Sunday, June 2, 2013

Back in the water!

I was able to start the weekend by enjoying the glorious weather we had on Friday (sunny and 27C even on the coast!!) by slipping under the waves into the silent underwater world.
I was training a couple of new students in the lab to count and measure eelgrass. Both had never done it before so it was a great new experience for them and gave them a taste of what it to come with this summer's field work in July and August.
The big white things on their arms are the slates with the underwater paper and a small pencil attached. These armbands are extremely convenient since they stay out of the way but close at hand for recording data and you are less likely to lose it! Writing underwater with huge mitts on is very challenging. Although the most challenging part sometimes can be reading it when your are back on the surface!

Recreational and Scientific diving are VERY different. Usually you have your hands full of stuff, catch bags with the various tools, armbands, quadrats (see next photo) and anything else you might need to collect your samples/data. So getting used to controlling your buoyancy while handling all these tools requires practice and this is why we had a practice day and we will have at least one more before the official sampling begins!

The quadrat is a marine ecologists' most used tools. It is a 3 sided square of a specific size that you use to delineate and standardize your sampling area. It is always helpful to have it in bright colours not typically found underwater so that you can easily see it. This one is in white and red electrical tape to contrast with the eelgrass and the bottom. The white areas also delineate a smaller area that can be used to collect subsamples if needed. It is a very simple but essential piece of sampling equipment. The two divers above were counting and measuring the eelgrass plants in the white subset. We are planning a lot of field work this summer. I will be sure to take a lot of pictures of us working and the various tools we use to do our work!!

We also got to test our newly repaired research vessel! It worked beautifully and is ready for another season of research. This vessel has a long history with me and I am preparing a post about it.

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Dresser!

My parents arrived on Friday night. They are visiting for the week since my convocation is on Wednesday. I am so lucky that they decided to bring me some new (to me) bedroom furniture! We put in the new dresser and night tables on Saturday. So the bedroom went from having a small dresser and weathered lobster crate for my orchids. To having a long dresser and two small nightstands.
What a difference! Although there is more furniture, it feels more spacious and there is so much more storage space. I think it looks amazing! Thanks Mom and Dad! :)

Now we just need to paint, the light blue has got to go! We are thinking of doing colour washing but haven't decided yet on the colours...any suggestions on colours or techniques?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sewing Project

For years we have been struggling with roll up and horizontal binds in our living room and bedroom, respectively. They are a nightmare to deal with when there are a large number of plants, like orchids and palms, in front of the window. They always needed to be raised, not simply opened to allow enough light for the plants, leading us to never put them down...really what was the point. So, I decided to take on a medium sized (for me) sewing project and make curtains for the two rooms completely freehand...
These are in the living room and were the most complicated (and the first ones I made) because we decided to also put blackout fabric on the back so we could watch movies during the day (which happens occasionally on rainy weekends) and be in darkness.
We left enough space on the end of the rod (in both rooms) so the curtain could be drawn completely open to let in lots of light for the plants. Now it is much easier to open and close our curtains and we are no longer giving the neighbours a show!

Now that we have more time, our house is slowly changing on the inside and out. We are getting a new dresser for the bedroom today that will replace the one you see in this photo. It is much longer and less ornate (more my style). I can't wait to have a little more space! Then on to recovering our new (to us) kitchen chairs, the upstairs garden, painting the hallway...the list is long... I will keep you updated as the small-large projects unfold.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

To ALL the Mother's out there...


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spring Garden!

