Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Day of 2009

Hey, it's December 31st of 2009!

Looking back on the year, there are a number of things I really liked about it:
  • getting my first harvest of red potatoes planted under hay
  • getting a few melons, though they didn't really ripen as they should because the weather so unfriendly to melons this year
  • getting a great harvest of black raspberries (and turfing out some weed red raspberries with great satisfaction!)
  • exchanging my long, heavy kayak for a much lighter, more nimble one that it is also much easier to travel with
  • going to the first Canadian Yearly Meeting since I last attended 15 years ago and reconnecting with people from Atlantic Canada
  • getting a free GIS up and running for the Urban Forest program at Peterborough GreenUp
  • exploring the Celebration of the Arts in Scottsdale
  • finding lots of great organic produce at the Scottsdale Farmers Market when we visited there
  • hiking in Sedona
  • kayaking on Cape Cod
  • hiking in New Hampshire
  • spending an afternoon at the nudist swimming hole on the Mad River in Vermont
  • getting into doing no-knead artisan bread when we travel as well as at home
  • making dandelion wine for the first time in nearly 30 years
  • finding more and more great local stuff in Peterborough and at its farmers' market
  • using my solar dehydrator a lot (when the sun shone!)
Celebrate! Celebrate! Celebrate!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Time For the Last Major Harvest

I took the recycling out this morning and the ground was hard underfoot. We had snow earlier this week. I think it's time to get the last of the carrots and beets in, pluck the parsley, gather the last lettuce and chard, further mulch the kale, and get mulch ready for the parsnips.

I'm next year to simply be securing down the winter tunnel cover for the lettuce, chard, parsley, and kale if I can get that set up! Hopefully where I have the garlic planted now. It's right outside our back door and fairly protected.

Then it's waiting another week to mulch the garlic so it won't heave in the January thaw!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Back Room Make-over

The "back room" is a poorly enclosed former sunporch built a number of years before we bought the house behind the kitchen. When we tore apart the entire upstairs, it was our bedroom. Once we had a proper master bedroom, it was set up as a reading/guest room with bookshelves. It was cozy with the gas fireplace. But running the fireplace was expensive and it didn't produce much heat when its fan broke. That's when we began closing off the room in the winter time and it became a storage area.

The worst thing you can do to a room is make it a storage area, especially when you're doing renovations elsewhere (my husband has torn apart and rebuilt his office/studio -- the house is subsequently warmer because the walls are now R-22, but he had to put stuff somewhere while doing it).

One good thing about my husband's renovation was that he used a lot of material that we had in storage in that room. Then we got rid of all the computer carcasses that had accumulated over the past seven years (some from us, others from friends). A former employer (who never paid) finally took away the electrical stuff my husband had been storing for him. Suddenly we could see expanses of floor.

With winter coming in, we had to seal one window whose storm plastic had gotten ripped. Earlier in the week I got rid of a lot of books, boxes, and an awkward display rack (now in pieces in wood storage for next spring's projects). While my husband cleared space in front of the window so I could work on it, I cleared out the cabinet and reordered things there.

The window has sliding glass panes with no weatherstripping (it will be replaced next year), so I sealed all the edges. When I was done I could no longer feel the wind through the window. Next I put on plastic and sealed that to the window frame. Afterwards my husband arranged stuff along that wall. All of our travel gear (other than luggage) is in one spot now. We discovered that the roof leaks in the corner opposite the window. That will probably be the last repair of the season.

I beefed up the doorway partition between the room and the kitchen. The doorway is four feet wide. We have a two-foot false wall in it that is now insulated. I'm going to add another layer of Reflectix to the door as well. We'll probably continue with a heavy blanket in the doorway for January and February.

We actually can see the floor now. The empty bookshelves may become this year's "cold storage".

Friday, November 27, 2009

Early Morning Decluttering

In the last few weeks I've been waking shortly after 6 am and, rather than "sleep in", I've been getting up and spending an hour or so decluttering various spots in the house:
  • the bookcase in the bedroom - got rid of 8 books
  • the bookcase at the head of the stairs - got rid of a dozen books
  • the stack of books beside my bed -- I now had space for 2/3 of the books in the above two bookcases
  • the bookcase in the back storage room - more than twenty books and I rearranged books to have one shelf free for other storage; also got rid of a lot of extra travel mugs that have been superceded by "better" models (much less plastic)
  • the rest of the back room - got rid of a travel iron, a crate of Mardi Gras beads, a box a tent shelter came in, a wooden display rack, moved and went through a desk pull-drawer set
  • the cellar - got rid of a waffle iron, rice cooker, and tea kettle
  • the main attic - took out a lot of scrap wood stored up there and barn boards when we beefed up the insulation; also found a folding desk that we removed all the hardware from
  • upstairs bathroom - got rid of a lot of travel size products, some samples, and some things I never use
None of the stuff I listed ended up in the land fill. I Freecycled much it, donated some to an alternate library, and some stuff to the Diabetes Society. The lumber all went into shed storage for spring and summer projects. A lot of people were very happy to take the stuff we had around gathering dust.

It's a great way to start the day.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Tankless Water Heater Saga

This saga began back at the end of August. We went into Home Depot and set the process in motion to get a natural gas tankless water heater. We don't use a lot of hot water (there's just two of us) and we realized we're paying a fair amount for hot water storage. We've gotten in the habit of turning off the electric hot water heater when we go away on vacation. Over two weeks we usually save 25% of the electric bill.

The fellow at Home Depot promised to follow up perusing the stock of other Home Depot stores for us since they didn't have any in stock. We were going away for a week and we thought there might be a message for us when we got back. But there wasn't. When we finally got a hold of him, he told us that someone had been going around buying up all the tankless hot water heaters (which were on special at the time). Apparently they were getting new models on their stock list and he'd see when they were available. A week later we still hadn't heard back from him and we went on vacation again.

Down in New Hampshire we wandered into a Home Depot. They had tankless water heaters there and the fellow we talked to was an enthusiastic owner of one. It was a different brand than what had been listed at the Home Depot in Canada.

When we got back, I decided to search the Home Hardware site for tankless water heaters. They had them listed. We went to the store on Thursday. They didn't have any in stock, but there was one in the warehouse. We went with a small model and it came in the following Wednesday.

Then I called around for someone to do the install. I finally got a hold of someone who looked up the specs on the one we bought: it required a vertical vent and a kind of vent pipe not common in Canada. We really didn't want to drive a vent pipe up through our living room and master bedroom. He recommended we get the next model up that had a side vent.

We brought the first tankless heater back and rolled over the price of that into the more expensive model. It was Monday, they had one in the warehouse, it would be there on Wednesday.

We got it home and a week later the installation man came over. We opened up the box and found that it did not come with a side vent: it would have to be ordered. A further complication was that we didn't three feet vertical clearance in the basement before running the side vent out.

I decided to give up. I took the second model back. I got the money back on the credit card.

I came home and put three-quarters of charitable donations for the year on the credit card. It seemed a better use of the money.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is This Really November?

I went bicycling today. I rode to my Quaker meeting and then got on the bike trail behind Sadleir House and rode to its junction with the Rotary Trail along the Otonabee River. My bike basket fell off as I was crossing Water St but luckily I avoided running into it (I did that years ago on a gravel path and did it ever hurt!). A kind man walking his dog held my bike while I went to retrieve the basket. There were no further mishaps the rest of the sunny, blue-sky ride home.

That was definitely not a November sky, and it being warm enough to ride my bike is not the usual November day. We've had a lot of days like that. We've had days here in southern Ontario that were warmer than the second week of October in New Hampshire. The average temperature in November has been higher than what we had in October!

A week ago Thursday I went out kayaking on Little Lake. This is the first year here in Peterborough that I've kayaked so late in the fall. For some reason the water was really high. Possibly because the Trent-Severn Waterway keepers were dumping water into the lake in expectation of some heavy rain and snow/rain combo (which can really raise water levels in the upper section of the waterway). Or possibly because water had been dumped out of the lake at the end of October in expectation of November rains that never really amounted to much this year and the water level of the lake got lower because we had so many sunny days.

We did have one day and a half of heavy rain this past week. We had some frosty nights, but there's still lots of green in the yard and my lettuce, chard, and kale are doing fine (but not growing very fast).

The ground hasn't frozen up yet. I'm waiting for signs of that so I can mulch my garlic. I should mulch my lavender and thyme, but they're still thriving. My rosemary plant is in the greenhouse but it's not called to me yet to bring it in.

But this is the last week of November. Rosemary, you're coming in the end of this week! You need to keep the parsley and garlic chives (those have passed in the garden) company.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beads and Things

I've been periodically going through shelves upstairs, downstairs, in the pantry and in the back room and pulling things out, saying "I don't use this", "I don't need this"... "But someone else might!"

So I've been listing things on Freecycle lately. I stopped for a while because I was responding to first responders (probably lurkers with email on their cellphones) who were never able to pick stuff up and then I had to go to a later responder anyway who would be responsible and pick things up. I'm usually going with the later responder right up front now (like the radio or TV show that say "7th and 9th callers get the prize") and I'm liking the dealing a lot better. I'll post at night and check responses the next morning.

