Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Slow Living - July

I'll be joining up with Slow Living Essentials with this month's slow living post.  It's a very interesting series if anyone wants to come along for the ride.

 Nourish:  Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch overpackaged, overprocessed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead. Share favourite links/recipes/tips from the month here.

My favourite this month has been chocolate zucchini bread.  Sorry, no pictures - we ate it up too fast.

  Prepare:Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season.

Stockpile you say?  That we certainly did...
We picked 18 pounds of blueberries at a blueberry farm about an hour and a bit from our place.  Most went into the freezer for winter baking.
Just look at those bushes!
They have these rubber ducky races set up for the "kids" to try.  The boys loved it...not the least because the "accidentally" kept splashing themselves ---it was darn hot out.

 Reduce:  Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing. A ladder into a strawberry planter? A sheet into a dress? Share ideas and project links here, allowing others to be inspired.
This rag rug so far is made from 22 t-shirts.  I need to "wrassle" up a few more to make it the size that I want for my youngest son's room before the fall.  The instructions for cutting the t-shirts into strips are over here 

Green: Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.

Still riding my bike to work when I can...about half the days this month.  I refused to ride it the days it got up into the 45 degree area (with humidex of course) cuz that just can't be good for me.

Also, I have joined a group called Mommy Market...a kind of on-line garage sale in our county that basically goes on all the time.  I have sold some of the boys outgrown clothes and some "stuff" we just weren't using.  I have also bought a couple of board games from the same site.  So basically, we are all reusing each other's things.

 Grow: plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden? Herbs in a pot, sprouts on a windowsill or and entire fruit/vegetable garden -opt for what fits space and time constraints.  

Yep, I'm meeting this category all right.

 Create:  To fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others. Create something as simple as a handmade gift tag or something as extravagant as a fine knit shawl. Share project details and any new skills learnt here.

I had to go back and check the camera pictures for this one, but I for sure have made a trail mix bag for hubby, and lemon-ey herb sachets for S and I am working on the rug for N.  

Discover:   Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests. Trawl libraries, second hand shops or local book shops to find titles that fill the need. Share titles/authors of what is being read this month.

Many many library books and I bought a vegetarian cookbook during my visit to Toronto.  I meant to take not of the library books because I really wanted to share, but I didn't write them down.  Lesson learned for next month - I can't in fact remember details for that long.

 Enhance:  Community: Possibilities include supporting local growers & producers, help out at a local school/kindergarten, barter or foodswap, joining a playgroup or forming a walking or craft group.

This month, the only thing I have going is the "Street Kids Scarf", details for that over here if you want to participate.
I'm a little farther along than this, thank goodness, because it is due for September, but I really need to get moving on it if I am going to have it done in time.

Enjoy:   Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment. Share a moment to be remembered from the month here.

Enjoy!  Not a problem at all.
 A trip to the beach...
...until quite late.
Rubber duck races.
Campfire cookouts.
And a visit to "the city" to see my sister for the weekend.  That's a whole lot of enjoyment packed into one month.  Plus, the pure enjoyment of eating tomatoes still hot from the sun, berries straight off the vine, and the thrill of the "firsts" of the season...first cucumber, first zucchini, first beans, first tomato.

Enjoy your month my friends!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Canning a bit a day.

If you have been reading my blog lately, you may know that I have set myself a challenge to eat something from my garden every single day this year.  That means that throughout the growing season, I pretty much have to preserve at least one thing a day if I am going to meet my challenge throughout the winter months.
So, what do you do when you only have a bit of this and a bit of that (some things are just starting, some things I am afraid may have reached the end of the run...or else I have overpicked and have to wait a bit again)?  Solution:  mix 'em all up.

I found a recipe for "Vegetable Medley" in Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning and it just fit the bill.  Basically, you slice up your vegetables (they mention zucchini, cucumber, eggplant, pepper, carrot, turnip, cauliflower, broccoli)
Sorry, I really don't know why my computer keeps rotating photos.  It drives me bonkers.

Then you chop up some herbs and mix them with seeds (I used dill, but they also mention coriander and juniper berries)
As this is an experiment, I threw in a bit of everything - oregano, sage, basil, thai basil, thyme and lemon thyme.  Oh, and one sprig of winter savory which I have never even used before, so that should be interesting.

