Food Preservation, gardening

Drying Basil & Parsley

The Basil plants…..


The leaves picked, washed and placed in dehydrator…


After about 35 mins…..


These were placed into a 500 ml Mason jar for use over the winter. We will continue to pick the leaves and do this process until the plants go to seed.

The parsley washed and spun dry in the lettuce spinner….


The leaves picked off the stems….


Placed spread out in the dehydrator…


And approx 1 hr later…


We will continue to do this until we have Mason Jars full of both for the winter. These herbs are great when making homemade pasta sauce, soups, stews, and chili.


Zinnias & Petunias?

The Zinnias continue to grow upwards….


A few of the bulbs are also beginning to open up….


As for the Petunias….this is where we planted the Matthiola seed that did not come up. This bin was used for Petunias last year and the label gave no indication they were a perennial kind….


They are even growing out the side of the container!

Disappointed that another flower seed package was a dud, we are very glad the Petunias took their place – what a pleasant surprise

gardening, Sustainable Living

A Poor Success; The Vegetable Garden Update

What a poor year for the garden! With too much rain and below seasonal temperatures it is a wonder the gardens have even survived this year at all. In fact, we know friends whose gardens have flooded out completely.

In the beginning, it felt like failure for us too; the chives from seed did not come up, the parsley from seed has been VERY slow, something keeps digging into the winter onions, some type of bug has eaten most of the turnip tops, and the pepper seeds which were planted twice have not come up at all (and maybe not the tomato ones either….jury still out).

However, after all of these failures, disappointments, and complaints, once we walk around and see how well all the other plants are doing – we see success.  There is a plus to container gardening when there is too much rain; they drain better than the ground. I’m thinking that maybe in smaller amounts the soil in the container will be warmer than the soil in the ground as well which may help.

Here are a few pictures to illustrate the success we are having despite a poor start and poor weather co-operation….

The Multiplier Green Onions:


The bin is only 1/2 full at the moment because we’ve been harvesting and eating! So fresh and full of water it feels like eating celery at first. They are sweet and mild enough to enjoy from end to end, eating them raw (dipped in a little salt of course).

Green Onion from Seed:


From seed, these will be a little slower, but we will be able to enjoy them later in the season after the multipliers are done.

The Chives:


They’ve grown a lot since last year. We haven’t touched them yet and plan to wait for ‘onion gap’ between the multiplier green onions and the from seed green onions before we do. We will use the chives in place of green onions in recipes for a similar flavour.

The Cucumbers & Zucchini:


The Tomato and Basil:


I realize that this does not at all look like a Tomato Plant hahaha. We planted four Mortgage Lifter tomato seeds and something came up in the exact location that we planted them. More than anything, it looks like a cucumber plant and we did try growing cucumber in this bin last year. I guess we’ll wait and see what happens.

Here is a picture of the Tomato Seed package showing the fruit, but not the plant….


The Basil plants were just picked over yesterday for first harvest this year and they smell great!

The Okra Plants:


A little smaller than what they should be due to the cooler temperatures, they still look well and hopefully will continue to grow in the July heat that we’re expecting (and hoping to see).

The Horseradish:


So impatient for these to get started, we can see there’s no worry going forward about the kind of harvest we’ll have for this plant. I’ve even had a dream about grinding it up; it was so hot and spicy my eyes were burning & I woke up sweating!

The two kinds of Lettuce:


We’ve harvested from both a week ago and had such an abundance that we did not get back to the ‘patch’ before the first plant got bitter. While it was cool in the morning yesterday, we cut it down and gave it a really good watering to encourage new growth. The second one, because of the speckles, was easy to pull off the longer, older, tougher, bitter pieces and again after a really good watering, will be ready for another harvest in a few days.

The Garlic:


A little crowded on one side; probably because the bin is not 100% level and some of the garlic seeds got so wet, they rotted. We will leave them alone until next spring.

The Parsley:


Slow to start, it looks like we won’t have a ‘dud’ crop after all and there will be lots of parsley to dry and enjoy for another whole year. We are almost finished last year’s crop that we dehydrated.

The Radishes:


Harvested and replanted three times already and with lots of seed still left, we will be able to enjoy these crunchy snacks for the next month.

