Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Preparing Raspberries for the Fall Harvest

~ raspberry patch ready for the next crop ~
I'm glad I have 2 raspberry patches that have slightly different growing habits. This patch is on slightly poorer soil, which is being amended heavily 2 or 3 times a year with mulch, manure & compost, so it will eventually become as rich as the other patch.

The harvest ended last week & I went in & cut down the canes that had just finished producing this year's crop. What is left is what grew this spring & will produce a crop later on in September. I thinned out the weak canes & made sure there were no weeds or other competing plants growing around the roots. I chopped up the removed canes & am using them as mulch. They'll break down over the course of the next year & help with improving the soil.

Since I have ducks to like to dig for insects in this mulch, I will not use my regular berry food at this time. I would normally throw down a good handful of berry food to encourage the plants to grow stronger. This time, I'm using the bedding material from the duck house - pine chips & fresh duck manure. I might make up a couple pails of compost tea from my compost tumbler as I see that it is cooking along nicely right now too.

That's it - now I just wait for these canes to start producing their first crop of fruit in September - this harvest is much slower & longer than the summer crop. I could find myself picking fruit right up til November! Then these canes will overwinter & give me my harvest next spring. A wonderful cycle.

Time to get back outside & continue to harvest the wild berries out along the roadsides.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Who's That Squawking at my Door?

~ Percy comes for a visit ~
 Quite frequently we hear something at our back door & look out to see Percy has come up to investigate our absence from the outdoors. Currently, the ducks are content to let Percy be the one to seek our attention & it usually works.

The fun thing is watching Percy go back down the stairs. Ducks can jump up easily, but they do not really have great downward vision & very often stumble over simple things like rocks.

Percy just stands on the top step, stretches his wings out & jumps. He'll soar almost to the end of the deck towards the veggie beds & his landing is still very awkward.

~ flying leap about to commence ~
~ they get tired of waiting for action ~

Sunday, July 27, 2014

In The Gardens Today...

~ second garlic harvest ~
Looks like we are finally getting some summer heat - today is a great day for working out in the gardens; tidying up, weeding, harvesting & even replanting!

I decided to pull up the remaining garlic today & found a really nice large one! That one is definitely going to be used this fall for starting next year's crop! Hey - I can actually grow good sized garlic & maybe if I dedicate enough space in the fall, I'll be able to sell some at the local store!

Nothing like fresh, locally grown garlic....

The borage has self seeded in some interesting places - I don't really mind because I like to eat the flowers & the ducks like to eat the leaves (the leaves can be used in salads & they taste like cucumbers - just use the small ones as they are slightly less fuzzy).

The bees really like the flowers too, so while the borage is attracting the bees to their flowers, the bees are also discovering the flowers of the squash & runner beans growing right along side. Bonus!

The peas have made a small come back after being munched on by the ducks. Good to see & good to nibble on while wandering the gardens.

Just might sow some more today to see if we can get them growing into the early fall!

The runner beans - Scarlett Runners - are in full bloom & so far have remained out of duck range. Am looking forward to eating fresh beans again. Hopefully I'll have enough to try making pickled beans again later on!

Time to head back out with some seeds & row covers to fill in those empty spots from where I harvested the garlic. I know I don't have quite enough lettuce growing just yet... :)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

To Beat the Birds One Must Be Tricky

~ under ripe blueberries harvested ~
My blueberry bushes are still in 'deer recovery' mode this year, but they are quite loaded with berries. A wonderful sight to see, until you notice the ducks standing under the shrub looking up at the berries...

Crafty little darlings... So I wrapped bird netting around the shrubs in the hopes that this would deter the ducks. Not.A.Chance.

Well, at least I have one trick up my sleeve that I've used for years & will continue to do so. I harvest the berries before they are fully ripe on the plant!

I let them sit out on the counter for a day (or 2 or 3) til they are fully ripe & then I eat them or freeze them for the winter.. The trick to doing this is to make sure they are at least half way to being ripe - if you pick them & they are too green, they will not ripen up at all. Wasted fruit - might as well give to the ducks (who will probably turn their silly bills away because they know it's not ripe). I look at this as also a way to encourage the berries remaining on the shrub to increase in size & have a larger volume to harvest. Win-win... As long as the ducks don't follow you out when you go to pick them.

Another trick to that is to pick when they are napping or taking a bath... but they are curious creatures & will eventually find you. Learn to share, a lesson I re-learn each year...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Darling Duck Family - Update

~ Percy - 14 weeks old ~
 Life with Ducks - what an adventure! They sure do bring a smile to your face when you take the time to sit with them & just watch them.

Percy is starting to pop out some tail feathers that have shown us that who we thought (hoped) was going to be Penelopea, is actually & truly Percy. Our boy...

There is lots of green in the head & tail feathers & this duck is quite the talker. Will get right up in your face & have a conversation with you. Mostly I think he's begging for
~ Horatio - 12 weeks old ~

Horatio is also changing. He's flapping his wings a whole lot & seems to be overcoming his spraddled legs. His walking & running is improving.

But he's BIG - much bigger than Percy. Especially the wing span. Watch out when he gets flapping - he doesn't care who is in his way!

He's also lost his twitter & peeping noises. He is basically a mute now - it sounds more like a wheezy pant. But a most affectionate duck - think he's a dog & loves to be pet & scratched.

~ Monday - 8 weeks old ~

Monday & Tuesday are only 8 weeks - so we don't really know if they are male or female. But they are certainly catching up in size to Percy & are developing their own myschievious personalities.

The colouring of Monday is simply beautiful. I love the greens in the bill & feet & the browns mixed in with the bluish gray of the feathers.

The 'Twins' as we still call them - are not easily separated - they will look for each other & go off on their own adventures, usually followed or monitored closely by Percy, who immediately adopted them when we moved them all in together.
Tuesday - 8 weeks old ~

 Tuesday is very pretty with a ring around the eyes. I think this one might be our only female, but it's too soon to tell.

Tuesday is very skittish, but will come just as quickly as the other ducks if there are treats - especially peas to be had.

The ducks have continually outsmarted me in many of my distraction tactics in the gardens. They now know where the blueberries are & despite the bird netting - they have also figured out how to get the blueberries through the net!

At least they still enjoy their greens - dandelions we have plenty of & I think it might take a few more years of feeding them to the ducks before we remove the dandelions from the yard. Wonder what next month with bring with our Darling Ducks...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Do you Do When Someone Hands you 10 Pounds of Plums

~ over ripe plums
 Earlier this week I was handed a box with 10 pounds of over ripe plums - they were on the verge of being dumped into the compost when someone thought to ask if I might be able to do something with them.

Well, of course!!

~ cooking plum mixture ~
I cut out the bad bits, threw it all into a pot with star anise, green cardamom & black cardamom & lots of fresh grated ginger & water & started to cook them down.

After about 45 minutes of slow boiling, everything in the pot was a runny, mushy mess but smelled heavenly - actually, it smells just like Christmas!

I poured it all through my jelly bag & let it sit over night. I now have many yogurt containers in the freezer waiting for me to turn this thick syrupy juice into Spiced Plum Jelly! A great flavour & sure to be a hit at the Christmas Craft Sale later in the year.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Blooms

~ purple daylily & feverfew ~
 I love wandering around the yard at this time of year & seeing all the different colour & texture combinations out there. Some work very well - planted either on purpose or by happenstance.

~ hydrangea & astilbe mix ~
I also enjoy being able to bring in bouquets to the house to enjoy up close.

Hope you get out to enjoy the summer flowers & wouldn't it be lovely to have a neighbour share a bouquet with you?!