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.

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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?