Sunday, 30 June 2013

Balcony Gardening

I just wanted to show off really quickly how good a week of humidity has been for my tropical Luffa squash.

These three pictures were taken within a week. I haven't actually hit 7 days yet! The Luffa squash is absolutely loving it!

Luffa squash are actually pretty neat. It's a tropical vine from the cucumber family, and produces squash that are edible while they're still small, under 12cm. Once they get bigger though, they get too fibrous to eat. Once that happens, you wait until they start to feel lighter on the vine, then pick it and bang it on a concrete floor or stone. This loosens up the seeds inside, and provide you with a wack of possible luffa vines for next year.

(please save your seeds! It's a cheap way to select the best of your garden for preservation)

Once the seeds are loose, you cut off the end to shake them out, and peel off the skin. A quick rinse to remove the remaining flesh of the luffa, and you lie it to dry in the sun. When it's fully dry, you can cut it into inch rounds and use them as you would a sponge.

I've never gotten this far with a Luffa, because this is my first year growing them. It's been a year with challanges; I've never been great raising plants from seed, and these guys really needed a lot of attention. Out of the 12 that sprouted, only 5 survived to planting time. Once transplanted, only 2 did really well, though 4 technically are alive right now.

I'm lucky enough to live on the 25th floor of an east facing apartment in Toronto, which means I don't have to worry too much about frost, and the concrete of the building keeps my plants quite warm. We only really get morning sun, but it's enough to warm everything up, and I've never had a non-productive year living here. Sometimes the squash threatens to take over the balcony, some years the tomatoes take over, and some years my lettuce bed goes crazy. This year, it looks like the Meyer Lemon is winning for productivity.

I could stand over this tree and breath in the smell of the blossoms till bed time. It's intoxicating! Once the temp goes below 12C, I'll disconnect it from the Gravity Fed Watering System and bring it inside. Until then, I'll let it go haywire. It seems quite happy in its little corner.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Indigo Bunting

Last night while digging the grass away from the asparagus plants, I saw a gorgeous blue bird. Since the grass has been left to abandon & the field of trees is now a field of wild flowers & grass. Swaying on the tallest of the grasses are songbirds returning to the field.
This picture isn't my own. I got it directly from Wikipedia. It's a beautiful Indigo Bunting. So shockingly beautiful I was wishing I had my camera on hand....but sadly I didn't. I have never seen this bird in the wild before. I had only seen pictures thinking that it existed in the US only.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Balcony loves the humidity!

The humidity is killing me, but it appears to be great for the plants! We were pushing 40C today with the humidex.

I'm so proud of my tomatoes this year, I raised them all by myself from seed!

I swear, this photo was taken about 24 hours after the one before it. The plant has grown about 3 inches!!

I'm really impressed with the growth from the Luffa squash on the back row. About 6 inches in 24 hours!

Quick shot of my Meyer lemon tree. Look at all of those blooms!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Backwoods Bunkie gets a roof

Looks like the lawn needs a bit of a mow...

We'll troop it out.

It's been a month!!

Learning how to do it properly

Tuck Tape fixes everything; from tar paper to skin.

James can shingle now!

Even a bunkie needs cell reception

I think Dad wins for 'best photo ops'

How fantastic is that, for a days work?


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Some of my son's work

My son made this for my birthday.
He used a file and ground it all down and then we tempered it in the kitchen oven.
The antler was given to him by a friend from work and I think it came from northern Ontario.
The shape is so perfect for my hand and I love it.  It has not left my belt since he gave it to me.

 With some encouragement form my son I was able to get this one done up this afternoon.
Unlike my son who has the skill to take a piece of steel, grind and sharpen it into a knife I cheated and bought a blade blank to build this one.

The handle is diamond wood sealed with boiled linseed oil add then buffed with bees wax.

What's happening to our bees...

Tough question & there's many factors. Last night was the Dufferin County Bee Association's meeting & I'm finding the more I learn the more I don't sleep...waiting for my bees to die. Crop spraying, pesticides, mites, just never seems to end. Last night I heard of another issue...the hive beetle. So our area is inundated with varroa mites & now the hive beetle has some area bee keepers quarantined. Apparently the ministry of food and agriculture will come & burn your hives and quarantine you for two years. Holy crap...understandably required but will it ever end. It's like a agriculture horror story for the bees right now. Apiaries are loosing 40-50% of their hives. Our bees made it through the winter & I was very happy thinking the trouble was over. OH...I'm such a babe in the inexperienced. The meetings are very informative but nightmarish at the same time.
Wish us luck!!

Sunday, 16 June 2013


Every year just when my poppies are in full bloom it rains and knocks all the petals off.  
Well here it is starting to rain so I went out and took some pictures any way.
I think the poppy has to be one of my favorite plants.
So from the front garden.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Flag Irises

 I wanted to take a picture of the irises before we started trimming the euronmus at the front of the house. I'm not sure of the spelling on that but gardeners should know what I'm talking about. It's a very popular plant. Every year the vine needs trimming so that it doesn't go beyond the roof line and we can't trim it early in the spring because the birds nest in it. So I like to leave the birds alone...but it looks like we're just late at getting to the job. The irises are beautiful this year.
This picture shows the rhubarb in from of the delicate flags.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Daisies or Weeds?

The daisies are out all over the property. It was a pretty windy day but this picture turned out wonderful. Now all I have to do is have some help with Photoshop to take out some of the background.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Bee Stings Bring out the Suits

 Up until now I've been in checking out the hives without any bee equipment on & I've been really proud of myself that I haven't been stung. But the day before we brought home more hives, Jesika & James had both been stung a total of three times. So rather than push my luck, I decided that it was time to get the suit on & not sweat it. The suits are cumbersome & very hot...& I must say that I really hate wearing gloves for anything.  
Chris & Leah overseeing hive maintenance.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Acres includes balconies... Right?

I'm hoping nobody thinks it's odd that I consider my balcony part of my 'acres'.

Whelp... Welcome to the 'acres'. I'm currently in the middle of two large projects. One is a recreation of Alaska Grow Buckets. Seriously, check this guy out. While the system took me quite some time to put together (and by me, I mean my man James), it was well worth it to come home from a hot weekend to find all of my plants perfectly watered.

I picked up all of the components for the system (far too much stuff as it ended up) at my local hydroponics store Grow it All. The guy that helped me was really amazing, I really recommend the store.

Check out the guide, and donate to him!

James is less then impressed with my plans.

Not impressed that he doesn't have enough room to work.

Not impressed that I laughed at his lack of power tools.

My raised bed has a raised bed!

Clockwise from the left: Meyer lemon/Key lime tree (in the grow bucket), Luffa squash in the back row, chives, oregano, rosemary in the front row, box with three stevia plants, box with peppermint and sage (with enough room for one more plant).

So that's my little piece of 'land' in the city. Luckily, being 25 floors up means it's quite warm and I have an extended growing season due to lack of frost. Hopefully it'll be a good year!