Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TOO MANY DEER!!!

Jim had fun planting flowers in some pots on the back patio yesterday.  This morning, not so nice:

In spite of trying to protect a rather large fuschia on top of the pot and some blooming pansies in the side bumps, the deer did eat them last night.  This pot is about 5 feet from our back door.  SHAMELESS!!!

I hardly dared to plant out the "greenhouse" corn that I raised in pots in the greenhouse to this point.  I took this picture to show how nice it is today, just planted out.  We'll see if they leave it alone.  Last year when it was small and tender, they did dine on it.  Once it grew and became more coarse they left it alone, and we did harvest some corn.

I try to scare them away when I see them grazing in the landscape or garden beds.  They've even invaded the greenhouses and grazed on the pots and four- and six-packs waiting to be sold.  The perennials are out on shelves outside and they regularly graze on them.  There are said to be lots of ways to deter deer, but the one that does work is having a dog.  Unfortunately, we can't do that, because we do leave for a vacation in the off season.  Some poor dog would perish from loneliness.  I can't do that do an animal.  But I have a hard heart toward deer.  I won't even say what I would do to them if I could!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

SEVEN TO GO

There hasn't been much time for sewing lately because the Garden Centre is, finally, becoming quite busy.  That's wonderful as it's past the middle of May and we'd like to sell the plants we raised!

But yesterday I did sew one block of the Entwined quilt.  Today, a very quiet day, I finished three blocks.  I was quite sure of how many, and what size blocks were still needed, but thought it was a good idea to check by laying out the blocks as they will be used.
The seven blocks that are needed are a repeat of the very left-hand column, and they would be placed on the right side of the quilt. These blocks are simply laid out on the floor just touching, not sewed together yet.

I guess there will be a small border of red, then perhaps some beige and a final binding, probably also red.  These will be auditioned to see if they look right.

I still really like this quilt.  I love how it looks as if it's bent here and there, even though it is flat on the floor.  But I'm really bored of sewing the same block over and over.  I need a lot of self-restraint not to branch off into some other project.  However, this quilt really needs to be complete by July so it can go home with D.D. and D.S.iL.  Shipping a large quilt would be prohibitive!

Another possible project came along this past week.  In 1990 I knit a lovely, pure wool sweater for the Dear One.  Over the years I reknit the cuffs (twice) and knit patches for the worn-out elbows.  That sweater is beyond a simple fix now.  I thought maybe I could take it apart and reuse some of the wool, combine it with a plain brown wool, and create another good sweater.  BUT when I tried to take it apart, it was apparent that was not going to work.  Here's the sweater being unravelled onto the ball winder:
At bit later it was apparent that I wouldn't be able to salvage much from this old favourite.  It went into the garbage bin.  Sniff, sniff....

Another project that was completed this week is the Portable Design Board.  In the last part of June I will be doing a "demo" at the Fabric Nook on the Split Nine Patch block.  I've had a Split Nine Patch hanging there for a few months and Brenda said there have been many inquiries about how to make that block, so we agreed that I'd do a day of demo.  A 2' x 3' design board will be very helpful with this, so I made one.

There was a remnant of pink, rigid insulation in the workshop that was just right for this.  I sawed off a section, 2' x 3'.  It was pretty dirty, so I washed it up in the bathtub, dried it and covered it with some old bits of polyester batting.

I covered that with a big piece of new, Warm and Natural batting, which I folded over to the back side and sealed with fusible batting seam tape.  
It's all ready to go.  All that needs to be completed yet is a set of directions for making Split Nine Patch blocks.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

STUMPOT

Today is overcast and cold.  Not very good Garden Centre weather.  But just right for a Dutch dish that I learned by trial and error from my Dear One, born in The Netherlands.  I had never encountered this growing up--my parents were first generation Americans, born to Dutch immigrant parents, and this wonderful dish for cold, damp days did not come down to me.  But here is my recipe, evolved from several "failed" attempts to imitate what Jim grew up with:

STUMPOT
Peel and cook an appropriate amount of potatoes (for how many people will be eating).
(Today I'm cooking just two very large Red Norlands.  I peel them,  cut them up and bring them to a boil.  Put on the lid and leave them in the hot water for an hour or two.  They're cooked just right that way.)
Cut up onion and sauté it.
Cut up sausage or ham (I like Mild Italian Sausage for this.) and cook in the onion pan.
Wilt Swiss Chard or spinach, drain and cut up very fine.

Heat up the potatoes, drain and mash.
Mix all the ingredients together, season with salt and pepper (a bit of nutmeg would also go well)and "anoint" with (lots of) butter.

Makes a hearty, satisfying meal on a cold, damp day.

We'll add some fresh, cut-up tomatoes on the side, or maybe some homemade applesauce.


