Monday, 17 October 2011

The end of the garden for 2011

Well, today I tore down the garden. I pulled up the tomatoes (even though they were still flowering), clipped the last of the swiss chard, pulled up the green beans and harvested the dry pods from them and cleaned up the yard. I've harvested a lot of seeds for next summer; brandywine tomatoes, roma tomatoes, juliet tomatoes, celebrity tomatoes, San Marazano tomatoes, hot peppers of various types, patty squash, sweet red peppers, and now, bush beans. Oh, I also have some of the seeds from the butternut squash that was mentioned in last post. I did though lightly dig up one of my celebrity tomato plants that is trying to re-flower and brought it inside. I'm hoping I might get some more tomatoes from it. My husband has been absolutely spoiled with having fresh tomatoes all summer, I'm sure he is going to miss them. I've got some shelves put up in the basement for storing the onions and squashes, which will be purchased this Saturday. I'm starting to get into the thick of school (midterms, papers) so the likelihood of me being able to do regular posts is unlikely.But we'll see how it goes, and for sure, in the spring, I will start up regular posts.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Thanksgiving . . . and the consumption of this butternut

Well, up here in Canada, we do things different. Meaning we have Thanksgiving on the first monday of October. Yesterday, I drove two hours to go to my mom's and make Thanksgiving dinner. With two families, figuring out who gets who on which days can be hard. This year it wasn't as my in-laws were in the states. Sad though because my mother-in-law can cook. Upside though, I got to cook my mom real food. My mom jokes around that I'm the Martha Stewart of the family . . . but that she wasn't my teacher. She will attest to this, she is not the best cook. She can cook a chicken breast, make mashed potatoes, and feed a family of three kids on a single income, but she is not the best cook. Insert me! I love to cook. Which means, I would be the one making supper. And with me being a hippie now (by hippie I mean, the obvious, trying to be more sustainable) it would be sustainable food being served. 


We had pork hip roast (with garlic and thyme dry rub), mashed potatoes, mashed butternut squash, green beans and broccoli salad, with apple pie and pumpkin pie for dessert. The pork hip roast came in our meat order, and the package was a little ripped, so I thought it would be best to cook it first. Only afterwards did I realize that pork hip means loin!!!! The garlic was locally grown in Manitoba, and the thyme was from my backyard. My mom picked the potatoes from a local farmer who had already gone through with their potato picker, and picked up the scragglers. The green beans were from my backyard. The broccoli salad and pumpkin pie was not sustainably produced (Safeway), but the apple pie was homemade by moi, with the apples being from my mom's backyard apple tree. For me, the highlight of the evening (food wise) was the butternut squash. I have NEVER had a butternut squash taste that good. I mean it put the fricken in fan-fricken-tastic. My husband even ooo'd and awwww'd over it. My mom, step-dad and little sisters, had only had butternut squash made by my sister, which the girls didn't really like. But they liked this butternut squash. I've been trying to help my family make healthier choices, and my mom said yesterday, "I've never made butternut squash before, and I know you brought your own, but I'm going to watch how you make it and copy it." YAH to my mom eating new veggies. She can sometimes be scared of new food. I'm now super sad, as that was the only butternut squash that grew this year. I guess I have lots to look forward to growing them next year. I saved the seeds and am planning on planting a whole bunch of them . . . and even giving a couple of seeds to my mom for her to grow. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Meat Order!

Earlier this summer (as if October can still be called summer, but its 25 degrees outside, so yes, I can still call it summer!), I watched the movies Food Inc and Fresh. Wow, were they an eye opener. At first I tried to reverbalize what I had learned from these movies to my husband, but I got rolling eyes, pfffffffff's and stop being such a hippy stares. So, instead I was able to make him watch Food Inc (still have to get him to watch Fresh). Well, for some reason when it comes from the movie it makes more sense. He was quite surprised at the food industry. With this surprise, I ran with it. I convinced him that we should get an order of meat from a local, all natural meat producer. And he agreed!

I decided to go with McDonald's Farms. They are a family run business located in Manitoba. If I wanted to, I could go visit with my animals and see what will be my supper. Here is their 'About Us' from their website.

Hi, we are the McDonalds!  My name is Wayne and along with my wife Maria we own and operate McDonald                Farm. My mother Lois is a retired lab and X-ray technologist and my father Jim is still involved with the farm.  My sister Kristy is a payroll analyst and her partner Jason is a web designer.

