Friday, June 23, 2017

Cherokee Purple and The Thunder Rolls

We continue to have cool, damp weather.  This morning brought some welcome sunshine and mild temps, though the sky is quickly darkening as I type (3:00pm) and I hear thunder rumbling, heading this way.  Will we have sunny days next week?

About two weeks ago, my daikon radish, which was doing so well, suddenly started to bolt.  I'm not sure why, especially considering how cool this spring/early summer has been.  I reluctantly pulled it up (it smelled so fresh and good), composted it, and planted Yellow Crookneck Squash seeds in it's place.  I wasn't sure if these would germinate, as the seeds were 5+ years old.  I planted 12 to cover my bases.  They began to come up the day before yesterday - more than I expected, so I will have to thin them out!  This is my first time growing this variety, and I look forward to seeing what these squash are like. 

One of the radish starting to bolt.

Yellow Crookneck Squash starting to come up. Thinned out a few already!

Tiger Eye beans with bamboo stakes in the north garden.

The first tomato!  A Cherokee Purple.

Italian Giant Leaf parsley

Purple kohlrabi

The apples are starting to form.

The carrot and onion bed is doing well!  I'm so glad I learned about planting carrot seeds while the weather is still cool (as with beets, peas, and leeks).  What a difference it makes.

Crab apples

Pansies (and Bachelor Buttons that have not yet bloomed).

The raspberry bushes are LOADED with developing fruit.  For the last few weeks, the patch has hummed with bees of all sizes.  A sight for sore eyes, as it seems there are fewer and fewer bees in the garden each year.  I hoped to get a picture of one of the large, fuzzy ones, but this fellow was most accommodating.

It is now 3:30pm and the sky just opened up. The thunder rolls and the rain pours.  It is dark enough that we have had to turn on the lights mid-afternoon.  Time to finish up this entry and log off!

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Lost A Little Friend

I lost a little friend yesterday.  A cat we'd come to call, "Floofy" started visiting last year. In the last few months, he had become an almost constant presence, sleeping on the doorstep or around the property, sometimes all night.  He wasn't ours, but seemed to want to be.  

On the frosty step ~6am.  Settled in to sleep the night despite -8 temps.

Early one May morning, incubating a dahlia tuber.

Early yesterday morning, I discovered him at the back the house, meowing plaintively and unable to use his back legs or get up. R. alerted Floofy's owner, who took him to the vet.  His owner came by later that day to let us know that Floofy did not make it.

I am missing him terribly today.  He was a big, affectionate, gentle lovebug who followed me all around the garden, nuzzling my hands as I pulled weeds and flopping on the ground to watch me plant seeds.  He would give me slow, loving blinks as I talked to him. If we had allowed him to come into our house, I don't think he would have left.

July 2016, in the shade by the strawberries.

Just last week - wanting to come inside, but content to be near.

We found out Floofy's name was Vixen.  I found out last year while trying to track down his owner that his SPCA name had been, "Love".  He certainly was the embodiment of that.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Place For Everything, Everything In Its Place

     It has been a busy week or two, and I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We planted the peas and potatoes May 23rd, and I started planting the other transplants (tomatoes, peppers, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower) on the 28th.  I planted most of the dry beans May 29th and then the string beans on May 30th.  

     We have cut corners this year in order to get the basics done.  R. is limited as to what he can do outside, still recovering from breaking his leg last October.  I simply do not have the stamina I used to, and this is the first year I have felt genuinely overwhelmed by prepping, planting, and maintaining the garden (let alone dealing with the house and yard).  Things are not exactly the way I would like them to be, but the seeds and transplants are finally in the ground.  All that remains to be done is pounding in wood stakes around the tomatoes, bamboo poles around the Tiger Eye beans, putting small trellises near the cucumbers, and mulching things as we can (i.e., every time the lawn in mowed).  Our nephew has been coming once a week to put a dent in the mowing and whippersnipping.  It has been a learning curve for him, but we are grateful to have the yard work at least minimally under control.

The hayfield...I mean, the raspberry patch.

Potato Patch

This year, we only planted half the potatoes we usually do.  We do not have a good place to store vegetables through the winter, and always end up composting a large chunk of what we harvest because it is inedible come Spring.   We planted mostly Russets and a few Red Norlands and Blue Russians.  In the rest of the potato patch, I planted zinnias, cherry tomatoes (Chocolate Cherry and Snow White Cherry), Speckled Algonquin dry bush beans, 2 or 3 Cuor di Bue cabbage (from my tiny transplants) and Green Macerata cauliflower (from my transplants).

