Tuesday, October 30, 2012

More on the gleaning

After you read blogs for a while you start to feel as if you know the blogger.  It's like reading a journal and you begin to know personal details about them even if you've never met.  I do realize that you only see a tiny snapshot of their lives and you only see what they want you to see.  It's not a full reality.

A couple of bloggers who I know this way are Julie vanRosendahl and Kevin Kossowan.  I can bring them into my conversations as if they are my friends.

Julie cooks the way I do with leftovers and using what's in season (although she does it with a fair bit of skill and it always looks beautiful in her pictures), and she shares similar Dutch traditions in her foods and in her stories about growing up.  Somehow we click.  No, actually she doesn't know me at all, but I know her.  Virtually.

Kevin is just awesome.  See, I'm already on a first name basis although he doesn't know me from Eve.  He gardens, he gleans, he forages, he speaks about eating locally, he makes sausage, he teaches at a local college about cooking (sustainably? locally? I'm not even sure).  I've heard him speak and I've read articles and his blog.  And he makes some really beautiful videos about all of these subjects.  I'm appearing in this one. (Click the cabbage - I don't know how to embed his video)

Monday, October 22, 2012


I totally forgot to bring a camera, so I'll have to steal a picture from someone else who was present on Friday.

Embedded image permalink

I'm a minor, minor contributor to the OFRE group here in Edmonton.  This year I only went to one fruit pick (where we gleaned strawberries from a local U-Pick) because I managed to find easy sources of fruit elsewhere.  Pears from down the block, cherries from a farm found on Kijiji, and apples from a neighbour.  However, my tiny volunteerism scored big time on Friday.

One of our local market gardeners invited OFRE volunteers to clean out some of their veggie beds.  They had filled their storage sheds to capacity and could not make use or sell all that was in their fields quickly enough before the frost and snow hits for real.  Rather than waste all that good stuff in the field, a group of us went and did some heavy field work.

And it was tough work, partly because we felt the need for speed.  There were only 15 of us and our understanding was that whatever we didn't glean would return to the soil as compost.  That just felt so wasteful to me, so I dug and picked as fast as I could.  Also, there were comments from some number crunchers who calculated the speed at which we filled the big bags (1 bag per 1.5 minutes I think was shared at one point).   Now, I'm not really that competitive but I did feel like maybe I wasn't totally pulling my weight and needed to speed up.

By the end of 4 hours of picking, I was exhausted and we still needed to divvy up the goods.  That maybe doesn't sound hard, but some heavy lifting was required yet.

The produce was divided in half:  half for the volunteers and half for the Salvation Army.  A rough tally of the produce donated to the Salvation Army (who runs both a soup kitchen and a Food Bank) was:
  • 1000 lbs of potatoes (two varieties)
  • 100 lbs of purple carrots
  • 1000 lbs of cabbage (there was still so much left in the field that it didn't look like we touched it)
  • 500 lbs of beets

All of that had to be hauled to the Sally Ann cube van and hoisted into it.  It hurt but I hate looking like a wimp so I continued to lift and carry until it was done.  And every vehicle was filled like this for our personal use as well:

The beets don't even appear in the pictures because I gave all but one away.  We are not beet-lovers.  Beth and I are going to try one with our dinner tonight because I'd love to like beets.  Maybe this white beet will be different and I'll start to like them.  I also gave away some cabbages (really, three bags full is a lot but we do love cabbage in this house) and some potatoes.

I'm hoping that my cold room is cool enough to keep the potatoes and carrots for a while, but it's not actually vented to the outdoors.  It's just uninsulated from the outdoors and insulated from the heat of the house.  To make sure that I don't waste all of the potatoes, I've been dehydrating some of them.  Precooked and sliced for scalloped potatoes, and as hashbrowns as well.  They're turning out great, but it's a fair bit of work.  It should be easy meals for the winter though.

How do you store root veggies to make them last?

Thursday, October 18, 2012


I'm not sure why we need so many notebooks around here, but we do.

The kids draw, write journals and diaries, and I don't know what else.  I have a notebook in my purse for ...well, for notes.  And book lists.  You don't ever want to forget the book recommendation that someone in the grocery lineup might pass on to you.

We're wanted to try book binding for some time now.  I used to make paper and wanted to bind some of that properly.  And we always stop to admire interestingly bound books at markets and bookstores.

So, this week we finally did it.

 And it wasn't even hard.  And it didn't take many tools.  Just an awl, exacto knife, paper and covers.
And you need this easy YouTube tutorial.  She was really easy to follow and we just kept in online as we worked.

Here is my new notebook. I used an vinyl album cover from the thrift store as my cover.

I'm pretty proud of my stitching on the side, but you could cover the spine if you wanted to with book binder tape.  I like the unfinished edge.

