Squirrels with Nuts

The first day of autumn, yesterday, was warm and sunny, a high of 24C here. Today it is hot and sunny, and humid. Not at all like autumn.

Attila is working on finishing the new storm door, which of course needed a frame built for it. Renovating an old house is full of unusual and interesting adjustments.

Here at Mist Cottage, we are like a couple of squirrels gathering nuts for the winter.

The garden loves this weather, and the harvest continues to be bountiful.

Today Attila harvested:

  • Cherry Tomatoes,
  • Beefsteak Tomatoes,
  • Black Russian Tomatoes,
  • Roma Tomatoes,
  • another variety that I haven’t poked around to see what the seeds said they were,
  • Scarlet Runner beans to eat,
  • Scarlet Runner Beans that had gone to seed for planting next spring
  • two large Zucchini
  • a quart of hot peppers, Cayenne, Jalapeno, Serrano, Habanero
  • a pint of Ground Cherries
  • one English Cucumber
Scraps in the steam juicer, on a hotplate, on the table, on the back porch. Also harvest bowls of Scarlet Runner Beans, Zucchini, Ground Cherries, Tomatoes, Tomatoes.

The tomatoes will go into the basement to finish ripening, then will be made into pizza sauce. The only other produce harvested in a quantity suitable for preservation are the zucchini, and I am thinking about what to do with the zucchini!

We went early to the grocery store to pick up a few supplies this morning. Oh dear, the Red Shepherd Peppers looked amazing, so I had to buy a second half bushel, I had roasted and frozen the first half bushel. Once I got it home I washed all of the peppers in a cold water and vinegar bath, then sliced half of them into strips, which I laid on a tray and placed in the freezer. The tray took up the last few available inches in the freezer!

With no more room in the freezer, I had to find some other way to preserve my peppers. I decided on pressure canning them in water, and after quartering them all, removing seeds and stems, I blanched them for three minutes, and drained and packed them into 500-ml canning jars. To each jar I added boiling water and one tablespoon of vinegar, then pressure canned them at 10 lb. for 35 minutes. I canned six jars of Red Shepherd peppers.

The Pressure Canner at 10 lbs. pressure, in 35 minutes the canned peppers will be done, the burner turned off, and the wait will begin for the gauge to fall back to zero pressure.
Six 500-ml jars of pressure canned Red Shepherd Peppers, all sealed. These will sit undisturbed until tomorrow morning, when I will remove the rings, wash the jars, write the contents and date on the lids, and carry these babies down to the basement to begin their new life on a dark shelf. I’ve not tried canning peppers before, so it will be a learning experience, and I hope we like them!

When we prepare all of this bounty for preservation, or right away for our meals, we save the scraps in one quart bags in the freezer. Today, with all of the red pepper scraps, I decided I had enough to justify a steam juicing session. I added the two quarts of pepper scraps, and six quarts of other vegetable scraps, to the the basket in the steam juicer. I set it up outside on the portable electric burner, where it steamed away for a few hours and produced about a quart of vegetable broth. The remaining scraps were cooled and added to the compost.

All of this food preservation going on, and apple season is just getting going! I will be canning apple pie filling and apple sauce when Northern Spy apples are available.

Yesterday though, we decided to take a break from our squirrelly ways. We took a drive out to the camp to check on things there. Everything looked fine, although we could tell someone had been on the property from the tire tracks they left. I guess they were just having a look, nothing had been interfered with.

I was thrilled that there was no sign of mice in Grace the trailer!!! Nothing in the trap, and no droppings anywhere. Wonderful.

We enjoyed the sunshine, the breezes, and the two deer that wandered by, paying little attention to us. I even saw the biggest millipede I have ever seen in my whole life, it must have been three inches long. Attila and I watched it as it made its way across the campfire area, and carried on into the bush.

Attila cut grass, and used a leaf blower to clear the driveway. He also applied spray foam to a few of the small openings we found on the underside of Grace the trailer. We keep trying to keep those critters out!

I burned brush. Since we were last there quite a few small branches had fallen out of the trees, so I gathered those up, and built a camp fire.

For our lunch, we roasted wieners over the coals, and enjoyed hot dogs on homemade bread, topped with garden tomatoes and Vidalia onions. We stayed until Attila began to feel hungry again, then off we into the sunset, home.

We had such a good time!

