Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wild Roses

The wild roses, Rosa nutkana, are just beginning to bloom. There are literally acres of them on the island. When we first moved here we had to grub them out of the yard to beat back the jungle. They can grow 10 feet tall and spread by root suckers. Sort of like very tall quack grass with thorns.

They do redeem themselves in the spring. As soon as the new foliage opens the island is full of the rich spicy, rose smell of the plants, because not only are the flowers scented but so is the foliage. Particularly in the evening when the air cools down and is moist the scent is almost overpowering. The cats come in smelling like roses when they prowl under them in the spring. I used to gather big 5 gallon buckets full of the petals to make potpourris and my hands and hair and clothes would be full of the scent. Interestingly, none of the reference books I've ever seen mention this scented foliage characteristic of the plant although other wild species with scented foliage like Rosa eglantaria are listed as having scented foliage. The species grows all across North America and I wonder if all the plants have the scented foliage or if this is unique to this area.


Here's our visiting eagle flying off after he'd landed next to the little chickens' pen. We woke up hearing the chickens yelling at him and heard him claw at the wire on the pen. Joel charged out and he (she) flew off but landed in a nearby tree giving me a chance to grab the camera. I'm not sure what we are going to do about this guy. I'm not willingly letting him have my chickens.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New chickens

My oldest daughter is a first grade teacher and this spring they hatched baby chicks in the classroom. Of course, after they were hatched she had to find homes for them so 10 of them came out here with her this weekend. They are Rhode Island Reds and a mixture of hens and roosters. We think 4 of them are hens for sure but it is really too early to tell as they are only about a month old. They seem quite happy in their pen. This is one of the "chicken tractors" that we move from place to place in the garden, letting the chickens scratch up the soil, eat bugs and fertilize for us. It also keeps them safe from owls, hawks, and eagles. And our visiting eagle was here at 5:45 this morning checking them out.

We started planting the warm weather crops today. Plants like corn, beans, and squash all need the soil to be at least 60 degrees before you plant them or the seeds rot in the soil. We planted the first corn today, 4 varieties with different maturity dates to give us a crop stretched over several weeks next fall. I also put the first zinnias in the ground. This is another plant that wants warm soil. Hopefully in the next few days we can get the first beans in the ground. We always start with brown seeded varieties as they are more tolerant of cool soil than white seeded ones.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

House Roses

The rose growing on our house in the post below and in the picture to the left is a Rosa banksia, a beautiful double flowering yellow rose that blooms once a year, in the spring. It is huge climbing rose that is covered each year with literally thousands of tiny flowers. It was a wedding present to us in 1986.

The picture of the house above was taken in the early 20's, and no, it isn't the same rose. However, the similarity is amazing. A few years ago we met the descendants of the people sitting on the porch, the Adrian family. They only lived here for a few years in the early 20's, and the story is that they ran a bootlegging operation out of the house during prohibition. The San Juan Islands, being close to the Canadian border were a hot bed of rum runners and this island was no exception. I believe that another family lived here in the 30's but after that it was essentially abandoned until Joel moved in in 1979.

Farm Scenes

We have a whole bunch of family here for the long weekend and most of them spent a couple of hours this morning helping prepare a bunch of rag strips for weaving. I tear the strips from old sheets in appropriate colors and then remove the loose strings and cut the ends to a point so that I can overlap them when I weave. We got a huge bunch of them all ready to go. And it was fun to work on it with my children and grand children.
With the warm weather things are growing. The apple blossoms are blowing off the trees and carpeting the driveway matching the white daisies in the lawn.
And the oriental poppies are blooming. Big and bright they are my favorite poppies.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Last Daffodils

The Pheasant eye daffodil is usually the very last to bloom. Unlike other daffodils where the flower stem comes up with the leaves, the Pheasant Eye's leaves come up first leaving me to worry that they aren't going to bloom this year. But they usually do. A couple of years ago I got an old heirloom double Pheasant's Eye that blooms a week later. It is just now beginning to bloom. It's lovely to have a few daffodils left at this time of spring.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Apple Trees

The yard is full of flowering apple trees. Their scent fills the whole place. The last couple of days of warm weather has brought out lots and lots of native pollinators and the trees are humming with them. Above is one of the 6 100 year old apple trees in the yard that were planted at about the time our house was built. This one we call the Apple Pie Tree because noone has been able to identify it. The fruit is red striped and very tart and makes the best apple pies of any of our apples. We also make wonderful apple catsup from these apples.

