Harvest Season Vacation

My vacation this year was taken primarily in the kitchen over a hot stove. Pressure canning!  Doesn’t sound like a dream vacation does it?  It didn’t sound that way to me, but the reality is very far from the experience.  I love canning, I love harvest season, I love spending time in my kitchen, I love good fresh food, and I loved having Attila around and about the place, sometimes helping me, sometimes off puttering in the garden or the garage.  Most of all I love to get my teeth into an activity, tackle it, and accomplish a goal.

Here are a few pictures of my canning adventure.

canning assembly line in kitchen

This is the canning assembly line in the kitchen. There were no meals cooked during the canning days, all available space was used for at least 12 hours each day, and usually deep into the night.

Jars of Tomatoe Red Pepper Sauce

The first 23 jars of Tomato Red Pepper Sauce cooling on the table. Pressure canned jars need to sit undisturbed for 24 to 48 hours, before moving them into storage.

tomato puree

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

jars of tomatoes on kitchen counter

The results of the canning marathon! 12 Litre jars of Tomato Puree. And there is my All American Pressure Canner, resting after all its hard work.

dehydrating tomato skins and seeds

After making tomato puree with the food mill, the skins and seeds were spread on silicon sheets and placed in a 200F oven for an hour or so, this was done several times.

Jar of powdered tomatoes, with three layers.

The dehydrated tomato skins and seeds. Multiple methods of dehydration were used and can be seen in the layers in the jar. The bottom layer was air-dried, then put in the blender to create the light coloured tomato powder. The middle layer, a little darker in colour, was baked briefly in shallow baking pans, then powdered. The darkest layer, the top layer, was baked on silicon sheets in the oven, then powdered.

large pot of applesauce

The apple puree in a 15 quart stock pot. The half bushel of apples had the blossom ends and stems cut out, were quartered, boiled till soft, then put through the food mill. This was a lot of applesauce, and the pot was almost too heavy for me to lift myself.

jar with apple skins and seeds and botto of apple cider vinegar

The skins and seeds, taken from the food mill and placed in a 1 1/2 litre mason jar. To this I added 2 tablespoons of sugar dissolved in water, 2 tablespoons of
apple cider vinegar, and water to cover all of the skins and seeds, which almost filled the jar. It is sitting a dark cupboard for two weeks now, with a coffee filter covering it, held down by the screw top lid. This may or may not yield apple cider vinegar.

9 jars of applesauce

The applesauce made from 1/2 bushel of Paulared apples. The jars were pressure canned, and they all sealed as they should.

comsumers mason jar

I have been canning for decades. This was one of my first set of canning jars, a Consumers Mason jar. I have only a few of these now. I don’t remember where the others ended up, probably given as gifts, filled with some canned delight.

Atlas Mason jar

This Atlas mason jar is one I acquired somewhere, no idea where. It is an American Quart, rather than a litre.

Douglas Mason jar.

I have five or six of the Douglas Mason jars in my collection.

Dominion Mason jar.

The Dominion Mason jar, I have a few of these as well. I originally had a dozen each of the Consumers Mason, Douglas Mason, and Dominion Mason jars. I don’t remember ever having broken a jar, so I suspect I gave the missing jars away, filled with food.

different varieties of tomatoes on a plate

In the summer of 2018 we grew four varieties of tomatoes.
Upper Left: big round Pink Girl
Upper Right: one short oblong Health Kick tomato
Middle: elongated tomatoes, San Marino
Bottom: Amish Paste tomatoes
I would not grow the Pink Girl tomatoes again, they were nice but not outstanding and took a long time to ripen. The others were very nice tasting, and were wonderful for canning.

The beat up chest freezer.

And finally, the poor old thing!  This is the little second hand chest freezer I bought years ago. It was only meant to be a temporary solution to keeping frozen foods at Mist Cottage before we moved here. But when we sold the Country House, the buyers wanted our bigger, new freezer, so we had to let it go. Now this is the main freezer. It is not energy efficient, and it is very beat up, that is why I got if for a song. It works, but it doesn’t provide as much storage as we need. That is why I am canning and not freezing during this harvest season.

Worldly

Weather

13°C
Date: 1:00 PM EDT Monday 10 September 2018
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 12.6°C
Dew point: 11.4°C
Humidity: 92%
Wind: ENE 10 km/h
Visibility: 13 km

It was less than a week ago the humidex was hitting 40C! Look at that high today 13C! The weather people say warmer weather is on the way. That will give the garden a chance to yield lots of produce before the first frost hits.

