Friday, May 28, 2010
Chisel was taken from us early this morning. Hubby found him on the road on his way to work. He had been hit by a car. This is always a fear with pets that are outside, as we live on a busy highway where 80k/hr is the speed limit and folks usually go faster than that. Our driveway is about 250 ft long, but for a cat, that's not much.
We are surrounded by forest, I don't know why he was on the road or why the Lord took him today. We have to remember that the Lord is in control here, over every aspect of our lives. We are just thankful that we were allowed to have and love Chisel for the short time we knew him.
So, today we are mourning. This day has been set aside for that. I buried Chisel in the back field beside Barney, our 15 year old shitsu/bichon that passed away last July. I said my goodbyes to Chisel then. I say hello to Barney when I pass that way and remember him. I will do the same with Chisel now.
He was the most loving and affectionate cat I have ever known. He LOVED to snuggle more than anything.
He was closer to my son, who is 24, than anyone. They slept together and spent a lot of time together here. My son is a strong and wise young man who will, I am sure, recover from the loss but, neverthless, it will be hard for him.
It is hard not to blame myself for letting Chisel run free outside, but he loved it so! It was much more interesting a life than it would have been if he had only the confines of the house to live in. We could not take that away from him. We also have to remember that the Lord is in control here.
If we had known the short time that the Lord was giving us this great gift, would we have declined to know and love Chisel? No, of course not. We would have still taken him and loved him like the gift from God that he was, even for such a short time.
That said, Abby is now a "housecat". She was outside with me this morning. I chased her down and brought her inside where she will stay, for awhile anyway, at least until we remember that her life is in the Lord's hand too. When its her time and His plan, He will take her too, outside cat or not. All things work together for good and for His glory. This is the essence of faith.
The same goes for all of us. I, for one, am ready.
Goodbye, Chisel, my little buddy! We will miss you!
Monday, May 24, 2010
I have recently discovered making my own wine from scratch and I love it, especially the flower wines! It is so much fun and I can be so creative in what I use. I have had such a good response to the few I have posted here that I have made an entire post of the wine ideas. The ones I have posted so far are dandelion wine and lilac wine.
These are, for the most part, my own adaptations from reading and several recipes combined. I am omitting the sulphite and using boiling water, or perhaps food grade peroxide for now. If I find a better solution I will post that too. If you use the peroxide, make sure you rinse everything thoroughly. The peroxide will kill your wine yeast.
I am going to use as many flower petals as possible to get the most flavour. Some wines are ready in six months and other need to age at least a year. Dandelion needs at least a year, even two, to age. Hibiscus and rose can be ready in six months. I am going to bottle some of each kind into a few beer bottles. They will take a cork and are small for tasting.
Time will be my enemy here. I plan to pick enough blossoms and freeze until I make the wine. I have dandelion and lilac in the freezer now. I had thought to pick a gallon of apple blossoms for apple blossom wine but I was too busy planting and missed them. The day I went out with bucket and scissors in hand, they were gone :-(
Oh well, there's always next year.
Here is a list of the flower wines I want to make from flowers that I have access to. There are so many of them!
- Hibiscus (If I don't use my big red one for soap colour.)
- Calendula (NOT marigold)
- rose petal and rose hip or a combination of both
- Fruit tree blossom
- Bee Balm petal (monarda)
- Dahlia (the bulbs are apparently edible too!)
- Peony (Maybe, if I get enough blooms and want to use them)
- Mint flowers
- Lavender (next year when I have enough blooms)
- Impatiens gladulifera (all impatiens are edible.)
- Hollyhocks (next year when I have blooms)
- Gladiola (Do I want to pick my beautiful glads for wine? Hmmm...have to think about that one.)
- Squash flowers
- Sunflower petals
- Sweet William (If I want to pick them. They are so beautiful!)
- Yarrow (I have red and white for a light pink wine)
- Trout lilies
For right now I am just collecting the blossoms by the 4 litre ice cream bucket full and putting them in the freezer. I need jugs and ingredients before I make any. I have one jug, I just need to get to the wine store for the ingredients.
