One Potato, Two Potato

When I dug up a potato plant in my garden, I was hoping to find:

One potato, two potato

Three potato, four….

But it seems that something found the potatoes before I did. My not-so-good old friends, the ten-lined beetles, mainly in their larval stage.

Here are my Pontiac potatoes, half eaten by the ten-lined beetle larvae. I could have cried!

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Ten-lined-June-Beetle

Near each eaten potato, I found the larvae of these beetles.

 

 

Ten-Line-June-Beetle

Don’t they all look like they’ve eaten too many potatoes?

Beetle larvae

I’ve had to do a lot of extermination as I dug potatoes. My foot was the quickest way to deal with them. Where is a robin when you need one?

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So far, the only way I can think of to get rid of these potato eaters is to put all my garden through a soil screen, and watch for the smaller larvae that might fall through the mesh. I’m very frustrated. What to do?

Apple Pie

The apple trees are overloaded with fruit this year. Branches threaten to break under the strain of the weight. I’m sure the trees breathe a sigh of relief every time an apple falls and lightens the load. I’ve had to get out there early each morning to get the fallen apples before the rabbits do. But what am I going to do with all those apples? If I have to go to all the trouble of peeling them, I might as well get the benefit of some apple pies.

These are Gravenstein apples, great for eating, and not bad for pies. The bigger apples are still on the trees, so peeling the little ones is a bit of a pain but worth it in the end.

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I’ve peeled and cut enough apples for two pies. No point in making only one. Now I’ll mix up some brown sugar, cinnamon, and a bit of flour in a small bowl. (About two tablespoons each of the sugar and flour, and a teaspoon of cinnamon.)

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I put that into the bowl of apples and stir to coat them with the mixture.

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Now to make the crust. I use about a cup of butter with my two+ cups flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, and add a pinch of salt. Give it a few pulses with the food processor to cut the butter into the flour. SO much easier than in the old days with a pastry blender.

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Then I separate an egg and put the yolk into a cup so I can add cold water (about 1/2 cup). The egg white goes into a little dish with a splash of milk, or cream. Today I happened to have some whipping cream handy so I used that.

The egg yolk and water is added to the crumbled pastry in the food processor and this is where you have to be careful to give it only enough pulses to mix the dough so it starts to stick together.  Later, the egg white and cream gets whisked with a fork and spread on top of the pie crust just before we put it in the oven. This helps it brown. 005

I poured out the pastry, which is now in lumps, onto a board and pushed it into a ball of dough. Don’t be tempted to knead it or  do much of anything with it at this stage or you’ll end up with a pie like the first one I ever made. You had to use a chainsaw to cut it.

For two pies, I cut the dough in half. Then I cut each of those halves; one piece for the bottom of the pie plate and a smaller piece for the top. You see that one piece is slightly bigger than the other?

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Rolling out the pieces of dough with a rolling pin is not an exact science. It’s a challenge to make the pieces come out round. Doesn’t matter. The excess will later  be cut away with a knife all around the edge of the pie plate.

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Turn the oven on to 450 degrees. While it is heating up, cut slits into the top of the pie crust and then take a pastry brush and paint the top of the pie crust with the egg white and cream mixture. Put the pies into the hot oven for 12 to 15 minutes at 450, checking to make sure they don’t burn. The tops should be just starting to turn golden brown at the end of that time, which is when you turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Another 35 minutes should do it. To be sure the pies are done, I wait until I see the syrupy juice trying to bubble out through the cuts.

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At last the pies are done. I take one to the neighbours and cut myself a piece from the second pie. I sit on the deck and watch the bay for a glimpse of the Captain who is coming home soon. I know it won’t be today, but I can imagine. And I’ll soon have to bake more pie when he does come home.

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Full of Beans

My climbing beans and bush beans both grew well this year. A person can only eat so many beans at one time but frozen, these beans are almost as good as fresh. The trick is to blanch them. I picked two big bread bowls full of beans this morning and gave them a quick rinse. Then I chopped them into small bite-size pieces while a pot of lightly salted water was coming to a boil. I filled one of those bread bowls with very cold water, and set it aside.

Once the water was boiling I dumped in the cut up beans. That brought the temperature down and I had to wait a minute or two for the water to boil again. As the beans boiled, they turned a brighter green than they were when they were fresh. After a minute or so, I took the slotted spoon and scooped the beans out of the boiling water into the big bowl of cold water.

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Climbing beans (broad beans) on the cookie sheet. Bush beans in the pot, ready for the next cookie sheet.

Shortly afterwards I scooped the beans out of the cold water (which was now a bit warmer), and put them into a strainer. In this case, I found that the lettuce spinner worked well. Once the beans were drained I dumped them onto a cookie sheet and spread them out. These would go into my fridge freezer because it has a fan and will freeze the beans quickly. When they’re frozen hard, I break them up and put them into ziploc bags and put them into the chest freezer.

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Bush beans

We may be acting silly this winter because you can be sure we’ll be “full of beans.”

The Dog Days of a Summer Heat

Emma is in heat, and I’m not referring to the weather.  I have to be on guard every moment of her life for the next three weeks, especially during week two.
I don’t let her have the run of the yard anymore (even though it’s fenced) unless I’m out there with her.
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I’m a hot dog!

