Sunday, 9 October 2011

A Child's Interpretation

Whew, after a full week of rest from canning and preserving, I was ready to start working again yesterday preparing our Thanksgiving Dinner.  Most families have Thanksgiving Dinner on the Sunday, however since we had a couple of birthdays to celebrate today, we decided to have our special dinner yesterday instead.

About an hour before the guests arrived and while the last of the pies were baking in the oven, I thought I would relax a bit in a warm bath. 

Ava had been playing with her dollhouse in my sewing room and suddenly marched into the bathroom to inform me of what she intended to wear for dinner that evening.  She had wanted to wear her "Sleeping Beauty" princess costume - long dress, long sleeves.  Given that the warm weather we had that day with the humidex closer to 30 degrees celcius, I suggested that she may want to wear something with short sleeves instead.  Well, apparently that was the wrong thing to tell an almost 4 year old who wanted to "dress and impress".

A series of headspinning shrieks came out of her mouth.  So much for the relaxing bath!
I said to Ava "it looks like we have a bit of a conflict on our hands".  I was not prepared for what happened next...

She held up her hands in the air for me to see and said "Look mama!  No I'm don't".  My lovely daughter was showing me that she had absolutely no conflict or anything else on her hands whatsoever.     

Well, I started to laugh and she looked puzzled, not entirely certain of what I found to be so funny.  This was enough of a distraction that she forgot all about the princess dress and ended up wearing a cute t-shirt and breezy summer dress.  In the end, everyone was happy.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Wilke Reflection of the Week
***Each week, our family takes time to pause, reflect and appreciate a special moment in our lives.  We would like to share this reflection with you.
Collecting Autumn Leaves

Sunday, 2 October 2011

All Canned Out...

Okay, I have to admit, I am pleasantly fatigued.  I seem to have endless and boundless amounts of energy.  Anyone who knows me would say I have  "crazy" amount of energy.  Tonight, my feet hurt from countless hours of standing and moving about in the kitchen.  I have literally ran out of counter space and secretly am thankful for the highchair trays because they act as extra counter space in a pinch :)

This evening, I have decided to take a break and relax.  Something I hardly do unless perhaps in a situation where I have to stay put and wait my turn which is ususally in line at the local grocery store - if you call that relaxing!  Actually, when we take the city bus, I get a chance to relax and let someone else take control.

Today's events included finishing my cabbage soup, baking yet another loaf of sourdough bread, canning applesauce (I peeled almost an entire bushel of apples - 45 or so pounds, by hand), baking banana bread, blanching and dehydrating celery (which I ground into powder), cutting up bread ends for turkey stuffing, grocery shopping, laundry and meals.  Oh and lest I forget, the endless number of dishes to be handwashed since we don't have a dishwasher.  I am certain that fellow Homesteaders are feeling the effects of harvesting and preserving.  It really is a frenzy of activity and I recommend wearing good running shoes in the kitchen because you will find yourself standing for hours at a time.

Thank goodness my dried herbs can wait another few days before I remove the leaves off the stems and put into their new homes - glass jars!  My poor feet have had enough for today.

I feel completely "canned out".  This is my very first year with canning and I have to admit that I feel very proud of myself.  I have canned jams, jellies, fruit butters, pickled carrots, applesauce, tomatoes and peaches.  I have also dehydrated so many different fruits, fruit leathers and vegetables, I have washed and hung hot peppers on twine around my house, almost completed my fall planting and have done some sewing in between.  Whew, just writing about what I have done makes my head spin.  All in all, I find myself thinking that I am very pleased with how everything has turned out considering that I took on so many new tasks in a relatively short amount of time (June 2011 to be exact as a starting date) and have achieved some major accomplishments.

Lately, I have noticed that a few people in our close circle have been bringing over their own ripe fruits as a gift to me because they know that I "can do something with it".  It's funny how that happens when you start preserving. 

I think for now that I will sit back and have a couple of good night's sleep and then back to the grind.  After all, those sweet potatoes have to be dug up and cured, green tomatoes made into chutney, last herbs dried and then... all of those falling leaves need to be raked and composted....

Just Fix It!!!


Something occurred to me this morning as I was repairing one of the straps on one of my Reusable Shopping Bags with my sewing machine.  I first said to myself "hey look at me, I am repairing something that only cost me $1.00!  What for?"

I mean, why didn't I just toss the bag away and go buy a new one?  There are plenty of these bags in circulation right now and you can purchase one at your local Thrift Store for a mere 25 cents (I know because I bought 4 of them last week!)

The reason that I repaired my shopping bag this morning was because I liked it.  It has an unusual black and turqoise Damask pattern that I really like.  I was motivated to repair the bag because it meant something to me.  I then thought deeper...this bag has held many things over the past year such as groceries, library books, hardware store purchases and even our snacks.    Just because the seam on the strap had come unravelled, there was no reason to toss it away and add it to the Garbage Man's haul.

Interestingly enough, my brother works for a computer repair company called "Just Fix It".  The owner was thinking simply and logically when he created the name.  I think that he was making a great statement telling people to fix it if it's broken.  If it's not broken, then don't fix it!

While we were on the bus on our way home yesterday, I saw a huge floor model big screen television at the side of the curb.  There didn't appear to be any physical damage, the screen was also intact without any cracks.  Such a treasure for the first handy person came along and was able to lift it into their truck to tinker with and fix at home!
Boy, the original television owner really missed out yesterday.  He could have sold the television for likely $50 - $100.00 and then treated his family to a special treat - or better yet, bought something that the family needed! 

These days, too many people throw away something if it breaks or they want a newer model.  This adds to our overburdened waste management sites and clutters up our neighbourhood curbs.  Years ago, families either fixed what was broken or did without - clothing was mended, broken dishes reglued and equipment was repaired.  If something couldn't be repaired, it found new use, simple as that.

The next time before you decide to throw away something in the garbage that is broken or you have tired of it, think of other uses for the item.  Make jewellery, sew a quilt, add neat pieces of the item to your garden or paint them and make a really cool home accessory! 

If you can't imagine what you would do something, give it away or sell it using Freecycle.org or Kijiji (our favourite places to shop before we have to go and buy brand new for essential items).

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Saturday Night Treat

After a heavy day of canning tomatoes, blanching and freezing carrots, baking homemade baked beans and starting the broth for my divine cabbage soup, I sat down to relax....until... I noticed a weather warning on my computer. 

It looks like Jack Frost himself is intending to visit tonight along with bringing some snow flurries.  I could hardly believe it!  We just officially started October and already we will have snow?   My daughter asked if Santa Claus was coming tonight and I told her that he had better get moving in order to finish all of the toys in time for Christmas.

Speaking of flurries, I soon found myself in one.  I immediately grabbed my flashlight and headed out to the garden with my plastic wrap and duct tape.  I had meant to make row covers for my plants tomorrow, it was on my "to do" list, really!  I spent a short amount of time covering my tender plants, especially the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.

I came back inside and made a wonderful cup of hot tea to warm my cold hands.  I added 2 teaspoons of our favourite local organic honey.  All of a sudden, I craved more liquid gold and toasted some slices of fresh homemade bread and slathered them in butter and honey.  It was the perfect treat for a cold Saturday Night.

