My original plan for the day had been to go into the city for our second stock up trip, but that just didn’t happen. Not only was I very tired from being up so late making and canning the tomato paste, I was in a load of pain. Arthritis sucks at the best of times, but everything else was hurting, too!
By the afternoon, I was feeling a bit better, so I went outside to do some clean up. I figured I would give the water bowl shelter a quick scrub down, and tomorrow we could start painting it.
That worked out well enough until I went to flip it upside down to scrub the bottom.
The first time I flipped it on its roof, two floor boards fell off.
Most of the boards are nailed in place, but this salvaged wood is pretty warped and starting to dry rot, so they don’t hold well. I did have 1 3/4 inch screws in a few of them, and those ones held, so I flipped it back again, nailed the boards that fell off back in place, then added some screws.
Then I flipped it upside down, and a different board fell off. And that one did have screws already!
I fixed that and added more screws, flipped it back and…
That board has several screws in it, and it still fell off. It’s basically too warped for the screws to hold. I need longer screws, but the next size up I’ve got are 3 inch screws, and those are just too long. Especially since I’m doing this by hand.
So tomorrow, I’ll pick up some 2 inch wood screws and get those back on. It only has to hold long enough for us to paint it. After that, it won’t matter.
I let the girls know the status of things, including that I was unable to scrub the inside back wall, because I couldn’t reach it, then moved on to something else.
I did some chop and drop around the haskap berries, now that my mother’s flowers are past their prime. I’ve never bothered to do this before, leaving the stems to clean up in the spring, but this year they got SO tall, the completely covered the haskap berries. So now they will be a mulch, and the haskap are finally getting some sunlight.
I had lots of company while I worked.
I like this baby. He spends most of his time just hanging out nearby.
We had haskap
We had no berries at all this year. The male plant bloomed, but I never saw flowers on the females. Hopefully, next year will be better, but I think I just need to move these to a better location.
While I was working on that, one of my daughters came out and worked on the water bowl shelter.
She tacked the floorboard back on, crawled in and got that back wall scrubbed.
If we’d had the paint earlier, we would have scrubbed and painted all the parts and pieces first. That would have made things much easier!
Ah, well. We’ll manage.
That tuxedo really likes the water bowl shelter. He’s always hanging around in or under it!
Once the shelter is dry, it’s going to need another brush down to get the stuff currently stuck in place because it’s damp. With the condition of the wood, we don’t want to use a hose on it any more than we absolutely have to. It’ll be good to finally have it painted and set up in its spot by the kibble house and cat shelter. We’ll be creating a sort of U shape with them, which should help reduce drifting, too.
I knew making the tomato paste would take a long time, but my goodness, it did drag on!
The girls and I had a sort of assembly line set up. At one end of the kitchen counter we had the electric kettle going, then space for the container used to bring batches of frozen tomatoes. Then there was the giant bowl we used to blanch them, a bowl with a colander for the skins, a cutting board and compost bag for final prep, a kettle on the stove to boil more water, and finally my giant stock pot.
I even remembered to check what size that thing is.
This thing was an excellent investment. We originally got it for when we were making tourtierre regularly, and would be browning more than 30 pounds of ground meat at a time – then adding the rest of the filling ingredients. That was once a year, though. We’ve used it more often just this summer than we have since we bought it!
We did the tomatoes in fairly small batches. The electric kettle and the stove top kettle took very different lengths of time to boil, which worked out.
One kettle was enough to cover one batch of tomatoes. After they had time to blanch, they’d be transferred to a colander over a bowl, where I would remove the skins, then cut them up (and remove the rest of the stem ends, if needed), and pop them into the stock pot. A daughter would get another batch of tomatoes from the freezer, and by the time we were ready to blanch those, the second kettle would be boiling and ready to go.
It took many batches. I figure there were maybe a couple hundred tomatoes, in a variety of sizes.
The cooking was started as soon as the first batch went in, which cut the time down quite a bit, I’m sure. By the time all the tomatoes were blanched and added, the stock pot was about half full – roughly 11 quarts or about 10L.
It took about 2 hours of cooking before I felt it was ready for straining through a sieve.
Our giant sieve has a very fine mesh. Great for straining out the seeds and any bits of skin that got left. Some of the tomatoes turned out to still be a bit green, so there were pieces that never got soft enough to be pushed through the mesh.
If we end up doing this regularly, it’ll be worth the investment to get a food mill.
The tomato sauce was strained a bit at a time, while the cooking continued. By the time I got to the bottom of the pot, it was getting pretty thick, and there was a lot less pulp left behind in the strainer.
This is all the seeds, cores, green bits and fibrous pulp that was strained out.
