Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bathroom facelift

I'm glad I'm a farm girl and used to waiting for the 'house' things to get done when 'the important stuff' is done! I've found it to be true, even on our little farm here! The barn, greenhouse, fencing, chicken coops, garage, and even dogs have taken priority over getting our house renovations completed!

I was able to give the bathroom a fresher look this fall, finally! When we moved into this house 3+ years ago, there was rug in the bathroom. The same dark brown shaggy rug that runs through the hall and living room. No offense to those of you that might think otherwise, but installed rug in a bathroom is just... there are no words, really.

It didn't take long to remove the scungy stuff, exposing the board floor underneath. The boards were unfinished, a little rough, squeaky, and spotted with paint and whatever fluids had come in contact with it over many years. A few strategically placed screws took care of the squeaks, but I struggled with the decision of what to do with it now? Lino? Tile? Paint? The cabinet needed some care too, it was dark brown, with many scrapes and dings in it.

We are planning a major bathroom reno in a few years after the upstairs is done, so I didn't want to invest too much into whatever I was going to do. No decision was reached, and meanwhile I got pregnant, and lost all ambition and energy to do anything with it! Now that baby is a year old, it was time to get it done! I decided to just cover it up with paint, a temporary but cheap solution!

The green I chose for the cabinet is one of the green tones in the marble counter top and sink, and I used an oil-based paint so it will stand up to the moisture better.  The floor is porch and floor paint, also oil-based.  I wish I would have thinned it, while painting the cracks the paint 'bridged' the cracks in some places where the boards were closer together, making those areas very difficult to clean. 

Finally I have a (mostly) cleanable surface, and a completed project!!

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Monday, January 2, 2012

The Bounty

In the flurry of preparations for Christmas, I found myself perched on my cupboard, scrubbing the wall above my stove, because visitors actually do look behind pictures and in closets to see how clean your house really is! As I wiped cobwebs and dust, brightly colored splatters stubbornly refused to yield to my cloth and I was taken back, back to another busy season, known to gardeners and homemade-food-fanatics as PROCESSING season! An unexpected bounty from a pathetic looking garden has filled my pantry shelves and freezer! Here's a photo journal of my attempts this year:

Beet greens - a first for me this year, I washed, chopped, and fried them with butter, salt and pepper, with a bit of herb & garlic for seasoning.  So good, and using produce that was previously waste in my garden!

Apples - We beat the bears to the trees this year at my parent-in-law's, and hauled home a load of work!  I put some through my food mill and made some awesome applesauce, saving some of the ample juice for making jelly with such clarity and color, I used it for Christmas gifts this year!

I made some of the applesauce into apple butter, sooo good.  I'm amazed at how the flavor of the apples comes through by reducing it over low heat, there is very little sweetener added so it's a great spread for the calorie conscious.

I actually still have some of the apples in the fridge, although their days are numbered!

I bought 40 lbs of peaches on sale at the grocery store, then my sister brought me another 40 lbs directly from the BC Okanagan!  What a treat!  Freestone, sweet, and ripe 4 days later!  Some were canned, some pureed for baby food, some seasoned and sweetened for cobbler and pie and frozen, and others just diced and frozen.  We're really enjoying their sweet flavor all through this winter!

Jalepeno Peppers - there was an abundance of all peppers, also banana peppers, red and orange sweet bell peppers, and green peppers.  I bought the plants pre-started at a local greenhouse, so they had a head start which was a good thing with our cool summer.

The muskmelon (cantaloupe) produced fairly well, but the cold weather resulted in a lot of flowers not pollinating and just falling off the plant.  What we did get was sweet and flavorful.  The acorn squash surprised us with 2 squash, 1 has been roasted and enjoyed already, the other is ready to eat now!

The beets did very well despite the wet soil, and we've been enjoying them in different forms.

The jars to the left are beet borsht, which our son calls red soup, the center jars are canned beets, and the jars to the left are beet pickles.

We sure did have some... interesting carrots this year!

The cucumbers got planted really late, after the rains when I could finally get back into the greenhouse, so I was harvesting until Thanksgiving when the greenhouse froze!

These are my own combined recipe of Bread and Butter Mustard Pickles.  They used cucumbers, peppers, carrots, onions, green beans, and a few other things I can't think of at the moment, sorry!  Thankfully my husband loves them (whew!) and I put them on meat dishes and his sandwiches to make them moist and interesting.

I only allowed 2 pumpkins per plant, so I got a total of 6 pumpkins, 2 I gave to my sister and the other 4 I pureed through my food mill, froze, and I'm using it in baking and cheesecake, pies, etc.

I saved the seeds, washed, seasoned and roasted them for a savory treat.

I attempted a hot pepper pickle, but they're not very hot.  Tasty with a bit of tang, but not hot.  Quite disappointing really.

