The Garden is Growing

I think this year is the first that Attila has had the opportunity to create a full-blown vegetable garden. We have had gardens here at Mist Cottage ever since it was purchased in 2010, but renovations came first, and the five hour one-way commute slowed down any long term gardening interests, or even keeping up with watering and weeding in the short term. But this spring, there are no big renovation projects underway, and we are here almost all the time, so watering and weeding are easy to keep up with. And last night, Attila finished planting the very last of his seedlings, started earlier in the spring, they were waiting patiently in the cold frame.

Already I’ve had two meals made from ingredients from the garden. Both were sauteed spinach with garlic scapes, and oh my it was good. I’ve been eating bits of produce as well, every day. Usually there is one ripe strawberry on the hanging basket, or a sweet pea, or a leaf of spinach. Over the weekend we also harvested about a cup of wild strawberries from the front “lawn”, and I made a batch of muffins with them. Wild strawberries have an intense and exquisite flavour, the best strawberry in the world in my view. But very labour intensive to harvest, they are the size of small peas.

We have flowers! The cosmos is blooming, as are the Dianthus and Peonies. Attila brings cut Peonies in for me every so often. They make the house smell wonderful. I am careful to capture the ants though, that come in with them.

Wildflowers are in full bloom, the Hawkweed and the White Clover, and even a few dawdling Dandelions. The Wild Geranium blooms are spent though, but even their seed pods are pretty, so they continue to grace the garden. The Wild Geranium were particularly popular with the smaller bees in the garden, the blooms saw constant activity.

Our Scarlet Runner bean plants were attacked, and almost destroyed by Bean Leaf Beetles. When we first discovered the problem, many of the leaves were already past hope. On Sunday we killed over 30 beetles, and we did not get them all. Since then we have been killing any we find, and we check several times a day. I knew that Neem oil would control them, but it is not readily available for sale here, or if I an find it it costs a small fortune. So I decided to give Tea Tree Oil a try. I filled a liter spray bottle with water, a tablespoon of dish soap (not detergent), and 10 drops of Tea Tree Oil. So far no new damage out there, but it could be that we knocked back the population by hand, rather than the spray being effective. Only time will tell.

Attila even planted a tomato out at the Camp, and it seems to be doing quite well, probably because we have received adequate rain, at adequate intervals all spring.

Life is quiet, enjoyable, peaceful, uneventful, busy…

I had a routine doctor’s appointment earlier in the week. When I checked in at the reception desk to let them know I was there, I was told my appointment had been cancelled. Well, nobody told me! Apparently they should have called me to reschedule, but this had not happened. I wasn’t happy about it. So we rescheduled for a another day, problem solved. I sure hope that doesn’t happen again!

We have had the windows open every day throughout most of the spring, but summer is arriving today, so the windows will be closing. It is 18C as I write, lovely temperature, but severe thunderstorms are in the forecast and then the temperature will be 28C and humid. And so it begins.

wild geranium gone to seed
The Wild Geranium bloom gone to seed, the subtle colour and shapes are beautiful.
Hugelkultur bed
This is the first half of the Hugelkultur bed. It consists of layers of logs, small sticks and branches, wood shavings, sod and topsoil Atop are the Cucumber plants, not thriving, but surviving and hopefully they will produce. This is the first of two Hugelkultur beds, the second will be added at the open end of the first. Over time these beds will diminish in height.
one ripening strawberry handing from a potted plant
This strawberry, hanging from the potted plant we purchased at Costco, is almost ripe. The taste is mild, and not very sweet, a bit disappointing. This plant is very hearty, and is covered with blossoms. I usually get a fresh strawberry to eat every day. Surprisingly, almost all of the runners I set in my raised bed have survived. And even more surprising, many of those plants have blossoms and will bear fruit this year. In the fall the strawberry plants will be planted in the new garden bed. In the meantime, the new garden bed has been planted with Spinach, and when that is spent, who knows! Maybe radishes, or Swiss Chard.
raised beds and composters
This is how the gardens, in the back yard, look today. On the far left is the new garden bed, intended for the strawberries when they are transplanted. It is built from Ash logs, from the Ash tree that was felled in our front yard last month. The three raised beds are made of pine flooring, seconds Attila purchased at a discount, years and years ago. I love them. I don’t have to reach down to weed these beds, and so I weed them every day, and the plants are doing very well as a result. The closest bed has strawberries, sweet peppers, and tomatoes. The middle bed has a row of spinach, a row of beets, and a row of sweet peas, which have a trellis to follow skyward. The far bed has tomatoes, basil, radishes, and bush beans. The bird bath has been visited by birds, but it isn’t as popular as I would have hoped. You can see two of our three composters, they are filling up fast. Kitchen scraps and yard waste do not leave the property.

