Tuesday, September 28, 2010


#1 started highschool this year.  He seems to like it.  He keeps getting up in the morning.  Keeps going back.  Very few complaints.  It's amazing what a difference it makes to have teachers who understand his vision needs, and equipment and programs designed to assist him.  And shop class certainly helps, too.

This semester he has Geography, English, Guidance & Shop.  When we met with the guidance counsellor last spring, he told me of the course selections we made, Geography would be the one to worry about.  And worry is what mom does best.

I worried about him making friends.  Or not making friends.  I worried about him getting along with the older kids, about getting bullied.  But it seems to be a pretty good school, with plenty of adult supervision.  I was worried about him getting lost in the school.  It's an older building, with lots of additions over the years, new wings stuck on here & there, not exactly on the straight & narrow.  No problem.  He had it all figured out within a couple of days.  I worried about the days being too long for him, being exhausted when he got home, not having a life outside of school.  He's on the bus at 7am, home at 5pm.  He naps on the way home.  I really worried the day the bus flew by our house without stopping.  Did he miss the bus?  Did he fall asleep?  Where is my kid?  I called the bus office.  (That was the day the french kids went back to school.  Different bus.  #1's bus had a break down & they were running late).  And of course I worry about his eyes.  His reading isn't good.  His eyes are strained ALL THE TIME.  I worry.

For the first time EVER, he has a teacher, his Special Education Resources Teacher, who gets that.  Who looks at my kid and sees that he's in actual PHYSICAL pain as the day progresses, because his eyes are strained.  She decided that he wasn't going to read at all.  She has been working her but off, getting his homework on audio files, teaching him to use Dragon (a program that will type what he says), teaching him to use Kurzweil (a program that will read to him), getting all of his text books and assignments onto the computer, getting him an MP3 player, with the textbook reading on it, copying his homework on large files, and so much more.  She makes this all possible for him, so that he can focus on actually learning the material, instead of struggling through the days being hopelessly behind just trying to see well enough to READ.

The first few weeks were still a struggle.  Not a lot of homework, thankfully, since his eyes were too stressed to see after school.  But he was getting behind.  And I worried.  Week 3 he was supposed to have a geography test.  The weekend before, they sent home his first batch of computer files.  Written by a program that we don't have.  That Windows didn't recognize.  That I couldn't open.  Studying didn't go too well, to say the least.

They gave him an extra week to study.  They figured out the problem with the program.  They sent the files home again.  They finished training Dragon.  He was getting behind on the next topic while he was studying for the last one.  He finally wrote the test.  Having not taken many tests before- just his Cadets training tests & his first aid certification- he really wasn't sure how he thought he'd done.

Yesterday he got his test back.  I really don't care about grades.  Honestly, I don't.  As long as he's progressing, and he's happy, I'm ok.  Even if he fails.  No big deal.

He got his test back.  83.5%

Friday, September 24, 2010


 Thanksgiving in Canada is in October.  The 11th, this year.  We used to celebrate with the Americans at our house.  Hubby would usually be working for Canadian Thanksgiving, but home for the American holiday.   One of the joys of being a truck driver.  The past few years he's had both off.  Thanksgiving is the first day of moose season.  We go hunting.

Last week he asked what I wanted to do for Thanksgiving this year. !??!  Oh, that's right.  His family, who never used to celebrate ANY holidays, is in the area.  So I'm supposed to celebrate with them now.  NOT.  Years ago, before we started hunting, I planned a simple turkey dinner Thanksgiving.  I invited my mom & s-i-l, since my dad & brother were gone moose hunting.  And I invited my in-laws.  They accepted.  Until the day before.

My b-i-l, who we've had a complicated relationship with over the years, decided to be an ass and guilt the in-laws into not coming.  It was against their religion.

A simple turkey dinner.  Nothing religious.  Just turkey.  But because the day matched the calendar for a non-religious holiday, it was against their religion.  Ok.  Whatever.

Last year, since the in-laws came to live with us- Pop in the trailer, Ma in the nursing home- we included them for Thanksgiving.  I through a turkey in the oven and left the kids instructions to peel potatoes, & watch things while we were out hunting.  Very simple.  Still a pain in the ass.  Missed the afternoon hunt.  It's moose season.

