Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Princess

It's Friday and I wake up early again. Well, not exactly know. Been doing that a lot lately. Hmmmmm. Maybe because Daylight Saving time ends this weekend and my system is getting ready for the change. Whatever the reason, I am up and open the patio door in the dog room for them to go outdoors. Yeah, as if. It's raining today. Heavily. And it's dark and gloomy. But I am up.

The forecast is for rain right through until Monday. It's Halloween today and that rain will put a damper on the Trick or Treating for a lot of kids. Living were we do in the country, we never get kids at our door. Long, spooky, creepy-in-the-dark driveway's will do that. That and the risk of coming face to face with a Black Bear.

Richard is working late and I hope to bake some Brioche, but not sure I will get time to. Yesterday I corralled Richard and got him to help me rearrange the bedroom, getting it ready for after I have my surgery in (hopefully) 3 weeks. What a job that was.

Today I have to put all that "stuff", that I didn't know what to do with before, away somewhere. Then there is dealing with fact that the floor slopes 2 inches from one side of the room to the other. Of course the head of my bed has to go on the downside of the room, and I had to get Richard to find something to prop the head of the bed up with so it will be relatively level. Sigh. Even then I found myself sleeping with 2 pillows instead of one, a psychological thing I am sure.

Everything got moved around: the computer is now where the bed used to be and the bed where the TV and computer used to be. The TV is now where the little black cabinet used to be - which has moved to beside the computer so the printer has a place to sit. My former nightstand sits beside the TV till I can empty it and find it a new home and I have a different, smaller footprint nightstand, so as not to block my way when I get out of bed after surgery. Now I just have to find a place to store my recipe journals and a place for my computer speakers. No idea where they will end up.

That takes up a couple of hours. It is still raining but I am determined to go out into the garden yard. I trick the dogs into coming out with me and surprisingly, the ones that are the biggest wusses actually follow me all the way out to the garden boat. They snuffle about in the fallen leaves and then eat some fresh rain-washed grass, a particular favorite of theirs.

Over the traffic noise on Cherry Creek Road, I can hear the water rushing down in the creek. Maybe it will have rained enough to start filling the well again so we don't have to keep hauling water. Oh that would be such a treat. I take stock of the garden boat. The remaining Calendula plants are blooming their hearts out with big orange blossoms. The Echinacea is hoping to bloom; the petunias are trying, although the blossoms usually disintegrate in the rain. The tiny white Chrysanthemums are doing their best, and the Feverfew blossoms have just given up. And yes, I know I HAVE to pull up the Marigold plants that were hit by frost.

Suddenly it occurs to me that I haven't been watching the dogs and therefore don't have a clue as to where they have planted doggy mines. Scrunchy face.

I start quartering the yard, carefully, looking for the ones I just know will be there. The problem is, the leaves from the apple trees - and there are two of them - drop, dry up, roll up and look exactly like doggy mines. So it takes a loooonnngg time to go back and forth across the yard. I find an old one and deactivate it quickly, then spot another and yet another. I know there are more out there, just waiting for some poor unsuspecting sucker, namely me, to step on them.

Back inside the dogs are frisky from their run in the rainy yard, racing around the house. I spotted several geraniums and osteospermum on the deck that need dead heading and go back outdoors to take care of them. So many of them are still blooming, adding a bright, cheery light to an otherwise dull day.

Halloween evening is its usual non-event at our house, with the exception of all the fire-works exploding in the area. The dogs spend the first hour or so barking and hooting every time they hear some. After a while, when they see I am not excited about the noise, they settle down to sleep on the sofa, Mason of course keeping guard.

Clocks back in one more day, back to Pacific Standard Time. Some people are bothered by it, but not me. It's just part of the season. I do look forward to March and spring ahead again though. But for now, I am planning my garden. And waiting for surgery.

Megan and Hammond have sent me photo's of Rylan in a pumpkin patch and again in her Halloween Costume at a neighborhood Halloween party. I have to say she IS adorable.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Man the Bearicade, Part Deux

I am awake early for some reason this morning...well,
8am is early for me. Richard has gone to check on Ron and feed the cows. He left me a note: "The bear got into the garbage shed last night. I'll clean up the mess when I get home." Triple scrunchy face time with a side to side of slitty eyes. Harrummmph! Back to my bed for my cappuccino.

Nothing good on the news; nothing good on the cooking channel. I'd be grumpy but what good would it do. Besides, I'm still sleepy. The dogs are in the small pen in the cold air. Wetter network is calling for sunny today. HAH! It's cold and foggy. Richard returns and the dogs come back inside where it is warmer.

"Did you see my note?" he asks.

"Yup" is all I reply. I am still waffling between giving him an "I told you so" and sympathizing with him. "I told you so" wins out.

"I did mention last week after the bear was in the garden yard that this was going to happen," I say. "I did say that now that all the fruit was gone from the trees, he would be after the garbage shed".

"I thought the garbage shed was secure enough," he replies "but it must have settled a bit and the door popped open. Either that or he just turned the door knob and walked right in." I give him THE LOOK. Richard makes a slitty-eyed scrunchy face at me and walks out to pick up the garbage, muttering to himself. I might also add that the bear dragged it aaaaaaaalllllllll over the place. Looks like he was playing soccer with some of the bags.

Richard returns after picking it all up, re-bagging and re-securing it. "I knocked all the apples off that other apple tree out behind the house," he says "and I shut the door tight again on the garbage shed and put a barricade up." I cringe, but keep my mouth shut. I know what his barricades are like. "Let's take the dogs out to the garden yard before you leave for work," is all I say.

Mason and Pippi race out as usual to be first to see whatever is there...which is not much unfortunately for them. Fortunately for me. They wander about, doing what dogs do, and I wander over to see the bear barricade. I stand there staring at it, shaking my head and doing my best not to say anything.

"I'm going to take all the garbage to the dump tomorrow," he says. I am glad to hear that, but just have to say "you know the bear WILL be back tonight, don't you?"

Scrunchy face. "Yeah" he sighs, "I know."

"And you know that your bearicade is NOT going to keep him out, don't you?" I reply.

"Yeah...but I'm hoping it will," he responds, rather wistfully.

Don't you just love optimists? I shake my head again and shut my mouth. Time to go back in and think of other things... baking bread. That's my plan for when he is off to work. I have mixed up the dough for the testing recipe a few days ago, and today is the day to mix and make the second part. This is a new method for me and I am quite unsure of myself. The first part I baked yesterday was ok. I mean, I baked one loaf and I wasn't happy with it, so I immediately set to work and did another loaf with a tweak here or there. It turned out better, but because I don't have a clue how it should look or taste, I can't say that I am completely happy with it. I THINK it turned out as it should have, but it is different from any bread I have mixed and baked, or purchased and eaten, before. Hmmmmmm.

Now the dough is mixed, and looks...well...odd. S'ok, just gonna follow instructions and hope I did it right. Dump it in an oiled bowl, cover, let it rise 90 minutes. Lots of time to take the dogs out. The sun has finally made an appearance and it is lovely and warm by the garden boat. I take some photo's and just get lost in the view. The kids are enjoying themselves, sniffing the light breeze, watching for deer monsters, following their noses, leaving pee-mail. Take that, Mr. Bear! I take my eyes off them for a few seconds while I gaze at the scenery and just like that 3 of them have planted doggy mines, and I don't know where the are. Siiiggh. The grass is long and doggy mines like to mascarade as dried up fallen leaves. I am wearing out my quota of scrunchy faces today.

