Chocolate Cherry Jelly… not exactly!

Have you ever had someone knock on your door and run away?

Apparently the Conservative party of Canada considers this technique a great way to make friends and influence people. When the candidate knocked on my door, I was in the kitchen. I walked ten feet from the kitchen to the front door, 4 seconds tops, opened it, and there was his back, as he headed off at speed, half way to the road. Obviously our little house was not someplace he wanted to make actual eye contact.

But I caught him, and he smiled, and he suffered through the routine question, “do you have any questions?” Of course I did, and he answered every one of them with a pat statement that didn’t address my question. I let him do that, because really, I knew, and he knew, that he didn’t give one %$#^ what I thought about anything. He ended by asking me who I was going to vote for. Undecided, I said. Then he asked me who Attila would vote for. Undecided, I said. He typed that into his cell phone. If we are lucky, that will mean that there will be no more knocks on my front door from the Conservative party representatives. What a total waste of everyone’s time. If we are not lucky, it could mean that we will be treated with even less consideration if this party comes into power.

Today I had 4 pounds of zucchini from the garden to preserve. They were collected over the last four days, so just as fresh as anything I could purchase from a retail establishment. I decided to make another batch of Organic Low-Sodium Zucchini Relish. I had canned this recipe twice already, but only half batches, because both times I only had 2 pounds of zucchini.

This time I could can a full recipe of the Relish. I made a mistake that cost me some time. When making a half batch, 2 pounds of the zucchini were chopped to perfection in the food processor. I knew better, but took the lazy route and attempted to process 4 pounds of zucchini in the food processor. I should have chopped it in two batches. The result was that some of the zucchini was chopped to mush, and some of the zucchini was almost whole slices. I had to fish the large pieces of zucchini out of the cooking pot, and chop them up by hand. The other change I made to my recipe was to add two tablespoons of Clearjel, which should make the relish less runny. I made 5 1/2 500-ml jars of Relish. I processed them in the Steam Canner, all the jars sealed.
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There is a little story to tell before I describe my second canning project for the day. Attila and I took a little jaunt to a bulk food supply company, to purchase our wheat berries at a more reasonable price (half price for the same product). While we were there we found other interesting things to buy. We purchased dried beans, popping corn, spices, dried fruit, and a 1-litre bottle of Black Creek Cherry Juice. It was a great little outing for us.

The Cherry Juice was a particularly wonderful find, as it is not available near where we live, at such a reasonable price. So this afternoon I canned 7 250-ml jars of Chocolate Cherry Jelly, but really it is Topping. I deliberately did not cook the “jelly” as long as was needed to reach the gel stage, which left the mixture somewhat runny, a topping. When I used the Sweet Cherries we purchased just a little while ago, I made Chocolate Cherry Jam, and it has become my favourite way to eat chocolate. It is wonderful on vanilla ice cream, and sinfully good on chocolate ice cream.

I’ve been canning in dribs and drabs this spring and summer, a few jars of this and a few jars of that. It adds up, fast. So far I’ve canned over 70 jars of food, and my original 500 ml jars are all full. I’ve had to buy another few boxes of jars! The canning season hasn’t even begun in earnest in my part of the world.

Tonight Attila brought in about 4 quarts of Roma tomatoes, which went directly into the freezer for canning later. When I think I have enough to can 7 1-litre jars, then I’ll process them.

From mid-June until into October our little house is all bustle. Canners, canning pots, jars, canning equipment, juice making equipment, dehydrating equipment, it all takes up lots of space. I think in the past I might have regarded the space here as extremely cluttered. Now it looks resplendent with promise to me, symbols of prosperity everywhere I look.

Attila is taking vacation days from time to time. We have decided that since Tank is in no condition to pull Iris the trailer, trips away are not feasible. So vacation days are used for things like our excursion for wheat berries, visiting the Camp, and gardening, mostly gardening. We haven’t had very good luck when it comes to taking a week vacation, the few we’ve had have been spectacular failures, with unpleasant circumstances that were beyond our control. So the occasional day off is what we will be doing, staycation, gardencation, renocation, shopcation… variety is the spice of life.

I have to say that the flowers in the garden here at Mist Cottage, are a source of joy. From my chair on the porch I see Dianthus, Gladiola, Chamomile, Tomato Blossoms, Echinacea, Nasturtium, Scarlet Runner Beans, and Cosmos, all in full bloom. A riot of colour, haphazardly placed and beautiful.

