le jardin en juin

it’s been a while since my last post…

over the past two years i’ve been working on a new “step” garden down the north side of the drive, it’s not completed, but it has been planted and needs only the caps along the stone wall to finish it.

as you’ll see i was liberal with the poppy seeds that pop up all over my garden, front and back. i’ve spread the poppy and other seeds along forest edge adjacent to our property as well as any plants that need thinning out. june, and maybe july are the best month for colour here in Hope, i’m still trying to find late summer bloomers but not sure which will be best for our changing clime.

a few photos from the front and back flower gardens: https://flic.kr/s/aHskX2QSuH

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seeing red! …roasted tomato sauce

the beginning of fall and the last of the tomatoes (about 10 kg) from my garden are ready for sauce. this is the second batch we’ve processed in the last couple of weeks, much to my surprise as i only grew 10 plants this year (we bought another 24 kg for canning).

my friend sheila, another avid gardener on vancouver island, shared her sauce recipe with me 2 years back and it’s definitely a keeper in our house!

with small embellishments here is sheila’s recipe for perfect tomato sauce.

“I have used this recipe for years and it never fails. I usually make it in the
summer as we have a vegetable garden and always end up with too many
tomatoes, I then make in batches, for the freezer. I use a lot of garlic in this
recipe but that’s because we love it and the garlic sweetens in the roasting
process. I have strained the sauce at times to remove the seeds. Though most
people don’t mind tomato seeds.

ingredients:

  • 2 lbs large tomatoes (i do a large tray on the bbq, about 4 lbs or 2 kg*)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning (i use a tablespoon full*)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (1 for the tray and one to drizzle over the tomatoes*)

putting it together:
Preheat the oven/grill to 400°f. 205°c.
Slice tomatoes in half, set aside. (i give them a squeeze to get out some seeds and juice*)
Pour the olive oil onto a large baking sheet and spread it around the sheet.
Sprinkle evenly the garlic, herbs, sugar, salt and pepper over the oil.
Place the tomatoes cut side down onto the baking sheet (optional: add sliced peppers on top and drizzle with olive oil)  shake the italian herb mixture over the lot*)
Roast for about 30-40 minutes, or until the skins start to lift from the tomatoes. (i roast mine for about an hour until they are just getting dark caramelising on top*)
Allow to cool.
Remove the skins and put the sauce into a large bowl and break up the flesh with a fork. (…we invested in an italian tomato mill to process the mixture, it removes the skin and seeds quickly*)

Reheat sauce if using immediately.

sheila’s comments:
I’ve been making this sauce and freezing it sucessfully for several years. (we bag ours in ziploc bags for freezing*) I press it in a mill to remove the seeds and skins once it has cooled. I have discovered that salt takes away the bitterness. I know some suggest sugar but salt works too.

“It’s good if you roast a tray of sweet peppers with a tray of tomatoes and combine them. Roasting reduces the water content so you get a more intense tomato taste.
No stirring. I use parchment paper on the baking sheets.”

* ◊ my variations

home-grownseasoninggoodatxmas onthegrillitaliantomatomill reward

this morning in the garden…

we’re ahead of schedule with almost everything. the fennel has overgrown and new seedling are planted, beets and greens ready for canning and soon the tomatoes. this morning we picked 5 kilo of tomatoes and figure we’ll have about 35 or 40 kilo by the time we’re done. I’ve pulled all the second batch of onions and all the garlic for drying, also digging up potatoes as needed. a second crop of green and yellow bush bean went in a few days back as we harvest the bounty of the first crop. peppers, cucumbers and zucchini are overflowing….how to get it all dried, canned or frozen in time! my turnips are ready and a second crop planted as is another crop of beets. remarkable what a handful of seeds will produce.

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spring planting

will it or will it not…stay this warm for another month? a big question as i’ve planted some cool weather crops: potatoes (red pontiac and yukon gold,) onions sets, peas and some lettuce in the greenhouse. i’ve also stuck some chard seeds in the ground, hoping for the best.

indoors, under lights, i have a robust crop of bush tomatoes, peppers, parsnips and cress with some lettuce. if the weather holds i’ll be able to move them to the greenhouse in early april.

last years planting of garlic is looking good, however the leaf tips are yellow and i’m not sure what the cause is.

the rest of the veggie garden has been dug over but i’ll do one more dig to work last falls mulch in a little deeper before planting more seeds.

as for the flower beds…a bit of weeding and a lot of anticipation as to what did or did not survive the ice storm. right now my lavendar and sage plants are looking the worse for wear. the tulips are in full leaf and the daffodils are coming into bloom.
beds

unique bird house

recently i posted on my facebook page about the generosity of neighbours. this has been an ongoing theme for us since moving to hope, three years ago this month. Randy, a local carver has been exceptionally generous. in the last two weeks an early easter bunny arrived mysteriously on the doorstep; he’s since migrated to the pond, but is still looking for a permanent home. yesterday, i asked a favour, looking for a small round of wood to add to a birdhouse i was working on….a few hours later i got my round, and a whole lot more! i think I’m safe in saying i may have one of the most unique birdhouses anywhere.

all i had to do was cut the opening in the mouth and assemble the pieces!

