Mending

My sewing machine oil can, purchased in 1969 at Woolco. It still does the job! Quality!

Attila is hard on clothes. He is a very physical person, in that he moves all of the time, even when he is asleep. His trousers take a real beating. Yesterday we discussed what would happen when he is called back to work, which is terrifying because we are both in high-risk-for-complications categories. In the event that he must reenter the manufacturing building where he works/worked, clothing becomes an issue. We want him to have an outfit for each day of the week, one that can be stripped off as soon he arrives home, and thrown into the washing machine. This means he must have five to seven discrete outfits to wear to work. Currently he only has two.

We won’t be purchasing any new clothes, our new budget will not allow such an extravagance. So Attila rummaged through the bottom of his closet and found three pairs of retired pants that were torn and tattered, that are 16/17/18 years old. Yesterday I spent the day repairing those pants, and adding patches where needed. Unfortunately one of the pairs needed patches of considerable size, and I don’t have suitable fabric to cut up for the patches, so that pair is sitting on my sewing pile, waiting for the opportunity to get a worn out used pair of black jeans for fabric, so that I can mend the pants.

Since we were still short one to three pairs of pants, Attila dug further. He found four pairs of worn out pants, of newer vintage and lower quality than the older pairs. I will be working on those pants for the next week or so, to bring them back into service. The lower quality makes repairs a lot more challenging to perform.

The sewing gets very tricky when the fabric is worn and frayed around the zipper opening. My sewing machine is not an industrial strength model, so stitching through thick layers of heavy fabrics is very challenging. I’ve managed to repair the flys on two pairs of pants so far, it takes a long time to accomplish.

My sewing machine is old, purchased in 1969, a Lotus Elna. It is a fantastic machine, Swiss made, and has worked flawlessly until this month. When I was making our face masks it stuck on the zigzag stitch, and would not convert to the straight stitch. This round of mending, the straight stitch is working just fine, so my machine is back to normal. Thank goodness.

I decided to give the sewing machine a cleaning and oiling before using it yesterday. Fabric fluff collects under the shuttle cover and the needle throat plate, and is easily removed with a small brush. The sewing machine oil is an amazing product. I purchased it at Woolco, just after I purchased the sewing machine in 1969. The oil can is still about half full, and it oils the machine as well as it did the year I bought it.

Worldly

Weather

11°C
Date: 10:00 AM EDT Wednesday 29 April 2020
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 11.4°C
Dew point: 0.2°C
Humidity: 46%
Wind: E 17 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”
Bertrand Russell
1872 – 1970

This is why I am so very careful about which sources of information to take seriously, the few news sources recognize their own shortcomings. So much of our “information age” is almost pure inaccuracy, offered up as expert advice by ignorant people.

Sunny and Warm

We have just had a lovely day! The weather was sunny, the temperature was a warmish 14C, the breeze was light and delightful.

Attila spent his day in the garden, preparing the soil for planting. This year he is expanding the garden, as he has time for such a project. Our hopes are high for a good growing season and harvest, but the weather and mother nature are really in charge, so we shall see what we get!

I have now been in self-isolation for just about two months, since February 27th. Attila joined me in self-isolation about a month ago. We are both enjoying having this time together, as we have never before had the opportunity to have so many hours sharing day-to-day life. It is going rather well so far. Of course it is early days, while we still have enough money for food, and to pay the bills, so things are pretty good by our account. Our biggest challenge is maintaining no-contact outside of our bubble while obtaining food, but we will get that figured out eventually.

Having Attila here during the day is a completely different way of life. Although it is a most welcome development, there is an aspect of disorientation to it as well. The rhythm of my days has been altered, my former routines are no longer working for me. I am just now beginning to establish new ways of doing things.

