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.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

One Thing Leads to Another

A long time ago I read a little story about a woman who was getting ready for bed, and how she needed to take something down stairs.  Well the story goes on about the woman picking this and that up along the way, stopping to put things away etc, seeing other things that needed doing as she went through the house.  She got to bed finally an hour later.  The man of the house got up out of his chair and just went to bed.

I felt a bit like that this morning.  I had got up early and cleaned out the big chicken coop, brought a wheelbarrow load from the compost pile to the garden, and dug up the potatoes for Sunday's market.  This was before breakfast. I was on a real roll this morning.  After breakfast we took the dogs through the bush, and then I went and picked some blackberries while Larry got the tractor and mower and beat down some grass.  I was coming in to put the blackberries on trays to freeze individually, as I am hoping to sell them frozen during the winter.  There was no room to work in the garage where the freezer is, so I was moving some stuff around to open up some space. I uncovered a bin of red plums that had been there more than a week, and had got forgotten after they had been buried under something.  What a gross mess, fruit flies galore, into the compost they went.  There were a few apples in there that were okay so I took them and threw them to the chickens.  Which reminded me that the coop needed some bedding adding to the floor, and I had left the roosts propped up with a 2x4, so I had better go and check that things were okay.  The floor had dried so I went to get some hay from a barrel over by the other coop, and then realized that I needed more than what was there.  Got a wheel barrow, and went to the barn to get a bale of hay.  Saw a bunch of baling string that I needed for a project, and brought a bale over to the coop and spread some around on the floor.  Then the waterer needed filling and there was no water left in the buckets outside, so I carried two over to the hose and filled them up and carried them back and got the waterer filled up.  All good in there.  I had left the dirty bin down the garden after dumping the plums in the compost, by the closest tap so I could clean it out.  I washed the bin out with the hose and thought I had better water the seeds I had planted.  Did that, and was amazed once again by the arugula.  I put those seeds in the ground on Wednesday morning, and here it is Friday and they are coming up already.  So then I took the baling string and cut it into pieces and tied up the new raspberry canes that are flopping over the paths and scratch you as you push your way past.  And then finally I went back to the garage and bagged up the frozen berries that were on trays, and got the ones that I had picked this morning onto the trays and back into the freezer.  And so it goes......

Wednesday`s jam in Thursday`s early morning sunlight

The Crabapple Jelly is so pretty with the sun shining through it

It has been a real fruit week.  Crab apple juice to sieve and bag for the freezer.  Plums to pick and jam and freeze and sort for the market.  We picked the last of the green apples last night.  There were some monsters.  The Bartlett pears need to be picked and peeled and sliced and frozen for Ginger Pear Jam.  I brought home a huge box of seconds of peaches and nectarines from the produce store yesterday, and half of those need to be dealt with.  Jam to make of course.  This afternoon I made Fig Apple Preserves (sounds fancier than calling it jam!) and Greengage Plum Jam.  All our own fruit.  Next is to get those peaches and nectarines sorted out, and then Peach Jam and Peachy Mango Jam, and maybe even some Peach Persimmon Jam.  I have a small bag of persimmons that I have been saving to do something with.  Now seems a good time. Time...there is not enough of it.  Of course I don't use all my time wisely.  The computer calls....I chat with David in England.  I read and look up this and that.  Darn thing anyway, that time sucking computer.

PS. It was hot today, and I decided to make some more jam this evening, when the house had cooled off. So a batch each of Nectarine and the Peach Persimmon were made tonight. I went outside for a quick look  for some of the Perseid Meteors, but only saw one.  The moon hadn`t set yet, so the sky didn`t seem that dark.  An owl hooted off in the distance.  I saw more meteors last night, and listened to three packs of coyotes yipping and howling to each other.
Tomorrow is another day.
Oh darn, it`s tomorrow already!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Last Weekend

It seems to be so difficult for me to spit out a post these days.  I have so much I'd like to say, but I can't seem to keep it simple, and it gets more complicated than I want, and there the photos sit until they hardly seem relevant any more.  Anyway, here goes....

Early morning mist, just to remind us that Fall is on it's way.  

It's got to the time of the year when some days I just want to run screaming off into the hills, shouting 'I don't want to do this anymore! And then I get over it....
Don't get me wrong, I love doing the markets, most of the time, or at least after we get there and are set up and you open up and there is a bit of a lineup and people give you complements....and I love it all.  I mean, who doesn't like to get their ego stroked once in a while.

But right now with so much fruit in season, and the weeds still growing like mad things and only so much time and energy for each day, there are some days I just feel fed up.  I like to keep people happy, and if I'm out of one thing and someone is disappointed that they didn't get it, well I try to have it done for the next week.  But sometimes it is one of the things that is lower down the list of the things (well really we are talking about jam here) that I like to make, so I procrastinate and then am rushing at the last minute to get it done.  As in last minute, midnight on Saturday night kind of rushing.  Silly and stupid I know.  But that seems to be the way I roll.

The start of a bumper crop of figs

Blackberry season got off to an early start, probably the earliest ever that I remember, and we've been picking them since the beginning of July.  We have picked 47 four litre (a bit over an American gallon) buckets for jam and jelly, so far.  Probably half as much again to take to sell at the market.  Right now, our two plum trees are loaded and ripening constantly, the pears are just about ready, and we have apples and figs too.

Having decided to only go to one market this summer hasn't seemed to make things any simpler.  Jam sales are on par or better to the last few years. 

On Saturday morning we went to a few garage sales. Nice to just get out and have a bit of fun.  We were out about three hours, and got some good things.  The best one for me was a heavy duty jam or stock pot for $5.  Nice heavy bottom on it.  I've been wanting another one for a while, and the cheapest I had seen was about $40, so I was really pleased with that.  It didn't even look like it had been used.  