So, no, I hadn't made any plans for Thanksgiving.  When he asked, I was thinking, have you lost your mind?  Why would I do that?  I told him we could celebrate American Thanksgiving.  Or, really, we could do it now. (Last week).

The more I think about it, the more I think that's the way it should be.  Thanksgiving is a Harvest Celebration.  We just had frost.  Harvest season is here.  Thanksgiving should be in September in the north.  Turkeys are on sale in this weeks flyers for .99/lb.  Apparently the farmers & the grocery stores agree.  I just bought two pumpkins.  They agree.  Now, if only I was organized enough to come to this conclusion earlier, I could have planned for this weekend.  As it is Friday now, I think I'll plan it for next weekend.  So there it is, Harvest Fest will be October 2nd at my house.  You bring the yams.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Care to go for a drive?

What a crazy week.  We live about an hour & ten minutes from Timmins.  On a good day.  With nice weather.  Without construction.  That's the "big city" around here.  Population 45000.

Hubby woke up Friday morning with his leg severely swollen, and very painful.  He took some advil, some tylenol, and decided to suffer through it all weekend.  I had an ultrasound appointment on Monday in Timmins.  After the appointment, after shopping, after supper...  he decides, maybe he should get this checked out, since it isn't getting any better.  Back to the hospital.  After waiting a ridiculously long time in a not very busy ER, with the doctors happily socializing at the desk...  They finally tell him he has a blood clot.  They give him a shot of blood thinner, some anti-inflammatories, and tell him to come back tomorrow morning for another shot and an ultrasound.  Home we go.

The next morning, back into Timmins.  He gets his shot in the Er, ultrasound won't be til 3:30pm.  Oh joy.  We do some more shopping.  Spend way too much money.  Have a nap in the car.  Finally, we go back to the hospital for the ultrasound.  Back to the ER to wait for the results.  Another hour.  Finally, he gets called back in, to find out there is no clot.  Blood tests and x-rays.  Another two hours.  He has gout.  Again.  We go home.

Wednesday is cadets night, my regular trip to Timmins for #1 & #2.  Another three hours, wandering aimlessly, killing time.

Today I get to stay home & relax.  Tomorrow, I get to back to Timmins.  #2 was chosen to be on the sail team, and they have a competition this weekend.  I have to drop him off Friday afternoon and pick him up Saturday night.

Some weeks I begrudge the weekly trip to town.  This week...  #$%^@!!  Looking forward to Sunday!

I don't know what I hate most.  The actual driving.  The time it takes.  The cost of fuel.

Somewhere, between all the driving, I did manage to get mint transplanted to both the flower bed & the forest garden.  I picked some rose hips, planted a couple in the flower bed.  Most are intended for jam, but I'll need quite a few more.

Painted gardening tools, shovels, picks, axes, etc. with used motor oil for winter storage.

Cleaned out the car.  

The boys built the new chick starter box.
Press board bottom, 2X6 sides, octagon shape.  Cardboard to extend the side height.

White rock chicks, arrived September 15th.

I ordered the white rocks.  Not really my choice in chickens.  They've been bred to be nothing but eating, growing machines.  If they aren't butchered by 8 weeks, they'll go lame, unable to carry their own weight, and their internal organs will start shutting down & exploding.  I ordered them this time, because it'll be a race to get them in the freezer before winter.  These guys here, 1 week old, already tripled in size since hatching.

Next spring it'll be Barred rocks for sure.  They're cousins, so to speak.  Achieving the same size and quality over all, but the barred rocks grow slower, and survive well into adult hood. 

The kitchen got a little cleaner.  Almost ready for round two of salsa time.  We had more frost, and I've given up any hope of tomatoes ripening.  Then, just for good measure, because my life isn't crazy enough, I bought two nice pumpkins at $2.99 a piece, to cook & freeze for pies & bread this winter.  Last winter was really sad with no pumpkin.  I waited until after hallowe'en, expecting them to go on sale.  They rotted in the stores before hallowe'en.  This year is expected to be worse, with the pumpkins ripe very early down south.  So, I'm getting a bit of a head start.  If I can manage to get started between all the driving.

