Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mustard and Pie

The rain kept us mostly inside yesterday so I decided to try my hand at mustard. Below you can see 2 tbsp of mustard seed coarsely ground in the coffee grinder and 1/4 cup of mustard powder. 

I mixed these with 1/4 cup of cool water (cold makes for a spicier mustard).

I then added 2 tbsp of cider vinegar and 1 tsp of salt (to fix the reaction) and set it aside to mellow. The spoon I licked was quite mustardy and had a lot of heat. I expect a week in the fridge should smooth this out some.

I also baked a Saskatoon berry pie.

As the sun slowly dries the dew, I see lawn mowing will feature in my day!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Rain, beans and flowers

After a dry, dry spring, it finally rained--replenishing the rain barrels and causing all of the plants to jump up overnight. The beans all around the yard are starting to spring up. The one below is a Mexican brown bush bean (basically a small kidney bean) that we saved over the winter. Glad to see these fellows spouts.

The perennial flowers are also starting to bloom as the bulbs die back. I'm not sure what this yellow flower is (I have three of these and they have been moved around a lot over the years). The irises are also starting to bud up.

More saved-seed peas are coming up in the front yard, while the early plants ones in the backyard have found the trellis an are climbing. Around their feet, beets are starting to put our second leaves ad the sugar beets in the back alley have really begun to develop. I've been reading about processing sugar beets and it looks like a syrup is likely our best bet this year.

The grocery store had a sale on jars this weekend so I picked up a bunch more 500ml ones. I must do a tally this weekend and also see what we have left to eat down. Last night I made rhubarb muffins from the freezer and I'll try some zucchini bread and a saskatoon berry pie tonight. If the rain continues, I also plan to try and make some mustard today.

Other than maybe buying a couple of replacement tomato plants (wind beat two to the ground last week, I think the garden is a good space. I turned under two failed turnip beds this week and plants swiss chard and the remainder of several seed packs (carrots and kale) to fill the space.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Blossoms and potatoes

The lovely weather of the past two weeks has started the fruit blossoming. The apple tree beside the house has opened up and these pretty flowers are hopefully setting fruit! I will hand pollinate a few tonight to be sure.

The strawberries are also flowering. These never seem to have a problem setting fruit.

Around the front, a low-growing phlox has once again come back from a winter of neglect in bad soil. It is hard to get a picture that shows how lovely these purple flowers really are.

Most exciting was that the potatoes have poked through the soil. This year I planted blue caribe and a Russian blue. Both have come up at the same time (one if early setting and one its late) which (fingers crossed) should mean a decent haul of potatoes this year.

I have a pretty rich bed for the potatoes so I dug deep holes and then just barely covered the potatoes. As the plants grow, I will start to fill in the holes and, eventually, mound them up to see if I can get an extra few potatoes from each hill. Now if only we could get a it of rain, that would really help.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Jess and I were a bit late to forage wild asparagus this year--we found only a few stalks and most of those had gone to seed. But we did manage to get to the 104 Street market and picked up a bunch of asparagus, both to eat and to preserve. I blanched and froze enough for about 26 pizzas this coming winter. We'll likely not pickle any more this year as I see there are still a couple of jars left from last year (we'll do beets, instead).

While we were out tromping around, a pair of hawks hovered overhead, looking for lunch. I managed to get one good picture (our of several dozen)--the sun was in my eyes as the hawks moved east along the edge of the valley.

Today we did the last of the planting, putting in four cucumber plants. I notice we spend a fair bit on condiments over the course of a year so I'd like to make relish (ideally without getting jalapeno in my eye, this time) along with some ketchup. We also plunked a new saskatoon bush in the front yard in among the raspberries and reseeded some zucchini out back (the seeds I've been using are a couple of years old and the germination rate is pretty poor after four years). Tonight I will start to do a tally of our jars and lids to see what we'll need for the summer.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Flowering fruits and bulbs

Warm days mean the fruit bushes and trees are starting to flower. The apple tree that never yields any apples is beginning to show flower buds. I gave it a good pruning this year to see if I could jump-start from fruiting.

