Full House

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Autumn!

Yesterday we were out at the Camp for a few hours. What a beautiful day it was! Attila brought his chain saw and managed to get two of the many dead trees out. But the recent rains brought water back to the swamp, so many dead trees remain to be removed at another time. Grace the trailer was closed up for the winter, and happily there was no sign of mice inside. The mouse trap will be left operational for the winter, using plumber’s anti-freeze. it is hoped that the wildlife will live in the wild, and that the trap will be empty come spring. Hopefully there will be more

Today began with heavy, cold rain. The skies are unbroken and the colour of slate. Attila is shutting down much of the garden, mulching some of the perennials, pulling frost killed plants and cutting them up for the composters.

I made tomato sauce this morning, from the tomatoes that have ripened in the basement. There are still quite a few tomatoes down there, and most of them will ripen nicely, for eating, and for more tomato sauce. I am not going to can any more tomatoes, we have enough for this season, and enough pizza sauce as well in the freezer. So as the green tomatoes ripen, they will be either eaten fresh, or made into a sauce for the refrigerator. Tomato based soups will be on the menu this week.

Attila’s ferments are only two weeks old, but they both developed kahm yeast. Attila removed the kahm yeast, and pronounced the ferments tasted great. They were put in mason jars and refrigerated, and won’t last long. What was learned though, was that the ferments with kahm yeast could have been left the full fermentation time, 20 days minimum, before removing the yeast and bottling for the refrigerator.

Attila’s garden harvest was amazing this year. Not since moving away from the family farm have I seen such home grown bounty. Our house is now full, the bulk of the harvest is in, and there is no more room on the shelves, or in the freezer.

Garden Harvest:

Dandelion Blooms*
Nasturtium Leaves and Blooms
Chamomile*
Lemon Balm*
Cilantro
Cardamon*
Basil*
Oregano*
Dill*
Strawberries
Rhubarb*
Ground Cherries*
Melons
Sweet Peppers
Cayenne Peppers*
Jalapeno Peppers*
Habanero Peppers*
Spinach*
Radishes*
English Cucumbers*
Peas
Carrots
Green Beans
Scarlet Runner Beans*
Swiss Chard
Beets
Cabbage*
Brussel Sprouts*
Tomatoes: Beefsteak, Cherry, Black Russian, Roma, Mountain Spring Hybrid*

* INDICATES harvested in sufficient quantity to surpass immediate consumption needs, so requiring preservation.

Over the last year or so, I have acquired some fantastic food processing equipment. All of it got a good workout this year.

Food Preservation Equipment Used:

Canning Jars: 1 liter, 500-ml, 250-ml, wide mouth and regular mouth
Metal Canning Lids and Rings
Pickle Pipes (silicone)
Pickle Pebbles (glass)
Fermenting Jar Rings
All American Pressure Canner
Victorio Steam Canner
Victorio Steam Juicer
Two 8 Quart Stock Pots
One 16 Quart Stock Pot
Long Handled Wooden Spoon
Sieves
Ladle
Funnel
Jar Tongs
Clean cotton rags
Onion Chopper
Apple Whacker
Paring Knives
Food Mill
Apple Whacker
Food Processor
Dehydrator
Onion Chopper
Stove Oven
Vacuum Sealer
Vacuum Sealer Bags

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

It is bright and sunny this morning! My load of laundry is almost finished washing, so that I can hang it on the line. The laundry will be hung on the line under the porch until the temperature drops so low that it will freeze out there. So far, the weather has been bonny for hanging out the wash.

Time slipped away on me again. A few busy days, checking things off my list. Actually, yesterday afternoon I checked the last thing off my list! But of course, it is time to start a new list. I love lists, they keep my mind free of clutter, and my days focused on the things that matter to me.

Attila and I decided that it would be best to apply window film to the lower portion of all of the living room windows. Up until Sunday evening, the possibility of coming out of the bathroom after a shower, to go to the bedroom to get dressed required closing the living room curtains, before dawn and after dusk. Open curtains opened up the possibility that anyone down the street, from the street, from a vehicle, from a house window, could look into our house if the lights were on, and observe us in the hallway and bedrooms. It was a niggling concern, which we have dealt with diligently over the last ten years, but now seemed a good time to address the issue.

The project of applying window film has been put off for weeks. All other projects seemed appealing, compared to it. The materials had been waiting. Our grocery bill has been lower this autumn, with our garden bounty providing so much of what we have been eating, so the surplus was used to purchase window film. All other projects seemed appealing, compared to this project. But at last, Monday morning, I had run out of excuses, the only project left on my list was applying window film. So it began.

