Slicing Through

“The powerful wind swept his hair away from his face; he leaned his chest into the wind, as if he stood on the deck of a ship heading into the wind, slicing through the waves of an ocean he’d not yet seen.” 
― John Irving, The Cider House Rules

One of my favourite books, that.  The Cider House Rules.  Not really about apples or cider.  Not too much, even, about our neighbouring state of Maine.  But very deep, very philosophical and very beautiful.  If you haven’t read or seen it, do so. The parts that DO take place in the orchards are both romantic and dramatic.

Apple orchards ARE a place of romance for many. Through the ages they have been lovely settings – L.M. Montgomery’s Anne was ALWAYS mentioning “The White Way of Delight”, even when it wasn’t June and the blossoms weren’t  exploding on tree limbs.  Vintage postcards and greeting cards romanticize the entire system of keeping up an orchard.

 

While my brother-in-law proposed to my sister in his grandparents’ old-farm orchard on the west coast of Newfoundland and although Richard’s niece is to get married here next summer under our own lovely apple trees with the Appalachians as the backdrop,

we are actually finding our little orchard of apple trees to be a primary source of frustration (2nd to the constant blackfly problem for me, I’d say).

Our apple trees seem to be a focal point for our amazing views, no matter what the season.  They are dainty and pretty in spring, laden with  big red apples in late summer, dramatically ‘spiky’ in fall as they lose their leaves, and always holding sparkling layers of clean snow in winter.  Even more so, they are often ‘at the end of the rainbow’, or part of the footlights of the setting sun’s reflections:

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And both last year and this we had a heavy crop of apples.  Here’s just a branch from one, taken at the wildflower garden we are slowly working on (and beside which the bride will glide next July!)

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I’ve long been a fan of apple fests, apples-for-the-teacher, apple-blossom themes, and my work as Rustic Revivals proves this:

In fact, for their Christmas gift last year I made my sister and brother-in-law a hat hook for their summer cottage/old farm’s entranceway, romanticizing their engagement and reminding them of other things in their lives they love to share:

However, it is not the quantity of apples here that is a worry, NOR even the quality, though 80 percent do have some kind of wormhole.  But I’ve taught Richard not to worry so much about those, as I just cut them out and go on with whatever I planned to do that particular day with that harvest.  The problem is, for two years in a row, and trying all the recommended options, we have been unable to KEEP our apples for longer than 2 weeks!  We divide them into three categories when we pick – “kitchen”, “animal treats” and “compost”.  I do try to get as many into some kind of production in the kitchen that day or the next, but with so much else to be harvested at the same time, it would make life easier if the apples could be put off say, until after Thanksgiving (Can. one, in early Oct., not the American one near end of Nov.).  But no such luck!

Part of the problem with having an Olde Homestead is that the pioneers didn’t have the selection of various apples we have today, and thus many didn’t plant some of the more rugged thick-skinned apples that were made for winter storage.  Although we learned last year that one is supposed to wrap each apple separately in paper BEFORE putting into cold storage, that didn’t work any better this year than NOT wrapping them did last year.  So there went about 6 hours of my time wasted, over the course of several days of wrapping! (Those ones were primarily the ones we’d deemed for the animals, so admittedly they had more bruises, but according to all my reading they still should have kept better/longer!)

 
The other part of the problem of Olde Homestead-owning is that there are usually, for many years, people not tending to the orchard’s needs, not pruning the trees, for instance, and not keeping the apples raked up from under the limbs every year (and this must be done immediately, as soon as a few apples have fallen or the next year’s harvest will be ‘buggier’ and less plentiful, we’ve learned!)  My brother-in-law, Boyd, has run into the same problem of years of neglect, on his grandparents’ farm – and he has chosen what I consider a frightening option. He’s cut down many of the old trees, and planted new ones, essentially starting from scratch.  For reasons of time, expense and yes, romanticism (I don’t want to start chopping down Ida May’s trees that she planted just before she died at age 33 in 1931!) we will have to find another solution.  And I couldn’t even convince Richard to purchase a pear tree for this year, to plant, so we’re one season further from having our own delectable yellow fruit as well!

Here’s my brother-in-law and sister standing in front of our apple trees in July:

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If you’ve seen 3 more goofier-looking adults, it could only be with the addition of Richard in the frame.  We weren’t even TRYING to look silly, we were just smiling! (my skirt courtesy of cousin Linda’s family, some of our visitors this summer)

After completing losing about two bushels of apples we’d picked and I’d wrapped and put in the coldest part of our basement (they went to compost, but it still hurts!) we were invited to our Honey Man’s farm.  He allowed us to pick a plethora of his own apples, less blighted than ours.  But he still warned us they wouldn’t last long, even if wrapped.  Stubbornly, and as I was so busy preparing beans, peas, tomatoes, etc. I wrapped all of them late one night and had them put in the basement.  Within a few days, thanks to blackflies and fruitflies, we noticed they were starting to get mushy, so Richard went to buy a solid metal apple-peeler, and he went to work on them!

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Mom and I did what we could by hand to keep up:

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(Mom’s apron – and ours hanging in background just above her head – courtesy of Shirley Robinson, yet another of our many guests this past year).

The nice thing about the apple-slicer was that I was at least able to freeze several buckets of just slices, so at least in a way we have preserved ‘apples’ that we could eat ‘fresh’ or also feed as treats to the animals when it gets cold and they are very bored.  However, a bit of lemon juice or my homemade apple cider vinegar on them before they start to thaw is necessary so they don’t turn brown, which Richard hates.  The slices are also great to put into pies or loaves, but I also, as last year, immediately made apple sauce, juice, cider and apple cider vinegar.  (The many health, baking and cleaning uses for this latter were mentioned in my blog post on our apple harvest last year).  Here are the many processes we had to do over the course of only about 5 days:

The apple sauce isn’t just eaten as apple sauce, but we reheat to pour over ice-cream, frozen yogurt (hopefully next year made with goats’ milk!), we CAN use it in my soda-cracker quick-pies, and a few table spoons can be put in bran mash for Chevy or Cammie on really cold days. (One thing I didn’t make this year, and we shall miss, is the delectable apple BUTTER!) The last photo is all the scraps we save from the peelings, which is then corked and allowed to sit for a month before we pour and strain to get the proper type of  ACV, with the all-important ‘mother’.  I try and drink a spoonful of this in water every day (sweetened with honey or Stevia).

So, while the apple harvest WAS a bit disappointing again this year, and there are no big red globes in our basement for easy access, there’s nothing like knowing that, thanks to our neighbour’s offer of a 2nd harvest of HIS apples, our freezer and pantry are at least full of pails and jars of the innerds! And there’s nothing like heating up that applesauce to have with a bit of custard, either! Hmmmm…

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(that apron is courtesy of my grandmother McKenzie, from the old Sparta Mercantile circa about 1982, and the bonnet is from an etsy seller.  I have to put on this “Little House on the Prairie” get-up because many of our u.k. visitors seem to think we’re a cross between the Ingalls and the Waltons!)

Sadly, however, Richard came home from town yesterday with something that upset me, and I mean to fix this issue once and for all next year.  There HAS to be a way!  He wanted us to have a few fresh apple slices in our salads, and he wanted to feed Chevy ‘treats’ because he spoils him rotten.  Like a rotten apple!

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Everything about this upsets me, the plastic bag, the unnecessary money spent, the fact that these apples aren’t local and certainly have been chemically sprayed, and the fact that we don’t seem one step closer to living self-sufficiently with these on our table, and two huge apple trees outside our bedroom window!

One thing we didn’t do was wrap them AND put them on single layers on racks downstairs.  We do have these racks built into the basement, so I shall try a few of them next year.  But anyone that’s found any other ideas for making them last at least to November, I’d very much like to hear your experiences!

Of course around here, the old farm orchards are being terribly wasted.  Although this is a pretty sight this week – I still HATE seeing it, as there’s so much we could have done with all of those if I could but learn how!

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I even saw someone with spotlights on their apple trees like this, lit up for Christmas!  While it was lovely – I STILL wanted to go pick those apples!

When we first moved here Jane Hansen gave me a Victoria County recipe book from the local ladies of 60 or 70 years ago.  There are many ideas for baking with apples, so the slices in our freezer WILL come in handy for these, and it’s nice to know I’m using recipes handed down by our neighbours:

Still, to add insult to injury (in my head at least) is the fact that I’ve been looking for more blue stoneware plates and bowls to replace the ones Richard breaks on a regular basis.  I once had a collection of 6 of each, with red hearts, and I’ve looked everywhere to find the red hearts again. They aren’t on etsy,ebay, or anywhere that I can find, but I did luck out and find these a few weeks ago in Value Village in Fredericton:

 

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Would you BELIEVE I have to look at apples now at every meal, just to remind me there’s no whole ones for us OR the livestock?  Ah, well — I bet you thought this whole blog was going to be about apples, though, didn’t you?

But we spend our days slicing through life in other ways.  Whether the bread I make every 2nd or 3rd day is in a traditional loaf pan, or like this one, we get better and better at slicing just the right thickness for toast, sandwiches or chunky warm delights with stews or soups:

And Richard always has to have a ‘sweet loaf’ to slice up, in addition to the cookies/scones in the cookie jar:

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(Fingerless mitts: an early Christmas gift  knitted by our dear friend, the lovely Hudson, Quebec artist Jane Wright, and made with the alpaca wool purchased at the last pioneer show the Wrights helped me organize in Ontario,  from Alpaca Avenue near Toronto: http://www.alpacaavenue.com/    See Jane’s artwork at:

http://www.janewright.ca/  )

And we don’t have much snow yet. Jennifer Clarvoe writes, in “Invisible Tender” that while  they had been slicing through the snow, it can’t have been very thick because greeny grass tufted through it and it was gravelly, dimpled, pocked.”  But nonetheless, Richard and Chevy have already been hard at the “Slicing Through” process, bringing in logs from our own woods for next years heat source.

 

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Not bad for a guy who’d never really handled a horse prior to May of this year, is it?

