Thursday, December 27, 2012

It Was Fun.

Our very simple Holidays are half over and so far we've had a very nice time.  Mr. Homesteader and I took great delight in watching Dave react to crinkly paper, jingle balls, rooster feathers and catnip.



I can't believe how spoiled this cat is...I mean, of course we got him a couple of toys...but then two more people popped by with gifts for him.


Turkey Dinner was terrific even though the bird was a little over done.  The gluten free bread made very nice stuffing and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  Best part of all is that I've added stock back to the freezer to have for later dates...my supply had run out.

Mr. Homesteader gave me a couple of pairs of antique sock stretchers...the perfect gift for a knitter and all around fibre geek.



My cousin came around to enjoy turkey dinner with us and gave us each a lovely hand knit scarf!  He's only been knitting less than a year.


And what gift giving season would be complete without books.


I'm working a reasonably small shift right now, my only one for the entire week.  Although it's short, I can't wait to get back to spending time off with my favourite man and my favourite cat:)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Well the world didn't end on the 21st, I'm so glad because that would have robbed us of a wonderful Christmas Feast.  I've got the turkey thawing, cranberries ready to turn into that red, sweet deliciousness, baked goodies at the ready, bottle of local wine, I even made a loaf of GF bread yesterday to make stuffing with, should be good.


The vegetables and fruit are bought and standing by, the house is clean....now I just have to see my way to the end of the work day at 6:00pm.  Tomorrow will be a quiet day for us, Mr. and I are having my cousin over for Christmas dinner and we are really looking forward to his visit.  That's what it's all about isn't it, family.  Whether that family is related, borrowed, married into or adopted doesn't really matter, family is what you make it and I'm pleased that we will have someone to share our day with.  Not an easy feat for me as my family is scattered to the four winds.

However you spend the Holiday Season, I hope you all find simple comforts...a warm home, a hearty meal, a slice of sweetness and maybe even a wee gift.  All the best from our little homestead to yours this Holiday Season and throughout the year. Be well, and Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy Yule



To me, this is the most wonderful and magical time of the year and not for the reasons you might think.  It is nice to receive a gift, especially something home made and heartfelt, BUT the reason that I love this time of year so much is precisely what started celebrations at this time of year in the first place.  Nope not Christmas...Solstice.  The Winter Solstice brings us the longest night of the year, a time that was very scary for our ancestors.  The ancients, full of superstition, weren't sure if the days would lengthen again so they lit fires to harken back the light.  Greenery such as holly, ivy and evergreen started making their way indoors to liven up the home and act as a harbinger of spring.  This marked the time in the agricultural calender when the harvest was in and some livestock were killed so as not to have to feed them over winter and their meat was salted and smoked.  The fresh meat was used in one last hurrah of feasting (which until more modern times lasted 12 days), along with anything precious and hard to get like spices and dried fruits and sugar which were being used by Tudor times.  With the full force of Winter fast approaching, our ancestors both near and ancient knew that not all would survive the coming months.  Cold, illness and starvation were all very real so having a huge celebration to honour themselves, each other, their crops and their livestock seemed an appropriate way to find the strength to face old man winter head on.

I find it so comforting to know that all major religions of the world have a special celebration at this time of year and it's no accident that they coincide with the Solstice.  Call me corny but I feel like it's the whole world joining together in happiness and well wishing, no matter what their spiritual beliefs are.  So when you see a sign that reads "Jesus is the reason for the season", know that Jesus is the reason for Christmas, but Solstice is the reason for the Season and that means the season belongs to the whole world.

Happy Yule everyone and may your days start shining brighter.

P.S  in the event that the world doesn't end tomorrow, we still have Christmas dinner to look forward to:)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Best Christmas Card Ever...

....and the winner is....



Please check out Helen's website to see her other card designs by clicking on her name above.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Can't Help Myself

I can't help it, I just had to post this video again this year.


