Category Archives: Gardens

Duck Eggs Rule!

Freshly washed eggs

The eggs just keep on coming. It must be Spring with an eggsess like this!

It’s Spring in Nova Scotia… I think! It’s really difficult to tell some days. Only a couple couple of days ago it was snowing hard enough to totally obscure one half of a brilliant blue sky, with the threat of nighttime temperatures of  6 degrees below. This was hard to take after a week or so of temperatures up in the teens. I think these erratic shifts are bothering me a lot more than any of the denizens here at QuackaDoodle who seem to be  undeterred and are laying up a Spring storm of their own.

Sign for Duck pen

Just in case all the quacking doesn’t identify the space!





The girls on the Duckville production line are insisting that I set the record straight. So here it is: Duck eggs rule. Really! From a nutritional stand point, Quackers against Cluckers, there’s just no contest; with more protein, more Omega 3 fatty acids, 3X the iron, over 5X vitamin B12 and so on. To be fair, ducks lay bigger eggs therefore more calories (130 versus 71) and more cholesterol (619mg versus 211mg).

However, there are several health benefits to duck eggs that I believe far outweigh that one negative:

Usually people with an allergy to chicken eggs can eat duck eggs and apparently they are an alkaline protein source (as opposed to chicken eggs which are acidic).  This makes them a beneficial anti-cancer food as cancer cells tend not to thrive in an alkaline environment.

Athletes in training prefer duck eggs because of their additional power boost.

Their thicker shell means they keep fresher much longer (the eggs, not the athletes).

And they are any baker’s dream come true  as the extra albumin makes for much lighter, fluffier pastries.

Last, but definitely not least is the taste; so much richer and creamier and reason enough to pick duck over chicken eggs anytime!

To self “There, if that doesn’t keep those little quackers happy, nothing will!”

Brussel sprouts in a pan

Brussel sprouts sauted in butter with a little ground pepper are Delicious!

I dug the last of my leeks today and salvaged a Brussel sprout stalk that didn’t get picked in the fall. The outer leaves were a bit raggedy and the sprouts were on the small side (probably why they were not harvested) but man did they ever taste delicious! I used to boil Brussel sprouts but that was a big mistake. They are three times more tasty sauted in butter with some fresh ground pepper. Seeing my neighbour’s children gobbling up Brussel sprouts as if they were candy was my Eureka moment regarding Brussels sprouts. That was when I knew I’d been cooking them the wrong way all these years.

I have lots of hardy greens (tat soi, pak choy, kale, chard, etc.) coming up already and surprisingly a whole patch of mache which survived the winter unscathed, along with some raspberry vinegar ‘lettuce’ which is actually sorrel. Their winter housing was shredded in a storm and they were unprotected for most of the winter. I thought they would have at least turned bitter but no, if anything the taste of the sorrel has softened slightly and the mache is just as crisp as ever. I’m impressed!

Kale growing

This kale overwinter to provide a most welcome first salad

Rasberry vinegar sorrel

This hardy raspberry vinegar ‘lettuce’ or sorrel was hardy enough to survive the winter unprotected

mache or corn salad

The sweet nutty flavour of mache or ‘corn salad’ is especially welcomed in the spring

My green house was also shredded in a storm and this is creating quite a problem as I’m running out of sunny places to lay out all my early starts. And let’s face it, they’re not really ‘early’  at this time of year. In the past my over-enthusiasm has resulted in some very ‘leggy’ transplants that were started too early and outgrew the confines of their starter pots long before the last frost. Now I tend to err on the other side of perfect and leave things a bit late 😦 By now, it’s definitely time to have everything that’s needs starting indoors seeded in their starter pots, I think, so guess what I’ll be doing for the rest of the day!

Tender greens

This selection of early greens started in clear plastic commercial salad boxes are ready to be transplanted outside

My book, Permaculture For the Rest of Us has been getting lots of positive attention. Below I have posted a link to an interview I did last week on Covenant Agrarian Resistance Radio. It’s two hours long, which in my book is a bit much to listen to all at once, but you might want to play it while preparing supper or seeding pots.

