Secret Wool Society

If you’re a returning reader, you may have noticed a few little changes around the site. First thing, the name. Originally I started this blog as a place to write about gardening. But as the first year went on, I realized that I wanted to share other things too. Cooking, baking, crafting, knitting, home projects, dumpster dive finds, and so on. So after a bit of thought, I figured it was time to retire the Carrots & Raspberries name.

So why couldn’t I make a year-round garden blog work? Truthfully, I live in Alberta, Canada where winter exists for basically 8 months of the year. Sure, I do indoor gardening, but how many times does one want to see the same cactus? I still love gardening and I will still share my garden during the seasonally appropriate times, but an exclusive gardening blog didn’t work for me.

So what is this site going to look like in the future? Well, hopefully I’ll post more than once in a blue moon. And when I do post, I want to ensure my posts are thoughtful and enjoyable to read. So expect to see a lot of the same things you have seen in the past – food adventures, decorating, knitting, weaving, sewing, cats, and of course gardening!

So why Secret Wool Society? Well, it is the business that I started this past year and I honestly love it. I love the name and the vision and I want to keep focusing on that. It makes sense to bring the business name and the blog together. I’m not saying that this blog will turn into all business posts – it won’t. It will continue to have a little bit thrown in, but only because I am giddy about the things that I make and I want to share them – not just because I want you to buy them. I’ve never viewed my blog as a business and I probably never will, it’s just not my jam.

So with all of that said, RIP Carrots & Raspberries! Secret Wool Society is the new sheriff in town.


July 2015 In The Garden

The garden has been keeping me really busy this year. It’s been good though and I finally feel like things are starting to slow down. Which means I can kind of sit back and enjoy it as it is for a bit. And also maybe think about what I’d like to accomplish in the garden for the remainder of the season.

We recently had a huge heatwave, followed by some big rainfalls, and there is some more heat in the forecast, so things are really starting to get lush. There has already been some heavy duty pruning going on (we may have pruned away some branches from our neighbor’s tree)

Garden July 2015

Looking pretty darn lush. I believe this is going to be the year of the squash in my garden, they are all looking so full and healthy – and I’ve even got a few baby squash forming. Making those squirrel proof seedling cages was a good idea – I didn’t lose any squash this year to those pesky creatures.

Last year I included some to-do lists for the garden, and I thought I might try it again this year. I really enjoy reading other garden blogger’s to-do lists, so maybe readers might find mine interesting as well. And if not, just skip to the pretty pictures.

– Weeding! I’ve been pulling out a few dandelions in the back yard as they pop up, but I really need to dedicate a couple of hours to just weeding, especially in the front yard. I rarely post photos of the front yard on my blog because it is so so sad, but I’m going to try to start. This is a realistic blog where I post the good, the bad, and the ugly, so I should be posting the front for your viewing displeasure (I’m being really hard on myself here, it’s not that bad).
– Figure out some sort of trellis for the back alley raised bed. I’m growing some pumpkins back there, so instead of having them grow down where we park the car, I’d prefer if they grew up. I have no idea what I’m going to do there. I need to think of something quickly though – I noticed that they are now growing out of their little squirrel-resistant cages.
– Clean up the alley. It is in a pretty shabby state right now. It needs to be weed whacked and I need to dispose of the dead corpse that is my former Christmas tree. And there is a lot of garbage. I’d really rather just keep forgetting this area exists, but those pumpkins are planted back there, and I water them almost every day, so I would rather look at something less horrifying and garbage-ridden. Also, our alley is a mud pit when it rains, so we really should get a load of gravel in there to help things. That task has been on the to-do list for awhile now.
– Fertilize the peppers and tomatoes. I am such a delinquent when it comes to fertilizing. I maybe do it like once a season. Must fertilize.
– Figure out what to do with the front yard. I referenced the nightmare of the front yard above, and I’m probably way over exaggerating it, but it really isn’t the way I want it and I kind of just want it to not exist right now. The main problem is the awful state of the lawn. The truth is, I don’t care about my lawn and I really haven’t made an effort to care for it for about 5 years or so. And it really shows. I wouldn’t actually even consider it a lawn anymore – it is mostly weeds and old cigarette butts (lots of pedestrian traffic on my street). The real reason for not caring for it is mainly because I think lawns are useless resource vampires, but also because it will eventually not exist in our yard. My vision for the front yard is for there to be no lawn, to expand the front porch in to something useful and pretty, to replace the front walk, to have some raised beds for edibles, and for the rest of it to be a low maintenance perennial garden with a couple of trees. The plan this year is to remove a little bit of the remaining lawn each week. Originally when I was thinking about what I wanted to do this summer, working on the front yard was not even a thought in my mind. The only real thought I’d had was that I wanted to come up with a rough plan to implement over the next 5 or so years. But then seeing the lawn this spring, and feeling nothing but embarrassment, rage, and contempt every time I saw it, I changed the plan. The good news is that it will cost me nothing but time. And possibly some money on cedar mulch if I get far enough. I’d love to hire it out and just have someone come in and set fire to it in one fell swoop, but I’ve already spent way too much on the garden this year, and I’d like to be able to eat, so I’ll have to do it slowly myself with nothing but my trusty spade.

