Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cookie Day

The cookie jar sits, so lonely, on the counter, empty.

I had started baking cookies for Christmas over a month ago.  I got distracted by pies, fudge, and a party, school, critters, snow, being sick...   and probably a dozen other things.  I try to keep at least a batch in there at all times, start a new batch when it's getting low.  Somehow I missed the emptying of the cookie jar.  Yesterday #3 saw my secret cookie stash- ie the handful I take into my room when I want a chocolate fix at midnight, but only eat one or two, and he confiscated them.

"We need cookies for Santa!"

Hmmm...  How long has the cookie jar been empty?  I can't remember the last time someone asked if they could have a cookie.  Not in the past few days.  Maybe a week?  Has it been that long without complaints?  How odd.

So, we need cookies for Santa.  And definitely for my next chocolate craving.  And maybe even a few for the kids.  Today will be cookie day.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup lard
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
3 3/4 cup oatmeal
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cup raisins

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Grease baking sheets.
2.  Cream shortening, brown sugar, egg milk, vanilla in large bowl at medium speed.
3.  Combine oats, flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.  Add to creamed mixture gradually, beating at low speed.
4.  Stir in raisins.
5.  Drop dough on cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 F 10 to 12 minutes.

Makes 3 to 4 dozen.

(I'll make a second batch of these with my blaizins!)

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup lard
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F
2.  Cream shortening and brown sugar.
3.  Add egg, milk & vanilla.  Beat 1 minute.
4.  Combine flour, salt, baking soda.  Add to creamed mixture gradually, until blended.
5.  Stir in chocolate chips.
6.  Drop onto ungreased cookie sheet.
7.  Bake 375 F 8 to 10 minutes.  Cookies will still appear moist.

And a second batch of those with 1/4 cup cocoa added for Chocolate Chocolate Chip. And possibly a third, because I think I lost my mind in the grocery store and bought some kind of weird, coloured, candy coated chips.

Today I'll only be making the Basic Sugar Cookies, but here's the whole Basic Cookie Mix recipe (or at least the parts that I've kept and used).

Basic Cookie Mix
                                This basic cookie mix can be used to make 9 different cookies.
 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
 4 cups white sugar
 1 1/2 cups dry milk powder
 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1.   Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with a spoon.
2.  Sift mixture twice.
3.  Store in a tightly covered containter as it keeps well for several weeks at room  temperature.
4.  This mixture can be used to make Basic Sugar Cookies, Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies, Basic Raisin Cookies, Basic Coconut Cookies, Basic Nut Cookies, Basic Peanut Butter Cookies, Basic Brownies, Basic Chocolate Drop Cookies, or Basic Oatmeal Bars.
 Makes 9 cups

Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies
 2 cups basic cookie mix (see recipe)
 1 egg
1/2 cup butter or margarine
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
 1.  Melt butter or margarine over low heat and add to Basic Cookie Mix.
2.   Lightly beat the egg and add to mixture. Stir in vanilla and mix well.
3.  With lightly floured hands shape into 1 inch balls and arrange about 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet.
4.  Bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 12 to 15 minutes until golden.
5.  Cool a couple of minutes before removing from cookie sheet to racks to complete cooling.
 Makes 3 dozen

Basic Raisin Cookies
This recipe uses a pre-made mix that will keep for several
 weeks. Add the following ingredients to the mix for Basic Raisin Cookies.
 2 cups basic cookie mix (see recipe)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
2.  Melt butter or margarine over low heat and mix into the Basic Cookie Mix. Lightly beat egg and stir into mixture. Add vanilla and raisins and mix well.
3.  With lightly floured hands shape into 1 inch balls and arrange about 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet.
4.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden. Cool a couple of minutes before removing from cookie sheet to racks to complete cooling.
 Makes 3 dozen

Basic Brownies
This recipe uses a pre-made mix that keeps for several  weeks at room temperature. Add the following ingredients to the mix to make Brownies.
 2 cups basic cookie mix
 1 egg
 1/3 cup cold water
 1/3 cup butter or margarine
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 1/4 cup sifted cocoa
 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9 x 9 inch pan.
2.  Lightly beat egg and add to Basic Cookie Mix.
3.  Melt butter or margarine over low heat and add to mixture. Stir in water, vanilla, cocoa and nuts. Mix well.
4.  Bake for 25 minutes or until top spings back when touched. Cool and cut into squares.
Makes 16 squares (approx.)

 Basic Sugar Cookies
    * 1/2 cup butter
    * 2 cups Basic Cookie Mix
    * 1 egg
    * 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
   1. Melt butter over low heat and add to 2 cups Basic Cookie Mix.
   2. Lightly beat the egg and add to mixture. Stir in vanilla and mix well.
   3. With lightly floured hands shape into 1 inch balls and arrange about 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet.
   4. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 12 to 15 minutes until golden.
   5. Cool a couple of minutes before removing from cookie sheet to racks to complete cooling.

