It has been a super dry summer so far. I’ve been watering every day and while it has been wearing, all the work is starting to pay off. The cucumbers have started coming in. This one hid and got huge so I’m sharing an unsolicited pickle pic!

We grow tomatoes every year and a couple of years ago we added cucumbers to the “must-grow” list. I first trialed growing them purely for fresh eating but when we ended up with a big group that ripened at once I dug out an old cookbook and made up a batch of cucumber relish. We were shocked at how much better it tastes than commercial product. Easy, cheaper and ever tastier than anything we could buy? It’s a clear winner! Now I plant enough that we’ll be able to to get at least 2-4 batches a year.

Cucumber Relish (from Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving)

10 cups chopped cucumbers

6 cups chopped onions

2 cups chopped red or green peppers

1/2 cup pickling salt

1 1/2 cups vinegar

5 cups sugar

1 tsp mustard seed

Mix together all the chopped veggies and add the salt. Put into a sealed container and let sit in the fridge overnight. The following day, rinse the veggies with cool water and drain/squeeze out loose water. Add to pot with the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Then fill sterilized pint jars with the mixture, leaving 1/2″ headroom, top with softened sealing tops and then process in hot water bath for at least 10 minutes. If any of the jar lids don’t seal then store those jars in the fridge or freezer until eaten.

During this COVID crisis, I have been the one who has been masking up (and covering my hair and wearing gloves) and going out as infrequently as we can manage. Even with that as our main plan, we wanted to have some mask options for my father, just in case.

He has a full beard so I needed something that would cover that and still give some droplet protections both for him and anyone around him. This is the very simple and fast option I went with and he finds it easy and comfortable to wear.

The base is a SNL t-shirt that he liked but that was a bit on the tight side for fit. This shirt had a tight neckline so it is able to sit over the nose and head and gives a decent seal. I just ran a pair of seams directly down from the inside edge of the neckline. The seams come down on a slight downwards angle so the mask flares a bit at the bottom. I wanted to keep the printed design so the shirt was cut off just below it. The back is shorter but still fully covers the neck. The edges were turned under and sewn down, but this isn’t really needed with the heavy weave jersey fabric.

Lastly, long strips were cut out of the leftover short and stretched to make ties. They were then roughly sewn into place on the neckline and so it can be tied to secure it.

The fabric is heavy enough that it gives decent blockage without restricting his breathing and fully covers and contains his beard. He wears glasses so it is held down over his nose but if you are not a glasses wearer, inserting a nose wire would do the same job. If you are using a lighter fabric, or need to wear a mask in high traffic areas, it is easy to salvage a rectangle of fabric from the rest of the shirt and sew it as a liner over the nose and mouth area. This could be done with rough hand sewing and would be very quick.

We were happy to have a way to not only give him a comfortable mask option but also refashion a fave printed t-shirt!

It’s been asked enough that I wanted to share some of the places we have used to buy our plants and garden supplies locally.

These are all places we personally use and I’m sharing my own opinions with no support or endorsements from anyone here.

Colour Paradise. They are our go-to place for most of our annual food seedings. (they also have a beautiful range of flowers, tropical plants and planters) Their prices are great, the plants have always been healthy and they have the best range of choices we’ve found in the region. While we’ve always enjoyed wandering through the greenhouse, it has been amazing this year that they are offering online ordering with curbside pickups. 100% worth the longer drive!

Cozyn’s Garden Gallery Our favorite garden place in Stratford. They cover all the garden needs. Fertilizers, soils, seedlings, tools, trees and shrubs and seeds. My go-to for organic pest control options as well. (I use bt for the roses and we had an iris borer problem a few years ago that was successfully dealt with by nematodes) In addition to all this, they also have a beautiful gallery full of garden decor and gift options. (later in the year, they also have garden themed holiday decor!)

Whiffletree Farm They are specialists in cold hardy fruit trees and shrubs. A whole chunk of our permaculture food garden has come from them. They sell bare root plants, mostly, and all we have bought have been large and vigorous. The selection is really wide and they have options for pretty much any level of grower from starting hobbyist to full on commercial. It’s a bit late in the season for them since we often have to order by February to get all our specific wants, but they are still filling orders and may even still have their end of season clearout sale in June!

Lee Valley Tools We love this place for lots of types of tools and small equipment but it is also great for garden stuff. I can’t even list all the garden supplies we’ve bought over the years but their tomato spirals are something I use every year and still find incredibly useful. They were also where we got the bird-safe netting I’m using to protect the haskap bushes. While we miss wandering the store, the catalogue is almost as much fun!

This is my 800th blog post. I figured it was a good time to say that the gallery is permanently closed. This is a decision we made in late 2018 but we were open last year for some closing sales. (the roadwork on Hwy 7/8 really cut into access to us and we knew it would be on again this year and next)

The world is very uncertain right now so we are going to work on personal projects, staying safe and figuring out what’s next for us.

