In order to celebrate the finish of the fence around the garden, I've decided to cease and desist with all the skulking around premies.com, (peeking into all the nooks and crannies, and gleaning gobs of great info) and introduce you to our lovely little slice of paradise. We live on beautiful Cortes Island, British Columbia. The first time I came here, 2 years ago, I knew that I had found my place. After a lifetime of gypsyhood I had found my forever home. Well, I was more like a lost monkey, wandering around looking for her circus. I found my monkeys! I found my circus!
Hi, my name is Tracy, and I'm a Permaculture-o-holic. One little sip, and I was a goner. I found my 'gurus', and found this most wonderful site, and haven't looked back. Before we bought this property, I had never heard of Permaculture. But when I did - BAM! I was hooked. Beautiful design systems, growing techniques, energy ideas - like so many before me, the possibilities of life went from rather bland but okay, to freakin' exciting! The Man is building a Disc Golf course in the woods . . .
Anyway, we (The Man and I) bought 27 acres on this scrumptious island a little under two years ago. It had been used as rental property for the last 10 years or so, and had largely been neglected. We have cleared about 2 acres of Scotch Broom (and when I say 'we' I mean The Man). But even before the 'big clean up' of the property, the beauty and potential was there. There are about 3 or 4 acres cleared now, and the rest is forested - lots of Alder, Hemlock, Cedar, and some other stuff I can't remember right now. I have a list of the plants and trees that are growing on the property that I am compiling, and will post soon.
So, on to the plans! As so many before me have done, I am starting a market garden. One of the key (and fantastic) things about where I am is that I have a built-in market to sell to. About 8 minutes from our farm is the 'town'. Okay, it's two stores and a community hall. But it's as much town as I have any desire to be in. One of the stores is the Cortes Natural Food Co-op, and they are committed to selling as much locally grown produce as they can cram on their shelves. I have been to two Growers Meetings, and find that the people are fantastic, the system is set up to make growing and selling to them easy peasy, and there is much room for growth. They provide yearly printouts of their sales, by weight and by monies, for locally grown produce, and produce they have to bring in. So the growers can see what is missing from the locally produced end of things, and plan their gardens accordingly. They let growers know what the high sellers are, so they can get a really good idea of how much to grow, and what is 'hot' at different times of the year. They treat their growers well, pay them well for their produce, and are generally fine, fine folk.
I am going to grow the usual summer stuff that the tourists like to buy - our population triples in the summer, up to a whopping 3000 - but I'm going to really concentrate on the shoulder seasons, and winter greenhouse growing. Another really cool thing about being here is that, having grown up in Northern British Columbia, where the growing season is about 20 minutes long, I'm really excited that here you can grow ALL YEAR LONG! And with a greenhouse, you can grow quite a diverse range of plants. I'm finding this prospect quite thrilling. I could definitely spend my winters happily pottering in the greenhouse. (Can you say Rocket Stove?!)
So! The garden area, having been rescued from the Scotch Broom and the Alders, is now officially fenced, as of today (JUST in time for The Man not to find himself as compost starter). Two beds, 4'ishx40' each, are ready to plant. Others are in the works, and will be done soon. My little greenhouse is bursting at the seams with happy plants just waiting to jump into their new homes. We decided to go with the buried wood beds, as we have nothing that remotely resembles soil, except in some parts of the woods. We are also very much focused on eventually having the water usage as low as possible. So, all kinds of plans for the usual Permaculture brilliance regarding water harvesting, and drought proofing the property. So many brilliant ideas!
We chipped the Broom, as well as some of the many Alder branches we accrued while clearing, and thinning for firewood. So I have lots of lovely year-old piles of wood chips, absolutely crawling with all the good things, and breaking down beautifully. Also, large piles of leaves, grass, weeds, and other detritus gathered up in the clearing and cleanup - also crawling with good things. And, last year I made up a windrow of layered compost stuff that has broken down nicely. We also traded a cedar that had to come down, for two truck loads of clay! So with all of that, and a big pile of seasoil/topsoil mix, that came out of pots that The Man used for growing . . . stuff . . . I have some truly sweet smelling, creepy crawly containing, mycelium munched goodness for the tops of the beds. Now, if I could only get The Man to pee on the wood in the new beds . . .
Well, I think that's all for tonight. I just looked at the clock, and I turned into a pumpkin about 20 minutes ago. Sleep time for me.
So! Here are a few sexy shots of the property. I'll pile on some more tomorrow. And a big THANK YOU to all of you for the truly inspiring stories, and the heaping helpings of help that you so generously dish out every day.
Here are some more images of the property. The first pic is my first garden project last year - a hugelkultur herb spiral just outside my front door! The yard has a slope from the top to the bottom part, and had a REALLY big rock right there (we have a LOT of really big rocks). So we pulled out the rock, The Man dug out a big hole into the side of the slope with our little Kubota, and I filled it with a big stump, and 6 big ol' logs, lots of grapevine trimmings, chips, grass, leaves - you know, the usual suspects - and topped it with a bit of soil. Planted parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (what else?), as well as some summer savoury, lemon balm, greek oregano, lettuce, tomatoes and zucchini. The thing went wild! Had gobs of delish food from it all summer. It wintered beautifully. A little too beautifully. Had to take out two of the sage plants, as they were set on spiral domination. But they're going into the main garden, so all is well. I have an lovely old Mama Sage plant by the front door, that had been rather neglected, but we trimmed it up last year, and it is now producing many offspring for the garden (I layer her into pots, and Bob's yer uncle! I've got new plants!).
