Thursday, September 22, 2016

Kind of Random

I cannot believe that I had that dehydrator tucked away for umpteen years and didn't try drying any fruit!  I ordered four more trays just before the long weekend, and was thrilled to be able to pick them up at the post office on Tuesday after.  That blessed dehydrator has been running almost every day, and many nights, since then.  I have dried most of the apples we had, and then moved onto pears.  Oh boy, are the pears good!  So now there are 8 trays of fruit drying.  The pears take about 11 hours, so if I am on the ball, one lot gets dried during the day, and then I load another lot in just before I go to bed.  Sometimes I just don't feel like it though, that late at night.  Anyway, I've just about done all the Bartlett pears.  We have another tree, Comice pears, that we will start to pick before Sunday. 

The last picking of the pears early in the month.  At a rough guess, this is about 1/3 of the total amount of pears off that semi dwarf tree.  Not pretty, but delicious!
One tray loaded

A melon baller is the perfect tool for coring the pears.  I cut them in half and scoop out the core.  I do the apples exactly the same.  Then I slice them into roughly 3/16 inch slices.

Dried and sweet! A few bananas too.

Today though I discovered that as good as the Bartletts are, the asian pears are even better.  Meredith brought me a box full from a friend at work.  They are such watery things, but oh boy, when they are dry, they are almost like candy.  They shrink up much more than any of the other fruit I have dried, so you don't end up with much, but they are so good!

Last Friday's harvest.  The Fall raspberries have been great too, and are still producing.  My favourite thing about gardening....nibbling a bit of this and that while I am working out there.  The garden, the mess that it is, brings me such pleasure.  I love producing good food!  

Meanwhile Farmer Larry has been doing some landscaping.

Behind the barn (last week).  There should have been a before picture.  This was a mess of blackberries and trees that had seeded themselves, all grown in and through old machinery and junk.  David started to clear it before he went to England, and Larry is finishing it off. 

 This week he finished cleaning it up and got it harrowed and smoothed out.  I'm eyeing it up as a place to plant the dahlias next year.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Something Totally Different....Sort of...

Just a quick post.  This past weekend was my dog club's annual Agility Trial.  We haven't done a whole lot of agility lately, and last year I didn't even enter the trial.  This year I thought I might as well have a bit of fun...(because with our lack of practicing I really didn't think we would do that well). 

The trial was held Friday evening through Sunday, but I couldn't be there on Sunday because I needed to be at the Farmer's Market.

Once again our dogs amazed me.  Jake ran in 5 classes, and had a clean and qualifying round in four of them, as well as first place finishes.  The fifth class with it's fault was due to a small handler error.  I learned from my mistake and when I ran Luna in the same class a bit later, I fixed my handling and she got a clean (qualifying) round and a second place.  In her other classes she made one small mistake in each of them, which was my fault.  I was so darn impressed and pleased with them!

I didn't get anyone to film our runs, but here are a couple of videos to give you some idea.  The first one is of our club doing a demo at a Canada Day celebration in Mission.  We go there every year.  It was a fun relay where the handler had to run their dog and carry a cup of water at the same time.

This video is of Jake running in the BC/Yukon Agility Regionals in 2011.  This is one of 6 different runs we had to do. He finished first in his division that year.

I had so much fun,  think I may have to enter a few trials this winter!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Critter Catching

Can you believe it, a week has passed already since my last post!  Where oh where do the days go? 

 Friday of last week, all H E double hockey sticks broke loose in the chicken field.  I dashed out of the back door (I was inside making jam) and Larry dashed from wherever he had been.  The hens were squawking and cackling, and had either dashed under the nearest bush, or were stood in a group with their necks stretched up. We scanned the field, the trees and the sky, but couldn't see anything that would cause such concern.  All of a sudden a few hens came squawking out of the coop, in a hurry, so I realized that something must be inside. 
 I ran over there, but was too 'chicken' to open the door and see, so I peered in through the screen door and banged on the wall, and something low and black ran out of the hen door.  A mink, or a ferret.  Jet black.  I thought it was too big for a mink.....Anyway, it ran along the fence and into the other coop and out and underneath, and back and into the first coop.  Then it was in and out of the metal pile and Larry had grabbed a big stick and was sort of chasing after it, back and forth they went.  And then he lost it. 
 I went in to Google ferrets and mink.  In the end I decided it was a mink and because it just seemed too darn bold, we decided it was probably an escapee from a mink farm.  All the while, in the back of my mind, are the horror stories I've heard of what a mink can do to a flock of chickens.  We hung around for a while and watched, but never did see the mink again.
  I called up Lisa, our neighbourhood animal rescuer, to ask if she had a live trap.  She did, so I went down to pick it up, and we set it in the area where the mink had been.  A few days went by, and nothing!  Something small was eating the bait each night though, mice or rats I guess.  Something small and light enough to not set off the trigger plate.  It was a pain to have to keep rebaiting the trap though.  One morning early this week I glanced over at the cage, and was quite shocked to see a small opossum in it.  We took the opossum for a walk with us out to our back bush.  Luna was quite interested, well something that moved, in a cage, is always interesting to her.

