Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday Traditions

We made a trip into town on Christmas Eve to do our grocery shopping for the next two weeks, and while walking up and down each aisle in the store it struck me that PeterC and I have developed a tradition for the holidays. The holidays for us starts on or very near December 21st and goes all the way through to Jan 2nd and we seem to have a series of routines we follow unconsciously.

We usually have all our Christmas shopping, except food, all finished up by December 21st. For the last couple of years the items have all arrived by mail and we exchange gifts as soon as the packages arrive. Not very glamorous but it does save on the wrapping paper.

One December 24th we go grocery shopping. This involves at least three stores each year and includes shopping for animal and human food. The Christmas grocery list always includes as much food as we can get for our $150.00 budget, since neither of us want to go anywhere near town until we absolutely have to. Somehow, we always end of with frozen Chinese food in our carts on Christmas Eve.

When we get home from shopping we pop the Chinese food into the oven while we put away groceries. When everything is put away the egg rolls and spring rolls are ready to eat and we stuff ourselves, unceremoniously, until our stomachs hurt and we're guaranteed wicked dreams. The left over rolls are put aside on a small table and we snack on them all night, almost right up until we go to sleep.

December 25th we wake up around 9:00 am and eat breakfast while listening to Christmas music, though yesterday we listened to a narrative of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". We play around on our computers for a couple of hours and then go up stairs to enjoy a lazy afternoon of doing nothing. Not exactly nothing. PeterC plays video games while I work on whatever wood or fibre project I have going on at the time.

Christmas dinner always consists of any egg rolls or spring rolls that survived the Christmas Eve gorging and a sandwich of lunch meat. PeterC enjoyed some homemade eggnog, made earlier in the day by himself, with dinner while I enjoyed my normal fair of water. Later in the evening we snack on crackers and chips, and occasionally enjoy a cup of tea.

Boxing Day, December 26th, is another day of rest very similar to Christmas Day. We get up eat breakfast while enjoying a Timmies, Tim Hortons coffee for all the non-Canadians who find this blog, and plug into our computers for an hour or two. At some point one of us, usually PeterC, starts doing a little straightening in the kitchen and we pull out supper fixings in the process, supper will consist of... Yep, you guessed it, Chinese food. Only this time it will home made stir fry and won-ton soup.

After pulling out supper fixings, we head over to the game console where I watch PeterC play video games until supper time. I've come to realize I enjoy watching him play games as it gives me the feeling of playing without the stress and annoyance of having to push buttons and try to actually do any of the moves required to win these things. I wonder if anyone else suffers from vicarious addiction to video games?

This pattern of behaviour; eat breakfast, play video games, eat supper, repeat, continues for the next couple of days. By December 30th we are both getting a case of cabin fever and decide to do one of two things. We either go out for breakfast them hit the mall, which wears us both out and makes us crawl back into our cave happily, or we go out for lunch and go to see a movie at the theatre in town.

For New Years eve we open a bottle of wine, enjoy a few glasses while watching the boob tube and go to bed. New Years day involves cooking a huge meal, because by this time I am dying for something other than Chinese food, and we stuff ourselves once more.

January 2nd we begin getting ourselves back into our non-holiday routine. We eat leftovers for supper, we watch TV, and we go to bed at a reasonable hour as opposed to staying up willy nilly until we're ready to pass out. PeterC gets his work clothes ready and I start concetrating on getting ready for planting season, making lists of what I want to grow and mapping out how I want the garden to be laid out for the coming year.

It seems that we are hardwired to create traditions. I hope each of you enjoys your Holiday Traditions, regardless of how mundane and simple they may be. Season's Greetings from us to you.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"The Chicken" take off of "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a day so dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious link of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my patio door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my patio door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

And so my Edgar Allan Poe-esk story begins.
While I was not dreaming of sweet Lenore, nor was it dark outside,
there was a rap, tap, tapping at the patio door.
A gentle tap, tap, tapping at my patio door.
Thinking a neighbour was seeking assistance,
I peeked out the window only to find no one there.

And the thumping and rustling of each furry kitten
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my patio door -
Some visitor entreating entrance at my patio door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Here Upon I flung the door, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
No, not a raven, just the piercing eye of a prehistoric bird;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched below my patio door -
Perched upon the metal sill just below my patio door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this bold bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the severe soul searching gaze it wore,
`Though thy eyes be stern, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient chicken wandering from the coop -
Tell me what it is thy art looking for!'
Quoth the chicken, `Feed me More'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl,
Who wandered to my step;
Asking so persistently, Nay demanding
By her severe demeanour
Feathered beast sitting below my patio door,
With such cry of 'Feed me More!".

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Egg Eater!

We have an egg eater and I am so disappointed. One of the hens has decided that all the work of the other hens is there for her to crush and eat. I know we have an egg eater because I have found empty and cracked eggs for the last three days.

We normally get 7-9 eggs a day but Friday was the worst. We only got 3 eggs and one of those had been pecked hard enough to leave a gaping hole. While cleaning out the broken egg I found 3 crushed egg shells, and Queenie was dead set on eating the shells before I took them away from her.

Needless to say I suspect Queenie is the egg eater, but I am refraining from putting her in freezer camp until I know for sure she is the culprit. Problem is I can't catch her doing it so all I can do is check for eggs two or three times a day and feed all the hens extra calcium, which is never a bad thing. I'm also giving them warm mash each day which includes oats, barley, cat food, and of course calcium supplement. Occasionally I'll had some fruit to the mash just to give them a treat.

As you can see by the photo the chickens don't seem to mind the snow much. They don't care for the deeper snow and if they accidentally get into the deeper snow they will stand there until PeterC or I wade out to rescue them. But, where I have scraped the snow to make paths, they are more than will to wander and scratch around until they find a bit of exposed grass to munch on.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Winter, Finally!

Winter is finally here. It's about time, too. I was beginning to think this was going to be the year that never froze.

Up until now the weather has been cool and damp, which makes it feel much colder than it really is. The ground was soft and squishy, making it hard on the boots, shoes, horses, and chickens. The only snow we got melted within a few hours, making the ground even soggier.

The weather finally turned around this weekend. The sky has been a mix of sunny and grey, but the air is cold enough that the ground has finally started to freeze. The night time temperatures have managed to drop below freezing, which is a blessing for me since I suffer from night sweats and hot flashes - UGH! I've been able to sleep under a sheet and a bedspread without waking up soaking wet for the first time in months.

The chickens don't seem to be suffering to badly from the colder weather. We're getting 7-8 eggs a day. I let the girls out to free range for a couple of hours a day and they pile up in the covered corner of their tractor run if they get to cold. The only problem they, and by extension I, are having is their waterer keeps freezing up. I'm looking into solutions, maybe something using solar water heating.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Origin of Dwarves

I have been writing short stories for years. Some of them have been quite good while others have left much to be desired. Over time I have lost most of the stories, since I wasn't computer literate at the time of their writing and never saved copies. Except one story. The following story was published on the Tir Na Og website, a site for people who live and love the stories of the Fae creatures, many years ago. The website is now defunct so I republish the story here for those interested in giving it a read.

A Few Words on Dwarves from Ki'taye

.....and it came to pass that those of shorter stature and thicker features, moved away from the world of the People. They were a blight in the eyes of the People, these deformed of body, and were not welcomed at the counsel or the festival of mating.

They moved into the bowels of the Mother. Made her openings, and her dark holes, their homes. Great castles were built away from the light, and away from their birth home. Castles that were as deformed and twisted as their builders, and so a further blight in the eyes of the People; the People who were strong and tall and lived within the light.

They found an abundance of gems and metals, within their Mother's womb. Gifts to them, for being driven from their birth home. So they became the workers of stone and metals. Crafting fine weapons of war, and of peace, from these things. Jewelry that was never seen before and weapons that could not be destroyed by fire, nor by conscious strike.

Once more they were welcomed into the light, but only at trade fairs, and never in the homes that they had been born to. They became bitter and twisted of soul as well as of body. Their natures became dark and secretive. Greed was rewarded, but those born with gentle spirits were cast out and succumbed to the world outside...or so it was assumed.

