Category Archives: Cabin

The Shire

Jute String Theory

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The String Experiment

After adding yet another five tomato plants to the greenhouse – we moved them around and reset up the irrigation system to handle the additional plants.  The indeterminate tomatoes in large pots were moved to the ground so they have the most space to grow vertically.  Vertical is the theme of the greenhouse.  After watching a number of YouTube videos of other greenhouse enthusiasts I decided to give the string theory a try.  We placed three wires across the greenhouse.  Two along the sides and one in the centre.  Then for all the plants that need support and will grow up a string (cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes) we attached jute strings that either connect with the wires or wrap directly above on the rafters.

 

The cucumbers seem quite happy to have the support of the string and the space to stretch out.  The melons aren’t all large enough to even reach the string but in time hopefully they too will grasp the jute and head upward.

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Happy Yellow Flowers

The tomatoes will apparently need coaxing to use the string.  I almost feel like I can watch the tomatoes grow in the greenhouse.  They have been very happy with the heat and the drip irrigation system.  The top of the soil looks dry but the water has been flowing out the bottom of the pots when watered.  The plants all look so healthy and happy so I am presuming that the roots are having to find the water deep in the pots which is making them that much healthier.  They seem to all be standing a little bit taller with the string supports.

Happy healthy plants make for a happy healthy gardener.  Another little experiment I am trying is to place milk jugs full of water in the greenhouse on the north side.  The theory is that they heat up during the day and release that heat at night which will help keep the ambient temperature a bit warmer on our cool Alberta evenings.  Though I read that I should paint them black – I went with motivational statements instead which make me happy regardless of whether or not they are doing their job.

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Gardening is a series of learning moments.  This jute string theory is yet another opportunity for me to grow.

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A Week in the Greenhouse

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Everyone has grown

After only one week the plants have all clearly grown and settled in to their new home.  All week I was worried about how they were doing.  We had a few very sunny days so I knew they were feeling the extreme warmth of the greenhouse effect.  I was also concerned about whether or not we were watering them appropriately with our irrigation system.  Too much and they would all be over watered or too little and they would be completely parched in that heat.

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Healthy Happy & Green

One tomato plant didn’t make it through the week but most had nearly doubled in size and are looking vibrant and healthy.  I am excited as all but the basil has been grown from seeds.  It makes the successes that much more satisfying but it also makes the losses that much more disappointing.

The seedlings that were small to start with – were my biggest concern but they seem to have weathered the change and are all showing signs of growth and happiness.  My melons, peppers and eggplants all seem much happier in this warmer environment.

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There is hope for the little guys.

I planted a tomato outside the greenhouse and though he was doing ok – I can really see that the greenhouse experience is successful at providing a better environment for growing tomatoes in Alberta.

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The Greenhouse Experience

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The plants settle in to the Greenhouse

Today was a busy day of planting.  We brought up a huge bag of self-serve compost and nine and a half bags of soil as well as some vermiculite to lighten the soil mix.  We used it all and still need to fill a few large fabric bags.  I also planted some corn, cucumbers, scallopini and tomatoes in the garden today.  All the bending, shovelling, reaching, dragging, and walking – was followed with a few advils and some quiet time blogging! I am going to be sore tomorrow!  Gardening is lovely but these annual planting days are absolutely exhausting.

The plants which were grown from seeds made the trip up to the cabin Friday night. The car was so full of soil and plants that we had to leave the cat at home this weekend.

The seedlings spent their first night in the greenhouse and then were potted in a variety of pots including fabric, plastic, and fibre.  It is a year of experimentation.  It will be interesting to see which pots, which tomatoes, which cucumbers, and which peppers we prefer – or at least which ones are successful.

 

After all the planting was completed the irrigation system was set up.  We went for a drip irrigation set up and we are experimenting with two ten minute sessions per day to start.  I have read that as the plants increase in size we may have to double that timeline.  It can get quite hot in the greenhouse.  We have seen the thermostat up to 50c but some days it is more in the 30c range.  It is hard to say what the right amount of water will be when we are only here on weekends (and the occasional mid-week visit).

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The steady flow of water

The greenhouse experience will be a season of learning.  So far we are really excited to see how this experience goes for us.  The optimism is palatable.

