In January we stopped bringing our mail as-is directly into the house. At first I misted it with hydrogen peroxide, following hand washing protocols. But it was soon impossible to purchase hydrogen peroxide, so that strategy was not sustainable. Then we setup a system of cardboard shelves to quarantine the letters for a week before handling them. But out of sight, out of mind, took over that strategy. Attila kept adding mail to the shelves, but wasn’t taking it out. I luxuriously forgot that there was any mail. He did know what was coming in though, so only one tax bill snuck by us, and was not paid on time.
So today I took the sizable stack of mail, which had accumulated since January, and sorted through it. I paid the tax bill that had slipped by unnoticed, and the rest have to be processed, then filed. It is lunch time and I have only just got the initial sorting done on the pile, and I’ve been working on it since 7:00 a.m. this morning. Administration is one of my least favourite activities, but it needs to be done, and going forward I am hoping we can stay on top of it, so that six months worth of mail don’t need to be dealt with all at once.
The day is lovely! The windows are all open. The garden is lush and happy, as we got a substantial rainfall yesterday, which filled the rain tank with about 900 litres of water. The garden of course, did not need to be watered yesterday, and will probably be good for today as well. This morning Attila brought in Swiss Chard for my lunch. I already have a half Zucchini, and the carrots we harvested last week. When I toured the garden this morning, I picked a few items to add to my lunch vegetable medley, Nasturtium Blooms, and a single pea pod.
26°C Date: 11:00 AM EDT Friday 31 July 2020 Condition: Mainly Sunny Pressure: 101.3 kPa Tendency: Rising Temperature: 24.2°C Dew point: 18.4°C Humidity: 70% Wind: S 14 km/h Humidex: 32 Visibility: 24 km
“There are people who, instead of listening to what is being said to them, are already listening to what they are going to say themselves.” Albert Guinon 1863 – 1923
I regard this habit as an intellectual handicap, and I try to be patient with handicapped people… which is hard with this particular issue. It makes for sloppy, slogging conversations. Also, if you do not listen attentively you limit your ability to learn.
The temperature dropped. The humidity dropped. It is still reaching 30C mid-day, BUT with the lower humidity, it feels close to 30C! And it is a bit cooler than it has been at night too, so that sitting out on the porch of a morning is just that much pleasanter.
I had an odd experience today. About the middle of June I was hoeing in the garden. A few days later a hard lump appeared on one of my fingers. I didn’t think much about it, thought perhaps it was bug bite of some kind, or that it was a Ganglion. But it didn’t go away, and it didn’t stay the same, it began to spread, my finger looked a bit swollen and red. So I made an appointment to talk to the Nurse Practitioner over the phone, and she arranged to have an ultrasound on the finger. The clinic where the appointment was made for me called me last week and we setup an appointment.
The appointment was today. Masked, I waited my turn in line to speak with the receptionist at the ultrasound clinic. Other clients were masked, keeping their distance, and the staff was masked and sitting behind plastic shields. When it was my turn in line, I gave my name and the time of my appointment. She took a long time looking at the computer, asked me my name twice, asked me my telephone number several times, asked how to spell my name, and finally told me there was no record of my appointment on the computer. By this time I was beginning to feel uncomfortable, I hadn’t been looking forward to this visit, and it was turning out worse than I had hoped. I insisted I had an appointment. The other people in the waiting room were all watching the exchange with interest.
She asked me, condescendingly, if I was sure I had the right clinic. I assured her that I wrote down the address when THEY CALLED ME. She asked me if I was sure I had the right day, I assured her I did have the right day. She asked me if I was sure I had the right time, I assured her I did have the right time. She asked to see my health card a second time, and spent some time looking at the picture on it, then suspiciously looking at me, this took a few minutes. She repeated, the appointment is not on the computer. I repeated, you called me and arranged the appointment for this time, at this place.
She finally consulted a pile of papers on her desk, pulled one out and said, it wasn’t on the computer, here is a print out.
“Oh yes,” I thought, “and how did that printed sheet get printed if the information was not on the computer? Do you have a manual typewriter here somewhere?”
It would have been counterproductive at this point to have mentioned this obvious slip in her story, so I remained silent. It didn’t matter to me if she knew, that I knew, that she was being less than straightforward.
I found a seat the required distance from other clients, waited a short time, and was called in for the ultrasound.
The ultrasound technician wore gloves, a mask, and a face shield. I liked that a lot. But she spoke to me in a heavy accent, and a very low voice. I could not hear what she was saying, so I just kind of followed a few of her hand gestures to figure out what she wanted. Eventually, when we were both getting a bit frustrated, I told a lie of my own… I told her I was a bit deaf (not true) and was accustomed to reading lips, which I do from time to time, and that I could not understand anything she was saying to me, which was true. Things went more smoothly after that.
Then it was all over and out I went. The results go to my Nurse Practitioner next week. I don’t know what is going on with my finger, and I hope it is nothing serious. I remember that Bob Marley went in to see why his toe was sore, and it ended up being something that killed him, so I always check these things out if they don’t go away, and I can’t easily diagnose them myself.
My fingers hurts. It hadn’t hurt at all before the ultrasound, but it hurts now.