The next few weeks’ blogs will not be about harvesting/processing food anymore, you’ll likely be happy to read.  I promised I’d write about the big 100th anniversary of our church, the entertainment for which I was asked to organize, as well as more details about the New Denmark filming with t.v. star Jonny Harris and the crew from CBC’s Still Standing. Those 2 events encompassed just 10 days at the beginning of September of which I’ve only hinted at in a prior ‘tease’.   And all this past week and next Richard and I are involved again with the Perth/Andover Community Choir and the 2nd Wind Music Centre Choir from Bristol. Not only have we teamed up with them for the big July 1st 150 Voices concert, but we’ve sung with them for the fall concerts with the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra and are now joining them for the Christmas season. In fact, this weekend we are dressing as angels (I know, imagine Richard as an angel – it’s nearly impossible, isn’t it?) and going to “Bethlehem”  to sing for two rustic days, as Victoria County is invited to walk or drive-thru to see the merchants and travellers, nasty inn-keeper and new-born babe from 2000 years ago.  And then on two big days following we sing a tricky Vivaldi, bellowing from two different church choir lofts, down upon the Bristol choristers who answer us from below.  Glor-i-a, Glor-i-a Forevermore!  Just another Slice of Rural Life here at Blue Belldon Farm!

 

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Poppies, Parsley and Profundity

How many soldiers carried photographs of their loved ones or their heroes on their person at all times? Or how many had an object or small picture that brought them delight, even in the muddy, cold, smelly trenches with explosions of lethal noise and chaos over their heads? On this Remembrance/Veterans’/Armistice weekend, I feel it’s important to ponder over how objects or images might have brought even the slightest happiness to the soldiers who fought throughout their short  -or even long- lives. (For the ones who died in war were perhaps in some ways the lucky ones.  The ones who had to come home crippled in body or mind, or both, who have struggled with alcoholism, drugs, homelessness and mental health issues due to what is now labeled “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”, these are the ones for whom I believe our sympathies and gratitude should really be expressed!)

Below is an example of photographs which LITERALLY saved a young private from being killed by shrapnel.  There were of course so many of these types of stories emerging from the battlefields of so many horrific wars.

(story here:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2629391/Photos-loved-ones-World-War-One-soldier-kept-wallet-pocket-saved-LIFE-stopping-shrapnel-entering-body.html )

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This past summer, Mom/Joy read one of my favourite books/films : “Fried Green Tomatoes (at the Whistlestop Cafe).  This is a wonderful book about Remembrance, and how an old warrior of a different sort learns to deal with her imprisonment in a nursing home where her young and humourous mind refuses to see herself.  She was only allowed a few mementos to help her through each day, just as the soldiers in the trenches or planes or ships could only have with them a few special tokens.

“I brought a picture with me that I had at home, of a girl in a swing with a castle and pretty blue bubbles in the background, to hang in my room, but that nurse here said the girl was naked from the waist up and not appropriate. You know, I’ve had that picture for fifty years and I never knew she was naked. If you ask me, I don’t think the old men they’ve got here can see well enough to notice that she’s bare-breasted. But, this is a Methodist home, so she’s in the closet with my gallstones.”
                                                                                             -Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Yesterday I read an article from CBS about the gardens in Chicago that are completely tended by veterans. My, if only there were gardens such as this in every city and town,  how much more purposeful and important our former protectors of our nations would feel, and how the peace of being close to nature each day, seeing seeds blossom, ripen, die would make them soulfully feel connected to the constant circles of life!  To perhaps help them make sense and come to terms with some of the travesties they’ve had to endure! https://www.cbsnews.com/news/veterans-find-peace-at-chicago-botanic-garden/

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This theme will continue throughout this blog posting, but – when you need food (living self-sufficiently) and items in your garden aren’t yet ripe, what are some ideas? We discovered that by July this year we still hadn’t had much ready to harvest and eat yet, due to the very poor growing season.  So, as Mom was reading Fried Green Tomatoes at the time, and as I remembered preparing these southern delectables once before (being curious after seeing the movie, I believe), I started frying up for breakfast some mornings (see below, and yes those are my pajamas.)

I simply mixed up a bowl of seasonings (from our herb garden – more on this below) with some milk and egg and a bit of chicken fat from the night before. In another bowl I put flour and cornmeal.  Then I sliced the green tomatoes, dunked them in the moist bowl, then flopped them about in the flour bowl and fried them up with a good bit of hot oil – delicious! (You can’t really do this with red tomatoes – they are already too ripe and will just fall apart).

  1. Whisk eggs and milk together in a medium-size bowl. Scoop flour onto a plate. Mix cornmeal, bread crumbs and salt and pepper on another plate. Dip tomatoes into flour to coat. Then dip the tomatoes into milk and egg mixture. Dredge in breadcrumbs to completely coat.
  2. In a large skillet, pour vegetable oil (enough so that there is 1/2 inch of oil in the pan) and heat over a medium heat. Place tomatoes into the frying pan in batches of 4 or 5, depending on the size of your skillet. Do not crowd the tomatoes, they should not touch each other. When the tomatoes are browned, flip and fry them on the other side. Drain them on towels (NOT paper towels – stop using so much of that stuff!)

In the photo of me frying you’ll note a lot of parsley stalks.  Like the photos, pictures or mementos tucked into many soldier’s uniforms, parsley was also considered, from as far back as Roman times, an aid to ‘protection’.  I use copious amounts of parsley each year, so am experimenting with just how much is enough to plant, and also the best way to preserve it.  Of course, the romantic way I’ve always dreamed of , is to just hang it, let it dry, and pull off a bit every time I need it. Same with dill.  But sadly, our house is SOOO inundated with fruit flies and house flies throughout the latter part of the summer and into autumn that there is no way I can deal with the thought of their excrement all over the food we will eat… I don’t know HOW our ancestors dealt with this, or maybe they just didn’t think about it… but the hanging bouquets also ATTRACT more fruit flies, which we certainly don’t need.  Many people suggest keeping parsley and dill fresh by simply freezing it in water in ice cube trays. Then, you just take out a cube or two, let it melt in your soups, stews, or over your roasts, etc and VOILA.  While this is a lovely idea as well, I need WAY too much for that kind of fiddling… and a) have no place in freezer for all those trays and b) REFUSE to add that much plastic to my own carbon footprint.  So:

From my little herb boxes on the front porch (off the kitchen, just out the Dutch door, where you may remember, I upcycled two cupboard doors and two drawers last year for this purpose) OR from a larger patch I planted in the main garden, I pick a lot of parsley, wash it all, put it to dry on towels (NOT paper towels – please stop using disposable EVERYTHING!) Then when it’s dry I run my fingers backwards over the leaves and spread them on to cookie sheets and put them on ‘Warm’ (or very low) in the oven to fully dry out.  Lastly, I put them in my little painted wooden boxes that I keep in the pigeon holes.  The ONLY problem with this is that you will get some stems a little bigger than you would find in a package from the store – but I have just been telling my guests it’s proof-positive that they are eating ONLY Blue Belldon Farm ingredients~!

As I’ve mentioned previously, we planted cilantro and borage this year PRIMARILY for the bees and the cross-pollination so important in any veg. garden! Although we will use a borage leaf for some tea or a pinch of the bitter cilantro once in a while, we decided to mostly just let these grow tall and flower, as the bees go for this more than anything I’ve ever seen!

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Our organic seed supplier, Hawthorne Farms in Ontario, encourages the use of borage for the bees, and they weren’t kidding!  (Plus, they are a lovely blue, so we plan to continue with more and more of this plant to beautify up other corners of Blue Belldon Farm!) Regular readers may remember that the previous owners here had planted two wonderful diagonal strips of wildflowers through the veg garden for the cross-pollination purpose. They were wonderful last year – an absolute profusion of colour, esp. the poppies! (“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow…”)  I hadn’t realized how much I would love poppies – they were especially wonderful in my jars of scented potpourri which were part of our Christmas gifts last year.

Sadly, though, I guess after a few years of blooming (one prior to us purchasing the farm, and then last summer) the wildflowers were overtaken by too much grass.  Many of our guests this year, led by Mom (in charge of all Blue Belldon flowers) had a turn at pulling up all the grass in the diagonal strips to make it easier for the rototiller. And, since I’ve discovered the borage/cilantro trick, and while I’ll miss the poppies terribly, we’ll have to find another few spots to plant them because we really need every inch of that garden for vegetables!  Here’s Mom/Joy at work on a COLD summer day in August, pulling up said grass, with barely a stem of wildflowers to be seen (the yellow is of course the squash patch).

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For Remembrance Day, my friend Anne found the below photo -a different look at a poppy, I think.  Because it is showing the fragile paper-thin, blood-red petals and its closed-up state, plus- the background fading away, it makes it poetically metaphorical in my opinion!  I’ll play English teacher now – what ELSE metaphorically does this photograph bring to mind with its content, or lack thereof? What other things can you think of that pertain to what the poppy has now come to stand for? (ie: the sunlight filtering in, the creases in the petals, the rough edges, the stem with a blossom not yet opened????)  Feel free to comment on the blog about this! You never know, I might reward you with a big gold star!

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Sadly, from the large bouquets of poppies I was able to pick to brighten the kitchen table last summer, this was the ONLY one I dared take away from the few plants remaining:

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Soldiers and Poppies are interchangeably considered now. But what about Soldiers and Gooseberries?  WHAT?

“Gooseberries” was a code name used by the Allies, for older ships used as a breakwater, to calm the areas around the Norman shore in the summer of ’44. These breakwaters had the effect of reducing currents to facilitate the landing of soldiers and material resources on the beaches. There were five gooseberries set up in the harbours around 5 different beaches, preparatory to the D-day landings starting June 6th.  Early that morning, the waters along the beaches, (code-named SwordJunoGoldOmaha and Utah,) were swarming with troops from the United States landing on Omaha and Utah, Great Britain landing on Gold and Sword and Canada landing on Juno.  These major assaults, of course were the beginning of the end.

