Books. I have conducted a life long love affair with books. My Mom and Granny read to us when we were little. When I was very young, I associated the act, of transforming black marks on a page into a story, with magic. Books possessed a mysterious alchemy. It was a revelation and a wonder, when I learned it was a mere and predictable configuration of lines and spaces that unlocked the secrets of the written word. Magic suddenly became an easily understood formula. The mystery of books dissolved. But to my surprise the magic continued. There are worlds in books.
Having taught myself to read before I entered the education system, with encouragement and a few basic tips from my Granny, I’ve dedicated a lot of waking hours to the pursuit of reading. My youth was spent reading literature. The first book I ever took out of the school library was Pilgrim’s Progress, and to be honest I wasn’t impressed with the story. Then I discovered The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis, and a new and deeper perspective on religious theory opened up to me. Later, during my teen years, when I toiled at manual labour in my summer job picking fruit on a farm, I would read a book at night, and spend the next day, high on my ladder, or on me knees in a field, thinking about what I had read, turning it all over in my mind, looking at it from this perspective and that. My days, although filled with strenuous repetitive work, flew by, and I learned the freedom and joy of manual labour, the mind can fly.
When I entered post secondary education reading took on a completely different cloak. Articles and books were assigned, there was little to no time to explore ideas freely, knowledge was tightly conscribed to a narrow path. I learned to embrace that too, and to love the discipline of it. As time progressed, and I continued with my degrees, concepts and theories deepened in meaning, connections and pathways of thought revealed themselves.
When I left the academy, I was suddenly free to choose my own reading material. Oh the joy in that! I read primarily works written by women, for in the academy the vast majority of authors chosen for me were male. Then, after years of reading only female authors, I began to choose books based on a wide variety of elements.
Which brings me to the book I have most recently read, Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset. I bought this book in the early autumn of 2017, while I was still in mourning after the death of my brother in 2016, intending to read all 1124 pages over the course of the winter. Fate had other plans for me though. It was shortly after I began reading the book, and settling into a peaceful daily routine as the colder weather set in, that Attila announced he was leaving me. After that there was no peace in my life, for a very long time, and although I read occasionally, I did not read often. Attila did not leave, and slowly through 2018 life settled, and a new and fragile peace unfolded. Through 2019, I increasingly turned to my books.
On Saturday last, I turned the page to the very last, in the book Kristin Lavransdatter. I enjoyed the book, the medieval setting in Norway was authentically portrayed, as much as it could be for a book written in the 20th century. I occasionally found it tedious, as it dealt with the religious beliefs, and political climate, the superstructure, of the time. However, the author did not become lost in a fervour of religious or political details, but returned to the small scale human experience when the larger scale contexts of the time had been fleshed out.
I felt a little lost, when I closed the volume for the last time. This book sat by my side through some of the saddest moments in my life. And now, it is time to say thank you Sigrid Undset, thank you for the journey, the time we shared in the magic of story in a book. This book will always be a portal into my time of sadness, and the lights in my life that led me onward and outward.
Date: 8:00 AM EDT Monday 15 July 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Dew point: 15.8°C
Wind: NW 6 km/h
Visibility: 24 km
“The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves.” William Hazlitt 1778 – 1830
Most of the time, when I read a recipe, I can tell if I will like the resulting dish. But every once in a long while I misfire and the recipe is an epic fail, at least for my taste buds.
I recently found just such a recipe, for an oatmeal breakfast dish cooked in the Instant Pot. I like all of the ingredients, oatmeal, water, carrots, pineapple, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Wow, I thought, what a great breakfast that would make, oatmeal and whole servings of vegetable and fruit, perfect. So I made up a batch a week and a half ago.
Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but not this time. This time the whole was much, much less than the sum of its parts. Blech! It was awful.
But, all those paid for ingredients had gone into it, so there was nothing for it but to struggle through eight less-than-stellar breakfasts. The last empty bowl was just rinsed in the sink this morning. It is done. I am healthy. I ate to live, and I am sure my health benefited from it, even if my taste buds did not.
I believe there are better recipes for me, just as healthy, but far more enjoyable. The search continues.
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Friday 12 July 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.9 kPa
Dew point: 20.3°C
Wind: NW 13 km/h
Visibility: 24 km
“Success is following the pattern of life one enjoys most.” Al Capp 1909 – 1979
The trip to the Camp allowed us the opportunity to keep abreast of ongoing issues.
