Saturday, December 29, 2012

A beginning Twitcher

       Yesterday we went out to do a bit of birdwatching. I am quite new to this, so while I recognize black ducks and Canada geese (and there were plenty of them!) I am not so good on the bufflehead or the goldeneye. However, there were plenty of these as well! It was not ideal for the pursuit in that it was raining from time to time, and there was fog, or at least evaporating snow.

      We began at the National Park, starting at Dalvey Lake. Unfortunately it is frozen over, so no birds, but we could hear the surf from the beach so we went there next. Just gulls there, of course, but the surf was spectacular. The moon is full, so the tide was quite high already, and some stiff Easterlies in the past few days had churned up the water quite well. It was not cold at all, so the surf looked like you could just dive in. Except for the snow cakes on the beach. There's been a lot of sand blown around, as the dunes aren't frozen yet.

Afterward, we went to Covehead harbour, where we saw a whole flock of common redpolls, playing around the lobster traps, eating weed seeds, and bathing in a puddle. There were about 30-35 of them, the first we've seen this season.  We went on to Oyster Bed Bridge, and saw mergansers, buffleheads and goldeneyes. A busy day!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Festive Season

Well! I just lost 4 paragraphs of text. Gotta love Blogger.

It's blustery out, with a bit of snow and a lot of wind. We went to see The Hobbit, and when we came out of the theatre it was storming. The same thing happened last week after Skyfall. Coincidence? I think not. All skiiers should apply to me, with theatre tickets.

We're approaching being ready for Christmas, with the tree up and decorated, and cleaning happening.

I have a few more things to produce in "Santa's Workshop", and a couple of things to bake, including the annual attempt to make meatless meat pie for the Veggie. We are going to to make Nigel Slater's nut loaf instead of tofu loaf, just for a change. It looked terrific in the "12 Tastes of Christmas"  show we watched this week. We may make the Gammon for Boxing Day as well.

This year's multi gifts include Christmas fabric trivets and small boxy bags, with a strap I invented myself (to save trouble), I am having fun matching insides to outsides, and I have enough zippers to make quite a few before I have to invest at the fabric store.

Speaking of which, I work tomorrow, and on Saturday, but then I have 3 days off in a row so we can go to Halifax and take Katie back. As our friendly neighbourhood parasitologist would say, "Fleas Navidad!"


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Unbelievable!

Autumn Anemone
          Today I was out in the garden, planting more garlic, harvesting leeks, and digging up gladioli corms. It was an incredible 17 degrees Celsius out there, most pleasant for working. In fact, I should still be out there, cutting the grass. I wouldn't be the only one doing that on PEI today.
        Removing the gladioli made the anemones stand out rather. I am so pleased with them. They are even more lovely than the spring ones. Quite a few came through the summer and are now blooming - I hope they increase in size as they go on.  They are all this colour save one - a white with pink centre. 
     The frost has gotten a lot of things, however - my painted ferns are all frozen, as are the pink pelargoniums - I did mean to bring them in, but too late now. I have some cuttings, however. And, most distressing, I missed the opportunity to bring in my Mary Garden (which David and Sue made for my birthday, with all sorts of plants which are now or were once known as Mary-something: ie., Mary's Gold = marigold). There was a lovely white tuberous begonia I had hoped to overwinter indoors.
      I also cleared up a couple of beds - though there's more to do. I was listening to Scotland's Gardens about hardwood cuttings today - they are easy to do, all I need is a bed where they can be undisturbed for a year (but weeded and watered). Hmmm.
     We went cranberrying recently, and I collected some more plants for the cranberry bog. I think these ones will be more successful than the last, as there were many more roots on these. I plunked them into the bog immediately, to join the 4 or 5 from last year. Who knows. Maybe there'll be no more need to go cranberrying - some time in the future!
     The Christmas cactus, which spent the summer on the deck, is now full of blooms. A strong suggestion to get on with Christmas presents! Even though the weather is belying the late date.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

10/11/12

This will be the last year we can have fun with the calendar - oh, I suppose we can have 11/12/13 next year. But I had fun (anyway) writing that on cutting slips at work today. It was a pretty dead day at work, so I volunteered to come home early, and, after picking up some groceries I was here by 1:30. So much better than *6:30*!

       I have some scalloped potatoes in the oven, and I'm making raspberry chicken from the Silver Palate Cookbook to go with. And some vegetables of some kind.  I've always had trouble with scalloped potatoes - they *always* curdle. I've tried using higher-fat milk, but with only partial success. So, today, I'm trying lower heat. I think I'm always in a rush and try to cook them quickly, at a high temperature, and milk doesn't like that. We shall see.

         I got here early to let the chimney sweeper in - and now Fred is cleaning the pipes. Finally, we can have a wood fire again!! The wood is still outdoors but I think we can find a few scraps to burn this evening, and then we'll put the big wood in tomorrow. I am sure this is the latest we've started up the wood furnace, but I may be wrong about that. In any case, I am looking forward to that lovely, steady, wood heat - not the wretched hot-and-cold, hot-and-cold, of the oil furnace.
Garage doors, with insulation!

        It's not terribly cold out today, but there's quite a wild nor-westerly wind, and the insulation we put over the garage doors is cre-e-e-eking when the wind gusts come. I bought two thermometers, and both are registering 8 degrees C out there, so everything is fine in terms of food storage.

          Next I must dig up the dahlia bulbs and gladioli corms and leeks that have to overwinter in there - and plant another batch of garlic - I *found* my garlic at last, hanging in a cloth bag on a nail in the garage. So now I can safely plant some more. The ones Lloyd gave me, and which I planted, are sprouting already!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Back from Abroad

         We travelled to Maine last week, in the week which also saw the visit of Super-storm Sandy. We had a good time despite the storm, which prevented us from going any father south than Portland. We actually holed up in our hotel there for two days,  in case the power went out, or anything. As it happened we were perfectly safe.
         One of the things I wanted to check out was yarn shops. On this I struck out, absolutely.  In Bangor (our first stop) we didn't spend a lot of time looking for the 55 yarn shops within 50 miles of Bangor (according to Ravelry). I thought I had plenty of other opportunities.
        We did go to The Christmas Tree Store, which I had checked out beforehand. I had planned to buy the LED battery operated candles recommended by Paula - they were in their flyer, at $2.99 each!! But of course they were all sold out, by the time we got there. I did find the 32 oz. jugs of maple syrup, marked down to $12.99...and bought 4. Katie was a bit disparaging, suggesting that we shouldn't be buying "American" maple syrup when we make so much at home. But, but - the maple syrup at The ASS (Atlantic Super Store) is $12.99 for 500 ml, which is about half the amount? Anyway, it was really reasonably priced, was in a cute jug, and seemed perfect for Christmas presents. Don't you agree?


        It wasn't until I was home, and sorting through our purchases, that I had a good look at the *back* of the jug, and noticed the very last line of the text: "Product of Canada".  I guess I can give these as Christmas presents with no guilt at all. We have cracked open one at home, and there is not a thing wrong with it at all. It's lovely. And nobody will know how little we paid. Is that line copyright?


