Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Poor Garden

My garden has been the victim of neglect lately. The weeds are rapidly taking over and many goodies are being missed. I'm unsure exactly the reason for the garden being overlooked but I feel like I reach this point every gardening season, I simply forget that it happens.

Tomatoes are coming ready. We've been having rainy days here on the west coast so there has been some rot on my plants but I've done my best to rescue them. One of my plants fell down so I picked all the green tomatoes to save them from the bugs. I'm still undecided if I will make green tomato chutney or simply let the ripen on my windowsill. The sun sugar tomatoes are doing the best so far. Little yellow globes of sweet delight. All these years of gardening and they are still my very favorite tomato. I'm very disappointed by my Roma tomatoes. I was hoping for some big, beautiful sauce tomatoes but it looks like they will be small and few.

I'm very pleased with my squash crop this year. We have butternut, fairy squash, pumpkin and delicata this year. They all seem to be doing well. The pie pumpkins should be ready very soon and I can not wait for all the pumpkin spice muffins, pumpkin pie, curry pumpkin soup, pumpkin fudge, oh the possibilities. The rats have gotten to a few of my delicata squash but I still think there will be enough for us to enjoy. The rain is getting to these plants as well but I think they will make it long enough to produce some good squash.

Fall fruit is also coming ready. We've been picking basket after basket of pears. It has been a bumper crop of pears this year. It's too bad my family doesn't seem to like them. I'm still planning on make a few batches of spiced pear fruit leather in the dehydrator but most of the pears are being given away. The apple tree did not do as well. The bugs really got to it this year and stunted much of the fruit. We will still try to harvest as much as possible since the juice we got last year has been a huge hit in this household. We use it for popsicles, hot cider and of course the good old juice cup. It appears as though we should get a good amount of grapes from the vine this year. Jon has been reading about grapevines and has been taking extra care of it. It seems to be paying off. The grapes are growing in bunches and are starting to turn red. April loves frozen grapes so hopefully this crop will be gobbled up quickly.

I need to get my butt in gear if I want to plant fall crops. My beets, greens, carrots and turnips should all be in by now. If I can't get the garden ready and seeded by this weekend I think we will take a pass at the fall garden this year. That would be disappointing since last year we had quite a few successes but this mama can only do so much. Let's hope there is a break in the rain and my garden gets the attention it deserves.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Our Haven

This year we continued the tradition of heading to our favorite getaway on Gabriola Island. It now goes by The Haven but to me it truly is Haven by the Sea (it's former name). We didn't get the best weather but this year we ended up with a large, comfortable room with a complete kitchen, patio and lovely view of their small garden plot. It didn't really seem like any less of a vacation to be reading books and cooking pancakes in our nice room.

We were lucky that the rain held out for a trip to the market. Every time we go we love visiting a local tie dye artist. I have never come across someone who does such beautiful dye work and the folks at Tied Up and Dyed. Of course we had to pick up a few tie dye items for April to wear this fall. Although the tie dye was all we came home with, the market itself was a wonderful experience. The smells of local herbal products and soaps, the beautiful colors of the apples, beets and corn, the happy sounds of friends coming together, it was the perfect community gathering place.

Even though it was raining, it was still warm. It was so warm it was uncomfortable to wear any kind of rain gear so we walked around and let the rain soak us. April was determined to spend some time in the pool at The Heaven so even in the rain, she and her dad were splashing away. She has become such a little fish. The wearable water ring we got for her has given her a lot of confidence to put her face in the water and kick her feet to get around. We could barely get her out of the pool, even though she was shivering away.

April's other very favorite experience from our trip was the visit to the Paradise Island Alpaca Farm. I found myself getting very excited to visit these fuzzy ladies. Alpacas are just so cute and soft. Though I must say they are not exactly cuddly. Still April enjoyed letting them snack away from her cup. However, the alpacas were nothing compared to the miniature horses. These horses came to the farm from abusive homes and they seem overjoyed by all the food and attention they receive here. April could have fed them all day long, she couldn't get enough of these sweet boys. Unfortunately, the farm had to remind her that they had many other visitors to see and she could not spend the day shoving hay through the fence.

