October Garden Update

October 1, 2017

Living in Manitoba Canada, it seems surreal to be able to post an October Garden Update. However, during my lifetime I have seen the frost free season extend longer and longer. I am sure this is due to global warming; however, it is hard not to like the longer season. It is October 1 today and we still have not had a frost and my garden is still producing.

We harvested part of the garden before leaving to BC September 11 for the birth of our newest grandchild Nora. We pulled out all the tomatoes and brought the green tomatoes into the house to ripen while we were gone. However, since much of the garden was still doing well, we decided to leave it until we returned.

Charile and Hanna

Thanks to Charlene aka Charlie, our Workaway housesitter, for watching over our property and pets while we were away. She made good use of the garden produce and made sure the hothouse plants stayed watered. We returned this week to find we still had a bounty of produce in the garden to use and preserve.






Yesterday, September 30, I harvested:

  • 3 potato plants which yielded a 5 gallon pail full of large russet potatoes. I still have lots more potato plants to dig but they will have to wait for another day.
  • a big tub of cucumbers. Yes cucumbers! I pulled all the plants out yesterday and found enough cucumbers, big and small, to make 6 litres of dill pickles, 15 half litres of relish and still have a dozen or so left for fresh eating.
  • a big tub of parsley which I have put to dry for winter use. I still have another big batch to harvest before the frost comes. The dried parsley will be used in soups and casseroles as well as green smoothies. Since we buy a lot of fresh greens over the winter for smoothies, I have decided to try drying as much as possible this year. I am storing a variety of dried greens in sealed glass jars and planning to use them much the same as the green powders you buy in the health food store. Drying is a great way to preserve when you are off grid and freezer space is limited.
  • about 2 dozen cobs of corn. When I picked the cobs I didn’t have any expectation that they would still be young tender and sweet; however, I was surprised to find they were. We enjoyed corn on the cob for supper last night and the rest I stripped from the cobs, blanched and froze for winter eating.
  • A big tub of kale. This year we experimented with growing the kale under netting to keep out the cabbage butterflies. What a huge success. We still have lots of beautiful kale growing in the garden. I harvested the large leaves off one bed, leaving the plants to grow some more. Since kale will withstand some frost, I hope to have fresh kale for a bit longer. The kale I picked made a great big Kale and Apple salad for supper and the rest I blanched and froze for winter eating.
  • several squashes. The 2 big ones in the picture I pulled out before leaving for BC, but I was astonished to find so many more now. I picked a bunch of Patty Pan (aka scalloped) squash which I think I will try to stuff.

The garden still has lots more produce for eating and preserving, although we could get frost any day now. In the upcoming week I will try to get the rest off.

  • lots of potatoes, carrots, and beets to be dug and put away in the root cellar
  • Green curly and dinosaur kale

  • Kale – which I will leave in the garden until a heavy frost threatens. We will eat as much as possible in the upcoming week, and I will freeze and dry the rest.
  • Swiss Chard

  • Swiss Chard (also know as Silver Beet in some parts of the world). Since this will also survive a mild frost I hope to have this around for a while as well for fresh eating. The rest I will freeze or dry.
  • Romaine

  • Romaine – I experimented with a late planting this year and it was a total success. We come back to find it flourishing in the cool September weather.  Harvesting lettuce in September and October is a first for me. If a frost threatens I will be out there picking it all and storing it in the fridge.
  • Parsley, Thyme, Sage, Oregano, Rosemary . I have already dried enough for winter use but will likely dry a bit more this week.
  • Basil – Basil does not like the cold and any plants left in the garden are turning black. However, the plants in the hothouse are still doing nicely. This week I will make a huge batch of pesto to freeze..
  • Cilantro – I planted a bunch late in the year and it is small and tender right now.
  • Eggplant – We have 2 big eggplants growing in the hothouse. Another first for me!
  • Hothouse with peppers, eggplant and basil

  • Peppers – There are a big bunch of red, orange and purple peppers still growing in the hothouse. I plan to harvest and freeze them. And while cleaning out the garden I found one plant hiding amongst the flowers that had a big green pepper on it.
  • Green onion

  • Green onion – the bunching onion I planted this spring is finally coming into its own and I have lots of green onion to use up.

