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It’s been hot here this week, with a forecast for more hot days.  I took advantage of a bit of cloud cover this afternoon to make up a pasta salad.  I am not good at following recipes when I cook, but here is an estimation of what I did:

 

Boil one box of penne pasta (we like whole wheat)

 

In the meantime, slice up and fry one package of halloomi cheese until browned on both sides (this is amazing stuff.  You can slice it,  fry it, brown it, and use it like vegetarian bacon!).  If you can’t find halloomi, or don’t like it, I have also been known to just cube cheddar or mozza cheese into the salad – don’t try to fry it, though!

 

Coarsely chop the following vegetables:

 

one red pepper

 

one yellow pepper

 

a small head of broccoli

 

a handful of green onions

 

several mushrooms

 

In a separate bowl, mix up the herb topping:

 

a generous handful (several tablespoons) each of oregano, basil, and Italian seasoning

 

1/2 to 1 tsp of garlic powder, depending how garlicky you like things

 

salt to taste (probably at least a teaspoon, but under-estimate it, as you can add more later)

 

pepper to taste

 

1/2 to 1 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

 

Mix the cooked pasta, fried halloomi (or cubed cheddar) and the raw veggies in a large pot or bowl.   Pour several tablespoons of olive oil over the mixture and stir well.  Start adding the herb mixture, a bit at a time, mixing well.

 

Voila, lunch.  It is great hot or cold, so it is a convenient summer meal!

 

 

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We started planting back before the May Long Weekend (May 23rd), and had started seeds much earlier than that, but our garden did not get off to an auspicious start.  While the May Long boasted gorgeous weather, the following week, and two weeks after, brought killing frosts, and temperatures several degrees below freezing.  Some areas got quite a bit of snow in mid-June, be we had no moisture at all, and only the onion sets and potatoes came up for the longest time.

 

Then it started to rain.  And rain.  And rain.  We began to wonder if we should build an Ark.  The barn sprang a leak right over the Chicken Mahal, and we could not keep up with emptying the buckets.  It rained some more.  The barn cats would not come out of the barn.  It became a challenge to get to work, as sloughs started filling up and threatening to spill over the roads.  The frogs loved it, at least.

 

There have been a couple of sunny days, but not enough to actually dry anything out – just enough to encourage the mosquito population to dramatic new highs.  The sunny days have been hot and muggy, punctuated by thunderstorms that roll in and knock the power out for an hour or two, terrify the dogs, and move on after dumping a couple more inches of rain.   I thought Saskatchewan was supposed to be an arid province, but I digress.

 

Today, after a couple of back-to-back days of sun, we finally got out into the garden to take a look around.  I’m sure it’s been almost two weeks since we were last able to even walk in there.

 

The potatoes are knee high, and the onions are up and looking great.  There are slightly-crooked rows of beans, beets, carrots, radishes, and turnips, all with their baby leaves pushed up through the dirt.  The peas have several leaves each, though the plants are a little smaller than I somehow think they ought to be.  The squash, melon, pepper, and tomato transplants look unhappy with all the mud, but seem to be hanging in there.  No asparagus, though, not one single plant out of fifty, and one of the rhubarb plants is definitely dead.  The corn is not up yet, and I wonder if the seed has rotted.   Hubby may have to re-plant, and hope we still have enough time for it to set any ears.   The sunflowers are…completely overgrown with thistles, lamb’s quarters, and canola.

 

In fact, the most impressive growth of anything in the garden at all, is the weeds.   We have a very lush field of them, 85 by 95 feet, plus another 15 or 20 feet around the edges of the garden where our very kind farmer neighbours were especially careful to not spray the garden with Roundup, or whatever herbicide they are using on the canola they have planted all around our acreage.  We’re going to have to take a lawnmower through there, just to find the garden!

 

Hubby has his work cut out for him, and there’s more rain forecast for tomorrow…

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So we had our TV – less home invaded by two adults and three kids (aged 4 to 10) for the weekend – Hubby’s brother and his family.  I say invaded, but really, we were absolutely delighted to have them.  They drove all day to come and help us dig holes and plant things and cut down trees and bushes.  They said they wanted to do some ‘real work’ for awhile.   And take pictures of their kids doing ‘country’ things like building forts and planting trees.   The kids were pretty disappointed that we did not have chickens or goats yet, but made do with the house pets.   One of our dogs outweighs any two of the kids put together, but by the end of the weekend, even the littlest one could boss her around – the pooches soaked up all the attention.  The cats were less impressed, and mostly hid out, but that just gave the kids a new thing to stave off boredom – cat stalking.

