Growing Peas From Seed

If you’re reading this, you likely live on Hansard an you might have scanned the pea seed jar. In this quick review, I will share with you about theses seeds and the basics to planting and caring for them. Please take only as many seeds as you need for your garden so that other neighbors may also get seeds.

Sweet Peas

These peas seeds come from my garden in the backyard from peas I allowed to overgrow and dry up for the purpose of producing seeds. They are a sweet pea, but it has been a few years since I bought the original seeds, so I can’t tell you much more than that.

Plant in March & August

You will want to plant them in mid-March for a June/July crop (if you take good care of them, they will continue to produce through September) or again in early-August for a October harvest (these won’t produce as much of a crop, but they are good to have to get you some fresh veggies in the fall). Prior to planting, soak the seeds in water for 24 hours to give them a good start at growing.

Lots of Sun and Something To Climb

They should be planted where there’s a fair amount of sunlight and something for them to climb. If you have a trellis or fence, stick them near there. Be aware that anything you plant north of these peas will get a bit of shade so plan your placement ahead of time. Keep your peas well watered, but let them dry out a little bit between watering so not to rot the roots.

Harvest Either Flat or Plump

When these pea pods start to appear, they will be a bit flat, but they will plump up as time goes on. The flatter they are, the more tender and you can use full, flat, pea pods in stir fries. The plumper pods are great for snacking and deshelling.

Every Plant Grows A Lot

You only need 3-4 pea plants per family member if you intend on freezing some. Otherwise, don’t plant more than 2 plants per person eating peas.

Easy To Collect Seeds From

If you find your pea plant drying up and turning yellow, it is nearing the end of the plants life. Dried up pea pods can be used for seeds, and if you don’t want to use them, feel free to drop them back off at the garden table for us to distribute to more neighbours!

my 2020 peas!

Hansard Growing!

This Responsive Neighbourhood Small Grant project was funded by the Vancouver Foundation and administered by The Association of Neighbourhood Houses BC. 

If you know anything about me, it should be that I love to produce. I like to make things from seemingly nothing and I also like to instill that ability in others. Which is a big reason I have my garden. Taking a little seed and making it grow into a big ol’ plant, that’s my JAM! So after I got my community project rolling, I needed to do more! But on the limited budget that I was on (ahem, $0) I couldn’t do it alone. Which is when my googling took me to Neighbourhood Small Grants. The Vancouver Foundation actively funds small neighbourhood projects each year; all you need is an idea and the ability to share it and see it through.

When I found NSG, I got to work writing out my application.

The Application

Last year, my family grew more food than we were able to eat; we gave away the excess where we could to friends yet a fair amount still went to waste. In this we realized an opportunity to create community, and so this year, we have endeavored to build more gardening space. I am a horticulture student with an interest in edible landscaping and I intend to eventually eliminate my front lawn completely and replace it all with food. We have sent letters out to the 60 homes in our neighbourhood letting everyone know that we would be sharing our excess produce with them this year. Within the week, we have heard from about 10 of our neighbours, thanking us for this and already asking after some mint they saw growing; which is where this project comes in. I want to build a planter box (2’w X 6’l X 3’h) in my front yard, next to the sidewalk, in which to grow produce designated for the neighbourhood, starting with lettuces and mints. I also want to empower my neighbours to grow their own food by producing seedlings that they can plant in their own gardens and yards, and also provide free seeds with planting instructions. I will be doing the bulk of caring for the plants we grow, and I intend to create videos for our neighbours to learn how to harvest the plants being grown so that the plants are cared for and we continue to get a harvest from the food being grown. My project costs include the following: Purchasing the materials to make the planter box (treated wood, screws, dirt, delivery) Purchasing seeds and small plants to be planted into the planter Purchasing potting soil, reusable seedling pots, and seeds for seedlings Purchasing seed envelopes and printer ink to print on the envelopes Cost of printing and laminating small signs for the planter and to accompany the seedlings Cost of labels for the seedling pots so that they may be returned and reused I hope to cultivate a thriving community around the production of our own food. I hope to grow this project further in the future by putting a cold frame on the planter (for winter growing), creating a seed library where we may exchange seeds, and reusing the products purchased for this project to continue to offer plants and seeds to my neighbours in addition to the produce I share.

My ambitions were high, and still are! Once this NSG was approved, I got to work. Unfortunately, I mis-estimated how tall my planter should be, and it was nearly twice the height that we needed it to be (we wanted kids and adults alike to be able to pick yummy food!). Because the wood was already purchased and cut, and all the costs already estimated, I decided to double the footprint my yard was going to contribute to this project and made my one planter box into two.

While this was being built; I started growing some seedlings ASAP to share with my neighbors. Within a few days of the grant being approved I had the soil I needed to share some sunflower seedings (check out my instagram to learn why I had these to share!) and a few tomatillos. I had another neighbour with tons (16!) of volunteer tomato seedlings for me to share on my little community table. In the two months that I’ve had the funding, I’ve been able to share all these plants, and some pumpkin seedlings. So far, this little community table has shared 30+ seedlings!

Volunteer seedlings

Seedlings that pop up in places where you did not plant them. Usually they’re the offspring from fallen fruit from last year’s crop.

I wasn’t able to get dirt into the planter boxes until much later than I originally anticipated, so we’re just now beginning to get plants into it. I decided to fill one with tomato plants and a little bit of mint (which we have separated into it’s own planter within the box so that it doesn’t spread as easily). The other box is just about to be planted with some fall crops, like lettuce, kale, and maybe some radishes.

So if you’re on Hansard, feel free to swing by and pick up some fresh produce from the two labeled planters! Soon you’ll be finding seeds on the community table for fall planting, and other fun treats as a result of this neighbourhood small grant.

Creating Community

Last year, more food than I would like to admit went to waste in my yard. If you haven’t seen my 2020 garden recap yet, check it out! My garden produced more food than Jim (husband man), Cecilia (daughter person), and I could eat, even when sharing the bounty with the friends and family we were socializing with. I took care to harvest some food specifically for the freezer, I preserved food by pickling, canning, and dehydrating, and yet, I still had a lot of food just be tossed into the compost.

So why did I made my garden even larger this year? Well, it’s pretty simple; so that I could create a community among my neighbors.


A group of people who live in the same area or who share a common characteristic, like gardening, or eating. Eating is my favourite kind of community assembly

Now, you could argue that my neighbors and I already belong to a community, as we literally all live in each other’s vicinity, but aside from the casual conversations I have with my next door neighbors, D&W, watching my kid play with other kids while I stand there with the other parents, and the constant walks Cecilia and I take, we don’t really interact with our neighbors which is a shame. So I decided that this year, instead of letting food go to waste, I would create a place where I could share garden fresh produce.

My ultimate goal here is to share my excess and have neighbors share theirs. To start a conversation around growing our own food, and living a more sustainable life. And to get to know my neighbors a bit more intimately. I hope that by offering a community space to share, we become more interconnected and learn from one another.

I brought up this project with a small group of people in a discussion around food security and I had two individuals reach out to me, asking about my grassroots project. Until this point, I didn’t think about it as a grassroots project, and just something I was doing for my family and for my desire for community, but the more I considered it, the more it became evident that this term “grassroots project” was so accurate, except there would be no grass, because I’m ripping my lawn out!

This project of mine has a budget of $0 so I turned to my local Buy Nothing group (you know how I love my BN group) and Facebook Marketplace for free listings of the things I would need to make this project a little more “real”. I wanted a table (to place my gifts) and baskets and bowls (to put the food into, on the table).

Fortunately, I was able to find a table pretty quickly (sooner than I was ready to put it out!), and I’ve now started collecting baskets and bowls to share the wealth.