Quote

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
Bertrand Russell
1872 – 1970

What I did on my summer vacation.

Our first summer vacation in over two decades came in the summer of 2016. We were very excited! My brother had a heart attack and died that week. In 2017 our second opportunity for a summer vacation came up, and we spent it at our Rideau Camp. That week a neighbour destroyed a corner of our property with his tractor, and a property dispute ensued, in which I ended up having to involve the police to prevent the individual from continuing to damage the property, it was not fun, and certainly not relaxing. In addition to that miserable process, it was cold and rained the whole time we were there,

So, this year, when an opportunity for a summer vacation came along, I decided to pass. God only knows what misery would befall me on a third attempt at leisure and pleasure.

Attila had last week off. The first Saturday began as hot and humid as it had been all summer, being outdoors was not bearable. It was the Labour Day long weekend in Ontario. I thought perhaps it might be fun to drive out to a few local farms, who advertised on the internet. I was looking for tomatoes, and although several farms indicated they sold tomatoes, none of them offered any information on availability. I called their telephone numbers, only one farm line answered. He was quite unpleasant, told me he wanted $75 a bushel for his tomatoes, that there were none left, and I could put in my order for next year with a deposit. I politely declined. So we chose the nearest farm in the listings (not the unpleasant fellow) and set out.

There was a bad accident on a nearby highway, and all of the long weekend traffic was rerouted through our small area. It took over an hour to get out of town and to the first farm. They had clearly gone out of the business of selling to the public, the stand partly demolished, nor was there any sign of farming activity. I wish they had taken their listings off the internet, but I know how time-consuming that can be, so I don’t really blame them for not seeing to it.

Conclusion: the internet is not a good way to find local goods and services.

It took another hour to get back through town, which took us by a grocery store, so we popped in for a few things. And there they were, Roma tomatoes by the 25 pound box, and Red Shepherd peppers by the 20 pound box! The tomatoes were $8 a box, and the peppers were $10 a box. They were grown in Ontario, but not anywhere near where we live. We bought two boxes of tomatoes and one box of peppers. The outing to visit local farms and purchase local produce was abandoned.

So, I began to can tomatoes. I pressure canned batches of Tomato Red Pepper Sauce and pureed tomatoes right through until Monday, and spent at least 12 hours each day on my feet, getting it done. Attila helped a bit, sitting and turning the food mill, which helped a lot.

On Tuesday the heat wave was still going strong, and being outdoors was still going to be unbearable. So I thought it would be interesting to try again to buy local produce. This time I decided that an apple farm where we had purchased apples in the past, would be the place to visit. Attila liked the idea, so off we went for a drive in the country. It was hot and humid out there, but we were comfortable in the air-conditioned vehicle, and the long drive in the country was fun and relaxing.

We bought a 1/2 bushel of Paulared Apples. I also treated myself to a new paring knife, a Victorinox serrated knife, that was for sale for $9 at the apple farm store. A little vacation indulgence. Attila chose a plastic jar opener, for opening hard-to-open jars, as his little indulgence. We took our apples and indulgences and set out on the back roads towards home.

It was on one of those back roads that we bumped into a farmer selling produce out of her barn. She didn’t have a lot, but we did get six quarts of lovely new potatoes, and a large ripe melon.

We had a good time.

On Wednesday the day was spent turning the apples into applesauce.

On Thursday the applesauce was preserved by pressure canning.

Thursday was the last day of miserable hot and humid weather.

Friday dawned sunny and cool. At last! I decided to go “hiking” at a local park trail. Attila though that was a grand idea, so that is what we did. We weren’t sure just how it would work out, me with my arthritic knee, and Attila with his bad back and painful ankle. We chose the easy trail, not too long, and spent a lot of time sitting at the water’s edge just enjoying the sound of the waves lapping, and the birds calling.

