Friday, August 16, 2019

Call Before You Dig

I've seen a lot of ads lately reminding us to call before we dig. I had put off digging up a small flower garden in the front yard for a few years because I felt I had to call first, and I am notorious for avoiding picking up a phone. The thing is, the garden had been there for years when the gas company came along and shot their line right under it.  No digging required on their part, but it certainly put a complete halt to any digging I might do. My son, who used to work for Promark, tried to tell me that I wasn't going to dig deep enough to worry about, just moving flowers, but I figured if anyone was ever going to dig through a gas line, it would be me, so I just left everything to grow until it got completely out of hand.

Last fall I knew the day had come that I was going to have to bite the bullet and move that flower bed. I used a trowel and removed what I could and then we filled the whole area with rocks. This spring I discovered that I did not actually get all the roots and various things came up anyway. But at least I didn't dig through any gas lines.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for one of my neighbours recently. I heard sirens and went outside to see what was going on just in time to see a fire truck come down my street. It parked in front of a house a couple of doors down and another one came and parked just beyond our lot line, and blocked off the road. Of course several of the neighbours wandered down the street to see what was going on. One said, "Well, there doesn't seem to be any smoke or fire,"just before he spotted a small digger and decided the gasline must have been breached. At that point, he turned around and headed for home without another word. The house owner came over and I asked if they broke the gas line, and she admitted that was what happened.  A fireman came and told us all to disperse.  He told us to get away from the area as there was gas and it was dangerous. Lovely.

I didn't have the nerve to dig the depth of a shovel without calling but if I was going to use a mechanical digger, I certainly would have made the call first.

The fire department has to wait for Enbridge to shut off the gas. Enbridge seemed to take a long time to arrive and it was all starting to make me a little nervous.  But eventually the line was secured and all the fire trucks and Enbridge vehicles went away.

This week there was a major explosion in London, Ontario when a car ran into a house and ruptured the gas line. The fire department was there within two minutes but about 12 minutes later the whole neighbourhood blew up. Seven people were injured. One hundred homes were evacuated and ten of those will be demolished. That has nothing to do with digging, but it sure lets me know how lucky we all were here.

Now I'm really glad I have a few flowers that I just didn't dig deep enough to eliminate. I might have eliminated myself in the process.  It's important to call before you dig!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Cucumbers Like to Hide!

Every year I learn something new while gardening. This year was no exception.

I had tried to grow cucumbers before, but all I ever got was little round balls. It's not me, it's the soil in this area as my neighbours had the same problem. But now I have a raised bed filled with proper garden soil (not topsoil), so I thought I'd try again.

I put in three plants that I started from seed. One died immediately. A second one died after a couple of weeks. The third and last one sat there and didn't look like it was going to do anything for quite a while, and then suddenly it took off and grew vigorously.

I had tried to get this cucumber to climb a pole I had put in for it. I even moved the pole when it went in a different direction. It ignored the pole completely but decided that tomato plants were great for climbing on. Who knew?  The first cucumber I found was growing under tomato leaves. The second one was also under tomato leaves but outside of the garden, hanging over the side.  Then I found another one when I tried something I read in someone else's blog.

I like to grow zucchini. One plant is more than enough for any family. I usually just let the thing grow however it wants to. They look like tropical plants and that kind of pleases me somehow. Then I read that zucchinis, like tomatoes, grow all on one stem, and should be supported the same way you support a tomato plant. Well, the zucchini plant was far too big to put inside a tomato cage, so I got out one of my peony rings and passed the hoop around the plant and fastened it. Then I carefully poked the legs into the ground and the zucchini stood up so the new flowers won't have to fight for the light.

I had already been pruning off some of the leaves, but what I read said any leaves below the bottom zucchini could go. The stems are hollow but they are solid next to the stock so the trick is to trim them close enough that there is no hollow part left for insects or diseases to get into. Once I had done that I was rewarded with an unexpected third cucumber, happily hanging from a tomato plant just behind the zucchini.  I never would have spotted that if I had not read that other blog and decided to try what she was telling me.  I'm sure there are more in there somewhere but the tomatoes are too think at the moment to spot them.

Isn't gardening fun?

Friday, August 9, 2019

Mighty Weed Killer

My rock river has been an ongoing project for the past couple of years. We are not done yet. This year we put in some edging and the next step is to build a bridge across the river and maybe erect a trellis.

There is a wee bit of grass growing between where the mulch ends and the edging was placed. We will haul the mulch back a bit and put more garden fabric right over to the edging, but first we wanted to kill off the grass. Hubby went out with a concoction of vinegar and water, with a bit of dish soap. That didn't work, so he tried straight vinegar and declared the vinegar from Dollarama to be inferior stuff as it just was not killing off the grass.  I sighed and bought more of that same vinegar.  I had seen a recipe for a weed killer that was supposed to really work.
I figured we'd mix up a batch of that and give it a try.  Well, hey,
It not only killed off the bit of grass along the rock river, but I tested it out on the stone sidewalk out front too.  As  you can see, the part we sprayed died off within a day. Now we'll do the rest and test it out on individual weeds to see if we can get rid of big patches of creeping charlie or those pesky violets that just won't stay in the garden where they belong. If we can target the broad leaves on those without killing grass I will be thrilled!
For the rest of you who may wish to eliminate some vegitation, here's what I used.