Cleaned up the cold room again.  The boys carry stuff down stairs for me, but shove it anywhere they can find a space.  Here's what we've got stored for winter so far.

Pickled carrot                                              8 pints (2009)
Green Salsa                                                 15 pints (3 from 2009)
Pickled beets                                               50 quarts + 9 pints (the pints will be gifts)
Pickled tomatoes                                         5 quarts
Pickled radish                                              1 quart (2009)
Dill pickles                                                   14 quarts

172 pints (family sized servings) of vegetation.

Watermelon Rind Preserves                       7 quarts
Pear sauce                                                   2 quarts (2009)
Pears                                                           5 quarts (2009)
Raspberry Sauce                                        4 quarts, 7 pints (2009)
                                                                   24 1/2 pint, 6 pint (2010)
Blueberry pie filling                                   3 pints (2008)
Blueberry sauce                                         6 quarts, 12 pints (2009)
                                                                   24 1/2 pints
Assorted jams                                           39 pints, including 14 strawberry & 4 grape

139 pints of fruit.

252 days of winter.  Still have a ways to go.  Of course there is the freezer stuff, but it doesn't amount to much.  A few blueberries, some over ripe bananas, rhubarb...  Maybe 30 servings total.

On to the pumpkin...  The kitchen awaits.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekly Wrap Up: The Morning After The Frost

Yes, frost last night.  I'm sad, but not bawling my face off miserable like last year.  20 days later, and a good, warm growing season.  We had a good run.

Cucumbers- started late & after the horse trampled them.  Still did well.

Sparta Tomatoes ripening on the vine.
Cherry tomatoes.  Don't you just love how my plants are all monstrous?  Lol.  
A few we got to eat.

I covered about 6 tomato plants, so we may get a few more ripe ones yet.  We plucked the rest of the dead plants out and ended up with about 7 gallons of green tomatoes.  Green tomato salsa time.

Corn that I planted last year decided to make an appearance.

Including this oddball that really took off. 

Even two tiny ears on there.  Not sure how it managed to get pollinated.  It must have been really determined.

We are actually too far north to grow corn.  We're in a 2A growing zone, which is too short of a season, and not enough heat days.  So  it really is a wonder!

4 little heads of cabbage in all. 

A little pumpkin.
The smallest pumpkin plant, with the earliest pumpkin already turning orange.
Asparagus really springing back to life.
The biggest of the strawberry plants.
 I was very proud of my little garden when I took these pics.  Surprised with how well it all fared, despite my lack of attention, crummy soil, not getting enough planted, the goats, the horse...  Our best year yet, since we moved to the north.  There is hope for the future. 

This morning it's looking rather bleak and dismal.  Frost means it's time to dig up the horseradish, and start searching the woods for rose hips.  A few more gardening chores to be done still.

I finally found out what the stupid purple flowers are!  I was watching youtube videos about permaculture, and there it was...  Unbelievable!   Comfrey.  Organic gold.  Who knew?  So instead of trying to kill it now, I guess I will let it grow back to it's overzealous self, and then chop it down for fertilizer next fall.  I'm going to keep the tarps in behind the asparagus patches though, just so they don't get over crowded again.  So the question remains...  How is my soil so crappy with comfrey growing, and tons of manure?  What were the people before me doing???  I think they must have sprayed it with round up or something.  It's just too weird.  More hope for the future.

I transplanted the two apple trees that I had started from seed into the bit of wood behind the house.  Also dug up the last of the rhubarb from it's original location and moved it up there.  I'd like to transplant the black currants into the same area.  For now I'm going to leave the rest of the apple trees where they are, off the side of the garden.  They're pretty well established there, and I don't know how the forset gardening idea will work out yet.

I picked my tobacco and hung it in the work shop.  Online sources say it could be anywhere from 2 months to 6 years to air cure.  Simple enough.  Let it hang until it smells good.