The strained puree was very thin. Can you imagine if we were not using a paste tomato for this! It would have been more like tomato juice, than tomato puree!
The stock pot I strained into has a very handy feature.
Measurements on the inside!
We went from roughly 11 quarts of blanched tomatoes, to just under 5 quarts of strained tomato puree. This was what I used to calculate how much lemon juice to use, later on. I had wanted to use citric acid, but couldn’t find any. Lemon juice will work, but does affect the flavour, too. If I were just canning the puree at this point, I could have added the lemon juice (and salt, if I wanted) directly to the jars, but that can’t work with tomato paste.
At this point, I took a break for a while.
For the rest of the cooking time, we set up the hot plate at the dining room table, to free up the kitchen, because I knew it would take hours to reduce this to a paste.
I could have cooked down the puree on its own, with just the lemon juice to increase the acidity. After looking at many different instructions for making and canning tomato paste, I decided to include a couple of large, crushed garlic cloves, a big bay leaf, and some canning salt.
The hot plate worked out really well. Once the puree was up to temperature, however, it stayed very hot and quick to splatter all over, even with the hot plate set quite low.
Another benefit to having a pot with measurements on the inside. I could see progress, even when it didn’t feel like any was being made!
As it reduced in volume, I also had to keep reducing the temperature. I only needed to stir it enough to keep it from bubbling and spattering. The more it reduced, the more often it needed to be stirred, and the lower the temperature needed to be turned. At first, I could just sit on a chair to stir every once in a while. After several hours, I was having to stand at the table, holding the pot to keep it from being knocked about as I stirred vigorously. Once it started getting quite thick, I removed the bay leaf. The garlic cloves were completely disintegrated by then.
I must say, towards the end, it was SO tempting to stop earlier because… it’s thick enough now, right? Right?
In the end, it took somewhere around 6 or 7 hours to get the puree into a good, thick paste.
When the spoon could scrape along the bottom, and the paste wouldn’t fill the gap right away, it was finally ready.
At this point, one of my daughters had taken over the stirring while I got the giant stock pot, which they had washed out for me while I stirred for hours, and sterilized the jars.
But how many jars would I need?
The measurement in the pot starts at 2 quarts and, at this point, the paste was well below that. I estimated around 1 quart, perhaps.
Because the paste is so thick, it has to be canned in small jars. The instructions I’d been reading were from the US and talked about “half pint” jars. I didn’t stop to convert that and was thinking the jars I had were probably half pints. Usually I get 750ml or 500ml wide mouth jars. Though the measurements don’t match, what sells as quart jars in the US are 1L jars here. A pint is 500ml so a half pint would be 250ml – or about 1 cup.
The jars I have are 125ml. So, a quarter pint, not a half pint! 😁
Which meant that if there was about a quart of paste in the pot, I would need 8 jars. I had two cases of twelve, so I sterilized one case. With the jars being to tiny, I could use both canning racks and stack them.
It still takes long time for the water to boil! I almost forgot to add vinegar to the water, to prevent the jars from clouding on the outside from our very hard well water.
Much to my surprise, I was able to fill every jar! Granted, for the last one, I was scraping the sides quite a bit, but I still got my half inch head space!
By the time I finished canning the tomato paste, it was well past 1am. I gotta say, I was quite happy to be able to finally leave them to cool for the night!
When I checked them this morning, I found 2 jars had not sealed properly. Which I’m just fine with! They went straight into the fridge to use right away.
I just love those adorable little jars.
We’ve been out of tomato paste for a while. I typically buy cases of them at Costco. The problem is that we usually only use a small amount at a time. Just adding a spoonful into a dish for extra flavour, for example, leaving us with aluminum cans partly filled with paste, that can’t be resealed well. Then we’d be rushing to use the rest up before it went bad. It will be much handier to have it in sealable jars!
I’ve already had some today, adding a spoonful to some leftover pasta I had for lunch, adding a bit of cream to make a bit of a sauce. As my daughter had mentioned when taste testing the fresh tomatoes for me, the Cup of Moldova tomatoes are very mild in flavour, so the resulting paste is not as strongly flavoured as the tinned paste we would buy. Which I don’t mind at all.
The question will be, is all the time end effort that goes into making and canning the paste worthwhile? There are lots of other ways to can tomatoes that take a lot less time. It’s the time that’s the kicker. I have seen some instructions that use the oven to make the paste – basically, dehydrating the puree – but while that might require less supervision, it means not being able to use the oven for anything else for a very long time.
That’s something we’ll have to talk about and decide after we’ve used this batch up, I think.