In the afternoon I had to make a Spiced Rhubarb Relish.  An old family (not my family) recipe whose grandma was not around to make it any more.  Not a difficult thing to make, but it takes some babysitting because it has to cook slowly for a couple of hours, so you have to hang around and give it the occasional stir and when you think it has cooked enough, then it has to be jarred and processed.  I thought it was going to be picked up at the market on Sunday, but I was wrong about that.  At least I got it done after procrastinating on it for some months, and arrangements will be made to pick up in the next little while.  And in my quest to make things a bit simpler, I've since informed that family that it is time for one of the younger generation to tackle the relish themselves.  So while I was babysitting the spiced rhubarb, I made these  chalkboard signs.  I've found that signs really need to be in people's faces.  The week before I had a big board at the back with all the different prices listed, and people just didn't seem to see them.   So this week I wanted to put a sign with each item.

I went to Dollarama and tried to find the little cute chalkboard signs I had seen there before.  They were no where to be seen, so I wandered around to see what else I could use.  I bought one piece of black foam board, and three metal paper towel holders.  I cut the foam board into pieces and cut the rounded end off the holder so that the two metal legs were now able to be slid very carefully between the front and back of the foam board, and voila!  I smeared chalk all over the foam board and wiped the excess off, and now it works just like a chalk board.  I was pretty impressed with myself!;-)

I did have someone comment on the 'Naturally Grown', he asked what else would they be, as in what is Unnaturally Grown?  So I explained that I am not allowed to say organic because we are not certified, and that was my way of getting around it, as everything we grow really IS organic.  I suppose Unnaturally Grown would be with sprays and chemical fertilizer, as that wouldn't be how they would grow in nature.

I'm getting a bit sidetracked here.....Anyway, we went to a garage sale less than a mile away from home.  The fellow had sold and was moving from his ten acres.  It was 10 acres of trees with a house in there and an old falling down barn. Nothing to look at. It made our 10 acres look like an estate! Now property in this whole neck of the woods has gone crazy, the trickle down effect from the skyrocketing prices in Vancouver, an hour away.  I asked what his place sold for.  Don't faint.  $1,400,000.00.   Yes that is $1.4 million. If he got that for his, well it just floors me what ours might be worth.  Ours is a prettier piece of property, better is just mind boggling.

So after the rhubarb stuff was done, we went out to pick plums off both trees.  It's a slow process because they are not all the same degree of ripeness, some are too ripe and rotting, some still hard.  After that we went to pick blackberries.  Time is rolling on and it was dusk when we were done.  I hadn't picked the flowers yet.  As I am wandering around in the dark with a head lamp on, trying to scrounge enough flowers up from my pathetic garden, to make a few bouquets, I think to myself that I must be crazy.  Why am I doing this.  Why aren't we slapping a For Sale sign up, selling as is (as there is sooo much that needs upgrading here, but like I said, our place looks wonderful compared to that other 10 acres)  and moving to a cheaper area and a smaller place.  A hard decision when you have lived in a place for 30 years, and mostly love it there.  But it was definitely a slap upside the head, to tell me that I really don't NEED to do this if I truly don't want to.

  Have no fear, nothing is changing in the near future, but it has certainly given us something to think about.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

BC Day Bike Ride

  Monday was a holiday here in BC.  It was our provincial holiday, BC Day!  We forced ourselves to do a bit of something different, so first we took the dogs down to the dyke for a swim, and then after that we went for a bike ride.  Of course, like usual around here, nothing is ever as simple as it sounds.  Since we had to drive to where we wanted to ride, we needed to take the truck.  Since there was a bunch of market stuff in the back of the truck, we decided it would be easier to use the bike rack that fits in the hitch receiver on the back of the truck.  That would save us unloading and then reloading the truck.  Of course first we had to find the bike rack, and since it hadn't been used in ages, we weren't sure where it was.  I looked, with no luck, but thankfully Larry saw it fairly quickly.  Then we had to change the part that went into the hitch reciever, because it had last been used on David's car, which took a different size.  So we got a bigger one bolted on the rack, and then found it was too long to fit in the truck reciever, blah blah blah,.  So in the end we could probably have unloaded and reloaded the truck five times, in the amount of time we spent getting the bike rack sorted out.  That's just how we seem to roll. 

It was about 7:30 by this time, and it had been a nice summer day.  By the time we got one our bikes, about 25 minutes away just south of Hougen Park, by the Cole Rd rest stop on Hwy 1, it was cooling off, with a cool breeze.  We set off down the dyke, heading southeast towards the little village of Arnold.  This is a flat area with a lot of dairy farms.  There were acres and acres of silage corn, and some of it was monstrous. 
 "The Corn is as High as an Elephant's Eye'

The dyke went quite close to a few farms, one in particular made you feel like you were riding through their back yard.
There were different sizes of bridges crossing the drainage canals.  This one hadn't been used in a long while.  Those darn blackberries, as we know well, would cover the whole area given half a chance.

We passed a few dog walkers, and saw two other cyclists.  The going was pretty rough, I think they had put more gravel down since we were last there a few years ago.  The sun was shining just about straight down the dyke.

The end of the dyke, with Vedder Mountain in the distance.

This was as close as we got to Arnold, as we needed to head back to the truck before we ran out of daylight.

  We chose to ride back by the roads, it was a lot smoother that way, and most of them had very little traffic. 

It was a nice evening with some interesting cloud formations

And if it had been earlier and a hot day, we could have gone for a quick cool down