Saturday, July 28, 2007

Vacation Time is Here

Every summer we take two weeks off from work to try to catch up on the various projects we have on the go. That time has come. We will be off from work for the next two weeks.

This year we are getting a survey done in preparation for installing a fence next year. We also have some trees being removed from the yard for safety reasons. Other than that we plan to work in the garden and the yard and hopefully get a couple of days of relaxation in. Who knows maybe we'll even paint an interior wall or two.

In the mean time, I'll only update Sparrow Haven if new or interesting things happen. Otherwise, see you all in two weeks.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

People Watching

I had the opportunity to do some people watching this weekend and my observations amazed me, as they have each time I have had this opportunity. People today are oblivious to the world in general around them, regardless of whether they are doing something that requires their attention or not. More often than not these people don't really effect anyone except for the casual observer. But sometimes, those people suffering from obliviousness will leave a wake of chaos, destruction, and occasionally death in their wakes.

People driving vehicles along the road but having no idea where they are going or what is happening around them are the ones that frighten me the most. More than once someone would pull into the far left lane only to suddenly turn on their right hand turn signal and turn the steering wheel hard right. Or talking on a cellphone, while driving, and they would run through red lights or suddenly turn left or right cutting off someone who had the right of way.

In the town nearest us there is a phenomena called the "Cornwallian Left". It is what happens when someone is sitting in the uncontrolled left hand turn lane, when the red light turns to green. The people going straight ahead have the right away but the person sitting in the turn lane will gun it taking their left turn before anyone moves. Anyone who has lived here a while will wait an extra 10 seconds letting the lane ahead clear.

But, let a tourist or a recent addition to the town be in the straight lane and a serious accident will occur. This is a case of neither drivers being very observant. The guy going left thinks his life and his problems are the most important and so he breaks the law. The driver going straight isn't paying attention to the road and doesn't see that that the other driver is moving before he or she too hits the gas and ploughs ahead. Before you know it there is glass and twisted metal all over the road, and both drivers are screaming "It was your fault" at the tops of their lungs.

The more benign moments of obliviousness can be more funny than anything else. We decided to stop in town for lunch. At the lunch counter I watched several people walk up to the clearly marked exit door and try to come inside. Now obviously this had been a problem in the past as the door had the exterior door handle removed. What was amusing was how angry these people would get until someone kindly, or not so kindly, pointed out that the entrance door was on the side of the building.

But, all these observations got me to thinking about the past and what would have happened to these people back in the hunter gatherer days, or even just a few hundred years ago. People who were not aware of their surroundings would end up dead due to accident or starvation. Even those who were very aware of their surroundings suffered from calamity but those who walked through the world in a dream didn't survive very long, and rarely long enough to have children. The children were taught to be aware as well. But, somewhere along the way we lost that over powering need to pay attention.

Now don't get me wrong. I suffer from obliviousness on occasion as do most people. Perhaps I am luckier than most people. I work in a job where not paying attention will get you killed by crushing or electrocution and so I have a tendency to be very focused on my work. Unfortunately, I can be to focused sometime as I tend to miss the more subtle things going on around me, but at least those subtle things won't kill me.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Garden Journal: July 8 - 14, 2007

The garden is going gang busters this week. We're starting to get into the busy time of year when we have more produce coming in than we can keep up with by eating. When that happens we freeze, can, or dry everything and put it away for another day.

We've had to pick peas every other day to keep up with them. Today we took this weeks harvest of peas and froze them in 1.5 cup measures. We ended up with 6 bags of peas. From the looks of the vines when I picked this morning we'll be getting at least that many more next week.

The cherry tomatoes have almost peaked out but we still have a large bowl full sitting in the fridge. I plan to dry them in our American Harvest dehydrator. Once they are dried I will pack them in olive oil and store them in the fridge to be added to any tomato based sauces we eat over the next couple of months.

We finally picked the red currants from our lone bush. They are quite juicy but very tart. We ended up with two cups so this morning I made a batch of bread with half the currants and some dried strawberries. The bread is rising nicely on the counter and will make a nice treat, toasted and buttered, for breakfast during the week.

We also got our first taste of fresh beets this year. We planted four rows of them and they have been growing nicely. When it came time to thin them out we found that most were 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter. We had them for dinner along with the more tender beet greens. They tasted deliscious and I really can't wait until it is time to thin the rows again.

Beet greens can be cooked just like spinach and have a similar flavour. We sauted them in butter along with onions and the baby beets themselves.

Sauted Baby Beets and Beet Greens
1/2 a small onion
1 Tbsp of butter
1/2 teaspoon of salt
baby beets
greens from baby beets

Boil the baby beets just long enough to make them easy to peel. A fork should just be able to pierce the skin. Pop them under cold running water and use your fingers to wipe the skins away.
Dice up the onions and saute them in the butter until brown. Add the beets and the greens. Stir until the greens are wilted much like spinach and the butter has coated the beets and greens nicely. Salt the salad and serve warm.

