Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Picking Technique

We are in the middle of blackberry season.  Just about every weekday morning we pick them.  We take the dogs for their morning walk through the bush, and then on the way back start picking blackberries.  And then Friday and Saturday evenings we pick more to take to the farmers markets.


I am aiming to pick 40 pails full, between us, which means I'll pick about 2/3 of them, and Larry will pick the other third.  I need that many to have a steady supply of blackberry jam and jelly until they are ripe again next year. The pails held four litres (about a gallon) of something or other, but seem to hold more blackberries than the four litre  ice cream pails we used last year.  The three we have been using this year are much sturdier than the ice cream pails, and really work well. Some mystery person dropped them off at our gate. I am sure you are not reading this, but thank you anyway!


The best technique is to fasten the pail at your waist somehow, generally we run a belt through the handle.  That way you can pick with two hands, and bucket is close by for dropping the berries in. 


 We saw a clip on the news the other day of a retired professor in Vancouver, out picking blackberries.  He was balancing the bucket on the palm of one hand, and picking with the other.  That's too slow for us.  He had multiple layers of clothes on so he could venture into the brambles and not get jabbed with the thorns.  We cut back the long overhanging shoots from this year. They are the ones that have the most wicked thorns. That way we can wear shorts and t-shirts because it's usually hot when we are doing it, and not get all caught up in the thorns (for the most part).  Wearing all the clothes like that professor, well I wouldn't have to worry about getting stabbed by the thorns, because I'd already be dead from heat stroke.


Every time we walked by one of the best patches, a robin would finally fly off squawking. Eventually I realized there was a nest in there.  And then when we finally started picking there, we saw this.  As far as I know there were only two babies.  This would probably be the second hatch of the year.


We picked fast and moved out of the area as quickly as we could.  Sometimes we could hear mama robin swearing at us from the nearby trees.  Once we moved away she would come back and land on the fence just up from the nest, the next meal ready to be shoved down the nearest throat.  


These photos were taken last week, and already on Monday the nest was empty.  Those babies grow fast!

We didn't pick yesterday morning because we had a bit of rain, so I went out on my own last evening and picked three buckets in just over an hour.  The picking was good!  We had some smoke in the air that had blown up from some forest fires in Washington, so I thought we might get a bit of colour as the sun set, and we did:)


I'm sad though that we've already lost an hour of daylight in the evenings.
The dogs like blackberries too, and they have the best picking technique of all.  Straight from the stem to the stomach.

29 buckets picked as of Wednesday!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Super Moon

Last night when the moon came up from behind the trees to east, I tried to get some decent pictures.  I even remembered where I had put the tripod, which was amazing in itself, and set that up.  The pictures were nothing spectacular, for sure.



So then I thought it might be fun to take a drive over the hill to where there is a view to the east, and see what I could get from there.  Larry was in the middle of collecting eggs and shutting the chickens in, but he was game to come.  So we drove about a mile and a half and parked on the side of the road, and I got out and set the tripod up.  We could hear people talking in the backyard of a house nearby (it had been a hot day) and some weird bird noises from a barn close by.  I'll have to have a better look at that barn in the daylight.  There might be pigeons in it.


I had wanted to get the moon and Mt. Baker in Washington State together in the picture.   The moon wasn't really cooperating and wasn't where I wanted it to be.  I wanted to capture it rising behind Mt. Baker.  Well we were too late and too far east.  The sky wasn't very clear either, we get pollution trapped in the Fraser Valley on hot summer days.  Obviously I was not going to get the picture of my imagination.


I farted around with different setting on the camera, really having no clue what I was doing.  Well mostly changing the shutter speed.  
This was kind of a fun one.  A car drove by while the shutter was open, I think I had it set at 4 seconds at that point.


I wanted to try another one like that.  There had been a few cars drive past up to that point, but then we hit a car drought.  Larry kept offering to drive our car past, and I kept saying no, we'll wait for one to come by.  Didn't happen, so packed up and headed back up the hill, and of course then another car came over the top.  Figures.

Back home we went.  Larry finished off the chicken duties, and I took one last shot over the garden.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Wyndson Dogs go to the Spa

That would be the home spa, which consists of their wading pool and the water hose. Poor dogs, not even warm water.  Ha, it was a hot day, so hot that I dragged the pool into the shade, and the cold water isn't even that cold with all the warm weather we have had lately.

Jake was my first victim client.  He was good.  Jake is mostly good.  He stood there with his back humped up and took it all patiently.  


Luna just wanted the water coming out of the hose.


Didn't even get towelled off.  A good shake and a bit of running around in the sunshine....


And a red dog is good to go.


Luna was next.  While she might love biting at the water coming out of the hose, she was less than thrilled to have to stand there and get ALL WET!  She almost looks like she might like to bite me here.  Really...sweet little Luna? 


She did manage one escape attempt


But I just hauled her back in.


Pfffft she says.


Then it was Calli's turn.  I figured she would be easy.  Get her plopped down in the pool and she wouldn't be able to get up, and I wouldn't have to worry about her trying to escape.


She says pfffft too.


