Thinking about Cold Weather Gardening

Field of Frost
Field of Frost

In late September, the first killer frost arrived here in Bear River East. When I went out to the garden, the leaves on the tomato plants were black and the basil leaves were gone. It was kind of shocking, because even though the weather report had called for frost, I couldn’t believe that the third week of September would be the end! I had lots of green tomatoes left and made a note to self to start them sooner next year so that they can ripen earlier. I picked many of the green ones and placed them on newspapers in a window in the cool, south facing, unheated shed that is attached to the house. They ripened gradually and we just ate the last one a few days ago.  I wish I had a greenhouse to extend the growing season. I can imagine having a plant or two in a barrel and maybe eating home-grown tomatoes until the end of November.


A greenhouse will definitely be on the list of “must haves” for our new location, but probably not for a year or two. Last week we visited Wild Rose Farm on hwy 1 between Digby and Weymouth. We dropped by for vegetables and we hoped to get a glimpse of Gilberte’s no-heat winter greenhouse. (Yes, that’s what I was told!)

Wild Rose Farm
Wild Rose Farm

This organic farm is operated by a very energetic woman and her family. Gilberte Doelle  provides the area with tasty, organic produce as well as teaches others her gardening philosophy. Time and time again Larry and I have encountered that most people here are more than happy to share their knowledge and skills just for the asking. I made it clear that I would like to extend our garden’s season some day, which in some parts of the country would have have been a conversation stopper. After all, if I manage to grow my own winter crops, I won’t be buying any at Wild Rose Farms. But the concept of competition doesn’t enter into the conversation. Rather the idea of helping others and sharing good tips seems to be the objective.

Gilberte's Winter Greenhouse
Gilberte’s Winter Greenhouse

Last year Gilberte was able to provide her family with spring-type greens for a large part of the winter and I wanted to find out how she does this. Well, an hour later we’d had a tour through all the greenhouses and she lent me the book  by Eliot Coleman that inspired her.

The Greenhouse was moist, warm and smelled like spring!
The Greenhouse was moist, warm and smelled like spring!

The big secret is to build a greenhouse-within-a-greenhouse. Gilberte uses singleply woven plastic over bent rebar. Building it low to the ground maximizes the heat effect. She hasn’t started her winter crops yet, she’s still too busy harvesting the green peppers and tomatoes and eggplants that looked amazing and plentiful.

A few days after visiting her inspiring farm, we awoke again to a combination of fog and frost.

Meanwhile today  I chopped the last of Gilberte’s parsley into my chowder soup. I glanced out the window to where my garden had been.

The Remains of the Garden
The Remains of the Garden

The sunflowers have bowed their heads and the fall rains are rolling in. I miss the garden, but the view is quite beautiful anyway, so I pulled out my watercolours and tried to capture the feeling of the land and the sky.

The Kitchen Counter doubling as a Studio
The Kitchen Counter doubling as a Studio

The moodiness of an October sky is a beautiful site. We are so lucky that we have such dramatic seasonal changes in this part of the world. So, while I dreamed of growing spinach outside in winter, I had a really great time interpreting the here and now in my garden.

After the Harvest
After the Harvest

First Day in Bear River

This was our first day in our new, temporary home in Nova Scotia and the day was full.

We waited from 8 am for the phone and internet to get hooked up, by 2 separate companies. We delayed eating and finally sat down for lunch at 2:30 and they arrived within 20 minutes of each other.

The fellow hooking up the phone was a staunch union supporter. (As am I.) He told us that his union local was decimated when “Ma Bell” took over all the services. He’s felt bitter since the last strike; feels disconnected from the new union. “The union bosses came to talk to us from Toronto and they looked and sounded no different from management. They were all wearing suits….imagine that, suits! We were used to guys who bang their fists on the table and give you the straight goods”.

This is what they have to do to hook up your telephone in Bear River.
This is what they have to do to hook up your high-speed internet in Bear River.

We called our moving company and our stuff will be delayed a few days. Seems there were someone else’s boxes for customs on the truck and everything is locked up while that part of the shipment gets checked?

The movers are Nova Scotians and were very accommodating.

If this was the 70’s, my marxist father would have thought this was a rouse for the RCMP to go through my entire life and my mom and dad’s and my/their boxes of letters, photos, diaries etc. And perhaps it was!

After some home-made soup for supper we went to see the newly formed youth centre. It was delightful….youth shooting pool and loud music and crawling babies and puppies on the wide, plank, wooden floors. The newly hired supervisor and a parent sat around a battered table and talked about how to raise funds to meet the wish list of stuff for the centre.

After that we wandered over to the Oakdene Centre, the former elementary school to sit in on the Bear River Music Society meeting. This group is trying to get a ‘coffee house’ live music thing going in town as a way of supporting local musicians and enhancing the quality of cultural life. Several artist friends were there and we are invited to drop in sometime. Bear River is such a welcoming community and Larry and I are amazed and happy about this.

As excited as I feel about our big change, I feel a bit like the cat. Where are my things? Where the hell am I? Where did my house go? Where is my routine? Where are all my friends? Why does everything smell different? Where is all my stuff? It reminds me of how I felt homesick at summer camp and missed my mother fiercely and would talk her into letting me come home early only to regret it 2 days after I returned because I really wanted to be at camp hiking through the creek, laughing with friends, and being in the countryside.

