Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Addition to the Family!

I came home from a few days away & hearing not one peeping duckling, but 2! Our 2nd & last egg finally hatched out during the day & what a cute little blond-blue eyed duckling it is.
We already noticed there is a difference in their calls - this one is extra loud & has a different twitter when content. This photo is of when I pulled it out of the incubator only a few hours after hatching. It won't look so frazzled in a day or 2.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

They Grow so Quickly

 Well, our little peeper is now a week old & growing very quickly. It eats almost constantly - or so we think because when we check in on it, it eats & eats & eats. It likes to make a mess & spray water & greens everywhere - generally has fun with its food.

I will take it out in the morning with me for a few minutes of foraging the in the garden while I gather fresh greens for the day. I've developed a bad habit of bringing it into the kitchen to be with us while I chop up the greens & it can hardly wait to get in there & eat some fresh food!

I actually think it's quite adorable how little it is & how attached it has become to what it now knows is the most reliable food source it has...ME!

Pretty soon I won't be able to have it on the counter with me & there is no way it will remain in the sink beside me while I go through this morning routine.

Who am I kidding - I rather like the little dinosaur!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Something this Pretty must Taste Good

~ bok choy flowers ~
 I have a few greens in the greenhouse that are starting to flower & set seed. Did you know you can eat those flowers & not feel like you've missed out on harvesting & eating your own produce?

Right now the brassicas (kale & relatives) that survived the winter foraging, are starting to put their energy into flowers & seed. You can pick the blossom heads & throw them into salads or stir fries & still benefit from all the nutrients & vitamins they contain. The different greens will have different flavours - some bitter, some peppery but all should have a small hit of sweet from the nectar they hold. Plus it adds some much wanted bright colour to the salad.

~ viola flowers ~
I have these darling little 'Johnny Jump Ups' (Viola) that have actually been blooming since December. I had that raised bed covered with plastic to protect my lavender plants from being drowned or frozen this winter & the violas decided they were happy & started to bloom.

Pick these flowers & add them to your greens. They really don't have much flavour on their own, other than a wee bit of nectar, but they are quite lovely.

I feed a few to the duckling too - eek - introducing potentially a bad habit to the little peeper, but I figure if I can eat it, than the duckling can have a little bit too.

The early bees & insects also appreciate when you let things bloom & set seed at this time of year. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Make Friends with the Creepy Crawlies

~ Garter snake ~
Ok - I'm one of those people that LOVES snakes. I am always curious to see where they are going & where they are living on my property. They are so important & helpful in keeping down insects & other unwanted critters that most gardeners cringe upon seeing.

It's important to provide them with homes such as piles of garden waste or rock piles or even just a few pieces of old log lying in a quiet corner. This one I found under a pile of Astilbe cuttings that I tossed underneath the newly emerging leaves. The pile will eventually decompose, but it provides shelter for the snake while it moves through the open spaces of the lawn.

I introduced my ducks from last year to a small snake as I had read somewhere that ducks might eat snakes, but the ducks really had no clue what to do when I tossed them a snake. They checked it out but didn't bother to follow the snake when it slithered away.

I'm glad to see they are starting to emerge from their winter homes & warm themselves on the rocky areas around the property. It surely must be a sign of a healthy garden ecosystem.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bring on the Berries!

~ black currant ~
 One of the easiest things to grow out here on the coast are berries. With a little care & attention in the spring & fall, they basically take care of themselves & reward you with amazing bounty & healthy treats.

One of my favourite flavours is the dark savory tartness of the black currant. It is a bit different in growth & berry production than the red currant, but the flavour I find so much more rewarding.

My black currants are a few years behind in growth & production & have just finally started blooming now. I've already dealt with the spring feeding & have mulched around the base of the plant. There is not much left for me to do for the rest of the season except watch & wait for the fruit to start to ripen.
~ red currant ~
The red currants on the other hand are loaded down with berry blossom chains that are already starting to set fruit! This is going to be my best year, so far, for red currants! It's quite exciting - I'm already trying to come up with an exciting twist on red currant jam? jelly? something to tantalize the taste buds & be an appropriate gift later in the year.