An Empty Bin:


This is where we planted the pepper seed twice, both times unsuccessfully. Some things maybe really should be started indoors. Here is the picture of the pepper seed package….


We’ve replanted the bin with Turnip seeds. The turnips at the side of Mom’s house have been eaten up by bugs. We have had to pull out all but a few that look ok to continue on. They have been sprayed with a sunlight soap and water solution to make them sticky and unenjoyable for the bugs.



Hopefully, the ones in the bins fare better.

The Winter Onions:


The winter onions are doing well on the side of Mom’s house despite being dug up a few times from some sort of animal. We heard a little tip: put a couple of moth balls around the bed. This is supposed to deter the animals and we’ve put two in to see if they work.

The Beets:


The beets have done well here too with the winter onions. We thinned them yesterday, kept the ones we took out and washed them up ready to eat in a salad.

The Carrots:


The carrots are doing poorly here, but we suspect a lot of their seed has washed away along with the parsnip seed that we can’t seem to find coming up.

Grandma’s Garden:



From left to right; corn, spinach, carrots, with the last row a 1/4 row radish (that was harvested 2 days ago and reseeded) and a 3/4 row snow pea plants.  The carrots will need to be thinned out soon.  We’ve been waiting for a good weather day for Grandma – no rain and not too hot – we want to help, but not take over so she can remain active in the garden. Hoeing is therapeutic at any age! Despite all the rain, her garden has managed to drain well and she’s only lost a small section of the spinach row to flood.

Despite a few failures, some frustration and replanning, we do see success at every turn in the garden this year and hope to see more as the season continues.


gardening, Sustainable Living

Horseradish & The Good Luck Company

Almost an entire month has passed since we planted the horseradish. Instead of ordering online like I did for our seeds, I took an old-fashioned approach, filling out an order form, writing a cheque and mailing away for the horseradish root. I didn’t know I should possibly keep them in the fridge. Instead, I left it in the package in our backroom at the farmhouse where the woodstove is. When we did plant it on May 1st, they were a little dry, kinda rubbery instead of hard and after we planted them, it rained for 4 days and I’ve been worried they’d gone to rot.

Every day I looked at the bin, every day I would get my face as close as I could to the dirt, looking for a small sign they survived. I had added a little dry dirt on top. The other day, I took the dirt off…no sign of plants sprouting. I talked to the roots, hoping they would pop up.

I was beginning to loose hope.

And then it happened!

Yesterday we had a visit from Ivan & Fran Foster; they were coming to see if we had any extra bins to share and wanted to check out what we are growing.

Taking a walk through our planted bins, we asked them if they had ever grown horseradish. Ivan said he remembers sitting on the porch as a kid, preparing it with his brother (my Uncle Harold Foster) with their eyes & nose running from the strength of it. I explained that this is what I want to do; I’ve been looking forward to grinding it up and storing it to eat over the winter (and maybe some other uses too – see links @ end of blog)

(I know I’ll be the only one of us 2 to enjoy it though. I joke we have a ‘Hot Lover’ in the house, and despite eating some hot foods until tears and sweat are produced and he is so red in the face it’s not funny, he does not like radish, horseradish or wasabi)

Ivan could see the horseradish had not come up yet, told us we should have seen something by then, but not to give up just yet.

As always I  took one last look at the bins before going to bed last night ….. and there it was!!


We had planted 4-5 root pieces and with 3 sprouts finally making an appearance we’re at least 60% at the moment; a passing grade when I was in school and we’re going to take it!

An additional yippee for the tomato sprouts beginning to appear as well. Unable to get them started inside this year, we’re taking a chance at doing them from scratch outside.


What great luck our company brought to us yesterday – Thanks, Ivan & Fran!

Why am I so interested in Horseradish?…

Thanks 🙂

gardening, Sustainable Living

Container Gardening

It has stopped raining long enough to take a few pics of the containers this year.

With 18 total, below are 6 in front of Mom’s house across the road


From left to right: chives, flowers, parsley, flowers, flowers, green onion from seed.

