What I’ve Been Doing This Week.

Betty went missing for 2 hours, I’m growing oats for oatmeal this year and my community garden looks like it’s home to a penal colony.

My garden last fall.


Listen.  I know I’ve said this before with posts but this time I mean it. This is going to be a short post so revel in every word. All things considered I’m quite proud of myself for producing anything at all in terms of a moderately coherent string of words.

Because ….

After weeks and weeks of waiting, organizing, campaigning and scheming I got to start gardening in my community garden this weekend. I woke up and marked this celebratory event by stepping directly into cat vomit.  No problem. I saw the fact that I was wearing socks to be a very good sign of wonderful things to come for the rest of the day.

This interpretation was wrong.

I don’t want to take anything away from my first day at the garden because it was MY FIRST DAY AT THE GARDEN. But this is what I walked into.

I showed up at the garden with a long list of joyful tasks to accomplish including but not limited to prancing, twirling and skipping. These were quickly modified to trudging, dragging and nose blowing. Last year on May 9th the temperature was the lowest it had been in 10 years at 11.4°C.  

This year it was snowing.  

I’m sorry, did I forget to mention that? Yes. I snow gardened. Granted you can’t see much snow in these pictures. It wasn’t sticking to the ground at the garden. It was sticking on the ground at home.

On my list of things to do throughout the day were pick the asparagus (no need, the frost had killed most of what was growing above ground), clean up one hoop house so I could plant my rapini and lettuce in it (no need, that particular hoop house was in some sort of fisherman’s knot on the other side of my garden) and set up my drinking fountain/hand washing station (no need, the water was just about frozen so I went with hand sanitizer today at the garden).  

I did manage to find a little bit of asparagus that was undamaged by frost from the last 3 nights of frost due to the insulating layer of weeds in my garden.

So.  First day at the garden. Couldn’t really do anything. 

That left me the rest of the day to stand with my gloved hands on my hips, wiping my nose with my face mask while waving at fellow gardeners who weren’t actually there because you know – in upside down Coronavirus world it was snowing on May 9th and they were all smartly at home.

I will be going to the garden again later this week because it’s supposed to be much nicer out. By Thursday we’re expecting a  high of 10°C (around 52 Fahrenheit) with rain!  Not a snow flurry or tornado in sight.

Until then I will be at  home drinking hot chocolate researching the combined effects of global warming, coronavirus and cat barf on mental health.



As some of you know I grew wheat last year and it was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever grown. It was fun partly because it was new to me and partly because I mean, I GREW WHEAT. The fun didn’t end there though, because I also thrashed out the grains and ground them up into flour. (I have a big post on how to grow, harvest and mill wheat into flour next week) 

It’s hard to beat that kind of harvesting high, but I might come close this year with growing oats. I decided last fall that I would grow them but then with all the interesting things going on in my life, like curing ingrown toenails, I just forgot all about  it. That is until last week when I remembered and managed to track down a few seeds – about 1,000 of them.

The variety I got is Baton which is a hulless oat (it actually does have a form of a hull, it’s just papery and easy to remove). I decided to grow oats because I eat oatmeal for breakfast every single morning in the fall and winter. I’m sure you’ve heard me go on and on about my overnight oatmeal. 

Well, that’s all the steel cut oats you buy in the store are.  They’re whole oat grains. Actually they’re chopped a bit (hence the steel cut) so they cook faster but there’s nothing else done to them. “Groats” are the full kernel of oat that hasn’t been cut. 

I need you to look far back into the depths of your brain and remember a time when I said this wasn’t going to be a long post. It is. Which means the story about Betty going missing will have to be shorter than I’d like in the interest of time.


We couldn’t get ahold of Betty for 2 hours. Then we found her.

The end.

(Betty was on the porch talking to my niece for 2 hours and didn’t have her phone outside with her. Keep in mind this was from 6-8 at night during a pandemic when it’s normally very easy to keep track of people because people are either a) at home in their kitchen or b) at home in their family room.

She was scolded and sent to bed without her wine and antacids.

What I Did This Week.

I wanted to mention that the opening of community gardens was a HUGE combined effort of all community gardeners across Ontario. We called and sent emails to Ministers, Members of Parliament, and anyone else in positions of influence.  We came together with those who run food banks, our local governments and people who are food insecure.

Together we got community gardens to be named an essential service. 

Thank you to everyone who took action and helped along the way. I thank you, those who use food banks every month thank you and mental health professionals thank you.

Have a good remainder of your weekend! And Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, young and old. But especially the young who are stuck in the house with their perpetually bored kids. And especially the old who aren’t allowed to leave the house and when they do for a moment they have their wine and antacid privileges taken away.






