Category Archives: Garden Journal

GARDEN JOURNAL ** Predators Trying to Eat My Girls!

It started at 1:00 am this morning. My husband heard something outside; he jumped out of bed and grabbed his rifle. Its times like these that I realize that I had no idea what I was getting into when we moved to the back country. I am so not used to someone grabbing a rifle to solve a problem.

Its freezing, snow had been predicted, but we both dashed outside in just slippers and PJs. The first thing we saw was that I had left the coop open. Immediately the guilt set it in, but there was only time for action to see who we could save. I dashed back inside and grabbed the flashlight. While I held the door open and shined the flashlight into the coop …

Jack (my husband) points the gun and shoots! I don’t know what he’s shooting at but it’s not dead yet. He shoots again. My hand shakes, the flashlight beam wavers. I don’t like shooting, it scares me. The predator crawls to the open door and dies; it’s the biggest possum I have ever seen. My husband drags it out and we look to see how many of my six hens it got. One Rhode Island Red is dead. I feel terrible, but it gets worse. We count chickens, it looks like five girls (hens) made it through OK. We go back to bed.

It took forever to get warm and to get back to sleep.

Later, while having morning coffee, looking out the window at the coop, we were talking about what a crazy night it was and how upset our neighbors must be at shots being fired in the middle of the night. My husband felt bad about the hen. I was feeling bad about the hen and the possum. If I had not left the coop open the possum and the hen would still be alive. Then we saw this beautiful coyote come on to our property. Predictably my husband runs for the rifle. I shout, “No!” I have a real soft spot for coyotes. He does not; one killed his dog when he was a kid. I said the hens are safe in the coop and he should not shoot at the coyote. Why am I even having these conversations anyway?

We watched the coyote sniff around the coop and then wander off. I think fine, see chickens are safe and coyote is safe, win – win right? We sipped our coffee and I am going on and on about how beautiful the coyote was when the coyote streaks across the yard with one of my hens in its mouth!!!

We are both out the door and yelling before we can even think straight! The coyote drops the hen and dashes off. Of course, you guessed it, my husband and had gone for his rifle (again!) I yelled don’t shoot it. He’s not convinced that NOT shooting it is a good idea, but he knows I will freak if he shoots it dead so he fired off some shoots to scare it.

I went after the hen, yes I’m still in PJs and slippers and it’s starting to snow. The hen has disappeared. She is just gone. By time I got around the corner of the house she had vanished. I looked everywhere; followed the trail of feathers she was dropping until the trail ended. I was afraid that there was another coyote on the other side of the house who picked her up; anyway I looked for her, went inside put warm clothes on and looked some more, tramping around as it snowed.

After giving up all hope for any happy outcome what so ever, becoming resigned to the fact that I had failed my little flock of hens, not just once by leaving the coop open, but twice by not counting correctly after killing the possum and leaving one poor little hen wondering out by itself all night, I went back outside to sow some wildflower seeds. The snow had stopped and the ground was wet, a perfect time to sow wildflower seeds for flowers next spring and summer. I was in the front garden when I heard the best little noise ever, the soft clucking sound of a hen checking to see if I might have some treats. Yay! There she was, a bit battered, but overall in better shape than you would think after being  between a coyote’s teeth. So, she is back in her coop and I now understand why so many of my friends built chicken runs and do not free range their chickens anymore. I’m not sure what I will do. Certainly devise a better system to remember to close up the coop after the girls have gone in for the night – if I let them out during the day at all anymore.

Planting gardens that are more like small farms and orchards, having animals to care for and keep safe, making choices about eating a wild Thanksgiving turkey I had to pluck myself are all things that remind me that living in the back country is a lifestyle change that I embrace but not a lifestyle change I was really prepared for. I’m playing catch-up here, I read blogs by others that are trying to do what we are doing and they are encouraging.  We are 20 to 40 somethings and baby boomers, a small but growing group who are reclaiming the privilege of growing our own food. We make mistakes but we keep trying.

possum

Possum (not the one that got shot last night)

coyote

Coyote on the prowl!

