Thursday, April 22, 2010

If Only We'd Had Books Like These

... when I was a kid. I might have had better luck with my early gardening efforts!  In honour of Earth Day, Jo-Ann Roberts and I chatted on CBC's All Points West about some of the amazing gardening books that are available for children and teenagers. Do have any favourites to add to the list? Let me know and I'll post them here...

Getting Down and Dirty on Earth Day
(Gardening Books for Children and Teens)

Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy (Workman Publishing)

Good Growing: A Kid's Guide to Green Gardening (Klutz)

Plants (Starting With Science Series) by the Ontario Science Centre (Kids Can Press)

Ready, Set, Grow: A Kid's Guide to Gardening by Rebecca Spohn (Good Year Books)

Grow It, Cook It With Kids by Amanda Grant, photography by Tara Fisher (Ryland, Peters, and Small)

 Wildlife Gardening by Martyn Cox (DK)

Young Gardener by Stefan and Beverley Buczacki (Frances Lincoln Children's Books)

Kids' Container Gardening: Year-round Projects for Inside and Out, by Cindy Krezel (Ball Publishing)

One Magic Square: The Easy, Organic Way to Grow Your Own Food on a 3-Foot Square, by Lolo Houbein (The Experiment)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Milking a Goat at Night

Dani milking Poppy - who, I must say, has been very patient with all of us here on the farm as we've learned yet another handy skill...
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Friday, April 16, 2010

Such Pure Colour!

When the sun hits the tulips - oh my - the colour is so intense it almost hurts the eyes!
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Odd Goat Apparel

Lots of people ask about the plastic chains we have around our goats' necks. After our old goat Molly suffered a horrible neck injury when her flat dog collar got hung up on something, we switched to these rather unattractive, but very practical and much safer, breakaway collars. The chain links are tied in front with a bit of binder twine and the excess dangles free, providing a handy goat-catching 'leash'. They are strong enough to lead even recalcitrant goats but if the goat gets the collar hooked on something solid, the plastic links will snap.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Quick! Get the guest stall ready!

"Poppy, meet Casey... Casey, this is your new roomie, Poppy."
These are the conversations one has around here when introducing visiting livestock. Poppy (on the left) is a Saanen cross who needs to be milked three times a day. This is tricky to accomplish when her owners (the Hess family of North Saanich) are off tootling about, doing good deeds. So, we agreed to goat-sit for a couple of weeks, which will also give us a chance to see what goat-milking, goat milk-drinking, and goat cheese-making are like.
The goats took a couple of hours to decide who had the harder head butt and ever since have palled around like old chums. I'll provide an update on the inside-outs of goat milking in another post when I have a bit more time, but so far, we haven't spilled too much milk or blood (human or goat!)
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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gallery of Lovely Ducks

Audrey Hepduck
I don't know why it's so relaxing to duck watch, but it is... After the ducks are let out in the morning, there's a great deal of wing stretching, worm-hunting, bath-taking, kibble-gobbling - and then, not long after all that excitement, the ducks find cozy spots to scratch out hollows and snooze.
Latte (L) and Mocha (in the back)

I'm not the only one who likes to watch the ducks - note Charlie sauntering along the fence in the background.
When he gets brave, he'll slip in among the ducks and stroll around pretending that he might, at any time, decide to take them on. Fortunately, their size (and talons) and his healthy sense of self-preservation mean he restrains his predatorial impulses when he's around these over-sized canaries. It doesn't stop him from having his little fantasies...

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Garden Gate!

I've always wanted to build a rustic gate (if you've been reading this blog for a while you'll know I like to build things with sticks and string). In this case, I cheated and used screws, but the sticks are, indeed, very stick-like!
Pretty rustic, eh? This is looking at the gate from inside the vegetable garden. The greenery you see in the background is two different bamboo groves, one on each side of the pond. The closer, paler stand is black bamboo and the darker green stuff in the back to the right is golden bamboo. The sticks are mostly from the recent orchard prunathon, though there are a few bits of maple that I snipped off the side of the grand old maple we'll be taking out a little farther up the hill.

What's next?  I'm thinking arbours, pergolas, a bean tee-pee - and maybe a bridge or two. Furniture? A cozy swing? A luxury duck condominium complex? The possibilities are endless... and to think, all I need are sticks and screws!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Constructing New Beds in the Vegetable Garden

The last few weeks have been busy, busy, busy around here. We've been busy emptying the old raised beds, moving those that could be re-used for another season, and then building several new beds - all to give us more room in the vegetable garden. This photo shows the project in process - total chaos! If you look carefully, you'll see the blue binder twine that marked out the locations of the new beds. Note, too, that under the beds (over to the right there's one that's partially finished) we've put down layers of cardboard and newspaper and, over that, heavy duty landscape cloth. 

What is astonishing is how much dirt one needs to fill said beds!
Times like this I am very, very glad I have a big farm truck. Not only does it handle huge loads of dirt with ease, the 4WD and dually wheels mean I can get the load up the slippery hill and backed reasonably close to the garden! From there, it's a relatively easy trundle with the muck bucket up through the orchard an into the garden.

After having lugged many, many buckets o' muck up the hill, here's the result... well, most of the result -there are several beds over to the left that I couldn't quite squeeze into the photo.
There's still a little room for expansion, but this will see us through this year's growing season.
The paths between the beds will eventually be covered with gravel, but that will require another trip (or three!) to Trio Gravel Mart and then a whole lot more schlepping, so for the moment, I'm living with the austere flavour of the landscape cloth.
This is one of the spud beds - (in fact, the very beds you can't see in the photo above) - to accommodate the ten varieties of potatoes we're experimenting with. Each box in the grid contains a different variety. Dad has already declared that there is no way he will ever eat a BLUE!! potato. We shall see. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Direct Seeding Cool Weather Babies

This spring has arrived so fast!

Over the Easter Weekend we finished up the new beds just in time to plant out some of the babies started inside earlier this year - broccoli, cabbage, sweet peas. We also direct sowed some carrots and green onions. Somehow, we've wound up with a whole lot of real estate being given over to onions - some that I overwintered, red and yellow onion sets, and now the seeds. Good thing we love onions around here.

Speaking of overwintering, here are a few hardy plants that not only survived the winter in fine form, but also seem unphased by their recent relocation into their new bed. Clockwise from top left: Swiss chard, radishes, and garlic chives (which are, btw, pungent - in a good way). Likewise, our strawberries did well and have woken up.
They, too, needed to be moved and seem to have survived just fine. They were delicious last year, so we added another fifteen plants or so.
Teeny, weeny broccoli and cabbage plants (in the foreground, under the anti-cat netting). Behind that, on the right, carrots, shallots, red and yellow onions, and spring bunching onions. Bring on the sunshine!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Even the Parsnips Do Yoga Around Here!

Dark Creek Yoga
Around here, you never know who (or what) is going to strike a yoga pose. This is one of our leggy (and rather flexible) parsnips, doing a bit of suppling before supper.
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