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 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


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


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 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:)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Weekend Projects

What a productive weekend!  It was so nice to be home and in my happy place (that would be the kitchen)!!!

The weekend started off with a batch of Mustard Pickles, one of my personal favourites....

Just a single batch this time and I'll probably make another single batch with hot peppers in them.  We could eat more of them but we're watching the amount of sugar we eat so I consider the pickled and jammed goodies to be treats and the pressure canned fruit and veg to be groceries.

Then on Saturday morning we heading out to one of our local Farmer's Markets to get some fresh, local, free range pork for the freezer and a few apples.  We met a great family who dairy farm but also raise free range pork.  We managed to get a small freezer order that day, about 10 meals worth of chops and 6 lbs of ground.  The chops and half of the ground went right into the freezer and I took the other ground and made meat balls....mmmmm they are so good....cooked them up and froze them.

The apples were used to dry some apple rings (no pics of that) and a delicious apple pie.

I had also picked up a 10 lb bag of beets from my local veg stand and pressure canned them, eliminating the need to add sugar and stuff to them.  We discovered that opening a bottle of beets and adding a little balsamic vinegar to the pot to heat them up tastes amazing.  10 lbs of beets = 14, 500 ml bottles, that's two batches in my pressure canner.

Before the apple slices went into the solar dehydrator, I had to take out the kale that I'd already dried and grind it into a power as a "nutritional supplement" of sorts for the winter.  I'll be sprinkling it into soups and chowders and the like for a little nutritional boost.

Oh, I almost forgot...the best part of all!!!!  I took some of the ground pork and made a Quebecois potted meat that we call Cretons.  My recipe is probably quite different from what some of you are used to but OH MY it is so very good on toast.  I put the cretons in little ramekins and will freeze to use later.

My recipe:

1 lb fresh ground pork
1 onion finely chopped
about 2 cups of milk
a sprinkle of cinnamon
a sprinkle of summer savory
salt to taste

Gently boil on low heat for an 1 to 1 1/2 hours until pork is cooked through and onions are soft, do not drain, the little bit of fat from the meat and the milk make it spreadable.  Enjoy as a sandwich spread or over hot toast.

That sums up my weekend, what are you doing this Labour Day weekend?