Sunday, April 26, 2015

My Garden Shadow

~ Nola ~
I have a new Garden Shadow this year. Her name is Nola & she's a lovely little Cairn Terrier.

Last year it was a group of ducks, this year it's a wee little dog who loves to be outside, investigating every weed I dig up, every plant I cut & every edible I harvest. She will gladly try to eat anything I am harvesting, only to find out that right now, herbs & greens are not what she was hoping for... Wait til the berry season arrives!!

She'll pop up right in my face in between the flowers & remain either under hand or under foot while I'm working away. Right now, I'm gently training her to stay out of the beds so she doesn't trample the young plants. Thankfully, she's not yet figured out the joy of digging in the dirt!! I'll let her dig in the tide pools down at the beach (looking for crabs or snails), so maybe that will not be an issue we need to worry about.

I'd like to think she enjoys the walk-abouts looking at the flowers just as much as I do. She certainly has a nose for them!
~ forget-me-nots ~

~ perennial bachelor button ~

~ raindrops on columbines ~

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Life Becomes More Simple - Finally...

~ drip hose with potatoes & greens ~
This year I've finally installed a drip line in my veggie beds. I picked some up last year, but just didn't find the energy to install it. Took minutes... literally...

So, with the simple aid of a timer for the water flow, I've got the summer drought months taken care of! No more hauling out the hose to spend rushed minutes at the end of the day, covered in swarming-biting insects to water plants that should have been watered in the morning... No more throwing hands up in the air saying 'I just can't grow that' because I chose not to water...

Of course, there is always a bit of fine tuning to be done throughout the growing season, such as: water pressure - too high? too low? One bed requires more water, one bed requires less water. Are the plants at the edges of the bed getting enough water? How much water will I actually be using during those weeks in July & August when we have absolutely no rain & the rain barrels are empty?

I look forward to finding out the answers to all of this!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Grow Your Own Fertilizer!

~ comfrey ~
I've mentioned this before, but growing comfrey is such a benefit to your gardens, you'll actively search out this 'weed' growing in the wild just to dig up & bring home. I've got them planted inbetween some berry bushes, in hard to mow spots of the lawn & in areas that should be left to grow wild.

I use the leaves whole as mulch or chopped up with a lawn mower (that's at the end of the season when they are ratty looking) tossed into the composter (an activator), or tossed into a bucket with water to make comfrey compost tea.

The purple flowers are a huge attractant to insects, especially bees, & can be eaten in salads. The small tender leaves can also be eaten in spring salads & taste like cucumber.

If you have ducks or chickens, they love this plant too, so if they run around the yard at all, provide a bit of protection around the plant or else the silly feathered garden helpers will eat the entire plant in one sitting... (been there, done that...)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Berry Blooms Con't

~ red currant ~
 I love taking a few minutes each day to walk around the gardens & yard to see what's popped up, what's blooming & how things are doing without constant care & maintenance (I rather do like a low-maintenance approach if I can get away with it...)

The currant bushes are in full bloom & loving the warmer weather & sunshine. I wish I had mason bees this year, but there are lots of other insects out there pollinating things for me.
~ black currant ~

Why are the red currant blossoms so much smaller & unassuming than the black currant blossoms?

I prefer the black currant fruit over the red currants but the black currants are notoriously more difficult to get to produce any sizeable crop, whereas the red currants are profuse...

Mother Nature has a sense of humour!

~ John Downey crab apple ~
My wee little crab apple tree is in full bloom this year - every single one of the branches & leaf nodes is open with blossoms! I know I'll have to remove some of those if I want to harvest fruit of any size or quality - it just wouldn't be fair to a tree of only 4 feet to produce a full load of fruit such as it seems to promise.

Looks like a great year for berries indeed!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Greenhouse Rebuild - Part 2(b)

~ greenhouse footing framed in ~
We started work on the greenhouse bright & early today, which really isn't such a chore when the sun is shining & it is so warm for this time of year, (I think we both got a little burnt!)

