Saturday 30 June 2018

We're Having a Heat Wave...

And so, after a little musical interlude... we are indeed, having a heat wave. I personally don't mind it, but I know a lot of people tend to melt in these circumstances and find it difficult to function.

I'll begin by saying that I made a small batch of strawberry jam about a week or two ago. This year I did some things differently. I did use my own strawberries, but as I mentioned previously, they weren't stellar. I decided to use liquid Certo. Usually I use the packages of powdered Certo, so we'll see if this is any better (when I try the jam in the winter).

Have any of you tried the liquid before?

Trust me, it doesn't change the indecent amount of sugar you use to make jam.
That's only part of the sugar required.

Here are the berries before being cooked with the sugar and Certo. One other thing I did differently was using this:

Instead of using a potato masher to crush the berries before cooking, I just put the berries in a big pot with the sugar and Certo, then once everything was mixed up nicely and starting to heat up, I used the hand blender to mash up the berries. I think it might make a more consistent jam with smaller bits of strawberry.

I've already given away two small jars to co-workers as an end of the year thankyou.

This morning, before the extreme heat set in, I set to a task that has been bugging me, but I've been stretched in too many directions and have been to exhausted to get to. Our front walkway to the porch:

What a mess! I had weeded it much earlier when Spring first arrived, but the weeds and some perennials have been growing pretty steadily in the cracks ever since. So I grabbed my trusty kneeling pad, a big bucket to throw the weeds into, and my handy slicer that gets between the cracks.

With sweat literally dripping off the end of my nose, shifting between kneeling, standing and bending, squatting, and sitting on my rear end, I worked my way down the path until it looked one hundred percent better. I even tackled a few weeds in the beds on either side of the walk. I massacred my fingernails in the process. I am NOT a high maintenance woman with manicured nails. Quite frankly, they are still slightly stained from strawberry juice and previous weeding.
But they really took a beating with this job.

However, after a quick sweep, things look so much better. I even shared a moment with a hummingbird just a few steps away at the hummingbird feeder.

Husband and I ended up having a dip in the pool in the afternoon and again with the "kids" after supper when everyone was home from work.

If you have any doubt how extremely hot it was today, here is a picture of Samson melting on the concrete bench in the shade.

His face says it all.

Tuesday 26 June 2018

Late June gardening

I'm here to declare that my strawberries have made me sad this year. Last year I had huge berries in abundance. I do not know if it stayed too cold for too long, or if there wasn't enough rain in the late spring, or if the bindweed has simply won. (What do you do with an infestation of bindweed short of nuclear annihilation? )

I have picked some berries, but they are small and don't even have that delicious aroma of ripe berries when I have a bowl of them in the kitchen. They are quite seedy, which may seem a strange thing to say since all strawberries are quite seedy, but they are more seedy than normal. And so it makes me sad because I was looking forward to many bags of frozen berries as well as replenishing my jam supplies. I did make one batch of jam, but I like to do two or three. Maybe by the weekend?

I have referred to my increasingly shrinking vegetable garden and here it is in all its glory. Three quarters of my garden is strawberries and a big ol' rhubarb which you can see in the corner, gone to seed but still producing. I guess I should say strawberries and weeds, with a couple of paths thrown in.

This year my husband made four protection "cages" for my seedlings. He used fencing boards and chicken wire. They are heavy enough to stay in place, but light enough to be easily lifted and moved. I've lost so many young plants and seedlings to rabbits, birds, and other critters, so I asked him to create something like this. He's so talented that he whipped these up in no time. In the foreground you can see tomato plants with tomato cages in place. The blue strips are plastic bag that I cut into strips to flap around in the breeze with the hopes of deterring birds. I've had birds come along and snip young tomato plants right off. These are surviving nicely.

Underneath my protection frames I have: beets, two kinds of lettuce, green beans, peas, onions, peppers and basil. The peppers and basil are too tall to fit under the frames, so I put rocks under the edges to raise the frame up. I also have cucumbers, zuchinni, and potatoes. The potatoes are just starting to come through the soil.

Here is a closer look at one of the frames. They are as long as the length of a fence board. They are as wide as a fence board cut in half. They could probably be a little longer, but that would have made them harder to build quickly and cheaply. Yes, I am still using white plastic spoons as row labels, written on with sharpie marker. The protection frames are definitely doing their job. The beans growing under it are healthy and getting bigger. The beans that are not covered by the frame are chewed and half the size.

My vegetable garden is not very big anymore, but I try to cram a lot into a little space. And I plant throughout the season. I can't wait for the "firsts" - first lettuce in a salad, first ripe cherry tomato, first beans eaten right in the garden.

We are in for a few scorcher days in Ontario. I honestly don't mind and we don't even have air conditioning. Our old house stays quite cool, on the first floor. The upstairs bedrooms do get warm, but every room has ceiling fans and we have a small window air conditioner in our bedroom. I'll keep the garden watered and watch things grow!