Then you boil the veg in vinegar for one to three minutes (hence, laying them out in order of "crispness") and then drain off the vinegar, layer the veg with the chopped mixed herbs that have been mixed with the seeds, and some course salt and then cover the whole lot with oil (I used olive) and put in a cool place (for me, that is the fridge...we do not  have a root cellar - yet).
Now I have to wait a month or two to test it (and they say it will last a year).  They suggest, maybe, over some couscous.  

The whole book I find is more of "instructions" than recipes.  There are very few times where they list quantities, so everything I have made from it so far is quite an experiment.  It should make for an interesting winter.
Also today, the blackberries have started bearing fruit, so I am freezing them in pans in the freezer a bit at a time until I have enough to "do something with".  On the right is some lamb's quarters leaves that I will freeze also a bit at a time until I have a bag full and can use them up in something as well. I am told they are a power house of nutrition.

Linking up with Laura William's Musings for Carnival of Home Preserving on Friday.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Kind of a yarn along...

On my last post, I mentioned that I was preparing my T-shirt "yarn" for the rag rug I had been putting off for my youngest's room.  (see over here for how I cut the strips).  Last night, I had big plans to get a good chunk of it done, but due to "circumstances", let's say, this is how far I got.  5 t-shirts gives me about 6 1/2" (it's 30" wide) which means what I thought was a HUGE pile of old t-shirts will not go very far at all.  I will have to make sure my husband goes through his old t-shirts too, to donate to the project.

I just finished reading "We Took To The Woods" by Louise Dickinson Rich after seeing it on so many other blogs.  It had to be ordered from the University of Windsor's library and took it's time getting here, but I enjoyed it thoroughly, and if I ever come across a copy, I will be buying it.  I particularly like the parts where she explains what they make sure to have on hand for the parts of the year they are nearly housebound and can't get, as she calls it "Outside".

Also, I don't know if I have mentioned lately how much I LOVE doing my groceries in the back yard.  We were gone for the weekend, so Monday for dinner, I toured the backyard and almost the entire dinner was pulled from there.  We had green beans and cucumbers and potato latkes (and eggs and bread which I can't grow myself).  Last night...
...a tour of the garden yielded the ingredients for 3 salads to go with our farm market sausages.

My sister taught me the green tomato salad.  Apparently, a friend of theirs says it is Portuguese "peasant food" but the one we had at her place was delicious.  She chunked up the green tomatoes (I sliced them up a little thinner for N) and added 1/2 a red onion (I used white because that's what I had, but the red was definitely better) added some white wine vinegar (or whatever vinegar you like), a little olive oil (or whatever oil you like), salt and pepper.  I thought I made mine the same as hers, but hers was much much better.  
Not to mention it is just prettier too with the red onion instead of white.

The other salad was a mix of baby greens growing - the boys loved that one, and I think it is because we have been giving "greens" salad a rest for about a month, and the third was a zucchini coleslaw.  Grate the zucchini and let it sit for about 30 minutes and strain as much liquid out as possible, and then use that instead of cabbage in your coleslaw.  I added a few market carrots, some dressing, and there you have it.  It is much more mild than cabbage slaw...in fact, that bowl of salad was the only one empty at the end of dinner.

Linking up with Yarn Along at small things.  I haven't been for a while.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Using what I have...an update

Inspired by the lovely Tricia at Crunchy Catholic Momma, I have finally started on my next rag rug.  Well, at least I have started preparing for my rag rug.
I have been collecting all of our outgrown, stained, or torn T-shirts for a long while.  I have finally gotten around to cutting them into long strips to crochet a rug.
To make the strips, I cut the bottom off at an angle:
 Then I cut the bottom portion of the shirt into 2" strips almost, but not quite, all the way through.
 Then I open it up to the part that is still attached.  I start at the seam and cut up into the next opening, and then I cut at a diagonal from one opening to the next until the whole shirt is one long strip.
Each ball in the top picture is one t-shirt.  The part above the sleeve holes is being cut into rags that I bring to work, and any unusable parts are being inserted into my "floor poof" to stuff it.  So really, this project is pretty much zero waste.

