EPIC Tomato Identification Error! HELP!!

We have discovered an epic error in tomato identification during our tomato taste-off….

Back in the early Spring when little hands were seeding they were very careful to label each seed tray (even if she did plant faaaaaaar too many seeds).

image

These little hands wrote out over 100 little tags so each tomato seedling would have a name under the lights.

image

Each little tag got placed very carefully next to the plants for whom they had been so carefully made.

image

Yet SOMEHOW during our Taste-off, we misidentified one of our favourites.  The second place finalist to be specific.  Each plant in the garden bearing this fruit had the same tag on it leading us to believe that either the seed tray had been tagged in error (that could not have possibly happened with a seven year old running the show, could it?!) OR the seed packet had the wrong type of seed in it. That had to be it, surely…

We realized the mistake just the other day when we researching whether “Mennonite” tomatoes were open pollinated so that we could save some seed from it.  It turns out that “Mennonite” is actually called “Mennonite Orange”. OOPS.  We dug through the old packets and sure enough, the envelope and Incredible Seeds website clearly states, “The Mennonite Orange Heirloom Tomato is most certainly one of the top slicer tomatoes! This large, bright orange tomato is very pretty inside & out with even colour through the skin & flesh. Mennonite Orange is very juicy, very flavourful & so sweet its almost fruity. Super! Another fave! 4-5’ plants require support.” I bet it is….but I wouldn’t know!

image

Our “Mennonite” tomatoes are not orange.  At all.  So in fairness and open honesty – our second place winner in the 2015 Tomato Taste Off goes to….NOT A CLUE!!!

Does anyone know what type of tomato this may be?  We are going to save some seeds and keep our fingers crossed, because whatever it is, it is Yummy!!

image

“If confusion is the first step towards knowledge, I must be a genius!” ~ Larry Leissner

Eating Local – Kid Style! Maple Balsamic Caprese Kabobs

I am not sure why but my kids love anything that has been stabbed by a tooth pick!  We were having company over and instead of salad the girls were far more interested in making kabobs – they used the classic Caprese salad fixings, only on a stick and “dunked” instead of drizzling.  Despite these little treats having a grown up taste, they were definitely a hit with the under 12 crowd!

image

From the Garden:

Sun Gold baby tomatoes

Genovese Basil

Sweet Basil

Purple Opal Basil

From the Store:

Liquid Gold Maple Balsamic Vinegar (Local!)

Fresh Mozzarella mini balls

How they did it:

image

Simplicity is the key to success!  The girls stabbed a tomato, then a basil leaf or two, then a cheese ball.  After arranging them on a plate, they dunked them in Maple Balsamic Vinegar.  My Hubby preferred to dunk them in a mixture of Olive Oil, traditional Balsamic vinegar, garlic and sea salt (I had some dressing made from another night, the maple was too sweet for him…)

image

They did not last long enough to get a picture of the full tray!

Tree Following – My Wee Girl’s Magnolia in June

My tree is getting bigger!  It is bigger than last month! This picture is from far away.  It has friends, a blackberry, a maple and a spruce. It is very happy this month!

image

These are it’s babies, they are buds. There are lots of buds but there are no flowers yet.

image

This is it’s bark that protects all of the branches, leaves and buds.

image

These are it’s leaves, the buds grow on them.  I think that there is 100 leaves. Wait, I don’t know?! Actually, I think there are 97 leaves…

image

See you next month!!!

Little hands, Big hopes and a few Mama tears…

image

image

image

Once again I have had to let go, just a bit. Once again I have had to concede control and watch as my wee girl grew seemingly just a bit bigger in front of my eyes.  Once again, I have to swallow deeply, choke back a (perhaps hormonally driven) tear and lump in my throat as she took another step towards independence.

My rational mind knows that they are only flower planters on a porch. My rational mind knows that we have been planting flowers together for years now, and even at 7, she has more passion for pretty living things than most will develop over a lifetime. I know in my rational mind that getting a bit teary over a kid planting some seedlings she carefully seeded, nurtured, watered and doted over for months is a bit silly.

I really do know, but I can’t help it.

This time, she didn’t need me. This time she didn’t want me to help with any of it. This time, she didn’t even want to plant anything I had brought home! She did it all by herself. And I could only watch, wondering when did she get so big, so capable and so independent?

But I couldn’t be more proud of her; it may have only been planters on the deck, but in the big scheme of things, it was so much more. And so one little tear may have been in part because my baby has disappeared and this amazing, gentle and smart  wee girl with a big heart has taken her place. And one little tear may be because she doesn’t need me as much anymore.  And one little tear may be because she is my last baby and I won’t get to have these firsts again.