A few of these outcasts tried to return to their ancestors home, but were looked upon with anger and distrust. None of the People took pity on them, as it was not a trait they possessed, and so they were forced to move on.

In their loneliness and preoccupation with survival, they crossed over to the other side. The world of humans; creatures who dwelled in their own fear and filth. Scavengers of the worst kind, for they would eat their own. These gentle ones were not able to return of their own attempts, so in ones and, sometimes twos, these gentle ones came to live with man.

The men accepted them but only slowly, for men were superstitious and afraid of their own shadows. The gentle ones, those we know of as dwarves, had within them the life spark of the People and so they lived for centuries. They lived outside of the dwellings of men and so became a normal feature of the land, as men, with their short lives, died and their children with them.

Each generation of men thinned the memory of the gentle ones' coming. Soon it was believed that they had always been there, though some of the stories told of their coming, but the young ones all knew that these were just stories told by their Mothers to frighten them.

As men grew to social maturity, or at least crawled up out of their own filth, the gentle ones moved closer, became part of the community of man. They taught the men metal smithing, but retained the magick for themselves; fearing that men would use it as their own ancestors had...for greed and angry retaliation.

They taught the women healing, and gave them hints of more to be had with the spiritual growth of man on the whole. Small magicks were passed on to those who would use them properly, the wise women of the community. The magicks of healing, and birthing, and the softer magicks of Mothers.

Those gentle ones mated within their own kind and their children as well, but soon they had become such a part of the community of Man, that by the third generation the children were mating with the humans. The older ones feared this would cause problems as the dwarf children would outlive their mates, but this was not noticed for many years.

The first to notice it were the dwarves themselves, for the line of man began living longer lives. The children of these matings were born with some innate magicks, though few learned to use them. The First gentle ones knew that their time here was through and so they retreated back to the bowels of the Mother. They became the dwarves of the Humans legends, the wielders of magick and the maker of fine metals.

It was forgotten that once, Man and Dwarf lived in the same community and worked together. The halfbreeds forgot that they were once of the line of Dwarf, for they did not believe their Mother's tales. Man retained the knowledge of metal smithing, and some few of the halfbreeds and their children became metal smiths; for they were drawn by their inner magick to work the metals. Thus some magick was returned to the craft of metal smithing.

From that line we have the jewelry makers, the metal smiths, the farriers, the engineers, the craft people, the farmers of the earth, and of course the throwbacks such as myself.

I am of the line of Dwarves, have known so for many years, but only I seem to know it within my family. My history has been lost, but I do know that my Grandmother was a throwback too, and she was an artisan....I wonder if she ever realized what she was?

Ki'taye

Monday, November 23, 2009

Alli-Oop!

Silly Chickens! For birds that can't fly very well these girls seem to do very well at getting out of their yard.

We replaced the 2 ft fence with a 4 ft fence. That kept them in for maybe three days. Then I would catch them hopping, with full speed ahead wing flapping, over the new fence. A trim of the wings help for another two or three days, then I caught Queenie jumping over the fence and landing on the exterior nest box. Of course when one does it they all get the idea and I started finding two or three getting out a day.

I added two rows of cord to the top of the fence, attached to the fences poles, which added an extra foot of height to the fence. Worked like a charm for two or three days, then I started catching one or two chickens out each afternoon. I watched and watched but they never escaped while I was watching.

Now as much fun as I have watching the girls go about their business I can't watch them from Sun up to Sunset, or I'd never get my work done. I was beginning to think I would never figure it out until PeterC just happened to look out the back door as the most recent escape took place. The entire flock cluster very tightly together at the base of the fence and suddenly one of the hens came shooting out of the middle, and straight over the fence, like a watermelon seed pinched between your fingers.

So, it seems the girls have figured out how to work together to get out of their yard. Fortunately, this technique only works as long as there are enough chickens inside the fence to toss one out. Once you get three or four girls outside the fence the rest stay put. Unfortunately, I have to come up with an even higher fence to keep their feathery bottoms where they belong. Maybe little concrete shoes would work.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eggs!

Eggs, eggs, eggs! We have gotten another five eggs this week. Three yesterday and two Thursday. They are almost twice as big as the first one but still very small when compared to the store bought eggs. The colours are nice too. So far we have brown, buff, pink, and a lavender coloured egg.

We cracked open the first egg and found the yolk a deep yellow orange, which is a good sign that our hens are eating a good diet of grass, bugs, and feed. The shell was very thick, almost twice as thick as the store bought egg shells. Another sign of a healthy diet and a happy hen.

I got so excited by the first egg last week that I dropped everything to nalbind an egg collection basket. I used a really bulky polyester yarn and was delighted to find that the basket is stiff enough to stand all by itself. It isn't very big, but then again neither are the eggs we are getting.

I know it seems silly to be all excited over eggs, especially when this is the purpose for getting the chickens, but I really wasn't expecting eggs until March when the weather started warming. I don't know if it is the mild November, the extra 3 hrs of light we give the chickens, or if they are just happy to lay eggs. Either way, we will be eating a lot of eggs soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Weird Weather

I'm a bit late with this weeks post due to weird weather. Well, actually I'm late because I have been taking advantage of our weird weather. With the exception of the first few days, November has been very mild this year. We've had shirt sleeve weather for the last 4 days, making it the perfect time to get some of the leftover summer chores done.

Our big task this weekend was getting the spruce cut two years ago cut into chunks and split for burning in the wood stove. While we prefer to burn hardwoods for the BTU they put out, free wood is free wood and I refuse to waste perfectly burnable wood in the fire pit. As a concession to the higher amount of creosote in the spruce we will be mixing it 3:1 hardwood to softwood, and trying to use the spruce to start the fires but use the hardwoods to keep the fire hot through the day and night.

In other news we got our first egg last Thursday. It was sitting on the ramp into the coop when I went out to feed and water the chickens. The egg was tiny, maybe the size of a toonie in length...for the non-Canadian readers that is about 1.25 inches long, or 4 cm for our European readers. Very small, either way. We haven't had another one since but I still go out and look every day. I assume the warmer weather is responsible for the early egg too, but I am not positive.

Today is Remembrance Day here and I want to send a thank you out to all the people in Canada who have served their country with honesty, honour, and pride. While I may disagree with certain conflicts and our troops participation in them, I still honour those who have chosen to serve and have served to the best of their abilities. And while we are remembering lets take a moment to remember that our animal friends have served along side humans in every conflict be it as transport, bomb sniffers, or message carriers.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ur -UR -ah-URRRRRRR

Well, it turns out Putz is definitely a rooster. He is 15 weeks old and discovered his voice on Monday morning. He seems to dislike diesel engines and crows every time once passes by the house. Otherwise he is a fairly quiet rooster. And, he is a beautiful specimen of the Barred Rock, but a rooster is a rooster and we have already decided to rehome him.

Luckily, PeterC works with a guy who has access to a farm, and the farm is willing to take Putz. He'll be going to his new home Saturday night. I hope he finds plenty of willing ladies, lots of goodies to eat, and a long content life as a farm rooster. I'll miss him.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Wow, Busy End of Week

This has turned out to be a very busy end of week. All the more so as it unexpectedly began Wednesday evening and is only now slowing down to a more normal pace. Well, kind of normal pace. I do have two different breads rising in the kitchen for supper tonight.

Wednesday, PeterC decided to go out and look at a horse that was being offered up for sale for an incredibly cheap price. He came home and was pensive. After some prodding it turned out he fell in love with this horse and was terrified to consider purchasing her and taking on the responsibility, but at the same time was afraid she was going to sold to the meat market. Yes, most assuredly there are people who buy perfectly good horses and sell them to the slaughter houses.

Thursday, PeterC was sick with a migraine. I actually think it may have been stress induced as he was awake most of the night trying to figure out a way to buy the horse and find a place to board her. I wish we had a place of our own to keep her but that is another story. We called a few local boarding stables and found one that could take the horse right away and would even trailer her for us. It wasn't the nicest looking stable but the owner knows horses and has broken many a green horse for riding and pulling. The best thing was the boarding price was cheaper than PeterC had feared.

