Good bye to the Orchard

It appears as though the Schiller orchard’s going to change hands after 87 years.  That’s an awfully long time to own something!  My dad cleared the land in 1930 and planted the first crop, which would’ve been cantaloupes, water melons, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Eventually he moved into a variety of fruit trees, like peaches and prunes, and finally it was all apples.  When I grew up I had my favourite gnarly old trees in the orchard, and then Luke and Nicky did, too.  It was sad when every single one of them was pulled out and burned in place.

That was because Washington State grows such huge amounts of apples they can dump them on us for pennies, and so apples weren’t worth growing.  Eleven years ago mom took advantage of a government re-plant program and had the whole place re-planted in peaches, prunes, cherries and nectarines.  Back to the old.

It’s now a very high-producing young orchard, and has been brought into excellent shape by our neighbour Teunis who leased it from mom.  We’ve known him all our lives and of course he knew dad well.  So he was so surprised and thrilled when a red delicious apple tree poked up amongst all of the newly-planted trees.

Last year he said it had five apples, but this year he gave mom a box of probably 30 of them.  He said be sure to tell the new owner he can’t tear out that brave tree.  Teunis pointed out the heat of the ashes as they raked them over the Earth.  I said well that’s dad for sure!  He was quite tenacious when you think of the effort to clear that raw land.

But we have to move on and face reality given mom’s 92 and neither Freddie nor I want to become farmers at our ages.  Certainly none of the kids want to do it, so it’s going to be sold to someone who wants to farm and that’s what dad would want.

Here’s another surprise. Ira turned out to be Iris.  You’ll recall I got two “male” kittens, yet one stayed kind of small and I wondered what the heck.  Then I finally got wise and checked their privates and sure enough, I have brother and sister cats.  George is very affectionate and adorable, but Iris is a bit standoffish.

Some nights both of them sleep with Louie and me, and some nights they’re off someplace else.  They’re almost like Siamese twins in that they do everything together.  It’s so cute when they’re both in the litter box peeing in tandem.

Tonight’s Halloween and I’m going to have to turn off most of the lights and hide as I didn’t buy any chocolate bars.  I just can’t trust myself with 96 tiny chocolate bars, knowing I often don’t get any children at all.  Louie’ll bark and bark as they’re knocking, and I’ll just have to mentally absent myself from the whole scene.

Anyway that shouldn’t be hard as I’m mentally absent a lot of the time anyway.  I’m mostly in some richly-detailed fantasy world and quite happy there.  So the reality and stress of the orchard negotiations have been wearing and annoying.  However it appears to finally be settled.

Thanksgiving Menu

The kittens, George and Ira, have basically destroyed the main floor of the house.  I e mailed this to Gitte, another cat fanatic, and she said it’s just a phase, they’ll get over it.  So I just have too remain calm as I right plants and scoop the dirt back in, get the vacuum, and clean every few hours.

As there’ll just be four of us for Thanksgiving dinner, mom, me, Freddie and Wendy, I thought a roasted chicken might be a good idea.  Mom and I aren’t crazy about turkey, so this might be a nice alternative.  I’ll still make stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and have cranberries.

But for fun, I’m going to try a roasted Brussels sprouts, red onion, apple and bacon side dish.  As well I’m going to make diced yams tossed with honey and baked.  We’ll see how these new concoctions turn out.

Something I made at Christmas and loved is rum mousse.  It’s decadent and rummy and lovely after a heavy meal.  But just in case, I’m also making two pumpkin pies, a la The Joy of Cooking as their recipe is nice and low in sugar, yet delicious.  This can be served with dollops of whipping cream to keep us in a good mood.

Due to the dry weather I had no honey this fall because there was nothing for the bees to forage on by late August onward.  So I started feeding them with jars of sugar syrup, and soon will wrap the hives and get them ready for winter.  It’s fine, as my honey extractor’s still not repaired, so what I would’ve done with more honey I don’t know.

Being the lazy person I am, and not having the extractor, I scrape tablespoons of honey and honeycomb right off the filled frames I’ve stored from the early summer harvest.  It fills the room with fresh pollen scents when I open the lid, and I love to eat the “nectar of the Gods” by the tablespoon.  Imagine my weight.

Recently Superstore had little boxes of 10 figs for $10 and I must’ve had 30 figs on my little tree this year.  Isn’t that great?  I have to overwinter it in the garage, then transplant it next spring as its container is way too small.  Imagine next year’s bounty.

