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It’s that time of year again! And I felt so great last year at the end of May that I signed up to do the 30×30 Nature Challenge from the David Suzuki Foundation once again.

Day 1 (Thursday, May 1): We met up with 2 other families just after lunch down at the Ashbridges Bay Skate Park. I had a great time taking photos of our kids and of the older guys skating, like this one:

There’s more at http://lynnslids.com/skate/ – I posted them just in case the guys I talked to wanted to take a look. They were pretty sick out there, and a total joy to watch.

Day 2: I had some errands to run, to which I took the bus and subway, but on my way home instead of hopping right back on the TTC, despite the light rain, I decided to take an hour’s walk through the neighbourhood I was in, including Kensington Market, which is always fun. I spotted the well organized gardening neighbours taking advantage of the free compost pile:

 Toronto Ward 20 free compost 1 Toronto Ward 20 free compost 2

Day 3: Not much outside time, but the required 30 minutes walking around the ‘hood with the family doing errands and shopping local. A quick note on that: we went to the new Pantry, which is a cheese shop in our hood and they have the most amazing Canadian cheeses. I highly recommend it if you’re in for a cow/sheep/goat treat. They also sell other local treats like Kozlik’s mustards, local soup mixes and other great stuff.

Day 4: Today we made up for lost time. I meant to get outside for my morning physiotherapy routine, but I never got to it, so late morning I hung the laundry out on the line and we decided to have brunch out on the deck (first time this year!) and didn’t go back in until around 4:45pm. It was excellent. Reading, playing, gardening, working on my other blog and my feedback page, all outside. And we needed this day. All of us. It was perfect.

Post-first brunch on the deck of 2014! #30x30Challenge #getoutside

A post shared by Lynn W, Amherst Is. ON Canada (@lynnslids) on

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Just a quick post to pass on a few things on this lovely Earth Day.

I started my day on public transit, and later saw this on Facebook. It’s a good point:

A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars, it's where the rich rice public transportation. - Mayor of Bogota

Post by Conscious Consumers.

Later I went for a bike ride with my youngest (he’s moved up to gears and hand brakes, which is exciting for him!) and saw the newest local community garden, with folks in it prepping for growing season!

Happy Earth Day! Nice to see folks out in the new Greenwood Park Community Garden!

A post shared by Lynn W, Amherst Is. ON Canada (@lynnslids) on

Last year, as you may know, I partook in the David Suzuki Foundation 30×30 nature challenge. They are on it again this year! Check it out. I highly recommend being a part of it. It made me feel spectacular. It’s geared for Canadians, but really, just join. Their daily tips are great and you will feel so much better for it!

Join Canada's 30x30 Nature Challenge

As much of my life revolves around Etsy these days, I thought I’d pass on their Earth Day workplace initiative:

http://blog.etsy.com/news/2014/etsy-cup-exchange-for-earth-day/

Cup exchange at Etsy HQ

Cup exchange at Etsy HQ

Happy Earth Day, folks!

I went for an early morning walk one day last month and noticed a plum tree around the corner. Then I saw an apple tree across the road. I remembered my neighbour’s crabapple tree. So I decided to make it a walk in search of front garden foods. Here’s what I found in various front yards within a block of my house:

neighbourhood edibles: apples

apples

neighbourhood edibles: tomatoes

tomatoes

neighbourhood edibles: strawberries

strawberries (these are ours!)

neighbourhood edibles: plums

plums

neighbourhood edibles: mulberries

mulberries

neighbourhood edibles: mint

mint

neighbourhood edibles: herb garden

our herb garden!

neighbourhood edibles: grapes

grapes

neighbourhood edibles: echinacea

echinacea

neighbourhood edibles: cranberries

cranberries

neighbourhood edibles: unripe blackberries

(unripe) blackberries

… And crabapples (the photo didn’t turn out). It’s an amazing edible neighbourhood we have around us, and I never noticed it! Thanks to Not Far From The Tree for helping open my eyes to it!

So the strawberries were so good that we went back a week later and got another 8 litres. I made freezer jam (“spread”) since I’m not sure it had enough sweetness (I just used apple juice) for canning.

My eldest and I have also been on 2 more Not Far From The Tree (NFFTT) picks. They were both sour cherry picks: one in the pouring rain (which makes tree climbing difficult) and they were so good that we signed up for another one yesterday (mostly because it was around the corner from our house).