So back home again, the canning jars, canner, and mandolin came out of the cupboards and it was time to can pickles! Seven pounds of English and Pickling Cucumbers from the garden needed my attention. Hours later, a dozen jars of Dill Slice Pickles sat cooling on the counter. The mandolin is doing a great job slicing the Cucumbers the exact thickness, every slice the same. The cut-resistant gloves were a great idea, as it turns out I could have had a few nasty cuts today, but didn’t. The pickles look great.
The only drawback to my pickles is that they are not crisp. I refuse to purchase products like Pickle Crisp. I know I can use grape leaves, but we haven’t any here, and we haven’t been out to the Camp in forever, there are Wild Grape Leaves there. The next time we go the Camp I will pick a few dozen leaves and bring them home for the freezer, to keep on hand for pickling during the canning season.
The canning jars are filling up fast, 29 jars of pickles already on the shelf, and the garden is just starting to produce! Of course, these Dill Slice Pickles are so good that three jars have already been finished off, three empty jars.
Cheese & Pickle sandwiches are my current favourite! If I want a Cheese and Pickle sandwich I am going to have to bake bread. Flour must be milled, bread must be baked, the last loaf of bread from the freezer will be enough for Attila’s lunch tomorrow.
Yesterday the canner was busy as well. Three pounds of Zucchini had been picked in the garden, and I needed to preserve them. So I found a recipe from the 60s called Zucchini-Pineapple, and gave that a go. There was a just a little bit left after the last jar was filled, so I sampled it, not bad. Five jars of this “fruit” will make lovely squares over the winter months. Another three pounds of our garden Zucchini will be waiting for me tomorrow, more Zucchini-Pineapple.
Here is what we did today, it is 9:33 p.m., and I am still not done!
Last Weeks Pickles I made Dill Slice pickles last week, from our English and Pickling Cucumbers. We couldn’t wait the seven days recommenced before opening a jar. We opened one jar, and they are fantastic! We had them for lunch, Attila with cheese and crackers, and I had a cheese and pickle sandwich. We finished off the first jar, we opened a second jar. Wow again, these pickles are amazing, a new favourite here. All of our Cucumbers will be preserved in this way.
Groceries Attila picked up our groceries this morning, which is a lot of washing and drying before they can be put away.
Celery We bought four heads of celery as they were on sale, fresh Ontario produce, and at their peak. The leaves were removed, cleaned and placed in the small dehydrator, they are still out there on the back porch, needing my attention before I can go to bed tonight. The stalks were cleaned, diced, blanched, then spread out on pans and put in the freezer. Tomorrow I will need to package the frozen celery in plastic bags, and process the dehydrated leaves into a powder.
Hot Dog Buns We decided to have Hot Dogs for supper, but had no buns. The dough was made in the bread machine, then shaped, put to rise, and baked. I hate to bake when the air conditioning is on, but July has been one very long heat wave, so there are no cooler days for baking.
Carrots The garden carrots were ready to harvest. Attila picked them, cleaned them, and brought them in for me to process. I cut the tops off all the carrots, then stored the carrots in the refrigerator for tomorrow. The tops were cleaned, the leaves removed from the stems, then placed in the bigger dehydrator. The Carrot tops are still dehydrating out on the back porch, and I will need to deal with them before I can go to bed tonight.
Vegetable Broth The stems from the Carrots, and a few frozen bags of vegetable scraps were transformed into Vegetable Broth in the Steam Juicer. Four cups of goodness to be frozen for use in casseroles and soups.
Pickles Attila harvested one pound of English Cucumbers, and three pounds of Pickling Cucumbers this morning. Time to make Dill Slice pickles! I got to use my new Mandolin, it works very well, nice even slices, and it only took about five minutes to slice all four pounds of Cucumbers. I wore my cut-resistant gloves, just in case. The eight jars of Dill Slices are cooling on the counter, and tomorrow they will be ready to wash, label and store away in the basement.
27°C (high of 32C today, it is cooling down now) Date: 9:00 PM EDT Sunday 26 July 2020 Condition: Partly Cloudy Pressure: 101.0 kPa Tendency: Falling Temperature: 27.1°C Dew point: 21.2°C Humidity: 70% Wind: WSW 27 gust 42 km/h Humidex: 36 (Humidex of 42C today, it is cooling down now) Visibility: 24 km
“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” Marianne Williamson
Thursday, July 23, 2020 – in the first summer of the Pandemic
The garden is beginning to get bossy.
I have been making my lunch from the produce Attila brings in from the garden every morning, since early June. These sauteed meals have featured Spinach, Beets and Greens, Swiss Chard, Peas, Carrots, and Zucchini from the garden. Chopped onion and garlic are always added to the mixture of the day. Our garden is organic, ten years now with no chemical anything. The price we would have paid for my lunches over the last seven or eight weeks, would have paid for all of the seeds, peat moss, manure, t-bars, netting, and municipal water that was used to get this years garden going. By the time the snow flies, I think the price of the rain tanks and the evestrough will have been covered as well. But really, we could not have purchased this quality of food in our grocery store, it isn’t available.
