Saturday, August 30, 2014

Darling Duck upDate

~ Monday & Tuesday ~
 Well, the little darlings are still growing & learning their way around the yard.

The twins are 13 weeks old - I see that they are still molting a few remaining 'baby' feathers & we are still really waiting a few more weeks before fully confirming that Monday is a boy & Tuesday is a girl.

The ducks this year are very chatty - so going on who is a noisy 'quacky' duck just is not going to work.

These 2 still do pretty much everything together - all the time...
~ Horatio ~

Horatio is very large. I'll have to work on my photo taking skills with the ducks - he will need to either be held or find something to give you an idea of just how large he is.

Plus he has no voice any more.

He just pants at us & sticks all his feathers straight up on his head. We are noticing that he is loosing the feathers around his eyes - he might end up with a red warty face in a few weeks...

But he is still rather gentle & loves to be pet. Definitely the most approachable of all the ducks, although he now runs really fast if he doesn't want to be put in the enclosure with the others - no amount of bribing works. I end up chasing him into a corner & picking him up. I think he might like that & might do it on purpose...
~ Percy ~

Percy is going through some very strange adolescent behaviour - he is 'aggressively amorous' to my pants & shoes. Umm - my duck is trying to hump my feet... not exactly PC but it's bizarre behaviour & while I make sure to always wear thick pants & shoes when hanging with the ducks, he does get in the way of chores & is frequently being either booted out of the way or even thrown up in the air to fly (not so gracefully) down to a different part of the yard to leave me alone.

One perk behind this amorous behaviour - he lets me pick him up much more frequently - I tuck him under my arm, chide him & put him down in a different part of the yard. Hopefully this ends soon as while I find it hilarious to have a duck holding onto my pant leg while I'm walking across the yard, I'm not sure what he would do with other people who come to visit or stay... I do have quite a few 'pinch' marks on my hands & legs to prove that pants don't always protect you from their bills...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bountiful Harvest - with Bite Marks

~ veggie harvest ~
 I do have a few tomatoes in the greenhouse that are ripening up. They will go very nicely with the beans & zukers that are now ready.

I had mentioned that the ducks watch me closely for cues on what they can eat.

This pertains to my veggies as well.

I've mentioned before: 'never turn your back on a duck...'
~ Horatio sneaking a veggie ~

... Well, Horatio decided he would try the zuker & the beans...

At least I haven't seen him eat a snake for a while!!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Patience in the Gardens Yields Bounty

~ winter squash ~
 This has been an interesting summer for gardening. The early part of the season was rather cool & dry. Great for growing greens, but everything else seemed to take forever to get going.

Now that we've had a bit of sunshine & a wee bit of rain, things have taken off!

My winter squash is a rambling monster - partly due to all the pig manure that was thrown into the bed in the fall. The vines are growing up & over & through my Marionberry fence & over the lawn & through the flower bed. It's great fun to watch the duck munch on the leaves, knowing they aren't really harming the plants because they are so huge.

Look what I found just hanging in mid-air!! Can't wait to see how big this squash gets -  I can't remember the variety, but the flavour is great & the meat is nice & dense. Perfect for winter comfort food recipes.

~ pole beans taking over Marionberry bed ~
I'm experimenting with beans. Bush beans are 'out' for me for a while - but I'm working on my system of growing beans vertically - pole beans & runner beans.

This photo is of the pole beans (can't remember which variety) that are growing up & through the Marionberry fence. (NOTE to self: Marionberries are blackberries & hence are prickly - not fun for harvesting beans...)
~ pole beans ~

I should probably start harvesting them while they are still small & tender - treat them more like a bush bean in order to enjoy their flavour before they get too big & plump.

The trick is to remember to check the lower part of the vine - that's where I found a large number of large beans. Will be interesting to see how long I can pick from these plants.

The more you harvest, the more the plant will produce. It will also depend on the weather too...
~ Scarlet runner beans ~

The Scarlet runners are producing a huge amount right now too! It's a bit like a scavenger hunt to find all the beans in amongst the leaves. The ducks have been watching me closely these last few weeks & know that there is something possibly tasty growing here.

