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They Can’t Take The Smell Out Of Carnations


Have you ever noticed that when you buy a bouquet of flowers from a florist or even a grocery outlet that the flowers have no smell?

There is nothing more disappointing than to be given a gift of flowers and to plunge your nose into them to inhale their scent and nothing.

Only the feeling of soft petals against your nose.

Flowers that you expect to have a smell like roses are fragrant-less.

So, I went and did a little research and found that it’s because of us that they are losing their scent.

People are buying flowers for their appearance so growers are catering to the trend.

Over the years the scent has been taken out as hybrids are produced to have a better appearance and lifespan and that doesn’t seem to include the smell.

In wildflowers, the smell is used to attract pollinators and is therefore needed to produce food for humans and feed for the birds and bees.

But in hothouse flowers, the animal attractions are merely a nuisance that might get someone stung.

Can you imagine a wild rose or a sweet pea with no smell?

Chances are they would die out rather quickly as they need pollinators to reproduce.

And right now… the world needs a lot of bees as the honey bee population is declining at a rate of 41% per year in America according to this article.

I’m so thrilled every year when I see the number of bees in my yard.

I’ve even set aside a wildflower garden specifically for them.

In order to know how important they are in the grand scheme of things, I did an interesting experiment this year without even realizing it.

I planted broccolini, cauliflower and cabbages in one of my raised garden beds and then planted some squash plants underneath them.

This way, I figured that once the brassicas were finished the squash would have filled in and I would get two crops from one bed.

I’m so clever I thought!

But just because I think I’m clever doesn’t mean I am. 🙂

Because what I proceeded to do was to cover the brassicas with netting to keep out the cabbage moths.

Which… it did.

And while it did such a good job of keeping out the moths it also did an excellent job of keeping out the bees.

Looking at my squash plants I would notice lots and lots of blossoms on them and then they would just fall off and no squash appeared.

Thinking it was because I was using a new seed supplier and that the seeds just weren’t any good I contemplated writing the seed company as I was so disappointed that my butternut squash wasn’t producing.

And it wasn’t until I was taking the netting off the raised bed that I realized what had happened.

It wasn’t long after that I started noticing small gourds at the end of the blossoms as the bees had been busy doing what bees do but it was too late.

Although the squash started to grow it was mid-August and they never got big enough to harvest before fall set in.

That made me realize just how important bees are to our food supply.

So… how did I get off on the tangent of bees when the title of this article was about carnations.

Just happened and I went with the flow.

It all started when Rob brought me home a beautiful bouquet of flowers which consisted of red roses, chrysanthemum, alstroemeria and carnations along with some cedar boughs and salal for greenery.

And none of them had any scent except for the white carnations which smell like honey and cloves.

In trying to find out why they still have their smell when all the other flowers didn’t, it appears that they look just fine with their smell and still last longer than most other flowers in a bouquet.

Yes, they have lost the really intense smell that you would get if you had them growing in the garden and there are some carnations that have been modified like the tiny button carnations that the smell has been taken out.

I’ve always thought that carnations were a filler in a flower arrangement as they are cheaper, last longer and provide colour.

But, I’ve been known to be wrong.

Now I see that if you are lucky enough to get a flower arrangement with carnations in it you will be guaranteed a smell sensation.

What more could you ask from a flower?

How To Use An Instant Pot As A Steam Juicer – DIY


Having extra fruit I decided to see how to use an Instant Pot as a steam juicer.

This actually wasn’t my first thought as originally I had just watched a video on making juice with a steam juicer and I thought… “I need to get me one of these”.

Going to Amazon I checked out their selection. (If you are interested you can check them out on Amazon here)

Scrolling through the options I realized that if ordered it was going to take a few days to get here and the fruit was ripe Now!

Also, the price was a little more than I was willing to pay right at the moment.

Given that I knew how to use Google I typed in “DIY steam juicer”.

And I found one result.

Doing a little further search on images there seemed to be other options but they all looked very complicated and I didn’t have a lot of the equipment they required.

A little more research was required.

How Do Steam Juicers Work?

Juicers have 3 basic components.

  1. bottom pot – holds water
  2. middle pot – has a spigot and is where the juice is caught
  3. top pot – is where the fruit goes

I found that steam juicers work on the principle that the steam produced by the water in the bottom of the pot breaks down the fruit causing it to release its juices into the middle container.

What Can You Do With Steamed Juice Besides Juice?

That was the first question Rob asked me when I told him I was going to make some.

The good news is there are many uses for juice.