Sour Cherries - picked with Not Far From The Tree

Sour Cherries – picked with Not Far From The Tree

We did a little foraging in the city last week as well. We dropped by the nearby civic centre and gathered a bunch of serviceberries (also known as Saskatoon berries, among other things), which were yummy.

serviceberries at the civic centre

Serviceberries at the civic centre

My own garden is coming along. We have gooseberries this year! And I know now that they are ripe because we had to come and get a ladder for the NFFTT pick around the corner and Dan, the very knowledgeable guy helping me carry the ladder, was telling me about gooseberries so I had him try one and he said they were ripe! And there are some raspberries coming along as well. The squirrels aren’t interested in the gooseberries (hurrah!) and hopefully we will get to the raspberries before they do. We have also had a few strawberries from our Alpine Strawberry plant which are unique and delicious.

gooseberries in the backyard

Ripe gooseberries in the backyard

raspberries in the backyard

Not yet ripe raspberries in the backyard

We’ve had a lot of rain this year so everything is growing well, and if it goes a few days without rain, the rain barrel (with water from the eaves troughs) is always full so I can water them with recycled water. I also read that tomatoes like acid and a good way to use up whey (we drain our homemade yogurt and make it Greek style) is to dilute it with some water and water your tomatoes with it. My cherry tomato plants seem to like it.

On Saturday we went out for a family walk out at the Scarborough Bluffs and saw lots of birds, some people fishing for large mouth bass, turtles, but the big sighting was an otter! It was too quick for me to get a good shot, but I did catch it:

otter in Lake Ontario at Bluffers Park

Otter spotting in Lake Ontario at Bluffers Park!

We also stopped by the beach and took a quick look at the American Toad tadpoles which still have their tails but most now have legs! (If you recall, we saw the toads mating nearly 2 months ago).

nearly 2 month old American Toad tadpoles

Nearly 2 month old American Toad tadpoles at Bluffers beach

Today we went for a walk at Highland Creek and saw several mulberry trees, which I never would have recognized if we hadn’t gone on that mulberry pick with NFFTT. Yet another reason to love our experiences with that great organization. Later in the walk we saw people on the side collecting leaves from vines. Bags full of leaves. Since they were vines, and since I went on a NFFTT pick last year that was grapes, I guessed that they were grapes, and confirmed it by asking them when we passed them on the way back. It was good to see other foragers out in the green spaces of the city. Somebody’s having dolmades soon!

grape leaves wild in the city

grape leaves wild in the city

And, last but certainly not least, we have gotten rid of our old gas guzzler. We used it about once a week, and it turns out that’s actually not great because stuff gets caked underneath and sits there. It was rusting out from the bottom. So although it only had 150,000 km/93,200 miles on it, that 16 year old car was barely keeping together. Things were falling off the bottom.

We weren’t sure what to do with it, but my husband (how awesome is he?) found an organization that takes your car and either auctions it off or sells off the parts and gives the money to the charity of your choice. We have chosen Rethink Breast Cancer, who have been a great help during my treatment and recovery from breast cancer. The organization is charitycar.ca (they are also in the US). It was picked up on Saturday:

car donated via charitycar.ca

This Saturday is LEAF’s Leslieville Tree Festival, which is always good fun.

Leslieville Tree Festival

Leslieville Tree Festival (click for source link)

So I was checking out LEAF’s (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests) website and saw that they sell garden kits, including a couple of Edible Garden Kits, which I would totally buy for myself and to support them, except our little postage stamp just doesn’t get enough sun. They also have a Native Garden Kits, which I may get for our backyard, as there is a shade option (there’s shade, butterfly, beautiful border, and songbird options). How cool is that?

Speaking of gardening, I was out last weekend and cleaned up my new front yard herb garden and put a border on it, in an attempt to get my boys to stop trampling it. I also labelled them. Mostly so I can send the boys out for various herbs when I’m cooking. I’m totally excited about it. Eventually I hope to remove the shrubs in front of the porch and replace them with raspberry bushes. Big job, but I’ll get there…

I’d post a photo, but I have yet to take a half decent shot.

