Sunday, August 31, 2014

Apples, pole beans, hawthorns and acorns

The firsts half of the long weekend has been pretty busy! Friday night, Jess and I went and did a big apple pick. There were so many apples, we ran out of containers and I ended up leaving a few that I could have gotten on the tree. 

Of course, Jennifer noted that I was a bit old to fall out of an apple tree and that I ought to govern myself accordingly, so maybe it was for the best. We arrived home and found Jennifer had made pie crust (!) so some apples were in the oven within an hour of being picked.

Much of the past few days has been spent processing the apples and I'm down from 35-40 gallons to six or seven. Jenn promises more pies and I can always make some more apple sauce or apple butter. Last night, we also pitched the yeast into the apple cider I pressed on Friday.

The rest of the garden has been pretty relentless. The pole beans are ready! Some went on the BBQ last night and the rest I blanched and froze for soup in the winter. There may be another harvest, we'll see how long the frost holds off. The tomatoes are also fairly intense so Jenn put her home ec degree to work and made bruschetta.

Last night we went out for a ride and checked on the Hawthorn berries Jess ran across in the valley. These are ripe-ish and taste rather insipid. There is a second patch we'll try in order to see if we can get a richer tasting berry for jelly.

Poking around, we also noticed the acorns on the oaks are ripening. I've read these can we washed to get the tannins out and then roasted and candied. We might try a small batch this year.

The museum's flowers are also in full bloom--one of the highlights of fall for us.

Now back to the kitchen--soup stock is bubbling and the dehydrator needs to be loaded up with more apple rings. I dreamed of apples last night... .

Friday, August 29, 2014

Autumn berries and apples

It is the last week of summer vacation for Jess so we tried to spend some time outside. One lunch hour we walked down through the river valley--which was lovely.

The smell of high bush cranberries is omnipresent and they are starting to ripen alongside the chokecherries. I'm waiting on the hawthorns for this year's foraging jelly experiment.

On a lark, we went to an archery range. With all of the '80s power ballads, I expect Jess's "what I did this summer" essay could be entitled 'The summer my dad went all Ted Nugent on me'. We both had fun at the range and I hope we'll go back this fall.

The garden is mostly giving us tomatoes. This was yesterday's harvest of cherry tomatoes. I think I will need to oven-roast and freeze some of these as we cannot keep up. There were also half a dozen eating tomatoes.

I ran out at lunch today and pressed a bunch of apples to make cider with. I needed the space as we're picking more apples tonight.

The pressing went well and I got 5 gallons. I added some sugar and dosed with campden tablets. I'll pitch the yeast tomorrow and watch the bubbling begin. I'd like to do a second batch this year-depeends on how big the haul of apples it tonight.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Apples, garlic, tomatoes and potatoes

It has been a busy weekend, split between the bike, the garden and the kitchen. I finished processing the apples we picked last week. 

Most are awaiting cidering (this week, I think) and I turned the last five gallons into 10 litres of apple sauce. We're off to pick another tree tonight so I expect to be back at the stove tomorrow.

I pulled up the last of the peas (drying them for soups) as well as the hard-necked garlic. I got a number of really nice-sized bulbs plus some smaller ones. The thing about the small cloves is that home-grown garlic has so much more flavour than store-bought that tiny cloves are all you need.

The tomato onslaught continues. Between salads and giving some away, we've manage to stay on top of the cherry tomatoes.

The issue is soon going to be the eating and canning tomatoes, which are just starting to ripen.

We're undergoing neighbourhood revitalization (new curbs, sidewalks and roads). This is exciting but some of the design choices of the crews are interesting. This stretch has a challenging s-curve!

Out front our place, I pulled another row of potatoes. These were Russian blues (the empty row right in front of the sunflowers and corn) and turned out well. I got 5 gallons in 12 feet of row. Not bad given this was nasty clay that was underneath a tree last year.

I selected the best for next year's see and also put a few in the basement for storage. The rest are dinner over the next few weeks.There isn't enough time to get a cover crop on before the frost so I will just let the potatoes tops I dug in decompose and will then plant garlic here for next year.

