Sunday, March 30, 2008

More flowers

Back to work today. But first I picked a small bouquet of violets and put them on my desk. They perfume the whole house as soon as they get warm. When the sun came out this afternoon the whole backyard smelled of violets
There are more and more daffodils blooming every day. the ones above are the second variety of heirloom daffodils that I found on this place when we came here. We had these where i grew up in Tacoma, WA as well. Again, I don't know what they are called and would love to find out.
And spring must really be here as Joel mowed the lawn for the first time. Our lawnmower is our first line of defense against the wild rose bushes (rosa nootkana) and the Himalaya blackberries that had taken over the place when it was vacant for years. We never planted any grass seed. What is there just came up from wild grasses after we had grubbed out the roses and blackberries. If we don't keep it mowed the jungle starts regrowing.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Trip to Saltspring Island, BC

We just came back from a three day trip up to Ganges on Saltspring Island in British Columbia. This is a trip we had talked about doing ever since we bought our new boat almost two years ago. So last week we looked at the calendar and realized that if we didn't just go right then we wouldn't have an open weekend until the end of next October. So in spite of the fact that the weather wasn't the best, we went. Just out of Waldron we ran into our first snow squall. That's a picture of it coming over Orcas island just before it hit us. It was cold and wet and windy.

We spent the first night in Sidney, on Vancouver Island where we had to go through customs and took off the next morning in more snow squalls for Ganges on Saltspring Island.
As we tied up the boat at Ganges marina it started to snow in earnest and by the time we went for a walk up town there was a couple of inches of snow and slush on the ground. We had a great time slogging around town and going out to dinner and laughing at our choice of weekend for a holiday. (Sorry about the snowflakes on the camera lens).
This morning we discovered that the Ganges Market was open. They traditionally start on Easter weekend and well, with Easter so early, they started early. The vendors were all bundled up with delicious bread and cheese and goodies and pretty crafts in the snow. There weren't any vegetable vendors out yet. We'd love to figure out to go back in the summer when we are told they have about 150 vendors. But we're always at our market on Saturdays. We did hear later that there is also a Tuesday market and so we may try to get there for that some time this summer. It isn't all that far. Even with going through customs both ways, we can go up in a day and come back in a day.

We had a really lovely time. The weather didn't matter a hoot. It was fun to travel through new islands in the boat and fun to talk to the vendors at the market. Now we're home and it's cold, but all the plants in the greenhouse appear to have survived. And we came home with 6 jars of marmalade and 6 bottles of hard cider. The marmalade and cider you get in the states is too sweet for me. I like the marmalade made with bitter Seville oranges and a good dry cider.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter on the island

There is always an Easter egg hunt followed by a potluck on the island. All my kids participated when they were school children and in the picture above two of them have brought my granddaughters back to the island for the event. It has been held in a field near the school for all of the 35 years I have been here. The adults come an hour earlier and hide the eggs and then the kids line up until released to hunt. There are two areas, one for little kids and one for bigger ones. That way the little ones don't get mowed down in the stampede.

This year, Easter being so extra early (won't be this early again until 2228, put it on your calendar), the weather really threatened to sabotage the event. We woke up in the middle of the night to wind and rain and I groaned. But it cleared off just in time and didn't start in again until everything was over. By that time we were on our way back to Friday Harbor with the families to put them on the ferry home. The wind and rain were so bad Joel and I decided to stay on the boat in Friday Harbor and not try and get back last evening. So we treated ourselves to dinner out and rented a movie to watch in the boat. Came back this morning to a cold but beautiful sunny day.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Weaving

I finally finished weaving the above warp yesterday. It had been on my 8 harness Harrisville loom for over a year. Not that I didn't like it, it's lovely, but I kept needing to make more rugs or scarves or boas on the other looms and that one got neglected. The overshot pattern is called Valley Forge Dogwood and it's from Marguerite Davison's wonderful book of weaving patterns, A Handweaver's Pattern Book. The yarn is natural colored organic cotton. The colors in natural colored cotton actually get deeper with washing. I've made several runners of this pattern in different shades of yarn. Now I need to hem the ones with hems and twist the fringes on the fringed ones. That's an evening job and I'll get it to little by little. I also have 17 rayon chenille scarves that need their fringes twisted so I have my work cut out for me. I've put a new warp for bookmarks on the loom I took these off of and hope to start weaving those today.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Old flowers and new vegetables

