Category Archives: Garden

Orange You Glad… (20/365)

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After another morning of blood tests and follow-ups (all is well, Dad is on the mend…) Dad and I headed off to Glendale Gardens (at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific). The man-eating rhodos are in full-bloom and putting on quite a show at the moment.

I was on a mission to find a couple of things. The first was some good examples of the color orange as that’s the Artists Magazine is looking for Instagram submissions using their #artistsnetwork_colorstory hashtag and, yes, the featured color for the next couple of months is orange.

Sparty’s dashing orange life vest made it into my notebook yesterday…

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The color is actually a pale impression of the real thing, which is neon crazy bright (a good thing, I suppose, if he went overboard and needed to be rescued), but I didn’t actually bring an orange pencil with me. This led to a somewhat awkward moment in the hospital waiting room when I had to ask Dad how to mix orange… He looked at me like I had just asked ‘what do I do next, I’d like to breathe…’ I know mixing colours is second nature to some, but for me, I never really got past yellow and blue make green. And so far, most of my early efforts at sketching stuff has been without colour and certainly without colour mixing…

Anyway, the answer (delivered with a minimum of eye-rolling, I suspect because Dad is not feeling his best) is red and yellow. Which, I guess, I maybe did kind of know because what else would you possibly mix to get orange?

IMG_3882.JPGAs it happens, the gardens were filled with orange-y flowers, blossoms, and blooms of all shapes and sizes (and, scents… but that’s hard to deliver via the Internet).

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Looking at those variations on the orange theme, you can see how some are more yellow, some more red… In my imagination I am swirling my paintbrush through blobs of pigment to create exactly the right mixture to capture the brilliant colors at the gardens.

 

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Perhaps my favourite orange flowers were the little balls on this aptly named “Orange Ball Tree” (did you spot the bee? they were everywhere today, which was GREAT to see)

It’s funny how, when you start looking for something, it starts showing up every time you turn around. We went to the tea shop in the gardens and what’s lying on the tea plate?

 

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Things were getting more orange by the minute… I took a series of photos of stuff on the tea table. Perhaps there may be a still life in my future? 

Even after we arrived home, the orange kept appearing!

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I thought this might make an interesting subject for a drawing with everything except the orange being done in either pencil or pen and wash…

Here’s a painting I found where the oranges look very yellow (though, that might be in the reproduction…)

 

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The Orange Market by Maurice Prendergast (1898-ish)

How about this one by Andy Warhol?

 

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Five Deaths Eleven Times in Orange by Andy Warhol, 1963

 

 

I must say I’m kind of excited about the possibilities when it comes to colour… Stay tuned!

 

 

Summer is Here!!

20140612-064825.jpg Our warm spring has meant tons of good grazing and an early hay cut for the animals and a garden bursting with yumminess for us (and our CSA and market customers!)

Y is for Yellow…

… gold, yellow, amber, orange – such a warm display from our cheery tulips, as happy to see the sun as we are.

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S is for Spuds (and Shadow)

Shadow Farmer

Shadow Farmer

In the depths of winter when the grass stops growing we stop moving the chicken pen so frequently – there’s not much point. The hens would just decimate whatever area they were parked on. Instead, we add fresh hay and veggies each day along with the hens’ ration of feed and then let them scratch away. They do nibble at the hay, but over time the hay layers build up. The combination of chicken manure and hay creates a lovely environment for worms and other grubs and the hens wind up having quite a good time scratching around hunting for these tasty morsels.

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Now that the spring is here we are moving the pen more often and this has left a trail of patches of heavily mulched/prepped potato beds. We’ve been planting potatoes for the past month or so and will continue to add straw, etc as the plants begin to grow. Next year, we will have the foundation for some nice new beds to which we can add some well-rotted compost and soiled bedding from the hen houses and we can plant some heavy-feeding plants down in the same area.

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The dogs have a whole field to run around in, but without fail, they prefer to frolic right in the new beds, which is why I was seen hiking along the road with a huge roll of portable fencing over my shoulder. This should help keep the dogs off the potatoes!

IMG_9209[1]Many thanks to LS and ME for their help getting this job done.

 

Varieties planted: Sieglinde, banana fingerlings, Russian blue, Russian fingerlings, Warba

Big Leaf Maple Sugaring!

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Because we don’t really have a lot to do around here, we’ve decided to see if we can squeeze a few drops of maple sugar from our big leaf maple trees! [Curious about tapping west coast maples? Here’s a good link with lots of information.)

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T. got all excited about the prospect of making our own syrup, so off he went to gather supplies – spiles, tubing, and wine bladders (from a local You Brew wine shop). 

