Friday, August 29, 2014


::Tomato Sauce, and seed saving (this is how I save tomato seeds- squished out on a paper towel and left to dry- works great- and easy labeling to boot)
:: Birthday cakes were made and eaten, devils food cake for her, chocolate hazelnut tart for me
:: Playmobil birthday gifts- she loves them, they are super cool.
:: Late summer rains- where were you weeks ago?
::Cowboy boots and coffee ( the baby loves coffee- she has sips of my decaf all the time, and sometimes even has her own coffee- milk in a mug with a drop or two of decaf in it- just for the flavour- what a kid)
:: Water park play from weeks ago- squeals of delight
:: Roasted beets for the birthday girl's pink pasta, and 16, half cup size pucks of roasted beet puree frozen for the freezer.
:: A short lived helium birthday balloon, it was much loved, but she put it outside, "I had to do it, Mom" she says "the cats were trying to get it, I had to do it". Now we imagine where it is - bumping into a satellite- reaching the moon, landing on an alien planet.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

In the garden August 28

It's high summer here now- and a little fall-ish too- just like that, the mornings are cool, and the breeze is a bit chilly, we're seeking out sweaters. The garden is growing, and ready to harvest- there are rows that we'll to put to bed soon. This is the time to remember all the things that didn't work out- to take notes for next year's garden.

The barley is ready to be harvested, the onions pulled- the potatoes need to be dug- the beets even, are ready to pull. I have to figure out if I care enough about the lentils to pick off the teeny tiny pods and then..oh them. The beans are drying down and almost ready to pick- I'll have to find the planting sheet (usually scribbled on a random piece of dirt stained paper) so I know what's what out there.

The Eggplant is a no-show again this year- should I give up? Next year I will try Chinese style eggplant the long thin ones- and give up my dreams of the big fat dark purple fruits. At least until the kids are older,(I'm much too stubborn to give up altogether) and I can go to the trouble of hand-pollinating and possibly greenhouse-ing them- I think heat is the problem this year- not enough- or something, It's getting weird with the eggplant not producing three years in a row, I mean, what the F, any ideas?

I'm getting my last cuts for drying in- sage, calendula, dill, savory, oregano. I'm also starting to think about cuttings for next year's garden- looking for an- all natural homemade rooting hormone recipe, a cursory google search suggests saliva...I'm doubtful...). The tomatoes are still coming in- but the problem is we thought that we'd plant less of each type- ten each of saucing varities, five each of drying, which in theory should work well- if all the tomatoes ripened at the same time, but the truth is- they don't, and it's hard to make a batch of dry tomatoes, or sauce for the freezer with four ripe ones. I'm going to try pulling all the large green ones off, and letting them ripen inside to hopefully make it easier to make sauce etc.

The smaller numbers of plants are working well for the fresh eating type ones, we've got enough for a couple every day and we're not feeling the pressure to eat tomatoes at every meal- though sometimes we do anyhow. The only downside is that we won't have a lot to give away, en masse, as we usually do, until the frost comes anyhow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Dressed up to go to Library, I don't even think the Librarian noticed her clip-on tie...
Oh my goodness, where does the time go? As the five year old herself would say "Wowzers", I'm not going to say that it seems like yesterday that we brought this tiny (or not so tiny Ten pounds! holy heck girl- I was HUGE!) bundle of baby home, or that it 'flew by'- because I remember how long these days sometimes feel, and just how much work it's takes to help a person along in these early years, so. much. work. But there's something magical happening these days as four turns into five...self reliance is blooming.

N is old enough to play outside on her own- reliably keeping out of trouble (mostly). She's got all sorts of skills, skills that I've (mostly) taught her, some days I just boggle that this person is about to go out in the world without me (kindergarten), and she'll be okay (mostly). I've done something right!- even if that thing is as small seeing her wash her hands without being prompted (mostly) after she uses the toilet.

