Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Preparations and Some Feathery Visitors

We love our feathery friends. The male grosbeak was quite co-operative posing for the photo.
 The female--yellow head, was playing coy in all the shots.
 The male again.  These large birds are members of the Finches.  They look like Common Redpolls on steroids.
 Traditional Shortbread Cookies.
 Austrian tradition "Vanillekipferl"=vanilla crescents.  A hazelnut shortbread made into crescent shapes, dusted with vanilla sugar and icing sugar.
 Pound cakes, cherry cake on the left, baking jellies on the right.

Honey cookies--these have to mellow and soften for a couple of weeks.
Almond Roca, not cut (or broken) into pieces yet.

This is only the beginning.  I put away the Poppy Seed Sugar Cookies already, as well as ginger snaps, a new recipe for cardamom shortbread that I hope improves with age (they are only ok right now--not great).
There is still lots on the baking agenda.  If I could send you the aromas I would do that.

The other blog has the story of a tree-raising.  Drop over.

Something messed with the formatting.  Don't have time to fix: sorry :((

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tomatoes Goodbye, Christmas Baking, Hello

Yesterday I finished the last tomatoes, just peeled them and stuck them in the freezer--2 pkg of 3+ lbs.  They look so pretty against my new countertop (or is it the countertop that looks pretty next to the tomatoes?)
I just finished placing all the orders for the 2013 greenhouse season:  trees and shrubs, strawberries, perennials, all different colors of raspberries:  red, purple, black (I didn't want any yellow ones because I don't have the room, and nutritionally, when it comes to berries, the darker, the healthier.  I ordered a different Haskap pollinator, so we should have a lot of good production in that patch.

I also ordered the cutting materials:  geraniums, Martha Washingtons, pot stuffers, hanging basket plants, spikes, grasses.......................

And lots of seeds. I am trying Sophistica Lime petunias and a black petunia from seed (but ordered black plants just to be safe).

I was happy to get nice black square patio pots in many sizes, and one style that still comes in green.  I, personally, don't like terra cotta and sand-colored pots--I don't think they show off the plants.  I love black pots and green pots, especially when the green get older and get a verdi-gris appearance.

This week I have a big pumpkin to bake.  I don't need a big pumpkin right now, but it's just right in the ripeness department, so I'll bake and mash it and freeze it in recipe-size portions.  Can't wait for some muffins.

As I posted earlier on, we had a lot of squashes, so I will share my recipe for squash soup with you.  We like it best with butternut squash, but since I didn't get any of those from the garden, but lots of acorn squashes, I bought a butternut and added an acorn and it's good.  If you look at the picture of the Dill Pickle soup, it looks much the same.

Squash Soup

2 or 3 squash, grated (I use about 1/2-3/4 of my 7-qt. dutch oven full)
5 cloves garlic, minced (or more)
1 large onion, chopped
4Tbs. butter (I use non-hydrog margarine or oil)
1/16 to 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (we like the hot end)
1/2 to 3/4 tsp curry powder (I use the higher end)
1 box low-sodium chicken broth
half and half cream (I use a can of 2% evap. milk)

Melt butter, add shredded squash, garlic and onion.  Heat until soft.  Add enough chicken broth to cover (if the box of broth doesn't do it, I add water)  Add cayenne pepper and curry powder.  Simmer till everything is tender.  Blend in blender (I use the Vita-Mix).  Return to heat and add cream or milk.  Do not boil after cream/milk is added.

I really chilled my green thumb today.  I must admit I had a real mess in the Living Room with all my knitting works in progress and a few others spread out all over.  Kubota Man is showing signs of allergies, which means I have to be a neater housekeeper, particularly dusting.  We are planning on removing the rugs and weighing the pros and cons of alternates.  In the meantime, I did a real good cleaning job.  
I plan on doing Christmas cards this weekend--and couldn't find the address book--which I used a couple of weeks ago to phone my siblings to update them of Mom's declining health.  We spent a week with stuff all over because the new counter tops were installed.  After all the cabinet contents were replaced, and the living room was thoroughly  cleaned, there was no sign of the address book.
Then I had a bright idea!!  I bet it fell into my wastebasket in the living room, right beside me where I drop snipped ends.  But KM had already taken the garbage out to the big trailer.  So that's how I chilled my green thumb.  Took out a bucket of vegetable trimmings to the compost pile, snapped some photos of hoarfrost, and climbed in the trailer to look for the address book.  It WAS there.

