Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Our family is getting into saving our own seeds. We've had great success with tomatoes and are starting to branch out. Why is this important?

There was a fair bit written this spring and summer on the seed shortage, many companies saw a dramatic increase in sales to the point of running out. Many comments were made that as more people see the wisdom of growing your own this problem will likely increase, comments about getting your orders in before Christmas if you want to be sure of your seed. Sharon Astyk writes "Are We Seeing the Early Signs of a Seed Availability Crisis?" Rhonda Jean over at 'Down-to-earth' writes about seed saving as another step towards self-reliance.

So saving seeds is a good thing, until you start to think about jail time. Seriously.

'That company' has been patenting seeds, even heritage seeds and they aren't shy when it comes to legal action. They have been in the news again harassing farmers and now even seed cleaners. For a good article rounding up links to the pertinent information see 'Daily Kos'

Now I have hundreds of seeds from 8 varieties of tomatoes saved from this year, it was great fun! And I'm thinking it would be nice if we had a seed company here again. Local seed for local folks. 100 mile seeds :o) But at the risk of jail if they just happen to grow something that is patented? Gosh! Who'd take the risk?

Monday, December 15, 2008

All Bets ARE Off!

Friday I biked to work, biked home at noon. Nothing too amazing for this warm December but by the time dh got off work at 5 it was a different story. He came in covered with snow with the temperature dropping. Wind and snow and very low temperatures have turned our streets into sheets of ice.

None of us has been on a bike since. It has been very cold, I think it got up to -10 yesterday. Dh, who planned on biking to work all winter has been sidelined by this extreme cold for our region, the promise of studded bike tires just don't seem to make up for it.

We'll have to see what happens if the temperatures warm up.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Biking in December?

I'm a people popsicle.

After riding about town today I can't imagine how dh feels after biking to work before the sun is up! Yesterday it was -10 when he headed out.

Our family bikes. Dh, myself, our oldest dd all ride bikes to do our everyday things. The rest of the family pretty much walks. If, and it's a big IF, we head somewhere as a big group we then take the van, 120km for example, makes much more sense in the van. Grandma's in the dark calls for the van.

Once it snows all bets are off though, cold you can bundle for, I barely trust myself to walk on slippery sidewalks, I'm not trying to bike on the roads then. Dh and dd want winter tires for their bikes, I guess they are more hard core than me! I remember people biking in Edmonton in the dead of winter. Now that's dedication.

I have noticed other people still out biking, yesterday at work we had a tourist come in on a fully loaded bike and a couple other folks too. And it gets me, this is CANADA, this is DECEMBER, and we are still biking. LIFE IS GOOD!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ukrainian Grandma's Borscht - 11 quarts approx.

My Grandma NEVER used measuring cups, didn't even own any, and wouldn't write down her recipes or share them. Luckily I have a sneaky aunt who watched very carefully and managed to translate what she saw into a workable recipe.

Made up a batch of this last night for lunch today. It has the teenage son's approval, he ate it for breakfast after putting a quart in his lunch. Dh likes borscht from restaurants, so I'll have to see what he thinks about this. ( I wasn't about to get up before the crack of dawn to ask him this morning!)

Like my mother says it uses every pot in the house and it's so worth it. I was noticing that it is the ultimate local recipe, everything except the salt and pepper Grandma could source straight from the farm. Then I had a DUH! thought, of course these old family recipes were localvore recipes, that is all they had!!

Maybe next year I'll grow a borscht-bed, a raised bed devoted to these ingredients.

In a large pot put:
2 1/2 quarts water
5-6 peeled but whole potatoes
3 whole beets, fist sized, tops trimmed
Bring to a boil and cook til tender, about 30-40 minutes. Scoop out potatoes and mash with 2 pints (4cups) whipping cream. Remove beets and grate, tossing out some of the peel and the stem bit. Return to pot. (Don't toss the water!)

In a medium pot put:
2 quarts canned tomatoes, diced
4 Tbsp. butter
Heat to a boil and turn off.

In a really big pot (12-13 quart capacity) put:
Lots of butter
1 whole cabbage, shredded
4 carrots, grated
2 green peppers, diced
2-3 onions, diced
1 bunch celery, chopped

Once the vegetables are soft add the potato mix and the tomatoes. Then add:
Dill, lots, prefer fresh
and more butter
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to minimum and simmer.

To made this vegan, use margarine instead of butter, using as little as possible, and leave out the whipping cream. Not Grandma approved but it is still tasty.

Monday, November 24, 2008

OMG! Have you seen this!

The library has a new biking magazine and it's NOT anything like the usual spandex-sporting commercial consumer-fest mags you usually see.