Wednesday was the opening day of partridge season.  I've got two.  The first was an accident- I hit it with my car.  I stopped and picked it up anyway.  The second was hard to get.  I kept missing.  Badly.  Really badly.  I took 11 shots at one bird who was kind enough to sit in the middle of the road long enough for me to do it.  Not a hit!  I'm not that bad of a shot, really.  Dad decided to take a look at my gun for me, and found my scope was seriously out of whack.  All fixed up now.  One shot, and the second bird was mine!  Hopefully the rest of the season turns out well.  Waldo did an excellent job of running to fetch that bird too.  I'm very proud of him.  The first day was pretty miserable for him, with all of those gun shots, and no food.  I hadn't thought to bring any snacks for him.  We gun break a dog by firing a cap gun while they eat when they're pups.  Thus, loud bang = food.

The kitchen table is back in the kitchen.

I pickled beets.  Lots of beets.  32 jars, I think, but will do a proper count later.  Most of them were from my Mom's garden.  We dug ours up, but they were the size of golf balls, while Mom's were baseballs & bigger.

I made batches of grape jelly & strawberry jam, both with store bought produce.  The strawberries were on sale for $1.50/lb.  The same price as the pick your own place, (which was sold out before we ever got there) and I didn't have to pick them!  Imported from the U.S., of course, probably picked with slave labour, ridiculous food miles...  I should be ashamed, I know, but the fact is I would have either bought these strawberries, or paid three times as much for strawberry jam, with all of the same issues.  Hubby, the weirdo, only eats strawberry jam, despite all the delectable choices I offer him.  The grapes were better, Ontario grown.

A small batch of dill pickles, with my own cukes, and dill from the farmer's market.  I was in the city on Saturday, so I stopped in to see.  It's kind of funny.  No, it's really not.  There's this old man who has been at the farmer's market each year that we've lived here, and probably many years before that.  He's probably the one who's kept the market alive all these years.  He doesn't have a lot, but he brings what he has, and keeps it running.  His prices are fairly reasonable, too, as farmer's markets go.  Well, There are these new people.  A whole mob of them.  Tons of veggies.  Big, beautiful veggies.  Pretty, laminated signs.  Handing out flyers about the local food movement.  Their prices are through the roof!  Wow.  And people are flocking to them.  What's wrong with this picture?

Choices and selection are great.  More vendors are good.  More farmers are awesome.  But why do I feel like we're somehow cheating the old man?  I bought my dill from him.

The boys sailed all weekend.  Two very early morning trips into Timmins.  No sleeping in on the weekend.  I told them on Wednesday, Parade night, not to bother even thinking of walking out of there with plans for this weekend.  And if anyone plans to wake me up tomorrow, they had better be saying good bye, because they're moving out.  I need to recuperate from the school schedule.

School is going good for #1.  The homeschoolers haven't really started any book work yet.  They're learning from #1's homework.  #3 is also making great improvements in reading, since he finally spent his birthday money on a new computer game.  I love how they teach themselves when they really want to know.  He's read the equivalent of a novel in the past two weeks.  If I asked him to read a novel, he'd be freaking out- that's too much, that's too hard.  Oh, but learning the game, that's ok!! 

A good, busy week.  Time for a rest!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Farm For The Future

One of my online friends recently directed me to this film, A Farm For The Future.    It wasn't a lot of new-to-me information, but it was assembled in a very thought provoking way. 

Our aim here is to live sustainably.  To not rely on fossil fuels.  Because we're nearly at the point now, that we can't afford to rely on fossil fuels.  And they're going to get more and more expensive as world resources continue to decline.

I know that tilling the soil is bad.  Bad use of fossil fuels.  Bad for erosion and loss of top soil.  Bad for the pocket book.  I never thought about what it was doing to the life below the surface.  Bad, bad, bad.  But have I stopped?  Nope.  I didn't plant half my garden this year because Pig refused to work, and the rototiller broke.  I was thrilled when I bought my new tillers from the neighbour.  The kids have already tilled up most of the garden section that didn't get planted.  And I won't be planting there until next year.  So we just exposed a whole lot of soil to sunlight & erosion for no reason.  Why?  Because I thought it would help with weed control.  And apparently it will.  Given a few years, nothing will want to grow there at all.  I'll have dead soil.

