Vera Stewart

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since Apr 22, 2015
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7b at 1050 feet, precipitation average 13 inches, irrigated, Okanagan Valley
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Recent posts by Vera Stewart

Snow on the ground this morning, and wool socks on my feet. The competition resumes!
1 month ago
My garden season is more or less over for the year already. A combination of poor weather, poor pollination and ill-health at important gardening times has resulted in, after harvesting potatoes and squash, there being not much left at all to do.

This morning I was able to at last complete catching up on weeding, mulching as much as possible, removing some dead branches from shrubs, tidying the garden shed, etc., and the only things left to harvest are a bit of basil, a secondary planting of lettuce that finally decided to start growing, and possible some runner beans although there continue to be relatively few pods setting. There are a few flowers out in the garden too. One of my neighbours was saying to me the other day that they're not seeing as much pollination this year either so it's not just me. If that's good or bad news, I don't know.

My health has improved and I believe the garden helped. I'm a little disappointed that garden work is coming to an end for the year.

At some point later this fall I might expand the garden area a little more, and once I have room in the yard waste pick up bin I'll need to cut up some of the dead branches and have them carted away, and then I'll be able to get at my composty-soil heap again. (It's currently underneath a dead branches heap.) When I can get to the compost-y heap I might spread some of that soil around the garden to hopefully make the garden soil more fertile for next year.
I might keep some of the dead branches and see if I can figure out how to whittle something.
I'm also hoping to get hold of some cheap local apples and see about putting up some applesauce.

My little freezer is packed full of rhubarb, basil-sorrel pesto, zucchini, and potato soup, and I cut a dahlia flower for the dining table this morning. This gardening season could have been better, but I will still consider it a success, and I expect to have more fun growing next year!

2 months ago
I now have a box-full of potatoes and no way to store then in a cool cellar-like place, and so have been trying new ways to deal with this temporary surfeit of potatoes over the last ten days or so. I’ve blanched and I’ve potato-saladed, and I’ve made potato bread, and almost a third of my small freezer is now filled with various potato derivatives.
This morning I decided to try making potato soup and thought I’d share the results here photographically. I’ve only made soup from scratch three or four times previously, so it was a bit of an adventure for me.

In part as part of a long-standing (very slowly advancing) writing project I went looking for “Okie” potato soup and found a recipe on Eliot’s link
I (sort of) doubled the recipe.

Okie Peasant Potato Soup
Makes about 12 servings

12 slices bacon, cooked crisp (save fat from bacon) (I ended up just using what bacon slices I had left in a package. This is the first time I’ve ever saved and used bacon fat. Usually I just drain it and throw it away. I know it can be used in a lot of recipes, I’ve just never tried any before.)

About 12, or 3 pounds of red potatoes, cubed, skin on or off as desired. If your potatoes aren’t red, white potatoes are probably okay too, although baking potatoes probably wouldn’t work so well. I very much guesstimated how many potatoes to include

2 cups sliced carrots (I had two carrots left in my fridge so I used two carrots)

2 tablespoon dried shallots (I did not have shallots so I went out into my garden and pulled up some green onions and used mostly their white parts as my green onions have become quite woody over the summer)

6 cups chicken broth (I used water as I did not have chicken broth in the house) (When I “doubled” the original recipe I started with putting in five cups of water, which more than covered the potatoes and carrot already in the pot. I took out about ¾ cup of water-y broth after everything had boiled for awhile because it still seemed like too much water, although, if you were trying to stretch this recipe you would probably want more like 6 or 7 cups of water.)

4 tablespoons bacon fat (which you saved from your bacon)(I ended up just using all the bacon fat I had saved because I sort of doubled the recipe but didn’t have double the bacon, I had about 3 tablespoons of fat plus what was left in the pan as I reused the bacon-frying pan to make the white sauce portion of this recipe. This was only the second time I’ve tried making white sauce and it went much better than the first time, although it wasn’t very white, probably because it was made in a pan with bacon bits still stuck to it)

4 Tablespoons flour (I used 3 tablespoons flour to go with my 3 tablespoons of fat)

6 cups 2% milk (I used a mix of dairy and almond milk because that’s what I had, I matched my milk component to my flour and bacon fat components, the recipe seemed to call for a cup of milk per tablespoon of flour and tablespoon of fat, so I used 3 cups of milk)

1/2 tsp salt (I just sprinkled some in and will let people salt and pepper to taste at table)

1/2 tsp ground pepper (ditto)

I also threw in a sliced up celery stick which I remembered I had in the fridge.

