Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Doing all I can to help the honey bees

Since learning about Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) I have been doing everything I can to try to help. I immediately thought of getting a hive here in the yard. The Town of Sidney requires a lot size of 750 square meters. I am trying to get that changed. Our lot is a good sized lot for Sidney at 603 square meters so the 750 square meter minimum needs to be reduced.

Albert Einstein said "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

So, I am doing all I can to get bee hives into people's yards including mine, and personally growing more and more bee friendly plants. I garden organically. No pesticides or herbicides. Since planting my vegetable garden, I have a lot more bees, dragonflies, hummingbirds and butterflies. And it's just a little garden. I have really paid attention to what is attracting bees. They love my chives. See the bee on the chives above...yup that's mine. They also love my English Lavender. I found a huge display of lavender at Elk Lake Garden Centre about a month ago. There must have been twelve different varieties. I stood back and watched every type. After about ten minutes of research, I found that the light purple English Lavender attracted a LOT more bees than the other varieties. I am going to take seed and maybe try cuttings and spread the plants around the yard. Yayyy bees!

I don't want to get preachy, so if you want more information about the loss of honey bees, here is a brief article with a lot of information.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The projects are complete and with only minor injuries!

Completed Berry Bed
The irregular shaped raised raspberry bed is done. We need to fill it with soil and put the berry back in the ground. It should be fine for a day or two as it is quite cool.
The poor raspberry. As of today, it has been potted up in compost.

Compost Bin. Tacked up, not quite ready to use.
We've run out of long screws but we figured out where to put the compost bins and set it up and tacked it with a couple screws. We found that one of the four pallets is a different size. Live and learn. I thought there was only the one size. So before you tote the really heavy pallet home...make sure it's the right size. 
Mystery injury
Injuries of the day: Allan cut his finger. See photo. Obviously it was one of those ridiculous injuries as he won't even tell me how he did it. My injury. I was holding two pieces of wood at chin level while Allan used an antique, steel, heavy drill to put a three inch screw through the wood I was holding. Duh. So, he had the drill pointing down at about head level. I didn't see what happened, but suffice it to say, he let go of the drill and it fell onto my face. My cheek bone to be precise. If I get a nice bruise or anything I'll post a picture. And yet again I say...where was my video camera.

**Update: My cheekbone is pink with maybe a titch of a bruise. Not exciting enough for a picture.

Friday, August 26, 2011

So much to do this weekend, I love it...and fresh crab

We are finally having some hot weather on the west coast. It makes me want to play hooky and just 'be' in the yard. I have a few projects for the weekend. I would like to get the raspberry bed built, the first section of my three bin compost system and make blackberry jam. I went to Karen's house today and we picked blackberries. It was really nice. I got an ice-cream bucket full. As a little treat, she gave me one of the crabs that her husband pulled out of the water just this morning. How cool is that? I boiled it up and will save it til lunch tomorrow. Fresh local crab, on a beautiful salad made from my own garden. Wow. This is what I was dreaming of when this all started.

**to update...that crab was delicious. One of the best salads I've ever had!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Soon time to start thinking of seeds for next year

Doesn't Botanical Interests do
the best seed packet.
I keep a little list of seeds that I want to grow next year. I am going to stick with heirloom varieties for this year anyway. It's my way of thumbing my nose at Monsanto. This is my list so far. I know I won't grow them all and I'll cull the list before I buy my seeds, but this is my wish list.

Seeds for 2012
Cinderella pumpkin*
Brandywine tomato
Amish Paste or super Italian paste
Yellow brandywine
Green zebra tomato
Gold nugget tomato
Spinach-Bloomsdale savoy
Lettuce-salad bowl*
Lettuce-Speckled butterhead organic
Carrot-scarlet Nantes
Marigold for companion planting with tomato*
Morning glory-heavenly blue
Garlic, plant late October*
Zucchini-black beauty
Winter. Italian parsley
Kale-winter kale blend
Cabbage-Danish ballhead
Squash-yellow crookneck
Cucumber-homemade pickles

* Already have the seed or will take seed from my plants.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zone maps are hard to read

