Monday, August 6, 2012

Try, try again!

Some people never learn. Take the staff at the home for autistic children up the street for example. Every Wednesday evening, they put out the garbage for the next day's pick-up and every Wednesday night a band of masked bandits knock over the bins and spread the smelly garbage all over the sidewalk and lawn. The staff never ever do a thorough cleanup and there is often tidbits of rotting food left behind for our dogs to discover on our nightly stroll.

Yesterday, the situation reached a breaking point for us. The hungry band of racoons weren't waiting for the cover of late night. Two adults and a couple of babies were out brazenly early and had already knocked over the garbage can; giving fresh meaning to the term block party.

In felling the garbage can however, the racoons had inadvertently knocked the can into the road and on-coming traffic. When came out for our evening walk, we noticed with horror that cars were speeding past, nearly hitting the youngest members of the feasting family. While not a big fan of raccoons, I would still hate to witness them being run over by a motor vehicle.

With a few loud claps of my husband's hand, the family was up the nearest tree. I waited at a distance with the dogs, while hubby walked ahead to clean up the mess. He put the garbage can into the home's glassed-in porch and left the staff an angry note. I hope they finally get the hint!

Sometimes we learn by making mistakes. Mistake after frustrating mistake. Vegetable gardening has turned out to be a school of hard-knocks for me. Whatever gift I have for growing things seems to have begun and ended with flowers.

I always thought radishes were easy to grow! So why do mine look like mutant corkscrews? Most of my beans failed to germinate and a baby bunny got the rest. Ditto with my green peas.

I seem to be doing well with herbs; in fact I have expanded my collection to fill several clay pots and one of the four raised beds in the vegetable garden.

Two weeks ago, I had a tiny handful of cherry tomatoes. 

Yesterday, I collected a small bowl and there are lots more on the way. 

The cherry tomatoes add a new level of excitement to everyday summer salads. I love that delicious explosion of sweet-tartness when you bit into these little red fruits.

The larger tomatoes however, have turned out to be a bit of a disaster. Disappointingly, I have only had enough tomatoes to make a few sandwiches.

We waited too long to stake our tomatoes and when we pounded the wooden supports into the soil, the plant's roots must have been adversely affected. I watched with dismay as branches wilted and then turned brown. 

Lesson learned: don't wait to stake your tomatoe plants. Do it when they are still small!

Unfortunately, most of our red currants ripened while we were on a little mini-vacation. When we got back home, we picked what berries remained with the very best of intentions to make some red currant jam. 

The days and even the evenings were roaringly hot at the end of July and so the berries languished in the fridge for a couple of days. 

Then it became a simple choice of braving the kitchen inferno to make some jam or have the berries spoil. 

We started work at a late hour to take advantage of the cooler part of the evening. 

Bad mistake! Adjusting an online recipe to accommodate for our meagre harvest and calculating the conversation of grams to cups at nine o'clock at night proved to be mind boggling. 

We managed it though, without filing for divorce.

Now, are you imagining rows of red currant jam neatly lined up in our pantry? Maybe even enough to see us through the coming winter?

Well, not entirely. After an hour of arguing labour, we had exactly two very tiny jars of jam!

I know, I know! It is kinda pathetic, but we've never made jam before and it was a good learning experience (or at least that's what I keep telling myself). 

Today is a provincial holiday here in Ontario and we opened one of our two jars at breakfast to celebrate.

Take some homemade buttermilk biscuits, slather on a little butter and a dollop a bit of whipped cream  and that red currant jam doesn't taste half bad!

Sometimes it is the little successes that makes you wanting to try, try again.

More Information and Links:

Regrettably, one Quinoa and Grilled Sourdough Salad was lost during the making of this post. 
You can find the recipe for this salad in the vegetarian cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.

I am going to link this post to Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday and to Tuesdays Around the WorldThis and That Thursday, and Fertilizer Fridays at Tootsie TimeBe sure to click the links to visit other wonderful blogs.