Eliot’s Eats calls for grating cheddar cheese over top the soup once ‘plated’ (or bowled)

Step One: Harvest the rest of your garden potatoes

Step Two: Marvel over how many potatoes you still have

Step Three: Cook bacon until it’s starting to smell a bit like it’s burning. Remove from heat/pan. I probably should have left my bacon cook a little longer as it wasn’t all quite crumbly and I ended up with a few strips that I had to tear apart.

Step Four: Peel or don’t peel potatoes (and carrots, and celery) depending on your preference. Chop into bite-sized pieces. If you do peel the potatoes, remind yourself that if you really had your stuff together, you would find a use for the potato peels. Then remind yourself that you’re already advancing your skills by making this soup, so don’t get down on yourself as you compost the peels instead of using them for more food immediately.

Step Five: Boil potatoes, carrots, shallots/onions, in broth/water until potatoes and carrots are tender, between 10 and 15 minutes or so

Step Six: Break up your bacon. In the interest of reducing the amount of clean up, reuse your measuring cup to store bacon temporarily. Discover you have about a cup of bacon bits.

Step Seven: In a sauce pan, make white sauce. Heat bacon fat and add flour and whisk until mix bubbles so you know the flour will not taste raw. Carefully whisk in milk to make sauce. Cook to simmer and then remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Step Eight: Add sauce into potato pot. Stir, add bacon, adjust seasonings if desired.

Step Nine: Serve, or store, or both! Garnish as you wish. (I’m thinking I’ll serve with nasturtium flowers on top of the soup in bowls this evening. Most of what I made this morning is destined for the freezer for awhile)

It took me about two hours to make this soup, but that included clean up, a visit to the garden for onion, and a short dog walk while things were cooking. And it including peeling potatoes, which always takes a few minutes.

I’ve given it a bit of a taste test, and I think it should prove enjoyable!
3 months ago
I also have a (non-permie) acquaintance in mind, although I'm not sure if they can do a passable accent...

I'm always excited to learn about new radio-type shows!
3 months ago
Well, I've been sick (again.) Still haven't completely recovered, I get out of breath and quite tired quite quickly when I go to do anything more active than sitting. I'm also being plagued by the most aggravating itchiness. It's annoying and I've fallen quite behind on garden chores. There have been a few cases of Covid-19 locally now and I do wonder if perhaps I've managed to get it despite barely leaving the house/yard for the past five? months.

Anyway this morning I spent two and a half hours watering and harvesting and playing with food and vegetables.

I have definitely reached the point in the summer where things are coming out of the garden and nothing new is going in, although I'd like to move some of my sorrel and perhaps a few of my pathetic non-flowering even though it's their second summer hollyhocks will be moved too.

Harvested a generous handful of rhubarb stalks (although I know it's late and they were a bit on the giant and woody side) chopped them up and threw them in the freezer. While I was in the freezer, I remembered to take out the last of the milk that I froze in March after acquiring an accidental over-abundance of the moo juice. Threw it into a loaf of bread, along with some somewhat past-the-somwhat-irrelevant-best-before-date eggs from the fridge. Then I pulled up two potato plants, observed that the potato plant with more room has very definitely produced more and bigger potatoes compared to the plant squished into the squished-potato row - and blanched most of the resulting potatoes, adding them to the freezer. And I chopped up a couple of zucchini and threw them into the freezer too.

There is a stage in vegetable gardening where it becomes less about gardening and more about managing the produce, and this is where I'm at right now.
I could have done more potato-blanching and will probably do more in the near future.

My zucchini plants are starting to exhibit leaf fungus, so I pulled the worst affected and pitched it into the yard-waste pick-up the other day. I don't want the fungus to spread to my giant winter squash plant, which, although it has only grown one squash so far, is easily five feet long and about three feet wide and still expanding. This is a plant that grew from a grocery-harvested seed, and I wonder if that has something to do with it's lack of actual production?