I am trying to find out which planting zone I live and garden in. It is either 7b or 8a. It probably doesn't make a LOT of difference, but I am a detail oriented girl. In the US it is easy to find out which zone you are in. There are many sites on the internet that you just put in your zip code and you get your zone. In Canada I can't find such an animal. You try to sort it out by map. It's pretty easy in most parts of the country, but if you live on Vancouver Island, off the west coast of Canada, the map is shown in tight little bands of colour, so really hard to pinpoint.
I went to pick up some vitamins today. Next door to Lifestyle Market is Sidney Pet Store. I'm not sure how I even noticed, but out front over in the far corner, tucked behind some structure, was a pallet. A really nice pallet. A brand new pallet. What I have found with pallets, when they are in great shape, there is usually a deposit on them and they aren't given away. So, being a connoisseur of pallets, I thought I'd ask. So now I have a lovely new pallet. Yay.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I had no idea it took so long to make pickled beets

I started processing beets early this afternoon. It took about four hours all totaled. Granted some of it was processing time, but it really is a long project. I ended up with five litre jars of pickled beets. My fingers are only a bit beet colored. Mostly my cuticles.
It rained most of today. It was kind of nice actually. We have had a very cool summer, but not really with any rain to speak of.

***My sister Jess told me that they have smaller jars of pickled beets at Silver Rill Farm for $7.00 per jar. Mine worked out to about a dollar per jar, or less. So I guess it is worth the work!!

We are looking pretty exhausted

Today Allan asked if I wanted to get the raised gardens done. Hell yes!!! It took us all afternoon to get two 8x4 beds together. I guess it's like building four though, because it's two beds tall, making them a foot deep. Nice. The one thing I have noticed. They seem bigger when they're done than they looked on paper. It seems like a lot of strawberries. I haven't really grown them before. How much space should one devote to them? Does anyone have any thoughts?
Look at the Japanese Maples in these pictures. Sure looks like autumn doesn't it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lots of garlic for next year

Both Melinda and Jim have given me garlic to plant in September for harvest next year. I used to plant garlic in the spring and was always disappointed when I dug them up in the fall. I gave up trying to grow it. What I didn't know is that it is actually planted in the fall and harvested in the summer. I had it totally wrong. That's a newbie for you! I can't wait to see what I get next summer. I love garlic!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Zero-Mile Diet by Carolyn Herriot...a book review

The Zero Mile Diet by Carolyn Herriot is my new favorite gardening book. A great friend that I worked with at my last job, told me she LOVED this book and I needed to read it. Thank you Tammy. The book is laid out in a monthly format which I like as a new organic gardener. It keeps me on track. There is a lot of detailed growing advice on individual vegetables, fruit and berries. For example, I had no idea that raspberries and blackberries spread in completely different ways. The raspberries spread by runners, the blackberries root where the long canes touch the ground. So, where I planted them is very different than I would have, had I not known. She includes a recipe for organic fertilizer which I have posted previously. She has saved me more in fertilizer than the book cost.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Totally off topic. Our other hobby, viewing the International Space Station

International Space Station
Whenever the ISS is going overhead between 9-midnight, Allan and I run out into our backyard or onto the street depending which part of the sky it will be appearing in. If you go to the NASA site, you can put your location in, and find out when it's going to be visible. If you have an iphone or ipad, you can download the NASA app free. It is REALLY cool. Much brighter than a star and moves across the sky fast enough that you can find it among the stars.
In Sidney we will have great viewing from now until August 29. Enjoy.

And again I say, a supportive husband is a wonderful thing

Future Berry Garden, Compost Bin and
Mojitos (notice mint in pots by fence)
My husband Allan retired from the Post Office last year after 33 years as a letter carrier. He is enjoying retirement more than anyone I've ever seen! Today, as a retired man, he is building raised beds for my strawberries. We couldn't find the eco friendly wood preservative in Sidney, so he got on his motorcycle and headed for Langford where they are holding a package of it for me. That is supportive to the 'n'th degree.
Last night I asked him to weedwhip around the veggie garden as it is a LOT easier to kill the grass around the edge with vinegar if it is super short. He brought me the weedwhipper and showed me how to start it. I asked him if I should have 'goggles'? I could see the barely contained laughter bubbling under the surface. So I grabbed the thing and just started 'whipping'. It didn't take long and I was surprised just how easy it was. Last time I used a weedeater (as they were called then), it was probably around 1979. The string kept sucking into the machine and I had to keep stopping and stringing it up. Then....oh the memories.....I was weedeating along the side of the house where Allan had his hangglider called an Icarus 5 leaning on the house. It was shaped like an airplane wing with dozens of thin steel cables strung all over it. So I am merrily weedeating, and it made the most awful noise and stopped dead. I had weed'ate' a steel cable. I tried for about a half an hour to extricate the weedeater, threw it down in disgust, went in the house and swore never again. Until last night. And now it's easy!!
I used this!!
I really feel like Allan gave me one of those "Give a man a fish and he eats today, Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime" moments. Thank you Allan. Now I suppose after 30 years, I should try mowing the lawn. I hear the mower propels itself. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!