Best ad for woollen garments ever made!  Thank you Brooks Brothers for making this.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Simplicity

In our little homestead, Mr. and I take a more simple approach to everything...that includes Christmas as well.  We enjoy visits with family and friends, eat delicious holiday food and exchange gifts...the difference for us now as compared to years ago is that everything we do for the holidays, we do with old fashioned, sustainable values in mind.  Aside from changing our Christmas lights over to LEDs a few years back, we haven't spent anything of decorations for over a decade and probably won't ever again.  I use and reuse the same artificial boughs I've had for decades as well as the tree ornaments and ribbons.  The only thing new I use every year is the greenery.  We do like a real tree and we always get one from the wild, usually one that is being crowded and won't grow well anyway.  A lovely wreath will grace our outside entrance and is made with the trimmings we have to cut from trees lining our lane that are becoming overgrown.


We keep the gift giving very simple and exchange only modest items (often home made) and although we do spend a little...we can wrap up our entire holiday season, turkey included for less than what most families spend on 1 person.  That means no post holiday debt hangover because that's not the way we roll.  The baking is done in early December and frozen to lighten the load closer to the day, so that when it does arrive, Mr. and I are stress free.  The house has had it's winter cleaning, goodies are baked, gifts made/bought and exchanged, cards mailed, house decorated and all we have to do is cook a turkey dinner.  I love our simple holidays.

Today, I didn't do anything towards getting ready for the holidays...today saw a little feet up time.  I made a nice bowl of chicken soup with the last of our frozen broth (this is why I need to cook a turkey soon), and lovely herb biscuits made with my own dried herbs and lard that I rendered last week.



And a half hour before I had to leave for work, Dave hopped up on my lap and demanded some cuddle time. It was so difficult to get up for work when he was so snugly.




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Far Reaching Mentors


It is no secret that Mr. and I are working towards a more self-sustaining life and that we are well on our way to making a real change.  It seems that every time I start to get a little lazy about my efforts or start thinking that my ideas about homesteading are unattainable, I stumble across an article or video that points me back to the right direction.  Today I accidentally stumbled across a short documentary about the Dervaes family in Pasadena.  They have turned their urban home into an incredible oasis of self reliance.  On just one tenth of an acre they produce 6000 lbs of food by way of vegetable beds, bee hives, milking goats and laying hens, it would seem that the only thing they out source is grains which they buy through profits made by selling their surplus of vegetables and eggs etc.  They have solar panels and manually operated appliances, a clay oven and make and use their own bio diesel.  I am in awe of this family and what they have accomplished, they are mentors to me, through the world wide web, all the way from California to the East Coast of Canada.  I  urge you to watch their documentary even if you are not working on becoming a homesteader yourself.



Big thanks to the Dervaes family for sharing with us, what they have done.  Although my homestead produced the tiniest fraction of what theirs did this year, I am pleased to share what I did accomplish:

12 lbs of apples (this year we would have had approx 100 lbs but we have an ant problem)
2 pints strawberries (I need to pull up and replant the baby plants)
2 cups red current (the amount doubles every year)
6 lbs grapes
1 pint raspberries
5 lbs tomatoes (would have had 40 lbs they caught blight, I did not thin them as I should have)
Peas, I have no idea how many as most were eaten by us before we could do anything with them, but I did freeze about 4 cups worth
Kale, again I have no idea but we ate pounds and pounds of it
6 lbs broccoli
a few pounds of swiss chard
many zuchini
and I'm probably forgetting a bunch of stuff.

In the years to come, we will learn more about what we are doing right and the things we are doing wrong and need to adjust.  The fruit orchard, the berry bushes  are still very young so we know there is all kinds of goodness still to come there.  The nuts trees are mere infants, I hope we do get to enjoy their meats before we are very old, and we still have plans for laying hens and maybe even a hive.  For what we can't grow, don't grow or are still waiting for mature plants, we have some wonderful local farmers, fruit growers, honey, and maple producers to fill the gap.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

3 Weeks

There's only 3 weeks left until it's all over but the cryin' (and probably the turkey)!  I love this time of year.  I love the cooler, longer nights, the desire to cuddle and share a hot cocoa and enjoy quiet time.  I love that the business of fall is over for another year and we now get to enjoy all of the lovely preserves we've worked so hard to produce.  I love snow on the evergreens, crackling fires in the hearth and lazy cats wanting a warm lap to nap on.  I love the smell of wet, woollen mittens drying on the radiator and something good roasting in the oven.  Since I work in a store, waiting on the public, I hear a lot of complaining about the weather.  I feel so badly for some, who simply can't see the beauty in this time of year (I can only guess that they aren't knitters, because knitters seem to love the encroachment of winter).