Red currants are easier to pick - if you are able to fend off the birds & allow the berries to ripen in a cluster, all you do is pick the entire group of berries. So much easier than picking single berries at a time - such as you would do for black currants.

As much as I dislike bird netting, I might have to use it this year with the upcoming bumper crop in the works!
~ loganberry fence ~

The loganberries are looking very happy again this year. They are taking very well to being trained to grow horizontally & all this work was done in November when the weather was still nice & dry. Good thing too - February was too cold, stormy & wet for me to do my usual pruning chores with this notoriously prickly berry.

I see that there is plenty of new shoots emerging from the roots - I am going to try to dig some of them up so I can expand my loganberry patch else where on the property. I've not had much luck in putting cuttings in the ground but may be doing it at the wrong time of year.  The loganberry wine I made this winter is quite wonderful - definitely a summer drink to be had over ice with a wedge of lemon & maybe some sparkling water. I'm working my way through the last few bags of frozen fruit in my morning smoothies - here's a flavour twist for you to try: loganberries & basil with either spinach or kale (go with spinach) blended with a bit of yogurt & some coconut milk. If you don't like tart & tangy first thing in the morning - throw in a bit of honey. The basil was a surprisingly great addition & I'm already trying to figure out if I can make some sort of jelly concoction in the fall... it all depends if I can grow my own basil this year...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day - Enjoy your Greens!

~ greenhouse jungle ~
  Happy Earth Day!
This year, it is a chilly spring day along the coast. The sun is shining, but the breeze is keeping things pretty cool & damp.

This is perfect weather for growing salad greens & today is a perfect day to gather a large harvest & allow the plants to continue to produce for a few more weeks.

I have a jungle in my greenhouse. Things have finally started to take off & will become a little too big in very short order. The blend I seeded in here last fall (late October) is a mustard blend - they do very well in cool damp weather (which is what my greenhouse is like in the winter due to all the holes in the plastic). I wasn't expecting to harvest the greens over the winter - I just wanted a head-start for fresh salads in the spring. It worked very well!

~ red oak leaf ~
 One of my greens are the oak leaf variety. They may not produce a tight head of crunchy leaves, but they are very nice & delicate. Perfect for pairing with other spring greens.

~ romaine & green oak leaf ~
I enjoy colour in my salad bowl, so I made sure I have a red leaf as well as the bright green leaf variety.

 In this blend is also some romaine lettuce which will provide the crunch that people so desire. When harvesting any of these, you can either select a few of the outer leaves or cut the whole head back. While they are still young, I like to select the outer leaves & let the plant continue to grow. As they get older, they will start to become a bit bitter, so then I will cut back the whole head & may be rewarded by regrowth a few weeks later. Or just till under the roots & plant something else.
~ mustard blend ~
 The large speckled leaves I have in profusion inside & outside the greenhouse are of a mustard blend. Nice & spicy. Not for every one's taste buds, but they grow so well out here! If you find the taste too sharp, make sure to mix in the other types of greens plus herbs to create a mix of flavours in your salad bowl. I like to chop my greens very fine so that there is a bit of everything on the fork - instead of a mouthful of spicy mustard!
~ arugula ~

Another plant I highly recommend for out here is wild arugula. It does so well & will come back for a few years. The leaves are a little bit more tough than your salad greens, but the flavour is amazing. Nutty & peppery. You won't need much in your salads but expand your repertoire & try mustard or arugula greens on your hamburgers. I like to turn abundant harvests of arugula into pesto that I keep in small jars in the freezer. That way I can use it through out the year (in the winter!) instead of using mayo or other condiments.

Now is the time of year to be eating & enjoying those fresh greens from the gardens - or even from your lawns - get out there & harvest some dandelion leaves for a tangy addition to the salads. Take revenge on those weeds - dandelion flowers also make pretty good fritters too!

Hope the spring sun is shining for you!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunshine & Rain

 April showers bring May flowers...
Flowers wait for no one; we all know that!

At this time of year you really do have to walk through your gardens on a daily basis, regardless of the torrential rains or the soggy rain gear. Flowers cannot wait to show off & I've found that some of the best ones last for only a few days...