Basic Oatmeal Bars
    * 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
    * 2 cups Basic Cookie Mix
    * 1 egg
    * 3/4 cup butter
    * 1/4 cup cold water
    * 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    * 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
   1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
   2. Stir oats into Basic Cookie Mix. Lightly beat egg and add to mixture. Melt butter or margarine over low heat and stir in. Add cold water, vanilla and almond extract. Mix well.
   3. Spoon into a greased 13 x 9 inch pan. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes until top is golden. Cool and cut into bars.

 I take no credit whatsoever for these recipes.  I've been using them for years, and I don't know where they came from.  All I can say is that they make good cookies!  Hope you like them!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Save the Penny

Some days I think I either live under a rock, or my news channel just doesn't report things that I actually care about.  I spend half my time online looking up stuff that you'd think they'd mention.

At any rate, the Canadian penny is now an endangered species.  The senate has recommended that the penny be removed from circulation, and that guidelines be established for rounding off purchase prices to the nearest nickel.

I am appalled.  First, because I love my pennies.  Pennies were meant for wishing wells, charitable donations (cash boxes), penny candy, and luck.  Pennies are great for nurturing a kid's love of coin collecting.  And pennies are money, too.

It annoys me when I go somewhere that has one of those "Have a penny, leave a penny, Need a penny, take a penny" dishes sitting beside the cash register.  I have a penny, almost always, and I will gladly spend it.  And even if my change is just a penny, I want it back.  You know the old adage, "Take care of the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves."  Well, I don't want to take care of the nickels if the shop keepers get to rip me off 3 cents for every purchase I make.  I want my pennies.

I figure if pennies are so annoying to some folks, they have the option of using debit pretty much everywhere they go.  Leave the pennies for those of us who care.

One of the reasons the government is considering taking this action, is that we Canadians hoard our pennies, so they, the government has to keep making more.  Think about that for a moment.  We are hoarding our pennies.  We must like them or something?  And why is it ok for the mint to continuously produce 'collector' coins- poppy quarters, veterans quarters, olympic quarters, provincial quarters, etc, ad nauseum, which are purposefully designed to be kept as keepsakes?  Why are the jars of quarters people are keeping not contributing to inflation?  Seriously?  This doesn't make sense.

Don't we pay enough in taxes now?  Aren't prices for everything high enough already?  Commerce got the HST, let the people have the penny!  We need a break somewhere.  In these tough economic times, arbitrarily deciding that rounding off to the nearest nickel will all 'balance out in the end' just isn't good enough.  Face reality.  The businesses will work out the prices to make sure they don't lose one red cent, while we, the consumers, will be donating to their profit line!

If pennies cost a cent and a half to produce, why not redesign them?  Make them cheaper.  Make them smaller.  But don't take them away.  Save the penny!  Contact your MP!

Monday, December 20, 2010


We have fleas.  Horrible, dreadful fleas.  We haven't had fleas in three years of living in the north.  This summer, my brother-in-law and family moved here from Manitoba.  They brought my father-in-law a rat.  Er, dog.  A chihuahua. 

They also brought fleas.  I didn't pay much attention as they complained all summer about how bad the fleas were.  My dogs didn't have fleas.  Not my problem.

Except, my f-i-l lives here, on our property.  We built him an add-a-room on our trailer in our yard last year.  Most of the time I don't pay much attention to his little rat.  Occasionally I see it running around outside, thinking it's a real dog, but my beasts leave him in their dust.

When Ebony went into heat again, and Waldo wasn't fixed yet, we tied up all the beasts.  It was kind of funny how the rat hovered around the girls.  Thinking himself in love.  We laughed as he humped their legs.  He was too little to be a threat.

It's not so funny now.  Poor Ebony ripped out half the fur on her back end before it occurred to me that she might have fleas.  But she was still nursing.  No chemicals.  Not that I usually use chemicals anyway, but this was getting ridiculous.  I started noticing everyone scratching.  Including the kids.  Not good.  I bought some diatomaceous earth.  Sprinkled it on the dogs, beds, couch, carpets.  It's helped, but it hasn't got them all yet.

Lucky, our cat,  is covered in scabs.  Ebony is still scratching like crazy.  Waldo and Wonder aren't much better.  The puppies seem to be okay.  I broke down this week and bought Hartz flea spray and drops.  I hate spreading poison through the house, but the fleas have got to go!  I'll have to remember to be more dilligent about sprinkling diatomaceous earth from spring right through fall, and sprinkle it around Pop's place too.  What a pain in the ass!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Closet Space

We had none.  There is a closet in the master bedroom.  And a tiny one in the hallway between the bedroom and the bathroom.  There used to be a doorway there.  There is a closet in one of the upstairs bedrooms.  That was it.  6 people.  3 closets. 

There was no closet in the sun room.  It's our main entrance.  The front door opens into the living room, and is no where near the driveway.  We use the back door, through the sun room, into the kitchen. 

