Slicing Through

“The powerful wind swept his hair away from his face; he leaned his chest into the wind, as if he stood on the deck of a ship heading into the wind, slicing through the waves of an ocean he’d not yet seen.” 
― John Irving, The Cider House Rules

One of my favourite books, that.  The Cider House Rules.  Not really about apples or cider.  Not too much, even, about our neighbouring state of Maine.  But very deep, very philosophical and very beautiful.  If you haven’t read or seen it, do so. The parts that DO take place in the orchards are both romantic and dramatic.

Apple orchards ARE a place of romance for many. Through the ages they have been lovely settings – L.M. Montgomery’s Anne was ALWAYS mentioning “The White Way of Delight”, even when it wasn’t June and the blossoms weren’t  exploding on tree limbs.  Vintage postcards and greeting cards romanticize the entire system of keeping up an orchard.

 

While my brother-in-law proposed to my sister in his grandparents’ old-farm orchard on the west coast of Newfoundland and although Richard’s niece is to get married here next summer under our own lovely apple trees with the Appalachians as the backdrop,

we are actually finding our little orchard of apple trees to be a primary source of frustration (2nd to the constant blackfly problem for me, I’d say).

Our apple trees seem to be a focal point for our amazing views, no matter what the season.  They are dainty and pretty in spring, laden with  big red apples in late summer, dramatically ‘spiky’ in fall as they lose their leaves, and always holding sparkling layers of clean snow in winter.  Even more so, they are often ‘at the end of the rainbow’, or part of the footlights of the setting sun’s reflections:

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And both last year and this we had a heavy crop of apples.  Here’s just a branch from one, taken at the wildflower garden we are slowly working on (and beside which the bride will glide next July!)

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I’ve long been a fan of apple fests, apples-for-the-teacher, apple-blossom themes, and my work as Rustic Revivals proves this:

In fact, for their Christmas gift last year I made my sister and brother-in-law a hat hook for their summer cottage/old farm’s entranceway, romanticizing their engagement and reminding them of other things in their lives they love to share:

However, it is not the quantity of apples here that is a worry, NOR even the quality, though 80 percent do have some kind of wormhole.  But I’ve taught Richard not to worry so much about those, as I just cut them out and go on with whatever I planned to do that particular day with that harvest.  The problem is, for two years in a row, and trying all the recommended options, we have been unable to KEEP our apples for longer than 2 weeks!  We divide them into three categories when we pick – “kitchen”, “animal treats” and “compost”.  I do try to get as many into some kind of production in the kitchen that day or the next, but with so much else to be harvested at the same time, it would make life easier if the apples could be put off say, until after Thanksgiving (Can. one, in early Oct., not the American one near end of Nov.).  But no such luck!

Part of the problem with having an Olde Homestead is that the pioneers didn’t have the selection of various apples we have today, and thus many didn’t plant some of the more rugged thick-skinned apples that were made for winter storage.  Although we learned last year that one is supposed to wrap each apple separately in paper BEFORE putting into cold storage, that didn’t work any better this year than NOT wrapping them did last year.  So there went about 6 hours of my time wasted, over the course of several days of wrapping! (Those ones were primarily the ones we’d deemed for the animals, so admittedly they had more bruises, but according to all my reading they still should have kept better/longer!)

 
The other part of the problem of Olde Homestead-owning is that there are usually, for many years, people not tending to the orchard’s needs, not pruning the trees, for instance, and not keeping the apples raked up from under the limbs every year (and this must be done immediately, as soon as a few apples have fallen or the next year’s harvest will be ‘buggier’ and less plentiful, we’ve learned!)  My brother-in-law, Boyd, has run into the same problem of years of neglect, on his grandparents’ farm – and he has chosen what I consider a frightening option. He’s cut down many of the old trees, and planted new ones, essentially starting from scratch.  For reasons of time, expense and yes, romanticism (I don’t want to start chopping down Ida May’s trees that she planted just before she died at age 33 in 1931!) we will have to find another solution.  And I couldn’t even convince Richard to purchase a pear tree for this year, to plant, so we’re one season further from having our own delectable yellow fruit as well!

Here’s my brother-in-law and sister standing in front of our apple trees in July:

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If you’ve seen 3 more goofier-looking adults, it could only be with the addition of Richard in the frame.  We weren’t even TRYING to look silly, we were just smiling! (my skirt courtesy of cousin Linda’s family, some of our visitors this summer)

After completing losing about two bushels of apples we’d picked and I’d wrapped and put in the coldest part of our basement (they went to compost, but it still hurts!) we were invited to our Honey Man’s farm.  He allowed us to pick a plethora of his own apples, less blighted than ours.  But he still warned us they wouldn’t last long, even if wrapped.  Stubbornly, and as I was so busy preparing beans, peas, tomatoes, etc. I wrapped all of them late one night and had them put in the basement.  Within a few days, thanks to blackflies and fruitflies, we noticed they were starting to get mushy, so Richard went to buy a solid metal apple-peeler, and he went to work on them!

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Mom and I did what we could by hand to keep up:

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(Mom’s apron – and ours hanging in background just above her head – courtesy of Shirley Robinson, yet another of our many guests this past year).

The nice thing about the apple-slicer was that I was at least able to freeze several buckets of just slices, so at least in a way we have preserved ‘apples’ that we could eat ‘fresh’ or also feed as treats to the animals when it gets cold and they are very bored.  However, a bit of lemon juice or my homemade apple cider vinegar on them before they start to thaw is necessary so they don’t turn brown, which Richard hates.  The slices are also great to put into pies or loaves, but I also, as last year, immediately made apple sauce, juice, cider and apple cider vinegar.  (The many health, baking and cleaning uses for this latter were mentioned in my blog post on our apple harvest last year).  Here are the many processes we had to do over the course of only about 5 days:

The apple sauce isn’t just eaten as apple sauce, but we reheat to pour over ice-cream, frozen yogurt (hopefully next year made with goats’ milk!), we CAN use it in my soda-cracker quick-pies, and a few table spoons can be put in bran mash for Chevy or Cammie on really cold days. (One thing I didn’t make this year, and we shall miss, is the delectable apple BUTTER!) The last photo is all the scraps we save from the peelings, which is then corked and allowed to sit for a month before we pour and strain to get the proper type of  ACV, with the all-important ‘mother’.  I try and drink a spoonful of this in water every day (sweetened with honey or Stevia).

