebound, but experience with Home Depot has taught me not to hope for too much.

So I leaped at the chance to own four of these thrilling and special daylilies. ($20 was my limit, and even that was too much on a day when we spent almost $200 fixing the computer)

So here's what I bought:
Gay Cravat
Technical specs: lt July 6" Flwr 32" Ht tet D 8 b/s {no idea what most of this stuff means!}
Description: Blooming around peak season this flower has worked great en masse. The pale straw yellow is accented by a deep raspberry eyezone. A favorite. Excellent increaser.

Startle (bought 2 of these - what a sucker I am for the word R-E-D!)
Tech specs: Height is 26 inches with 5 inch bloom. Mid Season Bloom, Dormant, Tetraploid.
Description: Red Bitone With Cream Halo. Startle is its name for a reason - a stunning five inch velvety red flower outlined with a ruffled ivory edge.

Pandora's Box (dwarf)
Tech specs: 4" bloom, 19" tall, Early-Mid Season + rebloom, Evergreen
Description: Contrasting light and dark come together in this popular variety. Blooms are a pale cream with a deep purple eyezone. Very attractive. Fragrant.

Daylily descriptions get so complicated. I don't want to get all wrapped up in the terminology of criteria were mostly "not yellow or orange, medium height." These all look like they fit the bill! Planted all three in the back bed - Gay Cravat at the back corner where I took out the Astrantia, the startles on either "arm" of the L-shaped bed and Pandora's Box in the foreground. Should be lots of yummy daylily action back there come July!

And then there's the Home Depot daylilies, which I'm not even sure will survive:
Night Beacon
Tech specs: Early to mid, 4" Blooms, Dip., Evr., Rebloomer
Description: Black purple flowers, large chartreuse center with a green throat. Spectacular contrast of colour. Diam: 10,5 cm.( 4"). (Hansen'88) Dipl.
(a bit gaudy for my taste, but whatever)

Glad I've got a couple of rebloomers in this lot, anyway!

Oh, also from end of season last year (still overpriced, but that's Plant World for you), my only other named daylily so far:
Happy Returns
Tech specs: ea July 3" Flwr 18" Ht dip D 6 b/s
Canary yellow ruffled offspring of Stella D'Oro. Consistent repeat scape builder through late September in our gardens. What this translate into is consistently reliable rebloom. Best Bloomer

This one just sounded so die-hard that I had to buy it - even though it's yellow. :-)))
They grow so well here; I may get sick of them in a couple of years, but meanwhile, I'm playing around with cheap ones to see if I can find any reliable favourites...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ad on Craigslist

Just saw an ad with the heading "oversize stuffed horse" and thought, "how judgmental."
Who's to say what the exact right size is for a stuffed horse???  :-)
We have our computer back.

Friday, April 24, 2009

And then

I painstakingly gathered all the information that I need for today (I'm at the library) in a Word document, then logged off without printing it.  No warning, nothing.  Anyway, now I'm done - off to pick up Ted & the kiddis at the BJCC!

Hating Vista with a passion

A "simple" download and install of Service Pack 1 - actual, licensed, Microsoft software, through the microsoft website, turns out to be the most malicious code that could possibly have gotten into our computer.
Figures it would happen literally TWO WEEKS after the warranty expired.
Anyway, the cheapest fix (ha ha, again, thanks to lousy Microsoft) seems to be a new hard drive, with a fresh install of Vista.  The old hard drive will become a secondary, non-boot drive.  Very much like the setup we had on the old computer.
Sheesh... this is so not necessary, if only they would write a decent operating system and not release products until they're ready for prime time.  Okay, they would never release any products at all, then.  So be it.
Took it to a hole-in-the-wall computer guy named Yeo that Ted spotted somehow in his travels.  Back online sometime over the weekend, I hope.
See ya on the other side!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pretty, pretty horseradish

A couple of days ago (Tuesday?), I divided my single chunk of horseradish (rooted from a top pulled from my mother's garden, started from a top she rooted in 2007) into four, so I can keep some and give some away...and already it has started growing tufts around four separate "nuclei."

This all looked like all one plant a few days ago - now, it is three thriving plants and one (bottom-right) that just needs a few more days to find its sea legs.

It's in a mushroom container, by the way. No holes, just a dish of water. I love these mushroom containers! Punch holes, it's a seed-starting flat; no holes, any number of fantastic garden-related uses.