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birdh1

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mememe

chickens…not in my back yard!

i bought 5 layer chicks in march or 2014 and gave myself a year to try out backyard livestock, however after 10 months it was time to cut the experiment short. the birds were easy and provided an abundance of eggs, too many in fact (or not, if you are one of our neighbours.) in hindsight i think 3 hens would have been plenty.

there is no denying that fresh laid eggs are the best! i might also add that home-grown chickens soon become another pet and are fun to have around with their constant banter and attractive plumage.

the reasons for ending the experiment are three-fold:

cost to maintain – break even or loss for feed, bedding and other supplies vs. value of eggs. i can buy fresh, free range eggs locally at a competitive price.

maintenance – as an avid gardener i looked forward to the “free” fertilizer i would get from the chickens. alas, there was much more than i bargained for. the volume was overwhelming my compost with the mixture of dropping and the shavings that i used for the coop floor. it did not help that my water system popped and flooded the coop, adding to the chore.

nuisances – rodents! in a short time i had rats even though i was diligent in storing feed and cleaning the area. within a two week period i trapped 5 large rats and discovered a nest in my garden with 5 young ones. since shipping the chickens off i have had no further signs of rats or even mice. the second nuisance was odour! and this i blame on both the volume of wast and the size of my yard. i believe it is best to have a fairly large property if you are going to raise chickens, ideally large enough to move the coop, run and compost well away from your residence. unfortunately the coop was a mere 8 metres from the house and the compost even closer!

finally, commitment. unless you have very obliging neighbours or friends you are pretty much committed to staying home year round. it is critical that the birds be fed and watered routinely and that a safe environment is available, which entails letting them out in the morning and locking them up at night.

the chickens, should you be concerned, were sold to a pleasant woman who has a five acre free range operation not far from where i live. i suspect the chickens are much happier with so many friends and more space than i could ever give them.

next task, take down the coop and run and create another garden for more vegetable…i’m sure it will be productive as it will have been well fertilized.

chicken

pineapple express

we’ve had mild weather for the last few days, so mild, that all traces of winter have disappeared. it’s 7 a.m. and 11 degrees, about the same as a june morning.
i suppose it is natures nudge that i should tidy the greenhouse and ready things for seeding in 2 or 3 weeks. i also need to tear down the chicken coop and run, i sold the chickens (another post soon)! and prepare a new garden. my plan is to put some peas in for the first year, where the chickens once roamed, it should give the ground a good start as a new garden.

my goldfish are doing just fine…it seems i’ve only lost one since last year and that was to a pesky raccoon. i’m amazed at how quickly they come out of their dormancy, once the air temperature reaches 5 or more degrees, there is always the odd swimmer exploring the pond.

the raised beds need turning and the forecast is for sunny days next week…ah, it feels good to get back to the garden, even if only for a few days before the next frost or snow!

orchid
tropical weather and gifts that delight

jamming…

it has been a number or years since we last tried to can anything; so cross your fingers.

using small yellow plums from our neighbours and blueberries bought on the cheap from a local farmer we charged ahead starting early this morning…it’s now  11:30 a.m. and we’re done!

to beat the heat we used an outside burner which quickly heated up the canner and helped keep the house somewhat cooler.  it is now 26 C outside and getting hotter so glad to be back indoors.

canning is a messier process than i remembered  but the smells were awesome.  using 2 kilo of plums and 2 litre of blueberries we ended  up with 3 jars of each and some foam and plum left over to pour over ice cream tonight.   we used no sugar pectin…but added a 1.5 cups of sugar to each batch to add a bit more sweetness.   the jars are sitting in the shade and will stay there for 24 hours before going onto the shelf.

p.s. my one oversight was failing to stir the jar to remove air before sealing.  what are the risks of missing this step?

viola ready plum-blueberry canner

onions…

onions14 …and lots of them.  i pulled all the storage onions along with the few remaining spanish onions.  after letting them sit on top of the soil for a couple of days, i built a drying rack from salvaged 2×4’s and chicken wire.  later i’ll re-purpose the rack as a grazing frame for the chickens, so they’ll have a regular supply of greens and won’t be able to pull out the roots.

if anyone knows more about red onions and their growing habits i’d like to hear.  i planted the sets at the same time as the others, however they are no bigger than shallots.  they are firm and are great for roasting or chopping up into salads but far too small.

my garlic are dried and going into storage.