Monday, 24 June 2013

State of the Garden Address - the aftermath of the long sog

It's been just a touch wet in Alberta lately. 

Ok, significantly more than a touch.  Even here in Edmonton where we avoided any serious flooding (largely due to the fact that our river is in a significant gorge/canyon) it has rained almost EVERY SINGLE DAY for almost a month.  This has been good and bad in several regards:

Good: Plants are well-watered.
Bad: Cucumbers hate to be well-watered, they are kinda dead looking now...
Good: Save money on the water bill when nature does it for you.
Bad: Weeds like water too.  Chickweed, creeping charlie, quackgrass, thistle, stinging nettles...

The garden itself is progressing though, it finally dried up enough today to weed the damn thing, so I thought I'd provide an update and photographic evidence of the current state of affairs.

On the left you can see my peas flopping over, they are badly in need of some support, so I'm going to pick up a trellis hopefully tomorrow.  Next to them is the beans, which are absolutely flourishing.  Next over we have the swiss chard, which is kind of spindly but still growing.  Then comes the lettuce, which you can see I netted off a whole row for it but it only came in in the very front.  I don't know if this is due to the varying degrees of sun in different parts of the garden, or if I accidentally pulled baby lettuce when I was pulling weeds.  At any rate, I've re-planted the bare area and hopefully will get something by the end of the summer.  Lastly on the left are the onions, which are around the air conditioner.  They are doing absolutely marvelously, I am able to harvest some of the stalks while the bulbs continue to grow underground.  I think these are going to be exceptional when they are eventually harvested.

First on the right are the carrots, doing average-ly well.  The spinach is next, doing pretty good too, I'm well in line for a second crop and I'm hoping to keep this batch from seeding for a bit longer.  In the front is the strawberry plant, which has sent off a runner, so hopefully there will be two strawberry plants soon!  In the back corner you can kind of see my roma tomato plant.  It isn't gaining much height, but is starting to get actual fruit now.  Off camera are my two pepper plants, which look about the same as when I got them, with maybe the very beginnings of some fruit.  Also in an off-screen corner (front left) is the parsley plant, which is getting really huge, but I did buy it already started so I'm not really shocked on that.  Been pulling nice herbs off for about a week:

Parsley, looking nice and full.

So nothing really earth shattering is going down in the garden... but take a look at this:


My cherry tomato plant is a MONSTER.  Everything is going right in this pot apparently, I don't know what is so magical about this spot or this pot or the soil or the plant or whatever, but everything is working in perfect harmony to create a giant tomato bush!  It's surrounded by violas and marigolds (the last survivors from the starter-plant holocaust) to attract the bees.  It has infinite amounts of lovely little yellow blossoms, but no fruit quiet yet.  I have really high hopes for the yield on this plant, it's going to be good!

I also took some photos of some of the flowers around the yard that are really popping right now, like my peony in the front yard:

Peonies are so floppy, this one is caged up with chicken wire and posts quite high on its stems, but it's still flopping almost totally over.  I don't know if it's really avoidable.  Today the peony plant is beautiful, so I thought I'd nab some photographic proof before it explodes in a petal storm before too long.

Also looking really good is the rose bush in the front:


The bush is a bit leggy, but it has a whole bunch of buds and a couple of flowers including these two lovelies.  They have a beautiful smell too!  I love their deep fuchsia colour, it's not at all what I had expected when I initially saw the bush.

In other unphotographed news, I pulled about 3 cups of rhubarb off the plant, we are in line for another harvest in about three weeks, will probably get 3 or 4 pulls all told (about 12 cups or so in the end).  A pity the DH doesn't like rhubarb!  The pumpkin plant is the only survivor of the large vegetable group, it has three fruits going at last count, thank god they are miniature pumpkins.  Hoping one will work as a jack-o-lantern though if frost holds off long enough. 

That's about all for now!  I'll post back when things start bearing more fruit or we have some more interesting flowerings.  Cheers!

Friday, 21 June 2013

About 10000 leagues over my head - it's poetry month

There is a fat worm in these waters
in these lands a predatory worm:
he ate the island's flag
hoisting up his overseer's banner,
he was nourished from the captive blood
of the poor buried patriots.
- "Munoz Marin" by Pablo Neruda

Book Club pulled poetry this month.  And I picked a book so far over my head that I pretty much drowned in it.

Poetry and I have had a tumultuous relationship at best.  And most of that was because I was forced to memorize Keats and Shelley in Jr. High, followed by an overly generous helping of Atwood in High School.  

But having to pick a book, I decided I'd like to read something by Pablo Neruda.  I took interest in Neruda after reading The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan.  So this seemed like a good chance to actually read some of his poetry...

Which is how I ended up with Song of Protest.

There are so many things wrong here, and sadly, they are all things that are wrong with me.  I can't even begin to actually review this collection of political poems.  Firstly, I feel like this is really a set of poetry which would have been EXTREMELY powerful in the time period and place when it was written, which was more than 20 years before I was born.  Or, it would have a great deal of meaning if I was really familiar with South American history.  Which I also am not.  And lastly, it was just hard for me to wrap my head around some of the subject matter in the poems, particularly Neruda's overt bromance with Fidel Castro...

So this was just one of those things that I didn't get.  Totally my bad.

But we can't all be experts in everything, so I guess I'll let myself get away with not having a handle on poetry.  After all, I'll always know a lot about parallel parking and 1980's Japanese pop music....

(pikara, pikara...) 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Patricia Wrede's "Thirteenth Child" (book review)

I have to admit, I have been very lax lately in my reading of books for younger teens.  I'm so keen on the 15-18 older teen books that I've been reading them almost exclusively over the last few months.  So recently, when I was at the library with no particular books in mind, I decided to peruse the books aimed at the 12-14 crowd.  And that is where I picked up Patricia Wrede's Thirteenth Child.

I love the cover!
Thirteenth Child is difficult to classify in terms of its genre.  It could be called a fantasy book, or magical realism, or historical fiction, or perhaps most aptly, alternative historical fiction.  Thirteenth Child (and the series that follows it) is set in the early days of the American Wild West.  Except the frontier is populated with a wild variety of magical and non-magical creatures, as well as some ice-age holdovers like mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers.  And the creatures are not the only ones who possess magical abilities, humans possess these abilities as well to varying degrees. 

Wrede does an excellent job of keeping enough historical accuracy to make the time period recognizable, but at the same time integrating these interesting, magical aspects of the storyline. The story's heroine, Eff, is considered by some to be an unfortunate, cursed thirteenth child.  The story follows Eff as she leaves her home community at a very young age, and strives to leave behind the stigma of her birth order and prove herself to not only be a good person, but one who is safe for others to be around.  The story covers a fairly large stretch of time, starting with Eff at age five and ending at age 18.   While I found some of the progression through time to be a bit lurching, this doesn't damage the overall quality of the story. 

I very much enjoyed Wrede's descriptions of the people, settlements and creatures in this re-imagined America.  There is just the right amount of history and magic in this tale to make it approachable and appealing to younger teens.  And with Eff's brother Lan and his friend William filling in substantial roles, and getting into several serious misadventures, this work has appeal to teen boys as well as girls.  Overall, Thirteenth Child is an engaging story, and I will likely give the sequels a try as well.

Happy Reading.  :)