Tuesday, August 26

Oh She Grows: Changing colours

All the green goodness in my garden is finally starting to slowly change into red sweetness. The cherry tomatoes have been slow to get going, but are now starting to really pick up :) But what I'm really excited for - since I don't really eat tomatoes - is my peppers!! I'm sorry about the lighting in some of the pictures - I'm working nights this week at the hospital, and so I'm missing the opportune photography lighting conditions, hehe.

Do you know how hard it is to let green peppers sit. Sit. And, sit some more? Knowing that they will be delicious as a green pepper, but having that nagging voice in your head tell you they will be even more wonderful if you can let them change red? But now that time has come! I've already picked off one red mini-bell pepper. And I went down to check this morning to see two more on the way. Since these are mini-bells; they are ripening fast, now that they are starting. My larger regular sized bell peppers are taking a bit longer to mature - I blame that on the gardening massacre, stunting their growth for a while.

The most beautiful are my hot peppers. This picture does not do them justice on just how vibrant that red colour it. So much more than the bells. I can't wait for the rest of them to go this way. 

My paste tomatoes have also taken the leap, and I can see two starting to turn. The cooler weather has made me nervous about my later produce making it through the season - especially all my green tomatoes. So, I gave them a hair cut - I pruned them. I had avoided it for so long. Very conflicted between what people were telling me, and what I was reading online - knowing that there is more than one way to do something. I'm not sure if I like what I did. But I've been getting so super nervous with all this cooler weather.

 It took me two hours - it was a lot of work, there was a lot of 'bush' in my plants. The above tomato was already starting to turn before I pruned - I noticed it as I was clipping along. But my beefsteaks don't look close to turning, and living in Ontario, the season has maybe a month and a half left...two months if we're lucky. So I pruned. And now my lush patch of tomato plants look sad. Fingers crossed this was a good idea. If not, then I will not touch them next year. You live and learn!

Wednesday, August 20

Little Upgrades Giving a Big Difference

This summer I took the opportunity to give our house a little upgrade in the front. Below is how it looked before - the stain on the wood was faded, if not completely weathered off, and the poles looked like they may begin to rot soon.

I stripped off all the old stain - and that was no small task. One day project the products said, humph! Took me almost a week of sanding after work.  The screen door was the hardest part, with all the little nook and crevices. 

I thought about going back to the original 'cedar' stained colour. But I wanted a change - if you're going through all the effort, why not give it a new look? This dark brown semi-translucent stain has a slight touch of grey to it. Love the greyed browns! I painted the numbers white so that they stood out a lot more than before - make us a little easier to find :)

I think it worked out well, and now our house looks a little more like ours. Next: painting the front door and garage door a nice, neutral blue. :)

Monday, August 18

Painting Progress: White Cloud Island

I've begun work on a new, very large commission. This will probably be the largest painting I have worked on to date - and honestly, it's very intimidating. It was easy to sketch out what I was going to do - I had worked everything out loosely with a watercolour painting. But it was actually applying the paint, and deciding the colours and moods that was a challenge. I started once, and then stopped - not liking where it was going. This is my second start, and it's coming along much better. 

The biggest challenge so far, is making sure the colours match along the three canvases. I thought about implementing some mixed media. But based on the size, it might not work out so great - trying to ensure that everything flows properly over the three, and that edges match up. Also, where it is due to be displayed, I think a more traditional approach was called for. 

Saturday, August 16

Oh She Grows: A garden update

The garden has been pumping out the produce, and growing so much! The broccoli is done. Half the plants were already pulled out, but the other two are going today. This will make room for some short season plants, that might give me food before the frost in October. 

My second planting of green beans are starting to flower. I don't think I'll be able to get enough to freeze since it's only a handful of plants, but hopefully enough to eat with dinner. My large bed of beans are pretty much done. I might get one more picking, but they won't be great beans. They are a little more seedy, and most are short. 

 Since the beans I choose to plant this year are a quick and early variety, I thought I would chance a third planting where some lettuce used to be. They have just begun to sprout :) I believe this variety is 50 days, so it should still make it before things freeze.

My zucchini plants are so big. I'll admit, I had no idea what I was in for when I planted them...so far I've pulled off a bunch of 3-4 lb zucchini. It's still giving some blossoms, so I'm sure there will be more. I haven't done any baking with it yet, but we've eating zucchini fritters, zucchini pasta salad, zucchini fries and I've made zucchini relish. Some is also frozen for later in the year. I have about 8 lbs of zucchini in my fridge, so maybe I'll get on that later this weekend - or maybe I'll just put it in the freezer for when I have some more time.

My little pickling cucumbers are taking over the fence. They have breached the top, and are slowly pushing the chicken wire off the lattice. I'd maybe be a little upset if it was all for nothing - but they are heavy producers, and giving us lots of cucumber goodness. I've made and canned a batch of dill pickles already, and I'm hoping for one more batch. You can see a bunch hanging from the top in this picture. 

My kale has been another heavy producer. I've introduced myself to kale chips this summer, and I like them. It's a good way to use some of this green goodness up! I've also frozen a bunch of it already. Kale is one of those greens that you're actually not supposed to eat all the time - it may be super packed with vitamins, but that overload, if eaten all the time, can start to cause harm. For this reason, it's been hard to use it all up as it gives it to us since we only eat it a couple days of the week, and try to not over do it.

