Thursday, July 30, 2015

Moonlight Walk

Our poor dogs haven't been down to the dyke in ages.  It was a hot day today, and I was making jam this afternoon.  I had my fans set up, one blowing the hot air out the kitchen window, and the other one set up on the counter oscillating back and forth to cool me off.  It works pretty well.  I'm proud to say that I made five batches today, blackberry, raspberry, raspberry-rhubarb, bluebarb, and crabapple jelly.  I'm way ahead of the game this week.  I suggested that we take the dogs down to the dyke at dusk, and since it's almost a full moon we would have enough light to see by, and probably have the dyke to ourselves.  We left a bit later than planned, just before 9:30 I think.  It's a seven minute drive.  On the way down the hill we saw a fawn on the side of the road, and then down at the dyke there were two herons. 

 Jake and Luna always run ahead to the swimming hole, so we threw a couple of rocks in the water there so they would go out and get wet and cooled off, and as we climbed back up to the top of the dyke, a massive Great Horned Owl swooped and swirled overhead. There were a few bats swooping around as well.

 Luna had a collar on with flashing red lights.  The collar tended to get lost in her hair, but when she was sideways to us we could see the red light.  Jake was a bit harder to keep track off, but it all worked well.  At one point, just before we decided to turn around, Luna was barking at something either down in the grass near the creek, or maybe on the other side.  Her hackles were up and she was concerned about something, and whatever it was, it wasn't showing up in our flashlight beam.  That was the only sort of creepy moment.  Otherwise it was a really nice walk.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fresh Figs!

 At the beginning of the month I showed you this picture of our fig tree.  It's not a very big one, it's a Brown Turkey fig.  It just occurred to me, that maybe the variety originated in Turkey (the country) dah!, instead of the having something to do with a brown turkey (the bird). Wow, why didn't that occur to me before?  
I love dried figs, and I'm pretty excited that we have a bumper crop of fresh ones this year.  That bumper crop is only about 2 dozen figs, but that's huge to me since I think we have only ever had about three figs off that tree before.  All those little figs are a potential second crop, and the two big ones you see have turned brown and soft and are hanging down.  Maybe we've already eaten those two.

We had a couple for breakfast yesterday, and I picked five more today, but will have to take a little step ladder out to reach the rest of them.  I'd leave them a bit longer to ripen even more, but the birds are already starting to sample them.

Speaking of birds, I saw that little Robin fledgling the other day, and then this evening I saw two of them, one seemed to be a bit bigger, but I'm glad that they have survived this long.  They are flying quite well so they have a pretty good chance of survival now.

I don't have any pictures that relate to this post, so I'll just slip in a few from the last time I was at Oliver

We've reclaimed our trails at the back of our property and have been walking out there in the mornings this week.  I'm wearing that big bell I showed you in a previous post, it makes a wonderful loud clang as it hangs off my blackberry picking belt as we walk along.  There have been no mysterious scraped piles on the trail.  

I had got to thinking about the amazing total disappearance of that deer carcass, and wondered if the cougar had dragged it off and covered it up somewhere else.  Larry had noticed a bit of a smell still.  So yesterday morning as we got close to the kill area, I was peering into the undergrowth, which isn't difficult now because most of the lower leaves have died off.  At first I thought it was a rotten piece of stump, but then I thought I could see what looked like ribs. When we got to the spot where I had walked in before, where I had found the carcass, I went back in and towards the thing I saw that morning,  and sure enough, there was some hide and bones in there.  So was it the coyotes that dragged it 20 ' or so farther in?  There was no evidence that it had ever been covered up.  There was certainly lots of trampled undergrowth in there, so at some point there had been a lot of activity.

The coyotes are howling nightly again, so we'll continue walking back through there, carrying the Kougar Konker and clanging the bell.

Most mornings after we come out of the bush we stop and pick blackberries.  We are up to 27 buckets now.  It's been a productive week.  Eight buckets picked on Monday, two on Tuesday and three today. My hands, which are a mess at the best of times, are a disaster now.  I have to scrub them with lemon juice before I go out in an attempt to lesson the staining.

We had some nice rain on Friday and Sunday which was actually enough to do some good.  Still more needed as we are heading into another hot spell. 

On a productive note, I got an earlier start on jam this week, with four batches made yesterday.  The first one I made was Mango Chutney.  The amazing part about this was that usually Mango Chutney is the last one of the week, if it even gets done.  Often I run out of time.  I always put it off to the very end because it takes a long time cutting up all those mangoes, onions and apples, and I always do the easier flavours first.  So I'm pretty pleased with myself for getting the chutney out of the way, and in actual fact, I didn't even NEED to make it for this coming Sunday, because I still had enough left from the previous batch.  So I'm really getting ahead of the game:)

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Sky is Falling!

