Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rooting Bucket

I have made a rooting bucket. It's just a big bin full of sand, embued with very old chicken manure runoff. I have a piece of plastic to cover the top and intend to spray it whenever I pass by. I used rooting hormone for these.

In my new rooting bucket I have: rugosa roses, variegated dogwood shrub, climbing hydrangea, a golden leaf hydrangea of some kind, euonymous europaeus, forsythia, purple leaf sand cherry, pink rhododendron and curly willow. I have room in there for a few more and another bin just like that one, if I run out of room.

I have chocolate mint and large weeping willow rooting on a shelf. They don't need hormone or a special covered humid bin.

I'm very excited about it and have high hopes!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cultured Buttermilk

Delicious!! I just ran the little blender through it and it's ready to drink, as soon as it's cold. You can read how to make your own cultured buttermilk in a previous post
"Make Your Own Cultured Buttermilk"

I let it sit and "make" for 2.5 days. We have determined that we like the tartness of it best at that age. If you like a smoother, less tart buttermilk, let it sit for just the two days or even less. If you want someone to learn to like buttermilk, start them on a less aged product.

It needs blending because it starts to separate after a day or two. If you want to make a great soft cheese, just let it continue to separate, strain the solid curds and you have cheese. The liquid whey can be used in all kinds of other things. You can make sour cream by letting the bacteria grow in cream instead of milk. It's the same culture.
We always have a jug of buttermilk making on the counter. It goes fast around here!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Using Medicinal Herbs From The Garden

I started growing my own medicinal and cooking herbs a few years ago. It's another step in my journey to become more self sufficient and organic.

I am blessed with a lot of medicinal herbs that grow here naturally and I have planted many more. This year I plan to dry many of them for our own use.

Having raised chickens, dogs and cats and hoping to acquire a few goats, I have done a lot more research into using herbs for animal care in the past few years.
One herb that I have always grown and used is thyme. It is by far my favourite. It's main medicinal ingredient, thymol, is an antibiotic and antiseptic. Thymol is also present in a few other herbs, as well. Many years ago, before the discovery of penicillin, researchers were looking into the production of commercial antibiotics based on thymol but this research was discarded when pencillin came along.

I use thyme in everything. We like the flavour and it goes with so many things! It gives food that "can't quit eating it" taste.
I grow quite a lot of herbs for the kitchen but I also grow a lot of medicinal herbs. I usually medicate myself long before I go to see the doctor and I am very stubborn!

I sell a lot of my herb seeds, medicinal and culinary, in my seed store but it changes from year to year, depending on how the plants do in the garden. It is always better to use your own fresh herbs than to buy teas, tinctures or cures made by someone else. The product is stronger when it's fresh and you know what you are getting if you make it yourself. It's also cheaper and a lot more rewarding!

As with all things, herbal medication should be done carefully and in moderation. I like to use herbs as prevention, rather than trying to instantly cure a problem.
Before you begin to delve into herbal self medication or that of your family or animals you should do a lot of research and know the herbs you are using. I have found a few sites that have been very helpful with this. Here is a list that you can also reference:

Molly's Herbals - Natural Care for Animals
Herbnet (An extensive alphabetical list of herbs and their uses)

I am not an herbalist. If you are unsure of what you are doing, perhaps you should consult one before using any natural herbs. Just because they grow in the garden and naturally, does not mean they are safe to use for everyone and in any quantity. A little may do a great job, more may be very harmful. Some herbs can be as harmful as commercial drugs in the wrong hands. After all, most flower gardeners have things growing in their beds like digitalis and castor bean, some of the most poisonous things in nature.

People have asked me why I don't post the herbs that I use and how/why I use them. I am not a herbalist and the use of herbs as medication to relieve and prevent problems is complicated. I do not want to be quoted or said to give advice on the use of medicinal herbs for anyone's person or animals. Please do this research from books written by qualified individuals and/or sites online.