Almost every old farm or homestead on the island has these beautiful double daffodils blooming somewhere around. I've looked through a lot of books on daffodils and catalogues of old bulbs and never been able to find out what they are. They are tough, persisting through years of neglect and competition from grass and rose bushes that have grown up in their former flower beds. I've dug up and moved a lot of them from where their original owners planted them to my flower beds and borders. If anyone out there recognizes them I'd love to know anything about them.
And a new vegetables this year. It's called Great Wave Miike Indian mustard from Frank Morton's Wild Garden Seed. The colors are really interesting. Can't wait to see what this one looks like when it is full grown. And what it tastes like.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Planting more seeds

Yesterday I started planting flower seeds for the basic varieties that I use for cut flowers. I planted three flats of aster, my main variety, Sea Star, as well as the striped ones in the bucket above, a picture from last year, spider asters, a variety called Hulk which has no petals just green sepals and the center part of the flower. The latter I originally planted just as a novelty because I thought it was funny looking, but it sold so well that I'm growing it every year and lots of it.

Today I planted a flat of ornamental amaranths, greens and browns. We have a lot of red leaved and flowered amaranth that comes up all over the garden. We just till around a lot of it and use it for bouquets. But I want a wider color range so I'm, trying two new mixtures, Autumn Palette, and Autumn Touch, both of which are mixtures of browns and creams. I also planted smaller amounts of scabiosa, godetia in a salmon color, peach and apricot colored strawflowers, and an annual gaillardia that I grew a number of years ago and haven't since. Can't really remember why I stopped planting it so thought I'd give it another chance. I'll keep you posted on how this all comes out.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

New shrubs

I just recently planted three new lilac bushes and a deutzia. I am creating a shrub border on the south side of the house that will define the edge of the yard from the wilder areas and hopefully, in a few years, provide stems of lilac blooms for sale as cut flowers. Early in the spring when the market starts there aren't a lot of flowers in bloom. The perennials are just starting and the annuals are still being babied in the greenhouse. Flowering shrubs fill this gap nicely,

The new lilacs are a double maroon, a white variety that blooms later than the usual garden types, and one that promises to be blue. I imagine that the latter will be more of a lavender as a true blue is less common in flowers and very treasured when it does exist.

The deutzia is an old fashioned shrub with white frilled double belled flowers. We had a beautiful big one in the yard when I was a kid. They are hard to find having fallen out of fashion at the time being but I found several varieties at the Forest Farm in Oregon.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Empty nest

Siri's empty playhouse is a reminder of our three daughters who grew up on Waldron Island. All three graduated from our one room K-8 grade school and have gone onto to college. The island and the farm have been wonderful places to raise children. They had lots of physical freedom, a great little school and natural growing things all around them. Our two oldest daughters are living in Bellingham and Seattle and come out to the island with our three granddaughters as often as they can. Our youngest, Siri, is currrently in college in Brooklyn.
We started selling produce and flowers off the farm on Orcas Island when Siri was about 6 weeks old. Here she is in 1993 at the age of 8 selling flowers at the Friday Harbor Farmers Market when it was located in the parking lot of what is now the hardware store before the new store was built. Siri took over the flower part of the business when she was in high school and made the prettiest bouquets that ever came off the farm. She'd had a bit of practice by then.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Rat Patrol

Tuft, above, is one of an extended family of barn cats that keep us from being overrun by the local rat and rabbit population. Waldron, as a lot of small islands, has its own selection of fauna. We have no mice or voles, no raccoons, skunks, and as far as we know, only one fox, and no deer. But we do have a healthy population of rats, both the common grey rat or ship rat, Rattus rattus, and Rattus norvegicus, the brown wood rat. The story here is that the former came here on old demasted sailing ships that were used as barges to haul off the sandstone from the quarry on Pt. Disney 100 years ago. The sandstone was used to pave streets in Seattle and Tacoma and to build the Columbia River jetty. You can still see marks on the cliffs from the old quarry.

When Joel first moved to the farm in the late 70's no one had lived here for decades. Except for the rats. So a friend gave him a cat. Mama Cat, as she came to be called, was not a tame cat and she lived in the barn and began our line of calico cats. Only females are calico colored so the males are either black and white or orange and white. Except for Tasha, who is a Siamese. We're not sure where she came from. She showed up in a litter of otherwise calico and orange and white cats.

After a few years it became obvious that the cats were thriving a bit too well, so I started a campaign of spay and release which took years. I'd always fail to capture one female cat and she'd show up the next year with 4 calico kittens. But two years ago we caught Gretel, the last fertile female, and now they will just live out their years and hopefully keep the rats and rabbits at bay for us for a while longer.

