Thursday, 30 August 2012


The morning light has changed.  The colour of it streaming through the fingerprinted windows and the angle of the sun, all point to September...

It's harvest season and we're tired (Lincoln included).

Across the road, the farmer is busy cutting down hay while we bring in all we can from the garden.

2 big baskets of Norkent apples were all of a sudden "ready" which meant "get the baskets and help me bring them in NOW before they all fall"  :)   They are sadly are a little hail damaged, so they won't keep.  Lots of apple eating is going on these days which is fine by us as they're sweet and crisp and oh, so good!

The tomatoes and squash continue to roll in at an alarmingly high rate of speed :)

So, we roast and season and stir and freeze.

The beans give a nice contrast of color in the freezer - all neatly packaged up ready for winter eats.

Late Summer/early Fall means FLY season here so these brilliant covers are constantly in rotational duty these days.  I must find more - I've only got 2 that were found at the thrift store last year.  They are INDISPENSABLE at this time of year.

With the kids going to school next week (after 7 years of Home Educating), we've been busy for the last month gently reviewing and honing skills...  We're aiming for a smooth transition, so with the academic side of things taken care of ahead of time, that should free up energy to be spent getting settled/accustomed to the new routines. 

Everyone is excited :)

And at long last, we hosted Reece's family birthday dinner!  Due to illness and travelling family members, we had to postpone his family dinner but it was worth the wait.  Family tradition means that the birthday boy chose the menu and the cake - roast chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy (no green veggies!), carrots, corn on the cob, and chocolate milk :)  Chocolate cake iced in GREEN, topped with assorted yumminess finished off the meal rather nicely.

Oh yes, it was good...

And of course, topping it ALL was having BOTH brothers home at the same time.

Oh happy day for this wee lad :)

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Violetta, I love you so...

Quoted from Salt Spring Seeds site:

"Trionfo Violetto ($3.50)

Beautiful Italian heirloom. Prolific, all season production of French type purple-pod beans that are sweet and succulent, magically turning green when cooked. Ornamental plants, growing upto 8 feet, with abundant lavender flowers, blooming against lush green leaves with purple veins and stems".

Seriously, these purple Violetta Beans are delectable! I can't get enough of them raw... they are tender, sweet and not at all stringy.  The flowers are the most beautiful lavender colour which is a lovely surprise come summer when you've forgotten that little detail :) 

Violetta blooms are lavender (white blooms are from another variety)

The plants themselves are vigorous and hardy, having grown strong through several hail storms, a lot of severe gusty wind and plenty of rain.  Of all the beans I planted, these were ready for picking first.  I adore them!  Their hardy, 8' foot growth habit is a huge bonus so I'm going to capitalize on that and have them grow up some supports to shade the back deck.  Then, I can simply reach up and grab and snack  :) 

Have you grown this variety of bean?  If not, do try it!!!!!

Friday, 24 August 2012

In Every Color

Loving the colours coming in from the greenhouse!  Jaunne Flamme, Black Krim, Brandywine, Bonny Best, Roma (to name a few)...  

  These gorgeous Lindzer Deleketess potatoes are the first ones harvested and they are absolutely delicious....  so buttery and tender, an absolute favourite already!  I sliced and pan fried these in a little bit of Berkshire bacon fat, and oh BOY were they good!   We bought potato seed from here this year and were very happy with the quality of the seed and the service.  We'll definitely buy from them in future as we add more diversity to our growing plan.

Ours turned out a little mis-shapen, but as we have some compaction issues, it's not surprising...  we hope to remedy that as we continue working on improving our soil.

The carrots are coming in fast and furious as well... we all love the heritage, stump-rooted, French variety "Chantenay" (in the picture above) for their taste and texture and ease of growing in heavy, clayish soil.  They pick and peel so easily (due to their shape) and MOST importantly, they keep exceptionally well because of their beefy size.   We buy our seed from here and have been very pleased with their quality products and friendly service.  I am working on saving more seed each year (a new skill for me), but we will always be adding to our crop diversity and will continue to support this great company.  Thanks, John!

What are my fellow Northern Hemisphere readers harvesting right now?  Southern Hemisphere friends... what are you planting?

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Tomatoes are making their way into nearly every meal just now...  I prepare them the lazy way - quartering them and tossing them into an enamelled cast iron pot with sauteed onion and olive oil.  Next, I add a huge dump of herbs and spices - whatever I feel like... mostly garlic, oregano, basil, sea salt and pepper.  Let simmer for a while and use it in EVERYTHING.  I have yet to can any tomatoes as we are devouring all we can fresh each day :)

Sweet potato fries were a healthy, tasty success today (kid approved, too!).  Peel and slice sweet potatoes, toss in a high grade cold pressed oil, coat in a generous amount of herbs and spices (I used a quirky combination of basil, oregano, herbs de Provence, sea salt and pepper).   Bake at 400 "ish".  Set the timer to check on them after 15 minutes and stir frequently after that.   Dipped in a mustardy, mayonnaise dill dip, they were So So Good.  I couldn't get an after picture because they were promptly devoured by a passel of hungry kids!