So, while the apple harvest WAS a bit disappointing again this year, and there are no big red globes in our basement for easy access, there’s nothing like knowing that, thanks to our neighbour’s offer of a 2nd harvest of HIS apples, our freezer and pantry are at least full of pails and jars of the innerds! And there’s nothing like heating up that applesauce to have with a bit of custard, either! Hmmmm…

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(that apron is courtesy of my grandmother McKenzie, from the old Sparta Mercantile circa about 1982, and the bonnet is from an etsy seller.  I have to put on this “Little House on the Prairie” get-up because many of our u.k. visitors seem to think we’re a cross between the Ingalls and the Waltons!)

Sadly, however, Richard came home from town yesterday with something that upset me, and I mean to fix this issue once and for all next year.  There HAS to be a way!  He wanted us to have a few fresh apple slices in our salads, and he wanted to feed Chevy ‘treats’ because he spoils him rotten.  Like a rotten apple!

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Everything about this upsets me, the plastic bag, the unnecessary money spent, the fact that these apples aren’t local and certainly have been chemically sprayed, and the fact that we don’t seem one step closer to living self-sufficiently with these on our table, and two huge apple trees outside our bedroom window!

One thing we didn’t do was wrap them AND put them on single layers on racks downstairs.  We do have these racks built into the basement, so I shall try a few of them next year.  But anyone that’s found any other ideas for making them last at least to November, I’d very much like to hear your experiences!

Of course around here, the old farm orchards are being terribly wasted.  Although this is a pretty sight this week – I still HATE seeing it, as there’s so much we could have done with all of those if I could but learn how!

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I even saw someone with spotlights on their apple trees like this, lit up for Christmas!  While it was lovely – I STILL wanted to go pick those apples!

When we first moved here Jane Hansen gave me a Victoria County recipe book from the local ladies of 60 or 70 years ago.  There are many ideas for baking with apples, so the slices in our freezer WILL come in handy for these, and it’s nice to know I’m using recipes handed down by our neighbours:

Still, to add insult to injury (in my head at least) is the fact that I’ve been looking for more blue stoneware plates and bowls to replace the ones Richard breaks on a regular basis.  I once had a collection of 6 of each, with red hearts, and I’ve looked everywhere to find the red hearts again. They aren’t on etsy,ebay, or anywhere that I can find, but I did luck out and find these a few weeks ago in Value Village in Fredericton:

 

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Would you BELIEVE I have to look at apples now at every meal, just to remind me there’s no whole ones for us OR the livestock?  Ah, well — I bet you thought this whole blog was going to be about apples, though, didn’t you?

But we spend our days slicing through life in other ways.  Whether the bread I make every 2nd or 3rd day is in a traditional loaf pan, or like this one, we get better and better at slicing just the right thickness for toast, sandwiches or chunky warm delights with stews or soups:

And Richard always has to have a ‘sweet loaf’ to slice up, in addition to the cookies/scones in the cookie jar:

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(Fingerless mitts: an early Christmas gift  knitted by our dear friend, the lovely Hudson, Quebec artist Jane Wright, and made with the alpaca wool purchased at the last pioneer show the Wrights helped me organize in Ontario,  from Alpaca Avenue near Toronto: http://www.alpacaavenue.com/    See Jane’s artwork at:

http://www.janewright.ca/  )

And we don’t have much snow yet. Jennifer Clarvoe writes, in “Invisible Tender” that while  they had been slicing through the snow, it can’t have been very thick because greeny grass tufted through it and it was gravelly, dimpled, pocked.”  But nonetheless, Richard and Chevy have already been hard at the “Slicing Through” process, bringing in logs from our own woods for next years heat source.

 

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Not bad for a guy who’d never really handled a horse prior to May of this year, is it?

The next few weeks’ blogs will not be about harvesting/processing food anymore, you’ll likely be happy to read.  I promised I’d write about the big 100th anniversary of our church, the entertainment for which I was asked to organize, as well as more details about the New Denmark filming with t.v. star Jonny Harris and the crew from CBC’s Still Standing. Those 2 events encompassed just 10 days at the beginning of September of which I’ve only hinted at in a prior ‘tease’.   And all this past week and next Richard and I are involved again with the Perth/Andover Community Choir and the 2nd Wind Music Centre Choir from Bristol. Not only have we teamed up with them for the big July 1st 150 Voices concert, but we’ve sung with them for the fall concerts with the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra and are now joining them for the Christmas season. In fact, this weekend we are dressing as angels (I know, imagine Richard as an angel – it’s nearly impossible, isn’t it?) and going to “Bethlehem”  to sing for two rustic days, as Victoria County is invited to walk or drive-thru to see the merchants and travellers, nasty inn-keeper and new-born babe from 2000 years ago.  And then on two big days following we sing a tricky Vivaldi, bellowing from two different church choir lofts, down upon the Bristol choristers who answer us from below.  Glor-i-a, Glor-i-a Forevermore!  Just another Slice of Rural Life here at Blue Belldon Farm!

 

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Poppies, Parsley and Profundity

How many soldiers carried photographs of their loved ones or their heroes on their person at all times? Or how many had an object or small picture that brought them delight, even in the muddy, cold, smelly trenches with explosions of lethal noise and chaos over their heads? On this Remembrance/Veterans’/Armistice weekend, I feel it’s important to ponder over how objects or images might have brought even the slightest happiness to the soldiers who fought throughout their short  -or even long- lives. (For the ones who died in war were perhaps in some ways the lucky ones.  The ones who had to come home crippled in body or mind, or both, who have struggled with alcoholism, drugs, homelessness and mental health issues due to what is now labeled “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”, these are the ones for whom I believe our sympathies and gratitude should really be expressed!)

Below is an example of photographs which LITERALLY saved a young private from being killed by shrapnel.  There were of course so many of these types of stories emerging from the battlefields of so many horrific wars.