But between the figs, bees, kittens, adult cat and dog, I’ve come to the realisation my dream of chickens is going to have to just remain that.  I noticed I was constantly wondering if the kittens were happy, or if Mango was upset due to the interlopers.  I’d sometimes feel sick inside and realised someone like that doesn’t need chickens.

Because then at night, instead of worrying if the bees are warm enough, I’d have to add the chickens to that.  Young cats are often picked off by the coyotes, and I know chickens are a worry given the raccoon family that lives under my cedar hedge.  Isn’t it upsetting enough to wonder how George and Ira will fare?

So this Thanksgiving I’m very thankful for coming to terms and knowing my limits.

Adopted Two Kittens

You’ll recall I was hoping to catch a homeless cat, only to be told by one of its owners that it’s not a homeless cat after all.  I was walking Louie and we ran into the cat and as I petted it a boy rode by on his bike.  He said “that’s my cat” and I asked where he lived and he pointed in the direction of their house.  Quite the wanderer that cute lil’ tabby cat is.

I’d bought a pet carrying case at one of the thrift stores, and checked to make sure I had a litter box and cat litter.  So I was ready for this cat, and then the cat didn’t need adoption after all.

I’ve been browsing the SPCA site, and then today on the residents of Hall Road Facebook page, someone said they had two kittens to get rid of immediately.  If they weren’t adopted today they were off to the SPCA.

I looked at their photo and though not crazy over black and white cats, I made the fatal error of asking if I could see them.  Naturally I brought them straight home.  Unfortunately they hate Louie and Fuji happened to be visiting, and they really hated him even worse as he’s so rambunctious.

They’re currently holed up in my bedroom.  Right after we got home I went in and they hissed at me as they associated me with the dogs.  I then returned with a can of cat food, which they’ve eaten, and now they’re acting nice to me again.  I just have to be sure they don’t see Louie.

Mango has no idea there are kittens in the house which is a very good thing as I’m sure he’ll loathe them.  When he was brought home as a baby Wrecks was already one so he’d beat the kitten up just for sport.  So I think Mango’ll want to pay it forward.

I shook hands with our PM, otherwise known as Mr. Dreamy, at a Liberal event here in Kelowna.  I know, you’re thinking she met the PM and is talking about kittens?  But I’m always about the immediate as you may already know.

But anyway, it was a fab event, held on the rooftop of the new Innovation Centre downtown.  It was a hot evening, but sadly the whole Valley was thick with forest fire smoke so the views weren’t great for the visiting dignitaries.  Every single person from the cabinet was here, and our MP was so hoping to show off the Okanagan at its best.

Our riding executive and some big donors were invited, so it was quite a small event.  I had just one goal: to be photographed with Justin Trudeau.  As he entered the place, I was one of the first people in line.  And joy of joys, he shook my hand and spoke with me.

We only chatted briefly and he said “I need a beer” and headed for the bar.  Undeterred I followed and said “Um…” as I held my camera.  He said “if you want a photo, just ask.”  So here was my one chance, which only I could blow by having my eyes closed.  Dear God.

And so the summer of 2017 comes to a close with a boating trip, a meeting with the PM and two new kittens.

Boating Fun

Luke’s home from the rigs for a couple of weeks, and when he’s here he likes to lash money around.  He decided to rent a boat, and invited Denis, Nicky and I to join him and Jan.  Haruka had to work so couldn’t come.

We were laden with beer-filled coolers, and met the person dropping the boat at the launch near the yacht club at noon on Labour Day.  Luke was the captain, so he was given a few instructions and we all hopped aboard.

Can you believe I’ve lived here for 27 years and have never been on the lake?  So I was quite thrilled with the whole thing as we roared off, headed under the bridge, and off to Rattlesnake Island.  I’ve only ever seen it from the highway, and so was quite intrigued to go up to it.

There were people standing on it, obviously no snakes live there any more, and there were a few kayaks about.  We cut the motor to float and watch the planes scoop water to dump on the Peachland/Summerland fire.  It was actually a rare day of decently clear skies so we could see quite a bit into the distance.

I had the common sense not to drink anything, but I saw Jan down an iced tea and thought oh oh.  Denis soon had to pee, as did Nicky and Luke.  Luke easily stood on the back of the boat, balancing himself while peeing.

Nicky and Denis each tried this stunt, but couldn’t do it.  It was great fun to see these two standing there trying to coax pee out of their bladders.  Nicky had to jump into the lake, swim to shore, and pee behind a boulder.  Denis just toughed it out for the rest of the trip.

