Thursday, 26 June 2014

The garden in the fourth week of June...

In our little attic studio, Brian put up this interesting article on 'The Origin of Corn Dollies' 
There is something about the look of old woodcuts that I love for its strange and otherworldly quality...
I think that big red amaranth plant has stalled a bit, but the rest of the grains continue to get taller --
that's the Utrecht Blue behind Oliver, and the flax in the foreground

Where did all these blossoms come from??
We clipped off almost all of the blossoms last week, to save for dyeing later in the season.
(That's the solar dye jar from last week in the foreground -- surprisingly rich orange colour now)
 250 marigolds will mean a lot more dyestuffs than I had realized!
And I'm beginning to think we'll need to fertilize with something --
prolific blossoms won't do us any good if the soil can't support them to be healthy and full.
Last week it was just the Chinook that had 'ears', and one of the stalks was about 8" taller than the others.
Now all the stalks have caught up and are about the same height.

Now the other varieties of wheat have their 'ears' as well --
these are the lovely long, textured tails on the Utrecht Blue...
...and these are the spritely, small ears on the Black Einkorn...

...and these are the loose, feathery ears of the Rodney oats.
I was sorry to see that some of the Chinook had 'lodged' (fallen over).
Not sure if anything can be done about that...
The flax is doing well so far.
And I discovered a 'volunteer' flax -- probably some of the Electra variety from last year --
it's three feet tall and flowering already!
Here's the solar dye jar I set up last week;
the liquid has turned golden orange throughout

Georgia discovers that the fresh marigold petals can be used
to draw beautiful pictures in a variety of yellow, orange, and dark purple tones.
Here is my collection of wool fleeces (alum mordant) so far this year, from left to right:
solar dye pansy; stovetop pansy; solar dye marigold; plain white (for comparison)

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Garden in the third week of June...

The weather has continued to be mild, with a good mix of sun and rain. The garden is continuing to surprise us with its good health and vitality.
Sharon Kallis, Georgia and Oliver check on the cereal crops

The Chinook wheat has 'ears' already -- much sooner than we expected.
This one stalk grew about eight inches more than all the others!

Our 'volunteer' tomato plant is looking pretty good, all things considered.

The flax is looking gorgeous -- week 3 

Georgia squeezes the dye liquid from the fleece we popped into the jar last week -- this is the dye made from purple pansies

We 'dead-headed' our flourishing crop of marigolds -- there must have been 5 lbs worth of blossoms -- and Sharon took them for drying so we can use them later in the season to dye some of our flax.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Words to Live By: Local businesswoman and craftsperson Charlotte Kwon

This is a lovely speech by Charlotte Kwon, addressing the UCFV's Graduating Class of 2014:

The garden in the second week of June...

Everything seems to be growing pretty well in this garden....

There's a huge range of heights in the grain crops; the oats and the Chinook wheat are tallest,
with the Utrecht Blue wheat smaller and the Einkorn almost dwarfish in comparison

We have lots of unexpected volunteers -- this is amaranth from last year's crop

The flax is picking up speed -- are those 3rd sets of leaves already?

David Gowman and Sharon Kallis visited us -- David brought his horns and was a huge hit with the kids
Oliver learned to play the horn and they all had a good time in an impromptu game of 'Go-Go-Stop'
Pansies were donated by gardeners deadheading the annuals at
Champlain Heights Community Centre
Pour some boiling water and let them steep to make a dye liquor....

Half the dye liquor went into this jar for 'solar dyeing' in the garden.
The other half of the dye liquor got cooked up on my stove top
to make this intriguing sea-green shade on some raw fleece,
seen here next to my rake straw spinner.

The garden in the first week of June...

The wheat and oats are unbelievably lush.
Here's the flax! its getting its second leaves.

The marigolds are so vibrant, they look amazing against the backdrop of the lush greens of the grains.

Wonders never cease....  nothing in our research
suggested that hazel would sprout like this from a cutting!
Brian at work with his weaving kit in the Garden

Exquisite oatstraw, donated to us by the Cascadia Society

The Flax = Fibre + Food studio upstairs at the Mansion

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Planting the Flax in the Last Week of May

Another week has gone by, and tonight I'll be back in the Flax Field, eager to see if the flax that we planted last week is up yet.
I know it's a good idea to keep a garden journal -- and I'm always happy when others do so, for my benefit -- so here are a few notes from the season so far....
The weather in May seemed mainly fine, with a few bouts of heavy rains (over the weekends, of course); not too hot so we didn't need to water.
The wheat, oats and einkorn were already 8-12" high by May 21st, when we prepared the seed beds for the flax by raking them to a fairly fine tilth.
We left the beds over the weekend, and had more rain; by the 28th, there were suddenly many 'volunteer' flax plants from last year's crop that hadn't been there in the previous week. So, I guess this is a good time for flax to be germinating (I'm not sure what soil temperature it likes, and some guidelines say to start a lot earlier than we have done).
So, last week on the evening of the 28th we planted our flax crop -- sown thickly, at the rate of approximately 1 lb per 400 square feet, raked in, and then tamped with Sharon Kallis' foot paddles. The tamping practice is a mystery to me, but the Flax to Linen Victoria group did it for their successful crop, and Brian's family did it for some of their crops, so it must be working some kind of alchemy.
We're growing a different variety of linen this year, 'Marilyn', which is specifically for hand-processing and spinning. This is also what the Flax-to-Linen Victoria group has grown. We grew 'Elektra' last year, and Sharon tells me that the fibre is much coarser and shorter than the 'Marilyn' fibre samples she's handled. I look forward to experiencing the difference myself, when we get to process our fibre in the fall!