Back indoors, I bake the bread and it looks not too bad. Maybe a bit dark, but great oven spring. Hope it tastes as good as it looks. Will make sure it is totally cooled before cutting into it. I shaped mine into Boules - circular and rounded on top - then slashed a crude square on the top just before baking.

That's enough excitement for one day I think. Expect the Cute Little Island Mule Deer will find the apples out back before the Bear Monster does. Least I hope so. And I hope that once Richard takes the garbage out tomorrow, the Bear Monster will mosey on and find some other source of food.

For now, Mason is on guard facing down the driveway, chin resting on the back of the sofa, nose pressed against the already nose-printed patio door.

Rosie is facing the other way.

They've got it covered.

Bring it on, Bear Monster, bring it on!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Man the Bearicade

Did you SEE the mess
that bear made, Dad???

Richard's Bear Obstacle

Getting up at 7:00am should be against the law especially when it is still dark outside. As I have stated before, many times, I am NOT an early morning person. Today I had to be up to avoid an hour and a half wait at the lab. Last week the technician didn't get enough blood from my arms for my pre-op blood work so this morning I had to return for round 2.

On the way, driving past a tiny strip mall on Johnston Road, I notice a police car and crime scene tape at a local Jewellery store.
Shades of CSI. "Oh my" I said, "looks like they must have been robbed again."

At the lab the technician - the same one who tried to take the blood last week - actually flinched when I told her who I was and why I was there. Not a good sign. Sitting down in the cubicle, I prepared for her to start right away. I waited. She did paperwork from other lab attendees periodically turning and giving me a half slitty-eyed look, then turning back to her papers. I waited some more. She gave me scrunchy face looks. Finally after 15 minutes she stood up, straightening her shoulders, as though coming to a conclusion. I braced myself.

"I have decided to take it out of the back of your hand" she stated. I make a scrunchy face myself. That can be painful. "OK," I said, "let's get it over with." 5 minutes later I am out the door, no pain, no bruising, and she is heaving a big sigh of relief at getting a test tube full before the vein gave up. And it's only 8:25.

Back home and in I go for my cappuccino and the news. Richard leaves to feed cows and check on Ron, returning with the newspaper and information on the Jewellery store. Two men tried to rob it last night at gunpoint, just before closing, but the owner refused to give them anything but two shots from a pistol. Yikes. Details are sketchy.

I revive from my early morning ordeal, checking for email and find my first test recipe from the bread book author. After reading it over a few times to familiarize myself with it, I decide to go and purchase some fresh ingredients: bread flour, instant yeast, PAM cooking spray - something I never use - and a large, round, plastic container for stowing the dough in the fridge.

The day turns sunny and gorgeous, and I ride in the van with my window down. As we pull back into the yard, I comment that it didn't seem like the bear had been in the the apple trees over night. "Nope," said Richard, "but I put a few things around the base of the tree to keep him from climbing it, so I expect that deterred him."

Now, I have to tell you here that Richard is an eternal optimist. No, really. See, he really does believe that putting a couple of things - namely a STEP LADDER, part of a bunk bed frame that looks like a ladder and a homemade apple picker - will deter a hungry bear from climbing a tree to eat apples. Really. Needless to say, I gave him my best incredulous-face look, shaking my head. "Your kidding, right?" I got a look of wounded innocence in return. "Aw God," I said holding my head in my hands.

He parks the van and I get out to take some photo's of the barricade and the dogs in the yard. Afterward, we meander around enjoying the sunshine, the warm breeze and the blue sky. The Bichons are on guard, watching for the bear, and Mason points out more Bear Poop, just outside the fence...right beside the bear barricade. Go figger.

While looking across the driveway, I notice something in the Sweet Chestnut tree. Is that...could that really is! After 12 years of not producing chestnuts, it has a cluster of spiny burrs, containing several small chestnuts. That tree used to produce many burrs every year, until we buried JJ the cat, who had died suddenly, under it. We came to the conclusion that he must have been poisoned somehow and that in turn killed the tree. Then a few years later we noticed new growth again and the tree came back to life. And has finally produced nuts. Hmmph, interesting.

Back in the yard, the dogs are enjoying the sunshine and so am I. Richard has gone to Walmart to check out his new work schedule. A couple of the Muttering Murder of Crows show up, perching down in a Pear tree, watching the dogs and me. These two are the class clowns. Soon I hear one of them doing his
barking Bichon imitation. Very funny guy. The other one then imitates someone knocking on a door and then they begin grokking. Guess that is the Crow version of laughter. Who knew Crows had a sense of humor?

We trail back indoors and I begin to make plans for dinner. Tonight will be Apricot Mustard Meatballs, Rice and vegetables. A quick and easy meal, and quite tasty if I do say so myself. I like to get the Green Giant frozen vegetables that have the water chestnut slices, pea pods, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and yellow peppers. They are so good with rice and nearly taste like fresh picked.

Dinner is on the go, so we wander one more time out to the garden yard before it is too dark. As the dogs hit the end of the yard, the Blue Grouse flies up, startled, from across the drive to the south of us. Of course the dogs go crazy. I am glad to see she is still around and hope she stays.

The sun is setting and dinner is nearly ready. I'm tired after my early start to the day. Going to take it easy and rest, maybe read a book and watch tv. Love those NCIS reruns. This weekend I hope to get started on the bread recipe for the cookbook I am a tester for. One of 300 testers. This will be interesting. Hope I do ok.

The dogs are on the back of the sofa, dozing and watching for bear monsters. But all that shows up are the Cute Little Island Mule Deer. Of course the kids hoot and holler. And of course I shush them. And of course they ignore me. Ah well, the deer ignore them too.

Wonder what the bear will think of the barricade.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Straight Poop

The Wetter Network is promising sunshine today as I try to get both eyes focusing at once. Not an easy job when you wake with a headache. I am driving Bente to Nanaimo today so I have to pull out all the headache removal tricks in my repertoire, starting with some acupressure and Myoflex cream. Then Cappuccino with an extra hit of instant coffee, the caffeine in it being a "natural" painkiller.

We leave at 10:30 and Bente, bless her heart, has brought me a Tim Horton's English Toffee Cappuccino. Well, if nothing else I'll be alert on the drive. Our trip takes us East over "the Hump" past Mount Arrowsmith, through Cathedral Grove and around Cameron Lake, then past Angel Rock. The scenery is amazing: the sky that brilliant Island blue, the leaves on the trees a myriad of fall colors. A big rig trucker tries to harass me into going faster than the 80km/hr posted by moving right up to my back bumper, but I refuse to let him intimidate me using up a few of my daily quota of swears and scrunchy faces. Did you know that before Bente met me, she never used language like I use? Really.

Our first stop is at Buckerfields for biscuits for the dogs. Then back out on the highway to Nanaimo. We make a stop at the new Best Buy store just for a look around, then a quick stop at Costco. Bente needs to get a few things for Codfather Seafood, and I need a Costco Hotdog and fries. It's tradition.

