Thursday, July 31, 2008

If All Else Fails...

Today, I am a baker, again.

I got a new bread maker. Yes, yes, another one, you know I am a Gadgeteer. Yes, that makes 3 of them. Soooo? It was on clearance at Walmart for $29.95 - a great deal. I am one of those people who ALWAYS read the instruction booklet first even though I am already familiar with the pieces and parts. Bread maker instruction books usually include extensive operation information as well as several recipes to use as a guideline. This one shall I put this...has a few diagrams, some notes, and one tiny page, with 11 tiny recipes - referred to as PROG. 1 through PROG. 11 for the different programs on the bread machine - on it that are half in Imperial measure and half in metric measure and half (ok, if you are keeping track that would be 1/3 and 1/3 and 1/3 here) little teeny tiny pictograms. Hmmmmm.

Kate had been here for a few days and mentioned wanting to learn to make Bread Maker Brioche. Recipe number 4 on that page was Brioche and of course I just have to try it out so I can explain to Kate how easy it was to make and that I just know she will have no trouble. The tiny recipe says it makes a 500g loaf. "Um, ok, well, isn't that about a 1 pound loaf?" I think to myself. 1 pound will be the perfect test loaf. Ingredients include eggs, milk, butter, sugar, salt, flour and yeast. No need to consult other bread books or the Internet, the book is accurate...right? Say it with me now "What could possibley go wrong???" Siiiiggghh.

In the instruction booklet the ingredients are written like this:
Eggs 2
Milk 2+ 1/2 and then here is a tiny drawing of a double ended measuring spoon with an arrow pointing at the larger end to what I assume is a tablespoon.
Butter 3/4 and here a tiny drawing of a measuring cup.
And so on to the end of the recipe with measures and tiny drawings. You see my dilemma here, don't you?

First off, I admit, I have never made Brioche before. This is one of those "someday I must make Brioche" things that I have never done and only decided to do on a whim today because of the new bread maker and the recipe in the book. Yes, I should have researched making Brioche first. Yes, I should have discovered whether or not 3/4 cup of butter was the right amount or waaaaaaaaay too much. Yes, I should have done that, but I didn't...well, I DID but that was only after the dough was mixed and starting on it's rise in the pan and...

...I checked through the large window on the top of the bread maker to see how the dough was doing, was it rising yet, and something looked, well, odd. The books always say not to lift the lid, but I have been using bread maker's for 18 years and I always lift the lid if I want to and I lifted the lid - oh, um, gee, er, isn't that, ah, MELTED BUTTER IN ALL FOUR CORNERS OF THE PAN!!!! Lots of melted butter! Ok, no, don't panic. Maybe it's supposed to do that, melt all the butter and then as it bakes, um, coat the bread, make the outside crispy...maybe.

Quick, check the internet. I find a recipe for bread maker brioche that says:
"Brioche Dough is very well suited to a Bread Maker because it's so oily and sticky." Ok, but, does that mean all the butter in it should melt out of it and fill the four corners of the bread machine...or not? Now I check the dough again. Hmmmmm, well the dough has risen, there doesn't appear to be quite as much melted butter everywhere. Oh my, does that mean that the melted butter has all slid to the bottom of the pan and the dough is floating in it?

Back to the Internet for further research. Find a recipe that says:
"Add ingredients in the order specified in your bread machine owner's manual, adding just 4 tablespoons of butter to start. Do not use delay bake function. Select Manual/Dough. Add the remaining butter during the first kneading, 2 tablespoons at a time after the dough comes together in a ball."

So the butter melted because I added it, all 3/4 of a cup of it, right at the start with the liquid ingredients, is that it? And there are 16 tablespoons in a cup so that means that...carry the 1, um...I put 12 tablespoons of butter in that small loaf of bread. Go to the bread recipe books on the shelf, thumb through for a Brioche recipe, find that most of them call for either 6 or 8 tablespoons of butter for that amount of flour. Oh. Well then.

The bread has finished baking. I use my instant read thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature of the bread is between 190F and 200F. I remove the pan and let the Brioche cool in it for 10 minutes. Looks not too bad. Remove it from the pan to finish cooling on the rack. I touch it and it feels very light and airy, if a little "greasy"...ok a lot "greasy"...from all that butter.

So, what did we learn from all this:
  1. If you look at the directions and some of the measures of the ingredients look a little wrong, they probably are. Go and do research before making your recipe, save yourself some grief.
  2. Don't assume that an instruction book for a bread maker manufactured in a foreign country where English is NOT their first language is accurate or that 1 (diagram of measure, arrow pointing to large end) + 1 + 1/2 (diagram of measure, arrow pointing to small end) is the same as 1 and 1/2 tablespoons.
Oh, look the book has a recipe for, um, something referred to as PROG. 11: BAKING. Looks like quickbread. Says it takes 1:00 hour. Ingredients include eggs, butter, sugar, salt, flour, lemon, yeast...hmmmm, does that mean we put the first 5 ingredients in the pan and then toss in a whole lemon? Or, do we toss in the juice of a lemon? Or, hey, yeast? Maybe they mean baking powder. You don't put yeast in a quickbread recipe. And, oh, look, the measurement for the "yeast" is 2,5 (yes, that's 2 comma 5) then a diagram of tiny measure with arrow pointing to small end. I'm guessing 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder. Sounds yummy, think I'll give it a try.

Say it with me now:

"What could possibly go wrong?"

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Web of Evil

It rained last night. Not much, a few millimeters is all, just enough to send the barometer bouncing and make it a 3 painkiller day. It's cloudy this morning and Richard offers to help me unwrap the garden boat. We wander out about 10am. Only two of the dogs wandered with us, the rest sat under cover on the deck. Bichon's may come from a water-dog ancestry but these guys hate the rain and hate rain-wet grass even more.

There were several Black Slugs in the yard near the boat and I wondered, to myself,
"can slugs climb up the boat?" Hmmmmmm. My mind conjures up pictures of a Black Slug army, squiggling their way across the grass to my boat, tossing tiny ropes with grappling hooks up and over the bulwarks, shouting orders and directions to one another, facilitating their access to my garden. I shudder...gotta cut down on the cappuccino!

Glancing around the yard, my eyes pass over, then return to, the Gravenstein apple tree.
There, half way up in the branches, tent caterpillars, voracious and nasty creatures. I point them out to Richard and he investigates the rest of the trees but finds no other infestations.

Richard gets the ladder, the long handled loppers and a tarp to catch the tents and caterpillars when they drop. I stand back and make icky faces as he removes them. Loathsome creatures. Now I feel all creepy crawly and keep brushing at my hair and shoulders.
Deer, mole people, slugs, tent caterpillars, gosh what next...ooooooh, no, I DID NOT just say that!!

Time to check the two peas in the pea patch. Thankfully they are still there. The Scarlet Runner Beans are growing quickly, but I do see that the Mole People have been back. There is dirt kicked onto the bean leaves, the Mole People way of kicking sand in my face I guess. And that hole of theirs just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Time to get tough. Will get a piece or two of firewood from Richard and cover the hole. TAKE THAT Mole People. Hmph!

Moseying around the perimeter of the fence I notice another 7 Disco CD's on the ground, inside and out. I do the scrunchy face thing. I am seriously beginning to wonder if my thoughts about that cute little Island Buck Mule deer ripping them off with his antlers isn't correct after all. Time to get out the baler twine and tie them all off. You know...make it more difficult for the cute little Island Mule Deer and the cute little Island Black Bear to rip off my Disco CD's.

