Thursday, June 16, 2011

raising kids and gardens in the city

do little boys ever get tired of playing in water?
We had some beautiful rainstorms this week- slow, steady rain with a few claps of thunder, but never enough to be scary or to even thing of going down to the basement.  No- just a nice soaking rain that fills the rain barrel and soaks everything evenly.  Just as I was beginning to wonder if the mid-summer dry spell was coming early.

The little ones were out in the puddles just after the rain finished, of course.  My little guy was sitting on the curb, making little dams with twigs, and playing with the muck in the water.  I could have stopped him-- it probably isn't the best thing in the world for a kid to be doing, but it was warm out and there weren't any cars in the road.  He was being a kid - doing unstructured things just for fun, and finding out about how the world works in the way kids are supposed to.

We are busy trying to sign them up for art classes and soccer classes right now, like all of the other city parents, making sure our kids' lives are as frantic as ours.  I think I like that they play in puddles sometimes.

mainacht salvia, morden blush and winnipeg parks rose- makes my eyes hurt!

stella cherry is growing like a weed


The recent heat and the rain have the garden going crazy!  In the front yard, everything is blooming at once.  It's almost too much.  After a long winter without- to be suddenly overwhelmed by bright green and color- it's beautiful and it's overwhelming.

The fruit trees are doing their part as well.  Our serviceberry is a slow grower, so I clipped off some of the fruit this year just after it finished flowering, so that it would put more energy into growing bigger and less into fruit production.  It seems to be obliging by sending out lots of new shoots, so that seems to be working.  There still is some fruit left, and it'll probably be ripe in a few weeks. 

If you haven't had them, the flavor of serviceberry is pretty good.  They look and taste a lot like blueberries, but with bigger seeds.  The seeds can put you off, granted, but the trees are a lot easier to grow than blueberry bushes, and produce more heavily, if you can keep the birds away.  When this one gets big enough, I may have to try making a batch of serviceberry wine.

We have a Stella cherry, which is either a zone 4 or a zone 5 tree, but which has survived 3 winters in our yard now.  I don't know if that confirms that we are in zone 5, or just that Stella is hardier than she has been given credit for.  We haven't seen any blooms on her yet, but the way she is growing- wow!  This is one vigorous tree!  Supposedly it takes 5-6 years to see fruit, so we may be waiting a while.  I hope it's worth the wait.

evans bali cherries forming

the veggie garden as of June 15

...and our rainbarrel runneth over

yeah, they both really enjoy playing in puddles
 The Evans Bali cherry in the backyard, on the other hand, is bearing as heavily as ever.  If I can keep the birds away, we may have a bumper crop this year.

I've had to become creative in keeping the rabbits out of our veggie garden.  I put a fence around most of it, but the logistics of getting a fence all the way around, after putting in the new stonework, were daunting, so i left a bit of a gap.

That meant that they were able to find out broccoli plants and they wasted no time decimating the crop.  We still have a couple dozen left, so yesterday, I searched for my cayenne pepper, my tried and true rabbit and squirrel repellent.

Only I couldn't find it.  Gita has rearranged the kitchen cabinets and I didn't have the patience to go through all of them so I looked for a second-best solution.

What I found were some dry Thai dragon peppers we got at the farmer's market last year and dried in the back yard.  I ground them up in a mortar and pestle, then sprinkled them on the broccoli plants, as well as  a few kale plants nearby.  We'll see if that stops them.

If not- does anyone have suggestions on rabbit repellants?  I don't use chemicals- but am open to suggestions on home remedies or barriers to keep the buggers out.  Any thoughts?

thai peppers before grinding...
...and after


  1. JZ,

    There I was, yapping at you about serviceberries, and you went and had one in your yard! I'm jealous of your Evan's Bali. Yeah, there's something grand about playing in puddles, or running water; just teach 'em how to recognize the pretty oil slicks. As to the rabbits, the little bastards got to my cherished brussel sprouts - the one thing I can't re-plant. The best way to keep them out is to sit with your plants every day and all night, until the greens are unpalatable to the wretched rodents; but that can prove difficult, with a wife, two kids, a job, etc, I'm sure. I fenced mine in with some old wood-frame window screens, until the screens fell over in a strong wind and crushed my babies.

    Here's a link to my serviceberry post. Blessings,

    William Hunter Duncan

  2. Thanks Hunter,

    I was going to tell you about the serviceberry as a matter of fact, but the topic changed and I forgot. It's my son's tree. I planted a tree for each of them on their first birthday. (I wanted to plant them the day they were born- but when that time came there were way way too many other things that took precedence).

    Regarding planting serviceberry and other edibles in parks-- just today I was in an outer suburb inspecting plant material that was going in on a jobsite. I didn't do the design, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were 80 serviceberry bushes going into the park! Some with berries on already. It's not a lost cause- not by a long shot. On the contrary- I think it's an idea just coming into fruition (pun intended).

    As for rabbits- thanks for the tip. I think I'll stick with cayenne pepper for now- no chance I'll be camping out in the garden every night. Not that it'd be all that bad, really. Sorry to hear about your brussel sprouts. I've never been able to grow them- so you're ahead of me there. They're one of my favorite veggies so I hope to some day.