Worldly

Weather

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH
18°C
Date: 10:00 AM EDT Wednesday 26 June 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy, Lightning
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 18.3°C
Dew point: 17.7°C
Humidity: 96%
Wind: S 14 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people. The hardest is with one.”
Joan Baez
1941-

I guess I am doing things the one-on-one hard way! Most of us are, I suspect, when it comes to relationships.

What We Do

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The trip to the Camp allowed us the opportunity to keep abreast of ongoing issues.

Issue One: Mice!
After not catching any mice for many weeks, we arrived at the Camp to find the mouse trap had captured one mouse. Disappointing. This means there is still an undiscovered entry point, undiscovered by us, not by the mice. Back to the drawing board we go on keeping the little monsters out of Grace, where they don’t belong.

Issue Two: Army Worms
Spring at the Camp has, for three seasons now, included several visits dominated by killing army worms. They find the camp very enticing. So far this spring, we have destroyed four webbed nests in the Dogwoods and Sumacs, and only a few dozen masses of them on tree trunks, mostly on Maples this year. This diminished population may mean their numbers are waning, or it may mean that their season is late, and one of our future visits will reveal that a huge population remains.

That is it, all the issues so far this year.

The Bright Side:
At the Camp, the Black Flies were not too bad, and their season appears to be over. The Mosquitoes are around, but there don’t seem to be a lot of them, yet. The Dragonflies are numerous, very, very active, and beautiful to behold. The bird population is higher this spring than ever before, of course ever before, for us, is only three summers. Hardly definitive, but wonderful nonetheless.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

An exciting day here at Mist Cottage, visitors! My Mom, and sisters made the trip, we had a lunch date. We had a great time, and good long gab session. My Mom brought me a few jigsaw puzzles, my family enjoys having a good jigsaw puzzle on the go. Thanks Mom! Luckily the weather was on our side, although a little on the chilly side, at least is was sunny. We toured the garden, my raised beds and Attila’s traditional garden beds. We looked at the Heliopsis and Rose plants that I have from my Granny’s garden, the garden where my Mom grew up, they are both thriving here, thank goodness. For lunch we had Taco Soup (Instant Pot!), and homemade 100% whole wheat bread, made from the flour I milled myself. My sisters enjoyed the Dandelion Jelly, a sweet treat on a slice of homemade bread. Time flew and before we knew it they had to be on their way, it is quite a drive. They had a long day, and I sure enjoyed seeing them!

My sister brought her camera out just before they left, and Attila took a picture of Mom and her three daughters.
“Look”, I said, “My Mom is the best looking of all of us!”
Attila replied, “You are all pretty good looking to me.”
I pointed out, “Yes, of course, but when you consider Mom looks as good as we do, and she is 88, well, I think that supports my premise.”

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Another lovely day! It was so beautiful that we decided to take a run out to the Camp. There were lots of army worms, but only about a tenth of the numbers we saw last year at this time. The spray consisting of Dawn detergent, water, and wee bit of bleach killed them effectively. There were no mice in the tap, hurray!

We enjoyed our day there, and decided to stay overnight, so that we could stay up very late watching the camp fire. We retired happy after watching the stars come out, and the fireflies flickering in the forest all around us. In the morning, as I was standing at the kitchen counter making myself a cup of coffee, I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a doe, she was standing behind the trailer watching me through the window. We made and held eye contact for the longest time, I did not move, not wanting to break the spell. She slowly grazed around the perimeter of the Camp area, occasionally stopping to gaze into my eyes again, and after a half an hour or so, wandered off into the forest.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Attila had the day off work today, and spent his time working happily in the garden. If only a small proportion of our garden yield fruit or vegetables, we will be well set up for the winter!

A small project that has been on my list for a very long time was tackled and completed today. We had new windows installed a year ago March. At that time Attila was working on replacing the garage roof, and had no spare time to consider other tasks, and all of the equipment for small jobs was buried in boxes, stacked and stored in the basement while the garage was under repairs. The kitchen window is above the sink, so I used painter’s tape to put up plastic wrap film over the trim, so that it would not be damaged by splatters and water. Today was the day that the plastic came down and Attila applied two coats of finish, over the course of the day. The smell is terrible, all the windows are open, and I am very, very glad that this project has at last been accomplished!