Garden July 2015

I guess that’s the garden right now in a nutshell. Things are growing and even though my front yard is a bit of a touchy subject right now, I am pretty happy with the back yard this year. All in all, things are decent! How is your garden growing?


One more photo! The honeyberry harvest this year has been great so far! I have three small plants and I’ve never gotten more than a handful of berries in past years. This year the branches were bursting with fruit and it looks like there will be a second harvest! I intended to actually make something out of the first harvest, but they all got eaten raw before I had the chance #gardenerproblems

My New (Really Old) Find

You know how a few weeks ago I was sharing all the goodies from my junking adventures? Well, I purposely left out the best one because I wasn’t sure whether or not we would end up together and at the time, it seemed like the boat had sailed and I missed it.

Let me back up. I was on one of my junking adventures and it was the first stop of the day. A few days prior, I had done some scouring on Kijiji (it’s like a Craiglist-type of service, in case you are not familiar with it). I’d scribbled down a few estate sales, garage sales, and vintage markets I wanted to check out, also jotting down a few of the items advertised for sale at these various places. So the first stop was at 8AM and it was a garage sale. I’d written “vintage china” beside the address so I knew the reason I’d wanted to go. The real purpose of jotting down some of the items was in case I got tired of going to sales or if I was running low on my allotted amount of cash, I could prioritize the sales (I’ve got various strategies for these types of marathons and that is one of them). Anyway, as I approached the first garage sale (it was advertised as an estate/reno sale in a garage), I saw the vintage table immediately and pretty much gasped. There were only a few other people at the sale when I arrived, so I decided to look at what I came for (vintage china) and pick out a few pieces before they got snatched up by someone else. By the time I finished up with the china, and also negotiating a price for a really beautiful crystal decanter, the sale was getting busy and I was starting to feel anxious (I really can’t go to those types of sales and make decisions when other people are pushing themselves in to me). So I left the sale with my few little treasures and without inquiring about the table.

As I was was waiting in line at the next sale the regret hit me like a bag of bricks. Why didn’t I ask about that table? It was so beautiful and it was exactly what I’ve been looking for for my space. How stupid. But of course, it was about an hour later and I was convinced the table would be gone, so I tried to forget about it.

That evening the table kept popping in to my head. What can I say, I have an obsessive personality (don’t worry, I’m not a stalker or anything – I find something I love and I give it my undivided attention. Okay, maybe that sounds a little stalker-ish. I swear, I’m not a stalker!). Anyway, I was mostly mad at myself for not even asking about the table. I tried to push the table out of my head, but it there was no use.

Then a few days later I was back on Kijiji looking for upcoming estate and vintage sales (I just love them!). And there was a 2nd sale at the same location! And the table was in one of the photos! I basically died. I couldn’t wait until the next sale day and couldn’t bare the thought of losing the table a second time, so I immediately emailed the seller telling him how much I loved the table and how much I wanted it. It turned out that he remembered me from the first sale and was happy to hear from me. And was willing to sell me the table.

