Mother’s Day, belly beads, and permaculture adventures

It has been a few busy weeks, and it seems the next few shall bring much activity as well, so it took me until Friday to write this post. With the spring coming, I’m working on a fresh new product line of belly beads and planning my garden using the permaculture approach. And so far it has been an exciting adventure with lots to learn.

We had a lovely Mother’s day. My partner made banana oatmeal pancakes, and we spent the morning at home playing with the kids. In the afternoon, we set off to our respective adventures. The baby and I went to Mothers, Midwives & Babies: Celebrating 20 Years of Ontario Midwifery, and my partner and son spent that time at the Aviation Museum. It was great to see the midwives, get a tour of the new birth centre in Ottawa, view a collage of old photos documenting the history of midwifery in Ontario, and spend time with friends outdoors while kids played around us. Afterwards we came home and had a relaxing evening with Thai takeout for dinner and more quiet play.


For the past couple of weeks, I have been working on belly beads and loving it. I have initially thought of making belly beads for pregnant bellies only, but then I tried some on and realized how wonderful they feel. They also do seem to make me a lot more aware of my core muscles – which makes me remember yoga a lot more often. I have been wearing some around the house for the past few days. The Canada Post lady delivering a package smiled in surprise – I thought to tell her that, yes, I just belly dance all day, hence the attire.

I have incorporated gemstones, crystals, and Czech fire-polished beads into the designs, and have tried two- and three-colour combinations so far. They come out vibrant and light. I added a small drop to each one to hang over the belly button, as an accent. Some of them are being field-tested by friends and so far I’m getting great feedback. A friend has mentioned that her daughter would love some, and so I shall be testing out belly beads for children. And there are beads in the works for two friends who wish to celebrate their beautiful growing pregnant bellies. It is shaping up to be a very exciting and fulfilling project.

Bright side of life cards, etsy, front hyacinth, md

If I did not have my hands full before, I’m certainly lining things up to be busy this summer. For three years now, we have been growing some food and flowers on our tiny plot of land. Some plants in some years gave plentiful harvest, but we have to struggle with a clay-filled shallow soil, lack of an external water hook-up, and hours of blazing hot sun that burns down plants even when they are watered every day. And although I have grown some beautiful flowers that made it onto the postcards, so far nothing that requires even partial shade has survived a summer, and our daily watering ritual includes hooking up the garden hose to the kitchen sink, which requires partial disassembly of the tap. Last summer, watering was a bit easier since there was so much rain, but few things ripened as there were not that many sunny days. It is a delicate dance between scorching heat and never-ending rain, not with any consistent results.

Oh, and squirrels. Did I mention squirrels? If we actually manage to grow anything edible, before we even know it’s nearing a ripe state, squirrels consume half of it and scatter the other half. Strawberries, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, flower bulbs and petals, – you name it, they eat or destroy it. And peanuts are to be stored in my flower beds, since that’s the best hiding spot in the entire neighbourhood. The flowers can just move over in their opinion. To be fair, I cannot blame the squirrels from picking on me, as most people in our town house complex have their back yards paved with large square stone tiles and do not suffer anything to grow if they can help it.

So this year I am attempting to put more thought into the garden design, and I have been looking into permaculture with the help of the wonderful Dasha and Sebastien from Agape Gardens. I have been watching Geoff Lawton’s inspiring videos on transforming dry terrain into luscious gardens and learning how permaculture designs use the natural features of the land to create a viable food-producing ecosystem.

Our rental corporation is planning to replace all the fences, and so we have to be constrained in our design, to prevent the trampling and destruction of the plants during the construction. So for now nothing can climb fences or grow too close to them, which is unfortunate. Since we have so little space and so much sun, we have decided to go vertical and create plant towers. That can allow us to plant flowers or root vegetables (such as carrots, beets, potatoes) on top, heavy vegetables (squashes and such) on the bottom, and things like strawberries, tomatoes, and greens on the sides of the tower. The herbs can then go on the ground around the towers. The towers will also allow us to create some shade and hopefully prevent the plants from being scorched if the summer is very hot.

If anyone has any ideas on how to deter the squirrels, I’d love to hear them! I have tried black or cayenne pepper sprinkled on top of the plants, but it gets washed off by the first rain, and squirrels seem to ignore it in any case. We cannot put any wire or anything spiky on the ground, as we do have children and a cat who can get hurt by it. We are planning to get a bird feeder to attract the birds to the garden for insect consuming purposes, and perhaps squirrels will take more interest in the feeder than in the plants, but I have my doubts. After all, flower beds are a great choice for peanut hiding, and the towers will likely be as well.