Worldly

Weather

12°C
Date: 1:12 PM EDT Thursday 13 June 2019
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 100.8 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 12.3°C
Dew point: 12.3°C
Humidity: 100%
Wind: S 17 km/h
Visibility: 4 km

20°C
Date: 8:00 PM EDT Tuesday 18 June 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 20.1°C
Dew point: 12.7°C
Humidity: 62%
Wind: SW 8 km/h
Humidex: 23
Visibility: 24 km.

Quote

Quote for Thursday, June 13, 2019

“Our great weariness comes from work not done.”
Eric Hoffer
1902 – 1983

Quote for Tuesday, June 18, 2019

“If it weren’t for history everything would happen at once. If it weren’t for geography, everything would happen to me.”
Anonymous
1990
Toilet stall, cafe basement, Bloor and Brunswick, Toronto, Ontario
I read this sitting down, and as a Geographer, I loved it. After almost 30 years, it still tickles my imagination.


Scarlet Tanager

Last weekend was perfect, the weather, the company, the place, the time.

The weather was warm, sunny, and breezy.

We stayed overnight at the camp for the first time in 2019. We spent a busy day. I cleaned out Winnie, while Attila felled three dead Elm trees.

Winnie is open at one end, more like a stall built of pine boards, with a roof, and a cement pad floor. The leaves blow into Winnie over the late fall, before the snow flies, so that by spring there are a lot of leaves in there. In the leaves this year were mosquitoes, very, very large spiders, centipedes, and a chipmunk who dug a hole under one of the cement pads. I removed everything from Winnie, including our compost toilet buckets that sat there over the winter, a pail with heavy-duty, used plastic bags and a bottle of bleach, and a few worn out tools picked up at the charity shops. Nothing worth stealing, all of it very handy.

The biggest challenge cleaning Winnie was that the bottom of the wall boards, which originally sat several inches above the ground, were no longer above the ground. Soil had built up over the last few years, so that the pine was now in the soil. Using a spade, i dug out around Winnie’s perimeter, so that the boards are once again a few inches above the ground. They will rot less quickly that way. It was all hard work!

Attila, while I was busy with Winnie, felled three sizable dead Elm trees. Unfortunately, during the process, two small healthy trees were damaged so badly that they too needed to be felled. As soon as the trees were down, Attila began to pull the brush out to the fire pit area. My second job of the day was to burn the brush, including the live branches.

By lunch time there were wonderful hot coals in the fire pit, so we cooked grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and took a long break, just sitting in the shade enjoying the day. While we were sitting there we spotted a pair of very large Blue Jays, a small Pileated Woodpecker, and a Scarlet Tanager. This is the second time I’ve seen a Scarlet Tanager at the camp, they are such beautiful birds.

The highlight of the visit though, came as the campfire flickered in the darkness, the evening cooled, the Loons called in the distance, the Owls hooted on the ridge, and the stars began to appear in the sky.

Worldly

Weather

17°C
Date: 9:00 PM EDT Tuesday 11 June 2019
Condition: Mainly Clear
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 16.9°C
Dew point: 8.7°C
Humidity: 58%
Wind: W 6 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“She had an unequalled gift… of squeezing big mistakes into small opportunities.”
Henry James
1843 – 1916



Preservation and Preparation

Fresh Organic Dandelion Blooms, just the thing for jelly! Their season is short, but I managed to capture them at their peak!

Wow, it has been a while since I last wrote an entry!

I’ve been busy, playing in the kitchen, or is it a lab, not much difference when you come right down to it.

New technology is always fun. Over the last year or so I’ve added a steam canner, a steam juicer, and Tattler reusable canning lids to my kitchen equipment.

I love the Victorio steam canner. Purchased last year, it is a game changer, no mistake about it. I gave my water bath canning equipment to my sister! The steam canner is lightweight aluminum, so I can easily grab it out of storage in the basement, and get it up and down the stairs without straining myself. It requires comparatively little water to operate, so I can easily carry it to the sink, add the water and carry it back to the stove. It is easy to lift the jars in and out of the canner, making it a breeze to use. And after making my usual first attempt boo boos, it works perfectly every time.

The newly acquired Victorio steam juicer has added a whole new dimension to my home food preservation activities. I have only tried Rhubarb Juice, as it is the only ripened produce coming out of our garden so far this spring, and it is a big hit here. The fruit pulp that remains in the juicer makes a lovely fruit leather, so nothing goes to waste. And of course, there are my learning curve bloopers, I always make them. I was using the oven to dry my fruit leather. I share the kitchen with Attila, I should have thought it through. I left the fruit leather in the oven after I turned off the oven early in the day when the price of hydro doubled, meaning to turn it on again when the hydro price dropped again, later in the day. Attila decided to roast potatoes, and I forgot to warn him about the fruit leather. It didn’t go well, the fruit leather is toasted rather than dried. I will be doing the fruit leather in the dehydrator from now on.