Worldly

Weather

22°C
Date: 5:00 PM EDT Sunday 22 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 22.2°C
Dew point: 21.4°C
Humidity: 95%
Wind: S 15 km/h
Humidex: 31
Visibility: 19 km

Quote

“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”
Henry Ford
1863 – 1947



Home

Well, I honestly thought that by this time of year I would not be so very busy with what is coming in from the garden! Every other day I am making pizza sauce with our tomatoes, blanching green beans for the freezer, and making something with zucchini. We have enough tomato sauce canned now to last us until next years tomato harvest, so I’ve begun to make pizza sauce with the tomatoes, which I am freezing, because I am including the tomato skins in the sauce.

The no-sodium Zucchini Relish jazzes up so many dishes for me, so that I am happy to have already canned over 24 jars of it. Two more jars of Zucchini Relish were canned this afternoon, and a half jar went into the refrigerator for immediate use. Another thing I tried today with zucchini was Zucchini Brownies, didn’t sound the greatest, but they are delicious! Nothing like a little bit of veg in your indulgences.

Today is a renovation day. I know we weren’t going to do any renovations this year, except to fix the foundation wall along the garage, which Attila did early in the summer. But the stars aligned perfectly, so I decided to seize the day on this one!

Attila took a vacation day on Friday last. We planned, at my suggestion, a visit to a local art museum. We had the schedule, the parking, and what we would eat, all planned out. Friday came and off we went to the city. On a bit of a whim we stopped by Home Depot, I wanted to look at doors, front entrance doors to be specific.

Now let me just say, at this point in my story, that Attila is not a fan of “going out”. He will do it, at my insistence, but were it not for my initiative he would not do it at all, ever.

I looked at doors, chose one that was in stock, and a storm door that was in stock. Our vehicles won’t transport anything as large as doors, so my plan was that we could order the doors for delivery, and install them sometime before the snow files. I hoped to talk Attila into this project.

The salesperson suggested that it would be less expensive to rent a van from Home Depot, and take the doors home immediately. Attila lit up like a Christmas Tree! Take the doors home now, spend the weekend installing doors and not have to go the museum, it was a no-brainer for Attila! He watched me carefully, not willing to suggest such a thing, since I had planned the museum outing. But hey, I’ve been sitting in the living room every winter since 2014, with the wind blowing in through the drafty front door, despite the fact that I always tape it shut. If Attila was willing to install a new energy efficient front door immediately, well, there was “no time like the present”.

So we rented the van, brought the doors home, and Attila has spent the rest of the weekend removing the old doors, and installing the new. It is a nightmare project.

The first oh-no moment occurred when we realized that we had purchased 34 inch doors, but the present door was only 32 inches wide. OOPS!!

We panicked at first, another truck rental, another day spent transporting doors, yikes. But Attila insisted he could install the new doors we had purchased. Go for it Attila, I thought. And he did. And it was just our good luck that the old 32 inch door was installed in an opening for a 34 inch door. So the 34 inch door would fit, if Attila took apart all the gerryrigging done for the old door. That took time, and it paid off. The 34 inch door fit perfectly, in the end. Last night Attila got the new door in, with handles and locks, before we went to bed.

Today he is working on fiddly bits with the entry door, mostly with shims, which I had to take two trips to the lumber yard to purchase, one bundle wasn’t enough. After having completed the insulation around the door, Attila is now tackling the installation of the new storm door. It is raining off and on, but Attila carries on. What a challenge, he has to add a frame around the door. Everything about Mist Cottage is wonky.

Mist Cottage was built by a builder who used materials removed from other buildings that were being renovated. Most of the materials are quite old, and mismatched. But here is the thing, in those days they used wood, real wood, so even used materials were of high quality.

There is little consistency in the construction of this house. For example, every single interior door is a unique size, and none are a standard size. What this means is that every renovation here is first a journey of discovery, to see what has been done, and then a journey of creativity, finding a way to use modern building supplies to renovate what is worn out.

Mist Cottage is a “house of many colours“.

The old 32 inch door. This door had been kicked in at some point, you can tell from the outside, and the fact that the area around the handle and lock are splintered and repair. It never recovered properly from this abuse, letting cold air in, which was a challenge when the winter winds blew.
The new entry door. This door has a few advantages over the old door. It is energy efficient. It has a window so it lets in light. It is slightly wider so it will better accommodate moving things like appliances in and out of the house. And it does not let in the wind, no need to be taped shut for the winter. And least important, I think it is prettier than than the old door.

