Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Catching Up

I've been lazy about posting recently and for that I apologize. With the May long weekend chore fest my normal chore schedule got out of whack and I've only managed to get back on schedule in the last couple of days.

The baby apple trees we planted seem to be doing very well. The two that had leaves already are putting out more leaves and the existing leaves have turned a nice healthy green colour. The third tree has finally started to bud out so my fears of planting a dead stick were for nought.

The herbs are doing pretty good, though the Basil is still spindly and sickly. The Cilantro (Coriander) on the other hand has shot straight up and is over a foot tall. The leaves are really starting to bush out so I'll be using fresh Cilantro this weekend for sure. The Sage is coming back nicely as is the Oregano and Tarragon. We've clipped quite a few of the Tarragon leaves already and have them hanging in the kitchen to dry under the ceiling fan.

The garden is in full sprout mode. The beans are coming up in every row, including the corn rows. No sign of the corn yet, which has me concerned. I had to place bird netting over the corn bed as I caught a Blue Jay merrily pulling up beans and digging up corn seed. I replanted one or two corn seeds that had little tiny rootlets coming out so hopefully the corn is just slow. The peas we planted in the boxes over by the dog kennel seem, except for squirrels digging in the boxes , to be doing really well. Most of the shoots are over three inches tall now. The lettuce that was doing so well has stopped growing. I think the weather got to warm to fast for it. I plan on putting a shade screen around the south and west side of the barrel, where the lettuce is planted, to give a break from the heat so it will continue growing.

I got very excited the day we bought the straw to mulch the apple trees. We found a feed store that would order in chicks for us. It was the fist time we'd found chicks available locally. I'd been hoping to get a couple of chickens so we could have our own eggs and add the manure to the compost bins. PeterC called up the Township to ask about bylaws against chickens only to find out the Township doesn't care but the Province has decided that a 100ft x 100ft lot just isn't big enough for chickens of any amount. I was so disappointed after hearing the news. So my dreams of raising a few chickens for the eggs has been put on hold until PeterC retires and we can buy a small farm somewhere.

On a happier note, the Honeybees are back. The crabapple tree bloomed like crazy this year and while admiring the blooms we noticed a lot of buzzing. Sure enough, when we investigated closer, each flower cluster was occupied by a very busy honeybee. They disappeared a couple of years ago when all the talk about the Bee Colony Collapse was in the news. We were greatly relieved to see them return as that means everything will be properly pollinated this year, which I suspect was the reason the squash did so poorly last year. I'm tempted to build a small hive for them in the back area so they can move in if they choose.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Victoria Day - Long Weekend

Monday was Victoria Day for us Canadians, which means PeterC had an extra day off plus he took Thursday and Friday of last week off too. May long weekend is the traditional garden planting time for most of our neighbours and ourselves, but we were ahead of the game this year. Instead, we spent the time cleaning up dead fall, installing the water barrels, repairing gutter damage, and planting the apple trees that arrived the Thursday before. We also spent a full day cleaning and organizing the shed so that it is usable without having to remove everything in sight first.

So, even though we got a lot of work done over the long weekend, it wasn't the work I normally get done around the house. I've been trying to get caught up on all those little things that got put aside like vacuuming and laundry, and not making very good headway. I've got at least another 4 loads of laundry to do and of course it is raining out so I have to use the dryer. I've filled the sink for my second load of dishes and the vacuum cleaner is waiting oh so patiently for me to start it up this morning. I guess I need to get to it or it will be waiting for me tomorrow too.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Garden is In

This weekend was perfect for working out in the yard and so we spent the time putting in the last of the garden. The seeds we planted this weekend are those that require lots of sun and lots of heat to put out fruit, but they take a while to germinate. Putting them in now has given us at least a two week head start on the average year of summer crops. It's been warm and sunny during the days so the soil is warm enough to let these little beauties germinate and grow.

We're trying the Three Sisters method of planting bean, corn, and squash in the one bed. Instead of squash we opted for watermelon. The melon was only planted in the last two rows of the corn and half of the bed was left fallow to allow the melon plenty of room to grow and run without killing off other plants. I had to expend a great deal of willpower not to plant something in that other half of the bed. It just feels wrong to leave valuable space fallow like that.

The second bed is our bush beans. We planted the rows 8 inches apart to maximize our planting space. We managed to get three rows each of Green Snap Beans, Black Turtle Beans, Royal Burgundy Snap Beans, Tongue of Fire Beans, Cranberry Beans, and two rows of Black Valentine Snap Beans. We still have several variety of beans to plant but they will have to wait until next year's garden.

