Monday, September 30, 2013

A wind storm hits the island. Our Island.

Last night we had incredible winds on Vancouver Island. The forecast was for winds up to 100kph. It seemed like more. Here are some pictures of the minor damage the gardens experienced. Not pictured is a branch of my Rhododendron that was lying on the lawn. Allan cleaned it up before I could. A great Gardener's assistant.

My asparagus branches fell over. They had been secured on a couple of stakes. One was ripped out and down when the asparagus. 

A different view of the asparagus. There were several that were snapped right off. My squashes are all disheveled as well.

The rhubarb my brother sent to me, got pretty battered and a few stalks broke off. 

My artichoke toppled right over.

My beloved Meyer Lemon fell over. WHAT!!!???? That pot is almost three feet across and it was waterlogged and super heavy. Allan sounded the alarm and we ran out and moved the lemon, lime and avocado into the greenhouse. I was going to put them in today anyway. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Kombucha Continuous Brewer set up.

I set up the Continuous Brewer for my Kombucha. I put the two jars that I had on the go into the brewer. I worked out the ratio for the tea to water for the 2 1/2 gallon brewer. I'm good to go. I feel like an alchemist.

DONE!!! My brewer set up. Isn't it wonderful. To the left is my plantain infusion and SCOBY hotel. That is a jar of SCOBY's and liquid so you have SCOBY's in reserve in case a batch  molds etc. And of course to give to people starting out.

I am a research kinda girl. I have been reading about Kombucha and making batches for several months. I made my original SCOBY from a bottle of GT Kombucha unflavoured. I lost two batches to mold. Rather than getting totally disillusioned and quitting. I set about to figure it out. The only thing different from previous batches was a box of green tea I was using. I whipped up a batch with black tea and then a green/black combo. I got rid of the old box of green tea and substituted a new type. It worked just fine. I now wonder if the tea itself could have contained mold spores. My cleaning was impeccable, so I knew it wasn't that. So Kombucha back on track and I had two half gallon jars on the go at all times. I did the second fermentation and managed to get fizz. Then I started adding raw ginger and I was hooked. 
So back to research. I started reading about the continuous brewing system. The Kombucha goes into a large vessel with a spigot down low. You decant out your litre for the week and top up the brew. I bought a 2 1/2 gallon porcelain crock with green stripes. So when you take out the litre, there is so much Kombucha left when you top it up, it only takes a couple days for the Kombucha to be ready instead of ten+. I set my system up last night. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A lovely batch of Butternut Soup.

My favorite fall food is Butternut Squash soup. Yummmmmm. It is perfect. The little bit of Cayenne makes it warm and every so slightly spicy. 

Butternut Squash Soup

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Onion, chopped
1 Clove Garlic, minced
3 lb butternut squash {peeled and diced}
1 sweet potato {peeled and diced}
2 Apples {peeled, cored and diced}
6 cups vegetable stock
1Tbsp rosemary, or 1 tsp dried
1 Tbsp thyme, or 1 tsp dried
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
A pinch of cayenne {optional}

Heat oil in a large pot. Sauté onions and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add squash, sweet potato and apples. Stir to combine. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until squash is very soft. Purée soup. I use a stick blender, but you must be very careful if soup is hot. Return to heat for five minutes to warm soup. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reviving the Meyer Lemon.

Not that long ago, I thought I had very little chance of bringing the Meyer lemon through another winter alive. The leaves were a bright yellow. Hardly a blush of green at all. I thought, 'I have nothing to lose, let's just pour on an insane amount of Liquid Seaweed Fertilizer'. I did a large dose once a week and to be honest, sometimes twice a week. Slowly it began to turn green. And I even saw a few flower buds. Well, today I did an up close peruse..I'll be is covered with flower buds. I should end up with lots of lemons. Maybe not quite the 33 I got last year, but it looks like lots. And the lime is covered with little limes. 

They will need to go back into the greenhouse soon. November 5th is Sidney's first expected frost day, so to be safe I'll move them {and all the other delicate plants} in around October 15th. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I have some spare sunflower seeds...

I have some extra sunflower seeds from this wonderful strain of sunflowers grown at Compassion Farm. They are tall and multi flowered. Gorgeous. They seem more decorative than a seed plant, but I could be wrong. Just let me know if you would like some.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kombucha...taken to the next level. Continuous brewer time!!

This is the next tool in my Kombucha making. It is a continuous brewer. I am going to make a funky cloth cap for it with elastic. I have been collecting yards of fabric in vintage 50's designs. I am going to make several. Fun!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hedge from hell.

