Tag Archives: Garden

Curly Scapes and Strawberries

The blackberries are starting to hold out their flowers like presents and the bees are gulping it up. They are on the blackberry bushes on the entire walk to work, just over 1 km. It’s like having friends to walk home with.

We ate our first small handful of strawberries from our own garden yesterday. Our garden is in shambles this year. The upper garden, right in front of our house, is green and growing with inadvertent things. Potatoes that we did not get out last year in time. They are over-running the celeriac, the peas, the strawberries, the spinach and the beets. We have another fragrant invasion. The oregano. What I thought were weeds, and I was pulling up with fury, then wondering why I kept thinking of spaghetti. I put it down to a weird pregnancy craving, until I realized the little fuzzy stems were babies of our oregano monster.

Our lower garden needs constant love and weeding or the horse-tail takes over. We’ve tried mulching (which helps a little) weeding, though not as often as required. And we’ve got strawberries, asparagus, beans and garlic down there. The garlic is growing tasty scapes which we harvested for dinner last night.

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Scapes are the Dr Seuss looking curls atop the plant that are where the garlic makes it’s flowers. Garlic has been sterile for many years and can only make clones of itself. There is research into putting the umph! back into garlic’s genetic pool but what we’ve got right now are clones of different varieties.

If you ever see garlic scapes at a farmer’s market or in the grocery store, snatch ‘em up! They are such a treat. They can be eaten raw but they have quite the bite to them. If you toss them in olive oil and put them right on the barbecue, sear them a little on both sides, it takes the sharpness out of the taste and you get such a tasty treat. They made the perfect compliment to our kale and potatoes last night.

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They are also great for freezing and putting into soup, stock or stews in the Winter.

Have you discovered any amazing foods lately? I’ve been really interested in using more beans in our diet. Does anyone have good recipes for different kinds of legumes?

And since it’s strawberry season, don’t forget to pop a few of these drops of sunshine in your mouth!

Riding my Wave of Doubt

I got a call on Saturday night saying my bees are ready. 22 hives to be precise. 5 of these are for other beekeepers on Pender that did not have good luck in the Winter. 16 are in my humble care. Can I do this??

So we went into high gear, we are picking them up on Friday morning if all goes according to plan. With bees, it’s hard to know. I have 7 outyards and we’re going to do 9 of them on the farm. This is when I particularly appreciate Marc and his heroism. First he calmed me down, then he went out to move the cinder blocks to where he thought the bees should go. He began levelling their spots.

Today I phoned our animal feed store on island and asked them to bring me in 40 kg of white sugar. The nucs, when they arrive, will need to be fed while they are adjusting to their new home and sourcing out the flowers. 20 hives in total is not a lot when it comes to commercial beekeeping. The guy I’m getting the hives from currently has 300 hives. I figured out that I’d probably need more than 100 if I was to do bees as a viable commercial operations. So 20 is a small step towards this goal. But, going from 4 hives to 20 hives, suddenly I am no longer a hobbiest. Suddenly I am moving to being the big fish in the small pond of beekeepers on Pender Island. Building up slowly like this allows us to swallow these expenses in gulps. It enables us to keep our head above water and not go into debt over this dream. It also helps me learn gradually how much time and effort beekeeping takes.

In the midst of this, I am trying to figure out how to dress myself as my pants become tighter and tighter. I am trying to figure out how much “stuff” do we actually need with this baby coming? Do you need a nursing pillow? A jolly jumper? A jungle gym? Or will a basket, some receiving blankets, some diapers and lots of love be enough?

Oh and the garden. Abysmal! Last year I had green tomatoes forming on the bushes, this year there is nothing of the sort. It’s been a terrible Spring for the garden and I’ve been less than motivated to get out there and tend to it. So I mourn and complain and watch the bees pollinate all the arugula, spinach and radishes that have bolted. But as the optimistic gardener, next year will always be better! I’ll have so much more time. (with a new baby, laughable perhaps.)

Anyway, a garden, bees, a baby, I had a chest-high wave of doubt bearing down on me. Good thing I have such a great cheerleader in my husband. What do you do when your waves of doubt come crashing down?

I say, surf  ‘em to the shore!

Feast your eyes on the Garden

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It has been remarkably cold for the mildest part of BC this year. The bees I’ve ordered are much later than expected. The tomatoes are dreadfully behind, and our garden has gone to shambles. In the midst of the chaos, between family weddings and family events, our garden has continued growing alongside the weeds. The lettuce has bolted but now we can collect seeds. The radishes have self-seeded from last year and the peas are climbing the trellis, aspiring to be Jack’s “pea-stalk.” Potatoes have sprouted in every corner, despite the cats’ best attempt to dig them up and turn their growing bed into a potty.

Between reading Gabor Mate’s book “When the Body says No” and attending weddings, I have found time to knit a baby vest for a friend who’s having her first born. This friend’s mother and my mother were friends since they were wee. This friend of mine and I are a year apart and grew up together. And finally, she is expecting her first baby. It was with such love and pleasure, I got to knit her this little vest. The thing I love about knitting for others is that it is a meditation for the person it is going to. I can sit and knit and think about the person, the impact they’ve had on my life, and what good things I wish for them.

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Even though today feels like October with the weather wet enough to demand a warm up with the wood stove, I am looking forward to the summer commencing. The blueberries have a great set on them and I’m happy to return to the season of plenty as the Farmer’s Market really expands into veggies, fruits and flowers.