  • juice (the obvious)
  • jelly
  • liqueur
  • cider
  • wine
  • cordial or squash

But basically, I just wanted an easy way to extract the juice from the fruit without me having to spend all my time in the kitchen manually preparing it.

Once that was done I could then decided what I wanted to do with it.

After reading some articles and reviews on how a steam juicer worked and the mechanics of it I thought that maybe I could put one together with items in my kitchen.

I looked at options such as layering pots and using a vegetable steamer but none of these seemed to fit together tightly enough to work.

Then on a forum post, I saw where someone had attempted to use a pressure cooker.

And although I didn’t have all the equipment that they had used I did have an Instant Pot.

This is the Instant Pot that I have and it came from Amazon.

I then proceeded to find other items that I would need in order to create a steam juicer.

Here are the supplies I ended up with.

They are all items that were already in my kitchen.

Instant Pot – vegetable steamer – 1/2 pint mason jar – metal bowl

The Instant Pot had been a gift from my sister, so I was good to go with that.

The vegetable steamer was one that had been around for a while and had lost its handle in the middle.

I looked at another steamer that I possessed and the handle would be really easy to take out.

You can get a new one on Amazon and they are relatively inexpensive if you don’t already have one.

The half-pint wide mouth mason jar is short and squat.

The diameter is 3 inches and its 2 1/2 inches high.

Here is what it looks like on Amazon.

The next item is a metal bowl.

I tried a few bowls and finally found one that worked for my Instant Pot.

You need one that is higher than it is wide.

Something like this although I think this one is too big, but it was the shape I was going for.

I was lucky that I already had these items at my disposal, but you might have a different size Instant Pot.

If so, you will have to adjust the size of the bowl and steamer.

Also, you might find a better solution than the items I used but this will give you an idea of what is possible.

Instant Pots really can be used for everything. 🙂

Step 1

Put the trivet that came with the Instant Pot in the bottom of the pot

Step 2

Add approximately two cups of water or just enough to touch the trivet.

Instant Pot
Instant Pot

Step 3

Place the stainless steel bowl inside the Instant Pot resting on the trivet.

Put metal bowl in Instant Post
Put the metal bowl in the Instant Post

Step 4

Place the 1/2 pint wide mouth mason jar into the bowl.

You can place it upside down as I did below or right side up.

I did it both ways and I found that I liked it upside down the best.

When I did it right side up it filled with juice.

Add in a half pint canning jar
Add in a half-pint canning jar

Step 5

Place the steamer on top of the jar.

Add steamer
Add steamer

Step 6

Fill the steamer with fruit.

How much fruit will depend on the maximum fill height of your Instant Pot and the size of fruit you are processing.

Pour in fruit
Pour in fruit

Step 7

Turn on Instant Pot.

Through trial and error, I discovered that the best setting for the plums that I was processing was for 30 minutes on high.

Turn off the “Keep Warm” button and once the 30 minutes have finished I just let it vent on its own.

This worked out great as I could just set it and forget it.

Depending on the fruit you are processing and the amount of juice that they have you would probably want to adjust the time.

The plums I was juicing were meatier than juicy which is why I processed them for 30 minutes.

Set time on Instant Pot
Set time on Instant Pot

Step 8

Once the Instant Pot has released all the steam you just open up the pot and using tongs or some potholder take the steamer basket out with the fruit in it.

I just dumped the fruit into the compost bucket but if you are really ambitious you could probably make some fruit butter out of it.

Step 9

Remove the jar and even though it was upside down it created a sort of vacuum and there was juice sucked up inside it.

When you lift out the jar the juice just runs into the bowl.

Step 10

Take out the bowl and pour the juice into a container.

I used a 1 quart mason jar so it was easy to store in the fridge.


I had one gallon of small red plums that I proceeded to juice.

1 gallon of fruit
1 gallon of fruit

From the one gallon of fruit,

I got 1 quart or 4 cups of juice or as we say in Canada – one litre.

Results of 1 gallon of fruit
Results of 1 gallon of fruit

Some of the juice I mixed with a sugar mixture which consisted of adding boiling water to some sugar until it dissolved (the amount will depend on the sweetness you want).

Adding this to the juice a bit at a time until I got the taste just right I then added some additional water as the juice was concentrated and too strong for just drinking on its own.

This is not an exact science and will differ for each person’s tastes.

The remainder of the juice I froze in Ziploc freezer bags and laid them flat in the freezer so they didn’t take up much room.

Then, whenever I wanted some fresh juice, I could just thaw out a bag and use it.

