Harvest starts

So I’ve been watching the peas with eagle eyes and yesterday put the first two bags into the freezer. I’m so pumped!!  Peas are my all time favourite year round veggie, beans are a close second only because I think they are at their best straight from the garden, and somewhat lessened by a stint in the freezer, and completely inedible canned. Peas freeze exceptionally well and I love them all year long. Of course, straight from the garden as I’m weeding or wandering is the best!!

All veggies need to be blanched before freezing to stop the enzymes that convert sugar into starch from continuing their nasty behaviour in the freezer. This means bringing a large pot of water to a rapid boil, dropping in veggies, bringing it back to a boil, and then stopping the process in an ice water bath. A thorough drain, into bags, and into the freezer. And I’m well on my way.

I’ve had my first feed of yellow beans the other day too–I frenched a potful, cooked them till tender crisp, then added them to some boiled vermicelli, strips of ham, eggs, cream and garlic, heated it all till cooked, then added a hearty sprinkle of grated parmesan. It was delish, the beans standing in for pasta so while rich, not too carb heavy. Yum!!

The tomatoes are also coming nicely–I made a bowlful of panzanilla using the pitas from the Crossroads Market. I brushed them with olive oil and seasoned them with garlic and toasted them in the oven. Chopped garden tomatoes, red onion, and feta cheese. Left to sit and marinate on the counter for a bit , it was juicy and filling!!

Then I made a batch of liptaurer cheese, a cheese spread with paprika and capers.  I blitzed cottage cheese, a brick of cream cheese and a spoonful of yogurt for tang. Added chopped red onion, garlic, green onion and lots of paprika. Capers to taste. Very nice on a toasted bagel for breakfast. 

Friday was sweltering, so I poured a beer and hopped into the tub, reading till I cooled down.

This Irish cream ale is one of my favourites. It has a widget that carbonates the contents when you pop the top. See how it dances in the glass. You CANNOT drink this from the can–you have to watch it in the glass.

And today I used up the last of my nectarines. I was going to make chilli jam with them but changed my mind and made chutney. I’ve made this recipe for thirty years, I keep the recipe  only for the list of ingredients–my method is to throw everything into a big pot and cook it till its done. I don’t worry about amounts too much–if I like something I’ll add more, if I don’t, I’ll add less. This time I added cranberries for color (for part of the raisin’s) and cinnamon sticks, and a palmful of chili flakes instead a 1/4 teaspoon. Can you even taste a 1/4 teaspoon?
And now the jars are pinging on the counter and I’m going back to Central America and finish my book!!

I love to read

I started a new book yesterday–stories of survival in extreme conditions. The first two stories were fiction–but well known to me (and probably to you too).  The Jack London story about a man who seriously underestimates his abilities to cope with the cold, and eventually freezes to death,  was made into a Canadian Film Board  short. I remember watching it as a kid. A well written story can put you right in the middle of the action. I’ve seen the film. I’ve read the story. Yet as I was re-reading it I had to put it down several times just to pace around to shake off that feeling of dread, of impending disaster. Now that’s a well written story. 

The next one affected me the same way. A fictional story of a plantation owner in the Amazon about to match wits with an invasion of army ants, an army two miles wide and ten miles long.  I’d read this story many times as a kid. When my mother purchased the cabin at the lake it came with boxes of old Esquire magazines, filled with cheesecake photos of beautiful women and wonderful weird stories, fictional and true. I devoured the stories, including this one, reading favorites over and over. Again, I knew the story, yet every few paragraphs I had to put the book down and do something else to relieve the pressure, that feeling of imminent disaster. The rest of the stories, mainly factual, included, of course, that most famous disaster in the Antarctic, the Scott disaster and the bookend happy ending story  of Ernest Shackleton saving his men. I finished the book this morning sitting in the garden, in the sun, and the story of a climb in Annapurna gave me goosebumps. Nothing like a good book, and summer is for reading. 

Even so, I did manage to make another batch of rose petal jam as my roses are flowering fools. Simply covered with blossoms, I couldn’t let them go to waste. 

And I had to use up my nectarines so I made a batch of nectarine/lemon marmalade and a nectarine crisp. 

I also made a tasty chicken pot pie with biscuit topping but neglected to take photos (I’ve eaten most of it now–nice to have to reheat in the microwave). 
My neighbour has just dropped off my winter bales–they look lovely. Hard to believe winter is coming (so Game of Thrones !!)
Everything is looking happy in the garden. The peas are peaing!!

The peppers are peppering!!

