30 July 2011

Little and large

The one on the right is a Riesentraube tomato, weighing in at a little under one ounce, or 20 grammes. The other is an unidentified variety I was given by a friend, known in our house as 'Cyril's Jumbo'. It weighed two pounds (900g). There's something a little intimidating about such a large tomato: Child#2 said "I'm not eating that one." But they're dense, meaty fruit, ideal for sauce-making, which is what's happening to this one right now.

Once or twice a week in the summer I cut a big batch of tomatoes into chunks, whizz them in the food processor until they're liquidised and then simmer them for two hours or so, until the sauce is about half the volume it was originally. You can add herbs and garlic, too, but generally I keep it simple and add other flavours at the point of using the sauce. Once it's at a good, thick consistency I let the sauce cool down, pour it into zip-lock bags and store them in the freezer for use outside of fresh-tomato-season in pasta sauces or on pizza. It would seem very strange these days to actually buy tomatoes, fresh or canned. This is one household staple where we seem to have achieved self-sufficiency!

22 July 2011

New views

On my ride on Wednesday morning I passed the end of the old railway line on Salem Road. It's now called the Millennium Trail and I think is mainly used by ATVs and occasional hikers. It cuts back in a long curve to Lakeside Drive, avoiding the (relatively) busy Loyalist Parkway in Consecon, but I wasn't sure how suitable it is for bikes, so I didn't take it. Internet research didn't answer my question, so I decided the only way to find out was to try it: I went down it this morning. Most of it looks like this:

There were a few overhanging branches to avoid, but the trail was easy enough to ride along. I saw a doe leaping through the trees to the right of me just after I stopped to take this picture. At the junction with Lakeside Drive I continued on to the part where the old railway line meets Lake Consecon. The trail crosses the lake on a little causeway and bridge. Just before the bridge a short stretch of the trail is formed of largish chunks of rock which aren't terribly easy to cycle on, but are traversable with care. There are a few missing planks on the bridge itself, but generally it's in good shape.

It was lovely down there: just me and a couple of swans:

This is only a ten minute ride from home, yet I'd never been here before. Will definitely be going back!

21 July 2011

Definitely summer

Today is the hottest we've ever had here, with a high temperature this afternoon of 32.7°C/90.9°F. The relative humidity was at 72%, so it felt more like the mid-forties (or 115°F). You didn't want to spend very long outside...

We had a fair bit of rain on Monday, as I reported that day. The great thing about the high humidity is that the soil has not dried out, despite the high temperatures. When I parked the car in Deseronto yesterday, there were still quite deep puddles in evidence, two days after the rain. This lack of evaporation might give some of my poor parched vegetables a chance of survival.

The greenhouse-grown tomatoes are beginning to take over the kitchen counter:

And the first of the 'Rosa Bianca' eggplants/aubergines is nearly ready to pick. This was how it looked a day or two ago. I love the shape of these fruit - don't you think it looks a bit like an elf's head? With the green part its hat? Or is the heat finally getting to me...?

19 July 2011

Back in the saddle

It's been a while since I've done much cycling. We used to do a fair bit when we first got married and there was a brief period when I was close enough to my workplace to cycle to it. After having a couple of babies it got more difficult to do - and even harder when we moved to Manchester and were surrounded by busy city streets. Even once the children could ride their bikes, you don't want to be out on those roads with them. Going for a ride meant loading up the car and driving somewhere in the country: a lot of hassle.

Where we are now is a little bit of cycling heaven (hardly any traffic, picturesque country roads), but it's taken four years of living here before I've got around to getting back on a bike again. I'd forgotten how much fun it was. I'm taking it fairly slowly, as I know I'm not at all fit (and it's going to be a while before my body gets used to a saddle again!). Last week I did short rides in the early morning in each of the three different directions it's possible to go from our house. This morning I managed my first self-imposed target: a circular route of 14km/8.7 miles. I notice that Google Maps now has cycling directions. They reckon it should take 41 minutes to do this route. I think I did it in 50, so I'm certainly not as fit as the Google average...

My next target will be to do a ride around the perimeter of Lake Consecon, which will be about 20km/12 miles.

One of the great things about cycling is that you notice things that you miss in a car. It's also easier to stop and take a photo (you feel a lot less noticeable stopping a bike than you do stopping a car). That's why I'm slower than Google thinks I should be...