For instance, when Attila was working we were both up at 5:00 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. every weekday morning. After Attila left for work my morning would be quiet and contemplative, with only myself for company. Now, I wake up every morning anywhere from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., and Attila wakes up anywhere from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. He needs more sleep than I do. My quiet contemplative time is short, and occurs in the hour or so immediately after I awake. This seemingly small change completely alters the tone of my morning, and the structure of the days activities. New routines are slowly emerging, but not as easily, or as quickly, as I would like. I suppose it is good for me though, one doesn’t want to get too set in one’s ways.

Yesterday I baked Squash Muffins. Today I cooked dried beans, enough to freeze, and for Attila to make Refried Beans for himself. Attila and I did a tour of the garden, and it was wonderful to see the rhubarb doing very well, the garlic popping up, the walking onions growing to about six inches tall, and the strawberries Attila transplanted into the second hugelkultur bed putting out new leaves. The soil in my raised beds has fallen by about six inches, which is to be expected. Underneath the soil are piles of logs and branches, all of which will be settling and breaking down over time. I haven’t decided what to plant in my raised beds this year; I am leaning towards spinach, greens of various kinds, basil, and parsley.

We spend a few hours every morning reading the the provincial and federal reports on the coronavirus situation in Canada, and the news on how other countries around the world are faring. We are very disappointed with our local government representatives, who we feel are very near the bottom of the barrel in Canadian politics. We wonder how such people can live with themselves, and conclude we will never understand it. We discuss any concerns, and review our survival strategies if new information that directly affects us comes to light. Then we leave all of that business in a nice neat package, to be opened up again upon the morrow, and carry on with our own small doings for the day.

It has come as a complete surprise to me that Doug Ford, our Provincial Premier in Ontario, has risen to the challenge of leading this province through truly troubled and remarkable times. He has demonstrated abilities that might have remained hidden, had they not been so desperately needed.

And that is us, living quietly in a bubble of two, doing everything we can to keep ourselves out of harm’s way, wishing the best for our friends and loved ones, and waiting to see how each day will unfold.

Stay safe dear friends!

Worldly

Weather

14°C
Date: 7:00 PM EDT Saturday 25 April 2020
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 14.1°C
Dew point: -6.3°C
Humidity: 24%
Wind: E 10 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“When someone does something good, applaud! You will make two people happy.”
Samuel Goldwyn
1882 – 1974

Grocery Whinge

Being in the high-risk-for-complications category in this pandemic, we have been doing the online shopping thing. Our area has no grocery store delivery to home or vehicle, but they do offer grocery store pick up. It is very popular, and to get a slot I have to get up very early in the morning, as that is when the one day of available slots opens, and the slots fill completely, very quickly. Then we wait weeks for our allotted slot to come around. Products come and products go on the list of what is available, it like a carnival game, aiming at a moving target. So I have been choosing a product, and an alternative product, for everything that we really need, in hopes that one of them will be available.

But what we miss the most, is the ability to take advantage of sales. We have always enhanced the variety and quality of what we could eat by shopping sales. There are several problems with attempting to shop sales when one shops online at our local NoFrills store, rather than in the store. One is that by the time our delivery day rolls around, and the order is being plucked from the shelves, all of the sale items are gone, and if we unwittingly ordered those products, we get no product. This has happened to us on both pick up orders so far. We try to compensate for that by ordering a far more expensive alternative item as well. Our edit-the-order date expires before the date that the sale takes effect. The next time I try for a slot I will be aiming for a weekday that is at the beginning of a sale period, then order the sale item, and the expensive alternative if it is a needed item, one of them might make it into the cart. Since the orders are three weeks apart, getting a strategy figured out is going to take months.

Then there is the risk of pick up. When Attila picked up our order last week, he was the only person wearing a mask. That means if there is community spread, the asymptomatic community spreaders are out doing their worst, not protecting others. I wish the grocery store would deliver to the vehicle, how much more difficult could that be? They are only allowing one pick up every hour, surely someone could be spared to run it out to a waiting vehicle, instead of taking it out of the cart and putting it in cupboards!

