Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Garden in the fourth week of July...

Some cooler temperatures and rain this past week, especially over the last day or so -- there was a heavy rainfall warning for yesterday evening, so we skipped our time at Trimble Park, did a quick check-in on the garden, and then moved up to the house to settle into the lounge. 

Last week was sunny and hot enough to dry marigolds in my backyard --
here is my daughter's rabbit, Gizz, testing them for flavour.
The big Catalonian tension trays I've made this summer are great for drying --
but with the clouds and moisture of this past week, I had to move everything indoors and resort to using my dehydrator.
Nancy Turner's books on First Nations food & plant technology make many references to things being dried over the fire -- and in this climate, I can appreciate why.

This photo is fuzzy, but I had to include it because I was so amazed at the nasturtiums --
last week they only had one or two blossoms, and this week, they're a riot of multiple hues!

The wheat is looking bedraggled now, but it's getting so close to harvest that I think it'll be Ok.
The heads are beautiful and coming out in their namesake colours -- Utrecht blue, Black Einkorn.

The flax is so tall! I'm astounded by its loveliness and vitality.

It's in full flower now -- right on the mark, or perhaps a little ahead of our  hoped-for timing.

The extraordinary heads of the 'Utrecht Blue'

The hazel stick continues to do so well! And we were convinced that hazel wouldn't sprout from cuttings....

Evidence of last week's raid on the Chinook by little thieves-in-the-night.
But maybe the eagles got them, or the owls? because it didn't seem that there had been any new damage this week.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Spinning & Rope-Making July 23

Just a little reminder that tomorrow's theme in the garden is 'Spinning & Rope-Making' -- come on out for show-and-tell if you're already into this, and come on out if you're not into it yet, to try your hand at a 'rake-straw spinner', drop spindle, or a mini rope machine.
Here's my "Ropes and Braids" Pinterest Board for inspiration, and below you'll find a favourite historical video clip of a couple of cowboys using a 'rake-straw spinner' to make horsehair rope.
Hope to see you soon -- Wednesday July 23, 7-9pm in the Flax Field behind Aberthau Mansion, just off Trimble and North West Marine by Locarno Beach.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

'Harvest Home' Friday Sept 5, 4:30 til late

Brian Jones tells lots of jokes and makes many wry comments -- which is sort of a cover for the really important stuff he says.

One of those important things Brian talks about sometimes is the 'Harvest Home' festival of his heritage. With 'corn dollies' and decorations, music, Morris Dancing, processions, and practices around the harvesting of the last sheaf of grain, Brian's family, their neighbours and their ancestors demonstrated gratitude for the harvest, maintained the integrity of the social fabric that made the intense work of the harvest season successful, and guarded the seed that would be next years' crop.

There are many harvest festivals, even some that are similarly called 'Harvest Home' and 'Ingathering' -- Christian, Jewish, and other -- observed throughout the world. In a quick survey of Google and Youtube results from these terms, I saw a lot of people who were getting together to engage in artistic and cultural practices related to gratitude and social cohesion; but of course, there were not many references to actual work, nor the direct connection to agriculture that probably formed the original basis for most (if not all?) of these events.

Just for interest, here's an old reel showing a pre-industrial harvest process in Britain:
Brian's father creating a 'corn dolly' for a harvest festival

Photographs of Brian participating in a traditional harvest, using a scythe
Page from a treatise on the customs of the area where Brian was born,
Shopshire folk-lore, a sheaf of gleanings, Volume 3 by George Frederic Jackson
highlighted text: " William Holmes observed, 'different places have different customs,' and this usage, even if not confined to the Bishop's Castle neighbourhood, was certainly by no means so wide-spread as the ceremony of 'Cutting the Gander's neck off', which also was practised at the end of the reaping. The neck, or 'Gonder's neck', was a group of perhaps twenty ears of corn, left standing and knotted together in the middle of the field when all the rest was 'down'. The men, standing at from ten to twenty paces distance, threw their sickles at it in turn, the leading reaper first, and the rest in order due. Whoever succeeded in cutting off the neck was reckoned the 'best man' and carried it home in triumph to the master's wife, expecting an extra 'mug o' drink' as his reward. The 'Missus,' who received this offering, was supposed to keep it in the house 'for good luck' until the next harvest-time came round."

Well, we're also going to stage our own 'Harvest Home' event, and just for kicks, we're actually going to start it off by inviting everyone to HARVEST (work in the garden) with us. We will also have music to accompany us there, and then a procession to the 'home' (Discovery Cafe), where we will be able to order supper and refreshments (** cash only), and enjoy more dancing (Tiddley Cove Morris), music (Rogue Folk Club) and, of course, wheat weaving and linen play and other ways of being creative that are connected to the land.

Plan to join us!
4:30pm in the Garden behind Aberthau Mansion, off Trimble and North West Marine Drive
6:15pm Procession from the garden down by Locarno Beach and back up to Discovery Cafe
6:30pm at Discovery Cafe

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Garden in the third week of July...

