Thursday, August 21, 2014

Busy start to the harvest season!

The harvest season is upon us! And frankly it is a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, someone made of with an entire 3x6' bed of carrots out back one night so there is (slightly) less to process...!

We finally pulled the last of the sweet onions and they are curing on the deck. The storage onions have cured and are hung in the closet for use. I still have a bit of hard necked garlic to pull.

Jess and I made 18 litres of crab apple jelly last weekend. That sound alike a lot but a bit on oatmeal each morning and we'll be through it before spring.

We trucked out to Roy's Raspberries again this week to get a second batch. I have two pails in the fridge to jam tonight.

last time we were picking, Jess and Jenn saw a frog (alas no camera). This time, the bugs were really interesting and thick (although fortunately the mosquito bloom seems to be dying off).

Out front, the squash plants seem to have finally fruited. There are at least three of these Australian butter squash that have formed. The race to grow before the frost ought to be interesting. I will put some wooden planks under them tonight to keep them off the dirt and will cover if it frosts.

We've also been picking apples. Most I have processed and frozen for later cidering. But I have a bunch of bigger ones that I will start to sauce this weekend. They have a lovely aroma as they ripen in the house.

There is still much to do outdoors. The tomatoes need attention tonight. And the alpine currants are yielding a huge (relatively speaking) harvest. I can't imagine I want to fart around with berries that small so I think the birds can have them.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Apples season starts

The last few days of my summer vacation have coincided with the start of apple season here in Edmonton. We've done two picks--one of apples and crabs and another just of crabs. The apples I have been processing and freezing in anticipation of three more picks in the next few weeks followed by cider-making.

The crabs I have juiced and started jellying. I expect we'll have 21 or 22 litres of jelly by the time I'm done. The heat and humidity this week have really slowed the jelly-making process (well, the jelly maker more so than the process). Outside we've been harvesting from the garden to eat and then fighting with the bugs to get enough water on the garden. Today I'll be hauling in the sweet onions as the storage onions have finished curing under the deck.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pioneer gardens and tomatoes

Jess and I took at trip to Fort Edmonton yesterday. After a couple of years of having a season's pass and many field trips, we mostly poke around the corners of the place to see what we may have missed. Lots of the old buildings have quite lovely little gardens.

This year the garden at the fort itself is spectacular, with potatoes, beans, beets, carrots, corn, sunflowers and pumpkins. I have a big garden but this makes me jealous.

The pumpkin patch has been especially productive, with lots of these pumpkins hidden among the leaves. These two are each move 18-inches in diameter. We also had an interesting interaction with a rooster minding his brood while human interlopers wander about cluelessly.

Back home, the tomatoes are starting to come in. Mostly cherry tomatoes but in big volume!

The scarlet runner beans are also starting to form hanging off of the deck railing. These are always big producers with pods that are 8-12 inches long.

The cooler weather today means a chance to catch up on the watering before going to pick apples at a friend's place tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tomatoes bees, corn and dill

Yesterday was not especially productive in the yard. I spent most of the day reading on the deck and a bit of time weeding. We also visited the new farmers market on 109th street. And I collected some more rhubarb and froze it.

The tomatoes are continuing to ripen. So far we have managed to stay even with the harvest but the tumbler tomatoes are threatening to get ahead of us. I expect these would be good oven roasted.

The bees are thick in the yard and are all over the onions. The onion below below (I think) a nodding onion, part of a growing patch that I introduced a couple of years back from some seed I found in the river valley.

The corn out front is also starting to show ears (which is exciting!). The Australian butter squash we planted below it has lots of vines but no fruit that I can see so far.

I also harvested our first (and maybe only) cucamelon. This fruit is about the size of a small grape and tastes about halfway between a cucumber and a watermelon. A neat gardening stunt but not likely a plant we'll use again.

In the afternoon I dried a fair quantity of dill for the winter (both seed and leaf). I may go after more dill leaf but today I'm going to thin out the oregano below and dump a bunch on the dehydrator.

I'm also hope to pick up some shelving to brings one order to the room in which I store the cider-making gear.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Before the rain started this morning, we whipped out to Roy's Raspberries and picked a couple of buckets. The berries are huge this year! Jennifer even came out and pitched in (alas I forgot the camera at home).

I then spent the rest of the day making jam. I started with some plain raspberry and then switched to a raspberry-saskatoon mix. As I've gotten better at jamming, I've started to find it very contemplative: standing in front of the stove for 90 minutes with nothing to do but stir means lots of time for thought (e.g., why is there so much Gowan on my iPod?).

I'm just starting on the last batch and should put up about 30 or 32 jars by the time I'm done tonight. I'd like to go back to get anther couple of pails this coming week to finish off jam-making (apple season is coming!).

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Elderberry jelly and garden maintenance

About a week back I ran across some red elderberry bushes while on a walk. I recall seeing these last year but forgetting to come back and identify them. Jess and I went back with buckets earlier this week to forage up some.

Red elderberries have an uneven reputation. After much flipping through books and websites, the crux seems to be that the seeds need to be extracted before eating and unripe berries should be avoided. Some books also suggested boiling the berries--but it was unclear of that was in lieu of or in addition to de-seeding.

Queue jellymaking, which removes the seeds and boils the juice. A pail and a half of berries yielded almost one-and-a-half cups of juice. I added some lemon, sugar and apples (for pectin) and off I went.

The result smells a bit tomato-y and a bit lemony and tastes nice enough. I'm not sure if it has set up yet (still cooling). A small number of folks report an emetic effect--I'll update if that turns out to be the case for us!

We also pulled in the storage onions over the past few days. The yellow ones are curing in a sack hung under the deck. The white ones are either being eaten or dried for soup-making in the winter. I took the opportunity to move things around in the back bed along the garage--switching from three rows to two and adding an entrance in the spot where I found myself stepping over the rows this summer.

I then planted some buckwheat in the open spots (there are still some beets, peas and kale going on the right and at the back). If the weather holds, we're going to take advantage of the cool and go raspberry picking tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Potato mystery

The heat has slowed down our gardening some after I mildly sunstroke myself on the bike on Sunday. Apparently there are exceptions to the general age = wisdom relationship. So I put away the pickled beets and pushed back our raspberry picking trip until later in the week.

With a cooler day on hand yesterday, we returned to the garden. I decided to pull up one of the 12-foot rows of potatoes for some early eating as well as to spread around to the neighbours. Pulling a whole row also facilitates planting some buckwheat for a green manure. After an experiment in the back (where I over seeded), I think we now have a handle on buckwheat seeding density.

The row we pulled were blue caribe. There were seeds I overwintered in the basement. Oddly, on four of the nine plants, at the very bottom of the potato cluster, there was what looked like a russet potato attached to the root system of the blue caribes.

There have never been any potatoes in this bed before and the "brown" potatoes was clearly a part of the purple potato plant (not an interplanting--I was very careful with the seed). I am at a loss for an explanation.

On the upside, the blue caribe are always a heavy yielder with about 5 gallons (25lbs?) from a 12-foot row. If I had let these go longer, the yield would have been higher. Lots of worms in the new bed which was encouraging and there was very little rust. If the other eight potatoes beds yield this heavily, we should be good for the winter.

Out back, we're starting to see some cucumbers (these are always a slow start for me). Ad some of the tomato plants are getting ridiculous with their fruit load. This is a tumbler plant and I have pictures about 1/10th of its growth. We'll have no shortage of cheery tomatoes this month!

Today we'll be pulling out the onions (which have mostly died down). I'll then be re-arranging the beds slightly (fewer, wider rows with a more sensible "entrance") and then we'll plant some buckwheat later on in the week.