Thursday, March 29, 2018

Racy Tomatoes and Topping Pepper Plants

   I started potting up tomato, eggplant, and pepper seedlings this past week and have begun the Musical Chairs game of the seedling world.  Trays and pots will be rotated daily, as I have more of those than I have grow-lights.  Once our days become sunnier, a small shelving unit will be set up in the living room against the south-facing windows for the extra transplants.

   My Casper eggplant seeds didn't germinate (old seed), so I fished them out of their peat pellets.  Taking their place are these new-to-me tomato varieties, adding to those started earlier this month:

Auria  (red, heirloom, paste/canner/cooking, elongated/banana, “suggestive shape”, sometimes called “Adam” (as in Adam & Eve), origin Ukraine, indeterminate, wispy foliage, midseason)

Damascus Steel  (stripe/bi-colour purple & red, high anthocyanins, bred by Dean Slater, open-pollinated, 2-3” fruits tapered to round, “sweet with a bit of acidity”, indeterminate, midseason DTM ~80)

   The Chocolate pepper seeds didn't germinate, either (old seed), so I popped in some mixed colour bell pepper seeds, a hybrid that is supposedly early.  We'll see how they do.  

   Chocolate peppers, Carbon tomatoes, and Martino's Roma tomatoes were the first vegetables I grew here.  I wish I kept notes from the beginning; I don't even remember what year I started to garden.  Maybe in 2006?   We must have had very agreeable weather, or else I was blessed with beginniner's luck, as they all did well.  Once I tasted the tomatoes - especially Carbon - I was hooked on gardening and hooked on heirlooms.

   The daughter of a friend asked me recently if I topped my pepper plants.  I was surprised and replied that I didn't.  I top my tomato plants but it had never occured to me to do the same to the peppers!  She showed me some videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to do it.  The result is a bushier, stronger, and more productive plant.  I am eager to try this this summer.  While the hot peppers I've grown have done well, the sweet peppers have underperformed and the plants often look sparse.  I hope topping them gives them the boost they need to produce well!

It is snowing lightly again today.  We have had a lot of snow this month.  Parts of this region (e.g., Fort St. John) received enough this week to break records.  It's wonderful for the skiers and for the children on Spring break who want to go tobogganing, but it makes getting around a little tricky.

I don't have a metre stick, but I do have a broom...

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Redpolls and Snowflakes

These little guys (Redpolls, I think) discovered the finch food we put out and have been feasting all weekend.  A few chickadees have also joined in the festivities.  

About two weeks ago, R. brought home finch food instead of the usual bird food we buy.  The sparrows and starlings were not amused.  They unceremoniously flung bunches of it off the bird feeders onto the ground.  I was going to clear out the feeders and replace it with the regular food as soon as we stocked up again, but to my surprise, Redpolls showed up yesterday and seem to be thoroughly enjoying the free lunch.

I took these pictures yesterday.  Considering they were taken on an overcast day and through an older, dusty, double-paned window, they turned out better than expected.  Today, it is -10 degrees and snowing. Very pretty outside.  We've received more snow today than during the two days last week that had forecasted snowfall warnings.  Go figure!

Bea came out to help me shovel this afternoon...

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tomato Selections and Heirloom Pumpkin Soup

   Yesterday afternoon was sunny and mild, getting up to 5 degrees.  I walked to the mailbox in short sleeves.  It felt heavenly.

   This past weekend, I processed the second of two Galeux D’Eysines squash I kept from my harvest last Fall.  This was the largest of the whole bunch.  I worried that it might have dried out, having been stored for 7 months, but it kept beautifully.  I ended up with 8-9 cups of puree from this one.  Pumpkin soup is in my near future.   This recipe looks good.  I wish I could wave a magic wand and teleport a steaming potful to Mom’s stovetop.  I think she would love this soup.  I might have to smuggle one of these suckers home the next time I visit.  In my carry-on, I think.  What fun, trying to keep a straight face while airport security clearly wondered what the hell it was as it traveled through the x-ray machine.  I realize liquids in any significant quantity are verboten.  Indeed, we live in an age where it is felt that the risk of kombucha and bottled breast milk being weaponized is sufficiently high that they, among other suspect beverages, must be banned on flights in the interest of public safety.  Might I assume it is lawful in Canada to schlep Cucurbita maxima in one’s luggage between provinces?  They have no sharp edges, after all...

