Category Archives: Gardening

Bindweed, and Other Stuff I’m Working On.

The big devil in my garden is hedge bindweed.

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It is literally EVERYWHERE. If I didn’t spend time continually pulling it, by the end of summer, I would have no garden, just a massive pile of bindweed. It winds up everything, pulling it down the ground and smothering it.

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Yep, that’s definitely not a currant flower….

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The only hope I have is that permaculture books say that if your soil improves enough, it goes away on it’s own. It certainly can’t be smothered under mulch, black plastic, or paving stones. The neighbor sprays his with roundup, and it laughs in his face as it pretends to die, then springs up from the ground again with the strength of ten men.  Supposedly, if you keep pinching it off at the ground every time it sprouts, it will eventually grow weak and die…but I simply have too much of it and too much garden. It would be full time job to pinch it all.

Recently, however, I discovered there are two kinds of bindweed. One is field bindweed (which, if you can believe it, is the “bad bindweed”). That bindweed is non-edible, but, as I discovered, hedge bindweed is actually an edible plant, with several nutritious benefits. I doubt I’ll eat it myself, but as my rabbits have always made a beeline for it, whenever they get out in the yard, I’ll now be feeding it to them. It will make me feel a little better, to have an actual use for the fiendish stuff! A British vet actually says it makes wonderful bunny fodder; those lists that have bindweed listed as a poisonous plant to bunnies are referring to field bindweed, so just make sure which kind you are growing before you feed it.

It’s actually been a wonderful summer so far here – not hot like usual, and enough glorious rain to keep everything watered. The past few years have been abnormal for the PNW: upper eighties temps, and no rain whatsoever during the summer. I hated that with a passion; I’m a true Washingtonian – there is nothing I love more than a summer rain! It is so fantastic to be outside in a summer rain, and smell the green, and feel everything all fresh and crisp!

But since there has been rainy days, I’ve kept up with my crocheting, which is normally just a winter activity for me. I’ve put aside the baby blankets, though, and am just making infant hats. Lots and lots of adorable little hats! So much fun to make.

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I also made the most beautiful egg bread yesterday. I do love making bread!

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The Importance of Variety

Have you noticed that fruit just doesn’t taste very good anymore? When I was younger, there was so much FLAVOR in a fresh strawberry, fresh apricot, fresh pear. Nowadays, everything you buy in the store is so bland, so…cardboard compared to how it used to be. I feel sorry for the younger generation. Most of them have probably never tasted how fruit is supposed to taste! One difference is the way produce is shipped across long distances. Everything is picked unripe, then allowed to “ripen” as it drives across state lines.

The other problem is, even locally-grown fruit doesn’t taste right anymore, and that’s because of the varieties farmers are choosing to grow. Heirloom varieties of strawberries, for example, are smaller, and very fragile. You can’t pick them roughly, and pile them in a box, and expect them to keep for even a few hours, much less for days. When I was a kid, you could tell at a glance the local strawberries from the imported strawberries, because the local strawberries (then heirloom varieties) almost look tiny, smashed, and on the verge of decay…but if you could catch them at the right moment, wow were they good!

Farmers nowadays – even the small local farms – want their produce to last on the store shelves. You can’t blame them, but they are choosing to sacrifice taste for convenience. I went to one of my local organic farms last Friday to u-pick a few berries. Ugh. They were large, perfect, gorgeous berries…and they didn’t have hardly any flavor.

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The heirloom variety I chose to grow in my own yard was particularly for its flavor, not its keeping ability: the Shuksan. I don’t have any pictures of these (we gobbled them up too fast) but the difference in taste is striking. The only reason I bothered getting any from the local farm is because I want some to freeze, and I simply don’t have room to grow enough in garden. The ones in my garden are fresh eating only!

So if you are planning to put in some strawberries, don’t plant a variety simply because it “grows well in your area” or is what the local farmers plant. Really research the flavors. You don’t want your berries to taste like commercial berries!

Read this article and see if your mouth doesn’t start watering for some old-fashioned strawberry taste!

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Garden Things

Just a few quick things…and a chicken video at the end.

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I was reading the Art of Doing Stuff (highly, HIGHLY recommend her blog…and not just because I was the reader who told her about Grow a Little Fruit Tree!) and she mentions she puts zip lock bags around her baby apples to protect them from pests. I don’t really have much trouble with bug pests, but I do have crazy squirrels. I’m wondering if bagging the apples will be enough to throw them off?  It’s worth a try!

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Last year, my plum tree was eaten alive by aphids…until the ladybugs finally swooped in like batman in red spotted body armor and saved the day. This year, they learned where my plum is, and they didn’t wait until the entire tree was covered…only a few leaves.  Wait, don’t spray, and the beneficials WILL come!

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And finally, the chicken video, in which we all learn that Ellie HATES my camera. I don’t know why. It’s not as if she hasn’t had pictures taken of her since she was a day old…

 

A Garden Ramble

Sometimes I amuse myself in the garden. I like my garden moles. I like them even more when I move a hedgehog statue into one of their holes…

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I’ve been busy planting more things in the chicken yard. My mom read me an article that said the one thing that really improves a chicken’s wellbeing is not being able to see the entirety of their run at any given moment…they like having little nooks and corners to explore. My yard definitely fits that ideal!

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I should take you on a video tour sometime – would you like that? It’s basically a very long L shape along the east and south sides of my yard.  They sometimes spend weeks just in one particular end – and then they’ll spend a week at the opposite. It’s like they have vacation homes!

