Sunday, 30 September 2012

Did I miss a month?

September has come and gone with a blur.  I seriously haven't a clue where the last 30 days have gone.  Was it not just September the 4th - the first say of school?

The children have settled into public school life after 7 years of home school and I'm slowly adjusting to the new parenting schedule.  The mornings and evenings are quite "full" (which I'm not used to).  Homeschooling meant that my days were full but my mornings and evenings were slower. 

I'm taking a Master Organic Gardener course which is keeping me quite busy during my quiet daytime hours. Combined with regular chores, cooking and garden work, my days are just as full as before, but in a different way.   From 4pm on, snacks, home work support, chores, activities, supper preparations/eating, lunch making and evening routines are all crammed into an intense 4 hour time window that feels like ONE hour.  My grandiose idea that I'd have hours of time to tackle long neglected weeding, steam cleaning and painting were utterly off base.  My project time is thin at best, so once again, I'm working in fragments...  30 minutes here, an hour there... sometimes a few, if I'm lucky.  This season of life is oh so full...

The weather has been glorious and I've been taking full advantage of it, line drying clothes and getting outside in the garden.  There is still much to harvest in the next week or so.  My ever present garden partner, Kitty (pictured below) gets into all sorts of mischief when I'm outdoors... climbing 6' fences to get into the garden and hen run, chasing chickens (for fun, not to eat), rolling in my garden, picking fights with our garage/outdoor cat, sneaking into the greenhouse for a nap and chewing my plants (to name just a few).  We'll keep him in spite of all this because he's tough as nails and he chases fox off the property on a VERY regular basis (I've seen it and I'm not kidding).  He is a SPECTACULARLY skilled hunter.

We had my parents out for a week long visit recently (which added another dimension of busy to an already busy month), and we sure enjoyed seeing them.  We deeply appreciate the time and energy that they invest in coming to visit our family on a regular basis. Thanks Mom and Dad XO  

In other news, in a month or so, I'll be a Grandma!  Kelsey is due November 1st, and is feeling well and healthy.  They don't know the gender of the baby, so it will be a lovely surprise for us all on delivery day.  I can't really guess on the gender, and of course, it surely doesn't matter :)  I'm busy planning a baby shower for her which will happen in late November when her Mom and sister are in town to meet the baby. I haven't hosted a baby shower for over 18 years ~ it's going to be such a good time getting together to celebrate a new little life :)

In crafty news, I MUST carve some time out to work on the baby's quilt... it's so exciting to create something for my first wee Grandchild, but I have to finish harvesting before the frost that is due to arrive very soon. As well, Kelsey has asked me to help her make a seat cushion for a lovely old wooden rocker that they bought at a garage sale.  It's beautiful and I'm honoured to help her with that.  What a lucky Mother in Law I am to have such a beautiful Daughter In Love (both inside and out).


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A little crazy right now

I'll be back here soon :)  There's too much life to fit into days that seem too short just now.  Hope you are well  XO

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Shed makeovers

Since the day we moved into this house, the sight of the 2 sheds at the back of the house made me crazy.  I have no before picture (a shame, but I hated the sight of the them and never took a picture), so you'll have to trust me when I say that they were in BAD condition.  The doors were made of OSB (oriented strand board) and they had been exposed to the weather for enough years that they were quite literally rotten and had partially disintegrated.  On top of it all, both sheds were leaning in different directions, slowly returning to the earth.  We were tempted to simply tear them down and rebuild, but after close inspection, we figured we could get another 5 or more years out of them, if we spruced them up a bit.  

Below, you can see Kelly's handiwork this summer... first up was to square the structures up using a jack and some concrete blocks.   Then, he tore off all the rotten doors and trim boards and made and installed new plywood doors.   You can see the fascia board at the front - there's no stain left on most of them!  So worn out.

Next came my part of the equation...  paint!  I had enough paint leftover from the house renovation to complete nearly all of the job so that was a great help for the budget.   The base colour is colour matched to the siding of the house, and the trim paint is the same as what's around the doors on the house.  The dark grey door paint is again, mimicking the exterior house doors.  

Unfortunately, after painting, we noticed that there is a warp on the outer layer of plywood on the right door...   I didn't notice it until after I painted the first coat.  It's not visible up close, but from a distance, it sure is!  It's too late in the year to change that out as the night time temperatures are too cold now to cure paint (and we may not bother replacing that door seeing as the sheds won't last us for too many more years anyways).

Here's the view of both sheds together from toward the north side of the yard...  I didn't pain the north side of either shed as those sides aren't visible from any of the main traffic areas of the house/yard.  If you can see the state of the roof on the tractor (big) shed, you'll know why I don't want to invest the money in paint for that!  