   The leeks, marigolds, summer savoury, and parsley I started early in the month are all coming up well (especially the summer savoury.  I hope I can keep it alive until June!)    And a single rosemary seed has germinated.  Usually, these take at least 2 weeks, even on a heat mat and under a light.

Summer savoury

Leeks, parsley, marigolds

   I started soaking tomato seeds yesterday (wrapping them in damp paper towel and putting them in sandwich baggies to germinate).  Once they’ve germinated, into coir pellets and under the grow light they will go!  I am again hoping for a very warm May so I can transplant them outside mid-month.  This year's varieties are: 


Early Annie  (red, heirloom, 3-inch round, determinate, early DTM 65-70, canner/slicer)

Mazarini (pink, heirloom, heart-shaped, paste variety, few seeds, meaty flesh, wispy foliage, indeterminate, rare Russian tomato)

Black Krim (black/purple, beefsteak, indeterminate, Russian heirloom, juicy, rich flavour)

Russian Rose  (pink, heirloom, indeterminate, medium sized beefsteak, origin Russian, midseason DTM ~80, slicer)

Principe Borghese  (red, heirloom, determinate, small, dry, few seeds, good for sundried tomatoes,~ 75 DTM)

Amana Orange  (orange, heirloom, indeterminate, large beefsteak, midseason DTM ~80-85)


Scotia  (red, open-pollinated, determinate, medium fruit, origin Nova Scotia, early 60-70 DTM, prolific, slicer/canner)

Rutgers  (red, “commercial heirloom”, determinate, heavy yields, medium sized 6-8 oz round fruit, ~75 DTM, canner/slicer/general use)

Bush Beefsteak  (red, open-pollinated, determinate, medium sized 6-8 oz globed-shaped fruit, early 65 DTM, slicer)

Dwarf Roza Vetrov  (pink, open-pollinated, dwarf/determinate, small/salad fruit, round pointed fruit, origin Russian “Wind Rose”, early)

Work Release  (pink, heirloom, heart-shaped, paste, indeterminate, large, origin Italian, mid-season ~80 DTM)

Malakhitovaya Shkatulka  (green, heirloom, indeterminate, medium sized fruit, Russian origin “Malachite Box”, early – 70 DTM, slicer)

Golden Jubilee (orange, heirloom, indeterminate, round, medium sized fruit, 70-80 DTM, slicer)

   I only have two Amana Orange seeds, but am hoping to get solid plants from them so I can rebuild my seed stock. Amana Orange tomatoes are big and are a beautiful colour; they almost seem to glow from the inside.  The sauce made from them is a little jarring to see on pasta when you’re used to traditional red sauce, but the taste is fantastic.

   From here on, I will be referring to the Malakhitovaya Shkatulka tomatoes as “Malachite Box”, for obvious reasons!

Update March 29 - the Casper eggplant seeds I sowed didn't germinate (old seed), so I fished them out of their peat pellets and in their place sowed these new-to-me tomato varieties:

Auria  (red, heirloom, paste/canner/cooking, elongated/banana, “suggestive shape”, sometimes called “Adam” in the Ukraine (origin), indeterminate, wispy foliage, midseason)

Damascus Steel  (stripe/bi-colour purple & red, high anthocyanins, bred by Dean Slater, open-pollinated, 2-3” fruits tapered to round, “sweet with a bit of acidity”, indeterminate, midseason DTM ~80)

   In case the link above ever fizzles out, here is the recipe for Heirloom Pumpkin Soup:

Heirloom Pumpkin Soup

Serves 10

  • 5 pounds edible pumpkin, Galeux D'Eysines
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced white parts
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 2 fresh sprigs rosemary, chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, optional
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup half and half

  1. First, get a sharp knife. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds. Cut the halves into manageable chunks, then cut away the outer rind. Dice the flesh into 1-inch cubes. It's really not so hard if you have a good chef's knife.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot, medium heat. Add the leeks, onion and herbs and sweat the aromatics until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin cubes and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let simmer until the pumpkin is tender, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. Puree using an immersion blender. Swirl in the butter and the half and half. Add the nutmeg, then taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Use the sugar if you like a slight sweetness to your soups.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Bohemian Visitors and Starting Seeds

   Last week,  I had a wonderful surprise when I went out to shovel the step.  I heard them before I saw them: Bohemian Waxwings!  They appear in the area once or twice a year, eat the dried fruit from the otherwise bare trees, and move on.  I think they're pretty and I love the trilling sound they make.  We took some pictures, but due to light snow that day and the flitting about of feasting birds, they are not as clear as I had hoped. (Click to enlarge)

   March 1st, I started marigolds (Brocade Mix), 3 kinds of leeks (my usual Giant Musselburgh and two new ones, Mammoth Blanch and German Striesen), flat-leafed and curly parsley, rosemary, and summer savoury.  I read - after the fact - that summer savoury is best sown directly outdoors, as it doesn't respond well to having it's roots disturbed. Opps.  We'll see how that goes.   

