Sunday, 29 September 2013

Grow Write Guild #11: Your Edible Rewards

The last thing I ate from my garden. Well, I'm going to take a bit of lee-way on this one and count my father's garden as my own since he does not do anything to tend to his garden since I moved out. Does that technically count? It does now!

The last thing I ate from the garden (his garden, an extension, or a community plot of my own, if you will), was a piece of pear that fell while I was canning. Wait, wrong again. I just put a spoonful of grape jelly in my mouth. Right. This. Second.


Can you believe that until yesterday, I had never had grape jelly? PB and J always meant Peanut Butter and Jam. Strawberry Jam. No exceptions.

The hubs and I have been feeling rather efficient as of late (not really having much else to do during the day), and have been trying to can and preserve as much of the garden bounty as possible. I knew that the pears and grapes would go to waste if we didn't go get them. So what to do with them all?

We made grape juice using this tutorial. We then followed a simple grape jelly recipe from an amazing preserving book my sister bought me for my birthday last year, called We Sure Can, written by another lovely Torontonian, Sarah B. Hood. I highly recommend it. We made twenty jars!

I really don't know why we did not do this for the previous few years, and sadly, this may be the last year that we are able to get free grapes as my dad might be moving next year. I can say this much, however: we will certainly be heading back there in the near future to pick the next bunch for more grape jelly!

This is part of the Grow Write Guild as started by Gayla Trail at You Grow Girl.

{Not this. But this.}

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Grow Write Guild Prompt #8: The Essence of Summer

To me, nothing saying summer quite like two plants: the tomato plant and the strawberry plant. Since I did not grow strawberries this year, I'm just going to speak briefly on it, before spending most of my time on the tomato.

To me, strawberries usher in the summer. Once the warmer weather decides to stick around, strawberries are the first thing in my area to pop up delightfully at the farmer's market or (in the past) in my yard. They scream: Now you don't have to look longingly at those giant, tasteless, California-grown, mutants they carry in the grocery store in the middle of January! NOW YOU CAN HAVE ME! They are perfectly sweet. They make an easy, killer jam, and they are the start of my summer.

But, once my summer really gets going, I mean, when it is so hot out that I can't fathom wearing a bra and a t-shirt (swimwear doesn't feel as sticky for some reason), it is the tomato that waits for me.
Black cherry tomato
I start my tomatoes sometime in March, when the weather is terrible and I long for spring to get going. I care for them very tenderly, making sure that they have everything that they will need to grow big and strong. I name them and talk to them. When it is time to go into the ground, after three weeks, they take off like weeds and I scurry to keep up with their growth.
Sometimes, I don't even have to do that. Five or six tomato vines have given me fruit this year, and I didn't even plant them. They have overgrown from the fruit that I let go to seed.
Wild tomato
I love the way my hands smell like tomatoes after I touch their leaves. I love that, left to their own devices, they will more or less take care of themselves. And, naturally, I love them in a noodle stir-fry.

I love that the wild tomato plant grows like a wild beast in every direction. I love that for the past two years, a rather rotund green caterpillar with a spike on it's rear-end has made an appearance on my plant, but only for a day (Since typing this I have found out that it is actually a tomato hornworm that enjoys munching on my greens. He's cute enough that he can stay. Not that I could find him again if I wanted to.). I love that Harley guards the sweet little orbs like it's his precious, because he knows that if he looks cute enough, he will be given permission to take one.

More than that, I like how some look like butts.
And brains.
And noses (yeah, we'll keep this innocent).
And some look like something beautiful and weird out of a science fiction novel.
While other look like abstract clumps.
But more than anything, they are the bright pops of colour in my yard that let me know I'm doing something right (And that it's time for some spaghetti!).
Don't you just love summer?

This is part of the Grow Write Guild as started by Gayla Trail at You Grow Girl.


Sunday, 22 September 2013

Grow Write Guild #10: This Plant is Driving Me Nuts!


Spinach drives me nuts.

 I have tried year, after year, after year, after year to grow spinach. I have tried conventional seed. I have tried organic seed. I have tried store-bought seed. I have tried seed passed down to me from a gardener who was swimming in spinach. I gave up this year. I won't lie. I couldn't be bothered to even try. 