There is something to be said about melted creamy butter and honey on toast...Heavenly!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Wilke Reflection of the Week
***Each week, our family takes time to pause, reflect and appreciate a special moment in our lives.  We would like to share this reflection with you.


Monday, 26 September 2011

Extending the Season For Annual Herbs

As the saying goes, "All Good Things Must Come to an End".  I've always had a hard time with finality - mainly when it was related to something that I enjoyed.  My dear mother, god rest her soul must have had her hands full with me as a toddler because I never seemed to accept the answer "no".  I was the bargainer, the negotiator, the girl with endless possibilities.

Gardening really gets a person in touch with their inner self.  In an instant, your inner child and caregiver qualities come out at the same time.  How is that possible?  Try gardening and you will see for yourself. 

I get excited when I see the leaves and flowering buds of the vegetables and can hardly wait for their yields.  Then, I get my bearings and start to gently turn over leaves to look for slugs and other garden pests.  I make sure my plants get enough water, sunshine and nutrients.  I also protect them from wildlife and carefully cradle each member of the "harvest" like it is a newborn baby. 

I have to admit that I apply the above to my annual herbs.  I know that the herbs from my garden will provide us with an abundance of flavour to our dishes through the coming winter and want to prolong their growth as long as possible.

This past weekend was absolutely gorgeous.  It felt more like mid-August than late September.  The forecast for October predicts that the weather will be warmer than usual.  Yahoo!!!  On the downside, the weather prediction for this Winter means it is going to be colder than usual.  Oh well, at least I will be enjoying the preserved "treats" from my garden!

Having never gardened on this scale in my life, I decided to dig up my Annual Herbs and replant them into pots.  I had bought my annual herbs as seedlings at an Organic Sales this past Spring as opposed to starting from seed, so I am determined to get my money's worth and then some...

I have now put the newly potted herbs in my covered greenhouse which will protect them from the cold and frost that is only weeks away.  They will continue to thrive while the perennial herbs such as mint and oregano prepare to hibernate for the winter.
Namely, my Thyme and Sage were "slow to bolt" for some reason but I feel that they will thrive in their new greenhouse setting.  My mother would be proud!

                                                          Sage (Salvia)

                                                          Thyme
                                                                                   
Parsley


                                                                  

Basil Sunflower Pesto

This is an inexpensive Pesto made with hulled Sunflower seeds as opposed to the usual pricey Pinenuts.

I made a terrific and super easy Basil Sunflower Pesto this morning in a matter of minutes.  The most consumming part was removing the leaves from the stems of the Basil plant.

Pesto can be used in a variety of meat dishes, namely Poultry.  It is a wonderful addition to homemade spaghetti sauce, or more simply, just tossing with freshly cooked noodles of any kind.  You can use it as an easy sandwich spread, add zip to your homemade mayonnaise, drizzle on a plate of sliced tomatoes, add to omelettes or whatever your heart desires.  With Pesto, the possibilities are virtually endless - I mean how can you go wrong with fresh Basil and Garlic?  We consider it to be a staple in our refrigerator.
The ingredients are easy to find in your local grocery store, however we use Organic Garlic and Basil from our own garden which makes it taste even better!

Basil Sunflower Pesto Recipe
3 ups of Fresh Basil Leaves
1 cup Olive Oil (separated)
1/2 cup ground hulled Sunflower Seeds
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tbsp minced garlic (we used heaping tablespoons - gotta love that garlic!)

Place Basil Leaves in blender with 1/4 cup of oil and blend into a paste.
Gradually add remaining ingredients including the rest of the oil and blend until smooth.
Store Basil Sunflower Pesto in a glass jar in the refridgerator and enjoy!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

New Baby Veggies and Mother Nature's Paintbrush

The garden plants are still producing and I want to ensure that we harvest every last vegetable regardless of the colour or size. 

With plenty of Autumn sunshine, the newest baby vegetables are just waiting to grow and get their beautiful and colourful hues from Mother Nature's Paintbrush.  We are making preparations to cover our plants as we know that the First Frost is just around the corner and this will help extend the growing season.

I was in late planting my pepper plants but now there are so many buds, flowers and peppers appearing every day, I am having a hard time waiting for them to ripen!  I also seem to think that I may have mixed up the types of pepper plants that I have, not sure which ones are green, yellow or red.  I have plucked the green ones, but am willing to hang on a little longer to see if they will turn a different colour.

I have been working hard with drying my herbs and know that the rewards will definitely pay off when I use them this coming Winter.


Wilke Reflection of the Week
***Each week, our family takes time to pause, reflect and appreciate a special moment in our lives.  We would like to share this reflection with you.

Mother and Daughter Garden Painting

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Hawberry Jelly

A dear friend of ours was recently on vacation in Tobermory, Ontario Canada and visited Manitoulin Island (approximately a 7 hour drive from our city) and gifted us with a precious jar of Hawberry Jelly from Hawberry Farms, http://www.hawberryfarms.com/ (check out their great recipes!)


This sweet jelly is made from a combination of wild hawberries and logan berries.  It is perfectly balanced with a subtle undertone of tartness which makes it appealing to all tastebuds.  It's wonderful on fresh buttered bread, cream cheese and crackers or as a treat when served with poultry.  My daughter prefers to eat it right off of the spoon!

I was interested in finding out more about the Hawberry as I hadn't heard of it before.
Hawberries are produced from the hawthorn bush.  The bush is pollinated by midges (a very small 2 winged insect) as opposed to bees.  Each haw (berry) produces only one seed.  Waxwings and Thrushes play an important role because they eat the haws and disperses the seeds in their droppings. 

Not only does the hawthorn produce haws used for jellies, jams and syrups, the plant also has medicinal uses which have been practised for years.  The leaves, flowers and/or the berries can be used for Cardiac issues.  It is also considered to be an antioxidant. 


Wilke Reflection of the Week
***Each week, our family takes time to pause, reflect and appreciate a special moment in our lives.  We would like to share this reflection with you.

Enjoying a Cool September Morning

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Sauteed Sweet Potato Leaves

We are a busy household on any given day.  Our home has been bustling with back to school excitement, homeschooling, harvesting, canning, preserving and food dehydrating.  I feel a sense of urgency to prepare everything for those cold winter months.  From past experience, whenever we have had a long hot summer, the coming winter is expected to be intense with cold and snow.

I have been looking forward to harvesting my Sweet Potato Leaves.  I have almost had to tie my hands behind my back to refrain from peeking at the sweet potatoes that have been growing under the soil.  I know that it is not time for them yet, but I can hardly resist. 
Every morning I check each and every one of my vegetables to see how much they have grown from the previous day.
I have often thought that:
"If you want to learn patience, take up gardening"

I noticed that the Local Food Buying Club to which we belong, has Sweet Potato Leaves available for purchase.  Apparently, the leaves are considered to be a delicacy and some people grow sweet potatoes just to harvest the leaves.  I find that the leaves are very similar in size and shape to those on my Heavenly Blue Morning Glory Plant.  Here is a picture of the Sweet Potato Leaves in my garden:


Harvest the Leaves by snipping them off of the vine at the stem, leaving the vines intact.  It does not harm the plant.  Rinse leaves in cool water to remove any insects.  You can remove excess water by putting them through a salad spinner or blotting them with papertowel.