Measuring and cutting such a large and cumbersome roll of plastic is difficult to do in a small, almost tiny, house. It took a half an hour to clear a space on the floor, large enough to spread out the film, in order to measure and cut it. And I can honestly say that the older I get, the more difficult it gets to work on projects using the floor as my workspace. Getting down there, and back up again, over and over and over again, well, it isn’t any fun. I am grateful I can still do it, but this is one of the rare instances where I find living in such a small space constraining.

The project took all day. Attila said he was glad he wasn’t here for it, and well he might! Some curmudgeony endeavors are best tackled solo, this was that sort of endeavor. At completion, the constant tension of the “fish bowl” effect evaporated. Why didn’t I make this happen earlier!!

Another project was to start two more ferments, green Ground Cherries, and Jalapeno Peppers. The Ground Cherries are experimental, they may be tasty, but they may not. All a failure will cost is a few teaspoons of wasted salt, so it is worth a try.

My crock of apple scraps are fermenting nicely. The crock is covered with a cotton cloth held in place with an elastic band, and is stirred daily to prevent mold from forming. It smells grand, very hard cidery. In about a week I will strain the fruit from the liquid, jar the liquid and compost the fruit scraps. Then the mixture will sit in a dark cupboard for weeks, until it it transforms itself into Apple Cider Vinegar. The last of the 2018 Apple Cider Vinegar, that was made with our own Crabapples, was used last night.

One of the projects being undertaken here at Mist Cottage is to reduce the recyclables. That was the starting point. Most of the recyclables here are beverage containers, coffee, milk, juice, and plain soda. In an effort to minimize packaging from beverages, a customized recipe of Switchel was prepared, and stored in a clean, empty two liter juice container that would have ended up in the recycling bin. Attila loves this stuff! So, some of the juice containers will no longer be coming into the house. Switchel, as per the recipe, is a sugary drink, and sugary drinks are a treat and not a beverage. The plan it so play with the sweetening agent, substituting some of the honey for Stevia. It will be an experiment to alter the proportions of honey to stevia until a delicious yet healthy balance is achieved.

There is an added benefit to Switchel, it is a lot less expensive than juice. Since a whopping third of our food budget is spent on beverages, this is a step towards reducing the food bills.

So far I’ve tackles a few small tasks. In 2017 I harvested some lovely lavender flowers, dried them, then stuck them in a glass jar with a lid. Today I removed the little blossoms from the stems, placed the blossoms in a labelled jar, and set the stems aside pending research into possible uses for them.

The edge of the forest at the Camp.
Where my day was spent, breaking up the dead branches, that were collected from all over the cleared area. The walk to collect dead branches is getting longer every season. When we started small trees and deadwood were dense into the cleared area, right up to the frontof the lawn chairs. It is much different now.
In the next few years the dead wood under the hydro lines will be gathered and burned, and that is a very long walk indeed!
Note the ring of sand around the fire pit, it was refreshed this year with three 7 gallon bucketfuls of sand, that had been shoveled up from our driveway. The sand in the driveway is the runoff from the road, and is a result of all the heavy construction equipment traveling past us daily. It is ours now!
Deadwood burning in the fire pit. The fire was allowed to burn down at lunch time, and hot dogs were roasted over the coals. They were served on homemade bread, with home grown chopped tomato, home grown Zucchini Relish, some mayonnaise and some chopped onions. Lip smacking good!
This little fellow was busy investigating me! He showed up at my elbow, as I was sitting in my chair. Eventually he moved, and disappeared from sight, although he was probably in plain sight, so well camouflaged was he.
The ingredients for Switchel, all lined up and waiting. On the left is the last of 2018 homemade Apple Cider Vinegar, made from our own Crabapples.

Worldly

Weather

13°C
Date: 10:00 AM EDT Wednesday 30 October 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 12.9°C
Dew point: 8.9°C
Humidity: 76%
Wind: N 18 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.”
Aristotle
384 BC – 322 BC

I have found this to be true, in my experience. I will say though, that picking fruit, and other menial labour jobs I have had, allowed a certain freedom of thought. It was only the “professional” jobs, where the mind was confined to set parameters, that cut into mental health. With manual labour, I could read a book in the evenings, and think about it all day doing repetitive manual tasks. I had a pretty good time actually, working on the farms.

You Gotta Laugh

Five more jars of Organic Green Tomato Salsa, canned Friday, October 18, 2019. They are made with our very own garden Jalapeno Peppers. That makes 15 jars of Salsa in total. I use a China Marker to label my jars, with content and date processed.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Early last week I ran into a problem with a piece of software on one of my older Macs. It was a result of an incompatible update, which had auto-updated. I began interacting with tech support for the software company, the issue was escalated to more technical support team. I interacted with them for days, tried all their suggestions, and nothing worked. The old Mac just would not connect to the internet. I feared its functional life was over.