But it is only planters on the deck after all.  And I was still the first person she wanted to show and couldn’t stop beaming at as she proudly pointed out her hard work, her plant babies and rambled on about her high hopes for them!

So there may have been one more little happy tear for that too.

Boy am I in trouble over the next few years!

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about” ~ Unknown

Tomato-geddon begins! Little hands strike again….

“Mama!  I dropped some on the floor, so I picked them up and threw them in too!” Pause, 2, 3, 4….

“Mama!  Did you say 6 or did you really mean 14?!”  Pause 2, 3, 4…

“Mama!!  I really like purple, so I added 7 extra seeds.” Pause 2, 3, 4…

“Mama! If the seeds are a little furry, is it okay if I just plant them all?  I think there were about 18, but only 3 weren’t furry…” Pause 2, 3, 4…

“Mama!  Is it okay if I added 2 for good luck?”

These are actual quotes that I managed to write down while suppressing giggles, a few tears and trying not to panic out loud.

Yup – little hands were at it again!  “Tomato-geddon” officially began for the 2015 season on March 31st.  “6 of each kind, except the orange ones, you can plant 12 of those. But no more.”, I said.

We had carefully selected 9 varieties of tomatoes to try this year after looking through our notes, checking out the catalogues and reading reviews on our new favourite blogs.  We picked 9 types knowing full well that we would inevitably find a 10th seedling variety that we couldn’t survive the summer without at one of the greenhouses we frequent in the summer (well, okay, maybe 2 more types if we happen to black-out a little from all the excitement and the heat)…that would give us no more than 66 plants if all the seedlings made it.  My plan was for 30, max, to go into the garden, a few in big planters and a few to share.

I should have known better!

Here is how is went down…

image

First we set up our starter trays – we thought it was oddly amusing to plant tomato seeds in tomato containers…

image

image

Then Little hands filled them about 2 inches full with Pro Mix…only a bit ended up on the floor…

image

She wet the soil to nice and moist with warm water…

image image   image

Then she began planting her seeds.  She planted determinate and indeterminate, both heirloom and hybrids (we need some to survive the late blight).  I had my back to her as I was washing up some other trays to plant annual flowers.  I thought I could trust her to stick with the limits!  I forgot that she was my kid!  Bahahahahaha!!!

In the end she started:

Heirlooms:

3, or maybe 18, Gold Dust

6 Mennonite (orange)

8 Alaska

8, or maybe, 20 Scotia

6 12 Sub Arctic Plenty (they fell on the floor)

6 Ha! 13 Black Plum, and maybe more…

Hybrids:

14 Sun Gold cherry – 2 for good luck, they are her favourite!

6 14 Big Beef, because 6 really does mean 14…

8 Lemon Boy, we ran out of seeds…

image

Before I could get an accurate head count, they were snuggled under a fine layer of soil and spritzed oh-so-carefully…

image

After they were all covered up, they got placed on the heat mats to speed up germination – which amazingly only took 3 or 4 days to start.

image

One week later, here were about 92 happy little seedlings reaching up for the lights!

I feel another epic potting up party coming up this weekend.  I hope I have enough yogourt containers saved up! I love those Little hands so very much…

It is still 6 weeks until we should be able to plant tomatoes out into the garden without extra protection- there is still time to start some from seed!

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” ~Brian O’Driscoll

Community Supported…Baking

imageMy mom’s kitchen smells wonderful when she bakes. Growing up she would bake us muffins, pies, biscuits, scones and cookies that made our mouths water. Most of her recipes had some kind of delicious fruit in them, usually picked at a local berry farm or bought at a farmers market. Many of her recipes were passed down from my Grandma or the other ladies from the church who published cookbooks as fundraisers. I can’t honestly remember eating a cookie out of a bag or from a box, except maybe from a friend’s house or at the cottage as a treat. Grandma’a wild blueberry pie was famous and even now, my girls ask Santa every Christmas for blueberry pies!  My Papa made applesauce that was second to none – it was akin to pie filling in a jar, heavenly!

Ask any maritimer and I am sure they will say that sitting down with home baking, a cup of tea and a good friend to share with is as close to Heaven as we can get.