The raised beds were trimmed down level with the chain saw & stakes pounded in to keep them vertical. A bit of screen was placed along the inside lower edge & then we dug down & started to level the dirt from front to back. The beds will require quite a bit of new soil - which is never a bad thing - so will not be planted for a few weeks.

The next stages will be to get the soil to the house from another town & then to plan on the frame & covering to go over top everything. It's a good thing it's still early in the season!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Greenhouse Rebuild - Part 2(a)

After taking some time off due to weather & planning, we decided to revisit the greenhouse project.

First came the walk on the beach & now comes the hard work...

The footings required leveling & staking & with a bit of ingenuity & brute strength, the raised bed boards were installed at a width of 3 feet.

Notice how the water barrels are slightly out of balance? Well, we had to fix that as well... actually, they were sitting on pieces of wood we required for the framing, so I filled as many buckets & barrels & the duck pond & watered the rhubarb & deck pots & then had to watch the rest of that glorious FREE water run down the ditch...

The rains that will return shortly, will fill them up pretty quick & it was probably a good thing too as there were lots of mosquito larvae in the barrels already...

The Gardens can Wait Today - Part 2

~ Brady's Beach - low-low tide ~
 Today was another amazing day of sunshine & I decided to take some time off the property & go down to the beach, only a 15 minute walk from the house.

The tide was the lowest I've seen for a long time & we were able to walk a long ways down the beach, investigating tide pools & other beaches difficult to access at most times...
~ anemones ~

~ sea stars returning ~

~ looks like a moon-scape! ~

~ sea geranium ~

~ me & the pooch enjoying the sunshine & sea air ~

The Beginnings of the Berry Blooms

~ marionberry ~
 The berries & fruit trees are taking advantage of the sunshine & warmer temperatures by setting lots of blooms early.

The Marionberry that I purchased & planted last year are really taking off & setting many, many blooms - I'm curious to see what they look like when they open & if the insects will swarm & pollinate them.

These blackberries are an early ripening variety, so - with a bit of luck, there should be berries ready for harvest towards the end of June!

~ wild crab apple ~
The wild trees & berries are also starting to wake up in the sunshine.

The Pacific Wild Crab Apple, while not really providing any sort of harvest of fruit, is an important pollinator for other fruit trees in the neighbourhood.

I'm headed out early today to see what else is getting ready for what will be another very productive year for berries!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Gardens can Wait Today

~ fishing in Barkley Sound, BC ~
When the weather is this sunny & warm (despite my many layers of sweaters!), the gardens are always forgiving enough to allow time to go out & fish!

The season is yet early - there are fish out there, just not many of them are interested in becoming our dinner.

What could be better than having fresh fish for dinner while sitting in the sunshine & enjoying the spring gardens?

Happy Weekend!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sunshine is Addicting

~ columbine & chives in the sunshine ~
 This weekend is shaping up to be a great time to spend outdoors in the gardens or just sitting in the sunshine watching things grow.

I'm enjoying the 'hands off' approach that I'm able to take more often now - thanks to the deer fence that was installed a few years ago.

The chives are getting set to put out their first blooms & the columbines are literally growing inches a day!

~ candy tuft ~
The established perennials are starting to bloom & attract more insects to the gardens.

~ forget-me-nots ~

Underneath the larger plants there are always sweet little surprises like forget-me-nots.

    And the tulips are putting on a grand show this year.
~ tulip ~

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Rewards of Growing Rhubarb - Part 1

~ rhubarb harvest ~
 Today I harvested my 2nd batch of rhubarb & am looking forward to a few more harvests as the plants are looking very healthy.

I picked the smaller & more tender stalks from my plants as I found a new recipe that I wanted to try out: rhubarb pickles!

* 1 tsp juniper berries
* 1 tsp allspice berries
* 1 tsp coriander seeds (I used cumin)
* 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
* 1 shallot - halves (I used garlic)
* 2 bay leaves (mine were fresh)
~ rhubarb pickles ~
* 2 star anise
* 1 cup rice vinegar
* 1 cup water
* 1/2+ sugar
* 1 tsp kosher salt
* 1 1/4lb fresh rhubarb stalks

Crush the juniper, allspice, coriander & peppercorns in a mortar & pestle. Transfer to a medium saucepan & add all the other ingredients except the rhubarb. Bring to a boil & reduce to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.

