Monday, September 29, 2008

Bear With Me!

It's sunny when I open my eyes, supposed to be a nice warm day. The Barometer has been bouncing so I am in considerable pain, with a headache hovering on the edges. Kate may be coming up tonight for a couple of days and I want to be able to enjoy her visit.

The dogs and I weeble out to the garden yard to roll up the beach mats and shower curtain. I have made the decision to pick all the tomatoes in the next day or two. The long term weather forecast is for very cool and wet temperatures which means they will rot if they don't get picked. Even though they are green, I am confident that most of them will ripen.

As I roll up the shower curtain, a large, nasty looking and very angry spider runs at me from the bottom of it, narrowly missing my hand. Yes, I CAN move fast when the occassion warrants it. Who knew that those 8 small feet could actually make a a footstep noise. I whack him to the ground with my walking stick and then stomp him for good measure. Well my adrenalin is pumping!

The grass is quite wet, either it rained overnight or there is a very heavy dew. I want to Rotisserie Grill a roast this afternoon, so Richard sets to work cleaning the big drip tray for me and sets up the Rotisserie. That thing is huge. I swear the spit part of it is 4 feet long and the roast is going to look a bit lonely on it. We talk about our day - Richard is working noon to 8pm. I am going to tidy the house and make Brioche, as well as prepare the roast for grilling. Then, if I have time, I will make some mincemeat tiny pies for Katie to try.

Time for my cappuccino and the news. Boring news it is too, bailout failure, and Canadian Election on every channel. Even Anna isn't making anything I'm interested in. Time to start cleaning the kitchen.

My Brioche dough is mixing in the bread machine - yes, I DID learn from my mistakes of the other day. Why do you ask? Yes, I am being more attentive to what I am doing. This is a recipe from the funny little bread maker - it of the incomprehensible instruction booklet - I have doubled the amount of the ingredients so it will work in my big bread maker. When I lift the lid to check the dough ball, it is just perfect. I guessed correctly at the amounts, oh happy day.

The dogs are out in the garden yard while I am doing all this and Pippi and Mason are really carrying on, barking, running in and out, and generally being...well, dogs. I do my best to ignore them while I work, despite them being determined to drag me outside.

mom, come quick, come see!
ya mom, hurry, come see!
mom, mom, mom, mom...
really, come on mom!

Soon I have two loaves of bread rising in my clear plastic bag on the table and decide it is time to make another foray to the yard to see what all the commotion has been about. Of course they are being quiet now, as if nothing was going on a short while ago. I mosey over to the boat, noticing as I pass that there are 2 Bull's Heart, 2 Yellow Mortgage Lifters and 1 Black Prince tomatoes ripening. Great, Kate can take some home.

Overhead, I hear one of the infamous Muttering Murder of Crows. He is sitting across from me in the Holly tree, grokking, not alarmed, but as if he is trying to get my attention. I look around and see the dogs are just nosing the grass and am thinking about how the grass needs cutting when a faint sound reaches my ears. The sound of a branch snapping.

"Hmmmm, the Crow must be in the plum tree behind the Holly, stealing plums," I think to myself. I walk towards the very end of the fence, in the corner between two potted plants to see if I can see him. Then I hear more branches snapping. My head whips around, looking toward the pear trees eyes go slitty. Yup, there, right there half way up the tree, is that @#$%^&* little Island Black Bear. I back up slowly, then turn and herd the dogs quickly indoors, retrieving my camera.

Back in the corner of the yard, I see he has come down the tree and I rapidly pre-focus the camera and snap 4 quick shots of him. He was really enjoying those pears, and as you can see in the last shot, he is on the ground, behind the tree, eating the ones he tossed down. Triple scrunchy face.

In the house once again, the dogs look at me with accusing glares.

we told you tew come see
you wouln't lissen tew us
we sed it wassa bear

"Yes guys you were right, I should have listened, I know better. Here, have a treat."

tanks Mom

Time to get the roast ready to grill. Oh, boy, um, this isn't as easy as it looks. Wow, that spit REALLY is lengthy isn't it. I try to slide the spit through the roast, to impale it on the large skewers that accompany it, nearly impale my hand instead. Finally get one skewer into the roast - boy this thing is heavy and awkward, really need four hands for this - ok, now to get the other skewer on...hmmmm, let's see if we can stand the spit on it's end and reach up an...ohmyGodlookoutyouaregonnadropit!

I drop the skewer and grab the spit with my other hand. Who's bright idea was it to make the end of the skewer handle rounded instead of flat so you couldn't stand it up to...oh heck, never mind. Finally I get the other skewer into the roast and the roast outside on the grill. Quadruple scrunchy face.

Now the roast is cooking, the bread is baking and I am waiting for Kate. Decide to put potatoes in foil on the grill as well to bake. The roast is done to a turn, the potatoes, perfect of course, the bread fragrant and Kate arrives. Time to enjoy our dinner. And oh boy was is delicious, perfectly cooked roast beef.

After dinner, Kate went to Walmart to get some toothpaste, and came back with a Black & Decker Automatic Bread Machine. There was a sale, she got it half price. I have been working on her to try one for years, and she finally succumbed to my talking. We set about reading the instruction book and soon she has a loaf of bread mixing and baking on the rapid cycle.

Time to go clean up the kitchen. Will talk more tomorrow about the bread.

But just between you and me, I think I have created a monster.

I think she is hooked.

I think her friends will soon be enjoying her bread making skills.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Attack of the Stupids

Today is sunny when I get out of bed. Sunshine just lifts the spirits. It's Mom's birthday today, and I will phone her after I am awake and have had my breakfast. Richard works 9 to 5 today, so I hope to do some baking later. Use some of that fresh yeast Bente aquired for me last week. Sounds like a plan. And y'all know me and plans...

I call Mom to wish her Happy Birthday and she sounds really perky. She had had a card from a childhood friend who now lives up in Spirit River. She was so pleased, and talked about things the two of them used to do as children. She also mention they had two sets of unexpected visitors this week. First was a surprise visit from their Nephew Jim VanDewark and his wife Shirley from Fort St. John BC. They had a great chat over coffee. Next was an appearance by Niece Yvonne Pollack and her husband Bob. How good of them all to stop in. Mom and Dad really appreciated it.

The dogs and I go out into the garden yard after my phone visit with Mom and Dad. I make a mental note to take photo's of the Rhubarb to mail to Dad to show him how his tiny piece of root that he sent to me is doing. I weeble across the yard to the garden boat and roll up the beach mats and shower curtain, noting that it rained again overnight. My inattention nearly gets me a really cold shower as the water that has collected on the tarp over the bunk bed frame cascades down the front of the boat.

I make another mental note to come out later and pick the ripening Bull's Heart Tomato to take into the house. Above me in the Gravenstein apple tree, the Starling is trilling her love song again. Robins are calling in the trees across the drive and a couple of Canada Geese arrow their way, honking across the yard. The dogs are happily hooting at people down on the road, just past our driveway. The air is warm and smells of dill and lemon geranium. It is supposed to be warmer and sunnier tomorrow. Perhaps we can barbecue.

Back inside I start to gather ingredients to make some Rye Bread in my Stand Mixer. It is a recipe I haven't tried before, so as usual, the first time is a test. Soon the kitchen is redolent with the scent of melted butter, warm honey, molasses and caraway. I add the first lot of flour like the recipe calls for, mix it in, then start to add the rest of the flour, one half cup at a time, while the mixer is running.
All goes well at the first, with me pouring the flour in from the right side of the bowl. Then I decide to pour the last bit into the left side of the bowl and things go to hell, real fast.

My hand twitched. The measuring cup hit the rotating planetary dough hook. Flour flew. Everywhere. All over me. All over the counter the machine sits on. All over the small kitchen television which sits next to the mixer. All over the floor. Curses flew. All over the kitchen. Yup, I says a swear.

