Thursday, August 30, 2012


In May we hosted the first wwoofers to ever stay and work at Christina's Garden.  A milestone!....and the best first-time wwoofers ever.
WWOOF:  World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or sometimes people call it "Willing Workers On Organic Farms"....and there are a few other versions too.....

Pascale from Montreal, (another of this summer's best wwoofers ever) signed the garden visitor book "Willing Weeder" (on organic farms) tee hee, cute!!  We couldn't believe we hadn't thought of that one before....have I ever mentioned what an important job weeding is in my garden?....and isn't that sweet how she left that little found dried bit of flower with her message?  So touching.

Anyway, the wwoof website is a place where travelers who are interested in learning about rural and organic lifestyles can link up with people who live that lifestyle and need help on the homestead.  Both host and volunteer traveller have a listing on the website.  The host provides food and a place to stay in exchange for a few hours of help each day from the "wwoofer" with all the daily work. I think it's a remarkable organization.

Our first wwoofers ever, Jess and John are from the north-east of England (Sunderland and Durham) and were here for 2 1/2 weeks.  
They were a huge help.  I think I really like this wwoofer thing!  I was thankful to know that they were happy and comfortable here.

Jess took on the responsibility of chief weeder and she got very good at it!  It really is such an important and never-ending job here in this garden (and in every garden that grows without synthetic chemical herbicides) so there was always lots for her to do!

John told me that he enjoyed doing things that involved destruction of some sort. Unfortunately, I had trouble thinking up many jobs of that nature but luckily he also enjoyed the machinery!  Here he's helping develop some new beds and keeping them weed-free so the click beetle doesn't decide to lay eggs in the weeds and on the soil....the dreaded wireworm would result in the soil for  a few years after and we don't want that!!

They were here during the caterpillar plague of 2012 so were a huge help with caterpillar control.  Here they are under the cherry  tree.  John is wielding the long Fiskar loppers as Jess helps manage the operation.  Sometimes it's hard to see which branch the tent is attached to and another set of eyes is a necessary thing. This was  such a big  help to me because it's an extremely time consuming chore. 

They stayed in the little garden house hand-made of cob and wood.

They slept upstairs in the very cozy sleeping loft.  It has lots of gardening and food related books on the book shelves.  John read "The Omnivores Dilemma" while they were here and Jess did a lot of writing. There's also a little desk and a lovely view of the forest below on one side and the garden below on the deck and private entrance side.

They made their meals in the downstairs kitchen.  It has a little oven, 2 stovetop burners, a little fridge, a table and chairs and lots of other stuff.  
There's an outdoor shower next to the garden house  and an outhouse with a compost toilet down a short path.  The living experience for helpers here in the garden is a little bit like glamping and pretty much just like how Chris and I live. (I think I might need to go woofing and glamping around the world : )

Bye-bye wwoofers!!   Happy travels!  (We were their first stop and they had 5 more months of exploring the west coast of our beautiful country.)  May the west coast of Canada and our people be good to you!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The stargazer lilies have been blooming again this August and they are, as usual, stunning!!

 Stargazer lilies are the look-after-themselves perennial treat of the late summer garden just like peonies are the look-after-themselves perennial treat of the early summer garden.  After I plant them, I don't have to do anything....they just come up on their own year after year, looking awesome.  Such a smart investment for a cutting garden.

This arrangement was made to fill an order for a special wedding anniversary.  In with those gorgeous lilies, I mixed limelight hydrangea, grapevine and grapes, golden hops vine, fennel flowers and grasses, all found in the garden at this time of year.  Yet another example of "whatever grows together, goes together"!

Some stargazer bouquets that I made last weekend for a bride and her maid of honour.  They wanted something not too big and crazy yet still special and also natural and a bit wild looking too.   These have almost the same plant and flower material as the large anniversary arrangement, just a lot smaller.  I think they're beautiful and they seem to have what I think is an ideal feel for a Mayne Island wedding.

Here the lilies are mixing beautifully with pink and green flowered gladiolas, amaranth (green tassels and love lies bleeding) and polygonum (kiss me over the garden gate).  This was a special order for a honeymooning couple 2 or 3 summers ago.

When I use these lilies for arrangements, I remove the anthers from the filament of the stamens because they are full of a powdery pollen that stains like crazy when it gets on your skin or on fabric.  

On days when I'm working with these beauties and I'm too lazy to bother to get my gloves when removing those anthers, well, I end up looking like a chain smoker who rolls her own.  

oh great, now it's on my jeans....if you ever get this nasty stuff on your clothes never wet it!!  The best way to deal is to try to pick it up off the fabric with sticky tape, or try to blow it off and I've also heard that placing the stain in the sun does wonders too.  Water, it seems, sets it into the fabric and it may never come out after that.

