Monthly Archives: June 2012

Silly Robin. Silly me.

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This morning, I have been doing some research online from my wonderful cozy easy-chair, looking into courses offered by our local agriculture college. “Shepherding 101” , “Introduction to Sheep Nutrition”  and “Lambing Fundamentals 101”. I am so excited!! Only one bit of pause came when the description of “Lambing fundamentals 101” said that they use live and sometimes dead lambs for demonstrations. Ick. But science is science, and I’m game anyway. Where do I start? Sign me up. 

Meanwhile, as my warm, cozy easy chair sits facing my big picture window, looking out into the front yard and before that, my porch, I notice a robin hopping along the railing of the porch. Back and forth he goes and I find this little guy, or girl (I must say, I don’t know if it is the male or the female robin who makes the nest) has picked out a spot on the railing for his/her nest. Now, I’m not saying this is a terrible idea, but as I write this there are roughly 8 children under the age of 12 playing in the front yard just beyond the schubert tree. They haven’t noticed this little bird, yet, and it seems the robin has not yet noticed all of these kids.

I may have mentioned before that I have two great danes, one of whom steps up onto the love-seat directly in front of the window and watches what’s happening in the neighbourhood. I won’t say which one, but she’s the bad one. 

This little robin has not yet noticed the dog, either 

Then there is the front door, about 1 metre away from the new little nest. Not that any of us would go near it. I have taught all my kids that nests are to be respected and never to go near and most especially never touch a nest. But that door, opening and closing, sometimes with a slam (we do have kids living here) could startle young birds out of their wits if not their feathers. 

So, I admit that what I did next was pretty much of out of the realm of practical. I cut paper towel into long thin strips and left it on the little table directly in front of the railing where this silly little robin was building a nest. Image

It, of course, wasn’t long before I noticed some of these little strips showing up in the nest. I guess if you are a lazy robin and don’t want to find a precarious fork in a tree branch, want to see the neighbourhood without having to be so high – maybe even a little afraid of having your nest to high in the tree, and have found a flat, sturdy spot, out of rain and wind and cats, paper towel cut specifically for your needs could seem like a great idea. And maybe it will be. It seems I am every bit as silly as this robin. 

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Rain, rain, go away, come again after about three weeks.

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Garden Elf, reminding us to not take life too seriously.

This is my garden Elf. He was given to me by my mother about 6 years ago. He makes me smile when ever I see him. As I get ready to head to the farm, I know this little guy will help me from getting that overwhelmed kind of crazy that usually envelopes me at this time of year. I had better take him with me, too.
The countdown has started! In a little under three weeks the voyage begins. So, as usual, there is much to do. This year we will take two vehicles, packed to the rafters, and two trailers. I believe I get the easy end of things as I will be taking my son and the trailer with two seadoo’s on it, and my sweetie will take the one full of everything else…. and two great danes. But what we pack in the cars and trailers isn’t really what makes the trip difficult, it’s the weather.

Shredded tarp

Barn underwater


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Last year in particular was a very long drive. Over three thousand miles through Canada and the United States during some of the worst rain, hail, and flooding in memory. Roads were closed or about to be closed. Detours all over the place. Tarps ripped to shreds and the trailer carrying water like a giant bucket. And worse…houses and farms lost. Crops washed away.
What do those poor people do when the livestock has to be moved to temporary housing, or worse, drowned. Their crops are wasted and will have to be replanted if and when the land dries out and if there is time for it to grow then. Buildings completely under water or damaged beyond repair. How do they cope? My heart was sick for these poor people.
On we drove for 9 days, it rained and rained. In places the highway was the only land for a quarter mile or more on either side of it. I have never felt such unease, knowing that if the water got just a little higher, the highway would be washed away and there would be no where to retreat. Helpless. It was a feeling that stuck with me, too. It wasn’t a feeling that would inspire one to action as there was no action that would have made a difference. There was panic, and then there was a form of serenity, because there was nothing that anyone could do. It was unlike anything I have felt before.
The feeling at the farm, when it rains is different. I am grateful the farm is located halfway up a large hill in the Appalachian mountain range. When the rain falls there, it is welcome, needed moisture and it is restful and serene but you don’t have to go through chaos to get there…unless you are driving.

The barn in the rain

Marshmallows

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I never used to like marshmallows. They seemed unnatural to me. I didn’t trust the white powdery substance that covers their weird cylindrical shape, and they taste funny. Okay, maybe not ‘funny’, just like sugar.
I get that roasted marshmallows are popular. I get that they are an absolute necessity if you are making s’mores, and I’m not bad-mouthing them without an ingenious solution to what I perceive as the problem.