We are home just after three, and my headache is still with me. I give up and take some Tylenol to try to alleviate it. The dogs are antsy and want to be out in the sunshine. I don't blame them. As we hit the gate to the garden yard, I notice something on the ground beside the Outdoor Gas Convection crap, literally. Yup, that good old Cute Little Island Black Bear has been visiting again. Funny, I never noticed that when I looked out the window this morning and I am REALLY observant. Hmmmmm.

I am not picking up the Bear Poop, I'll wait for Richard, so I herd the dogs back indoors and through the living room Patio Door to the pen on the other side of the house. For those of you counting pens, we have 3 of them - Garden Yard on the East side of the house, West Yard on the, yes, West side of the house, and Small Pen, which sits inside of West Yard, right outside the Patio Door in the dog room on the Northwest corner of the house. And if you are counting Patio Doors, we have 3 of them as well: Living Room facing South, Dog Room facing West and Back Porch facing North. There, now you have a very confused idea of house and yard.

Where was I? Oh yes, Bear Poop. So we wait for Richard who arrives at 4:30. He picks up that pile of poop and disposes of it, then the dogs race out to the yard. I begin to pick up apples the bear knocked out of the tree and chewed on and Richard helps. Suddenly he hollers at me that he found more poop. And then more poop, and as he is disposing of that, he finds MORE bear poop in the middle of the yard. If you are keeping track, that's 4 piles in the As I toss a bear eaten apple core over the fence, I notice 1, no make that 2, nope make that 3 more piles of bear poop out in the drive. WOW, this little guy has been really busy.

And some of that poop looks really, um, well, quite fresh. HMMMMM. "Do you think that maybe while I was gone to Nanaimo, and you were away from the house too, that the Cute Little Island Black Bear made a visit to the yard for apples?" I ask Richard. "I was just going to say that," he replies. Oh now that does NOT make me happy at all.

On the good side, the apples are mostly gone from the two apple trees, the bear made sure of that. With his food source gone, he should move on. On the bad side, that is just waaaay too bold for me if he was in the yard during the day. I know the bear wasn't in the yard at 1am, because I was up and I looked out to see if he was. Sure, he could have been there any time after that, and yes, maybe I didn't notice the poop when I looked out the window this morning, I WAS bleary eyed. And maybe I didn't notice it when we drove out of the ya...say, come to think of it, Bente DID point out a pile of poop on the side of the drive by the corner of the garden yard as we left.

So now I will have to be hyper vigilant and if I see him during the day near the yard, really create a racket to chase him off. And next year I want to come up with a really good bear scare to make him give our yard a wide berth. Richard keeps suggesting something to do with car horns, 12 volt batteries and strobe lights. Well, he IS a mechanic, after all. Me, I'm not so sure about that. I have visions of a lot of sleepless nights and really, REALLY pissed off neighbors. Not to mention the RCMP knocking on our door at 3am.

And I am still thinking about wireless night vision web cameras for the yard, just to see what is really going on out there in the dark.

But that could get crazy too. During Cute Little Island Bush Bunny mating season, I mean.

Oh my, better rethink that one.

I mean, who wants to get busted by the Conservation Officers for Bunny porn?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bear Wars

The kitchen is warm as I wander out for my morning cappuccino, but I return to my bed and the heating pad to drink it and watch the news. Richard is off feeding the cows and checking on Ron. When he returns, we are going to do a bit of shopping. I need Gem Jar lids and rings, still need Anise Seed, and Extra Foods has their Dollar Days. I have a list of things to look for there. But first, my cappuccino.

I find my Gem Jar lids, but flinch at the price. Still, jars are no good without lids, so I swallow hard and buy them. I wander the store aimlessly. I need a new sweatshirt but wont buy one that isn't 100% Cotton. I hate the ones that are Cotton/Polyester blend. No luck. Off to Extra Foods.

I only find half of what I am looking for there as the rest of the things I want are sold out. No big deal. We decide to buy a Mediterranean Chicken Sandwich and go to Victoria Quay to watch the wildlife if any are about.

If you have never had an Extra Foods Mediterranean Chicken Sandwich, you are sadly deprived. I don't like store bought sandwiches usually. I find that most are made with icky filling and Wonder Bread, not my thing. These, however, are made using a big fresh Cheddar Cheese bun, chunks of Feta Cheese, sliced crisp Red Onion, pieces of Green Pepper - which I pick off and save for the dogs as a treat - loads of shaved Mediterranean Chicken sandwich meat, leaf lettuce and some orange stuff slathered on the bun that I LOVE but don't know what it is and wish I could buy off the shelf. This is a SANDWICH. And I am addicted to them. I limit myself to one ever two weeks usually, although I have had two in the last week. Well, one and a half because I share this one with Richard.

It's low tide and we see a seal in the water, popping its head up to look around, then diving down under again. As we chat, I spot a bear across the canal foraging for food. A great Blue Heron watches it with a wary eye. Richard suggests that since we are there anyway, we should go across the street to Healthy Habits Health Food Market to look for Anise Seed. They are still out, but I will wait for them to replenish their stock and not buy elsewhere. Why would I do that? Because their price is sooooo much better than anywhere else. They charge $1.99/100gm. Everywhere else is roughly $7.00 for 50gm. You do the math.

Back home, Richard starts a fire in the wood stove and I prepare to take the dogs out. Looking out the window, I realize there are apples on the ground in the garden yard. Now that's not so unusual, we do have 2 apple trees out there. What is unusual is the amount of apples on the ground. This past week, I have picked up maybe half a dozen windfall apples a day. But this...this is more like 100 apples on the ground. My eyes go slitty. Hmmmmm.

I bring it to Richard's attention and tell him we need to check it out before I loose the hounds. I put the frozen foods in the freezer and before I can get outside to stop him, Richard has pitched most of the apples over the fence. I had wanted to take photo's of all the apples on the ground, sigh. And how on earth did he make it to the other end of the garden yard without stepping in the Bear poop right in his path!??

Yes, we had another visit from that pesky little Black Bear Monster during the night. And he was very, very busy. After Richard disposed of a pile of poop, I let the dogs out into the yard. They went crazy, sniffing all around where he had been. The signs are clear. The little monster climbed up the tree - you can see evidence of his claw marks in the apple tree trunk in one of the photo's above. Then he calmly and patiently picked apples to toss to the ground for his snack. The dogs sniff around the lawn chair out by the tree, Pippi jumping up in it to get a better scent of him. On his way down out of the apple tree into the yard, he steps on and squashes one of my flower pots.

I flash on the bear...picking up an apple and then sitting down in the lawn chair, crossing his legs and munching away, tossing the apple core over his shoulder before grabbing another one. Oh yes, he tossed the apple cores, we found that evidence too. Nearly ever apple had at least one bite out of it. Some were half eaten, some all but the core. I make a scrunchy face.

I know how he works, having watched him eating pears. Toss to ground, climb down, lay down, enjoy at leisure. Oh, and then leave a big pile of poop, just so they know for sure I've been here.
Cheeky bugger.

Back indoors it is time for more wood on the stove. Richard prepares to leave for work and I am feeling a bit peckish, but for something sweet. Looking around I decide to make a chocolate cake in the bread machine. Then I will make a cream cheese icing for it. Yum, can't wait. Soon it is baking in the machine and I am doing laundry. No, I DIDN'T look out the laundry room window, why do you ask?

My cake is done and cooling on the rack. Ummmmm, can't you just smell it's chocolatey goodness? Soon it will be slathered in a yummy cream cheese frosting. Can't you just taste it? Mouthwatering.

