Friday, July 23, 2010

Magic Hat

Rosa and I met a fellow blogger this week. Almost all of my readers are relatives or close friends, but this is someone I've known only through my blogging and her blogging. And she has things and skills that I don't have. There's overlap for sure or we wouldn't read each other's writing, but she has sheep! And sheep have wool! And wool makes hats!

Laura's trial hat turned out awesome. There was an accidental blob that easily became a lovely flower (we still had our tie-dying stuff out) and like magic, it turned from loose fluffy wool into this beautiful felted hat.

And it fits perfectly!

Perhaps it shrunk a bit more than we thought? Actually, we just wanted to see how thick we needed to layer the wool for our own winter hats. This was always intended for a doll.

Wool also makes yarn, but I'll show you one day how my spinning is going. It would be the warmest, thickest sweater you've ever seen, with that special handmade "rustic" feature (massive blobs) that you'd pay big bucks for!
Thanks for the spinning lesson and the exchange of goods. It was great to meet you!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Music at the office

We sang an old familiar tune today.

While having a picnic.

With (and for) this old guy at the office.

We forgot the candles, but baby carrots work okay in a pinch. I wouldn't suggest you light them!

And the cheesecake was fabulous! Made and decorated primarily by Laura, who was inspired by one of those cake shows on the Food Network.

This morning she also helped bake this cake. And decorated it alone.

This is for tonight's book club meeting. It's currently sitting in the fridge at the library, ready and waiting for the guests, and for it's thick caramely topping.

And it's a surprise for Yvon. After the cheesecake at lunch I'm sure he thinks the festivities are over. Shhhh!
Happy birthday!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The harvest begins

I'm always impatient with the garden, but really, it's only been six weeks since I planted seeds outside or moved my baby seedlings.

We're eating a few strawberries a day from our own plants, but it would never be enough for waffles, toast and smoothies through the very long winter ahead. So we went here today.

I must say that my only experience with a U-Pick in the past was terrible. It was difficult to find the strawberries among the stinging nettle and other weeds. I wasn't jumping up and down to try it again, but Rosa was going and I thought I might as well give it another try. The idea of very fresh, organic strawberries was very appealing, but the word "organic" also conjured up images of my last weed-field experience.

This was awesome.
Yes, there are weeds, but there was also enough mulch laid down that after a week of heavy rain it wasn't actually muddy. The berries were great - big and easy to pick with not too many gone bad (considering all that rain we had and the subsequent lack of pickers they've had).

After less than two hours we had 25 pounds of berries and helped Rosa pick another 35 or so.
Now I've process only 1/3 of them into sauce, jam and frozen and have a bunch to go. As the only non-rainy day predicted for another week, Yvon mowed two lawns and I did a bit of gardening and outdoor work as well. We're very tired and ready for bed.
I wonder if I'll ever have enough berries at home for even one small batch of jam. It would sure be nice.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Let's walk, shall we?

Just around the gardens, so it won't take long unless you've got a lot of questions or advice.

My remote bed is full of shadows in this picture, but not doing too badly. As at home, the corn isn't doing much there. I companion-planted it with climbing peas but wherever I got that advice didn't live in our climate. The peas are WAAY more advanced than the corn and have nothing to climb. I had a particularly great batch of canola or mustard in this bed that I've never had before. I left it until it bloomed because I thought they might be my zinnias. Alas, while pretty, they were massive weeds and very fast growing. It looks better now. There's still one in this picture.

Now to my own house...

This is the view I see out of my bedroom window and I usually gaze out first thing in the morning as if to see if any miracles happened overnight. Even if it's not the most productive garden, I never got as much enjoyment out of the grass that used to be there.
Just outside the front door is this small bed of tomatoes and a few potatoes. And my two lovely rain barrels from the Italian Centre. They buy their olives in these bulk containers and then sell them off pretty cheaply out the back door. That was quite a find for me this year. I don't think I've ever been that excited by either black plastic or olives.
Calendula and pink poppies can be seen all over the garden. I love the colour of the poppies and their fluffy heads. If I don't think they're choking out anything, I let them grow where they want and easily pull them when they're done (in a couple of weeks). Sometimes I save a cup of seeds for eating or planting again. The calendula is going to be made into a cream for my hands and feet. I started drying the first heads today.

More of the front bed. The carrots need thinning but I was hoping to get some pickling carrots out of them so they still have to grow for a bit. The beans have just started with 1" beans on them. I can't wait! But what's with the garlic in the front? Do they always do this, or were they flattened in the rain? I've never grown garlic before.

Although it's hard to see the brick paths through the jungle of poppies and weeds, this is a triangle of perennial herbs. I've cut the oregano to the ground once and dried it and it's come back looking great after the days of rain we just had.

This is the newest veggie patch, mixed with some of the perennials that I couldn't part with. After removing the big central bush, I must say that I don't miss it at all. Although, I had planned to plant a privacy screen of cucumbers (on the supports shown) and corn. Hmm, do you see how private it is to sit on my new chairs?

No? Sigh. The cucumbers are actually growing, but not reaching for their strings, and this is the corn.

It is growing and is about 1.5 feet high, but it's blooming already. I highly doubt I'll get any cobs off these and no privacy. I'm not sure why I keep trying corn. Although I dumped a bunch of manure in this bed, it's got the worst soil of all my beds. I'm going to work on that. At the end of July I've got more manure coming, and in the fall all of my compost bins are being emptied and dug into my gardens. Over time it should get where I want it to be.