Saturday dawned sunny and cool. Yay! I decided to go “hiking” again. Based on our success on the last “hike”, we chose a slightly more challenging trail, a moderate rated trail, two kilometres long. What a glorious time we had, again, sitting for a long time at the water’s edge. This time, as we were sitting watching the water lap against the rocks and submerged trees trunks, a beautiful mink ran across the shore in front of us. We were downwind from the water, so that it probably did not realize we were there until it was well on its journey. When it became aware of us, it scooted across in front of us and off into the brush. At another point in our walk, we stopped to watch a group of women in a small motorboat, who were out fishing. They caught our attention with their cries of excitement and amazement as one of them caught a fish. They were enjoying themselves so much, it was contagious. My knee, and Attila’s back and ankle, survived the experience without distress, we were pain-free and tired when we arrived back at the car. Out came the lawn chairs from the trunk of the car, cool beverages were fetched from the cooler in the back seat, and we set ourselves up in the shade to enjoy the breeze and the trees, while we rested from our adventure.

Once rested we headed for the Rideau Camp. Once there I heated up a pot of chilli for our supper, while Attila started a camp fire, over which he cooked grilled cheese sandwiches. We enjoyed a quiet meal, then sat around the camp fire for a few hours until the light began to fail. The fire was doused and then we were on our way home. It was a another lovely day.

Mouse Tales

Mice invaded Grace the trailer over last winter and have been a nightmare this summer. Three weeks ago, while applying Mouse Free to the undercarriage of the trailer, with a paint brush, Attila discovered a gap tucked behind the siding at the front jack. That opening, and another we found in the rear, were then filled with steel wool, then painted with Mouse Free. This was all done in hope of preventing more mice from entering.

BUT there was a high possibility that there were remaining mice in the trailer. Snap traps were being turned over and raided without catching the mice. When a mouse was caught in a snap trap, it was a pretty gory affair to clean up. So I got a 5 gallon pail, filled it with about 10 inches of water, smeared a bit of peanut butter horizontally for a few inches, just above the water line, and placed a 1×2 board up to the lip of the rim as an entry ramp for the mice. We caught six mice. Yesterday, after leaving the trailer for a week, there were no mice in the trap. There were no new droppings anywhere in the trailer.

That brings us to today, the last day of the “vacation”. Today nothing is planned. Attila is doing a lot of little things he wants to get done before he goes back to work. I am puttering, my usual kind of puttering about, going from one little task to another, like a bee wandering from bloom to bloom.

This may or may not have solved our mouse issues. I live i hope.

Worldly

Weather

14°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Sunday 9 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.7 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 13.8°C
Dew point: 4.0°C
Humidity: 51%
Wind: NE 19 gust 33 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The more we do, the more we can do; the more busy we are the more leisure we have.”
William Hazlitt
1778 – 1830

The Blue Bowl

This morning I am sitting in the light of the rising sun, listening to the High Mountains of Portugal audio book, and crocheting a warm blanket. I will breakfast later, when my stomach wrenches me out of this circle of warmth.

I will briefly mention here, in this record of the events and small passages in my life, the property dispute that arose at the Rideau Camp during our vacation early in September. We had erected No Trespassing signs in the spring of this year, where someone had cut down trees on our property at the roadside. To our dismay, a person unknown to us made entry while we were there, doing additional damage to the property. The authorities were called, and we discovered that our neighbour claimed the property to be hers. The issue evolved over the month of September, culminating at last in an amicable meeting with the neighbour, who acknowledged our rightful claim, based on surveyor’s stakes, and apologized for the mistake. An understanding had been reached and the matter closed. I dealt with the entire matter myself, and found it to be extremely stressful. It certainly took the shine off the vacation! Maybe next year’s vacation will be better, one can only hope. At this point I feel I have highly overrated the concept of vacations.

My backup drive arrived on Monday, and the Cloud drive has been successfully backed up to it, the files are now easily available and have been catalogued for easy searches. It helped to work on the book while setting up the backup drive, experiencing immediately any issues, that would make using the drive to access archived files difficult. The new drive is very small, and light. It will hold all of the files I have saved since 1985. I was lucky enough to have most of my academic work, which was created on the technology of the time, floppy disks, transferred first on the smaller diskettes, and then on to hard drives. The changes in technology have been amazing.

My book it beginning to take shape. I have moved on from editing sources to setting up thumbnail images to be included beside the text description for each individual. Most of my images are very low quality. The copies sent to me are photocopies, the originals belonging to individuals who do not own scanners and find the photocopy machine the best way to share them. Poor quality images are better than no images. I spent yesterday scanning the photocopies at 600 dpi, which is the highest quality my scanner will produce.