   Thanks to R (the teens at his workplace drink a lot of milk), I have a good start on collecting plastic jugs for mini-greenhouses.  My sister-in-law is collecting them for me as well.  At this rate, I should be able to start enough kale and cabbage to feed a small army.

   I am having trouble narrowing down the kinds of tomatoes to grow this summer.  Memories of a harried-harvest-time-me remind me I should be practical and grow uniformly shaped, easy-to-process, meaty varieties. Reds, purples, or pinks, preferably determinates and preferably early varieties.  But that feels so limiting, when there is such a rainbow of types and such a range of sizes, shapes, and flavours!   I have a tentative list of 12 finalists, but that could change by the time I actually start the seeds later this month. 

Stay tuned!  *L* 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

A Good Day To Hibernate

The temperature has been holding steady at around -20 degrees for the last week or two.  Not bad, for this time of the year.

We've had snowfall almost daily for the last week.  I keep telling myself, "At least it's a light, dry snow".  Sometime late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning, it started snowing and didn't stop until the wee hours of this morning.  It is so deceptive as it falls - floating and fluffy and sparkly.  That can't be bad, can it?  The sparrows and starlings gather in the trees to chirp and play among the flakes.  I makes me think of the Snow Days we had when I was in school.  Nothing felt as good as hearing the radio announcer say that school in our district was closed due to the storm and then hopping back into my warm bed, spared at least one day - possibly more - of the mind-numbing, soul-smothering obligation that was school.

I took some pictures yesterday afternoon from the front step while it was still snowing: 

This morning, I went out at 7:50am to shovel, but didn't get far.  It has dropped to -30 degrees.  Shoveling can wait.  Especially when there are podcasts to listen to and Super Bowl commercials to watch and (unfortunately) dishes to be washed.  This is a good day to hibernate.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

I Got Mail

I participated again this year in the 7th Annual Canadian Autumn Seed Exchange, hosted by Nicky North in Ontario.  My return package arrived in yesterday's mail.  

Here are the goodies I found inside:

Basil “Persian”
Dill “Aroma”
Lemon Balm
Parsley “Curly Green”

Calendula “Candyman”
Dahlia “Rigoletto Mix”
Pansy “Springtime Cassis”
Poppy “Single Grape”
Poppy “Venus Salmon Rose”
Sunflower “Citrus”
Sunflower “Peach Passion”
Sunflower “Mammoth Russian”
Zinnia “Carousel”
Zinnia “Illumination”

Illumination Zinnia -

Beans (bush)
Purple Dove
Thibodeau du Comte Beauce

Beans (pole)
Good Mother Stallard
Hidatsa Shield Figure
Lazy Housewife

Good Mother Stallard -


Cabbage “Brunswick”
Celery “Tango”
Kale “Russian Red”
Lettuce “Galisse”
Lettuce “Grand Rapids”
Lettuce “Lolla Rossa”
Lettuce “Sherwood”
Spinach “Giant Winter”

Galisse Lettuce -

German Striesen
Monstrous Carentan

Desiree Blauschokker
Sugar Snap

Desiree Blauschokker -

Cheyenne Bush

Sweet Dumpling
Zucchini “Benning Green Tint” and  “White Pattypan” mix
Zucchini “Prolific Straight Neck”

Sweet Dumpling Squash -

Anna Russian
Big Green Dwarf
Black Plum Paste
Bush Beefsteak
Cherokee Green
Dotson’s Lebanese Heart
Dwarf Rosa Vetrov (“Wind Rose”)
Eva Purple Ball
Green Envy (hybrid)
Malakhitovaya Shkatulka  (“Malachite Box”)
Post Office Spoonful
Russian Rose
San Marzano
Tasmanian Chocolate
Work Release Paste
Yablonka Rossii (“Russian Apple Tree”)
Zena’s Gift

Malakhitovaya Shkatulka Tomato -