I'll be linking up with Keep Calm Craft On over at Frontier Dreams on Tuesday and
Stash Bash over at Crunchy Catholic Momma on Thursday.

 Edited Thursday to show my progress...
This is how far I have gotten...I have used my entire stash of 22 old T-shirts (not all mine).  Now I just have to wait until my husband goes back through his stash of t-shirts again to donate some more to my cause and I can finish it up.


Can it be that it has been a full week since I posted?  I can hardly believe it.

This past weekend saw us (the boys and I) taking a road trip all the way to the big T.O. (Toronto) to visit my sister.  It was a weekend of great food, great company, and great adventure.  I have a really wonderful sister that lives 3-4 hours away from the rest of us (the rest of us living within 6 km of each other) and I am ashamed to say that in the 10 years she has lived in Toronto, the boys have never made the trip to see her, and I have only been once, this past December (she always comes to see us).  This trip was eye opening, and now I realize that it isn't fair to expect her to do all the travelling, and now that I know how easy the trip was (I don't like to drive in huge cities, and the boys normally get car sick) I think I see some more visits in the future.  I'm posting that here as much as a self-commitment as anything else.

We didn't take a huge amount of photos but S did take a few "architectural pictures":

For N, it was all about the food:  live eels in Chinatown, whole sides of beef hanging in St. Lawrence market with sushi for lunch.  Watching a man make churros in the store front...
...their first ever churros after the best quesadillas we have ever eaten.  They ate them while waiting for the bus. N has decided he loves public transit...especially the subway.  Oh boy, does he ever love the subway.
I liked this:
The city is full of art, culture, and just all around "cool" things.  There was an entire store that was devoted mostly to cookbooks (with a few other books here and there, and a few kitchen gadgets thrown in for good measure).  I could have spent hours in there.  There are pianos all over the city, outside, that anyone can just walk up and play.  There is food every where you look.  Good food, authentic food, not multinational take- out chains  (although there were some of those too, but they weren't in your face like they are here).

My sister taught me how to make kale chips, and green tomato salad, and took us to all kinds of markets and food stores.  I am amazed that in the heart of one of the 3 biggest cities in the whole country (I don't actually know where it falls in the top three, isn't that awful?), they have access to such home grown, organic, artisanal food products.  I understand the demand for it is high, but you would think that food like that should be available in more agricultural communities like around where we live too. 

They took us to a fantastic show called Cavalia which had me, at least, quite literally, on the edge of my seat half the time.  It was amazing. If you have a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.

And to top it all off...the boys weren't even car sick.

The whole weekend was just amazing, and A...I hope you get so catch up on some sleep this week. Thank you, and I love you.  We all do.

Monday, 16 July 2012

This is what I have been up to...

For my regular readers, I apologize...I am struggling with "balance issues".  All winter, the posts were extremely craft heavy.  Now they are extremely garden/canning heavy.  Hopefully soon I will be able to find a balance in my life as well as on this blog.

Now, here is what I have been up to:
Handpicking borage and chamomile flowers for tea in the winter...takes a long time, especially when you lose your marbles and do this...
There is a blog that I read (Homesprout) and on Fridays she posts Friday Favorites and there is always at least one really amazing food photo...I have been trying to capture interesting shots like I see on that site but I need much much more practice. I just don't think I have the eye for it.
Harvesting in bits and pieces.  My brother ate his way through most of this basket while picking up his son.  I actually kind of like when things come in just a bit at a time because it seems a little less overwhelming to this beginner canner.  A handful of green beans at a time is allowing me to experiment with one pint jars.
I plan on trying the green beans 6 different ways to see which we like the best, and then next year I will know what to do with them.  This is my first year doing anything but freezing them.  So far, I have one pint of "dilly beans" ( I wish I had a source for them, but the only note I took says "Canning and Preserving").  My guess now is that I read the book in the winter and took a few notes - I am thinking that is the name of the chapter rather than the book.  I will look into it.