I'm also beginning to suspect that my soil is lacking some nutrient plants want to set fruit, because the zucchini has not been as prolific as I was led to expect, another winter squash plant hasn't made any fruit, the morning glories haven't flowered, and even the runner beans aren't making as many pods as they have in the past. I may have exhausted something from the soil over the past several years. Or, it's still because of the rain and lack of pollinators earlier.

I harvested a lot of poppy seed from my one poppy, and I've written down in my calendar that I should scatter them about in the late fall to hopefully get a bunch more next spring.

I traded a ?clutch? of potatoes for a cucumber with a neighbour, and another neighbour brought over a grocery bag full of fresh peaches from their orchard.

Thinking about local orchards - a new statement from the orchardist association repeated earlier statements about a smaller harvest this year - due to weather and lack of labour. The talk of letting food rot on the trees and in the fields (while not offering increased wages to potential harvesters) seems very Grapes of Wrath to me.

Haven't done anything with the horseradish plant yet. I feel there should be something I should be doing with some of it's gorgeous leaves.
3 months ago
I found discount, bright neon purple-y Birkenstocks for about $40 this winter to replace the no-name sandals I had destroyed. A few years ago I had another pair of Birkenstocks which eventually started to disintegrate, after about three years - hopefully because I didn't take care of them. I say hopefully, because this time I've got some cork resealant that I'll be putting on my new pair religiously, and hopefully they will last longer then the previous. (Although I should probably be more careful about getting them wet and muddy, regardless of sealant.) You might get lucky and find a pair in your size in a weird colour too. In between somewhere there I've also had Merrells, and I really liked them too.
3 months ago

Had a deer come by yesterday who stripped quite a few drying-up currants off the bushes before he was frightened away. I was thinking more along the line of attracting birds, but I guess deer work too, as long as they don't start eating other things as well.

While I planted more lettuce seed for a second crop, none of it has come up, and so I'm just about out of lettuce now. I think maybe it's gotten too hot for it to grow, at last, we are having summer temperatures.
Now that I've run out of extra produce to give away, the food sharing hut has re-opened in town.

I've begun harvesting zucchinni and potatoes - I've planted a few bush beans in the space cleared when I pull potato plants and maybe they'll have time to grow a few pods. I'm getting giant pods on some of the runner beans at the moment, I'm wondering if I can make a sort of hummus from their seeds later on. (I don't really like the runner bean pods to eat, even when they're small, so I just grow the runner beans for fun and shade. They're becoming something of a tradition here.)
Volunteer nasturtiums are flowering, morning glories are growing..
And I've got one winter squash starting to grow.
I think because of all the rain we've had, the squash (including the zucchinni) has had trouble with pollination. Or rather, the bees have had trouble pollinating them.

I'm letting one zucchinni fruit grow just to see how big it gets.

I'm getting worried about how I'm going to store all the potatoes, I've already had some start to go a little soft between harvesting and cooking them up. I suppose I should do some blanching and wedge making, and throw the results in the freezer, but it's hot and I haven't wanted to spend time in the kitchen. So mostly I'm still "storing" them in the ground, even though the plants are starting to look a bit "done," what with the heat.
I guess I'll just have to forge ahead and do what needs to be done, preserving potatoes wise. Gosh I wish I had a root cellar.
I suppose I could take a few potatoes to the food-share.

The horseradish plant is huge. The leaves are so big and strong they hold water well into the morning after their late-night irrigation.

And I have one poppy that grew, flowered, and is now, I hope, making lots of seeds, so I can maybe have more next year.

4 months ago
It's been raining a lot for this time of year, here. A few days ago I encountered seven or eight snails, all quite close by to each other. One of my neighbours has told me that he's fighting his lawn grubs with pesticide. I figure that the raccoon have taken care of grubs in the past, and I don't really care if my lawn isn't perfect, so why worry about them? I have taken to flinging snails out onto the road, though. I think they've got a haven in my other neighbour's yard, and I haven't really objected to seeing a few - but seeing eight snails in under five minutes while weeding is about six snails too many, when I'm trying to get my hollyhocks to grow.

I thinned out my onion patch considerably, gathering a big armful of onion. I then threw them onto the compost pile - because I already have more than enough onion right now, thankyouverymuch. Alas, the garden-food-sharing shed in town is still shut down.

