Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mornings are Still Amazing

~ early morning ~
 Pretty soon these lovely early mornings will be a memory for a few short months. For an early riser, it is hard to wait for the sun to come out & get the day going, especially when you've been awake for several hours!

Autumn mornings are great - cool & crisp - not yet a hint of frost, but a sweater goes a long way for that first cup of coffee while watching the ducks run around the yard or while watching the sun crest over the trees.

There's that wonderful smell in the air too - sometimes it's wood stoves, sometimes it wet grass, sometimes it the leaves on the ground. What a great way to start the day!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Herbal Harvest

 ~ sage ~
 This Autumn weather is simply amazing - rainy in the morning & then glorious sunshine in the afternoon. Allows for quick & small projects out in the garden with time to contemplate & reflect on the past year while enjoying it still.

I realized that my supply of dried sage was almost non-existent! I had also run out of herbal apple cider vinegar - I always have a few bottles of that around to add a bit of zip or zing to a recipe.

Today's recipe (a great bean salad) called for zippy cider vinegar as well as fresh herbs. Perfect timing to run outside & harvest some sage before the frosts arrived & nipped off the new growth that my plant produced for me over the last little while.

When harvesting your perennial herbs, especially at this time of year, don't cut too far down the stalk - not into the wood areas of the stem (unless you are pruning them back hard). They need to be ready for the winter season & you wouldn't want them to suddenly produce a new flush of growth that might remove energy set aside for next spring.

 I harvested a lovely bouquet of sage - plenty to meet my needs for the winter months.

I spread out several cuttings on the tray to dry out over the next week or 2 & the rest I rough chopped, put into my glass jar & covered with apple cider vinegar. I put some plastic over top to not have the metal lid come in contact with the vinegar & gave it a good shake. The vinegar will sit for a few weeks until I feel (by taste & smell) that the vinegar has enough sage flavouring. Bear in mind that apple cider vinegar is slightly sweet, so the flavour is a bit different than you might expect. Sweet, tangy & zippy - with whatever herb flavour you want to throw in the mix!

I like it with potatoes, a splash or 2 in veggie or seafood stir fries & just over the top of a salad.

What are you harvesting from your gardens at this time of year?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunshine you can Taste

After a few days of much needed rain, we are back into sunshine & warm temps... A great day to work in the gardens & continue to harvest an amazing bounty of raspberries.

I usually freeze my berries immediately for use later in the winter, but am taking some moments for myself to observe the gardens & eat this bowl - no ice cream required, no added sugar needed, just really appreciating the fruits of my labour  & looking forward to sharing some with friends.

Wonder what else I'll uncover out there today?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Today's Harvest

~ fava/broad beans ~
 The summer weather seems to be lasting a bit longer into September than usual. This is great! Garden Therapy at this time of year is so refreshing & relaxing...

It's a great time to take stock of what worked & what didn't.

I planted quite a few fava beans this year - broad beans - in the hopes I could harvest quite a bit & freeze them for the winter. Well, the ducks like fava beans - they managed to rip most of them down & out of the beds (even with barriers installed) & the later crop that came in yielded a much smaller amount. These are what broad beans look like - very much different than pole beans, runner beans or your typical bush bean. The broad bean has a thick fluffy shell that you don't eat - just let the pods remain on the plant til you can feel their size through the thick pod & pick. I roasted mine up with fresh dug potatoes & garlic...
~ fingerling potatoes ~
Well, the ducks didn't actually dig up & eat all my potatoes this year. I decided to dig the bed out in preparation for the garlic I'll plant in there in a few weeks & I harvest a bucket & a half of potatoes! The ducks jumped right up in behind my excavation looking for insects, but I think all the found was a mouth full or 2 of soil... things are really dry out there in the gardens!

So, there are a couple Yukon Golds, but the rest are all fingerlings. I like to roast them whole with a bit of lemon juice, a small amount of coconut oil & some herbal salt. Will be nice to have a special treat of potatoes this winter.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Getting the Greenhouse Bed Ready for Winter Production

 Ok, I didn't get a shot of what the bed looked like before I ripped out everything - it would have been embarrassing to share that with you. I had 2 pepper plants in pots that never quite made it into the bed, I had 4 tomato plants that were 3/4's dead & had rotten tomatoes hanging off them (eek!), there were 5 foot high arugula plants with seeds popping out everywhere, a dill plant that had been loved til it wasn't & died & a multitude of poppies & grass... I kinda sucked at my greenhouse bed this year...

What's left are: rosemary plants in the front & marjoram in the back & a harshly pruned arugula to see if I can transplant it later this year or early in the spring. (I do enjoy arugula)

Well, what happens when you mess in the dirt...

Horatio is constantly watching me. He knows that where I go, there is usually food involved...

He felt right a home jumping up into the bed & rooting around. Normally I do not allow the ducks in the greenhouse because of this tendency for them to jump right up & sit on things & eat things, but he somehow knew that today was a good day to be naughty.

The others quickly figured out what fun it was to be in there without supervision & they joined in on the fun. Of course, I did boot them out when I saw them all making a bee line for the marjoram & they were just standing on it...

What's up with ducks & herbs anyways? Last year the quackers destroyed all my thyme plants by taking naps on them! (I've yet to grow the replacement plants - must try harder next year).

I soaked the soil well - twice - because this soil just gets dry so quickly. I must remember to water it more frequently - better yet - install a drip line system on a timer so that I don't have to remember!