The tomatoes we brought in before leaving for BC and now almost all red and ready for preserving. Today was salsa day and I did up 9 litres for winter. Tomorrow is tomato sauce day and the rest I will can as plain tomatoes.

So while the calendar shows October, my garden still thinks it is August! I will be busy for the next few weeks making good use of the late bounty.


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Nora Joyce

September 24, 2017

Newborn Nora


Nora Joyce arrived safely on September 24, 2017. A little sister for Jacob. She weighed in at 7 pounds 9 ounces and 21 inches in length. She was 10 days late but made up for her tardiness with a very speedy birth, arriving after only 1 hour of labor. Happily Matt got Kelsey to the hospital with a few minutes to spare.

Kelsey Jacob, Matt and baby Nora

Ken and I traveled to BC, arriving September 12, and stayed until everyone was settled at home. We had a great time as Jacob, who is almost 2, was so much fun. We even managed to sneak in a quick trip to Vancouver to visit Christopher, Emily and our granddaughter Astrid, who is now 15 months old.

Nora Arrives!

Jacob meets Nora

Nora 1 day old

Kelsey and Nora

Matt and Nora

Baba and Gigi with baby Nora















Baba and Gigi with Jacob and Nora
















Fun and games with Jacob

Matt Kelsey and Jacob waiting form baby Nora’s arrival

Matt Kelsey and Jacob still waiting for Baby Nora’s arrival

Jacob playing with Gigi

Jacob loves to swing

Hiking with Jacob

Jacob loves the Fair

Jacob enjoying fresh corn on the cobb

Momma and Jacob

































Visiting Astrid

Baba and Gido with Astrid

Christopher and Astrid at the park

Astrid at Science World – budding scientist

Astrid loves her food




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Workaway 2017

August 31, 2017

Darlene and Ken with Andrea, Cristiana and Stevie (and Hanna)

Earlier this year, we signed up for a program called Workaway. Workaway promotes volunteering, work and cultural exchange around the world. In a nutshell, as a Workaway host, we can host visiting travelers at our property and in exchange for 20 to 25 hours of work a week, we will provide them with a room and board. To date, we have hosted four travellers interested in experiencing off grid living and a vegan lifestyle.

Our first Workaway was a young man from Great Britain – Shahyan. He housesat for us while we were visiting the kids this spring. In exchange for watching our pets, taking care of the garden, and doing some chores, we provided him with a stocked pantry and a selection of frozen home cooked plant based meals. The experience was very positive. He did have a bit of bad luck hauling in some trees with the tractor (blew a tire) and working the water pump for the garden (put in diesel instead of gas – but not his fault, the gas can was not labelled); however, he did manage to split a whole pile of firewood for us and took great care of Hanna and Sox.

Making beet salad is bloody work!

Our next Workaway was a young lady from New Zealand – Stevie -who contacted us because she was interested in learning more about the Whole Food Plant Based way of eating. While  not a vegetarian, she had no problem adapting to our vegan lifestyle. She has been a great help with the garden – weeding, harvesting and preserving – and with the cooking and landscape projects. I have really enjoyed her company. She hates to follow a recipe and constantly challenges me to step outside my comfort zone. She is also crazy about beets (or beet root as the Kiwis call it) and I have really made great use of the beets in my garden this year. Stevie is still with us for a few more weeks when she moves on to her next adventure.

Building a stone retaining wall for the Patio

Our last Workawayers were a couple from Italy – Andrea and Cristiana. Andrea is a vegan and Cristiana agreed to give it a try for the two weeks she was with us. There was no shortage of fun and laughs while they were with us. Andrea was a great help to Ken on various projects including splitting and stacking wood and building a stone retaining wall for the patio.

Yoga on the deck





Cristiana served as our yoga instructor, spent countless hours washing dishes and tried her hand on creating vegan desserts, including Energy Balls and a No Bake Chocolate Pumpkin Pie.

Our outdoor kitchen got used a lot this August. Ken got the water hooked up to the sink and we had a professional hook up the propane to the gas cooktop. So nice to enjoy the outdoors while cooking.

Andrea is an accomplished Italian vegan cook  and I enjoyed learning from him. He cooked us Potatoes, Pasta e Pesto; Pasta Salentina; Pomodoro e Basilica; and Potatoes with Crema de Fava.

