Monday, August 31, 2015

Veggie Jacked. The Canning Kitchen and some Brioche Knitting

Well it has been some kind of summer. Record high heat since May, level four drought conditions, wild fires everywhere and health threatening thick smoke. A week ago Sunday our town had the worst air conditions that day than any other city on the planet. Yikes!! I would have taken some pictures but I could not go outside as I have asthma. It has been tough cookies for everyone. Then this weekend some clouds rolled in, we had a bit of rain and the temperature dropped 15-20 degrees celsius. Where are my socks, shoes and hoodies?!? Holy doodle!

A friend of mine , Wendy, texted me recently and besides our usual knitty talk, asked me if everything was OK as I hadn't posted for awhile. Bless her heart! I responded that all I talk about now is veggies and knitting so I'm thinking that must be getting very old very fast. She kindly said no, its OK, in so many words. Thanks Wendy!! So here I am again , talking knitting and veggies, but worse things could be talked about I think .

When we first got our straw bales I think everyone thought we were a little cuckoo,especially some family members. One thing about this family, there are no hold backs on opinions! Hmmff I thought at the time, oh ye of little faith!!
 The picture above is the box of veggies that we recently delivered to our daughter and her partner. They have been getting these all summer long. Instead of a CSA program I call it the MDSA program-the MD meaning Mom and Dad. It is amazing the turn around of opinions, and I laugh as it has been suggested that production should triple next year!! Kids!!

We double baled for a second crop of beans

My nasturtiums are being strangled by the maters

Carrots from the in ground beds

veggies for a tomatillo relish

super sweet beets

Oh my aching back!

Look at those poor dowels above, they are ready to snap from the weight of the tomatoes. Good grief!! These plants have been trimmed and reinforced and double caged and we hope they don't totally collapse before the season is done. Hang on dowel buddies !!!

 I planted nasturtium, zinnia and calendula seeds in front of some of the bales to encourage the pollinators. I thought any excess water from the bales would leach down and water the flowers. Was I ever wrong, those bales do not give up a drop of water, not for love or money! I had to water them separately. I have flowers in my front yard , some annuals mixed with perennials but I really really missed having more zinnias. Next year I am going to plant tons more-I have a plan. They are really easy to grow from seed and now I know about neonics thanks to Tammy I will be surely be more mindful of what I plant in my garden. You have to go visit Tammy's blog, she is a cracker jack gardener, full of insights about life and so funny too. Make sure you read her James Bond post-it is hilarious!!

This was another one of our dead zones. It is a very dry hot sandy sloped weed patch. After cleaning it up I thought I would try a few things. In late June and well into July, I planted a bunch of different plants, some I have never tried before. The plant with the pretty blue flowers is borage. It is a drought tolerant herb that really attracts the pollinators. The bees absolutely love it. I just planted a few seeds and they all germinated. I also planted some lovage, lemon grass, chard, kale,  nasturtiums and some pole beans. The beans are climbing up the tepees we made from bamboo poles. Everything is doing well .We were more than surprised. (We have some epic fails too). The big leaves in the front belong to a Pink Banana Jumbo Squash. That vine is now more than 20 feet long now and is attempting to scale our fence. I should add we haven't fertilized our plants, too scared to!

Speaking of squash, our Cinderella pumpkins were ready to be picked. I know it is early but everything is early this year. These are an heirloom baking variety. They are very cute and do look like a Cinderella coach. I weighed them, in total they are 36 pounds. I am sure this is a good thing but now I have my work ahead of me. Good grief!

Peach Pickin

A few weeks ago my friend Laurie asked me if we wanted to go peach picking. She knew a great place with beautiful peaches that were easy to pick. No ladder climbing was necessary. Hell ya Laurie! So off we went. In less than half an hour, no joke, we picked 120 lbs of peaches. It was so easy and so much fun we weren't thinking this one through. ( Can you believe this property, 17 acres on the lakefront!) When we got home an action plan had to be made as they would all be ripe in a few days.

 I used to can a lot when our kids were at home. It was a great way to preserve lovely fresh fruit for the winter. I still have made some jams fairly regularly over the years but nothing like I used to. So with all these peaches ripening quickly we all thought canning peaches would be a brilliant idea , lol! With my helpers we put up 35 quarts one hot summer's day.We were all pretty hot, sticky and tired by the time we were finished.

this is a very small kitchen!
There were still lots of peaches left so I had to find more peach preserving recipes. I had also been recently tipped off by another buddy Pamela, about this woman in Lake Country that had the most amazing blackberries for sale.