Dead soil, like I likely have been fighting with since we moved in here.  Dead soil, which is likely the cause of the buttercup field in the pasture.  The previous owner plowed & reseeded that section repeatedly.  None of my pasture has the root structure seen in the film, like the healthy native grasses growing there.  But my lawn does.  My lawn grows like crazy.  Why?  Because it's been pretty well ignored for years.  Sure, it's a mess of weeds.  Who cares?  It has amazing root structure.  I've been trying to kill the front lawn to turn it into a flower bed, and three summers haven't made much headway.  But I've never tilled it.  I don't care enough about flowers to put any real effort into killing it.  I just cover a section with old card board boxes and car floor mats and leave it like that until it looks dead below.  Then after a few months I plant, or transplant, flowers into it.  Because I don't cut the lawn, and the front lawn is too small to fence off for the critters to eat.  But the grasses keep coming back.  They move in from the edges, and reappear in what looked to be dead.  Interesting.  This year I also planted my leftover zuccini, and all of my tobacco into it, what with the garden tilling issues...  And they grew like crazy.  Much better than expected.  Much better than the garden.

There are spots all over this place with similar structure.  The "oats" field.  A clearing out back that grows amazing, tall, local, green grasses.  Because it's been ignored for years.  I had planned to eventually plant oats there.  I think I'll skip that idea.  I think, in fact, I'll go harvest some seed there to try to revitalize the buttercup pasture with.  The back 'pasture'.  It's a clearing left from the last time this place was logged (before us).  It's becoming over run with alders right now, but it was very lush and green as well.  Smaller spots too. 

Is the secret to good pasture land just a matter of letting nature take it's course?  Is it really that easy?  Time will tell.  As we get more sections fenced and let the critters out to munch, the growth of alders and forest will be slowed, or stopped.  It never occurred to me that I wouldn't have to eventually seed it all with hay.  Hmmm.

I've read about forest gardening before, but seeing it in action is a whole different perspective.  I tried growing pumpkins between the apple trees- all very young- to keep the weeds down a couple of years ago.  The grass and weeds grew like mad there, and I spent more time weeding the pumpkins than the garden.  What if I use that section behind the house as a forest garden?  The section that was supposed to become the goat pen, but they don't seem to care for it.  There was a lot of dead fall, and a lot of dead standing trees there when we moved in.  We cleaned them all out.  It already gets lots of bird and bug attention, with cherry trees growing along the edge of the back yard.  There's a small clearing in the centre with lots of sunlight.  Hmmm.  I will definitely have to try this next spring.  I wonder if the taller trees will help protect against early/late frosts?  We'll have to see.  And then, what if I just don't bother weeding it?  I mean, I'd still need to weed around my veggis, giving them the advantage over the wild life...  but the pathways, areas I haven't planted, the undergrowth once my veggies are taller...  If I just left that stuff do it's thing, it wouldn't be hurting my prospects, and may in fact be helping them?!  Seriously?  Could it really be that easy?

The film, definitely worth watching, if you're at all concerned about food security, the environment, or small scale farming.  Definitely worth watching.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mung Beans

I finally found some mung beans at the grocery store.  I was sure I had seen them before, but they haven't had any in stock for awhile now.

I bought a tiny seed packet with instructions in the spring for a ridiculous $2.99.  Not enough beans in there for my hoard!  But at least I got to look at them.  They're sold here as Moong beans in the grocery, which is why I couldn't find them to begin with.  Hmmm.  At any rate, now I have my first batch soaking on the counter.  Hopefully they'll be ready for a nice stir fry this weekend.

Here's a simple set of instructions that are pretty much the same as my seed packet.  The seed packet says to rinse them twice a day, and that it takes 7 days to sprout them.  We'll see how it goes.

Since it's raining like crazy...

It seemed like a good day to work inside.  Inside the garage, that is.

This is my kitchen table.

See the burn marks?  Pot stains?  Missing varnish?

Sadly, it's really not that old.  Only about 9 years.  I added two coats of varnish when I bought it.  It's predecessor had a short abused life, and I really wanted this baby to last.  About 5 years later, it got another three coats of varnish.  It was peeling badly, and should have been sanded down and done properly, but I didn't have the tools or the time.  At least it was protected for a few more years.

It's pretty much the centre of our world, so it sees a lot of action, and suffers for it.  It is of course, the place where we eat.   It is where we sit and talk.  It is where we do school.  It is where we play board games.  It is where we bake and prepare meals and roll out breads.  And it's also where the children like to play with their freakin' match box cars and trains and other scratchy little wheeled toys.