Momentum is 'The Magazine for Self Propelled People' , 'reflecting the lives of people who ride bikes and providing urban cyclist with the inspiration, information, and resources to fully enjoy their riding experience and connect with local and global communities'.

I spent some quality time with the current issue in the library and had to photocopy one article it was so good. I brought the other one home. Bike Porn. Pure and simple. I was up to 2 am reading and noting websites to view later.

Now I'm not a fashion plate so the 'style' issue wasn't something I was going to emulate anytime soon but the articles were interesting. Even the adds, Dutch Bikes, need I say more.

The magazine itself has a website, naturally, at with links to cool things like online articles, see the archive section, and blogs.

The article I photocopied? Helmet Cozies. Think crocheted tea cozy on helmet. Their website: . I found myself digging through my collection of retro-yarn, grabbing a crochet hook, and getting busy. These images are from their website:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Trowel Goes on a Field Trip

Ann has been trying to get me to meet Karen at the local community college for a while now. Life has been busy. We finally met yesterday.

Karen invited me to the college greenhouses to see what she has been up to.



I was seriously impressed.

It was like visiting Eliot Coleman of 'The Four Season Harvest' fame.

The first greenhouse is heated and currently housing a collection of tomatoes trellised nearly to the peak. Karen mentioned that these will produce until Dec. 21 and then it is time to yank them and tidy the greenhouse in time for spring planting. She also mentioned that greenhouse space will be available for the public to grow their own seedlings/transplants. This was such a success last year that the demand for space has grown to the point of needing to hold a lottery for the available space.

The second greenhouse is unheated and featured many raised beds draped in a double layer of Remay cloth for further cold protection. The greenhouse offers about a 5 degree buffer and she estimated that the cloth offers another 3-5 degrees. These plants were seeded on about September 15 and were growing well. Various lettuces: romaine, mesculun, endive, and another I can't remember, pok choy, radishes, turnips, beets, spinach etc.

Made me want to start cooking :o)

Karen was hoping that commercial growers in the area would take up the challenge and use these methods to extend their seasons and thus extend our ability to eat locally.

She also mentioned they have 12 foot wide Remay for sale by the running foot. Good to know.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Why no pictures? I have a teenager. 'Nuff said. If I ever get custody of my camera again I'll sneak back to the greenhouse for a photo shoot.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Green Pepper Bonanza

Well it didn't go quite as planned.
We did plant 48 peppers.
They certainly did produce well, this is only some of them. We had enough to eat all summer, plenty for the salsa we canned, and all of these for the freezer:

BUT ... our friend decided he didn't want them after all.
We ended up with 2 families worth of peppers.
Time to set up the production line and get to work!

The children traded off on the cutting and seeding then I did all the chopping. In the end we had 4 bags of 12 cups and one of 8, 56 cups of chopped peppers in all. I think we'll make it till next harvest on these! Well except the times we want fresh ones for veggie trays.

It is dead easy to scoop out a cupful for recipes as needed, no chopping required, and they don't wilt in the fridge between shopping days.

For the garden next year, this number of plants is good!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Local Soup Supper

I made a lovely soup yesterday for supper and served it with homemade bread. Tonight I served it again with a little tweaking. YUM.

Day One:

2 Quarts canned tomatoes, pureed (dh's)
1 small onion, minced (dh's)
3 cups cut up potatoes (mine)
3 cups sliced carrots (grandma's)
1 patty pan squash, peeled and seeded, cut up (dh's)
1 green zucchini, large shredded (mine)

and a sprinkling of seasoned salt from the store.

Day Two took the leftovers and added:

Another quart of tomatoes, pureed
1 lb. ground beef (Friend's cow)
1 cup green peppers, cut up (mine)
more onion (dh's)

and a sprinkle of chili powder with a bit more seasoned salt.

Both were really good and I would have added beans to the second night for a bit of a chili taste but we didn't grow any ... this year ;o)

Now if we just had some local cheese to go with it! I can't wait till Alpine cheese is open!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Note to self....

2 ice cream pails of blueberries are about 10 lbs.

This will make 3 batches of jam equaling 10 pints.

Will also leave enough berries for munching.

Buy more for freezing, actually send dh and older children to pick!


We were on the hunt for fruit today, a quick consultation with dh and we were off to his friend's. Seems she has blueberries and a sweet deal going on. Pick 2 buckets for her and then you can pick one free for yourself. With the help of our three youngest I got to bring home 2 buckets - 10 lbs. total of lovely blueberries. What fun! And a good time chatting with our friend.