I can't clean it up yet as I have to finish mixing the dough. Finally it is done, and I proceed with the cleanup. How can a previously tidy kitchen take on the appearance of a hurricane site so quickly?

An hour later, the kitchen is tidy, I am cleaned up, the flour is mostly out of the vents in the television, and the dough is rising in a large bowl inside a clear plastic bag. Time for an ice tea and reading my book.

Richard comes home for lunch and checks the water level in the tank, deciding he will go and get another load from the farm after picking us up A&W Papa Burgers for dinner. Sounds good to me.
Soon it is time to divide the dough into two pans, letting it rise one more time before putting it in to bake.

After he leaves for work again, I decide I haven't tortured myself enough today with baking and decide to make a loaf of vanilla quick bread in my bread maker. This is the lazy man's way of doing it, using a store bought cake mix. To fancy it up, I go to the dog's room and get 5 purple Italian Prune Plums. I am going to cut them in half, removing the pits and after the cake is finished mixing, I will drop them in on top to bake with the cake.

All goes well, and in 5 minutes it is mixing merrily. I drop in the plums, close the lid. Turning to the bread loaves, I place them in the oven and set the timer. Then return to my book. About 10 minutes goes by, and for some reason I have a sometimers moment. Looking up from my book, that I have been thoroughly engrossed in, I
suddenly decide that I left the breadmaker on after mixing the bread dough - remember now, I DID NOT mix the dough in the machine but in the Stand Mixer - and need to turn it off. I jump up, unplug the machine and as the power is fading from the digital read out on the bread maker, through the window in the top of the lid I see my raw, unbaked cake. I make a triple scrunchy face.


The air turns blue with my language, which is definitely not the Queen's English.

"Don't panic" I think to myself, as my eyes go slitty. "Grab a pan, quick." I line a bread pan with parchment, thinking I have chosen a large enough one. Nope, batter comes right to the top and still more in the bread machine pan. Grab another, larger, in fact the largest bread pan I have. Line it with parchement paper. Pour in the cake batter. Plums of course are all mixed in and sink right to the bottom. Fills the pan 3/4 of the way. Quickly place it in the oven, noting the time remaining on the timer - 25 minutes. The cake mix box says 25 to 35 minutes depending on the pan size. Scrunchy face.

Placing the cake in the oven along side the two loaves of bread extended their baking time an added 5 minutes. They come out of the oven and the cake bakes another 5 minutes beyond that. All looks good, despite my stupidity. Even with the plums sitting on the bottom of the cake.

What did we learn from all this? PAY ATTENTION LINDA! Think before you act. Don't pull that plug until you look through the window in the lid. Ok, so you usually have been mixing dough in the bread machine lately, that's still no excuse for your stupidity. Slitty-eyed scrunchy face. Good thing cake and bread look good.

After dinner I take the dogs out in the garden yard one more time while I put the boat to bed. They wander to the far fence, looking down to the creek, sniffing the breeze. Far away, across the creek, I can see the tiny moving dots that are the Cute Little Island Doe Mule Deer and her twins, eating their way towards us. The light wind is blowing our way and I know the dogs have their scent. Mom and the twins will soon be enjoying their apple treats. The dogs will soon be barking and spitting all over the patio door.

And me...I am going to have a piece of that troublesome cake with some vanilla ice cream. I was thinking about baking some cookies tomorrow, and maybe some Brioche.

Now I am not so sure.

Lord knows what I will do next time.

But hey, I have a plan...

Friday, September 26, 2008

...What You Should Have Done Last Week

Another dreary day, but warmer this morning when I get out of bed. Still stiff. Still achey. Still the arthritis thing. Richard has been to Walmart for coffee prior to coming home and getting the well switched over to the water tank, so I can still run the dishwasher - I DON'T hand wash dishes - and wash laundry. He has to go to work 2 hours earlier than expected but that's ok, the pump is connected to the tank, I've done a load of dishes and a load of laundry and he's re-filled the tank, just to be on the safe side. So now we have water and heat. And that's a real good thing.

Before Richard leaves he tells me that the water tank holds 378 liters of water, and asks me what that is in gallons. Yeah, asks me, the NOT mathematician to do a math calculation. I take out my trusty cell phone with it's calculator and try to do the math. Riiiiggghht. Me, the techie, can't figure out how to work it. I fumble and grumble, finally getting it, then ask him what buttons he would push to get the answer. And Richard, the non-techie person points to the correct ones right away. Harrumph.

The dogs are in fine spirits when we go out to the garden yard, Mason and Pippi racing down to the garden boat. Rosie of course stays inside, dozing on the sofa.

There are Starlings in the apple trees. Lots of Starlings. No, lots and LOTS of Starlings. We have a resident flock here, descendants of birds that were nesting when we moved to this place 20 years ago. We have learned to live with them, and have found they are one of the first signs of spring. There is one in the Gravenstein apple tree, trilling and making coaxing noises, almost sounding like the song they make when they are mating. Hmmm.

Suddenly there is a furor high up in the branches, a couple of birds chitter, something falls out of the tree, and the birds swoop away, squawking. The dogs race over to investigate, and I hobble after them. A piece of tree bark lies on the grass. Not sure what that was about. Hmmmm.

There are birds everywhere in the yard, Towhees, Robins, Stellar Jays, Starlings, Chickadees, all creating noise with their chatter and squawks. I listen, but continue on with what I am doing...deadheading Petunias, pulling a few weeds that have dared to grow in the garden boat, look for ripening tomatoes. There is a small Black Prince, a Yellow Mortgage Lifter, and a Bull's Heart all starting to turn color. The Pink Brandywine appear to be just on the edge of turning and I think the Yellow Brandywine is too. Lovely, just what I want.

We return inside and I decide that today is the day to make Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares, one of my favorite easy things to make. Soon they are chilling in the fridge, and I am licking the spatula. Can't wait 'til they are firm enough to eat. Won't offer Bente any though, as she is not a fan of Peanut Butter. Apparently Peanut Butter is fairly unique to North America, at least it was when she was growing up in Denmark, and she never developed a taste for it. Poor woman, how can anyone live without Peanut Butter!

Bente calls as I am reading my library book. As we chat, I am looking out the patio door and something catches my eye. Flickers are swooping and chasing, something I have never seen them do before. There is at least 4 of them chasing after another one, almost as though it were mating season. It's fall, what is going on with these birds? Hmmmmm!

I think back to yesterday, when I pointed out clumps of Cute Little Island Bush Bunny fur in the garden yard to Richard. He looked at me quizzicly. "Why would there be clumps of bunny fur in the yard?" I ask. He stares at me as if I have lost my mind. "Well, why do you think there is bunny fur there?" he replies. I shrug my shoulders, and he gives me a pitying look for being so dense, then says, "it's bush bunny mating season." I reply "oh. OHHHH!". Boy am I slow.

Could that be what is going on with the birds? Do they sense a longer, warmer than normal Fall? Is that why the chasing and chattering? Shaking my head I take the dogs back outdoors for a romp. Mason proceeds to his favorite spot at the fence, a patch of dirt under the shelter of an overhanging Wild Rose and stands looking down towards the end of the driveway and the rode beyond. He barks and runs up and down the fence trying for a better view.

After 15 minutes we go back inside. As I glance at Mason, I see something odd on his face and start to laugh. The silly dog has been sticking his nose through the fence wire, sniffing the breeze and this previously white muzzle is now gunmetal gray. He looks like he has a serious 5 o'clock shadow. Typical boy!

Time for a piece of Peanut Butter Marshmallow square, and a cup of hot cappuccino to chase away the chill of the day. Nothing on TV tonight, unless you are fans of interminable American Presidential Debates - which I am decidedly not. Guess I'll read a book.

Or clean in the dog room.

Or peel apples for freezing.

Or tidy up the kitchen.

Or read a book.

Oh and 378 liters equals 83.3 gallons.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Never Put Off Until Tomorrow...