They definitely aren't perfect, but they are a whole lot better than they were.  We see these two sheds EVERY time we walk to the garden, the clothesline, the chickens and even to the house from the car.  They are highly visible and were a total eyesore!

Next up are some "pretty" additions...  I've got brackets for hanging baskets and some lined, wrought iron flower boxes that I found at the thrift store last month for just a few dollars!

Stay tuned....

Monday, 10 September 2012

Using It Up

Oh, I've been terrible this summer about using up bits of food in the pantry. It's funny how all the little bits of things end up shoved toward the back of the cupboard... I discovered a wide assortment of dried fruit, ground and slivered almonds, wheat germ, etc... and even some honey that had crystallized.  Time to use these things up!

A quick search online netted a fast recipe for homemade granola bars.  I think I baked mine a little longer than they needed, so watch yours closely.  Mine ended up taking 25-30 mins not the 35 that recipe called for.  I adjusted the recipe to include what I had on hand, so I added slivered almonds, shredded coconut, all honey (no brown sugar), chia seeds, kamut flakes, dried pears, cranberries and raisins, and a few other bits and bobs found in my pantry...  they are delicious!  Spread with peanut butter, they are seriously addictive but due to student allergies, they'll be eaten plain as school lunchbox fare.

Speaking of finding things that need using up - can you believe that I found 13 bananas in my freezer?  Seriously ridiculous! 

I now have 2 banana loaves and 24 muffins in the freezer all ready for quick school lunches.

Next up - chicken stock made from 3 frozen roast chicken carcasses...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Sunday Scenes

Early this morning, as I had my first strong tea with my blog land visits, Paige and teddy decided to learn some new languages tucked up into my bed :)  Teddy looks rather pleased with himself, doesn't he?  He must have earned an "A", the clever chap.

With a smile on my face, I took my second cup of tea out to the front verandah to see this.   These mornings are numbered...  soon, the frost will make outdoor morning teas a distant memory.

I picked and washed, blanched and froze and baked and baked some more.  Bread, a pie, some stock and pizza rolls.  Chicken Pot Pie for supper.

Finding the sweet spot to rise the bread always makes me smile :)  

Two seasons are represented on my kitchen windowsill...  summer flowers from the garden and a candle for the dark fall evenings.

Get a load of this beauty!  Gorgeous vintage breadbox EXACTLY like the one that's been swimming around in my head for years on end found at the local thrift for $2.  Oh, happy day!

With a 3 position adjustable shelf, she's very accommodating :)  Bread on top and the pie that I baked today fit *perfectly* on the bottom.   


Friday, 7 September 2012

Practicing Permaculture

For the past few months, I've been studying as much as I can about Permaculture.  The subject fascinates me and makes perfect ecological sense.  I'm planning to take a Permaculture Design Course in Spring of 2013, but in the meantime, I'm reading and trying out a few ideas here on our property.  The more I learn about Permaculture, the more I realize how truly vast this topic really is ~ it will take me a lifetime to learn it all.

As you may know, after 3 years of living in this house, we had a deck built at the back of our house to provide some much needed outdoor living space for our family.   One of the concepts that I learned about through my study of Permaculture is using plantings to cool the house.  The back of the house gets HOT afternoon/evening sun and of course, this heats the interior of the house up in the summer.  In planning the deck, we purposely designed a gap between the deck and the house so that we could plant some vines and other plants to cool and shade the house.  As well, the plantings will eliminate the harsh sun glare that reflects off the siding.  In mid-summer, the heat that radiates off of the exterior house wall is astoundingly uncomfortable - we are really eager to temper that a bit.

The picture above shows the space mid way through the deck project ~ the upper deck at the back of the photo is only just framed in this snapshot, but you can see the space on the right between the start of the deck boards and the house...  it's looked like that for a few months now until I could get some time to address the area.  

Using a garden hose as a guide, we shaped the edge of the deck to the curve we wanted.  Kelly traced the line in pencil on the deck and used the jigsaw to cut off the boards.  After that, he used the router on the cut edges so they would look more like the rounded edges on the sides of the deck boards.  

Notice that the upper deck is all done finally!  You can't see them, but we have french doors from our master bedroom that open up onto this upper deck.  Eventually, we will have enough money saved to buy a re-furbished hot tub for the upper deck - they sell for half the price of a new one and have a warranty through the manufacturer.  Many are barely used as they are trade ins from people looking for a bigger/better model.