She also has pears, which we will go back for another day, and she gave us some abused peaches for jamming - free.

Tomorrow we will be on the hunt for fruit for out of town friends who will be visiting. The look we had of what is available today will give us a head start for tomorrow.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I missed getting transparent apples from my uncle's tree when they were ready as we were in the midst of the whole dd/exchange/VIP thing so I went in search of apples at our favourite fruit stand instead. Their cold storage kept these soft summer apples in pretty good shape considering how long they have been off the trees. The trick is to do them the day you get them home as they bruise easily and deteriorate quickly.

The children and I set up a production line along our long counter:

First step, cutting out the bites from codling moths:

Next is the amazing apple peeling, slicing, coring thingy machine:

The next child cut these into bits and put them into a bowl:

Mom's job, taking these apple bits and adding them to the pot and keeping it stirred:

We kept at it until the pot was filled, adding as needed. Once the applesauce is cooked down sugar is added (4 cups for 12-13 quarts of sauce) and cinnamon too ( 4 Tbsp. for the same):

The sauce is pushed through a sieve to remove any stray bits of peel, core and seeds before being canned for 20 minutes:

The results are a warm brown tasty treat. One box gave us 12 quarts and there are about 30 lbs. in the standard apple box. (Two boxes netted us a total of 23 quarts.)

And I never want to see applesauce again. It took forever to cook down and I've washed the floor in the kitchen 3 times today... it is still sticky. I'm pooped.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bucket Pickles

When growing and canning your own cucumbers it's always a challenge to figure out what to do with the ones that got missed the last pick, the large ones, the ones that just will never be dills. Luckily for me Margaret came to the rescue with this recipe for bucket pickles. They are lovely, ready very quickly, and don't require canning.

Start with a nice clean ice-cream pail (with lid) fill with slices of the larger cucumbers. Alternate layers of cucumbers with sliced onions and red pepper slices. (1 onion and 2-3 peppers per bucket). Though they are even prettier with the red peppers I leave them out due to allergies.

The next step is making the brine. In a pot mix:

4 cups white sugar
2 cups white vinegar
2 Tbsp. pickling salt
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. turmeric

Heat to a soft boil over medium heat stirring often and pour over the cucumbers in the bucket. (Yes it is that bright and that smelly, the vinegar is strong.)

The brine won't cover the cucumbers, they will release their own juices to add to the brine that will accomplish this. You can see here about how 'deep' the brine is to start.

You need to keep the pickles in the fridge and stir them once a day for three days then they are ready to eat. Actually once they change colour they are ready to eat, just #1 don't tell my children this and #2 still keep stirring for all three days.

They store in the fridge for up to 6 months. I write the date on the bucket's lid and toss them after they come due, if there are any left that is. Very Yummy! Thanks yet again to Margaret for a great recipe that has served us well for years.

ETA: For our Dill Pickles in a Bucket recipe go here. The first bucket is only a week old, they aren't ready yet, but they are almost all gone. I'm thinking the children like 'em :o)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More pickles, salsa, and beans....

I had a busy week-end. It was time to admit the beans needed canning, the children didn't sell all the tomatoes at the Farmer's Market, and yesh, there were MORE cucumbers needing pickling.

When the dust settled we had another 16 quarts of beans, 24 quarts of salsa, and 5 - 2 quart jars of pickles to add to the stash. This is just 4 jars shy of my goal for pickles, I think I'll call it quits on those.

For salsa, I was aiming at 24 quarts, so we're done!

Beans ... well I was aiming at 3 shelves of 24 jars each, 72 jars in total, but with planting the beans late I think we'll bottom out at 2 shelves if we are lucky. (Last year we did 48 jars and we JUST made it through the year with rationing.)

The pole beans aren't even blooming yet and I am expecting frost any day. This was expected and the reason I planted so many bush beans.

Still I consider it a good year as we grew most of our own beans for fresh eating and canning. Grandma did send us the occasional ice-cream bucketful when she had too many but overall most of what we used we grew ourselves. That just plain feels good!

The little jars in the front are of dried mint. We have one, just one, mint plant and it supplies us and many of our friends with enough leaves for tea year-round. I'll post about it separately as it is a truly sustainable and easy project that works great!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Essential Canning Equipment

The first thing you get when you start canning are fruit flies, millions of them! It is important to keep everything scrupulously clean and covered to reduce them and an effective trap is essential.

I've had great success with this:

Simply a cup or a glass jar with yeast (about 1 tsp.) and vinegar (about 1/4 cup). Stretch plastic cling wrap tightly over it and puncture with a sharp pencil to make a few (5ish) small holes. Sometimes I add a rubber band to help keep the plastic wrap in place.

