Saturday, August 28, 2010

Caterpillar destruction and jam

Last month's blackfly infestation disappeared as just quickly as it appeared, no doubt partially due to the timely arrival of the Red and Black Brigade, pictured. Would that were the case with the caterpillars. Many many broccoli-destroyers still hunt, despite my efforts to turn them into little green smears. It doesn't help that they are bigger and obviously now baby butterflies. Nor does it help that they are full of slime: squishing them is singularly unpleasant. I can no longer rub them off: I have to pick them off individually and step on them. On the positive side, my broccoli is much more intact than last year's. Negatively, the part they love to eat the best are broccoli heads.

And my baby cabbages, safe from slugs and snails on my garden bench? Not safe from butterflies! Three times I have gone out and rubbed off eggs from nearly every single seedling. I think the butterflies who choose seedlings for their offspring are very irresponsible parents. Don't they know caterpillars need to eat for a couple of weeks before metamorphosing? They'd be lucky if my cabbages lasted a day under their progeny's onslaught.

And the scores in the Jam World Championship:

First round (July 2010):

Strawberry jam: 8 jars.
Second round (August 2010):
Blackberry jam: 8 jars.
Sloe and apple jelly: 4 jars.
Final round (TBA):
Rosehip jelly.
Apple butter.
Other preserves, possibly vegetable based.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Spring cabbage, preserves, knitting

Completely the wrong season to plant cabbage? I think not! These two trays are next year's spring cabbages, to be planted out next month. Right now they live on my patio bench, in hopes that the snails won't discover them. I've had whole trays demolished overnight--nothing but sad little green stems left, and when the leaves are gone, the seedling is doomed.

On a related note, the thrushes have been going snail-mad this summer. Our driveway, barbecue pit, and patio are covered in empty snail houses. I love that sight.

This morning while walking, I brought a basket and picked some wild plums--or possibly sloes--from the hedgerow. Franklin got bored right about the time I stripped all the reachable branches, but the dog was still going strong. I think she could have happily sniffed that tree all day. I don't quite have enough for jam, but I know of another tree in a different hedge which we can visit tomorrow. My blackberries aren't yet picked, but still on the agenda.

I borrowed a fun library book on preserving foods, and apparently there are a lot of wild "berries" which can be jam-ified. I'm particularly intrigued by rosehip jelly; I know where there are several wild rosebushes. And next time we visit the inlaws, I might nick some apples off them for apple butter. But I might not.

I'd been meaning to knit these booties for Franklin for some months now and finally got them finished. Now I want to knit more, only I have a feeling Franklin wouldn't get a lot of use out of them before he starts walking. Still, I might knit them anyway, just cause they're so darn cute.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A big boy, going veggie, with friends

This is my main vegetable patch. Or some of it, anyway. Visible is the broccoli in front, and the potatoes behind. Semi-visible are the cabbages and chard, and nearly invisible are the beets and celeriac. Every day we are scrambling to devour all the green yumminess--we can barely keep up with production rates. I collected a good amount of beet seeds from a few plants left from last year. I won't know till I plant them next year, but won't it be the coolest if they grow?

For many reasons but mainly in a bid to be healthier, Partner and I have cut back a little on eating meat. I doubt we'll become full-time vegetarians any time soon, but we're dipping our toes as part-timers, so to speak. Two or three nights a week sees us consuming non-meat-based meals. Now, instead of buying the cheapest meats at the supermarket, we're trying to buy better-quality locally-reared meat. True, it's more expensive; but if we eat meat less often, the cost evens out.

Big boy Franklin is now five months old and learning to drink from a sippy cup. He thinks it's fun to have a drink of water, but when he gets his milk from it, he gets very serious indeed. Partner has been teaching him to drink, as he'll need to when I go back to work (not for several weeks yet). We decided that we'd rather not introduce a bottle, in case it interfered with breastfeeding. So I'm trying to remember to pump in the evening when Franklin's in bed, and freeze it into cubes for later use. I won't be working full-time, and he will be able to eat a little bit of other foods by the time I do go back--hopefully it'll all work out.

We're about to embark on the messy journey of baby weaning. There are two disciplines in the Way of the Baby Food. First is the spoon-fed puree school of thought. More adventurous is the put newspapers on floor, give baby bowl, and stand clear method. Personally, I think the second sounds more fun (and less time-consuming, as baby can play and eat what you eat, while you eat), though we'll have to see how it goes. Maybe we should get a high chair this weekend.

I met some friends at a cafe a few days ago--the first time I've actually made a date to see people since Franklin's birth. True, I've been to see my friends at work a few times, and I usually pop over to the neighbor's a few times a month, but to sit and drink lattes and gossip...I think I need to do this more often.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Clematis, blackberries, and supermama to the rescue

I couldn't be bothered to reel in the hose before taking this photo of my new arch. Last winter we tore down the old wooden one, and I was unsure if the passionflower and red clematis survived its demise. I can happily report that both did, and though greatly reduced in size, they thrive once more. The clematis even found the impetus to flower; this lovely vine has at most bloomed about ten flowers in a given season. My purple clematis (pictured below) postively drips with flowers over the summer, and my pink one sports more flowers than leaves in spring. I don't know what red's problem is. Also pictured are the sweet peas, orange crocosmia, pink oregano, and many many weeds. I have a love-hate relationship with my weeds. I hate them but they love me.

For the past week I've be reconnoitering all the local blackberry patches. It seems the berries now begin to ripen, but not yet in any great multitude. Some of the patches have very few berries, green or otherwise. I think the lack of regular rain showers has affected their production. Several patches look likely, however. My plans for world domination by jam can proceed.

Franklin has reached the stage where he just wants his mama and no one else will do. Dad is tolerable, but only if Franklin has just had a refreshing nap, been stuffed to the brim, and has a completely dry bum. Every time someone else wants to hold him, his lip start to quiver and he bursts into (real) tears. Even though it can be very draining--I hardly get grown-up time now--I mostly like being the center of his little world. The added bonus of breastfeeding is that I can solve all his problems too. Just got scared by a loud motorcycle/dog sneeze/bump in the stroller? I can fix that. Need to sleep but can't stop wiggling? No problem. Just had the worst time of your life at the doctor, involving three sharp needles? I have exactly what you need.