Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Upside Down

Many of my garden plans for this year involve growing upwards. The downtown yard lacks in square footage, but has a lot to offer in storeys with balconies, and warm brick walls.

Making the most of that space, we've added a couple of tiered planters which I'm going to fill with herbs.


Looking downward, John Davis continues to thrive in the corner of the vegetable garden.

John Davis ~ April13, 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I call them my "chemo doodles" - a collection of doodles I've drawn to pass time while my mother undergoes chemotherapy. She's given me a number of sketchbooks lately, and I've been putting them to good use.

I wouldn't really use a ruler to plant. This was just to stir up Dennis. He's so meticulous, and A-type over straight lines and consistency (as he should in his "farming business"). I think it took him a few years to realize that I too suffer the same obsessive compulsiveness, agreed with him, and he could trust me. There's a whole series of greenhouse doodles in my notebook, all depicting things I wish I could be doing - if I could be at the greenhouse.

a further ramble..
It's been a challenging year. Almost one year ago we lost our baby. (I can't believe it's been a year already, sigh.) I've struggled with grief every day since.
My mother's cancer diagnosis a few months later seems to have put life on hold. I feel like we're living in two and three week increments, holding our breath, trying to find hope, all while waiting for another shoe to drop.

"Unexplained neuropathy" or "fibromyalgia" is all that has come out of two years of doctor's appointments trying to uncover why my arms don't work properly. It's frustrating. I'm convinced it's all mechanical, and is all due to my spine being so weak. Confirmed are some herniated discs in my lumbar and thoracic spine, and a small hemangioma on T5. I suspect the next MRI will reveal more in the cervical spine from how I feel these days. Also, every chiropractor I've known (three) has had difficulty adjusting my spine because of how my muscles react. I'm not sure why.

Sitting hurts, laying down is often impossible - making sleep something I only dream about. I've slept restlessly and uncomfortable since August 2009, (in spite of our delicious king bed full of dogs). My theory is that I really hurt my back during our July move that year. I simply should have no business lifting heavy things. I've experienced these symptoms (neuropathy in my upper body) twice before - both times after moving, after weeks of consistent heavy lifting ...and, after peek gardening season.
After moving to Moodie Street I spent a few weeks unable to lift a plate into a cupboard. My arms and upper back were very sore, numb, weak. A few chiropractor sessions and weeks of rest seemed to take care of it. Again in June 2008, after moving in May, working three jobs (1 garden, 1 greenhouse, 1 office) my back gave out and I was unable to lift my arms over my head or sit for any length of time without pain. Four days off, rest, and avoidance of any lifting and I "recovered."

In the past, and both those time I was able to relieve my symptoms by walking. I used to religiously walk six kilometres every morning. Now, once my heart rate begins to rise my right arm turns red, then blue. It swells. It hurts. I can walk for a while, but my legs often go numb - sciatica, nothing unusual. I just can't seem to relieve it. I have rheumatic makers (that was one of the first, and only "positive" test result) and symptoms: swelling and pain in the joints of my hands, wrists, elbow, feet. I've felt swollen all over since the autumn of 2009.

In January this year I thought that working at the greenhouse would be therapeutic, and would probably help a lot; but by the time February came my symptoms were in overdrive. Not only can I not lift anything, I often can't even hold a pen. I can not go on like this.

Drawing has forced me to concentrate on holding a pencil, reminding my muscles what to do. I can draw for a second or two, a line or two - then rest my hand/arm. Repeat. Drawings like Joe Vanderwees' Tomato and Bee Greenhouse have been in the works since the day we went there.


R and I were out at the Vanderwees greenhouses a few weeks ago to restock our kitchen herb plants We were wandering around when Joe Vanderwees came along and invited us into his tomato greenhouse, which is pollinated by bees. The fruits are used in the Tulips cafe and sold at the front of the shop. I've never been in before - it was love at first sight.
The bees live in a bankers box on a shelf when not roaming the long rows of tomato plant vining up string to the greenhouse roof. The tomatoes will be available soon, it's been nearly a month since we were there.

It was lovely to listen to him talk, not only about the plants and the bees, but just to hear his voice. He sounds so much like my father - the accent and more. It's been nearly thirteen years since I heard my father's voice. I catch myself drawn to certain Dutch accents ..not all, just some - who sound so much like him it's incredible. Joe Vanderwees is one of them. I could have sat there all day listening to him all day.

I was cursing myself for not having my camera with me. The greenhouse was so beautiful. Its smell made me feel good; I wanted to breath it in all day. I can't draw what it smelled like, but I do remember.

Despite the challenges of the past year, I'm happier than I have been in years, and ridiculously at peace with life right now. There's no better reasons to try to be as healthy as possible, and put some extra effort into living well. I'm excited about our 2011 garden, and have plans in place for more tomatoes, a balcony garden, cucumbers growing upward, a climbing wall of succulents, additions to the front garden, and possibly a garden shuffle to make way for a wood fired oven built by Derek Luccese of Both Hands Bread.

We've been doing a lot of cooking and barbecuing lately, and can't wait to visit Patric's brick oven in Australia this summer. R's eyes drool when he talks of having his own, with our pizzas, my bread, and our culinary imaginations together - it would be well used.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can get at the vegetable bed without swimming in the glacial lake melting from the backyard on to the pathway surrounding it. Right now spring is just messy, ..but with pockets if garden drying out and warming up I'm finding signs of things to come. Rohan's lavender survived the winter and smells divine - but I'm keeping it covered until we get some more consistent temperatures. Hannah's strawberries are already growing.

John Davis is just lovely, with strong green stems and buds beginning to appear already. Of all the places my J.D. (old and new) have lived, this little vegetable garden is by far the best. His corner is protected - probably the best protection of all plants in the yard (from both weather and dogs) and my expectations are high. The trellis will support him up to the steps into the house. We won't even have to bend over to stop to smell the roses ...I hope.

That said, the fragrance of John Davis isn't very robust, and so I still want to add another Winchester Cathedral to the garden, most likely in a pot, perhaps on the balcony. It's fragrance is delicious alright - I can remember walking out in my garden at Castlegreen and being consumed by the sweet, sweet smell of W.C., who sat in the center of my sun garden for a few years (before succumbing to that terrible winter we had a few years back when we had freezing temperature and hardly any snow...).

The plans keep changing, evolving. Root vegetables to grow in the St. John Street community garden, I'm going to keep it simple this year.

As for the indoor kitchen garden: I'm going to start some basil seeds because I keep killing the plants in our kitchen window. The most used herb in our kitchen should thrive. I don't think the latest plants took to well to being transplanted, so between the survivors I'll add the seeds and see how they grow. It's kind of like buying a new toy for the dogs - dog toys and basil are only created to be devoured. That's just the way it is.