In better news, the Saskatoon bush our front is full of blossoms. It has always given us a few berries but it looks like it has reached a big enough size to start making a significant contribution to our freezer.

Around the side, the tulips are in full bloom while the perennials are coming up behind them.

I bought a bike trailer a few days ago and last night we did our weekly grocery run by bike. Wow, is this ever easier than trying to use panniers and backpacks.

This morning we're off to the farmers market and then to forage some wild asparagus in the valley. Rain is predicted for the weekend which the garden could really use. If it rains, I'm going to try and finish a couple of books I'm reading on making apple cider.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

More planting

Over the weekend, we were bale to get most of the rest of the garden planted. I still have some tomato plants to go in (Roma) along with some space for cucumbers and maybe swiss chard, but the rest is planted. The bulbs also started to really come out.

A few of the earlier seedings are starting to come up. The sugar beets out back have all come through this week. Good thing too as whatever weed came in with the manure I bought last year is also germinating!

And the peas have started to really take off. A few more days and some of them will find the nylon trellis in behind them and start to grow upwards.

This weekend looks like it might be the first lawn mowing of the season (sigh). So I guess I will sharpen the blades and all of that stuff. The hugel kulture bed could likely use some nitrogen anyhow so at least the cuttings have a home. The wax beans we planted there have germinated which makes the rows a bit easier to spot. I think the downtown farmers market also opens this weekend, which sounds like a fun trip.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Most of this week has been spent keeping seed beds moist and watching for germination. The peas continue to come up and we have dropped in a second sowing along with some more wax beans and Mexican bush beans. Still a fair bit of garden to go.

One of the fun parts of the spring is seeing where violas will pop up this year. We have two types (the one pictured above and a smaller, darker one) that have naturalized themselves and appear in different places each year. This fellow is on the south side of the house beside a path. I didn't even notice him until it flowered yesterday.

Today we're off to pick up some tomato seedlings and maybe some more seeds from the garden store--we're just about past the last-frost date and the weather forecast is promising so what the heck. We also put in some Mongolian giant sunflowers along the back of three beds--looking forward to seeing what comes up!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

More seeding

The arrival of summer this past week meant a flurry of activity in the yard this weekend. During the week we finished seeding the beds behind the garage with three kinds of carrots (nantes, yellowstone and dragon) as well as some rutabagas. Amazingly, some of the carrots have already germinated and poked some wispy leaves through the soil. I think the sun bounce off the garage wall is the key.

The early rhubarb has really jumped up in the heat. And some of the peas (below), garlic and onions we planted a couple of weeks back are pushing up. No sign of the beets but I recall being similarly concerned last year and they showed up eventually. So far there has been no difference between the store-bought and the saved peas in terms of germination rate or speed.

The garlic in the cold frames is tall enough now that I have put the glass away. I've kept the glass on the kale (which has now produced true leaves) to keep them warmer at night.

We're also starting to see some bulb action, pretty much the exact same day as last year. The daffodils are out along the side of the house. We've started adding to the herb garden beside them with some mint. We also dropped in a bunch of marigolds in between the stepping stones in the back bed.

The tulip tarda (tardia?) is also flowering. These are lovely little flower our gardening guru Alan gave us several years back. They have survived construction, several unearthings during bed digging, and being unceremoniously jammed back in between stepping stones. That is the kind of plant I like. Oddly the squirrels have no interest in them and each year they come back stronger.

Out front we have dealt with the raspberry canes and I've loosened the soil for more peas and green beans (maybe we'll seed tomorrow night). We also planted yellow and purple wax beans in the new hugel kultur bed out front. We have two more big beds in the back to seed and some tomatoes to buy and plant.

Then I made a pie (strawberry-rhubarb). Whew! Now I need a shower and a beer. With the warm weather continuing, I'm hoping we'll get a nice jump on the season and maybe even see a few potato plants pop up.