My next step was telling my neighbours about this. Because of COVID I couldn’t exactly go door knocking, so I worked on a letter which I then printed (I decided that using materials I already had, like paper, ink, and seeds did not count against my budget) 60 copies of. This was a big undertaking for me because I also decided that I wanted to make sure that my neighbours wouldn’t just think this all was spam or someone trying to convert them to another religion before they even opened the letter, so I coloured a different fruit/veg/plant drawing on every.single.letter and wrote out one of two things “It’s like a farmer’s market, but no farmer and free” or for the ones which my drawing suffered “I grow food better than I draw it!”

The letter!

Hello Neighbour,

I want to share free produce with you and your family! I am not selling anything or preaching religion or anything like that; this really is just about free food.

My name is Breanne, I live at redacted with my husband, Jim, and daughter, Cecilia. You may have noticed a lot of gardening happening in our yard this year and last. I am a landscape student with an interest in edible landscaping and in creating productive spaces.

After last year’s bounty, I noticed our gardens produced more food than my family and I could possibly eat, yet I made my gardens larger this year with the goal of producing even more! My hope is to share the food I produce with you, my neighbours, and create a community around growing food.

You will notice in the next few weeks a table set up under the magnolia tree which is where I will be putting our excess produce, occasionally small plants, and sometimes seeds from my seeding fruit. Please feel free to take as much as you can use from here.

It is unlikely that I will be placing lettuces on this table outside of spring because of how easily they wilt in the heat, but I will be sharing on my social media channels when I have lettuces available; please reach out to me there if you would like some.

I will regularly be posting photos to my Instagram account of my growing garden, and I will be posting there every time produce is added to the community table/pantry, so if you’d like updates on when new produce is put out, be sure to follow @basilbeelife on Instagram and/or Basil Bee . garden . kitchen . lifestyle on Facebook, or just walk by! I also regularly update a blog where I write about gardening, preserving, and mom life:

We’re asking nothing in return for the produce that we share with you, however, if you would like to express thanks, we would love it if you could add bounty from your garden to the community table/pantry (be it vegetables, fruit, flowers, seeds, seedlings, yummy food made from the produce, etc); share about this small community project and encourage others to bring a similar project to their own communities; offer your help with labour if you see me out working in the yard; or whichever way you feel is appropriate.

I do request that you respect our property and do not come onto it to pick any of our produce unless we have invited you to do so. I am carefully measuring the output of my garden as a portfolio project, so it is important that food is not taken without my knowledge. Please take only as much as your family will eat. Do not remove the table or the baskets and bowls on the table holding the produce.

I am so excited to share the bounty of my garden with you this year! If you want help or advice with your garden, please feel free to reach out any time. I am always happy to help more food to be produced in homes. If you are renting and don’t have the freedom to produce food in your yard but are interested in the process, or if you want your kids to be involved in learning about gardening, please also reach out and I would be thrilled to include you and your family in my gardening.

The day after we sent out these letters (which Cecilia and I hand delivered), our Instagram had a bunch of new followers and we had neighbours already dropping by, asking after the mint I had planted. My table wasn’t even out yet, and our neighbours were excited!

I’ve also applied for a Neighborhood Small Grant, for which I’ve been approved, which will allow me to grow plants specifically for this project AND build a planter box just for neighbour use. In it, I will be planting some lettuces, mints, and perhaps other small things, and posting videos to instruct neighbours on how to harvest these goodies for themselves. I will have another blog post though to share more about that project, which I’ve titled Hansard Growing.

As this project grows (pun intended) and I learn more, I hope that I can inspire other small neighbourhoods to do something similar. All it takes is one person to make a good change in their community!


This update will be quick and won’t really qualify as a “post” I guess, but I felt the need to do it as it’s been a while since I’ve added any new content.

I am not one to sit still. I like to do about a zillion things at once, because that’s just who I am. But these last few months have been trying, to say the least. When my father passed away in March, everything I understood and knew about life went sideways. In a way, I felt I failed the man. Everything has been sitting still since then, or at least in contrast to how I normally live my life.

As I try to bring my life back to normalcy, at least in part, I will be picking this little project back up soon and writing about all the crazy things I have going on. My original intention was one post a week, and hopefully we get back there, but for now, I am going to strive for one post a month, and see how we go from there.

With love,


My Buy Nothing Challenge

“Buy nothing. Give freely. Share creatively.” These are the corner stones of the Buy Nothing Project, founded in Washington (the state) by two friends, Rebecca and Liesl (Buy Nothing Project, n.d.)*. I’m interested in reducing waste and other green goings on, so when this project came across my radar, it piqued my interest because it’s such a simple concept.

When I originally wanted to be involved in the Buy Nothing Project, I couldn’t find a Facebook group for my city, which meant I wasn’t able to join because part of the premise is a hyper local gifting economy. Until I found the BuyNothing7 Challenge, I thought I was SOL for getting involved. Since then, I have found a local group to me and have been participating almost daily.

Back to the 7 day challenge. It was an interesting concept. Spend no money, except on essentials for 7 days. That part can be simple, especially in these pandemic times, but then comes the challenge part; each day there is a specific “todo” to really get involved in the gift economy. So knowing there was a new challenge every day, I decided to put this challenge off until after classes started. Then until after midterms ended. Then “maybe after the reading break” and I realized I just had to commit and make myself accountable for my own BuyNothing7.

Day 1, BuyNothing7; Give

The first task in BuyNothing7 is to give. You’re asked to “Pick a closet, drawer, or room and clean it out! But first take a before picture in advance of your clean-out. Place in a box the things you no longer need.” Then essentially give away those things.

Giving comes easily to me; not so easily? Giving away things of mine. I grew up poor, for a lack of a better word, and I early on became uniquely attached to my things. I also am a bit of a… collector. If I think something may have a use, I have a hard time getting rid of it. This is something I’m working very hard to amend but I have collected literally every tin that we have gotten from my daughter’s formula and not given them away because “I can use these!”. I am still unwilling to give up those tins, but there are pleanty of other things which I can part with.

I started off this day’s challenge fulfilling a gift to someone in my local BuyNothing group who has been looking for milk jugs for their winter garden. They’ve started to collect now for next winter. I have all the clean milk jugs that I can use for my own winter sowing, so I’ve been collecting these 4L jugs for this person that I don’t even know for a few weeks now and I just remembered that my collection has grown enough now that I can tell her to come and pick them up.

But that isn’t explicitly the challenge. Sure, I gave, but I had already set that all aside and it felt a little like cheating, especially as I hadn’t cleaned anything. It took me about 30 minutes to decide to clean my sewing desk.

Before I cleaned up my sewing desk
After the big clean. There’s still a little bit of crap hanging around, but at least the desk is functional now!

This sewing desk often becomes a junk desk. It sits in our den and because it’s corner lines up with the corner of the room, we can put things on it that Cecilia (daughter/person) can’t reach. Which means it’s seldomly useable for it’s intended purpose; sewing. I have a matching dress project that I started working on in December that I frankly forgot about that I managed to uncover while cleaning! And now that I’ve cleaned the desk off, I can keep on working on it.

Clowns, man, clowns

As for the gift; I uncovered here a brand new car window sunshade that we never used but my daughter decided to rip out of the packaging. We would likely never use it (clowns creep me out) so I posted it. I also came across my collection on safety eyes (the hard plastic pieces used as eyes for stuffed animals). This pack had some outrageous number of eyes and noses in it, and I needed a few different sizes so I splurged. I will keep on using them, but I realized that there’s no way that I’ll be using them all, so I sent out another offer into the Facebook Buy Nothing world, offering a few pairs to anyone who needed them so they wouldn’t have to go purchase their own extraordinary number.

Day one down, and it was a lot easier than I chalked it up to be. Now for day two.