  1. I just finished 'oh'ing and 'ah'ing my way through this post. Your garden is so lovely, and so neat!
    My tomatoes are still all green, so it will be a while until I have a tomato sandwich, but we are having something with cucumbers every night.

    That current jam made my mouth water!

  2. I oohed and awed too! So enjoyable, made me hungry for big ripe tomatoes as ours are still all green. Today's almost thirty degrees ought to do the trick!!

    Like Sandy, we are also having cukes every night and I am not complaining as they usually don't do well for us.

    Sorry your veg garden had it's challenges, but remember, every year is different...promise. Next year each of your challenged plants may triumph. Don't give up!!

    Gorgeous photos, as always!

  3. yum I wish I live at your that you fence and border!!.to die for!

  4. I know I've told you this at least 100 times, but your garden is mind boggling to me. My garden wants to be your garden when it grows up! Your recipes look delish! I make mistakes constantly. Live and learn! :o) If your root veggies came out weird, the soil might have been rocky.

  5. Now I'm hungry again!!!! Looks fabulous!

  6. I am longing for my first tomato sandwich of the summer - but the tomato will have to be from a farm market, as we don't have a single one.

  7. The garden by the fence is spectacular. If I hadn't read the text I would have thought you had a roaring success with your edibles as well. Your food photos are fabulous. I'm still waiting for any tomatoes to come along...

  8. Misery loves company...I get what you're saying about the vegie garden. Ours has been a challenge and either the heat affected the roma tomatoes or the greenhouse mismarked the plants because all we're getting are tiny grape sized tomatoes. So much for lovely jars of canned whole tomatoes and salsa. Well...we'll make salsa with the little guys. Your photos had my mouth watering, so delicious.

  9. Well, the harvest may have been meager, but the photos show great abundance and beauty.

    A simple bowl of round red cherry tomatoes is sexy and luscious and beautiful, and the biscuit with oozing jam is tantalizing. I'm coming to your house for lunch.

  10. Beautiful pictures; now I`m HUNGRY!


  11. Stunning pictures. And be proud that you are eating something you grew, no matter how meagre. I too am learning lessons about growing vegetables this year. My tomatoes are just coming to harvest time and I'm heading away for the rest of the week. That means the raccoons will have another feast while we're gone. The stakes we put in much too late also - next year those 6' stakes are going in the ground along with the little tomatoe plants in May. I can't believe that my cherry tomatoes are 8' high!

  12. I wish I had enough room for vegetables. Right now I would have to pull up some ornamentals to grow them, so with several grocers nearby all willing to take my money, I will get veggies there and keep my shrubs and perennials. I do tuck herbs in here and there among the others, they are attractive, and I can eat them. Besides, I need nothing to attract more racoons to the garden.

  13. Your garden, as the food it produces, both look so very yummy! You can be proud of yourself.

  14. I certainly enjoyed this post, very sincere and honest, entertaining as well. That reference to people who dont learn from mistakes is certainly disgusting, and it pertains to us too. Not mainly on me, but because we are now at the middle of non-stop rains for 10days flooding most places here now in Metro Manila and suburbs, i dont want to blame, but many reasons are caused by past mistakes. Regarding your garden i love those hedge spilling over the fence and i enjoy your cherry tomatoes, thanks for the sandwiches :-))

  15. Ha! You crack me up! Good for you first of all for trying something new! All of your food looks so yummy...and two jars of jam are better than none! Your flowers are gorgeous!

  16. Whatever you think you're doing wrong, your pictures show us everything you are doing right :) Love the humouress story behind your red currant jam!

  17. Well I was just about to invite myself over for lunch!

    The good news is that we really all do learn by our mistakes. Experiences are not quickly forgotten whereas for me at least, book knowledge is. Enjoy the successes and never take yourself or your garden too seriously. Oh and enjoy the jam.

  18. What a beautiful border! Georgous. And all of the food looks so good.

  19. Your border is stunning and I'm sure your jam tastes wonderful, all the better for being home grown!

  20. Your foodie photos are mouthwatering at least you managed to get something for your labours. My tomato harvest has been practically nil so far - because we aren't having many sunny days they show no signs of ripening and my redcurrant harvest has been poor compared to other years. We all seem to be having our problems this year.

