Sunday, September 14, 2014

Abundant Apples

This has been a banner year for apples.  Our trees are loaded.  Here's the Kerr (apple/crab) that is part of the backyard deck.  It produces every other year and you can make very nice apple juice from these apples.

We planted that tree and then built the deck around it.  In the background are some of the raised vegetable beds in the garden.

This next
is a Dolgo Crab Apple Tree.  The apples are small, bright red and oblong.  They make a very nice, deep pink applesauce.
I haven't made any this year because we still have lots in the freezer.

I tend to freeze, not can, most produce because I always have trouble with lids not sealing.  Freezing eliminates that problem.

Also as part of the deck is what we call the "old apple tree" which was in the front when we bought this property.  We had it moved to the back.  We don't know what variety of apple this is, but we do know that you need to wait until a good frost has passed over it for the apples to be mellow.  This is also good for sauce, and I've also used it to make apple wine.

The tree itself is just bowed down beneath the weight of all the apples.  It has already dropped whole baskets full on the deck flooring.

These are just three of the apple trees we've planted here.  There are several more.  One of them near the #1 greenhouse produces excellent apples which we've already picked. I made two batches of apple butter this past week.

Here's a picture of the batch that I bottled yesterday morning.  I like to start by making fresh apple sauce in the afternoon, then packing that into the crockpot for a slow overnight simmer.  In the morning I take off the lid and let it cook down (on medium) to about 2/3 of what went in.  Then I bottle it in pint or cup jars that have been soaking in boiling water, slip on a lid,  and set them on towels to cool.  It's a delight to hear the lids snapping shut, sealed until we need the contents.











APPLE BUTTER
Put 12 cups of (fresh) applesauce (unsweetened) into a crockpot.
Add:
4 cups of dark brown sugar (Demerara)
6 tsp. cinnamon
3 tsp. allspice
3 tsp. cloves
3 tsp. nutmeg
Cook on high until it begins to bubble.  Cook on medium or low (depending on how hot your crockpot is) for about 12 hours, stirring every now and then.  Take off the cover (or put it ajar to catch the spatters but still let out the steam) and cook until the apple butter is reduced by about 1/3.  Use your judgement according to how thick you like the apple butter.  Spoon into hot, sterilized jars and top with clean, hot lids.  Screw the bands on tight and place the jars, spaced apart, on some towels to protect the countertop.  Listen for the snap.

This is especially delicious on cinnamon/raisin bagels, but I'm sure you can think of many other uses!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Winter? Gardening

I went out to pick what's left in the garden this morning.  It was cold!  Right around the freezing mark.  I found lots to pick, but after I finished I had to warm my hands for about 15 minutes before they stopped hurting from the cold! Here are the peas and beans.

The beans are a little hard to see because they are Royal Burgundy, which are purple when on the plant, but turn green when cooked.
I grow only the Royal Burgundy beans because even when they become quite large they aren't very "fat."  The seeds don't become too large and the bean is still good to eat.

My favourite variety of peas is Green Arrow.  They have fairly long pods and average 8 to even 12 peas per pod.  They don't mind this very cool, wet weather.  There are still plenty pods on the vines, which is a wonder after the deer have munched on the tops of the vines and the slugs have despoiled the bottoms.  We're due for warmer weather over the weekend, so I left the underdeveloped pods in the hopes of another meal or two next week.

I believe that this fresh produce picked this morning to be eaten this noon contains the most health-promoting food stuffs there are.  Besides, they simply taste so superior!

It was a very poor summer for some crops: rhubarb and raspberries, at least here on our place.  I picked rhubarb only once, but used it in a recipe my friend M. gave me.  It's delicious:
RHUBARB PUDDING (from Elaine)
Put 5 cups of cup up rhubarb in a 9" square pan.
Sprinkle with 1 1/2 TBS lemon juice.  (I forgot to do this and it didn't hurt the pudding.)
Mix together:
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 TBS margerine
1/2 cup milk
Spoon this mixture over the rhubarb.
Mix together:
1 cup and 2 TBS sugar
1 TBS corn starch
1/4 tsp. salt
Spoon this mixture over top of what's in the pan already.
Pour 3/4 cup of boiling water over all.
Bake at 375ºF for 40 to 60 minutes.

