Monday, July 16, 2018

The Nuggets are Growing Up!

The six little chicks that hatched a few weeks ago in the incubator have been growing well under "Mother Whisp" and her care.  The eggs were a mix of eggs from our grey and black silkie hens, Dazzle and Licorice, potentially fertilized by one of our three roosters (cream legbar, cream legbar-production red mix, or Icelandic-Isbar mix).  Six hatched on June 6 and 7th, and all have done well.

They spent their couple of weeks indoors with their adoptive "mom" because it was still pretty cold out and we were having frosts, and they needed to keep warm.

Eventually they went out to the coop with the "big birds" and they stayed in their own separated section in the coop for a while.  Here they were on June 18 shortly after being moved.

Now they're integrated into the whole flock but they are in the "awkward adolescent" phase where they just look a bit gawky and scraggly.  I am pretty sure that at least 1 is a rooster, but the other 5 remain suspiciously limited in the comb department, suggesting 5 hens, which would be a real stroke of luck.  We'll see.  Here they are a few days ago.  One of the darker ones is hiding behind Whisp on the right side, just behind her tail.

This little white one has an interesting patch of black feathers on her lower back.

You can see it in this picture as well.

None of them are Whisp's babies (she was already sitting on fake eggs when I started collecting, which means she wasn't laying because she was already broody).  Still, there's a solid white one.

One is almost completely black - probably Licorice's chick.  Licorice is a solid black silkie. The other dark ones are all mottled.

This one has a little bit of attitude!

Soon, they'll be on their way to laying eggs, if they're hens! They haven't got names yet - they seem to need to grow into those.  This one doesn't have much leg feathering, but the rest all do, and one has silkie toes as well.  It will be interesting to see how much silkie character they retain.  One thing I notice is that all of them seem to have a slight head crest of feathers, which must be a result of the silkie genetics.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Garden Update: Raised Beds and Containers

I seem to be doing a lot of garden update blogs recently, but that is the topic of most interest around here lately, so that's what you get!  It's also a nice record keeping method for me so I can remember next year what I planted where.

My raised beds are, so far, a great success.  I'm really pleased that I had them installed this spring.  All six beds are full of edibles, and edibles-in-progress.

Bed Number 1
This bed has two rows of beets (Crapaudine and Fuer Kugel) that are coming along nicely.  Then there are two rows of parsnips (Half-long Guernsey and Javelin)) that are slow, as parsnips usually are, but still coming.  The pak choi (Pechay) grew very well and then all ripened at once and I didn't get to it all before it bolted.  I'm thinking of planting another row of it since it's quite quick, but some of it is still in the back of this bed.

Bed Number 2
This bed was off to a tough start on the rows of herbs in the front.  Nothing germinated first time around, probably because our spring was so cold and wet.  I re-seeded and I have 3 successful sage plants coming along (and a purple sage that I purchased as a transplant).  I have 6 flat Italian parsley starts from a friend which are doing well.  I have two rows of basil on the far left that are still coming along slowly.  I had to re-seed that twice.  I'm growing mammoth and regular basil.  If I'm lucky I will have enough for a couple of batches of pesto before fall.  The peas, variety "Golden Sweet" are doing very well at climbing the lattice.  They are not flowering yet but hopefully soon will be.

You can't see it in the picture above, but at the opposite end of the lattice, there are a couple of tomato plants coming along.  These are "Scotia" variety which is supposed to be an early tomato, which around here means it will be before the end of August, in theory.

Bed Number 3
The third bed is a funny mix.  On the closest end in the picture are two kiwi vines (Actinidia kolomikta) which is commonly called the variegated-leaf hardy kiwi.  This is a kiwi that develops a fruit that is approximately the size of grape.  Originally from eastern Asia, it is hardy to zone 4.  The variegated foliage isn't evident at the moment but it was earlier in the season.  My local carpenter is going to build an arbour for me for the kiwi vines but they are in the raised bed for now.  I'm hoping to get a couple of Actinidia arguta type vines to go with these. Then there are a couple of squash plants, some tomatoes, and a row of tomatoes in the back.  You can also see the "fruit salad" tree on the left side of the picture.

On the other end of Bed 3, there are cucamelon (Melothria scabra) vines just starting to go up the trellis.  Sometimes they are called Mexican Sour Gherkin.  I hope they will produce before the frost!

Bed Number 4
This bed has more potatoes - both Superior and Russian Purple varieties.  Also there are a couple of squash vines and tomato plants.  My zucchini didn't germinate.  Again....poor spring conditions. 

I also planted Poona Kheera cucumbers which didn't germinate.  But, I do have a butternut squash that has recently had its first female flower and I hope that it has been pollinated successfully.  Ignore the cucumber sign.  That's definitely a squash vine.

