Sherry & Terry's blog

Farewell to Summer

"God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done."  ~Author Unknown

Summer now seems far behind us as we navigate through Vancouver's famous rain. Mid-September weather changed quickly sending the veggie garden messages to begin preparing for cooler times. 

The Greatest Canadians

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In 2004, Canada's national TV broadcaster, the CBC, staged a contest allowing Canadians to vote for "The Greatest Canadian." Canadian TV and radio personality, George Stroumboulopoulos nominated Tommy Douglas. There were many wonderful choices with David Suzuki being amongst them.

Tommy Douglas was a Baptist minister in Weyburn, Saskatchewan during the Great Depression and the Dustbowl of the Prairies. With 50% of the population without work, he rallied citizens to help each other by delivering goods and food to neighbouring towns. 

He was a Member of Parliament in Saskatchewan from 1935 - 1940 and was elected Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961 leading the socialist Cooperative Commonwealth Federation party. He also became a member of the House of Commons in Ottawa during the 60's and 70's.

It was during his political career as Premier of Saskatchewan that his government passed legislation creating North America's first universal health care program. In November 2004, I, along with my fellow Canadians voted Tommy Douglas, "The Greatest Canadian."

Aside from his ground-breaking health care reforms, he was also was instrumental in bring many changes that we often take for granted such as:

First small claims court in North America
First Bill of Rights in Canada
Full medical, dental and drug coverage for those needing social assistance
Establishing equality of education for all
Introduced free air ambulance service which was especially important for the Northern regions of Canada
First to provide universal coverage for hospital stays
First to introduce a budget bureau to provide his government's long-term planning
First to introduce government insurance
Paved roads, set up sewage systems, got power to farmers
First government to allow collective bargaining for all workers including civil servants
First Arts Board of Canada
First to introduce Farm Security Act in North America
First to grant the right to vote to 18 year olds
First to introduce the 8-hour work day, the 5-day work week and paid holidays for workers

I feel thankful for these important contributions that have made our lives better and easier. When I was growing up, farming was way down the list of desired professions. Most people looked upon farmers as simpletons with no desire to better themselves. But now, having gardened for over 30 years, I have come to enjoy and appreciate Nature's willingness to feed and nurture us and I feel a deep debt of gratitude to the good people of Saskatchewan; those farmers who came from foreign lands to settle Canada's prairies, who had the heart, the courage and the intelligence to choose a man and his government who cared about it's people. May we remember and honour these folks.

Busy As Beavers

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The garden keeps on giving to the point where we are saturated with green beans, basil plants three and a half feet high and eating fresh corn almost daily. 
It's also been a very good fruit year. Yellow and mini purple plums were ripe and falling to the ground. Part of us just wanted to ignore them but it's not easy to when we cross paths with them heading to pick fresh veggies. Also that part of us that so appreciates the gifts that Mother Nature provides couldn't stand to see them rotting or squished and I could hear the voices of my deceased parents saying, "Don't be wasteful!" So we have been pitting, blending and pouring many batches of fruit and dehydrating to make fruit leather. We've been like a little factory over the last few weeks!

Coming Out of Our Ears

The last three weeks have been extremely busy in the garden. We have been picking, freezing and dehydrating many crops.

The earliest picking was the broad beans. We planted them in March and were eating them in May. We had so many that we ended up pulling the plants. They are not a particularly popular  vegetable but we did manage to stuff a few friends with them and they were pleasantly surprised of their tastiness. 

The cherries ripened next. We had made a major cutting of branches over the winter so we were not expecting a large harvest, but with the hot weather we were inundated with cherries. We picked what we could and dehydrated six large mason jars full. A few weeks later the cherries were full of worms so that was the end of that.


Organic gardening is what keeps me and Terry grounded and connected to the earth. In our busy lives amidst rapidly-changing technology, it is a much-needed reminder that we are part of nature and that nature is part of us. The simple beauty of flowers and plants never fails to keep us in awe and when the garden is bursting with culinary delights we feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for nature's generosity to nurture, provide and feed us. As we look at the abundance, it is easy to forget smaller parts of the big picture.
Mid-February of this year, Terry and I attended a local seed exchange. We had never been to one before so we perused the tables and were welcomed to select and take home any seeds we were interested in, mostly for free. At one table, we stopped to chat with two gals who had small pieces of 2x4 blocks glued together. Many quarter inch holes were drilled into them with a square piece of duroid roofing tile hammered on top. We were told these were orchard mason bee homes. We had never heard of these bees before even though they are quite common in North America.