"Kate says I should be careful what I write on my Blog" I tell Richard. "She says that the cute little Island Black Bear is probably sitting in the big old pear tree at night with his wireless laptop, using my network connection to access the internet. She says he's probably reading my postings to see what my plans are for him so he can circumvent them."

He rolls his eyes. "Uh huh" he says, shaking his head as he walks away.

"Whaaaat?" I say.

"You two have too much time on your hands" he says, "waaaay too much time."

I frown. Still...I look towards the pear tree. Clear sight line to my wireless internet router. Better tighten up that firewall security. Juuust in case.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Luddites Need Not Apply

Today I am thinking about being a Computer Technician, formatting hard drives. In real life, I am a Certified Computer Technician, having worked in the field for 11 years. These days I mostly work only on my own computer equipment, and that of friends and relatives. It's been quite a while since my hard drives were formatted so...I am thinking it's time.

My nephew, Eric - Kate's son - shares my passion for computers and technology. And I am beginning to think that my granddaughter, Rylan, might too.

Rylan is a true child of this technological age. One day last year, my son called to tell me that Rylan had taken photo's with his cell phone, stored them in the phone's memory and was at that moment in the kitchen showing her Mom how it was done. Once, he told me, when trying to get her ready for bed, she had informed him that she couldn't go yet because she was "busy checking her Me-mail" on her laptop and then had to check her cell phone for "messages". Still another time she took his credit card from his wallet and swiped it through the computer keyboard, like you would at a store checkout.

Being a technician as I am, I always try and encourage people to embrace computer, cell phone and other forms of technology. Many do, but some, like a life-long friend of mine, adamantly refuse.

Lea doesn't have a computer, doesn't e-mail, will NOT have a cell phone. Doesn't understand the need for them. There are computers at the school where she works, so she has access if she needs one. She is intensely private, is horrified by Social Networking such as Facebook and the idea that people could access her personal information, and resents the heck out of people with their cell phones interrupting her everywhere she goes. And boy will she be annoyed that I posted her name here! "Why would I want a cell phone? I DON'T WANT people calling me when I am out shopping! Why would I want to e-mail? I have a telephone to talk to people. That's all I need." She talks about her concern that children are spending too much time on computers and not enough time out of doors.
I understand her point of view - but still...I tell her she is a Luddite. She laughs and agrees.

Wikipedia defines Luddites as a social movement of British textile artisans in the early 1800's who protested – often by destroying mechanized looms – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt threatened their livelihood.

Since then, the term Luddite has been used to describe anyone opposed to
technological progress and technological change. Well, she wouldn't destroy a computer to make her point, but she does eschew it. Amazingly, we've been friends for 47 years.

At the other end of the spectrum, is my
friend Bente. She embraces technology like she embraces life - with vigor and excitement. She, like me, has 3 computers and while not a computer technician, is not afraid to take her computer apart to see what makes it tick. Sure I taught her some of what she knows, but most she found out on her own. Her computer experience goes all the way back to the early days of the Commodore 64 in the early 80's, while my first computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000 from the mid 80's.

Which brings me back to Rylan. Her laptop and cell phone are toys. She is computer smart, cell phone savvy, can you imagine her with an I-phone? Oh, and did I mention she just turned 3 years old? No Luddite she, but a computer technologist in the making. Maybe she wants to format a hard drive.

Hmmmm, better not mention it to her. She probably would.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Star Trek Energize

Each night about 11pm, I let the kids out into the tiny pen at the back of the house while I get their beds ready. Last night, Pippi and Mason started barking at something and of course, I ignored them - it's dark, they're dogs, dogs bark. Suddenly I heard a mournful howling coming from the pen.

Deciding it was time to investigate, I found Rosie with head tossed back, singing her wee heart out. I stood there smothering a laugh but when she started on the chorus to "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" for the third time, I decided it was time to bring them in. Mason and Pippi insisted there was a monster in the yard, looking towards the front of the house and the driveway, still barking. It's late, it's dark, I AM NOT going to go look. I lock the door.

Now it's morning and cloudy. Muggy; humidity feels high already, although it is only 20 degrees as we stroll through the garden yard. I am stiff and achey, gonna be another 2 painkiller day. The Mole People didn't manage to move the inverted red clay pots. The two remaining peas in the patch and the Scarlet Runner Beans are doing well. Over to the garden boat to roll up the beach mats and shower curtain so the sun can reach the tomatoes, peppers and peas.

Every thing appears to be doing good. I make a mental note to water after the sun - should it appear - moves past the garden boat. It is cloudy bright now. I notice a few of my CD's from the Disco fence are on the ground, some inside and some outside the wire and I do the scrunchy face thing. For a moment I flash on the cute little Island Buck Mule Deer hooking his antler in the holes of the CD's and ripping them off the fence, then shake my head at the idea. Still...

We are going to town for groceries, so we organize ourselves and start out to the van. And I says a swear. Yup, that really bad swear. The monster last night had been that cute little Island Buck Mule Deer and he went for the only plants I was foolish enough to leave outside the Disco CD scarlet geraniums in pots by the patio door. Chewed their pretty little flowered heads right off. Pippi and Mason give me the "we-told-you-so-last-night-but-you-wouldn't-listen" look out the window. I am so beginning to get over the whole Bambi trauma, I mean really!
Richard says "I think I am going to put up an electric fence around the garden yard to keep out the cute little Island Mule Deer and the cute little Island Black Bear." Oh, sure, just what I need.

Now it's afternoon and I have watered all the pots and the boat. Do some weeding and dead heading and notice a CD on the ground. I reach out to tie it to the fence and I flash on... in my usual fog, wandering out to the garden yard, reaching out to untwist that Disco CD on the fence, touching the energized wire that I was supposed to deactivate but didn't because - see the bit about my usual fog, above. I am lying on my back, hair all fuzzy, looking up at the apple tree above me where there are no apples because the cute little Island Black Bears are not deterred by electric fences!

I shiver. "Um, no, no I think we should rethink that electric fence idea", I say.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Two Peas, Or Not Two Peas

The sun broke through the fog this morning around 9am just as I was getting both eyes focused, kind of a fitting metaphor for me. We wander out to the garden yard. Pippi decides it is imperative that she plant a doggy-mine directly in front of me, and of course my doggy-mine deactivation tools are waaaay over on the other side of the yard. Sigh. On the way to retrieve my tools, I pass by several other doggy-mines so the kids have been busy.

Post deactivation, I return to the now defunct pea patch. Yesterday I dug up and repotted 3 tomatoes from the patch and was going to decide which ones to dig up next. Out of habit I let my eyes sweep the back of the the patch where the peas had been, pre-Mole People. And I do the blink thing - yeah, that one. Is that...naw, it can't be...can it be, is it...Scarlet Runner Beans germinated and poked through the soil!!! And - the blink thing again - is that...PEAS??! Look, right there, hiding in the shadow of that Scarlet Runner Bean, it's a germinated pea plant. OH-MY-GOSH! And there, over there, just barely poking through, it's another one!

I call Richard out to see. "Wow," he says. "But I wouldn't get too excited, Mole People
are probably letting those two grow up so they can harvest the peas from the pods later". I make a scrunchy face then sigh, "yeah. But look, 14 Scarlet Runner Beans!" I say hopefully. He gives me a pitying look and walks away. I mutter words of encouragement to the peas and beans. "Maybe there will be more pea plants germinate," I holler after him. He keeps walking, shaking his head at my eternal optimism. Well, it could happen.