The trunk of this 'tree' is a foot across. That is me looking pretty disgusted with it. This 'hedge' was planted about 25 years ago. It is Leylandii Cyprus which is sold in this area as a hedge tree that will grow super fast. Yeah. Because it grows into a full grown tree in a few years. My tree guy Scott said that if not pruned, these trees can grow to 70 feet tall and 70 feet across. And they are sold as hedge trees? We have branches coming out of the hedge on our side that are eight inches across. So it requires a chain saw to prune, or a whole lot of money to have a tree service do it. Even though we cut the bottom 12-15 feet back to the trunk, it didn't really improve the shade factor much as it is still hanging about 8 feet over the property line at the height that we couldn't reach with an extension ladder. 

I think my sister just wanted a garden fashion shot. 
'Just look over there and...yes that's it!!... I got it, I got it.... perfect!'

This is me by the same tree. I am almost six feet tall. Do the math and you can see that this monstrosity is a sun sucking behemoth. 

Dead stuff in the hedge. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My first ever full grown carrots.

Aren't these lovely carrots. The white ones sized up first. This white one is about 8 inches long. Can't wait to try them. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

DIY Laundry Soap Recipe. Easy!!! Works like a charm.

We have done several loads of laundry using the new DIY laundry soap. I have seen dozens of recipes. This one appealed to me. It looked easy and uncomplicated. You only have to use 1-2 TBSP of soap per load. They really mean it. It is very concentrated and that really is all you need. You also don't get the suds of commercial laundry soap. You don't need suds to get clothes clean. Who knew!!??

Laundry Soap

1 bar of Dr. Bronner's or another type of pure Castile soap. 
1 1/2 cups borax
1 1/2 cups Washing Soda {not baking soda}

Grate the soap bar, or cut into small chunks and powder it using a food processor. In a large bowl mix the soap, borax and washing soda together well. Pour the mix into a small bucket or jars with a tablespoon to measure out the soap. Remember only 1-2 TBSP per load. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Made my first batch of Laundry Soap....I feel like such a Pioneer Woman.

I have been looking for an alternative to expensive laundry soap that has the added disadvantage of coming in plastic jugs that need to be recycled. I'd rather the jugs were just not made in the first place. I have been using Seventh Generation laundry soap for years. It is a fabulous company with great products. Their dishwasher soap works as well as Cascade, without the harmful ingredients.

I found a recipe for DIY dry laundry soap that I made today, and if it works well, I'll post the recipe. It was super easy and really fun. This pioneer woman is 'rockin' it'.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Isn't this the prettiest Pattypan Squash you've ever seen?

Isn't this the prettiest Pattypan Squash you've ever seen. My sister grew it and brought it over for me to take seeds. She has tried every colour of Pattypan, but her heart belongs to the Custard White. Thank you for the original seeds Brenda!!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

A photo essay. What is happening in the garden this September?

Bearrs Lime. Yummy.

Avocado tree that I started with a pit. Approaching four feet tall.

Bee in Artichoke.

Large flowered perennial fuchsia.

Greek tomato. No variety name. The seeds came over with a Greek family moving to Canada and they've grown it ever since. I LOVE the history of this divine plant and will definitely take seeds. 

Aster. One of my favorite plants. 

My ginger shooting up new shoots. I am so curious about what is going on under that soil.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Moved the Spanish Lavender to bring bees to the greenhouse.

I had a huge Spanish Lavender in a very large clay pot. The pot has started to disintegrate. So I got it out and planted it on the front left of the greenhouse. Behind the door and next to the last Blueberry in the blueberry walk. Nothing like digging holes in our clay in the middle of the summer. 

I am pretty obsessed with bees and pollination. Last year was a real struggle. Nothing was pollinated so I had to hand pollinate everything. I used a feather. So last fall I planted lots of lavender. I selected locations that had vegetables needing pollination. The plant that draws the most bees is an English Lavender I believe. The problem with it is the stems get so long the whole plant leans over the sidewalk and takes up about three feet. Right over the whole sidewalk! I had started babies from it, so today I dug those out and when the parent is finished blooming I will dig her out as well. I have taken cuttings from others to take their place. 

The bricks are weighting the plant. It is very top heavy and was toppling. 

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Making Kefir for the first time. Yummmm.

I recently spent some time with a lovely couple at their farm. Nicole gave me my first taste of Kefir. It was yummy. It tasted a lot like Kombucha, but a softer taste. It only takes a few days to make instead of the week plus that Kombucha takes, I plan to keep both on the go. I like the stronger taste of Kombucha but I love the speed of Kefir. Nicole gave me the grains I need to start my own first batch. I added some organic dried blueberries. Batch on!! Isn't it lovely.

The bottled Kefir. I'm doing a second ferment. I added two oz of Pineapple Juice and sealed. I am hoping for fizz. I love fizz.

Oops, just read that Pineapple juice is too acidic for Kefir. It has white foam all over the top now and is bubbling, tiny little bubbles from the sludge at the bottom. We will see what happens!

Rebottled and refrigerated. Tastes good!!