It's cold wet and dreary as I get up this morning, been lots of rain over night. The dogs look at me as if I've lost my mind when I try to convince them to go out into the tarp covered small pen. Not happenin' Mom. I am too stiff and sore to fight. There's a cappuccino with my name on it in the kitchen and Mason informs me there's a sofa waiting for him in the living room. I open the door, then stand back and release them into the rest of the house. How can such small dogs make so much noise when the gallop by?

The news is the same, no matter which channel or country you look at: elections and financial melt downs. Doom and gloom. Get a grip guys, the economy always tanks around elections, no matter what country you live in. It will come back in a few months. Someone quick, slap that American who took Bernanke's place upside the head for me. He is fear-mongering.

Enough. Time to go and look out at the garden boat and regain my perspective. Hmmmm, maybe not, it looks wet, cold and dreary too. The dogs have come out with me, but refuse to leave the shelter of the deck for the garden yard. Well, it is pouring rain right now. What happened to Fall? It lasted all of two days and then we went right to Winter.

Back indoors, the dogs snuggle up on the sofa and I check e-mail. There are photo's of my beautiful Granddaughter in her dance costume. She just had her first dance class the other day. I think she looks like a Prima Ballerina in the making. Was I ever that self confident at 3? I don't think so. She has been patiently waiting to start her dance lessons, but was initially unhappy to learn that she is too young yet to learn to tap. That is her ultimate goal. Her dance recital will be next June, and I have promised to be there, no matter what.

Richard decides that today is the day to clean the outside chimney so we can finally light a fire in the stove. I hate the thought of building a fire in the woodstove so early in the fall, but it gets cold at nights now and we will have to. He will have to clean the inside chimney as well but soon we will have a toasty warm kitchen and living room.

He gets a call form his former employer asking him to work 4 hours at the hospital in his capacity as a Security Guard, from 8pm to Midnight. He agrees, but isn't enthusiastic about it. I don't blame him, the hours, when he worked there, were brutal.

After he is finished, and the rain has let up for a bit, I go back outside but only convince a couple of the dogs to follow me. There are windfall apples to pick up and doggy mines to deactivate. Want to get everything done before my tv shows premiere tonight. In the garden yard, I come aware of the incessant chatter of birds...the Chestnut-backed Chickadees are in the apple trees and having a good gossip. I laugh at their antics. One flies over to the suet cage, hanging upside down from it, looking bewildered that it is empty. The others flit from branch to branch, hunting bugs and seeds, all the while chattering about what they have been doing, where they have been, whose yard has the best feeding. They brighten my rainy day.

Bente arrives for a short visit, and we warm up with a hot cappuccino. After she leaves I remember I still haven't asked her about posting a description and photo's of the Castle she stayed in. Ah well, tomorrow is another day.

But tonight is Bones first - Kate and I said last season that Zack wasn't capable of killing anyone, and we are proved right. Criminal Minds is an absolute nail biter. The online rumors were rampant all summer that Derek would be the one "blown up" and end up in hospital and the consensus was that would NOT be a good thing for the fans. I concur. Gina and I again critique the show during commercials and are extremely thankful that Derek, while badly shaken up, does not get injured thanks in part to Garcia. GREAT SHOW! Kate texts me that Hotchner REALLY needs to lighten up. I agree.

Gina is tired and says goodnight, telling me she wont be calling again during CSI: NY. But during the first set of commercials the phone rings and the first words out of her mouth are "I suck at this game!" I snicker and tell her she's right. Of course we end up talking all during the commercials throughout the show, which was really great, I might add. Both Gina and I loved the final line spoken by Mac Taylor: "You are under arrest for murder, kidnapping, robbery, and mostly because you pissed me off." What more can you say.

As I am getting ready for bed at 11:30, going to run water in the bathroom sink for a wash, my eyes go slitty as I discover there is in fact...NO WATER! @#$%^&* Yup, I says a swear. Actually more than one. The well has finally gone completely dry. Aaaarrrggh! I leave Richard a note. We had talked last week about filling up all the water jugs we have and getting them ready for just such an eventuallity, but never did it. I leave a note for Richard. When he comes home, he says a swear or two as well. Then fills a pail from the tank in the garden yard and makes sure all the toilets are filled.

In the morning he will empty and clean up the tank I have been using for watering my plants - don't need that in the rain. Then move it over by the well, fill it with water from the hydrant over at the barn on the other side of the farm, and connect it to the pump so we will still have running water.

Oh, and, um, fill the plastic jugs with water and move them up to the house.

Like we talked about last week.

Better late than never I guess.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Everyone's a Critic

The sun is trying to shine as we go outside this morning, but it is cool. Really cool. Only 5 of the dogs join me, Rosie deciding she'd rather sleep on the sofa than shiver in the grass. I don't blame her. I hobble my way out to the garden boat to roll up the beach mats and shower curtain, just as Richard returns from checking on the other side of the farm. He brings one of the Dollar Store tarps and I show him where I want it attached to the end of the bunk bed frame to keep the tomatoes warm. I decide to reach waaaayyy in and pick the two ripening Striped Cavern Tomatoes, but can only reach one. We move around to the starboard side of the boat, Richard reaches in and with some difficulty, snags the other tomato. We circle around again and decide it is just too cold to tarry outside anymore. The dogs agree.

Back inside I have my cappuccino, and watch the news: election; more election; school shooting in Finland; Regina Christian school in lock down; financial meltdown in the US. Time to see what Anna is making this morning...ooooh, Turkey and Trimming Pinwheels. Looks delish!

I'm getting my hair cut later this afternoon so don't want to start any baking. Instead I putter, doing little things I have been meaning to do for weeks. Bringing in a plastic container from out on the deck, I sort through the dried flower heads I have been collecting for their seeds. There are Marigolds, Zinnias, Gazanias, Calendulas and Abutilon, also known as Flowering Maples. After the success of my Marigold planting on the garden boat this summer, I can't wait to do it again next year and am saving all the seeds I can.

Bente has been saving her Nasturium seeds, and I saved the double pink Poppies and I have some seeds from some Giant Red Poppies I saved last year. Some of the seeds go into paper bags to facilitate drying and some that are already dried go into jars. Then the whole works go back in the dog room to keep cool.

That used up an hour and soon it is time to go and have my hair cut. I wear it short -REALLY SHORT - and today Heather makes short work of it, no pun intended. It's too cold and I am too stiff with arthritis to do any shopping so am back home less than an hour after I leave. Soon the dogs are anxious to go out, whining and nattering at me. When I open the door, they race out hooting and hollering to the far end of the garden yard. Mason runs so fast that he skids into the fence, nearly turning himself from a Bichon into a Pug. All of the dogs are standing on hind legs barking at something down the drive.

I arrive behind them and realize the Cute Little Island Mule Deer and her twins have been under the pear trees enjoying the wind fall fruit. I forgot she likes to wander through at this time of day. She sees me and trots down towards the creek with her twins. I holler at her, apologizing for disturbing her feast. She and one of the twins stop, looking back over her shoulder at me. I wave at her and she twitches her ears, flicks her tail, but stays stationary. I toss some wind fall apples over the fence, and finally convince the kids to come in so the deer can return. As I approach the house, I look back over my shoulder, and she is still standing there watching us. It won't be long before the kids start hooting in the house because she is in the drive again, I know.

It's NCIS Season Premiere tonight and I don't want to miss a second of it. I am a fan of the FBI, NCIS, CSI shows, in case you haven't figured that out, and late September is when I lock myself away to watch the premiere's. Tonights is great, and as an added bonus, Gina calls me from Edmonton during commercials and we critique what has just happened on the show. NCIS is so exciting and after NCIS, a new series debuts, The Mentalist, another FBI drama. Gina and I watch it and critique it as well, deciding we liked it. Kate weighs in via text messaging and I agree with her that the cast needs to meld more for it to be in the NCIS, CSI, Criminal Minds, Numb3rs catagory. It has "good possibilities" - that means we'll watch it for a few weeks to see where it goes.

