What We Do

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The trip to the Camp allowed us the opportunity to keep abreast of ongoing issues.

Issue One: Mice!
After not catching any mice for many weeks, we arrived at the Camp to find the mouse trap had captured one mouse. Disappointing. This means there is still an undiscovered entry point, undiscovered by us, not by the mice. Back to the drawing board we go on keeping the little monsters out of Grace, where they don’t belong.

Issue Two: Army Worms
Spring at the Camp has, for three seasons now, included several visits dominated by killing army worms. They find the camp very enticing. So far this spring, we have destroyed four webbed nests in the Dogwoods and Sumacs, and only a few dozen masses of them on tree trunks, mostly on Maples this year. This diminished population may mean their numbers are waning, or it may mean that their season is late, and one of our future visits will reveal that a huge population remains.

That is it, all the issues so far this year.

The Bright Side:
At the Camp, the Black Flies were not too bad, and their season appears to be over. The Mosquitoes are around, but there don’t seem to be a lot of them, yet. The Dragonflies are numerous, very, very active, and beautiful to behold. The bird population is higher this spring than ever before, of course ever before, for us, is only three summers. Hardly definitive, but wonderful nonetheless.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

An exciting day here at Mist Cottage, visitors! My Mom, and sisters made the trip, we had a lunch date. We had a great time, and good long gab session. My Mom brought me a few jigsaw puzzles, my family enjoys having a good jigsaw puzzle on the go. Thanks Mom! Luckily the weather was on our side, although a little on the chilly side, at least is was sunny. We toured the garden, my raised beds and Attila’s traditional garden beds. We looked at the Heliopsis and Rose plants that I have from my Granny’s garden, the garden where my Mom grew up, they are both thriving here, thank goodness. For lunch we had Taco Soup (Instant Pot!), and homemade 100% whole wheat bread, made from the flour I milled myself. My sisters enjoyed the Dandelion Jelly, a sweet treat on a slice of homemade bread. Time flew and before we knew it they had to be on their way, it is quite a drive. They had a long day, and I sure enjoyed seeing them!

My sister brought her camera out just before they left, and Attila took a picture of Mom and her three daughters.
“Look”, I said, “My Mom is the best looking of all of us!”
Attila replied, “You are all pretty good looking to me.”
I pointed out, “Yes, of course, but when you consider Mom looks as good as we do, and she is 88, well, I think that supports my premise.”

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Another lovely day! It was so beautiful that we decided to take a run out to the Camp. There were lots of army worms, but only about a tenth of the numbers we saw last year at this time. The spray consisting of Dawn detergent, water, and wee bit of bleach killed them effectively. There were no mice in the tap, hurray!

We enjoyed our day there, and decided to stay overnight, so that we could stay up very late watching the camp fire. We retired happy after watching the stars come out, and the fireflies flickering in the forest all around us. In the morning, as I was standing at the kitchen counter making myself a cup of coffee, I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a doe, she was standing behind the trailer watching me through the window. We made and held eye contact for the longest time, I did not move, not wanting to break the spell. She slowly grazed around the perimeter of the Camp area, occasionally stopping to gaze into my eyes again, and after a half an hour or so, wandered off into the forest.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Attila had the day off work today, and spent his time working happily in the garden. If only a small proportion of our garden yield fruit or vegetables, we will be well set up for the winter!

A small project that has been on my list for a very long time was tackled and completed today. We had new windows installed a year ago March. At that time Attila was working on replacing the garage roof, and had no spare time to consider other tasks, and all of the equipment for small jobs was buried in boxes, stacked and stored in the basement while the garage was under repairs. The kitchen window is above the sink, so I used painter’s tape to put up plastic wrap film over the trim, so that it would not be damaged by splatters and water. Today was the day that the plastic came down and Attila applied two coats of finish, over the course of the day. The smell is terrible, all the windows are open, and I am very, very glad that this project has at last been accomplished!

Worldly

Weather

12°C
Date: 1:12 PM EDT Thursday 13 June 2019
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 100.8 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 12.3°C
Dew point: 12.3°C
Humidity: 100%
Wind: S 17 km/h
Visibility: 4 km

20°C
Date: 8:00 PM EDT Tuesday 18 June 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 20.1°C
Dew point: 12.7°C
Humidity: 62%
Wind: SW 8 km/h
Humidex: 23
Visibility: 24 km.

