Thursday, August 27, 2015

Each Peach, Pear, Plum

Anyone remember that book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg?  One of my favourites to read to my kids when they were little.  I can still remember much of the wording. It always comes back to me when I'm thinking of doing a post about fruit at this time of the year.  I've got some peaches frozen, and some plums off our tree, and now it's time for pears.



Last night I was wasting time  relaxing, reading the farm and garden listings on Craigslist.  I came across a listing for pears for sale at a farm very close to us.  This is the farm where I usually buy my crabapples.  They grow organically, so the fruit isn't sprayed.  This year I messed up and didn't order enough crabapples in time.  Like all the other fruit, they were early this year, and I was trying to get hold of some people that have brought me free crabapples to the White Rock market a couple of times, to see if they were bringing me any this year.  Couldn't get a hold of them, and dilly dallied and ended up missing out on the crabapples, other than 20 lbs I had ordered 'just in case'.  Story of my life, procrastinate and then miss out on things.  Anyway, seeing their ad for pears reminded me that I had better check how many pears were on our tree, so that I could buy some if I needed to, to have enough for Ginger Pear jam for the next year.  So yesterday evening we went out and picked the pears.  I thought the crop was kind of small this year.  I'd already picked and sold 20 lbs off the tree last weekend.  The dogs had been eating pears, either picking up ones that had fallen, or picking their own off the bottom branches that were touching the ground.  So it was time to get out there and see what we really had.  We picked what we could reach and then got the ladder and I picked and passed them down to Larry.  Once we got started I realized that I totally had the wrong impression about this year's pear crop.  Wow!  They were big and most of them were not scabby, and in the end we picked 145 lbs!  The best looking crop ever I think.  Coming to a market near you (maybe) this weekend.  I tend to under charge for things I sell, but this time I saw that a grocery store was selling non organic pears for $1.49 lb, and some places even more than that.  So that's what I'm going to charge for my organic ones.  The organic people next to me at the market charge $2.99.

100 lbs of good ones


 45 lbs of scabby, but still good ones


 Some of them were monsters

 And what I can't sell, and what I don't need to freeze for jam, I just may have to can, because it would be such a waste to not use all those pears. Makes me think of my dad.  Canned pears were his favourite fruit.  Not that anything ever goes to 'waste' around here.  Chickens come running every time I go to the fence, they and the sheep would be quite happy to help me out with some over ripe pears.

We didn't put a fence around the tree this year, but I thought I'd share this video of Luna from three years ago.  It makes me smile every time I watch it:)



And because today is International Dog Day, and we so desperately need rain (which it looks like we may get this weekend and early next week), here's another cute little video.  You can pretend that is Jake and Luna:)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Peachy Keen!

 Anyone have one of these?  It's something I inherited from my mother-in-law.  Not sure what you'd call it, a steamer, a double boiler, or both?  It's made of aluminum.



The top section is a colander that fits right inside..



Then there are these two parts.



The pot fits in to make it into a double boiler.



And then this holey lid fits on top.  Not sure what it's purpose is.  The lid that fits on the whole thing has a steam valve.  


Not long ago when I was looking through the bottom part of the china cabinet, I came across this pot.  I couldn't really think of a use for it at the time, and considered sending it to the thrift store.  Glad I didn't though, because  this last week I was reminded what I actually did use it for a few times a year.

On the way back from Oliver a week and a half ago we stopped at a fruit stand in Keremeos, during that wind storm.  Was it ever crazy there.  About four mini dust storms blew through while we were there.  Everyone dashed for shelter or hunkered down, back to the wind, eyes squeezed shut.  I've never experienced that before.  The power was out there, but I still managed to get some peaches.  Most were 'seconds' at 25-30 cents a pound, and a 20 lb box of small peaches for 40 cents a pound.  Crazy.  Over 60 lbs of peaches for $18 total.  Now these are just your conventional farming type peaches.  Haven't checked in to what sprays are used on peaches, hopefully not too much.  Compare those to certified organic, biodynamically grown peaches sold next to us at the farmer's market, for $4 lb.  Their seconds are $2 lb.  Now I know which peaches I'd prefer to eat, but those prices are a bit hard to stomach.  People don't seem to mind paying it though.  We have traded left over mushrooms a few times for some organic peaches, so I'm saving those for us to eat this winter.  



