Tapping, Sapping, Lapping & …..Napping.

The temperature's up, the temperature's down
But this makes for a time to drill 
And tap the trees out in our bush.
For Richard, this has all been a thrill!

You can tell when the season is coming
The sunrises are glor'us once more
And the days are so much longer
We can be out in the woods after 4!
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The first step is to mark the maples
And while all plastic puts me in a FUNK,
We already had this roll of yellow-
So Richard tied bows 'round the trunk.

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He found about 15 good maples in all
And drilling holes was the next stage
(He broke my Makita, so we used his big thing,
Which naturally put ME in a rage!) 

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Next step is to put in the spile
(Again, plastic was NOT what I'd choose.
But since that's all they had, Richard taps
With a hammer, then POOF! In for a snooze!)

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Yup, that's a big morning, he figures.
15 holes drilled - what a lark!
But after lunch and a nap, what's he find?
The sap's running down the tree bark!

So he hurries and fits in his hose
(MORE plastic, "oh NO!" Julie raves!)
But at least the 'buckets' are recycled
From the milk jugs - a year's worth of saves!

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There's still so much snow that just walking
Is impossible in the deep white
So Richard and I ski or snow-shoe
While Smitty prances on top, he's so light!

And that toboggan is handy for tools
(Yes, the damn thing is PLASTIC again!)
But on days when my knee is too sore
Richard 'mushes' me down the back lane!

We collect sap for two days, in fridge
In many more jugs that we've kept
Then Richard takes over the kitchen
All newly pet-free and floor-swept.

('Cause we have to do enough straining
First with coffee filters, then in the pot
With a tiny sieve or cheesecloth
So we DON'T want hairs in that lot!)
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Richard waits for a roiling boil
Then boils for at least half a day
Keeping an eye on the temperature
As well as straining what joins in the fray!

He calls himself a middle-class-billy
So one not-QUITE-from-the-'hills'
But "geek" springs to mind as I watch him
And wait to mop up any spills!

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The windows are fogged up with moisture
And the paint will be peeling from walls
Next year we'll have to cook outside
Out where all of Nature enthralls!
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 On the first day, the smoke alarm sounded
(We'd left a pot boiling an hour
That we went to woods to collect more
And the burner was too high a power!)

So now Joy comes down to monitor
And put in her two-cents worth, al-so
Richard LOVES to create drama, so I
Hide down where seeds start to grow!

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R.'s back and forth to the woods
Running quite a nice little crop
But a pause is made to throw balls-
That snow-dust's the dog's sliding stop!

After hours and hours on the boil
The sap starts to thicken up well
Richard loves this high drama the best
As the bubbles go white and up-swell!

Ready or not, we pour in cool bowls
Then transfer syrup to jar
But leave a bit out for candy
The taffy's the show-stopping star!

Now Richard makes ME run outside
And grab fresh pee-free snow
And he pours the taffy on top
For a treat about which he'll CROW!

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 And a little further along on the boil
We get the hard-candy-works
Pour in a cake pan, stick in the freezer
And now - it's the greatest of perks:

The licking of sweets from utensils
That have stacked up in my kitchen again
There's pots and pans- mess all over!
But R's intent on his Purpose Main.

That is, to lap up enough treats
Before I notice his hill-billy teeth
Will need more dental work than money we've got-
What that guy eats is beyond belief!


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Now we take out the quick-cooled panned candy,
And smash the pan down with a bang.
It all breaks into jig-saw pieces.
All set for R.'s broken old fang.

For no sooner have I put it away,
Then he's caught with his hand reaching in
For that hardened gold treat he wants badly-
And I've got to pretend it's a sin!
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Chipped teeth when you haven't a 'plan'
Are not going to help us live
In a self-sufficient manner
So it's back to the pot and the sieve,

While I take a turn at collecting...
But I can't find the toboggan at all!
And there's that hard-working nut-bar
Setting himself for a great fall.

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And later still, cleaning the kitchen
I wonder why it's gone so quiet.
I check the pantry candy
To see if he's gone off his 'diet'.

But no, all the candy's still there...
Why on earth can't I hear a wee peep?
So I look in the bedroom, and there on the bed
Is the Maple Chief - quite fast asleep!