Small Macerata cauliflower transplants protected by milk jug tops.

Raised Beds Along Driveway

My winter squash this year is Galeux D'Eysines.  All four I started survived being hardened off and transplanted outside this year. In the other beds are carrots (a variety of heirloom types), zinnias, Detroit Red beets, Muncher cucumbers, Heritage Mix dry bush beans, leeks, Cattle bean (d/b), red and white onions, Daikon radish, tomatoes (Berkeley Tie Dye and Emerald Evergreen), Painted Pony dry bush beans, summer squash (the white scallop squash didn't germinate, so I replanted with Gelber Englischer Custard Squash seeds), Sunspot sunflowers, purple kohlrabi (seeds are older, so fingers crossed it comes up) and Tendergreen snap beans.

Galeux D'Eysines squash

Pots filled with stones planted between the squash to facilitate watering.

Carrots and onions. Beets at far end of bed (not visible).

Daikon radish. First planting at the back, 2nd & 3rd row planted 3 weeks later.

Rock bed

Red Express cabbage (from my transplants), nasturtiums, and 1 or 2 Cuor di Bue cabbage.

Red Express cabbage transplants beneath those milk jug tops!

North Garden

Romanesco cauliflower (my transplants), green cabbage and broccoli (bought from the greenhouse), Tiger Eye (dry bush w/runners), Red Swan (pink snap or dry bush), Galopka bean (yellow snap bush), Calima (green filet bush), Red Ruby sunflowers, and garlic (assorted, from cloves and bulbils)

Assorted garlic varieties from bulbils.

South Garden

Green Arrow peas

Beds along South Side of the House

Tomatoes, peppers (sweet yellow banana), and basil seed.

Behind House

Leeks, assorted lettuce, Dapple Grey dry bush beans, Detroit Red beets, Lacinato kale, Swiss chard, green zucchini, jalapeno pepper, and bush cucumber.

Assorted pots and Containers

Mint, Lacinato and Red Russian kale, lettuce, rosemary, Ajvarski peppers, jalapeno peppers, Early Annie (determinate) tomato, bush cucumbers, Romanesco cauliflower, Sunspot sunflowers, Fairyland Candytuft (flowers), Thumbelina zinnias, allyssum, pansies, 1 Ping Tung eggplant, nasturtiums.

The lilacs are at their peak right now - what a beautiful scent!

Neighbour cat (we call her L'Oreal) came over to visit.

Flaked out on the nice, warm gravel.

Woolly Thyme

Monday, May 22, 2017

Garlic, If Nothing Else

   What a cool, soggy Spring.  May long weekend is typically when we till the gardens and plant peas and potatoes.  Sometimes, I can even plant my tomatoes outside on May long weekend.  Not this year!  The in-ground garden plots are too wet and heavy to till, so we will have to wait to plant potatoes and peas.  The carrots, beets, and daikon radish I planted a week or two ago are just starting to germinate (cool-weather crops, indeed!).  I transplanted leeks, parsley, and kale outside yesterday and sowed some Thumbelina zinnia, allysum, Swiss Giant Pansy, and Fairyland Dwarf Candytuft seeds in containers. Until it warms up significantly, everything else will have to wait.

   Due to poor weather, my milk jug greenhouse transplants haven't been as successful this year as they were last year.  The chard, cabbage, and even the marigolds are only up an inch or so and look feeble.  The kale is coming along, but it is small.  The best transplants of the bunch I started in jugs this year are the Red Express cabbage and Romanesco cauliflower.  Despite the fact that I started 5 varieties of cabbage seed - all from new seed - I still think I am going to have to go to the greenhouse and buy green cabbage transplants for the garden.  Frustrating!

   The garlic cloves and bulbils I planted last Fall have come up and are looking good.  The bulbils are in the pots, the cloves are in the ground (and are much larger).

   I began hardening off the tomato and pepper transplants a few days ago. No sheet required to shade them today. It is 19 degrees, breezy, and overcast this afternoon.  Two Galeux D'Eysines winter squash plants are beneath the milk jug tops.  My experience starting winter squash plants indoors, hardening them off, and transplanting them outdoors successfully (meaning they don't croak) has been limited.  Direct-sow is the way to go with winter squash, but some varieties require a longer growing season than we have, so...  Sometimes, I gamble! 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Coming Along

Tomatoes, peppers, parsley, marigolds, and a few houseplants under a light in the kitchen.

