Gales of November

It is blustery, wet, and cold out there today. And the weather people predict snow this afternoon.

The yard has been “winterized”. The Scarlet Runner Bean plants have been torn out and removed to the compost, as have all the garden plants except the rosemary, oregano, thyme, and my Granny’s Rose, which Attila has mulched to protect it from frost damage. It grew luxuriously for Granny, but in her yard it was covered all winter by deep snow, and we don’t get deep snow here, not like that. So mulch should help it weather the winter.

On Sunday Attila cut the grass in the yard, using the clippings to top up the compost bins. Now that the garage roof is almost done, he has time and psychic freedom to concentrate on his real love, gardening. All compostables are now precious, no yard waste will be going to the curb in future. The tree branches that come down in the wind, or are cut when he is pruning the trees, are stored in a pile in the back yard, ready for use in the spring.

Next spring I want to construct a raised bed inside the fenced area, a garden bed that is mine to create, plant, attend, and harvest. Attila will make most of the decisions and do most of the work for the rest of the property, but the raised bed will be mine. The tree branches will be cut up and used as a base for the raised bed, a sort of Hugelkultur base. I will purchase some soil, but not much will be needed, the raised bed will be topped with our own composted soil, and a mulch. The bed will be high enough that I will not need to tax my arthritic knee and back to work on it. I look forward to the spring!

When I started canning on Labour Day weekend, the first week of September, I had thought it would be a short-lived little adventure.

Ha! Ha! Ha!

The canning projects continue unabated, although at a slower pace. The past weekend it was bone broth, which was pressure canned yesterday. The grass-fed, no hormone, beef bones were a bonus. In 2013 we purchased a quarter of beef from Terra’s neighbour, as did Terra and Lares. We were asked if we wanted the bones. Of course! Those bones were kept in the freezer and made into beef broth in 2016. But there was a second bag of bones to be had, Terra and Lares did not want theirs, so we took them and they sat in the freezer until last Saturday, food that would have gone to waste otherwise. Now 7 one-litre jars of bone broth are lined up on the counter like little soldiers, all sealed, ready to be labelled tomorrow and then stored in the basement. Attila will be enjoying some very nice soups this winter based on this broth!

jars of canned beef bone broth

Seven litres of Beef Bone Broth, all sealed and ready for winter soups.

There is still fresh produce to consider for canning. Two boxes of garden tomatoes are ripening in boxes in the basement, and two bags of whole ripe garden tomatoes are waiting in the freezer for my attention. There is a ripe pumpkin and three large Hubbard Squash waiting for attention as well. All of this should be processed by Christmas!

One strong interest that Attila and I share is food. My first degree is in Food and Nutrition, and I’ve always taken a keen interest in nutritious cooking, and in food preservation. My fondest memories of childhood are helping my Granny cook on the wood stove, harvesting wild fruits with my Granny and Grandpa,and the joy of my Mom’s Strawberry Jam. Attila similarly has wonderful memories centred around his Grandparents and food, and his Mom allowed him access to the kitchen when he was a kid, so he could pursue his interest in food.

In adult life Attila is always hungry, eating at least two full dinners every evening, and a bedtime snack as well. Food is always on his mind. In adult life I have anaphylaxis, which requires that I analyze every single piece of food or beverage that I put in my mouth. Food is always on my mind. And then there is frugality, and food quality. Our income this year just reached the official poverty line, for the first time since 2004, when we experienced one single solitary year with an income above the poverty line, so our resources don’t allow much leeway for eating out, or buying prepackaged foods. We don’t turn up our noses at free food, or food that others reject because it requires work and attention to render it delicious. We find that home cooking, using what we have when we have it, provides us with a not only healthy diet, but a varied and delicious one as well.

Wow! A huge grey squirrel just leapt from the Crabapple tree in the front yard onto the roof above the front door, and must have almost fallen off the evestrough. What a racket! It sounded like someone was trying to take out the roof. I will have to go out there and check for damage. The squirrels have been behaving desperately this past spring, summer and now fall. I think it has something to do with the natural wetland being razed for the new subdivision. The local supply of food and shelter has been extremely and suddenly reduced, so competition must be fierce for survival for them. They sure have been behaving badly around our place this summer season!

