Posts Tagged ‘Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary’

Saturday, March 31, 2012

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Friday … the end of the work week .. and another day of activity.  A real mix of weather, ranging from brilliant sunshine to pouring rain.

What to do .. what to do … what to do…

Shopping of course .. made a list, actually brought it with me and then left it in the car!  Groceries first .. went to a few supermarkets to take advantage of sales.  Found some good deals and soon the back of my car was loaded up.   Also purchased the most beautiful umbrella at the bank, proceeds go to Children’s Hospital.  It’s just the loveliest umbrella I’ve ever had. There are two coverings.  The outer (top) is black and the inner cover is a cheerful blue sky dotted with white puffy clouds.  How appropriate for one who loves the sky so much!   And I actually had the opportunity to use this in the afternoon when I went for a little walk!   I had my blue skies with me, even though it was pouring rain!

Decided to just make a “little” visit to Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary.  When I got there, the little parking lot was jammed full .. so decided to leave unless a spot happened to open up.  Just as I made this decision, I noticed someone preparing to get into their car and leave.  Hmmm.. what can I say?  So I waited a few minutes and then parked in the now vacant spot.

Pulled on my gumboots and started walking.   Sauntered along  the pathway to Tuesday Pond … went to the side area  .. which is now nicely covered in mulch .  This mulch looks just like the pine chippings that I scooped up a few days ago, from “free” in Used Victoria ads.     I’m getting to know my mulch.  And glad that I still have 6 large Rubbermaid containers full at home .. plan to use this on my back pathway.   Pine mulch is not good for gardens, but perfect for pathways.

Anyway .. onwards I went .. and saw no ducks at the side area .. so I retraced my steps, planning to take the shortcut to the little bridge which spans the Tuesday Pond area.  Oops .. there is a large Canada Goose along the shores .. so I decided to go the long way around.  The Geese  can be a bit territorial and I didn’t want any confrontations.

I walked along the pathway for a while, tempted to walk the full circuit around the Sanctuary, but decided on a shorter version, it’s too easy to spend hours and hours here and I have things to do at home.

Eventually I turned back and made my way to the main observatory.  Noticed many cleared areas, invasive plant growth removed, lots of sunshine now entering the cleared areas.  Lovely ..lots of volunteers have helped to open up these side wooded areas.

I could hear the calls of many birds, some of which I recognized.  The songs of the Red Wing Blackbirds, the males and the females.  The Marsh Wrens.  And many others.

Spoke with other people looking out for birds and feeding the ducks.  Saw the Cormorants were still settled on the wooden platform which is tethered to the shore.  Separate from the main walkway and inaccessible to the public, a safe haven for the birds.

Noticed a Great Blue Heron stalking prey for lunch, very stealthy.  Then, ta da, he swiftly gathered up a rodent, and just as swiftly, in one gulp, it was gone.   Nature at work.

Stopped and watched some Red Winged Blackbirds as they sang away.  These are quite beautiful birds and the females have the most beautiful songs to sing.

Finally I tear myself away and go to the Nature House to see if my place on the Native Plant workshop has changed .. I’m currently Number 3 on the wait list. Nope, unchanged.  And no phone calls as of this morning, so I didn’t make the cut.  Boo hoo .. that will teach me to procrastinate!  If I’d contacted them when I first saw the ad, I’d be there right now.  Oh, well, there will be other workshops, I know.

Homeward bound …noticed that the sunny morning skies have changed and now were overcast.  Groceries brought in and put away.  Time for tea!

Played around in my garden room.   Sorting seeds.  Found some packages that were either purchased by me or given to me as gifts.  Boxed herb seeds.  A package of Korean pine tree seeds, complete with compostable plant pot and saucer.   I followed the instructions given on the enclosed sheet and now the seeds are sitting in the moistened potting mix and awaiting germination.  If they sprout, then I’ll keep them in pots.    Perhaps I’ll plant them on our future property, but time will tell if they will indeed sprout.

Then, the herb package, sweet little clay pots, 4 labelled aluminum plant stakes and 4 envelopes of seeds.  I’ll put them in plant pots and see if they will germinate.  If they do, then I’ll have lots of basil, parsley, thyme and cilantro for the summer.  You just never know.