And the zucchini are starting. Can you see them?
And now I hear another book calling my name. A book on the discovery of the lost civilization of the Maya. I love reading 😊

The problem with mornings…

…is that they come so early in the day. If only they came later, like 10ish, I could do so much. Mornings are so nice and cool but I need time to stretch, have a coffee, wake up. By the time that happens it’s already hot and I lose all ambition. 

This morning I actually went out and weeded the garden. My daughter came out and helped me. The garden is really doing well except for that pesky row of peas. Maybe I need to add more manure this fall. 

We left Banff after Aidan had done another explore. We got to Calgary and the Crossroads Market. 

I remember many more used book shops, but it’s still quite interesting. I picked up a box of nectarines–one gene away from peaches and without the fuzzy skin. I prefer the nectarines anyway for the blush of color in the skins. A vendor at the market was selling peach chilli jam and I will make some with my nectarines. I also picked up some very good bagels, some poppyseed roll and pesto, made with basil and walnuts. The lady selling it said she was Italian from Montreal and the recipe was an old one from her mother–you soak the walnuts in boiling water for an hour to mimic the texture/flavour of pinenuts without the expense. There was of course all the usual suspects–fresh fruit and veggies, many of which I am growing in my own garden but I never tire of looking at these. 

Then we headed out to Pisces, a fish and aquarium supply store, my daughter’s weakness. Coincidentally there was an Italian  market across the street. I found some excellent bread and laid in a few months supply. I don’t eat a lot of bread but when I do it must be good. Bread is one of those food items that freeze very well and when reheated in the oven, you can’t tell fresh from frozen. I had also wanted to go walkabout at the Pacific Place Mall but it was time to go. 

We made a brief stop in Drumheller for my daughters other passion, fossils, then headed home. The drive home was quick and we made good time. I wandered around the garden and thru the back–everyone was doing well. 

Saturday we packed away all our camping gear, brought the ponies home, and spread out all our treasures. I divided up all my bread (for my son and neighbour) and then had to spend some time tidying the freezer to make room for all the bread.

I brought in a chicken, one of my little roosters from last fall, to roast overnight so as not to heat up the house. It turned out so well I don’t know why I don’t do it more often. 

It’s going to be hot all week and chicken salad or chicken with dumplings will be so nice to have on hand. 
Now I must run to town for gas and supplies. I need sugar for my jam. 😊

Eclectic Banff 

This morning we headed downtown for a coffee. Banff has many independent coffee shops but for whatever reason both Aidan and I like The Second Cup. Only here. Only in Banff. So I came and got myself a dark roast and Aidan her very special white hot chocolate. It really is very good. She did an explore while I sat at the sidewalk table and worked on loading pictures. Honestly, I think I could have painted them faster than they were loading. Finally got the last one up and Aidan finished her explore. We headed out to Lake Louise. We intended to walk the Lake Agnes tea house trail but OMG the people. Once in the village we headed for the Chateau–there were signs already at the bottom saying the parking lot was full. We tried anyway and scored a great spot close to the lake. But it was full sun and I didn’t want to drag my little dog up the trail for three hours and I couldn’t leave her in the truck. So we changed plans and just walked the shore of the lake, 4k to the end and back. 

The first 250m were a forest of selfie sticks and tour groups but then it thinned and was actually quite a pleasant walk. We walked all the way to the end and then down and around the corner. Aidan took off her shoes and explored the mudflats at the glacier run off. 

Bone chillingly cold, she said. Then we headed back. It was a bit long for the little dog but she was a trooper and made it to the end. 

My little Pichachu enjoying the scenery. 😜😜

We were starving by this point so found a picnic spot–so close to the craziness yet it was a little oasis of calm and quiet. We had Sammies ‘s with all the left overs from the cooler and chocolate croissants from the deli. 

Then we went for a drive in the parkway and saw another bear in the ditch first then across the road. Guess we can cross bears off the list we’ve seen so many. Now I want to see a wolf. There are wolf warnings everywhere so they are on the come back. 

Back in Banff we toured around looking for wildlife. We spotted these deer outside of the Banff Springs Hotel. 

What a pair they were!!!  Then we picked up our chicknic supplies and headed up to the campground. Everyone was tired and cold so we sat infront of the fire and read till we got hungry again, ate our chicken and then hit the hay. I was sorry I hadn’t brought my swim gear cause the hot springs would have been really nice. After Iceland though, the springs here sort of pale by comparison. The end is near. We are heading home tomorrow. Sigh…

Behind again

I am having such a hard time with my blog app. It just won’t let me load pictures or text, things go missing when I go back to check on a picture–it’s kept me playing catch up. So I’m not as caught up as I thought. 