        In Portland, we spent the day before Sandy, shopping. I was allowed to go looking at yarn shops recommended by Ravelry, having agreed to just visit 5. As three were on Congress Street (the way to downtown from our hotel) I thought I could walk from one of them to the others, and meet up with the other two after they did things more interesting to them. Well. The first one was closed (papered-up windows closed!!) so I walked on to the second one. It was closed Mondays (this was Monday). Then I was hailed from the car by my family, who told me that the third one (at 50 Congress St.) was closed as well. Three strikes out of 5. Sheesh.
       Then we went downtown - we had had a lovely dinner at an Irish pub called Ri Ra (I think) the night before, but we had wanted to see the area in daylight. There are a lot of specialty (tourist) shops down there at the waterfront, and one was a yarn shop that wasn't on the list! But it had closed early because of Sandy.  (Strike 4 out of 5!) I love, love, that downtown Portland has decorated its streets with Ginkgo Biloba trees...they are quite young yet, and the leaves were mostly still on the trees, but there were some lovely leaves on the ground, some of which I collected. They are SO GORGEOUS.

Gingko Biloba on the streets of Portland

        The next day we went to Freeport, and a lady at the L.L. Bean info desk said that there was a great yarn shop in town (hurrah!) but it was closed on Tuesdays (boo!). So that was it for yarn shops in the U.S. of A. 
        I did visit a Mardens store in Ellsworth, and I found a bag of Reynolds Revue (6 skeins of beige 100% wool in a fingering weight) for 2.49/skein. The only yarn I bought on the trip. I searched diligently, but there were no other colours, or any other yarns there that weren't acrylic.  It did not help that the lady in the fabric department said that they were opening up a big shipment of yarn the next day. Not a bit did it help.
      In Bar Harbour the next day we went to an alpaca store, but they only had Peruvian alpaca yarn for $15/skein, and only about 6 skeins of that. In different colours. I think I can get Peruvian yarn any time, or if I want to spend that kind of money I can buy it from local alpaca producers. 
     We had a great time, although the drive home through New Brunswick in Sandy-related downpour was horrific. I think my fingers have made deep impressions on the steering wheel which will be there until Bridgit keels over.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I Should Be Packing

Xmas Knitting
          We are off for a short holiday that will involve quite a bit of driving, and when we return it will be the eve of our annual Guy Fawkes Night party, so I should be cleaning, and then packing. But I will linger here a while and then get on with it.
          Speaking of Getting On, the third series of this excellent show is on, and I watched the second episode last night. What a wonderful, understated, funny thing this is! I heartily recommend it to everyone. Jo Brand is an amazingly versatile human being.
         Yesterday I closed in the greenhouse, and brought in to the house some plants that I feared might be frosted while we are away. I also planted the fastigiate oak seeds in one of the vegetable beds, in hopes that some of them sprout before I have to plant vegetables there next year!! I will pot the successful ones up in the spring. There are a few strawberries on the plants inside and out, in numbers more suited to decoration than actual eating, but still! Strawberries in October! I am thrilled.
       We have been exceedingly lucky with the weather so far, and many things are still blooming and lovely. I gathered some cuttings from the Osteospermum and potted them up, in hopes of having some survive the winter and be around next year. I also searched for some way of growing "Yakon" - actually, Smallanthus sonchifolius, which was discussed recently on GQT. It's available from a source in Oregon, I think, for $7 per plant. I am going to look further into it, as opinion on the 'net is a bit mixed - one site suggesting that it can't be grown anywhere under Zone 10. But it's from the Andes - I bet it gets chilly up there! The product itself - or rather, Yakon syrup - seems to be rather more readily available.  I am also determined to grow quinoa next year, the seeds being much more readily available than the Yakon (which has to be grown from rhizomes). You can plant the quinoa seeds you buy to eat! How great is that?
     Because it's been a bit chilly, I have been getting into knitting again, producing Xmas presents of mittens, gloves and neckwear in DK weight, which just fly along in comparison to those socks in teeny fingering-weight. However. I must prepare for driving-knitting, getting out the dull greys and browns and planning a couple of sock projects for the men on the list. Ho hum! and Ho Ho Ho.  The mittens above are Patons DK Superwash (off-white) and Belfast Mini Mills BFL (Rose). And unlike the ones I made in sock yarn earlier, these I can actually put on.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Amazing!

Cape Daisy (Osteospermum)
          Yesterday I was doing some gardening and discovered this lovely Osteospermum blooming. There are plenty of blooms to come, as well! While planting out things I've been sheltering in the greenhouse I put in another one, up at the west edge of the big shrub border to the west of the house.     
            But, now I've read up on them, I discover that they are "half-hardy" perennials, meaning they won't survive our winter. So, I am going to dig up the little'un again, and take cuttings of this beauty, and hope that I can get them through the winter. I'm pretty cocky about my propagation skills, but my biggest successes were in the spring, when the sap was rising strongly and almost anything I stuck in made roots quickly. I just hope that we have a bit of frost-free so I can see more of these glorious blooms! Of course you can see some of the regeneration of the Tanacetum parthenium (White Bonnet I think). They have had a great year as well. When they finished their first bloom period I cut them right back, and some of them are blooming for the THIRD time. But of course they are fully hardy perennials.
            There's a big pot of turkey soup on - I'm trying it with rice and curry, rather than potatoes, this time. And there will be plenty of baby zucchini and perhaps some green beans, for colour. The beans have been producing again, since the rains came. Today I also have to plant some garlic, provided last night at dance class by Lloyd. I think he actually dug them out of his own garden - they are rooted already, so they must go in right away. I am going to put them in at the top of Bed #5 - a new spot for onions, so I hope they do well. It wasn't planted this year, so it should be pretty fertile. 
              My Actaea has been doing really well, in the new shade bed under the snowballs that Anne made - in fact, it is covered with seeds. Anne suggested that I bag the seed head, with one of those organza gift bags from the $$ store... because they let air through so the seeds won't rot, but I don't lose any. Brilliant! But *where* are those bags? I know I have some.

Cosmos seashell
               It is certainly time for seed-collection. My seashell cosmos have done really well, so I must check and see if there are any mature seed heads I could bring in. And of course the Cleome are finished blooming, and their seeds are ready for collection too. The cosmos fell over quite badly, I must remember to put them in the BACK of the border _ or some other spot with support - next year. I had forgotten how much I love them, though - I must look for some shorter varieties as well, since the starting-from-seed worked so well.
             We gathered some acorns from a couple of fastigiate English oak trees (Quercus robur ver. Fastigiata) last weekend - they are on the Brackley Point Road, and must have been in someone's garden before the whole area went commercial. I just think that, if you want oaks, fastigiate ones are the sort to go for! So, more propagation. I am going to take over the east window of the office (all that paperwork has got to GO into the archives [closet]). It's the best spot to nurture all my babies!
       I finally decided that I HAVE to have the book "Making Bentwood Trellises, Arbors, Gates and Fences" by Jim Long. So I ordered it from Amazon and it came the other day. I am going to make *many* of the lovely things in this book. But it is a bit discouraging (though not surprising) that these structures don't have a very long life-span. However! The section on making wattle fences to retain raised beds is a winner for sure. This could be my answer for the remaining beds in the vegetable garden. And the passage from the "pretty" garden in the front to the "productive" garden in the back could really use an arbour with something nice climbing up. I have to source some small, but long, cedar trees for the posts. This can be a winter pastime.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Glorious Autumn

