94. Drought and Deer Resistant Plants

“We’re dyin’ here,” cry my plants. For 4 months, in this rainforest we live in, we have not had rain, and our regional district has decreed that, at level 4 (severe drought), we cannot use any district potable water outside for any reason. It’s been only 2 weeks, but it’s been enough to kill off several annuals, vegetables, and shrubs, and I’m worried about some of the big trees that we have spent a small fortune for.And, we are asked to conserve water inside, too. Bathe or shower less frequently, only flush the toilet after several “deposits”, and do less laundry. If we insist on keeping any plants alive, we must scoop up the used water from the bath and sinks, then schlep it outside to water our trees, shrubs and gardens. grey water for garden

“But, wait,” you might say, if you’ve followed this blog at all, “Don’t you harvest rainwater for your garden?”waterfall pond 1You’d be right. When we were building This Green House, we installed a rain-fed re-circulating waterfall that culminated in a 2000-gallon underground tank. With that water, we flush our toilets and water the garden. The building process shown hereGail Hunt Rooftop GardenI had no concept of how much water a summer’s worth of toilets and garden watering consumes. After a month of no rain and hot temperatures, I had to fill the cistern with potable water. Each month of no rain = fill the tank with the hose.

So, although the water in the cistern is no longer potable, I feel guilty using it to water the garden, because it comes from the outdoor tap. We schlep and we schlep, but we cannot schlep enough when we only bathe every three days.

But, some of our plants seem to be doing just fine. Neither deer nor drought destroy these hardy perennials. Here are the stars of the garden in this difficult summer:

Rudbeckia –
Rudbeckia

Virginia creeper –

Lavender –

Wooley thyme –

Garry Oak –

Fountain grass –

St. John’s Wort –

Rugosa rosas –

Jack-o-lantern Plant (Physalis alkekengi) –

Rosemary –

Heather – 

Stand up and take a bow, you wonderful plants, you!

Sharing with: Rooted in Thyme, In The New House, The Charm of Home, The Chicken Chick, The Dedicated House

93. Is Food Drying “Green”?

food dryingMy sweetie gave me a food dryer last fall. It’s been in the cupboard since then, but now that I’m deep into harvesting and food processing, I thought I’d haul it out to give us more options.

From my few raspberry canes, I’ve already harvested 38 pounds of raspberries.raspberries

I think they’re about 90% harvested now. Also harvesting now: green beans, carrots, everbearing strawberries, beets (oh, my! What amazing beets this year), cucumbers, blackberries, herbs, dye plants, medicinals……

We’ve eaten fresh, made jams and jellies, frozen, given to friends and neighbours, and even traded 10 pounds of our raspberries for 10 pounds of blueberries. It can keep me busy from dawn to dusk, if I let it.jams and jellies

Jellies: Lavender, Lemon-lime rosemary, Blackberry jalapeno Jams: Raspberry, Strawberry, Bumbleberry

Jellies: Lavender, Lemon-lime rosemary, Blackberry jalapeno
Jams: Raspberry, Strawberry, Bumbleberry

Now, I’m trying drying. Last fall, I dried oyster mushrooms strung on a string by the fire, and that worked well.drying oyster mushrooms

Years ago we made a lot of dried apples and fruit leather using a homemade box with screen racks, heated by a light bulb.

My Nesco Food Dehydrator has four racks, a heater and a blower fan. It dries the wettest tomatoes and berries in about 12 hours. It holds a good volume of food – the rack in the photo holds 3 medium tomatoes and 2 bananas, sliced 3/8″ thick. About 1/2 pound of strawberries or raspberries, or 3 large beets, diced, fit onto one rack. According to the instruction booklet, it helps to blanch most veggies before drying. Blanching softens the cell structure, allowing the moisture to escape more easily and also allows vegetables to rehydrate faster.

The dried food is neat – makes a crunchy snack, or we can re-hydrate with hot water. I love the feeling of having food put by for winter or for a hiking/camping trip.

But, I do watch my consumption of electricity (I can monitor it online) and the days that I have the dehydrator on show it’s costing us about 40 cents more. I suppose I should compare it with the cost of natural gas to cook jams and hot-water process them, or the cost to run the freezer for frozen foods.