At the farm, behind the house are the other 12


Left side, top to bottom: lettuce, lettuce, garlic, green multiplier onion, horseradish, peppers

Right side, top to bottom: radish, zucchini, cucumber, tomato & basil, flowers, okra

For the zucchini and cucumbers, we are using green metal triangles for support in the hopes they will not grow down into the grass & die like last year. (The tendrils from cucumber plants and squash plants do not like to be disturbed once they have snagged onto something).

Along with the flowers to attract bees and butterflies for pollination and fruit growth (or in our case, vegetables) we have these lovely dandelions


We have seen one hummingbird and have placed a feeder outside to encourage more to come.

While some of our vegetable selection do not need pollinators in order to produce edibles (herbs, horseradish, onions, garlic, and lettuce), the peppers, tomatoes, and squash will.

The best part about container gardening is the ‘Set It & Forget It’ sensation that I now have.  Except for adding two containers to the line-up, I stirred up the dirt, pick a few weeds, added seed, and let the rain do the ‘watering’. Most of the work was done while sitting on a camping stool.

Ongoing maintenance for weeding and harvesting can be and will be done sitting on a camping stool making it ideal for many types of gardeners 🙂


Dirt, gardening, Sustainable Living

Hardy Tomatoes

Everything we did to help the tomatoes ripen such as reducing watering, removing stems/branches not holding tomatoes, removing leaves to allow the plant to dry and feeding them compost (‘plant food’)…..worked!!


The tomatoes are plentiful and red.

I picked as many as I could yesterday, plus a few green ones in order to cut back more of the plant and encourage the last few to ripen before the frosts start – it was only 8 degrees C this morning!!


As I harvested and cut down more branches I was startled to find more tomato plant flowers starting and even more growth starting.


So the major lesson I’ve learned from growing tomatoes….

They are very Hardy!! Do not baby them, cut them early and focus on one main stem for the plant. The picture below shows how long the one branch had grown once I had stretched it up.


Even though I had them ‘caged’and a stake in order to tie the cage to, I think it would be best to only have a stake to tie them to and skip the cage altogether. Of course, this would be ideal when only 1 stalk on the plant was allowed to grow, instead of 4-5+.

So Don’t Be Afraid to Cut!!

Cut, Cut, Cut I say for tomato plants. I’ve massacred these plants at least 3 times and have only encouraged tomatoes to mature and haven’t hurt the plant at all.

Next year I hope to start the tomato plants inside, but not as early. When I plant them, I will be sure to cut off the lower leaves or branches starting out to ensure only one main stem is present. Next, I will stake the plant right away and not cage it. I think ‘caging’ the plant decreases air flow and encourages blight to become present from too much moisture.

I am so very glad that we were able to keep the blight from spreading with the work we put in; it would have been so disappointing if it had spread and we were unable to harvest any tomatoes this year.

While we were in the garden, we also picked a couple of ‘winter’ onions and have left them on the deck to dry out….


We are well prepared for what we need to do next year for the tomato plants, and we look forward to sharing with you next spring.

As for the winter onions…no lessons learned because they were so easy to grow. Much stronger in aroma than store-bought onions, it’s only more apparent every time I harvest that “Fresh is Best”.

gardening, Sustainable Living

Keep the Cukes Dry!

As with our squash, tomato, and, garlic we’ve also been overwatering our cucumber plants.  We were overwatering to the point that the little cukes were soft and brown while some of the new blossom areas were fuzzy and ‘moldy’ looking.


We cut off any ‘yellowed’ and sagging segments, filled the container with a few inches of fresh soil and have also decided to only water in the morning.

Like the squash plant, it has grown and started to travel a little.

On July 4th they looked like this…


On July 16th, they looked like this…


Today they looked like this…


above picture is from the front, while below picture is from the back


Parts of them still look a little worse for wear, but they have new blossoms coming and two healthy looking cucumbers that we are trying hard not to harvest.

Happy with our gardening adventure and the learning curve that comes with it, I’m still surprised that one of our biggest piece of education has been ‘Not To Overwater’!

For seedlings and plants starting out, watering is great, but when a plant is established, backing off of the watering (‘babying’ them ?) is probably the better way to go.

Still feeling in Love with Gardening despite its less than perfect Nature