Growing Peppers in November

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In Canada Even!  Amazing?  Incredulous? 

No, not really….but I had to make it sound exciting didn’t I?

2 months ago I brought 2 pepper plants inside so the remaining peppers that were on them could finish growing.  A Poblano Pepper plant and a Serrano Pepper plant.  They both had at least 8-12 peppers on them.  But the peppers really didn’t get much larger, even with a dose of fertilizer every 2 weeks.

I went to water them the other day and noticed three of the Poblanos are turning red.  Well then, they obviously think they are ready to be picked, even if their size belies it.

Last year my Poblanos produced really large peppers and lots and lots and lots of them.  So many that I had bags and bags of diced peppers in the freezer.  This year, different story, small plants, small fruit, small amount of fruit, nothing in the freezer to hold me over until next summer….

Odd.  Same plants as last year, same location, same amount of TLC and I get 2 different results….

So tomorrow I will pick the peppers and give the plants a heave-ho to the compost pile and then revise my planned pepper planting plot next summer (say that 10 times fast!).

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Bushels of Bulbs

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It is that time of year again.  After the garden beds have been pulled of the weeds and annuals and the perennials have been cut back, it is time to plant bulbs in the ground so your gardens ‘makeup face’ is fresh and new come early Spring.

Walk into any grocery store, hardware store, or big box store right now and you are guaranteed to see bushels of bulbs in hundreds of varieties.

Daffodils come in a myriad of bloom types, Tulips from Holland show off their vibrant colours, and Crocus’s and Snowdrops offer the first glimpses of green, often when snow is still on the ground.

Bulbs may be wrinkly and ugly  looking when you plant them in the ground, but they hold the promise of a colourful Spring in 6-7 months time.

Prepare the chosen location by turning the soil of over well and adding compost.  Do not add any manure as the richness of it will burn the bulbs.  Dig down to the depth recommended on the packaging and setting the tips of the bulbs pointing skyward.  

Group them together either in mixed or same types or ‘scatter’ them to mimic naturalization.  Once set in the ground, cover and then water thoroughly.  You want the bulbs to get a good head start on root setting before the cold of winter sets in.  If you live in an area filled with four-footed, grazing critters (aka DEER), make sure you plant deer-resistant varieties, otherwise, you are just offering them a buffet come Spring when they are starving for any new, green growth.

Then, when you are absolutely at your wits end in March, desperate for some colour after the months and months of brown and gray hues of winter, they peek forth with smiling faces showing the promise of Summer to come.

So get out and dig in the dirt today, you will thank me come Spring time!

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End of the Road….

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For the Garden that is…sniff, sniff….

Spring time is my favourite time in the garden.  I get to play in the warming soil, carefully prepping and planning what I am going to plant where.  The days fly by into Summer and then I am cursing how fast the herbs can grow.  Soon, I am able to start harvesting tomatoes, peppers and lettuce and the herbs are shoved to the back of my mind, until they rear their green tentacles once again to menace the garden.

Serrano Peppers!

Fall arrives and brings with it that nip in the air and I spend days and days picking, sorting, canning, processing, cutting and tying up herbs until I am ready to waive a white flag in surrender.

October 1st arrives and I survey the garden and realize….  It is finally done.  Finito. Kaput.

WAH!!!!!!!!!!!!

BUT I AM NOT READY TO LET IT GO YET!

But Mother Nature is telling me it is time to chop, pull and yank everything out of the ground and toss to the compost heap. 

Fine. 

I hate it when she’s right.

After one of its many brush cuts, it ‘looks’ ok…but don’t turn your back on the mighty Sage-Brush!

The one thing I was looking forward to though, was finally, FINALLY, banishing the mighty ‘Sage-Brush’.  This thing has been in the ground for 3 summers now and had gotten HUGE.  Even with regular brush cuts, it came back each time with a vengeance, threatening to take over the garden.  I grabbed my pruners and started hacking away, saving 4 good size branches for my GangUp Challenge and tossing the rest.  Wow, there were a lot of stems in this plant, the bottom 4 inches of the plant was a mass of brown, woody, tough stems.  Then it was time to get the shovel.  Heeheehee, I giggled with glee, MY turn to uproot your life you fuzzy, green-leafed blob!  I dug and I dug and I dug, and finally, it popped free from the ground, desparately trying to hang onto the ground with every last root.

