Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Signs of Spring - In my Garden

Signs of spring in my garden ... in pictures

Garlic Mustard









Saturday, April 27, 2013

Losing the Grass Battle

For years we have been struggling with growing a nice lawn in our yard.  Between the of lack of rain and water bans in our town, trying to reduce the amount of water we consume; grubs, ants, weeds and moss as well as the city by-law ban on using any pesticdes, etc. our lawn looks pretty sad.   

We've tried re-seeding every year, however there are certain spots that grass just won't grow.  We even tried laying sod, but still there are spots where it just won't grow.

In my search for a lawn alternative a friend suggested clover and thought I'd give it a try.   In our front yard there is quite a large patch of clover and it has been getting bigger each year.  Our local Home Hardware carries clover and I made a mix of both clover and grass seed and overseeded our lawn.   It hasn't taken long for the clover to sprout and our cool and rainy April has sure helped.
Clover seed

Clover sprouting
White Clover is a great grass alternative for those looking for an eco-friendly lawn.   Clover is a perennial plant that tolerates dry soils, but also thrives during wet and cool weather.  It requires less watering than grass and does not need to be fertilized as it has the ability to use atmospheric nitrogen and it improves the quality of your soil without aeration.   You don't need to mow a white clover lawn as it is a low growing plant.  It is disease free and almost pest free too.  It will also attract good insects such as honeybees and other insects that prey on pesky garden bugs.  And....... it stays green, even in dry conditions.

Some like to mow it to remove the white flower when in bloom, but keep in mind that clover will reseed itself through it's flower.  Cutting off the flower won't allow the clover to reseed and you will need to reseed manually.

Less mowing (if any)
Less watering
No fertilizer required
Disease free
Bug resistant
Low maintenance
Less work


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Signs of Spring

There were many signs of spring while out on a hike with a group of friends on the Bruce Trail this past weekend.  It was a beautiful day for being outdoors.   The air was cool and crisp, the sun was shining with many hints of warmer weather to come.

The ponds and streams were full and flowing, unlike other years where it has been so dry.  On some of the ponds there were Canada Geese and in one spot there were Turkey Vultures lurking above us. 

Our hike lasted about 2.5 hours with a stop for a picnic lunch and we covered about 8 km.

There was still snow in parts of the forest, where there is not much sun

Maple Sugar tapping
Trout Lilly

Wild leeks

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Green Time

There was an article recently in the Toronto Star Newspaper, entitled "Time to get back to the Green" by Paul Irish.

In it he states that results from a survey said Canadians are spending less time outdoors in parks and forests.  A 2013 Global green report also said that 90 % of the 4676 interviewed around the world said that forests/parks and gardens have a positive effect on the quality of life.  However, people from all over the world are spending less time outdoors, including children.  Backyards are being ignored too.

It's easy to see why less time is being spent out doors.  Have you driven through housing developments in the suburbs recently, where houses are built with only enough space to walk between and back yards are tiny and no room for a garden.  The houses are large.  In larger cities it's even more congested.  The stress of working longer hours and commuting has left little time to for much else.   It's also hard to compete where the lure of technology is inside homes, with TVs, computers, tablets,etc.   It's no wonder statistics say that today's youth are more stressed than ever, not to mention adults too. 

I was on a hike recently where two families joined the group with six children in tow.  The regular hikers were pleased to see so many children out.   But, each child carried with them a device of some sort.  All had cell phones and were talking/texting their friends, anxious to get back to them, or listening to their own music plugged into their phones, and asking when is this would be over. 

For me, being in outdoors - whether it be out on a hike, in my garden or going for a walk on my lunch hour is a great stress relief. 

Today was "Earth Day".  It was a sunny day, but still cool.  I couldn't wait to leave the office and get home and get some planting done; pansies in the front flower beds; spinach/radishes and arugula in my raised vegetable bed.

What did you do?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Things Learned During the Ice Storm

There are a few things I learned during our recent ice storm.  We were fortunate that it didn't last long and the ice started to melt after two days. It could have been a lot worse.   But we did loose power for  few hours and it was cold outside and we're lucky it wasn't out longer.   Fortunately the power came back on in the afternoon. 