And then, there are the unimaginable substitutions. For instance, we ordered frozen orange juice, paid for frozen orange juice, and received Broccoli and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts, which are full of sodium and chemicals, and are something we would not have put in our cart in a million years. I am going to have to try for the orange juice again. I did call the NoFrills customer service about this, and after 1 1/2 hours on the telephone I was awarded a voucher as compensation, but the voucher will not work with our present order, and may not work with our next order, we will have to wait for more than a month to find out. If the voucher doesn’t work, I’ll be spending a lot more time attempting to speak with NoFrills customer service, and even more if similar substitutions come our way. It is all very stressful. I feel helpless, not being able to obtain food in a reliable manner. I suppose we will get used to this, there do not seem to be any improvements being considered for independently living seniors and vulnerable people.

Add to this that we clean some of our groceries now, before they come into the house, and quarantine the rest of the items in the basement when washing won’t work. There are no sanitizers available for sale here, but soap we have, so far. I hear that sanitizers appear on the shelves occasionally, but our distant-future order hasn’t happened on a day when they were on the shelves.

Grocery shopping has taken on a nightmarish quality, it is something to dread.

There are no delivery services here for seniors and vulnerable people, or any other kind of helping services. Almost no masks are worn in public, no assistance offered with no-contact shopping unless one pays for it, I shudder to think how badly our quality of life is going to erode as we ride out this pandemic.

There is one community in Ontario that I am familiar with, that is stellar, and that is the community of Parry Sound, Ontario. Their humanity has coloured my opinions of our local lack of response, their example is hard to live up to. The Rotary Club in Parry Sound has stepped up to the plate and assists vulnerable people with no-contact shopping services, just a phone call away. One of the most community minded communities in Ontario!!

Worldly

Weather

4°C
Date: 3:00 PM EDT Thursday 23 April 2020
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 4.2°C
Dew point: -12.8°C
Humidity: 28%
Wind: S 15 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.”
George Bernard Shaw
1856 – 1950

Vegetable Madness

500 ml jar of Squash Sauce Maggie's Own
Squash Sauce Maggie’s Own made with our garden squash that was pureed and frozen in the autumn of 2017. The recipe is getting closer to what I would like, Attila however feels this recipe is perfection, for his taste buds anyway.

We can produce vegetables here at Mist Cottage, so going forward the focus for our diet will be on what we have access to, vegetables.

Today’s project consisted of tweaking my very own recipe for Squash Sauce Maggie’s Own.

The day before yesterday I canned Coleslaw, which uses cabbage, carrots, onions, and red pepper. All of these things are grown in Ontario, and hopefully will be accessible going forward. Our garden cabbage last year was amazing, so delicious, so we hope to get an even bigger crop this fall, and Canned Coleslaw will be high on my autumn canning list.

The Canned Coleslaw was a big success, we have already eaten three jars of it, and there are three left. The wonderful thing about this recipe is that it could be made and canned, made and frozen in serving sizes, or made and refrigerated for immediate consumption. You wouldn’t have to can it, you could freeze it, or refrigerate it to eat it all up within a few days. I don’t know what the texture would be like if it was frozen, or refrigerated, if you try it let me know. We loved the canned product, which has a long shelf life, and can be stored at room temperature, so no freezer space is needed. Our freezer space is at a premium, so anything that can be stored at room temperature is a boon.

My next vegetable experiment will be to dehydrate carrots, just to see how it goes. Dehydrated vegetables can be stored in sealed jars indefinitely, so I will be testing different vegetables to determine which work best preserved that way. I am very keen to dehydrate onions and garlic, but that will have to wait until they are either inexpensive, or we learn how to grow them in quantity here on our small urban plot. Our garden plans are bigger than our yard, so we will have to be judicious in our choices.

Worldly

Weather

2°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Wednesday 22 April 2020
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 2.4°C
Dew point: -12.9°C
Humidity: 32%
Wind: W 31 gust 47 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
Benjamin Franklin
1706 – 1790

These days it seems that no one is leaving things unsaid in those tempting moments.