The weather co-operated, sort of.  It was clear and sunny, and sweltering – almost thirty degrees Celsius on Sunday.  Not ideal for yard work, but certainly better than cold and rainy.

On Saturday, I grabbed my hand pruners to cut a couple of eyeball – poking – height dead branches from the crab apple tree.  Five minutes later, I was searching for pruning shears for two kids to help.  Twenty minutes after that, their mom came out with the bow saw, and by the end of the morning, we had cleared a big, gorgeous area under a maple tree that had been completely obscured by caraganas and lilacs.   It took hours and hours, and our sister-in-law spent even more time cleaning up the ground and raking everything out.  It was not a job we had planned to tackle, but it is much appreciated – now we’ll have a shady spot to kick back with beverages on those thirty-degree days.  Sis says it is her housewarming gift to us, and I can’t think of anything I would have liked better!

Meanwhile, the boys (all three of them) dug post holes.  The little guy was really enthusiastic about digging, and motivated the adults to keep at it, which was an accomplishment all in itself.  While Hubby was digging by himself, one of the ground squirrels came by to tell him off, and was so busy watching Hubby while it ran that it fell in one of the post holes.   That one was good for a laugh!

The kids were fascinated by the hummingbirds at the feeder, and the littlest one would holler every time one came to have a drink.   “Hummingbird!  Hummingbird!  Hey. guys, come see the…oh, it’s gone now…”  It was pretty cute.

Somewhere along the way, I wanted to identify a couple of plants that I was wondering about.  I had my wild plant book and a ten year old shadow, and we wandered off into the woods beside the house.  it turned out that yes, in fact, we do have stinging nettles, and also tons of  chokecherries and possibly wild gooseberries or currants, though I will have to see them bloom to be sure.   We also disturbed a frog.  Instead of shrieking and being grossed out, my niece tried to catch it.  When she couldn’t, she asked me to help.  We dragged the poor little guy in and set him in a jar on the windowsill until suppertime, when we let him go again.

Having kids around really brought back memories of my own summers on my Auntie’s acreage when I was a kid.  I hope they had as much fun as I always did.

I was also very impressed at how little water an extra five people used.  Now, this family has been on missions to third world countries where water is precious, and know all about conservation, but really, the five of them used less water than the two of us usually do.  They did, however, eat more than we had accounted for.  After going through a loaf and a half of bread and a whole box of cereal by the end of the first day, we made a quick run into town for groceries.  It would have been less of a deal if the weather had been cool, and we could cook on the stove without heating the house too much, but in this weather, we were kind of down to sandwiches and cut veggies.

We accomplished a lot over the weekend.  The boys finished digging all of the post holes for the goat yard, and started putting the posts in, as well.   They also dug a bunch of holes for our latest delivery of trees and bushes, and my sister-in-law and I planted blueberries, currants, blackberries, hazelnuts, cherries, apricots, apples, pears, and a plum.   I now have four big circular flower beds in the front lawn, though they mostly won’t hold flowers this year – we never got around to building the raised beds for the strawberries, so they are living in the flower beds with the roses.  It will actually probably be quite pretty.   Brother-in-law figured out how to get one of the painted-shut windows open, and we took down storm windows and hung screens for the summer.  Hubby and I also put in fifty asparagus plants and a couple of rhubarb roots.  Those ones looked kind of dead, so we will see if they actually grow or not.   Sister-in-law and the kids moved most of the brush pile for the kids to build a fort with – ‘coincidentally’ in the spot where we had wanted to move the brush pile to.   Then there was a lot of pruning, and clearing the sitting area.  All in all, I am not sure if they will want to come back, with all the work we made them do, but it moved us forward by weeks on the digging, planting, and building, and we are very grateful for that.

Of course, now the forecast is for frost tonight, so it appears that planting out the peppers and tomatoes was, in fact, premature.  Oh, well – we’ll find some old sheets and towels, I guess…

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We have been making little discoveries all over the acreage, now that the snow is gone and things are starting to leaf out.  We’ve found wild strawberries, wild roses, peonies in a random patch of tall grass by the (crab?) apple tree, raspberries, and what looks like an elderberry bush.  Hubby stumbled across an old rhubarb patch, right in the middle of a truck track behind one of the sheds.  There are a few other odd plants that I will have to identify – one of them might even be horseradish.  Of course, there are also a ton of what look like little stinging nettles – they are too little to tell if they are nettles or wild mint, just yet, and I have no interest in finding out the hard way.