I hear the Bichons barking in the living room and go to look. It's the Cute Little Island Doe Mule Deer and her fawn, coming to eat the abundance of apples in the driveway. Soon the other deer will follow. Mason is on guard on the back of the sofa and I try to convince him that deer is good, bear is bad. I don't think he believes me. He sits facing down the drive, ever vigilant.

Time to make the dogs dinner. And mine. Then ice the cake and eat it.

What could be better than chocolate cake on a cold and gloomy day?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bear Dogs R Us

It rained over night, the trees and grass are sodden. So is my brain. It's a big old bleary-eyed brain fog day. I have to tell myself which foot to put in front of the other as I wend my way to the kitchen for my morning cappuccino. Maybe it will help my eyes to focus, both at the same time. Nope. Back to sit on the bed and watch the news. I read the news ticker at the bottom of the screen with the sound off, the announcers voices are just annoying.

After Richard leaves for work, I tidy the kitchen and then set about creating a new bread recipe. I have a couple of boxes of Weetabix cereal biscuits in the cupboard, and after reading the ingredient and nutritional label, decide they would be good crushed up in a Spelt bread. Now for the other ingredients. Hmmmmm, there is that package of Maple Flakes I have had for a while and wanted to use in something. And that bag of dried apples...soon I have a recipe written up.

But first, time to take the dogs out into the garden yard before the rain begins again. Pippi and Mason of course race to the end of the yard and peer through the fence down towards the big Pear trees, looking for the Bear Monster. They sniff the breeze, but he is not in the neighborhood. Thankfully. We wander about, me picking up windfall apples. They planting doggy mines, perhaps with the thought of deterring their furry black nemisis.

There are still some Gravenstein apples on the tree, and I pick a few using our homemade picker. For the unintiated, let me describe the flavor of a Gravenstein. It is sweet, crisp, faintly tart, and if you get it at just the right time, has butterscotch notes. I love the taste. What is surprising is it's long season this year. Usually, it ripens in August and is all finished by mid September at the latest. I will miss it when it is gone. It is a versitile apple, good for pies, sauces, jellies, butters and eating fresh.

Time to go back into the house and continue with my recipe. I decide on white flour, spelt flour, crushed Weetabix, Maple Flakes instead of sugar, butter, salt, milk powder, cinnamon, yeast and dried apples. Soon I am gathering ingredients to be mixed in the bread machine and the dough is mixing. Looks good, a little sticky, but will knead in more flour after its first rise.

A half cup of flour and some hand kneading later and the very sticky dough is rising in a round Corelle casserole dish. I forgot how much the dried apples would expand when they mixed in with the water and flour. Make a mental note to chop them finer next time. And use 1/2 cup instead of 3/4 cup. The dough looks and smells wonderful. Hope it will taste good when it's baked. Well, it IS a work in progress after all.

The sun comes out of no where, so we decide to go outdoors again and enjoy it while we can. This time I have six dogs with me instead of my usual five, as Rosie decides to join us. As I open the gate, Mason and Pippi again race out to the end of the yard, but this time they are standing up at the fence and barking their little heads of. Ah crap! I hurry to the end of the yard as fast as I can with my cane. "Is it the Bear Monster guys?" I ask as I look down towards the Pear trees. They continue their raucous barking while I look around the yard. Then I see him.

He is running from under the big old Sitka Spruce tree, down and over the bank of the creek. I holler at him to get out of here, banging my cane on the metal fence post while the dogs all bark and roar. Once he is out of site, I go and deactivate doggy mines, secure in the knowledge that Mason and Pippi - especially Pippi - will alert me to his return.

Pippi has an amazingly deep and loud voice for a small dog. She and Mason pace around the corner of the yard, lifting their muzzles and scenting the air. Mason growls, while Pippi throws her head all the way back and lets loose with periodic spine tingling barking, interspersed with scenting the air for the Bear Monster. Ok enough is enough, I have stood my ground and been really brave but time to go back in. And lock all the doors.

Inside Pippi is still agitated, walking from room to room, growling and scenting the air. I put the bread dough in the oven to bake and go into the living room to listen to the news. She follows me, at times barking. This little girl takes her job as a guard dog very serious. I try to reassure her, but she isn't having it. Mason sits on the back of the sofa, looking out the patio door through all the doggy nose prints, and watches for the Bear. Pippi lays on the floor behind my chair, watching the doorway. No Bear will dare to get past her.

The odor of the baking bread reaches us and I have to admit, it is mouth watering. Before putting it in the over to bake, I sprinkled about a tablespoon of Maple Flakes on top, to finish it off. Hope they don't burn. I realize suddenly that it is after 6pm and I have not fed the dogs or myself. Time for dinner.

The dogs are fed and I go out into the back porch to get some wood for the fire. I sense as much as see movement in the fading light through the patio door. Cute Little Island Doe Mule Deer and her fawn are grazing for apples from the tree out back. The see me. I wave and finish getting my wood. As I come back in, the timer on the stove goes and the bread is done. Sure smells wonderful. Removing it from the pan, I set it on the cooling rack and inhale it's scent.

Turning back to the stove, I again sense movement in the yard, this time under the King Apple tree. Mom and baby have moved around to the driveway to eat apples there. I feel safe and secure with their presence, for they wouldn't be here if the Bear was in the vicinity.

In the photo's above, the one with the now bereft garden boat, scroll to the bottom left and you will see my fierce guard Bichon, Pippi, protecting me from the Bear Monster. By the look on her face, you can tell she takes her job very serious.

In the living room, the kids begin to hoot and holler. They have spotted the deer in the driveway. Usually I would stop them, but tonight I think they have earned their bark time. I leave them for a couple of minutes and then distract them with treats.

Pippi curls up on the Futon and dozes, but I notice only one eye is closed. She's on the job. On the back of the sofa, Mason too is dozing and guarding, facing the driveway where the deer were congregated. No one will get past him.

And me? I am waiting for the bread to cool so I can sample it. Richard will be home in an hour. It should be ready then, I can't wait. Apples, cinnamon, Maple Flakes, Weetabix, Spelt...can't you just taste it?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bears Repeating

Cloudy this morning but warmer, much warmer than yesterday. Richard comes back from feeding the cows and checking on Ron then starts getting ready for work at 11am. For me, cappuccino and the news. Nothing new, still a rehash of the Canadian Election, speculation on the upcoming American Election. The Global Economy. Yawn.

Today I am making Chili for dinner, and after Richard leaves for work, I put my ingredients in a slow cooker and let it simmer all day. I want to make a savory version of the Cinnamon Swirl yeast bread and have decided on Chili Cheese. I came up with the recipe last night before bed. Cut down on the sugar in the bread, add a bit more salt. Top with well drained green chili's, drained, sliced black olives and Tex/Mex shredded cheese. I start on it, getting the dry ingredients mixed up when Bente texts to say she is coming over in a while. I decide to quickly make another 1 Dish Cinnamon Swirl Bread - my version of it - so it will be warm and fresh when she arrives. Chili Cheese Bread can wait until later so it can be served warm with the hamburger Chili.

