Thursday, June 18, 2009

What He Said...

The problem with the modern world is simple.

Hothouse Tomatoes.

"Geronda, why don't we have patience today?"

"The current situation does not help people to become patient. In the past, life was peaceful and people were peaceful and had the endurance of the patient. Today haste has invaded the world and people have become impatient. In the old days people knew they could eat tomatoes by the end of June, for example, and they were not concerned about it. They would wait until August to eat a watermelon. They knew in what season they would eat melons of figs. But today they will import tomatoes from Egypt earlier rather than eat oranges which contain the same vitamins. You may tell someone, "Come on, why don't you wait and find something else to eat now?" But no, he'd rather go to Egypt and get tomatoes. When people in Crete realized that, they started constructing hothouses in order to grow tomatoes faster. Now they construct hothouses everywhere in order to have tomatoes available in the winter. They will work themselves to death to build hothouses, to grow all kinds of foods and make them available throughout the year, so that people will not have to wait.

But let's say that this is not that bad. But they go even further. The tomatoes are green in the evening and in the morning they have turned into plump red tomatoes! I scolded an officer of state once regarding this matter. "Having hothouses is one thing," I said, "but using hormones to ripen fruits, tomatoes and so on, overnight, is going too far because people who are hormone sensitive will be harmed." They have destroyed the animals too: chickens, cattle, they are all affected. They use hormones to make a forty-day old animal appear like it is six months old. Can anyone who eats this meat benefit from it? They give hormones to the cows and they produce more milk than the farmers can distribute to market. As a result, the prices fall and producers go on strike, they pour the milk on the streets and in the meantime, we drink milk with hormones. Whereas if we left everything the way God made it, all would go well and people would have pure milk to drink. Notice how hormones make everything tasteless. Tasteless people, tasteless things, everything is tasteless. Even life itself has no taste.

Nowadays, young people have lost their zest for life. You ask them, "What will give you peace?" "Nothing," they reply. Such vigorous young men and nothing pleases them. What has happened to us? We believe we will correct God with our inventions. We turn night into day, so that the hens will lay eggs! And have you seen these eggs? If God had made the moon shine like the sun, people would have gone mad. God created the night so that we may take some rest, and look at us!

We have lost our peace of mind. The hothouses, the use of hormones in produce and in animals have made people impatient. In the old days, we knew that we could reach a certain place on foot in a certain amount of time. Those with stronger legs would get there a bit sooner. Later, we invented carriages, then cars, aeroplanes and so on. We try constantly to discover faster and faster means of transportation. There is an aeroplane which covers the distance between France and America in three hours. But when someone goes from one climate to the other with such great speed it's not good, even the sudden change of time itself can be confusing. Hurry, hurry...Gradually man will enter a projectile and with the squeeze of a trigger, this projectile will be launched only to burst open at some point and allow a madman to emerge! Where is all this taking us? We are heading straight to the madhouse!"

-Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Spiritual Counsels, With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man

Monday, June 15, 2009


I am just too thrilled! I've been drooling over Excalibur Food Dehydrators for weeks, months even. They are wonderful, but PRICEY. I read literature on picking out a food dehydrator, looked at various models.... Then one day as I was searching out more information about a Canadian made dehydrator by Berron I came across an online ad for one for sale in a city my in-laws have to drive through to get here. Long story short, older farming couple sizing down were getting rid of a 6 tray Berron for $75! She was thrilled to sell it 'to a good home' and .... bonus .... when she comes across where she stored her steam juicer she'll give my in-laws a shout and it's mine ... for free!!!

It arrived here Friday night:

What a beauty!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

On Darning and Mending

Back in the day when we were farming and making a whopping $2-3,000 a year making do was very important. One way I stretched our dollars was by darning dh's socks. Now good work socks, wool socks, can easily cost 3-8-12 dollars a pair depending on the thickness and quality. Dh kept wearing them out in the same place on every pair and I found after they were darned that they lasted FOREVER because they had been reinforced by the darning wool in just the right spots.

Repairing the knees in jeans so they could be wore on the farm was another, then there was the basic hand mending of little rips, tears, and loose hems too.

I'll give you a hint about mending jeans... use one pair that has really lost it to be cut up for patches. If you look at jeans you will see that the inner seam is just a regular stitch, pick that seam open, open the jean leg flat, put the patch on with a sewing machine, then restitch the inner seam. Makes it a whole lot easier!!!

