Thursday, January 26, 2017

Winter activities

Clearly gardening hasn't been high on my list of activities (it is winter in Edmonton, after all!).


One thing I have been doing is attending my community's gardening club's meetings. My interest is in the discussion around the possibility of a community garden. This seems quite exciting (although the approval process is daunting). 


I hosted our last meeting and the educational component was "things from the garden that I have fermented". Jennifer handled the pouring of the various drinks. The rhubarb wine was well received, the hard cider was deemed okay, and the apple jack was reviewed as "smells good". Which is pretty fair--apple jack has pretty intense flavours. Strawberry wine is on my list of summer projects.


For Christmas, I bought Jess some vanilla beans and vodka to make her own vanilla (she uses a lot while baking). She was very excited to get the 26er of vodka in her stocking. I sensed some disappointment with the vanilla beans.

Anyhow, we have cut the beans and they are soaking--this can apparently take up to six months to to get all of the flavour out of the beans but the initial (one month) results are very promising.


In the meantime, we have been trying to enjoy the good weather with skating, skiing and snow shoeing. The hoar-frost this week has been crazy beautiful.


I've also been cooking and trying to use up what we stored last summer and fall. Above I included some oven-dried tomatoes and much of a bottle of rhubarb wine in a risotto, to rave reviews.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Pre-Christmas fun

Were still waiting for the first major snow of the winter but pre-Christmas stuff is underway! Jess has been baking-and-freezing for a few weeks so we're ready to go.


Last weekend we took in a street festival on 124th street and I bottle the rhubarb wine It has been aging about four months in bulk and is quite nice. I don't really care for white wine (I was mostly keen to experiment with wine making from scratch) but this turned out nicely. A bit sweet (I might have been a day or two early killing the ferment) and lower in alcohol than the reds I've made. But very drinkable.


I also hauled the blackberries I'd hoarded all summer out of the freezer and made jam. This was our first year with enough blackberries from the bush to bother with. The jam turned out very nice with a much richer and sweeter flavour than raspberry jam (my first thought was  "jollyrancher!"). Hopefully the bush is mature enough to give us crops in subsequent years--it certainly started suckering a bit this year.


We spent today decorating the house for the holidays.


As I'm making a pre-Christmas run to Calgary this week, I also put together some Christmas packages. This meant pulling the fruitcake out of the cupboard and packaging it. It had quite a lot of rum in it (I may need a nap...).


The lengthy fall means we've basically finished all of the outdoor tasks for the season and even put everything away before the snow! I am hopeful we'll be able to ski and skate soon!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Autumn wrap up

Wow, the fall has gone fast! We've been busy with lots of non-gardening things but we have managed to get to the end of the harvest season as well.


The weather has been uneven this fall. We pulled the carrots after a snow storm (which was unpleasant) and decided to abandon the rest of the bad beet crop.


The tomato harvest has been killing us. I called our reinforcements in mid=October and much tomato sauce was made and frozen.


We pulled down the bean trellis in the front and moved some raspberry suckers to the raspberry hedge on the side. Jess and I then dug the Jerusalem artichokes out.


We bought maybe five of these three or four years ago. They are quite prolific and a touch invasive.


This was the haul this year. The three in the front of the picture below are just smaller than a baseball (left) to just under a ping-pong ball (right). We planted about half the crop in a new, sunnier spot this coming year (in the hopes that they would bloom).


The rest we guerilla gardened in the hope that they will stabilize a slope.


We then did one last tomato grinding. I decided to just freeze the pulp (6 litres) as I'm too busy to sauce it. I turned the excess skin and seeds into soup stock for the Hallowe'en pumpkin that I roasted this morning.


We have some wine in the basement to bottle. I've been going to the local gardening club meetings (there is talk of a community garden) and I agreed to do a talk in December about turning stuff you grow in your garden into hooch. So the rhubarb wine needs to be bottled and I am apple jacking out back. With a late season heat wave, I'm hoping to kayak the next few days.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Tomatoes and carrots

The gardening season officially ended this week with a couple of hard frosts and some snow. The garden was giving it right to the end, though.


One late season mystery was the Jerusalem artichoke. It grew to an amazing height (I'm 6'2" and it is at least four feet over my head). We'll dig up the tubers either later this week or in the spring. But it never flowered. I'm going to try it in a sunnier location next year.


We scrambled last Sunday and brought in the tomatoes. This year was better than past years (e.g., not doing it in the sleet while wearing headlamps). We're on top of the ripening so far with batches of sauce cooking.


I had to call out the reserve army of labour to help with the processing this weekend. We have both a tomato and a carrot glut and needed to get some counter space back.


As much as I hate to see the season end, the effect of frost on plants is amazing. First a pretty coating of sparkles followed by cellular collapse.


Then it snowed. "Let's leave the carrots in one more day so they sweeten up", I said. We managed to dig up the front beds yesterday.


There is still the back bed to do. Maybe today. Maybe it is just green manure? We're still processing carrots. Some I've blanched and frozen. The big ones are in a box in the cold(ish) room in the basement. The smaller ones are in the fridge for use or cake or soup... .


The good news is that cooler weather means I can apple jack on the back deck. I have 12 litres of cider out there now and I'm hoping to reduce its volume by two thirds.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Harvest season continues

Apologies for the lack of posts; the autumn has kept us busy!


As the day-to-day demands of gardening have begun to wind down, we've been busy thinking about next year. In the back, we've added some support to the raspberry bushes to better pin them up against the fence.


