Monday, 30 April 2012

Bottoms Up!

Blue Laced Wyandotte bottoms...

ISA Brown and Gold Laced Wyandotte bottoms,

 Barred Rock bottoms,

and even the Olive Egger and Maran pullets were showing their pretty little bottoms!

The reason, you ask?

Oh yes... today was tilling day!  

I get a little giddy when we turn over a few "test" spades full of soil and find earthworms in such proliferation that we can't even count them!  It's a happy day indeed to know that the soil is coming alive after it's long winter's nap.

Kelly tilled the garden for me today so that I can plant the cool weather crops over the next 2 weeks.   While he's away at work, I've got BIG plans to bring fresh, green life once again to this land and after a long winter, I'm itching to get at it.

Stay tuned for a planting list!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Greenhouse Update


The tomatoes saw their last day in the house yesterday.  I don't think we could have waited ONE more day... the poor plants are leggy and were MOST unhappy in the house... not enough sun, not enough space, not enough soil, etc.  Ah well, we don't aim for perfection here ~ we simply do the best we can with what we've got.  This year we were dealt with poor weather (read: SNOW) when hubby was home on his days off which really slowed construction down and consequently, delayed planting.

In fact, we had freezing daytime temperatures and a horrible windy snow storm just a few days ago (!) that delayed the final work on the greenhouse but now, with a proper door (salvaged from our renovation), and a clear fibreglass roof,

 the temperature soared inside the greenhouse!

One by one, the flats of pots were marched in to their new home.

Above is the view from the doorway

and here is the view from the opposite end.

The soil was prepared the other day (while it was snowing and blustery outside).  We worked in some aged manured straw and I laid out the soaker hoses, knowing that irrigation will be crucial to successful greenhouse growing. 

The project isn't quite finished yet...  Kelly wants to install a gutter and our old water storage tank from the basement to catch rain water from the roof and bang up some leftover siding from our renovation that will pretty up the greenhouse on the outside. 

 Do you see the poor little wilted plant that Reece is working with?  He chose that one to plant because it needed some TLC and he wanted to be the one to give it.  Oh my...  that melted this Mama's heart right on the spot.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Meet The Teenagers

Our weather has been positively horrible of late with grey, drizzly skies and a cold wind that feels like it's coming from the arctic!  The "baby chicks" are officially gawky, hungry teenagers, and as such, have completely outgrown the brooder in the garage.  They are fully feathered, and actively curious (read: getting into trouble), so time to move out of doors in spite of the weather!

We are just now seeing the beautiful markings that are developing ~ we've got Black Copper Marans, Blue Copper Marans and a few Olive Eggers (the grey coloured pullet on top of the feeder).

They are a little skittish in their new surroundings, but a little bit of fresh food convinced them to come out of their little cozy house for a few pictures :) 

And of course, the "Big Girls" all came over to meet the new "kids" in town....

 ...and tell them exactly how things will be in the hen run.

There was much curiosity and plenty of hard stares...  Clearly, these old girls know how to keep teens in line :)

Sunday, 22 April 2012


Happy 92nd birthday to my beautiful Grandmother, Marjorie!
We hosted a wonderful brunch in her honor today ~ the most important item on the menu being angel food cake iced with whipping cream (thanks to our little baker, Paige).  We served it with homemade raspberry sauce (Grandma's favourite!). 

Good food shared with family all together... such a gift for us all.

I love you, Grams! 


Saturday, 21 April 2012

All Together Now

So happy to be hosting my parents, my brother and our niece and nephew for a visit.  A year is far too long for this girl who likes having her family around :)

 Grandma taught Paige a few crochet tips and Paige (in return) taught Grandma how to finger knit!  My Mom is a skilled knitter and crocheter and can make just about anything anywhere out of thin air ~ oh, that talented Mom of mine...

 The girls are so happy to be together and have been chatting and giggling late into the night...

And as is typical in our family, the guys have been fixing things. Our little garden tractor wouldn't start, so by heck, let's fix it!  Happy are our boys when they are covered in grease bonding under the hood of something (or in my Father's case, literally UNDER something).

We girls are doing big things indoors...  cooking for the masses, cake baking, party prepping and decorating.  Such fun.

Today is the day that the greenhouse will be finished!  I dare not get too excited, because anything could happen, but it DOES look promising...

Stay tuned, for Big Things are happening this weekend! 

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Egg Day!

After several weeks of waiting, our fertile Barnevelder and Welsummer eggs arrived!

 Each one was lovingly wrapped in 2 layers of bubble wrap and they were all nestled safely between multiple layers of padding.

The Welsummer eggs are the rich dark brown color.  Aren't they beautiful?