My tomato crop this year was quite pathetic, but combined with several large bags of whole tomatoes in the freezer that didn't get made into salsa last year because the baby came early, they made some dandy salsa this year!

The downstairs shelves are literally groaning under the weight of this treasure!  Besides what I've got photos of above, this year also produced many jams and jellies, canned potatoes, canned carrots, hot carrot pickles, and a variety of pressure-canned soups.  Some things I canned double of last year, knowing I would have a baby this year, am I ever glad I did that!  Canned tomatoes, tomato soup, pears, apricots, apples, apple pie filling, antipasto, chicken noodle soup broth, and dill pickles are all going to last me until next year. 

I cleaned my deep freeze the other day and was truly amazed by what else had found it's way into there over the course of the summer!  Peas, raspberries, beans, saskatoon berries, zucchini, chocolate zucchini cake batter, carrot cake batter, it's wonderful!

What an amazing blessing to have good food supplied to meet our needs.  Our daily bread.  Thank-You God!!

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Potato multiplication

 Insulating the foundation in our basement/cold storage area means it's not quite as cold anymore... meaning potato storage isn't quite as good as it used to be!  This potato lasted until spring, then sprouted, and grew, and if I'd left it any longer, I could have gotten a winter's supply of new potatoes!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Gardening in 2011

A winter with deep snow transitioned into a cold, late spring, and what followed was a challenging summer. 

We got the garden planted around May long weekend, normal for this area.  I moved the half-barrel planters in the greenhouse from the side to the center so I'd be able to control the weeds a bit better.  We added about 6 inches of composted manure and soil to the greenhouse, it took forever to dry out this spring and had quite a bit of water standing in it for a while.  I had some qualified help spreading and leveling!

Half of the greenhouse received the additional soil and got planted on June 8th, and I planted my flower pots and left them in the greenhouse because it was so cold so they could get a head start before putting them out.  The closer half took until the end of June before I could get in there again to add fill due to the rain.

And I found a robin's egg laying on the ground in the garden, and I found out it was fresh when I accidentally broke it showing it to my husband.

Then came the rains.  It was the wettest year in about 13-ish years.  Every time it was almost dry enough to get onto the garden, it would rain again.  The fungi had a field day.  This is my boot beside a huge puffball mushroom.

The rivers overflowed their banks.  The creek behind our house was a raging river.  The river in this picture runs about 1/4 mile from our house and is usually a slow-moving stagnant body of water.  Not this summer!  The boards sticking up out of the water in this picture are normally about 20 feet above the water line. 

I was able to get onto the garden once during the rainy time to pull some weeds from around my drowning plants and my husband mounted the trencher behind the rototiller and trenched around the garden and hilled the surviving potatoes, just in time for it to begin raining again.  My garden was a pathetic sight.

This was after several days of no rain, water standing in the trenches between the sad potato rows.

The Haskap berries appreciated the moisture, and bore fruit in July.  We have 4 bushes now but didn't harvest enough berries to do anything with, just a few for munching on.  They're more tart than I thought they should be, very unique flavor, I can't wait to try them in a dessert!

By the middle of July, the plants were finally getting established, and some of the vines starting to bloom.  The zucchini, of course, was bearing fruit by that time already. 

The garden, however, was still so saturated that the soil was nearly suspended.  This is my boot print when I tried to step into the garden to grab some lettuce.

So I put a board down so I could use some lettuce, it was on the drier end of the garden, thankfully.  The spinach planted next to it was decimated first by flea beetles in the cold spring, then by drowning. 

We finally got some sunny but not hot weather toward the end of July, but it was enough to get the greenhouse warmed up during the days.  The plants finally started to grow, and the insects finally started to pollinate flowers.

The strawberry plants loved the moisture, but I had to watch for slugs a lot.  One moist evening, I found dozens of slugs on the plants and my husband and I mechanically removed them and fed them to the chickens!  After that, our slug damage was greatly reduced, and we could enjoy ripe, hole-less fruit!

A week into August and at last, some hope that a harvest was possible!

Pumpkins - last year I harvested fully ripe pumpkins of the same variety on August 1st!



I planted my cruciferous plants (cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage) outside rather late during the break in the rains, so it took until the middle of August for them to begin to form.

Despite losing some peas to drowning, the crop was quite plentiful, with my daughter helping my pick pleas.

Banana peppers

Red peppers

Jalepeno peppers

Pumpkins at the end of August, fast growing!

A lonely Acorn squash, it was just not hot enough for them this year.

Harvesting tomatoes a week into October, we hadn't eaten any ripe ones at that point, they ripened in the basement and we had tomatoes until Christmas!

Despite the challenging growing season, we still had an abundant harvest from most of the garden.  The benefit of not being able to get onto the garden during the wet season was I didn't have to add weeding to my 'to do' list!  I rarely watered this year, and only in the greenhouse.  The hoses didn't get pulled out at all by the garden, only the strawberries and newly planted shrubs got water this year, it was great!
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