Anyway, my inherited pot was great for blanching the peaches.  Fill it 2/3 full with water, bring it to a boil, fill it up with peaches and leave them in the pot for a few minutes, with the stove element on high.  Dump them in the sink, run cold water over them and rub the skins off.  Easy peasy.  I just pull them apart with my hands, get the pit out and then kind of mush them through my fingers into a measuring cup.  One thing I did find out though, is that the peaches have to be ripe, because the skin won't come off the unripe ones.



When I've got somewhere between 4 or 5 packed cups I bag them up and put them in the freezer.  Two bags for a batch of peach jam, and one bag added to the same amount of blueberries for blueberry peach jam, or the same amount of mangoes, for peachy mango jam.


I probably need to get another 60 lbs of peaches.
Hoping to make a trip back to the Okanagan with my SISTER:)! next week.  This week the Okanagan is suffering with terrible smoke, mostly drifted up from fires in the Okanogan area of Washington State.  The Testalinden Creek fire south of Oliver was only 50%  contained, not the 70 % I thought, and flared up again in spots, over the weekend.  I can't find an update on it today. 
We desperately need a lot of rain. 


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Swimming

Last week we took a trip to Oliver.  We got there after dark on Monday evening, and left on Friday afternoon.  It was a hot week, hitting temperatures between 35 and 39C (95-102F).  Toasty alright, but not humid, but I've got to say, thank goodness for air conditioning.  The dogs got lots of swimming in.  A couple of days, Jake and Luna swam twice.  I got up before Larry and walked them the few blocks down the hill to the river, just by the Tourist Info.  There was a nice place there down the bank that they could swim.  Then we walked along the path a ways, cut back through the park, and up the hill and home for breakfast.  Doesn't matter that they had had a decent amount of exercise already, the 'norm' is that we go for a walk after breakfast, and Calli also knows that is the routine.  Everytime one of us would get up, they'd think it was time to go, and eventually it got annoying enough that we actually would.  We've figured out a good place to walk when it's hot.  This stretch along the river is mostly shaded, so we aren't frying out in the sun, and at the end where the road on top of the dyke leaves the river and joins into another road, there was this great swimming spot.


The river is really clear and moving along at a good clip, hence Calli wore a life jacket and was clipped to a leash, just in case she swam too far out trying to grab her ball.  She's also deaf as a post so we couldn't even call her.  You can see in the back ground one of the weirs or Vertical Descent Systems.  There is a big skull and crossbones symbol on it, because if you get swept over it there is a good chance you will get caught up in descending water and tumbled around and around and won't be able to surface.  


We always threw Jake and Luna's toys upstream, and if I got a bit over enthusiastic and threw Luna's out too far, she drifted past us before her angling across the current would bring her back to shore.  The temperature of the water was great.  The first day I went in for a dip in my clothes.  The next time I made sure I had a bathing suit.  On Friday we stopped here on our way home to tire the dogs out, and have them wet so that they would be cooler in the car on the way home.  I would have loved to get wet then, but hadn't brought my bathing suit and didn't have a change of clothes, so just waded out as far as I could.


On the second day there, all of a sudden there were four.


