Thursday, January 19, 2017

A New Year and a Fresh Start

So things have been a little dormant around here for a while, sorry if it's a bit dusty!

Lots of changes too. When I last posted we were in a bit of limbo waiting to see what would happen when our building sold. It took a while to get it ready for sale so I managed to keep my gardens that summer but once it was on the market it sold in a matter of days and the new landlord took possession Nov 2014. Right away he wanted to put his mark on everything and it became a long negotiation to try to keep our apt. One of the first things I had to sacrifice was the backyard -within days of him taking possession I had to rip out the raised beds and clear the space so it could be used for the trucks and dumpsters. So the backyard farm ended in in hurry, but at least it was at the end of the season and I still had the roof!

For the next 2 years the construction and renovation of the lower units was an ongoing annoyance - the landlord initially wanted us to leave as well but we managed to convince him to extend our lease while he was busy with the other projects. During that time the Russian and I also decided to part ways- we'd been together 8 years and things had not been great for a while. The split was amicable and we are still very good friends. He moved out and I kept the apartment for the remainder of  the lease extension.That  extension lasted til this past summer and in Sept I finally accepted the inevitable and moved to a new apartment.

So the farm cats and I have a new apartment in a house, with both front and backyard space desperately in need of some love. Moving in Sept gave me little opportunity to do much outside other than survey and clean up a little but there's lots to do! The previous tenants were obviously not gardeners and it's pretty much a clean slate. There's a former garden in the front, sloping down to sidewalk; it's completely overgrown with weeds. There's also
a front "yard" that is currently packed dirt and some chunks of cement, and a small backyard with similar issues and a big patch of Japanese knotwood. The front faces north so not much light and the back is surround by trees and buildings, so even less. I suspect it will take me a full year to figure out if there enough sun at any time of year to grow much but I'm looking forward to the challenge!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Downside of Renting

We've had it pretty lucky at our current rental apt. It had the beginnings of a garden when we moved in in 2008 and I've had the landlords permission to do pretty much anything to improve it. I've also managed to take over space on the flat roof without incident. So it was particularly heart wrenching to find out recently that our landlord is selling and with that comes a lot of changes and adjustments. Not all of them are terrible, in fact at first I was delighted because the main floor tenants moved out and the apartment was to remain empty. Also the basement tenant lives on his boat all summer, which meant the entire backyard and garden are mine to do as I please! But then the reason why this was all happening became apparent- the building is to be sold and both of the empty apartments need a lot of work before that happens. To my dismay, that involved a dumpster being set down in the yard and the only way that could happen was to drive it through my raised beds.

I've had about a month to come to terms with all of the above. At first I tried to convince the landlord to place the bin elsewhere but that didn't work out. I protested that I would lose a lot of my time and money invested and he was sympathetic but it had to be done. So I've been in a state of denial/sadness/frustration for the past few weeks before finally resigning myself to make the best of it.

In once sense I'm glad it happened this year. Whether because of the prolonged winter or just a genereal apathy, I never started any seedlings indoors at all this year so there's nothing languishing in pots waiting to be planted. I found out about the dumpster just before I was planning on direct seeding my peas and beans so none of those are in. And not a single aparagus crown survived this winter! So the only potential casualties are the garlic planted last fall and now up about a foot, and the rhubarb which I moved to sunnier location just last year. And of course the raised beds themselves.

Fortunately when I built the beds I did it with screws not nails, so last Monday I admitted defeat and took the larger of the two beds apart. I dug out as much of the soil around the edges as I could and shoveled it into bins. I took the composter apart and shoveled all the unprocessed compost into bins as well. I left three sides of the smaller raised bed intact surrounding the garlic in hopes that the truck could manouever around it. I dug up the poor rhubarb and some wild garlic and left them in pots to be returned once the dumpster is gone.
The dumpster arrived the next day and it was massive! Thankfully the driver was sympathetic and did his best to work around the obstacles I left. I think he might have been a little afraid of the crazy woman standing over her garlic like they were children! In the end the remaining wood bed had to be removed as well but bless the truck driver, the garlic survived being driven over twice!

So all is not lost as I first feared. The bin was only here for just three days and after it left all of the garlic was still standing. The frames need to be rebuilt and the soil is badly compacted in places but I will reclaim the entire space. I'm looking at it as an opportunity to correct a few things like moving the composter and digging the beds in better. My veggies will go in slightly later than planned but I will be adding some new soil thanks to the landlord who has offered to compensate me for the trouble.

This still leaves the sale of the building hanging over our heads but that's an issue that we'll have to deal with when it happens. And if this is to be our last summer here I want to have a garden to remember!

Friday, March 14, 2014

40 bags in 40 days- Decluttering for Lent!

Have you heard of this challenge? 40 bags in 40 days is a project where you tackle a different area of your home every day during Lent (Sundays are a day off) and get rid of stuff you don't use. The idea is to fill a bag of unnecessary stuff everyday but as pointed out in the details, the size or type of container isn't the focus, it's more of an incentive to deal with the unneeded stuff we acquire one bit at a time. That's good because there are no garbage bags in my house since we stopped buying them a few years ago but I'm sure I have enough reusable bags to take care of 40 days worth. Maybe sorting out those bags is the first place I should start!

Not being particularly religious, I don't normally participate in any type of Lenten ritual but this is one I can get behind. Since Lent started over a week ago I'll be a bit late but I had actually been working on this on my own recently so the timing is perfect. The website has tips on areas to focus on (like email accounts and pinterest boards if you run out of stuff in the house) and suggestions to keep you motivated. There are even some forms you can print out to list the areas you'd like to attack, keep track of what you've finished and how many bags you've managed to get rid of. I don't think I'll need that but I'll try to post updates here to keep myself honest.

I have a few areas that really need work- our landlord recently decided to paint the hall for us and it was a bit of a shock to realize how much had accumulated in that space when we had to move it all out. It's become a pile of chaos in the livingroom and I've been procrastinating in dealing with it because there's a lot to sort out and I want to get rid of a lot instead of putting it all back. So that is definitely on the list.

Today however I am focused on  the top of the refrigerator and the spice rack. I keep a lot of dried herbs and spices and have used many different containers over the years, most of which I hang onto. There's a particular rack of decorative jars on top of the fridge that have out lived their usefulness and I need to part with it. A few of the jars are missing and none of them sealed that well to begin with. Not to mention that the top of the fridge is less than ideal conditions for herb preservation. So all of the tired herbs are headed for the green bin, and the remaining spices are being re-jarred in more practical containers that will fit in the proper spice shelf which also got reorganized. The old jars and rack will be cleaned up and donated to a thrift shop.

Early spring is a good time to deal with all of this clutter, before the nice weather arrives and I won't want to be indoors! I think the biggest challenge for me won't be filling 40 bags, it will be finding places and time to find new homes for the bags once they are full!

My properly organized spice rack!