Thursday, January 29, 2009

On the right path...

Last night we had something happen that let Big Daddy and I know that we're truly on the right path...

A young man between 15 - 20 (it was hard to tell) came to our door, looking to snowblow our driveway for a set price. There was some hesitation on Big Daddy's part. You see there was something different about this young lad. It was apparent that he had a mental disability of some sort.

Well, the price was set, he got to work, and Big Daddy kept an eye out for him. When the job was done, he came back to the door in his thread-bare mitts, for payment and a kleenex. He looked cold and tired. Who knows how many driveways he'd already finished.

Big Daddy paid him, then offered him some supper. He had a tough time handling utensils. That's when he launched into his story about his Dad getting him a shovel at 7 years old and by the time he turned 13, he had paid for that snowblower all on his own.

Now here he was going door-to-door all alone and so unaware of any danger that could befall him.

As Big Daddy relayed the story, I couldn't help but think that we were definitely on the right path. Not only on the path to self sufficiency, but on the path to setting up a family business at the farm. Something that our girls could carry on. Some place safe.

You see, our "big girl" is Autistic and as much as I fret over what lies ahead, it's her future that I truly worry about.

Thank God, we're on the right path....

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Oh look what came in the mail last night! I'm doing the happy dance! lol

And since today it's snowing like stink, I'm going to keep curled up with my little one and a very hot cup of coffee while I read about my seeds.

Come on spring...

Monday, January 26, 2009


After 3 batches of the most fabulous bread I've ever made, I made a so-so batch. Hmmmm. Then last night's batch...well...what can I went straight to the garbage before it even had a chance at the oven.

After a thorough examination of the "starter", I pronounced it D.O.A. Dough Otherwise Active! lol

Not a complete failure though...I did get 6 very large loaves of fabulous bread from one tbsp of yeast...that has to count for something, right? Now off to figure out what I did wrong....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I found this recipe over at Angela's blog. I originally found her when I was researching a wood cookstove and she had just bought one. She's living my dream!!! Totally off it!

Anyway, this is super simple (for you Janice) and everyone will have all of the ingredients in stock. That's important to me.


Grease a 9x13 pan and preheat the oven to 350

2 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 - 16 oz can fruit cocktail undrained

Combine all the ingredients using an electric mixer (or by hand if you're off grid) for 1 -2 minutes. Pour into pan.
Sprinkle top with:
4 - 6 Tbsp brown sugar (oh you know I used 6)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Bake 45 minutes. Cool completely. Top with whipped cream.

This is soooooooo good! It was even better this morning at breakfast! I think I need a sweets intervention! lol

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


We finalized our seed order the first week of January and some of it should be arriving in the next week. I really thought it would be easy. Flip a few pages, pick some neat things and be it was tough. Finding plants that will thrive or even survive in our zone, choosing from early, mid to late harvest, hybrid versus heirloom, etc. I am sooooo excited to be planting our test garden this year at the cabin. It still amazes me to put a tiny seed in the ground and have plants and food come from it! I am in awe of the process!

We ordered the following from Vesey's:
Asparagus - Guelph Millenium - 72 roots It takes at least 2 years to get a crop, so we're getting a jumpstart.
Yellow beans - Gold Rush, Gold Mine, Indy Gold
Beets - Detroit Dark Red Supreme. I made pickled beets this past year for the first time and will definitely do up a whopper of a batch this fall.
Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Celery - I originally had them on the list, but we decided to put more energy and money into berry plants.
Carrots - Napoli, Resistafly
Corn - Spring Treat, Applause, Honey Select. This package had different qualities and harvest times.
Cucumbers - Calypso Pickling. We'll try our own pickles this year too.
Garlic - Spring Garlic Sets and Fall Garlic Sets
Leeks - Giant Musselburgh Heirloom
Lettuce - Baby Leaf, Sangria, Paris Island
Onions (green) - Parade
Onions - Red Beauty
Peas - Lincoln Heirloom
Peas - Dakota, Dual, Wando. Lots and lots of peas...
Potatoes - Norland (red) and Yukon Gold. Our soil is soooo set up for growing potatoes.
Radishes - French Breakfast Heirloom. These were a funny shape.
Spinach - Tortoiseshell

