To cycle, or not to cycle!

To be, or not to be! Is that the question?

It’s not the question for me. My burning, recurring question is, “Should I cycle or… drive my car?”

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My red bike is much cuter than my car will ever be!

I’m usually about 30 minutes away from some business meeting or something and trying to make the decision if I’ll make it there alive/in one piece if I actually ride my bike. Getting sweaty is never a concern for me as I LOVE to sweat!

This evening I had a class in the Exchange District. It’s only a five kilometer ride and it’s almost one straight line to get there by bike. The problem, however, is that I need to ride straight down Osborne Street in Winnipeg to get there. Osborne is notoriously bad for cyclists since there usually is congested traffic AND there is no bike lane.

I’m committed to getting exercise every day AND I also love the idea of saving the environment by choosing to cycle more. I’ve been a city cyclist since 2001, when an old friend insisted that I get a bike and learn to ride in the city. I used to rely on my bike(s) as my primary mode of transportation, but that was when I lived in Ottawa and Toronto.

Since coming to Winnipeg in 2011, I’ve purchased my first car. I tried being a full-time cyclist at first, but it just wasn’t feasible. This city is dangerous and scary for cyclists. It constantly feels like a WAR of two worlds.

I decided, in the end, to ride my red vintage bike to my class in the Exchange District. I am selling my bike soon and wanted to enjoy riding around in a nice dress with the sun on my bare arms. Cycling is great for your body but I think it’s even better for your mind. After I’m riding for a few minutes, my blood is circulating well and I’m feeling happy and as light as a feather. I feel like I’m seven years old again.

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Biking on city streets gets us ready to bike in the mountains!

The weather was so lovely that after my class ended, I decided to ride on some bike trails along the water, through the Forks, and along the rapid transit way in the south Osborne area. It was a meandering path, and it worked because I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere. It was peaceful, as hardly anyone uses those paths and I can sing to myself, “dance” on my bike while listening to music, and generally feel on top of the world.

The thing I was thinking, as I rode past another cyclist, was how great it would be if cities could somehow find the money to give every person one bike that works for them. The people would be encouraged to ride bikes because: (1) the bikes are free, (2) we would install protected bike lanes that get people safely from point A to point B, and (3) we would also install bike racks to the front of every single public transit bus so if you get tired, you can just put your bike onto the front of the bus. You would also get a cheap or free bus pass.

Perhaps the money for the bikes and bus passes could come from putting higher taxes on cars, especially commuters who don’t carpool. Perhaps we could add some road tolls onto our busy streets for personal motor vehicles.

I kind of look forward to the end of fossil fuel, it’s kind of a sick thought, but I like the idea of everyone having to be forced into using their bikes. I feel like they would then realize they’ve been shortchanged by following this lie that we all need to drive our cars everywhere.

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Cleaning out the basement

Changes are coming soon. My son is starting a new school in September in a new neighbourhood. I’ll be making changes when it comes to my work life. My partner and I are living together for quite some time now and have many discussions around purchasing a house together. I’m excited for the changes as I’m generally a person who loves variety and doesn’t like to let life to pass me by…

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Our garage sale happened today at the local community centre

One priority before these changes happen: I want to clean the basement. Downsize. It is no small task as I’ve amassed quite the collection of books, children’s clothing (my son’s outgrown clothes), children’s artwork (my son’s masterpieces over the past 11 years), bikes, CDs, my own editing and writing projects, photo albums, and clothes that I’ve somehow outgrown (or perhaps my sense of style just changed).

Like many, I connect memories and emotions to certain objects. To other people, a sweater is simply a sweater. To someone like me, who can have hoarding tendencies, my yellow cashmere cardigan might be stained and ripped but it might also remind me of the time when I was still breastfeeding my baby and went on a long walk down Queen Street West in Toronto during a beautiful spring evening more than 10 years ago! The milk stain might remind me of the close bond I felt when feeding my son his first food.

YIKES!

