Tag Archives: preserving

It’s hard to weed with your eyes closed

I was lying in bed early this morning, wishing that I was sleeping, trying really hard not to think about how I don’t have a job for next year and failing miserably.  I decided, as I have many times in similar situations, that I really need to start meditating again.  I remembered the place I was in in the spring of 2008 and how 10 days of silence, attempting to clear my mind and feel everything in equanimity changed that place.  I remembered the peace and the feeling of satisfaction that spread through me.  So I sat up and spent 10 minutes trying to find that place… then I heard the coffee percolating downstairs and whatever clarity I was muddling towards vanished and was replaced with the fog that precedes my morning coffee.  So I got up and drank my coffee and forgot about meditating, and about not having a job for that matter.

I ended up in the garden, and wandered around aimlessly for a bit.  Jer was gone for the morning, and as I haven’t been around a lot lately, physically or mentally, I am not sure of the priorities.  I know that blueberries are to be dug, I know that everything is to be watered, I know that lots of things are to be seeded or transplanted, but I don’t know what or where or how to do it so that it doesn’t have to be done again.  So I sat down to weed the onions.  I pulled grass and buttercup and thistles and bindweed, and I did it slowly and peacefully (if one can call causing the death of many living plants peaceful).  I got dirt under my fingernails and between my toes and it made me feel better.  Not all better better, but some better.

I went to get a massage recently because my carpal tunnel, caused by treeplanting, compounded by knitting, revigorated by gardening has flared.  My massage therapist asked me what it feels like when I stop knitting and stop gardening.  I looked at her questioningly… stopped knitting?  Stopped?  Like took a break?  I knit when I read, when I play cards, when I’m sitting on the ferry.  Sometimes I knit at red lights.  Stop?  It made me think about whether I glorify the act of being busy, but I don’t think I do.  I choose to do slow things, like knitting and growing organic food.  I choose to sit on my bum and weed onions by hand.  I choose to do lots of things that keep me busy, but they’re meditative for me.  I don’t know if actual meditation – the kind I did in Bolivia, sitting still for an hour to clear my mind – is what I need.  I think I just need to get dirt under my fingernails every day.

Here’s some pictures.

The pictures pretty much tell the story of our lives lately – it’s been hot, so Jer jumped in the pond.  Some plants are doing well, but it’s hot and dry, so lots of others are struggling through.  The kale’s not so juicy, and the salad greens are confused.  We had our first farmer’s market of the year, but for a long variety of reasons we didn’t have many vegetables… so we made jam.  Frogs are filling up the pond, and that’s about all of the exciting details!

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Orwell underwater

So I cut down a tree.  It was my first one.  Here’s a stop-motion animation of the event!

Jeremy said that when I wrote on facebook  that I’d cut a tree down,most people would think I was cutting down a Christmas tree… he said that I should say I fell a tree instead.  So I did that too.  I fell me a tree.  It was a maple.  It was scary as heck, and my muscles all hurt, but it was exhilarating and awesome and I’m proud of myself.

Meanwhile, Jeremy hung Imagecurtains.   Aren’t they pretty?  We should be proud of him too.  This is obviously not true.  Jeremy taught me how to cut a tree down, and was taking pictures of me while I was doing it.  However, he also DID hang curtains this week, to try to keep some of our lovely warm air in our living space, and not vent it out through the holes in the windows.  ImageHe also put in a new fancy water tap, so that our water doesn’t taste like stinky sulfur!  Yes, we planned on putting it in immediately after we moved, but it’s in now, and isn’t it nice?  Especially when the camera is focusing on the clean utensils in the background?

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Underwater, of course

We went to the distillery on Hornby on Saturday.  It was…

(I couldn’t figure out what adjective to use right now, so I looked on my “farm mac” – all of the keys are a really dirty shade of brown – thesaurus for another word for cool and it’s informal options are “trendy, funky, with it, hip, big, happening, groovy, phat, kicky, fly”.  I don’t like those.  Points to someone who can find me that right adjective.  It’s certainly not “groovy” or “fly”.)

