Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Pickle all the things!

I was in my garden yesterday looking through my radishes to see if they were ready.  My husband had chosen the radishes because they were a larger variety.  I've never seen radish plants like this before.  The stalks are 3 feet high right now and because I didn't thin them (noted for next year, with the carrots too) and because I planted an entire 40 foot row of them, I have many, many radishes.  I picked about 10 yesterday and their sizes ranged from the size of my big toe to the size of a small lemon.  The big toe size were very woody and not ready yet.  My plan with all these radishes is to of course pickle them.  I'm going to try some with red onion and peppercorns and others with garlic and red pepper flakes.  These days I'm also pickling beets, green beans and carrots.  I change it up each time adding something a little different to try out different tastes.  I'm already looking forward to eating them in the winter.  I also have those 16 or so tomato plants that are doing very well despite my overgrown, weedy garden.  I will roast those with garlic and basil, take off the skins and then blend with a bit of olive oil and also preserve them.  The cucumbers again did not do well in my garden.  I will try them in the upper garden next year because I would love to make actual cucumber pickles.  I made a big crock of baked beans this week thinking I could preserve them as well but I need a pressure cooker to do that, so I will freeze those to add to chili.  Oh what a mess my kitchen has been.  I'm trying to pack in as much as I can into these dwindling daylight hours including a 3km walk with the dog everyday.  I am working from home a bit more over the next couple of weeks so all this work is fitting in just fine with my schedule and I'm so thankful for a job that is flexible enough to allow a life outside of work.  My next little project is to figure out how to preserve kale.  Don't laugh!  It seems like such a waste to have so much in the summer but none in the winter.  Any ideas?  I'm all ears. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Ahhh August

Things have been very very busy around here.  I'm trying to get in a whole lot of down time with the kids, manage two very full gardens and take care of 19 animals on a daily basis.  Oh and work 40 hours a week.  Not only is the garden thriving due to the wonderfully hot and wet weather we've been having but so are the grass and the weeds.  I'm trying hard not to complain and I'm certainly not complaining about the heat and the abundance of produce my garden is giving us.  I was on the beach just yesterday thinking about the winter and how our seasons change so quickly from this wonderful lusciousness to cold and dark so I'm just trying to take it all in and enjoy it while it's here.
My garden is so full right now.  I got a little too excited about the first green beans a week or so ago.  I think canning season has begun.  I'm starting with beets and then it will be carrots, green beans and finally tomato sauce and salsa.  I have no idea how I'm going to do it all so I'm breaking it down - tonight I'll boil beets, tomorrow I'll peel, slice.  Tomorrow night I'll pickle. 
In the garden right now I have green peppers!  The cabbage is almost ready so I'm looking into fermenting it and making sauerkraut.  The carrots need to be pulled and dried soon.  Our second crop of onions didn't come up but the bush beans and beets look good.  And the radishes?  I didn't realise how tall those plants would get!  They are 2.5 feet high right now and so I pulled a couple and they aren't *quite* ready which is just as well because I'm not *quite* sure if I want to pickle or ferment them.  Next year I'll get a little bit more organized and hold a canning weekend with all of this produce.  Tonight I'll make a garlic stir fry with steamed fresh beet greens, kale, rainbow chard and onions.  Maybe my girls will even try it.  Maddy tried almond milk today so baby steps.  :)

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

July goodness

It's a month since I posted and so I think we are due for another garden update.  I was just reading on someone else's blog about how their blog is a great reference guide for their garden from year to year.  In fact I remember looking up what I planted last year and what I wanted to plant this year on my blog this past spring.  Last year I planted too little and this year it's only July and I'm anxiously waiting for things to be ready to eat.  I have to keep reminding myself that it's only mid July and I likely won't have tomatoes, radishes, beets and green beans until the beginning of August.  The weeds are seriously driving me mad.  I can happily weed my upper "kitchen garden" for 30-40 mins and get about half of it done but the lower garden is so big we till between the rows and then hand pull all the weeds between the plants.  The lower garden has been a challenge this year for sure.  It's very sandy and probably needs a few yards of peat and manure to bring the soil back.  We have plans to do this in the fall.  And I think I'll try to convince the hubby to make the garden smaller next year as well.  What is growing in my garden you ask?  The upper garden has kale, pole beans, hot peppers, red peppers, green peppers, onions, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, peas, rainbow chard, carrots and sunflowers.  All are doing well except the peppers which seem small but they are flowering so there is still hope.  Peas - I planted a whole row of them and only about 6 plants came up.  They sprouted to around 3 feet tall before flowering and producing peas.  Even with 6 plants it's still not enough for even 1 meal of peas.  I don't think I'll bother with them next year.  In the lower garden the vegetables that are doing well are the beets, radishes - although something is eating the leaves, corn, more carrots, yellow zucchini, a volunteer squash plant and bush beans.  The other things I've planted but I will have to wait to see how well they do are - more onions, watermelon and cucumber. 