Also, Kathryn Robles at has been very generous in her review of my book. She also has a really informative site that is well worth visiting.

Also, and these just in, more sites (and reviews of Permaculture For The Rest of Us) that are really worth visiting:

They are all give away a free copy of Permaculture For The Rest of Us!

Anyone living in the Halifax area might be interested to know that QuackaDoodle duck eggs are available at:

The Grainery 2385 Agricola Street. This  food co-op is open Tuesday through Saturday and is run on a volunteer basis by members. I love going there as I always feel like I’m dealing with kindred spirits.





It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time!


If I was to ever write my memoires, which I know I never will, the title would have to be: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time! My life path is littered with seemingly brilliant, ultimately disastrous ideas… some more disastrous than others! Fortunately I’ve learnt to pay attention to the warning signs; the clanging bells and flashing lights that I used to ignore when blundering on towards yet another pending catastrophe. But not always 😦

The ‘fedging’ or living fence project I was so excited to share a few months ago is one such of those I-should-have-seen-that-coming ideas. Perhaps by sharing my mistakes I can at least prevent others from following along the same, misdirected path. And before I start to sound too depressed about it, let me say that at least half of the fedges I planted are brilliant. I love them. And in fact one hundred per cent of the fedges are brilliant if we’re just basing their success on growth. This is the problem.

Fedge gateway

This fedge I was so pleased with has turned into a monster

One ‘fedge’ prospered even better than all the others – the one surrounding one of my vegetable plots. And why did it flourish so vigorously? Because it was gobbling all the nutrients that were intended for my crop, in this case potatoes. Potatoes! I mean really, of all the crops to under produce! They need so very little to be happy and usually produce twice our requirements. This year, other than some fingerlings and some blues, which I’m saving for special dinners, we’re already out of spuds.

With subtle slight of hand I’m blaming it on the fedge for stealing every bit of nutrient out of my wonderfully fertile garden plot, although in truth I’m fully responsible, because of course I should have known better. Fedges are wonderfully seductive, and I was lured into thinking solely on how great they’d look and how they’d be just perfect to keep marauding geese out of my garden. To add insult, the tender slips I stuck in the ground mere months ago have grown tenacious roots that have all snarled together forming an impenetrable web. It’s going to take a lot of digging to get them out.


Note to self, and to anyone else who’ll listen, only plant fedges along perimeters where you’re sure you’ll never, ever want anything else to flourish. I’m told they have a different but  equally devastating effect on wells, septic systems and foundations. Yikes!

Hands cutting a space into a bale of straw

It’s a lot harder than might be expected to cut holes in a bale of straw!

One thing I’ve been rather down on and I realize unfairly so, is straw bale gardening. I was needing to write a piece on my experience with straw bale beds recently and I realized that everything I had to say was positive. I guess all I’d remembered was how difficult it actually is to cut planting spaces out of a bale of straw. And certainly if other options exist, I’d chose them first. But  on a rock hard surface, in a narrow space, they will provide the opportunity to grow some food.

close up of straw-bale bed

The newly constructed straw bale with planting spaces filled with dirt was planted with sunflowers and cosmos



Cutting out spaces and filling them with fertile soil mix is essentially creating fully organic planters which will eventually decompose and become soil. That’s what finally happened to mine. After several years of being a straw-bale bed, the straw vanished almost overnight, or so it seemed, and I was left with some very friable, fertile soil.

show a mis of greens growing in dirt

The mix of mache, mizuma and tatsoi thrived well into December in what remains of the straw-bale bed



A fall crop of winter greens was more than happy to flourish in it and this after it had supported a season of spinach and arugula. Nothing to complain about there.