In addition to the old apples we have planted 6 more apples mostly out around the pond.
And all over the place are dozens of wild crab apples, Malus fusca in the picture above. I think maybe one of the reasons we have such a healthy population of native pollinators may well be because of the abundance of these pretty wild trees. They provide lots of pollen and nectar for these insects. I'm not sure what they all are. If I look very closely at all the bugs in the trees there are a lot of different ones. I'm sure a lot of them are mason bees, which look like small bumble bees.

And there are also a lot of seedling apples trees in the woods, along the road, in the fields. Many of them come from a thrown apple core but some are also crosses between fruiting apples and the wild ones probably spread by the birds. The fruit on these tends to be bigger than the tiny wild ones, more like a modern crab apple, but not as big as a regular eating apple. Their flavor runs from awful to good. But the sheep enjoy all of them.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hot Day

I am not a fan of hot weather. Both Joel and I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and have come to realize that we have about a 10 degree temperature tolerance. Below 65 degrees and we whine and above 75 degrees we whine. We have no desire to go to hot places for vacations. Iceland sounds great. And we particularly hate it when the temperatures go from the 50's to the 80's over night. Actually the trouble with our climate is that it never stays hot long enough to acclimatize. By the time I've stopped feeling faint a cool air mass comes in from the ocean and the temperature drops. So today was pretty miserable. The thermometer at home says it got up to 85 while we were at market. Sheesh!! But it is supposed to cool off and rain in a couple of days. Typical.

So I thought in aid of cooling I would post a picture of our pond. It is so pretty this time of year. By the end of August we have pumped all the water out of it to irrigate the garden and it is a mud hole. It is our main source of irrigation water as our well doesn't produce enough water per minute to water the gardens. We are set up with a drip irrigation system that maximizes our water use and it works great.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Warm Spring Day, at last

It was a lovely, lovely warm spring day today. I had a sub job at the middle school for a teacher who has an algebra class, a P.E. class and a health class. The P.E. class was able to go outside and we reveled in the warm day. Even the breeze was warm for a change. For so long this spring even when the sun was warm there has been a cold wind blowing from the north.

When I got home Joel and I planted a second bed of chard, this one two rows of green chard and one of yellow, and a bed of parsnips. We have had a terrible time getting parsnips to grow for the last couple of years while our neighbors have had great crops;. But we are persisting and maybe the third time will be the charm. We're not sure whether the previous plantings just didn't germinate or something ate each and every parsnip seedling when they came up leaving all the weeds, or what.

The lettuce plants aren't as big as we had hoped they'd be by this time but we expect to be able to harvest some of the smaller heads to make lettuce mix for market. By the following week we should have real heads of lettuce. Joel grows about 50 different varieties of lettuce each year. There are so many great varieties out there and he just can't resist trying them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rainy Day

It rained all day today. Not a winter rain with the wind driving it against the windows, but a steady quiet rain. the rain gauge says we got about 1/3 inch of rain. Everything looks so incredibly green. I'm so glad we got the seedlings planted last evening. they will have been soaking up the rain all day getting over the shock of being transplanted.

I spent most of the day twisting fringe on a bunch of woven chenille scarves. If you don't twist or braid the fringe on a rayon chenille item all the little"fuzzies" gradually fall off the yarn and you are left with a bunch of strings.