Day 2, BuyNothing7; Fix

We live in such a wasteful world. I’m sure you can think of something that you owned that when it broke, instead of fixing it, you just tossed it. I can think of a few pairs of pants which ripped where my thighs rub together and instead of fixing them, which I am completely capable of doing, I put them in the “donate” pile. Looking back on this, I can only think of myself as a complete piece of rubbish. Not only was I unwilling to fix them or repurpose them, I gave a pair of pants to a charity who would undoubtedly just toss them as actually fixing them isn’t part of what they do. I put the onus of throwing them away on someone else’s shoulders so that I wouldn’t feel bad about throwing them out myself.

I’m getting off track. The point of this day is to look around at the things in your home which need to be fixed and actually put the time into fixing that thing. And if you don’t know how, it was something that you could approach your local Buy Nothing group for as an ask. And if you had nothing to fix, then offer yourself to your group to perform a service.

I will admit, I had to go grocery shopping today, but as per the BuyNothing7 challenge rules, this is totally okay, as long as I don’t purchase things on impulse, as it’s a need. I got everything on my list and nothing else, except hand soap. It was on my list for weeks and the store was always out when I went, so hand soap wasn’t on this list, but it was on my general list of things that we needed and the store wasn’t out. I also got myself a coffee as a little treat for getting out of bed to grocery shop at 7:30am, which was also something I had planned and is okay as per the rules. I almost cracked to get a super tasty looking cranberry muffin, but I am proud to say that I resisted.

These were obviously sewn on the machine as this tan thread was not broken and was much longer than the space it had come out of. This means that there is a bobbin thread underneath which held this tan thread in-place.
So what I did was come in with some black button thread (which is like extra-strength thread) and replaced the bobbin thread that had broken. I also made sure to put a few extra stiches in on that tan thread, just to increase the longevity a bit further.

For the day specific challenge, I decided to repair my husband’s slippers. As far as projects go, this one was simple, but also sitting on my todo list for far too long. As you can see in the photo, a thread holding the leather sole onto the felted slipper was beginning to unravel. These slippers were given to Jim (husband/man) as a welcome gift from his last employer and he adores them, I guess they’re comfortable, anyway, he had asked me to fix them and I gave him explicit instructions not to wear them until they were fixed so that the fix doesn’t become more difficult. Poor guy keeps complaining about his cold toes, instead of, you know, wearing socks.

This fix took me approximately 15 minutes. I could have done it faster, but I wanted to be careful to ensure the slipper looked as good as it did before and not disrupt the integrity of the original thread, as it is still holding most of the slipper intact.

It’s pretty obvious why this is a challenge in the BuyNothing7, because it encourages a fix culture rather than one of waste where you throw a thing away when it becomes dysfunctional, and replace it. Obviously, on some level, there are a lot of aspects about the Buy Nothing culture that I agree with which is why I decided to do this challenge in the first place, but analyzing each challenge as I am doing here really helps to drive the point home.

I love showing off the things I’ve made, like this awesome little derpy heart stuffie that I made for my best friend’s kid before he had heart surgery.

As a quick update on day one as well is that in offering safety eyes to other people in my buy nothing group, I’ve made a friend (kind of) who is coming to pick up some eyes from me, but who has started a conversation with me and is sharing resources for her crochet and is marveling at my work.

Day 3, BuyNothing7; Resources

For day 3, we are encouraged to share resources with others. Whether this is sharing a handy life hack or linking out to a list of 50 things that you never need to buy again. For this task I decided to write a blog post dedicated to sharing some of my favorite frugal garden “hacks” which you should totally check out if you’re as cheap as I am. I decided that not only could I share some awesome Buy Nothing resources, I could also create a Buy Nothing resource.

The blog post didn’t take me long to write, maybe 2 hours total with formatting and inserting images, and what it made me do is reach out to a local gardening community (on Facebook of course) and ask them what their favourite frugal “hacks” are. I had a fair number on my own, but there were a few I was having troubles with remembering (like taking cuttings off of another plant to grow a new plant) that served as a refresher. There were also some new ideas for me, and it created a really important discussion in that group. In a way, this challenge is bringing out some social opportunities.

Day 4, BuyNothing7; Needs vs Wants

This day’s challenge was mostly about inner reflection. There’s a fine line between needs and wants, and that line shouldn’t matter. When you’re taking the time to do the BuyNothing7, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have both your needs AND wants fulfilled.

I took probably only 30 minutes to think about needs vs wants today and I think I have a hard time driving a line because it really depends on my mood if something is a need or a want. For example, we recently bought a brand new BBQ, for cooking up the cow we have in the freezer and to get more use out of our deck and to enjoy another cooking method. The BBQ is a want, but its also a need if we think about the type of lifestyle we want for our family. I want the “eat outdoors” lifestyle in the summer, I need to eat something that wasn’t heated up on my stove, I NEED a hotdog off the BBQ because I am not allowed to have a fire in my backyard. There are a lot of wants and needs all rolled into one item, which is where I feel it gets a little convoluted.

Sure, we can look at whoever’s hierarchy of needs (I’m not going to name drop because it was totally stolen from Indigenous peoples and I am not here for that) and state what my overarching needs are, because they are the same as every other living human. But what about food. Food is a need, but I don’t need dried pasta, I could make it myself. The need comes into play when you evaluate what your time is worth and do a cost analysis. I can make pasta (and I do sometimes) but it’s not a sustainable thing for me to be doing. I also don’t need pasta period, I could survive on just produce, but again what kind of quality of life would I have? (I’m not saying people who eat strictly vegetables have a low quality of life, just that it would create a less than desirable quality of life for myself).

While it’s important to distinguish needs vs wants, it’s also imperative to evaluate your wants on a scale. We’re going to need a new car soon. I want a new car soon. Both of these are true. When we buy a car, I have two lists. I have a list of needs: I need to be able to strap two car seats in. I need something hybrid or electric if we’re buying new. I need to have something with a fair amount of space so that I can shove work things in. I also have some wants: I want it to have towing capabilities. I want it to be a manual (which is not happening with an electric car). I want seats that fold down flat. I want a trunk that open by me pressing my foot under the bumper. There are a lot of things I want, but I realize that all my wants are not realistic. But having one or two of my wants will bring me some joy, which makes at least one of my wants a need.

I feel my writing is starting to get too introspective now. I’m going to move one. The point is, I spent some time with my needs and wants.

Day 5, BuyNothing7; Sustainable 24

Think about what you’re spending money on that maybe you don’t even realize that you’re spending money on in these 7 days. Your lights are on, you’re probably not freezing or boiling hot, because of the silent things we spend money on. So in this 24 hour period, we’re asked to consider what we’re spending money on and how we can reduce that cost. Often when we spend money we’re also impacting our environment in some way, so reducing these regular costs can help to reduce our ecofootprint. The main take away is “spend less, conserve more.”

Some of the expenses I found we were silently paying for:

  • Disney+
  • Spottify
  • Microsoft programs (word, excel, etc)
  • Client management software
  • Timeline creation software
  • Website hosting
  • Domain names
  • Website security
  • Hydro
  • Fortis (natural gas)
  • City utilities
  • Diapers
  • Telus
  • Banking fees
  • Insurance (home, car, life)
  • Property tax

Obviously, there’s not a lot we can do about a number of these expenses (if we stopped paying our home insurance, we would be in violation of our mortgage agreement and could seriously effect all sorts of things), but there are a lot of things here that we could trim down.

We had already decided to cut out Netflix and cable; we pay for Disney+ still because we find it’s the best platform for us. When we cut cable, we had to keep internet (working from home also means we have to have like the biggest internet package) so we minimized that cost a bunch (by like $100/month… why IS cable so expensive?) back in September and can’t move much from there.

And my plant budget can come way down because I’m propagating my very own babies in class!