Spending time with my girls in the kitchen is one of my most “happy places”. Teaching them how to create delicious creations that have been baked in my family’s kitchens for generations makes me feel more connected to my past and gives me a sense of securing skills for their future.  As we peel, chop, stir, fold and sample, I smile as I remember doing the same with my grandparents and aunties and uncles from rural Nova Scotia. We play music in the background and we chat about our days, distractedly growing closer as mouth watering smells waft out of the oven.  Little by little, they tell me the stories I wouldn’t otherwise hear or the secrets I would likely never discover. Their little imaginations wander as they get to pick add ins and flavourings; more than once we have had competitions to create the best scone recipe – Saturday morning Scone-offs!

image

Baking with the kids provides a convenient opportunity to teach them about where our food comes from and how we can look close to home for many of our ingredients. Nova Scotia is fortunate to have many small family farms, markets and Community Supported Agriculture opportunities. Although we have planted many fruit trees and berry bushes on our property, the birds and the deer tend to benefit more than we do! Because we could never grow enough of our own fruit, we joined a CSA and get a weekly fruit box of local fresh, frozen, dried and preserved fruit from a number of farms around us.  It is a surprise each week when we pick up our box (we could check the website first, but where would be the adventure in that?!).

This week before we even picked up our box we definitely had our crisper full of more apples than we could eat, so we decided to bake! Our CSA, organized by Tap Root and Noggins Farms, also offers add-ons of veggies, eggs, meats and grains, which is a nice option to have.  We are also fortunate to have a market close to us called “The Vegetorium” (isn’t that a fun name?) where we can pick up eggs, locally roasted coffee, baking supplies and lots of fresh produce all year round. It is a nice feeling to know which farms our fruit is coming from and to chat with storekeepers who know us by name and can tell us exactly where their eggs come from. If you are interested in joining a Community Supported Agriculture venture in Nova Scotia, here is a link from another Nova Scotia blog, Adventures in Local Food, with a list for 2015. Our CSA has proven a great way for us to enjoy other’s gardens even when we can’t yet enjoy our own!!

On the menu – Nana’s Apple Cake and Papa’s Applesauce

imageimage

Delicious Honeycrisp, Gala and MacIntosh apples from the weekly CSA fruit box.

image

Little hands loading up the apple peeler…

image

Peeling, peeling and peeling!!!

image

We added dried cranberries and blueberries to the batter – also from our fruit box.

image

Little hands making sure Nana’s apple cake is perfect…

image

Success!!

And Papa’s applesauce was pretty amazing too…

image

We add brown sugar (or honey), cinnamon and nutmeg to chopped apples and simmer on medium low until it reaches a soft and saucy consistency. We love it warm over ice cream or vanilla yogourt!

image

Recipe for Nana’s Apple Cake

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 cups chopped apples

3/4 oil

2 beaten eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

2 1/4 cup flour

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 1/2 cups raisins, cranberries or dried blueberries

Combine chopped apples with sugars, oil, eggs and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and raisins or berries.  Bake in a bundt pan or 2 loaf pans for about 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Enjoy with a cup of tea!!!

” If most of us valued FOOD and CHEER and SONG above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Day Maker!

Our big girl went for a sleepover, leaving my husband and I some alone time with our wee girl this morning – a real treat for her that rarely happens.  We took her out for a special breakfast and let her order PB&J on homemade bread and jam, without crusts – the café’s “specialty”!  We played tic tac toe while we sipped our coffees and listened to her babble on endlessly about her little world and all the happenings with her little friends. She thoroughly enjoyed her spotlit pedestal!  On our way home, we passed a greenhouse that had just opened for the season and we had to stop, the snow is getting to us and the opportunity of visiting a warm, sunny nursery full of new life was more than we could pass up.  It turned out to be the highlight of her special day – the wonderful ladies let us look around the blocked off part of the greenhouse where they showed her how little plugs were transplanted, we watched a guy way up on a rolling platform fertilizing hanging baskets and she happily wandered through the rows identifying which plants she was growing herself at home.  She was very proud of herself when she discovered her Coleus plants were bigger than those at the greenhouse!

While my husband busied himself learning about pest deterrents, my wee girl told the ladies all about her flower babies and picked out a pot she wanted to buy with money she had earned cat sitting.  Megan, an absolutely lovely staff member, made her a deal that if she promised to plant one of her coleus’ in the pot and bring it back in to show her sometime that she could have the pot for free!!!  Well, that was just the icing on the cake – Little Miss had a smile on her face the whole way home!  So, Megan, here is a picture of the little plant in the pot that made one little girl’s day (we will definitely bring it in for a visit as requested)!  What a great stop – you ladies truly were her “day maker” today!

image

image

Thank you to both of the lovely ladies at Bloom Greenhouse for being so kind to a budding gardener!

Nightmares about Hares – a “Guest Post” (written by my daughter!!)

Encouraging my children to get involved in our garden has been quite the adventure…  Even though we don’t necessarily take the same lessons out of the garden, it has had an impact on each one of us in one way or another.  This rambling…ahem…memoir…was prepared by my eldest daughter as a “guest blogger” who apparently found our encounters with a very hungry bunny last year very unsettling!  Watching her read, edit and re-word this narrative has once again provided me with yet another special memory of my big girl growing up. This little glimpse into her budding imagination has been a very entertaining (and sometimes humbling) view of a shared event from my child’s perspective, so neat. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have!