Gooseberry bushes were also important to many soldiers – they have shielded and held many on different occasions, and a war series “Soldier, Soldier” even discussed this happenstance.  Here’s an example from the book The Eloquent Soldier by Lt. Crowe:

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I had my first experience with gooseberries this summer.  While I barely had time (as everything else was ripening at exactly the same moment, it seemed!) to pick raspberries, the jam of which we all adore in this family, I CERTAINLY didn’t have time to pick the gooseberries offered to us up the hill at our neighbours’.  But Charles was good enough to pick the berries himself for us, and I in turn (as he’s a diabetic) made him some honey-sweetened juice for his smoothies and some sugar-free jam (it was still pretty tart!) Here are the many Charles picked:

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Gooseberries, of course, are a close cousin to the currant, and the only experience I’ve had with currants is the knowledge that Anne Shirley invited Diana over for tea and, whilst thinking she was serving a light raspberry cordial, instead got her drunk on Marilla’s red currant wine.   A gooseberry’s shape may explain why the term ‘being a gooseberry’ means being a third party.  There’s that extra bit you have to cut off before you can start boiling them:

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Or the term may have come about simply because they are so sour that they are ‘unwanted’. My efforts for Charles (and us) to have healthy, sugar-free jam resulted in my using copious amounts of Boyd’s honey (I’ve mentioned Boyd in other postings, he’s also part of the New Denmark Minstrels I organized to sing for the 150th celebrations) and the very-expensive but all-natural Stevia.

I added vanilla and ginger to try to counter-act the tartness and taste as well, but the only way we really enjoyed the sugar-free type was to have the juice in some smoothies with yogurt and other fruits.  Later, I just followed regular old-fashioned recipes and poured in the  white sugar.  (too bad!) One mistake I made though – like  our crabapples, you aren’t supposed to need pectin for the jam to thicken, because they are full of the natural stuff.  However, it didn’t seem to be thickening and I finally DID add some – only to end up with jam into which a spoon couldn’t even be stuck! So now when I open a jar, I have to add a few dollops of boiling water and give it a stir!

I did, however, for winter eating with some warm custard or cream, flash-freeze a huge amount of the gooseberries as well. I’ve discussed flash-freezing before, esp. with the green and yellow beans.  The secret is to put the berries on cookie sheets and not have them touch in their first hour or two before you put them in a container to permanently keep in the freezer. (That way they don’t stick/attach to each other, which would ruin them and also not allow you to just take out certain amounts at a time from the container).  And, back to the tomatoes now – I got sick of canning, so decided to just flash-freeze both cherry AND larger tomatoes that had ripened.  And that’s when I invented a smart way to keep them separated for their first few hours of ‘flash’. (Whole tomatoes need about 3 hours before they are ready to place all together in bags):

Now, I have lots of ideas that I THINK are terribly original, only to discover that loads of people have come to it before me… but I haven’t found this done anywhere on the internet, and it sure worked well!

To close, we all know what the poppy represents at this time in November.  However, parsley not only can be tucked into ones clothing for protection and vitality/strength, but can also signify a removal of all things bitter – not just in taste, but in emotions.  Would that all veterans find a place of solace, close to nature,- “A Garden To Tend, Where Broken Souls Mend” – to remove the bitterness that must remain in their hearts . And may there, one day, just be peace.

“I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”  – Stephen Crane

Crabby and Creepy

Remember what I said in last week’s posting, about a challenge for writers being one of making points or issues relevant to each other with relevant and perhaps even seamless segues?  Obviously, I need to stick to the main theme of this blog – what we do here on the farm to live as self-sufficiently as possible… but one should still recognize special events or holidays, visitors, and make the postings personal at the same time.

This week is the last blog before Halloween is once more upon us.  (If you didn’t read last year’s Halloween posting, have a look – I’m still rather proud of that one, the mix of ‘haunted’ photos of the farm, its residents, and valley, the ‘ghostly’ tales of the Danish settlers, and the silly verses !  Search my blog with the words “All Hallowed” or try the link:  https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/all-hallowed-anec-pics/ ) .

While last week’s theme encompassed all things “long” and “green”, this week will be RED – for blood, for crabapples, for smashed grapes and scarlet runner beans whose vines creep everywhere, and for the amazing red peat bogs out near the ocean iteself…There’ll be mention of your favourite crabby and creepy characters in fiction as well, so hunker down for a S P O O K Y as well as informative  read!

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When our guest, Leanne Goodfellow (an ironic surname, as this blog will mostly be about Badfellows!) from Aberdeenshire was here during September, she helped us pick and prepare many crabapples.  Last year you read about some of the many things I did with these hardy and prolific little jewels, such as crabapple juice, sauce, and best of all – what turned out to be everyone’s favourite JELLY.  But this year, besides those items,  I remembered that as a child we always had pickled crabapples to brighten up our Christmas table, and I LOVED them.

Picking the crabapples didn’t take too long, once we finally decided to ‘get at it’…

spooky crabs“With all hands available”… we managed it in about two hours, using the pick-up box and some ladders.

The tree was full this year, and although we still had to be wearing blackfly nets/hats, we didn’t have any serious injuries.  Above, Leanne demonstrates the huge bin we filled of them, stripping all the leaves first.  Cammie and Chevy also helped strip the leaves and finish the tree off for the season.  While Chevy stands grazing, Cammie now uses his flanks to ‘mount’ herself… and by mid-Sept.  the bottom of the tree looked like this:

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However, it’s the brambly branches of the crab apple tree that make it such an interesting and spooky enigma.  I just took this photo of the VERY last crabapple I could see on it – less than a half-hour ago. Blue Bell Mountain in the distance, of course.  Isn’t this a great Halloween shot?  And did you know…There is an old custom of offering the last crab apple of the season to a mythical figure… The fruit is given as an offering to ensure a good crop next year.  I guess I’d better go take this apple down and find me some mythical guy – FAST!

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Crab apple trees have slightly thorny-looking branches and while they aren’t particularly sharp, we still advise wearing gloves when harvesting.  Because of their appearance, the trees also fit well into All Hallow’s Eve folklore with a great spooky novella, and many paintings of witches and worlocks gathering around their base:

 

Here are some REALLY great folklore beliefs about crabapples themselves – perfect for this time of year:

Witches reportedly concealed their poisons in the fruits.                                                      Crabs appear in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which the roasted fruits were included in the wassail drink.

Because we live in a Danish community, I thought this next one was especially interesting: Crabs have been cultivated since the Neolithic Age. Signs of crab apple fruits were found in Danish coffins dating from the Early Bronze Age!  Here is the famous Danish Edtved girl discovered some years ago:Egtvedpigen, Oltidsfund, Gravfund

Cultivated crab apple trees were brought to the American colony of Massachusetts  in the 1600’s where they were grafted onto native crab rootstock.  There are several from this time period in Salem, home of the famous witch trials.  I actually, and by complete accident of timing, spent one Hallowe’en there in 1995.  You couldn’t MOVE in that little village due to the busloads of people pouring in for Oct. 31st celebrations.

The term ‘crab’ is actually Norse/Scandinavian/Danish as well . There are two possible origins for the small apples being called ‘crab’.  “Scrab” or “Scrabbe” meant  crooked, knotted, complex, twisted, very much like the tree used to be. The other possibility is that it derives from  “crabbed” which itself means, etymologically, “crooked or wayward/sideways (thus the name for the crustacean) — and then the several figurative senses that follow from that, ie: disagreeable, contrary, ill-tempered, or crooked, as in criminal.

And throughout spooky literature history, and the century of classic horror movies, who have been the ‘crabbiest characters’, voted in 3 different surveys? Number One, and long-time favourites of mine are the two theatre critics, Waldorf and Statler from Jim Henson’s Muppets.  They were both  hilarious AND crabby!

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Two and Three on the list are also favourites of mine from literature: Eeyore and Scrooge.  Talk about Grumpy and Crabby!  Eeyore has long been a choice role model for me, as he’s also a cynical pessimist.  Friends used to call me Eeyore, not just because I was grumpy and moody, but also, I suppose a stubborn ass… but speaking of, there are SOME grumpy old men who can really write the book on being ‘ornery’ :

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And here’s another crabby old fart holding up a photo of a grumpy me, having to de-stem, cut in half and de-pit  thousands of crabapples to prepare them for the sauce, juice and jelly…  (see last year’s posting if you like:  https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/orchard-organics-holistic-harvest/ )

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In fact, one of the reasons I remembered the pickled crabapples I so loved in my youth was that I was trying to think of a way to prepare the little buggers and NOT have to cut them in half and take the pits out!  So, this is most delicious:

http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/fruits/canning-spiced-crab-apples/

Like the witches of old who used to mix their herbs into poisons, and then put their poisons into their jars of pickled crabapples, here’s one of my attempts:

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My mother will be glad to know that my degree in Theatre Arts and Literature isn’t COMPLETELY going to waste.  Nor is my degree in Education, ’cause what am I doing here on this blog, after all?

Now…. ….  that’s it for the ‘Crabby’ section, let’s do the ‘Creepy’ chapter, shall we?

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I’ve mentioned several times that we LOVE the way Hawthorne Farm Organics (our seed company that’s in Ontario) offers the Scarlet Runner Bean, both for eating and for wonderful, quick vines.  Being an Anglophile, any type of ivy or vine that crawls UP, or creeps OUT (Mom/Joy despises ‘Creeping Charlie’, but if it didn’t kill the other plants, I’d leave it be as well…. I don’t like BROWN spaces, I love GREEN!)  Here’s Mom/Joy, waging her usual battle against all things that CREEP TOO MUCH:

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As we tried planting the scarlet runner beans to EAT last year, and didn’t care for how huge they got, we DID discover that they are easy to dry and replant.  We planted them everywhere around the house, for their quick ‘creeping’ as well as, later, their blood-red flowers which the bees love! (for this reason, because of encouraging cross-pollination, we did put a row of them in with our other peas and beans this year as well.)

There are two examples, above, of how they climb up the pillars, onto the front porch, and up the trellis and wagon wheel, all within about 3 weeks of their first planting.  The red flowers come out later in August and stayed right through ’til mid-October this year!

The other creepy-crawlie I’ve always loved, though it isn’t so quick of course, is grapes.  Our neighbour Pierrette (Zeb’s ‘witch-like’ mom) gave us some grape vine roots early in March, and they ‘came up like gangbusters’ (despite Cammie having a go at the ones on the side of the house).  We even got a few bunches of grapes already!

