Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dreaming of springtime...

Christmas is over and the days are getting longer, so I'm dreaming of next season's garden and starting seedlings. For years and years I've needed some kind of indoor growing space with good lighting so I'm not constantly carrying seedling trays from the daytime sunny greenhouse to the house at night for protection from cold. Veseys Seeds sells a deluxe 3 tier lighted steel stand for $629.00 plus tax and shipping..a bit out of my league, so finally I got around to building one. For about $80.00

Which could be done a lot cheaper but the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store was out of fluorescent light fixtures, and I was impatient and bought  them new. The 2x2 frame was $11.00 and the 5/8" plywood pieces came to about $10.00 The dimensions are 4'x20", 5'8" tall. On the back side I pinned one of those foil emergency blankets to reflect light back towards the plants and after things are up and running I'll put another on the front. Also some angled white deflectors made of flashing will go on the top of each light fixture.
Every home should be blessed with a friendly handy neighbor who can be called upon to do tricky and dangerous things like plumbing and wiring. Here is our multi talented Jean-Marc from down the road doing an efficient and safe job of wiring up the unit for me.

I have a new toy to play with, it's a soil block maker. It will make compressed soil blocks, 4 at a time.  A standard plastic plant tray will hold 50 blocks. From my favorite seed nursery, Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine.
I'm experimenting to find the right mix of compost, peat and soil for them to hold together well. Each block has a dimple to receive the seed. Today the first leek seeds went in, as I just had to plant something! With the sun shining it was T shirt weather in the greenhouse today, perfect for playing in the dirt. If the weatherman is being truthful we are in for a milder than average winter, so I hope to get little leeks into the garden in late march.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yes, I'm steamed...letter to the editor yesterday

The other day I was fuming about a letter to the editor in our newspaper, The Telegraph Journal. It was by the president of Monsanto's canadian branch, extolling the 'virtues" of genetically modified crops, and how we should be breathlessly awaiting the gmo apple and pear that won't turn brown when cut. Since I prefer my fruit the way God designed it and am horrified at the idea of frankenfish, and the disappearence of non gmo seed diversity I get really steamed about this bio-meddling. Since Michael Taylor has worked alternately at the top of both Monsanto and the FDA it's little wonder there is no required independant safety testing for gmo products. Add to that monsanto's powerful lobbying against labeling requirements, we in north amerika are entire populations of guinea pigs. If you eat processed foods you are consuming gmo's in corn, soy, canola, sugar in sugar beets and the myriad of products made from them. Following is my response Letter to the Editor  yesterday, Telegraph Journal, Saint John, NB :

Lorne Hepworth, president of Croplife Canada, a branch of Monsanto, paints a fantasy picture of a biotech industry with a sordid history of putting profits ahead of health. This is the company that brought us dioxin and PCB's that now contaminate the far reaches of the earth.
Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette, has documented 65 serious health risks from genetically modified (GM) products of all kinds. Among them:

* Offspring of rats fed GM soy showed a five-fold increase in mortality, lower birth weights, and the inability to reproduce;
* Sterility or fertility problems among pigs and cows fed on GM corn reported worldwide;
* Fertility problems, abortions, premature births, and other serious health issues, including deaths, among buffaloes fed GM cottonseed products in India
* Allergies among British children went up 50 per cent with the introduction to Britain of GM soy;
* The advent of "superweeds" requires ever-increasing loads of the toxic herbicide, roundup, to be sprayed on GM crops. Peasant families routinely exposed to roundup sprayed on GM soy fields in Argentina are seeing a 25 per cent to 30 per cent increase in childhood cancers and birth defects.
*Six European countries have recognized the dangers and do not allow GM crops to be grown within their borders.
No one knows the full extent of what happens to the end product when you splice in new genes, and then eat that product for several generations.
Consumers seeking to avoid GM foods can download the Non-GMO Shopping Guide and look for the GMO Free Project label on store products. the website of The Institute for Responsible Technology is a good education  on the dangers of gmo's and for an in depth look at tremendous problems worldwide caused by Monsanto, watch "The world according to Monsanto", a documentary found on

And on a happier note, here are some lovely healthy non-gmo greens and herbs in my greenhouse this morning.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas is coming...but it's not winter til the garden is frozen...

Christmas wood working is a good way to pass the time when its blowing a gale outside and driving rain and sleet. My sawdusty workshop is cosy with a wood stove warming all but the corners, and I can make lots of mess and it just makes it all look that much more productive. This little wagon is 11"x16" and just needs a piece of sisal tow rope with a wooden ball on the end to finish it.  
The blocks and wagon are sanded smooth and oiled with cooking oil. The fun part is playing with all the pieces before they are packed into the wagon for the new owner.
                                                                                          Winter has held off long enough for one last garden tilling 2 days ago. We spread 2 truckloads of leaves on the new garden plot on a rare windless day and got them tilled under before the next round of rain. They should break down more quickly mixed with the garden soil than they would have piled up dry in the compost pile.