 We let the eggs come up to room temperature for the afternoon ~ they were mighty chilled from transport.  Hoping that won't affect the hatch rate too drastically.

Meanwhile, chores and our regular busy life here carries on...

 I wrapped my handmade apron to send off to my swap partner from 

Spread a little (mostly composted) manured straw in the greenhouse

Primed the installed greenhouse rafters outside....

 and primed the ones waiting to be installed this weekend. 

Can you see how HUGE our "chicks" are now?  They are 5-6 weeks old now :)   We tended to them as we always do ~ fresh bedding, water and food and even some of the first weeds that were growing in a sunny spot at the back of the house.  It was so funny to see them all fighting over the green pieces :)  There was plenty to go around, but chickens are funny like that ~ they always want what the other has!

These birds are nearly fully feathered, so they will be put out this weekend in a sheltered location, weather permitting.  This picture looks like they're really crowded, but they all stick together...  this is only half of their crate pen. 

 I'll share more on their new accommodation soon :)  

After the eggs arrived, much discussion ensued this afternoon.  Questions, reading, research... more questions....  a lot to learn in the coming weeks! 

We are busy preparing for out of province family to arrive in a few days.  Beds are being made up, food is being prepared, messes are being tidied up, furniture is re-arranged and the book piles are tamed :)  

My dear Grandmother turns 92 this weekend, so there's a party being planned!  Furtive lists and ribbons are strewn about the house...  such excitement in the air!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Garden Tour

  Can you see out my window?  Yes, that's more snow brightly reflecting the morning sun today.  We're getting very weary of it and I say it's high time for a little digging in the soil.  For now, I choose to be thankful for my indoor garden (which ironically blocks the view of the snow - a very good thing indeed for this winter weary, seedling flat rotator/indoor gardener).

I've got many different plants growing inside (far too may to list).   Aside from veggies, for the first time ever, I started a wide selection of perennials from seed.  We have grand plans for these emerging perennials in a new garden at the front of the house (flanking our new front steps (which are scheduled to be built sometime in May).  We haven't had front steps since we moved in nearly 3 years ago.  Seriously.  Front steps got pushed to the end of the renovation list ~ after all, they don't produce food or affect us on daily basis so down to the bottom of the list they go...   It's really quite hilarious to watch guests arrive at our house.  They haven't a clue how to physically GET to the front door. Cheap entertainment for crazy country folk like us :)

Oh yes, back to the garden...

This is a picture of tomato sauce and salsa.  Perhaps I should say that these plants will provide those yummy things 3 months from now...  

4 of our dining chairs have been put into use as a "tomato plant bench".  At Sunday dinner last night, we are all huddled on 3 sides of the table with various stools, etc...  Priorities!  Those plants need light and a place to safely wait until the greenhouse is finished (6 days and counting - but who's counting?).   They long outgrew the confines of the living room greenhouse, and this kitchen window is the only one left with enough sunlight.  


As to the Welsummer and Barnevelder hatching eggs - they have been delayed and will arrive mid-week.  So excited to fire up the incubator and tuck them in :)

Until then...

Friday, 13 April 2012

The BEST Breakfast

Slow oats cooked with milk, vanilla and a dash of sea salt, topped with a generous spoonful of peanut butter, a mix of seeds and dried fruit, drizzled with just a little bit of pure maple syrup.  If you're feeling like kicking it up even more, add banana slices.

This holds us all until lunch, and is chock full of fibre!


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Drunk On The Smell Of Clean Laundry

The smell of freshly laundered clothes brought in off the line has me positively intoxicated.  

After a long winter of using the dryer, the smell of our line dried clothing is incomparable.  I find myself sniffing every sleeve and sheet, closing my eyes to gratefully inhale the sweet smell of Spring. 


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Re-Seasoning Cast Iron

I use these 3 pans nearly every day. They usually just get wiped out after I'm done cooking, but on occasion, they require a hot water soak and some scraping.  If done frequently enough, this can negatively affect the seasoning on the cast iron, reducing it's natural non-stick quality.  Time to touch up the seasoning!

The first step is to make sure the pans are thoroughly clean and dry (don't use soap, however).  Coat them liberally on the inside with a heat stable fat of some kind. I used lard, but you could use olive oil or bacon fat.   Pop the pans into a hot oven (mine was set to 450F) and let them heat up until the pans get smoking hot.  Allow them to cool for a while, then remove them from the oven.   Use as normal. 

I placed mine on an old towel to fully cool as I decided to do some baking and take advantage of the preheated oven :)  The pans are back to their natural non-stick status and for such a quick fix, it makes a huge difference!