We have a great visit and as she leaves, I let the dogs into the garden yard to have a run. It is sunny and bright as we wander about. I deactivate several doggy mines, and then discover dozens and dozens of mushrooms growing everywhere. Not knowing if they are poisonous or not, I dig them up with my trusty doggy mine deactivation tools and toss them way over the fence. The rabbits and birds never eat them so out they go. When I am finished, I pick up windfall apples and we wander back inside after closing and locking the gate.

I check on dinner, put the Chili Cheese Bread in the oven. As I wait, I go into the laundry room to continue drying dog towels, but something catches my eye out the laundry room window. It is big...and black...and furry...and 20 feet away. He's back again. My heart jumps and my body does the "flight or fight" thingy.

My feet stay planted for a few seconds, before I rush, er, hobble out and get my camera. Maybe I can get a few quick photo's before he disappears. I move to the small dog pen, one foot in the house, one on the step, safe behind two fences and quickly snap a few shots off. He is partly hidden and the camera says I have to use the flash. I know the photo's wont be good, but take them anyway. He is in the Quince bushes, tasting the fruit. I can't imagine him enjoying those sour, puckery orbs, but he does eat a few. Then he disappears into the field beyond.

My heart is still doing a rapid beat as I go back into the kitchen and check my cheese bread. Again something out the window catches my eye and I see he has moved around from the field to the driveway. He is now 15 feet from my window under the Birch tree eating apples. I am not happy. I watch him for a while, until a fierce barking erupts from the back of the sofa in the living room. Mason has spotted him and alerts. The rest take up his hue and cry.

Bravely I unlock and then open the kitchen door and slam it twice. The bear takes off running, heading down towards the creek. Maybe I will be lucky and he wont be back...yeah, right. I praise Mason and the other dogs for chasing off the
bear monster, and return to the kitchen to finish dinner. Then I remember I never did put laundry in to dry. Back I go to the laundry room.

And again outside the window something moves. This time it is a fawn, and it is alone and running towards the house. Behind it, moving away, is that furry black form passing through the Quince bushes heading to the field again. Arrrggh. I head back to the kitchen and call Richard at work. I tell him the bear is here, has been here for around an hour and a half again, and ask him to park in the driveway rather than behind the house. I don't want him coming face to face with that Woolly Bugger.

I am sitting watching the news just before 6pm when I see a large bird fly over by the deck. Hmmmmm. Looked too big for a Crow. I peer through the doggy nose prints on the patio door and realize I am seeing a Blue Grouse. Wow. Haven't seen one of those in the yard for years and never this close to the house. As I watch, it perches in the Holly tree across from me.

Richard arrives just after 6pm and has spotted the Blue Grouse too. I bring my camera out into the yard and try and get photo's of it up in the Birch tree. As we watch her, she flies to the King Apple tree and walks nonchalantly along a branch, as confident as if she were walking on the ground. What a great sight! As we watch we hear her calling and I wonder aloud if there are more on the other side of the trees she is calling up to roost for the night. The picture I took is not good, but if you look in the pink box I drew on it, you will see a fuzzy thing that sort of - if you squint at it - looks like a bird perched up there.

Time for dinner. The Chili Cheese Bread is wonderful. I am so glad I came up with that recipe. And it is especially great with the pot of chili. I must tell Kate about this one.

Richard goes to feed the cows and check on Ron. I relax for a bit watching an NCIS rerun. Then it hits me...

...I STILL haven't dried those darn towels.

This time when I walk into the laundry room I DO NOT look out the window, choosing instead to close the blind. I don't want to know what's out there.

Richard comes back and gets out the bulbs for my string of lights on the fence. The last wind storm decimated the remaining bulbs I had out there. Bless his heart he goes and replaces several for me, lighting up the far corner of the garden yard by the garden boat.

Well, at least now I can see if the Woolly Bugger is out there eating apples and planting gigantic mines.

But for now, I close all the blinds and lock all the doors.

As Scarlett O'Hara would say "Tomorrow is another day."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ursa Major, Ursa Minor

It's really cold when we get up today. I mean, REALLY. Ok, so not really cold by Prairie standards, or Arctic standards, no, not like that. But, ok really chilly. How's that? I have plans...yeah I know, go to the store if Richard will drive me over. No way will I drive that stalling vehicle anywhere. It makes me say swears.

We make a foray down to the Victoria Quay to eat a burger and watch for wildlife, and are entertained by a couple of seals in the middle of the Canal. They appear to be diving for fish. Or teasing seagulls. Or just having fun frolicking in the water, doing seal things. Last week when we were at the Quay, there were Sea Lions fishing. We got a kick out of one of them, who swam over to the shore and barked at a man who was standing and watching them.

Driving back into the yard, Richard points out a pile of Cute Little Island Black Bear poop at the corner by the shed. I make a scrunchy face, but make him stop so I can get out and photograph it. Why would I do that, you ask? Read on...

...last night I talked to Bente and she told me a funny story. She does like I do in the morning, check her garden to see what is new. As she walked out that morning, something on the forest side of her street caught her eye. Like me, she talks to herself sometimes: "Is that...? Naw, it can't IS! A huge pile of Bear Poop!" Back indoors she goes for her camera. What!?! Well it's what I would have done too! Out she comes and takes photo's of it. She figures it was a big GrandDaddy bear from the size of it.

She spent the day working at cleaning up her garden and yard, all the while watching to see who would finally run over this pile. Her young neighbor won that lottery, snicker. She sent me the photo's last night and I have to tell you, I have a REALLY strong stomach, but one of those nasty photos nearly made me wretch!!! My photos of the Bear poop are revenge, albeit not as nasty as hers. And that will teach me to laugh about her Bear poop...

...after bringing in our meager purchases and giving the dogs a treat for being good while we were gone, I hunt up my toque, my mitts, and my jacket so I can take the kids out into the garden yard. Pippi looks at me funny when I put on my toque, lifting her ears in question: "You not reely gonna go out like dat, are ya mom?" They race out towards the boat, screeching to a halt under the King Apple tree. Uh oh, that's not a good sign. They are busy sniffing about as I hobble up, and Pippi growls at the others in a back-off-I-found-it-first-and-you-can't-have-a-sniff kinda way.
I try to push her away and she resists. UH OH, THAT'S NOT A GOOD SIGN.

Hmmmm, my eyes go slitty. Broken branch on ground, lots of leaves, apples - some chewed on. I glance quickly around, trying not to alarm the dogs and and spy it, not two feet from them. BEAR POOP, two little piles of it. Oh Gak! As quickly as I can, I shoo the dogs back into the house, then shout at Richard to bring the scoop shovel. Then quickly go in and retrieve my camera. The photo above shows you how happy he was to comply with my request. I scooped dirt from the garden boat to put on the spot where the bear pooped and where I assume it peed - that being what the kids were trying to sniff up.

Excitement over, we loose the hounds again so they can finally have their run in the yard. Back inside, I do some laundry while Richard gets the wood stove going. It is very cold in the house. The kids settle on the back of the sofa to watch for bear monsters.

Around 4pm, Richard has gone to check on Ron and I decide to take the dogs out to the garden yard again for a run in the chilly air. Mason races out to the corner of the fence where he immediately starts to growl, snarl and bark, looking down towards the big pear trees. Darn, it's the Cute Little Island Black Bear, and he's real busy in the Comice Pears. Roaring at the dogs, I chase them inside again - not our day for outdoors I guess. I watch him come down the tree from the living room patio doors.