This year's herb spiral so far - parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, summer savory, cilantro, greek oregano, lemon balm, lettuce, kale, 2 tomatoes (cherry and roma), a pepper plant, sweet alyssum, and calendula; soon to add chives, celery, and whatever else I can tuck in here and there.
The rest of the photos are just general shots of the property, and the fence going up!
A few more sexy shots. We have two twisty, mossy old plum trees, that are just gorgeous. We got some plums last year, and they were delicious, but I'm not too worried about major production from them as they are just too beautiful to 'prune properly' as The Man says. I like them the way they are. But I'll be starting some by cutting and by seed, to see if I can get more going.
The second shot is where I sit to work - my outside 'office'. I'm a freelance graphic designer, and sitting here makes being chained to my computer much easier to live with! The grapes are delicious. Smells nice too.
And! A flowering cranberry tree thingy - which is just too lovely not to share.
I'll being posting more about the property, what's already growing here, and more of our plans later today. First, I have to work.
Okay, it's raining today, so the garden planting has to wait until tomorrow. I guess I've waited this long and it hasn't killed me . . . although the first broccoli I planted has gone to seed. The bees like it.
So. Here is the list I've compiled (and will continue to compile) of what is currently growing on our property. It is a rather old homestead, so there's lots of stuff, both wild, and tame but a little too outta control, even for me.
TREES - Forest and ornamental
Golden Locust? (2)
Wild Forest Pansy? (1)
Lots of weeds I don’t know the names of, but I'm sure we'll get acquainted as time goes on.
PLANTS & FLOWERS
Poppy - different varieties
Japanese Knotweed (!)
More will undoubtedly show themselves as we continue to clean up areas, and uncover treasures. But all in all, for a long term rental property, it is pretty clean. Once we hacked our way through all of the overgrown jungly areas (and there were a lot of overgrown jungly areas - what I like to call our Old Growth Broom forest) I was surprised that there wasn't more garbage. I mean, there is definitely garbage, but I thought there might be more.
Anyway! Things I'm excited about:
The deliciously edible grapes! Thrilled to pieces, and have managed to root about 7 new plants so far. And will do more. They are just so lovely, and delish. It's quite a novelty for me to be able to actually grow edible grapes. (Not a lot of grape growing in northern BC).
Breadseed Poppies - Not only are they incredibly beautiful - ranging in color from purest white, to light pink, dark pink, and all the pinks in-between; single petaled and double, pom pom types - the bees LOVE them. Every flower will have at least 5 or 6 bees hanging out in it. I'm happy to see the bees.
Dragonflies - we have a lot of dragonflies, all different kinds - not sure why that tickles me, but it does.
Plums - Really looking forward to our little plum harvest this year. Last year, I realized too late that plums ripen a lot earlier in the summer than apples and other fall fruits. So I just caught the tail end. But, man, they were good.
Figs! Never thought I'd have my very own fig trees. They are plumping up as I type this, and I hope to be getting a few soon. Will also be propagating these. Gotta get that food forest started somehow!
Saskatoons! Coming from the north, this is the berry I miss. A neighbour up the road came from Saskatchewan, and is growing them, so she gave me a bunch of cuttings she rooted. I'll have about 8 plants. Another fine food forest addition.
In the meantime, I am gathering all of the information I can, getting my trees and plants together, taking cuttings, planting seeds, and generally getting ready for some major planting all over the property. We do have deer. Our very own little herd. They liking hanging out here, so I'm learning to live with them. That's why the garden has a 7-8 foot fence around it. Planting the food forests will be a little trickier, but I've gleaned a lot of info about how to keep my baby trees safe (thanks to many of you on here!) so I'm sure the deer and I will work something out. I know they'll wiggle their way into places they shouldn't at times, but hey, they were here first. And it's the only animal manure I have on the place so far. Next year, chickens! And ducks as soon as I can. This is the Pacific Northwest after all - Slug-a-palooza!
Happily, we don't have as many 'garden' predators as some folks have to deal with: mostly deer, slugs, racoons and rats. No rabbits. No groundhog type critters that I'm aware of. And the only large predators on the island are wolves, the occasional cougar, and the very occasional bear that swims over from the mainland. Silly things.
So, I have it pretty good as far as keeping my garden safe. It is amazing how much damage a deer can do in a short time. So I'm being quite diligent in keeping my growing things safe.
Hmmm . . . what else. So much going on, and so many ideas!
Some things I will be doing as money-making ventures on the farm:
• Growing fruit and veg, obviously. Lots of winter greenhouse growing.
• Growing herbs - fresh, dried, vinegars, and essential oils. I'll be making them for myself, so may as well make some extra to sell.
I've got a captive audience here on Cortes Island for things like this.
• Amaranth and/or Quinoa - I'll grow both to see which grows best here. Love the stuff, and it keeps forever. Makes me feel secure.
• Painting - I'm a watercolor artist. You can google my name to see my website if you like.
• Freelance graphic design. This is what I do for work. I like it, but I'm sooooo much more interested in growing things.
And now that I have this beautiful place to grow things on, the graphic design just ain't as satisfying.
I'm whittling down my clients to the ones I like, and the ones that make me money, to free up more time to spend outside in our little paradise.
And that's it for now. I'll pop a few more photos up, just for fun.
