Sunday, November 30, 2014

Xmas baking and bashful carrots

Garden burnout is beginning to subside as 18 inches of snow erases all signed of last year!

Jenn and Jess have begin the Xmas baking. My contribution (booze-fueled fruitcake) has been finished since late summer. I am also thinking about another batch of wine as Jenn likes the malbec I made last year.

I have almost finish most of the fresh carrots (including this bashful one) but we have plenty of potatoes. The last few weeks have seen soups made almost entirely from the harvest (excepting salt and olive oil and bay leaves).

I actually dropped by the grading store this week to pick up an Xmas present for Jess and I've been quietly pondering the crop rotation for next year. The tomatoe sauce we made with my tomato mill has been fantastic so more tomatoes!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pumpkin muffins and Hallowe'en fun

Snow flurries (not yet sticking, though) and cooler temperatures have brought the gardening season to an end. Now it is all about eating! I'm certainly appreciating the apple sauce in oatmeal and the dried soup stock ingredients.

I'm currently roasting our pumpkins to make the base for muffins and a cake. Interestingly, one appears to be a traditional pumpkin while the other has been interbred with a spaghetti squash.

Jess' Lego costume was a huge hit trick-or-treating last night as well as at the school costume parade. 

I finally dug out some Jerusalem artichoke root (above) and some daylily roots. The daylily was far stringier and harder to clean. Both tasted appropriately starchy. I wonder if there is some opportunity to naturalize the artichoke in a local park? Guess we'll see what comes up in the spring.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Last of the veggies and beets

We spent a lovely day in the yard spreading wood ash, raking leaves and picking the last of the carrots and beets (about 6 gallons all in). 

Jess distributed a fair amount of the veggies to the neighbours and then we washed up the rest. It all went into the fridge for consumption over the next few weeks. I made a veggie pot pie for dinner with everything but the red pepper and the sweet potato for the crust being from the yard.

Tonight we may have a fire or we may bottle the rest of the cider (depends on my energy level!). As I was raking leaves today I remembers I wanted to move some of the raspberry suckers around to the back so that will be tomorrow's project. Along with harvesting some daylily roots to see what they taste like.

I also noticed this odd striped pattern on the south hedge. Interesting how different alpine currant plants have different frost tolerance points. I so wish this hedge produced something useful but that is a project for another year.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A hundred pounds of yeast and some copper line...

 ...sings the wife as I haul a bunch of bottles and Jessica into the basement to finish up the first batch of cider. This batch sat for about six weeks after the final racking so is likely as ready as it will get.

Jess handled the bottles and the siphon while I ran the capper, the camera and for more bottles at the end. A full carboy fills 32 660ml bottles (note to self for next week...).

I ran out of brown beer bottles but fortunately I had some green ones with the same size cap. And then I grabbed and sterilized a couple of flip-tops I collected over the winter. 

We'll be back at this on the weekend to bottle the other carboy In the meantime, we've been trying to get out into the waning days of autumn for walks and bike rides. This is a great time of year to spot asparagus plants for next spring. I have cycled past this plant maybe 200 times in the past few years and only noticed it when Jenn said "is that where you get our asparagus from?" It is next year, dear.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thanksgiving prep

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, we spent much of yesterday preparing. Pies were made, husbands were dispatched to the store, etc.

Jess and I pulled some beets out of the garden for dinner. I'm pretty sure we ended up with four types.

There are three red (including a cylindrical) as well as a lovely set of golden beets. These join carrots and potatoes from the yard on the table.

Our neighbours recently pulled down two huge fir trees that have overshadowed the fireplace we have in the back. We've never use this for fear of burning the neighbourhood down but with the trees gone, we fired it up.

Overall, a wonderful way to spend a crisp autumn evening.

 Now to fetch the inlaws!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Some sidewalk maintenance

As part of neighbourhood reconstruction, the city tore out the sidewalk and poured a new one. That disturbed the cobbles in our walk. The new sidewalk is also about a quarter-inch higher than the old, which messed up the grading of our walk (although a quarter inch is better than the eight-inch difference one block west!). 

So today I renewed my man card (and got Jess three credits towards her own card) by pulling up six feet of cobble, regrading and laying it down again. This went reasonably well and Jess seemed to get the hang of it pretty quickly. She was too young to help when we put the sidewalk in back in 2008; she was much more useful today.