But more than all that she is shaping up to be a wonderful person, kind and generous to her sister, hospitable and friendly to guests, thoughtful in a way that is so grown up I can barely believe it. She can wash dishes, vacuum with the swiffer, dust and set the table, she helps fold laundry, writes the entire alphabet, can spell her name, 'Mom', 'Love', and 'zoo'. She charms the cats of the house- even when she dresses them up, they let her get away with crap no one else would (though she's got a teeny tiny scar on her eyelid courtesy of Nelson- it adds character). She's smart, curious, unique, creative, wild, sweet, funny, and so precious, and precocious. She's a wild one in the best sense of the word.

I love...
... that she is so animated, that you can hardly get a photo of her with her face still.
...that she uses 'Romantic" as an adjective for everything good, as in "Don't you think that tastes romantical?"
...that she doesn't shy away from asking any questions, at all, anytime, and if I don't know the answer she thinks we need to 'ask the computer'.
...that she is honest with her emotions,and feels deeply, sometimes embarrassingly, loudly,over the top dramatically, deeply.
...that she has a creative soul, and a caring soul, and an exuberant soul.

I am so lucky to have this girl in my life, she teaches me all sorts of things, about myself and life and her too. Happy Birthday my girl, I hope you have some of things you wish for, and everything you need.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Inspiration: Henrietta Mabel May

Mabel May, Indian Woman, Oka, 1972 (source)
Mabel May (1877-1971), studied with William Brymner in Montreal. She was a founding member of the Beaver Hall Group, and also of the Canadian Group of Painters, a group which I've never heard of. Like so many of these artists she's someone that I feel like I should know, and learning about her leaves me a breadcrumb trail to follow to find out more. There are always four or five other people or groups or places I look up after I do one of these posts. That's been a really lovely and practically inspiring part of these posts.

Not that I have time today- It's Birthday season over here so I've got cakes to decorate, makeshift pinatas to protect, balloons to blow pasta to make...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

In the Garden: August 21

The Tomatoes are here! First ripe tomatoes, and I was surprised to find a whole basket full when I checked. The Earliest ripe varieties this year: Arbuznyi, Costoluto Genovese, Principe Borghese, White Currant and Ferris Wheel. So delicious, and so worth the wait!

The Marshmallow is flowering- and tall and lovely, the stone path in the perennial garden is growing, next year the creeping thyme will fill in all those blank spots- or overgrow them if I'm not quick with the scissors. I think I might need a small lawnmower to run over it actually once I get it all done. I'm averaging about 15 feet a year on this walkway- and it's about 40 feet long- longer if you count the side paths- so it'll be a couple of years of work- but I tell myself that gardens are long term pursuits so I think that's okay.

The Galeaux D'Eysines squash are starting to form their little 'sugar warts' I think they'll be tasty. Despite the many seeds we planted only four plants grew- two from each variety- and it actually seems like this will be the right amount of squash for us to realistically consume. I always forget how big they grow. We also put the strawberry runners into pots so that we can replant our patch- we potted up about 100 plants still attached to the parent plants, when they get big enough we'll cut them free and re-plant them. The only tricky thing is keeping them moist in the small pots. We picked a few perfect late season strawberries and raspberries, which we eaten almost as fast as they were dropped into the basket.

A Dahlia bloomed! Just one! - but lots of buds to come. Baby A is eating every edible thing in the garden- Rhubarb is still a favorite- stalks as long as she is- though she usually doesn't eat it all. The carrots are really giant now, and tasty- so she walks around munching on them - teeth full of dirt. The Comfrey is blooming too- so lovely looking and robust- I'm wondering how much room I'll need to give it in the future, I'll maybe have to move more than the rosebush.