Now that we are powering down the same making do is coming back to me. It's time to set up my mending and darning basket. I was looking for a basket with a lid that I could put on my end table in the living room that wouldn't be an eyesore and that I could store my basic hand sewing supplies in. I found one at a garage sale for $2, it was quite an eyesore when I found it with lots of bright wool stitching and horrid raffia flowers on it. A couple minutes with a pair of scissors revealed the nice plain basket underneath. It now sits on my end table looking just fine. I've put a variety of different threads, needles, small scissors, as well as thin grey, white, and black yarns for darning. An African market basket was then pulled out of the closet and tucked behind my library basket beside the end table for items that need repairing. I'm all set up!

It is amazing how much you can do if you make a point of darning or mending one item a night after the chores are done before you pick up a book or turn on the internet :o)

Tonight I repaired my 11yo dd's favourite skirt. She bought it at the second hand store herself and last Sunday she caught it on a nail and tore a little rip in it. It is a lovely handmade skirt with beautiful hand embroidery around the hem, it would have been a shame to let the tear ruin such lovely item. A little iron-on interfacing and some stitching put things to rights. She can go back to wearing it nearly daily, at least til she out-grows it!

Some resources:

Darning socks video and tutorial.

Fancy darning for hand knit items using a duplicate stitch can be found here.

A quick article and video on mending, here and here.

It is time to buy some basic sewing supplies and a good book about sewing. It is time to learn how to hand sew. Also teach it to your children. They need to know.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Radish Greens???

Lately I've come across recipes for radish greens, really. Are they truly edible???

Dh grows a lot of radishes, 300+ every week in his market garden usually, not this year though as germination has been horrid. If these things are edible we want to know!

Fresh from the garden they are .... unappetizing:

After washing and trimming ....

Well the basket of them left out had children nibbling from it even though they are prickly. Taste verdict from oldest child: 'Like dirt, only greener, not in a bad way.' Strange child. Other children after eating them both raw and cooked said they like them better raw. Might toss a few into the next salad.

One recipe I saw called for them to be cooked in butter and garlic like so:

Yuck, was my thought but then I don't usually eat cooked greens so I have no comparison. Ds ate quite a bit, one dd ate a little and said they were better raw. Personal taste I guess. These were rather old tops, maybe younger ones will be better??

Try them yourself! If you like them - wonderful! If not - no real loss, they were headed to the compost anyways :o)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Independence Days Update #5

Plant Something:

Italian bush Beans
Onion transplants

Harvest Something:


Preserve Something:

Nothing this week...

Preparation and Storage:

Started sorting through last year's lentils to pull out wild oats and dirt clods, maybe if they were clean I'd use them more.

Reduced Waste:

Used more baler twine in garden.
Took grass clippings from friend's mowing service and mulched the whole garden, it really cuts down on hoeing, helps to build the soil, and lets the children know exactly where they can walk (as I only mulch the paths).

Build Community Food Systems:

Gave mint away to new gardeners.
Gave away strawberry plants to another new gardener.
Seeing as how our garden is very public and how we are involved in market gardening people are coming to us for advice. I love encouraging people. Many many people are turning to gardening these days, great to see!

Eat the Food:

Local Bought- wheat, eggs, beef, honey
Home Preserved: frozen cherry pies from last year, pickles
Pantry Storage - lots
Fresh from garden - chives

Try Something New:

Made tomato cages and pea fencing from concrete reinforcing wire held together with zip ties. Last year we used the rolls of wire and it was a hard job to get these to roll the way we wanted the cages to go. Using the flat wire made it easy enough for me to do by myself! I think we have 18 of these cages made now, they are wonderful to use with indeterminate tomatoes.

Powering Down:

Reading 'The Long Descent' by John Michael Greer, AMAZING book! Great ideas on the how and why and how to prepare.

Back to bike riding now that son's cast is off, no more driving him to school! Littlest son and I biked 8 km yesterday to the building supply store to pick out things for our bathroom renovation.

I've been going to garage sales with my mom and this week I found a grinder for $2! Usually used to make sausage but can also be used to to grind cukes for relish. These can be $50-250 new depending on the size!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Herb Bed Construction

For the last two years mint's been growing in the garden and it hasn't spread ... It was contained by growing it in a chimney flue liner sunk into the ground. Keeping this in mind I planned our new herb bed, a way to limit the spread of the herbs. I wanted it to be in the middle of the garden, kind of a focal point, once the raspberry canes are moved to the edge of the garden in a couple years.