We've been getting all of our salad greens from the garden for the past month or so now, which is great. All the saskatoon berries have been consumed. Starting on the currants now, although I'll be leaving most of them on the bushes for the birds and whoever. (Again, if the food-share was operating, I'd be giving them this food.)

Read a local newspaper article today saying that 70% of local farmers figure they will be bringing in less food this year - because of the combination of overly-rainy weather and a lack of migrant labour, and general uncertainty. And yet, I have yet to see local farmers making a concerted effort to get locals out into their orchards/fields to try and replace some of those missing migrants. The same article said that for the past couple of years, apples have cost more to produce than has been paid for them to the producers. Certainly I know I've been able to buy local apples very cheaply in the recent past.

I've also noticed a confusing lack of maintenance in the local parks this summer - is weeding not a easily-socially-distanced activity? Are small parks, being outdoors, not one of the few places people can go to entertain themselves safely? What is the town thinking on this? Have they deliberately cut back on park maintenance to save money? Or are their employees simply just not enthusiastic about working? Do they want to discourage people from gathering in the parks? To date, to my knowledge, no one in my immediate region has tested positive for Covid-19, although we continue to worry about summer tourists accidentally bringing it with them.  

Back in my garden, one row of potatoes has flowered, and the other has not. (I think one row has the plants planted too close together and will soon be thinning it and hopefully getting baby new potatoes to eat in the process.) I know that there is a theory saying I should take the flowers off so the plant focuses it's energy on making spuds, but the flowers are pretty!

My dahlia is flowering, one of the runner beans has reached the patio roof, and the morning glories are starting to climb as well. Some of the squash plants are starting to show signs of vigour and flowering, and some are not. I was able to get myself together enough to put kitchen scraps in the seed holes for some of the squash, and some did not get scraps to 'eat.' I am going to assume that the plants that are happiest right now are the ones that were fed, although my record keeping is... non-existent on this matter.

I've started to dig a shallow trench around my sumac patch, and rip out the roots that have been making their way through the lawn for a number of years now. They weren't a noticeable problem until this year, I figure because it's been raining so much. Now little sumacs are popping up in unwanted places, thus the trench-and-root-pulling project. I want to keep the sumac patch, I just don't want my entire garden to turn into a sumac patch. It is surprisingly fun to yank up sumac roots, and surprisingly easy in the sandy earth, given that they seem to run along only a few inches underground. It is an especially good thing to do after hearing conflicting and confusing news reports.
4 months ago
Not much to do now but wait for plants to grow.

After a couple of warm days and a downpour of rain, my currants and saskatoons are starting to ripen.
It's been a bit cool and damp. The big heat hasn't arrived quite yet.  

I have been using flowering sage as a cut flower for the dinning table, and the rose bushes that came to me as small Valentine's gifts and now live in the garden year round are in blossom. The lavender is also flowering, and I've cut back most of my comfrey for the first time this year. The hollyhock has gone apparently unmolested for about ten days now and is starting to gain some height.  

If I wanted to, I could use a lot of onion.

I have verified that I do indeed have zucchini growing, but the ground cherries have not sprouted. I've got some lettuce and sorrel I can harvest as needed, and all of the potatoes I planted seem to be alive and growing. Squash is growing. A few strawberries are growing.

Something came along and cut down most of the wheat that had just started to grow in a big pot on the patio (I thought it might be ornamental there but now what's left just looks pathetic. I will probably plant something else in that pot soon.) I planted some carrot seed in my other big patio pot and it's starting to grow. I might be able to get a few decent carrots out of there eventually.

Runner beans are doing their thing, morning glory seedlings are looking a bit "stuck" but I'm sure they're still growing roots. Or they'd prefer it was a bit warmer. Or something.

Watched a pair of quail taking a dust bath alongside some of my potato plantings the other day, where the soil is exposed - because I've expanded my garden I don't have quite enough mulch-stuff  at the moment but the next time I mow the lawn, which will be soon, I can at least collect some grass clippings to throw about.

And my pure frivolity purchase, a dahlia, is happily growing too.
5 months ago
Okay! I just tasted some of the leaves. I believe it is indeed horseradish!

Thanks for the help!