This recipe can also be used with large beets cut into quarters. If the beets don't have greens attached then you can use fresh spinach instead. It is a great side to any meal and is packed with all kinds of vitamins and minerals.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Garden Journal: July 1 - 7, 2007

This has been a great week in the garden. We've gotten enough rain that we only had to water the garden, and various containers, once. The tomatoes are really starting to produce and I have little green tomatoes all over the place. Even all the containers on the front porch have bloomed and are starting to put out fruit. The butternut squash has bloomed. I wasn't sure if it was going to make it considering we lost the other two but it is doing really well. The potatoes are bushing out nicely and I expect to see blooms on them any day now.

The best thing this week is the harvest. On Wednesday we picked a pound of cherry tomatoes and about 2 lbs of green peas. Of course, once we shelled them we only ended up with 1.5 to 2 cups of actual peas. But, there are plenty more on the vine plumping up as I type so I'll be harvesting more peas later this week and perhaps even twice this week. If it wasn't raining today I'd have picked peas today.

I've found an interesting recipe for the cherry tomatoes I'd like to share with you. It is a salad to serve at room temperature as a side but I could see it as a topping for pasta as well.

Cherry Tomato Salad
1 lb Cherry Tomatoes - sliced in half
1 cup of Feta Cheese - 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cp Sweet Onions - diced
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp fresh Thyme - chopped finely
2 Tbsp fresh Basil - chopped finely

Combine tomatoes, cheese, onions, and herbs in a bowl. Slowly drizzle the oil over the mixture and stir. Use only enough oil to make the herbs stick to the rest of the ingredients. Serve room temperature or slightly cooled. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Trellis Window Brace

As stated in a previous post I spend a few hours a night in front of the TV and while sitting there I carve. It keeps my hands busy and my mind free, for the most part. I have finally completed my third window brace decorative carving and thought I would share it with you.

As with the previous two braces, this is made from a scrap piece of pine. The widest point is approximately 3 inches and the narrowest is only 3/4 inch or so. I started carving this piece in March and only finished the carving in mid-June. The staining and sealing took another two weeks as I wanted all coats to be good and dry before I put on the next coat.

I hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I like carving them.

Right Side - trellis and flower pattern.
Step Risers - a traditional border pattern.
Left Side- alternating positive and negative four spoke stars.
Long Riser - same traditional border pattern as the step risers, just a longer run of it.
Overview picture showing over all shape and size of the brace. That is my hand stealing a cherry tomato, which I picked from our garden yesterday :)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Canada Day

Yesterday we celebrated Canada Day by inviting a coworker over for a BBQ. It was a lovely day; neither to hot nor to cool. The food was delicious and plentiful. But the best part of the day was the show that all the feathered and furred put on for our visitor.

As we prepared the food and chatted the birds flew in and almost as if it was planned creating a formation of small, medium, and large as they landed at the bird feeders. We had sparrows, grackles, red-wing blackbirds, doves, and even a male cardinal land on the feeder nearest to where we sat.

Behind us, a young red squirrel claimed the ground under another feeder. He defended it from all comers until he had his fill. He didn't seem to mind us turning to watch him stuff his little cheeks full and even turned his back to us to watch a grey squirrel as it sneaked closer to the area. He spent several minutes watching the other squirrel before deciding it was to close to his feeder and gave chase.

The platform feeder was quite popular yesterday with the red-winged blackbirds, pigeons, and grackles. Occasionally the sparrows would dart in to pick out a favourite seed then dart away. When the male cardinal wasn't feeding at the station nearest us, he was picking through the safflower and sunflower seeds in the hanging platform feeders.

There was a large group of sparrows who didn't have food on their minds. There was love in the air yesterday for this rather noisy band of courters. We don't know if this is the first clutch of the spring adding their offspring to the local population or if these were the parents of the first hatching looking to create another clutch. Sparrows are quite the rapacious rascals and have been know to have as many as four hatchings before the fall migration begins.

Even the resident chipmunk made an appearance yesterday. He darted in and out of the woodpile collecting seeds from here at there. It isn't often that we see him near the bird feeders but on occasion he'd dart in to stuff his face and off to hide them for the winter. I feel sorry for him as the woodpile he is using as his winter larder will be moved soon to make room for our next delivery of firewood.

Even the garden was putting on a show yesterday. Every tomato plant is in bloom and many have small green tomatoes visible under the foliage. The peas have recovered from the excessive heat and are putting out pods all over the place. Every pea plant has at least three pods. They will be ready for picking over the next few days. The beets are a good ten inches tall and the leaves are starting to get a reddish tinge to the edges that indicate that the beet root is finally beginning to develop. Soon enough we will be enjoying the first baby beets of the season.

All in all it was one of the best Canada Day celebrations we have ever had. The addition of our friend and coworker only made the day that much better. We didn't have fireworks but who needs fireworks when you have the loud, amusing antics of the local fauna to help you celebrate freedom and independence.