Marshmallows bought from the store are, in variations, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Dextrose, Modified Corn Starch, Water, Gelatin, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (Whipping Aid), Artificial Flavor, Artificial Color (Blue 1), and sometimes other trace ingredients, flavourings etc. But, in order to make them, you really only need 4 ingredients. Two more if you want to make them fancy. Gelatin, sugar, corn syrup & vanilla. That’s the basics, but you can cover them in toasted coconut and flavour them with pure almond extract, or keep the vanilla and dust them with a wonderful dark cocoa, yum! Or flavour them with Sambucca and float them in your hot chocolate! Or peppermint, and roll them in crushed candy canes!! Okay, so now, you guessed it, I love ’em!

Cocoa dusted marshmallows before they are cut.

Recipe below:

Marshmallows
Prepare your pan approx. (8 x 8 for a nice thickness of marshmallow) by dusting with icing sugar, or cocoa, or toasted cocoanut, or your desired covering for your marshmallow. It will need to be thick enough that the marshmallow mixture won’t soak through and stick to the pan, or you will have trouble getting it out of the pan once set. Set aside.

4 envelopes unflavoured gelatin dissolved in 3/4 cup cold water in a large bowl, or the bowl of your mixer.
3 cups sugar and 1+1/4 cup light corn syrup placed in a saucepan and brought to a boil for 5 to 10 minutes until it reaches 230 degrees on a candy thermometer or forms a ball when dripped into cold water.
With hand mixer or table mixer going at low speed, whisk small amounts at a time of the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture gradually turning the speed up higher and whipping once all syrup is added. Mixture will become very thick. Add 2 tsp vanilla (or other flavouring) and keep whipping until mixture cools and becomes difficult to stir. Mixture will be glossy. Scrape all of mixture into your prepared pan with a spatula and quickly dust the top with whatever coating you have on the bottom of your pan. Set aside to dry for at least 3 hours. Remove from pan and cut into squares. Dip cut sides into your coating and set on a plate to dry for another hour or so. Enjoy!
Tip: Martha Stewart doesn’t coat hers in anything – so she brushes the pan with oil, lines it with parchment up the sides, and brushes that with oil, too, to avoid a sticky mess. So, if you want to do as Martha does… do as Martha does! Her recipe is a little different than mine, but I bet it will still work.

COOKIES!

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K – so – this blog is supposed to be about “home made” life, and I haven’t posted hardly anything about ‘home’ making stuff because once I get into it, I forget to take pictures and/or just get SO lost in the creative juices I drown. 

But today, I blogged a bit this morning, and then decided to make cookies so the blog was still in the front of my mind. I need to get better at this before I hit the farm next month! So. I took pictures. And I made cookies. Yay me!


This recipe has been in my family for ages. The great thing about this cookie, aside from the fact that it is likely the most delicious chocolate chip cookie you have ever tasted, is that it makes 10 dozen cookies. And, if you don’t want to make 10 dozen cookies, just put the remaining cookie dough in the fridge or freezer until you DO want to make 10 dozen cookies.
My mother used to make all of them all at once, and freeze the cookies in bread bags. I remember my dad would eat them frozen with his coffee.
I have adapted it a little, just to use as many organic ingredients as possible, but I gotta say, it is almost impossible to get organic coconut where I live, so sometimes I don’t use it.
Not hard to understand why the recipe is called “Lotsa Cookies”

2 Cups butter or Margerine
2 Cups sugar
2 Cups brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
1 Cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, peanuts)
2 Cups coconut (unsweetened is best)
2 Cups oatmeal
2 Cups bran flakes (any brand)
2 Cups crispy rice cereal (any brand)
12 oz chocolate chips (who are we kidding? I usually double this)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
4 Cups flour (I use all purpose organic)

If you have a large mix-master, it helps, but otherwise just wash your hands really well and get in there mashing and squeezing it all until it is mixed together.
Bake at 350 degrees for roughly 10 minutes (depending on how large you make them) They should be slightly browned around the edges. Enjoy!!

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We’re in for a blow!

This week has been so busy! My son’s 11th birthday was Saturday so after getting all the laundry caught up, washing the kitchen floor, and baking a birthday angel food cake that flopped out of the pan and all over the counter in a smushed mess when it was turned upside down to cool, and the subsequent Dairy Queen ice cream cake was served at the actual party, I had some time on Sunday to do some research and contemplating and daydreaming. So, while the wind was hurling porch furniture cushions onto the grass in the front yard, here’s what I came up with. 