I'm sure that is what this recently fledged Robin must have been thinking today.  It pretty well rained all day, hooray! Not really heavy, but I think this time we finally got enough rain to do a bit of good.  I'll know for sure tomorrow when I walk out somewhere that has never been watered and scrape the ground with my foot and see how far the water penetrated.
 I was on my way out to the shop to get some fruit out of one of the freezers there, and in my boots and sheltering under an umbrella, took a side trip through the vegetable garden.  As I was getting close to the greenhouse an adult Robin flew off, and then there in front of the greenhouse, perched on the edge of a tub was this poor bedraggled little creature.  It really looked kind of sad, and wasn't scared of me at all.  

I gently scooped it up and placed it in the doorway of the greenhouse a couple of feet away, where at least it was out of the rain.  It squawked a bit....

.....and mother Robin flew back into the garden and swore at me from the fence post first, and then closer from the top of a shovel handle.   Can you see the rain coming down in the background?  No doubt it is the same fledgling I carried from the middle of the driveway a couple of days ago.

I got the fruit with the intentions of making some jam, but a few minutes later, the power went out, of all things.  Now I really had a good excuse for not making jam!  But, I couldn't escape the fruit totally.  Larry had come back from Oliver Thursday evening, and had brought 50 lbs of apricots with him.  This 30 lb box of 'jammers' was only 30 cents a pound.  

A great buy for me, but you have to wonder how the farmers can be making any money.  They weren't even over ripe, maybe had more blemishes than usual, but otherwise they were great.  I was only able to do up a couple of bags, I'll have to wait until the rest of them ripen more.  And the power came back on after about an hour and a quarter, so I had to do jam after all.  My aim is always to make at least the same monetary amount of jam in a week, that I sold the previous weekend.  Ideally I would make more, so I get ahead and can go to Oliver and not have to make jam while I'm there.  I'm proud to say that maybe I'm kicking that 'funk' to the curb, because I did finally (yesterday evening and this evening) make about 100 cups of 8 different kinds of jam AND I'm a bit ahead of the game.

This fun app showed up on Facebook this evening. This is with an Art Deco filter

Be sure to let me know how much time you 'waste' playing around with your photos;-)

Thursday, July 23, 2015


I shipped Larry, Jake and Calli off to Oliver on Tuesday.  I suggested he go, he was game.  Wyndson Cottage needed checking up on, some water needed to be poured on the roots of the dormant/dead/dull brown stuff that was once a lawn.  I was also hoping that some water would help keep the squash alive that I have high hopes for.  It's been a hot(ter) dry four weeks there too.

I'm still trying to get out of the 'funk' I was in last week, and thought some alone time might help.  Not really.  There is so much here that desperately needs doing, garden wise, fruit and jam wise.  Haven't been as productive as I'd like, definitely.  Have a hard time getting started on things.  There's always tomorrow I keep telling myself.

Anyway, back to sailing.  The last time we did any of that was four years ago when we went on a three day trip across the Strait of Georgia to Saturna Island.  Parts were fun, parts not so much.  I took lots of photos, and then the relatives that took us said they didn't want their mugshots on the blog, and that put me off, and the post never happened.  Here's Larry not long after we set off.

The other kind of 'sailing' we do is to go out the occasional Saturday and do some Garage Saleing.  I think this past Saturday was only the second time this year.  Quite a few Saturdays I'm at the Abbotsford Farmers Market.  In the years prior to being marketers, we went out a lot.  The kids were little, we had a farm, there was all sorts of stuff we needed (and didn't need but bought anyway).  I knew on Saturday morning I should really be staying at home and getting a head start on picking things for Sunday's market.  I thought I would get up early and do that.  Didn't get up early enough.  I knew I would regret that.
The last few years I've tried to be a bit pickier at garage sales,  and only buy things that we really have a need/use for.  Occasionally that rule gets broken. 

 This cute little jug and bowl was 25 cents.  It's only about 5 or 6" tall.  Something I definitely don't need.  But ...25 cents?  I can live with that cheap cuteness for a little bit.

I always kind of like these big plastic shopping bags.  They can double as laundry baskets or weed buckets or whatever. 50 cents

Then also 50 cents for the super duper cow/cougar/bear bell.  The same for the wired in smoke detector (we need a new one) in a sealed package and for each of the tie down straps.  $2 for the electric staple gun.  That will help with some upholstery projects that I hope to get to one year.

Also $2 for this clothes drying rack. 

