Saturday, April 22, 2017

New rain barrel and stand

Spring comes in fits and starts. While we wait for the latest snowfall to melt, Jess and I have been busy knocking one of the long-standing projects off my to-do list: add a second rain barrel to the garage eaves. This entail making a stand. 


With Jenn out of town for a well deserved spa weekend, we decided to tackle this. Jess is currently taking construction at school so I thought this would dovetail with the finer work she's doing on a crib-board project. We also decided to use hand tools--you can still hurt yourself with a hand tool, but not nearly as badly!


The only complicated part of the plans we downloaded from the web was a pair of inset cross-braces at the bottom. I think this was mostly an aesthetic choice by the designer (we likely could have just screwed to the face of the legs). But insetting was a good chance to add in some chisel work.


We did use a power drill (because I'm too old to screw around with a hand drill) to put in some pilot holes and drive the screws. Jess did about 80% of the cutting and drilling and half of the screws. I ended up freehanding the screws on the top decking to save some time (she was pooped out and the angle was tough for her to apply enough force).


The result was pretty much as intended. We even used carpenter's glue! It held my weight no problem and even appeared plumb!


While the glue dried, we fiddled around with the downspouts and managed to fashion a run that moved the water around the corner from the alley and into the backyard. To my surprise, no one cut themselves on the sheet metal.


We then assembled everything and put the new water barrel in place. It looks like we'll get more snow or sleet tonight so hopefully it will fill alright.


The cooler temperatures have meant the garden is still slow. I was able to rake the back finally and some of the perennials are up. The rhubarb has made the most progress.


It always looks so alien coming up from the winter decay. I was quite happy with the rhubarb wine I made last year so we'll do that again this year.


Today we went out and bought potatoes. If the weather improved next week, we'll drop them and some walla-walla onions in the ground.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Getting under way

Spring has finally arrived (a few weeks later than last year) and the garden has thawed and dried out enough to start the season.


As usually, the first plant up was the wild onion. This patch is slowly expanding and there might even be enough of it to get a harvest off!


As we've waited for spring, I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen. One of my goals this year is to learn a few new recipes. Indian seems like a favour so I have been making paneer. And then I've bee cleaning out the veggies we froze last summer to make things like saag paneer.


We decided to start a few plants inside this year. I planted a two types of tomatoes and also the last of the melon seeds (an indoor start may be more effective than our efforts last year). Jess planted a bunch of flowers.


Last weekend, we got out in the back yard to put up the bean and pea trellises. Jess is strong enough to swing the sledge hammer. No injuries so we'll call that a success.


It is a bit hard to see but as the beans and peas rotate into the north bean, we're trying some vertical gardening. Against the fence (right) are the raspberries. The a high trellis with peas and later beans. On the left is a lower trellis for peas and some low plants in the open bed on far left.


After we got all of this banged into place... it snowed. Fortunately, it quickly melted.


This drove us back into the kitchen for some korma and a strawberry-rhubarb pie. We canned the filling last summer and it was delicious.


The melt revealed the first of the bulbs (tulip tarde) are up. Each year I try to clean these guys out of the vegetable bed and move them around front. And, each year, more appear!


While the back bed dried out (again), we planted a couple of hundred storage onions in the front yard.


Jess unearthed a couple of ladybugs to play with so I finished the onions.


 We also got the peas and a few beets in. The chives are also up in the back.


And there are the first few sprouts of the rhubarb. Last year's rhubarb wine was amazing. This year I want to try strawberry wine.


The seed we plated last week are also just beginning to sprout in the window.


So far this weekend, I've cleaned the bed behind the garage. I may plant some lettuce there as the raised beds are warm. The daunted task of raking the lawn also beckons.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Winter activities

Clearly gardening hasn't been high on my list of activities (it is winter in Edmonton, after all!).


One thing I have been doing is attending my community's gardening club's meetings. My interest is in the discussion around the possibility of a community garden. This seems quite exciting (although the approval process is daunting). 


I hosted our last meeting and the educational component was "things from the garden that I have fermented". Jennifer handled the pouring of the various drinks. The rhubarb wine was well received, the hard cider was deemed okay, and the apple jack was reviewed as "smells good". Which is pretty fair--apple jack has pretty intense flavours. Strawberry wine is on my list of summer projects.


For Christmas, I bought Jess some vanilla beans and vodka to make her own vanilla (she uses a lot while baking). She was very excited to get the 26er of vodka in her stocking. I sensed some disappointment with the vanilla beans.

Anyhow, we have cut the beans and they are soaking--this can apparently take up to six months to to get all of the flavour out of the beans but the initial (one month) results are very promising.


In the meantime, we have been trying to enjoy the good weather with skating, skiing and snow shoeing. The hoar-frost this week has been crazy beautiful.


I've also been cooking and trying to use up what we stored last summer and fall. Above I included some oven-dried tomatoes and much of a bottle of rhubarb wine in a risotto, to rave reviews.