(story here:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2629391/Photos-loved-ones-World-War-One-soldier-kept-wallet-pocket-saved-LIFE-stopping-shrapnel-entering-body.html )

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This past summer, Mom/Joy read one of my favourite books/films : “Fried Green Tomatoes (at the Whistlestop Cafe).  This is a wonderful book about Remembrance, and how an old warrior of a different sort learns to deal with her imprisonment in a nursing home where her young and humourous mind refuses to see herself.  She was only allowed a few mementos to help her through each day, just as the soldiers in the trenches or planes or ships could only have with them a few special tokens.

“I brought a picture with me that I had at home, of a girl in a swing with a castle and pretty blue bubbles in the background, to hang in my room, but that nurse here said the girl was naked from the waist up and not appropriate. You know, I’ve had that picture for fifty years and I never knew she was naked. If you ask me, I don’t think the old men they’ve got here can see well enough to notice that she’s bare-breasted. But, this is a Methodist home, so she’s in the closet with my gallstones.”
                                                                                             -Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Yesterday I read an article from CBS about the gardens in Chicago that are completely tended by veterans. My, if only there were gardens such as this in every city and town,  how much more purposeful and important our former protectors of our nations would feel, and how the peace of being close to nature each day, seeing seeds blossom, ripen, die would make them soulfully feel connected to the constant circles of life!  To perhaps help them make sense and come to terms with some of the travesties they’ve had to endure! https://www.cbsnews.com/news/veterans-find-peace-at-chicago-botanic-garden/

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This theme will continue throughout this blog posting, but – when you need food (living self-sufficiently) and items in your garden aren’t yet ripe, what are some ideas? We discovered that by July this year we still hadn’t had much ready to harvest and eat yet, due to the very poor growing season.  So, as Mom was reading Fried Green Tomatoes at the time, and as I remembered preparing these southern delectables once before (being curious after seeing the movie, I believe), I started frying up for breakfast some mornings (see below, and yes those are my pajamas.)

I simply mixed up a bowl of seasonings (from our herb garden – more on this below) with some milk and egg and a bit of chicken fat from the night before. In another bowl I put flour and cornmeal.  Then I sliced the green tomatoes, dunked them in the moist bowl, then flopped them about in the flour bowl and fried them up with a good bit of hot oil – delicious! (You can’t really do this with red tomatoes – they are already too ripe and will just fall apart).

  1. Whisk eggs and milk together in a medium-size bowl. Scoop flour onto a plate. Mix cornmeal, bread crumbs and salt and pepper on another plate. Dip tomatoes into flour to coat. Then dip the tomatoes into milk and egg mixture. Dredge in breadcrumbs to completely coat.
  2. In a large skillet, pour vegetable oil (enough so that there is 1/2 inch of oil in the pan) and heat over a medium heat. Place tomatoes into the frying pan in batches of 4 or 5, depending on the size of your skillet. Do not crowd the tomatoes, they should not touch each other. When the tomatoes are browned, flip and fry them on the other side. Drain them on towels (NOT paper towels – stop using so much of that stuff!)

In the photo of me frying you’ll note a lot of parsley stalks.  Like the photos, pictures or mementos tucked into many soldier’s uniforms, parsley was also considered, from as far back as Roman times, an aid to ‘protection’.  I use copious amounts of parsley each year, so am experimenting with just how much is enough to plant, and also the best way to preserve it.  Of course, the romantic way I’ve always dreamed of , is to just hang it, let it dry, and pull off a bit every time I need it. Same with dill.  But sadly, our house is SOOO inundated with fruit flies and house flies throughout the latter part of the summer and into autumn that there is no way I can deal with the thought of their excrement all over the food we will eat… I don’t know HOW our ancestors dealt with this, or maybe they just didn’t think about it… but the hanging bouquets also ATTRACT more fruit flies, which we certainly don’t need.  Many people suggest keeping parsley and dill fresh by simply freezing it in water in ice cube trays. Then, you just take out a cube or two, let it melt in your soups, stews, or over your roasts, etc and VOILA.  While this is a lovely idea as well, I need WAY too much for that kind of fiddling… and a) have no place in freezer for all those trays and b) REFUSE to add that much plastic to my own carbon footprint.  So:

From my little herb boxes on the front porch (off the kitchen, just out the Dutch door, where you may remember, I upcycled two cupboard doors and two drawers last year for this purpose) OR from a larger patch I planted in the main garden, I pick a lot of parsley, wash it all, put it to dry on towels (NOT paper towels – please stop using disposable EVERYTHING!) Then when it’s dry I run my fingers backwards over the leaves and spread them on to cookie sheets and put them on ‘Warm’ (or very low) in the oven to fully dry out.  Lastly, I put them in my little painted wooden boxes that I keep in the pigeon holes.  The ONLY problem with this is that you will get some stems a little bigger than you would find in a package from the store – but I have just been telling my guests it’s proof-positive that they are eating ONLY Blue Belldon Farm ingredients~!

As I’ve mentioned previously, we planted cilantro and borage this year PRIMARILY for the bees and the cross-pollination so important in any veg. garden! Although we will use a borage leaf for some tea or a pinch of the bitter cilantro once in a while, we decided to mostly just let these grow tall and flower, as the bees go for this more than anything I’ve ever seen!

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Our organic seed supplier, Hawthorne Farms in Ontario, encourages the use of borage for the bees, and they weren’t kidding!  (Plus, they are a lovely blue, so we plan to continue with more and more of this plant to beautify up other corners of Blue Belldon Farm!) Regular readers may remember that the previous owners here had planted two wonderful diagonal strips of wildflowers through the veg garden for the cross-pollination purpose. They were wonderful last year – an absolute profusion of colour, esp. the poppies! (“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow…”)  I hadn’t realized how much I would love poppies – they were especially wonderful in my jars of scented potpourri which were part of our Christmas gifts last year.

Sadly, though, I guess after a few years of blooming (one prior to us purchasing the farm, and then last summer) the wildflowers were overtaken by too much grass.  Many of our guests this year, led by Mom (in charge of all Blue Belldon flowers) had a turn at pulling up all the grass in the diagonal strips to make it easier for the rototiller. And, since I’ve discovered the borage/cilantro trick, and while I’ll miss the poppies terribly, we’ll have to find another few spots to plant them because we really need every inch of that garden for vegetables!  Here’s Mom/Joy at work on a COLD summer day in August, pulling up said grass, with barely a stem of wildflowers to be seen (the yellow is of course the squash patch).

