Pole vs Bush Beans

This year has included many gardening firsts at Oslicken Acres.  One of those firsts included the planting of pole beans.  In the past Andrew and I have planted both green and yellow bush beans.  These have typically grown well and provided us with lots of tasty beans — some years so many beans that we’ve blanched and frozen beans to enjoy over the winter.

This years we planted both bush and pole beans.  Andrew built two vertical gardening trellis as part of our square foot gardens which have worked really well.  I loved watching the pole beans grow and slowly inch up the trellis.  Ascetically pole beans are a beautiful plant. They are delicate climbers and the small flowers they grow are lovely.

The bush beans in our garden were ready a couple of weeks ago and we’re just starting to enjoy the first tastes of pole beans.  The timing worked out great.  We’ve had lots of produce but not so much that any of it is going to waste.  I have future plans for a tree sisters vertical garden – which will include pole beans.  Andrew and I have also talked about other decorative trellises or arches covered in climbing veggies.  Never ending construction projects for Andrew — or maybe just a trip to a garden centre.

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Garden Tomatoes

tomatoOur tomato plants are crowded this year. We put too many plants into too little space in the square foot garden.  But despite these close living quarters the plants are producing tasty fruit.  Andrew isn’t a huge fan of tomatoes. He doesn’t mind tomato products like pasta sauce and can tolerate small cooked bits of tomato.  But it’s definitely not his food of choice.  So even a moderate harvest is enough for us.  Though I do like the years where there are enough tomatoes that I can freeze some and pull them out to make chili or sauce in the winter.

I love garden fresh tomatoes.  Tomatoes in season taste so much better than the bland tomatoes from the grocery store during the winter months.  This year I purchased three tomato plants from a vendor at Mill Market.  They turned into very healthy, thriving plants that have been doing well despite out error in how we planted them. Bring on the toasted tomato sandwiches.

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Natural Heritage: Pancake Bay

PancakeBay

Pancake Bay

A few weeks ago we went on our first camping adventure visited Pancake Bay Provincial Park for the first time.  Pancake is located on the shore of Lake Superior, has more than 3 km of sand beach, hiking and nature trails, and a location on the paddling route of the Voyageurs.  The shoreline is beautiful, the park is well maintained, and there is educational signage throughout. The only downside of the location of the park is that is right next to the Trans-Canada highway, so on a still night you can hear transport trucks on the road.  During the first night of our stay Lake Superior was so rough all you could hear was the sound of the lake – it was a great example of the power of the big lake.

While at the park we explored the campground area and the Pancake Bay Nature Trail.  Many of the central points in the campground have educational signage about wildlife, Lake Superior, and the surrounding natural environment.  It was nice to see this natural heritage education material being included in central areas so that even those who don’t participate in formal programming could read about the area.

Pancake Bay Nature Trail

The nature trail was an easy 3.5 km walk that included views of the shoreline, forested areas, and a boardwalk through a wetland.  The interpretive signage through this natural heritage was well done and had a lot of educational information about the ancient beach ridges, rock formations, flora and fauna, and water.  There was one sign that had fallen down and there was a section of the trail that was extremely muddy.  The muddy section looked like it could use some signage or physical maintenance.

Pancake Bay Park staff also run a natural heritage education program during the summer months.  The timing of the guided walks and educational programs didn’t work for us, but it was great to see the signage relating to these events and I hope they are well participated in.  One of the programs while I was visiting included a guided walk on the beach and a discussion about the history of the Voyageurs in the area.

So far I’ve only visited a handful of Provincial Parks in Ontario but Pancake Bay was by far the most popular park I’ve visited. There are drawbacks and upsides to this popularity.  On the plus side there was a lot more educational signage and interpretive programming available in the park.  On the downside the natural heritage is heavily influenced by people and you’re bound to run into others when exploring the landscape.  Regardless, it was an enjoyable visit.

This post was cross-posted from Krista’s heritage focused blog at kristamccracken.ca

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Lilies in Abundance

lilies1I have recently become moderately obsessed with our flower gardens.  And Andrew can attest to my unexplained love of lilies.  I’ve dragged him outside on more than one occasion to go look at lilies that have recently come into bloom in our garden.  For the past few years our flowerbeds have included both yellow and orange day lilies. We also have a couple tiger lilies that were accidentally translated in a hosta plant from my parents.lilies2

But I recently discovered Asiatic Lilies and have gone a bit crazy over them.  Last year we planted Asiatic lilies and oriental hybrid lilies from bulbs last year so it’s been a bit of a surprise to see what they look like as they start to bloom.  I love the colour and the number of blooms that come on a single plant.  They also seem to require very minimal maintenance. A definite win in the flowerbeds at Oslicken Acres.

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Camping: A Weekend of Firsts

This coming weekend we have booked a campsite at Pancake Bay Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Superior. This will be our daughter’s first camping trip and that makes it an extra special outing for us!  It’s also our first visit to Pancake Bay. We’ve heard good things about it and are looking forward to checking it out for ourselves. Additionally it will be the first time we take our little camper trailer out since we purchased and refurbished it.  I bought it a couple of years ago and have been slowly working away at getting it roadworthy and ready for camping again. It’s been a lot of work and there is still more to go but it’s been an enjoyable and rewarding process.

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Our refurbished camper

Upgrades to the trailer have included: new axle/rims/tires, exterior LED running/tail lights, battery, solar panel, power inverter, leveling jacks, sofabed cushions, curtains, window screens, roof vent, front window covers, exterior storage hatch latch and door step. I also removed a storage closet to make the interior space more roomy and replaced rotted wood where there had been leaks in the past (oh and fixed leaks!).