Frustrated with the software tech support, this morning I got out of bed, immediately setup the computer, and started to play around. I kept playing around for over an hour, then I found the issue and fixed it. It was a setting buried deep in the software, which needed only to be toggled off, which let me connect to the internet, which let me update the software to get rid of the issue. It is a wonder the tech support didn’t start with that setting when they were troubleshooting with me! I feel very satisfied that I fixed the problem, despite, and not because of, technical support.

Today is an apple day. I am finally sitting down, after being on my feet since 9:00 a.m., it is just after noon now. One half bushel of apples has been peeled, cored, diced, and is now sitting in pots on the stove, on a low heat, turning itself into applesauce. Attila peeled, I cored, sectioned, and diced. I hope we get to the other half bushel today, but I don’t hold out much hope. Sixteen quarts of apples are going to take some time to cook into applesauce, and can.

These Northern Spy apples are very dense. Water needs to be added at regular intervals when it is being cooked and made into applesauce. Stirring it is hard work, and it cooks very slowly, so there is a lot of stirring. My arm and wrist are very sore.

The peels and cores are being saved to make apple cider vinegar. Our first batch, made last fall with crab apples, is fantastic. So we are in high hopes that these apple scraps will give us some wonderfully flavoured apple cider vinegar.

Just shy of a half bushel of Northern Spy Apples, peeled, cored, and sectioned. It was the first time I’ve used this coring/slicing device (two red handles), and it is very handy. The apples are first peeled, the stem and calyx ends are removed. Then the corer is placed on top of the apple, and pushed down to core and slice it.

Here are the cores, and the bits of apple that surround the seeds, which were removed from the slices with a paring knife, where needed. We froze these scraps from the first bushel of apples. The peels went into the compost pile. It is my dream to find affordable organic apples to use for applesauce. So far so bad on that score. We do not use the peels of these commercially grown apples.
OK, here is where my best laid plans failed. And a spectacular failure it was!
I was sitting in the living room, taking a little break while the apples began to heat on the stove. I was pretty tired, and more than a little tetchy at the time, the break was needed. Time out for Maggie.
Anyway, I heard a noise in the kitchen.
I thought Attila was in there, so I called out his name.
No answer, the noise continued.
So I sighed, dragged myself up out of my chair, and headed into the kitchen.
And this is what I saw.
Now the picture does not show it, but this body of apples was steadily rising, like a volcano, and apple segments were falling all over the place, the floor, the stove, everywhere.
Laugh.
I couldn’t stop laughing.
I laughed so hard it was difficult to deal with the issue. Every time I touched the tower of apples, they launched off the precipice.
What a mess!
And the bottom apples were burning, that much I could tell from the smell.
Eventually I managed to get enough of the apples off the top of the pile, so that I could put the spoon handle down into the pot.
A huge rush of air came out of the pot, spewing apple segments, then what remained of the pile collapsed into the pot.
I spent the next hour or so collecting and rinsing apple segments from all over the kitchen. Then I washed the floor and other surfaces, because apples are sticky.
After removing all of the apples from the pot to other pots, except the bottom layer, which was burnt, I cleaned out the pot, and prepared to start again.
I used three stock pots, with an extra liter of water in each pot, to cook these apples into applesauce.
It took over five hours of stirring frequently to make the applesauce.
After having such a hearty laugh, I wasn’t feeling tetchy anymore.

Monday, October 21, 2019

This morning the fog was thick and the air was chill.

It got busy around here after I wrote Saturday’s entry. I added the photographs and wrote the captions today.

Sunday Attila peeled all but a dozen or so apples from the second half bushel. I cored, and processed them in the food processor. They took about four hours to cook, using two large stock pots, even though the apple pieces were pea size. And I had to add a little more than 4 litres of water to keep them from becoming too thick to stir. Wow, I don’t remember Northern Spys being so difficult to cook. Attila thinks it is due to the very dry summer we have had this year, so there is not much moisture in them, and they are very dense.

I ended up with 5 more quarts of applesauce for the shelf, which were washed, labelled and put away on the basement shelf this morning.

The apple cores, and bits that didn’t make into the applesauce pot, were placed in a 5 liter fermenting crock. After covering them with a water/sugar mixture, I added a few tablespoons of active apple cider vinegar. A clean cotton cloth was placed over the crock, which was secured against fruit flies, and other interested parties, with an elastic band. This will be stirred every morning for two weeks. Then the liquid will be strained from the fruit and returned to the crock to turn itself into cider, then vinegar.

My next canning project presented itself to me yesterday. I was about to make dinner, an Instant Pot rice dish with turkey and hot chili, very tasty. But I suddenly realized that all of my vegetable broth was frozen! Oh dear, I had to thaw it slowly in the microwave, adding quite a bit of bother to the meal preparation.