The empty row in front has been planted with buckwheat. These are up about four inches. This will be squash next year (with room for the vines to crawl among the irises). I am hopeful the city will make it down out street with new sidewalks before the snow flies.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Busy start to the harvest season!

The harvest season is upon us! And frankly it is a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, someone made of with an entire 3x6' bed of carrots out back one night so there is (slightly) less to process...!

We finally pulled the last of the sweet onions and they are curing on the deck. The storage onions have cured and are hung in the closet for use. I still have a bit of hard necked garlic to pull.

Jess and I made 18 litres of crab apple jelly last weekend. That sound alike a lot but a bit on oatmeal each morning and we'll be through it before spring.

We trucked out to Roy's Raspberries again this week to get a second batch. I have two pails in the fridge to jam tonight.

last time we were picking, Jess and Jenn saw a frog (alas no camera). This time, the bugs were really interesting and thick (although fortunately the mosquito bloom seems to be dying off).

Out front, the squash plants seem to have finally fruited. There are at least three of these Australian butter squash that have formed. The race to grow before the frost ought to be interesting. I will put some wooden planks under them tonight to keep them off the dirt and will cover if it frosts.

We've also been picking apples. Most I have processed and frozen for later cidering. But I have a bunch of bigger ones that I will start to sauce this weekend. They have a lovely aroma as they ripen in the house.

There is still much to do outdoors. The tomatoes need attention tonight. And the alpine currants are yielding a huge (relatively speaking) harvest. I can't imagine I want to fart around with berries that small so I think the birds can have them.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Apples season starts

The last few days of my summer vacation have coincided with the start of apple season here in Edmonton. We've done two picks--one of apples and crabs and another just of crabs. The apples I have been processing and freezing in anticipation of three more picks in the next few weeks followed by cider-making.

The crabs I have juiced and started jellying. I expect we'll have 21 or 22 litres of jelly by the time I'm done. The heat and humidity this week have really slowed the jelly-making process (well, the jelly maker more so than the process). Outside we've been harvesting from the garden to eat and then fighting with the bugs to get enough water on the garden. Today I'll be hauling in the sweet onions as the storage onions have finished curing under the deck.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pioneer gardens and tomatoes

Jess and I took at trip to Fort Edmonton yesterday. After a couple of years of having a season's pass and many field trips, we mostly poke around the corners of the place to see what we may have missed. Lots of the old buildings have quite lovely little gardens.

This year the garden at the fort itself is spectacular, with potatoes, beans, beets, carrots, corn, sunflowers and pumpkins. I have a big garden but this makes me jealous.

The pumpkin patch has been especially productive, with lots of these pumpkins hidden among the leaves. These two are each move 18-inches in diameter. We also had an interesting interaction with a rooster minding his brood while human interlopers wander about cluelessly.

Back home, the tomatoes are starting to come in. Mostly cherry tomatoes but in big volume!

The scarlet runner beans are also starting to form hanging off of the deck railing. These are always big producers with pods that are 8-12 inches long.

The cooler weather today means a chance to catch up on the watering before going to pick apples at a friend's place tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tomatoes bees, corn and dill

Yesterday was not especially productive in the yard. I spent most of the day reading on the deck and a bit of time weeding. We also visited the new farmers market on 109th street. And I collected some more rhubarb and froze it.

The tomatoes are continuing to ripen. So far we have managed to stay even with the harvest but the tumbler tomatoes are threatening to get ahead of us. I expect these would be good oven roasted.

The bees are thick in the yard and are all over the onions. The onion below below (I think) a nodding onion, part of a growing patch that I introduced a couple of years back from some seed I found in the river valley.

The corn out front is also starting to show ears (which is exciting!). The Australian butter squash we planted below it has lots of vines but no fruit that I can see so far.

I also harvested our first (and maybe only) cucamelon. This fruit is about the size of a small grape and tastes about halfway between a cucumber and a watermelon. A neat gardening stunt but not likely a plant we'll use again.