My new composter and expanded veggie garden got me all excited for the gardening season! Feeling that it was too early for planting, I was always told to wait until after the threat of the last frost has passed (end of May in Nova Scotia), I headed to the bookstore to pick up a book on backyard composting.
We had a composter in our backyard that previous tenants left behind years ago but we were really never successful at it so what better way to learn then to read about it before getting your hands dirty. One thing I have a really hard time with is resisting books. I LOVE books and I do eventually read them all! Sitting on the shelf beside the composting book was this book...
I sat in the bookstore looking at my books thinking about all of the issues we currently have with food. My thoughts turned back to the Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, both books my Michael Pollan and both AMAZING. Mainly I was thinking about where it comes from and how it is grown and the environmental impacts of it all. Even though I try to buy everything local and organic, it can be difficult in the dead of winter to get local I bought Niki's book (she is from Nova Scotia!) and vowed to give some of her ideas a try. So I quickly read the relevant sections on designing a garden, crop rotation and most importantly the section about plants themselves. To my surprise, she recommended planting some crops before the last frost! There are so many cold hardy plants, like broccoli, kholrabi, lettuce, spinach, kale, leeks, carrots and the list goes on that I made a garden plan and planted it on April 27th!
With a little care, like row covers, I am hoping to successfully grow all of these veggies! The strawberries and chives have been there for a couple of years but everything else is new, much of them new to me as a gardener! The poppies come from seeds from my grandmother's garden that my mom has kept growing since her passing in the 90's. They will give the garden some wonderful colour and bring me back to my youth at the cottage by the lake at the same time. I am planning to start a fall crop indoors in July (need to get a grow light set up...) and build a mini hoop tunnel to protect them into the winter. So far I have planted 4 rows of salad greens and this weekend will be planting the rest with some broadcast seeds in between many of the seedlings that are popping up! I also have a plant for a small A-frame to get some pole beans climbing and plant some more greens underneath to keep them going through the heat of the summer. Who knows if it will all work out but I will keep you posted. Here are some promising first signs...

Friday, May 3, 2013

What I did for the Earth on Earth Day

I know Earth Day was just over a week ago...but it did take me a couple of weekends to finish up the project. It all started on April 20th, when the Halifax Regional Municipality was selling HUGE, AWESOME compost bins for $25 to try to encourage more backyard composting. I was so in! So I stood in line for an hour and 40 mins in the freezing cold wind and fog with my hands stuffed in my pockets and my hood drawn around my face. I so wished I had another sweater on. Did I mention I was alone? I am sure if Diego had come with me we would have bailed after 15 mins and we would have never got this awesome composter!

The weather on the 21st took a turn for the better so I cleaned up the yard and installed the composter in the sunniest spot in our backyard, without taking precious recreational space. It is easy to access and I am so looking forward to the results!
 We also finally installed the rain barrel we had sitting in the backyard since last year. It will feed the side garden (see the hose?) that is always so dry and it looks nice at the front of the house. Here's hoping that it doesn't get pushed over by the drunk students that roam our streets. Speaking of side might not have noticed but we extended it another 3 ft giving us a total of 25 ft x 2 ft of full sun garden!
Here you can see the addition and the weeping hose (or whatever it is actually called) I put in to the whole garden and attached to the rain barrel. I put it in to encourage deeper roots and make my watering job easier with a lower impact on our drinking water resources. We have a backyard rain barrel in the works too... However, now that we have the rain barrel connected to the downspout... we just need it to rain!
What did you do for Earth Day?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Gourmet Salad

I made this salad last night and it was DELICIOUS. According to Diego it deserves the capital letters!
Sauteed onion and Apple Salad
1 medium onion cut in half and thinly sliced into half moons
1 medium sized apple cored and sliced into half moons
1 head of kale or lettuce of your choice
Walnuts (to your liking)
Maple syrup
Blue cheese
3 tbsp Avocado oil (you could use olive or hazelnut oils)
2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar (I used the PC brand Fig Balsamic)
1 pinch of salt

If you are using lettuce or another soft green, start with the next step. If you are using kale, wash it and slice it thinly. Then in a small jar or bowl combine the oil, vinegar and salt. Pour the dressing over the kale and mix thoroughly. This needs to sit for at least 30 mins for the kale to get soft. The kale will turn darker green and shiny when it softens.

In the meantime, sautee the onions in about a tablespoon of olive oil. When softened add the apples and sautee until the apples are golden on both sides and the onions are beginning to brown. Be sure to use an apple that won't fall apart (definitely no Macintosh!). I used a gala apple.
In another pan toast the walnuts on high heat until warm and golden brown. Once golden add about a tablespoon of maple syrup and turn down the heat to medium. Once all the liquid from the maple syrup has evaporated continue to toast the walnuts to get a nice sweet coating (about 5-8 more mins).

Once the onions and apples are ready, add the nuts to the pan and sautee for another minute or 2. Then add the warm ingredients on top of the kale. Crumble some blue cheese on top of the warm ingredients and cover the bowl with a plate or anything that will keep the heat in until the cheese is melted.
Once the cheese is melted, toss and serve. If you are using lettuce rather than kale add the dressing just before tossing. The tangy taste of the blue cheese is complimented by the sweetness of the apples and maple crusted walnuts!