We've also started re-contouring the bed for next year's bean and pean crops (we'll put in the trellises next spring). There is a small, ackward part of that bed that juts out. Jenn bought some of the new Canada at 150 tulips so Jess put them in there for some colour. The photo below isn't great but is notable that she seems to be giving me the finger... ?


We've been harvesting beans most nights. The pole beans are about 80% done but we have barely begun to tap the scarlet runners.  We've been setting many lady bugs free--I think they came in on the apples.
 

In the front, we have a bumper crop of buckwheat (as green manure) that the frost should kill shortly. We also have a bunch of carrots and beets. Again, waiting on the frost before digging the carrots and plunking in some garlic.


It has been very we this fall and the grass has provided a wide variety of fungus to be mildly grossed out by. These guys are apple-sized and promptly melted into a yucky mess.


We survived apple season and have lots of preserves and dried apples. We also ate so many (fresh or in various baked goods) that Jess is starting to turn up her nose at dessert.


It was really wet this year and the apples were huge for it. Below are two apples from the tree (softball sized) and the apple in front is you typical store bought apple.


With the apple glut behind us, we're now into tomato season. It has been cool and cloudy a lot this summer so the tomatoes are delayed. This has allowed us to better manage consumption. Basically we've managed to stay even with the ripening with only a couple of batches of salsa and tomato sauce to use up the excess.


It looks like frost this week, however. So we decided to harvest whatever was left yesterday. I planted fewer tomatoes this year after some complaints in previous years but we still have a lot to deal with over the next month. The window sills and cookie sheets are all full.


This week I'll be turning down some more beds (depending on how wet the soil is) and shucking more beans. I'd also like to get some more kayaking in. And there is a wine kit in the basement calling my name.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Harvest season

So it is harvest season here and things are a touch frantic. The apples tree had a huge crop this year and we're eating them and dehydrating rings. 


We're also working at keeping up with the tomatoes (the tomatoes below went into tomato sauce that I froze).  I rolled the dice on Sunday and left the tomatoes out despite the low temperatures and everything seemed to turn out okay! We should have a bumper crop of eating tomatoes. A few weeks of warm temperatures would be helpful in this regard!


We dug the potatoes Monday night. These are Caribe Blues and the harvest was good. Maybe 50 or more pounds and some huge potatoes (big potatoes seem to last longer in storage). We need to clean them up and then get them into the basement tonight.


We had a mystery squash plant volunteer this year (some sort of cross between a yellow zucchini and something else is my guess). Need to figure out what to do with it.


I am starting to put the beds behind the garage down for the year except for one last set of zucchini that I'm waiting to bulk up some.


We're also eating our way down one of the front beds, harvesting carrots and beets to add to the potatoes for roasted roots. I am hopeful we'll soon have space to plant next year's garlic crop.


The beans are also starting to mature and dry out. I've been concentrating on the white pole beans out front (which are closer to finished) but have also started grabbing scarlet runner beans from the back as I see the pod turn brown.  Need to let these guys dry out a bit before putting into a jar.


The raspberry canes are on my to-do list this week. With the potatoes out, I will also move the soil around a bit in the back bed to get ready for next year's crop of beans and peas.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Apples, Black Berries, Beans and Tomatoes

Apologies for the lack of posts this past week; things have been pretty crazy around the house and I just couldn't find the time to blog about the garden.


September has only just begun and it feeling very much like autumn (cooler temperature and overcast). Fortunately no risk of frost in the forecast as there is still quite a lot of stuff in the garden!


A few weeks ago, the blackberries were really starting to look good with a few berries ripening early. Since then I have been out and picked perhaps two cups (the berries are huge--as big as thumb).


There are still a lot of green berries on the canes and I am freezing them until I have enough for some jam. I also staked some of the bigger canes to see if I can get the plant to spread. At the same time, I cut back the terrible black raspberry canes to keep it contained!


I turned the crab apples we foraged into a lot of crab apple jelly. I also did a second batch of zucchini salsa and then put the pressure canner away for another year.


The sun flowers are a welcome shot of colour in the yard and the bees are all over them. I think we will try some larger varieties next year instead of relying on self sowing.


I've started to pull some carrots--mostly to give the rest some additional room to bulk up before winter. These yellow carrots always do well, even in the poor soil I planted them in this year. The knife is 12 inches long and these carrots are a bit on the small side of yellowstone.


We're slowly picking the apples off the tree. They are super red and ripe (the come off very easily). They are also quite tart (more of a baking apple). Jess sliced ten today and they are outside in the dehydrator on their way to being a delicious winter snack for her lunches. Earlier this week we dried some mint and also some celery leaves (I plant soup celery rather than stalk celery this year and it was much more successful).


The potatoes have finally died down. I am going to leave them for a week or two (other projects require immediate attention). I did dig one plant to see what they were like and get a potato for dinner. I got five potatoes from the plant: two baseball sized and three that are about softball sized or more (the beer bottle is for scale).


Today I made some paneer for a curry we'll have tomorrow night. We also made a lovely veggie pot pie for dinner. Most of the veggies and the stock were from the garden (had to buy a pepper and a turnip).


While that was cooking, I started picking the pole beans that were dry.   Most are still green and growing but some of the lower beans are finished.


I'm always struck by how much work goes into getting any reasonable amount of beans! You go to the store and grab a half litre bag for a few dollars and that is quite a deal! We should have a good haul of these small white beans (about twice the size of a tic tac). We also have a bunch of scarlet runner beans that are still green.


Whew.!Now I'm going to sit down and crack one of the beers we made this summer. Tomorrow entails doing some saucing to keep on top of the tomatoes.