The applesauce looks a little chunky here because it's not completely thawed.

Mentioning the nutmeg reminded me of my friend Connie who married a Dutch immigrant a few years before I married my Dutch immigrant.  Connie commented on Dutch cooking: They add some nutmeg to the boiled green beans and think they're really cooking with spices!  I still chuckle about that.

Jim opened the greenhouse doors a bit after 9 a.m. this morning, and maybe an hour later a lone customer showed up.  When Jim got out there, the woman told him that there had been a deer in the greenhouse when she first walked in.  It must have been a young one, as a mature deer would be very leery of being in an enclosed space.  I hope she gave it a good scare!

We can't grow a vegetable garden here anymore.  There is a herd of six deer that live south of the greenhouse in some brush around the dugout, and on the east side of the railroad that marks the east end of our property there is a herd of about 12 deer.  I wouldn't mind sharing with one or two deer, but when you have 18 eating from your landscape and garden you become VERY discouraged!  When they invade the plants at the garden centre and even those in the greenhouse, I just get really mad!  They know they're safe here because they cannot be shot this close to town.  Why can't there be a cull of this terrible nuisance? 
A pot of spinach pretty much eaten up.

My "indoor" garden, which I thought was safe from deer depredations:

The corn and the acorn squash will be planted out in the raised garden beds, as maybe the deer do not care for those plants!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

P.S.

Something I meant to mention when talking about those two yarn socks.  This works especially well when you are knitting a two round pattern.  Yarn A is always a pattern round and yarn B is always a plain round.  Usually this is easy to see anyway, but A and B make it extra clear.

ONE SOCK, TWO YARNS

Some years ago I was given two balls of sock yarn--not matching at all, except for one blue colour they had in common.  Since a 50g ball of sock yarn can make one adult-sized sock, I decided to somehow combine them.  I looked up ways to make stripes, but wasn't happy with any of them, so I came up with my own method.   And found this works like a charm.
I haven't tried this with top-down socks, since the last many years I knit only toe-up socks.  Here's how: start the toe in the usual manner with Judy Becker's Magic Cast On.  After two or three rounds with yarn A, knit the first three needles of the next round with yarn A.  Now go back to the first needle and with yarn B knit needles #1 and #2.  Drop that yarn, turn the sock and pick up yarn A and knit needles #4 and #1.  Now drop that yarn, turn the sock back, pick up yarn B and knit needles #3 and #4.  Keep alternating between yarns.  They will follow each other around the sock with "joins" or "jogs".  

You can combine really odd balls of yarn in this manner and they will produce interesting socks.  

You can actually combine three separate balls of different colours in this manner.  In that case you would begin the same way with yarn A, knitting needles #1, 2 and 3.  With yarn B you would knit needles #1 and 2.  With yarn C you knit just needle #1.  Now go back to yarn A and knit #4, and begin chasing the colours around the sock.  With three balls you will knit just one needle at a time before turning the sock back to pick up the next colour yarn.

I presume you could knit really varicoloured socks by combining all odd bits of yarn.  But a suggestion: weave the ends in as you go so you don't have a whole whack of ends to weave in when the sock is finished.

The other handy dandy tip is to use one of those delightful zippered plastic bags that a new pair of pillowcases or a valance comes in.  Your yarn with stay put and not get tangled, that is, if you turn the sock back and forth and not just rotate in one direction.  A friend in Arizona gave me several of these handy bags.

What's also helping here is that I have a "Ball Winder."  This nifty gadget takes a skein of yarn, or a ball of commercial yarn,  and rewinds it so that it has a flat bottom and top and feeds nicely from the center of the ball.

This week L. did seed the field across the road and one morning before breakfast I was able to run out and snap this picture of the seeder:
This is a tractor with actual "tracks" not wheels.  A little hard to see in this picture, but if you click on the picture you should get an enlarged version.  His other seeder, the red one, has two sets of tracks on each side and is MUCH more impressive.  The red unit behind this tractor is the unit that actually put the seed in the ground.  Following it is the wagon with many compartments that holds the seed and fertilizers.  Under the red unit are the "tongs" (I don't know the exact name) that make a small furrow into which the seed is planted.  Coming down on either side are the "conduits" for fertilizer.  There could be more than one type of fertilizer deposited with the seed: one right close by to get it started and others a bit farther away for later growth.

These tractors are very smart--equipped with fancy computers and GPS.  This computer can be shown the field, either by driving the unit around the perimeter of the field, or simply from a "memory stick" that tells the tractor the exact layout of the field.  You have a choice: you can turn the tractor yourself at the end of the row or you can let the program do it.  GPS is so precise that you can seed in between the rows that you planted in that field last year!

