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Things Are Getting Seedy!

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Things Are Getting Seedy!
Seedy Saturday poster

Seedy Saturdays are always a fun way to connect with kindred spirits and pick up some inspiration along with some seed

Yay! It’s that time of year again.

Despite the sizeable (but slowly diminishing) drifts of snow the first seed catalogues have arrived

Our local feed store even has their seed display set up – right next to the blazing, and much needed wood fire. And, as if this wasn’t incentive enough to start planning this year’s garden – well, a trip to a seed swap (Seedy Saturday) is sure to get those green thumbs out of hibernation.

Leeks and potatoes

Planning next winter’s hearty meals should start now!

 

 

At this time of year – actually it’s less than thirty days away from Spring, even if it doesn’t feel much like it some days– choices are so easily influenced by innate longings for all things summer, including what grows in the garden: crunchy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers peppers and so on.

It’s tempting to forget about the Fall crops that tide us over the winter months, forming the basis for so many hearty winter meals. Winter crops store well but generally speaking are slower growing than their summer time counter parts, which tend to gallop through their growth stages toward maturity in order to avoid the first frost. Late crops such as Brussels sprouts, parsnips and leeks don’t have to hurry because they’re quite frost tolerant.

Leeks, members of the Allium genus, are beautiful vegetables that really don’t get the attention they deserve, in my opinion. They’re easy to grow, they store remarkably well, and their mild, oniony flavor is perfect for quiches, soups and stir-frys, as well as in more adventurous dishes such as vegetable pie or a ‘modified’ spanakopita.

So, this is my shout-out for Leeks!

three leeks, three potatoes

Leeks and potatoes make a simple but super satisfying soup.

They do need to be started really early. The seed is tiny and can be difficult to space in a typical garden bed and, when they eventually poke up through the soil, they look just like tiny blades of grass. This resemblance makes it more than likely that they’ll get ‘weeded’ out. It’s much better to start leeks inside.

leek seedlings

These young leeks plants which were all seeded in one pot are now ready to be planted outside

mature leeks

Leeks are quite a compact plant and when well mulched they don’t require a whole lot of space.

Good news is that this doesn’t need to be a major undertaking, with each seed requiring its own little pot. It’s much easier to sprinkle a few seeds together in one large pot. One of the great things about leeks is that they don’t mind having their roots disturbed. This means that the grass-like leek sprouts can be left in the one pot for a couple of months until it’s convenient to transplant them. The roots will no doubt be tangled but can be gently separated and replanted. No problem.

Leeks like to be planted in trenches of rich soil and then gradually hilled up as they grow. This increases the size of the white, tender base of the leek. They do also need plenty of water to really flourish. Heavy mulching will help with water retention, will keep the weeds away and will also help to keep the soil cool. This puts leeks in their ‘happy place’, and once they’ve been ‘happily’ bedded in I find leeks to be pretty much hassle free.

The hilling up of leeks can result in some particles of dirt getting trapped under the outer layers of the leek. No problem! There’s a super easy way to clean leeks. Simply slice down the centre of the leek from top to bottom, holding firmly onto the base of the leek, then dunk it a few times in clean water. Any soil particles will be instantly released – it’s that simple. They’re now ready for slicing into your favorite dish. Mine is leek and feta quiche, with cream of leek and potato soup a close second.

a leek being ceaned

To clean a leek simply trim and slice vertically before dunking several times in clean water.

Leeks are the emblem of that so wonderful country of Wales (okay, so I’m slightly biased!) so why not plant some leeks on March 1st in honour of St David’s Day (the patron saint of Wales) and to scratch that itchy green thumb but mostly to ensure a good crop of this super nutritious allium that will store for many months and grace no end of delicious meals.

My big news is that my new book, The Food Lover’s Garden, is at the printer’s and slated to be in the stores around March 21st This book is in full color and I got to illustrate it with thirty some watercolor paintings of one of my favorite things – vegetables – as well as forty some photographs all taken right here at QuackaDoodle Farm.

Food Lover's Garden bcover

Front Cover of my new book – due in stores March 21st. 2017

It looks like the designer has done a magnificent job and as usual all the folks at New Society Publishers have been wonderful to work with. I feel truly blessed to be working with such an ethical and efficient company that strives hard to produce the perfect, eco friendly product. Kudos to them!

