Friday, August 31, 2012

Crossing things off the list

We crossed a few things off our summer list last weekend and had a great time doing it.  

 Although I've known about the Torrington Gopher Museum for a long time, I thought maybe it might  be a bit ... grim or creepy to see a bunched of stuffed gophers.  Then I read a book this year called "Road Tripping" about a group of friends who take Alberta road trips every year together.  Some of the province's quirky sites made it to their list of stops, and the description of Torrington sounded quite fun.  So we stopped on our way to my parents'.

Totally worth the detour!  I thought it might take 5 minutes to go through the one-room schoolhouse, but it took quite a while to take in the details.  

It didn't help that Laura and I kept breaking out in hysterical laughter.  Or maybe it did help!  I am sure the museum is meant to be amusing.  Seeing the pants on this guy made us go back to the beginning and look closely at the clothes. 

Gophers don't have much in the way of legs, so pants seemed to be a problem.  The solution seemed to be a diaper with full human-scale zippers glued on.  So funny!  Although some of the vignettes had really well done painting, finding a seamstress in the early years I guess was a problem. 

The solution to bikini tops were bows pinned into the stuffed gophers.   Pins were also used for earrings, rivets on leather jackets, and sticking hats on.  We used to do that sort of thing with Barbies when we were kids.

Then there were the spelling mistakes.  This one says "I'm a beautican, not a magican."  Hair was also pinned on.  These two beauties had blush on their cheeks.  I love it!

The book of fan letters and hate mail was also great fun to look through.  "We read about your museum in a travel magazine and think it's terrible that you stuff rats and display them in a museum".  Others praised them for finding a good use for the pesky rodents.  Letters from around the world and visitors from around the world too.  Good fun.

Then we went to Medicine Hat, had some quality visiting time with my parents and brother and his wife.  We timed our visit so that we could attend the Taber Corn Fest.  It included an art show, midway, corn-related contests, live music, craft sale and a car show.  

The weather was beautiful.  The day was lots of fun and now we can say we've been to the cornfest.

 On the way back to Edmonton, we drove near a wind farm, and a new wind turbine was on at least 6 trucks at the truck stop.  We needed a bathroom break anyway, so we examined the turbine up close.  The size was huge.  That's me standing in front of one of the blades.  Can you see me?

After a great weekend, we got out of our van at home to the horrible sight of a hail ravaged garden.  I almost cried, but I'll get over it.  I won't show you pictures of that because it still hurts me to see it.

August 31.  Summer is over.  That also makes me sad.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


There is so much that is awesome about our mail delivery today.  

  1. I ordered just yesterday.  It arrived in the mail today!
  2. It turns a mason jar into a to-go coffee mug.
  3. I can throw away two lid-less thermos coffee cups away, giving me breathing room in my cupboard.
  4. Maybe I can throw some leaky water bottles away, gaining more valuable cupboard real estate. ReCap turns my mason jars into water/juice bottles.
  5. They re-use something that always sit on my window ledge anyway. Mason jars are everywhere in this house.

I've wanted a cuppow ever since I heard of them, but losing the last Thermos lid this week was the final straw.  Now I didn't need an excuse. 

Isn't that great?  I love it!  We tested it with lemonade.

And this product turns a mason jar into a drinking bottle too, with a closeable lid.  And no leaks!

 Cold drinks don't need a cosy but hot drinks will.  I cut a sleeve off of a recycled wool sweater and took the opportunity to try needle-felting something onto it.  Just squiggles because I wasn't sure it would succeed.  A kind lady at a farmers market gave us two felting needles and we had been a bit scared to try using the sharp needles.

And what do you use under the felting as you are working?  She had a styrofoam pad of some sort, but I was working on short noticed.  The needle seemed to have to go all the way through the wool sleeve in order to work.  I slipped the sleeve onto a zucchini and got to work!  It worked perfectly and it's not as if we NEED every zucchini we have. :-)  A quick rinse and it's ready to go!

A not-so-awesome aside:  a mouse just ran past my foot in broad daylight in the living room!  Ew!  Now I have my feet on the coffee table like any 1950's housewife would do.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Picture Post

Dehydrating chives (do you see it?)
Garden produce, tomatoes finally ripening

Wild cucumbers, a pretty weed covering our chainlink fence

The girls' response to plastic-wrapped and marketed bananas

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Junior Naturalists

Every Wednesday night there is a free Family Nature Night hosted by the City.  I've been meaning to go with the girls since I first heard about it, but didn't make it until last night.  The topic:  bees.

