Wooden Shoes and My First Vegetable Garden

A Few Words on Klompen

Visit Netherlands and you will definitely see them everywhere: wooden shoes sold as souvenirs. Coming in all shapes, sizes and colors, the wooden shoes have a long and interesting history, and were definitely not intended to be used as decorations.

Klompen date back all the way to the Middle Ages. The oldest wooden shoe, from the year 1230, was found in Netherlands, on Nieuwendijk, a historic street in Amsterdam.

DSC_5982Originally, shoes were out of reach for common people, and were worn only by the rich, as leather was very expensive. Still, the fancy leather shoes, were no match for the wet dirt found in the Dutch climate, so farmers came up with a one piece, cheap alternative shoe, made out of wood, which gained in popularity, starting with the beginning of the 16th century. Most proud Klompen owners, would have two pairs, one simple, which they would wear at work, and another pair, painted and nicely decorated, for special events.

Worn for over 800 years, we can say Klompen are shoes with pedigree!

Because wooden shoes are safer than any other type of shoe, protecting the feet against sharp objects and concentrated acids, Dutch farmers wear them up to this day, in the garden, or on the field.

My First Vegetable Garden Story

Living in a city for pretty much all my life, I have to start with saying: I don’t know anything about gardening, planting, seeds or caring for any type of vegetable, as I’ve never had the chance to do this before. Even so, I’m always willing to learn something new. As I always come up with crazy projects ideas, about 2 weeks ago I’ve decided to become a ‘farmer’, and start my first mini-garden.

After a lot of online research, I went to the local gardening store, got some seeds, a pair of Klompen (as you can’t be a real farmer without wooden shoes, right?) a lot of courage, and 4 pairs of socks later, I got down to business.

On paper, going from full city girl, to farmer girl looked easy, but I had no idea how hard it will be to get the soil ready for sowing. After I got some tips on how to do it, I realized seeds need a very airy, light soil in order to grow nicely, so it’s not enough to scratch the surface with the shovel, but you have to be serious about it.

my first vegetable garden

Getting the soil ready, the sowing of seeds and the containers

About 3 days later, a lot of muscle pain, and with a huge smile on my face, I was done! The soil was in the containers, the seeds were planted, and the waiting game began. In total, I planted 8 cherry tomato seeds, 5 cucumber seeds, 9 strawberry seeds, 9 carrot seeds, 15 radish seeds, 15 green onion seeds, 6 broccoli seeds, 18 wild arugula seeds, 6 lettuce seeds and 12 onions seeds. Not that bad for a beginner, I would say!

Even if this happened only 3 days ago, I still look out the window a few times per day, to make sure no tomatoes are already ripe and waiting for me to jump outside with my salad bowl, and greet them 🙂

Enjoying a job well done!

Enjoying a job well done!

After proudly wearing my Klompen in the garden, I don’t even know how I managed to live without them, so far. No other shoe is more comfortable (but with 4 pairs of socks, how can they not be, and no, don’t even think about wearing them without socks, or you will redefine the term of ‘pain’ 🙂 ) and more appropriate for muddy soil. They don’t sink and don’t get damaged, so what else could you ask from a shoe? Besides, they make very cute sounds when walking on the pavement. Actually, the first time I heard a farmer wearing them, I was pretty sure a miniature horse was following me around the supermarket.

All in all, my reason to start the garden is very simple: I love to cook, and I put a lot of love into it, as I like to see the person eating my food, very very happy. So, if I can cook with love, why not grow some vegetables with just as much love? They must taste much better (or at least that’s the plan)!

If no rabbit, deer, bird, mouse or mole get to my plants before I do (relying on beginner’s luck I guess 🙂 ), soon enough I should see some pretty plants growing in the garden. Keep your fingers crossed for me!


If you enjoyed this post, you should Follow Me On Twitter twitter-follow-button and Like My Page on Facebook Like_Me_Facebook_buttonfor more updates.

