Well, here we are, late March! Are you ready to get down to designing the layout of your garden? For those who have space – such as those who’ve not planted a garden before, or those who get to plan theirs anew every year – you need to have a rough plan. This’ll let you know how many seedlings you should start or have on hand of each kind of plant. Know first that we gardeners always get overambitious, and end up tending tonnes of seedlings we have to give away! What’s worse is planting seeds that never germinate, or else germinate and fail. Planning helps deal with this disappointment.
But instead, being one person too short (yes, I am one person and, at 5’4″, too short, but here I mean too few), I mucked about with what remained of putting the garden to bed for winter, and covered the rose bushes. Yes, I have rose bushes. I barely deserve them. (So rarely does one have what one deserves!) In so doing, I got stung by a wasp on the fleshy part of my left hand. That put a stop to further garden work – and then the sun went behind the clouds.
It also put a stop to chopping, so I didn’t tackle the red pepper jelly until today. These beautiful red “piments rouges” peppers – which doesn’t translate into pimentos, which are stumpier – came courtesy of the grocery store, which is so kind as to give me, the bunny lady, their trimmings and vegetables destined for la poubelle. I gave a few peppers to the rabbits (they were not so spicy as to be a problem) before I thought to make jelly out of them. Red pepper jelly is a great addition to any cheese or cold cut sandwich.
I found the recipe easily enough in my collection of cookbooks from yesteryear – which are, bar none, the best cookbooks if you’re into the idea of local food. When I cannot find a pickle or preserve suggestion in my mother’s old stash, I go straight to Jehane Benoit’s Encyclopedie de la cuisine canadienne. Between this book and Mrs. Appleyard’s Family Kitchen, I have the historical stories and recipes of my entire region’s local food prior to the globalization glut that landed cantaloupe on every restaurant breakfast plate in the month of March, and the concomitant assumption that the food supply chain takes care of everything so that all we have to do is choose. — hobby horse ends here for now.
The recipes are diverse and simple. On this page, you can see quince (coings), mint (menthe fraîche), parsley (persil), lemon verbena (vervaine), and sage (sauge) jelly. Most if not all of these will be eaten with cheese or meats, so it’s no surprise that they’re on the same page as red pepper jelly. However, they also have (swoon) currant and elderflower jelly (groseilles aux fleurs du sureau). I’m half-Danish, and when I first had elderflower juice in Copenhagen (København) it struck a chord with me that I knew this and I’d had it before, though I could not say how or where. But as Swedish venture would have it, one can now get it at IKEA. And you can get elderflower or elderberry tea at the Polish bakery.
(And since I’m showing sugar here, I have a blog post on that.)
So I’m making the jelly today. The peppers are on the old side, so they were drying out – which made them fabulously easy to de-string and seed, though more difficult to chop. The wasp-stung hand had some work to do. Presently I’m waiting for the four hours to elapse for the peppers to sit in salt.
It’s a good thing I haven’t updated in a month, because the posts would have been obsessed with squirrels. (No squirrels for you! Trust me, I’ve got pictures.) They are under strict (oh well, not so strict) rationing of two to three chestnuts per day. The two boys – Rufus and Clyde – know me well. Clyde dominates Rufus, but Rufus seems to be more like a pet. A smaller squirrel comes by and I chuck it a chestnut that it fails to notice, because squirrels are not super-scenters like dogs are, it seems.
We had our first frost a couple of nights ago. The swiss chard is surviving, as it usually does, but its days are numbered. I’ll be eating more of it in the coming weeks. The rabbits are getting peevish about getting old tomato leaves, but I’m also giving them juicy wilted nasturtiums. The green tomatoes are in a box in the garage, still on their vines, and the ones in the kitchen are turning red. Continue reading
I took some photos on my trip to Eastern Ontario over Thanksgiving weekend worth sharing, so I’ll start and finish the post with two autumn scenes.
Eastern Ontario land trust
I brought three pumpkins back from Ontario, and two evenings ago, I baked one of them. As the fastest way to process a pumpkin is by baking it, I just cut it in half, scooped out the seeds and pulp, and put it in the oven with a little water. But the baking takes an hour and a half, and The Most Important Rule For Cooking that I learned as a child – which it floors me that more people don’t know – is… well, the first rule is, don’t use the oven in summertime, but…When You Use The Oven, Cook More Than One Thing. In fact, cook three: Continue reading
This is a long-running blog about the pleasures of living like a farm kid in an urban context. There’s a big focus on ecology and wildlife because this brings joy and is the greatest potential most people have of restoring some balance to nature. You can also use my services for landscaping your property using native plants. You can upgrade to a new ground cover to gradually replace your lawn and green up your parking spot. You can also prevent bird crashes with advice or my assistance.
My mission is to inform and engage you in an appreciation for resilience and living close to the land. I also want to help you increase the beauty and biodiversity of your property and our towns, cities, and regions.