These delicate poppies are simply gorgeous.  I love them so...  All that hard work seeding perennials is starting to finally pay off.  Next year, the blooms will be magnificent!

Kitty has found a perch that provides him an excellent view of the entire back yard including the comings and going of many extra children today.   Those grass fronds sway ever so gently in the breeze which he finds most irresistible :)   Cheeky boy.

I did manage to weed for an hour today and I feel much better for it.

Monday, 20 August 2012

All over the place

Oatmeal/kamut flake whole wheat cookies were in the oven early while I strolled outside to check on the garden (hence the slightly overcooked edges)...

  I am experimenting with grasses this year and am not disappointed.  They are drought tolerant and require no fertilizer or deadheading...  perfect for this hot sunny back deck.  

Paige is on an outdoor art extravaganza...  My garden is graced with signs and pictures galore thanks to a large haul of craft paint on FreeCycle.  What a cheery addition to the depressing weeds (wink).

We've noticed a tremendous amount of metamorphosis these days in this neck of the woods...  these beauties were hanging from the bottom edge of the siding at the back of the garage.  There's many more just like them...

Based on a little research, I believe the resultant butterfly is a Mourning Cloak.

I've also noticed that our tomato plants, when left unattended for *just* a few days can become feral and unruly.  They are rather like children, needing daily attention and guidance :)  I should have taken a picture BEFORE I harvested, but the camera wasn't with me, so I picked anyway and you can see here what is to come...  many more.

I'm full of happiness to report that my Hollyhock is at last blooming.  The blossoms look bright red in the photo, but they are a lovely deep burgundy/red in person.   I started this plant from seed last Spring and have patiently waited for this day.   It is SO rewarding to garden (sometimes)...  At 6 feet tall this plant is *still* racing for the heavens!  The spires are very stately and are CHOCK FULL of blooms.    This is quite literally, the beginning of my very own extravaganza of the blossom variety.  What a good week this will be watching them unfurl.  They look rather like hibiscus flowers, don't they?

On to more depressing news, just look at this forlorn collection of plants...   My $1.99 Blueberries and Saskatoons plus a few other plants are STILL awaiting planting.   They are languishing in the shade while I'm currently in a state that I like to call Planting Paralysis.    I have so many things to plant, I can't make my mind up where to put them and how best to form a suitable guild...   I change my mind like my socks (daily).  Tick, tick, tick....  time's running out!

So, I procrastinate further and head to the main garden where I am confronted by weeds so large they could be mistaken for intentional crops.  Ahem.  Lets not talk about that, shall we?

On a brighter note, the sunflowers that were planted to shade the greenhouse from late summer sun are doing their job nicely :)  Whew - at least something is going well!

Oh yes... I almost forgot.  We need a name for this fella.  Care to suggest something?  He's very handsome and with his fancy feathered feet, he needs a high class name.  He's a bit of a ninny, though... very much a 'Fraidy Cat. 

On to other chicken matters, the Barnevelders and Welsummers (now approximately 4 months old) have discovered how delicious fresh apples are in the most sneaky of ways...

This Norkent apple tree is in their run and is literally GROANING with apples...

Upon close inspection, it was discovered that the lower apples are all half eaten (on the lower side)!  

Just a quick, unorganized harvest today because the heat and bugs were a little too much for me...

Some tomatoes, apples, carrots, eggs, squash and beans (not pictured) made their way into the house.  The basket weighed nearly 10 pounds.  I heart grocery shopping on my property :)

Sunday, 19 August 2012

When My Husband Works Out of Town...

A reader recently asked if I could share how we manage to parent and run "Little Home In The Country" with Kelly working out of town.  The short answer?  Not so well, LOL.  The long answer?  Grab a coffee...

Our philosophy behind living through this kind of lifestyle is rather like looking for the rainbow in the dark and stormy sky.  We know this arrangement isn't forever, so we look for ways to make it more tolerable in the meantime - planning for some "rainbow moments" in the week that he has off and is home with us.  It's been just under a year now, and it's unlikely that Kelly will be taking a local position until sometime in 2013 (not our choice, it's just the way it is), so we've got a ways to go...