Issue One: Mice! After not catching any mice for many weeks, we arrived at the Camp to find the mouse trap had captured one mouse. Disappointing. This means there is still an undiscovered entry point, undiscovered by us, not by the mice. Back to the drawing board we go on keeping the little monsters out of Grace, where they don’t belong.
Issue Two: Army Worms Spring at the Camp has, for three seasons now, included several visits dominated by killing army worms. They find the camp very enticing. So far this spring, we have destroyed four webbed nests in the Dogwoods and Sumacs, and only a few dozen masses of them on tree trunks, mostly on Maples this year. This diminished population may mean their numbers are waning, or it may mean that their season is late, and one of our future visits will reveal that a huge population remains.
That is it, all the issues so far this year.
The Bright Side: At the Camp, the Black Flies were not too bad, and their season appears to be over. The Mosquitoes are around, but there don’t seem to be a lot of them, yet. The Dragonflies are numerous, very, very active, and beautiful to behold. The bird population is higher this spring than ever before, of course ever before, for us, is only three summers. Hardly definitive, but wonderful nonetheless.
Saturday, June 15, 2019
An exciting day here at Mist Cottage, visitors! My Mom, and sisters made the trip, we had a lunch date. We had a great time, and good long gab session. My Mom brought me a few jigsaw puzzles, my family enjoys having a good jigsaw puzzle on the go. Thanks Mom! Luckily the weather was on our side, although a little on the chilly side, at least is was sunny. We toured the garden, my raised beds and Attila’s traditional garden beds. We looked at the Heliopsis and Rose plants that I have from my Granny’s garden, the garden where my Mom grew up, they are both thriving here, thank goodness. For lunch we had Taco Soup (Instant Pot!), and homemade 100% whole wheat bread, made from the flour I milled myself. My sisters enjoyed the Dandelion Jelly, a sweet treat on a slice of homemade bread. Time flew and before we knew it they had to be on their way, it is quite a drive. They had a long day, and I sure enjoyed seeing them!
My sister brought her camera out just before they left, and Attila took a picture of Mom and her three daughters. “Look”, I said, “My Mom is the best looking of all of us!” Attila replied, “You are all pretty good looking to me.” I pointed out, “Yes, of course, but when you consider Mom looks as good as we do, and she is 88, well, I think that supports my premise.”
Sunday, June 16, 2019
Another lovely day! It was so beautiful that we decided to take a run out to the Camp. There were lots of army worms, but only about a tenth of the numbers we saw last year at this time. The spray consisting of Dawn detergent, water, and wee bit of bleach killed them effectively. There were no mice in the tap, hurray!
We enjoyed our day there, and decided to stay overnight, so that we could stay up very late watching the camp fire. We retired happy after watching the stars come out, and the fireflies flickering in the forest all around us. In the morning, as I was standing at the kitchen counter making myself a cup of coffee, I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a doe, she was standing behind the trailer watching me through the window. We made and held eye contact for the longest time, I did not move, not wanting to break the spell. She slowly grazed around the perimeter of the Camp area, occasionally stopping to gaze into my eyes again, and after a half an hour or so, wandered off into the forest.
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Attila had the day off work today, and spent his time working happily in the garden. If only a small proportion of our garden yield fruit or vegetables, we will be well set up for the winter!
A small project that has been on my list for a very long time was tackled and completed today. We had new windows installed a year ago March. At that time Attila was working on replacing the garage roof, and had no spare time to consider other tasks, and all of the equipment for small jobs was buried in boxes, stacked and stored in the basement while the garage was under repairs. The kitchen window is above the sink, so I used painter’s tape to put up plastic wrap film over the trim, so that it would not be damaged by splatters and water. Today was the day that the plastic came down and Attila applied two coats of finish, over the course of the day. The smell is terrible, all the windows are open, and I am very, very glad that this project has at last been accomplished!
12°C Date: 1:12 PM EDT Thursday 13 June 2019 Condition: Light Rain Pressure: 100.8 kPa Tendency: Falling Temperature: 12.3°C Dew point: 12.3°C Humidity: 100% Wind: S 17 km/h Visibility: 4 km
“Our great weariness comes from work not done.” Eric Hoffer 1902 – 1983
Quote for Tuesday, June 18, 2019
“If it weren’t for history everything would happen at once. If it weren’t for geography, everything would happen to me.” Anonymous 1990 Toilet stall, cafe basement, Bloor and Brunswick, Toronto, Ontario I read this sitting down, and as a Geographer, I loved it. After almost 30 years, it still tickles my imagination.
Wow, it has been a while since I last wrote an entry!