I realized that I didn’t need to continue paying for Microsoft office as part of my tuition includes the Microsoft suite, so I’ll be getting rid of my subscription and using the “free” one through school. I can’t do much about my client management system for wedding planning, nor the timeline software. Once I understand better how my wedding planning business is going to function post pandemic, I might downgrade that to a lower package.

On day 5 I also signed up for Chip Drop which provided me with 5 yard of fresh wood chips, free, from an arborist doing a local job, which means they waste less gas and less dump fees. This allows me to spend less money on my garden and also allows me the opportunity to make it social by offering wood chips to my gardening neighbors, as there is no way I’m using all 5 yards.

Website hosting is pretty pricey, and we own at least one domain name we don’t use, so I’m going to attempt to sell that name, and if I want to pay less for site security I won’t have a funtional website for my business. What I am going to try to do is convert that website to a new hosting platform and cut out security entirely. I may have to pay a bit upfront for a transfer and my SEO may suffer, but $1200/year is a bit steep for a business that may not survive much past the pandemic.

Hydro is our electricity, and we suck up A LOT, especially now that we’re home all the time. I have retrofitted a number of our light switches to smart switches to lights turn off on schedule (and I’ve turned off the auto on, so we have to need the light to turn on). I also have a lot of things plugged into power bars and I turn off the power bars when I don’t need the items on, which is going a long way. What I think I might do, further, is install smart outlets/switches to things like the TV so that we can have the TV essentially not plugged in at night, but I have to make sure that’s safe for something like my husband’s PS4 first.

With Fortis (natural gas) there’s a limited number of things we can do; we use natural gas for all our cooking and heating, and we have a smart thermostat for our furnace so we’re able to control consumption that way (which is awesome). We will be eventually installing outdoor gas lines for our BBQ and a fireplace we hope to get in the next few years.

With banking fees, I realized that I didn’t need to have all the accounts open that I have, so I’ve decided to close at least one of them and have added a monthly reminder to my phone to pay off my visa so that I don’t incur fees there. I’ve also made an appointment with my bank to re-open my TFSA and start putting money in there monthly.

Another thing, not listed, is taxes. I am SO bad about doing taxes on time, so this year I have a goal to do my taxes before the deadline so that I don’t occur any weird fees for late payments or anything like that.

Though I do worry, what boxes will she play in if we stop buying diapers!?

The last thing to touch on here is diapers. It is my hope that I have purchased my last box of diapers. Cecilia is slowly being potty trained and if I can cut out diapers that is $30/month that I can save!

Day 6, BuyNothing7; Make It Social

This one is hard to do in a pandemic, but not impossible. Make your Buy Nothing journey a social goal and do things with others to encourage that attitude. The more people in your life who are involved in a gifting economy, the better your experience.

While a gifting economy isn’t synonymous with sustainability, I can say with confidence, when you involve your friends and family in a project like this, you get to live more sustainably.

In the past I’ve hosted clothing exchanges with a small group of women where we all come together after emptying out our closets of the things we don’t wear any more or that are too small, but when I got pregnant it stopped happening then this whole nonsense about some sort of pandemic came up and we just haven’t been able to come together to do this great event again.

Our food prep days are some of my favourite days; I even have a blog post about my most recent one!

Another social thing I’ve done in the past have been my salsa days. A group of us meet up at one place and together we make GALLONS of salsa and we all split the cost and get to go home with some yummy jars that last us a few months.

So while there are a lot of social things we can’t do, I am very much looking forward to the things that we can do. Once restrictions are lifted a bit and we can reintroduce our small group bubbles, I will be having another salsa day. I will also 100% be inviting people to do pickles with me again this year.

I am also working on making a little “produce stand” for my front yard where I can share with my neighbors the excess food from my garden.

The social thing that I decided to do was to bring the conversation to my small group of friends and invite them to contribute sustainable actions that they get to take. It wasn’t much, but it made me happy. Also we’re going to go visit the bird sanctuary tomorrow (3 of us and two kids; we’re keeping our distance and arriving separately) and while it’s not free, it is low cost and a group activity.

Day 7, BuyNothing7; Make a Habit

There is absolutely scientific proof that to make a habit, something needs to be done for at least 21 days, so the 7th challenge is to embrace the challenge for another 23 days; each of those days including even more challenges. And if you decide that the challenge isn’t something you need to continue to do, you’re asked to do two exercises:

  1. “take a moment to reflect on what you’ve learned or a behavior or trait about your buying that you’ve discovered and share it” as a gratitude post.
  2. “take a look at some of these behavioral changes that many of us have taken on over the past few years, to curb buying and spark more home-made and home-fixed things. Perhaps you might want to try more DIY-style solutions as alternatives to buying?”

I cannot believe that I am at day 7 already. There were a few times I felt a little weak, up to and including this morning (while admittedly scrolling through Facebook marketplace), where I wanted to make a purchase and instead took a moment, and tried to analyze what I wanted to purchase, why, and if it was worth breaking my challenge and starting all over. I did not break. When I made cookies and decided that the upcycled oven racks that I had been using for cookie cooling racks were not going to do the trick and I decided that I needed a proper cooling rack, instead of ordering it online or going to the store to buy one, I posted the ask on my local Buy Nothing Facebook group.

On the other side of things, when I went to sell some seeds that I had grown the previous year, I also posted some in my Buy Nothing group and I have given away so many seeds for pumpkins, radishes, peas, and cilantro. While I would love to sell some of my packets of seeds, a lot of people are just learning to garden and I think I would’ve been more inclined to experiment with more plants if I had access to free seeds when I was just learning.

For my gratitude post, I shared the following sentiment:

I’ve just finished day 7. I didn’t realize how much of an effort I would need to put in just to not spend money. I thought “I’m frugal, I avoid spending money” which isn’t the full truth. I love a good deal, so I spend. I like to browse my local thrift store and try to find neat little things. I enjoy shopping. But I also enjoy not contributing to more waste in this world, which I’m not always great at. This challenge encouraged me to look into the why of my spending. For the most part, I spend because I have an unhealthy attachment to things. I’m not a hoarder, per say, but I do look at things and think “Oh, this is neat” or “I could probably use that for something”. I’m taking a more careful look at these habits now and am going to try to ask “why” more often. I’m also going to continue to lean on my community before spending money on items. I can see if there’s anyone in my community who might have and no longer need the thing I want. I can make the intentional effort to share with my community the things I no longer have use for; I NEED to be able to identify the things I no longer have use for. Buy Nothing is an attitude, and I am grateful that I have been given the opportunity to explore that attitude.

And for the second part, I don’t know that I will have any trouble incorporating more DIY into my regular life 🙂

Other things I did this week in the buy nothing spirit included:

*I want to note here, I have no copyright or anything with the Buy Nothing Project or BuyNothing7 Challenge, this is merely me writing about my experience doing the BuyNothing7 Challenge

Midterm Review

This is crazy series continues where I write blog content as an assignment for my Introduction to Professional Communications class. I’m enjoying writing these and reflecting on the work I do for the class, while also doing some self learning to blog better (you’ll notice that I don’t have the banner image repeated anymore). If you’ve missed it, I’ve reflected on learning about plagiarism and reacted to work I’ve done on a error log for my first assignment.

For this week’s assignment, we’re asked to review our process for writing our midterm and the feedback we received for it. Our midterm was hosted asynchronously and it was made up of three parts. The first part was the CRAAP assignment we had done as our first assignment, but severely altered to reflect our previous feedback and the error log we did on it. The second part was a detailed outline of what changes we made to the CRAAP test and why. The third was our personal assessment of the revised CRAAP test and the mark we believed we deserved, as stated out of 15. We were not given a rubric for the midterm or any examples and had to instead rely on our own instincts and the basic instructions we were delivered.

Because we had been given an assignment package with the outline of our course assignments and what we could expect for the tests, I was able to look ahead and see that our error log and midterm were in the same vein of work, so I made the early decision to complete both at the same time. While I started with the error log and the blog post for it, the work I did on the error log directly informed how I worked on my midterm.

