Orchard Organics, Holistic Harvest

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A lot of picking, plucking and pulling has been done this past week, and will continue to be done well into October by the look of the garden and the fact that we had such a late start in this end of the Appalachians. We’re expecting a lot of guests over and after Thanksgiving, though, so we’ll be glad of the cukes, squash, melons and perhaps corn that we likely won’t see ’til then (if at all, providing on frost damage!)  Last week’s blog posting about the before and after transformations of our once-dining room, now master bedroom more than doubled the views we normally get here, so I’m hanging on to the before and afters of the rustic bathroom/laundry room until next week, as a tease!  Besides, as you can see from the above, there’s BASKETS to write about.  We have two different types of apples and two types of crab apples in the orchard, so, though the apples aren’t ripe yet, there are a lot of windfalls we don’t want to waste, AND the crabapples are ready. As well, peas and beans galore are flourishing (3 different kinds of each) the carrots are starting to get large and need some thinning, and there is so much mint I wish we’d bought lamb rather than pork from our neighbour’s organic free-range meat supply.

As it’s imperative when trying to live self-sufficiently not to waste ANYTHING (incl. the water in which things are blanched or boiled ) I’ve been getting downright creative with what to do with everything possible, except some of the leaves, and all of the twigs/stems!  So, you’ll find all the recipes mentioned in the following text way down below the end of the photos, and if something isn’t there, it’s because I made it up, and you can too! (But write and ask if you think I can help with an idea for recycling/reusing… the old expression “Don’t put the baby out with the bathwater” is humourous in my kitchen – I’m not even throwing out the bathwater!)

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When I do use recipes not in my great-grandmother’s newspaper clippings recipe book, or in my own recipe box, I will use the internet.  I’ve found a DANDY place for keeping it quick to hand, at nearly eye level, but out of the way of crumbs, liquids, etc. is perched on one side of my old scales!

 

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Despite working for weeks on the Dutch Door that’s going in my kitchen, facing the front, and the best of all the views in my opinion, Richard took some time out to help with raking apples off the ground.  Most of these aren’t quite ripe, but many are worm-free and barely bruised, so we separated them into categories – the compost heap, the ‘save for future livestock treats’, and the  ‘good’.  Then, of the ‘good’, we’re putting some for storage in the basement for later cooking, and at least half a bushel we peeled, cut up and made into a variety of things just this week.

The first item was Apple Crisp, and as these windfalls turn brown as soon as you peel them, I had to revert to calling it the old-fashioned Brown Betty, and use a lot of brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in the recipe so Richard didn’t turn up his nose (as he was in on the peeling and didn’t like the browness. ) I froze one batch and Mom, R. and I ate up the other with some custard poured over it, as they serve it in the U.K. Delicious!

Next on the agenda for this week was apple butter, following the slow-cooker recipe below. I used my own and Mom’s crock pots for this, but didn’t have to cook them overnight as it says to do, because both of our crock pots were bought at garage sales and the ‘low’ setting is really high; thus the apples were ready to mash in only about 3 hours!

Again, because these are windfalls and not really ripe, a lot of extra clover honey (my neighbour’s) Stevia and both kinds of sugars were added – and it’s still pretty tart apple butter, but rather than use it like a jam on biscuits, we’re finding it a tremendous complement to all the pork Richard bought from our neighbours. I also gave away a jar already as it had such rave reviews.  Remember, when living self-sufficiently, gifts of food you can spare are going to be more appreciated as people know you’re truly GIVING something (a bit more of a sacrifice, in other words!)

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I didn’t bother properly preserving this apple butter as it was more or less an experiment to see all the things we might like me to make MORE of for the winter months. So, with a  jar of this to Joy, and one to our dog-trainer, we just have two in the fridge right now and one is already half gone. They should last a few months as long as they’re refrigerated.

 

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Not throwing anything away is the CORE of contentment!

 

Like I said, do not waste ANYTHING that might be made into something else!  All the peelings and cores from the apple crisp and apple butter were then made into Apple Cider Vinegar. This is imperative to have around the house for all manner of things – when you drink with a bit of warm water it can help weight loss (water retention) and arthritis – especially if you have the ‘mother’, as doing it organically, you will, and there are all many of things you can use this for in various household activities such as cleaning with baking soda, polishing, soaking, etc. So the more big jugs of this I can produce the better – it’s sitting in a dark closet fermenting now, and I’ll let you know in a month or two what it looks like!