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  1. tara bohn says:

    I just have to say, you are my hero. I love reading your blog and all of your do it yourself adventures. I thought I was alone in constantly challenging myself to learn, make and do. It is just too rewarding to stop. And nice to know the old pioneer spirit is alive and well across our country.
    I too, have been gardening for a long while, but never thought about using string for my tomatoes. i am looking forward to trying your method this year. You have provided me with so many interesting nuggets that I could go on and on. But my sincere hope is that you and your blog do, as it gives me such a lift and has been especially appreciated lately. Thank you, thank you Karen.

  2. Wendy Thomson says:

    This is a question that has nothing to do with your post which I enjoyed. I’m glad Betty is safe, I’m sorry about the snow, it’s snowing here in Ottawa as well.
    I have been sitting going through old posts looking for the one you wrote about spray painting your mom’s wicker furniture. I’m looking for the name of the spray paint thingy you used. Many thanks, Wendy

  3. Jan in Waterdown says:

    I grew up just down the road a bit in Fruitland with E.D. Smiths (remember them?) orchards at the back of our yard. Mother’s Day was known back then as “Blossom Sunday” when all the city folks would drive out to the country to check out the blossoming fruit trees. I thought about that today while dressing in layers to go out and watch the Snowbirds do their “Operation Inspiration” fly past. Thankfully got to see those 9 plucky little planes fly over the local hospital in honour, so very cool! But blossoms? Not so much. 😕 And btw, hugs and Happy Mums’ Day to Betty!!

  4. Wendy Heath says:

    Well Karen, here on the far west coast in Victoria I planted out my tomatoes (that’s right, out, like outside) last evening when the July-like heat and sun was off my raised tomato bed. I sowed them inside April 9 under lights and was planning to plant them out about end of May or first week of June as usual. Every morning I’ve been putting them out for the day whenever it’s sunny/cloudy for about two weeks. They’ve been growing like stink. My mind is telling me it’s too early but the weather is telling me I’m in for a long growing season this year. Warm days and nights hovering around 10-11C for at least the next two weeks according to the better-be-right-this-time weather report. I’ve interplanted with carrots, spinach, radishes and cilantro that are already up.
    By the way, you threshed your wheat. Although, knowing you, you probably did thrash it!
    I’ve been with you from almost the beginning of your blog and also remember you from an HGTV show that I can’t remember right now.
    Happy Mother’s Day! If not in this life, then in a previous life where you had a big farm and a few industrious kids and a wonderful renaissance man. Love, Wendy

    • Karen says:

      :) Thanks Wendy, lol. And I *did* thrash the wheat! In a linen bag against a wall! You’ll see in the video in my wheat post. ;) ~ karen!

  5. Holly says:

    I envy you your hoop house. I’d love to build one but the gale-force winds we have here in Nova Scotia would make it an exercise in futility. And if it makes you feel any better, we woke up to snow on the ground (and gale-force winds) this morning. My lettuce is frozen!

  6. Vikki says:

    I had an aunt like your mother–we always called her Bad Betty. I’m so envious of your big hardware cabinet.

  7. Suzanne says:

    I know polenta is more of a winter thing, but my husband is Venetian and would eat it every week!
    You piqued my interest with this:
    I’ve been eating a lot of polenta this year and 90% of the time I eat it with a tenderloin steak on top of it, crumbled blue cheese and the magical red wine pan sauce. It’s an easy dinner to make (although polenta does take 40 minutes of attention) but it’s nothing, NOTHING without the red wine pan sauce.
    40 minutes? What are you doing? I searched your post and found a recipe for polenta in a tube….deep sharp intake of breath….I know you don’t spend 40 minutes getting it out of said tube 😜. I would love your recipe for real home made polenta and which cornmeal you use available in Canada! All the stuff I find is almost instant…..but something is not right about it! You make me laugh all the time and this post did not disappoint! No wine or antacids! 🤣. Thanks!
    I’m trying to grow Tuscan Black Kale this year cuz of you!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Suzanne! You probably aren’t cooking it long enough. It will LOOK cooked after about 10 minutes, but it isn’t. You can indeed buy instant polenta but I wouldn’t say it’s readily available. I honestly use any cornmeal I have and if I happen to see “polenta” corneal at the store then I buy that. I use a 1-5 ratio. 1 cup polenta – 2.5cups water and 2.5 cups milk. Mix it all together, don’t worry about boiling first or whatever. Then stir it while it comes to a boil, keep stirring until all the liquid is absorbed and keep stirring the odd time for 40 minutes. You may need to add more water or milk if it starts to set too much. That’s it. With extra, roll it into a tube with plastic wrap and use it for frying the next day. :) ~ karen!