 

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The greenhouse awaits

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Crab apple blossoms signify that Spring is officially here

Last fall we had a fully built greenhouse delivered to our property but then the snow came and so it sat and patiently waited all winter.  Spring is here and we cut out the lawn, and pulled the greenhouse into some trenches that we dug.  Now all nestled into its new home we had to install the floor, shelves and next the drip irrigation system.

The floor is dirt covered with garden fabric and then patio stones and pea gravel.  It has the quaint country greenhouse feel that I wanted.  I feel like I have travelled across the pond to a small town in the United Kingdom when I go into my little greenhouse oasis.

Inside we have installed some initial shelves that still need to be secured in to hold all the weight from the garden pots that will sit upon them.  We will also add some lower storage shelves and hooks to provide for winding twine or hanging small pots.  There is room for pots to sit on the floor or for us to even add a potting bench at a later date.

We still need to add the drip irrigation system…and of course all the plants!  I hope to grow primarily tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and herbs.  I will try some eggplants and melons as well.  I would love to try a cold box inside the greenhouse in the fall and see if I can grow some winter kale and other greens throughout our freezing cold winter.  The possibilities are endless!

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The door is open – awaiting the opportunity to host some plants!

As we continue to work away at setting up the greenhouse my seedlings await in small pots by a warm south window in my house – waiting to be transplanted into large growing pots and to make the journey to this warm and welcoming greenhouse.  The greenhouse awaits their visit.

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Travel back in time

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Imagine the cow, horse and chickens

On the way home from a difficult trip to visit my 89 year old father in the hospital, my son and I stopped on the side of the highway to appreciate these old buildings.  The wind was blowing and my hair swept across my face.  I imagined a couple living in this little house with their young children.  Mom would have stood where I stood – wind blowing her hair across her face.  She would have been out to collect the eggs from the chickens and to the milk the cow.  Had a coyote taken another chicken?

She couldn’t look for the chicken right now as the cow needed to be milked.  Two times a day she milked the cow.  It made it hard for her to ever go into town with her husband. The children weren’t old enough yet.

In the barn she maternally strokes the cow and then sits on her small stool and methodically collects the milk into a metal bucket.   Innately she appreciated the gift that the cow provided her and her family, but the drudgery of the milking and the cleaning of the straw was wearing her down.

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Home

The house is charming and small.  Today it is instagram worthy and quaint but it must have been “home” back in its day.  The fire would have warmed the house on those very cold bitter winter nights.  Smoke billowing up the small brick chimney.  Beds, a table and chairs and shelves covered with jars full of canned preserves to help get the family through the winter would have filled the space.

My son and I shared a few moments enjoying the history of this site.  We have driven by so many times but it is a different experience to get up close and personal with it.  We quietly took it all in.  I cleared the hair from my face and we headed back up to our car.  It was nice to travel back in time but I am happy to return home to my present time.

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Winter overstays welcome

Winter is like a relative who visits and stays too long.  At first there is the excitement of getting reacquainted.  All those great memories you shared over the years.  Cozy evenings by the fire, building snow forts, walking in the snow on a crisp sunny afternoon, and the glistening frost decorating the trees branches.  But winter just stays and stays for months at a time.  You wake up in the morning and look outside – and winter is still there.

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While spring is arriving south of the border or out on the West Coast, here in Alberta winter keeps hanging around.  Day in and day out winter continues to deliver snow covered fields, slippery sidewalks and cold that bites at your flesh when you dare to not cover up completely.

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Winter, Winter Go Away – come back another day…

Spring will come, followed by a short but wonderful summer and then a colourful quick fall – and then winter will be back again.  There are four seasons and yet winter monopolizes the year by staying for about six months.  November, December, January, February, March, April…and even into May.  Last year after following the rule of waiting until after the long weekend in May to plant seedlings – winter squashed my dreams of fresh cucumbers by killing my seedlings with frost. Over the winter months the garden is blanketed with snow but surely by May the growing season can begin?

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We Canadians love our four seasons, our winter sports, our white Christmases, our fashionable parkas and knitted sweaters –  but we also love to complain about how winter overstays its welcome.  Winter – take the subtle hint and pack up and leave.