I picked the two kinds of crabapples the same day as the day I did a lot of beans and peas, thus was extremely exhausted and sore by the end of the day. Ever admiration for our pioneer ancestors!  I suggest just sticking to garden OR orchard work, not both, as it makes the preparations for ‘putting up’ or freezing/baking that much more arduous. Rather something gets left to grow/ripen a day or two longer than that you pick it and then don’t use it immediately !

The crabapples were just an experiment too, for now – I boiled them up, even with stems, with lot of Stevia and sugar, and made it into a delicious juice that I bottled, then put clover honey in to sweeten in the jar. Also mixed this half and half with some of Richard’s favourite pulpy orange juice (store-bought, I admit!) and it made it more palatable for him as well. Just think of the Vitamin C in that jar!  Then, with the crabapples boiled and drained, I smashed and smashed away until I had a good sauce, which I then made into crabapple oatmeal muffins and nut loaves. Yum!

Finally, as most of us already do, I blanched the beans lightly and froze a number of meal-size portions for later in the winter. But I read that the peas didn’t need to be blanched before freezing, so I have a number of jars/bags of these delectable raw ‘candies’ frozen, and then we are eating them raw at lunch, or in soups/stews for supper at night. We are also eating our carrots now, so, along with the pork just purchased, there are many variations of eating to be had, if you’re inventive!  One I thought of was making a bean salad with the slightly-blanched beans. Once cold, I mixed them with Maple Nut crunch cereal, which I let soften a bit in with the beans for about a half-hour, then put some pine and peanuts on top to garnish. Yum!  In above lunch photo, the ONLY thing not from our own land or made from scratch by my own hand was the tuna in the sandwich. I’m making all our own cookies, muffins, scones, bread and iced tea or lemonade to keep down costs and chemical-intake and use of product packaging. Even our tomatoes are starting to ripen, although Richard’s father in Ontario is laughing because he has so many ripe and ready on the vine he can’t even count them! At the moment, if we pick one a week we’re doing well!

Enough about harvesting and cooking, all ready. Next week, prepare for some fun when I introduce you to our new ‘Western’ rustic bathroom/laundry AND the week after will feature Richard’s hard work on the beautiful new front stable (Dutch) door. Can’t wait!

As promised, the recipes for above, just click on each to enlargen!

Apple Cider Vinegar and Apple Crisp (Brown Betty)

 

for slow-cooker Apple Butter (only took about 3 hours before they were ready to mash, but our cookers are HOT!)

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For Crab-Apple Juice, I didn’t use a recipe, just boiled and sweetened and mashed, smashed and squashed through a variety of strainers! Then add clover honey once in jars/bottles. With what was left, I made a type of apple sauce, picking out the core bits, seeds and stems that had gone through the strainers, and used it for muffins (too tart for a sauce on its own!)

For soups/stews, I just simmer for several hours on back burner. We don’t like our veggies over-cooked as the vitamins deplete, and we find the taste is ‘fresher’ if a bit crunchy still!

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Smitty, it seems, enjoys veg from the garden, incl. pea shells and any old celery stalk.  While I make him my own concoction of doggie biscuits (meat bouillion or stock from cooking, with some old scraps, cheese, egg, vegetables cut up and then baked in a rolled-flat flour ‘cookie’ I later break up and put in his Treat Cannister)  he seems happy just to munch a piece of celery or a windfall put in the compost pile. That and his tennis balls seem to keep him happy.
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A Room With A View

 

 

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end result of 1/2 the bay window into which I made a window seat in our master bedroom (formerly dining room)

 

Coming from a background of antiques-lovers/collectors and refinishers, the concept of painting wood has been a bit hard to swallow.  But I do love the fad (ME?  Loving a fad while it’s actually IN FASHION ? IMPOSSIBLE!) of shabby chic, or French Country/Provincial styling. This style includes crackled painted furniture, and a LOT of white and sepia’d tones, so as our dining room was out of necessity becoming our big bedroom (due to Mom having all the upstairs rooms as her suite) I decided it should be made a historical replica of French country life, in order to lighten it.  The story and how-to’s are told in the photos’ and text that follows them, below.  I LOVE this room (and its amazing view).

jWhen we purchased the farm in March, the dining room (just off the kitchen, of which you have already seen its before and afters, done in an aged blue pioneer/checked theme with red and yellow accents and pine furniture) was a baby blue, with three different types of wood-stain, which I can’t stand.  Absolutely hate it when wood colours are mixed up in the same room!  So, as above, and disregarding the previous owners’ furniture, the floor was/is a light hardwood, the bay window and built in cupboard were that cheesy orange-stained wood from the 1970s and the moldings and other two windows were stained dark brown.  The entire room was a baby blue with a beige ceiling, and it was tinted with dirty hand prints and cigarette-smoke smudges.  So – a big overhaul was needed!

