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Garden Report 2021 - Part 4 - August - week 1Aug 9, 2021

We're a week into August and we can't stop running.

We began our holidays on Friday at 5pm. Two weeks of relaxation. Yeah, right :)  We started a stroll through the garden. Here's what we ended up with - in one picking!

2.2 kg of field cucumbers

953 gr of pickling cucumbers + 1261 gr from earlier in the week

434 gr of purple beans

434 gr of onions

93 gr of hot peppers

156 gr of herbs

and

over 20 lbs of spaghetti squash!  This is only 4. We have at least 8 more growing!

The early corn is ready. We're only picking a couple of cobs at a time right now, but soon we'll have to do something with it. I'm considering borrowing (or buying) a pressure canner, but that's a big investment for something I'm not sure I'll enjoy.

Now that we've measured a pail of field cucumbers and come up with just shy of 5 lbs, I can estimate that we ate or gave away 15 lbs of them in July. Seriously, we were eating one or two a day, plus pawning them off on whoever we could. 

Then we have the beets.

Last weekend, I made a double batch of borscht to freeze for eating over the winter. That's 10 containers. It called for 2 lbs of beets. That only used six. SIX. Thankfully, my sister took two big baskets of beets, but we planted two 12' rows, and we have more than half left. We'll be pickling this week. And eating roasted beets. And I'll beg my sister to come back again. 

We have enough cucumbers to make another batch of pickles, and since it's waste-not-want-not, we bought another box of quart jars. The potatoes that we planted in the former zucchini area have sprouted, which is a great sign. We continue to hand out field cucumbers like candy at Halloween. And I'm giving my sister the 6 lb spaghetti squash, which is only fair because she's the one that spotted it half-hiding under a rhubarb leaf. 

Our big tomatoes still haven't turned red, but we're getting a handful of cocktail tomatoes every day, which is nice. The beans are really starting to come in. We've enjoyed several meals, but are picking more every day so we can start blanching and freezing them. If I get a pressure canner,  I'll also look at canning some beans.

Running canning total:

June

4 half-pint jars of stewed rhubarb
spice bottle of dried chive blossoms

July

6 half-pints + 2 - 125ml jars of strawberry rhubarb jam
11 half-pint and 4 - 125ml jars of strawberry jam 
6 half-pint + 2 - 125ml jars of raspberry jam 3 quarts Pops’ Dills (overprocessed, we’ll have to see if they’re still edible) 
3 quarts Pops’ Dills  
3 quarts + 1 pint Joyce’s Dills 
2 quarts + 1 pint Christine’s Dills 
12 cups frozen strawberries 
6 cups frozen spinach
2 cups frozen celery  
550 g potatoes 
Dried herbs - more
10 servings of borscht (frozen)
Dehydrated peppers (they all fit in a 125 mL jar so far.)
2 cups frozen beans

Garden Report 2021 - Part 3 - JulyAug 9, 2021

For the last 4 years, we've had a small - 3'x3' - strawberry patch in our garden. In all that time, we picked a total of 1 cup of strawberries, at a push. Last year we couldn't get an appointment at a u-pick farm because everybody was desperate for them. This year, we managed to snag an appointment on July 2nd, and ended up with 4 baskets.  4 baskets of strawberries yielded this bounty, plus another 12 cups in the freezer.

20 cups of strawberries = 11 half-pint and 4 - 125ml jars of strawberry jam, plus a little extra. Double batch.

8 cups of rhubarb and 4 cups of strawberries = 6 half-pints + 2 - 125ml jars of strawberry rhubarb jam. Single batch.

Our spinach came in well. And fast. So fast. I think we could have had more if we hadn't let it bolt (go to seed) but we got one meal from it, and we froze 6 cups. I see dip in our future.

I also got a first picking of basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme, which I dried and saved.

The celery started getting swamped by the cucumbers, but we did cut back 4 bunches. Some we ate fresh; some we froze.

The peas that were supposed to cover a decorative metal frame failed. We planted 20 peas, got 7 sprouts, only 3 had a decent size, and we got 2 pea pods. Then they died. RIP Peas.

The zucchinis did well in July too. We tried a new variety. Unlike the ones we've planted in previous years, we did not get any monster zucchinis; these were mostly finger sized, so there was a lot of plant for not much vegetable. We enjoyed baked zucchini sticks and a couple batches of zucchini fritters. We did grow three decent sized ones, and ended up with four 2-cup bags of shredded zukes for future fritters or baking. We pulled them at the end of the month because there were none left on the plants to grow.