I caught them jumping up & grabbing a couple of the bean pods today - only Horatio was able to munch on them & eat them - the rest would prefer to rip the leaves off & run away when I squawk at them.

I would like to do a bit of research to see about pickling some of the beans - the pole beans would be lovely, but I'm not too sure about the runner beans... I might just have to French cut them & blanch them for freezing & eating later in the winter... If I can find the time to do that!!

~ yellow zucchini ~

 I am finally harvesting yellow zucchini this year! It must be that pig manure that was thrown in the bed last fall...

Remembering to harvest these when they are small is easy - they are yellow & show up very well amongst the leaves & other greens growing in the bed.

It's nice to have a bit of variety now to add to the the greens I've been munching on all summer.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Autumn is Fast Approaching!

~ yellows & oranges ~
 I truly do love the colours of the fall gardens...

The 'sneezeweed' & the tiger lilies are holding up very well in the dry weather. I'm sure if we were to have a good late summer rain shower, they would all be pushed over & that would be the end of it.

Right now they are as tall as me! I would love to have a field of colour like this...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Harvesting from the Ocean

~ sunrise at Flemming Island, Barclay Sound - BC ~

~ sunrise fishing trip ~

~ 22 pound Chinook salmon ~
I took another break from the gardens & foraging in my neighbourhood to go back out on the water & harvest a fish from the ocean. It truly is an amazing feeling to bring in your own fish & be able to feed yourself over the coming winter months. Plus the sunrises are rather spectacular out here too!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Week of Flowers

~ gladiola ~
 I'm cheating - my Internet was so slow over the last week & a bit that I've fallen behind in writing about the gardens & gardening activities. So I'm going to just post some simple photos of some of the flowers currently blooming in the yard. (well, these are from last week - I'll get out with my camera again in the next couple of days).

Most of my days have been mad dashes home to grab the berry bucket & go pick for an hour before coming home to spend time with the ducks & then head indoors for the evening. Night is falling much sooner than I want it to!!
~ star gazer lily ~
The intoxicating scent of the star gazer lilies is quite amazing. I prefer the scent in the evenings, as it rather clashes with the scent of the curry plants I have growing close by.

Curry in the mornings is something I'm quite enjoying! If you stumble across a curry plant in the greenhouse or nursery, I highly recommend getting a couple. I'll have to take a photo to show you - they are not an edible plant - but they certainly smell like curry!

~ Heleanthus ~
 My sneeze weeds (Heleanthus) are doing very well this year - I forgot to 'plant' the tomato cage supports around them this spring & so far, they are remaining upright & not falling over. I'm trying to remember if I pinched these plants earlier this year or not... (pinching the plants means you cut them back just before they start to set their flower buds - it encourages bushier growth, shorter & sturdier stems & a delay in blooming so you get blooms slightly later on). I know I did it with the daisies & the goldenrod...
~ tiger lilies ~
 One of my favourite fall blooming plants are the tiger lilies.

The bright orange shows up really well against all the greens of the gardens & I starting to see just how many seeds I've planted all over the property in all the patches of orange spots I'm seeing.

They require little to no attention. That's my kind of flower!

~ marigolds ~

 My one pot of marigolds is right outside my back door. I don't want the ducks to eat them (unspeakable horrors occurred the last time the ducks found marigolds...) so I've got them up on the railing. I should move them to the front of the deck, but we have entered 'the construction zone' again & there is saw dust everywhere for the time being. Better they remain off to the side.

Again, a great colour combo for the early start to Autumn. Bright yellows & warm oranges... I rather enjoy these more than the pinks & purples of late spring. Plus the flowers & plants seem to be much more robust than those lovely dainty spring blooms.

Let's wait to see what's blooming in a few weeks! Change is constant in the gardens...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Another Way of Preserving the Harvest

 I'm working on emptying out the berry freezer - well, ok - I need room for more salal & the blackberries are just starting to ripen & it's a 'perfect' year for blackberries, so I want to stock up on lots.

My loganberry patch gave me a very abundant crop this year - I'm sure I could sit down & figure out an approximate number of pounds of berries I harvested, but I know for sure that today, I used 22 pounds of berries in my recipe for making loganberry wine. A wonderful way to preserve excess bounty!!