As we all complained we had to pee, Luke said this was the last time he was inviting any of us to do anything as we were just so terrible.  I said why is it terrible to have to pee after 5 hours?  I said Jan’s said she has to pee, too and you didn’t include her in the list of people never to invite.

But aside from bladder issues, it was a hot day, the views were spectacular, and we were generally in good spirits.  I adore experiences like that.  And after boating all over the lake, we all agreed renting is the way to go as it’ll likely be another ten years before we want to do that again.  And then of course the fee and the gas are the kicker.

Then the next evening I was one of the privileged few to be invited to the Innovation Centre in downtown Kelowna to hang with the PM.  Yes, you read that right.  I don’t think there were more than a hundred of us there, so there were no people mobbing him and he could just move about the room, talking to folks.

Being the aggressive Hun that I am, I was the first person in line for a photo.  Unfortunately he didn’t know that’s why I was there, so he shook my hand and I had a few moments to blurt out I was a Trudeau girl in 1968.  He then replied, “I’ve got to get a beer” and headed off.

Never one to be deterred, I walked back up to him and said oh, I actually want a photo, and he replied “just ask.”  He’s so adorable.  Sadly, I had to close my eyes at the very moment of the photo, so look stupid, but he looks fab, so I went home feeling satisfied.  Two great events in one week.

How to Catch a Homeless Cat

Tomorrow’s the solar eclipse so maybe that bodes well for my hopes of catching a homeless cat I’ve noticed around the neighbourhood.  I’ve been thinking about it so much the other night I dreamt Mango brought the cat home and I was so happy.  But the reality remains that the cat is on the loose.

Margaret came for her annual summer visit and we ate lots of nice local things, such as peach pie, loganberries the size of our thumbs, and delicious dark red juicy Okanagan tomatoes.  All very lovely, and we also had a nice lunch at the Eldorado where we sat by the lake.

One morning as I was looking out the kitchen window I said to Margaret “there’s that wild cat I want to catch and tame.”  I went down the driveway to call the cat, but to no avail.  I think “here puss puss puss” only works on cats who know that’s meant for them.  Maybe homeless cats don’t know stuff like that.

Here’s a wondrous thing that’s occurred in my life – I now have my very own handyman.  I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have found ‘Syl’.  He’s one of those older, wiry, skinny dudes who can do anything you ask.  Gutters are cleaned, the pebble driveway has been cleared of weeds, broken down spouts have been replaced, the sunroom roof has been washed, and so much more is due to come.

So the other day I told Syl to keep an eye out for that cat, which he did.  He told me he saw the cat right inside this very yard the other day!  So I have to figure out a way to get food out where the dog, squirrels, coyotes and raccoons don’t go, but where a cat might.  Hard.

Can you believe my honey extractor broke after just a couple of uses?  But guess who knows how to fix it?  Yes, good old Syl’s got the broken part, is replacing the bearing, and so I can soon retrieve more frames of honey and spin them.  I’ve been too scared to return to the hive since last time when I couldn’t get the final frame to go into place.

The poor bees have worked like sons of you know whats, to get that sealed as the lid wouldn’t go on flush due to the one corner of the frame not lying flat.  However they’re going to be even angrier, to have worked so hard filling all those frames with honey, and then I go Yoink! and grab their stuff.

I’d really like to get a second bee suit as Syl would be a great help with beekeeping.  He’s looked at the overgrown lower yard area, and knows he has to weed whack the whole thing, but then I want an arbour built for my hardy kiwis.  They’re falling right over, and I have 9 kiwis for the first time and hope they’ll ripen.

So Syl knows he can’t fool around as he has so many things to do, and it should all be done before it’s too cold.  I said to him I do hope you’re not planning on relocating any time soon, and he assured me he’s not.

I’m going to e mail mom’s neighbour Lynne who’s had a lot of adopted homeless cats over the years and see if she can give me some tips on how to get this animal into my house.  The cat’s all happy right now, but by December it won’t feel so plucky.

Hot Rodding

Imagine my dismay upon leaving one of our Liberal executive meetings only to find myself stuck behind the president as we descended Lakeshore Road.  Stan’s an absolutely adorable person, but he drives like an old lady.  I tailgated him down the hill, and as we turned onto Swamp Road we were stopped at a red light.

I rolled down my window, and as he has a convertible I knew he could hear me, and screamed at him “Move over.  Get off the road!”  People in nearby cars and a man on the sidewalk stared, but I continued my rant and started waving my arm indicating “get off.”

Stan had Ken the treasurer in the car with him, and he dutifully pulled over to the side so I could get ahead of him.  Free, I put the pedal to the metal and did the usual giddy spree down Swamp Road, through the first roundabout, through the next roundabout, and home within 10 minutes of leaving Alice, the vice president’s, place.