Thursday evening PeterC called the seller to say we would take the mare. Turned out there were two. One was going for half the price of the first because she was crippled. PeterC and I discussed it and decided that the new mare would like a companion that she already knew and that we could afford to board both horses since the cost was so much cheaper than planned. The owner was happy as she had planned on selling the cripple for meat....a really shameful decision if you ask me.

Thursday afternoon I replaced the chickens temporary yard fencing, that was only 24" high, with a fence 4 foot high. The chickens had started hopping the shorter fence and heading into the neighbours yard. Since we couldn't afford to fence our yard this year we decided to use taller plastic fencing. We also made the yard smaller as this will be their winter yard, which I plan to keep cleared of most of the snow. Needless to say I didn't want to scrape a 25 ft x 25 ft area of yard. Instead the chickens have an area approximately 30 square feet to run around in. They also have the half barrels we use as planters. They seem happy.

Friday night we met the transport team at the boarding stable and headed out to pick up the mares. It took longer than planned as the transport team also had to pick up some other livestock along the way. It was annoying but it did cut the cost of the transport by half so it wasn't all bad. We arrived at the owners home just before dark and started the loading process. I had never seen more than a picture of the horses and was a little surprised at how nice they looked, even the cripple carried herself very well. Two hours later we arrived back at the new barn and the barn owner checked over the new arrivals and put them into the quarantine pen.

Saturday we went out to introduce ourselves to the new charges and sign the boarding contract with the stable. The weather was horrible, grey and wet, and it was nearly impossible to stand upright the wind was blowing so hard. We spent a few minutes talking to the horses and introducing ourselves to them, until the rain started coming down in buckets. I was under the understanding that both mares were Morgans but it turned out the cripple is an Arabian. A beautiful bay Arabian at that. The other is a chestnut Morgan.

We were supposed to meet the stable owner but she was running late, having had to make a trip somewhere. The plan was to let her halter and tie the mares to see how well behaved they were. We told her they were green, as we had been informed, and she was afraid they were to wild to be safely tied in the barn for grooming and regular handling. While I found the mares to be quite polite and well behaved, her barn her rules.

When the stable owner finally arrived, a couple of hours late, she dealt with some other business and finally brought us the contract the sign. She suggested and we agreed to leave the mares in the quarantine pen for the weekend as the weather could make it very dangerous, for us and them, should the horses get startled while walking over to the arena. We signed the contract, discussed taking riding lessons until we are both comfortable that we can handle the new mares, and headed home.

Today we went back out to the stable to spend some more time with the mares and to start their grooming program. We purchased brushes, lead ropes, a hoof pick, and a mane and tail comb to start with. PeterC plans to go out every day for baisc grooming and to get the mares used to being handled. I plan to go out on the weekends for a good grooming session and occasionally on the weekdays if he needs an extra hand for something, like the farrier visit or the like.

The horses were really friendly and quite well behaved. They stood well for the grooming and even seemed to enjoy it once we got the burrs and tangles out of their manes and tails. PeterC picked up both their feet and check them over for any major problems, thankfully there were none. The Arab had a hard time balancing on her right side but that was to be expected considering her injured right foreleg. We spent a very pleasant two hours getting to know these new pets.

All in all it has been a stressful few days; spur of the moment decision to buy a horse, then two; arranging for boarding and transportation to the new stables; getting to know the horses in such a way that no one, human or equine got hurt; and of course getting us and them used to their new surroundings. All that on top of the normal and regular chores that had to be done each day.

I'll be glad when we get a regular routine worked out even though it means PeterC will be much busier during the week, and we both will be busier on the weekends. Work never killed anyone, though my muscles are trying to tell me otherwise.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Slowing Down

It is getting to that time of year when I seem to run out of things to say for awhile. The garden is done, the trees are dropping their leaves, and I tend to curl up with a cat or two and turn in to a potato. This will go on for a few weeks and then I am back to being my weird self again. Maybe it is the lessening daylight hours, or maybe I am part squirrel and after the frantic harvest I just want to hibernate.

PeterC has decided to do some volunteer work for a local horse rescue, once a week. Last week he was gone all day Saturday and this week it is today. I like having a few hours of quiet time and really should be working, but it is hard to get motivated when there is a warm fire and sleeping animals all around. Of course that is my current excuse for not getting my work done. The truth is, I am afraid I'll mess up and have to redo the whole project.

I was asked to write an article for a magazine which requires that I carve a few scoops. The first scoop went well, was finished quickly, and looked very nice. The second scoop got screwed up at the very last part of the carving. The second attempt at the 2nd scoop got screwed up during the shaping stage. I finished the 3rd shaping out of the 2nd scoop just a couple of days ago and it has been staring at me, challenging me to pick it up.

I am ahead of schedule but I don't like letting things sit until the last minute. So once I finish this post I am going to head into the studio and work on my scoop. If I am lucky, or good, I'll get it finished tomorrow and will be able to start the third scoop on Tuesday. Once the article has been published I will post pictures of the finished scoops.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sweet Potato Experiment

Some of you may remember I was doing an experiment this year by planting sweet potatoes in large planters instead of in the garden. I decided to do this mostly because the sweet potatoes spread on the surface and require quite a bit of space. Space I need to plant other vegetables in. The other reason for trying them in pots was to make it easier to harvest. Upend the pot and pick out the lovely potatoes.

We had our first killing frost on Tuesday so I harvested the rest of the vegetables on Wednesday and Thursday. It was then, that I realized the sweet potato experiment can officially be classified as a failure. The plants grew very well and were very lush on the surface. Under the soil was another story. The potatoes grew in a tight interlocking ball just at the base of the plant. From each plant I was lucky to get 1-2 lbs of edible tubers and I had to carefully loosen one, to loosen another, to remove the key piece, at which point the whole ball released into separate tubers.

So, with the failure of this experiment I am once again reduced to losing half my garden space to plant three sweet potato plants. I would say they are worse than pumpkins but at least the vines on the sweet potatoes are small and the leaves not overly large. Maybe I can plant taller growing vegetables around the vines, hot peppers or something. We'll have to see what next year brings.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada and I find I have a lot to be thankful about.

I am thankful that two neighbours have now commented about how nice it is to see chickens in the backyard, one even going so far as to ask for eggs which I couldn't provide yet.

I am thankful that the garden was very productive, even with the cool wet summer, and we have 25lbs of carrots, 10 lbs of beets, 4 quarts of dry beans, and still have sweet potatoes and hot peppers to harvest.

I am thankful that PeterC has once again returned safe and sound from his business trip.

I am thankful that we have food in the house, much of it from our own garden over the years, and wood for the stove, and warm furry bodies to keep us from freezing in the middle of the night.

I am thankful today for PeterC, who supports me in all my moods and holds me through all my fears and tears.

Today is a good day.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Flat Bread

I've been looking for a good, soft, yet chewy flat bread recipe for a long time now. I've tried recipes from all over the net as well as the few in my bread book. Nothing fit the bill. The bread always came out to crisp to so heavy that it was virtually inedible. The dogs enjoyed my efforts but I enjoyed very little of them.

That has finally changed. I found a pizza crust recipe that cooked up beautifully and had almost the exact texture I was looking for in my flat bread. So, I played with the recipe some and finally came up with the perfect flat bread. It can be used as a pizza crust, or as a wrap for souvlaki, or as a mop for stews. And best of all it only takes an hour and a half from start to finish if you have a warm spot to rise the dough.

Flat Bread
4 1/2 cps flour
1 Tbsp Yeast
1 Tbsp salt
2 cps warm water
1 Tbsp sugar

Pour 2 cps warm water into a bowl.
Stir in sugar and yeast.
Allow to proof until very bubbly.
Add salt and first 3 cps flour.
Mix by hand or with a spoon until dough starts to form. It will be very sticky.
Flour a work surface with half of remaining flour and dump dough out of the bowl, cleaning sides as you go.
Knead the dough, adding flour as needed until it is not sticky to your hands but still very soft.
Grease the bowl and add the dough, covering with plastic wrap or a damp cloth.
Let rise until doubled.
Once risen punch down dough and knead on lightly floured surface for a few minutes, just to get all the air out.

