Friday, August 31, 2012

On My Needles ...

This yellow layette set was made with a washable acrylic wool I found at a thrift store.

The pattern was free by Bernat, taking 2 x 50 gram balls for the complete set.  Sweater, bonnet and bootie patterns are linked here.   You will need to create a free membership and log-in to get the pattern. 

Sweater & Bonnet pattern
Bootie pattern

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Simple Sunflower

Simple Sunflower

It's the simple small things that can bring a smile to your face.  Take the simple sunflower, how it lifts its head to the sun, standing tall, bright, and cheerful.  Sunflowers did well in my garden this year.  A lot were planted by chipmunks/squirrels and I was pleasantly surprised where they appeared. 

When you look closely at the sunflower you'll notice how intricate the flower is and the many many parts to the flower.  Simply amazing !

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Becoming an Urban Homesteader Series #11 - August Wrap-up

At times it feels like I've haven't accomplished much.  Yes, I do have a full time job and work long hours, plus commute.  I have such good intentions of getting somethings done when I get home, but after 8-10 hours of work, and add in 2 hours of commute time, I'm too tired to do much in the evenings, besides getting a meal on the table and clean up.

After writing down what I've accomplished this month, I realize that I did get more done than I thought :

Garlic, Tomatoes, and seeds from my garden
- Canning - salsa, pickles
- Fish Experiment does work.  Fish are happy in my rain barrels and after 2 weeks there are no mosquito larvae !
- Foraging - garlic mustard seed
- Tried some new recipes - turmeric sauce
- Knitting - finished another layette set
- Led a couple of hikes on the Bruce Trail for the Monday evening hikers this month.  I am a volunteer hike leader and this summer led a total of 7 hikes during the evenings.  Evenings are much cooler than the day without the hot sun.  Due to lack of rain there has been minimal mosquitoes in the woods too.
- Egg shells do work - no blossom end rot this year ... I missed the early blight as well as blossom end rot I had last year which killed a lot of my tomato plants, but got late blight this year - Any suggestions on how to keep blight at bay without chemicals let me know!
- A day trip to Listowel for their annual wool  tent sale at the Spinnrite Factory, and many thrift stores on the way back.   Not sure I'd go back another time.  Len's Mill store in Guelph also has their annual tent sale this time of year and had much the same wool at the same prices.  Was a nice day out just the same and scenery was beautiful.  We took a picnic lunch and stopped at a park in a shaddy spot.  My friend must avoid all gluten and dairy, so eating out is too challenging - our picnic was much more enjoyable.
- Our very old pool is finally looking absolutely great.  The water  sparkles.   Took at lot of work to get the algae out.  Too bad the season is too short to enjoy it more.  We don't have a heater and the August nights have been cool - dropping down to 10C some nights, so the day time temperature in the pool is only about 68F.
- Spent a vacation day cleaning my father-in-law's house.  He's in his late 80's now and still living in his own house.  The cleaning was a birthday present.  A spring cleaning top-to-bottom, including windows and carpets, fridge, stove.  A friend helped and we spent the whole day and only got half done.  I still need to go back to clean one more room, the insides of his kitchen cupboards and wash the carpets. 
Our "watch cat".   
- Garden looks a little sad.  With the lack of rain everything has been very dry.   Despite trying to keep up watering, it's just not the same without the rain.   Spaghetti squash didn't fair well.  But the herbs are taking over - they like it dry.
- Planted zucchini seed in a pot and already have blossoms on the plants.  I'm hoping the powdery mildew doesn't get to the plants before they have a chance to bear some fruit this year.
- Put some netting from the dollar store around the veggie garden so daughter's dog won't dig up it up.   He's buried a bone somewhere in the garden
- Trying to grow spinach... it's just not working.  I think It's too hot...and lack of rain.
- Looking at plans for a cold frame to grow veggies in the winter in my raised boxes. 
- Collecting seeds from my garden for next year's garden.      Collected so far Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea), nasturtiums, and columbine.  I'll start the cone flower inside during the winter.

Nasturtiums in window boxes on the fence

Nasturtium seed

Purple Corn Flower seed (Echinacea)

Nasturtium seed

Sad spaghetti squash

Friday, August 24, 2012

Homemade Pickles

Dilly Bean Pickle, Dill Pickle
It's been a busy canning time....