It's been peeling for months now, and we've been picking off the peels as we sit around it.  But then, my dad loaned me his new belt sander.  Now we have the tool.  And it's raining.  Now we have the time.

This is my assistant.
#2 wants to play with the sander

This is after we went 'oops, we should probably put the leaves in so they match.

This is the first coat of varnish.
 Three more coats of varnish should finish it off nicely.

To Pluck or Not to Pluck

Chickens feasting on garden weeds
We decided to butcher a few of the chickens.  We got another big rooster and more laying hens from the neighbours.  Rooster is now in the freezer, along with 5 of my pathetic little spring chicks.  I think maybe they might be Black Sex Links.  Definitely tiny.  Hardly worth the effort.

I put two in two bags, and the largest one in a bag by itself.  We ended up plucking the rooster, and skinning the little hens.  They had just the beginnings of winter feathers coming in, and are too small to roast & stuff anyway, so we skinned them and will probably end up eating lots of chicken stew this year, if I decide to butcher any more of them.

I now have too many hens to keep through the winter.  So I really should butcher more of them.  But they're so small it's hardly worth the bother.

Good thing we have grocery stores.  We could seriously starve this winter otherwise.  Actually, I've ordered 30 White Rocks.  It goes against my better nature.  They should arrive On September 15th, which means I'll be growing chickens mostly indoors, probably in the snow.  Then I'll be butchering them outside in the cold.  Probably a bad idea all around, but I couldn't bare the thought of another grocery store Christmas dinner.  It's just so unnatural.

Here's a little peak at my summer kitchen/butcher shop/garage.
I love my little oven/crockpot on hot summer days.  The freezer doubles as my butcher counter, with the board on top.

And this is my propane cooker, heating up the water pot before dunking the chickens.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

So here I sit...

Pondering my shopping list.  Today is my first trip to the city in what feels like forever.  Tonight is the boys' first night back to cadets.  Back to routine.  What few trips we have made into the city through the summer were always a mad dash here and about, with a million things to do, and I'm too tired to care anymore, and I forgot the list at home...  Disorganized is putting it mildly.  Routine is good.

So I have my list.  The problem is, it's a little on the long side.  Complicated by the money being a little on the short side.

I've got my grocery lists.  I check the sales flyers online every week and write out the items on sale that we normally buy, the size, brand & price.  Normally I would pick the store with the best sales, and stock up on everything on sale.  But this isn't normal.  This is, we've been out of practically everything for a month now...  So I think I'll see how things work out at Basics.  They're the cheapest for off the shelf, never on sale, non-perishables that I need to get stocked back up on.  Then we'll see if time permits a stop at another store.

The pantry will get stocked up again over the next few weeks.  No real worries there.  More disconcerting is the other list.  The list of non-grocery items.  The one that never seems like a big deal from week to week, when we're following routine.  But over the course of the summer...  It's daunting.  Not so much because it's huge.  It really isn't.  It's the odd ball assortment of crap that I need to buy that has me disillusioned.  I only have three hours to shop!  To get the best deals I'd need to make at least ten stops.  That's not going to happen.  So...  What to do, what to do?

Bottles to return.  Dollarliar.  Canadian Tire.  Walmart.  Outdoors store.  Those will be the priorities.  After groceries of course.  We'll see how far we get.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rabbits in the Freezer

The bunny plan didn't work out quite as good as we had hoped.

I bought a buck, two does, and a box of three rabbits (which all turned out to be male) at the auction in the spring. Both does were bred when we bought them. The first had her litter and was a good mom. She gave us 6 bunnies. The second killed all of her babies. We rebred them both. The first died during delivery of her second litter. The second killed all of her babies. We rebred her again, and she killed all of her babies. We rebred her once more, since she could produce one litter before fall, but we don't have much hope for it.

In the meantime, we've butchered all of the males except the buck, and all of the bunnies.

That put another 8 meals in the freezer, and one in our bellies. It also gave us another 8 starters for doggie stew. And the beginnings of a nice blanket.