Worldly

Weather

17°C
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Sunday 15 September 2019
Condition: Light Rainshower
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 17.1°C
Dew point: 14.7°C
Humidity: 86%
Wind: W 9 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

Coat of Many Colors
Dolly Parton
“Back through the years
I go wonderin’ once again
Back to the seasons of my youth
I recall a box of rags that someone gave us
And how my momma put the rags to use
There were rags of many colors
Every piece was small
And I didn’t have a coat
And it was way down in the fall
Momma sewed the rags together
Sewin’ every piece with love
She made my coat of many colors
That I was so proud of

As she sewed, she told a story
From the Bible, she had read
About a coat of many colors
Joseph wore and then she said
Perhaps this coat will bring you
Good luck and happiness
And I just couldn’t wait to wear it
And momma blessed it with a kiss

My coat of many colors
That my momma made for me
Made only from rags
But I wore it so proudly
Although we had no money
I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me

So with patches on my britches
And holes in both my shoes
In my coat of many colors
I hurried off to school
Just to find the others laughing
And making fun of me
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me

And oh, I couldn’t understand it
For I felt I was rich
And I told ’em of the love
My momma sewed in every stitch
And I told ’em all the story
Momma told me while she sewed
And how my coat of many colors
Was worth more than all their clothes

But they didn’t understand it
And I tried to make them see
That one is only poor
Only if they choose to be
Now I know we had no money
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
Made just for me”

R & R

1 pound 9.1 ounce beefsteak tomato
This Beefsteak Tomato was grown in my raised bed. It is the largest harvested so far. They are delicious tomatoes, but of course I cannot keep up with eating all that are grown. So into the pot they go, for Tomato Sauce, or Pizza Sauce. There are many more out there in the garden, and if we don’t get a frost we might harvest an even bigger tomato!

The first week of September has been a busy one.

Attila and I seldom go out for entertainment, it has been years since we attended a Van Gogh exhibition in Ottawa, I think that was the last time we spent our resources on something that would be considered “entertainment”.

And yet, we are entertained.

Our life entertains us. Sometimes this is a very quiet, slow affair. Other times it is intensely engaging. September has been intensely engaging.

It began with purchase of a half bushel of Red Shepherd Peppers at a local grocery store. These come up for sale once a year, around this time of year. Last year I made Tomato Red Pepper Sauce with them, there are only two jars left of the 44 I canned last September.

This September I roasted the Red Shepherd Peppers, and oh my they are good. I froze the roasted peppers. It was a lot of work, but well worth it.

The very next day I canned 4 500-ml jars of Cherry Bomb Tomatoes, and 4 1 liter jars of Tomato Sauce, using garden tomatoes. As well Attila and I diced and blanched two purchased bunches of celery, which we froze. Then I canned 4 250-ml jars of fresh peach syrup, with purchased peaches, which is wonderful over ice cream.

When we ordered heirloom seeds from Baker Creek, they sent us a bonus package of seeds Purple Russian Tomatoes. I wasn’t too keen, purple tomatoes didn’t really seem appealing. But wow, what a flavour, I love them. We won’t get many, as only one seedling made it to maturity. A mouse got into the cold frame and destroyed many of the seedling plants, but one Purple Russian Tomato plant survived, and I am so glad!

Yesterday I experimented with a new recipe for pizza sauce, using our garden tomatoes. On Friday we made a pizza, the sauce got a two thumbs up, wonderful stuff. So when another big basket of garden tomatoes were ripe and needed to be processed, I made a larger batch of pizza sauce. It simmers on the stove-top all day, reducing in volume, increasing in flavour. I froze 8 containers of Pizza Sauce, and there will be more to come if the garden keeps producing tomatoes.

Today, well today I thought we would begin to wind down. I was wrong. More garden goodies came out of the garden. I canned 2 3/4 500-ml jars of Zucchini Relish, and 2 500 ml jars of Sweet Cucumber Pickles. I have to say the English Cucumbers, that Attila is growing in the garden this year, are delicious, so much nicer than store bought.