Seed catalogues are already out and well thumbed. We try to save as much seed as possible, here on QuackaDoodle, but it’s always fun to try at least a couple of new things each year. Definitely no more  Chinese winged beans; they were a once and never again, for us.

jars of salsa verde stacked on counter top

The tomatillos harvest made lots of salsa verde

Tomatillos on the other hand, a big Yes! They produced well and made great salsa verde (but of course they did, as that is what they’re most noted for) but also, they were equally good as a substitute for green tomatoes, in green tomato mincemeat.  One more plus is their appearance – they really are a funky little (and not so little) plant and I love the way each fruit comes individually wrapped in its own paper case.

close up of tomatillo plant

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

I have sweet potato slips rooting and potted up. Definitely pushing the limits with these and any success will depend on what kind of summer we have this year. A cold wet one like last year will definitely not work for sweet potatoes… or for me either, come to that!


cover of Permaculture For The Rest of Us

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

My BIG NEWS is that I have been invited to give three presentations at The Mother Earth News Fair in Belton Texas. This all came about because of my recent book, Permaculture For the Rest of Us.

It will be going there with my publisher, New Society Publishers. I’ll finally get to meet some of the people I’ve been working with for a couple of years, but have never actually met. Excited!

snow covered garden

Yesterday the garden looked like this






Yesterday I was surround with banks of snow but after a night and most of a day of heavy, heavy rain it’s mostly gone and I can see more green than white. Oh joy! My green thumb is starting to twitch already and as soon as I get back from Texas I plan to start seeding my herbs and seriously starting to plan what else needs to be started and when. Around these parts it’s important not to be tricked by a brief respite from winter (today is plus eight!) and start seeding too soon. But it’s never too early to start dreaming, right! 🙂

a long shot of a thriving garden with lots of green growth

today it looks like this… well, perhaps not quite like this 🙂



I think I’ve always had a tendency to dream big. Let’s face it, if the dream is big enough and only half of it comes true, it was still well worth dreaming it. And as for miracles, well I suspect every gardener believes in miracles. The act of putting a few tiny specks of seeds into the ground and watching them grow into food enough to feed the family and half the neighbourhood, that is truly miraculous in my book.

Snow covered garden

Presently the garden looks like a frozen wasteland

Although I’ve been growing food for years now, the process still amazes me and hope it always does. Looking out at the frozen wasteland that is my garden I wonder how it will ever transform into an edible jungle, but I’m dreaming big and trusting in miracles. It’s always worked in the past.

Thevegetable Garden in Spring

Yes it seems miraculous but I believe it won’t be long before the garden looks like this





Okay, so perhaps I’ve oversimplified things a bit. There are a few necessary steps involved to help things on their way.

One is planning and this is the best time to begin. Some seeds need to be started very early, ground cherries being one example. I mentioned the bumper harvest we got from just a few plants, in the last post. They’ve stored remarkably well  and recently I discovered that they bake into a wonderful pie. I added raisins (about half and half) but almost no sugar and it was delicious. Just another reason to grow ground cherries and this is where the planning comes in. They need to be started very early in order to produce a harvest, in northern climates at least, and if seed needs to be purchased, now is the time to source it. For some reason it’s not that easy to find, and seldom seen in a typical garden center.

Bowl of Ground Cherries

The last of the Ground Cherry harvest


This year we are trying a couple of new things. Plants we’ve never even seen, never mind grown and a couple of these also require an early start. They also require a certain justification in a permaculture plan because the introduction of non-native species is not normally advised. It’s a question of balance, of how to set up a viable food forest in a climate where most nut bearing and many soft-fruit bearing trees won’t survive. We have chosen Yellowhorn (Xanthoceras sorbifolium), Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), Camas (Camassia quamash) and Groundnut (Apios americana), to experiment with. I’m not much for using botanical names but in this case it’s important to be sure you’re getting the right plant. Sea Buckthorn might easily be mistaken for Buckthorn, a highly invasive non-desirable, for instance.

Of course it’s too early to know how well they will perform but I wanted to mention them now in order to give a heads up for others who might be planning to add to or establish their own food forest. Now’s the time to source and acquire seeding stock.