The weather has been just wonderful with a good mix of rain and sun which means not only are the weeds and the veggies thriving but so are the trees and the grass.  On a weekly basis I'm trimming, mowing and whippersnipping everything so it doesn't get ahead of me.  I just keep telling myself what good exercise it is.  In fact last year 30 mins with that gas trimmer and my arms would have shook for hours but not this year!  All of that hay and straw throwing over the winter has made me stronger.  As one of my favorite bloggers said today "I just do."  It needs to get done so you do it. Indeed. 

It's been a busy month here with some vacation thrown in, lots of company, a few parties, a new kitten, bon fires, birthdays and swimming.  I'm hosting a big family get together August 1st and at some point I really need to paint the walls in the living room.  I've rambled on long enough, my lawn mower is calling me.  Thanks for stopping by. 

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Garden update!

I'm over it I swear but the scars remain.  I lost almost every single one of my seedlings I so lovingly raised indoors in March and April to a frost.  I even went out and covered them in sheets but I still lost sixteen hot pepper plants, 4 pepper plants and three tomato plants.  Guess what I didn't lose...the kale!  I had to replace them all with store bought plants which any gardener can understand how completely annoying that is...all that time...But easily replaceable at least.

The story of my beets.  I love beets.  I'll put them in juices, roast them, pickle them, put them in salads - they are delicious.  But I haven't grown a single one yet.  Yes, beets have eluded me so far - last year I direct seeded them in the soil - nothing.  This year I planted them too soon (in April - before the last frost) and they didn't come up.  I've planted another round - mid May.  Then we had 2 weeks of no rain so we've been watering and watering and I'm just hoping they come up this time.

We planted corn this year and it's coming up!  And I'm trying to grow watermelon.  And 5 extra kale plants - I had 3 last year and it was more than enough for me but I'll share with friends and family.  My onions are coming up although are still the size of baby blades of grass.  I see some rainbow chard, the carrots, nothing from the parsnips.  My pepper plants don't seem to be growing at all but I'm hopeful that they are...I'm doing red and green peppers.  Some squash type plant is coming up but I didn't mark each mound so it will be a surprise.  ha.  It's cucumber, pumpkin, squash, zucchini or watermelon!  And the cabbage plants I bought seem healthy.  I'm very happy so many things are coming up and also a little worried that I'll lose it all because I don't water it enough or we have another frost..gardens are such delicate things.  I am on top of the weeds so far and have decided not to take a vacation away this year so I can STAY on top of them.  Happy gardening everyone!

Alas, sorry no pics again.  I will have to try to post from home one of these days - but work is the only place I actually sit down!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Where does the time go?

Well, well, well.  I've started and stopped this post at least 4 times this month and here it is mid May already.

April really has been a great month but very busy.  I went to my conference last week and the first night in the hotel I unpacked a little then put on my comfies, stretched out on the bed and put on the TV.  Pure bliss.  I had honestly felt like I had not stopped moving to actually relax (I do stop moving to sit at a computer for hours and I stop moving to sit on a crowded train and I stop moving when I sleep - but I'm pretty sure that's it) in WEEKS.  I came back relaxed and recharged.  I'm often asked how I do it all and it's pretty much that I never stop doing.  When do I relax?  When the kids are in bed and often times not even until I put my head on my pillow and pick up a book.  I know I'm not unique, many people work hard but it just surprises me when people ask because I just do what has to get done! 

