I am still making the transition from months of being super busy with the garden and food preservation, to the quiet and peaceful passage of short winter days.
Bread baking has been of interest lately, several loaves of bread with dried fruit were baked, and consumed entirely by me! I love bread, and particularly bread with dried fruit. It is a bit of a luxury item, but as a sweet treat, it ranks up there with the healthiest. Bread here at Mist Cottage is now made exclusively with organic whole grain flour, milled right here at home. I am busy looking at recipes for Christmas treats, Panettone, Pulla, Stollen, Paska (Easter Bread), Babka, Nissua, and many more. What fun!
Making all these specialty sweet breads is fine and dandy. However, there is an issue, and that is me! If that bread is sitting in the bread box, I am eating it for every single meal! I cannot resist it. So I am on a campaign to balance my diet. First off, I will make very small loaves of sweet breads, and freeze most of them, so only one small loaf is on the go at one time.
My other measure to balance my diet, is to include vegetables in every single meal. This morning, for instance, breakfast consisted of 1/2 cup frozen chopped organic spinach (our garden), 1 medium onion chopped, olive oil, and an egg. The onion were sauteed in olive oil, spinach added and sauteed, and finally the egg was broken into the pan, stirred in, and cooked just until done. It was very good. For lunch I plan a cream of mixed vegetable soup, made from a roux, one cup of 1% milk, and a cup of cooked mixed vegetables (frozen from the store).
Canning soup bases that require only the addition of cooked noodles or cooked rice to ready them for serving, is on the to-do list. So are canned jars of chicken stew, and beef stew.
Another project that would be good to pursue during the winter, is trying to master Tattler canning lids and rings. They are reusable, and so very desirable. But the learning curve is steep, I’ve had about 80% failure rate so far. Due to the failure rate, I’ll be experimenting canning water until my skill level increases significantly.
There are a few sewing projects that need tackling, but they will have to wait until the basement insulated walls are completed. There just isn’t a horizontal work surface available for a sewing machine right now.
Date: 9:00 AM EST Tuesday 19 November 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Dew point: -6.1°C
Wind: NNW 14 km/h
Wind Chill: -6
Visibility: 24 km
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014
Interesting to note that when I was doing a bit of poking around on Google about Maya Angelou, the suggested other people of interest included Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Margaret Atwood. Well, I admire the integrity, compassion, and talent of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker… the third candidate just makes me shake my head, not in Morrison or Walker’s league, in my opinion, and I admit to being slightly offended by her inclusion.
Just minutes ago I labeled two tubs of pureed pie pumpkin, and placed them in the freezer. Then the kitchen was handed over to Attila for his projects. He is cooking a variation on scalloped potatoes, and is including in his dish the last garden Zucchini, and some organic carrots purchased at the grocery store. When that project is safely in the oven, the very last tomatoes, that had been set to ripen in the basement more than a month ago, will be brought upstairs to be either cooked or composted. We had the last ripened beefsteak tomato in our green salad last night.
By this evening the very last of the garden harvest will have been either eaten or preserved or composted! Well not entirely, there are about 10 small beets still in the garden, and some carrots, which have been miniature this year. We will cook these vegetables immediately. The garden harvest preservation projects are over for this year.
As the garden and preservation projects have slowly wound down, other projects have been initiated.
Our basement is not insulated, and unheated. As a result, the floors are cold underfoot. We lose heat through the bare concrete blocks. This winter the most exposed expanses of blocks will have stud walls constructed, insulation installed, vapour barrier installed, finished with plywood, and finally painted. In order to do this, our belongings have to be moved out of the way. This is no small task! Attila has been organizing and rearranging things down there for two weeks now, and there is lots more to accomplish before the insulating project itself can begin.
One of the solutions we have had to implement, is to move all of the food preservation equipment into the living room. It is cluttered and crowded in here now, but I can still get around. At some point, if the insulating project slows down too much, which I hope it won’t, I will be applying significant pressure for completion! Hopefully it will all be done and dusted before Christmas, so we will have room for a Christmas Tree!
Small house living is cozy and comfortable most of the time. But I have to say that it is most uncomfortable during interior renovation projects!
I have been experimenting with my bread baking, as the food preservation season has slowed down. Today I have an Organic Whole Wheat Apple Raisin Bread on the go. I love my bread! The experimentation is in addition to the Organic Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread I always keep on hand for Attila’s lunches. I love Quick Breads as well, and baked Banana Chocolate Chip Raisin Oatmeal Muffins yesterday, so that we would have snacks for the weekend.
