Sunday, 2 November 2014

Just one thing tonight:
I want to let everyone know about the Sit and Spin Social!
Thursday November 27th, 6:30-9:30 pm
in the Oak Room at Aberthau Mansion, W 2nd Ave @ Trimble.
We'll have tea and some goodies, good company, some tools if you're new to spinning and would like to try, and the main attraction: linen fibre grown right on site this past summer!
I'm feverishly breaking & scutching flax straw whenever the weather is nice, so it'll be ready to hackle into fine fibre and tow, and then spin, for November 27th.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Harvest Home Celebration - Friday Sept 5th, 2014

I was feeling a lot of empathy for all farmers in that first week of September, when I was on tenterhooks to see what the weather would do for our big event -- would we get rained out? would it be fine and sunny? I was casting an anxious eye at the Weather Network every morning.
And when it came down to it, we were lucky; it was as beautiful a late-summer day as anyone could have wished.
Brian's Corn Dolly opus anchored the celebratory decorations of the garden;
an info board about the history and traditions of corn dollies is at the foreground, hanging on our fence

The Tiddley Cove Morris Dancers arrived and immediately notched up the feeling of celebration

There was something for everyone to do in the garden....
Smaller people got down to business, pulling up the patches of marigolds...
.... While the big folks worked on pulling up the flax,
which had to be done carefully so that the tips and root ends don't get mixed up

The fresh flax was hung on the fence to dry

The flax that we harvested in the previous week was rippled by enthusiastic volunteers
We had musical accompaniment for the whole time

At the end of our harvest, we posed for a group photo...

... and then headed off for a procession down to Locarno Beach and back up to the Discovery Cafe, for dinner.
I didn't accompany the procession, but one participant told me that as they got to the beach, heads snapped around and a thicket of smartphones appeared, recording the event.
We brought a picnic or ordered our dinners at the Discover Cafe.
Inside, the Cypress Street Band played a mix of covers and originals; outside, we made some linen stricks on the break and hackles.
As the golden afternoon faded into twilight, the Morris Dancers performed again and even did a couple dances that got everyone involved.

The Garden in the First week of September

After a bit of rain on the Labour Day long weekend, we were back to summer as usual in the first week of September.
Georgia, Oliver and I explored another way of being creative in connection with the land today: flower smash prints. It's a great activity for kids because of the hammering; and great for the grownups because the results, once cropped and mounted, are interesting and lovely to look at no matter what.
I also did this activity with some seniors, and though they needed some help with the hammering, they loved the results. We cropped the sheets of paper and mounted them on greeting cards, and they were thrilled to have something so lovely to send out to friends and family.

Oliver continues to gorge on the bounty of the epic cherry tomato plant...
Georgia clips the last of the blue flax blossoms to try out as a flower smash print

We did this on some oak-mordanted cotton I had made up... the marigold worked, and many of the greens;
sadly, the gorgeous blue flecks of the flax flowers turned out to be fugitive, and disappeared

Georgia practices 'rippling' (taking the seed heads off) some of the flax that we harvested the previous week

Brian got out his scythe and brought down the remaining wheat and oat straw, tidying things up in advance of the Harvest Home Celebration just a couple days away.

Harvest Home 2014 -- Tiddley Cove Morris!

This is a sweet little reel by Claire McCague, shot at Beltane festivities at Fraser Common Farm in Aldergrove, BC. The clip features Tiddley Cove Morris as well as the Vancouver Morris Men. I love how it captures the gentle magic of the community coming together to celebrate, dancing the rituals, and then the quiet, reflective moments of departure.
Tiddley Cove Morris was very much appreciated at our Harvest Home Celebration on September 5th.

The Garden in the last week of August

It's Thanksgiving weekend as I write this, the seeping damp is auguring more rain, and I am indoors, reflecting on the golden blur of August and September....
At our Garden Night on August 27th, we decided to begin harvesting the flax. It was ready -- 1 month after the first flush of bloom and the stalk yellowing from the ground up -- and I wanted to make sure that we weren't rushed to get it all in on the day of our Harvest Home Celebration, now just a little over a week away. 
 We also wanted to have a bit ready so we could practice our rippling (taking the seed-heads off)
Oliver toys with the weeds in front of the flax, now standing taller than his head
Our orange cherry tomatoes are a joy, an unexpected, abundant gift, we look forward to visiting each week
Georgia looks closely at the rhythmic pattern of the kernels in the heads of wheat

... and further testifies to the deliciousness of the cherry tomato
A jar of marigold solar dye -- fewer stems and green bits this time is giving it a warmer hue.
We started pulling the flax.
It was ready: one month after the flush of bloom, and the stalk yellowing from the ground up.
We carefully tied them up in bundles and hung them on our woven fence to dry.
Here are our bundles, seed heads down, hanging a bit helter-skelter from the prongs and nobs of the fence.