 Jake took a quick sniff and didn't care at all.  The opossum did play dead at one point, but at the end of the walk when we were about to release it, it was very active.  

When that cage door popped open, it was amazing how fast it shot into the underbrush. I took a picture, but the opossum was just a blur. Nothing at all like the nocturnal creatures we see waddling across the road at night.  We keep setting the trap.  I am using a little wire thingy for loose tea leaves, to hold the bait.  The mice can't get it.  Lisa is hoping I will catch a stray cat that we see occasionally.  She would take it to be neutered.  She is a woman on a mission.  I'm just hoping that the mink moved on, a long way.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Can You Believe It?

A post three nights in a row?  I may have not accomplished much else this week, but I least I can say I didn't abandon my blog.  Why I feel like I haven't done much is because I have not made a lick of jam.  I have people waiting for specific ones.  I feel guilty, I should have had 6 or 8 or more batches done by this point.  I guess I can say I had a rest this week, although it doesn't actually feel like it. 

We are so swamped with pears at the moment.  We've been taking them to the market to sell, and we sell a few, but not enough.  I hate to waste any.  Jake and Luna are doing their part and eating a lot of the windfalls.  The ones that are too far gone go over the fence to the sheep and chickens.  Today I peeled about 40 lbs of pears and got 5 bags of 8-9 cups each of diced pears into the freezer for future batches of ginger pear jam. The chickens and Ramona got the peels and cores. There are still pears on the tree, and about 100 lbs in the fridge in the garage.  My next plan is to peel and cut up some to freeze on trays first, and then bag.  We will used them in the winter for putting on our porridge.  

Last week at the market I noticed the vendor next to us had bags of dried fruit.  I talked to him (they send massive amounts to the commercial dehydrators) and asked a few questions.  Today I remembered to check in the barn and there was the dehydrator that wasn't in the other places I thought it might be.  It always a challenge to remember where you saw something last.  I got it from the thrift store or a garage sale, (where else?), and wouldn't have paid more than $5.  I don't think I've really used it, other than one time drying a few herbs.  I plugged it in and there was smoke coming out of it ;(  Not a good sign at all!  I managed to get it apart and vacuumed the dead bugs out of it and cleaned all around the element.  Larry washed the trays and I got it all back together, and hooray, it was good to go!  I took some of the red apples we have that are supposed to be Gravensteins, and cored them and sliced them and filled up the dehydrator. It has four layers.

  Eight hours later, we have dried apples.  I'm so thrilled.  They just look like the real thing, haha!  And they taste delicious, oh are they good!.  I did a couple of pear slices too and they were great also, so my next batch will be pears.  And I was excited enough to order 4 more trays from Amazon this evening.  If the thing is going to be running, it might as well be as full as possible. 

About lunchtime as I was taking the apple cores out to the chickens, I noticed that their door was closed, again.  I went over there and the hook that Meredith had put in was straightened right out, and so then it had slid out of the wire loop and dropped down.  The poor hens.  There was a whole bunch that were wanting to get in to lay.  Right outside the door down the side of a hunk of concrete that is there, about 6 hens were piled on top of each other.  I couldn't figure out what the heck they were doing, and thought the hen at the bottom of the pile was going to be smothered.  There was one egg at the very bottom.  So I realized that one hen had laid there in desperation, so then 5 or 6 more hens figured they would all try lay there too, all at the same time.  Poor things.  Into the coop they shot, and piled into the nest boxes.  We were down a few eggs when Larry collected them later, so some desperate hens probably dropped them somewhere else.  

