Disclaimer: I had no idea what I was doing last year when I planted these cucumbers. It was a 'learn as you go' type of experience!
The seedlings were quickly outgrowing their initial pots and started shading other plants in the greenhouse so I figured it was time to move them to the great outdoors. At the time, I thought this teepee-style trellis was a good idea... but later learned that was not nearly enough!
Cucumber tendrils appear as the young plants start settling in! They begin grabbing onto the trellis and stretching out towards the sun.
Week 11-12 : Hello Flowers!
This is when we started experiencing major growth spurts which I think is due to a combination of the weather and larger soil area which can now absorb and hold more water.
We took a summer vacation and came back to a tangled mess. The plants had started grabbing onto their neighbors and all of the leaves were getting very crowded. I separated them from each other and built a larger trellis as seen below. The leaves looked a bit droopy after aggressive manual intervention so I was worried.
Week 17 - Fruits of our LAbor
Despite the previous manual handling of the plants, they rebounded and actually started producing cucumbers! This was thanks to a single lonely bee that somehow ended up on our 27th floor balcony and some very tedious pollination by hand using an old eyeliner brush of mine. I am just gazing at my cucumber in awe in the last photo.
Week 18 & Beyond
The following weeks of summer were less exciting as we lost our single bee friend who helped with the pollination. We also experienced a powdery mildew attack on our cucumbers which I had a hard time battling. I have not planted any cucumbers this year yet but after writing up this post, I think I will go do that right now!
Since I moved to Toronto from NYC at the end of 2018 after moving so many times in my life, I have finally started nesting. Is it some chemical reaction happening in my brain as I get older? Am I starting to abandon the chase of metropolitan city living? Am I forgetting that I have to haul all my shit when I undoubtedly move again? In any case, I wanted to document my plant parenthood and growth as it developed over the course of 2019. I am continuing this journey now in 2020 and hope it'll be as fun and exciting as last year!
It started with lemongrass and my dad's dragon fruit. In Feb 2019, we decided to plant some lemongrass for fun and the dragon fruit from my dad's garden in Los Angeles. There's no way the dragon fruit will bear fruit in our Toronto climate but we thought we'd try to revive it.
Week 1 - The experiment starts
After a moment of crazed research and short trip to the dollar store, I started planting.
Peep my very low-cost lighting contraption that did nothing at all. I was proud of myself for about a day.
3 weeks In(End of April)
Decided to plant sunflowers without realizing they are Russian mammoths (more on that in another post). By April 30, almost all of my seeds have germinated and sprouted! I did not expect such a high germination rate hence the density of my seedlings. This led to some tricky balcony layouts in the summer.
4 weeks in (Beginning of May)
Yep, I got really excited and bought a greenhouse and an LED plant light. The weather started warming up but I kept the plants in the greenhouse with a heating pad.
6 Weeks in
Things starting getting out of hand with space and I had to get creative. Say hello to the top of my microwave and top of my fridge.
8 Weeks In
My babies started looking like real plants! We spent a Saturday morning separating the seedlings into their separate pots as they started to crowd each other. This was about the time I started calling them my babies as well...
10 weeks In
The growth sped up quickly as the weather warmed up and I started exposing the seedlings to direct sunshine for a few hours a day. Also, I decided it was a good idea to plant cucumbers without realizing how much space they actually need. These fabric pots are convenient for people who move often (aka me).
12 Weeks in - My First HArvest! (July 1)
Right before Andrew and I went on vacation to Greece, we started witnessing major growth. It was so wonderful to see my pet project (literally) grow!
Andrew, being my #1 fan, was the first to taste our very first balcony garden harvest :) He was more impressed than the picture indicates.
14 weeks in
We took a brief hiatus during our Greece trip and enlisted one of our close friends (shout out to Cory!) to water our plants while we were gone. Lo and behold, we came back to a mini urban jungle and had some reorganizing to do.
Threw together a plant trellis with some more materials from the dollar store and acquired more pots.
The rest of the summer
The rest of the summer involved more harvests, lots of watering, and plenty of lounging in my hammock. As I write this in April 2020, I cannot wait for hammock weather to return to Toronto!
After our brief stint in Athens, we flew into Chania and immediately took a bus to Chora Sfakion (a.k.a. Sfakia). We were really pushing the limit on time as our flight landed at 2:30pm and the bus to Chora Sfakion leaves at 3:30pm. As luck may have it, I was asked to check my backpack when we checked in for our flight but Andrew wasn't yet his backpack looked so much larger... I am convinced our backpacks were the same size but I was singled out because the backpack look larger relative to the backpack carrier. We did test it against those luggage size things at the airport and his did fit while mine barely did not :(
Anyway, I digressed from the topic at hand! While we thought we would barely make it to the bus, it turned out to be fine as we were reassured by our taxi driver from the airport who was cool as a cucumber. The cost of a taxi would have been upwards of 100 euros whereas the bus was a fraction of the price.
We spent one short night in Sfakia as our end goal was to use that as a starting point for the rest of our hikes along the southwest of Crete.