70 lbs later

So with all this fruit and all the veggies coming in I started pulling out my old canning books and reading recipes on line. I think it was on IG, I saw a reference to this book. There were pictures of a canned peach cobbler topping and I knew I needed this book. ASAP! Fortunately my local book shop had a couple of copies. Honestly, if you do any preserving or would like to start, this book is a must have. It is geared to small batches which is a great way to use what you have grown yourself or can buy at a farmers market or wherever you shop. The recipes are well written, use good ingredients that are easy to find and oh my, they are so incredibly good. Amy, the author, did all her own photography and it is amazing! She is from Victoria, one of our favourite places! Her website is The Family feedbag . It is full of great recipes and cooking ideas.


 I am a little bit embarrassed on how bonkers I have gone over the recipes in this book. I have made jams, several kinds of relishes,, salsas, three kinds of chutneys, pizza sauce, smoky peach BBQ sauce, pickled beets, peach cobbler topping, apple pie jam and my favourite, salted caramel pear butter. And I could do more! It is potato chip canning at its best. I think it is because they are so doable,and they taste so good. And they are easy. My problem is they get eaten up so fast and disappear rather quickly. I am threatening to number the jars!!

Good lord, I am going on and on. Maybe if I got off my arse and posted more frequently I wouldn't inflict so much on all of you! ( this is a big post for me)

Brioche knitting has been quite in vogue this past year. I remember knitting a brioche hat many many years ago but I thought I would pick up the needles and knit a simple cowl. I knit this one with Tosh in Coquette. The thing about brioche is that it produces a very squishy thicker texture than a conventional stockinette. You are basically knitting each row twice so it does take longer and does use almost twice as much yarn. It looks particularly attractive using two colours. I was planning to do another with a grey and a cream but I have been veggie jacked so it hasn't happened quite yet.

There are two different distinct sides but it doesn't show up in my pictures. One nice thing about this cowl, it is reversible, so you don't have a less than pretty inside showing. That is a particular beef I have with some cowls.

Well that is all my excitement for now, how are all of you  going to spend the first week of September?

Have a great week friends and keep smiling!!



  1. Wow despite the heat your garden has done extremely well. The bountiful harvest is awesome. My garden did not do so well in our heat and drought conditions though I did reap and enjoy some cherry tomatoes. Have a great week!

    1. Hi Penny! It's been a real job keeping all the veggies hydrated this summer. We are careful about water usage and have bucketed a lot of water and watched carefully when and how we used our water. It has rained a bit, so we did a happy dance when we were off the hook for a couple of days! I know Vancouver has had a terribly dry summer and now you have had so much rain and wind in the last few days. Glad to hear you were able to eat some of your tomatoes, fresh tomatoes are delicious! You have a great week too!

  2. Well I thought it was a great post with lots of lovely news!! The veggies really have been amazing haven't they! What incredible results you have had!!!! I guess that after they are done you spread the straw about to act as mulch/fertilizer and then start all over again next year? The pumpkins are incredible aren't they!!! They really look like the perfect pumpkin! All of your canning and preserving efforts are incredible too, you will be all set for your own produce for months to come, how great is that!!! xx

  3. Thank you so much Amy! Our veggie patch has been off the charts this year. I think both of us really got quite interested in making it work and although it's been a bit of work it has been a lot of fun! And you are right as the bales break down they produce lovely compost we can use in our yard. It is such an interesting process. I love my pretty pumpkins and will feel bad when I start chopping them up :( and yes we will have a lot of good food preserved for the winter, I think with the drought and our weak Canadian dollar veggies will be quite expensive this year. I like cooking so it's been fun to do too!

  4. Thanks for the love!! :o) Your hay bales are amazing!!! That is a lot of fruit to can! I am a noncanner but I would gladly help someone else do it so I could eat my share of the goodies. I used to pick loads of peaches from a local orchard and then make cobblers for everyone who didn't run faster than I did but opted not to this year so I didn't have to worry about gaining weight. I only made one and savored every bite.

  5. Peach cobbler, yum!! Yah I think all this cooking has increased my waistline, crumbs. Least it's cooler now and I can get outside and do some gardening and get walking again. Those bales are crazy and they amaze me every time I look at them. My husband and I get a real kick out of them and shake our heads! I have learned a lot from your blog and you do crack me up a lot!!

  6. I'm loving the idea of being veggie jacked, I can think of nothing better to be distracted by. I never doubted you'd succeed with those bales and I've been watching with great interest. It all looks amazing Chrissie!


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