Time for a cappuccino. I don't drink coffee, never have, never will. It's all about taste and I just don't have a taste for it. My family and friends, with the exception of my son Hammond, are
all coffee drinkers. I just don't care for it. Cappuccino is a different story. My sister Kate got me hooked.

Several years ago, Port Alberni acquired a Tim Horton's. For those who don't know, Tim Horton's is a uniquely Canadian phenomenon. So unique, that I read a humorous story on about the Tim Horton's that opened in Kandahar to cater to the Canadian Forces fighting over there. It seems that the other foreign troops on the base thought Tim Horton's, or Timmy's as we Canadians refer to it, was some sort of cult religion, and when they heard the soldiers refer to "goin' to Timmy's" they thought it meant some sort of church. I really laughed when I read that. Let's face it, Timmy's really is almost a cult of coffee and doughnuts.

Back to cappuccino. Kate kept insisting that I had to try a Tim Horton's English Toffee Cappuccino, and I did and I was hooked. Then WalMart came to town and I discovered Hills Brothers English Toffee Cappuccino powder and the rest, as they say, is history. I saver every cup.

Now it's evening and we wander back to the pea patch just to make sure the peas are still there. They are, and another Scarlet Runner Bean has poked it's little head through the soil. I have a debate with myself on methods to preserve the two little peas who have managed to survive the onslaught of the Mole People. Finally I settle on the red clay pots, choosing to invert them over the peas and their companion Scarlet Runner Beans. I guess it is the best I can do.

If I wake up
in the night to the sound of little Mole People voices shouting encouragement to each other as they struggle to topple over the red clay pots, I guess I'll need to find a better method of protecting my two peas...

...either that or stop drinking cappuccino before bed!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Teddy Bear's Disco Picnic

Another cloudy/foggy morning and it's 6:30am. I am up but definitely not awake. Taking a road trip today to Courtenay-Comox to see my Orthopedic Surgeon. I am on the list for total knee replacement, left knee this time. Of course we take the Inland Island Highway on the way up, and will take the old highway - the scenic route - on the way back. It's tradition. In the early morning, Richard is a talker and I am a listener and I listen, making grunting sounds at the appropriate times, all the way to Courtenay.

Things go well with Surgeon and 15 minutes later we are back in the van. I never eat in the morning before traveling; it's 11am, I am starved. We had passed a Burger King on the way to the appointment and we stop in for Whopper's. Good choice. Today is Whopper Day and they are only $1.49 each. Wow, those ARE big burgers! Lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, cheese, sauce, and a big, flame-broiled hamburger patty, all for $1.49 & tax.

The road home is scenic. Wandering along beside the shores
of the Strait of Georgia we meander through small communities, taking our time and enjoying the view. Hey, that derelict old scow that used to sit there on the shore is gone - the one that used to be a restaurant years ago. You know the one I mean.

The dogs are hysterical when we arrive home. It's only been 6 hours but to them it is 6 weeks. Now I have time to walk out into the garden yard and enjoy my view. As I pass by the pea patch I notice the Mole People have returned...I make a scrunchy face. There is a new hole beside the red clay pots. I rapidly assess the tomatoes planted there and they all seem ok, but I make a mental note to move some of them to black florist pots, QUICKLY, before they disappear down the Mole Hole.

Richard has been talking to his friend George who reports that he saw a big Black Bear across the creek. "That must be what Rosie and the kids smelled the other night" he says, "we'll have to keep a close watch now. It has probably been eating the Saskatoons".

I make a double scrunchy face. I am NOT a fan of bears, didn't even like having teddy bears as a child. I have had several run-ins with bears here over the years. Yes, they are cute; yes, they were here first; yes, I have forwarded dozens of adorable photo's of bears doing cute things via e-mail. When was the last time you went outside at night and were confronted by 5 big black bears in your apple tree that is only 50 feet from your front door? Or gone out to pick blackberries behind the house and had your, thankfully, big dog body check you out of the way, then go into attack mode to chase away a black bear from where you were going to pick. Or discover that in fact, yes, a bear really does crap in the woods!

And yes, I am sure I DO sound a tad defensive. My disco fence might keep the cute little Island Buck Mule Deer away from my garden boat, but a black bear? A
fter he has just cooked and eaten my tomatoes and peas for his dinner on my Outdoor Gas Convection Oven, he'll use the baler twine from the fence to floss his teeth with. Then browse the dangling disco CD's before taking some home to play in the stereo he stole from someone else's garbage can.

"Maybe the lights on the fence will reflect off the CD's and deter him," Richard says.

"Maybe the lights will
reflect off the CD's and give him a better view of the veggies cookin' on the bar-bee," I say.

He laughs.

I make a triple scrunchy face.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Morning Fog With a Side of Basil

It's another day like yesterday with the morning fog/cloud and bouncing barometer and I feel it in every joint and muscle. Feel headachey. Gonna be a 2 painkiller medication day. I stumble through my morning routine and once both eyes are semi-open, lead my little white guard dogs out to the garden yard. No sign of Mole People.

Last evening about 8pm, Rosie Hoot 'n' Holler had alerted to something on the far side of the garden boat. Of course, we all trailed out to see what it was, and of course there was nothing to be seen. She had sniffed something on the breeze blowing up from the creek. Maybe a cute little Island Mule Deer, or Black Bear, Cougar, bush bunny, or something totally ephemeral - with Rosie you never new.

This morning as I opened the gate to the garden yard, they all rushed to the fence on the far side of the boat, heads bobbing and weaving as they looked towards the creek. Hmmmmm.
Soon they lose interest and wander away. What ever had been there is long gone.

Right now though, I am still a gardener and am going to pot up some of the geraniums and marigolds I still have waiting for me. And maybe do some baking. Days like today, with the bouncing barometer, are days I like to bake because it takes my mind off the arthritis thing and fibromyalgia thing, and that's a good thing.

My Dad and Mom - again "MY" for the purposes of this post - have always been amazing gardeners. I may not have inherited all the Chef gene, but I did inherit the gardening gene. Kate says it skipped her, but I know that's not true. Her yard is full of plants, some of which I gave her, but most are those she got from the Garden Center and all are surviving well thanks to her care.

I have discovered over the years that with my inherited green thumb, I can make almost anything grow...

...with the exception of Basil. For some reason, the Basil-growing gene skipped me entirely. Oh I have tried. Year after year after year I go to the local nurserys, grocery stores, Walmart, purchase a pot of Basil, take it home, transplant it, sigh. It dies. Just starts to wilt, dries up, dies. No matter what I do, even starting it from seed, it dies. That big, green, chubby-leafed
Ocimum basilicum aka Sweet Basil, used in Pesto and Pasta sauce and on Pizza, just defeats me.

I can grow nearly any herb and flower known to man. I have started lemongrass from grocery-store purchased stalks. Take cuttings of my 3 different types of Sage and they start right away. Same with my many types of mint, but heck anyone can do that. I can root cuttings of Oregano and Marjoram and Tarragon endlessly. Rescue a tiny piece of Caraway Thyme plant and bring it back to life, rescue it from the old herb garden, the one Richard rototilled up without asking first if there was anything I wanted to save. Yeah, that one. Take rose cuttings and start new rose plants. Dig up one single solitary Wood Violet from a meadow across the creek, transplant it to my yard, and now have a meadow full of my own every spring. Started a big pot of Sedum from a few flower stocks my friend Bente purchased at the nursery.

