Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Month: September 2012

Harvesting and pickling

I’ve come to admit that none of my cucurbits will be producing any squash, melon, or pumpkins for me this year, but for one cucumber. I should have been eating the flowers all along. Here is the normal state of affairs for any one of the plants:

The sumac that I planted last year is now about my height, and the lower leaves are beginning to change colour for fall. In addition, more wildflowers are creeping into my soon-to-be meadow:

Every day, I put the rabbits out, if they show the least bit of interest – and the girls usually do. Kaori is my confident lady. Well, Elizabeth is, too, but in a different way – she being an escape artist that has finally understood the concept of herding. Kaori just trusts that the world isn’t that scary a place, and also that she can do no wrong, because she hardly ever does, except now that she’s decided to get into eating the pepper plants. She got enough time on the plant for me to take a photo and then I gathered her up and deposited her in a different part of the yard.

Meanwhile, the cherry tomatoes are producing a respectable harvest, and the small Roma plants, too. I have one yellow tomato coming through on another front-yard bush, and this large beauty of striking colour. Next to this plant you can see a healthy basil plant, and perhaps another tomato plant producing equally large fruit. And you certainly can see the red clover.

Two nights ago, I took the last of the Ontario corn and transformed it into corn relish. The recipe was not the same as last year’s, and it called for too much flour in the sauce, so I am afraid it’s too creamy a relish for my liking. Still, corn relish is better than the green relish you get at the store, and it is homemade by me, which is better than just any random corn relish.

Yesterday’s efforts began with the slicing of pickling cucumbers, peppers, and onions to get a batch of bread-and-butter pickles done, today (7 jars). Cucumbers are surprisingly hard on your knives! I have a sharpening stone – for which the traditional lubricant is spit – and I have also found out that ceramic is an excellent knife sharpener. So I sharpened the big butcher knife with both the stone and the pestle from my mortar-and-pestle, twice, to get all the vegetables prepared. Here they are, pre-salting.

Unless some something comes up that simply demands it, such as an excess of green tomatoes, the pickling will be done for the year as soon as I get ambitious enough to make a batch of sauerkraut with the very large head of cabbage I bought in Ontario (shown in this post).

Wild rabbits in town

I took this photo of a wild rabbit that has made my parents’ front lawn and garden hedge part of its territory. She, or he, stayed stock-still, just a few rotations of the ears, resting under a tree out front, out of the rain. Then, it headed down the side stairs to the back yard, where it roams between my parents’ and their many neighbours. So long as there are plenty of dandelions and other herbs to eat, and shelter from predators, it need not be endangered.

Of course, most people would welcome sharing a yard with wildlife, but some gardeners and some dogs may make their parts hostile. Let’s hope this rabbit has a good den and is well-prepared for the winter.

But that made me wonder: how do rabbits survive in winter? I know about the Snowshoe Hare, and how it changes from brown in the summer to white in the winter. Do they, like deer, forage under the snow for the previous summer’s vegetation?

As is often the case, this is not an original question; others have looked for the answer before me. This page is about how to identify the five lagomorphs native to Canada. And this page is about what rabbits do in winter. They form “rabbit highways” in the snow from place to place. They need thickets of woods and vegetation like wild raspberry patches. When farmers rip out hedgerows and small woods along their property and fences, they eliminate animal habitat. I wish they wouldn’t do that.

Grandmother Wren, a blog for grandparents and their grandchildren, tells us that rabbits often use the burrows of other species – such as groundhogs and skunks  – to overwinter. Share it with your kids, or tell others, about how other animals overwinter and the physical changes they go through for both hibernation and endurance.

I’m going to ask my parents to put some food out on a weekly basis so that “their” rabbit (like “my” skunk, living under my back deck) doesn’t have too far to roam to keep fed and healthy over the winter. Roaming increases its energy expenditure, and as Brits learned from 2010’s unusually cold winter in Europe, animals that do not migrate or hibernate need to conserve their energy against the cold. Do not disturb them unnecessarily.