This evening, I made a wonderful side dish out of Sauteed Sweet Potato Leaves. 
I simply sauteed them in butter and garlic.  What a treat!  I was amazed to find that the leaves were similar in texture and taste to that of spinach, however milder in taste.

Feel free to experiment, you can add chopped and sauteed leaves to pasta dishes, omelettes and hot dips. 

True Love...

Our beautiful Blonde Golden Retriever (he's 7 1/2 years young!) fondly greets Marty every morning.  Both the Bird and Dog are becoming fast friends.  Even though Bentley is a "Bird Dog" through instinct and breed, he is very gentle with Marty and never chases him when out of his cage for a fly around the house.

I time Marty's free fly around the house by waiting until he's had a "pigeon dropping" because then I know he's good for about 3 to 5 minutes before I risk having a mess on the furniture! 

The two seemed to have developed a mutual respect and fondness for each other...I wonder if it's True Love...

I have read amazing stories about the different species of animals and birds creating special bonds that defy Mother Nature's claim to the Food Chain and realize now that I have one of those amazing stories unfolding in my own home! 

I wanted to show you what is going on in my home recently.  Marty looks like he is telling a secret to Bentley in this first picture, then it looks like they are having a deep conversation in the second one (do you think they are complaining about my cooking?)






Thursday, 8 September 2011

Hershey's Chocolate Syrup

My daughter loves chocolate in any shape or form.  Myself, I am not a big fan of chocolate so we don't keep chocolate in the house on a regular basis except during the Holidays.
I found a terrific "copycat" recipe for Chocolate Syrup and we have been making this over the last year which I would love to pass along.  In our home, we add this to our milk for a perfect glass of chocolate milk.  We especially love this recipe because we can control the amount of sugar and sodium.


Hershey's Chocolate Syrup Recipe:

1/2 cup Hershey's Cocoa Powder (we use a generic brand)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dash of salt

Combine Cocoa, sugar and salt in a saucepan.  Add water and mix until smooth without any lumps.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium to medium high heat, stirring to prevent scorching.  Allow mixture to boil for one minute, being careful to ensure that sauce does not boil over.  Remove from heat and allow to cool, then add vanilla and stir well.
Pour cooled sauce into a mason jar and store in fridge and it will keep for several months.
***This syrup can be drizzled over icecream and desserts. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Fairies and Pigeons?

Our homeschool lesson today was centred around the fascinating theme of Fairies.  We had built a structure for a "Fairy House" and were going to adorn it with leaves, twigs and flowers; however it began to rain this morning and we were unable to collect dry decorations.  Legend has it that if you build a Fairy House and put it in your garden, you will attract magical fairies.

I decided that we could work on making our own Fairy while we waited for a sunny day. 

I raided an old stash of potpourri and we easily constructed a Fairy by securing the pieces of natural potpourri with the help of a glue gun.  My daughter helped me to pick out the pieces of dried nuts, leaves and gourds.  I found some Tulle in my fabric armoire and we made a little dress for Ava's new friend (note the crown on her head).  Add wings with purple cardstock and some sparkly fairy dust..voila!

What Fairy isn't complete without her own pet Pigeon?  We found the perfect arrangement within our supplies to contruct a Pigeon.  Ava played very gently with her new "friends" today.  I loved watching her imagination soar just from simple pieces of natural material.




Wilke Reflection of the Week
***Each week, our family takes time to pause, reflect and appreciate a special moment in our lives.  We would like to share this reflection with you.
                                               Enjoying a Chocolate Treat

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Things We Love About Marty...

We picked up Grit for Marty and he is really into it.  Grit is a combination of gravel, charcoal and oyster shell flakes to help birds with digestion.  They don't produce acids as a human digestive tract does so they need Grit to help them breakdown and digest their feed.  Now, had someone asked me if I knew what Grit was a week ago, I am certain that I would have come up with the wrong answer.  This has been a wonderful journey for our family and Marty has touched our lives forever.

We have decided to dedicate this post to The Things We Love About Marty (my daughter had a lot of input into this one):

1.  He never tries to peck at us when changing his bedding or replacing his food/water.

2.  When he puffs out his feathers and spreads out his wings ( we think he's just showing off!)

3.  He can actually turn his head around 180 degrees!  This is way too cool...

4.  The way he eats.  Look out! The feed and grit becomes airborne!

5.  He puts up with our singing - he's the only one.

6.  His soft cooing noises.  We always stop what we are doing to listen to this sound.

7.  He's a Pigeon with Personality.

8.  He puts up with our Golden Retriever's barking (I hope Marty doesn't learn to bark!)

9.  When we talk to Marty, he will stretch his neck and cock his head to listen to us.

10. His willingness to survive and adapt - Hey who said living with us was easy?

It seems like the countdown has begun.  I have been conversing with Marty's owner and his partner and we are looking releasing Marty this coming Saturday September 10, 2011 in the morning.  I have checked the weather forecast and it looks like it is going to be a clear sunny day.  I will continue to monitor the weather conditions as you know how Mother Nature can change her mind as most women do!

First Day of Homeschool!

Today was definitely a terrific milestone in our household!  My daughter started her very first day of Junior Kindergarten Homeschool.  We were both very excited last night, preparing our lesson plans, laying out clothes and getting everything ready for our very first day.

My daughter, who will be 4 years of age mid-October was very excited and proud to begin this new Journey.  We made a big deal about today.  This morning when Ava awoke, I presented her with her very own personalized Record Book that she is to "bring to class" every day.  She loved it because not only did it have her name on the front, it also had flowers, all in her favourite pink and purple colours.    This book is for keeping track of our lessons, crafts, discussion and positive feedback on a daily basis.  We also add stickers at the end of each lesson for a job Well Done!  Ava kept the book in her backpack which she wore on today's outings.
Today, we read the story Jack and the Beanstalk.  I found that I had to edit about 50% of the story as there were words, phrases and suggestions that we do not use in our home.  Mainly, I wanted her to enjoy the story of a beanstalk that grew as high as the sky from magic beans.  I presented my daughter with her own little bag of 5 special "magic beans", keeping in line with the story - we counted the beans several times today. 

We then planted a bean in soil and set it on the window sill.  Ava kept running to the window checking to see if the bean was growing and was very excited.  We had green beans with our lunch, therefore colouring pages on Green Beans and Jack and the Beanstalk were perfectly appropriate.  We then added her colouring pages to a special binder which will be used for this first year of school.

All in all, a terrific first day of homeschool!  Ava was very proud of herself and it seemed like she grew up so quickly since yesterday.  Just having these special moments together mean so much to us.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Marty the "Little Gentleman"

Every day we are continuing to learn more about Marty and his habits.  He really has been a pleasure to have in our home and has been on his very "best behaviour".  He has been quite a "little gentleman"!

