The Best & the Worst of Times

veA selection of vgetables on the counter

What’s for supper tonight?

This really is a bitter sweet time of year when our beautiful, though never long enough, summer begins to slip away, leaves start to tarnish, sunrise is late, sunset too early … I could go on, but then I’d run the risk of not celebrating the joys of the harvest season! There’s a cornucopia of goodness just waiting to be harvested. Certainly this is the time of year when the garden determines the menu, and what a thrill to simply walk out the kitchen door and gather whatever’s needed.

Squash plants

This exuberant growth of squash is cascading out of the hugel bed started last year.

Our favourite ever summer squash is the Costata Romanesca, which is an attractively striped, prominently ridged squash that has absolutely the best flavour, as far as I’m concerned. I like it best sauted, with lots of fresh basil and cherry tomatoes,  finished with a sprinkling of feta cheese. If any proof was needed that hugel kulture beds keep on giving, the magnificent squash forest tumbling out of the hugel bed, which is now in it’s second year of production, goes good for that. The beets in this same bed, as well as the bush beans, are all equally prolific.

Scarlet Runner beans growing up deck

This used to be just a barren walkway which now delights hummingbirds and bean lovers alike

We’re also having a wonderful crop from the runner beans that were planted in nothing more than a glorified window box running along the side of a gravel path. I would have been quite satisfied if they’d simply produced enough of their bright red flowers to keep the humming birds happy, but they’re up about fourteen feet now and loaded with beans. This clearly demonstrates how a totally infertile niche can produce a mighty crop with just a little imagination.

We tried a few new-to-us crops this year and had far greater success with a couple of others that had been a disappointment last year.

close up of tomatillo plant

The bees go gaga for the little yellow flowers of the tomatillo plant.

The tomatillos for instance are magnificent and totally loaded with fruit, as are the ground cherries. Bees go gaga over the small yellow flowers of the tomatillos so that might be reason enough to plant them but there’s also Salsa Verde, which is really easy to make and a must for authentic Mexican food. We’re also discovering that tomatillos are more versatile than the dearth of recipes might suggest; really fun to experiment with. It’s essential to thoroughly wipe them to remove the sticky and very bitter coating that keeps their papery outer casing in place and has no doubt given them a undeservedly bad rap in the taste department.

Asparagus Peas growing with cucumbers

They look really interesting but…

All the new things we tried were not equally successful. The Aspargus Peas were a BIG disappointment! We found them to be fibrously tough and strangely tasteless despite the fact that they appear to look identical to the Chinese Winged Bean as seen in on line demos of delicious Thai recipes being prepared and sampled with great gusto. It turns out that there are two totally different plants bearing almost identical looking fruit. Identical in appearance that is, but not in texture or taste. I’m guessing that the vine type (winged Bean) plant which has lavender coloured flowers is the tastier of the two. Unfortunately we grew the other kind (Asparagus Peas), which grows similarly to typical pepper plant and has attractive, unusual red flowers which form fruit that looks intriguing  but is unfortunately barely edible. Fortunately the cucumbers grew undeterred up their designated trellis so this space was not wasted.

A sprawling growth of ground cherries

These ground cherries totally took over the raised bed and the pathways. Lucky they taste great!

The ground cherries are certainly living up to their name as they have sprawled all over the place with no regard to walkways or neighbouring plants. I don’t remember them being half so space-greedy last year. I suppose this, along with the fact that they are not the easiest things to harvest as they tend to hide under branches etc., could be a reason not to plant them, except they are so, so tasty and also very prolific once they get going. They’re just a nightly, delicious, nutritious treat and there’s something about unwrapping each fruit from its papery wrapper that makes them seem even more special, in my mind.

Dog checking on chicks

Nurse Juno checking on each chicken as it is transferred to its summer home

The day old chicks which were mentioned in the July post are now safely packed away in the freezer. We kept them for eleven weeks which is about optimum to have them dress out at between 7lbs to 9lbs. They need to be started under heat but as the weather warms and they grow feathers, which usually takes around four weeks, they can be moved outside. The young birds go into a large format chicken tractor which gets moved around to a different square each day.

Chickend in large wire pen on grass

Getting used to their summer home

The ‘transfer day’ is one of Juno’s favourite days! She bounds up and down and back and forth ecstatically, following every bird to its summer residence with intense interest. Even though she’s half Golden Retriever she has never attempted to mouth a bird and it’s great to have a dog that can be trusted completely around the livestock.

cover of Permaculture For The Rest of Us

Permaculture For The Rest of Us ~ Abundant Living on Less than One Acre

My super big news is that my new book, Permaculture for the Rest of Us ~ Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre, published by New Society Publishers, is hot off the press and will be in bookstores all across Canada and the United States any day now. Exciting! If life looks pretty good down here on Quackadoodle Farm, well yes, it is and my book gives a simple but comprehensive description of how simple it is to realign lifestyles to fit the Permaculture model, integrating with, rather than imposing on Mother Nature’s amazingly bountiful world.the quackadoodle farm logo

Anyone in the Halifax area might want to check out the book launch on Saturday, October 10th. at 2.00 p.m Halifax Main Branch Library.

QuackaDoodle for now!


One response »

  1. Just starting out on my own permaculture adventure after moving to a west coast island. I have finished your book tonight (christmas eve) and found it to be so inspiring. I am ready to get going even though it is not even January yet. Liked looking at your blog especially the pics looking down on your property and seeing your hugel process. Wishing you the best.

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