I’ve been busy, playing in the kitchen, or is it a lab, not much difference when you come right down to it.
New technology is always fun. Over the last year or so I’ve added a steam canner, a steam juicer, and Tattler reusable canning lids to my kitchen equipment.
I love the Victorio steam canner. Purchased last year, it is a game changer, no mistake about it. I gave my water bath canning equipment to my sister! The steam canner is lightweight aluminum, so I can easily grab it out of storage in the basement, and get it up and down the stairs without straining myself. It requires comparatively little water to operate, so I can easily carry it to the sink, add the water and carry it back to the stove. It is easy to lift the jars in and out of the canner, making it a breeze to use. And after making my usual first attempt boo boos, it works perfectly every time.
The newly acquired Victorio steam juicer has added a whole new dimension to my home food preservation activities. I have only tried Rhubarb Juice, as it is the only ripened produce coming out of our garden so far this spring, and it is a big hit here. The fruit pulp that remains in the juicer makes a lovely fruit leather, so nothing goes to waste. And of course, there are my learning curve bloopers, I always make them. I was using the oven to dry my fruit leather. I share the kitchen with Attila, I should have thought it through. I left the fruit leather in the oven after I turned off the oven early in the day when the price of hydro doubled, meaning to turn it on again when the hydro price dropped again, later in the day. Attila decided to roast potatoes, and I forgot to warn him about the fruit leather. It didn’t go well, the fruit leather is toasted rather than dried. I will be doing the fruit leather in the dehydrator from now on.
The Salton dehydrator was purchased at a discounted price, an entry level unit. Since we had not tried using such an appliance before, it didn’t make sense to purchase top of the line equipment. If we decide it is going to be a technique of food preservation that we come to rely on, a high quality unit will be purchased. So far the little unit we have, a birthday present for Attila years ago, is meeting our needs.
The Tattler lids are exciting, they are reusable. All of my canning career, which spans around five decades, I’ve used metal lids and rings. I’ve never had a seal fail on me, not even once. I was surprised to learn it could even happen. But throwing out all those lids just seemed so wasteful and expensive. So when I came across reusable Tattler lids I decided to buy a few and see how they work. Well, it seems my blooperness has gone into overdrive with these lids.
I am teaching myself to use the Tattler lids by canning water. The first time I tried them in the steam canner I had 50% failure to seal. The second time I had 100% success. But the story doesn’t end there. I then used them to preserve food. Two jars of Dandelion Jelly, to start with. They sealed, and after 24 hours I took them down to store in the basement. I checked on things yesterday, and the lids came right off! Oh dear, false seals! I reprocessed the jelly with metal lids, they sealed and are now stored away.
Tattler lids were also used for another seven jars of steam canned jelly, and juice, and three pressure canned jars of Taco Soup. I am watching these jars very carefully, checking the seals several times a day for failures. The sealed soup jars are in the refrigerator, so if the seals fail, the soup will be preserved and can be frozen instead. One of the jars of soup did not seal, I think I know what I did wrong with it, it is in the freezer.
So Tattler lids are putting me through my paces, for sure. Are they worth the trouble? Well, I haven’t decided on that yet, it is early days. Usually, after working with things, I get a feel for them, and get better and better at doing them successfully. I am hoping that will be the case with the Tattler lids. So far I haven’t lost any food items, so I am not discouraged.
On the homemade bread front progress has been made.
I am now milling all of our flour. We buy the wheat berries, which are extremely difficult to source at a reasonable price, to mill the flour. The grain mill, a Wondermill, is easy to use. Of course I have my bloopers with it too. I discovered that if you add too many wheat berries at once to the feeder, the flour container will clog, and it makes quite a mess, and requires quite a clean up. Whoops. I’ll only make that mistake once. It didn’t damage the machine because I always hit the off switch or pull the plug at the first sign that anything is amiss with an appliance.
I have a Black & Decker bread machine, purchased at a considerable markdown. I don’t like it, but so long as it does the job it won’t be replaced. I have made enough so-so bread in it, trying new things, until now the bread I make in it is lovely. But, that is one loaf at a time, not enough, with Attila taking lunches to work. He is using a lot more bread than he otherwise would, because it is homemade and delicious. I need four or five small loaves a week.
So I decided to try making five loaves at once. This is where the Bosch Universal Mixer comes into play. Again, this has not been an instant success. My first attempts yielded acceptable but not lovely results. I continued to research and read what other people were doing, and tweaked and tweaked my technique. The last batch was lovely, and thankfully I took the time to write down the process I used, and the ingredients.
