Monday, July 29, 2013

Carrots and onions

After a bike ride to a Sunday market on 124th street, we decided to do a bit of gardening before the weather turned. Jess wanted to thin her carrots some, which worked out well given our dinner plans.

We pulled about a dozen carrots to give the rest some room. Some nice yellowstone, dragon and nantes--all good sizes and with decent shape. There were a couple of dogs in the mix as well.

We also harvested one of the onion beds as the tops were down and whithering. We then turned the soil a bit and dropped in some late beets (48 days the package promises!) that I think will survive until frost. At the very least we should get some greens.

The scarlet runner beans are flowering magnificently. And you can just see the first pod setting in the bottom left of the picture (the little squiggly shape). I recall these were crazy late last year and we still got a decent harvest. This year all we're after is some seed for next year.

I need to do something with the massive zucchini today--maybe relish or salsa.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fruitcake and mint jelly

Yesterday was a rainy day. Jess ducked out during a dry moment to pick the last of our Saskatoons and some of the early raspberries.

We also made some fruitcake for Christmas (takes some time and liberal doses of rum to age).

Then I went out and picked enough mint to make some jelly. I never seem to grow enough of any herb to make anything meaningful so I banged in three mint plants this spring and I expect we'll have lots to dry as well as some for mojitos. Sadly, the basil has totally bitten it this year.

Jess helped as I mulled how to substitute powdered pectin for liquid. I almost never use pectin (was surprised I even had this package) so winging the substitution was a bit stressful. In retrospect, simply looking up a mint jelly recipe based on powdered pectin would have been the most parsimonious solution... . Things seem to have worked out in the end.

I wanted to add just a hint of green to the jelly with a drop of two of food colouring. Apparently "a few drops" was not specific enough for Jess (I'm guessing 4 or 5 big drops here) and now we have mint jelly of a vibrant hue not seen since Woodward's closed out. Oh well!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dilly beans

We planted a bunch of yellow and purple string beans this spring our front to put some nitrogen in a new bed. The yellow beans are starting to produce while the purple plants seem a few weeks behind. Since the day was cool and rainy, I picked the ones which were ready. The purple is a lovely contrast to the yellow.

As we ended up with many more beans than we could use last year, I decided to try pickling some. This also gave me a chance to use up the smaller garlic heads that are curing on the deck.

Overall, a nice quick recipe that provides a decent sharp note in the middle of winter. Interesting how the water bath caused the purple beans to fade to green. I wonder if that is heat-related or if the vinegar was also a factor--I'll try some in a pressure canner later this summer and see if it happens there as well. Some of the beets are starting to look a decent size so I may do some of these as well. The rest of the day entails dealing with the monster zucchini

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Garden pause

Late July is a nice time in the garden. The planting and early crops are done and the later crops are still growing (cue lawn chair, beer and book). Before putting up the last of the Saskatoon jam tonight (picked from the neighbour's bush down the lane), I wandered around the garden.

Out front, a sunflower has volunteered in the bean bed. This flower is over six-feet up and just getting ready to open. I've also tucked the garlic out front behind a pillar to cure in the shade and wind.

The bean patch is starting to produce. There are enough yellow beans that I think we could do a batch of pickled beans this weekend. None of the purple beans seem to have survived the weather and the rabbits, but the yellow ones are coming along.

The raspberry patch is also starting to yield a few berries. We'll likely end up at a u-pick to get a decent quantity for jam, the yard provided enough for dessert. These are a dark, sweet (thorny) raspberry that is a ways from being ready.

The zucchini patch is also producing. There are a number of nice-sized zucchini. And then there was this one (17 inches long and six inches across) that I somehow overlooked. Jessica is currently using it as a baby, but I will cut it up and preserve it in a chocolate cake this weekend. Maybe also a zuchinni relish.

I have stashed the wine press in the garage for now. I have big plans to paint the inside of the garage, but we'll see how the summer goes. My dad is going to come up and help me wire up the garburator apple crusher in about two weeks so we'll be ready to cider.

If I get a chance this weekend, I'll also make some mint jelly. I have three kind of mint (orange, spearmint and I think chocolate) so we'll see which has enough leaves to make jelly with.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Spot of bad weather

We had a spot of bad weather Friday night, with quarter-sized hail, high winds and a(nother) deluge of rain. If you enlarge the picture below by clicking on it, you can see some hail coming straight down while more has deflected off the roof and is moving left to right.

No major damage in the garden but an indoor night! It even blew the tent over in the backyard. I cooked up some more saskatoon jam and we also made some saskatoon and oatmeal muffins. The fellow down the street is again keen to trade his berries (which are just now ripening) for some produce so I'll go pick a few more tomorrow. I also see the first raspberries out front.

The rain showed that the gutters on the south side of the house were plugged (again? still?) with more $%#!&@*# elm seedlings so I spent this afternoon atop the ladder doing the smelly job of unmucking them.

I picked up a wine press this weekend and hope to make a garburetor apple crusher over the next few weeks. That should set me up for the fall apple season. We also got the last few remaining bags of frozen beans and rhubarb out of the freezer and started to replace them with blanched greens.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Peas and garlic

After a long canning session yesterday, we put up nine cans of saskatoon-berry pie filling as well as eight cups for baking. We still have another 20 litres of berries to go, some of which I may freeze to toss in with raspberries we'll pick later in the summer. But I see another round of canning tonight.