Step one was finding the middle of the garden, and sinking in the 12 chimney flues. I didn't worry too terribly much about them being perfectly level and square, they are pretty close and once the herbs grow it won't be noticeable:

Once they were in they were filled with 'Mel's Mix' a combination of vermiculite, peat moss, and various manures as per the instructions in Mel Bartholomew's book 'All New Square Foot Gardening':

Thinking about what herbs we use in the kitchen guided what was planted. A quick trip to our favourite local greenhouse yielded:
Greek Oregano
English Thyme
French Tarragon
Lemon Balm

Adding sage and parsley from our old patch and chives from a garage sale planted out the 12 flues. The plan was to put something tall in the middle like an obelisk or bird bath. Instead it looks like dill will be living there :o) I need lots of dill for pickles and for borscht and for potato salad and for ...

Grandma supplied us with little volunteer dills from her garden and a baggie of dill seed. They are now all settled in and hopefully will give us a nice batch of leaf and seed heads.

All these herbs should be able to supply all we need for the year, now I just have to read about how to harvest and other ways to use them. We've been growing our own mint tea and the addition of chamomile should be interesting. My little tea grannies are already sniffing at the meager teaspoon of flowers we've harvested!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Independence Days Update #4

Whew! What a busy two weeks we've had.

Plant Something:
42 tomato plants (12 different varieties)
carrots under burlap:

16 cabbages under floating row cover (It will go over the hoops):

60 green bell peppers
1 green zucchini
1 yellow zucchini
1 row leaf lettuce
1 row of English cucumbers
'Beurre De Roquencourt' bush beans
Set up and planted our herb bed

Harvest Something:
Trimmed the onion transplants and ate the trimmings
Chamomile flowers

Preserve Something:
Dried the chamomile flowers for tea
Dried the leftover mint and basil

Reduced Waste:
Used moldy hay to mulch new garden section
Used lots of cardboard under the hay
Kept the baler twine and am using it instead of bought string for marking garden rows

Build Community Food Systems:
Dh and children very busy putting in the market garden:

Eat the Food:
Local Bought- wheat, eggs, beef, honey
Home Preserved - pickles, green beans,
Pantry Storage - lots as I'm starting to just buy things on sale and really stock up so a lot we eat from storage instead of buying as we need it.
Fresh from garden - rhubarb, herbs

Try Something New:
I took a good look at what we use as dried herbs for cooking and for teas, many of these could be grown in our garden. So our something new is putting in the herb bed in the garden and stocking it with herbs that I want to dry. This is a step towards independence from the industrial farming machine.

So far I've planted: basil, sage, oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives, tarragon, mint, lemon balm, and chamomile. I'm going to add dill and cat mint this week.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Independence Days Update #3

How come when you have time to post there is nothing to post about and when you finally have something to say, there is no time!?!

Better late than never :o)

Plant something: Still busy getting the garden ready to plant, just got the last section weeded out. For some bizarre reason my nicely weeded front garden was a mass of weeds this spring. So bad that I didn't want dh to rotovate it and risk spreading the roots.

It took lots of work to shovel it all out! I did take a break from shoveling weeds to get the pole beans in. As you can see in the photo the poles are REALLY long. I had a choice between 5' and 10' poles, the 5's were just way too short and the 10's are ridiculous!

I'm thinking to trellis tomatoes between the bean tripods. Maybe??

Harvest something: As I was digging away a friend roared by driving a moving van, she is moving back here!!! I sent the girls to bake a fresh rhubarb cake to take over for a welcome home!

Preserve Something: Not yet....

Reduced Waste: Repurposed some pasta sauce jars for local honey, and took unwanted clothes to food bank's second hand shop. (They sell the clothes and use the money to purchase food, it is one of the most popular stores in town!)

Preparation and Storage: Bought a bucket of local honey, melted it, and poured it into smaller jars, I think we will need 2 of these buckets for the year. (Miss it when dh worked for the bee guy and got paid in honey! And also miss when we bartered peppers for honey other years. GADS that stuff is pricey!) Stocked up on pasta and sauce at the warehouse store. Slowly restocking pantry.

Building Community Food Systems: Gave away lots of raspberry canes when I was weeding them out of the garden. Gave away some parsley and sage plants too. Dh and children very busy putting in the market garden, he has 800+ tomatoes planted, carrots, beets, etc. He took this week off work to get it done. What a great idea, it's been much more relaxing than in previous years! More will be planted today and tomorrow. Supported local growing by ordering chickens from new source and as usual bought eggs from local farmer too. It has become our practice to NEVER buy store eggs no matter how much more convenient it would be.