The Canola was swathed this week (cut down and laid out in rows to dry out before it gets combined), and the flea beetles are into the garden quick as can be- the Kale that was uncovered will be devoured soon- but not to worry, we've got lots under cover. The Garlic harvest is in, and it's meager, which prompted us to buy seed bulbs for fall planting from Boundary Garlic Farm  yesterday- the first day their shopping cart was open, and holy heck it was like buying concert tickets- having to refresh over and over because their website was overloaded! It made me think maybe we should get into the seed garlic business...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Inspiration: Yulia Biriukova

Yulia Biriukova, Prospector, Peter Swanson, 1934 (source)
Yulia Biriukova (1897-1972) was born in Russia, and Immigrated to Canada in 1929. She taught at the College of Upper Canada, and was well known for her portraits- which are collected by many galleries. I just love this portrait. His head is so small and his arms so big- maybe they really were like that- but I think it more of an exaggeration. It gives this enormous sense of power- that along with his solid blue shirt- which really acts as a big block of colour right in the center of the canvas adds to the feeling of strength. The minimal background with it's high colours, and the way the figure overtakes them makes you feel like this guy was a strong personality. Now wouldn't it be funny to find out that he was a mild mannered prospector?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

In the Garden- August 14

Can you spot the baby?
 I had to look hard for her- I could hear her singing- but couldn't see her hiding under the Rhubarb Leaf

Mud Monsters

There might be a couple of weeks of Photos on this one- I think I could easily sum up my summer by saying that it's been really busy and unproductive, an odd combo. The garden is having an off year- which is not to say that it's not producing some things- just less than normal- and it's been so darn dry, and we don't really irrigate at all- regularly anyhow- as much out of lack of time as principle*, so that's affected things- Watermelons are pretty much a right off, and other things are there- just smaller than usual. The cucumbers are pretty much non existent; I spoke about how I planted them on either side of the sunflowers- thinking that they would grow up the stems- but wasn't sure if would work- well- it doesn't- too much shade.

I think my Eggplant is starting to set fruit though- and I'm very pleased about that, I planted Borage and Chamomile around them to help with Pollination because for the last two years I've had Beautiful blossoms that fall off once they're done blooming, and no fruit. I think it's from lack of pollination and so I hoped those companions (beloved by Bees) would help- they seem to have, but knock on wood- as they're still terribly small. The cabbage moth worms have got the Cabbage too- but we took off  the row covers and had a squishing spree- and I think if we get a long fall- we'll see some cabbage, they're pretty tough plants. The flowers are blooming- and the herbs are growing really well, the comfrey is taking over- I think I'll have to move the rose bush, the Agastache is growing and the Lemon Balm, and the Marshmallow is ready to flower. The Zinnias are blooming and are so so pretty- I love that orange, and pink and golden mix, they are so large too- I'm amazed.

The Leeks are just Beautiful- tall and strong and they've had one hilling up already, and are ready for another- last year we started hilling our leeks to blanch them and let the white stems grow longer, it works so well. The Onions are pretty much ready to get pulled from the ground, as is the garlic- but eh ground is so hard and dry right now, I think I'll wait till we get a rain to soften it. The dry beans are growing nicely and the Tomatoes are doing well- I think the lack of moisture will make them really tasty this year- our mouths are watering while we wait for them to ripen. We've only got three Patty Pan Squash plants this year- and we're discovering that while ten plants is too many, three is not enough to produce a meal without waiting stashing them away in the fridge one or two at a time. Maybe five plants next year...

*The principle behind not watering is that we live in the prairies which is one of the most godforsaken parts of Canada- and the driest, and that is just the way it is here- it's not the west coast, and on some level you have bloom where you're planted. If it's not able to withstand some drought conditions, it's just not going to cut it in Manitoba, and I don't want to waste water by trying to grow things are going to take so much effort to grow. especially when there's usually a native alternative that will grow well. We have good soil, and long days, and lots and lots of sun, and that's enough for most things. Some factors help us keep watering down; We have heavy soil, so it holds moisture, we plant things deep in the ground (sometimes 10-15 inches), we mulch, (we let the weeds act as mulch sometimes), we water specific things at specific times- strategically you might say. The garden is in a low spot so it holds moisture the longest- which is crappy in a wet year and awesome in a dry