We've had a couple of frosts, and the light levels are lower, so the trees are starting to colour up. This is a Manitoba Maple (Acer negundo) which usually only turns yellow, so it's nice to see that it can have a more interesting look, occasionally. It, the larch and the spruce are the reason that the "rose mound" isn't doing very well any more - they are taking most of the sun, even in mid-summer, and so the bloom is getting less every year. My plan is to move the roses to more hospitable spots, starting with the more refined ones, and perhaps leaving the more robust rugosas to take over and do what they can in the matter of bloom. I also noticed quite a bit of black spot on them this year, surprisingly, since they are supposed to be immune! But I have found a couple of packets of sulfur treatment so I shall begin in the spring and keep them dosed up. I think moving the ones which are already defoliated might be the ticket NOW, and leave all that spotty foliage behind.
I've put in 40 pastel tulips, in various spots, and quite a few daffs under the maple tree. My hope is that they will come up before the bishop's weed (Aegopodium) and perhaps make that spot a bit more interesting. I think the tulips will be nice surprises wherever they come up. I put them mainly in the beds, but used a bulb planter, so it wasn't the big digging job it usually is.
 Because it's getting colder, things that have been sitting in the greenhouse must be put into the ground as well, so I have an oriental poppy (from Anne) and the two eryngeum offsets, and a couple of other things. I am planning to colonize more of the big central shrub bed to the west of the house and stick them in there. I've already moved quite a few foxgloves and blue iris up there. 
The gladioli are still lovely, and I really appreciate them as cut flowers - in the Peter Jansons ikebana vase, you can stick two on the needlepoint holder, and as the lower blooms fade, you can just shorten the stems. They last for days and days this way.
We are insulating the garage to be our cold room, so there will be a safe place to put our gladioli bulbs, and dahlias as well. And, of course, onions and carrots and potatoes! The big garage doors will be the real challenge. We are considering rigid sheets, or making a framework to hold fibreglas batts. I think the former is the easy route, but it is expensive.
Today is glorious, and I got out to take some photos (and do some watering and planting) but the colder and wet weather has been good for knitting and sewing. And cooking! We had the usual Thanksgiving get-together, but we cooked our own turkey the other day, so now we have the potential for all sorts of turkey-leftover meals. Mmm.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

All sinus suffers welcome

Cucumber relish and more zippy zucchini

       There's been more pickling today, mainly because the garden just won't stop producing zucchini and cucumbers. So, four more bottles of Zippy Zucchini Relish (recipe here) and five bottles of Wallace's Cucumber Relish. I've tried this one before, with rather poor results; it was quite watery, not like a relish at all. But all this zippy zucchini has given me ideas, so today I chopped the cucumbers in the food processor, and strained them for a very long time through a piece of nylon curtain sheer (it's what I prefer to cheesecloth, which is quite sleezy to my mind, and not up to the job at all) and then squeezed out as much moisture as I could.  I brought the vinegar-and-sugar mix to a boil first, dumped in the cucumber and simmered it for 15 minutes. Then I added cornstarch (1 T to 1 T water) and cooked it for another 5 minutes. These ones will be thick. The recipe calls for 7 cucumbers (I used 10 because that's what I had), chopped and drained. Syrup is 3 cups white sugar, 3 cups white vinegar, and a teaspoon each of celery seed and mustard seed. Easy peasy.
"Icicles" on left, cut up ones on right
      The Icicle Pickles were bottled on Sunday - the 14 days being up at last - and it made quite a big batch, as I suspected.  I tried to arrange the "icicle" ones in the jars so they will be straight when they come out. Some were too long, and others too floppy, so they went into a tester jar for later (it's in the background up above). After all of this I am really hopeful that they will live up to my expectations! And my memories of having them at church suppers & the like.
     I actually bought more pickle jars at Value Village yesterday - I thought a dozen for $6, but it turned out that one wasn't a canner jar so I only got 11. I bought more seals and looked for a box of seals and rings, to no avail - everywhere I went, they were sold out. I've been robbing them off the jars in the pantry - I keep dry ingredients like rice, lentils, cocoa etc. in jars so I have a bit of a supply there. If all else fails. I have plenty of the wide-mouth seals and rings, but almost none of the jars, so they aren't much use to me.
     I should note that I have been using the Bernardin Pickle Crisp in everything - apparently it has a best-before date so it won't last forever, and when it goes by heaping 1/8 tsp. per jar it goes a long way. No results to share as yet.
    I have found a recipe for salsa that takes 7 pounds of tomatoes, as well as zucchini! But I think I shall have to amass some more jars before I can tackle that one. And then surely that will have to be that. Until chutney season, of course, but that's a more winter-ish activity.
     We are expecting rain, and then later this week, cold weather - I should be outdoors, probably cutting the grass like the neighbours - or battening down the greenhouse. Not on the computer, at least!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Glory of Gladioli

This one got knocked down by the rain.
       Not much to add after yesterday, except that I am going to be outdoors! all day because the weather is so glorious. I bought some bags of sheep manure at Van Kampens yesterday, so I shall do some planting, and probably mulching, of newly planted things. Weeding continues to be easy because of all the moisture in the soil. So there will be weeding - as well as harvesting.
     I've been enjoying the gladioli - planted out not that long ago, after being started in pots in the greenhouse - the last time I looked at them up close there were no signs of blooms, and I was resigned to just building up the bulbs for next year. And then, the other day, I noticed colour! in the bed, investigated, and found two peach ones blooming, with a couple of these darker ones ready to go. Of course, when the rains came it bashed down this one, so I brought it in and am enjoying the blooms up close. The little bedding dahlias I planted in the new bed by the west side of the house are doing really well, too - the white more than the burgundy, but still! I picked a few earlier in the week, and noticed that one of the white ones was looking really dark in the centre - yuck! Earwigs! I stomped on it, hard, and checked the others carefully, but it was the only infested one. So they are residing in a nice bowl in the house. Not much for stems, these bedding dahlias.
     Fred was planning to take the day off today, so there was to have been carpentry, but he has a special event on Saturday (I work, so that doesn't matter) so he has to go in. He may take Monday - however I forgot to check next week's schedule when I was in last night, so with *my* luck I'll be scheduled to work on Monday! We are planning to insulate the garage, which may just give us the root cellar my fond heart desires. We've been clearing up in the garage, and built some lumber-storage units on the walls, to free up the floor a bit. And once we insulate, we can get on with hanging some of those surplus kitchen cupboards, to store even more of the stuff which has been accumulating in there.
     I finally cut the doors for the linen cupboard last weekend, and it looks like it should be quite do-able to just make them smaller by a bit.  I just cut the top and bottom frames at the outer corners, and the panels popped right out.  I wish I had sharper tools is all. The bits have to fit back very smoothly in order for them to be glued properly to take all the strain of hanging as doors, particularly on the hinge side. However, on the plus side, I think we have a couple of those square hammered knobs from the kitchen left over, which will look very nice on them. When I get them glued up and installed, that is. Hmmm, some carpentry content after all!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

More pickling, and a bit of carpentry work, too!


      On the long weekend (and at long last, as our new kitchen was completed last Christmas!) we installed the over-the-range microwave/range hood. We had taken advice from a much more experienced friend, NOT to carve up our new cupboards, but to cut through the wall stud directly behind the range, as the boards under the shingles will prevent the house from falling down when the stud is cut. Luckily, it turns out he was right! We started by just cutting the gyproc, and checking out the stud, and the electrical wire running UP the stud to the plug-in inside the cupboard. The wire was quite slack, so we carefully pulled it out of danger and examined the stud - actually, studs, there were two.

