August 30, 2009

The Must Make Jam of Summer

If you're a fan of peach and raspberry jams, then you've got to give this recipe a try.  It's the perfect blend of the two flavors, which go together unbelievably well, and the color of the resulting jam is amazing.

I made this for the first time a few years ago, and my kids loved it so much that they dubbed it "Mommy's Special Jam".  It's especially good on freshly made crepes (one of our favorite desserts for those times when we're craving something but have nothing in the house).

Its real name is Peach Melba Jam, and you can find the recipe here.

Not being one to leave things be, I did change the recipe slightly.  I actually like the added texture of raspberry seeds in jam, so rather than running the pulp through a sieve to remove them, I left them in.  To make up the extra pulp that the seeds would be displacing, I added an extra 1/4 cup or so of raspberries (this has the added benefit of making a slightly softer jam, which I like).  I got 8 jars out of the batch instead of 7.

I'd love to hear what you think if you try it!

August 25, 2009

Deer, oh dear.

One thing I didn't have to contend with in my city garden was four footed garden pests. As long as the dog didn't get in and run roughshod over my plants, the only things I really had to worry about were slugs and aphids. Not so here in deer central.

We've been pretty lucky that our property doesn't seem to be on their main route. For most of the year, it's rare to see a deer in this neck of the woods, even though people across the street (on the lake front) seem to have them year round. Last year I left all of my plants unprotected for several months and they weren't even touched. Come July and August though, it was a different story. The pickings must get fairly slim at this time of year, because they suddenly start showing up in droves.

As annoying as it is to lose flowers and other ornamentals (they seem to particularly love anything labelled as deer proof), I've been tolerant of them and their nibbling because I understand their need to eat, and most of those things will recover eventually. Even so, I researched homemade deer repellents and started spraying my hostas and other tasty plants with the concoction. It really seems to work, as I recently had a new, unsprayed hosta sitting in a pot beside the sprayed ones in my garden, and it got eaten while the others were completely untouched.

Deer Repellent (this is a combination of a few recipes that I saw online):
Put a litre (quart) of water into a blender and add
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 large clove garlic
Blend until smooth, strain, and pour into a spray bottle. Spritz anything that the deer seem to like. Refrigerate any extra for a later application. This should remain effective for at least two weeks, unless there's a lot of rain.

We are in the process of installing a more permanent solution (deer fencing), but we recently had a breach that left me fuming and contemplating filling my freezer with venison.

When we first put in our garden, I bought 200 feet of fence from Benner's, which worked really well. This stuff is incredibly strong, and even works to keep the dogs out. The only problem is, it's also quite expensive, especially when you've got well over 1000 feet of fence line to protect. So I was understandably thrilled to discover that Lee Valley had deer fencing for $20 per 100 feet. It's very thin and lightweight (like the netting that you put over fruit trees to protect your harvest from birds), but the packaging assured me that the deer wouldn't go through it as long as they knew it was there. The only problem is, it catches on absolutely everything, so I was worried about birds getting entangled in it (I'd already cut a robin out of our badminton net this summer and didn't want a repeat), and the dogs plowing right through it in their galumphing. So we decided to move the heavier fencing from around the front of the garden to the perimeter of the yard, and put the flimsy stuff in its place around the veggie patch as a temporary measure (we'll eventually build a lower, sturdier fence to keep the dogs out). But, with all the work on the chicken coop, we still haven't managed to finish fencing the perimeter of the yard, so we'd been relying on the flimsy stuff to protect the garden. You know where this is going, don't you?

A few days ago, I was out in the garden and noticed footprints through my freshly planted bed of winter crops. I was slightly annoyed thinking that the dogs had somehow gotten in, but then I saw that the apple tree was looking less bushy, and the strawberry plants were bald. It was then that I noticed a section of fencing laying on the ground. Thinking that it had somehow gotten knocked down during the previous night's wind storm, we put it back in place and thought nothing of it.

That is, until I woke up the next morning and saw the fence laying on the ground again, with one apple tree leaning on a funny angle (and half of the apple harvest laying on the ground), and the other apple tree looking like this:

The main central branch is snapped off at its base.

Then I saw the cherry tree:

My winter broccoli crop is also a goner:

And the lovely pepper plant which is loaded with peppers is now missing it's top.

They also chewed my winter cabbages, ate the leaves off both grape vines, and decapitated the heritage bean plants that I was growing solely for seed for next years crop. An entire summer's worth of babying these plants and they're gone in 24 hours - grrrr!

To add insult to injury, they came back twice that day. My neighbor had to chase them out in the afternoon while we were out (and even fixed the fence for me - have I mentioned our wonderful neighbors?), only to have them return again a few hours later. It seems that once they figured out that they could pull down the fencing, there was no stopping them.

Needless to say, the Benner's fence is back around the garden, and there's a rush on to finish fencing the yard.

And the deer are damn lucky that my freezer is full of frozen berries...

August 19, 2009

My Summer So Far

It almost seems unnecessary to explain my absence anymore - it's pretty much a given that there will be a good month or more between posts these days. Here's a brief update.

We've been busy working on "outside" things while the weather is good, namely the chicken coop.

The coop during the framing stage.

There's a lot to tell you about this little project, but I'll save it for the big reveal post (which will be soon - we're almost done!).

Bella (named for Bellatrix, our favorite Harry Potter "baddie").

The chickens are growing like weeds, and they're loving their new coop. I didn't want to move them in while we were still working on it because I thought the noise would be too much, but I couldn't handle having them in the basement anymore - they were starting to free range! They tolerate the sounds of construction better than I thought they would though, and as my neighbor joked, their only complaint about the new coop is that they no longer have cable TV.

The garden is doing fairly well, with some things faring better than others (isn't that always the case?). This is the first tomato of the season, a Cherokee Purple that I harvested a few weeks ago. We've also had a few Speckled Romans, and there are a lot more out there that are getting close.

Bonsai garlic of 2009.

The garlic was one of our major failures, with the lack of rain and fertile soil leaving them rather stunted. Considering that they started out as volunteers from last year's neglected crop, I can't really complain. My daughter is thinking about turning the tiny bulbs into earrings and wearing them as Edward Cullen repellent (unlike most girls her age, she's not a big fan of the Twilight books).

Last month we had a major thunder storm pass through the area - the sky was the most amazing golden colour right before it started. We sat with the lights off and watched the fork lightening dance across the sky all evening. The only one of us who wasn't impressed was poor Princess, who stayed under the bed for hours after it ended.

Today we're heading to the beach, to squeeze the last bit of summer out of the remaining days of August.

I hope you're having a great summer too!


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