Not adding any sugar to the frozen juice would allow me to make jelly out of it at a later date if needed.

Note: the above instruction is meant to give you an overview of how to use an Instant Pot as a steam juicer.

You can use the supplies you have on hand and I’m assuming you already know how to use an Instant Pot for regular use.

The timing to cook will depend on how quickly the fruit will break down.

For something like berries I would start with 15 minutes, let the pot cool and check to see if the fruit has lost its juices.

You might have to do a little longer or maybe even a shorter time would work.

That is something that you will need to explore as it will depend on the fruit and how ripe it is.

Just in case you have never used an Instant Pot or need a refresher here is a great video that gives you an overview as well as a step by step guide to make the process easy.

Jigsaw Puzzle

If you need help with instructions click here.

Visit From A Cedar Waxwing

Sitting in my office today I glanced out the window and saw a hairy woodpecker.

I immediately grabbed my camera as there are mainly downy woodpeckers in the yard and I only get a hairy maybe once a year.

Heading out the door and startling all the birds, I found a chair and sat quietly waiting for them to return.

Soon I was rewarded as they all came flocking back including the hairy.

A black-headed grosbeak appeared and I could see a Wilson’s warbler flitting amongst the trees.

The next moment… they were all gone.

Rob had walked over to the house and stepped up on the deck.

Usually, he comes in the backdoor but he didn’t see me sitting there taking pictures.

The birds started to come back and then disappeared again as Rob picked up a bag with a loud crunch and headed off down the path.

I tell you all this because of what happened next.

It was about two minutes later I saw a large bird land on a cedar tree.

Training my camera on it I could see, but I couldn’t believe it was a cedar waxwing.

We’ve never had cedar waxwings in the yard before.

cedar waxwing on cedar tree
Cedar waxwing on a cedar bough

Snapping pictures like crazy I watched as it headed over to the huckleberry bush.

It was then that I could see another waxwing already there and another one sitting on the rosemary bush.

Three in all!!

cedar waxwing eating huckleberries
Cedar waxwing eating huckleberries

I held my breath, not wanting to move a muscle lest I scare them away and one obliged by landing on a branch close by.

Fingers crossed I slowly turned and focused.

Lighting was good and the flowers muted in the background made for a great photo as seen at the top of the page.

The only thing that would have made it better would have been to get a glint in its eye.

But I’m not complaining.

It was such a thrill to see one so close.

And then they were gone.

Flew off to parts unknown.

My only hope is that they remember the huckleberries and return.

I was showing Rob the pictures later and he promised to use the backdoor from now on. 🙂

One minute either way and they never would have landed.

The huckleberry bush is getting lots of attention this year.

Might have to plant another one.

Jigsaw Puzzle

If you need help with instructions click here.

Garden Tour 2020


Below is the West Coast Garden Tour 2020.

This year I’ve been practising succession planting.

So when I pull something out when it’s done producing, I plant something in its place.

Not sure how it’s all going to turn out, but it’s more fun than leaving the soil bare.

This year I started all my plants from seeds.

Either seed that I collected last year, or old seeds I had and I bought a few seeds this year from Salt Spring Island Seeds.

I liked the fact that they were organic and local and all the seeds have done well here as it’s a similar climate.

One plant that I won’t start in the greenhouse next year is the beans.

Because it was warm and moist they got a little rust on them so I had to cull a few.

So once I planted the seedlings I also planted some seeds directly into the garden and the seeds grew just as fast and big as the ones I started from the seedling.

Next year… directly into the garden.

As I mentioned in the video all the orange netting is to keep out the quail and in the greenhouse, you will see it at the bottom of the tomato plants inside the bucket rings.

The quail get inside and snuggle in exposing the roots.

It’s not enough they have the rest of the greenhouse to play in. 🙂

You will also notice that I put the bark chips mulch around the blueberries as well because of the mulch holding the moisture in the soil.

The blueberries love it and I’ve found I don’t have to water them as often.

Here is the link to information about the hugelkultur bed that I mentioned in the video.

If you have any questions after you watch the video just put them into the comments and I’ll answer them.

Hugelkultur Above And Below In A Raised Garden Bed


I waited until now to post this as I wanted to see if this method would work and it has exceeded my expectations.

This spring I was trying to defeat the quail from dust bathing in the garden.

I got so frustrated as they kept digging up all the plants as they pressed their bodies into the soil and had a wonderful time spraying dirt, leaving wallows behind and upended plants.