That's the outdoors!
      The next day we cut the studs, and the boards and shingles, and then started putting up the support plate on the wall - that was a bit of a job, as there was a difference in the dimensions at the wall, and at the cupboard face. We finally got it placed, though, and then had to make the hole bigger on the outside...luckily they gave us quite a bit of leeway in the size of the hole. It took us bits of all four days of the long weekend, but finally the unit is in and functioning. We're almost used to looking in the new location for the time, and I almost always head in the right direction to heat milk for my morning cappucchino. (Almost always.) The vent fan has been useful in my continuing pickle-making operations, as it takes quite a bit of the vinegar smell outside.
    The garden continues to be prodigiously productive, and I expect that this week's torrential rains (110 mm in two days! Thanks to TS Leslie) will mean a new lease of life for some things.
    I picked enough cukes this week to make quite a big batch of icicle pickles - 32 cups of peeled and cut up cukes, which are now soaking in brine in two big glass pickle jars. They stay there for a week! and then get various other things done to them, including a hot water soak for a day, a soak in alum for a day, and then a pickle bath for 4 days. These ones are the 14-day variety.  I discovered that I have some dessert dishes that fit exactly into the mouths of these jars, and they are easy to remove to give the cukes a stir, as I must do daily. Gosh! I hope these work.  I decided to do a batch of cut-up ones, and a batch of the traditional icicles, as they apparently make good cocktail-party fare. I am coming dangerously near to having to buy a box of pickling jars, which is amazing to me! As we usually have many unused ones (we always buy pasta sauce in the mason-jar type jars so we can re-use them, and I really thought we had a beyond-life-expectancy number of these). I may have become officially pickle-mad.
    We have given the Zippy Zucchini Relish a taste test, and it's quite pleasant, just a bit of heat from some dried chiles. And as the zucchinis continue to produce, I have made another batch of four jars. We simply can NOT eat more than we already do. And I've dehydrated a lot as well.

   I planted a "Hot Pepper Mix" of seeds from Veseys and now I'm reaping lots of peppers, but the big problem is I don't know WHAT I'm reaping. I recognize jalapenos, and I think the long yellowish ones are banana peppers, or maybe yellow wax peppers? But some of the others - they are green, long and thin, should I be letting them ripen to red? (Advice I got last night said you can use those latter ones red or green, which is good.) I have a pious hope that these might be cayenne peppers, so I am going to leave some alone to ripen. I hope I have enough time. I am trying drying peppers in the dehydrator, to make hot pepper flakes, or hot sauce, later. I think that the lobed small ones growing in amongst the jalapenos might be habaneros, as I always buy those to make hot pepper jelly. Maybe I will have my own this year!
All the peppers dehydrate quite well, I just put them in at night and the next morning they're crispy! I have the dehydrator set up in the garage, so there's none of the eye-watering vapours I've read about either. I should have enough dehydrated jalapenos to make salsa all winter, at the very least.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Domestic Engineer

Test batch of tomatoes for dehydrating
     I've been stuck in to preserving the bounty of the garden for the past two weeks. I have dehydrated a big batch of plum tomatoes - these were just the test ones. They turned out really bright red and leathery, as the dehydrater book said they would. I was a bit worried about spoilage so I froze them, but the next batch I dried overnight and they are dry and crispy, so I have them in a bag in the cupboard.
Dehydrated!
      Then I moved on to the abundance of cucumbers and the expressed need for mustard pickles. Each batch takes 12 cukes (why are pickle recipes so outdated? What the heck does 8 quarts of small cucumbers look like? Even when they say 12 cukes, are those big or small? Mixed? and don't even get me started on "pecks" of green tomatoes or gills of something else).  I have made two batches, so far, for a total of 12 jars, mostly 1-litre ones. I also made some "Zippy Zucchini Relish" with some of my many yellow zucchinis - I am hoping that people don't know it's zucchini. Now I will have to freeze or dehydrate the rest - they are still producing at a prodigious rate - though the green ones, in the lasagne bed, haven't done anything but bloom, all summer.
      I have been wanting to make bread and butter pickles as seen in Fancy Pantry, so I spent quite a bit of time looking for pickling lime (slaked lime, calcium hydroxide), including asking at a pharmacy. No dice. So I googled it, and got a lot of conflicting information about its safety (ranging from - go to a hardware store and get them to shovel a few pounds into a paper bag - to - never eat even the food-grade stuff as it will kill you). But I was determined to have crispy pickles even if it literally killed me, so I found a recommendation for WalMart's pickling department. I went there, and found - not calcium hydroxide, but calcium chloride, marketed by Bernardin under the name "Pickle Crisp". You don't soak the cukes in it, you just add a bit to each jar after  filling them. Sounds quick and easy, so I did it. (Watch this space for further details!) 6 - 1/2 litre bottles of bread and butter pickles.
        Next I made cucumber relish, a new recipe this time, with an overnight brine soak - I have never had much luck with this, as I find they really soak up the salt and the taste stays in the pickles. However, I did it anyway, rinsing them three or four times and straining them through a piece of nylon curtain sheer, which is wonderful stuff for the purpose.  So I have 8 - 1/2 litre jars of cucumber relish! If the cukes continue to produce, I would like to make icicle or nine-day pickles - I have only ever tried them once and they were a limp failure.  But I love them, and now I have a secret weapon (Pickle Crisp!) so I may just try again. And of course there are dill pickles - my dill has finally sprouted in the garden, I think because there was finally some moisture for it.
      As I have a big glut of non-plum tomatoes, and two batches of salsa already laid down, I made chili sauce. I don't know what I'm going to do with it - folks online are pretty disparaging about its use. However, I have 6 one-litre jars of it now.
Chili sauce in back, with cucumber relish & one B&B pickles
    Today I have been water-bath-ing them all, and washing the jars, putting on labels, etc. I must get canning kettle with a wire rack - it would help a lot with this chore. 
      Last night we had rain (!) and a bit of a thunder-and-lightning show, so today is cooler, with a nice north-west breeze, so I have decided to make bread. I started with my favourite "Oatmeal Brown Bread" from The Laura Secord Canadian Cook Book, my very first cook book, purchased on 19 Feb. 1974. I remember the first time I made this recipe, it calls for 1/2 cup molasses, and I didn't have any. I called on my neighbour, a little old exPat British lady who lived across the hall in my apartment block in Winnipeg - she didn't have molasses either, but gave me 1/2 cup of corn syrup. I found I preferred it with the corn syrup, as I don't like the rum/molasses flavour, so I have been using corn syrup ever since...until today, when I substituted organic honey. I have decided that the evil corn syrup will never again be used by me, so I am hoping that honey will be a good substitute, I'd hate to have to go back to molasses after all this!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dog Days

