Monday, November 26, 2012

You know you might be a gardener if you.......

Are sitting here on a late November morning waiting for the mail to come, thinking you might have some seeds in the mail today. .....(only AT LEAST 4 months before you can do anything with them.
So seeds have become my world as I wait for next spring.

I have become a seed saver and since I grew many heirlooms this year, I am starting to accumulate quite a collection of seeds in my seed box.  As is everything in my life I have taken this on as, just short of an obsession. (that might be a matter of opinion though, I am sure that there are those who see my approach to things as stark raving madness) As I write, I am watching the time knowing that the mail comes at about noon. I have just discovered that several of my pumpkins are actual open pollinated and as such are worthy of saving the seeds, and using as currency for next years seed exchanges. For some reason the concept of hybrid VS heirloom, or even open pollinated has taken me years to really understand. For the benefit of anyone who does not already know the difference I will explain.
Hybrids are what many of the seeds you buy from regular seed companies. Someone has discovered that when you cross  X pumpkins with Y pumpkins you will get Z pumpkins.  As long as you make sure that the X and the Y are true to form, you will likely always get Z.
However if you collected the seeds from Z and then grow them you will not get offspring that is the same as Z, the children of Z would have some features of X and maybe none of Y, or a weird blend. I am sure if it MUCH more complex than this, but this makes it easy for me to understand.
So if you are a gardener and interested in saving seeds to make it so you do not have to buy seeds every year, you could save seeds from a hybrid, but would never really know what you might get.

Since heirlooms have been grown year after year with no purposeful crossing, as long as you keep them from cross pollinating you will get the same  "product" year after year.

So I have a few heirloom tomatoes I have saved seeds, as well as a few squash, and black turtle beans. Fun to sit by the fire and break up the pods and get the seeds out.  Oh and there is our wood stove, I have been practicing putting text onto pictures.

I have really enjoyed the carrots this fall, I basically ignored them all year and lo and behold they turned out to be HUGE
Today I am saving seeds from my pumpkins and making pumpkin soup.  HOWDEN pumpkins.  I have joined a seed exchange group, which is a bit like christmas goodie exchanges. I make up several packets of the basic seeds I have saved, and they are exchanged for several other seed varieties. I am also planning on attending the seed exchange in the spring in a town about 60 miles from here, so packaging up all my little seeds. :)

This particular squash is a Galeux D' Eyesines better known as bumpkins, I picked this one before it has too many warts

This one is called Thelma Sanders sweet potato squash.

and this one is Australian Butter squash incredibly tasty for pumpkin pie

So I have seeds for all of these.

Looking forward to next spring to get them going earlier than I got these going this year.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Old Friends and New Cheese

Ken and I are just on our way home from Vancouver, where we attended a “celebration of life” for a doctor friend, whom we met in Dawson Creek almost 30 years ago, and whom we have seen only once in all those years.  There were many old friends and acquaintances present, as well as Chris’s (our dear departed friend) wife and children. When we left Dawson creek they were  small children and some as yet unborn, so it was also quite wonderful to see a family, essentially a generation later.  Sadly with each generation in time, also much tragedy. Along with Chris’s death in June, the older sons wife, 36 months pregnant was found to have a brain tumour and there is much concern for her future as well.  The first grandchild in the family, now about 3 weeks old, and mother quite ill.
 On the one hand I felt like a voyeur peering in on someone else's grief, yet on the other hand I was so touched by what a close family they were/are, and all the wonderful things they have done together over the years. At the very least a very good life lived.
This has been quite a week for “reunions”, in that a close friend of mine from medical school came to visit for the weekend. We have not seen each other for 4 years and  our last get together was in Montreal and had both just finished reading Barbara Kingsolvers book “Animal, vegetable, miracle”, about her families year spent essentially living just on what they grew in their garden. We decided back then in Montreal that we would get together at her house or mine and make mozzarella cheese and can tomatoes, which is exactly what we did.
Although I have already canned tomatoes, she had not and so that part was fun, the cheese make was quite an experience.  We used 2 gallons of organic 1%milk, one at a time. The first batch did not turn out at all, and even CHEWY would not eat it. We were following the instructions from the booklet for that batch. For the next batch we went to youtube and followed instructions from someone else and it worked WONDERFULLY.