~ Basket of Gold (Alyssium) ~
Basket of Gold, on the other hand, lasts for a long time, smells great & will re-bloom if pruned back. These large clusters of tiny flowers attract so many insects - I wish I could have this growing in more places in the yard. Will have to see if I can save some seeds & get some started in the greenhouse this year.
~ candy tuft ~

The candy tuft has made a wonderful comeback after being munched on by the deer last spring. This flower will also last a while in the flower beds & appreciates a good prune when done flowering. Make sure to give it space - the plant will grow quite large if you let it & take over whatever space is around it.
~ Lady's Mantle ~

Lady's Mantle has the potential to become invasive but as long as you have a heavy hand with the pruner & dead-head the flowers before they go to seed, you should be able to contain it. I just love the way the rain drops sit on the leaves & how resilient it is to the now-no-longer present deer & occasional lawnmower or weed wacker attack.

Wonder what else is sparkling out there this weekend?

Get them Eating Their Greens Early!

 I've done a lot of reading on how to care for ducks & at times it can be overwhelming! So, I'm going to start to listen more to intuition & instinct & pay attention to the duck.

First concern: is the duck getting the proper nutrients & protein? I think we are doing ok with our ground up duck feed (it is the adult blend with some sunflower seeds ground up too), plus some ground oatmeal & finally a sprinkle of brewer's yeast.

~ early morning harvest of fresh greens ~
But an easy way to get nutrients & protein into the little peeper is through greens! I enjoy heading out to the gardens in the morning to pick some fresh leaves & see what I can entice the duckling with. A few moments contemplating the life of something else that you've been entrusted with is a great way to start the day!

This morning's selection is (top clockwise): dandelion leaves, violet flowers, comfrey & lettuce greens.

(the more people that start viewing dandelions as edible weeds, the less concern we'll have over what our lawns look like! Take revenge - eat them!!)
~ green soup all day long ~

Don't even bother to wash the greens - ducks eat dirt all the time, so now is a good time to have a few grains in whatever greens you collect.

Chop it up fine - super fine - get a sharp knife. I remove the ribs of the leaves as they are just a bit tough for the wee duckling to swallow. I won't feed the entire dish all at once, but will keep the greens in water & a few times during the day when I change the water in the brooder, I'll put in a fresh amount. I do believe there is a very small slug in there somewhere - we'll see if it escapes the bowl during the day or if I can get it in the brooder & see what the duckling does.
~ nom-nom-nom ~

The little peeper made a mess of the clean tote within about 3 minutes of it being clean. That's what I get for putting in a deep water dish!

~ splish-splash ~
The silly little darling just hops right in & splashes it out all over the place!

But it enjoys the greens & eats them quite quickly. At this stage, it is typical of all babies - it eats & poops all the time!!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Weekend in Glorious Colour

 I'm so in love with my tulips this year!!

These popped out in the last couple of days. I don't recall planting orange tulips, but since the deer no longer terrorize the property, everything seems to be taking on a life of their own & reaching out in the bursts of sunshine we have between rain showers.

Tip for spring bouquets - don't mix your daffodils with your tulips. They do not like each other & your bouquet will last only a matter of days. Tulips have been known to continue to grow once they have been cut & placed in water. Grab a simple bouquet this weekend & see if you notice this!

Peep Show

~ me & my duck ~
Word is spreading around town that we have a baby duck & there are more & more knocks on the door from neighbours who want to see the little darling...

This is going to be one spoiled duck! I sure hope the other eggs start to hatch soon so that it has proper companionship! We are scheduled to be babysitting chicks when they hatch in a few days until the 2nd heat lamp arrives in town, so that should help with the little Peeper - who does peep like crazy when it sees us & when we leave...

In just a short 24 hour period, the little darling has grown quite a bit. Life is amazing when you view it from this level...

Friday, April 18, 2014

When Life Begins to Crack Out

We candled the eggs on the 16th & found one of the eggs had a crack! The little duck was ready to come out & it was much-much sooner than we expected. By about 10 days!

The following morning there was not much change, but we whistled to the little thing & were rewarded with peeping from inside the egg & enthusiastic poking at the crack.

Now the waiting game was to commence for who knows how long it takes a duckling to emerge from its shell??