That particular day we parked at the swimming spot, and then walked farther south, before coming back for a swim.  We managed to acquire this dog along the way.  Luna had a few snarky moments with her, but the dog had the sense to leave Luna alone, and after that she was okay.  Luckily we had an extra ball, so 'Chico' played fetch too.  She did keep trying to steal Jake's toy, which was p*ssing him off, and I didn't like her charging out and bugging him while he was swimming, since she was about 100 lbs and he is only 40, so I ended hanging onto her collar some of the time.  Since we hadn't walked that far down the dyke, maybe half a mile, we figured when we drove off down the gravel road, she would head back home.  No such luck.  There we are, bouncing along, trying to miss the potholes in the gravel road on the top of the dyke, and there is Chico behind us, running her heart out trying to keep up. I had already seen that there was a phone number and address on Chico's tag. Since we were leading her farther away from home, we decided we'd better stop.  We were in the little car, so we take Luna from the back seat and put her on the floorboards in the front.  There was just room for Chico to sit in the back.  Calli was the next dog to her, and she actually growled at her.  Luna is giving her the hairy eyeball from the front seat, and understandingly Chico doesn't want to get in.  So I'm pulling on her collar and Larry said he'll heave the back end in and hope he doesn't get bit, which he didn't.   Chico had the sense to just sit there in that spot (I had visions of her bouncing around in the backseat and planting her 100 lbs all over Jake and Calli) and we drove up the hill and found where she lived.  Down a long driveway past greenhouses and we figured out which looked like the main house and I knocked on the door and thank goodness someone was home.  She thanked me profusely and said for some reason Chico is wandering off just lately and she didn't know why.  I asked her if she was spayed, she said no, and I said that I thought Chico was in heat (she was doing a lot of peeing and her lady parts were more obvious).  I should have stayed and given her a lecture on allowing her dog to wander etc, but it was hot and our dogs were waiting in the car in the sun, so I just wanted to get out of there.





On the way home we ran into some wild and crazy weather near Keremeos, which is 45 minutes from Oliver.   Extremely high winds, blowing dust storms, then into dark skies and some rain and thunder and lightening flashing over the mountain peaks. The meteorologists had warned us about some severe storm cells moving up from Washington state. Two hours after we left Oliver, two wild fires broke out on the mountains to the west of town.  The row of houses three blocks from Wyndson Cottage, at the base of the mountain, was evacuated.  To cut a long story short, the fire closest to town is now 100% under control, and the bigger fire south of town is 70%.  The crazy high winds dropped, and the fuel on those mountains consists of sparse tree cover and mostly grass and shrubs, with a lot of rock.  In some spots the fire burned down to inhabited, irrigated areas (houses, orchards and vineyards) and fizzled out at that point.
The hot dry summer continues on.


Friday, August 7, 2015

Predators

pred·a·tor
ˈpredədər/
noun
  1. 1.
    an animal that naturally preys on others.
    "wolves are major predators of rodents"
  2. 2.
    a person or group that ruthlessly exploits others.
    "a website frequented by sexual predators"


A few predators have been on my mind today.   There has been no evidence of the cougar on our property, not that that means it hasn't been around.  What's left of the deer carcass has been moved a few times.  Probably coyotes.  I did receive a call this morning from a neighbour who lives a quarter mile up the road,  to let me know that a bear had crossed through their property and across their lawn yesterday evening.  Probably about an hour after we had walked that way.  Guess I'll keep clanging that bell and carrying the Kougar Konker on our morning walks.

We have a worse predator now. The second definition.  A sexual predator with offenses committed against young girls.  The powers that be have chosen to place a convicted sexual offender in our neighbourhood, in an area where the houses are close together.  Also a quarter mile from us.  There is a family with two preschoolers, one is a girl,  across the road from him.  Next to them a family who has grandchildren visiting often.  Three doors down from the predator is another young girl, and at the end of the road live two more.  We are 20 minutes from the police station. He is electronically monitored, and has severe restrictions he is supposed to abide by.  The last two times he was released, he broke those restrictions in short order by getting too close to two girls.  I'm so glad my kids are grown.  I think I'd rather deal with the bear or cougar.

