Friday, October 28, 2011

Garlic Planted. Hurrah!

One of the tricky bits of being a maniacal gardener is the tendency to over-do it.  I love gardening and so I tend not to notice when I am overdoing until...oooh about mid September each year when a small part of me starts hoping for frost.  This year was no different than any other year and so, with a big sigh of relief and much pleasure, I am happy to say that the garlic is planted and all my garden have-to chores are done for now.  Hurrah, indeed.
(making beds)
This gorgeous garlic was grown by friends and, knowing how delicious it is, it was somehow difficult to be  plunking these huge cloves into the ground instead of eating them.
(clove spaced 6 inches apart in rows that are 8 inches apart)

W was visiting these same friends while they were planting their garlic and came home with a helpful way of planting.  He made me up these PVC guidelines from some spare pipe.  They came in very handy.
We planted the remainder of the garlic on Sunday, gave it a sprinkle of soybean meal and now we just need to mulch it before it gets too cold.  Feels good to have it done.
And, it even looks beautiful.  Well, to me anyway.  You can see on the other side of the garden the plots where the fall rye has yet to sprout.  And you can also see some of the potato bins which have been pressed into use as compost bins.  Compost bins which would very much like some more manure added to them, I might add. make time to go and get manure and turn the composts.  What?  I didn't say the garden want-to chores were done, just the have-to chores...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Potato Bins

Sometime earlier I mentioned that I planted our potatoes in bins (you can see earlier photos here and here) so that they wouldn't use up much garden space.  I love how these work and I've been meaning to post some photos of these and am finally making time to do so. 
I planted several seed potatoes in the bottom of each bin and then filled the bin as the plant grew.  I had wanted to use straw or leaves as the mulch but, since I didn't have enough, I ended up using dirt (leaves are like gold around here). The best thing about these (to me, anyway) is the ease of harvesting.  Once I push the cage aside the boys can easily start picking potatoes. 
Next year I'd really love to keep up with mulching with straw or leaves - less dirt on the potatoes that way.  And there's one of the fun things about gardening - you're barely done for the year and already looking for ways to improve next year's garden.
So, of course, we've been enjoying lots of potatoes lately. Last week I made a potato crusted quiche (with cherry tomatoes and nettle!) and it was delicious (shown here before pouring the egg on top so you can see the crust).
And with the amount of potatoes we have I expect to be enjoying home fries, baked potatoes, scalloped potatoes, roast potatoes,  mashed potatoes, hashbrowns...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Autumn Crafts

Many an autumn afternoon used to be whiled away doing nature crafts with my boys.  These days they're not quite as interested as they used to be in some of our old standbys but last week they humoured me.  We went for a walk around the neighbourhood in the sunshine and collected some leaves.
We came home and got out our old tin of crayons, wax paper and the iron.
 A short time later...
Love these!  I first made them when I was in elementary school and have had a fondness for them ever since.  It is quite possible that the next time I make these it will be with my grandkids. Now there's a thought.  Perhaps some of my friends with little ones will take pity on me and start sending their kids over for craft time with me and I can continue to indulge my love of playdough and other such lovely stuff.
In the meantime it looks as though I'll be spending some of our afternoons on a new pursuit - driving lessons with my newly 16 year old.  Oh for the days of playdough and mud pies!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Antipasto in the Cupboard Under the Stairs

The last two weeks have been a blur of finishing up the garden, building compost, canning, celebrating and all sorts of other things.  I am happy to say that I am finished with canning for the year (and please don't tempt me into doing any more by offering me any produce - I never can so no).  Last week I made antipasto and decided that would be it for the year - no more.  Enough.
And so, here is my "cupboard under the stairs" in this house, all done for the year.  I love having a coldroom with shelves to line up all the things I've put by for the year.  We've definitely got enough tomatoes between the canned ones and the passata as well as the stewed ones in the freezer.  And, I think there is plenty of everything else as well.  This year we have my regular peach garlic salsa and hot salsa as well as an extra special batch of what I'm calling Johnny Cash salsa for my husband.  The floor of the coldroom is mostly filled with boxes full of potatoes (the Kennebecs did great -they're huge!- as did the Sieglinde potatoes) and soon it will be cold enough that I'll have to move the onions and the rest of the squash in as well.
Bliss to be done and feeling all tucked up for the wintertime.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall Rye