Form into your chosen style:
For pizza stretch out dough to fit your pan, should do a 12 inch pan easily, brush with olive oil and bake at 450º F for 10 minutes. Add your sauce and toppings and bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

For souvlaki wraps, called pitas by the local Greek restaurant, break the dough into 1 1/2 to 2 inch balls. Roll each ball out to a round. Each round should be less than 1/4 inch thick. Brush with olive oil and place in a medium hot skillet. Cast iron works perfectly. Cook for 2-3 minutes each side. Bubbles will form on the side opposite from the heat, this is normal just flip and press.

For stew mops use the same directions for the souvlaki wraps except each round is thicker, but no more than 1/2 inch. Brush with olive oil and bake in oven until golden brown. Flip once to brown opposite side.

And there you have it, the perfect flat bread recipe. If you want to change the taste try adding herbs and spices to the dough for something savoury. Or, if you want something breakfasty add chopped, dried fruit and some oats or honey. This recipe is infinitely flexible. Let you imagination soar.

Monday, September 28, 2009

First Frost - Shutting down the garden

PeterC saw the first frost for our area, in an open field just a few blocks up the road, on Friday. Dead on schedule. Pretty darned amazing if you ask me. Our yard was frost free because we have several trees, but I do think some of the taller plants in the garden got a touch of it. The higher leaves on the volunteer pumpkin/gourd (looks like a pumpkin but producing bizarre looking gourds) have turned yellow as have the cucumber plants.

That means it is the end of gardening season. Everything that is still doing well, like the carrots, beets, and second planting of spinach will continue on for a few more weeks. The beans are almost done drying on the vine and will be picked soon for storage. The squash are done, pulled up and the soil turned. The broccoli is nothing more than chicken treats now. The sweet potatoes never bloomed but in another month we will find out if the planter idea worked.

It is this time of year that I really wish we had a proper root cellar. With all the potatoes, beets, gourds, and carrots we need someplace to keep them so they will last through the winter. In the past we have tried keep them on the stairs to the basement but it just gave the mice unlimited food. Maybe this year I will wrap the produce in newspaper and straw and store in the garage. I know they will keep out there for a few weeks longer than they will in the kitchen, maybe even into January. Even a couple of extra months is better than nothing at all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chicken Pictures

This is exactly what the title says, a series of pictures of the girls. Some of the girls are quite the hams while others prefer to ignore the camera.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Upper Canada Village Fall Fair

We made a trip down to Upper Canada Village yesterday, mostly to restock our flour supplies, and found we had arrived during the fall fair. Since we had missed the fair each previous year we decided to have a look see. There was a stage for performers, animals being judged, and of course the exhibit tent.

I was delighted to discover that there were a number of chickens being shown. I saw Barred Rocks, which were huge, and bantam fighting cocks which were tiny, and several breeds in between. Based on the Barred Rocks at the fair I'm actually beginning to think that our Barred Rock Putz is actually a pullet. That means we won't have to get rid of any of our chickens.

The exhibit tent was interesting in the variety of things shown. There were historically accurate spinning, weaving, knitting, and crocheting works. There were ink and watercolour pictures of various things around the village. There were various vegetables all of which far outweighed my measly attempts at gardening. There was a dessert display but all the desserts were replaced with a hand written sign stating "The Raccoons had a Dessert Party!". What was even more amusing was the very obvious, and LARGE, raccoon footprint on the tent wall.

We only spent a couple of hours there but is was interesting, and quite refreshing, to see especially when compared to the more commercial fairs seen in the communities. Some part of me definitely belongs in the yesteryear.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Cool! Moment

PeterC and I were walking the dogs and decided to sit on the end of the neighbourhood wharf to look at the sky. We do that a lot, look at the sky. If we are outside and it is even remotely dark one or both of us is looking up. Anyway, I asked him to point our Cygnus, the constellation, to me as we had just been talking about it early in the evening. He points it out and then points out another group of stars. I follow where he is pointing and he asks, do you see that blob near the end of the line?

It takes a minute but yeah, if I don't look directly at it I can see what looks like a cluster of stars. They are a faint blob with brighter dots throughout. Once I confirm that yes I can see it and verify exactly what he is showing me he announces "Congratulations you've just seen the Andromeda Galaxy." Not only did I seen another galaxy but I saw it with my naked eye. How cool is that?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Hint of Fall

This past weekend we were reminded that fall is indeed on its way. The air was cool, even during the day, and the sky was that deep cornflower blue you get when a cold front moves in. We spent a good deal of time just sitting and watching the world go by, though we did get the storm windows made and mostly painted for the chicken's coop. We had two fires in the evenings and it was cool enough to sit as close to the fire pit as possible. Fall is definitely my favourite time of year, followed closely by Spring, and then Winter.

Since we were outside so much the chicks got to free range. Not really free range so much as spend several hours outside in the temporary yard we made for them. We used some bamboo posts and the left over fencing from the garden to make a yard that connects to their coop and to their tractor. They love being able to spend time in the yard chasing bugs, each other, and on a couple of occasions small wrens that flew a little to low to the ground. That last one surprised me. Who knew chickens would stalk and chase small song birds?

Allowing the girls to run free until dark we did discover that they put themselves to bed around 7:30 pm. I'm not sure if there is a signal from the leader or if they just all live and work on the same internal clock, but at 7:15 they all start moving single file up the ramp into their coop. They then spend the next 15 minutes jostling for the best location on their roosts, which seems to be next to the smaller window on the west side of the coop. By 7:30 all is quiet and a quick peak in the window shows heads either tucked under wings or drooping down in front as they sleep soundly.

We sat out by the fire until 9:00pm or so, moving inside as the neighbours all started their weekend parties with loud song, chat, and laughter. This will be the first of many weekend fires for us, but the last for most of the neighbours. That suits us just fine since we prefer quiet evenings and lots of stargazing as opposed to listening to other people's stories and frantic chatter as they try to stave off the coming darkness. For us, the darker and the quieter it is makes for a better evening for us.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Man vs. Nature

There is something magical about sitting in your backyard and watching wildlife go about its business. I don't just mean the birds and insects, either. I mean all wildlife be it scaled, feathered, or furred.

To often I hear people, usually living in 3000 sq. ft. homes in the mountains, complaining about their peace and quiet being shattered by a wandering bear or coyote. I always ask myself, and sometimes not so quietly, where exactly do these people think the animals lived BEFORE they, the humans, decided they absolutely had to have a huge piece of land in the "country". Where exactly do these people think the animals are going to go after, what has been their territory for generations, a house is built across their migration path or the best berry patch in the region.

Then of course there are those living in the suburbs of cities across Canada who complain when Fluffy the cat is eaten by a coyote, or Yappy, the lap dog is taken by an owl. You have to wonder exactly what these people are thinking, especially when they cry and whine to the city officials to eliminate the pests before one of the kids, or outside pets, get hurt. The obvious answer is, of course, to stop thinking they have some kind of God given right to do what they want. Keep the pets indoors unless you are outside watching them. Teach the kids to recognize and avoid wildlife. And, of course, stop leaving things for wildlife to eat out in your garbage cans and yards over night.

Animals do what animals do, especially when their homes are being paved over and built upon. They adapt, they eat, they breed, and they roam. Maybe I'm just weird but I think being able to co-exist with wildlife is a virtue, not a curse.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vegetable Rice Risotto

We joined Love Those Weeds' CSA program again this year and are already getting run over with vegetables. It seems she planted most of the same veggies we did so what we get from her doubles what we are getting from our own garden. I decided I had to do something that would use up as many types of veggies as possible and Vegetable Rice Risotto was the answer.

Vegetable Rice Risotto
1 cup rice
1 cup broccoli bits
1 cup cauliflower bits
1 cup fresh green beans - snapped into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup fresh green peas
Any other veggies you have will work.
1 can coconut milk
garlic, salt, pepper to taste

Optional:
Shredded coconut
Parmesan Cheese

Cook the rice in a deep skillet until almost all the water is absorbed.
Add the vegetables and cover to steam until tender crisp
Add 1 can coconut milk and stir until milk is absorbed and rice sticks together.
Serve warm.