First one is a rock. A rather large rock. One of many rather large rocks scattered hither and yon around the property. There was even a boulder in the bedroom . . .
Second one is of a small pond in the front yard. There are 3 more in the back yard: one about this size, one about half this size, and a wee tiny one. This one doesn't stay full in the summer, as there is nothing shading it at the moment (we're working on that), but the large one in the back yard has lots of plants in and around it, so it stays pretty full. We add a bit of water during the summer, as there is a large koi in there. Don't know how old she is, but I'm sure she's been there for a while. We named her Wanda, of course.
The third photo is a profile of our lovely soil. Okay, it's a photo of a hole dug in sand. That's our soil. Hence the buried wood beds. We'll get there.
Thanks for reading. Please drop me a line to say 'Hi', and we can talk about . . . stuff!
Japanese knot weed- kill now cut it burn it dig it atttack with out mercy . Even if you were the sort to use Weedkiller and other toxic gick and I am sure you are not but other folks read this stuff you never know .you would be wasting your money . The only way is to either get something to eat it or constantly chop it up regularly like check at least once a week . Goats for instance
Your place looks great . Have you thought of getting bees . Since there are obviously some already in your area an empty hive set up might get you some for free
Living in Anjou , France,
For the many not for the few
Yes, The Man attacked the knotweed with a vengeance last year, carefully digging out the biggest of the root masses and burning all of the material. Those long stems make a helluva pop when they burn! It hasn't come back nearly as bad this year, and I see that the deer are eating some of it, so we'll get a handle on it I think. It really is quite amazing stuff! Just shoots up out of the ground like some sort of Plant Godzilla!
Cougars, yes, but are rarely seen. I think they mostly spend their time on the north end of the island, which is pretty much uninhabited and all forest. Bears, not as a rule, but they do pop over from the mainland from time to time. There was one roaming around last year, but it's gone now apparently.
We would love to get bees eventually. Our neighbour up the road has some bees, and they love to come over and visit all of our flowering things. They are more than welcome! The Man is a brewer and is thinking of setting up to make mead. So growing fruit, berries and bees might be in our future.
Last photos for today, before I drag my sorry butt to bed.
This is the house. It's an odd little creature, and needs some lovin' care, but I adore it. The tall cement thingy in the middle right of the picture is the chimney of the old house. The foundation is all there too. It's actually pretty cool.
And a couple snaps of the woods. It's just . . . nice. We have so many different areas on this property - the alder woods look much different than the cedar and hemlock woods. It's like my own little Wonderland.
And I'm totally paranoid about the deer getting in, and have been checking it every 15 minutes. I'm like a new mom, checking her sleeping baby to see if it's still breathing. The little buggers are out there right now, circling it like flock of buzzards waitin' for something to die. (After I typed this up, I went out to put some water on the beds, and while I was watering I look over and see one of my little hazels disappearing through the fence! It had fallen over and rolled up to the fence, and the little bastard was pulling it through and munching it. So I quickly ran over and saved my baby, and whined at the deer, “I hate you! Go away!” THAT’ll teach ‘im.)
Okay, so I'm late getting most things planted for this year. But I've got lots of nice healthy starts - tomatoes are lookin' great; broccoli, parsley, cilantro, celery, lettuces and onions are all rarin' to go. I'm not terribly concerned about mass production this year. As the first year of the buried wood beds (and they're not even all done yet), I am not going to count on anything being top o' the line. I'll grow plenty for us to eat, and if there's surplus, I have the Natural Food Co-op, and a couple of other sources to take it off my hands. Mostly I'm just looking forward to fresh tomatoes and cilantro for my salsa and tabouleh, and broccoli and zucchini! Could eat those every single day. Oh, wait - yeah, I DO eat them every single day.
The plans for the garden involve getting things as drought proof as possible - buried wood in trenches, swales, soil improvement (actually, soil creation) - and just watching things as they progress to see what's working and what isn't, what needs tweaking, and what just needs to be given time to come into its own.
There are so many fantastic ideas and insights that I've gotten from this site, and from Permaculture in general. I've created a Permaculture library in my head, and when I am planning out a certain area, I flip through my mental books and see what fits. It's like a gigantic puzzle! So much fun.
Perennials (The start of a small food forest at the north end of the garden)
Hazelnut - 2 in one hole
Saskatoons - 7
Gooseberries - 2 one red and one green
Future perennials will include, but are not limited to:
Plants Artichoke (can't believe I'll be able to grow artichokes!!)
Shrubs Berries - raspberry, blueberry, goji, autumn olive
And so many more that I can't even begin to wrap my head around it! But this will just be the small food forest at the back of the garden. We have other areas around the property that we will be planting food forests in that will be much larger than the one in the garden.
Can you tell I'm excited? lol
A little more info about my gardening:
I started all of my seeds using soil blocks. Read about it in Eliot Coleman's book, The New Organic Gardener. Love that book. Anyway, the soil blocks worked great. I am determined not to use all of that plastic for starting seeds, and the soil blocks seemed to fit the bill. Love them. Easy to make, hold together well, stand up under regular watering, hold water well, and take up way less room that flats. When the tomatoes needed to be potted on, I used gallon pots that I got at the Free Store. (Yes, we have a Free Store. LOVE that place.) Anyway, they were free, and they will be reused many times over, so I don't mind using a few of those each year. They last a long time. It's the flimsy plastic seed trays and plugs that I don't like. This way is cheaper too - the soil blockers are a bit pricey, but they're really well made, and will last forever.