The thing about black bears is they don't just climb the tree then sit and eat the fruit. Oh no. They climb the tree, pick the fruit, toss it to the ground, make their descent, then lay down and enjoy the fruits of their labor - pun intended.
Sneaking out, I try and get some photo's of him, shooting through the opening between the Holly Bushes. I'm not too successful because it is cloudy and I'm a tad shaky. Yup, I am that unnerved by them. And yes, my door was locked.

I give up and work on making dinner, all the while having one eye turned towards the window in case he decides to get really bold and go for the apples. About 5:15 or so, the dogs alert that Richard is home. I wait for him to come through the door to tell him about the bear. And wait. And wait. Finally I look out the kitchen window and see him parked down by the little pear tree, making motions towards the big pear trees. Hmmmmmm. Outside I holler at him that the bear has been there for an hour and a half. He is laughing at it and tells me to grab my camera.

We negotiate and I decide to back the van up to where I can get some decent shots of him. Meanwhile Richard is hollering and banging on the old wheelbarrow. The more noise you make when you have a bear in your yard, the more you frighten it, the less chance he will return theory. I shoot some photo's, then Richard suggests I back up and around the drive so I am facing bear and the tree, maybe get better shots. I do so with trepidation.

Now I am about 30 feet from it - the bear being up in the pear tree - and quickly shoot 2 photo's. Mr. Bear decides he has just about had enough of these human's, grunts and grumbles at me and starts to move in the tree like he is going to climb down. I am GONE! Back around by the little pear tree I see something drop out of the tree. Eeeewwwww gross! He is going to the bathroom from up in the tree! Richard is laughing at me for taking off so fast and at the bear for doing what bears do. I'm heading inside; I too have had enough.

My photo's don't turn out too good this time either, that shaky thing you know. But that has been enough excitement for one day. New rules:
1. Gate to garden yard ALWAYS remains closed and locked.
2. Before dogs go out, check thorougly to ensure no bear in yard.
3. Check that no bear in pear trees.
4. After dogs back in house, close and lock gate.
These rules remain in effect until all fruit finished up and bear gone.

So, what did we learn from all this? That's easy. We learned that the answer to the age old question "Does a bear sh*t in the woods?" is "nope, not necessarily all the time" and "sometimes he sh*ts on them."

And that's the bear, er, bare facts.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

If You Don't Vote, You Can't Bitch

The sun is shining when I wake up, what an auspicious start to the day. It is the Canadian Election Day and we have plans to go and vote, then do a bit of shopping for a few things we need, then home so I can bake and Richard go to work. We need to be home by 2pm at the latest. Hmmph. You know what happens when I make plans... I sit down to enjoy my morning cappuccino, I notice there are messages on the phone. The first one is from Kate's son - my nephew - Eric in Edmonton. He has a concern about Sophie, their tiny Bichon girl. Sophie is one of my puppies from Molly and Mason's first litter. I knew right away what the problem was, just from what he said in the message so immediately phoned them back to allay their fears. Sophie has developed luxating patella, a condition that is sort of like popping your kneecap out of joint. Initially it's painful but within three to four days it eases and they soon can walk normally again.

Next message was a call from a technician at the hospital about our landlord Ron. Richard had to rush him to emergency about 11 days ago, and we were very relieved when they hospitalized him. The technician's message said she was trying to reach Ron as she understood he had been released. Well, as Richard is Ron's only contact person, we hadn't been informed they were releasing him. That led to a flurry of phone calls to discover that yes, he had been released and yes, Richard needed to go to the hospital and get him and take him home. And there went the day.

I decided to go shopping by myself, and after leaving the Dollar Store - where I found lots of great and wondrous things - I met up with Richard again. He had to get some food supplies for Ron so off to Walmart we went. Ron only drinks one brand of tea, and one type within that brand and of course it is only sold waaaaaaaaaaaay across town in the furthest store from us. We decided to go and vote, my motto has always been - "if you don't vote, you can't bitch about the government" - then Richard could take Ron's other groceries to him while I went and got the tea.

And of course, the van decided that today was the day it would act up and stall 9 times between here and Quality Foods. AAAARRRGGH! I got his tea, and a few things I really needed and came home. Shopping can wait until another day!

Back home, and time to take the dogs outdoors in the sun. We wander around as usual, I noting that the Scarlet Runner Beans on the shed have frozen, as had the few remaining tomatoes in the mini pea patch. Time to pull and toss. Over by the boat, it's warm in the sunshine and the dogs are frisky, chasing about. I decide to search for and deactivate doggy mines, which takes a while. They all seem to have their favorite spots to plant them all over the yard and it varies from day to day so it can be dangerous work.

I find several windfall apples and toss them for the deer, watch a flock of Canada Geese practise their take-offs and landings and listen to birds gossiping in the trees above us. Only Mason, my guard Bichon, stays out in the yard with me. The girls have all wandered back to the deck by the door. Time to go back in.

Richard leaves and I decide a sandwich is in order. Last night, I made two loaves of Brioche and 6 small loaves of Panettone. The Brioche is delightful, the Panettone should taste more of Anise, but I couldn't find my jar. I substituted fresh ground Star Anise instead, but didn't get enough ground. I did look for some at Quality Foods today for next time, but I refuse to pay $4.99 for it. Time to go to Alberni Health Market.

Grazing the kitchen, I spy the ripe tomatoes on the counter and settle on a 3 tomato sandwich. Why 3 tomatoes?
I would have had a 5 tomato sandwich but I can't fit anymore than 3 on the bread. I choose slices of Black Prince, Yellow Mortgage Lifter and Pink Brandywine. The first two are amazingly delicious. The third, not so much, but that is because it wasn't vine ripened I think. I have a bowl of ripe tomatoes of various types and think maybe it's time for a quick salsa recipe.

I watch the news while I eat my sandwich. Everyone is talking about the election. My opinion is, if you don't vote, you can't bitch about who gets elected. I get to bitch for another 4 years - unless they call ANOTHER election next year. Think that we should have a rule that elections can ONLY be every 4 years - not 3 times in 4 years - and that a different party has to be elected, no party can run two terms in a row. Maybe that would fix what ails this country. Ok, I'll step down from my soapbox now.

Time to make something sweet, and my choice is the 1 Dish Cinnamon Swirl Bread. This time I am going to use dried Cranberries and less sugar in the streusel topping. Soon I have it baking in the oven and the house is redolent with cinnamon and yeast.

While it bakes, I take the dogs outside for one last tour before dark. They race to the end of the yard hooting and hollering, and a herd of deer bounces away towards the creek. I hadn't realized they were here eating apples. Oooops. The girls check out the grass, the leaves the flowers that remain while Mason stands guard, watching for deer monsters to return. I toss a few more windfall apples, pull up the remaining jalapeno pepper plants and the lone eggplant and throw them over the fence. Time to go check the Cinnamon Swirl bread.

And it's just what the doctor ordered, a sugar rush after a very hectic day. Less sugar, the addition of dried Cranberries to the streusel, makes it just right.

Darn, now I need something salty to counteract all that sugar. I know, I have those Cheezies I asked Richard to bring me home last night. That will fix it.

But then I will need something sweet again, to counteract the salt...

...sigh, dontcha hate that?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Confessions of a Cranberry Addict

The sun is shining this morning. That bodes well for the day, I hope. Rain is forecast for tonight but for now, the sun is shining and I am up and planning my day.