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A Perfect Pickle

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Freshly washed eggs

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

Enough with the eggs already! I know, but when you’re in the middle of an eggsplosion it’s hard not to be just a little eggsessive. No kidding!

Seriously though, I think most of us have at some time or another gotten very frustrated trying to peel a hard boiled egg or somehow or another have ended up with a surplus of eggs and not known quite what to do with them. This post is for you!

First off, how to ‘cook’ a perfect hard-boiled egg. No prizes here for guessing the cooking method 🙂 I used to think that the eggs should be lowered into boiling water but no, eggs should be placed in pan and completely covered with cold water which is then brought to a rolling boil. The pan, with a tightly fitting lid is then removed from the heat and left to sit. The time varies depending on the type and size of egg. Chicken eggs are left for twelve – thirteen but duck eggs need a little longer in my experience. The last batch of duck eggs I did were left to sit for fourteen minutes eggsactly and while the majority were perfect, a couple could have used just a little longer. Next time I plan to leave them for fifteen minutes, but definitely no longer. When overcooked the yolks develop a grey/green rim around their outer edge, which is perfectly edible but just not very appealing, and also the whites will tend to become rubbery.

eggs in basket

These eggs are scrubbed and tickety-boo ready to go to market. (Check us out at Local Source)

Sammy slicer

This little guy is so cute he really doesn’t need to work but he’s just great at slicing eggs.

If I was never quite comfortable with the boiling of eggs  (I could never get the timing right), I was certainly not in my happy place when it came to peeling them, until I learnt that fresh eggs are virtually impossible to peel ‘clean’. In a truly fresh egg the shell, membrane and white are melded together. It takes a week or two for the membrane to shrink and pull away from the shell creating an airspace, and making it much easier to peel the shell away.

If the eggs have been properly stored, that is, pointy end down, an small airspace will have formed at the top (more rounded) end of the egg. I find it best to crack this end open first then submerge the egg in a bowl of cold water allowing the water to penetrate. Sometimes, and depending on the age of the egg, the shell might peel off in a circular rotation, much like the peel of an apple or it might be necessary to gently tap the sides of the egg shell against the side of the sink to further crack the shell. It’s best not to roll the egg to crack the shell as this will separate the white from the yolk.

Pickling eggs is a very simple procedure. To make sure the jars are properly sterilized first wash in warm soapy water and then rinse in clear water. Place jars upright on a cookie sheet and place in a warm oven (225 degrees) for twenty minutes. While the jars are sterilizing bring equal parts of water and white vinegar, (one or two cups of each depending on the amount of eggs being pickled) and 1-2Tbs. of sugar and 1-2 Tbs. of pickling spices to a boil. Pack eggs in sterilized jars and cover with the hot liquid and seal. If for some reason the peeled eggs have been in the fridge don’t put them directly into hot jars as this might cause the jars to crack. Pickled eggs will keep for a couple of months in the refrigerator. They are great in a packed lunch, sliced in a salad or served as an hors d’oeuvre. I have a handy dandy egg slicer, that looks kinda’ cute and really does work. Have to love that!

The take away from this is that fresh eggs will not peel clean no matter how careful you are. Eggs from QuackaDoodle need to be kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks before they peel well.

Shows dense growth of rubarb with rooster in chicken tractor in the background

Deep in the magic Rhubarb Forest

This is not a problem. Chicken eggs will stay fresh for several weeks and duck eggs for even longer because of their thicker shells. And even then they’ll likely still be much fresher than any bought at the local supermarket!

Rhubarb is another thing that’s going nutso crazy at this time of year. Given all the rain we’ve had these past couple of weeks it’s a jungle out there. Yikes! What to do with it all apart from the obvious like stewing it (with ice cream it is amazing) and making it into muffins and pies and crumbles? One favourite we have around QuackaDoodle is rhubarb chutney.  This chutney is especially good with curry dishes and biryanis. It doesn’t take long to prepare and is so totally worth the effort.

Rhubarb Chutney Recipe (highly recommended!)

rhubarb

First pick of the year. Yum!