During this time of year, I would love to be at home more to enjoy the simple pleasures of late fall and winter, but this time of year heralds the season of long, long shifts for me.  Not all is lost though...this is also the time I seem to get a bit of knitting done....

A lovely cabled hat, made with MacAusland's 2-ply medium wool yarn in Brown Heather.



Some secret knitting for a special guy.


Now for something completely different....little people knitting.  I never knit little people stuff, not that I don't think that every little person should be completely decked out in hand made loveliness...it just isn't my personal thing to enjoy knitting little people stuff.  BUT, I was recently asked by someone whom I barter with, to make some mitts and a hat for her wee boy.  Since she and I almost always find a way to barter for goods or services, I thought this would be a fun challenge for me.  So for the small cost and a bit of my time to make this wee pair of mittens (and a hat to follow), I will be getting my hair perfectly coiffed for the Holidays.


And a sweet boy will have warm fingers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Amazing Project

The talented Kate Davies is at it again, collaborating with Juniper Moon Farm on an incredible project entitled "The Shepherd and the Shearer".  You must check out what they are doing, it is something that I wholeheartedly believe in.

On that subject...that of long wearing wool yarns....I have to add my own opinion.  I love super, smooshy, soft exotic natural fibres, including finer wool breeds.  BUT, they do not wear like old fashioned, coarser wool yarns, especially for outer wear.  I have gone on and on about the virtues of this type of wool before, both on the blog and in person speaking to people.  I love my local mill for this very reason, they use mixed breed wool fibre to make their yarns and blankets.  Some batches are softer, some coarser, but all in all this is a great all purpose yarn for outwear, mitts, hats and socks.  I've heard many people argue that "it's scratchy" or "hard", only to see those people shivering and uncomfortable in our damp, cold, maritime climate because they are wearing fabrics that don't match the environment, and have to turn around year after year and replace these same articles of clothing with more of the same.  Like the article at Juniper Moon Farm about her lovely 20 year old sweater, I have a sweater that I knit 7 years ago.  This sweater was one of the very first knitted things that I had ever made.  It was too loosely knit, making it drape oddly and of course making it huge on me.  I wore it like this to work for about 4 years.  Then I had the idea to felt it so that it would shrink to a better fitting size and of course felting would also close the stitches making them tighter and more weather proof.  As I was reading the article on Juniper Moon Farm's blog, I realized that I was sitting here, at work where it is quite cold today, as comfortable and warm as I can possibly be...because I am wearing this awesome sweater.  It isn't really pretty, it isn't Haute Couture, but it is snuggly warm and because it is made of real wool, I never feel the chill of a damp day when I wear it.  I know that this sweater, because it is made with a less desirable, coarser wool yarn, will last me forever.


I love this sweater.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tarte Tatin

A little comfort on a damp, cold day....



.....I will make this again:)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Knitting

I'm working on a Sweet Cherry Pie hat....in a sweet cherry pie colour:)


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What To Do....

...when you have a day off, a real day off and all to yourself...........start swatching of course!


This was a very fun swatch, knit with MacAusland's 1-ply fingering yarn in natural white, natural light grey and natural dark grey.  I love it.  It needs to turn into a wearable garment.....for me:)

Thank you to all who have visited my Ravelry page and either purchased, favourited, or queued my new patterns, you guys rock!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

All Available

All 4 Sweet And Condensed Knits patterns are now available both on Ravelry and my blog at the right hand side.  Thank you all for popping by and having a look, they are all reasonable priced and the finished projects are quick and easy to make, making them excellent Christmas gifts....enjoy.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Half Way There

So I haven't worked out all of the bugs with Sweet And Condensed Knits yet.  But that's O.K....no really!  I decided to take a different approach.  I am making the patterns available individually instead of as an ebook, this means that I can get the job done faster and have the patterns available to you for purchase before the Holidays, just in case you want to make these quick little knits to give as gifts.  Look over at the right hand side of the blog and you will see 2 of the 4 patterns available for purchase, just click on the photo and you will be linked directly to my |Ravelry Checkout.  The other 2 patterns will be available tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hiccups And A Preview

Oh my goodness, I wish I wasn't always "she who dives in head first" and I actually stopped and read directions.  I mean, after all I am a responsible adult...right.  I always read food labels, always, always read and follow the directions on medications...so why do I find it so hard to look for and read directions for other things!?

