Sunday, October 29, 2006

It was a Dark and Stormy night....

The wind wailed like a banshee through the cedar hedge as ghost, goblins, witches, and ghouls walked the world looking for yummy treats. The pumpkin was lit from within, his ghastly grin facing whatever may brave the ringing of the bell. A happy yell of Trick or Treat, or a shriek and a giggle as the fear became unbearable, heralded their arrival.

The treats are all gone, the lights extinguished. The streets are quiet and dark. Now is the time for the Samhain bonfire and the talk of the loved ones long gone. The feast has been eaten and glasses raised, celebrations have come to an end. The world grows a little darker as the bonfire dies down and people start thinking of warm beds and loved ones still alive. The New Year has begun and life must go on.

Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Introducing BooBoo, Assistant Carpenter

I'm a cat person and Sparrow Haven has become an unofficial, if small, cat rescue. When we arrived at Sparrow Haven we had three cats, two we had raised from kittenhood and another we rescued from the streets of Edmonton, Alberta. Now we share our house with ten cats in total, most of whom have been rescued in some form or another.

One of our most recent rescues is Booboo. He was born a barn cat, and was the only surviving male of 18 kittens. I took him and one of his half sisters in when the farmer threatened to drown them. He was a beautiful black and white cat and I tried to name him Checkers. The name just didn't seem right and so I kept looking. He discovered the upstairs banister at about the same time I discovered that he had no sense of balance. After the third fall from the banister upstairs to the first floor, we realized we would never be able to call him anything other than Booboo.

Like most barncats, that have not been handled, Booboo and his sister were both very wild when we got them at six weeks, running for cover at the slightest sound or move on our part. As they have aged they have become less the wild barncats and more the timid housecats. Cassie, Boo's sister is still quite skittish at times but loves to sneak into my lap while I watch TV. She then kneads my stomach, purrs loudly, and occasionally drools on my arm.

Booboo hates to be held but is otherwise much less skittish and more affectionate than his sister. He greets us at the door with loud, plaintive cries demanding attention and tummy rubs. He'll arch his back if we even think about bending over to pet him, and usually in the process falls over on his side with a loud thump. Yep, he is still clumsy but thankfully he doesn't climb on the banister upstairs anymore.

This weekend we bought a large chef's table for the kitchen that had to be assembled. I decided sooner was better than later. Well Booboo decided he wanted to help. He inspected every single piece of wood as I removed it from the shipping carton, even climbing into the assembled top to give a full and proper inspection to the joints and drawer slides.

While I was screwing the pieces together he made sure that my spacing and alignment were to his exact specifications, even going so far as to move the boards if they weren't to his satisfaction. Considering some of the layouts he came up with, I wonder if he can see in a straight line. If not, that may explain why he can't walk a straight line and he falls over all the time.

Of course, like most cats, Booboo has a very short attention span. After all the hard work of arranging boards and telling me how to assemble the table what more can an overworked kitty do but take a nap. He tried to keep an eye on me, to make sure I wasn't goofing off, but like most overlords, he soon found himself unable to stay awake as his minion slaved on. Bless his little heart.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The End of the Garden

I always get melancholy at the end of the growing season. So much work and effort goes into growing a decent vegetable garden, with mixed results and questionable success. It's hard to see Mother Nature come along and destroy it all with the smallest of efforts on her part.

Friday evening we got a surprise dump of snow. It piled up three or four inches deep and was coming down so hard that we could barely see a few feet ahead of us. By the time we got home and unleaded the truck, the snow had started to melt. Unfortunately, the damage was done.

All the pumpkin leaves are broken and laying on the ground, the fruit still green instead of brilliant orange. The pepper plants are all wilted and the dozens of tiny peppers turned to mush by the snap cold. The squash faired little better than the pumpkin, with mounds of tiny squash turned to so much compost.