Finding (and using) these hidden treasures  gives me incentive to continue on with my clearing away the clutter in my garden room.

I also found time to look through some watercolour instruction books.  Looking for ideas that I can use to paint some white rectangular tiles.   I’ll take the painting ideas and use them on a variety of things for the garden.  It would be fun to paint some leftover boards and try to make signage for the garden.  Another fun project for a sunny day.

Went outside for a few minutes, in between the rainy showers and checked out the garlic, growing quite strongly now.   Looked up in the sky .. no eagles flying around.  Heard the rapid taps at the bird feeder as a little chickadee pecked away at the acrylic sides of the feeder – to remind me to add more sunflower seeds to the feeder!   Ha ha ha .. went inside to fetch the sunflower seed container and then added a cup full to the various feeders.    The birds only tap at this feeder when it’s empty, smart little guys, aren’t they?

Rains began, so inside I went.  And on with my day.


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Thursday, March 29, 2012

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Wednesday .. was .. at times … sunny .. then cloudy .. some rain .. followed by sun.  A potpourri kind of day, weatherwise.

Spent some time outside, relocating some of the taller plants in the back of the yard.   I’m making a kind of little secret garden, of sorts.   Starting with tall perennials along the fence, with a little pathway in front of that.   Then I’ve moved the garden bed back a foot, and began the process of moving the taller bamboo plants closer to the edge of that.

Then I’m moving a line of raspberries in front of them.   There will then be a staggered height of plants, tall to medium and then shorter (garlic, herbs).   The tall plants will give protection to the lower plants.

My garden is in constant change and it’s easy to move them.  Except I had to tug away at the Buddleia, thought.  The roots are mainly fibrous, with one long tap root that extended farther than I wanted to dig, so I just cut the end of the root . . still have a two foot length left and these plants are tough as nails, anyway.

Why am I doing this?  Well, in a burst of creative thought a few days ago, I thought that if I could rearrange the veggie garden (part of it, anyway) then I could install my propagating area here.  In a nice and tidy fashion, that is.  And I find that these projects sort of take on a life of its own … I simply start the process and my inner artist takes over.   The results are always creative and I’m always surprised and impressed with the results.

And I’ve decided to install rustic fencing along parts of the garden, to visually break up some of the areas.  I’ll be re-using the branches and bamboo canes that I’d used to make a  holding area for my mountain of mulch leaves from last fall.  I have my eye on several very tall bamboo canes currently growing in one area of the yard, so luckily, I’m not lacking in fencing materials.

I like the look of the rustic fencing that was installed at the front of Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary, and when I’d last visited there on Tuesday, I looked at this fencing again and thought, perfect for the back yard!  So, thanks for the inspiration, Swan Lake!!

I was quite involved in digging away yesterday when the rains came .. I simply covered up my camera, binoculars, iPod and simply went on digging.   After all, what’s a little rain?  Then the sun came out and it felt like a warm summer day.

After what I’ve been learning in my gardening course, I’m not really happy about digging up and disturbing the soil .. saw the thin white strands of the mycorrhizal fungi in place, doing their part to help the roots of the plants.  And promised that I’d add some of the powdered M. fungi that I’d purchased from the Gardener’s Pantry.  I’ll soon have this soil healthy and vibrant  again.  Plus, liberal doses of EM!!

Took a break and read through some books on composting .. one mentions Bokashi, pallet & worm composting.  However, the “helpful” information listed is nowhere near as detailed as the information that I learned in the Organic Master Gardening Course (Gaia College, at Royal Roads University).  My gardening world has forever changed and I cannot go back to the way of thinking that I had before.

Funny, found a bag of plant fertilizer that I’d bought a few years back.   The cardboard box holding the plastic bag had long since disintegrated and all that is left is the bag and the contents of several cups of white and pale green “fertilizer”granules.  I shudder to think that I had used some of this on some plants.  Now I’ll have to dispose of this in “hazardous” materials.  Never, no more.