Worldly

Weather

24°C
Date: 8:00 PM EDT Monday 12 August 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.9 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 23.8°C
Dew point: 18.9°C
Humidity: 74%
Wind: SW 15 km/h
Humidex: 30
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.”
Voltaire
1694 – 1778

Isn’t is wonderful that this is virtually impossible!

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 Old Lady in Training

Friday night we had a wonderful experience. Sitting on the back porch in the late evening, when the light was fading fast, the fireflies began a beautiful flickering light show. There were dozens of them in our yard. Theirs is one of the most beautiful mating rituals in the world, in my opinion. Love was in the air!

Suddenly I am noticing strangers, or they are noticing me, or both.

A few weeks ago, a woman in a parking lot cornered me to confirm that I had witnessed a confrontation she had just had, for which I had observed no evidence. It was awkward, disturbing, but not threatening.

Today, Attila and I did a run to the retail outlets to buy supplies. After emerging from the grocery store, we took our cart to the car, and were moving items from the cart to the car, when an older woman [older than me], a complete stranger, approached us, and who, in a laughing manner said, “Hurry up and get that cart emptied!”.

She then asked me if we were “heading to the cottage with all those groceries.”

” Just stocking up on sale items,” I told her.

She rightly observed that, “Not everyone has enough money to do that you know.”

I smiled and responded, “You are right, we are lucky to be able to do it.”

I enjoyed her making that point, because it reflects active social awareness, most likely based on experience.

She held out a quarter for the cart, to Attila, then pulled her hand back, and laughingly checked the cart to make sure there was a quarter in it, which there was, so she turned, and handed me the quarter.

All this time her husband stood some distance back, standing straight with his jacket over his arm, quite stiff and spiffy in his white shirt and bow tie.

Off they went with the cart, and and off we went, heading home with our bounty.

This is more attention from strangers, in the last few weeks, than I’ve experienced in years. Perhaps I am getting better looking as I slowly morph into a little old lady.

We took a flying trip out to the Camp yesterday, so that Attila could trim the weeds on the property. The grass trimmer broke down the last time we were there, and the job was not completed. Parts were ordered, a new muffler, which Attila replaced this past week, and the trimmer is working good as new. On this visit the job was completed.

The vegetation was lush, our lone tomato plant was surviving, but the wetland is almost dry, and the creek is no longer running. There are no signs of drought-like conditions, so the rain must be intermittent enough so that it soaks into the ground, with no resulting runoff, as it is runoff that would fill our wetland.

The day was hot, and humid, and windy. There are fewer mosquitoes at our Camp than at Mist Cottage, so we spent a lovely few hours just sitting in the shade and enjoying being in the bush. While we were there we went for a walk around the property to look for Sumac fruit, but found none. Too bad, I love Sumac jelly!

I am happy to report the mouse trap was empty, and there were no signs of mice in Grace the Trailer.

Since the first heat wave hit, baking bread has been a less-than-appealing activity. I’ve missed the homemade bread for three reasons. One is the taste. The second is the nutrition of home ground whole wheat. The third is the very low sodium content of my homemade bread. Commercial bread leaves me struggling to keep my daily sodium intake low. So today, despite the heat, I got out the grain mill, ground 11 cups of whole wheat flour, and baked five loaves of homemade bread. I turned on the air conditioning to cool the house down as the oven baked the bread, a bit of a luxury. I cannot bake the bread in the portable oven on the back porch, there are too many loaves for that oven to handle.

Today the garden has already provided a mid-day meal of sauteed zucchini, spinach, garlic, and basil. Fresh from the garden green beans were enjoyed at supper. Mostly we are eating everything fresh out of the garden, although some of the bounty has been preserved: canned Dandelion Jelly; canned Rhubarb (ours) Strawberry (pick-your-own) Pie filling; Pesto for the freezer. I am thinking of attempting low-sodium pickles, as Attila brought in two pounds of cucumbers for me this evening, and a pound of zucchini.

It was a quiet weekend, and as usual, we have been busy here at Mist Cottage, busy with the little things.

Worldly

Weather

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH
26°C
Date: 4:00 PM EDT Sunday 28 July 2019
Condition: Lighting Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 26.1°C
Dew point: 22.3°C
Humidity: 79%
Wind: WSW 30 gust 45 km/h
Humidex: 36
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“All general statements are false.”
Unknown

How Escsheresque!



