Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Sheep and Fun With Gardening

It makes me quite giddy with happiness to have green things still  growing vigorously in the unheated glass greenhouse a week into december. I was able to pick 2 good bags of kale for a couple of my csa customers, with enough left for my morning omelettes. One of my favorite ways to eat kale is to chop up a handful of it in small bits, whisk it into an egg or two, with a bit of chopped onion and mushroom, and make a cheezy omelette. Yum! And so healthy. Kale is such an amazing powerhouse of nutrients.
I started my next painting..., in a bit of a hurry to get two entries ready for a January show in Saint John, with an entry deadline of next week. Here is the under painting of watercolor on toned pastel paper. This will be a mixed media of watercolor and pastel chalks.

And here is the finished and framed results, outside mat size 16x20".

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Switching Gears

I always loved cows, their placid demeanor and thoughtful cud chewing appeal to me. At least the cows of my past, allowed to roam in sunny pastures, grazing their natural grass diet...being contented cows. The poor beasts in factory farm feedlots sad.
I have painted this pair before in acrylic but I like this watercolor version better. (matted prints are available) It's been hard to stay indoors and take up the brushes again, with such a warm fall calling me outdoors. Today it's raining and the manure spreading will have to wait , so I will begin a painting of a pair of sheep.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Amazing November

Since the last post the weather has been unbelievably warm, an average of 4C warmer than usual for November. I feel almost guilty for loving it so much as it must be an indication of the climate going crazy. Most days have been Tshirt weather and I'm still pulling edibles out of the garden. These gorgeous sweet cherry tomatoes are still producing in the small glass greenhouse and I've been harvesting cabbages, brussel sprouts and kale.
The winter cabbages make really good sauerkraut. Just shred and layer in a crock or glass jar with non iodized salt. Pack down tightly and cover with a weighted plate.

I use a nylon stocking to keep out any fruit flies. After a bit the salt will draw water out of the cabbage. (I had to add a bit of salted water to get it all submerged)
10 days into this I'm skimming "stuff" off the water surface, but that's normal as the cabbage ferments. It takes about 4-5 weeks to turn into delicious sauerkraut.
The kale I picked all through mid summer and fall is still producing so I have been digging it up and transplanting it to the glass greenhouse, to see if I can overwinter it.
Here it is nestled amongst the tomato plants and mulched with compost and lawnmower clippings. When the tomato vines succumb to winter I will just clip them off.

We get huge loads of leaves from our big linden trees and here is where they end up. I dump them on whatever part of the garden is in need of a nutritional boost and run over the piles with the lawnmower to shred them.
Then they get lightly tilled in so they dont blow away and by next spring nature will have disappeared them.
Here's a great load of 3 year old horse manure and leaves that went into the garden today.
But it's not all work! We are remembering to hike down to the beach while we can, to remind ourselves how blessed we are.
Jimmy waxes artistic and leaves his self portrait on the beach...

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lots to do before the snow flies...

Lots and lots of fall chores, which is a good way to spend the sunny cool days of late october. I think I've planted about 150 garlic cloves, tucking them in to holes poked in the soft rich soil where they will start to root before the ground freezes. The first welcome green shoots to come up in april will be garlic plants.
Apple cider! At last I get to use my birthday cider press...but first I needed a way to crush up the apples before they could be pressed. I built this stand to accomodate an under - sink  garberator that I found on Kijiji.

Here is the underneath view with the machine running and disgorging the apple mush into the bowl below. It works wonderfully. Even tho the garberator is designed to run with water running through, it doesnt plug up, and the consistantcyof the apple goop  is fine but not too fine to squeeze through the holes in the pressing bag.
I can poke the apples down with this stick with a dowel through it, to keep it from going too far into the grinding chamber.
I made a wooden juice collection tray with a drain hole at the front. The press came with a plastic oil changing pan for juice collecting  (which I found quite horrifying and promptly discarded)

Lots of delicious juice, all from wild apple trees from here and there.