Of course, I use no chemicals, and never have. We will probably never become Certified Organic, as it's expensive, and I'm not a fan of paper work. But the Natural Food Co-op doesn't require you be Certified Organic to sell there. They know it's a bit of a sham, and are happy to have growers who grow naturally. We do have guidelines, but this is a really pro-natural growing, permaculture kinda island. Every one is into it.
Here are some photos:
First one is of the garden space. It doesn’t look like much now, but if you squint your eyes, and use you’re imagination, it’s quite lovely. lol It's about 60 'x 100'. There is a large levelled area on the west side that is for the future greenhouse (doesn't my little greenhouse look kinda lost in there?), chickens and compost area. There will be 8 beds 4’ish x 40' each. This area will be expanded over time to the north include a small food forest, and to the east to include more growing beds, and more food forest, and a berry growing area. There is also about a 1/4 acre behind it that will be used, possible for berries. Baby steps.
Second pic is just a line up of plants on the right, waiting to go into the bed on the left.
Third pic is Poppies and bees. One of my favorite combos.
Hope you enjoy the pics. More to come!
If you have any questions, observations, or general niceness to share, please do so. I'm here to 'hang out' with likeminded folk!
THere is one crop you have not mentioned . They are called Deer
Also have you thought of either planting stuff outside the fence that the deer dont like so much to make the fence bigger or building a ditch/swale around the fenced compound ?
Living in Anjou , France,
For the many not for the few
HA! Yes, I'd eat a deer any time, but The Man isn't so keen on it. But just today I said that just knowing we could if we had to made me feel pretty secure. He agreed.
Yes, I have plans for planting around the outside of the fence. Still researching what grows well here, and is deer resistant. Deer seem to change their minds from seasons to season about what they like and don't like, but there are a few constants. Strong herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme will work well I think. Also looking for things to grow along the fence that I can feed the chickens. Caragana is a good possibility. Our deer don't seem to have a taste for daffodils, so those will go in too. Don't want anything too tall on the east and south sides, so will keep looking and experimenting.
Any PNW folks have suggestions for low growing, deer resistant, attractive, and productive plants for growing outside of the fence around the garden?
Hmmmm . . . I don't think so. Not around here. But I can get someone to come and hunt here, and then get some of the meat. That would work for me.
I agree about humans being an excellent crop. I am taking my PDC in the fall, and look forward to teaching some classes and giving tours. I'm not looking to make a fortune from it, but it can definitely be a part of the plan. I think it's an important message to share, and I'm a good teacher, so we'll see how it goes . . .
We are always thinking and talking about ways to make our little slice of heaven provide us with the more mundane things in life, like money. The Man is an avid Disc Golf player - and there is a dedicated group of Disc Golfers on the island. So, he is building a course on our property. He is also planning on brewing. So between the draw of the Disc Golf, the permaculture, the booze, and my artwork (and classes), plus whatever else we decide to dabble in, we should be able to draw a small crowd every once in a while.
Well, as often happens in life, life happened, and I didn't get much planted today. But I just had to get something in, so planted some lettuce and kale plants. I am content. Tomorrow is another day, and I'll be out there planting, rain or shine!
I've attached a google image of our property. It is rather dark, but you can get an idea of the area. It's a long skinny property, as you can see. Lots of trees. And we have a very long winding driveway, which I love. The property slopes from from east to west, as well as north to south, with variations in different area. The garden area slopes slightly south and west. It gets lots of sun all day - with short shady patches - until the sun hits the trees on the west side, which is fine by me as it gets pretty damn hot in the summer. The plants will enjoy the reprieve, I'm sure. The trees to the west will unfortunately shade the greenhouse more in the winter, so I will eventually have to supplement the lighting, but I won't do that until I can get the solar system I want. And there are still quite a few trees that have to come out - weed trees, dead trees, and precariously perched trees that look like they want to fall on our house - so that will help quite a bit. We don't want to take out any 'good' trees unless we have to. We like our trees. But we did cut all of the cedar posts for the garden fence from our own property. We were pretty tickled about that.
Plans, plans, and more plans - and so much to learn:
• I'm hoping to plant some edibles in the woods. Mushrooms are a given here, but I still have to research other things that I can plant in the existing forest. Anyone have suggestions for edibles and medicinals that grow in an evergreen forest?
• We have bamboo on the property, which is cool, but I'd like to learn how to 'process' the stakes so they don't mould. So far, the stakes I have used develop a black mould, which I'm sure is not going to be popular with my tomatoes, or anything else for that matter. I've read that bleach is the thing to use, but I'd just as soon not. Any suggestions?
• We have 3 apple trees on the property - 2 produce smallish apples that are quite tart - not our fave, but could be okay for baking - and one is what I believe is called a Transparent apple? The apples are large and pale green, and okay eating, but still not my fave. So, since these all aren't the greatest eating apples, I'm thinking of making apple cider vinegar with them. I think that will be a great way of preserving them. Feel free to share your apple cider vinegar making stories with me. I've never made it before, and though I'm good at following a recipe, it's always good to hear from folks who have done it and succeeded! (Or failed, and can share 'what not to do' stories.)
• I'm really keen on growing things I can dry. I like the idea of all that food security which doesn't depend on refrigeration, and doesn't have to be canned. I'm not opposed to canning, and will probably do some eventually, but having the dried food - beans, peas, quinoa/amaranth, fruit, nuts, grains, etc - without having to use power to store it just feels good. And being as secluded as we are, it just makes sense. Plus, hot flashes and hot canning is not my idea of a good time . . . maybe in a few years when my 'power surges' settle down . . .
