Garden Update, Part 6

Gardens are funny in the way that on one day they are potential things, they are spaces about to produce food.

The next day, they are abundant and overflowing and it becomes almost impossible to keep up with their bounty.

We’re at the “next day” phase.

In the last week I’ve eaten more snap peas than I usually do in a whole year. Yet I sit here on the deck and I can see enough still hanging on the pea vines that it seems like I hardly made a dent.

I filled a bowl with fresh raspberries and we had to freeze most of them to keep them from spoiling. There are another round or two ready to be picked in the coming days.

I’ve only been snacking on the carrots, but what I thought was a sparse crop is looking to be overflowing even now.

The cucumbers are covered in little proto-cumcumbers just starting to grow, and in a week or two we are going to need to start eating a helluvalot of more cucumbers … or open a pickle factory.

It’s obvious that one of the rare benefits of this pandemic has been the opportunity to spend so much time an attention in our own yard this summer that growing a garden has paid — is right now paying — dividends on that investment.

I haven’t even checked the potatoes, but I’m considering buying a fryer because I don’t think I can make the switch from rice to an all potato diet without incorporating some variety.

Look at me, complaining about bounty of food. How privledged.

Actually, it is highlighting the urgent need to consider how I might preserve some of it. In the past five or so years, our busy lifestyle has meant that despite planting the garden in the spring, the daily diligence of weeding, pruning, and minding the patch has just not been there. It’s helped that this has been a summer leaning far to the wet side of the preciptation scale and I’ve only needed to water a few times, but in drier years finding that ten minutes in the day to pull out the hose and throw some water down was just not a priority. The short version of that tale of laziness is that we’ve never really faced this abundance, at least not for the better part of a decade. There was always just enough to eat, graze, add to a meal here and there.

Now?

Now I have abundance.

It’s awesome — and daunting because the clock is ticking on what to do with it, and not squander it all.

(For example, sitting here writing and NOT picking out some plenty for a salad for dinner tonight!)

The weeds are generally under control.

The pests seem to be held at bay.

As mentioned, the rains have been keeping everything lush and wet and green.

It would suck if I was the excuse this year. So if you’ll excuse an abrupt ending to this update, I’m going to go pick some veggies…

Garden Update, Part 5

It is raining as I write this, but yet I ran outside to snap a few pictures. As the first half of the year begins its final day, July sweeping into view ahead, the vegetable garden has in ten days evolved into a proper patch.

Two weeks more of on-again off-again rain and sunshine has definitely helped. And as things settle into this splendid spread of virtually weed-free gardening bliss I start to look at the nuance of possible risks approaching.

Fearing to jinx myself, I’ve been watching the forecast for some kind of terrible storm. In July we are often cursed with at least one helluva-hail-storm where one unlucky quadrant of the city is pummelled by frozen pellets from the sky. That happened once about five years ago and it literally pulped what had been a fantastic vegetable garden into a mess of compost. Broke my heart, to be honest.

So, that has become a lingering fear that, pragmatically if it happens it happens, but would crush my soul a little bit more if it did.

On the other side of that fear is a blossoming collection of amazing future salads.

The carrots are bushy and strong.

The lettuce is at that phase where we actually think we might better start eating it now else it risks running away and getting ahead of our capacity to harvest it.

The peas are proper tall and I expect in the next couple weeks will start blossoming and producing some fruit.

The cukes have established themselves and by next time I write I expect I’ll have needed to start tending where their vines are growing as I loop them back in on themselves and try to contain them to the small space I’ve allocated.

And I can’t even talk about how unexpected my garlic crop is pleasing me. I don’t even know how we’re going to use it all.

Don’t call it cheating, but I made a rare trip to the store shortly after my last post with a shopping list exactly two items long: some ant powder to deal with the infestation in our front yard and a couple of hostas to replace two dead shrubs in the back. I had visited a couple of greenhouses in May to seek out some starter tomatoes and such, but due to the pandemic seedlings were in short supply. Yet as I entered the checkout lane, there as one of the lane barriers was an entire rack full of tomatoes and other little starters.

Needless to say my list got a little longer than two items as I picked up a trio of tomatoes, some spicy peppers, and a couple small flats of leafy greens, specifically some kale and bok choy — things I never would grow from seed — to fill in the spaces where nothing ever really germinated. Those have eagerly joined the garden patch and are faring well… ish. More on that in a later post I hope.

Underbridge

I was lamenting two frustrations and ultimately solved them with one short drive.

Feeling a little trapped in the neighbourhood, both my efforts to run more frequently and sketch things beyond my backyard, finding motivation to push myself outside my comfort zones has been a roadblock. Then it occurred to me that sketching in place, the foundational pillar of so-called urban sketching, was not necessitated by either walking somewhere or being — strictly speaking — outside. I could, say, drive somewhere and if it were, say, raining and thus risking my delicate notebook with getting drenched I could just sit in my truck and draw.

Couple this alongside the repetitive monotony of running from my front door day after day after day … literally … after day, and a solution presented itself in the form of a ten minute drive.

I dressed for a run and grabbed my sketching supplies and drove down to the ski hill.

Yeah. This city has a ski hill nestled in a creekside valley, seventy-five meters of decent if a foot, and transformed into a quiet recreational area with running trails in the summer. The nearby freeway dips into the valley and spans the gap with a short, utilitarian bridge through a ribbon of urban greenspace.

Pencils do not do it justice.

I sketched from the drivers seat, watched a dozen or so people wander by in the drizzly rain, dropped my eraser under the seat once, and after about 20 minutes of freehand sketching the contrast of grey concrete with dense foliage suited up and went for a run through the drizzle — and eventually pouring — rain.

Urban sketching for the week: complete. I thought.

What was bugging me was that contrast between the green and the greys which I was not equipped to capture with my limited artistic experience. I assume that will come with time and practice, but for the moment it was a rough, abstract impression that I could not quite hit the mark upon.

Then, as these things do, another epiphany occurred to me while I was running through the lush, wet natural trails.

I snapped one photo when I returned to my truck after my run, hopped in the vehicle and drove home.

That photo was a bit of a colour reference. I snapped a picture of the sketch from my book and imported it into the art software on my iPad.

Using a photograph as a reference for a sketch, tracing the initial shapes is — admittedly — a bit like cheating. I like to think of it as a style, just like animators might lean on rotoscoping to capture lifelike movement, artists can put some of the heavy lifting on capturing lifelike shapes from photos before adding details and abstractions through their own colours and textures.

But using your own freehand sketch as a starting point? Not cheating at all. I started by tracing the lines and shapes from my freehand sketch, then as the image took shape digitally, ditched the sketch and filled in the colours and textures looking at the photo I took to jog my memory and some creative interpretation through the hundreds of varieties of brushes and infinite colours available on the software reproduction.

And sure, maybe under a grey bridge is an odd place to sit and draw, but having run under it, past it, over it, and on it countless times, used it as a landmark for distances, and driven it sometimes daily, it’s a bit of my local life that is more than some grey concrete spans. Which is kinda the whole point of art isn’t it?