Friday, April 27, 2012


Here a chick, there a chick, everywhere a chick, chick! 

They are so cute!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

My dry pantry

Besides garlic, I'm starting to run out of other tasty things.  Mainly in my herb selection, but canned tomatoes and carrots are dangerously low as well. 

When I say "dangerous", you realize that no one will be hurt by this.  Just my sensitive desire to provide from my own garden. 

This is my lovely herb and spice drawer.  

Please don't judge me.  I'd like to have this:


but I just aim to improve every year.  And I do.  Last fall I started labelling the tops of my jars in this drawer so I could actually tell what was in them without lifting them all out and reading a side label, or worse, smelling them to know what the green stuff was. 

See? Baby steps. 

These are two empty jars:  thyme and lemon balm.  I seeded lemon thyme this year hoping it will do better than my balm did.   It's so hard to know because the weather was so bad last year.  And is lemon balm a perennial?  If so, I should get it back again and hopefully bigger.  I'll have to look that up. 

I'm also totally out of oregano.  That's a pity because I could use a lot more of that and I don't see signs of life on the small oregano plant yet. 

I've been using the dehydrator more every year.  I got a free book from a book exchange room at the Jasper museum last month called "Dry It, You'll Like It".  I'm sure it was seen as a hippy book in the seventies, written by people living on the edge of normal, but I read it cover to cover.  Loads of good advice and a plan for a solar dehydrator.  I'll have to try some of their recipes and ideas.

One of the most useful dried item from last year turned out to be the dried leeks.  Well, the dried cherries, strawberries, plums and apples were probably the most loved and have been gone the longest, but I've been using leeks in loads of things.  Anytime I'm too lazy to chop an onion really.  And I still have lots left. 

And when I'm really pushed for time and don't think the leeks will rehydrate in the recipe quickly enough, Yvon brilliantly thought to whiz some up in the Magic Bullet.  Leek powder is perfect and I use it all the time.

And parsley and chives have been in our kitchen drawer every year for years now.  I don't know why exactly, but I've also always kept a bag of balloons in this drawer. You can see them in the picture.   It used to be very handy when the kids were little and easily distracted by a new toy while I was cooking, I guess.  One day they'll be too old for balloons but for now, they still know where to look for them. 

Back on topic though, I like growing parsley for some reason.  It even looks pretty as the green in a flowering basket, so I always have too much of it.  And the chives propogate themselves prettily through the flower garden.  I don't mind. 

My mint plant was tiny last year.  I thought anyone who grew mint had to much mint.  What did I do wrong?  I don't use a lot of mint in my cooking, but I still ran out.

Swiss chard and kale were also very good dried.  I throw them in most tomato sauces (pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, chili) and the kids never complain.  In fact, if I crumble it small enough they probably think it's just parsley.  I'm hoping a lot of the nutrition is preserved in the drying process because I do count it as a veggie portion in their meals.  I'm totally out of the dried kale and have been for some time.  Again, the lack of heat last summer did us no favours. 

Things I won't dry again are carrots, peppers, green beans and zucchini.  Although the kids like the zucchini chips when they were fresh, no one would eat them after a few months.  Either the novelty wore off or the texture changed.  The other vegetables just didn't taste great or have great texture when rehydrated.  I did try to use them in soups and stews, but wasn't impressed.  As long as I have freezers, that's what I'll do with those veggies. 

Thinking about the leek powder though, maybe I can still blend up the unwanted vegetables and make cream soups.  Maybe that's something to try before I throw them out. 

What do you dry?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Allium shortfall

I bought my first garlic bulb at the grocery store today since last August.  I know I didn't have a great crop last year, but it always pleased me to scoop garlic out of the jar knowing that it came from my own garden. It lasted from late August until just now.  That means if I want to provide all of our own garlic, I need to plant 30% more, and technically enough to plant for the following year as well.

Last August this was my garlic yield.  Tiny bulbs, but I didn't think it was terrible for a very cold summer.  What do I have to compare it with really?  Garlic is new to me.

How do most people store garlic for winter use?  I figured my bulbs were way too tiny to properly dry and braid, so I chose another method that I've now read is apparently a health hazard.  Oops.  None of us have died yet, and I won't promise not to do it again because it was really nice to have everything pre-diced.  I'm just not recommending the method to anyone else.  Don't do what I do.  This is not a teaching blog.  It's just me babbling.

Did you know that bulk garlic will make you cry just like onions do?  Now you know, so maybe this is a teaching blog after all. 

Or not.

So this is what I did that you should not do.  I chopped it all up, covered it with olive oil,and put it in the fridge.   

This is my garlic today, planted last fall.  It's healthily poking up throught the thick layer of leaf mulch which I stole from my neighbours.   

I won't be self-sufficient this year either, but I'm hoping for garlic scapes as a first harvest during the early summer. I'd love to try cooking with them. I didn't get any last year so I must have misunderstood the type I needed to plant.

And this is another allium (maybe shallots?) that I planted last year and forgot to harvest. 

I didn't even have this row of shallots marked on my garden plan last year, so I don't know exactly what happened there.  In any case, they don't seem to have suffered for their winter in the leaves.  Last week I also found a perfect little onion in my flower bed as I searched for emerging tulips.  I fried it up for supper and it seemed to have improved after it's months of freezing temperatures.   There appears to be a flaw in my gardening records. 

I'm going to try planting in rows a bit this year and maybe this sort of thing won't happen quite so much.  Last summer I attempted to companion-plant a bit, surrounding cabbages and brocolli with onions because onions are supposed to deter cabbage moths.  I still got a lot of cabbage moths (and caterpillers), and finding the onions was like a failed treasure hunt. 