I came home early from work in order to set up the brooder. Our neighbour was gracious enough to loan me the only heat lamp in town - mine doesn't arrive til late next week due to the Easter weekend. We are going to keep the little things down in a clear tote in the laundry room. They are loud little peepers & I don't think housing them in the bathtub upstairs would have been a good idea - we wouldn't get much sleep with all the noise!
 After a few hours I checked on the progress & the little thing had managed to get a wing out!

Lots of peeping & struggles to extract itself from the shell so I knew hatch out would be later in the evening.

I didn't want to disturb it too much as there was definite response to my voice & whistles. There just wasn't much room in that incubator for the poor thing! (*note for future: put only 6 duck eggs in to allow for movement of hatching ducklings!*)

Finally I couldn't hold off any longer & I went back down again about an hour later & found our hatched duckling on the far side of the incubator wedged in with the other eggs.

Amazing how all that was folding & curled over on itself & grown inside an egg!!

I rescued it.

Look at how dark those feathers are! We've got a little stuffed animal in the brooder to keep it company til the other ducklings start hatching (we might be babysitting a box full of chicks starting next week too!) but for now the little darling peeps like crazy when it sees us - which is often as we can't help but go admire our first little duck.

I wonder what sort of blend we have with this one?!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Failing to Read the Small Print

I should properly introduce you to my 'not white' white rhododendron. This is "Mikkeli" - a Finnish rhodo which (as it says on the tag that was still on the plant) has: 'white flowers with pink tinge & green spots.'

Do not be fooled by pictures on your tags, nor the casual description of the word 'tinge' - this plant will become pinker as it matures (I'm actually surprised it has flowered every year since I bought it).

I feel some slight Gardener's Guilt in banishing the plant to back of the property because it was not what I envisioned it to be - all because I did not read the fine print on the tag & did not research it properly prior to planting. I'm sure I could have brought it back for exchange once I found out exactly what I had...

Lesson learned & I will surely start to appreciate 'Mikkeli' (St. Michael) more over the years as it is an early bloomer & a consistent bloomer. As for those green spots... I'd like to see more of them, if they do indeed exist...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Slowing down for Spring - Part 4

This has been a slow & quiet week in the gardens. But if you listen carefully, you can actually hear the grass growing!
The buds on my lilacs are growing bigger & I'm eager for them to bloom & show off. I've waited almost 6 years for this! I'm already looking around the property to see where else I can plant a few more, knowing still that unless I buy larger plants, I will have to wait - oh, not so patiently wait - for them to bloom as well...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Slowing down for Spring - Part 3

 The return of my few tulips is just inspiring!

How could the Dutch blood running in my veins not appreciate the peculiarities of this wonderful flower that managed to survive years of deer abuse!

I think I will invest some time, energy & pocket change in purchasing more bulbs this fall & see how they fare in the coming years.

I understand that our climate might be a bit too wet for the bulbs, but if I plant them along my dry hillside, they just might appreciate the soil.

I know I would like to see the few in my veggie beds moved to more appropriate locations.

There is always room for more bulbs around here!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Slowing down for Spring - Part 2

~ money plant ~
The wild flowers are starting to pop up all over the place. Some in perfect spots, some in not-so perfect spots, but each one filling the spaces that only days before were empty.

This one is more a magical plant - a weed in any other situation - but offering much needed shine in my otherwise still empty flower bed.

Give us a few more days of warm sunshine & those empty spots will fill up quick!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Slowing Down for Spring

~ forget-me-nots ~
I'm taking some down time in the gardens - waiting for the weather to warm up, waiting for the sun to shine, waiting for the rains to stop...

Meanwhile, green things keep growing & showing off their Spring Sparkle...

Deeply satisfying & just so simple.

Herbal Magic Starts Early!

 I have a wonderful marjoram plant growing in my greenhouse. Today I thought would be a perfect day to harvest off the fresh tips & make a batch of herbal apple cider vinegar.

I've been without my cider vinegar blends for a few months now & was really craving that flavour again in my salads.

It's relatively easy to do.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A New Sparkle this Spring

~ hydrangea ~
 When we went into town to pick up the duck eggs, I stopped by a nursery (first time in a very long time) & found a few things the yard 'needed' to have!