Brian stood in the middle of the wheat and snipped off stalks as he needed them,
working on a giant 'corn dolly' for our Harvest Home celebration on September 5th

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Garden in the third week of August...

I was away from the 31st of July to the 20th of August; the changes over the course of those three weeks are enormous. 
I was told that there was some rain while I was gone, but the impression I get is that it didn't make much of a dent in August's consistent hot, dry weather: the marigolds are shrivelled to a fraction of their former glory, the wheat is done, the flax is ready, and the only things that are flourishing are the tomatoes, the amaranth, and the quinoa (all native to South America).
This past week was the 'Solar Dye' night; I put together a solar dye jar for myself using marigold petals (the greens were brown so I discarded them). I got the chance to go back and check on it a couple days later and I was surprised at how different the colour of this dye bath seems to be: much more orange, with none of the traces of yellow-green that I got from my first lot. I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

I'll have a collection of all my dye colours from this season at the Harvest Home Celebration on September 5th.

The feathery plumes of the amaranth are glorious and conspicuously vibrant and healthy despite the dog days of August.

The marigolds have suffered more from the heat and dry conditions, but the bees are still happy.

Marigold colour from the solar dye jar --
this colour seems significantly different from my first marigold solar dye batch.
Why? perhaps it has to do with the greens: in the first jar (in June) I included whole, fresh flower tops;
this time, I used mostly petals.
Our 'volunteer' tomato plant is almost comically vigorous in the hot weather -- it stretches about 7 feet from tip to tip
and gives some of the most sweet and juicy cherry tomatoes I've ever had.
The flax is now golden and withered at the base --
this signifies it's ready to harvest

The 5-chambered seed heads are as big as peas; about half of them are ripe and brown.
We'll have to harvest the flax before all the seed heads are ready.

The Black Einkorn has done the best overall under our conditions this year,
and has also been least affected by mouse damage. It has smaller heads than it's neighbours, the Chinook and the Utrecht Blue; the black streaks are not as prominent as I was expecting.
Overall, the grains look a little worse for wear!
Brian has harvested quite a bit of usable straw over the past few weeks,
and there's still plenty more to come.
The insect life in the garden has been strong --
I've noted many spiders and ladybugs, but no damage to the crops this season
(except by mice!)

Friday, 15 August 2014

First Linen-Making of the Season

Julia Ostertag of the UBC Orchard Garden grew and retted flax a few years ago as part of the research for her PhD thesis, which is an arts-based inquiry into the history and cultures of school gardens.

 I wish that we could have had more time to discuss her findings, because it sounds like school gardens have a much more varied and extensive history than I realized! 

Sadly for us, Julia is wrapping up her PhD and moving back east this summer. We got together a few weeks ago at Trimble Park to turn some of her remaining flax into linen (which is much more portable than a big bundle of thin sharp sticks!)

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Garden in the fifth week of July...

Rain the previous week, then more sun over the weekend.
I am told that the golden colour of the stalks means that the grains are almost ready for harvest.
This is pretty inconvenient for Brian and I, considering that our Harvest Home Celebration isn't scheduled for another 4 1/2 weeks.... but it works out fine for everyone who plans to attend said Celebration, because it simply means we'll be WEAVING wheat instead of HARVESTING wheat. 

Gorgeous feather heads of the Rodney oats.
The heads of the Black Einkorn wheat 
The heads of the Utrecht Blue wheat
The Utrecht Blue has begun to 'lodge' (fall down) quite badly,
and there are some signs of vermin damage.
However, all the wheat and oats are so close to being ready to harvest that
we'll probably cut them soon, anyway (well in advance of our Sept 5 party, I'm afraid)
The fruit has begun ripening on this amazing 'volunteer' tomato plant,
which grew from seed from last year's tomatoes....
I won't tell you how amazing they are, you'll just have to come out and taste one for yourself.
Flax and marigold: ephemeral blue flowers and hardy orange ones.
The flax flowers open in the morning and the petals fall by the afternoon, so I missed the chance to see them in bloom.
The marigolds got a reprieve from their weekly beheading ritual this week because I ran out of time;
I'll get to them when I'm back from my trip on August 20th.
Vigorous 'volunteer' amaranth -- last year, Sharon Kallis and Karen Barnaby harvested
and prepared the amaranth that was grown (of which this is the offspring) for the Harvest Party.
I have no idea how to harvest or use this behemoth, but I sure can't help but respect it.
Here I am standing in the flax. Last week it had just begun to flower;
and this week, flowering seems almost finished and each stalk has several small, plump green seed heads.
Our flax is nice and tall, and beginning to go golden at the roots.
It won't be long before it's ready to harvest!
(But I hope that it can wait til September 5th)