Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bring on the Berries!

~ black currant ~
 One of the easiest things to grow out here on the coast are berries. With a little care & attention in the spring & fall, they basically take care of themselves & reward you with amazing bounty & healthy treats.

One of my favourite flavours is the dark savory tartness of the black currant. It is a bit different in growth & berry production than the red currant, but the flavour I find so much more rewarding.

My black currants are a few years behind in growth & production & have just finally started blooming now. I've already dealt with the spring feeding & have mulched around the base of the plant. There is not much left for me to do for the rest of the season except watch & wait for the fruit to start to ripen.
~ red currant ~
The red currants on the other hand are loaded down with berry blossom chains that are already starting to set fruit! This is going to be my best year, so far, for red currants! It's quite exciting - I'm already trying to come up with an exciting twist on red currant jam? jelly? something to tantalize the taste buds & be an appropriate gift later in the year.

Red currants are easier to pick - if you are able to fend off the birds & allow the berries to ripen in a cluster, all you do is pick the entire group of berries. So much easier than picking single berries at a time - such as you would do for black currants.

As much as I dislike bird netting, I might have to use it this year with the upcoming bumper crop in the works!
~ loganberry fence ~

The loganberries are looking very happy again this year. They are taking very well to being trained to grow horizontally & all this work was done in November when the weather was still nice & dry. Good thing too - February was too cold, stormy & wet for me to do my usual pruning chores with this notoriously prickly berry.

I see that there is plenty of new shoots emerging from the roots - I am going to try to dig some of them up so I can expand my loganberry patch else where on the property. I've not had much luck in putting cuttings in the ground but may be doing it at the wrong time of year.  The loganberry wine I made this winter is quite wonderful - definitely a summer drink to be had over ice with a wedge of lemon & maybe some sparkling water. I'm working my way through the last few bags of frozen fruit in my morning smoothies - here's a flavour twist for you to try: loganberries & basil with either spinach or kale (go with spinach) blended with a bit of yogurt & some coconut milk. If you don't like tart & tangy first thing in the morning - throw in a bit of honey. The basil was a surprisingly great addition & I'm already trying to figure out if I can make some sort of jelly concoction in the fall... it all depends if I can grow my own basil this year...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day - Enjoy your Greens!

~ greenhouse jungle ~
  Happy Earth Day!
This year, it is a chilly spring day along the coast. The sun is shining, but the breeze is keeping things pretty cool & damp.

This is perfect weather for growing salad greens & today is a perfect day to gather a large harvest & allow the plants to continue to produce for a few more weeks.

I have a jungle in my greenhouse. Things have finally started to take off & will become a little too big in very short order. The blend I seeded in here last fall (late October) is a mustard blend - they do very well in cool damp weather (which is what my greenhouse is like in the winter due to all the holes in the plastic). I wasn't expecting to harvest the greens over the winter - I just wanted a head-start for fresh salads in the spring. It worked very well!

~ red oak leaf ~
 One of my greens are the oak leaf variety. They may not produce a tight head of crunchy leaves, but they are very nice & delicate. Perfect for pairing with other spring greens.

~ romaine & green oak leaf ~
I enjoy colour in my salad bowl, so I made sure I have a red leaf as well as the bright green leaf variety.

 In this blend is also some romaine lettuce which will provide the crunch that people so desire. When harvesting any of these, you can either select a few of the outer leaves or cut the whole head back. While they are still young, I like to select the outer leaves & let the plant continue to grow. As they get older, they will start to become a bit bitter, so then I will cut back the whole head & may be rewarded by regrowth a few weeks later. Or just till under the roots & plant something else.
~ mustard blend ~
 The large speckled leaves I have in profusion inside & outside the greenhouse are of a mustard blend. Nice & spicy. Not for every one's taste buds, but they grow so well out here! If you find the taste too sharp, make sure to mix in the other types of greens plus herbs to create a mix of flavours in your salad bowl. I like to chop my greens very fine so that there is a bit of everything on the fork - instead of a mouthful of spicy mustard!
~ arugula ~

Another plant I highly recommend for out here is wild arugula. It does so well & will come back for a few years. The leaves are a little bit more tough than your salad greens, but the flavour is amazing. Nutty & peppery. You won't need much in your salads but expand your repertoire & try mustard or arugula greens on your hamburgers. I like to turn abundant harvests of arugula into pesto that I keep in small jars in the freezer. That way I can use it through out the year (in the winter!) instead of using mayo or other condiments.

Now is the time of year to be eating & enjoying those fresh greens from the gardens - or even from your lawns - get out there & harvest some dandelion leaves for a tangy addition to the salads. Take revenge on those weeds - dandelion flowers also make pretty good fritters too!

Hope the spring sun is shining for you!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunshine & Rain

 April showers bring May flowers...
Flowers wait for no one; we all know that!

At this time of year you really do have to walk through your gardens on a daily basis, regardless of the torrential rains or the soggy rain gear. Flowers cannot wait to show off & I've found that some of the best ones last for only a few days...