Last evening, we had a thunderstorm with bright and intense lightning.  Approximately 15 minutes before the storm was overhead, Marty kept flapping his wings and appeared to want to fly out of his cage.  He was making quite a commotion.  I moved Marty beside me while I was sitting on the couch and this appeared to help calm him down.  I realize now that he could sense the storm coming and it was instinctive for him to try and fly home before the weather became severe - as all birds do.

My daughter coloured a picture of a pigeon in flight this morning.  She is still using the green and purple colours for his head and neck areas.  Notice the red Sun in the upper right hand corner:


Marty enjoyed watching television with us, he appeared to be fascinated by the movement and colours on the screen.  He also suprised me by making a soft throaty cooing sound.  This is the first time we've heard him making "pigeon noises".

Marty is toilet trained? 
Before Marty went to bed last night, I put a clay bowl in his cage hoping that he would view this as a nest for roosting.  When we got up this morning, he was proudly perched on the edge of the bowl.  Even more surprising was that he used the bowl as a toilet through the night.  I didn't see one dropping on the newspaper lining the bottom of his cage.  What a smart bird!  Like I said, he is quite a "little gentleman"!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Cecropia Moth

I was just getting ready for bed tonight after a long evening of writing and planning.
I noticed that I had a huge shadow hanging around my light on the back deck.
I went outside and to my fascination found a Cecropia Moth!
Two years ago, I had mesh netting hung on each branch of the maple tree of our backyard.  Each mesh bag was full of mini black cercropia babies.  Over the course of about two months, these babies grew into amazing large green caterpillars with studs of red, blue and yellow.  Mother Nature makes the brightest and best colours naturally!
Cecropias represent "ART" to us.  I have yet to see two of the same.  Here is a picture of the one I found this evening:

                                                          Beautiful Cecropia

Healthy Peanut Butter Balls

This is a terrific and easy recipe from http://www.food.com/.  We always have a batch of these on hand in our house.  Kids love them, they are super quick and easy to make.
The added bonus?  Well, all of the ingredients are stockpiled in our 3 month storage supply. 

Healthy Peanut Butter Balls:

1/3 cup Peanut Butter (smooth or crunchy)
1/2 cup dry skim milk powder
2 tbsp wheat germ
1 tbsp honey

1.  Blend all ingredients together in a large bowl (using a strong arm).

2.  Use a melon scoop to make balls out of the dough and place onto wax paper.

3.  Refridgerate until firm.

***You will want to eat this right out of the bowl with a spoon.  Please save some for the children.

Andre the Cricket

To repeat the cliche "it has been an interesting week" seems funny, however, so true.
When I woke up 2 days ago, our only pet was a Golden Retriever named Bentley.  Now we have a spider, snail, pigeon and cricket. 

The cricket - (aptly named Andre by my daughter) chirps a lot at night. 
In fact, the first night that we had him, I checked his terranium before I went to bed and couldn't find him.  He was gone.  He had escaped!

I turned out the lights and went to bed thinking that the cricket - would be long gone.  I started to fall asleep in my bed when I heard a chirping sound.  I turned on the light and the chirping stopped.
I went back to bed, exhausted after caring for our new pigeon and closed my eyes.  The chirping began again and it was in my bedroom!  I lay still for a bit and was able to determine which corner of my room that the chirping came from.  I turned on the light, determined to find Andre.  I did find him and put him in a new home, a large canning jar with fabric over the lid.  By this time, it was 11:30 p.m. and I was exhasted.

I was able to find sleep again, that is until a big Thunderstorm hit at 1:30 a.m.....

                                                    Andre the Cricket

Nature's Own Pest Control?


While weeding the garden and harvesting tomatoes this morning, I came across a rather large spider who had spun a web across the top of my sweet potato leaves. It is the largest spider that I have come across in the garden this summer and it caught me by surprise.

I immediately grabbed my daughter's empty terranium and captured this large arachnid for further examination. I had noticed over the last couple of weeks that I have been running into spider webs in the garden that appear to be stronger and more fibrous than what I would normally experience.  I have left those spiders alone happy to know that they would be feasting on the little aphids that have been devouring my lettuce and other leafy vegetables.  My Bok Choy has been completely devoured by an insect that is barely visible to the naked eye.  Keep up the good work Mr./Ms. Spider!

I am not an expert in identifying spiders, nor am I particularly interested in taking the time to capture one for identification purposes - unless it is big and/or unusual.  I quickly researched the spider online - and I mean quickly!  It appears that this may be a Fishing Spider however, I am not 100% certain.  I am 100% sure that this interesting arachnid is going to remain outdoors and will not be brought into the house.

I am not afraid of insects or other "garden helpers" and have lovingly taught Ava.  My daughter is accustomed to handling earthworms, snails and caterpillars.  I do not want her to be squeamish around insects, but to appreciate them and the important role that they play in nature. 

I probably shouldn't repeat this but a few months ago, Ava came to me and was very proud of the "worm" that she had found in our pile of brown leaves from last Autumn.  Well, it wasn't a worm, it was a maggot.  I calmly encouraged her to part with her new friend and to return him to his work helping to turn the leaves into soil.  Whew!  Who said parenting was easy anyway?

                                                          Fishing Spider






Marty's Progress

I can't believe we have had Marty in our home for only 48 hours.  It feels as though he has been part of our family for so much longer!  My daughter loves to sing any song that she can to him.  He has been "learning" the words to "Puff the Magic Dragon" as he has heard it many times already. 

Marty is recovering so quickly.  He is perky, eating well and grooming himself.  He has been flapping his wings a lot today, either to stretch or prepare for take off, not sure what it is.

We had a very warm day today with the humidex reaching 40 degrees Celcius.  I kept Marty inside our home, near a shaded doorway with a nice breeze to keep him cool.  At one point, he was lying down on his stomach around the warmest part of the day.

My daughter Ava felt that it would be appropriate to give Marty a bath - just to cool him off.  I complied with her request by putting a large and shallow bowl in his cage containing water.  Well, it was interesting to say the least.  The first thing Marty did was step into that bowl.  Then, he tried to step out of it.  The edges of the bowl had a slight curve, so he slid and wiped out.  If that wasn't enough, he then perched himself on the edge of the bowl and tried to fly, only to end up in his cage.  He kept getting in and out of the bowl.
It was apparent that his feet were adequately washed off, so I then removed the bowl.

Marty is very pleased to have the bedding changed.  I find that he eliminates quite frequently during the day, so we change the bedding (newspaper) twice a day.  I am thinking I might step it up to three times a day to ensure that he is comfortable.  He never tries to peck at me while I change his bedding, refresh his water and food dishes - he seems to have a little smile on his beak once I am finished. 

The most interesting part is that when I approach Marty or speak to him, he cocks his head to one side, watching and listening to me.  It's wonderful to see him responding to me.  He also does the same with Ava.  Whenever our Golden Retriever comes near the cage, Marty watches him with curious interest.

Early in the evening, after Marty's "bath", we put him outside on the back deck so that he could enjoy the fresh air and listen to the neighbouring birds.  Ava and I went to have a shower after a hot and humid day, so we put Bentley outside on the deck with Marty for protection against any feral felines looking for a snack.  See how we have adapted?  It feels like Marty has been with us forever!

