Tag Archives: gardening

this land was made for you and me…


(click on image to view movie trailer)

You can blame Andrea Dorfman for this post, and a Facebook friend, Bryce Tyson, for posting Andrea’s video on how to be alone, which in turn led me down the rabbit hole of all things Andrea and to this video (which is narrated by Tanya Davis, the same gal who performed both on-camera and spoke the words to the being alone video). Besides… I consider it my duty to plug Canadian artists when I can, seeing that I am one myself. 🙂

I was born and raised in Quebec, living there for more than half my life. Quebec is really but a stone’s throw away from PEI. Growing up, my mom would always scope out the potatoes that came from the red dirted island, usually russets, which she proclaimed were superior to those coming from any other place. My mother knew her potatoes, and maybe farming was different then, back in the seventies. Food tasted different, and I’m sure it was cheaper, dollar for dollar, than it is now, wages not having kept up with inflation. I’m sure this is what each generation says to the ones which precede it – my parents said much the same thing to me – how food tasted different from what they remembered, less vibrant and flavourful. I wonder if it’s a matter of our tastebuds dulling over time, or whether it truly is the produce, or the soil in which it is grown.

At any rate, my first (and only) time in PEI was due to my being on a very long motorcycle ride with one of the boyfriends of my youth. In some box or bag somewhere, I still have photos of it. We were on a several week journey which initially had intended to head down the U.S. eastern seaboard to Florida but instead skittered briefly below the border through Vermont and Maine and then back into Canada through New Brunswick. A good part of the first week was spent in the rain, which I was ill prepared for (hence I wore garbage bags over my feet before shoving them back into wet leather boots, to keep the damp at bay).

It was a weird trip (for reasons I won’t be getting into) but one of the memories that I still hold fondly of it includes riding along the Cabot Trail as well as the brief time spent in PEI. I remember having the best seafood chowder I’ve ever had, cooked in a large pot over an open fire, right by the seashore where we had set up camp. I had decided that despite the water being really, really cold, I wanted to at least dunk in because it was there and I loved the salty goodness of the ocean. It was so cold it knocked the breath right out of me, but if the evening outside was cool after that, it didn’t bother me half as much because it still felt warmer in comparison. Lupines bloomed everywhere and I was enchanted by their colourful blossoms. I had made a mental note to someday return to it again for a visit, but I never have.

All this to bring me back to something else. Farming, and land. Growing up my mom kept a tiny patch of a garden in our back yard, reflective of the tiny outdoor growing season in Quebec and the crappy clay soil that our back yard was built upon. She mostly grew hungarian peppers, planted from seed that my aunt would send from Hungary, and perhaps some wax or green beans, maybe a handful of tomatoes, and kohlrabi, whose leaves would sometimes get decimated by cabbage butterfly larvae before it grew to a size that would ensure its survival. Gardening frustrated my mother, mostly, so she stuck to annual flowers.

I always had a fascination with growing things, starting from very young. When we lived in our first house our next door neighbour used to grow beautiful flowers in her yard. One year she had tulips coming up and caught me about to filch a handful of them to take home to my mom as an offering. I was used to picking flowers along the sidewalks, growing wild. Weeds, mostly, I suspect – buttercups and dandelions and tiny little purple flowered brachial stalks whose name I don’t know. I’d bring them by the handful to my mom as offerings, which she would trim and duly put into a little bud vase which now sits on my windowsill.

The home I rent a portion of is owned by a couple who garden every year. They save the deposit returns from our recycling and it supplements the veggie garden fund. We moved in last year at the height of growing season, and I had the opportunity to dig my hands in a bit of dirt for the first time in a over a decade. I had never planted vegetables while we lived in California, but I had a couple of fruit trees on our first property and the apricot tree bore a few fruit just before we sold it. The second house had already been landscaped and frankly I was mostly out of steam by then and only planted things in the front of the house.

In any case, I have a profound worry in relation to the growing of things. I worry that what we are doing to the soil and the seeds from which we reap the foods from which we draw lifeblood are being altered to such degree that they will no longer be able to sustain us. So seeing this movie made my heart glow, because it is important – this is important. Maybe it’s too late to turn everything around. Maybe we can’t undo the harm that has been done. Maybe, though, we can find a way to salvage things, at least in part. Maybe this is how.

morning pages and cultivating roots…

Jan3CultivateRoot

(pencil undersketch penned over and painted with tube gouache. #30DayJournalProject)

Slow. Rain. Comfort. Coffee. Dream fragments. Hunger pangs. Hair and clothes that need washing. Lists made. Things to be done. All folding into this space and time of semi-wakefulness. This moment. WHAT do I want? What do I want to DO? Besides sleep some more. Oh sleep, how I love thee. It took months before I broke out of the cycle of awakening early every morning, filled with anxiety as though I’d missed the alarm. My rhythms are different now… back to what they naturally are inclined to do – late nights and not wakening until it’s light, which on these shortened winter days is late. Ah, yes… light. Not much of it again, these days. I think that I ought to go for a run and try fitness again but all I want to do is sleep. Keep warm and cozy and dry. Definitely not wet. Why do people like running in the cold rain?

