A Big Set Back

You know that feeling you get when you start something on your to-do list that has been on it forever? And you think you’re going to finally be able to finish it? That’s how I was feeling Saturday afternoon. Several months ago, I salvaged a little sewing table from the community centre dumpster (it was actually beside the dumpster, so it wasn’t gross). The table was in great condition but had a horrible botched paint job and was missing the sewing machine. I felt like I could easily repaint the table and I wasn’t broken up about the missing machine. I shoved the table in to the corner of my living room with the intention of getting to it in a few weeks. A few weeks turned into a few months and then on Friday I finally declared that I would start and finish the table this weekend. I know this was pretty ambitious as I’d been battling a migraine all week but dammit, that table was getting done! And at the same time, I also declared I would have the powder room drywall primed by the end of the weekend (this also included time for finishing sanding the drywall). Ambitious? Yes I am.

Photo of the dumpster table before I started stripping the paint – it doesn’t look too bad but up close it was a total mess. Cat snuck in the photo as well.

I should have known looking back on the week’s events that I was being delusional. A week ago Sunday our dishwasher decided to stop draining and has been out of commission ever since. Then with the migraine. But no, I chose to ignore all of the signs that I should not attempt projects and went and got ahead of myself. Things started out pretty well – on Saturday I woke up early and was feeling pretty good, so I ran some errands, went out for an early lunch to the ramen noodle place, then came home and got started on stripping the paint from the table. It was much more labor intensive than I expected (I’ll post a full before & after eventually), but I finished the stripping and figured I would finish the table on Sunday. In between that, I also had an opportunity to do some work on the drywall and would be finished that on Sunday too. That is, unless of course something horrible were to happen in the meantime. And it did.

I was sitting down on Saturday night after spending all afternoon scraping and sanding to watch some Gilmore Girls (entire series just added to Netflix Canada!) and do some knitting (I have to finish those Christmas gifts!). My husband went in to the basement to do some organizing – he runs a business selling vintage men’s clothing outside of his day job so we have a lot of inventory in our basement. Shortly after he entered the basement, he reemerged saying something like “I found something disgusting that I think is ______ and I need to remove all of the carpet”. I will not get in to details because you do not need to know. I will say that it was not a pest infestation of any kind but may have been a result of one feline with severe separation anxiety. Enough said. It was disgusting and thank goodness our basement is unfinished (with the exception of one room which had a large piece of carpet and some lovely 70’s faux wood wall paneling). Also, thank goodness none of the inventory was affected. So our Saturday night turned in to moving everything out of the room and ripping out the carpet. Sunday turned in to scrubbing the entire room (walls and floor) several times over. Any chance I had of finishing the table and drywall was out of the question.

So what now? I’ve got several things planned:

– Organize the basement. Currently it looks like a tornado went through. But this week everything will be going into plastic containers and we’re going to be buying some free-standing Ikea wardrobes for additional storage. The good thing about the whole ordeal is that I can finally get things organized and clean down there. The bad news is that I have to clean down there.
– Give the sewing table a sanding and then begin the painting process
– Give the powder room drywall the last sanding and then prime it
– Clean and organize the rest of the house. Because we dedicated all of Saturday night and the whole day Sunday to sanitizing the basement, we had to move a lot of things upstairs in to the kitchen. Then with the dishwasher out of order, several cupboards had to be emptied in order to access the plumbing lines (a dishwasher was a later additional to the house so things are a bit weird), so the insides of those cupboards are on the floor. To sum it all up, the house is a complete disaster and I’m not sure how long I can live with it before I go insane.

Am I getting ahead of myself again? Probably. But I’m hoping that I’ll be able to dedicate a few hours every evening to accomplishing these things. It just means I won’t have any time to dedicate to finishing up the garden to-do list I posted about last week.

Unfortunately this horrible discovery amounted to a few things financially as we’ve had to plan to purchase quite a bit of additional storage including large plastic storage containers, shelving and some big wardrobes. It also means that the money we were planning to spend on other things has needed to be reallocated. First, we had wanted to purchase a new fridge to replace the one that died a couple of months ago (the mini fridge has been fine and will continue to be fine, but we have to do several small grocery runs weekly and can’t buy anything in a larger size in fear that it will not fit in the fridge. I’ve become a master at making things fit in the mini fridge!). Second, if the part we ordered for our dishwasher does not end up working, we will not be able to buy a new dishwasher for several months, which means washing dishes by hand. Not a huge deal as a dishwasher is a luxury but one I have become accustomed to.