Gina and I talk about tomorrow nights shows, looking forward with anticipation to Bones, Criminal Minds - which agent was it who got blown up at the end of the last season? - and CSI: NY. Of course we will be watching them together.

I round up the dogs after the show, and try and convince them to go outside while I make their beds up. Yeah, right. It's raining and that's NOT going to happen.

Maybe in the morning they'll go out.

Or not.

Monday, September 22, 2008

1 Tomato, 2 Tomato, 3 Tomato, 4...

Striped Cavern, top;
Bull's Heart, bottom

The sun is shining again as I wake up, it must be a high barometric pressure day, oh joy, oh bliss as I am not as stiff as usual. Richard has already been for coffee, returning as I take the dogs out to the garden yard. I wander around briefly, then roll up the beach mats and shower curtain. The Fall birds are back: Robins, Stellar Jays, Towhees, Chickadees, Flickers, assorted Sparrows. The air is filled with their chatter. Late in the summer, round about the end of July, they all disappear inland, for a holiday I surmise. But come September, they return and we look forward to hearing their voices again.

The Garden Boat looks good as usual, tomatoes ripening slowly. Richard picks a few Tumbling Toms and we discuss our day. He has to work at 3pm, I need to go out and get some Caraway Seed from the Health Food Store. I forgot to purchase some when I was there on Saturday. As Gina would say, "Some-Timers". He suggests we go to the Victoria Quay to watch the birds and see if their are any Black Bears fishing across the Canal. I like the sounds of that so we are off.

Richard notices a small flock of Canada Geese on a sandbar across the water from us, and I spot a rather large flock floating towards them, about 500 yards upstream. He laughs when I point them out and comments "maybe they are rival "gangs" out looking for a rumble." "Kind of a 'Geese in the Hood', you mean" I say. He chuckles and says "yeah, like that." We go back and forth for a bit about the Goose Gangs and watch the flocks with interest.

Suddenly something large moves behind the smaller flock of geese and I point out a Black Bear to Richard. "Must be muscle for the small flock," he says. I grin, and quickly shoot some photo's of the bear and the birds. I notice they move away from the lumbering beast, respecting his size and appetite.

On the way home I get the Caraway seed I need, inhaling its scent as I pour it into the bag, envisioning loaves of warm Pumpernickel and Rye Bread, fresh from the oven with cream cheese and maybe some green olives too. Yes, I DO have an active imagination. Why do you ask?

One more stop at the Dollar Giant for a couple of their small tarps for the garden boat then we start home, but Bente finds us as we are just leaving the parking lot. "I found your yeast" she says. "I opened the kitchen window and set it on the tv for you." Oh wow, I am really excited now. Of course I tell her to come over for a cappuccino.

Back home I am just putting the dogs in the garden yard when she arrives. She was unsuccessful at Safeway's but the baker there told her to go to Mountain View Bakery, on this side of town, and she was able to purchase a pound for me there. For $2.50! Oh I can't wait to try it out.

We talk about this and that and when Richard comes in, I reach in the tomato bowl and pull out a ripe Bull's Heart, a ripe Striped Cavern and a ripe Black Prince. We slice them onto a paper plate and have a taste testing. Richard pulls out the bread I made yesterday and he and Bente enjoy tomatoes on bread. I am surprised at the consensus for the best tasting. We love them all, but I think the one that comes out on top is the Striped Cavern. The Bull's Heart might be one day too ripe. It would be a fabulous cooking tomato, great for sauces and chunky Salsas. The Black Prince is sweet and spicy, great for salads and sandwiches, while the Striped Cavern has an almost Lemon-like tang to it. Like the Sweet Peppers it resembles, the Striped Cavern is half hollow with the seeds and flesh up at the stem end and the skin is firmer, a perfect stuffing tomato.

After our taste test, Bente and I walk out in the garden yard and I pick her some ripening Yellow Mortgage Lifters, a small Black Prince and a Striped Cavern to take home to finish ripening on her window sill. I had given her a small loaf of Spelt bread I made yesterday with the promise of more to come, baked with the fresh yeast she got for me.

Time to research recipes that use the fresh yeast. And I find a Country Rye Bread that has possibilities. This one is for a stand mixer, which I have, but would rather make a smaller version of the recipe. Right below it on the page is one for Bread Machines. I choose it for my test batch, and will let the machine do the work of mixing and kneading for me, then bake it in my oven.

First portion out the yeast. I have a digital kitchen scale, so should be able to weigh the yeast as I cut it off the block. I have found an internet page that tells me the equivalent amount of fresh to dry yeast ratio. It says 2 oz fresh compressed/cake yeast = a strip of 3 envelopes or packets of yeast. Ok, that should be easy. It also says that 1 envelope of dry yeast = .06oz of cake yeast. Hmmmm. I start to measure. One chunk, um, ok, needs a bit, too much now, remove a pinch...a pinch more, ok got it. Put that on a piece of parchement paper. Measure out more - I want to have enough measured and wrapped to make 3 more lots of bread once this is tried...

...have I mentioned that I don't do math? I mean, besides add, subtract, multiply and divide simple numbers? I try, no really, I try but I am just not a math person. The concept just excapes me, no matter what. Suffice it to say that I "think" I managed to get 3 blocks of yeast wrapped up and in the fridge that are .06oz in weight. I think. Time will tell. Soon the bread machine is mixing merrily away. I can't resist checking it periodically. The dough ball is "tacky" but not "sticky", a good sign.

It's evening and the dogs and I put the boat to bed, rolling down the beach mats again and tying them off so the wind can't blow them around. Canada Geese honk their way across the sky above me, and I smile thinking of the 'Geese in the Hood' conversation earlier in the day. That could be truer than you think, Geese in the Hood, for they can be nasty creatures if you get in their way. Time to go in and bake the bread. It looks not too bad, for a test loaf.

Now it's baking and oh my goodness it smells wonderful! Can't wait to try it. Richard will be home from work just after 8pm, just when it is cooling. I'll be hard pressed to make him wait to try it.

Come to think of it, I'll be hard pressed to keep me from trying it. Just think, homemade Caraway Rye bread, fresh from the oven, slathered in butter, dripping with yummy goodness....oh I can't stand to wait!

Yeah, I know...BITZ!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Grain of Truth

I wake up to cool, cloudy and wet. And very stiff hands. It takes a few minutes of finger wiggling to get them to move as I need them to. Fall is definitely here with it's incumbent low pressure systems. As I let the dogs out into their pen, I notice it has rained during the night, or perhaps just a short while ago as the trees are still dripping - a lot. Right now the sun breaks through, and there is patchy blue sky. That's promising.

Bichon's are funny dogs, or perhaps I should say they are odd. Make that O.D.D. They are descended from a Mediterranean dog called the Barbet, or Water Spaniel. Now, the name "Water Spaniel" connotes something that would like water, yes? No. At least, not these guys. The least little bit of water on the grass causes them to walk on tip toe and try not to touch where it is wet. And rain, oh forget it. First in line at the door sticks a paw out, feels a raindrop, and that's it. They all turn right around and decide amongst themselves that today's the day to use the indoor potty room. Yes I said indoor potty room. Don't ask. But today at least, because the grass in their yard is still quite short, they mosey out.

After my cappuccino is drunk and my eyes are open and both focusing, we make our way to the garden yard. The grass is longer here, so only 2 of the 5 who came with me make it to the garden boat. Our tarps have done their job and the tomatoes are warm and dry. I decide to roll up the beach mats & shower curtain as far as I can so that the sun can warm them more.

Despite the rain and cooler temperatures, we are in no hurry to return indoors. I hear a Northern Flicker call from down on the creek and the Canada Geese fly over, heading for the feeding grounds of the sanctuary across the canal. Soon the Muttering Murder of Crows mutters past, heading for who knows what mischief. A brilliant sapphire blue Stellars Jay squawks at us from the Holly trees and I can hear the sounds of the Towhees scratching for bugs under the leaves in the bushes on the driveway. When we first moved here, the Towhees used to startle me if I was outdoors with their scratching; it sounds just like the footsteps of someone walking on leaves.

