As the nights get cooler and the days shorter our summer 2020 garden is winding down for fall. This summer our vegetable garden stepped up a notch and I planted way more than previous years. We also had a huge pest problem with rodents, ants, […]
This year is the first one in a while I have been excited about my garden. Working from home for the past few months due to the Corona virus has greatly reduced my commute time from 3-4 hours a day to nothing and this means […]
Out last post detailed the first half of our Victoria, B.C. trip last year when we went to Butchart Gardens. June was definitely a great time to go and see all of the flowers in bloom and it seemed far less crowded that it would be in mid-summer. Since we had the kids with us we tried to find kid friendly activities that weren’t too expensive. There are a lot of things to do in Victoria including the Wax Museum, Butchart Gardens, The Seawall, Whale Watching, Beacon Hill Park, The B.C Parliament Building, Fancy Tea, The Royal B.C Museum, Craigdarroch Castle, numerous beaches, and hiking just to name a few but we only had a couple of days and shorter attention spans to think about so we settled on Butchart Gardens, Miniature World, Beacon Hill Park and Spiral Beach (which is part of Beacon Hill Park) for our three day trip.
One of our requirements for a hotel is now that it has a pool so that we can take the kids for a quick swim when they need to get some energy out but the timing doesn’t really work for any longer activities. Our kids are early risers and sometimes it works out to have breakfast in our room and go swimming before we leave for the day’s activities at around 9:00 am (and usually for second breakfast!). Other times we take a quick swim after dinner before heading to our room for movie night. We did go swimming on our Victoria trip this year but our favorite part of the hotel was the gigantic Koi pond in the lobby. Our kids loved looking at the Koi and even got to help out with feeding time! I am sure when they are a little bit older this will be less cool but for now it was awesome free entertainment.
The second day we headed to Beacon Hill park to wander around and check out the Children’s Farm located on the property. The Children’s Farm has a suggested donation of $4.00 per person for entry and we ended up donating $20.00 for our family of four. I don’t mind paying a little bit extra for a good cause! The Children’s Farm is famous for its goat stampede so we made sure to get there in time for the morning one it did not disappoint us. The goats were super cute running down the path to their daytime pen and afterwards the kids got to go in the enclosure with the goats and pet them. There were many other animals at the farm that our kids liked to watch and pet and overall we had a good time. The farm was on the small side but it was a great way to spend some of our time at the park.
One of the cool things about having the farm at the park was the peacocks running around. They were everywhere around the farm and we even saw them across the street grazing with the ducks. I did wonder though how great it was for the local wildlife to have these gigantic birds hanging around but they seemed to stay really close to the farm so it was probably ok. Our kids had fun looking for them and got really excited when they spread their tail feathers out.
One of the activities we love to do on our vacations is explore the local parks and at Beacon Hill park we spent some time walking around. There was a fabulous playground that we spent some time at and several ponds with different waterfowl grazing in the grass nearby. We saw a deer wandering through a meadow and looked at the different types of trees that we found. We also spent some time talking about how different the trees were from our home even though we weren’t that far away. I try to incorporate talking about the landscape of the places we visit to teach the kids to look around them a little bit more and to highlight the differences in what grows with different types of environments. So far my kids are still pretty excited to hear about it and since we have been doing more traveling lately they have begun to notice similarities and differences between the places we have visited so at least some of it has stuck!
Part of our wandering around the park to us up to the top of Beacon Hill where we saw this gorgeous view! We spent as much time as we could here looking around, reading the plaque and looking for more deer but the kids were impatient for more exciting things and we headed back into the park to explore.
After the park we headed back for lunch and then checked out Miniature World. I didn’t get a picture of our lunch but I wanted to give a quick shout out to the place we went to because the food was fabulous and had a dedicated fryer for gluten-free people and that is really hard to find. We ate at The Fish Store and the food was delicious! I highly recommend going there even if you aren’t gluten-free!
Miniature World was somewhere that we were a little bit hesitant to go because it was kind of expensive and we weren’t sure if it would be worth it. We had a great time though and the kids loved looking at all of the little people and pushing all of the buttons to make things move. The one caveat I have about the place is that I had to explain a lot of historical events to my small children and that was kid of difficult to keep it appropriate. Our daughter is a pretty good reader and there were some very accurate descriptions of what was taking place in the scenes that I had to fudge explanations a bit for. It would probably be better to take older kids in the 7-10 range versus my 3 and 5 year old but we had a great time!
There were tons of displays at Miniature World depicting different historical periods, storybook scenes and imaginary places. Our son loved the cars and anything that moved and our daughter liked the fairies and the trains. There was a little bit for everyone and although it was a little bit on the expensive side it was worth going to for us. I probably wouldn’t go there every year but maybe every other since the kids would get more out of it as they got older.
