Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Where The Wild Things Are

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That would be wild berries.  I'm always on the lookout for 
free sources of fruit for jam or jelly.  Well especially 'different' things.  We were pretty successful the last two trips to Oliver.  I get asked occasionally if I have Saskatoon jam.  I never do, because they are too expensive to buy.  I planted three bushes a few years ago, and have yet to get a berry off them.  It's not from lack of trying on the bushes part, it's just that deer also love Saskatoons, and they don't wait until the berries are ripe.  When we got back from our early May trip to Oliver, the deer had been through the north garden and munched off the new growth as well as the green berries.  One of the three bushes was so ravished in it's first year here that it never recovered, and died.  So I've realized that unless I keep the bushes caged, my chances of getting fruit off them are pretty slim.  But also on that May trip, I realized that those bushes along a certain road west of Oliver had the same flowers on them as our Saskatoon bushes at home.  So early July when we went back, I wanted to check them out.  They were Saskatoons alright, but they were past their prime, and what berries there were, were high up because the deer had already been at them.  We never did get back to those bushes and get any picked.

Riding north up the Hike and Bike trail though, we hit a jackpot of Oregon Grape bushes. And I had just happened to bring a couple of plastic bags along.


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You must wear a helmet while you are picking these berries, just in case some fall off and hit you on the head.

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The leaves are similar to Holly leaves, so it is a prickly job getting those berries off.  At least they grow in bunches, so you are not picking them off one at a time.  We got a couple of bags full.

 We also learned to recognize poison ivy, and thankfully not the hard way.  That's not something we have here.  Our main thing to watch out for here are stinging nettles, and I can spot those a mile away.  

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I'll be keeping my eyes open for poison ivy though, after I grossed myself out looking at pictures of poison ivy rash.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mini Golf(er)

The weekend before last we went to a family gathering and early birthday party for my great or grand nephew (well he's both great and grand) Andrew.  He was just about to turn two.  It was a golf themed birthday party, with a golf ball cake made by his dad and grandma.

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Andrew was impressed, or maybe just excited.  After all, when you are two years minus three days, and an up and coming golfer, who wouldn't be impressed and excited by that giant golf ball.

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There were little golf greens cupcakes with mini ostrich eggs golf balls for those that wanted them.  Which would be most of the kids, and some of the adults too.

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And here's why the party was golf themed.  His mum took this video




Notice that he can hit it both off the tee and also the rough.  Just too cute isn't he?  I took this video when we were there.  I think he's training his mum as his caddy.  Don't you love how he hands his club off to her at the end, when he gets distracted by the bucket of balls?




Here's Andrew with his coach and his caddy and groupie crowd of one.  Sweet family.  

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And fifteen or twenty years from now....remember that you saw him here first!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Back Home

Last week we spent a few days in Oliver.  Just like we did two weeks before that. It's kind of a quick trip early in the week, a couple of full days there, and then back home again on Friday, just in time to get ready for Saturday's market.  Since we hadn't been there since the beginning of May, missed all of June, and didn't manage to get there again until early July, we knew things would be kind of dry.  The lawn is dead, except for a few green weeds.  It's kind of sad, I love green grass, but I suppose it saves the worry of having to keep it cut.  We made a point of watering all the plants when we were there.  Luna is keeping an eye on the hose that's watering the cotoneasters along the fence.  

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 Despite all that dryness though (there was only 1.17" of rain in all of May and June), somehow, two petunias had seeded themselves, grown, and were still surviving.  Last year that plant pot was a mass of petunias.  They died in late Fall, got pulled out, the pot sat out there all winter, and somewhere between the beginning May and the beginning of July, two seeds sprouted,  grew, and survived, on next to no water.  Two tomato plants in the vegetable garden did the same thing.  

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Luna doesn't care that the grass is brown, and dead, and crumbly.  She can still roll her soccer ball around on it, and can still roll herself around on it too.  And she loves to do that.  And she then looks like this:

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And you can see that Larry is standing by with a brush, because we also have one of those great magnetic screen doors there too.  If she doesn't shake, she just loves to bring all that dead grass inside with her.  I think she's going for the camouflage look.

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Plastic Bags

Most of the customers that come to the Farmer's Markets bring their own reusable bags.  But as we all know it is easy to forget them by the door at home, or in the car.  Some people struggle along with multiple items, but don't seem to want to ask for a bag.  Others want a bag to keep the wet ends of their bunch of greens from getting their cloth bag wet. Years ago I purchased a whole box of plastic bags to put customer's purchases in.  Last year sometime they ran out, and I managed to get by with bags I had accumulated myself.  I was stingy at handing them out, and managed to finish out the year that way.  Starting the markets again this year, it didn't take long for us to go through the bags we had accumulated over the winter (from when we had forgotten to take our own bags).  I'm refusing to buy more.  There are far too many plastic bags out there as it is.  So I sent a call out to my egg customers.  They seem to frequently forget to take their own bags too, as they were quite happy to hand me bags of bags.  And I really appreciated it, thank you, thank you!  Much better to reuse the plastic bags that are already out there, than to be purchasing new ones.  Saves us a bit of money too, although buying a 1000 bags at a time is only about a couple of cents a bag.  