The next day I sent an e mail to Stan saying hey sorry but I like to make it between my house and Alice’s in ten minutes.  He replied no problem, and said he’s been passed by blondes in red hot rods many times.

Today my bold streak seemed to hold as I went down to the big bee hive and took out every frame, and found five heavy and full of honey, so removed those.  One replaces those with blank frames, and as usual, the last one just wouldn’t go in properly.

If you can imagine, riddling a hive filled with 80,000 angry bees as you try to get the 11th frame into the hive box in a bee suit in the Okanagan in July is no picnic.  I finally gave up, and thought “F. it.”  Yes, I swear when near the bees and am not in any way the image of the calm beekeeper.

And the lower yard is no sea of tranquility for my poor neighbour Pat who’s so neat and tidy in his yard.  However I’ve left the alfalfa to grow wild everywhere, and the bees are having a ball with it.  The result is a field of alfalfa with the remnants of old garden beds evident in places.

But despite the wretched gardening efforts, my season’s been filled with decent bounty.  I had very dark red and lovely rhubarb, followed by sweet strawberries.  I’ve just eaten the last of my blueberries and can pick ripe figs from my little fig tree.

The poor, neglected apricot tree has fruit on it, too, so now I go down and pick a few apricots, warm, from the sun, and eat them right there.  For the first time ever I have little kiwis forming on my kiwi plant.  I’ve had that thing for at least five years and this is the first year for fruit.

And of course I eat lashings of honey and honeycomb.  Jan, Haruka and I just scrape the honeycomb right off the frames and eat it.  Good thing, as the extractor I bought last year for around $200 is a piece of junk and I can’t get the handle to turn at all this year.

Nicky frowns at the pieces of dead bees and other debris in the honeycomb and refuses to eat it, which is unfortunate, as it’s the joy of trying crazy stuff that makes life fun.

Harvesting Honey and Making Jam

Last week my bee friend, Lorraine, came over to help me with my hives.  We looked into the ‘nuc’ or baby hive and she went holy moly.  I guess those blighters had been working like mad and were already getting crowded and in need of a new home.

Fortunately I’d bought a whole new hive at Buckerfields earlier, so we took all of the frames from the small hive and moved them into a new home.  We then went over to the old hive, and Lorraine said “I can hear them buzzing from here” as we came toward it.

Here was another bunch of hard-working bees, and Lorraine just went berserk when she saw the amount of capped honey in the frames in the top hive box.  She said that’s about the amount of honey she used to get after a whole season, and this is just July, and I removed four frames of honey in early June.

But I didn’t have any more blank frames, and Lorraine said I had remove the ones filled with honey ASAP as the bees could swarm if it gets too full in there.  So today I did that, and man were those bees ever angry.  The kid at Buckerfields, the bee expert, said they just get madder as each week goes by into fall.

So now I have five heavy frames of honey to spin, and that’s a heart-sinking thought: The mess of the hot honeycomb knife, the wax on the counter, the physical hell of the spinning, and the mess of getting the honey out of the extractor.

When I say things like that to Lorraine she says brightly you have to think of it as a labour of love.  And I reply I feel more and more like accepting my mom’s offer of $10 to go and buy myself a jar of honey.

And then as these bee excursions always end, I got stung right on the bottom of my chin.  It was so hot with the bee suit on I had sweat blinding me, I was desperate for a moment of air and took off the hood when I thought I was far enough away from the bees.  I wasn’t, as one vindictive maniac decided to follow me and finish me off.

After Lorraine and I looked at the hives, I went to Osoyoos and came home with about 40 pounds of ripe apricots.  Mom loves apricot jam and eats at least 60 jars of it a year, so I have to make an awful lot, which is fine.

But if anyone reading this has tried to make apricot jam, you know it’s got to be one of the trickiest jams in the world to set.  I’ve eaten some jam that would best be called apricot soup, and that’s really nasty.  At least when mine fails, it’s been boiled like hell, so I call it apricot syrup.

And apricot syrup is great for yogurt, on pancakes or waffles, or poured on a roast ham, but mom doesn’t want apricot syrup, the woman wants apricot jam.  She wants it to remain on her piece of bread until she’s eaten it, not dripping over the sides.

So imagine my annoyance at just having made about eight jars of syrup.  Now I have to re-boil these with more pectin, and then surely to God this is going to gel.  Between honey extraction and jam making I’m likely going to have a nervous breakdown.