May Long Weekend Gardeners

It’s a sunshiny Flourishing Friday and on this upcoming Monday Canadians across the country will be celebrating our role in the Commonwealth and thinking fondly of dear Queen Victoria’s Birthday for Victoria Day, a Canadian statutory holiday celebrated on the Monday preceding May 25 in every province and territory, and … well, actually … mostly just having a day off from work, to be honest.

What the May Long Weekend more typically marks is the official start of summer weather, at least on the Canadian Prairies, where campers and gardeners and adventure seekers who have been hibernating for the long winter will emerge and begin the short seasonal sprint to warm weather fun.

For me, for at least a few hours this weekend, it means finishing the planting of my vegetable garden.

As of right now many of the heartier, stubborn, perennial, or fall-planters are already in the ground, and in some cases sprouting.

My garlic and onion patch has made a clear effort to get ahead of the spring rains and is aggressively showing it’s greens.

I transferred my rhubarb plant from my now-101-year-old granny’s garden about fifteen years ago as literally the first thing I ever planted in this space, and it has also decided to make its annual appearance on time and in force.

If you are a fan of this sour-stalked vegetable, or understand that it is an excellent baking balancer to sweet-fruited deserts, you won’t be surprised that of nearly all the garden products we grow this little plant has the longest queue of friends inquiring about “is your rhubarb ready yet?”

I’d like to write that my carrot patch is thriving, particularly after I spent a bit of time and money installing a low-flow irrigation system a couple weeks ago and covering the whole bed in bird netting to keep the swallows out.

While I’m sure a subset of the little green sprouts in the photo above are actually carrots, they are easily confused with another vegetable which I made the mistake of planting about five years ago that has never exited the garden fully: dill weed. Dill is lovely in small quantities, but each dill plant produces about ten thousand seeds and some of those seeds sprout this year, some sprout next year, some sprout in spring and others sprout in mid-summer. Some of those dill plants are a meter-and-a-half tall and easy to remove, while others grow barely taller than the carrots and hide in the foliage until one day you are delicately untangling their crowns from the other vegetable tops, spilling seeds into the soil in the process.

I’ll let a couple grow. I like dill. But about 99% of what has sprouted needs to be removed as soon as I can tell them apart from the neat rows of carrots that I planted.

At least they are well-irrigated, I suppose.

(Sub)urban Sketching

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I take a lot of photos while travelling.

Often with multiple cameras in hand or slung over a shoulder or stuffed in a pocket, it has become a slight obsession to try for an amazing photo while out and about on a the local adventure or far-away excursion.

But this summer I’ve put my camera down a few times and have been honing my artist skillset as I dabble in a travel trend known as urban sketching.

It would be fair to say that my interest in sketchy art was renewed about two years ago when I spent a week in Dublin. Having travelled a few days in advance of my family (who were nearby in Scotland) to participate in a half marathon in Ireland, I travelled light and left most of my camera equipment with my wife. I had naught but an iPhone.

I arrived, picked up my race kit, and was left with two days to wander around the city.

I happened to wander into an art store and before rational reminders of my limited talent could creep into my brain and dissuade me, I had bought a sketch book and a pack of art markers.

I spent the rest of those days and the week following settling into cozy situations to attempt some urban sketching around the amazingly sketchable city of Dublin.

All that said, I wasn’t new to art.

Over the summer I found that Dublin sketchbook amongst a pile of other old art supplies. Since the mid-90s when I was in college I have been dabbling in pencil and ink drawing and have collected a small stack of coiled paper books stuffed with a lifetime of mediocre art. I don’t abound with any particular talent, but some of the work I rediscovered over the last month wasn’t half bad, and was often brought back more fluid memories than any photograph ever could.

Urban sketching is a catchall term for a kind of situational, in sutu art. It’s the slow version of a travel snapshot. A moment, a scene, a building, a space, a crowd, or anything memorable is captured by pencil and ink, colour and shadow, in the same way a photographer might snap a pic. Much more deliberately. Much more slowly. Sitting on a bench or a cafe table, just drawing the scene rather than that microsecond of thought to photograph it. It is vastly different in approach but with identical sentiment.

I set myself the goal of sketching daily about a month ago.

I spend some time each day drawing something, even if that just means pausing for fifteen minutes to rough out a scribble of my car keys or some other random item from around the house. But that same goal has prompted me to read up on some techniques, to dabble in experimenting with media and subjects I haven’t sketched before, and think more seriously about putting away the camera more often and honing my sketching plans for some future vacation to be captured in ink and watercolour.

Or like today, to sit in the sunny backyard and bring my apple tree to life on a blank page of a sketchbook.

That’s less urban sketching and more suburban sketching.