I tried a few fava beans for the first time, hopefully for drying. Beans and tomato paste are among the few canned goods I still buy. I can't make tomato paste (I've tried), but I should be able to stop buying canned beans. These are totally unlike green beans in their growth, so I'm curious to see how the beans form. And they have no interest in the support whatsoever but I put them there because all of the Italians do it. They must know what they are doing, right? Maybe I'll have to tie them to the stakes when they get too tall. I'll walk around Little Italy soon and see what they do.

One of my last purely flower beds. The golden elder died to the ground this winter and is now as tall as I am.

And this allium is very out of season, but I love it. If only there were more. I've just got the one and we've been watching it closely as the flower head formed and is finally blooming.

This is my tiny Evans Cherry tree. The first foot of it has leaves but otherwise looks unpromising. In five years I hope that will not be the case. I surrounded it with the most beautiful tulips (obviously done blooming) and some tiny seeded asters. I never have luck with asters, but I keep trying.

As you round the corner into the back yard, you walk along our new strawberry patch. I've had to cover them to keep the sparrows from getting everything, but even so these strawberries have mostly been wonky and stunted. The patch in the front garden is producing beautiful berries, about five a day. Nothing for jam at them moment! And that Virginia Creeper just will not die. After a white fly infestation I tried to get rid of it two years ago. It's looking healthy this year so I'm giving it a third (?) chance.

I hate the back yard when I look at the big picture, but the garden itself does well back here. The soil must be better and the stucco wall gets nice and hot for tomatoes. I think I'll try peppers here next year if I must do crop rotations.

And this is the original plot that was here when we moved in. Although unappealing to me in it's rectangularness (it's a word if you use it often enough), it actually produces well. The blue delphinium has never been as happy as it is this year.

And I didn't make it out to the alley with the camera, but the sorrel has settled in (I got three plants this year from a friend), the comfrey is doing great (to help speed up the compost), and the raspberries are just starting to turn red. Beth ate the first berry yesterday. The rain should nicely plump them up because I'm pretty irregular about watering the alley.

And that's it. How's your garden doing?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Maximum Headroom

Do you remember that TV show by this name? This post has nothing whatsoever to do with that. This is a post about irrational reactions.

This seems to be a standard height for many parking arcades around here. It is also, by coincidence, the exact height that I used to be before my spine decided to compress a bit. I'm still close to 6' 1" though, and seeing it on the sign makes me nervous. I duck. Even while in the van, I slouch a bit as I go under before I realize what I'm doing.

Our van is not near that height. I've never had a problem going under them. And slouching probably hasn't made a difference.


When you put an old, non-aerodynamic rooftop carrier on your van for the summer, suddenly your vehicle is much taller. Taller even that the nasty maximum headroom pole.

But my memory, as with my back, seems not to be getting any younger. I tried to drive into a downtown arcade today and, distracted by the many girls in the back, I forgot to duck. Only the nasty crunching sound on top of my van reminded me. As I backed up a bit, the pole swung dangerously back in our direction. Sigh...

Although the embarrassment of doing this stupid deed with a van full of kids wouldn't have been my choice, we seem to have reached a point in their lives where they are starting to be sympathetic and helpful and strong. As quickly as we could (in the pouring rain) on the ramp of the parking lot, we emptied the carrier, shoving camping gear into the van at top speed to lighten the load while cars honked at us because we were obstructing their entrance.

Did they think I was having a good time? That I chose this small space to rearrange our equipment? That I would choose to damage my carrier and stand in the rain with four girls under 11 to help me? I couldn't back up because of honking traffic, I couldn't go forward because of the maximum headroom pole. Luckily a kind lady offered to help and we managed to fit the whole carrier and the gear (and the girls) into the van.

We have plans for that carrier yet. We have more camping trips to do. But the first plan is to assess the damage and see how to get it secured on top of the van again.

Thank you, kind lady, for getting wet on our behalf and for your stronger-than-11-year-old muscles.

I think I will continue to duck and slouch through the signs. Maybe it does help. Today I was too distracted by all of the girls to react in my usual way and see what happened?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Deep stuff

In our city, why do we refer to the Northside, Southside, Eastend and Westend?

I believe the sides should be east and west.

I know - deep thoughts for a sunny summer day.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

First week of summer

Summer has just begun and it's been a busy week.

I'm not sniffling so much, but the kids are all going through something. I'm trying to remember to treat my allergies because I think I spend most of each summer feeling stuffed up. In spite of sickness though, we've been having fun so far.

With only one day off of school, we immediately set off for the land of the dinosaurs. We did go to the museum, but it wasn't the highlight. The whole point was to get together with family as we do every three years. It was great to see everyone and it's never really long enough. I didn't even get one game of Scrabble in, but I did play a game of Upwards.

On a day threatening rain (I know - rain in Drumheller?!), a group of 27 of us toured an old coal mine, donning hats and headlights and climbing up to the mine.

And on a day not threatening rain, we went to the Tyrell Museum and hiked through the hills and hoodoos.

The only mountain goat among our small family unit, Beth climbed from the base to the prairie grasses at the hop of the hill with her cousin. It's hard to show how high Beth is in this picture. It's high. See the white dots in the picture below? Those are other people being goats as well.

Looking down makes me nervous so I didn't follow her very high up. I enjoyed the caves and lumps and bumps at the base of the hill with Laura and Alice.

The last time we were in this area, I needed five arms to swat the mosquitoes and wasn't able to step foot out of the tent, and the time before we spent our one day crossing the 11 bridges of Wayne, a trip that was supposed to end at a ghost town but really just ended at...nothing. I was determined to walk in the hills this time and I did.

Family and camping. A great way to start our summer.