Y’know, when we first brought David into the house, because his eyes were so bad he needed so many treatments, he had a different title. We called him F’d Up David, because… well, he really was pretty f’d up!
Now look at him. Isn’t he just…
We had been using these bins to carry around tomatoes or crab apples, with the shredded paper on the bottom to keep them from falling through the openings on the sides and bottoms, and to absorb any moisture after washing them. While working with the crab apples, I’d set one said on a shelf to get it out of the way until I finished, only to discover a cat in it.
It has become David’s favourite place to sleep. He can turn himself into a pretzel, and not fall off the shelf.
No, that’s not a typo in the title. Today, I FINALLY planted our garlic for next year.
This morning I first headed out to get my mother checked out of her hotel room, then took her out for brunch – she hadn’t had a proper meal since our take out Chinese food lunch, yesterday! – before taking her home. She did not have the energy to do anything else. I stayed long enough to make her bed up again with fresh sheets and blankets, and push some of the stuff back against the walls, before my mother sent me home. She would not allow me to run any errands for her, even!
Which works out. As soon as could after I got home, I worked on the garlic. The first thing to do was break up the bulbs I’d set aside from our harvest this year.
Would you look at this giant clove!
I had set aside six of the biggest bulbs of garlic we harvested.
Out of those six bulbs, we got a whole 24 cloves.
Twentyfour big cloves, but still… we’re going to need a lot more garlic!
I used broken pieces of bamboo stakes to mark the ends of a row along one side of the prepared bed, then pushed aside the mulch. The soil is loose enough that I could just use a weeding tool to scrape a trough from one end to the other, then deepened it using the jet setting on the garden hose.
Which the kittens were absolutely fascinated by.
Once the garlic was planted evenly spaced down the row and covered, I pulled back a little bit of the mulch. Once things start to get colder, more mulch will be pulled over to cover it for the winter. For now, it’s just enough to protect the row.
From this guy.
This guy and several other little “helpers” that were so determined to dig in the fresh dirt, they ignored the hose I was watering with, until they got sprayed!
Anyhow. Our first garlic for our 2023 garden is in.
I am now going to start making tomato paste for canning, freeing up freezer space for our next stock-up shopping trip.
Who knew that sitting around all day could be so exhausting?
I was up early to do my rounds before heading to my mother’s, timing it so I would get there before the official time range for the exterminator guy. The hope was that he would start at my mother’s town and building early in the day. Then we’d do some stuff around town, have lunch together, and she was even considering staying in the lobby for a few hours at the end of the day, until she could go back into her apartment. Maybe after only 6 hours, though she is supposed to stay away for 12 hours, due to respiratory issues.
So we waited.
And had repeated visits from a neighbour that was also waiting – with her cat in a carrier in the lobby/ A neighbour that is one of those people that will wander in and start talking, and not leave. Even when I finally got some Chinese take out and we were eating, she swung by twice – first to tell us the guy was there, then she came back to tell us she’d made a mistake. As we chatted, I found out she’s someone who should be staying away for 12 hours, too, but she never has. !!
After hours of being ready to leave at any time, my mother was really tired and tried to nap several times. Of course, the neighbour tried to come in while she was napping, too. By the time the guy arrived, my mother was fighting a wicked headache that Tylenol couldn’t touch.
It doesn’t take long for him to spray an apartment as small as these ones are, so we waited until he was done so we could lock up and go. This gave him a chance to explain to things to me, which I could later explain to my mother.
The first part is good news.
This is the 4th time her apartment has been sprayed, and the first time he saw zero trace of any bed bugs.
Now the not so good news. They don’t go with just one clear month. They go with three.
She will have her apartment sprayed again next month, just in case anything got missed this time. If there are no signs of bed bugs for a second time, she will get another notice a month later, but he will not be coming in to spray again. He will just do a visual check. If there are still no signs, she is officially done!
So it all hinges on there not being any evidence of bed bugs next month.
At least we know it’s going to happen, because my mother is so frustrated with the whole thing, she stopped telling us about the letters.
Because he came so late, my mom has to stay away until at least 2am. Once things were locked up and we could leave, we went to a nearby park where she could sit and get some fresh air, which did wonders for her headache. She was too tired to do any of the things she wanted to do, or even go to a sit down restaurant for the late birthday dinner I was planning to treat her to. She decided to get a hotel room again, and that was it.
She didn’t have a bag packed, so she basically had the clothes on her back, and the contents of her walker.
Once she was checked in, I made sure she got her complimentary coffee and a couple of muffins to eat when she took her evening and morning pills. She keeps some in her purse at all times, just in case she happens to be out when she’s supposed to take her medications. I offered to get her anything else – even buy her a nightgown or something – but she said she was fine. She just wanted to take her meds and go to bed! She was so tired, she was struggling just to move around the hotel room, even through everything is close at hand.