From now on, it’s EM, Compost Tea (Dr. Elaine R Ingham ), worm bins, mulch, grass cuttings, manure (organic preferably).    What a difference that course has made in my life.  And, luckily, I have access to the online videos and course material for a year.  It will take at least that for me to go through all of these invaluable resources.

Anyway .. on with this most wonderful day.  I think the rains have stopped .. can hear the birds singing away .. so out to my garden I go!   And if it is still raining, well, there’s no shortage of things to do inside.  Or maybe go for a walk.  Choices .. it’s a good thing!


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

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We’ve been lucky with weather lately, and actually had 4 days of sunshine!  This all ended yesterday … and now we are back to overcast with some rain.

DH & I went flying over town on Friday .. and we could see this huge band of dark cloud formation, quite unusual.  It was as if someone with a gigantic paintbrush had simply painted a long swathe of cloud.  It stretched from Hope, BC over to us and then continued.

This was the forerunner to the weather changes leading to our current slightly rainy weather.

It was wonderful to be flying again .. up in the air so high, everything down below seems like a little toy world.

Then on Saturday, full sun!   Felt kind of lazy, garden wise .. it’s the same every year.  Impatient to be outside getting my hands in the soil .. and then .. sort of like wandering around, daydreaming as to what I’ll be doing here and there.

Brought out my EM, mixed some with water and added to some plantings.

A friend of mine will be travelling and I’ll be looking after her plants .. so while she is off exploring, her plants will be at “club med” relaxing in the sun.  They are all placed together so they can communicate with each other.  I’ve given them all a healthy watering of EM, so that feels quite good .. nice healthy microbial action to liven up the soil and give these plants a good diet.

Can you see the photos of the cedars with the sweaters?  She just happened to have 2 matching woolen sweaters (English, don’t you know!) and placed them over the burlap covered rootballs, so that there wouldn’t be any soil loss, while they were being moved.   And now the trees are in planters for the summer and coming seasons, till the time is right for them to be moved again.  They are safe here.

So then I had to mix up more EM and watered all the plants in this side area of the garden.

Then I had a nice surprise conversation with my gardening neighbour, M .. the lovely lady who constantly gives me perennials, and lettuce and other vegetables during the growing season.  She also gives me tips on propagating (roses, she always takes cuttings, puts them in soil filled containers, with a glass covering and slowly, they grow roots!!).

So on Saturday, I’m trying to explain the wonderful new things I’ve learned in my OMG course and when I said the word “mycorrhizal” .. her eyes lit up!   And when I showed her the blueberry cuttings in sand (they are sprouting leaves already) she noted that there is more air in the sand so that is a good growing medium.

Then, she tells me that she was a teacher in the Ukraine!  And she taught biology, chemistry and (I think) botany!  OMG .. what a treasure and she is my neighbour!!!  She is working on improving her English .. which is radically different from the sentence structure in Ukrainian.  I am so looking forward to learning more gardening knowledge from her, as her English improves.

The key word was “mycorrhizal” .. and I’m so glad that I worked hard to understand & remember the significance of this word.

Anyway .. after all this … DH comes home and it’s off to the airport we go!   A local flight .. and yee-haw .. it’s magic to be back in the air.

And on Sunday, we were up up up and away .. gone the whole day.  Spent lovely time at the flying club … time to tend the garden, I must go out there sometime with my clippers and strings to support the sweet peas .. still growing from last year!  And time to transplant a few of the bigger plants.  Always something to do.  And I think I will apply some EM to the plants there also.

Well .. time to get going on this day.  I’ve read in the  paper that there is now a “green roof” full of native plants at the Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary.  I’ve noticed the structure being built, was curious .. really look forward to seeing this green roof first hand.

So now I’ll try not to spend 3 hours on my walk there!  But it’s so hard when there are so many beautiful things to see!


p.s. I came across this article a few weeks ago .. about Miracle Gro birdseed, the company knowingly added pesticides to the birdseed… , despite the advise of their ornathologists – how many wild and domestic birds have been poisoned?  I’m going to contact the sources of the birdseed that I’ve been buying, to find out what they have to say about their products.  Scary.  Who would have thought that an innocent product like birdseed would be contaminated?