They all sound very exciting! Yellowhorn, a small tree or large shrub originates from Northern China, so I’m thinking it should survive our winters okay. It bears beautiful white flowers in Spring and lime-sized fruit in Summer. The seeds look like chestnuts and taste like Macadamia nuts. I’m sold!

Sea Buckthorn also comes originally from China and Russia. As well as producing remarkably nutritious orange berries it is useful for erosion control in sandy soil. Camas is apparently common on the North West coast and has long been valued by native peoples for its sweet root. It also has an attractive blue flower in Spring.

Groundnut is apparently quite common in Eastern North America, and is in fact a native here, (Nova Scotia) and a traditional carbohydrate source for First Nations Peoples. I, on the other hand had never heard of it until recently, and assuming there might be a few others out there who are similarly unenlightened: it’s vine-like, with underground stems that swell into chains of tubers. These tubers have three times the protein of regular potatoes, and they also serve as a nitrogen fixer. Wow! I love it already.


Leek plants in a bucket of shallow dirt

These leeks were thrown in a bucket in the Fall and left, forgotten in the basement.

And from Dreaming back to Reality, as we seem trapped in an endless cycle of blizzards and Nor’easters it’s very satisfying to go into the basement and discover some hastily stored leeks have remained green, along with the parsnips that look as if they were newly dug. Leek and potato soup, fried parsnips and homemade bread. Old Man Winter hasn’t got the upper hand yet!


And this time the ducks get the last word. We gathered the first duck egg of the year this week. A sure sign that Spring is just around the corner. Granted it was frozen solid but even so, definitely a forerunner of what we’re all longing for just about now.

Leeks and potatoes

Super soup makings just up from the basement. Yum!

Box of potatoes layered on newsprint

The potatoes are storing well , layered between sheets of newsprint


It Never Ceases to Amaze!

Close up of mixed greens growing exuberantly

The new ‘kitchen garden’, a hugel bed constructed last fall has become an edible jungle


Once again the garden beds have transformed into a jungle of the freshest food! I’m amazed. I probably shouldn’t be, seeing as much the same thing happens every year, but in truth I don’t ever want to see this fecundity as anything less than a series of little miracles. I mentioned building hugel beds in the previous post and  the new kitchen garden hugel provides a perfect example of how well this system actually works. Prolific. Energetic. Exuberant. All good words to describe the growth pattern in this food jungle.


Also mentioned in the previous post was the Spring planted garlic. It was planted late (obviously, seeing as it should have been planted in the Fall) but if the scapes are anything to go by, it hasn’t suffered too much of a set back.  Garlic scape pesto is so easy to make; just a matter of putting scapes, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil in the blender.  It’s delicious, versatile and keeps for several months when frozen. So convenient to add to soups and pasta dishes. Love it!


A blackcurrant branch with fruit

Blackcurrants ready to harvest

The blackcurrant bushes have outdone themselves again this year. Some of the branches are breaking down under the weight of the fruit they bear. Of course this means lots of jam making, and this year I’m also making pie filling preserves. Blackcurrants don’t seem to be as popular here as they are in the U.K. and I’m not sure why  because blackcurrants seem to prefer the cool Springs and late starts to Summer we experience here on the east coast, which are similar to the weather patterns  I remember from my childhood in England. The berries are very high in vitamin C and have a distinctive taste: sweeter than redcurrants with slightly more tang than blueberries. They really are delicious.





Head of Broccoli waiting to be harvested

Broccoli plant which produced many flowerlets after the head was harvested

The cooler weather also seemed to favour the broccoli which provided some magnificent heads. I also planted a variety that keeps sprouting flowerlets, rapidly and repeatedly, after the main head has been cut. This strain is really great and I’d certainly plant it again. Other years I’ve planted strains that promise to do this but have never found them very satisfactory until now. I find having a continual (but smaller) harvest much more convenient than one  harvest of larger heads.


