Moseying Along

When the humidity is high, I am not comfortable.

I spend time in the garden in the early mornings, before the heat of the sun makes for steamy conditions. There is surprisingly little weeding to be done in my raised beds, and I have no trouble at all keeping ahead of unwelcome weeds.

Life is full of small pleasures at the moment.

Canning, and the Garden

Part of this year’s canning activities are intertwined with garden activities. Attila brings in produce from the garden every evening. There is never a lot, all at once, but after a few days there is usually enough to warrant a day of canning. Yesterday I canned 3 500-ml jars of No-Sodium Zucchini Relish, and 3 500-ml jars of Hot Cherry Bomb Tomatoes. The steam canner has been a game changer in my canning life. It sits on the stove almost all the time, at the ready. It will can 7 1-litre jars (quarts) or 7 500-ml jars (pints) at one go, or just one jar. My Steam Canner is the lighter, smaller aluminum model, the stainless steel model cans even more jars at one go. My little steam canner uses just two liters of water, easy enough to carry over, from the sink to the stove, in a large measuring cup.

Hot water bath canners are cheap and effective equipment for home food preservation of high-acid foods. But to fill the pot with water to 2 inches above the jar lids, well, that takes a lot of water! All of my life the quantity of water needed has been a deterrent to canning in small batches. Up until a few years ago, I did not know there were any alternative and equivalent methods. But then I watched a video on YouTube, in which a woman of Amish descent was using an old steam canner, and I was intrigued. It was disappointing to find out it was not a USDA approved method of canning at that time. But then it was officially tested, and approved by the USDA, and as soon as I knew that, I bought the Victorio Steam Canner. My hot water bath canner went to my youngest sister, and it is a great setup for first time canners. Now I can high-acid foods in small batches, every few days, as the produce from the garden accumulates.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen! I am making Tomato Sauce from the Romas, Hot Cherry Bombs from the Cherry Tomatoes, and eating the Beefsteak tomatoes. We have a few other varieties that Attila started from seed, and I look forward to tasting them too.

The pepper plants I planted in my raised bed are finally starting to bear fruit! So far one Red Shepherd pepper has grown to maturity and ripened. We had it in a garden salad last night for dinner, it was the best pepper I have ever tasted in my life! I have my fingers crossed that there will be more, but it doesn’t look to hopeful on the score.

My big garden surprise this year though, is Ground Cherries. I hadn’t even heard of them until I received a gift from Joannie B, a jar of Ginger Ground Cherry Jam. Yum! So we decided to plant them this year and see what they were all about. The plant is pretty, and there are plenty of ground cherries on it. I love them raw, they taste a little like a sweet rhubarb, at least to my palate. We don’t grow much in the way of fruit here, so the Ground Cherry will be a welcome addition to our garden. I’d like to see the whole front yard covered with these plants!

So nothing exciting really here at Mist Cottage, or even new, except the Ground Cherries, and fresh produce every day, and jars stacking up on the shelf. Ho hum, yum!

Worldly

Weather

16°C
Date: 8:00 AM EDT Tuesday 20 August 2019
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 16.2°C
Dew point: 13.1°C
Humidity: 81%
Wind: NW 5 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion.”
Lorraine Anderson

Cherries and Zucchini Relish

I’ve had a pretty good week. Little things, of course, little things, and no drama.

Today it is hot outside, but not too humid. I opened the windows this morning, no regrets there, even though it is much warmer in the house than is comfortable. The birds sound amazing.

Attila has been working on Tank off and on for weeks. He has removed some substandard superfluous wiring that had been installed by a previous owner. He has researched, and identified a faulty part, which he dismantled and cleaned, and which fixed a small problem. And I’ve kept the process going by joining an online forum, submitting questions, and assisting Attila in discussing the issues in the forum. The very last suggestion given to us on the forum, after weeks and weeks of trying all sorts, was to add an octane booster, to see what would happen. While at Canadian Tire it was discovered that octane booster needs to be added when the gas tank is low, so although the product was purchased, using it had to be delayed. But Attila spotted another product that could be tried immediately, injector cleaner. After using that, there was improvement. When I drove Tank a few days later, it was as if there had never been any issues! The heady feeling that the issue is resolved may not last, but it sure was encouraging. Tank is a 2007 model vehicle, and in very good shape, except that she doesn’t run properly. Two reputable garages have utterly failed to diagnose and resolve her issues. If we get this issue resolved ourselves, it will feel like a miracle. Fingers crossed.