         I've been busy with visitors for a lot of the summer, and now that I have some gardening time, it's so hot and humid that I don't want to go out there. But there is deadheading to do, and tomatoes to gather, so I must go.
        The lilies are doing well - the hemerocallis are almost over, and of course the bi-colour orange ones have been absolutely spectacular (alas for my pink-and-white colour scheme). The regular lilium have a bit longer bloom season, and so they are still carrying on. But I am at a loss to think what I can replace all those orange ones with - I don't know of anything but phlox paniculata that's as vigorous and blooming now, and they don't have the different foliage and so on that's the real treat with the hemerocallis. And of course I have too many phlox already. I should say that I have quite a number of different burgundy hemerocallis (but they are just not as vigorous) and they have done quite well.
         Yesterday the humidex was 34, so I spent most of the day in the basement, sewing - and I still managed to work up a sweat, mostly running upstairs to cut out or press things. It's warm in the basement anyway, with the dehumidifier running. It's not the chilly dank place it used to be. I also went through all my bins of fabric, and threw out about 2.5 binsworth. That felt like an accomplishment. Also now all the silk is organized into one bin, etc. I only managed to finish one thing, but I have several other things cut out and have tidied up the work area, sorted out a dress I cut out some time ago and decided to throw out another - it was lined and had a printed chiffon overskirt and was just too fussy - and also the chiffon and the lining weren't working at all together. I found a cotton blend I made a lot of things out of a few summers ago - all gone now, or stored, I suppose - and I cut out a dress that should fit, with some of it. And I finally cut out that too-bright-for-the-eyes green bathing suit, and started to sew it. I may have already screwed up a bit because I was supposed to make a shelf bra for it, but I didn't install it at the right time and now it may be too late. Ah well. Sewing is a process, not a product (or not so much a product). I do like to wear stuff I make, though. I need some sewing things - cotton elastic for the bathing suit, bright red thread for a top - but I work tomorrow so I can pick them up then.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Vacationing at Home

The garden, decorated for my birthday.
        With my momentous birthday behind me, I am continuing on my stress-free lifestyle, concentrating on growing things and making things, and forgetting I ever had sleepless nights!
        My brother and sister surprised me by coming for my birthday! So we have been doing summer things - many trips to the beach, eating out, visiting friends - with a bit of garden work thrown in.
     The garden was looking its best for the birthday party. There were lots of roses out, and some of the clematis blooms managed to hold on until then as well. The mystery rose was doing its stuff splendidly!
      One beautiful present I got was another F.J. Grootendorst rose, so I put it in the shrub bed to the west, under the linden a bit, but in pretty much full sun. Hope it does well there. It is a beautiful healthy one. The Pink Grootendorst in the "Ring-around-the-Rosey" bed is blooming! Lovely.
      Anne has bought me some plants as well - another rhododendron (which I'll put with the first one, I think) and, the thing I've been wanting for a year, a Sambucus "Black Lace" - I think it will go on the east side of the shrub bed, across from the golden elder.  Symmetry!
Climbing Rose - maybe "Henry Kelsey".
      The rose I put at the back of the vegetable bed a couple of years ago, and which bloomed for the first time last year, is doing its stuff at the moment. I am not sure if it is the Explorer climber "Henry Kelsey", or suckers from the root stock. I don't care. It is blooming lovely. There is a slight scent, but its main claim to fame is the glorious colour - a really, really dark, velvety, red.
     My eryngeums are doing well also - the first one is "Blue Glitter" and then I got two more, both "Blue Hobbit", which I put in front of the first. So, I have a small clump in front of the lilacs, near that mystery clematis (which didn't bloom this year, alas!). They come out green and then turn blue. So neat.
The one on the left is Blue Glitter and the one on the right is Blue Hobbit, not yet turned blue. This was a few days ago, and they are both blue now. It is interesting to note that the Blue Glitter is supposed to get 80 cm tall while the Blue Hobbit maxes out at 30 cm. They are pretty much the same size at the moment.
      There were some roots around the pot of the first one, which I pulled off and discarded at first. Then I realized (looking at the little leaves attached) that they were baby ones! So I rescued them and potted them up, and two have survived and are growing, Must get them into the ground somewhere soon, so they get a chance to get growing before the winter. I could become a specialist in Eryngeum! Not much chance, as Kent was selling them for $4.00. Everyone must have one by now.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

First Rose

Terese Bugnet rose

     It's official...this is an early spring. My first rose bloomed yesterday - a Terese Bugnet on the 'Rose Mound'. I'm sure that in other years the first rose has bloomed about two weeks later than this. There are other roses waiting in the wings as well. Many of the roses have been attacked by bugs but I don't care - bloom season is the best.   
     Gardening organically as we do, these are the hazards we have to live with. I am pleased with the variety of ones that are preparing to bloom - the Blanc double de Coubert is full of bud, as is the Snowy Pavement, the Marie Bugnet and the rugosa at the corner of the south lawn area. It is usually the first, so it's nice to see someone else win! And I was sure that the first would be David Thompson by the door, because there was colour showing in the buds last week, but he is still in bud. And speaking of buds, check out the wild rose in the 'Ring around the Rosey' bed! It will be covered come bloomtime. I hope it's out for the party!
My 'wild' rose, full of buds

     There are ripe strawberries in the greenhouse (a few, but still!), and quite a few dry plants - I have been in town all day for the last three days and haven't been able to check on it as frequently as necessary. However, I have today, and several days next week. Gardening will progress quickly from now on. I watered thoroughly last night, and I'm hoping to see a few miraculous recoveries when I go out to the greenhouse this morning.
     I am also under the gun a bit to get my 'outfit' finished for the 'Party like it's 1952' on the 30th. Yesterday I bought the materials to make a 1950s hat - Vogue pattern 8052 - in white organza. It looks like a ton of fun, but also quite a bit of work! I have had my dress cut out for ages - it's a Butterick Retro pattern from 1952.  I'm making the short version, of course. There are a lot of 50s patterns out right now - and of course every one of them suggests that this is not the sort of thing that someone of my shape should wear - the block shape is not suited to this nipped-in waist and full skirt at all. Oh well, it's just for one day! But it won't be, if I don't get it sewn up and finished.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Planting .... and weeding

         The growing season is upon us. I am amazed at the buds on all the roses, though I'm not expecting blooms just yet. The white tree peony is still blooming well, with two out of three blooms out, while the burgundy one has 4 buds, none out yet.  The poor pink one has put on a bud too, I hope it's not the last hurrah before it croaks!
     The vegetable garden gets a bit more work today, and then I think I have to plant it - I'm working on supports for a net for the brassicas - I just have cauliflower and broccoli seedlings so far. I am going to use the plastic I used for hoop skirts - I have set one up using bamboo skewers for bases! and I think I will have to lash a bamboo cane to the tops to keep them from collapsing on top of the plants.
      While I was walking to work the other day I noticed rebar posts under the spruces planted by the new Uni housing - the spruces are big now, and no longer require the supports. I wonder....
      I am expecting a service person from Aliant to see what's up with the internet - so I can't stray far from home. Must get busy, though. The sun IS shining, and there's hay to be made.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Life begins....in June!

The newcomer - a rhododendron!

