29 January 2016

STARS Lottery 2016 - the Edmonton House

Every year STARS has a lottery and one of the prizes in each of the major cities of the province is a house. STARS is one of the air ambulance services in our province.  It also covers parts of British Columbia and Saskatchewan.  There are other air ambulance services, but STARS is the biggest and is funded in large part by donations from the public and their annual lottery fundraiser.

This year my daughter and I visited the STARS home in Edmonton.  We found several aspects that we really liked.  Interestingly enough, the laundry is on the upper level.  I spoke to another home builder who told me that is more the norm now, comprising approximately 90% of the new homes they build.  I'm sure it's very convenient for young families.

Here are some of our favourite shots.  Of course the decorating is done with flair.

This beautiful light fixture is the first thing that draws your eye when you walk in.

My daughter really loved this dining set!

Dining table, cast iron fondue set, pantry (behind kitchen connecting to mudroom off garage).

Some of the decorative elements, above and below.

Main floor living room

Master bedroom and closet.  Master bath below.
This is one of the most unique and interesting bathrooms I've ever seen.  I love the ceiling art which is mimicked in the shower stall and the little fireplace by the jetted tub puts out an enormous amount of heat.  

Master bathroom on the left, guest/main bathroom on the right
Bonus/media room
Neither my daughter nor I got photos of the other two bedrooms other than the clock table which was in the room decorated to suit a male child.  I guess we weren't that impressed with them, eh?

The view of the sunset, above, as we were leaving.

27 January 2016

How Not to Fear Pruning

It's almost the end of January and we are experiencing a lovely warm spell which meant temperatures of +4 Celsius here yesterday and rain.  Yes, a fair bit of it too!  Rain on icy streets is not a good combination.  

The sunrises have been vivid in corals, pinks and yellows the last couple of days and I've shed my winter jacket for my fall coat.  I'm coaxing a mandevilla vine back to health after a mealy bug attack and trying to keep my poinsettia alive.  I just can't seem to keep them happy for very long.  The only window with good light is close to the patio door which gets used several times a day for the dogs. As you know, poinsettias do not like drafts nor heat vents.  This site has both. Sigh.

Did you know the daffodils are blooming in Vancouver already?
Spring is just around the corner!!

So not a lot of exciting stuff going on at the moment.  The stores now have spring product and seeds in place.  Muttart Conservatory is featuring a Chinese New Year display which I simply must go to.  My daughter and her boyfriend went on Sunday and stayed for the fireworks which were quite good I'm told.  

How are you spending your January?  Perusing catalogs, placing orders for seeds?  I'm going to check out Greenland Garden Centre for their indoor garden display which should be completed by now.  I've been going there for years just to see their garden.  It's done on a grand scale and it certainly helps to be around plants when the world around you sleeps in a winter induced slumber.

Did you know now is the perfect time to get out in your garden to do some pruning?  Late winter is ideal for this sometimes dreaded chore because the trees are dormant and you can see the structure without the leafy canopy blurring the tree's form.  

How many of you fear pruning?  Are you afraid you'll kill the tree or prevent it from bearing fruit?  Well, you're not alone but thankfully Laura from Garden Answer has created a short video that breaks it down into easy to understand steps that will leave you confident and your trees healthy.  Laura's brief tutorial focuses on fruit trees.  Did you know apples bear fruit on old wood and plums and cherries bear fruit on new wood?  Garden Answer has the info.  Let me know if it helps.

25 January 2016

Chinese New Year at the Muttart Conservatory

The Chinese New Year Celebrations took place at the Muttart Conservatory January 23 with grand fireworks early in the evening.  My daughter and her boyfriend went and she shared her photos with me.  With her permission I share them here.  There were so many so I made some collages.

This year is the year of the monkey.  There were several activities for the family held on the 23rd to celebrate and I am sad I missed it:

  • Learn of the legends of the Lunar New Year.
  • Family oriented activities: crafts of a traditional Chinese rattle drum, planting a jade plant, search for Monkey King, hot chocolate and guided tours.
  • Interactive activities.
  • Dance and music performances at 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm
  • Fireworks display at 6:00 pm from the Ski Hill behind the Muttart. 

The feature pyramid was dedicated to the celebration with special displays.  Photos hereafter are of that display.

 The screens are incredibly beautiful.

And the grand finale:

21 January 2016

What Can a Mild Winter Mean for Your Plants

Toronto is not the only place experiencing a mild winter for 2015/16.  I was surprised to hear that they had temperatures of +15 Celsius at Christmas time!!  We weren't that mild, in fact at Christmas we were bundled up against -20 Celsius temperatures while we visited the Legislature Grounds.

We had a cold snap around Christmas time and another just a week ago.  But other than that we've really enjoyed a mild winter.  Not warm enough to melt away the snow, but warmer than usual with less than average snowfall.

