Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mulching Fruit Bushes

If you remember my blog last year about using wood shavings - , one of the uses were for a groundcover.  This year, we decided to buy some landscape fabric and cover the rest of the area in the back that is home to our small fruits (grapes, raspberries, saskatoons, blueberries, rhubarb and kiwi).  The newspapers I used last year are still working in the one row I tried but they probably won't last for many years.  With the landscape cloth and the shavings, I hope to have very little weeding back there.

First thing we did was do a good weeding and raked the area so it was basically level.

You can see the weeds between the grape arbor - they do have a tendency to get away from us.  Hopefully this will be the solution to that problem.

The fabric we bought allows water through it so we laid the drip hoses on top of the fabric and shavings so we can monitor it.  We found the drip line did not work well as the tiny holes would plug up so we added nozzles that mist the row.  We cut holes in the fabric where the plants were growing and then covered the whole thing with a thick layer of shavings.

We worked on one length at a time and kept the shavings away from the edge so we could overlap the next length. 

When we finished one row, we continued onto the next.  At the ends we place slabs of wood to hold the shavings in and to cover the ends of the fabric.  That way we can extend the area if we need to.  We are thinking about added some raised beds for strawberries and such and think that we will do it in that area of the yard.

We hauled many, many loads of shavings on the van and the job took us several weeks to complete but it was worth the end product.  Doesn't it look nice?  It seems nice to as we got a variety of shavings - fir, pine, spruce and cedar.

Next year we will redo the row I did last year with the newspaper and continue out that side of the patch.  :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lunch With Lulu

Lulu explains lunch:

Come along my friends and join me for lunch.  Now lunch is never held at any certain time.  Lunch time is at 11:00 am or 11:30 am and again at 11:31 am and then once more at 11:34 am and on and on until it is time for snacks or coffee break or supper.

Now lunch can be lettuce - I will eat lettuce indoors but I do prefer freshly picked lettuce - especially if i pick it myself.  ;)

I prefer my lettuce growing in the garden as it is easier to rip off bite-sized pieces (since I seem to be lacking teeth!).  I will eat lettuce indoors if mom holds it for me or remembers to rip it into little pieces for me.

HEY!  Who ate all the lettuce!!  Somebody ate all my lunch while I was talking to you.

Oops!  I was talking and eating and I guess I ate it all myself.  Silly me!

Oh well, onto the next course.  I have layer pellets in one dish, scratch in another and eggshells in the third.  Decisions, decisions.  I really, Really, REALLY love scratch.  It is the best, but I need to eat the others so I can lay nice eggs.  Laying eggs can be a pain in the butt but I get to eat peanuts whenever I lay an egg - and I LOVE peanuts!!

Sometimes I get to eat yogurt or bread or sunflower seeds or cucumbers.  I really like almost anything as long as I see mom eating it.  I love to share with her.  I also like to drink out of a big person's glass instead of the dumb bowl.  I never see mom drinking out of a bowl so why should I?

I think I'm getting full so it is time for a nap then I'll have more energy so I can lunch some more.  Did I tell you yet - I love lunch.  Come again for lunch as long as you bring something to share with me.  :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage rolls can be finicky to make.  Instead of making them each time we want to eat some, I make up a bunch at once and freeze them.  Then it is easy to have cabbage rolls whenever the mood strikes you.

I prepare the cabbage in the fall when I have a crop ready.  First you pick nice firm heads, remove the outer damaged leaves, cut out the core and wash.  I blanch the whole head and then immerse it in icy cold water.  Drain well before freezing until needed.

When I am making cabbage rolls, I usually bring out a number of heads at once.  Thaw completely and drain.

I find this works best for having pliable leaves.  I've tried freshly blanched leaves but they are easier to tear and not as nice to work with.  The freezing process seems to do something to the cabbage so the leaves are bendable and not too fragile.

For the filling I cook 2 to 3 cups of rice and fry several pounds of hamburger before mixing together.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Amounts don't matter as leftovers can be used later.

I peel apart the heads of cabbage and use the smaller or torn pieces for the bottom of the container. 

To make the cabbage roll, place a leaf in your cupped hand.

Place a spoonful of filling near the end closest to your wrist.

Cup your hand and shape the filling into a nice mound.

Roll leaf over filling, tucking in sides as you roll.  Don't be too gentle because if you tuck it too loosely it may fall apart during cooking.

Roll top of leaf over to finish off.  Practice makes perfect but unperfect cabbage rolls still taste great.  :)

I freeze the cabbage rolls in ice cream pails or larger plastic containers.  Since I usually cook the cabbage rolls in my crock pot, I find a container that fits nicely in the crockpot.

Pack the cabbage rolls close together with rolled side down. 

When I have enough for a meal I layer on several pieces of wax paper as a divider so I can pry it apart when frozen.  That way I can freeze several meals in one container.

Continue filling and end with broken pieces again.  This way, you flip it to the bottom of the crockpot when frozen and have a layer of leaves on the bottom.