 

 

 

 

 

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The previous owners loved the 1960s/1970s, so left much of the décor that had been decorated back then, and ADDED such things as this faded sequined lamp shade to hang over their dining room table!
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Not able to stomach TWO different wood stains in the same room, having three of them was more than I could bear! The floor was blonde hardwood, the mouldings and two window frames were dark brown, and this built-in cabinet and the bay window were that orange stain so popular in the ’70s.
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When we moved our dark four poster bed in (a replica, and not even ‘real’ wood, so I didn’t feel so badly with the idea of painting it!) it was obvious we were going to want it as near the window as possible, in order to see the dawns over the Appalachians (previously posted shots!) and the  full moons and twinkling stars and fireflies of a summer’s night – right from the head on pillow!

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The bedroom furniture (bed and dresser) are both antique REPLICAS, and I’ve lived with them dark for about 10 years, so I felt a change was in order! It was time to make them both match my shabby chic vision for this new French Farmhouse theme, also being made popular by HGTV’s Fixer-Upper designer Joanna Gaines. Click on each photo to see it larger:

To begin the transformation, I decided to only ‘crackle’ (looks like chippy paint, very popular in today’s beloved ‘shabby chic’ style) the four-posters of the bed and the built-in cupboard.  Crackling looks best when there’s a light colour over a dark colour, so I painted these parts a dark royal blue – could just as easily have been black, as I knew the accents in the room would be black. However, it must be a latex paint for crackle to work, and the only black I had was an oil-based.  From experience, I knew that wouldn’t work! I lightly hand and electrically sanded the varnish off these pieces. I knew I didn’t want to do the headboard proper OR the replica ‘spool’ footboard, as a) the intricacies of the sanding and painting would be enormous and b) I’d probably want to go back to a ‘real’ wood look in another decade or so!  Once the blue paint was dried, I added a thick coat of the ‘crackle’ (I used store-bought this time, but there are recipes online to make your own – just didn’t want to risk it not working for such a big and important project!) The thicker and more runnier the crackle is, the better I’ve found, on past projects, it will turn out!  So I let it run and only let it dry about 20 min. (although the can usually advises it dry completely, I’ve often had it not work as well. So I just wait until it’s ‘sticky’ dry.)

I was very proud indeed, after I’d painted it with just one coat of white chalk paint (latex, but with the chalky look of the early pioneers’ paint) of the effect of the distressed crackling and ‘chippy’ old paint look!  I then applied two decorative decals to the cupboard and painted black the 1970s hardware and put it back on the drawers/doors.  If one wished, one could varnish/shellac over this to protect from dirty fingerprints, etc., but knowing I’ll likely change this again in a decade, I didn’t want to make my job more difficult, and shellac certainly isn’t ECO-FRIENDLY,  and I also hate the glossy shine of even a flat matte varnish. Crackled effect doesn’t NEED a ‘finish’ on it because it isn’t ACTUALLY chippy, though it looks that way.  So for me, for many reasons – NO to the varnish. The whole point of using chalk paint is to make it look old…

Now, for the ceiling and walls.  The ceiling was a nightmare – two coats of rolling white (latex, but NOT chalk) paint over it and it still wasn’t totally covering the old beige, but I had to let it go… too much pain in the old joints and too much left to do… I wanted the ‘fad’ (still can’t believe it!) colour that is seen with a lot of shabby chic/vintage ‘brightening’ techniques – a sort of frosted peppermint.  I had as close to it as possible mixed at the hardware store (little Mom and Pop store- I don’t buy ANYTHING at big box/corporate stores, and neither should any of us – they’ve put enough families out of business, not to mention entire historic downtown streets!). But when I tested it, it wasn’t QUITE right, so I added some more green I had on hand.  Then I experimented with dragging it, combing it and strie-ing it – all old techniques for texture on the walls, before the days of wall-paper. I still didn’t like the look, so I decided to fall back on one of my old favourites: Rag-rolling.  However, I didn’t have many rags, and I DID have a plethora of clear plastic (yuck!) garbage bags from our move. So, as many of them had holes in them and couldn’t be re-used for garbage/recycling, and as I NEVER just use something ONCE, for a one-time purpose, I decided to “plastic bag roll” my bedroom walls, and LOVED THE EFFECT. The old colour, the light blue, was just ‘off’ the frosted mint enough to give texture without being too obvious.  In fact, I also liked it coming through so much I decided to go one step further and make it look like REALLY old wall-paper all ’round. So I masked a line every few feet (wide, then narrower, then wide again) so that when I rolled on the first coat of frosted mint it wouldn’t cover those lines and the baby blue would show afterwards.  If you’re doing any paint effect, you can’t roll on an enormous amount, because you want the paint wettish when you do your effect (ie: sponging, strie, rolling, etc.) So about a 6 ft. radius patch at a time was all I did. Then I’d take the plastic bag, STICK it on the wet-but-drying paint, leave it about 30 seconds, scrumple it around with my hands, and then peel it off. Lovely!  After I’d done the entire room and pulled off the masking tape I was happy with the effect, but felt it was still not looking like old wallpaper enough. So I researched, and found that stencilling (not like we all did in the 1980s, with horizontal borders, but rather vertically) was quite common in Colonial times. So I made from a piece of packaging that something came in from a store (again, REUSE, RECYCLE!) my own primitive willow tree stencil (the willow means longevity and ‘home’).   I then had to decide on a subtle, historically accurate colour that would be contrasting to the colour of the wall, but also be subtle and not stick out like a you-know-what.  ALSO, I don’t run into town (40 min. away) for just any old thing. Once a week is the standard ‘rule’.  So it had to come from some paints I already had on hand.  I had some yellows left over from accenting the kitchen here and there, and I mixed this with some of the original frosty peppermint and  came up with a mustard gold. Photos of the whole wall process incl. making the stencils are here, just click on each photo to see it larger!

