We have had an incredible spring so far in Calgary. Warm days, lots of sun, and a fair amount of green already. I have no complaints. Our fruit trees are budding early, some are even flowering! The rhubarb is up, raspberries are leafing out, and our cold frames are full of various leafy greens. There’s a mighty big chance we’ll get another bought of cold weather but I’m crossing my fingers for a steadily warmer spring.
The Calgary Home and Garden Show is coming up next month and I’m giving away some tickets! The Show is set to run from February 27- March 2 at the BMO Center and Corral at Stampede Park. If you’re looking to renovate your home or do some landscaping this is a great place to go for ideas and advice.
The Garden Stage Schedule looks pretty great. There will be some talks by Janet Melrose (of the Calgary Horticultural Society) on square foot gardening as well as edible container gardening so if you’re looking at growing some more veg those could be pretty interesting.
Ready to win some tickets? Enter below!
Just down the street from our house are three huge Chokecherry Trees. No one seems to know that they are Chokecherries because apart from the birds, we’re the only one who picks them. In fact every year we go out to pick we get several neighbours come over to ask us what we are picking. Maybe this means eventually someone else will beat us to them but I don’t really mind if it means more people are becoming aware of the free food around them.
We were a few days late this year meaning the birds had cleared two of the three trees already.The kids got right in on the picking which made it go really fast. We had a good 6 liters in about half an hour.
Two years ago Travis made wine out of the berries, this year I used it for Jelly.
I ended up making up the recipe as I went as I found only a couple recipes for Chokecherry Jelly specifically online and both of them had ridiculous amounts of sugar in them.
First thing I did was cook the berries to make a juice.
3.5lbs of chokecherries
3 cups of water
Heat water and berries to boiling then simmer for about 15 minutes. Drain juice into a large bowl through a cheesecloth to catch all the berries. Hang the berries in the cheesecloth for a few hours. I gave the cloth a squeeze every time I walked by. I’ve been told this makes for a more cloudy jelly but I was going for flavor not look. Once you have all the juice strained out it’s time to make the jelly.
3.5 cups chokecherry juice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 package pectin
4 cups white sugar
1 tsp butter
Stir together juices, pectin, sugar, and butter in a medium sized heavy pot. Heat until boil. Boil for one minute. Skim off any foam. Pour into sterilized half pin jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn heat off, remove lid and let jars sit for 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner and leave undisturbed for 24 hours.
We have a slightly ridiculous amounts of beets this year. Last year was the first year we grew them and the entire family loved them so we grew three times as much this year. Beets should keep well in cold storage so I’m looking forward to eating them most of the winter.
However, lots of beets means learning new ways of preparing them so last week I took a stab at making beet pasta. It turned out great. The dough was a really pretty color and the kids thought that was pretty awesome. The only thing I was a little disappointed in was the color of the pasta after it had been cooked. Most of the red came out in the water so we had very pale pink noodles. Aside from that they were easy to make and not a whole lot more time consuming that making regular pasta.
Want to make your own beet pasta? Here’s how I did it.
Recipe makes approximately 8 servings. This is a long process although not a ton of work. Start early!
Peel and chop 1-2 beets. Roast them in the oven at 350 degrees until soft. Let cool.
If you store your eggs in the fridge, take 3 out to bring them to room temperature.
Put 3 cups of all purpose flour in a stand mixer and crack your three room temperature eggs in.
Continue to knead your dough. Add flour until your dough is smooth and not sticky. Depending on the size of your eggs you may need to add quite a bit more, or just a small amount. If your dough is ever too dry you can add a bit of water.
Once your dough is looking smooth and elastic, remove it from the bowl and knead by hand for about five minutes. Longer if you’re tough, shorter if you’re a weakling when it comes to kneading. Like me.
The rest of my instructions include using a pasta machine. If you don’t have one you can hand roll and cut them. I tried to find a good online tutorial for this but I didn’t have much luck. It might be worth looking into however, I’ve done it before and it’s not very difficult.
Cut your small section in half and roll one piece through the thickest setting on your pasta machine. Fold it in half and run it through again. Continue to fold and run through until you get a nice uniform piece. When you get a nice piece start rolling it through thinner settings until you get to the second smallest setting, or smallest, depending on your preference.