The apple corral comes off for cleaning. And a couple of jugs of water poured through the garberator with the motor on, cleans the insides.

The dryish pulp left in the pressing bag got spread onto trays in the dehydrator to make winter nibbling treats for the mini horses.
Nothing really ever gets wasted on a farm . Between horses, hens and compost there's a place for all the scraps.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Seeing a lot of RED lately..

Tomatoes, that is. In the thick of canning season here..
I learned a good processing trick last year from my chat group
to cut out a lot of evaporating time when making spagetti sauce. You slice the tomatoes in half, lay out in a large baking pan and throw in a few cloves of garlic. Brush cut sides lightly with oil and roast for about half an hour at 400F or until soft and squishy. Then dump it all in a colander and let the watery juice drain out. I help it a bit squashing the tomato pieces gently. Now take the solidy stuff and either blend it in the blender or put it thru a food mill to remove skins and seeds. It's about the right consistency, thick enough to make into tomato sauce. The runny liquid that drained thru the colander can be canned for soup base but mine never made it that far...I drank it lukewarm, yummy.
These are canned chunked tomatoes, skins removed.

Pasta sauce is taking over the cupboards..
The dehydrator is working overtime..

making tasty chewy dried tomatoes.

Lots to bring in before the frost. Two wheelbarrowfuls of squash,

Two loads of sunflower seed heads for winter feed for the hens. I love the whorley patterns they make, everything fitting together so precisely. I began to love the art and design of nature when I was very small and it never gets old for me. I'm very thankful to the Designer for that.
Those racks I made last winter to start seedlings are coming in very useful for storing and drying all this good stuff.
Our last farmers market was near the end of September, after that I switched to plan B which was  weekly csa boxes for 8 local customers.

They all seemed happy with their selections and as time went on and two frosty nights wiped out the salad greens and zuchinni, among other things, I was able to fill the gaps with eggs, baking, hummus and granola. I have a request for pumpkin next time...
Maybe I'll re-home this one, the strangest pumpkin(s) I've ever grown, conjoined twins!
 I daydream about next year's garden before this one is finished for the year.

Here is that new garden patch of buckwheat being tilled under by our neighbor Mike. The tilth of that soil is getting better and better.

I couldnt resist throwing myself into the flowers to make a "buckwheat angel" , looked rather more like a bear had lumbered about in there...oh well snow will be here before we know it and we'll make some good ones..
In the meantime, lots to do in the gardens. The older compost is going into the raised beds, the perennial weeds are slowly being dug out whereever they've taken hold. That short grassy looking greenery in the photo is fall rye. Every time a section of garden was harvested I planted buckwheat or rye. This will make great green manure when it's tilled in next spring.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rich as the Queen

Funny how certain smells can take you right back. I picked up a big box of crayons for only a dollar at a yard sale, thinking they would be handy to have for visiting kids. It was when I got home and opened the box and inhaled that crayola aroma that all the dormant grade 2 memories awoke.
Nowadays kids take the measure of each other by the brand names they sport and the aquisition of the coolest electronic gadgets. In the late 50's in Canning Elementary school, Nova Scotia, there was no concept of brand anything, we all wore hand me downs and wool socks and sweaters made by Mom and Grandma. If you wanted to be awe inspiring it was all about your crayons.
    Most of us, like me, had the standard box of eight. Some of the Hungarian refugee kids had none at all. The Dutch family with kids in different grades shared a box, alternating colors each day.
Sometimes a kid would get a new 15 cent coloring book and a deluxe box of 16 crayons for a birthday and the 8 crayon box kids were green with envy. And then there was Susan. Susan was delivered to school each morning by her father in their glossy turquoise Chevy Bel-air. The rest of us walked through the village, or up or down the railroad tracks. My saddle shoes never looked like Susan's with her impeccably white toes. There were far too many adventures to be had along the tracks coming and going. The train always whistled in plenty of time to get out of the way, it was just that if the whistle blew when I was in the section with swamp on either side, the saddle shoes would pay the price. I dont think school buses had been invented at that time. And I dont remember a single fat kid. But back to Susan and what we perceived as her boring life...It was rumoured that her family owned the bank and were as rich as the queen. That was to be confirmed the day after her birthday when she showed up with the world's most extravagant box of 96 CRAYONS! AND with a built in sharpener!! The class of 7 and 8 year olds would not have been more gobsmacked had she won a million dollar lottery. She was instantly the most popular kid in elementary school. "I'll be your friend if you'll lend me your gold crayon..."
      So here in my senior years sits this box of 96 crayons that once was as out of reach as the moon, and I must admit to feeling a tiny bit smug and quite unreasonably happy in the owning of them. I hope Susan who had everything gets to feel small important joys like the smell of spring sunshine on warm railroad ties. Me, I feel rich as the Queen.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurrican Irene aftermath