Just a note about the links to amazon that I have included for the equipment I use. I didn’t buy any of it at those prices. I didn’t buy all of it at once, or even recently. I have purchased my equipment over a period of many years, and expect it to last a lifetime. I often buy equipment directly from the manufacturer (e.g. Tattler), or when I find it on sale for an excellent price, sometimes watching prices for years.
My policy on spending money has changed little over the years. For instance, I have a Cuisinart food processor that I purchased for myself in the 70s, when I was a Home Economics teacher, and it has been in constant use since then, and I expect it to be in constant use until Attila and I no longer have the need or wherewithal to use it.
I am the same with clothes, my parka was purchased in the early 90s and is the only coat I’ve worn since, and it is still going strong. I have a pair of pants that I am considering throwing out, purchased about 30 years ago, they are badly worn now. Items that wear out after only a few years are regrettable failures .
Another example is my sewing machine. When I was studying Couturier clothing design and construction I purchased an inexpensive Singer sewing machine. It was a disaster, and was negatively impacting my studies. So I returned it, went into debt, and purchased an Elna sewing machine. I have used my little Elna since 1969, and it is still humming along the same as it always has. I think that was my first experience with the difference quality can make, it was a lesson well learned.
I guess all of this illustrates why the Tattler lids hold such appeal for me!
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Thursday 6 June 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Dew point: 13.2°C
Wind: N 11 km/h
Visibility: 24 km
“Once the game is over, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.””
The day dawned sunny, but still a bit chilly, just under 16C. Not lounging weather to be sure, but good working weather. As the day progressed the clouds became more numerous, and there is no rain expected for a few days. We have had a lot of rain this spring, and here at Mist Cottage the flora and fauna are burgeoning with life.
This morning I watched a Blue Jay flitting about the yard, from the Ash tree, to the lawn, and up again. Sitting on the fence, watching him closely, was a Cardinal. Sitting in the Ssh tree, watching him closely, were two Robins. Sitting on the fence at the far side of the yard, watching him closely, were two Chickadees. The Blue Jay has been an unwelcome marauder in our yard, the other birds are frequently going after it and chasing it away. I have seen some bird’s egg shells on the ground, so he must be after their nests.
This morning I explored possibilities for our felled Ash logs. I think I might have found some people who will use the wood, not burn it for fuel, but use it to make things. I am still waiting to hear back from them, fingers crossed.
Yesterday Attila picked some Rhubarb from our largest plant. It was ready for harvesting, now that it is well established. I cleaned it and weighted it, less than pound. So out I went to the garden and picked some more. I ended up with 1.77 pounds of fresh rhubarb, when washed and diced. So here is what I did:
Step One: Place 5 quarts of water and a marble (it will rattle if the water gets too low, time to add more!) in the Stock Pot of the Victorio Steam Juicer. Place the Juice Kettle on top of that, insert the hose into the spigot, and clamp the hose. Place the Colander with the 1.77 lbs. of diced rhubarb in it, on top of that. Finally place the lid on top of that.
Step Two: Turn the burner on under the steam juicer, as soon as it reaches a rolling boil turn it down until it maintains a slow boil.
Step Three: Wait. Enjoy the heavenly aroma that filled the house. I waited 1 1/2 hours. Then I turned off the heat and let the unit cool.
Step Four: If I had had enough juice in the Juice Kettle to reach the drain hose, I would have drained the juice that way. But there wasn’t much juice, relative to the size of the Juice Kettle, so I carefully removed the lid, then the Colander, and poured the juice into a measuring cup, from the opposite size of the Colander from the spigot.
Step Five: Be impressed. It made 1/8 cup less than 4 cups of juice.
Ah, now, what to do with the juice-less fruit, and the juice! Fruit leather with the fruit I think, and Rhubeena with the juice. Rhubeena is like Ribena, only it is made with Rhubarb. All the recipes I found for it cooked the Rhubarb with water and sugar, then strained it, to make the Rhubeena. I used the Steam Juicer to make the juice, without sugar, and will later add the sugar, 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of juice, and bring it to a boil, then steam can one 500 ml jar, and store what is left in another jar for the refrigerator and immediate consumption.
It has taken me some time to find time to try out a Steam Juicer. I am not disappointed! This Juicer makes making juice a breeze.
Next in the Steam Juicer, vegetable broth from frozen vegetable scraps we have been saving in the freezer!
Wednesday May 22, 2019
Things have been busy!