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For Remembrance Day, my friend Anne found the below photo -a different look at a poppy, I think.  Because it is showing the fragile paper-thin, blood-red petals and its closed-up state, plus- the background fading away, it makes it poetically metaphorical in my opinion!  I’ll play English teacher now – what ELSE metaphorically does this photograph bring to mind with its content, or lack thereof? What other things can you think of that pertain to what the poppy has now come to stand for? (ie: the sunlight filtering in, the creases in the petals, the rough edges, the stem with a blossom not yet opened????)  Feel free to comment on the blog about this! You never know, I might reward you with a big gold star!

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Sadly, from the large bouquets of poppies I was able to pick to brighten the kitchen table last summer, this was the ONLY one I dared take away from the few plants remaining:

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Soldiers and Poppies are interchangeably considered now. But what about Soldiers and Gooseberries?  WHAT?

“Gooseberries” was a code name used by the Allies, for older ships used as a breakwater, to calm the areas around the Norman shore in the summer of ’44. These breakwaters had the effect of reducing currents to facilitate the landing of soldiers and material resources on the beaches. There were five gooseberries set up in the harbours around 5 different beaches, preparatory to the D-day landings starting June 6th.  Early that morning, the waters along the beaches, (code-named SwordJunoGoldOmaha and Utah,) were swarming with troops from the United States landing on Omaha and Utah, Great Britain landing on Gold and Sword and Canada landing on Juno.  These major assaults, of course were the beginning of the end.

Gooseberry bushes were also important to many soldiers – they have shielded and held many on different occasions, and a war series “Soldier, Soldier” even discussed this happenstance.  Here’s an example from the book The Eloquent Soldier by Lt. Crowe:

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I had my first experience with gooseberries this summer.  While I barely had time (as everything else was ripening at exactly the same moment, it seemed!) to pick raspberries, the jam of which we all adore in this family, I CERTAINLY didn’t have time to pick the gooseberries offered to us up the hill at our neighbours’.  But Charles was good enough to pick the berries himself for us, and I in turn (as he’s a diabetic) made him some honey-sweetened juice for his smoothies and some sugar-free jam (it was still pretty tart!) Here are the many Charles picked:

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Gooseberries, of course, are a close cousin to the currant, and the only experience I’ve had with currants is the knowledge that Anne Shirley invited Diana over for tea and, whilst thinking she was serving a light raspberry cordial, instead got her drunk on Marilla’s red currant wine.   A gooseberry’s shape may explain why the term ‘being a gooseberry’ means being a third party.  There’s that extra bit you have to cut off before you can start boiling them:

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Or the term may have come about simply because they are so sour that they are ‘unwanted’. My efforts for Charles (and us) to have healthy, sugar-free jam resulted in my using copious amounts of Boyd’s honey (I’ve mentioned Boyd in other postings, he’s also part of the New Denmark Minstrels I organized to sing for the 150th celebrations) and the very-expensive but all-natural Stevia.

I added vanilla and ginger to try to counter-act the tartness and taste as well, but the only way we really enjoyed the sugar-free type was to have the juice in some smoothies with yogurt and other fruits.  Later, I just followed regular old-fashioned recipes and poured in the  white sugar.  (too bad!) One mistake I made though – like  our crabapples, you aren’t supposed to need pectin for the jam to thicken, because they are full of the natural stuff.  However, it didn’t seem to be thickening and I finally DID add some – only to end up with jam into which a spoon couldn’t even be stuck! So now when I open a jar, I have to add a few dollops of boiling water and give it a stir!

I did, however, for winter eating with some warm custard or cream, flash-freeze a huge amount of the gooseberries as well. I’ve discussed flash-freezing before, esp. with the green and yellow beans.  The secret is to put the berries on cookie sheets and not have them touch in their first hour or two before you put them in a container to permanently keep in the freezer. (That way they don’t stick/attach to each other, which would ruin them and also not allow you to just take out certain amounts at a time from the container).  And, back to the tomatoes now – I got sick of canning, so decided to just flash-freeze both cherry AND larger tomatoes that had ripened.  And that’s when I invented a smart way to keep them separated for their first few hours of ‘flash’. (Whole tomatoes need about 3 hours before they are ready to place all together in bags):

Now, I have lots of ideas that I THINK are terribly original, only to discover that loads of people have come to it before me… but I haven’t found this done anywhere on the internet, and it sure worked well!

To close, we all know what the poppy represents at this time in November.  However, parsley not only can be tucked into ones clothing for protection and vitality/strength, but can also signify a removal of all things bitter – not just in taste, but in emotions.  Would that all veterans find a place of solace, close to nature,- “A Garden To Tend, Where Broken Souls Mend” – to remove the bitterness that must remain in their hearts . And may there, one day, just be peace.

“I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”  – Stephen Crane

Crabby and Creepy

Remember what I said in last week’s posting, about a challenge for writers being one of making points or issues relevant to each other with relevant and perhaps even seamless segues?  Obviously, I need to stick to the main theme of this blog – what we do here on the farm to live as self-sufficiently as possible… but one should still recognize special events or holidays, visitors, and make the postings personal at the same time.

This week is the last blog before Halloween is once more upon us.  (If you didn’t read last year’s Halloween posting, have a look – I’m still rather proud of that one, the mix of ‘haunted’ photos of the farm, its residents, and valley, the ‘ghostly’ tales of the Danish settlers, and the silly verses !  Search my blog with the words “All Hallowed” or try the link:  https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/all-hallowed-anec-pics/ ) .

While last week’s theme encompassed all things “long” and “green”, this week will be RED – for blood, for crabapples, for smashed grapes and scarlet runner beans whose vines creep everywhere, and for the amazing red peat bogs out near the ocean iteself…There’ll be mention of your favourite crabby and creepy characters in fiction as well, so hunker down for a S P O O K Y as well as informative  read!

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When our guest, Leanne Goodfellow (an ironic surname, as this blog will mostly be about Badfellows!) from Aberdeenshire was here during September, she helped us pick and prepare many crabapples.  Last year you read about some of the many things I did with these hardy and prolific little jewels, such as crabapple juice, sauce, and best of all – what turned out to be everyone’s favourite JELLY.  But this year, besides those items,  I remembered that as a child we always had pickled crabapples to brighten up our Christmas table, and I LOVED them.