I took the time to carefully read through everything that was required of me for the midterm before starting on it and decided that the best way to do it was to work on multiple documents at once. Over my two screen set-up, I had 4 documents open and viewable at once.

This was definitely part of my CRAAP test
Photo by Anna Shvets on
  1. The original CRAAP test with the feedback from my instructor on it
  2. The PDF overview of what was expected for the CRAPP test and midterm
  3. The midterm packet document I created with a copied and pasted version of the original CRAAP test on it
  4. A blank document for me to record the changes that I made as I made them

Having all of these open at the same time made it very simple for me to work on whichever of the two working documents I needed to be on, and be able to reference the feedback and the assignment as I needed to. There was very minimal clicking back and forth. I also had my error log in front of me and I had a copy of the graded rubric from the original CRAAP test for me to refer to as I wrote.

Before I started the actual editing phase, I also wrote out the steps in editing and rewriting as we learned in the week of the error log, so that my memory was fresh and so that I would have something to refer to.

After going through all the rewriting steps and carefully documenting my changes (including citing the original text and indicating what was changed) I combined the change record document with the midterm and began working on the whole thing as one document.

1.5 year old standing looking at a note book, appearing to erase a section
I will never not use this image as it regards to Cecilia (daughter/person) and classwork

When I felt I was finished with the re-write, I read the re-write out loud to my poor unsuspecting kid and asked for her notes. She was not helpful, but I did stumble over a few sentences which I rewrote.

I considered the first part of the midterm complete at this point and looked through my change document and formatted it, corrected errors where I saw them, and moved onto the final part of the assignment.

The self assessment. It’s hard to self assess, especially when your ego is well documented like mine. I carefully reviewed the original rubric for the CRAAP test, reflected on the marked rubric from my instructor, and reviewed the feedback of the original assignment. Did I mention I got 95% on the original document? The part for which I was docked marks was my citing, as I didn’t use proper APA citing for 1 of 2 references. Logically, as this error was corrected, my revised document should sit at 100%, but I also want to be a little humble and be like “I can do better” but I honestly didn’t think I could. So I said as much.

I edited this self assessment document a few times and let it sit for a few hours before coming back for an edit, but for the most part, the tone and the general sentiment stayed the same.

Submitting the midterm early allowed me to make sure bear was strapped in real safe in the car before we went vroom vroom

Once I felt all three parts were complete, I re-read everything once more, and submitted the midterm, just hours following my error log blog post assignment. I felt really good about being able to submit 9 days before the deadline.

I think I reflected a little about how I felt getting my assignment feedback (dumb. Come on, CHOSE? Really? I didn’t know about chose?!) in my error log blog post, and much of that sticks as I revisited my assignment and rewrote it. I felt a little pride because “citing was my only serious error?!” but as I was reflecting on my revision and writing my self assessment, I was further prideful. I wrote something technically correct in my revision, and how far I’ve come from that 15 year-old who cared minimally about grammar. At that point, I didn’t think I would ever do so well on a writing assignment as I did on this revision (except for that one piece in English 12 where I had to write a diary entry for the characters from Ethan Frome and I wrote as Ethan Frome who wasn’t a particularly well educated man, so I added in some additional spelling errors and aged the page, but really, that was more of an art assignment than an English one).

As I worked through the midterm, I think my biggest learning experience was how much work editing truly is. I cast it off to the side and dismiss it as an easy task because I just read through my work a few times, but when I was tracking every change (and I even skipped the mundane things like “I fixed the spelling for citing from siting”) and I had it all down, written in front of me, it was surprising; I had two pages of written notes of the edits I had made. That blew my mind.

With this in mind, I realize just how much energy I expel in ensuring my work is at a high enough quality for my own standards, but then how much more I have to input for it to be a high enough quality for someone who is reviewing my work. It’s a lot.

Honestly, I don’t know how this will all apply to what I do in the future; I think it will be more of a lesson learned kind of thing. I won’t take what I perceive to be easy work for granted. I spent as much, if not more, time rewriting and editing my CRAAP test assignment as I did writing it in the first place, which says a bit as the OG assignment involved research!

I will say, that as sweet as the 95% felt for the original CRAAP test, it felt so much better getting 100% on my midterm. I’ve told my husband like 6 times now that I got a perfect score. Pride may be a cardinal sin for religious people, but damn, it feels GOOD.

March 2021; What’s In The Garden?

As January turned to February, my seed collection suddenly started jumping out of their storage site and just started screaming at my like my toddler “time to plant, time to plant, time to plant”. I have my seeds organized by month to plant which is evidently a mistake because all I want to do as soon as the calendar says it’s the first of the month, I want to get them rolling.

Now, obviously, February is too early to be planting outdoors, even in zone 8a, but there’s plenty of seeds that I was able to start indoors, and some that I maybe should have waited to start, but where’s the fun in that?

Below is a diagram of what I have cooking up in my window, getting ready to be planted outdoors

A – Holly Hock
B – Homegrown banana pepper
C – Homegrown jalapeno
D – Guajillo pepper
E – Bell pepper
F – Jalapeno
G – Red hot cherry peppers

H – Habanero peppers
I – Mixed hot peppers
J – Cherry bomb peppers
K – Tomatillo
L – Peanuts
M – Rosemary
N – Red cabbage

O – Green cabbage
P – Beefsteak tomato
Q – Black eyed Susans (vine)
R – Romaine lettuce
Sm – San marzano tomato
T – Sweet aroma tomato

I soaked all my seeds before planting (excluding the peanuts) and I am itching to get them outside, mostly because Cecilia (daughter-person) keeps trying to play in the dirt that’s inside and very clearly out for her to play in.

I tend to these babies daily (in order to do so, I have to move a couch, set a curtain aside, and turn a bookshelf, but whatever I need to do to protect them from my kid) and am counting down in my calendar for when I can start hardening them off.

Hardening off

Slowly exposing seedlings that were raised in controlled conditions (such as indoors without wind and with constant temps) through visits outdoors before planting them in the garden.

I’m also learning so much from my propagation class. Too much. It makes my plans get crazier and crazier. But at least for now, the outdoor gardens are pretty quiet. I have kale and radishes planted in my raised bed, cilantro in my new 3 sisters plot (later in the year, when everything is warmer and after my troves of cilantro is harvested for cilantro relish, the plot will belong to beans, corn, and squash), I just got my first ever batch of potatoes in the ground, of course I have my garlic planted and growing from November, with some spinach planted among it, and my perennial everbearing strawberries are just starting to perk up again. The garden is starting to see a lot of action and I’m dreaming of when my plots will be teeming with new life.

My raised bed map
My front garden and herb spiral
My “berry plot”, which looks unexciting but it has rhubarb, huckleberries, and garlic currently living in it and spinach germinating (I hope)
photo of a bare dirt garden plot with garlic placed in holes at regular intervals
This is from back in November when I planted all my garlics. I have more planted in with my strawberries, and I don’t think I have enough garlic planted…
My new 3 sisters plots and my makeshift drum kit planters for my cut flowers.

23 Frugal Garden Hacks

YAY! You’re getting a bonus post this week because I am participating in a 7 day challenge! You’ll be able to read more on that soon, but for now, enjoy this.

I don’t know about you, but when I can avoid spending money, I AVOID it. But that doesn’t mean that my poor garden has to suffer as a result. Here are some of my favourite frugal garden hacks to keep your garden on budget but looking great.

Seeds and Plants

Seeds are fairly cheap… until you’ve got 20 packs in your basket and you have no idea where everything will be planted, but you want them anyway. There are a lot of ways to save yourself some money when it comes to your little green babies.

