Monday, 24 August 2015

The Lakeshore Garden: Another POV

Introduction
(This photo is reminiscent of the cover of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, not actually suppose to mean anything significant, I just thought it was a nice shot of garlic)
If you weren't already aware my fellow gardeners Madeline and Olinda have already posted about the Lakeshore Collegiate Garden on this blog. One could say, that this is the final installment of the trilogy of posts from this season's batch of workers. The other posts were called "Flowers in the Lakeshore Garden", and "LCI's Growing Plants have Finally Taken Shape!", and they happen to be focussed more on the vegetable-plant element of our garden. So I've decided to let everyone have some insight into the garden's other aspects of life, as well as the things that stood out (for me) among the vegetables. 

Our Furry Visitors
Wayne (the human), and Sam (the dog)
Lexi and I (whilst I contemplate possibly dognapping her)
Lexi, the Lovely Cavalier
There are many people that come through the garden, to visit or to as a shortcut through to the other side. Some of them (the actual visitors) often bring their dogs to accompany them! There is one that is extremely adorable, and well-mannered, her name is Lexi, and her owner is Henry. Lexi is apparently a King Charles Cavalier (fancy), and is about 6 years old. I think after Henry realized that I had an increasingly unhealthy affection towards Lexi, he actually started to bring her to the garden more often. Now, Lexi has become one of my motivations to wake up early, and work in the garden (well... that, and my paycheck of course). Lexi has this characteristic in which she never really barks, and to this day the sound of her bark is a mystery to all of us in the garden, although Henry says she when people knock at the door at home. The other dog is Sam, and his person is Wayne, and they come around to the garden daily as well. Sam is a golden retriever (if it wasn't already evident), and unlike Lexi, he does bark occasionally, and we always know he's coming around the corner when we hear his trademark panting. He's also hard to miss because he's a pretty large canine.

Market Mondays
A picture of beets, carrots, and cabbages
Aga (left), and Adam (right), manning the station at the Sorauren Farmer's Market
As it says (Mint, Parsley, Sorrel, and Basil), the blue tent wall-cover contraption looks like the blue sky here. 
The Sauerkraut, Kim Chi, beans, Adam in the back, and the guy in the green shirt that sells fresh homemade pasta in the stall next to ours at the Sorauren Farmer's Market
The mystery, and rarely sighted Market Cat
Every other Monday our garden coordinates with the garden at John Polanyi C.I. and participate in an event to exchange our goods at the Sorauren Farmer's Market (located near Dundas Station). The process of setting up the tent and tables is an arduous one, especially for the out of shape, but being at the market and checking out the neighboring stalls is actually interesting, and enjoyable. In particular, whenever I'm at the market I always go to this particular stall that sells baked goods and buy the chocolate chip oatmeal cookies (they are fairly priced, and delicious). Some of the things that can be found at our stall are beets, carrots, onions, cabbages, a variety of herbs (basil, parsley, mint, sage, etc.), sorrel, sauerkraut, kim chi, kale, collards, lettuce heads or bags, beans, and garlic. Aside from vegetables, people, and adorable dogs that come by the market, there is the rare sighting of the local Market Cat to make the market even more intriguing. It is said that it is a cat from a nearby residence, and can be seen slinking around the market as it pleases, endearing and gracing us with its presence.

Slimey, slighty Horrific, but Adorable Critters
 & The other Troublemaker
A slug spotted on out orange picnic table (notice the trail of slime)
As anyone would know, insects and other little critters can be found in the garden environment, munching away at the vegetables (thus causing pain to gardeners). This year in particular has been quite slug-infested (mainly in cabbage and lettuce beds, where they are typically found). Of course this is normal in any garden or farm, however I cannot stand to make contact with them. Perhaps it's the sliminess, their lack of bones, and the constant interaction I am forced to have with them, that makes me squeamish around them. After several weeks I got slightly less squeamish, but it was still a mission for me when we had lots of cabbages and lettuce-heads to harvest this year. It's an odd relationship, because I find them adorable (like with beetles, and spiders), but I would absolutely lose my composure if one happen to fall on my hand. Though, it brings me a little more comfort to know that leaping slugs do not exist in this world. Oddly enough, my exposure to them also peaked my curiosity of their species too (it's strange that we tend to be well-informed on the subjects that terrify us the most). I've been well-educated by Wikipedia that slugs are common names for any gastropod mollusc with no shells. Also, for some reason, I thought they reproduced by some sort of binary fission type process, and multiplied (TV can be indirectly misleading), but no, they just lay eggs (and I've seen some of them as well). They are also hermaphrodites, so any slug can basically mate with any other slug. But they also have a lot of predators, such as reptiles, birds, mammals, amphibians, and types of fish, so I get a bit excited when I see birds flying around the beds, in hopes that they are taking out the slugs and not the cover crop we put in. 