The sun room was added onto the house a number of years ago.  It's the length of the kitchen, about 12 feet, but only 6 feet wide.  It has huge windows all along the outside and back walls.  There's a small wood stove at the back.  The inside wall has a big hole cut into the wall over the kitchen counters, presumably to let more light into the kitchen.  The kitchen entrance is about three feet wide.  It was a clutter trap.  Between my plant stands, boots, shoes, mitts, gloves, hats, helmets, bridles, coats...  There was stuff everywhere.
This was before we moved in.  When we first got here.  It didn't stay that clean for long.  We took down that coat rack and put a book shelf in it's place- the shoe shelf.  Shoes and helmets.  We put hooks for the kids under neath that weird kitchen window.  The kids grew and everything was drooping on the floor.  We used bins for hats and gloves and mitts.  It was a pain.  And it was cluttered.  All the time.

Last winter my parents built a closet in their cabin out of rough cut 1X3s.  They're cheap- $0.83 here.  Then Dad helped us build a closet for the sun room.

It blocks part of that weird kitchen window, but you can see through it, so it still lets the light in.  Helmets up on top.  Everyone got their own bin for hats and mitts and stuff on the shelf.  Storage space underneath for horse meds, bridles, work gloves, hats, etc.  I was in the midst of sorting that stuff when I snapped this picture.  It's still cluttered, but it's organized clutter.  That just left the shoes and boots to organize.

The boys and I built a bench for the plant stands.  Perfect.  It lifts the plant stands up so the bottom shelves get the sunlight they need.  Lots of space underneath for boots and shoes.  Most days now you can even walk through without stumbling over everything, or knocking everything off the shelves.  Awesome.

Armed with my new found closet building expertise, we also decided to tackle the older boys' room.

It's kind of short, due to the slanted ceiling, but it works.  Storage space up top for sleeping bags, back packs, and other cadets paraphernalia.

Closet space.  Bliss.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Return of The Parents

My parents, that is.  They're back, to spend the winter in their cabin, on our land.

They told us they were coming on Thursday.  No problem.  I had planned to go down to the cabin on Thursday, light the fire so things could warm up, and shovel the snow away from the door, to the woodshed, and the shop.  They called on Wednesday night.  9:30pm.  We were in town.  The boys had cadets.  They were at my house.

Why do they do that?  They think they can do whatever they want, because they're the parents, and they can look after themselves, and we don't need to worry about them.

They couldn't get in the trail to the cabin.  The snow plow had filled it in since hubby last cleaned it out.  Dad walked in to light the fire.  The door wouldn't open.  There was something wrong with the deadbolt.  That's when they called.  Not when they left home.  Not when they got here.  Not until they were stymied.

Lovely.  My house is not really very welcoming to visitors.  It's a small house.  Three bedrooms.  Small living room.  I only have a love seat in there, not even a couch, let alone a fold out couch.

Four boys.

Four dogs.  8 puppies.  And a cat.  Who all have fleas.

My mother, the clean freak, who does not have any pets at all, who gets eaten alive by fleas, was going to have to sleep in my house.  This was not going to be pretty.

Husband had an idea.  Take the propane heater down to the cabin, and heat the porch.  He figured the dead bolt was probably frozen.  I tried calling my parents.  No answer.  Now what's going on?  I'm driving way too fast for the snowing and blowing.  Someone hit a moose.  They seemed alright, already butchering when we drove by.  Tried calling again.  Still no answer.

I got home about an hour later.  They weren't here.  I called them again.  My mother answered the phone.  And she's cranky.  Because she's having a bad day.  And she's cold.

Dad broke the door down.  They were in their cabin.  Things were heating up.  Fine.  Good night.

Why?  Is it really that hard to tell us that they're coming a day earlier?  What's with the surprises?  Some days my parents drive me crazy.

They're here now, for the winter.  They'll be working on getting their new place ready to move in.  They're our new neighbours.  They bought the "camp" next door.  It's two house trailers, an out house (no plumbing), and two small sheds.  There's a natural spring, but no well, and no house hook up.

They'll be hauling drinking water from our house, and melting snow for washing, the same as they do at the cabin.  The first job is to install their septic tank.  #2 was busy over there digging them a big hole before the ground froze up.  It's not quite ready, but low enough that Dad can attach a pipe to the tank for this year, so at least they can use the toilet when they're there.  In the spring they'll have the well drilled.

For now, they'll be moving a closet from the master bedroom into the small bedroom behind it, so it'll open through the wall.  Fixing some minor issues.  Painting everything.  Replacing the kitchen floor.  Installing the wood stove.  It'll be busy.

Through the summer they'll be building an add a room and a deck.

The second trailer has mostly been gutted already.  Dad will be turning it into his work shop.

Another busy year to look forward to.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I Know Nothing About Sheep.

Not a thing.  Never been up close to one.  I don't know anyone who raises them.  I don't eat them.  I did have some sort of lamb chops once, at a friend's place.  It was kind of gross, in my humble opinion.  I don't knit, and gave up on crocheting my one and only table cloth about ten years ago.  I have no interest in sheep.

