Friday, September 30, 2011

Apple pie, sauce and cake

Jennifer re turned from coffee with a friend with two big bags of apples. So last night we got down to doing something with them. Before dinner, I made an apple pie which was (if I may say so) delicious.

After dinner we peeled and froze apples for three more pies. I'm not sure what these were but they were tart with a crisp white skin and about the size of a MacIntosh.

Jess made an apple upsidedown cake. I also made three litres of sauce but decided to just put it in the fridge rather than bath and can it properly. I've come to enjoy it on oatmeal and will likely be through this long before it turns.

We also froze the last of the beans after a quick blanch. No real frost yet but these were ready to be picked and now i can turn this bed down.

Up next: More Christmas lights will be hung this weekend and there are many, many leaves to rake and turn into the beds. And I may make more oven-roasted tomatoes as I can't quite stay ahead of the ripening on the windowsills.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Potatoes and carrots

With the temperatures in the high 20s, we spent much of the weekend outdoors. We harvested the last of the potatoes from the front bed along with some carrots that were lingering out back. Yes, they could stay in the garden longer but them they would not be in my belly.

We've pretty much got the five raised bed around the back of the garage cleaned up. I'll turn in some leaves when I rake them and maybe lime the bed in the spring. But otherwise they are basically ready to go. I'm thinking beans back here next year along with beets. Jess has also called dibs on two 6x3' boxes next year for her own garden so that should be fun to plan for.

We also started hanging the Christmas lights. This is the first Jess could do more than act as gopher. Still too younger for the ladder but she's tall enough to stand on the garbage to do some of the garage as well as some stuff on the deck. And, to my colleagues, yes it is child labour and no she's not wearing any fall protection. "Fortunately", in Alberta the rules around these things are never enforced.

The last of the carrots were very sweet this year. The may have gotten just a touch of frost in a low spot in the back last week. This bed and the one below the back deck will get some attention today.

We also had time for a lovely bike ride over in Riley Park. We rarely make it over here even though we go right by on our way to Elk Island.

Up next: Tonight we're going to make a vegetable stew and a sweet potato pie. And i see I'll need to to make some more oven-roasted tomatoes tomorrow.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Too many tomatoes

Well, I don't know that you can ever have too many tomatoes, but we're certainly in the height of the harvest. This year I planted 14 tomato plants (early girl, beef stake, cherry, and a yellow, pear-shaped one) and then took a late-season donation of seven more (Brandywine)

We've been harvesting all summer but I finally pulled the pin last weekend when there was a frost warning. I'm oddly happy to plant the last weekend in April (eliciting a series of backhanded compliment from the older folks in the neighbourhood) and roll the dice, periodically covering the yard in heirloom Irish linen. But come fall, I'm very conservative. So, we ended up with four window sills (as above) mounded with red and green tomatoes.

Subsequently, we've been eating a lot of tomatoes. And making salsa. And oven roasting some to freeze. Jenn even made fried green tomatoes (which I've come to quite enjoy). After giving some away, we're now down to two window sills so I expect that will carry us through until some time in October.

Up next: today we're going to start cleaning up a couple of more garden beds: the corn patch out back is first and then maybe the large raised bed in the back yard. As the weather is supposed to be nice I'm also going to start putting up the Christmas lights. While that sound crazy, I have a lot of lights and a couple of high peaks so I'd rather do it now than be hanging off icy eaves on Grey Cup Sunday.

Monday, September 19, 2011


We decided to try our hand at at apple picking this weekend and headed off to Sprout Farms, just northeast of Bon Accord.

Sprout Farms is a modest-sized orchard with quite a selection of apples. After a quick orientation, we were left to our own devices to wander in the orchard and pick what looked good. We were mostly interested in baking apples; there is a separate section for juicing ones and a press on site.

It took us about 20 minutes to pick about 20 lbs of apples. We also picked a few pears. Overall, a successful trip without the Burma-death-march experience that sometimes pervades our u-pick trips.

We came home and made a fantastic apples pie. Jenn and I then peeled, cored and chopped 36 cups to make sauce with. I managed to get eight litres canned last night and I think we still have enough apples for one more pie.

Up next: We're going to turn under the corn patch tonight as it is done for the year. The tomatoes continue to ripen and I need to think about what to do with the bunch on the window sill before the become over-ripe. Maybe salsa?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fruitcake and autumn flowers

We took a bike ride last night over to the provincial museum last night and the flowers in front of government house were really quite pretty. The gardeners were a bit slow off the mark this spring with the planting but this garden always shows best in autumn.

The crab apple trees were also heavy with fruit. If the weather holds out, I hope to get up to Bon Accord and try an apple fruit pick (in Alberta--who would have guessed?) next weekend.

In the meantime, we enjoyed the incredibly vivid colours as the sun set.

We also had some vivid colours in the fruitcakes I baked and basted with rum. These will take about two months to cure and mellow which means they will be just about right on schedule for Christmas. I have two earmarked as presents and the other four are mine.

As we've been poking around the river valley, I've taken to noticing the incredible amount of wild asparagus. These plants are easy to spot at the end of the year with their huge foliage--you can just barely see one arching overtop of Jess (who is nearly five feet tall with her helmet on).

Up next: I oven baked a dozen early girl tomatoes on the weekend. With the vaguest hint of frost tonight, I went out and picked the bottom third of the tomato plants (on the principle that cold air sinks) and now have a windowsill full of tomatoes (maybe 50 all told?) in various stages of ripening. I expect we'll eat some but the rest might be good in salsa or frozen for stews. More worrisome is that I only picked a third of the crop and I'm thinking we may be overwhelmed with tomatoes shortly.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tomatoes, potatoes and squash

I continued the harvest this weekend. First I picked the reddest of the tomatoes and brought them in, hoping that this would spur some of the greener ones to ripen. The tomato on the right is the size of a softball and alone comprised last night's "salad". I will be turning most of the early girls into over-roasted tomatoes tomorrow.