Update Aug 18, 2010: I now have free ebook for download entitled "Making Organic Wine At Home". Its available under the "Free E-Books" tab at the top.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
We eat a lot of cookies around here so I have developed a recipe that makes them fairly healthy. Although they do contain a fair amount of sugar, it is not "empty" calories.
One thing I have added is Quinoa grain (pronounced "keen-wah").
Here is more info about quinoa:
"The quinoa seed is high in protein, calcium and iron, a relatively good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. It is exceptionally high in lysine, cystine and methionine-amino acids typically low in other grains. It is a good complement for legumes, which are often low in methionine and cystine. The protein in quinoa is considered to be a complete protein due to the presence of all 8 essential amino acids. Some types of wheat come close to matching quinoa's protein content, but grains such as barley, corn, and rice generally have less than half the protein of quinoa. Quinoa is 12% to 18% protein and four ounces a day, about 1/2-cup, will provide a childs protein needs for one day."
I chose quinoa as an additive because of the protein content. I can even eat some of these cookies, within reason, without suffering a carb "crash". I sometimes grab a couple for breakfast before heading out to the fields in the early morning when nothing else is available that is quick and ready to go, after the two cups of coffee, that is. No, I don't grow my own coffee...yet, but I might look at growing my own quinoa, maybe later.
I buy it from a bin at the bulk food store. Its readily available in many grocery stores, but more costly there. I also grind it before adding it uncooked to things like cookies. I have a small coffee/spice grinder that I use for that.
I love my grinder and use it to grind a lot of things!
I have started using Demerara sugar also from a bin at the bulk food store. I use it mainly becuase of the high molasses content. I love molasses! Molasses is high in iron and a lot of other minerals and I just like the taste. I particularly like it with peanut butter on something hot, where the peanut butter melts and the molasses mixes in with it. No one else in my family shares this love of molasses, but they like the cookies.
You can use regular brown sugar in this cookie recipe, if you want to.
I use hard whole wheat flour, also from the bulk food store. We are trying our best to get away from using white flour for anything. I might even start making our own burger buns with hard whole wheat flour.
I know people who refuse to eat things from bins at the bulk food store but I shop there a lot. I am cooking these things in the oven, after all, so whatever might have been sneezed in there is going to be dead when it comes out of the oven. The bulk food store where I shop is a very clean, well manned, professional place anyway. Sure, there are people out there who will sneeze in the bins in a store, but they are few and far between. We have to be reasonable, people.
Another thing I add is ground flax, only because I have quite a lot to use up and its good for you.
The recipe makes a lot of cookies, several dozen. I make them small enough to fit into those "snack" size zip lock bags.
Recipe for chewy healthy oatmeal cookies
Preheat oven to 350F
- 1 lb butter, 2 cups melted (I do this in a glass 2 cup measure in the microwave, 2 mins)
- 2 cups white sugar (you can lower this for less sweet cookies)
- 2 cups brown sugar, packed into measure
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1.5 cups light weight commercial cereal (Spec K, flakes, rice)
- 2 cups combined ground and whole grains (quinoa, flax, ground nuts, etc)
- 5 eggs (you can add an extra egg for even more protein content)
Mix these altogether in extremely large bowl. Then add:
- 3 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 5 cups flour
- 2.5 cups your choice combined raisins/nuts/shelled sunflower and squash seeds/chips (choc,butterscotch,peanut butter)
Mix into dough. You will need to drop the spoon and use your hands at some point.
Roll into balls and bake on greased cookie sheet for 11-13 mins. Make sure your oven is baking at the right temperature.
I freeze what doesn't fit into the cookie jar. These never get hard. We even eat them frozen. I like them better that way.
My clothesline runs from the high deck railing in the back, to a post we put into the ground for that reason. I like that it starts at the deck rail which is about waist height. I reach down without bending to hang my clothes on the line, not up, and I don't have to leave the deck to do so.
There is a huge oak tree in that direction with a clothesline pulley embeded in it. The bark has grown over the side of the pulley so it has been there quite awhile. I considered just attaching my new pulley to the one that is there, giving me a longer and higher line, but that might not be good for the tree. Each time I used the clothesline and the wind blew it, it would pull ever so slightly on the embeded pulley in the tree. This might irritate the tree wound enough to reopen it and constantly pull on it enough to keep it open. This could eventually kill the tree and I like my trees. I have three massive oak trees that have been growing here for many decades, if not a century.