I've also been thinking a lot about another person that fits into the second definition.  A blog I read.  I should have stopped reading it a long time ago, because it got to be annoying.  It's about a young adult on her 'farm'.  Three years ago she quit her day job, and money was tight.  She offered 'on farm' services to make money (workshops).  She had an inordinate amount of animals die from neglect.  She constantly was short of money for mortgage payments, truck repairs, plumbing etc.  She would offer sales on her services, beg for money.  People fell for it, the money seemed to keep rolling in.  She was fiscally irresponsible, buying things she wanted but weren't necessities. Then the next minute she would complain that she needed repairs to this or that, was behind on her mortgage, needed a root canal, but in the meantime, she 'had' to buy an expensive border collie puppy (she already had an adult border collie and and old husky).  She bought an expensive horse on a payment plan, and asked for help to pay it off, same with her truck.  Asked for donations to buy a camera to take more, better pictures for her blog.  Enough money came in and she bought the camera, but the pictures didn't materialize.   I can't believe that her fans are so gullible.  I wish I could walk away and not look at that blog any more.  I can't seem to.  It's like the train wreck you know is going to happen.  I have to watch.  I've discovered a group of people that feel the same way. Some of them supported her in the early days by sending money for items or services she offered, which were not fulfilled.  I wish I could walk away from both blogs.  I do for a while sometimes, and then have to come back.  I told myself not to comment on either, but today I did.  One person who gently gave some advice was lambasted.  Had a blog post written ridiculing her/him.  The followers on Facebook were all over that like a pack of feral dogs that have found a meal.  I had to comment.  I wrote a long one out, sat on it for a while, and in the end decided not to send it.  I eventually changed it to something that was very short and to the point.  I was shocked it was even published, but of course it got a negative reception.  She is the same age as my daughter. If I was her mother I would be mortified. Last year she did a Kickstarter to fund the self publishing of a book she was writing, and to 'help the farm'.  She managed to raise $16,000.  A few months later she was again talking about being behind with the mortgage. The latest thing was her getting funded for a new to her truck through Kiva Zip.  Fine, someone has fallen on hard times, maybe give them a helping hand one time.  Don't enable someone to constantly make bad financial choices.  Don't enable someone to keep buying toys instead of things they really need now, or saving for when they will in the future.   Sometimes you have to NOT help them, so really give them the help they need.  As in force them to be accountable, instead of mooches.   
Okay.. moving on....


 Monday was a holiday and I went to the fair and we did the Horse and Hound event.  Teams of two dogs and a horse run agility courses and a trail course.  Luna and her partner and the horse came in first, and Jake and the other dog and their horse came in second.  Not bad!  I was especially pleased how the dogs ran, considering that agility has been next to non existent in their lives lately.


I can't remember what I did on Tuesday, well not much in the money making department, but Wed, Thurs, and today I made jam.  Thirteen double batches, which is much more that I sold last weekend, so I'm a bit farther ahead, yay!  Didn't get the red currant or raspberry jelly done, a few people are going to be disappointed, but at this point in my life I feel like I'll get to it when I get to it, and you are just going to have to darn well wait until I feel like doing it.  For the record, the raspberry jelly has been giving me grief lately, the last few batches wouldn't set properly, so that has really put me off.  The red currant juice has to be heated up and run through the seive and it's a messy job and that is off putting too.  I've decided that next year I'm not going to do the fiddly expensive stuff, like red and black currant and gooseberry.  More people will be disappointed, but at some point I am going to quit doing all this, so I'm slowly easing myself out of doing the ones I dislike.


I dug up potatoes this morning, hopefully enough for both markets, since this weekend I'm at Abbotsford on Saturday, and White Rock on Sunday


.  Blackberries to pick tonight, and maybe some carrots to bunch, and I'll pick the greens in the morning.

