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My first Calgary garden – Part 1

 

 So I’ve survived just fine for twenty nine years without the slightest urge to grow anything, and killing the odd houseplant here and there. Until this year. For some inexplicable reason I’ve wanted a garden since Christmastime and decided to plant one. Now, I’m not talking about pretty plants here, although the way this is going I may find myself planting petunias before too long, but a veggie garden with maybe some strawberries thrown in, because let’s face it – if you can’t eat it, it hardly seems worth the effort. This is a chronicle of what I’m learning as we get closer to spring.

 

Now some people would simply pick a sunny spot, remove some sod, throw some seeds down and see what happens. I’m not one of those people. I come with a gene for research and analysis (at least on some topics), so armed with Amazon reviews I ordered some gardening books. After reading a few, one floated to the top of the pile as the most user friendly and most informative for a completely clueless beginner like myself. That encyclopedia is called  The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible: Discover Ed’s High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions, is available from Amazon (see link below), and really helped me get my bearings around this whole gardening thing.
 
 I already knew that Calgary had clay soil, and decided that the easiest thing to do would be to build a raised bed. That way you can fill it with whatever mix of soil you want as deep as you want and avoid the bad drainage problems inherent to clay. Looking out the backyard with an eye to plant, I tried to pick a spot for this future masterpiece. The house opens to a wide, large deck with stairs descending to the large wavy concrete pad that covers a large portion of the backyard. Along the corners of the fence are two flower beds, which left the right side of the yard along the fence. Luckily all this faces south, so the whole area gets tons of sun during the day.  In the photo below we’re talking about the space between the semi-circular bed and the fence. 

 
  

Future raised bed site

 

Given the space restrictions the bed will be 3 X 15 feet and at least a foot deep, likely more but we’re not there yet.  As of today the yard is covered in snow a foot deep, so it’ll be a while before we even see the ground.  Once the bed is built we’ll have to fill it with quality soil and amendments, so googling I went to find what we need. Looking at the offerings of garden centers was extremely informative but very expensive. Clearly this was meant for repotting the odd houseplant, not filling a large raised bed.  Turns out that Burnco offers bulk garden soil that comes pre-mixed with compost and manure, making it more or less ready to go. At this time price hovers around $40.00/cubic yard which sounds very reasonable indeed.  Further research turned up a local mushroom farm near Airdrie that sells bulk compost for about $10.00/pickup truck load if you’re willing to load it yourself, and the farm gives compost away for free during Gardener Appreciation week which this year falls the week before Mother’s Day. They’ve just changed their name to All Seasons Mushrooms but I don’t see a new site yet, so below is the link to the old one with an address. Manure was the most interesting search –turns out the govt. of Alberta itself has a manure directory which offers a variety of different manure in various locations and stages of decomposition.  But hey – gardens like manure, so below’s the link.

  

Burnco garden soil and compost

 

 

Manure

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 – starting seeds! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stunning Louise

One major advantage to living in Calgary is the proximity to some of the best skiing in the world. Since I just started skiing a year ago, I’m still discovering the hills here and in BC, and that’s about as fun as winter can get. Yesterday I took a day off work and hit the slopes at Lake Louise.

Louise is a beautiful mountain, huge – with four peaks and an obscene amount of terrain to cover. Their gondola and many chairs move skiers quickly around the mountain and the lines are never long, even at the peak of busy weekends. The scenery is spectacular. One of my favorite things to do is to take the top of the world chair and ski down the back side of the mountain. It’s very quiet there like in a splendid cathedral, and the majestic mountains on all sides swooping down into a large bowl that is so pure and white that it hardly looks possible. It’s hard not to feel awe at the forces that created it, and not to feel insanely lucky at being able to see it with a ride in a chairlift.

Sometimes the skies are overcast, and the bottom of the valley is covered by clouds. The surreal feeling of watching quiet majestic peaks around you rise out of the swirling gray clouds is intoxicating. I literally feel like pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming this phenomenal landscape. And when the winters feel too long, and the summer oh so far away – obscured by another foot of snow – I can think back on Louise and feel glad there’s still a few weeks of skiing left.
Back bowl at Louise

The Wonder of Internet

My interests range far and wide. I’m a classical generalist, or scanner for those familiar with Barbara Sher, and a bit of a speed reader. I’m not a trained or anything, I just naturally process information faster than many people.  This naturally translates into prodigious web surfing since so much information is found exactly there. Here’s just an example of some sites I visited yesterday:

http://2009.bloggies.com/ – to see which software to use to start a blog with
http://www.90dayreview.com/ – because I’m starting the P90X program on Monday, and it’s nice to follow in someone’s footsteps
http://www.ablithepalate.com/ – it’s one of the first food blogs I stumbled across way back when, and I wanted to see if it’s active again
http://www.amateurgourmet.com/ – a current food blog I enjoy
http://answers.yahoo.com/ – I was trying to disprove a stupid factoid that came in those forwards we all hate
http://www.bonsaigardener.org/ – trying to find some info for my mother who received a bonsai tree
http://calgarypolicenews.typepad.com/cps_recruiting/application_forms/ – just to see what exactly ARE the requirements to be a Calgary cop these days?
http://www.dailycoyote.net/ – to see what updates are around on my favorite coyote
http://dictionary.reference.com/ – I used the word ‘salient’ in a comment and wanted to make sure I used it correctly J
http://foodosophy.wordpress.com/ – where I left the comment above – a great restaurant review site spanning Alberta, BC and hints of the world
http://gardening.about.com/od/gardenprimer/ss/SeedStarting_4.htm – to learn about starting seeds for my first garden that’s going in this summer
http://www.greengate.ca/aboutplants/ – to visit the local store that will provide equipment to all the above
http://www.the-compost-gardener.com/soil-testing.html – one of the few local blogs on gardening
http://thepioneerwoman.com/confessions/ – to get my daily dose of happiness and sunshine
http://www.wikipedia.org/ – where would my life be without looking up some useless factoid or another as they come to mind?

Now, this is a small sample only, heavily edited for similar content and non-interesting content. It doesn’t include news sites both conventional and alternative, or massive blogs like dooce, dlisted and steve pavlina which require no intro. It does not include the few dozen sites which did not fulfill their search function despite being on top of Google’s lists. As thoughts travel through my brain, my hands automatically go to my keyboard and I find myself googling the item in question. And I have a great deal of thoughts – even if they’re completely silly. But our brains seem happy to harness the power of the ‘internets’, so I’m just glad and grateful to have this vast resource to draw on.

Which leaves me with the question, what DID people do at work/home/school before the internet? And how much exactly is our society being shaped by this amazing tool? We no longer have to know the dewey decimal system, although I’m sure many still do. We don’t have to rely on yellow pages, which they should really stop sending to my house. Google is now a verb, and wikipedia is a household name. I love books and read prodigiously, but order them exclusively online and read reviews online as well.

Yet at the same time I’m glad I am just old enough to have grown up in a time and country without widespread video games and computers.  Atari was brand new and super exotic when I was old enough to remember such an item, and very few had access to it. I’m very glad to have grown up without instant messaging and cell phones because it allowed me to be a kid in full use of my imagination. I know this subject is beaten to death, yet kids need activities that are without adult supervision, mildly dangerous, shady and spontaneous for optimal development. Building crazy forts (with actual toods pilfered from dad’s garage), building our own tire swings (which sometimes fell spectacularly), riding bikes all over the place (not just the park in front of the house), with the only rules to be home by supper made childhood magic, unique and fun.  I wonder what someone fifteen years younger than me would recall of their childhood days.