Last night before going to bed I mixed up some simple sourdough starter. I prefer to start mine with a bit of yeast as the one time I tried to start it with wild yeast from the air,
the wild yeast went wild somewhere else. My starter turned a putrid pink and had to be dumped. Eeeeewww! This morning my starter is bubbling merrily on the counter in its crockery pot, the insert to one of my several slow cookers. They are perfect for making sourdough in.

I had taken some lean ground beef out of the freezer last night with the idea of making a hearty beef pie today for dinner. Soon another of my slow cookers is bubbling, this time with beef pie filling, redolent with onions, carrots, fresh chopped tomatoes, frozen peas, burger, bay leaves and beef broth. I am still trying to make up my mind whether to use puff pastry for the pie or pie pastry. Probably a last minute decision, but I am leaning towards the puff pastry.

Now that that is taken care of, I decide to make my Stuffing Bread dough. I found a good recipe on the internet
here and decided to try it. I made one change, deciding to throw in a handfull of dried cranberries [yes, I AM a dried cranberry addict. Sooo?] to give a sweet/tart bite to the onions and herbs in it. With one false start - the active dry yeast didn't want to desolve in the small amount of milk I put it in, so dumped it and started over with more milk - the dough was soon mixing up in the bread machine. This recipe called for 3 cups flour, 1/3 cup cornmeal as the main dry ingredients. That is a 1&1/2 pound loaf, in bread machine parlance. My big machine can make up to a 3 pound loaf of bread, so I figured maybe if I was lucky, it would fill the pan 2/3 to 3/4 full when fully risen.

The sunshine was calling us, so I took the dogs out into the yard. The thermometer on the deck said +12. Balmy for our recent weather. Out in the yard, by the garden boat where the sun is shining full on, it was almost hot. I had a sweatshirt on over my t-shirt and was very warm. We wandered about, enjoying the view. Mount Arrowsmith has new snow on the top, but the sky is Island blue, and the air is crystal clear. A gaggle of Canada Geese arrow over us, honking their way to feeding on the Canal. I pick up windfall apples and toss over the fence for the deer, carefully watching out for doggy mines. Fool me once...

Soon we are back indoors. I put more wood on the stove, then walk over to the bread machine to check the dough., it has risen right up so it's nose is pressed right against the glass of the machine! I quickly get a large Pyrex bowl and oil it, then remove the pan from the machine. Next I flour the counter top and soon have the dough ball in the bowl in a clear plastic bag rising again on the table. Oh my gosh but the dough smells and looks delightful! While working with it, I decide to try something I have seen mentioned on some bread baking blogs. I will divide the dough in half, then divide each half in quarters and will even scale the dough to be precise. Each piece of dough weighs in at 4oz and each of the 4oz mini loaves are then put into the prepared bread pan, like the 4th photo above, and then left to rise a third time - Active Dry yeast, remember - then baked. Can't wait to try it.

I think by now you have figured out that I am crazy about making and baking yeast breads of all kinds. Well, one of my all time favorite bread bakers and bread authors is Peter Reinhart. Crust and Crumb, and The Bread Baker's Apprentice
are two of my favorite of his books. Recently on his Blog, he put out a request for applications from ordinary folk like me to test bread recipes for his new book. I immediately applied, not expecting to be accepted as I am in Canada and he is in the USA. Imagine my surprise upon checking my e-mail early last week and discovering I had been chosen as one of 300 testers!

I will post from time to time how I do with the recipe testing. The recipes of course are secret. I will be making this totally by hand, not using the bread machine to mix the dough, but I have my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer so can use that hopefully. Never the less, I cannot wait to get started. Bente and Richard will be so sick of eating bread by the time I am done. May have to send some with Bente down to Codfather Seafood for them to try too if I get too many loaves baked. Boy I am going to be learning so much from this. Crust and Crumb was the first book I borrowed from the library when I started my foray into serious bread baking a few years ago. It taught me a lot, and it got me hooked on bread formulas, and baker's math.

The Stuffing Bread is on it's third rise, and I am feeling slightly peckish. Surf the bread cupboard and discover a piece of the Cinnamon Swirl from yesterday hidden away. Slathered in butter it will make a delightful, albeit very sweet snack. I decide to make another one of those after the bread has risen, but this time I will try some dried cranberries in it and use less sugar when I make the topping. Sorry Bente but it really is too sweet. I want to try one with dried cherries and one with dried blueberries, and when I can find just the right apples, some with chopped apple as well. Hmmmm, I DID buy some dried apples at the store last week, maybe give them a try. Maybe dried cranberries and dried apples...

...I walk by the rising bread 10 minutes after I put it in the pans and it is really rising up. Will have to warn Kate about this when I send her the recipe to try. Her machine makes a maximum of 2 pound bread loaf so she will have to cut waaaaaaaay back on the yeast or it will push the lid of the bread maker up and escape out on to the counter. Attack of the killer bread dough!

Time for another foray out into the yard with the dogs. The sun has disappeared in preparation for the rain tonight I guess. We wander a bit, then stand looking at the scenery. For a few moments, it is absolutely quiet, no sounds of traffic from the road, only the croak of a distant tree frog and squawk of a Stellar Jay down on the Creek. I revel in it, but soon the outside world intrudes and we wander back indoors. Time to bake the Stuffing Bread and make some Cinnamon Swirl, with my modifications.

I almost feel like making some Brioche too. Maybe if I sit down and read a bit, the feeling will go away. I think I have done enough today. Richard will be home in 2 hours from work and I still have to finish the beef pie. Oh, wait a minute, hey, I know, not pie, well not like a pie in pie dough anyway. Shepherd's Pie!! That's what I'll make. Will thicken the broth on the filling with dehydrated potato flakes, make mashed potatoes for the top, a gravy for over that, then put it together and bake. Yup, that's settled.

Will let you know how the bread turns out. Both of them.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

So Long, It's Bin Good To Know Ya

It froze here last night. To you on the Prairies, that may not be such a big deal, but to me here on the Island, it is awful. We don't usually get frost until late November, early December so this frost is way too early. And it killed my tomato plants, sniff. Yes, yes, I know I was going to pull them anyway but gee, they look so sad all frozen and dead out there in the garden boat.

So I yanked them today, tossed them over the fence for the deer to eat. Now the front half of the boat is really empty. It's funny what freezes and what doesn't. Tomatoes of course, and that lone yellow zucchini that was stuck there in the middle of them; the purple basil; the top half of the marigolds; the pineapple sage; oh and that lone eggplant in amongst the petunias that I forgot was there and never bore fruit. But the petunias didn't flinch, still blooming their hearts out. As is the Lemon Thyme, the Echinacea, and the tiny White Chrysanthemums.

Over on the metal table by the house - the one that I only had a tarp big enough to cover half the plants, so had to sacrifice some - the zinnias froze and so did my one pot of tuberous begonias and impatiens, even though it was covered. OOOOPS. A large pot of fuchsias lost all its blossoms to frost but the plant is ok. And those 8 pots of lovely red impatiens? The ones sitting on the old barbecue stand, under the King apple tree? Froze right off...and the pot of red wax begonias sitting below it did too. Not a pretty sight.