Enjoy warm (with vanilla ice cream, of course!)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Today

Yesterday the thermometer read 24ºC at about 4:30 p.m.  Soon after that a cold front arrived and the temperature fell rapidly.  During the night it rained.  It was raining this morning when I got up.  Some time this morning rain turned to snow.  At times today it snowed heavily.  When our friend Jan came for dinner at 2 p.m. she said there were white-out conditions on her drive from town (just a mile and quarter, fortunately).  Now the snow is falling lightly but steadily.  The greenhouses, sales building, shrubs and trees are all snow covered.

There will probably be some damage to tree limbs as it's a heavy, wet snow and all the leaves are still on the trees and shrubs.  I had hoped to pick apples today, but don't really feel like doing that in this weather.  Better luck tomorrow!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Two Weeks

These past two weeks have just whizzed by!  When I last wrote on a Saturday, I was preparing to play for a church service.  It had been a whole year since I touched an organ.  My friend Jan gave me a key to her church (which we formerly attended) so that I could practice on the organ there.

I was surprised to find a new (hand-me-down) organ there, much nicer and bigger than what they had before.  That was a treat!  Then I had a second, nice surprise: my feet still knew where to find the pedals!  I thoroughly enjoyed that practice time, even though I had decided to simply play hymns for prelude, offertory and postlude, as I hadn't had time to prepare more complicated music.

Tomorrow will be the third Sunday that Jim and I go to Rocky Mountain House, he to preach and I to play organ for the morning service there.  We are usually invited for those three Sundays when their regular pastor is on holidays.  Last year we still did both the morning and evening service, but we both found that was a little too much effort for these senior citizens!  They agreed this year to have us come for just the morning service.  We always enjoy that congregation, and I especially enjoy playing organ for a group that sings so heartily!

Then on Monday, August 25, Dear Son #2, his wife and two daughters arrived for a visit.  We love having kids and grandkids over, but it does make it busy!  We had a really good visit with them, including attending the RCMP Musical Ride here in our little town.  Quite an event!  Even the girls (somewhat blasé teens) enjoyed it.  They visited Bow Valley Museum in Calgary one day, and also spent a day at Heritage Park.  Both are very worthwhile to take in.

And on Saturday DDIL, I and the DGDS went to Cross Iron Mills to do some pre-school clothes shopping.  To say the mall was crowded is an understatement!  So many people!  So many sales!  It was very noticeable to me that Caucasians were in the minority.  There were shoppers there from every corner of the globe, it seemed.  Perhaps the Inuit were the only group not represented.

What was very noticeable also was that, though the mall was crowded, there didn't seem to be any cross, angry people.  Everyone was pleasant and courteous.  It was a good time!

We got home a little too late to make our usual Saturday hamburgers, so we called ahead and the DS ordered pizza, which we all enjoyed.

The next morning we left for Rocky Mountain House at 7:15 a.m. and they left for B.C. at 8:30.

It has been a wonderful year for visit with the family.  I've seen everyone except #1 grandson, who is teaching in Japan.  Next year we hope to have everyone here at once around Thanksgiving,  to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, which happens in June.

This past week I concentrated on the machine quilting I had started before all that.


This quilt is having the binding hand
stitched to the back:










The two folded quilts on the dresser are completely finished.  The quilt on the ironing board has been machine quilted and needs the binding sewed on.

Underneath it are three more lap quilts that need to be machine quilted.

On the design wall is a lap quilt that has all the blocks made but not sewed together.

I wonder how much of this I will be able to finish this month!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Machine Quilting

 This week I've been doing some machine quilting.  The quilt on the ironing board is the Delectable Mountains quilt that I need in September to introduce the demo on how to construct that block.  So that was the first quilt I worked on.  That took a lot of time because it was all stitch, stop, turn the quilt, stitch, stop, repeat.  The border has a similar pattern to the blocks, just reduced a bit in size.  I like the way it turned out.