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2



 

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Old Decembers

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In the kitchen with my Great-Grandmas,

(Though I be fifty-two!) 

  To help pass a cold December along 

When e’en more baking will accrue!

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Two neighbours in the last few weeks have lent me recipe books – one was an actual one to use on a daily basis,full of Danish recipes and hints written by the ladies of this county, Victoria.  It’s had several printings but it was originally done in the 1890s. And so, as New Denmark WAS a large part of the county, Danish recipes figure prominently within.  But another very exciting book to me was written by Dr. Chase – publication date, 1862 –  it was dedicated to the in-office President at the time – Lincoln!    And it has some great old tid-bits I simply must share!

An Ontario friend also wrote and asked me for my Grandmother Johnson’s old favourite – Florida Ice (a quick dessert with orange juice and bananas she always kept in her freezer for us and our visiting friends.) And that got me thinking that I must look up some of the old recipes in the recipe book she gave to HER mother (my great-grandmother) one cold December in preparation for Christmases to come….

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I love the title page, and the dedication page in this 1862 book of Dr. Chase’s :

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I find it interesting indeed that Dr. Chase felt it necessary to ‘explain’ sandwiches to women who were very likely well-versed and experienced in every possible type under the sun!  I’m also surprised that they were making peanut butter sandwiches in 1862, aren’t you?  And do you not think that he could have just said in a line under the title: “Moisten all these sandwich fillers with salad dressing !  (mayonnaise) ”   Too funny!

But, though Dr. Chase’s book was full of recipes (the most basic of things, by the way, almost as if it was really written for bachelors, though he says it’s information for EVERYBODY) more than half of it was about other useful tips:

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If you’ve been following this blog since the summer, you’ll know that I used a similar concoction like the old milk paint (chalk/lime paint) to historically renovate many of the rooms and furniture in this old farmhouse.  I find his phrase “it is too cheap to estimate” quite humourous, especially as to purchase it in a store today, you will find it more expensive than most paints! (Why I mixed my own!)

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He is not very specific about how to ‘make’ various forms of metal as above, and the finishes on them. Like the sandwiches, I suspect you pretty much already need to know how to do these things, as he doesn’t really tell you HOW!

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I love these little asides he gives – that gentleman from Indiana who told him how to make a good black ink for a banker… and how he’s never actually tried it, but should mention it in case it’s a good way, and would be lost to the world other than from his own pen!

And most interesting of all!  So many buildings burned in days of yore ( I know the original barn on our Blue Belldon Farm, did.) that he actually advises not to use blue ink because it won’t hold up in the heat of a safe when the building is burning down! Love it!

Many of you will know that besides Rustic Revivals and Rural Revivals, another little side-line business I have is called Juliet’s Quill.  So I enjoy reading about various inks and how they are made.  Here are some of my works, to do only with recipes (the wedding and poetry works will be mentioned at Valentines and in the spring when I do some romantic/lovey-dovey blog postings!)

If you’re at all interested in the variety of calligraphy styles, you can view my Juliet’s Quill shop on etsy here:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/julietsquill

You might be forgiven for thinking that this book of Dr. Chase’s was really written for men, but then you’ll have a special smile for this:

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“Broken Breasts” ?  “Injections for female complaints”?  “Excessive Flooding” ? – Yikes!

and hey – he’s even writing for young ladies entering puberty, in ‘plain and delicate language’. Well, I ask you – how can he be both plain AND delicate?  And by the way – exactly what would the ‘failure’ be of treating a female hemorrhage with Professor Platt’s remedy.  A fainting spell, or an actual fatality?

The above is from his index.  So enjoyable I had to share a few other pages from it. Click on each circle to enlarge:

Apparently Dr. Chase knows everything in the world – from advice to give unemployed young men, to how to make a ‘gravel house’ ? – and have you ever seen currant ‘catchup’? I wonder at the latter term;  I always understood the generic term to be “catsup”, and then Heinz came along to coin “ketchup”.  If you look up ‘catchup’, there’s certainly no mention of the condiment to which Dr. Chase is referring!

