I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
John Burroughs

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Forgive me...a tea rant....

 OK. I'll admit it. I am a bit of a 'tea granny'. I love a good cuppa. I've cut out coffee, and I drink herb teas, but at least once a day, I enjoy a cup of the real stuff. If in a hurry,  just a bag in a cup with boiling water poured over it, or if more leisurely, a steeped cup (or two) in a wee tea pot I have just for that.

So, this morning, after our run of beautiful fall days, the weather is a little grey and overcast, with rain falling very early, I brewed a cup. Seeing that the tea canister on the counter was down to 2 bags, I retrieved a new box from the stores cupboard and opened it. It was Salada. I'd recently had a cup of tea with a neighbour, and liked the flavour of her tea. That was the brand.

Well...here comes the rant...Why are tea companies starting to put their tea in plastic tea bags??? The Salada box contained plastic bagged tea!

I love Red Rose tea, “only in Canader you say?”, but they started the plastic tea bag thing and I dropped them. Obviously these people have no taste.

I was layering manure and chopped leaves on a couple of my garden beds yesterday, and what should come floating to the top as I turned it over, but those nasty little un-compostable plastic tea bags.

Tetley is still in paper bags so that is what we have been buying. Tea companies...listen up....stop with the bloody plastic!

Monday, September 28, 2020

Enjoying Autumn, and Preparing for Winter...

We've had a short run of beautiful fall days, sunny and warm, almost too warm, the temperature holding in the lower 20's C degree range, with a humidity value making it feel like the upper 20's.

The Sugar Maples are yellow-orange

The fall foliage is spectacular this year, glorious reds and oranges and yellows. We went for a day long road trip, a little south of here on Friday past, and around every bend was a blast of beautiful colour combinations, that only Mother Nature can produce.

Colour coming on the far hills

Its been a little difficult to knuckle down and get the garden beds prepared for winter, but gradually, that is being accomplished. Some leaves are falling, and with our new mower/mulcher/bagger lawn mower, it has been an absolute breeze collecting leaves. I already have 9+ stuffed industrial sized garbage bags stored in my shed. I will have lots for mulching next summer, as well as blanketing the garlic bed and the parsnip patch this fall.

Very small patch of parsnips this year

We have not had the expected influx of apple-eating bears, and have determined that although there is no beech nut crop this year, there are a lot of acorns dropping from the oaks. Bears prefer nuts for their high protein and fattening ability, and perhaps we'll dodge the apple eaters this year. 

I have harvested and processed all the apples we need at this point, so the critters can have the rest. The crab apple tree close to the house has almost finished dropping all its fruit. It has produced a bumper crop every second year since we moved here, and this year was a bumper crop year.

The Snow Queen in May

Her crab apples in September

I have some ever-bearing strawberries that are taking their name very literally. Look what was peeking out from under the leaves this morning...and it has at least two mates!

Thursday, September 24, 2020


Last Tuesday morning, we awoke to see white frost all over. It wasn't really a killing frost, but heavy enough to penetrate the covers we had placed over the bean fence and the cherry tomato plants. So...I've been busy dismantling the garden, taking down the bean fence and pulling the tomato plants. Its rather a shame we had that heavy a frost, because this week is much warmer, the night temperatures are staying just above single C digits, so the beans and tomatoes would have carried on. Such is gardening! The pumpkin and squash vines were frozen, so the fruit is cleaned and stored. 

Yesterday, I pulled frost blackened plants from the flower beds and prepped the soil and planted some bulbs I'd ordered. The last of the turnips got pulled, cleaned, then waxed and stored later in the day.

The last two days have been sublime fall days, the colour in the leaves of the trees really coming out. Once the trees start to turn, they seem to turn overnight. The soft maples are pretty much at their peak now, the hard maples coming a close second, but other trees are more hesitant to call it a season, so there is still a lot of green in the canopy.

Today is a little dreary and overcast, so Hubby and I went for a short road trip to see some of the colours. It wasn't the best light for photography, but some of the colours were quite brilliant.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Living off the Grid....