For the tomatoes and peppers, I opted for starter plants that will be shipped here in the spring:
Tomatoes - Applause - 6 plants
Tomatoes - Red Alert (cherry size) - 3 plants
Tomatoes - Window Box Roma (dwarf plants) - 3 plants
Peppers - Carmen, Fat n Sassy - total of 6 plants

Since berries take a long time to fruit, we ordered up a bunch to get a headstart:
Strawberries - Veestar - 50 plants
Strawberries - Cabot - 50 plants
Strawberries - Seascape - 50 plants
Strawberries - Kent - 75 plants

Raspberries - Boyne - 9 plants

Blueberries - Blueray, Bluecrop - total of 6 plants
Blueberries - Chippewa - 1 plant

Rhubarb - Crimson Cherry - 1 plant Must have a strawberry/rhubarb pie.

I don't know enough about herbs. I can see us studying them in detail...but just not yet. So I ordered what I do know and use a lot of:

We also ordered flowers for the garden. I don't know if it's really true, but Marigolds - the French type - are supposed to repel bad critters. Order 1000, I said:
Yellow Boy French Marigold
Early Russian Heirloom Sunflowers - just because they're so beautiful

We already have 6 ancient apple trees on the farm but we thought we'd get a few more fruit trees to round them out. We found a guy near Sudbury (Ron Lewis) who specializes in really hardy fruit trees. They come in from Manitoba and Saskatchewan - yup should be hardy! lol Since he doesn't know what will be available until the spring, I can't give you the names of the trees just yet. But, we will order:
Apple trees - 6
Pear trees - 4
Cherry - 2
Cherry Plum - 2

I think it will be a good start...a real learning curve for sure!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I have been known to do some laundry by hand...not just my unmentionables, but other clothes that shouldn't spend a lot of time in the wash machine. Along with my clothesline, this is my very simple set-up:

Simple washtub and toilet plunger

Notice I have "Laundry" printed on the plunger just in case Big Daddy gets any big ideas to use it for something unsavoury! The toilet plunger works great on fine items but it would turn itself inside out a little if I was really using my muscles. So, I upgraded to the more sturdy type of plunger - the one on the right.

Since we will be spending a lot of time at the cabin this year and it is off-grid, I thought we should invest in a better set-up.

This week, I ordered the rapid washer:

and a glass washboard from Lehman's.

and this really cool hand wringer from Kleen-Rite Corp for about $60 less than Lehman's.

God love you Americans...and your retail set-up! lol I just called them up and had them deliver to my Mom in Florida. She'll bring them all home with her in the spring.

Now if you want to see how laundry is really done....go visit this fabulous family. They are living the simple life and it makes me smile every time I visit them. Thanks Leslie for the product recommendations!
And just for fun, I found a cute little place called Pickens General Store and ordered up a pair of these Blizzard lanterns for $12. Did I mention how much I love the U.S.?! lol

Saturday, January 17, 2009


My first attempt a couple of months ago at a sourdough starter was a complete failure. Last week I found Garden Girl who made it look soooo easy. So I decided to give it another go. I'm glad I did, because it turned out fabulously! You're going to love it!

Before you get to the bread making part of this whole deal, you first need to make the starter.
You'll need:
2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp sugar or honey
1 Tbsp yeast
2 cups flour
2 - 5 days of patience

Day 1:
Get yourself a big bowl. Dissolve the sugar then the yeast in the water. Gradually add the flour. .

It looked like lumpy pancake mix:

Cover the bowl with a piece of wax paper and set someplace warm. Let sit for 2-5 days, stirring twice a day

By night time Day 1:

Day 2: Really burbling along

Day 3: It separated a little and that's okay, just stir it back in.