We planted Green Peas and Sugar Snap peas in the boxes near the dog's kennel. They will get a lot of morning sun but not so much afternoon sun. This will help them grow and produce longer than they normally do. We also planted some Strawberry Rhubarb that was generously shared with us by a friend I used to work with. I look forward to inviting her family over for a wiener roast and bonfire to tell her thank you.

All in all it has been a good spring for gardening. We've still got apple trees and sweet potato seedlings on the way from Dominion Seed House, and I still plan to purchase at least two chili pepper plants from the garden centre once they come in but, for the most part, the garden has been planted. Now we can move on to the spring chores like cleaning the garage and weekly mowing.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Trouble with Carvings and Cats

I had some free time and a twig while waiting around at the Dr's office. I carved a really tiny spoon just as a lark and to keep myself from chewing my nails off. I brought it home, sanded it nice and smooth to pretty it up, and placed it on my supposedly secure work space so I could coat it with oil the next night. Lo and behold, it isn't there anymore. So, either the cats have broken into yet another secure location and run off with the spoon OR the mice living in this 100yr old house have a refined sense of decorum and now have a mouse sized spoon to use.

I'll post pictures if I ever find the spoon. OF course I'm still looking for the nuthatch carving/ refrigerator magnet I started two years ago and finally finished a couple of months ago. Pretty sure the cats got that one too. Eventually we'll find it in the weirdest place, like tucked under the bookcase or stashed in behind the refrigerator. The smaller the project the more fun the cats seem to have hiding it from me.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Granola Bars

I've been looking for a good granola bar recipe for awhile. I've tried several that were okay and finally found one I could work with to make it into something PeterC and I can enjoy. The original recipe was graciously provided by someone on Homesteading Today. Below you will find my adaptation of it.

Granola Bars

4 cps Oat flakes, or a mix of Oat, Kamut, & Spelt Flakes equal to 4 cps
1 cp Shredded Coconut
1 1/2 cps chopped or sliced nuts (any combination of nuts works)

2 cps dried fruit, chop larger pieces like dates and apricots (any combination works)
1/2 cp flour
1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs
3/4 cp honey or maple syrup (we prefer half and half)

Mix flakes, coconut, and nuts in a large roasting pan. The larger the pan the thinner the layer and the better the ingredients toast. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes mixing about half way through to evenly toast the ingredients. Allow mixture to cool an hour or more.

Combine flake mixture, flour, fruit, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well to evening coat everything with flour.

In a small bowl combine eggs and honey/ maple syrup. Mix well until eggs are slightly beaten. Pour over mixture in the bowl and mix very well by hand. It will be sticky.

Line a deep cookie sheet, or jelly roll pan, with parchment paper, making sure the paper covers the sides as well. Pour the mixture onto the cookie sheet and press it down firmly to fill the cookie sheet as evenly as possible. Try to compress the mixture as much as possible to help the bars bind together after baking. Keep your hands damp to prevent the mixture from sticking to them too badly.

Bake at 350º for 30 minutes. The edges will have just started to brown. Remove from the oven and using the parchment paper lift the giant bar onto a cutting board. Cut into 3/4" x 3 " bars while they are hot then allow to cool completely, if you can, before eating.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

May Showers

You know the old saying "April Showers bring May Flowers"? Mother Nature in my vicinity must have misheard and thought is said "April Flowers bring May Showers". Thats right, it is May 4th and we have had showers everyday since the beginning of the month. As long as the air is warm I don't mind as it is good for the sprouts, though it does make it difficult to get yard work done. Unfortunately, the rain has brought cooler weather with it and threats of more freezing next week. I have to get out in the rain today and cover all my tender shoots or I will have to replant the entire garden at the end of May.

We think we finally identified that strangely marked "goldfinch" that I spoke of last week. It turns out it may have been a male Common Yellowthroat. We haven't seen him recently so we can only assume he was stopping by Cafe Sparrow Haven for lunch as he made his way further north. I love seeing new birds but I love it when they decide to stay a raise a family too. The variety of birds and wildlife in our yard tells me we are doing something right, even if it is only offering a fair number of feed and habitat choices.

We woke to an amusing sight this morning. A very confused and agitated squirrel was trying to figure out how to get a very large, fat really, rabbit out of the ground feeder. He was sitting up and leaning into the feeder to snack on the choicer bits of food, the bits the squirrels love too. The squirrel made a couple of false charges, shook his tail, and chittered a warning. After two or three minutes the rabbit got bored, or ate all he wanted, and moved away from the feeder. It was very obvious that the squirrel was relieved that he hadn't had to attack this giant of an intruder.