My Garden Confession...
This is my last summer in Canada. We're leaving in just two months for our lengthy sabbatical (2, 3 or more years). For ten years I've tried to harness my novice gardening skills to the short, powerful summers.
I've learnt although summer is short in the north, you can grow a lot of produce in this wild climate; I've learnt Alberta is one of the top honey producing areas in the world; I've learnt we get as much sunlight as Florida and if we used it well we could live off passive solar; I've learnt to dehydrate, can and ferment foods.
I understand now although the ground is frozen much of the year, there are an abundance of 'superfoods' in the north and the tricks of food preservation, used for centuries, can enable people to be healthy, just on what grows here through the long winters (not that (m)any of us choose to rely solely on our short seasons produce). Powerful medicinal plants burst out of the ground in the summer and it's easy to gather arnica, yarrow and many others, dry them and create beautiful creams, salves and tinctures for your family first aid kit. Seriously, if you've never tried this, it's time to give it a go. Check out my blog, 'How to Make a Medicinal Salve' or 'How to Make a Medicinal Oil'.
When we moved to Canada in 2007 I had ideas of living on a ranch and becoming 'one with the wilds' and maybe even getting draught horses to plough the land on the patch I was going to farm. I thought long and hard about how we could buy thousands of acres on the edge of the city to protect the land and prevent the suburban sprawl concretizing the edge-land wilderness (we almost hosted a round table of investors to try and get this project off the ground). I took permaculture courses. I learnt how to make medicinal herbs with our wild flowers (arnica, yarrow, horsetail, red clover, goldenrod, chamomile, plantain are a few that roll off my tongue). I learnt the sounds of my favourite summer birds (redwing blackbirds, hummingbirds and evening grosbeaks). I learnt how to keep bees and got all our clinic staff involved in fun extracurricular beekeeping training. I even had undercover backyard chickens (which I discovered I didn't love - the undercover part - it's not fun hiding something in the backyard that makes noise and is pretty darn obvious).
I love to make things beautiful. My favourite gardens to visit are those that include statues and interesting architecture amongst the garden beds (in England Kew Gardens and The Eden Centre are my favourites, in Calgary, the Zoo is fun).
For my own garden... well.. here's my confession: I really like gnomes. Errrr.... what? I know... perhaps this isn't much of a confession to you. But. I was brought up in a socio-economic bracket that disliked gnomes. A whole class of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Brits KNOW that it's 'not done' to have a garden full of gnomes. In England people who have more than, lets say, three gnomes (and actually this is true of almost any other small garden figurines - unless it's a bird bath) are considered 'naff', 'tacky', and definitely not very posh or stylish.
But. I really love my garden gnome (pictured with his skate board). I daren't get more than one for fear that I might disappear into some kind of gnome lower class strata from which I might never reappear. But I do have another gnome in my house which I plan to keep - I will NOT let my husband put this indoor gnome in our garage sale. I've hidden this little gnome (actually it's a pair of gnomes - husband and wife, round and merry - that make a tea light holder) and I will put this gnome pair into storage to reappear when our stuff emerges when we figure out where home is next.
The next place we go, (which is currently looking like Nicaragua, so long as the country doesn't become too unstable) I plan to learn about tropical medicinal plants. I also plan to do some central American beekeeping. I hope I'll learn to identify more birds by their songs in addition to the noisy chachalaca (which although you may not know the name of, if you google it and you've been to Mexico or further south you'll know this birds call).
There are new nature garden adventures waiting - I'm ready to learn and share all that I discover. There are a few more stories about my Canadian garden exploits under each of the pictures.