I thought that would mean the species that are natural to our city, but it turned out to be a beekeeper with a hive and a smoker willing to talk about anything we asked.  It wasn't perhaps as focused on the children as I thought but I still found it interesting.  Bees and honey are always interesting to me and the topic of inner city hives came up.  I'd love to have bees, or even just to help someone with their hives near my home.  Having bees in the city seems such a win-win thing that I'm not sure why it isn't legal here. 

Whatever.  The event got us to visit a park we'd never been to, and my friend and I took advantage of the natural area to use the skill she learned at a previous Family Nature Night:  mushroom hunting.  We found a few edible mushrooms and took them home. 

Today we went on a mushroom hunting trip with all of our kids.  We found some interesting things.

 There were two of these puffball mushrooms that looked like someone had left their soccer balls in the grass.  Apparently they are edible, but the insides looked like yellow fluffy insulation and not that appealing in texture. 

 Impressive in size though.  Imagine that in your frying pan!

I don't know what these skinny little things are.  This weekend there is a mushroom event at the Devonian Botanical Gardens which might be interesting.  We filled a bag with a few mushrooms that we would like to identify and we'll see if either of us have time to attend.  This has been a good mushroom year because of the rain, so it would be nice to know what we can eat. 

BTW, we did eat a few of the mushrooms in our spaghetti sauce tonight.  If you don't see a new post soon, there may have been some identification issues.  No tingling tongue yet!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Earning my keep

 August is the month I probably physically work the hardest.  May is also in the running, but my feet are telling me that August is the month when I earn my keep around here.

After hearing about Rosa's moldy cucumbers, I decided I wanted to make some pickles this year.  We still have pickles from 2008, my first year of pickles.  We are very slow to eat them because I was a bit too liberal with the jalapenos.  Yvon is usually our pickle maker.  I didn't try again until last year and the combination of largish cucumbers and a low-vinegar recipe made for some disappointing soggy, bland pickles.  I went a bit on the scared side of the jalapenos last year.  Time to try again.  I made 14 pints of pickles from Farm's Market cukes and we'll see in 2 weeks how they turned out.  I used a recipe that was more vinegary and more jalapeno-y (although less than circa 2008).

I also made some awesome sauerkraut one year and wanted to do that again.  Cabbages were only $1 each at the market, so I picked up three of them (and further convinced myself to forget about growing them again).  Sauerkraut is now fermenting in a crock in the basement.  That's the easiest thing to make every.  I do wish I liked it more.  I make it mostly for Yvon, but I eat the odd bite as well.

And now it's cherry time. 

I don't really have a regular source of free cherries.   I thought I'd be doing without this year, but I found an ad on Kijiji.  As many cherries as we could pick from three trees, but we had to drive an hour out of town.  If you've seen a mature Evans Cherry tree you know how many cherries that is!  Well worth the drive.  And it was a pretty drive through the country.

I picked twice as much as I thought we needed, thinking I'd be sharing the haul with a friend in exchange for the use of her cherry pitter.  It turned out that she scored cherries of her own and I had two Superstore bins FULL of cherries with no shelf life.  All day we pitted and processed and there is still a bit more to do. 

So far:  10 dehydrator trays full
             2 cookie sheets in the freezer
             6 pints of juice
             13 quarts of pie filling (likely for crisps)
             13 pints of canned cherries in syrup

I think I still have enough for another 10 trays in the dehydrator.  If I don't buy any Craisins this year for baking and granola, that will be a good thing.  Last year we used the Romance Series Cherries and dried them for the first time and wished we'd done more.  They were tart and yummy. 

Hopefully the cherries make up for our general lack of raspberries and saskatoons this year.  And as I munch on my chips right now, I'm thinking it's nice to have some fresher, healthier snack options in the house. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer Days

Did I say that I love the garden at this time of year?  Hmmm.  I don't know what I was thinking.  It's a weedy mess and I can never quite keep up with it.  Everything is overgrown.  We've had major heat this summer, combined with lots of rain in the evenings.

