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Thursday, July 31, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

 This year we put in a big veggie garden. I started seeds indoors and the early successes were met with some dismal failures and seedlings died before ever getting outside. Nonetheless, there was still much to be planted and so we hoped something would grow.

             Yup, stuff is growing. Kind of exciting to see those seeds turn into food. The weeds are thriving too.

 We planted a bunch of onions just to get more seed from them. The blooms are lovely all lined up in a row.

                        A friend gave me this Egyptian Walking Onion. A really neat plant.

 The meat birds did their part occupying the gardens, eating bugs, chewing on weeds and leaving behind lovely gifts for the soil.

                      I have squash starting to look like squash!  Now that's exciting!

 Marty, six foot two, standing in front of the mammoth sunflowers I planted. That was week ago. A lot more sun and rain since then.

                                 My first harvest of beans. I planted a lot of them hoping to be able to put enough in the freezer to do us until next season. I see lots of blanching in my future.

 I was excited to find this fancy vacuum sealing machine at a yard sale along with extra rolls of the special plastic.  It was an excellently low price and even though the person said it worked, it did not but Marty was able to fix it. The next challenge was to get it to work, without the aid of an instruction book. Thank goodness for the Internet and YouTube videos.  We finally got it working as it should- it's really very simple when you know what you're doing.

              Lots of carefully weighed bags of beans for autumn and winter meals.

Aaron planted the radishes in between other plants as they are supposed to keep bugs at bay. So now we have a lot of radishes. We aren't that in love with them. Now I need ideas of what to do with all those radishes!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

You Think You've Got A Good Idea, Then You get A Chicken, And Then......

 Raising meat birds seemed like a good idea. A few months of work and then you have a freezer full of meat you grew and cared for yourself. So, Marty built a chicken tractor and we have raised two batches of birds so far. On nice days, the birds have run of the yard and enjoy scratching and pecking about. At night they were safely tucked away.

 Then you think of how lovely fresh eggs are and are encouraged to give laying hens a try. So, you order a few little brown hens when you order your meat birds. They are sweet and fun to watch as they travel as a unit everywhere they go.

 THEN, you are offered a lovely rare breed of rooster.  He sings a lovely song every morning, but is otherwise quite quiet. Handsome fellow, Mr Mister is a welcome character to the flock.  Housing becomes an issue.

 So, your husband labours over a coop design until he can put it off no longer and then builds that coop over a number of weekends.

 About the same time the coop is ready to be inhabited, you get two lovely young Chantecler hens to go with your rooster. After all, the Chantecler is on the critical list for rare chicken breeds and is a good bird for meat and eggs, and is also cold hardy.  What's not to love?
This is Pearl and Opal.  Opal is standoffish, but Pearl is a bit of a bully, ever vocal and pushy.

                                                  She lays lovely eggs though.

                          Once all three were introduced, everyone got along just fine.

 The young brown hens are still a little gang of six, enjoying exploring their world.

 Finally the coop is complete and all are settled in nicely.  After a day of running around, all are happy to head upstairs for a safe good night's sleep.

 On a cold wet day, they are very happy to stay within the coop with plenty of room to scratch and peck.  Fresh eggs however, bring a new options into play...

 So, Marty built an incubator for those fresh eggs to see if we could get some little Chantecler chicks from them.

This isn't the finished incubator. He has since figured out how to turn the eggs regularly from the outside. It appears that a few are actually viable so far.

We may need another coop!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Organic Blueberry Picking At Rubicon Farms, OH MY!!

 Yesterday was the perfect summer day. Sunny, not too hot, and breezy. An excellent day for a drive to pick blueberries.  Tucked just over the tracks in Avonmore, Ontario is Rubicon Farms. It's a beautifully appointed spot with a lovingly tended blueberry garden, or field, or orchard. Whatever you call it, it was a wonderful experience.  The picking was great too. The season officially opened the day before.
                              It was easy work too. The bushes were loaded with fruit.

     Aaron was the one for getting all those berries tucked at the bottom of the bush.

                             We each had a four quart basket. They filled up quickly.

                           No sprays, organically grown. Delicious right off the plant!

