something weird…

white maple leaves

While out walking today at lunch I spotted this odd group of leaves – each one completely white. The leaves higher up were normal, as were all the leaves on the other maples around. Something fantastically botanical was going on, but I have no idea what.

Perhaps, the explanation lies in the location – the area is called Mystic Vale.

Some tidbits

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Black amaranth growing in a random place.

Here are some tidbits of science-y garden bits I’ve come across in the last little while.

Blue Food
I grow blueberries and blackberries. My brassicas all have a nice blue-ish tint. Last year I grew blue tomatoes (not tasty enough to bother growing again) and this year I’m trying to grow blue popcorn. I have black amaranth from last year volunteering itself everywhere, which I’d argue fits into the same colour category as those above – which is really more purple than blue. So, Why are so few foods blue?

Along the same vein of blue, I stumbled across this berry eons ago – too bad it isn’t edible (it sure is pretty).

Space Grass
We’ve been actively converting grass to vegetable garden here. This spring, we doubled my veggie growing space by taking over most of the front lawn (the area in front of the food forest). It has the most sunlight of anywhere on my lot, so I’ve filled the space with beans, corn, amaranth, sunflowers and brassicas. What I don’t want is grass, so I was surprised to read about astronauts growing grass on the space station. Why not more food? Lettuce has been grown successfully up there. Or more flowers? There has already been zinnias in space.

Hot Peppers
One of the podcasts I listen to recently had an interview with one of my favourite authors – Mary Roach. The interview was about her most recent book (Grunt) which came out earlier this month, and I ordered. The book is about the science behind keeping soldiers alive, I’m hoping to start reading my copy this weekend. It turns out she was inspired to write Grunt after a research trip to study the science behind hot peppers. Here’s the article.

Although, I have no plans to weaponize my hot peppers, my plants are growing big and healthy. Hopefully I’ll get a bumper crop to turn into hot sauces.

and now for something completely different…

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My first collared shirt (and I can actually wear it).

I generally try to keep my rambling to science, nature and my garden, but I have a little secret, I dabble with sewing as well. Since I was given a sewing machine last winter, I’ve been interspersing short sewing sessions with my science to keep on track.

I’m excited that an essay I wrote about science and sewing is appearing in this month’s Seamworks magazine. Check it out here.

woke to a sprinkling of white

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The view from my office

Last night temperatures dipped and the scheduled rain became snow. The garden looks so different covered in white – but it won’t last, I’d be surprised if there is any evidence of snow by tomorrow. With the exception of the chard, most of what is left in the ground will tolerate the cold just fine.

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Snow covered chard – the cold might do these in, but the kale, chicory and collards will be fine.

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Ice under the drippy gutter. I think it looks kinda pretty.

 

First hard frost

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My charismatic radicchio covered in frost crystals

 

Last night was our first real frost of the season – I’m lucky that I live in a place in Canada where it is well into November before temperatures dip below zero.. The last of my summer flowers are now done, but my parsnips will be getting sweet.

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Chicory flopped over from the frost – I assume they will perk back up as soon as the sun hits them.

 

 

Getting kids out in nature

I think this is a grape hyacinth. I planted tones of them (because I think they are great) but I never took note on what they are.

I think this is a grape hyacinth. Last fall, I planted lots of them (because I think they’re great) but I forgot to note what they are.

Here’s a great article by my husband about getting kids interested in nature. It includes a photo of our backyard garden and a photo of a pill bug in our daughter’s hand – as soon as I let go of her hand, she popped one of them into her mouth (I made her spit it out – I can’t imagine that a pill bug tastes good!).

 

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Update: I was asked to include a more zoomed out picture – so here it is

some eggy tidbits

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Both of these chicks turned out to be hens.

The longer days have resulted in a glut of eggs around here – hens I had thought were well into henopause have started laying again, and a chick I got last year that left me wondering if it was a rooster has proven she is a hen (I’d happily keep a rooster, except that in my urban area that wouldn’t be fair to my neighbours). With extra eggs in the fridge, I’ve been thinking a lot about eggs.

Ever dropped an egg? It turns out an egg can be repaired – good news for Humpty Dumpty! Even better news for a Kakapo egg as these ground dwelling parrots are critically endangered. Here‘s a story about an accidentally crushed Kakapo egg that was repaired, then hatched.

Or, considering Easter is approaching, how about natural egg dying? These natural, homemade dyes look great – especially the blues and reds. Beet juice creates a great red/purple/pink range of colours. Perhaps not really appropriate for dyeing eggs, crushed cochineal insects also produce a great and non-toxic red dye that is found in all sorts of processed food. As a slight tangent – up until roughly the 1950s, cochineal was the dye used for British army uniforms. This dye gets listed under a number of different names such as ‘natural red 4’ or ‘red #40.’

In general red colouring in food causes me some concern, a while back I took a look at the surprisingly long list of red dyes in a brand of iron pills that my doctor recommended I take. I have no biological need for cadmium, yet it could be found in those iron pills (among other unnecessary things). Apparently, cerium can be used as a non-toxic alternative to cadmium. However, I’ve since found iron pills with no colouring at all.

As a final note: check out these finches playing the guitar.