My saved cilantro seeds from 2020

23. Seed saving – when I first started looking at seed saving, it was a little daunting and honestly, I didn’t think I could do it. It’s actually a super easy thing to do, depending on the plant which you want to go to seed. From my first year of gardening I managed to collect seeds from my squash, some peppers, cilantro, and oh my goodness, radishes! I’ve given away a lot of my seeds (because there’s no way that I could possibly use all of the seeds I managed to save) and that brings me to my next frugal point…

There’s no doubt I got a beautiful bounty of seeds last year when I participated in a Christmas seed swap

22. Seed swap groups – there used to be events when we could actually see each other in person and trade our seeds. I never went to one, but I dreamt of it. This past Christmas, one of my local gardening groups did a seed swap where I sent seeds to 6 other people and in return, those 6 sent me seeds. I ended up with such a crazy array of seeds I probably wouldn’t have purchased but I can’t wait to plant (except the ones I’ve already planted; those ones I can’t wait to eat). All those seeds cost me was about $6 in postage, a few of the seeds I won’t be able to use, and the price of an envelope.

21. Ask for them – is there a plant that you love that someone you know has? Ask them for a cutting or division, or seeds. They may not always say yes, but a lot of the time, a plant needs to be pruned anyway, or they need to make the plant a little smaller and would be happy to give you a division when they do that!

20. Seed libraries – much like seed swaps, these give you the opportunity to get seeds for free in exchange for contributing seeds to the library in the fall. Find a BC seed library here! Unfortunately, COVID has slowed a number of these libaries, but here’s hoping they start functioning again soon!

19. Purchase seeds at the end of the season – Most places can’t sell all their seeds before the end of the year, but seed packs do have a “sell before” date (this is not an expiry date!) which means they go on sale! I’ve gotten oodles of seeds for literally pennies because stores are just trying to get rid of their stock.


Tools can be a big expense when you’re building a garden or adding features. For the most part, the only tools you really need to have a garden is a shovel, maybe a rake, a pair of clippers, and your own two hands. While it’s nice to have more tools on hand (I love my eletric drill and my table saw!) it’s not always a need. Instead here are a few tool hacks for you to save money on things to get the job done. Note, for these selections, I include any tool, including things like soil and fertilizer.

18. Ask for what you need – there’s an increase of interest in a sharing economy lately and if you need something, oftentimes you need just ask and you can access the things you need. You can pose your need on your public social media page, or hit up some of Facebook’s groups, like your local buy nothing group, or a local gardening group. Your social network can lead to a number of the things you might need.

17. Tool library – another library! A tool library is much like a regular library, except there’s often a membership fee involved. Still, paying a membership fee is often far less than purchasing and upkeeping all the tools you may need one off. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need an auger; except for that one post that I want to put into my yard. Tool library.

16. Egg shells – Egg shells are a mighty tool, even if they are fragile. I use them for decomposable seed starting pots, for protection against slugs and snails in my raised bed, and just a regular amendment I add crushed to my garden bed. Eggs are full of calcium and other good things. Just make sure to wash the shells and bake them before using to ensure they’re not an attractant for pests. See more about how to use egg shells in your garden here.

15. Milk jugs – turning everyday waste into useful items! That’s what I’m talking about, boi! 1 gallon milk jugs are a great tool for winter seed sowing. Learn how to use milk jugs in your garden here.

14. News papers – I don’t get the news paper, but my in-laws do and I recently asked them to save a few for me. What I got was a tower of news papers that I was not prepared for. But they’re awesome for so many reasons. I’ve made little compostable pots out of them, I’ve used them for cleaning, and I’ve used them in my compost as brown matter. Learn more about using newspapers for your garden at this link.

13. Clear plastic food containers – You know, the ones that your rotisserie chicken comes in or your delicious baked goods? Use those for starting seeds! The clear top helps to keep the atmosphere inside humid for seeds getting going.

12. Sour cream containers – or yogurt containers. Or any opaque container. I cut them down into little stakes and write on them with black sharpie so I can keep track of what’s planted where.

My egg cartons have yet to do me wrong!

11. Egg cartons – another favourite for a decomposable seed starter; in fact, I used one last year for starting my corn! and I have another couple dozen cells in use now for starting my peppers. Just be sure that if you’re not removing the seedling from the cell before planting in the ground that you tear the bottom off a little so that the roots don’t have to work as hard to get through.

Form and function

This is where we can have the most fun (in my opinion) and get really creative with what we use to make our gardens fruitful (pun 100% intended). Almost anything can become a planter if you try enough!

10. Bed frames for trellises – I just picked up an old twin bed’s head and foot boards and they make for the perfect climbing structure for your vining plants. Put the call out in your Buy Nothing group or scroll endlessly in Facebook marketplace to find some.

9. Used bricks for garden boarders – I have a marketplace alert for anytime someone local to me posts about bricks. Not only can you avoid bricks going to waste, you can build a border or any kind of structure using them, and you can often get them for free!

I got these beauties already painted even!

8. Side of the road treasures as planters – I picked up these scrapped drums from a neighbor up the street who was just throwing away the drums. They are now my cut flower planters. Your vehicle is a shopping cart; keep your eyes open as you drive around your city of other sweet finds like this.

7. Collected shells for features – I like to do walks on the beach and lately I’ve been collecting all the shells I can get my hands on. These can be used in cement for decoration, or you can crush them and use them for “gravel” or you can leave them hole and use them instead of rocks for a feature piece.

I’m excited to finally get potatoes growing!

6. Offcuts from other projects for planters – we recently rebuilt our deck, which resulted in a number of offcuts. Instead of taking them to the dump, I used them to make new planters. I also used offcuts of some plywood for a new potato box.

5. Cracking coffee cups for little planters – I started collecting animal shaped coffee mugs a few years ago and they are absolutely my go to for every cup of tea I made (and with COVID, I’m stuck at home and often making 3 cups a day). But with as much use as I give them, they don’t always have a long life. Some of my favourite mugs are now cracked and no good fold holding in tea. But they do hold in soil. And plants. So while this isn’t a garden hack; it is definitely a plant hack!

4. Cement – am I the only one getting cement DIYs videos pushed to them on Facebook? Because I keep seeing cement DIYs and I am longing for my next cement project. While they aren’t always easy to do, they are fairly cheap and perfect when you’re trying to make a very specific planter. I am using cement and rocks for my herb spiral!


3. Use the library this time I’m talking about the old fashioned book library. There’s a whole little section for gardening. While I am not normally one for reading non-fiction, there’s so much you can learn to make your garden better through books you find at your library. All it costs you is a library card.

2. Ask for help – it is important to hire a professional when you need a professional’s work done, but it is totally possible to reach out to your local But Nothing group and ask for anyone who might be able to teach you how to do the task you need to get done.

1. Trade work for food. This is my number one, top tip. If you need help getting stuff done in your garden, ask for help. Ask your friends, or family, or just put it out there in your local Buy Nothing group. If they’re friends and family, offer them lunch or dinner in exchange for helping, or maybe some of your garden bounty. Offer some bounty to your Buy Nothing group too. It never hurts to share food!

image of two open-faced cheese burgers on a blue plate. The cheese burgers are topped with cheddar, crispy jalapenos, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles.

The Sustainability Teeter Totter

I ‘m going to bring your to my home for a moment on a typical Saturday night from this winter. We are sitting around the table eating dinner. Tonight I’ve made a delicious deluxe cheese burger, and on the side we’re eating roasted veggies smothered in delicious butter. When you look at the bounty on our plates, take a moment to really look at it and think; what part of the meal, the burger or the veggies, is the least sustainable part of the meal?

image of two open-faced cheese burgers on a blue plate. The cheese burgers are topped with cheddar, crispy jalapenos, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles.
Yummy, juicy loaded cheese burgers. Imagine the veggies, will ya?