These are our rabbit skins being stretched and cured. We sprinkle them with pickling salt and stretch them every day for about a week, until dry. Then we wash them in a bucket with Borax and hang to dry on a windy day.

Roast Rabbit
Put rabbit in a roasting pot with water, onion & garlic, or a leek. Roast until it pulls easily off the bone.

Sweet & Sour Sauce
2 Cups pickled beet juice
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 tsp corn starch

Heat to boiling, 1 1/2C beet juice in saucepan. Add brown sugar.
Combine 1/2 C cold beet juice & corn starch. Mix well. Stir into boiling beet juice. Stir well until thickened.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Doggie Stew 2

In this post I was explaining that we feed our dogs home made stew. I just thought I'd mention, with the addition of the Wonder mutt, our now 5 month old lab/bouvier cross, we are going through a pot of stew about every 5 days!

Serving doggie stew to four large breed dogs is kind of expensive. Probably still cheaper than crappy commercial dog food, but still, we all need to cut corners where we can. The dogs have been getting a little fussy of late too, not cleaning their bowls.

The starch is the most expensive part of our stew at the moment. It's mostly rice these days, since I don't shop as often through the summer (kid's schedules), and pasta doesn't seem to be on sale when I do. The pasta cupboard is actually looking pretty bare right now for human consumption, and who knows what will happen with the wheat situation this fall. The crops haven't been looking good.

So I thought I'd mention a few other ingredients that I've been using and storing for doggie stew.

Rice- the usual suspect.

Pasta- cheap when on sale.

Bread crusts, crumbs, and loaves that didn't turn out right in the oven. From time to time when we get busy doing other stuff and the bread gets over risen before we roll it out. We bake it anyway. These loaves are usually flat and hard, but the chickens peck away at their share, and the dogs don't complain once they're softened up in the stew.

Potatoes. It occurred to me after my last visit to the potato man that I've been kind of silly about using potatoes in doggie stew. The potato man is a local farmer who sells small and medium sized potatoes for $7 per 50 lb bag. We eat a lot of potatoes, so even at that price they're kind of an expensive part of our diet. But compared to the price of rice/pasta/commercial dog food, they make some pretty cheap doggie stew. Not to mention adding to the thickness of the broth. I'm now using 3 or 4 medium potatoes for every fresh pot of stew, in addition to the peels and leftovers that they used to get.

Dandelions are free and completely edible. They're making up the bulk of the summer veggie portion, as well as going into the freezer for winter stews. I've frozen dandelion greens for us before as well, but it's a lot of work and we tire of them quickly. Laziness, and part of living in a world where if we don't have enough food to survive the winter, there's always the grocery stores... It's easier with the dogs because they don't need to be cleaned. I just pick them in the yard and put them straight into the bag, then straight to the freezer.

Lettuce. Since it's growing so well in the garden this year, I've been freezing what we don't eat fresh for winter stews.

Pea pods. I've been tossing the pea pods into the stew as I shell the peas.

The end of the jar. Since our recycling company has decided to be uber picky about the cleanliness of our recycling, I'm filling all cans and jars with water to soak as we cook. No point in wasting the water or the remnants afterward.

Raspberry/Blueberry pulp. I juice my berries for canning, so the leftover pulp and seeds go into the doggie stew and chicken bowl.

Veggie trimmings. Potato peels, carrot peels, tomato tops, pepper centres, broccoli stems, etc... all get divided between dogs and chickens.

Butcher bones. As we butcher, I keep the leg bones with some extra meat on them, or in the case of the rabbits we just did, the rib cage and back bone. We currently have about thirty bone bags in the freezer. I also keep the heart & liver.

Eggs. The chickens are now producing enough eggs that 3 or 4 in a fresh pot of stew aren't missed from my family's diet.

Beans & lentils. Cleaning out the cupboard, I found an odd assortment of various beans and lentils that we've tried & didn't like, or are now so old that I don't think they'd soften up very well. I've been adding about a half a cup full to each batch.

Weather in the North

On days like today I wake up & wonder where I live. Am I in some kind of alternate reality? How is this possible?

We have just endured another week of hot, hot, HOT... In the 30s before the humidex. Humidex!! This has been our first summer here with humidity. Sort of, lol. Usually we're fighting the constant dampness. This summer has been hot. A lot of weeks of 30s with little rain. And now, for the third time this summer, I wake up freezing my butt off.