I could tell that someone that created the displays at Miniature World had a sense of humor because there were a few cheeky captions for some of the displays. This one about grandma and grandpa was pretty far up and too tall for little kids to see which was probably deliberate. I wonder how many of these we missed but it was great to see them spread out. I am not a huge history person so looking at battles was not really my thing but I did love looking at the miniatures. They were very detailed and the quality was excellent.
Our daughter loves going to the beach so the last day we went back to Beacon Hill park and checked out Spiral Beach. There were tons of tide pools for us to explore and we got in a very long walk. We loved looking across the water at America and it was fun for the kids when we pulled up the map and showed them where we were and where in America we were looking at. It was great perspective for them to see where we were in relation to places they know. I think next year if we go back to Victoria I might plan a trip to the Washington Peninsula and find somewhere in America across the water from Victoria and show them what it looks like from the other side. It would be fun and an important lesson in Geography.
The tide pools at Spiral Beach were some of the best ones we have visited. Haystack rock in Cannon Beach is pretty close but we saw lots of animals at Spiral Beach and they were pretty close to the surface and we didn’t have to go very far to see them. Our kids love looking for crabs and snails which we saw many of. We also worked on walking so that we weren’t hurting the animals and talked about where they live and how they hide from us. We spent a lot of time looking at everything and the views were gorgeous!
We walked most of the way down the beach on the upper trail, looked at the tide pools and then walked back up the beach to the famous spiral staircase which I apparently did not get a picture of. Oops! The beach was a rocky beach and we had a great time throwing rocks into the water. Our daughter also loves rocks (we bring them home daily from the playground…) and we spent quite a bit of time looking at them and trying to figure out what kinds they were. I should probably buy her a guide so that she can look them up and see what kinds they are. I am sure she would be an expert before long. Our kids did great on the long walk and I believe it was almost two miles which made our son luckily sleep for most of the car ride home. I am really grateful for that because we got stuck at the border and he was seasick from the ferry ride back but luckily he didn’t get sick in the middle of the crossing. We are now two for two for our son getting sick in the car on the way home from Canada just past the border an I am hoping that it isn’t a constant thing!
One of the surprises we found at Spiral Beach was the gorgeous rose bushes along the upper path. the flowers were beautiful and smelled lovely. I love these flowers and I am always excited when I see them!
Overall we had a fabulous time in Victoria. I would love to go back every June just to see the gardens. Maybe next year we will go to the castle and see what that is about. Our kids will be a little bit older and might be ready for some hikes by then so I will probably have to do some research and see which ones are good for kids up there. We will be avoiding the wax museum for quite a while though, since one of our kids is genuinely terrified of that sort of thing. We saw a wax figure of a football player in San Francisco and it did not go well so I can’t imaging a whole museum of terror would go over very well. I do however want to take my daughter to one of the tea rooms. I think she would love it and it would be great mother-daughter bonding time. We will have to find something for the guys to do that is special for them as well.
Have you been to Victoria, B.C. before? Where did you visit?
If you go:
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It has been a while since I have done a gardening update so I though I would take a few pictures and talk a little bit about them. Our family has been super busy with travel, kids, work and the frequent birthday parties that happen this time of year so not much gardening has been going on. I have made an effort to do some weeding and mulch some areas of the garden but time is limited and the garden is still rough around more than a few edges.
Our Peonies came up beautifully this year. They seem to be recovering from their accidental stomping the first spring we lived in our house. We bought our house in the fall and a large number of dormant plants popped up during our first spring that we had no idea were there. This particular plant was stepped on as it first started emerging while we were digging our asparagus beds. Last year it had one blossom and this year there are several which are very beautiful! We have two Peony plants and honestly even the second year one of them was so damaged I didn’t really see it until much later in the season. Strangely one only one of our Peonies is blooming and almost done. The other has several blooms ready to pop, and even the bees are trying to get inside but they have not opened yet and it has been a couple of weeks. It is pretty interesting how these plants are probably about 20 feet away from each other but they each have their own micro climate and are blooming at different times.
Our strawberries are coming along nicely. We planted one of these Alpine Strawberries we inherited from the neighbors a couple of years ago and now we have several plants along with many, many June bearing plants that have all taken over one area of our garden. These tiny tart strawberries were our son’s favorite last year and the only fresh fruit he would eat. So far this year he has not been as interested but hopefully he will come around eventually!
Our gigantic bush that shades our front door is blooming beautifully this year. In the afternoons it is buzzing with the hum of dozens of bees.
I finally got around to planting annuals in our gigantic pot. It is really heavy and under the cover of the roof so every year I plant annuals in it since watering can be tricky. I also filled most of the pot up with Plastic milk bottles before I added soil to cut down on the soil used and to keep the pot from getting too heavy.