Apparently, removing the anthers makes the flower last longer too.....

Anyway, I wish I didn't have to remove them for arrangements and bouquets because I think they are a most amazing part of the whole design of this gorgeous specimen (they look naked without them!)....but, at least we can enjoy them intact on a stroll through the garden.  Just don't get too close and brush up alongside them!

hmmmm...have I mentioned the fragrance?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

yummy fava beans

 We've enjoyed an impressive harvest from a very small and unkempt patch of fava beans again this year.  i just love these beans!  They're so delicious mixed salad-style with cherry tomatoes cut in half.

...and with new potatoes, onions, zucchini...anything you have growing in your garden at the time, really....because whatever grows together goes together!

I like mixing in a bit of feta cheese too but even if you're not vegan, sometimes they're more delicious when you leave out the cheese.   
Favas are so good mixed with a grain and all that veg and herb too.
 Tonight I'm going to make this simple and yummy sounding recipe and I'm gonna use shoot salad mix instead of the mesclun greens. yum yum. can't wait.

Look at this beautiful fava bean stand I saw while cruising the home tour on Mayne Island on this year's July long weekend! Isn't it positively inspiring!?  I will really have to get serious about taking better care of my favas!

Look at my little patch.  tee hee!  all the plants are spindly and lying down on the ground mixed in with nasturtiums and weeds.....what a lesson for me! example of how sometimes it's better to do something not very well than to not do it at all.

...because look at those beans!!  
They're often thought of as a spring crop but maybe because our summer was cool to start and they were planted where they get some afternoon shade, they've been producing all summer.

Here's Mayne Islander Brian Crumblehulme showing us a fava bean plant he planted with seed that was given to him by a woman who'd gone to Egypt recently. (his awesome handbuilt-by-himself home and garden was on that tour in July too.) The seed had been found in an Egyptian tomb.  Apparently dried fava beans are often found in Egyptian tombs...and they still germinate!  wow.  In England, the fava is more commonly called a broad bean but I learned it's also known as the Egyptian bean there too.  These days in Egypt, the dried bean is often eaten at breakfast time.  Interesting!  Thanks Brian, for telling us the story of your bean plant.  He's planning to save seeds!  He says they're an interesting black and red colour.  I really enjoy reading Brian's gardening writings in our Island Tides you might too.
...and you might also want to plan to grow some fava beans next year too!  For simple inspiration, here's a nice idea using pea shoots (yay peashoots!!)  Those photos make me feel like I can almost taste the good-for-ya deliciousness, just by looking. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I have not noticed before how the centers of some hollyhocks have a perfect star embedded inside them!

It has been a very busy summer here in the garden.  Stop and smell the flowers.....or at least look at them!!...really look at them!

Hollyhocks are an edible flower and there are so many different types and colours.  Don't these look nice with the grapevines on this wedding cake?!  From a wedding I worked on last summer.


There have been loads of blueberries on the bushes this summer!  This is the first time that they've produced in a meaningful way since I planted them a few years ago (ie: lots to eat now and more to freeze)....and they're so delicious.

The caterpillar plague of spring/summer 2012 brought many of the creepy crawlies to the blueberry bushes and they ate up so many of the leaves and left some of them half-chomped so the bushes looked terrible earlier in the season but just like the alder trees, they grew some new leaves and for some miraculous reason the flowers were pollinated and the fruit didn't drop.  The bushes still look a bit ragged tho'....but next year!....I declare they will be productive AND beautiful!

Blueberries like acidic soil so they grow well here with all the fir and cedar trees surrounding them.  I grow mine in two spots in the garden that have some standing water in the winter and these spots stay quite moist in the summer too. The bushes don't like to get too dry and I don't want to have to water them.  A mix of bark mulch and straw helps to keep the soil moist.  I planted three different varieties to help with pollination and also  to prolong the harvest. I have 12 bushes growing in 2 circles about 8-9 feet across....5 around the outside of the circle and 1 in the middle.  I don't grow these for market, just for us.  In the fall, the leaves turn a beautiful red of the few leafy things that I can get to turn red around here in the fall!

I like to use sprigs of the green and ripening blueberries in flower arrangements too, especially for wedding reception table centerpieces...they look lovely with flowers and garden greenery.

One of the best simple pleasures of my early summer mornings is to pick some berries first thing for my breakfast cereal.
....or just eat 'em up while I pick, mixed with other berries that I can forage from the sweet in so many ways! 

Me and my shadow self enjoying a handful of just-picked berries in the warm morning sunshine : )  joy!