And I love how flat the notebook opens up.  It's just about perfect.

The only thing that would make these books better would be to figure out how to use lined paper in them.  Alice is practicing writing with no lines, but would prefer lined pages.  The page has to have a crease on the spine to sew through, so that would make the lines sideways if you folded a regular school page in half.  Any suggestions? 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I wanted to try this little experiment for a couple of years. 

There are claims around the internet that you can grow potatoes in almost anything. Being short of garden space due to other experimental crops, I had these two exploded rain barrels that either had to be taken to the EcoStation or used for something that needed drainage.  That reminds me.  I must empty my rain barrels or I'll have three more potato containers next spring!

So, these were the only potatoes I planted this year.

 They grew and grew and grew.  I kept burying them in fresh soil and straw as they grew until I got tired of the whole exercise.  They were probably 3/4 full this morning though.  The greens just died off last week with the frost so I wasn't in a rush to harvest them.

However, yesterday we dug potatoes out of my brother-in-law's weedy garden and it was fun to unearth and discover all of the potatoes.  Like a treasure hunt, really.

So, today I was inspired to get out into the sunshine and have a treasure hunt of my own at home.  I pulled out some of the straw (nothing growing), then some soil (still nothing), then some straw (nothing) and more soil (still nothing), and finally at the very bottom of each rain barrel there were a few potatoes.  

Well, that was not like a treasure hunt at all.  We'll eat them for supper, but I'm sure the little bag of seed potatoes weighed more in the spring.   Poo.  I'll probably try one more time next year, maybe in another location.  It's not like it cost anything or took any time, and I got to procrastinate about that trip to the EcoStation.  Does that still make it a "win"?

The carrots were better.  Just so a remember, I want to hold off on eating carrots until after frost next year.  We always jump the gun and start eating our new carrots in July or August, but those ones taste vaguely of dirt.  Now they are sweet and yummy.

And unfortunately, we ate half of them while they still tasted like dirt.  Oh well.  Life is a learning process, right?

And the last gardening thing I did today was to finally pick our own apples.  Hail damaged and few, it's the first year that we've really had any apples to speak of on our own trees.  


The gardens and yard are almost ready for winter now.  I've got some chairs to put away and if I have time or inclination, I can still cut back a bunch of perennials, or I could leave them to trap snow.  Either way, I feel sort of on top of things in the garden this year.  Phew!  I have not always been able to say that.  Two years ago I was still looking about my frozen lawn chairs in February, unable to move them due to ice and deep piles of snow. 

Winter can still take its sweet time getting here though.  I'm in no rush.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Autumn stuff

I'm still alive.  Buried under unfinished jobs,  but still kicking.  I always think of gardening season as my busiest, but maybe garden harvesting is even busier.  Plus I have this habit of jumping to the fun stuff before the work stuff.

Early September was really nice over in our household.  School is in full swing and seems to be going well (yay!).  September is a month of extreme cheque writing it seems, so we decided to hold off on piano lessons until October.  I'm so glad we did and if our piano teachers are okay with it, I wanted to record and remember this decision and do it again forever after.  With school starting, so did bands, and Guides, Pathfinders and Youth Group, choir and community league meetings, school parent council and fundraiser meetings.  It's too much for one month.

Plus, remember "jumping to the fun stuff"?  The weather was great in early September and Beth and I managed to kayak down the river from Fort Edmonton to Capilano Bridge one Saturday. 4 long hours in the sun.

I'd never seen the city from this perspective before.  It was beautiful. 

It was also so slow-moving and shallow that I had to get off and walk a couple of times, pulling the kayak to deeper waters.  That was something I never expected.  It looks like such a big river from above.  Not in the fall, apparently.

We tried to kayak down the Sturgeon River the next day, not having learned our lesson on the Saturday and found ourselves stuck in the mud a few times there.  I won't do the Sturgeon in the fall again.  It may be pretty but it's miserable to walk through and there's virtually no current at the section we tried.  However, we spent two days in the unexpected sunshine on the water in the fall.  Wonderful!

And other fun stuff - I took my annual trip to the wine country.  Awesome!  Swimming in the lake, reading on beaches, tasting wine and picnicing with friends.  And even a dinner with my big sister.  It was so much fun, but maybe a day too long actually.  By the end, my head was back at home and my body was eager to get home too.  It's great to be disconnected from regular life for a while, but I felt...disconnected from my family too.  It was good to be home and back in the swing of regular life.

Now maybe I'll get back to blogging too, 'cause you missed me, right? 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Summer Activities List Update

School is back in session and I am glad of it.  Does it make me a bad mother that I cheerfully send them off to school?  Should I cry as my babies disappear for hours each day?   I spent a lot of time with them this summer and I love them lots, but I am thankful for the break now.  A few more hot days on my own would have been nice though.  The weather is very crisp and fall-like.  