I got the drill and changed the hinges so  that the door would open right up, and used a hook and eye to keep it fastened close to the wall, so it doesn't look so much like a scratching post to Ramona.  So much for my great idea of letting it hang low over the doorway like a little roof.  Hopefully that has solved it all.

The before picture.  Now it is opened right up and fastened against the wall.

I was reminded of how I like little jobs like that. Fiddling around. Going and looking for things that will make it work.  I usually don't know what I am looking for until I see it, but I love the challenge of making things work out from the 'junk' we have on hand. Larry came out to see what I was doing.  I was rude and told him to get lost!  I didn't want him saying 'why don't you do it this way'.  Sometimes I just like to struggle along by myself and then feel a great satisfaction with the results.

A garage sale score from a couple of weeks ago.

Jake and Luna were not impressed.  They leaped out in unison seconds after this photo.
Maybe I need to train them to pull it instead!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Yay, It's Raining!

Yesterday we worked on the lean-to part of the new chicken coop.  The coop is on the site of the old sheep barn, and that is where Ramona, our one and only remaining sheep, used to hang out, as did the chickens when it rained.  So when we tore down the sheep barn, we left the half wall up on the north end, and the plan was to extend the roof out over that wall.  That would make a nice shelter for Ramona, and a spot for the chickens to hang around outside, but be out of the weather. We do get a lot of rain here in the winter. 

Larry has been picking away at it, working on it occasionally, getting the rafters up and connected into the coop, and the plywood on.  Now that rain is in our forecast, it was time to get the tar paper on and the metal as well.  We were able to scrounge up enough metal to cover the whole thing.  Larry had taken down the old rotten woodshed and salvaged the roofing that had been laid on the top of that.  It isn't pretty, but it's functional.  We were lucky enough to be gifted much of the lumber for the coop, and the 2x4's were longer than we needed.  Larry asked me how much of an overhang I wanted at the end, and I said well why cut it shorter, just leave the overhang as long as possible.  So he did.  It is just hanging out there, and certainly wouldn't meet any building code, but sure supplies a nice bit of extra covered real estate for the hens.  We may end up putting some supports under the end, I suppose that would be a good thing in case of a heavy snow fall!

I helped Larry manhandle the sheets of metal onto the roof and into place.  Because we were doing things ass backwards (usually a roof is done from the bottom up, not the top down) he needed help getting the sheets lined up and pushed up underneath what was already there.  After all the pieces had enough screws in them to hold them in place, I was able to leave him to it to finish it off.  As I hear the rain pouring down this evening, which we desperately needed, it is a good feeling to know that part of it is done.

A sort of funny story that I meant to add to last night's post, but forgot at the time.  While we were away last week, Meredith was coming here in the evening to collect the eggs and water those seeds I had planted as well as a few other things.  She would shut the chickens in and then head back to her own place.  A nieghbour came over in the morning to let them out.  One night she came really late, just before midnight, because she had been to a show in Vancouver.  She was dressed up nicely, and had forgotten to bring a change of clothes.  It was really hot last week, but she put a jacket and some rain pants on over her good stuff and went out to collect the eggs and shut the coop doors.  All was fine until she got to this coop.  The door was down and the hook that holds it open was missing.  All 60 or so of the hens were huddled outside in the dark. She propped the door up with a piece of wood.  So there she was, picking each hen up and shoving it through the door.  The extra clothes have her sweating bullets.  She manages to find most of the hens and gets them in.  She closes the door and puts a brick in front of it.  We are not sure what the neighbour did in the morning, but when Meredith came again the next night, the door was shut again.  The maddening thing was that she had meant to go over and check that the door was open, as soon as she arrived, while it was still light.  Instead she got busy with the watering and forgot, and by the time she got over there it was dark and the hens were all huddled outside again.  So once again she had to pick each one up and put it through the door. (There is no power to the coop yet, therefore she couldn't turn a light on to help guide them. That job is on the list).  Then she phoned us in Oliver and asked where she might find another hook.  She managed to find something that worked.  Gotta love her!  Thanks Meredith xxx

PS We never did find the original hook.  All I can think of is that Ramona was using the door as a scratching post, and the hook got yanked out...maybe?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Change is as Good as a Rest

At least that is how the old saying goes.  We went to Oliver last week.  Five nights away!  That is probably a first (the five nights) for this time of the year between Farmers Markets.  The Monday was a lot of rushing around, getting some ripe fruit in the freezer, me wanting to get stuff seeded in the garden before we left. Oh yeah, all the stuff I've been meaning to get done in the previous week....anyway we finally got underway in the afternoon and rolled in to Oliver about dark, which is about usual.