We bought Spot on a whim at an auction.  I knew nothing about goats.  He was just so tiny and cute and helpless.  My heart melted.  I did know a couple of people who raised them though, and were able to help us over the rough spots.  We had just moved to the first farm, and only had chickens and rabbits to manage.  Spot was our first foray into larger stock.

When #1 decided that he wanted to raise goats as his business, I knew we could handle it.  It wasn't a scary proposition.  We had some experience.  We had room.  We had time.  It was no big deal.  He's off to a good start.

We've been watching Victorian Farm on you tube, along with Victorian Farm Christmas now on TVO.  It's a wonderful British historical reenactment series.  And they raise sheep.  #2 is fascinated by the sheep.  #2 seems to think that raising sheep will be a good business for him.  #2 has lost his mind.

Am I allowed to say no?  Is it that easy?  I agreed to #1's goat request without hesitation.  I fronted him the money to buy his stock.  I gave him Nanner, our remnant pet goat.  I trusted him to take care of the extra chores, like fixing fences, chasing goats out of the garden and off the road, and trimming hooves.  He's taken it all in stride.

#2 will be 14 this summer.  The same age.  He's probably a bit more mature than #1 was.  #2's winter homeschooling project will be finding and reading everything he can about raising sheep.  I think what scares me the most is having to sheer them.  If it was optional, it might not be so bad.  And what are we going to do with that wool if we do manage to figure out how to remove it?  They're also much more expensive than goats.  They rarely go through the auction for less than $250.  And they need separate quarters.  I do know something about sheep!  I remember talking about different grain blends at the feed store once, and I had pretty unlimited choices, since I don't have sheep.  Sheep can not eat what the other critters eat.  Scary.

I want to say no.  But I bet we'll have sheep in the spring.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stretching A Chicken

I am a leftover kind of girl.  I love leftovers.  Because I am lazy.  I hate cooking.  Always have, and probably always will.  Which is not to say that I can't cook, or that I'm a bad cook.  I just don't like to cook.  If I were rich and famous I would hire a personal chef.  Since I'm not rich and famous, I have invested a lot of time and energy into training the junior chefs who abide here.
As a result, I'm pretty sure that #1 won't starve when he leaves home.  He can prepare a passable meal.  I think he might be lazy, like his mother though.  #2 is quite impressive.  I'm not sure if it's just that he likes to eat, or if he actually enjoys cooking.  #4 loves food, and has been butting in, stirring pots, mixing things and taste testing for quite some time.  He isn't supposed to become junior chef until he turns 8 in March, but is already a better chef than #3. 
#3 is where we are at in the junior chef training. He doesn't cook.  After a year and a half in the kitchen, I can still barely leave him unattended for simple tasks, like peeling potatoes, let alone to prepare an entire meal.  I promised myself I would rectify this situation this winter.  Through the summer we eat a lot of quick throw together meals late at night after a hard days work.  We didn't have much patience for training then, although it would have been really nice to have him trained at the time.  Coming in to a meal on the table would be especially nice after a hard days' work.
At any rate, I was recently discussing using up leftovers with some other people.  It seems a common complaint after holiday meals, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, that there's so much turkey leftover, and everyone is tired of eating the same thing over and over and over again.  Not for me.  I love leftovers.  I used to have a system of cooking, that I would start with a big meal on Sunday, and serve leftovers throughout the week.  It made cooking simple, quick and easy, and contrary to popular opinion, it was never boring.  I actually like some of my leftover meals better than the originals.
And then the children grew.  And kept growing.  And they're still growing.  They eat practically everything in sight.  They clear the table routinely, and then look around for more.  Then they claim they're hungry again half an hour after meals.  They eat toast, cereal, eggs, oatmeal or fruit breads for breakfast.  They munch on apples, carrots, and whatever odd fruit we happen to have, all day long.  They eat 2 sandwiches and 4 cookies each for lunch.  They steal leftovers that I was planning to serve for supper.  Not literally stealing, but I open the fridge, and "What happened to the ..."  And the supper plan goes out the window.
I cooked a chicken yesterday.  And for the first time in a long time, they didn't inhale the whole thing in one meal.  It's one of the best parts of home grown chickens- they are so much bigger than store bought.  So I am going to attempt to teach #3 the art of stretching a chicken, or using up leftovers this week.
  • Day One- Roast Chicken.  Stuffing, a huge pot of mashed potatoes, gravy, home made bread, asparagus.
  • Day Two- Hot chicken sandwiches.  I put leftover chicken, stuffing, potatoes and veggies into a glass baking pan covered in tinfoil.  Warm in oven @ 300°F
    about an hour.  Reheat gravy in a saucepan with extra water.  Serve chicken on fresh bread.  (We didn't have enough leftovers for this step)
  • Day Three- Chicken Rice Casserole. Chop leftover chicken up finely. Chop broccoli finely. Combine in a glass baking pan with 4 cups of parboiled rice. Add chicken broth- up to 8 cups worth to be absorbed by the rice. I like it a little less chickeny, so I only add about 4 cups chicken broth, and 4 cups of water.  Bake covered with tinfoil about 2 hours @ 350°F.
  • Day Four- Chicken rice soup. Pour a few cups of leftover chicken rice casserole into a stock pot.  Add more chicken broth and water.  Add chopped carrots, celery, onions, garlic.  Allow to simmer a few hours before supper.  Potato Salad- leftover potatoes are mixed in a large bowl with 4-6 hard boiled eggs, about 2 cups of mayonaise, 2 Tbsp sugar, and a drizzle of pickle or hot pepper juice.
  • Day Five- Chicken Fajitas.  Soak a pot of beans overnight, and cook them through the day.  About two hours before supper, add the rest of the chicken rice casserole, and fajita seasonings.  Mix well.  Serve rolled into soft tortilla shells with lettuce and cheese if desired.
 Without enough leftovers for day two, we moved on to day three today.  Everything went off without a hitch today, and the simple directions were easy for #3 to follow.
Of course, some of the tricks to easy home cooked meals, is having some other ingredients in the pantry or freezer.  If I were low on chicken broth, for example, I would back up another step.
  • Home Made Chicken Broth. 
    Put all bones, skin, and odd bits left after carving into a stock pot.  Add water to cover.  Add chopped celery, onion, garlic, carrots, parsley, pepper, broccoli, green beans, or whatever vegetables you have on hand.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer.  Allow to simmer uncovered for several hours.  The longer you simmer, the more concentrated your broth becomes.  You can then freeze it in ice cube trays, or canning jars. 
  • Baked Beans.
  • Soak 1 pound beans overnight in 1 quart cold water.
  • The next morning, cover, heat to boiling.  Simmer 30 minutes.
  • Mix onion slices, 1/2 Tbsp salt, 2 tsp cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp mustard, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 cup molasses, 1/2 cup catsup, and a pinch of black pepper in the bottom of a roasting pot. Add beans and enough hot water to cover. Arrange 1/2 lb sliced bacon on top. Cover and bake @ 250°F for seven hours. After 4 hours, remove 1 cup of beans and mash. Return to pan and stir in. Add water as needed to keep beans covered.
I have no idea why it keeps changing the font there like that.  Weird.  And it won't change back.  Hmmm...
Tommorrow I will bake a large pot of beans through the day, so they'll be ready for the day after.
How do you stretch your chicken, or use up your leftovers? 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cheating with Chickens