I also pulled out some red potatoes, beets and carrots yesterday and made a roasted roots dish solely with things we grew. The red potatoes were a replacement for a planting that failed--I just grabbed an extra red from the farmer's market and plopped it.

The Peter Pan squash out back are now large enough to harvest and will be part of tonight's dinner. We've tried them sauted and tonight we'll try them baked.

In the meantime, I understand the Alberta Liberal Party have again elected a Conservative to lead them so I'm baking six fruitcakes to "celebrate" this bizarre repetition of the mid-1990s. Besides, it is never to early to start the Christmas baking. This has caused some congestion at the oven so I may need to suppress a mutiny by the chocolate chip cookie fans.

Up next: We'll likely pull the rest of the carrots to thwart the slugs and blanch and freeze them. There are also some beets and potatoes to bring in and I'll need to decide if I'm going to make pickles with the late-sown beets or not.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

More autumn blooms

Fall seems to give the flowering plants a bit of a kick-start so I thought I'd snap some pictures to carry me through winter. Out front the petunias look lovely when the sun comes low in the evening.

Around back, the sweet peas continue to bloom. I had a difficult time with these seeds--they would not germinate and I had to sow a second time and then only flowers with red blooms came up (tri-colour pack). The suddenly there are these lovely fuscia blooms which smell way better than the red ones. I think the petals are quite striking.

Finally, around the front we have some Lily of the Valley my mother-in-law gave us. This always blooms nicely. This year it has given us a berry. I've never seen berries on Lily of the Valley and I wonder if the trigger was planting a second bunch of Lily of the Valley my friend Alan gave us in the same bed? Perhaps it needs an unrelated plant to pollinate?

Up next: We have some potatoes to dig this weekend and some other plants to pull in. And windows to wash and maybe some Christmas lights to begin putting up.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some autumn surprises

I was watering a few things tonight after another lovely day and I noticed a few autumn items. The first up is a lovely apple. I certainly don't get many apples off this young tree, but the few I do get tend to be delicious.

Out back, the pole beans the grew up the corn have suddenly matured and hang ready to eat. Not many of them (I will try a trellis next year) but this is a nice surprise as I had entirely written off this year.

Also a surprise was the Peter Pan squash. I cut down much of the corn after harvesting the cobs and the squash suddenly got much more light. These squash have rapidly increased in size. The big ones might be too big to be tasty but there are lots of smaller ones.

Up next: Some more nice autumn flowers. And, if I get motivated this weekend, I'll freeze some more carrots and dig up more potatoes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Autumn flowering

Despite a predicted week of nearly +30, the cooler nights and reduced sunshine seem to be spurring a bunch of plants into a final show of blooms. Out front, bird-scattered sunflowers continue to be the flowers that do the best in the garden.

Around back, the Marigolds Jess planted in the tomato basket are suddenly blooming up a storm. I'm hopeful this last shot of heat will help some of the tomatoes mature on the vine more.

The pansies on the front deck should make it fairly late into September with a bit of covering on really cold nights. To help with those cold nights we made another five litres of soup stock, some of which Jennifer used right away to make a bean soup and the rest went into the freezer. With the addition of a turkey from Serban Free Range, our small freezer is getting full.

Out back, the pole beans finally seem to have figures things out and are blooming and setting seed. A bit late but who knows--we might get a bean or two. I'll try a sunnier spot and earlier planting next year.

We bought some local booze this weekend at the farmer's market--a bottle of wine and a bottle of mead from Birds and Bees Winery. The Saskatoon wine was fairly sweet even at room temperature and a bit thin on fruitiness. That said, that anyone can make wine from local ingredients is pretty impressive. I might try a drier wine next time. The mead remains on the shelf.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

More harvesting

We've had a wonderful week of collecting what we've grown. The tomatoes are starting to ripen. We've had little ones like these for more than a month but larger varieties (early girl, beefsteak) are now ready to harvest. Friday night the salad was a single tomato with a bit of salt on it and it was enough to feed three of us.

The cucumbers continue to put out fruit. I'll do these up a trellis next year, I think. I've also had a request to grow less prickly cucumbers so I'll see what I can find at Apache Seeds in the spring.

We dug up the rest of the potatoes in the large front bed. I'd say was got about one-third of the maximum potential yield from the plants. This was pretty good given I did not make much of an effort to hill them and the soil was not very good. Amending that soil for some surface crops next year is one of my weekend tasks.

Both the russet and the shepody potatoes are nice in their own ways. Baked potatoes have been enjoying a renaissance here (after a 20-year hiatus due to overeating them as a child). We still have about a dozen plants to dig up (some have not yet died off) so I expect we'll have potatoes into November. I've storing a few in the basement in paper sacks to see how that goes.

We have one solitary head of cauliflower out back and it looks a bit dodgy. I'll cut it this weekend and see how it is but I think these are off my list for next year. Broccoli, however, did reasonably well for not much effort so I would try them again in a sunnier spot.

Finally, the asparagus plants I put in this year have put up a first shoot. I think we plants six sets of roots and there are four shoots up. This is quite encouraging. We also saw a massive wild asparagus plant in the valley while we were out hiking.

This weekend I'll be making some more soup stock to freeze and I'd like to snap a few pictures of some of the flowers that are putting on a burst of blooms with the colder nights.