Picking the crabapples didn’t take too long, once we finally decided to ‘get at it’…

spooky crabs“With all hands available”… we managed it in about two hours, using the pick-up box and some ladders.

The tree was full this year, and although we still had to be wearing blackfly nets/hats, we didn’t have any serious injuries.  Above, Leanne demonstrates the huge bin we filled of them, stripping all the leaves first.  Cammie and Chevy also helped strip the leaves and finish the tree off for the season.  While Chevy stands grazing, Cammie now uses his flanks to ‘mount’ herself… and by mid-Sept.  the bottom of the tree looked like this:

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However, it’s the brambly branches of the crab apple tree that make it such an interesting and spooky enigma.  I just took this photo of the VERY last crabapple I could see on it – less than a half-hour ago. Blue Bell Mountain in the distance, of course.  Isn’t this a great Halloween shot?  And did you know…There is an old custom of offering the last crab apple of the season to a mythical figure… The fruit is given as an offering to ensure a good crop next year.  I guess I’d better go take this apple down and find me some mythical guy – FAST!

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Crab apple trees have slightly thorny-looking branches and while they aren’t particularly sharp, we still advise wearing gloves when harvesting.  Because of their appearance, the trees also fit well into All Hallow’s Eve folklore with a great spooky novella, and many paintings of witches and worlocks gathering around their base:

 

Here are some REALLY great folklore beliefs about crabapples themselves – perfect for this time of year:

Witches reportedly concealed their poisons in the fruits.                                                      Crabs appear in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which the roasted fruits were included in the wassail drink.

Because we live in a Danish community, I thought this next one was especially interesting: Crabs have been cultivated since the Neolithic Age. Signs of crab apple fruits were found in Danish coffins dating from the Early Bronze Age!  Here is the famous Danish Edtved girl discovered some years ago:Egtvedpigen, Oltidsfund, Gravfund

Cultivated crab apple trees were brought to the American colony of Massachusetts  in the 1600’s where they were grafted onto native crab rootstock.  There are several from this time period in Salem, home of the famous witch trials.  I actually, and by complete accident of timing, spent one Hallowe’en there in 1995.  You couldn’t MOVE in that little village due to the busloads of people pouring in for Oct. 31st celebrations.

The term ‘crab’ is actually Norse/Scandinavian/Danish as well . There are two possible origins for the small apples being called ‘crab’.  “Scrab” or “Scrabbe” meant  crooked, knotted, complex, twisted, very much like the tree used to be. The other possibility is that it derives from  “crabbed” which itself means, etymologically, “crooked or wayward/sideways (thus the name for the crustacean) — and then the several figurative senses that follow from that, ie: disagreeable, contrary, ill-tempered, or crooked, as in criminal.

And throughout spooky literature history, and the century of classic horror movies, who have been the ‘crabbiest characters’, voted in 3 different surveys? Number One, and long-time favourites of mine are the two theatre critics, Waldorf and Statler from Jim Henson’s Muppets.  They were both  hilarious AND crabby!

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Two and Three on the list are also favourites of mine from literature: Eeyore and Scrooge.  Talk about Grumpy and Crabby!  Eeyore has long been a choice role model for me, as he’s also a cynical pessimist.  Friends used to call me Eeyore, not just because I was grumpy and moody, but also, I suppose a stubborn ass… but speaking of, there are SOME grumpy old men who can really write the book on being ‘ornery’ :

reich book, crab

And here’s another crabby old fart holding up a photo of a grumpy me, having to de-stem, cut in half and de-pit  thousands of crabapples to prepare them for the sauce, juice and jelly…  (see last year’s posting if you like:  https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/orchard-organics-holistic-harvest/ )

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In fact, one of the reasons I remembered the pickled crabapples I so loved in my youth was that I was trying to think of a way to prepare the little buggers and NOT have to cut them in half and take the pits out!  So, this is most delicious:

http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/fruits/canning-spiced-crab-apples/

Like the witches of old who used to mix their herbs into poisons, and then put their poisons into their jars of pickled crabapples, here’s one of my attempts:

to use, witch

My mother will be glad to know that my degree in Theatre Arts and Literature isn’t COMPLETELY going to waste.  Nor is my degree in Education, ’cause what am I doing here on this blog, after all?

Now…. ….  that’s it for the ‘Crabby’ section, let’s do the ‘Creepy’ chapter, shall we?

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I’ve mentioned several times that we LOVE the way Hawthorne Farm Organics (our seed company that’s in Ontario) offers the Scarlet Runner Bean, both for eating and for wonderful, quick vines.  Being an Anglophile, any type of ivy or vine that crawls UP, or creeps OUT (Mom/Joy despises ‘Creeping Charlie’, but if it didn’t kill the other plants, I’d leave it be as well…. I don’t like BROWN spaces, I love GREEN!)  Here’s Mom/Joy, waging her usual battle against all things that CREEP TOO MUCH:

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As we tried planting the scarlet runner beans to EAT last year, and didn’t care for how huge they got, we DID discover that they are easy to dry and replant.  We planted them everywhere around the house, for their quick ‘creeping’ as well as, later, their blood-red flowers which the bees love! (for this reason, because of encouraging cross-pollination, we did put a row of them in with our other peas and beans this year as well.)

There are two examples, above, of how they climb up the pillars, onto the front porch, and up the trellis and wagon wheel, all within about 3 weeks of their first planting.  The red flowers come out later in August and stayed right through ’til mid-October this year!

The other creepy-crawlie I’ve always loved, though it isn’t so quick of course, is grapes.  Our neighbour Pierrette (Zeb’s ‘witch-like’ mom) gave us some grape vine roots early in March, and they ‘came up like gangbusters’ (despite Cammie having a go at the ones on the side of the house).  We even got a few bunches of grapes already!

We plan to let them grow right up the pillar and then put lattice work on the roof of the front porch and let the grapes be readily available (it’s just outside the kitchen’s Dutch door that Richard made).  The grapes ARE red, and surprisingly sweet already but when we harvested them at the end of Sept., they were still pretty tiny – really only the size of a dime, or smaller. We ate them in one luncheon sitting!