I’ll be coming back tomorrow morning to help her check out and take her home. She insisted I don’t come too early, because she wants to sleep in! So I’ll time it to be there just before check out time.
Even my mother commented on how it felt like such a wasted day. Neither of us got anything useful accomplished. And there’s no way to get around that. The guy shows up when he shows up, depending on how many towns and buildings he was to do.
At least there is now a light at the end of the tunnel.
Once I got home from the city and grabbed a meal, it was right back out to work on the bed our fall garlic will be planted in.
This is how it was left, the night before.
Because I had been tromping across it with the wheelbarrow, the first thing I wanted to do – after putting the new handle on our garden fork! – was loosen up the soil at the bottom.
It was not easy. At this point, not only was I hitting a lot of rocks, but at the north end of it, a lot of tree roots, too!
I also had a kitten on my back, most of the time. The little grey and white tabby that is the most socialized of the bunch. At one point, he simply draped himself across the back of my neck and stayed there as I moved around!
I was also picking up and tossing quite a few larger rocks into the trees, too.
Something this guy really loved! He kept chasing after the rocks as they bounced on the ground, then came back to watch me, waiting for the next throw! He even made it a challenge not to bean him with a rock, the way he was running after them!
After the base was loosened, I gave the whole thing a thorough watering.
Then I got a wheelbarrow load of wood chips. Just one, for a think layer all across. This is on the same principal as using logs in a hügelkultur mound. As the anaerobic bacteria slowly breaks down the wood, the wood acts as a sponge to hold water for the roots above. Since these are wood chips rather than logs or branches, as we used in the high raised bed, they will break down faster. With garlic having shallow roots, the breakdown of the wood chips won’t affect their nitrogen needs.
The wood chips got a thorough soaking before the next step.
I pulled up the frost-killed summer squash, the remaining dead tomato, eggplant and pepper plants from the other two beds, and quite a bit of dead winter squash plants, too.
Then, because they were so bushy, I tromped them flat, being careful to just step on the dead plants. I just loosened the soil on the entire bed. I didn’t want to compact it all again!
Once they were flattened,, then given a soak, I could start adding soil back.
The soil was raked out evenly, though I tried not to get too close to the logs. That’s where the crab grass will inevitably grow in from the path.
With so many rhizomes catching on my rake as I was working, I finally went ahead and raked the weeds and roots I’d tossed into the paths.
There was a lot more than it seems, while all spread out! It all got dumped among the nearby trees.
With all that soil getting sifted, plus what was added to the bed, this is what I was left with.
Almost half the soil I took out is still there! The logs framing the bed are so low, if I add more back, I’ll have a problem with the sides washing down into the path – something that was an issue when watering the tomatoes.
Which is fine. The high raised bed’s soil level dropped over the summer, as expected, so I can use it to top that up, and still have some left over.
I did not, however, soak the freshly laid down soil. That would have just compacted it. We got a frost advisory for tonight, but things are supposed to warm up after that. We might even hit 21C/70F in a couple of days! So the grass clipping mulch went back right away.
Then it got a thorough soaking!
When it comes time to plant the garlic, we can make holes through the mulch. After tonight’s frost, we’re supposed to have some very pleasant evenings, which will be prefect for the cloves to start rooting themselves before the overnight temperatures start to be consistently too low for growth.
Thankfully, none of the other low raised beds need this much work put into them. They just need to be weeded and mulched for the winter. Except for the bed with the carrots and turnips in it. That will stay as it is for a while longer, as they won’t be bothered by frost.
Lots of clean up to prepare for next year, still! But this bed, at least, is all done and ready for garlic.
I was planning to go into the city tomorrow, but I was able to change plans and do it today. That means I’ll be available to help my mother tomorrow, when she has to be away from her apartment while it’s being sprayed for bed bugs again.
I did a Costco and a Canadian Tire trip today. We will have to go another trip soon, but I was able to get most of what we need, I think. This is what I got at Costco.
I can’t remember if I mentioned it earlier or not, but we had an unexpected financial hit last month. My husband had a bi-weekly subscription order with Amazon for some sugar free drink mixes. One flavour had been back ordered. Well, it suddenly was available, and they shipped ALL of the back order at once. It worked out to be 10 cases of 16 bottles of mix in total. We only found out about it when almost $500 disappeared from our account on Sept. 13. I thought it was a fraudulent purchase on my husband’s debit Visa, at first! He found out what it was and tried to cancel the order, but they said the deadline for cancellation was Aug. 27. So we were going to let it arrive, then start the return process – only to find out that it wasn’t available for return, because it’s considered a “food item”. There are supposed to be ways to still get refunded, but my husband couldn’t find it. His searches had him going in circles. So we are now trying to sell them through our local store, and hopefully get at least some of our money back!