Monday, May 12, 2008


It's definitely time for me to turn my attention from fiber arts to flowers. I have always been responsible for the cut flower part of our farm. We used to grow a lot of flowers to dry and sold them through a mail order catalogue, Island Farmcrafters, a cooperative effort of several islanders. Now I grow cut flowers for sale at the Farmers Market. Above are Asiatic lilies in one of the perennial beds.
These are some small statice plants I transplanted out today. I also put out more stocks, ornamental amaranths, godetias, calendulas and lavatera, and planted seeds of a couple of ornamental millets.
I thought the flowers of some red leaved kales were pretty this afternoon. These plants will be pulled out shortly to make room for summer vegetables. We do save some seed but usually we grow so many varieties that we just get a jumbled mixture in any seed we save. Of course, that can be pretty interesting. We do buy a variety of kale called Wild Garden Kale from Wild Garden Seed that is just that, seeds from kales that have been allowed to mix it up in the garden. There are some pretty neat kales in that mixture.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

Joel bought me this really beautiful rhododendron for Mother's Day. We have a friend who sells them on a street corner in Friday Harbor and he pulled up and said, "Choose one." This is really a pale yellow. It is a tall type that we put in an area with some old fruit trees. I love rhododendrons when they get tall and leggy from growing under trees. There's a grove of white ones like that in the Seattle Aboretum that I used to love when I lived there many,many years ago. This photograph was taken on the dock before we loaded it into the back of the pickup because I was afraid all the flowers would blow off before we got home. As a matter of fact, most of them made it just fine.

There is traditionally a plant sale at the school every Mother's Day. It is a fund raiser for various school projects. We all bring plants and then buy each others to benefit the school. We always grow extra tomato plants and such for this sale and pot up extra flower seedlings, etc. This year most of the flower seedlings are still in the greenhouse because it has been so cold, but we did have extra tomato plants from the ones started for the hoophouse. They were very well received.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Apple Blossoms

The apple trees are finally starting to bloom. I have a picture of the Almata on the left in full bloom on April 26 last year and today it is just starting to open. It is a gorgeous tree with reddish leaves, dark, dark flowers, and fruit that has deep red flesh. It makes amazing applesauce. On the right are blossoms from our 100 year old King tree. It is a huge tree towering over the house. We usually can't get to the apples on the very top but the pileated woodpeckers get those.

I've been over in town working as a substitute teacher at the high school the last couple of days and rushing home to plant. Monday evening I got the last 200 glad bulbs in and last evening planted a couple of flats of stocks. I'm home today and plan on planting a lot more flower seedlings.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Crafts at the Farmers market

I did set up a crafts booth at the Farmers market Saturday. It rained all day, while we were setting up, all the time we were selling, while we were taking everything down. The house is full of damp rugs drying out. I have clothes lines stretched across the room for drying laundry in the winter when the "solar dryer" doesn't work. Now they have a gay display of rag rugs. I did sell a wool rug so it was worth it. And customers came out for their vegetables again in spite of the weather. We are so very appreciative.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hats and More Hats

I finished the flowered hats today. I am really happy with the way they look. Hope my customers feel the same way. I'm going to take some of them into Island Studios as well as have them at the Farmers Market.

And I finished the last of the Chelsea Silk silk/wool yarn hats. I love this yarn. I've been making hats out of it for about 5 years. no sooner had I decided that I loved it than the company, Tahki, discontinued it. I've been haunting ebay ever since and have managed to collect quite a stash of it. i should be good for a couple morel years.

All of them are labeled and packed ready for market. I always look forward to setting up the crafts booth. It's right next to our vegetable booth so that I can work in both areas.

May Day

Today is May Day, Beltane in the Celtic calendar, the first day of summer on the calendar that places the longest day of the year at midsummer. When my girls were young they would get up early and make small bouquets of flowers and take them around to neighbors, hanging them on doorknobs. My granddaughters still do this.

The earliest apple trees are starting to bloom. I checked my photo log and the earliest apples were in full bloom on April 26 last year so we are several days later this year as it has been so cold.