Tuesday, May 17, 2016

May 2016 Garden Bloom Day

Spring is earlier than normal here in northeast Washington State so many flowers ahead of their usual bloom time.  While it is delightful to have so many beautiful blossoms, my May 2016 Bloom Day post is long and it took me a couple of days to organize, select and post, but all photos were taken on May 15th.

Purple Globe Allium
I haven't planted many flowers since we moved permanently to the farm last fall, so most of what we have are natives and wildflowers.  One of the few things I planted were some globe alliums.

Dutch Iris
I also planted some Dutch Iris rhizomes that a friend gave me from her garden.

Although they aren't native, these columbine were planted by someone or something other than me. Since they are one of my favorite flowers, it was a lovely surprise to find them growing in one of the semi-shady, moist areas.

Camas Lily (Camassia sp)
Although they are native to this area, I did scatter a few camas lily bulbs near our pond a few years ago so I have no idea if this one that came up was planted by me or mother nature.

Blue Flax (Linum Perenne)
Rounding out the list of blue flowers blooming today, are a few blue flax in the meadow.

Blueberry Blossoms 

There are still a few blueberry blossoms.

Crandall Currant (Ribes odoratum)

And even fewer Crandall currant flowers with their lovely scent.

Thimbleberry (Rubus Parviflorus)
We have several large thickets of thimbleberries which are just starting to bloom.  Later they provide a feast of raspberry-like berries for the birds and bears.

Wild Rose 
I'm not sure of the species, but the first of our fragrant wild roses bloomed on May 15th.

Lonicera ciliosa

As I search high and low for more blooming flowers, I find a native honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa) in the tree tops.  I doesn't have any fragrance, but it is a favorite of the three species of hummingbirds that are seen in our area.

Morel mushroom (Morchella sp.)

And down low on the ground, I found what remains of a withering morel mushroom.  (It looks like scat, but it really is a morel past its prime!)

Viola glabella

None of the Viola adunca I saw last month are still blooming, but there are still a few of the yellow Viola glabella around.

Heart-leaf Arnica (Arnica cordifolia)

Another yellow flower which is abundant right now is the heart-leaf arnica.

Star-flowered false Soloman's Seal (Smilacina stellata)

Another shade-loving plant is the star-flowered false Soloman's Seal.

Hooker's Fairybells (Disporum hookeri)

And growing nearby are several Hooker's fairybells.

Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera)

Sticking with the white flowers, there are some red-osier dogwoods blooming and down on the forest floor are many of its small relatives, the bunchberry.

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)

But saving the best for last (although the flowers are not quite completely open) are the lady's slippers.

Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium sp)
Thank you to May Garden Dreams for hosting this fun Garden Blog link-up.  Please visit to see what is blooming in other gardens all over the world!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Garden Bloom Day April 2016

After a week of unseasonably warm weather spring has arrived in the northeast corner of Washington State.  It is such a joy to see the flowers beginning to bloom so on my daily walk I took a few photos.

Pend Oreille County Cherry tree in bloom 4-15-2016
The most obvious blooms are the cherry trees which are eagerly being visited by numerous pollinating insects including some gigantic bumblebees.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to capture a good photo of one.

Rhododendron PJM
The PJM rhododendrons I moved from my old home in Western Washington have survived the trauma of being transplanted to a more extreme climate and are starting to bloom.  Looking past what I have planted, I start looking for native plants in the wilder areas,

Mahonia repens
I detected a mild, lovely fragrance and followed my nose to find one of my favorite natives, Oregon Grape (Mahonia repens) is starting to bloom.

Although dandelions are often disdained, I enjoy their cheery yellow blooms which are also appreciated by the bees.

Violet (Viola adunca) Pend Oreille County, WA
While kneeling to photograph the dandelion, I noticed a tiny speck of blue a few feet away and a closer look reveals the first wild violet I've seen blooming this year.

Wild strawberry Pend Oreille County, WA
Looking closely, there are also numerous tiny wild strawberry blossoms.  After my brief survey of my garden area, I returned to my sun room inside the house to find the first of this year's blossoms of my Meyer lemon has opened.

Meyer Lemon Blossom

 What is blooming in your garden today?  Be sure to visit May Dreams Gardens to see the other gardens this month.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Garden Bloom Day February 2016

Today is February 15 which means it is the monthly Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  On the 15th of each month garden bloggers from all around the world post links to photos of what is blooming in their garden on May Dreams Gardens.  According to the USDA, my garden is in zone 6a, but my area is notorious for micro-climates ranging from zone 3 to 6a.  As I look out my door with camera in hand, it doesn't look like there is much to photograph.  I see slushy melting snow covering the ground and leafless deciduous trees.

My garden on February 15, 2016

As I learned last month, a closer inspection often reveals much more than what I see from a distance.

Alder tree trunks covered with lichens
The tree trunks in my garden are covered in numerous species of lichens.

Lichen on maple tree trunks
The maple trees had patches of crustose lichens that resembled splotches of gray paint.

Foliose lichens
 Branches of evergreens were covered in a variety of foliose lichen species.

cup-shaped lichen

Some with little cups.

Colorful lichen
And others with interesting colors and shapes.

