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The rainy July, uncertainty and assumptions

Summer never disappoints, even when there’s more rain than in the fall or more heat than in Mexico. Just knowing, that the days are long, and light stays on longer is so satisfying. Recurring certainty gives a feeling of stability, but we are not yet 100% there in Ontario. We are fairly uncertain also about the length of vaccine efficiency and what happens next and so forth. Questions which will clarify themselves as time passes by.

The last 2 years have been a huge test: they have tested our patience, endurance, tolerance and self-efficiency. I am usually aiming for predictability and certain order of upcoming events, just like in nature: summer comes after spring, and then there’s fall, and winter. Clarity, simple sequence of events. During this period, it’s been knowing nothing about what to expect, misinformation, lies, doubts and promises which often didn’t turn into actions.

Time doesn’t take into account whether we like being in this mess created by virus or not: it just runs away and, in some cases, – out. This time period will stay in our memory for quite a while. Is the pandemic over yet? In some places and countries, it seems we are winning, and then, a new variant occurs, and we start losing. It looks like this is not the end of pandemic yet. I wish it were, though.

Are you also so much used to wearing a mask that it will seem strange leaving house without it? Or disinfecting surfaces and washing hands for hundred times? I’ve heard that people are having more anxiety attacks, more upsetting days, spending more time doubting themselves and the future. I’d say that is normal taking into account the circumstances. We feel very much entitled to many things and we often take them for granted.

Maybe this is a time when we simply allow the flow to take us? I’ve been always against the flow, against the rules, against demands, commands and external control. However, I find that most current requirements make sense and I comply with them. There is a lot of scientific evidence on how we survive. I’m happy that after spending more than a full month on a computer and on the phone, we finally got both vaccine doses. It’s three weeks now. It is a relief. Some feeling of order? I’m not saying that I feel very safe now, but it’s somewhat reassuring that, most likely, nothing bad is going to happen.

We are not back to any normal yet, although, we’re trying to pretend everything is ok. It will never be the same as it was pre-pandemic. Globalization has its plusses and minuses. One of the biggest troubles: any disaster affecting health becomes global in no time. Unfortunately, global trade is fine, global pandemic – not at all because it is handled inefficiently and as bad as only possible. Do two doses of vaccine ensure you’re done with the virus? Probably not. We’ve already heard Pfizer saying they detected the immunity was weaker after 6 months.

Depending on where you are, you might be fine or not at all. We in Ontario are trying to return to life without virus. I hoped people would love to attend the outdoor art classes now, after almost two years of everything online. It doesn’t seem so. Not much response because there’s also no place where to get attention, not even one specific place. Facebook just wants me to spend more money so that they would show to somebody what I publish. Well, Facebook, it’s been two very tough years, so nothing goes to you. I won’t even mention other media sites. If you’re not an influencer, post whatever you want, hardly anybody will see it. The problem is also that everybody is selling something, and buying happens mostly from the huge global outlets, go outcompete those.

I was reading how a marketing expert said she just made a million giving advice. Have you also noticed that teaching somebody to make money always results in high profits? Everybody is attracted to read about “make-money-quick”, or watch it, or listen to it. Unfortunately, it will always depend on your location, digitalization level, type of thing you do, demand for what you do and the basic mindset of your potential customers. However, it will mostly depend on how much you can invest in what you do, how much you can spend on advertising, help and specialists and creation of your product. Do you think I’d had any problem if I could run my ads every hour on numerous TV channels or have them everywhere sneak up on you on the internet?

The presence and visibility are the biggest problem.

When I started writing this blog and created the other blog and art website, I thought it would result in some extra attention. I’ve got blog friends, nice people to talk to online, that’s true. I spend a lot of time posting, returning likes and answering to comments. For art blog, a post usually takes about 2 weeks in making because I usually have to paint what I’d like to show, then take photos (what a hassle!) and then, putting it up is easy, but, altogether – very, very time-consuming. Basically, I’ve spent abnormal hours dealing with both blogs, and return is great when it comes to online following and friendships, but financially, it’s practically nothing to show for. It still makes sense compared to spending many hours on social media and not getting any traction. Well, it is like this: whatever you do, be influencer and famous, and then even dumb things you say or publish will get lots of publicity.

Global pandemic, global competition, global trade, global profits or losses, – but the effects of all that are very personal, very individual, very painful frequently. I do sometimes long for the time when somebody just drops in, they are happy with what I have to offer, they do not run around to 100 other places before making decision, and life is so simple because everything is in balance, everything happens. I am just wondering how could life become so complex? Getting a simple “yes” or “no” is practically impossible. It takes numerous emails, text messages, back and forth, numerous explanations and waste of time, and then you still don’t know whether you achieved what you wanted.