The whole concept of self sustainability seems to require these kind of skills, and so immediately after making mozzarella we looked up how to make OTHER cheeses. Always something else to try.
SOOO here is how to make mozzarella.
Mozzarella Ingredients: gallon of milk (you can not use ultra pasteurized)
                        citric acid
                        water (must be chlorine free)
                      computer hooked up to internet and stove, and you are well on your way to making mozzarella cheese. Just google how to make mozzarella cheese.
Next I am going to try goat cheese.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tomatoes for 52 weeks

It has clearly been a tomato year and I started by planting 4 different heirloom tomatoes. Each with different qualities. I tried to cut down on my total number of plants, but ended up with 51 plants PLUS several “volunteers” that I just could not bring myself to uproot.
I started the seeds indoors in February. (which is WAY too early), just could not help myself.  I have a greenhouse, but planting seeds I start them inside in a tray and leave them for a week on top of my hot water tank.  Then as they start to grow I transplant them into pots and put them out in the green house. This year started off pretty cold, so I kept 11 plants in the greenhouse with all the windows wide open so that I would have plants into the fall with tomatoes, and I could just close all the windows then.

One great variety I grew this year and plan to save is called Alicante an English heirloom that was supposed to moderate sized but has grown huge. The others are Brandywine, Zapotec and Narn. I have harvested at least 350 lbs of tomatoes so far. Given away 4 large  boxes of them. 
Ken and I have been having great fun canning tomatoes. We have 50 pints of roasted tomato sauce in our little cold room

I quarter the tomatoes in large roasting dish, add oregano and basil from my garden, as well as lots of garlic, olive oil and salt and then roast them in the barbeque for 3-4 hours.
We then let the sauce cool for a few hours and I try to pick out some of the larger more obvious skins, then I put the whole lot through the blender and usually the next day we can them.
It is kind of funny, for Ken and I it is a major event this canning. We have it all down to a science, we get all the jars ready and the hot water bath boiling and the sauce boiling and then I pour the sauce in the jars, Ken puts lids on and into the boiler...
We tend to wonder how his mother who is almost 90 does this all by herself.
Then again it is fun for us to do it together. 
The thoughts of this yummy  sauce all winter long is great.
We use the more clear  liquid part of the pint for a pasta sauce Ken makes every tuesday ( the day that I work and he does not work) I use the sauce for pizzas on the days that he works and I am off and on Thursdays which are the days we BOTH work, we can just have the sauce over pasta.
Last year just before the first frost (about now)  I took all of the green tomatoes and put them in the basement on shelves with news paper. Throughout the fall we were eating tomatoes from the basement, last one Christmas day. I would go once a week or so and get rid of any bad ones.  My goal is gradually to no longer have to buy produce at the store anymore.
I am going to take the very best looking tomatoes off of the very best looking plants and save the seeds.   The way I see it with all of these concerns about labelling /non labelling GMOs at least I will know for certain where most of my food comes from.

Ken and I are extremely excited that we have just registered to vote in this next US election. After 14 years of living there and paying taxes there, at least now we will have a chance to vote.  The way things are going, it does not seem as though they are going to need our vote.
janet  jankenb    @

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I have just gone through the garden, picking the raspberries and strawberries, added a few peaches from the  market and hemp hearts, greek yoghurt and made my daily smoothie. For years I have contemplated this, but it never seemed enough to carry me though to lunch, but with the greek yoghurt, which is very high in protein and the hemp hearts, I am totally full. 
We currently have 120 raspberry plants and about 50 strawberry plants. I only purchased one raspberry plant at the very beginning of last year. On one of hottest days of last summer a patient of mine brought over about 10 plants that she had just cleaned out from her bushes.  Then a neighbour threatening to get rid of all of his raspberries, invited me to help him out.
So early this spring I got a few of his. The thing I discovered was that many of these that we were given are ever bearing raspberries, (or fall bearing), they seem to produce some fruit in the spring and then a big crop in the fall. They are much bigger than the other raspberries.   So this summer in the heat of the summer, when it looked like we were going to get cooler weather (which we did not) I went and dug up another 20 or so of the neighbours raspberry bushes. I then spent weeks hovering over them trying to keep them alive with cloth covering, watering, watering, watering. AND was thrilled to see little buds coming out at the end of august.

So finally 2 weeks ago I went and got all of raspberries from his yard, bringing my plant total to 120.  Those ones do not look great but from experience I now know that they will survive, I will just have to wait until next summer to enjoy them.

