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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

going wild

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Hi folks! I’m over at Tend today, talking about my wild garden. Come on over if you’re interested.

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I have a fun, simple project for you this week, and it will most likely cost you nothing, take you just a few minutes to make and will create habitat for garden pollinators. It’s also an enjoyable way to observe nature at work. With a little pile of scrap wood we made a few mason bee houses for our garden and yard, and a couple to give as gifts as well.

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Mason bees are small, cute, oblong, fuzzy little bees that make efficient pollinators in the garden. They can be blue-green, or dark-colored like the one pictured above. This little lady is not the first to make a nest in this hole in our unfinished door frame.

The female mason bee gathers nectar and pollen and stashes it in the back of the hole until there is a sufficient food store for her young. Once there is enough food to supply the larvae, she lays an egg on the food store and then seals the egg in with a bit of mud. She then brings in more pollen and nectar in front of the previous mud layer, lays another egg, covers it with more mud, and stacks like so until the cavity is full. Once the cavity is full, she seals the hole with a final layer of mud. Maybe you have seen these mud filled holes and wondered what was in there.

Here is a link to more information on mason bees, if you are interested in learning more – http://gardening.wsu.edu/library/inse006/inse006.htm. I think these little bees are pretty fascinating!

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We have an endless supply of scrap wood from our various home projects and are always looking for functional ways to use it up. We cleaned up some sections of 4×4, cut an angle at the top to accommodate a little sloped roof, and then drilled 1/4 inch diameter holes in the outer rows and 3/16″ holes down the center. We used all the depth we had in this case, and drilled almost to the back of the 4×4. Typically, larger diameter holes are recommended (5/16″), but maybe our bees here on the coast are pretty small, or maybe they actually prefer smaller than the recommendation. The hole in the door frame is about 1/8″ in diamter, for example.

We used sections of old fence pickets for the roof (not totally necessary, but shelter from rain is nice, right?) and as a backing to make mounting it easy.

Apparently, it is best to hang the house facing east or southeast, for morning sun. The face of that door frame above is pretty much dead south, so a little variation from that recommendation probably won’t break the deal.

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I’m looking forward to observing these bees more closely. We really enjoy creating habitat for beneficial species of all kinds at our place.

How do you invite beneficial insects to your garden?

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This is a repost from a blog article I recently wrote for Tend with a few additions I have learned since I originally wrote it. I have also added a list dedicated to flowers here. I have had a few searches for “deer resistant flowers” showing up in my stats, so I thought it might be useful to share this here as well.

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Young bucks, in the wildflowers last summer

When we first moved to our home, we felt pretty lucky to have deer frequent our yard. They are beautiful, peaceful creatures and we love to observe their antics, and behaviors amongst each other. As soon as we started to think about gardening though, and particularly landscaping, we realized we were in for  quite a challenge. Our dream landscape, which would be somewhat of an unending, textured garden; with fruit trees, berries, and a diverse array of edible and medicinal herbs and plants…. vs reality…. Oh my. Where to begin.

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Lavender is distasteful to deer but so useful, fragrant and beautiful to us

One of our very first projects here was to fence in a small veggie garden, and then to fence in a few fruit trees. Fencing was a relatively easy solution, even though not ideal. The greater landscape has posed a much bigger challenge, and one we have been slowly trying to learn how to overcome. A lot of the things we like to eat, deer like to eat as well.

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Dwarf Greek Oregano and other small leaf varieties are left alone by deer

Now that we have lived here for nearly 4 years we have learned some things, and finally, I am starting to feel like it is actually going to be possible to achieve a full, lush, beautiful, and even edible landscape.

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Rosemary in bloom. The bees sure love it but the deer do not.

We started out knowing of very few plants we could successfully grow unprotected (we planted lots of lavender and rosemary that first year!). Some of the things that are said to be deer resistant aren’t necessarily, and there were some tough lessons involved there. And sometimes plants that are typically pretty resistant, will suddenly get eaten for a short period of time, though in these cases, it usually passes and the plants will fully recover (some recent surprises included lemon balm and catnip). With time, observation and experimentation, we have a growing list of plants we can grow and enjoy here.

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Rhubarb has toxic leaves. They are occasionally tasted in the early season, but nothing more.

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Fennel grows big and bushy, and shows no pressure from deer

Following, is a list of edible and/or medicinal plants that have proven to us to be deer resistant. This doesn’t mean the deer don’t taste some of these things now and then (and keep in mind, a taste can mean a whole plant if you only have a small amount), but these plants have stood the test of time, and are thriving and look beautiful – or in the case of annual edibles, are able to produce a harvest.

calendula
sage
dill
fennel
rosemary
lavender
oregano and marjoram (smaller leaf varieties)
thyme
savory
mint
lemon balm
catnip
chives (sometimes!)
rhubarb
artichoke
garlic
onions
potatoes
jerusalem artichoke (tops are often getting nipped here, so don’t be bummed if you don’t get many flowers, but you will have edible tubers)
summer squash
winter squash

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Flowers:

foxglove
poppies
daisies
black eyed susan
lavender
calendula
cosmos (to some degree)
catnip
rhododendron
daffodils
sweet woodruff
calla lily (which is not a true lily)
iris
grape hyacinth
lamb’s ears
hellebore
fuchsia

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Calendula has been of no interest to the deer. This one still surprises me.

