Spring Gillard

Little Lost Zucchini

zucchini+plantI went to water my sad little garden the other night. I have reseeded so many times this year I have lost count. It looks like the only thing I’m growing is soil. The gluttonous bamboo thriving on the other side of the fence is eating and drinking on my side. Nothing will grow on the half where the large thick bamboo roots keep shooting out across the plot. On the other half, I’ve had a little more luck. The bean teepee is finally starting to fill out. And one prize zucchini plant is starting to fruit. I had picked the first young zuke a couple days ago and left another one to size up a bit. But when I got there, someone had snapped it off. You can tell it’s an inexperienced gardener who harvested it because it wasn’t twisted off the stem. It was snatched in haste, a big chunk of the vegetable was still there.

When community gardeners are stolen from, they often say, “Oh well, they must have needed it more than me.” I don’t agree. I have interviewed homeless and other low income people who don’t use meal program services because they think there are others worse off than them. I think it was probably someone who could well afford to buy their own food, but simply felt entitled to help themselves. Many community gardeners do grow their own food because it helps them offset their grocery bill. It means they can afford fresh, healthy produce. Any extras that we have at our community garden don’t go to waste. We trade with each other, give to family and friends, as well as share with low-income seniors in the neighbourhood through Kits House.

Sure, it was only one zucchini, but it was also dinner. Nevertheless, I do hope the thief enjoyed my humble efforts.

Top Banana

I made banana muffins yesterday morning. The smell in my apartment was heavenly; eating one warm from the oven with a dash of butter is divine. I use the Laurel’s Kitchen banana bread recipe, but scoop the batter into muffin tins instead. Then I can freeze them and just take a couple out as needed. I also freeze overripe bananas whole and put them in a plastic bag, that way I always have a supply for muffins or smoothies. Just set the frozen fruit on the counter for about five minutes and you can just slice the peels off easily with a knife. For the record, mine are organic, fair trade bananas. Here’s the recipe.

3 very ripe bananas (1 c mashed)12-Health-Benefits-of-Bananas-300x247

juice of 1 lemon

1/3 cup oil or butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1.5 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 c wheat germ

(1 cup chopped dates)

(I cup toasted nuts)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mash bananas and mix with lemon juice until smooth. Cream butter/oil and sugar, then add banana mix, stirring well.

Sift [I didn’t] together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda. Mix in wheat germ. Add to banana mix. Stir in dates and nuts if desired [I didn’t].

The dough will be very stiff. Turn into a greased 4”x8” loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes. To test for doneness, insert knife into loaf. If it comes out clean, it’s done. [Toothpicks work fine for muffins.] Makes 1 loaf.

You can also bake bread in an 8”x8” pan or in 12 muffin tins. Baking time for these is 30 minutes.

Dig This

NYCteeDug this old T-shirt out of a drawer today. Steve Frillman, the ED of the Green Guerillas in NYC gave it to me when I paid them a visit. The Green Guerillas were my inspiration for getting involved with urban agriculture. The organization ignited the community garden movement in the 1970s. Steve gave me two T-shirts that day. The other one says, It’s Your City – Dig It. Good advice.

Tracking Threats

CPsignCanadian Pacific (CP) Rail posted this sign along the 11 km railway tracks on Vancouver’s westside this week. Community gardens line what is known as the Arbutus Corridor. The tracks haven’t been in use since 2001, except for dogwalkers, gardeners and evening strollers. There has been a long battle between the City and CP about these lands. CP owns the track and up to ten metres of right of way along either side. The city owns the land that the gardens are on. CP says they want to develop the land. My guess is that they want the City to buy it. They intermittently raise a ruckus in the media to try to get their way, or raze the blackberries, or spray them with herbicides. They are currently bullying the community gardeners, warning them to remove sheds and fruit trees by the end of the month, or else. Now they’ve posted this threatening sign. What they are really doing is making sure the gardeners put pressure on the City so that they will buy the land. Which appears to be working. Some of my fellow community gardeners have been writing letters to city politicians.

Hey CP, here’s a better corporate citizen idea. Instead of a skinny band of row houses along that narrow strip of land, why not think social housing? Why not put your old trains on the defunct tracks and create nice tiny mobile homes for low-income people along that beautiful, lush greenway? We have homeless people on the westside too. Bet your stock would grow as well as the gardens then.

Dressed for the Hunt

AuntieSpringMy friend Linda and I went to the Folk Festival on Friday evening. Although we both love music, it was the shopping we had in mind. She was looking for a dress. I was on the hunt for dressy tees. We didn’t have tickets, so we were restricted to the Craft Village outside the fence. Presumably, the patrons who pay have a more upscale experience in the Artisan area. Perhaps the hip over the hippy?

I love this shopping experience. It’s the most eclectic collection of goods you have ever seen, in the most beautiful beachside setting you can imagine, all set to music. There are sculptured pipes and didgeridoos, funky clothing, jewellery, pottery and everything in between. One year I bought a tattoo sleeve. I have fooled many a friend when I’ve arrived with an arm festooned with flowers. Last night we were accompanied by the amazing vocals of Tift Merritt followed by the Great Lake Swimmers.

There were three booths that turned our fun evening into genuine joy and heaps of hilarity. The first and ultimate favourite was Scheherazade Banoo. Designer Farnaz creates magnificent tribal head dresses, which we of course had to try on. Thesis defence-wear perhaps?

