Sunday, 21 September 2008

Digging New Ground

We finally had a wonderful stretch of sunny dry weather. The summer company is gone and plant sales at the farmers market are done till next spring. Time for some serious land work.

What this land wants to do is grow coniferous forest. Anything else is a struggle. You can take any young tree, dig it up and transplant it, and it will say "Oh, you want me here? No problem!".
The trees near the old house in the picture above were not there when we bought the place in 1970. The 10 acre (4 hectare) plot had been a hayfield, but was too rocky to be productive farmland. We were told so honestly. We had no ambition to farm, just to garden. You can see the tall grass, weeds and above all bracken fern that covers the ground before we start digging.

Originally the vegetable patch was an open space in front of the house. Deer might wander through and take a nibble occasionally, but it was no big deal. Somewhere in the early nineties the deer population exploded. It became necessary to build fences. Son Alex did a heroic job of building fences with young trees from the land. Cut tree, strip off branches, drag it over, dig the hole, all by hand. It was his summer job while he was in high school. Alas, an untreated pole will eventually rot. Last spring we bit the bullet and actually paid someone to come over with a machine and put treated fence posts into the rocky ground. Chris did the job of extending the fence upwards. Deer can JUMP.

In the process the garden space was enlarged. Black plastic was put over a strip of the extension. This week I finally got around to start digging the new stretch. We're talking back-breaking labour here. Stick fork in, pull up bracken root, remove rocks, repeat...

The picture above shows the junk that comes out of the ground. For a raised bed of approximately 5 by 7 feet I removed five, yes five, of those five-gallon pails full of bracken roots and 4 pails of rocks of various sizes. Some were big like this one, though I have dug out bigger ones in the past.

It took more than a day of work, but here is the result: a raised bed, double-dug, enriched with dolomite lime and composted manure. A worthy home for soon-to-be-planted garlic. The area surrounding the bed is covered first with flattened cardboard and then with cut grass/bracken etc. I used to use landscape fabric to keep down the weeds but stuff always ends up growing through it and then you have to remove this tangled mess. Cardboard or newpaper just dissolves into organic matter. Thanks to Mike Groarty's terrific newsletter for that tip.

There is even a creative use for all those rocks. The big pots that people gave me at the market this year are held in place by the rocks that came out. The edge will bloom with marigolds and nasturtiums next year. I can hardly wait!

Friday, 19 September 2008

A wildlife calling card

Many years ago, on our very first trip to Banff, I barely dared to leave main street for fear of running into a bear.
If someone had told me back then that I would comfortably live with bears in the backyard I would never have believed it.

I am still chicken about going into the mountains to pick berries or mushrooms, unless there is a small group. Every dark tree stump looks bear-shaped. This is totally irrational, since my chance of running into one is just as great right here at home, especially at this time of year.
The apples are almost ripe. Judging by the appearance of this "calling card", as the old timers so delicately put it, the bears are not waiting around for perfection. This one is right by the side of the driveway. Piles like this get put on the compost heap. Just so I can smile smugly and say: "The secret to a good garden is bear manure".
There have been quite a few bears in neighbourhoods at the edge of the village too. They have become like the kids at Halloween: don't waste your time on the outlying districts, go where the goodies, in this case fruit trees, are most dense!
We usually just see the evidence. Knocked-over garbage containers, not that we leave anything remotely edible in the garbage. A garbage can lid with teethmarks in it. Apples gone from a volunteer apple tree, and so on. Occasionally we see one for real. They are awesome to watch.
They have this wonderful fluid bouncing way of walking. Yes, I do shake in my boots when I meet one away from a car. The funny thing is that I feel quite safe here on my own acreage. Almost as if the land itself is protecting me.
Once we had a young bear, probably in his first year on his own, systematically decimating the chickens. He'd eat one or two a day. We finally had him trapped and removed.
That was a few years ago, the provincial budget for wildlife management has been gutted since then, all in the name of fundamentalist capitalism. But that is another topic.
But before he was trapped, I noticed him climbing into the chicken run while I was working in the vegetable garden. Filled with righteous indignation and with manure fork in hand I actually
ran out there screaming and frightened him away! Once he was gone I started shaking.
At least a bear will actually eat a chicken before killing another one. Domestic dogs will just go nuts and kill and/or wound the whole flock. They are worse than any wildlife.
Human/bear encounters seem to be increasing, and old remedies to keep them away don't work so well anymore. One of my old timer friends explained it like this: "In the old days, only prospectors and hunters went into the mountains. They carried GUNS. These days everybody and his brother is going to the wilderness for recreation. They carry LUNCH. Animals are not stupid."