McDonald Farm has been a family owned and operated farm near Cartwright in southwestern Manitoba since 1906.  In 1992 my father Jim took a Holistic resource management course and by the year 2000 had perfected a pasture-based grass farm with animals developed to thrive and prosper on pasture.
For many years now we have been enjoying the wonderfully tender and tasty beef, pork, and lamb from our locally adapted animals, which have grazed on our abundant grasses.
Our primary focus is to replicate nature and harvest the excess that nature provides in a sound, ethical, humane way; always putting foremost the animal's health, comfort, and lack of stress.
We want our customers to become our friends and have the chance to eat the same tasty and healthy food that we enjoy every day, raised ethically and with integrity.
Well, from that little blurb there alone, you can understand some of the reasons why I chose this company as the blessed company to have earned my business. Well, words don't do it alone. Taste is also a big thing. So as an introduction to their meat, I decided to get a variety pack. It's exactly what it sounds like, a variety of everything. I didn't tally up yet what I all got but the gist of it is this; Berkshire pork sausage (mouth-watering!), rack of lamb, ground lamb, lamb chops, lamb shank, pork roasts, pork chops, ground pork, beef steaks, ground beef, beef roasts, and bacon. Now, this is all frozen and is obviously to go into a freezer. I have an apartment size freezer and thought, this can all fit in it. I forgot that I was going to be freezing some of my food. I'm almost out of freezer space. Good thing the food is there to be eaten. We have so far had one package of the Early-riser sausage and one package of pork chop (where one chop is enough to feed two people and a one-inch thick ring of fat). 
Needless to say, I will post some recipes and meals from this order (such as rack of lamb!). I urge you to find a local meat producer who cares for their animals, business and ethics as much as this company does. 
P.S. Here is their website!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Yarrow Tea

Well, this summer as all the grass was dying, there was a form as green as ever, refusing to die. It was and is Yarrow. I didn't like it at first. But after some research, I actually like the fact that it's growing in my yard. And tonight especially. Tonight I am making Yarrow tea.

My husband has been fighting a cold now for a couple of days. Scratchy throat, a little phlegmy and now the sniffles. I was hoping that just plugging good old black tea into him would do the trick (that and keeping him away from milk and sugar) but after the 14 hour day he pulled at work on Friday, that's not working. And this is where yarrow tea will save the day. Yarrow can be found everywhere in North America, and in Europe and Asia. It is drought resistant and produces very beautiful small flowers, with the flowers being anywhere from white to yellow to pink. The white flowers are supposed to be the most powerful. Yarrow tea has astringent properties and is a known for its cold-killing properties. At the first sight of a tickley throat or sniffly nose, a cup or two will stop it! Now, I am not a certified herbalist, so if you do plan on using yarrow, do not quote me or believe in my words as god. Also, continual use of yarrow can be quite harmful, so please do your research, consult a professional, and use at your own risk.

For the hubby, I put two yarrow flower bunches, a couple of chamomile heads and some mint leaves in a tea pot, covered with boiling water and let sit for about 5 minutes. The chamomile and mint were added just to make it taste better (Mr. Picky Eater here). As well, the chamomile is a relaxant and the mint leaves are good for the stomach (if Mr. Picky Eater decides that the yarrow is trying to kill him). I myself am not having any . . . yet. If hubby likes it, he is going to have two cups before bed (which will be the whole pot). I will post on the success of the tea.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Picking Grapes

Alright then, here is a post that is actually what the title depicts it to be. So, now that the prepping up to the picking of the grapes has been covered, we will now delve into the picking of the grapes. As stated, my husband had to help me because I needed someone to remove the Lady Bugs (shudder). Unfortunately, we picked a cold day to do it. Good because the grapes were cold, bad because our hands were cold. We would pick whole clusters and place them into our bowls. Once the bowls were full, we would go inside and put them in the kitchen sink, where the sinks were full of cool water (to make those pesky Lady Bugs show themselves, and to wash the grapes). Now the up to the location of our grapes is that it is on our fence so its pretty easy to see them. The down side is that the fence is right in front of our pond. Luckily, I had bought a pair of rubber boots two days earlier (needed them field trip in school to a bog and they were only $9!). So here I am, standing in the middle of our pond, in my new rubber boots picking grapes from our grape vine.

