The garden just keeps on giving us a little of this, and a little of that. Today a rogue zucchini will provide a lovely stir fry for our lunch. It was ready to be picked days ago, but was missed and just discovered, and is larger than would be ideal. It was delicious.
Attila picked 4 cups of Basil for Pesto, which is already made, spooned into a muffin tin, and is in the freezer. Later today there will be the last of green string beans, the bugs are decimating the plants, so this will be the last harvest from these plants. Two of the Cabbages are ready, so hopefully one of them will be made into Sauerkraut, which I’ve not attempted before, and can’t eat anyway because of the high sodium content, but Attila loves it, and if it turns out, then yay!
The big canning jobs at Mist Cottage are tomatoes and apples. Their season is yet to come. A few of the tomatoes in the garden are light red, not quite there yet, but there are many more to come, barring disaster, weather, rodents, insects, birds, or humans.
It is hot and humid today. I enjoyed the open windows so much yesterday, that I have left them open again today. It is warm in Mist Cottage, but I am staying comfortable by sitting in the breeze of a fan, and wearing my neck scarf cooler. It is a thin cotton bandana type scarf, which is a tube with silica gel in it. It swells with soaking and once adorned, the water in the silica gel slowly evaporates, creating a circle of coolness around my neck. This works very well in keeping my core temperature down, which is really important during a heat wave.
The open windows are allowing the bird song and breeze in, but they also allow in the rat-a-tat-tat of the roofer’s hammers, they are just at the end of the street. Three young men in shorts, work boots, shirtless, are working hard in this heat, and under the relentless sun. I could do things like that in my youth, and did, I have worked to shingle several roofs. Not now though, those days are long gone. Roofers work hard! And I am busy these days doing my fine wine thing… aging.
“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” Mark Twain 1835 – 1910
This quote leads me to wonder, do animals have a sense of humour? Some say yes, some say know. I could find no scientific studies on the subject, so it is all anecdotal. And how would we humans know, if an animal had a sense of humour?
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.
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Friday 2 August 2019
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Dew point: 16.4°C
Wind: S 17 km/h
Visibility: 24 km
“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
Well, my last post took on a life of its own! I sat down to write about the little things, and the meaning of the little things overwhelmed me. So I am writing this post about the little things.
Last Friday last was one of Attila and my Anniversaries. It was the 25th Anniversary of the day he and I became a we. He surprised me when he decided he wanted to take the day as a vacation, to celebrate the occasion. Things have changed considerably over the last year and a half, between Attila and I, and thankfully life seems to be balancing out. We both thought about what we might like to do. There were no events or entertainment types of things in the area that interest either of us, so we thought about spending time at a park. But it was cold and raining, not a good day to spend out of doors. Soooo…. we went to Costco.
Costco is a store we do not frequent. Attila calls it the $500 dollar store, as we have spent that much there on the odd occasion, and we always spend far more there than we do at any other retail outlet, except for home renovation projects.
It was extremely crowded at Costco. We managed to find unpopular aisles to walk slowly and quietly through, to rest after navigating the hustle and bustle through the busier aisles. We did not purchase much, mostly fresh produce, and bulk items that are less expensive there than at other places we shop. We had fun. We bought a huge strawberry plant in a hanging basket that was on sale. We were glad to get home!
Our evening was enjoyable, watching a Netflix program and enjoying homemade pizza. We love our homemade pizza, and Attila feels it is the best pizza he has ever had in his life. Thank goodness I finally conquered 100% whole wheat bread dough, it makes an excellent pizza crust. We use my home canned Red Pepper Sauce, and lactose free cheese, lower sodium pepperoni, and a variety of vegetables, such as onions, peppers, and mushrooms.
Cold Frame, Raised Beds, and Dandelions
Saturday was bright and sunny, in the morning. Attila was very, very happy to finally have time to start building his cold frame. All of the wood was salvaged from the original shed that we demolished, and the wood Attila purchased at significant discount when he worked in the lumber industry. The lid was made from one pane of the dining room window that was in place when we bought the house.