1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups warm water (bottled)
5 1/2 - 6 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda

Day 4:
Blend starter thoroughly. Pour 1 cup of starter into a big glass bowl and set aside. You'll deal with it in a minute, but first replenish the starter with 1/2 cup of warm water and 1/2 cup of flour. Give it a good old stir and don't worry about a few lumps. I put my bowl inside a ziploc bag that wasn't zipped tight and put it in the fridge.

To the 1 cup of starter you set aside, add your warm bottled water and 3 cups of flour. Beat vigorously. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it do it's thing for 2 - 24 hours. The longer the better.

18 hours later the dough (sponge) looked like this:

Blend the salt, sugar and soda into 2 cups of flour. Mix this into the sponge. This is where I abandoned the spoon and just used my hands to mix it right in the bowl. When the dough starts to hold together, turn out onto floured board and knead for 4 - 5 minutes. Add flour as needed to make a stiff dough (I only had to add 1/4 cup).

Put dough into greased bowl wrapped tightly with plastic wrap. I also put a hand towel over the bowl for extra warmth. Let rise for 2 - 4 hours.

After 3 hours I gave the dough a test poke:

It didn't spring back on me, so I knocked it down and shaped it into 2 long french bread style loaves. I Placed them on a cornmeal sprinkled (put lots on or they will stick) baking sheet, covered with a tea towel and let them rise another 2+ hours.

Preheat the oven to 450 and put a broiler pan (don't use a cookie sheet like I did - the sheet warped) on the bottom shelf to heat up.
Slash the loaves and brush with cold water.

When your oven is ready, pour 3 cups of water into that broiler pan and put the loaves in on the rack above the steam and bake for 25 minutes.

And voila! I always brush my bread with butter as soon as it comes out of the oven.
This is a really good bread!! The crust is soft and thin. The bread is moist and just yummy! I'm going to replace our usual homemade bread with this's that good!
And then for the big test...did my starter survive?! It had separated but I just stirred it in and I am now in the process of making my second batch!

Friday, January 16, 2009


The best time to learn and perfect a new skill is definitely NOT when you're under the gun. You need time to make a few mistakes along the way and learn from them. For me, 2009 will be the year that I finally take all of the knowledge gleaned from countless books and blogs and actually put it into practice. I had thought about posting a list of things that I will be trying this year and checking them off as I go along, but really it's just too much pressure. Better that I just post about it after my attempt even if I failed this....

How NOT To Light An Oil Lamp:

Can you spot the difference between the two lamps? Can you guess which one I tried to light for the very first time?

That's right...the one on the left. And right after I cleaned up the little bits of charred wick, wiped off the ceiling, put the fire out and stopped laughing, I realized that as simple of a job that this is, I still didn't know how to do it properly. What if it had been a life or death situation? It's one thing to stockpile items you think you may need, but unless you practice with them, we're simply not prepared. Lesson learned. Resume laughing...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Okay, you now have cases of soup and tuna lining your pantry shelves. There are hundreds of pounds of rice, beans and wheat in bins. Your emergency medical supplies are in order. Lots of ammo at the ready. The SHTF.....regular life is interrupted....for how long...who knows! If you're like us, you have kids who need to be educated and not everyone has curriculum stashed away. I would suggest getting some old time school books on your shelves. Just the basics, like readers, math, grammar, geography, etc. They're cheap and could come in handy one day. We also keep cases of paper on hand and dozens of pencils. Don't forget the kids!

While you're at it, throw an old farm book on the shelf too. One that includes childbirth, raising poultry and recipes all in one. lol

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


If you're going to invest your time and energy into creating and stocking a pantry, you're going to have to learn about best before dates. I hit mine around the age of 34, but that's neither here nor there!

We don't have a universal code in Canada. Every food manufacturer has their own tracking system, and the stamped numbers make absolutely no sense to the purchaser. So, I contacted some of them to get the answers.