Awhile back I mentioned a new found love for cover crops.  I'm so thrilled to be able to get the chance to experiment and learn more about green manuring/cover cropping.  One of the things I love about gardening (ooh, there really are SO many things) is that there is always so much more to learn.  It's delightful really.
In early September I planted fall rye on one of the sections of next year's garden.  I was tickled to watch it sprout and grow so lush and green so quickly.  Really, it just looks beautiful and I love the thought that the sections where it will remain until springtime will be so nicely tucked in for wintertime - keeping the soil intact through winds and rains, all the while adding goodness to the soil.
The other day I tilled in one section of it in order to prepare garlic beds.  As I tilled I couldn't help enjoying how gorgeous the soil looks already - crumbly, light, dark chocolate brown. 
I'd already planted more sections in rye and look forward to trying out some other cover crops as well.  I love this practice of growing our own fertility right in the garden.   Next year I plan to do some undersowing of low growing cover crops in some areas too - to add organic matter to the soil as well as to prevent weed growth.  And first time planting large quantities of garlic.  Hopefully I'll be able to convince a few family members to help - after all, many hands make light work (ahem!).

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Chickweed is a pretty unassuming plant.  It can hide in the garden beneath other plants without drawing any attention to itself. I was looking for some a few weeks ago and managed to find some beneath some closely planted tomato plants.  I enjoy nibbling on it fresh but was wanting to bring some home to  make some chickweed oil. 
I gathered some up and tucked it in my "potions" pot with some olive oil.  It simmered away while I made the plum butter and for a while longer.  Throughout the summer I've done this with comfrey, calendula and plantain so now we've got all the skin oils that I like to have on hand.
Strained and bottled it makes a simple healing oil for skin ailments.  Usually I make all my oils into salves by adding a bit of beeswax but his year I've noticed that, having not made time to get to that next step, we are using the oils quite nicely as they are. So...sometimes not having the time to do something can show you that there is no need to do that thing. ;-)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


We've been doing our usual thing for this time of year - squirreling away as much food and harvest goodness as we possibly can.  Yesterday was spent bringing in most of the garden (just a few things left to get today).  Last week E and I spent a bit of time seeing what we could find on this property and ended up with mushrooms and apples (we'd noticed this tree down the bank a bit when it was flowering in the springtime).
We also were thrilled to have a generous friend offer to let us pick from her plum tree.  E very much misses our plum tree at our old home (mostly because he loved climbing it but I think there is nothing more delightful to him than being able to climb a tree AND pop fresh-picked fruit in your mouth at the same time!).

He was so happy to be able to pick some plums and I was happy to be able to make some favourite plum desserts as well as a batch of plum butter.  When I asked E if he wanted me to make a batch he said he couldn't remember if he liked it.  I made some and at first taste he remembered that he did indeed love plum butter. ;-)
I was pleased that I came across my old recipe (which I had labeled "Good Plum Butter" to remind me that was the one I liked to use, not the one in my canning book).  Here it is in case you feel like making it.

16 cups plums, coarsely chopped
4 cups sugar (or to taste)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves

Simmer chopped plums with sugar until soft and cooked down.  Use immersion blender to blend to smooth consistency.  Add spices and cook down further until desired thickness.  I cook until I can take out  a spoonful and once cooled it has a "jammy" consistency - maybe two hours all told.
  Then I ladle into sterilized pint jars and process for 15 minutes in a hot water bath canner.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall Fashion....for Dogs?!?

One of the things that has been keeping us busy is this family member.  We came home from a weekend away of mountain biking and hiking to find that he needed surgery.  Thankfully he has nicely healed.  Instead of having him wear a plastic cone around his neck (to keep from scratching or licking his stitches) he wore soft cotton short-sleeve  t-shirts. 

The last two days he has had another wound and so, in keeping with the cooler temps., we outfitted him with one of W's outgrown flannel shirts.  Doesn't he look lovely? You can tell that he isn't too pleased with me taking his photo though.  Poor fellah, he's had a rough month.