It's really not Santa's fault.  It's that Christmas baking that I'll be doing next week.  It's not even the baking's fault--it's my EATING the baking.
Pop on over to my other blog to catch up with my Christmas knitting and the new countertop.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

As "Canadian" as Mom's Apple Pie

We got two boxes and a couple of pails of late apples.  So, not to waste, I decided I'd better start sorting them and use up the less-than-perfect ones that won't keep.  So here is my day's effort:  Nutritious Apple crisp--reduced in sugar and minimal butter in the oatmeal crust, and heavy on the cinnamon.
And 6 apple pies--I don't think I ever in my whole life made 6 pies in one sitting.  I used Splenda on the apples, heavy on the cinnamon, and just the teeniest dabs of butter on the apples.
Of course, we can't waste that leftover pie crust, so we must make butter tarts.  there is absolutely nothing redeeming (in a healthy sense) in these.
I also need to pat myself on the back, because all the seed orders are done, and the orders for started plants.  We will be getting black petunias and their yellow/black, pink/black counterparts.  Some lovely new shades of Calibrachaoa (Million Bells) and a whole lot of other fun stuff.
Now it's Christmas knitting time.  You can keep up with this Here.

My green thumb efforts have been to save tomato seeds from an heritage variety "Brookpact", for whom we can't buy seeds any more, as well as remembering to water the few plants I brought in for stock plants--orange mint, peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, English mint, Spanish Lavender, Cuban Oregano, Stinky Plant (aka Scat plant, Skunk Plant), which is reported to keep cats out of flower beds, Perilla, French tarragon, Creeping Rosemary and Upright Rosemary.

Till next time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dill Pickle Soup

Right in the middle on the leaf that is the shiniest--a reward!!  I really neglect my house plants.  I don't really like these Christmas cacti, but they are my mom's, who really loved them.  I am keeping 4 pots for her, but she is in a Nursing Home and doesn't even remember her cacti or her home, so I sort of take care of them.  Now these plants are so grateful--and they don't know that they are Christmas cacti, because every time they get neglected to the point of looking sickly, and I feel bad and water them, (regardless of what time of year), they reward me with a huge flush of blossoms:  white, red, orange, fuchsia pink.  Then I remember the mom I used to know.......

I invited the neighbors over for lunch, and since she is an incredible cook, I wanted to make something that she has not likely cooked, that tastes really good, so I made Dill Pickle Soup  You might say:  Yukk!!  Argh!!  Dill Pickle Soup?
There is a story behind this.  A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to a church-related all-day meeting in Wetaskiwin.  Lunch was catered by a restaurant, and I was intrigued by this soup--but they wouldn't give out the recipe, so I had to play with veggies and dill pickles till I got something similar.  Here it is:
OK, so this picture doesn't stimulate the olfactory nerves one bit, and it could be any kind of soup.  So here is how it goes, for the brave and curious.

Dill Pickle Soup
This is not exactly a measured recipe.  It's how grandmas used to cook--by tasting.  I'll give the numbers of my first pot, which was about 3/4 of a dutch oven full--enough for two lumberjacks to eat and two cupfuls for lunch the next day.

4 med. potatoes in chunks
2 carrots sliced
1 onion chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
a stalk of celery
1 large or 2 smaller dill pickles chopped, also chop the dill weed from the jar and the pickled garlic from the jar  (do storebought pickles even have garlic and dillweed?)
Ground black pepper
Chili pepper flakes (according to your hot taste) 
1 box of low-sodium chicken broth and 2 c. water
1 can evaporated milk (I use 2%)
Fresh dill, finely chopped according to taste (or frozen or dried)
Juice from dill pickle jar
Put a couple of Tbs of oil in the pot,  cook garlic and onions till onions are clear or golden.  Add potatoes, carrots, celery  and spices, fry gently till all is coated.  Add the broth and water, the dill and garlic and chopped dill pickles and the garlic and dill weed from the jar.  Bring to the boil and simmer till the potatoes and carrots are soft.  Blend in blender--may have to do in batches.  Add a bit of water if it is too thick.  Return to pot, add chopped fresh dill, taste, add dill pickle juice to taste.  Simmer a bit longer.  Add the whole can of milk--do not boil any more after the milk is added, simmer a bit, taste, add more pickle juice and more dill if needed.  Add salt to taste (I don't add salt).

I've made this twice so far, each time it was a bit different, but really good.

I will definitely be putting more dill weed in the jars from now on.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Thank God for a Bountiful Harvest

 This is that peek into the cold room.  Pickles tomatoes, squashes, pumpkins.  We had a great tomato crop this year--9 big boxes of green tomatoes came in green just before the big frost on Oct. 5th.  From the first pick-over I froze about 49 pounds (12 pkg of 4+lbs each) and have already canned 21 quarts (some of the above picture are still from last year).

 21 clean jars
waiting for these tomatoes to fill them tomorrow.  Now there are only two boxesful of green tomatoes left.