Things I've Freecycled in the past month:
  • a microwave rice cooker/vegetable steamer (I use my thermal cooker for rice now)
  • a waffle iron/sandwich griddle (older than our current waffle iron)
  • a bag of cookbooks that had been superceded by newer ones
  • a bundle of computer art books
  • a 50' length of garden hose
During my period of disenchantment with Freecycle I put a few things on the grass strip between the sidewalk and the actual street in front of my house. Folks picked up:
  • two coffee urns
  • a vanity top
  • pink venetian blinds that don't go with our current decor but went with someone else's
  • a mailbox
  • a disassembled cabinet
Now I've made up 33 bundles of Mardi Gras beads and offered them on Freecycle. Once they're gone I'll have a wooden milk crate for storing other things.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Latest Local Food Tally

I've been amazed at what has been showing up on my shopping radar and in the farmers market over the past year. These are the things I currently buy:
  • mushrooms (usually cremini, though white, portabello, and oyster are availabe at the same price as well)
  • goat chevre and goat cheddar
  • ground goat meat
  • grass-fed beef (ground, stew, round steak, cross-rib roast)
  • free-range eggs
  • free-range chicken
  • apples (Empire, Cortland, and Russet are my favorites)
  • organic whole wheat flour (Red Fife wheat and Canadian Red Winter)
  • carrots
  • rutabagas
  • spaghetti squash
  • leeks
  • hemp nuts
  • honey
  • peanut butter (via a friend travelling to south west Ontario)
  • beeswax
  • hand-made soap
  • sweet potatoes
  • zucchini
  • sweet peppers
  • pears
  • tomatoes (usually cherry or other varieties I don't grow)
  • potatoes
  • pork
  • ground buffalo and buffalo sausage
Things I'm producing on my own:
  • tomatoes
  • tomatillos
  • lettuce
  • chard
  • carrots (colored variety only)
  • peppermint
  • yarrow
  • spearmint
  • lavender
  • thyme (lemon and creeping)
  • oregano (regular and yellow)
  • sage
  • garlic
  • parsley
  • rhubarb
  • black raspberries (jam, frozen, liquor, med, sauces)
  • green beans
  • red potatoes
  • sugar pod peas
  • calendula
  • dandelion greens and dandelion wine
  • cucumbers
  • dill
  • alfafa sprouts
  • mung bean sprouts
  • rosemary
  • green onions
Things I make "from scratch" for immediate use or storage:
  • bread stuffs (English muffins, pizza, loaves, buns, pot pie crusts)
  • wine
  • specialty vinegars (for salad dressing)
  • tomato sauce
  • stir-fry base
  • mixed vegetable stock base
  • tomato stock
  • poultry stock
  • dried herb mixes for cooking
  • relishes and salsas
  • fruit spreads
  • chili-garlic sauce
  • Thai dipping sauce (for spring rolls)
  • cookies and cakes
  • kefir
  • almond milk
  • mustard
  • ketchup
My usual shopping list for places other than the farmers market:
  • milk (cow, soy, and goat)
  • whole grain bread (for my husband)
  • sausage (usually a bulk buy)
  • cold cuts (for the husband)
  • tofu
  • vinegar (a gallon at a time)
  • sea salt (bulk buy 2 or 3 times a year)
  • unbleached flour (bulk buy 2 or 3 times a year)
  • yellow sugar (bulk buy 2 or 3 times a year)
  • white sugar (bulk buy once a year)
  • non-hydrogenated margarine (usually 2 lb containers, usually on special)
  • yeast (bulk buy)
  • shrimp (usually a bulk buy on special)
  • soy sauce (two or three times a year)
  • black bean sauce (twice a year)
  • Thai curry paste (bulk buy)
  • occasional citrus (lemon, lime, or Clementines)
  • coconut milk or cream

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This Consumer Isn't Buying It...

There are a number a things that I still do buy:
  • insulation, insulation, insulation (this year of Energy Audit retrofit anyway)
  • construction materials for the retrofit
  • construction materials for garden stuff (when I can't find something to reuse)
  • gasoline (only 2 gallons for the mower this year; less than 10 liters a week for the car except when we do a road trip vacation)
  • seeds (but I'm starting to save my own and swapping with other seed savers)
  • garden supplements
  • local meat and speciality foods I can't grow/make myself
... but I've long since given up on:
  • brand new outfits
  • commercial tomato sauce
  • weekly purchases of citrus fruit while in Ontario (we've bought Arizona citrus when in Tucson)
  • the latest computer
  • the latest cell phone
  • i- Anything
  • a newer car (we may die before the Honda CRV does)
  • a bigger house (we spend enough to heat what we have)
  • a different house (we'd never be able to afford the yard we currently have)
  • brand new furniture (we bought good and it's aging well)
  • magazine subscriptions (go to the library or Chapters and browse while having a coffee)
  • a bigger TV
  • electronic game systems
  • more and newer appliances (only replace what breaks that we use frequently)
  • makeup
  • chemical cleaners (for house and body)
  • pre-baked goods
  • boxed cereal
  • pre-made dinners
  • just about any processed food
There's a lot of excess in the industrial economy. I'm doing my best to reduce its bloat. And if I'm going to spend money, it will be with local business and producers because that's what I want to have around for my very old age and all the ages of my children and grandchildren.

Local (Ontario, Canada) Peanut Butter!

A couple of weeks ago my friend Tracy told me about getting freshly ground peanut butter from a farm in south-western Ontario where the peanuts were grown. She was visiting the area soon so I put in a request for a 4 lb container, crunchy preferred.

Well, yesterday she delivered. She also had some local honey that I was glad to take off her hands. The peanut butter was scrumptious. My husband really liked it too. But we decided to use up the open jar of commercial peanut butter that we had on hand (I made some peanut butter cookies today).

The peanut butter has only peanuts and peanut oil in it. She had watched them grind it that weekend. A further miracle was that it was $2 a pound. The place was a Picard Peanuts store in Talbotville, Ontario, one of eight branches in the province. More info about the company and peanut growing in Ontario here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Local Business: Reggie's Hot Grill

I woke up this morning, noodled on the net for a while, and then decided to go to Reggie's Hot Grill for breakfast.

Reggie's Hot Grill is on Hunter St. in East City. It was opened up this summer by the guys who own the Reggie's chip-and-burger stand out by Trent University on the shores of the Otonabee. They get business the fair months of the year from users of the Rotary Trail (bikers, hikers, roller-bladers, and strollers) and visitors/students to the university. They serve great burgers and some of the crispest fries anywhere.

Their East City branch will run year-round. They serve burgers, hot sandwiches, regular fries, sweet potato fries, and basic salads. The place is really busy at lunch time since the only other places where you can get lunch on that part of Hunter St. are a sushi place (another locally owned place), Tim Horton's and Subway. Tradesmen working in the area stop in as do groups of ladies doing lunch, senior couples, and groups of teen-agers. They're also open in the evening. My husband and I had supper there one night.

They started to serve breakfast in October. They had a free coffee day last week and I enquired about the breakfast. They didn't have a printed menu yet. Today they still didn't have a printed menu, but they did list their breakfast choices on a couple of blackboards. They were offering free coffee and a hashbrown potato patty with their breakfast sandwiches and wraps and there was also a basket of local apples on the menu counter. They get their coffee from a local roaster, so it was quite good. A lot of their sandwiches had cheese in them, which I can't eat, but I got their BLT on a bagel which I liked. The lettuce was a firm green Romaine and the tomato was thick and ripe. No way that Tim Horton's can compete.

Adventures with Plumbing

Our house is over a hundred years old. As such it came with some knob-and-tube wiring, 100 amp service, two bathrooms with one sink between them, and a mix of galvanized and copper plumbing. The first few years were heavy reno years where we expanded the upper bathroom to have its own sink and a bigger tub with proper shower, put in a proper kitchen sink with a standard height counter, and put in a 200 amp service with circuit breakers rather than fuse.

My husband replaced the knob-and-tube wiring and put in proper GFI outlets in the bathrooms and kitchen. For the upstairs bath reno, we took showers the day after Christmas and then tore the room apart to studs and joists. While the guys reinforced the joists that had been improperly cut through when the upstairs plumbing was first run, I played with 3-D thinking, ABS pipe, and pipe solvent. We used CPVC for the water supply. That was easy to join to copper, but not to the galvanized. We always had a minor leak where the new supply lines joined the galvanizied cold water supply.

The supply lines in the basement were a maze. I dreamed some day of replaced the galvanized with copper. We got some replacement a few years back when we had to replace iron drains that were being clogged with tree roots. The plumber that did that job that entailed jack-hammering through the basement floor also replaced our main valve and a lot of the galvanized that was attached to it. That valve never really turned completely off. He had to have the water turned off at the curb. The valve he took out was a mass of corrosion that would have soon given way and flooded our basement.

Now that we could really turn the water off we were in the position to get the galvanized replaced. My husband was working with an unlicensed plumber named Mark and he agreed to do it. So a little over a year ago I bought a bunch of copper pipe on sale. It sat on a high shelf for a year.

Finally Mark was able to come over to do the piping change early this fall. We were in the process of getting a tankless water heater and knew where it was going to go. He routed new supply lines there. Over the course of the day he and my husband took out a lot of galvanized pipe. The short pieces went to metal recyling the next week; the long pieces I'm keeping for plant supports. Mark does not get along with plastic pipe, so I had to secure the one supply fitting that went from the new copper to my bathroom plastic system. We had one full length and two partial lenghs of copper left over. Some will go from the new supply ends to the new hot water heater; the rest will probably go into the garden.

A couple of years ago we had problems with the kitchen drain. We were able to take apart the drain system where it met the main iron outlet and clean it out. We started to use strainers in the kitchen sink drains (these trap coffee grounds and up) and had no more problems until this past month. First the sinks drained slowly. Then more slowly. But the dishwasher discharge drained fine. Then it didn't. That's when we called Mark the plumber again.

My husband picked him up the other night (he was currently without a driving license) and then an hour later he was off to a music jam down the street. I was to get him if there was a problem (something that involved more brute strength than I and Mark could muster). So I started to hang out with Mark as he dismantled the kitchen sink drains. The sink drains themselves needed replacing and we were missing a washer. So off to Home Depot we went. We talked a lot lot, trading reno war stories.