 We learned weren't as prepared as we thought we were. 

  1. As it happened, our wood supply for our wood burning fireplace insert had almost been depleted and there was only enough wood left for few hours of heat and not enough to heat/cook a meal. 
  2. Our propane supply had also been depleted - so our BBQ didn't work either.  
  3. I couldn't find our flashlights - they hadn't been used in years.  
  4. Our battery run transistor radio had disappeared too.  
  5. Lamp oil was also depleted.  
It's when we need these things we realize how important they are.   The recent storm was a good reminder of what we need to do to be prepared with just the basics.  Just because it was spring didn't mean we were out of the woods as far as the cold was concerned. April can bring some strange weather in our area; freezing rain, snow, warm temperatures and just a few days ago within a couple of hours drive from us tornadoes. 

Here are a few more pictures of 2 days worth of freezing rain.  The buds on the trees survived.  
Last year this time we had a flash frost and it killed most of the blossoms on the fruit trees and there were few if any local apples last fall.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Baby Shower Fruit Salad

I recently hosted at baby shower at my home.   I saw this idea on Pinterest that thought I'd give it a try. 

A fruit salad.....not just any fruit salad but one themed specifically for a baby shower.

I used a watermelon as the bowl.  The watermelon was cut in the shape of a cradle.  The insides were scooped out with a melon baller.  I cut of a piece of the bottom of the watermelon so that it would lie in place on the platter without moving around.    Salad was made with fresh cantaloupe, red/green grapes, watermelon balls, pineapple and blackberries.   

A little baby face was carved out of the cantaloupe.  Eyes were made with a  red grape cut in half and the nose and ears were also from the cantaloupe.   I found a soother from the dollar store for added effect.  

Around the baby cradle was an assortment of cut up fresh fruit.

scooping inside of watermelon with melon baller
Cut off piece of watermelon bottom so that it would not slide off the platter

Friday, April 12, 2013

View from my Window

Southern Ontario is in the middle of an ice storm today.  School buses in our region have been cancelled for the 2nd day in a row.  Buses don't get cancelled very often and 2 days in a row is unusual.   The trees are weighing heavily due to the ice.   I was woken up early this morning, as our big Maple tree in our back yard, so heavily weighed with ice its branches resting on the roof was scraping the roof above me. 

Windows at the front of the house are ice coated and you can't see out.

Tree branches are breaking off with the weight of the ice, and chunks of ice are falling.   Fortunately we still have power (for now - but power is flickering and dimming often) and I am able to work from home.

It's cold out and I'm glad we have a wood burning insert in our fireplace, so if our power goes out we will still be warm and with the heat of the insert can boil water.

Situations like these are a good reminder that everyone should have an emergency preparedness plan in place.   Are you prepared if your electricity should be out for several hours or day or more?
Our region has an emergency plan and have posted a guide for families.   Its a great guide to get you thinking and building your own plan.

View from my front window


Flower box at my front window

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Learning to use a Pressure Cooker

I'm always looking for ways to save money.    Over the years, I've learned to pare down the unnecessaries, cut out services we don't need, cook from scratch, clip coupons, cut utility consumption, DIY, etc. etc (see my other posts on frugal and sustainable living tips).... And still I continue to look for more ways to do things better, cut costs and save more.

I often choose tougher cuts of meat, or beans to cook to save money, however these take a much longer cooking time, hence more time on stove/crock pot, which uses up more electricity.... so is there really any savings in end?

Pressure cookers are back in style again and I've resisted getting one because out of fear I guess.  Hearing stories of the tops blowing off as a kid.  Today's pressure cookers are safer than they used to be.   So I recently broke down and got one, on sale - half price, plus a 20% of coupon.  And I'm happy that I did. 

The first recipe I tried came from a recent edition of the Canadian Chatelaine Magazine - called "Faux-Tisserie Chicken" with dilly potatoes.   A whole 5 lb chicken and potatoes took 20 minutes in the pressure cooker,  was easy to make and delicious.

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