29 March 2013

Getting organised

As usual, this year I'm determined to crack the succession-sowing issue. I've resorted to technology to help and have set up reminders in my calendar to sow seeds/transplant things at appropriate points. The calendar then reminds me every Saturday about what I'm supposed to be sowing that weekend ("Sow carrots in the greenhouse" "Transplant onions outside", things like that). Not only that, but I've set up the reminders to repeat every year on the same weekend. So I'll have the reminders for the rest of my life. Or as long as I continue to use that program, anyway.

However, I'm already getting a little irked when the reminders pop up (stop nagging me!), so perhaps this wasn't my most brilliant plan, after all...

I also went through all my tomato seeds and planned out how many of each I would sow this year. Below is an extract from the list I made. Mike made fun of its vagueness, but it actually turned out to be quite specific: 'lots' translates to 25 seeds sown and 'fewer' became 12 or 13. The only exception is 'German Lunchbox', which I received as a free packet. Which contained just one seed. Such generosity! I'm growing 16 varieties this year. Most of them are old favourites of mine, but the German Lunchbox is new to me and so is Tigerella, the first stripy tomato I have grown.

And they're just beginning to show themselves...

25 March 2013

Happy New Year!

In England, in years gone by, March 25 (Lady Day) was the day when the calendar changed over from one year to the next. It wasn't until 1752 that the official start to the year became the first day of January. Lady Day was the first of four 'quarter days' when you would have paid your rent and if you were going to be moving to a new farm, you would have done so on this day, ready for the start of the new growing year.

Here in southern Ontario, the ground is nowhere near ready for ploughing or sowing yet. But in the shelter of a greenhouse, it's a different matter. A few days of sunshine have nudged temperatures up and we're starting to see peas and greens poking through the soil surface.

The sorrel, parsley and Tuscan kale has survived the winter in the greenhouse.

I harvested some of the kale and sorrel for my lunch.

The slow warm-up over the last few days has melted a lot of the lingering snow outside. Enough to tempt the chickens back into the orchard again, at least.

I'm hopeful that the slower spring this year might be good news for the fruit trees: they're less likely to be nipped by a late frost. We've lost a few of our young trees in the last year or two, so one thing I'd like to do this year is plant a few more.

Indoors, I've got pepper and eggplant seedlings up and I sowed more than 300 tomato seeds at the weekend. From a gardening point of view, this week definitely feels like the start of a new year, even if the calendar disagrees!

21 March 2013

Slow Spring

Still a bit chilly!

17 March 2013

Room to roam

These chickens seem to be enjoying reclaiming their orchard space from the snow, even though the temperature is still below freezing.

These ones, on the other hand, look like they're quite happy to stay snuggled up inside with a friend: there are seven of them crammed into four nestboxes. And of course the four boxes on the opposite wall were empty...

More snow is forecast for the next few days. I know I'm being impatient, but at this point some warm weather would be very welcome. At the moment I feel more inclined to act like the second set of birds than the first.

12 March 2013

Glimpses of grass

Overnight rain and a lot of melting has made for a day of torrents. The meltwater is carving its way through the ice and snow on the western side of the farm, making some mini-canyons en route.

And, at long last, enough snow has melted for the chickens to be able to go out into the orchard again.

Although only after I walked past it with my camera. Typical.

10 March 2013

Gingerbread Pudding

Bread Pudding is one of those names that could trip a British English speaker up, over here. It usually refers to what I think of as Bread and Butter Pudding - sliced bread, spread with butter, layered with dried fruit and sugar and baked in a milk and egg custard and served hot. Bread Pudding in England was similar in that its main ingredients were bread, milk, egg, sugar and fruit, but different in texture and temperature: it is much more dense and is usually eaten cold. In both cases, the dishes seem to have been designed as a way of using up stale bread. And in my current domestic situation, I can't make either, as Child#2 objects to dried fruit.

I've shared my gingerbread recipe on the blog before. Having to use up stale gingerbread is one of those 'never gonna happen' situations, but I needed a dessert in a hurry today and happened to have half a loaf of gingerbread to hand. I turned three large slices of it into a ginger version of bread and butter pudding. But as there was no butter involved, I've had to call it Gingerbread Pudding. Which just perpetuates the confusion, I suppose. But this is definitely a hot pudding, not a cold one.


12 small slices of gingerbread (about 1 by 3 inches)
3 eggs
¼ cup sugar
300ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
(If I'd had any preserved ginger, I would have added that to replace the dried fruit in 'classic' B&BP)

Heat your oven to 350°F/180°C. Arrange the slices of gingerbread in a shallow ovenproof dish. Beat the eggs with the sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Pour the mixture over the gingerbread slices and allow to soak in for a few minutes. Then transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. Serve with custard or ice cream.

08 March 2013

Warming up

It may not look like it, with the ground all white with snow still, but this week the weather has started to feel more spring-like. I didn't need a hat, scarf, or gloves this afternoon when I took the dog for his walk and the snow was distinctly squishy underfoot instead of the crispy surface of recent weeks.

It makes walking in it more of an effort, though...

On Tuesday the last of the snow on the barn roof gradually melted off, dangling some lethal-looking icicles precariously over the edge.

And after a month of confinement, the hens are impatient to get back out into the orchard. Maybe enough of the snow will have gone by the weekend to make that possible...

03 March 2013

After the storm

 The day after the storm we got another helping of snow: one of those wet, windless snowfalls that leave everything heavily laden.

Afterwards, I noticed strange tracks between the barn and the house. I puzzled over them for a while. What sort of animal could make marks like this? Was it a new predator, trying to get in to the chickens?


After wondering about it for a while, the answer suddenly presented itself. The 'tracks' were directly underneath the power line from the barn to the house. They'd been created when the heavy snow on the wire had fallen off as the temperature rose later that morning. Not so mysterious, after all...