So far I've made:
1)  Salsa - 15 jars
2)  Canned Tomatoes - 15 jars
3)  Garlic Mustard Seed Mustard - 2 jars
4)  Dilly Beans - 7 jars
5)  Bread & Butter Pickles - 25 jars
6)  Garlic scape pesto - 6 jars
7)  Turmeric Sauce - 2 jars
8)  Dill Pickles- 18 jars

One of my favourite bread & butter pickle recipes comes from Jean Pare's "Company's Coming" preserving book.  These pickles are great in sandwiches, burgers or just on the side.

Makes 6 to 7 pints
16 cups sliced cucumbers with peel, 1/8 inch thick
6 onions thinly sliced
1 large red pepper, seeded and slivered
1 large green pepper, seeded, slivered
1/2 cup coarse (pickling salt)

5 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp mustard seed
1 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp celery seed
3 cups white vinegar.

Place cucumbers into large bowl.  Add onion, red pepper, green pepper and salt. Cover and let stand on counter for 3 hours.  Drain well.

Combine last 5 ingredients in large pot.  Heat on medium-high, stirring occasionally until mixture boils.  Add vegetables.  Heat until it just reaches a boil.   Using slotted spoon, fill hot sterilized jars with vegetables to within 1 inch of top.  Pour hot syrup over vegetables to within 1/4 inch of top.   Seal.

Enjoy !

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Simple Blueberries

Recently we picked blueberries at a local farm.  Fresh off the bush they're really delicious.

Some things I learned about blueberries:

1)  Blueberries freeze very well
2)  Makes great jam, pies, muffins, and eating just as a snack
3)  Good source of vitamin K
4)  A source of fibre, vitamin C and manganese. 

Fresh picked blueberries
Blueberry bushes

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Year of Babies .....

Another baby arrived safely into our family circle yesterday !    One more is due to arrive in the next few months.  

I knitted this layette set with a washable acrylic using an old Beehive pattern.  It's the same pattern I knitted for my own babies many years ago.   The pattern book didn't have a bootie pattern, so I made one up. I've tried knitting the matching bonnet without much luck, so again made up my own pattern.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rhubarb - Things I have learned

I have had good luck with my Rhubarb this year, despite the lack of rain.   I moved a large clump of rhubarb to a sunnier spot a couple of years ago and it likes it's new home in one of the raised beds.   

Some things I've learned about Rhubarb. 

1.  Rich in Vitamin C and fiber
2.  Low in calories and sodium and quite sour.
3.  Only the stalks are edible.   The leaves are poisonous
4.  Chinese medicine uses the root for medicinal purposes such as antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, laxative, promotes blood circulation, inhibits intestinal infections and reduce autoimmune reactions to name a few.
5.  The leaves makes an environmentally friendly pot cleaner.
6.  The leaves can be made into an effective organic insecticide for those leaf eating insects.
7.  Great in baking - muffins, pie, chutney, fruit crisp.  Check out the links for some recipes.
8.  Easy to freeze for later use - just clean, chop, bag, freeze.
9.  Easy to grow - it's a perennial and very winter hard and is resistant to drought (a good plant for our dry summer !)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rainy Day Outing

Last Saturday was a rainy day.  Actually, we've had more rain the past week than we've had all summer.

Spent the afternoon at Len's Mill in Guelph not far from home, looking at fabric with daughter & son-in-law.  Len's Mill has an amazing selection of cottons and flannelette as well as drapery fabric and just about anything fiber related.

I'm now dusting off my sewing machine !   They chose flannelette for receiving blankets that I'll make, as well as quilted vinyl for the baby mattress cover.   They are custom building their own crib, which is a little smaller than a standard size crib, so we're now custom making a crib mattress to fit.
One of many many rows of fabric at Len's Mill Store

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Foraging - Garlic Mustard Seed

Garlic Mustard is one of the most invasive wild plants in Ontario.   See my previous post on Garlic Mustard.   The garlic mustard plant went to seed here mid-July and I gathered some seed.  

I tried a recipe I found on a fellow blogger's page 3 Foragers for "Garlic Mustard Seed Mustard".   The mustard is hot pungent one with a great aroma.  I substituted the apple cider vinegar for white wine vinegar called for in the recipe. 

Garlic Mustard Seed Pods

Garlic Mustard Seed
Ground Garlic Mustard Seed
Garlic Mustard Seed Mustard

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mosquitoes and West Nile Virus

In our local paper this week there was an article about West Nile Virus and mosquitoes.  "A sample of mosquitoes collected last week tested positive for the virus, bringing the number of positive batches for the Halton Region this year to nine."    Two local people, so far, have tested positive for WNV.