I felt like the still belonged in an Orwellian underwater H.G. Wells undersea space odyssey journey.  It was one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen.  Apart from my puppy, obviously.Image

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Less pretty these days than normal, as she is in a “rolling in poop twice a day” phase

  The company was founded by an Icebreaker Captain and an organic chemist… you should go.  It’s the real deal.

So is roasting sausages over a bush fire.  They were delicious.

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It’s almost December. You’re allowed to sing. I promise.

ImageThis log has a piece of flagging tape on it from when part of our fenced-in farm area was a path through to Dusty Road from our house.  We flagged the path off because I was perpetually getting lost.  I get lost less now.  Not a lot less, but less.  It was a little sad to see it burning,

And, finally, I dug up my gladiolas.Image  They were diseased with thrips this year, so we’re hoping to treat them and have better luck next year.  Any advice?

Eating like strumpets

I was out in the garden this morning harvesting tomatoes, seeing as we finally finished processing the glut that we’d had in our kitchen for a week or more – we canned another 7 quarts and 4 pints this morning (with roasted fennel and home-grown hot peppers – oh my GOD is it good) to bring our saucy total so far this year to 26 quarts.  I was staring at all of the red in the greenhouse and didn’t know how to feel.  Not long ago (2 weeks?  3?) I was stressed out because we hadn’t put away enough tomatoes.  Now I’m losing all of the skin on my hands because of the acidity of the fruit – in addition to the sauce, we’ve got 2 cases of salsa and 4 litres of dehydrated cherry tomatoes (they’d probably fill a fridge if they weren’t dehydrated).  So I saw all of this red, and a small part of me felt like sabotaging the whole greenhouse to not have to do the work.  But then I noticed our glut of eggplant, the basil that needs to be picked and made into pesto before it gets cold, the winter squash to be harvested before next weekend’s (last!) market, the cucumbers that are still producing and need to be picked and pickled, the beans that are going like CRAZY and need to be processed, and the apples.   Oh the apples.  Plus our chickens are only about 2 weeks away from being dispatched, and Jeremy’s taking down walls and building floors (at this exact moment we have a big hole where our kitchen window used to be.  I’m scared to ask how long it will be like this for…).

Back to my story.  So I was in the greenhouse.  There was granola in the oven.  There was bread rising on the stove.  The dehydrator was going.  And our neighbour walked by.  Phew.  Welcome distraction.  Ends up that she’s in pretty much the same place as us – there’s food piling up in all corners of the kitchen (and pantry.  and living room.  and on the couch) that needs to be dealt with.  Plus they have a baby.  I can’t imagine September with a baby.  I remember September being busy last year and I didn’t have a full-time job!  I just keep reminding myself that in the dead of winter, when I open a jar of tomato sauce and it tastes like summer it will be worth it.  It will be SO worth it.

Next weekend is Thanksgiving.  Last year we hosted a Thanksgiver Feast Fest.  This year I think it will be a smaller affair, but it sounds like we’ll have a couple of guests and we’ll eat like kings and queens and strumpets, because they probably had more fun when they were eating anyways.

What it means to have clean toes

I scrubbed my toenails today.  Not with hydrogen peroxide (that’s for you, Little Thunder), but with a nail brush.  I soaked my feet in hot soapy water, then I scraped off my well-earned calluses and I scrubbed all of the summer dirt right out from under those nails.  If it weren’t for my sandal-tanned feet, you’d never know that it was the end of summer, and that I had spent my fair share of it outside, and when I wasn’t barefoot, I was in my sandals.  But I go back to work tomorrow, and that means that I need to resurrect my other self.  There are clothes that I’ll start to wear again (shirts with BUTTONS on them – who knew?!) and shoes.  I’ll start to wear shoes again.  I’ll start to shower again on a regular basis (and once a week is NOT regular, even if it’s consistent).  I’ll start spending time on a ferry, driving too much, and I may be a little cranky about it.  It’s been a little hard thinking about going back to work already (there’s still so much canning to be done!  Who will pick all of the cucumbers?  Who will snuggle Mia for hours at a time?  When am I going to find time to knit all the projects I need to knit?!) but I just keep trying to remember how I felt at the end of June – how sad I was that my kids were leaving me, and how much I loved my job.  I do love being a teacher, I know that I’m pretty good at it, and I really am looking forward to my next batch of kids.  It’s just that whole new job, new boss, new staff, new kids, new subjects, new school, leaving the island 5 days a week for 11 hours a day thing.  Mostly the last thing.  But the other stuff too.