So, here's the deal....on Friday I was all geared up to put my wee booklet of 4 knitted patterns on Ravelry, easy peasy, right!  Well it would have been easy peasy if I'd actually read the instructions instead of doing it all back-asswards (ya, that's a word).  So now I have to wait for the good (and busy) folks at Ravelry to delete what I've done so that I can start over, not a big deal but it means I will probably miss my self imposed deadline of releasing the patterns in October.

This was the plan:

  1. Release 4 patterns on Ravelry,
  2. Announce it on my blog with pictures,
  3. Celebrate it on my blog with a fifth and free pattern for a warm squishy cowl, making it available to everyone, as a gift with or without purchase (hey, that's just the way I roll).

That said....I'm going to skip 1. for now and proceed with 2. and 3., just so you know that I haven't been pulling your leg and to let you all use the 5th and free pattern if you so choose.

Introducing:

Sweet and Condensed Knits,
 4 Deliciously Quick Knits For Her
by Chantelle Jelley


Sweet and Condensed Knits, as the title says, is a wee collection of 4 accessories for her.  All 4 patterns use 1 or less, 100g skein of yarn making them both affordable and great stash busters (hand spinners might find this useful as well, I don't know about you but I always seem to spin small quantities).  So let me show you the patterns....

Berry Stained Hands:  Cute little fingerless mitts, complete with tasty berries (bobbles) just to keep them fun.


Sweet Cherry Pie:  A very sweet cabled hat with a nicely domed crown that makes it a very comfortable fit.


Deliciously Thick Ribbed Socks:  comfy, warm, ankle socks fit nicely to the foot with simple 2x2 ribbing from cuff to toe.



Nutmeg:  A spicy little hat with cabled brim and smooth domed crown....reminds me of the comforts of warm custard pies.



I hope you like this little collection.  It was so fun for me to do, and comes from my passion for the knitted stitch.  It will be available on Ravelry as soon as I fix my....ehem...mistakes in trying to upload everything.  Until then I hope you all will enjoy this little pattern....

Spellbound


Worn doubled over with purl side out.


Scrunched up, full length with knit side out.


Worn pulled up as a hood.

(please excuse the poor photos of spellbound, I took them myself at work in poor lighting)

  I used an entire skein of Briggs and Little, Softspun, Colourway: Black Magic
5.5 mm double pointed needles or small circular
stitch marker
Gauge:  4 stitches to the inch
Finished measurements:  24 inch circumference (slightly pulled), 13.5 inches long

CO 96 stitches and join for working in the round being careful not to twist stitches, place stitch marker.  *Purl 1, Knit 3, continue from * until end of round.
Continue working in this 1x3 ribbed pattern until you have 3 yards remaining, Bind Off.

Thank you everyone for visiting and reading my blog, and please enjoy this pattern.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

More Wooden Goodies

I already told you about all of the wonderful wooden stuff I bought on retreat weekend.  What I didn't tell you about is how I thought about getting a supported spindle, but didn't, and ended up arriving home wishing that I had.  So I contacted the folks that had made my other stuff and asked for one and this is the picture I just received of the finished product.  It's mine, made to order especially for me.  The bowl and shaft are made of maple, the whirl is apple wood....two of my very favourites.  Thank you Mrs. T and Mr. G for doing this for me, it's made my day and I cannot wait to give it a whorl.





Monday, October 22, 2012

Hedgerow Gifts

This weekend I was given about 20 litres of concord grapes, that's with the stems on.  Even after washing and stemming....that was still a whole lot of grapes.  Concords taste very similar to Sovereign Coronation grapes (which are the kind we grow) but the differences are that Concords are less sweet eating out of hand and they have seeds.


