Thursday, October 13, 2016

Trellising Tomatoes...

I'm not even sure trellising is actually a verb.
After working at the farm last year, 
it definitely feels like an action word.

In years past, we had lost a large percentage of our harvest. 
The loss was due to the fact that the weight
of the tomatoes actually bent the vines down. 
The vines then grew along the ground
and produced more tomato fruit. 
The result was the tomatoes that touched
the ground went bad very fast. 
After all of the effort in growing the seedlings
and tending to them in the garden beds,
to see them go bad was heartbreaking.

While I wasn't the person who actually did the trellis work at the farm,
I understood the principle behind it.

With that knowledge, I felt better equipped this year.
My husband and I do not spend money on our garden.
We get the majority of garden-related stuff by donation or trading.
When I suggested we invest in metal T bars this year
it took a bit to convince the husband.

"It is an investment!"
"They will last for a very long time!"
"They are reusable!"

These were just a few of the sales pitches I tried out.

In the end, he relented and we purchased the T bars.

Luckily it wasn't the sort of thing we had to buy right away!
We planted our tomato seedlings at the beginning of June.

It took a few weeks for them to be tall enough for us to work with.

We hammered in the T bars at the end of each row of tomato plants.

(There are two rows of tomato plants in the bed shown above.)

Then the REAL fun begins!

Next we grabbed some baling twine.

We started at a spot that is near the bottom of the T bar.
Tie off one end and go around the inside of the first plant,
then outside of the next plant,
and so on...until to reach the end of the bed.

We tied off the twine at the other end just in case.

Then we came back to the beginning,
reversing the direction of the twine for each plant.

We had to grab the odd vine that was growing this way and that.

What you are left with is a great way to keep the tomatoes
standing tall without strangling the life out of the vines.

For the record, we've never seen the walkways look so great!
You can even see the recycled water jugs we use.

Cut the bottom off of a jig and
plant the spout end in the ground.
Its like a funnel right to the roots!

This method works best if you organize the jugs as
you plant the seedlings.

It also works best if you place the jugs between
the plant and the walkway...rather than beside the plant.
(we discovered that placing the jug beside the plant
results in losing the jug in the jungle of tomato plants)

It might be difficult to see in the above picture...
But our tomato plants are up to my shoulder!

Our tomatoes thrived this year!
Our walkways were clear enough that we could access
all of the plants for watering.
We also had way less loss due to mould.

Almost none of our plants had vines or
fruit which touched the ground!

The results speak for themselves in this instance.

Perfect tomatoes!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Welcome back!

Well its been a while since I posted here.
In fact, life got away on me and I kind of avoided the blog.
It was just about the very last thing I had energy for...
But that doesn't mean I wasn't still thinking about posts and content.

Life gets busy, as we all know.

This year has been pretty great so far!

We started off by getting new chicks to add to our flock.
They were a LOT tinier than we were expecting.

We haven't had chicks that small before...
so it was a learning curve at first.

It was so much fun to watch them learn how to chicken.
Seriously...I could watch them for hours.

I volunteer at a few plant sales in my area.
I also grow seedlings inside my home for the sales.

Our living room became a small greenhouse for a while.
This year was excellent for my heirloom tomato seedlings.
Varieties this year include;
Anna Russian (Oxheart) - a robust girl with bright pink flesh!
Black Krim - a beefy stock with a deep purple flesh and green shoulders.
Aussie Heirloom - the one I'm most excited to see...reportedly yields 2-3 lb sized fruit.
(let that just sink in a minute...)
And of course our ever popular Roma...ours grows to be about the size of your fist.
Still full of great flavour but lots of flesh for sauces and salsas.

Then the actual helping at the sales took up a fair chunk of May.

Then we became consumed with our garden.

This year...

We are on top of our garden.

Partly due to crucial things I learned while working at the farm last summer.

I was introduced to my trusty girl Lola the Hoe.