It’s encouraging to be enjoying these successes because for a while it seemed that the three R’s were out to get us. Rodents, Racoons and Ravens that is, the latter being the worst. When a pair of ravens first moved into the neighbourhood it seemed like a pretty cool thing, to anyone such as myself who had never experienced their brand of corvid malevolence. They are very, very smart. That’s the only nice thing I can think of to say about them after they took out most of our ducks, just at the time when they were nesting. It was really very sad, finding half eaten carcasses and egg shells scattered all along the back shore.

These ravens became so brazen that they thought nothing of strutting right inside the turkey and goose sheds to clear out all the eggs. We never did see exactly how they transported eggs off site or how they scared the sitting hens off their nests. Fortunately we were able to save three ducks and a clutch of eleven eggs, all of which hatched. These off-spring will probably not be pure bred (Khaki Campbell and Indian Runner) like their parents were,  but hopefully will still be good layers. Things are much bleaker for turkey and goose progeny. There just won’t be any this year as the ravens took every egg. Grrrrrr!

For a while it was starting to feel that we were extras in a remake of Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds, especially when Calum noticed an eagle sitting on a tree close by. I thought he was King of the Birds, and perhaps he did too until a posse of Greater Black Back Gulls came along and sent him packing. Fortunately they didn’t stick around because I’d hate to even imagine the carnage they could have caused.

Eagle with Greater Black Back Gulls attacking

Attack of the Black Backs

Eagle lifting off from top of Sruce tree

I’m outta’ here


eagle in tree

King of the Birds?









Head of Romaine lettuce

Giant Romaine just waiting to become a magnificent Cesar salad

On a happier note, the weather these past couple of weeks has provided perfect growing conditions and everything seems to double in size almost overnight, every night. It’s crazy! And wonderful. Anyone for another Caesar? Salad that is.

Seems like once again I’m posting observations quite a while after the were written. S’okay! It’s Summertime. My go to reasoning for all ineptitudes. In actuality September has  just arrived and everything in the garden seems very aware of the need to make seed  and the squash plants, many of them sprung from who knows where, are beginning to block walkways and climb up trees. Definitely time to be gathering herbs for drying.






Cilantro in flower and going to seed

Cilantro transforming into Coriander

It’s really cool to see Cilantro transforming into Coriander. Sort of its own personal metamorphosis. I also love working in around Chamomile as it smells so lovely and the delicate flowers just seems to smile welcome. I let it grow wild between the rows as much for this as for the great tea it makes.

A mass of small, daisy-like flowers with some branches of tomatoe plants and beet leaves showing at the edges

Chamomile flowers smiling up from between the rows














A three tier herb planter.

Herb planter by the kitchen door is so convenient

I’m already dreading the time when I won’t be able to reach out my kitchen door for a handful of help to spice up supper. Having a herb planter within easy reach of the kitchen door is truly a wonderful gift. Thank you Calum!

We ended up getting several roosters in the new batch of chickens we acquired several weeks ago to increase our layer flock. Singing cock-a-doodle doesn’t come easy apparently and requires much practice. With them housed in a chicken tractor not far from the bedroom window sleeping in has become little more than a distant memory. They insist on having the last word. Except when it comes to having their picture taken. Whenever I go near with the camera the roosters all scurry towards the back of the enclosure leaving the young hens to deal with the perceived incursion. Definitely all talk, no action!

Several teenaged chickens outside in a 'chicken tractor" which is an outdoor enclosure that can be moved around

Morning chorus all hiding in the back

Surprises in a Winter garden

snow on garden

Just another snow fall!

After several heavy snowfalls and abnormally cold temperatures, punctuated with warm spells and heavy rains, it was more than optimistic of me to be expecting anything to have survived the past five or six weeks of winter weather. But still I looked, and surprise, surprise! Several stalks of Brussels sprouts that had been overlooked in the late Fall, as well as leeks which had been mulched, were still hanging on. Amazing!

