Sunday, July 31, 2016

Dill, tomatoes, sunflowers and bees

We took a few days away from the garden to do some camping and cycling. While we were gone, the dill burst into bloom, to the delight of the local bees.

We've also begun harvesting. The first three tomatoes came in today and were delicious. We also harvested green beans. They were tasty and I blanched a bunch along with some peas for freezing.

It looks like we've come near the end of the raspberries but I managed to get some jammed the other night. Looking around the neighbourhood, it appears apple season will also be starting early this year. I need to make some crab apple jelly and apple sauce. 

We dropped rode t the downtown farmer's market yesterday and picked up some fruit and new potatoes (ours are still growing and I hate to disturb them).

This afternoon we'll be harvesting the garlic and planting a cover crop (likely buckwheat since I have a bag of seed in the cupboard). I think Jess is also bringing in the last of the peas.

This afternoon we also need to bottle the beer I have been brewing. To free up some bottles, I will apple jacking some cider for two years ago (which has finally smoothed out). And the rhubarb wine could likely stand to be racked off again (much clearer now). I think I'll save the next wine kit for a week or two to accommodate another short vacation.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Poppies, canning and dill

We had a busy weekend. I juiced and jellied the nanking cherries Jess and I foraged on the weekend. As I have been riding around the neighbourhood, I have been noticing all of the cherry bushes--seems like a bumper crop this year.

We've had lots of visitors to the garden. So far the only think that has been disturbed was an onion pulled from its bed (not sure by what).

There are also lots of flowers blooming in our neighbours gardens (I often get tapped for water while they vacation because they seem to think I know what I'm doing).

We have some poppies up in the stone planter at the back. These are from seed my dad picked from my parents' garden in Calgary and froze for 25 years. The original seed is from my grandmother's garden in Saskatchewan.

This shot is of the same kind of poppy but backlit by the sun. Below we have some of the many dill plants that have naturalized in the yard. Not where I want them (out front) but rather in the back vegetable beds.

The rhubarb has come back enough from the earlier cutting that I cut some more to make a second batch of strawberry-rhubarb pie filling. I think we have enough to see us through the winter months.

If I get ambitious tomorrow I will make some raspberry jam.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Radish seeds, poppies, cherries and bees

Vacation has meant more time outside in the yard, cleaning up a few projects and starting to pick some of the veggies. I let a few radishes go to seed to see how that worked and they have put out very pretty seed pods. We'll see if the radishes they produce are any good next year!

The basil seeds didn't take this year but, in their place, we got a bumper crop of poppies. These guys re just about to turn their flower head upwards and give a lovely show of red.

I have been watching the bees. This huge bumble bee landed on Jessica's purple shoe and then flew off. We followed it across the yard until it landed on some delphiniums.

Jess and I went off to forage some cherries this week. On our walk there we saw this neat back alley garden.

I notices that one of our neighbours also has a fruit tree. I'd guess plumbs (despite the apricot colour). The fruit was too far into their yard to get a good look.

We foraged about three litres of nanking cherries from various public plantings near the valley. This is the first year I have noticed these plants (some I walk by every day) so perhaps it has been a good year for cherries? I made jelly with these last night; we'll see what the flavour is like when it sets.

Up next: I have been collecting raspberries and I think we have enough for a small batch of jam. I'm watching the garlic fairly closely as it seems to be heading towards maturity quite quickly this year.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Beer, apples, peas and zucchini

The wet weather has meant we've been busy weeding. Along the way we discover lots of surprises, like some carrots we missed last fall that survived and are not going to seed.

The apple tree has over 100 apples on it, which is a long way from the years where we would harvest two or three. They are also getting reasonably big. Perhaps it is the wet weather? Looking forward to saucing in the fall.

The beer has been racked off and is finishing its ferment in the basement and starting to look like beer. I plan to start a wine kit on Monday.

We're finally seeing some progress from the zucchini plants. Some nice flowers and there is one tiny fruit forming.

We were out for a bike ride on Friday and noticed this back alley garden. I love how people sneak gardens in in weird places. This one has garlic and zucchini.

We harvested the first crop of peas Friday. It was looking like rain and I always associated shelling peas with rain. When I was a kid, rainy days meant trucking into Meadow Lake to do laundry (nice days were for the beach). We'd always stop at a farm relatives had on the way back for a visit and a chance to raid their pea patch.

Jess and I moved around to the front to shell them and the sky let loose with a two hour rain storm. Streets flooded, gutters overflowed and there was so much wind we were driven inside. I will have frozen the peas for Xmas dinner.

There is likely at least one more good harvest (another four cups?) from a second sowing. My trellis partly collapsed on the rain so I spent some time today puling it back upright.

If I get ambitious, I will dry some dill tomorrow. We have plenty of dill seed still but the dried dill leaves is almost gone.