Lots to learn, and lots to plan and implement. I am excited to try this approach and see where it takes us.


  1. simplyfiendish

    A solution of diced jalapeño peppers, vinegar and water works to deter squirrels.
    Squirrels hate the scent of peppermint. Planting peppermint around your garden may keep squirrels away. Placing a few drops of peppermint oil on cotton balls and dispersing them throughout your garden helps keep squirrels from feasting on garden plants.
    Another option is to sprinkle the urine of squirrel predators around the garden. Wolf urine may be ordered on the Internet for this purpose. Not sure if it would freak out and scare your cat from going outdoors, though.

    • Heh, yeah, our squirrels ignore mint or any other fragrant herbs that are supposed to deter them. And the wolf urine will likely make the cat vow to never leave the house again : )
      Hm, I might try the solution of diced jalapeño peppers, vinegar and water. It will likely need to be re-applied after every rain. Have you had success with it?

  2. simplyfiendish

    I have had success with each of them to varying degrees.
    If peppermint is not compatible with other plants that are growing in a certain spot, I don’t plant them.
    Jalapeño solution works.
    I have used the wolf/predator urine surrounding my garden, outdoor plants and trash cans because I am tired of cats using my garden as a litter box and living so close to the ravine, I have to deal with raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes and porcupines.
    You may also find predator urine at outdoor/sporting stores. I know my ex husband used to buy it for when he went to the hunt camp.

    • Sounds like quite a handful of wildlife around you. Very curious – does the predator urine deter all of them enough not to partake in your garden’s harvest? Have you used it since you got cats? Just wondering how they would react to it.

      Jalapeño solution – how often do you re-apply it?

  3. simplyfiendish

    Jalapeño solution, I usually applied weekly, after I cut the lawn around the perimeter, or right after a few days of heavy rain.

    Pedator urine does keep ALL the creatures out of my garden. Also from getting into my trash cans and making a mess all over my driveway. I also apply it in areas that they may try to make a home, like under my front steps where there is a big opening for them to have access to. Had a problem with a skunk trying to live under my steps.
    My cat does get a little squirrely when I first apply it and the windows are open for her to smell, but eventually she does calm down. I do not worry about how she may react if she was to get outdoors because she is an indoor cat. If it encourages her to stay in and not always try to escape, all the better. ;)

    • Pedator urine does sound intriguing. We try to encourage Bagheera to go out during the summer though (so he can have free roam, make friends, and does not destroy the furniture), so I’ll put that in future possibilities list : )
      For the jalapeño solution – what proportions/preparation instructions do you use?

  4. simplyfiendish

    I never used any specific measurements. I always eyeballed it. I guess it would depend on the size of garden or gardens.
    For my front yard garden (approx. 2.5 ft x 7 ft.) I use 2-3 jalapeño, 3-4 tbsp of vinegar and maybe a cup of water. I personally let the solution sit and mingle a bit, along with some shaking, in a spray bottle. Then I spray the area to get maxium and even coverage, then empty out the bottle and spread the jalapeño.
    Depending, also how stubborn you critters are, you may need to make a larger batch.
    Don’t forget the peppermint is also awesome if you plant it near compatible plants or in containers and sit them in your garden. I like the pepperment also, to had flavour to my tea, water, ice cream, etc.

    • Oh, I do have mint in the garden, and will likely keep it there. Last year it all but took over the entire garden. Before I used to have it in a pot indoors, and it actually took over the neighbouring pots by implanting its shoots like strawberries do. Eventually I had a bunch of pots interconnected by mint. So at this point I keep it outdoors in a controlled manner. I do use it in tea, water, cocktails, and salads. It just has not been effective in deterring squirrels.

      Thank you for the spray recipe. When you say you “spread the jalapeño”, what exactly do you mean?

  5. simplyfiendish

    I just spread the diced peppers, evenly as possible by hand.
    Well, I do wear gloves, so not to get the peppers on my hands, then rub my face by accident. Done that more than once. Not pretty.

  6. simplyfiendish

    Normally, I may not mind having my cat roam outdoors, but fleas are real issue in this area and she is allergic to them. Yes…my cat is allergic to fleas and flea bites. It’s not pretty and very costly to take her to the vets. Cars also tend to speed on my street. My cat is not all the bright and will most likely find herself at the wrong end of a skunk (there are so many of them, here). Plus, too many predators, like coyotes that come up from the ravine.
    When I am outside, I will let her come out with me on a long leash to play and get some fresh air.

  7. Pingback: Permaculture garden preparations - Fingering Zen

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