There have also been swarms of bumblebees and hordes of little wood frogs.  Today, we saw hummingbirds for the first time, and also caught a glimpse of the woodpecker that we have been hearing for ages, but had not seen.   There were magpies squawking and swallows swooping.  We heard a bird song that sounded like all the world like a ringing phone, though it went on long past when the machine would have picked up, and was in the wrong direction, anyhow.  There are these little rodents, that look like squirrels but act like gophers, which we have been watching for a couple of weeks.  We also saw one of the bunnies on the lane while we were eating dinner.   This place is suddenly crawling (and sprouting and hopping and flapping) with life.   Unfortunately, the mosquitoes are out in swarms, also, but it’s a small price to pay to have the rest of it.

Hubby is determined to take pictures of all of the birds here in our area, so we hung up a hummingbird feeder, as we doubted we would ever get one to stay still for the camera, otherwise.  So far, there have been two ruby-throated hummingbirds visiting, and hopefully we will see lots of them, as we hung the feeder just outside the kitchen window, where we can watch it while we eat.  Of course, as soon as Hubby set the camera down, one flew right up to the window and tapped on it with his little beak.  I laughed!

In other news, the garden is coming along, albeit more slowly than we would like, with me being so creaky and all.  We’ve gotten the potatoes in, now, and also some radishes, parsnips, kale, chard, spinach, golden beets, lettuce, and broccoli.  We are going to try adding another quarter – row every week or two, to have a fresh supply through the summer.  That’s the theory, anyhow – we’ll see how fast we run out of room and / or patience.  We’ll make a big planting of the storage crops (beets, turnips, carrots, and such) later in the summer, so that they mature right around first frost.

Hubby found an old compost pile from some former residents, and hauled a few wheelbarrow loads over to my front flowerbed, which I decided to plant in tomatoes and peppers, instead.  It seemed like a great place for them, as it is sunny, protected, and close enough to the bathroom to lug buckets of used bathwater (“greywater”) out to water them with – the bed is right out the front door.   It is still a little early, but Hubby has been hauling the plants in and out every day to harden them off, and the weather has been fine, with a forecast for more of the same, so hopefully they won’t get too chilled at night.  We put in eight tomatoes, four hot peppers, and four sweet peppers – we started more, but they would not all fit.  While I was at it, I planted some little potentilla bushes that I bought on a whim, and some tulips and daffodils that were given to us by a friend who neglected to plant them last fall.  I tucked some herbs in between the bigger plants – parsley, basil, oregano, chives, and some garlic cloves that I just tucked in here and there.  That should be an entertaining “flower” bed, for sure!

We likely will have to put the rest of the garden on hold, now, as we have family coming in for a visit over the weekend.  If the kids get too bored with our lack of a television, we’ll set them to work planting beans and corn, but otherwise it’ll just have to wait until Monday…

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We woke up this morning to a sunny blue sky, and the drip-drip-drip of snow melting off the roof.  Cooked up a big ole feed of bacon and scrambled eggs, with toast and home-made jam.   Sat on the front step sipping coffee, and taking in the sun.  It was 5 degrees in the shade, sweater weather at this time of year.

 

In honor of the actual spring weather, this afternoon I sat out on the step and sowed a ton of seeds in seed-starting flats.  Hubby supervised the dogs playing in the snow, and had himself a beer and a cigar (left over from our trip to Cuba last November).  I brewed up a fancy coffee from fresh-ground beans, and used it to wash down a couple of brownies that Hubby baked earlier this week.  We put a Cuban CD in the stereo, and kicked back in lawn chairs on the bit of lawn that has melted through the snow.  It was fabulous!  I’m loving our acreage, today.

 

I have now started peppers (sweet and hot), tomatoes, squash, cukes, celery, melons, broccoli, cabbage, a bunch of herbs, and a few tobacco plants, just for fun.   Over 100 little peat containers of potential are now sitting on my kitchen counter, waiting to sprout!  Planting time is usually the last week of May or first week of June, so probably 6-8 weeks from now.   I may be getting a little ahead of myself, considering we don’t even know where the garden will go, but hey…a little optimism seems warranted, today.  We’re going to try to keep detailed gardening records, so that we can figure out which varieties work best in our climate, and what keeps well.  It’s exciting to finally get started…

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