The hit did a number on our budget, but thanks to having already stocked up as much as we did, plus my daughter covering a couple of automatic payments, we managed all right. It means my focus is largely on replacing what we used, as well as continuing to build up our stash for the winter.
After seeing the prices for me, I’m really glad we’ve got a quarter beef coming in December, that’s for sure! I got a family pack size of lean ground beef, and it cost over $30 – almost twice what the same weight pack cost a couple of years ago.
Along with the ground beef, we got some pork loin, pork chops, a three pack of all beef wieners (but no buns; I’ll get those later. I’m hoping we can do a cook out soon). I also got three rotisserie chickens. Normally, I don’t even look at those, but I’d caught a new shopping video from Our Half Acre Homestead last night, and she mentioned that the cooked chicken was cheaper than the whole chicken. So I made a point of comparing. Sure enough, the bags with three whole chickens in them were all in the $30 range, while the rotisserie chicken was $7.99. On top of the fresh meat, I also picked up a 6 pack of canned chicken.
Normally, I would have picked up 10 pounds of butter for the month, but we still have some in the freezer. I’d picked up a jar of ghee and we still have a bit left. It’s worked out quite well, so instead of getting more butter or oil (which we also still have), I got a big bucket of ghee. At $39.99, it cost less than getting our usual 10 pounds of butter, and it’s shelf stable.
I ended up getting a LOT of pasta this trip. I found boxes with 9 – 500g variety packs of pasta for $9.99, so I got two. Then I found a plastic bag with a different variety mix of pasta, same quantity and weight, for the same price, so I got one of those, too. Plus, I got a case of Kraft Dinner. The girls like KD.
I also got a case of frozen perogies, a couple of containers of sour cream, a multi-pack of Kirkland cream cheese (I forget how many were the package), a 2 pk of goat cheese, a large pack of Old cheddar cheese, a 2 pk of butter chicken sauce, a big jar of peanut butter, a big jar of mayonnaise, a bag of Basmati rice, two packages of flour tortillas, a container of ice tea mix, as well as a 3 pk of Q tips and some extra strength ibuprofen for the girls, as they are running low. I also got a case of Coke Zero for a treat. Plus, I got a large package of facial tissue, the Kirkland brand toilet paper, some all purpose cleaner, a case of Friskies wet cat food, and four 11.6 kg bags of dry kibble.
Oh, the sticker shock on just about everything reminded me of another one I got. I was at half a tank when I left home, so I stopped along the way to put in a bit of gas, with the intention of filling at Costco, at their lower price. Pretty routine. I put in $30 of gas at 165.9 cents/litre. After I finished at Costco and was heading out, I walked past the sign with their gas price – 174.9 cents/litre!!! It took another $60 to fill my tank. On the way home, the gas station I’d stopped at in the morning was at 186.9 cents/litre
Now that this trip is done, we’ll go over what we’ve got and what I didn’t pick up this trip, and make a new list for the missing stuff. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make a second trip in a couple of days.
I had stopped at the Canadian Tire first, since it was all non-perishables. We needed more stove pellets for the litter boxes. The hardwood pellets have gone up from $6.99 for a 40 pound bag to $7.29, but they also have softwood pellets that are still at $6.99 I got one of each, so we can compare and see which work better. I also picked up furnace filters. For some reason, the 20″ x 20″ size of the type we need is harder to find. I’m only finding them at Canadian Tire, and they aren’t always in stock. They’re not expensive, so I grabbed two 3pks.
Which reminds me. It’s almost time to replace the filter on our furnace. 😊
I also got a gallon of exterior paint for the water bowl house. I picked a yellow close to what the kibble house is. Considering what it’s for, I asked for their cheapest exterior paint. It turns out they only had two options, and one of them had a base coat in it, so really there was just one choice. A gallon of paint cost $52.99 While she was mixing the colour for me, I spotted a display of Flex Seal and picked up a can of clear. That’ll come in handy for some patch jobs we need to do. I remembered to look for a new handle grip to replace the one that broke off our garden fork. I ended up having to ask an employee for help. We both looked around for a while, then she went to the customer service to look it up on the computer and see if it was in stock. There was plenty of inventory in stock, and it was apparently right next to where she was working when I asked her for help! We went back and looked again and finally found it, right in front of our faces. We both looked right over them, several times, without seeing them! I was looking for the same bright blue as the handle that broke off, but the replacements were black.