But I can't grow Basil.

And still, I try. Even though it has already defeated me once this year - a big pot of it this time that I transplanted among the tomatoes - I am trying again. Just a small pot of it, bought from Naesgaard's Farm Market a couple of weeks ago. It's sitting on my potting table, on the deck, in the shade.

I ignore it.

Occasionally, as I water other plants on the potting table, I "accidentally" spill some into the Basil pot. I
never look directly at it but use my peripheral vision to check it as I walk by. Once, when I did forget and glanced it's way, two of the stocks wilted and died.

The Internet gives the following information and instructions about growing Basil:

Plant basil seeds outside one to two weeks after the last frost of the season, when the soil has warmed up. Inside, start seeds six to eight weeks before transplanting outside. Plant successively every three weeks to have a fresh supply all summer long. Basil prefers well-drained soil that has been amended with organic material (peat moss, compost, or well-aged manure). Keep the seedbed moist during germination, and well watered throughout the growing season.

Basil prefers full sun but will grow in light shade. Do not fertilize unless the soil is very depleted of nutrients. Your basil will have better flavor if it is not fertilized. Pinch off flower spikes as they form. This will maintain basil’s full flavor. Harvest the leaves regularly during the growing season.


Guess someone forgot to tell Basil that.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Morning Fog

Another cloudy/foggy morning and I am moving slowly. Take arthritis pill, let the dogs out, make a cappuccino, turn on tv news, check Wetter Network for weather...finally have both eyes open and focusing at the same time. Hmph.

Richard is his usual cheery self. How can anyone be that cheerful and energetic at that time of the day. Ok, so it's 8:30am, so what, that's early for me. He is an "up-and-at-'em" kind of person and I am a "don't-talk-to-me-don't-even-look-at-me-until-I-have-been-up-for-2-hours" kind of person. Sigh, mornings are a constant struggle for me. He is up, eaten, and off out to move the cows to another field so they have some fresh feed before he goes off to work. I am still trying to focus on getting my shoes on the right feet. My siblings and my son are all early risers too. My daughter is, not by choice, but because her profession as a radio producer demands it. I am a late night person, not in bed before midnight, light not out until 1am.

I finally wend my way out to the garden yard. Last night I had discovered a few pea seeds on the potting table, left over from when I planted the patch, still soaking in their jar of now scummy, slimy water. GAK! I tossed
them into the climbing rose on the other side of the chicken wire fenced deck as I passed on my way out to the yard.

Nothing new in the pea patch, Mole People MIA; roll up the beach mats, admire the garden boat. Dead head a few flowers, muttering all the while to myself - a life long trait of mine. I notice finally the the "kids" are not with me, figure they must have stayed back in the house, which is unusual.

I wander back towards the house and find 3 of them under my potting table, staring through the chicken wire fence. "What's up guys?" I ask. 3 tails wag, but they don't break their stare. Hmmmm, probably a garden snake. They love to chase snakes.
They trot rapidly over to the gate to look out, then back to the potting table. I go and look but see nothing. They, however, have ears perked forward and expectant looks on their faces. From time to time they turn to one another and touch noses, as if in silent communication.

mow pepl'
mom, mom, mow pepl'
com see dem

"Must be more than one snake under there" I think to myself.

It's now noon, and the only one left on the deck is Rosie.
5 of my dogs are Bichons. Rosie is a Bichon, but was raised as a puppy in a home with Chihuahuas. We always say she speaks Bichon with a Chihuahua accent, an odd hooting bark and we refer to her as "Rosie Hoot 'n' Holler". As I busy myself in the kitchen I hear her HootHootHooting and go to see what's going on. She has her nose pressed to the wire and tail wagging rapidly. I look and see that the peas I had tossed are now gone. AHA! MOLE PEOPLE! Her hoots have brought the other kids running and now they are all barking and wagging tails. I shake my head and return to the kitchen.

Soon they are back in the house.

mow pepl' gone
we chase 'em away
it safe now
you go bak out?
we have treat?

I hand out biscuits all around. They trot away giving the doggy version of a high five.

I notice that my library card is sitting on the counter instead of out in the van where it should be and pick it up to return it there. Opening the glove box, I see something odd. I have a habit of storing extra ketchup packets in there if Richard and I go out for a burger, and one of the packets has been opened. Um, noooooo, not opened, eaten. Arrrggghh, MOLE PEOPLE! And there is Mole People "sign" all over the inside of the glove box. Eeeewwww, gross! I quickly slam it shut. The nerve of them.

What...are they using the ketchup to dip the stolen peas in? What's next? Will they be grilling peas by moonlight? Slappin' another bean on the bar-bee?
Will I have to put a lock on my Outdoor Gas Convection Oven? Lock up my grilling tools? My condiments?



Chef's Surprise

Today I am a chef. Well, ok, a cook. My Mom is a chef. I say MY Mom although what I really mean is OUR Mom, as I have 3 siblings. But for the purposes of this post, I am saying MY mom. So, my Mom is a chef.

She didn't train to be a chef, it is just one of those things that came naturally to her. So natural that growing up we all thought that everyone ate the way we did. She could cook a roast beef so tender, juicy and full of flavor that a Culinary Institute of America trained Chef would weep with joy upon tasting it, were he or she so fortunate. And her cakes, cookies, pies, tarts...second to none. She liked to experiment in the kitchen, try new and different ways of cooking or baking. Her Butter Tarts, that uniquely Canadian treat, were coveted and are spoken about with awe.

Our house was always filled with school friends and I always thought they were there because of me or my siblings, but looking back, I expect it was a lot to do with Mom's cooking. She made a point of finding out our friends favorite foods and had them on hand when they were there. No one ever left our house hungry.

I inherited some of her cooking genes. Not all, but some. I love to cook and I love to bake, as I have mentioned. My siblings all have their areas of cooking expertise, as do my son and daughter - great cooks all, although my sister Kate can't make Jello to save her soul. "Big deal" you say. Well it is a big deal if you want to make Mom's famous and delicious Pineapple Lime salad that has Jello as one of it's many ingredients. And no, before you ask, I can't make Jello either.

Back to cooking. Today I am a cook. I am going to make chicken and vegetable kabobs on my Outdoor Gas Convection Oven. I am also going to grill garlic bread as well. I have high expectations. When one has high expectations there is no room for error and the only place to go is down. I can't fail as I have no backup plan. So, kabobs it is. I have the chicken in the freezer, firming up so I can cut it easily. I have mushrooms, little onions, red & green peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, corn-on-cob to cut into chunks, what could possibly go wrong...

I know better than to say things that tempt fate. It comes back to bite you in the Aspidistra every time.

I like to take my time when I cook. For instance, if I know I am cooking kabobs for dinner, I will start getting ready in the morning. I enjoy the motions of gathering the ingredients, selecting and rejecting what to use, the action of chopping vegetables, slicing meat. I plan my day and know what has to be done at what time. A timetable - that is what I adhere to.

Today I knew that at 4pm I could slide the vegetables I chopped earlier onto my metal skewers; that at 4:20pm I could put the
chicken I chopped this morning into the marinade for 20 minutes, then onto their skewers. The veggies and chicken would go onto the Outdoor Gas Convection Oven at 4:50pm, the slices of garlic bread at 5pm and the corn on the cob could go in the microwave at 5:10pm. All would be ready when Richard arrived home from work, at 5:15pm.....