As always, I will post this very delayed article with a few pictures from my garden. Just like summer, garden never disappoints. Even when I don’t have time, plants just do their thing: they bloom, grow and bring fruit. Compared to everything else, it’s such a winning and rewarding effort. I do take great care of my pictures, but I suppose since I’m not emphasizing the photography aspect, they go unnoticed. As you know, I used to post more frequently, but cannot right now: life is too complex. I am re-opening the studio, moving art classes outdoors, preparing materials, and that takes about 10 hours a day or more.

Wishing you to recharge and rest during the summer! Thanks for reading if you did!

Featured Lovely veggie basket

Endless supply of seeds and how to have your own

If you wanted to plant variety of vegetables this year, you probably noticed there was shortage of seeds, at least in Ontario it was. I didn’t find any arugula, Bell pepper seeds and early pickling sort of cucumber seeds also. Green onions were not that good, they really took abnormal time to come up and, generally, they were not doing that great. It was the seed tape. What do you do if you really want some particular vegetable and there is no way to get seeds on time in the middle of pandemic? Online ordering was out of question for me because shipping would have taken way too much time.

You have probably seen and watched time-lapse videos about how beautifully seeds start to sprout if you use the real vegetable. For me, it happened accidentally with tomatoes on the vine this spring. I was digging up soil. It was also time to prepare garbage for the next morning and I had really soft and not appealing tomatoes on the vine in my fridge. They were ready to be thrown out. I simply buried these tomatoes at one end of the future vegetable bed and forgot about them. After a while, I’d say, quite a while, I noticed new tomato plants had appeared in that spot.

Tomatoes on the vine

I had read before that if you use seeds from a real vegetable, there won’t be much harvest or possibly such plants won’t produce at all. That is not true at all. It certainly took some time (May-July) to see they will produce, but these plants are actually stronger than plants which I started from seeds which I had bought. Tomatoes on the vine are doing great, they will be red soon.

The same goes for paprika or Bell pepper. I just used seeds from a real Bell pepper which we had bought at the grocery store. These plants are doing really well, they were just blooming last week, and I cannot see why these blooms wouldn’t turn into vegetables. I have used my own seeds which we normally harvest for the next year: calendula, nasturtium, dill, cucumber, tomato, paprika, pumpkin and so on, basically, anything which has collectible and visible seeds.

Basket of veggies from my backyard

I also buried pumpkin seeds from a previous year’s pumpkin in the soil. It had survived all winter, and I just never got to pickling or using it. My pumpkin plants are doing really well. The problem with pumpkin or sunflower seeds is that backyard squirrels and chipmunks will go for big length to get to them. I had to build a firm fence around, so that the roots of tiny startup plants would not be disturbed. Other than that, just place these seeds in rich soil on a small hill, and pumpkins will do fantastic.

Beautiful dill

For green onions, I cut off the part which has root, allow it to become stronger in water and plant it outside. Such green onions grow much better than the ones from seeds. I’ve been using these green onions all summer and will plant a few more as soon as it’s not abnormally hot.

Backyard gardening

Here is my rating of plant health depending on type of seeds or plant seedlings from worst to the best.

Seedlings and young plants from a nursery or garden center are usually doing the worst. Such plants are much more susceptible to changes in weather, as well as to plant diseases. I’m not buying any ready plants for about 5 years already. It might seem it is going to be much slower process when starting, for instance, tomatoes, Bell peppers and cucumbers from seeds, but that’s not true. They catch up pretty quickly providing the weather cooperates. Day and night temperatures need to be reasonably high for faster sprouting.

Second place take plants which I started from seeds, and seeds were bought at a store. Depending on what type of seeds are available: organic, not organic, colored or on tape, results will vary. I find that some seeds on tape are fine, for instance, lettuce and cucumber, and some are not, I can mention green onion. The best for me have been organic seeds with no color applied to them and not on tape. Certainly, that depends.

The absolute winner among plant seedlings are the ones for which I used either the real vegetable or gathered and prepared seeds on my own. As always, do it yourself from start to finish appears to be the best way to do anything. That includes collecting and preparing seeds or just using suitable vegetable which otherwise would go into food garbage.

Lovely veggie basket

August is time when we can still plant some seeds. In fact, we have to wait until it gets cooler and then we can plant radish, spinach and lettuce again. Depending on variety, kale will do fine also because it requires cool weather. Parsley and basil will have enough time to come up and then, you just take them indoors in October. Plant arugula since it takes no time at all. In fact, depending on your region, there are many more plant varieties, but I’m just mentioning the ones that fit the growing season for me in Ontario.

When it comes to gardening, experimenting is the best way to find out what your plants want and like and what results in rich harvest.  I’m seeing companion gardening is mentioned frequently. I must say that I have used it for as long as I can recall. That was inevitable because my gardens have been rather small and I had container gardening here and there, therefore, I could never plant some group of vegetables or one type of plants in a separate bed. Everything was always mixed up. Like I said before, some flowers literally protect vegetables, and, thus, we have much better harvest.