• I will definitely be drying tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and herbs. My dilemma right now is working out the best way to store dry goods. I am really trying to get away from things like ziploc bags and other disposable containers. Glass is the best, of course, and can be reused. I'm starting a collection of glass jars, and other containers with tight fitting lids (much to The Man's dismay lol), but will probably have to invest in some good ol' fashioned canning jars. I remember when I was a kid and my mom was selling milk (Gasp! Unpasteurized - can you imagine?! ) she used big glass gallon jars. Sure would love to have a bunch of those. I'll just have to keep my eyes peeled . . . What containers do you use for storing dried goods like veg and fruit?
Well, I guess those dishes aren't going to do themselves, so I'd best get off my bum and do some housework. Ugh.
Anyway, thanks for perusing. And please feel free to share any tidbits or observations you may have. I'm here to share and learn!
Here are the photos of the day:
And of course, a flower.
Have you thought about learning to graft ? That means you can steal ......... er find other apples to graft on to the apple trees you are not so keen on free !
Plus if you get a quince tree it forms hard wood cutting very easy so you can graft the apples on to them quite easy even I can do it .
Living in Anjou , France,
For the many not for the few
Yessiree! It's on the list. lol We actually had a couple of quinces here, but they were so outrageously out of control and over grown that they had to be cut back severely. But one still seems to want to come back, so maybe I should start some for future grafting projects. Another thing for the list . . .
I am seriously excited about the success Michael Newby has had with using pigs to gley a pond in rocky sandy soil. I heard about gleying in a permaculture video - I think it was Bill Mollison first, and then Geoff Lawton and his ducks - and have been researching it, but did not come up with a lot. But when I read Michael's post a few months back, I had hope! And seeing how successful it was, I have put pigs near the top of the list for animals to get, right after chickens.
There is a woman here on the island who has been practicing permaculture for about 30 years, with her partner, on a land trust farm. It's a fantastic place, and was apparently the home of the first ever PDC given in BC thirty years ago. That's where I'll be taking my PDC in the fall. Anyway, we are always talking about permaculturey things (while the guys are of playing disc golf), and we were talking about the gleying of ponds. She's from a very small village in Manchester, and she remembers that the farmers would have lots of smallish ponds all over the fields, and they used the gleying method to create them. Sometimes with pigs, and sometimes with cattle.
She was also talking about how her dad, and other people in the area, would use cattle to create their cob mix. Throw the straw, sand and soil in a depression, water it down, and let the cattle walk all over it. Mixed! Plus the cow manure is a great additive in the cob mix. Now, I have no intention of getting cows (been there, done that!), but I'm wondering if the pigs could help in this situation as well. That would be pretty darned cool. And then in the fall we pop the little darlings into the freezer, and we've stacked functions all the heck over the place!
We have a couple of places scouted out that we'd love to have ponds - a couple in the mid slopes for gravity feed, and some smaller ones situated near the garden, the one acre cleared area in front of the house, and anywhere else we can. I now have great hopes that this can be accomplished. Thanks Michael!
I love my new garden. Still a little paranoid about the deer getting in, but so far so good. And there's a mama with new twins. They're so darned adorable, it's hard to hate them. And it doesn't do much good anyway, I've noticed. We have agreed to disagree.
So I've been researching deer resistant things to plant, as I'd like to put some color and variety out into the field in front of the house, and get some guilds going under the apples and plums. There are lots of herbs, which I'm happy to grow, but not much in the way of flowering things. I've noticed that they don't seem to be interested in the Breadseed Poppies (they do kind of stink), so those will definitely go out there. And they haven't decimated the peonies when they've weaselled their way into the front yard, so there's a possibility. I'd love to have a grape growing up the bigger of the old plums, but the deer are quite fond of them. So mostly I'll just be mixing things in with the strong smelling herbs - sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon balm (all my faves) - and hope that some make it. I'll throw some oniony things in there, too - they make pretty flowers. More pieces to the puzzle.
We did a bit of daydreaming today about putting a natural swimmin' hole in the front field. It's narrow, and there are tall trees on either side (east and west), so although it does get sun, it's not all day. So if we plant some shade giving things on the south side, it could potentially hold water well (after the pigs have a go at it, of course ). But before that one gets built, there are others that are more important - the ones higher up that will give us some gravity fed water for the gardens. Still, it's fun to dream . . .
What's next on The List:
Finish planting the starts into the garden.
Build some climbing things for the tomatoes and cucumbers.
Start more lettuce, parsley, pac choi, broccoli.
Move the shade tent into the garden area - dang it gets hot in there.
Dig a small buried wood bed for my hazels, gooseberries and saskatoons at the back of the garden.
Tag the poppy plants so I know which colors are which when I collect the seeds.
Plant the irises dug up from the yard. Do these have to be planted at a certain time? Must look into that.
Order some comfrey. Just saw the thread about the guy selling comfrey in Canada. Awesomeness.
And during it all, just enjoy. That's pretty easy to do here. There are no pressures; we don't have to leave to go to a 'job'; we don't have any deadlines (well, I do with my graphic design, but that's different). The Man puts a lot of pressure on himself, and feels as if he should have more done. Silly boy. There's nobody here to 'should' us. If we're not enjoying it, I don't think we're doing it right! Yes, we have a lot of work to do to get the place to where we want it, but that's not ever really going to change. There will always be lots of projects to do - but I don't want to work my butt off every day, and not have time to just enjoy the place. That's what I think, anyway. Plus, I'm really lazy, and it's bloody hot.