If you are cooking them fresh, you can cook them in a roaster instead of a crockpot.  Fill the roaster as above without the wax paper.  You can use crushed canned tomatoes or partially diluted tomato soup (I mix a can of soup with 1/2 can of water).

Cook at 350°F for 1 to 2 hours.  Cabbage should cut easily with a fork.

When I bring the frozen cabbage rolls out to cook, I place them cabbage pieces side down in a crockpot.  I add 1 to 2 cans of tomato soup depending on the amount of cabbage rolls I am cooking.  I again dilute it with 1/2 can water per can of soup.  I then cook on high all day until supper.  If you cook fresh cabbage rolls in the crockpot, it doesn't take as long since they don't have to thaw.

If I have rice-hamburger filling left, I mix in a can of tomato soup and top with cheddar cheese.  Bake at 350°F for about 3/4 hour until heated through and cheese is melted and browned. 

My mom does her cabbage rolls differently.  She uses raw rice and raw hamburger in hers.  She also often buys sour cabbage to roll them in.  She cooks hers on the top of the stove in a large pot.  She puts an old plate on the bottom of the pot so the cabbage rolls don't stick and burn.  Then mom covers them with tomato juice and boils them slowly for several hours.  I don't use this method because: 1. they may boil over (big mess), 2. I don't use enough juice so they are dry, 3. I don't cook them long enough so they are partially raw.  Mom has perfected this method over the years and hers are always tasty but I prefer my method.
Enjoy one or more of these ideas.  ;)


Monday, May 21, 2012

Pruning the Cedar Hedge

This spring we decided that the cedar hedge needed pruning.  We haven't touched it since we moved here and it is getting taller and taller.  It also seems that it is getting thinner in spots.  We decided to top off the hedge so our view across the river isn't completely blocked.  Hopefully it will also help the hedge from getting more thin spots.

Here you can see the hedge as it was before trimming.  Some people also trim the sides so they are straight and regimental.  We like the natural curves of the cedars.

We bought  a gas-powered trimmer so we don't have to worry about long extension cords.  Barry found that standing on the van was the right height without having to move the ladder so often.

We only trimmed around 2 feet off the top.  We may shorten it more next year but decided that this was enough for this year.

Standing on the van worked great along the driveway and out front but for the rest of the hedge a ladder was used.  The bad thing about using the van was when it was cooler and damp, it was too slippery to stand on.

Now we can see the highway across the Fraser Valley from our front window again.  Plus I think the hedge looks much neater looking.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Volunteer Spinach

I was going to collect seed from my spinach last year but got sidetracked and it didn't get done.  I ended up feeding the old plants to the chickens.  They love fresh greens of any kind.

This spring, I noticed I had some volunteer spinach growing along the sidewalk.  I left them for Lulu to nibble on as she wandered past.  I also thought it might keep her away from the other plants growing in the garden.  Wrong!  She'll eat a side of spinach before moving over to the tiny cabbage and bok choi plants for a leaf or two - unfortunately for those plants, a leaf or two is most of the plant.  :(

Since the spinach has been doing so well, I decided Lulu could share her bounty with us.

I recently got a steamer and decided to try cooking some spinach.  Yum!  It was so tender and much easier to cook than boiling it in a pot and having to try to turn the spinach so it all gets done at the same time.  We ate it straight from the steamer with a drizzle of vinegar.  (Sorry no pics as I forgot to snap some before we ate it all.)

I also made a spinach salad that I regularly made in the past.  Again no pics but it is not hard to make.  Chop 1/2 pound of bacon and fry until done.  Boil several eggs, peel and slice.  Slice some mushrooms.  Wash spinach and rip into bite-sized pieces.  Place spinach in bowl and sprinkle on bacon bits.  Add egg and mushroom slices.  Drizzle on ranch dressing.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Potato Frittata

I am not fond of quiche because I find it too rich with the eggs, the filling and crust.  I decided to try a frittata which seemed to me to be a crustless quiche.  I combined the two recipes below and made some of my own changes.

2 Tbsp oil
1 - 2 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
4 eggs
1/2 c grated cheddar cheese
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
chili powder

Heat oven to 400°F.

If potatoes are large, half or quarter them and then sliced them into thin slices.  Chop onion.

Brown potatoes and onions in oil.  I used a cast iron pan so I could use it in the oven.

Turn occasionally until potatoes are nicely browned.

Beat eggs with salt, pepper and spices.  I used a pinch of chili powder and some paprika.

Add eggs to pan with potatoes and onions.

Place pan in oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until eggs are firm.

Sprinkle on cheese (I used both cheddar and Parmesan) and return to oven for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Remove from oven.

Cut into quarters and serve.  It was very tasty.  We tried it with salsa, ketchup and also sour cream.  All three condiments work well with the frittata.

I would make it again and try other additions to the potato and onion.  Bacon chopped and fried would a nice addition as would mushrooms or peppers.  It would also work at lunch with a salad or a side of refried beans.  Experiment and enjoy!  ;)