Like I said, fate and Aspidistras. At 4pm, the phone rings. It is Richard, and he is on his way home, having gotten off work an hour early. My time table is out the window. Now I am in a rush! He's home and hungry and wants to help. He hovers. I growl and he backs off. We carry things out to the Outdoor Gas Convection Oven and soon have the veggie & chicken skewers on the grill. The brush I have brought out to oil the grill with turns out to have plastic, not natural bristles and melts all over the grills. One set of skewers I chose to use turn out to have rubber or foam or some such thing inside the handles which begins to melt and the handles fall off. I forget all about the slices of garlic bread. Richard is hovering again making hungry bear noises, the chicken is starting to stick and burn on the grill. I make a scrunchy face....

To this day I don't know how Chef Mom did it, how she got all that fabulous food on the table with four of us kids, our friends and Dad underfoot. I spend all day and get bit in the Aspidistra.

Richard really enjoyed his slightly charred, plastic flavored, chicken and undercooked vegetables. I guess he really was hungry.

And me,

I says a swear...

...two of them.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Gadgeteer

Today I am a baker. Oh don't get me wrong, I am still a gardener. I still made my rounds of the garden, noting that the Mole People seem to have retreated momentarily, and checked on the garden boat. Was again waylaid by the gorgeous view from the garden. But today, I AM a baker.

Richard has been asking for Whole Grain Bread which for me is using Spelt flour in my favorite recipe instead of unbleached flour. If you have never used Spelt flour, you don't know what you are missing. It is considered an "Ancient Grain" being a precursor of our modern Wheat, but much, much tastier. I can't digest Whole Wheat - I really don't like the taste and it doesn't agree with me. But Spelt I find has a sweeter flavor and is easily digested. So Spelt Bread it is. With Raisins and Craisins. And of course it will be baked in my Outdoor Gas Convection Oven.

I love to bake and I especially love to make and bake bread. Admittedly I cheat a little. I use a bread maker to mix and knead my dough, and I do it because I have arthritis that makes it really painful to knead dough by hand. Hence the bread maker. I have used bread makers now for 17 years and think they are one of the best kitchen inventions of the modern age. I have had my share of oooops's believe me. Like the time I forgot to put the paddle in the bread machine pan before putting in all the ingredients. Or forgetting the yeast. But nothing can compare to the time I tried to make bread dough in the Food Processor.

I am a Kitchen Gadget addict. I have two bread makers, a food processor, a stand mixer, all sorts of baking pans and sheets, plus lots of other gadgets too numerous to mention. I purchased this particular food processor because it was powerful enough to make bread dough in, and it came with a dough blade - a plastic dough blade.

So I gave it a try, following the instructions to the letter:
Position dough blade in container of processor - check
Add 3c flour, 1T sugar, 1t salt through chute -
With processor running, gradually add yeast/water mixture down food chute -
Add additional flour to make a soft dough. Continue processing dough for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes.....

Looking back I can pinpoint the exact time things went horribly wrong. I can even laugh about it. But at the time, I just stood there frozen in shock.

As I am pouring the yeast/water mixture slowly down the chute, the plastic blade suddenly popped up out of the dough like a cork from a champagne bottle. And there I stood with my mouth open, eyes blinking, staring unbelieving at my beloved food processor. How could it betray me this way? How could it? So stunned was I that it took a whole minute for me to hit the kill switch on the darned machine.

So, now what do I do? I have a food processor bowl full of half mixed bread dough, and am too stubborn to just throw it out. I can't mix it by hand - the arthritis thing. Then my eyes light upon my bread maker...sure, why not. And into the bread maker pan it all goes. Nothing to lose at this juncture.

Long story short it, surprisingly, turned out to be some of the best bread dough I had made for a while. I labeled it Faloooopy bread, for the sound the plastic dough blade made when it popped up out of the dough at 3000rpm or however fast it went. And I learned my lesson. Use a food processor for what it was intended - slicing veggies, chopping onions and shredding cheese. And if I do ever decide to try bread dough again in it, I will use the steel blade, not the light plastic one.

My bread machine has finished mixing and kneading my Spelt bread dough and it is on it's first rise. I can't wait to bake it. That mouth watering aroma of baking bread is second only to the flavor of a warm slice slathered in real butter. Mmmmmmmm!

Will my bread turn out? Of course it will. What could possibly go wrong??!!!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fruit Makes Me Nuts

Today is Bente's Birthday. Happy Birthday Bente!

My day starts out cloudy again but by the time I have my morning cappuccino and wander outside, the sun is breaking through. No sign of the Mole People, although there is a Scarlet Runner Bean seed on the soil surface. I poke it back under.

Wander over to the garden boat. It is doing wonderfully well. I check all the tomato plants. Still no tomatoes yet on the
Pink Brandywine & Yellow Brandywine but I have great hopes; the Black Prince has some. All the rest - Yellow Mortgage Lifter, Striped Cavern, Bull's Heart, Brown Berry and of course the Tumbling Tom - are setting fruit. The remaining few Alaska peas have more blossoms, and I notice that the ones the cute little Island Buck Mule Deer had pruned back to 1/3 their length are producing new leaves. Maybe there is hope for them yet. My day brightens and so does the sun.

I make plans to do some planting in black florist pots and go to the library to pick up some books. Maybe use my Outdoor Gas Convection Oven and bake something. I have used it to bake bread a few times with great success. The loaves turned out even better than when I bake in my electric oven in the house. My day suddenly has purpose. I am off.

It's 3pm and and I have baked, in the electric oven, a pan of brownies with mini peanut butter cups in them. They smell delish.

I am back out in the garden yard again, fighting the Mole People, when I hear them...the Muttering Murder of Crows. They're back in their favorite pear tree on the south side of the yard, chuckling and muttering like a gang of kids. I ignore them, and continue on with what I am doing.

Soon I hear them being raucous, but they have moved from their perch. Ah heck, the Cherry trees. Cherries are like candy to this gang of thieves and my van is parked in the driveway directly under the Montmorency Cherry were they are sitting. That means cherry poop splatted all over the top and hood of my van. You'd think I'd learn after all these years not to park there. Sigh. Well at least they eat the cherries high up in the tree and leave the lower ones to us.

The Muttering Murder of Crows moves from the Montmorency into the Royal Ann Cherry tree - sweet, juicy yellow Royal Ann, my favorite. I shout at them and clap my hands together to try and scare them away. They laugh uproariously at me and don't budge, one of them choking on a cherry pit. That will teach him to mock me! Must get Richard to pick a pail of Royal Anns before they are all gone.

Now I notice that the Chestnut tree across the drive has been chewed on by that cute little Island Mule Deer. I was hoping for chestnuts this year. I am beginning to feel pressured. 4 kinds of cherries to pick; Saskatoons too. Soon there will be plums, then blackberries, pears, more plums, more pears, apples, quince...maybe it won't be such a bumper crop this year.
Then there will be the tomatoes and hopefully some peas, zucchini, cucumbers, more tomatoes.

My mind spins: maybe I can take my time and get the fruit and vegetables in the freezer. Maybe my vegetables will ripen slowly. Maybe I will still get some peas from the pea patch.
Maybe the Muttering Murder of Crows is in league with the Mole People. Maybe my garden trowel will turn up again.

What are the Mole People doing with my garden trowel and those rocks anyway?

