For the past couple years I have started my tomato and pepper seeds indoors mid-March; it is usually this time of year that the gardening itch begins. But by the beginning of May the seedlings are too huge! So this year I delayed starting the seeds until the end of March. On March 30th, to be exact, I planted one flat of tomatoes, one flat of sweet peppers and one flat with a mix of spicy peppers, basil, parsley and leeks. This year the tomatoes I planted included: Jaune Flamme, Gardener's Delight, Kellog's Breakfast, Indigo Rose, Opalka, Heidi, Super Fantastic, Pink Bumble Bee and Red Brandywine. Most of these seeds I had saved from previous years but I did purchase Pink Bumble BeeOpalka and Heidi were given to me. I also planted a mix of sweet pepper: Chocolate Beauty, Sweet Twingo, Orange Sun, California Wonder, Gypsy, Sweet Banana and Pepperoncini and hot peppers: Chile de Arbol, Ancho, Jalapeno. I have finally learned that it is better to have more sweet peppers than spicy peppers.

My children had their own tray to plant this year. My eldest planted pumpkin, zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower seeds and my daughter planted an assortment of pretty flowers. I am particularly fond of the many pencils they've used to stake their plants. I don't think there are any pencils left for writing, which might be part of some secret plan.

At the beginning of April I planted peas, spinach and radishes outside. My peas came up beautifully but as soon as I took off the cover the quail started to devours them. Those pesky birds! The radishes are growing well, apparently quail don't eat radish leaves. The spinach is (once again) so pitiful I think I will give up on it. I haven't planted anything else outside despite the record breaking warm weather we experienced last week (around 30°C!). My garden beds have been needing more soil and I have just started the hard work of replenishing them one wheelbarrow at a time.

Around the rest of the yard fruit trees are blooming beautiful pinks and whites. The peach tree is thriving and was covered in blooms this year. The daffodils and tulips have bloomed and now we are enjoying purple and white flowers on our wisteria and lilacs. Goodness how I love spring!

One month ago: Garden Journal (yr 4: vol 1)
One year ago: Garden Journal (yr 3: vol 2)
Two years ago: Garden Journal (yr 2: vol 2)
Three years ago: Garden Journal (vol 2) 
The trail turnoff to the cliff is indicated by these rocks and logs. We missed it and only noticed it on the way back.

Peach Cliff mountain is well known landmark in Okanagan Falls, BC. We hiked through this area two years ago and while some aspects of our last hike were still fresh in my memory, others weren't. I did remember how to access the trail head which is located off McLean Creek Road, close to Okanagan Falls. There is no signage marking the trail and not much parking either. Look for a cattle gate beside which is small parking spot. There is a portion of the barbed-wire fence that can be opened, be sure to close it on your way through.

There are some really interesting things to see along the Peach Cliff trails which makes it a great place for families to explore. Near the beginning of the hike there is a structure filled with coring samples and a little past this structure, following a trail going left, there is a pond. This pond is what remains of Dusty Mac mine, an open pit gold mine that produced a significant amount of gold in the later part of the twentieth century. Sometimes, like on our recent visit, the pond has large schools of goldfish coloring the water orange.

Continuing on the wide trail there is plenty of beautiful flora to appreciate. Perhaps it was these lovely plants, along with my lapse in memory, that caused me to miss the trail leading up to the Peach Cliff! I should mention that the small trail veering left from the main trail is not marked by signage. There are only a few rocks and logs pointing hikers in the proper direction (see the picture above). No, we missed the turn and marched onward until we came upon a gate put in place by the Nature Trust marking off part of the Okanagan Falls Biodiversity Ranch. We continued past the gate a little ways and as the trail started sloping downhill I knew we had taken a wrong turn. Backtracking a bit we found a small trail cutting across in the direction of Peach Cliff and followed it!

Our detour added a few extra kilometers but our children were troopers (we had cookies for motivation!) and the views we lovely. Eventually we found the trail leading up to the cliff; it starts near a large metal gate. Before starting the final ascent there are several interesting to discovery in the area: a balancing rock, a cave and a geocache. We did not explore these this time, because of the extra kilometers we had already walked and the last uphill stretch still awaiting us.

The view from the top of Peach Cliff is amazing and we marveled, as one should from this vantage point. The hike back down was a breeze and we took note of our wrong turn and took several pictures to remind ourselves of where it is for next time.

There is a red maple tree in our yard that is strong, beautiful and life-giving. In the spring it is covered in an explosion of blossoms and filled with the gentle humming of bees and constant flutter of birds. A couple years ago I hung a bird-feeder on one of its sturdy branches and it did not take long for birds to discover its location. In the evenings I like to quietly sit in my hammock and watch our little visitors. Bird watching is meditative and interesting. After some time it becomes apparent that each bird has unique personality traits and I enjoy watching the various interactions and listening to their calls and songs. The Brewers' blackbirds, with their sharp call, tend to be bossy and chase away the smaller house sparrows, house finches and white-crowned sparrows. The smaller birds are quick and flighty, never staying in one place for long. The gentle collard dove enjoys an occasional snack on the feeder, not minding the other birds, and only comes by every once and awhile. Then not far behind is a large flock of curious quail that forage on the dropped seeds and make the occasional attempt at reaching the feeder. All these little creatures are so marvelous and I feel blessed to witness a small part of their day.

To help me identify birds I use the Birds of Interior BC and the Rockies book written by Richard Cannings. It is an easy-to-use handbook that I highly recommend for beginner birdwatchers (like myself!).

Over the last month we have been exploring hikes and nature parks in the central and south areas of the Okanagan. Some of these hikes are new to us, like Giant's Head Mountain Park and Knox Mountain, while others, like Naramata Creek Park, are favourites that we are revisiting. Sometimes I develop this insatiable urge to explore new areas, all the while ignoring hikes and nature parks that we have already seen. Yet, after revisiting several hikes in the last month I am reminded about the importance of doing so, especially for my children.

Children benefit in several ways by returning to hikes that have been previously explored. The first being that it encourages connection to an area which in turn fosters place-based learning. By becoming familiar with an area my children are more aware of the seasonal changes that occur over the year. They might notice the growth cycle of Oregon Grape shrubs or note that a stream is so "full and fast in the spring!". Connection to an area also promotes questioning and curiosity about an area's geography, geology and culture. My children might ask "why does this rock look like this?" or wonder about the pictographs they discovered.

The other advantage to revisiting hikes is that it encourages further exploration. Often, on the first time through an area, there is little desire to deviate from the main trail. Yet during each subsequent visit to an area my children become ever more curious and want to explore new trails and gain new perspectives. Geocaching can be a great activity to encourage further exploration when revisiting hikes and nature parks.

Finally, and importantly, redoing hikes builds confidence in children. The first time we hiked in Naramata Creek Park it was a bit challenging. Granted, we had an old dog with us and my youngest had just turned three. When hiked there again last summer with our friends it was a bit easier, and now, one year later, not only did we venture further up the waterfall but we ran the whole way back to the parking lot and there were smiles all around (well mostly).

I am sure there are plenty of other benefits to revisiting hikes and I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to chime in the comment section below. In the meantime, happy exploring!