An Open Window

An open window in the summer time is a wonderful thing. When the windows are open it means the day is kind, not too hot, not too humid, not too wet, not too windy. Today is just such a day. Looking at the weather forecast, there will be few such days in the weeks ahead.

I’ve been lazy so far today. With the windows open I find myself listening to the world on the outer side. Vehicles driving by, birds singing, and at this point in the evolution of our neighbourhood, the sound of hammers, and heavy equipment, and men shouting… I can tell you that Jason gets a lot of airtime, whoever he is.

Today the construction workers are working on the roof of the building that is visible from our living room windows. It is a one story rental unit. All of it’s openings face into the complex, except one sliding glass door, that faces our street, and therefore our house, to a certain degree. I feel sorry for the people with property at the end of the our street, the construction replaces a wetland that was right beside their house, and now they have blank wall, and the sliding glass door of a rental unit overlooking their property, up close and personal. I feel grateful that our immediate neighbours remain as they have been.

Yesterday Attila brought in another big bowl of harvested basil from our garden. More pesto! I made enough pesto for ten more tortellini and pesto meals. The pesto was spooned from the food processor, into a muffin tin, then placed in the freezer. This morning I took the frozen pesto out of the freezer, wrapped each Pesto “Muffin” separately, placed them all in a ziplock bag, and placed them back in the freezer.

Tortellini and Pesto is our second favourite “junk food” meal, with Homemade Pizza coming in first. It is far too hot right now to make a pizza, so it is great to be able to prepare the Tortellini and Pesto for a quick evening meal, when we feel like eating extravagantly. It is so simple to boil water for Tortellini on the hot plate on the back porch, so that no indoor cooking is needed. Our summer meals always include a green salad.

Last night, after I had finished making the Pesto, Attila took over the kitchen and prepared a large batch of Salsa, using commercially canned no-sodium tomatoes, garden garlic, garden jalapeno peppers, garden cilantro, and I don’t really know what else, I was shooed out of the kitchen while the magic took place. Right now the Salsa is in the refrigerator getting tastier by the minute; some of it will be consumed over the next few days, and some of it will end up in the freezer.

So over the last two days the garden has yielded:

2 English Cucumbers
4 Zucchini
1 dozen Strawberries
4 cups Basil Leaves
1 cup of Green String Beans
1 cup Spinach Greens
1/4 cup Chamomile Flowers (being dried for tea)
6 Nasturtium blooms for salad and stir fry
4 heads of garlic
1 cup Cilantro, chopped
5 Jalapeno Peppers

We don’t get all of our vegetables from our own garden, but from late June until into September, most of the vegetables we eat are grown right here at home. It is very satisfying. A huge advantage for us, is that the food we grow on our property is organic, and we only grow the things we like to eat. Well, that is not entirely true, we cultivate beautiful flowers too. Some are just for the eyes and the bees, the Columbine, Lungwort, Heliopsis, Dianthus, Echinacea, Wild Geranium, Daylilies, Iris, Borage, Cosmos, and Gladiolas are all grown for their beauty and the pollinators. But the Nasturtiums and Scarlet Runner beans are not just beautiful, and loved by pollinators and humming birds, they are also a source of human food, as the Nasturtium blooms are very tasty in a salad, and the Scarlet Runner beans are delicious steamed.

Since I finished reading Kristin Lavransdatter, my little world has felt incomplete without a book by my chair. So off I went to a used book store and bought three volumes. Two will sit by my easy chair, The Sweetness of Tears by Nafisa Haji (A Trade Paperback Original, sounds ominous but we shall see), and Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje. The third book will reside in the bathroom, to be picked up during unhurried visits, it is The Isles: A History, by Norman Davies, light history reading, very easy to pick up and put down again.

Now that I am out and about more often, I continue to bump into people and situations I consider rather interesting, in their oddness. At the book store it was the strange woman who entered the store while I was browsing the shelves. She began speaking loudly to the proprietor, and into her cell phone simultaneously. She suddenly announced into her cell phone, mid-sentence, in her conversation with the bookseller, that “I have to go and pick up a little dog”. Then, without missing a breath, she finished the sentence she had started with the bookseller. I don’t think cell phones have improved the art of communication in general.