And I’ve just gone downstairs to check my bird feed supplies and what do I see but the name “Scotts” on the front of the package.  So I visited the website that is listed on label, and it is the Scotts Miracle Gro birdseed site.  Now I feel quite sick about having fed the wild birds this suet.  So I’ve e-mailed the store where I purchased the suet, asking that they discontinue selling  this product.  And I’ve just sent off an e-mail to the Scotts birdseed site.  www.scottswildbirdfood.ca berating them for knowingly adding the pesticides.

This is truly a “Buyer – Beware” situation.  From now on I’ll stick to the plain fat that I can get from the supermarket meat department.  Thrifty Foods is quite helpful in that respect.

As for the remaining unopened suet block that remains, well, I’ll be treating that like hazardous waste.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

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Oh, argh .. argh .. argh ..I’ve been trying to write every day, to get in the disciplined habit of just writing .. but yesterday was a hurdle.

I’ve been practising adding my blog name to my pictures (thanks Claire!!) and so for each picture I would right-click, choose “Paint” then painstakingly learn the ins and outs about that.  As you can see in the photos, sometimes the font is small, sometimes the colour blends in with the background.  Sometimes it is on the left, then the centre, then the right .. oh, and along the top and middle also.   I tried to go back and change, via the text box, but that wasn’t proving to be too successful, so I just let things be as they were.  Laissez-faire, sort of thing.

Ok, this was sorted out.  So next, I went to my little Toshiba laptop on the kitchen table .. to proudly post my pics.

Well .. I’d add subtitles, go to the next one, add subtitle .. then, the laptop would freeze up and then I’d lose everything.  I lived through this 3 times.   And then I gave up.  sigh.  I’ve discovered that there is not enough energy for the laptop to operate with a) music and b) another website opened up.  So it’s either one or nothing.

And I had all these lovely pictures that I’d taken on Friday that I wanted to share.  So here they go, better late than never.

So, Friday morning starts out a little overcast, then some sun.  Time for a little walk to Swan Lake.   Another little 3 hour walk.

When I arrived there, midmorning, the birds must have been taking a siesta .. I could only hear some far off singing .. and no ducks at the smaller observatory.  Continuing along the long and winding pathway .. I heard the little chirping sounds of a hummingbird, so stopped to watch and listen.

What a lovely little sight .. I saw a little Anna hovering about the delicate moss (or maybe it was a spider web) at the base of a tree along the side of the path.  What a lovely moment of nature .. I watched, motionless, as she tugged away at some tiny material . .then she flew a few centimetres farther, and tug, tug, tug.  She repeated this a number of times then swiftly flew away to the upper branches of a nearby tree.

I decided to wait, no one else was running or walking along the route .. so I opened my camera and prepared to wait.  Several times more, she flew in, hovered around .. and then tugged away repeatedly for more materials to build her next.  Finally, she flew to sit on a branch of a nearby bush and just rested.  She wiped her delicate beak on the surface of the branch, perhaps to remove any sticky residue from the web or moss.

Oh, my this was such a wonderful moment time, such a gift .. to observe the delicate workings of nature in action.   And the timing . . if I hadn’t been there in that particular place at that particular moment in time, I would have missed this precious moment.  All in the tranquility and solitude of Swan Lake Sanctuary.

And that reminds me .. the hummingbird feeders in our yard are being fully utilized right now.  On Saturday, I’d just refilled the feeder for the front yard family and then stood back for some time to watch the activity.  It seemed as if there were about six of them taking turns at the feeder, flying around, but really it must have been four.   And the back yard Anna’s .. I usually only see three.  Ok, something else to learn .. how hummingbirds live and socialize.

So I continued on my way.  Over to the Galloping Goose.  Struck up a conversation with a lady and her dog, Tessa, a beautiful golden girl, very friendly dog.   I’d noticed them walking along the asphalt pathway and Tessa (as I learned her name later) kept looking back at me .. as if she wanted to say “hello”.    As I caught up to them, her doggy mom and I struck up a conversation and chatted of many things.  At the end of the trail, we introduced, shook hands and then went on with our day.    This is just an example of the lovely things that happen when you venture out into the world.  This wouldn’t have happened if I had decided to “not go for a walk”!.  🙂

Over to the Mediterranean store for some goodies, which included some lovely smoked cheddar .. yum, yum .. this is delicious.   And I need to go there again for more!

