Friday, July 31, 2009

No more paper!!!

About a year ago I decided not use any paper products (except for toilet paper). Time to get rid of the paper. Particularly paper tissues, napkins and paper towels. I already made a bunch of hankies, I have about a dozen cloth table napkins and I use old cotton t-shirts and bath towels for rags. Just cut them up and zig zag the edges, really easy.

At Christmas and other gift giving occasions I use recycled gift bags, fabric, tea towels and baskets. Just look around, be creative, you will surprise yourself at how easy it is to stop using paper.

I found myself very short on dish cloths and with inspiration from Said the Hobbit I tried my hand at knitting my very own.


With a fourth one almost half way done.

My mom knits these up in mere minutes and with her eyes closed. I'm on my way to Vancouver and this weekend mom will show me some new patterns. I won't get them done in minutes but I'm working towards that.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

For the love of tomatoes

I tried some different tomatoes this year, Black Krim, Yellow cherry and my standard Roma and cherry tomatoes. The Roma and red cherry tomatoes are not quite ready but the other ones are.
I'm not sure if the heat is making the Black Krim soft but even though they are still green on top and in the middle they are soft, juicy and really sweet.

Lunch today - home made whole wheat bread, slathered with mayo and thick tomato slices with fresh cracked black pepper and salt. Heaven!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's a heatwave

The weatherman predicts we are half way through our "once in a lifetime" heatwave. The normally temperate West Coast is experiencing daytime temps in the low to mid 30s Celsius with high humidity and evening lows of 20 to 22C. Ontario, which usually gets these types of temps, is colder and wetter than normal, Global Warming perhaps?

So my garden is in shambles. Almost everything is picked, the only things left are tomatoes, green peppers, jalapenos, my struggling eggplants and the pumpkins. But none of them are really happy. My tomatoes will have to be pulled, they have wilted and some of the branches are dry and yellow, it's not the heatwave, it's something missing in the soil because the problem showed up some time ago but I'm not sure what it is. The tomatoes in the other greenhouse are doing just fine. I wonder if tomatoes have been growing in the same beds for too many years? This is only my second year and who knows; the previous owners could have been growing tomatoes here since they bought the place..hmmm!

On a good note, the pan de zucchero I transplanted is growing well and the radicchio seeds I put down have sprouted and are showing their true leaves. The broccoli seeds have also sprouted but the Brussels sprouts and cauliflower have not made an appearance.

Pan de zucchero in the back, radichio in the front and flanked on both sides by weeds!!! It's just to hot to get out there and pull them. I tried working in the evening but the skeeters ate me alive!

And the potatoes..are they ready to pull? The leaves are turning yellow and dying off.

This year my veggie garden will be a stop in the first ever Powell River Edible Garden Tour, let's hope I have something to show and more importantly something Edible.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gold Yukon Potatoes

This was my first try at growing potatoes and I'm really wondering why it took me so long..

They are super easy, hilling them is not a huge deal, and they taste divine.

I purchased 25 seed potatoes, dug a hole about 12" deep, plopped one potato in each hole and lightly covered the potato with about 5 " of dirt. When the leaves poked through I covered the hole with more dirt, but always keeping some green showing and then when the hole was filled I started hilling the potato leaves. And voila, potatoes.

I started digging them up about 3 weeks ago. As I was cleaning them with the hose (power clean attachment) the skins came right off, no peeling. Maybe it's because they are so new.

In the picture below the really white potatoes don't have any skin but you see that little tiny potato to the right? It still has it's jacket on. I like them either way but I had fun blasting them with the hose and seeing the skin come right off. These turned into mashed potatoes.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Late last summer I found a gooseberry bush in our backyard, the berries were red and somewhat dried out. I missed the peak gooseberry season! They were growing right next to the garage behind some tall weeds. Art dug it up and moved it to the new veggie patch he made, together with 3 blueberry bushes we were given. Looking back putting the berry bushes with our veggies was not a good idea and they will be moved but that story is for another time.

Anyway the gooseberries, best I can tell, are ready. They were picked last night and wow are they a prickly bunch of berries. The bush would be well placed under first floor windows - thieves would have a hard time getting through them unscathed.

I picked the stem and flower ends and gave them a quick wash, ate a handful or two, they really are very good. And then what??? My husband asked for jam so gooseberry jam it is.

I got all my supplies ready, read the recipe from my Ball Home Preserving book only to find that I'm one cup short of fruit, I should not have eaten those two or three handfuls of berries. But they were so good...

I went looking through my fridge and cupboards for fruit I could us to top up the mashed gooseberries. That's when I remembered making zucchini orange marmalade years ago with my mother in law. Why not use some zucchini? It worked really well in marmalade and works well in zucchini bread, really you don't even taste the zucchini, so I came up with Gooseberry Zucchini Jam. Delicious!!!