That's the small town of Sfakia at sun rise the next morning as we embarked on our hike. There is no editing on this photo as I wanted to show how calm and dimly lit it was.
The hike starts next to the parking lot where you are dropped off by the bus from Chania and you have a bit of a steep scramble to get to the top. Once you're at the top, it's paved road for the first 20-30 minutes of the way.
Along the paved road, you'll pass by Ilingas beach which is a nice stop if you want to go for a swim. We did not make the stop as it was still pretty early on in our hike and in the morning.
Past Ilingas is where the trail begins on rocky hills. You first take a descent towards Sweet Water beach
This is me being happy that the hike has been easy so far. It's my 2nd time hiking with a backpack and this time we'd packed for 2 weeks. I did cheat on this hike and bit and offload a few pounds to Andrew. It was his initial offer anyway! While hiking down, we encountered goats upon goats upon goats! Cue the goat picture intermission:
Look at how MAJESTIC they are...come on! A part of me thinks Andrew should look into becoming a wildlife photographer. Okay, that ends my goat picture intermission for this blog post.
We took a short dip in the ocean just before getting to Sweet Water beach as we found this amazing outlet into the water but unfortunately did not take pictures of that. #livinginthemoment? #forgot
We made it to Sweet Water, snapped some photos, and went on our way as it was quickly getting pretty hot despite still being morning. It was probably around mid-70s as this point and was supposed to hit 90s by noon.
We encountered a ton more goats and finally spotted Loutro at around the 2 hour mark from when first started the hike. We spent the day at the beach there then caught the 7pm and last ferry of the day to Agia Roumeli where we planned to check out Samaria Gorge.
As an ending note, I was stung by a bee for the first time in my life at Loutro and I was terrified that I would react poorly. Did some research and it turns out you won't know if you are mortally allergic to bee stings until the second bee sting soooo looking forward to that...!
One of my favorite hikes on Crete was hiking the Samaria Gorge at 7AM. There are many reasons for this and while a big one is the lack of the large backpack I had on most other hikes, the primary reason was the sheer calm and quiet beauty of the gorge when you have the trail to yourself. After much research, I found that most people typically start the hike from the northern entrance at Xyloskalo trailhead and they usually are picked up via tours to start the hike sometime between 8-10AM. This option did not seem appealing as we did not want to hike with a group of people nor start that late. The heat of July in Greece is no joke (~30C) and we wanted to complete the hike before noon.
Our plan was to start the trail from the trailhead at the Agia Roumeli side and make our way up to Samaria village before turning around for a there and back hike. There was no way to do a looped hike and it did not make sense for us to hike up to the Xyloskalo trailhead as we did not plan on arranging for a car service.
Andrew and I started early before 6AM to get up, get ready, and head on our way from the hotel (Tarra) where we were staying. From town, we walked through a well-paved area to the opening of the trail and go there around 6:30 AM. To our dismay, we did not realize that we would not be let in until 7AM but it was a short wait after we figured this out through some sign language with the man at the entrance.
Note: The fee to enter is 5 Euros and you need to retain your ticket to show to the entrance / exit to leave.
On our way up from town to the trailhead, we passed through hordes of lamb and goats.
The water was wonderfully clear and beautiful as it runs over rocks. Much of this water goes to towns as their main water supply and it's easy to see why. Walking through the gorge and over rivers was simple - there were often wooden bridges such as the one above to avoid contaminating the water and to avoid getting yourself wet. This is all while taking in the incredible beauty of the gorge!
Certain areas only had rocky paths above the water but they were easy to navigate as well. I had a walking stick that I picked up conveniently by the trailhead but one could go without it.
The flowing streams of water ended and we encountered a mainly rocky stretch of the trail that looked like it used to have water flowing through it but not anymore. We were a bit nervous about this stretch of the trail when thinking about the walk back to where we started. As you can see, there will be minimal shade in the middle of the gorge by mid-day when the sun is overhead so Andrew urged me to pace a bit faster. I suppose this is one of those short people problems when you are walking with a tall person. I think I'm pacing perfectly fine with my 5'3" legs but need to go at a light jog if my 6'4" boyfriend starts to speed walk.
We're almost to the Samaria Village as the sun starts to rise over the mountain tops. At this point, we've encountered perhaps 2 other hikers which makes for a pretty private experience.
Across the bridge from Samaria Village.
From the map, you can see that we are a bit more than half the way to the Xyloskalo trailhead but for us, this was the turning point to go back down to Agia Roumeli and take a dip in the sea.
Here is a returning shot from the first section of the hike. The sun has risen a lot more but we made it back before noon!
If you've ever been to Vietnam, you know crossing the street is a terrifying and stressful task for visitors to the country. Now take that initial stress and add in the fact that Vietnam just ousted Qatar in football semi-finals. Celebrations flood the streets on motorbikes and trucks, and meanwhile, hapless pedestrians (mainly tourists who don't have bikes like myself) carefully wade through the crowd.
Ho Chi Minh City - you're crazy. I have some video clips of this mess so if anyone is curious of how this is live, feel free to comment below. Cue the chaos.
Some blurry selfies that turned out terribly.
To put this into perspective - here is a "normal" day.
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