Up until late last summer, I complained constantly about the mildew covered clothespins and refused to use them on good clothes when they got to that point. (Those of you who keep them indoors and always bring them in with you probably don't have that complaint.)
Last year I discovered plastic clothespins and I love them!
They come in regular and extra large sizes. This is an extra large one. The extra large ones are great for heavy items like jeans. All the plastic clothespins have a hole at the back of the clip that the line goes into, so there is no pulling these babies off the line no matter how big the wind is. That said, extra large puppies could probably do it. (Shhhh...we don't want to give them any ideas.)
This is one of the small ones, the regular size. I like the plastic grip they have inside the clip.
These plastic clothespins take all kinds of weather without growing mildew and they don't come apart leaving you with a single stick instead of a clothespin. I have had these for almost a year now. They still look like new and I keep them outside all the time.
Of course, they are no good for things that say "lay flat to dry". (Who buys clothes they can't dry?) This one was given to me.
Along with the plastic clothespins, you also need a couple of these roller thingies. (It's an industry term.) It holds the bottom line up and keeps it from sagging and it rolls with the clothesline. Its a great invention and works very well!
The best part: I got the clothespins at the dollarstore. "Dollarma" for those of you in Ontario. Twelve small or ten large for $1.00. Don't you just love the dollar store! I got the roller thingie at a garage sale. I have no idea where one might buy one of those.
The basket, on the other hand, needs to be replaced with a plastic one.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
About two weeks ago, we decided that keeping 20 chickens was just too much trouble and too costly. Even with selling all the extra eggs, it wasn't worth the time and effort to keep them. So we sold them all, lock, stock and barrel as the saying goes. They went to a wonderful young couple with a sheep farm in the Orillia area where they will run free and live in a barn with the other chickens.
In another month or so, we will buy 6-8 young laying hens for us. Just for us and our pets. I am planning on making my own cooked dog food next spring when the boys are a year old and will need eggs for that. We eat eggs too, but about six a day, every day will be enough for our needs.
If the eggs are not for sale, we can relax a bit on the feed and shell quality and let them eat whatever they want instead of expensive layer feed. We will probably give them a bit of the layer feed but I am growing a lot of seed this summer for them. We are hoping it will save us quite a bit on the cost of keeping our own chickens.
I don't miss them yet. I must admit, they were getting to be a bit much for me with all the planting and other spring projects there are to do right now. The addition of the pups just put me over the top. I needed the extra time for our boys.
I want to build our new chickens a portable, fenced run with wheels so we can move it around the property, sort of like a large 2' tall fenced box with a small house at the end for roosts and nesting boxes. They will move into the insulated chicken house when winter comes. I will need to replace the floor before then.
They don't need the predator protection with the boys running free outside but they will need some protection from the boys while they are still puppies. I want them sort of contained so the chickens are not in the garden also, but other than that they can roam. The portable fenced box seems to be a perfect solution. I can move it to empty fields when the crops are done and onto grassy areas too.
Its a change for us. We have had chickens for a few years now. Our eggs customers are a bit dissappointed but they are all nice people and they understand.
Fresh farm eggs are great food and we will always have our own chickens and eggs for ourselves, family and pets, we are just not going to sell them anymore.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
We LOVE fresh corn on the cob and look forward all summer for our corn to be ready. This year I am home full time, for a change, and have the time to plant the corn correctly.
Corn, like tomatoes, will grow roots up the stalk that is below ground. If you want strong corn that will withstand high winds, its a good idea to give it deep roots by planting, shallowly, in a trench. You then fill in the trench as the corn grows above the sides.
We have been through the corn that falls over during a storm or just falls over - period. Has anyone else experienced this mysterious corn toppler? Corn that is just laying on the ground in the morning for no apparent reason at all is very frustrating! At least, if it blows over in a big wind, I can put some reason to it but to just have it laying on the ground after a still and peaceful night can be maddening AND IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN THIS YEAR! I am not going to let it.