I’m hoping that our terrible house luck has come to an end now. I think we’ve had our fair share of mishaps. I am also considering us fairly lucky – for all of the terrible things to happen, at least these are ones with fairly simple solutions. See, I’m being positive about something!

Next time I’ll have a much happier post with pretty pictures to look at! I guess this is a blog about my life so it would make sense to talk about the not-so-fun parts of it as well – not everything can be pretty gardens and delicious recipes all the time.

Autumn To-do List

Autumn has made an appearance, however brief it may be. Although the weather the last few weeks has been ideal, I know it isn’t going to stick around for long. To avoid falling into the depression and negativity trap that often comes with this time of year, I am doing something that gives me a ridiculous amount of joy: making lists. It probably shouldn’t be something that I love as much as I do, but whatever, I am who I am. So with that said, here are some of the things on my to-do list that I feel like I need to accomplish in the next few weeks:

– The wheelbarrow. I’ve been talking about the damn wheelbarrow all summer. It is finally painted! Now I need to put it back together. But somewhere along the line I lost one of the bolts. Luckily this had happened prior to me taking it apart to paint it so I didn’t just lose it because I was being careless with the pieces when I disassembled it. This also explains why it wasn’t working so well when I was using it to haul 5 million yards of mulch around my garden. It does mean that I need to make a trip to Home Depot to attempt to find a match for the missing bolt. Sigh.
– Clean the shed. Again. Things just get thrown in there and eventually everything small falls on the floor but you can’t reach to pick anything up because there are pointy metal rakes and other dangerous gardening tools all over the place (we recently acquired 2 antique saws that could dismember someone if they were to trip and fall onto them that are also being housed in the shed for now). We thought that by building a gigantic shed we would actually solve all of our storage issues. WRONG. Dad if you’re reading this, I think we need another shed. Just kidding. Half kidding.
– Clean the greenhouse. I’ve already half done this. And then I started storing things in it because like I mentioned above, apparently my shed is not big enough to store all my crap.
– Paint the front door. It just needs a fresh coat. It could survive without it because it still looks fine, but I’m borderline OCD and notice all the little imperfections everywhere.
– Empty the rain barrels and put away the hoses for the winter. One of my least favorite jobs – it’s right up there with cleaning the litter box or filing my taxes.
– Finish cleaning up the raised beds and add a layer of compost.
– Cover the big pieces of outdoor furniture. Normally these would go in the shed but read above. So instead I am going to buy some neutral colored tarps and cover them – so much easier!
– Empty and wash all of the ceramic pots and then store them for the winter. I’m almost finished this and I’ve started to store them in the greenhouse but it takes awhile when you have as many pots as I do.
– Make garden maps. I have this on my to-do list every year and it never happens. The point is, I always forget what I have growing in the perennial beds and I’d also like to make note of things that should be moved or divided in the spring. The intention is there but we’ll see if this one happens.


Snapshot of the current garden – not much going on. The chicken wire fence was supposed to be temporary back at the beginning of the growing season to keep the nieghborhood cats and squirrels away but it has stayed up all year – maybe next year we’ll construct something a bit more attractive.

The outdoor list is pretty manageable and I’m confident I will be able to accomplish most, if not all, of it. But when it comes to indoor projects, well… that list is a bit longer but I’m focusing on two major projects. I’ve got months and months of being trapped indoors ahead of me and I want to get started with a plan so I don’t just fall into the couch/Netflix trap (it is so tempting).
– Finish the powder room we started renovating back in May. If in January I haven’t shared the powder room, it means I’m being lazy and you need hassle me in the comments section.
– Major knitting project (a cardigan). I only started knitting for real about a year ago – I knew the very very basics before but it was pretty pathetic. Then last year I started some group lessons and I’ve learned an unbelievable amount and I’m ready for a real challenge. I’ll share the progress on here but if you’re a knitter, I would love to hear some wisdom. Or general cheering me on is also welcome because I’ll probably be very frustrated and/or perfecting my colorful language skills. I’m not sure if the actual project will be that difficult, just time consuming – but actually focusing on one project will be the most difficult thing. Mental note: do not look at Ravelry or knitting magazines, you will become distracted.