Yesterday we packed up and headed out from Waterton. Such a beautiful park–we’ll be back. Off to Cardston to see the Remington Carriage Museum. Over four hundred different wagons and carriages–from dog and pony carts to the huge freighting wagons of the gold and lumber mills, and of course the 20 mule team borax wagons. We only took pictures of the ones Aidan liked 😜😜

Quite fascinating. We popped up the hill to see the Mormon temple. This is the oldest temple outside of the States. Quite impressive. 

Then we headed out towards Cranbrook. I suggested to Aidan that tonight we could hotel it and she said she was thinking the same thing. So we putzed along enjoying the scenery. The Crowsnest is such a gentle mountain pass, you hardly know your going up till you start going down. We stopped at the Frank slide interpretive centre. I’m not sure what I was thinking–I didn’t get a picture of the slide. Still fresh and raw a hundred years later–the natives always knew something was wrong with the mountain, calling the mountain that moves but of course, who would listen to them?!? 90 people died that April night. It could have been much worse. 
Then we stopped at Sparwood to see the worlds largest truck. I’ve driven by so many times, this time we stopped. It is a BIG TRUCK. 

Then into Cranbrook. We found a nice little dog friendly motel with a kitchenette to make supper. They love seniors and families!!!  I worked on my blog and Aidan worked on her Pokemon project. Yes, my little Pichachu has caught the Pokemon Go bug. 
This morning Aidan found a nice little restaurant for breakfast. The decor was so original, lots of color and local artwork on display (for sale).

The coffee wasn’t great but I’m a coffee snob. The food, on the other hand, was excellent. Eggs Benny and chocolate chip pancakes. Delish!! 

Off to Fort Steele. 

Fort Steele is a fabulously restored old boom town. We got there just as it opened and spend a wonderful morning and afternoon exploring the homes and businesses of the late 1800’s. I spent a facinating half hour with the guy running the gold panning exhibit. He had a really cool little device for washing gold out of black sand which our North Saskatchewan River is filled with. My son knows several guys who pan on our River and I thought this would be a great  project for us to do together. 

Sam Steele of the NWMP was also stationed here and his reputation for fairness and honesty won him respect from the white settlers and First Nations people as well. Pretty rustic living conditions if you were a lowly constable but pretty posh for the officers. We took a ride on the steam engine. This is the engine used in Jackie Chan’s movie Shanghai Noon. 

Mid afternoon we were walked out and headed in to Banff. 

The lady at the park gate in Kootney really tried to discourage us from going as she said there was no sites left in any of the campgrounds. We went anyway and found room at Two Jack, our new favourite campground. A bit of a kerfluffle when we found our site already occupied but a quick search showed us the neighbouring site was available. We set up, cooked some KD on the fire, and read till bed time. Another great day!!

The camp kitchen queen

Today is Tuesday which is where I catch up to what we are actually doing. When we arrived yesterday it was touch and go whether we would get a campsite. The girl at the main park check-in just told us to go on ahead to the campsite. Apparently there was some sort of radio priority thing and she was tired of being told to wait. She said they were so close to filling up she didn’t know what was going on so just go and deal at the secondary gate. We lucked out and got a great site for two nights. As you read yesterday we set up then it rained and we did our explore. This morning was a lazy morning. I read late last night (I picked up a fancy little head lamp for each of us before our trip so we could each read as late as we wanted). We slept late till bursting bladders forced us out of the tent. It was only seven so I went back to sleep and Aidan read her book. Finally up, I made coffee on the crackling fire Aidan started and then we had another great camp breakfast. Cinnamon buns toasted in a camp pie maker, bacon, a side of raspberries from my garden garnished with lashings of whipped cream. Delish. 
My mother used to make the most delicious breakfasts when we were camping. Pancakes, French toast. Fried bacon or ham or sausage. My father would get the old stove in the communal camp kitchen glowing and mom would work her magic there. Everyone cooked in the old camp kitchen. The kids would all be running wild, playing in the wood piles, building forts, catching chipmunks. Then all the moms would yell and we’d head for the camp kitchen.
I remember having a sleep over at one of my friends’ homes. She made such a big deal about the french toast “custard” her mother had left in the fridge for our breakfast. I don’t really couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her French toast till years later. They were quite poor and the “custard” to soak the bread in was more milk than egg. In fact it may just have had an egg waved over the milk. My mothers’ French toast was very eggy–a real meal. We were so lucky and never even knew it.
Camp kitchens seem to have fallen out of favour the last few years but I’ve noticed this year there are more of them. It’s really so much easier to cook on a stove rather than an open fire or camp stove. But I’m rather anti social so I prefer to cook in my campsite.
After breakfast and camp clean up we headed out to explore Red Rock Canyon. The wild flowers were just beautiful and we were enjoying the 6 k drive up to the canyon.