I use a very, very simple method: berries, sugar, water & wine yeast.

That's it.

I don't like adding all the other items (chemicals, other additives, clarification aids...). I like to keep it simple & tasty. The flavour of my wines are different with each batch I brew - all based on the fruit themselves.
This evening, I boiled up several kettles of water, mixed in the sugar & put the berries into the berry bag. I have a heating belt on my fermentor & tomorrow, I am going to measure the specific gravity (well, the sugar content - which tells me what potential alcohol level I may expect in the finished product) & I will add the wine yeast.

In about 7 to 10 days I will remove the berries & siphon the fermenting juice into a carboy & let that sit for several months. Hopefully by Christmas I will be bottling this wine & able to enjoy in January.

A great flavoured wine - tart & refreshing. Great served over ice with a wedge of lemon or lime. Most certainly a summer wine. Since I've got this one started early this year, I'll have plenty of time to focus on harvesting more blackberries & salal & might have enough to make those into wine as well!

It's a great year for berries!! Hope you are out there enjoying fresh picked berries!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Garden Harvest in Colour

I am finally harvesting tomatoes from the greenhouse! It's been a slow process this year. My yellow pear tomatoes died & I'm having trouble keeping the soil moist enough (really should have installed drip hose in the bed!) & the summer really hasn't been very hot or sunny. But I'm able to now harvest a few tomatoes a week from my poor plants.

This variety is a paste tomato - very dense inside with not much juice. I like that! I neglected to grow basil this year, but the arugula & marjoram in the greenhouse pair well with the still-warm fruit & it's a treat I like to have in the mornings while watching the ducks foraging around the veggie beds.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Time to get Jamming!!

~ brewing salal ~
Or, as the case may be with salal berries - time to get making jelly! The salal berries are ripening a few weeks early this year so I'm working quickly to make room in the berry freezer for those days where I can pick as many as I can while they are in prime picking condition...

Tonight I threw a pot of whole berries into a large pot with some water & boiled them down for straining. I leave the pulpy mess in the jelly bag overnight to get as much juice to drip down & out as possible.

The other pot is my first batch of salal jelly for the season. If you've not tasted salal berries or the jelly, I do encourage you to do so! Probably one of my most favorite berry flavours out there & rather difficult to describe. Sort of like nutty grapes - which, now that I say it like that, doesn't sound too appealing! Hey - more for me!

I've also got a couple large batches of salal-rosemary red wine vinegar marinating in the pantry. This vinegar is amazing in a berry vinaigrette salad dressing & is one of my staples throughout the winter.

If I'm lucky & get out there this weekend - I just might be able to pick enough berries to do a large batch of wine over the winter too. It's been a couple years since I've made salal wine so I think I'll work extra hard to do that this year.

The wonderful thing about harvesting salal is that they grow wild all over the place out here! I don't have to dedicate space in the gardens & bother with maintaining, feeding, pruning or fending off birds. Free berries that get me off my property & out for a walk about town - also a fun chance to encounter people who've never tasted a salal berry before & had no idea they could be eaten. Sharing knowledge with the public about the wild berries out here is a great way to get people curious about what they see when they are out here. So much to learn! Might as well have a snack while you are at it!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stepping Away from the Gardens - a Short Break

~ July 28 ~
The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirl-wind of activity - mostly away from the gardens; which can be a good thing as the gardens can take care of themselves for short periods of time.

I headed out for a bit of salmon fishing - right out the mouth of the harbour! The fishing season is a bit slow to start (just like the gardening season out here), but I had a couple great trips & landed a couple very nice Chinook salmon.
~ August 4 ~
Being able to catch fish & then bring it home for smoking &/or canning is another one of my joys of living out here.

Because this is the busy season, I've just popped the fish into the freezer for processing later in September & October when things slow down in the gardens & with the berries & work.

I hope to get out for a few more trips - maybe try my hand at halibut or at least land a ling cod or a few rock fish.

Being out on the water allowed me to gain a new appreciation for how the gardens can take care of themselves without me. That's a good thing! Now, the potted plants up on the deck... that's another (sad) story best left alone. I think I've already shared with you how neglectful I am of plants out on the deck...