These are some medicinal herbs that I grow. Some I use a lot of, others I have for "just in case" but don't use very often. I hope to do more with some of these in the future. I am hoping that I will have seed for most of these in the seed store this year. Warning: Some of these can be invasive if not controlled! Some are a bit hard to find, such as the heal-all, boneset and motherwort. Others are very commonplace and most people have them growing nearby and just don't know it.

bladder campion
clover, red
evening primrose
Greek valerian
heal all, self heal
plantago major
St. John's wort

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Growing Ornamentals

I know that I mainly post about food and practical things around here, (I am extremely practical) but I do have some very large ornamental gardens, as well, and tend to hang out there more than anywhere else. That is where I putter. At the moment I am enlarging them, more for the purpose of ridding myself of grass to mow than for the acquiring of more gardens, per se.

I am currently enlaring the ornamental garden space. I don't say perennial bed because I also grow annuals, as well, and some shrubs. I hope to be adding small trees too. I collect all perennials, sometimes to the point of obsession, if left unchecked.

I have an iron bench the will go on the large cleared area. I am waiting for hubby to help me strong-arm it down the stairs from the deck. That thing is heavy!! It will make a nice seating area for me, when I want to pray, contemplate life, try to figure out myself and why I do some of the absolutely stupid things I do. You know...meditate. It's a good place to read, maybe. I hope that it will be so attractive a place that I will actually sit still there for a short time. I will have to spray myself all over with deet to sit there for very long in the evenings, but that comes with the territory, or the country, I should say.
I am also adding more roses and have a few pink rugosa roses in pots, waiting for it. I am trying to root cuttings from my good rose too. I have some softwood cuttings in sand with plastic bags over them. I have one family heirloom rugosa rose. It is a mauvy dark pink sort of colour and smells wonderful (see photo)! It belonged to my MIL most of her adult life and to her mother before her. She gave it to me last year. They are getting on in years and don't have the ability to care for their once large garden. This is a special rose and has been doing well.

Last year it had rose chafers all over it and I was just too busy to take care of them. This year, I swear I am going to hand pick every single bug I see off of it! Maybe I will spray it with rhubarb leaf/organic tobacco water. I don't want to harm the bees, so that will be a "last straw". I am also considering drenching the soil around it with a watered down doggie flea shampoo that I have with pyrethrin in it. WIll this harm the rose? Anyone know?
I cannot lose this rose bush. I have to pass it on to the future generations. Anyway, I hope the cuttings take. I used rooting hormone and did everything I read to do. I have some hardwood cuttings too, in pots at the moment. I plan to stick them in the sandy ground and cover with a jar.

I want more roses, especially rugosas, for wine, cooking and tea.). (See "Cooking With Roses".) They produce an abundance of hips and I already know that the petals make good wine :-)
I have picked up a lot of perennials in the past few years at the season end, mid to late July. Our Canadian Tire Hardware Store has a large greenhouse. They mark them all down to .25 at the season end and sometimes even .10 each! Two years ago I bought 30 of them at .25 each! Some didn't make it, but at that price, it's not much of a gamble. Many are doing well and blooming this year!

I have also acquired many through trading, plants and seeds. I am hoping to host a Barrie area plant swap later this summer! I think it will be a lot of fun! I want to finish these new areas first and get the grass under control :-( and some other areas tilled (so the place at least looks "lived in". lol!).

