Monday, August 31, 2015

Veggie Jacked. The Canning Kitchen and some Brioche Knitting

Well it has been some kind of summer. Record high heat since May, level four drought conditions, wild fires everywhere and health threatening thick smoke. A week ago Sunday our town had the worst air conditions that day than any other city on the planet. Yikes!! I would have taken some pictures but I could not go outside as I have asthma. It has been tough cookies for everyone. Then this weekend some clouds rolled in, we had a bit of rain and the temperature dropped 15-20 degrees celsius. Where are my socks, shoes and hoodies?!? Holy doodle!

A friend of mine , Wendy, texted me recently and besides our usual knitty talk, asked me if everything was OK as I hadn't posted for awhile. Bless her heart! I responded that all I talk about now is veggies and knitting so I'm thinking that must be getting very old very fast. She kindly said no, its OK, in so many words. Thanks Wendy!! So here I am again , talking knitting and veggies, but worse things could be talked about I think .

When we first got our straw bales I think everyone thought we were a little cuckoo,especially some family members. One thing about this family, there are no hold backs on opinions! Hmmff I thought at the time, oh ye of little faith!!
 The picture above is the box of veggies that we recently delivered to our daughter and her partner. They have been getting these all summer long. Instead of a CSA program I call it the MDSA program-the MD meaning Mom and Dad. It is amazing the turn around of opinions, and I laugh as it has been suggested that production should triple next year!! Kids!!

We double baled for a second crop of beans

My nasturtiums are being strangled by the maters

Carrots from the in ground beds

veggies for a tomatillo relish

super sweet beets

Oh my aching back!

Look at those poor dowels above, they are ready to snap from the weight of the tomatoes. Good grief!! These plants have been trimmed and reinforced and double caged and we hope they don't totally collapse before the season is done. Hang on dowel buddies !!!

 I planted nasturtium, zinnia and calendula seeds in front of some of the bales to encourage the pollinators. I thought any excess water from the bales would leach down and water the flowers. Was I ever wrong, those bales do not give up a drop of water, not for love or money! I had to water them separately. I have flowers in my front yard , some annuals mixed with perennials but I really really missed having more zinnias. Next year I am going to plant tons more-I have a plan. They are really easy to grow from seed and now I know about neonics thanks to Tammy I will be surely be more mindful of what I plant in my garden. You have to go visit Tammy's blog, she is a cracker jack gardener, full of insights about life and so funny too. Make sure you read her James Bond post-it is hilarious!!

This was another one of our dead zones. It is a very dry hot sandy sloped weed patch. After cleaning it up I thought I would try a few things. In late June and well into July, I planted a bunch of different plants, some I have never tried before. The plant with the pretty blue flowers is borage. It is a drought tolerant herb that really attracts the pollinators. The bees absolutely love it. I just planted a few seeds and they all germinated. I also planted some lovage, lemon grass, chard, kale,  nasturtiums and some pole beans. The beans are climbing up the tepees we made from bamboo poles. Everything is doing well .We were more than surprised. (We have some epic fails too). The big leaves in the front belong to a Pink Banana Jumbo Squash. That vine is now more than 20 feet long now and is attempting to scale our fence. I should add we haven't fertilized our plants, too scared to!

Speaking of squash, our Cinderella pumpkins were ready to be picked. I know it is early but everything is early this year. These are an heirloom baking variety. They are very cute and do look like a Cinderella coach. I weighed them, in total they are 36 pounds. I am sure this is a good thing but now I have my work ahead of me. Good grief!

Peach Pickin

A few weeks ago my friend Laurie asked me if we wanted to go peach picking. She knew a great place with beautiful peaches that were easy to pick. No ladder climbing was necessary. Hell ya Laurie! So off we went. In less than half an hour, no joke, we picked 120 lbs of peaches. It was so easy and so much fun we weren't thinking this one through. ( Can you believe this property, 17 acres on the lakefront!) When we got home an action plan had to be made as they would all be ripe in a few days.