So, I was talking to someone at our local farmer's market about grapes. I wanted to get more grapes so that way we would be completely covered for grape juice for a really long time but they were sold out. Anywho, he said the grapes were most definitely beta grapes based off of the description of the taste (remember last post; taste like grape flavoured Dimatab, cough medicine). Here are some photos though of me picking the grapes and what not.

Here's the haul! So many grapes! We guessed about 20 lbs of grapes. 

Monday, 19 September 2011

Grapes! . . . Actually more like Clover . . .


Look at me!

I'm actually making a full one, cool, with picture post.

Awesome points are going up.

Alright, now that I have made myself feel better, back to what's really important. GRAPES! More importantly, my husband and I picking our grape vine last week and the bounty that ensued! I have no idea what variety of grape my vine is but I can tell you that they are sweet and taste like dimatab (yes, it tastes like grape flavoured cough medicine). I'm guessing that it is either a beta or a valiant variety because those are the two purple juice grape varieties that can grow in Manitoba, and it tastes nothing like concord grapes. Now, as my other posts have detailed, I required assistance in picking the grapes because I HATE lady bugs, so my assistant would be removing the lady bugs from my presence. I volunteered my husband. He kind of grumped about how I should just poke them with a stick to make them move away from me, but it actually turned into one of the best times I've had hanging out with him. Of course, Clover the cat was supervising. And by supervising, I mean being cute and an all around pain. One person would go into the house to unload a bowl of grapes, and when they were coming back out, she would rocket her way back into the house. Then, realizing that she was in the house alone, she would sit at the patio door and stare at us till one of us let her back out. And repeat. Here are some pictures of her being cute.

She thinks she's cute when she stands on things like a pile of rocks, or in a box. Probably because I start babbling to her, "Are you on a pile of rocks? Are you a cute kitty on rocks? Ohhhhh, aren't you a special kitty. Hanging out on a pile of rocks."

Adventurous kitty!!

Okay, this turned more into a post of Clover being cute, but at least we're getting somewhere. 

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Every day . . .

Every day I look forward to writing another blog post, with ever the amounting ideas. But I can never find the time! Right now I'm far too busy canning grape juice, grape jelly, canned tomatoes, freezing food and other life requirements right now that I can't seem to find time to do a cool, with pictures post. If my school had decent wifi, I could do it in class . . . maybe that's why we don't have wifi in class though. Anywho, I will flood this blog in a week with my escapades!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Soon to be Post . . . Food Canned/Frozen To Date!

So, seeings as I'm nearing the end of my harvest, I thought I should share with you my haul. I'm going to typed down the total number of jars or bags of food I have, and how many meals that jar or bag will last. Example, one jar of canned tomatoes should make two spaghetti sauce recipes. Today my husband helped me pick the grapes. Tomorrow I will post the pictures that he took of me. One of the upsides to having someone help you is that there are now enough arms and mind room to be able to take pictures. Some of them I think are pretty funny.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Silly Reason for Not Being Able to Process Vegetables for Winter

No ice cubes.

Yup, that's right. No ice cubes means no canning tomatoes, no blanching potatoes for freezing, no blanching carrots for freezing. Oh well. Soon my fridge will bless me with some ice (sooner rather than later please!) and then I will be able to process my food.

Tomorrow though I'm picking my grapes. My husband has been very impatient for these to be picked. He wanted me to pick them this weekend, but seeings as it is lady bug season, HECK NO! I really don't like lady bugs (detest would be a better word), and if they didn't eat aphids, I would kill all of them on the spot. So I'm sure that there will be lady bugs in and around the grapes, so I need assistance. I need someone else there with me to take the lady bugs over to the other side of the yard, away from me and prevent them from flying at me, by me, landing on me, touching me, and from me seeing them. Tomorrow is my husbands day off so since he wants them picked so bad, he has to be my assistant.

Yes, I am serious. I hate lady bugs. I am totally this weird.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Silly Reason for Not Being Able to Pick My Carrots

I can't pick my carrots. Why? I have Black Swallowtail caterpillar's sitting on them. I am very excited to have my yard be a chosen paradise for a butterfly species, so I am refusing to pick my carrots until they are gone.

