Monday, June 30, 2014

Pause, Appreciate & Eat!

~ breakfast of champions ~
Quite often during the course of the summer season, especially when I start my day outdoors at 6:30 a.m., I forget to stop & take care of the 'gardener' who takes care of everything out in the yard.

Today, I'm remembering to also nourish myself - a small break in the morning sun, before it gets too hot & still, sit on the deck with a plate of eggs, cheese & apple & water.

The hummingbirds don't even notice I'm sitting with them & the ducks are content (for the moment) with a mud puddle after cleaning out their tank.

We seem to say all spring; 'Summer, hurry up & get here!' & then we get so busy in the summer that we miss a lot of the small things. Come Autumn, we look back & say; 'Wow, summer went by fast!'...

Take a break - sit with the flowers - mow the lawn later in the day - enjoy your garden!

Wall of Loganberries

~ loganberries - almost ripe ~
 I just had my first loganberry of the season now! I've been using the frozen extras left from last season's harvest in my smoothies, but having one fresh from my 'wall of loganberries' is such a better tasting experience!

These photos show the end of my structure - which is the end of the canes. I believe that's why they are ripening a bit earlier than anticipated - which is fine by me!

The return of the warmer weather has also aided in their ripening & I'm going to have to stash some containers out in the yard for those mornings or late afternoons when I'm out there to collect them for jam or jelly making - or wine - which is such a wonderful summer drink!!

Thankfully, most the fruit is above duck height or I'm sure they would be munching on them too... The robins & jays usually leave these ones alone as they might be too large for these birds - but I don't like to take my chances & I'll be much more diligent in my harvesting techniques.

Wonder what else is ripening up out there??

Sunday, June 29, 2014

First Raspberry Harvest of the Season!

 This morning, while on my wanderings with my coffee & the ducks at my feet, I found that the raspberries have started to ripen!

What a wonderful sweet & tart treat to have first thing in the morning. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Death for Breakfast

This was not something we expected to see at breakfast time this morning. The little hummingbird that was sleeping in-between feeding the night before, was now dead... hanging upside down on the feeder that provided its last few meals. 
I sterilized both feeders this morning & took the little bird away - hopefully there are no more casualties of whatever took this one from our swarm. We plan on keeping a close eye out for that!

Admitting to Failure

~ red currants? ~
Well, I have to admit that I failed my red currants this year in splendid fashion. I'm rather disappointed with myself & have no idea how I let things get so far behind with them...

Maybe it's because I don't enjoy red currants as much as black currants, but whatever the reason, there are a few drastic actions I'll be taking this fall.

~ red currant bush ~
The plants were amazingly heavy with blooms this spring, so I actually knew I was going to have a big harvest. I just didn't plan things properly.

As the season progress, the branches grew heavy on the plants & they fell over onto the yard & were being overgrown with grass. So I found some rebar & some garden twine & hauled the branches up  so that I could get to the berries & mow under the shrub.

Well, the robins were well fed for about 3 days. They ate ALL the berries - even the ones that aren't ripe...

I might have been better off to leave the branches down on the ground, hiding all the berries... But the ducks had found the shrubs & were already making a dent into the potential harvest, so I don't think there was much I could do this year.

I'll have to prune out all those misshaped branches & think about investing in some bird netting for next year... What a disappointment!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Culinary Lavender Harvest

 I've shared with you before how much I love lavender - it's still a new plant for me & trying new varieties each year is an enjoyable experience.

I've come to accept that not all lavender will survive our wet winters. Actually, most won't. But I refuse to treat these as annuals because I know that with care & attention to planting, I can have them last for many years.

The past week I've been enjoying the bees swarming over the plants. I do like to share with the insects & birds, but since I wanted to harvest this particular lavender for culinary purposes, I wanted to harvest them at their peak of fragrance & flavour. That meant taking them off the bush before the blooms fully opened.

Yesterday was the perfect day for that. Not too humid & still dry from our lack of rain these last few weeks.

I left a few blooms on each plant just for the bees & I'm pretty sure that there will be more blooms over the course of the summer.

So right now I have my nice big handful of lavender laid out on some cookie sheets drying. I don't hang them upside down - I haven't yet made up a hanging rack for that & I also find it easier to remember to check them if I see them lying in one of my book shelves....

Once they are dry, I'll carefully remove the blooms from the stalks & keep them in an air tight jar for use through the rest of the year. I have a herb grinder that I use to blend them up - either with other herbs for a herbal salt or one their own for addition to cooking or baking.

Can't wait to add some to a new gluten-free scone recipe I'm working with!! Lemon & lavender are great flavour combinations!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Finally showing Recovery from the Deer

~ blue hydrangea ~
 Almost all my plants are still in 'deer recovery mode' but the hydrangeas are showing immense relief & gratitude this year by putting out an amazing amount of flowers.