Chef Andrea






Making Pysanky





While Stevie, Andrea and Cristiana were here we also enjoyed showing them our Ukrainian Culture and the best of the Canadian prairies. They tried their hands at making pysanky (Ukrainian Easter Eggs), borshch (Beet Soup) and bread. They biked and ran the quite country roads and kayaked on the lake. They saw bison up close, as well as numerous other wild life. And they had the opportunity to see up close how grain is swathed and combined.

Baking Bread

Andrea catches a garter snake








Bison up close


Enjoying a picnic at the lake








Thanks to our workawayers help, our woodshed is stacked with wood for the winter and the wood for the following winter is split, stacked and drying. And we have a good start on the landscaping on the lake side.

Filling the woodshed for the winter

Laundry day – Hanging clothes to dry

‘Top and Tailing’ green beans for freezing while sitting on the front porch swing.

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August Garden Update

August 5, 2017

Garden Season is in full swing. Suddenly the garden has blossomed and we are working hard to make good use of her bounty – eating, freezing and drying whatever we can. This is such an exciting time of year. I love doing my morning walkabout, deciding what we can eat or preserve each day. And all the mulching is really paying off, with only a small amount of time spent weeding. It has been hot and dry this year, and we are giving the garden a good watering about once a week. The mulch helps retain the moisture.

We pulled the first hill of potatoes and we astonished to find about 4 litres of nice sized potatoes. We gave these away to visiting guests, John and Gerry, but will be sure to pull another hill soon to eat.

Lettuce, lettuce and more lettuce – romaine,  buttercrunch and leaf lettuce. Stevie, our New Zealand guest informed us that romaine is called cos and the other lettuces I grow are referred to as “Fancy Lettuce”. I like that cause they do look pretty fancy! The spinach is finished and gone to seed, but there is still plenty of kale, Swiss Chard and beet greens. There is more greens than we can consume, but we have been drying some in the dehydrator to make green powder for winter smoothies.

The Brassica Covers that Ken built are working really well. So far I have harvested 3 cabbages, 2 cauliflower, a whole bunch of broccoli and plenty of kale – all without any cabbage worms. Today we pulled out all the kale and collards that were planted outside the covers as they are getting too chewed up. Luckily we have lots growing under the covers and I planted some more today after pulling out all the broccoli as it has stopped producing. I will definitely add a few more covers next year so that I can grown the collards and more kale.

We have been eating snap pea for a week and just started enjoying regular peas. We have been freezing all the snap peas we don’t eat, but the other peas will just be for fresh eating. The green beans are also producing like crazy and we have started freezing those as well.  There is lots of nice onions – bulbs and greens – to eat.







The squash are starting to spread, blossom and produce.  We enjoyed our first zucchinis today and will soon have Scalloped Squash (or Patty Pat).







The cucumbers are blooming like crazy and we should be able to harvest some in another week. The tomatoes are beginning to ripen as well and we have enjoyed some Tiny Tims.

The fancy tomato stakes Ken made have been wasted on the cherry tomatoes. After checking the seed package I see why they are not climbing like crazy – I bought a dwarf variety. Duh!

It is amazing how well the peppers, basil and eggplant are doing in my little greenhouse. The self watering system is working really well and the plants are large, leafy, healthy and full of fruit. The peppers are large and still green, but very tasty. We had some pretty hot and sunny days in the last couple of weeks and a couple of them got sunburned.

My herbs are also doing well – lots of basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley, cilantro/coriander, chives, sage, peppermint and stevia. I have dried quite a bit for winter use as well as enjoyed many fresh pestos and herb dressings.








Raspberry season is in full swing. We have been picking about 1 or 2 quarts of berries almost every day for a week. So far we have not gotten tired of eating raspberries – in salads, on our breakfast cereal, as raspberry lemonade, mixed with coconut milk yogurt or made into a dessert. Any we don’t eat I have been pureeing and freezing for flavoring my kombucha during the winter.

Our garden addition is coming along as well. We cut down the trees this winter and the stumps and roots have now been removed. Ken is tilling it under and this week I plan to plant forage radishes. They are used as a cover crop supressing fall weeds, with the added bonus that their tap roots can extend 6 feet into the soil. I am hoping they will add some good humus to the soil and break it up as well.


Summertime is here!



