Not what I was looking for

Last summer, while going around the property with my older brother, we had gone into an area filled with rocks and blocks of concrete and all sorts of bushes growing among them. My brother remembered that there were hazelnut bushes there. We didn’t find any, but I decided to check it out again, in case something managed to grow this year.

I didn’t find any hazelnuts.

I did find other things, though!

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Chokecherries, ready to freeze

The chokecherries I picked this morning are all done for now.

Nice to see my colander so full of berries! All clean and ready to pick over.

I got all the stems (of course, I found one I missed after I took this photo!) and the ones that were damages or whatever. I filled two 9×13 jelly roll pans with berries when I was done.

They are now in the deep freeze, to be transferred to freezer bags when they are frozen solid. After that, they can wait until we decide how we want to use them this year. 🙂 The freezing will help them release their juices later, too.

So… what shall we make? More chokecherry vinegar? Or try a jam or jelly this year?

The Re-Farmer


This morning, I grabbed a bucket and checked out the chokecherry trees.

After my last visit with them, I thought I might be too late for the one tree; either they would be over ripe, or the birds would have got them by now.

Happily, there were plenty of perfectly ripe (very dusty!) berries!

I was even able to pull branches down and get lots from the top.

This is how much I got, from just the one tree – minus the many that went flying or rolling out of my hands onto the ground! 😀

Which is quite noticeably better than last year.


That was all what I was able to pick from both trees near the road, last year.

This year, that second tree is not doing as well.

There were very few berries, they were really small, and not consistently ripening.

I left this tree alone.

Then I went for the tree closer to the house. The berries there were much plumper, but the berries were also mostly out of reach. The lower branches don’t get anywhere near as much light, so there were fewer berries and they were redder. My daughter was able to come out and help by pulling the upper branches down so I could reach to pick them.

Check them out!

While there were a fewer berries, they had almost as much volume as the berries from the other tree.

Yes, they are also a lot more red and not as ripe. This is okay, as the less ripe berries have more natural pectin.

As I write this, the chokecherries are sitting in cold water to get rid of any critters that might have come along for the ride, and get the bulk of the dust from the gravel road off. Later, I will give them a thorough wash in cold water, then pick them over to get rid of stems and any messed up berries.

Last year, we made chokecherry vinegar, to use mostly as a drink mix, with our berries. I have not yet decided if we will do the same thing this year. I’ll go through some ideas with my daughters later. I rather like the idea of making a jelly, but that vinegar was really good!

At the very least, we’ll set some aside to freeze and use to make chokecherry mead at some point. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Location, location, location!

Location makes all the difference.

Even if you’re a chokecherry tree.

While picking a few more raspberries, I noticed some significant differences in the nearby chokecherry tree, compared to last year. Specifically, the ripening berries are already larger than the fully ripe berries I’d picked from this tree last year.

This location is closer to the house, where it gets shaded for much of the day by nearby spruce trees and the maple grove. Last year, I pruned this tree back and, thanks to my watering the transplanted raspberries, it got watered along with them.

I decided to check out the other two chokecherry trees among the lilacs that run along the north fence, where they (the lilacs) do a bang-up job keeping out the dust from cars passing by on the gravel road.

There are not a lot of berries on this one that I could see, and they are mostly very green; I made a point of getting a picture of the reddest ones I could find. These berries are quite a bit smaller than the tree closer to the house, though I’d say they are the same size as last year.

This tree is mostly hidden by lilac bushes, with a few branches leaning over where I mow. No watering happens this far from the house, other than what nature provides, and there has been no clean up or pruning of any kind. This tree is also in the section bordered to the south by a row of trees that was self-sown when my mother had raspberry bushes there. She transplanted the raspberries, but left the trees, splitting up a section of the old garden. The last time it was plowed, there was some attempt to plow along the north side of the trees, too, but with the trees there, that area is unusable for gardening.

She is not understanding why I see them and their location as a problem.