We also harvested our shell peas out back. The two 5x5' frames yielded a 8 cups of peas. Some of these I will blanch and freeze this afternoon (along with some more greens) for use later in the year. Jess would like to have some of these peas for Christmas dinner. We might have been a day or two late harvesting--the pods were huge and full and some of the peas were the size of chickpeas.

We also dug up the garlic we planted this spring. The bottom leaves were dying off so we timed the harvest right. But the heads were small. Still useful and very pungent but a bit small. Perhaps a different spot in the yard would be better next year. These are now curing. You can see the crazy scarlet runner beans that have come up behind Jess--this is at least 8 feet tall.

The apples continue to grow and remind us of upcoming days of apple saucing.

The blackberries are also flowering. Likely too late to get much for berries from them. Given what a weed they have become in the lower mainland of BC (they were everywhere) maybe we're lucky they struggle here?

We went for a walk yesterday and noticed a yard that had converted much of the front to garden. This was quite inspirational with potatoes and tomatoes, beans and sunflowers all in evidence.

This afternoon I'm going to do some more weeding and then make a pizza. I suppose we can also ponder what to sow in the shady cold frame we liberated the garlic from. Maybe swiss chard?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Saskatoon picking and jamming

The Saskatoon berries are having a remarkable year. I spotted a bunch of them in the river valley Tuesday and I went back on my bike this morning to pick them. 

I also ran into a bunch of early raspberries. And a collection of rose bushes and thistle that have left my arms and legs a bit tender!

With good weather, Jess and I also drove out to T&D's Saskatoon farm this afternoon (about 6km north of St Albert) and picked a bunch of Saskatoons (without the thistle and thorns!).

We came back home and I put up six jars of strawberry-Saskatoon jam plus one that wouldn't seal (twice!) went into the fridge (dud jar, I think). That leaves 12 litres of Saskatoons in the fridge for pie filling and maybe a few frozen for baking.

Tomorrow we'll do some more canning and I think I have a line on a fruit press for cider making this autumn. The pressure canner also arrived this afternoon so I will have lots to keep me busy.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rainy day pie filling

The deluge continued yesterday, scuttling berry picking plans so I made two batches of strawberry-rhubarb pie filling instead (plus a pie with the left-overs from the two batches). The recipe called for orange juice and zest to prevent the applies from browning. The orange adds an interesting tropical taste to the pie but I might try lemon next time.

In the past I have always frozen fruit for pies. But I'm trying to make more room in my freezer, hence the foray into canned pie filling. I have also ordered a pressure canner to tackle the veggies that take up so much freezer space. Looks like I'll need some more jars, though!

The weather has cleared this morning but we'll wait a day for the fields to dry out. In the meantime, I have some laundry to hangout and more weeding to do!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Flowers and canning mustard in the rain

I'm slowly restoring order to the garden after two weeks away. I've managed to get most of the beds reasonable looking, although there are couple of places where there is a carpet of elm seedling to address. The perennials are really blooming. 

These daylilies (salvaged from the neighbour's foundation planting before demolition) have flower stalks that are shoulder height on me and give us lovely orange flowers all summer long. These aren't as pretty as some of the newer varieties, but I think the flower suits our late-1940s neighborhood.

Among my summer plans was collecting some seeds. I had luck with lots of the simple ones last year (peas, beans) and now want to try biennials. I was going to try to overwinter some of the sugar beets and collect seeds next fall. But I see we have a couple of last year's beets coming up in the front bean bed that have thrown up stalks, so perhaps I'll get a chance to collect some seeds this year. I think these were heirloom beets so fingers crossed that they'll yield a decent seed.

The sunflowers are also starting to bloom beneath the bird feeder. I pulled a bunch to give the tomatoes some more sun and less competition but this one was too pretty to mess with.

Plans for Saskatoon berry picking today went awry when I woke up to a hail storm followed by lots of rain. So instead I decided to take another stab at making mustard. This time I used the remainder of a bottle of Tim Whistle Brewing's Stag Apple Scotch Ale I picked up in Penticton to make an Octoberfest style of mustard. At 8%, the beer was too much for me to finish all 600ml last night.

I decided to can most of this batch for later use (since it made so much) and I look forward to trying the jar I put in the fridge once it has a week or two to mellow out. It smelled nice. I used white mustard seeds to try and take some of the kick down.

If the weather holds, we'll try berry picking tomorrow morning and then maybe some jamming and pie filling making. I also have a recipe for strawberry-rhubarb pie filling that I'd like to make while the rhubarb is still good. Now that the sun is out, I'm off to de-weed the onions.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Return from vacation to a jungle

After a two-week family vacation to BC, we've returned to a crazy garden. Apparently, it was insane hot and then wet here while we were away. I spent the day beating down the lawn and weeding a few garden beds.

Out back, then shell peas are ready for picking and the sunflowers are now level with my head. The potatoes have also all bloomed (including a large number of volunteers) which means lots of potatoes in the autumn.

Behind the garage, the zucchini plants went from having two (or four) leaves when we left to full size (12" leaves) and fruiting. Talk about crazy growth.

We also have carrots ready for harvest. I think we'll thin some now and leave the rest to bulk up.

Around the front, some of the tomato plants grew more than 18 inches and the beans have flowered and put out fruit.

If the weather cooperates, we'd like to do some berry picking this weekend. I snagged from strawberries from our garden, but I'm hopeful there is a upick we can find. And the Saskatoons are also ready.