      I have reached the month in which I turn 60. I am quite contented with my life, compared to this time last year - and, in spite of having few dollars in my wallet I am finding life is good. Even great. How unexpectedly wonderful! I have always been a contented person, I think, but I have recently endured a lot of work-related stress and have come through it.  Life begins at 60? Who knew?
     Today I spent mostly in the vegetable garden. We have "boarded  in" three of the five beds, which means that there is more planting space. There are two beds which are - and will be for this growing season - just mounds. However, there are now three beds which are 1 metre wide and 10 metres long. The other two are just as long, but not so wide (yet). Today I specialized in onions - regular yellow, Spanish, and bunching - and I planted out the three pots of leeks which I had raised from seed. The leeks made four rows, each about 4 metres long. Mmm.
     I put all the tomato plants (except the Early Girl ones) out of the greenhouse, as I would like to harden them off. I want them in the ground soon. I have moved the hoops from the asparagus bed so I can cover the tomatoes with plastic and give them some shelter from the wind and a good warm start. We don't have any frost warnings for the next week, so this may be the propitious moment.
     I had planted zucchini seeds in the lasagne bed, and two of them have germinated. I may just put the seedlings I've raised into the other planting pockets in that bed. That will save space in the regular vegetable plot for other things. I put several more tatties into pots in the greenhouse, but I think that the rest will go into the ground. The ones I planted in the ground last week (they were Irish Cobblers) haven't shown themselves yet. We have had a cold and rainy week, which may have slowed things down. I have a few beans, and some carrots, peeking up.  Also another row of something which might be basil. I rather hope not, as I planted more of that today. (I certainly already have the memory of a 60-year-old.)
     In flower news, the white tree peony is blooming! The burgundy one is some days behind, and the pink one is suffering quite a bit - it has not put on growth like the others. It did have several suckers coming up from the root stock, which I have ruthlessly pulled away. I hope it manages to survive.
       I was listening to GQT today, and they talked again about the "Chelsea Chop" - pinching back late-blooming perennials by 1/3 to 1/2 to encourage bushing up. So I did some of the phlox and some of the sedum "Autumn Joy" - they especially recommended it, as it has a tendency to flop over. Mine certainly DOES. I hope this is the cure. I took the tips to the greenhouse and tried propagating them. Not the phlox of course. I have far too many of those.
     I have a three-day weekend, so I plan to garden and sew and generally make the most of it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

May's Away

Miniature Iris (Henry) with snail damage on fronds.
      It's been a great month for growth in the garden. I hope the rest of the growing season will be as good.     
      There is a frost warning for tonight, but I haven't put put anything that would be susceptible yet - seedling tomatoes and cukes, etc. are still safe in the greenhouse every night.
I have let the asparagus out of its tent, and am letting it grow up into fronds now. The last bunch of the row, No. 9, had been nibbled right OFF by slugs, so I set a couple of Guinness traps and consoled myself that we still have 8 - and then just yesterday I found No. 9 sprouting again. They look purple and delicious but I am leaving them strictly alone. They have gone through enough with the slugs.
     Speaking of purple, though, I planted the seeds of purple sprouting broccoli the other day in the greenhouse, and they have come up! I fancy they will make for an interesting-looking broccoli salad. I really need regular green as well, but I still haven't found my seed stash from last year. I may have to purchase new ones.

     I have completed the sides on the second raised bed, and have begun work on the third. I fancy that, IF I manage to finish that one, it will use up all of my materials. I hope to visit Arsenault's Mill sometime and get some cedar slabs for the remaining two, and eventually to replace the flooring I've got on the first three beds, before it rots away. It *is* three years for the first bed I 'sided", though, and I  wouldn't have predicted the flooring would last that long. If only it were waterproof - otherwise it is perfect in size for the purpose.
    So far I have planted some basil (no sign of germination), tatties and carrots, beans, and lettuce. I have a few Spanish onions in as well. I like the beds with the sides because there is more planting room in them - you can go right to the edges with stuff. I had planted a few zucchini seeds in the "lasagne" bed, where I had the ground cherries last year. I see one has sprouted. I may have to protect *that* tonight against the frost.
     The strawberries (Sarain) in the pots in the greenhouse have set fruit! I was afraid they wouldn't get pollinated in there, but it seems that they have done.  The outdoor ones are just a bit behind. I saw the June-bearing ones yesterday at the neighbours', and I shouldn't get so excited about mine - the June-bearers set much, much more fruit.

    It's coming up to the Small Halls festival again, but there's no big names to be excited about this time - just local folks we've seen many times before. I suppose they've lost federal dollars ( as so many have), and can't afford the bigger prices. It's too bad, though. The local musicians learn from the big names - or at least, one hopes that they do!
     One of my three new hydrangeas has been totally denuded by the slugs - the poor thing! I have removed the slugs, but I have strong doubts that the plant will come back. I am keeping the one I got at WalMart safe in the greenhouse, and it's sprouting new leaves all over the place - they had clipped it off to fit into the shelving unit and it has responded well. I think it must be one of the vigorous ones. I'm holding back on planting it out, though. The slugs aren't getting this one.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Growing things

Finally cut some of the grass today, between rain showers. Things are just jumping into growth.
I am pleased to report that the blueberries are leafing out and the blossoms are developing. This is a surprise, but of course we don't yet know if there will be berries! I probably should pick the blossoms off, to give the roots a chance. Maybe I will.  The blooms are these tiny pink tips on the branches. The plants are only about 15 cm. tall. The old plants, which have been there for a number of years, are at the same stage, so it looks like I haven't disturbed them much by moving them. That's so pleasing.
I checked my cranberry bog, and I seem to have just one living plant - of the 10 or thereabouts that I put in last fall. Ah well. Blueberries are better - and I shall try again with the cranberries, as soon as I find some plants. ETA: Checked again and I have three! alive out of 10. Better, but not good enough yet.
We have had asparagus twice already. This is the first year of the crowns, so I don't want to discourage them. I am not sure how much more we should pick. I have them under the poly tunnel still, and it is simply amazing how fast they are growing. If I had the time to watch I am sure I would see them at it. I usually open the tunnel on sunny days, because it gets really hot in there - and of course it has to be watered because the tunnel keeps off the rain as well.
       I am hoping to use the tunnel elsewhere in the garden later, perhaps over the tomatoes or something else that needs covering. I am planning to use curtain sheers over the broccoli when I put it in - but perhaps I don't need anything so sturdy to support the sheers. I have lots of plastic pipe saved from hoop-making that I could re-purpose.
     Once the May Long Weekend (a.k.a. Victoria Day) is over I can get back into the planting of the garden in a big way. I have more boards for the raised beds to go on, and plenty of seedlings started in the greenhouse to go in once the beds are ready. Bean seeds are soaking already.
     I was thrilled to find an Eryngeum at WalMart this week and immediately bought it - and another Hydrangea, MUCH bigger than the ones I got from Veseys. I have been wanting the Eryngeum for quite a while. It seems quite innocuous at the moment, though I've heard that it can be prickly and difficult. I need to find the perfect spot for it, so it doesn't prick the unwary.

Monday, May 7, 2012

It's Spring at last!

    Still haven't cut the grass, though lots of our neighbours have done. Much progress has been made in the flower beds, including some splitting up and moving things.
Bush cherries: Back: Romeo, front left Juliet, right: Crimson Romance.

     I received the long-awaited package from Veseys last week, and put the cherry trees into pots in the greenhouse, but I foolishly decided to plant the hydrangeas into the shrub border right away. It's been quite cold at the nights, so I have had to cover them up. I should have hardened them off - but I was so excited, I didn't think of it. There were three - of the 'Hardy Hydrangea" variety. I planted the first, Hydrangea paniculata 'DVPpinky', on the east side of the central shrub bed, and the second, Hydrangea aborescens 'Abetwo' on the west side of the same bed. The third I put in front of the rugosa roses in the west bed. It is Hydrangea aborescens 'NCHAI', ppaf, cbraf. Common names in order, with sizes at maturity, are "Pinky Winky", 6 - 8 feet tall & wide; "Incrediball", 4-5 feet tall & wide, and "Invincibelle Spirit", 3-4 feet tall & wide. Hope they survive.
Blueberries, mulched with sawdust

      I took the truck up the Black Creek Road last week and dug up some lowbush blueberries - easy peasy, as the road machine had been and they were hanging out over the road, with almost no soil underneath them. I had started a bed for them, and when I got back with the plants I Googled and found what they need - basically, manure and sawdust to increase acidity, so that was easy to provide. I think it must be acidic there already, as I have put them near the ones that have been in our garden for years. After I got them planted, I mulched with more sawdust and watered well. I'm not expecting a lot of fruit this year, but I know they are a late and sweet variety because they performed well on the road last year. Apparently I am to let them fruit one year and cut them back the next - or maybe every three years. The pros do every two. The ones we have haven't ever been cut back, of course.

