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Bit by Bit

I convinced hubby to let me buy two reel mowers. Those are push mowers. I’m not so much concerned about the environmental impact of gas (and I really should be) but it’s really good exercise for someone who is nowhere near a gym.  And they wouldn’t let me mow when we brought them home.

mowing only a bit
mowing only a bit

Then the tractor came to till our land!

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But his attachment tiller wouldn’t stay down in the ground. So he came two days later.

a trampoline AND a garden!
a trampoline AND a garden!

In the next week or so I will get to plant these:

only half
only half

 

There are more plants in cold frames outside, on the shelves in the laundry room and shelves in the pantry…and I’m seeding more basil.

 

Homemade Chai Tea

I am an ex-Starbucks lover.  I have spent a fortune on venti, soy, no water, no foam, chai lattes.  And then I downgraded to buying the syrup and making it myself at home. Except the stuff they sell in the box isn’t strong enough, so it never tasted right. Unless it was on ice. Then it was delicious.

And then I switched to David’s tea. Their chai tea took some getting used to, but I’d doctored it with Silk Extra-Vanilla soy milk.  But Silk doesn’t sell that brand near me, and I’d buy it by the case whenever we went to Syracuse, NY (yes, I’m a cross-border shopper).  So then I made myself get used to just the regular soy milk. That took two weeks. And then I noticed that every single time I had David’s tea, I would be sick later. Like…in the washroom way too many times. So I cut it out for a week. And my issues stopped. So I had some the next morning.  Regardless, I am no longer purchasing David’s tea (how could it possibly all of a sudden make me sick?)

So I broke down and found a recipe on the internet for homemade chai tea. I never wanted to try making it before, because it looked like too much work, but I finally did.

Dude.

I have to share the recipe because it will blow your mind when you taste it. I have changed the amount of ingredients slightly, and then added a bit of my own to perfect it. You be the judge.

Ingredients:

4″ piece of peeled fresh ginger

4 cinnamon sticks

4 tsp black peppercorns

20 whole cloves

9 cardamom pods

12 c cold H20

9 bags of Darjeeling tea

lovely ingredients
lovely ingredients

Put your sticks of cinnamon into an unsealed sandwich baggie. Grab your little hammer and cutting board for smashing.

little sandwich baggie, not sealed
little sandwich baggie, not sealed

and smash….Hulk smash. I find if you hold the baggie with one hand, keeping it closed, it’s less messy. And while smashing, don’t smash too hard, or you’ll put a hole in the baggie.

 

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Drop into large pot on stove. Next, your peppercorns go into the same baggie. And smash. If you like it spicy, smash more peppercorns.

don't inhale!
don’t inhale!

 

Then you are going to gently smash your cardamom and cloves. Cardamom is a funny spice, and once you smell it, you’ll recognize it. From curries and from certain teas.

Cloves left, cardamom pods right
Cloves left, cardamom pods right
peeled
peeled

Peel your ginger and chop into half-inch pieces. Then smash gently with knife to get the juice oozing out all over.

insanity in pot
insanity in pot

Add your cold H20 (I like to use Brita water because we are on a well) and bring to a rolling boil. Once it is boiling, cover with lid, and reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer 15 minutes.

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Then remove pot from heat and when it stops boiling, drop in your tea bags. The instructions say to brew for 60 minutes, but I love a good strong tea, so I let it brew for like, 4-6 hours. And because the recipe calls for 20 bags and I’m cheap. Then drain it into a large bowl through a pasta strainer to catch your bits of spices. Then pour bowl of contents into a pitcher and refrigerate.  Every morning I heat up half and half (with soy milk) on a pot on the stove, whisking every minute or so until it’s steaming. Then I inhale.

I highly recommend it! I try to use the best ingredients, but I can’t get my hands on organic ginger. Do you best to buy slave-free spices (buy fair trade!) and you’ll feel even better when drinking it.

Enjoy!