And as they thoroughly enjoyed themselves they would stop briefly for a nibble at the newly planted plants just to keep up their energy for more dust bathing.

Or at least that’s how it seemed.

So… after the second round of planting seedlings, I had some bark mulch that we were using around the yard and I thought what the heck.

I would top the raised bed with it and the quail wouldn’t be able to bathe in the dirt.

Now keep in mind this isn’t your regular run of the mill bark mulch.

We get this from an actual sawmill up the road and it comes in big chunks and chips.

Some of it is so large that after we spread it in the yard I go around and pick up the big chunks to use a kindling for the fireplace.

I ended up dumping three large garbage buckets of bark mulch on the raised garden bed which is 5 ft x 12 ft and very carefully nestled it up to the newly planted plants.

In this bed, I had fiesta squash and corn planted together.

But before that, I better go back to the beginning.

This raised garden bed was one of the beds that had been modified as a hugelkultur bed.

You can read more about how we built it in a previous post and then here were the results.

Basically, you build the raised garden bed, fill the bottom with wood, sticks, twigs, grass clipping, leaves, and other organic matter.

The main ingredients is wood and the punkier (rotted) the better as it holds a lot of moisture and breaks down faster.

Then you put a layer of dirt over that and plant.

On the bed, in question, I had also added a layer of compost before I planted the squash and corn to add some additional nutrients to the soil.

Then planted the seedlings and topped with bark mulch.

As I was putting the mulch on I noticed that there was a lot of cedar bark in the mix and according to what I’ve read putting cedar on or in your garden is a no, no as it takes a long time to break down and emits a resin that will actually harms the plants.

But what the heck.

My motto is the plants will either live or die and I wasn’t about to take all the mulch off.

To my relief and amazement, the plants thrived.

Not only thrived but shot up like rockets and outdid the rest of my raised garden beds.

I attribute this to a couple of things.

  1. It kept the quails away as if they couldn’t have a dust bath there wasn’t a reason to hop up on the bed
  2. the slugs seem to prefer soil to travel on rather than bark mulch so I saw very little slug damage
  3. suppress weeds
  4. and the most important thing was it kept the moisture consistent in the raised garden bed.
  5. but best of all it was producing mycelium in a very short period of time.
Results of Hugelkultur Above And Below In A Raised Garden Bed
Results of Hugelkultur Above And Below In A Raised Garden Bed


One thing that I’ve noticed over the years with a raised garden bed is that when it gets hot or really windy that the bed dries out fairly quickly.

This was the reason that over the years I’ve been converting the raised beds to hugelkultur just so they retain more moisture.

And this has worked really well once the plants are established and have a good root system in place.

But when the plants are young I’m constantly having to water the beds as the top soil dries out and the seedling suffer.

I keep thinking I should put irrigation in the beds but as I do most of my watering from a 3000 gallon tank that collects rainwater, I find that there just isn’t enough pressure to make that a viable option.

So, by putting the wood chips on top of the soil when it rained they retained the moisture and kept it consistent which was a boost for the seedlings.

On my other beds, the soil on top would dry out.

Then you water and it drys out again.

Which when you think about it is a bit of a shock to the seedlings.

In many books and information on the web, there is an ongoing consensus that in order to get healthy plants it is best to withhold water and let the soil dry out as it helps their roots grow deeper to find water.

And I have to say I do this with my tomato plants. (rethinking this now)

Upon comparing the raised bed with the bark mulch with other garden beds without it, the one with the bark mulch was the winner.

When the other beds had dry soil all I had to do was to peak under the bark mulch and the soil was moist.

Consistently so.

The seedlings exploded under these conditions so it seemed that having consistent moisture was a benefit not a deterrent.

Just for comparison, I have tried other mulches in the past such as straw, leaves, compost and cardboard.

Each of them has its own benefits but none of them kept the soil so consistently moist as the wood chips.


Mycelium is a cobweb-like structure (fungus) that you see growing under the forest floor.

The fruit of these structures you’ve probably seen and eaten are mushrooms.

Studies like this one have found that the mycelium forms a web called a mycorrhizal network that interconnects with the forest trees allowing them to share water and nutrients with each other via the web.

This means that if my raised garden bed is producing mycelium then my seedlings and plants are interconnected.

The benefits of that are:

  • improve water efficiency
  • adds oxygen to the soil and promote root growth
  • releases phosphate, nitrogen, and other micronutrients

This is all happening under the mulch so I don’t really see it but I am noticing how much bigger and stronger the plants are than in the other garden beds.