But, with the end of this growing season so the planning for next years has begun. I've drawn layouts of the raised beds, decided on what vegetables to grow, and have even taken a loose inventory of left over seeds. So the circle continues; I plant, nurture, grow, harvest, and eat only to start over again the following year. But each successful growing year I feed myself and others, and I know that if it comes right down to it I can feed my family from my small garden.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Lazy Day

It's been wet with a cold wind blowing across the world this weekend. I find myself feeling lazy, drowsy, and in no hurry to accomplish anything at all. The extent of my work has been to wash a couple loads of laundry, cook a roast and vegetables, and just today took a few minutes to pull the dead beans and squash out of the garden.

We spent a couple of hours taking a long Sunday morning drive, looking at the changing leaves, seeing farms and homes decked out in Halloween colours, and in general talking about our plans for the future. As much as we love Sparrow Haven we also want a large lot of land to raise chickens, have a cow or two, and plant an orchard and a nice big garden. We'd also like to have some wooded land so we can harvest our own firewood every fall, rather than relying on local sellers to have some available.

As I write this entry I look outside the window and watch the rain heavy clouds gather and think how wonderful it is to be able to relax in front of the fire and talk to my beloved. We share our hopes and dreams and make plans both short and long term. We plan out the garden for next year and discuss which building projects we want to get done and which can wait. We enjoy the company of our children, all four footed and furry.

The fall is a truly blessed time for us. A time for looking behind to understand our mistakes, and a time for looking ahead to where we want to be tomorrow, next year, five years, and even further ahead than that. It is a time to put aside the toys of summer and prepare for the winter. It is a season for review, last minute preparations, and like today, it is a season to rest and relax.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Day of Thanks

Monday is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada. It is a day for feasting, family, and relaxation for most people and a day to give thanks for some. It's quite common to see entire families sit down to their meal and say a prayer to their preferred Supreme Being. Others will spend an entire day in quiet contemplation.

At Sparrow Haven we spend the day cooking a nice, though not elaborate, meal and just enjoying each others company. I am thankful on all days but Thanksgiving is a day set aside for giving thanks. So during the hustle and bustle in the kitchen I always find some part of my mind thinking about all the things I am thankful for. When I do this, a kind of peace comes over me and I feel more compassion for my fellow man and all the other beings that share this wonderful world with us.

What are you thankful for?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Breakfast Breads

I love trying new foods especially breads. I'll taste them two or three times and then try to replicate the recipe at home. Most of the time I don't actually come anywhere near the product I was trying to make but I almost always create something that tastes good and is more nutritious because I use wholesome ingredients.

The most recent experiments have been trying to recreate Dempsters' Breakfast Pitas. They are a 4 inch round of soft, chewy dough, with different flavors like Muslix, Whole Grain, and Cinnamon Raisin. I've been trying on and off all year to create something similar so we can have them for breaks at work and evening snacks.

Today, I finally made a recipe that is very similar to the breakfast pitas. I took a recipe for Greek flatbread off of and altered it by adding the flavorings I think Dempsters uses. Even though they weren't exactly like the pitas from the store they turned out quite good.

7 Grain Apple Cinnamon Pitas
4 cps white flour (I used unbleached white)
1 packet yeast (2 1/4 tsp if you have it in bulk)
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cp warm water
1/2 cp apple pie filling
1/4 cp crushed nuts (I used walnuts)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cp Red River cereal or other 7 grain cereal mix

1) Mix flour, salt, yeast, and cereal in a large bowl.
2) Mix water, apple jam, and oil in a cup stirring until jam is dissolved.
3) Make a cavity in the centre of the flour mix and add the liquid mix.
4) Slowly mix the two until you get a soft dough. Dough should not be overly sticky.
5) Place on a floured surface and need until smooth, about 5 minutes.
6) Shape into a ball, brush with a little extra oil, cover and let rise until double.
7) Knead for a couple of minutes and cut into 12 equal pieces. Roll these pieces into balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Cover and set aside until they double again.
8) Roll each dough ball out to about 5 inches across and 1/8 inch thick.
9) Place 1 layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
10) Preheat oven to 475F. Brush pita surface with water and bake for 5 minutes. Pitas should be firm, not hard. Insides should be fully cooked and soft.

To serve, simply toast them in a toaster or brush with oil and toast in a skillet.