#30x30Challenge Day 20 - seagulls at Harbourfront - Toronto International Circus Festival

Day 20: The Toronto International Circus Festival down at Harbourfront was such a blast that we went back again the next day and caught the big finale show. My husband joined us this time and he managed to get a great shot of two of the women on the ring. It was stunning. And outdoors! On the lake! And did I mention it was free? (Yes, I was inspired to drop a few bucks into the Harbourfront donation box so that we can keep seeing fantastic free programming like this.) The photo above was taken down there. The seagulls were clearly enjoying the day down at Harbourfront as well.

After the big show we walked around the area a bit, and the boys had fun on the Simcoe Wave Deck down there, which is great fun for kids, and just lovely to look at:

#30x30Challenge Day 20 - Simcoe Wave Deck

Before we went downtown I managed to clean up the yard and mow the lawn. And eat a meal or two outdoors. So… pretty much the whole day was outside. And I felt great for it.

Day 21: A lovely morning walk/run and yoga to start the day. Later that morning my eldest and I went up to the Farmers’ Market, then a quick trip to the nearby library there with friends, and afterwards the kids played outdoors for an hour or so before the rain came.

Day 22: Another early morning walk. It was misty and quite lovely, and the lilacs are fully in bloom now. I love this spot (below) in a nearby park that is lined with 6 different shades (white, light purple, mid purple, light pink, mid pink, dark pink) of lilacs. Turns out they smell slightly different, too. Mid pink is the strongest.

#30x30Challenge Day 22 - misty lilacs

I noticed that someone has planted some delicious looking lettuce in their front yard, making me think I’m not so crazy to plant edibles out front.

#30x30Challenge Day 22 - lettuce front garden

I had to get downtown for some thyroid tests so I took the streetcar. I had the chance to check on the progress of the Saskatoon berries down by the hospital. Hopefully they’ll be ripe for my follow-up appointments in a week.

Later that day I drove out of town with the kids to visit family and had a walk in the woods by the river, which is always a treat.

#30x30Challenge Day 23 - walk in the woods

Day 23: The only outside time I managed that day was walking to do errands after driving home, so probably I only had the required 30 (or maybe 45) minutes.

Day 24:  Another day where the only thing that got me out was walking to errands in the neighbourhood, so I was limited to about 30 minutes outside. After 2 days of this, I was feeling pretty low, to be honest.

Day 25: I made sure to get up early and go for a good walk. I felt like I had to make up for lost time since I was so grumpy after a few days of not enough outside time and I sought out all of the little hidden green spaces in the neighbourhood (there are many within 3 or 4 blocks). Not official parks, but little woodsy areas that grow wild like this one:

#30x30Challenge Day 25 hidden woodsy spot in the city

In the afternoon I rallied the troops and we hopped on the streetcar to Riverdale Farm, because it’s  nettle season. I had my thick canvas bag and some thick rubber work gloves for picking, and my pruning shears. I remembered to avoid the stinging nettles that have gone to seed, and brought home a good amount of nettles for soup. Delicious!

#30x30Challenge Day 25 stinging nettles for soup at Riverdale Farm

We also walked around the farm taking lots of photographs. Hubby got a good one of a sheep shown here on his photo blog. I think I had the most fun watching the painted turtles sunning. There were the 3 adults to start, and eventually the 2 smaller ones joined them as well.

#30x30Challenge Day 25 painted turtles sunning at Riverdale Farm

It was a wonderful day. I was feeling good again and fully made up for those lost 2 days.

Day 26: Another great early morning walk/run and yoga. It was also the first day of our local farmers’ market! I took my youngest to see who was selling what and meet a friend and her daughter for a little outside time. Later it was time (again, after lots of rain this week) to mow the grass again and putter around filling the watering can from the overflowing rain bucket to water the new and old plants, which include onions, chives, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, gooseberries, rhubarb, coral bells, sage, spearmint, “mojito” mint (that’s what the label said!), tarragon, cherry tomatoes, flat leaf parsley, cilantro/coriander (I’ve finally learned that the trick to keeping these going is keeping them well trimmed – i.e. make sure I use some every week and they’ll just keep sprouting and not go to seed), curly parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, English lavender, and Provencal lavender. All still alive despite the crazy weather we’ve had in the past week. Another perfect day to make up for those two indoorsy and down days.

Day 27: Today it was time to deal with the winter woolies and do my hand washing. Which brought me outside for the drying.

#30x30Challenge Day 27 hand knit laundry

I also took the boys outside to do their studies in the afternoon, which was a real treat. The weather was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold, and no bugs yet.