With the weather so unsettled I keep alternating indoor and outdoor chores. Here is batch of granola bars just about cool enough to munch. Tomorrow if the wind settles down we'll go find a Christmas tree to bring home before we have snow to wade through.
And since this blog started out being a place to post my watercolors, here is a little one I did recently while longing for warm summer sunshine. It's a doorway of one of the famous waterfront buildings in Lunenburg, NS. Details of this and our other works are on our new art site

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Everything Good Cookie

I'm going to see the 'kids" and my toddler grandson soon so today was a baking day. Whole wheat rolls and banana bread, and Nana's 'everything cookies". Everything good goes into them. And Connor devoures them because his smart parents have given him good food, fruit & veg right from his first solids. Must remember to take him some of my greenhouse tomatoes. Here is the Everything Good Cookie recipe :
1 1/2  cups organic dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, chopped apricot etc.
1 cup water or fruit juice
2/3 cup olive oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1tsp real vanilla
2 cups organic whole wheat flour,( part white if you like) Soft whole wheat flour is for muffins & cookies, hard whole wheat is for yeast breads.
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup freshly ground flax seed
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt  
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cloves
2 cups organic oatmeal
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cored and chopped fresh organic apple
Simmer dried fruit and water/juice til raisins are plump, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. You will need 1/2 cup of this. Top up with water if needed.
Heat oven to 375F. Mix oil sugar eggs & vanilla. Stir in reseved liquid. Blend in remaining ingredients. The batter will be quite wet. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet bake 8-10 minutes til light brown. cool. (This is a very adaptable recipe, I have used up extra shredded carrot and zuchinni in these cookies, also coconut, chopped pineapple.) Put in cookie jar. They get fuller flavored after being in a covered container for a while. Now gather some up and go visit your nearest grandchild!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Maybe I should pick my tomatoes....

Damn, I wasnt ready for this yet. Always in denial at this time of year, my garden fork with snow on the handle is where I left it, sticking in the patch of weeds I was digging out of the garden. Looks like this is an inside day, I am baking trays of acorn squash which, when cooked I can scrape the squash off their skins and freeze it.
Yesterday we went to an auction on the trail of a pony model troy bilt tiller, but having a look underneath I could see where the transmission fluid had been leaking out of the seals in the tine housing, the tines were
worn and needed replacement and judging from the big hairdo on the girl on the maual cover I guessed it was made in the mid 80's. So I didn't feel too bad when someone else took it home for way too much money.
 We got this magnificent solid walnut table for just $100! I am SOOO happy with it. Wonderful condition and the center leaf kind of telescopes in underneath when not in use. Our other amazing buys were this pretty wicker seat chair for $10. and two small tables made of the most beautiful wood, for $40 and $60. Now we have a perfect excuse to go to the next auction in search of dining room chairs to match the big table.
Auction shopping has been my antidote to feeling really sad and heartbroken over losing my sweet but dumb golden polish hen. She tended to wander about in her dazed sort of way, apart from the flock. She didnt know enough to avoid open places like the other girls and sometime while I was indoors she disappeared. I imagine a fox grabbed her. There were no telltale feathers, nothing. I have been obsessively checking on the silver polish, but thankfully she has learned to follow the other hens. I have started an outdoor fenced run to protect them when I cant be outdoors.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gardening - Phase 2- Winter

We have had several frosts in the last week so its time to switch gears and prepare for the winter garden. The sweet million cherry type tomatoes have been SOOO prolific, but they are slowing down now so I've yanked half of them out. The growing bed is being sweetened with loads of leaf mould compost before the next crop goes in. Standing on the horse barricade across the chicken door are my two supervisors, the Polish Girls. They have been watching the wormy compost with great interest.
They wandered in to the greenhouse, to see where the worms were going no doubt. Remember those wild haired creatures in "The Cat in the
Hat" book? Thing One and Thing Two? Thats what I call this goofy pair. They are quite irresistable, friendly and docile but not too bright. I have to hunt for them at dusk to put them to bed as they cant figure out how to get back to the coop. Maybe they just cant see anything.
Some treasures turned up in the compost as I was digging out the bin.
These round sprouted things were avocado pits I threw into the compost in early summer. I potted them up but dont hold out much hope for them.
These gigantic potatoes grew from potato peelings. Wow, there's a testimony to the growing powers of good natural compost.
So now the baby greens that I planted in early September are moving into the greenhouse bed where they will feed us fresh salads all winter. Here is a shovelful of arugula about to be transplanted where the tomatoes came out. They are neighbors to green and red oak leaf lettuces, parsley, rosemary, lemon tyme, and kale (so far) Perhaps I'll leave the rest of the tomatoes in there as they are, just to see how long they will produce. Fresh homegrown tomatoes would be lovely with Christmas dinner.
Cascade tomatoes in the greenhouse.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall Diversions