Eat the Food - Local or Storage: Ground CSA wheat for bread and buns as usual, made rhubarb cake from garden, drink mint tea from last year's dried mint. Didn't go grocery shopping this week, too lazy, so most meals are from cupboard or freezer.

Try Something New: Tried the put yogurt in cheesecloth and hang it to make a soft cheese thing and it worked! The children ate it on toasted bagels and liked it. I know how to make yogurt from back when dh worked on a dairy and got free milk so this is a 'value added' skill for me. I wish there was some way to get local milk, we have dairies here but it is all shipped far away for processing and it is illegal to purchase it at farm gate. Only dairy farm workers get the good stuff, you can't even barter for it!!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Independence Days Challenge Update # 2

Plant something:

The tomato seedlings are starting to recover now that they have been transplanted into other soil, they might make it yet! The cucumbers are doing well too, the peppers though are really really slow in growing. I'm thinking they need it much warmer!

We did get the peas planted finally, still no sign of them coming up though. It is still quite cold and wet, unusually so, thus I'm holding off on planting anything else. We just mowed the grass for the first time for an example of what our weather has been like!

I'm also still waiting for dh to rotovate the garden, we usually use Grandma's tiller but it is broken. Dh bought a little one at a yard sale but it needs work before it is useful. He borrowed a friend's tractor and large rototiller and did his market garden. Way, way, way, too big to do the house garden with!

He has planted his beets, carrots, peas, onions, and radishes so far in the market garden. He salvaged some of last year's failed potato crop, it got too weedy, and is going to replant them.

Harvest something:

Finally! Some rhubarb that I tossed in the kids' bag lunches, I needed to put a fruit in there and this came to mind. I could harvest more, I just need to bake to use it and I hate sweet baking!

OH!!! Yes, we 'harvested' flowers. I love having fresh flowers on our dining room table and my 11yo girls are great about finding flowers and other 'stuff' for display.

Preserve something:

Nothing yet, I could preserve rhubarb but we still have lots still in the pantry from last year! I am going to start drying herbs soon as they are up and growing in spite of this horrid weather!

Preparation and Storage:

Thinking about how to change our storage areas for this year's harvest. Making plans...

Starting to purchase on sale items to restock pantry after gouging it last week.

Reduce waste:

Instead of recycling glass jars with resealable tin lids I've begun saving them for preserving jams in. This is something my Grandmother was supportive of and I dismissed as I knew better than to reuse commercial jars, would only use proper canning jars. Older and wiser now ;o) I'm also saving jars with plastic screw lids, it won't be long now before I have a lovely matching set of 1.5 litre storage jars! FREE!

Finally took all of the winter's recycling to the depot. We won't let that pile up again! It was interesting how much we took to the depot thus saving it from the landfill. Reorganized the sunroom's recycling bins.

Still drying clothes on the clothes line even though it keeps raining!

Keeping firm to the 'no lights on during daylight hours' learning to live with only natural light. This was REALLY strange at first, now I find it relaxing.

Doing way too much driving as ds has a broken leg. Can't make him walk to school now can I?!? And I've been feeling too yucky to do any biking. It's been a rough couple weeks.

Build Community Food Systems:

Dh is working on his market garden, third year for this incarnation.

Continuing to buy only local eggs now that Lent is over. Supporting local growers this way.

Visited our chickens at Uncle's farm, he is growing 2 or three batches of 300+ meat birds for sale this year. Since we can't have chickens in town...

A new thought, or articulating a thought that has been brewing....

We do buy some transplants every year. These are available everywhere you turn even at the grocery store and dh's workplace. (very tempting!) BUT ... We have truck after truck hauling little plants into our valley, why??? We have local greenhouses, at least 4 commercial greenhouse operations that grow transplants. Why can't we concentrate our dollars and shop locally grown in this venue as well? So ta-ta! bargain prices at the grocery store and hardware store I'm off to local growers for local transplants supporting this branch of my community food system!

(We have a local greenhouse grower growing out dh's market garden peppers and 700+ of his tomato plants from seeds I saved. No way we were attempting that at home! We are closing the loop of what we can supply locally vs. what we have to ship in.)

Eat the food:

Last of the green beans, some pickles, ground CSA wheat for bread, local beef from our freezer, ate mainly from storage last week, looking to what we can add to our list of 'make it don't buy it'.