In the afternoon I dried a fair quantity of dill for the winter (both seed and leaf). I may go after more dill leaf but today I'm going to thin out the oregano below and dump a bunch on the dehydrator.

I'm also hope to pick up some shelving to brings one order to the room in which I store the cider-making gear.

Friday, August 8, 2014


Before the rain started this morning, we whipped out to Roy's Raspberries and picked a couple of buckets. The berries are huge this year! Jennifer even came out and pitched in (alas I forgot the camera at home).

I then spent the rest of the day making jam. I started with some plain raspberry and then switched to a raspberry-saskatoon mix. As I've gotten better at jamming, I've started to find it very contemplative: standing in front of the stove for 90 minutes with nothing to do but stir means lots of time for thought (e.g., why is there so much Gowan on my iPod?).

I'm just starting on the last batch and should put up about 30 or 32 jars by the time I'm done tonight. I'd like to go back to get anther couple of pails this coming week to finish off jam-making (apple season is coming!).

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Elderberry jelly and garden maintenance

About a week back I ran across some red elderberry bushes while on a walk. I recall seeing these last year but forgetting to come back and identify them. Jess and I went back with buckets earlier this week to forage up some.

Red elderberries have an uneven reputation. After much flipping through books and websites, the crux seems to be that the seeds need to be extracted before eating and unripe berries should be avoided. Some books also suggested boiling the berries--but it was unclear of that was in lieu of or in addition to de-seeding.

Queue jellymaking, which removes the seeds and boils the juice. A pail and a half of berries yielded almost one-and-a-half cups of juice. I added some lemon, sugar and apples (for pectin) and off I went.

The result smells a bit tomato-y and a bit lemony and tastes nice enough. I'm not sure if it has set up yet (still cooling). A small number of folks report an emetic effect--I'll update if that turns out to be the case for us!

We also pulled in the storage onions over the past few days. The yellow ones are curing in a sack hung under the deck. The white ones are either being eaten or dried for soup-making in the winter. I took the opportunity to move things around in the back bed along the garage--switching from three rows to two and adding an entrance in the spot where I found myself stepping over the rows this summer.

I then planted some buckwheat in the open spots (there are still some beets, peas and kale going on the right and at the back). If the weather holds, we're going to take advantage of the cool and go raspberry picking tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Potato mystery

The heat has slowed down our gardening some after I mildly sunstroke myself on the bike on Sunday. Apparently there are exceptions to the general age = wisdom relationship. So I put away the pickled beets and pushed back our raspberry picking trip until later in the week.

With a cooler day on hand yesterday, we returned to the garden. I decided to pull up one of the 12-foot rows of potatoes for some early eating as well as to spread around to the neighbours. Pulling a whole row also facilitates planting some buckwheat for a green manure. After an experiment in the back (where I over seeded), I think we now have a handle on buckwheat seeding density.

The row we pulled were blue caribe. There were seeds I overwintered in the basement. Oddly, on four of the nine plants, at the very bottom of the potato cluster, there was what looked like a russet potato attached to the root system of the blue caribes.

There have never been any potatoes in this bed before and the "brown" potatoes was clearly a part of the purple potato plant (not an interplanting--I was very careful with the seed). I am at a loss for an explanation.

On the upside, the blue caribe are always a heavy yielder with about 5 gallons (25lbs?) from a 12-foot row. If I had let these go longer, the yield would have been higher. Lots of worms in the new bed which was encouraging and there was very little rust. If the other eight potatoes beds yield this heavily, we should be good for the winter.

Out back, we're starting to see some cucumbers (these are always a slow start for me). Ad some of the tomato plants are getting ridiculous with their fruit load. This is a tumbler plant and I have pictures about 1/10th of its growth. We'll have no shortage of cheery tomatoes this month!

Today we'll be pulling out the onions (which have mostly died down). I'll then be re-arranging the beds slightly (fewer, wider rows with a more sensible "entrance") and then we'll plant some buckwheat later on in the week.