Another garden dead and buried

The garden was pretty successful this year – everything I planted produced in some way. We dined on a copiousness of kale, a pallet of peas, a torrent of tomatoes, a heap of habaneros, a barrage of beans, an overabundance of aubergines (an expanse of eggplants?), and more. Pumpkins were a fun addition but they used so much space (one entire bed, and still spilled onto the sidewalk) that I’ll give it a miss next year. At least the resident vole enjoyed snacking on them.

Although I only got a couple of fruits from its container, the black krims were by far my favorite tomato variety, so next year they will get the top spot in the garden.

I canned a few jars of salsa and a batch of habanero jam to keep us warm during the winter.

What I’m growing this year

I’m nicely keeping to my two-post-a-year cadence with one of them being about gardening. Here’s the gardening one.

This year I got bored and built a bunch of bespoke structures out of 1x2s for trellising and to have an excuse to use my drill. Some of my tomatoes are thus growing in wood boxes and connected via clips to twine, while the others are using the more traditional tied-to-a-single-stake method. Have to say I prefer the former arrangement since it is super-easy to adjust as they get larger.

It also provided a nice place to mount a camera to catch various wildlife attacking the food, so I did.

Here is a skunk(?) from when the camera was mounted at ground level (volume up):

Here is a rabbit from the bird’s eye view:

And one from when he was feeling a bit more bold:

New this year: peas and beans, kale, pumpkins, watermelon, Thai basil, cilantro, eggplant
New but not thriving due to leaf miners: Swiss chard & beets
Returning favorites: peppers (4), potatoes (12), tomatoes (9)

House of Theseus

In case anyone was wondering: now is the point at which eight year old appliances are dying. Our house has just reached this venerable age, and in the last few months, the refrigerator, oven, and dishwasher all decided to quit working in some way or another. Thanks to COVID and YouTube, I fixed 2/3s of these appliances all by myself, which together with last year’s HVAC repair, means I am officially qualified to make twice my current hourly rate.

The snow is starting to melt here which means I am antsy for gardening season. My seeds, along with the rest of Canadian gardening population’s seeds, are still on backorder, so I’m making a go of it with some of previous years’ seeds. I added another 3’x4′ raised bed in which I hope to grow some cucurbits. So far, I have some radishes in the ground; bell peppers, kale, and basil germinating; and tomatoes and peppers just seeded.


Dear reader, I am writing this from my bunker in lockdown. Here we are on the final day of 2020, and all I can say is, whew, we made it.

The front page of this blog goes back a year and a half which doesn’t say a lot about my level of commitment to this here writing thing of late. I shall try to make up for that by summarizing some of the projects I actually completed in 2020, but which I was too lazy to document contemporaneously so they might as well have not happened at all. Well here’s your bunch of write-ups all squashed into one blog entry, happy now?

I celebrated my first anniversary at Amazon in October, a year which saw us ship a huge cross-team project and deliver an outage-free Christmas. If you are one of the millions who interacted with Alexa this year, my many colleagues and I helped make that happen. If Alexa responded with something completely nonsensical or useless, well, then, that was probably some other team’s fault.

I’m happy to still be working in software, 22 years since I took my first full-time job. Back then, I took one of my first paychecks to the local hi-fi stereo vendor and purchased a Paradigm home theater setup. My roommate and I didn’t have any furniture to speak of, but who needs that when you can watch VHS tapes in 5.1 surround on a giant tube TV! These days, the surrounds and center channel speakers are gathering dust, but I still use the bookshelf speakers and sub. Recently, I noticed these poor old Atoms were rattling whenever the bass kicked in. Youtubers said that this is common and you need to replace your foam surrounds and you can buy a kit and do it yourself and did you know that you could just buy a new pair of monitors for as little as $5000 and also get some gold plated optical cables while you are at it for the warmest possible digital sound. So yes, I did buy such a kit and I did do it myself.

Well, this was an epically bad glue job, but there are no longer any clicks while listening to Technotronic’s _Pump Up The Jam_, so we are good for another 20 years or so.

Dining: for those that don’t know, in 2020, we were hit with a global SARS-Cov-2 pandemic. Never a family to eat out much anyway, we cut out the few remaining visits to eateries in the interest of not dying. The odd craving did strike though, so I fashioned a cheesecake, bagels, fried chicken, lattes, and doughnuts _with my bare hands_!

As in previous years, I grew a garden over the summer. The new-to-me crops: cucumbers and potatoes. Of the former, I had a lot: I ended up with something like ten pints of pickles even after having cukes in salads every day. I had only a few potatoes, but was surprised to find that the home grown varieties had a much different, nuttier taste than supermarket spuds. Both will probably make an appearance next year but I’ll need to balance out the yields. Also ended up with quite a few jalapenos which turned into a dozen jars of pepper jelly, and the usual amount of tomatoes (sauces, paste, pizza toppers, and so on). All this despite a family of rabbits literally living in my raised bed.

Anyway, this is all I can remember doing in 2020, or at least those things I have pictures of. Here’s hoping we get some vaccines in 2021 and we can go outside again. Wake me when that happens.

