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Showing posts from June, 2009

Utterly shameless!

Wow, I have no shame.  The following contains promo plugs for various things and I’m doing it to win a contest, so bear with me. This great balcony gardening blog (which I genuinely do read all the time for container inspirations, even though I do technically have a bit of a yard to garden in…) is offering a free UPS-A-DAISY planter insert to anyone who plugs the product online. What a great, sneaky way to create buzz!  So here it is, and here’s how it works: Pretty simple concept. I haven’t tried this insert before and, at $4.99 to $12.99 each, it kind of doesn’t tie in with my “frugal” (ie penniless) gardening theme unless unless it worked fantastically well.  If it did, it might save you that much in planter soil year after year, without the hassle of packing peanuts or whatever it is that people usually use.  Another reason I’m interested is that you could probably also use this in a hole-less container (or plug the holes in a container you like) to make it

Slugproof Foliage: Columbine (bad) vs Astilbe (good)

All the slugs and snails and whatnot – well, I still find them flattering, and I’m happy they love my garden so, but the foliage is definitely suffering this year. Here is a mottled, leaf-mined, slug-eaten columbine on the left, versus a pristine, proud, almost-ready-to-flower astilbe on the right:   Totally reminds me of why I want more astilbes in the garden.  The foliage is both delicate (ferny) and bulletproof.  I was never sold on columbine to begin with, and I really did not love the flowers this year.  More astilbe it is – for next year! My earlier theory about slugs avoiding the soft, ruffly foliage of yarrow turns out to be completely wrong.  They don’t damage the foliage, but they can still totally climb up it.  I found a few sitting right at the top, basking on the flat flower heads. If you want a slug-proof plant, raspberry seems to do the trick so far!  I guess they can’t stand all those prickles…

Moment of Terror

“Jennifer!” [Have I mentioned I hate my name?  I know that even if you’re given a terrible name at birth, something like Brandi or Teena or whatever (apologies to Brandi, Teena or whoever) you can overcome it through sheer genius IQ and become the next Einstein or a college professor or whatever you want – even if you have a dippy name.  But Jennifer is the queen of all dippy names, in my opinion, and I have never overcome it.  That and the fact that every other woman my age that I meet online is named Jennifer because it was the #2 name in the year I was born.] So anyway.  I hear my name shouted across Eglinton on my way to shul this morning.  Friends of ours had a baby, that’s why I was going.  And I was expecting lots of people I know there so I didn’t think much about someone calling out my name. The voice was familiar. It was coming from a man on a bike in jeans and a helmet with a fabric thingy on the helmet, glasses, non-descript.  Gloves.  Not going to the shul, but hea

There is no hole

Is that the terrifying part about death?  The sad part about losing someone close? There is no hole. The space he once occupied – simply isn’t there anymore. Like a river, it closes around him, engulfing him, sweeping us along instantly and entirely. We don’t walk around weeping, we walk around coping. That’s what is frightening tonight.


With four phone calls, the screech of a taxi’s tires, screaming from Gavriel Zev, who has been restless all night, and from Naomi Rivka, wakened by Gavriel Zev’s screaming, the cat-sitting adventure is at last put to rest. I was tired six hours ago. The baby is still coughing.  And now crying.  For Ted, thankfully.  In the middle of the night, there is nothing so wonderful as Abba.


our smugness over the fact that we're composting in the backyard and therefore our garbage, compost, etc., aren't overflowing even now in the midst of a garbage strike.   Pause.   Take a breath.   Despite all that, the green city compost bins got extremely smelly in the heat on Friday and over Shabbos, so today I decided to smuggle their contents to the apartment where we're cat-sitting.  There has GOT to be a silver lining to the horrible, thankless task, right?   Anyway, Ted did the awful deed but I got a full report.  (he went back to stare in the bin a few times)   Maggots.   Maggoty maggots.  Squirming in the bin.   I have seen maggots.  I can imagine maggots. (once in my youth I left a shabbos chicken carcass sitting for two weeks in the heat of summer and came back to wash the dishes - where had we been eating for two weeks?!? - and it was maggoty in the bones and the jelly-gravy-sauce still left in the pan)   Sheer, primal, revulsion.  Ga