Here is my new hydrangea - no tag for name or species - so I hope this amazing colour combination will remain over the years!

~ 'Snow Lady' white rhodo
Oh & look - finally a proper WHITE rhododendron for the front white flower bed. This one is called 'Snow Lady' & I'm rather glad to see the flowers are very simple & white. Just what I wanted...

Now to get everything else in pots into the ground!!

Which came First: the Duck or the Duck Egg?

After our little adventure last year with adopting 3 funny little ducks & then losing them in the fall, we decided to try again this spring.

Initially, we had hoped to find someone who had ducklings for sale that could be sexed early, which would allow us to just pick up 3 (1 male & 2 female) for us to bring home.

It didn't turn out that way...

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Adjusting the House & Occupants

 Finally found the time & hardware to properly install at least one of the mason bee houses. Looks so much better without the bungee cords keeping it attached to the tree.

It will stay in place til late October (weather dependent) & then I'll remove it & take out the trays to see if the bees laid eggs this year.

Last weekend I bought 2 more little boxes of cocoons - 15 females & 5 males in each & this time I popped them in the fridge for a couple of days because I wanted the houses installed before I introduced the bees.

Well, as you can see, after I attached the little boxes, I opened up the end & voila! a male had hatched already & was waiting to come out. I'm so glad I pulled them out of the fridge on this day! Could you imagine opening your fridge & having bees fly out at you??

Bee well, little bees - the berry bushes are starting to pop flowers that need pollinating!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Potatoes by the Dark of the Moon

 Ok - so I don't eat a whole lot of potatoes. It is not a staple food in our diet - I consider it more of a seasonal treat - especially if they come straight from the garden!

My favourite are the Banana Fingerlings - nice & small & they roast up so quickly with some lemon, coconut oil & salt!

This year I ripped out my very old herbs from this bed & decided to put potatoes in. I found a paper bag down stairs with 4 Yukons from last year & a couple dozen small Fingerlings. They - as typical potatoes do in my house - had already sprouted.

I've read about common folklore or tradition to plant your potatoes by the dark of the moon. Meaning when there is a new moon in the sky. Something about the pull of the tides & the moon at this time of year... Well, I wasn't about to trudge out in the gardens with a head lamp on at midnight to play in the soil (as I'm sure my neighbour did!), but I did do it on the new moon.

I just trenched around the edge of the bed - plunked in the potatoes & covered them up. I hope to receive my parsley seeds in the mail any day & they will be seeded in the centre of the bed. I sprinkled in some calendula & marigold seeds around the edge & by the time they are big enough, I'll be able to apply straw mulch around the growing potato plants.

Easy-peasy! I hadn't planned on this bed to be used this way, but I'm up for switching things up this year in the gardens. That's what it is all about anyway!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring is Sparkling - Part 2

~ forsythia ~
 The end of March brought in a few nice days. There were moments when the wind stopped blowing that we could feel heat in the sunshine!

The forsythia has decided to finally bloom - wonderful bright yellow flowers that are buzzing & alive with bee folk. I hope to get more growing soon.
~ Mary Flemming rhodo ~
Last spring was devastating to many of my plants - even the rhodos were ravaged by the deer. Thankfully they have recovered & decided to produce a few blooms this year! They are so dainty & pretty - I must admit I quite enjoy them & wasn't sure I would when I realized just what it was I purchased.
~ Mary Flemming rhodo ~

Sometimes an unknown purchase can be rewarding!

I hope in a few years they will be utterly covered in blooms!

~ my 'not white' rhodo ~
Which brings me to my 'white rhodo' - which to my utter disgust is Barbie Doll pink... Really??

Rule #1: when purchasing rhododendrons, make sure to pick them when they are in full bloom. Don't believe what the tag says.

I bought this for my White Garden - which I should realize is just not really ever going to be realized as everything I ever plant in that area reverts back to wild or native colouring (like the white daffodils I planted there a few years ago - they are now just as yellow as the rest in all my other gardens... or how about all the white crocus I planted that ended up being purple...)

So, needless to say, Barbie rhodo was removed & planted in the back corner as punishment. We'll see how we feel about each other in a few years...

Other than that, Spring is surely Sparkling wonderfully!!