Ok, you know I am a hermit.  I have been procrastinating about butchering the white rocks because it is COLD outside.  Cold and snowy.  But the white rocks can't wait.  I did butcher the worst of the lot before the snow hit, along with a couple of my unidentified chicks that turned into large barred rock roosters one day.  Seriously, I was standing there watching them romp around the chicken pen, when it suddenly occurred to me that those are roosters.  Where did they come from?  How odd.

We kept one as a back up rooster, the rest went in the freezer.

The white rocks were still kind of small then.  Now they're kind of big.  Having issues with their weight.  They need to go in the freezer.

Today I cheat.  #2 lopped the head off of one.  It's sitting in the sink.

I have a pot of water heating on the stove.  A five gallon pail to catch the feathers and guts.  I am going to pluck and clean this chicken right in my kitchen.  I am a little nervous.  It's usually a messy job.  Mess versus frozen fingers.  Today the mess wins.

If it's not too messy- then I plan to do one or two a day until they are all in the freezer.

Well that wasn't too bad at all.  A couple of errant feathers to pick up, but otherwise everything went into the bucket as planned.

A few minutes later, and the guts were added to the bucket too.  I set aside the heart and liver for the doggie stew.  It's been moved to the woodstove in the sunroom to cook through the winter.

All done.  Almost.  I'm hungry now.  I made some stuffing and tossed it in the oven.  Yum!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fancy Light Switches

Aren't they pretty?  They should be for $5.95 a piece.

And I only need 2 single light switch covers, one triple light switch cover, and 5 plug cover plates to do the living room...


How about I make my own?

A can of shiny brass spray paint (or silver or gold, or whatever you like) runs about $3-4.  And it'll cover all I need and more.

Just wash up your old cover plates and lay them out in a well ventilated area on a piece of cardboard.  Lay the screws out too.  Make sure you spray them from all four sides so you get all of the edges.  Easy-peasy, fancy-schmancy.
 Except, of course, for previous paint jobs that went right over the plugs & switches.  Debating on whether to try painting them as well...

Sunday, December 12, 2010


We have a lot of out buildings built out of press board, most of which were never painted before we moved in. Since the sun shine tends to be in limited supply around here, I tend to go a little overboard when I see a week with no rain in the fore cast.
This is Pop's little house that we built for him. It looks much better with a coat of paint.  It still needs some work around the edge of the roof, and then I'll be able to finish the paint job.

This is the generator shack. It also stores buckets of sand for winter cat litter.

This used to be the work shop. The garage didn't have hydro when we moved in. Now I'm using it to store farm supplies that aren't tack. Rabbit cages, water heaters, feed dishes, etc.  My second batch of chicks also started off in here.