We plan to let them grow right up the pillar and then put lattice work on the roof of the front porch and let the grapes be readily available (it’s just outside the kitchen’s Dutch door that Richard made).  The grapes ARE red, and surprisingly sweet already but when we harvested them at the end of Sept., they were still pretty tiny – really only the size of a dime, or smaller. We ate them in one luncheon sitting!

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Did you know there’s another kind of red grape called the Witch’s Fingers?  I may have to try this variety!

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Funnily enough, although they were just planted this spring, our grapevines are the only thing still green enough to attract Cammie to nibble on this past week – we still have to guard the leaves from her wandering lips!

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Linda, my cousin who visited with her fun sister Pat in September, introduced us to ‘ground cherries’, another creepy-crawly we will never be doing without again, now that we’ve discovered how great they taste!  It is their little paper-thin pods that many crafters use for autumnal decor and I’ve already begun experimenting to see if I can do lampshades with them for Rustic Revivals’ oil-can lamps (using them like decoupage, but so they will be more natural, and throwing in some leaves as well…)

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And while the most creepiest vines of all are in the squash/pumpkin patch, we didn’t score very well out there this year.  The harvest of these vines was tiny, in both number and size (see the pumpkins in the  creepy scarecrow pic below? Richard doesn’t think we’ll have Halloween trick or treaters this year, because he thinks “Blue” looks like a paedophile! ) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But this doesn’t stop one having a bit of fun in the ole pumpkin patch anyway!

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On our way to Moncton last week (for my one end-of-harvest treat, a Roger Hogdson (Supertramp) concert) we passed a gorgeous peat bog.  I’ve never seen one at this time of year before,  in all my travels, and I’ve always thought of peat bogs to be a Halloweenish type of spooky affair, but this is STUNNING, isn’t it?

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Back to those Danes, though – this man was found in a Danish bog. Hanged with a leather cord and cast into the peat 2,300 years ago, Tollund Man was probably a sacrifice.  This was meant to be another spooky photo for your Halloween enjoyment, but it’s so sad, and he looks so peaceful, it’s not really frightening at all, is it?

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One of the shortest visits we had all year (in our season of 19 overnight guests) was a one-night stay from Richard’s eldest son Erich.  (By the way, if you think I like word-play, what about naming your kid with exactly the same letters, first and last names both? (Erich Reich) )

Erich brought along a drone.  I find them very frightening.  They look like creepy spiders, but in a very freakish sci-fi way of Big Brother invasiveness…

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Cammie and Chevy didn’t like it either.  They kept HEARING something, but could never figure out where the sound was coming from!

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At one point, the shadow of the drone fell over Cammie, and she launched an attack.  I’ve seen dressage horses that didn’t have as nice an extended trot!

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However, Erich and his dad did have a nice time on a beautiful autumnal day, playing with the ‘toy’, no matter HOW creepy the animals and I felt it to be…

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Are you ready for the list, as voted on by readers of literature, of the CREEPIEST CLASSIC CHARACTERS? (of course most of these have been movies, and these characters were always well-portrayed by fine actors or actresses who managed to make them seem even MORE creepy!)

Miss Havisham, from Dickens’ “Great Expectations” is in the top ten: “She was jilted at the altar, and now she insists on wearing her rotting wedding dress for the rest of her life. The uneaten wedding cake is still sitting on the table, and all the clocks in her house have been set to the exact moment she was dumped, making her one of the creepiest characters ever. According to Dickens, she looks like a cross between a skeleton and a waxwork with sunken, moving eyes.”  Here’s a Miss Havisham doll I particularly like – HOW CREEPY!

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Alex, in A Clockwork Orange, Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird and Dracula, in Dracula also made the top ten from classic literature.  Now, to be fair, Boo was actually a bit of a hero, but apparently it didn’t stop him being considered classically ‘creepy’.

Another cousin of mine, who has shared both musical and theatrical stage performances with me throughout our youth played Wilhemina in our town’s musical version of Dracula. (I was one of the brides who came out of a coffin, then later, hilariously wiped off the ‘death’ make-up and danced the Can-Can in the intermission’s entertainment! Incidentally, this was the first, but not the ONLY time I emerged from a coffin, or was put INTO a coffin in my stage career. No wonder I decided not to continue as a professional!) Here’s cousin Joan in 1980:

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Richard, Remy and I had 3 weeks of hard labour during harvest this year, but there was another autumn when the 3 of us left Remy’s house in West Yorkshire and traveled over to Whitby, in North Yorkshire, which is where Bram Stoker got much of his inspiration for the setting of the book.  On another note, Jasper, the dog in the below photo- taken on the Whitby Wharf- is a Weimaraner, commonly called “Ghost Dog” for their spooky eyes. Remy had to put Jasper down a few months ago, so this is a little tribute to the good companion that kept him company for 13 years.

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I lived near the Bronte’s Haworth for several years, and Remy and I took Richard to see the moors and the site on which they think Emily based her spooky “Wuthering Heights”.  While we were walking on the moors, Richard went over to relieve himself behind a rock, and Jasper was off in the distance sniffing around.  When Richard finished, he apparently felt frisky (or maybe the ghost of Cathy was chasing him?) and he started to run back toward us.   Suddenly, as Remy and I watched, Jasper decided no one was going to run away from HIM.  And so, unbeknownst to Richard, the Ghost Dog started to chase Richard, and when he reached him, he hurled his front legs around his waist and brought him down into the moorland grasses.  It was nearly a decade ago, but I can still see this as vividly (and hilariously) as if it were yesterday.  Here’s what we saw:

The first is Top Withens, the possible inspiration for Wuthering Heights (the house, not the novel).  And while Jasper the Ghost Dog did appear rather hilarious with his floppy ears and goofy tongue lolling out the side of his jaws, had Richard turned around he would have seen another creepy dog – the Hound of the Baskervilles- tearing after him with enthusiastic determination.

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And that, good readers, is the end to my mostly-red-themed, CRABBY AND CREEPY Halloween blog for this year.  “How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.”
― Bram Stoker, DRACULA

Flora and Fauna (or Posies and Pets- your choice!)

The lupine are growing wild in the ditches of N.B. right now, and this always attracts the wildlife.  But right here at Blue Belldon Farm, there are many things in lovely bloom, surrounded by wild animals.

 

Here’s an example of some of our hedge roses, fresh-cut, with one of the wild animals:

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The quilt, above, is a new/old one found at a 2nd hand church basement by Mom/Joy. Because it’s purple and green, and because those are the colours of Richard’s niece’s wedding to be held here NEXT end-of-June, we will be using the quilt for a table cloth for displays at the reception, and most of the wildflowers we are busy planting at present are blue (for Blue Bell and area) or purple, or variations thereof) to add to the correct colour theme.  I’ve also finally started painting those red wagon wheels we brought from Ontario, changing them to a blue-grey as well. The rose bushes actually make a lovely accent for other photos, too, such as my herb garden outside the kitchen Dutch door, which the cat likes to snooze beside as there is cat-nip growing in one of the boxes (more on the herbs later):

Inside, these roses add a lovely smell and an attractive bowl of fuscia delight, though they DO rather clash with the copper in the kitchen!  I love a single rose-bud SO much more than open flowers, though…is it the hope and expectation of the yet-unknown?

Outside, all manner of birds, bees and other fauna keep vigil over the stunning sensory offering. How many attentive animals do YOU see in this photo?

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Do you see how Chevy likes to graze? Because of still undiagnosed problems with his muscular structure (we suspect possible PSSM, common in drafts, or maybe a form of Lyme, but we are awaiting test results) he is uncomfortable with his neck stretched all the way down and seems happier munching from a hillside, with him below the grass he is eating… we feed him chest high in a trough in the barn as well, even his hay, and he is much happier.  Meanwhile, Cammie enjoys just standing on her hind legs ‘grazing’ off the red maple tree!

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Cammie is loose a good part of the time, although now that the veggies AND the flowers are starting to grow and blossom, we have to keep an ever-vigilant eye upon her. These snow-ball bushes and irises were planted by the last owners to help the vegetable gardens with cross-pollination at all times of the growing season, but Cammie thinks they were put there expressly for her gastric enjoyment and often has to be physically removed from the area.  And the more she is eating, the more difficult this is!

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Did you know that the roots of irises are useful for so many ailments?The fresh root possesses diuretic, emetic and cathartic properties. It was actually formerly employed in the treatment of bronchitis and chronic diarrhea, and was considered a useful remedy in dropsy as well.  So, not just a pretty face! Wasn’t able to find any real uses for the Chinese snowball, however – as much as I can see it IS just a pretty face!  That and attracting the bees, which we certainly most desperately need.  I have a great fear that the human race may someday be lost simply because that one all-important insect is extinct.    Some facts from John Haltiwanger on Protecting our Planet are eye-opening:

At present, the honeybee population in the United States is less than half of what it was at the cessation of World War II.  This past winter, 23.2 percent of America’s managed honeybee colonies were lost. The figures were worse during the year prior, but bees are still dying at a disturbing rate, and something needs to change.  The US government has stated that bees are now dying at an economically unsustainable rate. Indeed, in the United States alone, bees contribute to $15 billion in crop value. Simply put, bees keep plants and crops alive. Without bees, humans wouldn’t have very much to eat.

To help the bees stay alive, we must stop using pesticides!  And PLEASE stop mowing the ditches – that is where a plentiful source of wildflowers and grasses grow.  Leave that for our pollinators!  And PLANT more flowering shrubs and wildflowers.  Mom/Joy made a special point to plant milkweed this year, as it is a special favourite of all bees, and also will help keep the monarch butterfly from becoming extinct.  It will take a few years (providing Cammie doesn’t eat them first!) for them to become like this the photos below, but the swamp milkweed – the best variety for both bee and butterfly- looks like this:

Several artist friends from Ontario visited the farm this week, and so I picked from that same garden spot and put on the kitchen table the irises, some late-blooming daffodils and the Queen Anne’s lace I so adore ( good for soothing the digestive tract, kidney and bladder diseases, stimulating the flow of urine and the removal of waste by the kidneys. The seeds can be used as a settling agent for the relief of flatulence and colic as well!)