You can actually buy mycelium and put it into your garden or you can save yourself the trouble and add some bark mulch to the top.


By first creating a hugelkultur raised bed (wood, organic matter, soil) the plants grow their roots long and strong reaching down for the moisture and nutrients created by the layers.

Then by applying wood chips on top of the soil, it seems to support the seedling growth thereby creating stronger plants that can then reach down to the layers below.

These chips are large enough that I can just pull them away from the top of the soil when I want to plant.

Seems like a win-win!


I wouldn’t do this with all my raised beds.

Just think about trying to plant carrots with those large chunks of wood covering the soil.

For those beds, I will stick to compost as a mulch.

On the other hand, as the wood chips break down and create their own compost in the future it will be perfect for planting small seeds.

I wouldn’t mix the wood chips into the soil it is said they will rob the soil of nitrogen as they break down.

Maybe next year I’ll put grow some nitrogen-fixing plants in the bed like beans.

Overall Assessment

This has been a great experiment in the garden this year and I will definitely do it again.

I actually ended up doing two beds with this method this year.

The one was a hugelkultur bed and the other one wasn’t.

The second bed was planted with all the brassicas like cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage.

These have finished and I’ve pulled them out and replanted.

The roots didn’t grow down like in a hugelkultur bed but overall the growth and produce were better than average.

The one thing that the bark mulch didn’t do was to stop the cabbage moths from laying their eggs on the brassicas and the resulting caterpillars munching on the leaves.

Hugelkultur above and below in a raised garden bed definitely worked.

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How to make a Hugelkultur bed in a raised garden bed click here
To read the test results of the Hugelkultur bed click here…

Jigsaw Puzzle

If you need help with instructions click here.

A Western Tanager Found The Suet Bar

As I was sitting at my desk this morning I took a moment to look out the window and to my amazement a male western tanager landed on the suet.

I quickly grabbed my camera (which I keep by my desk for just these occasions) and quickly snapped a couple of photos through the window.

But of course… as most photos that are shot through a window, they were a little blurry and not a quality picture that I would want to share with you.

Figuring that if he came once that he might just come again I took the camera and the tripod outside to a little blind I have set up on the deck.

This was at 8:15 am and the sun wasn’t yet on the bird feeders in the yard so I knew it was going to be a low light situation.

My blind consists of some camouflage netting hung over a curtain rod that is suspended between a beam and a window frame.

There is just enough room to have a chair and through a split in the netting, I can fit the telephoto lens while keeping the camera inside so the birds can’t see my hands moving.

I put a couple of clothespins above and below the lens to keep the netting shut.

Makeshift, but it works.

The birds just ignore me and I can see through the netting.

That was until the sun started to peek through the trees.

It shone directly into my little blind and in fact, blinded me.

I couldn’t see if there was a bird at the suet feeder or any of the feeders or trees.

All I could do was keep my fingers crossed that the sun would rise quickly and that the Western tanager didn’t make its appearance at that moment.

Finding that I could see if I pulled the netting aside just a little, leaned sideways and poke one eyeball out.

This allowed me to see any birds flying in and I would just have to hope that my camera was pointing at the suet feeder because I just couldn’t see through the lens.

As luck would have it, the tanager only appeared once while the sun was in this position and it landed on a branch and then just as quickly left again.

Now I’m even more hopeful that it will return.

The sun finally eased its way to a more favourable position in the sky and I was able to see again.

I watched as the regular yard birds flew in for breakfast.

The flicker family brought their baby who is as big as the parents but still demanding to be fed.

A pair of downy woodpeckers came to the suet bar, one on each side and then flew over to a tree to clean off their beaks.

Birds came and went but not the one I was looking for.

Then I spotted him on a branch where he sat very still and looked around for possible danger.

Then he flew to another bush and another and all the while I snapped photos.

At this point, he was still in the shadow which wasn’t ideal for pictures so I held my breath as he slowly made the rounds of the yard and finally found the sun.

The camera was doing double time as I shot frame after frame.

The last time I had seen a western tanager was at Lizard Lake at least 10 years ago when I had a little point and shoot camera.

So I was hoping for a better picture this time around.

He obliged by posing in his brilliant suit of orange, yellow and black to my delight.

Finally arriving at the suet feeder he ate his fill and off he flew.

Leaving my little corner of the deck I came inside to finish my breakfast which I had left on the desk only to discover that it was now 10:30 am.

Time sure flies when you’re having fun!

Jigsaw Puzzle

If you need help with instructions click here.