Saturday, 23 November 2013

Bird Seed Wreaths - They're For The Birds



I have always wanted to make some birdseed wreaths, but never had a great place to put them....

Here at the 'ugly new house' we have lots of mature cedars, great for the birds in all ways!

So, I looked for recipes... huh, there are quite a few, it turns out!

I knew that I did not want to do the peanut butter rolls, where you simply smear the peanut butter on a wreathe form and then roll it in seeds.

Heard that the peanut butter might be dangerous to the birds when done that way. There are varying bits of info about that, so decided to err on the side of caution and not do it... just in case it truly was dangerous.

So...
Version One!


1/2 cup of warm water
1 package of gelatin
3/4 cups of flour
3 Tbsp corn syrup
4 cups of birdseed

Mix and heat the water, syrup, and gelatin in a small sauce pan.
Add the flour to the pan and mix. Will be very thick.
This is the 'glue' that holds the seeds together.

Add your seeds and incorporate the 'glue' into all of the seed. Mix well as the flour will tend to goop up.

Push into the bundt pan and let set overnight.
(the instructions said to use an oil spray in the pan to help loosen it, but again, I am not sure how good this is for the birds, nor do I have any of this spray stuff at home, so I did not do anything to the pan first.)

To loosen the wreathe from the pan, I simply ran the bottom of the pan under warm water for a bit. Worked like a charm.

This one holds together the best of them all!

Note: The flour and syrup are used to create the 'glue' that holds the seeds together. Everything I read seems to indicate that both items are completely safe for the birds. I deleted any items that I thought or read about that might possibly be toxic or dangerous in any way.   

Version Two




1 cup cornmeal
1 cup suet
1 cup peanut butter
4 cups birdseed

Slowly render the suet (heat it to melt it)
Add the peanut butter to melt it into the suet.
Add seeds and cornmeal, mix well.

Push into the bundt pan and let sit overnight.
Remove as above.

This one stays together nicely, is firm and looks prettiest colour wise. The peanut butter gives it a nice warm colour)

The suet seemed to settle into the bottom of the pan though and you see that on top of the wreathe when taken out of the form. I wonder if I should have mixed longer, or if it simply was extra and so settled at the bottom?

Version Three



For this one I used the Martha Stewart recipe on Pinterest.... and a larger bundt pan.

Suet (rendered) 
Dried and fresh cranberries
6 cups birdseed
1 cup nuts Note: please use roasted, unsalted peanuts, not raw, which may in fact be harmful to the birds. If you only have raw, roast in the oven for about 15 minutes.  

Melt the suet slowly.
Add nuts, birdseed and cranberries (if using) to the suet.

Mix well. Let harden in pan, overnight, in fridge or freezer.

I love the look of this one, is very natural looking with the seeds all shiny and glossy from the suet.

However, I find that the sides crumbled a bit as I added the ribbon and hang it up, so it is a big fragile to work with. Am not sure how well it will hold up to the birds and the weather...



The real test will be to see which one the birds like the best! Please stay tuned ....

~ ~ ~

Want to know how the three wreaths made out with the birds?
Please see the link Here


December 3, 2016 update. 
For and update on how to make your wreath sturdier,
less apt to crack in half, please see HERE!






Friday, 22 November 2013

Peppers Hot and Sweet

Surprisingly, my peppers were really great this year!

Not that I don't generally grow great peppers ...  cuz I really do, lol (much chest thumping going on ; )
Surprisingly, because I thought that I could only grow great peppers inside the greenhouse, on the south side, where they get tons of heat and light.

However, this is not so!
This year, the greenhouse had to come down in July, in preparation for the big move!

Therefore, all the peppers were grown outside. They responded marvellously to the elements, while I treated them like I usually do .... with carefree neglect ; )



All the peppers started out at the old location, on our lovely, south east facing deck, which only received about 6 hours of sunshine a day, from about 10 in the morning to 2 or 3 pm. That's it.

Still growing outside at the new 'ugly'house'
.. stayed outside till mid-November. 
You see that some have 'plastic garbage bag hoop houses' on them?
I can honestly say that peppers do not need them!
I removed the bags after a few weeks, as the ones without the plastic were performing better,
despite the cool and even frosty nights.


Then we moved to the new house, the 'ugly house' as I call it, and they still had to grow outside.
They were placed on the wee deck out back, which faces west, but due to the trees on that side of the house, still did not get more than 6 hours of sunshine a day.
At both locations, I placed them close to the house so that they could soak up extra heat from the siding.

They were left outdoors to grow, ripen, and thrive, till mid-November. Then I picked a huge basket of peppers and composted the plants.
We picked sweet peppers as we needed them, throughout the late summer. However, hot peppers we tend to pick all at once, usually when we are going to be canning or pickling.