Then we hit a traffic jam and that only means one thing in the mountains. Some sort of animal. The first one was a bear, way up on the crest of a hill, just on the tree line. Close enough you could make out it was a bear. The second one was also a bear right on the road. A momma bear and a cub. Momma crossed the road to turn over rocks and eat the ants or whatever yummy things lived under the rocks– and baby high tailed it up a tree.

All the cars and drivers were very patient except one guy who seemed to be in a terrible hurry. Horn honking he barged thru the rest of us narrowly missing Mrs. Bear. I guess it takes all kinds. Anyway Red Rock Canyon was crowded but still scenic.

Aidan climbed down and dipped her toes in the water. Then up a trail we thought led to a bridge–oops, a mile in and no bridge so back we came. Then we saw we zagged when we should have zigged. Oh well, an excuse to go back when the light will be better for photos.

We toyed with the idea of having high tea at the Prince Of Wales Hotel but in the end settled for the less romantic but still scrummy hotdog and sweet potato fries from the Weiner restaurant. And a side of deep fried pickles. We picnicked by the side of a little stream.  I like the way the water plays over the rocks.

Now back in camp, Aidan is reading and I am writing. What a great day!!

Last post lost

So this time I’ll be smarter and write my blog on my note pad. Then cut and paste into WordPress. 

I’m sitting in front of a cheerful little fire in Waterton National Park. We lucked out this afternoon and actually got a beautiful tent site for two nights. We came west from Writing On Stone Provincial Park. Amazing how it changes from crops to mountains in the blink of an eye. 
OMG heart attack!! A deer just came out of nowhere and thru the neighbours camp site. We were just warned about a bear too, that had been spotted just up from us. And now there’s thunder all around us. (Gotta go!!)
(Next morning) We packed everything up in case of the big rainstorm–not the tent. This was going to be a test if the waterproofing was still good or we’d have to tarp it for the night. We hopped in the truck to go on an explore of the village and have a look at the Prince of Wales hotel, a fabulous old gem of of a hotel. 
I’m not sure if this is one of the old CN/CP jewels (Banff Springs, Lake Louise, Empress, Chateau Frontenac) or if it is an anomaly but it is special and beautiful. It started to really rain just as we pulled into the parking lot and then hail!! It was bouncing off the truck and pavement–the grass was white with it. Then just like that it was all over. We headed into town which is quaint, and charming, like Banff was many years ago. Hotels and restaurants, not too many cheap tourist glop stores-beautiful stone everything. Went down to the harbour and got a fabulous view of the Prince from below. 

The sun came out and the asphalt started steaming. Back up top and we wandered the front lawn of the hotel. What a view!!

 With the sun shining it was gorgeous. Back to see how the tent fared. 

It was fine. We sat and read in front of the fire, ate marshmallows and then bed.

A brief synopsis of the last couple days. First day we drove to Dinosaur Provincial Park. We got the last site, an overflow site but it was beautiful. What was not so beautiful was they’d had three weeks of rain and the mossies were fierce. But our site was private, and quiet and we slept great!! Next morning was beautiful. I just couldn’t face cooking with all those mosquitos so we nibbled cookies and coffee. We hiked several of the park hikes, just at the right time in the morning before it got too hot and before everyone else crowded us out. The hoodoo formations were incredible. How Drumheller stole the spot light on the dinosaur era I don’t know but this is one huge valley of rock formations–just beautiful. 

Everywhere we turned on our walk we saw something different–this deer wasn’t the least bit afraid of us. 

All told we did about three kilometres of trails–not long but so much to see. 

By the end it was getting hot and we were ready to go. We then headed for Writing On Stone Provincial Park. Right at the south of the province, near the border. We stopped halfway at a community campground for a picnic lunch. The campground was flooded so we just backed into the shade and had our lunch off the tailgate. Yummy!!  

We got into Writing On Stone mid afternoon but the campsite was full. And such a beautiful campground. Great big cottonwood trees, close to the river where the kids could swim and adults wade, and so many hoodoos to climb and explore.