I continue to observe YouTube videos. This week I am watching hand gestures. There is a particular set of hand gestures that the content producers that I am watching are using, it seems they are all mimicking each other, or maybe it started with one successful content creator, and spread in the race for success and dollars. I think that as soon as the $$$ dry up for content creators you won’t see new videos for dust. It isn’t sharing, it is a business venture for many of them, most of them really, but nothing lasts forever and the income generated is diminishing over time. In the meantime I am watching the videos that interest me, mostly centred on food preservation methods, and home renovations.

Well, that is enough writing for now, time to get going on the kitchen duties, and check out what that dastardly big little squirrel got him or herself up to on the evestrough!



Date: 8:00 AM EST Tuesday 13 November 2018
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 1.2°C
Dew point: 1.2°C
Humidity: 99%
Wind: N 2 km/h
Visibility: 13 km


“I despise the pleasure of pleasing people that I despise.”
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
1689 – 1762

Oh the small and twisted lives of the elite. Pretty from the outside…

Thank Goodness

Remembrance Day today. My family was lucky. My Grandpa fought in the first world war, and came home safe and sound, and so I am here with my fingers moving across the keyboard, due to sheer good luck. It is a day to remember those who did not come back, and their descendants that did not come to exist.

A typical weekend here, and thank goodness there is a typical weekend!

Yesterday the second bag of beef bones dragged up from the bottom of the old chest freezer. It was from the organic, grass-fed, half quarter of beef that we purchased from Terra’s neighbour, back in October of 2013. Yikes, that is five years ago!

The day was cold and windy, so the Nesco portable oven was placed indoors, in the kitchen, to do its magic with the bones. The heat from the Nesco helped to heat the house, instead of the freezing winds on the porch. This is quite the opposite of summer us of the Nesco, when it is used on the back porch, to avoid heating up the house. The biggest disadvantage to having waited until the weather turned cold to make bone broth, is that it will have to be done indoors, and the aroma is not pleasing, not in the least. Onward though, time to make bone broth, and continue making use of the vintage foods in the freezers.

To the bones in the Nesco were added: 2 onions, skins on and halved; 2 carrots peeled and sectioned; 1 stalks of celery, chopped into sections; 1 teaspoon of peppercorns; 2 medium bay leaves; 1/4 cup vinegar; filtered water to within 1 inch of the top of the pan. The temperature was set to 350F for two hours, then turned down to 225F until the following morning, Sunday morning, this morning.

This afternoon the Nesco was turned off, and tongs were used to remove the bones from the broth. The broth was poured through a sieve into the 16 quart stock pot, and the pot was covered and set out on the back porch to cool completely. The temperature is hovering around freezing, so as the broth cooled the beef fat hardened into a thick brittle crust, which was easily removed. The fat was discarded, as were the bones and vegetables from the broth. At this point I do not have a method of using the fat or the bones, just the broth.

Tomorrow the broth will be reheated, then canned in the pressure canner. This winter it will form a base for soups.

The dinner menu contributed to the depletion-of-vintage-food project. Taco soup in the Instant Pot called for a jar of tomatoes, so the last frozen mason jar of tomatoes from 2016 were thawed and into the soup they went. Those tomatoes were the rejects from Terra and Lares garden that year, they had a bumper crop and were just going to leave the split tomatoes on the vines to rot. With their permission we grabbed them, stewed them, and froze them in mason jars. Found food is so much fun!

To serve with the soup, a new recipe for biscuits will be followed. The last batch were less than stellar, so back to the drawing board.

While I am busy with all this activity in the kitchen, Attila is working on the garage roof, the last phase of his project. The blocks between the roof rafters are being custom cut and nailed in. He worked on this yesterday and is working on it again today.

There is a lot of activity outside on the street lately as well. Flags to mark Bell (telephone) yellow, Gas green, and Water blue, have popped up all along the street, with spray-painted colour-matched lines across the front of the yard. There is one other line painted onto our property, of unknown definition, and it is coloured green.

When I was talking to one of our neighbours, she said that she heard, I know, reliable information right, that fiber-optic lines were going to be installed for the new subdivision. Our yard will be torn up for the third time since we bought Mist Cottage eight years ago. This time I am worried they will kill the trees close to the edge of the property, by cutting the tree roots as they dig their trenches. The trees were planted too close to the property line! I have my fingers crossed that the trees survive, I would sorely miss them!