What does that mean for our gardens come spring?  Well, if you have native plants they should be fine.  Plants that push the zones, however, may be adversely affected as the warm temperatures like what the Toronto area has enjoyed may encourage some growth and blooming.  My son in Vancouver said the daffodils are starting to come up already.

cherry trees in bloom early spring in Vancouver

Fruiting trees and shrubs may produce fewer blossoms, resulting in fewer fruits.  If the blossoms break bud and we have a cold spell again, those blossoms will die from the cold.  That's not to say the plants may not produce flowers again in the spring, but surely there will be fewer of them.  Apple trees will invariably fare better than stone fruits like cherry and plum.

Native plants are resilient and can take irregular weather occurrences without much adverse effects.  If we go from mild to a severe cold snap that could likely cause stress to the plants but is not likely to kill them.  If we go from mild, to really cold and then a really warm spell we can expect worse damage.  However if we get a prolonged cold spell, with temperatures remaining below freezing, our plants stand a much better chance of coming forth in the spring with little damage.

Perennials will typically be ok as most of the plant is underground right now, preferably under some sort of mulch.  Daffodils and tulips may produce a leaf or two but the flower won't be close to forming yet so they should be fine come spring.  Native trees like birch and poplar and maples (where they are native) can handle these conditions quite well.  You may see some tip die back but if they've been watered in well in the fall prior to freeze up, they should be fine.  Evergreens may see some browning.

So what can you do as a gardener?

  • Plant native and plant where the plant will grow best.  Plant within your zone.

  • Build your soil and keep it healthy by adding compost and other microorganisms that will help break down and rebuild your soil.  Think organic matter.

  • Mulch!!  Two to three inches helps insulate against extremes in temperatures.

  • Make sure you have good drainage and that the plants you selected are good for their site.  A wet site is generally suited to birch, marsh marigold, mosses, ferns etc. while a dry site is usually conducive to sempervivums, cacti, yucca etc.

  • Create a burlap screen around your tender evergreens ie.  cedar and Alberta spruce

07 January 2016

The Modern Hippie/Yippee - The Permaculture Lifestyle Movement

When I think of the term hippie or yippie, I recall a period of time when I was a young child.  Flowery fabrics were all the rave and I had a pair of pants that I loved that were covered in flowers.  I also think of long hair, loose flowing clothing, jeans flared out at the boot, public outcries against logging and for environmental concerns.  Sure there were the not so societal popular elements of the hippie culture like drugs and love-ins and the rallies that didn't find favour with some citizens, government and law enforcement.

There's one aspect of the hippie movement that I think more and more of us can relate to.  It's the back-to-the-land movement.  This movement entailed the urge and actions to take up a plot of land and become self-sustaining, growing food for oneself or for others to consume.  The back-to-the-land movement wasn't only a product of the 1960's but it certainly made enough of an impression at that time as to be acknowledged in American demographic statistics. The desire to get back to nature was in part fueled by literature (At Home in the Woods, Living the Good Life, We Like it Wild), by concern over consumerism, the Vietnam War, concerns over environmental factors like air and water pollution, and failings of society and government.

Today the concerns are very similar, particularly climate change, pollution, the growing cost of food and consumerism.  The permaculture "revolution," a lifestyle not unlike the back-to-the-land movement, is a growing "movement" per se as a result of need and desire to become self-sustaining, to better care for the environment and for nature, to grow organic, to support local business and the desire to eat fresh produce and in some cases poultry and even honey (where by-laws permit them on private property).  If you break down the term permaculture, "perma" from the word permanent and "culture" from the word agriculture, you can see the basic definition of it.  It's a bit like being an urban farmer, wherein we grow what we eat, take care of the soil by enriching it naturally, and use organic methods of crop production.  It entails learning from nature rather than trying to bend nature to our wants and desires.  

Design in permaculture entails very little bare soil, growing plants together in such a manner as to have the greatest number of plants grown together in an area to increase yield.  Organic methods of fertilization including compost, mulched leaves and manure replace chemical fertilizers and, generally, preferred pest control is through natural and organic means.  Reduce, reuse, recycle and up cycle are all terms associated with the lifestyle.  Reducing waste including the amount of garbage we contribute to a landfill, reusing items to serve as planting containers, recycling paper as mulches (and recycling as our municipality allows), and up cycling like finding new uses for items that would otherwise to discarded are examples of the lifestyle of permaculture.

Permaculture is a lifestyle that allows for easier living, less labour as it evolves, healthier lives and individuals, a cleaner environment and living in harmony with nature and wildlife.  When we grow a garden using organic means, without chemicals, we encourage the return of butterflies and bees, those essential pollinators necessary for our very existence.  Creating habitats to welcome these pollinators and birds and other predators for those undesirable pests, are desirable attributes of the method.  When we take care of nature and our world we create our own sanctuary of sorts.  One in which we are fulfilling our needs and those of others around us, include nature.  A bit of peace that results from doing the beneficial acts of the permaculture lifestyle.  Not so unlike the peace the hippie generation desired, is it?

#permaculture  #organic  #gardening  #selfsustaining  #reducereuserecycle #upcycle  #naturesexample  #backtobasics  #backtotheland  #ecofriendly 

Disclaimer:  any association with the term hippie, yippie or movement are mine own and are not directly affiliated with permaculture.  I use these terms only as a means of comparison.


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