Friday, April 27, 2012

The story of the edible blue honeysuckle berries

I really like fresh blueberries.  They grow a ton of them hereabouts in michigan and indiana.  So of course, I though, "HEY, I can do that!"  Well, it turns out, I suck at growing blueberries.  I planted about a dozen, in three or four different varieties.  They struggled.  They looked sad.  I'm still not sure why.  Certainly they do well in this area.  Certainly, I know that they like their soil a little acidic.  Certainly, I amended the soil they were planted in with peat moss and compost.

Certainly, they failed.  I even added some "special" organic soil acidifier just for blueberries and rhododendrons.  By the end of the second year, 3/4 of them were dead.  Very sad.

Not to be deterred, I ordered some Lonicera or honeyberries.  That's the latin name for the edible blue honeysuckle berry bush.  Not just any old Lonicera, but the new ones from the breeding program at the University of Saskatchewan.  They selected from many varieties where they are native (Russia, Japan, Canada, and a few others I think).  The results (by all acounts) were stupendous.  Bigger sweeter berries, and easier to pick.  Less fussy about soil conditions than blueberries.  Sort of like blueberries, but sort of not...

I ripped out the blueberries and planted the honeyberry bushes in the same spots, but with some new soil amendments.  POW!  They took off like gangbusters.  They have only been in the ground for three weeks and have already leafed out nicely and a few even have blossoms.

Here's where I bought them for those of you who want something fun, edible and different growing in the front yard:

They also have a nice description of what they are, sort of.  We humans lack a good vocabulary for describing tastes and smells.

A curious thing happened with the two remaining not quite dead blueberry bushes.  I'm all about redemption and second chances.  Instead of just throwing them out, I transplanted them about 20' further to the south.  I put them in a swale on the bank that slopes down to the highway in front of our house.  A swale is a trench dug on contour.  Swales have magic water catching properties.  Permaculture folks love swales.

Anyway, I threw the scraggly sad little blueberry bushes in there, backfilled with compost and within a week, they perked right up and looked better than they ever have.  Maybe I can grow blueberries after all, just not in the front yard.

That nice black stuff you see around the honeyberry plant is from a load of municipal compost.  Four bucks for a pickup truck load and they load it for you.  Best deal on the planet.  I feel rich when I spread that stuff generously around the orchard and the garden.  I'm also going to try sweet corn for the first time this year.  In all, I will be growing three kinds of corn, popcorn, sweet corn and dent corn for corn meal.

I want to try some dehydrated sweet corn.  Stores great and works well for soups, casseroles and that sort of thing.

I am busy making my 6' electric fence bigger.  It will now enclose the main orchard and the garden.  It will also have a continuous strip of chicken wire below the bottom "hot" wire.  This should eliminate the thieving racoons, possums and squirrels.  They stole almost all my apples last year and apparently I can't shoot them fast enough to stop them.

I suppose this is the long drawn out way of explaining why I haven't made any headway on the kitchen of late.

Finest regards,


Sunday, April 22, 2012

No More Qualifiers

The last while, whenever anyone asked about the kitchen, I would happily say, "The tile's almost done." But then I'd have to add, "I just have to do a little bit around the window."

This little bit:
"Just a little bit around the window." I was so tired of saying that qualifier.

So today I made it my first job to get it done. I was able to set up the tile saw outside on the porch and that made clean up easier. (Although it sure was colder than it looked!) And it sure didn't make all those cuts easier. Every freaking tile needed at least one cut. It was a slog, but I got it done:
And so I give you a kitchen with all the backsplash tiles up on the walls.
Woo hoo!

I had about five minutes of celebrating and feeling good about myself before pressure about getting the grout done started... #alwayssomething

Sunday, April 15, 2012

How Much Wood...? (you know the rest)

The never-ending job of firewood acquisition continues...

Last month Troy and Isaac cut down some trees that were blocking the sun from Troy's west garden. You may be able to see the stumps on the far right:
The west garden just seems to get bigger and bigger...
The walnut tree also gives off something that stunts anything growing around it. Obviously that's not good for the garden either. So out it came. They cut it all up and Isaac got just about all of it split and stacked with Peggy and Warren's help.

They filled up the second rack and got a good start on the third (the untarped sections):
As usual at the end of the winter, we have two full from last season (at the far end), and we've gone through almost three racks though the winter.

Since then, Troy cut down a few more trees that he thought were crowding out the garden. (On the left in the first picture.) I've been working on getting that wood either on the racks to dry or stacked to split. Just a little more to move:
I also cleaned up the area at the end of the driveway where a lot of the cutting and all of the splitting happens. The wood was starting to spread all over that part of the lawn. (I assume every time they got a chainsaw out, they moved the wood further out to have a safe "clean" area to work in.) So I sorted out the crap and cleaned up with a rake and made it so I could run a mower over what grass is still growing.

I then stacked all the wood there that needed yet to be split. I like to keep a work area relatively organized and I like it better when I'm splitting if I can pull from a stack rather than from a "dumping ground." It also helps me feel like I'm making progress.

Today we went and collected even more wood from a friend's neighbour who had a tree taken down. All the branches and "little stuff" was cleaned up and we just had to pick up the trunk pieces. Can't get any easier than that! We had a full load in the pickup.

I stacked up this new wood with the old and this is what the area looks like now:
Yes, yours truly stacked all those big hunks. Yee haw!
But it's a little deceptive from that view. Let me show you another:
There are two rows of wood stacked in the back and five and half more in the front. That's a lot of wood to split!

In other news, my crab apple tree is blooming for the first time:

Very exciting!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Seeing Red

While I was waiting for dinner to cook tonight, I decided to clear all the junk off the island and take a look at the red marble I picked up last week.
You know, just to make sure they were all there...
See what they looked like...
Try them out...
I may have been swept into a vortex of red marble, and not been able to free myself...
It's very beguiling...
I ended up "dry fitting" the counter with the tiles that would fit.
Handling the tile and seeing how it looks has given me a profound sense of my inadequacy and inexperience. I am convinced I do not have the skills to do this right. But the bull headedness to try it anyway.

Troy did not temper my feelings by coming home, looking at the counter, and saying "Wow! That's too fancy for us." Yes, this tile is out of our league. But we'll try to measure up.

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