Leeks in winter

Heavily mulched leeks survived the cold quite well

A sad looking stalk of brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts in winter

They made for a great supper of sprouts au gratin and a leek and potato bake.

Dish of sprouts & dish ofleek and  potato bake

Sprouts au gratin & a leek and potato bake. Yum!

As for the chervil, well it just won’t quit. It is the most determined little herb I know. For anyone not familiar with it, it has a delicate flavour, similar to anise, that goes well with fish. My friend who grew up in Belgium uses it to make Chervil soup, a favourite from her Granny’s kitchen. Chervil has a feathery leaf and tiny white flowers which develop into deep burgundy coloured seed heads that are quite attractive.

Chervil in Winter garden

Chervil growing in January ~ one determined little herb!

This year’s array of seed packets arrived at the local farm supply store this week. We save most of our seed from year to year, ergo we save $$$. Plants are designed to reproduce and it’s easy to save seed and seeing how few seeds are in those little packets it makes so much sense. Of course this is not the time to be thinking of saving seed but soon annual seed swaps and ‘seedy’ Saturdays will be happening. Great places to get acquainted with local suppliers. Seed produced locally is more likely to thrive because it has had a chance to adapt to local  climate conditions.  It’s certainly worth checking out what’s happening close to home, especially as many of the smaller nurseries produce their own catalogs which list a broad variety of seed including many heritage varieties.

One other surprise that came with the snow was visual evidence of the numerous  visitors we’d been having; some less welcomed than others. We did have our suspicions. In fact to be honest, we pretty well knew but were choosing denial as our default position until a myriad tracks in the snow underlined the fact that rats had become regular visitors to the feed shed. Fortunately, these track-ways also indicated where best to place the traps, but never in the same place twice. Rats are very, very smart. This much we have learnt. They also have a weakness for hazelnut/chocolate spread (but then don’t we all?) Seems to work better than peanut butter which seemed to work better than cheese or sardines. This best filed in ‘Information I Hope I Never Need to Use’ folder!

To end on a much more positive note: other tracks revealed that an otter had been to visit and had taken time to check out the various outside pens and shelters before spending time ‘belly-boganning’ on the front slope that leads to the beach. It was fun to imagine him/her slithering along on a self-guided tour then playing with joyful abandon as otters do, before heading off on another adventure. Snowfalls do have their advantages. Must remember this as we prepare for yet another sou’easter, due to arrive sometime tomorrow, bringing with it another 15 to 20 cms.

Rainy Days/Happy places


Drum roll . . . TaDah! Now presenting the new Quackadoodle logo.

Quackadoodle \logo

The QuackaDoodle Farm Logo ~ everyone wanted to get in on the act

Yes,  I know, it’s kinda’ hokey but at least it doesn’t give any false impressions. In truth I was purposely aiming for something with that inimitable ‘hand-drawn’ look because slick and perfect is so not us. We’re a farm, for heaven’s sake and  a very muddy one at that, after what seems like a month (although it’s actually more like week) of rain.

Le Roi insists the 'mural' doesn't do him justice
Le Roi insists the ‘mural’ doesn’t do him justice

We did have one sunny day, (can’t quite remember when) and I was able to take a picture of Le Roi, pronounced Lee Roy, strutting  his stuff in the chicken tractor he calls home. He’s a Leghorn and when the sun hits his feathers at just the right angle his colours truly are magnificent . . . and he knows it. What attitude!


a.) A chicken tractor is a piece of farm equipment that is pulled by several chickens wearing specially designed harnesses.

b.) A chicken tractor is a moveable chicken coop, complete with its own fenced-in run.

If you picked b. you might agree that chicken tractors are great for housing a small flock and getting the garden beds fluffed up, de-bugged and fertilized by a crew of diligent ditch diggers who’ll work for chicken feed. And they’ll provide breakfast.