 

 

PERMACULTURE ** Design Principle #5 – REDUNDANCY in the Garden is Good

Gardens that are riddled with redundancy thrive!

orbit timer_irrigationWHEN a key function such as getting water to the garden is supported by multiple elements such as:

  • Drip lines on timers
  • Rain barrels
  • Hoses, with adjustable spray nozzles, that are long enough to reach all parts of the garden

OR the key function of enriching your soil is supported by the elements of:

worms_red wigglers_ compost bin

Compost bin made with old wood pallets and red wiggler worms in a worm farm

  • Compost bins for kitchen scraps and shredded paper
  • A worm farm
  • Using poop from your small (or large) flock of chickens, geese or ducks

Then, if any one of these elements or functions fails, the whole system does not fall apart.

Even as I write I realize this principle planted right in the middle of the ten Permaculture design principles is in some ways redundant because I have already talked about some of these things in the first four principles.

Redundancy improves our chances of success. If I need to get up a 6am to get to the airport on time I set my cell phone alarm, the alarm on my nightstand and I raise the shades so the sun shines in my window. This insures that I will get up at 6am. The same applies in the garden.

When choosing plants and trees for gardens and orchards plant three or four different varieties of the same fruit or vegetable just in case one or two varieties fail. I also plant different varieties in different locations on our property so if one type of tomato in the garden gets a bad case of powdery mildew or an infestation of the tomato hornworms and the crop fails I still have the tomatoes I planted in the orchard. Of course if all goes well then I end up with a bumper crop of tomatoes and I am very busy canning, dehydrating and juicing!

Araucana_chickens_hens

Ameraucana Mix with Attitude

If you start a backyard flock of chickens for producing eggs and manure consider getting a variety of hens rather than just one breed. I have a Barred Rock, a Rhode Island Red, a Black Star, a Swedish Flower Hen, a Welsummer and two Ameraucana mixes (also called Easter Egger chickens)! Why have so many different breeds? Some of the hens lay later into the winter (the Barred Rock and Rhode Island Red), some lay blue eggs (Ameraucana mix) which are pretty, some of the hens are unique looking and are good layers (the Swedish Flower Hen) and so it goes. If you are not breeding chickens why not have a few different breeds?

Redundancy multiplies and strengthens the connections we build so our gardens thrive and produce abundant harvests.

 

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to Make a Fruit Fly Trap

fruit fly trapAaaargh! I have Fruit flies!

Baskets full of apples and tomatoes are sitting on my kitchen counter (waiting to be cut up and put into the dehydrator) and I had the front door open during the Art Studio Tour. Swarms of fruit flies mistook the piles of fruit and open door as an invitation and they’re now flying all over my kitchen.  I used to have to go on a gross killing spree to get rid of these pests but now, thanks to Shanti, my husband’s daughter, teaching me how to make this super easy trap to catch the pests and relocate them back outside where they belong, I don’t have to resort death and destruction.

Here’s how to make it . . .

You simply take a jar (I prefer a wide mouth jar) and bait the trap with a few pieces of fruit at the bottom, then cover the top with clear plastic wrap, securing it with a rubber band. You poke several small holes (just big enough for a fruit fly to crawl through) into the clear plastic wrap.

The way it works . . .

The fruit flies smell the fruit, they crawl into the jar through the small holes BUT they can’t find their way out again, so they remain trapped in the jar. Once you have caught a bunch of flies take the jar outside open it up and release them. Be sure to close the door behind you so the flies don’t go back in the house! Yes, I left the door open behind me the first time I released them LOL. I don’t know why the flies can’t find their way out of the jar but this really works, if you ever have fruit flies give it a try!

 

PERMACULTURE ** Design Principle #4 – MULTITASK

elderberries

Example of Multitasking – Deciduous Elderberry bush shading the front porch in the heat of summer and early fall, providing elderberries, leaf drop for mulch and branches cut during pruning are used for staking young plants next spring

When designing your garden or edible landscape choose elements that overlap and fulfill as many necessary functions as possible.