Options:
To give it an Italian zing top with Parmesan Cheese
To make it a Thai rice meal add shredded coconut just before servings.

Enjoy as a main dish or serve on the side of a mild flavoured meat dish.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hot Weather and Chores

It seems the weather these last few days has been trying to make up for the cooler than normal July. It has been 30º C + every day with the humidex making it feel even hotter. Needless to say, I've been hiding inside with the window air conditioner unit running as often as possible. However, that hasn't been as often as I would prefer since I've had a lot of chores to get done.

The biggest chore has been getting the chicken's coop and enclosed run finished. We're nearly there. As of yesterday we only have a little decorative trim, painting, and the storm windows to build. I'm actually pretty happy with the final results even if it has taken far longer than planned to get it complete. The girls, and Putz the rooster, all seem to appreciate the coop at bedtime, though they prefer to free range during the day.

I'm still unsure about letting the chicks free range except during supervised playtime. Besides the possibilities of predator attack there is also the chance the chicks may wander into a neighbours yard, which would be very bad. To give the girls more room to run and fresh grass to graze on they still use the tractor, with one very important addition. We've added a dust-bathing bowl to their tractor. We had a copper "bowl" from a patio fire pit that has been recycled into the dust bath, using simple construction sand. The chicks love it and we often see 5 or 6 all jostling for the best place in the bowl at the same time. It is quite fun to watch.

That is Putz, front and centre, sleeping with his beak in the sand. He is actually a cute thing, if somewhat of a bully with the girls, and doesn't seem to mind being picked up and carried from the coop to the tractor. He even challenges Dunny, our big dog, if he gets to close to the tractor. So far he hasn't shown much of a mean streak toward us which is a good thing. He also hasn't started crowing yet, the only reason we haven't re-homed him yet.

The heat has done wonders for the garden. Everything has finally started producing, well except the broccoli which has flowered in this heat. The pole beans are loaded with pods and the sweet potatoes are growing like crazy.

I can't wait for the sweet potatoes to bloom later this fall. The sweet potatoes have beautiful purple and white blossoms all over their many vines. With the plants being in pots this year, and their vines trained up cages, they should make very striking flower pots in the yard this year.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Goldenrod and Geese

I firmly believe that the old timers knew how to predict the weather far better than we do with our computer models and meteorologists. At least for their particular slice of the world anyway. I'm always observing the natural world trying to find the best and most accurate indicators of the weather to come.

When I was growing up in Florida I was taught that goldenrod was the best indicator of when the first frost would come. Over the years, and many places I lived, I've tested this theory and have found it still holds true. The blooming goldenrod means there will be a frost in that area in 6-8 weeks. Of course, our goldenrod started blooming last Friday so we should get our first frost by the middle of October. It may not be a hard frost but it will be frost.

On Tuesday we had to go into town and I noticed the Canada geese were starting to flock up. Since moving to Eastern Ontario I've noticed that the geese start flocking up about the same time as the goldenrod blooms. When the geese start to flock up then we can expect frost within a few weeks. When they start flying south I know there is snow coming. Of course by the time they start flying south it should be late October early November and snow is almost always within a few weeks anyways.

I've had my theories poo-pooed by almost everyone but I still hold them to be true. Maybe I should start a spreadsheet, but then would be be any different than the computer models - nothing but good guesses, and averages? I guess the secret of the old timers is more about gut instinct than omens or portents.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fair Weekend

This was the Williamstown fair weekend. We went last year and enjoyed ourselves so we decided it would make a good afternoon break from chores to go again this year. Last year we arrived at opening time and found several vendors hadn't set up yet, so this year we tried getting there just after lunchtime. Unfortunately.

We arrived at the gates at 12:30 pm, paid our $8 each to get in and then spent1/2 hr in line to the directed parking. After parking we then had to walk 10 minutes back down the road to get into the fair proper. Once there we saw the requisite 4H cattle show, English Pony show, and the Western rodeo show all going on at the same time. Problem was there was no seating left and very little room close enough to the fences to actually see the shows.

So we decided to go look at the animal exhibits. Last year there was a tent full of show chickens, and a few ducks. Of course being new to the whole chicken addiction I really wanted to see the chicken exhibit. This year, there was no chickens. In fact, there was very little in the way of animal exhibits. The only goats, sheep, llamas, and geese were at the petting zoo, which was crowded. Little Ray's Reptile Zoo was doing a show but neither of us was interested in seeing that.

Ok, that was a bust, so we tried the craft vendors. Last year there was a young female blacksmith who was very friendly and more than willing to talk to people visiting her tent. This year it was a middle aged gentleman who did his level best to ignore everyone around him. When we got close enough, through the sulfur fumes coming off the fresh pile of coal he placed on the forge, to actually ask questions he stepped away from the forge and started drinking from a thermos. In fact he drank from the thermos for so long we decided to leave and find someone else's stuff to look at.

Most of the other vendors were selling classic flea market trash. Cheap China made belts and buckles, metallic 8 x 10 pictures of unicorns and the like. Even the furniture makers seemed to be selling the exact same stuff, or at least stuff made from the same pattern. The only vendor who had anything even remotely interesting was the Preserves vendor, and she had a lot of really interesting jams, jellys, and pickles. But, as PeterC said, we din't need any of that stuff until we eat what we already have put away.

We wandered our way through the midway and food vendors, where we bought some fresh mini-donuts, watched the price of a small 500ml bottle of water climb from $1.00 to $3.00 as it got hotter, and generally tried not to get run over by the crowds, or breath to much of the insane amount of cigarette smoke. In the end we found ourselves back at the cattle show and decided it was time to leave. We spent a grand total of an hour trying to enjoy ourselves and just getting more and more frustrated.

Next year we are getting there early. Then if we only stay an hour we at least don't have to wait so long to figure that out.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

What do you get....

So, what do you get when you cross a wok, with a surprising well sealing lid, with 2 tablespoons of oil and heat? An explosion! PHWOOMPH. Scared the bageesus out of me and PeterC, especially when the lid flew into the air, flames following suite, and smoke came roiling out of the pan.

Luckily, neither of us panicked. The pan was taken outside to let it finish smoking while it cooled off. Supper was finished fairly quickly and life returned to normal. However, that was enough excitement to last me the rest of the year. Hopefully, my life will be dull in comparison from now on.

On the chicken home front we still have eleven starving velociraptors. They eat constantly, which is a good thing since they are growing so fast. They are only partially feathered out which makes them even more dinosourish in appearance than normal. Another week, maybe two and they will be going out to their coop, as long as the weather holds long enough for us to finish the silly thing.

Unfortunately, it looks like one of the barred rocks is a rooster. A definite no-no in our backyard. We'll have to try to find a home for him once he gets older. Of course a couple of the girls have really taken a shine to him and like to lay snuggled right next to him during nap times. I suspect he would be a very good, and caring mate, but the crowing would get us into all kinds of hot water with the neighbours.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Progress

We made progress on the coop this week, but in the meantime the girls have graduated up to the big girls brooder. It is a 2' x 3' cage with high sides and roosts. It sits on a table and we layered the bottom with paper and then shavings. It is very amusing to watch the girls dust bathe in the fresh shavings each time we change them.

It is amazing how much they have grown. They will be three weeks old on Tuesday and they are getting huge. It was hard to gauge how huge, until we transported them down to the tractor in the box we originally brought them home in. The day we brought them home they fit in this tiny 8" x 10" box with lots of room to spare. Now we can barely get four of them to fit in the same box, and they can look over the sides of the box with ease.

The chicks are very treat orientated. If we walk to the door of their cage they all cluster over to see what we brought them. They will peck at anything that pokes through the wire, even if it is a fingertip or a cat's nose. The cats aren't impressed but I find it incredibly amusing to watch the chicks do that. Hopefully, this will teach the cats that these are not treats with feathers, should one of the curious girls manage to make it out of the cage during feedings, water changes, or shaving changes.