This little guy has been causing a ruckus too.
Another common critter around the city is the raccoon. The one that has invaded our garden has been causing quite a bit of trouble, like tipping over the garbage can, and appearing in garden early in the morning (when he misjudges the earliness of our arrival) and scaring the bejeezus out of me. Apparently one day, whilst casually sitting in our compost and devouring our precious half-rotten vegetables, Aga shooed him out of the garden, and he has yet to appear since then... Though I doubt he's stealthily going around, considering his lack of sneaking skills (evident with this clear photo we shot of him)

Well it's Time to Learn About the Bir- 
I Mean the BEE'S KNEES!

A view of the Bee Hotel, in its entirety
A close up of the Bee Hotel, one of the blocks of wood with holes drilled in. The solitary bees live in those crevices.
If you're not already aware, at the Lakeshore garden we have a bee hotel situated next to the herb box-beds, and hops. It isn't for hive-making honey bees, but provides a habitat for solitary bees. Solitary bees are (as one would expect) bees that do not live in colonies, and in our garden they act as lovely little pollinators, and mostly harmless critters that buzz around the garden. If you ever stroll through the Lakeshore garden, then you can easily spot many of them in the area of mint bushes that in an area to the right, at the very end of the cement path, and along the building (that is called the annex). In the bee hotel, they crawl into the spaces and tunnels that were drilled into the wood blocks, assembled into a shack, and live there, but they do not produce any honey (so no, there is not a threat of bears).

Market... Tuesday?
A sample of the signs we made
Work in progress, painting the signs, and I also chose this photo because I look radioactive (in the far-left). Olinda is the one in the middle, and Madeline on the far-right 
Us again, at the actual Tuesday Market though. Olinda (left), Madeline (Middle), and me (Right), the vegetables are on the table (of course)

Our violinist (the tall one), mingling with one of the children that came to market (with her mother)
On one occasion, because the Civic Holiday (on August 3rd) interfered with our Market Monday, so our garden held its own little market right next to the actual gardens site the following Tuesday! Conveniently, Aga had already advertised in the local newspaper that there would be a market there on the 4th, but to help boost awareness of the event further, we painted signs onto cardboard and but them around the neighborhood. It helped that on the day of there was a sports event in the field situated next to our garden site that brought in more people that helped with our sales. We had a friend come by as well to play some music for us to help fill in the silence, and our ears with delightful tunes. With some of the profits we gained from this market, we actually invested on a tent to help provide shade and shelter during our harvests, and during lunch (we put it over the picnic table in the eating area).
The Multitude of Mini-Projects
A full view of the work space (well minus the sink, behind the camera), the chopping, grating, and eventually the squeezing station 
Grating the beets, for the Beet and Horseradish variety
A pretty bad quality shot of the Juniper and Apple sauerkraut, but it's a good shot of the actual sauerkraut in the process of squeezing the juices out  
Besides actual gardening, we engage in many mini-projects. This includes, lots of painting, some flag making, mulching, sauerkraut making, and even garlic braiding. For sauerkraut making, we actually had a quite a few sessions with other gardening groups and made several types of sauerkraut. The flavors include garlic and dill, juniper berry and apple, cumin and chili flakes, juniper berry and pineapple sage, and beet and horseradish. In a nutshell, the process of making sauerkraut involves chopping the cabbages (and preparing the other ingredients), and then squeezing the cabbage (with lots of salt) to draw out the liquid from the cabbage. The drawn out cabbage juice contains naturally occurring bacteria that allows the cabbage to ferment and become sauerkraut. We also made some pickles and fermented beans (which basically tasted like a regular pickle, with the texture of beans)! The fermented beans were also interesting, because all of the beans, including the purple variety that we mixed with the green, were all reduced to the same colour when they were ready.

A close-up of the garlic braids
Hanging up the garlic braids to dry in the shed
This is the product of the garlic braiding, that we did in bunches of 10 bulbs each, and at first it was a bit difficult with the technique and trying to tie up all the garlic, but with enough experience and elbow grease, it became a lot easier and enjoyable to braid up the garlic. We braided after we pulled the garlic bulbs from the ground, and afterwards hung them up in our shed to dry out for usage later on (the garlic is being used as seeds for next season). It's interesting because (according to Aga) the garlic bulbs are getting larger and larger every season, because we've been selecting the larger garlic cloves to plant for next harvest, in a process of unnatural selection (if you will), a technique handy for naturally bringing out a larger yield in produce. We actually left the garlic braids in there for weeks, so for weeks (especially on hot days) the shed had a strong garlic odor inside, and opening the shed was kind of a pain since we'd have to deal with the intense whiff of garlic every time.

Conclusion
Well by the time I post this post, my working period at the garden has already long ended (because I'm a bad procrastinator), actually I don't know why I'm speaking as if I'm predicting I would finish long after it's deadline, I'm writing this right now a week later than I was suppose to (sorry Aga). But I honestly say that I genuinely enjoyed myself at the garden, and waking up early actually fixed my sleep schedule a bit (just a bit though), and I'll probably visit again a bit during autumn, next year, and whenever I can (to check on the vegetables, and size up each passing season). But regardless of my future visits, it's farewell for now!

Article by: Elaine Nguyen, for the vegetables. August 25th, 2015. Some sort of copyright, and permission rules. 

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