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Outdoor Kitchen

July 13, 2017

Another project almost complete. The building of the outdoor kitchen is done. Just waiting for the hookup of the propane stove and the plumbing on the outdoor sink. Although we can’t cook or wash outside yet, we are already enjoying this space.

The outdoor kitchen is right off the indoor kitchen on the part of the lakeside deck under the balcony. The balcony gives some protection to the kitchen and also provides shade. This part of the deck is 8 feet by 20 feet so we had lots of space to play with. The kitchen consists of 2 counters, the one on the inside, against the house wall, is 12 feet long and has a double sink. The one on the outside edge of the deck is 8 feet long and has a propane cooktop.

Waterproof barrier on top and bottom

Ken C was over for the weekend while I was away and the boys managed to finalize the plans and build the carcasses (in between golf games). When I returned home the countertops were ready to finish.

First we applied a waterproof strip to the tops of the studs.

Then we place the concrete board top on.

Concrete Board









Tiles in place

Then the tiles that would form the counter top were put in place. We are using marble tiles that we purchased on Kijiji a few years back. We got them at a great price and were intending on using them in the foyer, but changed our minds. They were perfect for these counters, especially since we discovered they were 2 different colors, brown and black! And we had just enough to do each counter – one in brown veined marble and one with black veins.

Since winters here are freezing, we decided not to glue or grout the tiles, but rather just to lay them tight together. That way they shouldn’t crack over the winter. (but we will tarp the counters to keep the snow off) The tiles are held in place by an outside molding made from leftover pieces of composite decking.

Backsplash from metal clad door jambs


The backsplash on the sink counter is another leftover find. When the boys were planning the counter they decided it really needed a backsplash. While scrounging through the garage they found the perfect solution – metal clad door jambs that we never used.



Double sink in one countertop

The sink was another find. Thanks sister Sheryl for spotting it in the back alley. The taps I picked up on Kijiji for $15.

The sides and deck side of the counter are chipboard covered with Tyvec house wrap and sided with left over vinyl siding from the house. It provides a nice waterproof finish and ties the kitchen into the house well.

The propane cooktop was originally purchased to go in the indoor kitchen, but we changed our minds. I much prefer having the cooktop out here since it will only be used in the summer, when the wood fired cookstove inside is not in use. I can’t wait to get this hooked up and in use! Right now, during the summer, I cook using a variety of small electrical appliances and an induction hot plate. However, electrical appliance use a fair bit of power and so my cooking is limited to when the sun shines. I can’t wait to make myself a cup of tea at 9 pm – a luxury I don’t have now.

We left the insides of each counter open, with possibility of adding doors later. But for now there is plenty of room to store the stools used to create a breakfast bar on the stove countertop.

Stools convert the stove countertop to a breakfast bar

And the view is great.

The outdoor spaces really add to the living space. We enjoy the veranda with its morning sun and afternoon shade and a lovely view of the garden. And now the west side deck with the view of the lake and afternoon sunshine, and a fabulous outdoor kitchen. While this deck can get hot when the summer sun is shining, the kitchen is shaded by the balcony.

When the afternoon sun hits the lake deck, the pets (and people) can always opt to enjoy the cool of the veranda.

Hanna and Sox with visiting Kensi enjoying a snooze on the veranda.

We have lots more plans for the lake side, including a kitchen garden, a strawberry patch, a wood fired oven, a fire pit and much more. Of course not all will transpire this summer.



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July 6, 2017

OMG, I thought we would never get it done, but I am happy to report that the bannister is not complete – all 4 sides! Ken finished the last of the trim today. The trim covers the joists between the two floors. I must say it looks pretty good.

South side – living room on the first floor with French doors to the sunroom. Media room on the second level

West side – living room built ins on the first floor and walk-around on the second

North side – kitchen in the background on the first floor and French doors to master bedroom on the second floor (I see Ken has left his level on the ledge. Wonder if he will remember where it is when he needs it next. LOL)

East side – view of the staircase and bannister with the two dormers on the second floor.

In the picture above (East side) Ken is securing the last of the spindles. Since our spindles were made from real trees, they are not uniform or straight. When Ken created the rails, he place them so that there would not be any gaps greater than 4 inch, to code. But if you can turn a spindle, you could create a gap. After realigning the spindles to avoid gaps, he screwed any loose ones in place with small head screws.