I WIN!

Next year I will start a new one, but this time it will stay in a pot like my other herbs.  They just grow so fast, like dandelions in May.  All the other herbs that were in pots this summer were placed in their winter resting spots once the toms and peppers had been cleared out.

I dug each one a hole, about 8 inches down and sat the pot into the hole, backfill with dirt, mounding up the sides of the pot and then mound mulch on top of the dirt.  There, all set to ride out the winter in their cozy beds until they are released next Spring.

Left to Right – Lavender, Oregano, Mint and Rosemary

I take the Thyme plant out of the rectangular window box it was in and decide to plant it in the ground.  Thyme creeps along slowly, not as vigorous as Mint or the Sage.   So I am hoping it doesn’t try to take over the garden next year.  The other annual herbs were yanked out of their pots and composted.  Basil, Parsley & Chives said bye-bye to the summer.  Although I did keep a few sprigs of Basil for bruschetta in the next day or two.

Thyme

I take the hanging flower baskets down and empty their contents into the compost heap, they didn’t do so well this year, too dry and hot for them.  I may forego them next year at home, but keep them at the Homestead as the Hummingbirds love the Fuschia I plant in them.

So that’s it, everything ripped out and gone for another year, leaving behind an empty, brown space.  It looks so forlorn.  I will miss playing in the garden….but, in another 4 months or so, I can dig out all my little starter pots and get my seeds planted for next summer.  Something to look forward to in the dark, chilly days ahead.

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Your Mini Virtual Vacation

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Monday’s…you either love them or hate them.  Me, it makes no difference as I work more on weekends than weekdays, but for those that hate them, sometimes a quick trip to Mexico is just what is needed on this day of the week.

So I am sending along something to brighten your day and get your week off to a great start.  A small sampling of flora grown in and around the Mexican resorts.  I gave up trying to think of the right word to describe them, as ‘stunning’ just doesn’t seem to do them justice.

Oh….and you are welcome too…. 

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Easy as Apple Pie

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One of the best things about Fall are Apples.  Apple season is now in full swing with lots and lots and lots of fresh, crisp apples ready for picking, eating, canning, juicing and baking.  I am an Apple Snob though, only liking a few specific varieties to eat fresh.  I do venture into other varieties for baking, as long as they stand up well to the cooking process.

Canadian Thanksgiving is approaching quickly and I am usually pressed for time in getting dessert ready in the days leading up to the annual food-a-thon.  So this year I decided to venture into canning Apple Pie Filling so that all I have to do is make a pie shell, toss in the filling and fire it off into the oven.  Sounds like an amazing time saver to me.

So I did some digging on the internet (I love the internet, greatest thing since sliced bread IMO) and came with up a few recipes to choose from.  I settled on one that didn’t require a store bought food starch additive as regular cornstarch would do just fine.  Why waste money on a prepared product when you don’t have to? 

Since this was my first foray into making apple pie filling to preserve, I decided to halve the batch, just in case I didn’t like the end result.   With so few ingredients, it really was a snap to put together.  I prepared the liquid first and let that simmer, then got started on peeling and slicing the apples.  To keep your apples from turning brown, fill a large bowl half-way with water and add a 1/4 cup lemon juice, then, as you peel/slice the apples, drop them in the bowl and they will retain their white colour.

Once you have peeled/chopped the apples, drain them from the bowl and pack them into hot, sterlized canning jars to within a half-inch of the top.  Fill with the liquid, remove air bubbles and adjust head-space as necessary, then centre the lids on, screw the bands fingertip tight and process in a hot water canning bath for 20 minutes.

I must say, the kitchen smelled amazing while the liquid was cooking, but Hubby was really, REALLY disappointed that there was no pie at the end of the day.  Talk about a major let down.  Poor guy.  I see a pie in my immediate future to bake….