 
I bought a new camera, my first DSLR.  An older model that I thought was a screaming deal. Bought it myself, didn't ask for my few readers to buy it for me.  Hopefully they will get better pictures.  Right now I'm totally overwhelmed and mostly just know how to turn it on and off.  I can see it will be a winter project to really get a handle on it, if I ever can.

Sorry about all the white.  I think it came with the Predator definition I cut and pasted, and I don't have time to sort it out.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Eating at Home

Here's a list of homegrown things I ate today.  Eggs, chard, collards, tomatoes, zucchini, beets, potatoes, carrots, chives, cauliflower, broccoli, beans,  raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and figs.  Pretty impressive when you list it all like that.  

Breakfast was fried eggs with gently (sounds like something they would put on a menu) sauteed zucchini and a salad of chard, collards and tomatoes sprinkled with sliced almonds, with half a fig on the side. (Thanks Larry!)  Speaking of Larry, he had another checkup on his eye, things are coming along just fine the doctor says.  He is back to doing most, but not quite all,  of what he would normally do.

The same salad for lunch with pickled beets and a can of tuna mixed with homemade mayonnaise, chives and grated carrot.  Raw chard and collards fill in pretty well for lettuce when the lettuce is all bolting and tasting bitter.

Supper was left over pork chops with roasted vegetables, which is where the potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli come in, as well as the first of our beans.   


I got in a good couple of hours of weeding and seeding in the garden today, until it got too hot. While I was out there I ate a few of the last raspberries and blueberries, and maybe another fig or two.  I FINALLY got something planted in the spot where I dug the garlic out three weeks ago.  Just another one of those jobs that aren't hard, it's just the getting started that is.  Now I need to get the garlic sorted out and cleaned up and ready to take to the market.

We walked the dogs around the block a little bit earlier tonight, and saw two bucks disappear into the trees along the way.  I was hoping for a picture, but no such luck.

After the walk and just before dark I managed to managed to get a bucket of blackberries picked, the last part probably more by feel than anything.  Of course quite a few of those didn't make it into the bucket.

I forgot to pick the zucchini yesterday, so of course today the eight that I picked were bigger than I would have preferred.  The zucchini plants are starting to take over some of the potato plants, so I dug up those so they wouldn't get so overgrown that I'd forget about them.


I was about to start some jam this afternoon, but then didn't because I had to leave to meet someone earlier than I had planned, and while I was out bought a few other fruits and veggies.  Larry had reminded me to get a box of cheap apples for the sheep.  She gets one morning and night, and is sure to let you know that she hasn't got it yet, and what. is. taking. so. long.?  Well there were none of the cheap apples to be had, but I had an idea.  On the way home I took a different route past a couple of apple trees that are along side the road.  Luckily they were ripe and there were lots on the ground.  I managed to scrounge up 10 or 15 pounds of ones that weren't half rotten and put them on the floorboards of the car.  All the while trying to look very nonchalant and was really hoping that people using the post office, library and credit union across the way didn't notice me poking around in the long grass at the side of the road.

It's supposed to drop a degree a day over the weekend, thank goodness, which is a long weekend for us.  BC Day here on Monday.  Is it a long weekend for you?


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Moonlight Walk

Our poor dogs haven't been down to the dyke in ages.  It was a hot day today, and I was making jam this afternoon.  I had my fans set up, one blowing the hot air out the kitchen window, and the other one set up on the counter oscillating back and forth to cool me off.  It works pretty well.  I'm proud to say that I made five batches today, blackberry, raspberry, raspberry-rhubarb, bluebarb, and crabapple jelly.  I'm way ahead of the game this week.  I suggested that we take the dogs down to the dyke at dusk, and since it's almost a full moon we would have enough light to see by, and probably have the dyke to ourselves.  We left a bit later than planned, just before 9:30 I think.  It's a seven minute drive.  On the way down the hill we saw a fawn on the side of the road, and then down at the dyke there were two herons. 


