Monday, September 27, 2010

Good Morning, Moon!

We had a new moon sometime last week, and, as often happens with a new moon, a change of weather. Today our high was +26º (73ºF). Only the third day in September that we were above 20º. The farmers are finally able to get back out in the fields to harvest the crops.

At 3 a.m. last Thursday morning, the moonlight was brilliant. You could have worked in the garden by its light. And when morning came, the moon was lingering in the western sky.

You can see in the photo that the pea field across the road was only partially harvested up to that point. To the left of the spruce the peas have been combined. To the right, the crop is still on the land. Our neighbor is out there at this moment, combining peas. He'll work until late in the night, and start again very early tomorrow morning. We pray the weather will cooperate now, as this is terribly late for harvest.

I had such a great weekend! On Saturday our string quartet performed 2 hours of classical music at the Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller. The reception was on a second floor, outdoor patio. We were thankful the day was warm, but struggled mightily with the wind. Our music was held fast to the stand by many clothespins, but we still had some accidents, with music being blown right off the stand. After an hour of struggle, we moved into the lee of the building, and that was a much better situation. Doesn't sound like fun, but we really love to play, and our music was well received.

Many government people were present. Our Premier was there, though I didn't see him, being focussed on the music. Past Premier Peter Lougheed came by and greeted us individually, shaking our hands and asking our names. A real gentleman, and a politician we all respect.

In the evening Jim and I went to Red Deer for the first concert of the season for the Red Deer Symphony. There were just two numbers on the program: Schumann's Cello Concerto and Beethoven's First Symphony, in that order. The cellist was terrific, and we had wonderful seats in Row F, just left of center.

During intermission I went backstage to greet Norbert Boehm, from whom I took violin lessons in the 70's (after not playing for 14 years!). I hadn't seen Norbert for 32 years, and it was a treat to talk with him again.

Here are the last three blooms on the Hibiscus for this season. I've been clipping down the stems, three a day for some time. This morning, I snipped off these last withered bloom, and will now give Hibiscus a rest for a few months. If I've timed it right, it will be in bloom again in January.

Today's accomplishments: 4 pints of tomatoes canned, big pot of minestrone soup made, 3 pages of detailed instructions for paper piecing written out and printed. Tomorrow I will be teaching paper piecing at the town quilting club from 1 p.m. until sometime in the evening. Later this week I'll post some pictures of that session.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Apples, apples, apples

And then some more apples! What to do? After the big batch of juice we made last week, I decided to make some apple sauce. That's not a big favorite of ours, but it's good to have some around. So this week S. picked all the apples from our Dolgo Crab Apple tree, and I made nine quarts of apple sauce from them. The first batch was way too thick, so the second and third batches had lots of water added to the apples in cooking. This made boiling the apples much easier--they didn't stick to the bottom of the kettle. It also made putting the boiled apples through the mill much easier. I froze this apple sauce, since I didn't want to spend the time canning them. And we've found this very acceptable.

Yesterday Jim said he had a lot of almost overripe apples that needed attention, so this morning S. prepared them all, and we steam juiced them: five more quarts of pure apple juice stored away for winter enjoyment.

Our string quartet is preparing to play for the Tyrell Museum's 25th anniversary celebration this coming Saturday. All the high-up "mucky-mucks" will be there, a very posh gathering. This is planned for the outdoor patio at the museum, so we are extremely grateful that the forecast for Saturday is sunny and warm: up to 21ºC. I think, just as insurance, I'll take along my black turtle neck tshirt and some long underwear, in case of a change in the weather. Also on the list to take along: lots of clothespins to keep our music on the music stand in case of wind.

Yesterday our cellist called around noon and said his brother had died that morning. His brother had been in the hospital since May, improving and relapsing, and now had passed away. We were very concerned, not just for his (our cellist's) loss, but also about the timing of the funeral. If it were scheduled for Saturday afternoon we'd be sunk! There's not way to find another cellist for a quartet on that short notice! But in the evening we received a call that the funeral will be after the weekend. Oh, we are grateful!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Harvest Time

We're having a cold, rainy Sunday here. Just what the farmers don't need! They have a heavy crop on the field, good prices on the market, and aren't able to harvest because of the inclement weather. It must be difficult for them to remain optimistic!

Jim and I whiled away many Sunday afternoons very pleasantly at the local library. There is a wide variety of magazines available, in addition to books and movies. But the library hours changed recently, and it is no longer open on Sunday or Monday. We do miss that opportunity to relax there!

We did quit a bit of harvesting from the garden this week. S and I dug potatoes, carrots, and some of the largest onions. Jim picked apples and tomatoes.

We grew Norland Red potatoes, and Russet Burbanks. If I find varieties I like, I tend to just stick with them. Jim is talking about being more involved in the garden next season, and I'm sure he'll want to try many more veggies than I stick with. So that will be interesting.

