June, 2019. I love this photo of a cabbage from my Victory Garden, the way the new leaves curl to form the shape. This image of a cabbage is something I try to keep in mind: new growth surrounding the older growth, not destroying it but making it fuller, more healthy. My website will reflect the cabbage of my life, the new growth I find as I move forward from grief. The growth from my past is not lost; it is there at the centre holding the whole thing together.
August 8th. August in the garden is bittersweet. Much of the hard labour is finished; the roses, coneflowers and hydrangea bloom at length. But there is, of course, the knowledge that the summer is entering its final phase. What saves me from lamenting the end of the summer is the end of the summer: the gathering of my produce for soups, sauces and frozen vegetables to savour in the middle of winter. My patio peppers are ahead of the many plants in the bed so I was able to make my first hot sauce and remember how much I love to squirrel away summer in a jar.
August 11, 2019. Before I even conceived of the idea of creating my own Victory Garden to sustain me through a year of my husband's cancer treatment, I planted garlic cloves in the earth on a chilly November day in 2015, soon after we'd received the cancer diagnosis. The next summer with the rest of the vegetables in my garden thriving and my husband in remission, I plucked a bountiful crop of garlic from the ground. This year, almost three years after his death, I still grow as much of my food as I can. The other day I pulled up a garlic crop that matched the bounty from my Victory Garden. Life has changed so much for me but the sight of another round of healthy garlic was somehow comforting, a reminder that life continues on and that nature will nurture us if we nurture it.
August 24, 2019. Copies of my book arrived at the door yesterday. As I flipped through the finished product, I felt like I was reading someone else's story. It looked so controlled in the orderliness of the chapters and even lines. But I just had to stop to read some of those lines and relive the moment I described. And I couldn't help wondering how other people would react to the story I tell. Overall, though I felt pride and knew that my husband, if he were here, would be the first to praise the book and my completion of it. Now it's out to stores.
October, 27, 2019. After the launches for my books and first round of talks (see events) sitting home with soup and a cozy Netflix mystery series seemed pretty good. This is my Happenstance Soup. I started with turkey bones from Canadian Thanksgiving which I simmered with herbs and root vegetables from the garden. Then I made a soup with pieces of turkey, Swiss chard and beet greens, some less-than-perfect tomatoes and the last-pulled carrots. I put the hot soup in Mason jars which sealed so I could keep in the fridge longer. This week I craved the taste of the chicken tortilla soup I'd had in the south west. I used bits of bread I'd dried for stuffing and on-sale avocados and Parmesan I had in my fridge. It was delicious, but I well never be able to repeat it exactly so I savoured the happenstance results.
January 17, 2020 Yesterday I picked fresh kale, some Swiss chard and Asian greens still growing in garden and today I added them to a minestrone to enjoy as a storm approaches. It's exciting to realize that without any effort on my part and despite the season, the garden is still giving.
Feb. 3, 2020. In the summer I get blase about the amount of greens I have in my garden but to be able to go out on a mild February day and pick fresh, tasty greens for my meals feels precious. When not much is happening the garden, the new tips of greens that emerge in mild winter weather are a vibrant reminder that the growing season will be back soon.
March 21, 2020. Have started some garden cleanup but it's been hard to be motivated in a week of fear and extreme life changes in the face of the corona virus. But my garlic is pushing up and I finally got excited enough about gardening again to start my seeds today. If ever I - or any of us - need the inspiration of the wartime Victory Gardens, it's this year. And having as many of our own vegetables this summer will help feed our families and our neighbours in communal trying times.
March 26, 2020. I dug this carrot out of my garden two summers ago the same week my manuscript A Victory Garden for Trying Times was accepted by my publisher. I'm going to use this image as inspiration in this global spring of trying times. Not only will I take growing my own vegetables very seriously this year but I'll do my best to get the message out to plant Victory Gardens to fight fear. Already working on a radio interview and an op ed. And will keep up this site too. Order your seeds now!
