Category Archives: Vegetable Gardening

Updates Galore

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Winter Vegetable Garden

Ummm, so I think the last time we really picked any veggies from our winter garden was on New Year’s Eve when the husband cooked an amazing meal for us. There was duck and poached pears involved, among other deliciousness. But we really didn’t shower it with the love and attention it deserved. I think we might have cracked the window covers on the green house boxes once on a sunny day, and cleaned the snow off them once. Also, the husband reported back around January that some moles or voles have been digging under the green house boxes to get at our Endive and our Merveilles de Quatre Saisons (fancy heritage French lettuce). Apparently the little fuzz balls have expensive taste. You can see what the winter vegetable garden looked like in November here. Anyways, pretty much the only one that’s barely hanging on is the frilly kale, everything else has disappeared, leaving behind them nice clean patches of soil. We also experimented with whether we could store carrots in the ground over the winter…we could not, they turned to mush. Perhaps if we had a constant snow cover and did not have so many feeze/thaw cycles it would have worked. But the parsnips seemed to have stored better in the ground, the husband harvested quite a few on Monday.

CHICKENS!!

Hopefully by the end of April we’ll be driving to the mainland to pick up our chicks. I had requested 12 black Australorps and 12 speckled Sussex, but it looks like the speckled Sussex won’t work out and we’ll be picking 12 of whatever else the breeder has hatched at the time. We’re aiming for standard bred, dual purpose heritage chickens that’ll be a pleasure to raise on our homestead, and a pleasure to eat. We’ll have to wait around 5 months to taste our first home-raised chicken and 6 months for eggs. We have spent months researching and preparing, and we’re excited!

Maple Syrup

Boiling down Maple Syrup

We boiled down the last bit of sap we collected a week ago and pulled out the taps. I thought to myself, it’s a good thing it’s still cold outside and we need the heat in the house anyways, but for two days it was over 26C in the livingroom and it was hot!

Spring

First Crocus

First Crocus

I never understood why new years start in the winter. For a farmer wannabe, the new year starts when you see your first crocus. But I suppose that doesn’t really work for southern farmers who don’t get to experience all 4 seasons. And for those who know me, yes, I do have some reservations about the upcoming season of black flies, mosquitoes, horseflies, june bugs, earwigs and wasps. Here’s to hoping no wasps inside the house this year, and no black flying beetles that buzz and float into the washroom as I’m sitting on the throne.

Garlic sprout

Some of the garlic we planted in the fall have sprouted! Did I mention that we’re supposed to get 10-15cm of snow tonight and tomorrow and that I’m a bit worried for them?!

Thankful

Well I think that’s about it. It has been a quiet winter, yet dotted with some life changing events, the sudden death of a young friend, and some health issues in the family. But in the midst of it all, we could still see how good Jesus is, and we’re so thankful, and we’re filled with hope.

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Farming in Taiwan

After our two-week whirlwind trip back to my homeland Taiwan, 40 hours of total travelling time back to Canada, and one week of recuperating from jet lag, I’m finally feeling slightly more normal. We had a wonderful time visiting family and sightseeing, and even learned a little bit about farming in Taiwan.

During our trip down the east coast of the island, we ate at this little traditional family restaurant by the road. We learned that all the vegetables we had for supper were grown right behind the restaurant, so after we stuffed ourselves, we went out back and toured the owner’s vegetable garden. The setting was beautiful, nestled among the vast fields of rice paddies with layers of mountains and clouds in the backdrop. He was so gracious and humble about his garden as he showed us around and answered our many questions. He talked about how he tries his best to not use any chemical pesticides and fertilizers, how he ran out of room on the ground for his squash so he had to move them onto the trellis, and his large variety of crops.

What struck me most was that although there may be all sorts of cultural differences between us and this man, when you start talking about growing vegetables in your backyard, those differences disappear.

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This is a field of bananas and pineapples further down the east coast.

Taiwan Bananas and Pineapples

A young pineapple.