This is a shuffle hoe purchased at Lee Valley.
That is not shameless promotion....I just bought it there.
I also mention it because I think everyone should have one of these.
(Hello...Lee Valley?  Looking for a spokesgirl?)

Just look at our walkways!
They are spotless this year...and I love it.

Another thing I learned was about trellising the tomatoes
so we can FINALLY get them off of the ground.
(more on that in a later post)

You can kind of see the steel T bars on the left hand side.

Not to mention the side garden beds not shown in this picture.
(Main garden shown...manly husband also shown)

This year has been rolling along just grand.
(Drought conditions in our area notwithstanding)

Can't wait to see our harvest at the end of it all.

How are your gardens doing this year?
How do you deal with water scarcity?
Sound off below!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Bloggers to discover...part 2

Here is a cool roundup of bloggers I've discovered lately...

Website I found and I really dig their manifesto:


We love spending time in the kitchen, 

and we believe that  memorable cooking 

doesn't have to be complicated or precious.  

Because, if you cook:  

Your family will eat dinner together.  

You will naturally have a more 

sustainable household.  

You'll set a lifelong example for your children.  

You'll understand what goes 

into food and will eat more healthily.  

You'll make your home an 

important place in you.  

You'll make others happy.  

People will remember you.


Here is a girl after my own heart!

I read about this young lady in Reader's Digest article about
Junior Food Activists...I never even knew that was a thing!
Martha Payne rates her cafeteria's lunch each day
using criteria like healthiness, number of mouthfuls and number of hairs.
I love the mind of a child!

Doubt her commitment?
She has over 10 million hits on her blog...and she's 11.
She is also donating money to children in Malawi.
check out her fundraising page here.
Even Barry Manilow has donated to her!


Bloggers who forage:

Hardworking Hippie and her permaculture farm in France

My all-time favorite escape blog:

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Product Experiment - Upside-down Planters - The Results are In!

By completely accident we became the owners of two separate upside-down planters.
I have always been intrigued by these contraptions.

We never had one during our apartment days.
But I always kinda wanted one secretly.
(not so secret now though)

By the spring, this year, we had two of them.
Along with our gigantic garden and auxiliary garden beds,
it seemed like we really didn't need them!

However, I thought it would be worth a try this year.
And to show you all the results!


We chose two different varieties of cherry tomato plant.
One was a sweet million...the other was labelled tri colour.
(we never did find out what tri colour meant....
they looked exactly like a sun gold to me)
We had them both on our deck railing.
Both were south facing with loads of sunlight.
One did far better than the other.

The tri colour started going to flower almost instantly!

The sweet million died shortly after its first water.
(Luckily we had a bunch of sweet million volunteers in the garden,
so we didn't do without red cherry tomatoes at all!)

I have to say...I was completely unimpressed by these things!
Sure, if you live in an apartment, they kinda make sense.
If I were an apartment dweller...I would just go with planters and elevate them
using milk crates or whatever.
That brings the planter up to a height were the whole plant gets enough sunlight.
(those barricades are tall in apartments!)
I would also recommend rotating the plants so that the entire plant gets light...
instead of just one side.
Its important to note that if you use planters...
make them big but not so big you can't rotate them.
(or put them on something with wheels or casters)

We usually resort to planters for cherry tomato plants because when we plant them
in the ground...they truly go insane.
They branch out and lay down all over whatever had the nerve to be planted next to it.


Don't bother!
Use a container that allows the plant to grow as nature intended.
If you are only looking for a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes...
than maybe this is the solution for you.
Me?  I love cherry tomatoes.
A few handfuls wouldn't do me (let alone the rest of the family)
any good.
The whole season reaped a sad return for my efforts.

Anyone else had a turn with these contraptions?
I'd love to here your feedback.
Sound off below!