They are just starting to open & show off in the gardens... Can't wait to see what they look like in full bloom!

The blue ones are electric & I'll probably take cuttings to spread around the yard & give to neighbours. Hopefully the colour remains true to the one I took cuttings from. It's all a game of soil pH & I'd prefer the blue to the pink...
~ cream & purple hydrangea ~

The other hydrangeas are quite stunning too - smaller but a wonderful contrast in colours. The leaves have dark highlights & dark stems. The flowers start off a cream colour & then progress through different shades of red & purple.

I received several cuttings from a dear friend before she moved & it has been many years of waiting for the plants to take to where I planted them & the the heart break of watching them be browsed upon by the deer.

This year, they are finally showing off & I'm looking forward to the changes in the flower colour over the next few weeks/months.

Can't wait to show you!!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Comfrey Tea - Brewed & Stewed!

~ comfrey tea - the stink is amazing! ~

Well, I almost forgot about my bucket of comfrey tea I had brewing out by the composter! Thankfully I stumbled on it & was able to put most of it to good use immediately. Now, this stuff is pretty stinky - well, ok - downright nasty! But the plants in the greenhouse really loved it & I just left the door open for a couple of days & the smell disappeared.

I poured off half the bucket & diluted it, just in case it was too strong. Don't want to burn the plants with too much fertilizer. I refilled the bucket & will use the rest of it up this week on some of my berry bushes that have set their fruit & need just a small pick-me-up to help plump up & ripen the berries...

Later in the summer, I might be able to brew up another bucket, we'll see how this summer turns out.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Taming the Wild Patch

~ loganberries growing wild ~
 The loganberry patch is doing extremely well again this year. The fruit is set & starting to develop & the recent rain this week will help with overall plant health & growth.

One thing to try & keep under control is all the new growth - these canes will produce fruit next year, but what do you do with them this year?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ducks are Actually Really Clean Creatures

~ Monday & Tuesday grooming ~
 The ducks love to come with me out of the enclosure in the early morning hours. Once we've cleaned their house, changed their water & put in fresh duck food, it's off to the gardens for a bit of watering, weeding & meditation time.

I have bins out in the yard for them to always have a source of water & most mornings, they will jump in & splash around.

Monday & Tuesday are just over 3 weeks old & starting to look a bit scraggly. They are growing their first set of feathers, so are constantly grooming themselves. Right now their tail feathers haven't popped out much, so they have these funny short little back sides...

~ Penelopea dropping feathers ~
Penelopea, on the other hand, is starting to shed her under feathers... We are starting to see a lot more very small, very light & fluffy feathers floating around the yard.

I'm sure we'll see them in the house in a few days & I recall from last year they actually will start showing up in the fridge & once I had one in my coffee cup!

Thankfully ducks are clean. They don't smell like dirty birds & I know I can usually pick them up & not worry about having mud stains remain on my clothes... Of course, it has been a dry spring, so who knows what will happen when the rains return!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Garlic Scape Harvest

~ garlic scapes ~
 The early morning hours with the ducks has allowed me more time to inspect the gardens to see what is actually growing at this time of year.

Despite the cool temperatures & lack of rain, the garlic has been doing very well. So well in fact, that I just noticed the scapes this morning & decided to harvest them!

My first harvest of the top curly bits means that the leaves will now concentrate all growth into the bulbs instead of the flower & seed. This is necessary if you want to grow your own garlic from bulbs that you grow in your own gardens. Garlic has this amazing ability to adapt to different soils & climates - so the best garlic to grow comes from bulbs generously given to you from your neighbours!

I know I have one variety that comes from Salt Spring Island and I'm not too sure about the other variety. We'll see how well they do come harvest time later on in July or August.

For now, I'll roast them up & have some with a new gluten free pizza recipe (uses cauliflower for the dough!) & how about with eggs & bacon & maybe I'll even turn some into pesto for eating later in the winter!

I love harvests from the garden before 7 in the morning...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Solstice Approaches...

This is my view from my meditation bench in the front yard. Mornings spent out here are magical & I thought I would share this one with you too... the ducks are somewhere close by...
Happy Wednesday!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Who Knew I'd Enjoy Growing Flowers so Much?

~ peony ~
 This afternoon I took the ducks on a wander around the yard - so I could spend some time inspecting all my different garden beds & so the ducks could inspect the plants for insects.

This arrangement is working out very well!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

June Gardens are Chaos & ever Changing

~ new lavender bed ~
 June is such a great month for gardening - there is still enough time to get seeds or seedlings into the ground & harvest later in the year. There are many, many flowering plants out right now that you just have to spend as much time out there enjoying it as possible.

