Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Fall "work outside day"

Last week, Terry dug up most of our compost and I explained that we have a two section compost. Well, today was the day to fill it all back up with yard stuff. What do we put in our compost... well. dead flower pots killed by frost. Dead and dried up vines and leaves from the yard.

As Terry dug out all our good compost to use later on, I dragged over all our old plant pots which were filled with dead flowers and saturated with rain water.. They were so heavy I had to wheel them in the wheel barrel. When I was dragging over my big pots from the fire pit, I noticed that the fern type plant was still as green as it was in the summer. I noticed it a few weeks ago, but figured it would be dead any day. This was what it looked like in August, and then the frosts came and reduced them to mush... Anyway, I decided I was going to save these ferns... and dug them out and repotted them. I was amazed at the roots.. and the weird lumpy things coming out the bottom.. pretty gross. I potted up both of the ferns and I will bring the smaller one to work for my office and the other will stay home. When I was potting them I came across a tag which said they are Foxtail Fern. I read a blog about a lady who had one that was over 30 years old.... and it sounds fairly easy to grow.. Once Terry got the big side of the compost completely emptied out, I took the opportunity to snap a shot, to show how a compost works. This is like a dissection of our bigger one, and we have lots of good loam in our small side, which we will need to figure out what to do with. Now to fill the bigger half with all the yard waste... it will be black soil by this time next year! Look who is hiding under the BBQ hoping I would forget that she was outside... "can't see me, can't see me!" Ah, geesh, how did you know I was there....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grape Jelly ... and Crabby Apples

Last week, I took an evening and turned grapes into juice. How? Well, the normal way and since I have already blogged about it for the last 2 years.. you can travel back in time to see what fun I had last year actually harvesting grapes and making over 100 bottles of grape jelly for Breast Cancer. Oh, and the very first time I made it in 2007.
After making all the juice, it sat in the fridge for a few days until I had time to make jelly out of it. This year, Terry helped me. This is the first time he has ever participated in a jam making day. He helps with almost everything, but it just never seemed to be good timing for jam days. He knew I was a little overloaded and decided to pitch in.
What a blast that was... He did all the stirring and for anyone who makes jam, that stirring keeps you chained to the stove and you can't do anything. With him doing all the stirring, I was able to prepare jars, clean dishes as we used them, got out the racks, .. all the things you forget to do, or can't reach while your stirring.
We made 3 batches in a little over an hour but the funnest part was how much Terry enjoyed making it. He was all geared up at this point, and wanted to make something else into Jelly. We do have a crab apple tree. It has a funny beginning, really, and its destine to be cut down this fall. But 10 years ago, we planted a Cortland tree and a Macintosh tree in our back yard.
growing apples, you need two trees for the pollination stuff.
Our Cortland only lived about 5 years, and then for some reason, it fell over, I can't remember why. But the base of the tree was still in the ground and the next spring, the stump
of the tree had a shoot come up and it grew profusely. Now, a little bit of a useless fact for you guys, (but important for this tale). Most apple trees purchased from nurseries are mass produced and usually what happens is a limb of a "real" apple tree is grafted onto a crab apple tree trunk. They are more sturdy and resist diseases better than most trees.
Well, our new little shoot grew faster than any other tree I have ever seen, and produced little soft apples the second year it lived. That's when we realized that it was the little crab apple tree that grew from the non-grafted part of our original tree.
6 years (guessing here) later, this summer, we noticed that the base of the tree is rotting, and being a somewhat scraggly tree anyway, we decided to cut it down this fall. Of course, it produced tons of little apples this summer, just to make me feel bad for wanting to cut it down.
Well, Terry thought it would be fun to make some Jelly from the apples (which are quite TART, because we tried one earlier in the fall). Here is the harvest.... exactly 3 quarts...
The recipe called for us to chop off the bloom bottom and pull the stems off the apple. Then chop in small pieces,(leaving on the skin and skins) add 6 cups of water to the pot and boil for 10 minutes. Then, we had to mash them, and then boil again for 5 minutes.
Then we put the mush in a jelly bag to let it drip for an hour or so.
We got a pretty pink sort of merky juice, but I didn't have much hope it would look apple jelly that I was use to seeing in stores.
Oh well... we forged ahead and got right to making the merk into jelly. As it boiled, it started to clear up and by the time we were ready to put it in jars..
. it was this delicious looking pink jelly... soooo cute....
Our final harvest for the week... 24 jars of grape jelly and 9 jars of crab apple jelly..

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Korea Bound

Not me... but "I love you" parcels.