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So when Larry wanted something easy to do, usually as a break between the more physical jobs around here, he would sit down and sort out plastic bags.  He'd take the bag of bags one person had given us, flatten all the bags, check them for cleanliness, and sort them into piles.  Not quite sure what his categories were, I know that some of them didn't make any sense to me, but he got a kick out of seeing where different people shopped.  He got one surprise.  In one bag there was a clean pair of black La Senza Girl underwear:)  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gooseberries

The most expensive jam I make is gooseberry.  I buy the berries locally for $2.50 lb.  I did try to grow some at one point, but wasn't very successful.  Since I don't spray, there were a lot of wormy berries, and since I never seemed to get around to pruning them, the bushes were a thorny bushy mess, with actually not a lot of berries on them.  So in the end, it was just easier to buy them.  I did go and U-pick them once, and saved a bit of money, but spent time of course, and time is money....and those bushes have such big wicked thorns on them, that the first time was the last time.

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And every gooseberry has both a stem and a dead blossom that has to be picked off.  I use a sharp paring knife to remove them.  It can take about an hour to clean up enough berries (8-9 cups solidly packed) for a batch of jam.  I'm always happy when the berries are quite large.  This year, unfortunately, there seemed to be an awful lot of small berries, which of course means more to be 'top and tailed' to get those 8 or 9 cups.

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If you've never tried gooseberry jam though, you really should.  It has a wonderful tart flavour.  We only ever eat the last bit in the pot that isn't enough to fill up another jar, it's too expensive in time and money otherwise:)

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Google to the Rescue


We went for a quick trip to Oliver last week.  It's been a couple of months since we've been there.  Not that we hadn't planned on going sooner, but my trip to Ontario changed things up, and then I was trying to catch up around here (impossible), and for one reason or another we just couldn't seem to make the time.  The first thing I did was check the little vegetable garden.  Amazingly it was still surviving.  There had only been 1.17 inches of rain in May and June.  A family member had been there on the July 1st long weekend and done some watering.  These things, whatever they are, were the most impressive.    There had been a clump of them already in the garden when we took possession last Fall.  

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At the same time I was planting some garlic, I took a quite a few of these bulblets off and planted them also, and now I have more of the same thing.

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And some of the tops go a little crazy and do this

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The bottoms of them look like this

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So I wanted to know what they were actually called.  After not making any headway, I finally googled something like 'singled hollow stemmed onion with bulblets on the top'.  And I got this

Mystery solved!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thrifty Thursday

Early Tuesday morning when I picked up the chicken feet, I also picked up 110 lbs of raspberries, and then continued on to buy some canning jars.  It wasn't hard to convince myself that the thrift store was really on my way home, and I really should stop and see if there was something that I couldn't live without.  And of course there was.  It was forecast to be a very warm day, and I thought I'd look for another fan.  And there was, only one, $5.

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It came in very handy that afternoon when the temperature soared and I was making jam.  I had it pointed right at me the whole time.

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As I wandered up and down the aisles, one of the volunteers was putting more stuff out.  In the pet and gardening section he dropped this mass of mesh.  I picked up and suddenly realized what it was, right as he told me it was a screen door.  Have you ever seen one of those doors that fastens in the middle with magnets? $3

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It works like this. Awesome!




  And then in the same section I found this dog brush. $1

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We have one or two something like this already, but not with the cool feature this brush has.  Push the button on the back and the surface lifts up and lifts the hair right off the bristles.  Another awesome.  I usually manage to catch one of those thin wire bristles under a finger nail when I'm trying to get the hair out.

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I guess I should have called this Thrifty Tuesday.

Oh yeah, can you see those steps outside the screen door, whose 4x4's have rotted along the front edge?
A while back I got another Craigslist score.  A whole bunch of free treated 4x4's and landscape ties in good condition.  And they were located just a mile away from us.  Enough to fix those steps and replace a rotting retaining wall at the front of the house.  You know you've lived in a place a long time when projects you did after you moved in need doing again.  The only thing is we were much younger and more energetic back then.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Craigslist Score!

