Raising My Plant Army

I spent part of today working on my plants; today felt like the first day of the weekend after a busy weekend and Monday. Everything planted back in April today is in some stage of spouting other than my peppers, chives and coriander. I’m not too worried right now, since those can all have long germinations. I suspect that I didn’t properly handle the coriander, but we’ll see what happens in a few weeks. My beans reacted especially well and are outside already. We have a large wire pyramid from a previous tenant, so I’m going to attempt to train them to climb that.

I thinned my tomatoes out today since their true leaves are starting to appear. We’re now down to 12 plants, which is still a lot. The lettuce and basil should also be done at some point, but they seem to be less along. I’ll probably get around to them by later in the week.

I also picked up some swiss chard seeds, mostly because I found some bright lights seeds and decided that I needed ORANGE in my garden; some spearmint seeds, as I wanted an young spearmint plant and they were out; and an young lavender plant, because I wanted to leave with something well underway. While the process of raising a plant from seed has been interesting and compelling, I felt the need to have a plant that’s already producing returns, as it were.

The only preventable problem that’s occurred is that some of my thyme dampened off. It seems to have been a side effect of too much water for a plant that needs comparably little.

The Victory Lap Garden

Let it be known that I will go insane without projects. I’ve been attempting to hone various household skills over the last few years. I wouldn’t call them “homemaking skills” but they look like it from the outside. These include learning to knit in 2010 and learning to crochet in 2011. Gardening is the one I want to work on in 2012. In particular, the art of container gardening.

One of the on-going frustrations I had with the old apartment was the lack of outdoor space. I had lots of windows, but this never the same as having my own outside space. It’s one of those things you don’t consider until it’s not there. On the plus side, I have a back deck now and it’s fantastic. The plans for the deck involved me using some of the space for gardening.

The last time I could really have a garden was in the summer of 2006; I claimed the back garden space and attempted to start a vegetable garden on a whim. I had good luck with tomatoes, mixed results with peppers and the raccoons ate my cucumbers. Cucumbers are heart-breakers, let me tell you. Plants tend to like me, so I wanted to given gardening another go. My spare time over later part of this week was studying various blogs and websites on container gardening.

It turns out that I live walking distance from the East End Garden Centre. It’s an awesome little place that’s bigger than it looks on the outside; a maze of plants and equipment that winds around and through the store building and in fromt of the house next door. The staff were all friendly and helpful and I suspect the place will see me as a repeat customer. I picked up some seeds and some gear I needed and trotted off back home. The centre had a wide collection of young plants that looked appealing, but we’re right now in the awkward phase where there’s still a risk of frost. I didn’t want to get a plant and kill it on accident, despite our unusually warm spring., but this also means there’s time to start seeds!

In the outside planters I currently have planted lettuce (a cooler weather crop I can rotate out in the worst of the summer), coriander and chives (greens that I can have on hand and not need to get from the grocery store), along with some mixed flower seeds in single pot. If we hit a late frost, I should be able to pull those back in. In my little indoor seed starters I have thyme (I might have envy of Erin’s thyme in her front garden), basil (one of more twitchy plants that I got), sweet peppers (I expect these to be labor intensive, but I wish for a successive go at these), green beans (I wanted a climber) and a mix of heirloom tomatoes (PRETTY COLOURS!). I might be looking to expand later in the season depending on my success rate and how the summer shakes out.

I’ve named the whole concept “The Victory Lap Garden” because it amuses me.

There will hopefully be pictures down the line. I’m attempting to grow these from seed, so there’s nothing exciting to show yet. I need to get some fertilizer early this week.

It’s Ad Astra Time Again

So, I’ve been meaning to get this up and running and this felt like the ideal way to do so.

I’d like to feel that I’m regular enough at Ad Astra to have an educated opinion on the convention; I’ve been going there for the past few years and it’s a scheduled event on my calendar that I eagerly look forward to. Ad Astra signals the start of the convention season for me, that glorious period of time that starts in April and runs until November. It’s a season in the same way that the hockey season is, I suppose, but the December-March stretch feels longer than it should.