Without knowing much about how all that food got to my plate, you’re likely going to answer something along the lines of “the burger” because of the vegetarian = sustainability rhetoric that people tend to tout. And in a lot of cases, you probably wouldn’t be wrong. Meat products generally have much higher footprints than vegetables. But look closely at the hypothetical meal. This is being served up in January, and the roasted veggies are all in the nightshade and squash families. There’s peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini. None of these fruit grow naturally here in January. I got them all from the grocery store. While the tomato boasted a title of locally grown, the rest of the yummies all came from different countries. How were those tomatoes grown in the dead of winter?

“None of these fruit grow naturally here in January.”

Notice that I refer to the goods on my plate as both fruits and vegetables in different instances? They’re all technically fruit as they all are vehicles for seed growth and distribution, and they are all vegetables as they are all edible crops.

And this is where we start to get into what I like to call the sustainability teeter totter. When two different actions both have different footprints involved and you, the end user, need to evaluate which footprint is the one that you should care more about reducing.


the measurement of the resource(s) that are used in order for the individual or organization to be able to consume/produce the end product.

When we are trying to live more consciously and trying to minimize the harm our actions and consumption take on the planet, we tend to listen to the general statements made about actions we should take. So you might hear that the carbon footprint of meat is astronomical when compared to that of vegetables, or that you should be putting your plastics into recycling to divert it to from the landfills, or that you should take the bus instead of driving. While these are all generally good “tips” they don’t encompass the full picture and often leave people with larger footprints than they intend.

But the issue is when you do start looking more at the different kinds of footprints, aside from the science informing choices, there’s a lot of personal opinions that come into play when making the “more sustainable” option. This is because what is more sustainable and why can be interpretive. Is your water footprint more impactful than your carbon footprint because you value our fresh water more? Well then maybe you only want to purchase hydroponically grown veggies, even if that means they’re trucked in from the states.

So one person may say “in my house I have ceramic dishware because I can wash the plates between each use and there is no waste” but another may say “I use only paper plates in my house as they can be composted and it helps me to keep my water footprint low.” I know at a glance, you may think the second person foolish. Sure, they don’t waste water washing dishes, but what about the water used to make that paper plate? They may argue back “what about the water used to make the ceramic plates?” Different people are going to value different sustainability methods. And hello teeter totter.

Many large boxes, stacked in the back of a car, with the back seats folded down.
This is a whole cow, shoved, somehow, into the back of my little Pontiac Vibe.

Going back to my plate of delicious food. Knowing what you know of the vegetables, you may still say that my burger is still the less sustainable option on my plate. In my personal opinion, it isn’t. The beef in that burger comes from a local farm where I purchased the whole cow. I like to point out that this farm also grows food and uses the composted manure from their cattle to help fertilize their crop, which is so much better for the soil and the plants than synthetic fertilizers. While I may not have gotten the hide, I did get the bones, the various cuts of meat, meat that didn’t make the cut (pun intended) was turned into ground beef. I also skipped out on the organs, but the butcher (who is attached to the farm) did keep them and hopefully was able to sell them in his market. Now, we do not eat enough beef to make a full cow worth it, so I split it among 4 other families. So what you can see here is I did not buy mass produced meat (which is definitely not a sustainable option), little of my cow went to waste, the meat I received came in minimal, paper packaging, and didn’t travel far to get from the farm to the butcher, nor did it travel far to get from the butcher to my home. Additionally because I wanted yummy fresh, local meat but couldn’t take on a whole cow, I was able to have 4 other families make a more sustainable meat option (we all live in the metro area and usually shop at places like Great Canadian Superstore, so this beef option wouldn’t usually be our first go-to). Ultimately, the meat from the burger had far less impact on the environment than if I had gone to, say, a chain restaurant. Another good note here is that that bun was homemade and the pickles were all from cucumbers I grew fresh in my garden. The overall plastic footprint of the burger is minimal, the carbon footprint is below average (as it is still meat from a cow, but the cow was not transported), and the water footprint is also smaller.

Basket with many different sized cucumbers in it
Lookie these homegrown monstrosities!
Clear glass jar filled with cucumbers, dill, garlic, and vinegar.
One of the first jars of homemade pickles I ever made!
6 golden buns sitting on parchment paper
Is there anything better than a home baked bun?

But those veggies? The tomatoes were grown locally, but likely in a greenhouse; how much power was required to keep that greenhouse running; how many contaminates are added to the soil? How much water is used? And the international veggies all took a very long car ride to get to my house. Without doing proper calculations (because I’m not a scientist, I am you regular Joe-shmo consumer who is basing my judgement on the parts of this equation that I understand) I am going to make the calculated guess that my veggies have an equal-to or higher carbon footprint to that of the burger on my plate.

So that makes another valuable point to the teeter totter here. How much information do I know about the choices I am making? If my information is limited, all I know is I have a cheese burger and roasted veggies on my plate, I am going to agree that yes, the vegetables are the more sustainable part of my meal. But the more information I’m given, the clearer the image becomes of the sustainability in each option.

Two vacuum sealed bags containing palak paneer.
I recently made up a bunch of Palak paneer and it was SOOOO yummy, I had to make sure I had more for the freezer. I pack them in these bags so I don’t need to worry about freezer burn.

So when you’re trying to live in a more sustainable fashion and trying to make changes to everyday actions, try to look into what the impact of each action is before coming to the conclusion of which is more sustainable. And try to remember that sustainability can also be a point of view. Is vacuum sealing my freezer food in bags better for the environment, or should I be storing all my food in reusable plastic containers? It doesn’t matter which you view to be more sustainable, and you shouldn’t pass judgement on others for what they’ve deemed to be more important. Personally, I vacuum seal because it means that my food is less likely to get freezer burnt and is therefore less likely to go to waste.

Taking Emotional Labour Into My Own Hands

Once I started school again in the fall I broke down a few times in tears because I was utterly overwhelmed. I debated dropping classes, paying even more for child care, or maybe going on strike from housework and child care, just so my husband could understand what I deal with regularly. I was tackling all the emotional labour that gets put onto one partner or another, and let’s face it, that partner is usually the female one (in a male/female relationship anyhow; and also likely in a female/female relationship).

Toddler, clad only in her diaper, with a pencil and notebook in hand, looking to be erasing notes on the page.
Did you know that it’s still considered plagiarism when it’s your own kid writing your papers for you? Lesson learned. Maybe not the way to lighten my workload. Let’s try something else.

Emotional labour was not a new concept in our house. Years ago, when Jim (husband man) and I first got together, I shared with him my struggles and I gradually learned that it was called emotional labour. I stumbled upon a comic strip or something and it allowed me to give a name to what I was facing.

Emotional Labour

Noun. The unseen work that goes on to keep others content and happy
Mom and daughter sitting on a couch together, taken as a selfie
Like I love being a mom, but I wish the job description would have been a little more robust

The most popular people to be exploited by emotional labour? Moms. There are seemingly endless tasks to complete to make a household function and usually, it’s that mom figure who does it all. It’s important for me to note here that I say mom figure intentionally. I know it’s not always women and it’s not always a mother who are greasing the household cogs, but the person in charge of this usually is a mom figure. It’s also important to note that emotional labour doesn’t include things like managing house work, but in the way I’m going to talk about it here, it will for simplicity’s sake.

To give you an idea of what emotional labour might look like: it might be me reminding my husband that tomorrow is garbage day so remember to set an alarm. He’s a grown ass man, he can remember that on his own. It might be turning off the oven that was left on for god-knows how long. It might look like a lot of things, but let’s refer to it as the mental workload.

