Tag Archives: Cooking

The melons are coming…

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There are five melons hanging on the vines in my greenhouse!  In two weeks they went from being walnut size to baseball size.  They all look healthy and strong dangling without any support on the vine.  The melons are coming!

There is actually a sneaky sixth melon on the shelf behind the pots.  It is the largest of them all.  It is growing on a piece of vine that grew out down instead of up.  Six melons are coming!

I am thrilled with the cantaloupes this year.  They are substantial gardening prizes for all my efforts to date.  The golden globes of the greenhouse!

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Melons of the North

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Settling in to the greenhouse

Gardening is about challenges.  The elusive cantaloupe melon is one of my annual challenges.  For someone who does not naturally have a green thumb, the ability to grow things in a greenhouse with an irrigation system is my only hope.  Last year I planted some Charantaise melon seeds I had received for Christmas.   These are a small french heirloom melon.  The plant was amazing. It grew so much I felt like it was in a Stephen King novel and the vine was going to take over the greenhouse.  Ever weekend when I came up to the cabin I had to go at the plant with my secateurs to keep it somewhat contained and hopefully focused on fruit development.  I managed to get one small fruit which we ate with sheer delight.

This year, like my eggplants, I started these plants earlier and on a heating mat to try to fool the little seedlings into believing that we were somewhere in the tropics.  The plants were then moved into the greenhouse when the risk of frost had passed.  This year I planted Westcoast seed’s Halona Cantaloupe seeds.  By the time I transplanted them they looked a little gangly and sickly, but in the warmth of the greenhouse they have become lush and full of yellow flowers.

There are two confirmed small melon sightings and many small possible future fuzzy melons so we shall see how the next two months of summer go for these plants.

The secret to growing melons in the north is to grow them in a greenhouse and trick them into thinking that they are living down south.

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The Queen of the South

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The Greenhouse Experiment Report

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Nearing the end of a successful first season

This year we set up a greenhouse at our cabin as we were not having the best luck out in the garden.  It was either too dry or too wet – and our season is short – so we wanted to try the idea of a somewhat controlled atmosphere with some increased warmth.

Except my basil plant which I bought at a local hardware store as a small seedling, everything in the greenhouse was grown from seeds.  I started them back at home in front of a sunny south-facing window.  When it was time to plant them – I planted a lot.  I still had a few extra tomato plants and pepper plants so I popped them into the garden.  I gave them the same luscious compost rich soil but I will admit I didn’t give them much more attention than that.  On weekends I would water them but they were not the benefactors of our irrigation system in the greenhouse.  In essence they became my control subjects.  What is the difference if a plant is grown in the warmth of a greenhouse with a twice daily drip irrigation system?

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The control subject (tomato) in the garden by the porch is relatively healthy and has some tomatoes forming

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Control subjects (peppers) growing above sceptic tank with onions -show minimal signs of growth

In comparison to the control subjects, the plants that were placed in the greenhouse have for the most part flourished.  Some tomato plants are over 8 feet tall and they are heavy with ripening tomatoes.  The pepper plants have all done fairly well with all of the plants generating peppers and more still to come.

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In the greenhouse the tomatoes are like a jungle

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The pepper plants are healthy and producing a delicious variety of peppers

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The harvesting begins

Overall the greenhouse experiment has been exceptional and exciting.  A verifiable success.  A controlled environment of good soil, some fertilizer, regular drip irrigation, protection from wind,  and most importantly the lovely warmth (approximately 38c most days).

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Sweet little berries

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Purple fingers!

This year we have a healthy harvest of Saskatoon berries.  We have spent a few hours each of the past weekends gently shaking loose the ripe berries into metal bowls.  The berries are so plump and juicy.  We have a few bushes by our vegetable garden but there are also little secret hidden bushes down in the woods by the pond.

We have been giving away the berries to friends who are ambitious and want to make fresh pies and other baked goods.  We tucked away a big bag in the freezer for future muffins and waffles.  A sweet little burst of fresh berry flavour brings simple recipes to life.

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A perfect moment

The best gift of berries that I gave – was to a wonderful friend who not only helped me pick the berries but she sorted and cleaned them – and then best yet she turned them into a delicious Saskatoon crumble that I ate for breakfast (with a fresh coffee and the paper!) Oh yes.  Sweet little berries.

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The Character Building Garden

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The garden struggles with a wet season.

