Garden Tour 2017

We held a little talk at our work place to explain what it is we do; grow our own food. People were genuinely interested in what and why we were doing this. From that came many requests to visit our yard and see what we do. We decided we might as well sign up for the Summerside and Area Garden Tour for the year and have everyone come on one day when we were clean and ready. So we did.

Here are some pictures. We had a good day, we answered many questions and also learned so much from our guests. So many great hints and tips shared that we are looking into(Lady bugs are already here).

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The yard 2017 summer
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The arches and garlic.
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7 new potato beds this year…not liking the beetles in the front of the yard.
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View from the greenhouse to the garage deck and down the archway.
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The perfect place to sit to view the back yard GH and gardens.
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View from the side deck(BBQ and Smoking kingdom) of the bee garden. It grows yearly.
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Tiffany Rose
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Bees and their garden
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3 rows Raspberry, one Black current and one Rhubarb with a white clover ground over.
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Hella climbing rose, sweetly fragrant.
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Hummingbird feeder on old door

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Don Juan climbing rose

 

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The only annuals I can get to grow.
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The rose arches to the green house.

Giving ourselves the deadline of a showing moved many projects to completion that would have taken us years at a leisurely pace. There are of course new projects that came into being because of the ones we finished and we will work on those as we feel like it. The pressure is off.

Gardening is a way of life, never completed but built upon.

Enjoy growing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good bugs vs Bad bugs

So,I cannot say enough about the importance of talking with random strangers who love to do what you do. Some of the best advice is hidden in those moments.

We had our garden tour (pics later when we recover) and although our roses are clear of aphids, our potatoes this year are over run with potato beetle.  It seemed as though as soon as it was commented that we didn’t have aphids, they appeared the next day. Do aphids travel with people?

As it happens, a guest at the tour commented that she ordered lady bugs from Costco to combat her “bad bug”problems. I took it in stride, thinking I heard wrong or she said the wrong name of  the garden supplier she bought from. Our thoughts on bulk consumerism are not the kindest and isn’t Costco the place you buy 1000 precooked coconut shrimp in the freezer department and can also pick up a big screen TV, and maybe some nice 20 pack underwear for everyone your love?

I told the hubby anyway and he looked it up on line.  Sure enough, you can buy lady bugs by 1000 per bag, shipped right to you! So we now are in possession of 2000 lady bugs to be released tonight. And I might just not dislike Costco so much, OK I still don’t like the bulk processed food shopping zombies, but on this they get a pass. Kudos on the lady bugs!

They come in a bag with what looks like sprouts for them to feed on and the instructions are to keep them in a refrigerated so they stay dormant. They are to be released in batches over a one week period in the evenings, with leaf/plant coverage to protect them. The will breed and lay eggs that will continue to feed, for 3-4 weeks, on all the eggs and larvae you do not want. They do not eat your plants.

We are very excited to see if this works. We have tried diatomaceous earth with little success for the beetle. It does works great on slugs though.

So here goes the first release. Grow and eat and breed you little beauties.

I can only imagine the for the small cost for 1000 lady bugs they would make a nice back yard addition to anyone with kids. To walk around your back yard for 3-4 weeks and see so many lady bugs around would be thrilling for a little one. That of course is not to mention that every garden(veg or flower) could benefit from a few good bugs.

Go buy yourself some lady bugs! Who knew?

A Picture-less Post, tired…

So, spring is turning to summer and finally we have some heat to plant the gardens in. We thought it might never happen. We took 3 days off work plus the upcoming weekend to getter’ done. Days one and two are behind us and we are exhausted. There is no other way to put it.

The potatoes were planted 3 weeks ago and ,with some loving watering, are breaking through the straw covering. The peas and snow peas went in about the same time and have stayed alive, I ask for no more at this time.

The coop needed some repairs, the compost piles needed to be turned/moved, the picket fence needed some more painting(it’s almost done, just some rhubarb to move to access the rest) and we have busily been digging up strawberry, rhubarb and raspberry to give away to happy recipients as we had far too much.

We have planted all of the seeds and by the end of the weekend will plant the starts from the greenhouse as they are hardening off.