On the last day of July I found a retail outlet, about an hour drive from Mist Cottage, that had pitted sweet and sour cherries for sale, in decent size buckets. The drive turned out to be worthwhile, but we had to visit several retail outlets to get what we wanted. At the first grocery store, there was one 7 pound bucket of sweet pitted cherries left. The label said, “Freeze by August 1st”, and it was marked down from $29.00 to $5.00 to sell it before it expired. We purchased that bucket and put in on ice in the cooler we brought with us. But that store had no pitted sour cherries. The next store had the sour cherries we were looking for, 11 pound buckets for $29.99. One bucket was purchased, and into the cooler it went.

Yesterday I had my work cut out for me. The sweet cherries had to be either frozen or canned. The freezer is full, so canning it was. While all the equipment was setup, the sour cherries were also canned. All in all, 18 pounds of pitted cherries were canned yesterday. That felt pretty good, and they all sealed.

8 jars of sour cherries
3 jars of sweet cherries
5 jars of Chocolate Cherry Jam
4 jars of Sour Cherry Jam.

Our Zucchini plant has been thriving. The fresh zucchini is a bit more than I can comfortably eat fresh, so it was time to come up with a way to preserve the extra. This morning three 500 ml jars of Organic Sodium-Free Zucchini Relish came out of the steam canner, and the seals pinged right away.

3 jars Organic Sodium-Free Zucchini Relish

For the time being I have given up on using the Tattler reusable lids and rings. Almost every jar failed, either immediately, which was easy to deal with, or after weeks of sitting on the shelf, which was a serious issue. I’ll get back to playing with them, canning water, at some point. But for now all the work that goes into canning is worth the cost of the reliable one-use metal lids.

The spinach was beginning to bolt, so all but two plants were picked the day before yesterday, roots and all, and are sitting in the refrigerator waiting for me to do something with them. They will probably be frozen for winter enjoyment, they cannot be safely canned. Tonight, it is a job for tonight.

Attila has just let me know that the basil is ready to be picked again, so another batch of pesto is also on the roster for tonight’s activities. I don’t mind really, Attila helps out with the evening food preservation projects, so even though I am tired, it all goes rather smoothly.

As I was sitting in the living room yesterday, the sun was shining brightly on the front porch, I could see it through the edge of the front door. Wait a minute, the front door was closed “tight”! Oh dear, it might be getting to around that time when the front door just has to be replaced. It was in very bad condition when we bought Mist Cottage, just over ten years ago, and it has not improved with age. Every winter duct tape is used to try to seal around the edges of the door, to keep the winter wind out. The sun shining through is a new issue. Up until now replacing the door has not been a priority, but since there are no other renovation projects on the table for this summer, it just might be something that gets tackled before the cold weather sets in. I’d like that, it would be less drafty in the living room if the front door were replaced, and it would reduce heating bills as well.

Worldly

Weather

25°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Friday 2 August 2019
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 25.4°C
Dew point: 16.4°C
Humidity: 57%
Wind: S 17 km/h
Humidex: 30
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
Martha Graham
1894 – 1991

Small Miracle

orange marigolds in the sun

The Marigols this morning.

What a beautiful day! It is cool, cool enough that I am wearing a long sleeve shirt. But not so cool that I feel chilly. Perfect. Another heat wave is on the way, so say the weather people. I suspect they are right, the first week of September often brings hot humid weather.

Today it doesn’t feel as if I have done much. BUT, I must remind myself that this is simply not true.