He got the new sink drains in and increased the drop from them to the P-trap. But the sinks still didn't drain. He ran his snake through but it didn't quite reach the main iron outlet. It came out of the cranking case he had for it, so I fetched a garbage bag he could put the withdrawn snake into. He ran more water and listened. There was still a blockage and the running of water through the system didn't sound right. We have a cheater valve on the sink drain system so he took that off and found it was no longer working. I happened to have a spare in my plumbing supplies so we didn't have to make a dash to Home Depot, hoping to get there before it closed.

The sinks still didn't drain. We went into the cellar and he found a maintenance outlet along the long horizontal length of drain. He took his snake outside and got it threaded back into its cranking case. I listened by the main iron outlet and let him know when the snake began clanging in it. There was nothing on the snake when he withdrew it, but the blockage would have just gone down that 4 inch pipe once the snake pushed it there.

I went up to run the water and he listened. The drain was flowing again. Upstairs he listened again. We both listened as we heard the chug-chugging of air coming into the cheater valve and helping the flow of water downward and out.

I drove with Mark to an ATM machine to get his $40 bucks. It was worth it.

We still have to get that tankless water heater in and the old one out... But Mark doesn't have a gas certificate and the utility company owns the old water heater. But we do have that high tub we want to replace with a shower that's easier to get in and out of as we get older!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Manure Chronicles

I saw another ad for "well-rotted horse manure" on Kijiji. It was at a place here in town, so I emailed the person, asking for directions and what would be a good time to drop by.

That was back in September. I never did make it to the place in amidst harvesting and preserving everything in my garden that could be subject to a hard frost while we vacationed in New England the first two weeks of October.

I kept the email from the horse-owner, so when I got back I asked if any was left. Oh yes, there was. So Monday morning I went to the place (it's about 10 minutes from my house) with my tarp-lined CRV and loaded up. This stuff was well-rotted: absolutely no manure smell. They had used coarse sawdust for the horse bedding and the result was a nice crumbly dark brown product. It was much lighter than the stuff I had gotten in Marmora and I quickly got a good pile of it into my CRV.

On the way home I stopped at Costco to stock up on calcium tables, vitamin D, and soy milk. The stock should last me into the winter.

When I got home, I topped up my yard waste compost pile with a tub of it. Another tub fertilized the rhubarb, elderberry bushes, and saskatoons. Then I topped off the one planting box I've been filling with more leaves and a good layer of the horse manure. More went on a three other raised beds and my small square planting boxes. I still have a cartful (inside the tarp -- just hauled it out of the CRV and into the cart) to dispense on my black raspberry row and my clump of red raspberries.

By then the sky had cleared to a brilliant blue so I went out for possibly my last kayak ride of the summer. It was a little windly on Little Lake but the trees still have some exquisite color.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A New Kayak: An Exercise in Appropriate Scale

I learned to kayak in a small (8 and half foot long) kayak. I bought one for my son too. We went across the river to the US to do it since they were available as well as cheaper there. We lived very close to the St. Mary's River and in the summer my son lived on the river -- he even had a tree house along the shore. I'd take a book and a kayak on the river with water or juice to keep hydrate, paddle up the river, then drift down towards home while reading. I even took it on a canoing trip -- I could make more distance faster than two paddlers in a canoe, with all my camping stuff packed behind me and between my legs.

I took the kayaks with me when my husband and I moved to Peterborough. Again we were close to a river -- this time the Otonabee, and where it widened into Little Lake as it joined the Trent River Canal System. Though the Kokopas turned on a dime, they didn't track well and they didn't really have much space for stowing the accoutrements of a touring weekend. We decided to get longer kayaks that tracked well and had more space. We sold the Kokopas to a friend who we got interested in kayaking.

I never did go touring with the Sun Dolphin 14 SI. It tracked great and you could build up a nice speed with it, but it took me four strokes to do the turn that I managed with one stroke in the smaller kayak. It weighed nearly twenty pounds more too. We built a special shed against the house to store them in and bought Wheel-ez carts for them that worked great. But getting one on top of our Nissan van was quite the chore for me. Once it slid off the rack to the side, bounced on the ground, and left me with a burning bruise on my right arm. Another time it took the mirror of our friend's vehicle when we lost control of it getting it on his rack.

We went to Honda CRV, whose top was lower, and we got stackers that worked great for securing the kayaks, but it was still a chore getting them up there. I bought a wheel device that help slide one onto the rack when I went out by myself. I found myself carpooling with our kayaking friend a lot more than doing solo car jaunts with the kayak. After my husband broke his shoulder one winter, he kayaked a lot less.

I began thinking that I'd like to build myself a smaller, lighter kayak. A retirement project perhaps. I retired and within six months broke my wrist. That was at the end of summer so no fall kayaking last year. This year I was still in recovery (gardening and yard work are great physiotherapy to build up strength though) and I went out a few times. Getting my husband to go with me was complicated by the fact that one of our cart wheels developed a fatal leak. I tried for weeks to find an inner tube for it or a replacement tire. I eventually replaced the cart with another Wheel-ez that had foam-filled tires and kept the old one for spare parts.

We planned to take the kayaks with us to Vermont since we'd be in the Mad River valley, but the good weather forecast turned bad, so we decided not to. The weather turned out to be very good, but we would have had to do considerable driving to find places to kayak in the first week of September that didn't involve white water (we are definitely quiet water kayakers).

We did decided to check out the Labor Day weekend sale of the major kayak dealer in the valley. I saw a 9 and half foot kayak with spacious entry, comfy seat, and bungy gear hold-downs. I asked if I could sit in it. The seat was very comfy, it felt very right, I was in love. We bought kayak cup holders and the Heritage Featherweight. The dealer would keep it for us until we picked it up on Friday, the day before our departure.

My husband found a bag of straps and rope in the CRV's storage well, so we had sufficient means to secure it. It took a couple of tries to get it right -- it started to slide off the car on way back to the resort. In the morning, we set up the straps so we were hooking onto the kayak rather than the rack bars (which were a little too large for the strap hooks) and wrapped the straps closely to the kayak. We used ropes to stabilize the front and back. The thing didn't move a millimeter at our top speed on the I-89. Our GPS guided us on a "back roads" route through eastern Ontario so we didn't have to contend with tractor trailers whipping by us at 120 kilometers an hour while we were holding to 100 (our optimum travel speed for gas mileage).

We discussed where we would store the new kayak. The extension we had built on the workshop shed that had held the Kokopas now held lumber. I figured I could store the Heritage upside down on a couple of saw horses while we used/moved the lumber in one bay.

It turned out we weren't getting any rain at home for a few days. We got home early enough on Saturday that after unpacking and harvesting things from the garden, I had time to try out the kayak before supper time.

It was a breeze getting it on the new cart. I figured out how to secure it with one of the supplied straps, loaded in my lifejacket, paddle, and water bottle in the new cup holder and off we went. This kayak weighs 18 pounds less than the Sun Dolphin and when positioned on the cart at its balance point (the seat) tows down the block, around the corner, across the railway tracks, and over the intersection with little effort.

I couldn't fit the broken down cart behind the seat like I could with the Sun Dolphin, but I could stow the wheels and strap there and slip the folded down cart frame under the rear gear hold-down. The new kayak was actually more stable to climb into with water underneath it than the older one. I quickly pushed off from shore and began appreciating its tracking ability. Being the weekend, there were a few motor boats on the lake. One stroke of the paddle and I was right angles to their wake though my travel path had been paralleling theirs when one of them sped by. The kayak playfully bounced on the wake rather than lumbered as the 14-foot one had. I was even more in love.

By Monday I knew I'd rarely use the older kayak. I hauled it out of its storage space, cleaned it up and t00k some photos. The next morning I got the photos on the computer and posted ads on Kijiji and Craig's List. I listed the old boat and its paddle for a hundred dollars less than what I had paid for the new kayak. Shortly after noon I got a phone call and the fellow came by after work. He was a solo canoeist but his knees couldn't take doing it anymore. He was a taller fellow and the kayak fit him fine. He lifted it: it was lighter than his canoe. He'd found something that was the appropriate scale for him. He had come prepared with cash and a rope to secure the kayak to his car. I gave him some scraps of pipe insulation to cushion on end of it. At four-thirty he was happily driving it to its new home.

My first attempt to put the new kayak into the storage space failed: the keel banged up against the mid-support and I didn't have enough of the kayak out of the space to leverage it up and over. A couple of old two x sixes remedied that by making a ramp up and over the mid-support: my Heritage kayak had a new home and I didn't have to finangle another storage space for her.

I've been out in the kayak 5 times since I brought it home. That equals in one week the number of times I had the older one out all summer. Granted, this summer's weather has not been the most conducive and this week's has, but the effort involved with dealing with the larger one cut down on spontaneous sorties on the water. Now that I've got a kayak that is appropriate to my shortness, age and strength, I'll use it a lot more. I may even make an overnight or weekend trip with it-- after all my Hennesy hammock and sleeping bag could stow quite easily in the front. I'd have to pack like a backpacker would, but why not?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Thoughts on "The Omnivore's Dilemma"

I read the book that succeeded this ("In Defense of Food") first, but having enjoyed Michael Pollan's writing, I grabbed this when I saw it in the library.

I enjoyed following his journey of discovery about food and his own life-stance towards food. The section on Joe Salatin's Polyface Farm is entertaining and heartening -- especially as it follows his awful discoveries about industrial food. It's good to know that truly ecological farming can be done, though many would say it's not practical in face of the world's current population. But industrial farming isn't either -- not in the long term in view of dwindling petroleum supplies and the pollution it causes.