And the finished result of the texture and wall-paper effect:

The walls are obviously much lighter than they appear in the photos, I’ve darkened them a bit to show the contrast showing through with the rag-rolling.

This whole process, just the ceiling and walls took 3 and a half days with little or no rest  during the day.  By now I was exhausted, so decided to work on something for the bedroom, but which I could SIT DOWN and do.  I took one of the original 1880s doors form the upstairs (Mom’s now kitchen, where she didn’t WANT a door) and stripped it down and left it plain on one side, so it matches from the kitchen OR our room, or painted white on the other, so it looks good when shut (and because I simply didn’t have the energy to strip off 3 layers of very old shiny shellac and stain). Between sanding, stripping, scraping and then painting, I couldn’t really SIT too much, but at least I did it outside  on the porch and thus got the advantage of fresh air and the lovely views.

 

I wanted a dressing table to sit at and look at the views, and wanted the little white wicker chest I’ve had since I was about 3 years old to be my seat. I put castors on it, and gave it a lick more white chalk paint to brighten it up, then used one of the old wrought iron legs from an old sewing table that’s been in my mother’s house since the 1970s and a huge slab of an old outdoor step that I white-washed then distressed as the top.  I also re-did a few old picture frames I knew I wanted to hang in our room, and finally got to work on the last two projects: 1) sewing burlap/hemp fabrics for the head and footboard (I had to reshape the furniture by adding stuffing/quilt batting and old blankets first, then sewing on to the bed right in place, then finally stencilling with letters) and 2) re-doing the replicated antique bureau/dresser I’d tried to yard sale off in Ontario and couldn’t.  And now I’m so glad I didn’t!  Love how it looks with a chalk-painted, black-accented, sanded-edged distressed and stripped top surface! Here it is, before (to the far left in first photo), and after/now!:

And finally, after more than two weeks of work, 8-10 hours a day (remember, I had to do two coats on all the mouldings and windows as well!) Here are the photos of this lovely, light, breezy, ‘room with a view’. The fabrics (hemp, linen and cotton) are entirely all natural, and the two lace curtains are also from my mother’s living room – like the sewing machine table end- circa 1975! So everything is either  natural, or recycled or both. Historically accurate AND eco-friendly as much as possible. Love it! And when Richard finally got here, so did he!

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A Room With a VIEW!

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people have asked how I did the 3-D look of the collage of pictures and clock on the wall – for frames you want to stick out more from the wall, simply use another frame for one corner, and cut a wine cork to the same size and nail it in for the back of the other corner!

 

 

 

 

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made the jewelry ‘bust’ out of a rag of black velvet, a spool and an upside down planter with some dowels… easy! Use your imagination and don’t spend so much money!

 

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VIGNETTE of corner of the room – blouse was given to me by a woman whose grandmother got married in it – 1878!

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VIGNETTE – tip – if you’re redecorating shabby chic, paint your collections of cheaper things to stay within a 4-colour scheme, with 2 of those being NEUTRAL colours like black, white, or beige. Great accents!

Click on each of the following ‘vignette’ photos of the room to enlarge and to read the corresponding caption.

Full Bean Ahead – Waste Not, Want Not!

 

 

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Looking out my kitchen window toward the garden and meadows. July 2016. We’re keeping all beautiful cob and spiderwebs up this summer to see if it helps keep fly population DOWN in the house!  Besides, they are part of nature AND they are lovely!