Canned Coleslaw and a Bit of Advice

Five jars of canned Coleslaw and a pan of Strawberry Rhubarb Squares. There were six jars of Coleslaw, we ate a jar of it for dinner last night.
Note the experimental Tattler Canning Lids, and the one lone Bernardin one-use used metal lid, on the jars.
The Strawberry Rhubarb Squares were made with the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling I canned last spring, with our garden Rhubarb, and the strawberries we picked at a pick-your-own farm.

At our house, the lastest thing since sliced bread is canned coleslaw. Wow!

Attila chopped the vegetables, and I took care of everything else from there. Canning projects are so easy with two people, not only does the job go quicker and easier, but there is also a sense of connection in sharing the tasks, connection to each other, and connection to our food, for both of us. If I were to give away some of the canned products, I think I would also feel a connection to those people who would be eating my creations. Of course, we struggle, and will have to struggle harder from here on, to ensure we have enough to eat, so we aren’t giving away any food, that would mean we would go without.

Coleslaw is something I have not tried to can before, so the whole concept was new to me, the recipe, and the techniques used. Since the coleslaw would be consumed within a week or so, and the jars would not be going into longer term storage, I decided it was the perfect time to experiment with the Tattler lids I purchased a few years ago. The Tattler lids were a big disappointment, the learning curve is very, very steep. I was confident I could master the skill, but alas, after many failed jars, I realized I had met my match. I gave up and went back to the the 100% reliable one-use, tried-and-true metal canning lids. In four decades of canning , not one metal lid has failed on a canning jar, no food has been lost, not even once. The Tattlers were 80% failure. Experimenting with them was put off until a suitable project presented itself, a project like Canned Coleslaw.

As I sit here writing the jars of coleslaw are waiting on the counter, as they must for at least 12 hours after being removed from the canner. Of course, one was consumed for dinner last night, and it was delicious. Also, the Tattler lid on that jar had sealed, yes! But it must be remembered that many of the Tattler lids in the past sealed, only to loose the seal after a week, two weeks, a month, meaning the jars on which they were used had to be constantly checked every few days. Checking lids every few days is far too labour intensive. But since this coleslaw will be sitting in the cupboard in the kitchen, the task will be easily performed, and is a part of the experiment.

The other experiment in the project was the reuse of a previously used metal canning lid. It sealed! So reusing metal canning lids for products that will be eaten within a few weeks is something that is viable at our house. Of course this is NOT RECOMMENDED practise, I am saying that up front, because it is definitely not considered a safe practise. Still, when needs must, metal one-use lids are expensive, and right now are not even available. I will be keeping a very close eye on that one jar with the used lid!

The really, really important aspect of the project is that we LOVE the canned coleslaw. It tastes great, so we will eat it. Other considerations are: cabbage is cheap, the vegetables are all good for us, we leave out the salt so it is sodium-free, it is an instant vegetable side dish or entre, it is easy to preserve, we can grow all of the vegetables required in our small yard, and all of the vegetables are grown in Ontario, so they might be readily available going forward in the new economy.

I will tweak this recipe in several ways. The salt is omitted. The syrup in the recipe was doubled. It was too sweet for us, so the sugar will be reduced, not drastically, but reduced. The important preservative in this canning recipe is the vinegar, so that ingredient stays the same no matter what.

Taking a break from writing, I am just now back from the kitchen. The rings on the Coleslaw jars were removed, and all of the jars sealed. That was good news! The jars were washed to remove any sticky remnants of syrup around the lids or on the jars, and all of the jars are still sealed. That was good news! The jars are lined up at the back of the counter, where I can check the seals on them every day. If a seal fails the jar will go into the refrigerator and if it smells and tastes fine, will be eaten within 24 hours. It is hoped none of the seals will fail. Time will tell.

If I were to give advice to people who are new to canning, this is what I would relate.

First, learn the difference between high acid and low acid foods, this is fundamental to safe canning. The method of canning is different, depending on the acidity of the food you want to can.

High acid foods are most fruits, and canned items like jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes, and can be steam or water bath canned.