Kelly currently works 5 hours away with a 14 days on, 7 days off rotation.  This is actually our preferred schedule of all the possible combinations as a full week off is far preferable to working 11 on and 3 off or 10 on and 4 off.  Too much driving with those rotations and not enough time off to relax and do anything together.

First and foremost, our priority is our family.  All other aspects of life are a distant second.   Most of our time is spent making sure that our marriage is healthy and our children are well.  That sounds so easy as I type it, but it is REALLY hard to accomplish.  Truly, we always feel like someone is getting short changed, but our goal is to simply do the very best we can with the time that we have together.  

From my point of view...

When Kelly is away, I go into survival mode.  I realized the last time he worked away, that staying healthy is the most important thing that I can do for my family.  With only one parent home and available, it's critical that I stay well in order to keep the home fires burning.  I balance my responsibilities with the kids, our home and the garden so that I'm able to take good care of myself.  I'm far from perfect but I strive for balance.  To achieve this:

1)  I try to get to bed at a decent hour.  When I'm overtired, I always get sick and that makes for a tough 2 weeks with Kelly gone.

2) I try to stay active and exercise each day.  In the winter that means doing an exercise DVD 6 days/week, and in the summer that means lots of outside work/gardening.

3)  I get out in the fresh air every day.  Summer is easy, but winter is hard.  Even a 10 minute walk around the property when it's -30C makes a HUGE difference in my outlook, my health and my mental state.

4)  Making time for personal pleasure.  For me, that is reading/researching, sewing, scrapbooking, gardening, etc...  Late night reading means that I have to go to bed BEFORE I need to be asleep.

5)  Time to go out alone.  One of my favourite ways to recharge is to take a tea/coffee to the library to browse the shelves alone...  I try to schedule one "go out alone" session each week that Kelly is gone, but sometimes I can only manage it once in 2 weeks.

6)  Time with friends.  I aim to schedule one friend tea/coffee date each time that Kelly is away.  Catching up with a friend is a huge spirit lifter and is an important factor in maintaining a healthy mental state.  Even a chatty, long distance phone call to a close friend works, but a face to face visit is always the best.

7)  Regular chiropractic visits and regular homeopathic consultations to keep me in top form are essential to my health and wellbeing.

8)  Eating well.  Avoiding sugar as best as I can is a HUGE boost to my health.  I do indulge in treats occasionally, but I try to eat regular meals and get enough fruit and veggies in my diet because I simply FEEL better and have way more energy when I eat that way.

9)  Asking for help.  When I'm not coping well (for whatever reason), I reach out and ask for help.  Now that we don't have babies and toddlers in the home, I need outside help less often, but occasionally, the need arises to have some assistance.  When I am able, I like to return the favour, by assisting a friend in her time of need.

10)  Staying in touch with Kelly.  With technology what it is today, staying in touch has never been easier.  Being in regular contact has really helped us to stay close and feel like we are involved in family decisions together.  When he comes home, we don't feel like strangers (which sadly was the case many years ago before cell phones and free family chat time).

11)  Lowering expectations.  I am a perfectionist and a workaholic by nature.  I always have a HUGE list of projects and tasks to work on both inside and outside.  I am prone to burn out because I push myself very hard to get a lot done.  It takes TREMENDOUS self discipline to let things go.... my vegetable garden is weedy, the house is not perfectly tidy, our meals are simple and I'm not canning much this year.  I always look for the most efficient way to do things and instead of pushing myself so hard, I force myself to let things slide right now...  that is the hardest challenge for me and I sometimes resent having to do it, but that is what this season in life demands...

From the kids' point of view:

1)  They HATE having Dad away, and the first night is always rough.  I plan for a relaxed evening with some extra time with the kids leading up to and at bedtime...  the younger kids need assurance that we can get through the 2 week shift.  

2)  Calendars.  Paige and Reece both have their own calendars so they keep track of when Dad is away and when he is coming home.  

3)  Calling/texting/face time/sending pictures.  The kids send lots of pictures of their day to Dad.  Art, schoolwork, projects, the animals, etc...  this really helps to keep Dad "in the loop" of the day to day everyday moments of their lives.  He feels less isolated and they feel like Dad is "with them" and involved :)

4)  Time to talk.  Young children can't always identify and express negative feelings.  It's really important that they have time to talk about their feelings, vent their frustration and express their sadness.  Sometimes, it takes a little nudge and some leading conversation from me to get the ball rolling...  not that I want them wallow in misery, but from time to time a good cry or a long chat is needed.

5)  Routine!  Sticking to a regular routine is SO helpful in providing stability and comfort for the kids.  They feel secure when the rest of their world is stable and constant.  The very last thing they need with Daddy gone, is upheaval and unpredictable days. 

When Kelly is home on his week off, we make the most of it!