The second booth that captured our imagination was Dropping Form Designs, they do feather and leather apparel and they too had some unique fashion – hand-painted fascinators with feather accents. One woman who had just bought a head piece from Farnaz, added a leather fascinator and looked fabulous.

The third booth we loved was called Raven’s Rest. Jennifer Conway is a mixed media artist. It was her handmade cards that drove us into hysterics. We were laughing so hard that we were attracting customers for her, or repelling them, not sure. One of her cards suited us to a tee: We are so hilarious. I feel bad for the people who don’t get to listen to our conversations and enjoy our hilariousness. We both bought three cards for ten bucks; it was hard to narrow down which three we wanted.

I bought a pretty lime green and purple sarong, but didn’t find any tops. Linda tried on several dresses, but brought home a prized head dress.

Clay Art

BowlsI first came across this young potter at the Khatsahlano Festival. Sophia Kim is a grad of Emily Carr. Love her shapes and textures and earthy palette. I took her card, then the very next day I saw her again at the Ladner Farmer’s Market. Must mean I have to buy that bowl I had my eye on, brown with turquoise swirls, my fave colour combo at the moment. See Sophia’s work on her beautiful website. Check out her platters and the cool handled mugs too. There are even more photos on her Tumblr page.

Sea-Witching Time

publicity 2.pdf280When I was doing my undergrad at University of Victoria, I became captivated by the poetry of Susan Musgrave. In particular it was her volume called Songs of the Sea-Witch that spoke to me. They were what she calls “sea-sad,” “loamishly sad.” Her tragic tales and romantic lines appealed to my passionate young heart. I still have an old copy of the Malahat Review (Number 53, January 1980) in which she’s interviewed.

The editor of the Review was Robin Skelton, a UVic English professor and poet. It was Skelton that saved her life. Musgrave was struggling with mental health issues and he visited her in the hospital. He asked to read some of her poetry. He told her that she wasn’t mad, she was a poet. He published some of her work in the Review and gave her a list of magazines to submit to, and she was launched.

She has since written many more books of poetry, works of fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books. Tonight she will be reading at the Twisted Poets event put on by Pandora’s Collective, at the Cottage Bistro on Main in Vancouver. I am going and will bring my copy of the Malahat Review for her to sign, in the hopes that she’ll have a moment for one of her longtime, bewitched fans.

Flipping the Flop

tsawwassenMy friend Elizabeth and I went walking in the tide pools at a beach in Tsawwassen today. I had flip flops on and the pressure of the water was too much for them. I blew my left toe thong­ – ripped the cloth between my toes right out of the sole. When we got back to Elizabeth’s house, she offered me a pair of her sandals so we could walk over to the Ladner Farmers’ Market. Part way there, the strap across the front part of the right sandal pulled out. We couldn’t believe it. I had to limp along with one shoe on until we reached the drug store, where I bought a cheap pair of toe thongs to get me home. We figured it must be a lesson, breaking two shoes in one day. We began to analyze it. Was I not moving ahead in life? Was I not grounded? Was it something to do with the masculine (right side) and feminine (left side)? And on and on, digging at the areas in my life that needed work. When we got back to her place and told the tale to her husband James, he said: “Your soul is intact, you’re loosening attachments in perfect balance, left side and right side.” Love how he flipped that lesson around. A great reminder to step into the positive more often.

Suspending Fear

image-11A friend and I were going for a walk in nature last weekend. One of the options was Lynn Valley. The other area on the table was Pacific Spirit Park and up around UBC. I was secretly hoping it wouldn’t be Lynn Canyon Park because I did not want to be climbing any steep trails or worse, having to cross that damn suspension bridge. I have a fear of heights and just writing about those places makes my hands sweat.

We decided on UBC. We went to Nitobe Garden. It was so calming and beautiful to stroll through that traditional Japanese garden in a light west coast mist. The slightly inclement weather kept visitors away and we practically had the place to ourselves. Then we decided to go to the UBC Botanical Garden. Neither of us had been for a few years.

We arrived at the ticket booth and I flashed my student card. “That will get you admission, but not onto the forest canopy walkway,” said the agent. My heart stopped. I had forgotten that they had installed a tree top walkway. And by that I mean an aerial trail system that hangs from the trees. Very tall trees. Century old Douglas firs, Red cedars and Grand firs. My friend lit up. Yes, he nodded, let’s do it. Which is how Garden Heart found herself walking on Greenheart, gripping the flimsy railings with my sweaty palms and taking slow deliberate steps with my shaking legs.

I tried not to look down, but every time I did, I was concerned that the metal walkway didn’t seem too well attached. Of course it is, and there are very secure cables anchored to the trees, yet in a way that doesn’t harm them. There are also little viewing stations every so often, so you can stop and catch your breath for a moment. Fully immersed in a temperate rain forest in the sky, you can also ponder the question, would I survive if I fell 70 feet (or about 23 metres at its highest point)? Or ask your friend for the 10th time, how much further do you think?

It took about half an hour to creep along the 310 metres (.3 km), and thankfully, again because of the weather, there were no kids running across, or making the bridge sway as they did when I crossed the Lynn Canyon bridge. My friend loved it. He took many pictures of me; this is the only one in which I look like I am enjoying myself. Once I was back on solid ground, I did feel good about having faced my fear head on and that I lived to tell the tale.

Stair-ing into Space

staircasedrawersSaw this wonderful, practical staircase on Facebook this week, via Green Renaissance. Someone commented that it might be dangerous if one of the drawers slipped open, but the latches on the right look pretty secure. Great space saving idea!