Low acid foods are most vegetables, meats, beans and legumes, fish, and many other foods and MUST be pressure canned.

Reliable canning books and online resources have information on what foods are high acid and what foods are low acid, and how to can them safely.

For people canning for families of three or more, intending to can a substantial amount of high acid foods, this larger, stainless steel Victorio Steam Canner is what I would recommend. It Handles 8 pint or 7 quart jars, for canning, AND can also handle 20 quarts of liquid if you use it as a stock pot. It is easy and simple to use, and does not use a lot of water.

For people canning for one, or two, intending to can small to medium amounts of high acid foods, this smaller, lighter and easy to handle aluminium Victorio Steam Canner is what I would recommend. It handles and processes up to 7 quart or 8 pint jars of high-acid foods at one time, does not work as a stock pot, but does allow people with most mobility issues to can with ease. It uses very little water, and does not require lifting jars out of the top of a large pot. I love mine, because I can use it for small batches of the foods I forage, like dandelion blooms, and small batches of jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes.

For people on an extreme budget, or who just want to try out high acid food canning to see if it is for you, low-budget water bath canning may be the way to go. You may already have a pot in your kitchen that will work for water bath canning, as long as it is deep enough to cover the jar lids on a rack with 2 inches of water, and there is a rack or means of keeping the jars from sitting on the bottom of the pan, e.g. use canning rings.

Low acid foods require a Pressure Canner (not a pressure cooker). There are two pressure canners that I would suggest. The first I have not used, but have interacted with dozens and dozens of seasoned canners who rely on it, the Presto 23 Quart Pressure Canner. It is apparently easy to use, and very reliable, and has a relatively reasonable price point, it does require a gasket that needs to be replaced occasionally, and has a gauge that needs to be tested annually. The other is the All American Pressure Canner, which is relatively expensive, will last for generations if it is used as recommended, has a metal on metal seal with no gasket required, and can operate with the weight and/or the gauge. Gauges need to be tested regularly to rely on them, but the weight is a piece of metal that does not require upkeep to be deemed reliable. There are NO ELECTRIC PRESSURE CANNING appiances that have been deemed safe for pressure canning by the USDA, in particular no model of Instant Pot should be used for low acid pressure canning, they have been tested and deemed unsafe, despite statements by the manufacturer.

Now, to talk about knowledge. To learn how to can safely, the books by Ball, Bernardin, or Kerr are the way to go, or the free online resources The National Centre for Home Food Preservation, the University Extension Service sites, or the Ball, Bernardin or Kerr web sites, are up to date and reliable sources of information on recommended techniques, and tested recipes.

Always use tested recipes until you evolve into an expert canner, which takes years of experience and study. Botulism can permanently maim or kill, carelessness in canning can be unforgiving, but there is little risk (I feel no risk) unless you fail to follow reliable techniques and recipes. Do not rely on Pinterest, Youtube, or personal blogs for canning techniques or recipes (that includes my blog by the way).

Note that this entry is based on a recipe that is not tested by reliable sources, so use the recipe at your own risk. I am a seasoned canner, and consider myself an expert canner. This is my personal reasoning in using the recipe. It is a pickled product, so if it spoils I will immediately smell it is off. Pickled products will not harbour botulism, the only undetectable danger in the world of canning food. I will trust it is safe unless I detect an off smell or taste, and even then it would probably not hurt me if I ate it, there is no danger of botulism in pickled products, but I wouldn’t eat it.

Well there you have it, brief, unasked for advice. I love canning, just as I love all aspect of food preparation and food preservation, so writing about it delights me.

Stay safe dear friends!

Worldly

Weather

6°C
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Tuesday 21 April 2020
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 99.5 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 5.5°C
Dew point: -1.8°C
Humidity: 60%
Wind: W 31 gust 55 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“I have found that everything wants to kill you. For some things, like fast food, or riding a bike, it just takes longer.”
Devin J. Monroe
1983 –

Eat your vegetables!!