So, here are the photos of the day:
Some stuff planted in the garden.
The front field - freshly mowed. With the big rock. I kinda love this rock. Except for the red tonal on top. An owl used to perch on there, looking for his supper, but doesn't anymore because of that dang tonal.
And, of course, flowers. I love the foxgloves growing all over the property. Gorgeousness.
You asked for some PNW suggestions. Some things to plant on the outside of the fence to discourage the dear from sticking their noses through. Fox glove you have. mullen, holy hocks they nibl a few leaves but don't eat them down like they do the evening primrose but even those seed prolifically enough to survive. I eat the california poppy petals and the new evening primrose leaves. [see my salad harvest in the harvest photos]
Plants with an oily leaf and fragrance they wont eat but in the fall the buck dear will tear them to peaces cleaning the velvet off their antlers.
With my mature grape arbors I welcome the dear because they only eat the tender tendrils that need to be pruned back anyway.
If you do have a transparent apple that is great because it is a summer apple. It should be ready to harvest in a few weeks and with our hot weather may even be ready now. Do not let the transparent apples get fully ripe or they will be mushy. Start making pies as soon as they are showing any change toward transparent skin.
The deer don't bother our mature full size apple trees but they will tear down fences to strip the leaves off of grafted dwarf trees. They will also search for openings to get into the high tunnel that has my raspbearies. They are determined they should have some each day for desert. They also discovered that the growing tips of next years boysen & loganberry canes are better than the Himalayan which they used to prune for me.
Salal berries are too bland and Oregon grape/Washington Holly berries are too tart but they can be cooked together to balance each other. By the way Oregon grape is low growing with a central stem in the leaf and Washington holly is tall growing with out a central stem in the leaf. It is another candidate for along the fence if it is available.
Thats my suggestions from the other end of the Salish Sea.
Deer are such a challenge! We have to put everything behind a fence. Even "deer resistant" things, if there aren't just loads of them, get eaten down eventually. If 20 deer come by and take a bite of a little plant and each say "yuck" and move on, that little plant will still have had 20 bites taken of it....
Yes, we have salal and Oregon grape in the woods all around here. Might try moving a few to some spots at the back of the garden, along with some foxgloves. Hollyhocks?! That would be lovely. I could put some wire over them until they are big enough to fend for themselves. Definitely worth a try. I guess I'll try some grapes along the fence, and see if the deer just trim them up for me, or make a meal out of 'em. I've been starting a lot of new grape plants, so I can afford to experiment.
Yes, Tyler, a challenge indeed!
The deer here are much smaller than the large deer and moose I was dealing with up north, but are still voracious little buggers. Sounds like you've got it even worse than me, with your different types of deer.
I think the trick is not getting too attached to a planting until you know if it will work - whether seeing if it's deer resistant, drought tolerant, or thrives in our climate and soil. I have no intention of putting my new Saskatoons out in the field 'just to see' if I can keep the deer away from them. Anything that I love and know I would miss will go into the garden 'compound'. But I am willing to experiment with a few seed grown annuals, or cuttings that I can easily replace, to test their hardiness in the face of marauding mammals. I know I'm soooo much more fortunate than some, who are dealing with ground squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys, and all sorts of other garden crashers. It's mainly the deer here, and later it will be the birds in the berries, and the squirrels in my nut trees. But sufficient unto each day are the evils thereof.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and enjoy the journey!
Listened to The Man mowing and trimming the front field (about an acre) for the last two days. I mean, it looks nice and all, but I could really use that second garden bed dug . . . Just sayin’ . . .
I planted 35 tomato plants today. All are looking strong and healthy. I have a few left over that I’m just going to pot up and give to someone who wants them - I only need so many tomatoes. Bunch of other stuff planted too - will be able to finish it all up tomorrow.
I have a small section of the garden, along the east fence, that is pretty much just a pile of sand about 20 feet long. So I’m going to make that into the Mediterranean section. I’ll put my sage and thyme plants in there, along with the rosemary if when the cuttings take. (Might just get a couple of new plants.) I’ll put some mint into a large, old-looking urn planter thingy on a pedestal that we have - keeps the mint contained, and looks cool, too. Very important, the looking cool part. I’ll use some of the plethora of rocks to hold the sand in, and make some little ledges to plant in. Researching what else might be included in a Mediterranean herb garden - maybe some winter savory. Flowers would be nice, too. I think I’ll pop some calendula in there. They can take the dry heat. Should be a fun little area of the garden to play with.
Also looking around for something to use as a bird bath/dragonfly lure. We have a lot of dragonflies, and birds, and I'd love them to visit in the garden more. There will be a small pond eventually, in the back in the mini forest garden part. Also going to top all the fence posts with funky birdhouses - keeps the tops of the posts dryer, and looks cool, too.
Observations in the garden
• It’s freakin’ hot! Solution: wait for the shade. Easy one.
• I have earth worms in my new beds! Must be doing something right . . .