I digress... back to the project!  Today, I levelled out the ground where the plantings will go and pulled up some of the bigger weeds.  After that, I spread cardboard and newspapers that I'd been saving for a few weeks to provide a weed suppressing barrier (and carbon for the composting process).  On top of that went grass clippings (nitrogen) from 2 recent grass cuttings.  I'm going to pop a few plants in there right away by separating the papers just enough to add compost and a plant.  By Spring, we should have some nice soil there as I saw a fair amount of worms as I worked the soil today.  The cardboard will encourage them to come to the surface and work their magic!

I'm planning on planting a few tall, native grasses, perennials and a few vines which if placed strategically, will mask the various service related "eyesores" at the back of the house.   I'm choosing NOT to plant any food producing plants as the deck is made from treated wood (necessary here) and I don't want the leaching chemicals to get into the food.  I also have to be mindful of what I plant, as I don't want to attract a lot of bees to this area :)   Additionally, the 2 small windows let in needed natural light to the basement, so I'll have to plant a ground cover in those 2 small areas... 

Planting suggestions?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


I love the warm glow of early Autumn's light.  I'm savouring it, because soon, winter will cast it's frigid blue. 

Fall means hearty meals full of the garden's late offerings....  so satisfying to have a pot full of my hard work on the stove.  There is NOTHING like that feeling, is there?

Pot roasts sear and fill the house with the promise of a warming meal at the end of a long day working outside...

...and Carmel Apple Pies (made with hail damaged apples from our tree) remind everyone to leave room for dessert :)

 Back home in BC, Spring was my favourite, but here, in Alberta, Fall has my heart.


I love the warm glow of early Autumn's light.  I'm savouring it, because soon, winter will cast it's frigid blue. 

Fall means hearty meals full of the garden's late offerings....  so satisfying to have a pot full of my hard work on the stove.  There is NOTHING like that feeling, is there?

Pot roasts sear and fill the house with the promise of a warming meal at the end of along day working outside...

...and Carmel Apple Pies (made with hail damaged apples from our tree) remind everyone to leave room for dessert :)

 Back home in BC, Spring was my favourite, but here, in Alberta, Fall has my heart.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Cool Tools

Soon this view from the front porch will be all white, but for at least another 8 weeks (we hope!) we'll be enjoying what Fall has to offer us while we scurry to prepare for winter.  Garden produce is being harvested, sheds are being painted and new food forest plantings are going in the ground.  The pool is dismantled and put away, and soon, the trampoline will come apart.  

Indoors, the garden haul is slowly being processed.  This year, I'm freezing most of it, as it's faster and more energy efficient to store it that way now that I have some room the chest freezer.  They work more efficiently when full, so it's a good choice for us this year. 

The daily pick of tomatoes never disappoints :)  The (Paris Gold) celery isn't quite ready, but I couldn't stop myself from picking some anyway.  The taste is unbelievable!  Nothing like store bought (as most home grown food proves to be).  Tonight I used a good bit of it chopped up in a hearty bean soup and it was a really tasty addition.  

I'm not one to shamelessly promote products on my blog, but I had to share the single most helpful tool that I've added to my kitchen in recent memory.  I can't stop raving about it and my family is now getting tired of my exclamations of satisfaction :) 

 This humble Vegetable Brush does a SPECTACULAR JOB of cleaning dirty garden produce!  It's made of sustainably harvested beechwood and natural bristles, but the very BEST feature has to be the different bristles on each end.  The brown ones are really stiff and course (perfect for filthy carrots), whereas the lighter bristles are more gentle for softer produce.

That dirty carrot pictured above was brushed clean as a whistle (below) in SECONDS.  Literally. No exaggeration.

Not only does this little brush save me time (no more laborious washing and scrubbing the dirt off), but also, it saves water (no hose or tap running for ages while scrubbing and rinsing).  As well, I save even more time because I no longer need to peel the carrots in order to remove the last of the sticky clay that clings in the creases of the carrots.

Because we have approximately 300' feet of carrots still to pull and wash, I 
really LOVE this product!

My second favourite acquisition is the dish brush.  It's also a wood/natural bristle brush and I bought a replacement head to tuck aside for future use.  I love that it's a biodegradable tool, and that I'm not adding to the global plastic waste problem.

Both brushes (as well as some stainless containers for the children's lunches) were purchased from Life Without Plastic.  I'm VERY happy with their service and I highly recommend them.  They even refunded me a discount on 2 of my products a week after I bought them because they went on sale.  Now THAT is good customer service!

I encourage you to check out this online store - not for any benefit of mine, but simply because this company is working really hard to source and sell quality non-plastic products with a genuine concern for the environment and human health. They also gave me outstanding customer service, which in this day and age, is really something.


Stay tuned...  I've got some really good before and after pictures to show you!