My daughter coloured a page of a pigeon today.  I had meant to mention that Marty is a "Blue Bar".  He does not have blue colouring, it is simply the black bars or stripes on his feathers.  He does have pretty green and purple iridescent colouring around his neck area.  I was so moved by Ava's colouring and how she included the green and purple colours around Marty's neck that I wanted to share it with you below:

                                                 
                                         A Three Year Old's Rendition of Marty the Blue Bar Racing Pigeon

Thursday, 1 September 2011

"Marty" The Racing Pigeon


Yesterday afternoon while out for a walk with the children, we saw a pigeon walking around driveways and yards on our street.  The children went up to the pigeon and he didn't fly away, he just continued to peck at the ground searching for food.  I noticed that he had ring bands on both legs.

We continued on our walk and talked about this friendly bird while wondering who he belonged to.
A couple of hours later, the pigeon had made his way up the street and was in our next door neighbours driveway.  My neighbour had left her front door open and the pigeon hopped up the stairs and walked straight into her home.  We were all very surprised to see such a domesticated bird!

I ran home and grabbed a large container as we wanted to ensure that the bird remained safe until the owner was located.  My daughter named him "Marty".

Last evening my daughter read her books to Marty on the back deck while she ate her dinner beside his container.  I had covered the top of the container with chicken wire to keep predators away and to keep him safe.

I went onto the internet after reading the numbers on his ring bands and found out that the bird was registered with the Candian Pigeon Racing Union.  I read the bands closer and was able to make out the owners name and telephone number.  I then called the owner (who lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario Canada) and was surprised to find out that this young pigeon was born in June 2011 and has already won a race.
This past Sunday, August 28, 2011, his owner released him from a small town just north of North Bay, Ontario Canada and should have returned to his own home in Richmond Hill within about 4 hours.  Unfortunately, there was inclement weather along the route home and the pigeon lost his way.  He flew until he didn't have the strengthy to fly anymore and ended up on our street in Waterloo Ontario Canada, exhausted and hungry.

We are feeding Marty dried corn and sunflower seeds.  He immediately drank water and ate feed from the dishes I have set into his box.  The owner believes that it will take a week or two before Marty is strong enough to fly again and return home.  I cannot believe the excellent condition of Marty, he has not lost feathers and does not have any wounds considering his ordeal.
We agreed with the owner that our family will care for Marty until he is strong again.  Once he is ready to fly (we need to ensure that it is a clear day without any storms in the forecast) and we will release him into the air.  I am to expect that Marty will circle around in the air, trying to find his direction home by using the Sun as his guide.

The owner advised me that there is a possibility that Marty may choose to stay with us and not return home.  We will see what Marty decides!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Late Summer Sundial

The last week of August is in full swing and the forecast is warm and sunny.   As a family, we have been eagerly taking advantage of the late summer sun.  I love the cool nights which are equally balanced by the warm afternoons this time of year.

When we are outdoors and away from the clocks, it is easy to lose track of time while working in the garden harvesting our food and herbs.
I came across and easy project on making a Homemade Sundial.  Children of all ages can participate because it involves using their favourite things such as playdough, sticks and rocks.

Homemade Sundial:

We gathered 12 stones, 1 stick (about 3 inches in length) and a ball of our homemade playdough.
The time on the clock in the house read 11:30 a.m.  I started with 2 rocks (one representing 11:00 and the other one as 12:00) and ensured that the shadow from the stick lay in between those rocks. 
I then carefully lined up the additional rocks with the same spacing as the first 2 rocks.
You may have to adjust the rocks over the next day to ensure that their placement is accurate in order to tell time properly.

We really had a lot of fun with this!




Wilke Reflection of the Week
***Each week, our family takes time to pause, reflect and appreciate a special moment in our lives.  We would like to share this reflection with you.

Late Summer Shadow





Friday, 26 August 2011

Foraging Black Walnuts

Today at our local schoolyard, one of the children brought me a green "kiwi size" gift that they had found on the ground.  It turned out to be an Black Walnut that had fallen off of the tree.  I immediately became excited because I was not aware that there was a Walnut tree in the school yard.

We walked along the fence of the yard until we identified 2 Black Walnut trees standing side by side.  I was very excited about this find.  All of the children eagerly helped to pick up the walnuts that I had knocked to the ground from the lower branches.  In a couple of weeks from now, the walnuts will mature on the tree and the hulls will become much softer.  One will just need to touch them with a stick and they should easily fall to the ground...  I intend to go back for those walnuts on the higher branches.

Normally, we would wait a couple of weeks before harvesting Walnuts however, with the new school year literally around the corner, I knew that we had better start foraging today.  I always pack reusable grocery bags with us because the children are always finding things on our nature walks that they want to bring home.

For now, we are very satisfied with what we foraged today as we picked about 25 pounds today just from the lower branches.  My thumbs are stained brown for the next week due to the natural dyes of this nut. 

In order to preserve these "Green Goodies", you will need to remove the hull.  Before you begin this task, it is beneficial to wear gloves unless you want to go around with Brown stained hands for the next week.  If you do happen to stain your hands, I have read that massaging vegetable oil into the skin will help to remove it.  I tried this today and had no luck so I will be going around with brown stained fingers for the next week!

You should be able to remove the hull by smashing them with a hammer(wearing gloves!).  Black Walnut hulls are more difficult to remove than those of an English Walnut.  It is helpful to put cloth down underneath the walnut to eliminate any splattering of the juices.  I have read that some individuals will drive over them with a car to break them open.  I do not recommend this because it is dangerous. 

Once the hulls have been removed, you will need to rinse the "stones" with water to wash away any extra debris.  Ensure that you still have those rubber gloves handy for this messy job!  Now lay the stones out for curing in a dry place but not in direct sunlight.  It will take approximately 2-3 weeks before they are cured.

Now, what are you going to do with the hulls?  Well, place the hulls into a bucket and cover them with water.  Set them aside for 3 days, then boil the liquid and hulls for 2 hours to make a "walnut liquor".  This walnut liquor is a beautiful espresso coloured dye that you can use on your hair, boiled eggs at Easter or make a totally cool  tie-dyed T-Shirt.  Apparently from what I have read, the dye will last a very long time if stored in glass jars kept in a cool place. 

If you have any wooden project on the go, Walnut hulls provide a natural stain.  Voila!  You can finish your wood projects beautifully and naturally.  Most importantly,  in a couple of weeks you will have beautiful nuts to eat and it didn't cost you a thing!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Hurricane Irene - Go With the Flow - Or Not

Hurricane Irene - This immense storm has the ability to devastate largely populated areas along the Eastern Coast.

Our family has been monitoring the movements of this storm and are concerned about the size and unpredictability of this storm's path.

From my reading, it appears that many Eastern Residents in the predicted path are taking a "wait and see" approach.

The warnings and radar images have been more than sufficient in providing information regarding the strength and size of the upcoming storm.  I completely understand the reasons that Residents do not want to leave their businesses and livelihoods, however at the end of the day, we need to keep in mind that Mother Nature will judge the outcome.