 I used to can a lot when our kids were at home. It was a great way to preserve lovely fresh fruit for the winter. I still have made some jams fairly regularly over the years but nothing like I used to. So with all these peaches ripening quickly we all thought canning peaches would be a brilliant idea , lol! With my helpers we put up 35 quarts one hot summer's day.We were all pretty hot, sticky and tired by the time we were finished.

this is a very small kitchen!
There were still lots of peaches left so I had to find more peach preserving recipes. I had also been recently tipped off by another buddy Pamela, about this woman in Lake Country that had the most amazing blackberries for sale.

70 lbs later

So with all this fruit and all the veggies coming in I started pulling out my old canning books and reading recipes on line. I think it was on IG, I saw a reference to this book. There were pictures of a canned peach cobbler topping and I knew I needed this book. ASAP! Fortunately my local book shop had a couple of copies. Honestly, if you do any preserving or would like to start, this book is a must have. It is geared to small batches which is a great way to use what you have grown yourself or can buy at a farmers market or wherever you shop. The recipes are well written, use good ingredients that are easy to find and oh my, they are so incredibly good. Amy, the author, did all her own photography and it is amazing! She is from Victoria, one of our favourite places! Her website is The Family feedbag . It is full of great recipes and cooking ideas.


 I am a little bit embarrassed on how bonkers I have gone over the recipes in this book. I have made jams, several kinds of relishes,, salsas, three kinds of chutneys, pizza sauce, smoky peach BBQ sauce, pickled beets, peach cobbler topping, apple pie jam and my favourite, salted caramel pear butter. And I could do more! It is potato chip canning at its best. I think it is because they are so doable,and they taste so good. And they are easy. My problem is they get eaten up so fast and disappear rather quickly. I am threatening to number the jars!!

Good lord, I am going on and on. Maybe if I got off my arse and posted more frequently I wouldn't inflict so much on all of you! ( this is a big post for me)

Brioche knitting has been quite in vogue this past year. I remember knitting a brioche hat many many years ago but I thought I would pick up the needles and knit a simple cowl. I knit this one with Tosh in Coquette. The thing about brioche is that it produces a very squishy thicker texture than a conventional stockinette. You are basically knitting each row twice so it does take longer and does use almost twice as much yarn. It looks particularly attractive using two colours. I was planning to do another with a grey and a cream but I have been veggie jacked so it hasn't happened quite yet.

There are two different distinct sides but it doesn't show up in my pictures. One nice thing about this cowl, it is reversible, so you don't have a less than pretty inside showing. That is a particular beef I have with some cowls.

Well that is all my excitement for now, how are all of you  going to spend the first week of September?

Have a great week friends and keep smiling!!


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Dustland Hat, Romance in the Squash Patch and a Cornbread Zucchini Recipe

It is August already! It is still pretty hot and dry here.Nothing too exciting to report. Sadly, there are no great holidays planned to exotic locales or big events to attend but we do live in an area that many come to for their holidays. We are pretty lucky!

Our favourite beach to go for a pre- dinner swim

When our kids were young we used to pack the tent up and go camping. It was always rather exhausting after a week or so but great fun. We all still laugh about some of our trips.Usually (mostly every time) someone would eat too many treats and have too much sun and feel sick in the middle of the night. We'd hear " Dad, Mom I don't feel too well, I'm going to be sick!!!" We would have maybe three minutes to get that child's head out of the tent before everything came up. As we would scramble to get out of our sleeping bags in order to extract a heaving child out of their bag and to unzip the tent zipper, one of us would be grabbing a much needed flashlight.  Click click, the batteries would be dead. Our little goofballs would have run them down playing monster earlier in the evening. Good grief! That would usually be the signal it was time to go home. Often after braving bugs,bites, dirt, sunburns, sleeplessness, rain (it would always rain), sick kids, we would roll back into our sunny valley with our beautiful lake and look at each other and laugh.What were we thinking!?!