More Weird Things

I have two large rubbermaid containers to hold my bird seed. I leave one of them on my porch because I’m too lazy to walk it back to the barn and put it away.

Twice I have found the lid opened and chewed. Oh, I think to myself, I must have left it open. Huh.

Yesterday I found a chipmunk inside. Well, I had no idea how to get him out, and there was absolutely no way I would pick up the container and shake it (because what if he climbed out and attacked my face?) so I yelled a lot and tried to look menacing.  He inhaled 5 more sunflower seeds and then took his time leaving.  I shook the container to see how much he had eaten.

And there was something fuzzy inside.

Not moving.

So I calmly put it down on the ground, in the sun, walked back inside the house and waited for hubby to come home the next day and deal with it.

 

Growing seedlings takes time. So much time. But here are some little rascals.

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Transplanting while watching a Hallmark movie. Best way to do it.

 

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This is where they live now. In my living room, with grow-lights.

 

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Asparagus. Aren’t they adorable? Like little pine trees.

 

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Excited about this variety. A Grappoli D’Iverno

 

Weird Stuff We Find on the Farm

We’ve only been here a few months, but we’ve found some very odd things. And some magical things.

 

IMG_3887Yes, that’s a turkey foot.  All by itself. Just sitting on the ground. Two days ago we had turkeys. About 14 of them, just feeding off the ground. And then we went up on Zero Point Mom (a hill) and found this. No feathers, no guts.

 

 

And this is hubby’s hand to show you how gigantic it is. Gross, right?
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Pemberley Farm

the barn and the river beyond
the barn and the river beyond

 

Magda
Magda, the burr oak. And me and the dog.

 

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The fields in the late afternoon

 

Pemberley5
Getting the Mail

 

One of the many creeks
One of the many creeks
Pemberley4
The boys fighting in front of Gandalf the White (he’s a white pine)

 

 

 

 

Vegetable Plants

So…I have counted up all of my seed packets to plant this year and I have 75 different varieties of vegetables/herbs/perennials/annuals.  I think I’m planting about half of those this weekend, as part of the “plant 6-8 weeks” before last frost, and I figure it’s ok if the plants are a bigger when I plant them outside.  I have made space in my pantry, right by the window, for a large-ish indoor greenhouse thingy, and then I have a large, metal shelf in the laundry room fitted with plant lights.  And when it gets warmer outside, I have a walk-in greenhouse that I can set up outside right up against my south-facing wall.
While hubby and I discuss our various dreams for Pemberley, we definitely want to eventually sell our produce/herbs at a Farmer’s Market, or set up a co-op.  And of course donate 10% of our harvest to worthwhile food banks/neighbours etc.  But I’m thinking that I can also sell vegetable plants as well.  Seeing as how I have 75 different varieties, and all of them are organic, heirloom seeds, which will be grown in an organic manner – with organic fertilizer and manure/compost tea.

Therefore, I am going to take orders for plants. I grow them, you buy them. If the crop fails me, you don’t owe me a dollar.  These plants should be available by planting time, mid-May.  There is a very good possibility that I can even drop them off to you!  Feel free to contact me and let me know what you’d be interested in.  And I shall do my best to provide the best that I can grow.

by the way, I feel very awkward trying to hawk my wares and I’d rather just give them all away, but then I can’t afford to buy more seeds and organic fertilizer soooo…

What I’m Cultivating to Sell as Plants:

PEPPERS
-Craig’s Grande Jalapeno – big, fat jalapeno for making salsa. thick, flavourful, hot flesh
-Purple Jalapeno – large pepper that turns deep purple before maturing to red
Pasilla Bajio – mild-sweet-hot, fruit is dark green, turning brown as it ripens. Used in ‘mole’.
Sweet Chocolate – cola-red colour, sweet, medium-sized, ripens early

TOMATILLO

– Grande Rio Verde – yields apple-green fruit, medium-sized, no staking required
Purple – large purple/violet fruit, sweeter than green, very rare