A private note to my sister, who stays in the motor home when she comes to visit from Holland.
Marg, de drol ligt op de voorgrond van deze foto. Hoe vind je dat, precies op de weg naar huis! Kan je mooi op het werk laten zien. Wie durft er tegen de beer?

Friday, 5 September 2008

Self portrait on a good hair day

I am not photogenic. I have never been a great beauty and that's alright. My only ambition is to not look outright repulsive and more or less like a person you might enjoy having a coffee with. The one I have been using for profiles, in the blue dress with the Echinacea in the background is a favorite. But it is three years old. This one was taken on August 23 2008, at the leanest point in the annual fat cycle with the summer glow still intact. No hair dye, no make-up, just summer and Lluvia skin care.

I like it because it feels like me and in all modesty, it is not bad for an old dame of 65.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The joy of Reflexology

After 18 years of practice I am falling deeply in love with the profound and humble art of Reflexology all over again.

I have done booths at farmers' markets for years, with health products and bedding plants.
But this summer I have taken a zero gravity recliner to the market and offered Reflexology demonstrations.

It has been a hit, and several people swear they will now look up a reflexologist in the place where they live!

What really brought the visitors to the booth was the sandwich board with the huge laminated map of the feet on it.

If nobody "bites", try inviting a friend to have a free treatment to prime the pump so to speak. It works. Once passers-by see a relaxed person in the chair getting done they want to try it too.

I started charging $10 for 15 minutes, but changed to a dollar a minute. Apparently it is the going rate.

You lose a lot of time with the format, with people getting settled in, getting their feet clean etc.
I use diluted witch hazel tincture and paper towels to wipe sandaled summer feet, and baby wipes on my own hands followed by witch hazel in between clients.

The last time the weather was nice enough for this I had 3 people in a row sitting down in pain and get up feeling great.

The most memorable was a young woman with 4 small children, who was in excruciating pain after throwing out (her term) her back. She had no idea how she would drive back home to Calgary, a challenging 8 hour trip.
Contrary to my usual "work the whole" method, we went straight to the spine reflex. The kids were restless, but we managed to put in a good 20 minutes. When she got up she was pain free. I ran into her a few hours later and she was still beaming.

Three cheers for reflexology!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Convocation in the Fog

Happy New Year everyone! This time of year always feels like the true start of the new work cycle. Summer is time out of time, whether you are involved with school or not. September has that fresh Monday morning feel of new beginnings about it. Is that my Venus in Virgo showing?
Summer has been too busy with visiting relatives, farmers' markets and gardens to do any blogging, so it is high time to fill in some gaps. Just because. Not that the world can't do without it.
As mentioned in the last post, spring was icy and the whole growing season was at least 4 weeks behind. Early June saw us at the coast to attend the graduation ceremonies at Simon Fraser University, where our daughter was honoured for her PhD. The convocation took place in the Mall, not a hall. An open space between two buildings, roofed over but otherwise open to the elements. On the big day the elements were freezing cold with occasional drizzle and FOG.
Our girl likes her privacy so there will no bragging photoos of her. But here is a picture of the procession of PhDs, and that is how foggy it was.