Time to go indoors and do something with the day. I want to bake something, maybe more tiny pies. Of course I want to make some bread too. And I want to try grinding some grain into flour. I have read all the instructions for that, several times and will have the booklet right to hand when I do. There. That is what I will do, I will grind some grain and make some bread with the flour. I have a plan. What could possibly go wrong?...

...and for once, not much did. I decide on grinding some Spelt flour, as it is one of my favorites. I have mentioned it before, commenting on it being an ancient grain and a precursor to our modern wheat. It is sweet tasting and easier for my system to tolerate than regular whole wheat.

I cannot work in a messy kitchen so before I begin, I always ensure it is tidy. Today is no exception.
I gather my tools and the grain. Following the instruction booklet closely, I assemble the grain mill - it is always stored disassembled - tighten the bolts that hold the grind worm drive in place to finger tight and attach it to the front of my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. The goes smoothly. I put my jar funnel into the hopper, to facilitate pouring in the grain, and screw the accompanying jar to the bottom of the hopper, to collect the milled flour. So far, so good.

The booklet says to turn adjustment knob clockwise until tight, then turn knob back one click. Check. If grind is too fine, turn adjustment knob counterclockwise until desired grind is achieved. Click, click, counterclockwise, check. Think I have it where I would want it. Booklet also says to operate on speed 6. Speed 6, check. And I begin...

...of course it makes a racket, that is to be expected. The flour begins sifting down into the jar. My first home ground flour. Cool! I am watching it carefully, good thing, because I notice one side of the front plate begins to vibrate. I re-tighten the bolts again. And again in a few minutes. As it begins to vibrate loose, the grind gets more coarse, resulting in a "cracked" grain instead of a flour. The vibration of the machine is loosening the bolts ever few minutes and I can't tighten them any tighter by hand, so end up just holding them as secure as I can.

I want to photograph this so hobble out to the living room for my camera and hobble back. And just that quickly the bolts have loosened again and I have 1/2 inch of coarse cracked spelt in the jar. I make a scrunchy face and turn off the machine. Hmmmmm.

Out to the pantry I go with the jar, retrieve a fine strainer, and sift out the flour from the coarsely cracked grain. With jar reattached to the machine, I can start again and rapidly shoot my photo's. That done, I use both hands to hold the front plate in place. It does take a while, but the result is 1 & 1/2 cups of freshly ground flour. Now I HAVE to make a small loaf of bread.

Most of my bread books have recipes too large for what I want to make, so I choose one at random and cut it in half - the recipe, not the book. I also choose to use my smaller bread machine to mix it up in. You remember that machine? The one with the incomprehensible instruction book? Yeah, that one.

The dough looks lovely once it is mixed up and rising. Can't wait to bake it. I turn and survey the kitchen. Why is it that I can start out in a clean kitchen and end up, shortly thereafter in a disaster zone? Sighing, I begin to set it to rights while the dough keeps rising.

An hour later the dough is finished its first rise. I choose to divide it in half and make two small loaves rather than one larger one and soon have it in pans. Looks rather dwarfed by the pans, maybe I should have picked smaller ones. Oh well, we'll see when it is time to bake. Will probably end up with two short, squat loaves, but it will give us a taste of home ground flour anyway.

Now it's in the oven and the sweet scent of spelt smells delightful. I can't wait for it to be baked and cooled. Soon we are sampling it, slathered in butter. Oh Yum!

It was a lot of work, but worth the effort. Richard and I discuss ways to keep the front plate of the grain mill from vibrating loose. He will fix that. Can't wait to try milling some rye flour now. And oat flour from the oat groats I bought. I forgot to look for barley yesterday, will put that on my list and must remember to buy caraway seed to put in my rye bread. I'm getting tired just thinking of all I want to do.

Tomorrow I have to start on the apples, there are six buckets of them sitting up on a shelf in the dog room where it is cool. Will use my new apple parer/peeler/corer and make short, if messy, work of them. Then I have to make some tiny pies to take to the women who work at the library. I promised them some tiny apple pies and tiny cheesecakes. I can't go back to the library until I get them made.

And I have books in. Hmmmmm...

...maybe I better make the pies first, then do the grain milling and apple peeling.

Sounds like a plan.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Whisper Down the Wind

Striped Cavern Tomatoes

Sliced Yellow Mortgage Lifter (lower left)
Sliced Black Prince (upper right)

Today dawned cold, cloudy and dreary after the warmth and sunshine of the last 3 weeks. We shiver our way outside to check the plants and garden boat, but don't linger very long. Fall starts officially on Monday but here on the Island, it began today. Rain is in the forecast, will have to get Richard to put a tarp over the garden boat tonight to protect the tomatoes.

I decide to go out in the world and look for some fresh yeast, starting with the closest bakery. Well, that bakery turned out to only be a store front, the actual bakeshop being somewhere out in the country. The people working there - a woman of about my age and a younger fellow - looked at me as if they had never heard of such a thing as fresh yeast. Hmmmm, not an auspicious start to my search.

I decide to go and buy some whole grain to grind into flour from Alberni Health Market. That search at least is successful, although when I asked the woman behind the counter about fresh yeast, I really got a blank look. I am not deterred. After purchasing an apple peeler/parer/corer at Home Hardware, I check out a couple of other places for fresh yeast, but meet with failure. One place shows me a huge box of dry yeast. The last place at least knew what I was talking about. Maybe I'll just send Kelly money and have him express post me some. Who knew it was so hard to find? I decide to go home and phone some other places to see if they use it.

Back home from my foray by 2pm, I find an e-mail from Bente, saying she will drop by this afternoon. Hope I haven't missed her. I quickly tidy up a bit, take the dogs out, then turn the heater on to warm the air in the kitchen. Yes, it's THAT chilly.

Bente arrives just after 3pm and we enjoy a much needed hot cappuccino. I tell her of my dilemma trying to find yeast. She chastises me for not letting her know while she was in Denmark because she would have brought me some from there. She offers to check with the baker at Safeway for me, and I accept. Being a long time patron of the local Safeway, she knows the baker well. Hopefully she will have success. Yes, I could just keep using dry yeast, but Kelly says I won't believe the difference in using fresh yeast. I HAVE to try it.

After Bente leaves, the dogs and I again wander outdoors to the garden yard. Though the day is dull, the plants are beautiful, and I take my time, enjoying each one before the rains begin. At the garden boat, I check again to see if any of the other tomatoes are ripening. I am waiting for the Brandywine's and the Striped Caverns. I circumnavigate the boat a few times, then bend low on the starboard side to see if I haven't missed some tomatoes, perhaps hiding behind some leaves...

...I have! There, over there in the middle, behind the huge potato-leafed Pink Brandywine, down low, are 3.. no 4 Striped Cavern tomatoes ripening. I quickly move to the port side of the boat, again bend down low, reach waaaaaay in, move the leaves and...ah ha! There is one that is nearly ripe. I pick it.

Oh it is so pretty! A bright orange overlaid with green and gold, like a Christmas Ornament. Of course I have to photograph it. Then put it in the bowl with the ripening Bull's Heart and Black Prince Tomatoes. Can't wait to try them. If the weather remains cool and cloudy for too long, I will have to pick off the tomatoes and let them ripen indoors. Will monitor them carefully.

After dinner, I go out with the dogs to roll down the beach mats and the shower curtain on the garden boat. The dogs run to the far fence where they stand on their hind legs and sniff the air. It is cold and moist with the promise of rain, the breeze floating softly up from the creek. I watch them for a bit and think that the wind is bringing them the scents of some animal, either the bear or deer...maybe racoons. I carefully look around but see nothing - you know how I feel about bears. After chasing the dogs back indoors, Richard joins me in the yard with two small tarps for the garden boat. It takes us a bit, but finally we have successfully covered the plants under the bunk bed frame.