Date: 2:00 PM EST Sunday 11 November 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.7 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 2.3°C
Dew point: -6.5°C
Humidity: 52%
Wind: WNW 19 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“Men have become the tools of their tools.”
David Thoreau
1817 – 1862

I wonder if it is possible for a truth to become more true!

“Keep Calm and Carry On”

Tank was supposed to be ready by noon yesterday. I heard nothing from the garage. Attila called them when he got back from work, and they said they just had to check it out to make sure everything worked, wanted us to come get it the next day, Friday. Attila told them his wife would like it today, Thursday, and that we would be at the garage at 5 p.m. to pick up Tank.

When we got to the garage it was very busy, and Tank was nowhere to be seen. We greeted the desk staff, who said that it wouldn’t be long. Then we saw Tank arrive back from the test drive. We waited patiently. We watched as Tank was driven off the lot again, alerted by the terrible noise she was making as she drove away, she sounded like a diesel truck. Tank does not have a diesel engine. Not good. They explained something about two cylinders not working, they were working when she came to the garage, now they are not working. Not good. The fellow told us Tank will be ready today.

When we were there I decided to take charge of the interactions, after all I am here during the day, so I can call them. Actually I am the “bad cop” when we approach situations like this, a role I can easily assume. I pleasantly but firmly told the fellow that if Tank were not ready by Monday morning, they would HAVE to provide me with a courtesy car. I asked that I be called today to let me know what is going on with the vehicle. It was just after 1:00 p.m. and I hadn’t heard from them yet, so I called them. They are ordering parts directly from the dealer he said. No word on when the vehicle will be ready. They will call me this afternoon to keep me up to date on how things are going. At least no empty promises were made.

It is hard to remain optimistic about this situation. These guys are clearly in over their heads with this repair. I think they will try to make it right, but my GOD this is getting ridiculous. I had a very bad experience with a garage when I was doing research for my PhD and needed a vehicle. The garage was awful, wanted a fortune to return the vehicle, not having fixed it. I took them to small claims court and won, and since they were a franchise I called the mother company. I did not let that one lie. That garage lost their franchise, and I didn’t feel in the least bit sad about that. The consequences of the lost vehicle were catastrophic for me. It wasn’t until this morning that the bad feelings about that past fiasco resurfaced. This situation is going on way too long for comfort.

Feeling so tense, so irritable, what to do!

Why can of course!

I had saved all the apple peels from the 26 Northern Spy Apples that I used to make and can applesauce. They had been boiled until transparent, then strained. The liquid sat all day yesterday, I was too distraught to function in the kitchen. I did boil it for five minutes though, since it was sitting on the range for the day. This morning I made Applescrap Jelly with it. It is so good! I used the Apple Jelly with no pectin recipe from the National Centre for Home Preservation, and included the lemon juice. When the liquid was first strained there were eight cups, which were boiled down to four cups. The jelly had to cook for around twenty minutes to reach the sheeting stage, and it seemed as if it was not going to jell, but finally it did. The yield was small, but oh so good!

Two 500 ml jars of jelly.

Applescrap Jelly made with no pectin. Thank goodness for the new steam canner, which makes canning this wee bit of jelly perfectly viable. Both jars sealed as soon as I took them out of the canner. The partially full jar will go into the refrigerator to be used right away.



Date: 1:00 PM EDT Friday 26 October 2018
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 3.6°C
Dew point: -4.3°C
Humidity: 56%
Wind: E 10 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or to lose.”
Lyndon B. Johnson
1908 – 1973

You win some…

Although I am an experienced canner, I am no stranger to failure. My penchant for experimentation gets me into trouble sometimes, other times it has delightful results. Yesterday was one of the times that things didn’t go according to hopes.

The first batch of canned Northern Spy Apples was successful, but for the packaging that was mistakenly left inside the canning lid during the canning session. The resulting canned apples were delicious, almost perfect, but there was some concern that they were shelf safe, so into the refrigerator they went. The first jar was opened and tasted wonderful!

Yesterday another 26 Northern Spy apples were peeled, cored, and diced. That was a big job. Then one teaspoon of sugar was added to each canning jar, the apples ladled into the jars, topped up with the water they had boiled in. Rims were checked, lids were placed on the jars, and the rings were screwed on the to the new very light “finger tight” that I had seen in a video. My usual finger tight is much tighter than this, so this was the first time I tried this new method of finger tightening in the pressure canner. The jars were pressure canned at 10 psi for 8 minutes.