Friday, July 24, 2009

Too many green onions (scallions)

I finally had to pull my green onions, they were getting quite thick, the green was starting to yellow and they were way too strong to have in a salad. I started substituting green onions for regular yellow onions but I still had too many.

As I was pulling them I tried to figure out what to do with them and I came up with the idea of drying them. Not a new idea by any means but new to me. I didn't have a chance to browse the Internet for the "how tos" of drying green onions so I just winged it.

I cleaned them and sliced them fairly thin, then dried them in a tea towel and they onto a cookie sheet. I tried to dry them in a cold oven but it was taking too long so I turned the oven to warm, about 180F for about 5 hours. Still not dry enough but way too hot during the day to have the oven on. I turned the oven on again in the evening at the same temp for about 3 hours, still not dry enough but I'd had enough. The next day was sunny but cool and chose this day for my baking. When I turned the oven off, I would put the onions in, this worked really well and they dried out enough for storing. They are sweet and really crunchy, the color is not as vibrant as as the freeze dried veggies you get in a dry veg soup mix but much tastier.

Drying on a cookie sheet.

Finished product.

And I used about a 1/4 cup of dried onions to make ham, onion, garlic and cheese biscuits for breakfast this morning, superb.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Chickens - Smart or not so smart?

I haven't mentioned the chickens in some time..the reason?? they keep escaping. In fact one chicken had a nest with three eggs in it two doors down from ours. My chickens were there so often that the young boy living there had names for them.

Who said chickens were not smart? As soon as my husband figured out and plugged their escape route they would find another. So what is so dumb about the chickens? Well, once they escaped, we would call for them and they would come running from everywhere, until they reached a fence and then..they would need help to get back in because they forgot how they escaped in the first place.

Our yard is fenced but for our dog not our chickens so for peace of mind my husband increased the size of the original chicken run and they are no longer permitted free access to the large back yard. Life is back to normal and we are not checking on the chickens every hour....

The chicken's now have twice as much room as before. Their yard extends to the greenhouse on the right. That was going to be a new veggie bed next year so I'll have to find another spot.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday's harvest

The first of my Italian flat green beans were ready for picking today. I had some for lunch with mashed potatoes from the garden. So simple and so delicious.

These are just a few of the many green beans still to come. I will freeze as much as I can for winter, but they are so good that I may not have too many.

And the first cherry tomatoes were also ready for picking tucked away in the middle of the plant. They barely made it to the kitchen for a picture.

I picked the last of the snap peas two days ago and the plants are now in the compost. Next the lettuce will be pulled. I'm mad at myself for planting more than I could finish. I gave lots of it to my neighbours but it was still too much, I'll remember that for next year. I wonder if I can put some seeds down now or if it will be to hot??? I might give it a try.
So now I have lots of room for some fall and winter veggies. I'll put down turnips, again, and beets in some of the empty spaces. I sure hope the broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts will start. I already let the seedlings dry out a little too much. It looks like the broccoli survived but I'm not sure about the rest.
And the potatoes..should I pull them all or can they sit in the ground for a little bit longer? The leaves are just starting to turn yellow. Anyone know?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cherries and more cherries and maybe not so many

The cherries have been ready for some time and we have been feasting. And, just as I did last year I preserved some to enjoy through winter.

Unfortunately this year we had two terrible rain storms that severely affected the cherry harvest. Rain is death to cherries, they split, then bugs get in there and they rot. The first rain got the cherries as they were starting to ripen and the second rain when they were ready to pick.

This made picking difficult because we had to pick just the right ones which turned to be about one in three. Well the chickens were happy ...

Yesterday I jarred some cherries in light syrup. Some with stones and some without, to tell the truth I just plain got tired of pitting cherries with a paper clip, hence the two types. I really need to get a cherry pitter.

Pitting cherries. Well pit one, eat one.

And the final product.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We are gonna have a party..

Good news to share today. My son and daughter in law were married in early April and we are finally having the late Aug.

There are many reasons for the late reception and I won't go into all the details but the happy couple decided to have the reception, a backyard barbecue, in my home. We are expecting about 40 guests from Vancouver, Toronto and Powell River.

I have a busy month ahead of me and with budgets stretched very tight I have to get very creative to pull this off without a glitch and without it costing a bomb.

The men will be responsible for making sure the yard is comfortable come sun or rain. We looked at renting a tent .. hard to believe but the party folks want 300.00 to rent a 20 X 20' tent. So whatever the men come up with, my sisters and I will have to make it look nice. Decorating ideas are very welcome.

I'll start baking bread, muffins and cookies and buy a little extra meat whenever it's on sale and stock pile my freezer. It's expensive to take the ferry and most of the family will also have to book a hotel - I don't want any of our visitors to spend money to eat out.