Monday, 9 April 2012

A Greenhouse Without Breaking The Budget

Living where we do, our growing season is painfully short. Out here in the country (which can be as much as 8 degrees colder than the city), we are lucky if we have a growing season with 3 full months of frost free nights.  Growing crops like tomatoes is a challenge that often ends in disaster (one that I have unfortunately experienced first hand).   The daily dance of checking the weather, calculating our rural factor in (-8 or so degrees), fully covering and uncovering a large amount of full grown plants each day, guessing, waiting and checking is a major investment of time that is usually in short supply.  It is a huge risk that we aren't prepared to take anymore.

Additionally, in Spring, many of our crops need to be started indoors which in a small house is a challenge.  Rotating flats of seedlings to avoid legginess is nearly impossible as we only have one ideal window that receives a lot of direct sunlight.  A greenhouse will give us a major leg up on the seed starting process and keep the messy business of it out of the house.

We well knew we needed a greenhouse, but with so many renovation tasks on the job roster (many of them on a limited timeline in order to take advantage of energy efficiency rebates) and my husband having to take an out of town job, the project had to wait.  


Cultivating patience seems to be my own major personal work since our move to Little Home In The Country.  Harumph.   That said, after 2 1/2 years, all the necessary factors/elements aligned recently (time, weather, free calendar, husband home, materials, etc.), so at long last, it was time to begin this project!

First up is location.  This spot is by far, the warmest on our property.  Facing due south, this exterior carport wall holds and reflects heat like nothing I've even known.  It's the last place to freeze in winter and the first place to boast workable soil in the spring. It's the least windy location here (thanks to the trees blocking all but the strongest of gusts).  
 Being close to the garden, orchard and coop and having available water in the form of 2 nearby downspouts (which will lead into holding barrels) makes it an ideal spot to build a greenhouse.

A concrete foundation would be best, but we are trying to build this structure as cheaply as possible using what we have on hand.  Step one was to lay out and level the timbers on bricks to prevent rot.  Kelly secured the timbers together by screwing 3/4" plywood to join them (inside and out) all along the perimeter. 

Next up were the end walls.  The angle on the far end was an initial design that he followed from a book, but after some further research, we decided to change it as you will see in the rest of the pictures.  

 The windows were all obtained free from someone we know who was grateful to get them out of her garage.  Score!  They have been sitting on our property waiting to be put into use for 2 1/2 years.  


Below (where Kelly is working) is the west end of the greenhouse.  We saved a few doors from our renovation and one of them is the perfect size for this application.

Both end windows open so that we can ventilate the greenhouse as needed without leaving a door open (an invitation to cats and other animals to come in).

 Here's the project to date, sheathed and ready for the next stage (roof and siding).  After considerable research, we have decided to go with clear polycarbonate double walled panels (with insulating airspace in between the layers). They are designed for greenhouse applications in our harsh climate which means that they can withstand frigid winter temperatures and hold a considerable snow load (no small feat for a plastic roof).   As to the siding, we have lots of leftover pieces from siding the house so that will be a good way to use them up and provide a maintenance free finished look.  

At Kelly's previous job placement (at the end of the project), he was able to buy lots of leftover building materials for a tiny fraction of their actual value.  Combined with the free windows scrounged from an acquaintance, this project (so far) has cost approximately $46.00.  Not bad for a 20'x8' solid structure!

Kelly leaves today to go back out of town for work so we will update on the last stage of the project when it's finished later this month.


Sunday, 8 April 2012

Easter Morn

A lovely ham is heading into the oven shortly for a nice slow bake.  

The sun is high and warm and the snow is receding (again). 

All is well.

Wishing you a lovely day however you choose to spend it. 


Friday, 6 April 2012

Epic Doughnut Fail

 A few weeks ago, I was delighted to find this vintage doughnut maker at the charity shop.  We have ALWAYS wanted to make doughnuts at home, so this seemed the perfect tool for the job.  I chose to view the beat up box as a good sign - obviously the previous owner loved and used this little gadget!

I diligently followed the instructions on the box and I made up both recipes (one a cake doughnut and one a yeast doughnut).  As the oil was heating, I announced to everyone at home that very shortly we would be eating the best tasting doughnuts ever!

The oil was finally at 375 degrees, so I gingerly released a small amount of dough into the oil with my handy dough dispenser....

...and the contents of the fryer boiled up and over all over the stove spilling boiling hot oil EVERYWHERE.   The dough separated into a thousand tiny fragments.  No doughnut shape, nothing even resembling a doughnut!

Mercifully, I'm not injured, but my stove took a kicking.  I had to pull out my back up paper towels as there was no way that I could wipe up that amount of oil with a rags and rinse it down the drain into the septic tank.


Have YOU ever successfully made doughnuts at home?  DO share!