There’s a good bunch of things to talk about. The con has moved into a new hotel (amusingly going from my old neighborhood to Rob’s old neighborhood) and there’s numerous details that come with that.

The Good

I haven’t stayed at a con hotel for a local con because it hasn’t made much sense when I live in the city. What I did hear from people was that the overall quality of the Markham Hotel Inn was better than at the Don Valley Hotel & Suites, the previous host of the convention. The convention was certainly promoting that the Holiday Inn had cheaper rates than had been featured at the old hotel. From what could be discerned from not staying there, most of the con space was laid out in a way that was much more accessible than the old con space. The convention space at the Don Valley Hotel was fantastically dated, featured many stairs and split levels, and had limited or no elevator access to all of these subfloors. Moving to a hotel with more flat surfaces was the right move.

The new hotel is also in a relatively better location when it comes to food. The old hotel was isolated and the only food that wasn’t more than a block away were the hotel restaurants and a Tim Hortons. It certainly wasn’t impossible to feed one’s self, but it required a bit of a hike to get over to the restaurants on Don Mills. The new hotel looked like it would be just as isolated, but a quick look at Woodbine revealed countless places to eat in walking distance.  We ate well.

The content was about average for Ad Astra; higher than normal for a science fiction convention in terms of depth and quality. There were blocks of time where we couldn’t find any panels that grabbed us, but that’s par for the course and usually becomes the “Tim Hortons Panel” or the “Dinner Panel”. The quality tended to degrade on the Sunday, a side effect of guests staying up to late or being hung over. I find the Sundays more mellow than anything else and don’t mind the atmosphere. However, when it came to finding the panels…

 

The Bad

WHAT ON EARTH HAPPENED WITH THE SCHEDULES?! I wouldn’t say that I was angry about them, but I was certainly frustrated. If anything overwhelming coloured the con, that was it. I’m sorry if I sound like one of those entitled fans, but there’s something to be said about 1) Having no printed schedules at the start of the con, 2) Having the final schedule not match the one posted on the website, 3) Having no lists of guests for the panels. The last one might be borderline entitlement, but it certainly made things confusing when you’d see the guest of honour in a panel in a salon room when he was supposed to be downstairs in one of the larger rooms.

There’s also the little problem with the salon rooms on the second floor. This beef mostly lies with Holiday Inn, but why weren’t they completely emptied of furniture? It could have freed up more space for chairs. I spend a few panels sitting on the hotel room dressers. The salon rooms worked fine for roundtable discussions and small panels, but I was in several packed panels that had to be breaking the fire code. I know this happened at the old hotel as well, but it seemed to irk me less.  I suspect it’s because the old hotel rooms had the illusion of holding more people.

Another fault that lies more with the hotel is that it was never really clear if there was a route between the first and second floor that didn’t involve the elevators. I still don’t know; someone claimed that a person tried to use the stairs and it triggered a series of alarms, but I don’t recall that happening. The elevators did form a nasty choke point that made getting around really annoying.

 

The Bizarre – Odd things of note:

- That Harry Turtledove panel was the first time I’ve ever remarked “That audience was overwhelmingly male”  at a con. I must have been one of only three woman there.

- I had some stranger stare at my chest through a panel on Worldbuilding. I wasn’t sitting with Rob at the time, so that might be part of it. I’m reminded of the “it’s sad that we need this section” in the con guide that implies “Don’t assume that a person is being friendly with other con goers will welcome a stranger’s attention”, which may have always been in the guide but I only noticed it this year.

- I wanted to go to the panel on Star Wars Expanded Universe to figure out why Del Ray’s books for the rest of the year are the relaunch of Wraith Squadron, an adaptation of a RPG module and Wacky Adventures with Your Host, Timothy Zahn. As in, things I would actually buy for fluff reading because I like Star Wars silliness more than Star Wars seriousness. However, the audience was tiny and mostly fans who are anal about “canon” (based on what they said in past panels), so I figured it was a fools game to linger.