Friday, February 17, 2017

winter's back

We went away for the first week of February.  We left a mild, easy winter, and returned to snow - lots of it.  Wayne is in Florida (shades of last year) and I with my cold am left to do the shovelling.  First was the deck - the weight of all that snow had to go.  I uncovered the bird feeders, stocked up with peanuts and sunflower seeds, and a crowd of bluejays, starlings, mourning doves and chickadees, along with two ravens, showed their appreciation.

Later in the afternoon, I had a look at the front walkway.  It was a chore just to find the steps.  The snow was packed down by the wind, and easy to cut into chunks.  I had to stop every few minutes to catch my breath.
The car on the left has not been touched for 10 days.  That guy will not be liberated for another week. My car, on the right, was driven yesterday, but is again covered.  The driveway has not been plowed, so I'm going nowhere today.
After 40 minutes of struggling, the steps have emerged.  The pile of snow is up to 45 inches, and I am ready for a well-deserved cup of tea.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

marmelade



The Meyer lemon tree in my living room is just a scrawny thing about a foot tall.  Now that it's winter, the leaves are falling off.  But it produced 9 lovely green fruit.  I used two to flavour some applesauce made with the skins (so good and much faster to make).


To do justice to the 7 remaining lemons, I decided to make marmelade.  The recipes I found on line seemed really complicated, so I worked out a plan that turned out really well.
1.  cut Meyer lemons very thin, removing seeds as you go.  Chop into small pieces
2.  take the zest off one lemon and two oranges.  Cut into thin ribbons.
3.  cut fruit in half, and cut between the membranes.  Remove the fruit.
4.  I ended up with 3.5 cups.
5.  place in large pot.  Add the same amount of water as fruit.
6.  bring to boil, and simmer gently 30 minutes.
7.  add same amount of sugar as fruit.  Stir till dissolved.
8.  boil hard 10 minutes.  Check for set:  put a small plate in the freezer.  Put a bit of jam on the plate.  The jam should set within 20 seconds.  If it is still runny, continue to boil 10 more minutes, and test again.  Take off the heat and stir for 5 minutes to prevent floating fruit.
9.  Bottle the jam:  wash pint mason jars.  Place in a roasting pan filled half full of hot water.  Put in the oven at 200 degrees.  always use new lids.  Bring to the boil, then turn off heat.
10.  Bottle the jam, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Screw on jar rims finger tight, and set on kitchen towel.  Do not disturb for 12 hours.

The jam is bursting with citrus flavour, and not too sweet.
I have done justice to my beautiful meyer lemons!

Monday, November 28, 2016

snowing already again

















There has been some controversy as to what kind of winter weather we are looking at this year.  Environment Canada says it will be an old fashioned, snowy winter. The Farmers' Almanac predicts warmer and drier.

Yesterday, November 27, we had are second taste of snow for the year already, and it was a real barn burner.  Wet, icy, coming down sideways.  I walked around the block, and felt needles on my face.  Overnight, 1500 PEI customers lost their power, poles snapped under the strain, and we were lucky to just get a few power flickers.

I'm with Evironment Canada on this one.

The ornamental grass that was standing proudly on Friday is now bent over with its burden of snow.

The birds can't get to their seeds.
I had to go out and chip off the ice.
Looking through the dried stalks of Jerusalem Artichoke to the back of the house.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

webworms

It's fall, and the insects are gearing up for survival of the next generation, laying eggs, and planning their winter homes.  Fall webworms are showing up everywhere.  They hang out together, spinning webs around leafy branches, so they can much on the leaves with the sticky web to protect them from predators.  Also inside the webs are eggs, waiting to hatch.

One way to deal with them is spraying with a combination of lime sulphur and horticultural oil in the spring before the leaves appear.  That covers and kills any overwintering insects or eggs.  But my crab apple tree is about 20 feet tall, and there is no way I can spray it anymore.

By the time it looks like the picture above, the only thing to do is to cut off the branch and dispose of the caterpillars.  You can douse the web with gasoline and set fire to it, but that seems like overkill.
I put water in a bucket (or in this case, a wheelbarrow), squirt dish soap in, and then soak the web-covered branches, making sure they go under the water.  The soap will cover the bugs' air-holes, and kill them dead.

The crabapple branch was incredibly hard to cut (the wood is tough) and I was very proud of myself when finishing that job, only to find a new nest high up in the tree a few days later.  I am admitting defeat.

holey kale

When I planted kale for the first time this year, I had great hopes of harvesting healthy veg all season long.  After all, kale is cold tolerant, and will happily keep on growing and looking good even after heavy frosts.  Except in my garden.  In early June, I made a few stir-fries with kale, but now the leaves are so full of holes, and there are so many bugs, it's just not something I want to eat.

Kale is part of the cabbage family, which includes brussels sprouts and kohlrabi.  All of which are delicious to flea beetles and cabbage worms.

If I was really serious, I would have covered the plants right after planting with floating row cover to keep the critters at bay.  That's about the only way to get hole-less kale.

moonpennies

This spring, my gardens were full of a small plant with bright purple flowers.  I thought it was phlox gone wild, and it took a while to realize it was Lunaria, commonly known as "silver dollar plant" or "moonpennies" because of their circular white seed pods. They had been growing in only one flowerbed, but the new plants germinated in unexpected places everywhere.  It's a biennial (small plant first year, flowers the second year, sets seed, and dies).
(picture from Wikipedia)


Now that they have dried, I pick great bunches, peel off the grey outer layers of the seed pod, and use the branches in dried flower arrangements.  They last so long in the house, that my two-year old dried plants look just like new!
In this picture, the white pods have been peeled, and the gray ones are waiting to be done.




It's a painstaking job peeling off first one side, then the other, of each pod to reveal the bright white shiny interior.  
Each pod contains at least 3 seeds on each side. 

This plant has developed a brilliant method of seed disbursal.  When the seeds mature, the outer layer on each side of the pod drop off, and are so light that they fly with the wind.  The seeds lightly adhere to the outer layers, and drop off after they blow to a new spot. 

dill seeds are forever

When I first started my garden 22 years ago, I planted a row of dill.  The plants have faithfully reseeded every fall and regrown every spring.  But they produce so much seed, that they pop up all over the garden.  I need to direct them a bit.  So I've been doing some harvesting.
It's easy to pull the seeds off the heads, one small bunch at a time.

I ended up with lots of dill seeds that I will store inside for the winter.  
Next spring, I'll plant them exactly where I want them, in rows!


a naked dill head, after the seeds have been stripped.