I planted fava beans (broad beans) & a lettuce blend. The hoops & plastic are necessary right now to keep the ducks from getting in there & digging everything up. The plastic will be necessary over the course of the winter as double insulation - will actually help keep the emerging plants warmer & keeps the moisture in the soil for a bit longer.

At least it worked that way last year. I hope to have similar results this year.

I'm over-wintering my herbs in here too. I have some sage & 2 types of rosemary & a couple wee thyme plants all in pots. I may or may not have to drape a plastic sheet over them as well - depends on how cold it get in here in the winter.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dawn of the Quackers

 As the season progresses, the sun rises slightly later each morning - making it an interesting adventure waking the ducks up without freaking them out... or so I like to tell myself when I head out there in the dark. They are usually waiting for me & can't wait to get out & stretch their wings & get going on their day.

Monday & Tuesday are now 16 weeks old. Just today I saw Tuesday's little tail feather curl up!

We are blessed with 4 male ducks... Oh boy - the Terrors of the Yard are going to get interesting pretty soon...
 
Percy is 22 weeks old. A full-fledged adult duck. He seems to still be the ring leader in their activities, mostly because he likes to direct the other ducks around the yard. I wonder if one of the twins will step up & become a bit more bossy.

Horatio is also now an adult - 20 weeks old - & he's huge! He likes to walk up the stairs to the upper deck & visit with me. Good thing he doesn't mind when I haul him back down to the gardens. Currently he investigates my deck pots & leaves a mess of dirt & leaves behind him (as well as large piles of poo...)

I'm glad I'm a morning person but we've been lucky so far with no storms or rain first thing in the day. Am loving the summer that seems to be lasting forever!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Autumn has Arrived

Welcome to my favorite season: Autumn! I love the colours & the smell & the general richness in the air. Hopefully I'll get out during the early daylight hours for better photos of all the changes going on around me. Now is the season to reflect & pause & ponder & plan... Enjoy your gardens for a while longer!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Terror(s) in the Yard

~ Percy ~
Our darling ducks are growing still - more into the Terrors of the Yard... It appears we have 4 males & I'm afraid this adventure is going to end in heart-break & full stomachs...

Nothing has been decided!!

This is Percy. My paramour... a daily ritual & training session on how not to abuse my pant leg, my foot & sometimes my hand. I'm covered in bruises from this beasty boy. This is what he looks like when he's coming in for a good tail-wagging, pant leg pulling session.

I just don't know what to do with him! He makes me laugh & he makes me cry, but he's never going to lay eggs & he's much too aggressive to turn your back on him for very long.

Horatio (the white one) understands the concept of a fence. It's meant to protect all the yummy good things on the other side from the ducks. That just means they get crafty & work a bit harder to get what's on the other side...

The twins pay close attention & follow his lead. The boys are very mischievous but I sowed heavily this year & doubt I'll notice too much damage next year when things bounce back from their constant nibbling.

It will be interesting to see how they react once the rainy season starts in earnest & they discover the muddy drainage ditch on the far side of the property... they'll never want to leave it!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Today's Harvest

~ raspberries ready for harvest ~
The weather turned for the better today, which was great for the raspberries. They enjoy the cool nights & warm sunny days but do not tolerate too much rain when the leaves are still thick on the canes.

The ducks were begging at my feet, as usual & thankfully these berries are growing up at the very tops of the canes - some about 8 to 10 feet tall!!

The ducks received only a few that were bug eaten or over-ripe...
~ today's harvest! ~

I managed to grab some of the over-large pole beans & will shuck out the seeds tonight. I had a wonderful couscous salad the other day with bean seeds, black beans & sesame - it was a 'Japanese Edamame' salad & something I can easily recreate. It also doesn't upset the tender digestive system I've developed of late.

I just crave the fresh fruits & veggies out of the garden... Even if I have to pick quickly in order to not be eaten alive by the bugs!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Slowly Saying Goodbye

 It's been a pretty busy couple of weeks with lots of life changes & challenges to overcome & new challenges on the horizon. The garden always provides relief & distraction.

The current blooms are covered in the last remaining bees & other insects & with today's small about of rain, they might last a while longer.

The grass was finally mowed after almost 2 months & it was honestly, done more so to cut down the dandelion seeds & flowers than to actually cut grass. But it does look better. It will be a while yet before the lawns turn back into vibrant green.

I have a few yellow zucchini left out in the garden & am seeking new & interesting ways to eat what's left - it was a good year for zukers. Wonder if I can grow them again next year....

The squash have a few more weeks of growing & ripening to go through. I'm excited to have winter squash again in my diet. These ones are very dense & have a wonderful creamy, nutty flavour when slow roasted. As long as the ducks don't find any more of them & peck away at their skin, they should last a few months in cold holding.

 The bright yellow of the Helenium & goldenrod is now over. Will take a day or so to cut it all back, but this year they required no staking - partly due to the lack of storms & also because I pinched back the stems. Will try that again next year!

I have more pole beans & runner beans than I know what to do with!!

I'll freeze a bunch for winter eating, but lately I've been feeding them to the ducks - who will stand by the beds & beg for treats of beans & bean leaves...

Good thing they can't reach the plants or else they would be gone in a day!

The fall raspberries are ripening again & the rain will bring on a larger harvest than I anticipated. Fresh raspberries first thing in the morning at this time of year are such an amazing treat!

Hopefully I'll have time next week to catch up on more changes around the gardens & with the ducks... Will be nice to slow down & say goodbye to summer properly...