Companion gardening

Good luck with your garden whether it is big, small or tiny! The most important factor with gardening is the willingness of gardener to take some risks and experiment, as well as observe results. Just like in art which I’m writing about in my art blog.

Some backyard ideas and my most favorite herbs: the first post of my new blog

It took me a while:  I was planning to write this life school blog for some 2 years, and I finally got written and published the first post of my new blog. I hope you’ll like it! I hope you enjoy all posts and all my observations, stories, poems and life lessons which I have experienced during many decades living in Europe, Latvia, as well as later in Ontario, Canada.

I was just cropping photos and thinking: it was such a blessing to grow up without any internet and without any mobile devices. I suppose, childhood is the perfect time to learn about our surroundings and nature. That is a great time to find out what each herb, grass and flower can do for us, how they can help and what they can cure. I had a grandmother who taught me everything she knew about plants, flowers and herbs when I was about 5-6 years old. We moved to a small town afterwards, we had a garden, just like everybody in Latvia did, but meadows and forests belong to my early childhood.

I also remember when I arrived in Canada, I saw lots of lawns, every house had it, and most backyards were lawns, too. That was when I thought: what a waste of land and soil! I think, it’s wrong to kill all dandelions, white and red clover, other small blossoming weeds, even nettles, because bees desperately need them. The flawless lawn is boring. If every house had flowers and blossoming weeds, we would not need to worry about losing bees. secondly, every plant and herb helps maintaining or improving our health.

It is, thankfully, summer, and summer means planting, weeding, growing and watering plants. I am very happy to have a huge backyard this time. I haven‘t turned it entirely in a garden yet, but if we stay here long enough, I probably will. We rent, and that means moving often and starting a new garden again.

Here are the main reasons why even very busy people should grow some herbs and some basic vegetables in their backyard. It’s not about money and financial gains because starting up a small garden is not that cheap. It is about the huge health benefits. That also means that kids learn nature directly and take part in growing their own meals.

We obviously can buy everything at the grocery store and farmers market. The latter is a better choice because of a shorter shelf life. However, the soil has been depleted so terribly during the last decades that vegetables and fruits we are consuming at the present moment have only 30% of the mineral, vitamin and nutrition content compared to what they had in 70-s. When we add to this processing time, packaging time, time of transportation and sitting on a shelf, we cannot even dream that this fruit or vegetable compares to some extent with the vegetable or fruit which we picked in the backyard or garden.

Strawberries grow anywhere

There are plants which grow themselves. As soon as we have put them in the ground, they’ll only require watering and a few – also minimum amount of a fertilizer.

Easy to grow berries strawberries

I love strawberries because they grow wildly and require attention only two times a year: in the fall when we need to detach the new shoots, and in early spring when we should sort out the entire strawberry field or bed. After that, they just bloom and grow, and all one has to do is pick them when red. Isn’t that fantastic? Secondly, you get twice as many plants in the next year, 4 times more in the third year, and so until your backyard is a strawberry field. Just kidding, but still, it’s an easy plant to grow in mild climate.

backyard decorative parsley

The beautiful parsley

backyard simple parsley

The simple or Italian parsley

backyard the beautiful and healthy lemon balm

Lemon balm: so beautiful, so good for us, especially for people who suffer from high blood pressure and anxiety or similar disorders

The other plants which grow absolutely effortlessly are herbs: basil, dill, parsley, mint, sage, rosemary, lemon balm and thyme. They have extreme contents of healthy stuff inside, yet, they don’t require practically any work. Dill can be sown every month as a sub-plant for other taller plants. It is a really friendly neighbor to cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, radish and similar. Dill grows very fast, and just 1 teaspoon of chopped dill with any salads, soups or potatoes, etc. provides us with a large dose of live!!! vitamin C. I will review in other posts all possible uses of dill, parsley, lemon balm and other backyard plants.

backyard Dill: huge health benefits

The insanely healthy plant: dill for every condition

There is still time to plant and sow many summer herbs and vegetables. Radish and lettuce are ready in a very short time, so eat and put new seeds in the soil.

backyard crisp red radish

Radish: enormous benefits

backyard crisp radish

Crisp and red: eat right away

The biggest advantage of growing herbs and vegetables is that we really can be sure how clean they are and what we have used when growing them. Only tomatoes and cucumbers will need a bit of fertilizer (2 times a season is enough), everything else grows practically on its own.

backyard flowers

Flowers: endless source of pleasure

backyard more flowers

More flowers

backyard first strawberries

More strawberries, these are the first ones this year

backyard strawberries

I have strawberries in pots and everywhere else, we used them for sketching

Enjoy the pictures from my backyard! I appreciate your comments!