As I turn to retrieve my cane, Richard whispers something at me. I turn to look at him, puzzled, and he points to the other side of the fence, just beyond the boat. At first I don't see them in the gloom - it is twilight, after all. Then one of them moves and I can see all three, Mother Mule Deer and her twin fawns, eating windfall apples. That is what the scent was wafting on the wind. They are so close, and so unconcerned, knowing we will not hurt them. Richard speaks softly to them, tossing more apples over the fence. They twitch their ears at his words, and trot away a few feet. He keeps talking and tossing apples.

One of the fawns turns back towards him, looking at the apples he has thrown. Then with a flash of it's tail, it runs over to Mama and the twins bend their front legs and begin suddenly to suckle milk from her. I am in awe, never having seen fawns nursing before. As quickly as they start they are through, and wander back towards us for their apple treats.

My day is complete. What can possibly top a mother deer and her twins at twilight?

Not too much, methinks.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I Say Tomato...You Say Tomatoe

Bente is back. She's been gone for a month, in Denmark, attending her oldest brother's 50th wedding anniversary, which was celebrated in a castle. If she'll let me, I'll put up a few photo's and a description of the castle and grounds in another blog post. It has been very quiet without her here.

She came for a visit yesterday afternoon, having only arrived home the night before from Seattle, where her plane landed. We caught up on the last month, then went out to check my garden. I picked her some Tumbling Tom's, a few Brown Berries and on small Yellow Mortgage Lifter tomato for her dinner. I had been saving them for her to come home to. It's great to have her home.

Today is also grocery shopping day and I had a lot of ground to cover. As usual, I started with the Dollar Giant to get my "cheep goods" - large plastic containers for cereal etc; disposable plastic gloves for mixing up dog food; dark colored hand towels, because the white ones I was foolish enough to buy before turned gray and stained really fast from Richard using them to wipe greasy hands on; boxes of freezer bags; you get the idea. Then off to Walmart where I found...! They are clearing out rectangular plastic plant pots for $1.00 each, the ones you can hang on your balcony or affix under the window, the ones I have outside the patio door on the ground for the deer to feed off the pansies, marigolds and geraniums...yeah, those ones. Of course I bought 10 of them, and had to restrain myself to that. I REALLY wanted to buy them all, for a $1.00 each, but didn't. Then walking back up the aisle, I found hummingbird feeders on clearance for $2.00 each so bought two of them. I enjoy feeding the little darlings in the summer.

Oh and there, in the cheese cooler, look at that...Armstrong cheese is on for a GREAT price, $3.98 each for 600gm block, regular $7.98. WOW! I grab 4 of them, walk away and then realize I really don't need that much cheese so put 2 of them back. Sigh, but it wasn't easy putting two of them back, I mean, well, gee, it IS a bargain, and you know I LOVE a bargain. Off to Extra Foods next to pick up the few things I will need there today. Then home to haul it all in and put it all away.

Tomorrow I will be going to Alberni Health Market, another of my favorite stores. Yesterday my friend Vicki, she of the ailing laptop that I finally got fixed for her, brought me her Kitchenaid Grain Mill attachment for my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. She got it from friends in Seattle and has used it herself. I cannot wait to try it and grind my own grain for flour. Alberni Health Market carries Wheat, Barley, Rye, Spelt in bulk bins, so I will get a bit of each, grind it and then make some bread from it. There are several adjustments you can make on it to get a coarser or finer grind.

Kelly suggested going to a local bakery and asking them if they use fresh yeast. He says if I once try it, I will have a hard time going back to dry yeast in my bread. Kelly is a baker at Sobey's in Leduc, and they have people come in and buy it from them all the time. Tomorrow, on my way to the Health Market, I am going to stop at a couple of bakeries nearby to see if they use it and if they will sell me some. Just think, fresh ground flour, baked up into bread, using fresh yeast. What more can I ask for?

While showing Bente the garden yesterday, I noticed that two of my Bull's Heart tomatoes, as well as one large Black Prince, were nearly ripe, but decided to leave them another day to see how much more they could ripen on the vine. Today I decided to pick them and let them finish ripening indoors. Tomatoes need heat to ripen, and ours has vanished all of a sudden. Our temperatures have gone down to the high teens during the day...I find it chilly, even though I know it isn't.

The Bull's Heart tomatoes, you will see in the photo, are what is called a pink tomato, and they are heart shaped. This tomatoes, under optimum conditions, can weigh as much as 3 pounds! Mine weighed in at 5.4 ounces and 8 ounces respectively and the Black Prince is 8 ounces. Not bad for growing in a boat.

I have to tell you, once you try these tomatoes - these HERITAGE tomatoes - you will be hard pressed to go back to eating store bought ones. The flavor is incredible. I find myself having a salad every night for dinner with either Black Prince or Yellow Mortgage Lifter tomates in it. Damn, they are good!

I am still considering taking cuttings from these plants and keeping them over winter in the house. Richard just rolls his eyes and shakes his head and asks where I think I am going to keep all these plants. Well, there's the dogs room in the back, and I suppose my bathroom/laundry room could hold a couple and then there is the livingroom, I can put some in there, oh and the deck, I'll over winter some there, like I did last year. And the back porch, kept quite a few there, um, hmmmmm...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Forever In Blue Jeans

It's another beautiful
day in the Valley when I get moving this morning, warm soft breezes, azure skies and bright sunshine. Richard has been to fill the water tank for me to give the boat and all of my many plants a drink. Supposed to be nearly +30 today. September has been a gorgeous month, with the best weather so far this summer. Mother Nature must be over her PMS. One can only hope.

We wander the yard, the dogs and I, starting with the pots by the fence, closest to the house and then wander over to the mini pea patch. It is now the mini Scarlet Runner Bean patch, as the beans are finally climbing and blooming. I notice some of the store bought hybrid tomato plants have tomatoes developing and one is even turning red... despite my neglect. A funny noise distracts me from my musings. I turn towards the house and discover Emily has gotten into the hops-vine choked rose bush and is caught tight. Silly puppy! I extricate her with an admonishment not to go in there again. She'll gives me a tail-wagged thanks.

I move off towards the garden boat and the kids follow leisurely, sniffing at this, pawing at that, rolling in something I don't think I want to know about. There are more windfall apples on the ground, even though Richard has been out early and filled my bucket with them. These are such tasty apples, with a wonderful scent. I have to get them peeled and chopped, into a slow cooker and then into the freezer.

I start watering the boat and the plants and pretty soon an hour has gone by. It is getting warmer outside, the thermometer on the deck already says +25. Love it. Time to go in for cappuccino.

Back outside in the warmth, and walking towards the garden boat, something moves beside my foot. My eyes focus on it and I grin. It's a cute little Island Garter Snake, slithering it's way towards the shade of the big old Wild Rose bush, just outside the fence. He stops and looks at me, then wends his way onward. The dogs can't see him, but they smell him and follow his scent through the grass. Up by the garden boat is another one, which quickly slides under the boat. I am struck by a thought...I haven't seen any slugs for several weeks. I bet the snakes are the reason for that.

I hear the phone ringing and hurry - as fast as I am able to hurry - to answer it. I hear a sweet voice singing:
"Money talks, it don't sing and dance and it don't walk. As long as I can have you here with me, I'd much rather be, Forever In Blue Jeans, Babe."

"Hey Momma, guess who I am going to see tonight in concert!!!?"

It's Gina, and she is really excited. Neil Diamond is in Edmonton for a concert. She had wanted to go, but wasn't keen about the price of the tickets. One of her co-workers had purchased tickets and wasn't able to use them so gave them to Gina. She knows how much I love Neil Diamond, and has told her fellow employees about how she was born and raised on his music. Well, I DID have all his albums, and I DID play them a lot, this is true.