The seeds aren't a problem, in fact they're very good for you, but they don't jam very well so I had to seed the grapes to be able to make jam out of them.  This added a bunch more work (but who am I to turn down free hedgerow food).  To make jam with seedless grapes you just throw them in a pot and mash, but with seeds you first have to squeeze out the pulp, cook the pulp separately from the skins, then sieve it to remove the seeds, add it to the pot with the skins and cook some more.  The end result however was very, very nice.


Out of all of those grapes I was able to make a batch of regular jam, a batch of 1/2 sugar jam, a batch of regular jelly and a batch of very low sugar jelly, that was 22 250ml jars all together.  To make jams and jellies with less sugar, I used "Bernardin, no sugar needed pectin" and it worked very well.  I could not believe how much sugar went into making jelly.  For the regular recipe I used 4 cups of juice and 6 3/4 cups sugar!!!!  That's not grape jelly...that's grape flavoured sugar!!!!  With the next batch I tasted the juice and realized that it didn't taste THAT tart without sugar but I did want a little, so I added only 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of juice.  Wow, what a difference...now that's grape jelly!  I don't think I'll use full sugar recipes ever again, I'm so happy with both the 1/2 sugar jam and the low, low sugar jelly.

I was also able to do something this weekend that almost never happens....I was able to sit at my wheel and spin for a couple of hours, catching up on shows that I'd missed and waiting for a hearty stew to bake in the oven.  That was very nice.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Retreat Goodies

As I was telling you, I picked up a few cool things while I was away.  These beautiful wooden tools were all made by the same guy and round off my existing stash of knitting/spinning tools nicely.  From left to right there is a turkish spindle, nostepine, orifice hook, a diz and wraps-per-inch gauge (together), and 3 sets of double pointed needle protectors.



As a participant, there's always a goody bag waiting for you too, this year we received a measuring tape, note pad, kumihimo disk and ribbons, fibre, wool wash, a diz, needle gauge/ruler and some chocolates which are not pictured here but were very good:)


Can't wait until the next retreat, they are so much fun.  It's so nice to be with 70 to 120 people, all weekend long, that share the same interests.  It's the one weekend a year that I am not weird and nobody glazes over when I speak of the virtues of merino wool.  I always leave having learned something too, this year was all about the turkish spindle for me, thank you S.P. for doing such a terrific demo and de-mystifying the technique.  I've been spindling like crazy since I got back and I love it.  I love it so much that I've been researching other styles of spindles and have decided that I'll be getting some more.  I didn't realize how fast a spindle could actually work, you just need a little practice.  OK, it's still not as fast as using my wheel, but it's way more portable as well as being some of the oldest forms of yarn making.

Ehem....to the people who read my blog, who's gift giving list I'm also on....some day I would also like a French Supported Spindle and a Navajo Thigh Spindle.....just sayin':)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Of Nests And Spindles....

One of the beautiful handmade wooden tools that I bought at this year's Spinning Retreat was this Turkish Spindle.....


It is an absolute dream to use.  The spindle is beautifully balanced and with such a wide centre of gravity, it spins for ever.  The fibre in the picture is a blend of greys and purples that I received in my goody bag to make a "bird's nest" and enter it into a contest.  We were taught to blend colours using hackles and a diz, which I used for the first time and this is the roving that I came up with.  I love the colours and am spinning it into a 2 ply yarn (on the Turkish Spindle) that I will knit into something small like a cowl to take to next year's retreat.  I think the fibre is Merino wool, which is a dream to work with and so, so soft...it should make an incredibly warm and comfortable cowl:)

Retreat

This weekend I participated in the Annual Maritime Handspinner's Retreat, which took place in Mirimichi, New Brunswick.  It was fantastic.  We were around 70 spinners in total, all of which came kitted out with a spinning wheel and a goodly basket of fibre and spindles and knitting projects.  There was also a nice handful of vendors that came equipped with all manner of spinning and knitting supplies.  I was so restrained in the vendor's room this time by NOT dragging home bags upon bags of fibre (my stash is still quite impressive so I thought I'd better spin some of that first), I did however leave a few dollars at one vendor's table....Mr. G. is a hobby wood turner and the husband of one of our spinners.  Mr. G. had some of of the most beautiful wooden tools for spinning and knitting that I have ever seen and I will post about them later when I've taken pictures of my pretty things.