And now I’ll share with you a story about lasagna.

After I returned home (3 hours later!) from my little walk, I decided to make up a lasagna.   By this time, the weather was sunny, but I just wanted to get this done.

So I prepared all the food.  Chopped up the onions, garlic, added to the pan along with ground chicken.  All sizzling away.  Pot of water on to boil, added a combination of spinach and plain lasagna strips.  Opened up the bottle of hot salsa and added to the chicken mixture.   (I’ve been using this now for lasagna, so delicious.  Thawed out the frozen spinach and drained out the extra moisture.

Brought the food processor down from the top cupboard.  I’d bought this at Eaton’s (when it existed, alas, no more) so the machine is about 20 years old or so.   Grated the mozzarella.    Drained the cooked lasagna strips.

Then the fun began.

I thought that I’d just make a small lasagna, so brought out the 8 x 8 glass pan.  Put some salsa on the bottom, added 3 strips, spooned on a layer of the salsa/chicken mix.  Added some spinach.

Hmmm.  With this one layer, I’m already at the halfway level of the pan.  Perhaps I’ll try the larger pan, it’s not deep  .. that should work.

So, I put more salsa on the bottom, added some strips, scooped off the chicken mixture from the smaller pan, then began the layering again.

Hmm .. this doesn’t seem to be working, again I’m at the halfway level … so perhaps the larger, deeper pan will work.

By this time, I’ve run out of salsa, so opened up a tin of stewed tomatoes, blended the contents with the hand blender.  Spread some on the bottom of this, the largest, pan.  Again with the lasagna strips.  Scooping the chicken mixture et all from the last pan.

Well, I didn’t take any photos of this fiasco to share .. too embarrassing.  Finally, the lasagna was all nicely layered, and covered with sauce and cheese.  The final topping was the smoked cheddar .. a thin layer of delicious cheese on the top.

Cleaned up all the pots and pans, counter and floor.  Stove and sink.  Neatly covered up this most wonderful of lasagna’s and carefully placed in the fridge.

Escaped to the outside back yard where I played with this and that.  So happy to be outside.

Later, DH home and I put the lasagna in the oven .. and you know what!  This was the most delicious lasagna that I ever made!   We each had generous helpings and there was more than enough for supper last night and tonight.

A lot of work and I realize that I am not the type of person to create a small dish of food for supper.  I’m destined to make large servings of food.  I try to  make “just enough” for a meal .. but it just never seems to work out that way.

Oh well.

And tomorrow I’ll share some photos of our recent flying trips!!!


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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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  Tuesday was quite the windy and rainy day.  The day started out ok, without any warning of what was to come.  I was actually thinking about going outside to tackle the remaining compost containers. 

But, things to do, places to go.  Bustled around, got ready to take little Youbou to the vet’s for his acupuncture treatment.  Yesterday’s session was short and sweet.  He only needed a few needle placements.  His right leg, which was once just lifeless, he dragged it around .. had progressed to the point where he was kicking like a bucking horse, it was so strong .. he did this when the vet attempted to place a needle at a specific point in his foot.  These needles are so very fine, he doesn’t feel them at all.

So now our next appointment isn’t for 6 weeks.  When he does have a relapse .. due to his feeling so good that he tends to run around quite a bit and he is limping a bit .. then I just massage his little back and leg and he’s much better.

We set off in the early morning .. sun was shining on our return home.

I was deciding where to start with the outside work.  But, during my second cup of Yorkshire Tea .. the rains commenced. 

The skies were grey .. the pounding rains kept up all day.  I heard that there was snow and hail .. but couldn’t see any here, by Swan Lake.

I actually like rainy days and love the feeling of being  in our nice warm home.  Pots of tea.  Kitty kats curled up, sleeping in their beds.