Luna was right there again, trying to get that water spray.


Well Holy Batman, the blonde dog got her front legs out, and boy does she have some power to pull with them.  It was a struggle to keep her in the pool.


All done.  Time for a nice towelling down.  Calli can't shake effectively.  We had to towel her well, and even then, the next morning she was still a bit damp in some spots.  



Then it was mani-pedi time.  Jake says if he closes one eye, it only seems half as bad.  I've been a bad dog mama, phew, their nails were long.  Jake's were embarrassingly long.  He is so good though, I got them all done, and I've marked on the calendar to give them another little trim in two weeks.


Luna doesn't like her nails done, but I don't put up with any nonsense from her, and the job gets done, albeit slowly.  Her nails were thicker, and she has more dark ones than Jake's, and even the light ones were less translucent.  I hate to admit it, but I 'quicked' her not once, but twice. Her quicks were farther down towards the end of the nails than Jake's.  Poor Luna, she really yiped the second time.   There's my tools of the trade...clippers, treat (after each nail) and cornstarch on a spoon to stop the blood.  You can see the farthest away nail on her left leg is a bit red...ooops:(


Calli doesn't like her's done either, but once again, I just get them done.  No blood this time, thank goodness.  Her back nails are all worn down, so I don't have to do those.  Even if I did, she can't feel them anyway, so they are easy to do.

I was suprised how clean the water was that came off them, really they weren't very dirty.  Jake and Calli haven't been bathed since some time last year.  Actually, for Jake it might even be longer than that.  As for Luna, it's probably only a month or so since she rolled in something so disgusting that we were gagging, and had to do an emergency bath just before midnight.

And a feet and knees were all clean too, although that didn't last long.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Corn anyone?

Do you eat corn on the cob in the summer?  Do you hate the job of shucking those cobs?  I do.  It was always a job I'd try to pass off to one of the kids.  Then what to do with the husks.  When we still had horses, we'd feed some to them, the rest would go in the compost.  I've cooked ears of corn in the microwave for years.  But now, I'll never shuck corn again.  
I used to grow corn, but too many years the plot would get blown over, what a mess trying to get them all stood back up and tied up.  Haven't grown any corn for a long time now.  Now we let someone else do the growing.  I'd seen this method pop up now and again on Facebook, and was determined to give it a try.  And it works, like a charm.  So easy, basically mess free.  The corn turns out great.  We were gifted a dozen cobs on Sunday at the end of the market, we had corn for supper on Sunday, and lunch and supper on Monday.

You just put the corn, as is, straight into the microwave.  The ones we did today were not so nice looking as these, the husks looked a bit older, no extra layers had been removed, and the stem at the bottom was longer

Into the microwave, 8 minutes on High for two cobs, 4 or 5 minutes for one.  Probably 15 minutes for four cobs.  After they are done, you can let them sit a bit to cool slightly, or else use something to protect your hands.  Slice the bottom off the cob.  You have to make sure you slice just above where the cob curves under, so that you cut off the bottom of all the husks, and you have exposed the widest part of the cob.  ( I hadn't actually cut quite enough off these cobs, some of the inner husks were still attached.)


Then you grab the other ends of the husks and silk, just above the top of the cob, and give it a bit of a shake.  The cob slides out all perfectly clean, just like that.  It did take me a few attempts to realize that I wasn't quite cutting enough off at the bottom.
I did try to take some video of me shaking the cobs out, but it was a bit hard to film on my own, and at that point I hadn't quite figured out where to cut the bottom of the cob off.  So you see a lot of wild flinging around of the corn cob before it finally slips out of the husks.  Well when you could actually see it in the camera frame.  So I found a video someone else kindly made, and it shows you how well the method works.   All the corn we have had so far, from three different sources, had turned out great.  No more big pile of messy silk and husks, so easy.  Let me know if you try it, and what you think.  I think it's wonderful:) 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

No Vampires Here

Early this week I dug up the garlic.  It at least is one of the things that has done well in the garden this year.  Well this year and part of last, as it was planted in October.  Last Fall I put a fairly thick mulch over the vegetable garden.  A mulch of partially rotted horse manure and shavings.  This Spring I thought I would try planting directly into the mulch, without tilling it in first. Quite a few of the vegetables didn't seem to like that, and some crops were a failure.  Thankfully not the garlic.  It was just a small plot, about 8' long and 3.5'  wide.  We had had some hot dry weather for the previous two weeks, and I made sure the garlic didn't get watered.  The soil wasn't as dry as I thought when it came to digging them out, and they were harder to dig out than I expected.  I pretty well had to get the fork under each one to lift it out.  I was happy with what I saw though.  And a day later we had more than 24 hours of rain.  Perfect timing.


Some of those bulbs were huge.


I think it was last year that I actually Googled about harvesting garlic.  Glad I did, because I was pretty clueless.  Garlic can bruise easily, and get sunburned.  You handle it gently when harvesting and get it out of the sun.  Now I would have thought that you would leave it in a warm sunny spot to dry. Wrong!  Here is an excellent site with more than you ever wanted to know about garlic.