Hurricane Irene made for some spectacular surf in our neighborhood, bringing out all the camera buffs in the area trying to capture the perfect crashing wave.
The bulldozers had to be called out when things calmed down, to push the beach back off the road where the wild surf had thrown it.
My biggest worry was the tunnel greenhouse being blown away, but with clamps securing the plastic to each of the bows it came through the high winds unscathed. And I worried about the huge linden trees crashing through the roof, but they bent with the winds and were ok.
The flattened corn however, didn't fare as well...
And the apples that still needed three weeks or more to ripen, are mostly on the ground, too green for any use at all. Will be hard to find enough later for cider. I must check my pears tomorrow...there were only four on the tree so I put a drawstring produce bag over each and tied them to the branches to protect them.
Remarkably, the sunflowers are still upright, but they are in a garden that has a windbreak of mature trees so that surely is what saved them.   All except the one accidently lopped off by the garden maid who is in this pic sharpening her scythe for a go at the alfalfa plot.
This will be dried winter feed for the laying hens, along with the sunflower seed heads. Yesterday seemed like a good day to cut the alfalfa down as there is no rain forecast for another 4 days, how unusual for this soggy summer!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I've been meaning to replace my ageing raspberry patch for several years now. If I ever needed a nudge here it is on this little bush from Corn Hill Nursery, that I planted in May.
The 12 year old plants put out these tiny pathetic berries despite a heavy manure application, (which produced the biggest healthiest weeds ever). The gigantic berries were produced on a foot high new baby plant. So why did I wait so long? Its that gardeners optimistic mindset that "next year will be better." I'm fond of this old patch even tho it has run it's course and definitely it's time to call in the tractor/tiller guy.
This is the new raspberry patch being worked up for next year's planting, presently sporting a crop of soil enriching buckwheat. I love the look of a field of buckwheat. It looks so soft and billowy, like green clouds that you could throw yourself into.(No, I havent tried that.) It will be a beautiful attractant to the bees when in flower, so that I will hate to till it under, but after all, that's the main idea.

Just to keep the farmers market customers guessing, I'm growing some English Broad Beans. When I was small I loved to pop them out of their pods, but dinner preparations could be delayed while I played with the food. You see , I saw faces, little newborn baby faces in each bean. I still see them...doesn't everybody? Is it just me?
And after involved conversations with all the little faces, after they finally landed in the pot, then there was their soft fuzzy cradle to play with. I would trace each indentation in the soft fuzzy lining of the pod with my fingertips, and inhale the lovely unique smell. We had no electronic or plastic toys, but we sure had the riches of Imagination.

Here's what the pods look like growing on the broad bean plant.
Walking in the gardens, there's always something new and different and lovely. I planted about 100 sunflowers with the idea of saving the seed heads for winter feed for the hens. They are stunningly beautiful, I always marvel at their ability to turn their giant heads from east to west so that the sun kisses them all day long.