Maybe I really don't want to know.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Invasion of the Mole People

It's later than usual this morning when I go outside. It's foggy/cloudy early on as I sit and sip my English Toffee Cappuccino, savoring it...ok, dragging it out so I don't have to see what the Mole People did during the night. I know they've been there.

The "kids" trail me to the pea patch.

mow pepl' 'gain?
mom gonna sayz a swear?

The little upside down red clay pot is tipped back a bit, and I can see a hole. Hands on my hips, I shake my head. The mint stocks that had still been over the pea seeds on the right side have been moved and tiny foot prints dot the soil. I had come to terms with their invasion but am still annoyed.

I turn away and walk across the yard to the garden boat, to raise the beach mats. The sun is shining now and it is warm. As usual I am taken with the beauty of the scenery. I wander around the boat and note that there are pods forming on what is left of the Alaska Peas that the cute little Island Buck Mule Deer didn't eat. Well, if nothing else, maybe I will get one feed out of them. I wander some more. The Tumbling Tom Tomato plant is absolutely loaded with newly formed tiny tomatoes! The Brown Berry tomato has one tomato ripening, and the Bull's Heart and Striped Cavern each have tomatoes forming too! That makes my day brighter.

Everything on the boat is lush. A busy honeybee is all over the Tumbling Tom. I make a mental note to definitely plant that tomato again next year; maybe several of them. There are small fruits forming on my Bush Pickle cucumber and everything else is doing so well. Plans take shape in my mind. Hmmmmm, if we cover the bunkbed frame with heavy clear plastic, and use a string of Christmas lights, I could use that part of the boat as a hotbed in late winter. Worth thinking some more on it. I wander on.

The "kids" are now sunbathing while I look at my plants in pots. Richard comes home and I drag him over to look at the pea patch. "Wow" he says "gotta be a rat". I bend down and move the pot. "Wow!" I say. The hole is really big under the pot, big enough for a cat to get through, should it be of a mind to. Or Mole People...

Richard wants me to go over to the other side of the creek to identify some plants growing in a field and I agree; maybe it will get my mind of the pea patch. We jounce down the rough trail in the old farm truck admiring the gorgeous scenery along the way. Arriving at the field we find the plants in question. Oh my goodness!!! There are acres of pink flowers and I pick a plant
with tiny, bright pink blossoms. As we drive away, I wonder if the Mole People would like it. We come home to the internet, where I quickly find it is Centaurium muehlenbergii: Muhlenberg's or Monterey Centaury. The flower mystery is solved but why it suddenly showed up in that field remains unknown.

Now it is late afternoon and I am watering some of the plants in pots, the ones that suddenly look droopy. I debate with myself about watering the pea patch, then decide I will. After all, there are still some tomato plants and some sage and thyme.
And dried up mint stalks. And a big hole in the face scrunches up.

I sayz a swear.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mole People, Revisited

This morning I marched out to the pea patch to roll up the beach mats, trailed by my entourage. Did I mention I have six dogs? Emmy, Molly, Missy, Mason, Rosie & Pippi. They have watched my battle with the Mole People with interest and have followed me to lend a paw in case I need backup.

wat mom doin'?
lookin' fow mow pepl'.
mow pepl'?
wats mow pepl'?
dunno, but she mad at 'em.
dey gud ta eat?

As I roll up the beach mats they sniff the ground by the pea patch, searching for clues. After the mats are up I look down and turn the air blue.

uh oh.
mom sed a swear!
she mad!
we hep u find da mow pepl', mom.
wats a mow pepl'?

The stocks of mint I had placed up against the wall of the shed over the pea and bean seeds has been pushed aside, and dirt has been kicked on it. The red clay pots are still there, but the dirt is all scuffled with little paw prints and there are tiny holes where the seed used to be. I scrunch my eyes. Still no sign of my garden trowel. I stand with hands on hips gazing back and forth, trying to come up with a solution. None comes.

Growling to myself I walk away to the garden boat to roll up the beach mats there and nearly step on a doggie mine. Sigh, that's all I need to make my day complete.

Time for morning Cappuccino.

It's 3pm and I still don't have a solution. I have considered and discarded several ideas as either too labor intensive or too far out there. I decide to revisit the scene of the crime. My entourage follows.

I wander past the pea patch, thinking; nothing new there. Pea seeds are still MIA. Decide that now was as good a time as any to scoop up the doggie mines so I don't step in one while working on the Mole People Mystery. Most of my entourage is now noticeably absent. Having a low boredom threshold, they have moved on to other adventures I guess. Pippi and Emmy remain with me. As my self-designated guardians, they dog my footsteps.

wat mom doin'?
huntin' mow pepl'?
wen suppah?

Time to regroup again. When things get tough, the tough bake bread. I am making Craisin Bread to bake in my Outdoor Gas Convection Oven, aka the BBQ. I love dried sweetened fruit. Dried
cherries and dried cranberries are my favorites, closely followed by dried blueberries. But today I am making Cranberry yeast bread. The gathering of the ingredients, the mixing of the dough sooth me and I come to a decision about the Mole People.

I will let them think they have beaten me. Let them think they can have all those pea and bean seeds. After all, I do have more to plant. I am moving my pea and bean patch to a very large green tub, two feet high and two feet in diameter, which I used for flowers last year and haven't got around to using at all yet this year. They can't tunnel up from the bottom; can't tunnel through from the sides. I can cover it with landscape fabric to keep them from getting at the seeds should they try climbing up and into the open top. Hah! Take that Mole People!!

And I have another tub the same size I just might plant to peas as well. Maybe if I can finally convince Richard to move the old bathtub from beside the well house into the garden yard, I will plant it too. What else can I find to plant peas and beans in??? There must be something....

Will it work? Will it keep the Mole People at bay? Will they finally return my garden trowel? Will my Craisin Bread turn out?


CSI: Attack of the Mole People, continued

Mid-afternoon, I walk out into the garden yard to stroll around and see what flowers might need dead-heading, what plants might need watering. Of course the first place I go to is the pea and bean patch. I brace myself.

The hole to the right of the McKenzie Sugar Snap Peas box is bigger. Much BIGGER. I scrunch my eyes up. Then slowly let them wander over to the left, where the chewed up pea seeds are...GONE! A growl issues from my throat. War and Peas indeed!! En Garde whatever-pea-seed-eating-creature you are...I am throwing down my garden glove gauntlet. I will have peas from the garden this year. I will not let any cute little Island Buck Mule Deer nor any seed eating Mole People defeat me!!!

Rocks. I need rocks to fill in the hole. Under the old Golden Delicious apple tree beside me, the one with the beautiful rambling pale pink rose climbing to the top, I find just what I am looking for. Take that Mole People!

Time to regroup. Time for a glass of iced-tea.

Now it's 8pm. I go out directly to the pea and bean patch to see if my rocks have worked. The Mole People have returned. Their hole has been excavated larger and the rocks I put in there, all 5 of them, have been pulled down into their subterranean lair. I will NOT be defeated.

I remember from my study of herbs, that Mint is supposed to be a deterrent to mice and I wonder if it will work for all rodents. I hurry to my Mint pots and harvest large stocks of it. These I place directly over the row of peas and beans and even stick some down in the hole. But what can I plug the hole with?

I settle on red clay pots, placing two of them, one inside the other, over the hole. Surely those are too heavy for the Mole People to cast aside and escape above ground to harvest my pea and bean seeds again. It's been a long day. I will check one more time, at 9:30pm, when I go out to unfurl the beach mats over the patch. Those pots had better still be there.