It was also a good chance to once again teach the difference between left and right under some pressure. I'd be worried about her seeming inability to distinguish left and right, but it took her three years to figure out the difference between the front and the back door (at one point, when she was five, we were certain she was just screwing with us). I assume an hour of "No, your other left!" will pay off when it comes to teaching her to drive.

I left the city to restore the part between the sidewalk and the curb (assuming they get around to replacing the curb before the snow flies). In the end, you can hardly tell where the join is and it is nice to have a functional front walk. If only I could do something about the driveway the city pulled out. Three week ago... .

We also raked leaves into the front garden beds, I had a long bike ride and I poked around the yard some. The fall rye is coming in and seemed perkier with the slight increase in temperature.

I expect we'll yank the last of the veggies next weekend. I'm hopeful to get a bit of lyme and bonemeal into the beds tomorrow. Assuming I can bend over after this morning's work! I may also bottle some cider.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Garlic, tulips and cherries

Fall is well underway, with the leaves finally starting to come down. I was out for a walk at noon and saw some ice building up on a local fountain (water shoots up from four corners into central bowl).

Jess and I have been busy with yard work, although the cold weather has dampened our enthusiasm. Last night we put six heads of garlic into the ground for spring and also 40 tulip bulbs. We still have another 20 or so to go. You can see the ongoing sidewalk replacement behind Jess (week two without a driveway...).

I also shucked the last of the beans from their shells. These are scarlet runner beans that I'm saving for next year (or the year after).

Tonight we went out and plunked in an Evans cherry that my friend Marc gave me. I'm quite excited by this very generous gift--we've picked other people's cherry trees in the past and the resulting pie is great!

Tomorrow I will be lifting and re-laying some of the cobbles on the front walk. The city is supposed to come and fix this (part of the clean up of the sidewalk work) but based on where they are at, they likely won't be back before the snow.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Potato harvest

We harvested the rest of the potato beds out from today. These are a mix of yukon gold and pontiac reds. We also hauled out some burbank russets and some banana fingerlings--about 10 gallons in all from three 10-foot rows.

Jess contributed small hands and good eyesight while I did the heavy spading. The sod that is underneath the dirt has really started to rot nicely and I expect we could plant carrots out here next year without any trouble. Just a matter of smoothing out the rows and maybe dropping some lime and bone meal in.

The processing job is mostly done. I'm going to let the potatoes dry overnight before sorting them into keepers and users and next year's seed. Very little rust on these (the yukon gold are particularly free of spots) so mostly looking for size and shape.

While there are still some beets and carrots out back (and maybe even some more potatoes behind the garage--arrrgh), I'm too bushed to deal with them today. The weather looks good next weekend so they can wait some more. A bike ride and a hike through the valley are in order while the leaves are still pretty.

I see we also have tomatoes to process again. I wonder if i can sub this job out to the girl? I should probably also empty the rain barrel before things get too cold!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Caragana seeds?

The last few days have been lovely ones for a walk in the valley as the leaves start to change. Te key has also been amazing a blue.

The valley smells like autumn, including high bush cranberries. These aren't on my foraging list this year (as no one liked me cranberry jelly a few years back).

But something I have run across are that caragana seeds are edible. I knew the blossoms were edible (taste like peas) but the seedpods you hear cracking on the late summer heat contain edible seeds. They are small and hard. They soften after a minute in you mouth and taste like a legume. They'd likely be best boiled in a change of water. Fortunately caragana are plentiful as you'd need to collect a lot to make a meal!

Autumn is also the time to spot next year's wild asparagus plants as their foliage turns a beautiful golden colour.

I went out and cut down most of the remaining rhubarb last night. I've been meaning to make a drink out of it and maple syrup. Boiled, strained, added a bit of lemon and am chilling in the fridge. I would think a bit of water and sugar will be necessary but tastes lemon-aide-like.

The bleeding tomatoes are again demanding attention as the ripening continue. Some will go into a salad tonight. I will maybe try some salsa recipes this weekend.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Freezing tomatoes and carrots

The tomato onslaught in waining but still requires periodic attention. Today I turned yet another tray into sauce to freeze.