Along with that, I remembered to pick up some toilet tank pucks. There is so much iron accumulating in our toilet tank, it’s starting to affect how well the toilet flushes. I found two septic safe brands, in 2 packs, specifically to help remove iron and got one of each. We’ve tried one brand before, so when the girls unloaded and put everything away, my daughter popped one of from the new brand in, so we can compare. And finally, I picked up a roll of self adhesive felt padding. It’s for the corner of my bed frame, where we all keep very painfully barking our shins!
Total damage at Canadian Tire was $148.75
Add in the $700 at Costco and $90 total for gas, it was a pretty expensive day!
I called my mother a little while ago, and made arrangements for tomorrow. Hopefully, the guy will remember that she needs to be away for 12 hours and will do her place first. The earliest the letter she got says they will be there is 9am. It would actually be feasible for her to still stay away for 12 hours and not have to spend the night at a motel. She doesn’t want to stay at my sisters, because where she would be sleeping means having to take several steps up and down, just to get to the bathroom. She can’t even stay here because, with my husband set up with his hospital bed in the bedroom closest to the bathroom, she would not only still have steps to take, but a much longer walk. Staying at a motel month after month is a ridiculous expense, but it’s really the best option. Close to home, private, no stairs, and even a bath tub, if she wants to us it – her apartment has only a shower, and she does miss her baths! But if the guy doesn’t come early enough, she may not have a choice. While I can help her for most of the day, at some point, she’s going to end up hanging out in the lobby of her building, like her neighbours do. They can go back into their apartments after only 6 hours, though. My mother had been thinking she could go in early and open windows, but the more stress and anxiety she feels, the more breathing issues she has – and she’s already had stress issues just today. Along with a meeting for tenants today, they had someone in to give everyone shots. My mother thinks it was a Covid booster shot, but she wasn’t sure. Which irritates the heck out of me. People like her and her neighours just line up to get injections that don’t actually work, and causing so many injuries. It’s like playing Russian Roulette, every time. No one is telling them anything to get informed consent, either. Most of the people living there couldn’t understand it, anyhow.
I will see her tomorrow, and we’ll figure out what to do as the day goes!
Meanwhile, I’m just really, really glad I was able to do a substantial part of our monthly shop today.
Well, the soil sifter I made really got a work out today! I’m actually quite impressed. It got beaten and battered, and that janky thing withstood the abuse and did the job.
The half inch mesh works out well. The soil was very full of worms, and most of them fell through the mesh quite easily. Any pebbles small enough to go through will not be a problem. In fact, they will help with drainage. Unfortunately, it’s also large enough that roots can fall through, too, so I still did most of the picking of roots by hand, tossing them on the path to be trampled on, pushing through the soil until I reached a point where I could just shake the rest through. What got left behind were the larger rocks and weeks, and small clumps of soil. I didn’t want to break those up too much, as it would have hurt too many worms.
I laid out the black landscape-type fabric/tarp we’ve got to put the sifted soil on until I’m ready to put it back into the bed.
It took many loads as I worked my way down. You can see the crab grass rhizomes I pulled out on the grass. You can’t see all the other roots and weeds that also got pulled out.
Using the wheelbarrow and soil sifter really helped a lot. I have a long handled garden claw that I used to break the soil up in the sifter, pulling up the longer roots, and using the back of it to help push the soil through the sifter. It was a real back saver! Plus, when I stopped to work with my hands, I could brace the garden claw on the ground, or even into a corner of the sifter, to lean on as I worked. The logs around the garden bed allowed me to raise one leg, relieving even more pressure from my back. Without all those little things to help out, I would not have been able to finish the soil sifting today!
This is where I stopped, after several hours.
Oh, wow. I just looked at the time stamps between the first progress photo I took, and the last one. I was working on this for four hours. !!
Basically, I removed the top four inches or so of soil. After that, I was scraping the shovel over rocks.
There are still a lot of rhizomes along the edges, but the run under the log border, and I wasn’t up to moving those out to get rid of them.
The sifted soil is now so light and fluffy, it looks like there’s so much more than what could fit into the space in the bed!
What got left behind in the sifter got dumped among the nearby trees. Plenty of rocks, clumps of soil, worms, and the occasional sticks, rusted nails and even bits of glass!
I am so glad this is done.
Tomorrow, I plan to add a layer of wood chips into the bottom of the bed, top it with the summer squash vines I’ll be pulling from the next bed over, and then the soil will be returned, ready for garlic planting and mulch. I hope to get that all finished tomorrow, because the day after, I am expecting to go into the city for a much needed stocking up trip to the city.