The fruit flies are attracted to the yeast and vinegar and go in through the little holes, somehow they can't figure out how to get back out and eventually fall into the vinegar.

The jam peaches we brought home today were covered with fruit flies, we shook the box gently till all had taken flight, covered it with a towel to keep them out and set them up their very own trap. I must have 4 or 5 of these set up around the house, wherever I saw them congregating.

What a month!

Sorry I've been absent. We shipped a daughter off to France for the year, took in an exchange student, and had VIP company as well. That plus canning. Still canning (and canning and canning...) but the dust has settled from switching children around and the VIP visit went very well.

I did take pictures of the interesting things we've been up to garden wise. I'll update ASAP. And have to shamefacedly admit .... I've been using the drier this week, trying to keep up laundry-wise while canning and homeschooling. It didn't help that it was raining every day since our student arrived til the first day of school.

I'm thinking about taking this week off of school and just concentrating on canning. I still haven't done cherries! Maybe I can find some at a fruit stand?? And crabapples, and peaches, and .... I need to make a list of folks who will barter for produce/fruit. It really doesn't pay to buy fruit for canning, it's just better quality and a wonderful feeling to have a year's supply in storage.

Friday, August 8, 2008


I finally baked bread. It's been weeks since I've baked and the family was craving some good homebaked bread. (And ready to revolt if I didn't!)

Lovely stuff.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dill Pickles

Ever try someone's recipe and have a EUREKA! moment? I did with this dill pickle recipe. Thanks to Margaret my family now eats great quality pickles.

I've compiled this photo essay for how-to-can the best darn pickles. Step by step for those who've maybe never canned before.

Step 1: wash and scald your jars, these are 2 quart jars with some 1 quart jars if I decide to make sweet pickles today too. ALWAYS wash and prepare more than you think you will need, just in case. (jars break, nicks in rims are discovered, there are more cucumbers there than you thought, etc.)

Step 2: Working backwards, prepare the rest of what you will be needing. Here is the towel laid out for the jars to cool on after they come out of the canner.

Step 3: Fill the canner and get it going. It takes forever to heat this much water to boiling. Start it right away! Fill as much as you can at the sink then use a jug to carry more water to the canner on the stove. You'll want enough water to cover your jars 1-2 inches without boiling over. You'll get used to your canner and be able to judge how much to put in after a couple times.

Step 4: Gather the ingredients for the brine. Here is Margaret's secret recipe:

16 cups water
4 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup pickling salt

(To make enough brine for 8 - 2quart jars I increased this recipe by 50%.)

Put these in a big pot and bring to a boil.

Just a note on preparing for 'canning season'. There will never be any vinegar or pickling salt at the store when you run out during a canning spree. Prepare during the winter and buy a year's supply ahead of time. It is so much easier to go to your cupboard for another package than to have everything come to a screeching halt while you go the the store just to find out they are out of what you need! Save up and buy a case of lids, a case of pectin, gallons of vinegar etc. (Especially important if you can after the kids go to bed like I used to when they were little!)

Step 5: Prepare your lids and rings. I like to put the lids into the rings and lay them in the pot. Cover with water and FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS FOR THE BRAND YOU ARE USING! Again, prepare more than you think you will need, it will save frustration later when you discover you need more and you won't have to wait for new ones to heat up. (in this photo I'm trying out my new rings, my old one's were getting horribly gross )

Step 6: Prepare your dill and garlic. Both of these we got from Grandma's garden. I'm washing the dill heads and peeling the garlic here. You need 1-2 dill heads and 2-3 garlic cloves for each jar. Remember to do more than you think you need!

Step 7: Finally it's time to prepare the cucumbers. Dh picked these last night and I washed them well to get off the dirt and every last little black spine. They then went into the fridge to chill. This results in a better pickle than if you did them while they were still warm from the field.

Here I'm cutting off both of the ends. You don't want any chance of any blossom end in the jars and having the ends cut off quickens the change from cucumber sitting in brine to marvelous pickles ready to eat. Margaret has her children poke the cucumbers with a fork to hasten this even more. I don't.

Step 8: This is where it all comes together. The jars, lids, brine, dill, garlic, cucumbers and the canner are all ready to go.

Place a dill head or 2 if smaller as well as 2 large cloves of garlic in the bottom of each jar. It is MUCH easier to pack cukes on top of these than try to fit them in later! I dry pack all of the jars before adding brine to any of them.