I’m trying to divorce myself from the strong feelings I attach to objects. They are simply THINGS and shouldn’t hold enough importance for me to carry around with me for 10 years after they have outgrown their usefulness.

In recent months I worked with a woman who has a spotless, very minimalist house. She also has two children, ages 10 and 12. I noticed that her children don’t seem to have any artwork on the walls, fridge, etc. In fact, I couldn’t see any trace of her children in the house at all! I asked my colleague about this and she says, “I look at their artwork and then recycle it.”

“Do you think that upsets them?” I asked.

“Yes, but they will need something to talk about during their future therapy sessions,” she laughed.

I found that to be a funny, yet perhaps extreme, perspective.

My partner inspires me with his own minimalism. He moved to Manitoba from overseas almost four years ago. He travels lightly. When we moved in together, we were able to fit almost everything he owned into my tiny blue Chevy. I want to be more like him, in so many ways, so today we held our LAST garage sale.

Why was it our last? I’ll tell you why; I wanted to help my son make a bit of spending cash by selling his nice wooden toys and Nerf guns (those things are expensive!). However, I also have made a couple of decisions (or perhaps I’ve simply set intentions) as I go through the motions of cleaning the basement AND the storage shed in our backyard.

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My son did a great job organizing all of his Nerf guns for the sale

My intentions:

  1. I’m going to think carefully before I purchase more objects. Do I really need this? How will this truly improve my life? I’ll think about these questions carefully.
  2. I’m going to value experience over things. My son is growing quickly and life is passing by. We’ve only travelled to a limited number of places. Since I never travelled ANYWHERE with my own mother, I’m hoping to travel and make special memories that will last far longer than any Nerf gun.
  3. When we outgrow our objects, I will pass them onto other families who can use them. I’ll try to think of people in the local community who will be happy to get more use out of some of our gently-used objects.
  4. One day, I hope to pack up and leave my current city. I hope that a wonderful opportunity for work or school comes to my son, my partner, or myself. When that offer comes, I want us to be ready to pack a few suitcases and JET!
  5. My final intention is to try to NOT be like my mother when it comes to objects. I’m not sure why, but my mom is/was definitely a hoarder. That’s a story (or several) for another time, but I can tell you I grew up around hoarding and it definitely has impacted my desire to NOT amass too many things.

We didn’t sell¬†everything¬†that I had hoped to sell at today’s garage sale, but we only had to make one trip with our car in the end (as opposed to the TWO trips we made to set up last night). We sold tons of things very cheaply, we donated a bunch of clothing to charity, we donated all the books we didn’t sell to the reading program at our local community centre, and we’ll sell our remaining big ticket items (bikes) on Kijiji.

In the end, my son is pretty pleased that he pocketed $147 after all was said and done.

When I ask what he is hoping to do with his money, he says with a shrug, “Save it.”

The little garden that could

My little garden is growing well. I’d like to give you a tour….

As much as possible, I try to grow a lot of food in a small space. I also try to reuse things that some other people might throw in the garbage, like the tires in the photo below. They were on my car and my mechanic said I should remove them and get new ones. Instead of throwing these out, I took them home, spray painted them, and planted food in them. This year, it looks like I have a few squash planted in there. I’m interested to see how they’ll grow as there might be too many in the small space.

Squash are growing out of my old tires

Squash are growing out of my old tires

In earlier years, my son would work with me to build small raised beds. We aren’t carpenters. We went to Home Depot, got some wood cut, and did our very best to build some little, functional beds that fit our small space.

A raised bed and planters

My son helped me build the raised bed on the left, when he was only 10 years old. It was his Mother’s Day gift to me!

We also grow food in buckets/pails that we purchased from Canadian Tire for about $5 each. We spray painted them, drilled drainage holes in the bottom, and we throw a few rocks into the bottom as well to help with drainage issues… I think having a good drainage system helps your plants avoid root rot.

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The pots pictured about have a hot pepper plant and a tomato plant growing in them. I also added a marigold flower as I’ve heard that flowers are a very important thing to add to your garden. Apparently they bring pollinators, which are an essential factor in getting our plants to grow.