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My Green Bucket

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What is your green bucket?

I have this green bucket.  Every time I look at my green bucket I feel happy.  I like the colour.  I like that it has a handle.  I like that you can put things in it.  I like that it is a working bucket.  If it gets dirty I feel satisfied.  When I use the green bucket I feel like I am a farmer.  I bought it at the local UFA farm store where the local farmers buy supplies like cattle tags, chicken wire, grain seed…

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Local UFA Store

I use my green bucket to carry: dirt, my produce, water, fish, leaves, weeds, and my hopes and dreams.  It is a fundamental gardening tool.  It helps me get close to nature.

My green bucket brings me joy.  It is a small little joyful green object that makes me happy.  What is your green bucket?

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The Excitement of a Good Plan

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Autumn

With another gardening season behind me I began to investigate other options to improve my garden experience.  A friend of mine who is a seasoned Alberta gardener purchased a greenhouse.  Her greenhouse was an inspiration.  The tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers filled the space like a tropical jungle.

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Autumn – The Golden Hour

Selecting a greenhouse for our place came with its challenges.  The winds can be as strong as 60-70kms an hour here.  Any greenhouse we choose has to be able to handle the strong winds and the cold winters.

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Winter arrives at the cabin.

We found a greenhouse that was made by a local farmer and delivered intact.  It was made to match our cabin and delivered – just as the snow was coming.  Around here the snow comes and goes and comes back again many times over our winter season.

Our little greenhouse has been moved into place.  We will build some shelves and ready it before the spring.  In the meantime I am excited about this new plan.  Yet again I am heading into the gardening season with a renewed sense of optimism.

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Good Morning Beautiful Little Greenhouse.

And now the planning begins…what will I try to grow in this wonderful little greenhouse?

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The Character Building Garden

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The garden struggles with a wet season.

I have had two growing seasons here at the cabin.  The first was too hot and the second was too wet.  The reality is that the growing season is short and harsh up here in the prairies of Canada.  I always wondered why farmers always seemed to be complaining about something – too much sun or not enough sun – too much rain or not enough rain.  But now I appreciate that growing season here is just “too much” of something season.

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The mushrooms took over the straw raised beds.

Some of the my plants didn’t survive at all.  I planted my cucumbers  and beans after the May long weekend only to have them destroyed by frost the first night.  My squash plants never really embraced the moist raised beds, maybe because they were sharing real estate with the mushrooms.  I did, however, have success with my peas, tomatoes, and a few other random vegetables like carrots, and peppers.  I was feeling pretty proud of my small crop until I stopped at a local farmers market and saw what was being sold by local farmers.  Their vegetables dwarfed mine.  I realized that I still have a lot to learn about gardening.  In any event we picked, cleaned and ate what we could from the garden.  Enjoying each fresh vegetable.  Carrots, peas, peppers, beets, and tomatoes:

We also experimented with growing potatoes in straw.  My husband called them his “poo potatoes” after watching the Martian where Matt Damon’s character grew his potato crop on Mars in his own poo.  Happy that ours were not true poo potatoes we enjoyed eating this crop.

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The film inspired potato crop.

Another year of gardening.  Another year of lessons learned. Another year of persistence, patience and tenacity.  Character building.

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The Calm of Isolation

DSC_0622Somedays it can actually be quite calming to have moments of serene isolation.  There is a quiet that comes with true isolation.  You can hear your own thoughts without distraction.

Our cabin is a place of isolation.  Most of the time.  It is funny that you can drive an hour and a half out of the city and buy 80 acres of land and still deal with neighbour dogs pooping on your front lawn.  sigh.

This last month after having the cabin for over a year – we discovered that the old antenna can be hooked up to the TV and now we can watch digital HD TV channels that are available over the airwaves.  This has had a huge impact on the isolation of the cabin when we can now watch the morning news and keep up with the same lousy television shows we have at home.  We don’t require total isolation from society (after all installing satellite internet was a critical upgrade we made) – but alas at some point we need to disconnect from it all and go back to the serenity of isolation.  At least turn off the TV and forget about the dog poop.

 

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