Enough of the good ‘doctor’ (bet he was just a travelling Medicine Show  “doctor”, to begin with, like this: )

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Now, in order of age of books, I’ll present the Victoria  County Ladies’ Cookbook next:

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Apparently, of all the ladies of Victoria County, not ONE was talented enough to write their own ‘ditty’ for the front cover? They had to get a man to do it! grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr….

This book is quaint, as it has many delicious ‘exotic’ recipes, as well as the French, English and Danish basic ones from the area’s first settlers. Click on each photo below for a caption.

Another thing I enjoy from these books is that they just quickly write our the ingredients and amounts, and don’t make a big deal explaining how to combine and bake everything. Saves a lot of space!

Lastly, the real connection to my own relatives.  If you’ve been following the blog all along, you’ll know that I use a bread board made by my great-grandfather, for my Grandma McKenzie.  In the Juliet’s Quill shot, above, was a picture of “Hawkie”, or Gram Hawkins.  Her blind husband Will, (who died from his diabetes long before I was born, but I did know Hawkie quite well…)  made the bread board I still use for his daughter, Dorothy, pictured below:

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Now blue breadboard (orig. light milk-paint yellow) made by my great-grandfather for my Grandma McKenzie. I use it nearly every day.
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from l-r – our farmhouse a few weeks ago, Grandma McKenzie, whose breadboard I use for bread and pastries, and Grandma Johnson, whose recipe book Christmas gift to her mother inspired the next bit of blogging. If you can get these old card catalogues from libraries, they make GREAT recipe card filers, as well as junk drawers, nail and screw organizers and, like my own pigeon holes, pictured below, for spice boxes!

Both photos of my grandmothers (above) were taken on or near their wedding days.  Grandma Johnson, far right, gave this book to her mother, Maude Lipsit, of Straffordville, Ontario in December of 1936.

Maude, my Great-grandmother, was a Johnson before she married a Lipsit.  Then her daughter, my grandmother, married a different family of Johnson.  I still have some engraved “J” silverware which goes back to the great-great Johnsons.  Here’s Maude on HER wedding day, posing with one of my Rustic Revivals’ burlap and vintage lace wreaths (some of the lace actually from Maude’s own old placemats, so it’s fitting that she be seen here!).

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Incidentally, these wreaths have been a best-seller for me in the past. One was sent to California, one to England, and  TWO to the outback of Australia.  (Apparently they don’t have anything like the kind of burlap we are used to here in North America!) These primitive wreaths can be hung on doors or walls, or you can untie and remove the bent wire clotheshanger I have put on the back to keep its form when hanging, and place it on your table with a bowl in the centre full of floating candles, roses, fruit or other bowl-fillers.  The link to the wreaths is in my Rustic Revivals’ shop here:  https://www.etsy.com/listing/71210683/custom-burlap-and-vintage-lace?ga_search_query=wreaths&ref=shop_items_search_6

Anyway, it isn’t so much the pleasure of having  my grandmother Johnson’s hand-writing preserved here in several ‘clippings’ (she ALWAYS wrote in pencil), as well as that of my Great-Grandma Lipsit’s:

but it’s fun to read the quotes on the front of the envelopes meant to hold all the clippings from either the newspaper, or the hand-written collections. The quotes are amusing (and again, nearly entirely written by men, of course!)

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and, in addition to these fun verses, is perusing the many ads and articles from pre-WWII and during the war.  So many Christmassy tips for sending baked goods to the soldiers!  And of course it’s always interesting to read the prices!

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so sad that ‘the boys’ had to just receive some old candy and stale cookies from overseas for their Christmas gifts, made by their wives and mothers
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How nice it must have been, less than a century ago, to just address something as , for instance “Bovril, Park Ave. Montreal”. Three easy words, and no numbers at all in the address! Mind you, I’ve heard of old letters from the 1800s being sent simply to, for instance, Mrs. S. Fudge, Canada. That always gets me!
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Ah, me – a box of seedless tangerines , a doz. for 33 cents! No wonder they were often used in stockings as a special treat!
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all that Christmas prep. for ‘the boys’ overseas was likely being done around Hallowe’en!
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This almond paste will be used for making Richard’s favourite marzipan, as it was a tradition in his house growing up and New Brunswick doesn’t seem to have it! Don’t you love how you have to ‘send away’ for the rest of the recipes and instructions, though?