$5 for this big bag of flannelette. I did put the top piece into the 'take to the thrift store' bag. Meredith figured out that it was Esmeralda from Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. 1996 and 2002.  Didn't think it was too relevant now for making into baby bibs, although the parents might remember from their child hood.  Poor printing job on it.  The red for the lips and blue for the eyes didn't always land in quite the right spot, and poor Esmeralda just looked weird.  Otherwise there was enough fabric for about 20 bibs.

And the best of all, these were freebies. Lets hope they don't stay empty for long.

Saturday was a hot day, and we didn't get home until about 1pm.  Then time for a bite to eat, and it was too hot to be out in the sun picking the veggies, so I had to wait until about 6.  Managed to fit a nap in there, it was too hot to do much else. So just after 6 I started in earnest, gathering veggies for Sunday's market.  It is a slow process, and at one point I said out loud that I didn't want to do this any more.  Just to clarify, Larry does other stuff, but the actual planting, picking, etc is all my domain.  Worked until after dark and then threw some food together for supper which we were eating at 11pm.  It all got finished off in the morning, up at 5am, and then we were off to another Sunday market.

Friday, July 17, 2015

One of Those Weeks.

Just couldn't seem to concentrate on much this week.  Each new week, after the market's over, I'm all full of great plans of what I'm going to accomplish.  That never amounts to anything like what I imagine I can do, but this week seemed particularly pitiful.  It really was a struggle to make jam. At one point I said that I didn't want to make jam any more. 

 Monday was mostly taken up with the trip to Vancouver for a check up on Larry's eye.  So far so good.  

I finally got at some jam on Wednesday afternoon.  It was just so hard to get started.  I think it was about 5pm before I really got going at it.  Three batches done that day.  Thursday late afternoon I finally got going again, and made some Strawberry Rhubarb, Bumbleberry and Ginger Pear.  Today was another late afternoon start, with Mango Chutney and Seville Marmalade finally done.  There is so much weeding, and planting too, that needs to be done in the garden.  I'm out there a lot, but seem to accomplish nothing that shows.  I wander around looking at stuff, and stop to yank out clumps of weeds, but never get one job completely done.

The weather has cooled off a bit, and we got a few brief showers of rain that did nothing more than dampen the dust for a little while.   They did nothing towards watering anything.  Look at our front lawn.  I have never seen it so brown.

We sauntered around the block tonight with the dogs, we all went together, so you go at the pace of the slowest dog, which would be Calli.  The last couple of weeks I have been going one way with the two collies, at a fast pace, and Larry saunters the other way with Calli, and we meet about 3/4 of the way around. 

Tonight the sky was colourful when we started, but by the time we were done it was pretty darn spectacular.

I headed up to the north garden to do a zucchini check.  I do that twice a day in attempt to pick them at roughly all the same size.  The grow fast, and the zuke you see in the morning that isn't quite big enough, will be too big if you leave it a full day before you check again.  There were only a couple ready this evening, although I may have missed one or two, as it was on the edge of dark, but there were a couple more that will be ready in the morning.

I had my phone with me, but it wasn't doing justice to the colours in the sky, so I ran back to the house and then back out with the camera.  No time to dawdle, the sky was changing quickly.

Yesterday morning I asked Larry if he was ready to walk through the bush.  I felt like it was time to reclaim our territory.  He said he wasn't ready yet.  I didn't want to push it.  This morning he said to me that he had thought about it, and was ready to give it a try.  We had the Kougar Konker, the dogs all on leash, we stuck close together and I got Jake to do lots of barking as we went through the trails.  I was reminded how close the undergrowth crowds the trails, even though some of it is dying off from lack of water.  Luna kept her nose to the ground most of the time.  Calli stopped to do a lot of sniffing, and I kept telling Jake to speak! speak! speak!
When we got to where the deer carcass was, well it was almost as if it had been a figment of my imagination.  There was nothing at all left where the body had been, I couldn't even tell exactly where it had been laid.  There were a couple of dried up black bits of something, some bit of organ that I had seen 10' away from the deer, last week, but that was it.  Really surprising.  If the coyotes had been in there, I expected to see more of the ground disturbed.  They've been singing most evenings,  although we didn't hear them tonight.  

I'm not sure that I'm quite ready to go back to our regular morning walks through there yet, but we are often close to that area as we work on picking our forty buckets of blackberries.  Five down, thirty five to go.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Just Random

Some random stuff from last week. 

The flower beds along the driveway aren't really suited to a sprinkler, so it was a non-energetic job that Larry could do. I asked him if I could take his photo.  He said afterwards he was very careful how and where he was holding the hose when I did:)

This cute little girl, who stands about 3' high, was $3 at the thrift store.  She is made of all metal, and looked cute with a hat on, because it made her face show up more.  I'm going to look and see what I can find in the way of cheap kid's sunhats.

