Saturday, August 1, 2015

Zucchini season means salsa

We took a short vacation to Jasper. While we were away, the zucchini plants suddenly started producing huge fruits! (The one pictured below is resting on a four-inch fence board.)

The largest one is about the size of a newborn (24 inches long, maybe 10-12 pounds). I put a basketball in the photo below for scale. We grew three different types of zucchini this summer after a total failure of the zucchini crop last year (which is weird because zucchini never fails; I assume it was something I did).

Jenn started chopping right away because she likes zucchini salsa. I have skinned the tomatoes and everything is ready for canning today. Need to haul the pressure canner up from the basement. It is a cool day with some rain so that will make the canning less tedious.

We pulls some walla walla onions from the garden to go in. We'll make another batch later this summer when the tomatoes are ready. Jess also made some saskatoon-lemon-zucchini cakes (wow!) and we passed one onto the neighbour to make zucchini noodles.

The sunflowers in the front are just starting to bloom, to the delight of the bees. And behind the garage, the swiss chard has gotten big enough to start harvesting and drying for soup stock ingredients.

I see someone (Jessica...?) dropped a bean seed in the lawn this spring. Not sure what to do about that. The lack of rain means mowing has been minimal this year so I might just leave it.

The buckwheat we planted as a green manure has come up and is flowering so we'll cut it down and leave it to rot. Then I think we'll put some radishes in as the pickled radishes I made earlier this year are amazing.

The garlic out front is also just about ready to be harvested and cured. Sadly, the berry season seems to be coming to an end in our yard. But that means we can start to transplant some raspberry canes to make room for more veggies in the front yard.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Raspberries, tomatoes and sunflowers

Jess and I went out to Roy's Raspberries to pick this week. It was a beautiful day. Alas, Jess was bushed from an all-day birthday pool party on Monday and wasn't much of a picker ("This would go faster if you picked some berries." "Oh, right. Sorry.").

Despite a lot of staring off into space, we managed to get two gallons, which should be lots when combined with what is coming off of our own bushes.

I was weeding and noticed the tomatoes are really doing well. The larger eating tomatoes are huge and just need to ripen some. The saucing tomatoes aren't quite as far along.

There are lots of small cherry tomatoes (in red and yellow) that should be good to pick shortly.

The perennial sunflower patch has self-seeded again out front despite the depredations of the sparrows last autumn. The shorter flowers are just getting ready to flower out.

The rest of the yard is coming along nicely. I suspect the garlic and onions will done and ready for curing in the next two weeks. I also have a couple of potato plants that have died back already. Not sure if that was due to the drought or if they are just finished. I may spade them up to see what is there. Now back up the ladder for more fun with water-logged elm seeds in the gutters.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Raspberries, beets, zucchini and peas

Jess was in a camp this week so I sent a fair bit of time in the kitchen. Raspberry season is upon us (about three weeks early). I picked about a litre over the past few days. You can see the nasty thorns on the black raspberry if you click on the picture and see the larger version.

I culled the first crop of beets and pickled them with the last of the garlic scapes. I expect we'll actually be able to get two crops of beets off this year. The zucchini are also doing really well.

We harvested most of the first flush of peas and I blanched and froze them for Christmas dinner.

I also brought some order to the freezer, moving stuff up stairs to eat and stewing and canning 7 litres of rhubarb. Out back, the alpine currants are bearing fruit. These are so small and seedy as to be not worth the bother other than as a snack on the way by. 

Tonight we harvested some of the Swiss chard and made a nice salad with home-made break crumbs. Depending on how the week goes, we may go to a raspberry upick this week.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Poppies, Saskatoons and Lilies

Thanks heavens the heat wave has finally relented some. Twenty-eight degrees at midnight is a bit of a grind! The garden has been loving it, though and last night's downpour has lightened the watering load today. The poppies are out and providing nice colour here and there.

Jess and I went out to T&D's Saskatoons on Friday and picked three buckets. The berries were huge and we got a brief impromptu lesson in Saskatoon farming from the very nice man who was running the place.