I'm not sure it was really a relaxing holiday.  And I don't think the change was as good as a rest, but at least it was a change.  We both haven't been to Oliver together, with the dogs, since early May.  Larry has been a couple of times on his own, but he only stays for two nights, and Cathy and I stopped in for two nights also on our way back from Ontario.  This was the first trip without Calli, which was a bit sad, but it is funny how you quickly adjust, and things are definitely simpler now.

The trip was all about fruit, and swimming.

Now you aren't supposed to take your backyard fruit to the Okanagan, there is the fear that you may spread something to the orchards there.  We were very careful.  The fruit was bagged and went straight into the house.  We peeled a lot of pears, and the peels and cores went into the compost bucket which we brought back home with us and dumped in our compost bin here.  The pears were either made into jam or went into the freezer.

The second day there we went on a road trip.  The weather was warm, well hot enough really, but amazingly, this time it was a few degrees cooler than the coast, which is backwards to the norm.  Not that we minded, not at all!  We had the car, which doesn't have air conditioning, and we took the dogs on our road trip, so we made three stops for them to swim so that they kept cool while we were driving.  There were a few walks added in as well.  We drove from Oliver to Vernon, which is a couple of hours, and then took a trip out to Lumby.  More than 20 years ago we had bought a 40 acre parcel there, forty acres of nothing but scrubby rocky land, a few trees along the front boundary, and three trees in the middle, and a wonderful view to the north.  We ended up selling it a few years later, but we wanted to see what had been done with the place since then.  It looked like they had managed to get a decent forage crop growing, it looked like a lot of alfalfa, and had built a house and shop in the middle of it, and that was it.  We didn't really regret not keeping it, except that it would be worth so much more now.  We drove around the Vernon area a bit, and somehow managed to spend ten hours out that day.   Vernon is on Kalamalka Lake, which is a beautiful turquoise colour, different shades in different spots, and changes colour depending on the light.

I took no photos on the trip, other than a few shots with the phone through the car window.  I've cropped out the concrete guardrail!  These two are of Kalamalka Lake on the way up, when I was closest to the lake.

This is Okanagan lake (and the tip of Larry's nose!) in the evening on the way home, and I was on the wrong side of the road.

Even that day, we managed to fit in something 'fruity'.  At the first swim stop at the boat launch along the highway at Vaseux Lake, I spotted some Oregon Grapes, so picked some of those.  The next couple of days were jam making days for me, four batches on Thursday and three on Friday.  Then on Saturday, I suggested that we walk the dogs in the same spot we had been on Tuesday morning.  I often have an ulterior motive when I suggest we go to a certain spot.  On Tuesday I had spotted bushes loaded with Oregon Grapes, so this time we went prepared with bags, and picked enough for me to make a batch or two of jelly.  On Friday I had picked the Concord grapes that are growing in our backyard there, and they will be jelly too.  

Thankfully on Saturday morning we didn't see any more of these.  This is one of two Great Basin Gopher snakes that were sunning themselves on the dyke on Tuesday.  

They didn't move. Freaky! This one was about a meter in length.  Apparently they can grow to over 2 meters!  Harmless, but sometimes imitate rattlesnakes when they are frightening.  Uggh.  We have never seen this before, but talked to another dog walker back at our cars, and one day she said she had counted 25 of them sunning themselves.  No thanks!

I'm sure the dogs enjoyed their time away, as they averaged two swims a day.  This one is in the Okanagan River, (the water is so clear, it is lovely) but they also swam in Vaseaux, Tucelnuit, and Okanagan Lakes, as well as a creek in Lumby.   Even I went in for a swim a couple of times.