Quote

Quote for Thursday, June 13, 2019

“Our great weariness comes from work not done.”
Eric Hoffer
1902 – 1983

Quote for Tuesday, June 18, 2019

“If it weren’t for history everything would happen at once. If it weren’t for geography, everything would happen to me.”
Anonymous
1990
Toilet stall, cafe basement, Bloor and Brunswick, Toronto, Ontario
I read this sitting down, and as a Geographer, I loved it. After almost 30 years, it still tickles my imagination.


Scarlet Tanager

Last weekend was perfect, the weather, the company, the place, the time.

The weather was warm, sunny, and breezy.

We stayed overnight at the camp for the first time in 2019. We spent a busy day. I cleaned out Winnie, while Attila felled three dead Elm trees.

Winnie is open at one end, more like a stall built of pine boards, with a roof, and a cement pad floor. The leaves blow into Winnie over the late fall, before the snow flies, so that by spring there are a lot of leaves in there. In the leaves this year were mosquitoes, very, very large spiders, centipedes, and a chipmunk who dug a hole under one of the cement pads. I removed everything from Winnie, including our compost toilet buckets that sat there over the winter, a pail with heavy-duty, used plastic bags and a bottle of bleach, and a few worn out tools picked up at the charity shops. Nothing worth stealing, all of it very handy.

The biggest challenge cleaning Winnie was that the bottom of the wall boards, which originally sat several inches above the ground, were no longer above the ground. Soil had built up over the last few years, so that the pine was now in the soil. Using a spade, i dug out around Winnie’s perimeter, so that the boards are once again a few inches above the ground. They will rot less quickly that way. It was all hard work!

Attila, while I was busy with Winnie, felled three sizable dead Elm trees. Unfortunately, during the process, two small healthy trees were damaged so badly that they too needed to be felled. As soon as the trees were down, Attila began to pull the brush out to the fire pit area. My second job of the day was to burn the brush, including the live branches.

By lunch time there were wonderful hot coals in the fire pit, so we cooked grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and took a long break, just sitting in the shade enjoying the day. While we were sitting there we spotted a pair of very large Blue Jays, a small Pileated Woodpecker, and a Scarlet Tanager. This is the second time I’ve seen a Scarlet Tanager at the camp, they are such beautiful birds.

The highlight of the visit though, came as the campfire flickered in the darkness, the evening cooled, the Loons called in the distance, the Owls hooted on the ridge, and the stars began to appear in the sky.

Worldly

Weather

17°C
Date: 9:00 PM EDT Tuesday 11 June 2019
Condition: Mainly Clear
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 16.9°C
Dew point: 8.7°C
Humidity: 58%
Wind: W 6 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“She had an unequalled gift… of squeezing big mistakes into small opportunities.”
Henry James
1843 – 1916



Preservation and Preparation

Fresh Organic Dandelion Blooms, just the thing for jelly! Their season is short, but I managed to capture them at their peak!

Wow, it has been a while since I last wrote an entry!

I’ve been busy, playing in the kitchen, or is it a lab, not much difference when you come right down to it.

New technology is always fun. Over the last year or so I’ve added a steam canner, a steam juicer, and Tattler reusable canning lids to my kitchen equipment.

I love the Victorio steam canner. Purchased last year, it is a game changer, no mistake about it. I gave my water bath canning equipment to my sister! The steam canner is lightweight aluminum, so I can easily grab it out of storage in the basement, and get it up and down the stairs without straining myself. It requires comparatively little water to operate, so I can easily carry it to the sink, add the water and carry it back to the stove. It is easy to lift the jars in and out of the canner, making it a breeze to use. And after making my usual first attempt boo boos, it works perfectly every time.

The newly acquired Victorio steam juicer has added a whole new dimension to my home food preservation activities. I have only tried Rhubarb Juice, as it is the only ripened produce coming out of our garden so far this spring, and it is a big hit here. The fruit pulp that remains in the juicer makes a lovely fruit leather, so nothing goes to waste. And of course, there are my learning curve bloopers, I always make them. I was using the oven to dry my fruit leather. I share the kitchen with Attila, I should have thought it through. I left the fruit leather in the oven after I turned off the oven early in the day when the price of hydro doubled, meaning to turn it on again when the hydro price dropped again, later in the day. Attila decided to roast potatoes, and I forgot to warn him about the fruit leather. It didn’t go well, the fruit leather is toasted rather than dried. I will be doing the fruit leather in the dehydrator from now on.