My Happy Place


I was sitting by the goat shed having my hair chewed on by now not-so-baby Stanley when I realized that I was in my perfectly, in fact supremely, happy place. This got me thinking about what it takes to be happy and if there is a correlation between simplicity and happiness. I really do believe there is and that as a society the further we removed ourselves from the natural world, the less contented we become. 

The garden centres around these parts (Nova Scotia) are warning their clients not to plant out any frost sensitive plants as it’s just too darn’ cold! Frost warnings in the middle of May, no less.My spinach, tatsoi and other hardy greens are peeking up out of the ground and we’re anticipated this year’s first feed of rhubarb any day soon but generally I believe most things in the garden are quite a ways behind the norm.

pickled eggs in jars

Pickled Eggs – ready for market

The eggs however just keep coming and coming. I have been pickling some for sale in our wonderful general store which sells just about everything from djembes to live bait, blown glass, cedar mulch, skeins of wool, silver jewelry and yes, pickled eggs. Theresa and Heather’s Country Store is the hub of our community, proof positive that it pays to shop local and well worth a visit, if only for an ice cream or a copy of my children’s book Gully Goes To Halifax.


Who lays white eggs?

Chickens with white ears. Only chickens with red ears lay brown eggs.

(It took me a while to believe this was not a joke but is in fact true)

When hard boiling eggs, why do some peel so much easier and ‘cleaner’ than others?

The fresher the egg the more difficult it is to peel. Commercially produced eggs will usually peel more easily because they are older. The inside of an egg shrinks away from the shell as it ages and therefore the shell peels away cleanly. Dipping the egg in icy cold water while peeling also helps.

And who’s too cute not to have the last word?

baby goat running

Strange Surprizes

This soil, untouched since it was tucked away under a blanket of straw is rich and friable; ready to plant

This soil, untouched since it was tucked away under a blanket of straw is rich and friable; ready to plant

It’s finally time to plant! Spring warmth has been slow coming to the Maritimes this year and because of the abnormally high temperatures last March and April the stubborn chill has been particularly noticable. The lack of warmth has not deterred the garlic, planted last Fall, which is poking up through the mulch with great enthusiasm. Daffodills are just flowering, which must seem like a bit of a joke to other parts of this great land where they’ve already bloomed and died off. Living here (east coast of Nova Scotia) simply requires a slight shift in perception, an understanding and acceptance that things, just about all things, come later. No need to get impatient . . . but of course I do. Who am I trying to fool!

Lobster season is well under way and the morning bird song is backed by the steady drone of Cape Islanders bringing home the day’s catch. A feed of lobster is a two minute walk away but in truth, being so close to the source has made us somewhat ambivalant about such treats. Actually, eggs in every conceivable form are presently topping the menu, given the mountain of eggs coming into the kitchen on a daily basis.

Jenni and The Giant Parsnip! This guy overwintered and was over sixteen inches long!

Jenni and The Giant Parsnip!
This guy overwintered and was over sixteen inches long!

And then, there’s The Giant Parsnip. I discovered this guy the other day while uncovered my raised beds for some early seeding. He was over sixteen inches long and surprisingly not at all ‘woody’. Here he is gently steamed, then breaded in Panko crumbs and served on a bed of arugula from the cold frame (sweated in a little balsamic vinegar and drizzled with maple syrup) along with some spicy pickled carrots and pickled beets from last season. And, of course, eggs. Pickled ones this time! Eating local can mean tasty, even at this time of year!

Parsnips aren’t a super popular vegetable for home gardens, perhaps because they are slow and erratic to germinate but they are prodigious seed producers, so there’s plenty of seed to save. They are biennials; they only produce seed in their second year and it’s important to note that the seed is only good for one year. I think these two reasons, slow germination and outdated seed, might have given parsnips a bad rap, but in fact they are easy enough to grow, are rugged and very tasty, especially when touched with frost . . . or over-wintered as I’ve just discovered. When saving seed it’s important to think ahead, to tag and leave a couple of roots in the ground when harvesting in the Fall. The seed heads are quite attractive, looking a lot like giant dill plants and easy to gather. But enough about parsnips….