Today I had an appointment in town so I put the dogs in their kennel, a big fenced play area with two doghouses in it. The dogs are safe inside the chainlink fence of the kennel. They won’t get run over while I’m away. Nothing can get at them and they have plenty of shade from the trees that grow beside the kennel.
When I came home, I let the dogs out into the yard. In just a few seconds, Emma had a visitor. Lucky, the little toy dog from across the street  came over to see if Emma wanted to “make love” even though he’d be shooting blanks (he’s been neutered). He’s a cute little dog with brown and white curly fur, a lot like a tiny teddy bear. He’s a barker and has a mind of his own.
I had a time getting Emma to leave him. Whatever he was promising her, he was very persuasive. I don’t know what she sees in him. He’s only about half her size. That’s why he’s able to get through the gate even though it’s closed.
I got Emma to come to me, and then Ruby came to offer assistance. She didn’t bark or growl. She knows Lucky. She came over and stood tall beside him and said, “You’d better go home now. Emma can’t play today. She has to go into the house and keep her legs together.”
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It’s a good thing I’m looking after Emma. She’s so naive!

As I’m writing this, Emma is lying on her side near me, with one ear sprawling away from her head on the floor. I’m sure she’s dreaming about Lucky and his attentions. Emma is probably mistaking his professions of love for a promise of marriage. Foolish girl. He’d just knock her up, if he could, and leave her to be a single mother of ten toy puppies. I can just see it now, ten curly-haired smaller-than-usual spaniels, brown, white, black and all the mixtures in between. They’d be high-strung like their mother and useless, but pretty, like their father.
No, I don’t think I could handle that!
I have to make sure that Lucky doesn’t get lucky.

Dorothy in Kansas?

Four years ago we camped in Montana and I learned how close it was to Dorothy and Toto’s Kansas. We parked our 19-foot trailer in a clean, new RV Park. The Captain decided to do a reconnaissance trip while I settled in to catch up with my email.

“Perfect,” I thought, “I’m going to enjoy my little bit of alone time.” Twenty minutes later, disaster struck.

When we first arrived, the Captain put up the trailer awning. You would think he knew about raising sails…. I made the mistake of suggesting that this was not a good idea because northeastern Montana is prairie-like and the wind whistles  unimpeded across the land. Of course, as soon as I  said “Don’t,” he did. Why don’t I learn?

“If it’s too windy, I’ll take it down,” he’d said.

He left. I settled in,  enjoying my laptop and connecting with friends by email. Moments later, the whole trailer began to shake. A big gust of wind buffeted it. Visions went through my head –  the trailer with me inside, bouncing across the prairie like a giant vinyl tumbleweed. I pulled the curtains aside and looked out the window. The canvas was billowing high, and the aluminum support on one side had collapsed so the awning hung onto the trailer at an odd twisted angle.

53More gusts. I had to do something or we might roll over. Outside, I stood wondering what to do. If I did the wrong thing, a big wind gust  could rip the awning or the aluminum supports out of my hands and smash them into the trailer. One support was higher than the other. I tried to lower it one notch at a time by opening the lever and un-telescoping the support. You would think that was the sensible and easy thing to do, except that the pin that holds the telescoped part in place is no longer responding to the lever action when I try to release it. The pin is either broken off or hanging by a thread. I muscled the thing to push it up and used needle-nosed pliers to poke the metal pin back through the slots that held the support in place, but all it did was slide into the next slot down and the struggle began all over again. The old whiplash injury in my neck began to scream in pain at the effort and I had to give up for a while. More gusts of wind. I tried again. More neck pain. I gave up and resigned myself to becoming a tumbleweed.

52I didn’t get much emailing done, or enjoy my “alone time.” I fretted until the Captain came back.

What I had struggled with for two hours took him less than five minutes to fix.

“Huh!” he said, “I didn’t think it was going to be that windy.”

I was dying to say “I told you so,” but what would have been the point?

Walk Across Canada

Who would think that a 94-year-old woman could walk across Canada? Not only did she do it, but she’s on her way back.Of course it’s not as if she’s really out there on the Trans-Canada Highway in the elements and the traffic, but she did actually put the miles in, locally.

My mother-in-law, Myrtle, is living in the Berwick independent living retirement home in Comox. Berwick has an excellent recreation program which Myrtle just loves. They offer osteo-exercise classes and strength and balance classes and they encourage the residents to get out walking as much as possible. As we all know, the sedentary lifestyle is not good for our health.

In Berwick’s lobby is a map of Canada where participants’ names are pinned as they clock miles on their regular walks around the Comox neighbourhoods. The goal is to virtually walk across Canada. It is not a race, but an incentive to get out walking, and to have fun.

002a Myrtle loves to walk and always has. For her 94th birthday she got a pedometer so she could know exactly how far she walked each day. When she walked two miles, we told her not to overdo it, but she’s quite stubborn when she sets her mind to something, and the daily distance increased along with our fears that she would keel over one day, as she constantly tried to improve on her personal best. We’ve nagged her to slow down and she insists that she feels fine doing  sometimes five miles a day. We’ve given up now and will have to trust that she knows her own limits.

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For the “Walk Across Canada,” everyone starts in Comox, on Vancouver Island. Each day someone on the recreation staff at Berwick calculates the distance each participant has walked and marks their progress on the map. The red arrows show the direction of the walkers. Congratulations to Lorna, Ruth, Marg, and Bill who are almost there, on the east coast. Special congratulations to Myrtle who is already on her way back.

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My amazing mother-in-law.