Worldly

Weather

24°C
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Thursday 25 July 2019
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 24.4°C
Dew point: 18.8°C
Humidity: 70%
Wind: S 29 km/h
Humidex: 31
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“… one can easily quake at the thought of all the historical giants who have traveled the same road [writing a history book]. They and their books fill the shelves at every turn – from Hume to Trevelyan.
Fortunately, I was never sufficiently aware of such considerations to be bothered by them.”

Norman Davies, Introduction to The Isles: A History, pg xxi

And Relief!

Attila completed the fix for the leaking garage floor. Over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, he dug a 3 1/2 foot deep, five foot long, two foot wide trench in hard-as-rock clay, cleaned and caulked the concrete wall and foundation, filled in openings in the concrete foundation with spray foam, trimmed the foam, applied plastic waterproof sheeting to the exposed wall and foundation, back-filled with gravel and stones, then with earth. When he was all done, he graded the soil away from the foundation, and installed a large patio stone an an easy step out into the yard. He was very relieved to have the whole job completed in three days!

Last evening, as Attila and I sat on the porch, the weekend heat wave came to an end. Within minutes the humidity dropped, as did the temperature. It remained warm on the porch, as the the decking, the chairs, etc. were still super-heated after sitting in full sun when the temperature was 31C. Breathing became so much easier.

The hot weather killed most of the third planting spinach seedlings, there are seedlings left, out of dozens. I think that is all that perished in the heat wave. The second planting of spinach is doing well, but is bolting. But we are dry, dry, dry! Attila waters the garden every single day, and this is barely keeping the plants going. But they survive, and we wait for replenishing rain!

Today we harvested:

Spinach
Chamomile Blossoms
Edible Pod Peas
Fresh Basil
Zucchini

The first Zucchini from our garden! This is so exciting! Guess what I am sauteing for my mid-day meal tomorrow!

Some of the garden seeds and bulbs we purchased this year came from The Dollar Store. All of the seeds and bulbs we purchased there have been a great success. Right now I am sitting in my easy chair enjoying the beautiful Gladiolas, cut from the garden. Seven bulbs were purchased from The Dollar Store, and six of them grew tall and healthy, no sign of the seventh. And now they are blooming joy right in front of me.

Gladiola from our garden.

This morning when I went out into the garden to pick some spinach for my mid-day meal, I glanced into the net in the Mosquito Magnet. It was crawling with mosquitoes! Attila had attracted them to the area where the Mosquito Magnet sits, as that is where he was digging his trench. He worked into the night, both Friday and Saturday night, and so had the area lit. The combination of a human body working hard, the heat, and the light, attracted a great many mosquitoes, and it seems we have prevented the captured insects from procreating! Unfortunately their relatives are still busy populating our little corner of the world.

Our Mosquito Magnet runs on propane. At one time I was an administrator for a propane company, and could buy the unit at cost, so I did. It was the one and only year that Attila and I both had living wage jobs, so although it was still expensive, we splurged. It was while we were living in the bush, at the country house, where the mosquitoes were incredibly numerous and aggressive. Naively, we thought the Mosquito Magnet would allow us a small area to enjoy the outdoors without being plagued by mosquitoes. Well, I am here to tell you, that the Mosquito Magnet didn’t stand a chance. The unit worked the way it was supposed to, and within a day, sometimes two, the catchment net would be packed full of mosquitoes. We were breeding them, I think, in the wetland on our property. Anyway, we put the Mosquito Magnet away because it could not keep up with the insect population at the country house.
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But here we are now, living at Mist Cottage, and although the mosquitoes here are worse than they have ever been since we bought the place, the population is sparse compared to the country house. So a week or so ago, the Mosquito Magnet came out of retirement, and was pressed into service again. It makes a difference here! But every day a new generation of mosquitoes rises up from the grass, I swear they breed on the grass, to torments us. I hate to think how numerous the mosquitoes would be this summer, if it were not for the Mosquito Magnet.

Worldly

Weather

22°C
Date: 1:00 PM EDT Monday 22 July 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 21.5°C
Dew point: 15.5°C
Humidity: 68%
Wind: E 16 km/h
Humidex: 26
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“When you are kind to someone in trouble, you hope they’ll remember and be kind to someone else. And it’ll become like a wildfire.”
Whoopi Goldberg

The thing about this wish for the world, is that is does not involve getting any recognition or thanks for your kindness. The reward is in the kindness being passed along, and if the kindness is passed along, you will never know. I think this is the essence of genuine kindness, recognition is contraindicated.