With all this interesting historical reading from clippings saved by my great-grandmother, it’s a wonder I ever actually get BAKING.  But here’s the proof that I DO – at least nearly every 2nd day:

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There I is, with Great-grandmother’s recipe book close to hand.  The Christmas apron is from my friend in England, with whom I’ve spent several Christmases, when I lived over there on the Yorkshire moors…He thought it was funny to give me that, as the only thing I ever made HIM and his family for Christmas was red and green jello.  (Which they call ‘jelly’, and which they only ever eat as a dessert). And that takes us right back to my beginning statements about the difference between “jam and jelly”depending  which side of the ocean you hail from.  And I don’t remember seeing any recipes using ‘jello’ in dear old Dr. Chase’s book!

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Speaking of old ladies at Christmas, this is the 3rd near-life size Mrs. Claus I’ve made and sold through Rustic Revivals’ primitive dolls line. (Entirely made with old rags, all natural fabrics)  She’s my favourite by far!  Reminds me of my own great-grandmothers, all ‘sugar and spice’….

I’ll write one more time later this week to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from Blue Belldon Farm.  When you live self-sufficiently it’s important to wrap in an eco-friendly way, and save everything, and not overspend on presents, but to make them instead (or buy them at surplus/salvage/sales, or buy something you have to have anyway – like Richard has a set of snowshoes as his present so he can go off in our woods in the New Year and start cutting next year’s heating!)

So, I’ll be sharing some photos of these things to help you get in the spirit!

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Something’s Rotten in the State of (New) Denmark

I haven’t written since prior to Hallowe’en for three reasons:

  1. The Hallowe’en photos and poem I worked on had the lowest amount of views since I started blogging – so I won’t be bothering with the funny, trivial stuff anymore, I guess (though why you’d want to miss Richard as a possessed child in the window, I’m not sure…) And so I was a bit blog-bummed.
  2. The election in the states upset me deeply, and still has. I’ve cried for a few days, now, but am privately corresponding continually with a number of American, Canadian and British (oh, and one Japanese- a former ESL student when I taught in Montana!)  and it helps to find ‘strength in numbers’.  As I’m such an advocate for the environment as well as human rights/women’s rights, it has sickened me terribly and I haven’t felt like doing anything so trivial as blogging!
  3. Any spare computer time I’ve had has seen me working to get my Etsy shop back up and running after a hiatus of nearly a year and a half.  It is finally up-dated, re-tagged, and with new shipping policies (from either Limestone, Maine, or here in New Denmark, depending on if customer is Am. or Can.!). All that remains to be done is to start back at the workbench creating ‘new'(old) salvage and folk art…  the shop link is http://www.etsy.com/shop/rusticrevivals

If you’re a New Brunswick family member on Richard’s side of the family, you should probably stop reading/scrolling now. Otherwise, the photos and explanations you’re about to see will spoil part of your presents for Christmas!

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Deck the Country Halls with Potpourri – Smells Christmassy, too!

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, you’ll know that Richard ‘s kids and all his many foster kids (over 18) called him “Pippi” instead of Pappy.  So, since his whole family will be up for Christmas this year, I’ve had to devise homesteady ways of giving them gifts.  They will be getting what was MEANT to be bright red crab-apple jelly (but ended up a dark burgundy), what was MEANT to be a bright green mint jelly (but I didn’t have food colouring or even spinach with which to dye it, so it’s clear) and a big jar of “Pippi’s Pine, Peppermint, Poppy and Petal Pot-pourri”.  To go along with “Julie’s Jellies”.

Back in August, I picked poppy and rose petals, mint leaves, pine needles and pine cones, and set it all out on thick cardboard to dry:

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The Pine and Mint smell of Christmas, the poppy leaves give it their red colour (good to write this on Remembrance Day, too – we sure had loads of poppies! In case you’ve forgotten (I already have) how pretty and green and flowery everything was, see below for the 4 ingredients to the perfumed gift.)