Okay, honestly, it's not that cold. It's 13°C. But it's such a drastic drop that it feels like freezing. We're only supposed to hit 22° today, followed by a week of rain and cool. No wonder my tomatoes are so confused. A week of rain will give me time to butcher chickens though, so all is well.

Update on the garden...
My neighbours are moving, and they sold us their rototillers. The boys have tilled up most of the section that never got planted this year, working some manure into the soil. Hopefully we'll have better luck there next year.

I had one little strawberry coming along nicely, nearly ripe the last time I saw it. And then it disappeared. I believe one of those boys... saw it while rototilling... and ate it!! How rude. The plant has recovered from the goat attacks, and has another flower on it now. I might get one yet this year, who knows. My dad gave me his cherry tomato plant, which has a strawberry in with it too. I'm debating whether to transplant it to the garden now, or wait until spring. I tend not to have very good luck keeping things alive in pots all winter, but transplanting now could mean losing all the cherry tomatoes to an early frost.

Tomatoes are loaded with green tomatoes. I've picked a few ripe ones. They're not the healthiest I've ever seen. A lot of rotted bottoms. I started a bucket in the freezer to salvage the top portions if we're not eating them right away. I will definitely get enough for green salsa again, if we get frost before they ripen.

The asparagus seems to think it's spring. New shoots have been coming up fairly regularly.

The little row of beans provides a little handful every few days. What I don't eat raw I've been blanching and adding to the stew mix bucket in the freezer.

Lettuce is still coming in, and I've started freezing it too. I'm kind of sick of eating lettuce at the moment. I figure I'll add little bits of it to soups and stews through the winter. Shredded, it'll just add to the broth's nutrition. Some will also go into winter doggie stews. Every time I pick new lettuce, I take the old stuff from the fridge and freeze it. Some has bolted, but there's still plenty producing.

I have two nice little pumpkins. Pie size. One has a hint of orange. There are a few other tiny ones, but I don't know how big they'll get in the time we have left.

I moved my peppers back inside to the greenhouse shelves in the sunroom. They seemed to be stuck, not growing anymore, with all of these little peppers on them during our last cool week. So in the house they came, and the peppers seem to be getting bigger again now.
I wonder if they'll produce again next year, if I can manage not to kill them through the winter. Hmmm. I'll have to try that. I'm going to try pollinating with a feather duster too. Can't hurt to try.

There are a couple of pea plants left that survived the goats, and my neglect. After the goats, I picked them a couple of times, but there were only a handful of peas. #4 started asking if he could pick them every few days, but only came back with a handful as well. When I finally checked them again myself, they were loaded with big fat peas, and some had already burst open. Most of the plants have dried out since then, but there are still a few that linger on. I'm adding what we don't eat raw to the stew mix.

I got another bag of rhubarb for the freezer. It's still coming, but slower now.

Onions have done well this year. I think I'll start pulling them the next week of sun we get.

I have three little heads of cabbage formed, and one tiny head of broccoli. It's the first time the broccoli has made it this far along. Our soil has avitamin E & selenium deficiency. Since I give the horses supplements, I've been hoping the manure will improve the soil as well. It seems to be working.

I have cucumbers! Amazing but true. It's one of those weird things about living in the north, cucumbers are a fall crop rather than a spring crop. Since I only planted pickling cukes, I've been picking them small & saving them in the fridge to do a batch of pickles. Soon!

The potato tops look good, but we won't know what's underneath until after frost. We didn't hill them this year. We got so few last year, and just as many from the compost volunteers as the rows that we hilled, that I figured it wasn't really worth the extra effort.

The weeds of course are doing great. I'm feeding them to the chickens.

On my to do list...
Add more manure.
Till it into the soil.
Store buckets of composted manure for spring seedlings.
Transplant mint to flower bed.
Weed flowerbed.
Transplant some horse radish to flowerbed. Dig up the rest and preserve.
Transplant remaining rhubarb to flower bed & woods. It's growing right where I want to put the woodshed.
Fertilize (pile manure around) apple trees and asparagus.
Finish the fence!!