The Salton dehydrator was purchased at a discounted price, an entry level unit. Since we had not tried using such an appliance before, it didn’t make sense to purchase top of the line equipment. If we decide it is going to be a technique of food preservation that we come to rely on, a high quality unit will be purchased. So far the little unit we have, a birthday present for Attila years ago, is meeting our needs.

The Tattler lids are exciting, they are reusable. All of my canning career, which spans around five decades, I’ve used metal lids and rings. I’ve never had a seal fail on me, not even once. I was surprised to learn it could even happen. But throwing out all those lids just seemed so wasteful and expensive. So when I came across reusable Tattler lids I decided to buy a few and see how they work. Well, it seems my blooperness has gone into overdrive with these lids.

I am teaching myself to use the Tattler lids by canning water. The first time I tried them in the steam canner I had 50% failure to seal. The second time I had 100% success. But the story doesn’t end there. I then used them to preserve food. Two jars of Dandelion Jelly, to start with. They sealed, and after 24 hours I took them down to store in the basement. I checked on things yesterday, and the lids came right off! Oh dear, false seals! I reprocessed the jelly with metal lids, they sealed and are now stored away.

Tattler lids were also used for another seven jars of steam canned jelly, and juice, and three pressure canned jars of Taco Soup. I am watching these jars very carefully, checking the seals several times a day for failures. The sealed soup jars are in the refrigerator, so if the seals fail, the soup will be preserved and can be frozen instead. One of the jars of soup did not seal, I think I know what I did wrong with it, it is in the freezer.

So Tattler lids are putting me through my paces, for sure. Are they worth the trouble? Well, I haven’t decided on that yet, it is early days. Usually, after working with things, I get a feel for them, and get better and better at doing them successfully. I am hoping that will be the case with the Tattler lids. So far I haven’t lost any food items, so I am not discouraged.

On the homemade bread front progress has been made.

I am now milling all of our flour. We buy the wheat berries, which are extremely difficult to source at a reasonable price, to mill the flour. The grain mill, a Wondermill, is easy to use. Of course I have my bloopers with it too. I discovered that if you add too many wheat berries at once to the feeder, the flour container will clog, and it makes quite a mess, and requires quite a clean up. Whoops. I’ll only make that mistake once. It didn’t damage the machine because I always hit the off switch or pull the plug at the first sign that anything is amiss with an appliance.

I have a Black & Decker bread machine, purchased at a considerable markdown. I don’t like it, but so long as it does the job it won’t be replaced. I have made enough so-so bread in it, trying new things, until now the bread I make in it is lovely. But, that is one loaf at a time, not enough, with Attila taking lunches to work. He is using a lot more bread than he otherwise would, because it is homemade and delicious. I need four or five small loaves a week.

So I decided to try making five loaves at once. This is where the Bosch Universal Mixer comes into play. Again, this has not been an instant success. My first attempts yielded acceptable but not lovely results. I continued to research and read what other people were doing, and tweaked and tweaked my technique. The last batch was lovely, and thankfully I took the time to write down the process I used, and the ingredients.

Just a note about the links to amazon that I have included for the equipment I use. I didn’t buy any of it at those prices. I didn’t buy all of it at once, or even recently. I have purchased my equipment over a period of many years, and expect it to last a lifetime. I often buy equipment directly from the manufacturer (e.g. Tattler), or when I find it on sale for an excellent price, sometimes watching prices for years.

My policy on spending money has changed little over the years. For instance, I have a Cuisinart food processor that I purchased for myself in the 70s, when I was a Home Economics teacher, and it has been in constant use since then, and I expect it to be in constant use until Attila and I no longer have the need or wherewithal to use it.

I am the same with clothes, my parka was purchased in the early 90s and is the only coat I’ve worn since, and it is still going strong. I have a pair of pants that I am considering throwing out, purchased about 30 years ago, they are badly worn now. Items that wear out after only a few years are regrettable failures .

Another example is my sewing machine. When I was studying Couturier clothing design and construction I purchased an inexpensive Singer sewing machine. It was a disaster, and was negatively impacting my studies. So I returned it, went into debt, and purchased an Elna sewing machine. I have used my little Elna since 1969, and it is still humming along the same as it always has. I think that was my first experience with the difference quality can make, it was a lesson well learned.

I guess all of this illustrates why the Tattler lids hold such appeal for me!

Worldly

Weather

15°C
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Thursday 6 June 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 14.8°C
Dew point: 13.2°C
Humidity: 90%
Wind: N 11 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Once the game is over, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.””
Italian Proverb