Growing peppers...
Hot peppers are started in the greenhouse, very early in the year (12 to 16 weeks before last frost), while sweet peppers are started a month or so later.
I start them with bottom heat, sunlight or grow lights, use a good, loose, high porosity, soil-less potting mix, and give them a weekly foliar feed of Reindeer Liquid Seaweed. They also get a spray of insecticidal soap weekly, for aphid and white fly prevention/control.
Once they germinate, I transfer them to 3" square pots. They stay in these pots till they are sold, and until I plant my own into 3 gallon pots in June. 
They are not heavy feeders once they get out of those small 3 inch pots.

After they have been transplanted into their 3 gallon pots, they get a scoop of espom salts on the surface of the soil, maybe get watered with alfalfa tea a couple of times, and might get a foliar feed or two during the summer, if  I remember. Plant into a good mix of compost and soil-less potting mix.

Peppers simply like lots of heat, sunshine and to be kept a wee bit on the dry side ... See? Easy to grow as they thrive on neglect!

Scotch Bonnets - one of the prettiest peppers I grew.
 
Here, in no particular order are some of the fabulous peppers I grew this year.

SWEETS!


Purple Beauty Sweet Bell Pepper ...

Beautiful to look right from the get go. This pepper starts off purple and stays purple throughout the growing process. As it ages, it gets bigger, thicker walls, and sweeter. It will eventually turn green and then red, if left long enough. A pepper I would grow again and again.



Albino Bullnose Sweet Bell Pepper

This pepper starts off white, then starts to get a purple tint to the bottom. Then it turns to a peachy colour, orange and finally red. You can eat it at any stage, any colour, however you do want to let it size up first. If you pick it when the bells are small, they have thin walls and little flavour. However, if you wait till they size up, they are sweet and crisp.
The shrub stays very compact, mine is only about 1.5' high, and loaded with peppers. I would stake or cage this one as it forms so many peppers on the compact shrub that it weighs down the branches.

 

Golden Marconi Pepper

This one gets rave reviews from folks, but I thought it was just an 'okay producer', not near enough peppers on the plant for my liking. The fruits were gorgeous though ... lovely, tapered, sweet peppers.
I will try it again next year, one more time, to see if it produces more peppers than it did this year.
If I am unhappy with the performance of a variety, I will usually grow it one more time, so two years running, just in case the first year happened to be a fluke ... a bad year, bad weather, bad something.
However, so far, I really must admit that I prefer the yellow Bullhorn Pepper better ( Corno di Toro Giallo)


Corno di Toro Rosso (Red Bull's Horn Sweet Peppers)

These Italian heirlooms are my favourite sweet peppers, both in the red and the yellow (rosso and giallo)
They are long, lovely, thick walled, tasty, sweet, spicy, yummy and pretty! .. and as you can see, heavy producer, much more fruits than on the Marconi.

HOTS!

 
Pumpkin Habanero
 
Now, you all know I do not eat hot!
Therefore, I am unable to give you my personal opinion on taste and kick of the hots.
What I can say about this pepper is that it is late to ripen but loaded in these lovely orange coloured beauties.
They are large, about 2" long, plump, and produce tons of peppers! 




 Fish Peppers

These guys are pretty! the foliage is stripey and variegated. The peppers are striped and pretty. Everything about it is pretty to look at.
The peppers start off creamy with green stripes and then turn orange-y with green stripes.... eventually they turn a solid red.
Is edible at all stages, dries well and makes super hot sauces. The flavour of these peppers blends well with fruits and seafood.


Giant Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia)

The ghost pepper, super-sized. .... with the same heat and kick.
Used to be known as the hottest pepper in the world, though others have since taken over that status.


Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia)

A super hot and pretty to look at pepper. Must admit that these guys scare me, as they are super duper hot.

I do not know what to do with them, as they are known to be so hot. Could use one or two to spice up my salsa ...  maybe.
Hubby generally takes the super hots to work for the chefs to cook with. Plus, as some of the staff there are from Africa, South America, Mexico, they like to eat these guys raw, straight out of hand! Yikes! Not for the faint of heart.


Chinese Five Colour Peppers

This glorious pepper is my favourite to grow.
For the past three years I have been growing the 'Chinese Five Colour' hot pepper as I love it so much!
It grows all five colours on the shrub at once, making it look like a jelly bean tree, or a candy tree. Watch your wee ones around this plant... though the peppers look like candy, they are super duper hot.
You only need a few peppers to make a hot salsa, or add some heat to your tomato sauce. 

Giant Bhut Jolokia ripening on the bush in late November.