This is my garden shed. It used to be an extension of the chicken coop. We moved it over to the garden since we weren't using it for chickens anyway.

If you're wondering why most of it is pink, it's really not that I'm a girly-girl. I'm just cheap. I'm not fussy about colour, but I am fussy about price. I watch for mistint sales all the time. Some places will sell mistints as low as $2/gallon. The town also does a paint swap every year, so I go late on the last day and pick up all the leftovers. I buy all sorts of colours, and then mix them together in 5 gallon pails. Whatever colour they turn into is the colour I paint. I do try to keep similar colours together, so everything doesn't end up brown or gray, but that's the limit. As long as it's all latex anyway. I don't like oil paint. Too much work and waste for clean up- I reuse the same rollers and paint brushes all summer, sometimes longer. I also don't think they mix as well, not to mention the smell. To be honest though, the pink was an excellent deal- $25 for a 5 gallon pail of mistint.

 We did the garage and the entrance way to the house the first summer here.  It was leftover brown from our last house.  It was kind of a mistint too.  We knew the base paint was for a dark tint, but it was really cheap, at $15 for 5 gallons.  I bought three of them, and tried to get them tinted as light as we could.  I ended up lightening the brown as we worked our way through that house, adding white after each room.  Still had about 8 gallons left when we moved here.

 The garage was actually the beginnings of a small house that the previous owner got from the guy who was building it.  He had it moved here to be a garage, but never did anything with it.  My dad and hubby put the big doors in the front of it.  Then hubby reinforced the floor. 
 There were a couple gallons of brown left afterwards, so I added all the latex paint that the previous owner had left in the basement, to create this greenish-beige.  Unfortunately 5 gallons only covered one side of the barn.  The older and more weathered press board gets, the more paint it takes to cover it.  It chips and bubbles and falls apart while you're painting.

My bedroom and living room are both painted from the same bucket of mixed mistints. The computer desk was a gallon of mistint that I had set aside.  I love the chocolate colour. 

I'm hoping to get pop's place and the barn finished next summer.  And then there's always hope that I might get the trim done all the way around the house, too.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Puppies, Puppies, Everywhere...

They are busy little beasties!  Running around the yard and the house all over the place!  So cute and cuddly, and so hard not to get attached.  Ebony's pups are 8 weeks old now, and some have moved on to their new homes.  It's sad to see them go.

Cindy's pups are getting busy, at 6 weeks old.  They're not quite as outgoing yet, but it won't be long now.

Waldo has had  the big snip.

Wonder went into heat a couple of weeks ago.  Her first.  We've had her, Waldo and Cindy all tied up.  I missed my dogs!  It's not natural having the bed all to myself!  lol.

But now my beasties are back in the house.   Waldo has healed.  Everyone is happy.  And no more puppies for us!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Winter has arrived!

It is a beautiful, sun shiny day!  After three days of tiny, easy to see the crystals in the flakes, snow, we have about two feet of accumulation.  More across the front lawn where it drifted.  Mountains on the edge of the driveways where we piled it.  The temps were running between -5°C and -12°C.  The snow kept coming.

Last night the temperature took a nose dive.  I'm not sure how low it dropped, but it's -24°C now, as I type this, at nearly 10am.  Winter has arrived.

I am not a winter person.  I am a hermit.  I hate to be cold.  I hate walking thrugh the snow.  My big snow boots are heavy.  Walking anywhere is a chore.  Walking through snow drifts up to your ass- a much bigger chore.  I prefer to spend my winters indoors, curled up in front of the fire with a good book.

But we are Canadians.  From northern Ontario.  Where the sun doesn't shine.  Much.  For months.

Which leads some people to think...  my parents...  that I should spend time outside...  to get my sunny D.

That's vitamin D.  A much needed vitamin produced by your skin when exposed to sunlight.  Sunlight which is in short supply.  Especially in the winter.  In Canada.

Add to that- it's pretty darn cold here.  In the winter.  In Canada.

So, even when I do venture outside, there is very little, if any, of my actual skin exposed.  Most often I am covered from head to toe, with just the skin on the top of my nose, between my eyes exposed.  I'm not likely to absorb much sunny D that way, now am I?

But there are days, when I sit and drink my morning tea, reading emails, playing stupid facebook games, blogging, wasting away my time on the computer.  In my living room.  With the fire crackling away.  My house a lovely, warm, 80°F in spots.  With my head uncovered.  My hands uncovered.  And sometimes even a short sleeve shirt.  And the sun comes up behind me.  My living room windows are east and south facing.  Father sun bathes me in his light, and I am refreshed.

These are the joys of winter in the north.  Beautiful, sun shiny days.  Because it's too cold to snow.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Yesterday, in the heart of the snow storm, Rita went down. We tried for hours to get her back on her feet, and at one point thought she might be out of the woods. When she fell again, we knew it was time to say goodbye. Rest in peace old girl. You will be dearly missed.