 Also, I don't like to touch bugs.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Every canner's worst nightmare (or at least mine)

So I get a text from my husband saying, "I made tomato sauce!"
I think nothing of it, except good for you, you made yourself food instead of asking me to make you food.
Half an hour goes by when it hits me.
He made tomato sauce . . . with canned tomatoes . . . my canned tomatoes . . . my pride and joy, all my hard work and effort! Yes, I am devastated by this. Why, oh why did my husband have to make tomato sauce, with MY home-grown home canned tomatoes! Of course this sends a wave of negative thoughts through my head such as, 'He probably screwed it up and wasted my tomatoes!' 'He probably ruined the jar somehow and I won't be able to use it again!' 'He probably didn't clean up after himself and now I have one more thing that I have to do when I get home!'
But fortunately, the world did not end. The sauce he says is good and the kitchen had only one extra dirty skillet, and he even loaded the dishwasher and put turned it on. He was very proud of himself (not for turning on the dishwasher but for making his own tomato sauce). The only slight problem was that the recipe he used called for 2 cups of canned tomatoes and instead he used a quart (4 cups). One jar of our canned tomatoes I calculated to last us 2 weeks. He just used up two weeks worth of tomatoes for one week of food. Am I a little insane? Yes, yes I am. Why? I would like to point out that I get giddy when I start canning food or processing vegetables from my backyard. This points to insanity because no other young adult I know cans food at home nor gets excited and giggly when doing so.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


I haven't been on here in two weeks. I feel pathetic. But we are so busy right now. We have been rushing to finish putting in a kitchenette in our basement laundry room. Trying to save money/earn money, we are renting out one of our basement bedrooms and the basement bathroom. I very much dislike sharing my kitchen (cause I have to keep it clean all the time, and don't get to let is slide) so I suggested we put a kitchenette in our laundry room. So we had to run some electrical to the room, plumb for a sink, put up new insulation, drywall, mud, paint, put up cabinets, and so on. The renter will have a fridge, very large toaster oven, microwave and hot plate. From that, they should be able to make everything they need. I like this reno because not only do I get my kitchen all to myself, I now will have more room to store my canned foods.

Okay, I just stopped typing and realized how sad the last part of that sentence was. But who cares! I can food and I love it. I'm waiting for water to boil right now to skin tomatoes. I have another junk load of ripe tomatoes to be canned today. To follow hopefully soon will be posts on my harvest and such.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Canning Tomatoes

SO    MANY      TOMATOES!!!!!
Is it possible to have too many tomatoes? 

To that I say NO! I'm not a big fan of raw tomatoes (the gooeyness of them makes me spit them right back out) so one might be wondering why I have so many tomatoes. I LOVE to cook, and my husband loves pasta. So this year I grew 12 roma tomato plants, and I am getting a lot of tomatoes form them. I was at the point of three big bowls full of them, so I decided that I was at the point that it was worth doing the canning at that point. Canning tomatoes is relatively easy but it is time consuming. To start off with, pick the tomatoes. Then blanch for 45 seconds, where upon you move them into a ice water bath. This makes the skins of the tomatoes peel off super easily. Once they are all de-skinned, I dice them up, put them diced tomatoes into sterilized jars. Add some lemon juice then top up with heated tomato juice (or in the case of me being cheap, boiling water), then slap the lid on. I don't have a pressure cooker so I water bath them for 45 minutes. From my three big bowls of tomatoes I got 9 quarts of canned tomatoes. I'm super excited. 

Happy Homesteading!!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Homemade English Muffins

English muffins are great. Great for breakfast, like salmon egg benedict or for a breakfast sandwich. Great for an evening snack, like toasted english muffins with butter and strawberry jam. What's even better is homemade english muffins. That's right, homemade. They are super simple to make, and even easier to make when you have a break maker with a dough option. So here are the steps
1. Put 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt in the bread basket

2. Add 2/3 cup milk and 2/3 cup of water, both heated till very warm to the touch. Then add 1/4 cup of softened butter or shortening. 

3. Then add 4 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 2 1/4 teaspoons of bread machine yeast. I will vary the flour types. In this particular batch, I used 2 cups whole wheat, 2 cups white flour and 1/4 cup spelt (when substituting whole wheat for white flour, more flour needs to be added to up the consistency, so I've been experimenting and 1/4 cup extra seems to work okay).

4. Put the bread basket in the bread machine, close lid and press dough option. Now, I do realize that not everyone has the most awesomest bread machine known to man like my bread machine, but I'm sure this recipe will work if you work it like a normal bread dough recipe with all the hand kneading and such. 
5. Once the bread machine beeps at you to inform you that it is done, you will open your machine to this lovely poofy dough. Knock it down and pull bread basket out of the bread machine. 