I had several projects on the go. One was to plant my raised beds. Attila built them out of reclaimed boards from the original shed on the property, and pine boards he purchased during his years in the lumber industry. They are mine, I was going to use two large totes with holes drilled into the bottom, but Attila wanted to build them, so there they are. I insisted that a sheet of hardware cloth be attached to the bottom of each, to keep out voles and moles and other animals. He will build a third for himself, and he is the gardener in residence for the larger garden outside the fenced area, which he is increasing in size this year.
My raised beds are a sort of Hugelkultur setup, as we filled the bottom half with logs, pruned branches, leaves, and twigs. This was stomped down thoroughly, then watered thoroughly. Then our own compost formed a deep layer over the brush layer, and finally some topsoil was placed on top of the compost. I find it easy on my knees to care for such a garden bed, and easy on my back as well. After a quick trip Canadian Tire, to pick up a meat thermometer to measure the temperature of the soil, it was determined that the soil in the raised beds was warm enough for planting seeds.
The strawberry plant that we purchased had a dozen or more runners hanging down from the plant. After hanging it up under the porch, it was quickly observed that the runners would be destroyed by the wind. What to do. Attila suggested setting the hanging basket in the raised garden bed. This gave me an “aha moment”, when I remembered all those hours in the fields on our farm, setting strawberry runners. So the basket went into the centre of the raised bed, and I set the runners all around the basket in the soil of the raised bed. When the runners root, they will be cut from the plant, and then the hanging basket will be hung once more under the porch.
That was one of my raised beds planted. On to the other raised bed. I planted three different plants, one row of each: snap peas, beets, and spinach. I love snap peas and spinach, and will eat beets. But really, what I want from the beets is the beet greens, we love beet greens! We have squirrel varmints here, and they dig up our gardens. I didn’t want them digging up my newly planted seeds, so off I went, back to the building centre, to pick up some chicken wire. Attila cut it for me and placed a sheet over the raised bed containing my peas, beets, and spinach. The strawberries are not as prone to squirrel damage, so that bed was not covered. It will be eventually be covered by a chicken wire hoop, when the strawberries are close to ripening, to protect the fruit from squirrels and birds.
The other project I started on Saturday was a batch of Dandelion Jelly. I’d read about it quite a bit online, but had not ever tried it myself. Since our yard has had no chemical treatments of any kind since 2010, I felt quite confident that our crop of Dandelions were organic, and quite safe for consumption. I spent part of my day in the sun, picking big yellow Dandelion blossoms. Then I spent another part of my day, and this was time consuming, removed the petals from the Dandelions I had picked. It is important not to allow any of the green parts of the plant into the petal bowl, greens are bitter. It was laborious work, rolling the receptacle of each blossom between thumb and forefinger, to loosen the petals, then remove them carefully to place them in a bowl. In that way I plucked three cups of petals.
I used the recipe from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, and a few other recipes consulted for ideas. I placed the three cups of blossoms in four cups of boiling water and simmered them for 10 minutes. Then I strained the liquid through a coffee filter and refrigerated it to be dealt with on the morrow. The liquid was a dark brown, with a mild “greeny” taste to it. I wasn’t optimistic, but I was determined to see it through.
Attila worked all day Saturday on his cold frame, finishing it just before dark. He had been stressing about getting to this project, and his relief at having it ready was evident.
Tank, Peat Pots, and Jelly
Had Sunday dawned sunny and warm, we would have headed out to the Camp. But it was just the opposite, chilly and clouded over. So we decided to stay home and work on projects here at Mist Cottage.
The first project of the day was a joint one. We had purchased a code reader to read the OBD codes for Tank. It was a BAXF wifi unit, and after I purchased the necessary software to use it, we watched a video on how to get it working. It took some time and experimentation, but we finally got it going with the iPad, and discovered that two cylinders in the engine are still misfiring, after $5000 worth of work… those garages won’t be getting my business again any time soon. So we are researching to try and figure out just what is going on with Tank. There were no other issues detected!
Attila spent a very happy day, planting peat pots and trays of seeds, and arranging them in his newly built cold frame. He didn’t even stop to eat lunch, he was having such a great time.
