Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My "other" garden

So, this year I had access to part of a garden down the block from my house. 

Although I was late getting it in (while waiting for approval to use it), weeds took over while we went away on vacation, and it was tougher to keep up with it because it wasn't under my nose the way my own yard is, there were some successes with this plot.  For one thing, I had no bugs or pests at all the way I did at my own house. 

I grew corn!  The cobs were small, but every corn stalk produced one cob.  Other than watering it, the corn was super low maintenance, very tasty and we fed between 5 and 7 people from it five times and froze two meals.  Not spectacular maybe, but more than I've ever managed.  And eating corn half an hour after picking it is just the best.  Of all the veggies I grow, corn is the most effected by freshness.  As soon as you pick it, the sugars in the corn change and it's really quite noticable. 

The potatoes were crappy, but I was warned in advance that potatoes were grown there in the past and were very scabby.  I had a few seed potatoes given to me though, so I threw them in anyway.  They weren't all that scabby, but there were very few of them.  I think that a neighbourhood kid raided them once too, leaving a few potatoes laying on top of the soil. 

The leeks were planted really, really late.  An afterthought, really, but they weren't bad either.  Again, really low maintenance.  We ate a meal of peas as well. 

The star of the show were the rows of carrots.  I'm absolutely terrible at thinning carrots.  I think the weeds worked in my favour here. 

We couldn't really see the carrots among the weeds after our holiday, so the girls and I just pulled a lot until we could see what we were doing.  Once the row emerged, we hoed between the rows and kept hand-pulling the weeds within. 

It worked.  I harvested quite a few meals and they were larger than the carrots in my own garden. 

I didn't mean to make this an inventory of my freezer, but it does help me to remember what worked and what didn't.  I'll read this post again next year and know how that plot produced. 

The renter in the house is a lady with plans and ambition but less follow through than a garden requires.  That meant she planted a lot but weeded only once, had an awesome strawberry patch but never once picked them, planted tomatoes but again never picked any of them, and had some awesome cabbages, but just when they were at their peak and should have been picked, she allowed the slugs to totally eat them. 

And she never cut her small patch of lawn. 

I personally didn't care during the summer what she did with her area of the garden.  It was a pity that her stuff all was wasted, but it didn't effect my own area. 

But then the neighbour told me that she was recommending that the home owner get rid of the garden and plant grass.  She had picked the strawberries a few times and mowed the lawn every time it bothered her.  She figured it would be easier for the renter to mow than maintain a garden. 

But grass?  The rented doesn't cut grass as it is.  I gave the neighbour a meal of carrots and asked her to reconsider.  I can't see how there is anything to be gained by planting an unused lawn.  It won't be cut again, and just create more work.  I selflessly volunteered to garden the plot again (you caught that, right?) and I sure hope they don't plant grass.   With permission to garden there again, I can properly plan what to plant and make sure I start enough seed and get it all in a few weeks earlier.  We'll see what happens next spring.  I really liked the extra produce and the actually even liked the long farm-like rows. 

I think I'll write the renter a little note of thanks and slip it in her mailbox tomorrow and hope for the best.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Too little too late

 Unless I'm with close friends or with the hippies of the new millenium, I usually lay pretty low about the ladies in our yard. However, today they deserve a post of their own and my readership of 2 is likely sympathetic to the backyard chicken.

For the last few months, the ladies haven't been producing very well.  Usually one a day between the two of them.  That's not terrible, but for a family of five it still means a regular supply needs to be purchased from elsewhere.  We've been happily eating from a farming friend of Rosa's, but we always prefer our own.  Our ladies have freedom over the backyard, eating weeds and bugs and mice (if they are quick).  That makes for darker, tastier yolks and the eggs are really big as well.  Well over the extra-large egg standard.

In the spring I've keep them cooped to give my garden seedlings a chance to grow to a defensible size, but then they are out again.  I think the problem with the lack of eggs started in August.  Some days there was nothing.   Well, they are getting old.  Production is expected to decrease, right?  But it did seem weird. 

One day, in the prickly squash plants, I found an egg.  Who knew how old it was.  I floated it in water, comparing it to a fresh egg and it definitely floated differently.  Out it went. 

So, I fully expected to find a hoard of old eggs in the garden somewhere once I cleaned it out and the leaves died back.  Nothing.  The back garden is totally cleared and I found nothing. 