My paths are unrecognizable.

Do you even see it??
The neighbours hedge needs a serious trim on our side.

Again, can you see my brick path?  Mozzy heaven.

 Some things are nicely overgrown.  It's not all bad.  I've never had success with zucchini before (I know, who can't grow zucchini?!) but I'm giving it away this year.

 My straw bale garden is doing great.  I've had to water it as often as my pots, but it's got actual squash on it!  Yay!  And the lack of hedge in this small section has meant that I've had access to my compost heap all summer without hacking a path through the overgrown hedge.

Acorn and butternut squash, and lettuce and spinach which has surprising not bolted in the heat all summer.
An eggplant flower, also in my straw bale garden.
 The back garden was not well planned.  I've got good pole beans and the carrots are bigger than ever, but that's about it.  Tomatoes are still coming though.  Alice must have 15 pounds of green tomatoes hanging on hers. 

This golden elder had to start from the ground again this spring and I almost dug up the root ball because I thought it wouldn't amount to much.  It's about 7' tall though.  

And when will I ever learn?  All of my brassicas look lacey with caterpillar damage.  I picked and picked and picked those little green things, but there is no keeping up with them.  I did cover them briefly in the spring, but they outgrew my cover.  Next year I'll stick to a few brocolli and kale and skip the rest.  Think of all the beans and carrots I could be freezing!

Lacey is a only good thing in shawls, not cabbage.
 Although I let the garden keep me away from any long vacation this summer, it doesn't stop me from having fun with the girls.  This is the third week of hosting a child for a week and I feel like we need to show them a good time.  After a trip to IKEA, we drove to a lake yesterday.  Laura framed my cryptic directions so I wouldn't get lost as I so often do.

 Beth and Abra did a bit of kayaking, but mostly we sat on the beach and splashed in the shallow water.  While at the lake, we found this lovely mermaid basking in the sun.

And we chugged a bit of wine.

Lingon berry juice, anyone?
The sand was beautiful and the wind off the lake kept us not so hot.
  And the day ended in its usual way.  A summer storm at night with lots of rain.

Are you all having a good summer too?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Garden update

I tried to take pictures of the garden this morning to show it's fullness, but I ran out of battery.  Figures.  Here's a few I managed to snap before it shut off completely.

This is probably my favourite time to look at the garden.  I have to dodge the mosquitoes to do it, but I have a good view of the jungle from my bedroom window too.

 I love the textures that are everywhere.  I did get another Yards in Bloom nomination, but I'll never get more than that for so many reasons.  The main one being that there are weeds everywhere, including the lovely noxious campanula.  Another being that there is very little actual "design" in my garden.  It's just what I like, where I like it, combined with a bit of perennial grouping and practical veggie gardening ideas.  And probably too much of what the birds planted last year and what I left behind last year. 

It doesn't matter.  I love it and I maintain that it's way better and more interesting than sod.

A note to myself:  Next year I need to plant more beans, carrots, onions and maybe corn, and less of the cabbage family to feed the caterpillars.  They really do take up a lot of space and they are not all that productive.  This is my second year trying brussel sprouts and my second year of likely not getting even one meal.  I'll miss the grey-green foliage though.

Last week we ate our first meal from the garden that wasn't all green.

And having mentioned the plants I left over from last year, I harvested all of my garlic this week, and most of my onions.

It was early to harvest the onions, but the two were interplanted and because the garlic was so deep, I had to harvest it all together.  The garlic was awesome.  Maybe even enough to feed us for the year.  As big as the grocery store varieties and with the proper papery covering.  Beth braided it all for me, but I doubt our storage facility for long term storage so I'll process it like last year when I have time.  I chopped it and poured olive oil over it.  Worked really well. 

The onions were not really ready though.  They should have been (and would have been) bigger and the papery coating hadn't really formed well yet. So, rather than let it go bad, I started slicing them up. 

Then I started crying a lot, and dug out the food processor that gets used twice a year or so.  I hate it, but this was truly a good job for it's noise.

That's all I've got.  12 bags of 1 1/2 cups each.  Definitely not enough for the year.  I'll sacrifice cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage next year for more onion space.  The brocolli stays though.  I do get enough meals from those plants to earn their place in the garden.