I've never seen so many prizes.  The prize donations are always generous and it's really nice to win something, but we never expect that we ARE going to win something, it's just an added bonus.  This year there was something for everyone!  With a lovely donation from The Flair Witch, I was able to add two wire shawl pins to the prize table and I ended up going home with these adorable earrings:


This is how generous the vendors and participants were:


The room was so full of spinners and their stuff that you needed a map, compass and emergency beacon to not get lost, this picture was taken before everyone had arrived so it still looks quite tame.


And this is what a room full of professional, grown people get up to on a Saturday night:)  This is the end result of a four part, 3 team contest to hackle, spin, knit and dress a dolly.  The kicker being that the wee scarf was knit with a cocktail umbrella and a plastic sword.



Oh shoot, I broke the rules......"What happens at retreat weekend, stays at retreat weekend", sorry folks:)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Comfort

So Mr. Homesteader informed me the other day that he was in need of more padding for his work boots.  What better time of year to make a few new pairs of thick, wool socks for the man you love.  Today marked the first day of scraped wind shields too, so wool socks are definitely on order.  I grabbed a couple of skeins of 2 ply MacAusland's yarn and cast on for "two-at-a-time" socks in a lovely natural oatmeal colour.  I've used this colour before as I ended up buying a feed sack full of it and I absolutely adore it.  It is a good dense yarn for socks but still soft with a little sheen.


I think Mr. will find these much more comfortable in his boots.

I also acquired a new book on the weekend....yay.  The only thing I like more than a good book, is a good book about knitting.

BOOK: Pure Wool: A Guide to Using Single-Breed Yarns


This is a beautiful book which discusses single breed wool and it's appropriate uses, I love it.  It's useful, helpful and has gorgeous patterns in it, a few of which I think I need to make for myself.

This weekend also saw us Canadians celebrating Thanksgiving.  This is one of my favourite weekends of the year.  It seems to mark the true beginning of my favourite season and is full of the bounty of summer's toil.  The colours and smells this time of year make me turn inward, wanting for warmth and home comforts.  Mr. and I usually lie low on Thanksgiving weekend because it's our Anniversary, but this year we were invited to share the feast with family.  We enjoyed a beautiful chicken dinner with all of the season's trimmings.  It was wonderful.  Thank you to my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin for making it a lovely day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I'm A Great Knitter, But Not An Artist

Yup, it's true...I'm a knitter, a good knitter.  I can read another person's pattern and turn it into a beautiful garment and I can also create my own.  That's a talent, a true and real talent.  What I cannot do is draw, sketch, paint, sculpt....those forms of artistry elude me....completely.

My family is filled with talent of that sort, siblings, nieces, cousins, all with the ability to take pen, pencil, brush to paper and make it look like something.  I've never really understood shading, tinting, light, colour.  In fact, I worked in esthetics for many years and was very good at it, my clients always felt relaxed, refreshed and pampered, but one service I lacked talent in was make up....again that's all to do with colour, shading, tinting, brush strokes...you see what I'm saying here.

So, with the creation of a wee, little e-booklet containing 4 of my own patterns, I felt the need to make it truly my own.  After all, I created the patterns, chose the names and colours, wrote out the patterns, so I figured to make the work truly mine, I needed to do any of the "art" work I planned on including in the pages as well as the modelling.  Mind you, I must confess that doing it all myself was initially led by my pocket book.

So here is my "art", I think it's sweet.  One thing is for sure, it is genuine and heartfelt.  And if you can determine what each of the 4 little drawings are of, I guess I did alright:)


Monday, September 24, 2012

Salsa

So I was hoping for an entire weekend of down time....then on Saturday Mr. informed me that he would really like some salsa made up for the Winter.  On Saturday morning we took a wee jaunt to our local farm gate (which is only 10 minutes away) to buy a pumpkin and all the fixins for home made salsa.  Then I packed everything into a corner of the kitchen and refused to budge for the rest of the day.  There were even afternoon naps all around...I don't think any of us, not even Dave (that's our cat) realized just how tired we were.

