Friday, July 19, 2013

Elderberries Promising

Last year the birds ate all my elderberries. But then, that seems to be generally how last year went. After the dogs and raccoons killed the chickens, the deer ate the pears and squash and few other things we grew successfully. But this year, the garden shows so much more promise. Mostly a difference in how much effort we've put in.

Look at these elderberries.

You can see the birds have still gotten some of them, but they seem to be leaving them alone now. I wonder if they like them at a certain stage and then as the elderberries get bigger, they aren't so appealing. Works for me. I was afraid I might have to figure out how to cover the bushes with something protective to have any elderberries. This felt like an overwhelming task, since the bushes are getting pretty tall and bushy.

So what can you do with elderberries?

I planted the bushes for medicinal purposes. Elderberries, along with yarrow and peppermint, make a great glycerite that I use for the cold and flu season. It's nice, because it tastes pleasant and the kids don't mind taking it. The combination helps to build the immune system and works to keep them from getting sick. Whenever we hit that season and the colds and other sickness start going around, I tell the kids to take a couple doses a day, hoping to avoid any sickness.

It seems to help. We are generally pretty healthy.

However, this is not the only thing I do with the elderberries. When I first got married, my mother-in-law had made elderberry jelly. I thought it was one of the yummiest things I'd ever tasted. So two years ago, when we did have elderberries, I made some. My kids agree with it being the yummiest. There was only enough for a few bottles of jelly and they were prized and carefully rationed. When we pulled out the last one it was a sad, delicious moment.

This year, there will be more jelly. My kids will love me for that.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Growing Flax

I finished my first home-spun project, a scarf made of wool from Alfred, my English Angora. I sent it to Peru with my daughter and can't find the picture we took before she left.

However, I have another fun fiber project I'm working on. Growing flax.

It's hard to see the little blue flower buds on top, but there are a couple there.

This is a  special flax that is grown for the fiber in the stem of the plant. I only have a few plants this year, but plan to collect the seeds and grow more next year. I'll have just enough stems to play with though.

The process of spinning flax into linen seems involved to me. I can't picture how you can ever get enough flax that is ready to spin into a piece of fabric. Evidently there are several steps that involve breaking down the fibers in the stem into something soft enough to be carded and spun. Sounds like alot of work and I don't know that I'll ever do enough to make anything, but I'm fascinated with different fibers.

What's funny is that I tell people I'm growing flax, and of course they assume I'm growing it for the seeds. That's a pretty reasonable assumption, especially since most people don't think about fiber coming from the stem of this plant. I didn't.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bean Trellis

Usually I plant bush beans. But when we went to get them, the bush beans were out. I'm wondering if I will get a better yield with pole beans anyway, so it seemed like a good year to experiment with it.

They're ready to have a trellis though and I'm still trying to figure it out. And keep up with the sticker weeds. You can see some of those on the left at the bottom of this picture. They are miserable.

I looked at what my dad has done and analyzed what I already owned that I could work with. We have a stack of 2x4 boards from when we disassembled the play area. I'm going to put three of these boards in each row and then work from there. I guess it's time for a trip to Home Depot, to figure out what else I need.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Kakai Pumpkins

It's harder to find time to blog this time of year, because every spare minute finds me working outside in the garden. But the garden is part of self-sufficiency, which this blog is based on. And I'm growing some fun plants this year. Some of them I've never grown before, like my kakai pumpkin. It just got it's first bloom. A little slow, but promising.

The exciting thing about this pumpkin is that is grows hull-less seeds that you can eat without having to shell. I've always loved pumpkin seeds, but it is debatable whether its worthwhile to roast them and remove the shell from every seed before you consume it. I've wondered how they hull all those seeds they sell. But I guess they don't. They grow hull-less seeds like the ones in this pumpkin.

I'm pretty excited to see this plant grow a bit more and get some more blossoms so we can produce pumpkins.