I was going to title this post fall chores, because I've been going from job to job, for weeks bringing in and preserving a wonderful harvest. It's more of a privelege than a chore really, when I think of all the crops under water from our prairies to Pakistan. I feel lucky to have interesting and varied days adding to our food security, and when it gets tiresome theres always something different to do, unfinished projects like shingling the chicken house.
      My sweet neighbor invited me to help pick a gift of his  beautiful grapes. I thought they looked so pretty in the batch of grape jelly done, more grapes waiting in the freezer.
     Wild apples are everywhere. I'm turning them into sliced apples for the freezer for pies and apple crisp, dried apples for munching and cooking with, apple juice, applesauce, apple jelly.

I found a short cut this year to doing spagetti sauce. You slice the toms in two, add in some onion and garlic cloves, brush with olive oil and roast in the oven til soft. Dump into a seive til the watery liquid drains thru. Can or freeze that for soup base. Separate out the skins & seeds. The sauce is most of the way there.
Next I dump the sauce into the crock pot and let it simmer and cook down til the consistency is right. Add salt & pepper to taste, some fresh chopped basil and oregano, yum!

I can only stand so much indoor work on a nice sunny day, so I'm getting on with painting the trim and doing more   shingling on the greenhouse/henhouse. I've been working on some 3D designs in the shingles and the diamond patterns I'm especially pleased with because anything mathmatical with geometry is a really huge challenge for me.
The hinged barricade across the chicken door is to keep the nosy horses out, when the door is open for the hens to come and go. The greenhouse vents have two large hinged doors on the inside. I plan to add plywood winter doors up there on the outside.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Where did summer go? ..a late summer summary

     The best growing summer ever...albeit a bit dry, but lots of heat for the tomatoes and peppers. I sold loads of salad mix to the local restaurants, greens can be a challenge in hot weather so this was a summer to experiment with different varieties. The green and red varieties of oak leaf lettuce became the basis of my salad mix, augmented with spinach, bulls blood beet leaves, arugula and various mesclan mixes. Seeding every 2 weeks gave me a constant supply of fresh baby greens.
     I started a new garden for next year, had a tractor mounted tiller come in and chew up a piece of the pasture, which was then limed, manured, and seeded to buckwheat as a green manure.
     The blossoms  were so lovely and the bees flocked to them, but the buckwheat had to be tilled under to fertilise the soil before it went to seed.
      Trusty old Big Red, vintage 1978, chomped his way through the tangle of buckwheat, and once mixed with soil the plants began to break down quickly.

 Darrel came back for his horse and chicken fix.

It's such fun to watch him having such a great time with the animals, and they really seem to be drawn to him.

Avery came and said his goodbyes to the horses, and then was on his way back to Ontario. I miss his frequent visits.

The weather forecasters had us thinking hurricane Earl would blow us all to kingdom come, so we tied down everything important.
In the end it veered off to Nova Scotia but we did get a welcome rain out of it.

We had record breaking high temperatures in late august and the hottest day ever was Sept 1. I'm so thankful to live on the coast as no matter how hot it gets here, its always hotter inland. Counting my blessings these busy end of summer days as I'm up to my elbows in ripe tomatoes, canning, making pickles, preserves, and freezing summer's bounty.

Monday, August 9, 2010


My favorite small visitor returning each year to the farm has to be Avery, from Ontario. I met him when he was two and was amused to see him confidently leading our white mini Stormy, the length of the pasture. Avery talks about Stormy all winter and when his family comes back to their St Martins cottage each summer he cant wait to get here to see his favorite little horse.

The first time he rode Stormy as a 2 1/2 year old he was hooked. I did his portrait at four astride his best horse friend.

This year the inevitable happened. Avery grew too tall to ride Stormy. Sad news, but he was excited to learn that he was now big enough to drive his special horse . We hooked up the cart and Avery was in heaven, learning the reins, the whoa and the go of it.
He came this week with a huge concern. He believed that the koi fish in our pond had to be lonely since he was the only fish. He had to have a friend and Averys parents got no peace until a trip to Saint John was made to find a goldfish. Not just any goldfish. It had to be the goldest goldfish in the tank. And so he turned up clutching a plastic bag of water and "Goldy".

He was on a serious mission that had to be seen through. He worried about the water temperatures in the bag and the pond being the same. We submerged the bag for half an hour and then, the great release!

Such a focused (his mom used the word obsessive) and thoughtful little boy, a joy to know. I am priveleged to be one of his friends.