The disappointment of leaving the miniature horses was soon remedied by a trip to the beach. Jon and I kicked back and wiggled our toes in the sand while April built castles, collected treasures, chased sand pipers and splashed about. It wasn't long though before the rain showed up. April, being the beach bum she is, wasn't ready to head indoors so we walked along the beach in the rain. We found jellyfish and crabs washed up on shore, we splashed in tide pools and finally made our way across the rocks back to the room.

It's always bittersweet leaving Gabriola. It is never anything less than enjoyable and we feel so relaxed by the slow pace of the island. It also feels like summer is over when we board the boat to come home, it feels a little cooler and a little darker when we say goodbye to our Haven. But we will be there again, next summer.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fiber Heaven

This weekend we attended the annual Fibrations festival. A place to celebrate all the fiber arts. I must say I was particularly looking forward to attending this year as I had an interest in spinning that I wished to explore. This festival is certainly my kind of place; these are my kind of people. It was so fun to geek out over yarn and wool and patterns and quilts with people who really understand the obsession.

It was so interesting to see groups of women just sitting together at their spinning wheels, spinning away and laughing. Or coming across some young people with drop spindles in their hands, teaching the older generation about their love of the fiber arts. There was so much to see and learn about but I really tried to focus my attention on learning about drop spindles.

After receiving a short tutorial and getting to try my hand at top whorl spinning, I took the plunge and bought a lovely drop spindle. I must say, learning this new art is so fun I can barely put it down. Of course I couldn't leave the festival without some yarn. I got my hands on some local wool that had been naturally dyed using blackberries and a skein of the most stunning self-striping sock yarn. Although now that I find myself hooked on spinning, I fear my knitting projects will just need to wait.

Fibrations was such a wonderful opportunity to expand my interests and make new connections. I've joined a quilters club and spinners network. I came home with new knowledge and new interests. I felt like I had visited the most wonderful community and it's one that I hope to find my place in. I've spent most of my years crafting on my own but seeing all these people connecting over a shared loved of fiber arts gave me a renewed hope that I can make connections of my own. I look forward to building my skills over the next year and seeing what next year's Fibrations festival will have to offer.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Welcoming Chicks

We weren't sure we would do it this year but when we saw them we knew we had to take them home. We brought home three 3 week old chicks. I was hoping for more Wyandottes but the stock just wasn't available this late in the season. So we decided on these sweet Rhode Island Reds.

It took a day or two for April to get her excitement in check and use gentle hands with the chicks. Now she is so sweet towards them. Very gently using one finger to stroke them, bringing them towels and blankets to keep warm. When we come home from an outing she will often tell me that she needs to check on "her" chicks. I love seeing that loving, compassionate part of her personality coming through for these small creatures.

Because we got them so late in the summer, these little ladies will be spending much longer indoors. I must say that I am not looking forward to having them in my laundry room for several more months. I had forgotten how dusty and messy they are. And no matter how often I change their bedding, they still smell. It is easy to forgive however, they are so sweet. I really hope my current hens will be accepting of them and that I won't be breaking up fights. We plan to leave these ladies in their cage but put the cage into the coop when the time comes to move them outside. I think it will be the safest way to introduce them to each other.

In the meantime, we are savoring the fluffy bits, marveling at the rapid change, listening to the gentle cheeps and befriending our new chickens.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Blueberry Season

Blueberry season is so short but such a heavenly time. No amount of frozen or imported blueberries could ever compare to the divine taste for blueberries straight from the bush. I dream of those blueberries all summer long. The past couple weeks we have been taking the time to visit a local blueberry farm and get our fill.

As blueberry season approaches we find ourselves reading books about blueberries. Peter in Blueberry Land and Blueberries for Sal are our favorites. April is certainly like little Sal amongst the blueberry bushes. She started putting a few in her basket then stood at a bush for a solid 5 minutes inhaling as many berries as she could swallow. Then she ate all the berries from her basket and decided that the basket was best used for collecting dandelions and blueberries were best eaten on the spot.

Even without April's help, we managed to collect about 30lbs for freezing. April eats frozen blueberries by the bowl year round. Last year she ate through our entire supply of frozen berries in just 5 months. We doubled our supply things year. Of course, I insisted that we keep around 5lbs of berries fresh for eating. Nothing like munching away on blueberries for a week solid.

Our own blueberry bushes produced a few small berries but still seem to be struggling. I think it might be time to try planting a different variety in different soil. There really is only so much one can do for a plant that is not getting what it needs to go vigorously. We can't wait to see what next blueberry season will hold for us.