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Pampered Tomatoes

Every year I am really especially excited to grow tomatoes.  They are to me other than garlic, the most delicious vegetable I can grow.  And don't get me started with all the bazillion varieties.  
Last season I found I just didn't have the room in my grow room to grow all the tomatoes I wanted.  They struggled along last season okay, but I wanted better for my prize crop.

This season, those tomato babies don't know what hit them!  I sent them to a tomato spa of sorts!  My friend Darryl has grown the best tomatoes for the past several years I have been here, and each season I have drooled over his stalky, strong, healthy plants as my leggy tomatoes swayed in the distance.  This season, Darryl is growing my tomato starts for me.  I know they are in such good hands, and today went for a quick visit to see how they were doing.

Darryl, seen here is a master vegetable gardener in his backyard with many delicious edibles happily growing in rock beds.


As you can see in his greenhouse, the tomatoes are healthy, happy and plentiful.  Not only is he growing 80 plants for me, but also many for sale here on Gabriola.  I would suggest that if you are looking for tomato starts on Gabriola Island, this is the man to talk to.  



It's time to get growing!

Out here in the west some things are still growing away in the field.  Amazing, right?
Here above is the beautiful January King Cabbage I planted out last fall.  There is also mustard, radish, kale and swiss chard still going strong.  Did I mention the onions and leeks that have manage to over winter as young starts?  

Now is also the time to concentrate on my new veg babies that will go in the field this year.  This past week I was busy building soil blocks for all my new starts.  It is hard to believe that I already have over 600 plants growing away in my new grow room Steve and his friend Adrian built for me.  They are all just so tiny and happy.

Below you will see some happy little cabbage basking in the glow of the grow lights.  How are your vegetable babies doing?  Which ones do you start?  Happy growing!



For the love of Corn! 

What better a way to kick off the return of the blog for 2013 then with a story about corn.

This past year, here on Gabriola I was fortunate enough to join some really skilled farmers in a grain coop.  As we were just breaking ground we grew mainly buckwheat with a small patch of corn.  This corn we grew wasn't sweet corn, but a corn that could be used for flour, known as painted mountain corn.  To read more on the story of this open pollinated corn see here

This beautiful corn was hung up to dry this winter in my living room near the woodstove.  As it is time to start moving and get farming I thought I better prepare the seed by removing the kernels from the husk. Part of our grain coop also involves equipment sharing.  So, with the hand crank corn sheller seen in the pictures below I made quick work of my many cobs, creating a large container full of colourful kernels. 
From here, the kernels can be ground down or used for seed.

How fabulous to make your own cornmeal, no?  I keep on heading towards that homesteading dream. 

As for me, I am getting really excited for this season.  Onions and leeks are started, seeds have arrived, a new grow room has been built and next we will be constructing the new poly tunnel greenhouse. 
Yep, I think I may be getting the hang of this west coast growing season.

I promise to become a better blogger this season too!
See you soon.


Natural Beekeeping

For almost two weeks we have been mesmerized by our two bee hives.  Those lady bees are absoultely amazing!  Let me start at the beginning of our beekeeping adventure.

Steve has built us two beautiful Top Bar Beehives for our colonies.  Our hives look different than the Langstroth box hives you may be used to seeing.  As you can see from the pictures the hive looks more like a trough with bars that run along the top of the hive.  The bees create their own comb off the bars.  These hives have been called a low cost, low impact alternative to the traditional Langstroth Beehives.  We chose them to start our natural beekeeping because: no plastic foundations, we have a viewing window to see what is going on therefore we will be disturbing the bees less, we were able to build our own hives, and we feel it is a more natural option for the bees.

To my sheer delight, this past Friday I opened the viewing window in the morning and was able to see the comb they are building for the first time.  It is the most perfect thing I have ever seen! So perfectly created and white and new.  I am in such awe of nature.  If you look closely at the top centre part of the above photo you can see a bit of white comb peeking through amongst the bees.

A friend of mine here on Gabriola was thinking of getting out of beekeeping after 15 years.  His concern with beekeeping was all the chemicals and babying needed in order to help keep the bees alive.  This year we will be going completely natural with our bees and will not be taking any honey.  It is a all about the bees and setting up our colonies to be strong enough to make it through our wet winter.  The resergence of nautral beekeeping is really encouraging for us.  A great resource for natural beekeeping is Phil Chandler's website found here.


The Power of One

It has been a while since I posted due to work, but I will take advantage of a very wet day out here to sit and write more about the farm adventures.

Almost 1/2 acre is now planted with beans, peas, potaotes, greens, lettuce, herbs, flowers, cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, parsnips, and green onions.  The rest of the space will be filled in shortly, with the back field being planted with squash later this week.

As I am a very social person an ideal job for me would be working with people.  But now it is just me (mostly) hanging out in the field with my quiet, but peppy vegetables for hours on end.  Not that the days drag, as there is so much to do.  But it has been quite a shift for me.  I absolutely love the late afternoons and evenings in the field and feel sometimes during these times that I understand what it means to be at peace.

Other times I am frustrated by how slowly things are getting done, as it is for most of the time just me.  I am getting stronger, but there are some jobs I just can't physically do... some jobs that exhausted my little body can't handle.   But I love it.