Okay Erin...baby steps, baby steps.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Slegg lumber is almost as much fun as Lee Valley

Allan and I went to Slegg Lumber to buy wood for my raised berry beds. I chose 2x6" spruce that will be stacked so the beds will be a foot deep. They showed me where some free pallets were, so we picked one for the third side of the compost bin. Also had some pieces of rebar cut to eight foot lengths to be permanent stakes for the dwarf fruit trees. That will be a nice project for next weekend.
This is so exciting. I feel like a kid at Christmas. Okay, speaking of Christmas...the other day Allan and I went to Industrial Plastic to buy a plastic bin for the dry organic fertilizer that I make. Out front they had several rain barrels. I literally stopped in my tracks and said "ooooooooooooooo, I really want one of those for Christmas!! He said, "Okay, who are you and what have you done with my wife?"
After the wood buying binge we stopped by my sisters place to pull out ten pounds of beets courtesy of "compost guru Jim". He told me to help myself. I'm going to make pickled beets this week. My grandmother Mary used to preserve everything they needed for the winter. She had a cold room in the basement. You opened the door, and there were shelves and cupboards around the whole room. There were several bins that were full of potatoes, onions and carrots(?). I remember the smell of that room like it was yesterday instead of 45 years ago. I still miss her, she was the most beautiful being that ever lived on this planet.

Our food source and why so many of us are growing or learning to grow our own food

Compassion farm, before and after
I was just reading a posting and link from Dirk Becker who is embroiled in legal issues with Lantzville Town Council over his growing food on his 2.5 acre property.

Here is an excerpt from the article he shared on Facebook.

Why growing and storing your own food can be a goldmine
All this means we can count on three things happening in the years ahead:
Prediction #1) Food supplies will become more scarce.
Prediction #2) Food prices will double over the next 2-3 years, and then probably double again in another 2-3 years.
Prediction #3) When food prices are 400% of today's levels, backyard farming or gardening pays off big in terms of real dollar savings.
In other words, as food prices skyrocket, it becomes increasingly more financially viable to grow your own food (or store it now while prices are low). I'm listing some resources below where you can learn more about growing your own food or storing high-density superfoods right now, but in the mean time, I'd like you to start considering the idea of starting your own garden in the spring.
You can't grow gold. You can't print your own currency (unless you're the Fed). But you CAN grow something more valuable than gold and money: Food!
Lessons from post World War II Taiwan and why food is more valuable than gold
I lived in Taiwan for two years, and I've had the opportunity to talk with people there who lived through the post World War II recovery. During the war, of course, Taiwan was occupied by the imperialist Japanese empire, and Taiwan existed in a state of military occupation (with perpetual martial law).
After the war ended and the Japanese left, Taiwan bootstrapped its own government into power under Chiang Kai-shek. The old Taiwan currency was immediately printed in large quantities by the Taiwan government leading to a runaway inflation scenario for what is now called the "old Taiwan dollar." Very quickly, however, the government launched a new currency called the New Taiwan dollar (NT$). By 1949, the old Taiwan dollar was being exchanged for the New Taiwan dollar (NT$) at a ratio of 40,000 to 1. (Yep. You had $40,000 and now it's worth a buck...).
During those years after WWII, if you wanted to rent an apartment, buy a house or find a place to live, cash was worthless and even GOLD wasn't considered very useful. The only thing that represented real wealth was FOOD. If you had food, you could trade it for anything: an automobile, a home, tools, clothing or even land. If you didn't have food, you were bankrupt; regardless of how much cash or gold you had.
A chicken that could lay eggs was worth more than an ounce of gold!
You can't eat gold, folks. And you can't eat silver. Everybody has to eat to stay alive, and that means everybody needs a constant stream of food just to keep breathing. That's why investing in food makes so much sense.
And by "investing in food," I mean any or all of the following:
• Investing in storable food that you can save on the shelf and keep for future use or barter.
• Investing in your own gardening skills so that you have the know-how to produce food when needed.
• Investing in non-hybrid garden seeds so that you have the genetic blueprints to grow food that can propagate itself generation after generation.
• Investing in farmland -- especially farmland with water -- that offers the fertility and climate to produce food.
• Investing in educational courses that teach you how to create food through a variety of methods: Wildcrafting, gardening, sprouting and so on.