First of all, I dealt with the dead mice in the trap that I set on the back porch last night. Mice are usually caught at night. When checking the bucket trap this morning, I was surprised to find two deceased mice. It took me a while to figure out what I was going to do with them. I settled for flushing them down the toilet. The trap has been reset.

bucket and ramp mouse trap setup

This is the mouse trap on the back porch. Fancy it ain’t! The water is roof runoff, the ramp is a piece of scrap wood from the garage roof project, set from the step to the bucket. The peanut butter is about all I had to invest in this very effective mouse trap. NOTE: no mice in this picture of the trap!

More traps need to be set for tonight, in the garden shed and in the garage. This is the time of year the mice are coming into buildings to setup their winter homes, and I intend to stop as many of them as I can from taking up residence at Mist Cottage.

The barriers we setup around the fenced in yard have been effective for keeping out the rabbits. The squirrels, birds, mice, and cats remain undeterred. This morning I watched the neighbours cat prowling around the fenced in yard, in search of mice. Sometimes he catches a mouse, as he did this last week in our compost pile. Today he had no such luck. He is a fat cat, well fed and loved by his people, so he needn’t catch anything, he is never really hungry. To date he hasn’t caught any birds. I would disapprove of the recreational hunting of our birds.

Another little project that kept me busy this morning was installing a contraption to catch drips under the bathtub drain. It leaks occasionally, and Attila’s adjustments haven’t succeeded in solving the issue. The thing is, that is where my canning supplies reside, right under the bathtub drain, and the leak creates quite a mess. So I decided I wanted some sort of catchment system, to prevent the leaks from reaching my canning equipment.

To that end I purchased a lightweight plastic serving tray from the Dollar Store, and some inexpensive bungee cords. The bungee cords gave off a horrid and overpowering odour when I opened the package, and so have been hanging outside on the clothesline for four or five days. They still smell a little, but nothing like their original stench. The project had to wait for them.

Now, here is where the true enjoyment of the new garage roof comes into play at Mist Cottage. I found old cup hooks for part of the job, but I didn’t have enough and needed nails for my project. Attila has his nails stored in clear plastic peanut butter jars (cleaned of course, labels removed). To find nails of the size I wanted, it was a simple as perusing the shelves along the back wall of the garage, where all the nails are on display. It took only seconds to spy the nails I wanted to use, easily grab the jar, unscrew the lid, take what I needed, put the lid back on, and the return the jar to its place on the shelf. It’s a miracle!! Not once in the last 25 years have I been able to easily find a nail when I needed one. A miracle I say!

I have my own little toolbox underneath the cabinet in the kitchen, so my hammer is exactly where I left it. My list was complete, hammer and nails, plastic tray and bungee cords. The wood on the floor joists, where I wanted to hammer in the nails to attach the ends of the bungee cords, was really, really hard. I dropped and lost one nail down behind the shelving, as I struggle above my head to hammer it in. But it didn’t take long to go out to the garage to replace it, voila! It was a little disturbing that old and dusty debris fell on me every time the hammer hit the nail. I persevered. And eventually the job was done. Now the tray will catch any intermittent drips, and it can easily be taken down and cleaned, if that is ever needed. The drips are bad enough to cause damage to cardboard over time, but not so bad that they will fill the tray to its brim. The water will evaporate away between baths and showers.

aa plastic tray suspended from the floor joists under the bathtub

This is the drip tray that will catch any of the small but annoying leaks from the bathtub drain. Now I can store my cardboard boxes of mason jars and canning equipment without risk of water damage!

So, that is how I spent most of my day. Of course, I did enjoy sitting in my easy chair, with the windows wide open all day long, writing this entry, crocheting, and contemplating life, the universe, and everything.

And tonight, another lovely Spicy Chicken with Rice and Mixed Vegetable for dinner. I think I will make this with fresh Scarlet Runner Beans from the garden, we have all winter to eat frozen vegetables.