My Oregon friends will think I am nuts, but we have also planted Blackberries, the thornless type.  Although there are some wild blackberries here, they are only in very select places.  We have found wild raspberries on the back on our property, in fact it was Chewy who first discovered them. He was eating berries, and sure enough they were raspberries. Since then I have found that there are many areas around here with wild raspberries. I unfortunately discovered this a little late for raspberry picking.  Most raspberries only produce in June, and the wild ones here clearly fit into that group.
So LOTS of berry smoothies next summer

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Woke up with a start today, drip drip drip of rain on the gutters, and a low pitched howling of the wind. I glanced up at the clock to a blank screen.  OH SHOOT, I had read the forecast on my iphone for rain, but had not considered storm, whoops.  My thoughts immediately focused on my freezer, an object of significant activity of late.
With much of our fall harvesting done, the significant amount of it frozen, the freezer has become of huge importance. 
So I asked Ken, the time, he said 6:25, I then asked if he knew how long it had been out. “It was on at 6:10 when I last looked”.  So at least that was a relief that it had not been out all night.
Next concern is about the office. It is Monday morning and Ken works Mondays.  Our office is small and central in a little mall 2 blocks from here. SO we have windows at the front and windows at the back and nothing else.  Our office runs off of computers, all the charts are electronic, but it is a secure internet based system, and so as long as we have our laptops charged, and our iphones charged, we have access to the charts.  
We have been here for a year and a bit now, and though the power goes out, it seems this year, once a month, we have yet to work a day in the office without power.

I fell asleep last night reading a book about a woman trying to make it on her own in Michigan in rural area on fixed income, canning, preserving and making it through the winter. Of course the chapter last night was when the power went out in snow storm.
SO the next place my thoughts this am went to was wood stoves.  We have been living in our house now for a year almost to the day. We moved in long before it was done, and it is still not completely done, but we ran out of funds and thought we would prioritize things as we would afford them.
Ken has been all for getting a big generator, I would rather spend the considerable amount that that would cost, to make our house more independant, such as a wood stove.  I decided that today is the day to look at wood stoves, since it is not cold yet, it will be soon enough, and I sure do not want to wake up cold in January.

I thought I would try to get back to writing blog, but in short spurts, when I am feeling like writing, so this is my first new  attempt.
Since the power was out, I could not post it until now.
So this is our new house, and there is a total neurotic next door who draws the property line in Round up, even though it is a spare lot. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

3 years cancer free

Well today 3 years ago I had a radical hysterectomy for endometrial cancer. Boy have things changed since then
I was told I had a 40-70% chance of a 3 year survival and here I am.
I really do not thing anyone can really understand the feeling of being told this sort of thing. The whole thing about cancer is really a big waiting game, the more time you can put between the cancer and the present the greater your chances of having beat it.

Not a lot of plans for today, but Ken and I have taken a week of holiday time and are going to vancouver to the wine festival. We have met a couple who tends to be as adventurist as we are, or more. We all go out every Sunday snowshoeing for HOURS. Last week it was 4.5 hours and over 1000 feet in elevation. So while in Vancouver we are going to do some sort of physical activity every day, and then go and eat and drink and be merry.

Our house is nearly finished and we are getting more settled all the time. It is hard to describe the incredible feeling of putting things in places, with NO QUestion in my mind of whether I would be soon moving them again. We are calling this our " final resting place".
We are both working just down the road at a small clinic. Ken works 3 days a week and I work 2. I am sort of the administrator as well and seem to have lots of things to do on other days as well.

I have several hundred plants growing in the greenhouse, getting ready for spring. This year I worked VERY hard at holding off planting tomatoes, so instead I planted perennials.
So I have lupins, hollyhocks, lavender, poppies, butterfly flowers and columbine growing, ... some better than others. (columbine takes FOREVER to germinate)

I have also started artichokes and celery. I am hoping to have TONS of flowers at the front of the property, so perhaps the neighbours who are obsessed with lawns might not frown so much on our yard.

We have done a lot of the work on the house ourselves, such as the flooring, shelving, tiling etc, so we are looking forward to having NOTHING to do one of these days.

Our dogs are still with us, Rex is going on 16 this year and has weakness in his hind end, and so at times is unable to get up. NO PROBLEM..... he is also getting stress incontinence and so is wearing a Kotex pad held on by a waist band. We just use the waist band to pick him up with. I think it is a BIT embarrassing for Chewy... though.
Rex just still seems happy and frisky at times.....

Life carries on.....
We really miss all of our friends in Oregon and I think often of them, and wish we were not so far away. We are planning a trip down there this year, details to still be worked out.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Let it snow

Well with the new year coming soon, thought I would write a bit about the last year.

Funny someone the other day commented on wishing us a happy new year, saying after the difficult year we have had.

I thought, now why would they say that?, we have had a great year. It has been tumultuous and with many stressors, but all and all a great year.