It’s almost 10am and I am only just dragging myself up and about.  It’s grey outside and the grumbling in my stomach reminds me to put the kettle on. Coffee first. Then, when there are enough neurons firing, something else… food. Yogourt and granola. Love this granola but seriously – $8 for the bag made me cringe, but I got it anyway because it has Good Stuff in it, and I don’t have much Good Stuff so I need to make it count. I have a sort of dietic apathy.  I love food but the preparing and cooking of it doesn’t interest me, so quick and convenient (which usually doesn’t mean healthy). I did buy some pita bread and will experiment with making my own chips (*must steep fresh rosemary in olive oil*). I do like the experimental aspect of it. And when people enjoy what I make. There’s only the two of us and it gets old always being the one to be doing the cooking.

*pausing to make some coffee*

The smell of coffee is still on my hands. I love how it smells. How it tastes, too, but the smell is what brings it all together – the scent, the taste, the way it’s warmth spreads as it progresses down to my belly.

I had an image come to me this morning, for my art journal page, as I laid in bed with my arms clasped together over my lower abdomen, feeling it rise and fall with each breath. The awareness of my breath made me focus on it even more, and I breathed relaxation into it. I saw it as if it was burning, like a fire enlivened by the wind from the bellows. I had until now thought that my creativity stemmed from the root chakra, the elemental connection of our bodily selves to the spark that materialized us, but I see now that it’s at the second chakra where my breath is feeding the raging fires that it births from.

I made plans. I wrote them out (in my Notes, on the iPhone).

One is to do these… morning pages. To write for an hour. Another is to write on one of my stories. I haven’t touched the Telescope story in a while, and I feel it’s time to revisit it again. I’m just going to write. What else can I do but write it out? Yet another to-do item is to research freelance opportunities for writers and artists. I want to know where the markets are, what they require, so that I can build a repertoire of material that will likely be attractive. Targeted work. I always thought that making “art” to order would take away from my creative process, but I think in some ways it will fuel it, make me stretch in ways I would not have had it just been for me and my being left to my own devices. I hope it makes me a better writer and artist.

And then there is the roast for dinner. I am going to put it in the oven around 4PM. It’s a mammoth rolled pork blade roast, and I now realize that I will have to return to the grocery store because I think it needs to be accompanied by brussels sprouts. Yes, definitely. It will be poked and inserted with slivers of garlic and resemble Pinhead – Clive would be proud. I wish I had some rendered fat to rub on its surface. I have some duck fat and it works well as a fat for many things but it just doesn’t sound like it would taste right with the pork, which is lighter and more subtle in flavour and the duck fat doesn’t ever quite lose that wildness. I wish I could find some juniper berries. Not tons.. just a bit. I had a recipe call for some and it’s not something that regularly shows up between the peppercorn and nutmeg and turmeric.  I have a serious spice hoarding issue. Well… not hoarding – collecting. But I use them. I’m the one who makes lavender and thyme shortbread cookies. I love lavender. In food. Well, in anything, Period.

*pauses to go grab the mail that just got violently shoved through the mail slot by the postal carrier – it always startles me*

Nothing particularly exciting, though Organic Gardening was in there, and I know that preparing for the next growing season isn’t all that far off. I’m so grateful that Tyler and Amanda are keen gardeners and that they allow me to stick my hands into the dirt here, and also reap some of the bounty. I’ve been thinking that perhaps my (two boxes of!) paper making supplies could be put to use during this lull and that I make some seeded paper to sell. On etsy, maybe. I always wonder about whether it’s worth opening up an etsy storefront or not. Whether it’s more trouble than it’s worth; whether you need the demand already in place for the supply to be worth the trouble. Not quite buying the “if you build it they will come” paradigm. But who knows.

Well, the hour is about up. I’m ready for some granola and yogourt. Maybe another coffee, and then I’ll tackle something else on my list. One of which should be to take a shower.