• I can’t plant in rows. It just doesn’t happen. I plant a garden the same way I paint: make a plan; deviate from the plan as quickly as possible; get lost in the details, and step back to see the it hasn’t gone anything remotely the way I thought it might; pat myself on the back for a job well done. I mean, how boring are big long rows? I have short little rows here and there, but not exactly straight ones. The tomatoes are planted in circles, although not exactly round ones. The Man kindly put up a level string line so I could keep the beds level, and plan out my rows. I got rid of THAT in a hurry. And I now have multilevel beds, with spontaneously planted, zig zaggy, circular plantings. Love it.
• Because the tops of my buried wood beds are basically just a really thick mulch of year-old grass clippings, leaf mould, weeds and such, with some sand mixed in, I don’t have to mulch! I also put a sprinkling of clay on the beds a while ago, and watered it in good. As I was planting my tomatoes today, I found that the bits of clay are nice and moist. Any dry bits I found on the surface I wet and tucked down under the mulch.
• I’ve noticed that the surface of my ‘mulch’ - because it is quite fine - gets a sort of light ‘crust’ on it. This will probably inhibit any light moisture getting through, such as dew, except right around the plants; but a heavier rain will probably find its way in. (Not that there are any heavy rains in my foreseeable future). But it is nice and moist under there, so I don’t want to break it up too much. Solution: I use a hard single jet of water (I love my multi-setting watering wand!) aimed just a little away from the plant at an angle to water under it. This gets the water down further, without breaking through much of that protective ‘crust’. I find that areas where I water ‘under’ the mulch like this (in the evening) are still quite moist when I check the next evening. I don’t water the whole top of the bed, just around the plants. If I notice the rest of the bed getting dry under the crust, I’ll scuff up the top a bit and give it a good soak. The crust reforms, and all appears to be well.
• As soon as I put the Sweet Alyssum starts into the garden the butterflies came to visit. Note to self: start more Sweet Alyssum.
• I love gardening. It makes me feel good.
Once the garden plants are established, I’ll be lengthening the time between waterings, to see what the ideal timing is. I’m not one to ‘over water’ plants. I think that a certain amount of stress can make them stronger. I’m not into plant cruelty or anything, more like tough love. From what I've read, buried wood beds really come into their own around year three, so I'm looking forward to that.
Feeling quite blessed that the garden beds are working out well so far. I was a little worried when we first got here, that our sandy soil would make growing difficult, or really expensive because of having to haul soil over from Vancouver Island. But good ol’ permaculture gave me all the answers I needed. Just had to fit the pieces together, and adapt things to our conditions. A little bit of knowledge, a sprinkling of common sense, and a great deal of thinking (I like thinking), and I am quite satisfied with the results so far. Of course, things might go sideways. But that’s life right? Sometimes shit does indeed happen. Gotta roll with it. In the meantime, I’m eating lettuces, parsley, kale, cilantro, and pac choi from my very own garden, and THAT is always a fine thing.
1. Tomatoes and Sweet Alyssum. I planted the tomatoes in sets of 5 around a tomato cage. Tomorrow I'll put some bamboo stakes inside the cage, to create sort of a taller cage, and the plants can climb up that, with a little help from me and some twine. That's the plan, anyway . . .
2. This is a pic of the water plants in the pond behind the house. I am eager to know if these lily pads will bloom. I have no idea what kind they are, or what I should do for them. Time will tell.
3. And flowers. The Breadseed Poppies are are really the only bloomin' thing we have going on right now, aside from the foxgloves. But we have a lot of them, in so many delicious colors. I'll be getting more flowers into the front yard next year!
Thanks for hangin' out with me. The Man's eyes kinda start to glaze over after a while when I'm enthusiastically spewing all of my growing plans, observations, and brilliant permaculture ideas, so it's nice to have a place to write it all out, and perhaps someone can get something useful from it.
Yesterday was our ‘go to town and shop, shop, shop so we don’t have to go again for at least 2 months’ day. Ugh. It involves 2 ferries each way, and lots of people and cars and stuff. I don’t mind the ferries - as long as we don’t miss one, and have to wait for the next one! - but it’s just such a long day away from home. And it always seems like a big chunk of money just flies out the window, so we have to remind ourselves that this is going to last a long time, and it’s way cheaper than buying most things on our little island - especially meat.
So! We made it home, we got lots of stuff, and I didn’t kill anybody! I think it was a satisfactory trip.
And I got an early birthday present! The Man took me to Art Knapps (big plant store) and said, “ You’ve got $50 and 10 minutes. Go!” (We were running late, and didn’t want to miss the ferry). So I went! He was totally disappointed in what I picked out. lol Poor guy. I went straight to the Perennial discount area and got myself some:
Red Yarrow (love that bright crimson!)
Delphiniums (I adore delphiniums)
The Man was like, “Yarrow? Really?”
I love yarrow. I love the smell of it - so earthy. I think it’s a memory thing; but it makes me feel good. So, when I found out that yarrow is a great garden companion and compost activator, well, I was pretty pleased about THAT. We have a bit of white yarrow around, so I’ll get a little of that in the garden as well.
The other stuff is for the bugs and bees, and some color variety, too. I’ve been wanting to get some perennials in there, so now I can. Happy.
And that was yesterday. Today I got to separate two months worth of meat into ‘serving for two’ portions (double ugh), and put away all the groceries. Good times. But! I watched Geoff Lawton’s Soils video (awesomeness) while I was doing the meat. And! It rained. So all is, in fact, well. And it smells delicious outside.
And tomorrow I get to plant my new perennials. I think I’ll put them into the ‘Mediterranean’ part of the garden - that way they can fill in the space while the other stuff gets going (Greek oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, etc.), and then I can split them up, and spread them along the fence as they grow and multiply.