The Salton dehydrator was purchased at a discounted price, an entry level unit. Since we had not tried using such an appliance before, it didn’t make sense to purchase top of the line equipment. If we decide it is going to be a technique of food preservation that we come to rely on, a high quality unit will be purchased. So far the little unit we have, a birthday present for Attila years ago, is meeting our needs.

The Tattler lids are exciting, they are reusable. All of my canning career, which spans around five decades, I’ve used metal lids and rings. I’ve never had a seal fail on me, not even once. I was surprised to learn it could even happen. But throwing out all those lids just seemed so wasteful and expensive. So when I came across reusable Tattler lids I decided to buy a few and see how they work. Well, it seems my blooperness has gone into overdrive with these lids.

I am teaching myself to use the Tattler lids by canning water. The first time I tried them in the steam canner I had 50% failure to seal. The second time I had 100% success. But the story doesn’t end there. I then used them to preserve food. Two jars of Dandelion Jelly, to start with. They sealed, and after 24 hours I took them down to store in the basement. I checked on things yesterday, and the lids came right off! Oh dear, false seals! I reprocessed the jelly with metal lids, they sealed and are now stored away.

Tattler lids were also used for another seven jars of steam canned jelly, and juice, and three pressure canned jars of Taco Soup. I am watching these jars very carefully, checking the seals several times a day for failures. The sealed soup jars are in the refrigerator, so if the seals fail, the soup will be preserved and can be frozen instead. One of the jars of soup did not seal, I think I know what I did wrong with it, it is in the freezer.

So Tattler lids are putting me through my paces, for sure. Are they worth the trouble? Well, I haven’t decided on that yet, it is early days. Usually, after working with things, I get a feel for them, and get better and better at doing them successfully. I am hoping that will be the case with the Tattler lids. So far I haven’t lost any food items, so I am not discouraged.

On the homemade bread front progress has been made.

I am now milling all of our flour. We buy the wheat berries, which are extremely difficult to source at a reasonable price, to mill the flour. The grain mill, a Wondermill, is easy to use. Of course I have my bloopers with it too. I discovered that if you add too many wheat berries at once to the feeder, the flour container will clog, and it makes quite a mess, and requires quite a clean up. Whoops. I’ll only make that mistake once. It didn’t damage the machine because I always hit the off switch or pull the plug at the first sign that anything is amiss with an appliance.

I have a Black & Decker bread machine, purchased at a considerable markdown. I don’t like it, but so long as it does the job it won’t be replaced. I have made enough so-so bread in it, trying new things, until now the bread I make in it is lovely. But, that is one loaf at a time, not enough, with Attila taking lunches to work. He is using a lot more bread than he otherwise would, because it is homemade and delicious. I need four or five small loaves a week.

So I decided to try making five loaves at once. This is where the Bosch Universal Mixer comes into play. Again, this has not been an instant success. My first attempts yielded acceptable but not lovely results. I continued to research and read what other people were doing, and tweaked and tweaked my technique. The last batch was lovely, and thankfully I took the time to write down the process I used, and the ingredients.

Just a note about the links to amazon that I have included for the equipment I use. I didn’t buy any of it at those prices. I didn’t buy all of it at once, or even recently. I have purchased my equipment over a period of many years, and expect it to last a lifetime. I often buy equipment directly from the manufacturer (e.g. Tattler), or when I find it on sale for an excellent price, sometimes watching prices for years.

My policy on spending money has changed little over the years. For instance, I have a Cuisinart food processor that I purchased for myself in the 70s, when I was a Home Economics teacher, and it has been in constant use since then, and I expect it to be in constant use until Attila and I no longer have the need or wherewithal to use it.

I am the same with clothes, my parka was purchased in the early 90s and is the only coat I’ve worn since, and it is still going strong. I have a pair of pants that I am considering throwing out, purchased about 30 years ago, they are badly worn now. Items that wear out after only a few years are regrettable failures .

Another example is my sewing machine. When I was studying Couturier clothing design and construction I purchased an inexpensive Singer sewing machine. It was a disaster, and was negatively impacting my studies. So I returned it, went into debt, and purchased an Elna sewing machine. I have used my little Elna since 1969, and it is still humming along the same as it always has. I think that was my first experience with the difference quality can make, it was a lesson well learned.