IMG_0794

The nemesis.

I am not a gardener… but I will help from time to time with watering. Occasionally if I’m in a good mood, I will also help with planting. When I read this blog it brought back some pretty annoying memories. My mother is very big with gardening, meaning me and my other relatives come a close second to her beloved veggie babies. Sometimes she would come from work and she wouldn’t say hi to us or our dad but just stomped towards her garden and violently started to weed. That’s how we knew it was a bad day at work. She takes very good care of her plants and even my “less than inclined gardener” father was on the scene when an unexpected visitor started to make unscheduled appearances.

The bunny.

Can I have some of those garden goodies? Please? I am hungry!

His plan must have been to show up right when my mom was leaving for work so that all she could really do was yell for the little bunny to go away. He just stood on his two paws with his ears up, usually munching on some lettuce, peas or kale. My mom was furious just watching the thing sit there happily munching. We also had other problems as well, such as deer trying to eat our flowers. So the next summer, after my mother spent weeks of planning, shopping and researching, we finally put up our electric fence. It may have kept wild animals partially out but it also kept our dog out as well. He like to eat kale too. We were working in the garden one day when he ran up and got shocked. He shrieked and started to run around the yard in circles yelping. (It won’t actually hurt him though.) So we had succeeded with keeping the dogs out who would sit in the garden eating our kale and the deer when it was actually turned on. (It is my job to make sure it is on at night. I have really bad memory).

So we were set for a while until the little bunny returned. Sometimes we would send the dog in after him but the dog isn’t all that smart and didn’t have a chance of catching the bunny. And in the slim chance that he did, he probably would have no idea what to do with it. So he was usually just our “back up” in those situations but only really succeeded in chasing it away.

IMG_0858

Wouldn’t you be afraid of this face?!

When my dad got in to the action he brought up the idea of just using a paintball gun and shooting the thing to get it moving but was quickly extinguished when my mom thought the idea was crazy. He is from Northern Ontario and used to hunt with his dad. He was astonished when he found out that kids in Nova Scotia didn’t get a week off in the fall to go goose hunting with the whole family. One day my dad walked in the house with a new slingshot from Canadian Tire. He said that it wouldn’t really hurt the bunny, just get it to go away. He asked me and my sister to fill up a red bucket full of small rocks. By the time he actually hit the bunny – after many, many, many attempts – he simply jumped up in the air landed back on the ground and continued his business eating. Later on in the year the slingshot broke and we just had to accept the that was life and in life there are bunnies. So if you ever had a bunny don’t try to hurt it or scare it away you just have to accept that he’s there and you’re helping him live. It’s not like he can eat all your garden in one day. Or you can just get a dog. Either way embrace the fact that your garden is so great that you even attract nightmares of hares!

IMG_0650

It does look pretty tempting!

– Ally Griffin (not my real name!)

Little hands can…pot up flower babies!

Little Hands Can…

Little hands can fill pots and wet them down…

image

Little hands can gently dig out her flower babies…

image

Little hands can snuggle her flower babies into their new little homes…

image

Little hands can turn on her very own lights…

image

Little Lessons Learned

Little hands can plant a lot more seeds than I realized…Oops…

image

Little seeds collected fresh last fall germinate far better than seed packets! Last year we planted 100 Coleus seeds and got 9 plants. Somehow this year we ended up with 136 little seedlings.  Oops…

Little hands get upset if not every last seedling gets potted up…Oops…

image

Less than a little patience was needed!  We thought Coleus were supposed to be slow plants, they aren’t. They can’t go outside until May.  And where did those Calendulas and Coneflowers come from?! Oops…

Little hands may need to learn how to set up more lights!

image

Maybe Daddy will help…Mama needs a nap.

The flower baby stork arrived!

Instead of a rambling…ahem…memoir, this is a quick, excited “garden gush”!

My wee girl was checking up on her seed babies last night and found many had germinated all ready (they are quite tiny and hard to see in photos, but about 80% are up)!  A little happy dance ensued…

Tenny, tiny perennial dianthus the stork delivered last night

Teeny, tiny perennial dianthus the stork delivered last night.

image

The first of my little girl’s pink and white petunias have poked up from their nest! Only 4 days since they were seeded in the incubation station.

Mama’s sweet basil and opal basil germinated in 3 days on the heat mats. My happy dance was not nearly as cute…

” Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” ~ Robert Lewis Stevenson