His sortie into vegetarianism is interesting, particularly his thought processes in backing out of it. He nicely teases out the shaky philosophical foundations of the animal rights movement -- it views rights as applying to individual animals, much as human rights apply to individual humans. As long as individual animals survive, it doesn't matter if the species that the animal belongs to doesn't. Doesn't that seem to be the underlying assumption for placing economic gain over ecological practicality?

There are good ecological reasons to be vegetarian or vegan, or to at least reduce the amount of animal flesh and animal products as currently consumed in North America, but there are locales in North America where such a diet cannot be locally sustained. The hills of New England are conducive to pasture and the animals to convert that grass to food that humans can digest.

We are all going to have to do a lot more local eating in the future and for many some of that will involve meat and animal products. I can get local wheat, local hemp hearts, local buffalo, local emu, local vegetables, local maple syrup, local honey, local cheese and local eggs, but I've not seen much in local dried beans.

I'm content to live the omnivore life and its dilemma.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Heatless preserving

... at least heatless for the house!

Obviously, solar drying is a great way to preserve food without using a stove. I find it works great for greens, herbs, flowers and zucchini slices. It works wonderfully to finish off granola when you've toasted all the ingredients separately in a stir-fry pan. I've done melba toast and pita "crackers" in it too.

Steeping liquors and vinegars requires no heat too. Easy recipe: put the fruit in the jar. Add sugar and vodka for a liquor (layering the sugar with the fruit, then covering with vodka. Add vinegar for a fruit vinegar. I made black raspberry vinegar and a tarragon-based (with a few auxillary herbs) vinegar and I use both in salad dressing.

Last year and this I made a lightly salted green vegetable stock. Either put through a food grinder or food processor: 1 part leek, 1 part celery, 1 part parsley (which can be varied a bit with a little bit of thyme and oregano). Salt just so you can taste the salt and pack in jars. This stores nicely in a cool dark place.

When the Sunday before my trip way turned into a hot, humid day and I was faced with nine cucumbers, I knew it was time to try lacto-fermentation. I sliced the cucumbers very thin (about 1/8 of inch or less), sprinkled them lightly with salt and layered them in canning jars. They're down in the cellar and I won't know how they'll come out for a few weeks.

I had a basket of ripe peaches as well. I skinned them, sliced them, layered them in jars with some sugar and filled the jars with brandy. Once a week I'll have to shake them to get the sugar dissolved. Over the winter I should have some yummy brandied peaches and a peach brandy liquor.

For next summer, I'm going to be sure I have some gallon jars on hand to use as "crocks" for lacto-fermented beans as well as cucumbers. With a crock you can layer the stuff in as you harvest it. Talk about convenience!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

First August Preserving Marathon

With stuff coming to fruition, this is when the harvest crunch comes in the summer. Plus I'm away for five days next week so I'm trying to get "get stuff done"!

We've finally gotten several days in succession of sunshine. This means I can use my solar dehydrator for things other than herbs and greens and have them actually dry. The dehydrator I built, though, is very good at maintaining warmth and the air flow if clouds come by or move in for an hour or so. And I can leave the trays in it overnight even if we get a shower.

Things I've dried this week:
  • Cremona mushrooms (done in a day and a half)
  • kale and chard (done in a day)
  • calendula flowers (done in a day)
  • green pepper (sliced thin -- done in a day and a half)
  • celery (sliced thin -- done in a day and a half)
  • rusk (done in a day)
  • zucchini "chips" (done in a day and a half)
  • yarrow (done in a day to a day and a half)
  • chamomile flowers (done in a day)
  • sweet dark cherries (three days)
  • almond meal (from making almond milk - done in a day)
My black raspberry liquor finished steeping, so I bottled it. I drained a couple of pints of last years' rhubarb sauce and made a spicy black raspberry spread (adding some cinnamon) with that pulp and the steeped black raspberries.

Yesterday I harvested everything I could before going away: rhubarb, cucumbers, green beans, snow peas. The snow peas were a small enough amount we had them in our pad thai supper, along with some of the green beans. The rest of the beans and the cucumbers went into dill pickles (with my own dill, hot red pepper, and garlic). I made rhubarb ade concentrate and then used the pulp with a couple of past jars of raspberry sauce (which had come out gluey from an overabundance of pectin and/or fruit) to make a Rhubarb Raspberry spread. I took the last jar out of the water bath at 10:15 pm and was glad to shut down the stove for the night.

Things cooled off well overnight. This is an odd day, so that means I can water in my town. With today and the next two days being hot and my pole beans starting to wilt, I thought it best to thoroughly water. I've got jug and bottle waterers all over and a couple of soaker hose lines. I started shortly after seven and was done by 11 am. I used water from my rain barrel for the kitchen garden. While the "outside the fence" garden got its soaker hose run, I decided to strain and bottle up my black raspberry vinegar. What to do with the berries? I decided to make a savory sauce with them that we can use with meat in the slow cooker. I actually cooked the sauce in my thermal cooker rather than heat up the kitchen with a long simmer. Then it was time to move to watering the main garden. I have a Y junction there, so I can start the soaker while filling jug and bottle waterers in the squash patch, for some of the tomatoes and for the peppers. I also do some wand watering on the lettuce, ground huckleberries, fall snow peas and zucchini.

I had breakfast and got all my jars from last night labeled and put away.

About 1 pm I checked on the sauce and ran the immersion blender on it. Then it was time to adjust the seasoning: more light brown sugar, some salt, and juice from a quarter lime. I gave my husband a taste and he approved. I brought it up to boiling again and put it back in the thermal cooker to "simmer" some more. I decided to blend it to a smooth sauce rather than leave it a little chunky and put it up in a quart bottle.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Heat Is On

We had a July cooler than most years this summer and a lot of rain. Now the rain has slowed and the temperature has soared. I see signs of ripening on my tomatoes. We're running the ceiling fans all during the day now. I'm drying lots of stuff in my solar dehydrator. Tomorrow and Sunday we're supposed to hit 30 deg C and it will feel like 40 deg C (getting near 100 deg F!) with the humidity. Nights are still cooling off -- well below 75 deg F. Days like that are for sitting in the shade or indoors with shaded windows and a fan to move the air.

I might have gotten my last big picking of rhubarb for the summer unless we get more rain. I juiced the rhubarb this morning and put the pulp in the fridge. I won't can it until this evening when it starts to cool off. I'm reusing some heavy raspberry sauce (more like glue!) with the rhubarb pulp for a usable waffle/cookie bar spread. I'm really looking forward to some healthy cookie bars all winter long and my husband will be happy to see more baking.

I've got cucumbers I've got to do something with too. I think I'll try some lacto-fermented dill slices. I can start them tonight and put them in the cellar on Sunday. On Monday I go away for five days, so I'll have to advise my husband on what to harvest. I've got neighbors who can come in to take away some stuff too.

But going away means the heat is one to get some stuff done. So yesterday I did the last painting of the shade frame I constructed last week. This morning I finished putting pavement sand on the walkway I put in the week before that. For supper tonight I'll be picking all the baby green beans and snow peas I can for our shrimp noodle dish. The tomatoes and melons have been fertilised. Tomorrow I plan to water everything, really making sure the developing fruits will have sufficient moisture.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rhubarb and Raspberries

Well, the last of the first flash of black raspberries is done. By hoarding pickings in the freezer, I was able to accumulate enough for a gallon of black raspberry melomel (honey-based fruit wine) as well as a hearty mixed raspberry shortcake on my son's birthday. The very last picking went into bumbleberry spread.

I tried making a berry spread earlier this summer based on apple juice concentrate and no sugar. The strawberries washed out in colour and it took a long time to cook down.

Some low-sugar fruit spread are based on apples (so it's more like a fruit + apple butter), but local apples don't come in until mid-August (green ones, too).

I have a six plant rhubarb row. When I pick a third of it, I have enough rhubarb for 4 pints of rhubarbade concentrate plus a small rhubarb crisp, or 4-6 jars of rhubarb sauce plus some left over rhubarb sauce. I love rhubarbade as a summer drink that is an alternative to lemonade or iced tea. Making it this year I used up some runny orange marmelade that had been sitting on my preserves shelves. I also steeped elderflowers in the concentrate before its final heating and jarring. Once or twice I threw in a handful of black raspberries to cook with the stalks.

The first few batches I threw the leftover pulp once the juice is extracted into my compost. Then my frugal nature clicked in and I thought: this pulp is already cooked, it is smooth, it is acidic but not overly so and its flavor is mellowed down. Why not use it as a neutral base for fruit spread? I put it in the fridge and when I produced some cherry pulp a few days later from making the cherry melomel base, I combined the two with some additional sugar and produced a rhubarb-cherry spread. This will be excellent over waffles or in the middle of cookie bars.

Then I made a rhubarb BBQ sauce with it. And two batches of bumbleberry spread. "Bumbleberry" is simply any mixture of berries. The first mix was strawberries and black raspberries The second mix was black raspberries, a lot of blueberries, cherries, and a few red raspberries. I use a cup of sugar per 4 half/pint jam jars. This is much less than regular jam recipes, but enough to preserve the berry color in the spread.

Here's the recipe for the first batch:
3 - 3 1/2 c rhubarb pulp
3/4 c. black raspberries
1/2 c. strawberries
3/4 c. raw sugar (more to taste if pulp not sweet)
1/4 c. lemon juice (to ensure enough acid)

Mash berries with sugar and lemon juice. Heat to a boil, gradually adding rhubarb pulp. Add more sugar to taste if needed.

Put into 4 half-pint jars, being sure to remove any air pockets, with 1/2 inch head space. Process 15 minutes.