 

Bee Season

Either in our gardens, the park, or flower fields, spring is the season when we see a large number of bees, flying from one flower to the other. It’s the right season to admire these beautiful insects, at work, and capture a few pictures.

bees flowers

Every now and then, we might meet a few exhausted bees, unable to fly back to their hive, which puts them at risk of being eaten by birds. We can help the bees though, by making a sugar and water mix which helps revive them.

To create the ‘energy drink’ you should mix two tablespoons of white, granulated sugar, with one tablespoon of water, and place the mix on a spoon. Even if it seems little, do not add more water, otherwise the bee could drown. Then, place the exhausted bee on the spoon, where it will hopefully have a drink and gather the energy to fly back to its hive.

I believe bees are essential for the planet, so every rescue matters. If we can do something to help, then why not? 🙂 Happy Bee Season!


If you enjoyed this post, you should Follow Me On Twitter twitter-follow-button and Like My Page on Facebook Like_Me_Facebook_buttonfor more updates.

Bruges – The Bridge City Adventure

Bruges, the largest canal-based city of the province of West Flanders, in the Flemish Region of Belgium, a World Heritage Site of UNESCO since 2000, is one of the most historical significant cities in Europe.

City Gates

City Gates

Short History

With a name deriving from Dutch, Bruges is known as Brugghe (meaning “bridge“).

The city had various names though the time, starting from Bruggas, Brvggas, Brvccia to Bruciam, Bruociam, Bruggis, BricgeBrugensis, Brugias, BrugesBruggas, Brugis, and finally Brugge, since the year of 1116.

The first fortifications of the city were built by Julius Caesar in order to protect the coastal area against pirates. With a strategic position, Bruges soon became a gateway to The Amber Road, an important trading route, and was quickly known as the “chief commercial city” of the world.

With an impressive wool and cloth market and various grains and wines brought into the city by the English, Bruges developed in the 14th century to become the most sophisticated money market of the Low Countries, attracting a large number of artists and bankers from all over Europe. With oil painting and lace industry taking off, the city blossomed, until its fall, after the modernization of trading routes, in the 1700’s, when the city dropped in importance.

With most of its medieval architecture intact, Bruges is the perfect place for experiencing the exchange of influences on the development of architecture.

Bruges medieval cathedrals

St. Salvator’s Cathedral , The Belfry and The Church of Our Lady

Grote Markt, an area of about 1 hectare, is located in the medieval heart of the city, dominated by the 83 meter high Belfry tower. The cloth hall and tower, date all the way back to 1240, but they were rebuilt after the fire which destroyed them, in 1280. The tower used to be the location were all the important documents of the city were preserved, but it was also used at a watchtower. With a large number of bells, each having a distinct sound and function, the tower warns people against danger, indicated the time and also announces important events.

In the center of the market stands the statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, honoring the two leaders of the “Battle of the Golden Spurs” which took place in the 1302, when the Flemish raised against the occupation of the French king.

 Grote Markt

Grote Markt

The Provincial Court, located in the Grote Markt, is built on the site were the medieval “water halls” were located (covered halls where the ships could unload their cargo for storage or to sell).

DSC_5848

Provincial Court

Because the Flemish coastline was constantly flooded by the Northern Sea, the city was moved inland and the water canals were built as a network which enabled traders to bring their goods to the Water Halls, situated in the Grote Markt.

Bruges  bridges water canals

Bruges Water Canal Bridges

Nowadays, the water canals aren’t used by ships anymore, but only by tourist boats.

With a perfect blend of rich history, medieval constructions, water canals and bridges, Bruges is probably one of the most beautiful cities in Belgium.


If you enjoyed this post, you should Follow Me On Twitter twitter-follow-button and Like My Page on Facebook Like_Me_Facebook_buttonfor more updates.

 

Sunflower and Butterfly

Because the weather was so nice in the past few days, I spent some time in the garden, painting. I was inspired by all the beautiful colors of spring, to paint a happy butterfly, sitting on a sunflower.

Halfway to finishing the details of the flower, a bee landed on the paper. Should I take it as a compliment? 🙂

Enjoy!

111546177


Contact me to buy an original painting or a very high quality reproduction on canvas 


If you enjoyed this post, you should Follow Me On Twitter twitter-follow-button and Like My Page on Facebook Like_Me_Facebook_buttonfor more updates.

