Tag Archives: Learning

Aspiring to be Asparagus

I’ve never eaten asparagus that I’ve just freshly picked. But it was one of the priorities of our first year having a vegetable garden. This is because the crowns have to be 3-4 years old before you can harvest any of these juicy stalks for a great Spring treat. So last year, after attempting to grow asparagus from seed, and getting frondy little seedlings that were semi-successful, we heard rumour that you could buy two year old asparagus crowns (which is a root ball) from the nursery. We went to Victoria on a hunt. I phoned absolutely every single nursery in BC’s capital city and we literally got the last 8 crowns of asparagus on Vancouver Island.

Even then, we weren’t sure we’d have success. Asparagus flourish is sandy well-draining soil. All we have in our garden is soggy clay soil with lots of equisetum (that is, horse tail) and we had such misery with radishes- the apparent easiest vegetable to grow- so we weren’t sure how the asparagus would fair with our rudimentary gardening skills.

We tried to prepare the soil the best we could but we were using lasagne gardening which we quickly discovered was a favoured method among the colony of wire worms. Wire worms adore chewing on roots, especially grass roots. Asparagus is a grass. Again, another strike against us.

Though we’ve been told that a seed wants to grow, a plant wants to be exactly what is genetically prepared to be. And often, plants grow and succeed in the most unlikely environments. So we are grateful and excited to introduce you to our Aspiring Asparagus.

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Unlikely successes like this makes me wonder about the capacity of our race. If we, as humans, knew what we were genetically purposed for, then how could we flourish?

I remember wanting a garden so that I could benefit from the food, from the herbs, from the freshness. But I didn’t expect that I would benefit mentally and emotionally from the virility of the plants, the tenacity of life. It is the same with the bees. I wanted to keep bees because I have a sweet tooth. J’adore miel, but I found that I learned much more than I bargained for and I’ve gained much more by my relationship with the bees. I learned and am learning to calm myself and check my attitude, my breathing, when I approach the hive. I’m learning to observe in quietness, without expectation. These skills do not only enrich my hive, they enrich my life in all areas.

To go back to the asparagus, growing vegetables has not only lent miracles to my palate. It has also increased my faith. To put a seed into black soil, cover it, water it with no sign of life, with no immediate gratification, this is faith. And then the seed, wanting to grow, does what it knows how to do and I get to watch the tiny leaves unfurl.

And somehow, I grow with the tendrils, reaching for the sun.

Puffing Champagne

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I know that after New Years I’m always trying to figure out how to properly use our Champagne splurg left-overs. I know this is probably a common problem in the whole of the modern world. So common that a cookbook addressed it with a recipe.

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And I know another common problem for my readers is what to do with the acorn squash that you picked at least a month ago that has sat atop the washing machine since then, turning from green to yellow.

We cut said acorn squash open and I breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t rotten. Marc reminded me that the settlers counted on the Winter squash not to rot so that they could enjoy it all season when nothing else was growing. I reminded him that they usually have a cold storage in the side of a hill. They usually didn’t store their Winter squash in the laundry room in room temperature. How far removed are we from settlers!

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This recipe is good enough that it deserves to be tried. Even if it means buying a bottle of champagne. The best part about this recipe is that it only uses 1/4 cup of the bubbly. That leaves a lot for tasting!

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It is also important to have a sentry stand guard over the squash in case it means to escape from the oven. I have found myself a particularly stoic yet slightly fickle sentry in Ramona cat. She held still for this photo, then forgot the wood stove was hot, stretched and burned her little paw on the side. Silly cat.

My knitting needles have also been busy. My friend is due with twins any day so I found this very cute booty pattern here, (for free yippee!) and I sent off a package of handknits. I’m pleased at how quickly they came together. And I feel like a regular little craftster sending off knitting!

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I’ve finally gathered enough courage to try a sock pattern that I first layed eyes on a couple years ago. My nana sent it to me in the mail and I’ve completed my first sock, though it needs some perfecting. Special mention to James for the fabulous wool!

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One sock down and I’m easily distracted by a toque pattern with ear flaps! I’ll get to the other sock a little later.

It was balmy today, 9-10C. January 2nd and the bees were flying! I remember last year at this time I was in three feet of snow! Marc and I even got out in the garden. We have big plans at reclaiming this patch of land. It’s been 20 years out of use and the grass is tenacious. Drawing a plan of the garden and pinning it to the wall has been inspiration to me. We put cardboard down, and cedar wood chips for the paths. The weeds have already invaded some of the beds Marc worked so tirelessly to turn over in the Summer. But now even with the paths down, it looks more like a real garden. I am encouraged!

Our little greenhouse was so warm today that if the weather looks like it’ll keep up for a while, I may try planting winter kale. My spinach at the house is still alive so you never know what will germinate. Last year we got the bulk of our seeds from Salt Spring Seeds. It was close and we knew the seeds to have good viability because it is the same climate. We had great success with our tomatoes. Ripe tomatoes before most of our other gardening friends and it was not the skill we employed. We gave the seeds most of the credit, and the good weather the other bit of credit. This year we’d like to try growing black tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and perhaps green zebra striped ones to compliment our romas and scarlet heirlooms which will definitely be making an encore.

We’re also arranging to pick up 15 hives worth of equipment for bees. I am very excited about this. I have 12 locations on island that are interesting in hosting my bees so I can compare the forage. I still have equipment that I purchased last year that needs to be built so I think we’ll be drowning in all things “bee” soon enough.