I guess the rest is pretty self-explanatory, I bought the table. But it was truly meant to be mine. This thing is absolutely amazing. And beautiful. And the funny part is, when I went to pick up the table, the seller told me he had gotten quite a few inquiries about it at his garage sale, but hadn’t felt quite right about any of the potential buyers, so hadn’t been willing to budge on the asking price. It sounds a little strange, but it was a very special piece to him and his wife (and yes, there were some tears seeing it go).

Canada Furniure Manufacturers Limited Vanity Table
Before I bought the table, I did as much research as I could. The table was made in Ontario, Canada in 1909 by Canada Furniture Manufacturers Limited. The most special part of the table is that it still has the original maker’s mark and thankfully has not seen too much action in the last 100+ years – it still has all of the original hardware, even the original wooden casters, and only the table top has a newer coat of varathane (pre-1993). The rest of the piece has not been re-finished and has the original stain. I want to express my gratitude for all the previous owners of this table and the respect and integrity they had for preserving the piece! I did a bit more research in to the piece and found out it is apparently from the Stickley Era, which was the arts & crafts/mission style furniture era. That definitely explains why I love this piece – arts & crafts style homes are my absolute favorite. Canada Furniture Manufacturers Limited was an amalgamation of quite a few Canadian furniture companies operated out of Ontario (with showrooms in Toronto, Ontario and Winnipeg, Manitoba) and controlled by the Siemons Brothers. It seems that around the turn of the century, a lot of smaller furniture manufacturers were popping up in Ontario and most were bought up by Canada Furniture Manufacturers Limited a few years after they’d started, leaving CFM basically the only company mass producing furniture at that time. By about 1930 most of the furniture factories went kaput due to the depression.

The seller directed me to a furniture catalog at the public library from 1908 that shows some of the furniture manufactured by this company around the time this table was being manufactured. I was also able to find a bit of research on the factories themselves. I believe that my table was actually built in the Wiarton Siemons Brother Table Factory which opened in 1901 (and was destroyed in a fire in 1912), but of course I’m not entirely sure. The handwritten label on my table has a factory code on it, but I was unable to find reference of this anywhere. The Wiarton factory was built right across the street from a lumber mill, so sourcing the wood for the furniture was simple. Here’s a illustration I was able to find of the factory:


Photo sourced from Postcards From The Bay (if you click on the photo it will take you directly to the place I sourced most of this information – it’s a really interesting read)

So yeah, if you can’t tell, I’m really pleased with my new (very old) table and all of the history attached to it. It is truly a special piece to me. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where our things come from. I’ve really been making an effort to put more thought in to purchases in the hopes that I can pare back on what I bring in to my home, as well as only bring in items that are truly special. Plus, I’m a huge sucker for a great story.

Antique Vignette

Great place to display my oddities too (I collect vintage family portraits of random people who have no relation to me)!

One Year

It was exactly one year ago, June 19, 2014, that I clicked publish on my first Carrots & Raspberries post. I don’t know if I ever believed I would stick with it for an entire year, but here we are!

Sometimes it is a bit difficult to put yourself out there and try new things, especially when you’re a bit of a recluse. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but I’m an introvert, with a small group of close friends, and I like to stick to doing what I’m comfortable with, mostly in the privacy of my house in my stretchy clothes, surrounded by my cats.

In the past year, I’ve really stepped out of the box and basically put myself out there for the world to see. I was scared shitless, I’m not going to lie. I like my little world where I knit and I cook and I tend to my garden and I meet a friend every now and then for a tea. And no one else really knows about it – I just do my thing and that’s quite alright.

I’d waffled about starting a blog for a few years. I love reading other blogs and I even have a few blogs that I check several times a week, and I’ve always thought I’d like to try it, but I just wasn’t too sure what to write about. On top of that, I was afraid to put myself out there. It’s not that I can’t take criticism or that I care much about what other people think – it’s that I like to be a private person. Then one day about a year ago, I decided that I was tired of coming up with excuses not to start writing, so I went ahead and started writing about one of my main passions in life: gardening.

One main reason why I wanted to start writing was to challenge myself. I wasn’t looking for a way to bring in extra income and the goal wasn’t to see how many followers I could get. I just wanted to write about things that I loved.