Try Something New:

Last year a fellow wanted our old cornstalks for his cows and brought us some cobs of multicoloured corn as a thank-you. He said we could use the seed to plant corn for next year. So my something new is husking(?) the kernels off the cobs for dh to plant in the market garden. Since we don't grow corn and neither do the neighbours it shouldn't cross pollinate. I'm not to sure what this corn is good for??? I'll have to track down his phone number and ask! If nothing else it is pretty and might sell just for looks.

I'm planning on making dd climb up on the roof every Monday to take an aerial photo of the garden. (This isn't as mean as it sounds, she is nearly 20 and our roof is flat.) It will make an interesting slideshow if IF IF we remember to do it regularly!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sunshine on My Garden Makes Me Happy

I got to dig in the garden yesterday - finally. There is a real need to get the peas in, it's late. I was thinking of how to edge the garden on the side of the pea bed and tried a couple methods before I said 'screw it' and went back to plain dirt.

So the first bed has been weeded, dug, and hilled. The rest of the garden hasn't been touched, there are a lot of weeds and grass that need to be removed before it is worked up, don't want to be spreading those roots!

Yesterday the cabbage seedlings popped up, there might be something to this having the heat on, I'm dying but the plants seem to appreciate it.

Then this morning there is movement in the English cucumber pots:

If this keeps up I might have some new baby plants! I've almost given up on the baby tomatoes. They are not only not growing but have started keeling over.

I'm not a houseplant person, my dd thinks this is why my indoor seedlings are doing so poorly. I should just hand the whole operation over to the 11yo's as they have green-green-thumbs. Their room is filled with lush houseplants they have either purchased or grown themselves from cuttings. The only houseplants I have are ones they have been maintaining. Something about them needing ... water?

When I warned my dd about touching my baby plants she said it wasn't her touching them I should be worried about. Took me a minute to get the very suave insult that that was! LOL!

I admit it, my green thumb is only operational outside.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Garden Planning 2009

Last year I found I wasted valuable space on veggies we don't eat that often and didn't plant enough of others that we do. With hubby's big market garden supplying some of our needs I still have to maximize the space I have to grow what he doesn't. For example, he grows all of my cucumbers, and since we do 100 quarts of dills plus sweet pickles and relish that is quite a load! He doesn't plant green beans and we eat a lot of them so I need to plant enough here at the house garden.

I've been sitting here doing some reverse planning. I'm asking myself what to plant this year by thinking about what we eat, can, freeze, dry, and store. If I want to make 4 batches of borscht a year and it takes 3 beets each time I need to grow 12 beets. Only 12 beets. Not a huge row, just 12! On the other hand if I want to grow enough tomatoes to can, make salsa, spaghetti sauce, and dry I need to plant LOTS.

For other foods we buy straight from farmers I am making notes of where I buy them: eggs, beef, chicken, honey, corn, tree fruits, grains and legumes are all available locally. The question I am looking at is what to grow ourselves and what still makes sense to purchase. The prices for some items like strawberries make it a better idea to make room for at home. Blueberries we can barter for so those I'm not planning on growing here ... yet. As we live right downtown we can't raise chickens, cattle, or bees so those items we have to buy or do without. Some things grown locally we don't eat like asparagus, allergies are the cause here, it's too bad as the local stuff is AMAZING!

Every year I try to increase what we eat locally. Some we grow and some we purchase. We joined the grain CSA last year and loved the experience of learning to grind our own grain for baking as well as the wonderful lentils and oats that came with our share. Now I'm thinking about finding a source for dried beans and chickpeas. Can we grow them ourselves or do they require too much space for our urban garden?

This year I want to get back to drying some foods: fruit leathers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, cherries, apricots, apples, herbs for spices and teas, as well as mixed vegetable flakes for soups. This is pretty ambitious and more of a long term goal to work towards than this year's plan. I used to dry a fair bit when we lived on the farm but my drier didn't survive the move so I'll have to purchase a new machine to accomplish this. I've been reading how to dry and powder your own garlic and chilies online and it looks like it's totally doable.

I'm also thinking of working on cold room storage, something that we haven't done much of at all. Item on this list include potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions, garlic, beets and turnips, maybe more. I do have the Mike and Nancy Buble's book on root cellaring as well as a mother who is experienced with this. Hubby also did a lot of cold storage of when he worked at a fruitstand way back. It is time to learn this valuable skill. Only problem is that we don't have a root cellar or a room in the basement suitable for this. Were not handy building type people so this maybe a long term plan!

Also as I plan for this year's harvest I am keeping in mind what supplies I'll need to purchase: sugar, certo, vinegar, spices, lids, lids, lids... I find it imperative that these are bought well in advance so as not to be running to the store in a panic only to find them sold out.