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Besides using mint for jelly or to put in hot or iced tea or other summer beverages, did you know that a few stems of mint, gently crushed and placed near suspected entry points deters ants, and that some gardeners clip bits of mint over mulch beneath veggies of interest to insects, which may confuse pests in search of host plants. In aromatherapy, of course, mint is used to relieve stress and increase alertness.  Our patch seems to be mostly of the spearmint variety, as it spreads very fast and develops big, gnarly roots that are difficult to dig out.  Spearmint starts flowering in early summer, and if the old blossoms are trimmed off, the plants will rebloom again and again for the rest of the season. This is great for various pollinators including honeybees, which may derive health benefits from foraging in the mint patch. A 2006 study found that a spearmint spray killed 97 percent of  the mites collected from an infected honeybee colony. So in more ways than one our lovely spearmint patch is hard at work for the bees, as well as adding flavour and aroma for us!

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Mom found the above window box already blooming like this for only $25.00, so she bought it to put on her private stairs/deck.  Smitty enjoys sitting there watching us garden sometimes, as it gives him a break from the cement porch where he is usually tied (wish we could leave him loose to roam the farm at will, but he immediately heads up the road to our neighbours’ potato barns and corners the workers with his barking and growling.  He thinks that barn is part of HIS farm, and he gets angry that they are there. And with his track record for biting, we have to be very careful in summer that he only roams free after dark!)  Mom is also the resident feeder/protector of hummingbirds, the other great pollinator we must value at all costs.  Hummingbirds can’t smell, so are most attracted to the colour red, and thus this box (and the old red glass feeder full of sugar water hanging beside it) is a perfect offering.

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You’ll see there are also some trumpet flowers in Mom’s flower box mix, which the hummingbirds love because the shape of their beaks and tongues fit in so well.  In the left side of the box, I stuck in a scarlet runner bean seed which, I discovered last year, come up quickly, have a lovely red flower later in the season, but are a quick answer if you want some trailing vines.  I’ve also planted a few in our side porch brick planters, where Mom put other flower seeds such as nasturtiums.  These plants are fully edible and growing them can lure aphids away from other plants in the garden as well!  “Nasties” as I call them (because they AREN’T)  are easy to grow and may be climbing, cascading or bushy, so these permanent porch planters were a perfect spot for both those and my scarlet runner beans, which were planted a week AFTER, but are already inches above!

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Right now, the pastures and meadows are full of daisies, clover, smaller dandelion varieties and the bright orange hawkweed.  While Chevy doesn’t like eating any of those, he is not averse to having a sniff of the posies from time to time.

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Apparently it is called hawkweed because it originally only grew in higher altitudes, where only the hawk and eagle could access it.  An old saying advises that if it be given to any horse it ‘will cause that he shall not be hurt by the smith that shooeth him.’  Luckily for us, we don’t shoe Chevy, as he is only interested in giving these a passing sniff!    (Apparently, the powdered leaves of the hawkweed (called mouse-ear in other countries) is an excellent astringent in haemorrhaging).

The wild mixture of white, yellow and orange will be part of the backdrop for where the vows will be exchanged next June:

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where Richard’s niece and her fiance plan to stand to get wed by our own Pastor Ralph next June

But, again because of the name of our farm (really from Blue Bell Mountain, so called NOT because there are bluebells growing wild, but the colour and shape of the mountain’s shadow) AND the fact that Richard’s niece has chosen purple as her main wedding colour, we would like a lot of our own wildflower plantings to be in shades of blues, greys and purples as well.  And since I arrived here last May 24th, I’ve been trying to get some wildflower seeds to ‘take’.  Especially between the apple trees, which is the same view as the above photo, which is where the wedding guests will be seated on straw bales.  But the ground needs better working, I guess, so yesterday I had Richard do a light tilling and I threw down a bit fertilizer to try and entice the seeds. Some may be too old, but we are so far behind in sun/heat this summer, I feel sure we may still get some to poke up and blossom. As I also have wanted a little winding path and English garden here, especially since first seeing this view (below) from Google satellite last FEBRUARY, I decided to put in a bit of work on this yesterday, despite the fact that there was a light “English” rain coming down as there has been most days for a ‘fortnight’ !

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Here’s Richard rototilling where we want to sprinkle wildflower seeds, and where we already have a few bulbs planted as well (and of course, a scarlet runner bean and a few morning glories… to do some climbing!)

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He made a few little paths that wound through the trees, and I then drove back to our Rasmussen Brook and picked up mostly flat stones for a bit of a ‘flagstone’ effect, that hopefully the flowers might grow around:

I then scattered AND poked little holes for the following:

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The above, then, is what I call “Bride’s Bough”, where Richard’s niece will walk, and, if anything goes according to plan, she’ll have some blue and purple wildflowers mixed in with daisies, etc. on both her right and left as she walks down the ‘aisle’…  More on this garden as it progresses…

If you’ve been regularly following this blog since last year, you’ll know that I ripped out many of the old 1970s cupboards and drawers, and, always re-using, I fashioned an ‘herb garden’ on the front porch for them.  While really only borage and a few morsels of parsley came up last year, they little gardens are looking much better this year, and a wee sign given us as a going-away present with a box of herbs, by the kind Olavesons of Carlisle tinkles away in the wind as the animals rest in the shade.

 

I love having a few herbs growing right to hand.  The kitchen is just inside that Dutch door, so it’ a simple thing to trot out and get whatever seasoning I need, nice and fresh!

 One of the sites I use regularly for help on various gardening and orchard matters is https://www.growveg.com/  by Barbara Pleasant and others.  There is a wealth of reliable (unlike so much supposition opined on the internet!) information here, and I enjoy reading various uses for herbs, especially. I also grow certain herbs  for a variety of reasons not so commonly known, such as borage, cat-nip, basil and parsley. These aren’t just for quick seasonings or garnishes! (ie: catnip has anti-bacterial qualities). So if you’re interested, have a look at the PLEASANT site!  One tip I especially want to try this year is, to keep my herbs fresh throughout the winter, making ice cubes with them rather than hanging them all.  Then you can just pop the ice cube in your stews or soups or teas!!!

Lastly, and from the end TO the end, rather, I want to talk about Chevy’s manure pile. You can’t have ANY fauna without a bit of that delightful ‘end result’, so why not discuss it?  Horse manure is easy to compost and takes about four to six weeks to turn from stable waste to garden gold if you do it properly. Composting does take some effort, however.  Constructing a pile about 3 to 4 feet high helps the process to go faster. (Any higher than that, and you can have spontaneous combustion – one stable I used to work for had to have the fire department out TWICE in the space of four months!) Turning the pile over frequently adds oxygen that speeds up the composting process.  When the pile no longer feels hot and the composted manure resembles dark brown garden soil, it is safe to use on your garden.  It doesn’t have to be a year old, as many say.

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There’s our pile, collected from both the stall and the pastures since Chevy arrived in the 2nd week of May.  Note we are keeping it right near the garden for easy access~!

Now, I’m sorry if after a lovely showing of blossoms and cute photos of animals, you are offended by this ‘end’ result , but life isn’t always about poetry and aromatic thoughts, you know.  Sometimes it takes excrement to CREATE that beauty and romanticism…”

“After dinner they met again, to speak not of Byron but of manure. The other people were so clever and so amusing that it relieved her to listen to a man who told her three times not to buy artificial manure ready made, but, if she would use it, to make it herself”
E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey

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Taken at the Flood

Taken at the Flood is one of my beloved Agatha Christie’s novels.  Published in March 1948 under the title of There is a Tide,  it is one of her ‘Poirot’ stories.   Both these titles are, of course, taken from Brutus’ famous and most wonderfully provocative AND symbolic speech:

Brutus:
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

 William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 4, sc 3, lines 218-224

So, in other words, a mix of taking the right road at the fork, seizing the moment (at the ‘right’ time) Carpe Diem stuff and all that.  With just a light pinch of Frost’s ‘taking the road LESS travelled’ thrown in for good luck.  But in Christie’s Taken At the Flood novel, Mrs Lionel Cloade retorts to Poirot  “Doctors, I find, have a very materialistic outlook. The spiritual seems to be strangely hidden from them. They pin their faith on Science – but what I say is… what is Science – what can it do?”

I always thought myself a much more spiritual and artistic person than a science person.  Nonetheless, since the controversy about climate change has really spiked upwards (ie: the first 100 days of Humpty Dumbty’s presidency) I have discovered that I now actually find myself on the SIDE of SCIENCE.  Despite what some scientists have PREVIOUSLY stated, most now seem to agree (probably since Hawking’s latest conversations on the subject) that we are indeed in the midst of violent global warming which is causing unprecedented weather patterns and natural disasters.  And yes, this is all because we continue to pollute the earth and mistreat it in every way possible.

Ontario friends complain about the heat and humidity they are already experiencing in March and in April.  Out here our winter has gone on well into the 2nd week of April, and then we’ve had so much rain that of course heavy flooding is now happening, partly due to the skies continually dumping on us, but also partly because IDIOTS seem to think it’s o.k. to clear-cut the steep sides of slopes RIGHT beside the rivers (not to mention our short cut into town through Lucy’s Gulch).  uh – HELLO?   Even a kindergartner knows that’s going to cause erosion, but nope, they do it anyway.  As long as there’s a buck to be had, who cares about the land, the rivers, the roads, or the people who try to live around them?

When I moved here nearly a year ago,  93-year-old  closest neighbour Greta (the Danes pronounce it  with a long ‘e’, so GREETA, just as “Gavin” down by the rec centre is “Gay-vin”) said something that will always stick with me.  Though she has no memory of who we are, despite having been ‘introduced’ to her at least 12 times, ( her brain can no longer take in any new information but she is still very lucid when it comes to everything she’s known from the past) Greta looked sadly out her window one day at Bluebell Mountain and said “Oh, I WISH they wouldn’t clear-cut that mountain; it DOES upset me”.  Dementia or no, I’m with ya there, Greta.

Here’s what they are doing to beautiful Bluebell.