I guess compared to the previous years, that is.

Last New Years eve I was determined to stay up until midnite to make absolutely certain that the year was OVER, totally OVER. Oddly enough, things changed after that.

The whole move back here was hard, but as expectedly so. I guess we have gotten through this year with a goal, of a life that was as stress-free as possible. A life that we can be doing the things that we like to do the most. And I do think we are getting closer all the time.

Our kids are doing well, Dylan, the plumber who was in accident in September is still in a cast and it has been very trying to keep him getting to his doctors appointments despite him being screwed around by the clinics, being sent to the wrong places etc etc etc. He gets so mad at the system he does not want to go to the doctor at all, however he has a very fragile fracture that can lead to chronic wrist pain if it does not heal properly. From all we can tell, this ordeal should be over soon and we can stop humouring him.

Josh is into his third year of university in the humanities, sociology, psychology anthropology political scienc etc. It was hard to explain to him why the whole family might not want to watch the movie about the final year of Tolstoys life... He is extremely well read on politics, and Ken and I have a lot of fun talking with him, but the conversations would not be the type many others might engage in.

He came home this term with questions about what he needed to get a social work degree. WE looked it all up and he has almost all the credits he need to apply for the fall, and the grades look in keeping with what he has, so it appears that at long last he has direction. Everything we read about social work seemed to be JOSH..... a job with his name written all over it. THere even seemed to be jobs out there in this field. So we are excited and more importantly HE Is excited.

We have taken up snowshoing this year, and I have included a photo from a few weeks ago. The guy who has built our house, with his wife, have taken us UP to the snow. We drive up in a 4 seater, 4 wheeler to an area of higher elevation and more snow. It is great fun.

I am getting closer to the 3 year mark for my cancer, closer to the “beat it” stage. Hard to know if it is ever safe to tempt fate by using those terms..... like “beat it” or Survivor”.

I have been feeling pretty cocky for quite awhile, and recently was doing some research for a woman in India with the same cancer.

She posted several questions on line and I wanted to get her the newest information, and since I am a doctor, I have access to complete studies for free.

Turns out that some things have changed with regards to prognosis and cancer. They have looked in the past at status of lymph nodes as a prognostic indicator, and if the cancer has spread to them it means the risk of recurrence is higher. There is something else that has recently gained a lot of attention with regards to several cancers, including prostate, cervix and endometrial cancer, and that is Lymphovascular invasion.

Lymphovascular space invasion (LSVI) denotes a worse prognosis, and thus warrants more aggressive treatments. what this means is that the cancer has invaded the lymph system, and/or blood vessels of the organ of origin, in my case the uterus.

Why is this important? Well I guess it underlines how important the aggressive treatment was and I find it kind of scary, wondering some days if I really have beat it, and when I CAN say I have beaten it, BUT anyways, I am still having the pain after meals, guess I always will, it seems to be a lot worse lately.

I am not really worried, but I am not totally unworried, if that is a word.

Ken and I have been working hard to get the clinic so that it is running seamlessly. There has been a lot of extra work involved, but it IS going great. We have incredible staff that we just love working with, a real team. We are getting further and further from the politics.... well sort of.

I recently had an interview in a newspaper (the closest city to us), essentially telling “our” side of the story on how we left Interior Health, and I have also convinced another doctor who has left to tell them HIS story, so that the public can see that the doctors are leaving, not because of “personal reasons” as interior health tells everyone, but that Interior health is really driving the doctors away from Chase.

Hard to be totally out of politics.

I have also found out some very cool news, that all US citizens no matter where they are, can vote in the US elections. You just have to sign up. Ken and I became US citizens about 3 years ago. SO I feel very special, being able to have a say in the election of a country whose political policies affect the entire world, yet only US citizens can vote for who leads this world power.

The other really interesting tidbit..... What act can cause you to LOOSE your US citizenship???

To join the military of another country.

I am throwing around ideas for how to spend the third anniversary of the cancer, and the latest idea is to fly to New York and have a day “in the studio” with Ben Wisch, the producer of my last cd, and record my new song “It is so hard to be a good dog”

And then send it out as a single. WOOF WOOF.

Speaking of dogs, Rex is now over 15 years old. he gets around and does not seem to be suffering, but he is dribbling urine all the time though.

So we have gotten him a doggy diaper, essentially a cloth diaper that we wrap around him with a “kotex” in the appropriate place to catch the urine...

Just thought I would put that out there in case anyone else ends up in a similar situation :)

Happy New Years, and love to everyone.