Its been quite a scientific exercise in "volume" plus "mass".... I had no idea. Oh, and metric vs imperial.... that's a big one too. Then there is International "express".... or "Parcel" or "Small Packet"... and each one has regulations as to what weight restriction and size you are allow to have...

At first I packed a parcel of Halloween candy... in a 7 x 10 inch box.... smaller than a shoe box.. way smaller.... and it would cost $82 to get it there... ugh... I took it back home.. and redistributed some of the stuff into the second parcel.. which had necessities like cup a soup and power plug converters...
This was going to be considered "small Packet" so I had to keep it under 4 kg. That gave me enough leeway to add in a few candies, and trinkets from home. I packed it in a rubbermaid container for safety and also so they could use it for storage once she unpacked the parcel. This parcel would take 8-14 days to get there... according to the Canada Post Website.
The second parcel is much larger and it is Stephanie & Sean's Christmas box. It had size restrictions and weight restrictions but because it is going "surface", the limitations were not so severe. This parcel takes 6 to 8 weeks according to Canada Post. Therefore, I had to have it in the mail by Oct 20th. Its somewhat hard to get your head around Christmas Shopping in early October. I have shopped a lot in October for Xmas but never really had to do an entire Christmas List dedicated to parcel.... and I failed at it pretty much. I will have to send another parcel in Nov.. a small one.. to supplement the Xmas one.
So off I went.. armed with parcels.. one surface ... one small packet air...... to the post office. First thing... there is a "no string" rule now with parcels.. which I sort of recall. So, off with the string... Second... small packet weight restrictions are under 4 lbs.. not 4 kg... therefore... my little parcel was toooo heavy for small packet air... It became some other kind of parcel... and I paid a little more than I was expecting... geesh... the big parcel cost less than the little one!

They are off on their journey to Sean and Stephanie... and with tracking numbers in hand, we can watch where they are... and right now.. 3 days later... they are both in Halifax! Geesh.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Composting.. the way we do it!

15 years ago I read this book about composting. It was
around that time that a bylaw was passed in our village that forbid the burning of leaves. Our yard is surrounded by Oak and birch trees... and in the fall their leaves fill our yard. For years, we burned them in our ditch, or in our burn barrel in the back yard. Once the bylaw came into effect, and there was no "leaf pickup" day... we had to do something.

Our back yard compost was born. The book was amazing.. and I loved all the information, and I became (over the years) an expert on composting. When the green bin system came into our community, I was thrilled that the neighbourhood would now be composting as well, but sad that I might lose my back yard one.

There was no worry about that, since our green bin held about 3 bags full of leaves, and our yard produced 30 bags of leaves. I have continued with my backyard compost as well as my greenbin compost as there is enough wastage for both. I have two sections to my backyard compost, and one is "aging" while I fill the other one. The section on the left has been sitting for a year.. while the taller narrower side is all the greens and veggies from this summer.
Here's how it goes in my house. Anything that grows (grass clipping, veggie peelings, tea bags, coffee grounds, etc) go in my back yard compost, along with all the gardening waste. Table scraps, limps and WEEDS... go into my green bin. I usually have a nice big bowl for the back yard compost but I usually lose one a year to some tragedy and this year... it was a raccoon attack on my purple bowl. Last year, my lime green bowl was sitting too close to a BBQ.. and it melted!!! The year before, my wonderful orange bowl sat outside too long in the winter and the bottom cracked!

This weekend just past.... Terry dug up one half of my compost.. the aging side.. and he top dressed my veggie garden as well as all my flower beds.
What a gift for my gardens... and it was very gratifying to see that big pile of garden waste turn into something so wonderful!!
After all that shovelling, Terry took a well rested stretch on the floor and became a great novelty with Stephanie and Seans cats... they were enthralled with the fact that Terry was on the floor

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An explosive Night.... in Keji

This is the second installment of our Keji weekend. One of those events that needs it own blog entry.
I didn't want to start off with this story, because I don't want it to represent the whole weekend, but it certainly will be something I will never forget, and it also did taint the weekend.