I started this post in April and I'm finishing it in May as that's just the way it goes.  I hope I can manage to come back here from time to time but with my own evening classes and soccer and swimming starting up - it's going to get a whole lot busier around here.  Today I'm starting dinner at 3, picking up the girls at 3:30, working out, going to town at 5:30, soccer at 6:30, home by a little before 8, showers for the girls, bed and then I will sit for a bit and probably fold and put away clothes. 

I'm happy to report that I planted the small garden ...kale, hot peppers, green peppers, peas, green onions, rainbow chard, carrots, purple cabbage, basil, oregano, parsnips, lettuce and pole beans.  The bottom garden will have beets, cucumber, pumpkin, watermelon, eggplant, squash, cabbage, corn, onions and carrots.  See?  I'm totally over doing it this year with the hopes that it all turns out.  Last year I was hesitant and not attentive enough and I had a pretty good garden but this year I want to have a GREAT garden.  I'll save my next post as a garden update.  Happy spring everyone!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Seeds and gardening

We've had a few warm days here which have been spent mostly outside cleaning up the mess the winter leaves.  The husband and I walked around the property talking about what needed doing and in what order.  We decided our first project would be to take down a tree which was hanging over the garden.  It took all of 5 mins for DH to saw through the tree and another 10 to saw it up into manageable pieces.  Then the real work came, moving all the pieces of a 30 foot tree off the garden so it could be tilled.  I took that job while DH started tilling.  Once I piled the logs and moved most of the branches off the garden I decided to take a look at all of the seeds I had picked up from the co-op. 

Funny story - last year I bought seeds from a catalog and had to pay shipping.  This year DH mentioned that the co-op had seeds and why didn't I buy them there?  So I went to the co-op and I bought seeds...and then spend $20 on other stuff that we didn't exactly need.  We'll see next year if he complains about the shipping.  ;')

After I got the garden cleaned out I looked over my co-op seeds and discovered I could plant some of them in April.  The forecast called for sun, rain, sun, rain and I though that despite it being a little early I was going to plant!  I ended up planting carrots, rainbow chard, onions and beets.  If you read this blog last year you would know that I under planted and under weeded and under planned.  This year I'm being ambitious.  I'm going to plant ALL the veggies and see what happens.  I still have my basil, tomato, hot pepper, green pepper and kale seedlings to plant and I will be starting cabbage, eggplant, watermelon, cucumber, zucchini, lettuce, pumpkins and green beans this week.

Other than that I need a new clothes line - mine bit the dust and we keep forgetting to pick up a new one.  We adopted a barn cat who was supposed to be social but is pretty unsocial but we keep trying!  And we thought long and hard about getting turkeys this year...and decided against it. 

Sorry no pics again - same issue with the upload freezing up.  I'll try again another day. 

Monday, 30 March 2015


Isn't March wonderful?  All sunshine and light - love it.  Good riddance February.  I don't mind that we are still in winter boots, coats, hats, snow pants and my driveway is covered in ice.  We are consistently getting 13 hours a day of light and that makes me happy.

It has been a busy month!  Seeds have been started, March break has come and gone, the chicken coop has been freshened up and the doors into the barn have thawed and shrunken just enough that we can close them again.  Next on the list is to clean up the breezeway, power wash all the cobwebs out of the barn, thoroughly clean the horse stalls and pick up all the dog poop.  I lead a glamorous life ya'll. 

This year has started off as a busy one at work and at the farm.  I'm doing some travelling this year for my job which I'm pretty excited about.  And my husband is now working 2 other jobs besides the farm work so some of the farm work has shifted to me.  This leads to long and exhausting days.  Thankfully the days are lighter longer which bouy's me along when I'm leaving the gym at 7:30, coming home for 8, putting on warmer clothes and going out to the barn to the horses and chickens, and then getting the kids and myself ready for the next day.  It will all be that much easier when the horses go back to their owner and summer is here. 

So I've been planning and dreaming of the gardening I hopefully will have more time for this year.  The weeds completely took over my large garden last year so my plan is to put straw between the rows this year.  I've started kale, beets, jalapeno's, tomatoes, green peppers and basil.  I am going to add some perennial flowers to the gardens around the house and plant zinnia's in my patio garden again. 