The Rex rabbit kits will be 10 weeks old this Saturday, and are such a lively bunch. I moved them out of the Bunny Barn colony at eight weeks because I bred one of the does (Thistle) and wanted to give them their own space to finish growing out.  Thistle has since had a litter of four very healthy kits! This colony system is really working out well.

Inside the house, I finally got my sourdough “mother” going so I can bake bread.

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I used Maryjane Butters’ book “Wild Bread” and I highly recommend it! Packed with info, cool pictures, and the easiest method of making a mother I’ve ever seen. One bit of warning, she does want you to buy $70 worth of brand-name bowls, etc, to get started, but you definitely don’t have to. I used what I had at hand, and it worked perfectly fine. So far I’ve made pancakes and waffles, and both were excellent. Sunday, my mother will be strong enough to try bread!

And I’ll end this with a few beauty shots of things growing in my garden. This is a water clover, growing in one of my pools.

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And these are calendula flowers. I love growing these intermingled with my vegetables because they attract bees, are so bright and colorful, and are edible themselves!

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Awesome Experience!

First, if you haven’t seen this story about a woman and a rescued bumblebee becoming friends, watch this:

And now for my story. I was out in the garden today, and I saw a huge bumblebee sitting on the ground, not moving. I touched it, and discovered it was alive, but obviously very weak. Thinking of the above video, I picked it up (which took a bit of courage as it was HUGE) and brought it over to some comfrey flowers. It immediately stuck out its feeding tube, and started eating. So I spent a few minutes moving my hand around from flower to flower. After maybe five minutes, as it seemed stronger, I decided to put it on a clump of flowers and leave it…but after it drank from the last flower, it turned around to face me, and stretched out its legs toward me! When I put my hand out to it, it immediately stepped onto my fingers. Sweet little thing….I sincerely believe it knew I was helping it! So I carried it around to more flowers…until it suddenly revived, buzzed its wings, and flew away. It would probably have died if I hadn’t found it, and I’m so glad I did.

Butterflies, Rainbows, and First Pears!

First of all…the pears! I planted this tree about four years ago, and this year, it not only bloomed for the first time, but it’s also setting quite a lot of fruit. It’s a Seckel, a miniature pear.

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Really happy to see this. I hope the squirrels don’t eat them all…the squirrels are becoming a major problem for my entire neighborhood. They are destroying everyone’s garden, eating everyone’s fuit, nesting in attics, and actually chewing off one neighbor’s house siding! They are literally just rats with fluffy tails, and one neighbor is going to try shooting them with a bb gun. I have my doubts he’ll manage to hit any, much less control the problem, and I suspect I’ll need to start treating this overpopulation of squirrels like I do when I have an overpopulation of rats. People….if you wouldn’t put food out for rats, don’t feed the squirrels, either. They are not “cute” when they start eating your house siding right off your walls!

What is cute is a mama hen, teaching her chicks to roost for the first time.

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Sansa has had it with nest boxes…she and her chicks now roost every night. They still snuggle underneath her, however!

We don’t have many butterflies in my area apparently – because I hardly ever see any, despite my garden being filled with flowers for them. One variety we do see occasionally is the Western Yellow Swallowtail. It normally flits through at top speed, and about the time I see it, it’s gone.

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Yesterday, it not only stuck around for several moments, it allowed me to get REALLY close with my camera! Such a gorgeous big one, too…it was fully four inches across.

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It felt like a gift from God.

Also a gift…when I got off work last night at 8pm, there was a rainbow waiting for me. It was so strange, because I’ve never seen a rainbow before when it wasn’t raining, and not only had it been sunny all day, but the skies looked like this:

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There was just one little patch of darker clouds over to the southeast, and a rainbow. By the time I got home, the skies surrounding the bow were darker still, there was only a little bit of the rainbow left:

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Thank you, Lord, for the promise of what’s past…and the warning of what’s to come.

Chicks and Bunnies!

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Just look at the feet on this little Rex fellow! He’s only about four weeks old.

They were much smaller such a short time ago….

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They grow so fast.

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Here’s a video when they were just about twelve days old:

And here’s another at four weeks:

We also have new chicks on the farm. Two are with Ophelia, and apparently I didn’t get pictures yet, so those will be for another blog. The other two are Dark Cornish, a traditional meat breed. We’re giving them a try, to see how it goes. They are fostered on Sansa, my 1 year old Cream Legbar. She is a perfect mother.

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It is so much fun to see chicks out in nature with their mother, learning how to be real chickens.

I’ve also been working in the garden. I got the roof on the meat chicken coop finally:

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Don’t you just love the metal duck? I also bought a metal chicken!

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She is hanging out in the brand new wildlife garden area. It’s still very much a work in progress.

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I also got the summer kitchen largely completed. The roof is on, the lights are installed, and I have a sink and counter, even if neither is *quite* finished. It’s usable, at least.

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I need to add a door onto this sink cabinet, at some point. And also install a faucet.

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I’m really pleased with my kale bed. Last year, it bolted, so I cut it off at the ground, and covered it in some mulch/rabbit poop. I was getting ready to replant, when to my surprise, the kale came back up from the roots, flourished the rest of the summer, and overwintered to provide some gorgeous kale in the very early summer. It’s just beginning to bolt again, so I think I’ll cut it off again at the roots and see if I can keep this bed going forever!

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Very early spring, before the roses and the peonies and the rest of the drama queen flowers bloom, is really my favorite time in the garden. Everything is SO beautiful.

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