Saturday 23 June 2018

Guardian Angel?

Friday evening came with complete and total exhaustion. I normally do the cooking and we've been severely cutting back on eating out, but since husband and I were alone for this evening (both kids working, or out), we went out to a "local" restaurant for good, simple food and a beer. It was much needed.

After supper, we just drove around a little. It's amazing how you can live somewhere for as many years as we have and still find roads you've never travelled on. We drove past a farm that seemed to have every kind of animal - cows, goats, sheeps, horses, and a llama. Stop the car! I needed to spend some time animal watching. So husband turned around and pulled over. I put the car window down. Every animal seemed totally contented, eating grass, and none of them were making a sound. I really wanted to hear the goats and the sheep.

I took a picture of some of the animals, including the llama. It saw our car and heard me talking, and it came closer and closer and closer. Here is a succession of pictures of the Guardian Llama, clearly on the job.

This llama was no doubt a guardian animal. It had no qualms about getting closer to our vehicle. If you are not familiar with the concept of a guardian animal, many farmers use llamas as protection for their sheep or other livestock as llamas will alert livestock to a predator, such as a coyote. Llamas will also physically ward off a predator. Some even get to know their people so well, that they will chase away other humans. This llama didn't seem particularly aggressive, more curious.

Sometimes I just need animal therapy. I love seeing a flock of sheep, or a herd of cattle in the grass, or even wild turkeys strutting their stuff in the mornings on my way to work. If money were no object, I would love a little hobby farm. But money, and time, is a consideration, so presently it is two cats. I am, however, toying with the idea of having a small flock of chickens again. Husband seems to be on board. There are just things that need improving with the chicken coop (which is still standing on our property), and putting in a water line so I am not lugging buckets of water through thigh-high snow.

So, here's the question: if you had an animal guardian, what would it be? I think I might choose some muscular sleek big cat, like a panther or cougar to protect me (do cougars purr?).

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Will this Matter in a Day? a Week? a Month? a Year from Now?

Tonight, with my daughter's help, I purchased a large pale pink album with plastic sleeves inside. I also purchased  two floral boxes, one medium sized, the other a little smaller. In these items will be placed papers and drawings and little bits and pieces of two little lives so that their mother can cherish them because that is all she has left.

Please consider, when you snap at your spouse, or become impatient with someone in a workplace, or even judge yourself harshly, will it matter in a day, or next week, or will you even think of or remember it next year. Life is just so incredibly precious. It can all go so horribly wrong in an instant and wouldn't you rather have wonderful memories and feel good about your last exchange with someone?

Please also be diligent with safety. Please check all of your smoke detectors and maintain your vehicles, and look both ways, and don't dive into the shallow end. Don't get into a car with someone who shouldn't be driving. Wear your helmet. Listen to your little voice.

As well, enjoy your life. Tell the people you love, that you love them. Make someone's day brighter. Buy yourself those shoes. Bend down and take the time to watch your little ones explore the anthill, or pick the flower. Then put the flower in a little glass of water in a cherished spot.

Monday 11 June 2018

glorious compost

I wrote this yesterday:

I've just come in from being out in the garden for a couple of hours. I always get my vegetable garden in relatively late compared to others due to this being a very busy work time for me every year. I drove around to two different garden centres, disappointed to find they had no four packs of tomatoes. Not even a sad little zucchini plant, either. I did pick up seed potatoes and onion sets and some bean, pea, beet, and lettuce seeds. I ended up in our little village at the family run greenhouse to discover they did have plenty of tomato plants left and some peppers and (yay!) zucchinis!

I also picked up six bags of composted cow manure. I'm never sure which to buy: cow or sheep. I went for the larger animal this time. They were the same price anyway.

I had already hand dug my "increasingly smaller" vegetable garden, but it was time to rototill. My husband had unearthed my best friend, the rear-tine tiller, from the shed (past car parts and an actual car - well, a project car, perhaps we could call it a potential car...) .

You might think he is a lazy sod who doesn't do gardening work for his wife, but I prefer to do it myself. Gardening is my main form of exercise in nice weather and I get an incredible sense of exhausted accomplishment from doing 99% of the work myself. The rare time I will ask him to build something I need, or perhaps dig if I've hit an unmoveable rock (which happens more times than you think) or the ground is the consistency of dried cement). I ripped open and shook out the composted manure on my garden and tilled it in. This is the first year the tiller didn't get caught up on a big rock and proceed to dig itself to China. I take that as a good sign.

Then I felt the need to dig the twitch grass from around the front, open side of the composter. It looked ugly - and yes, I ridiculously care what my compost container looks like. I discovered that there was some pretty nice compost in there. So I grabbed a couple of big round bins and dug the fresh contributions off the top. I would save those to put in once I had taken all of the well-composted mixture out. Would you believe I had almost two full wheel barrows of lovely rich dark compost. I tipped that on my garden and raked it through. Every once in a while I had to stand in the shade of a tree and pant like a dog. Not that I'm complaining about the heat, but it is tiring work.