Still to come is interior and exterior painting, new flooring and whatever other new projects I come up with! In the mean time we will be enjoying our first trip in our little camper that is uniquely ours.

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Square Foot Garden Update

20150719_142120As I mentioned earlier Andrew and I are trying our hands at Square Foot Gardening for the first time this year.  When I last wrote we were thrilled with how quickly we were able to plant the garden.  It’s now mid summer and our new gardens are thriving.  We’ve already been treated to lettuce, radishes, marigolds, and chamomile in abundance and many of the other plants are thriving.

The smaller garden is also making it much easier to stay on top of the weeds.  Normally by this point in the gardening season the weeds are out numbering the plants and we’re struggling to keep the traditional style garden under control.  Andrew and I have found that the smaller gardens are much easier to stay on top of and that weeding is no longer as time consuming.

We were using this year as a trial of the square foot garden method and built two beds to start.  Based on how well things are going we are considering building a couple more beds for next year — more construction projects on Andrew’s never ending list. One thing we will do differently next year is the number of tomato plants per square foot.  As you’ll notice by the picture below our tomato plants are huge and are taking over the one bed.  We’ll definitely give each plant more space in the future.20150719_142110

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Living Local: Shabby Motley

Deliciousness from Shabby Motley.

Deliciousness from Shabby Motley.

This is the second post in the Living Local Series. The first post in this series featured Outspoken Brewing and can be found here.

Shabby Motley is a yarn shop, cafe, and funky hangout out space on Queen Street.  Coincidentally it is located right next door to Outspoken Brewery, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.  The store is filled to the brim with every type of fiber and yarn a crafter could ask for.  But, given how crazy long it’s taken me to approach completion of my latest knitting project I haven’t indulged in too many of the beautiful yarns offered by Shabby.  My goal is to finish using up some of the yarn I already own before I stockpile more.

But, even if you aren’t a knitter or fiber artist Shabby Motley is a pretty neat space.  They have delicious baking, locally roasted coffee from St. Joseph Island Coffee Roasters, and delicious sandwiches.  The staff are super friendly and helpful.  It’s an inviting space that makes me want to knit more every time I visit the shop.

The shop’s facebook account is also pretty awesome and hilarious at times — and they are constantly posting inciting photographs of tasty treats.  I am very happy to see a local business like Shabby thriving in Sault Ste Marie’s downtown core. Definitely a local gem.

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Early Harvest: Radishes and Greens

Nothing beats fresh produce straight from the garden.  A lot of the crops Andrew and I plant on a yearly basis seem to take forever before you get to taste them.  Carrots, potatoes, onions, parsnips and squash are all ready late in the season and we tend to store these treats for months after they are picked.  These veggies are definitely worth the wait but sometimes I’m an impatient garden.

Oslicken Acre Radishes

Oslicken Acre Radishes

The short turn around time on radishes and greens are one of the reasons I love growing them.  Within a couple of weeks of planting radishes and greens they are on the table and ready to be eaten.

This year I planted Swiss chard for the first time.  It seems to be flourishing and we’ve already sampled some.  So far I’ve only been using the leaves, but I read somewhere that the crisp rib portion of the chard can be cooked and eaten as well.  More experiments will have to be done.

My parents used to grow radishes on a regular basis.  For whatever reason it hadn’t occurred to me to add these tasty morsels to the list of things Andrew and I plant.  So this year was the first year we’ve grown radishes at Oslicken Acres.  I’m enjoying them in salads and as uncooked veggie snacks in my lunch.

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Growing Garlic: Harvesting Scapes

Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes

Andrew and I are trying our hand at growing garlic for the first time this year.  Last fall we dutifully cracked garlic bulbs into cloves and got them into the ground before the last frost.  Over the winter snow buried the garden, garlic moved off my radar, and we let nature take its course.  In the early spring we were delighted to see that almost all our garlic made it through the winter and was thriving.

Having something come up in the Spring before you’ve even planted the rest of your vegetable garden was a great treat.  The early growth of garlic made me get excited for the coming growing season and start planning what else we were planting this year.

This week we started cutting the scapes from our garlic.  They are pretty and so far we’ve just used them as decorative items. They also have a lovely subtle garlic smell. I’m hoping experiment with different ways of cooking the scapes — adding them to a stir fry seems like the easiest option and will probably be what I try first.

Now that the scapes are cut we’re entering the homestretch and in a few weeks we’ll find out how our first foray into garlic has gone. Fingers crossed for a bountiful year.

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Crafting and Never Ending Knitting

Years ago I helped teach Sunday School at the church my family attended.  The lesson plans often included a bible story followed by a short craft.  I vividly remember a small child laughing at my attempts to make a craft and pointing out how superior their craft was.  Needless to say my confidence in my crafting abilities is pretty low. Despite this I’ve taken on a few small craft projects in recent years – often as presents for Andrew.

I also started learning to knit a few years.  My first project was a small scarf.  I watched YouTube videos, pulled out lots of stitches, and eventually managed to knit a scarf that included knit and purl stitches.  It wasn’t perfect but I learned a lot and felt awesome for knitting something.

Not wanting to get too fancy for my second project I decided I would knit a blanket — blankets are just like huge scarves for your lap right?  Two years later I’m finally putting the finishing touches on this seemingly eternal knitting project.  I get marks for preserving, right?  I think I’ll pick something much smaller for my third knitting project.

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