On the garden front we tested something we had heard and found it to be very true. We have read on several gardening forums that stale urine, mixed 1:10, with water is a great source of nitrogen and makes a good fertilizer for gardens. We tested this out in patches, using the mixture on one row or pot of each of our plants. The results were amazing. One week later, the plants watered with the water/ urine mix are double and in some cases triple the size of the plants not watered with the mix. This is great news and will make fertilizing the garden that much more organic because contrary to what you might think, urine is sterile unless you are ill and is in a form the plants use naturally.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Award - Honest Scrap


Well, Penny over at http://backtobasicliving.com/blog/ decided I needed another award. As with the last one it requires me forwarding this award to 10 other blogs, which I can't do. I don't read 10 other blogs. I read Penny's blog and I read forums. However, I am more than willing to send as many readers over to Penny's really cool blog as often as I can.

Here are the instructions that came with it:

  • “The Honest Scrap” award is not one to hold all to your self but it must be shared!
  • First, the recipient has to tell 10 true things about themselves in their blog that no one else knows.
  • Second, the recipient has to pass along this prestigious award to 10 more bloggers.
  • Third, Those 10 bloggers all have to be notified they have been given with this award.
  • Those 10 bloggers that receive this award should link back to the blog that awarded them “The Honest Scrap’ award.
So, 10 things no-one knows about me. I'm not sure I have 10 things no one knows about me that I am actually willing to share, but I'll try.
  1. I didn't go to college until I was in my 30's and only because I was able to get student loans from the Canadian government. PeterC also encouraged me a great deal and was my tutor for the math and physics courses. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Electronic Engineering Technology.
  2. I chew my fingernails, right down to the meat. I'm trying to stop that but haven't had a lot of success. According to my mom I've chewed my fingernails since I was 6 months old. She tried everything in the book including hot sauce and tape but nothing worked. Still doesn't work.
  3. Every summer I let PeterC shave my head to stubble because I can't stand long hair in the heat. My hair grows so slowly that it takes a year for my hair to get long enough to be pulled back with a hair band, but not long enough to make a pony tail.
  4. I declared at the age of 10 that I was going to move to Canada to live in a cave with a bunch of cats. I made it to Canada, and I have the cats, but I haven't found a cave that I can afford that comes with Internet.
  5. I can't sleep unless I have a fan blowing on me. I tend to be very hot natured and can't sleep if I am hot. But, there is also the drone factor. Even in the middle of winter when it is 14ºC in the house I have to have a fan on or I can't sleep.
  6. I believe in reincarnation and really hope I come back as a cat lover's pet. Not the traditional reincarnation of progression from animal to animal until I am good enough to be human, but the transmutation form of reincarnation. I believe that I will come back each and every lifetime as something different be it animate or inanimate.
  7. I have a weird obsession with doing things the old way instead of the new way, thus tablet weaving, nalbinding, and woodcarving as hobbies. I have been called a Luddite but that fact that I have no problems with technology just prefer doing some things the old fashioned way kind of counters that label.
  8. I'm feeling jealous of PeterC right now. The new chicks seem to have imprinted on him and come to his hand when he makes kissy face noises at them. I try the kissy face noises and they look at me like I am a snake planning on swallowing them whole. I guess I know who is putting them to bed every night.
  9. I feel very lost and lonely when I look at the stars at night. When I was a kid I thought I was an alien child who had been dropped off by my real parents to "learn" about Earth. I guess some part of that little child still lives in me.
  10. My favourite foods are oranges, a perfectly cooked steak, and a garlic Alfredo pasta.

Statute Cap

I completed another nalbinding project quite some time ago and finally got around to taking pictures of the finished hat.

This was done with the York stitch, as learned from a video on Youtube. I based the pattern off a knit hat shown on the BBC show "Tales from the Green Valley". Unfortunately, I made to many additions to the brim and ended up with something that looks more like a maids cap. The hat is done with 100% cotton and has taken on a partially felted look after it was washed.

Now the really cool thing is the way I did the stitch created a very solid looking material on the outside but these really neat looking ribs on the inside. I was afraid it would make the hat uncomfortable to wear but it is really comfortable. It is also very warm. I think the extra thickness of the ribs allows the solid outside layer to trap heat.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vacation Winding Down

We are coming to the end of our vacation and I thought I'd share some pictures of the coop and the chicks at 1 week old. It's mazing how fast these little girls are growing. One of them has discovered the she can fly up to the upper lip of the brooder, which makes changing shavings, feeding, and playing a little exciting. The last thing we want is to lose a chick because a cat or dog decided she was a tasty morsel when she touched the floor.

Here are the girls checking our their new chicken tractor. It is 4' x 8' x 30". I used 2" x 2" lumber for the frame, attached the 1/2" hardware mesh, and reinforced the top and bottom with 1" x 3" strips. There are two wheels at the back so we can move it around the yard every couple of days. We decided on an enclosed tractor instead of a fenced yard due to the many predators we have here, including hawks and weasels. The girls seem to really love the space and will run from one end to the other 'flying' as hard as they can. They also love to chase the occasional bug that makes the mistake of getting to close.

We've managed to name three of the girls so far. There is Rosy, the smallest ginger, who is very bossy and loves to throw feed everywhere. There is Wag and Tag, the two whites. Wag is named so because she will pick up something like a leaf and wag her head at the others to make them chase her. Tag because, more often than not, is the one chasing Wag with her leaf and it rhymes with Wag. The Barred Rock who has figured out the flying thing hasn't been named yet, we just call her escapee. The others will be named as they grow I'm sure.

Here is the most complete picture I have of the coop so far. We've actually gotten a lot more done but have failed to take any new pictures. As you can see we are using OSB on the outside, 2 inches of insulation, and then finishing plywood on the inside. The outside is also wrapped in wind and water proof paper just to make it that much warmer.

What I don't have a picture of is the siding, OSB cut and painted to look like wood panelling, the white tin roof, and of course the white paint on the inside and out. We have the doors installed, also insulated and painted white inside and out, but the windows and trim have been stalled until the weekend. The underside of the coop will be solid on two sides and screened on the other two sides. There is also going to be a door that will allow us to attach the tractor to the underside area to extend the size of their run. A finally we plan to install a couple of wheels so we can move it around a couple times a year.

So there you have it. Three weeks worth of work. Doesn't look like it should have taken us this long, does it. I know it feels like we should have finished it after a week, but rain and lazy days really slowed us down.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chicks

The chicks arrived safe and sound Wednesday. We ordered 10 but received 11. As best I can tell this is standard practise for hatcheries in case of loss during shipping. They all arrived healthy, though one of the gingers was being picked on by the others. We placed them in a Rubbermaid tub with feed and water. A quick dip of the beak and they were drinking with no problems. They figured out the feed pretty quickly too.

We have 2 Barred Plymouth Rocks, 2 Black Sex-Links, 2 New Hampshire x Barred Rocks, 2 Columbian Rock x Reds (white), and 3 Rhode Island Red x Columbian Rocks (ginger). The ginger chicks and the white chicks are the easiest to identify as to breed but the blacks are harder. We think the small blacks are the Sex-Links, the black and yellow are the Barred Rocks, and the larger blacks are the Barred Rock crosses.

We've only had the chicks for three days but they are already getting bigger, almost double their arrival size, and developing more chicken traits. They love to chase earwigs and mosquitos, when we can catch the bugs and drop them in with the chicks. They have started scratching on the floor of their current box, usually slinging feed all over the place. Their wing feathers are starting to really develop and they love to "fly" from one side of their box to the other, using each other as speed bumps of course.

Yesterday was nice and sunny so we placed them in a temporary chicken tractor to let them get used to being outside. They were a little unsure at first but the first bug to venture to close made them very happy to be outside. They chased bugs, scratched around in the grass, and dozed in the sun. After a couple of hours we returned them to their brooder where they settled in for a nap, which lasted all of about 10 minutes, before they returned to scratching and feeding.