Canned Apple Pie Filling

Ingredients

4 lbs Apples, peeled and sliced

5 Cups Water (set aside 1 Cup of Cold Water)

1/2 Cup Cornstarch

2 1/4 Cups White Sugar

2 tsp Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Nutmeg

2 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Directions

In a sauce pan, place 4 cups of the water, the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whisk together until sugar dissolves.  To the remaining cup of cold water, add the cornstarch and whisk until smooth, add to the water/sugar mixture in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat stirring constantly until mixture thickens and darkens in colour.  Once mixture is to desired consistency, mix in the lemon juice.

Pour hot mixture over the apples as stated above and process in a water canning bath for 20 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack and then store in cool place.

Makes 6  x 500ml jars.  Use 2 jars for one 8″ pie.

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Attack of the Aphids!

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One day your plants are all happy and healthy with their flowers smiling towards the sun…the next day, they are droopy, with yellowed leaves and hanging their flowers like a dejected teen who has had his first go round of asking out a girl go horribly awry.

Upon closer inspection….. APHIDS!

Millions of the little suckers ALL over the leaves and stems sucking the life blood out of your hard earned efforts.  Plus, here I was at the Homestead, 30 minutes from the closest store and I was refusing to jump in the car wasting precious gas and spending money on a product to eliminate them when I know I could handle them myself.

I rarely let the creatures Mother Nature throws at my gardening efforts beat me, even the young Groundhog a couple months ago was no match for me.  Once he received a blast of water from a garden hose in the concrete cinder block he was hiding in, he soon scampered off, thoroughly soaked and with a mighty bruised ego to boot, never to be seen again.

But back to the task at hand, which was mixing up some stuff to rid me of my current dilemma.  The best thing to use to get rid of Aphids are Lady Bugs, but I haven’t seen a Lady Bug up here at ALL.  So the next best thing was to mix up a batch of Insecticidal Soap and soak the little critters from stem to stern.

Here is all you need:

Fill a 16 ounce Spray Bottle almost to the top with water, leaving about an inch of room.  Add a Tbsp of Oil (Canola Oil, Olive Oil, doesn’t matter what kind) and then add about 2 Tbsp Liquid Dish Soap.  Swirl gently (do not shake vigourously or you end up with a mass of bubbles.

Spray the entire plant that is affected by the Aphids, being sure to coat all surfaces of the plant stem and leaves (undersides too) and any flower heads.  The plant should be dripping when you are done.

Repeat once a day for 3 days in the early morning before the heat of the sun can evaporate the application…and Voila…Aphids eliminated.  Your flowers will now be happy again and will even sing and dance for you.

How does it work you ask? Well, Aphids are soft bodied creatures and the soap is absorbed through their skin which is what kills them.  The water is a means to get the soap onto them via the spray bottle and the oil is only there to make sure the water doesn’t evaporate before the soap does the job.  Simple.  Easy.  Cheap.  And I am all about Cheap.

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How To Identify Poison Ivy…

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BEFORE you come into contact with it…. Like my husband did….

One word for you…. I-T-C-H-Y!!!!!

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As the Old Saying goes…’Leaves of Three, Leave them Be’.

The above plant is one of many on the Homestead, this one was trying to sprout where I planted Nasturtiums.  It has since been eliminated.  There are still many, many of them left around the property, but mostly in places we do not frequent (back bush area).  We are now highly mindful of what it looks like and where it is growing.

Hubs was trying to pull out some maple tree suckers and weeds by the dock and apparently there were a couple plants of poison ivy amongst them.  Within 48 hours, he had an angry, itchy rash showing up on his legs, arms and fingers.

I of course then went off to the store and bought a couple bottles of Calamine Lotion, a bag of Cotton Balls and some Benedryl.  Which is about all you can do.  It then needs to run its course.  Along with a heck of a lot of self-cursing for not checking first before he started yanking.

Lesson Learned!

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Vegetables That Look Like….

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Human Body parts.  I find it utterly amazing when you are going through your garden and you find some pretty freakish looking things.   Mother Nature has an awesome, wacky sense of humour.  Both of these were found on one of my Cherry Tomato plants.

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This one looks like a perfect candidate to be a Plumber…..

And the one below? I shall leave that to your imagination….Does Size really matter? :)

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Don’t Buy Cheap Crap….