Rita came to us three years ago, our first summer here on the farm.  We had lost Sailor, #3's first pony that winter.  Rita was listed as a 31 year old saddlebred mare, free to a good home as a companion horse.  When we talked with her heart broken owner, and went to see her, we learned that she was severely emaciated.  The woman had boarded her horses out of town, and lost her source of transportation (her boyfriend) that fall.  She didn't get out to see them through the winter, and by spring the damage had been done.

All three horses were severely undernourished, but Rita was the worst of the lot.  She was starving.  She was old.  She had arthritus in her left foreleg, and she couldn't be ridden by adults.  The chances of finding a home for her at all were pretty slim.  But she was exactly what we were looking for.

There is nothing like an old nag when it comes to a child's first horse.  Rita was so well broke and gentle and trustworthy.  We didn't think she'd have the gumption to get too wild and unmanageable by our little boys.  Perfect.

We brought her home and fattened her up.  It didn't take too much work.  Some worm meds, access to free choice hay and grass, lots of petting, brushing and love.  By the end of the summer #3 was in his glory with a horse of his own.

Rita grew into her own that winter.  In addition to all the hay she could eat, she had the only private stall in the barn.  Right in the middle, where she could be kept warm by the other bodies milling about.  She was treated to extra grains and special high fat, high fibre feeds.  By spring she was roaring to go.  Practically a filly again.

And so it happened one day, while #1 trotted up the road on Tori, and #3 walked along with Rita.  #1 let out a click, click, click with his tongue, and off he and Tori gallopped.  And Rita decided she wouldn't be left behind.  #3 learned the art of staying in the saddle at a gallop without notice.  And he was hooked.  Speed is amazing when you are 7 years old.  From that moment on, they gallopped together all the time.  For hours at a time.  I'd tell him to slow down so I could take pictures, and he begrudged those moments.  But then they were off and running again.

I rode Rita once.  Just once, before I handed her over to him.  She was a beautiful ride.  She couldn't handle the weight of an adult for long, but I had to make sure she was safe for him.  I have to admit, I was totally jealous.  If Tori ever gets to that degree of responsiveness, I will be truly blessed.

#4 hasn't been much of a rider yet.  He likes to go for a walk, with someone leading him around, but hasn't expressed much interest in riding on his own.  When I thought he was ready last summer, I put him up on Rita and handed him the reigns.  She walked a little bit with him, turned slightly, and he spooked.  Panicked.  Jerked the reigns.  She wasn't impressed.  She took him over to the closest tree and stuck him in the branches.  She refused to move until I went over and got him down.  It was pretty funny in retrospect.  I guess she was a one boy horse.

We learned from our farrier that Rita had had a long and busy career.  She'd won many shows and events in her youth.  She was a proud mama of at least two other show ring winners.  She was worth a lot of money once.  And here she was, the heart and sole of the farm, the most glorified pet, in her final home, a freebie.

Rita was my trusted lawnmower.  After riding and treats, we often left her at the edge of the garden, or in the back yard, no fence, no ties, no lead.  She was free to munch away the rest of the afternoon, where the others couldn't be trusted to stay.

Rita was never pushy.  Walking into the pasture with carrots or apples is a certain way to meet friends.  Some who are just a little eager and friendly.  Some who get their treat and chase everyone else off, thinking they will get all the treats.  Some who would check your pockets to see if there were any more treats in there.  Rita would stand off a ways, just watching.  She'd wait for us to come to her.  Let us give her hugs and kisses.  Wait for us to tell those bossy others that these treats were not for them.  She'd accept her treat happily, and gently, but not pester for more.

Rita was the one who would stand in her place as we approached without treats, too.  The others had their moments, sure, but they were just as likely to accept a hug, or a hand on their halter as not.  Rita never faltered.  If it was a friendly pat that we wanted, she was happy.  If it was time to go and ride, she was happy then too.

In this time of change, the one thing we hadn't even considered, was the idea of looking out into the pasture and not seeing Rita.  Of course we've always known she was an old girl, and it could happen at any time.  But still, her spirit was so young, that we weren't prepared for it.  We are all broken hearted and hurting.  But we will cherish the memories always.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Centre of My Universe

AKA...  my computer desk.  I didn't take a picture of it before I started.  The clutter and chaos were unbelievable.  But then about halfway through clearing it off, I decided to paint it.  So I snapped a couple of shots to show you what it used to look like, kind of...

We used to have one of those big corner desks.  You know the type...  They look really cool in the store, or other people's houses.    But then you buy one, and discover that it's really very crowded.  And then you move a couple of times, and try to figure out where to shove it in a corner where it's not going to block a doorway or a window.  And then you still need another desk, because there's no place to put your printer without it being a pain in the arse.  And then your kids get bigger and you get a second computer... 

