Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Free food

 When we started looking in earnest for our retirement property, (it took a couple of years and a lot of frustration) we made a list of things we wanted. Some were negotiable, but some were not.

One non-negotiable was a place for me to garden. We were interested in finding, maybe, an old farm with fruit trees. We wanted the area around the house to be tree-free, as once we got older, it might be difficult to remove them, if necessary, and we didn't want the on-going hassle of cleaning eaves-troughs etc.

Well, both those criteria (as well as many others) were found here. Other than a couple of apple trees, not too close, we have open space around the buildings, bordered by lots and lots of bush and trees. Its wonderful to have a garden that is exposed to the full sun. It makes such a difference in the growth of the plants. (see previous post 'What a frustrated gardener does') It would have been OK with me if there had been established gardens, but I have enjoyed creating them, even if it is hard work.

When we moved up in June of 2017, I searched in vain for any asparagus, rhubarb or horseradish plants. None. As time went on, I've found other flower relics of previous owners, but all overgrown and stunted. (see previous post 'The Rock Garden') There is a large lilac bush which we are working at rejuvenating, and....lots and lots of gnarly old apple trees! (Eleven in the cleared area around the buildings alone!)

I thought about establishing raspberry canes and blueberry bushes, BUT, nature provides free ones! There is an area, many acres large, 13 Km away, where blueberries grow. 2017 was a bumper year, and 2019 was a very good year. I managed to sock away lots in the freezer. Closer to home, there are 3+ areas on the property that produce raspberries. I manage to get enough for several batches of jam. Because they are wild ones, they are a little seedy, but a food mill helps with that. As for blackberries...there are patches of huge canes in several places and in a bumper year for moisture like 2017 was, I was freezing bags of them as I'd filled all my jelly jars. I made jelly well into 2018 from the stash in the freezer. Picking them is no easy feat, as one needs armor...denim coveralls, long sleeved shirts and leather gloves.

And, finally...Apples. We had a taste-testing walk around to all the trees on the property, the first fall we were here. Early the following spring, I spent a lot of time with a ladder and a saw, pruning the old trees as best I could. There was a lot of climbing up and down the ladder to stand back and make pruning decisions. Some of the trees we chose were being choked out by encroaching bush, so there was a lot of chainsawing and dragging away of trees and brush to let the sun in.

So, every year, we have tons of apples. Some are earlier than others, some are yellow-green, and never get rosy, some are rosy cheeked with pink streaks inside. I can them, I freeze them, I make apple butter and I dry them. The fallen apples from the trees in the clearing go into the compost bin, and once layered with fallen leaves, make a super rich, black compost. 



 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Garden Production

Its August already...when did that happen!!! The produce is rolling in. My bean bed has been amazing and its far from done yet. The Eastern Butterwax, and Provider bush beans have been prolific, and the climbers have been producing steadily as well. The second sowing of bush beans is blooming now, so there will be no shortage of beans this winter! We had our first toasted BLT sandwich yesterday for lunch...a big Mule Team beefsteak whose juicy slice pretty much covered the slice of toast....yum... The sweet Rapunzel cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen, tresses of little red jewels, and the paste tomatoes are turning yellow and orange on their way to red. One batch of Bread and Butter pickles is on the shelves in the storage room, and a batch of 9 day pickles are in the brine. I've managed, so far, to keep up with just one Black Beauty Zucchini plant. The turnips are big and pushing their tops up out of the soil and mulch, onions are starting to keel over, and I've dug a few hills of new spuds and a couple of garlic bulbs, and they are beautiful. The butternut squash and pie pumpkin vines are competing to see who can produce the most fruit. A batch of basil pesto is portioned and frozen, as well as a batch of garlic scape pesto. Broccoli are giving enough side shoots for fresh eating every few days, and the ever-bearing strawberries are producing about half a cup every few days as well. Just enough to decorate two servings of ice cream! The first planting of carrots is just perfect now, and the second planting is almost big enough to be thinned. The California Wonder peppers are loving this hot summer. We've already used a few, and there are more hanging on the plants, as well as a myriad of blooms. The first planting of beets is processed, pickled and frozen, and the second planting is up. A fresh planting of lettuce, spinach, kale, chard and radishes are growing. The 4' X 4' bed of parsnips are growing large leaves, with the promise of big delicious roots to be dug early next spring. Its such a delight to go out and wander through the garden beds, picking something here, pulling something there, and having fresh, 'dirt to table' meals. Its the very best time of the summer! (At the far end of the second picture is a new bed, just created, that I am 'lasagna' layering with cardboard, grass clippings and manure. It will be ready to be dug up next spring!)




Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Orphan Fawn

July 27th, just after 7 PM, we were sitting out on the verandah, enjoying the cooling air, after a humid and uncomfortable day, when a good sized coyote appeared close to the bush edge, on the mown area, on the front west side of the driveway. It walked along close to the edge, then scooted out the driveway entrance heading back to the west! Less than 5 minutes later, the fawn came running across the front of the lawn from the same vicinity, crossed the driveway, turned north and bounded along through the un-mown, wild flower section to the east of the field garden, then with two big leaps crossed the path to the compost bins, the path to the garden shed, and disappeared down the trail around the pond. Just a few minutes later, the coyote reappeared, nose to the ground and was following the path the fawn had taken! It crossed the drive in the time it took us to get up out of our chairs, yelling and clapping to dissuade it from its quarry! It turned tail out the driveway entrance, and headed back in the direction it had come from. Whew!