Fructicose and foliose lichens
Some branches had both fructicose (in chartreuse) and foliose types.

Usnea lichen species
There were also numerous clumps of what is probably some species of usnea lichen that looks like hair.

Fungus growing on a stump

This beautiful fungus also caught my eye.  They look a bit like sea scallop shells.

Alder catkins
I also returned to the alder catkins I photographed last month to see how they had progressed.

Witch hazel blossom
Last, but not least, I found one of the small witch hazels I purchased at the end of the summer, is starting to bloom.  Hooray, my first flower of 2016!  Be sure to visit May Dreams Gardens to see the other gardens this month.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Grow Your Own Healthy Sprouts

 Although I love fresh sprouts on salads and sandwiches or as an ingredient in stir fry meals, I don't like buying sprouts at the supermarket because they are expensive and there have been several incidences of illnesses attributed to bacterial contamination in commercially grown sprouts.  So with a few inexpensive supplies and a little research I learned how to grow my own. If you haven't tried growing sprouts before, after you see how easy it is, you'll want to grow your own, too.

Fresh homegrown sprouts

The supplies needed for growing sprouts are minimal.  Sprouts are high in nutrients, which will vary somewhat depending on what type of sprout, but most sprouts are high in vitamins A, C and B.

I used a wide mouth canning jar, organic sprout seeds, water, a tablespoon for measuring and some  lids with screens.  Some people also use cheesecloth as a screen, but I prefer these plastic jar toppers that can be easily cleaned.  Since there is some risk of bacteria growing with sprouts, I make sure to keep everything as sanitary as possible.

Sprout-Ease - Econo-Sprouter Toppers Set - 3 Piece(s)

They are dishwasher safe or can also be disinfected with bleach or hydrogen peroxide and fit both Kerr and Ball wide-mouth canning jars.

Kerr 0519 wide mouth jar quart, 32oz (case of 12)

Ball Quart Wide Mouth Mason Jars, Silver Lids pack of 12 (32 OZ)

Easy DIY Instructions for Growing Sprouts

I usually start my sprouts in the evening since to get them started they should initially soak overnight.  Measure out the sprout seeds and pour into a jar. Since it is easy to start a new batch, I tend to grow my sprouts in small amounts that we can eat within a day or two.

Measuring sprout seeds

Add 4 parts warm (not hot) water to 1 part seeds.  For this batch I used one tablespoon of seeds, so I added 4 tablespoons of water.

Measuring water and pouring into the jar

Add the screen top.  For most types of seeds, start with using the smallest screen lid.  The medium size screen can be used for wheat and bean sprouts.  Let the sprouts sit at room temperature in a dark place overnight.

Sprouts and water in a jar

The next morning, drain the water from the sprouts.  The screened jar topper makes it easy.  Although for this particular batch, I just poured the water down the drain, it is very nutritious and can be used in soups, teas or for watering your plants.

Draining water from sprouts the first morning

Next rinse the sprouts under tepid running water.

Rinsing sprouts on the first morning

Replace the strainer cap and drain out the water. The strainer cap makes it easy to drain the water while keeping the seeds.

Draining water after rinsing the sprout seeds

Set the jar at an angle over  a bowl or some other container to allow any water to continue to drain and provide air circulation.  Set the container in a relatively dark place at room temperature.  I just leave mine in a corner of the kitchen counter. 

Setting the sprout jar at an angle over a container
If you don't have a dark place available, you can always just cover the jar with a clean, dark colored dish towel.

Cover growing sprouts with a dish towel to keep them in the dark

Rinse the sprouts every morning and evening in tepid water. The photo below was taken as I rinsed and drained the sprouts the 2nd morning.  You can see they are already beginning to germinate.

Seeds starting to sprout on the second morning about 32 hours after starting the sprouts

On the third day, many of the seed hulls will separate from the sprouts so then switch screen tops to the one with the medium sized screen to allow the hulls to be rinsed away.  The hulls are perfectly edible, but removing them helps to prevent mold problems.  I also moved the sprouting jar from the dark location it was in for the first 2 days to a location near a shady window where the sprouts could get some indirect light.

Sprouts on Day 3 placed in indirect light

After a day exposed to indirect light, the sprouts will begin to show some green.  Remember to continue to rinse and drain the sprouts each morning and evening.

Sprouts Day 4

After another day of indirect light and a total of 4-5 days after I started them, most of the hulls have been rinsed away, the sprouts are starting to form green leaves and they are ready to eat.

Sprouts Day 5

Nothing like some fresh sprouts on a pita bread sandwich.

Fresh sprouts on a sandwich
I prefer to grow small batches that we eat within a day or two, but once your sprouts have started to grow green leaves and shed the seed hulls, you can store them for a few days in the refrigerator.   Just continue keeping them in a jar with the screen top upside down over a bowl. Freshen the sprouts up daily by rinsing in cold water and then draining well.

Where to buy organic non-GMO sprouts?

My favorite place to purchase sprout seeds is from Seeds Now.  They are very affordable (at this time 99 cents for a sample package) and they have an excellent germination rate.  I have also purchased good quality sprout seeds through Amazon, but they are typically in larger quantities than I need.

We're linked up to the Homestead Blog Hop where you will find links to other great blogs.