Why do people want to "ride out the storm"?  As Homesteaders, it is our belief that this has to do with curiousity and/or a false sense of confidence and pride.  Our first thought is "why would anyone want to put themselves and their families through the unneccessary stress of being in the actual storm in the first place?"

Mandatory Evacuation Orders are currenty being implemented and it is important for those in the affected areas to heed the warnings.  We are saddened to find out that certain residents are not taking the warnings seriously and many are choosing to stay behind.

Even more saddening is the fact that those who are adamant in staying behind will most likely be the first persons requesting emergency help when the storm hits with all of its wrath.

As Canadians, we send our love, strength and prayers to the people and their families who are affected by the outcome of Hurricane Irene and hope that you are in a safe place.

Be Prepared, Don't Be Scared During Tornadoes

Our main focus for this blog is preserving our Family and our dear Mother Earth.  

As Homesteaders, we monitor weather conditions very closely because it directly affects our survival.  Hail, High Winds, Frost, Rain, Drought and Extreme Temperatures. 

We have experienced bizarre weather here in Southern Ontario over the last few days.  We have felt earthquake tremors and been under Tornado warnings as recently as last night.

Everyone in our area was on edge last evening.  The weather forecast predicted that the conditions were very favourable for tornadoes.  The storm was not expected to arrive until late afternoon/evening.  It took all day before the storm finally approached.  We had amazing lightning, thunder, rain and wind. 

Earlier in the day, I prepared all of the children for an emergency situation.  We reviewed our "Buddy System" (each older child is assigned to a younger child) and all of the children assisted in ensuring that we had enough supplies such as diapers, towels, books and toys for their "Buddy".  I packed food, water, first aid supplies and blankets.  I then went outdoors and secured my plants and furniture.

Our plan was to head to the bathroom in the basement in the case that the weather became severe.  I had all of the older children draw pictures of their own rendition of what a Tornado looked like to them.  We had some interesting pictures which opened up a lot of discussion.  Rather than the children being afraid of a potentially dangerous weather situation, they felt assured and prepared and this alleviated a lot of anxiety. 

At 9:00 p.m. the weather did in fact become severe.  Our local weather station sent out a Tornado Warning advising that everyone should seek shelter in their basement if possible.  We were prepared, not scared.  My 3 year old daughter understood the safety procedures outlined earlier in the day so she was very prepared to go down to the bathroom for shelter and safety.  Our Golden Retriever very willingly followed my daughter downstairs.

In the end, our area did experience damage and power outages however, we were not afraid because we were prepared.  I have always been taught that fear is caused by a lack of information and preparation when something happens beyond our control.

I woke up this morning and went to check my gardens. All of the plants were lush and green because of the nitrogen from the severe lightning the night before.  My neighbour informed me that the air was so full of electricity that that plants and grass turned vibrantly green as a result.  I told him that I wish it would have turned those tomatoes red.





Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Lavender Essentail Oil and Growing Pains

Lavender is one of my favourite plants.  Whenever I harvest Lavender , both my daughter and I have to take a moment and inhale the amazing aroma from the leaves.  Because we both prefer the colour purple, we enjoy the beautiful purple hue of the lavender flowers.


Many months ago, my 3 year old daughter presented with growing pains.  She was crying one evening while telling me that her legs hurt.  As a Mother and a Nurse, I recognized her complaints to be those of growing pains.  I do not recall having growing pains as a child but have seen other children complain of this during the bedtime hours. 

I quickly researched online for natural remedies to cure growing pains and found that Lavender Essential Oil is especially helpful in alleviating the aches while calming. 

You simply put a couple of drops of Lavender Essential Oil onto your hands and massage it into your child's legs.  I ask my daughter to show me the part of her legs that hurts.  I find that it is usually the calf area. 
Lavender has both a calming and therapeutic response in young children without having to resort to the use of medications such as Children's Tylenol or Advil.
Our cupboard is always well stocked with Lavender Essential Oil because we use it in our homemade Linen Sprays, Oatmeal and Lavender Soaps and Insect Repellent.

Baked Apples - The Wilke Way!




With the Autumn season just around the corner, I have been doing a lot of thinking about apples.  We always have an abundance of them in our household.  We add them to our meat dishes, rice, baked goods, cereals, spreads and just about everything we can.  With our Nesco Food Dehydrator, we make dried apple rings and fruit leathers.  I even use them for my crafts for the children.  Apples are indispensable.

Interestingly enough, my 95 year old Grandmother does not care for apples.  I curiously asked her why she chose not to eat them.  She told me that she had eaten too many as a child.  For her, having grown up during the Great Depression, foraging for food became an absolute neccessity.  When plates were empty, the children would forage the apples that had fallen on the ground and were not considered as fit for harvesting - but before the feral animals could take them.  Looking back, those foraged apples filled a hungry belly and helped to keep hunger pains at bay.  The Great Depression was a difficult time for children and adults alike.  Survival was the main focus.

I was trying to figure out something interesting for the children for our menu this week.  I felt that a lesson in
Baked Apples - The Wilke Way was an appropriate one.
We chose Royal Gala Apples because they were on sale in our local grocery store.  These apples were large in size and are perfect for eating just as they were, or baked.  Very versatile.
Since we are not completely self sustained, we do use our propane barbeque as much as we can in order to reduce our energy costs. 
The older children helped with the peeling and the coring of the apples.

Baked Apples - The Wilke Way
5 large Royal Gala Apples - peeled and cored
1 cup Brown Sugar
3 Tbsp. Butter
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Ground nutmeg
pinch of salt

Mix sugar, butter, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in bowl until it resembles a coarse mixture.
Slice apples into 1 inch wedges and lay onto a seasoned cast iron frying pan (we used a 10 inch pan).
Sprinkle sugar mixture ontop of apples.
Barbeque on low-medium heat for 20 minutes turning apple slices regularly to ensure even cooking.

The sugar mixture becomes a wonderful carmelized sauce.  Be sure to have Vanilla Ice Cream on hand!

Lugging Buckets!!!

Well, we started with an experiment in June by seeing much we could lower our water bills, through the use of Grey Water to flush our toilets.  This has now become part of our daily routine.  Once you start with Grey Water, there is no turning back!  You wouldn't want to - the proof is in that water bill!

I have lowered by water bill by almost 66%!  In our household that works out to about $70.00 each month.  Multiply that by 12 months per year for a savings of $840.00 per year.  $70.00 give or take is our grocery bill for a week.  Keep in mind that we try and buy as local and organic as possible.

Yes, we do have to clean our toilets more frequently (every 1-2 days) more for odour control than anything; however hard work really does pay off.  Lugging those buckets up and down my flights of stairs has built up my arms.  We save as much grey water from our laundry and bathing as possible.  My 3 year old daughter knows how to empty the bucket into the toilet bowl and to her this is a normal part of our toilet flushing routine. 

Gone are the days where she would endlessly flush the toilet after her "dolls" had a bowel movement or urinated.  Besides, why would anyone use good clean water that is suitable for drinking for the wasteful use of flushing a toilet?  I even use my dishwater to flush the toilet (as long as it is not too dirty with food).  Black Water meets black water - it all goes to the same place.  It is simple and it works!