It's 9:30pm and I go out to the pea patch, sigh, again. My feet are dragging because I don't know what I will find. At first glance, the red clay pots are still in place. I begin to lower the beach mats - there are four of them - and I work from right to left. I have 3 mats down and fastened and am lowering the fourth, when my eyes catch up to my brain...

This morning I had shoved a garden hand trowel into the hole on the left end of the pea patch until I could find something better to put in it. It sort of slipped my mind as I was fighting the Mole People over the hole in the middle of the patch. What my brain saw, and my eyes took a bit longer to see, was that the hand trowel WAS GONE!

Now the Mole People not only have 5 rocks in their lair, but they also have my garden trowel. Um, uh oh.

I wonder how hard it is to make plaster casts of tiny rodent footprints? Or collect rodent DNA or samples of rodent hair for comparison?


Well it's what Grissom and the CSI guys would do!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

CSI: Cherry Creek - Attack of the Mole People

First thing every morning I walk out into the garden yard to roll up the beach mats on the garden boat. The sun is shining beautiful and bright; the sky is that blue only an Island sky can be; there is a soft breeze kissing my cheek. I am entranced with the view of Mount Arrowsmith in the distance, across Cherry Creek.

I meander slowly around, checking the tomatoes, the peas that are left, the flowers, the herbs. Make a mental note to bring the loppers out later and trim back the weeping rose bush that is crowding the boat. Inhale the sweet scents. Get lost in the view again.

Gradually I work my way across the yard, checking various pots, until I get to the shed where the tomato and pea patch is. I untie the strings on the mats there and roll them up so the sun will warm the ground and entice the peas and Scarlet Runner beans to germinate quickly. And come to a screeching halt.

Let's back up a few hours...Before rolling down the mats over the pea and bean patch last night at dusk, I noticed that a few of the peas and one of the bean seeds had "popped" out of the earth. Hmmmmm, must have had the water from the nozzle turned up too high and washed the soil away from them. I poked them back into the earth and mounded some soil up over them. Still, it didn't seem like the spray of water was that strong.

Flash forward to now...Not only are those same pea seeds and that one bean seed popped out of the soil again, but a couple of the pea seeds have been.....CHEWED! I squint my eyes. Is that...footprints? Tiny little footprints and is that a HOLE AT THE BASE OF THE WALL!!?!! I follow the tiny footprint trail. There, to the right of the McKenzie Sugar Snap seed box and at the base of the wall, another hole! Is it a rat? The holes at the base of the wall are pretty small. A mouse? Then why didn't the mouse pack the seeds away? Could it be......MOLE PEOPLE???

Naw, we don't have moles on the Island. Do we? We have rats, and field mice and shrews. No gophers thank goodness, and no ground squirrels. But MOLES? On the prairies years ago we had trouble with pocket gophers. The little beggers would dig up under where your plants were growing and in the blink of an eye, your plant was gone. Pulled down into their burrow for the family stew pot. But back to the Mole People. Something had dug the holes, popped the seeds out of the soil and chewed some of them up.

Richard comes home from stacking bales and I nag him out into the yard for a look at the mystery. "Do we have Voles here?" he asks. Hmmmmm, Voles. I go to the internet to check. Yes, it says, we have Townsend Voles, which are a rodent not as large as a rat but larger than a mouse and they usually burrow near water. What it doesn't say, however, is if they have an appetite for pea and bean seeds. "Do you want me to set a trap?" Richard asks. "Not yet" I reply. But I am thinking about it.

What I really wish is that I had what my dad always referred to as a "ball-bearing mousetrap". That would do the trick. It's quick, efficient, humane and environmentally friendly. Safe. Leaves no carbon footprint. That should keep everyone happy.

What's a ball-bearing mousetrap, you ask?
Felis Domesticus.

I still think it's Mole People. I'll keep you informed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

War and Peas

I am a gardener. Today I planted two kinds of peas: Laxton's Progress and an edible podded Sugar Snap Peas. I planted them in a narrow patch of earth
measuring 12 feet long by 20 inches wide in the garden yard, up against a shed. Good shelter, southern exposure and when the sun hits it, lots of warmth. Way back in May, Richard had stapled stucco wire to the shed for me. First it was too cold to plant anything, and then we did the Garden Boat, so nothing got planted in that narrow strip of earth. Until now...

Today I planted the peas right smack up against that shed where they can climb the wire and give me pails and pails of crisp green peas. Pardon me? What's that? I am being a tad optimistic, you say? It's the middle of July, you say?

I live in a valley. Not just any valley but the Alberni Valley. On an Island in the Pacific. And not just any Island, but VANCOUVER ISLAND. Our weather patterns here are, well, different. We have microclimates. Wikipedia defines a microclimate as:
a geographical zone where the climate differs from the surrounding area. The term may refer to areas as small as a few square feet (for example a garden bed) or as large as many square miles (for example a valley). And in my microclimate garden bed, in the valley, I planted peas; and 2 Patio tomato plants, 1 Roma tomato plant, 5 Celebrity Tomato plants, 2 Sage herb plants & one Thyme plant.

I know peas like it a bit cooler, so by planting the tomatoes, sage and thyme in front of them, I reason, they will have some shade on their toes and will keep growing. The tomatoes, sage and thyme will get lots of sun, which they love. In a microclimate like the garden yard, you can grow two crops a year. It's just that no one I know of ever does and the cute little Island Mule Deer ate most of the pea crop in my Garden Boat and I really, really wanted some home grown garden peas this year and no cute little Island Mule Deer, or cute little Island Bush Bunny, is going to stop me from my goal!

I planted the peas really thick. I mean REALLY THICK. My dad always planted his peas that way. Soak the peas overnight in water. Then chicken wire strung along the row, peas planted on either side of the wire and just as thick as you can. Not spaced out one or two pea seeds every few inches...oh no. Just as thick as you can along both sides of the wire. Lots of fertilizer. He harvested 5 gallon pail after 5 gallon pail of peas by growing them vertically. It's what I did in the garden boat and what I did by the shed.

In the photo at the top of the page, the Laxton's Progress is on the left up against the wall and the Sugar Snap peas are on the right...maybe. You see a wind came up and blew the empty seed packets around so they became mixed up and I am not entirely sure I have them right, sigh. I will have to wait until the plants produce pods to know for sure.

Oh and did I mention the Marigolds? I have all these Marigold seeds I saved from last year. I planted a big swath of them between the peas in the garden boat and they grew like crazy! Just broadcast the seeds heavily, watered them well, covered with a thin layer of potting soil, watered again and they are now 3 to 4 inches high and loaded with buds. That is my plan for the rest of the open space in that micro garden.

Now if I can just find another open space to put the cucumber, zucchini and acorn squash plants I bought. Hmmmmmm. Say, Richard, what about over there in the corner where the shed and the house meet? What do you mean you don't think so??!!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Recipe for Loss Prevention

I went hunting yesterday. No, no, not for a cute little Island Buck Mule Deer - for CD's. I have hundreds of them sitting uselessly on shelves: NT Workstation 4; Corel 5 Unleashed; Windows 95; Canon Creative; Adobe Photoshop 5; Best of Bill Cosby; CorelDraw 6; HP Idea Kit; and several hundred I-have-not-a-clue-what-is-on-them-and-don't-care CD's. I have a plan...

