Garden Gnome Ecosystems

Creating a sustainable system for gnomes to play in.


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Mountain Farming

A couple months ago, when I could hardly stand to think about another 5 years of university, a job posting showed up on my Facebook newsfeed. And on a whim, I applied, thinking that this job might be a great way to find out if the farmer’s life is a life for me.

Next thing I knew I was on a train. I slept through the trek across the prairies, and woke up just in time to watch all the trees go by on our way through the mountains.

Jasper train station

I got to stretch my legs in Jasper. Nice, after 15 hours on a train.

fishing

The train stopped in the middle of the bridge over lake something-something (I was sleepy, and it was hard to remember all the lakes we passed). The guy fishing on a board must have had incredible balance.

Now I’ve been in the mountains for a week, living in a renovated bus and pulling weeds.

In the evenings and early mornings I eat wild strawberries and try to get to know the wildflowers.

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This morning I helped two spiders out of the bus – one before breakfast, one right after. At night I listen to the wind tear around the stove-pipe and rattle the doors.

Every morning I eat a big bowl of oats with nuts and seeds and fresh strawberries on top. And then I pull weeds, and top-dress plants, and pick strawberries, and pick rocks. I’m not sure yet, but the farmer’s life might be the life for me.


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Blue-eyed Grass, and being on the right path

When I first moved into the house I am in now, I found blue-eyed grass, and I knew right then that I was exactly where I needed to be.

This spring and start of summer has been a whirlwind of change. I gave up the job that I loved (and still love) working in communal community gardens in an (almost) food-desert, to go work on a little organic vegetable farm in BC for the summer. I joined the Co-op program at my university, so I’m in and out of the job I’m at before I head out to BC, interviewing and interviewing and interviewing for positions in the fall. I’m neglecting the blog. Sorry, loyal readers.

blue-eyed grass at university

Yesterday I found this in a neglected bed at the university, right after my first interview for a Co-op placement. Today, I met one of the potential replacements for the position that I am vacating. She’d met my mom at a workshop a few month before, and chatted with her about healing gardens. My mom had suggested I get in touch with her about perhaps building one where I work now, in the position she’s being considered for. She’s super passionate about gardens and youth. I’m sure the other potential candidate is just as great.

All this time I’d been wondering what possessed me to up and accept a position a thousand miles away, when I had a dream job here. Now I know. There’s great energy in the air, and it’s my time to fly. There are others to do the work, in their own way, with their own gifts.

I’ll get back to pictures of plants and recipes soon.


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Life Unfurled

It’s funny how our lives are reflected in nature sometimes. I’ve been tired, cranky and withdrawn for a few months. As much as I kept hoping that the ferns would pop up, they didn’t come. The little bumps that I knew were fronds in the making refused to unfurl. Yesterday I finished all my coursework for the year, and switched from school me to garden planning me. And there they were.

There were a few other plants coming into bloom too, so you get pictures of those too. Except rhubarb. It doesn’t bloom. So you get pictures of crinkly leaves and grass that needs to be pulled.

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I’m ready for a more open season in life.


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Grow Write Guild Post #4: Happy Mother’s Day to My Mentors

blue-eyed grass

Dear Grannie,

You always had something from the garden on the table when we came out to the farm for the weekend, and you always had some work for us in the gardens. It was you who paid me a measly $3 dollars/hour to pull weeds and harvest seeds in your native species plots (I was six, that was a fortune, and quite frankly, I’m sure I didn’t deserve a penny more, given the pace I worked at).

It now comes naturally to name and adore a wildflower or a species of grass discovered along a gravel road or in the prairie plantings at the museum and the university. Now I find myself enraptured in work when it involves growing things, and madly plotting a business that just might help to change the world, one garden at a time.

Of course, I can’t ignore the influence of my mom – but it was you who raised her to take so much joy in plants and nature.  It was you who raised her to pass that on to me. After a few years of city life she moved us out to a little town, because she believed that every child should grow up on a farm. She dragged me out to the garden to pull weeds for free all summer long.  She set me up with a view of the horizon, a scrub brush, a mountain of carrots, a few cardboard boxes, and a couple bales of peat on a late summer day and then drove off, confident that I could pack all the carrots for the winter.

She wandered the prairie with me, pointing out wildflowers and sedges.

She fed us pigweed, stinging nettles, and lamb’s quarters.

“It’s yummy, kids. Try some.”

*black stares*

“Hide it in a sandwich, like this.”

She took me out to watch the creek flood in the spring, and we hopped from crossing to crossing, driving through the water where it was spilling over the road. At one crossing we watched a couple quads drive through – well, one made it, and the other stalled when his air-intake filled with water, halfway across. At the last crossing we came to the water looked a little high, but we decided to give it a go. In we went in her little truck. The water kept rising, but stopping to put the truck in reverse wasn’t really an option. We would surely be swept off the slick concrete if we stopped. We watched in horror as the water started to roll up over the hood. For a few seconds, the truck seemed to slip downstream a little, and we wondered if we were about to go swimming.  Just in time, the tires gripped, the hood emerged from the creek again, and we drove out laughing and hoping we hadn’t hurt the truck.  We did.  It never ran quite right after that trip.

It still is my mother who receives my texts and phone calls when I can’t remember the name of a plant.