I can in small batches, because that is the volume of produce that comes in fresh from the garden. At the back are my jars of Zucchini Relish. The front row of jars are my Sweet Cucumber Pickles, and the bowl holds collected Nasturtium seeds, for planting next spring. Oh yes, and the gnarly little seed clump at the bottom of the image is from the Peony plant in the front yard.

When I finished the canning, Attila and I blanched and froze three 2-cup bags of Scarlet Runner Beans. Then we diced, blanched, and froze two bunches of purchased celery. Then we shredded, blanched, and froze six bags of cabbage, for Borscht this winter.

Two cabbages, shredded, blanched, and bagged. They are ready to go into the freezer. Each bag in one pound of cabbage, just the right amount for one recipe of Borscht. We already have frozen beets from another year, and will be freezing some beets from Attila’s garden. More fun to come.

Why would be buying things like peppers, celery, and cabbage, to preserve. Well, these are grown seasonally in Canada, and if we want to eat local products this winter, we will have to buy them now, when they are fresh from Ontario farms. The other advantage in doing this is that we capture that freshness, and prefer the food we preserve to what is on offer at the grocery store over the winter, as it comes out of commercial storage units.

The rest is from our garden, definitely seasonal. It is harvest season, and we are putting food by for the winter months when nothing grows in our garden, or on the land in Canada. In the winter greenhouse produce is all that is available that is local, the rest comes out of storage. We are thrilled to have our produce to preserve, and feel extremely lucky to have the space for a garden, the time to garden, the materials to garden, and the health to garden. It is mostly Attila who does the gardening though, he has worked hard all spring and summer to provide us with this bounty. My modest two raised beds did provide lots of food, spinach, beets, peas, strawberries, peppers and tomatoes. The second planting in my raised bed may or may not yield, the outcome is weather dependent. But if the the fates allow my raised bed will be providing us with green beans and cucumbers. Fingers crossed.

So that is what we do for rest and relaxation. Kinda weird I guess, but it makes us happy. And we really do enjoy the “fruits” of our labour all winter long.

Worldly

Weather

16°C
Date: 6:00 PM EDT Sunday 8 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 16.4°C
Dew point: 10.8°C
Humidity: 69%
Wind: N 20 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from none but self expect applause;
He noblest lives and noblest dies who makes and keeps his self-made laws.”
Sir Richard Francis Burton
1821 – 1890

The Choir

When we bought Mist Cottage, it was considered a “tear down”, not worth the effort of renovation. That is why it was on the market for a very long time, the price dropping regularly. No entrepreneur who was “flipping” houses would touch it, too much wrong it, too much work. It was worth barely more than the worth of the property, but of course, with a little house on it, the price never went that low.

When we bought Mist Cottage it was not worthy of a mortgage. We used several lines of credit to buy it. We made the initial renovations that would qualify the house for a mortgage, then took out a mortgage, which we will probably be paying off for the rest of our lives. No matter, we have a home to call our own.

When we bought Mist Cottage it was on a little dead end street, with a wetland at the end of the street that was protected by zoning. It was quiet, and peaceful. Neighbours knew one another, forming a little community.

The the mayor of this small town, and the council, sought development, to increase the tax base, or so they said. I suspect there was more to it than that, but that is only my opinion. They, despite multiple protests by our small street community, decided to rezone the wetland to allow over 50 rental units to be built on it. They also decided that the developer, probably to allow an increased number of units, could use our narrow little street as the only entrance and exit to the whole new rental community. The developer could have used a two lane, paved, county road for access, but no, they had bottleneck the whole construction process, and future population, through our narrow little street.

Since construction started the whole neighbourhood has changed. At first it was a constant stream of heavy construction equipment, gravel and sand and road material hauling trucks, and worker’s vehicles, up and down the street, seven days a week. And the noise! Every day of the week banging, beeping, clanging, shouting.

Then the first tenants moved into the first ten or so units in the complex. A lot more vehicles up and down the street. And now people walking up and down the street, their only way to get out of the complex. More tenants have subsequently moved in, so that now the street is a hub of activity, cars streaming in and out, congestion with heavy trucks etc. as the construction continues, along with all the traffic and noise that entails. And pedestrians are now constant, as it seems to be mainly a community of retirees, who walk for health, walk their dogs, walk to nearby amenities. It is a bad mix, construction traffic, domestic vehicle traffic, and foot traffic, on this narrow little street, lined on both sides with deep ditches, so that pedestrians are walking on the narrow road, sharing it with all the vehicle traffic.

