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!