     In knitting news, I have started a spiral scarf using black Kroy and a long-repeat multicolour - Elann's Sock it to Me dankai. It's short-row wedges between black borders which really set off the colour changes well.  I had gotten a bit obsessed with the pattern after seeing it on Ravelry, and went to Owl's Hollow looking for a long-repeat colour. All they had was the Noro cotton-and nylon in a couple of truly ugly colours, so I bought the Kroy and came home, and ordered some Chroma from Knit Picks. And then I was looking for something else in my stash page on Ravelry, and saw the two skeins of dankai I'd bought some time ago, and I was off! TGFR!

       I have completed the linen closet (but for the doors), and today I dry-fitted the cradle for the bathtub. I have to wait for Fred to come home to help me lift the tub on to the cradle, and then probably take it all apart to nail it into place, and then together. The tub needs a bit of sawing to make the holes for the water attachments and I'll have to cut the cradle as well, just not sure where yet.This will have to come after the dry-fitting. And then it's the plumber again to fit the drains and attach the water supply, and we will have a bathtub again after - seven years?
     I painted the walls around the tub space, as I thought it would be easier without the tub in place. Of course I still haven't decided on a colour for the walls, but at least the gyproc is primed. 
       I have plans to tile the walls around the tub, just up 9 inches or so - as I am hoping the days of splashing in the tub are behind us. I am surprised how finished it looks, I think because I put a bit of pine along the front, rather than the rough 2 x 4s. I will probably put tile there as well - at least,  I do have the tile for it, and if it looks good I'll go for it.

     The end is in sight. Then I can spend ALL my time in the garden.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Making Progress in the Garden

    Tuesday night we fulfilled a long-term commitment to gather red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea - or C. stolonifera at the MacPhail Woods). We borrowed the Family Truck and drove to the Victoria Road after supper, and dug up 10 pieces from the ditch. We discovered that they are shallow-rooted, and the stems root readily and send up new shoots. We did get involved with some deeper-rooted bits but they were really hard to get out with just a shovel - an axe would have been handy. Since they were in the ditch, they have been bush-hogged countless times, so we weren't destroying or even damaging the stock - we even took from four different clumps.
       Back home, we put them in several places, mostly on the outside of the spruce and pine hedges so they will get lots of sun, which they like. I watered them the next morning, because by the time we finished planting it was dark! I discovered that we actually have nine plants, so perhaps we put two in one spot. I put two in the "front" garden, one in the shrub border and one beside the rose bed, and one in the line of shrubs under the maple in the "back" garden - the row of shrubs now consists of: 1. P.G. Hydrangea; 2. Cotinus coggyria (purple smoke-bush), 3. Potentilla (white),  4. Cornus sericea,  5. Chaenomeles japonica, and 6. some sort of Spirea, scrumped from the garden opposite Sears.
The Six Flowering Shrubs - not yet flowering, of course!

     Quite a list. It's a bit dark under there, and I have to keep the spruce hedge trimmed or it would overtake the shrubs, but it should make a good display - sometime.  If necessary, the maple can go - it's a Norway, anyway, and I consider it a weed tree. The number of saplings I pulled up in the flower beds this spring! Some of them two or three years old!!
     The Ring-around-the-Rosey bed is looking good - the Rugosa roses are putting out buds and the one in the middle is just fountaining out, over all. I am not sure if the last-year branches will flower, so I shall keep an eye on them and if they don't, I'll prune them out. They remind me a bit of raspberries at the moment, so I won't be surprised if they don't flower on last-year's canes.
Thornless! Mystery Rose
      I had decided that it might be Rosa Pleine de Grace last year, but in reading about it just now (got to love Google!) they talk about how thorny Pleine de Grace is, and mine has no thorns, none at all. Back to the drawing board, then.
      If anyone has any ideas I'd be happy to hear them. Blooms early, once, in clusters of single small blossoms, no scent that I've noticed, no thorns, vigorous, roots readily, blooms white with a hint of pink, turns more pink as it ages. Blossoms long-lasting. I once thought it might be Rosa Banksiae but their blossoms, though small, are doubles.
    The greenhouse has had a re-vamp, I de-skinned it and worked on the strapping, replacing four broken ones with new, and then re-taped the plastic and pulled it over again. There was one bad hole where a broken strap had poked through over the winter so I just taped it up. The plastic is quite opaque, so I don't expect it will last another year, but I am hoping it will do for this one. I hoiked out the strawberry plants I'd sunk into the vegetable garden bed late last fall and they are loving the warmth of the greenhouse at the moment. They all seem to have survived, and the ones which were on the West side of the bed were much warmer and so have started into growth - much more vigorously than the ones which had been on the East. I am sure they will all catch up eventually. The outdoor strawberries (the ones in the ground) are looking well. I have uncovered one bed and am leaving the other covered, to see if it makes a difference. There were three degrees of frost last night, so the uncovered ones are shivering this morning.
Frosted Lady's Mantle, April 19, 2012
    I am uncovering flower beds gradually, and discovered that the Alchimilla mollis was coming along grandly under quite a covering of brown leaves. It was quite big, so I dug it up (with quite an effort, it had made a considerable root-ball) and used the two-forks method to divide it into five pieces. I put one in the north-door bed, two in the South, and two beside the rock steps on the side lawn bed, pulling out two huge phlox to do so. I'm trying to keep smaller plants beside the steps. I should re-plant those phlox, because they are probably the nicer-coloured ones (not the dull light mauvey-pink ones I have in such abundance) - either white or the darker pink. I must check last year's photos to be sure. 
    I located some flower seeds at WalMart (though the garden centre isn't open yet) and bought some - another package of Nemophila Total Eclipse, some Morning Glories, and Cerinthe, which I saw on Beechgrove last year and loved. I started the seeds yesterday, and some are indoors in the wee greenhouse, while the rest are in the outdoor one. Fingers crossed - it's rather late to be starting them, they say, but I think 6-8 weeks until the last frost could be now.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

More activity, of a scattered sort.

    I'm working too many hours this week to make a proper start on anything. I did get the greenhouse tidied up a bit, although it's not yet reinforced with new strapping. I moved the southern-most 'feet' inwards about 30 cm. and that makes it taller - and also gives me a bit more room on the edge of the strawberry and cranberry beds. I hope that it will shed snow more readily as well. Today the weather is not conducive to being out, so I am doing some domestic engineering this morning, as I have to go to work for 1 pm.
     I think the cherries - when they come - will go nicely where the blue tarp has been sitting since last year, discouraging the grass and weeds a bit. That is South of the greenhouse and East of the raspberries. I still have to figure out the fruit cage to keep the birds off the cherries. Surely I can find an old fishing net or two down at the wharf?
    I have been working on a little booklet of bead and sequin techniques, based on one of my favourite books from the library - Bead and Sequin Embroidery Stitches by Stanley Levy.
     I must see if I can get a used copy somewhere. I have borrowed it a lot! Anyway, I am trying out some of the techniques in my little booklet, to see if I can do them, firstly, and secondly, in case I can't find the book, I shall have a record of the techniques. Luckily, Fabricville has been going out of beads at the same time, so they have been really cheap. Now I have many colours of flat sequins and quite a few of the cupped ones - they didn't have many of those. Of course I already have lots of beads.
The bathroom continues, sluggishly. I painted the closet inside - two coats yesterday alone - because it's 90 cm. deep and I don't think it will be much fun to paint once the frame and the doors are on. I cut some of the face frame, it looks good, but I think I need a longer drill-bit - it needs to go through the 1 x 3 edgewise, and into the cross pieces a bit. I have decking screws long enough to fasten them together once the drilling is done.
     In any case, it is coming up to completion (if only I could get some time at it) and then it's on to the cradle for the tub, which is a bit terrifying at the moment but which will turn out to be possible once I get started on it. The tub has been sitting in the living-room since I started on the closet. It looks a bit Bohemian in there at the moment, I have to say.