I am energized after talking to Gina, you can't help but be. I decide to use some of my Spelt flour and make some orange zest and maple syrup flavored Spelt bread. Soon I have 3 loaves baking in the oven. The fragrance of baking bread fills the air. I wait impatiently for it to cool, after removing it from the oven, so that I can try it. Ohhhh, it is divine! Crisp on the outside, tasty and moist, slathered in butter.

Each night before going to bed I always peel and slice up an apple, then sit on the bed and watch the news while munching it. Tonight is no different, except it is one of my own apples, not a cold storage store bought one. These apples are sweet and delicious - I peel two. After the news is over, I remember I had to take meat out of the fridge freezer for tomorrows dinner. It's dark in the kitchen, the only light coming through the windows from the deck, but I have lived there for 19 years, it's my kitchen, and I know where everything is, who needs lights on. Perhaps that is a good thing. Perhaps that is what kept me from letting loose a blood curdling scream and giving Richard a coronary.

Walking back to the bedroom, I rounded the corner and in the dark, I saw, dimly, something scurrying towards me on the floor. I gave a choked sound, then stomped it, 3 times in rapid succession with my good leg.

Damn, now I have to hobble back across the room, without putting that foot down completely on the floor, and turn on the light. Then I have to open the front door and scrape whatever it was - oh come on, we know it was a spider, now don't we, hmmmmm? GAK. I wipe my shoe off on the rug on the deck, then closing the door, and taking a wad of paper towel, and the jug of vinegar, go and remove the evidence from the floor where I crushed it. That will teach it to run at me in the dark, yelling about revenge.

Now I am wound up from the adrenalin surge. Guess I will be watching that Numb3rs rerun at midnight after all.

With one eye watching the corners of the room and the ceiling of course. You can't be too careful.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Was Workin' in the Lab...

Sunny again this morning, what a gorgeous day! When I finally stumble outside - no, I didn't take my camera with me. Yes, sigh, I FORGOT - the boat has been taken care of by Richard, the windfall apples have been picked up, and there is no Cute Little Island Black Bear in sight. Cappuccino time.

Yesterday I was accosted by spiders outdoors several times. Mostly I just brushed them off, without thought, being busy doing "things" at the time. Last night before bed I was reading info on tomatoes in a gardening book I borrowed from the library. I turned the page and something tiny scurried across it towards me. I blinked, focusing on it. It was a nearly microscopic spider. What the heck? Then Kelly's words came back to me: "I can see one of the dead spider kids coming after you, ala the Mandy Patinkin character in Princess Bride, saying: my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die!" Aaahhg! I brushed it away and closed the book.

This morning as I am walking from the living room to the kitchen, my spidar jangles. Looking above the room door, I see it. Another spider, this one the size of a loony, is staring back at me, snarling. I reach for the broom, never taking my eyes off it. Its beady little eyes follow my movements. Slowly I raise the broom towards it. 5 little white Bichons follow the path of the broom, tails wagging slowly. I am sure I heard one of them bark "get it mom".

Suddenly I jab at it, hard and the spider falls to the floor, where it shakes itself and prepares to launch a counter attack at me. But I am faster. Whap, whack, smash. The dogs go wild, barking and snarling at the broom. I, of course, emerge victorious. Just in case, I give it a stomp with my foot, then have to hobble to the deck to scrape it off my shoe. "Oh great," I think "more spider funerals."

Time to work in my kitchen, or as I like to refer to it, the lab. I mentioned trying to make tiny pies in a couple of previous blog posts. Today is the day. Time to experiment. I thawed out the frozen pie dough for ten minutes, rolled it out on the floured counter, measured my jar - inside, outside and diameter - so I knew the size of the dough rounds to cut out. Soon I had four not bad looking tiny mincemeat pies made and in the oven.

Instructions online called for an oven temp of 400F. I thought that sounded a bit high, but followed instructions, and set timer for 20 minutes. 15 minutes later I open the oven to see...

...smoke rolling out. My eyes go slitty and I make a double scrunchy face! Nothing appears burned. 400F was way too high, as I suspected. Leaving the door open until all the smoke dissipated, I lowered the oven temp to 350F, set the timer for 10 minutes. In 10 minutes they are baking nicely - no more smoke. And 10 minutes after that, they are done.

Richard comes home from putting a tarp on Ron's roof - don't ask - and his nose is grabbed by the delectable odor of fresh baked mince pie, one of his favorites. We try them after lunch. Ohhhhh, they are tender, flaky, and the filling to pie crust ratio is perfect. Ambrosial. Next time will be with my own pie dough and my own homemade filling. I can't wait to tell Kate about them.

Replete from our dessert, I take the kids into the garden yard while Richard mows grass in the dog yard. It is +25 on the deck in the shade, my favorite day time temperature. We lazily wander about, looking at the flowers and plants, and yes, I DID remember my camera.

Meandering past the King apple tree, camera in one hand, cane in the other, something swipes across my face. GAK, spider web! Running from the garden boat to the fence. Now they are using motion detection to find me!

My eyes go slitty again, and I make a triple scrunchy face...

...and I says a swear.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It Bears Remembering

Ever day before I go out into the yard, I tell myself to take my camera. Every time. And every day, with few exceptions, I forget. I have a nice camera, got it two and a half years ago, after I had my first knee replaced. It's a Kodak Z7590 digital camera with a 10x zoom, and several manual and automatic settings. I love it. It does what I want it to do, when I want it to. I take some good photo's, some really good photo's and some bad ones. It is light, easy to carry, fits in my hand. Sooooo...

...why in heck can't I remember to take it outside with me when I go. I carry it with me when ever I go in the van, every time, but going out into the yard, sigh, only when I want to photograph something specific.

I think I have learned my lesson though, finally. I think I have learned to take it with me from now on. Tonight I went out into the yard with the dogs for their evening constitutional, before dark. I deactivate doggy mines, Richard picks up windfall apples, we chat all the while.

Emily, our 13 year old dog, is over by the garden boat, looking through the fence, south towards the big pear trees. Suddenly she rears up and begins barking ferociously - or as ferociously as a 10 pound dog can. The other 5 race to the fence and mimic her. I am used to them barking, they are after all dogs, and they do take exception to various and sundry noises from Cherry Creek Road. Richard wanders over to look, I, meanwhile, just think it is one of the neighborhood cats that patrol our place.

Richard calls to me: "Bear". I reply "huh?" Intelligent reply, no? He repeats himself, all the while the dogs are going berserk, "BEAR". "Um, really? Where?" Another intelligent reply, yes? He points at the pear trees "DOWN THERE". Finally it reaches my brain...BEAR!

By now I am at the fence looking, oh about 300 feet, from a not so Cute Little Island Black Bear. And he is looking back at us, with a "What you looking at!?" look on his face, not the least bit intimidated by 6 yappy little dogs and two humans.
"Maybe you should take the dogs inside", Richard says. I commented later that he looked as if he was trying to decide whether to eat the dogs or wipe his backside with them.

I had a perfect shot of him, a side shot, full face looking at me, haughty look, perhaps imagining one of the dogs with an apple, or in this instance a pear, shoved in it's mouth, feet in the air, on a platter, and MY CAMERA WAS IN THE HOUSE IN IT'S CRADLE ON MY COMPUTER! Arrrrrgggghhh!

Of course, by the time I hobbled
into the house, corralled the dogs, grabbed my camera, hobbled back out to the garden boat, Richard had scared the bear away.

Bear will be back. Tonight. After dark. When the dogs, and we, are inside. With the doors and windows locked and the blinds pulled down tight...I believe I mentioned about my bear paranoia in a previous blog. Or two. He'll be back and will climb the pear tree, tossing pears down to the ground to pick up and eat at his leisure. That's what bears do.

And me? What do I do? You mean...besides forget to take my camera outside when ever I go out?

Sigh. That photo at the top of the page is not one I took.

But I think I will remember my camera from now on.

No, really.

The Bargain Hunter

It all started with a recipe.