This second quilt is one destined for the Extended Care facility here.  In the second picture you can see how that was quilted: each of the triangles was quilted separately.  So that was, again, stitch, stop, turn, repeat quilting.  When I considered what pattern to stitch in the border, I very much did not want to choose something that was also stop and go quilting, so the border is being quilted in a fairly small meander.  I always enjoy that as it's possible to just keep on going for quite a length.  Of course, you have to move your hands frequently, but it's a much more relaxed method and much faster.  I just had to take a break at the halfway point to give my hands and shoulders a rest.  I plan to finish that this afternoon and apply the binding by machine and then stitch it down by hand.

Future work: four more lap quilts, a single bed sized quilt all ready to be machine quilted.  And then the Split 9 Patch lap quilt to be sewed together and machine quilted.  I just need to find the right border and binding for the Split 9 Patch.  I probably have some batting and backing in my stash that will look good with it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Black Currant Jam

On Monday, with S. picking and me processing, we put up seven quarts of cherry juice.  One quart didn't seal, so that one went into the fridge, to be used soon.

Tuesday S. picked an ice cream bucket full of black currants.  There's a really good crop this year.

I treated them the same as the red currants from early this month, washing them and boiling them with a little bit of water and then processing them through a food mill, the way you would make applesauce.  That produced about 9 cups of very thick "gloop".

Because it was so thick I added the quart of cherry juice from the fridge.  Added to that was a mixture of 15 cups of sugar and 2 packages of "No Sugar Added" jelling powder.  After heating it to a good, fast boil and boiling well for over a minute, I ladled the jam into sterilized jars and put on the sealing lids.  Here's the harvest: 10 pint jars and 3 cup sized jars of jam.  It's a little on the runny side, but will be great on toast or pancakes, or even as a topping on ice cream.

I always set the hot, filled jars out on the counter on a pad of towels, separated well from each other, to cool and seal.  These were very slow to seal, perhaps because they were slow to cool.  I finished filling the jars around 4:30 p.m.  The last jar sealed at 10 p.m.  Was I ever happy to hear that snap shut!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to Delectable Mountains Tutorial, Third Session

I ran into Brenda at IGA this morning and she mentioned that she would like to have the rest of the tutorial for making the Delectable Mountains quilt.  She's the second quilter in town who is taking up this challenge.  Sharon plunged right ahead into making Delectable Mountains and then emailed me to come and give her some pointers.  Her quilt is already finished!  Mine just needs two sides of the border quilted and then it's complete.

I need to get these instructions printed up for the first meeting of our local group in September, as I will demo the whole thing at the second meeting.  I realized that I needed a photo of an intermediate step and have finally taken apart a block to illustrate what was unclear.  This photo shows the layout of your strips before being sewed together and after.  The two sets of strips make two separate blocks.

You will take the second strip from the left and place it on top of the first.  Sew a quarter inch seam on the right hand side of the two strips. Take the fourth strip and place it on top of the third. Again, sew a quarter inch seam on the right hand side.

Now place strips 3/4 on top of strips 1/2, as in this photo.  Again, sew a quarter inch seam on the right hand side.












Lay the set face side down on your pressing pad.  Give it a little spritz of water.  Press the seams, moving your iron from right to left.








Turn the block over and press again, on the right side, sliding your iron from right to left to get a nice, flat block.


Your block is finished!

You will have actually made two blocks of the same colour, but with opposite orientations.  You can see that in the first picture on this entry.

When all your blocks are sewn, lay them out on a design wall or on the floor.  Switch them around until you are pleased with the arrangement.  Sew the blocks into rows and then sew the rows together to make the quilt top.

If I haven't been clear at some point and you'd like further explanation, contact me at grammilou@hotmail.com.  Hope this has been helpful!