Young Pineapple

These are Bananas wrapped up in bags. Someone told me that to reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides, bananas, among other fruits in Taiwan are wrapped up by hand, which is partly why organic produce cost more than the conventional ones.

Taiwan Bananas

A tea farm. There are tea leaf picking machines, but if you want to enter national and international competitions, you must pick and select the individual leaves by hand.

Taiwan Tea Farm

This is the best picture we have of rice paddies, taken from a moving train. We were told that the rice grown on the east coast of the island is better than the west coast since the east has very little industry and factories, and the water the rice is grown in comes straight from the Central Mountain Range .

Taiwan Rice Paddies

After enjoying the warm temperatures of Taiwan for two weeks (27C), we came back to 0C and blustery winds. We also found out that while we were away, a flock of Canada geese has moved in onto our field! I hear geese manure is good for pasture, and they have been so entertaining to watch.

The Chicken Chick

Two nights of -8C/17F & Still the Vegetables Keep Coming

Last night I decided to make filets de sole en papillote for supper, which is just French fancy talk for fish and veggies and herbs baked in a pouch of tin foil. I put on the husband’s Dunlop rubber boots and clomped out to the garden to see what I could find. It has been quite cold for the past week and a half, with frosty nights and mornings, and for a couple of days it went down to -4C to -6C in the daytime and -8C during the night, with 2-3cm of snow covering the ground. The greens we had planted especially for the winter were doing well in their cold frame, but the Parsley and green onions continue to surprise us with their resiliency. We had enjoyed them for months now, and thought they’d be done in by the first few frosty nights so we didn’t bother protecting them from the cold. Well, there they were, not as tall and bushy as three weeks ago, but the Parsley was still growing new baby leaves even after the freezing temperatures and snow!

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We’ve left the carrots in the ground to store over winter rather than harvesting and storing them someplace else. We’ll see how they do in the months ahead. I love that little rush and thrill you get in the split second between pulling on the carrot, wondering how this particular carrot will look, and feeling it come loose from the soil as you catch your first glimpse of it! Simple joys and excitements are much more poignant I find, and leaves a deeper and more lasting impression.

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These are mutant but cute looking carrots due to the clay soil being too clumpy. Won’t win any prizes but just as delicious.

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Lesson in Patience: Garlic Planting

When I was a little girl I used to despise garlic with a passion. I would sit at the dinner table and patiently pick out every single little piece of garlic, and if I missed one and bit into it, my blood would boil. It just tasted so digusting to me! Well now that I’m much older, I’ve started relishing foods that I hated as a child, including rice, fish, green onions and even ginger! We use garlic a lot in our cooking now and it’s such a versatile ingredient in that depending on how you cook the garlic and when you add it to the pot, it can give you a whole range of different flavours.

Well we decided that we wanted to grow our own garlic instead of having to buy them from the grocery stores, which are all imported from far away places. From what we have read on different websites, garlic is supposed to be quite easy to plant and grow, so why grocery stores need to import them from half way across the globe is beyond me. Anyways we ordered two varieties of garlic from Annapolis Seeds, the Spanish Roja and the Susan Delafield, and we’re going to have to wait 8-9 months just to get a taste of them…if they turn out!

This is the Spanish Roja. It’s a medium sized garlic with red streaks. It’s supposed to be strong and pungent, productive and reliable, with 6-8 cloves per bulb.

We carefully separated the cloves, making sure the basal plate wasn’t still attached to the cloves.

And this is the Susan Delafield. It’s a large sized garlic with fewer but big cloves. It’s also supposed to be more tolerant to wet soil, which is a good thing for us with our rainy Autumn and Spring and our clay soil.

 

Hopefully this patch of ground will provide us with lots of delicious garlic next summer! Anything worth having is worth waiting for, and we thank God for life and growth and yummy food!