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Nothing is more frustrating than buying something, getting it home and within one day, it is in pieces.  Not only are you pissed at yourself for buying the cheap item, but you are also pissed at the cheap manufacturer of said product.

That was me last week.  I bought these Bypass Pruners for gardening, you know, when you need to trim your tomato plants, harvest your peppers or prune your wayward nasturtiums.

Within one hour of using these things…S-N-A-P goes one of the handles.  Broke clean off….. Cheap piece of $#*%&!!!!  I’ll give you one guess as to where they were made.

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I returned them to point of purchase and the lady at the returns counter kinda looked at me funny.  I said they were used once and promptly snapped.  Perhaps your store shouldn’t be selling products that are not meant to be ‘used’.  They should come with a warning on the label ‘Caution – may break if actually put to use’.

On to the next pair.  This time I bumped up the dollar value significantly.  Let’s see how well these do…time will tell…..

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The Farmer in the…… Market

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Nope, the Farmer isn’t in the Dell…he/she/they are at my local Farmer’s Market.  I just love going to the market.  Nothing screams summer like a Farmer’s Market chock full of fresh produce with Vendor’s hawking everything from cut flowers to ice cream… yes… ice cream and if it wasn’t for it being 8:10 in the morning when I arrived, I would have had an ice cream cone.

But I already had breakfast and was busy scarfing down some very yummy free samples of Smoked Salmon Paté on crackers.  SO DEE-LISH…. and of course, I had to buy a small tub of the stuff….because of the guilt trip they lay on you.  Give you something free, next thing you know you’ve bought a tub.

DSC07162My advice? only try free samples of stuff you like, because if you don’t like it and after they guilt-trip you into buying something horrid, it will then be relegated to the back of the bottom shelf in your fridge where it will morph into a science experiment.

My absolute favourite item at the DSC07144market this year has to be the Tomatillos.  There is only one Vendor who grows them in the area and brings them to the market.  They even have a Manuel (or a Jesus (pronounced HEY-ZOOS) helping out, but  I didn’t get his name as he was too busy unloading the truck.  Hutchinson Farms brings Mexican Workers in every summer to harvest produce, his English was so-so, I could understand him as I speak Spanish, but with his accent, it was tough for the lady who was in charge to understand him.  She was trying to ask him to unload baskets of tomatoes from the truck onto a rolling shelf trolley….motioning with her hands like an Italian twirling a pizza dough….he finally got the gyst of what she was saying.. much to her relief.  I bought another 3L basket of Tomatillos and happily skipped off to find some corn.

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Aw yes…. those fresh, golden ears of summer stacked row upon row.  Nothing can taste finer than a steaming hot ear of corn, slathered in butter and dashed with salt.  If you haven’t tried corn on the BBQ, you don’t know what your missing!  Just soak  un-husked ears in water for at least 2 hours, then grill for about 20 minutes.  Peel the husks off and enjoy….mmmm….lip-smacking good!

Peaches was my next item to hunt down.  DSC07136I had made some Chipotle-Peach Jam and Peach Salsa last week, but my daughter wants some of the jam for herself so we are going to do another batch for her this weekend when they come up to the Homestead.  This jam has such a sunny, peach flavour, but then the smokiness from the Chipotles adds a totally different flavour level.  It makes your tastebuds sit up and take notice.  Awesome on a bagel, even better on top of cream cheese on a cracker….MMMMM….I know what is for lunch today.

There are so many sights, sounds, smells and flavours of a Farmer’s Market…..

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From bushels of Roma Tomatoes sitting in neat rows to Green and Yellow Wax Beans piled high in their crates.

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DSC07154Red and Orange Beets along with little baskets of Red and Yellow Cherry Tomatoes.  So much yummy stuff to look at and purchase.

Once I arrived home with my loads of market goodies, I just had to dive into some more of that delicious Smoked Salmon Paté, topped with some slices of fresh from my garden Cherry Tomatoes and freshly chopped Parlsey.

Summer never tasted so good!

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I hope you all get out and enjoy your local Farmer’s Market.  These good folks work long, hard hours bringing you the fresh goodness of locally grown food.  Make sure you take advantage of the bounty now before it’s gone for another year.

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