Also pictured are some pickled radish seed pods (that one is over here).  I haven't tasted them yet, but I believe you can use them as you would capers.  Yum, since I am the only one in my house that enjoys capers, I can't really justify buying a jar of them.  Let's see if this will do the trick.  Oh, but I am saving them for the winter when it will hard to meet "the challenge".

I also tried the soup stock over the fire pit as it was way way too hot to do it in the house.  Hmmm.  I'm not so sure.  The boys abandoned me to go to an outdoor concert with my brother and nephew.  My husband was at his 100K walk (incidentally, turns out, it was actually 115K), so I ended up outside tending the fire while I watered and weeded the garden, but then it got dark so I brought out a lamp and read a book while watching my soup.  It takes a really long time to make the broth in this giant canning pot.  I might do it again in the fall though, just for "fun".  We did cook our dinner over this fire in the early evening.  Tasty!
After work today, I harvested this for our dinner.  Well, except for the beans, which are being lacto-fermented.  Incidentally, can anyone help me out here?  Do I have to refrigerate something that is lacto-fermented when it is done?  My book doesn't say to, but I have never done it before and I want to make sure it is safe.
And last but not least, getting the herbs ready for winter use.  It takes a might long time to get this much thyme off the branches, but it will be worth it.  Last year I left all the leaves on the stems and had to remove them every time I wanted to use them.  I think this will work much better.  I do believe I already have enough oregano, thyme and mint to last me through to the spring.  I will probably continue to dry some for my friends, but then I can hand it all over on the stems to save my sanity.

So, little crafting around here, although I plan to go watch Master Chef in a few minutes and hopefully do a few rows of my scarf.  Nighty night.

Linking up with Laura William's Musings for Carnival of Home Preserving on Friday.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

I love getting mail...especially this kind!

A few weeks ago I entered a giveaway over at Townsend House.  Well, I won, and it arrived in the mail on Friday, and I thought that it just might interest some of my readers.
 It is a surprise box of healthy snacks...all vegan and gluten free.
As I removed the tissue paper off the top, the boys darn near dove onto some of the packages.  N, of course wanted to claim the coconut mango bar, and S wanted to claim the blueberry coconut bar.  I told them they had to wait until I took a photo...
...and then I let them know that we would be sharing the snacks, so that we could taste a little bit of everything...and then I ripped open the cinnamon apple chips.

For a proper review of this product and a discount code!!! if you want to order for yourself, please check out  Heather's post on her blog, Townsend House.

I will say, the coconut mango bar was positively delightful, as were the apple chips.  We look forward to further sampling.

Thank you very much Heather!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Eat what you grow - Grow what you eat Challenge - July

It's that time of the month again to record my progress and notes for the Eat what you Grow/Grow what you eat challenge (in which I try to eat something that I grew every single day for the whole year - from my city garden...in Canada).
I have to say, I thought that late June and early July would be a little easier.  It has been so dry though that a lot of the crops have suffered.  
June 16 - a couple of raspberries and currents
17 - Strawberries in our oatmeal
18 - a variety of berries and peas while harvesting
19 - the boys and I took peas and raspberries in our lunches, and then we had a big bowl of peas with dinner
20 - gooseberries and peas in school lunches, lettuce with dinner
21 - gooseberries in school lunches, lettuce with dinner
22 - peas and strawberries
23 - raspberry sorbet
24 - strawberry/rhubarb preserves, gooseberries, and the rest of the raspberry sorbet
25 - raspberries in our waffles
26 - peas in our stir fry and all kinds of berries
27 - lettuce, spinach and radish seed pods, and N took gooseberries to school to share with the class
28 - radish seed pods in pasta salad
29 - berries...again.  If it wasn't for the berries, I wouldn't be getting through this challenge at all.
30 - all kinds of this and that while harvesting what is ready.
Radish seed pods - I didn't know these were edible until this year.

July 1 - Our first tomato (just one), sauteed radish seed pods (we all prefer them raw) and mint tea.
2 - mint tea and lots of herbs in spaghetti
3 - mint tea, our first cucumber, and our first 2 zucchini
4 - mint tea, peas and lettuce
5 - the first potatoes, more zucchini, and I made the boys each a tub of currant sorbet so they can eat straight from the container while we are at work...they quite like it because it is so so tart.
6 - lettuce, last year's salsa verde, and last year's salsa
7 - our very first handful of our own homegrown blueberries (and some lettuce).  I am worried about the bushes...there are a lot of dried leaves on them.  I am hoping they will survive.
I am pretty sure this is all I will be getting from home, so we plan to go pick some at a nearby farm.