Another week of sun and heat, like a fairytale  -- though the spell is about to be broken by the cooling temperatures and the rain in the forecast for this weekend, much to the chagrin of the organizers of the Folk Music Festival, I'm sure.
Brian and I had a quiet night in the garden; I did my usual garden rounds of photographs and beheading the marigolds, plus a little spinning practice on the wheel that I've borrowed; Brian watered the flax and worked on a major wheat-weaving project he started a week or so ago. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with it.
The flax was on the cusp of flowering, so it must be in bloom now -- I hope the rain this weekend doesn't discourage it. The Utrecht Blue wheat has lodged a bit more, probably due to being next to the flax and getting too much water, so we didn't water through that channel this time. A mouse or some other little pest has been visiting the Chinook wheat, which is the most ripe, running up the stems and snipping off the heads, and then eating the fallen heads and leaving the chaff all over the ground.
Behind the scenes, we're working on the organizing for our Harvest Home celebration on September 5th, putting together a poster and coordinating with the musicians. I look forward to sharing more with you soon!

The wheat is about 5' tall, and the flax must have grown 6' in the last week
and is just about ready to flower

Some of the nascent flax blossoms

I love the texture of the stems of the flax, like a bright green forest

Some of the flax began to lodge between the flax beds --
maybe just erosion off the sides of the beds?

The Utrecht Blue wheat leans over to its neighbours,
the oats and Black Einkorn, forming a small tunnel

I thought the nasturtiums were a bit of a long shot, planted into almost pure sand at the north
side of the garden, but they're catching up with the rest of the garden and have even set flowers.
Brian working on his big project, while Georgia checks out his display

One element of Brian's display --
I love the old woodcut image at the top, of the farmer reaping.

Brian concentrates.

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Garden in the second week of July

Another week of clear skies, sun, and warmth. The garden continues to do well; no more grain has lodged, and to my novice eye, the flax looks like it's within a week or two of flowering. The 'ears' on the Chinook wheat are starting to loose their bright green colour and mellow into gold, though the stalks on all the grains are still green. I look forward to seeing what the colours of the stalks will be when they are ripe -- our friends at the Cascadia Society in North Vancouver planted some Red Fife wheat early enough in the spring that it is well ripened already, and the stalks do indeed have a red cast.
Brian keeps quietly telling me about the 'Harvest Home' ritual, and gradually it's sinking in...
this is the 'corn dolly' he made for an event over a decade ago, still with him.
Georgia stands in the path between the Utrecht Blue wheat and the flax,
showing how tall everything has grown.
I couldn't imagine this, when we started with bare earth in the spring!
A beautifully-composed picture of the sun on the flax, wheat and marigolds
by Paul.

Lynn helps me clip back the marigolds --
it now takes me about 40 minutes to clip about 60% of the heads
from the 250 plants we planted in the spring.
The marigold heads look lovely on one of the Catalonian tension trays
that I made after the workshop at the Urban Weaver Studio with
Josep and Magda Mercader
--- and tossing them onto a tray is faster than trying to place them in a bag.

Paul took this photo of Lynn and I holding trays of the marigold blossoms.

Oliver and I were delighted with the rich plum colour of the fleece
from the solar dye jar we made up last week.

Oliver poses proudly with Brian and Paul, who did a little jamming.
Oliver managed to sweet-talk Brian into letting him have a turn with Brian's accordion --
a budding musician with promise!

Friday, 4 July 2014

The Garden in the first week of July...

The garden continues to do pretty well, and benefit from the mix of sun and rain that we've had. Some of then Chinook wheat lodged (fell over) pretty badly, and the Utrecht Blue had started to do the same; Brian has the sense that these varieties may have gotten more water than they needed, which made them too 'leggy'. To compensate, we decided not to use the overhead sprinklers but to flood the channels between the beds, a traditional means of irrigating, so we could water just between the flax beds and not the wheat, since there's rain the forecast for this weekend. 

The heads of the Utrecht Blue wheat have really, really long hairs
The flax is coming along very nicely
Our garden visitors this evening helped us prevent further lodging by loosely tying the crops into 'living stooks' --
here is their very tidy work on the Utrecht Blue.

Going to the beach, then having a picnic dinner at the garden, has become an
enjoyable new tradition for my family and me.

The volunteer tomato has started to bear fruit -- can't wait to be adding these to our picnic dinner salads!

These are oregon grape berries -- Mahonia aquifolium . This bush back of the garden
produced prolific clusters of big berries. I eat them -- they're very tart -- but this time I
picked them to use in a solar dye jar. 

I took most of them home to dry, so we can use them later in the season for our solar dyeing night August 20.

Oliver packs berries into the top of a jar of wool fleece in a solution of alum in tap water...

... and then enjoys squishing the berries to release the rich purple colour.
What will the final colour be?

Brian teaches our garden visitors some traditional wheat weaving.