Saturday, August 23, 2014

This Time of Year

I had been thinking to stop in at my Brother & Sister-in-Law’s house  for a visit today on my way to Mum & Dad’s, but the clean-up at Grandpa’s house is all but done (and there is a showing on Sunday) and so my help wasn’t needed this weekend… as a result I opted to stay home and do some things here… My Sister-in-Law sent me an email this morning – one of the things she said (thank you Carrie!) was “Have fun in the yard- I love the bounty of this time of year; makes life feel so full...”

I know exactly what she means. I have been trying my hand at gardening and canning now for two years. In the 4 years I spent in my house in Ontario, I mostly puttered and weeded in flower beds.  Though I considered putting in vegetable beds, I never really managed it. My house there didn’t actually have any taps outside that would have made watering productive. There was a tap that went into the back wall of the garage, but nothing else – and that meant carrying watering buckets around, or running hoses out windows and through the house in order to water.  Not a house built for anything other than lawn that didn’t require water.

Here in my little lot in Cumberland, I have a tap out the back of the house.  I’d like one out the front as well (I could do more out front if I had the capability to water without running hoses all over hell and back around the house) but that isn’t in the cards at the moment.  There are many other home improvements I need to tackle before I put in a faucet for watering convenience out front. The tap out back makes it possible to set up drip lines that keep the beds alive.  Beans, snow peas, carrots, Swiss chard, tomatoes, spinach, kale and lettuce – not to mention the pears, and plums I have been able to harvest this year - so far. I pulled the peas, kale and lettuce a week to two ago – and am readying those beds to put in a next planting of kale, spinach and snow peas.

Where I was really going with this is that there is a real feeling of security for me in being able to open my cupboard or freezer and see food in that I grew myself, see things that are so much healthier and so much tastier than the commercially made options.

This coming week I will be working on peaches and pears – and then the apples.  The peaches, freestone peaches, are coming to me from the Okanagan – maybe Monday, maybe Tuesday, but then Wednesday night I will need to get started on canning again. I looked in my canning jar cupboard today when I was getting ready to can the tomato sauce, and did some quick calculations… and I am thinking I may need to get my hands on my pint and quart jars… and maybe more cupboard space to store my food.

I love the bounty of this time of year; makes life feel so full...

With love across the waters…

Monday, August 18, 2014

Feeling Summer Bounty

My cupboards and freezer are starting to fill with garden bounty – and I’m LOVING the sight!

The past few weeks have been very tumultuous – as a family, we have not only been dealing with the sudden and shocking death of my Grandfather, but also the clean-up of his house – which has not been a small job.  While I haven’t been able to be there to help with the major week-day efforts, I have been down on weekends as much as possible (since he fell and ended up in the hospital) and as a result, the garden has been largely ignored.

With the exception of watering, I’ve done very little other than pick things, here and there, until this week. Last Sunday I came home from Mum & Dad’s house with a plethora of tomatoes. I then picked all of what was ripe in my yard and last Monday I really got into the guts of starting to process some harvest.  First things first, I made up some roasted tomato sauce – SUPER easy – the recipe was found and piloted by my Mum and can be seen on her blog about Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce - Mum's blog is called The Messy Gardener

I had long booked today (Monday the 18th of August) as a vacation day – and so was looking forward to a three-day weekend that would allow me to get some things that I have been neglecting around the house taken care of.  Friday night after work, I picked all of my pears.  They are now divided up – half (the larger ones) are in a paper bag (with a couple of apples to help speed the ripening process) on my kitchen table and the other half is in a basket, also ripening, but at a slightly slower rate.  The second set will be made into pear butter a recipe for which, I found online, and the first set will be for fresh eating (YUMMY!) and canning – I’m going to make light syrup for the canning ones, and I’m going to try out another recipe I saw on line for that one…

Pear tree - pre-picking!


Ripening in a Brown Paper Bag - with Apples to help

The Rest of the Pear Haul
Friday I also got to meet up with my Mum & Dad for lunch – and they supplied me with more tomatoes (yay!) as well as a HUGE bag of green beans and a couple of ears of corn! After I picked the pears, I cut up all of the cherry tomatoes (for drying) and got the dehydrator going. 

Getting the Dehydrator Loaded
Saturday morning I got straight to it!  First, I checked on the tomatoes in the dehydrator…

Overnight's Work - Still Some Work to Go
Then I made up another batch of roasted tomato sauce

Plum Tomatoes

Ready to Roast!

And canned it all.

Two Kinds of Tomato Sauce

While the tomato sauce was cooling, I turned off the dehydrator and packaged up the dried tomatoes… 

All Ready to Make Sundried Tomato Pesto!
I also stewed up the previously frozen Damson Plums and got them all stone and skin free… After that I quit for the day.

Frozen Plums

Cooking Down the Plums

Yesterday I had an out of town chore to look after in the morning…

Once home, though, I opted to get at the beans and look after the plums.

I chopped, blanched and froze two colanders’ worth of the beans – the third colanders-worth I decided to try my hand at dehydrating (for consumption in soups and stews through the winter. One colander is equal to about two cookie-sheets in the freezer – a cookie sheet vacuum sealed and frozen is 3 - 4 meals’ worth of beans (as a side dish)

Beany Madness in the Kitchen

In the Freezer

Dried Green Beans
Then back to the plums.  I tried (a couple of years ago) to make plum jam… I was using powdered Certo and it never did set, but it made this delightfully tart syrup that was amazing on pancakes and waffles… this time I didn’t even bother trying to make jelly – this time I went straight for the syrup.

Plum Syrup - 2014
Quite a haul!

Last night, before bed, I took out all of the rest of the applesauce from last year that I bagged and froze… I thawed it out overnight, added cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to it and canned it up today…

On to the beans.  Pulled them out of the freezer, bagged and vacuum sealed them – they are now in my chest freezer waiting for winter dinners!

Frozen and Vacuum Sealed
In and amongst all of this activity this weekend, I also managed to mow the lawn, get the kitchen and bathroom floors washed, three loads of laundry done, pick the next small bunch of nearly ready-to-make-sauce-out-of tomatoes, and a *very* little bit of tidying and organizing taken care of. All in all, I’m very pleased with what was accomplished this weekend! The next major harvest activities will be more beans and tomato sauce... and the apple tree...

Oh... the apple tree...

Apple Tree 2014 - So Heavy With Fruit
That the Branch is Touching the Ground!
With love across the waters…