Anyway, to make a short story long, I planted it in the bottom of a trench this year, eight rows of trenches to be exact. Each trench is about 8" deep and the corn is planted shallowly in the bottom. I would have liked to make the trenches even deeper but, well, its just me and I had a lot to plant and time is short, you know how it goes...
I plan to hill them up like potatoes, as they grow.
After I dug the trenches and planted the corn, I watered it thoroughly. We are going to be about 1.5 weeks without rain, until it rains this weekend so I am watering everything now as I plant it. We are on a well and have a lot of water. The water table is so high here that just on the other side of our fenceline is a black standing water swamp that never dries. Big machines have been running back in there lately, clearing trees and such. I think they are working out a way to drain it now that the forest belongs to the city. I hope so! It makes the mosquitoes bad here! Bats are very welcome!
Another way to keep the corn erect is to plant pole beans to climb on it. Three or four vines per stalk is enough. The beans will hold the stalk up in a strong wind and give it strength. They will also add nitrogen to the soil as they grow, giving the corn the extra nitrogen that it needs. Corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder.
(This is not my picture.)
I started three flats of corn early indoors this year to get a head start on it. I planted it out in the garden a couple of weeks ago. Then came the snow. It didn't survive. Transplanting tiny plants is a lot more work than planting seed. I don't think I will do that again.
Our corn is not up yet but I check on it daily, hoping it is tall enough to plant the pole beans that will grow on it. This is a short version of the "Three Sisters Garden" without the squash. Our squash has it's own garden. I spent yesterday planting it. Now we just wait and wait...
Monday, May 17, 2010
I have discovered that I can make lilac wine! I can make wine out of many various flowers that I have in my garden. The important thing is that I pick them at their peak. Right now they are half opened bloom and half bud. I figure the buds will be even better than fresh blooms, so I chose today to pick the lilacs to make a gallon of wine.
I have been reading about lilac wine lately and it sounds wonderful! Apparently you can smell the bouquet of the flowers when you open the bottle! I don't know what colour it will be. I am hoping for a delicate, pale purple, light bodied wine.
Today I went to my favourite lilac spot and picked a box full. (Its just across the road.) They smelled great and filled the car with their scent!
I do have my own lilac bushes, full of lilacs but the bushes are still small and I didn't want to cut my flowers off. If you are going to try this at home, make certain that your "lilac" bush is a 'syringa' variety (does not have to be purple) and not some other flowering shrub you have been calling a "lilac". Not all flowering shrubs are edible!
I took the box of lilacs from the car to the outside tap and dumped them on some clean grass nearby. I proceeded to rinse them all off carefully, by the big handfull and return them to the box.
I sat outside in the lovely afternoon on the porch steps and slowly cut off the little flowers and buds. It was tedius work and took awhile but it was a beautiful day. I figured I could afford the time, as I planted all the corn this morning! (More on corn planting in my next post about: How To Grow Corn.)
The pups snored and snoozed on the cool porch behind me. They have a hard time in the heat of the afternoon these days. I don't know what they are going to do in August! They had a good sniff of the box of lilacs, the bucket they were going into, the scissors and they had a big cold drink when I rinsed the flowers off. They are always interested in anything going on in their range, at first anyway, but they have a fairly short attention span. After all, they're not even four months old yet.
After carrying off the odd lilac cluster to play with, making me get up and retrieve it, they settled down to sleep the afternoon away while I worked nearby.
At the end of the afternoon, this is what I ended up with. I stopped to put dinner on and left a few clusters in the box. If they are still fresh tomorrow morning, I will add those flowers and buds to the bucket but I have enough now for a gallon of wine.
I put on the lid, labelled it and set it in the freezer beside the dandelion petals still sitting there. I am having a hard time making it to the wine store for supplies.
I have deicded to make my wines, henceforth (from now on) without sulphite. I am also going to use wine yeast for all of them. This particular recipe called for champagne yeast, but I like the taste of wine, so I am using wine yeast. I might also add 1/2 lb of white chopped grapes for body. I haven't decided that yet. I have also added the pectic enzyme to the original recipe. I am adding it to all my flower wines. It eats up the pectin in the wine so it will be sparkling clear. It won't add any flavour or chemical taste to the wine. Its a natural product.