We are gluttons for punishment and just couldn’t resist the add on a local selling site that listed “fire grass” for sale, I mean it sounds so cool. Then they had other plants too so our collective OCD took over and ,40 plants later, we have them planted today. We (and I use this phrase loosely) may also have dug up 17 other plants ,we got them last year at end of season sales and were thrown in an open garden bed, and potted them to be moved…just maybe.

That and mowing the grass finally (we waited until June so the bees would have the dandelions and/or to save us work…it’s all good) which included quite a bit of raking. Not bad though as it all goes in the compost rows.

With a well needed rain storm, we rest. It’s time for rhubarb pie, some baked BBQ ribs, garlic mashed potatoes and the couch. I it weren’t for rain and full time jobs we might never rest. Yes, going to work on Monday is viewed as a rest as neither of us are required to dig holes at work.

The pie is calling. Enjoy your weekend.

Spring and rebirth, it is upon us.

So, it’s spring and we are full of new plans and excitement.

The 10 arches are ready for the climbing roses to be planted. It took 2 years to get them but they are at our supplier waiting for us and will get them shortly. It is to be a deep red and fragrant Don Juan and a white fragrant Hella. Finding roses with deep scent has been a hunt. If it doesn’t smell like a rose, why plant it? It might just be me?

The old chimney brick is piled against the house for the continuing walkway from the greenhouse, the arch walk is going to be grass at this point.

One last row of picket fence to go from the last arch to the greenhouse edge(with another arch to the side into the new shade garden of course!) is yet to be done.

The house and greenhouse seedlings are doing well and will go in the ground soon.

There are 7 new raised beds going in so we stop rotto tilling our potato beds, a cutting garden(or medicinal, yet to decide) going in the green house picketed fence area as the raspberry patch moves to the newly cleared back corner. We cleared all non-orchard trees from the little unused corner last year in prep for this.  Plus adding some lovely black current bushes and a Tay Berry bush from friends.

There is, as mentioned,  a shade garden of local natural plants going in between the green house and the fence line. A quick trip to MacPhail Woods Nursery and we are in business. We have to pick up our order for Ostrich fern, Witch hazel, Bayberry, Swamp Milkweed, Dutchmans Breeches (again, can’t giggle enough at growing pants!), and Hairy Sweet Cicily. There will surely be more selected when we get there as we have no control over our plant procurement habit.

The tandem loads of new soil have started arriving(local seaweed laced at that) and the local child labour has been contacted for wood stacking.

We have signed up to be a  garden tour location for July 16th and are in full force to pull  it together. Nothing like setting a deadline on productivity…like we need one.

The meat chicks have been ordered and their coop is scheduled for a fix up as raccoons and rodents have had a hay day over the winter with burrowing under the slab and eating through wooden door jams and walls. We had no idea after 15+yrs with that shed that now they would become obsessed with entry???

The 3 new bee nucs are ready for pick up this weekend(as 3 died over winter and these are local created, which is new for us), the pollen patties are out as well as the new bee feeder, which they seem to love and is in full vigor. Simply drill small holes in the inner edge of a bucket, fill with sugar water , put on the lid and flip over. Perfection. Just have to take it to the greenhouse at night or the raccoon will have a sugar high.

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Our kitchen may be temporarily closed but we are building plans for next year, you can slow us down, throw obstacles at us but we will find a way.

It is spring and everything is possible when the sun shines on you.

Beard Balm

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It’s the dead of winter and the cold crisp air takes its toll on our skin. To over come the dry itchy skin I pull out the basics of  brown sugar/olive oil/vanilla scrub in the shower and slather in coconut oil after. It leaves you smelling like a day at the beach and moisturized enough to get through another day. That’s all fine and dandy if you like the smell of vanilla and coconut but it’s not very manly.

For the manly beard, that is habitually grown to combat the chill, something else had to be done.  A quick internet search plus a double check of the soap making supplies on hand and an easy Beard Balm was concocted.