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And here is Lucy’s Gulch, taken from the road below.  Imagine what’s going to HAPPEN to said road when everything starts to slide.  Oh, no big deal – they’ll just close it off…

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This is what happens when foresters and loggers IGNORE the warnings of proven science, and clear cut a steep slope, leaving disturbed topsoil and total destruction of the complex soil ecology and almost all plant and wildlife.  And right below this catastrophe is the  fork of the Salmonhurst River joining into the Saint John River.  This is where Richard was fishing last year (see the lovely shots at the blog post  https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/pippis-first-fishin-fable-lores-lures/  –  the first pic. shows this bridge, which now has water nearing the road level)

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As soon as you turn to look at the other side of this bridge – DEVASTATION!

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This entire parkland was where Richard sat to fish while I walked the dog, and where we skiied and snow-shoed one day in January.  It is indicative of what many of the lower crop fields are presently experiencing and the potato farmers are already saying there will be a potato rot this year.  The WWF states much more succinctly than I can, how devastating all of this is :

“Half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years. In addition to erosion, soil quality is affected by other aspects of agriculture. These impacts include compaction, loss of soil structure, nutrient degradation, and soil salinity. These are very real and severe issues.

The effects of soil erosion go beyond the loss of fertile land. It has led to increased pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers, clogging these waterways and causing declines in fish and other species. And degraded lands are also often less able to hold onto water, which can worsen flooding. Sustainable land use can help to reduce the impacts of agriculture and livestock, preventing soil degradation and erosion and the loss of valuable land to desertification.

The health of soil is a primary concern to farmers and the global community whose livelihoods depend on well managed agriculture that starts with the dirt beneath our feet. ”

Did you think New Brunswick was one of the best places in the world to fish?  So did we – until we moved here and found out what all this clear-cutting has caused. Richard was looking forward to many mornings in a canoe catching fish so that we could freeze it and have it on a winter’s evening.  But there is very little left to catch in the three rivers that surround us (the Tobique, Saint John and Salmonhurst).  We were bitterly disappointed to find out that part of our strategy for living self-sufficiently has been yanked away by those who do not care about Mother Nature, or by those who do not want to live in harmony with her.  Remember this commercial in the 1970s?

iron eyes cody

I cried every single time it aired.  I remember going out to the side of the road and holding up anti-pollution signs with my sister and our friend Lesa for entire WEEKENDS.  (Two of us would hold the banner between us, while the 3rd would go along picking up litter and putting it in garbage bags for the passers-by to witness).

But this litter (see recent post about the plastic water bottles we should be doing away with!)  is NOTHING like the kind of damage being done by huge-scale industries such as forestry and oil.

I was most disappointed to read on a Homesteading page on FB that a huge number of those so-called homesteaders aren’t all that concerned about the ENVIRONMENT.  I don’t know how you can have one without the other, frankly, but it seems many homesteaders are more concerned about just saving money or NOT living in a city – but they still run to the dollar store for tupperware and other plastic containers, operate generators off various petroleum products and empty them back into the land,  put out chemical weed-killers and bee-killers, etc.  And then when I (God Forbid!) comment that that doesn’t seem the best way to receive ‘gifts’ back from Mother Nature, I got a huge backlash, with ignorant comments such as this one  ”  I didn’t realize that being a homesteader meant we had to be also following eco-friendly trends! “.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  (And there were some a lot nastier and more personal, but why bother quoting them – I tried to quickly forget those ones, in fact!)

Richard and I plan on heating as much as we can in winter with what our own small forest can supply. But we will be burning as much deadfall as we can, cutting only trees that are fighting out other good solid trees for sunlight, AND – most importantly – we will be on a REPLANTING regime as well.

Why can mankind not look after our natural resources better?  Why are we so greedy that we are killing off humanity and wildlife at an alarming rate?  Is there to be NOTHING left for future generations?

Going back to Shakespeare’s “Taken at the Flood” quote, if we do not take responsibility NOW, before it is too late, our chance is lost, and:

“Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

We must RISE WITH THE SWELL OF THE TIDE, and take the last few opportunities left to us to clean up this earth, to prevent the damage that is continually being done.  We, homo sapiens, can NOT control these tides, just as we cannot control anything Mother Nature offers. But if we do not learn to go WITH her, rather than against her, we will indeed suffer these miseries for the remainder of human existence on this planet.

pa flood

A few years ago, in the oft-written-of town of Perth-Andover,  this was the scene of the main street which we drive down a few times a month for supplies.  It is very nearly at this level again, www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/news/public_alerts/public_alert.2017.04.0513   thanks to erosion of the mountainsides and over-polluting of our waterways.   Stephanie Kelly, editor of the local paper, the Blackfly Gazette, (previously mentioned in former postings in regard to that wonderful publication) and Marianne Bell, mayor (and also choir-conductor and book-club leader , mentioned in this blog just last week) have many things to say about this devastating flooding in the lowlands surrounding us ‘mountain-folk’.  All you need do is google their names and some flood-related tag words to read or hear interviews.

And my dear, much-admired Agatha comes up again in this scientific (not literary, as one might expect from my regular reading habits!) book jacket description:

Environmental Forensics Fundamentals:  A Practical Guide

“Over 400 pages of essential information in an easy-to-read practical guide to environmental forensics, a discipline that brings together Agatha Christie-style mysteries, scientific information, and environmental policies. This is a well-structured, cutting-edge investigation of contemporary environmental crimes and potential solutions from Ioana Petrisor, Ph.D”

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I just wish a few more corporate CEOs, and yes, even Humpty Dumbty himself would read it as well!  And note: for the latter, it DOES specifiy “easy-to-read”!

 

NOTE:  While this post may leave you feeling down, prepare yourselves,
loyal readers, for the next 4 weeks of high excitement in our blog.  We will 
have your favourite -  BEFORE/AFTERS of a painted plywood floor in Mom's
upstairs hall, as well as a visit to a Maine dairy goat farm for some lessons,
 the building of the paddock and run-in-shelter for the goat and horse, 
- (THEY ARE ARRIVING within the fortnight) and the long-awaited shots from the New Denmark
Queen's Pageant, complete with the hill-billy choreography and dramatic monologue coaching
done by yours truly.   SO DON'T MISS ALL THE EXCITEMENT!

Tapping, Sapping, Lapping & …..Napping.

The temperature's up, the temperature's down
But this makes for a time to drill 
And tap the trees out in our bush.
For Richard, this has all been a thrill!

You can tell when the season is coming
The sunrises are glor'us once more
And the days are so much longer
We can be out in the woods after 4!
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The first step is to mark the maples
And while all plastic puts me in a FUNK,
We already had this roll of yellow-
So Richard tied bows 'round the trunk.

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He found about 15 good maples in all
And drilling holes was the next stage
(He broke my Makita, so we used his big thing,
Which naturally put ME in a rage!) 

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Next step is to put in the spile
(Again, plastic was NOT what I'd choose.
But since that's all they had, Richard taps
With a hammer, then POOF! In for a snooze!)

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Yup, that's a big morning, he figures.
15 holes drilled - what a lark!
But after lunch and a nap, what's he find?
The sap's running down the tree bark!

So he hurries and fits in his hose
(MORE plastic, "oh NO!" Julie raves!)
But at least the 'buckets' are recycled
From the milk jugs - a year's worth of saves!

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There's still so much snow that just walking
Is impossible in the deep white
So Richard and I ski or snow-shoe
While Smitty prances on top, he's so light!

And that toboggan is handy for tools
(Yes, the damn thing is PLASTIC again!)
But on days when my knee is too sore
Richard 'mushes' me down the back lane!

We collect sap for two days, in fridge
In many more jugs that we've kept
Then Richard takes over the kitchen
All newly pet-free and floor-swept.

('Cause we have to do enough straining
First with coffee filters, then in the pot
With a tiny sieve or cheesecloth
So we DON'T want hairs in that lot!)
w

Richard waits for a roiling boil
Then boils for at least half a day
Keeping an eye on the temperature
As well as straining what joins in the fray!

He calls himself a middle-class-billy
So one not-QUITE-from-the-'hills'
But "geek" springs to mind as I watch him
And wait to mop up any spills!

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The windows are fogged up with moisture
And the paint will be peeling from walls
Next year we'll have to cook outside
Out where all of Nature enthralls!
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 On the first day, the smoke alarm sounded
(We'd left a pot boiling an hour
That we went to woods to collect more
And the burner was too high a power!)

So now Joy comes down to monitor
And put in her two-cents worth, al-so
Richard LOVES to create drama, so I
Hide down where seeds start to grow!

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R.'s back and forth to the woods
Running quite a nice little crop
But a pause is made to throw balls-
That snow-dust's the dog's sliding stop!

After hours and hours on the boil
The sap starts to thicken up well
Richard loves this high drama the best
As the bubbles go white and up-swell!

Ready or not, we pour in cool bowls
Then transfer syrup to jar
But leave a bit out for candy
The taffy's the show-stopping star!

Now Richard makes ME run outside
And grab fresh pee-free snow
And he pours the taffy on top
For a treat about which he'll CROW!

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 And a little further along on the boil
We get the hard-candy-works
Pour in a cake pan, stick in the freezer
And now - it's the greatest of perks:

The licking of sweets from utensils
That have stacked up in my kitchen again
There's pots and pans- mess all over!
But R's intent on his Purpose Main.

That is, to lap up enough treats
Before I notice his hill-billy teeth
Will need more dental work than money we've got-
What that guy eats is beyond belief!


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Now we take out the quick-cooled panned candy,
And smash the pan down with a bang.
It all breaks into jig-saw pieces.
All set for R.'s broken old fang.

For no sooner have I put it away,
Then he's caught with his hand reaching in
For that hardened gold treat he wants badly-
And I've got to pretend it's a sin!
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Chipped teeth when you haven't a 'plan'
Are not going to help us live
In a self-sufficient manner
So it's back to the pot and the sieve,

While I take a turn at collecting...
But I can't find the toboggan at all!
And there's that hard-working nut-bar
Setting himself for a great fall.

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And later still, cleaning the kitchen
I wonder why it's gone so quiet.
I check the pantry candy
To see if he's gone off his 'diet'.

But no, all the candy's still there...
Why on earth can't I hear a wee peep?
So I look in the bedroom, and there on the bed
Is the Maple Chief - quite fast asleep!