One gallon of vinegar
One cup of lemon juice
One cup of salt
Two tablespoons of dish detergent (I used Dawn)

Put it in a garden sprayer and get to work.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Pineapple on Pizza

Lately, there has been a lot of posts on Facebook (and likely other places) about whether pineapple belongs on pizza. Some people really like it that combination and others, including myself, do not.  I had a Hawaiian pizza once and all I can remember was how disappointed I was. Pizza evokes a certain flavour memory that ham and pineapple just can't measure up to. I won't ever order one again. I have nothing against ham and pineapple. They go together. They just don't belong together on pizza dough. 

During all the arguments discussions about pineapple on pizza, someone tried to claim that fruit just doesn't belong on pizza. Well, hey, if you are building me a dessert pizza with strawberries and chocolate, I'll take that in a heartbeat! But when the subject of fruit on pizza came up, some wise person pointed out that tomatoes are also fruit.

One of my friends had, of course, heard that before, but suddenly wondered just why tomatoes are considered fruit and not vegetables since that's how most of us treat them. I said I thought it was because it had seeds inside. I knew there was another reason too, but hey, I've been out of school for 55 years so it wasn't coming to me.  She pointed out that cucumbers have seeds on the inside too. Well, I went home and asked Google if cucumbers were fruit, and sure enough, they are. So are peppers, eggplant and zucchini. Oh, now that last one excites me as I'll be able to use it against my fruit loving, vegetable avoiding husband, and just as the zucchini crop is starting to come on strong too.

The other reason these things are all fruit is that they form from the blossom, just like apples and peaches and cherries and berries, etc. Vegetables don't do that.

Fruits are the mature ovary of a plant and contain seeds to grow the next generation. Vegetables, on the other hand, are usually grouped according to the part of the plant that is eaten such as leaves (lettuce), stem (celery), roots (carrot), tubers (potato), bulbs (onion) and flowers (broccoli).  While they both are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants fruit contains more sugar, so vegetables are considered to be better for your health.  

So, the next time you have a slice of pizza, remember the tomato or pizza sauce spread over the dough is not a vegetable serving. In fact, commercial tomato sauce has so much sugar in it that not only is it not a vegetable, but it should be classified as a dessert. Hmmmm.....let's skip the tomato sauce and get back to the idea of strawberries and chocolate chips. You might even try adding pineapple to that and I won't complain.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

This Day Was a Treat!

Today we decided to take in the Lansdowne Park Strawberry Social. It was hosted by the Farmers Market at the same location.  The last time we went to this market it was held inside, but that was quite a while ago. Today it was outside and the weather was perfect for it. There was a good crowd present and there was lots to see.

There were all kinds of booths with farm products. The most abundant things seemed to be various lettuces and of course, strawberries.

 I had a chat with a lady from Acorn Creek (one of my favourite producers) about what to do with the scapes in my garden. I'm not fond of pesto, which is what everyone keeps telling me to make with them. Now I know I can cut them up and put them in my stirfries. She says she doesn't use the "blossom" part. Good thing she told me that as I might have thought that was the only part to use. The only scapes I have ever seen before came pickled in a jar from Almonte.

I came home with multicoloured beets and, of course, strawberries.

Other things found at the market are crafts


and specialty foods, like those produced by the Falafel Guys.

But as I said, we went for the Strawberry social where we were treated to helpings of strawberry shortcake (donation appreciated).

I also enjoyed getting to vote on my favorite strawberry jam.  There were 8 samples in the contest and I had to go back and test a couple of them over again to make my final choice. Such a chore!

Earlier in the week I had read something about a place called Cinnaholic and decided to look that up. I was fascinated to discover the franchise exists in Ottawa and told my hubby we would have to seek it out someday.  They let you custom design your own cinnamon bun. You pick the type of icing you want on it and also choose whatever toppings you may want on top of that. I was so excited when we came out of the parking garage and the first thing I saw was a Cinnaholic shop, so there was no way I was going home without trying this place out. We stopped in before we headed back to the car. Okay, so maybe it was lunch time and we had already had strawberry shortcake, but really, could you pass up an opportunity like that?

My hubby chose to top his with banana cream and coconut, while I chose cream cheese and strawberries. I told him mine looked prettier, but I could tell he was really enjoying his too.

Everything about out outing today was a treat.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

My Pet Rock

About forty years ago my hubby scooped me up off the bathroom floor, deposited the kids at a  neighbour's and took me to the Emergency Room at a nearby hospital. All I can tell you about that was that the pain that put me on that floor was worse than childbirth but by the time we got to the hospital it had subsided. Luckily the doctor on call was someone who knew us and after giving me a quick check over, the two men had a little chat about mundane things while he kept one eye on me. He ended up saying there was a strange bug going around and that I probably had that. I was sent home with orders from the doctor for my hubby to administer some TLC.