At the end of July, things got very interesting. And by very interesting, I mean who decided to plant all these cucubmber plants because 8 is twice as many as we need please help us we're drowning in cukes! 

Last year was the first year we tried to make dill pickles. The recipe we chose was a disaster and would put the Dead Sea to shame with its saltiness. This year, I asked friends for tried and true recipes. We got 3. The first batch of Pops' Dills (not my Pops), I over processed after misreading the recipe. So we did it again the next weekend. A week later we had enough pickling cucumbers to try Christine's Dills and Joyce's Dills. 

And then, at the end of the month, I hit a sale on raspberries. We cooked up a batch on a weeknight because as delicious as raspberries are, they spoil very quickly and they wouldn't have made it to the weekend without turning moldy. 

9 cups of raspberries = 6 half-pint + 2 - 125ml jars of raspberry jam. 1.5x batch.

Oh, yeah. And Ross wanted to see how his underground veggies were doing, so we pulled one carrot, two onions, and one potato plant.

 

Two potato plants (of the 6 we planted) yielded 550 g of potatoes, about 1 1/4 lbs. We decided to let the other two boxes/4 plants continue to grow, but we replanted some of the tinier potatoes into the spot where we pulled the rhubarb. These potatoes took about 10 weeks to grow. All of August and September and the first week or two of October (Thanksgiving) is about the same period, so we're hoping to get a second crop.

Running canning total:

June

4 half-pint jars of stewed rhubarb
spice bottle of dried chive blossoms

July

6 half-pints + 2 - 125ml jars of strawberry rhubarb jam
11 half-pint and 4 - 125ml jars of strawberry jam 
6 half-pint + 2 - 125ml jars of raspberry jam
3 quarts Pops’ Dills (overprocessed, we’ll have to see if they’re still edible) 
3 quarts Pops’ Dills  
3 quarts + 1 pint Joyce’s Dills 
2 quarts + 1 pint Christine’s Dills 
12 cups frozen strawberries 
6 cups frozen spinach
2 cups frozen celery  
550 g potatoes 
Dried herbs

Garden Report 2021 - Part 2 - JuneAug 8, 2021


All our seeds. We planted one row of corn a week before the May long weekend, and one row a week later. The beets, spinach, and onions did really well. The empty spot on the right hand side of the spinach was where the lettuce failed.Like a lot of folks, we had a dismal result with carrot seeds and only had about two dozen carrots. So we planted a third row right down the middle with all our remaining seeds. Some of those eventually sprouted, but we aren't going to have as many as we'd hoped. 


Our tomatoes really took off once they were out of their pots and in the ground. The zucchini (far left) took a while to get going but eventually got in the game. The beans were slow to start as well.

Check it out - we grew celery! A lot of celery. The cucumbers weren't using the frame yet, but we discovered pretty quickly that we'd overprinted this little area. The rhubarb in the back has already recovered from multiple pickings.

We built five of this 2'x3' garden boxes last spring when we realized the pandemic was going to keep us at home over the summer. This year, we turned three of them into potato boxes (picture), one into a pepper box, and used one for roma tomatoes.

All the seedlings we transplanted from the seeds we'd planted in May, and the seeds we'd sown directly into the garden had taken well to their new homes. In fact, we were able to start harvesting! Yes, it was only the chives and rhubarb in June, but we got 4 jars of stewed rhubarb and a couple rhubarb crisps made.

Running total:

4 half-pint jars of stewed rhubarb

spice bottle of dried chive blossoms

Garden Report 2021 - Part 1 - MayAug 6, 2021

We started this year's gardening a month too early. We were anxious to use our new garden, and bored (after four months of winter in Winnipeg, you'd be eager for spring too) so we planted tomato, celery and peppers seeds in March. Note to self - that was about a month too early. In April, we added cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, and zucchini. Then we planted the stuff that needed to go into the ground over the May long weekend. Not everything sprouted, but we did pretty well.

In total, here's what we ended up planting. Note - the rhubarb and chives are perennial; they come back every year.