Part of my goal for this post was to offer some of our experience to those of you who have similar challenges, but also to see if there might be some of you that have learned some things about deer resistant gardening that you could share.

We will be working on adding to this list this year. If you have anything to add, I would love to hear! With what I’ve learned so far, I have a better sense of what deer like and what they don’t, and am looking forward to experimenting with some new herbs this spring and summer.

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mid June

 

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A few June highlights

Hi friends. Welcome to a new week.

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This time of year my hands are especially prone to becoming rough and dry – constantly in the dirt planting, weeding and digging. I rub them daily with lotion, to restore lost moisture and smooth any roughness (this and this have been my all time favorites for years).

Last week I finally decided to try my hand at making my own lotion with herbs we grow here in our gardens… Let’s just say, it is a little bit ridiculous how excited I am at the outcome. I don’t know why, but I didn’t think I would achieve such an amazing final product. It’s pretty much everything I could hope for in a nourishing cream – save for a super minor tweak here and there. I’m psyched. Totally!

I did some research to get a sense of the process. I started with, “A Complete Book of Herbs – A practical guide to growing and using herbs,” by Lesley Bremness. I also found a few online resources. I knew I wanted to use lavender – possibly my favorite floral herb,  and we have an abundance of the notoriously skin-supportive calendula blooming right now. I have also been learning about the healing properties of elder flowers, which are blooming right now, so they felt like a natural addition as well.

With a general feel for the ratio differences between salves and lotions, a sense for what I wanted as my outcome, the help of this site for the process and quantities,  and then with what I had on hand, my recipe ended up something like this:

Approximately 1/2 cup of a mixture of calendula flower petals, elderflower and dried lavender

then fill to 3/4 cup with olive oil

.4 ounce beeswax

1/2 ounce witch hazel

3 1/2 ounces calendula infused water

15 drops lavender essential oil

(ounces are by weight)

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A little bit about the herbs I chose:

Calendula – Reduces inflammation and soothes the skin. It is a wonderful herb for the general care of skin irritations of all kinds. “Calendula has been used for centuries to heal wounds and skin irritations. Calendula has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, antifungal, antiviral, and immunostimulant properties making it useful for disinfecting and treating minor wounds, conjunctivitis, cuts, scrapes, chapped or chafed  skin, bruises, burns, athlete’s foot, acne, yeast infections, bee stings, diaper rashes, and other minor irritations and infections of the skin.” (mountain rose herbs – http://mountainroseblog.com/healing-calendula/).

Elderflower – Soothes dry skin and has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. It is a supportive tonic for all skin types, particularly mature skin. Reputed to soften skin and smooth wrinkles, fade freckles and soothe sunburn.

Lavender – Has antiseptic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, soothing and stimulating. A healing and gentle cleanser and tonic for all skin types. Aroma-therapeutic as well, acting as an uplifting nerve tonic.

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I measured a generous 1/2 cup of calendula petals, dried lavender flowers and elder flowers (separated from the stems), and then covered this combination with organic olive oil until I had a total quantity of about 3/4 cup.

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I poured the mixture into a double boiler, covered it, and slowly warmed it, letting it set at a very low heat for about 3 hours.

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I weighed out nearly 1/2 ounce of beeswax

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and made an infusion of calendula petals and purified water.

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When the oil and herbs were steeped to my satisfaction, I strained them into a jar,

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squeezing any excess oil out with clean hands.

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The oil infusion was then placed back in a warm pot of water and gently heated with the beeswax, until the beeswax was fully incorporated.

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Once incorporated, I set the jar on the counter to cool to room temperature, blending periodically with an immersion blender. Then I measured out my witch hazel, calendula infusion and essential oil.

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All the ingredients were gradually blended until I reached my desired consistency.

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The final step of blending was the most exciting, as the whole mixture gradually transformed into something beautiful and creamy.

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The cream is smooth and silky, and not too heavy or oily – particularly when applied to freshly washed skin. Steven is appreciating it as well, for dry elbows and knees, and areas that have been exposed to a lot of sun recently.

Next time I will try different, more deliberately chosen oils, and will explore some other herbs with properties specific to my skin and it’s particular needs at the time. My skin is loving this combination though, and my hands haven’t felt so soft in quite some time!

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This week we brought home 10 asparagus crowns, purchased on an impulse at our local nursery. You can read about our whirlwind project over at Tend today. We are feeling happy to have this bed made and planted. It feels like we just made a big, exciting investment, though it cost almost nothing and will provide food for many years. If our plants are healthy and happy, the asparagus patch could be a longer term resident of our home than we are!