Dust with more flour and run it through your choice of noodle. I always use my linguine cutter again because I have to separate all my noodles after they have been cut and that takes twice as long on the spaghetti cutter.
Repeat steps with all the dough.
This is also where I get help. Lots of help. Three kids fighting over who gets to help in fact!
The next step is optional. I like to hang my noodles partly because I freeze half of them and partly because I find if they dry for a half hour or so they just come out a nicer texture. You can however cut and boil your noodles right away. If you don’t hang them, flour them liberally as you continue to cut the rest or you’ll get a big pile of noodles all stuck together.
Once your noodles have hung for a bit get a big pot of salted water boiling. Add your noodles and cook for about 5-7 minutes. I’ve never actually timed it I just keep sneaking noodles and trying them until they are ready.
Drain and serve any way you like!
3 eggs, room temperature
3-4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup beet puree
Combine eggs, 3 cups of flour, and beet puree into a stand mixer. Mix with the dough hook until well combined. Continue to add flour until you get a smooth, elastic, and not sticky dough. Let rest for at least half an hour. Roll out and cut. Boil in salted water for 5-7 minutes.
Last month we got away for a couple of weeks and took a road trip. We have family both directions, my parents are to the west in British Columbia, and Travis’ family is to the east in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. This year we headed east and drove first to Saskatchewan then to Manitoba. We had really gorgeous weather most of the time. Nothing too hot, which is right up my alley but warm enough to spend a few days at the beach and water parks. We found frogs and snakes in the South Saskatchewan River. While in Saskatchewan the Herbert Stampede came to town so we hit up the Rodeo. It was a first for the kids and they thought it was great. My mother in law, Kathy, grows just about everything. The Evans Cherries were just getting ripe while we were there, along with Raspberries, and Saskatoons so we definitely enjoyed that.The apples weren’t quite ready but a couple of weeks later some were and we got a huge bucket full. I’ll be sad when they’re gone.We also spent an afternoon at a friends’ farm doing some target shooting. The kids had a great time catching grass hoppers to feed to the chickens as well.I apparently took very few photos while in Manitoba unfortunately but we had a fantastic time there as well and the kids got to spend some time with their great grandparents which is pretty amazing.
That really is all he wears when he goes in the hive. Our bees are super docile, which is fantastic. Near the end of his cleaning, probably a good 45 minutes in they started to get a bit aggressive so he put a net on his head but no stings! Not a sting yet from this hive.
These guys have a real like for cross combing and unfortunately while trying to fix it up we lost some of the brood. Pretty sad.
We still haven’t done a real honey harvest, just a teaspoon or two to taste but I really look forward to the day we have a few jars in the pantry. We did save all the wax from the cross combing we took out. I need to clean it a few more times and then it’s going into some lip balms and lotion.
I’m really digging our honeybees lately. It’s so nice to see them fly around after such a long winter. They are such a great hive, super docile, apparently quite hardy, and such a fun addition to our backyard.
The strawberries are blooming and I can almost taste what real strawberries taste like again.
The cold frames are full of good stuff. We’ve been eating spinach, arugula, and kale for a few weeks already and soon I’ll be adding radishes to the list. Just as the first crop of greens starts to bolt our second crop will be ready.
The hot peppers and tomatoes are starting to bloom now, which is a bit earlier than last year I believe. Hopefully this just means we get a bit bigger crop this year.
I was super impressed with Linthound. Not only did they put this design, from one of their adult tees onto a kid tee for me but they made and shipped the shirts within a couple of days of me purchasing them. They got here fast too which is always a bonus when ordering from the USA. I’ve now noticed they have a new shirt I might have to add to my Christmas wishlist as well. You know once Baby comes and I can fit into real clothes again!
Most of the bees were in the hive at this point, sticking close to the Queen.
The entrance to the hive.
After a few weeks of having the bees I’m totally smitten. I thought this would be one of Trav’s projects but I’ve done nothing but read beekeeping books and watch them work busily lately. I’m guessing we won’t be harvesting any honey until next year sometime, but right now I’m content to just enjoy watching them.
If you look closely at the honeybee halfway in the hive on the far right, you’ll see a small dot of yellow, that’s pollen!