I dug up all the garlic, so now 200 or so bulbs are curing out in the barn.  Some of them are a pretty good size.

I defrosted the two biggest fruit freezers.  One had a frozen syrupy mess on the bottom.  I think a bucket of marmalade that had been cooked up for the first step, and then put in the freezer, had leaked.  There were a few bags of fruit that had been there too long, stuck in that mess.  When I was finally able to get them unstuck, the hens got some fruit popsicles.

There are rows of carrots and beets in this mess.  Hopefully this coming week I'll actually be able to see them again.

The snap peas came and are done, all in the space of about 3 weeks.  I've started to pull out the plants, and might put in more seeds, on the chance that there is time for them to mature before Fall.  The hens like eating the pea plants.

And a few pretty flowers 

We are pretty darn happy that the heat wave has ended for a while.  We've even had some showers of rain, which haven't been enough to more than dampen the dust.  The watering continues. Blackberry season has started.  Forty buckets yet to pick.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Oh Deer!

Wednesday the dogs and I plodded around our trails, me with my trusty Kougar Konker in hand.  I noticed a couple of odd things on the trail, and the dogs were doing a lot of slow smelling at a lot of things.  I felt a bit uneasy, and I kept checking all around.  
Thursday morning was much the same, some pretty darn interesting smells out there.  We were on a part of the trail that heads to the southeast corner of our property, just before it turns west along the property line, and then loops back to the north, parallel to the dried up creek bed.  I smelled something dead.  I looked to my right at the piece in the middle of the loop, but didn't see anything, and thought I would look when I got to the other side of the loop, as it was more open there.  Just as I got to the corner, Luna, who was ahead of me, took off barking after something, and crashed through the bush down into the creek bed.  Jake burst out of a little side trail, all set to join in, but I got him stopped, and Luna came back right away when I yelled for her.  We continued on and came across a dead mole, that I had to drag Calli past, but couldn't smell anything there, so knew that wasn't it.  Got around to the other side of the loop, and walked in, and there was a dead deer.  Most of it was intact, but the abdominal cavity was empty, there was a hole in the chest I think, and then it was eaten or injured in the neck/throat area.  There were a billion flies buzzing around, and it stunk, and I was there by myself, and it was just too creepy, so I didn't hang around.  My first thought was cougar kill!
We went straight out of the bush into the open, instead of continuing on down the trail, and headed back to the house.  I said to Larry, what do you think killed a deer in the back bush?  Coyote? he said.  A bit later when I had started on some jam, I asked him to do some googling, and told him what I wanted to know.  He couldn't find anything, I kept suggesting different ways to word it, but he said no luck.  He told me to come down and read a cougar website he had found.  And there it was, what I was looking for, in black and white, but in a different context to what I had suggested he google.
On Wednesday as I went down the trail from the other direction, up ahead Luna had picked up something and was eating it.  I yelled at her to drop it, not sure if she did, but she continued on up the trail.  When I got to the spot she had been, I saw a perfect circle of debris in the middle of the trail, with scratch marks all the way round it, like a flower or flaming sun.  There were droppings on the top, what Luna hadn't managed to eat, uggh, dogs!   So the first thought was cat, really? a big cat, really? a big cat as in a cougar cat? really?  Further along the trail I saw another pile, not as perfect as the first one, but obvious on the dry hard ground of the trail, just the same.  Now I don't know why I didn't just get the hell out of there, there and then.  It seemed like my brain couldn't accept it.  I had forgotten about it by the time I got back to the house, and didn't even think about it on Thursday morning until I saw the dead deer.  
I was trying to get Larry to find out if cougars bury their poop like a cat does.  He couldn't find anything like that, and he didn't clue in where it said that cougars will mark their territory with a pile of debris, often containing feces or urine. Bingo!
I was encouraged to phone and report the sighting, which I did on Friday, and received a call back from the Conservation Officer.  He asked me different questions, and said it was probably a male cougar passing through.  The fact that the deer carcass didn't have any debris pulled over it indicated that he wasn't planning on coming back to it.  He told me two interesting things.  The first was that a cougar won't defend it's kill, and the second was that coyotes move out when a cougar is around. The coyotes were silent on Friday evening, and usually they put on quite a performance around dusk.  We heard a few very close tonight, for a few seconds, and I did see a coyote just the other side of the fence in the field next door.  Maybe that is a good thing?
Needless to say, we are finding somewhere else to walk the dogs in the morning for the time being.  Now I must get myself to bed, the alarm will be ringing in five hours. Market Sunday has rolled round yet again.