Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Turning green

If you opened this post thinking you were going to read about how lovely spring is on Vancouver Island, and how shoots are coming up in the garden and buds are coming out on the trees, you're going to be disappointed. Yes, some of that is happening, but what's really turning green is all the statuary in the garden: anything stationary in these parts is sporting a slick coating of slimy green.

Including Kim and I. We're still sick, and have hardly moved from the couch or the bed for the last week. Yes, we have seen the doctor, and yes, we are taking care of ourselves and each other.

But if you, too, are feeling under the weather, I have some advice for you. If you're wheezing and coughing and otherwise dealing with a respiratory condition, it's probably not a good idea to watch the movie Contagion.

What were we thinking?!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Looking on the bright side

Dark Side:
  • Kim and I are sick. Cough, cough.
  • It's raining. No, it's pouring.
Bright Side:
  • It's not snowing.

The rain overnight and through the morning has left the path by the pond flooded, and the chickens are wet and miserable, huddling in the coop or underneath the overhang, trying to keep dry.

But in the greenhouse my little seedlings are warm and dry, thanks to my trusty heat mats, and now they're well lit, too, thanks to my new acquisition: a grow light!

Grow lights are pretty expensive to buy, so I've resisted the temptation until now. February is the month for starting onion seedlings in these parts, but the sun isn't getting high enough in the sky yet to adequately light the greenhouse for the minimum six hours per day. So I decided to bite the bullet, and bought one light to see if it would make a difference.

Kim mounted it to scrap piece of cedar and then hung it on chains so I can adjust the height as the seedlings grow. And that's exactly what they're doing - my leek, shallot, and red, yellow and green onion seedlings are noticeably happier, and the hardy greens I seeded this week (mizuna and pac choi) came up in two days. And I'm happier, too: this grow light, pricey though it was, has made me feel like a grown-up gardener.

In contrast, the other thing that is making me smile in the greenhouse today cost all of $1.95. It's a cap that turns a soda bottle (or in our case, a spring water bottle) into a watering can, gentle enough for the most fragile of plants.

Seedlings need to stay moist, which means daily watering when they're on heat mats. Most gardening manuals suggest misting them, because anything much more forceful than that can break or dislodge a tender new shoot. But have you ever tried misting 8 or 10 trays of pots and soil blocks? It's a good way to invoke carpal tunnel syndrome. So the last time I was in the garden supply store I looked at fancy watering cans with special heads designed to shower tender plants like the most gentle of rain showers. The problem? The price tag: over $40. So I gave up that idea, went to the checkout to pay for the package of cream-coloured nasturtium seeds I hadn't been able to resist, and there in a bucket by the cash register were these caps. I bought two.

They work like a charm. If you just hold the bottle upside down the shower of water is so soft you can hardly feel it, and if you need a more substantial stream all you need to do is squeeze the bottle a little.

A product that works better and costs less. Definitely something for the bright side.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


It may seem a strange thing for a gardener to say, but I've always had a thing for decay. Don't get me wrong - lush green growth busting out with life is wonderful, too - but there's something about the colours and textures of something worn by life into a more subtle kind of beauty that has always had a great appeal for me.

Take this old washing machine under the trees near the house, for example. In the summer it looks like this.

As a backdrop to the colourful spill of nasturtiums it has its charms. But in the grey light of another rainy day, in its end-of-winter emptiness, it really comes into its own, with all the understated beauty of tarnish and lichen and rust.

Maybe I'm just feeling a little tarnished myself, and hoping to find the beauty in that.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Almost spring

Today it felt like spring. I know it's not really spring, and there are likely to be many more rainy, grey days and maybe even some snow. But for today I can imagine that there is nothing but balmy days and sunshine ahead.

There were the usual signs that winter is on its way out. Snowdrops and aconite are busting out all over...

...and when I cleaned up last year's sedum (aren't the dead flower heads gorgeous?)...

...there were lovely new buds waiting to be uncovered.

Here's another sign that spring is on its way: for the next few weeks the pond is in the fleeting state between covered with ice and snow, and filled with emerging grasses and water plants, which means there are newly visible treasures just waiting to be discovered.