Sweet, sweet, sweet potato how-to

The further adventures of our rooted sweet potato ! Sweet potato vine is one of the trendiest outdoor “fill” plants for containers at the moment.  But those are “fancy” varieties with purple or lime-green foliage, and you pay a premium for them… Why bother, when you can get huge quantities of a lovely trailing green-leafed specimen for nothing?  (nothing, that is, if you choose a sweet potato that got too old and would have been composted anyway!) Sweet potato (ipomea batatas) is closely related to morning glory (ipomea something-or-other), which is also famous for its lovely foliage.  (there’s also the climbing annual White Cypress Vine, ipomea quamoclit, that I tried to grow purely for its bizarre name, but the seed – bought, brand-new, in a home store garden centre! – never sprouted at all.  :-( ) Anyway.  Bitterness aside.  We must carry on, despite occasional gardening disappointment. I started this in a glass of water about mid-May, so it’s taken a while, but the shoot

Capsicum Annuum “Explosive Ember” Hot Pepper

Container Magic

I love this container!  I planted it up earlier this season with a “whirling butterflies” gaura, encliandra (dwarf) fuchsia – which has yet to show any signs of flowers – and a deep, dark coleus. The gaura, after taking two months to get huge huge huge like an octopus, is finally starting to open up.  You can see one of the delicate little white butterflies here at the tip of one of the wands. Hope the fuchsia does something before I have to bring it in for the winter…


Don’t love yellow flowers, especially this shade, and all of a sudden what I thought was a coneflower opened today to  reveal:  Evening Primrose.  Gaaah!  Hopefully, someone from Freecycle will want them because I want them GONE.  As soon as possible. I wintersowed a bunch of these and grew them out back last year.  They got a bit leggy with all the shade, then overran the whole place, flopping and dropping their ugly yellowish bits every which way. Didn’t know I’d put any in the front – maybe there were seeds in the compost?  Or maybe I just forgot. Yuckety, yuck, yuck, yuck. One more day of cat-sitting to go!


She is coming back on Monday on the condition that I give her a ride in from the airport.  Really MUST get rid of this "pushover" tattoo on my forehead. Or become a better person, I guess, the thoughtful kind who doesn't mind helping others whether they're her best friend or not.

Lethargic Summer Shabbos Menu

I cannot do the cats any longer.  Cannot.  Cannot .  Really can not.  It is ruining my life.  Ted got scratched badly twice yesterday, and Elisheva today (that seems to be the extent of my cat-related learning from experience:  get out of the way in time to let the assistant get scratched!)   Today, I yelled at the littles because they were poking their faces up close to watch as I tried to shove the pills down the cats' throats.  Gaah.  And now I am just SAD.  I guess the broken faucet doesn't help in that direction, though Ted stopped by in a work van (creepy!) to try to get a new part from Home Depot.   Their owner called just now to beg me to let her stay "a few more days."  Nope.  Nope.  Nope. The official excuse is that the last couple of weeks have been quiet because everyone's off school, but now our family's summer programs are beginning on Monday and we will be busy, busy, busy.   Of course, that's not entirely true, because of

What’s this? Of *course* it’s erev Shabbos!

You know it’s erev Shabbos when… the high-quality, name-brand faucet handle simply comes off in your hand.   Please ignore the filth.  My kitchen isn’t that dirty… it always looks bad in close-up.  The inside of that faucet handle looks like something unearthed from the Titanic. So.  No running water in the kitchen.  Oh, and no a/c.  This is practically like pioneer times, only with Internet. I know this isn’t a good reason to call Ted to beg him to come home from work… but whatever.  He isn’t returning my call anyway.  Who knows if he even got the message??? Wishing he had a desk job with a phone nearby right about now…

Jfer’s Field of Dreams

If I grow it, corn will come… That’s right:  now that the warm weather is here, SFG Bed #1 has become my CORNFIELD.  Apparently, it’s better to grow corn in blocks rather than rows (improves cross-pollination, which is essential for the kernels to develop).  So this is basically four rows of four. Here’s one baby stalk: In a misguided and amateurish effort to grow a Three Sisters Bed (corn, squash, beans), I have substituted Sugar Baby Watermelon and Minnesota Midget canteloupe, along with various cucumbers, for the traditional squash.  Squashes take up way more space; my hope is that these viny things will grow around the base of the corn while beans of various kinds grow up the stalks.     Ah, what vivid, green garden fantasies romp through my mind late at night. Anyway, I gave the corn a couple weeks’ head start and last weekend planted out the beans.  I stuck the cuke and melon seedlings in at the same time as the corn seeds because they were so runty an