While I was writing this, I got a call from my brother. He had just made the trip out to my mother’s to get the battery from the motorized chair he got for her (which she refuses to use) that isn’t holding a charge for some reason. She just let him know that they’re coming to spray her apartment for bedbugs again, the day after tomorrow. She hadn’t mentioned a thing to me when I called her last, even though she’d told me about some other stuff, even though I’d really stressed with her to let us know right away if she got another letter of notification that they’d be coming in to spray her place again, so that we would have time to help her prepare. She started talking to him about staying in the lobby, even though she has to stay away from her apartment for 12 hours after spraying.
My brother took a picture of the letter she got and will send it to me. Hopefully soon, because I’d like to read it before I call her. It looks like I will be helping her book a room at the motel again, as she doesn’t want to stay at my sister’s overnight. Too many stairs in her house. Which means I’ll be using her car to go into the city, which means not a Costco trip.
At this point, I don’t even know if they are spraying her place because they’re actually finding bed bugs, or because they’ve just decided to keep spraying the same apartments every month. The guy did leave a trap, but no one comes to check it.
What a pain.
Oh, and I just found out our vandal had called my mother again – at the beginning of the month! It was her birthday, so he used that as an excuse to call her, then start harassing her about the farm again until she finally hung up on him. I had hoped, after losing his court case against me, he’d finally give up, but apparently not. She never said a thing to any of us until now. So frustrating!
Well, we’ll figure it out. For now, I’m just going to focus on getting that bed done and planting garlic for next year!
I had such a slow start to the day today. Not a lot of sleep, and when I tried getting up this morning, I lost my balance and almost fell. My husband was up and I ended up asking him to take care of feeding the cats this morning so I could lie down again. Considering it’s because of his own pain levels that he’s up (or not) at odd hours, it takes a lot before I ask him to take over like that. I have a theory on what’s going on and will be testing it over the next few nights. If I don’t follow up on that later, it will be because nothing changed.
When I finally did get out, the kitties had full bellies, which means I had company during my rounds!
Especially as I went up the driveway to check the gate and switch out the memory card on the gate cam. The new camera, with its direct solar power and battery backup, has the batteries still at 100%! The other two trail cameras are at about half, and both have had their batteries changed at least once, since we got the new camera.
I’m not actually all that happy that the kittens follow me to the gate. I don’t want them wandering to the road, so I try to pick them up if I can. At one point, I was carrying the three amigos, all at the same time. Interesting that the three most socialized kittens like to stay together the most, too. I can’t say it’s because they are all from the same litter, because the fourth one of that litter is more or less indifferent to its siblings, while the muted calico, from an older litter, still likes to hang out with these three the most. That one is a lot more socialized now, too. It still runs off at time, but more often than not, we can pet it and even pick it up for cuddles.
I worked on the garden bed I intend to plant the garlic in last night, but didn’t get very far.
This is where I left off when my back started to give out.
I really look forward to when we have more high raised beds!!!
I removed the grass clippings mulch and loosened the entire bed with a garden fork first, then started working my way around, pulling out as many crab grass rhizomes and other weeds as I could. The job was made much more challenging, because the kitten in the earlier photo decided it absolutely had to be on my back while I worked! When I straightened up, she would climb up to perch on my shoulder until bent down again.
I managed just over half the bed. I found the soil to be much improved, easy to work into with the garden hoe – though I’m still hitting rocks – and filled with worms. Compaction, however, is still a problem.
Once I’ve got more of the roots and weeds removed, I’ll use the soil sifter to get more out. I plan to dig a trench down the middle. The summer squash bed is right next to it. I’ll be pulling those up and burying them in this bed as a soil amendment. After the garlic is planted, the grass clipping mulch will be returned. The summer squash bed will be ready to work on next.
Things are going much more slowly than I expected, and it’s basically because of pain. Yes, I pain killer up before I start, I’m just taking your basic painkillers. They’re not particularly strong. I’m the sort of person where pharmaceuticals tend not to work as expected to begin with, and typically need double the dose to maybe get the same effect as a regular dose on someone else. It’s the same thing with the painkillers dentists inject before working on a tooth – something I discovered the hard way when I was in 5th grade. I still remember the dentist working on a cavity. I had my eyes squeezed shut in pain and was clutching the arm rests when the dentist made a snarky comment about opening my eyes, it’s not that bad. I did open my eyes, glared at him – and broke one of the arm rests. I was an adult before I dared go to a dentist again. As an adult, the dentists would actually listen to me when I told them there was still pain.