I just wanted to finish the summer with our Activity List and let you know what we managed to cross off.  We definitely have some things left for next year, but we've had a busy summer.  Here's some picture highlights.

2012 Summer Activities List

Alberta Art Museum (free on the last Thursday night of each month)
Devonian Gardens (discounted for gardening club members on July 18)
Swimming/kayaking (but we need to do more)

At one of beautiful lakes at Pierres Grey Provincial Park
  124th Street Art Gallery walk

Where we "luxury camped" in a beautiful trailer in a beautiful park just south of Grande Cache

Fishing (with someone to teach us and assemble our rods properly)
Paddleboat rental
Rock Climbing (UofA has a good wall)
Mini golf
Horseback riding
Weiner roast/s'more making  - hopefully there's still time to hit one of the parks on a weekend for another campfire
Heritage Park (planned for August long weekend)

Heritage Park - too many beautiful pictures to choose from

Calgary Zoo (planned for August long weekend)

Calgary Zoo - Where we met new relatives

Shakespeare in the Park (Pay-as-you-can on Tuesday nights) - We went twice, once to each play

Valley Zoo

With my godchild at the new exhibit in our local zoo

Telus World of Science
Humane Society to spend time with adoption animals
Wash van with buckets - I can't believe we didn't do this one!!
Movie -  We saw "The Lorax" together.  It's showing for free on Community League Day, Sept. 15 at Britannia Youngstown Community Hall in the evening.  Come by and see me!  It's followed by The Hunger Games for the slightly older crowd. 

Outdoor movie party
Visit my parents
Theatre production
Street Performers Festival

Learning to craft with Duct tape

St. Albert Street Performers Festival
Stony Plain Museum/Gallery (a church friend has paintings in the gallery this summer)
Stay in a hotel (went to Hinton/Jasper for the May long weekend)
Skating in the mall
Cinnamon buns at Kingsway Mall
Batting Cages or driving range
Taber Corn Festival (Aug. 25-27) - includes a rodeo, so we could cross two things off!

World's largest corn?

A car show was on mine and Laura's personal list but didn't make the family list!  Still did it.

Corn Maze - why wasn't there one in Taber?  Sort of makes sense.
Ukrainian Village - Alice went in the spring with her class.  Does that count?
Torrington Gopher Museum

Picnic in downtown park
Visit Mandolin's Books & Coffee Shop - no pictures, but Beth and had a coffee there and shopped.  I wish there were one like it nearer to home.

Eat at Mr. Wong's restaurant (a substitute teacher that the girls all like)
Go to every outdoor pool in the city (we've gone to 3 so far) - We didn't make it to the others in spite of the heat this summer.

Placemats to school supplies

During the year my mom stops in at garage sales and thrift shops and thinks of her children as she does it.  We don't have as much time as she does to hunt down the bargains and few of us (including herself) actually like to shop much.  I must say that I do enjoy shopping at thrift shops, but malls...uh, uh. 

By the time we see each other she often has a little pile (or a big one) of things that we may have need of or want.  She's a pretty good judge of that so I don't turn much of it down.  I know that she hates the clutter of my house though and would like to know that the items are actually being used and not just stored away in my piles of "maybe oneday" stuff.

So today I thought I'd show off how we turned two placemats she'd bought into school supplies.


I was originally thinking of bags or trim on bags because there wasn't much fabric here.  Laura still needed a crayon roll (my kids are generally last to get this stuff), and there was still enough left over for a pencil case and bookmark.

She's going to be all all very matchy at school this year!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Produce anyway

 So this is an example of what the garden looks like after 5 minutes of hail last weekend. 

 As Yvon said in Facebook, "pooh, pooh and double pooh".  I think he's got Winnie the Pooh on his mind, but I agree with the sentiment. 

 However, all is not lost.  I still have tomatoes ripening (although many have unbroken hail marks on them) and some of the zucchini survived.  Honestly, it's tough to kill a zucchini once it's decided it likes you.

When I went to the produce market to check on peach availability, I found tomatoes on sale that are look nicer than my own, although the taste isn't the same.  6 lbs fo $2 though?  Can't go too far wrong. 

I roasted them with garlic, green peppers and zucchini (why not?) and then pureed them for the most tasty tomato sauce.

And yes, they did have peaches.  54 lbs for about $30.  And now I've got 34 pints and 3 quarts of canned peaches in the pantry.  I was hoping that they wouldn't ripen until today so that Yvon could help, but I had to process them yesterday.  You can't necessarily plan your days when fruit is involved unless you're willing to take some losses.  I'm not willing.

And remember the Taber Corn Fest?  It did involve corn and our involvement didn't end when we got home.   

I think we put 30 meals into the freezer on Monday.

Hail or no hail, we won't starve this winter.

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