  21. Jennifer, I love your tomatoes, mine are not yet ripe. And I think the salad is very tasty with red cherry tomatoes. All looks beautiful!

  22. Beautiful photographs, fine views, eating are looking tasty. I am greeting

  23. Looks delicious! Good, that the raccoons survived..

  24. What a beautiful post especially love the fence photo!

  25. Jennifer - I giggled all the way through this post.
    OK - so some do better with veggies than flowers and vice versa. YOU are obviously a master of flower gardening! Let someone else do what they do best (vegetables, for example). I too have had a horrible time growing tomatoes this year. I think my problem was watering too little during these terrible times of drought. Next year, I plan on buying my beefsteak tomatoes at the local farmer's market. Might as well do what I consider fun (flower gardening) as opposed to what turned out to be "work".
    (PS - That shot of the fence border took my breath away!)

  26. You are certainly doing well with the flowers this year looking at the gorgeous photos you have shared.

  27. What a lovely pictures you made again. The beautiful border along the fence, the salads with home grown tomatoes, and at least you have 2 pots of red currant jam. The birds have eaten all my red currants, I'm glad they don't like black currants, so that they left something for us. You can be proud on your garden!

  28. I was so happy you saved the raccoons. I too would have been sad if they became roadkill. I like how you presented your vegetables and fruit,very magazine like. Your story was entertaining too.

  29. Quinoa salad looks great!!! Lessons learned one year are hopefully retained to the next...provided the season is the same as this one.
    We had currant jelly in the fridge one summer and my husband thought it was a sweet a good pucker!!

  30. Oh gosh your post is a feast for my eyes. All the yummy food and BEAUTIFUL flower garden! First of all it is sad about the trash and raccoons. What a mess. Not sure why people can't figure it out but perhaps they don't come early enough in the morning to get the trash out in time so they do it at night? They need a cage to wheel the cans to the roadside and keep them upright. Your currant biscuit looks fabulous!!

  31. I do not have a talent for vegetable gardening either, but I keep trying. I love home grown food. The food you did grow looks delicious.

  32. I can understand how that salad was lost during the making of this post--it looks delicious! I have just a small vegetable garden, and though I've had one for years, I've found that the results are different every year. Vegetables seem to react more to weather conditions than flowers, I think. My cool crops got toasted by the heat before they produced very much. But as long as I have enough fresh tomatoes at the end of the season, I'm happy.

    You may not be happy with your vegetable garden, Jennifer, but you certainly can grow flowers--the first photo of the border by your fence is beautiful!

  33. Jennifer, you have no reason to feel bad. At least, not compared to me and my pitiful crops. Hey, you're putting food on the table.

  34. You may only have two small jars of jam, but it does look very good.
    Sometimes you have to wonder at people's stupidity. I certainly hope those responsible for putting the bins out have taken note!

  35. I have a hard time remembering to stake the tomatoes while they're small, too. Your cherry tomatoes look wonderful. And the jam looks so good! Having just two jars makes them extra special. We have to put bungie cords on our garbage can lids to keep the raccoons out. They can be very persistent!

  36. Me encanta la primer imagen, la composición y la textura, además del colorido!!Un abrazo grande.

  37. My goodness, oh my goodness...I just turned green (no pun intended) with have my dream garden. How did you get it to look like that in only 8 years? You have a gift...thank you for sharing it.

  38. I love the garden in front of your white picket fence. I've saved the picture as one of my pins. Can you tell me what you planted ?

    1. The planting has changed somewhat over the years, but in the picture you see here there are Rudbeckia (the yellow daisy-like flowers: Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm') and two types of Phlox (purple and pink flowers: Phlox Paniculata, 'Laura' and Phlox Paniculata 'Eva Cullum'). I think some of the best photos of this combination of plants can be seen in a post from August, 2013:


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