I really, truly, have no idea what I am doing wrong.

I think maybe I need to start it earlier. Like, way earlier, when it is still relatively damp and cool?

It won't germinate at all.

But I don't know.

I love spinach.

It was the first green leafy thing that I liked to put in my mouth.

And I can't grow it for the life of me.


This is part of the Grow Write Guild as started by Gayla Trail at You Grow Girl.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Grow Write Guild Prompt #6: Landscapes

I'm going to keep this one short and sweet for ya'll.

Hands down, I am most drawn to mountains. I live in Canada so we have everything from the flattest plains to the Rockies, but oddly enough, the first time I saw mountains I was not even in North America. I was in Germany for Christmas--Munich, actually--and we drove down to Neuschwanstein castle in the Alps.

Never heard of it? Well here's a picture:
After that trip, I fell in love with the mountains. We went back to Germany this past Christmas, if you remember, this time heading for the Austrian part of the Alps:

I'd love to say that there are parts of this landscape that inspire my garden, but honestly, I can't say for sure if it has. I love having trees in my yard for lots of shade, but I'm not going to start growing the black forest on my front yard, not when I don't have a backyard to grow food in. And quite honestly, I've always felt quite at home in a densely wooded area. But again, I'm not going to make my yard here like that.

Having said this, I recently discovered my dream home. You'll know I'm a treehugger if you click on the link for sure. But my dream is to make one of these houses on a densely wooded lot, with forest to the north and an open space to the south (to garden and for passive energy, of course).

So maybe one day, I won't be living on a mountain in Germany, but I will have that little piece of forest that I can sit in and relax.

This is part of the Grow Write Guild as started by Gayla Trail at You Grow Girl.


Sunday, 15 September 2013

House-pride: STOP!............ Curtain-time!

So, it's been awhile, huh? I never meant to fall off Planet Blogosphere for the summer, but with the hubs and I both having a ton of extra free time, we got stuff DONE around here. Like, we have house-pride now. Huzzah!

So here is the first in a little house pride mini-series that will be coming your way just for funsies.

When we moved into our house we kept the ugly-arsed, plastic, cheap, yellow blinds up, just so we wouldn't have to buy any for a while. Now back track to when our house was literally falling in on itself, when it had to have walls rebuilt, got drywalled, and then painted.
Remember this?
Well, we picked out pure white for all our walls but two. We did an accent wall in the room above a dark "elephant-y" gray, and a wall in the other room a bright dandelion yellow (you'll see shortly). Suddenly, the crappy blinds weren't cutting it anymore. So we went fabric shopping. Multiple times.

Now, instead of falling apart, with those ugly blinds like above (well okay, those ones are still there, but in the dining room we had the exact same blinds), we now have this:
Do you like my art? :)
I bought some outdoor patio fabric that was on sale at Fabricland buy one, get two free. I had to carefully pre-wash the fabric (it more or less said to spot treat only), because when I held it up to my white walls before washing to get an idea of what the curtains were going to look like, the black fabric left smudges on my walls.    : |   Not impressed.

I also picked up some blackout lining at 50% off, not because I want my dining room to be dark, but because the blackout lining acts as an insulator, keeping the heat out in the summer during the day (we don't have A/C), and the cold out in the winter at night, that way our furnace can be more efficient. Yay for being a treehugger! :)
The back of the curtain.
I used this awesome tutorial from Design Sponge, except I did not pleat the top of my curtains (I didn't think they had the pleating tape in store, but on my last trip I found it so I think I might try for my next set in the living room). Instead, I doubled the fabric up at the top, top-stitched the very top, and just used some drapery pins.
I used some super thick thread to hold it all together, and I put in the weights at the bottom corners of the curtains, like in the tutorial, even though the fabric is so heavy I'm not sure it needed them.

Overall, I have to say I really pleased with myself! They took two days to complete, one day per curtain, but the second curtain came together much quicker than the first. Also, my math got better on the second one. I accidentally forgot to add in some allowance on the first one, and well, my lining is about six inches too short. Not really a big deal because you can't see it from outside. Now I only have 8 more windows to go!

Have you ever sewn anything for your house?