Once I emptied almost all of the compost out of the container (made from three pallets by my kids under my direction), I put back the two big bins of fresh material so that it could continue the process. I have high hopes for my little garden this year. (Oh, and for the benefit of any readers from "across the pond", we Canadians call a garden the actual piece of soil in which flowers, vegetables, or shrubs grow. The rest of the area we call our yard. Front yard, back yard, side yard... Sometimes we might call it a bed e.g. a perennial bed or an asparagus bed.)

I must now get busy with supper preparations. I've ripped off a few more rhubarb stalks. Dessert for tonight in some form or another. I may take some stalks to work for anyone who wants them. There's no way I'll use it all or need to freeze it all. It's roast chicken breast and a quinoa salad tonight.

Sunday 10 June 2018

Car Show Day

Yesterday was almost perfect, if that's possible. We hadn't been out doing something fun for I don't know how long - long over due for many reasons. My husband has a love of cars and has had since he was young. He loves British cars and currently drives an older model Jaguar. I personally just love vehicles that go, and prefer to be higher off the ground which is handy when driving through our six to seven months of winter. He loves car shows and especially loves British car shows. I love to be out in my garden, but we each do things that make the other happy, so it was off to a British car show together yesterday.

The location was about an hour away from us and the route was a nice one. On the way there, we met these guys.

They were just tiny. We hoped Mama Raccoon was close by, ready to give the signal that it was safe.

The location of the car show was a "village" built around ski hills. Here is what ski hills look like in the summer.

Can you see the treeless strips on the side of the hill, past the houses? Husband and I are not skiers, but both our kids have skied here before.

The car show itself was set up in the middle of the "downtown" core of this ski village. We drove past some gorgeous condos and homes set inside the village. There are also hotels and convention centers and many rental places. All of it was neatly kept and very impressive.

In this picture, you can see some of the cars brought for the show, as well as some stores with rental accommodations above and an outdoor patio of a restaurant. You can also see the big long slope on which people were walking up and down the side of the hill. In the summer months, there are tons of mountain bikers who ride down the side of the ski hills on trails. As well, there is also a track you can ride down in little sled-like cars, and a zipline.

As I said earlier, I'm not the car fanatic in our family and car shows can be pretty deadly after the first fifteen minutes of walking around, but this one yesterday was wonderful. I could walk around and look at the shops. There were so many people that people watching could have gone on all day. (And dog watching because a vast number of people brought their dogs). We ended up parked right beside a beautiful car (an Aston Martin) and a lot of people were attracted to it, so I was always entertained.

There are many shops and restaurants.

There was even live music. These guys were great, played a range of music, and had a sense of humour.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of lunch. We ate at a brew master restaurant that featured a huge amount of craft beers which is a big thing now. My meal was a falafel burger that was to die for, but so huge (and tall) that it was difficult just holding it and eating it so that parts of it didn't slide out. Even the fries were excellent. The big glass of beer went down well on the hot day that was yesterday.

We also got a text from dear friends who we haven't seen in a while asking if we wanted to come for a visit later, which we did, and it was so good to see them again and have great conversation and a walk around the property. We ended up on their covered back porch each choosing songs from our "youth" to listen to on their newly purchased big Bluetooth speaker they had set up outside (They, like us, are in a very rural setting, so no worries about bothering the neighbours).

Are there any other "long suffering" wives of car guys out there? Although, yesterday didn't involve much suffering in such a lovely surrounding.

Saturday 2 June 2018

Feathers and Flowers

We have lovely neighbours down the road in our little village who have a collection of interesting birds. His name is Lorne and he has wonderful, large enclosures where he keeps very special care of doves and pheasants and guinea fowl and peacocks. He has also had a beautiful old fashioned pair of turkeys and some quail. These are the neighbours from whom we obtained our two runner ducks. They met untimely ends, those runner ducks, but they were very interesting while we had them.

My daughter and her boyfriend went for a walk the other evening, while it was still light, and stopped into say hello. Betty knew who she was right away, but it had been years since Lorne had seen our daughter. When he realized who she was, he invited both her and her boyfriend to come back and see all of his wonderful creatures. His peacocks are in their mating season (we know, we can hear their calls from our house). The gorgeous white peacock had knocked off a few feathers, so our daughter came home with four of them.

Here are some pictures of Scooter-the-cat-with-no-tail enjoying a very unique cat toy!

I wonder if he was thinking, "I wouldn't mind a shot at the rest of this bird!"

And now, in celebration of the fact that only about one month and five days ago we had snow, here are some blooms from my home. A periwinkle blue centaurea and a purple iris with beautiful yellow centres.