I also cleaned up all the leeks, which we love for soup.
These, along with fresh celery from the garden were chopped and sautéed with a bit of margarine to make a soup concentrate, which gets frozen, then I only have to add potatoes, broth and milk in the deep cold winter.  I did the same with celery alone, for celery soup.
Harvested some pretty kale, red and green, made a recipe of our favorite Kale and Chickpea Soup.  The remainder will be blanched and frozen.  I also got about 4 meals of brussels sprouts.

Our late apple tree gave us two large boxes of lovely apples.  I told Kubota Man that I would bake pies and pastry with the blemished ones, and keep the sound ones for fresh eating--he indicated a wish that there  be lots of blemished apples.
And a couple more peeks at our bountiful harvest:
Onions:  Walla Walla, Ailsa Craig (similar to Kelsae), Candy, White Sweet Spanish, and Red.  I rarely buy onions, sometimes in April and May.  These are 5-gallon pots.

Our potatoes:  Sangre, Red Norland, Kennebec, Yukon Gold and Russet.  Also lots of Squashes.
This is Kubota Man on the--you guessed it--the Kubota, rototilling my new patch, where I planted 16 Saskatoon bushes and 28 Haskap (Honeyberries), as well as where I will plant a new raspberry patch next year.

I'm  really busy now with seed orders, plant orders and shrub orders.  The soil-less mix for the greenhouse was delivered last week, and Kubota Man has already got most of it in the greenhouse.  I haven't taken inventory for pots and supplies--need to get on that.

The garden is all cleaned and rototillled.  Tomorrow it's tomato canning and if there is any daylight left I'll clean a couple of flower beds and the flower pots on the deck, and get them stored away.  I hope our nice fall weather stays a while.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

To Squash or not to Squash

I love zucchini.  The bigger the better.  I love zucchini baking:  Lemon Poppy seed loaves, spice cake, chocolate cake.  I like them stuffed with ground beef, and fried like green tomatoes.  I want to try zucchini lasagna.  Well, DH doesn't like them stuffed (too watery, even though I baked them first).  So when I found a few baby acorn squashes and picked them to allow the bigger ones to mature, I wondered if I dared cook them after the stuffed zucchini effort.  I took off some of the peel, scooped out some of the seeds, cut them into 1" pieces, and sauteed them in light margarine with LOTS of pepper.  He loved these.
Mother Nature sure has it figured out, with our help, to get from this:
 to this:
 to this
 Our one and only pumpkin, but since it's about 20 lbs, that's probably plenty.  Do you see potential Pumpkin Cheesecake here?  (a close cousin to the squashes).
 We have a bounty of Acorn Squashes, but not one Butternut.
 And at least a dozen Spaghetti squashes.  These will go well with sauce from our bounteous tomato crop.
May I interest you in some free Zucchini?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Who needs a rain dance when I have Round-Up?

Kubota Man set up the little old garden tractor and the estate sprayer with a 25 gallon tank:  I was declaring war on weeds.  Round-Up and a spray wand are my weapons!
I was underambitious, since I told him to mix up 10 gallons of solution--that got me halfway through the new saskatoon/haskap/currant/gooseberry/jostaberry/raspberry patch.  So I mixed up 25 gallons, did a strip alongside the greenhouse and finished the big patch--and it looks like rain.  Hope it holds off for a couple of hours.  That was a lot easier than carrying and pumping by hand.
Next time it will be neglected flower beds--but I will have to dress up the shrubs and perennials in pails and plastic garbage bags.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

More Giant Tomatoes

On the other blog I showed you a giant tomato--2 lbs 3 oz.  A couple of days later, I found some more--not quite as gargantuan, but nothing to sneeze at:
 The dark red one is the 2 lb 3 oz one--that's a 2 lb margarine tub behind it.  The left-most one is 25 oz (1 lb 9 oz), the light one in front of the margarine tub is 1 lb 8 oz. and the smallest one to the right is "only" 15 oz.  These all came from the Supersteak plants.  The biggest one, along with a sweet onion made a whole bowl of salad.  The second-largest was a gift to my neighbor, and the smallest one went into sandwiches.
A glimpse toward the garden from the deck.  The Hyperion daylilies are so stunning.  That's an 8'tall rose bush "Rosarie de L'Haie" between and just behind them.

I should gather the onions whose tops have fallen over or dried up (did you know that if you bend over onion necks you are inviting disease into the neck and they won't keep very long, but if they naturally fall over, then that is better).  It sure works.  My friend, when she gets tired of the garden and wants to clean up, bends the onions, and by November they are taken to the dump because they are rotten.  My onions last till they are used up--I usually have to buy onions in June just before we can start harvesting green onions from the garden.  That's how long ours last if we don't use them up.  My favorite onion varieties are (listed in the order of their keeping qualities--first are poorest keepers, last are longest in our storage conditions)  Walla Walla, Kelsae Sweet Giant, Candy, White Sweet Spanish, Red.  I don't like the taste of onions from sets.  Our onions are planted from plants started in the greenhouse.  I use up all the ones that didn't have the full count because the cats lay on them or they didn't germinate well.