I think this wine, with its smell of flowers blooming and lilacs, will be just the cure for winter blues in February!
Update Aug 18, 2010: I now have an ebook for sale entitled "Making Organic Wine At Home". Its available at our new Providence Acres Farm Store. We will be adding more things as they become available.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
I have decided to use my veranda ceiling for stoarge. When we first moved here I had grand visions of filling it with dried herbs, sunflowers and beautiful things like that, just hanging there drying like an old fashioned farm.
I took a few days and strung the wire using U-nails. I stretched it all the way down the entire vernada roof.
I put three strands of wire across the entire lengh, skipping the part just over the front door. I figured that visitors wouldn't want things like dried herb leaves and flower petals falling on their heads. Who wouldn't want lovely smelling dried herbs and flowers falling on them?
This year I decided to use it. I hung all my grapevine wreaths and hanging pots up there when I tidied the porch. I intend to hang sunflowers and herbs up there to dry! I might also use it to dry tobacco and other useful things.
It makes a good storage space for anything else I want out of the way. I completely ignored it for two years! I can't believe I didn't take advantage of such a useful storage spot before now! I could hang all my useless junk up there and have a redneck porch...uh, maybe not.
I made this handy hook out of a mop handle. I got the idea from a Martha Stewart magazine. Can you believe that! Martha Stewart and I think alike! (No, really. You can quit laughing now.)
It just hangs up there out of the way until I need it.
I bet you thought the snow had killed me off, didn't you? It almost did!
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Well, I woke up today, on Mother's Day of all days, to snow on the ground! Can you believe it! Snow! In May, for Pete's sake! Never before in my lifetime have I seen snow past mid April, never!
The picture above is my beloved berry garden covered in snow :-(
I was going to pick more dandelions and cut the grass...
One would think that we would be so used to 3 feet of snow that it wouldn't bother me, but this is not the case. I think that we here in the Great Lakes snow belt have so much of it all winter, that we rejoice in its absence even more when spring finally arrives, supposedly for good. One cannot spend two weeks in bare feet and flip flops to suddenly be immersed in winter boots and coats again. ITS NOT FAIR!!!!
The pups seem undaunted by the snow. Jake ran along the ground with his tongue out, licking it up. They are still jumping and playing out there, but I have noticed that they spend more time snuggled together in their large, warm doghouse on the porch than they did in the warm weather. Great Pyranees dogs have a double coat with a down like fur against their bodies, for the coldest winters. Adult dogs will often sleep outside in the snow, but these guys are just babies and are not used to it.
This is my deck and Barbecue. It doesn't look very inviting, does it?
Last, but definately not least, is my little greenhouse. The temperature is forecasted to be at freezing tonight (0c, 32f). Will my seedlings be ok out there? Should I bring in my favourite peppers. sweet potato and tobacco seedlings? I think I will do that today. Everything looks ok in the greenhouse but I don't want to take chances with my best stuff.
The coldframe is completely buried.
We won't even go there :-(
Saturday, May 8, 2010
I recently received two small bottles of Rigas Black Balsam Liquor. I am calling it liquor instead of liquour because it is 45% alcohol. Some puriest may say that it is a liquour because it is not produced purely by distillation but I don't care. Its still strong drink!
It is so mysterious, so Earthy! I am a little afraid to drink it, so awed am I by the history and possibilities!
GridSkippers Blog calls it "... a strong, dark, scary Latvian booze made from a centuries-old secret recipe of things you can find in the forest. It has the consistency of crude oil and, to the untrained tongue, the bitter flavor of death, but Black Balsam is an acquired taste that pays off big. The first sip will make you shudder, but when you take your second sip and taste the hints of linden blossom, birch bud, valerian root, and raspberry, you'll see that it's really the flavor of life itself. In addition to its potency as booze (alcohol content: 45%), it's also said to have medicinal qualities, which, speaking from experience, means that it can make you well when you're sick, and sick when you're well."
I have been looking for baking recipes that use it but have been unable to find any.