Use a canning funnel and a measuring cup (4c. size works well) to add brine to one jar at a time. Wipe the rim and place a lid/ring on. I stack these on the counter until I have enough to fill the canner. They all go in at once and then I wait ... I try to pull them out when about 75% of the cucumber skins change into 'pickle' colour. I don't wait for the canner to come to a boil for pickles as they can be ruined by over processing.

Pull them out, being careful not to tip the jars, and cool them on the towel on the counter. PROTECT THEM FROM DRAFTS! Don't move them or tip them for 24 hours. Remove rings and write the year on the lids before putting them into storage.

In a week you can enjoy your pickles!!! :o)

We try to do 100 quarts of dills every summer, and these just get us through the year!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

CFLs continued

I'm sure we've all heard the stats on how much replacing our bulbs with CFLs will save us cash wise. See the image above if you haven't. (Though the price of the CFLs has dropped since this comparison was made.)

In yesterday's post I admitted that we had changed all our bulbs but 2. A strange thing happened after the change though. From some where in my childhood or reading came the 'knowledge' that fluorescent bulbs waste energy when you flick them on and off, it's better to leave them on. And CFLs = fluorescents, yes? Can you imagine the results of this knowledge coupled with practically every bulb in the house being a CFL? Now add in 6 homeschooled kids who are home all day ...

I'll let you think on it for a second .... picture it .... picture it ...

You got it.

From sunrise to long past sunset our house glowed from one end to the other like a Micheal Jackson stage show. Aliens could have used our house for a beacon from space.

But we were saving energy and thus money right???

I got to thinking about savings in other areas. 'The most expensive food you buy is the food you throw out.' Bikes take 0L/100KM. In other words if it isn't needed don't use it. No usage is even cheaper than light usage. I had a eureka moment!!!

Yes the electricity pull of a CFL is less than that of a 'regular' bulb but it is still a pull. Like the ghost load being drawn by appliances left plugged in those lights being left on were using electricity for no good purpose. Did we truly need to have the basement stairs light on 22 hours of every day? Do we need to have the bathroom light on nearly all day and night too?

At first not having the lights on was hard, we had become accustomed to the bright illumination from artificial lighting. This was too reminiscent of my grandmother's house, we'd go to visit and end up chiding her for living in the dark, turn on some lights that's what they are there for!

After a couple weeks I noticed that the house felt calmer. Less stressful, more relaxed. I began to like it.

Now I realize come winter I'm going to have the lights on more, but it sure will be less than it was last year! There are also a couple lights that do remain on once the natural illumination fades. It would be crazy for us to be flicking them off and on every couple seconds as the various members of our home wander in and out of the room, their usage won't change. There has been a fundamental change of standard operating procedures that is effecting unnecessary usage.

One huge difficulty is convincing the children that they could leave the lights off a lot of the time. Not to mention the foreign notion of turning them off as they are finished in a room. This is going to be the real challenge.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Lightbulb Moment

Some months ago I received an e-mail from my now-hip-living-in-California cousin tooting the benefits of CFL bulbs. He went on and on and on and on about this wonderful new invention. About how he, the one living in California where they are at the head of the pack of all things cool not like the hicks he was evangelising, was going to change his ways and install a CFL bulb. Yes, folks, A CFL, singular; as in ONE.

Poor deluded boy.

I had to inform him that not only was this old news, though the Wal-Mart angle was a nice touch in his letter, but we hicks were way ahead of him. I was already replacing CFL's, burned out from long use. And to top it off, Mr. I make so much money, we had converted all but a couple bulbs over. We are just waiting for the last two to burn out so they too can be green.

One hint, as you install these bulbs note on them in indelible felt-marker the date. If they burn out ridiculously quickly, as one of ours did, the company will replace it.

Now, you'd think they'd replace it by sending you a coupon for a new bulb in the mail. No, no, no that would be too easy and too green. No, they send you a new bulb by courier.




All my green 'points' blown I'm sure, forever. -poof-

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Raspberry Jam...

(to the tune of "strawberry wine")

Today I went raspberry picking with my three youngest. WOW! An ice-cream pail and a half of berries. That combined with the berries picked two days ago made 3 pails! These from our own front yard, off our wild untamed canes. Free food, free food...

I broke out the certo and discovered that the directions have no measurements for plain ole raspberry jam. Hmmm... remembered this problem from last year. Ah yes! I had found the recipe on their website and jotted it down and stuck it to the inside of the cupboard door along with other canning recipes. Ta! Da! 5 cups crushed berries, 7 cups sugar, 1 pkg. certo.

A lot of crushing and stirring and canning later we have 4 batches of jam, 20 pints in total!