I have had two growing seasons here at the cabin.  The first was too hot and the second was too wet.  The reality is that the growing season is short and harsh up here in the prairies of Canada.  I always wondered why farmers always seemed to be complaining about something – too much sun or not enough sun – too much rain or not enough rain.  But now I appreciate that growing season here is just “too much” of something season.

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The mushrooms took over the straw raised beds.

Some of the my plants didn’t survive at all.  I planted my cucumbers  and beans after the May long weekend only to have them destroyed by frost the first night.  My squash plants never really embraced the moist raised beds, maybe because they were sharing real estate with the mushrooms.  I did, however, have success with my peas, tomatoes, and a few other random vegetables like carrots, and peppers.  I was feeling pretty proud of my small crop until I stopped at a local farmers market and saw what was being sold by local farmers.  Their vegetables dwarfed mine.  I realized that I still have a lot to learn about gardening.  In any event we picked, cleaned and ate what we could from the garden.  Enjoying each fresh vegetable.  Carrots, peas, peppers, beets, and tomatoes:

We also experimented with growing potatoes in straw.  My husband called them his “poo potatoes” after watching the Martian where Matt Damon’s character grew his potato crop on Mars in his own poo.  Happy that ours were not true poo potatoes we enjoyed eating this crop.

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The film inspired potato crop.

Another year of gardening.  Another year of lessons learned. Another year of persistence, patience and tenacity.  Character building.

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For the Birds (recipe)

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The first lesson that we had to learn was to NOT put out birdfeeders with bird seed too close to the house.  Beyond the mess that the birds made – the problem was actually that we were attracting mice.  We would come to the cabin on the weekend to find small piles of birdseed inside.  Once even in one of our beds!  That was when we switched to suet style feeders which have been a big hit with the birds.

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Our suet feeders attract woodpeckers (Downy, Hairy and Flickers), chickadees, nuthatches, magpies and the occasional other species.  They provide endless entertainment to us and our cat who watches from the inside of the cabin. We use these feeders all year round.

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This week I decided to try making my own suet.  I found various recipes online but primarily relied on a no melt recipe.  (see: Foods.com which reference Birds and Blooms Extra, contributed by Virginia Barnard).

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I made a dozen suet blocks using this recipe:

Lard: 2 blocks (2 lbs or about approximately 900 grams)

Peanut Butter (Crunchy): Most of a 1kg jar

Flour:  2 cups

Oatmeal (one minute): 4 cups

Cornmeal: 4 cups

Sugar: I cup (I note that many folks choose to skip the sugar but I added it to make sure that my first attempt would attract birds!)

Bird Seed: 4 cups

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I melted the lard and mixed in the peanut butter until they were liquified.  I added the dry ingredients while the mixture was still warm.

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I had saved old molds from purchased suet blocks.  I took 12 empty molds and lined them each with a piece of plastic wrap.

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I filled each mold with the suet mixture (approximately two soup ladles full) and then wrapped the excess plastic wrap around the edges.

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I placed them in the freezer placing wax paper between the layers of molds.

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Once frozen I removed them and placed them out for the birds.  They have been enjoying the fresh suet all day! The plastic wrap that I used was very effective to make them easy to remove from the molds.

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Spaghetti with Mozza Stuffed Meatballs (for 4)

Comfort Food is a big part of being out at the cabin.  Here is an easy recipe for a family friendly dinner.

***This is my first recipe on my site – please let me know what you think.

Make enough spaghetti and tomato sauce or 4 people

For Mozza Stuffed Meatballs:

Combine in a bowl:

1 lb (500 mg) lean ground beef

1 large egg

1/4 cup (50 mL) dry italian bread crumbs

2 tblsp (30 mL) Worcestershire sauce

2 tblsp (30 mL) Soya Sauce

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt – if possible use a coarse sea salt

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Form them into equal sized balls around the size of a golf ball.

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Insert thumb into each of the meatballs to make a hollow centre and place about

1 tblsp (15 mL) of shredded or cubed mozzarella  cheese inside each meatball  – in all you will need about 1/4 cup-1/2 cup  (50 – 100 mL) of Mozza cheese.

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Pinch hollow closed and roll back into shape.

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Cook in a frying pan on medium/high heat in a think layer of oil (canola or olive oil) until cooked (outside is brown and crisp), turning them often.Remove from oil and if desired place them on paper towel in a bowl to remove any excess oil.

Once cooked you have delicious meatballs with a soft cheesey centre.  Sure to be a hit.

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Serve with Spaghetti and Tomato sauce.

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