Now if all this is not enough, I have begun running again. Yes it’s time for little miss farm wife-hibernating she-bear to get off her butt and pound the pavement. Did you know that Pender is filled with hills?! And big ones! We used to give each other small smirks when we saw ambitious cyclists disembark from the ferry with grand goals of biking the entire island in a day. Inevitably we would find them at the bakery about an hour later, looking very red in the face. Well now who is red in the face! Me! But, as one of my New Year’s resolutions, I am determined to be gentle with myself. Run a little, walk a little until I build up my strength.

Giving myself room to be imperfect is very gratifying. I encourage everyone to try it!

And… (I know I know, what happened to being gentle with myself?) I am enrolled in a university course aiming toward¬† finishing my degree I started um… *seven* years ago! I am utterly excited about this! My instructor is a prolifically published author and I’ve been reading her books for a few years now. And I get to write poetry in my online class. *sigh* I love poetry….

Is there anything better than the smell of roasting squash? Even sweeter is squash we grew ourselves.

Happy New Years folks! I hope you get lots of breathing time. Don’t worry, I’ll remember to breathe as I puff my way up these ginormous hills!

Learning Churchill

Personally, I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught. – Winston Churchill

I am always learning. I love learning. I love acquiring a new skill. But I think it’s really important to come to learning with an attitude of humility, an eagerness to learn, and the patience to listen and absorb. I have been learning this lately in knitting, sewing, but also in conversation. Do I hear what you are saying for the words you say or do I already have an expectation of what you mean to say that skews my listening?

I have realized about myself that I approach new situations with a sense of expectation,¬† a sense of arrogance or superiority. As well as an impatience to get the learning over with and get the Doing on! This is a character wrinkle that I think I’m going to have to work on.

As much as I love learning how to bake something new, or grow something different, or knit some new thing, I love character learning the best. Even though it is often the most uncomfortable and often, the most painful.

This is what I have learned lately.

-I do not know everything nor do I see the entire picture.

-If I put my doubt and cynicism aside, I can more effectively love people. (which is kinda the point.)

-I am very thankful for my life, my husband, my family and my friends. Very Thankful.

-I think the reaction to a situation is more important than the situation itself.

I know that vague concepts like this are more effectively communicated in a story. What happened, Amanda, to make you write this post? Not one single thing or moment happened, but a culmination of little things and I suppose life in general. But this is not conversationally the right tool to share such things. But I think it is still important enough to share the over-all concept.

So do you think that you have the ability to approach learning with humility? Do you enjoy learning new things? Do you approach situations/people/conversation with expectation or are you already good at listening with fresh ears?

Thank you for listening in on this little post of self-reflection. I hope your weekend lives up to your expectations. :)

Always Learning

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I am embarking on another learning curve. I love being at the beginning of a course. It is like being at the top of a wave, just before it breaks. The exhilaration and opportunity is very satisfying. Though this wave is just a little wave.

I was homeschooled from grades 3-12. My mom’s common theme was that every chance is a learning opportunity. Everything you do, you can learn. This pattern of thought carries me through still upon every venture.

In University, I had a journalism teacher who said that everything in your life is important. He said that people say TV is a waste of time but the amount of information you can glean from watching TV is not wasted. He said that every experience in life flavours your writing. It adds spice and another perspective, another layer. I’ve noticed this theory materialize often in my life. I’ll hear about something like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and then be asked about it 4 times in the next week.

I’ve also noticed that I am happier when I am learning something. I need to be progressing. I need to have a goal. I need a direction to point towards so that I know that I am moving forward. I am terribly afraid of being boring, stagnant and unchallenged.

So tonight I begin Power Squadron course for boating. Before you assume, I have not lost interest in either farming or bees. I am loving both. But I must keep expanding and learning and growing.

Have you ever looked in the mirror at yourself and wondered aloud, “What am I here for?” This has molded my goal. I must experience, learn and grow because I only have one life and it is so tragically short.

How is your world expanding? What have you learned lately?

Lately…Twirling

Lately, these have been my activities:

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-Preparing an asparagus bed, (they take 3 years to be edible, best get started now)

-Planting strawberries

-Visiting farms/gardens to haggle where the bee hives go that are coming in June.

-Reading “A Circle of Quiet” and today, finishing it.

-Writing a story for a children’s competition that is now too long to be entered.

-Walking to and from work

-Unearthing someone else’s old garden

-Beekeeping

-Wearing skirts (the last two days)

But as my husband and I were just discussing, listing the activities of someone’s day without accrediting emotions is really doing no justice to one’s activities. Something taken out of context is not the real picture. I have been thinking that I should learn more about soil PH levels, I should know what to look for in my sprouting asparagus or zucchini, I should be researching what grows where or when. But instead, I am doing the learning through osmosis. Through ontology. (That date with Dictionary is paying off.)

Instead, I celebrate as my black bean braves the wide world and sprouts on my window sill, leaves still pucked behind their bean-shell. I am astonished at my bees because their pollen sacs on their legs, like little luggage sets, are stuffed with bright yellow pollen to the hive, even though I’ve given them a whole patty of pollen at their disposal. I do not only smile, I grin inadvertantly at the glow of the pink flowers on the Japanese Cherry trees popping up in my neighbourhood. The splash of Pink! (Pink is such an incredible word) It makes me feel cheerful and girly.

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I walked to work yesterday morning and as I crested my little hill at the end of the road, the electrical Al drove by. He yelled out his window “It must be Spring!” And I twirled and flounced in my skirt for him. What music do I hear in my ears on Sunny Skirted Days? Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Wailin’ Jennys. Girls! And what do I smell? The intoxicating smell of lilies, orchids, daffodils, tulips, gerbers. Girly Girly Girly! Celebrate!

I am woman, see me twirl!

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