Monday, January 11, 2016

4 of my Top Hearty Meals

Ham and Split Pea Soup

We started with the ham bone leftover from Christmas dinner at my mom's house.
Boiled for a few hours with spices (oregano, thyme, bay leaf, s n p)
and vegetables (onions, celery, carrots).

Removed the bone and added the remaining contents to a blender,
then returned to pot.

Added chopped leftover ham and simmered a few minutes more.


Turkey and Dumplings

Saved leftover turkey from Thanksgiving and froze it.
Thawed the meat in the fridge and placed it in a casserole dish.
Added frozen veggies from the garden (peas and beans)
Prepare a can of cream of whatever soup (I used cream of broccoli).
I also used a whole can of milk and a 1/3 of a can of water...
evaporation almost destroyed my first attempt at this dish.
(sauce was waaaay too thick)

Added veggies thawed or frozen...doesn't really matter.

Pour soup over all of that mess!

Cook covered in oven at 350 for approx 30 mins...or until bubbly.

NOW...mix up the dumplings and roll into 8 or so 2" balls.

Uncover casserole dish and place dumplings evenly over the top of the soup mixture.
Cook uncovered for another 15 or so minutes until the dumplings are firm.

Topped with 7 pepper spice...for a kick!


Pumpkin Soup

Roasted a pumpkin stored from the garden 
(a cheyenne bush pumpkin from Wendy Moreton of Hamilton!)
Scooped out the flesh and ran it through the food processor.
Simmered onions in a pot.
Added pumpkin mash, 6 cups of water, s n p and a hint of thyme.

In the last few minutes, add cream or milk (we added milk)
Topped with the last of the roasted pumpkin seeds 
(for added fibre...ok who am I was for the crunch!)


Giant Hashbrown with Chipotle Mayo


Shred a whole potato into a bowl.
Squeeze out any moisture you can.
Add 1/2 a chopped onion and 1 egg.
Heat up a frying pan and grease it with oil or spray.
Once hot, spread the shredded potato mixture evenly around the pan.
Use a cutting board to help flip evenly.

Top with Chipotle mayo for a spicy way to start your day!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

End of the Season 2015 part 1

It was one helluva gardening season this year.
Well...not really.
I worked at an organic vegetable farm called The Kitchen Garden from May-August.
Here's where I worked...

A small view of the enormous fields at the farm.

Inside one of the hoop houses I helped build by hand.

The big pond I helped dig by hand.

The smaller pond I helped dig...that waterfalls into the big pond.

Working at the farm was an amazing experience but it was incredibly draining.
Meaning that poor husband of mine spent more than his share working our own garden.

I was grateful.

I was also exhausted.

Some days it was just because I'd spent 5 hours hoeing and just couldn't look at another weed.

Other days I had spent 5 hours picking beans...and couldn't fathom picking any more.

We still managed to put away a crazy amount of food.
(stay tuned for more on that)
But the amount of food that we grew that got wasted broke my heart.

I learned an incredible amount as well.
I learned about working smarter...and harder.
I learned about different varieties of vegetables.
I learned how to trellis them and maintain their health.
I learned how to harvest them...and quickly!

Speed is of the essence at a farm.
The margin is so small on vegetable sales.
You work fast...
even if you feel like the heat is
making your body move in slow motion.

I learned how to use hand tools...
something I've never done before.

(Seriously?!  she's been gardening for over 10 yrs now!
How is that even possible!?!?)

Well...we've been doing it by hand.
Literally by hand all of this time.

Sure, we might use a wheelbarrow or a shovel.
But all of that weeding and harvesting was done by hand.

Let me tell you, I have some amazing discoveries to share in the coming year!
No trademarked secrets that only The Kitchen Garden uses.
Sorry folks, that's privileged information...and you'll have to work there to find out more.

What I'm going to share with you are all of the
things that I will be doing differently in my home garden.
Tools, tips and trellising tricks...
and much, much more!

Its all gonna change this year!
Stay tuned...