Last night, for the first time in years, I had 2 dreams, one about my dad and one about my mom. How special is that? I only remember a little about the dream with my dad. We were working on creating an archive about him and his life and I was going to record him. I realised I was moving to NS and wondered where I would find time to pack and to interview him. Then I remembered, practically, that he wasn’t alive anymore so my departure wouldn’t interfere with the interview. I guess they both made the trip! He was very glad that I was going to do something with his ‘papers’. I would like to create a multi-media online space that uses some of the letters and photos that I have of him and other family members. I really have enough materials (and now so does the RCMP) to mine for many years. That is very exciting.

Another source of excitement is that everywhere you look here, there is a potential painting. I am so excited and can’t wait to pull out my watercolours (in the RCMP truck) and to get going!

The hardest part of this trip has definitely been Fluffy!  She was quite distressed in the car and spent hours meowing, coughing up, and cowering in her cage.

Both Larry and I feel like we were ‘getting away with’ something by sneaking out-of-town to chase our dream.

Larry and I will have the chance to work creatively 24/7, for the first time in our lives. What an extraordinary gift we are about to receive. We will be doing this in one of the most beautiful spots in Canada. We have already met with and connected to some wonderful, funny, creative and generous artists and others in Bear River which is also amazing. And it looks like we’re going to get away with it too!

Will we adjust to life without an imposed 9-5 regime? Will we adjust to life in a small community?

Well, it’s late and I must try to get some sleep before the cat wakes me at 3 am.

Ferry, cross the Bay of Fundy

The view of Nova Scotia from the Bay of Fundy was spectacular.


We were both thrilled with the trip. We could barely contain our excitement to finally be arriving at our new adventure.
Our car was stashed in the lower level of the ferry, stuffed with enough provisions and clothes until our moving truck arrives. And our bewildered cat Fluffy was in the car too.


The ferry ride from New Brunswick to Digby, Nova Scotia:

Taurus(Flora) and Leo(Larry) horoscope for Sept07

We leave for our new life in Bear River, Nova Scotia in a month. Our horoscopes for this month are quite prescient and speak to those changes. What follows is from Planet Waves written by Eric Francis. 

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) (Larry)
Conventional wisdom you might be reading in other horoscopes holds that Saturn transiting one’s 2nd house, which begins for you Sept. 2, brings challenges with money. Yet Saturn leaving Leo no doubt comes as a relief on all fronts. As for money, much of how Saturn manifests depends on how we meet those challenges. Saturn transiting any house talks about making reductions and improvements to efficiencythings you’re already good at. But it also talks about focusing your efforts on what matters most, and applying refinements to earn your living from your professional calling rather than some other way. Where Saturn is present, focusing on the architecture and form of the matter in question is helpful, and many have noted that money flows toward structure. Above all, this two-year transit is about deciding what’s most important to you. When you’re involved in what really matters, you will tend to feel good about yourself. If you ever get to a point where you don’t, ask yourself what you’re doing and why.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) (Flora)
You seem pulled in three directions. One feels like stern, cool discipline. Another feels like a creative or erotic risk you would never normally imagine taking. A third is “anywhere but here.” This third option is a good start, because the past, as a long-haul phenomenon, is something you know it’s time to break with. Yet you still seem to be wrestling with the perception that a passionate life is something you can plan and live in a structured way. The structure you need is an inner sense of focus; Saturn now making its way across your 5th solar house — the house of art, risks and passion — is here to remind you that you must be your own master. Planning the future is one thing, and it’s generally difficult. Knowing your priorities and what you are willing to do about them is another. Yet there is one factor on the horizon that you simply cannot plan for; all you can do is respond, and respond with both authority, and remembering your hard-earned sense of adventure.

Toronto House Sold = Bear River, Here We Come!

I want to update you about our journey east as our launch deadline draws near.

The house sold after 7 days and 3 offers. The hot real estate market in Toronto worked in our favor. Also, the garden looked lovely and lush, even though. We worked really, really, really hard to get everything into a polished shape.

We are still in the house and now I feel as if I’m living in a hotel or a B and B. The place is TOTALLY de-cluttered and there aren’t piles of papers everywhere. On the other hand, it’s not really functional and I can’t paint because the studio has turned back into a living room and the art supplies are packed. I thought I might have ‘seller’s remorse’ but it hasn’t hit me yet, 2 weeks later. In fact, I feel a huge sense of relief that this hurdle is over and that we are now free to pursue our long awaited dream of living near the ocean and pursuing our art.

The only time I feel regrets is when I think about living in a far-off province from our son Jesse. It’s been such a gift to live with him this past year.  I know it’s inevitable that we all will continue our journeys in separate directions, but it’s hard for me. It was really tough when Emmy moved out of province, but now with webcams and Skype, we have wonderful visits and Larry and I have adapted, so I know we will again.

Who knew that being a mother and feeling that attachment to your kids would be so strong and so eternal? I know I used to resent it from my own mother, but now I think of her and smile at the irony of this situation and ask for her forgiveness.

Anyway, this new step is so exciting. Larry and I will have the chance to work creatively 24/7, for the first time in our lives. What an extraordinary gift we are about to receive. We will be doing this in one of the most beautiful spots in Canada. We have already met with and connected to some wonderful, funny, creative and generous artists and others in Bear River which is also amazing. And it looks like we’re going to get away with it too!

Stay tuned!

Emmy Leaves for la la land

Today was a day of parting. Our dearest daughter began the drive 5 days south west to work in animation in Los Angeles.
Larry said goodbye to our wonderful girl.

Jesse said goodbye to his dear sister.

Lucky said: “HEY GUYS…what about ME?!?!?!?

And Lucky got his wish…..

And away they went to la la land…………..