Socially distant

I haven’t posted at all since COVID-19 hit in this area, partly because work (from home) has been all-consuming and a welcome distraction from the outside world, and partly because, during my non-work hours, the old brain has loaded up an endless patter of anxiety:

Was that coughing gentleman really two meters away or maybe one and a half? Is it drafty in here, or do I have the chills? Is the shortness of breath and periodic chest pain a sign of COVID-19, or just your run-of-the-mill heart attack? Should I write another blog post and if so, will it be my last one, and if is the last, would that really be the blog post I want to end on?

And so on.

But I have decided that in some future generation there will be a Ken Burns style documentary on this whole thing and the future Ken Burns will need contemporaneous writing for his voice-overs. And who am I to deny future Ken Burns that material.

So know, dear reader, that so far in Month Six of the Apocalypse, we are all doing well. We have our health, food, shelter, and depressions in the driveway where our cars have sat motionless for half a year.

One silver lining: it turns out my hobbies were fairly pandemic-aligned: I already had sourdough starter going, a garden planned, puzzles for months, and a sewing machine at the ready. Since then, I also learned how to cut my own hair, make my own espresso, and service my own furnace. The children have traded meat-space friends for 24/7 screen time and, from their point of view, this seems to have been an auspicious swap. If they are any indication, we’ll all be just fine when the singularity hits. Which will probably be next year at this rate.


Summer came late and is leaving early this year, so it’s about harvest time now. This year, I did some radishes, onions, salad greens, carrots, green beans, jalapenos, bell peppers, basil, and tomatoes. Most of the carrots didn’t grow long roots, but I got a few. The rabbits got to the peppers and green beans before I did, while leaving the lettuce mostly alone — I realized when I had a dozen full heads that we just don’t eat that much salad, so a lot of it bolted in the end. Now I know what 4-foot tall red lettuce looks like.

Not planted this time were tomatillos, but I had a bunch of vines grow from last year’s seeds anyway. I have been pulling up most of those while keeping one large bush for possible salsa verde in a month or so.

Anyhow, I got enough produce to make a few jars of red salsa (when supplemented with some store-bought locally grown tomatoes), and I didn’t work as hard at it this year as previously, so I’m calling it a win.

In a few weeks I’ll be pulling up all the remaining plants, and trying to get a cover crop started, which is something I didn’t know about until recently.

In other uprooting news: I previously wrote a post about ending my engagement at facebook. I dropped that post, because the reasons aren’t actually very interesting and that bridge has plenty of water under it by now. But the outcome of all of that is that I’ll be starting at Amazon next week, in an actual, real live office. That last part is going to be a bit of a trial: after ten years of working from home, I’m not especially looking forward to commuting downtown, and it will certainly be a stress on the family to rearrange our schedules to accommodate that. But it will be nice to have non-virtual coworkers for a change, and I’m excited about tackling some of the challenges facing my new team.

Planting time

With the terribly cold and gray winter finally starting to abate, I’m going to start my indoor seeds this week. Nearly same setup as last year: I’m sowing the head-start seeds indoors, to go under basement grow lights in a couple of weeks when they have sprouted. A new addition is this heating mat, which I had to laugh at because of the prominently featured cannabis leaves on the package. I wonder just what the distribution of carrot growers to “other” is, now that it’s legal here.

For any curious persons or LEOs reading, no, I’m not planting weed. I’ll be starting basil, tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce in flats, and hopefully it will be warm enough to direct sow carrots and radishes. Beans should come a little later. Can’t wait!

Peak 2018

I almost let the second half of 2018 go unblogged (are people still saying blog?). It’s not that nothing interesting happened in all of that time, but real life has been ultra busy. Did I mention that Sammy turned one and is on the verge of walking?

The garden delivered tons of produce this year, enough that I didn’t really keep up. I gave myself a crash course in canning, making four jars of tomatillo salsa and six jars of habanero jam. Maybe fewer peppers next year?

I harvested around five bowls of tomatoes, many of which are taking up space in the freezer right now.

And at least four of these basil bowls, mostly frozen pesto at the moment:

This is what it is all about: pizza with homegrown basil, homegrown tomatoes, and sourdough crust from locally cultured yeast.

Anyway, happy New Year!

Another one about plants

Here’s what the garden looks like right now. Compare to this time last year.

We had our backyard professionally landscaped last fall, and the landscaper decided to put in an empty bed next to the house instead of incorporating my unsightly DIY planter box into the design. But that area gets sun only half of the day, so I planted both this year, reserving the landscaper-approved bed for the experimental plants (mostly tomatillos and some extra basil). In the photo you can see the tomatillos in the background on the right: they have grown as tall as I am, with plenty of flowers but no fruits yet. Still, the pollinators are visiting so that could change:

Meanwhile, there are baby tomatoes and baby peppers everywhere, and lots and lots of basil. Having eight basil plants means making pesto every other week just to keep up. I picked my first jalapeno yesterday. Although I tried hard to label all my plants this year, I found that one of my intended habeneros was a mislabeled poblano. No worries, poblanos are great. Looking forward to stuffed peppers next month.

We have a family of wild rabbits living near the house, so I stayed away from lettuces or other rabbit-friendly fare. Perhaps I’ll try lettuce in the planter box next year since it is high enough it might evade their grasp. I planted a few onions in the lower bed to keep the rabbits away from the other plants, having heard that they hate the smell of onions. Naturally, onion stalks are the only thing they’ve eaten so far.

This is still the quiet times before the Japanese beetles. Once they show up a few weeks from now, they will require thrice-daily purges, a not so fun task.