So Sunday morning this is what I got up to....


....everything except for the vinegar and tomato paste came from our local farm gate:)  Unfortunately, after harvesting about 30 pounds of tomatoes, we had about 20 pounds of loss due to rot.  It looks as though it might have been blight but we really aren't sure.  The salsa would have been made from our own, home grown vegetables, making it truly ours, but, even with the loss, it was so nice to be able to get everything we needed from one of our local farmers.  Next weekend, I am getting that elusive down time....just one weekend with no jars, pressure canners, boiling canners, snap lids, burnt finger tips, sharp knives....I will really miss it:)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pears

I bottled these last night.....


....absolutely succulent Clapps Pears.  I chose this variety because they are large and recommended for either out of hand or bottling.  It was my first time working with pears. I'm glad I did a little reading up on them.  I didn't know that North American varieties don't ripen successfully on the tree, you pick them hard when the stem easily snaps off of the tree when tilted, then you cool the fruit and allow to ripen.  I set these aside for 4 days after purchase (they were very hard that day), and last night after reading about how they should feel when ripe, I checked them and they were perfect for eating.  Looking back, I would have bottled them 1 day sooner just so that they were a little firmer.  I also didn't know that the granular bits of the flesh are caused by "stone cells" and the stone cells are more, well, stony, when the fruit isn't ripened properly.  So the ones I ripened (the right way) were tender and fine and I found it very difficult to stop eating them as I was peeling and slicing.

It would appear that I used about 1 lb of fruit for each 500 ml jar.  10 lbs of pears, 10 jars.  Some jars I packed a little too well, others could have used more and unfortunately one of the jars didn't seal properly so Mr. and I will have to eat them...darn.  I meant to use an extra light syrup to allow the flavour to stand out and of course use less sugar but I had a little fatigue induced brain flatulence and ended up making "light".  I think I'll use honey instead of sugar next time to keep it all less processed.  But, even though I did use sugar and sugar isn't good for us, at least I didn't use high glucose corn syrup which I believe is poison.  This is the ingredients list of a common brand here in Canada:


...even with sugar, mine is still better for you, the fruit was local and in season and a bonus...they are actually cheaper than store bought.

And the end result....



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Preserves...The Good, The Bad And The Downright Dangerous

I'm relieved that I do know a little about food safety, especially when it comes to home preserves.  I was looking on line to find out about the best state of ripeness to can your pears.  Found some great tips about when to pick or buy pears, how to encourage ripening and what they should feel like in your hand when ripe.  I found some great tips on the canning process too, complete with suggestions for syrups and spices, I also found; much to my horror; some really great advice on how to risk food poisoning!  I am not an expert on this subject, nor am I a bio-chemist or anything of the sort...but PLEASE, please, please people....source out your home preserving information from a trusted publication or government website.  To be truly safe, all acid foods (fruit, jams, jellies and pickles) must be processed in a boiling water canner and all non-acid foods (vegetables and meats) need to be processed in a pressure canner...carefully timed according to ingredients, acidity and altitude.  Period.  If you do wish to preserve food, the best way to start is by getting a booklet, published by a canning company or your local government website that lists recipes, intended jar sizes and the times and methods needed to ensure safe food preservation according to those ingredients.

Here are some great links to websites I trust:

Bernardin, Home Canning Products


Ball Home Canning Products


Food In Jars, A Really Great Blog

Monday, September 17, 2012

Yawwwwnnnnnn, It's Monday Again.

Good Monday Morning everyone, I hope everyone had a super weekend and was able to get out and about in the countryside to enjoy local harvest.  Except of course our friends in the Southern Hemisphere who are now seeing the beginning of Spring.  Either way, it's wonderful to be able to go outside.

Mr. Homesteader and I went flat out again this weekend, which will be the norm until we get all of Fall's projects and bounty finished and put away.  Mr. spent his time putting bead board up in the back porch and reworking the door and window finishes (everything was moved) all the while trying to ignore the fact that he has a cold.