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Knitting Again - and dancing too.

A wonderful thing happened when I snuck out of set dance on Saturday at lunchtime - I went to LK Yarns in the Hydrostone and they had the Balmoral yarn I'd used for K's hat and mittens - and they had it in the purple I used! Glory! So I finished off her mittens. The missing one can show up now if it wants to. The mittens and hat turned out to be useful, as it snowed! in Halifax on Saturday night, so we got up on Easter Sunday to a snow-covered world.
   We went to Sage (Saege, if I knew how to make a dipthong) for Easter Brunch and it was lovely! One of those all-you-care-to-eat things with literally everything you would ever want to try.  The only bad thing I had was a slice of ham that was a bit grisle-y. I had a egg Benedict and skipped the English muffin on the bottom to save room for more interesting things, and I must say that the hollandaise sauce was something I really didn't enjoy. It's amazing that they can do them and hold them at just the right consistency. The egg was perfect. There was also lot of fresh fruit and a really nice bread with apples inside and mini Easter eggs on top, which I had twice. Delicious.
    But there was salmon - smoked and baked - leg of lamb, a veggie pasta - luckily Katie eats fish so she was fine. And the dessert buffet was grand too - I had a slice of lemon cake and some homemade gelato - vanilla and raspberry. Delicious! We may need to try making this at home.
By the time we were finished eating, the sidewalks were clear of snow and by the end of the day it was mostly gone. We found a bit of blowing snow on the Cobequid Pass but after that there was a lot more snow on the ground but none in the air, thankfully. There was quite a bit on the Island, though!
    The new car - we are calling her Brigid - has cruise control, and that made the drive much more enjoyable. It's amazing how much work is involved, accelerating and decelerating all the time. It's meant to be good for mileage too. I found it a bit stressful on the divided highway, if you got up behind someone going slowly and the passing lane was occupied. And left-hand descending turns (especially in the hills) were a bit white-knuckle - I must usually slow down going into them, because my brain was saying "too fast! too fast!" all the time. But I learned to hang grimly on and I was fine.
    We were 12 Islanders at the event, and I think it would have been a pretty small gathering if we hadn't been there! Of course the locals can drop in and out as other priorities take over, while we are all there to go to the event exclusively. Pat is talking to Elizabeth about coming at another time of year - possibly the Labour Day weekend, as he is free for the first couple of weeks of September, and then he could tour around in some better weather than most Easters in the Maritimes can provide. It sounds like a good idea, as we never have anything special to do then. We will have to come up with something else to do at Easter! Now that Pat is retired, he doesn't have the Easter holiday to save up, and I am sure he could spend time with his family too! He may be thinking that there will be more people around then as well. I wonder if they are thinking of starting this year?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easter in Halifax again

We're off with quite a big group of our set dancers to see Pat Murphy in Halifax http://www.setdancingns.com/easterweekend.htm for the Easter weekend. I must remember to google Pat and see if we can guess which dances are "hot" at the workshops he's given recently - I promised I would do that in time for class tonight.
I was quite right about the plants in the cold frame - dead as door-nails. Ah, well -plenty of time to start again. I bought Burpee seeds for peppers yesterday - two kinds of hot (Jalapeno and mixed) and sweet, mixed colours. I hope *they* survive.
I've begun to fix up the greenhouse again - bought two pieces of conduit to replace the broken one and the one that's bent the worst - and I have strapping to brace them more thoroughly this time. I may be back in the greenhouse business again! But the weather is *not* conducive to being out - we are having the "March" winds in April this year - the horrible cold northerly ones that keep the temperature just above freezing. Brrr.  It's not fit to be out!
In the bathroom I have finished the seam-filling in the closet and put up the shelf supports - carefully measured and level as I can make them. I bought the 1x3 oak to make the frame for the doors, and decided to build it into a face frame - cutting carefully first and then drilling and screwing it together before fastening it to the shelf supports and the shelves. This should take care of the problem of there being nothing to nail the frame to at the top. I think the table in the garage will be big enough to assemble and screw it together - I could even glue it! I'm just paranoid that I'll make it and it won't fit ;-(.
But I'll go slowly and carefully and perhaps the worst won't happen!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March - Going out like a Lion!

     Well, we have been so blessed with weather this year that, when March came in like a Lamb, I thought of the old rhyme and said to myself, "That will never happen this year...we actually had three wonderful days last week - 20 + degrees! - so I believed it to be all over but the shouting.
       However, Monday brought threats of snow (5-10 cm. Peanuts!) and a wind warning. That was the real Lion. Tuesday it raged all day, and today there are drifts like we haven't seen all winter. 
Would you believe that I set up a cold frame last week by the little deck, with seedlings (cucumbers and zucchini) as well as several geraniums which had been overwintering in the office and taking up lots of space?  It's under this drift. I don't dare open it to see what has survived (if anything) because it might freeze the plants. Snow insulates, right? I had taken out my little patio table to do potting on, and it's up to its knees in snow too. And its grout is still not sealed. It's standing on the little deck.
      Luckily while all this weather is keeping me indoors, I have had an indoor project to work on. We have the new washer hooked up in the new bathroom (and the toilet. They are the only things in there that are in working order at the moment).    
       So, what needs to be done is: build a half-wall to create space for a linen closet at the end of the tub as well as a "cradle" to hold the tub.
Ladder in soon-to-be linen closet - 32 x 26 x 96!
     Then, we have to get the dryer hooked up (means getting the electrician to move the 220-volt receptacle to the new bathroom (from the basement) and then we can stack them up with the stacking kit. Then we have to build another half-wall to separate the washer-dryer from the area where the vanity will go, then build or buy a vanity. Then have the plumber back to hook up the tub and sink, and then we tile around the tub, paint, and decorate, and then we're done. Why is everything so complicated?
     So far I've built the wall for the linen closet and put up the gyproc on both sides. I'm at the stage where I seam-fill a corner and have to wait for it to dry before I can seam-fill an adjacent corner. And I have to buy three of the edge guards because I could only find one in the basement - I never even thought to check because we've had this big stash of them since we built on to the house in 91-92. But now we're out!

The washer is hooked up. The dryer will go on top later.
     I am really impressed with the washer - having it on the main floor is great, first off - you feel you can wash anytime! Then, the clothes come out quite dry already, so it doesn't take long in the (old) dryer to dry them. I did hang out a batch while the weather was good last week, but it didn't dry terribly quickly - we need to move the clothesline to where the wind has more impact. And I suppose I could have put them out in the morning and they would have had a better chance. It was when a lot of snow was melting too, so there was a lot of moisture in the air. Oh well, they *were* dry the next day!