An element is a feature of the garden that is incorporated into the overall design. It can be:

  • a tree, shrub or vine
  • a trellis, fence or chicken coop
  • a rainwater holding tank, a raised garden bed or pathways leading through the garden

Functions are what the element contributes to the whole. In what I think of as, conventional landscaping practice, a tree has only one function which is to create shade or to just look pretty which is fine BUT it can go so much further, be so much richer and exciting!

Yes, a tree can create shade AND if it is placed thoughtfully in the overall landscape design it can shade the sunny southern side of a house during hot summer months; if a deciduous tree is chosen the leaves will drop in the winter allowing the sun to warm the home during chilly winter months. Thoughtful placement saves energy and creates savings in air conditioning and heating bills. The leaf drop in the autumn creates mulch which holds moisture under the tree or goes to build compost piles of rich compost building material. If the tree chosen is a fruit or nut tree then, when it flowers in the spring, it attracts pollinators to pollinate not only its own flowers but other garden plants.

brandywine_Amish paste_principe borghese_sweet million

 

When the tree bears fruit or nuts it feeds you and wildlife. Sometimes we have to do things to encourage balance so the wildlife does not get all the fruit, but more on that in later posts. In permaculture, what I’m describing, is called “stacking” functions. In other words, each plant or structure does more than one job.

The, equally important, flip side of this coin is that each “function” or job to be done should be supported by more than one element. So if one fruit tree is good maybe three would be better! Plant three varieties that bear fruit early, middle and late in the season or if space does not permit buy a dwarf tree that has three fruit varieties grafted on to it.

Other examples of this side of the coin in my garden are:

  • I have rain barrels to water the plants on my patio but when the rain barrels are empty I have 1 gallon bottles of water I have saved when I run the water until it gets hot in my kitchen. I use this water to water house plants, my chickens and to water the patio plants when the rain barrels are empty.
  • This year I started with four varieties of tomatoes in a variety of locations. I planted Brandywine tomatoes in the vegetable garden, Principe Borghese tomatoes in the orchard (aka the budding food forest), Sweet Million cherry tomatoes in the front herb garden and Amish Paste tomatoes in the pear tree guild.  The tomatoes in the orchard were raided by squirrels and I had some problems keeping the tomatoes in the herb garden watered enough but the Brandywine and Amish paste tomatoes have done great!

Creating interwoven connections and stacking elements, both in time and space, builds a web that supports the whole gardening effort. Break one strand and the other threads hold the web together.

 

Seasonal Recipes ** New recipes for Kale Chips!

lacinato kale_dino kale_kale chips

Lacinato Kale (aka Dino Kale) and Red Russian Kale Fresh Picked!

What to do with all that kale that came in the last CSA (Community Supported Agriculture co-op box of vegetables) or in my case all the kale that just kept growing into 4 foot high bushes?

Making chips is my favorite thing to do with kale. I just created a new recipe using coconut oil. I can’t stop eating the chips! The recipe using olive oil is really good too. Be sure to adapt either of these recipes to both your taste and what you have on your kitchen or pantry shelves. If you don’t have Brazil nuts or macadamia nuts then cashews fill in fine for either recipe. I think almonds would work well with the first version and walnuts with the second as well. Some people are not a fan of nutritional yeast, if you don’t like it then delete it from the recipe. Also, I use whatever kale I have which for me is Lacinato kale (aka Dino kale) or Red Russian kale. All the kale I’ve used make great kale chips.

For both versions tart with 2 bunches of kale and remove the tough spine then tear into bite size pieces. Keep in mind that they will shrink in size as they dehydrate.

 

kale chips

Coconut Macadamia Nut Kale Chips

Version #1

In a blender or food processor chop fine:

  • 1 cup macadamia nuts
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

In a small bowl stir together:

  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 2 T Nama Shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce) or 1 tap. Salt

Massage into prepped kale

Sprinkle macadamia/nutritional yeast mixture into kale and coat kale evenly.

Lay kale out on dehydrator screens in a single layer or on cookies sheets and put in the oven.

If you have a dehydrator set it on 115 degrees for 4-6 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator set oven on lowest setting and dehydrate in oven taking them out when they are crispy.