Going for Pesticide-Free

Organic gardeners use organic materials such as grass, leaves, seaweed, straw, compost and lime to enrich their garden's soil. With the development of chemical fertilizers, their use over the last sixty years has been regarded as acceptable and necessary for large yields of food crops and for the controlling of insects and pests.

The Canadian Cancer Society has been calling on the Canadian provinces to ban the cosmetic use of pesticides citing the growing medical evidence showing links between pesticide use and the occurrence of cancers such as leukemia, pancreatic cancer, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, kidney cancer and some brain cancers.

Quebec was the only province to do so until April 22, 2009 (Earth Day), when Ontario became the second province and went even further by also banning the sale of these pesticides. 19 municipalities and cities in British Columbia have implemented their own by-laws banning the cosmetic use of pesticides however the Cancer Society is calling on the BC government to create a province-wide ban so that all of its citizens will be protected by the same law. In my own city, the councillors have yet to put a by-law into action but it has been recommended by city staff.

Kiss the Garden

This year's veggie garden has been absolutely glorious. The mostly sunny and hot days have created ideal growing conditions for almost every variety of vegetable that we have planted. It feels like we are a month ahead of schedule from past years. 

We are often asked what is our secret when friends and family set their eyes on our organic garden. We usually tell them we heavily mulch to keep the weeds down, do some watering and say the weather has been great. But that's not altogether the truth.

Like many seasoned gardeners, we started our earliest years of gardening by using conventional methods such as rototilling, a lot of watering and backbreaking weeding. As life got busier, we began looking for easier ways to make less work for ourselves. Learning about Ruth Stout's mulching method was a huge boon. 

When the Plants Are Thirsty...

Now that most, if not all, of your garden is planted, It's time to think about whether you need to water and how you are going to do it. Since Terry and I use heavy mulching with grass clippings for both our veggie and flower gardens, we don't spend too much time watering but we do some watering if the plants look droopy. 

When the weather gets hot with continuous blistering sunshine, watering can be necessary. We usually water early morning so that any moisture sitting on leaves and foliage has time to evaporate during the day. Moisture pooling on leaves can become ideal breeding grounds for plant diseases.

There are many ways that we bring moisture to our garden. Sometimes we use a soaker hose. This is a long garden hose that has tiny holes all over and the water drips slowly as droplets into the soil. The hose is placed along the base of our plant row (usually corn) and is left on for half a day until the soil becomes thoroughly moistened.

There's No Place Like Gnome

A few weeks ago, my son's friend, Lisa leaves me a Facebook wall posting..."So, I was in your backyard yesterday looking at your garden, spotted your gnome and said to Fraser, "Weird...that gnome looks like David Suzuki and Fraser said, "It's because it is! My mom won a contest!"....Lisa's reply to Fraser...."Hahaha, oh my goodness, he's so cute!!!"

A few weeks before that posting, we had brought the gnome home from the David Suzuki Foundation office in Vancouver and carefully uncrated our prize. As Terry placed it in the garden, Fraser rolled out of the house to see our new family addition. As he approached the gnome, I excitedly anticipated a "Hey cool!" response when out of his mouth popped, "Gee, that's almost creepy."

Garden gnomes have been around since the mid 1800's. The first ones were created in Germany and then made their way to France and England. In 1847, Sir Charles Isham brought twenty-one terracotta figures from a trip to Germany to place in his garden in Northamptonshire, England and one of the original gnomes known as Lampy is today, still on display there and insured for one million pounds.

Fertile Ground For Change

Organic gardening, much like most things in life is a process, a work in progress. Growing up with parents who were avid gardeners was no guarantee towards having an organic green thumb.

Our parents were of the generation that enthusiastically used fertilizers. Somehow, much like the push for new parents to use infant formulas for newborns, fertilizer companies managed to convince our parents they just weren't doing it right. Fertilizers were used like second nature, used without question.

As an eight year old, I remember driving with my folks south down Richmond's Number Five Road and seeing the Mylora Farms sign. This farmer's market sold organic produce. It really didn't mean anything to me aside from the fact that one of their tractors was decorated and towed a large wagon of colourful fruits and vegetables in the annual Pacific National Exhibition parade in Vancouver during late August.