While this tree does get a lot of sun, that row of self-sown trees is large enough that, at certain times of day, they do shade it a bit. This is also near the end of the row of lilacs. After that, there are mature elms along the fence line that shade the area in the evening.

There is another chokecherry tree among the lilacs, and when I got to it, I found quite a surprise.

This tree has massive amounts of almost ripe berries!

Like the other tree among the lilacs, the only watering it’s been getting has been whatever rain we’ve had, and there has been zero pruning or clean up. The main difference is that there are no tall trees to shade it; just the lilacs it is growing with. Which means it gets full sun almost from sunrise to sunset. This time of year, I’d say about 9 or 10 hours of full sun a day, plus maybe 1 1/2 – 2 hours of non-direct light.

I would say the berries are about the same size as last year, though they are slightly bigger than the other one among the lilacs.

Earlier today, I was able to acquire a starter kit of equipment to start brewing mead. In looking up recipes, I’m excited to try some combinations. We’re already going to be using honey locally produced by my cousin. Some of the recipes include fruit and berries. I look forward to trying it out using our own sour cherries and chokecherries. Over time, we could also try it with raspberries (we won’t have enough this year) or Saskatoon berries (I think we’ll have to start over with new trees, though), haskap and other types of fruits and berries we will be growing as time goes by.

I think our first batch will be plain honey mead, as we learn the ropes, but I will be freezing cherries and chokecherries as we gather them (freezing helps with the release of natural sugars) to use in later batches.

I’m pretty excited about trying this out!!


Seeing how the same type of tree is doing in three different locations is giving me good information for when we are ready to plant other types of fruit, berry and nut trees around the property.

It’s all about location!

The Re-Farmer

Gathering Chokecherries

This evening, I headed over to pick some chokecherries.

When I got there, I found far fewer than I expected to!

The birds are well fed. 😀

Which works out.  They eat the stuff I can’t reach, and I pick the stuff they have a harder time getting to.

The chokecherry trees along the north fence line are in between lilacs.  As I came closer, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of white powder all over their leaves.


It’s dust from cars going by on the gravel road!  This is what falls on the leaves on the south side of the bushes – the north side much be just covered!

It made for some rather dusty berries, too.


This is all I got from the two trees along the north fence line, and even a bit from the one tree by my mother’s raspberry bushes, on the south side of the garden area.

After giving them a couple of rinses in the bucket, I cleaned out the leaves, twigs and stems, then gave them a couple more washes.


As I write this, they are soaking in our ice cold well water to get the last of the floaty bits off.

Tomorrow, I will go over the recipes I found and decide what to do with them.  After I measure how much I have.  Definitely small batch preserving on this one.

I found this link with several recipes for different methods of chokecherry preserves.  It calls for 10 cups of chokecherries to make a juice, which is then used in most of the other recipes.  I definitely don’t have 10 cups.   I do have enough for the chokecherry vinegar recipe, though.  In fact, I could start that tonight and finish it tomorrow night.

I think that’s what I will do. 😀

The Re-Farmer

All Choked Up

Just a bit of catch up from yesterday, since I shut down the computer when we heard a thunderstorm coming in.  It ended up passing us by, but even so, it got pretty loud out there!

When doing my evening walk around the yard, I decided to head around the main garden area to check out the choke cherries.

There is one chokecherry tree on the south side of the garden, that my mother planted among the raspberries.  It has very few berries on it; I don’t think it’s getting anywhere near enough sun in that location.  The few it has are starting to turn a darker red.

This first photo is from one of the trees hidden among the lilacs along the north fence line.


This next photo is from a tree about 50 feet away.


These black ones are basically ripe.

Quite the difference between the two trees!