Doing it in this marathon manner saves on power, water,and labour as the canner only needs to be filled heated once, and I don't wash the pot between batches. Scandalous I know but it works! Only one batch of dishes at the end too.

These plus the other types of jam to come will get us through the year. We pretty much never buy jam, no need really. I want to investigate making jam without commercial pectin though. And surely there is a better way than all that sugar! I did try the sugar free, low sugar pectin a few times but we just didn't like the texture of the jam.

The next pickings of raspberries will be for grandma and the Farmer's Market. The 3 little ones pick the berries and sell them by the cupful for ridiculous sums of money. Sell like hotcakes though, and they get to keep the money for themselves, no cut for dad on these!

Friday, July 25, 2008

flowers by bike

It was time to pull out the lettuce from the south facing front flower bed. It was great to plant lettuce in it way back in late March but now in late July ... the lettuce is all bitter and bolting, time to go.

My two youngest daughters and myself hopped on our bikes and headed to the greenhouse down by grandma's house. We have just expanded our biking range to 4 kms from home. If a destination is within that distance from the house you need a really good excuse to be using the van. With the basket on the bike and this trip only being 3 km from home it was deemed bike-able. A quick look around found some heat and sun loving flowers to fill the bed with. I bought a flat and the girls each got a plant too.

We must have been a sight as we biked up the highway home. "That lady is nuts, she has a window box planted on her bike!"

And what is with the honking of the horn when passing cyclists??? It is always someone with license plates from other provinces or from the USA. Is there conspiracy to spook cyclists out there? The first time was when I was pulling ds on his tag-a-long flying down a hill with the two girls in front of us. We nearly had a collective heart-attack. It's nerve racking enough biking on the highway in this tourist traffic herding fairly new cyclists without random honking. Around here the only honking we usually hear are the 'Hey! How are you!' type. The cheerful toots of small town life. Rarely do we get the 'WAKE UP YOU GIT THE LIGHT HAS CHANGED!' honks. I'm at a loss about what these bike honkers are trying to say.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MY first tomatoes.

Well ds had his day in the sun with his winning of the first tomato of the season. Today my fist tomatoes were ready, two of them, from my 'sub-artic maxi's' in the greenhouse. I'd post a picture of them, the greenhouse plant and its sister plant in the garden but dd dropped our camera. sigh.

Also picked today, one yellow and one green zucchini. Two green peppers are growing but not yet ready to pick. I'm worried they are a hot peppers and not sweet peppers like they were labeled.

I can't wait until the yellow tomatoes are ready. I can't eat the red ones so I'm really excited when the yellow ones ripen. Tomato everything! I'll be pulling out lots of tomato recipes soon.

Also the big kids were to pick the raspberries today so I could make jam. They are going to have a do-over on that one. They missed a lot! It's okay as I was too pooped to jam today anyways ... and I found a bunch of freezer jam that grandma had made for us. So we are not out of jam anymore. I'll be putting the jarred jam off limits until the freezer jam is consumed.

It'll be fun! Right?

Monday our youngest started attending Young Naturalists for the first time as an all-day'er. Very exciting. Full days for a whole week in the marsh and in the woods learning all about our local environment.

When we arrived at the centre our dear friend Erich was manning the gift shop. "Did you two bike out?" he asked with a grin. I had to admit we didn't, 11 km out then to turn around and peddle them back towing an empty tag-a-long seemed a bit much. He did though ... and he lives much further than the 11 km's away we do ... but he bikes everywhere (I whined to myself).

I just couldn't get it out of my mind. Hmmmm... ds and I do bike about 8 km every night. It is cooler in the morning. I could still drive out and pick him up in the van in the heat of the day. We could TRY it one day... we might even like it! Other than the big hills an the ride home it is pretty flat. The traffic in the morning isn't all that bad.

By morning I was convinced to give it a go. We left an hour before his programme started. Peddle peddle peddle peddle ....... I'm sure that boy isn't pulling his weight back there! peddle peddle peddle ..... Is there a head wind or is it just me? peddle peddle peddle ... gasp gasp gasp!

Going over the final bridge we could hear a big truck frantically braking and gearing down behind us. There was oncoming traffic so he couldn't go around us and we didn't have any shoulder to ride on. "We're going to get creamed!!" Then the irony, he passed us and it was a milk truck!

We didn't take the time to stop and pick up the cool dead butterflies or dragon flies we saw nor the big stack of important looking paperwork by the roadside. Someone is missing those I'll bet! We were on a mission and on a deadline.