  1. Rhubarb (a perennial, it comes back every year)
  2. Chives (a perennial, it comes back every year)
  3. Rosemary (successfully overwintered inside!)
  4. 6 potatoes (3 boxes, 2 x 0.5 seed potatoes per box)
  5. 1 pumpkin
  6. 6 spaghetti squash (originally planted 4, 3 destroyed in a spring storm, 5 more seeds planted directly into garden)
  7. 8 zucchinis
  8. 4 pickling cucumbers
  9. 4 slicing cucumbers
  10. 30 celery plants (The seeds were so tiny! We sprinkled a fraction of the seeds into 2 seedling containers and that's how many came up.)
  11. 5 Pruden's Giant Staking tomatoes
  12. 3 Goliath tomatoes
  13. 7 Roma tomatoes
  14. 5 cocktail (cherry) tomatoes
  15. 2 rows of onions 
  16. 2 rows of carrots
  17. 2 rows of beets
  18. 3/4 row of spinach (old, donated seeds)
  19. 1/4 row of lettuce (old, donated seeds)
  20. 20 peas (old, donated seeds)
  21. 2 rows of purple beans
  22. 2 rows of corn (60 kernels planted)
  23. 3 red bell peppers
  24. 4 Cajun Belle peppers
  25. 1 banana pepper (purchased)
  26. 1 parsley (purchased)
  27. 1 thyme (purchased)
  28. 2 oregano (purchased)
  29. 2 basil (purchased)
  30. 8 peas (3 sprouted, planted 12 more, 4 sprouted). They were supposed to cover a decorative metal frame.

Pretty impressive planting, huh.

That was May. Then, we waited.

99¢ Christmas in July sweet romance saleJul 12, 2021

Did you know I have two North Pole Unlimited romances -  RUDY AND KRIS and BEN AND JILLY - that are only 99¢ this month?  Check out these sales, and all the other sweet Christmas romances that are on sale for Christmas in July.

July 12 to July 18 only.

All July long!

Grab them while you can. And if they leave you feeling in an elf-like mood, please post a review! That's the best gift of all for an author.

Jilly has called in reinforcementsJul 5, 2021


I'm excited to tell you that North Pole Unlimited's latest couple will be introduced on November 15th!

The couple: Frank Cardinal (game inventor) and Ginger Malone (NPU marketer)

The place: Kenora, Ontario

The matchmaker: most definitely NOT Jilly (although she might be offering some advice.)

You can preorder it now!

It's a Christmas in July party!Jul 3, 2021

Say HO, HO, HO to some fantastic giveaways and some holiday fun in the sun! YBE authors will be hosting fun giveaways over the first twelve days of July and right in the middle will be our awesome author chat!

I'll be posting on July 4th with Nicola Marsh and Jean Oram for some international contests and giveaways! (Most of my US friends will be celebrating Independence Day, so the rest of us can get up to some online fun!)

Also, please mark July 6th at 7:00pm CST to sip hot chocolate (or an iced tea) with the authors of Your Book Escape! We'll be talking about our favorite Christmas/holiday books and some family traditions! So turn down the A/C, grab an ugly Christmas sweater, and join the fun.

Caroling optional...

If you haven't joined the group yet, just go here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/yourbookescape

Happy Canada DayJul 1, 2021

It's our 154th birthday as a country. If you get to swim in one of our lakes or rivers, walk in our of our beautiful forests, or stroll along the ocean, I hope you have a wonderful day.

A whole library of sweet romancesJun 11, 2021


When I was a kid, my mom had a subscription to Harlequin romances. For you young 'uns, long before the advent of the internet, you used to be able to sign up for Harlequin to mail a box of four or six Harlequin Presents. Right to your house! Every month! We lived in the country, so this made things even more convenient since she couldn't just pick them up at the grocery store. My mom had boxes of romances in the closet, under the bed, in the basement. Those were some of the first grown-up books I ever read. (Yes, I snuck them, reading a chapter or two at a time when I thought she wouldn't notice. Yes, again, she probably did notice, but let me read them anyway.) 

Now, getting books is a lot easier. They can arrive on your e-reader from over the ether.

I'm in three different groups this month offering free and discounted sweet romances on Bookfunnel. From kings to cowboys to billionaires and every hero in between, check out these options:

Sweet Beach Reads - Head to the beach with these cozy mysteries, rom-coms and romances for sweet readers!

All I want for my Summer Vacation - is this collection of sweet romances, including sweet historicals.

June is for Sweet Romance - get a free sweet romance when you sign up for these author's newsletters