I am thinking about how to actually publish this book. Epub is interesting, paper will be preferred by many family members, but the cost of shipping is a big concern. My first book shipped as oversize letter, which was only around $5 postage per book. The second book will be longer and heavier, and will have to ship paying for package postage, at a much higher rate.

I do not publish anything on ancestry, or on the any of the sites on the internet. These are corporate organizations seeking profit, and they may not have my research to charge my relatives, and future generations, for access to their own family history.

Recently on Facebook a fellow mentioned that he had been in the area, where my ancestors pioneered, for fifty years. I am not really sure why he mentioned how long he had been visiting the area, it wasn’t relevant to the posting. At first I replied that my family had lived in the area for 147 years, give or take a few months, and their presence was preceded by the Aboriginal people who hunted and fished in the area for generations unknown. The “who has been here longer” discussion has very little to offer in the way of building present healthy communities. I deleted my response. I found out a little bit about the person who posted the comment. He has a cottage, a recreational property, and does not make the area his primary residence. He has vacationed in the area for 50 years. Vacations are not the same as living in an area. More relevant to me is that the Aboriginal people relied on the land for survival, my family survived by building a community in which people worked, lived and died, and that non-resident, recreational use of property does offer the same opportunities to support viable communities. I say this of course, as a person who owns two Camps, two recreational properties, and as such I am very aware that the people who live in the areas surrounding our Camps form a community, which I would very much like to support, but am not committed to as I would be if I lived there. It is in my best interest to honour their commitment to the area.

It is interesting to think of the land my ancestors farmed. Humans first moved through it in temporary shelters, hunting and fishing. Then humans created modest permanent homes and farmed it. Then humans lined the water bodies with small recreational seasonal buildings. Then humans replaced most of the small recreational seasonal buildings with large, sometimes palatial, “cottages” on the water, and bought up much of the rest of the countryside for large country estates. I witnessed the last progression, and it hasn’t been pretty. I wonder what will evolve next; perhaps it will be like the Scottish highlands, with lords on estates where most of the local inhabitants have been evicted, to fill the ever growing cities.

And finally I feel like writing about a blue bowl, a blue cereal bowl. I took it out of the china cabinet last spring, and it is now sitting on the kitchen cupboard. It is a patient bowl. It has never been used. It was made just for me, by a friend who is a talented potter, almost 25 years ago. I am thinking that now might be a good time to start using it. Thanks goodness I have the time to use the blue bowl.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

18°C
Date: 7:00 AM EDT Wednesday 4 October 2017
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 17.5°C
Dew point: 14.3°C
Humidity: 81%
Wind: S 31 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Fortune does not change men, it unmasks them.”
Suzanne Necker
1739 – 1794

I believe this statement would have been based on keen, first hand observations, over a long period of time.

Day One: Arrival

We have just returned from our vacation, spent at the Rideau Camp. We arrived home to find everything ship shape, and with only one bill waiting for us in the mailbox. The unpacking is almost complete. The garden has been harvested, a plentiful harvest.

While we were at the Camp this past week, I wrote a few entries. I had lots of time to do this, because after our first day the weather took a bad turn and we spent most of our nine days sheltering from the rain, dealing with high winds, and longing for sunshine. All in all though, it was good to have a vacation.

I wrote five entries while we were at the Camp, and will share them over the next five days. I didn’t post while away, as we have no internet, not even cell phone service, at the Rideau Camp. We are off grid in just about any sense you would care to think of.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Last night was a cold one, not quite cold enough for frost, but close enough. It seemed like a good idea to sleep at home last night, in the warmth of Mist Cottage. Waiting until this morning to leave for our vacation had other advantages as well, more time to pack for one. We didn’t do much packing though, last night, we mostly puttered, then kicked back to watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, then to head off to bed for a comfortable night’s rest.

This morning we slept in a little bit, which for us means getting up around 7 a.m.. We showered, we enjoyed our morning coffee together, we ate a leisurely breakfast, and then we began to get things ready to pack into Tank. By 10 a.m. we were backing out of the drive at Mist Cottage, and were on our way. This is to be our longest camping excursion, and we will spend it at the Rideau Camp.

As we turned into the drive at the Camp, a small red fox hurried out of our way and into the shadow of the trees. She stopped to watch us pass, and later came up the drive to investigate the intruders. Finding nothing of interest, she turned and left the way she had come.