Last year the garden flooded, and I thought the onions drowned, but as soon as I pumped the garden and it dried, the onions started growing again--they weren't as big as usual, but we still had onions until February.
  If my knee allows, tomorrow I will edge and cut the weeds out of an out-of-control flower bed, where I want to plant rhubarb and herbs. The grass and clover and poplar suckers are so big that I will just cut them and feed them to the sheep, then when they start to re-grow, I will use Round-up.  As soon as Kubota Man repairs the lawn tractor I can hitch up the sprayer and Round-up all around the farm:  a new high-bush blueberry patch, a new Saskatoon and Haskap berry patch, and a very neglected old raspberry patch and an old strawberry patch.  Also a row where we will plant several more cherry bushes.  I already cut the weeds out of three other flower beds, and the re-growth is just ready for a feed of Round-up.
I'm just debating if I should plant 6-8 grape vines on the south side of the garage--Kubota Man says he approves if I think I'll have time to look after them.  I really want to, but have to do a serious reality check first.  I really want the grape vines--we get such nice grapes (blue ones) on the vines that are left over in the nursery.  And I love grape jam and jelly..........(stop, take a reality break).

A little later on in the season, I will hitch up the 12" auger to the tractor and plant some more trees and shrubs--the ones I planted in late Sept or Oct last year all took except for one tree and one shrub--not bad out of a total of 24 plants. 

Have a great Labor Day Weekend.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Parade of Favorites

Now that my all-time favorite flowers, the daylilies have been revealed (again--I just realized I did that some years ago), here are some more lovelies--be patient with me if this has been done before, but these are THIS YEAR'S:

 Dragon Wing Red begonias,
 Eryngium (sea holly), the most incredible metallic blue,
 Heliotrope (heavenly scent) and Black Pearl ornamental pepper,
 Poor Man's Orchid, pale shade (aka Himalayan Impatiens), related to Jewel Weed.  When ripe, the seed pods explode.
 Center, Joe Pye, to the left, just behind--Sedum Matrona,
 Lychnis Coronaria--the picture doesn't do justice to the deep, rich magenta color of this flower on silver, velvety leaves,
 Pinky Winky Hydrangea--this flower will slowly turn darker and darker pink,
 Another Poor Man's Orchid, darker rose shade,
 Purple Emperor Sedum--leaves almost black,
 Tidal Wave Petunias,
 Yellow Monkshood,
 Ricinus (Castor Bean)--why I don't have moles or gophers in the garden,
This lovely 10-year old Ohio Buckeye (chestnut) drowned in last year's wet weather.  Will have to dig it out and replace it, and hope we don't get flooded again.  Below it to the right--Haskap (honeyberry) bushes.  Wonderful blue tubular berries that taste just like blueberries, very early and very prolific.  We are starting a big patch of these as soon as the weeds there are sprayed.  The lovely little white spot below the tree is Sparky, and the black spot between Sparky and the truck is Dazey.  They are my favorite dogs in the world.

It is really raining today, so tomorrow is not a gardening day--it will be a laundry and reno day--maybe I'll get the bathroom downstairs finished--this report will be on my other blog.  If you haven't visited there yet, you are welcome there, too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How can you tell that these flowers are my favorite?

 This post will tell you.  I am sorry to say that I have no room for more new daylilies (Hemerocallis).  I love these flowers.  They grow under neglect, are relatively pest-free (unless a colony of ants takes a liking to one), most are not invasive (there are some that walk in the flower bed, but most just keep a tidy clump), and they can be divided any time of the year (although I try not to disturb them while blooming).  They are also good neighbors to most other plants.  I have them in sun and part shade, but haven't tried them in shade-something with that many flowers seems to want lots of  sunlight.                                                                       Flava--wonderfully scented flowers on tall, thin stems (that's the one above--formatting is also not a strength I possess).

 Frans Hals--when the flowers first open, the orange/yellow contrast is much stronger.
                                           Hyperion.  Huge flowers.
                                          Canadian Border Patrol
                                          Strawberry Candy

                                          Red Stella
                                          Summer Wine

I also have tons of Stella d'Oro, a white one with a center ring, and apricot double-flowered one, and a few others that have finished blooming.  Some I've had so long I forgot the names.  This incompetent photographer doesn't have the know-how to set the camera, so the subtle color differences are more obvious. The un-named red ones are all different, distinct shades.

I just realized that I don't have a pure white one, nor a mauve one.  Must check out the spring catalogue and do something about that.  Which weeds will have to die to make room for these?  quackgrass?  dandelions?  clover?