So I'm busy scribbling this into my garden journal and then I'll go to the library to get the book that gives you the yield for garden veg by the foot of row. Very handy that. Hubby says one of his seed catalogues also has yield figures so I'll check that out too to make my planting plans. So if I want to grow 12 KG of peas I'll need to plant how much??? Ohhhh... I love planning :D

Saturday, April 11, 2009

More Potting

Last night I saw my mother's tomato plants, planted after mine and just tossed on a table by a window. She has leaves people, leaves! My babied plants have only cotyledons! That's it. The. Gloves. Are. Off.

Today I bought a new bag of potting soil and potted out cabbage, green peppers, English cucumbers, and more tomatoes. Nothing fancy just used pots of dirt on old take out boxes cut into trays by the window. Ha! Take that you seeds!

I think one reason mine aren't doing as well is because we keep our house cooler than my mother's. I just may have to ditch the parka and turn on the heat. Hubby will be pleased, he is cold blooded and finds my preferred temperature - chilly. My habit of having the window open every night all winter long is especially grating.

I may have to resort to a heated germinating pad like the one hubby uses too. He won't share so I may have to get my own. (On his account at the hardware store naturally.) The seedling adventure continues.

[Just a note in the 3 minutes it has taken me to type this I've yelled 'SHUT THE DOOR!' six or more times. Just did it again. Could explain why I am reluctant to waste money on heating the house, no?]

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Planted today:

California Wonder Green Peppers from William Dam seeds. They had two features I was looking for: open pollination and thick walls. Planted 8 square pots of 4 seeds and 3 round pots of 8 seeds. I'm hoping to grow 48 plants like last year for fresh eating, salsa, spaghetti sauce, and for freezing.

Langedijker Winter Keeper Cabbage also from William Dam Seeds. Promised to be a large winter keeper that retains light colour in storage. I'm hoping to store this in the cold room that isn't built yet. Planted 2 round pots that I will thin to 6 plants each. I am planning for 12 heads.

Glamour Tomatoes from seeds I saved last year. This is my workhorse of tomatoes for canning, salsa, and spaghetti sauce. I am hoping to get some Amish Paste tomatoes somewhere as well for paste and for drying. Planted 7 small pots that will be thinned to one plant each.

Improved Long Green English Cucumbers from Farmer`s Brand bulk seeds at the hardware store. Seeded 3 rectangular pots that I`ll thin to 6 plants each. We really like cucumber salad so I`m going to try to grow these on a trellis in the garden here at the house. Last year I grew English cukes in the greenhouse and they had male and female flowers that never bloomed at the same time and frankly I got tired of having to hand pollinate them, so it`s outside you go for the bees to deal with.

Usually I don`t grow anything that vines and sprawls in my house garden. Hubby does them in his much larger market garden, so that is where our pickling cukes, squash, and pumpkins grow. However, it`s just too much trouble to get a cuke for supper from there!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Wasn't today lovely!

After weeks of rain and months of overcast skies it finally cleared off and got warm, YUM!

I was too buy to take advantage of it until today. The baby lettuce and swiss chard that were doing so poorly downstairs went out into the greenhouse:

The oldest ds wanted to have a bunch of friends over for a LAN party so he did some landscaping to butter me up. The nasty patch under the dining room window that gets very weedy every year got weeded, leveled, weed clothed, stepping stoned, and graveled. WOW. He should have groups of friends over more often!

Two of dds cleared out two side flowerbeds for their personal gardens then found the time to clean out and plant the small raised bed in front of the house:

Not to be outdone youngest ds got off his deathbed, he has a cold, and swept the little front path, his own idea!

And we took a load of recycling to the depot. We only got about 1quarter of it done since the children REFUSED to do this all winter. It had piled up in the sunroom a little:

I managed to get the area where we park the bikes cleared out and all the chains oiled. Then before the sun disappeared I gave the front flower beds a good raking and pruning to get all of the dead bits cleared out. Most of the flowers in these are perennials and are starting to push little green shoots up and out. Now it is just a matter of digging out all of the nasty GRASS! Then I can think about the veggie garden YIPPEE!!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

This just can't be good

For days now I've been telling dh that my seedlings downstairs aren't doing well, not well at all. And he's been brushing me off laughing at me saying I'm just impatient just wait they'll grow give them time. HA.

