September 21, 2020

Colours of September

 I dressed the loom with the Kool-aid dyed warp using the Wall of Troy pattern from Margarite Davison's green book.  It's a fairly striking pattern but still an easy pattern to both thread and weave.   I'm done the first scarf and there is another left to weave.   Progress has been interrupted by helping my son-in-law build garage doors, canning, teaching a socially distanced rug hooking class at the park, hydro issues which mean the whole electrical panel needs to be replaced and a scary and irritating trip to the car dealer for a simple service on my cute little car, where they made all the motions of masking and social distancing, except for the part where they actually did it.  

The new hens have settled in nicely.  It only took them a couple of days to fully integrate.   After months of waiting for new birds, the feed store was able to get ready to lay hens delivered two weeks in a row.   Yay, to him finding independent breeders to supply us with hens!

 These ones are laying little pullet eggs.  Pullets are young layers.  They should start off laying tiny eggs like these, and gradually their eggs should increase in size.   Sadly, some of the hybrids we've had start off laying huge eggs and it can't be healthy for them.

I found prune plums in the stores, although not at the market. They were wonderfully ripe and two containers came home with me.   They make a wonderful jam or preserve.  I didn't chop them up, so my jam has chunks of peel and fruit in it.  Normally I chop the plum halves up a bit, and then the skins seem to just dissolve completely.  Still, the jam this year is pretty awesome.  It finished to a deep reddish purple colour, from the skins.  It's so pretty.

I dragged out the blending board.  I played with some colours of commercial corriedale.   They're not quite felted and they look fine, but they were just not quite easy enough to pull off the rolags, so slightly compacted perhaps, from sitting in a drawer for however long it's been.  Still it was fun to do.  

Blogger has been switched over to the new version, which I didn't want to use whenver they first introduced it.  I liked the old Blogger format and it was easy to use.  Now I'm finding a new learning curve and having to figure out new glitches.  It doesn't seem as easy to drop photos where I want them amongst a few other things I need to figure out.   This means that my layouts and formatting may be a little off until I muddle through it all.  I'm sure it will all come together at some point.

September 11, 2020

Tomahto, Tomayto, Tomato

Over the past few years, our garden tomatoes haven't done well.   We've had droughts, blight, more blight and one year the birds and bugs got to virtually every tomato before I did.   I almost didn't plant tomatoes this year and hubby had said why bother since we rarely get to harvest any.  However, I planted 4 plants.   There was hardly any choice of varieties at the garden centres and at one place, they already looked like they were stressed and diseased. 

 Our local feed store always carries a few starter plants, with very limited varieties since they are a small store.  I was told they purchase from a local grower.  I picked up a pot of 4 paste tomato plants.  They were 90 days until harvesting, so late at ripening.   Then we had the drought and a huge issue with blossom end rot.   I dedicated my watering to the now 3 tomato plants.  I don't know where the 4th one went.  One morning it was just not there! 

some of the tomatoes harvested from this year's garden
The watering got rid of the blossom end rot.  The skies opened up and we've had enough rain to make the garden and weeds grow.  A couple of weeks ago I harvested enough tomatoes to hot water bath can 3 jars.   Thinking that the rest of the green fruit would possibly not ripen, I picked up a box of tomatoes on sale at the grocery store.  Then I harvested what I thought was a few tomatoes in the garden.   It turned out there was over 1/4 bushel of ripe tomatoes to add to my store bought bounty.

I'd purchased 3 boxes of lids last fall when they were on sale.  I hadn't realized that I'd used most of them on jams, relishes and for the little canning jar bottles of milk that end up in the guys lunch bags when they want cereal for breakfast at work. I had popped out the the local hardware store, where I regularly purchase my supplies because they are a Canadian owned store, with great service.  I had two of the employees tell me that so many people decided to take up canning and preserving this year they had no supplies left, and no idea when they'd get more in.   Hubby came to my rescue by sourcing some at another store and picked them up on his way home from a meeting.  They were expensive though at some like $4.19 a package and he brought me home 4 packages!

Tomatoes are a borderline acid food and thus with a little lemon juice added to make them safe, they can be hot water bath processed.   I've never had luck with cold pack method for tomatoes, so I use the hot pack method.  This requires heating up the tomatoes first and boiling them for 5 minutes to heat them through.  The downside is that heat and chopping start to break down the tomato pectins.  This causes the juices to release and that separation of fruit and liquid in the jars.  It's safe, just looks a bit odd in the jar.