Wishing you, dear reader, all the best as your May folds into June!

The pursuit of something else and theoretical happiness.

I had a really good day today. I hope you don’t mind if I share with you a couple highlights. We stayed over on the “Big Island” last night and caught the morning ferry back to our little island. I had a beekeeping lesson with a friend of mine as he’s going to help me out with some of the hives waaaay down on South Pender. (They are practically in a different time zone to us up here on the North… and they dress funny….) And then Marc and I spent some good quality time in La Garden.

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After digging around in the dirt for a while, trying our hand at planting some early seeds, we took a break for chips and water and watched the kittens pounce on each other through the lavendar.

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I planted (above) spinach in September when we had a streak of sunshine. I’ve taken a couple snippings from it. But ya know those big plastic boxes of spinach you can buy at the grocery store? Yeah I can polish one of those off in one sitting. I’m a little spinach-enthusiast and could rival Popeye with one spoon behind my back. So this tiny patch did not fulfill the craving but it took the edge off and complimented a couple homemade pizzas.

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And I wasn’t even lying when I said we had flowers coming up. These snow drops and big yellow daffodils are brightening up the garden already. We’ve had one bumble bee come by for a visit on our early-blooming heather and the cats have taken offense to the intrusion.

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We have another one of these heather bushes down by the lower garden where Gertrudabelle hive is. (That is, my first hive.) They love these tiny pink blossoms and it is a great early nectar source.

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This is the top garden, right outside my front door. In the summer, this was a tomato jungle with potatoes accidentally growing between and snap dragons and various herbs sneaking where they could. Another year, now it is another volley of hopeful seeds nestled in quiet rows waiting for the miracle of germination.

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Yes, I know it may be too early. I mean, is February 21st too early to start a garden? Time will tell…

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And for you readers that are not gardeners, I went down to the coup to put the chickens to bed (can you still not relate?) and I was turning over the warm little egg in my pocket, looking at the moon, thinking of my good friend and husband back at the house, my full belly, my great day of keeping bees and digging in the dirt and I was very thankful.

I’ve been thinking about the pursuit of happiness lately. What are people looking for? Why are they not finding it? I have been thinking that happiness perhaps, is not what we should be searching for. Perhaps Contentment should be the goal instead. Contentment is more attainable and more consistent. Happiness seems to come and go. It seems that a state of euphoria would be exhausting, even to the most optimistic of us. Maybe Happiness, especially generated by a series of pleasing situations, is overrated. I know I sound bitter and pessimistic when I say this but I think my next thought is actually more hopeful.

If we, instead, pursue contentment, then it is a state of being that is generated from inside us. We choose it and our circumstances do not have to deter us from our aim. If we obtain a real daily satisfaction, then whether it rains tomorrow, or snows (ack! seeds!) or sleets or is another sunny day that I am not outside to enjoy, then no matter the situation, I can still be thankful and satisfied.

Getting to this place is the tough part for me. When I can be satisfied, thankful and content no matter the situation, I’ll let you know. Because today, I had a very good day. It’s best to talk about theoretical happiness on a good day.

Happy Sunday. I hope it was satisfying for you too.

Dec 27th Potatoes

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So ya know how yesterday I was complaining about my lack of planning. If you will remember, I mentioned not having a garden to eat out of. Well, go ahead, prove me wrong…

Today I abandoned my tea for a good 15 minutes and tromped out to the garden. This is not a big endeavor as this is the garden just beyond my sliding glass door. I had a report from Washington state that a friend farmer had lost all of her potatoes to the cold weather.

I had been storing these potatoes in the ground as I was too lazy *ahem* as I was too busy knitting, tea drinking and Christmassing to dig these up. The top layer of smaller potatoes were mushy as a result of frost, but the biggers ones that burrowed deeper are quite crunchy and edible.

These babies are for dinner!

Also, our garlic seems a little confused. Last year I was told to plant garlic before Hallowe’en. I was obedient, I mulched it and let it sit over the winter. Then the garlic sprouted in February or March and we ate it in August. This year we planted a whole bed of garlic. We bought it from the garlic farm. But it’s already sprouting and pushing up through our cozy layer of mulch. Um, hello! Go back to sleep silly garlic!

And other things are sprouting as well!

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We went for a walk to check on the bee hives too. I cannot open the hives up because it is too cold right now. Honeybees form a cluster in the winter to keep warm. If I break their cluster, they can die from exposure. They bundle together and eat all their stored honey they gathered in the summer. I like their lifestyle! A very interesting fact is that summer honeybees live for approximately 6 weeks. Winter honeybees (those born in November) live for an ancient 4 months. The summer bees exhaust themselves in an effort to gather pollen and nectar. All the winter bees have to do is stay warm, eat, carry their dead sisters out of the entrance, and hold the hive over until the winter thaws and the Queen starts laying again. In our mild climate, she will begin laying in January or February.

To check on the hives right now, I try to clear away the entrance (which is reduced to fit one bee in and out at a time) as the entrance is littered with dead bees. And I press my ear against the box to hear any distinct hum of a live colony. Out of the three hives I checked, I heard one buzzing. It doesn’t mean the other two aren’t alive, they are both smaller hives and may not have enough bees to generate a buzz that I can hear from the outside.

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It still looks pretty green here, eh? If it stays this cold, I may have to go out and tap some big-leaf maple trees to see if I can procure any syrup for my Sunday morning pancakes!

Wishing you some sunshine wherever you are!