I dropped ds off with his group and turned around for the trip home. I can do this. Gag my butt hurts, I now understand biking shorts, the seam in these Capri's are killing me! If I take off my pants will my undies look enough like shorts?? na. peddle peddle peddle. HEY! This is easier! Ds wasn't pulling his weight back there. The empty tag-a-long isn't that bad. The hills are though!

Hey! Cool hawk! Why is it circling me? Potential road kill meal?

Dead crow.
Dead robin.
Dead deer.
Dead mouse.

I'm seeing a pattern here!

Lots of stops for water and gasping breaks.

HEY! Cool vista. Nice array of native grasses and wildflowers and ... invasive weeds. Somebody should pull those.

Lots of hay fields, grain fields, cattle in fields, and an amazing amount of smoke from some not too distant forest fires, can't see them but it is hazy throughout the valley. Too bad I didn't think to bring the camera.

I finally made it to dh's workplace. Maybe he has a delivery truck heading out that could take me up the final hilly 4 km's home. No such luck! I think I can, I think I can....

I did have to get off and push up a couple short but steep hills. One I usually do ride up but not at the end of this ride! (Dh does bike commute this every day, down hill to work and uphill home in the heat of the day.)

I finally get home 2 and 1/2 hours after leaving. GASP! When I drive out to pick up ds latter I notice he is very tired and grumpy. I think the bike on top of the hiking programme is too much. pity. I do need to spend my cool morning in the garden though so the loss of 2 1/2 hours was a bit much! Still ....

WE DID IT!!!! I can't wait to tell Erich ;o)

Friday, July 18, 2008

First Tomato & Zucchini!

Only there aren't any pictures.

I saw youngest ds going into the greenhouse knowing that today was the day for the picking of his tomato. I followed and said," Hey! Let's get the camera!" but it was too late :o) the deed had been done. Ds wins the first tomato contest for the second year in a row. Dh says it isn't fair as he used the greenhouse, I said it was 'cause he could have put a plant in there too if he had wanted to.

The first zucchini was a small yellow misshapen one we cut into today's pasta salad. It was a beautiful colourful addition. We have 2 more yellow and a couple green on the way.

Today may also be the first big picking of raspberries. We are out of jam so it is about time!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dh's lunch

Why a post about dh's lunch?!?!?

Well lunches can be a huge source of GARBAGE and WASTE.

Last year we tried to reduce waste by sewing everyone drawstring lunchbags that could be used over and over. I also made it a point of washing out the necessary sandwich bags and reusing them. They break/rip far too easy! I tried using glass juice jars but when a lunch got dropped there went the jar. I didn't want to use the plastic ones as they often leaked and sending one large tetra-pack or jug of juice for the children to share in their own cups didn't work either.

Then one day at the hardware store I had an epiphany! Those snap-lock boxes with dividers fit perfectly inside Thermos soft sided insulated bags. With the addition of icepacks and juice jars we were ready for another school year. I bought each person in our family a set and we have seen a huge reduction in garbage resulting from our lunches. We do reuse glass juice jars, think Snapple, and they don't break in the bags as they are padded. I do feel guilty about buying plastic but I figure the total is less than all the sandwich bags I didn't use this year.

During the school year I do bake the 'sweet' of the day thus avoiding the wrapper but dh's is the only lunch I pack in the summer and it would take him ages to finish a pan of brownies. I'm saving him the monotony by buying snacks for him. Good wife, bad environmentalist! Next week 3 of the children will be needing lunches so there will be baking in the house and no wrappers in the lunches. We do a selection of tiny plastic containers that are used in the lunches for fruit, trail mix, dip, sloppy sandwich fillings, etc. again I'm taking comfort in the disposable plastics I'm avoiding as these are being reused.

I also find the boxes are perfect for leftovers it the fridge. They fit better than round bowls, need no cling wrap, and stack. Very Handy.

(Did you notice the irony in the lunch, granola bar made in peanut free facility, on a bed of peanuts!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More environmentally sound ... only with a rock!

We were discussing laundry at work one day. My boss, single and childless, and a co-worker, only one child, were shocked by how much laundry I do. Four loads every day! But HEY! I use a front loading machine, only full loads, always wash in cold water, and hang to dry. I pointed out that I could be more environmentally friendly only if I did them with a rock!

I fit these loads of laundry onto an umbrella style clothes line on the corner of our deck. It is easy to get to, was easy to install, and doesn't take up much room.

To install it I simply placed the opened umbrella in the corner of the deck and stretched a bungee cord at the top of the railing and at the bottom encircling the post on the way around the corner. Too keep the end of the post from digging into your deck as it spins it would be a good idea to put a board or something under it. Take down in late fall and re-installation in the spring is an ease. Alas we cannot dry clothes outside in winter, unless we are willing to do the frozen like boards long john thing like you've seen in pictures of winters in Canada's past. It might come to that eventually, but not yet.