 Jake and Luna always run ahead to the swimming hole, so we threw a couple of rocks in the water there so they would go out and get wet and cooled off, and as we climbed back up to the top of the dyke, a massive Great Horned Owl swooped and swirled overhead. There were a few bats swooping around as well.


 Luna had a collar on with flashing red lights.  The collar tended to get lost in her hair, but when she was sideways to us we could see the red light.  Jake was a bit harder to keep track off, but it all worked well.  At one point, just before we decided to turn around, Luna was barking at something either down in the grass near the creek, or maybe on the other side.  Her hackles were up and she was concerned about something, and whatever it was, it wasn't showing up in our flashlight beam.  That was the only sort of creepy moment.  Otherwise it was a really nice walk.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fresh Figs!

 At the beginning of the month I showed you this picture of our fig tree.  It's not a very big one, it's a Brown Turkey fig.  It just occurred to me, that maybe the variety originated in Turkey (the country) dah!, instead of the having something to do with a brown turkey (the bird). Wow, why didn't that occur to me before?  
I love dried figs, and I'm pretty excited that we have a bumper crop of fresh ones this year.  That bumper crop is only about 2 dozen figs, but that's huge to me since I think we have only ever had about three figs off that tree before.  All those little figs are a potential second crop, and the two big ones you see have turned brown and soft and are hanging down.  Maybe we've already eaten those two.


We had a couple for breakfast yesterday, and I picked five more today, but will have to take a little step ladder out to reach the rest of them.  I'd leave them a bit longer to ripen even more, but the birds are already starting to sample them.


Speaking of birds, I saw that little Robin fledgling the other day, and then this evening I saw two of them, one seemed to be a bit bigger, but I'm glad that they have survived this long.  They are flying quite well so they have a pretty good chance of survival now.

I don't have any pictures that relate to this post, so I'll just slip in a few from the last time I was at Oliver


We've reclaimed our trails at the back of our property and have been walking out there in the mornings this week.  I'm wearing that big bell I showed you in a previous post, it makes a wonderful loud clang as it hangs off my blackberry picking belt as we walk along.  There have been no mysterious scraped piles on the trail.  


I had got to thinking about the amazing total disappearance of that deer carcass, and wondered if the cougar had dragged it off and covered it up somewhere else.  Larry had noticed a bit of a smell still.  So yesterday morning as we got close to the kill area, I was peering into the undergrowth, which isn't difficult now because most of the lower leaves have died off.  At first I thought it was a rotten piece of stump, but then I thought I could see what looked like ribs. When we got to the spot where I had walked in before, where I had found the carcass, I went back in and towards the thing I saw that morning,  and sure enough, there was some hide and bones in there.  So was it the coyotes that dragged it 20 ' or so farther in?  There was no evidence that it had ever been covered up.  There was certainly lots of trampled undergrowth in there, so at some point there had been a lot of activity.

The coyotes are howling nightly again, so we'll continue walking back through there, carrying the Kougar Konker and clanging the bell.


Most mornings after we come out of the bush we stop and pick blackberries.  We are up to 27 buckets now.  It's been a productive week.  Eight buckets picked on Monday, two on Tuesday and three today. My hands, which are a mess at the best of times, are a disaster now.  I have to scrub them with lemon juice before I go out in an attempt to lesson the staining.


We had some nice rain on Friday and Sunday which was actually enough to do some good.  Still more needed as we are heading into another hot spell. 

On a productive note, I got an earlier start on jam this week, with four batches made yesterday.  The first one I made was Mango Chutney.  The amazing part about this was that usually Mango Chutney is the last one of the week, if it even gets done.  Often I run out of time.  I always put it off to the very end because it takes a long time cutting up all those mangoes, onions and apples, and I always do the easier flavours first.  So I'm pretty pleased with myself for getting the chutney out of the way, and in actual fact, I didn't even NEED to make it for this coming Sunday, because I still had enough left from the previous batch.  So I'm really getting ahead of the game:)