~ Basket of Gold (Alyssium) ~
Basket of Gold, on the other hand, lasts for a long time, smells great & will re-bloom if pruned back. These large clusters of tiny flowers attract so many insects - I wish I could have this growing in more places in the yard. Will have to see if I can save some seeds & get some started in the greenhouse this year.
~ candy tuft ~

The candy tuft has made a wonderful comeback after being munched on by the deer last spring. This flower will also last a while in the flower beds & appreciates a good prune when done flowering. Make sure to give it space - the plant will grow quite large if you let it & take over whatever space is around it.
~ Lady's Mantle ~

Lady's Mantle has the potential to become invasive but as long as you have a heavy hand with the pruner & dead-head the flowers before they go to seed, you should be able to contain it. I just love the way the rain drops sit on the leaves & how resilient it is to the now-no-longer present deer & occasional lawnmower or weed wacker attack.

Wonder what else is sparkling out there this weekend?

Get them Eating Their Greens Early!

 I've done a lot of reading on how to care for ducks & at times it can be overwhelming! So, I'm going to start to listen more to intuition & instinct & pay attention to the duck.

First concern: is the duck getting the proper nutrients & protein? I think we are doing ok with our ground up duck feed (it is the adult blend with some sunflower seeds ground up too), plus some ground oatmeal & finally a sprinkle of brewer's yeast.

~ early morning harvest of fresh greens ~
But an easy way to get nutrients & protein into the little peeper is through greens! I enjoy heading out to the gardens in the morning to pick some fresh leaves & see what I can entice the duckling with. A few moments contemplating the life of something else that you've been entrusted with is a great way to start the day!

This morning's selection is (top clockwise): dandelion leaves, violet flowers, comfrey & lettuce greens.

(the more people that start viewing dandelions as edible weeds, the less concern we'll have over what our lawns look like! Take revenge - eat them!!)
~ green soup all day long ~

Don't even bother to wash the greens - ducks eat dirt all the time, so now is a good time to have a few grains in whatever greens you collect.

Chop it up fine - super fine - get a sharp knife. I remove the ribs of the leaves as they are just a bit tough for the wee duckling to swallow. I won't feed the entire dish all at once, but will keep the greens in water & a few times during the day when I change the water in the brooder, I'll put in a fresh amount. I do believe there is a very small slug in there somewhere - we'll see if it escapes the bowl during the day or if I can get it in the brooder & see what the duckling does.
~ nom-nom-nom ~

The little peeper made a mess of the clean tote within about 3 minutes of it being clean. That's what I get for putting in a deep water dish!

~ splish-splash ~
The silly little darling just hops right in & splashes it out all over the place!

But it enjoys the greens & eats them quite quickly. At this stage, it is typical of all babies - it eats & poops all the time!!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Weekend in Glorious Colour

 I'm so in love with my tulips this year!!

These popped out in the last couple of days. I don't recall planting orange tulips, but since the deer no longer terrorize the property, everything seems to be taking on a life of their own & reaching out in the bursts of sunshine we have between rain showers.

Tip for spring bouquets - don't mix your daffodils with your tulips. They do not like each other & your bouquet will last only a matter of days. Tulips have been known to continue to grow once they have been cut & placed in water. Grab a simple bouquet this weekend & see if you notice this!

Peep Show

~ me & my duck ~
Word is spreading around town that we have a baby duck & there are more & more knocks on the door from neighbours who want to see the little darling...

This is going to be one spoiled duck! I sure hope the other eggs start to hatch soon so that it has proper companionship! We are scheduled to be babysitting chicks when they hatch in a few days until the 2nd heat lamp arrives in town, so that should help with the little Peeper - who does peep like crazy when it sees us & when we leave...

In just a short 24 hour period, the little darling has grown quite a bit. Life is amazing when you view it from this level...

Friday, April 18, 2014

When Life Begins to Crack Out

We candled the eggs on the 16th & found one of the eggs had a crack! The little duck was ready to come out & it was much-much sooner than we expected. By about 10 days!

The following morning there was not much change, but we whistled to the little thing & were rewarded with peeping from inside the egg & enthusiastic poking at the crack.

Now the waiting game was to commence for who knows how long it takes a duckling to emerge from its shell??

I came home early from work in order to set up the brooder. Our neighbour was gracious enough to loan me the only heat lamp in town - mine doesn't arrive til late next week due to the Easter weekend. We are going to keep the little things down in a clear tote in the laundry room. They are loud little peepers & I don't think housing them in the bathtub upstairs would have been a good idea - we wouldn't get much sleep with all the noise!
 After a few hours I checked on the progress & the little thing had managed to get a wing out!

Lots of peeping & struggles to extract itself from the shell so I knew hatch out would be later in the evening.

I didn't want to disturb it too much as there was definite response to my voice & whistles. There just wasn't much room in that incubator for the poor thing! (*note for future: put only 6 duck eggs in to allow for movement of hatching ducklings!*)

Finally I couldn't hold off any longer & I went back down again about an hour later & found our hatched duckling on the far side of the incubator wedged in with the other eggs.

Amazing how all that was folding & curled over on itself & grown inside an egg!!

I rescued it.

Look at how dark those feathers are! We've got a little stuffed animal in the brooder to keep it company til the other ducklings start hatching (we might be babysitting a box full of chicks starting next week too!) but for now the little darling peeps like crazy when it sees us - which is often as we can't help but go admire our first little duck.

I wonder what sort of blend we have with this one?!