So, I started the arduous task of deciphering my hastily scribbled notes from the recent, intensive … Master Gardening Course (Gaia College, through Royal Roads).  What a life changer those classes were.

As I busily typed away, I was once again back there in the classroom, totally focused on the wealth of information that was being given to us.  I remembered the dark and rainy evenings, driving out to Langford.  I’m not a good night driver and the roads were very dark, it was a challenge to drive slowly on those nights.  But I wasn’t going to let a pouring rain stop me from attending those classes.

Names kept popping up, as references given throughout the course.  Names like  Forester & Environmentalist Ralph Zingaor –  who used a potassium-phosphite fertilizer (which has been around for decades)  to stall or reverse the symptoms of Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum ) on trees in California.  And he was not allowed to use this fertilizer and had to have it labelled as a pesticide in order to use it!!  Does that make sense?  no.

Here’s another one: Phil Callahan – who was the first person ever to connect the insect’s antennae frequency to plant infrared spectrum… amongst many other important discoveries:   http://www.whale.to/b/callahan.htmlSo

So very much information to discover, it’s quite breathtaking.

I didn’t take pictures yesterday, there just wasn’t the opportunity, so I decided to post some pics taken a year ago.  When I wandered around Beacon Hill Park .. and some eagle pics from Swan Lake.

Went shopping .. picked up some ready-made spinach/ricotta cheese lasagna roll-ups .. quite tasty and I plan to make a large batch of these.   They look to be quite easy .. so I can then freeze them in meal size portions.

I got over my disappointment of not “meeting and greeting” the actor who plays “Ken” on Coronation Street.  That’s life and this is a new day.   But, having sat in the front row during the whole show and listening to his amusing anecdotes, DH & I enjoyed a few chuckles while watching yesterday’s show.

We viewed the little guy who plays “Simon” in a new light .. he truly is a little chatterbox and quite a smart little person in real life.  “Ken” noted that he is a brilliant little actor and we totally agree with that.  His facial mannerisms are spot on and he always has that mischievous glint in his eye.  A sweetie, for sure.

Well… the weather today looks promising, but I can see those little grey clouds here and there!

Time to get on with this most lovely new day, I say, I say, I say!  – to quote “Fred Elliott” .. a former character on CS.  He’d often repeat his words and that was fun.


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Sunday, March 11, 2012

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 Well .. the rains fell on Friday.. steadily all day .. gave me some time to do some household things.  And some studying.  And reading.

I had picked up quite a few books at the Friends of the Library book sale a few months back.  Many wonderful garden books, weather books and of course, a “few” fiction books!

As I’ve been reading 2 or 3 at a time – it’s easy when the books are in different rooms!  Just takes a few seconds to get the characters in focus to continue with the storylines.  When I open a book .. the drapes are pulled aside and the cast of characters are on centre stage .. and the play continues!.

And one interesting thing that I’ve noted is the amount of similarities there are in each of the sets of books that I’ve been reading.  By different, well worded authors, by the way.

One book mentioned, straightaway about Yorkshire tea, and in particular Yorkshire Gold.  I’ve only seen that ever mentioned this one time.

Another series of similarities .. on and on, for example, both books will discuss a certain food type, then there will be similar job professions, on and on.  I know that there are a zillion differences in books, but I have never really noticed so many similarities before.  And I have read thousands of books in my lifetime and looking forward to reading thousands more.

I remember, years ago, clicking on the tv, catching the tail end of Yo Yo Mah’s conversation with someone ..  he was saying that we need to pay attention when seemingly coincidental things happen .. to “pay attention to the coincidences”.  So over the years I’ve developed a habit of doing that, but still don’t rightly understand the significance.

So, Saturday was our outdoors landscape class and it took place at Government House on Rockland Avenue.  I used to wander the grounds during my lunch breaks years ago and it’s been awhile since I last visited so I was really looking forward to being there again.

Our instructor showed us how to do a Brix reading using the refractometer, and we tested with some fruit.  The reading shows the level of sugar in fruit and vegetables .. for more info, here is a good site:  http://www.crossroads.ws/brixbook/BBook.htm

We then walked around the grounds, stopping at various gardening sites and discussed the virtues of each.  And also other ways to do things.  It was a very interesting session.