I really hope my veggie patch will give me lots of goodies, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, patty pans, green beans and onions, that will also save a lot... eggs won't be a problem :).

During this time I will be participating in the Powell River 50 mile challenge which won't be easy but I'm determined to serve as much local food at the reception as I can.

Phew!!! lots to think about and more importantly lots to do but I am so looking forward to visiting with family and friends. Oh and one more thing..lets hope for hot and dry weather.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Freezing eggs

Well..who knew eggs could be frozen, not me...

I was walking my dog and ran into my next door neighbour, we started chatting about this and that and she asked how my chickens were doing, "Great, great, love them many eggs from only six chickens". It just happens she used to have chickens to and with only two people in her house she had the same "too many eggs" problem. Freeze them she tells me, no, really? Yup and cook them up during winter when the chickens don't lay as many eggs. Perfect for scrambled eggs, omelettes, quiche and baking.

Still not really believing it I tried freezing 4 eggs and defrosted them and ate them today, delicious, you would never know they were frozen.

Freeze your eggs in small batches which works out well for me, 4 eggs is enough to scramble or make an omelet for me and my husband. Crack them into a container, add a pinch of salt, and mix with a fork without adding too much air to your egg mixture.

Pour into a small container, leaving 1/2 inch head space or into a zip lock bag. I chose a zip lock bag because I can lay it flat. Make sure you date your egg mixture and use it with 6 months.

Defrost in the fridge overnight or run cold water over the zip lock bag and make sure you cook the defrosted eggs right away.

Breakfast this morning, frozen scrambled eggs with spring onions from the garden and a bagel.

So I best get cracking...


Monday, July 13, 2009

Getting ready for winter planting

For the first time I'm planting a winter garden. This is certainly not a new idea but I was a little lost as to where to begin. I ran into this Winter Gardening Chart from Territorial Seeds in Oregon. The chart is really easy to read which bolstered my confidence.

Over the last week I pulled all my carrots. I peeled, cut, blanched and froze one large zip lock bag. Some of the carrots were marred with the evil carrot rust fly but I harvested enough carrots to try growing them again. This time with the help float covers, hopefully this will keep the carrot rust fly away.

Sugar peas were also picked, blanched and frozen, with many more on the vine. I didn't know but peas can also be planted again in September for an early spring harvest. I'll have to keep that in mind and if there is room I'll put some down.

Now, these sorry little plants were started by my mom and transplanted into my garden upon my return from Vancouver. They are Pan de Zucchero, a lovely fall chicory that is delicious as a salad, it can also be cooked but I've never had it cooked. If all goes well I should be able to harvest in the fall. In the front of the bed I planted Radicchio seeds which will be ready to harvest from November onwards.

I started broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, a little late but hopefully these will work. I planted them in regular soil because the soiless mixture you find in the spring was nowhere to be found in Powell River. Peat pellets were also missing so fingers crossed my little seedling escape wilting when they are just small. Next year I must buy enough supplies for winter planting. If my seeds fail I'll keep my eyes open for starter plants.

And..very exciting for me as a first time potato grower, is my first potato harvest. The red potatoes are from my neighbors garden and the Yukon gold are from my garden. Guess what's for dinner tonight?

And my biggest and most important garden helper? ..Mr. Bee. I planted hollyhocks on the North side of the garden and the bees love them.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Back to the real world

Although I spent a few days in Vancouver I also had a few days off from work prior to my trip.
Everyone needs some down time, even from the garden. The flowers and veggies were watered but I did no weeding, staking or puttering.

What did I do will all my extra time? Well some of it was spent at Gibson's Beach watching the sunset.

Some of the time was spent at the float cabin swimming and boating.

And well just fooling around.

I sure hope you all get to play this summer, it's good for the soul.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Heading to Vancouver

New in my shop. A vintage style kitchen towel made of 100% lint free cotton.

I'm heading to Vancouver for a few to you Wednesday.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Last year I harvested about 30 artichokes, small but delicious. I processed them for the freezer and twice in the dead of winter I made hot artichoke and spinach dip as an appy. I don't know if you noticed but in Canada canned artichokes are very expensive so I was thrilled to have them in the freezer and I was looking forward to more of the same this year. Well...maybe not.

Of my 6 artichoke plants I have two small artichokes. So what's the problem? A fellow gardener I just met a few weeks ago told me that artichokes don't last very long, maybe five years and to extend their life I should separate them or sever the babies from the mother plant by a deep cut with a long shovel. I have not been able to confirm this method but I'll try it on one plant.

I noticed my next door neighbour's plants were in worst shape than mine and they are literally 20 feet apart, so I think it might have been our colder than usual winter.