The Norland Reds turned out very well, but the Russet Burbanks suffered from too much water in the beginning, and produced very strangely shaped tubers, with all kinds of extra knobs on them. They also tend to have split centers. Too bad! We didn't grow very
many potatoes this year. I planted just 24 hills, twelve of each variety. So often we end up throwing out boxes of leftovers in the spring. Now maybe we'll run short.

Here are the ones that got split in the digging.
The Reds I cleaned up and made into oven fries, and the Russets I peeled and made mashed potatoes. The carrot was one that also split because of too much moisture.

This year I thinned the carrots vigorously, and although that meant fewer carrots, we did get really nice straight ones. Other years they've had the same trouble the potatoes did this year: all sorts of odd extensions. Jim put the carrots into a big barrel of sand, and they will keep very nicely that way in the cool storage building.

Here's the first bucket of Kerr apples. These are an "applecrab" so they are rather small. Our Kerr tree bears fruit every other year. I picked these Friday morning and got started washing, halving them, and cutting
out the stem and blossom ends. S. then
helped me pick the rest and prepare them, and loaned me her steam juicer. So I had two juicers going from 11:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. That worked really slick. And here's the end result of all that: 16 quarts and one pint of apple juice, all sealed to put away for the winter.

Harvest time is a lot of work, but there's also a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction in seeing the shelves lined with canned goods, and the freezers bulging with bags of veggies. We're ready for winter!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Kids Can"

The "Kids Can" quilt is finished at last! This snap shows how the machine quilting is filled in between the two halves after they are sewn together. You really can't tell where the quilting on the separate halves ends and the middle quilting begins. Probably because the join is not on a straight line. I deliberately vary how close to the middle the quilting on the halves is done.

I did find my new Janome "Horizon" with its 11" of throat space very nice going. Even when working on the center section the quilt did not seem too cumbersome for the space.

I always used to quilt very sparingly, usually just in the "ditch" so these last two quilts have been a departure for me. I did find it took a lot of time to do that much stitching. I've enjoyed doing the more intense machine quilting, but still try to keep the quilting quite open. Too much stitching on a quilt makes it too stiff, IMHO.

This quilt was made of mostly "gifted"
materials from a friend of mine. I think I bought three pieces of fabric to fill it out. The pattern is called "Turning Twenty," which my friend Linda loaned to me. Since the material is so busy I wanted a simple pattern. It went together really fast.

I just love the material I found for the binding! It picks up all the colours in the quilt, and provides a nice, happy finish.

I named the quilt "Kids Can" because many of the materials used have bright sayings on them, including: "Kids can make a difference!" and "Go Green."

We had planned to visit daughter #2, and were going to take this quilt along as a present for her daughter. But our schedule has become so crowded we decided not to go. It's a disappointment because she and her family recently moved to another city, and now have their own four bedroom house with a fenced-in backyard, after 10 years in a
small condo. I'm so happy for them!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....last year we sold 600 tomato seedlings to one fellow. Actually, he first bought 300, all of which accidentally froze when his small greenhouse lost power one cold night. He then came back for another 300. He was here off and on all summer for various plants, shrubs, etc., and told us he would want lots and lots of tomato seedlings the coming year.

So when Jim did the seeding, he started oodles of tomato plants. Now, unfortunately for us with all those seedlings, that fellow is now in jail, awaiting trial on a ponzi scheme which defrauded many people of much money. So we had waaayy too many tomatoes to sell this spring. What to do with the extra? Well, you can't just throw them out, can you? So they were planted here, there, and everywhere. Now, of course, comes the "payoff"--oodles and oodles of tomatoes.

Well, we can use lots, but they all have to be processed, so that's what we started this morning. Here's the first batch in the pressure canner, ready to go. Hope they all seal well!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Some Progress

As our daily walk was cancelled this morning because of rain, I was able to spend some time working on the current quilt. I finished doing the machine quilting on the second half. This shows the back of the 1/2 quilt.

Several years ago I decided it would be easier to machine quilt on half of a quilt, rather than trying to cram the whole quilt into the small space of my home sewing machine. It tried out that idea, and it worked very well indeed, so I usually follow that method now.

I have never had a quilt finished on a long arm quilting machine, as I prefer to do it myself. It is a lot of work, and can become tiring moving all that material around, but it also has a really satisfying rhythm to it.

Here's a close up of what I decided to do on the particular quilt, which will probably go to our youngest granddaughter. I decided to do a kind of loopy flower design, with four-, five- or six-petaled flowers interspersed with simple circles. I like the effect very much.
I used a variegated thread with colours found on the front of the quilt. The machine quilting goes up to the border on three sides, but stays away from the side that will be joined later.

When the two halves are quilted, I place them right sides together with the batting and backing pulled back. I sew the center seam as I would if it were just a quilt top. Today I did that seam on my "SchoolMate Janome" since the new "Horizon Janome" is all set up for free motion quilting and I didn't want to change the setting.