As we walked through the various areas, the herb garden, heather garden, saw some rocky gardening places.  There were some gloriously ancient oaks around and of course I took pics, I’ll post them tomorrow.

Along a pathway and I stopped there for a minute .. to look over at the propagating gardens and felt 30 years drop away.

I was once again back there, working away, talking with fellow volunteers, conversations about many things, and remember one about roofing companies.   Felt the warmth of the sun of one of those afternoons, the happy positive attitudes of everyone in the group.  An atmosphere of joy at being part of this first group of volunteers.

And I was wearing my first ever pair of gumboots, bought especially for this program.  They were a cheerful bright red colour.  And I still have them now .. they serve as planters in the garden.  Don’t plant on getting rid of them.  Good memories.

Funny how time works.   Good memories flashing up  .. watching them on internal film screens.  Always there to watch.

And great to be making new memories .. still about gardening.

Funny thing, when I started the Organic Master Gardening Course, I thought that this would give me good structure for my gardening knowledge.

Well, it’s done that and more!  It’s opened the door to my love of gardening and has raised it to a whole new level .. it’s changed my life.

And this has led me to another door, native plant gardening.  I went through that doorway last Wednesday, when I attended the Native Plant Gardening workshop at Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary.  It awoke my love for these plants.  And I’m remembering now that I have a number of books that I’ve purchased over the years.  Books that I guess I’ve been acquiring .. to prepare my self for this part of my life.

Some of these are:

  •  “Fleurs des landes et marais” (from Toulouse, a flea-market), how could I resist!.
  • Rocky Mountain Wild Flowers, , A.E. Porsild
  • Grow Wild, Native Plant Gardening in Canada, Lorraine Johnson
  • the Wild Garden, Violet Stevenson
  • Conifers & Heathers, Diane Jones,
  • Sagebrush Wildflowers, J.E. Underhill (when we visit the areas around Cache Creek, etc.
  • Roadside Wildflowers of the Northwest, J.E. Underhill;
  • Central Rockies Place names, Mike Potter
  • Wild Flower of Field & Slope, in the Pacific Northwest, Lewis Clark
  • Wild Flowers of the Arid Flatlands, Lewis Clark
  • Field Guide to the Ferns & their related families, Boughton Cobb
  • Fern Growers Manual, Barbara J. Hoshizaki
  • Making the best of Alpines, Alan Bloom
  • Golden, A Guide to Field Identification , Wildflowers of North America, Frank Venning
  • Audubon Society: Western Forests
  • The Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America, Francois Couplan

And I know there are more on my bookshelves.

I’ve already placed my name on a session next week, to volunteer to remove some invasive plants on a little street somewhere in Saanich.  And also, have volunteered our yard to be checked for pollinators in the summer.  Bees, butterflies .. it will be great to learn what to look for.  Last summer I saw, for the first time ever, a gigantic bee, about 2″ plus in size .. look forward to finding out more about that wild bee.

All in all .. this past year has been a busy one.  I’d started my little gardening business.  Took ground school, experienced some dual control flights with the most amazing flying instructor.  Began the transformation of our yard.  Met many marvellous and interesting people.  Went for many long walks, discovering areas in Saanich that are beautiful and natural.  Met up again with friends from long ago ..

And now I’m acknowledging and dusting off that long ago me .. the one who loved discovering new things, making new friends, having adventures, being curious, learning and loving the natural world.  She’s my best friend and I’ll enjoy letting her have free rein on my most wonderful life.


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Thursday, March 8, 2012

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 Wednesday, up early .. playing around with housework, planned to leave for the Native Plant Information Session .. but there was lots of time.

And there really was lots of time, until suddenly I glanced at the clock and omg, I should have left 10 minutes ago.  Planned to leave at 8:45 and here it was 9:10.

Grabbed my gumboots, binoculars, camera (of course!) purse, coat, gloves and all the other stuff needed for a long walk and dashed out the door.  Walking at my old speed of .. fast…. I soon was on the Galloping Goose and shortly thereafter entered the most marvellous grounds of Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary.