May 15, 2020. It's been a cold spring but my garlic is up and doing fine and some of the cold crops like spinach, lettuce, beets and Swiss Chard are coming along. But finally we have reached a time I love. I'm hardening my tomatoes that will go in next week. And I'm looking for spots in my flower garden where I can incorporate more vegetables for my COVID-19 Victory Garden. I love the idea of these Kentucky Wonder beans growing on a beautiful structure in amongst perennials
June 21, 2020. The first day of summer and I'm seeing real progress: cherry tomatoes getting fatter.. all tomato plants thriving. I've had a few victories too. Rabbits snapped off my green beans before they could get a good start. A thin cover has kept them away until the plants can get established. The rabbits also mowed down my beets and Swiss Chard, two of my favourite vegetables. I just kept reseeding, threw eggs shells and curled up foil around the new sprouts and it looks like I'll have a crop. And when I discovered I had some small potatoes sprouting in my kitchen I cut off the sprouting ends, stuck them in the garden and forgot about them. I've been rewarded with ten potato plants...my first ever.
October 6, 2020. I can't believe the summer has gone by. I've been busy. The tomatoes came on strong and I've made my sauce. My zucchini was a bust but I had a "volunteer" butternut squash plant which gave me a dozen fruit. I've been preparing food for the freezer to get through a COVID winter. I had the most fun bottling hot pepper sauce. This year I grew Cayenne, Jamaican Red Hots and, for the first time, the very hot Ghost Peppers. I had Bell Peppers too but because of the delay with seed delivery this spring they were late in coming. So I bought some to make sure the peppers I fermented, cooked and bottled would be softened by their mild taste. Results are delicious.
My favourite red pepper looked like it had something to say about a COVID summer. Some thought it looked like Donald Trump!
This week the garden is still giving. My fig tree which I planted four years ago and have been dutifully burying with dirt and leaves each year finally produced delicious fruit while my flower garden is still offering up late gifts like new South Africa rose blooms. I am dreading the winter but hope the blooms continue for a while longer to keep my spirits up and the memories of the growing season fresh in my mind until I can start again.
Nov. 2, 2020. Picked most of the vegetables before the first frost this week but I love my beet greens so much I left them to last. Even I had to admit today it's time to pull the beets out. Will enjoy the last greens and a good beet soup. Still hoping I'll have chard, sorrel and kale for a while.
Nov. 30, 2020. Got the last big job in the garden done before winter: sheltering my fig tree from the cold. Each year the job gets more complicated as the tree grows. And since I had wonderful figs this year, I didn't want to prune the tree too much. So with lots of dirt, leaves, the canvas I saved from my old gazebo, a final burlap wrap and lots of McGyvering, the tree is ready and my garden put to bed. But I still have chard, lettuce, kale and Asian greens to pluck.
Feb. 7. 2021. We're just passed the mid-point of winter, a winter that seems exhaustingly long this Covid year. I started tomato and pepper seeds yesterday, earlier than I usually do. But I've ordered red towers that will let me put out some plants before the usual date for our area. I just needed the hope of a seed germinating right now. Not much to see really but I know something is happening.
The Covid winter has given me time to take care of some garden elements that I never got around to, like this shabby, whimsical birdhouse that was slowly succumbing to time and squirrels. I kept it shabby using wood and paint I had in the house but it's sturdy enough now for another home for the birds in my garden this spring.
March, 28, 2021. It's officially spring, a time of anticipation. I'm trying to make spring happen indoors faster by forcing forsythia and nurturing tomato seedlings for the vegetable bed. But life, like gardens, has setbacks. I broke my ankle on an icy trail, soon after I started my seeds, and the tiny seedlings withered away when I couldn't get them down into my basement under the grow lights. I'm encouraging new seedling to hold out a little longer. Now that I'm out of cast and in an airboot, I hope to get them under lights soon. Once again, the garden encourages patience and resilience.
In my wish to experiment with my second Covid Victory Garden, I'd hoped to extend the season for my tomato plants and my peppers with these water-filled walls which insulate the plants at night so they can go into the garden much earlier than otherwise. I couldn't get out to the garden early but two weeks after planting the tomatoes inside the walls, the plants are healthy and already flowering...much earlier than other, even warmer, years.