I spent the rest of my day in the kitchen. It was time to make Dandelion Jelly. Jams and jellies are easy things to make and can. I brought up my jars, lids, rings, canning accessories, and steam canner from the basement, then set to work. After adding the sugar, the dark liquid was transformed, and it smelled amazing, quite a bit like honey, but not exactly the same. The batch made three 500 ml jars, and they all sealed.
The jelly was not clear, as it should have been. I think the problem was with the pectin which I purchased in powder form. I hadn’t used commercial pectin in, well, decades, and assumed it was the same product I had always used. It is not. This pectin includes citric acid, and upon inspecting the recipes that came with it, none of them called for lemon juice. I had added lemon juice to my recipe, as was traditionally done, but apparently that step is now removed with this commercial pectin, as the citric acid serves the same purpose. So, my recipe had far too much acid in it, and it jelled more quickly and intensely than I would have expected. I think that the cloudiness is actually small globules of very thick jelly. Unless they crystallize, it won’t be a problem. So, I learned something new yesterday, about modern commercial pectin.
Dandelion Jelly is delicious! It does have a taste reminiscent of honey. I think it is worth the time and effort, and will make it again when this supply runs out.
I think we have reached a point where all jams and jellies at our house will be made from plants that grow on our own property: crab apple and dandelion.
I cooked a pork roast in the Instant Pot, and Attila roasted potato wedges in the oven, which made for a wonderful evening meal, along with mixed vegetables.
Monday was a day of catching up with domestic things, cleaning, laundry, those little things that make home feel more comfortable.
A New Project On Our Plat
Tuesday brought some excitement! It all began as I was minding my own business, seated in the bathroom. Suddenly there was a very loud noise, very close to the bathroom window. At first I was alarmed. Then I figured out what it was. The sound was a chain saw, and the utility company must be out there taking down the large dead ash tree in the front yard. It only took them about an hour to limb the tree, bring down the trunk, and section it into short logs.
We knew we would have this project on our plate sooner or later. It is a big job, and will take most of the long weekend coming up to get it sorted properly. It is our intention to keep all of the material on our property, building hugelkultur beds, and the logs, well, we haven quite figured out what to do with the logs yet. Ash is a beautiful wood, and the logs are in great condition. I looked into having the logs milled, but the expense of that was beyond our means. It would have been nice though.
We worked until dark last night, using loppers to break down the small mountain of branches. Attila toted a pile of the small bits of branches to the back yard, and placed them beside the location of the third, and yet to be built, raised bed. They will make a wonderful hugelkultur base for that garden bed.
After some discussion, we decided to use a lot of the branches to create a long hugelkultur bed outside the fenced area of the yard, beside the bigger garden. Attila dug a concave hole and began filling it with sectioned branches. We only managed to deal with about a third of the branches.
This morning I took the loppers out and tackled breaking down more of the branches. I kept at it until I had worked up quite a sweat, then broke for lunch. After lunch I relaxed for about an hour, then headed back out with my loppers. After a few hours I was soaking wet from all my hard work, and had managed to break down all the branches in one of the larger piles. Then I decided that it was enough for one day. This old body will rebel if I overdo things. So far I have been feeling fine, no stiffness this morning, or this afternoon. I did take Ibuprofen last night though, a while before bedtime, just to make sure that no inflammation took hold of me.
If we had paid a company to take down the tree, they would have removed all the branches and logs and left the lawn neat and tidy. But they also would have removed around $1000 from our savings account. It was such good fortune that the tree was taken down by the utility company, what we saved in money we are paying for with sweat. Sweat we have! Money we don’t. It worked out very well.
The weather has been chilly, and wet. We stop working outside when it rains, and work hard when it stops. Chilly is good, when you are doing hard labour. I even found myself wanting to take off my shirt, I had worked up quite a sweat, but of course, I did no such thing.
So that’s us, busy with the little stuff, happy as clams really.
Date: 7:13 PM EDT Wednesday 15 May 2019
Condition: Light Rainshower
Pressure: 100.9 kPa
Dew point: 7.6°C
Wind: NE 3 km/h
Visibility: 24 km
“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Theodore Roosevelt 1858 – 1919