I’m not sure if we will be doing anything with them.  My mom was suggesting making jam, but I am really not up to that.  Especially for such a small amount of berries.  I wouldn’t mind trying to make wine with them, but we don’t have the set up for that right now.  They’re not the sort of thing you eat straight, though you certainly can.  They’re more pit than berry. 😀


Yesterday was our day to go into the city for the Costco shopping.  It was a relatively small shop, though.  My husband gets his disability payments at the end of the month, and gets both CPP Disability (from the government), which is a fairly small payment that comes in a few business days before the end of the month, and then his private insurance payment, which comes in on the last business day of the month.  So we’ve been doing our monthly shop with the first one comes in, the paying the bills with the second one.

Not this month.

Because his CPAP died, we made sure to order that as soon as the money came in.  It ended up costing about CDN$650, which is an incredibly good price.  His insurance will reimburse a portion of that, but that won’t happen until next week, at the earliest.

Hopefully, the CPAP will come in quickly.  Although the sleep apnea does not seem as severe as it was years ago, the affects are being felt.  It’s not even the lack of oxygen, but the lack of REM sleep that can really cause problems.  When he was first diagnosed, the specialist estimated my husband hadn’t had any REM sleep for at least a year.  It almost killed him.  So we don’t want to take any chances!

The CPAP was ordered on Friday and my husband got a shipping notice before the end of the day.  However, the company can only guarantee shipping up until it gets to Canada.  After that, it’s up to Canada Post.  So the shipping estimate is 2-3 business weeks.  !!!

I don’t expect it to take that long.  Packages tend to get shipped faster than envelopes.

With that done, we basically did a half month shop, rather than a full month shop.

Now, I want to make one thing very clear.

I hate shopping.

Okay.  Maybe “hate” is too strong of a word.  Still, I really, really, really dislike shopping.  I don’t like being around so many people, in crowded aisles, etc.  Basically, everything about shopping, I dislike. means a trip to Costco uses up all sort of spoons, until I’ve got nothing left but knives!

Which is why I like to have at least one of the girls with me.  They make sure I don’t just turn around and leave half way through shopping.  It’s much more pleasant with their company!

So we (both girls came along this time) did the Costco shopping, gassed up the van, and I even remembered to bring the jerry can to get premium gas for the riding mower (regular gas at Costco was $1.169, compared to $1.239 elsewhere, and premium was $1.269, so it was worth doing it there!).

Before the move, our usual routine was to do the Costco shopping for the big stuff, then go to a local grocery franchise for the non-bulk stuff.  In the years we were away, that franchise expanded into the city here, but there are very few of them.  The girls wanted to pick up something we knew was carried by this company.  We did consider checking out a couple of the other grocery chains, but really don’t like them, so I looked up the nearest store of the one we do like.  It turned out there was a location a convenient drive from the area we were in, so we decided to check it out.

Well now.

Did I mention I hate shopping?

When we got to the place, the first thing we saw were the extra signs.  It was an “international” store, with online shopping.  Of course, that had us joking about whether they delivered to where we live, out in the sticks.  It also had a “kitchen” area.


Then we walked in.


I must have looked like a country yokel that had come into the big city for the first time!

We couldn’t believe this place!

It was huge and open.  The aisles were wide, and accessible (knowing so many wheelchair and walker users, it’s now automatic for me to assess aisle space and judge how well someone in a wheelchair would be able to navigate).  The “kitchen” area had a wide variety of local and international foods, hot and fresh, with a lovely, well lit and welcoming seating area.  They had several food “bars”, with the usual things like chicken wings, olives and Chinese food – and a perogie bar!  There was a cheese island.  Half the store was dedicated to international foods – three aisles were of just Filipino food.

Before the move, there were a couple of local grocery stores that had stuff we couldn’t find anywhere else.  One was an Italian store that specialized in European imports.  The other was a Chinese grocery store that included hot food take out/dine in areas (with some of the best bao I’ve ever tasted).

This store was like those two, plus the regular grocery store, merged into one.

It was heaven.  A total joy to shop there!

We had to deliberately stop ourselves from going through all the international aisles, so we wouldn’t completely blow our budget!