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Did you know there’s another kind of red grape called the Witch’s Fingers?  I may have to try this variety!

witch finger grapes

And did you know that “Grapes that Grow as Eyeballs, be the BEST for Hallow’s Eve, Whilst their Vines that Wrap around Your Neck, As a Scarf they Do Deceive?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Funnily enough, although they were just planted this spring, our grapevines are the only thing still green enough to attract Cammie to nibble on this past week – we still have to guard the leaves from her wandering lips!

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Linda, my cousin who visited with her fun sister Pat in September, introduced us to ‘ground cherries’, another creepy-crawly we will never be doing without again, now that we’ve discovered how great they taste!  It is their little paper-thin pods that many crafters use for autumnal decor and I’ve already begun experimenting to see if I can do lampshades with them for Rustic Revivals’ oil-can lamps (using them like decoupage, but so they will be more natural, and throwing in some leaves as well…)

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And while the most creepiest vines of all are in the squash/pumpkin patch, we didn’t score very well out there this year.  The harvest of these vines was tiny, in both number and size (see the pumpkins in the  creepy scarecrow pic below? Richard doesn’t think we’ll have Halloween trick or treaters this year, because he thinks “Blue” looks like a paedophile! ) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But this doesn’t stop one having a bit of fun in the ole pumpkin patch anyway!

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On our way to Moncton last week (for my one end-of-harvest treat, a Roger Hogdson (Supertramp) concert) we passed a gorgeous peat bog.  I’ve never seen one at this time of year before,  in all my travels, and I’ve always thought of peat bogs to be a Halloweenish type of spooky affair, but this is STUNNING, isn’t it?

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Back to those Danes, though – this man was found in a Danish bog. Hanged with a leather cord and cast into the peat 2,300 years ago, Tollund Man was probably a sacrifice.  This was meant to be another spooky photo for your Halloween enjoyment, but it’s so sad, and he looks so peaceful, it’s not really frightening at all, is it?

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One of the shortest visits we had all year (in our season of 19 overnight guests) was a one-night stay from Richard’s eldest son Erich.  (By the way, if you think I like word-play, what about naming your kid with exactly the same letters, first and last names both? (Erich Reich) )

Erich brought along a drone.  I find them very frightening.  They look like creepy spiders, but in a very freakish sci-fi way of Big Brother invasiveness…

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Cammie and Chevy didn’t like it either.  They kept HEARING something, but could never figure out where the sound was coming from!

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At one point, the shadow of the drone fell over Cammie, and she launched an attack.  I’ve seen dressage horses that didn’t have as nice an extended trot!

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However, Erich and his dad did have a nice time on a beautiful autumnal day, playing with the ‘toy’, no matter HOW creepy the animals and I felt it to be…

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Are you ready for the list, as voted on by readers of literature, of the CREEPIEST CLASSIC CHARACTERS? (of course most of these have been movies, and these characters were always well-portrayed by fine actors or actresses who managed to make them seem even MORE creepy!)

Miss Havisham, from Dickens’ “Great Expectations” is in the top ten: “She was jilted at the altar, and now she insists on wearing her rotting wedding dress for the rest of her life. The uneaten wedding cake is still sitting on the table, and all the clocks in her house have been set to the exact moment she was dumped, making her one of the creepiest characters ever. According to Dickens, she looks like a cross between a skeleton and a waxwork with sunken, moving eyes.”  Here’s a Miss Havisham doll I particularly like – HOW CREEPY!

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Alex, in A Clockwork Orange, Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird and Dracula, in Dracula also made the top ten from classic literature.  Now, to be fair, Boo was actually a bit of a hero, but apparently it didn’t stop him being considered classically ‘creepy’.

Another cousin of mine, who has shared both musical and theatrical stage performances with me throughout our youth played Wilhemina in our town’s musical version of Dracula. (I was one of the brides who came out of a coffin, then later, hilariously wiped off the ‘death’ make-up and danced the Can-Can in the intermission’s entertainment! Incidentally, this was the first, but not the ONLY time I emerged from a coffin, or was put INTO a coffin in my stage career. No wonder I decided not to continue as a professional!) Here’s cousin Joan in 1980:

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Richard, Remy and I had 3 weeks of hard labour during harvest this year, but there was another autumn when the 3 of us left Remy’s house in West Yorkshire and traveled over to Whitby, in North Yorkshire, which is where Bram Stoker got much of his inspiration for the setting of the book.  On another note, Jasper, the dog in the below photo- taken on the Whitby Wharf- is a Weimaraner, commonly called “Ghost Dog” for their spooky eyes. Remy had to put Jasper down a few months ago, so this is a little tribute to the good companion that kept him company for 13 years.

Remy and Julie in Whitby (2017_03_14 21_04_25 UTC)

I lived near the Bronte’s Haworth for several years, and Remy and I took Richard to see the moors and the site on which they think Emily based her spooky “Wuthering Heights”.  While we were walking on the moors, Richard went over to relieve himself behind a rock, and Jasper was off in the distance sniffing around.  When Richard finished, he apparently felt frisky (or maybe the ghost of Cathy was chasing him?) and he started to run back toward us.   Suddenly, as Remy and I watched, Jasper decided no one was going to run away from HIM.  And so, unbeknownst to Richard, the Ghost Dog started to chase Richard, and when he reached him, he hurled his front legs around his waist and brought him down into the moorland grasses.  It was nearly a decade ago, but I can still see this as vividly (and hilariously) as if it were yesterday.  Here’s what we saw:

The first is Top Withens, the possible inspiration for Wuthering Heights (the house, not the novel).  And while Jasper the Ghost Dog did appear rather hilarious with his floppy ears and goofy tongue lolling out the side of his jaws, had Richard turned around he would have seen another creepy dog – the Hound of the Baskervilles- tearing after him with enthusiastic determination.

jasper, halloween

And that, good readers, is the end to my mostly-red-themed, CRABBY AND CREEPY Halloween blog for this year.  “How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.”
― Bram Stoker, DRACULA