Once the ingredients for the potpourri are dried (about a half-day if it’s hot – don’t leave until they start curling or turning ‘dead’ colour!) put them in a mason jar with a small string of fairy lights (cord should be near top) put on lid, then put decorative fabric over that, with rubber band and  twine/ribbon.  When the recipient of the gift wants to plug in their potpourri jar, they should take the tin top off (which I put on to preserve the perfumes),  pull the plug end out, put the fabric back over the opening, and plug in the lights!  The tiny bit of heat from the fairy lights causes the potpourri to waft its scents throughout the room. Lovely!

Thus, despite the horrible shock of the election and what it means for the world (“something rotten” )  nothing will SMELL rotten in New Denmark in the next festive weeks to come…

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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.

Blue Belldon Borage Bites

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Delicious!  All fresh and organic too!

Can’t believe I just sat down to eat the very first things from our property – a great way to end a super Sunday!  Finally got down the hill to meet Martha Oullette of Martha’s Place, a darling little antique shop a stone’s throw from our front door here at the farm.  I bought the cute little New Brunswick-made pottery creamer from her,  (needed a small one, because the big one is more like a jug!) as well as two jars of her own clover honey from this stunning valley.  Then I came back to see if our wild strawberries were ready to harvest yet, because though I checked about 4 days ago, Martha advised that they were indeed ready. And sure enough!  I also picked some borage I planted a month ago, and while our own salad greens aren’t ready yet, some from last year’s garden has grown enticingly, and thus – here’s the meal:

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Meal tonight: Lettuce cress, Wild strawberries and Borage all from this property – Borage makes great iced tea which I also flavoured with the strawberries as well.  The addition of the cheese curds is a tease for Richard who loves them – and they are local from the area as well! Can’t wait ’til we have our own dairy goat so EVERYTHING in the bowl comes from Blue Belldon Farm, though!

Outside the window are the raised beds for the more-shaded salad greens.  I made these out of more kitchen drawers when renovating the kitchen.  The house offers that area shade up until about 2:00 p.m., so I think we’ll have some tasty treats there eventually.  Everyone is saying what a late start it’s been for gardens this year, though, with two weeks of cold and rain after the initial end-of-May heat wave… the poor seeds haven’t known what was up!  But I loved sitting on my front porch tonight with my dog at my feet, and an amazing mountain vista in front of me, hulling the tiny berries in my lap… as so many Appalachian women before me have sat and done for at least 2 centuries!  Delightful!

Have tried to clean up the front porch a bit, although the door has been blocked until Richard makes me my much-dreamt-of Dutch door.  But this is where Smitty and I sat to  hull the berries…  Reckon mebbe a oughter get me a pipe now, though?

Scones and the Scullery Maid

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For a short time during one of my stints living in  Great Britain, I worked for a duchess who held her late  husbands’ seat in the House of Lords.  I worked, naturally, on her rural estate doing many household jobs but primarily baking for her hearty country appetite when she came back from London each weekend. The head gardener and I had the same sense of humour, and he often called me the scullery maid when he came in to find me cleaning Lady M.’s silver, or ironing her clothes, or rolling dough.  This week I have found, on top of the regular renovations and all the planting, weeding and watering going on in the garden that I am becoming much like that scullery maid once again. Only it’s of course much more pleasant when it’s for oneself.

As we are trying hard to be as organic and natural as possible, as well as not spending money on unnecessary things, I had to research how to clean all the copper I have that shines in the kitchen, and my collection of horse brasses that hang on the mantle and from beams in the living room, just like a British pub. I discovered that the most natural, simplest and most effective for my desires (which is to say NOT as shiny and perfect as my mother might choose to have them) was to use simple catsup.  Other acidic, citrus fruits will work too in various forms (rub lemon and some salt on!) but as we’ll be eventually canning lots of tomatoes, the catsup seems like the best decision. The more you can glob on and leave for a minute on the surface, the better it will eat away at the tarnish. Then, just rinse it off and rub and buff it.  No need for gloves, or to ventilate the room or any of that nonsense, AND it’s much better for the environment as well.