Worldly

Weather

19°C
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Thursday 30 August 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.3 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 19.0°C
Dew point: 12.7°C
Humidity: 67%
Wind: NNE 12 gust 27 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“You are going to let the fear of poverty govern your life and your reward will be that you will eat, but you will not live.”
George Bernard Shaw
1856 – 1950

It seems to me this is true of only of those with the means to avoid poverty. No one chooses it. (Well there are a few monks etc. but they aren’t facing starvation.)

What I Get Up To

purple ball in the back yard called wallyball

This is the purple ball that blew into our yard some time ago. It blows from place to place with the passing winds, and I enjoy watching what it is up to. Attila has named it Wallyball.

chimes hanging on the back porch

These are chimes I bought at the dollar store. They pass along whispered messages from the wind. I love them.

perper lunch bags containing seeds haning on the clothsline

These paper lunch bags contain seed heads from the Cosmos, the Giant Marigolds, and the Marigolds. The bags are labelled and hanging out to dry. This method of drying seeds seems to be working rather well!

Giant Marigolds, yellow, and Cosmos, White

These Giant Marigolds are so very beautiful! Behind them are Cosmos. I am really enjoying the flowers this year!

clump of wild flowers, small white flowers, left standing as the lawn was mowed around them

When Attila mowed the lawn this week, he left a bouquet of flowers just for me. This bouquet sits prominently in the middle of the back yard! It is the little things.

nasturiums

The Nasturtiums are doing very well, nestled up against the compost bin. I have been plucking the blooms, washing them, then popping them into my mouth. They taste sweet and peppery. I love them, the way they look, and the way they taste!

Canning assembly line.

The tomato canning assembly line. Top to bottom, the tomatoes were washed in a sink in cold water, then set in the next sink to drain, then cut into pieces on the cutting board, then placed in a large pot (in which they were boiled until soft), then ladled into a food mill which was placed on the 16 quart stock pot.  The tomato skins that were removed from the food mill were placed in the white bowl.

tomato puree

Cooking the tomato puree, in the 16 quart pot. The smaller pot was used for boiling water to sterilize the jars, rings, lids, and attachments for canning.

tomato skins spread out in pan and cleaned egg-shell on small plate

The tomato skins, having been dried in a warm oven, in a pan lined with a silicon sheet, and an egg-shell, drying on a plate. The tomato skins were separated from the pulp using the food mill, then spread in the pan and dried at 200F in the oven, off and on, over the course of a few days. All egg shells are cleaned and dried, then crushed to use as a soil amendment.

jars of tomatoes on kitchen counter

The results of the canning marathon! 12 one litre jars of Tomato Puree. And there is my All American Pressure Canner, resting after all its hard work, and behind it the Instant pot, waiting patiently to prepare our dinner.

Attila’s ankle is getting better, bit by bit, day by day. He will begin physiotherapy soon, and hopefully that will help alleviate the pain. He has two issues, one an injury to his back, and the other an old injury that has been flaring up in his ankle. He seems to be able to control the pain using Voltaran (Diclofenac) rubbed on his ankle, this allows him to sleep at night. I think that applying this locally is much better for him than taking Ibuprofen tablets, as those could affect his stomach.

Yesterday was very hot and muggy, and it did not cool down much during the night. It was, and still is, very windy. The wind toppled the Giant Marigold plants, and one of the Cosmos plants. They were then staked, and fingers are crossed that the plants will suffer no ill effects.

The garden continues to yield a small but steady harvest of tiny tomatoes. They are washed and frozen after they are harvested, to be processed all at once when the harvest season is over, and any green tomatoes have ripened. A total harvest of about two six-quart baskets is anticipated. The tomatoes from our garden will be organic tomatoes, heritage varieties, no GMO.

Last night we ate a quick supper of leftover Lebanese Instant Pot Beef and Green Beans over rice, then loaded the car and headed out to Grace the trailer. On the last visit Attila applied Mouse Free compound to the undercarriage of the trailer, and I set out numerous cotton balls infused with Peppermint Essential Oil. Two bucket type mouse traps were set and left to catch any remaining mice in Grace.