When I broke down crying the first time this past September it was because I was in class (online learning in the COVID era… yay.) and Jim knew that because I was actively listening to a lecture, I couldn’t go upstairs to fetch Cecilia from her crib when she woke up so he’d have to. No big deal, he had the baby monitor and I had reminded him before I went into my lecture. When she woke up, I listened to her scream for 30 minutes, I sent Jim texts to ask him to get her (his office is next door to her bedroom, it’s not like he was down the street or anything). Eventually, I unpluged my laptop, abandoned my notes, and carried the computer with me up from the bottom level to the top of our split level home to get Cecilia from the crib and bring her downstairs with me.

I knew that part of going back to school now was that I was going to have to do a little juggling, manage some multitasking, and I was ready, but I was ready with the understanding that I had support (and I do, just to be clear, it just didn’t feel like I did). My lecture ended and I cried. I cried as I carried our daughter up the stairs, opened the door to Jim’s office and asked what the hell happened.

He had forgotten. He put on his noise cancelling headphones and didn’t hear her cries, or see my messages.

The second time I cried was after a 10am-5:30pm school day where I ate some Doritos and tea for lunch, while I cared for and entertained an energetic 16 month old, then was expected to make dinner, but the kitchen was a disaster so I couldn’t really cook. I think I ended up ordering pizza because I was so overwhelmed.

Education while you have kids is not for the faint of heart.

Image of the book "fair play" by eve rodsky
Look for this book! It might offer some help!

This is when I went to my local Facebook mom’s group and pleaded for help. I knew I wasn’t the only one facing the emotional labour that seems so much more cumbersome during a pandemic. I wasn’t. Among the many suggestions, most of which were already tried, someone pointed me in the direction of the Fair Play book and cards from Eve Lodsky. Looking through the cards I realized what a helpful idea it was but these particular cards didn’t quite work with my family, our schedules, etc. Which is why I came up with my own.

The basic concept of Fair Play is a system to divvy up the work it takes to run and manage a household and remove some of that anxiety around who’s doing what. I find my interpretation of the deck also allows for tasks we do regularly but that are unseen to be seen and acknowledged by our partner.

Partner. Important word, folks. My husband and I are partners. We are equals. There is no hierarchy, no one person who is in charge, we are a team and in order for our lives to function, we need to work on that team. Jokes are made about “happy wife, happy life” and “who wears the pants in your marriage?” but this is all utter bullshit and I invite you not to but into it.


noun. A person with which you share your life equally

I went into my craft supply-filled office and pulled out a bunch of que cards, you know those little guys you make flash cards with? Yeah, those. I had a pack with 4 colours in it, and I started making our deck. I assigned a colour for foods, one for cleaning, one for baby related things, and the last “suit” was for odd items that didn’t fit into any particular category.

On each card I wrote out the job at hand, usually the days of the week they apply to, and specifics of that job.

Foods and Yums

  • Lunch, 1 card for each day of the week
  • Dinner, 1 card for each day of the week
  • Hosting meals and snacks, when we actually get to host. The card holder keeps this card until they do the task, then they pass it onto the other person
  • Meal planning and grocery shopping, one card

Cleaning up

  • Dishes/kitchen tidy, one card each for M-F, one card for Saturday and Sunday combined
  • Sweeping, one card for Mon/Tues, one card for Wed/Thurs (implying we’re both responsible each other day of the week if it needs to be done)
  • Hosting clean up, when we actually get to host.
  • Recycling (monitoring the indoor and sorting it to the outdoor bins)
  • Garbage (has to put out the garbage, green, and recycling bins on allotted day)
  • Laundry (and you have to do a minimum of one full load, folding the household laundry and baby laundry)
  • Diaper pail – the person who empties the diaper pail for the week
  • Living room/den clean-up for the week
  • Reading nook clean-up for the week

Baby stuff

  • Organizing childcare for the upcoming week
  • Keeping the diaper bag stocked for the week
  • Child minder, one card each M-F, responsible for the kid(s) after 5pm. They can ask for help or support, of course, but they’re the ones who have to put energy into it


  • Packing – excursion; if we go out for a day trip, this person is responsible for packing all the things needed by the group as a whole, themselves, and the kid(s). They also are responsible for getting everyone out of the house on time
  • Packing – overnight; same as day trip, but for overnight.
  • Fridge clean out, once a month
  • Estate and will planning – basically supposed to look at our end of life document for our trustees. It a long work in process, but this way we chip off at it a little every week.

I also wrote out some rule cards, and really, the rules are simple:

  • Cardholder is responsible for getting their card complete, however, if they need help, they can ask for it (and if the other person cannot help, that’s okay too)
  • Person not holding the card should not make the job harder. Call them out if they are
  • If cardholder does not complete their duty, their punishment is knowing they let down their partner/family
  • Card holder had complete autonomy over their jobs. It is their responsibility and theirs alone. They will not be reminded or prompted to do their job. They will do it to their own level of perfection. If their work does not live up to the others’ expectations, a conversation should be had and an agreement of completion should be stated in writing on the card

When I brought these to my husband, he didn’t question it. I told him if we want to be able to thrive, not just survive, as a couple, I needed this. I needed him to see the work I did and take on some of his own without me having to ask to fill the damn dishwasher. We implemented it immediately.

There was a little bit of a learning curve. We had to remember which cards we had every day, and remember to re-deal the deck every Sunday for the next week. We have to let things slide if someone doesn’t or isn’t able to complete their work, and learn to feel accountable to the other for getting our tasks done.

One year old in yellow top and tulle skirt, with cake on and in her hands and on her face, and a large sheet cake is in front of her. Child has an expression of "wow" on her face.
Shit, who was supposed to be watching Cecilia?
photo cred to the wonderful Mariel Nelms

We also discovered a lot of holes in the system. It’s by no means perfect. We just added 4 new cards with the new year, and we’ll probably add more as time goes on. But since we started using these homemade DIY cards, my mental health has increased significantly. I am able to sit down and focus without feeling like I have to go running anytime Cecilia screams because it’s not my night to worry. It also serves as an important reminder of the work the other person does. My husband gets the garbage card every single week, because he’s usually up that early, but it serves as a reminder that he has a job and does it. Every time, without fail, I have the meal planning and grocery shopping card, mostly because it’s work I enjoy, but Jim remembers that “hey, Breanne’s got this task to take care of that’s essential to our household’s function, I will not take that for granted.”

Family of three sitting in couch/chair in front of a decorated christmas tree. The parents are wearing matching blue pjs with llamas on them and the toddler in their laps is wearing a dark holiday dino onsie.
I loved taking a matching jammy photo on Christmas, but the no-man’s land in chores that surrounded it had to go.

We missed it sorely on the weeks where we didn’t divvy up the cards, and over the Christmas break where I was recovering from surgery, then a surgery complication, then spending days at the in-laws, we didn’t use them and it was a weird, lawless time where I’m not sure anything actually happened. I don’t recall eating. Anyway, the point here is when we aren’t using them, we aren’t functioning as a household, at least not in a sustainable way.

The most important lesson I can deliver from my journey with learning about, acknowledging, understanding, and tackling emotional labour is you HAVE to talk about it. You’re not discussing it to make anyone feel guilty, it’s a term you need to use to communicate what your needs are. It’s a normal experience for at least 50% of the population and if we don’t talk about it, we can’t make changes to make it better. Emotional labour is like mental health; it’s not just going to go away and get better if you don’t talk about it; it’s going to fester and attack you when you’re in a weak spot. If you’re not sure if you’re experiencing emotional labour, you may not be, but your partner might be dealing with it. Regardless of if you feel it or not, talk about this mental load with your partner, ask them if there’s anything you can do better, or ask them for help. If you don’t ask for help, you probably won’t get help. Maybe purchase the deck yourself, or if the cards don’t quite fit with your lifestyle, make your own.

Meme of Michael Scott of NBC's The Office sitting in front of a white board that says: 
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. - Wayne Gretzky" -Michael Scott
I leave you with this very important quote that lives on with the Michael Scott Paper Company
(Credit to NBC, I believe! Though it is a popular meme these days)