Version #2

Mix in blender or food processor :

  • 1 cup Brazil nuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

In a small bowl stir together:

  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T Brags liquid Aminos or 1 tsp. Salt

Massage into prepped kale

Sprinkle Brazil nut/garlic/nutritional yeast mixture into kale and coat kale evenly.

Lay kale out on dehydrator screens in a single layer or on cookies sheets and put in the oven.

If you have a dehydrator set it on 115 degrees for 4-6 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator set oven on lowest setting and dehydrate in oven taking them out when they are crispy.

One last tip (and confession) – sometimes I don’t get around to putting my chips away right when the dehydrator goes off and they get a little soft. I’ve discovered that if I turn the dehydrator back on for another 20 minutes or so they crunchy comes back and then I put them away.

 

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** Preserving your harvest: 3 quick ways: Dry it! Ferment it! Freeze it!

3 Quick Ways to Preserve Your Harvest

3 Quick Ways to Preserve Your Harvest

I’m so happy to have all these tomatoes, all these apples and all this basil AND I’m in the middle of getting ready to be on the Julian Arts Guild Studio Tour October 19th and 20th, so I don’t have a lot of time. Here’s my answer . . . 3 quick ways to preserve what I just harvested.

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to make “Sun-dried” Tomatoes

For all those great “sun-dried tomato” recipes I keep jars of dehydrated tomatoes on hand all winter. Simply slice the tomatoes, as thin as you can without having them fall apart, and put them on a drying rack. This can be done in the oven on a very low setting, in any type of dehydrator (you can often find the tower type at thrift stores) or invest in the Excalibur 9 tray food dehydrator, my favorite because I have so much to dry these days. Drying times will vary depending on the amount of humidity in the air and on the amount of heat you use (lower is always better keep the healthy enzymes in the tomatoes alive). If you invest in an Excalibur be sure to get the one with the built in the timer, it really comes in handy.

Making Sun-dried tomatoes

Dehydrating Tomatoes

Tomato slices ready to go into the dehydrator

Tomato slices ready to go into the dehydrator

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to make Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

I’ve been experimenting with fermenting lately so I thought, since I have all these apples, I would try my hand at making raw apple cider vinegar. It seems pretty basic as long as you get Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar for starter. You can find Bragg’s at health food stores.  Use Bragg’s because it has the live “mother” in it.  The “mother” is the ingredient that gets the fermenting process going successfully. I looked up making apple cider vinegar, and found that recipes varied from mixing ½ Bragg’s with ½ half apple juice (raw apple juice if you can get it) to ¼: ¾ ratio. I compromised on 1/3 Bragg’s:2/3 raw fresh juiced apple juice. I covered the jar with cheese cloth and put it on my hall pantry shelf (a shelf that stays cool and dark most of the time). It supposed to take about 2-3 months to turn into apple cider vinegar. We’ll see how it goes!

Juicing Apples to make Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Juicing Apples to make Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to make a Quick Basil Pesto

Making Fresh Basil Pesto

Making Fresh Basil Pesto -The glass of red wine is not part of the recipe but it goes well with the pesto once it’s done!

I made pesto with all the basil that needed to be picked now (or it was going to start flowering and go to seed).  The recipe I use is quick, versatile and easy to adapt to what I have on hand.

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts – Pine nuts are traditional and my favorite but they are hard to keep on my pantry shelf because we eat them up so fast around here. My second choice is walnuts and third choice is almonds. They all make tasty pesto.
  • 3 cloves of garlic – I’ve used elephant garlic, hard neck garlic and soft neck garlic. They all work, just keep in mind that some garlic is hotter or stronger than others, be sure you use one that is to your taste.

I put the nuts and garlic in the blender or food processor first to chop them up then I add:

  • 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves – It works best if you chop up the leaves a bit before tossing them in
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Now pour in 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil– I use organic cold pressed extra virgin oil which is what I keep on the shelf. Again, use what you have to make your pesto.

So at this point you may be asking “where’s the cheese?” If you are vegan you can make pesto without cheese, it tastes great! If you want traditional Basil Pesto then you’ll add Parmesan cheese.