I looked for an image of the setup for the mouse trap, and found only one image, which included the deceased mice, which I didn’t need to see, and probably you don’t either. All of the other bucket mouse traps were more elaborate than ours, involving beer or pop cans. They may be more efficient, I don’t know. I am very happy with the efficacy of the trap we set. The first time we set it we caught two mature mice, while the traditional snap traps were all empty.

To create the Mouse Trap that works for us:

Materials
5 gallon bucket
two tablespoons peanut butter
table knife
water
piece of wood for a ramp

Instructions
Using the table knife, smear peanut butter horzontally to the inside of the bucket about six inches down from the rim.  A one inch by three inch smear works nicely. Pour water into the bucket to a level about in inch below the peanut butter.  Place the wood as a ramp up to the rim of the bucket, resting  just above the smeared peanut butter.  I make sure the ramp rests just on the rim, firmly.  Check occasionally for dead mice.

When I opened the door to Grace last night, I knew from the smell that we had caught mice. They must have passed away the first night we were gone, more than a week ago. In this heat, well, it wasn’t pleasant. Four mice were caught in the living room. There were no mice caught in the boot or in the bathroom traps. Although less humane, the bucket allows for much easier clean up. We burn or bury the mice we catch in the trailer, because we have warfarin laid out. It is undesirable that animals further up the food chain eat any of the mice caught in the trailer. The trap was washed with bleach, sun-dried, reloaded and set back in place, in case there are any more mice in the trailer.

When Attila applied the Mouse Free he found two hidden entry points that hadn’t been located or blocked previously. Those entry points were plugged, so that in theory any mice in the trailer from that time forth would be trapped there. The Mouse Free, in theory again, will repel further attempts by mice to enter the trailer. We are hoping that the recently trapped four mice were the last mice in the trailer.

We sat under the trees at the Camp until dark, letting the trailer air out. It was hot, humid, and windy. A flock of geese flew overhead, in V formation, heading away from the lake, probably to a nearby wetland to shelter for the night, or perhaps they would press on. It is getting to be that time of year, when the geese begin thinking of migration. Oh how I love the quiet of the bush.

Worldly

Weather

26°C
Date: 10:00 AM EDT Wednesday 29 August 2018
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 26.2°C
Dew point: 23.9°C
Humidity: 87%
Wind: S 25 km/h
Humidex: 37
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not lived at all. In which case, you’ve failed by default.”
J. K. Rowling

Projects

Projects!

They can be horrendous.

The garage roof was one of those horrendous projects. It began in late June, and the exterior portion of the project was completed on Sunday, August 26th. And it was a two-day push, those last two days, all day Saturday and all day Sunday, to complete it. Of course, there are a few little things that aren’t done, but that is the way of it with Attila’s projects. He is a person that always leaves a little bit… in the pot when serving food, in a project that he is working on. I think it is one of the reasons he likes to work alone, someone else might want to finish a job completely. Like me, I like to finish jobs completely and forget about them. Blasphemy!

The garage roof project was undertaken by Attila, and it overtook him. In his absence from daily life, I took over and fulfilled all the day-to-day tasks that he usually takes care of, in addition to my own day-to-day tasks. Because they aren’t my tasks, they aren’t setup the way I would do them, so they were challenging. I kept Attila’s routines going, because I knew that he would experience additional stress if I changed things on him. So project support was a long and tedious process for the garage roof project.

The exterior of the garage roof project, although it probably needs wee bits of tweaking to completely finish it off (like painting the caulking), is done to my satisfaction, as well as Attila’s. The new roof, wall, and window, keep the weather out, and it all looks lovely.

The interior, well it is only my concern in that when Attila moves all his materials and tools out of the basement, I will reorganize the basement to make everything stored there accessible to me. No more asking Attila to move heavy objects so that I can fill the flour canister, or fetch a few mason jars and lids. No sir, I’m going to go and get what I need, when I need it!

Not all projects are horrendous.

This past weekend I tackled a project that was not horrendous, was rather enjoyable, but exhausting.