TOMATOES

-Black Cherry – look like large, dusky purple grapes, high yield
-Gypsy – purplest, maroon tomato, medium-sized globe fruit, from Russia
-Mortgage Lifter – large, smooth, 1 pound fruit, sweet, from Virginia 1940’s
-Bonny Best – famous canning tomato, medium-sized, meaty fruit
-Purple Bumblebee – little cherries with lime green and purple stripes, crack-resistant, sweet
-Brandywine – huge, globe-shaped fruit, beautiful
-Sweetie – sweet, cherry-type, high production
-Amish Paste – the ultimate paste, giant, blocky, Roma-type, perfect for canning and paste, Wisconsin
-Pink Ponderosa – huge-sized, some over 2lbs, meaty pink-red beefsteak, developed in 1891
-Yellow Pear – very sweet, pear-shaped fruit with mild flavour, excellent producer
Blue Beauty – blue-black shoulders, 8oz fruit, sunburn/crack-resistant
Chocolate Pear – light red with swirls of shades of green/brown, rich tomato flavour
A Grappoli D’Iverno – winter grape of Italy, little Roma, fresh or dried


BROCCOLI

-Rapini – Italian, non-heading, grown for asparagus-like shoots and leaves
Early Purple Sprouting – purple broccoli sprouts, frost hardy, bred for over-wintering

ASPARAGUS

-Precoce D’Argenteuil – traditional heirloom, blanches white with rose-coloured buds

STRAWBERRY

-Garden Berry Red Wonder – large, elongated, sweet and aromatic, good for containers
-Garden Berry White Soul – white/cream coloured, small, last over a long season

CABBAGE

– Glory of Enkhuizen – medium/large hard round heads, keeps well, good producer, good for kraut, from Holland

ASPARAGUS

-Precoce D’Argenteuil – gourmet variety highly esteemed in Europe for delicious stems that can be blanched white with rose-coloured buds. Italian.

HERBS

-Sage Broad Leaf – 20″, gray-green leaves, fragrant
-Cinnamon Basil – spicy flavour, Mexican variety
-Thai Sweet Basil – sweet, spicy, essential in Thai cuisine, slight licorice taste
-Emily Basil – compact version of Genovese, longer-lasting when cut
-Blue Spice Basil – heavy fragrance with spicy vanilla overtones, good for salads

I am growing other things, but I think it’ll be sold as produce when the time comes.

If you are interested in purchasing any of these plants, please let me know! I can be reached at:

ironjacktreeservice@yahoo.ca

We also own a tree company. Did you know that?

The Dragon

We inherited an old furnace to go with our old house. Granted, it was installed in the ’90’s, but by today’s standards, it’s old.

new furnace, waiting to be installed.

When we purchased Pemberley, we agreed that it needed a new furnace. A wood/oil combo so that we could regularly heat with wood, and the oil would kick on when we were away.  We booked our furnace man (FM) and it was settled.
Except…
We are now going on week 5. And it isn’t close to being finished.
First, there was the issue with our old furnace. Perhaps we should install a new one, one that was more efficient. That took two weeks. Actually it was 12 hours, but there you go.  Then they had to redo the vents because when they installed the old furnace, they only put in three vents upstairs and they ran through much smaller pipes, therefore, the master bedroom usually sits at around 16C at night.  So they redid the duct work. That took a week – 4 hours.

old furnace…so old.