I’m going to keep on posting here and the Etsy shop will stay open. I will also be around for contactless framing projects and repairs.columbine2

Working on jewellery designs in a Good Omens theme was fun. I loved making parts and finding all sorts of bits in the stash to represent the Angel, Demon and their world. I went looking through the pretty wide range of mother-of-pearl drops and pieces and found a few circles that had a very “Planet Earth” colour range to them. They were great, but small enough that all I could really fit properly on them was “Our Side”.4nwgo1

The engraved circle was so clean looking that I decided to stay as minimalist as possible and used only a pair of black and white glass bead flat circles with a smaller silver metal one to join it all together.

After I made my doll head gun, another of the random doll parts caught my eye and imagination. I have a strong urge for puns so just had to go ahead and make an arm gun as well. Just in case anyone missed the joke, I made a display frame for it with “The Right to Bear Arms” scrawled over the background. It was part of the same show at Meet Your Maker.armgun1

Another very simple example of a men’s shirt being merged with a skirt to make a plus sized casual dress. The starting shirt was a 2X and short sleeved. (I typically only go for long sleeves but I liked the colours of this one enough to take it even without them) The skirt was a medium ladies in a light cotton and was very flared so there was plenty of fabric for me to work with.brownprint2

I’d had other altering plans for the shirt but when I found the skirt, they were such a perfect match that I had to just go with combining them.

The shirt was already a good fit for me so the side seams were just opened from below the waist and triangles of the skirt fabric were added. The bottom edge was also cut to a straight line. I like a knee length dress for over leggings so the skirt was cut off about 18” from the bottom hem, which gave enough running length for the widened shirt. As is typical for these pieces, the bottom edge of the shirt was folded under and the top edge of the skirt set behind so they could be joined and finished with a single straight seam.

I was lucky to have a set of vintage fibre optic buttons in the stash that were the exact red tones of both parts so they really pulled it all together and dressed it up at the same time!

In the last big haul of “Steampunk” supplies, there were all sorts of clock and watch parts. It was from a repair shop so while there was a really random mix, there were also a few big groups of things. One was a large number of the tiny ladies watch cases. Another was a box of the matching ladies metal expanding watch bands. The bands were new so were in great condition and had the old, high quality gold plating.

I liked the look of them as well as the fact that they can give a bit of a flex to how they fit. They are also narrow enough to work in necklaces, unlike the men’s.crystalwatch4

I ended up doing a series of asymmetrical pieces combining both. I set faux stones and gems into the watch cases. (I have no idea how people read the time on them since the faces were super tiny!) The bands make up part of the chains.

For this set I was able to find a trio of cases that, while not the same, feel very close to each other. A set of faux rainbow crystal druzy stones were set into each case. Some old stock vintage aurora borealis crystal drops were hung below each of the earring cases. The necklace has three of the drops hanging from a small brass gear. Salvaged glass beads, that have a bit of the aurora borealis sheen, give the set additional flash.

It’s the only one I did with the matching earrings and I love the Steampunk glitz it has!

It looks like we might actually really be at true spring. The weather has been not only cold but very dry so I’ve decided to go ahead and get my bee “fountain” up and running.bb1

We have a concrete birdbath that I used as a planter for years but it was fussy and I never really had a combo of plants for it that I liked for it. In drought periods it was also one more thing to water. Lots of work but it didn’t even look good! When I heard about bee fountains I decided to try converting it to one since I want to do all I can to support our pollinators.bb3

The main part of the basin was filled with clean sand. A large vintage china platter rests in the centre and is filled with a mix of glass beads and marbles. The glass pieces provide places for bees to rest and get a drink. The parts are all easy to wash and it’s shallow so it’s easy enough to fill when I’ve watering the pots on the old well head. (we are on a well so I don’t have to worry about water treatment chemicals) It’s also shallow enough that it won’t host mosquitoes.

A few of the smaller garden sculptures and some pretty rocks are accumulating around the edges. I’m not sure how much it helps but it’s worth a try and I like the new look.

I’m only doing a few shows each year now, but figuring out displays is always something I’m working on. The jewellery I make is really difficult to show because it has such a range of sizes and styles and every piece is unique. I’ve also got lots of other types of things to sell so space is limited.display1

After trying a few different options, I’m mostly happy with this frame design. The base is a 24”x36” vintage frame painted a bright white. A sheet of foamcore has been cut to fit and wrapped in vintage linen then pointed into the frame. I’ve cut a bunch of small rectangles from white matboard and they were made to fit each necklace. The rectangles are notched int he top corners and a pair of holes are drilled into the top center. The corner notches hold the chains in position so each necklace shows it’s design and the holes fit 2-prong pins so I can just pin each one to the frame board.

I can lay out the frame so at least one of most style groups are showing. Every necklace can be prepped on a board and then stored in bags so it’s easy to see what I have as well as show things that are similar, even if they can’t fit on the frame. It’s easy to take them down for trying on, putting them back and replacing any that sell. It can sit on an easel or hang and it’s also generally secure enough that in a rush, I can just move it as is to really speed up the packing-up process!

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