 

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slugs and gardening

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I have a new post up over at tend today, talking all about slugs! Come on over if you’d like.

 

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I realized that in my previous post, “garden notes,” I actually didn’t include a single garden photo, but rather my surroundings while in and out of the garden – a break on the porch, a cold drink on the patio, some deer that wandered through.

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Sometimes I think I would do well to have a little gardening business, just so I could spend more time out there. I love the work of the garden so much. I like the heavy digging, the weeding, the moving of plants, the tending of plants. I don’t mind troubleshooting and I enjoy garden research. Even though there have been frustrating challenges, I have been able to rise to the challenges and even find interest in working through them (like pests for example).

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Maybe it’s the perfect balance of physical labor, which I do so well with (I am a JUST DO IT kind of girl), and the parts that require me to slow down and think things through, plan things out (which I don’t always  have the patience for when I just want to do it!)

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Gardening has taught me a lot of patience. And as an organic gardener, there are rewards of that patience showing up in ways I hadn’t known how they would look.

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The work of providing for ourselves in a way that is direct, foundational and basic – such as feeding ourselves – is so simple and animal, free of superficial complications. Maybe this is why gardening is like meditation for so many people.

I actually sat down to just share a few photos, but I guess I had some thoughts to share too. Gardening, particularly growing food, is like nothing else for me. It’s satisfying to me in a way that is hard to describe. Maybe you know what I mean.

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I will be sharing over at Tend this year, every Tuesday. I’ve been following Tend since it started 2 years ago, and am looking forward to sharing in this year with them (and you!) as a contributor. Hop on over there if you’d like.

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early spring

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I think it’s safe to say that spring is really here. And still light out at 7:30 pm? Yes, thank you! The spring peepers in our little cove of the lake started peeping a week or so ago, and to me, that is the sound of spring and summer. It makes my whole body smile to hear them.

The spring-time garden season has officially begun here as well, and the first seeds have been planted. A few weeks ago, I was a little worried whether my excitement for planting this year’s garden was ever going to come. I became a little bit discouraged at an epic fail of my late summer planting. We have a wormy-looking, root-eating soil dweller, taking over the universe out there, and I need to somehow identify what it is so I can figure out what to do about it. But anyway, all it took was a single afternoon out there – working in the soil, weeding, harvesting a pot of soup’s worth of root vegetables – and I realized my worries were for nothing. I simply LOVE to be in the garden. Challenges and all, the garden is a place where I feel happy and at peace.

Notes: March 9: Planted tomato seeds (8 each – Riesentraube, Black Cherry, Purple Cherokee, Orange Banana), 8 ground cherry, a couple dozen sugar snaps, a couple dozen bush beans, a dozen red onion, and a whole lot of basil. I didn’t plan ahead very meticulously, and assumed I had certain seeds on hand that I don’t, so I have just ordered cucumber, summer squash, more peas and a few different herbs. Also, we are thinking about changing the layout of our garden beds this year, so hopefully we will get that worked out in the next couple weeks.

Will you grow a garden this year? Have you started planting? I love to hear what fellow gardeners are up to. In fact, a quick trip to the food co-op today turned into a 45 minute gardening chat. There are always things to learn from each other.

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It was such a beautiful weekend here. Coffees were had on the patio, while we soaked up the warm sun. Deer nosed around nearby looking for tasty new growth. The birds were extra talkative, singing all day long. A little chipmunk even came to visit. It feels so much like spring!

Talk of the garden has been ongoing around here, even though somehow it still feels so early to me. I looked back on my blog, and to my surprise, I was planting seeds less than a week from now last year. And I started journaling about last year’s garden in the beginning of March.

On Saturday, we bundled up in the late afternoon to do some outdoor chores. We took all the compost down to “the big bin”

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and then we headed down to check out the hoop house, still full of a dried-up tangle of tomato plants.

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We gathered up a few tools, and jumped right in.

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Between us, we made pretty quick work of cutting the overgrown grass path and clearing out the beds. There is now just a bit of weeding to do, and then we will ready the beds for planting.

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We talked about a few improvements to be made, and what we will grow in there this year.

When we were finished, we headed inside to the most amazing smell of fresh bread, just finished baking. I mean AMAZING. I wish I could display smell on the blog.

bread_feb23_0This was somewhat of an experimental loaf, and it turned out to quite possibly be one our all time favorites, ever. I love when that happens. Onion, chili, caraway, dill, with a fresh flour blend of quinoa, corn, millet and rice.

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We made a huge pot of soup, with mostly root vegetables from our garden, and then settled into a long and relaxing, productive evening.

I often have no concept of weekends vs weekdays, but this weekend felt like a real weekend. Yes, I really do like weekends.

Welcome to the new week, friends. How was your weekend?

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