I hit publish on my first blog post a year ago, then I published a few more posts, and then I decided to share the blog on my personal Facebook page. I wasn’t really expecting much. I mostly received comments from friends and family members on how much they liked my blog, but I kind of felt like they may be saying those things because they were my friends and family and they were obligated to say nice things (I’m not saying this to be negative at all, I was very pleased at the initial response. And there were no haters, so that had to be a good thing, right?). But then I started to get some positive comments from people I was not expecting, like people I hadn’t seen for years, and that was a shock! A little weird for me, but in a good way. Then comments from people I’d never met before, and that was unbelievable!

I think the hardest part of putting yourself out there is figuring out how to accept the positive feedback. My instinct is to turn red, say something awkward, and then change the subject. Learning to smile and say thank you has been a huge mountain for me to climb. Just accept it, Megan!

The point of this post is not for my readers to comment here and give me praise. It is to say that if you really want to do something, just do it. I’ve learned a ton from this blog. I learned that I really like writing about things that I am passionate about. It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert on any particular topic – if you’re passionate about something and love talking about it, do it!

The thing I didn’t expect when I started blogging is how much of a community I could become involved in. I’ve gained a few internet friends who share common interests, exchanged emails with people in the gardening community I really admire, and have even been asked to contribute to other people’s blogs. I’m trying to be humble about some of these things, but I am also very excited, so hopefully this doesn’t come off as smug.

Even though my blog has evolved a bit since I started writing it (the original plan was to focus primarily on small space gardening, but I do write about cooking, weaving, knitting, sewing, cats, and whatever else fancies me), I feel good about where things have ended up. I’m really looking forward to the next year on Carrots & Raspberries.

And lastly, thank you to all of my readers, you are the milk to my cereal.

Vintage Little Red Express Wagon

The little wagon that belonged to me and my siblings growing up – I use it for plants now!

Cedarbrae Community Garden, 2015

For another year, I’ve decided to rent a plot at our local community garden. I wrote about growing there last year, but I didn’t mention it too much after that until the Fall. I like having a garden there, it gives me a lot more growing space for vegetables, and it is also nice to get out in to the neighborhood. My hope is that I’ll be a bit more diligent about documenting the progress with this garden, but then again, I’m famous for neglecting my community garden plot, so who knows. I do have the best intentions though!

Cedarbrae Community Garden

There are a few things I need to keep in mind when planning this garden. The first is that whatever I’m growing needs to be somewhat low maintenance, so if I’m being neglectful (out of sight, out of mind) or if we end up going out of town for a few days, this garden will be pretty self-sufficient. The other thing that I need to keep in mind is that it is a garden out in the open, with no signage, and pretty minimal monitoring, and things could get stolen or damaged. I’ve been pretty lucky with my plot as it is kind of plunked in the middle of the garden and the worst thing that has happened has been a few pulled out and abandoned carrots, but I have witnessed other nearby plots almost completely wiped out (darn hooligans!), so I always keep this thought tucked away when I plan this garden.


Clearly I need to do a little bit of weeding, but I prefer to wait until everything has come up – some beans are still breaking through the soil right now, so the weeding will have to wait another week.

I decided to continue with the tradition of keeping it simple, and planted kale, bush beans, cow peas, fava beans, and a couple of zucchini plants that wouldn’t fit in at home. But, I also decided to throw in a few marigolds and zinnias that I started from seed indoors. Most of the gardeners here grow flowers alongside their vegetables, and I’m always admiring it – plus, I do this is my garden at home, so I went ahead and did the same thing here.

Baby Kale

Baby kales. And yes, I was overcrowd my plants, but they don’t seem to mind in my climate.

I also want to mention that everything I grow in this space I’ve started by seed – most (with the exception of the flowers and squash), were sown directly in to the plot about the last week of May. Mainly, I do this because I don’t want to spend a lot of additional money on this garden. With having to pay plot fees, and with the chance of things getting stolen or vandalized, the thought of spending more money on this garden is just not very practical for me. My garden at home is an entirely different story though!

That’s about all that’s going on in the community garden right now. I’m hoping the next update will be in a month or so when everything has had a bit more time to flourish.