Food, Gardening, Herbs, House, Moncton 2 Comments

first sprouts

I’ve always wanted to have my own herb garden, and now that we have a house with a big yard and plenty of sun, it’s time. At the beginning of March I started doing some research and very quickly discovered that buying herb plants, particularly the number and variety I want, was simply untenable. At a minimum of $3 per plant (plus shipping, and shipping plants isn’t cheap) I was looking at a final bill of a couple hundred bucks, the majority of which was for annuals. Since half the idea is to save money by not buying fresh herbs at the grocery store (seriously, $2-3 for a small handful of wilted basil?), a couple of hundred bucks wasn’t in the cards.

Then I spotted the seed prices, which are much more in line with what I had budgeted for this little experiment. While there are a few herbs that can’t really be grown from seed, the vast majority can, and ordering from Richter’s, I got many more herb, tomato, vegetable, and decorative plant seeds that I really need for less than $50. Another $12 got seeding flats and soil, and I was all set.

Last Saturday I spent a couple of hours planting out two flats’ worth of seeds — 144 units in all, with 2-3 seeds in each. These included: Sweet Basil, Thai Basil, Lemon Balm, Chives, Cilantro (two types), Dill, Greek Oregano, Italian Parsley, Rosemary, Garden Sage, French Thyme, Yellow Currant Tomatoes, Roma Tomatoes, Alpine Strawberries, Chinese Lantern, and four types of chiles (Cayenne, Jalapeno, Scotch Bonnet, and Serrano). I planted 144 in total because I’m pessimistically expecting a 75% failure rate, but we’ll see how it goes. There are still some herbs I need to buy as plants, including Bay, a couple of Mints, and French Tarragon. I expect I’ll also need to pick up a few Rosemary plants since those are apparently difficult to grow from seed.

Today, six days after planting the seeds, I was excited to discover the first sproutlings. The Sweet Basil, Thyme, Chives, and Oregano have all germinated, in spite of the less-than-stellar conditions they’ve had to deal with. Of course, I really have no idea what I’m doing beyond what I’ve read on a handful of pages on the internet, so we’ll see how it all turns out in the end.

Now we’re in Moncton

General, House, Moncton No Comments

So we’ve moved. From Ottawa to Moncton…from a 1 bedroom+loft condo with no yard to a 4 bedroom house with a third of an acre…from the capital to the maritimes. The move, while ridiculously stressful, went relatively well. All people and pets made it unscathed, and all our stuff appears to be OK with two notable exceptions. Rob’s acoustic guitar sustained some cosmetic damage and my gaming computer (a carefully designed and lovingly hand-crafted $2500 machine) got utterly destroyed. The machine was dropped hard enough that they managed to bend the frame in multiple places, and most of the rivets and internal screws got sheared off. It’s currently in bits in a box in the basement. I’m not exactly thrilled about this, and I’m especially unthrilled by the hum-hawing and foot dragging the moving company seems to be doing related to the insurance claim.

At this point I’m fairly convinced that all residential moving companies are crooks. Not only did they (the company in question will currently remain nameless) attempt to jack the price of our move by 50% after they had all our stuff (essentially holding it hostage), they’re now trying to tell us that the computer damage isn’t their responsibility. By “not exactly thrilled” I actually mean “seethingly infuriated”, of course. On the bright side, the driver and guys who actually showed up and moved our stuff on and off the truck were great. Everyone else? Not so great.

some other books

These are some of our books, temporarily staged in the basement ’til we can figure out a proper shelving solution. They are not organized in any sensible fashion.

We’ve been in the house for about three weeks now, and it’s all good. The worst of the wallpaper has been stripped and the upstairs is all painted. For the first time in over six years we have unpacked all our books, which is satisfying in a pretty fundamental way. I’ve got my little workshop more or less set up, so I should be able to start mucking about with stained glass again soon. And, in spite of the 2.5 feet of hard-packed snow, I’ve ordered herb and tomato seeds. Yes, there are huge piles of snow on everything still, but it’s spring, dammit, and I want my herb garden. I’ll start the seeds inside around mid-April in hopes for a mid-May last frost, but given how lousy this winter has been that may be ambitious.

herb books

We’ve also been cooking a lot, including a prime-rib roast, pan-seared sirloin steak, guacamole, tzatziki sauce (on sauted pork tenderloin), a full roast chicken, chicken soup, baked halibut, sausage pasta (one simple tomato sauce, one arrabiata sauce), apple-cinnamon coffee cake, buttermilk biscuits, buttermilk pancakes, french toast, a red curry on rice, a somewhat bland spice cake, various salads and sandwiches, and lots of miniwheats. I really need to start keeping track more carefully, because pretty much everything we’ve had (with exception of the spice cake and the not-curry-enough curry) has been really very good. Today is steak and mushroom quesadilla day, I think, and I might make a mango chutney for later in the week.


