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)



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, (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  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!