Friday, 1 November 2013

November Garden and Yard Ramblings

What to do in the month of November in the yard? In the garden? What to plant now? If you are in the colder regions of the world, with snow or hard frosts already, you likely are buttoned up already for the winter and eagerly awaiting spring.
However if you are on the PNW or more temperate areas, well, still lots of time to do lots of things.

Plant some peas, your doggies will thank you ; )

What to plant now...(Can you believe that I still have this head line in here? Amazing, eh?)

In the garden..
Peas - plant now for an early crop in spring. Sow heavier than you would normally as you will likely have a lower germination rate.
- Broad beans
- Garlic - yes, still time to get it in
- Asparagus - if you can find some crowns ) a friend is thinning out her bed, maybe?) now is a great time to plant them up. Read my asparagus planting and growing tips HERE.

Under cover... ( Stuff you may want to germinate under grow lights and then move out to your cold frame. They can handle to cooler temps, but germination will be lower and slower due to the lack of daylight.
- Lettuce mixes with arugula, mache, cress, mustard...

Interesting useful idea ...
Cold frames can easily be made into hot frames or hot beds by placing some 'hot' or 'raw' manure underneath the compost/soil or the potted plants. The raw manure heats up the frame as it rots down into composted manure.
Also, make sure to slant the windows of your cold frame or hotbed towards the south so that it takes up loads up light.


Want flowers in your potager come spring?
Plant them up now!

Flowers to plant from seed now ...
- Calendula
- Poppies
- Sweet peas
- Larkspur
- Delphiniums
- Can still try throwing down some cosmos and cleome, as well.
- Plant lilies as long as you can chip a hole into the ground!
- Spring flowering bulbs - tulips, daffodils, grape hyacinths, crocuses, etc...

Ornamental cabbage and winter heather. 

In Flower beds or focal points...
- Plant ornamental kale or cabbages, bellis, pansies, heather, etc... to add fall and winter colour and interest. (pop some bulbs under the plants for spring interest)


What to do in the yard this month ....

- Rake up those leaves, shred them up by running a lawn mower over them, and then top dress your gardens with the leaves.
Alternately, pile them up, or bag them and leave them to break down into leaf mould, which is an amazingly fabulous top dressing and mulch for your veggies and flowers,

- If your tree form roses (standards) have lost their leaves, this is a good time to cut them back to prevent breakage during the winter rains and snows. Also cut back any other really tall roses to about 18" to prevent winter breakage.
You can also spray them ( plus fruit trees that have lost their foliage)  with a dormant oil and sulphur mix to prevent pests and fungal diseases next year.

- Top dress your garden beds with compost or manure, leaves, etc.. allowing it to break down and amend your soil all winter long.

- Mow lawns and trim the edges for the last time this year, add lime here on the island.

- Clean up any fallen fruits, leaves, branches, etc.. from under your fruit trees. This prevents pests and disease from over wintering. Put tree wraps on your young trees to protect them from the deer, rabbits and mice/voles this winter and early spring.

- Divide any overgrown perennials. Share the extras with friends.

- PNW- Move pots and planters under the carport, the eaves of the house, or cover with boards, pot saucers, etc.. to keep the pots from rotting in the winter rains. Or, add pot feet to the bottoms to raise them off the ground for better drainage.

-Lift dahlias, glads, cannas, callas, etc.... and store over the winter. See the last blog post for how-to's HERE!.

- Clean and sterilise your summer pots and planters with a 10% bleach solution before you put them away.

- If not in the PNW, deep water your trees and shrubs in preparation for the winter.



In The Potager ...
- lift the last of your onions, potatoes, squash, parsnips,  etc... leave carrots in the ground and pick them all winter long. Cure the spuds, squash, and onions so that they store well through the winter.

- Pick the last of the tomatoes and peppers, make into sauces, salsas, or slow oven roast the tomatoes and peppers for a fabulous treat all winter long.

- Harvest Brussels sprouts, cabbage and the last yummy bits of kale.

- Cover the spinach, greens and lettuce beds with a frost blanket or hoops for fresh greens well into the winter.Or close the cold frame window, opening it up on any sunny days!

- Plant new fruit trees, shrubs, and strawberry runners or plants.

- Sow your breadseed and/or pepperbox poppies now.

- Want blanched leeks? this is the time to hill them up with soil to blanch them.

- Use a board on top of the soil if you have to walk in your beds, to avoid compaction.

- Top dress your beds with fresh manure or compost. Do a simple inexpensive soil test now so that you know exactly what to add to your beds to break down over the winter... then you are ready to go first thing in spring!



For The Yuletide
- For the birds .. make birdseed wreathes and bells for the birds. Set out suet feeders.

- Plant up your amaryllis bulbs, paper whites, hyacinths ...

- Re-pot your front urns or planters to reflect the winter and yuletide season.