I canned a half bushel of Roma tomatoes. They were available in half bushel boxes at the local grocery store, were grown in Ontario, and were $7.97. The produce from that particular grocery store, the one we usually visit, does not last long. It is cheaper for a reason, and that reason is that it isn’t the freshest produce available on the market. I needed to start canning as soon as possible.

Saturday morning Attila took the time to carry my All American Pressure Canner up from the basement. I spent an hour or so reading the manual again, since I haven’t pressure canned for quite some time. I also researched canning tomatoes, and finally found a good guideline offered by the Ohio State University Extension, called Canning Tomato Products.

I started just after 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning, and was taking the last of the dozen one-litre jars out of the canner just before 10:00 p.m. Saturday evening. I was on my feet the whole day, washing, trimming, dicing, boiling, straining, cooking, sterilizing, bottling, and finally, canning. It was a lot of work, and those jars, filled with lovely tomato puree, lined up on the counter, looked wonderful to me!

Pressure canning commands a lot of respect, mistakes can be dangerous. I took a certificate course in pressure canning before I did it for the first time, so that after months of preparation I felt I was able to proceed safely. It was nerve-wracking, the first few times. This time I found it a lot less intimidating, after preparing by re-reading the manual and reviewing my notes. It went smoothly.

Freezing tomato puree is a lot easier, but that requires a lot of freezer space, which we don’t have. Canned goods can be stored on shelves in the basement.

Another project, a much smaller project, I set for myself, was to begin a binder of Instant Pot recipes that are low-sodium, low-cholesterol, tasty, and easy to prepare from ingredients we keep in the house. It is easy to reduce the sodium and cholesterol in a recipe, but that usually results in a far inferior taste.  My small collection are those recipes that still taste good after reducing the sodium and cholesterol, at least to our low-sodium adjusted palates. I have about six recipes now, taken from online publishers, then altered to make them fit within the sodium and cholesterol limits of my diet. I had to order some page protectors from Amazon, to keep my printed pages in. Uncovered pages have a way of getting splattered.

One recipe I am currently working on is Tuna Noodle Casserole. I have tried several recipes, and none of them offer desirable results. The latest recipe calls for adding milk to the Instant Pot before pressure cooking. Well, it burned, I knew it would. BUT what I didn’t know was how much flavour was added to the dish when the milk caramelized.

I wasn’t in the room watching the Instant Pot when the burn warning first came on. I discovered it later. When I did discover it, I did a Quick Release of the pressure, then lightly scraped out the mixture into an oven proof dish, and transferred it to the oven to finish cooking, which didn’t take long. The taste of the casserole was amazing! I am thinking of trying it again, while watching the Instant Pot constantly for that burn warning, then immediately doing a Quick Release. Then, if the there isn’t too much burning on the bottom, Saute to deglaze the pot, and stir while cooking for several minutes to completely cook the noodles. That is my plan at the moment anyway, working towards getting that flavour!

So those are my little projects.

Attila’s first non-reno project was to pickle some hot red peppers from the garden. He wanted to experiment with making pickled peppers with substantially less salt. The taste test results will be in by next week!

Life is about to evolve here, there are no more high pressure projects on the immediate horizon, and perhaps not on the horizon at all, if we decide the house is fine as it is. It is unlikely the renovation projects will cease altogether, and that after a long break after the garage roof project, we will begin to think about other projects, all of the low-key, at least low-key for us. Things such as building stud walls in the basement, insulating and drywalling; extending the back porch; rewiring most of the upper floor of the house; new siding on the house; a new metal roof on all buildings; none of these things, or others on the long list, is crucial. If they don’t get done, well they don’t, we will survive.

Worldly

Weather

29°C
Date: 4:00 PM EDT Tuesday 28 August 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 28.8°C
Dew point: 23.2°C
Humidity: 71%
Wind: WSW 31 gust 45 km/h
Humidex: 39
Visibility: 19 km

Quote

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.”
Will Durant
1885 – 1981

This one didn’t just speak to me today, it shouted!