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!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Corn is in, Beans are up

Finally, finally I got the corn in. No succession planting this year, I'll be lucky to get a crop before frost. If they do ripen before then the plan is to freeze or can the excess. I'm not enamoured of pressure canning but I have done it ... once! I do want to can instead of freeze for as much as possible. We have had our freezer unplugged accidentally once and I want to save as much room in there for the bulk meat purchases.

To prepare to plant the corn I used the hand tiller in the photo. Pushed with tines down the roller drum teeth break up the surface of the soil and the tines act as a mini-tiller. It takes a few passes back and forth but it does beat getting out the big gas tiller, which we have to drive to Grandma's to get.

What this little tiller really shines at is weeding! Flip it over and use it tines up. The drum roller teeth break up the soil and there is a handy-dandy cutting bar which slices weeds right off of their roots. This done in the morning of a hot day cleans up the garden right quick. We love this tiller/weeder so much ... we bought another one! Sad fact is that dh needs a full set of gardening tools for the market garden and I need the same for the house garden. Don't ask how many hoes we have ... or how many types :o)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Greenhouse Tomato Buckets

Earlier this gardening year my dh and his dad built a small greenhouse for us. I've been thoroughly enjoying trying out various projects in it. One idea was to start tomatoes in it to #1 have tomatoes earlier in the year and #2 to have tomatoes after frost.

I was casting about trying to think of what to plant the tomatoes in. Big buckets that I'd have to buy? Hmmmm..... Then I spotted the stack of empty cat litter buckets. Eureka! They were starting to pile up.

First step was to thoroughly was them, best not to skip this step as I missed a couple and the results weren't pretty as they may have contained residue from cleaning solutions which harmed the tomatoes planted in them.

Next, drill holes in the bottom for drainage. Very important and very easy to do with a 3/8th bit in dh's cordless drill.

Flipping it over it was time to add gravel, an inch or so.

Then came potting soil, I used one formulated for container planting and pre-moistened it.

Then a big hole was dug in the middle to plant the tomatoes as deeply as possible. More soil was added to bring it up to an inch from the lip of the bucket. This was all firmed down.

All the tomatoes were lined up along the front windows of the greenhouse. We have 2 sub-arctic maxi, 2 lemon-boy, 2 long keeper, 2 Russian, and our ds's cherry tomato in a wooden planter in the corner.

This picture of the greenhouse was taken part way through he planting of the tomatoes. Now that they are done they cover the whole front of it with one pot on the far left wall too. Over on the far right are two buckets of long English slicing cucumbers, we'll see how they grow up the wall. I just really don't have the room for trailing on the ground vegetables here at the house garden. Oh, and ignore the date stamp on the photos, long story, new camera, certainly not the correct dates!