I guess all of this illustrates why the Tattler lids hold such appeal for me!

Worldly

Weather

15°C
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Thursday 6 June 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 14.8°C
Dew point: 13.2°C
Humidity: 90%
Wind: N 11 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Once the game is over, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.””
Italian Proverb

Rhubarb Juice

Friday, May 17, 2019

The day dawned sunny, but still a bit chilly, just under 16C. Not lounging weather to be sure, but good working weather. As the day progressed the clouds became more numerous, and there is no rain expected for a few days. We have had a lot of rain this spring, and here at Mist Cottage the flora and fauna are burgeoning with life.

This morning I watched a Blue Jay flitting about the yard, from the Ash tree, to the lawn, and up again. Sitting on the fence, watching him closely, was a Cardinal. Sitting in the Ssh tree, watching him closely, were two Robins. Sitting on the fence at the far side of the yard, watching him closely, were two Chickadees. The Blue Jay has been an unwelcome marauder in our yard, the other birds are frequently going after it and chasing it away. I have seen some bird’s egg shells on the ground, so he must be after their nests.

This morning I explored possibilities for our felled Ash logs. I think I might have found some people who will use the wood, not burn it for fuel, but use it to make things. I am still waiting to hear back from them, fingers crossed.

Yesterday Attila picked some Rhubarb from our largest plant. It was ready for harvesting, now that it is well established. I cleaned it and weighted it, less than pound. So out I went to the garden and picked some more. I ended up with 1.77 pounds of fresh rhubarb, when washed and diced. So here is what I did:

Step One:
Place 5 quarts of water and a marble (it will rattle if the water gets too low, time to add more!) in the Stock Pot of the Victorio Steam Juicer. Place the Juice Kettle on top of that, insert the hose into the spigot, and clamp the hose. Place the Colander with the 1.77 lbs. of diced rhubarb in it, on top of that. Finally place the lid on top of that.

Step Two:
Turn the burner on under the steam juicer, as soon as it reaches a rolling boil turn it down until it maintains a slow boil.

Step Three:
Wait. Enjoy the heavenly aroma that filled the house.
I waited 1 1/2 hours. Then I turned off the heat and let the unit cool.

Step Four:
If I had had enough juice in the Juice Kettle to reach the drain hose, I would have drained the juice that way. But there wasn’t much juice, relative to the size of the Juice Kettle, so I carefully removed the lid, then the Colander, and poured the juice into a measuring cup, from the opposite size of the Colander from the spigot.

Step Five:
Be impressed. It made 1/8 cup less than 4 cups of juice.

Ah, now, what to do with the juice-less fruit, and the juice! Fruit leather with the fruit I think, and Rhubeena with the juice. Rhubeena is like Ribena, only it is made with Rhubarb. All the recipes I found for it cooked the Rhubarb with water and sugar, then strained it, to make the Rhubeena. I used the Steam Juicer to make the juice, without sugar, and will later add the sugar, 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of juice, and bring it to a boil, then steam can one 500 ml jar, and store what is left in another jar for the refrigerator and immediate consumption.

Rhubarb! Rhubarb leather on the plate, this was like candy! All gone now. The two jars of Rhubarb Juice were canned for long term storage, and the open jar is being kept in the refrigerator for immediate consumption. The Victorio Steam Canner makes canning two jars of juice easy peasy. The Victorio equipment is top notch, pricey, but high quality, and should last a lifetime, which at my age I guess it isn’t saying much, so I’ll say it should last several lifetimes. We are finding that our food preservation equipment has already paid for itself, when our preserved food is compared to the prices for organic canned foods. And of course, there is the variety we enjoy that cannot be had at any price, no Organic Rhubarb Juice on the shelves, or Organic Dandelion Jelly. Another added benefit to all this gardening and preserving of food is that we generate a lot less packaging waste. And another added benefit is that our food has no preservatives in it, and we know exactly what has gone into the jars,.

It has taken me some time to find time to try out a Steam Juicer. I am not disappointed! This Juicer makes making juice a breeze.

Next in the Steam Juicer, vegetable broth from frozen vegetable scraps we have been saving in the freezer!

Wednesday May 22, 2019

Things have been busy!