I am betting that it would be good in a dark rum pecan pie! I have some Jamaican rum saved just for that.
I might just put my Rigas with dark chocolate sauce over ice cream. Yum!!
Here is more info about it from the Nato Summit Herald:
"Riga Black Balsam – the legend since 1752
Riga Black Balsam with its taste, legend and authenticity has survived through the centuries, witnessing the Russian Empire, two world wars and the cold-hearted rationalism of the 20th century. This is one of the rare icons of Latvia that will not only exist in the photographs and memories of visitors to Latvia but also can be purchased and taken home with them.
During the 16th and 17th centuries alchemists tried to produce a balsam that would possess miraculous powers. The recipe for this unique beverage was created in the 18th century by Abrahams Kunce, a pharmacist and blacksmith from Riga. He called his cherished elixir, made of infusions of roots, blossoms and buds, “Kunce’s Black Balsam”. The first written statements about this drink can be found back in 1752.
In 1847 Alberts Volfšmits’ factory was founded and it was here that the real “Riga Herbal Balsam” was produced with the factory operating up to the war year of 1940. It seemed that during the disorder of World War II the recipe of this mysterious balsam was lost. However, after the end of the war, by interviewing old master brewers, Maiga Podračniece, a technologist at “Latvijas balzams”, managed to recreate the recipe completely.
Riga Black Balsam is one of those beverages whose recipe is kept secret. It is impossible to imitate the black balsam. Although the original recipe is still a well kept secret, it is known that the elixir invented by Abrahams Kunce is composed of 24 different infusions of roots, foliage, blossoms and buds. It creates a unique bouquet of tastes where the mildness of linden tree blossom interlaces with the acerbity of the birch tree bud, while the sweetness of raspberries and bilberries is supplemented by the spicy flavours of ginger and nutmeg. One can also savour the fresh flavours of peppermint and melissa. Hedge hyssop and bog beans have also for centuries enriched the Riga Black Balsam recipe with its natural capacity to provide rejuvenation. Valerian and sweet flag roots are also used for making the Riga Black Balsam.
900 litres of this dark beverage will be bottled into new special Black Balsam ceramic bottles. More than 4500 representatives of the NATO Summit delegations and the media will then take this drink with them to many countries around the world.
Legend tells us about the magic powers of the drink. An ailing Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, when visiting Riga was cured by using the Black Balsam. From then on, the drink was delivered to the Tsar’s courts on a regular basis and was appreciated and renowned throughout the whole of Europe. Prominent persons such as the former President of France, Charles de Gaulle, Queen Elizabeth the Second of Great Britain, as well as the leaders of the Moscow Kremlin have all been admirers of this balsam throughout the years."
Does anyone else drink this? Do you have fabulous recipes in which to use it?
I am wondering if I could make some herbal liqueurs myself, from the Earthy things growing here like mosses, mushrooms, flowers, wild mint and herbs...
Would they be good.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Haven't I got a marvelous and thoughtful son??
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I did cut a good bunch today. I cooked them slightly, cut off the tips and put them in a salad for dinner. I wolfed down the bottoms. They were so good with a pinch of salt! I like cooked vegetables in tossed salad. I put all the left over vegetables in a salad the next day. Its all good!
The above photo is the older end of our asparagus bed. This is the new end. I planted these from seed three springs ago, so these are three years old.
Some have pencil sized stalks and so could be cut, but most are still too small. I moved them last summer when they were still growing, so they suffered a bit of a setback. We get a few meals worth of asparagus from the older bed anyway, I just wanted to add to it.
Seed is by far the cheapest way to grow things, if you have the time to wait for it.
The older bed was here when we moved in. It is not a wild bed because it is planted in a circle and has purple tipped asparagus. The best kind! You can sometimes find a wild asparagus bed along the sides of a country road or in a field, but they are rare here.
Fresh spring asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables! After a stale winter, a fresh picked veggie of anykind is very welcome!
Saturday, May 1, 2010
I am looking forward to making wines out of everything possible this summer. After the dandelion and mint wines, I plan to make pea pod wine from the sugar snap pea pods when they are ready and the strawberries!