You can read the whole article at:

A visit with the trees

Allan and I went on a tour of our friends Melinda and Phil's 'homestead' to visit the trees we gave them and to see their lovely home. The trees went to the perfect place. They already look healthier and happier. I am so happy about that.
Their gardens were inspiring. Everything is so large and healthy looking.
I took some measurements for the raised beds 'we' need to build. I'm going to do a bed for the raspberries and two 8x4' beds for the strawberries. I'm undecided as to whether I should do the main vegetable garden in raised beds or a simple lasagna garden. Melinda gifted me the book Lasagna Gardening, so I'll do some more research before I decide.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Weed cloth is not the right stuff

This is the 'Right Stuff''
 I thought I as so prepared. I got my roll of weed cloth out, my new pegs, scissors and a hammer. Prepared to put the cloth down where my dwarf fruit trees will be. I figured out right away that I bought the wrong cloth. I'm not even sure what you would use this for. It is light and thin. And goes on top of weed free and prepared soil. Maybe to prevent new weed seeds from rooting? What I need is a really heavy fabric to go down on grass and weeds and kill everything. Ahhhh, I'll need to make another trip to Buckerfield's. Poor me.
Priced out wood for raised beds. I found spruce that would make it $24.00 for each bed at 4'x 8' and two boards stacked to a depth of one foot. They recommended a product called Lifetime that you paint on as a benign preservative. I will have to look into that to see if it is indeed safe.
I have decided to dig up the raspberry before it gets too established and put it back in the same spot but in a raised bed so the runners will be contained. It is honestly the most delicious raspberry I've ever tasted, so I want a nice big full bed of them. It is a Meeker.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

ECG, Lee Valley and Buckerfields

I got up at 6 for an appointment in Victoria for an ECG. The last time I got up that early was when we left on vacation in January. After the appointment, Allan and I went to Timmys for a coffee. Nice. We went out to Lee Valley so I could get some pegs to hammer into the ground and hold the landscaping cloth in place. Long way to go for pegs! Then I spotted a plastic bucket in a window and we went careening in to the plastic store. I finally found a five gallon pail, lid and scoop for my organic fertilizer mix. We stopped at Buckerfield's to get more fertilizer ingredients in bulk and more landscape cloth. Fertilizer recipe.
Tonight I made a batch of blueberry jam. I'm going to drop a jar off at my sisters house in the morning. I mentioned in an earlier posting that I haven't made jam in nearly thirty years or so, and she has talked about how good it was, ever since. It'll be a nice little surprise when she gets home tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Feeling much better

I am finally feeling just sore instead of intense pain. I think I should be 'good to go' tomorrow. Muscle spasms always release best if you really work them. So tomorrow, gardening and jam making are on the agenda. Oh and having an ECG at 8 am, and working, and finishing my book-keeping and tax paying. Sounds like fun huh?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

What the heck has happened to me

I have been out of commission for a couple days. I woke up yesterday with some pain in my upper back. Within a few hours it had become a full fledged spasm. Yikes. My sister recommended an 'over the counter' drug that she uses for her neck. I took one. Noel and I didn't have help in the store so I was on my own from 4-5:30. I am super sensitive to drugs and was quite, how you say, jittery and ummmmm, not totally clear headed. Over the ensuing few hours, I processed a credit card payment as .29 instead of $23.29. Then I went grocery shopping. I bought all kinds of canning stuff and a flat of blueberries for jam. I prepared to make jam today and asked Allan where he had put the blueberries. "I didn't see them!" So, it appears I left them at the store.
This morning I was talking to my sister Jess again, and she recommended I take a half of a pill. I think she felt sorry for me and wanted me to give it a try again. So I did. And I'm fine.
So fine in fact, I pulled back some of the hay where a lot of grass was growing through and gave it a spray with a new blend of my weed killer. This time I used 7% vinegar and a bit of dish soap. The soap is supposed to really help with the killing of the weeds.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Deflowering strawberries

Be Patient my Sweet
 On some level I already knew that I shouldn't let my young strawberries bear fruit, or even flower. I want to have more plants, so one removes the flowers and that should force new plants. So that was today's little project. The basil is growing like mad. It looks wonderful and I should meet my goal of having a years worth of pesto.
I was given a whole bunch of canning jars from Jim, my compost guru. He is going to give me beets to pickle this weekend. Aren't gardening buddies wonderful.
I have two small azaleas that have been in pots for several years. I am trying to streamline the gardening as much as possible. One way I'm trying to cut down on the unnecessary work that I do, is to get the potted plants in the garden. All I have left now is one fern out front.