Isn’t it Lovely to Pick Fresh Green Veggies on a Wet & Windy Cold November’s Day? (And a Roundup of This Summer’s Bounty)

Thanks to reading Niki Jabbour’s book which introduced us to the wondrous possibilities of vegetable gardening well into the winter months, we decided to give it a try this year and planted our first autumn/winter garden back in late August. We went with the cold-hardy varieties recommended by the book of course, and bought most of our seeds from Annpolis Valley Heritage Seeds. We didn’t plant too many varieties as this was our first year of experimentation, but mostly because I got lazy and didn’t get on the researching and ordering  early enough, and time was running out to get the seeds in the ground so they’ll be mostly grown before the frost hits. Oh and we didn’t have time to work up a new patch of ground for this project so we had to use the spare space that was left over from the spring and summer. Anyhow, the seeds were sown and now it’s November and we’re still eating fresh greens from our own garden and it feels really good!

We planted the frilly variety of Red Russian Kale which sprouted within a few days of planting and grew quite quickly, we were enjoying them maybe two to three weeks after planting. We also have Mizuna which amazed us by sprouting less than two days after the seeds were sown! They’ve grown like mad and are the best at keeping the weeds at bay. The Arugula hardly grew at all and I think this one might have needed to be planted earlier. We also bought a heritage French lettuce called Mervilles de Quatre Saisons from Hope Seeds which, judging by google images might still be in its baby stage and I’m not sure how much more they’re going to grow, but they’re reddish and pretty and tasty. Lastly we bought Endive and Spinach from the local Co-Op and the Endive has done alright except where the deer has been trampling, but the poor Spinach has just now only the tiniest sprouts visible. It probably needed to be planted much earlier too like the Arugula. Lastly we planted some more carrots and while I don’t think we’ll get large sized results, we should have some nice medium sized ones along with many baby carrots which cost a lot of money in fancy restaurants. This post has been more wordy than I’d planned it to be, but here are some pictures!

This picture was taken in late October. The Frilly Kale is at the top of the picture, the bare and weedy patch of ground in the middle has Arugula seeds hiding beneath the soil, and the Mizuna is at the bottom of the picture.

Here’s a growth comparison between mid October and now…they really haven’t grown all that much more and I don’t think they will anymore now that it’s really getting cold. On the other hand, the weeds are growing pretty good! The Endive is on the left and the Merveilles de Quatre Saisons is on the right in each picture.

  

And here are the carrots. We have more in another garden which were planted in the Spring.

The green onions/Scallions and Parsely are doing surprisingly well. We planted them back in Spring and they’re still looking pretty good.

 

Left overs from the Summer harvest

 

Speaking of the Summer harvest, it felt so good not having to buy vegetables at the grocery store for the past three months! I so disliked wheeling the shopping cart around aimlessly, wondering where the vegetables came from and what they were sprayed with, and how unkind the farming practices were to this marvelous creation as well as to our bodies. Though we did buy lots of mushrooms at the store, we hope to try growing our own sooner than later. We were able to go out into the garden and pick fresh the vegetables we wanted to eat in a few hours and it gave me such a sense of accomplishment and wellbeing. We enjoyed Zucchini Squash, Spinach, Romaine Lettuce, Snow Peas, Yellow Beans, Green and Red Swiss Chard, Carrots, two types of Tomatoes. On top of our own crops to enjoy, the father-in-law planted several varieties of potatoes which are are too numerous to list here, two kinds of turnips, beets, and five kinds of squash. Oh yah, there were also copious amounts of strawberries! We had to eat a bucket of them everyday for about five weeks, not counting the many bags that were frozen as well as made into jams.

  

I tried making just four jars of strawberry jam with Turbinado sugar instead of white sugar. I wasn’t sure if they would turn out as jams are so finicky in terms of the fruit to sugar ratio, but they seemed ok. The husband enjoyed them. His exact words were “Mmm! It tastes like fruit roll-ups!” I was hoping for something a little more gourmet tasting, but as long as he likes them!

Well I hope I didn’t bore anyone to death reading this long post about our garden! This was really more of an exercise for me to slow down and reflect back on the past few months, what needs to be tweaked, and also just how much there was to be thankful for!