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The last two photos are just here to give you some inspiration… when I’m cleaning out my home I often find little knick-knacks that are just gathering dust, like the above turtle. I happen to love turtles so I didn’t want to throw this in the garbage. I think the turtle looks awfully nice out in the backyard, keeping the onions, peas, and flowers company!

I also have this huge seashell that an animal once called home. I’d hate to throw it in the garbage, so this year I’m trying to grow a pansy flower in there. I’ve only planted it a few days ago, so we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes. The seashell is sitting next to a small zuchinni seedling, which I have planted in a wooden crate (lined with a black garbage bag, to prevent anything from the wood from leaching into the soil).

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Now it’s the middle of June, not quite summer. I noticed my very first peas growing in the backyard today. I’m excited to see what other kind of goodies are on their way to our plates and bellies in the near future.

What are you MOST excited about when it comes to YOUR garden?

Birthday lunch

This week I celebrated a birthday. It was pretty low key. Before the actual big day, I enjoyed hosting (along with my hunny’s help) a small dinner party where a group of friends came over and played Cards Against Humanity.

On my actual birthday, my son and I went for lunch to Mongo’s Grill. We don’t usually go there but I’d like to say that I very much enjoyed my free stir-fry lunch. My son was on a lunch break from school so it was nice that we were able to get in and out of the restaurant within one hour.

I love having special little dates with my son. I know he’ll be all grown up soon and will probably leave the nest to pursue his football dreams. For now I just give him all the love I can so that he remembers it when he’s older–I will always be his number one fan! In exchange, my son blessed me by making me a homemade birthday card. “I hope it makes you cry,” he said as he handed it to me with a twinkle in his eye. My son is a real charmer.

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Our bill came to $7 including tax; the server charged us for one children’s lunch. That was one sweet deal. Thank you Mongo’s!

Gardening as community building

This is the third year that I’ve been involved in the local community garden. This year it seems that we have about 10-15 gardeners who have varying levels of commitment/interest in growing food communally.

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Digging weeds is therapeutic and a good way to keep active

I’ve always wanted to garden as an adult, but I rarely ever had any space as I was either an apartment dweller or renting a house where I didn’t want to invest too much into digging up and spending money changing a yard to support my gardening visions.

For the past four years, I have lived in an area of Winnipeg where we generally have quite small yards/lots. I’m no exception and with an active son, my ability to use much of the yard for growing things is impacted–he needs the space to run and kick a ball around, build fires, and do hands-on experiments.

The lack of space to grow is probably one of the main reasons why I’m interested in being a part of a community garden. I also love the idea of working together, learning from gardening experts (the garden “stewards”), and growing new things that I wouldn’t try at home. Our garden also has a social justice connection, as we donate about one-third of our produce to local soup kitchens, assisted living residences, etc.

Our community garden is unique because we ALL work the various plots. Some gardens use a model where each individual or family signs up for ONE small plot of gardening space. Our model will have it’s pros and cons for sure. The main concern for most people who know about what I do is, “How do you know that everyone is putting the same effort/amount of work into growing the food?”

Gardeners learn to compost, mulch, and we use this cube of water to tend to our plants

Gardeners learn to compost, mulch, and use this cube of water to tend to our plants

The truth is, there is no way to track how many hours a person puts into gardening. You basically just have to try to find a group of equally passionate gardeners who have a stake in seeing their produce grow well, and who are okay with splitting the bounty equally.

The biggest PRO, for me, of our style of communal gardening is definitely getting to try a wide range of vegetables and fruits. Our garden has produced things that I would have never tried if I didn’t find them at the garden: horseradish, collard greens, mustard greens, and patty pan squash!

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How it looks after beds have been weeded

I’ll be posting more updates and information about the community garden efforts as the summer comes and goes. The last thing I’d like to say about the garden is that it’s one of my very favourite places to be in my spare time!

The herb spiral

The herb spiral is one of the highlights