To fit 4 loads on the line I sag t-shirts and towels instead of stretching them out, only use every other string for better air circulation and let the loads hang all day.

I usually take down and fold the previous day's loads after the supper dishes are done. It is pleasantly cool outside by them and I enjoy it. I start the first load of the day before I start supper and then keep the machine chugging until that days loads are done. The children do help by hauling dirty laundry to the machine and clean laundry to the line. I selfishly keep the chore of hanging it to myself. By my bedtime I have 4 loads out there that can enjoy the summer heat during the next day while I avoid it.

The umbrella style clothes line holds more laundry than the line on wheels we had at the farm, interesting. Also it came with thin plastic tubing for the lines. These broke after the second year, but (and this is interesting too) the replacement line we purchased at the hardware store has metal wire in the core that is much stronger and has lasted a long time. I'm quite pleased with it really.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Looks like the raspberries are starting. Very exciting! We have some wonderful canes that a friend, a former raspberry grower, gave us. It took 3 years before they were producing well but they have more than made up for it. The fruit of this variety is very large as you can see. That is my 'ladies - large' hand in there.

The raspberries are the large bushy hedge you see in all our garden photos. One of these days they will be moved to become part of the 'perennial fruit border' around the edges of the main garden. The plan for the border includes strawberries, rhubarb and raspberries. We may choose to add other varieties, like gooseberries and maybe blueberries, later.

Now you see them, now you don't...

Usually the view across the street looks like this:

But every Saturday it changes!

Let's just say we are in easy walking distance of our local Farmer's Market. Really easy :o)

This makes the attempt to eat locally very easy too. If it's available locally someone is likely to be selling it here. Today we bought 3 dozen free-range brown eggs. $3 a dozen and we gave him our huge pile of empty cartons. Good way to reduce the need to recycle these. We grow just about every veg that was being sold today, and I do my own canning, so I didn't buy anything else. I should have grabbed some of the kohlrabi and the potatoes MY kids were selling from dh's garden. LOL!

And then we are back to an empty lot for the rest of the week.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Corn is coming up!

Finally. Though what do you expect when it gets planted so late. Still these are my baby corn and I am so pleased.

Also managed to get most of the garden addition mulched with grass clippings. I need another load or two to finish the addition and freshen the mulch in the original garden.

Today I hoed the garden, crawled around and hand weeded most of the new flowerbed, and gave the Lemon Boy Tomatoes a leg up in their tomato cages. I trellised them by tieing a garden cord around their bases, winding it around them like the tomatoes in the greenhouse, and tieing it to the top of the tomato cages. They were just coiling themselves up in the bottom of the cages and not heading UP. Silly things. The other tomatoes seem to know what to do, as did last year's that outgrew the cages, even the tall cages.

My mom phoned today to say the beans I was admiring in her garden just 2 days ago are now just little bean sticks due to deer. Poor things! I told her I think we'd have plenty to share. Another advantage of living in town, no deer. She signed off muttering about deer fencing....

We are now on water restrictions, expect to see the grass around the garden getting more and more crispy. Luckily we still get to water, just only on certain days and at certain times. I'm sure last year's instance, when I was moving a non-functioning sprinkler out of the way, and the water police came to a (I kid you not) SCREECHING halt in front of me will be funny one day. Once the trauma fades. I am now VERY careful to stay FAR away from anything resembling a watering apparatus on my non-watering days.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What is that dirty sheet doing in their garden???

Our neighbours are probably wondering what we are up to now. It does look like a dirty sheet lying in the garden held down by rocks. What can they expect from people who garden their front yard!

It isn't a dirty sheet though, it's floating row cover protecting the brassica bed. I did get the cabbages and broccoli transplants in that my boss grew in the community greenhouse. She grew too many for herself and so they found a home with us. Many got planted in the market garden but a snagged a few for here at home.

The worst part about growing brassicas are the bugs. Tossing a floating row cover over them keeps the moths off. If they can't lay eggs on the plants we don't get the caterpillars/worms that are a bit shocking on the plate. Dh uses floating row cover extensively on the farm. It is also great for keeping the bugs out of the radishes. Those little brown tunnels are caused by pests that are laid by moths. He harvests over 400 radishes a week that need to be saleable and organic. He buys a lot of FRC. Big rolls.

My mom and dh's folks were so impressed with dh's FRC we bought them their own for Christmas. It is lovely having parents who garden, easy to buy for. Happy birthday ... have a hoe!