Thursday, 21 July 2011

3 Month Food Storage Supply

3 Month Storage Supply:
We have been using our 3 month storage supply of food in order to limit trips to the grocery store in the intense heat.  We have stored essential items such as flour, jams, canned goods, baking goods along with frozen meats.  We will make a quick trip to the store for fresh fruits if required.
This 3 month storage supply will be replenished once the weather stabilizes and/or cools down, we hope!

Implementing a 3 month Food Supply sounds financially draining.  It doesn't have to be.  We started off by saving $5.00 every week and buying the things that we felt were most important.  Among the first items that we stocked up on we chose Peanut Butter, Oatmeal and Powdered Milk.  In our home, these were the items that everyone enjoyed, were healthy choices and filled a hungry belly.

I used to wonder, why someone would want to have a 3 month storage supply.  After having read many books about independence and self sustaining, keep in mind that this supply is not only for you and your family, it is also for your neighbours who could enter a crisis.

Seldom are we ever able to determine when our lives could enter a fragile situation; whether it is a job loss, illness, Mother Nature's Wrath, or a failure from our own utility companies.  We find comfort in knowing that we have nutritious food tucked away for a "rainy day" or two...perhaps 3 or more.

Among our food storage, we have acquired a wide range of fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, nuts, canned fish, grains, baking supplies (including powdered milk) and vinegar - most importantly, we have stocked drinking water.
***We have chosen foods in our storage that we would normally eat on a regular basis.  In order to rotate and keep our storage fresh and current, we go to our storage, take the item, then replace it by buying it from the grocery list.  The newly purchased item is then stocked behind the row of the same food and we keep on going.

Easy Peasy???

Well, it can be confusing.  I have a running spreadsheet that keeps track of what we use and what we need.  This sounds challenging, but trust me, a few minutes a day will save a lot of time in the end  instead of having to sort through your food storage if you don't keep track.

At the end of the day ( a stifling hot day for us), you will be feeling secure and comforted knowing that you are prepared to adequately feed your family during challenging times.
In our world, what we are doing is self sustaining and it is priceless to us.

Our Rain Barrels Are Dry

Our rain barrels have been dry for about a week now.  I have been very careful with our water usage around the house.  As we are only partially self sustained, we do rely on our external resources to help us out.
I have been very careful using our gray water for toilet flushing as well.  Saving our laundry water for pouring on the flower beds, reducing toilet flushing and shower times have been very helpful.

Unfortunately, we have had to resort to using the garden hose in the evening to save our garden plants. 
In order to restrict the amount of city water we are using ( I hear those dollar signs accumulating) we water around the base of our plants in the garden.  This promotes a stronger root growth as the roots will grow longer in order to search for water.
I have begun digging small trenches among the rows of our garden plants.  This helps to collect any extra run off and will help the garden retain water.  (This is a task for early morning or very late evening during a heat wave).
With very little rain in the forecast and high temperatures nearing 3 digits with the humidity, we are already practising living in survival mode.

Surviving The Heat Wave

It is 10:30 p.m. and the humidex is 38 degrees Celcius, rather 102.2 Fahrenheit. 
I am pleased to announce that we did not experience any brownouts or power outages today.  We were certainly well prepared in advance!

As we have young children and pets, we did put on our air conditioning 2 days ago.  This allowed the house to cool down in anticipation of today's weather.  Even with the air on, we avoided any strenuous activity in order to ensure that we stayed cool.

For our menu this week, I have selected items that are of a high water content.  Fruits and Vegetables such as Cantaloupe, Watermelon, Cucumber and Tomatoes (all of the common great foods we have growing in our gardens) have been welcomed by all of the children.  We have limited our cooking and baking and have been focusing on foods that are refreshing yet pleasing to even the youngest pallet.
Did you know that by eating proteins in hot weather, it can actually boost an individuals metabolism and increase their body temperature?
We certainly do learn something new every day.  So less protein and more fruits and vegetables for us!

In our home, everyone has regular water breaks, about every 10 minutes.  Even if they take a sip or two, it is a continuous hydration process.  In addition, we have been wiping all of the younger children down with wet washcloths (as they are unable to perspire properly) to ensure that their little bodies stay cool.  Our 7 year old Golden Retriever, Bentley has been enjoying icecubes in his water dish.  We only let him outside for toileting and that is enough for him to begin panting heavily before he wants back inside.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Heatwave and Blackout Preparation

Parts of the United States and Canada have had extremely high temperatures over the last week and a half.  If you combine the humidity with the actual air temperature, we have been dealing with 100 degrees Fahrenheit temps and over.  There is no relief in sight let alone rain.
Thursday's temperatures are expected to break records.  The humidex is expected to reach 48 degrees, which is equivalent to almost 119 F! 
Our soil in the gardens is cracking, the plants are drooping and the dog is panting.  We have a Golden Retriever who is finding this weather to be extremely warm and intolerable.  These days, we are letting him outside for toileting only.  He rushes right to the door and can't wait to get out of the heat.

I don't ever recall in the last 40 years having temperatures this high.  I have spent some time this evening preparing our meals for tomorrow.  Anything that requires cooking has been completed this evening, long after the sun has gone down.  I have done this to keep the heat out of the house and also to be prepared in case of a Blackout.
Due to the high temperatures, I am prepared in the case that there is an Blackout due to the immense strain on our electrical system.  I am aware that there will be an enormous strain on electricity when temperatures reach record breaking values during the afternoon on Thursday.
We have found terrrific ways of keeping cool during this heat wave.  This evening, my daughter and I went to the mall and got some exercise while enjoying a cool environment. 
Here are some helpful ideas on how to stay cool:
  • Don a wet bandana - this will keep your head cool
  • Stay out of the sun. Period! 
  • Frequently mist yourself with water, or use a wet washcloth on your arms, neck, chest and back to cool down - we do this hourly on those hot days
  • Drink a lot of water - around 1 cup every 20 minutes - don't let yourself get thirsty because if you do, you are already on your way to being dehydrated.
  • Wear light colours and loose clothing if you have to go out
  • Don't forget that sunhat and sunblock
  • Limit physical activity - with tomorrow's temperatures, lying around in a hammock under the shade of a tree sounds wonderful
  • Even using a Barbeque is a hot job on a hot day.  Try to have meals that include a lot of juicy fruits and vegetables.  Not only is this healthy and good for you, it is also hydrating.
  • Get into the water!  Find a community pool (many of which have extended hours during a heat wave like this one) and give your body a chance to cool down.
  • If you start feeling nauseated, have a headache, fever or trouble breathing, go to your emergency department immediately - please don't drive, seek help from a neighbour or call 911.
  • Children, the elderly and pets have an especially hard time in the heat and become ill very quickly.  It is important that they stay cool, resting and well hydrated.  Keep indoors!
Now that we have addressed ways to keep cool.  What happens if there is such a strain on our electrical system that we have a Blackout?  There are parts of North America (approximately 12 million people) who experienced a blackout on August 14th, 2003.  All of a sudden, we were faced without hydro which meant that we were completely without portable phones, electrical radios, appliances and lighting.  This also meant that restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, financial institutions and essential services had to rely on their back up generators (if they even had them) to maintain food supplies, generate funds and help those who were sick, etc.  We didn't have any warning whatsoever and people were not prepared.
I remember that evening seeing a lot of homes lit by candlelight and families out walking with their children because there was no t.v.  I stayed at home enjoying peace and tranquility while hearing the children outside playing.  I thought it was wonderful - but that is because I was prepared.
Here are some ways to prepare for an unexpected Blackout:
  • Have extra cash stashed away at home for emergency purchases
  • Fill up your car with gas
  • Have an extra filled propane tank for the BBQ - you can heat water and cook
  • Fans - if it's hot out there, you will need to have some paper handy to make those old fashioned fans!
  • Fill your bathtub with water.  You will need this to flush your toilets if there is an interruption to the water supply.
  • Drinking Water - stock up- ensure that you have at least 1 litre per person per day for a 14 day period.  You never know how long it will take for the power to come back on.
  • Keep your cell phone fully charged
  • Batteries - make sure that you have enough to power the flash lights if needed
  • Candles - dust them off and get them ready.  You don't want to be searching for them in the dark!
  • Comforters, heavy blankets and sleeping bags - These are to cover your deep freeze and refridgerator to help insulate and prevent your food from spoiling
  • Open up your doors to friends, family and neighbours.  You will be able to maximize your resources by bringing everyone together!
***Remember that by planning for the heat wave and the blackout, you are not only readying your own family, you may also need to help out a neighbour or a family who was not prepared and need food and resources. 
We wish everyone the best on Thursday and pray for wellness...
Please remember to check on the elderly and single persons on a regular basis during this immense heat wave.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Homemade Cough Remedy - Bring on the Onions and Honey