Racing towards the Nature House, I was strict with myself, absolutely no stopping to take pictures .. that can wait till later.

However,  3/4 of the way along the long wooden walkway, said a quick “hi” to some birdwatchers who were observing some birds in a tree.  Nearly made it across without stopping, however, um, saw a couple of Cormorants at the side grasses, so, well, I’m only human, I stopped long enough to click a few pics and then on to the Nature House.

Inside, I went to the Classroom, opened the door and .. ta da .. there was an empty seat at the front!  My favourite place to be when I’m learning, so I felt very lucky.  Two more attendees arrived after me so I didn’t feel too bad about my tardiness.

The first part of the Information Session was on the subject of water conservation.

And, this is totally irrelevant, but “conversation” and “conservation” are very similar, don’t you think?

We learned so much about our local water source and best tips to conserve water.  I’ll share that another day, I took lots of notes and actually transcribed them into readable form!

And, then, it was time to learn about native plant gardening.  I haven’t finished transcribing those notes yet .. will do later and will share them also.

Our instructor, Pat, has been involved in native plant gardening for many years.  Her love of these plants  has evolved into this series of information sessions and workshops that occur quite often during the year.  I was impressed with her vast knowledge and love of these plants.  She shared so many tips with us, I was madly scribbling away .. knew that I wouldn’t remember all that she said .. there was so much information.

Some highlights I can remember off the top of my head .. that rotting wood is perfect for woodland gardens .. these are my absolutely favourite types of gardens.  I immediately pictured a section of old tree that I’ve used as a border in the garden.  Think I’ll move that to the sideyard .. where I am creating a woodland garden.  Perfect.

We saw a photo of a beautiful vine growing out of a rotting log, the perfect growing conditions for this native plant.

We learned that there are two ecosystems here .. that were in beautiful condition when we all moved here (because of the beauty, don’t you know) and she showed us a map that portrayed the pitiful broken pockets, the remaining 5% – the sad remnants of the original strong, healthy  ecosystems.   Destroyed, ripped out .. to create homes and industrial areas, without a thought to the existing vegetation and wildlife.

I thought back to my last trip to Sooke, with D, to gather kelp for the garden.  As we passed a huge new condo development, she looked out the window and told me, sadly, that there used to be a beautiful old forest there.  Her friends lived nearby and enjoyed the beauty of the animals that lived there and the lush growth of the old trees.  How very truly ugly this land is now.  Stripped of the richness of the soil and everything that existed on it.  Now just a big cement monolith.  Truly ugly and an insult to the life that was there.

And that reminds me of the 30,000 truckloads of fill that was removed from Uptown (ugh, don’t get me started) and that ugly blot on the neighbourhood that is being constructed on Carey Road .. that was all trucked out to Babe’s Honey Farm and load after load was dumped into the lakes and ponds that existed there.   I saw the before and after aerial photos and was sickened by the sight. What happened to the wild life that lived in these waters?  I though of the destruction that took place in the Avatar movie .. that’s what happened at Babes.   It never should have happened.  Complaints fell on very deaf ears.

Anyway to continue .. as we viewed a slideshow of native plant gardens throughout Victoria, admiring their beauty, she encouraged us to create native gardens, to create corridors to these fragmented ecosystems.  Suddenly I pictured the possibilities.  If many of us started to use native plants in our garden, the energy of these plants would send out vibrations to each other and they could communicate (plants do communicate, it’s a proven) and send encouraging messages to each other.

Is it a dream to visualize a greater strength of the two ecosystems growing stronger over the years?  I think it is a great dream with tremendous possibilities.  I’ve started on my dream.   Over time, as I accumulate plants, I’ll post pics of them. To share.  And encourage others to do the same.

Anyway, time is marching along .. time to start my day.

Just wanted to share my joy in discovering the beauty of native plant gardening.

One more thing, Pat told us that native plants thrive best on poor soil and only need watering at the beginning.  Once they are established, they are care free. Think about that, not worrying about watering or pruning.  You just relax and enjoy their beauty.   And the natural world of insects and little animals will visit so that will be fun.

And the building of little “bridges” back to our ecosystem has begun.


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