 

I also made my favourite scones (another British favourite) this week, as I am no longer buying anything at all that can be made in my country kitchen from scratch.  This is a simple and quick recipe and while they aren’t as light and fluffy as the top chefs might produce in the u.k., they are dandy for a quick grab for a snack with butter/jam, or even sliced in half as a sandwich.

Preheat the oven to 400 (can’t wait to try these on my wood cookstove in winter!) and lightly grease a baking sheet. Then combine 3 cups flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, 5 tsp. baking powder (that’s the secret – use more b.p. than you’d think!)  and that generous pinch of salt to activate it.  Then cut in the butter 3/4 of a cup, mix 1 egg and 1 cup of milk together and blend it all until you can put it out in a lump on your bread board (lightly flour the surface first).  Knead for 3 or 4 minutes, and then roll the dough out (in my photo). Keep it about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut them into wedge-shapes, or triangles, and place them on the baking sheet, then cook for 15 min. Couldn’t be simpler and they are yummy, esp. right out of the oven!

The scullery maid worked her hands raw

While the gardener sat with his loose-hinged jaw.

He sipped his tea and gossiped aloud;

She cooked, cleaned and ironed as she was most house proud.

(I imagine the above to be true of most instances in any house of the gentry going back many centuries!)

 

the-jealous-maids

 

Recent Reno. Country Kitchen

 

The kitchen at Blue Belldon Farm was stuck in the 1970s, with heavily varnished plywood cupboards, dark painted shelves, panelling for the back. The fridge was on an outside wall where I eventually want to put our wood cookstove, so it had to be moved. And the walls were painted that pinkish-beige that was so popular decades ago, but does nothing to cheer or brighten a room.  Thinking open and airy, yet still 1800s primitive farmhouse kitchen, I designed around what I already owned and did all the work, including cutting cupboard doors on big power tools in the barn, ALL BY MYSELF.  Am I proud of the result? You bet!  Scroll down to see the changes that took 11 days straight of 8-10 hour days – the painting was a  nightmare, not just to get rid of the 1970s and all its lacquers and varnishes and possibly- cigarette-baked finishes, but to get the effect I wanted as well – all in all, most things had 4 coats, with some extra touches done on the doors.Still going to put in glass in those doors I cut out, just have plastic for now… The board on the stovetop is my great-grandmother’s bread board, upside down, made by my great-grandfather before electric stoves were invented – but it fits perfectly as a cover! AND I still use it to roll out dough, knead bread as well. (see my first loaf here at the farm, below).

Before:                               and    After:  *click to make bigger

There was a big island and built in cabinet in the middle of the ‘L’-shape, so I sledge-hammered that out to make room for the pine cabinet from the auction we attended a few years ago on New Year’s Day.  Filled with all my favourite artists’ pottery, some of Mom’s weaving, and other treasures…

Before: (built in island/cupboard at far right)  After:   *click to  make bigger

The pantry, which is where I’ve moved the fridge as well, is also lightened up and my bake table will be there as soon as Richard fixes the poor old rickety legs on it.

All the 1970s’ doors have been taken off to be used for other projects or for Rustic Revivals shabby chic (when painted white) shop displays. Nothing goes to waste, of course, but reconfiguring is the name of the game.  A quickly-accessed pantry now, that has brighter shelves, with the phone cubby and the fridge all tucked away there out of the main part of the kitchen. Love it! Everything bought in bulk and stored in canisters, or hung above, easy to grab when right there baking, mixing, blending, dreaming…

Eventually, we hope to change out the ceiling for more historical wood and beams, and rip all the many layers of vinyl/linoleum on the floor to get to original floorboards as well. Richard is going to make a concrete counter top for us and we’ll put in a butler’s sink. But for now, this is a very happy, bright, livable kitchen and will be an even cozier place when the cookstove is in the corner!

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If you’re interested in rural renovations, and historically accurate preservations,below are the steps to get the kind of ‘aged’ finish on the blue door-fronts, as well as the white chalk paint mix and the hinge trick I had to use – but it saved money and time!