Some Knitting

I did knit another Dustland Hat. I love this pattern, it's interesting to knit and easy to memorize.

It has great texture.

I knit it with Tosh Vintage in Antler.

A Squash Update

 I think I have mentioned more than once our problem back yard.I took this picture back in June. Lots has changed since then! Our bales are doing what we want them to-maybe a little too well! My other challenge was this sloped bed in the forefront of the picture. Up to a couple of years ago, most of our yard was pretty shady in the back. Shade was thrown by our neighbour's  massive Cottonwood trees and some Chinese Elms of our own. Our old fence was removed and we jointly hired some tree fallers to remove those old dangerous trees. Subsequently our whole backyard became very sunny. We were really happy about that as now we would be able to grow more things. However what was able to grow in this bed did not survive the new hot dry conditions.

I initially planted a lot of sedums, spurges and sempervivums to help stabilize the bed. They worked quite well and gave lots of texture and some colour and most importantly survived the challenging conditions.With the arrival of Archie, the plants took a huge beating as he raced up and down the bank chasing interlopers and vermin . Now Archie is our daughter's dog but he has lived most of his three years here. Right now he is back being a condo dog with her and he is not too happy about that. (Neither is his best friend, my husband, but that's another story!) Anyway, this spring I was thinking what could I plant that would fill this space, deter his little lordship and survive the hot dry conditions. My brainwave was to plant some squash seeds. I figured they would cascade down and cover up the empty spaces and maybe we would get a few squashes out of the deal too. We thought we'd just go for it and plant a bunch of different types of seeds.When it came time to thin them we just relocated some in the bank to fill in some empty spaces. 

 It did turn out to be a good plan but next time we do not need as many plants.The squash vines are traveling everywhere. (boy you can sure see how much things have dried out in a few months).

Cinderella pumpkin 

Spaghetti Squash   

Zucchini and a Pink Banana Jumbo

We have over planted and it is hard to see what vine or squash belongs to what plant. There are a couple of sugar pie pumpkins, two Cinderella pumpkins ,three zucchinis, two pink banana jumbos, a couple of straight eight cucumbers and I think a delicata and a butternut squash. Next year we will obviously space them out and reduce the number but honestly we thought it was a long shot on planting any squash there.

It is that time of year when you ask everyone you know if they would like a zucchini or two or more. Everyone knows someone who wants to get rid  share their abundance. We have been harvesting lots, but Brent did notice that all of a sudden we were zucchini bereft. Now why on earth would we would be worried about this all of a sudden ? Who knows but we were concerned! I read all about this plant, were the bees absent, where were the blossoms? I did not know there were male and female blossoms ( I thought they were self pollinators) and if it is too hot the plant will stop or reduce producing female blossoms and of course the vital role bees played.  It did appear that the few female blossoms we had, had not be pollinated. So I had to make sure love would be found in the squash patch Blossoms only last a morning so it is a brief one morning affair.

 Rolling up my jammie bottoms I sent out to do my match making one sunny morning. As I was... ahem... pollinating the ladies, some bees took exception with my interference in their business. Maybe they thought I was threatening their job security. I was bitten five times around my ankles! (they weren't bad bites more like strong warnings, back off lady!!) Anyways I hot footed out of the squash patch. My husband thought it was pretty funny. I still go out and check things out and help matters along but I am a little more circumspect and no more rolling up my pant legs. Good news, we are back in production.

 My friend Wendy made a delicious Cornmeal Zucchini Bread recently. So of course I had to make one too! The recipe can be found here. I love this recipe, it is so good! The cornbread is not too sweet so it will go with both sweet and savory foods. And it is a one bowl wonder. Yum!! Plus you use up two cups of grated zucchini-bonus! 

Keep Smiling Friends!


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