Let me begin with the end of the last blog. After supper, we moved back to our tent sites and put out our fun pumpkins...
Tradition at Keji on this weekend is that on Saturday night, after dark, people take to the roads on foot (and some in cars) to walk around the campground admiring the pumpkin creations.
Our gang gathered in front of my site, to head out shortly after 7:30 and started down the hill. I realized that we were going against the flow of traffic and turned to start up the hill and mentioned to everyone else that we should be going the other way. When I looked a head of us.. I saw the first explosion straight ahead of me, two sites away on the opposite side of the road. It was a fire ball that was about 6 feet wide and about 10 feet high. It was an unnatural fire, not a campfire. As I watched, I was speechless and I realized that no one else saw this. As it began to die down, there was a second and more terrifying explosion and this one had a whoosh sound that when along with it.The second explosion ignited a fire that was 6 feet wide and climbed to the top of these exact trees. Everyone saw that fire, and we watched, in shock and the curls of fire rose up over 40 feet, and dance around the leaves at the top of those trees. And then mayhem began. People started running, some in the direction of the fire, and others ran away from it. I stood very still and hollered for people to keep their kids away... makes sense wouldn't you say, but it was amazing how many let their kids move towards the fire. Jill's hubby, Mel ran to the fire, along with a few other men. Along the road, every few hundred feet, there are fire hose and hydrants, and there just happened to be one at the very next site. I never notice these before.... I certainly do now. Just as the men made their way to the fire, the camper that was parked at this site, was driven out onto the road, ripping its jacks off the bottom, and the awning off the site.. The owner parked it, right in the road, blocking any chance of escape for others who were driving. He luckily had a CO2 extinguisher which was used to settle down the flames.
As I watched, standing there, with my arms around Roselyn, I chanted over and over again in her ear, that everything was ok, and that those people would put out the fire, no problem. I seriously believed this, with all my heart. And true to my faith, those men had the fire out and watered down within 10 minutes.
A crowd of people stood there, relieved, confused and in shock. As realization swept over all of us, and smatterings of truth about what happen began to surface.... terror started to fill all of us. A splash of gasoline to ignite a stubborn fire, a leaky gas can, a spark on a splash from tripping over a generator cord... beer cans scattered all over the ground....
The rain that soaked the entire campground for the past 24 hours was our savior that night. The flames didn't catch those leaves and needles, but not for a lack of trying. Fear turned to anger and also to worry. Well after we were safe from fire, the fear crept into all of us. Even though we gathered our wits about us, and began our walk around the park to view pumpkins, there was a overcast feeling over us all. You start to think about what did happen, what could have happened.. what would we have done... how fast would it have spread. We all started to get cold and we cut our walk short and headed back to the campfires. We sat for a while but then we all went off to bed. None slept well, and for me, I listened for any sound that might have been an explosion. I listened to the partying crowd down the other way for me, and worried that they might do something stupid... I wondered if it happened a few roads away, would someone warn us.. what if it happened in the middle of the night... soooo many worries. I planned on packing it in, and going home the next day... I just couldn't settle.. But, the next morning, things seems clearer... less terrifying.. I walked up to site that was now empty. The campers were moved to another location. Park rangers, environmental people and laborers were up and down the road all evening.. but in the morning... it was quiet.
Leaves had been raked up and taken away, chemicals were sprayed over the site and the awning was gone. I walked around the site, took pictures and looked at the blackened trunks of the trees. Eventually, the rest of the day would be a sea of activity at that site. Bulldozers would dig out all the contaminated soils, the trees were torn up. Park rangers interviewed all the surrounding campers and rumors flew through the park.
But at that moment, while I stood there on that site, I thought about the people who were right there when that explosion happened. They had a child there with them, and two dogs. They were just feet away... the sound...the smell.... the heat. The night before, I hated these people.. for being idiots, endangering so many peoples lives... but now.. I realized how absolutely horrifying it had to have been for them as well.. and how lucky they were to have not gotten
hurt. Whatever really happened... wasn't on purpose. It was a careless accident... that truly endangered my family, my friends and an entire park of campers. This event did not dominate the weekend, but it certainly dampened it.
None of us were really successful at taking pictures that night of the pumpkins but I did score a couple that were of a wonderful carving of the characters from Twilight, carved by friends of mine, Jaimie, Dale and Libby Clark.. pretty impressive... They won 5th place...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving 2009 - Keji Style

What are you thankful for? Some times the answers sound so lame, but there are no other words that can sum up what a gal like me is thankful for. You know, the standard beauty queen pageant answer "family and friends". But that's it. Family and Friends. No other way to say it. I am thankful for my lovely tent... our big blue tarp.... dry wood and wood stoves. My very nice thermal leggings from Marks Work Warehouse, and my 22 year old duckie shoes, warm and water proof. But all of those things sound so trivial... and meaningless unless you were with me this weekend with family and friends... being thankful for those things.

Keji was beautiful. It started out cold... and wet... and ended cold and sunny. It was a Thanksgiving weekend like no other, in many ways, and I liked it that way. I missed my far away family, and my never to come back family quite a bit this weekend, and that is partly why I enjoyed having Thanksgiving away from my house. The other part of why I enjoying having thanksgiving away was that Turkey dinner was cooked by someone else and we didn't even have to do the dishes!!!