Last year we had rain all summer and I had rhubarb all summer. It looks like the same is happening this year. Last year all I preserved was rhubarb sauce that I'm still eating. This year I have a lot more useful items on my preserve shelves!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Black Raspberry Rhapsody

I started picking black raspberries on July 6th. I put a cup of them into a jar with apple cider vinegar. I filled the jar with the next picking and then began a jar of black raspberry liquor.

Every day or so I pick more black raspberries. Sometimes I eat them out of hand or over granola or in a shortcake (my husband loves them in a shortcake). I asked my neighbors if I could pick theirs and they said yes. Their patch is the progenitor of mine. Canes leaned over the fence between us. When they struck earth on my side, they started a new plant. Up in the kitchen garden last year I had ten tomato plants and at the end of the summer I had ten black raspberry plants started in amongst them. I moved them to the main garden to keep company with the others that had come over the fence.

A cup or two of black raspberries can enhance many things besides vinegar and vodka. I made some mango black raspberry sauce for winter waffles. I added some to my rumtopf. I made a fruit cocktail with mangoes, white nectarines, black raspberries and a navel orange. I kept one picking in the fridge and with the next picking I had enough to make 4 jars of black raspberry jam.

When I was a child, my favorite ice cream was black raspberry. Crystal Springs Dairy's soft ice cream stand had it on alternate Thursdays in the summer and I ate it all summer long.

I don't have the same love affair with red raspberries. They don't have the depth of flavor, the depth of colour, that black raspberries impart to things. I did have access to a wonderful red raspberry patch in Nova Scotia. They would start to produce the week before my son's birthday at the end of July and loved having red raspberry shortcake as his birthday cake. I even got enough raspberries for a gallon or two of wine.

I started a red raspberry patch here in southern Ontario. My neighbor gave me some canes. But they're not the best. They heartily put energy into propagating by root extensions, but produce few seeds (and the berries that surround them). This summer they showed hearty blossoms, but most produced fruit of maybe three seeds or less. I cut them all down, bundled them up as green waste. Soon I'll have all the roots dug up. I left the red raspberries that are producing fruit. They can spread if they want -- but they'll have to compete with the black raspberries I'll be putting in.

The harvest is noticeably diminishing in the black raspberry patch. But today I noticed a few new canes had blossoms on them. They did that last year too. And in another month I'll have another black raspberry harvest...

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Great Cellar Refurb, Part 1

The cellar is small in width, depth, and height (even I at 5' 1" can bang my head on duct work). Strictly speaking it is a tall crawl space. But we have our laundry, freezer, water heater, furnace and storage down there.

In the spring we put in a hanging grow light over a fold-up camping table. Later I built a much shorter table so that we could use a gravity-fed waterer for the plants on it. I got longer chains for the grow light. When we're not growing things on it, it will be a platform for winter storage of vegetables that I built stackable bins for. Now we just needed a unit to put the water on.

Just a week or so ago, a neighbor put out a disassembled shelving unit on the boulevard. It was actually sawed off a hutch unit, but it was all wood. I reassembled it with an additional shelf, all spaced to hold canning jars. I painted the whole thing blue with acrylic enamel we had on hand. My husband found another shelf unit while sorting through our main floor storage room. I put two more shelves in it with everything spaced to hold canning jars. I painted that blue too.

Then we had to rearrange what storage we did have for home preserves to fit the units in. The metal shelf unit by the stairs came out. In its place went the unit from the neighbor. I commenced to moved all of the older preserves into it and put the two kettles I use for water bath processing on the top shelf; they're very handy to get at from the stairs. That freed up space on the bigger shelves along another wall for things that had been on the metal shelf unit, though an old enamel processor went to Freecyle.

We moved the top shelf of the metal unit down and put the unit between the stairs and the grow light table. The gravity fed waterer went on the moved top shelf. Other planting things will go on the other shelves.

The main unit I had built two years ago for home preserves had a decided lean to it. I took everything off, placing it either on top of the washer and dryer or in our wheeled laundry bin. I determined that the lean was due to the lay of the floor (it is rough cement). Rather than having it against the wall, I turned it 90 degrees and found a spot where it was horizontally level. If I put in a board brace to move its top away from the wall (which was not vertically level), then it would be vertically level as well as more stable. My husband found a piece of old paneling in our storage room that just fit the back of the unit. Jars won't fall out and that stabilizes the unit more too. The second new unit went across the end of the older unit to form a T. Everything is accessible.

I sorted the remaining preserves into older and this season's . The older preserves and empty jars went into the second new unit. This season's preserves went into the older unit. Now I don't have to search for the older stuff and I have plenty of empty space for new preserves.

Part 2 will be the wall shelves and the double bank of shelves on the other side of the stairs!

An Afternoon in Marmora

This is a week late, but possibly better on reflection.

I saw an ad on-line for well-rotted horse manure in Marmora, so I contacted the advertiser and arranged to go there on a Monday afternoon to pick some up.

I cleared out the back of the CRV, flipped up the back seats, and laid in a double tarp (reuse from a lumberyard -- it had covered lumber) with the sides up in a box. I tossed in a shovel and my gloves and was ready to go.

Along the way I got gas (prices had nicely dipped that day), some cash, and made a stop at Almost Perfect (bargain frozen food and shelf stuff -- stock continually varies) on the outskirts of town, where I picked up some Jones soda for fluid replenishment as well as some de-alcoholized beer. Always make multiple stops on a trip. Marmora is about 60 km away, so I made note of places I might want to stop on my way back -- if I had the time and energy.

The place was on the other side of Marmora, but not as far as the directions had led me to believe. A teenager was in the yard waiting for me and opened gates so I could take the CRV through.

Well, the manure was not "well-rotted". Somewhat aged, yes, but mixed with clay soil. It was an improvised compost pile that was much too high to really break down. The stuff was heavy, but I did manage to get it a foot deep into the CRV. After forty-five minutes, the back end of the vehicle was noticeably down. Darker clouds had moved in and I had felt a few drops. Time to go. Gates were opened for me to get out but no one collected the $5 from me that I was supposed to pay, though I delayed in the yard a bit. Oh well, they had really advertised to get the pile down, which I had indeed made a dent in.

There was a bit of horsely smell about the car, but not bad. I opened a bottle of Jones soda.

Driving through Marmora, I noticed they did indeed have a little downtown. So I found a nearby parking lot and stopped. It wasn't even 2:30 yet, so I could "sight see" a bit.

The downtown was two blocks long. It had a bank, two dollar stores, an internet cafe, an ice cream and fudge shop with outdoor decor stuff, a sports shop, a couple of restaurants, a convenience store, a Sears catalog place, insurance agency, and a few other offices. Not bad for a village of under 3000 in population. The big grocery store, hardware store, building supply and gas stations were on the highway that ran perpendicular to the downtown street. The place was a center for farmers and cottagers in the area.

The older dollar store advertised itself as a local dollar store. After I visited the other one (which had just opened), I think they were advertising themselves as that because the newer one was part of a small chain (which I'd never encountered before -- but it did have a more diversified stock and a franchise look about it). I made purchases at both. I'd been wanting to go from heavily adhesived labels on my home preserves to things I printed off on plain paper and then glued on myself, which would be easier to remove the next season. I found glue sticks and mucilage to make that happen. I also got some parsnip and rutabaga seeds for late planting (fall crop) as well as nasturtium. We've put in a new door and were planning to paint the panel bevels a different colour than the main door and I found acrylic paint for that. Some aluminum oxide sandpaper, coloured wire and scissors completed my purchases.

The internet cafe had home-made lemon spritzers, so I had one while perusing an issue of Canadian Gardening in one of their comfy chairs. I and two lads on the computers were the only ones there. The shop next door was a computer business, run by the same folk who ran the cafe. I imagine on the weekends the place is busy, but I enjoyed the quiet of a Monday afternoon.

Then I explored the other side of the street. Normally I don't eat ice cream because of my casein intolerance, but a small cone of Kawartha Dairy ice cream (made with real cream) I could handle with a couple of enzyme pills. It was Bordeaux Cherry in a sugar cone and it was delicious!

By the time I finished the cone it was nearly 3:30. Time to go home. I went from the parking lot to the visitor center in the park next door to use the washroom preparatory to the drive back.

When I got home, it took nearly an hour to unload the manure: three garbage cans, a garden cart, two large bins and a recycle box and trug in a garden wagon. Nothing got in the car. I put the tarp over the garden wagon and pulled down to the main garden. Then I went in for some supper and ibuprofen for my left wrist.

Over the following week, I set up a wire compost bin to hold the manure so it will break down between now and next spring. I turfed out two non-productive strawberry beds and mixed in some of the manure in them. Watering and mixing daily has gotten them to a near-plantable state. I still have to move two and half garbage cans of manure (along with sand to temper the clay mixed with it).

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Delightful Orange Flowers

I got these from a Quaker friend in Hastings. She was renovating her bed of them and of course had extras. I may have to do the same with them in the next year or so.

I got this plant from my son and his girlfriend for Mother's Day. I planted in the groundcover to fill the pot.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The first preserving marathon of July

Saturday I went to a local U-pick farm for strawberries with my neighbor. Before I went, I loaded up my solar dehydrator with yarrow, yellow oregano, and peppermint. I also bought a stack of interlocking brick, promising to bring the cash for them by 2 pm, from a neighbor across the street.

The picking went well. I got 8 liters of strawberries for $13. After I got them home, I walked to the nearest ATM for cash and found it was still out of order from earlier in the morning. I walked on into downtown and got the cash. The neighbor's yard sale was still set up, so I told her I'd bring my Honda CRV over to load the bricks up once they cleared the driveway. She said to wait until her husband got home and they'd help load.