As I was avoiding the weeding this afternoon. there was lots of see. Onions left over from last year are flowering and the ornamental cheery tree is ripening fruit for the migrating robins this fall.

I also managed to catch this bee kindly pollinating the tomatoes out back.

We're getting a pretty decent raspberry harvest this year. I'm freezing them I anticipation of having enough to make jam.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Tomatoes, raspberries, and lilies

The rain continued this weekend, with moments of sunshine. The garden certainly is lush and weedy.

The dragon flies have finally arrived to knock back the mosquitoes and make weeding tolerable again.

The earliest tomato blossoms have set fruit, which is nice to see. The onions are also heading towards baseball size.

The raspberries are ripe about three weeks early and we have been picking. These are some terribly thorny back raspberries. They add some interesting flavour contrast to the more traditional reds we are growing along our north fence.

It also looks like we'll have a large number of black berries this year. We planted these canes about seven years ago and they have always yielded about five or six berries. Whatever the difference was this year, they have put out a huge number of blossoms and lots of proto-berries are visible.

The lilies and daylilies are really giving it this year. The variegated lily at the bottom is a survivor from a set of bulbs we plants more than a decade ago. I thought we'd lost them all in the construction but then up pops this fellow.

The yarrow is also doing well and looking to take over the lawn.

In the large bed by the deck I planted some scarlet runner beans (which are just making their way up the railing). I had also planted some melons, but the seed did not germinate. In front ,we strung a small trellis for a late sowing of peas. I had thought to plant some carrots in front of the peas but then I had a protracted war with some ants. I may drop some lettuce in here (some self-seeded).

Inside, Jess made a dark fruit cake to put away to age until Xmas. I racked off the rhubarb wine and stopped the ferment about where I hoped. We'll see how this wine tastes when it has clarified some. I also started my first beer kit and had a slight foam over during the ferment. Guess its really did need a 46 litre primary (I used a 30).

When this finishes cooking this week, I'll start a wine kit for the winter. My vacation also starts this week and Jess and I have a bunch of things to do including building a stand for a second water barrel for the garage and picking up a couple of crocks to store flour and beans.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Garlic scape pesto and strawberry jam

This last week has been busy with various gardening projects. The day lilies are just starting and the daily rain has helped the veggies increase in size. I expect we will have a pea harvest this weekend.

Last weekend I sent Jess out to harvest the garlic scapes. She brought in close to 50 which meant quintupling the recipe we had for garlic scape pesto.

I was making a batch of strawberry jam so my involvement in the pesto was restricted to yelling directions and snapping pictures over my shoulder as I stirred down the boil.

We (barely) managed to get everything in the big mixer and Jess then moved it to two muffin trays for freezing.

I made two batches of jam, turning things over to Jess for the second one.

Happily there were no burns and all of the jars sealed. I spent the time prepping some strawberry rhubarb pie filling.

We canned the first batch of pie filling the next day. I have the strawberries for another one but need the rhubarb to regenerate some after the wine harvest.  The wine is cooking away in the basement and i just about at the right point to kill the ferment (to retain a touch of sweetness). Maybe I will do that tonight, depending on what it tastes like.

The yard was a bit neglected this week. I bought a small kayak so I spent lots of evenings on the river. The dragon flies have arrived to tame the mosquitoes so went took a tour last night. Lots of progress and we have both saskatoons and raspberries to pick--the raspberries around three weeks early this year!

I think we'll be doing some weeding this weekend. I might also break out the food dryer and dry some herbs.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Strawberries and rhubarb

This week has mostly been about strawberries and rhubarb. The rhubarb plants were looking a bit over grown so I cut them back quite a lot and ended up with about 15 pounds of stalks. We juiced them over night, added some sugar, apple juice (frozen from last fall) and some water and started a batch of rhubarb wine.

Strawberry season started a week early this year and we went out to Strawberry Creek Farm by Warburg to pick five gallons. Lovely berries.

We also had an amazing day for it. Warm but not scorching, nice breeze to keep the bugs down. We picked five pails in an hour (for $42) and are now processing them. Some I have frozen for smoothies. I have two batches of jam ready to cook tonight. This weekend I'll also be putting up some strawberry rhubarb pie filling (by far my most popular preserve).

 I spent some time this morning weeding the garden. The rain has resulted in a bunper crop. But some of the vegetables look like they are finally taking off so that was encouraging (especially thinning the carrots). The day lilies are starting to bloom. I still have a few blossoms that have some sort of "bug" so I'm nipping them off and removing. But much less of a problem than last year.

The Saskatoon's are also ripening (also early) so we may need to harvest some to prevent the birds from taking them all.

The other thing of my "must do" list this weekend is harvest the garlic scape and make pesto. I may set Jess to this task tonight while I jam the berries.