Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Squishing, cabbages, and walking

I think these three butterflies finished their life's work and are resting from their labors. I went around a few days ago with gardening gloves, rubbing off any eggs and small caterpillars I could find on my broccoli and cabbage. Partner said, and I agree: it's not as if the hundreds of caterpillars turn into hundreds of butterflies which then stick around our garden. Once they're matured into flying creatures, they take off and we never see them again. Well, except maybe twenty or so which then lay hundreds more eggs...

I felt bad about squishing them, but gritted my teeth and got on with it. I also have a small blackfly infestation which needed rubbing out, too. My garden gloves are looking a little icky.

My big vegetable bed is literally packed with tasties this year. Pictured are my very abundant runner beans (most of which grew from last year's harvested seeds). In a patch of bare earth which previously grew new potatoes (yummy) I planted every last carrot seed I own last week, in hopes that they'll have enough of the season left to grow. I would guess that there were about a hundred seeds. I also have some spring cabbages seeds yet to plant, though at the moment we're up to our ears in cabbage. I asked Partner if he thought it was ok to feed the dog cabbage. We have that much.

In non-gardening news, I am now only ten pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight--meaning I've lost twenty pounds--and fit into pretty much all my clothing (some tight but not uncomfortably so). Except my old button-up shirts. I don't know if I'll fit into them again once I stop breastfeeding, or if my ribcage is permanently expanded. I think breastfeeding and my daily walk have helped me lose the weight.

Walking is great. Franklin usually rides in the sling, to give me that extra workout. (These are the instructions for use on the inside of Franklin's sling. Step twelve is the best; click on the picture to zoom in.) And the dog: she's so obedient now, it almost makes me feel sorry for other dog owners. Sometimes I wonder if I'm too strict with her, but then I see someone else's dog dragging them along on the leash, or yapping uncontrollably, and I get a very smug feeling. I hope it doesn't show on my face.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Jamming, a glut of vegetables, and death to caterpillars

Hooray for jam! I think we had a little over six pounds of berries left when we finally got around to making it. I did a 3/4 ratio of sugar to fruit, cooked it to 105C (about 220F, I think), added a little fresh lemon juice to help with the gelling process, and voila! My stockpot at the back of the stove doubled as a pressure cooker, to help seal the jars once filled. Because we had so many strawberries, we needed two pans to make it all in one go.

And we ran out of jars before we ran out of jam. I'm a bit hit and miss when it comes to saving jars (like mayonnaise or salsa jars) for future use. I ended up having more jars than lids--figures. So the last bit went into a plastic take-away container, and it's the one we're eating first. Yummy.

I think I may have been a little over-ambitious with the cabbage this year. We picked our first head, and it's lasted four meals. So far. There's enough left for another meal. And I'm feeling like I should have planted more carrots. Just started digging them up, and they go so quickly! Beets, too. I ran out of beet seeds, but still have carrot seeds. I could plant more if I do it immediately. And now I'm wishing I planted onion seeds, for spring onions. I have some volunteer garlic (I planted some like three years ago, and its descendants are still there), which makes for lovely "spring garlic:" the stalks are as tasty as the bulbs.

And remember last year's caterpillar invasion? This year's butterflies are laying the preliminary groundwork for a similar attack. I had better nip this threat in the bud, though I feel so bad killing them--butterflies are our friends. However, they spend a lot more time as destructive caterpillars than helpful butterflies, so I must stay strong.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Strawberries for our wedding anniversary

On our sixth wedding anniversary, Partner and I took Franklin to a strawberry farm to pick berries. Of course, baby Franklin is still too little to eat them, but he was quite happy to watch us pick them from his stroller. For about five minutes, that is. If one basket looks more full than the other, it's because Partner held Franklin and took photos while I continued picking: the slacker.

It was a warm day with the perfect combination of sun, cloud, and wind. After picking, we spread our picnic blanket under a shady tree and everyone got something lovely to eat (including the gnats; I'm still a bit itchy).

We picked 10 lbs of berries in total; this labor of love took only 45 minutes. I'm planning on making jam, as soon as I go shopping later today for some sugar and lemons. I'd better get on it quickly: two days later, I think we're down to 8 lbs. Once these berries rest safely in jars, I might like to go back, after a few weeks.

It wasn't incredibly romantic, but it was still lovely and a treat.

More photos, plus some garden pics here:


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Sweet peas and animal altercations on TV

I'm so proud of my sweet peas. I harvested the seeds last fall, planted them and crossed my fingers this spring, and they've delivered. I tried to harvest seeds from each color; inevitably, there was one color which prevailed (purple in this case) but still a lovely variety. They're now joyfully clambering up the archway to the garden, and walking through them is an aromatic delight.

A few weeks ago, our dog got into an altercation with a cat; as I did not witness it, I have to rely on second-hand accounts. According to these sources, each combatant attempted grievous bodily harm on the other, and it only ended when bystanders broke them up. In other words, the cat scratched the dog, the dog scratched the cat, and Partner hauled the dog away from the car the cat hid under. She's a terrier, and that means she wants to kill small furry things; in her mind, cats fall into this category. Never mind that most cats are the same size or bigger. Ever since, whenever we walk by, Beauty wants to have a really good look underneath that car.

I've just read a book called Remotely Controlled, which is about how TV damages people's (and particularly children's) lives, especially their social skills, not to mention their bodies and self-esteem. Whether or not everything claimed is true, it's still a lot to think about. I had read that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children should not watch any TV until the age of two, and before reading this book, that is what I had planned for Franklin. Now I think I don't want to expose him to any TV ever!

I don't watch much myself--there is one program I look forward to every week, and I almost always end up watching the episode online. So at the moment I watch 45 minutes a week, and this doesn't even involve the actual TV (though it involves a screen, which still counts). Apparently the average person watches four hours a day--that's 12 years over their lifetime! Just think of the time they could spend working on hobbies, or getting fit, or hanging out with friends or family. The book posed the question (and I paraphrase): if on your deathbed you could have back those 12 years to spend with your loved ones, would you say, "No thanks, I'm glad I watched all that TV"?