Look closer: can you see? This is the secret gathering place for Frankie's balls that go bouncing off into the water.

In the greenhouse the first leek seedlings are making an appearance...

...and Kim has installed this year's new and improved shelves: cedar, and they smell heavenly.

All of us enjoyed the sunshine today - the chickens...

...and the guitar-playing frog.

But here's the most definitive sign that spring is near: the appearance of Miss Comfort Queen herself, finally emerging from her winter-long hibernation near the wood stove.

Happy Almost-Spring, everyone.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Our power went out this morning, which came as a real surprise. We live in the country, with all the power lines strung from pole to pole rather than being buried safely underground, so we often lose the power in the winter, what with wind storms, freezing rain, or the occasional dump of wet snow.

But just this week I emptied the jugs of drinking water on the counter that had been sitting there since the last wind storm, thinking we'd got off easily this winter: one very brief power outage, and we weren't even home when it happened. Somehow, semi-subconsciously, I thought the power failure season was done.

According to BC Hydro the reason for this outage was a tree down across a power line. I'm wondering if it wasn't BC Hydro itself that was responsible: they've been replacing a number of the power poles in the neighbourhood, and at the same time taking down a whole bunch of the trees that would be most likely to take out a line if they fell. Maybe a tree fell in a different direction than planned, or the crew lost control of a big branch as it came down.

In any case, we spent the morning in the dark. Kim went off to do some errands, so I was on my own - just me, my day's plans thrown awry because they all required electricity, looking for things to do in the murky half-light of a cloudy morning. I found a few jobs I could do (really exciting things like filing), but mostly what I discovered was the quiet.

No radio in the background. No hum of the fridge or whoosh of the dishwasher. No click of fingers on a computer keyboard. No phone ringing. Just deep, heavy, calming quiet. As I sorted through bills and bank statements I became aware of the sound of my own breathing and I was amazed at how noteworthy that was. My breath travels around with me every day - why don't I notice its sound more often? Then Frankie came into the room in search of a comfortable spot to snooze, and the sound of his snoring joined my breath in a companionable, peaceful counterpoint.

How did my life get so noisy? Noise was something I took for granted in my old life, but in my new, improved Mucky Boots life I thought I had a different kind of balance. But somehow the background chatter and hum has snuck up and overtaken the quiet again, so that the sound of my own breath comes as a surprise.

And maybe it's more than just noise. Maybe all that background electromagnetic radiation from computers and clock radios and wireless modems and cordless phones creates an inaudible sort of racket that I don't notice until the power goes out and everything goes dark. Which might help explain how simple and peaceful and calm things felt around here this morning.

I'm beginning to cast a new eye on the main breaker switch on our fuse box. Maybe some homemade power outages are in order.

Friday, February 3, 2012


We love having visitors at Mucky Boots, especially ones who bring their own toothbrush. Because we live an hour away from our friends in Victoria, and because that hour's drive involves the notorious Malahat Highway, our guests often feel they need to leave early in to make it back over the Malahat before it gets too dark (at least that's the reason they give us...) So a visit that's also a sleepover is lots of fun because nobody's watching the clock, or watching how many glasses of wine they've had - we're all just enjoying ourselves and each other's company.

Our friend Donna has come for a visit today, and aren't we tickled pink! For all kinds of reasons: Donna is a wonderful friend, has a laugh that fills the room and a heart that's even bigger, and she is a superb musician who always remembers to bring her viola. So this is what I got to listen to as I puttered in the kitchen making supper.

Lucky me!

We have a lovely guest room just for these occasions, with the world's second most comfortable bed, a lovely view of the garden, beautiful paintings on the wall. Fluffy towels in the bathroom.

Doesn't it make you want to come to stay?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

And the winners are...

...Rae from Blissful in the Boonies and Ann from Shim Farm. [You can thank the random number generator at!]

Please send me an email at with your mailing addresses, and the soap will be on its way to you lickety-split.

I wish there was enough soap for me to send some to everyone. I guess I better get making some more...
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