I have listed the ornamentals that I have below. There are a lot of them! I am hoping to have seed from most of these for sale in the seed store this fall! Some have not bloomed yet and I still have not seen a few of them yet this year, but most are doing well and blooming. It's an immense list! (I won't have seeds for all of them this year). I am finding it hard to believe that I actually have all of these myself. It's mind boggling to see it in writing! This list is also for my own benefit. I need a record of what I have growing out there.
amaranth 'intense purple'
aruncus, goat's beard
aster New England intense pink
artemesia "silver mound"
baby's breath, pink/white mix
beauty bush (kolkwitzia amabilis)
bleeding heart, pink
bugle weed
campanula "sarastro" purple
campanula "glomerata" purple
campanula 'carpatica" purple
campion, rose and white
canna lilies, red flowers, red leaf and green leaf,
candy lilies
candytuft, white perennial
candytuft, purple annual
celandine, greater
centauria montana, mountain bluet
centaura dealbata, pink
cerastium tomentosum, "snow on the mountain"
cobaea, cup & saucer vine
columbine garden mix
columbine native, red
columbine, winky red/white
cone flower echinecea, pink and white
cosmos mix
dahlia "keri blue"
dame's rocket, "hesperis"
day lilies, red
day lilies, Stella D'oro
daylilies, orange single
delphinium, small pink
dog tooth violet
euphorbia, "donkey tail spruge"
evening primrose
feverfew double flowers
filipendula rubra, pink meadowsweet
filipendula ulmaria, white meadowsweet
flax, red annual
four o'clocks, mixed
geranium, cranesbill bright fuscia pink
gladiola mix
globe thistle
hardy hibiscus mix
hens and chicks
heuchera, "marvelous marble"
honeysuckle bush, pink
hosta "big mama"
hosta "blue angel"
hosta "Francis Williams"
hyacinth bean, purple and white
impatiens gladulifera
impatiens, red annual
iris, Japanese, blue and purple
iris, Siberian, many shades and mixes
Jacob's ladder, purple and white
joe pye weed
lamb's ear
lamium, "spotted dead nettle"
lilacs purple
lilies, oriantal/asiatic mix
lilies, Easter
lily of the valley, pink
lily of the valley, white
loosestrife, white garden
lupins, purple and pink
malva moschata, pink and white
morning glory mixed
monarda didima red (bee balm)
monarda fistulosa lavender
morning glory mix
obedient plant pink (definitely a misnomer!)
penstemon "husker red"
peony poppy mix
phlox paniculata, pink & "davidii" white (tall)
phlox sublata (creeping)
poppy, oriental "fancy feathers"
primula mix
rock cress, white
roses, rugosa
rose climbing "blaze"
roses, mini red and orange
rudbeckia "black eyed Susan"
rudeckia maxima (8' tall)
rose of Sharon
sage, Russian
sage, lyre leaved
scarlet runner beans
sea holly, eryngium
Sedum Stonecrop Red
Sedum Reflexum
shasta daisy
snowball bush
Solomon's seal, varigated
spirea "bridal veil"
sweet pea perennial mixed
sweet william mix
veronica, blue and intense pink
violas, "Johnny-Junp-ups" tiny purple/yellow combo
violets, yellow and purple
yarrow, red

Saturday, June 18, 2011


We grow our very own fertilizer - comfrey! It is easy to grow and spreads rapidly but we consider this a good thing. We use quite a lot of it on the garden throughout the summer!

Comfrey has a very deep tap root that collects nitrogen and other minerals from deep in the soil and stores them. When it is cut, it releases these things back into the soil. It makes a nurishing mulch for the garden! It also makes a healthy feed for fowl and farm animals!

I cut a couple of wheelbarrows full yesterday and mulched all the vegetables with it. It's quickly and easily done with a hack saw. I didn't strip the leaves off the stems, just laid the whole things on the ground around the plants.

Lemon Mint

I harvested the lemon mint today! I did not cut it all today. I left a few stalks to go to seed so I can sell it this fall in the seed store.

It makes great tea and spice for cooking! I especially like lemon with chicken.

I rinsed it and laid it out on a screen for drying. I might hang some herbs to dry this year too. I do have the wire strung under the porch roof just for that purpose but this is drying on a screen. I will turn it a few times every day.

I collect large screens whenever I find them at garage sales and so forth. They are a great way to dry herbs, flowers and seeds!

Strawberry Jam!

Our strawberries are ready now! I pick a large colander full every morning. We eat a lot, as is. They are so sweet right from the garden!

I put about half of them, daily, into my wine bucket in the freezer. Yesterday I made some strawberry freezer jam. I will make more tomorrow too. We don't eat a lot of jam. I hardly ever eat it due to the sugar content, but hubby likes a little now and then and it makes great gifts!

I will be freezing some strawberries for winter eating too! We love strawberries.

I hope I get enough this year to make 6 gallons of wine. If not, I will have more next year! I am enlarging the strawberry garden.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Today's Harvest

Spinach and rhubarb! I chopped the rhubarb and put it in the buckets in the freezer. I have almost enough now to make five gallons of rhubarb wine! I'll do another cutting at the end of June and that will be it. The plant needs to grow and nurish itself for the rest of the summer. I found the stalks to be a bit thinner this year. It needs to be fertilized. I think I will add a mulch of old sheep manure soon.

The spinach was chopped small and frosen under water in ice cube trays. When it is frozen solid, I will pop it out and put it in a big freezer bag with the previous spinach from this year.

It's so handy all year long in ice cube size servings from the freezer. I just toss a few of them into just about anything. It's very good for you!