When Siri was little she was the official cat (and sheep) namer. So all the cat names are her creation.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Onward with spring

I finished weaving a batch of really lovely light grey wool rugs today. The yarn, from Cotswold sheep, is a naturally variegated mixture of greys from nearly white through light grey to occasional bits of really dark grey. Here and there are little bits of light to medium brown. It is the lovliest stuff. The rugs are woven on a cotton warp in a color the company calls linen which is a sort of taupe brown. It goes just perfectly with the bits of brown coloration in this wool. The rugs are so pretty. I'll post a picture when I have the fringes tied and they've been washed and hung on the line.

Joel got all the current batch of onion plants in the ground, 4 40" beds of 4 rows each. Lot of onions to be. And then he planted 6 flats of leeks in the greenhouse. I planted a flat of carnations. This is the way things are this time of year. We plant, I weave, I knit. We stand in the sun when it comes out and soak it in. The cats lie in sunny patches and sleep and I want to emulate them.

This evening I am going to print out labels and put them on 2 dozen felted hats. I finally got them all run through the washing machine. Bit by bit my stock for this summer's sales is accumulating.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Onion Plants

We got the first shipment of onion plants today, Ailsa Craigs and Red Burgermasters. We are also waiting for our WallaWalla plants. We grow onions from plants, sets, and seeds depending on the type and the availability. We have found that the kind of onions that grow as overwintered types which develop bulbs in response to long days are best purchased as plants that have been overwintered elsewhere. We grown our winter storage varieties which are short day onions, forming bulbs as the days shorten with the approach if fall, as sets and start various heirloom types such as the cipollinis, and the long red of Tropea, from seeds.

Last year was the first time we grew Ailsa Craigs. These are a very large, absolutely delicious sweet onion developed in Scotland and named after a Scottish hill. We had never grown such big onions. In fact I won a blue ribbon at the San Juan County Fair in the largest vegetable section with as 2 1/2 pound onion and Best Of Show for 5 beautiful Ailsa Craigs.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Spring Blooms

Although it was grey and rainy this morning by afternoon the sun had come out and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I went around looking for new spring flowers. I found the first daffodil, a tiny miniature yellow one out by Siri's old playhouse.
And a few violets poking out of their leaves. When the violets are in full bloom their scent wafts all over the yard. I love the scent of violets. There is a violet perfume which is about the only perfume I really like. I also found a couple of blossoms on the forsythia bush, lots and lots more crocuses. big fat almost open red buds on the flowering currant, a couple of small blue anemones and
a bud about to open up on the peach tree. Our peach tree, a Frost peach, is growing under a translucent fiberglass roof to keep the water off it in the winter. Peach leaf curl is the bane of peaches in this part of the country and although the Frost cultivar is leaf curl resistant, keeping the tree dry in the winter prevents the fungus from being able to start growing. It works and we get lovely peaches from the tree in the summer.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

When to plant

I started planting flower seeds today. I've been itching to get started but know from experience that starting things to early isn't a good idea. So I checked my planting log from last year and I started stocks and perennials about the first of March. So today I planted two flats of stocks and a couple of small flats, actually reused plastic meat trays, of perennials, some lovely tall fall asters, Aster "Composition", a couple of varieties of primroses and a species rose I want to try. The asters and stocks are cut flowers, the rest for fun. The small flats are put into plastic bags and brought into the house and put on a shelve behind the stove until they germinate. then they will be moved out into the greenhouse. As much as I deplore plastic garbage and try to avoid as much as possible, we do reuse an awfully lot of it. From the small meat trays that are just perfect for a dozen or so seedlings, to plastic bread bags to seal in moisture, to cut up strips of yogurt containers for labels.

One of the questions people often ask is how to know when to plant things. Well, the only real answer is experience in your own area, but of course, no one starts out with experience. So in that case ask someone who knows and if there isn't someone around or even if there is read, read, read, read, seed packets, seed catalogues, books on gardening and on plants, gardening magazines. and then just plunge in and see what happens. In the garden, there is always next year and that is where experience comes from. It does help a lot to keep a record of when you plant, when things come up, how different varieties did for you this year, etc. and things should be tried for a couple of years because the weather is never exactly the same. We're always trying new lettuces and new peppers and tomatoes looking for varieties that will do well in our particular situation which differs even from a friend's farm a couple of miles away in terms of air drainage, soil type, water.