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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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.

Full Bean Ahead – Waste Not, Want Not!

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Health benefits of Green beans

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

 

 

First Planting – the Christmas tree!

live tree

No one expects you to go and buy SOLELY organic foods (or even locally-grown, never mind nationally-grown!) in your grocery store. It’s just too expensive in the case of the former, and too hard to find in the case of the latter – but did you realize that with just a tiny back-yard (or even on a balcony in an apartment building ) you can be growing many of your own fruits and veg?  !    So much healthier, AND cheaper, in the long run!   And the more we plant that BLOSSOMS and BLOOMS the better the chances of saving the bees. Because, folks, in case you haven’t heard – if they go, we all go! SO, BEE ORGANIC ! You don’t need money, talent, or even a lot of time to get G R O W I N G  !

Every year at this time, we all start to get excited about another growing season – but something that should have been in the ground even before now was our live Christmas tree.  You don’t need to- and shouldn’t- wait until spring for this, if possible.  Our little tree served many purposes this year: tree with lights shining both in and outside, presents on the table all around its base… then, after the presents were unwrapped – a lovely colour-coordinated table centrepiece ! Now, because of our move to New Brunswick, this little gem is going to my friend Anne’s farm and will hopefully grow big and strong for decades to come… Here are some of the tips for planting your live tree – some are from me, some from various authors at old wiki…

Readjust the tree to outdoor temperatures after the holidays, by placing it back on the sheltered porch or in the garage for several days. It is important to plant your tree as soon as possible after the holidays. Do not wait until spring. Select a planting site that has well-drained soil, full sun and that is appropriate for the mature tree’s size

Plant the tree and make sure that the hole is the same depth but at least twice and preferably five times wider than the root ball. Be sure not to plant the tree too deeply. Do not over prepare the back fill with organic matter. If the soil is fertile and well-drained, amendments should not be needed.

Place the soil on a tarp, in a basket, etc. Store this in a warm place until you are ready to use it. If you are going to stake the tree, be sure to place the stakes in the ground before the ground freezes. Stakes should be removed in the spring.

Remove the synthetic burlap completely since it can cause root girdling. Remove natural burlap from the top of the root ball, to avoid drying out the root ball.

Remove containers from container-grown trees and cut and loosen any encircling roots. Remove at least the top portion of wire tree baskets after the root ball is in the planting hole.

Fill the hole around the freshly set tree with the loosened, unamended soil from the planting hole. Backfill around the root ball in stages, gently firming in each layer of soil. Water well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Apply 2 or 3 inches (5.1 or 7.6 cm) of mulch on top of the root ball. It is not necessary to fertilize until spring.

When you get ready to plant your tree, be sure it is planted at the same depth it was grown at the nursery. After putting the tree in the hole, remove any plastic and burlap. If the tree was container-grown, be sure to loosen outside roots and prune broken roots. Also redirect roots, which wrap around the soil mix so they will grow out away from the tree. Fill in the hole with the soil you have stored and heel it in firmly. Use any remaining soil to build a ridge three to four inches high around the outside edge of the soil ball. This “bowl” will help you insure that all of the roots are watered properly. Remove this ridge of soil in the spring. Now mulch it with two to three inches of a good mulch. Keep the tree watered during HOT weather periods until it has ‘taken’.