It was a grounding in growing plants that prepared me for a video, and then a workshop, and then a community garden job where my faith in humanity was restored; where I learned that you can change the world in a garden.  Because of you, I’m going to grow a garden.  Because of you, I’m going to do everything in my power to make edible landscapes a part of our cities, a staple in our backyards, and a part of a movement to change the world.
blue-eyed grass blossom

I found blue-eyed grass in my backyard (Sisyrinchium montanum) two years ago.  I never would have recognized it without the raising you both gave me. Such a tiny, discrete flower could not have brought me such peace. At that moment, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be: in a weedy back-yard desperately in need of some love.

Your garden-loving granddaughter,

Ruth


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Saturday Inspiration: Cargo bikes, Atwood & Gibson, and urban fruit foraging

Things that made me happy this week:

From the internets:

From the garden:

pea sprouts


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Saturday Inspiration: Eating for a dollar a day and naked gardening

These aren’t quite as inspiring as last week’s links – but worthy reading none the less.

A terrific post on how impossible it is to eat a varied and healthy diet for less than £1 per day (so, about $1.60 here) http://aethelreadtheunread.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/from-the-bbc-how-not-to-eat-healthily-for-1-a-day/

Today is World Naked Gardening Day! If Regina wasn’t still cold and snowy, I might consider partaking. (NSFW) http://www.wngd.org/


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Scenes from the First of May

We turned a page in the SCIC Global Action Calendar.

How ’bout a meat free Mother’s Day feast?

Spring arrived better than a month ago, right?

 

It snowed again yesterday.

At least there are signs of life inside:

The first seedlings for the windowsills. It’s a thicket of lettuce sprouts! Surely I’m not the only one who can’t be bothered to place every little lettuce seed into a perfectly spaced formation…

The first seedling for the garden! It’s a baby Roma!

Also, new critters arrived today.

Here is the worm house, awaiting their arrival:

I shredded the first 5 newspapers by hand.  And then my husband bought me a shredder.

The latest addition to our family of critters has arrived. They were wiggling away from the sun, sorry about the terrible photo.

Hopefully they survive…


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Saturday Inspiration: Apples, land rights, and food forests

A few links for an inspiring, delightful Saturday afternoon.  The sun is out here – so I’ll be posting this, and throwing open the windows to let in a little sunshine while I whittle away at spring cleaning/planting/planning.  Enjoy!

I’m going to go start schemeing about helping urban food production take off right here in Regina.  Maybe I’ll even figure out how to make a living growing food and changing the world.


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Grow Write Guild Post #3: My garden, right now

This prompt cracked me up. First, the title – “Ch-ch-changes” – had me scooting on over to YouTube to put on some mood music.

Describe your garden right now. Well, 3 feet of snow, except just outside the back door where we shoveled a couple times last year. There it’s only about 2 feet deep, and packed down.

The whole garden: white, with boot prints (or boot holes?), because I gave up, and finally took the garbage out yesterday, and while I was doing that, I decided to take an adventure walk over to the fence, to see how deep the snow was. Up to my knees in the shallow spots, it is.

the stick and red spot are little bits of compost escaping from the pile beside my back door…also, bunny tracks!

Depressing, cold, and seemingly never changing. “Ch-ch-changes” in my garden – I’m not so sure.  But at least I’m going to be grooving to David Bowie all afternoon.


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Grow Write Guild Post #2: Dream Garden

Another Grow Write Guild post, as prompted by Gayla over at You Grow Girl.

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This one’s a challenge for me.  A professor recently recommended that I read The Other Side of Eden by Hugh Brody. Just previous to that, I stumbled on Toby Hemenway’s video, discussing the cultural impacts of agriculture.

Both have left me reeling.  I want, so desperately, to have a piece of land to call my home, my own.  I want control.  

These works have challenged me to look at the world as something that, perhaps, no one can own.  Damn it, I don’t want to share.  I want a room all to myself at home.  I want a garden all to myself in my front yard.  I’ll welcome visitors, but I want to the final say as to which plants go where.

But more than that, I want a society in which people are treated in an equitable manner.  I want respect for all nations, all genders, all ages.  I want to be part of the change.  And that might mean giving up the dream of owning land.  Owning the land means being able to sell it.  Who are we to trade in a resource that will last for all eternity?  What does this belief, that we can own the land, do for our interactions with other human beings?  With our partners, friends, and enemies?  As I pose these questions, I realize that I’ll probably never entirely know the answers.  If this intrigues you, go read Brody.  Watch Hemenway.  Enlighten me. I don’t know where to go from here.  I have so many questions.  More, every day.  I haven’t even started seeds, because I can’t decide if I want to grow on the sort-of-rented-but-not-really land I live on.  I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. (Disclaimer, I never made it through all of Hemenway’s video – he might have the answers, if I watched ’til the end).

‘Bout this dream garden though.

If, in fact, owning land can be part of an equitable society – even if it can’t, I suppose – I want a place to be, with a lush green canopy above a hammock.  I want a tiny back deck, right outside my kitchen door, with pots of herbs and rain barrels filling the space. I want a garden that pushes the limits of the climate, and welcomes nature in.  I want to grow hardy kiwi.  I want a garden that produces most of the food that my family needs.  I want a garden with an overwhelming harvest that demands I ask neighbours for help in processing it all.  I want a garden full of art.  Most of all, I want a garden that welcomes and strengthens the community, while providing a (very necessary) sanctuary for me.  It’s about nature, the planet, and the environment, yes.  But more than that, it’s about the people.

It should feel something like the picture at the top. Vivid, dense, and exploding with life.

It should be all the pictures and articles and learning I’ve collected here, somehow crafted into something whole.