Nowadays you need to know a LOT to be a farmer.  You have to be savvy about machinery, with computers and in terms of business.  Not what I thought when I was a young wife and, temporarily angry with the dear one, stamped my foot and said, YOU DUMB FARMER!  Totally inappropriate even then!  And more so now. 

We are finally seeing some of the delights of spring here:
The forsythia out front is blooming the best it ever has--all the way to the top of the stems.

The spurge throughout that garden has also begun blooming--another bright yellow, and the various fruits are blooming also: Nanking cherry, Double Flowering Plum and Muckle Plum.  How cheerful!  Here's the Double Flowering Plum
This is the Muckle Plum:

And these are part of the row of Nanking Cherries.  Behind them are a few pear trees which have also started to bloom.

 
These pictures don't really capture the beauty of these flowering shrubs.  To see them in person is so much better!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A COMMENT RECEIVED

In regard to the post, A LAMENT, Roadrunner said, "I read about your troubling incident on the blog.  I feel very badly for you.  Big box stores and corporations are definitely taking over."

Thanks!

A further note:  Jim went and looked at the plants at IGA, came home and said, They're not any competition for us.  They have huge baskets for $50.!  We don't think anyone here will go for that.

S. came to work this morning and said, They still haven't been watered!

We don't see how they will be able to water them as they are all still densely packed in the original shipping containers.  Is it nasty of us to hope this is a great debacle for them?

One other thought I've had is that these large chain stores ONLY take from a small municipality, they do not give back.  They are here to make a profit.  The previous owners, who were local, did buy from local sources, ex. Mennonite sausage, locally made--locally grown asparagus, potatoes, etc.  Sobey's really hassled him for doing that.  A big chain has certain suppliers, and that's where you must order from.  Makes you realize that you are here for their good, not the other way around.

I don't feel this way just for ourselves and our little garden centre.  I think this is a very broad movement in North America.  I saw on t.v. the other day that there are only four major airlines serving the U.S.  In Europe there is lots of competition among something like 26 airlines.  Fares are lower and service is better.  Competition is good for markets.  

Monday, May 8, 2017

A LAMENT

I was deeply upset this afternoon, still am, for that matter.  To anyone else, it would not have seemed worth troubling over.  I went into IGA for some groceries.  I shop locally.  This small town NEEDS a good grocery store and the only way to keep one is to shop locally.

IGA recently changed hands.  It was started and owned until this year by local people.  When we came here the old folks had retired and two young men owned and managed the store.  Recently it was sold.  I understand that it belongs to the Sobey chain of grocery stores now.  The new manager and his wife moved into town.  They changed lots and lots of things in the store.  It takes a long time to shop there now, because practically everything is in a different location.  The young people who work there are exceedingly helpful and I appreciate them.

This afternoon as I came into the store, picked up a grocery cart to go shopping and was met by something new.  Large, tall, broad movable shelving units were being moved into place, about six of them, I think.  Absolutely packed with potted garden plants, tomato plants and hanging baskets.  Just exactly the sorts of things we have been growing from seed, watering, fertilizing, caring for since the end of February, to stock our small garden centre in the hopes of selling them and earning a little money.  We paid a lot for a shipment of trees and shrubs from Manitoba.  We planted and transplanted (dirty, tiring work) and watered.  Tried to keep the deer away from the tender edibles.

We don't sell groceries!  Why are they selling plants?

I was deeply upset.  It seems so unfair.  They did no work at all; just wheeled the units in as they received them, took off the plastic wrappings and were ready to go.  I was upset enough to talk with the manager.  I was polite and did not shriek or make threats, probably too polite.  He was polite and insisted that that was "the program."  He claimed they were ordered before he took over.  But, for all the years up to now, while it was locally owned, the owners did NOT stock garden plants, I'd like to think out of respect for another local business.

I told Justin that we did not sell groceries and that, in fact, I buy all my groceries at his store.  I don't think I made a dent.  I don't think he even feels a little bit sorry for what he's doing to us.  If there were another grocery store in town, I would switch and shop there.

We moved here in 1999 to open this business, having looked all around Alberta for the proper small town--one with a large enough population and no current garden centres.  When we moved here there were two good hardware stores, a True Value and a Home Hardware.   If one didn't have what you needed, you went to the other one.  Both locally owned.  The Home Hardware was a particularly good, service oriented business.  When you entered the store they greeted you by name and asked what they could help you with.  Some years ago Home Building Center bought out the Home Hardware and built a large new store out by the highway.   Pretty soon the True Value gave up and closed.  Now the seniors in town could not walk to the hardware store to buy a few nails or a bit of clothesline.  They had to get in the car and drive the mile out to the highway.   This doesn't seem like progress to me!