Primo: never returned my email or phone inquiry.

Unico: Their canned tomatoes have a 2 year shelf life. Example: If the can reads CR25206, the tomatoes would expire 252 days into 2008

Compliments: This is a Sobey's or IGA company. Their canned fruit has a 3 year shelf life. Example: If the can reads LIP 237 The middle letter is I=2006 J=2007 K=2008 237=237th day of the year.

Quaker Oats/Aunt Jemima (all owned by Pepsi): By far the most helpful company I talked with. Most of their products have a 1 year shelf life from the manufactured date. Granola bars only 6 months. Example: 01 23 P 8 The first set of numbers is the month, second set is the day, the letter represents the facility where it was manufactured and the last number is the year.

Allen's Apple Juice: 1.2 L tins have a 547 day shelf life. Example: R81207 1500 338 J The expiry date would be 2008, 12th month, 7th day, 15:00 hour. At 3:00 all hell breaks loose!

General Mills: They have 3 separate coding systems. One is a best before date stamped which is used for refrigerated dough products - nothing that I would/could stock anyway.
For Pillsbury branded products, all Green Giant and Old El Paso brand proudcts the code can be interpreted as follows: C6FT25D
The first letter stands for the month (C=March)
The next number stands for the year (6=2006)
The next 2 to 4 letters stand for the manufacturing facility
The next 2 letters stand for the day of the month (25)
The letter code for each month is as follows: A to L (January to December)
For all other brands including General Mills, Cheerios, Betty Crocker, Bugles, Nature Valley, etc. the manufacturing code appears as follows: D615RB6
The first letter stands for the month
The next number stands for the year (6 = 2006)
The next 2 numbers stands for the day of the month (15)
The next 2 letters stand for the manufacturing facility.
The last digits stand for the time of day or the system the product was produced on.

Most Campbell's soups have an easy to read best before date - usually 2+ years.

I have noticed that I have a better chance of buying "older" product from a discount grocery chain. I've had challenges with the high-end grocery stores too though. It's much easier for me to keep track now because we buy cases of items. I'll take my 3x5 deciphering code card to the store to make sure I'm getting "new" product. Once we're home, I write the best before date in simple language right on the case.

We'll continue with this system until I can grow and can the bulk of our the meantime...buyer beware!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


It's been a gruelling couple of weeks...Rylee caught some "wild bug" and then it was passed along to all the members of Team Hall. Baby J and I are still fighting the good fight. I hate being sick! Just one more reason to keep the drawbridge up! lol

Laying around the house does have its benefits though...we worked out this year's plans for the cabin. We also sourced and priced our fencing and finished up our seed order. Last fall, my Dad bulldozed the top layer off the "garlic field" for us and that's where we'll plant some more trees and my garden. It's about 120 feet by 160 feet and as soon as the snow has disappeared...sometime in May (I kid you not), we'll get to work. Fast and furious!

For Christmas, because I'm such a high-maintenance woman, I asked for a cheese book and a new kitchen sink stopper. Got the book...umm, still miffed about not getting the stopper though! lol The first book, about home cheese making looks really good - easy stuff too.

We found some nice oil lamps on sale before Christmas. They were such a good deal, we bought 6 large and 2 small ones. Just plain jane, but I think they're sweet! They'll be great at the cabin this year. Big Daddy bought some coloured oil so I think we'll try them here first. Set the mood!

Scored some more free buckets over the holidays too, along with 2 from Home Depot. When I picked up this last batch of bakery buckets, the lady asked if I still wanted them to hold the buckets for me....since I've picked up quite a few already. As she's handing them to me she looks me straight in the eye and says "do you mind me asking what you're using them for?" I told her "sure I can tell you, but then I'd have to kill you." Well, she gave a nervous little chuckle and headed behind the counter. Since I want more buckets, I eventually did tell her that it was for my farm. Some people just can't take a joke!