I did some checking, they were planted on the 20th of February, it's now the 1st of April,and the seed packets say they should be harvested in 65 days or so. I'm looking at these tiny, stunted, sickly looking plants thinking NOPE not a chance. Gives a whole new meaning to 'baby greens'.

Let me describe them to you. The swiss chard is a whole masterful 1 inch high with two leaves, also the stem and the leaves are bright red. Not good.

Now the lettuce has managed to grow to 4 leaves, go lettuce! But considering that two of them yellow and each plant is only 1/2 an inch tall I'm thinking a salad is out of the question at this point.

And the spinach? Umm... well the spinach knows the game is up, the end is nigh, that's all she wrote and the fat lady is going to be singing soon. They have manfully made it to 1 inch tall but most of them are gathering their last feeble efforts and ..... flowering. They know they are doomed and are doing what they can to survive, in their offspring. Bad Urban Trowel. Bad Trowel. Bad Bad Bad.

But I think I know why this disaster has struck. Pretty much everyone on-line has said that you do not need to got to the extra effort and expense of purchasing special grow lights, just use regular ones. When I went and purchased new tubes I got the cool ones as they gave off more 'lumines' or some such, they were brighter and thus better right? So after a month+ under these lights and I knew something wasn't working I read "put one tube of each cool and warm in each fixture to give the full range of light" AH HA!!!! That's why my babies were dying, and face it they are dying, not just sickly. So I have gotten warm tubes to add to the fixtures, maybe I can save the tomatoes that are just starting to sprout, I'm not hanging out hope for the others. We're just going to have to hope the ones in the greenhouse do better.

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Sorry, still no pictures, the camera has disappeared completely, and face it, looking at pictures of these poor, stunted, neglected veggies would be like looking at the scene of an accident. You just can't help but stare, all the time thinking ... OUCH!

Friday, March 27, 2009

More Tottering

It was lovely warm in the greenhouse again today. I just had to plant something even though we haven't solved the air leakage problems yet.

I put in two rows each of spinach, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, and beets. Then I put radishes in between the rows as they will mature and be pulled before they are crowding the others. These are short rows the depth of the planting bed so only about 4 or 5 plants per row. We use a full head of lettuce for one salad usually so they won't be too much for us. Also when we are growing our own we pull only the outer leaves and let the inner ones grow larger.

I'm quite disappointed with how the seedlings are growing under the lights right now, I think they have stalled out. Hopefully these outdoor plantings will do better.

I'd post photos but the camera has dissappeared and even the teenager hasn't a clue as to where it has gotten off to.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Alfalfa Sprouts

My family loves alfalfa sprouts! They are even better when you grow your own instead of buying them at the store. So yesterday I went looking for seeds. None at either of the grocery stores, finally got some at the health food store. They. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding! about the price. OMG! It was $12.38 for 1 cup of alfalfa seed, that just can't be right.

My first reaction was to look online to see about growing our own. I mean really. Someone out there must be doing it because that is just a crazy price. After looking for hours I'm thinking that no one out there grows alfalfa in their home garden for sprouting seeds. I did find lots of info for commercial growers just nothing for small sized growers. I might just have to try this out. Pollination seems to be the only tricky part.

My friend's dh used to grow alfalfa for seed commercially and she thinks it might be doable. Never hurts to try! I'm thinking grow transplants and do a bed just to see.

Today I took the seeds back to the store and had them double check the price ... sure enough they did make an error. She charged me for alfalfa leaf not seed. Uh huh. So it was $5.86 instead, still a lot, just this side of crazy :D

I'm still thinking to try growing my own though.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Urban Foraging

Our family LOVES pickled mushrooms. Really loves them. I remember one year our then 4yo dd asking for pickled mushrooms for Christmas and doing a gleeful dance around the living room when she got her very own jar in her stocking. You used to be able to buy them at the store but not any more. I found this recipe in a traditional Ukrainian cookbook and made it every year for one of our 12 dishes for Christmas Eve supper. (click on the photo for the recipe, I used the 6x version today)

JUST NOTICED: THE 6X VERSION NEEDS 3 CUPS OF WATER IN THE BRINE, this isn't listed in the penciled-in listing, please add.

When we were in the grocery store yesterday my dd saw three bags of fresh mushrooms on the discount shelves. PLEASE MUM!!!!

(This is where the urban foraging comes in :D taking advantage of finds like these. No one here has shown up with mushrooms at the farmers' market so I felt comfortable purchasing these for home processing from the store, I NEVER buy my strawberries from the store no matter how cheap they are as people do grow them locally.)