Then they installed the wood furnace and had to have it wett-certified. Well, that was done quickly, although they rescheduled twice and then showed up on a day without calling.  That took 10 minutes. But then we needed our chimney cleaned out by wett-certified chimney cleaners. So they came out. But our chimney is wrecked. There are tiles falling on each other and it needs a new liner. They said to get a new 5″ liner.  Someone else told us to get a 5″ liner.  But the FM said, no, it has to be to code, it has to be 6″. So we ordered a 6″ liner, and picked it up ourselves, 10 days ago. But the tiles are still messed up and they need to be smashed out of the way.  No one will smash our tiles.
So hubby goes up on the ladder, 40′ straight up, with an axe on a pole, trying to smash tiles.

frost on bedroom window. pretty, but brrr…

Today we found out that the wiring is all messed up. The electrical contractors came this morning and realized that they had no idea how to wire the two furnaces up to match each other, but the information is all in their book, but they don’t want to charge us while they read the book, so they’ll come next week.
And FM is here, in the -35C weather, and hubby is back on the roof, smashing tiles. Trying to. He’s even shot into the chimney three times with a .22, trying to dislodge some of the tiles, because we cannot rent a tile smasher.

And all of this makes me wonder why we didn’t look up the chimney to make sure it would work. Because today, we will not have wood heat. So while we are warm because they installed a rotor fan to blow extra hard into the master bedroom, we are paying over $250/week in oil.  Oof.

Lovely wood stove. Patiently waiting.

But the coolest part is when the furnace comes on.  It sounds like a dragon, breathing heat into our home.
So for now, I will just trust the God will work this all out, and help us find the cash to keep our Pemberley warm.

Seed Starting

There are a million and a half ways that people start their seeds. And this way is mine.

smells yummy

1-Go buy a big bag of Pro-mix.  I used to sell this stuff when I managed a garden center and it’s awesome. Yes, it costs about $36 for 3.6cuft, but there is sooo much of it! It’s a big black or white bag, all packed tightly into plastic. Pro-mix is a mixture of vermiculite, peat moss and perlite. Which means it’s very light soil. Rip the sucker open and dump half of it into a large plastic container with a lid.  I usually use Rubbermaid because they have tight lids. It’s very dusty, so don’t go crazy.

Why can’t I use regular top soil or black earth? Why can’t I use the generic stuff or miracle-gro?

The difference between top soil and black earth is based on their layers. In a ‘forest’ setting, when you start digging a hole, the first layer is humus. That’s the soft, airy, barky stuff on top, that is composed of plant material, and decomposed organisms. The next layer is the top soil, which has nutrients and usually higher in nitrogen (think grass). The layer below that is black earth, which is supposed to have phosphorus, phosphoric acid and ammonia – which is awesome for agricultural use, and planting shrubs.  As for the generic stuff…I like my Pro-mix. The end.

2- Grab a bowl.  Then start adding warm water and mix with your hands.  It takes a lot of water to get it very wet. But this is good. The mixture will absorb the water and help keep your seedlings wet for a longer time.

 

huge bowl, single sink.
Big bowl in the sink. Warm water is nice on your hands. Cold water is not. Add water and mix until nice and squishy and gets stuck underneath your fingernails. Now breathe in the smell. Mmmm…fresh earth. I love that smell. I bought perfume that was called, Dirt, once.

3- Add Myke’s. I was introduced to this stuff last year by Heather from Carleton Place Nursery. I was skeptical at first, but after reading that it was filled with mycorrhizae, I figured I’d try it. I bought the small container first for about $11, and my word, what a difference! The root system growth was incredibly substantial! Go buy it. It’s worth it. And it’s ORGANIC!

Inside container and how much to add. It does give you guidelines, but I’m cheap, so I cut back a bit. Like sugar in a recipe.

4- Fill containers! I’m using some old soy milk containers, and I’m uncapping the spout so that the water can leak out. Stuff your containers with the warm, wet soil.  You can use old milk containers (cleaned and soaped out, of course), old salad containers after you poke a few holes in them, berry containers, and even these grids below.Although to be honest, I made hubby take them back because they are so flimsy and not worth my time. I purchased some garden center ready ones that are much more sturdy.  Yes, you can use Jiffy-7‘s, but when you’re planting as much as I am, the easier, the better. And if the root system doesn’t break through the mesh when you go to plant outside, you have to tear them a bit.  I like my roots to breathe! NOTE: use bleach to clean your containers!!!