It didn’t take long to unpack once we arrived, just food and clothing. Attila setup the new portable generator, so that I could toast bread for my tomato sandwich for lunch, Attila ate a can of pea soup, his favourite meal. After lunch we worked together to setup the awning, Grace The Trailer has a very large awning attached to her side. It is quite a big deal to get this awning setup, requiring two pairs of hands. I made an error in the way I was holding my end, the support slipped the wrong way and I was wrenched forward by the full weight of the awning. My back and arm were very sore, Ibuprofen and a bit of rest seemed to take care of that. We got the awning up, that is where I am sitting right now.

Relaxing under the awning, I watch the dragonflies swoop and dive in the sunshine, and the glint of silken spider threads caught by the breeze. I listen to the wind whispering in the pine at the edge of the clearing, and smile to myself as Attila snores loudly to my left. He brought the lounge chair under the awning and into the shade, then plopped on the cushion, and stretched himself out for a much coveted snooze in the open air. He isn’t the only one making loud noises though. Somewhere nearby there is a partridge beating its wings with such force that the vibrations seem to echo in my chest. Nearby crickets chirp, and a distant airplane whines. A jay calls from the top of a nearby ash tree. A brightly coloured Katydid watches me silently, motionless, a few steps away.

It is quiet here.

DSCF1109 Attila kicking back, starting his vacation with his socks and his boots off!

DSCF1113 The whispering pine. In the foreground is the stake marking the edge of the area to be covered with crushed stone, and in front of that the mound of crushed stone still to be spread.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

The sky is a cloudless blue, the breeze is warm and intermittent, the air is pleasantly cool and dry. A perfect day.

Quote

“A shy, solitary child, my dreaming head was always stuck in a story, where I’d meet interesting characters – or characters I thought to be more like me than the people around me; where I had company…”
From Island of Dreams: A Personal history of a Remarkable Place, by Dan Boothby

Traditional Camp

The sun comes out and the sun goes in behind the clouds this morning. It is the beginning of what both Attila and I hope will be a quiet and uneventful week.

We made a brief visit to our Traditional Camp in Parry Sound on the weekend, where everything is looking as we left it, thank goodness. The last time we were there was last summer, when we were on our first one week vacation in over 20 years, and it was a disaster. That was the week my brother had a sudden heart attack and passed away. This year, around the same time of year we were in the area to attend a reunion of cousins at my sister’s cottage. Thoughts of my brother and how much my Granny and Grandpa’s house meant to him were at the back of my mind all weekend.

The reunion was organized by my Sister-The-Middle-Girl, and my cousin who is renting a cottage on the same beach as my sister’s cottage. Together with my Sister-The-Youngest-Girl they organized and hosted a get together of all of my Grandpa and Granny’s living Granddaughters, seven of us, except for one Granddaughter who did not attend. We all drove over from the cottages to my Granny and Grandpa’s house and multiple photos were taken of the group. I hadn’t seen one of my cousins for over 30 years, it was wonderful to catch up. My newlywed niece and her husband were there; they treated us to a slide show of their beautiful wedding. My Mom was there, and I got to spend a lovely evening chatting with her. Mom and her daughters, and our spouses but one, all stayed Saturday night at Sister-The-Middle-Girl’s cottage, it was comfortable, and the cottage and beach are beautiful. My Sister-The-Middle-Girl has a beautiful cottage facing west on the lake, the sunsets are stunning.

It is now a 5 ½ to 6 hour drive, one way, to reach our Traditional Camp. We decided to take a scenic journey, heading straight north for quite a distance before turning west to travel through hills and forests. The drive was a treat, the scenery was so beautiful. We took the same route home, but there was quite a bit more traffic, many slower moving RVs on the road, that crawled up the many hills. We were very tired when we arrived home.

I have been growing my hair out for what seems like forever. The idea was to have long hair with no bangs. It is driving me to distraction at times, and at its present length it looks awful all of the time. Usually I do not care, as no one sees me here in the house, or at the camp, save for Attila. It was too bad though that it was looking the way it did for those once in a lifetime pictures at the reunion. I will be very glad indeed when the bangs grow long enough to at least stay tucked neatly behind my ears.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

22°C
Date: 10:00 AM EDT Monday 10 July 2017
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 21.9°C
Dew point: 17.6°C
Humidity: 76%
Wind: SSW 19 km/h
Humidex: 28
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“My definition of an expert in any field is a person who knows enough about what’s really going on to be scared.”
P. J. Plauger