8 - one tomato, one cucumber and some herbs - like I said...it's growing in bits and pieces at a time
9 - strawberries - frozen from earlier in the season
10 - cucumbers
11 - strawberry rhubarb preserve on toast 
12 - green beans at our beach picnic
13 - full disclosure - today was a fail...I ate nothing from the garden.  We left early to go pick blueberries at a farm over an hour away, ate lunch there, and then ended up coming home late after unexpectedly having dinner at my mom's.  So...one day so far this year with nothing from the garden. 
14 - cucumber with our campfire dinner
15 - tomatoes, zucchini ( I am posting this on the 14th because I won't be able to tomorrow, but those are on the menu, and they are even already picked)
There is quite a bit of herb harvesting going on to enjoy through the winter.  I have started a bit of preserving here and there...but I haven't tasted any of it yet, so I think I will share once we have tasted to make sure it is good...all new things I am experimenting with.

So, what are you growing?  What are you eating?  What are you preserving to enjoy in the winter?
Share a blog post...leave a comment...or leave a link to inspire us all.

If you missed them before, here are the other posts from this challenge:
The self imposed rules

Tally so far:   Success Days: 61   Days I didn't meet the challenge: 1
Come on back again next month.

I'm going to link this one up with Barn Hop over on Homestead Revival

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Yarn Along in July...

 So the hat for S is finally finished.  I can't believe it took me so long to make this hat...maybe because it took me almost a week just to untangle the yarn after I dyed it...and I actually only ended up using half of what I dyed, so now of course I am wondering if there is enough left to make a pair of self striping socks.  Hmmm.  Excuse the picture by the way.  It is a surprise for the cold weather, so I had to take the picture of myself.  The problem, though, is if it fits (and loosely at that) on my big giant head, then it will for sure be too big.  It is cotton though, and the last one I made him shrunk in the wash, so I am actually hoping this one will shrink in the wash.  As it is their job to fold most of the laundry over the summer though, I am going to wait until September to try to sneak it through.

Oh, yeah...it is just 100 stitches (worsted weight cotton) cast on, about and inch and a quarter of ribbing and then just straight up knitting until it got nice and long enough to be slouchy, and then k2tog for a round, knit for a round, repeat those 2 rows until there are just a few stitches left and run the yarn through them to tie it off.  Easy peasy but it took me a while to do in secret as the boys are staying up later lately.
Which leaves only the scarf on the needles.  Well, at least that is the only project on the needles that I am not completely ignoring.  The rest are packed away in bags here and there because I am pretty sure they are all going to be frogged.

On the reading front...I went to the library Monday night and found a series of 3 books by Paul Almond.  The Deserter, The Survivor, and The Pioneer.  I read the first one Monday and Tuesday.  It was excellent.  Set in Canada for a change in the late 1700's.  I stayed up way too late last night to read the second one.  I was kind of disappointed.  Although the actual story is great...a new husband and wife trying to set up their homestead against all obstacles...exactly the thing I like to read about...there are so many mistakes in the timeline it kind of drove me crazy.  When he is giving the background of the first book, he actually adds a year to the time the main character was there, then he has the guy spending the summer at a sawmill, yet somehow, later in the book, it says he spent that summer clearing his land and laying the foundation for his home (and magically the land is about a day away by canoe).  Then at one point he says it is late October, but then he talks about the long fall coming their way.  I plan on reading the third one anyways over the next couple of days.  Hopefully it won't drive me quite as nuts.  Having said that...if you are willing to ignore the time line issue, it really is a great (true) story as it deals with real life and death situations (at the back their is even documentation about the real events) and struggles that the very early settlers had to deal with.  Puts things into perspective, no?

Joining Ginny again for Yarn Along.  Haven't played along there in a while either as the knitting is such slow going in the heart of gardening season.