Harvest lines

Curious cows

Flooded corn

18 July 2011


It's been dry over the past few weeks and the garden has been suffering. The corn and squash plants are stunted and look unlikely to produce much of a crop. I don't think we'll get a lot of potatoes or outdoor tomatoes, either. Luckily the greenhouse tomatoes are doing fine and we've been picking those for about a week now.

We went into 'water conservation' mode a week or so ago. This basically means that the reject water from the osmosis water treatment system in the house is diverted back into the cistern in the basement, instead of going to the big water tank in the greenhouse. So although there is still water in the tank, it's now only half full and the greenhouse plants were going to be the next casualties of the dry spell, if we hadn't had any rain.

It was quite a relief, therefore, when we woke up to a storm this morning. Only 3mm or so of rain, but better than nothing. I was even more delighted this evening when it went very dark again and we had another storm with an extended spell of rain. I doubt whether it's going to be enough to resurrect the corn, but you never know. You can't be a gardener without being a foolish optimist, after all...

Stormcloud over cornfield

15 July 2011


Here are two of the three chicks at two-and-a-half weeks old, with the one I think might be male on the left. You can see that its tail is a lot more stubby than that of the chick next to it. On its head the beginnings of a comb are more pronounced than on the other chick.

We went to the beach yesterday evening, where there were more seagulls than people.

11 July 2011

First blush

That welcome first hint of a colour other than green on the greenhouse tomato plants. A bit later than in 2010 (I blame the cool Spring for that, particularly as the tomatoes were sown earlier this year!), but earlier than in 2009. These are the reliably early Black Cherry variety: last year's earliest tomatoes were Marmande and Poma Amoris Minora Lutea, both of which I'm growing again this year, but neither of which are yet changing colour. Strange...

09 July 2011

The culprit

The fox was on the prowl again this morning, but we're keeping the remaining hens in their inner run, so this time he went away empty-bellied. He attacked again on Wednesday and this time we lost our rooster and four more hens. Now we're looking into getting some electric fencing for the orchard so that the chickens can continue to free-range more widely than they can at the moment. We're down to eleven hens and the three chicks now. I'm hoping one of the chicks is male, but it's still a bit too soon to tell.

And if that wasn't enough death for one week, we discovered a dead young rabbit at the back door this morning (this was before we saw the fox). I'm not sure if it was the dog or the cat or a combination of the two that were responsible. I hadn't been able to bring myself to turn our dead chickens into meat, but I didn't have any sort of emotional attachment to the rabbit, so thought I should have a go at gutting and skinning it. With the help of Ina's Highland Life blog and John Seymour's The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency I felt able to tackle the job.

The last time I did anything like this was in Biology, about a hundred years ago, when we dissected laboratory rats. The process actually wasn't too bad - the only problem is that the rabbit was so small that it won't even make a meal for one. I've put it in the freezer for now - maybe if we get a few more it might be worth turning them into a game pie!

03 July 2011

Canada Day fireworks (finally!)

I've had a camera with a fireworks setting on it for a while now, but I've never had a chance to try it out, because we've not been to see any displays since we moved to Canada. As this was our fifth Canada Day, this is possibly a shocking confession. Fireworks are as integral to Canada Day as they are to Independence Day in the US or Bonfire/Guy Fawkes Night in the UK.

Part of the problem is the time of year: it doesn't get properly dark until 10pm, which makes it a late event when you've got kids. Not something that was ever a problem with Bonfire Night in November, when it is dark in Manchester by 5.30pm. This is the first year that we've thought the children might actually stay awake to see the show. We went to Picton, where the hill at Delhi Park makes a natural amphitheatre: a perfect viewing spot. It was an impressive event.

The pictures I took aren't what I'd call classic firework shots, but I was pleased with the results, anyway.

This one is of two sparklers that some children near us were waving around:

The rest are the fireworks. The last one looks like those weird deep-sea creatures that never see daylight, I think.

Next year, I'll take something to sit on: it's surprising how cold and damp the grass can get after a hot day!

P.S. Realised after posting that this day marks the fifth anniversary of blogging in 'Someone Else's Kitchen'. So all the more reason to celebrate!