1)  We stay off the computer as much as possible.  It goes without saying that the computer can really suck valuable time away from our week together.

2) We clear the calendar.  I try to not schedule appointments and commitments during the week that Kelly is home.  After being away for 2 weeks, the LAST thing Kelly wants is for us all to be running around and out of the house all week.  This does take some planning and a good amount of discipline, but it really makes for a relaxing week off.

3)  We spend time as a family to just BE a family.  We play board games and watch movies, we listen to music and cook together... whatever we feel like doing, we do, even if it's just hanging out and relaxing.  We make sure to have Mitchell and Kelsey over for dinner at least once while Kelly is home so that Kelly can feel plugged into their lives.  I get to see them a whole lot more than he does just now... 

4)  We make a list of home repairs/maintenance tasks that are essential plus a list of "hopefuls".  Those are tasks that we'd really like to do if we can fit them in (building the greenhouse, working on finish carpentry on the house, working on land/garden chores/construction projects, etc.).  We take each day as it comes and we try to not be super busy each day of Kelly's week off otherwise, he returns to work feeling like he never had a rest!  The weather sometimes dictates our plans...  rain means indoor work, and hot sunny days lend themselves to outside chores.

5)  Family outings.  A cheap movie, a paddle down the river in the canoe, the Science Centre, swimming at the city pool, etc...  balancing the need to do fun things together without being away from home too much is key.  We both like to be home on Kelly's days off, so we don't go out any more than necessary.

7)  Adult time.  This is probably the hardest thing to accomplish.  With 4 children in the home from age 19 down to 8, there's a lot of competition for our time.  Our best conversations happen early in the morning over our favourite coffee.  Sometimes, we have to turn the kids away and shoo them off in order to have that conversation time alone...  I don't feel guilty about that, because we spend the whole day with them!

As we are nearing the 1 year mark of Kelly working away, we're feeling more than ready to have him working back home again.   Living apart for 2 weeks at a time requires that we all live very mindfully to make it work.  That in itself isn't a bad thing I suppose, but we are all ready to have a "normal" family life again...  let's hope that 2013 brings a local position!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

A weekend of cake...

Happy 22nd Anniversary to my wonderful husband.  After all these years, you're still the man, I'd pick.  XO   This picture of us was taken at the bottom of Margaret Falls in BC on a recent weekend away to visit our Daughter In Love's family.

Also a BIG Happy Birthday to our youngest child, Reece who turned 8 today! 
Reece was the best 14th Anniversary present a couple could ask for :)

We love you, Reece!

Friday, 17 August 2012

I feel it...

 Fall is in the air!  The thermometer still says 30, but it somehow feels like 20 or 25.  The air has a definite nip to it which means that summer is nearly over.  Rosie and Melissa think so as well, as they've traded their sun frocks for hand knit woollens.

I've been busy preparing the children for the school year and am trying to get some more garden time in.  At the moment, my time is needed both indoors and out, so I'm struggling just a bit to balance it all.  Today was a purge of the younger children's bedroom in order to assess what is needed for the coming season change.  Fortunately, after some tidying and sorting, not much.  I took full advantage of the cleaned up space and steam cleaned the carpet in there.  My, was it dirty!  It feels SO good to have that room in order after a summer of neglect.  Funny how a good clean clears the head.

* ~~~ *

Meanwhile, Paige has been busy baking up whole wheat peanut butter dog biscuits.  It was getting dark, but she wanted a picture of her hard work so please forgive the horrible lighting.  Paige loves to bake and regularly tells me of her plans to own a world famous bakery.  I believe her and I can't wait for that :)

*Edited to add link to site with recipes for dog treats courtesy of Paige :)

What have you been up to?

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The glorious season of the tomato

Here we go!  It's tomato time :)

The next 6 weeks or so will see us picking, chopping, roasting, simmering, canning and freezing our way through the onslaught of tomatoes.  We'll be taste testing and comparing our chosen varieties to see which one ranks the highest... stay tuned!

                             Assorted "first pick" tomatoes with Violetta beans

Cut up, seasoned and ready for roasting

on a sandwich (the first Brandywine!)

and simmering after roasting - for pizza sauce tonight :)

I'm excited now, but in a month I'll be SICK of processing tomatoes, I'm sure...  LOL!


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Summer's Bounty

This is the first year that I've grown white scalloped squash.  It's an organic, heirloom variety that I'm really liking.... early ripening, tender, sweet squash that seems resistant to rot.  All good in my books!

I marvelled at the shape today as I cut them open.  How beautiful is THAT?

I'm saving some seed in hopes of growing more next year.  Hopefully no cross pollination has happened.  We'll see.  All I can do is try :)  If it doesn't work out, I'll order again from here.