The blanket I have been crocheting was set aside for most of the warm season, it was just too uncomfortable to be working with a blanket on my lap, in the heat. But now that the cold winter weather is here, it is a perfect project. If I accomplish a row a day I am happy.
Now that I have learned how to get down to, and up from, the floor without pain, I’ve been taking on all kinds of projects that have been neglected until now. The bottom kitchen cupboards held many pleasant surprises, as I unearthed items that will be very handy. But most importantly I am finally reorganizing the whole kitchen to suit our cooking and preserving activities. We moved here four years ago now, and the dust is just starting to settle. It will take some time, and I need Attila to build some specific shelving, but the items that will be stored on those shelves can sit on the kitchen table until the basement insulation project is complete, and we will eat on trays.
Attila was just saying to me, that he didn’t realize when we bought Mist Cottage, just how much work was needed. I don’t think I did either. We have made a lot of improvements over the last ten years of ownership, but we are a long way from completing the basic structural improvements that were needed. After the basement is insulated, we will eventually need to gut the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms, update the wiring, insulate, install vapour barrier and drywall, and then paint. And then there are the floors!
One thing Attila and I both agree on heartily, is that the new front door makes a world of difference! It is as attractive as it is functional.
I am as happy as a clam here. Attila says he is as happy as a clam here. That adds up to it being a pretty good situation.
Date: 3:00 PM EST Saturday 16 November 2019
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 103.6 kPa
Dew point: -16.4°C
Wind: NNE 16 km/h
Wind Chill: -11
Visibility: 24 km
“It’s funny how dogs and cats know the inside of folks better than other folks do, isn’t it?” Eleanor H. Porter 1868 – 1920
My Mom lives an active life, not as active as she did in her 70s, but still very active and engaged. She is as sharp as a tack. Up until the huge storm that took out the complex she visited every winter in Florida, she was driving to Florida and back, by herself, every winter for a few weeks of well deserved R&R. She continued to to do this even after her health episode in 2015, which left her with a few ongoing health challenges, which she handled with aplomb.
Mom lives with Sister-The-Middle-Girl, and has for the last 26 years. Sister-The-Middle-Girl had a really good job when she gave birth to her only daughter 26 years ago, and in order to continue on her highly successful career path, invited Mom to live with her, to provide round-the-clock child care and housekeeping. Mom loves children, so this was right up her alley, she accepted. Mom not only provided the best in the world child care for my sister’s daughter, she also provided incredible care and support for Sister-The-Youngest-Girl’s three children who lived just down the road.
Mom drove children to lessons, games, events, school, you name it, my Mom was there for those Grandchildren, day and night, and in so doing my sisters were able to invest the time required to maintain the demands of careers, and have the best care possible for their children at the same time. No matter what came up, Mom was willing to reschedule her life around her Grandchildren, and she did. They all thrived, my sisters, my brother-in-law, my Mom.
My nieces and nephews have all grown up now, and are headed off into their lives with a great start, thanks to my Mom’s dedication. It is time for Mom to enjoy the results of her dedication, when she needs it most. And luckily enough, Sister-The-Middle-Girl is planning on retiring soon, so she and my Mom will be able to share a loving life at home, after all their years of work. They will have fun! How wonderful it will be for Mom, to live with her appreciative family, sharing life with the people she loves most, in her golden years.
Date: 7:00 AM EST Friday 8 November 2019
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.4 kPa
Dew point: -9.0°C
Wind: NW 15 km/h
Wind Chill: -13
Visibility: 24 km
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela 1918 – 2013
It is snowing here this morning, lots and lots of snow. It is melting too, but enough is falling out the sky to accumulate significantly on the branches of the tree branches outside my windows, about 4 inches so far.
I love the first snowfall of the season! It is pretty. But beyond the visual is the feel of the soft white blanket that now surrounds my little house. The busy brashness of late autumn sounds has been muted. White brings sharp visual contrast to the landscape. I can see paths in the snow, where squirrels and rabbits have made their way in our yard. That is on the outside of me.
On the inside of me is a deep feeling of containment and contentment. I am cozy here in my little house, warm enough, well fed enough (understatement), and peacefully occupied enough to love where I am. The first snow always brings into sharp focus how wonderful it is to have a peaceful home to live in. I stepped out onto the back porch this morning, to take out the compost bucket, and to bring in some washed and dried plastic bags that were hanging on the clothesline, and oh what a pleasure to breath deeply that air, so sharp and crisp and biting. And then, what a delight to retreat back into the warmth of this little house.