Ooooh and that old wheelbarrow of mine, that I have had forever, the one that has so many holes in the bottom I had to cover it with plastic so it would hold the dirt for the plants. The one that has half of the plastic wheel missing on the front, that had been full of pretty impatiens and was sitting under the Gravenstein apple tree - yeah, that one - well, all the plants in it are frozen too.

Bente came over for a short visit this afternoon. I had called her and told her I had a pan of Cinnamon Bun Bread cooling on the counter. She called me a Bitz, I laughed and then she drove over for a cappuccino and a bite of bread. Needless to say, her Danish sweet tooth kicked in and she really enjoyed it. It's from a recipe I found online at called Cinnamon Swirl. Really sweet, but really good, and really easy to make! By the time I thought to take a photo of it, it was mostly gone. Yes, it IS that good.

After she left, I took the dogs out in the yard, deactivated the doggy mines I could find and took some photo's of the sad looking garden boat and frozen plants. On my way back in I did my usual and wiped my feet on the old carpet on the deck outside the door. THANK GOD I DID. Somehow I missed deactivating a doggy mine, and in my photo taking mode I stepped right on one, exploding it all over the bottom of my shoe. AAAAARRRRGGGHH!

My shoes have this tread that is really deep and really hard to dig "stuff" out of. I made a triple scrunchy face and my eyes went real slitty, and yes, I DID say a swear. Then I scraped it off the rug on the deck, covered the "residue" with dirt, took my shoe out onto the grass across the drive and wiped as much off as possible. Then into the bathroom to wipe and dig with toothpicks to finish cleaning it, sigh. You would think I would learn to watch where I put my feet.

After dinner, the Cute Little Island Mule Deer came up into the yard as usual and the dogs went crazy with barking, as usual. And the deer ignored them, as usual. I watched them through the kitchen window for a while, then went into the livingroom to surf baking blogs and watch a bit of television. Love those reruns of NCIS.

The dogs settled on the back of the sofa, Rosie and Mason dosing and keeping an eye out for deer monsters. About 9pm, something caught my eye right outside the patio door, about 3 feet from where Mason was laying. It was a young, Cute Little Island Buck Mule Deer, with his eye on my Scarlet Geraniums. Mason twitched...Mason blinked...Mason shook his head in disbelief and then shot up off the sofa barking ferociously, throwing himself at the glass. The deer took Mason at his word and fled, rapidly. Mason trotted around, chest puffed out, tail wagging, proud of himself for chasing the monsters away. I laughed and praised him for being such a great guard dog.

But the Mole People got the last laugh on me. Before bed, I went out on the deck to get an apple from the plastic bins we have stored there and discovered 6 apples with tiny teeth marks. My eyes went slitty again, and I said two swears.

Of course, they HAD to nibble the six best apples in the bin.

One nibble out of each apple.

Oh well, the Cute Little Island Mule Deer will be pleased with their new apples. They're not put off by Mole People spit.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Whine and Cheese

There's been no going outside to meander through the garden yard for a few days now. It's been cold and raining, scrunchy face. Don't get me wrong, we need the rain to fill the well up again, but, I had hoped to stretch fall out further, not go right to winter. We have already had two winter storms on the Island and they usually don't start until the middle of November. Siiiiggghh. No, I don't want some cheese with my whine, thanks.

These dreary damp days have even prompted me to ask Richard to start fires in the wood stove, to stave off the chill. The garden boat is soggy. When Kate was up we picked off all of the tomatoes with the exception of the Tumbling Toms and a few Brown Berries that weren't quite ready. One day during a lull in the rain, I coerced the dogs out into the yard and cut back my tomato plants. Yes, I know I should pull them completely, but I am not ready to go cold turkey yet on the garden cleanup. I really need to ease into it. Really.

I have a few plants I have to dug up, like my Lemon Scented Geranium which gave me so much pleasure this summer. Every time you walked by the scent of lemon wafted up to you. I think it deserves to be saved. A lot of the other herbs are hardy so I won't worry about them but I took cuttings of the Pineapple Sage to root, just in case it winter kills. It is such a magnificent plant, with a lovely true Pineapple scent.

Today I pulled the bean plants and tossed them over the fence for the deer. Then picked off the rest of the tiny tomatoes from Tumbling Tom. Got a surprising amount of them considering how nasty the weather has been. I know I have to pull the tomato plants and get rid of them, as well as the lone squash plant that sits in the middle of the boat, but, tomorrow will be soon enough for that. Like I said, ease into it.

It is sunny today, but cold, not going over +12. Five of the dogs came outside with me, but when I took the tomatoes in, the four girls ran back inside. Wimps! Mason and I stayed outdoors, me puttering around, him guarding me against bears, deer, bush bunnies and birds. My 10 pound Bichon Boy with the heart of a Pit Bull.

Richard and I moved a lot of my less hardy plants onto the deck a couple of days ago. They keep threatening us with frost and I need to get them moved into the house. That however will have to be eased into as Richard is not going to be happy when I explain that he has to move them for me. Some can stay under the shelter of the deck roof, I can cover them when frost threatens. But most will have to come indoors. At his suggestion, I picked my two lone Gladiola spikes that bloomed and put them in a jar on the cupboard. They are pretty, and when I dig up the corms I will be sure and mark the color on the bags.

Now I am thinking about next years garden, what to grow. I will definitely go with tomatoes: Yellow Mortgage Lifter, and if there is a red variety, one of those. Bull's Heart for sure, that is a wonderful, meaty, flavorful tomato. Definitely Brown Berry, Tumbling Tom and Black Prince. Oh and for sure Striped Cavern. Hope I can find some more Heritage varieties. We have to move the tomato garden to another container - the 300 gallon round stock tank is just the ticket and Richard will be moving it into the yard for me. I will cover it with heavy poly and then be able to plant them much earlier, keep them growing much later in the fall.

The old garden boat will still have it's herbs. Beans did well, so I probably will plant some more again, although if I can figure out a way to keep Mole People at bay, I would like to plant them over in my mini pea patch, smack up against the shed. Lots of shelter, good sunlight, wire to climb, yup, that's a great spot for them. So what to put in the garden boat.

Double Petunia's, they did great. Sweet Peas, the wire is already in place for them to climb. Marigolds from seed I have saved; will put them in the prow. I know that most flowers will grow in the boat, but would like to have some vegetable too. Hmmmmm. Onions did poorly, too wet. Squash would be ok, but they take up too much room. Hey, I bought some tiny pumpkins at the store the other day on clearance for a $1.00 a bag. I am going to save the seeds. Maybe a few of those, and get them to climb upwards. And peppers. The Jalapeno's that I planted did ok, not very productive until the end of the season but if I get them in earlier...yeah, pepper plants, that's what I'll do. Maybe a Habanero or two. Well, that's a good start.

It's Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend. I have a turkey in the freezer to cook, just not sure yet what day to do it. I love turkey and am looking forward to it. Have sweet potatoes to cook as well as Irish potatoes, need to make my Marshmallow Salad - my favorite - oh and Stuffing Bread to stuff the bird with and use for Turkey Sandwiches too. Darn, I am really getting hungry for Turkey. Oh, mustn't forget the fresh cranberry sauce either. Should I make Pumpkin Tiny Pies too? Maybe I will.

Ok, now I am REALLY hungry, time for dinner, then cover up the plants I didn't get moved yet with tarps. Supposed to be frosty again tonight.

Guess I'll go back inside after and whine some more.

Or maybe just make my stuffing bread.