I have a very large raised bed in the front yard that seems to want to grow only potatoes & kale or flowers. Everything else I plant in this bed dies... So I've decided to let the flowers grow & I've put in my lavender plants that have been sitting in the greenhouse since last summer. I hope they like this bed & recover from being pot bound & a little too dry for many months.

~ parsnip ~
I enjoy surprises in the garden - well, at least I'm curious enough about what has decided to sprout to let it grow until I can either identify it or it proves itself a weed or something I love.

One such mystery was solved - I grew a parsnip! I don't recall planting seeds in this bed but have been watching this particular set of leaves wondering just what it is - this is not the only place it is growing!

Have you ever smelled a freshly dug up parsnip before? What an amazing smell!! I fell in love with parsnips only a short time ago & really hope I can figure out how to grow this vegetable. I'm going to let the other randomly growing ones be for a while - I'd like to see if they will grow larger!

~ purple toad flax ~
  Last year I picked up some seeds from a Seedy Saturday event & the person who sold them to me said they were mislabeled & he couldn't remember what they were! So I planted all the seeds & began the fun procedure of growing something I knew nothing about.

I had to post a picture of the leaves & flowers on-line in order to actually get the name: purple toad flax! Lovely plant & this year is one of my new favourites.

~ purple toad flax ~
It was growing in my veggie bed, so I dug most of it up & started to spread it around the property. I hope it takes abuse, neglect & drought well - that's the type of plants I'm currently looking for to fill in certain areas that I can't tend to on a weekly basis. So far, so good!

I like that they are tall & narrow - what a great shape to contrast with some of my other plantings.

 Having that deer fence is starting to pay off greatly this year. I have roses!!

I wish I could remember where these came from - a cutting from a generous neighbour, no doubt. The scent from them is incredible!

I'll have to start wandering around the community to see which of my neighbours has this rose & find out what kind of rose it is. I would love to make a rose jelly from the petals...

 The lilies are starting to bloom again. I have these silly dwarf lilies that are completely planted in the wrong place & every year when they bloom, I'll catch it for only a day or 2 & then they are either eaten by the earwigs or buried underneath another plant. They are a brilliant colour but have absolutely no scent, which is probably why I haven't remembered to move them... have just added this to my 'to do' list & hopefully will get it done this weekend instead of forgetting about it... That gives me a few days to figure out where to plant them so we can appreciate them better!

The weather has been cool & dry - not a typical June at all! I've almost used up all the water in my rain barrels already & there's still not much rain on the horizon... Watch - we'll get hit with a good storm on my days off!! Wouldn't that be nice...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Duck Update: Starting to Merge the Routines

~ Monday & Tuesday ~
 As it happens with the youngest in a family, routines are not as strict as they were with the older siblings. Such is the case with Monday & Tuesday....

They are now 2 1/2 weeks old & have imprinted upon each other quite strongly. They know to follow me since I'm the one holding the special treats, but these 2 are not cuddle ducks... We need to work on that a whole lot more over the next few weeks!

~ lots of water = lots of fun ~
They've been quite keen (from my perspective) to get out of their tote during the day & be outside...

This week I've set them up in their playpen with food & water & a covering to keep out the birds & give them a bit of shade. They did very well & now I'm going to start introducing them to the older 2 ducks to see how they interact. The rest of their outdoor time will still be in the playpen, but it will now be in the enclosure with the other 2 - separated by that mesh barrier just in case...

~ meet & greet over a bin of fresh greens & water ~
Today I decided on a supervised play date at snack time. It seemed to work out quite well with the twins being quite curious & terrified at the same time of the older 2 ducks. Penelopea is actually quite protective of the food... and the white monster (please - we need to settle on a name!) seems to hiss at them but since he lays around 95% of the time, they are not really within his reach... Poor duck - sprawled legs are not fun...

Hour long foraging & snack sessions like today will probably go on for a week or so before I let them be on their own for a while. I just don't trust the older ducks fully....

So, our white monster - who is still changing out feathers & developing some funny habits...such as sitting on, in or as close to the food & water as possible - well, more like laying on, in or as close as possible...
This duck thinks he is a dog. I find it quite funny that he likes to be picked up & petted...

Will be interesting to see what he ends up looking like. His bill is developing an interesting ridge & more & more dark feathers are popping out along his head & neck. Definitely a character!

And Penelopea has lost her whistle. She used to whistle to me & now it's more goose sounding - not even duck 'quack' sounding...which is curious. I wonder if a full quack will come along in the next few weeks - that's such a happy sound to hear when they see you!