And of course, I will begin planning for the next gardening season! My wish-list is already like 50 new varieties long so I’m going to have to make some decisions (or else find more gardening space somewhere)!


Fall 2014 Community Garden

The scene over at the Cedarbrae Community Garden is a bit different from last time I wrote about it. At that time, every plot was exploding with color and fresh produce. Now there isn’t a lot left except a few strawberry plants. Let me back up a bit and talk about what a horrible community gardener I am (which will also be a recurring theme throughout this post). I think I could count the number of times I visited my plot this year on both hands. I didn’t water it, I weeded it maybe twice, and I didn’t volunteer to do anything. Except keep a blog specifically about the community garden, but proof of my delinquency can be found on this blog (I posted once back in July and now I am posting again in the middle of October). And what excuse do I have? None. I live a two minute walk away from this garden. Also, probably the worst thing was that I was actually supposed to have my plot cleaned out nearly a month ago and I did not actually finish cleaning it until about an hour ago. And as you can see in the photo below, I was the last person to clean their plot out. Yes, I am sometimes a terrible, neglectful gardener. Oh well.


Yes that one plot that is full of kale – that was mine.

I learned awhile ago that I should not plant anything in the community garden that is high maintenance or desirable to vegetable thieves and vandals. In September I received notification from our coordinator that there was an incident at the community garden and we should probably start cleaning up what was left of our plots. At this point, the only things I had remaining in my plot were some pathetic beets (so small), the old bean plants that had stopped producing (and that were slightly frost-bitten) and a whole lot of kale. No one wants to steal kale (I keep saying that, but some of my kale actually did disappear – not heart broken, because kale). The incident left our plot mostly untouched while other plots suffered some loss to vandalism – apparently throwing squash and tomatoes at the community centre is really fun. Actually, it does sound kind of fun. Anyway, at that time I pulled out the beets and bean plants and decided the kale could stay for a bit longer. And then it snowed and then I forgot about the garden and neglected to visit it for several weeks.


Skip to when I remembered a few days ago that I had kale left in the garden and that I was supposed to clean my garden weeks ago. We walked over this morning to see what was left and to clean up our plot. As you can see above, the purple kale was well enjoyed by dirty little cabbage loopers. We salvaged what we could and then threw the rest in the garbage bin. Our community garden currently does not have composting. It used to but it was an unmaintained mess – partly due to not being able to handle the capacity of 30+ plots but also because we volunteered one year to maintain it and did a really awful job at that and no one touched it again until it was dismantled this spring. Why do they keep renting to us?


But the curly blue kale did really well so we came home with a whole bunch of that to make into salads and delicious kale chips. You can find the best kale chips recipe ever here.

I’m already starting to think about next year’s community garden. I need to add some good compost first thing in the spring because the soil in this garden is not as good as the soil I have at home – I haven’t had great luck with root vegetables there for a few years so I don’t think those are meant to be – it doesn’t bother me too much since those things are readily available and cheap at our local farmer’s market. I will definitely continue to grow bush beans at this garden, as well as kale, because both do extremely well there with minimal care. I may also try some new things like fava beans and cowpeas which are supposed to be easy to grow.

This is all of course on the assumption that I will be rented a plot again.

2014 Tomatoes Part Three

Looking back on the tomato season, I would say that this year was weird. It could have been better but it also could have been much worse. Several young tomato plants met a terrible demise early in the season due to savage squirrels and some tomatoes didn’t perform as well as I’d hoped (a few plants producing only one or two tomatoes!). An early morning wind storm in July knocked a few pots of tomatoes from my deck on to the ground, surprisingly not breaking the pots but doing some damage to the plants inside of them. Aside from that, the plants did not suffer from any blight or insect infestations. Then almost all of the tomatoes had to be harvested several weeks early and brought into the house to ripen due to a freak summer snowstorm. But some plants did perform quite well – Black Cherry, Green Zebra, Indigo Rose, and Tumbler. My overall tomato harvest was big enough to last a couple of months and I was also able to roast and freeze a lot of tomatoes for use over the winter. Even though I’ve been growing tomatoes for as long as I’ve been gardening, each year brings new surprises and I learn new things – no two growing seasons are ever the same, especially in Calgary (or insert your location). I’ve made lots of notes for next year and I’m constantly exploring new methods to try (next year I will be experimenting with the disgusting fish head method). On a positive note, I did discover quite a few new-to-me varieties that I will be absolutely growing again, so even though the season was weird, I think it was successful.