SFG Update

Looking more lush, but blighted as usual… leaf miners in the chard (I cut it down in the hope against hope that it will grow back), stunted beets, bolted spinach, bizarre fungi…  leaving me even more doggedly determined to make something work this year! Planted various beans in both beds (late, late, late, like everything in this year’s garden) and tomatoes in bed #2.  My next post will describe my latest and ultimate flight of fantasy:  Jfer’s Field of Dreams in SFG Bed #1. Pics below. For an ongoing slideshow of the progress in these SFG beds, just visit this post . Square Foot Garden Bed #1:     Square Foot Garden Bed #2:   Yes, I know I never straightened out those humpy-looking blind slats.  Face it, it’s almost July, it’s hot out, and I’m tired.  I honestly don’t think it’s getting done… this year, at least.  :-)

Taking Advantage

May I just say how much I really, really, REALLY dislike when kids assume that stuff is "theirs" for the taking.  Just opened my camera to take out and recharge the batteries only to discover a pair of - ALKALINE!  Drat!  Looked in the charger:  no batteries!  Looked in the case:  only spare alkaline batteries!   Drat, drat, drat.  She may have been sneaking them for use in her GP2X or just sticking them in her camera or various other appliances... and now I have to try (and likely fail) to track down all my nice NiCads, including the Nikon ones Mary bought me that I've had forever.  Longer than the stupid Nikon camera they came with.   Can't even strangle her - she went out swimming with friends.   Double drat:  she Googled Elisheva's graduation and found my blog. Never thought about that happening.  What do other blogging parents do??? (maybe that's why they use pseudonyms for themselves and their kids?  doh!)

Broken Peony

In the end, we only got one blossom this year.  And now, the rain got it and it’s finished.

Something’s Rottin’!

I finally declared Composter #2 to be officially FULL.  We’ve been piling stuff in since March, and I topped it off the other day with two bags full of Starbucks grounds (they just told me to dig through the dumpster – what a privilege!). So with YM’s help, I shovelled out all the “finished” compost in Composter #1, leaving just a bit in the bottom, and have declared it the ACTIVE composter:     I’m hoping three months will be the average turn-around time, meaning (counting in my head:  “July…August…September”) that by this fall, I will have another bin full of compost to spread around the beds before winter.  That plus a carload of fresh horse manure rotting on the beds over the winter ought to do the trick nicely.  (I send Ted to pick it up at a local stable) Hmm… not sure how we will transport the manure, though, now that I’m growing stuff in just about every available bin and container.  Cross that bridge when we come to it. Here’s the garbage can of “finished” compost.

Garden roundup

Today’s high:  definitely petunias!  The smell of them as I walk through the door in the evenings… mmm… they smell, well, as I keep saying, like CANDY. Since I blew my original stock of seed on this year’s Purim petunias, I’m desperately hoping to save some from the plants this year.  HOWEVER, the exact source of seed continues to elude me.  It seems, from what I’ve read, like this pod thing at the centre will expand, turn brown, and fill with hundreds of tiny seeds.  We’ll see.  I have never seen any of my petunias do anything like that. Today’s garden low?  Maybe just the heat and wiltiness of everything.  Showers expected tomorrow afternoon – yay! More of what’s going on around the garden… though in June, it’s really hard to keep up and I’m definitely missing stuff, because there are so many highs! Peas a-poppin’!!!  Must remember to mark off one vine of my favourite and let it go to seed… ie dry out and save the peas from the pods when they are past their eatin’ p

Even EASIER cheaper than ever Sub-I planter

(self-watering, that is!) Let’s just see if it works. Ingredients: ~ Large tub (free by the side of the road yesterday) ~ Recycle bin (old model; free from the city) ~ 12 small square pots (free at curb; shown upside-down here but in the end I used them right-side up) ~ Braided garden twine for wick (already had it in the garden) ~ Strips of old t-shirt fabric (not shown) for additional wick-power ~ Strip of capillary matting from Burpee self-watering seed starter for extra wick-power ~ Potting soil ($6 at Fortino’s) Basically, you thread the wick through the holes in the recycle bin, stand the recycle bin on top of the pots and let ‘er rip.         After I took these pictures, I decided the wick maybe wasn’t wicky enough, so I added a couple of strips of cotton t-shirt fabric in the hope that it will wick more wickily. I’ve planted it up with a Sugar Baby watermelon seedling (pretty stunted; I hope it takes off now that it’s in a big

Erev Shabbos Homegrown Bouquets

Two this time – we ate at my mother’s house so I brought the one on the left to her.   The salvias were pretty droopy; they’re just about finished for the year now.  

A movie? What's that?