So… yeah. I do have an extremely high pain tolerance because of this, and can typically just keep working through all sorts of pain. That’s getting harder and harder to do as I get older. The problem is, there’s really no one else to take over. My older daughter has joint problems that has lead to injuries that just won’t heal, so there’s only so much she can do, and both of them have back problems that won’t go away unless they both get reduction surgery (as I did, more than 20 years ago: best thing I ever did!!!), but neither of them trust doctors. At all. They’ve seen the BS my husband and I have put up with over the years. Since we’ve moved back to this province, we’ve found health care has gotten even worse during the almost 15 years we were away. So while they can help, all four of us are just really gimpy. Plus, my older daughter has her commissions to work on, so she gets paid, and isn’t available as much. They both also take care of the inside stuff for me, so I’m free to work on the outside stuff – an arrangement I am quite happy with. Still, the way things are going, I’m going to have to ask them to help me with the outside stuff more. It’s frustrating. When we first moved here, I was able to get much more work done in much less time. I did not expect my body to give out that much in so few years!
Ah, well. It is what it is.
I’ll be taking pain killers and heading back out soon.
On another note, we had another small harvest this morning.
I decided it was time to pick the Little Finger eggplant. I actually found one more little one, after I took this picture. These are all from just one plant. None of the others matured enough to produce anything. I had intended to leave them for longer, but last night we dropped to 2C/36F. We were only supposed to drop to 6C/43F, so I didn’t try to cover them for the night. They don’t look frost damaged, but with how messed up the forecast has been, I figured it was time. This variety is meant to be picked while still relatively small and glossy – maybe a bit bigger than the largest one I’m holding.
In talking with the girls about what to plant next year, we are thinking of trying 3 varieties of peppers, and I’d like to try this variety of eggplant again. However, we will need to work out better protection for them. My older daughter is wanting to save up for a type of greenhouse that is specifically designed for our extreme temperatures. Something like the polycrub that Stone Croft Skye has. Before then, I hope to pick up a decent sized portable greenhouse, or maybe a smaller one to use for our seedlings. We have GOT to come up with something better for starting seeds. We had to spend way too much effort to protect them from cats, making for less than ideal growing conditions.
That is something to think about later, though. For now, we need to clean things up and get beds prepared for next year, first.
Last night, after saving some for planting next year, I picked over the blue grey speckled tepary beans we grew, then left them to soak overnight. I ended up using all of the remaining beans.
This is how they looked after shelling.
After soaking overnight, they looked like this.
The got a bit bigger, but not by much, really.
I was going to use them in a soup, and decided to cook them separately, first. This is how they looked after being cooked al dente.
The colour is off because the camera got steamed up. They did lose a lot of their colour, and I noticed they turned the water quite grey, so I’m glad I decided to cook them separately, first. Otherwise, they would have turned my soup grey!
I was going to make a cream of chicken soup, but ended up making an “everything but the kitchen sink” soup. My daughters had roasted several whole chickens, with our own potatoes, a couple of days ago. Today, I deboned what was left of them, and used the remaining roasted potatoes in the soup, too. I also used a couple of yellow onions from the garden, the single shallot I’d picked yesterday, the last bit of slab bacon we had, and all of the Kyoto Red carrots, since there were so few of them. The tiny sweet potato harvest was used up, along with the last of our summer squash – green and yellow zucchini, and yellow patty pan squash. Corn kernels, cut from the cobs, went into the pot, as well as some of the tomato sauce I’d made recently. After everything was cooked, I took the immersion blender to it for a while, adding in some whipping cream at the same time. The very last thing was a handful of shredded cheddar cheese.
I tasted the beans after they were cooked, and they tasted like… beans. 😁 I had not added any seasonings of any kinds, so they were as plain as plain could be. Once in the soup, I honestly couldn’t taste them at all. They did add a nice texture, though, and the ones that got hit with the immersion blender helped thicken things a bit. I like my soups hearty and thick!
I think they worked out rather well, but… well… Aside from what I took out to plant next year, that was an entire year’s harvest, used up in a single pot of soup! 😂 I’ve set aside twice what we planted this spring. Between that and if we get a better growing year, it would be nice to have a much better harvest next year! I also have some beans my mother gave me. I don’t know the name of them, but they are a small (though bigger than the tepary beans) white bean that she grew every year from her own seeds. She’d given some to my sister, who grew them for years. She doesn’t grow beans anymore, so she brought a pasta sauce jar – just shy of a quart – full of seeds to my mother. My mother has no plans to grow them, in her little garden plot, so she gave them to me! They’re a few years old, but there should still be a decent germination rate. Which means that, next year, we should have two different types of shelling beans to grow.