My New Guard … Ducks?!

It’s always fun to make new friends, and today I made a new one, when a wild duck landed in my garden, early in the morning, looking for something to eat.

DSC_57155

After feeding it, the duck left, just to come back with 4 more friends. Word gets round fast, doesn’t it?wild_ducks

With 4 more satisfied customers, I went back inside only to find the house surrounded and guarded by my new friends.

I think I’ve just been adopted by 5 wild ducks 🙂 Neat!

guard_ducks


If you enjoyed this post, you should Follow Me On Twitter twitter-follow-button and Like My Page on Facebook Like_Me_Facebook_buttonfor more updates.

 

Keukenhof – Flower Paradise

Keukenhof ( in Dutch, “Kitchen garden“), situated in Lisse, the Netherlands ( halfway between Amsterdam and The Hague), is also known as the Garden of Europe, which is the world’s second largest flower garden following the Dubai Miracle Garden.

keukenhof4

Short History

The origins of the garden goes back to the 15th century, when Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria, Jacoba van Beieren, gathered fruit and vegtables from the woods and dunes around, for her Castle kitchen.

keukenhof_treesLater on, in the 1850’s, the landscape architects Jan David Zocher and his son, Louis Paul Zocher, were asked to redesigned the castle’s gardens, which became the basis of Keukenhof, as we know it today.

Only in 1949 the idea of a permanent exhibition of spring-flowering bulbs, appeared, and this is the moment when Keukenhof became a spring park, opened every year, for 3 months only.

With approximately 7 million flower bulbs planted annually, on an area of 32 hectares, Keukenhof is a fascinating place for spring flower lovers.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Origin of the Famous Tulip 

As we learn something new everyday, I think it’s important to mention that contrary to my belief, the first cultivation of the tulip began not in Netherlands, but in Asia.

The Tulip was originally a wild flower growing in Central Asia, cultivated first, by the Turks, around 1,000 AD. The flower was introduced in the Netherlands in the 17th century by Carolus Clusius, a famous biologist from Vienna.

The flower is called tulip, after the Turkish word for turban!

Because he was hired by the University of Leiden to research medicinal plants, he brought back some bulbs from Turkey, for his garden in Leiden. This was the start of the amazing flower fields we can see today.

keukenhof2

In the 17th century, the tulips were used both as a garden decoration and medicinal purposes and soon became a trading product, being sold for unbelievable high prices. The traders made large amounts of money, to the point where people started to sell their businesses,homes, farm and animals, only to participate.

The over-supply led slowly to lower prices and dealers went bankrupt, moment known as the “Tulip Crash”, when the government introduced special trading restrictions for the flower.

The flower became so popular because of the bright colors,which was a way to impress among the wealthy.

Visiting Keukenhof

If you visit Keukenhof by public transport, I recommend taking the Keukenhof Express bus 858, from Schiphol, or the 854 from Leiden Central Station, as there’s no direct connection from Amsterdam to the garden.

If you plan to visit by car, make sure you leave early and get ready for a long and frustrating traffic jam. Because the garden is open for only a short period of time every year, it attracts a large number of tourists from all around the world, which makes the area very busy.

The best part about visiting a new place is always the company, so I want to thank my blogger friend, Gin, for the wonderful opportunity of meeting her, in person, at Keukenhof. What really makes a place beautiful, is the wonderful people you travel with, so I would say the tulip adventure was just perfect!


If you enjoyed this post, you should Follow Me On Twitter twitter-follow-button and Like My Page on Facebook Like_Me_Facebook_buttonfor more updates.

 

Happy Dog in the Tulip Fields

Happiness is contagious and because nothing says happy better than a wagging tail pup, running between tulips, I present my latest painting:

lisatulipfield

I wish you all a very happy spring!

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace & gratitude.”

  ~ Denis Waitley~


Contact me to buy an original painting or a very high quality reproduction on canvas 


If you enjoyed this post, you should Follow Me On Twitter twitter-follow-button and Like My Page on Facebook Like_Me_Facebook_buttonfor more updates.