We tidied up the garage a bit and set up some trellises with netting over them, and they are our garlic drying rack.  When the weather warms up and the sun comes out tomorrow, I'll open up the garage door so we get a decent flow of air passing over those garlic bulbs, and they dry as they are supposed to.  


I did a rough count and there are about 140 bulbs.  They'll be at the market in a few weeks.
Every time I come out of the basement into the garage I am hit with the potent smell of garlic.  Won't have to worry about vampires, that is for sure.

Monday, July 21, 2014


As in a large amount of things.  I was going to do this post a week or more ago.  After the Friday when I made lots of jam.  Probably the most jam I've made in a day.  Eight different kinds.  Which made about 80  jars of various sizes, which would have been 90+ cups.  Days like that I think, wow, imagine if I could do this every day....


 For some reason my back wasn't complaining like it usually starts to do, and I guess I was just of the mindset that I was going to get it done.  It probably didn't hurt that I had a good book to read while I was doing some of the stirring.


Since I've taken so long to do this post, I have another 'lots' to add.  I`ll stick it here since it relates to the jam. We made a flying trip to Oliver last week.  Left Tuesday evening, to avoid driving in the heat. When you are driving in a non-airconditioned car with three dogs, you have to pick your travelling times.  It wasn't too bad, but we hit the Keremeos valley around 9pm, and it was very warm there.  Some of the fruit stands were still open, so we stopped at our favourite one that has a special table where they put 'jammers', as they call them.  Got 30 lbs of peaches there, and then stopped at another stand and got 8 lbs of apricots.  Once we went over the Richter Pass and dropped down into Osoyoos, it was actually a bit cooler, which was surprising, as Osoyoos can be one of the hottest places in Canada.  Anyway, the next day we drove from Oliver up the highway a few miles and scored on cherries, peaches and apricots.  All 220 lbs of them.  This picture isn't including the 38 lbs we got the night before.


Paid between 40 and 60 cents a pound for all of them.  We spent the rest of that day in the air conditioning (the outside temperature hit 40 C, 104 F that day) processing that fruit for the freezer.  We did take one break in the afternoon to dunk ourselves and the dogs in the lake.  The apricots are easy to do, the peaches a bit harder because you have to blanch them first to get the skins off.  The cherries are really just the pits to do, really:(  We had two hand pitters, one is good, the other one we gave up on.  Cherry juice splatters every where.  We ended up having to bring 100 lbs of fruit back with us, to deal with here, including 30 lbs of cherries.  I got smart here at home and covered a lot of things up with tea towels before we started, so I didn't have to move a lot of stuff, or wipe it all off after.  I looked in the mirror after finishing the cherries, and I looked like I had chicken pox.  Cherry juice splattered all over my chest and up my neck and under my chin (I was wearing an apron). Some of the apricots weren't ripe enough, so a few of those to do today.

And the other 'lots'are these.


The new hens are in full lay.  Their eggs are rapidly increasing to full size.  They have been out in the whole field for a few weeks now.  Every previous Sunday market we have sold out of eggs early, and lots of our regular customers weren't able to get eggs, even when we took 30 dozen. We didn't even have a sign up that we had eggs for sale, enough people just know.  Remember how I have talked before about the supply and demand for eggs, and how often the supply and the demand don't match up.  Yesterday we took 40 dozen eggs, thinking that this time probably we would have enough for everyone.  Well wouldn't you know it, this was the first slow egg day at the market.  We even put our signs out, and were only able to sell 24 dozen.  Weird.  Thankfully I am going to Abbotsford's farmers market this coming Saturday, so will have that extra option for sales.  Hopefully this is just a blip in the egg business, but when you are getting 8 dozen a day, they fill up the fridge pretty fast.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Evening's Excitement

We were out picking raspberries on Friday night, just before it started to get dark.  After a bit we could hear the woosh woosh of a hot air balloon.  Larry asked me if I was going to get my camera.  I said "no, I have enough pictures of the Re/Max balloon".  Eventually we could see it just behind the cedar trees along the road, about 150' away.  It seemed to be stalled there and bobbing up and down.


A balloon, so I did go and get the camera.
It was hoving over the corner of the field just across the road from us.  We wondered at one point if they were going to try and land on the road, and heard some discussion about the power lines.


It did land just inside our neighbour's field, just across the road from our driveway.  Maybe one of these days we will actually get one landing in our field, and will get to collect our cheapo bottle of champagne.  A balloon has now landed in the field across the road, and in the fields either side of us.


Who is that guy in the baggy shorts and long black socks? He looks like an old fashion boy scout.  At least he wasn't wearing dress shoes to go with those socks.  And I definitely wouldn't let him go out in public wearing them, or any more public than in front of the few neighbours that wandered up to see the balloon..  I told him this morning that they did nothing for me.  Poor guy, he probably thinks the same about some of the things I wear, and is too kind to say anything to me.


They left enough air in the balloon to float it over the gate and onto the side of the road.  It is not as close to the power line as it appears.


It probably took less than 15 minutes to get the balloon all packed up and put away. 


 By that time it was getting too dark and we had to finish picking the raspberries this morning.