Bed number 5 is a hot mess.  The Superior variety potatoes are threatening to take over the world.  There is a pumpkin vine that is threatening to take over everything and has even come out the side of the bed and is wandering over towards Bed number 4.  The early cantaloupe vines have sat and done absolutely nothing.  The kale starts that I received from my friend in exchange for eggs have gone berserk and I made a kale and beet greens galette with some of it today. 

Bed 5 is basically a jungle.  Oh, I forgot, there are tomatoes in there too.  I planted a row of violet cabbage but it was quickly shaded out by the kale. 

Bed Number 6
This is the carrot bed.  There are 5 varieties:  Pusa Rudhira Red, Gniff, Black Nebula, Cosmic Purple, and Rainbow Mix.  It looks good.

So far, we've eaten kale and pak choi, but we will definitely be eating more from the raised beds as the season progresses.

We also received a second-hand garden arch from my parents which has been placed at the "entrance" to the raised bed area, and it has two grape vines planted next to it - one Marechal Foch and one "Beta" grape vine.  These are both intended for eating - we are not getting into wine production!

I'm also pleased with how my containers have worked out.  My mom helped me plant most of these in their visit earlier this year, and I'm glad we worked on them together because each time I look at them, I think of her and her help.

There are two box-style containers by the front door that are doing really well.  I got the boxes at an auction last year and I'm glad I bought them.  They work well.  You'll see some diatomaceous earth in the background - that's to stop the ants coming in the house.

We made some hanging baskets that look lovely now in purple and white.

The deck containers are coming along well also.

This one has a "bonus" basil plant in it that I enjoy using in the kitchen!

The herb containers include sage, apple mint, rosemary, thyme, variegated thyme, and some seedling basil.  You'll also see one of those tiny container tomatoes if you look closely!

I bought two purple and pink mixed petunia hanging baskets to support the local high school.  They are looking good, although this one got a drink soon after the photo was taken.

The "night sky" petunias looked great for the first flush of flowers.  Since then, some have been reverting to a more striped appearance with the "night sky" effect on only one or two petals.

The flowers are still pretty though.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Garden Update: Things are Blooming

The garden has made great strides now that the warmth of summer has finally arrived.  With frosts into mid-June this year, it was a slow start, but I am so pleased to see things progressing.

The roses began to bloom this week.  I have four roses, although I'm not entirely sure what they are, since I didn't plant them.  They were here when we bought the house.  There are two climbing roses - a red one and a pink one.  There are two shrub roses - a red one and a yellow one. There were five rose tags in the detached garage when we bought the house.  One for a white rose (which I can only assume didn't survive), two for yellow roses, and two for pink.  One of the tags is for Therese Bugnet shrub rose, which has also presumably not survived, since there is no pink shrub rose and Therese Bugnet is a lovely medium pink - nothing approaching that shade here.

The other pink tag is for a John Cabot rose, which is a climber.  Given its description  and other pictures of it that I've found online, I believe it is this pink climber in today's photo below.

That leaves me with two yellow rose tags and one yellow shrub rose.  However, both the tags (Charlotte Brownell and Dr. Brownell roses) are for double blooming yellow roses, and the blooms I see online are much larger than mine, so I don't think either of them belong.  In any case, here's the yellow one blooming now.

The red climbing rose has its blooms in large clusters, and it is an abundant bloomer.  I wish I knew what variety it is.  Here you can see it with the mallow in the front and the pink climber in the background.

The red shrub rose was hit hard this past winter and I thought it was dead.  It's just coming back but it hasn't come close to blooming yet.

The foxgloves (which were also here before me) are just glorious.

There are numerous colours including this pretty apricot shade:

There are pale pink flowers that are almost white, with pale pink patterning inside.

There are the classic magenta blooms with white-edged pink patterning inside.

Then, there are some that are magenta with pink patterning but the edging of the spots is a peachy-yellow tone.

There are white ones with darker pink spots inside.

 I am just captivated by them all!

The day lilies also began blooming this weekend.  It is wonderful to see all the colour in the garden once again.  This is the classic Stella d'oro day lily.

This one is a sort of lemon yellow but I don't know its name.

Some flowers are, remarkably, already over.  The red poppies came and went so quickly.

The weigela is also over, but the bees loved it while it lasted.  There were tags for two different weigela in the garage with the rose tags.  One was for "red prince" but I haven't seen that one so I think it's gone.  The other tag is for Weigela "minuet" which is, I think, the one I have.  It is noted for its dwarf size, and both of mine are certainly quite small.  The flowers are the right colour as well.

I hope to have time to do an update on the veggie garden soon.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Garden Update: Oooh, sale at the garden centre!