6. Pull dough out the bread basket and roll on floured countertop (prevents the dough from sticking to everything it encounters, including your hands)

7. Pinch the dough into two equal parts, and from there, pinch each part into five parts, resulting in 10 english muffin dough patties.Cover with a cloth and let them sit for half an hour. Once half an hour has passed, cook by placing them in a skillet set to medium temperature, 10 minutes per side (unless you notice that its burning, then do flip over). 

Of course, I forgot to get pictures of the muffins cooking, and the end result, but I do have a picture of my husband enjoying one smothered with raspberry jam. He was getting very impatient with my picture taking and complained that his mouth was watering and didn't want to poise anymore. 

I apologize for the poor picture taking but it was 10:30 at night so I was tired and I also had my own english muffin that I wanted to eat. 

Happy Homesteading!!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Harvesting Time

Yesterday, I finally made time to do some gardening. It had rained a few times this week so I was being lazy and saying that was enough to sustain my plants. Well, I harvested a junk load of green beans. I'm now thinking I planted too many bean plants, and that I might have too many green beans!

I'll see how I'm doing in about a month or so, and if I have too many, I'm hoping to find someone to do a garden swap (my green beans for their squash, meat, etc). But I also got to harvest some roma tomatoes! Well, kind of. I'm cheating and calling this my first tomato harvest, because the real first tomato that was ripe had blossom end rot so therefore not really edible. A couple of them still need to ripen a bit, but I'm thinking that by next week, I'll be good to start canning them!

I'm still debating on whether to make currant jelly and/or rosemary jelly today. For sure I will be making english muffins. You know what, I will do a second post today in a couple of hours on homemade English Muffins. They are so much better than store bought (but only when you don't burn them, like I sometimes do) and actually super easy to make. My husband loves them. Lately, when we are hanging out with friends, the topic of my homemade bread and super gardening skills come up and my husband has been getting a lot of compliments on how he scored marrying me. He totally agrees and I always chime in a "Heck yes he did!". Makes me feel special, loved, useful and important.

Happy Homesteading!!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Making Raspberry Jam

This year I have at least triple the raspberry crop than I had last year, mind you, last year was a bad year for crops all around. Looking back on last year, I had to buy raspberries to make up the difference for my raspberry jam recipe. This year, and as I speak, I am making my second batch of the year, with raspberries still producing in the patch. I guess I'm going to have to make a batch of mix as I'm sure I won't have enough raspberries for a third batch. Hmmmmm, I'm going to have to get creative. Here though are some pictures of my friend and I making raspberry jam together last week. It was her first time making jam and she felt very domestic and wife-like.

Crushing the Raspberries


In the pot it goes!


And now the copious amounts of sugar


Stirring in the Sugar

Now to boil

Once at a rapid boil for 1 minute, remove and add pectin

Spooning into sterile jars

Putting jars into water bath

And 7 minutes later, JAM!!
All but one of the jars properly sealed, so I just told my friend that she needed to use the unsealed one first. I wouldn't be surprised if she has gone through three already. 
So now I have four batches of jam; 2 raspberry and 2 strawberry. I'm going to maybe make some red currant jam today, but since I already have to make Lasagna Verde (only takes three hours of make, but totally worth it), I might have to put it off for another day. Hope you like the post and don't drool too much over my awesome jam making abilities. 

Happy Homesteading!!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

This Years War: Squash - The Timely Death of my Zucchini Plants

The pumpkin and butternut when newly planted and not dying

So last year it was the war of the tomatoes, and this year it is the war of the squash. As last year, I have learned something new.

1. Drought can bake dirt into a brick (raised garden bed)
2. Pouring water onto said brick will not help, as the water will just flow over to the sides and drain down the sides
3. Plants in the dirt brick will start to die

I'm hoping that I will still be able to save my pumpkin and my butternut squash plants. I still only have one pumpkin growing and two little butternut squashes fruiting. As for the timely death of my zucchini plants, well, I pull them up. Why you ask? Because its august and I haven't gotten one zucchini from them. I water them, I feed them, I prune them. No fruit on one plant while the other fruits but then rots on the bottom. As mentioned before, I have fed them so the blossom end rot is magically then. I tilled up the soil by the squash plants yesterday, add sulfur and fed them a good feeding, as well as watered till the soil was greatly moist. I'm going to moisten again once this post is done, and then again before bed. I'm hoping I don't lose the plants. But after this year, is there really anything else that I can screw up growing?

Happy Homesteading!!