How to Grow Smiles in Containers

These foot shaped pavers are popular items easily sourced at nursery outlets. Pairing them with a container is brilliant. And sure to grow a few smiles along with all those beautiful flowers!

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Now I have Nancy Sinatra in my head singing These pots are made for walking and that’s just what they’ll do, one of these days these pots are going to grow all over you…


What’s Growing on in the Red Boxes

After a lifetime of huge, rambling-and sometimes overwhelming-country gardens I am embracing my first year of community gardening. I am so grateful for the loan of these four red rental boxes. I can’t even tell you what they mean to me.  I saw a quote attributed to Doug Green that read “I am more myself in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” Amen to that.

This is what the red boxes looked like when I first spotted them back in April…

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And then a little later after topping them up with compost, adding some stakes for the pea and bean fencing and doing a little early seeding and transplanting…

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Crisscrossed with shallots, red and yellow onions and garlic, it isn’t exactly square foot gardening but it’s close. Crammed gardening…that’s what it is! And yes those are potatoes in tomato cages. I circled them with early peas and am planning to wrap string around the cages for the peas to climb and then harvest and remove them before the potatoes are ready. Not sure how that will work. The potatoes may be starved for light and no doubt it will be a challenge to hill them. I plan on just sprinkling mulch on top to avoid any green potatoes. We’ll see…


And here is a picture of a red box taken just over a week ago. Over the last month we have had snow, rain, frost, couple days of 27 C weather and then more rain. There is nothing like the determination and resiliency of a plant to keep growing forward! We should all be so tough and resilient.

So many lessons to be learned from a garden. It’s so much more than just kale.


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Eco Villages for the Peaceful Prepper?

Whenever my husband and I start talking retirement and have some downtime we tend to spend it looking at real estate sites. We sit in the living room, each armed with our iPad and we take turns passing them back and forth as we come across a place we like. It’s sort of like House Hunters Digital Style. Or something like that.

Today my husband passed me his iPad with information on an eco village. You buy your own house on common property and are encouraged to have a small garden beside it, as well as a share in the work/harvest of another two acre garden designated to feed the community. There is a common house where everyone can hang out together. Two meals are shared there per week.

“You want us to join a cult?”

“It’s not a cult. It’s an intentional community.”

“Um…so you want us to join a cult?”

“Just read what it says.”

I read.

There were provisions for all kinds of sustainability with an eye to making the footprint of each person as small as possible. I was impressed. Very impressed.  A quick read of the profiles of the current shareholders showed lots of young, ridiculously healthy looking couples with small children. They were the kind that look like they go mountain biking before breakfast, white water rafting in the afternoons and then do some leisurely rock climbing up a mountain face or three before bed.

Folded in there, however, were a couple of happy looking “elders”.

There was even a mention of elders in their vision statement. The elders would provide wisdom, insight and balance to the community.

I am sorry to admit that my initial reaction-right after getting all judgey and dismissing them as a cult-was to snort and roll my eyes.

I have no idea why, but I envisioned a bunch of romantic homesteading wannabes drunk on the idea of saving the planet, who would bolt at their first encounter with quack grass. I think I might have control issues. Or judgmental issues. Or just…issues. I have issues.

I saw myself trying to maintain two acres of vegetables single-handed, while the rest of the community sat around a campfire sipping expensive wine and singing songs. Every once in a while someone would shout out towards the field, “How’s the potato hilling going Shannon?”

“And you’d be playing the flute,” I told Darcy indignantly.

“I like playing the flute.”


“And you love gardening, so what’s the problem?”

After I got down off Thunder (my high horse-he’s a palomino btw) and took off my Little-Red-Hen-Who-Does-All-The-Work big ole Attitude Apron, I started to get intrigued.

I read a bit further and discovered many in the community were seasoned gardeners (duh) who were very capable and not the least bit scared of quack grass. I got the impression they might do a little snorting and eye rolling of their own at my paltry efforts to help out in the community patch. Only they wouldn’t because they are much more evolved and not at all judgey. Unlike some people.

I admit I kind of liked the elder persona. I imagined the young people coming to me for advice, though that would be a very bad idea as I have no clue what sort of advice I could impart. Still, it would be nice to be asked.

And then there were the children.

I have two, but they are 27 and 30 and neither plan on having children of their own. So no grandchildren in my immediate future, anyhow. But this community, it would have children built right into it. And I would be like a surrogate grandma. I could see myself guiding along chubby little fingers as they plucked slippery bean seed from a bag and planted them in a row. I imagined sharing the children’s excitement when the beans first popped their heads up through the soil, their little seed caps on their heads. The beans, not the children.

Kids picking vegetables on organic farm

At night I could snuggle a small child on my lap as we sat around the community fire, watching their parents play music or dance. Or I could read them story books. Neither rock climbing or white water rafting are very kid-friendly activities. They would need me to babysit from time to time.

But not too much.

And the clincher? There was no mention of making plans for popping off potato people’s heads.

That’s a thing.

I’ve read about it.

Maybe I should explain.

Because I love the idea of self-sufficiency I often find myself linking up to sites that promote prepping for when TSHTF (the shit hits the fan). TSHTF refers to anything that leaves the economy in ruins and people roaming the streets looking for potatoes. Preppers are ready for this. Not all, but some. They not only have their BOB (Bug Out Bag) packed with water filtration paraphernalia and matches, they are armed to the teeth. Even the ones who are already on the land and growing gardens etc. brag about stock piling an arsenal that would make a mafia king (or whatever they are called) weep with envy.

Come for their potatoes, they proudly post, and they will be more than pleased to pop off your head.

This bothers me and not just because I am fond of potatoes. And my head.

My grandparents claimed a homestead in the same area I live today, back in 1930. It was the Great Depression and they had a wagon, a team of horses, a toddler (my aunt) and a baby (my Dad), a lamp, some clothes, a few tools and a couple of boxes of household supplies.

Things were tough.

The shit had hit the fan.

Their first reaction was not to pop off people’s heads while they searched for potatoes. It was to help each other.

They got through a decade of mind numbing poverty by coming together with their neighbours (neighbour with a U because this was Canada) and sharing what little they had. They built a rough shelter out of spruce logs and lived on moose meat, Saskatoon berries and turnips. And onions. Lots and lots of onions. So many onions that when my father hit his twenties he put down his fork and flat out refused to eat another so long as he should live. Even now, at 85 and in the late stages of vascular dementia, if asked if he wants some onions, he will grimace and shake his head. But-and this is important-at least he has a head to shake.

During the Depression there were barn building work bees, threshing teams and when a community needed a school or a hall, they all got together and built one. It was about as intentional of a community as you could hope to find. Instead of every man for himself it was a community effort.

It could be argued that back then you could get land for free-or at least for cheap-and that gave you a chance to at least feed your family when TSHTF. And we weren’t nearly so populated. Or dependant on grocery stores. Or lacking in survival skills.

Maybe preppers have a point.

I just don’t want to be the kind of person who can shoot another human over potatoes. I would rather die.

Or so I say now.

With a belly full of mango black bean salsa. It would be more fitting if it were potatoes, but that’s not what I had for supper.

Maybe I would turn into Rambo Old Lady Prepper Person. People would fear me. They would throw their potatoes at me just to save their poor heads when they saw me coming with guns hanging from every limb.

No one knows for sure what they will do when TSHTF.

Utopia, Dystopia, the past, the future…wherever we go we all live in a community of some sort.

Maybe when we retire we will live in another.

In the meantime there is the present. And the present is pretty darn good.

I think tomorrow we will have potatoes for supper…

Raw potatoes, dill, garlic and butter on a wooden board