I started making vegetable broth from vegetable scraps in August, when our garden started to deliver a lot of fresh produce. A total of about 10 quarts have been made since then, five of them I have used already for cooking. The other 5 are still in quart jars in the freezer. I was so busy with canning and roasting and drying and fermenting, and the broth was being produced only a quart at a time, that it just seemed more practical to freeze the small quantities vegetable broth.

But frozen vegetable broth does not work well for my style of cooking!

So today I have five quarts of frozen vegetable broth thawing on the counter. Once I can get it out of the jars, I will put it into the 16 quart soup pot, boil it for 10 minutes, then can it in 500-ml jars. Then it will be sitting ready to use on the shelf when I need it, no forethought required. These will be pressure canned.

Attila loved the Fermented Jalapeno Peppers I made for him. They are all gone now. We have a few ferments on the go, green tomatoes, and Brussels Sprout leaves. Attila also has a ferment of his own on the go, hot peppers. Yesterday he started yet another ferment, green cherry tomatoes, with fresh coriander seeds and garlic. Fermenting is easy. But we did have a failure, the second batch of sauerkraut. We will try another batch of Sauerkraut when the fermenting crock is free again, as it is now being used to make Apple Cider Vinegar.

And still there are things to preserve! There are about 20 pounds of tomatoes ripening in the basement. Thankfully all of the tomatoes have been harvested now, no more coming in from the garden. The Swiss Chard was harvested as well, and it will be processed tonight, probably blanched and frozen. BUT Attila says the Swish Chard has not given up, and it is growing like crazy right now, so there might be another harvest. There are some small cabbages that grew from the roots of the earlier harvested cabbage plants. And there are six more Brussels Sprout plants to harvest, Brussels Sprouts and leaves. And beets, lets not forget the beets that are still to be harvested.

Three months of steady food preservation activity. And I have so many conveniences, choppers, shredders, pickle pipes and pucks, a fermenting crock…

I do this because I choose to do it, because it is a hobby with benefits, lots and lots of benefits.

But can you imagine having to do this for a family with many children, on a wood stove… before all this modern technology, because someone HAD to do it, to be on the home front making sure the food supply didn’t spoil. This work was a respected part of the art of survival.

Worldly

Weather

11°C
Date: 11:37 AM EDT Monday 21 October 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 10.5°C
Dew point: 10.5°C
Humidity: 100%
Wind: NE 13 km/h
Visibility: 16 km

Quote

“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
1929 – 1968

Fine Wine

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.

Worldly

Weather

27°C
Date: 4:00 PM EDT Saturday 3 August 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 27.3°C
Dew point: 19.0°C
Humidity: 60%
Wind: SSW 23 gust 34 km/h
Humidex: 34
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“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?

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

Little Things, Lotsa Little Things

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

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.

This is the cold frame Attila built from reclaimed lumber and a pane of glass from our old dining room window. You can see he isn’t finished planting and adding all of his little seed pots, he has used egg cartons for planting some of the seeds.

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.

This is the hanging Strawberry plant we purchased at Costco. The runners were copious and long, so I set the runners in my raised bed garden. I’ll cut them as soon as they root, then hang the planter on the back 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.

This is my other raised bed, where I have planted three rows, one each of sugar peas, beets, and spinach. The chicken wire is there to prevent the squirrels from digging up all the seeds!

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.

Dandelion Jelly: It was a lot of work pulling the petals off each Dandelion bloom, to make 3 cups of petals! I wasn’t sure it would be worth all that trouble. Having tasted this jelly, I think that yes, it is well worth the effort!
You can see the jelly is not clear, that is not the way it should be. I’ll be troubleshooting the next batch, based on my notes here. I think the problem was that I added lemon juice to the petal liquid, and afterward noticed that the commercial pectin contains citric acid, which means I used double the needed acid in the recipe, which I think caused small globules of over-jelled jelly that cloud the resulting product.
This Jelly will be enjoyed, the cloudiness does not affect the taste or texture.

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.

The Ash tree came down Tuesday morning! These two fellows were methodical and very efficient. They knew what they were doing. As I had requested, they left no debris at all on the neighbour’s lawn, he wouldn’t like that at all. As you can see there was quite a pile of branches left to deal with, and the logs, my they are big, you can get an idea of the diameter by looking at the trunk next to the fellow working on the ground. Not even his very large chain saw would section a piece in one go. Since Tuesday, I have sectioned and removed the branches in front of the man on the ground, and to his left. Tonight Attila is working on sectioning the pile of branches underneath the man in the basket.

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.

Worldly

Weather

9°C
Date: 7:13 PM EDT Wednesday 15 May 2019
Condition: Light Rainshower
Pressure: 100.9 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 8.8°C
Dew point: 7.6°C
Humidity: 92%
Wind: NE 3 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
Theodore Roosevelt
1858 – 1919