It's the "end of season" sale at McArthur Nursery in Moncton.  It seems a bit weird to have an "end of season" sale at the end of June, but I guess it's the end of the planting season here because if you don't get your plants in now, they aren't likely to mature in our short season!  I could not resist, of course, going to see what I might need (OK, what I might want) for the garden.  It's good to get a few extra things going now in the garden, since some things take a few years to really mature and fill out, or start producing fruit.

So, I bought 3 new trees.  Two plum trees and a variegated willow (which is a grafted variegated willow shrub on a different willow species of trunk).  I used to have a variegated willow in Iowa, and I really loved it.  I buried my dear old rabbit, Thumper, under that tree when she died at the age of 14.

Yesterday, when I planted the new variegated willow, I buried our pet rat Ivy (who died during the winter but had been "cryopreserved" until now) as well as dear Jellybelly, our sweet little serama hen.  I don't know exactly why she died, but she declined quickly from Thursday through to Friday evening, and I had her on my lap for a long time before I went to bed.  On Saturday morning, she was gone.  So Ivy and Jellybelly were sent on their journey back to Mother Earth and they will nourish the growth of the tree, which is planted just beside the bird feeding area.

Jellybelly was a really lovely hen - a tiny bird with a big attitude - she will be missed.

Dear little Ivy died in the winter when the ground was frozen and we couldn't bury her.  We miss her too.

The plum trees I bought are both European plum species, and although they are self-fertile, having a second European plum species helps with pollination.  One is a Mirabelle plum, which produces a small yellow plum that is sweet and flavourful.  They are used in Europe to create the Eau de Vie fruit brandy.  The tree is a little smaller than the Mont Royal one, but still healthy and strong.  It is a Prunus domestica but has the subspecies syriaca, and is believed to have been cultivated from a wild plum originally grown in Anatolia (now Turkey).  There are no plums on it this year.

The other is a Mont Royal plum, in the foreground of the picture below.  It is an appropriate plum for my garden because it was originally found growing wild on Mont Royal in the city of Montreal, Quebec, which is my birthplace.  It was likely brought over to Canada by an early settler and has spread across North America as a result.  It is hardy to zone 4 and remains fairly small (8 feet).  It produces blue-purple freestone yellow-fleshed plums.

This tree actually has a few young fruits on it this year, so if I'm lucky and the birds don't get to them first, I might actually have a plum!

Speaking of fruiting trees, I showed my apple tree blossoms a few blogs ago.  Now, it looks like I might actually have a few apples this year.  The Liberty, Akane and Honeycrisp branches have fruit that looks like it's starting to develop.  The Chehalis branch didn't have any blossoms this year.

I bought a wide range of other plants (given that everything was 25% off), many of which were planted today.

Tomatoes:  Lemon Boy, Sugary, Jubilee, Scotia
Cantaloupe: Delicious 51 (specifically bred for short season climates)
Yellow Zucchini
Cucamelon (I had planted seeds but they weren't coming on)
Buttercup squash

I also weeded all the raised beds, and harvested our first Pechay Pak Choi!  It was tasty in a veggie saute for supper.

I bought and planted several varieties of mint including "After Eight" chocolate mint (Mentha x piperata) which smells divine, apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) pineapple mint (M. suaveolens variegata),  and strawberry mint (Mentha x piperata).

I also planted a series of different lavenders (all Lavandula angustifolia) including a couple of classics (Hidcote Blue and Munstead) as well as some new ones to me:
  • Mini Blue - a compact selection that only grows to 30 cm (12") tall
  • Potpourri Snow - another compact variety that produces snow-white flowers
  • Vicenza Blue - a larger 40 cm (16") variety
I planted orange Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) which is a Monarch butterfly food source, as well as a yellow variety (Hello Yellow).

I bought some more ornamental grasses - big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and bottlebrush grass (Hystrix patula), both of which are apparently good seed sources for birds in winter.  The bottlebrush grass has been planted next to my large pink peony (which is approaching bloom time) and will eventually fill in the space to keep the clematis' roots cool in summer.

I planted an Artemisia "silver mound" to fill in a space where I removed a boatload of creeping buttercup.  I planted a "Cobalt Dreams" delphinium, which was developed in New Zealand, and is a lovely deep blue colour in flower.  

Finally, I planted a trio of Monarda (bee balm) - one purple, one pink, and one white.  I've never had a white one before - it is the "snow white" cultivar.  The other two are from the "Sugar Buzz" series and are the Bubblegum Blast and Grape Gumball cultivars.  The flowers are just coming out on the Grape Gumball one, and the bees were visiting as I was trying to plant it!

I've planted them in a group so the bees will certainly be visiting them all summer!

I also bought a couple of new clematis and a couple of grape vines but I didn't plant those today, so that will be another blog!  That was more than enough planting for today - I'm tired and have some aches and pains to remind me that I don't usually spend the day bending and stretching!