And now on to the last tomatoes of the season!


Doesn’t that cat bowl make you squeal in delight?!


Chocolate Cherry

This was my first year growing Chocolate Cherry and you may confuse it with Black Cherry that I featured in an earlier tomato post because they look quite similar except Chocolate Cherry is quite a bit smaller in size. The harvest was just okay – it really could have been better, especially for an indeterminate plant. I got maybe a small bowl full of tomatoes, but this may have been the result of me trying to jam as many plants into a small space as I could – I’m blaming me, not the plant. Regardless of the small harvest, this tomato is really tasty – very sweet with very little acidity. The flavor is very pleasant and the texture is ideal for me – I will absolutely plant these again.



Say that one three times. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what this plant was – I had to dig through my seeds to figure it out because the label got lost somewhere but once I figured it out I loudly said “Oh, of course!”. And I definitely won’t forget this one because although the tomatoes are teeny tiny, they taste amazing! They almost remind me of a currant tomato, size-wise. These little tomatoes are unlike any other yellow tomato I’ve had – they are very flavorful and have a really nice texture. They have a great balance between sweetness and acidity. These have also gone on my “must plant again” list. And I’m so pleased that I finally found a yellow tomato that I love.



I grew several small red tomatoes this year but only chose to feature Riesentraube because it was by far the worst. Riesentraube is larger than a cherry tomato and smaller than a paste tomato but the name actually translates to “giant bunch of grapes” in German. My harvest was not a “giant bunch” of grape-sized tomatoes, it was more like a “small bunch” of elephant grapes (if that’s a real thing), and the tomatoes themselves were nothing exciting. I was not a fan of the texture, they were not very sweet and fairly acidity which left me very disappointed. I juggled whether or not I wanted to include Riesentraube in my post but decided that maybe someone was considering it and I should warn that person to not bother.

That brings my 2014 tomato posts to an end. Read Part One here and Part Two here. Now to start planning for next year! I have my eye on another blue variety and several dwarf varieties and I’m always up for suggestions.

Chocolate Cherry tomatoes seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Blondkopfchen seeds from Urban Harvest (no longer available) but also sold at Seed Savers Exchange, Riesentraube from Urban Harvest (no longer available) but also sold at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Anaheim NuMex Joe E. Parker “Hot” Pepper

You may have noticed that the title contains the word hot which has quotations surrounding it: “hot”. That’s because although this pepper is classified as a hot pepper, I do not believe it is such (it is rated 800-1000 on the scoville scale). I think I need to come up with a new pepper classification to categorize peppers that are in between sweet and hot peppers. I guess that when I first started eating and growing peppers I was a bit naive because I didn’t realize that the pepper spectrum is so vast. I do enjoy the more mild hot peppers quite a bit, but I sometimes find myself disappointed when I taste them because I’m expecting to burn my face off. From now on I am going to ensure that my expectations are clear when choosing peppers to grow – I need a good variety of sweet, mild hot and face-burning hot peppers. But I can’t be too hard on myself – this is my first year of successfully growing hot peppers from seed!


For some reason I ended up with three plants of this variety in my greenhouse – I can’t remember why (goldfish brain). All of the plants were fairly compact – about a foot or so tall and each plant produced 2-3 peppers. Not an amazing amount, but enough to flavor a few small dishes (fresh salsa & thrown in with some banana peppers I was canning to add more colors). The peppers themselves were a good size – a couple of inches wide and about 6 inches long (except for a few runts). I know I complained above about feeling disappointment towards the lack of heat in these, but the taste is really good for a mild pepper – slightly sweet but with a peppery taste without the heat (if that makes sense). I think that if I had a better yield of these I would have stuffed them and roasted them because that would have really brought out the flavor.

I have one more hot pepper left for this year and that is the Habanero which are yet to ripen in my greenhouse (these ones have been so slow!), but I’m confident that I will not be disappointed with these ones.

Anaheim NuMex Joe E. Parker pepper seeds from Botanical Interests.