Little garden experiments:
• I’m growing the tomatoes in circles - 5 plants around a tomato cage, with bamboo stakes stuck in - to see if it will stay more moist in the center of the circle when the plants are big enough to shade it. Should work. I’ll water deeply inside the cage, and also throw compost/mulchy stuff in there to water the good stuff down into the soil. I’ve seen pics of similar ideas - but they generally involved building something, or putting a bucket or a pipe with holes in it down there. I’m going for the easy version, ‘cause that’s the kind of girl I am. I didn’t buy the cages, they were already here, so this is a no-cost trial. My favorite kind!
• I’ve read, in a couple of places on this site, about using rocks as sort of mini ‘air wells’. I like that idea, and I have lots of rocks. So I’m going to see what happens with those. Can’t hurt to try as many things as possible. I’ll be mulching some parts with rocks too, to see how effective they are at helping to hold water in the sand/mulch/compost I’ve got going on in my beds.
• Once my new transplants are going good, I’ll be experimenting with different watering times, and time spacing between waterings. I generally water in the evening, when the sun goes behind the trees, and the garden is shaded. I personally think that’s the best time as the water will have all night to soak in, and less will be lost to evaporation. So far nothing looks wilted in the heat of the day, but I’ll keep an eye on that. The heat hasn’t really ‘hit it’s stride’ yet, and I presume that the plants will show more signs of stress as we hit the real hot days of summer. I don’t mind stressing them a bit, but I don’t want to hurt their little plant feelings, so I’ll be looking for a fine balance.
• And generally I’m just growing a bunch of stuff and watching to see what happens. This is a brand new garden, a little experimental with the' buried wood beds in sand’ construction, and I’ve never gardened in this climate, so I am unfamiliar with many of the weeds and insects that could be a challenge. Lots of observation time in the garden is in order (I know, how sad, right?! Having to spend hours in the garden, just looking at stuff . . . ). I have some good friends on the island who are major growers, so they are a fountain of information and helpful tips. But nothing beats good ‘ol experience to really drive the lessons home.
And that’s how my garden grows. Looking forward to lushness soon, and eating more goodies straight out of the garden. And I’m sooooo eager to start planting out trees and perennials; but I'm tempering my eagerness with graphic mental visions of the deer eating everything down to nubs. Protective structures first - trees and perennials second. But there will be gobs of trees and perennials getting their starts inside the garden compound this year, ready for transplanting out into the rest of the farm when the time is right.
And whatever else I can get cuttings/seeds/sprouts for
It’s also time to put wood chips down on the first path in the garden. Yay! I hate getting sand between my toes. And the rocks and sand are just toooo hot to step on barefoot. The second path has to wait for the next beds to finish being dug. But I’m looking forward to barefoot gardening soon. So, I think I’ll water down the sand, and the few weeds/grasses that are there (The Man trimmed them down to the ground for me), and then I'll spread wet cardboard, and then wood chips. I’m hoping that everything will stay in place well, as it’s at a very slight slope. I don’t really want cardboard showing along the edges and drying out, so it’ll take some experimenting to get it right, I imagine. And rocks along the edges probably. Or maybe I’ll just skip the cardboard, and put the chips straight down on the sand. I’m not too worried about weeds - I’ll just whack them off and put them on the beds - but I don’t want my wood chips to just mix in with the sand, to avoid the 'sand between my toes’ thing. Maybe the cardboard is a good idea after all. Time will tell!
The next project will be setting up the worm farm. I’ve got the tub, just need the worms. I’m setting up a shade tent in the garden area tomorrow, so I’ll put the tub under that. Don’t want to cook the little buggers. Also, I need a shady area for doing transplants and such. Just can’t sit out in the sun too long - I’m generally ready to burst into flame at any moment as it is.
And The Man also got me a nice red buckety thing to use in the garden for a temporary bird bath/dragonfly/frog attractor, until I get my pond done. I’ll put a couple of big rocks in for landing pads, and it should work to lure some helpful bugs and birds in there. Also hoping for some newts and snakes in the rock pile. I’ve only seen one newt on the property so far, but I know they’re around. We have NEWT CROSSING signs on the island. I love that.
So far the slugs haven’t found the garden. But I’m not counting on them staying oblivious forever, so getting the predators in there now seems like a good idea. Plus, newts are cool. Must always include the coolness factor.
Okay, enough rambling. Time to eat.
Thanks for taking the time to read my posts. Please feel free to drop me a line to say ‘Hi’, and to share anything that comes to mind . . . well, within reason.
Oh, I'm sure the little bastards are making their way toward my garden as we speak. And since we actually had rain today, they're probably going to be partying it up pretty hard core. I'll be heading out to the garden in the morning armed with a bucket of salt!
Tracy I just want to say thank you for your long, juicy updates. I love your way with words. I look forward to watching the progression of your slice of paradise. (You don't have it all....I have mine own teeny tiny slice down here in California.)
My goal? To create a wildlife habitat on our surburban (almost rural) property using mostly California native plants and inspire others to do the same.
Also to learn how to grow some edibles - more than the herbs I have grown before.
Thank you so much. Glad to see I'm entertaining someone besides myself. This is the perfect place to combine two of my loves - words and growing things. I'm glad you have a little slice of the Paradise Pie, too. I hope someday everyone that wants a slice can get it. It just feels . . . good.
Thanks for stopping by with your encouraging words.