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2



 

Blue Belldon Basement Grow Op.

funny

 

Finally!  Had enough warmish days to not only get the maple trees tapped (next week’s blog, and Richard is excited!)  but to get enough earth moved in from the porch planters (permanent bricked-in wall) to mix with the  MINIMAL potting soil we purchased.

Now, lecture – time.  Earth day is in exactly one month, and there’s a world-wide campaign to BAN PLASTIC if you care about the land and forest, both of which, whether or not you homestead, SUPPLY US WITH OUR FOOD!   So, either you start being more conscious about every single thing you buy that’s just going to end up in a landfill (or worse yet – in a roadside ditch or waterway) OR you at least find multiple purposes for every shred of plastic in your possession. Because I’m bossy,  we do both.

The photos and stats below are just a few tiny examples of what plastic is doing to our world.  And it all makes me sick to my stomach.  But not as bad as that tortoise!

  • North Americans use more than 4 million plastic bottles every HOUR! Most of them are thrown away, not recycled.  Plastic doesn’t bio-degrade. It’s there to stay. Only around 27% of plastic bottles are recycled. Yet, when you DO recycle –  plastic can be then made into: clothing, fiberfill for sleeping bags, toys, stuffed animals, rulers and more.
  • Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures a year! Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s twice the size of Texas and is floating somewhere between San Francisco and Hawaii. It’s also 80 percent plastic, and weighs in at 3.5 million tons.
  • When the small particles from photodegraded plastic bags get into the water, they are ingested by filter feeding marine animals. Biotoxins like PCBs that are in the particles are then passed up the food chain, including up to humans.
  •  Only  16 % of plastic packaging in North America (and much less on other continents!) was recycled in 2008.
  •  However, the total recycling rate of 32.5 percent overall in 2008 saved the carbon emission equivalent of taking 39.4 million cars off the road, and the energy equivalent of 6.8 million households’ annual energy consumption, or 222.1 million barrels of oil.  COME  O N !
  • 827,000 to 1.3 million tons of plastic  water bottles were produced in the U.S. in 2006, requiring the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil. 76.5 percent of these bottles ended up in landfills.
  • Because plastic water bottles are shielded from sunlight in landfills, they will not decompose for thousands of years.
  • Recycling one ton of plastic saves the equivalent of 1,000–2,000 gallons of gasoline.
  • 66% of energy is saved when producing new plastic products from recycled materials instead of raw (virgin) materials.                                                                                                                     *****************                                                                                 T H E R E F O R E :  The reasons I didn’t want to buy more potting soil than was absolutely necessary are three-fold:

a) I wanted to make sure that enough of our own soil, which is very gravelly, was
introduced to the seeds right away.
b) We are very careful with our expenses. Anything deemed unnecessary, we DO NOT BUY.
and most importantly,
c) What to do with those darned thick plastic bags in which the potting soil is encased,
which, once in our possession is then OUR carbon footprint heavy-treading ??????

I take the bringing home of ANY plastic item very seriously, and am trying to retrain the brains of Richard and Joy to do the same.  NO plastic bags allowed unless it’s just one or two per shopping expedition  (which is only once every week or even two weeks) and then those MUST be used for multiple times’ garbage liners, or food wrappers.  I do NOT use such horrors as saran wrap or tin foil, EVER.  So everything in the fridge is either covered with a  plate over the bowl, OR wrapped in a plastic shopping bag- the very few allowed in the house at all.  Same with things in the freezer, and now that so many of the commercial items we all buy  are being packaged in zip-lock bags, these are even BETTER for keeping and re-using over and over.  They are thick, and so great for freezing! Simply put masking tape on the bag and label it!  PLEASE don’t throw all this plastic out!  If you MUST have it in your home, then KEEP it in your home for forever or until it’s worn right out. And then, RECYCLE when it’s tossed, of course! It saves you buying and using such nasty stuff as saran wrap or (gasp) tupperware – (there are MORE than enough plastic containers that you’re buying anyway with other things in them! Just reuse those containers!)    Your pocket-book AND the environment thank you!

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Why would you EVER buy saran wrap, tin foil or tupperware, when you have to purchase these things anyway?  (or we will, until I start making all our own dairy!)

A 1970s BBC popular show I watched on repeats when I lived in the u.k. in the 1990s is called The Good Life.  Although it’s a sit-com, it’s inspiring, and motivates one to think more and more about how to reduce and more importantly re-USE.  They give up their city jobs in London in the first episode :

and after that we watch most of them on Dailymotion, which is better for a variety of reasons.  Homesteaders or Dreamersof – do WATCH!  You’ll truly enjoy! (Yes,  you will recognize all 4 stars from their other BBC shows since then: Monarch of the Glen, Rosemary and Thyme, Yes Minister and A Fine Romance with Judi Dench). Here’s the link to the 2nd episode and you’ll find the rest there too: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xvmb1w_s1e2-thegoodlife-say-little-hen_fun

So, back to why I didn’t want to buy a lot of potting soil. We have only purchased three bags, and then we had a number of squabbles over how to ‘line’ the bottoms of the seeding tables so that the wood (unfortunately NOT reclaimed wood, as it will take us 5-10 years to get enough of THAT sitting around the farm…) will not rot in a year or two.  I wanted to re-use the plastic  (oh, shudder! ) that we had to put on some of our north-facing windows in the farmhouse for the winter but Richard felt that was too thin.  Richard wanted to buy a roll of big garbage bags, but that made me see red, as I just explained that I can’t ABIDE buying plastic ANYTHING.  However, we came to a good compromise. As long as we promise that the garbage bags will later be used for garbage, so they will have had two purposes (and we don’t generate a lot of garbage as things are either composted,  burned, taken over to some recycling depots (rural N.B. does NOT pick up recycling blue boxes – grrrrrrr) , re-used for containers, taken for exchange/remittance, AND, will soon be being also saved for goat and chicken feed… So the 20 garbage bags I did buy yesterday will have been around here for a couple of years.  And the best part is, that THOSE POTTING SOIL PLASTIC BAGS WILL ALSO BE PUT DOWN AS LINERS.    A  N   D   – wait for it… instead of  burning the long boxes that the full-spectrum flourescent lights (replicating sun) came in, I’m also putting THOSE in the seed tables to help align the planters and keep the bottoms of the tables protected.

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So, there’s the boxes AND the potting soil bags all going for another necessary purpose!

So, there’s the boxes AND the potting soil bags all going for another necessary purpose!

Let’s start back at the beginning of the seed tables, though – here we are building them, putting the finishing touches on, and hanging the lights (must be full-spectrum).  That was all done a few weeks ago, and again, if only the wood could have been recycled/reclaimed I’d have been so much happier. But we haven’t saved/collected enough yet for building extras, and sadly, N.B. is sadly lacking in anything like a RE-STORE (Habitat for Humanity building reused building supplies -check them out!) or equivalents.  As always, if you wish to see any of these enlarged, simply click on the picture.

 

Here’s one of me putting the finishing touches into a corner of one of the seed tables and one of Richard hanging all the lights.  We have 2 long (double) boxes and 3 regular-sized.

 

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finishing touches – corner build

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Someday, all the electric plugs (see in the following) will be joined to our solar panel system, but that’s many years away.  Right now, we just have a few things on solar, as we can afford the panels/batteries…

 

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The next step, then, was to dig up as much of our own soil (reasons at beginning of blog if you somehow missed the lecture!) and I did this yesterday and Sunday (as well as helping with tree-tapping and trail-blazing/maintenance in the woods – a warm day without yet-mushy snow is best for the forest work, and Sunday was ideal! We skiied and snow-shoed ’round the trails we’ve laid out, and back and forth to the sugar bush.)

So, the earth I brought in from outside looks like this:

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Quite a lot! That’s why I was waiting for a few warmer days of it in the sunshine.

Next, I started lining with the bags, both garbage and potting soil, and then laying in the boxes from the lights.

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We have saved (and even hauled from Ontario!) many little containers for planting seeds. Last year, of course, I just planted directly into the garden, as I didn’t get out here until the May 24th weekend.  But we really need to extend our growing time by about 6 weeks to 2 months out here, esp. if you want enough to live on all year, so we were planning ahead! Some of these are bio-degradable that I bought SECOND HAND. Some were actually cardboard packing from some car parts that Richard bought in Ontario, and I first used them piled up and turned upside down as an end table, but now they will be pots! Some old muffin tins because the teflon is scratched off and Mom/Joy is worried about health issues with that… And some – yes, that’s right – Richard had the possibly great (we will experiment and see!) idea of using all our loo-rolls instead of just burning them.

Richard has used all the ashes from our wood furnace and fireplace to either put on the garden, OR to use on the icy walks this winter. So this morning I took some from the old coal scuttle  we use for this purpose, and then mixed a very small percentage into the bin mixed with potting soil and our own earth. That should give it a touch more potassium, plus a titch more phosphorous and magnesium.

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Next I began filling all the little pots/tins/rolls with the mix.

The loo-rolls were a pain.  More earth falling in between them rather than IN them.  So I remembered on my workbench something that might work as a funnel, with a bit of the ole Rustic Revivals repurposing:

I duct-taped the holes on the sides, leaving only the larger one (the perfect size for the rolls, as it happens!) open.  However, this involved more shaking to get the earth directly down.  So I gave up on that and ended up just picking up each roll and scooping the earth in, quickly putting my hand over the bottom until it got placed back in the box!

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Finally, all the containers were full and awaiting seeds.  Remember, the following section is just one REGULAR box-size (under one light).  I have  FIVE MORE TO GO like this space, and then one table will be left for transplanting some of the quicker-growing plants.

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Next, I had to read each seed packet to decide which needed planting now, which could wait a month, and which could just go directly outside.  One of the reasons (besides their plain brown paper packaging!) I love the Hawthorne Farm Organics (same as I used last year, from Palmerston, ON) is that the front of the package explains what the plant will look like and what it can be used for, but the back is detailed and BIG PRINT re: how and when to plant! When I’m planting directly outside, I can’t be bothered with too much of these  details (could be another reason we didn’t have a ‘bumper crop’ last year!) but inside, sitting comfortably, there was plenty of time to go over the info. they so kindly lay out for us.