I went back home to address strawberries. First I had to hull and halve them. I was making Strawberry Margarita Preserves and Spreadable Strawberries. Both required peeled, cored and chopped apples. I did the preserves first: a batch of six half-pints. It was a good half-hour of prep, a half-hour of cooking down, and then another twenty minutes to process them. During the cooking, I got the strawberries and apples ready for the spread. During the processing, I began cooking the spread. That took nearly an hour to get down to the thickness I wanted. I had plenty of time to prepare a dozen half-pint jars (in two pots). It turned out I had only enough to fill 8 half-pint jars and I could fit them all into my larger water processor. While those were processing, I checked on my solar dryer. Most of the yarrow was dry (this in a day with some cloud, but under 60% humidity and steady breeze, which helps with the dryer's air circulation) so I brought it in to strip from the stalks and put into a quart jar.

The processing finished (I use a wind-up timer for all my canning -- so handy!) shortly after I started stripping yarrow. I got the jars out and did some general clean-up, then it was back to the yarrow. During it the bricks came...

The neighbors loaded half the bricks in their pickup truck and brought them over to our house. There were 5 of us unloading so it went fast. My husband went with them to load the rest of them while I went back to the yarrow. I helped them unload the second half of the stack. We got 160 regular sized brick and 60 plus half bricks. I might convert the heavy traffic area of my main garden from gravel to brick just to make it easier to move various carts around.

I decided not do my asparagus pickles after supper that night. I was fast asleep by 10 pm.

The next morning,I added more yarrow to what still had to dry and picked some calendula flowers as well. I cut up my asparagus and set up its brine soak. I also mixed up a batch of no-knead artisan oatmeal bread. I opened a couple of pints of poultry stock, added short asparagus ends, carrots, a garlic scape and mushrooms and got soup stock going in my thermal cooker, I set aside longer asparagus ends (which weren't woody) for vegetable kabobs. Somewhere in this I cooked my husband and I egg sandwiches on the last of our homemade English muffins and had some coffee. I also labelled and put away the strawberry preserves and spread.

I got the 6 half-pint jars heating for the dilled asparagus and readied the pickle liquor. I rinsed the asparagus and decided I had to use the larger pot for the initial heating of it after all. While it was doing that, I picked my dill weed and garlic chives. A sixth of dried cayenne pepper went into the bottom each jar, then I packed in the asparagus spears along with dill fronds and chive lengths. It turned out that you can fit more heated asparagus than raw asparagus in a jar. I had two jars left over. I also had a surplus of snow peas, so I took enough of those that had little peas inside them and packed them into one jar. I had just enough pickle liquor to fill that jar. I processed them all together since they both had the same processing time.

While that was going on, I formed up two loaves and a half dozen buns from the oatmeal dough. They would need about an hour to rise.

I drained the stock. I cut up the carrots and threw them back in to the soup pot. Then I added more tender asparagus ends done in 1/8" slices, a can of creamed corn, a can of corn, a can of white meat chicken and a half cup of wild rice. After bringing it to a boil, I set it in the thermal cooker. By then my son had come over to help my husband install a new door on the room he's converting to a music studio. I told him there'd be a lunch of soup and homemade bread shortly after one.

I'd promised my neighbor I'd help her install two brackets to hold her upside-down tomatoes. I went over to her place to find out when we could do. She told me she had to go out on an errand but would come over in a half hour to get me for the job.

I did some kitchen cleanup. The sink was now overflowing with drying bowls and pots. I made an oatmeal cake to bake while the bread was baking. I made depressions in the buns and filled them with Black Forest Preserves. Once everything was in the oven, I set the timer for 35 minutes for the cake and sat down on my deck outside the kitchen with some rhubarb ade and crossword book,

My neighbor's errand took her an hour and when she came over, I still had ten minutes on the cake. She said to come over when my baking was done. After the cake and buns came out, there was still another ten minutes on the bread. It was shortly after one when the bread was done, but the beauty of soup in the thermal cooker is that it can be left on its own. Besides the guys were in the middle of hinging the door. I got my 18v cordless screw gun and some screws and went over to my neighbor's.

When I got back, I cut up the last of the artisan boule and dished out soup. I did clean up then cut up the oatmeal cake into serving size pieces. Some went into the freezer and some I put in a container for dinner's dessert (strawberry shortcake!). I bagged up the oatmeal loaves and put them in the freezer too. The buns went into the refrigerator's freezer.

I decided to relax until it was time to bring in stuff from the solar dryer and make dinner. After my son left, I went to a nearby store for chicken and cherries that were on special. I'll be making meloml with those -- but that will wait until Monday.

I stripped down the rest of the yarrow and now have a quart jar of yarrow leaves and flower for tea and poultices. In a couple of weeks I'll dry another quart. That should suffice for the winter. You shouldn't drink yarrow tea every day, but it works much like echinacea if you drink tea of it during the first stages of a cold or flu. I started a jar of calendula flowers. I was really pleased my solar dryer preserved the colour of the petals-- they'll look fantastic on salads in the winter and they also make a good tea. I'll pick those as they come and dry them (when I'm not putting them fresh into salads).

The day is over and it had started to rain (again!). But it was a beautiful low-humidity weekend with moderate temperatures -- perfect for a preserving marathon.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Using the Forage

Yesterday I went out for my usual early morning Friday walk and saw nothing to come home with.

That was all right. I wasn't "shopping" for much anyway and I was in the process of de-cluttering anyway. This week I had a number of projects on the go that used the stuff I've foraged in the past few weeks.

Emergency watering: rain did not come as expected mid-week so the drip waters I made from kitty litter jugs and water jugs came into use. The grape vines, blueberry bush and pole beans were very happy.

I decided it was time I had a good salad garden outside my kitchen rather than have to go to the main garden to get salad fixings. I used eight of the concrete blocks I'd foraged to build one, using the lasagna method of a 6-sheet thick layer of wet newspaper over sod, then layering in compost and garden soil to a depth of 8". I also filled the cement block holes with the same compost and soil for salad complements such as radishes and peppercress. So the stack of bagged soil and compost is cleared from our side entry walk, as are the concrete blocks!

Once set up this is a prime spot for cat deposits unless the little beasts are kept out. I bought a T-bar post to support one end of a 6' by 4' fence panel built of reused lattice and new fence boards. The other end of the fence panel is secured to my shop shed corner. I had improvised a barrier with some green fence netting and a foraged small cement pillar to keep cats from my tomato and herb beds. That was easily transferred to serve as an interim gate from the T-bar to the kayak shed. The permanent gate will be of reused trellis and new fence boards as well.

More of the trellis will be a shade for the new greens. I already have shade supports built and painted from last season. The rest of the trellis will probably be made into portable cat barriers to protect the melon and bean areas.

When it rains here, it pours -- and the one rain barrel we have fills very quickly, then we see a lot of water going out the overflow. I picked up a plastic barrel that had a clamp lid. I reused the main hole in the lid for a hose from the first barrel's overflow. I filled around the hose with some leftover window screen. I drilled/cut another hole in the second barrel and installed more hose for that barrel's overflow. I had plenty of hose from a Friday forage to do this. Some of the pipe insulation that I took off the solar oven when it failed there as a gasket works fine as hose gasket (to keep out the mosquitoes). I may eventually put in a tap (I have a couple on hand from some other previous use) on the second barrel, but for now it is easy to lift the unclamped lid and get a pail or watering can of water. I've also got a remainder of old garden hose I can use to siphon water out of the second barrel. I used two thinner concrete blocks I had foraged to support the second barrel.

I also finally sealed (with a can of acrylic sealer I got in a remainder sale) the two framed pieces of fretwork hardboard from a yard sale, put the piano hinge on them that I got another yard sale and set up a new screen in the gazebo. That nicely cleared some clutter from the shop shed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Living With Less Plastic

It's ubiquitous, it's obnoxious, it's strangling the planet -- that's plastic. Our economy is addicted to it and its convenience. I have no statistics on how much the average person uses (misuses, has to dispose of) but I know it's too much.

Here's what I've done in the last two years to shrink down my "plastic heap":
1. Filter my own tap water and drink it from stainless steel bottles. A lot of times I don't filter it, but in the summer our local supply picks up a noticeable taste from some plants growing in it. The big filter jug in the refrigerator cuts down our need to run tap water until it is cold in the summer as well.

2. Switch from plastic clothespins to bamboo. The plastic ones were disintegrating anyway -- literally falling apart in the storage bag after a few uses on the outdoor dryer.

3. Don't drink carbonated drinks. A great health measure in many respects anyway.

4. Buy a big bag of flour in a paper bag and bake my own bread, English muffins, hamburger buns, sausage holders and pizza. The flour is stored in food-safe plastic buckets. I think about four months of storage evened the amount of plastic used to store the flour and the amount of plastic I was recycling from bread product bags and bulk food store bags. My body doesn't miss the bread product preservatives at all!

5. Make my own kefir from goat milk (in a wax board carton). Kefir requires only a glass jar, growing culture, and room heat to develop. This is easier and requires less heating than yogurt. No more plastic yogurt containers!

6. Grow my own sprouts. No more plastic bags or containers for these!

7. Buy apples in bulk from the farmer's market.

8. Use good quality bar soap for washing and shampoo (lasts a lot longer than liquids -- and no more plastic bottles!)

9. Re-use plastic containers or glass containers with lids for storing leftovers. (No more plastic film!) Also do the same for lunches away from home.

Things I want to do over the next year:
1. Switch from plastic for freezer storage to glass or soy-waxed paper.

2. Keep refining the list of what I can to best replace what I buy in the way of condiments (often in plastic containers!).

3. Make my own salad dressing.

4. Get all my soil amendments and mulches in bulk in my own containers. This ended up being my biggest use of plastic this spring. I'm still expanding my garden so I need more compost than I produce at this point.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The big June planting

It's the second week in June and finally temperatures are above 5 deg C. at night. The tomatoes are demanding release from their pots, as are the squash and cukes.