The coyote had the distinctly sharp snout and pointed ears, but was large, with quite a bushy tail, probably one of the crosses between a wolf and a coyote that are around here. The fawn is bigger than when last seen, its spots are fading, and it seems to be doing OK on it's own.

Today, we picked up the SD cards from the trail cameras. There is a blurred shot of an airborne fawn, obviously running, and at a camera further along the same trail, a picture showing a small portion of what could only be the coyote. The time stamp was July 27, so the coyote had been stalking the fawn before they emerged in front of us.

Last night, in the gathering dusk, the fawn casually bounded across the lawn near the bush edge in front of the house as we were sitting out on the verandah. Apparently he/she has chosen this area as his/her home.


Monday, July 27, 2020

Data Limtations...

Our data here is limited, and apparently, I've used a bit too much this month. Re-evaluating my posting frequency. Will be back after Aug. 4 when the data renews for the month.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Beans

In 2018, a friend grew several different varieties of beans, and saved some seeds. For Christmas, she gave me a jar of an assortment of the beautifully coloured dried beans. I sorted them out according to their colours and got her to name them, and tell me which were climbers and which were bush. This year, I planned space for them in my garden and planted them.


Last night, we had the first picking of some of the Mosteller climbing beans. They were delicious, steamed about five minutes, until just a little tender. Beans are such a rewarding crop, and climbers keep bearing until frost. They don't usually have many pests, and they bear enough at once to make it worth while getting out the steamer for processing. Processed and frozen beans are nothing like fresh, but in the middle of winter, they taste wonderful.

I think I am throwing in the towel on peas. They are fun to get in the ground, something you can plant early when it is too soon for a lot of things, when you are itching to get planting. They pop up fairly quickly, giving gratification...but after picking and shelling, there doesn't seem to be much there! They are delicious, but I think next year, I'll just plant the few I had no room for this year, and call it quits on peas.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Heartbreaking....

One day near the end of June, Hubby was coming out of the garage and happened to look down beyond the barn near the bush edge, and there was a small, spotted fawn. He assumed that the doe was with it, just out of sight in the bush, or behind the barn. The next day, after lunch, we were togging up in our grubbies to return to our respective tasks, Hubby to the shop, me to the garden. There, over to the west of the house and beyond the field garden, was the fawn, walking alone. It walked down the east side of the cleared area, across the front, keeping near the bush edge. We followed it's progress, moving from window to window, then to the open front porch door. As it crossed in front of the house, it made several soft bleats. It crossed the driveway, then went down the main trail to the west of the house. There is another trail back there that forks off the main one, and curves around to come out back by the barn where Hubby had seen the fawn the previous day. A little later, I could hear it bleating loudly and repetitively all along the west side of the clearing, in the bush, presumably on that trail. It was heartbreaking, as we realized it was alone. Somehow, doe and fawn have become separated. It can't be more than a couple of months old, as the peak deer birthing time here is mid-May. We have spotted it twice more since. Both times it has been in the edge of the cedar bush behind my garden shed. It still seems to be alone, but is no longer bleating, and is browsing happily. Does it somehow know that it is safer hanging around here where predators are less likely to approach?

This is a trail camera picture, taken within the last week. It is a doe with a fawn coming along behind her. It is about the size of the one we are seeing, but is not it.



Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Foxy and the Scalawags


Last summer, there was a family of foxes around, which we saw regularly, a vixen and two kits. The dog fox was very wary, and we only saw him once with the others, but often on the trail cameras. In late June and early July, there was a lot of overnight digging in the garden beds. I had hardware cloth and rocks covering any bit of bare ground. I did have some plant causalities, but it wasn't until later in the summer, that we really laid eyes on the culprits.

One early morning late in July, I was just getting up, when Hubby, who had come down to put on coffee... whispered up the stairs..."Foxes are right behind the house." I tumbled (quietly) down the stairs, and crept out to the back porch. There was Mrs. Fox and both kits down in front of the barn. She was going about her business, hunting around the barn. They were wrestling, chasing each other, tumbling together, fluffy, bushy tails whirling. I spoke to Mrs. She stopped and listened, the kits rushed into the edge of the woodshed at the sound of my voice, then when she carried on unconcerned, the kits came back out and started wrestling again. They tumbled over and over, then stood up on their hind legs facing each other like little boxing kangaroos. Mrs. went over and joined in, wrestling one kit to the ground, all four of its black legs were in the air. She groomed him vigorously, then walked on, toward the back of the barn. Then the chase was on...the kits ran, one chasing the other, across the lawn at the north end of the pond and disappeared into the entrance of the trail around the pond.

As the summer progressed, we saw the family often. We always spoke softly to them, and they showed no alarm at our presence. The kits grew, and became more and more independent. One morning I watched them in my garden beds, playing hide and pounce around the broccoli stems.


In late September, the kits had moved on to establish their own territories. Foxy was still around. She watched me dig the potatoes and settle the gardens in for winter, keeping a distance, but showing curiosity in the things I was doing. I had many one-sided conversations with her.

About the middle of November, we stopped seeing her. This spring, the dog fox has a new mate. They are both very wary, and it is rare to catch a glimpse of either one.