Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Blowing and Snacking

There was much fuss made last week over a series of three storms that were supposed to hit our area.  Storm number one wasn't much more than a rain storm.  Storm number two came with rain and high winds, and we did loose power for a couple of hours.  Such a relief when it came back on.  I had even made an effort to bring a few more battery powered lights in from the trailer before it happened, but the power was off and back on in daylight hours.  Storm number three had great potential to be the worst.  It was the remnants of Typhoon Songha.  The weather people could talk about nothing else.  It was supposed to hit Saturday evening.  We were worried because it didn't bode well for Sunday morning's Farmer's Market. In fact some markets had cancelled on Saturday, and others on Sunday.  I kept waiting for the wind to pick up, but it never did, and in the end the storm missed us completely and crossed the coastline farther north.  Even there I don't think it made the impact that had been predicted.

We had very little damage here.  On our morning walk through the bush we only had to pick a few small branches off the trail from storm number two.  No volunteers for winter firewood came down.  One very sad story though.  About half an hour from here, that same storm brought down a tree that killed a 16 year old boy just after he left school for the day.  How incredibly sad is that.

The main row of dahlias took a beating though, and most of the plants got blown over to some degree.

It's not a big deal though, as dahlia season will be over in a week or two, and then it will be time to get all the tubers dug up.

 This is what it looked like in our garage last week. Garlic, apples, pears, green tomatoes.  What you can't see is a large laundry hamper full of apples, another flat of apples, and three more of those beige bins of pears.  We are over flowing with fruit. There are still more russet apples on the tree.

I really am the crazy dehydrating lady.  I rope Larry in to help when I can.  I core and slice the fruit and he lays it on the trays.  I've bought 8 more trays for the dehydrator, it is at it's maximum capacity of 12 trays. I've been looking at bigger, more powerful dehydrators.  So far I have resisted.

Last Sunday I took dried fruit to the market.  I think it was a success.  I sold 13 of these bags.  I guess if those customers come back for more.....

We sold quite a few bags of the fresh fruit too.  I put out samples last week, that certainly helps!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Dahlias

I was late getting my dahlias planted this year.  I got one row done in decent time, but they were some small tubers that I bought this spring. Small tubers make for small plants, and small plants don't have many flowers.  The main crop actually didn't get planted until July :(  Much of the main crop is now flowering, just in time for the season to be over, although I have been picking these lovely big pink, red and orange blooms for a number of weeks now.  Some of the other plants have just started to bloom in the last week or two.  Oh well, at least they were able to grow and the tubers will now survive until next year.
Next year I am going to be much more organized!
 Easy to say now, that remains to be seen of course.


There are lots of little self serve roadside stands selling flower bouquets within a few miles of us.  About the middle of August I approached the owner of one and asked her if I could buy a few buckets of dahlias from her each week to supplement mine.
It has worked out well.  She has earned a bit of extra money from her flowers, and it has given me a bigger selection of dahlias to make into bouquets.
Last Saturday was a particularly vile day.  Heavy downpours.  Since the forecast wasn't really showing much improvement for the day, I thought I might as well just get the heavy duty rain gear on and start picking the dahlias in the morning, thinking that at least I would get them before they were totally overloaded with water.  As it was, some of the pink ones had already got too heavy for their stems and had flopped over.  Most of them had bent the stem at a suitable enough spot for them still to be useful for me. 

So I cut them and instead of holding them upright like usual until I got a good handful, I held them upside down so some of the water would run out.

Before I put them in buckets in the wagon under the umbrella, I gave them a shake or two to help with more water removal.  It was a miserable job and very slow going.

Later in the day I picked stuff for filler.  I have been lucky this year.  The Feverfew or Matricaria seeded itself in one of the chicken fields.  I have been cutting it hard each time, and amazingly it kept sending up enough new branches to keep me well supplied with newly opened flowers each week.  Other things I like to use are the curly ends of the new growth from the grapes, as well as teasel, garlic or leek seed heads, ferns, small cedar branches, and anything else I can find to add some variety and texture to the bouquets.

Usually it was after dark that I would drive to pick up the other dahlias, because I had been picking vegetables while there was still daylight.  On my way back I would make a slight detour through an industrial area were there were some good patches of Common Tansy. Another plant that I like to use for colour and contrast.  It always felt a bit creepy out there in the dark cutting the stems, and I wondered what the truckers thought as they were driving by.  At least the area is well lit.

At home I line the buckets up on the front porch where they are undercover. So this my bouquet making station starting at 5am on Sunday morning.   Often I haven't got to bed until after 1 am, so you can imagine I am not feeling terribly chipper.
The buckets of filler are on the left.

The first few are done.  Some go together well, and some don't.  Sometimes I waste too much time trying to make a flower with a weird stem work in a bouquet.

They all look good in the daylight though.

I didn't take any pictures of the pinky/purpley bouquets, but there are some of those too.  The Fall coloured ones are the most popular though.

The summer market season is over now, and this next Sunday is the start of  9 markets in a different, smaller location.  I'm just going to make some little posies up out of what is left of my dahlias for the next few weeks, and by the end of October, that will be it for dahlias until next year.

If anyone is a Facebook user, I also have a Wyndson Farm page there

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?