I spent the weekend in...you guessed it....the kitchen!  This time it was to make ahead and cook several meals for the coming week and to preserve some beautiful plums.  Our plum trees this year gave us our first handful of precious, purple orbs, but not enough to preserve so of course we just ate them.  Knowing that we homestead, knowing that we are living a cleaner, simpler life...our neighbours often pop over with gifts from their gardens or hedgerows.  So along with the plums that Mr. bought from our local orchard, some donations were made also.  All in all, after picking through the bad ones, I ended up with 7 pounds of perfect plums, all purple and of what looked like, three different varieties.


All pitted and in a lemon bath to preserve colour while waiting.



In the syrup, doesn't take long for them to soften.  I used a light syrup this time.



As soon as cooking starts, the skins give off their colour, and you can't see the yellow flesh anymore.



Perfectly Preserved Plums in Light Syrup.  You can still see a little of the light flesh colour, but by the next day or two, all of the purple has taken over.  Although runnier, these plums are a perfect side to roast chicken or turkey when you've realized that you've run out of Cranberry Sauce.

7 lbs fruit yielded 11, 250 ml bottles of bottled plums


Next job on the list for me will be canning pears in extra light syrup, it will be a first for me to do up pears but something that I've wanted to try for a while.  I have 10 lbs of pears and have left them in a cool room, in a dark box to ripen, they should be perfect today or tomorrow.  

In our hours and hours of conversations about food preservation, Mr. and I have been wanting to create a room in the basement for that purpose.  We've thought about concrete walls and a fan for circulation and a separate room for apples and pears so that they don't spoil the rest....but what we didn't realize is that we have a bedroom that we keep unheated all winter (with the door closed) and only bother heating up if we have guests.  From what we understand this kind of temperature is perfect to keep roots and squash and the like.  In Mother Earth News there was an article recently about using a spare room for this purpose, putting boxes of veg under the bed and in the drawers....I'm thinking this is brilliant.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Another Weekend Project

Seems as though all of my posts are on Monday morning and about the weekend.  I've recently started working very long hours from Monday to Friday at my day job, so all of the homesteading stuff happens on the weekend only now.  I can work on knitting and pattern writing at my day job (I've very lucky that way), but I haven't quite found a way to make a batch of preserves here yet...although...if I had a stove.............
It was easier to get home stuff done with my old routine because I didn't start work until 2:30 in the afternoon, and of course, you can get a lot done between 7:00am and 2:30pm!

This weekend was a whirl-wind affair just like last, with the exception of real down-time yesterday afternoon (which was amazing).  We harvested the few apples we could that the ants hadn't destroyed, which measured up at about 15 lbs.  It was so maddening because this year we would have had too many apples to preserve and keep and would have had some to share with our friends and nieghbors.  I turned them into delicious Apple Sauce sweetened with just a hint of Maple. The apples are beautiful and taste terrific but they were a little under ripe which led me to sweeten them instead of leaving them natural.

"Sweet Sixteen" Apples

Mr. had noticed that the grapes were starting to burst and birds were doing a number on them so we decided to run out and harvest them also.  This year's bounty is only half the size of last year but the grapes are even more plump and sweet due to a long and hot summer.  These were all kept for eating this year (no jam) but I do have some left from last year that are more tart and will still give us some jam.  I washed, stemmed and froze them for snacking this winter.  I haven't bought a grape since spring of 2011, and I hope to never have to again.

"Sovereign Coronation" Grapes

Did you get the recent issue of "Mother Earth News"?  The one about growing and preserving your own food?  Well I picked up a copy a couple of weeks ago and near the back of the magazine found a recipe for Cheddar and Sage Scones.  I made up a batch to go with Pea's Pudding yesterday, they are very good, very dense and very easy to make.

Cheddar Sage Scones with bite removed:)

Mr. and I also had a wee photo shoot out in the vineyard...ok, it's not really a "vineyard" so much as it's a trellis with three grape vines on it but I thought vineyard sounded really cool!  I can't share those pics this time because they are for a pattern that I'm working on for this falls e-booklet....stay tuned.

What did you do this weekend?  Please feel free to leave a comment and tell us about your homesteading, knitting, quilting, weaving, spinning, gardening, etc:)