We never go to movies; well, almost never.  But tomorrow night, my sister has agreed to babysit, so now the big question is... WHAT MOVIE?   And the other question is, how can I cash in these 4-bazillion "Scene" points I have accumulated using my debit card so the movie is actually free?   The problem with NEVER going to movies is that I not only don't know what's playing, but also that I have no clue what each movie is about, even to sort them roughly, by genre?  Okay, I've heard of UP - the kids went to see it last week - but everything else, no clue.  Year One ?  What's that about?  It becomes a laborious process of clicking on each moving and reading the review to decide if it's even the kind of movie I might be interested in.  Departures ?  Could be some kind of airline comedy, but no, it's some arty Japanese movie that Now Magazine has given 5 stars.  (okay, I can guess about Night at the Museum , having seen the first!)   What

Homeschooling Jewish Subjects

In response to a discussion of rabbinic objections to homeschooling in the area of limudei kodesh (Jewish subjects): "My own fear is that probably many rabbanim would say I'm not qualified in this area. As a baalas teshuvah, my own awareness of limudei kodesh subjects was VERY limited until my kids started in day school. I have picked up so much over the years: practical things like how to lead kids through the davening, ideas for craft projects, songs for brachos and various yamim tovim, how to read Rashi script... everything I know about Yiddishkeit, I learned from Uncle Moishy. :-))) At this point, the older kids are far beyond my skills. Sometimes, Elisheva gets frustrated - "why won't you just sit down with me and study Navi!" Okay, maybe if I had some background, I could. She has no concept that an adult would not know elementary-school Navi. These days, I only study with her if she makes up flashcards ahead of time, which actually


We are not even halfway through 2009 and already I have more blog posts in 2009.   Maybe I need a shrink, not a blog.


From the May 2nd, 1930, issue of the Canadian Jewish Review.  This is my grandparents. I guess “Lapin fur” is euphemism for BUNNY. I have never heard of my grandfather’s mother referred to as Jennie!  Her Jewish name was Sheindel.  Did they really call her that??? Here’s the archive site I found it at.

Oh. Well.

Morbidly checked the website of the Jewish funeral home in another city, just in case the person I'm cat-sitting for had lost the relative she went to that city to take care of.  And there it was, right at the top.  Her relative is dead.   Don't I just feel terrible, saying the terrible things I said earlier ??? On the other hand, I feel immensely relieved that this deal is finite; the awful, AWFUL cat-sitting will end sooner rather than later.   It was true, what I wrote.  It is too hard.  I can't do it. But for a few more days, until she returns, I will have to.


Just found this while getting everything off the sinking ship of my old Geocities site (no, I’m not putting a link here; sorry!!!) It’s a mock “newspaper” Ted and I did for my father’s 60th birthday, in 2001.  The articles are semi-lame, semi-humourous in the “year of your birth” type of style – I thought it was quite fitting, given his love for Rice Krispies, that their mascot Snap got two new buddies, Crackle and Pop, in the year my father was born.  Hard to imagine him all alone now. I mostly love it for the cartoon Ted did of my father.  The caption is not entirely meaningful, but the image and facial expression are so, so apt: Here’s a thing about my father that everybody in his immediate family knows already:  if the cereal box showed a type of fruit, that was the “right” fruit for that cereal.  You weren’t allowed to have it with anything else. Like this cool vintage Corn Flakes box… strawberries it is!   However, it did just occur to me that

Sub-irrigated Planters Update

Three weeks and a bit later, and here’s what we’ve got… Planter 1 :  Children’s Garden Roma tomato, plus store-brought broccoli seedling. Planter 2 :  “Early Tiny” cherry tomato, plus Sweet Chocolate Sweet Pepper.   I know those tomatoes look a bit small, still, but pretty astonishing considering how runty (really just wilted little four-leaf sprigs) they were when I put them in. BUT the broccoli is the hands-down winner of the Jawdropper Veggie Award.  I have tried to grow broccoli before, and never had nice foliage like that, or anything resembling a big conventional broc-head.  No evidence of flowering yet; it’s probably a bit early.  But it is LOVING the non-stop irrigation. (and, okay, maybe I’m “overwatering” since this planter has yet to run out of water even once since I filled it initially, but I can’t imagine draining it would help the plants grow any better…?) It’s not just that it’s growing better.  I bought this broccoli in a 4-pack, and distributed the “sp

Fruit from seeds

A quick update on the fruits I am growing from seeds.  Well, two plants / trees: ~ A lemon, just a plain old lemon.  I presprouted a bunch of seeds , but only one made it.  At left, on May 26, and at right, yesterday.   ~ And… still not dead… my MANGO!  Even bigger & better than before , with several new leaves about to burst forth.  So pretty, so glossy!   Have I mentioned I hate mammals today?  I will never form attachments with anything mammal ever again.  Ugh.  Cats, rodents of all kinds – I’m surrounded. Now what’s for supper…?