After Richard gets home from work, eats and then picks up two loads of hay bales from the field, he sets to work making the baler twine fence extension. I busy myself with cutting & tying raffia to all those CD's. I hang a few on the fence. Not fun. I let Richard do that and I just cut and tie. And cut and tie. And cut and tie. An hour and a half later and 3 forages through the old CD's on the shelf, we are done and it's 9pm. Now to hang the beach mats. Doesn't take long because: I HAVE A PLAN.

And it works. Using plastic clips from shower curtains we clip the beach mats to the metal bunk bed frame, two mats per side. Cover up all those chewed up Scarlet Runner beans. Then clip mats together at the bottom. Take one of the shower curtains and clip it to the front of the metal frame and hang it down over the front of the boat covering all those tasty little tomato morsels. TAKE THAT cute little Island Mule Deer. Now it is quarter to 10. We Are Done.

The yard light comes on and I go in and plug in the fence lights. There is a breeze and the raffia-tied CD's dance crazily, reflecting brilliant shots of light all around.

"All we need now is some Disco Music" Richard comments. I give him THE LOOK.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, a voice is whispering something about barn doors and horses. Kind of apropos here.

Recipe For Loss Prevention

Take 200 old and useless but extremely reflective CD's.
Stir in hundreds of feet of baling twine.
Add raffia.
Tie some more.
And still more.
Hang at varying heights from 6 inches to 1&1/2 feet from top of baler twine fence addition.

Stir vigorously in a breeze.

Make 2 trips to town to grocery store to purchase twelve 40" x 70" beach mats, on clearance, because you never checked the first time and thought all those folded up beach mats were only 13 inches wide, not 40 inches wide, sigh.
Hang beach mats from metal bunk bed frame in garden boat using plastic shower curtain clips.
Place potted plants at base of beach mats to hold them against garden boat to keep beach mats from blowing around because what the heck,
that cute little Island Buck Mule Deer has already nibbled on those plants anyway.

12 Beach Mats on clearance: $26.07 on Debit Card
Making your garden yard look like a Disco Club - Priceless!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Like a Deer in the Yardlights

I don't eat wild game of any kind. I am not a hunter. My father used to hunt game for food. My husband was a hunter in his youth, to put meat on his family's dinner table. I don't eat wild game; just never could get past the childhood trauma of Bambi. There are lots of others out there like me. You know who you are.

Last night before closing up the
garden gate, I seriously considered lowering the shower curtains attached to the bunk bed frame in the garden boat just in case some creature decided to visit. "Naw", I told myself "you'll just have to get up at 6am to put the curtains back up so you don't fry your garden in the heat." I am NOT an early morning person. "Besides, it's too early in the life of your garden to be worried yet, no peas, no tomatoes to eat".

If you have seen the photo's of my garden boat, you know that since the heat arrived here in the Valley July 1st, my garden has exploded. It is lush and green and vibrant with life. Roses blooming, squash blossoms, startlingly orange Calendulas, Geraniums just getting ready to burst into brilliant reds, yellow tomato blossoms everywhere, and, oh look there, the peas are starting to bloom!!!

My best friend Bente is a Dane. She loves green peas in the pod fresh from the vine. Each time she visits, we walk out to the garden boat and she checks the progress of the pea plants. "If you come out here someday, and your peas are missing, don't look at me" she jokes. We oooh and aaaw over how well the garden is doing, dream longingly of the day we can walk out and pick tomatoes and peas. How can I tell her.....

Before breakfast today, I made my morning pilgrimage to the garden boat. On the way, I looked at all my plants-in-pots that I have placed along the inside of the fence. The cute little Island Mule Deer made such a feast of my potted plants outside the fence last year that I moved them all inside the yard. There is probably about 75 to 100 large black florist pots with various veggies, herbs and flowers. As I passed by my pretty and highly scented pink rose-in-a-pot, I blinked. Twice. All the leaves, flowers and flower buds but one were gone. Hmmmmm. Well, it was right up against the fence, and the openings in the fence are roughly 3" x 6". I suppose a cute little Island Mule Deer muzzle could reach through but....hmmmmm.

I moved on down the line. Several pots away another rose, this one a fragrant, creamy white with the faintest hint of pink at the edge, was missing it's 3 blossoms. HMMMMMM! Now I am afraid to look. Afraid to turn and face my garden boat. I had seen from the gate that things in the boat
looked normal, but up close? And personal? Oh, deer!

Did I mention that last year the cute little Island Mule Deer ate a lot of my plants-in-pots that were outside the fence? Or that one of their absolute favorite things was my Scarlet Runner Beans growing up the outside of that fence? And didn't I mention before how much they thoroughly enjoyed Richard's Soup Bean Mix Garden? How they munched it down to dust? Sigh...

So here is the GoodNews/BadNews part. The GoodNews is they didn't eat all the tomatoes. Nor all the flowers or herbs or onions. Missed the zucchini, the corn, the cucumber, the parsley, the chives, the marigolds...well you get the picture. The BadNews part: they picked those Scarlet Runner beans clean down to the stems. Nibbled on the tomatoes, LOVED THE PEAS, tried an onion or two, enjoyed the jalapeno peppers, munched up the soup mix beans and ate the geraniums in the bow of the boat down to almost nothing! Oh there are still about half the pea vines growing, in the middle of the boat where he - I know it was that cute little Island Buck Mule Deer who has been hanging around - couldn't quite reach...yet.

So after Richard gets home from work today, we are extending the fence upwards, then hanging old cd's from this extension as a deterrant (Can't you just picture the deer in the dark: "oh look, a Garth Brooks CD! I love Garth Brooks! And an old copy of Greeting Card Maker. Now you can make your mom a card.") Well, one of the gardening sites online swears that hanging cd's will keep them out of the yard.

Richard says that buck is going to look really nice in our freezer this fall. I don't think so. I don't eat wild game. I am not a hunter. Still, I have to be honest here...I think I am getting over my Bambi trauma. And how am I going to tell Bente about the peas?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Muttering Murder of Crows

A family of crows fledged their babies recently. They are a loud and raucous lot. And curious. Very, very curious. I hear them across the creek or the field when I am in the garden. And I wait....

Soon they will be in the big pear tree on the South side of the yard. They like to watch what I am doing, but I hadn't figured out quite why, at first.

When they are across the creek, they caw loudly, swooping and diving and chasing one another while they hunt, putting me in mind of teenage boys laughing, teasing and shoving each other down the street. But when they spot me in the garden, they fly over to the pear tree and sit there muttering softly to each other. Soon one or two will lift off and glide to the King apple tree above where I am working. And they watch. And they wait. After a while I hear one or two calling from the pear tree, as if asking what the others see me doing.

Of course I talk to them and I tell them to just never mind casing my garden. You see, I figured it out, what they were up to, and I don't trust them. They are fun to watch; fun to listen to. There is one who barks like a dog - I have dogs; more on that in another post. But back to the crows in the apple tree. I think - no, I KNOW, they are monitoring the vegetables growing in my boat garden, waiting for that first, fat, juicy, red or yellow heritage tomato to ripen. Or that first crisp, green heritage pea. And when I least expect them to, they will swoop in and steal them. I have their number. They are watching the progress of the garden and reporting it to their siblings. Letting them know how many days until pea pickin' time.

But I have a plan, see. It goes back to the bunk bed frame and the plastic shower curtains - my cute little Island Mule Deer deterrent. Which is now also my cute little Murder of Crows deterrent. I think. I hope it doesn't just turn into a cute little Murder of Crows perch for eating heritage tomatoes and peas. Hmmmmm, maybe I need to rethink this. I'll keep you posted.