Category Archives: Grow It

Garden – Spring 2015

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.

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Nanking Cherry Flowering.

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Plum Tree budding out.

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Haskap’s flowering.

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Rhubarb, I can almost taste the crisp I’ll make in a couple of weeks!

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Raspberry canes beside the house our leafing out thanks to the warmer soil.

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More Haskap flowers. The various bees have been loving these early flowering bushes.

Calgary Home + Garden Show

 

Home and Garden ShowThe 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.

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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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Chokecherry Jelly

September 2013 276Just 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.

September 2013 232We were a few days late this year meaning the birds had cleared two of the three trees already.September 2013 227The kids got right in on the picking which made it go really fast.  We had a good 6 liters in about half an hour.
September 2013 226Two 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.

Chokecherry 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.September 2013 278

Chokecherry 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.

September 2013 284 September 2013 279 September 2013 277 If you’re like me and you don’t want to wait the 24 hours to try your jelly just pull out a bit extra when you’re skimming off the foam!

 

 

Beet Pasta

IMG_3001We 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!

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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.

IMG_3014Blend until smooth in a blender. Try not to cringe at the color whirling around in your blender…

IMG_3016 IMG_3021Once your beets are blended, measure out half a cup of puree.  Save any leftovers for another meal, throw it in the freezer, or feed it to your baby if you have one!

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IMG_3017Put 3 cups of all purpose flour in a stand mixer and crack your three room temperature eggs in.

IMG_3022Use the dough hook to mix all the ingredients together.  Don’t have a stand mixer?  No problem, use your hands and your dough will most likely turn out even better than mine.

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.

IMG_3024Check out the color of that dough!

IMG_3026Cover your dough in plastic wrap and let it sit for at least half an hour.  Longer if you have time!

IMG_3028After the rest period split your dough in to four sections.  Keep one section out and cover the other three back up.

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.

IMG_3032Cut 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.

IMG_3033Cut your long piece in half.  This is totally optional, I do it because my pasta machine is terrible at cutting the noodles so the longer they are the more of a pain it is for me to separate them.

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!

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IMG_3035The 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.

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I use my laundry rack to dry my noodles.  And yes I wash it before and after!IMG_3042It looks like a lot of noodles but this is barely enough for two meals for my family.

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!

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Beet Pasta

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.

Getting Away

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. Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 131We 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.Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 100Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 123Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 147  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.   Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 057Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 083Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 072 Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 070 Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 005My 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.Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 006The 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.Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 004Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 346We 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.Saskatchewan and Manitoba August 2013 271I 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.

Honeybees, A Closer Inspection

Travis did some cleaning out in the hive a couple of weeks ago and I snapped about a hundred photos.  Here are some of my favorites.  June 1, 2013 039

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

Around the Backyard

Honeybee

 

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.

 

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The strawberries are blooming and I can almost taste what real strawberries taste like again.

 

 

 

 

Radishes in May

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.

 

Pepper Blossoms

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.

 

Tomatoes in May

Spring Is a Coming…

 radishes in a cold frame
spinach in a cold frame

garlic coming up

 can’t wait for strawberries again
bees are out and about

rhubarb

Grow Your Own Food

I bought the boys and myself some new shirts a few weeks ago from a shop on Etsy called Linthound
The shirts are, in my opinion, awesome and my kiddos think so too thankfully.  I love how a few hours after putting the shirt on, Kaed came in from the garden to show me that massive carrot above.  Yeah, that’s a carrot, not a sweet potato.  Not bad!

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!

I’m also a fan of their tote bag with the Grow Your Own Food on it but really how many places can I preach my backyard mentality?

Urban Honeybees

A few months back Travis built a top bar bee hive in the hopes that we would one day get honeybees.  We were thinking spring 2013 but a few weeks ago an acquaintance messaged me to say she had caught a swarm and wanted to know if we wanted them. We hashed it over and decided to go for it and drove out to her place the next day to pick them up.

 
 The bees were in a Nuc Box so it was really easy to bring them home.  We gave them some time in the basement to settle down before transferring them and later that evening Trav got to work.
The only “equipment” Travis used was a mosquito hat he picked up at Canadian Tire last minute.  I admit I pulled out my big lens and sort of hid behind our van while he transferred them.  Surprisingly Trav didn’t get a single sting and it wasn’t until he was getting the last few bees out of the box that he grabbed a pair of gloves as they seemed to be getting a bit agitated.

 Most of the bees were in the hive at this point, sticking close to the Queen.

Replacing the top bars.  Each of those bars has a string across mounted with beeswax to give the bees something to start the comb on.

 

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!