Lorne Greene’s, Long Greens, and the U. of Queens

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As promised, the plethora of guests, the hard haul of harvest, and the commitments of concerts and other carry-ons have all just been completed in this past week, and thus I feel I am perhaps able to begin writing regularly again.  What a year! What a season of busy-ness!  Never in my life do I remember having so many jottings on my calendar for such a long stretch of time – May through mid-October! Because of extra-special circumstances this year of 2017, many events were once-in-a-lifetime/not-to-be-missed, and thus we felt we HAD to participate or we’d always regret it. (ie: 150th CANADA concerts in which to perform, 145th New Denmark celebrations in which to take part,- as these only happen every 5 years to this extent, -100th year of our St. Peter’s church, plus the CBC’s Still Standing cast and crew spending a week in our little community as well.) Because we’ve just moved to such a beautiful farm with lots of room for guests, visitors have also abounded.  Our final one just flew back to England last week after a 3-week stay, and between Richard, Mom/Joy and myself we’ve counted that there were 19 STAYING guests since the end of May!   And all of those events or guests have occurred in the busiest of farming life — whilst trying to  begin living off the land in earnest, including work with the new animals, planting through spring and early summer, and of course all the work involved with harvest – the picking, peeling, plucking, pouring,  ‘putting up’ and preserving.

One of the most challenging, and thus, for me – most entertaining of all the writing exercises I’ve done in decades of writing courses has been to connect seemingly unrelated story-lines or facts into one cohesive work.  That is the challenge I have now given myself over the coming weeks of blog-writing.  Because there has been so much to cover over recent months in the way of recipes and techniques I’ve come up with in the kitchen, humourous tales of the variety of peoples and daily life here in the Appalachians, eco-friendly suggestions or ‘urgent urgings’ as I call my environmental lectures/postings on Facebook, my word-play category “Phonetics Phun and the Pharm”, and just our “Regular Rural Updates”, I have had to find a way to make the connections and still keep each blog with “a bit of everything’ so that readers won’t get bored! (ie: don’t want to inundate with boring tips for freezing corn, if most readers are looking to find out about Richard’s latest bruising episode, etc!)

So    H E R E      G O E S   ….

Lorne Greene went to my alma mater, Queen’s.  He switched his major to Drama and Languages, much the same as I did, and, also as I did – went on to work for and live around the National Parks, first, as a drama teacher at a camp in Algonquin  (like my dramas performed for the benefit of Murphy’s Point and Bon Echo Provincial Parks), doing radio voice-overs to help protect wildlife and the conservation areas, and even acting in a short film for the National Parks System.  Then, of course, his own multi-award-winning Canadian production of New Wilderness brought the plight of nature and our environment very much to the forefront, as it was number ONE in its time-slot for all 5 years that it aired. Thus, Mr. Greene was very much a man after my own heart in the ways of both the Performing Arts, and his work for the Environment. But what’s the first reason I felt a connection to him?  Because he rode “Buck” the Buckskin, on Bonanza of course, and everyone knows I always have loved my ‘golden animals’ – palominos and duns/buckskins especially.  Lorne even bought ‘Buck’ after the series ended and donated him to a therapeutic riding school, just as I have devoted time, training and yes, even golden horses  to the same.  (Buck is SAID to have lived to an unbelievable age of 45 with the disabled children… usually only ponies live to ever be this old, but we’ll go along with this bit of urban legend because it’s nice to believe it…)

(above,    Lorne and Me –  “We  Dun Good” ! )

One of the deep-voiced Greene’s only on-air bloopers was to once say on CBC radio news broadcast   “farmers are expecting their biggest craps in years”.

lorne greene on CBC 1942

In a neat segue, we too have little distinction between this years ‘crops’ and well – ‘crap’.  Due to the 5 weeks of solid rain early on, then 4 weeks of drought , many of our crops did not do well this year (more on this, and how we’re working to prevent this happening again in future blogs over the coming weeks…)  But one thing you can ALWAYS count on to grow, no matter the weather conditions or the soil:  BEANS AND PEAS.  The “Long Greens”.  (trivia: did you know ‘long green’ is actually a colloquial term for ‘money’, first used in the late 1880s?  Well, in a way, our beans and peas are ‘money’ – because they are the one thing we can ‘bank’ on to grow enough of to put in our fridge and freezer! )

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So, while the other crops were somewhat ‘crap’, our peas, green beans and edamame (a type of soy bean that’s delicious!) bloomed in copious numbers.   Following are some of my favourite things to do with each:

GREEN BEANS – to eat fresh  (click on each photo for caption, explaining what I’ve come up with…. I know some of you have told me this doesn’t work on your computers, and for this I apologise. I think you are probably lacking a viewing program such as Adobe or Acrobat or some such… If you can’t view my concoctions, leave me a message and I’ll tell you all !)

How I’ve decided to ‘preserve’ green beans:

Last year I fussed with both ‘pickling’ the beans with carrots, and also blanching the beans first, before freezing.  After my aching back and knees were already becoming too much this August/Sept., I read up on some ‘lazier’ ways… here’s what I’ve found:

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You don’t HAVE to ‘blanche’ first!  Just wash, snip off the ends and ‘flash freeze’ (like many of you might do with berries!) Make sure they are dry, first, from your washing of them. As we are organic, I often just gave them a wipe off with a dish towel, as having them at all wet will make freezer burn. Once dry,  separate them on trays as much as possible so they don’t end up sticking together, and pop them in your freezer (I did a few in the top of my fridge freezer, then started ‘going BIG’ and doing about 6 trays at a a time out in the chest freezer.  Freeze for about an hour – you don’t want to do too much longer, or freezer ‘burn’ will begin.  They should be hard, and snap in half easily with a crack!  When you bring them back to the counter to bag  (we use strong recycled bags from other things like oatmeal, or zip-lock bags from other veg. or fruit we were forced to buy mid-winter) DON’T WAIT !  Get right on this, or if they are open to room temp. for even a few minutes they will start to thaw, and that will cause them to stick together in the bag, OR to be subject to burn… I think we have close to 30 meal-sized packages of green beans in the freezer for the winter, now, and that’s more than I really want to eat in a winter, even just in soups.  Sooooo…… I decided to get inventive again with the remaining beans that were coming in late:

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I steamed a bunch of beans at a time,
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then put them in the blender/food processor
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I had to add a bit of water to make the machine really mash them up… like baby food!
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I sprinkled my own dried parsley on top. Then I froze the mash in a lot of plastic containers (recycled from other things, of course!)