A few days ago there were too many English Cucumbers from the garden to eat! It seemed a perfect opportunity to try Refrigerator Dill Pickles. Two 500-ml jars are now sitting in the refrigerator, waiting until the second week of August to be ready. This is a new recipe around here, not sure how it will be liked, but it is so easy that it is worth a try. The jury is out for now.
Two pounds more English Cucumbers arrived on the kitchen counter yesterday, along with two pounds of Pickling Cucumbers. Attila does not like Sweet Pickles, so this recipes was chosen, Dill Slices. The Pickling Spice was omitted, and each jar received 1/2 teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper Flakes. Half of the Apple Cider Vinegar was replaced with White Vinegar. Apple Cider Vinegar for canning is no longer available where we live, can’t get it, so rationing begins. Our own Cayenne Pepper Flakes, Cucumbers, and Dill were used from the garden, the rest of the ingredients were store bought.
Coming up soon is the Carrot harvest. Dehydration is being considered, as freezer space is at a premium. Since I was unhappy with the way my 1970s vintage Cuisinart sliced the cucumbers yesterday, and the bowl on the appliance has cracked and cannot be replaced, an alternative method for slicing produce for fermenting, canning, and dehydrating is very much needed. Yes, a knife is wonderful and gives great control, but a bushel of produce is an arduous job to slice 1/4 inch thin with a knife. So Attila and I agreed that we would bite the bullet and buy a piece of good kitchen equipment to do the job going forward. I did not want another electric appliance, not being able to keep my Cuisinart going has put me off appliances with built in redundancies. I decided to research mandolins, for manual slicing. We purchased an all stainless steel mandolin, and cut resistant gloves, which will arrive next week. I am hoping the carrots can hold on where they are until the gizmos arrive!
This mandolin is a major purchase for our household, a big, big decision. I was nervous about it, since I knew nothing about mandolins. So I asked for advice on a great little Facebook group of Chefs, Chef Brennan’s Cooking and Baking Advice. I figured I’d get the best advice going, these people have experience, and know their stuff!
I have been feeling very sad about my 1970s Cuisinart, we have been through a lot together, almost 50 years of food preparation and preservation. Everything on it works like new, except the plastic bowl and lid assembly are wearing out, cracking, and will soon disintegrate. I am hoping the new mandolin will fill the huge hole left by the soon-to-be-silent Cuisinart.
Attila is working hard to finish the drywall in the basement, just one more section of wall to go. He thinks he might be done by the weekend. That would be amazing. We could start to organize the basement, and it might be organized in time to easily store all of the canned items that are starting to come out of the kitchen, as produce comes out of the garden.
I sat out on the back porch this morning, in muggy, cow dung air. They are fertilizing farmer’s fields again, which smells pretty bad for a few days. And it is a cloudy day to boot. So I cheered myself up by taking some photos of what is blooming in the garden, and posted them yesterday instead of this entry!
Just a passing thought, what if there was a Map of Cows, so that potential home buyers could find low-scented locations for their dream homes?
Friday, July 24, 2020
The morning was cool, the day is warming quickly. I had opened the windows early this morning, every single one of them on the main floor of the house, and I am resisting closing them again. They have been closed for weeks, and it is such a creature comfort to work in the kitchen, accompanied by a fresh breeze.
Yesterday was busy. Two litres of Switchel were made, and all the vegetable scraps in the freezer were turned into broth for the freezer, and scraps for the compost. Today is a little lazier, mostly clean up and tidying up after canning and making broth. In a small kitchen a lot of time is spent moving things here and there out of the way, and carrying equipment up and down the stairs to the basement.
When Attila and I discuss our fantasy house, he always votes for a BIG kitchen, I can certainly see his point of view. My fantasy involves a big screened summer kitchen, for canning and food preservation. But although there are a few annoyances in our little kitchen, we love our little house.
A large rain cloud passed over the house yesterday evening, gifting us with a deluge of rain. Attila and I sat on the back porch, watching, fascinated, delighted, excited… such is life at Mist Cottage.
It filled the 1000 litre rain tank, the 220 litre rain barrel attached to it for overflow, and the large garbage can attached to the rain barrel in case it overflowed. The second 1000 litre rain tank filled to 400 litres of water, it collects water from one side of the shed roof, not a big area, so it has yet to fill completely. It has been a dry summer.
Soon I will have to mill flour again, and I have my eye on the frozen Strawberries and Rhubarb for a canning session making Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling. For some reason I keep putting this canning project off, not sure why. I will get to it though.
22°C Date: 10:00 AM EDT Thursday 23 July 2020 Condition: Mostly Cloudy Pressure: 101.6 kPa Tendency: Rising Temperature: 21.9°C Dew point: 19.6°C Humidity: 86% Wind: NNW 6 km/h Humidex: 29 Visibility: 24 km
“I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts.” Mark Twain 1835 – 1910
Well, I don’t admire those who have unsupported opinions. BUT this quote is out of context, here is the whole thing, a different kettle of fish when taken in context: “I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts. I don’t know anything that mars good literature so completely as too much truth. Facts contain a great deal of poetry, but you can’t use too many of them without damaging your literature.”