The jars were removed from the canner when the pressure had fallen to zero. There was a surprise in store. The liquid in the jars had leaked out, about half of it from each jar. The jars were sticky, so the sugar must have dissolved so that it was a sugar syrup that escaped from the jars. All of the jars were sealed.

canning jars of apples with half the liquid missing

Half of the liquid leaked out of these 500 ml jars of Northern Spy apples. All of the jars sealed. The jars were very sticky! The one teaspoon of sugar that was added to the bottom of the jar, before adding the apples, must have dissolved. A failure in that the liquid escaped the jars. A success in that the jars all sealed.

I am suspicious that the leaking liquid was a result of the lightly finger tightened rings. I will try this again sometime, but jars headed for the pressure canner will be finger tightened more securely. The lightly finger tightened rings are fine for the steam canner, but not for the pressure canner.

I had a half a jar of these apples for breakfast, with fresh-baked biscuits. Oh my they were good! Not very sweet, but not tart either. An apple a day is what they say!

I tired myself out yesterday, preparing all those apples for canning. Today is a day to take it easy, paying bills, putting away canning equipment, reading, and anything else that takes my fancy. And I think I’ll just have myself another one of the biscuits!



Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 7.4°C
Dew point: 4.8°C
Humidity: 83%
Wind: ENE 7 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“All love that has not friendship for its base, is like a mansion built upon sand.”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
1850 – 1919

Last Vegetable Standing

squash growing into chain link fence

Blue Hubbard Squash: This squash choose to grow on the fence, and is the last vegetable standing (or clinging) in the garden.

Bex makes hats. Lots of beautiful hats. Bex may be grandly addicted to making hats. I see this as a good thing, and hundreds of other people who will be warm this winter will definitely agree.

I can food. I can lots of food. I think I may be grandly addicted to canning food. I see this as a good thing. My range is very limited, only Attila and I will eat this food.

On Saturday I canned six half litres of Green Tomato Mincemeat and three half litres of Sweet Green Tomato Relish. Last night I thought, there, done for the season!

jars of mincemeat and relish

Saturday’s canning session yielded six jars of Green Tomato Mincemeat, and three jars of Sweet Green Tomato Relish

This morning when Attila and I talked about the meals I would be cooking early in the week, I realized that the tomatoes I had been chopping and stewing and adding to a mason jar in the fridge, would not get used. Not wanting to risk losing the lovely tomatoes, and waste all my hard work chopping and stewing them, I decided to can them. So I prepared my jars, heated the tomatoes, added a 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid to each jar, ladled in the tomatoes, and soon had two half litre jars of organic tomatoes to go into the steam canner.

But, that wasn’t enough for me. I had some sugar syrup left from my latest attempt at fermenting our own apple cider vinegar. Not wanting to waste this little bit of syrup, it seemed like a good idea to can apple slices, and use it as the liquid in the canning jars. Four Northern Spy apples were peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced into a bath of ascorbic acid and water. The slices were too big to fit easily into the jars, so the apples were chopped. The water was drained from the chopped apples, and they were added to the sugar syrup in a saucepan. After being boiled for five minutes they were ladled into two half litre jars, which were soon ready to go into the steam canner.

The apples needed to be processed for 20 minutes. The tomatoes needed to be processed for 35 minutes. I processed both the apples and the tomatoes for 35 minutes.

jars of tomatoes and apples

Two jars of organic tomatoes and two jars of Northern Spy Apples.

But I was in for a very big surprise! When I took the lid off the canner, I discovered that the protective cardboard packing had been lodged in it. The steam canner had cooked it too! I was worried about the effect that would have on the canned goods, but the seals all popped, although it did take a lot longer than usual for them to do so. It was a success, but these jars will go into the fridge to be eaten over the next week or so. As Attila pointed out, I won’t ever do that again! Not only will I always check now, there is no longer any packaging to discover.

soaking wet piece of cardboard

Freshly steam canned packaging.

If we like the apples, I will can a lot more in this way, a perfect snack. However, in future they will be packed in water only, no syrup.



Date: 7:00 PM EDT Sunday 21 October 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 2.5°C
Dew point: -6.0°C
Humidity: 54%
Wind: WNW 10 km/h
Visibility: 24 km


“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”
Niels Bohr
1885 – 1962

I am working on it!