Quite often I waste time at the computer browse through our local Craigslist ads.  Last night I was pretty excited to see an ad for 30 lbs of chicken feet from pasture raised meat birds.  30 lbs for $25.  A raw dog food feeder's dream. I picked them up this morning.  30 lbs is a lot of feet.  It's hard to tell by the photo, but that box of feet is quite deep.

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Here's a close up of the top of the foot.


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And here's the bottom.  Kind of a bit creepy aren't they.  They make me think of starfish or octopuses. 


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I've been laying them on cookie sheets and trying to freeze them individually.  It's taking a long time to get them all done.  I thought about trying to count them at one point, but there are way too many. Not that I can't count that high, in case you were wondering:).  The dogs have eaten a few today, they give them the thumbs up.  I'm wondering if they might start thinking of those chicken legs walking around out there in the field a little differently from now on?

And me, well I'm starting to find them really creepy.  They are looking more and more like dead hands.  Maybe like witches hands.  Haunted house prop maybe.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Morning Wake Up Call

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Sunday morning I had the alarm set for 5 am.  Earlier than I'd like to have to get up, but we were going to the farmer's market and I had run out of time and energy to get everything done the night before.  So 5 am it was.  Still had the salad greens to pick and mix and bag, arugula, chard and herbs to pick as well.  And the flower bouquets were not done.  Finished fiddling around with things about 10:30 Saturday night, and then had a bit of computer time (and we know how that goes), so it was about 11:30 when I went to bed.  Figured 5 1/2 hours of sleep wasn't bad.  (Some market weekends I might only get 4 hours).  Of course I am optimistically thinking of five and a half hours straight.  Yeah right.  I usually don't have trouble getting to sleep, as was the case Saturday night.  But then a couple of hours later I woke up and desperately had to pee.  Probably a result of all the watermelon I had eaten that day.  A lot of certain fruit seems to do that to me.  And then somewhere around the 3:30 am mark, Luna starts retching in the bedroom.  Could tell I didn't have time to leap out and make the mad rush to the back door, so just let her go at it.  Didn't sound too bad and too much.  After she was done that, she then started to make little squeaky noises, which meant she needed to go out.  Couldn't ignore that, so tiptoed around the bed, trying to not to step in any slimy pukey spots on the floor in the darkness. I also had the feeling that Jake had come in and was laid on Larry's rug, so tried to not step on him either.  Couldn't see him, but sensed that he was there.  In the darkness he just blends into the rug.  Had to pee again, and then leaned on the breakfast bar with my eyes closed while I waited for Luna to do whatever she had to do out there.  Staggered back to bed.  Then of course it seemed like two seconds later that the alarm went off. Hit the 6 minute snooze button a couple of times, but somewhere in there a coyote started a morning serenade, and Luna was barking back at him from the back door.  So I got up.  I could see that the morning sky was very pretty and grabbed the camera and with bare feet and nightie hobbled across the driveway.

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I was going record the coyote too, but of course he had stopped by the time I got out there.

Never mind the camera or the coyote, where's my breakfast?
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So I got the rest of the stuff picked, and it was loaded in the truck, and Larry headed off just before 7:30.  I stayed and did the flowers and headed off at 8:13.  Which meant I wasn't going to get to the market until 8:50.  It opens at 9.  Hopefully Larry would be mostly set up by the time I got there.  Right now it is taking us a bit longer to get there than usual because we have to take a detour due to a new overpass being constructed on our route.  Then yesterday morning they had thrown another detour in, as they paved a stretch of that same road.  Unfortunately the detours were miles apart, and both of us missed the poor signage on the first one.  If we had seen the signs, we could have turned at the appropriate place, which wouldn't have added any more miles.  We both missed it, Larry continued on farther south to Zero Avenue, which runs along the Canada/US border.  That added on another couple of miles as well as a ton of traffic calming, wide low speed bumps.  Would have been fine with me in the car, but with Larry and the truck and trailer, it was very slow going.  I did a u-turn and went back to the posted detour, and another couple of extra miles.    

When I got there, Larry was no where near set up, so we were madly rushing around to get that finished.  My idea was to take a picture of all the produce we had for sale, and the mini line-up we have outside our booth before opening time.   No time for that, just as soon as the produce was out and ready, we released the crowd with an 'Okay'. That's just the same way I release the dogs from a stay:).  Our devoted customers got all their greens, and then we had a bit of a break and were able to get the rest of the set-up done after they were gone, and it was just one or two customers wandering in at a time.   

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Produce for sale at the market yesterday....Arugula, salad greens, kale (3 varieties), chard, collards, beets, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, snap peas, herbs.  Soon to come, basil, zucchini, blackberries.

We sold everything except two bunches of collards, one of which we ate last night in a stir fry with onions and sausages.  All in all, a pretty good day.