I have tried putting the fruits out in the sun on a breezy day, but it seems as though they actually absorb water, so I think it’s still quite humid outside. Plus, there are wasps and fruit flies out there that like to feed on fruits.

So, for now, drying with a dehydrator adds to my arsenal of homesteading skills.

Sharing with: Lamberts Lately, The Dedicated House, Cozy Little House, Coastal Charm, An Oregon Cottage, The Charm of Home

91. Buzzing Bushes

I wish I knew how to record my bushes so you could hear them buzzing.

The California Lilacs are buzzing.

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A symphony is playing softly in the lavender and rosemary.

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And in the indigo.

Those Lithodora are more gorgeous because of their gentle song going on while I water the garden.

Even the colourless raspberries have got a bee party going on.

Maybe D’s mason bee condos have something to do with the buzzing bushes. He must have installed eight of them around the yard. Clearly the vacancy rate is low in this neck of the woods, because we get dozens of minute tenant applications every day, delivered on grains of sand.

Our neighbour has hives. It’s lovely to think, when he gives us a jar of his beautiful honey, that we are eating some of our own plants’ nectar.

In other news, I’m excited about our first gooseberries.

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The big bed in the rooftop garden had a renovation a while ago – the surface was overrun with Marchantia liverwort.marchantia

It chokes off the light and holds the water at the surface. I sliced off the top 1.5 inches of soil, and discarded it. Then I mixed a sandy loam with perlite and applied about 3″ of it to the soil to improve the drainage. It seems to have worked – my plants love it and I haven’t seen any of that horrid Marchantia return (so far).

In the greenhouse, the tomatoes are loving their new bedroom, and most of the seedlings have been planted out.

From a gardening friend I learned this neat trick with cinnamon: sprinkle it on the surface to keep mould at bay – it’s antibacterial.

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It’s been so very dry here – I don’t think we’ve had rain for the whole month of May. The water storage cistern has to be topped up with town water for flushing toilets and watering the garden. It’s a constant chore to water – more so this year than any other. Not as bad as California, but unusual for southern British Columbia. I’m afraid I’ve lost my new Umbrella Katsura tree to the drought.

But the bees and their comforting hum help me feel better.

Sharing with: Tuesday Garden Party, Savvy Southern Style, Lambert’s Lately

 

90. My Happy Place – Mothers’ Day

Yesterday was Mothers’ Day. Our family has declared that both Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day are Hallmark holidays. Nevertheless, I decided to only do activities that I love, activities that take me to my peaceful zone.

The sun wakes me every morning. bedroom sunrise

I started with my usual cup of tea, made for me by my sweetie – did I ever tell you how much I love tea? (Oh, and how much I love my sweetie?)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, I went out to the garden to pick an early season tussie-mussie. As I wander in the garden, I see plants that remind me of people I appreciate and cherish. The old ranch rhubarb brings memories of my parents and grandparents.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe medicinal garden brings back the fun experience of designing it with our daughter, who declared she didn’t want a bouquet of roses like her fellow university graduates. Rather, to really commemorate her graduation, she wanted me to buy plants and seeds for the medicinal garden, and then she planted them with me.pondEvery area of the yard reminds me of our 33 WWOOFers over three summers. They have left their mark in the most beautiful ways.patio with hammock

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIrises came to the garden from my friend, Cathy. Peonies were a gift from my father and brother for my birthday two years ago.birthday peonies

And, I could go on and on. Suffice to say that a day spent in the garden, even weeding, or hiking in the forest, gets my serotonin happening big time.

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bird at feederBirds are singing. The sun is shining. D is making dinner while I lay in the hammock, reading.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter dinner, a card game and a movie (Driving Lessons), with both a foot rub and a hand rub! And finally to bed, in sheets that have been laundered and hung on the line – wow! The best smell in the world, and I feel so content, so lucky. bedroom at nightIt IS the small things that give pleasure and meaning in my day. Ahhh!reflected sunset

Sharing with: Cozy Little House (FEATURED!), The Enchanting Rose, Savvy Southern Style, Ivy and Elephants, From My Front Porch to Yours, The HomeAcre Hop, The Charm of Home, The Chicken Chick, Dwellings: the Heart of Your Home, The Dedicated House, Tuesday Garden Party (FEATURED!)