Well there has been an unavoidable early summer cold on the loose.  Myself, I have experienced a mild version however my little 3 year old Ava has been hit a bit harder with this bug.

I have always been skeptical about Cough syrup. 
Although I have a Nursing background, I have always been concerned that commercial cough syrups and their ingredients have an "anesthetic" approach to calming the typical cough.  The commercial cough syrups basically "numb" your throat so that you don't cough.  This is why it is not recommended for children under 6 years of age.
Can you imagine even ingesting these chemicals, let alone giving it to a child over the age of 6 years?
We have a different approach and do not believe in the commercial brands whatsoever.

This recipe includes only 2 ingredients which are staples in any home.  You should be able to look into your cupboards and Voila!  Minimal preparation and you have an amazing cough suppressant at your fingertips!

From the minute there is a "Cough" in the house, bring on the onions and the honey.  We use Pasteurized Honey only in our home to ensure wellness.

Here's what to do when the "cough" hits:

Slice one onion and put into a dish
Pour Honey over the onion, enough to cover
Place a piece of saran wrap over the dish
Let ingredients sit for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably 8 if time permits
Strain Honey from the onion (use onion for your next delicious stir fry or your compost)
Give One teaspoon of Honey/Onion infusion for cough as required

This is wonderfully healthy and it works!  You might not ever need to head to the pharmacy in the middle of the night for help supressing a cough when you have all of the ingredients in the comfort of your own home!

Herbed Oil Infusions

We have begun our herb oil infusions!
This is an exciting time of our early harvest as we are preparing oil infusions that will sustain us through the cold winter months.  Living in Canada with snow and ice through the winter months can certainly prove challening, however if you prepare in advance you can rest assure that you are prepared!

One of the many things we love about herbs aside from their amazing medicinal properties is that they are for the most part perrenials and require very little care once rooted. 

Basically, spend about $2.50 on a seedling that will last you for a minimum of 3 years, perhaps many years.  You will reap the benefits of these plants for many years ahead. 
***Just remember to harvest no more than 1/3 of the plant at a time to allow for new growth and even a bigger harvest in the following year.

Today, I have started our oil infusions and will continue to add extra strength to the oils in the coming months.
I prepared both a Spearmint Infusion and an Oregano Infusion.  I can hardly believe as to why people would actually buy these herbs at the grocery store and pay a premium price when they grow in your own garden like controlled weeds.  Mint can be especially invasive to other plants.  It seems to pop up out of nowhere and I have found that even my veggies growing close to my mint plant will have an undertone of mint when eaten.  My oregano plant has been growing for 4 seasons and keeps on going, bigger and bigger every year!

This year I dug around my mint and have inserted 2x4 wood to create a boxed off section in order to keep it under control.  You have to insert wood deep enough to prevent mint from sprouting new shoots from underneath the top soil.  I found that 4 inches of wood buried 3 inches under the soil have worked so far.  Lets keep our fingers crossed!

The infusions will keep us going through the cold Candian months that lay ahead and will help us with preventing and treating cold symptoms and other ailments.  My spearmint infusion is made specifically for our homemade toothpaste.

In order to prepare an herb infusion you will need a carrier oil such as Sweet Almond, Olive or Grapeseed oil.  Cut herbs just after the morning dew had dried off of the plants.
  • Wash herbs in cold water to remove any sand or particles.
  • Dry on papertowel and blot excess water with additional papertowel.
  • Pull leaves off of the stems.  Super easy part-just hold herb stem near top and run your fingers down the stem and the leaves will slide off quickly into a bowl.
  • Slightly bruise the leaves with the end of a Wooden Spoon.
  • Pack leaves as tightly as you can into a Mason Jar.
  • Pour carrier oil of choice over top of the leaves, ensuring that you cover all of the leaves in order to prevent bacterial growth.
Put jar in a cool dark place for a period of 3-6 weeks.  (We are putting ours away for a 4 week intervals before replacing the herbs)
After 3-6 weeks, strain the oil into a new jar, discarding the used herbal contents and replace with new herbs while keeping the same oil.  Keep doing this until you achieve the strength that you desire.
On our homestead, we will be repeating this process for the next several months to ensure that we have the maximum strength of oil required in our salves and balms.
This method of infusion can be done with any type of herbs, Lavender, Oregano, Thyme, Spearmint, Peppermint, Wild Rose, Feverfew,

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Preserving our Rose Petals

We have a beautiful rose bush at the front of our home that blooms every few weeks during the summer and produces hundreds of roses at a time.  These flowers are a beautiful deep dark pink and have a nice light fragrance.  We are preserving the rose petals in order to use them in our homemade soaps for our Christmas Baskets that we give as gifts.  We will start making the soaps when the cooler weather starts and have them ready in time for the holidays.  We will be eager to share our soap recipe in the coming months.

My lovely 3 year old daughter Ava was eager to get her hands on the flowers to help me pull off the petals and set them in pans to dry in the sun.  Harvesting rose petals was fun work for her and kept those little hands busy! 

After Ava tired, I took over the task.  I cannot tell you how relaxing it is to gently pull of the rose petals and scatter them in our pans.  The silky feel of the petals and the soft sweet smell of the flower's essence.  I understand why this is the flower of romance; I was in love!  In love with nature and the beginning of the bounty that will be harvested over the coming months.