We didn't get home until 5, and then it was into full market prep, and to bed about 1:30am, and up again at 5am on Sunday morning.  
 I think this week I need the 'rest' part ;-)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Needle in a Haystack

More like a set of keys in a hay field.  On Saturday evening we went out to pick blackberries for the Sunday market, about an hour before dark.  Because we were heading out to the back of the property, Larry locked the house and brought a set of keys.  He was wearing soccer shorts because they were light and airy and it was warm, and they had no pocket.  He tied the keys in his shoe laces and double knotted them.  When I saw that I was about to say something negative, like 'that's a dumb idea', but for once I managed not say what I was thinking, and kept my mouth shut. (That doesn't happen often!)  Somewhere along the way the keys fell off.  We looked where Larry had been for the last bit of picking because that's where he thought they must come loose, but we couldn't find them.  We have two sets of car keys, and every once in a while one disappears.  Usually it is found in a pocket in a piece of clothing that hasn't been worn for a while.  So before Saturday we were already down to one set.  Now we were down to no sets.  Fortunately when we had a previous loss of a set, we had got an extra key made, and I carried that single key in my purse for emergencies.  This was an emergency, we needed the car for the market in the morning.  We have so much in the way of fruit and veggies at the moment that we can't fit it all in the truck.  We have had numerous key searches in the past few days, but so far no luck with either set.  Yesterday Larry broke down and got both house and cars key made.  I think we will just stick to one set from now on.  More chance of remembering where it might be if someone doesn't hang them up in their proper place, if there isn't another set to just grab.  That way we have to do a search right away.  And I still have the emergency one in my purse.

Meanwhile, out in the chicken coops.....especially the new coop,... we had a lot of broody hens.  Seven  at one point.  By broody I mean hens that don't want to lay eggs any more, they just want to sit in the nest box and be all huffy and clucky and ideally they want to hatch some eggs.  They don't care if there are no eggs to hatch, they will just sit there anyway and try to scare off other hens that ARE still laying, that want to get in that nest box.  As well, we had hens that wanted to sit in the nest boxes at night, instead of on the roosts.  And they poop in there overnight. 

So a few weeks back when Larry was away for a couple of days, I had had enough of the huffy hens.  After the eggs were collected in the afternoon, I fastened up a piece of tarp that covered over the nest boxes.  The broody hens got ejected, and the nest boxes were covered up. 

 That was enough to discourage four of the broody hens, but three of them got back into the nest boxes as soon as they were uncovered the next morning.  So those three spent a couple of days in a wire bottomed cage.  If they don't have something solid underneath them they won't sit down .  Sounds mean I know, but if you don't do something, some of those hens will stay broody for weeks and weeks...and weeks. One hen was very determined, and it took another day in the cage, but she has got herself straightened out now, and egg numbers have gone up.  Most of the hens are on the roosts at night.  A few roost on the perches in front of the nest boxes, which is okay.  When the coop door is shut at dark, the tarp is tucked up and out of the way, and the clean nest boxes are all set for the next morning.  And we are loving those nest boxes! No bending over, easy to collect the eggs, we should have done this years ago.

In the morning those hens charge out and its heads down and grass for breakfast.  

Granny Marigold asked a question about the labels on the jam jars.  I do get a lot of jars back, I give customers a 25 cent discount on their next jar, for each empty they bring me.  Most of them have the labels on.  I think most of the time the jar has been through the dishwasher, and my theory is that the heat just sets the sticky part even more, and the label doesn't want to come off.  I usually get them wet and just rub the paper part off with my thumbs, the sticky part is still there.  Sometimes I feel like I have rubbed my thumbprints right off.  Then I put the new label right over where the old one was.  Lately some seem to rub off, sticky part and all, so I'm wondering if maybe they didn't go through the dishwasher?  The dishwasher thing is just a theory, I haven't tested it.  I have noticed though that on the old style jars that you can't buy any more, the label, sticky and all, will rub off after getting wet.  There must be something different about the glass.  Occasionally I get jars back with the label and the sticky stuff off, I love those ones!

When we replaced our computer, Windows 10 didn't really support the very old Print Artist program I was using.  I was able to sort of use documents I had already created, but the font I was using wasn't available, the labels were all weird with a different font, and I couldn't get them to point where I really liked them.  So we ended up going for something simpler that I could make with the office program that came with the computer.  And wow, was that a learning curve that was!, but I have mostly figured it out now.
 I think.