This plant seems to have two totally different kind of shoots: "frilly" early shoots and then the real thing: no-nonsense upright serrated leaves. You can see a single serrated leaf starting to stick up in the top-right corner of this photo. I guess that means it probably wants planting out into soil.

No way is something this quick to root going anywhere near my garden. Into a container for you, young man... or is horseradish a lady?Anyway, with a plant this tough, I could probably just stick it in a pot outdoors and it would do fine. May's a week away, but there are no frosts that I can see on the weather horizon.

Other than its rampant weediness, and if you can find a way to avoid the insect holes that plagued my mother's last summer, this looks to me like a gorgeous foliage plant - huge and even on the exotic-looking side. I wonder why more people don't grow them decoratively.

Wood in the kitchen

I'm feeling like praising everyday objects today, so here we are:
wooden kitchen utensils. Several per package at the dollar store -
scrapers, spoons, and the really big spoon-thing we call The Spanker.

But then, of course, there is something to be said for this $1
silicone spatula. Amazing bowl-scraper - see how clean this cornbread
bowl is??? - I have no idea how I lived without it.


~ Cream of Roasted-Ontario-Tomato Soup
~ Cornbread (from Bob's Red Mill mix)
~ Orange Julienne Carrots (bought julienne carrots in a bag)

Hmm... as usual, something missing. A big blob o' protein on the plate.
Fish sticks would be good, but have none.
I was going to make beanie burgers, but too L-A-Z-E-Y.
Well, we shall see.

The front yard through history

This is the first spring picture I can find , I think... maybe spring of 2007?
I don't think it's from 2006, because then the tree was brand-new, and the mulch looks a year old in this shot.

And here's basically the same shot last spring, when I rescued a whole overcrowded chunk of irises from the house demolition across the street.

They bloomed gloriously for about five minutes, and then I sold three big pots of them for $10 each - $30 pure profit that went, of course, straight back into the garden.

Lest I sound totally selfish, I also gave one pot free to our friends because he happened to come by when they were blooming and he said he loved irises. She didn't look too thrilled when I drove them over, but give n' take is what marriage is all about, right?

Oh, and I kept a bunch for myself. :-)

Anyway, I was stuck for what to do with the yard and doodling some things out on my own when somebody advertised on Craigslist to offer a FREE garden redesign for practice - I guess she'd just graduated or was graduating from some kind of program and wanted experience and images for her portfolio.

So I emailed her the above pathetic yard picture, Ted included, and eventually, after chatting via email a couple of times about our desires and needs (yes, we need grass - a big patch of it in the shade to plunk the kiddie pool!), she emailed this back:


Well, I thought it was absolutely perfect except for the slope of the front bed. At the time, it couldn't spill forward over the hill like she drew it because that was where we put our garbage. Still is, when there's overflow and large items, though the bins have largely eliminated that use of our lawn.

And I couldn't afford the large boxwood, euonymus and cedars she'd drawn, so I bought mini ones that will grow, at a cheapo out-of-town nursery for $5 each.

So here's the fairly unsatisfying continuation of the saga: Spring, 2009.
I think it's better, anyway, despite the distinct line between the two types of grasses, and the million squirrel-dug divots in the lawn.

The front bed is better defined, but the euonymus, cedars and boxwood are still too small to count as "landscape" items - except the dead cedar on the left-hand side that I'll probably need to swap out for a live one. Great.

But if you click the picture, you can see they're there, and the euonymus, and boxwood, and yes, they are growing.

Also, the front bed is already filling in nicely with ornamental grass, lilies and, yes, my gorgeous irises. It's still kind of a hodgepodge, and I haven't laid out any annuals to define the edge yet, but I definitely plan to. I think this year is shaping up to be the nicest garden year yet.

Do you notice that hazel tree in the front bed has not grown in these pictures? It certainly hasn't died; it's currently leafing out nicely, but it sure doesn't look like it's gained (or lost) any branches. We think it is just getting taller and taller, and tufty at the top like a Dr. Seuss tree.

I think this is the year that the support post can come off - probably should have last year.

Smart tree tip I read in a magazine: Instead of yanking out the support post which has sat beside the tree for the last four years, saw it off just above ground level. It will disintegrate naturally and not shock or damage the roots in the meantime the way pulling it out potentially could.