When that seam is complete the quilt is laid on the floor, folded over into halves. There is extra batting and extra backing that needs to be trimmed away.
I first cut off the batting exactly at the seam edge.
Then I trimmed the backing the same way.
That step is not shown here.

I almost always spray baste my quilts with 505 temporary fabric adhesive. This is not a cheap option: a small can costs $15.99 at the local fabric shop. But that compares well with the price of the same can at Fabricland in Red Deer: it was about $24 there!

Spray basting holds everything in place so you don't get wrinkles in the back of the quilt. It also remains effective for long periods of time. As I found when I went back to a long neglected project.

But don't use spray basting if you plan to hand quilt!!! I learned that the hard way. In order to hand quilt a spray basted quilt I had to spray it liberally with water, and then press the water out with a hot iron. A spray basted quilt cannot be penetrated with a hand needle!

After the one side of batting and backing is trimmed away, trim only the batting on the second side. Fold back a seam allowance. Open up the quilt, and fold the extra fabric over the trimmed half. Some adjustment needs to be done here in order to make sure you don't have wrinkles on the front.

Now you are ready to handsew the backing together. Tomorrow I plan to machine quilt the center part. When it's finished, I'll post pictures of the finished quilt from the front.

I had hope to finish two quilts, this one, which I call the "kid's quilt" and the one called "the red square" before we visit daughter #2 and her family the middle of this month. Now I'll be happy to get this one finished.

A friend has loaned me her "Grace" quilting frame, which I will use for quilting the "red square" quilt. That should be an interesting experience!

In the meantime, we've picked lots more peas, broad beans, green beans and Scarlet Runner beans, all of which needed to be processed for storage in the freezer. So far this week we've put 4 1/2 pounds of peas away. And yesterday Jim brought in a pail and half of apples. We cut them up, boiled them and put them through the French mill, a handy device for making applesauce which separates the peels from the sauce. That made 6 cups of applesauce, so I sent him out with a request for that many more apples.

When we had 12 cups of sauce, I put them in the slow cooker with 4 cups of brown sugar, 6 teaspoons of cinnamon, 3 teaspoons of cloves, 3 teaspoons of allspice and 3 teaspoons of freshly ground nutmeg. This was cooked on high until we went to bed, and then turned down to low. This morning I turned it back up to high, and by 1 p.m. I had bottled 5 pint jars and 1 smaller jar of Apple Butter, thick, rich, darkbrown Apple Butter that will taste so good on homemade cinnamon-raisin bagels!

When I labeled the jars and dated them I noticed what an interesting date we have today (at least in Canada, where dates are written day/month/year): 8/9/10. Which date, for the record, had a high temperature here of only +12ºC.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Too Long!

Well, it's been way too long since I posted here. After the 16th of August we were pretty busy harvesting and processing from the garden. Then on the 25th dear daughter-in-law and two granddaughters came for a visit. What a treat for Grammy!

Here the girls are helping me make bread. Just in front of the breadmaker you can see the seven jars of Red Currant jelly that I made this month. Have you ever tasted Red Currant jelly? It's just the best!

Whenever the girls come we make a craft together. Last year they made the little pillows, remember? This year they made little purses. They each draw out a design of their own imagining, and then choose fabrics from my stash. I do most of the sewing, although the 10 year old does a little on her project. I think they are just darling--both the girls and their designs.

They stayed until this past Monday when we went to visit the Calgary Zoo. I was just amazed at how the zoo has changed since the 70's when we were taking our children. The morning started out very chilly, but when the sun came out the day turned lovely. The zoo was full of young families with children. Perfect weather for a last of the summer outing.

Close to 3:30 I dropped them off at the Calgary airport to catch their flight back home, and I scooted off home to get ready for a quartet rehearsal.

This year I didn't start the corn early in the greenhouse, and I'm really regretting that now. As you can see, it looks great, taller than ever and just loaded with cobs. But the sad part is that none of the cobs are even close to filling out and ripening. Our summer has just been too cold and cloudy. Seems really strange, as the rest of the country suffered an unusually hot summer. I know Toronto had lots of days way over 30º. We had only one!!! day when the temperature even reached 30º and that high was just 31º. That was it for our warm weather this year. Our usual high was in the neighborhood of 24º, or 75ºF, and often was only about 18º to 20º. Our squash is likewise not going to make it to maturity.

Remember the picture of our neighbor doing the spring planting with his nifty new tractor? Well today he started harvesting that field. These are peas grown for seed. The crop looked wonderful as we had a nice amount of rain. And, of course, peas like cool weather. This was earlier this morning, and later there were two combines working at the same time in that field. They did quit early, and about 4 p.m. we had a thunder shower.

We are all holding our breaths, hoping that we don't get a killing frost until the harvest is in. Last year we had that early, heavy frost that killed all the leaves on the trees, and took away what fall colour we look forward to. We had frost three mornings in the last week, but only just a degree or two, not enough to do a lot of damage. It's our hope and prayer that we have good fall weather to protect the crops and enable a good harvest season.