Got together with a neighbour today to chat about trading a knit sweater for a quilt.  Wish you could all see the excitement I feel.  Like holy (insert swear word here) excitement.

We’ve been canning like fiends lately – we’ve almost used up all of the jars that my Grandma and Grandpa brought out from Calgary on their lovely visit this spring – yesterday we made 32 jars of plum vanilla jam, one of our favourites from last year.  Our cucumbers are producing like crazy so we’re making lots of dill pickles too.  Plus tomato sauce, dilly beans, blackberry lime jam, apricot jam, pickled beets, and more rhubarb ginger jam.  It’s the beginning of that season, but I guess I’ll have to leave a lot of the rest of it up to Jer.

We went to a wedding last weekend for one of our beloved friends from Bella Coola.  Met her lovely hubby and wish we could have spent more time with them.  Decided I want to get married before I’m 40.  10 years is, hopefully, enough of a warning for Jeremy.

Here’s a couple of pictures to keep you on your toes, whether they be clean, or not at all.

And the canning season begins…

Blog writing sure does seem a boring activity when the weather forecast contains 7 balls of glowing sunshine.  I kept meaning to get around to it last weekend, but there just seemed to be too many things higher on the priority list.  Like setting up my hammock and lying in it.  So, now that the forecast calls for 6 days of rain, and Jer’s off at the first farmer’s market of the season (more on that in a minute), I’m ready to give ya’ll an update.  Because you really do need one.

1.  A bunch of our chicks hatched!  10 of them to be precise, but 1 died before it was fully out of it’s shell – we don’t really know why (side note – there’s a varied thrush gathering worms at my feet and they sure are a beautiful bird) and another was born with a bad leg/foot, kind of like the one in the first round.  We think those eggs both came from our red hen, so we won’t incubate her eggs again.  So we had 8 little baby cute as anything chicks.  Until the Tuesday or Wednesday night, when Mia decided to, for the first time, leave the front room where she hangs out, head on into the kitchen, pluck one of the couple-of-day-old chicks out of it’s warm rubbermaid bin and eat it.  Except she left it’s lifeless corpse on the area rug by her bed.  So maybe our dog isn’t perfect after all.  So now we have 7.  And they’re cute and lovely and funny and active and fantastic.  They’re WAY more fun than the 28 meat birds, who have grown into big ugly poo machines.  Their bodies are growing too fast for their feathers, so they’re still half skin-pink, and they honestly look like walking chicken breasts.  In their first 25 days of life they have gained almost 2 and a half pounds, and they stink.  So far, however, they haven’t annoyed me, and I don’t mind the whole process and we’re thinking about doing it again in the fall.  I’ll let you know whether that’s actually going to happen AFTER we chop off their heads and disembowel them.

2.  Jer’s gone to market!  And not in the way that the meat birds will be either, thank goodness.  He’s gone with radishes, rapini, bok choy and pak choi and some braising greens.  He’s got a batch of rhubarb ginger jam (the canning season has officially begun!) and a batch of rhubarb squares.  He should be home in half an hour, and we’ll see how it went.  I, on the other han, stayed home to love my puppy, weed the carrots and make…

3.  Mango chutney!  Cases of mangoes are on dirt cheap, so I picked up a couple with the intention of freezing and drying them.  But one of Jer’s good friends was up last weekend and mentioned mango chutney, which I’d never made before but I love, so I said to myself “what the heck? seeing as canning season has begun, I’m going to make some mango chutney.”  and I did.  So there.

4.  It’s amping up to be another big weekend.  We’re off to Hornby tomorrow for a Fish and Bird show, it’s Denman Island’s 25th annual pottery studio tour, and so far, it’s still sunny.  I’m applying to jobs as soon as they came up, and I had 1 interview last week but didn’t get the job – a bit of a bummer, but it’s still early and I’m not worried yet.  New flowers are blooming every day – our irises are getting close! – and school is starting to wind down (and get even crazier by the day).  It’s too sunny to post pictures now – I have better things to do – but I’ll get them up during that week of cloudy raininess in the forecast.