The stores out here in boonesville don’t carry the heritage brands of paint that were designed to match the blends the pioneers made from various berries. I’ve always gone with some form of Colonial Blue – but usually of my own mixing to save money.  This replicates what the pioneers did with blueberries and blackberries, to ‘stain’ their wood.  To the left is the table leg of my bake table, which I actually DID as the pioneers would have. To the right I am going through the steps to achieve the same effect with paint:P6020002.JPG

Here are the steps: First,  I removed cupboard doors and stripped, sanded them, as well as shelves inside the cupboards.  I didn’t do these, however, like you would do a piece of fine antique furniture – I left holes and lumps (though I did fill the old hinge holes as they were too obviously hinge holes). Leaving the imperfections adds character when you are distressing and aging anyway.

Next, painted door-fronts a baby blue I hated, but used as a primer. Then made up a chalk paint with arts and crafts Colonial blue (helped stretch it further as well as making it more historically accurate).  Then I aged the doors by sponging on an oak stain, let it sit for 5 minutes, and then clean rag-rubbed it off, or buffed it in to holes, etc.

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I then painted the hinges and hardware  I was using – both the old ones to save money, and the new ones I bought from the feed store and with which I attached tiny hearts in my craft supplies to give the effect.  As copper is the primary colour of any metals in my kitchen (and I’ll eventually have a copper tap at the butler’s sink as well), I bought copper spray paint, sprayed it into a container and then hand-brushed it on the hardware so it all matches in colour, though has lots of diversity in the look! (which you want for ‘country’ – you don’t want everything matching, everything lined up, everything covered up…

 

This is how the doors look that AREN’T cut for glass:

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This is an inexpensive way to make ‘arrow strap hinges’.  The door to the right was my very first cutting on the radial arm saw, so while it fits the space, it DOES have that big crack and hangs a little unevenly – but again – it adds CHARACTER! And since the kitchen floors are far from level anyway, it’s just part of the charm for me. (especially given that it’s my OWN work – it means more!) The saw,  of my Montana log cabin incl. the horse I’d bred and trained, was done by lifelong friend Marg Moylan and has been in every kitchen I’ve had since she gave it to me. But this is the best spot!
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All the shelves were either sanded and painted white, or covered with white parchment paper or both. Many of the drawers or cupboard doors were removed to make room for crates and displays, as because of the pine hutch and the pantry, I have more than enough storage.
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and another historically accurate addition is the use of curtains, especially around the sink. Adds to the variety and character and takes away from that uniformed, boring ‘kitchen cupboard’ look.  So much more warmth and coziness, don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favourite Country Kitchen Items

towers cupboard1

The above is my 220 year old crazy quilt which I always have displayed somewhere in my kitchen, with the barnboard cabinet made by Malcolm Towers of Hamilton, Ontario.

https://www.facebook.com/malcolm.towers.31

The hinges are the same type that will be used when I’ve renovated /upcycled the kitchen cupboards.

Below, Marg Moylan personalized folk-art saw.

julie, quilt, saw

Below is the project I’ve just finished.  30 years ago I had a collection of International Coffee Tins sponge painted blue and white to match my dishes and to hold all my spices. However, I sold those years ago and have used the pigeon holes (from a hotel in London, ON) for a variety of many other uses.  Now, I want to have them back permanently in my kitchen, but couldn’t find old coffee tins, tea tins or anything the right size/shape. Thus, I very reluctantly bought boxes at the dollar store that fit (with chalkboard tops I can also use for labelling) and have aged and distressed and decorated them, along with 6 plastic ( I of course also hate plastic, but needed SOME that were air-tight).

pigeon holes

***above, pottery  oil light by Natalie of Remembrances:https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/RemembrancesPottery

and cloth gingham bags by Miriam, quilter/fabric collector: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/MiniMade

The plastic, which I would never use normally, was the same shape as my old International Coffee Tins, so I felt I had to use a few, but made myself feel better by knowing that, though imported boxes, the rest of the spice holders were at least wood and thus eco-friendly.  The plastic boxes were Mod-Podged, but not literally. (You do know that they sell that stuff at exorbitant prices but it’s really just cheap clear-drying thin white glue?  You can buy some cheap glue, and if it isn’t thin enough, add a few drops of water and stir! Cover surface with glue, tear or cut napkins or photos, pretty paper, etc., glue on and then when dry, paint over with the glue substance again, and it dries as a hard protective outer covering).  The boxes were lightly stained dark, then partially painted blue, which I then wiped off as a distressing technique, then I sponge-painted with white to match my sponged dishes, and sanded down/box-cuttered the edges, and finally put on matching labels from what I used on the plastic containers – a brown paper choice which kept the boxes looking old.