 You can also buy, ready-picked, black raspberries- the best I have ever tasted, as well as black and red currants.  Jam time!
Here are our berries. They all got tucked into the freezer for now. I'll make some jam later, as well as tea cake, muffins and whatever else strikes my fancy. They will be a most welcome sight during the winter months!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Birthdays, Rainy Days, BBQs, and Fresh Fruit

 It was hubby's birthday on Monday. It was a very busy day, with lots of appointments to get to on time and it started far too early and ended far too late. We have recovered from all that and have settled into a nice "holiday" routine.
Marty, above, sits with Odelia in his birthday gift, a funky chair from Goodwill. They are keeping me company while I was baking in the kitchen, last Friday night.  We were listening to a lecture online.

 Marty got a great deal on a rotisserie for the BBQ and he tried it out today. The chicken was the smallest of our little meat flock. It's traditional to cook that one fresh when all the rest head to the freezer. Grilled veggies to go with it and a lemon tarragon sauce to baste it.  YUM!

                          It turned out great. A lovely mid day meal on a rainy day.

While Marty manned the BBQ, I spent the morning making jam.  This time it was organic lemon pear with cardamom and a wonderful apricot lime jam to go with the cherry I made last week.  They will be great on ice cream or stirred into yogurt too.

Monday, July 21, 2014

PotAto Potato SEEDS!

             Our gardens efforts are having mixed results. This patch was dug up and we just tucked in all manner of seeds and seedlings.  The beets and radishes are doing great, the tomatoes are full of blossoms and little fruits, and my beans should be producing any day now. The potatoes are thriving too!

                                             Lots of blossoms.  Nice full plants.

 And wee little green "tomatoes" have developed on some of them.  They aren't really "tomatoes." After doing a little research I did learn that the potato is, like the tomato, from the nightshade family.  These little green things are actually true seeds on the potato plants.  I also read that you ought to remove them and let the energy be put wholly into the tuber development.
They are poisonous so you mustn't eat them but here is one cut in half. Lots of little "true" potato seeds inside.
Here are two places I found interesting information, HERE and HERE.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Fun Transferware Find

 I like transfer ware, but not all. I like brown transfer ware, and any of the more unusual forms of it.
This is a fun little pudding bowl. It comes with very clear instructions as to how to use it.  No paperwork to keep track of.

                                                 It's obviously been well-used.

                                         Great illustrations and clear instructions.

                                             A lovely piece of old kitchenware.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Great Scapes & Fermented Radishes

 I think we are all familiar with the fist of garlic. Those lovely little cloves add so much to our food.

 At the market Roots Down Organics has been offering garlic scapes. There are those who are thrilled to find them and happily buy several bundles and have plans for them. There are others who stop and look and wonder what they are. They sure are neat to look at!

 The scape is actually the top of the garlic plant. In the fall you plant the garlic, in the spring the garlic plant shoots up its curly top and if left alone, it will flower and set seed.  If your plan was to harvest great fists of garlic later in the summer, you need to cut off the curly top of the plant so that all the energy goes back into growing a bigger and better bulb of garlic.

Scapes can be used the way you use regular garlic, cooked, grilled, sauteed, on pizza, etc.  It is a little like asparagus in texture and not quite as strong as the bulb of garlic.

 I did can some scapes, pickled with a little dill and red pepper flakes.  they are ready to be opened this week so I hope Marty likes them.

            I also brought home some radishes. I thought I would try my hand at fermenting them.

                                                     Sliced with brine added.

                                            Five days later, rosy and tangy radishes.
Both recipes are from Marissa McClellan's great books, Food in Jars and Preserving By the Pint.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Cloud Gazing

 Over the past week the sky has put on an interesting show.  Just the other day there were weather warnings for a rainstorm but we never go the extreme conditions predicted. It passed by north of here.

 Tuesday evening, the sky out front was glowing pink, so naturally I checked out back only to find a different picture.

 Black clouds rolled by north of us while the sky in the west was streaked with orange.

                                   Just to the east it was shot with bright pink.

 Last night, this is what greeted us when we went out to tuck the chickens in for the night.

                           No rain, just a boiling mass of gray passing overhead.

                              Once passed, the sky cleared, and then the rain began.


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