So, the little family is growing fast & we are working on our routines & I'm trying to train them to come back to the enclosure based on command & calls, but right now - bribery seems to be the trick... I'd also like to know if they have figured out how to get in & out of the pond??

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tying up the Veggies~

~ peas & beans ~
Last year I fell in love with Scarlett runner beans, but found they did not like growing up the PVC pipes. This year I've installed the frames but am using garden twine to encourage them to grow vertical. Lots of garden twine...

Things in the gardens seem to be very slow - the cool weather is a huge factor & it has also been rather dry for this time of year.

Since I'm out in the early morning hours with the ducks, I have now started to water the garden beds, which seems to be working.

In the photo you can see 2 of the ducks. Penelopea (black & white one) & the currently nameless duck just behind. We are struggling finding an appropriate name for that one as the personality is quite unlike what we would think of as a 'duck'. He's more like a dog... But the ducks are great at finding bugs & seem to quite enjoy being out with me in the gardens... speaking of which.... I need to get back out there as the sun is starting to break through the clouds.

Looks like another great day for playing in the dirt!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Time for Comfrey Tea

~ comfrey plants ~
 June is a great time to feed plants in the garden - especially the berry bushes & flowers that are in full bloom. Gives them an extra energy boost to produce bigger fruit or to set energy aside for next year's flowers.

I like to use comfrey tea - especially since I'm now growing a lot more than anticipated due to this spring's division & replanting. These plants along the back edge of the property have been feeding the ducks for a few months now & are ready for a proper cutback for the tea. They will regrow later in the season & provide fall/winter mulch for plants.

I cut the stalks right down to the ground & then chop them up roughly & put it all into a 5 gallon pail. Fill the pail with water, put something over top to prevent mosquitoes from invading & in a week or 2, you'll have an intensely stinky, rotting mess that you can dilute to use as compost tea.

Some people have aquarium bubblers that they will pop into their dilution to keep the components active, but I'm not too high tech in the gardens just yet. I try to make sure to use up my tea within a couple of days 1) because that's when it is at it's best for the plants you are feeding and 2) it really stinks & you don't want to keep it around too long in the pail.

I'll either throw the mushy leaves straight onto one of my berry patches or into the composter. In previous years I would dump it in a corner of the property where I knew the deer were entering as the stench had the potential to keep the deer away. I'm so glad I no longer need to worry about that!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Flowers for a Week

~ bearded iris - Sultan ~
 This time of year is spectacular for seeing daily changes in the gardens - floral & vegetable. Currently - I'm waiting for the veggie gardens to do something, so I'll just look at all the flowers  & be pleased that there is not much I need to do for them.
~ front deck flower bed ~

~ loganberry fence ~

~ Sweet Williams with orange poppies ~

~ Deep Purple iris ~

~ Orange Oriental poppy ~

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Duck Family Expansion - only a week late...

~ freshly hatched duck ~
I can't believe a full week & a half has gone by!! I'm quite far behind in sharing photos but much further behind in my garden chores...

BUT the great news is: we have 2 new baby ducks that are now a week & a half old!

The photo shows our first hatchling just an hour or so out of the shell. What an exhausting job!! We were amazed to see that it is so dark in colouring...

And so tiny...

But such a pretty colour! I couldn't help but bring it out into the sunshine later in the day to see the colours properly.

This one is a firecracker! Not hesitant to climb up my sweater & start exploring the world. Feisty....

 The very next day our last egg hatched & out came this little one...

Different colouring again & very tiny... I placed the 2 of them together in their tote under the heat lamp & watched for a while as they got to know each other... I did not want a repeat pecking like with the other two.

~ Tuesday & Monday ~
They are now practically inseparable - we call them 'the twins' but really they are a day apart. To help with identifying which we talk about, we've decided to name them after their hatch day: Monday & Tuesday. Seems to fit... This photo is of the two of them out in the yard one their first week birthday for their first outdoor adventure.

Not to ignore the other two - this is what Penelopea looks like now. She's almost finished with her first molt & has some amazing colours shimmering in the feathers. 

She is still very much a cuddle duck, but on her own terms. I'm glad to see all our attention to these two has allowed us to get to handle the ducks in a quiet manner. They respond much better to patience than to being grabbed (not a hard thing to figure out but difficult to put into practice when late for work!)

This poor duck used to be our adorable little 'cheeper' - no longer yellow, but starting to change into a creamy white, he's starting to develop dark head feathers & a change in head shape... He has the unfortunate name of 'Attila' this week. Not sure if that one will stick...

The older ducks are now living out in their duck house & enclosure & we seem to be doing very well with the arrangement. A few finishing touches are needed to the enclosure, but I hope to find & make time this coming weekend to take a few photos.