Reading-wise, I’ve recently finished Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food which is his follow-up to Omnivore’s Dilemma, both of which are worth reading. I’m partway through Roberton Davies’ Fifth Business, and about 1/3rd of the way through Anthony Everitt’s non-fiction history about Cicero (which is excellent). I’m reading Cicero because I recently finished Robert Harris’ Imperium which is a novel centred around Cicero. I think after I’m finished this Everitt book I’ll crack Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States as my non-fiction selection, and Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth for fiction. We’ll see.

Things are generally winding back down into a more regular routine, which is good — everything has been basically haywire since the week before Christmas (when we put the offer on the house), and I’m pretty sure this is the most extensive bout of stress I’ve dealt with in my life. Very, very much looking forward to the snow melting and getting a bbq and some patio furniture. It’s going to be a great summer.

Death of a Nomad, or: Holy crap, we bought a house

House, Moncton 11 Comments

a house

According to my slighly fuzzy memory, I have moved thirteen times in three provinces in the last eighteen years. We’re about to move again, for a fourteenth and final move, to a fourth and final province. We’ve bought a house, you see, and it’s all quite the adventure. Exciting times, and all that.

There are four main drivers behind our decision to buy a house: 1) We’re sick to death of paying rent and dealing with landlords; 2) We’re sick to death of living in an apartment building and dealing with neighbours1; 3) We’re sick to death of being semi-nomadic; 4) It’s harder to build wealth while paying rent.

The primary motivator really is the “semi-nomadic” thing — while we’ve been in our current condo for three years, we’ve never bothered to do anything like paint or spend any time/effort on prettying the place up. Year to year we’ve never really been sure how much longer we’d be staying, so it never really seemed worthwhile to invest a lot of effort. We certainly weren’t going to spend any real money on real furniture since we really had no idea whether or not it would fit in whatever place we went next or ended up settling in eventually. I guess “we’re sick to death of Ikea” would be a valid fifth reason for wanting to get the hell out of Rent Town.

Anyhow, after pondering a host of possible places to move, we decided to look around in Moncton to see if there were any places we could live with within the price range we were willing to spend. We had looked around Ottawa and Toronto, but it turns out that these places are (in my opinion) ridiculously overpriced for what you get.

Since the next questions here are usually, “Moncton? Where the hell is that?” and “Moncton? Why the hell would you move there?”, here’s the rundown: Moncton is a city of around 126,000 people on the East coast of Canada in the province of New Brunswick. There’s a Wikipedia page all about it. As for why, there are a bunch of reasons, the primary of which are that we both love the Maritimes, and it turns out real estate isn’t criminally overpriced out there.

This is a good time for a short aside about telecommuting: Rob and I both work from home and love it. While telecommuting for work is awesome (so so awesome, it makes me happy every day), the downside is that you really do need a separate office in which to work, else you slowly start to lose your mind. And I mean an actual office — a separate room with a door and hopefully a window — not some cubby hole beneath the stairs or poorly insulated nook up in the loft2. A separate office usually means an additional bedroom, and two telecommuters means two additional bedrooms. Throw a proper guest room into the mix, and suddenly you’re looking at houses that most normal people think are at least twice as big as two people and two cats could ever possibly need. Big houses in big cities equal big money, and the math just wasn’t adding up.

Moncton’s real estate listings, however, were much more in bang-for-buck range of what we were looking for, so while visiting over Christmas we tootled around looking at neighbourhoods and combing through the MLS listings. Happily, we were able to find a local realtor who was willing to help us out (this was 2-3 days before Christmas, so the city was definitely in full-on holiday mode), and he showed us seven or eight houses over a couple of days. We were really under no illusions about finding a place so quickly and were fully expecting (and actively planning) to return for second or third househunting visits before spring. Mostly we were looking at places in hopes of getting a feel for what to expect for what money in what neighbourhoods so our expectations would be somewhat in line with reality.

Naturally we found a place on the second day, and made an offer less than 36 hours after we had started looking. So it seems to go.

That was two months ago. The moving truck will be here on Friday. All our stuff is in boxes for (theoretically) the last time.

We’ve already booked the painters.

  1. Our current, recently moved-in neighbours are actually awesome, which is sort of sad.
  2. This is what I’ve been living with for the past three years.
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