My life has been impacted in many ways by the Covid19 global pandemic. During these last few months of isolation, it has been an interesting journey to design a 'new normal', while my husband and I hunker down at our home property, which is pictured above. In this article I am sharing with you a glimpse of how we have been spending our time at the homestead.
The biggest impact to our personal life was the cancellation of a 7-week vacation in Australia. My husband and I were to begin our excellent adventure in early April with a week touring Tasmania in our rented camper van and then fully explore the coastal route from Melbourne to Cairns before flying home at the end of May. Here is the type of adventure we had envisioned:
Hopefully we can re-book the trip at a later date through the same company, Gallivanting Oz, who did an excellent job of arranging our camper van rental and subsequent cancellation and refund. If anyone is considering a similar holiday in future years, I highly recommend this awesome Australian company. We cancelled our first class flights with Air Canada but have not seen our refund or credit yet.
Our life at home has gotten quiet, yet not boring. My husband is retired but his handyman hobby takes him to his shop out back (pictured above), fixing things for the house and doing vehicle maintenance. We order repair parts and supplies online or by phone (from local stores offering safe curbside pickup if possible) and I make a weekly trip to the grocery store. I'm doing more cooking and baking for us than I usually would and we are making the most of this chance to live life simply and deliciously.
Since we live on the edge of a small town, there are lots of places where we can walk during the day for exercise without getting close to anyone. We don't have cable or satellite TV but enjoy spending our evenings watching educational videos on YouTube or programs on Netflix. I also enjoy reading most days. We have conversations with friends and family by phone or Facetime. I look forward to the day when we can resume our in-person walks, visits, and dinners with our longtime friends.
I'm an introvert by nature (as many artists are), so being told I have to stay home actually makes me happy. I have an infinite list of fun things to do in my home and art studio (pictured above). As is my usual habit, I spent the winter months creating lots of new paintings and then moved to outdoor mode once spring arrived. Shown below is the mound garden in our front yard, tidied up for the start of the growing season.
The fact that I don't have to go out for meetings, fitness classes or appointments, means I can decide how to fill each day based on the weather or how energetic I feel. I find myself wondering how to change my habits going forward, so I can continue this simpler existence in a post-pandemic world.
My husband and I had planned to spend the summer of 2020 making short camping trips with our travel trailer to various regions of Ontario, after we returned from Australia. It remains to be seen whether those excursions will happen or not. The realization that we may have to stay home this spring and possibly summer lead us to research growing a vegetable garden.
The current upheaval of our food supply caused by the pandemic has prompted many people throughout the world to start a vegetable garden this year, just like the Victory gardens of the second world war. I think this activity gives people a sense of control in a time of uncertainty, makes us feel useful by growing our own food, and gets us out into the fresh air while safely spending time at home.
I have enjoyed establishing raised bed flower gardens at all three of our home properties over the years, but never had the time to devote to growing many edibles before this year. The photo below from 2013 shows some of the backyard flower gardens at our Port Perry home, which was on a one acre property.
We downsized to our lovely bungalow in Lindsay the following year. The raised border garden shown below was one I constructed shortly after our move, using stone dug up from our one acre yard. I grew pole beans and garlic successfully, but invasive grass runners from the adjacent farm field had started to invade my stone garden. This spring, I decided to dismantle it and try something more robust and permanent for my new vegetable garden.
My husband and I designed wooden raised planters 18 inches tall with a top frame wide enough to sit on, to make gardening more comfortable for me, and to have high quality soil with fewer weeds.
He built the two cedar planters pictured below in his shop. These are each 4 feet wide by 8 feet long and have no bottoms. The little legs will keep them pinned to the ground and the planters are lined on the inside with builders' vapour barrier to help extend the durability of the wood. He also varnished the outside surfaces with clear Varathane wood preservative.
We moved the planters to a sunny spot in our yard in mid April, and since then I have been steadily filling them with a custom mix of soils and amendments using a sustainable agriculture technique called Hugelkultur (meaning 'hill culture' in German).
Hugelkultur mimics how plants grow in a natural forest ecosystem, where trees fall over onto the forest floor, and other organic matter falls and accumulates on top of the fallen trees and breaks down. This creates a fertile place for the seeds of new plants to germinate and grow on top of the decaying wood and other organic materials. This environment not only provides extremely fertile soil for new plants, but the woody materials also soak up water like a sponge.
The photos below show the layers I used to fill my planters.
First I covered the sod with cut up paper leaf bags. By the time they decompose over the next year, the grass will have died and will not invade the garden. Worms and other beneficial organisms will be able to travel between the ground and the raised beds. The second layer was wood from apple trees we cut down. The largest pieces went in the bottom, followed by all the cut up twigs. This wood layer will slowly rot, providing nutrients to the soil above and acting as a spongy layer to retain moisture.
Next I covered the twigs and wood with layers of composted manure and native top soil (screened to remove gravel and weeds) that was cleared from our yard when my husband's shop was built.
I had saved garden clippings from the spring cleanup of my perennial beds and all those dried trimmings went on next. I covered that with about 8 inches of screened native topsoil mixed with peat moss and composted manure. Then I created a grid with string and aluminum plant markers, in preparation for my 'square foot gardening' planting layout. In this bed I am densely planting raspberry bushes, onions, carrots, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and marigolds (to deter pests).
The photo above shows my other raised planting bed which will have asparagus, pole beans, tomatoes, sweet peppers, lettuce, herbs, nasturtiums, and marigolds. You can see the bamboo teepees that will support future pole beans. The plastic bubble is a cloche, protecting herb seeds while they germinate. To the right of my planters is where the stone border garden used to sit, now seeded with grass.
I will post a garden update later in the season so you can see my progress. If you are growing a Corona garden this year, I hope you enjoy it and have good luck with your green thumb. Be well and safe.
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