This meal was all home-grown Tthe breaded parsnip and arugula were harvested in April. The Beets and carrots pickled llast Fall and the eggs pickled this Spring

This meal was all home-grown Tthe breaded parsnip and arugula were harvested in April. The Beets and carrots pickled llast Fall and the eggs pickled this Spring

I’ve been planting early greens such as spinach, tatsoi, chard and lettuce in the raised beds. Foolishly I had left one bed unmulched through the winter and it had already sprouted a substantial crop of deep rooted dandelions needing to be pulled. The other beds, that had been covered with straw through the winter, were so much easier to deal with. Just a matter of moving back the straw to find beautiful, friable soil all ready to plant. I also planted carrots, beets, parsnips and radishes. Perhaps a little early for carrots but I expect they’ll be okay. I have peas planted and I’m sure they’ll be fine as they like it cool but the ground is definitely too cold for beans yet. . . except for broad beans which don’t seem to mind the cold ground and definitely need the extra time to mature.

Broad beans are the most ungainly plants which need a solid frame to support them. I’ve learnt the hard way to have that frame in place before I plant the beans. If I don’t force myself to have the frames in place before I plant I know I’ll leave it too late and end up wrestling a matt of mammoth plants that have fallen on top of the rest of my crop. Peas aren’t as cumbersome or clumsy but they will tangle tightly around each other, making it hard to train them upwards on strings or trellis. I’ve done enough damage to the tender, quite brittle pea-vines to know that I must install the support, which in my garden is four by eight foot sheets of reinforcing mesh, before I plant the peas. I don’t allow myself to ‘do it soon but not now’ because I know that my sooner is always later . . . most often too late. Forcing myself to learn by my mistakes is hard; a lot like herding cats, I believe.

The Slug Patrol - hard at work. And thanks to them I haven't yet seen a trace of my erstwhile nemesis

The Slug Patrol – hard at work. And thanks to them I haven’t yet seen a trace of my erstwhile nemesis

The resident slug patrol, ducks who have not been segregated for breeding purposes, have been hard at work for several weeks now and although I hesitate to say it, I have not seen a single slug yet. Yeah! Slugs were my nemesis for many years and in fact got us wandering along the Permaculture Path to begin with. First step was the acquisition of some chickens, who despite what we had been told to the contrary, flatly refused to eat slugs. However, we were delighted to discover that slugs are to ducks as chocolate is to chocoholics. We have Khaki Cambell and Indian Runner ducks, both of which are excellent layers. Duck eggs contain more protein than chicken eggs and professional bakers prefer them for baking. I like them simply for their rich, buttery taste. Ducklings are also the cutest of all the hatchlings we incubate but the drakes are brutal lovers and by about the third week of mating season I’ve grown tired of running out with a broom to rescue some poor duck in distress. We usually have to load up on Polysporin eye drops because the drakes peck at the females around the eyes and force them down by pecking at their heads. Those ladies who attract the most ‘action’, (and although all ducks look a lot alike to us some are obviously considered to be ‘babes’ by the drakes) are practically bald around the head and neck by the end of mating season. They don’t seem to mind all the attention they get but I’m glad when it’s all over.

It's hard to image that these timid babies have become such brutal lovers

It’s hard to image that these timid babies have become such brutal lovers

Perhaps the corollary to the aphorism about needing to break eggs to make an omelette states that you can’t have eggs without losing a few feathers, spoken with a ducky dialect of course. Even though the constant influx of eggs can seem a little overwhelming at times, espescially as they greet me every morning by the basket full all needing to be scrubbed clean, I am quick to remind myself how thrilled we were with that very first egg, not so many years ago. Eggs are amazing; such a perfect food, so versatile, so cleverly packaged and so symbolic of the great promise this wonderful world has for those of us who care to put in the time to tend and nurture it.

Eggs, eggs and eggs to eggsess

Eggs, eggs and eggs to eggsess