If you’re going to use your pesto within in a week and not freezing it than add 1/3 to 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese depending on your taste. The Parmesan cheese can be pre-grated or you can buy a chunk and grate it by hand. IF you are freezing the pesto, to be used later into the fall and winter, then don’t add the cheese now. It’s better if you add the cheese after you thaw it out.

I freeze pesto in small containers and thaw it out to put on wraps, mix into zucchini dishes and if I slide off the gluten free diet I have it on pasta.

The original of this recipe can be found in the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home cookbook

GARDEN JOURNAL ** It’s time to order garlic for Fall Planting

Order Garlic Bulbs Now! 

It’s almost time to plant garlic! If you haven’t ordered yours you can still get them at: http://www.groworganic.com/seasonal-items/seed-garlic.html, I just checked. I’ve been buying organic garlic bulbs here for 3 yrs. and have been really happy with the harvest (fyi – I’m not on their payroll). Plant garlic in October or November for a June/July harvest, here in Julian (USDA Zone 7) I plant it in early November. You can get hard neck, soft neck (the kind you can braid) and elephant garlic. They are all good! I’ll be posting some planting tips for garlic next month. One important early tip is to plan ahead and choose a location in your garden that is protected from gophers. Gophers love garlic.

elephant garlic_how to grow garlic_ when to plant garlic

Elephant Garlic harvested in June

PERMACULTURE ** An adventure in lifestyle change…

lawn_irradication,organic gardening, raised bed gardening, permaculture, seed saving, growing heirloom vegetables, herb gardening, planting fruit trees, edible landscaping and water harvesting also garden art, mosaic, stained glass

February 5, 2010 Doing away with the backyard lawn!

Our journey towards living a more sustainable lifestyle started four years ago when my husband and I decided we wanted to live a little more off the grid. I was curious as to how much of our own food we could actually grow and I wanted to experiment with alternative energy. I was looking into solar hot water heaters and using solar panels to supply household electricity, as well as water harvesting techniques.

I was somewhat familiar with organic gardening practices, composting and the idea of using rain barrels but I hadn’t had a much long term success with any of it so I figured, since I was planning on doing something on a larger scale, I should learn a lot more about it. I did a bunch of research and discovered the term “permaculture”. While still living in a one bedroom apartment I started checking out books from the library and reading lots of articles on the internet. I decided that permaculture was the way I wanted to go when we finally found land somewhere. Once we bought our four and half acre property, permaculture design principles gave me a framework to work within that was both practical and in alignment with my wish to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Without the permaculture design principles I would have been completely overwhelmed. I was about to begin gardening on a large scale, in a four season climate, in the mountains and it turned out that there was a lot of competition from hungry critters for just about everything I grew to eat. I could make lists of things I wish I’d known before and after we purchased land in the back country! I would do it all over again but I would be a lot more prepared and do more than a few things differently right from the beginning. At the very least I would know what questions to ask, questions I never thought of until after we moved.

So in an effort to both remind myself as well as share with others I’m doing a series of posts on 10 permaculture design principles based on what I’ve understood from the book Gaia’s Garden, A Guide to home-scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. When I use these principles I’m productive in a ways that are more sustainable for myself, others and the planet and I achieve an overall saner existence! I would love to hear from you about your experience  if you have started using these principles and if you haven’t yet I’d like to hear what questions you have. I invite you to subscribe and be part of discussion about what we are all doing to have an environmentally friendly sustainable lifestyle.

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** PHOTOS ** Fall Fruits

Fall Harvest

Tomato

Tomato

Single raspberry

Single raspberry

Red Delicious Apples

Red Delicious Apples

GARDEN JOURNAL ** How to mend a hose that’s sprung a leak

Today my hose sprung a leak. I suspect a critter chewed a hole in it. Last month a pack of coyotes chewed my neighbor’s hose into eight pieces to get to the water in it. She’s the one who told me to always have a few hose repair kits on hand! I Used the Gilmour 5/8” hose mender.  It’s quick and easy. I used my garden clippers to cut the hose where the hole was and then followed the directions on the packaging. The only other tool I needed was a screw driver. People often throw away a hose that has a hole in it because they don’t’ realize how easy and fast it is to fix. This hose took me 5 minutes to fix and it’s one more thing I can keep out of the landfill.