Heat together

1  1/2 c of cider vinegar

2 c brown sugar

1 t ground ginger

1 t cinnamon

1/2 t cayenne

1/2 t black pepper

1/2 t ground cloves

1 t salt

Stir until sugar is dissolved then add

6 c chopped rhubarb

2 c chopped onion

1/2 dried figs (chopped)

1/2 dried cranberries

I c chopped apple

1 c golden raisin

3 t minced garlic

1/4 crystalized ginger finely chopped

Simmer until thickened (about one hour) and spoon in to sterilized jars. Process (boil in a water bath) for fifteen minutes. And enjoy!

Special note for anyone in the Halifax area. QuackaDoodle duck eggs are for sale at Local Source Market on Agricola. Even if you’re not in the market for eggs this super store is well worth a visit if you’re a locavore who loves good food.

 

 

Some Days are Diamond, Some Days are Not

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In purely visual terms I suppose yesterday, the first day of Spring, could be classed as ‘diamond’, being that for the first half of it everything was coated in a shiny skin of freezing rain, which came after the snow, but before the sleet or the ice pellets; none of which was in any way conducive to Spring-like frolics.

Freezing rain coats window.

Micro greens on the kitchen window sill don’t believe this is the first day of Spring as freezing rain coats the pane… or is that pain

 

Sylph of Spring

Sylphie Spring takes up her place on the shelf despite the weather!

old man winter

Old man winter was thinking he might stick around

Even so, it was definitely time for Old Man Winter to vacate from his place of honour on the kitchen shelf in favour of the first Sylph of Spring.

The fact is, us gardeners are eternal optimists! How could we believe anything other than that Spring is truly here… well, at least near?

And of course it can’t come soon enough.

 

 

 

 

 

I was out on the weekend adding extra mulch to the berry patch and yes, some opportunistic weeds were already showing themselves. These were the ones that  had spent the winter  developing a healthy root system 😦

So yes, definitely time to renew mulch where needed. It’s also a good time to do a bit of pruning.  All my Haskap bushes seem to have fared quite well but there were a few  damaged twigs and branches that needed to go. This is certainly the time to prune Haskaps but never more than twenty-five percent should be cut away.

It’s also more than time to be planting herb seeds (inside) and slow starters such as leeks and hardy greens, such as Tat Soi, kale and arugula. Around here (the east coast of Nova Scotia) it’s virtually impossible to predict when the last frost will come. The weather patterns, especially over the past few years, have become so unpredictable that every year is yet another variance on the norm. So much so that, well, what is the norm?

Our greenhouse was trashed by winter storms and is temporarily out of commission, so I’m planning on setting up some early beds with some ‘in-ground’ heating. Here’s the plan: I have a couple of cold frames and a box-type nursery bed that are empty. I’m going to put a layer of super fresh chicken manure down first, then cover it with a generous layer of mulch, which will probably be leaves because that’s what we have most of right now. It’s important to make sure that no roots can access the manure which will be way too hot and will kill young plants, but will generate enough heat to keep the beds a couple of degrees warmer than the soil outside. The manure and mulch will then be topped with a couple of bags of soil. I won’t need too much soil as the plants I’m starting (early greens) are all fairly shallow rooted.

I’m going to start everything inside in recycled food packaging and in a couple of weeks, when everything has sprouted and presumably things have heated up outside, a least a little bit, I’ll move them out side and set them in the soil in the ‘hot box’. I’ve done this before and had great success. As an added bonus to the early start, the manure and mulch and soil gradually rotted down into a incredibly fertile mix that was perfect for a shoulder season crop in the fall. So fingers crossed! I will post an ongoing progress report.

Sitting with a wet hen

Wrapped in towels and held up close she warms up gradually

The other morning my first job (before my coffee even 😦 was to deal with a hypothermic chicken. She had managed to get left out throughout a night of freezing rain. There’s an expression; ‘Madder than a wet hen’ which can now be expanded to; ‘Sadder than a hypothermic hen!’ Sitting by the woodstove cuddling Henmoine brought back memories of when my kids were babies, except they squirmed more and definitely were more vocal when they weren’t feeling well. It also seemed like this might be the beginning of one weird day, or, just another day, down here at QuackaDoodle.

one dry hen

After a couple of hours in the bathroom Henmoine is happy again but determined never to get left out again.