On Friday I got the boxes prepared for the melons and pole beans. I built a four-sided 6 foot high teepee trellis for the beans. I put potted spearmint and peppermint in the melon and bean boxes (hoping the strong scents will confuse the flea beetles and squash bugs). Then I went away for the weekend.

On Monday, I hustled plants out of pots in the early morning: tomatoes by the kitchen, tomatoes in the main garden, basil and marigolds to keep them company, the two Christmas lima bean plants and the Blue Lake pole beans at the trellis, the cukes by the shed, the squash plants and corn seed in the 3-sisters box.

I watered everything to settle them in place then gathered up my tools and a morning glory and sunflower plant that I had promised a friend. It was a quick job to plant those in her garden. We had a nice visit, then I went off on errands: a splitting axe to address the pieces a major trunk of box elder was now in, big -- but carryable-- bins for green waste that I can't readily compost, a year's supply of garbage bags, an entry stone for my shop shed, more plastic fencing for trellis or to keep cats at bay and some soil tests at greatly reduced prices.

Then on Wednesday I put out the red mulch plates and spiral supports for the tomato plants. They look like some art installation now.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Solar Oven Saga

I set up the solar oven at 10 am in the morning

It worked!

Maybe too well: the pipe insulation I used as a gasket material melted, the double pane window cracked when it hit the nail sticking out of the melted foam insulation, the meat thermometer blew its bottom off and I nearly burned my fingers lifting the pot cover to check how the orzo was doing. This was all by eleven-thirty in the morning. At least the candy thermometer was surviving; it read close to 250 degrees F.

I stripped off the gasket stuff, pulled out the nails and used a couple at the bottom of the window to keep it from sliding. At twelve-twenty I had overcooked orzo, but a good cold rinse made it edible for a pasta salad.

I decided to try cooking some rice, but a lot of intermittent cloud started to move in and I gave up on it at two-thirty.

I lost less than $2 in materials (the thermometer was a 25 cent yard sale purchase and I used two lengths of pipe insulation) and gained a powerful solar appliance. The double-paned window cost $3 at the local ReStore and everything else was reused material: 2" foam insulation scrap, 1 1/2" insulation scrap, the green plastic corrugated box my greenhouse came in last year, and tarp material used for lumber bundles. I bought the dark granite ware pot at the hardware store for $10.

I don't know how long the tarp material will last. I may have to upgrade to something more substantial -- such as aluminum flashing painted with high-temperature paint. It certainly works fine as a heat absorber in my solar dehydrator.

The foam insulation sure keeps the heat in and carries the cooker through an occasional cloud. I'd like to get a true oven thermometer for it, especially if I decide to set up a reflector for it to try baking. I'll keep an eye out for one at yard sales.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Canned Goods Inventory

Thinking about jam made me think about all the stuff I still have on my canning shelves. I have three sets of shelves I use: one upstairs for frequently used stuff to cut down on trips down the cellar, a unit I specially built to hold pints, and one shelf off a larger storage unit that is good for quarts, but that I also use for pints and half-pints stacked double.

I set up another spreadsheet in my canning log workbook to the 2009 inventory. I used last year's inventory plus new items from last summer's canning log to start this year's inventory. I record the date, name, number of jars made, and jar size in the canning log. I drop the date for the inventory.

I found items I never entered in the canning log. I found some items whose quantity had not changed from the last inventory -- those are things I won't put up this year and that will have to be consumed.

I was surprised to find that I've started canning nearly six weeks before I began last year. The rhubarb is doing really well this year! It did really well last year -- I still have 18 pints of rhubarb sauce (I was putting up a batch nearly every week until September).

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I still have 6 pints of tomato stock left. That should just do me for the occasional soup until the new crop comes in. Much as I love roasted red pepper spread, I doubt that I'll buy red peppers especially for it this year -- I still have 8 jars and the makings for another six on my canning shelf.

I should make borscht, I should make spring rolls, I should make more pasta, I should eat more pickles. I don't need to buy condiments of any sort this summer. I could have veggie burgers for lunch every day all summer long and probably not run out of relishes, mustard, and ketchup. I've got plenty of fruit to last me until the local crops (including some berries of my own) come in.

I've got 90 quarts of food stashed in 231 jars in my cupboard! Almost fifty different things. (I really practice my belief that variety is the spice of life.)

I made the 12 columns after the inventory small so I could border them and have a list with boxes to check off as I use or begin to use (then stashing in the fridge) them. Some items I had to end extra boxes to by hand, but not many. It's posted on the fridge beside the freezer inventory.

Hey, it's lunchtime!

Jammed up with Jam

or how much sugar does this house need anyway?

I have jam from three years ago. It's lovely jam. It's delicious jam. It was my first year back into serious preserving and I went overboard and made two batches of it. The first batch I used too many raspberries and it came out very stiff -- it rescues wonderfully as a syrup for pancakes, waffles, cake, fruit-and-yogurt when diluted with water, to go from a half-pint to nearly a full pint. So I have even more of the stuff on hand. I also made some Black Forest preserves that I still have a few jars of.

I didn't make any of that jam the second year. Instead I made an orange marmalade that turned out runny (and is turning out to be a wonderful base for other stuff), a blueberry-lime jam, and a single jar that stayed in the fridge all season of honeydew-lime-mint marmalade. The blueberry-lime jam has aged beautifully. I'm enjoying it now on English muffins and kefir.

Last year I made four cups of the honeydew-lime-mint marmalade, a spiced pumpkin butter, and a batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam entirely from my own produce.

Of course I can use it for gifts and my son expects at least a couple jars of sweet stuff at Christmas. My husband rarely uses it -- he takes his sugar straight in his 2 - 5 cups of coffee a day. Do I use more than 2 tablespoons a week? I doubt it. I prefer a low-sugar diet. An 8 oz jar contains 8 tablespoons. A jar will last me a month or more. Most recipes make 6-7 jars of stuff (sometimes more).

So how much sugar does this house need? I just bought a 20 kilogram (44 pounds) bag of sugar. A pound of sugar is two cups. A kilo of sugar is sufficient for a batch of wine but not for most jams and definitely not for jellies. At up to 2 tablespoons a day, my husband averages 5 cups a month. I might use 2 cups a month for baking (cookies, crisp toppings) -- except in November/December when I do mega-baking for the holidays that lasts us through January. I usually go through 3-4 pounds of sugar for the baking. A 2 kg bag of sugar usually last us over a month except during preserving and holiday baking months -- then it doubles.

I have at least 20 jars of various jams on my shelves. If I made nothing this year, I'll probably still have 10 jars left next spring.

But of course I'll make something. It looks like I may have a bumper crop of raspberries this year if emerging bloom is any indication. But maybe I'll make WINE instead. If I invest twice the fruit and the same amount of sugar, I get a gallon or 5 bottles of wine. Now that I'll use!

I've already got two gallons of dandelion wine on the go. I've got three gallon jugs left for wine starts this summer. With one I want to do a cherry melomel (honey wine). That leaves two for other fruit wines.

I'm betting that bag of sugar will last past Christmas.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shipwreck BBQ Sauce

What do cranberry mustard, apple-rhubarb chutney, spicy tomato sauce, roasted red pepper spread, runny orange marmalade all have in common besides their original recipes being in the Bernardin home preserving book? They're ideal components for a shipwreck BBQ sauce for ribs, chicken, pork, and tofu!

"Shipwreck" originally was a way of using up odds and ends in the fridge. The first iteration of the sauce was just that. I also had some chipolote ketchup and mesquite smoke on hand that I could throw in. I made up about half a cup of sauce which was great for ribs for two in the crock pot.

Then I thought about the odds and ends I had in my canning pantry that would be entering their second or third year on the shelf -- and I still had some remains of odds and ends in the fridge. And my husband said he wanted that sauce again on the next batch of ribs and he thought it would go great on chicken. So I put together 6 cups of sauce and canned it in 3 half-pints and 6 quarter-pints. The half-pints are ideal for the occasional 2-person crock pot meal in the winter. The half-pints are for company meals.

1 pint of spicy tomato sauce
1 pint of apple-rhubarb chutney (or another chutney)
1/2 pint of roasted red pepper spread
2 tablespoons cranberry mustard (or other mustard)
1/3 c orange marmalade

Combine the above in a deep bowl and blend with an immersion blender. You can also just do the chutney, marmalade, and mustard in a regular blender and combine with the two sauces in a bowl. Now taste. Need more spice? Add something like chipolote ketchup (which will add a small touch of sour). Need more sour? Add malt or apple cider vinegar. Like it smoky? Add any smoke flavoring you have on hand (one drop at a time! -- then retaste).

When you're satisfied with your blend, you'll probably have about 6 cups of sauce. Prepare your jars while slowly bringing the sauce to simmering boil. Fill jars, seal, and process for 10 minutes.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Last May Friday Forage

We've had more than two inches of rain over the last two days, with about an inch of it last night, so there were a lot of soggy newspapers set out for recycling.

With the uncertainty of the weather, I went out Thursday evening during a lull in the rain. I came back with a stack of plastic pots. I'll have enough now to give away rhubarb divisions in the fall or next spring (my original plant needs dividing again). I also found a closet pole and some galvanized round duct down the street.

Just drizzle is forecast for today and it was mild at seven this morning. I set out our recycling (a lot of soil and compost bags -- I think I'll be eliminating that over the next year; the stuff isn't the same quality as what I can get at the Ecology Garden bringing my own containers), then I set off with my grocery trolley.