It is high risk time for WNV illnesses.  Mosquitoes can transmit WNV to humans after becoming infected by feeding on the blood of birds carrying the virus.

Our region has promoted water conservation and the use of rain barrels for several years now.   The challenge with collecting rain water, is to keep those pesky mosquitoes from breeding in the rain barrels.   You can buy insecticide/larvicide to kill any mosquitoes from breeding in the free standing water in the barrels, however, I use the rain barrel water on my vegetable garden and don't want the chemicals on/in my food.    I have screens on my barrels, but those mosquitoes still make their way into the barrels.  It hasn't been a major issue with "standing" water this summer with the lack of rain, however the last week we've had our share of rain and looks like rain is in the forecast for the next week.    My rain barrels are full again.

So, the next best thing .... goldfish !   I bought a bag of fish from a local pet food store for 25 cents each.   The sales person at the store asked me if I was using them to feed other fish.  I said no - wanted to put them in the rain barrels to eat all the mosquito larvae.  Her response - wow - lucky fish !    I hope it works.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Homemade Salsa

On our recent trip to St. Jacobs market I bought a half bushel of roma tomatoes.   With it I made 14 jars of salsa and canned another 14 jars of tomatoes for the pantry.

My favourite Salsa recipe comes from the "Company's Coming" preserving book - by Jean Pare.   I won 2nd price at the fall fair for my salsa one year - even after it had been scorched in the pot.  It must have been that "smoked" flavour !

Homemade Salsa

Here's the salsa recipe:

Makes 10 half pints or 5 pints

4.5 lbs of ripe tomatoes
3 jalapeno peppers
1 large onion
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1 - 5.5 oz can of tomato paste
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp coarse (pickling salt)
2 tsp paprika
2 cloves, minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in large pot.  Bring to boil, uncovered over medium heat stirring occasionally.  Boil gently for 60 minutes until desired consistency.  Close to the end of cooking, taste test and at this point can add more jalapeno peppers of desired for a hotter salsa.  Pour into sterilized jars within 1/4 inch of top.  Seal.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Garlic Scape Recipe - Turmeric Sauce

Garlic Scapes were a free choice at our last couple of CSA pick-ups.   I've tried several recipes using garlic scapes ie in stir fries, soup, garlic scape pesto.

My daughter and I tried out a new recipe from a university friend who is working at a CSA farm this summer. She has a blog called "The Ironwood Chef".   Recipe is called Turmeric Sauce.  Turmeric is a great anti-inflamatory spice and I've been incorporating more turmeric in my diet.   The Ironwood Chef uses this sauce on everything from brown rice, lamb, sandwiches, quinoa etc.    We used cilantro/mint herb combinations, which will be great with lamb.  

Check out this great blog for the recipe.

Turmeric sauce
From left to right.... Turmeric sauce, homemade pasta sauce, garlic scape pesto
Turmeric sauce and garlic scape pesto

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Going to the Market

This past weekend I went to the St. Jacobs Farmers Market near Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario with daughter and son-in-law.

It was a very hot day and very crowded with people.   We bought tomatoes, peppers, peaches, cucumbers, dill and spices for canning.

The St. Jacobs area is home to many Mennonites.  Many of the fresh produce stalls were run by Mennonite farmers.

Now the work begins.... canning for the pantry.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Chive Vinegar

I recently made vinegar with the chive blossoms from my garden.   The chive vinegar can be used in any recipe calling for a flavoured vinegar - great for making salad dressings.  The chives will give your vinegar and onion flavour.  Also see my post on Edible Flowers.

The vinegar is easy to make and looks so pretty in the bottle.  Chive vinegar makes a nice gift to those who enjoy cooking.

How to make chive vinegar: 
1)   Clean your bottle/jar well
2)   Soak chive blossoms in a large bowl of cold water for several hours or overnight, so that, if there are any little critters hiding in the blossom they will get out.  
2)    Drain your blossoms well and place enough chive blossoms into your bottle/jar.
3)    Pour vinegar into bottle enough to cover blossoms.
4)    Seal tight and store in cool dark place.   In a few weeks you'll have a pretty pink flavoured vinegar.

Freshly made chive vinegar
Chive vinegar after a few weeks

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