Weird / shudder...

I'm not reading much into this, but I happened to be searching my blog for pictures of my irises (see the next post for why), and found this entry from early June, 2008 - right before my father's awful summer of feeling terrible and not being diagnosed properly with the cancer that eventually killed him this winter:

"I cannot shake this feeling of impending doom... isn't that an awful and pretentious thing? I wish I didn't feel like the whole world was about to cave in on me. Gets in the way of just about everything. :-("


(why do I bother filling in backstory when it's only Ted - and sometimes Abigail - reading these things???)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Which 6 plants couldn't you live without?

This blog (which I've never seen or read before) has set off a bit of a meme in the smallish world of gardening by challenging 10 garden bloggers to write about:

The Six Plants I Can't Live Without.

I was not one of the ten chosen, but who says that means I can't chime in?

Most people seem to be choosing flowers and other ornamentals - which is funny because they are essential to everyday life on this planet, but not in the direct way that, say, corn has become. Or wheat.

Anyway, since everybody else is getting in on it, here's mine - in no particular order. It would be interesting to see how this changes over time, with gardening experience.

1. Daylilies (Hemerocallis). Gotta have 'em. Gotta have a bunch. Maybe I'll get sick of them over time... maybe not! They only last a day - how can you get sick of them so fast? I'd forgotten about this one red bee balm, by the way. It died off almost immediately, but now, like Charlotte's Web, has about a dozen babies growing in the front bed.

2. Thyme (Thymus spp.). Edible, non-edible, citrus, non-citrus... eat it, step on it, sniff it as you walk past: just give me the THYME!

3. Coleus (Solenostemon scutelleroides). Of course! It's a mint, so it stands up to almost anything (except cold - what a wimp when it comes to cold!) and it's almost as varied as the rainbow. Lights up the shade, propagates oh so easy.

4. Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum). Not so decorative, kind of weedy-looking actually, so why does it linger as one of my favourite plants EVER? Well, that's easy! Three reasons: yum, yum, yum.

5. Hosta (Hosta spp.). Okay, they are workaday and very much overdone in everybody's yard, including mine. But they grow and thrive with mostly neglect, come back reliably every year, and there's a lot to be said for that. Having said that, in this picture, they are clearly outshone in this picture by lamium, and even the lambs' ears. I have to tell you, lambs' ears came THIS close to being chosen as #5 on this list. Pretty clever, to sneak them in like that, huh? But just being green in the background is hosta's job... and it does it so well.

6. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). The flowers last forever and you can't kill them. Got to love that. I know from my weeding they can get weedy... but with my backyard, weedy is what I want! Versatile and down-to-earth gorgeous in a bouquet. Plus, I really wanted to put a word in for my hard-working, bug-attracting golden tansy, so I snuck it into this picture, too.

That's my six, for now! Maybe I'll update next year when my garden (and presumably me along with it) has matured!

So what are yours???

The weather poster

When we bought this ($1, Dollarama), I felt it was lacking an insert for "Night." I realize "Night" isn't weather, but kids can't really always see the weather at night, and if there's one for "Sunny", why not "Moony"?

Anyway, luckily Ted agreed and didn't have me committed or anything, so here's the sign he made for "Night" on the back of one of the regular daytime ones.

The black marker ran out so you can see he left the bottom a little unfinished. Probably because I kept nagging at him that the right side didn't need to be filled in at all. So he filled in everything until the second the marker died, then left it all scrawly to make his point (that being "it does so need to be filled in").

Ah, how petty we smug marrieds can be.
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What are we wearing?

In a stroke of zany brilliance, I realized we have been discussing the weather every day for a while now, but not tying it in to the other part of the picture - what we choose to wear outside.

So I hauled all the littles' jackets out of the front-hall closet and laid them out with the corresponding inserts from our front-hall weather poster. Then, I took their pictures together. (YM was home writing his math midterm - he thought I'd lost it for sure, taking the jackets' pictures)

Finally, I printed the pictures out and stuck them on the down door so they'll be prominently visible when we're getting ready to go out.

So now Naomi has an easy, visual way to decide "for herself" which outerwear to choose.

I guess this is a good season to start tying it together like this... just realized the reason I haven't really done anything like this so far is because we have been mostly in winter jackets since we bought the weather poster.

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