The grid stops almost exactly 3km down the road from our driveway entrance. The last hydro pole is at the house of our nearest full-time neighbour. We didn't plan to live off-grid when we started looking for our retirement property. We didn't even plan to be this far away from our previous home. We were having no luck in our search within the north-facing arc of territory we felt was our target. This property showed up on line, and we decided to 'just go and have a look'. The 'looking' was done at the end of January 2017, and the offer was made the day after being here. Sometimes you just know! 

Neither of us had any experience with solar systems, but we've both lived for a short period of our lives 'off grid', or, as it was known then, using coal oil lamps for light, wood stoves for heat and cooking, and manually pumping and carrying water from a well. The folks here were very good at showing us the ropes, and Hubby, being a very technically minded guy, caught on to the system and the equipment that needs to be monitored and maintained, very quickly. I'm tagging along behind him and gradually learning as well. 

We have always been careful with our use of energy, so things have not really changed for us in that department at all. In summer, with long days, the sun high in the sky, energy is abundant. As the days shorten, and there are more inclement days in a row without sunshine, one has to be much more aware of energy usage. We adjust the panels every one to two months to match the angle of the sun. Every month except June, July and August, we do an equalization of the batteries. It involves adjusting settings on the inverter-charger to allow a higher voltage to enter for a set period of time to stir up and invigorate the batteries. We also try to be mindful of the percentage of charge in the batteries and don't let it drop below 85%. Even though they are deep cycle batteries, they will last longer if one keeps them charged at the upper range of capacity. 


The larger array of 2 sets of solar panels

We knew when we purchased this property, that the existing batteries were on their final legs, so around Christmas of 2018, we ordered a new set and Hubby installed them. What an immediate difference we noticed! From having to use the generator every couple of days that fall, we went to hardly having to use it at all! The batteries that were here were 15 years old, and had been cared for. We hope to get as much life out of our new ones. 

New batteries ready for installation

Cleaning and polishing the connections

 The back up generator is diesel-powered, with a remote starter, so one can start it from warmth and comfort. In really cold weather, the glow plugs in the cylinders aren't sufficient to warm the engine enough to start the generator, so one has to go out and plug in the block heater. We learn to plan ahead, and keep an eye on energy levels. There is an in-house monitor, as well as the one on the inverter-charger in the Battery House. 

The Generator

 We have all the comforts of modern conveniences that we wish to have. Two freezers, a full size fridge, washer and dryer. The dryer is propane fired, but very rarely gets used. We've contemplated taking it out to create more space. The 'on demand' propane water heater is electrically controlled. The kitchen has a propane stove, but we have a toaster oven and other electric appliances. You learn what draws the most power and use it judicially in the winter. Hubby uses all his shop equipment, saws, a planer, air compressor.... Being off-grid, you don't rely on others for your energy supply. Many, many times, the hydro is out in this area, due to lines traveling through thick bush, but we have never been out of electricity.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Apples, apples, apples....

Bucket of apples....
Peeling, coring, slicing....
Into the lemon juice and water....
Spin it out....
Into the crock pot for apple butter....
Into the dehydrator....
The "apple shelf".... Still going!!.....

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Processing, Harvesting and Storing

Finally, two days of sun after 3 grey, rainy days! There was a frost advisory for the last two clear nights, but frost did not materialize, and the forecast calls for milder temperatures tonight. I picked all the tomatoes except the cherries, which we tarped last night. The plants are loaded, and I'd like to get a few more ripe before the season ends. Clouds are moving in now late in the PM, and tomorrow is supposed to be rainy....again.

First thing this morning, I prepared a full dehydrator load of apple slices. The peeler-corer-slicer, makes short work of the preparation. One more load, and that will be my quota of dried apples for this year. 


 Later this morning I tackled the potato patch and am happier with the harvest than I thought I would be. The Russets were about normal, with quite a few little ones, the Yukon Golds were mostly good sized, with only a few smaller ones, but a small pail's worth had a soft spot in the eye where the root was attached. They are set aside and will be used first. It has just been too wet this August. 