 

 

The Perfect Antidote For a Nasty Case of Twitchy Green Thumb

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The Perfect Antidote For a Nasty Case of Twitchy Green Thumb
A texas chicken

It’s true! Everything is bigger in Texas

We (my book, Permaculture for the Rest of Us, and I ) just got back from the Mother Earth News Fair in Belton, Texas. Wow! I had no idea idea what an amazing experience that would be. Thousands of people travel, often from quite a distance, to take in these two day events… and for good reason. And what people! Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, so much so, that I’d say “Take a trip to Texas if your faith in humanity starts to feel a little shaky.” And yes, more good news, Permaculture is alive and very welcomed 🙂

Mother Earth News (http://www.motherearthnewsfair.com/) does an incredible job organizing these yearly events and there are still more book for this year. Well worth the effort to attend one.

I was fortunate enough to have a couple of extra days exploring the Austin area.

At the Lady Bird Johnson (https://www.wildflower.org/ladybird/) Wild Flower Center we met a man sitting in the middle of a field pulling out weeds from around the wild blue bonnets. Apparently these brilliant blue flowers, which look a lot like stunted lupines, are a most welcomed sign of Spring. He directed us to the Continental Club, downtown Austin, where we heard some of the coolest jazz we’d heard in a long while. This flexible performance was known as Church on Monday. I know I felt blessed!

inside Springdale farm store

Springdale urban farm store opens twice a week and supplies gourmet restaurants and food stamp recipients and everyone in between

Also had the opportunity to visit a couple of urban farms. One supplied several restaurants and hosted a gourmet food truck while also being part of a food stamp program which allowed for the less fortunate to eat well, as well. I really admired this interpretation of the less often mentioned Permaculture ethic: Equitable or fair share.

Community leaf dump

The local community is invited to dump there leaves here

 

 

 

 

 

Veggietables growing in field

How much food can you grow on a five acre urban lot? Lots! At Boggy Creek Farm

 

 

Urban farmers Texas style

Urban farmers at Boggy Creek Farm, Austin Texas

Unfortunately, while drooling over the rows of lush veggies at the farms I picked up a nasty case of Twitchy Green Thumb… not always an easy thing to cure at this time of year, but fortunately help is coming soon. Very soon in fact.

Would you believe tomorrow, Saturday, February 26th. It’s Seedy Saturday in Truro. Where? St Andrew’s United Church, 55, King Street When? from 10.00 – 2.00

This laid back family oriented event is a great opportunity to mingle, pick up some ideas, as well as some seeds and yes, an effective salve for your own Twitchy Green Thumb.

I will be there with Permaculture for the Rest of Us. Hope to meet you and perhaps chat about all thing green and beautiful 🙂

Shows a poster for Seedy Saturday

Seedy Saturday happens tomorrow!

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time!

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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 🙂

 

The Best & the Worst of Times

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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!

Best Way Ever to Shovel Out The Goat Shed!

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Spring was so slow coming this year that it sometimes seemed that exuberant growth might never happen, but of course it did. More recently, as much of the country suffers terrible droughts we’ve been having way more than our fair share of rain, torrential downpours in fact, that just keep on coming, along with lower than average temperatures, except, that is, for a long dry spell middle of June through to middle of July, during which nothing grew. Weather patterns are most definitely becoming more extreme! While some crops must surely be set back, much of the garden seems to be flourishing in the present cool, moist conditions.

Bed of Asian Greens

The’ Asian Greens’ bed

The ‘Asian greens bed’, as we identify it, is especially happy. It contains Gai Lan, (also called Chinese Broccoli), Mache, Tat soi, Chop Suey greens (which are actually an edible chrysanthemum) Pak Choy, Rumex lettuce (sorrel) and Michihli (Chinese cabbage) all of which are delicious. I would highly recommend trying any or all of these as they’re all uber delicious. They’re also all early season plants, in that they prefer cooler conditions so the plan is to re-seed for a second, late season crop around the end of August.

close up of Tatsoi and Michihli

Pak Choi snuggles in with the Chop Suey (Shungiku) greens which are towards the top of the image

sorrel

Rumex lettuce, which is a variety of sorrel described as having a raspberry vinegar flavour. It is lovely in a salad.