I've made batches of these mushrooms to store in the fridge before but today I got bold. There is really no reason that pickled mushrooms shouldn't be able to be canned, I figure. They have vinegar ... they are hot ... why not?? (I've used my pickle recipe to pickle carrots and green beans with great success, this should work too.)

So first we washed them, strained them, boiled them for 15 minutes in salt water (using pickling salt) Here they are in my 12 quart pot just as they went in.

And after cooking for a while, they shrink down to about half the size! The water can be saved as mushroom broth for soups.

Once they were cooked I packed them into jars with minced onion and garlic, covered them with the brine and left out the vegetable oil called for in the original recipe. It would effect the acidity of the recipe and I wouldn't trust it. Also it made the mushrooms a bit 'greasy' in the fridge method. I understand the reason it was in the original recipe to act as a seal between the mushrooms and the air, unneeded in these soon to be canned ones.

Then added hot lids and processed them for 20 minutes. They all sealed and now we'll open one a month to see how they work out.

They just look SOOOOO yummy! A note, I did try this recipe with canned mushrooms and with fresh one year to compare the two. The pickled fresh mushrooms were way, way, way better!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tottering in my Greenhouse

It finally warmed up in the greenhouse enough to defrost the ground!!! I wanted to dig in the cement block a couple inches to form the edges of the raised beds. As I was digging I noticed two things. One - the blocks we set the greenhouse on were in the way of digging the edges right against the windows, we'd have to set the bed in a couple inches. Two - and this was the deal breaker, there were roots then a massive root exactly where I was digging. HUH. This meant that the blocks would have to be above ground and supported by the walls of the greenhouse and the gravel back filled along the path. Back in went the dirt into the dug trenches.

Also the size of the greenhouse and the length of the blocks meant I had to learn the new skill of cutting blocks. Hubby said it was easy you just score them with the grinder.... Whoa! Luddite wife here! Next idea ... Chisel and sledgehammer??? Ah, No. He settled on showing me how to use a chisel and a hammer, regular wife do-able hammer. And it worked just fine.

I used the broken bits of block to level the edges, it's not an exact science and I did get some weird breaks. The blocks slot together nicely as this picture shows.

Once the sides were in I put a thick layer of newspapers down to stop the grass and filled with potting soil. The nice man at the store recommended a container mix as best.

Cutting the weed barrier off that I originally had under the gravel back and pulled back then back filling the gravel left a nice neat edge to the bed. The plan is to make another bed along he rear of the greenhouse at a later date too.

As seen from the front:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Change of Plans

The tomatoes kept drying out on the table downstairs so I brought them up, covered them with a plastic bag fastened down with duct tape, and put them on top of the refrigerator. I've heard that it is warmer up there and it's a good place to start seedlings but we have an all-fridge, no freezer, and it isn't warm up there. Maybe it will work maybe not.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cabbage Mandolin

Have you ever had to slice a whole cabbage or maybe more? Doing it with a knife usually doesn't produce the results you want, shredding takes impossibly long, and they are both tiring, very tiring. Thinking back to Grandma-on-the-farm and all she did for making sauerkraut and for borscht lead me to the cabbage mandolin. A handy device made specially for those days when you have lots of cabbage to cut. The Grandma-who-knows-everything has one for us to borrow as it is one of those 'not every one needs to own their own, just one per community family' type tools.

I was making a batch of borscht today and needed to shred a cabbage. Last time it was a long involved process with a knife that resulted in chunks not shreds. This time I learned from my elders and used the mandolin. It sets over your sink with something beneath to catch the cabbage.

At first it wasn't cutting at all, a quick phone call to the Grandma-who-knows-everything, she told me how to adjust the blades.

On the side of the mandolin are two nuts that you need to loosen then you flip it over and adjust the blades by louvering them. They have little pivots you turn them on to adjust the angle of the blades which affects the height of the blade above the surface of the deck. Once you've got it the height you want tighten the nuts again and start pushing the cabbage back and forth. (click on the photos to better see what I'm talking about)

This mandolin is missing the wooden box that slots into the side and holds the cabbage, I just used my hand and when I got down to little bits I wore a hot pad mitt on my hand to protect it. In no time at all the entire cabbage was shredded and ready for the pot.

A few more steps and we had borscht for lunch.

I packed up a quart for dh's lunch in a canning jar.

I sprinkled raisins on mine, as per Maureen Cameron's recipe when she had the cafe in back of her health food store. I like the little touch of sweetness they give.

The children aren't as fussy they just ate, and ate, and ate it, then came back for more after the dishes were done.