Yesterday, I cleaned and stored the garlic cloves that had been drying in the barn, and this afternoon did the same with the onions. It has been so rainy and humid, that the onions didn't dry as nicely as they usually do. 

This is the pond this morning.
And this is the pond mid September 2019.




Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Wild fruit and Bears

We had a slight frost on June 1 of this year, then a cold weekend on June 13 and 14, with serious whiteness on the ground the morning of the 14th. I think the wild blueberry crop took a hit from that as we went to check our favourite picking spots later in July, and could find no sign of fruit. The plants were lush and green, as we'd had adequate moisture at that point, but no berries. I managed to pick a few quarts of wild raspberries later in July, and they are squirreled away in the freezer for making jam this coming winter. The wild blackberries also didn't amount to much this summer. May and June were unusually dry, and the rain we've had this August just couldn't make up for that.

Last year was a mast year for beechnuts, a preferred food of bears, but there aren't any nuts this fall, so as a result of less wild fruit and nuts, we are expecting an influx of black bears, as they will be looking at our apple trees to fatten up for hibernation.

Bears can sure mess up a tree, break branches and rake the trunk with their claws. We have only been the stewards of this property for a short while and the trees and bears have been around much longer and both have survived, although the trees show scars.

To delay the inevitable, we have been collecting fallen apples and putting them in front of a trail camera several hundred yards away, to give the bears an easier food source and divert them until the apples ripen, and I can harvest the fruit we need. We will then shake the remainder down for the critters, and hopefully keep them from climbing the trees.

Sure enough, on the trail camera is a shot of a yearling bear, not too big. Deer also like apples, and we think the third shot is of the Orphan Fawn.


Friday, September 4, 2020

Harvesting, Canning and Foraging

Its been a very busy week! Its that time of year in the north country, when the days get noticeably shorter, the nights cool down, and days dawn foggy, misty, and very dew-wet. Some innate gene kicks in, its time to really focus on getting food squirreled away, time to prepare for winter. Frost is coming soon!

Yesterday was a sublime, sunny, warm, un-humid day. Late in the afternoon, I took a quick bicycle ride along one of our trails to look for mushrooms. I'd spent the rest of the day picking and processing a pail of apples into sauce, drying the cherry tomatoes, picking ripe tomatoes, then peeling and de-seeding a pot-full for the chili sauce that is now simmering beside me. (Sitting on a stool by the stove to keep stirring the pot).

Fresh ingredients

Pot 'o Chili Sauce

 On the short ride, I found a Parasol 'shroom that got sliced and sauteed into our supper, and several more in a new spot that I'll be keeping an eye on.

Not quite ready

 The major score, although it was way past its best and unusable, was an Old Man of the Woods, a shaggy, dark, choice edible, so that is another spot to keep an eye on.

Very old, Old Man

Last evening, around 8, a narrow band of rain passed over with a flurry of wind, then the sky cleared and later a waning moon silvered the yard. That wind and intense rain toppled my 'five foot, that grew to be 15 foot' sunflowers. I snipped off the blooms and now bees are visiting them in the containers I put them in, on the picnic table by the back door. A lot of apples dropped from one of our early trees, so later today, I'll be getting out the ladder and picking as many as I can. They keep in the cool room, and we can eat them fresh right through almost to the end of the year.

Buckets of Blooms
Today is an absolutely gorgeous early fall day, and I'd love to be out roaming the bush. There is colour coming here and there on tree branches. Some soft maples are showing promise of flaming beauty. There are a few tomatoes left, ripening, and they'll be canned when (and if) they are ready, the final green ones are destined for Grandma's green tomato and apple Chow. but right now, the focus is shifting to apples. I have to freeze and dry our winter's supply.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Random and Arbitrary.....


Picked...just a few, to stuff and freeze.....

Last 2019 jar...perfect timing....

 Ratchet strapped togetherness....

Puffs and Parasols....

What the heck is that....?