how_to_mend_a_hose

How to mend a hose

Instructions on how to repair a garden hose

Tools I used to repair my garden hose

garden_hose_repair

Half way through the garden hose repair job

Garden_hose_repair _job_complete

Garden hose repair job complete

 

 

 

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** PHOTOS ** Photography from the Garden

Getting some photographs from the garden ready for the Julian Arts Guild Studio Tour

October 19th and 20th, 2013 Everyone is invited!

sunflower_with_two_bees

Sunflower with two bees

coral_bee_balm

Coral Bee Balm

4 lefts 1 right Garden Gloves

4 lefts 1 right Garden Gloves

red_cabbage

Cabbage

julian_grown _heirloom_red_delicious_apple

Julian grown heirloom red delicious apple

nasturtium_seeds_in_julian_pie_pan

Nasturtium Seeds in Julian pie pan

 

For information regarding the Julian Arts Guild 2013 Studio Tour contact:

Julian Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 1866, 2129 Main Street, Julian, CA  92036
(760) 765-1857
http://www.julianca.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GARDEN JOURNAL ** SEED SAVING ** It’s time!

 

 

Saved Cilantro Seeds. Cilantro seeds are also known as coriander

Saved Cilantro Seeds. Cilantro seeds are also known as coriander

End of summer and into Fall is the time for seed saving!

3 reasons to save your own seeds:

1. It’s a planet friendly, sustainable, resourcing saving thing to do. When you save your own seeds to plant next spring you save the paper and ink it takes to package seeds, you save on the fuel it takes to ship and you save the water it takes to grow all the seeds that get shipped every year. It really adds up when you think of how many people order seeds every year.

2. Saving seeds saves money. Good quality organic seeds go up in price every year. Why not harvest what we have in our gardens and save our cash?

3. Saving seeds is FUN! It’s a great activity to do with kids. I keep same handy to work on when I sit down to talk on the phone or watch a movie. The best part is when I get to plant seeds I grew in the spring!

When I started ordering seeds for my garden 3 years ago I only ordered only open-pollinated seeds. When you save seeds from open-pollinated seeds you know the crops you harvest the next summer are going to be the same vegetable you harvested the year before. I avoided all hybrid seeds when I did my initial ordering. Hybrid seeds are produced by artificially cross-pollinating plants. Folks in the agriculture business starting creating hybrids to improve the characteristics of the resulting plants, such as better yield, greater uniformity, improved color, longer shelf life and disease resistance for the mass commercial market. The downside for gardeners in all this is that hybrid seeds do not grow the same plants the next year from saved seeds. Hybrid seeds can revert back to any of the plants that it was initially crossed with when it was created and that’s what makes for inconsistencies in plants grown from hybrid seeds. Farmers who use hybrid seeds have to buy seeds every year from the seed companies that produce hybrid seeds.

Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated seeds that have proven their value over a long period of time. The value may be in the flavor, productivity, hardiness or adaptability of the fruit or vegetable produced from the seed. Many heirlooms have been grown, saved and passed down in the same families for generations; some even go back 300 years. As home gardeners and small market farmers we get the benefit of this long development cycle, as only the best producing, most flavorful, most memorable and most dependable varieties have made the selection throughout the years.

All heirloom seeds are open-pollinated seeds but all open-pollinated seeds are not heirloom. Some open pollinated seeds are newer varieties that are bred to be stable in what they produce from seeds saved but they may not be old varieties.

The one thing I ran into in my garden that you may want to watch out for is… When I planted regular green zucchini seeds to close to yellow crook neck squash seeds what I got was my own unintentional hybrid with the help of the pollinators in my garden. I ended up with some very strange half crook neck – half zucchini looking squash. I ate these strange naturally created hybrids but I did not save their seeds! A great book on seed saving (and it tells you how far apart to plant seeds that are in the same family to avoid unintentional hybrids) is Suzanne Ashworth’s book Seed to Seed.

Harvesting cilantro seed

harvesting cilantro seed

green beans drying on the vine

Green beans drying on the vine