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)