We did official fairy gardens this year for both kids. My daughter had only a couple of hens and chicks left in her pot and some of her fairies were broken so we added a couple more to her pot, some more hens and chicks (a girl after my own heart) and some annuals. I like to do annuals in the kids’ fairy gardens because they love choosing plants every year. Since we use smallish pots there isn’t a lot of room but it is nice for the kids to have a little piece of their own gardens.
My son got to make his own fairy garden this year. He was too young the first year and last year we never got around to it so he was very excited. He picked out mostly pink and red flowers and they look really good. He also picked the red gnome because he looked like Santa Clause which was really cute.
I bought some vegetables for the kids to plant as well. They picked out some squash, snow peas and cantaloupe which is tricky to grow in the PNW. I fully intended to plant them immediately but when I got home I discovered that my garden beds are missing quite a bit of dirt and are at best half way full. I am going to get more soil this weekend so I can get these in the ground before I forget.
I should probably show you a few of my weeds that popped up despite the mulch I laid down. Next fall my goal is to lay down cardboard and mulch and try to keep the weeds in check for next year.
Most of the gardening I have gotten to has been in the front yard. This picture is of my side yard…there is supposed to be a path through there but clearly it is super tiny and mostly non-existent. This area was way over planted by the previous owners and is prone to weeds, despite mulching and regular weeding. I have taken out about half the plants but everything that is there overcrowds. At some point I will probably take out everything on the right hand side but I am hesitant since a lot of those plants bloom later in the year and they feed our resident hummingbirds and healthy bee population.
Despite my lack of time to garden ours is flourishing. How is your garden going this year?
Since being laid off I have been trying to spend time with family and friends. My Dad is nearing retirement and has some free time as well so I have been trying to get the kids out to see him on the family property out […]
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Indoor Seed Starting Time
It is that time of year again when I start to think about what seeds I need to start indoors. This is our third year gardening at our house and the second year for us starting seeds indoors. Last year we started tomatoes, ground cherries, spaghetti squash, sunflowers, cucumbers, zucchini, louffa, gourds, pumpkins and watermelons. Our biggest successes were our squash plants and the beans we direct sowed into the ground. This year we have decided to just buy our tomatoes and ground cherries from the store since we put a lot of effort into growing not so healthy plants last year.
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Seed Starting Basics
When starting seeds indoors there are some basic rules and tools you will need. First off you need seeds (of course), pots, a shovel, soil and a grow light. There are many different types of pots you can use from plastic cups to toilet paper rolls and when you are first starting out it is best to try out a couple of different kinds and see what works best for you. Last year we used red plastic solo cups since we had a bunch lying around but ultimately biodegradable pots such as these here are better for the environment. You can also buy one of these seed starting kits to use as well:
Some people also use warming mats but we start our seeds inside the laundry/furnace room which is very warm and we haven’t needed a warming mat. Our grow lights also came from Amazon and you can find many different types that work but we bought one very similar to this one:
We buy our soil from Costco and mix it with this seed starting mix. Our seeds come from a mish mash of places. This year we have a bunch left over from previous years, seeds I saved from our vegetables and some an easy grow seed set from my mother-in-law for Christmas that has a few varieties that we were missing but if I were to order seeds I would from Seed Savers Exchange. They have a mission to grow heirloom varieties and have a program in place to help their members propagate and grow rare varieties of seeds to preserve plants that might otherwise be lost. I am a huge fan of them and my favorite time of year is when their catalog comes in the mail. It gets me super excited for spring!
The basic rules for starting seeds indoors are to:
- Start them at the right time according to the package (You can find your first frost date here)
- Make sure they are getting the right amount of warmth and light according to the package
- Water from below to prevent mildew forming on the leaves
- Don’t forget about them until they are root bound (I may have some experience with this)
- Harden your seedlings off gradually outdoors before planting in the ground
- Be gentle when transplanting them to avoid damaging the roots.
Seed starting is a skill that takes practice so don’t be discouraged if your first few tries are not successful! Even expert gardeners have trouble with particular batches of seeds or if the weather decides not to cooperate! I am a firm believer in practicing something until you figure out a way to make it work so my best advice for starting out is to pick a few easy to start plants such as zucchini, pumpkins, lettuce, radishes or peas and see if they work. You can always go to the garden store later to grab a few pre-started plants if you seeds don’t work out.
Here are some excellent resources for your seed starting adventures!
A large list of seed starting resources.
This is a great list of vegetables that do well when started indoors and tips for growing them.
This is a great how-to for setting up your lighting system to maximize seed health.
A great article breaking down into detail how to start your seeds.
A great piece about how to pre-germinate your seeds prior to planting them for optimal health.
This article talks about the different ways to start your seeds.
Thinking of mixing you own soil? This is a great resource.
Use these instructions to make eco-friendly newspaper pots to start your seeds in.
A comprehensive list of what you will need for seed starting.
How to start tomatoes successfully.
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