We arrived Friday afternoon, and started setting up our awesome tent. Jill arrived just a few minutes after us, and I helped her put up her tent which is exactly like my tent.. hee hee. Then Donna arrived and we all helped her put up her tent... which is exactly like mine and Jill's. It was totally hilarious.. all three of us ... side by side.. same tent... Michelle and Scott arrived, and they put up there tent on our site, Mel and the kids arrived and Jeff, and kids... tents were raised and Sara was the last to arrive after a long day at work.
Tarps were raised or at least spread out,
and suppers were cooked
the dishes got done and then campfire time. It was a very damp and cool night, and the fire was nice to be around, but most of us were pooped and cold, and when the rains started, we packed it all in, and snuggled into our tents for the night. The rains pounded all night, and the sound of the rain deafened the sound of anything else, and because we were under the trees as well, we had a lot of raindrops from the trees too, which made it seem like the rain was much worse.
Lucy...not enjoying the dirty ground! She moved inside the tent kitchen to snuggle on her blanket.

Saturday morning, bright and early, Jill and Mel scouted out the cook house at Mills Falls, and before long we all moved down there to stay warm and spend the day carving pumpkins, taking walks and playing some games.
We tried an experiment with the seeds that were rescued from the pumpkins and we roasted them in the frying pan on the wood stove to see if they would roast... We followed my old faithful Pumpkin seed recipe (you can find it on my blog from a couple of Halloween's ago) and they turned out very yummy. So yummy, we ate the first batch pretty quickly and roasted a second batch all afternoon... yum.

I apologize for my crappy pictures, but I don't think my flash was working well, or something. I had a ton of fun pics, but the just didn't turn out.
After a great potluck supper with salads, sloppy joes, hash brown casserole, chicken pot pie (with peas!!!!) and yummy cinnamon buns and pie.... we packed up all our pumpkins and supplies for the day and headed back to our sites to get ready for the big pumpkin walk that is tradition on Thanksgiving weekend Saturday night at Keji .
I will have to blog the evenings events in my next blog, because its a story worthy of its own blog... and besides, I hope to get some pictures from Donna of the great pumpkins of the night!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Getting Ready

Well, its time to get ready. We are going to Keji for Thanksgiving. There will be some of my favorite people there this weekend... as many as 18 of us! Because there will be 4 families, each with 4 or 5 in the group... we have decided that group eating will just be toooo stressful to prepare. No one has that much cooking equipment in the sizes you would need to feed a small army so we are planning one potluck supper for Saturday at a cook house somewhere in the park and then Thanksgiving Dinner will be at M&W's! The rest of the meals are with your own family.

Tonight we made a menu for the weekend with a grocery list attached and I have my shopping to do tomorrow night and my cooking list for Thursday night. Packing will happen tomorrow night and Thursday and Terry will load the trailer while I cook.

I am excited to go, and refuse to look at the weather forecast. I will pack for cold and rain, and anything other than that will be BONUS! Jill and I have broken the jinx of camping in the rain together, so I have every confidence that it will be a beautiful weekend.

This will be my first Thanksgiving ever, without Stephanie here. Stephanie, inadvertinaly changed the way we do Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was just like any other long weekend for our family (with a little extra food) when they were little but THANKSGIVING weekend took on a whole different meaning starting the year Stephanie went off to University.
2002 was the start of the "I love HOMECOOKING" traditions... and we typically filled the weekend with the kids favorite foods. That year, when she came home from her first 6 weeks of living in dorms and eating cafeteria food, she was sooo excited to eat home cooked food. Mashed potatoes and real veggies. She hummed while she ate.. for the entire weekend. This seemed to be the trend.... and continued when Scott and Michelle came home the first year they went to ST FX...
Stephanie and Natsumi.. making pies 2002
2003 making a huge batch of perogies.. like.. .hundreds of them!

2006.. Keji.. and we had terrible photography skills this day and couldn't seem to get a good picture.. but it sure was a laugh trying to set up the camera and then get into the shot...
2007.. sisters doing "sister" things

Keji last year. I love this picture except ...... Sean wasn't in it. He couldn't make it because we had Ferry problems that weekend (not our first battle with the Digby Ferry). I missed the opportunity to have my whole family in one picture this summer.. geesh... you would think that when we were all dressed up and pretty we would have taken the whole family in one shot!

We will raise a glass this Thanksgiving and wish Stephanie & Sean were with us, but we will be thankful we are all healthy, safe and happy.