After making the Dandelion Jelly, it was decided that more was needed. So I spent many hours Saturday, sitting in the sunshine, plucking petals. The result was enough Dandelion “tea” for two more batches of jelly, which were frozen for future jelly making. But that didn’t seem like enough, so Monday saw me on the back porch once more, plucking more petals, enough for one more batch of jelly. That should do it! We plan on using the jelly as a bit of a medicinal, a teaspoon a day each, a small and simple little treat that is good for us.

Attila was busy with the construction of the Hugelkultur bed, it is a lot of work to set up. He also set up the rain barrel that we purchased several years ago, at last.

His big project though, over the last four or five days, has been to get the garden turned and planted. Tomatoes! Thirty-six Roma Tomato plants were planted in rows, and four plants of Cherry Tomatoes. The hope is that the garden will provide enough canned tomatoes and Tomato Red Pepper Sauce to from this gardening season to the next. Only time will tell if this plan succeeds. I planted Green Bell Peppers and Red Shepherd Peppers in my raised bed, in among the strawberry runners, and if they grow and yield well, they will provide the peppers needed for the sauce.

The first little plants from the cold frame, Radishes, were transplanted into the garden. Oregano was moved to a new location in the garden. Two small Black Currant bushes were transplanted to the back of the garden. And I think Attila did a whole lot of other little rearrangements in his garden, that I didn’t really notice, being busy with my own little projects.

Attila was very busy in the flower garden as well. Gladiola were planted close to the house and along the fence, and the echinacea were moved to the same location to make room for the Cherry Tomatoes, which were planted near one of the compost bins. Along the fence, between two of the compost bins, the Scarlet Runner beans were put in.

At some point, during all this activity, we found time to head out the Camp for a few hours. I wanted to see if there were any Army Worms developing on our trees there. We were only there a few hours, and got a lot accomplished. Attila cut the grass, and I worked on getting Grace the Trailer up and functioning for the season. The propane range was used for the first time this year, heating up Taco Soup, which I served with cheese and crackers. We decided not to have a fire, as it was a whirlwind visit and we would be very busy while there. I mixed up a batch of detergent/water/bleach and sprayed the army worm nest I found in one of the trees. Their season has begun, and we are hoping to stay on top of it this year. The season for black flies has also begun, they aren’t swarming yet, but they are biting.

My raised beds are looking great so far. My Spinach, Beets, and Peas are all just coming up, and soon I will be able to discern which are weeds and which are my plants (straight rows), so that I can weed the bed. The chicken wire over the bed has been successful in keeping the squirrels from digging up my seeds, or burying things in the soil and disturbing the seedlings.

The strawberries, in the other raised bed, are growing vigorously, and in a few weeks the runners will be ready to transplant into another bed, whic will not be a raised bed. We are going to use some of the logs from the felled Ash tree as a Strawberry bed border. The transplants will not bear fruit this summer, but hopefully next summer we will have a crop!

Now I am waiting for the Lilacs to bloom, and if there are enough blooms on the property, I will be making Lilac Jelly. I am hoping that the Nasturtiums Attila planted will proliferate and bloom well, because I would love to try Nasturtium Jam, I think the peppery flavour would have a real kick! Oh, and yes, Strawberry season should be coming up in a few weeks, and I am really looking forward to that.

And I am happy to record that on Saturday the weather was so warm that the temperature on the back porch reached 30C. It was too warm for me, sitting in the full afternoon sun, so I had to retreat indoors. But it did inspire me to drag out the “cabana curtains” from winter storage, which are really white bed sheets, and hang them on the rods across the back porch. And of course, since I did that, Monday was cloudy and dull, and they were not needed. But now they sit at the ready!

Worldly

Weather

16°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Friday 17 May 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.6 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 16.4°C
Dew point: 11.9°C
Humidity: 74%
Wind: W 16 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

9°C
Date: 7:00 AM EDT Wednesday 22 May 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 8.5°C
Dew point: 5.9°C
Humidity: 83%
Wind: N 12 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“I like manual labor. Whenever I’ve got waterlogged with study, I’ve taken a spell of it and found it spiritually invigorating.”
W. Somerset Maugham
1874 – 1965

I found a balance, when I worked as a manual labourer on a farm, picking fruit. I would read a book at night, and think about what I had read all through the next day, whiles my hands reached, plucked, and placed the sweet aromatic fruits, as I stood high on a rickety ladder held up against a swaying branch. Aerial literature.

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