There were two small, spic and span, family operated motels here when we came.  A few years later Town Council okayed a development by the highway corner: a Get and Go convenience store with a gas station and a Super Eight Motel.  Then a year or two later a Best Western came to town.  What do you think happened to those two small family businesses?  They are desperately struggling.  Both have been for sale, but there are no buyers.  The Lamplighter is trying to survive by opening a liquor store in what used to be its garage.  Good luck!

Sears used to have a STORE here, with major appliances, a catalogue desk and service.  When we renovated our home I bought almost all our new appliances there, plus curtain rods, shades, etc.  After a few years the store passed to another owner and pretty soon became just a place where you could pick up a catalogue and pick up your order that you had phoned in.  This week even that is closing.  Why?  Because Sears doesn't print catalogues anymore.  You have to go online to order and they will send it by post.  Pity the poor seniors who can't figure out these online things.  Something lots of seniors have trouble with.

When we moved here there were three stores to shop at for clothing: a very nice ladies' clothing store, a Saan store for in-between priced things, but still good quality, (I have a T shirt that I bought in '97 that's still wearable) and a Fields Store where you went for socks and underwear, towels and some kitchenware.  All three stores are gone.  We now have a Bargain Shop with very shoddy clothes, cheap linens and canned goods.

After Home Hardware/Building Supplies were in their new location for about two years they opened a very nifty garden center.  They have a truck come in every week from B.C. with fresh hanging baskets, etc.  About two years after they opened our yearly sales were half what they used to be.  If IGA sells all those plants I saw there today, our sales will go down again by a large percentage.

You know what?  That wonderful life that used to be possible in small towns is being destroyed by big corporations.  And people fall for it!  Progress!  Yes, bring in more businesses!  All the Mom and Pop stores will close.  Then the big chains will decide it's not worthwhile  to keep stores open in little towns and EVERYBODY WILL HAVE TO DRIVE AN HOUR TO BUY A SPOOL OF THREAD OR A LOAF OF BREAD!

My lament is for the death of small businesses and the death of small towns and a way of life that was real and good and a place to raise children that didn't need to be watched every moment for fear of being kidnapped.  I'm just thankful to have lived in the good old days as a teenager myself.  My girlfriend and I were free to walk a mile to go skating in a city park in the winter evening, home by 9 p.m. and no worries.  I'm ever so thankful to have spent our children's growing-up years in a small town in Alberta where they were free to roam and explore with their friends, creating fun out of doors, growing up healthy and independent and creative.

If you have a comment, criticism or compliment and find you are not able to post it (there's been trouble with trying to post comments), email your comment to me at l.mantel@telus.net and I will share it.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

FIRSTS

First really warm day this year: current temperature, 20ºC, or 68ºF.  Yeah, I know, for some of you that isn't warm, but for us it feels like summer, the week after winter.  That's just the way it is here.

The farmer wasn't actually seeding yesterday, he was harrowing, making the land ready for seeding.  He was hope, hope, hoping to seed today.  I think I did hear his equipment in the fields to the north of us.

And today we are having the first Crab/Avocado salad of the year.  Somehow I got started making this as a full dinner menu for us.  It kind of evolved along the way.

Here's the recipe for our current version:

CRAB/AVOCADO SALAD
In a large salad bowl, layer:
bits of lettuce, onion, corn kernels, black beans (drained),
cut-up English cucumber, lightly blanched sugar snap peas, 
and pine nuts.
Cut up 2 medium avocados.
Cut up 1/4 of a large package of Imitation Crab (Alaskan Pollock)
(Of course, you can use real crab, but I've found I
prefer the Imitation Crab.)
Sprinkle the crab and avocado with lime juice.
Layer on top of the salad.
Drizzle all with a bit of olive oil.

I served this still layered, not tossed, one time when a nephew and his wife were visiting.
She had first helping and managed to scoop out just the top layers, leaving the rest of us to "enjoy" the salad with a minimum of avocado and crab!  I did toss the salad today, but when it's just the two of us, there's never a problem with one person hogging all the good stuff!

    

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

SPRING SOUNDS

Two new Spring sounds heard today for the first time this year: frogs singing in the dugout and the farmer across the road driving his mammoth seeder across the field.

I love the sounds of frogs in the spring; it's a sure sign that the water in the dugout has warmed sufficiently that they are into the serious business of reproduction.  There is great competition there.  If you plunk a rock into the water the chorus halts abruptly.  But after a few seconds some anxious hopeful can't resist and lets out the first chirpy croak and off they go again.

This is a very late start to seeding.  It's been a frustrating spring for all of us, waking up about once a week to a newly white world again...and again...and again.  But it's worst for the farmers who have about a three week window to get that seed into the ground.  They've been waiting and waiting for the ground to dry out sufficiently to support the enormous equipment they use.  Our neighbour is running two seeders this spring, hoping that will do the trick to enable him to get all his seeding done in short order.  I'll see if I can get a picture of one of those monsters.