Huge berries there were super sweet because of the heat.

At home I'm starting to pick raspberries. The lilies are also out. Not sure what kind these are--planted them a long time ago and they have been moved here and there as the beds have been converted to vegetables.

The heat has pushed the beets far enough that I will pickle some this week. The first flush of peas is also ready for picking when Jess gets home from day camp this evening.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Zucchini, grapes, peas and raspberries

The heat has kept us busy keeping the garden watered! Around back the zucchini plants keep pushing out blooms and we now have three kinds of summer squash (jade, lime and yellow) slowly getting larger.

Yarrow has also reappeared (like the pretty weed it is) in the back garden despite my efforts to transplant it somewhere else.

My neighbours are growing grapes (concord, I think) and our peas are filling in. We usually get two harvests but these need a few more days to plump up.


Some of the annual seem to be really loving the heat. The marigolds in particular are really giving 'er.

I spent a bit of time this week turning strawberries (and some Saskatoons) into various kinds of jam.

Our front we have raspberries ready to eat. This is the first year we've had all three type of berries ready at the same time (usually they are spaced out over the month of July). 

If I can get Jessica out of bed tomorrow, we'll go pick some Saskatoons at a u-pick north of St Albert.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Strawberry picking and pie filling

Jess and I hustled out to the Strawberry Creek Farm by Warburg yesterday for the start of strawberry season. We were the first ones there and, within 20 minutes, the field was full of families.

The picking was good and went quickly (we got 30lbs in about 40 minutes). Jess also found a frog eating the many hoppers ("Don't put it in the bucket--no amount of sugar will cover that taste!").

Big, sweet berries at $2 a pound were a deal. Even adding in the gas we burned, it is less than half the price of buying them in the store and they taste a lot better.

We hulled them last night and this morning I harvested enough rhubarb to make 12 jars of pie filling. There are still three buckets of berries in the fridge. Some we'll package for smoothies this winter and freeze. Lots are being eaten fresh.

Other than one jar that was reluctant to seal no matter what I tried, it was a successful morning of canning. Eventually the jar sealed--it was weird as the jar rim is fine, lots of head space and I swapped in brand new lids and rings. Whatever.

I see the Saskatoon berry u-pick we go to is also starting today--a couple of weeks early this year, just like the bushes in my yard. It will be a couple of days before we get out there as I need t finish processing the strawberries to free up space in the fridge!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Dill,blackberries, apples and pickled radishes

The dill in the backyard is about to flower and is taunting me to get on with the pickled beets. But the weather has been too fine to spend the day indoors sweating over the stove.

The blackberries are starting to set fruit around the front. We never get much out of these canes and I'm inclined to move them into the back.

The apples are putting on some size with the sun and rain. They have moved from crab apple to plum sized this week.

I pulled the radishes out of one of the beds that abuts the alley and sowed some buckwheat as a green manure. I then made refrigerator pickles with some garlic, vinegar and spices.

These should take a couple of week to pick up and then I'll use the juice (very pink) to pickle some eggs. Eventually I'll so some beets for storage.

Out back the first of the pumpkins has come up. Hopefully this one takes as we have only a few more months for it to put on enough weight to make the bed allocation worthwhile. I have lost so many winder squash to hail over the years I'm inclined to rig some shelter!

We seem to be past the worst of the problems I had with the day lilies last year. Some sort of bug was stunting the flower head formation. There was a little of that this year and I picked off the offenders. Most of the flowers look good, though.

I was out for a ride this afternoon and noticed this new front-yard garden. The owners had a tree removed this spring (you can see the remains stacked in behind) and they turned this otherwise useless strip of grass into a nice bed. Beets, carrots and maybe rhubarb in the distance.

I'm hoping Jess and I will get out and doing some strawberry picking tomorrow at a u-pick near Warburg. Then later this week we'll take some pails in the valley to snag some of the Saskatoons.