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Once I had the piles of seeds sorted and organized, I began meticulously planting.   That took close to two hours, for all those containers, in case you are wondering!  What we do to avoid buying store-bought produce!  Then I labelled the cardboard boxes, and watered. Seeds should really only be spritzed with a spray bottle, but I had so many I just turned the dial on the watering can to ‘light mist’ and hoped that wasn’t over-watering!  After today, I’ll just spritz and only when they seem dry.

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The  final step after watering was to put the plastic I cut from the windows over the seeds (stretching from sides of table at back, to front, so not touching containers) until the sprouts start to show, then I’ll leave it off. (but of course, save it for the next planting!) The seed tables are right behind our furnace, so as long as we keep the room warm for the next 6 weeks (have to keep reminding Richard of this, as he’d rather turn the furnace right off at night to ‘save’) we should be doing well.  They also don’t need much light at first (some don’t need any!) but once they sprout, we have a chain system that will lower the lights to just 4 inches or so above the plant.

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If I need more earth, (I don’t think I will) I brought in some weeks ago all the other planters from the falls’ pots of chrysanthemums.  They’d sat all winter in minus 20.  I just carelessly broke off the stems because the roots were still frozen into the earth, threw the old plant on the compost heap, and took the pots inside where they sat in the dark of the basement until I noticed them today.  Those hardy little buggers are growing from the ripped off stubs!  They’ve been warm, near the wood furnace, but had no light or water at all – total darkness for 2 weeks and dry as a bone! But there they are growing.  If I’d TRIED to restart them as plants, I guarantee I wouldn’t have been able to do it!  I haven’t the heart, after their effort to grow, to discard them, so I’m going to try and nurture them along and see what happens …

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I’ll be spending the next week planting down there, and then fingers and toes crossed and lots of praying that we get healthy little sprouts coming along, of  veg., herbs and flowers (gotta keep those birds and bees happy for cross-pollinating!). That’s our groceries for the entire next year!  Should you want a list of all the basics we ordered from Hawthorne Farm, it is here:

Next week, be sure to ‘tune in’ for all Richard’s maple syrup adventures as he learns the how-tos and how-not-tos!  He’s been boiling away all day today (again, wish that was wood or solar powered, but it will be next year!) whilst I’ve been planting and writing and we just tried our first syrup poured over some snow.  mmmmmmmm-mmmmm!

Despite my having to, last month, ‘ draw his attention’  (that’s putting it tactfully!)  away from watching uneco-friendly drag races on Youtube and ordering more car parts for his uneco-friendly ’73 Nova, and ‘encouraging’ him to instead research how to produce our own maple sugar and syrup, I gotta say, he’s done INCREDIBLY well. He’s hauling in quite a loot!  In fact, he was so giddy a few hours ago he actually crowed “Wooo-heeee! Self-sufficiency! This tastes WAY better than any I’ve ever bought!”  He’s really surpassed my expectations for this year’s tapping experience.

But don’t tell him I said so.

 

Full Bean Ahead – Waste Not, Want Not!

 

 

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Looking out my kitchen window toward the garden and meadows. July 2016. We’re keeping all beautiful cob and spiderwebs up this summer to see if it helps keep fly population DOWN in the house!  Besides, they are part of nature AND they are lovely!

Finally getting back to regular blogging after the interruption of a wordpress (this blog server) virus and some strange flu attacking my laptop as well. Joy and Richard arrived 10 days ago, and I just got R. to help me with the internet/laptop problems so I can write and post again.  People who know R. thinks he’s retired as of end of July.  Apparently, so did he – though I did warn him.  The garden is just starting to come in and if we want to live at ALL self-sufficiently for this year, it’s time to get cracking.  I’ve been baking and cooking double time in the kitchen to get back into doing regular meals again (rather than just picking at things for myself). Baking bread and muffins every 2nd or 3rd day.  But Richard, who has slept in most days, read a thick novel since arriving AND spent an entire day washing his ’73 Nova and driving it with the neighbour’s son to a classic car meet is going to take a little time to get his head wrapped around the idea that we have to WORK to LIVE here on the farm.  It’s coming along the last few days – but last Friday he was NOT full of beans like the garden. In fact, THIS is what things looked like from his perspective:

rich retireGlad we have no T.V., because with falling into bed exhausted, or reading, or playing our brain games (most from BBC youtube stashes) we are doing JUST fine.  Thought R. would kick up more of a fuss about this aspect, and maybe in the winter he will, but we’re good for now.

And it’s hard to train someone who has always bought whatever he feels like eating, that we are only snacking if we go to a little trouble at home to make it.  Like popcorn at night.  And I don’t mean MICROWAVED.  We’re making it the good old-f. way on the stove-top.  Richard learned how and is quite proud now to offer it up for our night-time munchies .

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Retirement mode did not take long at ALL to kick in, but at least he’s learning how to make our own snacks, rather than spending money on store-bought crap!

 

Another difficulty has been getting this yuppie to stop wasting things when he mows or weed-eats.  We live on a FARM. There are many more important things to do around here than whipper-snip right to the foundation of the house, and all around the barn, and around every darn TREE on the property!  Especially since he also took out a beautiful English ivy I’d been nurturing along for two months, training to climb our front porch pillars! AND wasted at least 30 apples from our orchard driving around and around bashing into the low-hanging branches, knocking the not-yet-ripe apples off, then driving over them again with the mower! Grrrrrrrrrrr…. It will take time for this life-style change to come to him, I know.  He’s still making several trips to town and around the valley when I have categorically stated that unless there’s a medical emergency we go ONCE per week – with a big list! It will take time…

While R. is not exactly full of beans, Joy (Mom) and the garden ARE. She’s single-handedly unpacked and decorated the whole of the upstairs in just 10 days, and is now up there peeling 1970s indoor/outdoor carpet off some of the hall-way’s hard-wood floors. And the garden is just over-flowing with beans of 3 varieties.  I bought a lot of the runner/climbing type of seeds because I wanted to spread them around various trellises and poles on the farm for beauty’s sake as well.  We are at least a month behind Ontario for what is ripe and ready, but we are already picking peas, and when these beans come in, we’re going to be BUSY!   And by then, I know R. will be full of beans as well!

 

If interested, these are the health benefits of green, organic beans, from the tree-hugger website mentioned previously:

Health benefits of Green beans

  • Fresh green beans are very low in calories (31 caloriess per 100 g of raw bean pods) and contain no saturated fat. Nevertheless, these lean pod vegetables are a very good source of vitamins, minerals, and plant derived micronutrients.
  • The beans are very rich source of dietary fiber (9% per 100g RDA) which acts as a bulk laxative. Fiber helps to protect mucousa in the colon by decreasing its exposure time to toxic substances as well as by binding to cancer-causing chemicals in the gut. Adequate amount of fiber has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels by decreasing reabsorption of cholesterol-binding bile acids in the colon.
  • Green beans contain excellent levels of vitamin A, and health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin and ß-carotene in good amounts. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
  • Zea-xanthin, an important dietary carotenoid in the beans, selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eyes where it thought to provide antioxidant and protective UV-light filtering functions. It is, therefore, green beans offer some protection in the prevention of age-related macular disease (ARMD) in the elderly.
  • Snap beans are a good source of folates. 100 g fresh beans provide 37 µg or 9% of folates. Folate along with vitamin B-12 is one of the essential components of DNA synthesis and cell division. Good folate diet when given during preconception periods and during pregnancy may help prevent neural-tube defects in the newborn babies.
  • They also carry good amounts of vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (vitamin B-1), and vitamin-C. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.
  • In addition, beans contain healthy amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium, which are very essential for body metabolism. Manganese is a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which is a very powerful free radical scavenger. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.

 

 

June is Bustin’, at Blue Belldon

 

 

10 min Heaven
With  organic gardening in the morning and renos. all afternoon and into the evening, not to mention just regular household and animal chores, I only allow myself 10 minutes a day or so to collapse into the hammock, hung beneath the apple blossoms (truly Anne Shirley’s “White Way of Delight” here!) . But boy, what inspiration and motivation from those 10 minutes, delighting in the surrounding Appalachians springing alive with chirping song -birds, distant tractors across the valley, bees buzzing among the blossoms, and, in the evenings I take another 10 before bed and listen to the valley orchestra of spring peepers. Heaven!

 

 

When there’s planting to do, in the veg patch  but, but…

How about a wildflower trail

That winds down to grass uncut?

Or  how about some kitchen drawers that now grow herbs –

Call me a nut?

Why, yes, yes, of course I am – but the kind that worships birds and bees

And every whisper through the trees

That say “I’m glad to be alive

In a world where bees still rule their hive”

And I grow organic cilantro, balm and chive…

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A Salvage Artist never throws anything out. These kitchen cupboard doors and drawers are now an herb garden  right outside the kitchen door (soon to be a Dutch/stable door, thank you Richard!   Still working on making them look attractive, but I was excited to see today that the borage and cilantro are already sprouting up in neat little rows!  And many of the herbs and wildflowers I’m planting are PURELY to encourage the bees to pollinate, although the amount of them buzzing among the apple blossoms and dandelions suggest to me that they are off to a good start!

 

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Earth Day “Emissions” of my Mind

Iearth-day

I love the above cartoon of the Earth’s relationship with us.  And because it’s Earth Day, it is exciting news that so many have signed the Paris Agreement to try and reduce greenhouse gas emissions… http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/paris-agreement-trudeau-sign-1.3547822

My sister is doing her part in Newfoundland – she was the first in St. John’s to purchase an electric car, and she is so proud! Soon they are putting up solar panels to connect to it, so that it will be run entirely from nature, AND not putting unhealthy chemicals and emissions back IN to nature!  Now, if we could all do this, and if it was made affordable for us to do so… Wow!  Here’s Jennifer in her car:

For Christmas, Mom and I gave Richard a Canadian Tire solar panel and all its fixin’s (don’t expect that just the panel is all you’ll need, and don’t expect the back of the box to help much with what you DO need! Ask a salesperson!)  He’s been playing with his solar panel for 4 months now, and has a good idea what he likes/dislikes:

And now, he’s very keen to do THIS to the whole 100ft. of our barn/Quonset at Blue Belldon Farm! It’s available in the u.k. NOW!