I'm delighted with their personalities and their love of eating bugs. A couple of them seem to have really taken a shine to PeterC as they look at him and run to his hand when he reaches into their brooder. Maybe they are simply looking for treats but I don't think so. They look at him when he makes little clucking noises and seem happy to see him. I'm truly looking forward to watching them grow up.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Vacation Time

I'm late adding a post this week, or early for next week, because we are officially on vacation for three weeks. Unlike most people we don't go away for vacation. Instead we stay home and work on projects that require more than a day or two to complete. We may take the occasional day trip but we are never gone for more than a few hours.

This year is turning out to be even harder to get the jobs done since it has rained every single day except one so far. Sometimes we will get 6 hours of work done before it rains and others, like today it rains on and off all day making it impossible to get anything done outside. On days like today we either clean the house, or more often sit in front of the boob tube and turn into vegetables.

And what is our project this year? A chicken coop. Yep, you read that right. A chicken coop. I have been given the go ahead to get a few laying hens. We ordered 10, one day old chicks from the feed store. They are arriving next week, and will live inside for two to three weeks in a small brooder box. After that they will be moving into the Grand Sparrow Haven Lodge, a two story house of leisure for the ladies complete with fenced in yard, large nest boxes, and a lovely view of the garden.

I spent several weeks over at Backyard Chickens looking at different coop plans before I decided on the coop for us. It is 5' x 4' with double wide barn doors for cleaning out the coop itself. The interior is going to be painted semi-gloss white to make it bright and easier to clean. It will have two high windows that will prop open to allow air flow in the summer. It is insulated and has a 60 watt bulb installed to keep the girls comfy in the winter. And it has an external next box, also insulated, so I can get the eggs every morning and evening by simply popping a hatch off the back. And, finally, the girls will have their own chicken door for descending down into the fenced in yard that includes the space under the coop as well as a movable cage that will let us move them around the yard with ease.

I am both excited and incredibly nervous about this new venture. I was raised around chickens but that was in Florida where they didn't have to worry about freezing to death. In truth, the chickens I was raised with pretty much took care of themselves except for the occasional cast of feed and the fall culling of the older girls and roosters. I really hope we do well by our new pets and they live long and healthy lives.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Completed Nalbinding Project

I've completed another project in nalbinding. I'm finding it much more fun than tablet weaving though I still love the woven patterns. I really need to try to do more weaving I guess.

Baby Slippers, made from Ultra Soft, worsted 100% acrylic.








Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A-Frames and Herb Beds, OH My!

PeterC took an extra day off from work this weekend which gave us a lot of time to get some of the projects we've been needing to get done at least started. He spent most of the time stacking and splitting firewood for this coming winter. We will be getting a few more cords of wood over the next few weeks and that will have to be split as well. I spent part of the weekend splitting the kindling using some scrap lumber given to us by a coworker. As our summer building projects get done we'll be adding to the kindling bin slowly.

Work, as always, continued in the garden. We built a couple of A-frames for the beans to climb up. The beans seem really happy as a couple have already shot up a couple of feet since the frames were added to the garden. Besides weeding, which is an ongoing project, I replanted a couple of rows of beets. Whether due to birds, insects, bad seed, or bad luck we only had a few beets coming along. I filled in the bare spots with left over seeds from this year and last. With luck they will sprout and fill in nicely.

Otherwise, the garden is doing great, well except the cucumbers which are stunted and not growing well. The soil in the blue bins seems weak and the water leaches it further every time it rains or we water. The spinach has gone to seed already, but we are going to let it reseed itself so we have fresh spinach this fall. The carrots, potatoes, and broccoli are putting out extra efforts to grow well this year. Even the squash is starting to really put on growth, now that the cool days have become a thing of the past.

We also built the herb bed frame yesterday. I was originally planning on filling it with soil and planting herbs this year but plans changed. Instead, we are going to fill the frame with grass clippings this year, let those compost down over the summer and winter, and top it all off with soil next spring. Then we'll plant a variety of herbs is the very rich soil. So far I'm planning on chamomile, rosemary, sage, oregano, transplanting the tarragon, chives, mint, and thyme. These are all perennials in this area. I also plan on planting basil and summer savoury , annuals, and anything else that catches my eye next spring.

Even the sweet potatoes are growing like crazy. Soon I'll have to add a stake or possibly a tomato cage so the vines and grow up instead out like they did last year. I put the smaller planter on the deck and look forward to the pretty purple and white blooms later in the summer.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Weekend Fun and Games

This weekend was the 2nd annual Medieval Festival at Upper Canada Village. It was a four day event. Thursday and Friday the Festival was open to all the schools in the area and all accounts say they were packed both days. As I understand it the interpreters all did a great job giving historical accounts and demonstrations of jousting, sword fighting, archery, and more.

Saturday was our day to attend the festival. We got there early, thankfully, and were fifth or sixth in line to get our tickets. We went ahead and purchased annual tickets to the Village so that we could not only see the festival but so we could come back several more times through the Summer to see Village life progress through the year.

The festival was set up in an open field behind Louck's Farm, hidden by rows of trees and the farm buildings. I was surprised to find that unless you knew the festival was going on the only indication within the village itself was the occasional visitors who were dressed in the style of their choice. In all honesty they didn't really stand out that much from the 1800's style unless they were dressed as noble people or the older styles of the Celts and Vikings.

Once we reached Louck's Farm we followed a small wagon road up and around to the gates of the festival proper, where we were met by Queen Elenore and her daughter Matilda. They officially opened the gates and welcomed all early comers to the grounds. Through the gates we found the Jousting Ring, the Birds of Prey display, the Viking Encampment, a Medieval Bowyer & Arrowsmith display, and the food and souvenir vendors.

Across a wooden bridge and into the old hay field we found the "Gypsy Encampment" which was the home of several vendors, with everything historical and fantasy that a person could desire, The Ottawa Medieval Sword Guild, the Ottawa Lacemakers Guild, The Knights of Valour camp, the Farakan Belly Dancers, the Archery Demonstration Field, South Tower Armoury, and of course the centre stage for all the various events.

My favourites were the Lacemakers, who were making some lovely laces, and the Bower who was more than willing to answer all my silly questions. The lacemakers because of the obvious... its another fibre art I don't know how to do and could see myself learning. I definitely have something in my blood for learning ancient fibre crafts.

I liked the bower, Robin C Van Acker of Chatham Ontario, because not only was he willing to answer all my questions he was congenial and didn't have any problem with the fact that a woman was asking all the wood working questions. I did find it interesting that everyone just looked and didn't actually interact with him until I started asking my questions. I guess they realized he was more than happy to share his information, show them his techniques to a point, and answer any question put to him both modern and historical. He was also very knowledgeable which was great too.

All in all a wonderful day, even if I did get sunburnt.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Spring Cleaning

We spent the afternoon yesterday doing our twice a year clean and organize of the garage. We keep it fairly well organized but over the winter and early spring hectic days it tends to get a little cluttered. When you are working in the yard and it suddenly starts raining, everything gets tossed into the garage willy nilly. Do this a couple of times and you suddenly find it hard to move around without bumping into things. Everything has a place, it just doesn't make it there as it should sometimes.

While cleaning the garage we listened to a CD given to PeterC by a co-worker. Turns out he is in a band called Leaving Beechwood, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually enjoyed listening to them. They are a little bit grunge and a little alternative for my tastes but as a casual listen in the background while I worked they had a good beat. I definitely recommend them to anyone who likes independent groups.

In the spirit of spring cleaning I am going to be changing the blog a little over the next few days. I'm going to be adding more links to websites and forums I find interesting, especially those dealing with tablet weaving and nalbinding. That way any one who is interested in trying to learn these hobbies can have access to the same sites I visit regularly. If you have any specific requests that I miss please feel free to leave a comment requesting more information.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Night Time Cravings

Don't you just hate getting a weird craving at about the time you should be thinking about getting ready for bed? I got a craving for German Chocolate Cake last night at 7:00pm. We had eaten supper and I was full, so it wasn't hunger. It was some kind of random "I want something I haven't had in years" craving.