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It was so easy to get holes drilled and everything set up I can’t believe that every maple tree in the area hasn’t been tapped! The ease of sap collection is likely to be offset by the lengthy process that lies ahead… The ratio of sap to syrup is about 40:1 so we have a lot of boiling ahead of us! Stay tuned… 

 

 

Garden Nemesis: The Evil Himalayan Blackberry!

I’d sure like to have a word with the chumps who carefully packed seeds or canes or whatever they brought with them from the Old Country and then carefully cultivated new Himalayan Blackberry patches in land formerly unplagued by these monstrous beasts. Apparently, (at least according to the Royal BC Museum website) the fool who muled them here in 1885 was an American botanist! Surely a botanist should have known better?????

Expect to see a lot of this kind of action around here over the next little while...

Expect to see a lot of this kind of action around here over the next little while…

Yes, the berries are sweet and delicious and wonderful for making jam and pie (I believe that was the original motivation for import), but are they worth the havoc the dense thickets are wreaking on our native species? The stands of lacerating canes are so dense and vigorous it doesn’t take long to choke and/or shade out whatever might otherwise be growing (Garry Oak groves, for example).

Fighting the prickly canes is a miserable task. Anyone who believes plants can’t think (plot/scheme/have it in for us) hasn’t fought with barbed tendrils that wrap around you, entwining your entire body in search of exposed skin or, even better, loose hair, or even better than that, a key artery.

Blackberries be gone!

Is there anyone who is happy about this abundance of invaders? Indeed, yes – the goats! Unfortunately, the area we are clearing at the moment isn’t one that I can easily fence or we’d just let the goats come in and strip the canes. They happily wade right into the nastiest of thickets, noshing all the way and will eat all but the oldest, toughest stalks when given half a chance. After they are done, the hogs are great at using their powerful snouts to dig out the roots, which they eat with gusto. Such a shame this isn’t really a livestock-friendly area. Not wanting the creatures to be left out of all the fun, I hauled several wheelbarrows full down to the goat pen and they were happy to help us out with a bit of pre-compost processing.

Alas, it’s up to us humans to first hack the beasts off at the knees and then get in there and dig out as much of the roots as we can.

Chickens at WorkThe red layers love helping whenever we are out in the garden. They race over and see what we might have dug up. They are very good at taking care of slugs and bugs and also turning over the top layer of soil while fertilizing and are great to run through garden areas at this time of year when the annuals are done and there isn’t much they can damage.

Soon, though, when we re-seed the lawn and put in our new rockery they will have to move down to the poultry field with their fancy rolling house and take their place with the other birds. I’ll miss not having them so close to the house, though it will be great not tripping over six or seven at a time as they vie for the opportunity to untie my shoelaces and peck at my calves every time I go outside!

Rain, Aggie AgVentures Cow, and Hugelkultur

It’s astonishing how much water can land on this small farm during a wet winter storm. The hog pen? A river runs through it… The seasonal springs? All full to overflowing. The goats are miserable and won’t come out of the goat barn. The hogs have been complaining no end. The barn cat spots me and starts whining and looking skyward as if there is some way for me to turn off the taps.

DCF Aggie in mud

For the past couple of days I’ve been slopping around in the wet, building dams and dredging channels to try to divert the water away from the animal shelters so everyone has somewhere to get under cover and stand with dry feet. The dogs sulk in the cab of the truck while I get steadily soggier.

Only the ducks are truly happy. They dive into all the newly formed puddles and ponds and lakes and rivers, flapping and splashing, preening and chuckling. The drakes strut back and forth as the ladies bathe, occasionally knocking one another around a bit just to show who is the most handsome and virile. All this water can only mean that spring is just around the corner, and you know what that means when you are a male whatever living on a farm.

DCF Aggie and Iago

The other things that are working amazingly well are the hugelkultur beds we put in a couple of years ago. Built on top of mounds of brush, branches, and logs, the beds soak up a phenomenal amount of water with nothing much seeping out below where they have been built (more or less following the contour lines of our sloping property). Where there are no beds (just grass, the driveway, or even the area under the trees where the hogs have been merrily rooting around through the fall) there is running water everywhere. Any place that has a dip or hollow is full of water. Except those hugel beds.

I was amazed how well they performed during the hot, dry weeks of the last two summers. As advertised, all the water they had soaked up during the winter was slowly released back to the plants and I barely had to irrigate at all, even when properties around me were watering like mad. I had my doubts as to how well big branches were going to break down, but already when I dig into the beds, there’s lots of lovely soft organic matter and not so many sticks and twigs. The biggest branches are still findable, but even they are well on their way to Rotsville.

I am impressed enough with how they have worked that I’m going to retro-build my existing raised beds in the same way. No more burn piles! I’ve always thought it was wasteful and unnecessarily polluting to burn branches and sticks. How cool to have found such a simple and useful thing to do with all that garden debris!

For more information about hugelkultur, check out the richsoil website.