Including the stair rail, there is 169 spindles, 8 short posts and 5 long floor to ceiling posts. All are poplar trees harvested from our property, skinned, dried, sanded and varathaned. The spindles were all tendoned using a tenon cutter. (See this post for the process). It has taken us 19 months to complete.

With the trim covering the joists around the top of the opening to the second floor finished, the first floor is now totally complete. To do the trim, Ken used bamboo tongue and groove flooring. It matches well with the poplar of the bannister and the birch of the living room built-ins. As the posts for the bannister are lag bolted through the joists, we had to wait until the last post was in place before the trim could be done.

The last two rail sections of the bannister went in while Kelsey and Jacob were visiting. Thanks to Larry and Darlene for providing the extra hands needed to assemble and maneuver the two sections into place. We had the staircase blocked off so Jacob couldn’t venture upstairs, but it only took three days for him to figure out how to defeat the gate. Luckily Ken was ready to get the last sections up by then. We got them up while he was napping but let him pose with his tools for a picture with Gido.

Jacob helping Gido with the last section of bannister

The boys with their toys (aka tools)

Ken also managed to put the frame for the day beds in the dormers (picture below) together before Katie and Tyler arrived. They loved their little beds. The day beds also make a cozy area for curling up with a good book or just admiring the view of the yard through the big windows. Getting the day bed covers and pillows made is on my to do list. Making the doors for the cabinet below the bed will be a winter project for Ken. Left for winter will also be the hardwood flooring on the second level.

Dormer day beds


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Garden Update

July 1, 2017

Happy Canada Day from the Ponderosa.

July 1 2017 garden

We have been busy the last five days since the kids left. The garden and beds were in desperate need of attention. Since the garden is up and doing well, I was able to give it a good weeding and have got most of the rows mulched now. It is really starting to come along.

The little greenhouse Ken made this year is a huge success. Not only did it get my garden transplants a good start but the peppers planted inside them are really doing well.  Below are two pictures of pepper plants. The picture on the left is one planted in the garden. The one on the right is one planted in the greenhouse. Both were identical when planted the beginning of June. I have the same stick propped up by each one to give you and idea of the size difference.

Pepper planted in Garden, 1 month later

Pepper planted in greenhouse, 1 month later










Basil drying in sunroom

Not only are the peppers doing well in the greenhouse, but the basil as well. In fact I harvested my first batch of basil already. We enjoyed a tasty fresh basil pesto and had enough to dry as well.

I have two eggplants planted in the greenhouse as well. One is doing well but one is not. Not sure why. I was sure eggplant would thrive in the greenhouse as it is a heat loving plant.

I have also dried two cuttings of oregano as well as some wild nettle (for smoothies in the winter).

Gogi berries in the making

I was pretty excited to check out my Wolfberry (also called Gogi berry) shrubs and find that they finally have berries on them. I planted 5 of them abut 4 years ago and am down to 2 bushes now. They have never produced before. I have heard that the birds go crazy for the berries, so I have some shade cloth on standby and will drape the plants once the berries are closer to ripening.

Herb garden July 1

My herb garden is also doing well. They are loving the location on the south side of the veranda.

Peonies in turnaround

Our plan for next year is to totally work up the turn around area. It has a bunch of perennials in it that are overrun with weeds.  Most are rescues from my Mom’s place.

Rose bush from Auntie Teenie Yanick in memory of my Mom

The peonies have stopped sulking this year and are busting out in blooms. And the roses are starting to bloom as well. The bed is also chock full of volunteer cosmos, calendula, bachelor buttons and sunflower. The bed is weeded now but I will still need to thin out the volunteers.




House landscaping July 1 2017

Without grandkids around to keep us busy, we have had time to do a bit of landscaping as well. Ken finished off the front of the house. We decided not to put in flower beds next to the veranda, opting instead for low maintenance shale, rock and planters. For this year, the rock and shale are in. Hopefully next year, he will have time to make the planters I want to place among the rocks to add a bit of color.

July 1 2017 Log bench in turnaround area

The beavers cut down this large tree and we hauled it in for a bench. Ken propped it up between large rocks to keep it off the ground and voila – a long bench. Just need a bunch of grandchildren to visit and play on it!







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