I've got my third planting of lettuce sprouted already. With the unseasonably cooler temperatures, it should do well. Not sure if we needed it though...lettuce is another over abundance we have in our garden. Lots, and lots of salad's this summer :)

My mini-peppers are doing great. I'm just waiting for them to turn colours - there supposed to the package says. Some of the plants look like they might set over 20! I'm not sure what I'll do with them yet though...I might terminate or can some to later stuff with feta. Mmmm, so good! We can also just eat them like normal peppers, but they're mini and so I feel like special things must be made with them :). The news on the 'normal-sized' peppers is not great. Although they have tons of blossoms, only a few are setting with peppers - even despite my efforts of help. Not sure how many regular sized peppers we will have. And given the cooler season, I'm not sure how many will turn colour - I might just have to pick them green when they get to a decent size. 

My chili peppers are rocking the garden. Despite the seed pack saying they will get about a foot and a half high - they are probably getting close to three feet high! They are producing a lot of peppers too. They are supposed to turn red at some point as well, but they are still growing in size, so that time is not yet. 

My hot pepper plants have confused me a little though, I must admit. Two of my plants are producing peppers like above - dark green, growing downward, 'bumpy' appearance, curling a little. My other two plants are growing like below: yellow / light green, growing upward, smooth skin, and no curling. Above looks like the typical 'chilli' to me. Below, I have no idea if it's the same. Did I get two varieties in one seed pack? The leaves and flowers look generally the same. We will have to see how they all mature, and maybe get someone - used to heat - to taste-test them for me. Both types are producing an abundance though. James uses a lot of chili flakes in his cooking, so I'll definitely dry some. Maybe try making a hot pepper jelly?

Carrots are still doing well - because of the ear wigs (which I'm still finding in my garden, but are not causing as much havoc), they are giving a staggered production; a carrot here and there. I know they will eventually all mature, and this allows us to keep up with them better. 

Friday, August 15

Oh She Grows: Tomato Update...and why we are doing this

Today's garden update is focusing on my Tom's. As a general rule in life, I do not eat tomatoes. I do eat tomato-based products: sauces, salsas and so on. But raw or 'chunky' tomatoes - no thank you! So knowing this, some may be wondering why I have grown so many tomatoes; let alone been obsessed with them producing. Easy-peasy: I want to make our own sauces and salsas - sort of try to get away from some processed items in our lives, and introduce more healthy and cleaner food. I don't kid myself - having to buy all the jars, the hot bath processor - never mind building and putting in three large raised beds (Thanks James!) - this will not really be a money saving process this year, and probably not next year either. Might never be. The big 'goal' is that we are eating what we grow. It gives me a warm feeling inside that we know exactly where everything came from, and exactly what is in everything. Knowing all the love and care we gave each plant, makes things taste so much better. Yes, my zucchini relish may have a little more sugar in it. It's not something you're going to eat a whole jar at a time. And trading all those preservatives, and unpronounceable ingredients for a little more sugar. I'll take that trade.

 I am grateful that I have not really purchased any vegetables this summer once things got going - and having to be creative with all our produce - uhm, hello zucchini! - has introduced us to some new, healthy recipes. Having to plan our meals based on what is coming out of the garden has sometimes been a challenge - but what we get, we eat. We have ate so healthy this summer, because we have been graced with so many vegetables! We have lots of produce frozen in our freezer, and some pickles and relishes in our 'cold room'. Soon, I'm hoping, we will have some sauces and salsas to add to that cold room.

Anyways, rant over - now to the tomato progress! :)

Below is my tomato jungle as it stands. And as it stands, is taller than me :) It's a jumbled mess of goodness. The cherry tomatoes are growing the tallest, and unfortunately, I don't have any stakes tall enough for their growth. I can only be grateful that I at least put them in cages when they were smaller. It's thrilling to know I grew them (almost all) from single seeds back in April.

First glance into the patch, you see a lot of cherry tomatoes, everywhere. Despite where I planted them, because they are not staked, they are travelling all over the tops.

A peak underneath reveals a huge growth of paste tomatoes - these are the ones that I did not start from seed, but supplemented my patch with. They have been producing very heavy. I will be using these for my sauce / salsa mostly.

Looking around some more, we see some of my beefsteak and cherry tomatoes. These guys are what I've started from seen.

Now, all of them are still green. I'm hoping they start turning soon, some have been turning more green from light green which is good. But there is a little fleck of red among the patch...

My first cherry tomatoes are turning. I check every day now to be ready to pick at an optimal time, and hand deliver them - excitedly - to James, since I won't eat them. It will honestly probably be a mad dash to find him hahaha.

There's also been another surprise this past while. Although I was concerned about pollination in the beginning - having not seen any bees, and blossoms dropping from failed pollination. I have now seen bees in and about getting everything. Very happy to see them there! Once less job for me, and they are so much better at it!

Tomorrow I'll share the rest of my garden updates :)

Saturday, August 9

Oh She Grows: And we have pickles folks!

Last night I turned the above cucumbers into the pickles below. My pickling virginity is now gone! It wasn't too hard...I made my first batch just using a dill mix - keep it easy this first time, so that I can focus on the process more. I got 6 jars. In 4-6 weeks we will know how it turned out!

Meanwhile, the garden has been pumping out beautiful produce :) I'm hoping to get another batch of cucumbers to pickle a different way - then we can test the differences. 

 Below was one of my harvest's this past week. It weighed up to about 10 lbs of food!! This garden, despite some of the set backs....earwigs mostly...has been wonderful! It is honestly a vegetable laced forest now. 

I'm already thinking about next year - what worked well, what didn't, what I want different.... :)