The tomato press I got for my birthday is a hoot to use and takes so much of the hand-labour out of the processing. Grind, dump in crock pot, let cook down and freeze. What a treat!

While I did spend much of the afternoon on the deck with a book (fiction no less!) I also pulled out half a row of carrots, blanched and froze about 18 cups for winter soups and stews. There is still quite a bunch in the yard but the weather looks fine so they can wait.

Tonight I hope to get a walk or bike ride in. Groat Road reopened at some point which is a nice climb to finish my bike ride with (easier on my knees than the Ramsay Ravine).

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Storing beets and carrots for seed

I've been planning on storing some carrots and beets over the winter in order to try and grow some seed next year. Last year I tried to overwinter them in the ground but they rotted (leaving curious cylindrical holes in the garden).

This year I'm going to try storing them in the basement in damp sand. I selected a bunch of golden beets as well as some yellow stone carrots. Since I was short on golden beets, I decided to also throw in some other beets to see if different types stored differently.

The trick seems to be using big, clean veggies, cutting off the greenery and then packing them in damp (but not wet) sand so they don't touch. Big was no problem. The Yellowstone carrots often grow to 10 inches or more (like the one above).

I put a bit of sand in the bottom, plunked them in, filled with more sand and done. I fit about 17 really big carrots in which should be enough to get at least one batch of decent seed next year. I layered the beets. Two 12 litres (2.5 gallon) pails needed almost 50lbs of sand for fill. I'll try to remember to report the results come spring.

I also racked off both carboys of cider to let them bulk age. The one sweetened with honey had a much longer ferment than the one sweetened with white sugar. If I have the gas, I'll start cleaning up the yard and putting some lyme and bone meal in the beds this afternoon.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tomatoes, potatoes and corn

I had a busy birthday weekend with house guests and whatnot. We took a trip out to Wabamun and I ran across a bunch of huge hawthorne bushes (tree sized) at the provincial campground.

Back home, the tomatoes are ripening in big batches, which are vastly greater than we can eat or give away. Fortunately, Jenn was at Lee Valley...

And I'm now the proud owner of a tomato grinder. I was skeptical this would work but it was pretty slip and managed to reduce a bunch of blanched tomatoes to 4 litres of juice and pulp and separate the seeds and skin out in about 5 minutes.

It was also much sturdier than I expected when I looked at the box. We now have a bunch of juice cooking down into sauce in the crockpot that we'll freeze. I (more virtuously than thou) turned the tomato "waste" into soup stock for the week.

Jess and I then went and picked the corn out front. Not a huge haul but a fun bit of stunt gardening.

Then we dug two small rows of potatoes. I'm holding a blue caribe and there are red pontiac and yellow banana fingerlings in behind. With a return to warm weather, I have some yard clean up to do this week.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Apple sauce, snow and tomatoes

Recognizing that the weather is cooling and that this coming week is crazy for Jennifer and me at work, I decided to spend Sunday processing veggies. We picked our last apple tree of the year (I hope!) Saturday night and I started saucing about 9 am.

Eighteen litres later, we had finished with about half the apples (remainder above). Jenn then turned the ripe tomatoes on the window sill into sauce (which we froze) and we sat down to dinner as the rain started. I went out to fiddle with the dehydrator on the back deck, noticed the cold and checked the weather.

After some handwringing, I decided we needed to pull the pin on the tomatoes because of the risk of frost. I pretty much let the plants do what they wanted this summer instead of pruning and tying them up and we had a lot of bushy plants. In the rain and twilight, we started picking. And picking. Then got more buckets and picked some more.

We ended up with 10+ gallons (and we've been picking non-stop for a month). Above you can see about 35% of the haul. Because of the mud, we ended up washing them all last night and then employed every container we could find (e.g., roasting plans, boxes, baking sheets) to house them in piles two deep on the window sills.

There are well over 1000--which future Bob is going to have to deal with when they start to ripen. Man, is he gonna be pissed at me... . It did snow last night (mostly melted) so I think we made the right choice in the end. Not sure what the beans, corn and squash will look like when it warms up today.

The good news is that the canning closet is starting to look pretty full. I have adjusted quantities based on what we used and didn't use last winter and it feels pretty good. I will spend lunch maybe making more dried apple rings and racking off the first batch of cider.