Yesterday, I heard quiet clucking in the unused sand box area.  Under a table (part of Alice's kitchen setup for mud cakes and dirt soup) I found this.  Clearly Alice has moved beyond dirt soup this summer.  She could have been making real, edible, scrambled eggs instead.

Seven eggs!  Two fresh, and five will be whacked with a shovel in the compost and immediately buried. 

Anyway, the title of the post is "Too little too late".  Due to age, low productivity, dwindling numbers, and an expected hard winter ahead, this is their last day with us.  They are moving to their retirement home in the country this afternoon and I hope they get along with their new friends.  It will certainly be warmer in a more heavily populated coop and they won't be judged for their lack of productivity.  I just hope their country cousins don't make fun of their city-slicker ways.   Will they recognize a hawk or a coyote?  Do they have the instict to run for cover? 

Good luck, Heeny Monteeny and Jambon!  We'll miss you around here, but I think you'll be happy.  And now we can be sloppy about gate latches.

Friday, October 14, 2011

On my toes

Birthdays do that to me.  Keep me on my toes. 

I knew Beth had a birthday party to go to tonight, but somehow that didn't translate in my mind to "That girl will need a present".  And it didn't occur to Beth either. 

However, I had a bit of time tonight to create this little book cover.  Quick and easy and it turned out great.  Phew.  Just a bit of panic, but all is well. 

I can't remember when I last bought a birthday present.  I hope kids aren't sick of my gifts yet or think we're incredibly cheap.  I'd have trouble thinking of a 13-year old gift anyway and there's not much worse than wandering a mall with no real sense of purpose.  Blech. 

Thanskgiving and a new venture

I've been remiss. A lot has been going on around here and I haven't been sharing.

My parents came up over the weekend and we had a really good time together. They came primarily for a wedding, but we saw them much more than the wedding couple did. We celebrated our 17th anniversary over the weekend too, and Mom and Dad took the kids to A&W for supper while Yvon and I had a little date night. That's a rare thing these days. Thank you!

This year we had Thanksgiving leftovers before we'd had our own meal.  Getting together with friends over food is always a good time and the kids always have fun too.  I think by that time Mom and Dad welcomed the break from our  noisy activity too.  They would have been more than welcome to come, but they volunteered to babysit our own turkey roasting in the oven. 

I haven't often prepared a whole Thanksgiving Dinner with all the fixin's, but it went off without a hitch. Oh, one hitch.  The cranberry sauce is still in my cupboard!  A small detail.  The table was so full that no one noticed until well after the dishes were done. 

In spite of the fact that Mom doesn't like to can, the pears were most definitely ripe while she was here and when everyone grabbed a knife or peeler, we had all 40 pounds peeled and done in no time. It would have taken me hours on my own. And as Mom and Dad were leaving, on Tuesday I had a big pot of tomatoes on the stove and apple juice juicing too. I still have more tomatoes to do, so I might even get close to my 50 pints worth of tomatoes this year. I have 23 quarts downstairs already.

Mom finished what she kept calling an "ugly quilt". It was meant for Dad, and although not very manly in color, I would definitely not call it ugly. Laura was happy to keep it for her bed. I actually really like it and it's what I would consider trying myself one day and be very proud of it too.

The girls and I have been busy with a little venture lately.

Since our trip to the US this summer, we've been twisting wire into fun shapes.

But what to do with all this jewelry? We're hoping to earn our supplies cost and maybe get a bit of Christmas spending money by selling some of it.

The girls are great at it and have some really nice ideas, so I do hope that some of it will sell.

The first sale is tonight. It's a fairly crafty audience though, so we may not make many sales yet. We're mostly gearing up for a Christmas sale at the community league in a month.

Mom gave me the idea of living a picture frame with velvet and hanging jewelry from it. I don't think this is exactly how she said to do it, but it works and looks great. 

Because one boy at this school had used my sandwich bags for most of last year with good results and interest from friends, I'm hoping that a few of these bags will sell. Any crafty person can sew these up in a jiffy (nothing I do is rocket science), but some people won't bother. And if they figure out how to make them theirselves and do it, that's great too. Fewer disposable ziplock bags in the school garbage cans and I think everyone wins.

I'll report later how the sale went. Now I have some carrots to dig up and leeks to dehydrate. That will leave only the swiss chard, cabbages, turnips and beets in the garden. Slowly, slowly it's all coming into the house.