Now we live in the city, when once we lived on sleepy little street in a little town.

And something new since the last bunch of new tenants moved in. Dogs! Dogs barking. Dogs howling. Not one here or there, once in a while, oh no. When one begins to bark and howl, the other dogs are inspired, and they form a choir. They sound to me like the hounds of hell, but perhaps I am going through an adjustment phase. Hopefully I will become accustomed to barking and howling, and it will fade into the background of life so that I don’t even notice it.

I can say that the choir has no effect at all on the rabbit population, or the birds, or the mice, or the squirrels, or the insects that visit our garden. Maybe our garden visitors are here to escape the concrete jungle at the end of the street.

Worldly

Weather

15°C
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Saturday 7 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 14.5°C
Dew point: 14.1°C
Humidity: 98%
Wind: NNW 18 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“… he says anger is like milk. It doesn’t keep. It becomes sour, bringing sickness and death to anyone who tastes it when its time is passed. Grief, she said he likes to say, ages better than anger. it is eternal…
When we don’t understand this, when we trade our Grief in for anger, bad things happen. No, they don’t just happen. We do them. We do bad things to each other.”
Nafisa Haji, The Sweetness of Tears, page 351.

Roasting Peppers

Who knew!

Well I did, really, but still, what a great discovery.

I knew that peppers could be roasted. My friend Joannie is a chef, and I had seen her roasting peppers over a gas burner, decades ago, then it was new information for me. I assumed I needed a gas burner to do it, and never thought about it again, until last week. Last week I bumped into a video that demonstrated roasting peppers in the oven. Well heck, I can do that!

Yesterday I purchased a half bushel of Red Shepherd Peppers, and went to work as soon as I got them home. I decided to roast only two pans of peppers, to see if I could do it, and if I could, to see if we liked them.

We don’t just like them, we LOVE them!

So this morning I am roasting the rest of the peppers. It will take two baking sessions, using four baking sheets. I am placing the peppers on silicone mats on the baking sheets, because the clean up is so very easy.

I got the instructions from a well researched, accountable web site called Healthy Canning. It has good, reliable, safe, tested, information, with specific instructions for roasting peppers here. If you are going to preserve food this is one of the good sites for information. Another is the National Centre for Home Food Preservation, all USDA tested recipes, and USDA recommended techniques. The NCHFP is affiliated with the University of Georgia and the USDA. Canada has very little to offer when it comes to home food preservation information, but the US information is available online, so that is what I follow. I don’t rely on youtube videos for anything but ideas when it comes to home food preservation. I rely on resources that take the consequences of the advice they give as their responsibility. Cooking, well the sky is the limit with creativity there, but not when it comes to food preservation, botulism kills.

I have chosen to freeze the roasted peppers, rather than can them. I freeze them on cookie sheets, on waxed paper, then place wax paper between the frozen peppers and freeze them in heavy plastic bags. It is a time consuming operation, but I anticipate we are going to really enjoy the flavour kick these peppers will provide this winter!

So that is what I do for a good time on a long weekend at the end of the summer. I am also canning a lot. I canned 5 jars of tomato sauce yesterday, and five jars of zucchini relish. The zucchini relish will not last long, as I’ve discovered it gives a real flavour kick to sandwiches, and on meats etc., which is particularly appealing since I don’t use any salt at the table, or in cooking. And I don’t use salty condiments like mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, etc. No no-sodium relish is something I will really appreciate. Today I am also canning more Cherry Bomb Tomatoes, to make two dozen jars for Attila.

Attila is out in the garden. I don’t really know what he is doing out there, but I do know I like it. Every day he brings in bowls of food for me to preserve, and for our dinner. So whatever it is he is spending his time doing out there, it is time well spent. Attila loves his garden. My raised beds get a little bit of attention from him, he waters them for me when he waters the gardens, but all the rest is his playground.

And here we are, the first day of September already. And all of my windows are open. A beautiful day!

Worldly

Weather

20°C
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Sunday 1 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.6 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 19.6°C
Dew point: 13.3°C
Humidity: 67%
Wind: SSE 20 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Martyrdom is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability.”
George Bernard Shaw
1856 – 1950

I think politicians have disproved this.