These feelings of wonder at the first snow never get old. They return every year in late autumn, when the world first turns white. It is amazing to me that I feel this way every year, despite having experienced late winter impatience for it to melt away.
The first snow marks a turning point in the seasons, a natural turning point, dictated by mother nature herself, and it is delightful.
There is another turning point at this time of year however, that is not so delightful, nor is it natural in any way. It is a corporate interest turning point that occurs here in Ontario, where we have Time-Of-Use monitoring and billing for the electricity we use. It is the perfect opportunity to increase prices, and inflict restrictions on the domestic population of Ontario, Canada.
On November first we were switched to winter rates and time schedules. The rates have increased of course. And what this also means is that I must do my daily tasks that use electricity either before 7:00 a.m. in the morning, or after 7:00 p.m. in the evening. In other words, the most economical hydro is largely available overnight, when I sleep. This is very, very inconvenient, and changes the way my whole day is structured.
There is a period of mid-peak pricing from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., when I will undertake tasks that I feel just cannot be done during the 12 nighttime hours when the electricity is least expensive. But I try to avoid doing that, because it will affect our monthly billing.
It seems Hydro One is determined to make the short cold winter days as dark and dreary as they possibly can.
Heating is our priority, and it is a service I do not want to cut back on significantly, despite the government urging seniors to turn their heat down! The government paid for ads a few years ago, showing an elderly woman wrapped in a blanket, turning down her thermostat, like that was the RIGHT thing to do. I hope the genius who thought up that ad, and the one who chose to run with it, have severe arthritis in their older years, and find themselves wrapped in blankets in chilly homes, doing the RIGHT thing. Heartless campaign.
I’ve been busy. One of the things that has come to my attention is that I experience significant pain if I try to get down on the floor, or back up from the floor. Arthritis is not my friend. All of my life I have been physically nimble, hale and hearty. Age is having none of it! So I did a bunch of research on techniques for getting down on the floor, and up from the floor, and have been practicing. And the practice is paying off, after a few days of cleaning shelves that can only be reached if one is down on the floor, I can now get down, and up again, without experiencing pain. I still forget I am not young anymore, and without thinking try to get down, or up, as I had whole life through, for decades and decades. But pain is a determined reminder that adaptation is required.
On Tuesday I made a loaf of 100% whole-wheat low-sodium bread in the bread machine. The whole loaf contained only 1200 mg of sodium. I added dried mango and dried cranberries to it. Wow, it was so good. I love bread with dried fruit in it.
When I was a single Mom on a tight time and financial budget, a loaf of bread with mixed fruit in it was my only special treat. I even dreamed about that loaf of bread at night, watching the slices fall as I opened the bag. I love breads and pastries. Yesterday, I could not resist having my homemade bread with butter for breakfast, again for lunch, and as a bedtime snack. And I had it for breakfast again this morning, and again at lunch. I know I will not want to eat anything else until that loaf of bread is all gone, and it won’t be long. Well, it is best fresh, right?
I was so in love with the bread I made, that I decided I needed more dried fruit in the house, with which to make it. Out came the dehydrator, to dry the Gala apples purchased at the grocery store this past week. They are Ontario apples, and on sale at the moment for $1.00 a pound. They were peeled, cored, sliced thin, then spread out on the racks. I ran the dehydrator at 140F last night after 7:00 p.m. when the hydro cost dropped to off-peak pricing, and turned the heat down to 90F for the night, to let it run overnight. It seemed best to keep the temperature down when the unit was not being supervised. It was turned off this morning at 6:58 a.m.. The apples are not dry yet, a little rubbery, so they aren’t done. Tonight the dehydrator will be turned on to 140F again at 7::00 p.m. and will run again all night if need be.
The apples cores and peels are now in the crock turning themselves into Apple Cider Vinegar, which needs to be stirred daily to prevent mold.
Last Friday the pressure canner was put into service again, this time to can six 500-ml jars of Taco Soup. These are intended for my lunches, on those days when I am suddenly hungry and just can’t figure out what to eat. Since there were no empty jars left, the pressure canner was cleaned and back into storage it went. But Attila, upon finding out that the jars were all in service, picked up another dozen jars when he was out and about. So there will be more canned instant meals on the way soon.
The cabbages were first harvested in September. Each stem that was left started to grow new little cabbages. Attila harvested them on the weekend, and now we have a 1 liter jar of sauerkraut fermenting in the basement. Hopefully this batch will be a success!
Date: 11:47 AM EST Thursday 7 November 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.3 kPa
Dew point: -3.5°C
Wind: NNW 14 km/h
Wind Chill: -6
Visibility: 16 km
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy: They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922