Finally getting back to regular blogging after the interruption of a wordpress (this blog server) virus and some strange flu attacking my laptop as well. Joy and Richard arrived 10 days ago, and I just got R. to help me with the internet/laptop problems so I can write and post again.  People who know R. thinks he’s retired as of end of July.  Apparently, so did he – though I did warn him.  The garden is just starting to come in and if we want to live at ALL self-sufficiently for this year, it’s time to get cracking.  I’ve been baking and cooking double time in the kitchen to get back into doing regular meals again (rather than just picking at things for myself). Baking bread and muffins every 2nd or 3rd day.  But Richard, who has slept in most days, read a thick novel since arriving AND spent an entire day washing his ’73 Nova and driving it with the neighbour’s son to a classic car meet is going to take a little time to get his head wrapped around the idea that we have to WORK to LIVE here on the farm.  It’s coming along the last few days – but last Friday he was NOT full of beans like the garden. In fact, THIS is what things looked like from his perspective:

rich retireGlad we have no T.V., because with falling into bed exhausted, or reading, or playing our brain games (most from BBC youtube stashes) we are doing JUST fine.  Thought R. would kick up more of a fuss about this aspect, and maybe in the winter he will, but we’re good for now.

And it’s hard to train someone who has always bought whatever he feels like eating, that we are only snacking if we go to a little trouble at home to make it.  Like popcorn at night.  And I don’t mean MICROWAVED.  We’re making it the good old-f. way on the stove-top.  Richard learned how and is quite proud now to offer it up for our night-time munchies .

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Retirement mode did not take long at ALL to kick in, but at least he’s learning how to make our own snacks, rather than spending money on store-bought crap!

 

Another difficulty has been getting this yuppie to stop wasting things when he mows or weed-eats.  We live on a FARM. There are many more important things to do around here than whipper-snip right to the foundation of the house, and all around the barn, and around every darn TREE on the property!  Especially since he also took out a beautiful English ivy I’d been nurturing along for two months, training to climb our front porch pillars! AND wasted at least 30 apples from our orchard driving around and around bashing into the low-hanging branches, knocking the not-yet-ripe apples off, then driving over them again with the mower! Grrrrrrrrrrr…. It will take time for this life-style change to come to him, I know.  He’s still making several trips to town and around the valley when I have categorically stated that unless there’s a medical emergency we go ONCE per week – with a big list! It will take time…

While R. is not exactly full of beans, Joy (Mom) and the garden ARE. She’s single-handedly unpacked and decorated the whole of the upstairs in just 10 days, and is now up there peeling 1970s indoor/outdoor carpet off some of the hall-way’s hard-wood floors. And the garden is just over-flowing with beans of 3 varieties.  I bought a lot of the runner/climbing type of seeds because I wanted to spread them around various trellises and poles on the farm for beauty’s sake as well.  We are at least a month behind Ontario for what is ripe and ready, but we are already picking peas, and when these beans come in, we’re going to be BUSY!   And by then, I know R. will be full of beans as well!

 

If interested, these are the health benefits of green, organic beans, from the tree-hugger website mentioned previously:

Health benefits of Green beans

  • Fresh green beans are very low in calories (31 caloriess per 100 g of raw bean pods) and contain no saturated fat. Nevertheless, these lean pod vegetables are a very good source of vitamins, minerals, and plant derived micronutrients.
  • The beans are very rich source of dietary fiber (9% per 100g RDA) which acts as a bulk laxative. Fiber helps to protect mucousa in the colon by decreasing its exposure time to toxic substances as well as by binding to cancer-causing chemicals in the gut. Adequate amount of fiber has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels by decreasing reabsorption of cholesterol-binding bile acids in the colon.
  • Green beans contain excellent levels of vitamin A, and health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin and ß-carotene in good amounts. These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes.
  • Zea-xanthin, an important dietary carotenoid in the beans, selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eyes where it thought to provide antioxidant and protective UV-light filtering functions. It is, therefore, green beans offer some protection in the prevention of age-related macular disease (ARMD) in the elderly.
  • Snap beans are a good source of folates. 100 g fresh beans provide 37 µg or 9% of folates. Folate along with vitamin B-12 is one of the essential components of DNA synthesis and cell division. Good folate diet when given during preconception periods and during pregnancy may help prevent neural-tube defects in the newborn babies.
  • They also carry good amounts of vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (vitamin B-1), and vitamin-C. Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.
  • In addition, beans contain healthy amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium, which are very essential for body metabolism. Manganese is a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which is a very powerful free radical scavenger. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.