Now something you should know about me is that I am VERY picky about cake, especially German Chocolate Cake. It can't be to sweet or to dry, and the frosting must taste like coconut and slightly sweet caramel or brown sugar frosting. So with all those variables, and the fact that it was 7pm, I decided I was going to make German Chocolate Cake - a desert I have never in my life made.

Out come the cookbooks and the mixing bowls. I put PeterC in charge of the cake since he makes a killer chocolate brownie that is just the right texture and taste for what I remember the cake should be like. He starts mixing up the recipe while I find and start making a frosting from one of my cookbooks. Needless to say disaster struck almost immediately, though we didn't realize it until it was to late.

It turned out the recipe I had chosen was for a SAUCE, not an actual frosting, but I didn't realize that until I was trying to trouble shoot the recipe. I added evaporated milk to the cooked sugar and water, it frizzled and spattered as promised but the sugar turned into these huge, hard lumps in the bottom of the pan instead of mixing smoothly with the milk. As I was reading the recipe again, I came across the sentence that I must have missed in first reading. "Pour the sauce over the cake". Definitely, not the recipe I wanted to use.

Out came another cookbook. This one had a recipe for German Chocolate Cake Frosting. The ingredients included evaporated milk, sugar, and water so I thought I would try to use the mess I had made to make this new recipe. I added the vanilla and beaten eggs with some success, and eventually it started to thicken and look like a dark frosting. It was darker than it should have been and that was because I had left the sugar and water on the heat longer than I should have and it burnt a little.

Meanwhile, PeterC is working away at his brownie recipe. When it comes time to put it in the oven it doesn't look right. It isn't a batter. It looks more like a really moist chocolate crumble. He decides to add another couple of eggs, which makes it look like the right consistency, and in the oven it goes.

A half an hour, and many dishes and utensils, later we pull what looks like the perfect cake base out of the oven. We flip it out of its pan and frost it. The frosting goes on exactly like I think it should. Out come the forks and the first , oh so much anticipated bite, and....ugh! The frosting is bitter and the cake is so dry it crumbles in your mouth. On top of all that the whole thing is so sweet I can barely eat a bite without having insulin reactions of the negative kind.

By this time it is 9:00 pm, the kitchen is a mess, the cake was a flop, and I am ready for bed. Maybe my next attempt at making a cooked frosting should be done in the daylight hours. I'll be more awake and I can wash away the evidence, of another failed attempt, before PeterC gets home from work.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

As the Garden Grows

Well, it looks like I survived this season's version of the flu. I have to admit that for a short time I wasn't sure I was going to make it, but all the warm thoughts and shared stories from my faithful readers kept me going. That, and the fact that I was getting really tired of being tired. I slept all day Monday with a bad case of the chills and by Tuesday I was feeling better. Wednesday my appetite was back to full swing and I ate a salad, two ears of corn, and a slice of barley pudding.

The garden is coming along slowly. Its been cooler than normal for this time of year with a couple of surprise frosts well past the normal last frost date. We covered everything that was growing and all plants have survived well, though the warmer weather plants are only just now, grudgingly, sticking their heads above the soil. The squash finally sprouted, though it looks like I may have lost all but two seeds to the birds and weather. The beans have been a little hit and miss in sprouting and the lettuce is little more than decorative dressing for the cucumbers.

The potatoes are doing really well, showing a good four or fives inches of upper growth. I'm very pleased with the straw and potatoes experiment. We'll have to see later this year if the tubers themselves grow as well as the foliage. If they do then this is going to be my preferred method of growing potatoes from this point forward.

The spinach is doing the best of all the cooler weather plants. We've been eating it for a week now and the plants don't seem to be any worse the wear for the cool nights and wet days we've been having. At this rate we'll be able to eat spinach every night for supper and have enough to freeze for casseroles later this year. The carrots also seem to be doing well. Another week or two and I'll have to thin them down to one plant every couple of inches.

We started our outdoor building projects this weekend. We decided to build a raised, floating deck in place of the back steps. This gives us the beginnings of a fancy two level deck and lets me hang out the laundry without pulling out the step ladder to reach the clothes line. We still have to build and populate the herb bed and reinforce the foundation of the garage but we are about a month ahead of schedule so far. With any luck that means we'll have everything done before PeterC gets his summer vacation and we'll actually have a few days to play as we see fit.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Time Lapse Flu

Well, it seems PeterC brought the flu home from work. One thing led to another and the next thing I know it is two weeks later and I am still on and off again feverish, with a killer headache. This is not a typical flu for sure. With the common flu I get feverish for a couple of days and sleep for 48 hours. When I wake up I am hungry, weak, and cured. Within a few hours of eating I am back to my normally frumpy self.

This flu is something else indeed. Or maybe it wasn't the flu and just some very strange virus, but it has been a real joy kill. I woke up with a headache and a fever May 21st. Even wrapping up in sweaters and blankets wasn't enough to keep me from shivering. I took aspirin, drank plenty of water, and slept as much as possible.

Fast forward to Tuesday, this week, and I'm feeling less cold but my head and teeth are killing me. I assumed at first that it was a sinus headache, but it didn't go away when the weather cleared up. I'm also as weak as a kitten. I tried two or three times to clean the house or even wash dishes and I felt like I'd been run over by a herd of horses. Not so much sore but having a hard time catching my breath and just plain tired.

I spent a good part of Thursday afternoon laying in my hammock and trying to catch my breath after weeding the garden. Friday I went outside and put the hose on and weeded some more garden before I had to rest again. Yesterday, was the first day I was able to spend more than 20 minutes working without getting tired. I managed to spend three hours outside burning off the winter accumulation of branches and twigs. Of course I suffered the consequences afterwards as my fever came back full blown and my head hurt so bad I wanted to cry.

This morning my head is only slightly painful and I don't feel feverish at all. I guess time will tell if I am finally over this thing. I figure I either cured myself by getting hot by the fire, or I've set myself back a few more days by pushing myself to hard.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Beef Jerky

Since we had all that lovely organic beef sitting in the freezer, I decided it was time to make a big batch of beef jerky. We love beef jerky but the cost at the grocers is beyond unreasonable. Making it takes longer than buying it but it costs a lot less and is relatively easy if you you take the time to make it.

Home Made Beef Jerky
1) Slice lean beef into thin slices. Do the slicing while the steak is still partially frozen and you can control the thickness of the slices much better.

2) Marinate the meat for 3-6 days. Beef jerky is very versatile and you can use just about any flavourings to make a tasty snack. You can use any marinade you want depending on whether you want sweet, spicy, or salty jerky. I decided on a sweet jerky this year. Here is a list of my ingredients. I made enough marinade to cover the amount of beef I had.

soy sauce
maple syrup
brown sugar
salt
pepper
garlic
cayenne pepper

3) Dehydrate / cook the jerky on low for 18 hours. There are a lot of ways to do this too. You can smoke the meat in a smoker, following the smokers guidelines. Smoked jerky is best but you can dry/cook it in the oven set on the lowest heat setting. Depending on the temperature it can take as little as 8 hours and as long as 18 hours. Or, you can do it like I did this year.

You can use a commercially available dehydrator to make your jerky. I have this cheap little model I bought from Walmart years ago. I use it mostly to dry extra veggies for soups and fruits for snacks. This year I used it to make jerky, and it worked well.

You simply load the trays with your marinated meat and turn on the machine. This model uses a very low heat setting so we had to let it run for the full 18 hours. When it was done we had four large batches of the sweetest beef jerky in the world. To sweet for me, as it turned out, but still tasty.

I still have a little bit of meat in the marinade, which I hope to smoke this weekend. I've added more salt and pepper top the marinade to make it a little more spicy than sweet. If I really wanted to spice it up I could add chili pepper sauce, available at most grocers in the Chinese food sections. But this time I'm just using salt and pepper to spice things up a bit.

There you have it. The easiest recipe in the world for making beef jerky. If you decided to give it a try, let your imagination run wild. Mix and match flavours to create something yummy and unique. The best thing about home made jerky is it is good for you and your family with its lean meat and natural flavourings. Enjoy.