Well, we ripped that sucker apart.  The shelves you see on top and bottom come from the original desk.  Press board with that fake wood veneer finish.  Hubby cut a sheet of 3/4" plywood in half for the desk top.  The ends are two small MDF bookcases that we had at the time.  One was painted green, the other brown.  The book shelves face outward, which worked really well at our old place.  The desk fit perfectly between two doorways.  Here, that doesn't work so well.  There's only about a foot and a half of space between the left end and another book case on the wall.  I keep my printer paper and stuff I don't want the kids digging through down there.  It actually works pretty well that way.  Out of sight, out of mind.

I cleared off about half of the desk- all the stuff that was likely to fall off- and we pulled it away from the wall.  I washed the wall and did the putty.  And as I'm standing on the ladder looking down at the top of the desk, I am really annoyed with the whole mess.  The dust.  The clutter.  The crappy press board that's chipped in various locations.  The stains on the plywood.

I kept dusting and cleaning as I waited for the putty to dry.  Well, I got to wondering how the paint would go on over that crappy veneer.  Hmmm...  So I grabbed a brush and did a little test spot at the back.  I only did one coat, so it still kind of shows the wood grain look through the paint.  And off I went...  I had the desk done before the wall.  #3- the head of the computer addict department here- had himself a very miserable day.  But I think it was worth the whining. 

I think it came out pretty good in the end.  My crappy camera doesn't do it justice.  It is rather strange not to be surrounded by stacks of clutter though.  The really cool thing...  Right there in front of my keyboard...  That's $19.  $19 that I lost months ago in the clutter.  Money that we collected for a fundraiser, that I ended up paying out of pocket.  So it's kind of like I got paid for cleaning up my disaster zone.  Gotta like that!

I finished the final wall today.  Hung up the kids pictures that we had taken in the spring.  Nothing like getting things done in a timely fashion, eh?  Sorted through printer paper and books.  Tossed a ton of papers that I no longer need.  Still have two bins of receipts and bills and such to file, but at least they've been moved to the 'tax zone', rather than cluttering the computer desk.  By tomorrow night I should have the rest of the stuff back on the walls and put away.  Just in time to set up the tree!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter Work

It snowed!  It finally snowed.  Just starting off gently this year, with a mere 8 inches.  Then some rain, and it sunk.  We're sitting with about 4 inches now, but it's staying, with more in the forecast.

It is officially hermit season.  Yay!  I am so happy!

I wish I could say all my chores were done and I can settle in for a long winter's nap...  but no such luck.  I still have my white rocks to put in the freezer.  But while I'm procrastinating about that, I decided to paint the living room.

That was not a well thought out plan.  The staircase comes down into the living room.  The wall on the far side of the staircase covers two floors.  I can not reach the wall.  Hmmm...  I painted it with a roller on a pole.  It looks ok from downstairs, but upstairs...  uh-oh.  Thankfully there's no reason for guests to head that way.  I need hubby to build me some kind of platform to put the ladder on so I can finish the edges.

The next little hiccup was the front door.  There is a nasty draft along the edge of the door joints.  It causes condensation.  The paint will not dry.  It's going to need some touch ups in the spring.

The third little hiccup.  I already have the south side window covered in plastic.  And I am too lazy to take it down, paint the trim, wait for it to dry, and recover it.  So I will need to finish it in the spring.

The fourth hiccup.  Not really a hiccup.  Just an observation.  Kind of a hiccup.  Should really rip the wall apart...  Ok.  The south wall had these two spots near the ceiling that were very badly covered in soot from the woodstove.  I had been assuming that it just accumulated there because of the way the air flows in the room.  But once the furniture was out of the way, and I started washing the walls, I discovered that they are cold spots.  Either there was never any insulation there, or the insulation has fallen.  Either way, it should be fixed.  Which will be a very messy project.  Which isn't going to happen this year.  For now it has been painted over.
And finally...  my computer desk.  Uh-oh.  The huge monstrosity needs to move.  Before it can move, it needs to be cleaned off.  It is the catch all for papers of all sorts.  It is the centre of activity.  It is the drug of choice for all of the addicts living here.  I have this wall yet to do.  TODAY!  Oh, no.  I am afraid.

But it will look stunning for Christmas.  Because everything will be clean and dusted and uncluttered for the first time in... !!? ...  EVER?  So I should get to work...

The Business of Goats

#1 has made his first sale.

Hard to believe that this cute and cuddly little kid...
Chance, the white kid on the edge of the foundation, with his mom and sister.

Has already grown into this rather large- 160 pounds- billy goat.

Chance, who I'm sure has cost us nothing more than maybe three square bales of hay, brought in a whopping $135.  Not enough to cover the cost of his mother, but hey, he was only one kid.  It gives the boy hope for the future of his business.  He's in debt up to his eye balls right now.  $390 for stock seems like a fortune to the boy.  Now hay and feed for the winter to add onto the total.  He was beginning to wonder if it was worth while.  Or if he should just call it quits.

Especially when Oscar is loose AGAIN, and mowing down mom's garden...

But there is hope for the future.  If Oscar has done his job, and all goes well in the spring, by next fall there should be three billy kids going off to market.  And double the nannies here.  And profits to be made.
l to r:  Mama, Nanner, Oscar, Chance, Lucy, Choice