27 December 2008

Retrospective, 2008

Time for a bit of a backward glance before falling headlong into plans for 2009.

2008 was our first full year in Canada and there's been quite a lot of progress to report. On the self-sufficiency front we had the solar hot-water and geothermal systems installed and our bank of solar panels wired up to generate electricity, starting on 29 October (830 kilowatts so far). The latter two systems require a bit more work to make them function perfectly (the geothermal develops a fault when the outside temperature drops below -15°C and the panels aren't at their full capacity yet, but we'll get there...).

The kitchen was stripped back to the wood framing and then re-fitted and all the old alumin(i)um wiring in the house has been stripped out. The latter took so long that the electricians began to feel like they were part of our family.

In May we got the apple, pear, plum, cherry and apricot trees into the ground, creating the orchard. It'll be a few years before we get decent quantities of fruit from the trees, but they all seem to have established themselves successfully.

Much work went on in the vegetable garden, including the construction of a 'tyre garden' for rhubarb and asparagus. The eight beds that we created for vegetables in 2007 became ten, mainly due to over-enthusiastic sowing of brassicas. Amazing quantities of produce were harvested over the year. This despite some notable failures: the onions were washed away, the fennel and one of the rhubarb plants rotted after the unusually heavy July rains and the waterlogging which followed them. This also severely disabled the chillies, peppers, aubergines and paste tomatoes. I got a few cauliflowers, but overall those suffered from a lack of water in June, I think. Maybe in 2009 the weather will be more evenly balanced between rain and sun. No, I don't think so, either. With any luck, our attempts at improving the drainage of the area will help a bit.

My pleasure at the complete absence of slugs and snails in the garden was slightly tempered by my introduction to the tomato hornworm, a truly fearsome beast. We also have a small (in stature and in number) rabbit population which nibbled through most of my sweetcorn plants before they had a chance to reach maturity.

Building the greenhouse was perhaps the biggest (in all senses of the word) achievement of the year and I am thoroughly excited at the prospect of using it to extend our growing season in 2009.

I see that I've taken 4,368 photographs this year (not including the ones I've deleted...). Nearly 12 every day, on average! Thank goodness for digital cameras - can you imagine how much that would have cost in film and development costs?

I'm conscious that this blog was started as a record of an emigration experience, but has turned into more of a gardening/cooking/self-sufficiency log. Eighteen months into our new life, perhaps I should be saying more about how the immigration has gone.

I can honestly say that my overwhelming feeling about our move is that I have come home.

Yes, I miss certain things about my life in the UK: particular people; ancient monuments and gardens to visit; and certain food items. People are fairly mobile and are able to visit, but I have to get my fill of the other things through books, TV programmes, DVDs (I'm watching The Buildings that Shaped Britain on BBC Canada and The Victorian Kitchen Garden on DVD at the moment) and on my intermittent trips back to the UK.

These are minor things that come nowhere near to outweighing the benefits of the move. This is where I belong. This is where I will set down my roots.


Anonymous said...

You've certainly made admirable progress in your first year -- I'm so glad you're setting out roots in (our) Canadian soil. :) All the best and continued success in 2009, Amanda!

Anonymous said...

The Victorian Kitchen Garden is one of my all time favourite shows :)

One of the things I often wish we had in Canada was a little more history and old architecture. Everything here is so new, and I find history so incredibly fascinating.

You're living on my dream property :) My husband and I have dreamed of being self sufficient in terms of energy and food supply, so I love to read about what you are doing. You've accomplished just an incredible amount in one year. Congratulations! I look forward to reading about what you do in 2009.


Anonymous said...

Welcome Home!