In the plant room, tomatoes and peppers on the cat tree (Bea and Lou are not thrilled about this).

More tomatoes and peppers in the plant room...

...and still more!

In the living room, my beloved leeks, a handful of tomatoes and peppers, parsley, and marigolds.  The last two weeks have been overcast and cool.  The seedlings are showing it.  :-(

Overnight temps lately have dipped as low as -4, and tonight the forecast is -8.  I brought in my milk jug greenhouses for the time being.  Almost everything has germinated, including the Swiss chard...

...and the mixed kale!  :-)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Robins, Robins, Everywhere

    After a stretch of relatively mild weather, Easter weekend brought a blast of winter.  Heavy, wet snow fell steadily on April 13th and 14th.  It was perfect snowman snow.  On the 15th, the temperature rose and almost everything that had fallen - at least a foot - melted.  Puddles dotted the driveway and formed in the shallow sections of our lawn.  By the next morning (Sunday), it was snowing heavily once again  We received more than another foot by Monday night.

     It was an atypical Easter weekend, spent dealing with a blocked sewer line (we had to have a plumber here on Easter Monday, the second "after hours" service call in 8 days).  The bright spot for me was the very sudden appearance of robins in the middle of the snowfall on Monday.  I glanced up from my laptop and was shocked to see the crab apple tree outside the plant room filled with dozens of robins!  I stopped counting at 35. There were more in the trees along the alley behind the house, too. They were chubby, lively, and loving the snow!  Some were fluttering their wings the same way they do when bathing in puddles.  Others were eagerly feasting on the shriveled up crab apples left on the tree.   These pictures are unfortunately not very clear, but they will give you the idea.  (Click on pictures to enlarge)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ho-Mi Digger and Dried Mushrooms

Two weeks ago, I finally decided to go ahead and buy the Romanesco cauliflower seeds I have wanted for two years. They aren't cheap, and when shipping fees are factored in - and the currency exchange, depending on which seed company one buys from - they end up costing $9 to $15. Ouch.

Nevertheless, a gardener wants what a gardener wants, so... I found the hybrid variety ("Veronica") of Romanesco cauliflower I was looking for at Veseys.  Fortunately for me, I subscribed to the Veseys e-newsletter before buying them and discovered that a code for free shipping on my first order came with the subscription confirmation.  Woohoo!  In addition to buying these platinum-coated seeds (I jest....but they are $5.25 for "approximately" 25 seeds), I splurged and bought a gardening tool I have wanted for some time.  It is a Korean hand tool called a Ho-Mi Digger (also called an Easy Digger/EZ Digger). 

When my package from Veseys arrived and I took out the Ho-Mi digger, I was impressed.  It looks like it is versatile and easy to use, like a small plough for your hand.  Most remarkably, it looks like a weapon. Right some deadly.  Heaven help the foolhardy soul who tries to raid my garden.

Early in the year, I was looking for a Canadian business that sells freeze-dried or dehydrated mushrooms in bulk.  In the past, I have waited for sales on button mushrooms, then bought them, dry-cleaned them, sliced them, and dehydrated them.  While the flavour is excellent and it is wonderful to have them on hand whenever we want to make a quick soup or stew, prepping them that way is time consuming.  It took some hunting, but I found a place called Misty Mountain Specialties in Vancouver. 

I admit that I spent the first few minutes making sure that Misty Mountain was selling the kind of mushrooms I was looking for and not a more....mind-expanding product. *ahem*  They do, in fact, sell a wide variety of wild and cultivated mushrooms - fresh, dry, medicinal, and truffle products.  Also some specialty products, like black garlic, goji and juniper berries, chilis, and ginseng.  I ended up buying dried button, portabello, and shiitake mushrooms, as well as a canister of powdered porcini mushroom (this is delicious in stews!).  The package that arrived was very large, but very light.  They enclosed a snazzy pen/flashlight combo as a thank-you.  If you order, it might be an idea to do so with friends.  The mimimum order to qualify for free shipping in Western Canada is $100.  In Eastern Canada, it is $180.  Worth it to me.  We're enjoying them, and they should last until the end of the year.