I can remember coming here as a kid and being so excited to climb the formations. Around the campground climbing is allowed with warnings, and out in the park you are supposed to stay in the trail (like anyone does out of sight of the Rangers–it’s a free for all judging by the tracks but cripples like me have to stay on the trails). On the way in we saw the same sign about snakes as at Dinosaur Provincial Park. 

But this time we actually saw a snake. It looked like a crack in the asphalt till I was almost on it then I swerved to miss it. I backed up and Aidan got a shot just as it disappeared into the grass on the side of the road. It may have been a rattlesnake or it could have been a bull snake. No rattles but it may just have been immature. But it looked big to me. 
We did an explore and found a great hike for morning. Back to Milk River where we had gotten a nice campsite in the municipal campground. We had breakfast for supper (bacon and pancakes) and read our books. 

The next morning we headed out to walk along the river cliffs to see some cliff art. It was a foggy misty morning and as we started our walk the mist was just burning off. I can’t even describe how breathtaking it was so I’ll just post pictures. 

Fabulous walk then back to Milk River. The local antique dealer had a weatherproof bookshelf outside of his store for people to help themselves to free used books in honour of his wife. He plans to give away 10,000 and is up to 3,000. 

We found an armload of books which went directly into our treasure box. On to Waterton National Park, which is where I started this entry and where I will finish. 

Day two

It’s happened again. I wrote my story and had to wait for a better signal to post pictures. And it disappeared. I’m sure it will turn up. When I don’t know. So I will just post the pictures from yesterday and if I have enough energy, somethings from today. But I am really exhausted so there many only be pictures. 

And that was yesterday. Today may have to wait. It’s been a full day, filled with hikes and adventure and I’m tired. 

Eating from the farm and garden

Yesterday, being the rainy miserable day that it was, wouldn’t let me out of the house. We got another inch (at least), of rain yesterday and thru the night.  Things  are just saturated. But after making my jam yesterday, I deboned a rabbit and made a big bowlful of tabbouleh. First I had to sneak out to the garden between showers to gather a big handful of parsley.

Tabbouleh is a parsley salad, with equal amounts of parsley, onion, tomato, and bulgar. First I rinsed all the garden off the parsley (not just a garnish, but chock full of minerals and vitamins) and chopped it finely. All the stems went to the chickens who make short work of it. If I was staying home they would have gone into the soup pot but we’re off camping in a few days. Then a red onion and some spring onions from the garden.

Tomatoes were next (store bought unfortunately but mine are coming nicely), garlic, salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.

The bulgar had been left to soak in hot water while I chopped everything.

Bulgar is wheat that had been precooked or parboiled then rolled/cracked into smaller pieces. As ancient as wheat itself,  it’s the original fast food, requiring only a brief soak to soften it. See how much it swelled!!  It needed to be drained well too so as not to dilute all the salad juices gathering in the bottom of the bowl, but absorb them. This is a very refreshing  salad, ideal for those hot days when you just can’t face anything heavy. Lastly the juice of one or two lemons and healthy sploosh of olive oil. Taste for seasonings then enjoy. The rabbit will be breaded and fried to eat with the salad today.IMG_2470[1]No rain today–things are slowly drying up. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny. I hope so–I have to cut the grass before we go.

What to do on a rainy day

I’ve been eyeing my rose bushes the last few days. They are loaded with blossoms and with all the rain we’ve been getting I don’t think the blossoms will hang on very long. In fact the shower we got yesterday had most of my garden laying down flat. It’s perked up a bit but I feel the urge to do something with the roses. My girlfriend in Greece suggested last year when I brought her a small bottle of rose petal jelly, that the next time I make it I leave the petals in. This is the way it’s done in Greece. So I thought I would try. 

In between showers I went out and picked petals. There was actually a respectable bowlful. 

I tried to pick clean but the lower blossoms had splashes of garden on them and there are always a few little buggy friends. I laid the petals gently in a sink full of tepid water and just tapped the dirt and crawlies out of them. 

I swooshed a few at a time and gently laid them in the colander to drain–I didn’t want all the scent and flavour to be washed out of them. Then into the pot with two cups of water. Brought to a boil and then a simmer. I blitzed them a few times with my immersion blender to shred the petals , then added sugar and lemon juice. 

The muddy brown turned to a deep ruby red, always a miracle to me. After a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes so the flavour didn’t disappear, I added pectin mixed with sugar and brought it to a rolling boil for a minute or two. Then off the heat and added a tablespoon of rose water from the Middle Eastern grocery just to amp up the rose scent and flavour. 

Into the hot jars and it was done. The jars are pinging in the counter. 
Now I need some scones and clotted cream 😋