After making the Dandelion Jelly, it was decided that more was needed. So I spent many hours Saturday, sitting in the sunshine, plucking petals. The result was enough Dandelion “tea” for two more batches of jelly, which were frozen for future jelly making. But that didn’t seem like enough, so Monday saw me on the back porch once more, plucking more petals, enough for one more batch of jelly. That should do it! We plan on using the jelly as a bit of a medicinal, a teaspoon a day each, a small and simple little treat that is good for us.
Attila was busy with the construction of the Hugelkultur bed, it is a lot of work to set up. He also set up the rain barrel that we purchased several years ago, at last.
His big project though, over the last four or five days, has been to get the garden turned and planted. Tomatoes! Thirty-six Roma Tomato plants were planted in rows, and four plants of Cherry Tomatoes. The hope is that the garden will provide enough canned tomatoes and Tomato Red Pepper Sauce to from this gardening season to the next. Only time will tell if this plan succeeds. I planted Green Bell Peppers and Red Shepherd Peppers in my raised bed, in among the strawberry runners, and if they grow and yield well, they will provide the peppers needed for the sauce.
The first little plants from the cold frame, Radishes, were transplanted into the garden. Oregano was moved to a new location in the garden. Two small Black Currant bushes were transplanted to the back of the garden. And I think Attila did a whole lot of other little rearrangements in his garden, that I didn’t really notice, being busy with my own little projects.
Attila was very busy in the flower garden as well. Gladiola were planted close to the house and along the fence, and the echinacea were moved to the same location to make room for the Cherry Tomatoes, which were planted near one of the compost bins. Along the fence, between two of the compost bins, the Scarlet Runner beans were put in.
At some point, during all this activity, we found time to head out the Camp for a few hours. I wanted to see if there were any Army Worms developing on our trees there. We were only there a few hours, and got a lot accomplished. Attila cut the grass, and I worked on getting Grace the Trailer up and functioning for the season. The propane range was used for the first time this year, heating up Taco Soup, which I served with cheese and crackers. We decided not to have a fire, as it was a whirlwind visit and we would be very busy while there. I mixed up a batch of detergent/water/bleach and sprayed the army worm nest I found in one of the trees. Their season has begun, and we are hoping to stay on top of it this year. The season for black flies has also begun, they aren’t swarming yet, but they are biting.
My raised beds are looking great so far. My Spinach, Beets, and Peas are all just coming up, and soon I will be able to discern which are weeds and which are my plants (straight rows), so that I can weed the bed. The chicken wire over the bed has been successful in keeping the squirrels from digging up my seeds, or burying things in the soil and disturbing the seedlings.
The strawberries, in the other raised bed, are growing vigorously, and in a few weeks the runners will be ready to transplant into another bed, whic will not be a raised bed. We are going to use some of the logs from the felled Ash tree as a Strawberry bed border. The transplants will not bear fruit this summer, but hopefully next summer we will have a crop!
Now I am waiting for the Lilacs to bloom, and if there are enough blooms on the property, I will be making Lilac Jelly. I am hoping that the Nasturtiums Attila planted will proliferate and bloom well, because I would love to try Nasturtium Jam, I think the peppery flavour would have a real kick! Oh, and yes, Strawberry season should be coming up in a few weeks, and I am really looking forward to that.
And I am happy to record that on Saturday the weather was so warm that the temperature on the back porch reached 30C. It was too warm for me, sitting in the full afternoon sun, so I had to retreat indoors. But it did inspire me to drag out the “cabana curtains” from winter storage, which are really white bed sheets, and hang them on the rods across the back porch. And of course, since I did that, Monday was cloudy and dull, and they were not needed. But now they sit at the ready!
16°C Date: 12:00 PM EDT Friday 17 May 2019 Condition: Mostly Cloudy Pressure: 100.6 kPa Tendency: Rising Temperature: 16.4°C Dew point: 11.9°C Humidity: 74% Wind: W 16 km/h Visibility: 24 km
Date: 7:00 AM EDT Wednesday 22 May 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Dew point: 5.9°C
Wind: N 12 km/h
Visibility: 24 km
“I like manual labor. Whenever I’ve got waterlogged with study, I’ve taken a spell of it and found it spiritually invigorating.” W. Somerset Maugham 1874 – 1965
I found a balance, when I worked as a manual labourer on a farm, picking fruit. I would read a book at night, and think about what I had read all through the next day, whiles my hands reached, plucked, and placed the sweet aromatic fruits, as I stood high on a rickety ladder held up against a swaying branch. Aerial literature.