Over the next year or so I would get a strange feeling in my stomach area. I would be fine and be walking somewhere and it would come on me. It wasn't a pain but it had the tendency to make me put my hand on my abdomen as I walked. There was no sense in trying to getting a doctor's appointment as I would never be able to describe it unless it was happening.

One day I was downtown near my doctor's office when it started. I wandered in and told the receptionist that I needed 30 seconds of his time. She, of course, didn't think that was possible. I told her I could only describe this while it was happening and that after that I could make whatever appointment was deemed necessary. The doctor saw me and ordered an ultrasound.

When I went for the ultrasound the technician spotted something and told me that she was going to roll me over and if it moved it was a gallstone.  Well, I rolled over and she was awful quiet for a while before sighing and saying, "There it goes."  So when I got back to the doctor's office and he told me about gallstones, I figured maybe I had passed one earlier and that was what that bad pain was all about.  I asked if changing my diet would cure the problem and he said it would not. I then decided I would eat what I wanted because if he decided it needed to come out it would be better if that happened while I was young and healthy enough to survive an operation. I never had a bad pain again and if I got that strange feeling too often I would just cut back on bacon and fries for a while.

A few months ago I went to the ER again with a pain that had been moving to a different location every day for a week. It would have taken 3 weeks just to see my own doctor (things have changed over the years, eh).  I explained the pains and mentioned the gallstone. The ER doctor didn't think it was that. She tested me for all kinds of things. I had blood and urine samples taken, a chest x-ray, and some good poking.  The ER doctor suggested that I come back the next day for an ultrasound. Before that test, I warned the technician that she would find a big gallstone in there. I knew about it but it had never bothered me in the past 40 years. The ultrasound showed the thing was now the size of a golf ball!  I found out later the doctor was actually looking for kidney stones.  I don't have those.

The doctor asked why, since I knew I had a large gallstone, I still had it. Simple question. The simple answer was that nobody had ever suggested that I have it taken out. It has never bothered me. In fact, I had given my current doctor the blast for not checking my gallbladder during my yearly routine checkups (when we had such things) and she said, "Well, you don't have a gallbladder problem." I informed her then that I'd had gallstones for years.  She seemed genuinely surprised when she got a report about the size of it. Suddenly it seemed the doctors thought it was best to get rid of the thing. I said again that it had never bothered me in the past 40 years. But they kind of made a point of stressing that if it did decide to do something it would be really bad. The next thing I knew I was scheduled for surgery......within a month, if you can believe that!

So this week, just one month after meeting the surgeon, I gave up my gallbladder. I have heard of others getting to see the gallstones that were taken out of them, and some even kept them. I never saw mine. Maybe I should have asked for it. After 40 years of being part of me, it was kind of like a pet rock.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Fruit That Bites Back

Lately, I have been buying more fruit. We almost always have apples, bananas and grapes in the house, unless we run out of something before the next shopping trip. I usually have a couple of oranges and lemons here too.  Lately, I've added whatever others were on sale in a bid to keep myself out of things like cookies and potato chips when I get the mid-day munchies.

Last week it was kiwi and strawberries. This week the pineapples were on sale for $1.98. I took a good look at them and found a big one with a fresh top that looked a bit riper than the others. I took it home, put it in a paper bag with a couple of apples and left it on the counter for a day and a  half. When I looked again it had ripened right up. The ethylene gas in apples does that to a lot of things but this was the first time I'd tried it on a pineapple.

I never used to like pineapple. Then I went to Hawaii where it was part of every morning's breakfast buffet. Oh my goodness, people, you have never tasted real pineapple until you've had one that was actually ripe when it was picked! They are so sweet and delicious! The ones we get here are picked green and most of the time we don't give them a chance to ripen up. Well, my method did wonders for the one I brought home as it was definitely sweet and juicy, and I really enjoyed it. That is until I was reminded of another reason I'm not fond of pineapple.

My tongue got sore. I had forgotten that feeling. Pineapple always makes my tongue sore. But hey, today we all have the internet so I decided to type in the question of why that happens. Seems I'm not the only one that's asked that question and the answer is really easy to find. Not only does pineapple contain citric acid (like lemons), it contains an enzyme called bromelain. This enzyme digests protein. In fact, it does that so well it is often used to tenderize meat.

Pineapples are the only food that contain bromelain. The protein it finds when I eat pineapple is the tender tissue inside my mouth. It actually starts digesting me!  My lips, tongue and cheeks can get sore. It seems it can get so bad in some people (who likely eat more pineapple in one sitting than I ever would) that their mouth actually starts to bleed.  In most cases, though the effects wear off in just a few hours.

The best way to enjoy your pineapple and avoid such a problem is to cut the core out. Most of the bromelain is concentrated there.  Hawaiians say that you can lessen the problem by soaking the whole thing in brine before cutting it up or just sprinkling salt on the cut pineapple. I've never tried that but I do put salt on other things people find strange (apples, watermelon and cheese) so I may just try that. Another trick is to eat the pineapple with yogurt or ice cream so the bromelain has another protein to digest instead of your sensitive tissue. 

One good thing I've learned from all this research though is that the bromelain may act as an anti-inflammatory.  With the weather swings we have been having lately, that could come in handy.