Happenings on the farm

We made blackberry wine the day before we went to Calgary.  Squished it through our little fingers.  Got it under our fingernails and stained the dirt black.  I wonder when my fingers will ever be clean again… At the wedding in Calgary, I told a friend of mine who lives in the NWT about it around a bonfire at some unnatural time of the morning.  We decided to trade a bottle for a hunk of moose meat.  He’s going hunting in a few weeks and that makes me excited.  There’s a strong likelihood that he won’t remember, and I don’t know how we’ll make the trade because we don’t see each other often, but it still makes me happy to think about it.

We got to squish 27 pounds of blackberries with our hands for wine

Yesterday, as we were walking down the road in the rain to get our mail, I saw a small lizard (alright… so salamanders aren’t technically lizards, but it looked like a lizard to me, so there) on the road.  I tried to encourage her to get off of the road, but she must have been mighty cold, because she wasn’t moving very fast.

Her name's Sally.  We found her on the road and brought her home to our woods.

So we picked her up, took her to the mailbox, and took her home with us.  I put her under a big log out in front of our house, where she can hopefully stay dry and warm and not get run over by a truck or oldsmobile driving down our road.

But first I brought her (or him, I'm really not sure) inside to take pictures

First though, I had to take pictures.  She was sweet and lovely and I liked holding her (or him, I really don’t know) in my hand.  She has 4 toes on each of her front feet and 5 on each of her back.  Interesting, no?

She's not very big

Yesterday we also picked one of our apple trees, and finished picking all of our plums.  Some of the apples are saucing right now, and we’re dehydrating most of the rest of the plums.  The rest of the apples will turn into sauce or pie or crumble or crisp over the next few weeks.  Our tomatoes are still ripening, and we hope to get some more after this run of rain.

Apples, plums, and cherry tomatoes

Jer thinks these apples may be Cortlands – kind of like a MacIntosh.  They’re really good and sweet, but not super crisp.

We picked these from the most fruitful of our 3 trees

I missed this picture when we were doing salsa and oven roasted tomato sauce, but I’ve been asked to put up more pictures, so…..

Salsa and tomato sauce for the winter

And THIS is a caterpillar we found.  We think it will turn into some variety of silk moth, maybe a cecropia?  I forget what the other name we found was… it was long and had lots of syllables in it.  This guy cocooned under one of our maple trees, on a bench, so we moved it under the porch.

This guy cocooned under our porch

There’s another one that we think is the same that actually cocooned on the fender of my bicycle… if it lasts there all winter, we’ll see what happens in the spring!

He hung out with Jer for an afternoon

Autumnal leaves

Brrr!!!

It started raining a couple of days ago.  It was kind of nice – everything was dry as stink, and the deer got desperate enough to finish off our summer squash in the house garden, in addition to the sword ferns they’ve been munching for weeks.  And now, it feels and smells and is starting to look like fall.  Our leaves are piling up, plums keep falling off our trees, and we picked our first 3 ripe apples.

I’ve been knitting more, especially because the rain kept us inside a bit more, and that’s exciting for me.  I’m stoked about fall sweaters for sure.  I’m also excited that we’re almost done preserving – we’ve got over 250 NEW JARS of preserves (I counted the other day and am SHOCKED) – only another batch of blackberry jam and some pickles to go.  And maybe more tomatoes if they’re forced down our throats.  We made a batch of plum vanilla jam with cardamom that’s sweet and tart and pretty fantastic, and we started turning 27 pounds of blackberries into wine last week – I sure hope it works.  It will seem pretty wasteful if it doesn’t.

We’re off to Calgary today for my oldest friend’s wedding.  Because we’re going to be away for 4 nights, we built our chickens a chicken tractor, so we don’t have to close them up at night and they’re still safe.  This is a big, light, moveable cage that will also allow us to put the ladies on freshly turned beds in the spring, so they can eat all the weeds before we plant new greens!

It was a resounding success… or it seems like it is now.  We’ll let you know for sure when we get back!