Another favourite of mine I hope to display in the kitchen is this “apothecary” for dried flowers and herbs, originally made by and for my Great Aunt Jessie, who was a wood-worker and made the wee drawers for all her hardware… I have a collection of old tins and bottles with mod-podged old labels on them (downloaded from internet) that look great in and around these apothecary drawers…

jess's apothecary

And lastly, a favourite kitchen display piece is my antique pine hutch which we ‘rescued’, primarily unwanted from an auction for $300.00 just a few years ago…

pine hutch

All Canadians should know this… and OBJECT!

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The statistics are mind-boggling, the numbers seem exaggerated… but this is all true, folks.  If you can’t grow your own ( and anyone can, inside, u.v. lights, near windows, or on apartment balconies and in back yard greenhouses) THEN AT LEAST PAY ATTENTION WHEN YOU ARE GROCERY SHOPPING!  We are eating SOOOO much that doesn’t come from our own country (giving developers more excuses to take over and build on our agricultural land, and in the woodland and marshes that are natural habitat for our wildlife.)   Every year I see more and more apple and pear trees by the sides of roads and in old orchards left unharvested. WHY are we wasting our own food, only to spend top dollar and import much less naturally-grown and naturally-stored fruits? Are we really THAT lazy now?  We have tipped the scales WAY too far – things are wholly unbalanced, and I’m not sure we can ever right it properly again.  But, the next time you are in the produce aisles, look at what you’re about to buy that’s not just grown in the States, but even worse, Mexico, South America, Central America and overseas!  So that not only are we eating terribly unhealthily, with chemically enhanced products that cause cancer and all other types of brain and body diseases and conditions BUT we are messing with our own economy, and giving greedy corporations license to keep building on our OWN farm and orchard lands…. Watch this. You absolutely WILL NOT BELIEVE!  Eat REAL (ie: NOT baby carrots, even if they say ‘organic’) and Eat LOCAL – meaning not just our own nation, but our own NEIGHBOURHOODS.  (Or better yet your own home-growns).  And if you can’t afford organic produce, DO wash your food in natural vinegar – far more pesticide poisons will be taken off with vinegar than a mere rinse in water – and it makes ’em all shiny, too!

 

Below, a vertical hanging herb garden  Rustic Revivals (me!) built for a customer who wanted to grow her herbs and smaller veg. in the frame outside during the summery months and inside the rest of the year – made from old pieces of tobacco slats…

 

vertical herbs

local

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fortune cookies

Remember the margarine commercial “It’s not NICE to fool with Mother Nature…???

This is another frightening, eye-opening article about how our food is being modified – without our knowledge!  http://health101.org/art_Mother_Nature.htm

And lastly, here is a piece of salvage art made by Rustic Revivals (me)  – the blocks were old table legs cut up and found in a dumpster. The fabric is all tea-stained linen from a scrap bag.  The piece reminds us NOT to fool with Mother Nature – can we ever put it all back to rights? Sometimes I am so disheartened by what we as a species have done to this planet…      (for more salvage and folk art eco-friendly/natural works by Rustic Revivals, see either our shop on etsy.com  – http://www.etsy.com/shop/rusticrevivals   OR google the name for more info/photos!)  The below was made for a Mother’s Day gift, which gives it that little extra double meaning!

 

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Don’t think I HERD ya right… eh?

 

My CHEESE BOXES are at the ready – but do I just want one goat, two, or a small herd? (Actually, below items are from my Rustic Revivals shop at http://www.etsy.com/shop/rusticrevivals, or visit us here at the farm to see them all in our ‘cabin’!)pioneer womanblue goat

                     fabulous quick and simple youtube video from the Prairie Homestead!