The morning was warm and sunny when I stumbled out of bed to let the dogs out. News reports were all about stupid things political candidates said recently, but Anna Olson was making grilled Pork Ribs. Richard has two days off, so it's laundry and a bit of shopping - I'm looking for inexpensive apples, Sure Jell & tiny 125ml jars.

I want to make apple pie filling to store in the freezer for later this winter, and I want the jars to make tiny fruit pies in. I mentioned it in yesterdays post, about the recipe I found online at, Not Martha's Blog, for the tiny pies made
and stored frozen in jars, then taken out of the freeze, lids remove, brought to room temp and baked. And all the other recipes I could think of for making and storing in the jars. But I get ahead of myself.

Nobody seems to have apples for a good price. You see, there's the store price, then what I think they should cost, and what I am willing to pay. We live in BC, where apples grow plentiful, and should have access to good apples at a fair price. I WILL NOT pay $8.00 for a 5 pound bag of scabby apples, while they ship out all the good apples to the Prairie provinces and the US. Nope, uh uh, won't do it.

Many of the stores usually have huge bins of apples this time of year for a reasonable price, around 70 to 80 cents a pound. Not this year. Quality Foods had the best price I could find, some battered looking Mac's for 98 cents a pound. I bought 4 pounds of the best I could pick out. Their jars were too expensive. I wont pay $7.99 for 12 tiny jars. Nor will I pay $3.00 for Bernardin Freezer Jelling powder.

We get lunch and go to the Victoria Quay to eat it, watching the Turkey Vultures circling over the canal as they look for dead fish in the water. Toss a bit of carrot and celery to the two young Ravens who drop by, demanding a toll to eat in their territory. Then it's off to Walmart where I am sure I will find a good price on Pectin...

...not so much. They didn't have what I wanted, and while what they did have was less expensive than Quality Foods, I only bought one at their price. I did, however, find a bargain on some Chrysanthemums. At Quality Foods they wanted $12.99 for their Mums. Walmart had a clearance sale - you know me and clearance sales on plants. $2.00 for a big pot of beautiful Mums, so I bought one Bronzey-Yellow one, one Wine colored one and one that is Wine with a Yellow heart. Good Deal!

Back in the van, Richard suggests checking out Extra Foods, because we are there, to see if they have any jars or pectin. My expectations are low for finding either item, but what the heck, may as well look. We wander the store, finally finding the jars and pectin waaaayy back in the far corner. The jars are a decent price, $5.99 a box. I notice the label underneath says "disc" which usually means discontinued. I put one in the cart, wander over to the pectin, can't find what I want but the Bernardin I got at Walmart is even cheaper here so I get a package. Then decide I need one more box of jars, if they really are discontinued.

I go through the checkout with my pectin and two cases of jars. Now bear in mind, I always know about how much the total of my purchases is - I had guestimated it at close to $16.00. The teller checks me through and asks for just over $8.81. Hmmmmmm. My heartbeat accelerates. The lower price can only mean one thing...

...BARGAIN! "disc" really means we-are-selling-these-cases-of-jars-at-a-ridiculously-low-price-so-some-woman-in-a-pink-tshirt-will-come-along-and-buy-them-all.

I quickly hand off the two cases I just bought to Richard, mumbling as fast as I can while pushing him out the door of the store, that the jars are on clearance 2 for 1 and I am going to get the rest and will meet him in the van.

I quickly clear the shelf, 10 more cases, and hold my breath while going through the checkout again, half expecting her to say the price was a mistake. Then quickly out to the van. Richard shakes his head at me "wow, found a good deal, did you?"

Now I am home with my bounty, and have to find a spot to store the jars until I am ready to use them. I have placed the 3 Chrysanthemums out in the sunshine where they will thrive. Trimmed 4 ragged pieces off them, putting them in a jar of water, maybe they'll root and I'll have more mums to pot up. Oh and I still have two Mum's I saved over from last year that are ready to bloom as well.

And those tiny fruit pies? After dinner, when Richard is out from underfoot, I will take a frozen pie shell out of the freezer, thaw it slightly, roll it on a floured board, cut out small circles of dough from it, carefully place them in a couple of jars, and fill them with mincemeat - because I have a jar in the cupboard and it is quick and easy - cover the tiny pies with a small circle of dough, poke steam holes, set the jars on a silpat covered cookie sheet and bake them in the oven. Then...

...savor each tiny delectable bite, thoroughly enjoying it, all the while thinking of the bargain I got that all started with a recipe.

Yeah I know, as Kate would say, BITZ!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pheasant Under Grass

September seems to have thankfully brought back Summer. It has been lovely and warm - not hot - but in the 70F. range for the most part, and the garden is taking advantage of it.

This morning, and all last night, was windy. The infamous "Gale Force Winds on the Straits of Juan de Fuca" blowing like mad. This afternoon is what I would refer to as "breezy" but not "windy". There were lots of windfall apples on the ground this morning when we struggled in the wind to tie up the beach mats and shower curtain on the boat. As I tried to deactivate a doggy mine, using my doggy mine deactivation tools of course, it blew up...all over my hand. GAK! I am not a squeamish person, but doggy mines on my hand...eeeeewwwwwww! Needless to say, I dropped everything and ran - ok, for you purists, I hobbled quickly - to wash my hands!

Richard left to begin work at noon, and I reminded him to pick me up a case of tiny 125ml jelly jars. I found recipes and instructions online, at Not Martha's Blog, for making "tiny pies", that is, making and freezing or baking miniature fruit pies in the tiny jars and I just HAVE to try it. Last night I let my mind roam, free associating to see what other recipes for tiny items baked in a tiny jar to try, and came up with several: mini deep dish pizza - a suggestion from someone online - scones, focaccia, tiny cinnamon pull-aparts, mini cheesecake, Brioche, Christmas cake, fruit crisp, tiny cinnamon rolls, yeast buns. But I need the tiny jars. Yes, I had several boxes of them. No, I can't find them anywhere. Yes I am fixated on this.

In the afternoon, the kids and I wandered back out in the sunshine to the garden yard, where I did some more watering and they did doggy things: sniffed out bugs, rolled in things I don't want to know, lazed in the warm sunshine. Once I heard a strange noise coming from behind the house. The dogs looked that way, then went back to their sun tanning. I didn't get concerned, but I did tiptoe to the fence and try to see what made the noise, a kind of cracking, like maybe a tree branch broke. Hmmmmm. Maybe we should go inside.

Inside, I read the news online, sort digital photo files to take to Walmart for prints to send to Mom and Dad, drink an ice tea. A few times
I peripherally take note of the cry and wing beating of a Ring Necked Pheasant in the yard, something I haven't heard since last spring.

As I walk into the laundry room, I see movement outside the window blind. It is the pheasant! And he sees me. I turn quickly, going to get my camera. Pheasants are wily creatures and I was unsuccessful in the spring trying to photograph him. Maybe this time...

...through a mini blind, and the dirty window behind it, half way down the photo, in the middle, there, right there, there he is. Not a Pulitzer Prize winner, but I did manage to get him, sort of. I preset my camera, zoomed the lens in a bit, slithered into the room around to the right, sneaking up like a Ninja, pointed the camera, set the focus and snapped. Twice. He ducked down, then scurried through the tall grass. Sigh. Better luck next time.

Hah, not bloody likely.

After dinner the dogs alert to something in the yard. A Cute Little Island Black Bear? A Cute Little Island Mule Deer? A Mole Person? Nope, just a cat. A black and white one we call Sylvester, who hangs around the farm, hunting in the fields and fishing in the creek. Time to take them out to the garden yard and put the boat to bed.

As I go, I deactivate more doggy mines, but this time, I am smart. I wear plastic gloves, just in a case a doggy mine blows up again.

Back inside there is an e-mail from Kelly. He asks: "Hows the great spider hunt going? I can see one of the dead spiders kids coming after you, ala the Mandy Patinkin character in Princess Bride, saying: my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die!"

Gee, thanks Kelly. Like I needed THAT visual in my brain!