Young child admires baby chick

Putting the day old chicks under the heat lamp in their ‘nursery’ is always fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had hoped to raise a different type of meat chicken this year called Sasso, simply because the Meat Kings we usually get seem unnatural. Unfortunately the source we were depending on for the Sassos didn’t come through so we’re back to Meat Kings again this year. They grow so big, so quickly, not because  they’re genetically modified in any way but simply because the cross breed of specific strains of male Cornish and female White Rocks creates a bird that is nothing more than an eating machine. For anyone growing these birds for the first time, here are a few things to be aware of. Time of harvest is quite crucial and it goes as follows: 6 weeks for your standard KFC / Swiss Chalet broiler; 10-12 weeks is what we usually aim for (net out at 7 to 8.5 lbs) After 10 weeks, you’re into the diminishing returns curve as the amount of weight they gain is less value than the feed you’re giving them. Feed needs to be regulate around 3-4 weeks or the muscles and ligaments won’t be able to support the excessive weight and after ten weeks heart attacks and strokes become a very real issue, just as with obese humans. These birds are the ultimate gluttons!

Beyond that, the sky’s the limit, assuming they survive much beyond 20 weeks, at which point if managed well, they will dress out at the 13 to 16 lbs range, too big for all but large family special occasions. We don’t like to grow them this big as they start to look engorged and really uncomfortable. On the bright side, as day old chicks they’re awful darn cute.

 

Community is, shamefully, the aspect of Permaculture that I focus on least, or at least it used to be that way until a

Woman in sun hat sitting with a plate of pancakes on her knee

Best way ever to shovel out a goat shed

Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago when several of my neighbours arrived, armed with forks and shovels, prepared to clean out the goat shed. I was awaiting hip surgery at that time and shovelling was out of the question. Even walking was getting to be a bit of a challenge. Chores were certainly starting to get backed up around here.  To my neighbours a bit (no, let’s make that a lot) of shovelling, was fair return for the fresh greens and stuff that we have an overabundance of, and love to share; to me it was  the most amazingly beautiful gesture of friendship and generosity. They even brought me breakfast of pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup and one dear child who couldn’t come to the shovelathon sent along a batch of fudge he’d made, just for me. How sweet is that! I still get quite emotional, thinking of that morning and I realize that for me it was quite a learning curve. I love giving but I’m not that good at receiving, and in truth I suck at asking for help. That wonderful morning really underlined that truly everything, as in Permaculture, is about connectivity and that the value of community cannot be understimated. See below the best ever way to shovel out a shed!

Five women and a boy shovel out a goat shed

Wow! Is this what friends are for?

 

The job is done!

Canadian Gothic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me. happy with my new book.

Permaculture For The rest Of Us. Yeah!

My other big news, other than the fact that my hip is fixed and I’m feeling fine, is that my latest book, Permaculture For The Rest of Us – Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre is at the proofing stage and I’ve even had an advanced reading copy in my hand. The cover design incorporates a section of a painting I did based on the QuackaDoodle Farm layout, so that’s kind of cool. It’s being published by New Society Publishers and will be available October first. Exciting!

 

 

A COUPLE OF QUICK TIPS 

If you happen to see a broken down pleather couch, or chair, out for curbside pick up, stop and take a couple of the cushions. They make the best kneeling pads ever and they don’t get super soggy after a rain so can be left out permanently. The two I have also add a bit of comfort to the rustic wooden chairs at the fire pit. Multi-functional and re-purposed, a perfect Permaculture solution.

Hens in a hen-poster

Happy hens make great compost.

A hen-poster is a must, if you have chickens. (And why not have chickens?) We emptied ours (the henposter not the chickens) this spring and it was full of the best ever compost. Chickens love digging and scratching through the garden waste and kitchen scraps, so they’re continually aerating and manuring any organic matter that’s made available to them. Having it corralled by a simple ‘fence’ prevents it from being spread all over the place, and allows it to accumulate some mass which in turn facilitates the heating up process. Also makes it much easy to shovel out come the Spring.

 

I’m leaving the final word to Mother Nature.

Pink and blue Columbines

Mother Nature rules!

There’s a patch of ground close up to the foundation of the house that is solid clay, backfill from the excavation. It’s totally shadowed by the back deck and gets virtually no sunlight at all. I’d spread it with some gravel topped with beach rocks, planning to park my kayak there but Mother N had other ideas. She filled the gaps between the rocks with Columbines. I have no idea where the first plants came from but every year they proliferate and diversify and have created a magical little garden where I thought nothing could possibly grow. It’s amazing to see these fragile, beautiful plants thriving in such an inhospitable environment. Just another proof that it is so much better to let nature rule. Just one of the things that makes Permaculture so cool!