This green bean mash will be used in such things as meatloaf or chili, where it will add extra protein and ‘bulk’ without ever really being seen or tasted. I’ve tried it once in a meatloaf already, and it was excellent, and really spreads our meat out to help save on that end of things!

PEAS:  We LOVE our peas! Richard was most happy with the perfect way some of our peas looked this year. One day when we were shelling them together, he found this one in his batch, and insisted I take a photo for our readers, so here it is:

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What I frequently do with our fresh peas for a lovely lunch:

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richard shelling peas

Of course, we also shelled copious amounts of peas and put them in containers like small Truvia canisters to freeze.  We always seem to over-do the bean-planting, though, and never have quite as many peas as I’d like, so next year I DEFINITELY must rectify this!

Lastly, edamame:  (pron.  ED – A – MAW -MAY ) This was introduced to us by my sister, who always seems to be the one of us in our family who is ‘up’ on the ‘trendy’ or exotic foods – it was she who first showed me an avocado, decades ago, and they are one of my favourite foods – wish I could grow THEM here!  Anyway, my little nephew enjoyed this special soy bean, shelled, and roasted lightly with oil and salt (like you might do pumpkin seeds), so we have prepared many of them like this.  However, the way they are prepared in Japanese restaurants is as follows:

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Simply steam the edamame IN THEIR PODS for a few minutes. Don’t overdo!
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They can then be served with the pods SALTED, right in their pods, and will split open with ease at your mouth as you squeeze the pods and slide the delicious beans right on to your tongue!

There are a few other “Long Greens” I’d like to ponder here.  Leanne, my friend from Scotland, stayed with us for 10 days mid-harvest and helped greatly with the animals and some of the picking and peeling processes.  There was no time to take her sight-seeing, but for one of Richard’s doctors’ appointments he DID take her to Plaster Rock to see some of the chain-saw sculptures commemorating activities of the area:

leanne, canoe, plaster rock

The above photo then reminded us that we STILL, after a year and a half, hadn’t purchased a canoe, (we want one for calm paddling, and for Richard to fish from) and that our friend from England, Remy,  (another Richard, actually) was coming just 10 days after Leanne, and wanted to immerse himself in the Ways of the Wilderness (he and his son, Joe are certified ‘Bushcraft’ instructors in the remote moorlands of Yorkshire —in fact they live so close to Haworth they often hear Heathcliff calling for Kathy across their Wuthering Heights —–   and they are always trying to hone their survival skills.  More on his activities here on the farm later, but if you’re interested in their website and perhaps taking a course from them if you’re travelling over there, see:  http://www.brigantiabushcraft.com/     If the link doesn’t work, just google Brigantia Bushcraft ! ).

As soon as Remy came he motivated us to find and purchase a wonderful old green canoe from a neighbour:

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Then he and Richard immediately wanted to test the Saint John River, at its very lowest for decades, I was told by an old-timer as I waited on Brook’s Bridge downriver, in order to take photos.

 

And today, whilst trying to arrange connections and segues in my head preparatory to writing this blog post, I looked down at my cozy self, wrapped in Leanne’s generous gift to us: A McKenzie tartan wool blanket (because Mom was a McKenzie and that’s why I went to live in the Scottish Highlands in the first place!)  And it made me think  “Long and Green – and so SERENE”, now that all our heavy work is over, our commitments are over and our last overnight visitor gone…

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Remember how Lorne Greene went to Queens and studied Theatre Arts and Language as I did? Well, there’s another connection – a group of us ‘artsies’ who wanted to become teachers were chosen from across Canada to take part in Queen’s ACE program – only 20, in fact are chosen each year!  ACE stands for Artist in Community Education and we auditioned for not just Fine Arts and Writing, but the Performing Arts – Drama and Music.  One of this group, Jodi Essery, won the Lorne Green Award that year, and they said it was one of the more difficult choices they’d yet experienced due to the high level of talent among the ACE crowd.  And I guess everyone from my little group had some lofty ambitions!  One, James Libbey, is now the conductor and composer of the International Schools’ Music Program in Luxembourg (James visited me when I lived in my wee cottage in Yorkshire, and I still remember him taking his bagpipes with us when we went for a walk in the near-by beech woods and playing them standing on a stone hog’s back bridge over a trickling brook. Magical! )

His best friend, Evan Smith – another good Queen’s chum of ours who used to sit on the floor of my dorm room and read aloud to the rest of us,  has won accolades and awards – in fact has won the YMCA PEACE AWARD, for his work with teaching children in Venezuala, then taking Ontario students to Peru and Costa Rica to interest them further in global social justice issues.  He has started two programs throughout Ontario: Connexions, which is a 3 credit Grade 12 course for students who go to these countries and help, then come back and report, and SOLID (Student Organization for Learning about International Differences) Here’s the article on his Peace Medal/Prize:

http://www.flamboroughreview.com/news-story/5401006-teacher-earns-peace-medal/

My friend Tab DeBruyn has just had her first book published, is a life coach, and the Executive Vice-President of Arbonne of Canada.  She once did a silhouette dance to one of my poetry readings as part of our graduation ceremonies at Queen’s:

 

And many of you may have seen my old Drama class partner, Liz McEachern, either on stage in her one-woman shows at various Fringe Festivals throughout the GTA, OR in her humourous role on CBC’s Schitt’s Creek (her episodes now are apparently playing on Air Canada flights as well, so you may have ‘caught her’ there). Here she is with Dan Levy, Eugene Levy’s son, who will also be hosting The Great Canadian Baking Show starting Nov. 1st.

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Liz is starting to get recognized on the street now, so I’m very excited for her and for the accomplishments and visions of all my amazing class-mates from Queen’s.

And yet, here I sit – telling you how to mix parmesan in your fresh green beans and taking photos of canoeists instead of actually being IN the canoe as I once would have been…. Talk about MISSING THE BOAT!

However, none of the above has THIS view from their front porch, now do they?

tiffany's photo of our farm and valley

(The red maple to right is part of our birch grove.  I’ve introduced Tiffany to you a few times before re: the pageant photos, etc.  Watch for her interviews and photographer’s input with Jonny Harris on CBC’s Still Standing: New Denmark, in the spring of 2018).

 

 

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



 

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!)

 

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