But, I’m ahead of myself. I actually went into Walmart on Friday – something I haven’t done in a very long time and I bought a magazine and a few  bouncy balls that were 2 for $5. I figured the kids (six of them on our block that play together every day) could throw them around outside and entertain themselves for a few hours while I washed the kitchen floor… again. The magazine was Martha Stewart Living, July 2012 issue. Now, I don’t normally buy magazines anymore, either, but this one had a picture of S’mores on the front with a note to the side that said “the s’more upgrade (yes, it’s possible)” and I had to read exactly HOW this was possible.
On Sunday, I actually had time to sit and read. Of course the whole magazine, more or less, is about the 4th of July and the celebrations that go along with the holiday. Recipe’s for lobster bakes, chilled soups, cute table arrangements and settings. The home made graham crackers look pretty fabulous, too, but I haven’t tried them yet.
There’s an article in there about a couple that bought an old camp in Wisconsin and turned around while saving the integrity of the era in which it had thrived. The camp is called “Wandawega Lake Resort” (Google it! You’ll love it! I don’t know how to add a link to it yet, sorry.) and it is charming!  A tire swing, a tent hill, a few cabins, tennis court, horseshoe pit, shuffle board, archery range, the whole nine yards. All set up to enjoy the leisure time of camp. I began wondering how difficult it would be to create a spot like this, with the feelings it conjures of a time when we were kids, enjoying all that summer offers, at the farm. I thought about the corner of our field by the old apple tree, selectively cleared out, it could host a few scout tents and a camp fire pit. A 12′ circle mowed in the field, cropped close to the ground like a golf green to play giant marbles with a dozen or so bouncy balls. A craft cabin for rainy days where wind chimes, tree bark canoes, dogwood baskets, dream catchers and leather arts could be created. A tether ball, and archery range. An outdoor kitchen and picnic tables for group events. And maybe, just maybe a huge free standing fireplace with an enormous hearth down by the pond for winter skating parties. (well, maybe that last one could take a few years)
A Canada Day weekend at our place could turn into an annual event filled with good friends, tons of kids, campfires and s’mores! This thought makes me smile with my soul, as the sky opens up and washes my cushions down the street.

Daydreaming up a storm….

Italia!

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I am starting to settle in after our trip, and it’s about time, too. It has taken me nearly two weeks to get back into the groove of being at home. I still have to put away my suitcases, although they are completely unpacked. I still have to finish up that laundry, and get back into the housework swing, but I can’t say I’m “itchin'” to do that. So far, I have just allowed my dogs to sit on my lap and follow me around and walk in the park with them to THEIR heart’s content. I have cuddled my boy and read to him at night and help him with a school project and cuddle some more. This is the part that makes me think going away is a great thing. I don’t think I have had this many hugs EVER – boy or canine!

I did so love Italy, though. The countryside, where we stayed, was breathtaking. I couldn’t capture the scope and depth of the hills in my photographs but, bless me, I just kept trying. I think I have over 300 photos just of the hills in Abruzzo!

San Giorgio Hills, Abruzzo

It is frowned upon to have a monoculture on farms in Italy. Preservation of the soil, of the local plant life and of history is paramount. Most farms are small, with under 100 acres, and plant olive trees, fruit trees, vineyards, and have animals, like ducks, geese, chickens, goats, sheep and maybe even a few cows. Every part of the farm benefits other parts of the farm. It’s no wonder I felt at home there!

I did wash and trim some lovely strawberries for one of our meals there. They are such beautiful berries, with their stems still on, and a few leaves, they are smaller than the ones we normally get in Canada, and redder, and shinier, and oh, so tastier! And once I had trimmed them for the table, there were all these lovely strawberry hulls and leaves and stems that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away – especially with all those beautiful orpington chickens living next door. So I took them over to the chickens, and asked the farmer if I could give this snack to his chickens. He understood not one word of my question and looked at me rather absurdly, until I gestured with a few, pretending to throw them over the fence and his face lit up. “Ci! Ci!” he said. Although this farmer had embarrassingly caught me photographing his chickens on a regular basis, and usually at around 6 or 7am, and tried to teach me how to say “chicken” or “duck” in italian, I was so mortified that he caught me with my camera like some city slicker and the only thing missing was my 5″ heels. I don’t remember how to say “chicken” or “duck” in italian. But, his chickens loved me from that moment on, and I continued to bring them treats.

He had sheep, too. About a dozen of them, and they, more than the rooster, announced the morning for us each day at feeding time. There was one morning when I heard a goat, and I leapt out of bed, looked out the window to see the farmer’s wife leading a doe to be milked. She circled their stone barn to get the milk pail and I jumped into my clothes and ran down the stairs and out into the yard with my camera just in time to see her circling the barn again, doe in tow, to milk on the other side of her barn, on the other side of the fence, and out of sight of me. I must have looked really hopeful at first and then terribly dismayed because when I came back to the house, my honey was laughing and consoling at the same time.

Across the road