I'll just think of the random onions now as bonus groceries rather than a failed experiment.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Teen in the house!

I'm definitely not too young to have a teen, but it's still a bit shocking to me that Beth is 13. 

Technically she turned 13 yesterday already if you take into account the 18 hour time difference between her birth in Australia and here.  My mom's card brought that up.  "13 years ago, on April 23, we were called and told about Beth's birth on April 24." 

For years, a friend of Beth's liked to brag about being older by one day.  Six years of "I'm older than you!" and then I finally asked what hour she was born.  She was born on April 23, about 2 hours LATER than Beth!  All along  Beth was actually older than her. 

Does any of that make sense?  Maybe not, but I don't know what to say on this birthday of my teenaged daughter.  She's pretty amazing and I couldn't be more proud of her. 

Overwintering Geraniums

There are many ways to overwinter geraniums.  I've now only tried two methods, and I don't think you'll find my lazy approach on Youtube or any instructable sites.  I've dug them out of the garden and planted them indoors, keeping them alive in a somewhat sunny window.  As spring approaches, I usually will take some cutting from the mother plant and start them in their own pots, making one plant into a few.  This is an approach that you might actually find as a tried-and-true method.

 I had a few really healthy geraniums by the time frost hit last fall, so I decided to take some cuttings.  I planted two of them and one is blooming now. 

In spite of all my gardening and indoor seed starting, I'm terrible at keep houseplants alive, so this method is perhaps not the plants best chance of survival around here. 

So I tried something new this year.  I had taken more cuttings that never quite got into pots.  They hung out in a mason jar of water all winter.  I had good intentions, but once gardening season is done, I'm usually done too.  I left them in the jar and they produced healthy roots and stayed alive.

Laura and I finally planted them this week and they look pretty good.  They may have forgotten what soil felt like, but they knew what to do when their roots finally had some access.  This is one I hope will survive.  Laura has adopted it as her own. 

Because it's so cute!!

I hope it lives.  That is one tiny pot!

Thursday, April 19, 2012


We all love taking pictures in this house and we are now all armed with cameras.  Each camera has it's different strength, but so does each photographer.  I love how different our tastes or approaches are.  My camera has the best macro option, so Laura snags it sometimes.  It's one of her favourite settings.

I've been busily planting up all of my seedlings for the garden.  Every year I do more and more as my garden expands, as my mother-in-law has stopped seeding tomato plants for me and I try not to buy so many nursery plants.  Because I'm running out of room under my basement lights and am starting to learn which seedlings prefer a bit of heat, I've finally brought a big light and table into the living room this year. 

I like to take pictures of the big picture, the overall look.  The way I actually see the plants under the lights. 

These are mostly my Mediteranean plants. Basil, tomato, eggplant (something new for me this year) and peppers.  They can all do with a bit of warmer air.

Laura loves the beauty of the individual plant or leaf.



Squash (which may have been an early mistake)

Red pepper that wouldn't germinate downstairs


Is it diversity that makes the world go 'round?  Or love?  I can't remember which.  Maybe it's the love of diversity that makes the world go 'round.  In any case, I love finding pictures on my camera that I didn't put there.  They usually show a perspective I might not have seen otherwise. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bored, anyone?

Well, I might be tonight.

If you're bored and want to get out on a snowy evening, consider coming to visit me.  The Girl Guides are putting on a Ladies Night tonight at the Mayfield Community Hall. 

          10941 161 Street
          7:00 - 12:00 pm
          $10 door charge

There is a hair cutter on site (weaving feathers in hair and I'm hoping she'll cut mine!), physic and tea leaf reader, and I think some massage and mani/pedi types.  Each vendor will charge something. Oh, and there are wine coolers and alcohol for sale (otherwise I'd bring Laura for company).   I can't quite tell how it works because I've never attended one of these.  I just know that it will help ship Laura off to Mexico next year. 

I'll be selling my stuff in the basement with a few other vendors. I'd love to see some friendly faces, or I'll just be reading a lot of my book.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring in Edmonton

Ah, what lovely weather we're having this morning. 

In all honesty, it's not very cold and the soil needs it. 

It's heart attack snow.  I'm sure the Inuits have a name for this type.  I shovelled the front already and it's more like scooping buckets of heavy water and dumping it in the vegetable-growing areas of the garden. 

So, without the deep thoughts and insites that you're used to reading here, these are the pictures on my camera this morning.  

The coop that will hopefully welcome more residents this spring:

The chair that Beth was reading in on Tuesday evening:

The hoola hoops I'm starting to learn to use: 

Beth told me to stop talking about my butt size and start doing something about it. The idea was that we would hoop together for 15 minutes a day. I get a sore back long before that because of all of the reaching to the ground to keep picking it up and starting again, but I can sometimes keep it up.  I won't be hooping outside today.

The simple coldframe I nailed together last week:

I've got seeds under it, and celery and parsley that were starting indoors are holding up.

The clothesline that I started using outdoors again (but again, not today):

My rain barrels that I uprighted last week thinking that gardening season would soon be upon us:

Buried under the snow are some tulips coming up!  They'll like this snow, but I'm happy enough without it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Downhill slope

This is how we were all feeling on Saturday.  And Sunday.  And Monday.

Especially Monday, when the kids went back to school after a week of spring break!

But today, I've got two kids who express their feelings more accurately like this.

The "Handy Hanky" basket was emptied in no time and Kleenex was upgraded to "a sick man's best friend".