5- Plant your seeds according to package directions. I usually use a pencil to make the holes, drop them in, and cover them again. It is very important to cover your seed trays/containers with a plastic lid or store inside a small indoor greenhouse contraption because your seeds need the humidity and the warmth. And you won’t have to water as often.

6-  These are my plants about three weeks later. Tadah!!!  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeasy…

When Do I Start My Seeds?

Well.  Here’s the thing. It always depends on where you live.  There are so many books and links and advice books, that it’s really hard to decide.  They usually give you the dates going backwards from the last frost-date.

I have no idea when that is.

Usually the rule of thumb is, Victoria Day Weekend.

But…I like to push it a week. Because sometimes it’s the 24th of May, and sometimes it’s the 18th. I live nearish Ottawa, Ontario, so this year, Victoria Day is May 18th. So, I would use the 15th as the last frost date, because I like using Fridays. So if the label says, one week before last date, I’d choose May 8th. Got it?

Here is MY list of when I’m going to plant my seeds, indoors and out. This list includes herbs, vegetables and some annuals and perennials. To make it easier for you, I’ll choose the actual date (Friday, of course) so you don’t have to count backwards. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

February 20th: artichoke indoors Last year I grew artichoke and it definitely grew, BUT, they need 2-4 weeks of cold temperatures once they get 4 leaves.  So I planted their seeds and once they had 4 real leaves, I put them in the garage for a few weeks. Our garage didn’t go below 4C, due to heating, so I guess this year I will store them by the firewood in the basement?  And then we moved, so I never found out if they would fruit.

March 13th: jalapeno peppers, sweet peppers, hot peppers indoors.  All peppers, basically.  They are slow to start, and they’re a little fragile. Which makes me mad, because I don’t baby my plants.  I show them tough love.

March 20th: tomatoes, onion seeds (not green), lavender indoors. You could wait and plant your tomatoes at a later date, but I like my tomatoes to be at least 12″ high before I put them in the ground, because I plant them half-way into the ground. The onions are the white, sweet, red etc, but NOT the green onions that are tall and leafy. And why aren’t you planting lavender? It’s easy to grow, smells amazing, comes back every year and the flowers are incredible dried and added to shortbread cookies.

And two weeks to catch up on what you’ve missed.

April 3rd: petunias, lupins indoors. Petunias are cute, they smell cute and they draw in beneficial insects. And lupins….how can you not love lupins?

April 10th: onions (everygreen seeds) indoors.


April 17th: marigolds, broccoli, zinnia indoors.


April 24th: sunflowers, carrots, melons, romaine, lettuces, arugula indoors.  Note: I’ve been trying to grow lettuce inside for the past two weeks, attempting to get a production so I could start eating now instead of dropping 5$ a box.

NOTE: Last year we didn’t have any snow on the ground on the 24th, so I planted my peas and beans into the ground. I think I also planted some onion bulbs. The year before I planted the week of the 17th. So watch the forecast. Peas and beans grow well in the cold. Just make sure you can work the ground. And cover them up! Squirrels are bad!

May 1st: anise hyssop, cilantro, basil, pansies, yarrow, poppies, asparagus, amaranth, pumpkin, nasturtium, calendula, gourds, pampas grass, borage indoors.  Bees love borage, anise, poppies, calendula, nasturtium. And I love pansies. So friendly.

May 18th: OUTDOORS – all of your seedlings EXCEPT for basil. Go ahead and plant more carrot, lettuce, celery seeds into the garden.

When the forecast calls for cold weather or frost, cover your plants. I’m pretty sure you have an old bed sheet that you haven’t thrown out yet. Cover them up.

I realize I’m missing some produce, but I only plant what I know I will eat.  If you have a question though, I’d be happy to try and answer.

Happy Planting!

Backyard of our last house. Those are my babies enjoying the sun warmth on May 7th, 2014.

                                                 Hiding in cold frames.