Over 2 days, I processed 30 pint jars (500 mls) of chopped tomatoes.   Yay!

1- Scald, peel and chop the tomatoes.  Put them in a large pot and slowly bring to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes.

2- Using a canning funnel, ladle the tomatoes into clean, heated jars.

3- Follow the modern directions for hot water bath processing.  This meant for me, adding 1 tbsn lemon juice to each 500 ml jar and hot water bath processing for 35 minutes, timed after the canning kettle came back to a boil after adding the jars.

4-  Let cool over night, remove the bands, wipe down the jars to make sure there is no residual bits of tomato and they aren't sticky.  Write the date either on the jars or lids.  Some people use sticky labels, but I find they are really difficult to remove when you want to reuse the jars.   I write the date on the lid so that I know that the lid has already been used.   Tomatoes don't need an identifier as well because they look like tomatoes, unlike miscellaneous purple jams and jellies :)

5- Store with the ring part of the lids removed  because moisture gets under the rings and can rust the lids on the inside, making them difficult to remove.   Also, if a seal isn't perfect, it will pop and you'll find it before you use that jar.   Without that seal, the contents will go mouldy and toxins may develop.  Nobody wants botulism from their pasta sauce!

September 03, 2020

Yellow Jacket Wasp excitement

I keep trying to write posts of things that I've done over the summer, like some natural dyeing.  However, life keeps intervening with much more interesting and important issues.   A couple of days ago, one of our chooks disappeared when they were out free ranging.   This isn't abnormal as we are in a rural area and there are chicken eating predators: raccoons, foxes, hawks, and coyotes.   We've seen all of them nearby.   When we lose a chook, I always lock up my girls for a few days, so whatever critter ate one, doesn't get another free meal.

However, we have one chook, the grey americauna, who is still skittish and timid.  Most of the other chooks get very friendly in just a few weeks, when they learn that I feed them, but even after almost two years, this grey hen just panics, hides and keeps her distance.  She does tend to go her own way at times,   so when I tried to lock them all in their secure pen in the barn, for their safety, she decided she was going to roost in the open area of the barn.  

Chooks don't see well in the dark, so you can slip in and pick up even the most skittish chook, once they've settled for the night.  We figured we'd just pick her up and pop her into the pen after she settled.  The problem was that we went into the barn too early.   She was on the window sill.  When Al tried to pick her up, she freaked and threw herself forward into the window.  The window didn't break, but it turned out that it wasn't fastened securely.   Just a couple of tiny nails, which turned out to be loose, were holding it in place.   The chook managed to pop the window right out of place. 

She flew out the open window, and as Al picked up the window, to see how to re-attach it, he started to scream and run.   It turned out that all this commotion had disturbed a wasps nest (yellow jackets), which had been built in the barn wall, 30 cm from the door, right under the window.   I got one sting this summer, as I was leaving the barn, and am amazed it was only one.  Al was lucky.  He's fast.  He got into the house and managed to find the fly swatter, get them all quickly, with only 6 or  7 stings.

Before we could get the barn window fixed, we had to do something about the wasps nest.  Al suited himself up with protective gear, and sprayed the nest two nights in a row.  In the dark when the wasps had settled for the night, I went into the barn to make sure the chooks in the pen had food and water.  I couldn't catch the grey girl though, so she was out alone for 2 days and slept in the barn with the open window.   On the third day, we had wicked rain all morning and I couldn't find her, even after the rain cleared.   I thought she'd disappeared in the night, with that open window and all.  However mid afternoon, she reappeared, quite happy to have my company.  

Al and my son fixed the window last night.  It won't come off easily as it's been secured with multiple screws!  Two nights of spraying seemed to have reduced the nest dramatically, so we didn't have wasps attacking..   All this was good because we had some new chooks coming today and we needed to get them into the secure pen.  They need to be confined to their new pen for at least a week, so that they learn where their new home is.
This morning I picked up the new ready to lay chooks, called that because someone else raises them until they're about 16 weeks old and ready to start laying.  When I opened the pen door, the grey chook, who'd been without her flock for 3 1/2 days, ran in to the secure pen without issues.   Yay!  Since I only had 3 new girls, I had transported them in a dog crate.  They easily popped out of the crate and into the pen.    They are all safe and sound now.  It made me feel very happy and content to have a secure flock, with few more chooks. 

However, I did see a wasp go back into the nest opening as I was leaving.   I'll have to keep an eye on that!