Wednesday, August 18, 2010

O Free!

I was going to write more about how my last 2 minutes of pesto-making became 30 minutes of searching for a needle in a haystack (AKA finding the bits of green rubber spatula in a processor full of green basil). I was going to assure Rosa that she is not getting the extra chewy version of the pesto, or comment on the horrendous cost of pine nuts. Where do pine nuts come from? Are the pine beetles killing the pines and making pine nuts as rare as gold? Something for me to Google.

No, I'm not going to blog about any of those things because I've been distracted by something else.

Around this time last year, I was letting the dream of a community garden die, wrapping my brain around the idea of finding my own space from neighbours and friends to build my "land" to what I need it to be in order to feed my family vegetables.

But now I have found OFRE (Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton). They link fruit pickers with fruit tree owners who are not going to pick their fruit for whatever reason. It stops the fruit from being wasted, the Food Bank gets a portion, the apple maggots are held at bay by not being left on the ground, etc. All sorts of benefits can be had.

After hearing about them at the permaculture course in the spring and reading their website, I thought it was pronounce "O-free", as in "Oh, the fruit is free!" It's actually pronounced "Offer", but I'm at the free end of things. I signed up as a picker.

Last night we went picking as a family to a rural estate home and we picked all of the big red raspberries she had. And she had a lot! And apple trees too. Lots and lots of apple trees.

Two hours of time, and the kids got to climb trees, I picked up some zuchinis (mine are still not producing anything), and we came home with 6 cookie sheets of raspberries to freeze. The Food Bank got 55 pounds of apples and the owner didn't want anything.
Actually she wanted us to come back and get more apples, so I might do that after my next trip. As Yvon pointed out, I shouldn't stockpile more fresh fruit than I have time to process. He's very wise. I still have 20 pounds of peaches to can tomorrow.
I think there is only so much I can do to make my raspberries perform really well out in the alley, and I'll never have room for much fruit. I'm so pleased to have found OFRE and I hope I can contribute more of my time to picking while the season lasts. Maybe they'll find a cherry tree owner or pears. Wouldn't that be great?
Anyway, if you live in Edmonton and want to contribute to the Food Bank or to your own store of food, check them out. It was fun and as we picked we talked about planning some canning and processing sessions. That would be great too. Usually I do it all alone in my hot kitchen, but it would be more fun with others.
Tomorrow I'll be back at it in my own kitchen to get these peaches all done. The pantry is starting to look good again.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I think it takes a village to do anything around here, not just raise children. It takes a village to make pesto.

Every year I do silly things in the garden. One silly thing is to "companion plant". You know, marigolds to keep bugs away from the vegetables, peas to climb up the corn, basil to be shaded from the direct sun by the tomato plants.

The marigold idea might actually work, but the other two? Not so much. Not in my climate anyway. The corn has to grow quicker than the peas or there's nothing to climb. And the basil? I think it needs all the sun it can get in our short season. And the tomatoes are always WAY to big for the space I plant them in.

This year once again I planted my tiny tomato seedlings and then carefully put basil plants between them. It's not a good photo because of the rain gushing down and my unwillingness to walk beyond my front step, but these tomato plants are now huge. I can't find where one ends and the next starts.

And the basil? Where is it? Occassionally I find a twiggy limb of basil desparately trying to reach some sunlight through the tomato foliage. It's not working. Remind me next spring not to bother.

Luckily, Rosa had more basil than she had time to deal with. While I just make stupid mistakes in the garden, hers is perfection but she's immersed in some big projects in the house at the moment. Bad timing, but here's where the community idea comes in.

I pulled the plants out of her garden today as they were mostly in the process of making flowers. Look at how much basil she grew! And the leaves are awesome. Glossy and big and pesto-inspiring.

In exchange for all this basil, I am making pesto for both of our families to enjoy. I've done three batches and have just one to finish up tomorrow. Once the leaves are washed, dried and stripped from the stems, most of the work is done. Two more minutes to whiz it up in the food processor and I think I'll be ready to make up some pesto chicken for supper tomorrow. Mmm, mmm.

I'm so grateful for friends who share their produce.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Self-sufficiency and math

The girls were told to practice their math all summer so that they start school without losing any skills they've learned.

Me: So, if I freeze or can six meals a day for 30 days, how many meals will we have?

Beth: 180

Me: We'll eat fresh from the garden during the summer, ending in October with the last tomatoes and potatoes. How many months will we have food in the house for?

Beth: 6

Me: So, if we start eating it in October, when do we start to starve?

Beth: What?!?

Me: On April 1 we will stop eating and start losing weight, until June when our first lettuce and spinach will be ready.

Beth: No, we won't! We'll go to Save-On-Foods!

So much for self-sufficiency, but her math is just fine.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Garden Envy

Oh dear.
I just spent a few days on a farm. It was much too soon after spending time on my in-laws' farm. I have some serious garden envy.

Space envy.

Land envy. This makes me want to jump on the back of a horse and see what's on the other side of that hill. And search out the hawthorn tree that I know is there. And view the surrounding landscape from this highest point in the area.

I can't ride a horse, but there are horses here and I'd learn.

The reality is that these people all work very hard. Long hours go into making these farms look the way they do, produce the way they do and function well. I'm too lazy really to do all of that. I'm behind on my own weeding and fence staining. How could I handle all that these farms require? But I do love them.

And how can I really begrudge these kind people their space and gardens and beauty when they are so willing to share? We intruded on their space for a few days, eating their food and using their washrooms and interupting the few minutes of relaxation they allowed themselves.
And we came away with swiss chard, new potatoes, carrots, glads, and many many saskatoons.
All of the rain they've had this year has produced huge, sweet berries that were so easy to pick, even in the hot sun. Now I have to deal with them.

Today I made pie filling for 5 pies, and 5 pint jars for smoothies, oatmeal, granola, or sauce. Whatever the spirit moves us to use it for.
Although I've not yet made a pie with it, here's the recipe I used. It may need some more thickening when I use it, but here's what I did and it tasted great off of the spoon.
Susan's Saskatoon Filling (modified a bit by me based on what I had in the house)

Fill a 4 Qt. dutch oven with fresh saskatoons. Add 1 Qt. of juice
(whatever you've got - I used rhubarb in one batch and apple in another).
Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Add 1 cup of sugar (or honey) to taste.
1/4 c. lemon juice
4 Tbsp. minute tapioca

Simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Process as you normally would (Susan
doesn't process them in a water bath at all, but I felt more comfortable doing

I'll test it in my oatmeal in the morning. We were only looking for some grass to camp on, not a share in your hard labour! Thanks for everything!