      • Suzanne says:

        Thanks Karen! I am going to try making it this way the next time! Not today, it’s 25 C outside today 😉 on tropical mid Vancouver Island …. I am going to plant my tomato plants and drink some beer in the sun, maybe some wine, no tequila goes with beer…oh, and put my pants back on, I took them off cuz it was so hot in the garden! 😜🤪😍
        Just rubbing it in because sometimes I cannot believe we are all in the same country!

  8. Mary W says:

    I am so happy you got to go in the garden. You mentioned your food bank part of the garden so are you giving some away or just canning it for Rona’s next fall? What other plans are you making for the garden and what changes did you decide upon? I just started veg gardening after a 45 year pause and very interested in what you do there. I’m loving mine and felt so bad that you couldn’t get in and imagined you were thinking of lots of things differently now. Did you manage to get lots of seedlings ready? The weather in FL has been wildly up and down so my tomato starts are S.L.O.W. to take off but should have been closer to picking instead – I’m starting more seeds. Weird. My Mom remembers that it snowed on the fourth of July in NC up in the mountains when she was little. Really weird.

    • Karen says:

      That is definitely really weird, lol. I’ve started a lot of vegetables, but not as many as I normally do just because everything was so up in the air that my motivation was down. I’ll just buy the rest of the seedlings I need. There are a lot of good suppliers around me. Only cold weather crops are OK. to go in, and I’ll harden off my tomatoes and peppers this week to hopefully be planted next week provided there isn’t any more snow forecast. SO ridiculous. ~ karen!

  9. Danni says:

    Snowed here in Massachusetts too, the babies are clamoring around my ankles, tripping me up… trays and trays of little seedlings crowding around the back door slider crying to get out into their playpens of raised beds…

  10. Grammy says:

    I’m going to have to report you about withholding wine from Betty. The antacids should have been punishment enough.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Well now she knows not to scare everyone and she’ll remember that every time she has heartburn. It had to be done. ~ karen!

  11. Thomas Houser says:

    Not only cold in Ontario. Here in southern West Tennessee we had frost last night and my garden is/was going strong. Got tomatoes, peppers, green beans and all the flowers and herbs covered but somehow missed the cukes, not sure they will make it. Winds have been horrific with gusts of 60 mph. Only 40°F tonight and tomorrow night before it warms up to upper 40s. Not much good for the peppers and tomatoes. We have had so much rain if it wasn’t for my raised beds I could not have planted anything. Going to be an interesting year. Glad you are able to get started in your community garden. Have a great year.

  12. Emie says:

    I’m glad your community garden is open. What I don’t understand is how anyone could even begin to think growing food was considered non essential. Common sense seems to be in short supply these days. Thanks for the updates.

  13. Robert says:

    You sent Betty to bed without her antacids?! That’s mean
    Also when I saw your stories earlier about the snow I was like “so what! Spring just barely started like a week ago, there’s nothing wrong with a little snow near the end of March!” except of course I’m only now remembering we’re entering the second week of May!
    Where was April this year?!

  14. TucsonPatty says:

    Glad you got back in your garden, Karen, along with all the other folks to soon follow. Obviously there weren’t gardeners among the rule makers, or they would have understood sooner, the essential part of food growing, and better timing! Good luck with your oats! I’m off to re-read the wheat post. As a wheat farmers daughter, I feel it is obligatory! What type of wheat did you plant? We grew up with hard red winter wheat in Kansas.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Patty! It was a hard red that I grew. I grew it as a summer wheat but it can be either. The variety was a Canadian variety, Red Fife. ~ karen!

      • TucsonPatty says:

        I realized that after I went back and re-read the post! Did you ever tell us how many bushels per acre you got from your harvest! 😂
        I also re-read all the comments, and remembered, as kids, that we also chewed wheat berries into gum! I learned from reading the comments that what we were chewing was gluten, and now I know why that makes such a great bread flour!!

  15. Heather says:

    Glad your garden is open, even if the weather isn’t cooperating. I, too, have been bundled up and battling the elements, drilling holes in plastic drink cups to make mini greenhouses for my newly planted asparagus crowns and strawberries, hoping they’ll make it through our Ontario spring. Don’t know if it’ll help but it makes me feel better to see them snug. Looking forward to seeing how your garden grows this year. Good luck with it! Your garden certainly helped to encourage me to give it go, and I’m having a ball. Thanks.

  16. LOIS M BARON says:

    When I scrolled to the picture of beautiful rosy slices of beef, I wondered how you had grown those in your garden. Glad you got your garden open :-) My big accomplishment this week was deciding to move the recycling and trash bins to a different location in my yard. Whew. I’m worn out. I’m glad Betty is safe.

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