We've had some weasel trouble in the chicken coop and it's taken 3 chickens.  We think we've found where it is getting in and sealed the hole.  We'll be adding 5 more chickens this year and we are seriously considering a couple of turkeys.  I've been doing some reading about them and they sound fairly easy to care for but my big concern is the coyote's around here.  We don't want to confine them so they'd be on their own at night.  Any and all tips and advice welcome.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

March is almost here!

March is next week!  I'm so happy to be almost done with February.  I need to get outside!!  And for more than just a run to the barn, to the train or to the car.  I need a good, long walk outside in the forest without having to worry about snowmobilers, with the sun shining and with less than 3 layers of clothing on to keep warm.

My month in pictures.
Bannock.  Have you ever made it?  SO delicious.  Lots of home made soup and dates with my favorite people, my girls.  

My homemade pizza

Clean stalls, sleep, repeat

A nice little treat last weekend.  There was an indoor hot tub and pool as well but we came up here at night and there was music playing and video's playing on that big screen...and Toronto at night.  Magic.  

Lots and lots of veggies in my life right now.  This was my attempt at a crock pot veggie curry.  I made way too much.  

Monday, 9 February 2015


Well hello February, my least favorite month of the year.  While everyone is waxing poetic about cozy winter activities this is the reality of February in Canada.  Travel was cancelled, dinner plans cancelled, I worried about my husband driving 10 hours in the snow and I handled all the chores myself on Saturday.  My husband usually lets the horses out in the morning and I help him clean the stalls in the evening and put the horses to bed, collect the eggs and close up the barn for the night but Saturday it was just Murph and I.  Then Sunday came and along with it more snow, ice rain and lots of plowing..digging out the plow...calling neighbors to dig the truck out of the snow.. all in -20 degree weather.  It is the shortest month of the winter and also the longest.  We will have gorgeous sunny days with -26 degree temperatures.  We put towels at the bottom of the doors, dress in layers and scarves inside the house, and have space heaters going in every room even with the furnace going.  Did I mention its also very dry?  Warming up the car is a necessity before going anywhere which means running outside 15 mins before you are ready to leave to jump in a frigid car and hope that it starts again.  Returning from work means clearing of and then getting into a frigid, snow (and sometimes ice) covered car and shivering while it warms up.  And don't forget your gloves...that steering wheel will numb your hands in seconds.  I've almost wiped out on snow and slush a number of times already. So don't mind me if I'm not all aglow with February.  Bring on spring!

To brighten a cold, snowy day

We had a snow day Monday last Monday.  Well at least my kids did, I was crazy enough to head to work.  After a three hour commute I arrived safe and sound at the office.  Brownie points people.

I'm taking a page today from one of my favorite farm blog authors.  I had been reading this blog years ago...years before we moved to a farm.  I guess I too have Barn Heart because why else would this corporate girl be reading homesteading blogs?  Here is Jenna's website:  www.coldantlerfarm.blogspot.com.  Although I suspect anyone reading this is familiar with it already.  And here are some pictures of summer on our farm which are intended to brighten up this February funk and help us look forward to all the sunlight and summer ahead.

Updated with pictures!!!

Insert pictures of green grass and flowers here.  I'm having trouble uploading pictures onto my blog.  I've tried several times and it just hangs.  I'm using Google Chrome and I've tried IE as well.  So until I figure this out, no pictures.  Which makes for bland blog posts if you ask me but I'd rather have bland blog posts than none at all.  Have a great day!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Hardiness zones

In my 40 years being on this planet and 10 years of city gardening under my belt, I still don't understand hardiness zones.  This is mainly because I almost always plant seedlings I buy from a garden store.  I had little luck with any of the plants I tried to grow from seed Garden update in June (beets, peppers, hot peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes).  I assume the seeds I'm buying or that are available in Canada are good for this climate?  Do I really need to consider hardiness zones at all or is that just climate lingo for "this is how cold it may get at night so these are the only plants that will survive in your climate."  Shrugs.  Help?

Tomato seedlings and oatmeal muffins from last year.

