Taking up hobbies again: photography and gardening

The stereotype of an entrepreneur is someone who obsesses about business at all hours of the day. It’s good for me to be able to relax and enjoy hobbies, though. It preserves that feeling of an abundance of time, which makes it easier and less stressful to make good decisions and to keep my values in mind. Hobbies also give me a way to refresh myself.

This is a picture I took at sunset in High Park. I like the muted colours and the blurriness of the sun just visible through the trees in the distance.

Many houses are slated for demolition along Bloor Street, to be replaced by a tall condominium building that spans the entire block. I took the picture on the left because the hole in the window looked like a cat sitting on the sill and looking out, as cats often do. On the right, you can see a tree fort behind the construction fence.

Ah, cats. =)

Not much in the garden to take pictures of yet, but maybe the seeds I planted will germinate soon. This year, we’re looking forward to growing more bitter melons (ampalaya), basil, snow peas, lettuce, spinach, blueberries, and nasturtiums. (Edible gardens for the win!)

It’s a quiet weekend, my favourite kind.

The first blueberries from our garden

The blueberries are so shockingly flavourful that I wonder what the local supermarket has been selling us all this time.

Another garden milestone: We’re growing and enjoying our own blueberries. The nets were a great idea. I can see why the birds and squirrels didn’t leave us any berries last year. Now I want to edge the backyard in blueberry bushes.

Blueberry blueberry blueberry.

The cherry tomato plants are hitting their growth spurt. I’ve got two that I bought, four that I started, and three that just volunteered in the garden. No flowers yet, but we’ll get there eventually.

Blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, basil, peas. I wonder what other garden joys I’ll discover.

An abundance of cilantro, now freezing in cubes; strawberries and peas

Awesome Garden Lady down the street gave us two large bunches of lettuce and a bag of cilantro, so I made an Asian-inspired salad yesterday: toasted sesame seeds, cilantro, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and the rest of our bag of baby greens, dressed with tamari and olive oil. The cilantro made it feel like eating one of those Vietnamese sandwiches, except without the meat. Yum.

Today I spent the morning chopping up the rest of the cilantro and packing it into our ice-cube tray for freezing. That way, we can easily add cilantro to stir-fries, soups, and other meals.

Many herbs freeze well, which is a good thing because they usually come in large bundles.

In other news, look at what’s in the garden:

The first of many, I hope!

Gardening notes: Cut-and-come-again lettuce

One of my gardening goals this year was to have a cut-and-come-again bed for leafy greens. The idea is to grow lettuce and other greens for continuous harvesting instead of waiting until the head has fully formed. We’re using a self-watering planter from Rona perched on the deck rail. I can even harvest barefoot. (Well, in my slippers.)

 

I started these plants from seed, which was another one of my goals. I’ve gotten two salad lunches out of this box already. The lettuce is starting to set seed and the leaves are a little more bitter, but they’re still good to eat. I’ve got bok choi and other plants starting there, too, and I tend to putter around and plant more every week.

I should’ve considered the community-supported agriculture box too, because we’re now swimming in lettuce. Today I changed my salad dressing by using tamari instead of balsamic vinegar, topping it with sliced egg. Bit more of an Asian taste. Next time, I’ll toss in some sesame seeds, too.

Salad greens are actually better in some shade than in the hot sun, so if you’ve been looking for things to grow on a balcony, consider growing your own salad bowl. With the cut-and-come again method, you could get quite a few harvests out of them.

Garden riches

One of the first things J- did when she woke up this morning was to pick fresh vegetables from the garden. She came in with a bowl of sugar peas, green beans, and cherry tomatoes, all plump and perfect.

The tomatoes have hit their stride and are ripening at a rate of 3-4 tomatoes or so a day, which is just right for snacking. The peas are starting to wind down, and it’s about time to start a second crop. I should harvest the cilantro seeds and start those again, too. Some volunteer zucchini has snuck into my garden by way of the compost.

Pesto is on my cooking plan this weekend: different kinds of basil, garlic scapes, mmm…

Ah, the garden. Have kings and queens ever eaten as well as this?

Gardening and cats

I trimmed back the tomatoes as they had been threatening to take over the entire vegetable plot. Judging from the number of flowers on the plants, we have a lot of pasta in our future.

It reminds me of the time that we brought home kilos of hothouse tomatoes because they were on sale. We’d intended to can the pasta sauce we made until we found out that canning tomatoes involved complicated equipment and the risk of poisoning ourselves. We froze the pasta sauce instead, thick sheets in Ziploc bags that saved us from cooking for a good long while. The kitchen was a mess during the cooking process, but it was worth it.

And now we’ll have our own basil, our own rosemary, our own oregano. One of the things I love the most about keeping a garden is wandering out there and exploring the different scents and tastes. I love watching plants grow: they creep along ever so slowly, but when I remember how small they were when I started, I can’t help but be amazed by the progress.

The cats love the garden, especially Leia. Leia’s always trying to sneak out. She ignores the catnip and heads straight for the grass, which she thinks is the best treat ever. They also enjoy watching the squirrels and birds look for food in the garden, and we sometimes hear the cats chattering away, little jaws snapping the bones of imaginary prey.

As I write this, there are two robins picking through the grass for worms, which are plentiful in our garden. The tree close to the deck conceals a bird’s nest in low-hanging branches. Whenever I go outside to shoo the animals away from the plants they also like to snack on (“Gerroff the lawn!”), I need to make sure I quickly close the door behind me. Leia is invariably right there, nose pressed up against the glass, wishing she was the one chasing squirrels around instead. She meows, but I can’t hear her through the glass–a silent film star with whiskers.

When we do let her out, it’s on a harness and leash. I’ve learned to put my shoes on before I open the door, because there’s no holding her back once the great outdoors beckons. She runs down the stairs and into the grass which is too short to hide her, but she pretends anyway. She nibbles on a few blades of grass, then scampers into the vegetation and crouches. The squirrels chatter angrily. She hides behind the tree, but they know she’s there.

When we first saw Leia at the animal shelter, we had no idea that her long soft fur and princess-like demeanor concealed such a hunter. She seemed the quintessential indoor cat, more given to lounging on cushions than to padding through the grass. Then again, she’d been a stray for a while before the animal shelter picked her up, and she must have had some way of fending for herself. Luke, our other cat (previously named Burch, but renamed)–he was owner-surrendered, although it’s hard to think of anyone being able to give up such an affectionate cat. I’m glad we have two cats. They play with each other, and that often gives us a lot to laugh about. They play hide and seek. They play chase. They play let’s-gang-up-on-the-tall-ones-and-ask-for-food-in-synchronized-meows, which is always fun.

Now it’s time to work. I love working facing the garden, with a cat or two in the area. The cats always seem to know when I should take a typing break and cuddle them instead, and the garden is refreshing even through the sliding glass door.