Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Best Lavender for the Wet Coast

~ Spanish lavender ~
I try to hold off harvesting the last of the flowers at this time of year in order to give the remaining insects a little bit more food to get to where they are going. But the lavender was just perfect for harvesting!

Spanish lavender seems to be the best lavender - at least in my yard - for the wet coast. It grows tall & lanky - which allows the air to move through the branches & dry the plant out, especially important during the winter when the cold & the rains come in.

I cut this bouquet & pruned the plant back in preparation for winter. I know I pruned the plants hard this spring because they do suffer a bit from the frosts & any snow fall (maybe I should cover them this winter...) but it's so great to have lavender at this time of year! Next month I'll put plastic over top my other lavender plants (English lavender) in order to keep them from becoming water logged.

I'll dry the buds & then grind them up for use in my herbal salts (edible) or in a bath (put the buds in a cloth sack under the hot running water) or I might even steep the buds to make lavender jelly or a simple syrup for baking or cocktails in the winter.

I like to brine my chickens with dried lavender buds & then when I roast them, I'll grind up some more lavender & put a salt-lavender crust on the meat. Great flavour for the winter!

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!