I have one garden that is south facing and one that is on the west side of the house.  We had tomatoes, lettuce, kale, sunflowers, celery, spinach and green beans in that garden.  My peppers did not like it there.  We've cleared some of the trees so make more sun though and with a little better planning I may do better there this year.  The kale and lettuce flourished there but the tomatoes were just not great.  It wasn't just me, a lot of people in my area were complaining about their poor tomatoes last year.  It was too cold and wet.  I'm going to get a head start this year though on a few seedlings in March - with the help of a greenhouse set up that I'll post more about once I decide how and where I'm going to make this happen.  It's almost February so don't mind me getting excited for spring - only 3 months away!

Friday, 23 January 2015

This Moment

Linking up with www.soulemama.com.

Planning and plotting

What is it about this time of year that makes me a little crazy?  Could it be the dark and the cold and the cold and the dark?  Yeah I think that's it.  This winter is much nicer than last but this outdoorsy girl is spending way too much time inside.  Last Friday I embraced inside, took out my seed catalogs and picked out twice as much seed as I ordered last year.  And I think I've convinced my husband that we need a green house.  Next steps, order seed and greenhouse!! 

Evening chores are done at 6pm when it's already as dark as night outside.

I've signed up the kids and I for a 5K walk called The Coldest Night of the Year to raise money for a local homeless shelter.  It's happening on February 21.  I'm really looking forward to this event.  I hope it will give my girls a perspective on all they have.  

We replaced the screen on the chicken coop with a pane of glass - voila - chicken TV!

This weekend I'm hoping for lots of sun and activities outside.  So far we have planned a chicken coop cleaning and a bon fire.  I think the menu will be BBQ hamburgers and hot dogs.  A little bit of summer in the middle of January - sounds like a plan!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Happy New Year!

My year ended with a trip to my childhood home.  I had not been there in 28 years.  Many reasons but the two I'll share are that I was estranged from my step dad and it's an 8 hour drive each way.  Most of us don't get to go back to our childhood homes so I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity.  It gave me pause to be back in that old house.  It was much smaller than I remember it and filled with memories.  And I was surprised that it still felt like home. I went to the church where I was baptized, I visited with long lost step family and I planned to go back and visit again in the summer.  It was not how I was expecting to close out 2014 but my step father's passing came much quicker than we expected.  It left me in peace.  In 2014 I turned 40 years old and this along with my visit home has me thinking a lot about my mortality and my legacy.  What have I done in my lifetime that people will remember about me?  Am I being a good role model to my girls?  Am I instilling good values in them?  Is there anything more I can do to live my one wild and precious life?  Am I really only 10 years away from being 50?!  Our move to the farm has certainly enhanced my life in so many ways.  My plans for this weekend and 2015 include:
  • Making a leftover soup (everything in the fridge that is near expiration will be put in it).
  • Organize the kitchen for some serious cooking this weekend.
  • Games nights with my girls and starting a puzzle.
In 2015:
  • Re-thinking how water is used in our house.  We are on a well and don't pay for water but do you ever think of how wasteful it is to let all that cold water run down the drain while you wait for the hot water to come?  That could be water for the dog!  Water for the kettle!
  • Paint the kitchen.
  • Replace the carpet on the stairs.
  • Dry wall the mud room.
  • New light fixture in the mud room and living room.
  • New vent covers in living room.
  • Paint the chicken roost.
  • Order seeds and plan the 2015 gardens.
  • Plan for our summer trip to Manitoulin.
  • Plan crock pot meals that my kids will actually eat.
  • Help plan a pet friendly event with a girlfriend.  Date is already set!  I'm selling vegetables, baked goods and eggs at the farmers market.
  • Do another 5k run or two this year.
  • Read more books on farming.
  • Love ME and take care of ME.  This is something I've been working on in 2014.  My focus is usually my job, my family or how clean my house is.  This year my main focus will be ME plus those other things.
  • Make a Will.
I'm also thinking a lot of  my health and lifestyle changes which I've mentioned here before.  Eating whole foods has been very easy for me.  I did have chocolates over the holiday's but I'm being very conscientious of how I'm eating with a focus on portion size and calories.  I'm back on track now. 
So here's to 2015 - good food, good fun and hard work!