Cut the rhubarb to fit vertical in your jar. This recipe will make 2 1-pint jars or 1 large jar, such as I've used. Slide your rhubarb into the jar & pour the spice blend over top. Cool.

They are ready after 1 week in the fridge & can last up to 2 or 3 months - if you can leave them be!! This is a wonderful addition to salads (try beets with spicy arugula) or served on cheese or charcuterie plate. It would also be wonderful with smoked fish & pates.

I can hardly wait!!

Right now though, I have a berry rhubarb maple crisp in the oven with coconut & citrus.... pass the ice cream!!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Tulip Mania along the Boardwalk

The Boardwalk Boxes along West Bamfield are in full bloom!
Spring has finally arrived...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Blooming ~ Happy Easter!

~ jostaberry blooms ~
 The sun is shining this morning & it is a bit chilly out there. I think it is more cool in the mornings these last couple of weeks than it has been since Christmas! Now is not yet the time to remove the plastic from the garden beds...

Trees, shrubs & plants are practically bursting with daily growth & I can't wait for a couple dry (drier) days to get outside & tend to the gardens.

For this weekend, I'm going to enjoy the blooms - the jostaberries are loaded with blossoms this year! I'm looking forward to seeing how these shrubs will do this year as they are a 'surprise' berry bush (thought they were gooseberries) & I'm still learning what they like & require.

The tulips are showing off all around town - what a great year for tulips!! 
Happy Spring!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

First Harvest of the Season

 The rain stopped for a few moments & the sun felt quite warm today. I've been watching my perennial herbs put on amazing amounts of new growth & felt today would be a good day to put some of it away for the coming months later in the year.

I harvested the tall stalks of lovage & pruned one of my rosemary plants, bringing in that fresh aroma into the kitchen.
~ lovage ~
The lovage leaves I roughly chopped & put into a large glass jar. Then I added 4 litres of apple cider vinegar, wrapped the top in plastic & set it in the pantry. In a few weeks, I'll strain out the lovage & have some flavoured cider vinegar - one of my staples in the kitchen. Great for salad dressings, as an added splash to meats or part of a brine/marinade for chicken. Lovage on its own is a great flavour enhancer & I'll make use of it all summer long, so this vinegar is reserved for the winter months...
~ rosemary ~
The rosemary I put into some smaller glass jars with olive oil. Again, a rough chop to release the essential oils & a good stir to remove any air bubbles (also make sure it does not have water or dew on the leaves as oil & water do not mix!!). This will also stay in the pantry for a couple of weeks & will be strained out into bottles for use in cooking & making salad dressings.

Having different flavoured vinegars & oils in the kitchen means your meals will never become boring or bland - one new flavour will lead to more...!!!

~ sorrel ~
I also went out & harvested the majority of my sorrel. As you can see, the leaves are large & starting to become a bit tough. What better way to use up some fresh greens than to make sorrel pesto!!

My base recipe is the same as most other pesto recipes: olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper & green herbs. This year I decided to use fresh chives in the blend instead of garlic - 1) I'm out of garlic & 2) I've been having a rather strong 'reaction' to garlic & have removed it from most of my cooking for a while. This recipe allows the pesto to be transformed into many different ways when you are looking for a hit of green, tart & tangy goodness to your dishes.

You can add mayo or sour cream or cream cheese or a bit of hot sauce or toss it with some salsa or spread on fresh salmon or add chopped rhubarb for a pork dish.... honestly - one of my essentials in my fridge is a jar of sorrel pesto.
~ finished pesto ~

I pour the pesto into small jars & pop them down into the bottle of the freezer for use later on in the year. Sorrel grows so well out here that I might be able to do another one or two harvests for pesto! For the spring, when the plants send up more tender shoots, I'll use those fresh in salads & enjoy the lemony-tart-tang....