Beard Balm:

  • 2 ounces Shea butter
  • 1 ounce Bees wax
  • 4 ounces oil( I had grape seed so used that but coconut works too if you can handle the smell or jojoba or argon…)

You can certainly add any essential oils you like but for a mister who doesn’t like scents, plain worked out well.

I put all ingredients in a glass bowl, microwaved 30 seconds at a time and stirred in between each cycle until all was mostly melted. The stirring will work the last of the bees wax in without having to heat until it is all dissolved. Of course it can be done over a double boiler or however you see fit. Just get it warm enough to melt without boiling.

Then the liquid was quickly poured into two 125 ml mason jars. This set quickly, be ready.

Rub a small amount into your beard and massage in. If you have a soft bristle beard brush to distribute the balm evenly and get it into the skin, so much the better.

Hard working men deserve a little cold weather luxury and every woman knows a softer beard is never a bad thing.

 

 

Makin’ the Bacon

 

We purchased a full pig from another homesteader. The pig was one of two raised, and was named Pork Chop. Pork Chop enjoyed having his ears scratched until he fell asleep in the sun  and eating garden left overs. I thoroughly enjoy hearing stories of how our food was raised.

And this is the story of how Pork Chop became bacon.

We bought this book on preserving meat and the absolute first thing we had to make was bacon. It has been years since we cut it out of our diet because, well, we try to eat only what we grow or make ourselves and we didn’t know how to make bacon.

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There are many items on the “to try” list , but lets get back to the bacon! A simple salt rub and 7 days in a bag in the fridge for the pork belly. Then a cold water wash, smoking for a few hours and the fry up. Oh, the frying…the scent, the crispy edges.

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Since I had made fresh bread today it was a toasted bacon sandwich for supper after a long day of Christmas baking. Today was family doughnut making day, so some salt to counter all the sugar was definitely in order. That’s the excuse I am using on myself anyway.

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I couldn’t get a picture before I devoured half of it. The rest will be chilled to partial frozen then sliced on our new toy(the meat slicer) before being vac-sealed and frozen in portions.  Many days of bacon adventures are to be had in the near future and 3 more pork belly pieces to cure and smoke as needed(bacon is a need now…).

Large pieces of pork turn into the most amazing little pieces of love. I am certain the main ingredient in bacon is love, I’m sure of it.

Sending out bacon love far and wide.

 

 

 

Black Garlic

Seriously the best food on the planet. Black Garlic is fermented garlic that has turned black, sweet, soft and oh, so delicious (and good for you apparently).

I have been buying black garlic from a local garlic farmer, Eureka Garlic,who also inspired my love of growing garlic. Over the years I have contemplated fermenting my own but just never got around to it. After much internet searching and video watching I  threw in the towel and launched the experiment.

I bought a cheap little rice cooker, layered paper towel on the bottom, full garlic bulbs to fill the bowl, a final layer of paper towel and then tossed in some water to keep everything hydrated. The cooker was left on warm since August 15th. I should note that the cooker came with a steamer basket I used to layer the garlic…it slowed the process and I discarded it within the first 30 days.

For the first couple of weeks it was left outside on the back deck as the initial smell was overwhelming. Once the smell subsided (it was actually only a couple of days but I was busy and the raccoons don’t like garlic so it was safe to leave alone) it was good to bring back inside and let it sit until done. The only attention it needed was to monitor the moisture level along the way. Sometimes I added a little white wine, others beer but mostly water.

From everything I had researched people were getting black garlic in as little as 10 days and as much as 30 days…good for them. At 3 and a half months I have a product I am happy with. The bulbs have turned black, the flesh is tender and sweet. I can eat the cloves straight from the bulb. I will say they are not the Eureka Garlic extreme fleshy softness that you can squish with your thumb, that he has perfected over years of trials, but they are my first attempt. The texture is soft and slightly chewy, but not gummy bear tough. They should make a sauce with very little effort.

A success that I will do again. Maintaining a more sustained moisture level should improve the results and time frame. I frequently had to re hydrate crispy cloves as I forgot about it. Good to know that dehydration did not kill the experiment.

If one man can do it, so can you.

My father taught me I can do anything I want to (note I have to want to…)and I have not waived from that belief. I wanted to do this.

Done.