I ended up doing a figure-eight route, dropping off one load at the house in the middle of it. I got: 2 10-liter water containers (excellent for emergency storage), 5 one-gallon or more kitty litter containers which will make excellent drip waterers for single plants or small areas around the garden, a rectangular planter with enclosing fiber box, a salad container which will make an excellent seedling greenhouse and a Mexican glass pitcher. The last item I was guided to by another forager out looking for wine bottles to turn in for deposit money. It had a crack across the bottom of it but it doesn't leak. It will make a fantastic planter for flowers (forget-me-nots will go well with its blue) on one of the decks, though I may use it for beverages first.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cleanliness is Next to...

Now that I've got my garden hose permanently on to a shut-off sprayer, I can clean my hands whenever I want. But it does use a lot of water and will often wet my jeans and feet as well as my hands. And the sprayer is close to the garden, but outside its fence and it's not close to the greenhouse at all.

So last week when I spotted a discarded laundry tub on the boulevard down the street, I had an "Aha!" moment and brought it home. I already had a spare pail with no lid kicking around as well as one of those large detergent containers with a push-button spout.

I shifted the potting table over to the edge of the cold frame behind it and had enough space to fit the laundry tub between it and the sage. The bucket has a good hand and fit nicely under the tub's outlet. I had previously rinsed out the spouted container so I filled it with water and put it on the potting table's edge so it hung over the sink. You just need a little water to rinse off the compost before grabbing the hoe again or whatever. I had a sprayer bottle as well that I could put in there for getting garden gunk off of tools or rough-clean vegetables. The used water can be cycled through the garden. The finishing touch was a sturdy stainless steel soap holder that I picked up at a yard sale the following Saturday for biodegradable soap when I've not resisted the urge to mess about the soil with my bare hands.

Now I did have a old bathroom sink hanging out by the sprayer hose. It'd come from the far back of the yard when I put in the shade garden. I decided to see if I could set it up by the greenhouse. The trick was elevating to the old machine part that was holding. I had a quartet of of 4x4 chunks and a couple of bricks that provided a stable base for it on either side of a square bucket. I nailed a horizontal support for the sink edge to the kayak shed which is opposite the greenhouse. The second detergent container still wasn't very stable, so I ran some covered wire through a piece of discarded hose to make a tether that held the back end of the container to the shed wall. The covered wire is easy to detach when I need to refill the container.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thoughts on "In Defense of Food"

This book by Michael Pollan follows up on his previous "The Omnivore's Dilemma". Basically he says that any of the world's myriad diets suffices for human health -- except the Western diet, with its emphasis on refined foods and not much diversity from wheat, corn and soy.

I like his rules for being sure you're getting real food in a store:
  • never buy anything with more than 5 ingredients in it (more than that and likely the manufacturer (not the farmer!) is replacing some of what they've refined out of it)
  • shop the outside perimeter of the store -- most of the manufactured stuff is in the center aisles of the store
  • never buy anything that makes a health claim (does the humble carrot make a health claim? -- not!)
  • get out of the supermarket whenever possible -- shop the farmers' market or your garden
  • don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food
  • avoid foods whose ingredients are unfamiliar or unpronouncable
  • avoid foods that include high-glucose corn syrup
I've been doing more and more of the above over the past ten years. I might have ten items on my pantry shelves that violate the ingredient rules.

I found out long ago that rearranging the food pyramid -- aim for ten servings of veggie/fruits a day, keep grains to five servings or less -- was the only way I could manage my weight and gain a feeling of well-being.

Variety is not only the spice of life, but it's the very stuff!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

To Screw or Not To Screw

They cost over $5 a pound and you need either a good arm and lots of patience or a strong powered screwdriver to put them in, but my hubby and I use wood screws in most of our wood construction, especially any framing.

When we close in pipes behind the shower, we make sure we can access them again. That means planning a structural piece that looks good in the finished room and securing it with screws. Because after you do the fix, you can screw it back in again, and don't have to worry about wrecking the look (or structural integrity) by yanking out nails to get in there again.

I've yanked out my share of nails when repurposing wood. It can be hard -- and dangerous -- work. That you can knock lots of nailed together things apart with a few strong whacks of a heavy hammer doesn't reassure you about the structural strength of things put together with nails.

Well, yesterday we decided to dismantle one of the two horsehoe pits we don't use. Out came the 18V cordless screwdriver and out came the screws. Only two were bent; the rest went into the screw box for that size. An hour later we had 4 6 foot 2x 6s, 4 corner posts, a 2 foot length of rebar, half a cubic yard of sand on and under the tarp cover by the garden fence and the area reseeded to clover.

Yeah, we'll just keep screwing around.

Market Day and the Great Gilmore Garage Sale

Every Saturday (all year long!) is farmers' market day here. From mid-October to May they hold it inside a big building. During the nice months it takes up most of the parking lot just outside the building.

Some of the lovely things you can buy there:
  • veggies, veggies, and more veggies (a lot of them organic)
  • brown eggs, white eggs
  • emu meat and oil
  • buffalo meat
  • organic beef
  • pork
  • cheese (cow and goat)
  • locally roasted and ground coffee
  • locally made goats' milk soap
  • baked goods and ethnic foods
  • crafts: pottery, wood, jewelry, knitting
  • sprouts
  • lamb
  • fruits
  • mushrooms (sometimes up to 5 different kinds)
  • sweet potato fries (from local sweet potatoes -- yes, you can grow them in southern Ontario)
  • apples, apples. and more apples (and cider from them in the fall and winter)
  • and right now plants of all sorts are everywhere
They also have a much smaller scale market in the downtown on Wednesday mornings during the outdoor months.

A more recent tradition is the Great Gilmour St. Yard Sale on the fourth Saturday of May (so it usually falls on the weekend after the long weekend). Gilmour Street is in one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. For two city blocks and little bit, the majority of yards are selling their own things or things for some non-profit group. Parking or driving on the street is impossible while the sale is going on. You simply park one or two blocks away. I did so and went out on the street with my grocery trolley.

An hour and half and $3.75 (CDN) later I had:
  • a leather satchel big enough for legal size papers with lock and key
  • a good wire strainer
  • a meat thermometer (for the future solar cooker!)
  • 2 stainless steel magnetic clips to hold memos or drying plastic bags on the fridge
  • a long magnetic knife holder, which may be strong enough to hold tools in the shop
  • a good-sized piano hinge
  • a sturdy stainless steel soap holder, ideal for my garden hand-washing station
  • 3 pint canning jars (with rings and lids)
  • 15 half-pint canning jars (with rings and lids)
  • 4 quarter-pint canning jars (with rings and lids)
  • an aluminum pot big enough to hold most of the jars with lid. It's a good size for blanching and scalding things. It has a bail handle and grab handle on the back edge -- great for pouring out water.
I don't think I'll have to buy any more canning jars this year. Usually I get a few to take care of those that leave the house as gifts.

I was parked near the bulk food store I usually patronize, so I decided to take one of my jars in and get baking yeast. I could only get it in the usual plastic container or take the whole pound in the original packaging. I'm baking bread often enough now that I decided to stock up and got the full package.

I decided I might as well get the supplies I need for cherry melomel which I'll be making in the next month, so I went into the wine shop next to my parking spot to get wine yeast, pectic enzyme, and another fermentation lock.

Then it was off to a book discussion group with a brown bag lunch.

I stopped at another yard sale on my way home. I got two sturdy cart wheels for $2 and a couple of ornately cut hardboard screens for another $2 which I could put together with my piano hinge for a nice room divider. Serendipidy!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Forage

Friday is garbage/recyclables/green waste collection day in my neighborhood. This past weekend was the May holiday weekend in Canada and the traditional start of gardening, though there are a lot of folks like me who start earlier. Plastic plant pots are accepted as a recyclable here and I was hoping to intercept some for reuse, so I went for a walk around my block with my grocery tote cart. Jackpot! I came back with 24 small pots and 5 trays for holding them and the water that spills out the bottom when you water them. They went into the greenhouse. I also got a couple of 2 liter pop bottles to use as waterers or upside down planters. I also got some lengths of one foot wide 1/8" green plastic mesh. This is sturdy stuff that will be effective barriers to keep cats out of planters and squirrels off of beds.

The successful foraging revved me up to actually reuse some of the things I've accumulated for reuse. I set up a 2 gallon container with a push-button nozzle that formerly held detergent to hang over a reused laundry sink with a reused bucket under its outlet as a quick, easy, water-economical hand-washing station in the garden. Using the spray nozzle on the hose is wasteful overkill for hand-washing, though that nozzle will be great for rough cleaning root vegetable before taking them into the house. The bucket underneath means that the soil-laden (as in organic gardening residue) water can be reused to water the garden or shrubs.

The bucket under the laundry sink had been used for wood scraps in the shop, so I needed a replacement for that. Some 5 gallon containers that I filled with water after painting them black to use as a heat sink in the greenhouse had gone bust, so I cut the top off one to use it as a waste bin. I even reused the handle from the container's top by wiring it to the bin's side with a scrap wire tire lying on the shop floor.

I have a small tray of pegboard hooks of various types and sizes in the shop. Currently what pegboard I have is populated with these to my liking. I was looking, however, for a better way to hang some of our outdoor/garden decor. I have a clay angel face I would love to have on my garden shed door. The shed is made of double layerRubbermaid plastic. How to hang it? I got out my cordless drill and put a single hole in the outside plastic layer. In went a pegboard hook and now I have a wind-resistent way to hang my angel face. I found the hooks also fit into the holes in my T-bar pots that I use for fencing and trellis. A colorful Mexican sun now graces the corner of the fence. A hole big enough to hold a hook doesn't effect the soundness of aluminum siding, so the large enameled metal sun we got on our last trip to the Southwest is now hanging on the wall facing the deck.