We need to come back.  With money.  All three of us agreed that this store alone was worth the drive to the city to shop in.

Did I mention I hate shopping?

Not here!

I can’t wait to go back.  And this time, we’ll plan on having lunch there, too!

The Re-Farmer

Clean Up: Maple Grove, evening progress

I wrote up my last post while taking a hydration break from working in the maple grove.  By the time I was done, I found myself nodding off at the keyboard.  I figured lying down wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Three hours later… 😮

But, I’ve got it done as much as I can for now.

Here are the before and after pictures of the two North rows.

I cleared out two of the tree spruces in the foreground of the second picture.  The two I took out had a few green sprigs here and there, but were otherwise dead.  I also cut off the dead branches from the one in the middle.  I am hoping that, now that it’s open and clear, it will survive.

The remaining spruces in that northernmost row are doing pretty good.  I trimmed the lowest branches, as well as the dead ones that I could reach with a hand saw.  The dead ones were mostly on the south side of the trees, where they had no light.  The other living spruce trees, I only took off what was in my way as I moved around.  I will finish cutting away the dead branches when my birthday gift comes in. 🙂


This is the remains of a row of raspberry bushes.  I can see some dead canes from years past, but no fresh canes in this area.

To the right, you can also see a gooseberry bush I found.  I had cleared out a broadleaf tree that was between two spruces, and discovered the gooseberry under it!


Then there’s this gooseberry bush, in dire need of having the deadwood cut away.  It’s growing next to a chokecherry tree, which was also overgrown and in need of pruning at its base.


It was amazing how cutting just one sucker at the bottom of the chokecherry tree cleared almost everything up!  A few downward hanging branches to clear away, and various saplings, burdock and stinging nettle to clear away at the base, and what a difference!  I even found some raspberry bushes with baby berries on them.

The gooseberry, on the other hand, has almost no sign of berries on it at all, and what little it does have are not looking good.


This is the very end of the “raspberry” row, with an apple tree near the compost pile.  There’s even a lonely little asparagus fern growing in here!


I found more salvageable raspberry canes.  After cutting away some lower branches and saplings at the base of the apple tree (including maple and elm saplings), it was basically just weeding and removing old raspberry canes.  There are some plants in there I recognize as flowers my mother planted, so I tried to avoid taking those out.  Lots of creeping charlie and burdock in here.

At this point, I called it a night.  Which worked out perfectly, because that’s when I got a call from the second tree care company about coming over.  It was another father and sons team. 🙂

When they got here, I showed them the areas I wanted work done on, plus the trees to come down.  He asked questions about how far back I wanted to cut things (basically, enough to not have to do this again for 5 years).  He wanted to know about the overhanging branches, which would normally be left if they are not touching the lines.  One of them is a very healthy maple tree, and cutting it back would mean removing pretty much half the tree.  When I pointed out it was from those overhanging branches that we got the burned branch from, and that it had happened before, causing a power outage, he understood why I didn’t want ANY overhanging branches at all.  They even measured the trunks of the trees that will be taken down, including the dead spruce.  They had to take into account being able to get their equipment in, too, and I told them about the three different gates that were available.  We also talked about cleanup.  He charges extra if they bring in a chipper, but I did say I wanted to keep the chips for mulch, and to keep the bigger wood, too.  He mentioned they don’t usually chip dead branches, because it dulls the cutting edges, but the stuff they’ll be cutting back will mostly be life branches.

He took a whole bunch of notes, and I will get the estimate emailed to me.

I told him about how we don’t own the land, and that I am getting estimates to talk to my mother and brother about before a decision is made, and that I’m hoping to get it done in the fall.  Or spring, if the cost is higher (which I suspect it will be, with these guys, but we shall see).  He was good with fall, mentioning after August is when they’d be available to do the work, so that works out.

And that’s it for the next while.  Tomorrow will be a trip to the city for my daughter, which should give my body time to rest.  Feeling pretty stiff and sore right now! 😀

The Re-Farmer