Friday 22 February 2013

Peppers & Eggplant, Kira

Last night I soaked pepper and eggplant seeds.
The kids and I tucked them into their soil filled containers today.
I am using soil-less soil to start them in.
For starting trays we used salad greens containers.
We will keep the lids on,
taking them off a couple of times a day for some fresh air.
The covered plastic boxes will act like a little green house,
keeping the moisture in and stabilizing the temperature.
Next week these little fellows will be sprouting,
and then it will be time to start tomatoes!

Friday 15 February 2013

The Millwright

In hindsight, it's easy to see how a background in both kitchens and mechanics would bring me into the role as a millwright.

Processing food generally degrades it, but some must undergo a change before being ready for the table.

Grain can be done by hand, but the toil is more than most people are willing to undergo these days and so a mill is needed to do the work.

There are machines in a mill, and I can fix machines.

I find it somehow comforting to work on a machine that is still being called into service after a hundred years.

Some people might see it as not having come very far.

My consolation is that maybe we haven't come too far.

This kind of equipment is in demand at the moment due to a resurgence of small scale agriculture.

It is an honour to breathe new life into it.

It's easy to imagine myself living a century ago; toiling in a dark factory.

The dust and the din.

Each machine is part of a bigger one.
If one fails, it all breaks down.

Pressure and excitement build while pulleys squeal and belts moan.


Thursday 14 February 2013

Take Flight, by Kira

Caged Monkey

Shadow and Sunlight

Take Flight


Knights in Armour

It's Pepper Time!

Free play and dress up. 
This consumes most of the kids' day. 
Auren is practicing reading, off and on throughout the day.
When he gets bored with it he moves on to something more fun. Sweet Fern is all about dress up. 
She wore a tutu and a white sweater of Meer's to bed this evening. Little Meer has decided she prefers to run around the house nude. She spent most of the day this way. 
I would dress her and she would run into another room and take it all off. 
I'll just have to get her using the potty.

I am pretty excited about this weekend.
I am going to start some of my seeds; the peppers! 
A trip to town is planned for tomorrow to pick up a few remaining supplies for getting started. 

Here are a couple of sites with advice on starting your pepper seeds:

Saturday 9 February 2013

Almond Cashew, Chocolate Chip Cookies, by Kira

Sunning Hens.

Salty Van Repairs.

Chicken Love.

Cookie monster.

Cashew Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Lily Pad.

Cashew Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies


1/2 cup of room temperature butter
1/2 cup of pure almond cashew spread
1 room temperature egg (duck eggs work great in baking!)
a little less than 1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1 1/4 cups of flour ( I like to use light spelt.)
1/2 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F
Put the butter, almond cashew spread, egg and sugar into a food processor and mix until light and fluffy.
Add the baking soda, baking powder, flour and chocolate chips.
Mix until combined.

Roll cookie dough into balls and place on cookie pan. 
Lightly flatten each and bake for about 9 minutes.  

This makes about 20 large cookies.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Castor River Farm

Among the thousands of conventional farms that cover rural Ontario there are a few that defy standard chemical based agriculture in order to forge ahead with change.

George Wright and his family are one such example of a successful organic farm growing and living the way they see best.

Castor River Farm lies just east of Metcalfe, near Ottawa.

George specializes in organically produced grain, but the farm also contributes pork, chicken, and eggs to the local food economy.

I was offered the opportunity to see George's innovative techniques for myself.

David Bathe of the Haliburton Grain CSA took me along for a research trip to see how George handles his grain products in addition to investigating his growing techniques.
There was also great interest in George's succesful marketing techniques and experience.
The trip was sponsored by the Haliburton Community Development Corporation as part of an initaitive to foster local food production in Haliburton county.
Four of us made the journey to the Ottawa area to see what we could learn from George's wealth of knowledge and experience with small scale organic agriculture.


The meet and greet was followed by an intensive interrogation and photo session, but George is passionate about what he does and was more than happy to answer our questions and show us around his farm.
His record proves that there's no need for large and expensive equipment to handle and process grain.
On the heels of large scale argriculture there is a wealth of discarded machinery and tools available for those who need a low cost solution.
George's home and farm remain off-grid which helps him stay focused on keeping power equipment simple and efficient instead of having an excessive stockpile of powered gear and energy hungry devices.

Simplicity and affordability are particularily attractive to the Haliburton Grain CSA in order to keep start-up costs and overhead sustainable.
One of the greatest foes of food production is unnecesary expense that drives the need for increased volume at the expense of food quality, farmland degradation, and ecological integrity.
It is also important to maintain a good standard of living for the farmers themselves in order to keep them on the land and to attract new farmers at a time when the rural communites are seeing their youth driven to urban centres for jobs.
Despite the wide appeal of farm life, the economic reality keeps many would-be farmers from taking over from the older generation.

George's indefatigable tenacity is an inspiring example for anyone who may have farming ambitions.
He doesn't have it all figured out and that keeps him constantly immersed in trying out new methods and seeking advice and knowledge from all over the continent.
Armed with classic agricultural texts and an extensive online network, he is working hard to improve his farm and the farms of others who are looking for a better way than simply forcing product from the ground with synthetic compounds.
The organic farming community needs farms like Castor River where innovation and resourcefulness are more important than mere profit.
The entire food system needs people like George who tirelessly battle for the change that is so desperately needed.


We enjoyed a hearty lunch of pork, served with pork, prepared on the wood fired cookstove.
The conversation was as rich as the meal and we asked George our questions and listened carefully to his advice.
The members of the grain csa, like myself, have very limited farming experience. We are new farmers, armed with far more passion than knowledge.
George is willing to impart, not only his own unique perspective, but also much of the basic farming ways, without judging us as impertinent newcomers.
He would like to see new farmers succeed and thrive using techniques that will improve the land for coming generations.

Whether you live near or far, be sure to visit Castor River Farm.

They are famous at the Ottawa farmer's market and also sell their produce from a store at the farm.

I promise that you'll leave with not only great food,
but an impression of hope and passion that will stay with you.


Wednesday 6 February 2013

Great Days, by Kira

Sun bathing animals.
Exploring children.
Snuggled baby.
Crisp air.
Almond Cashew Cookies.
This is what great days are made of!

Friday 1 February 2013

Auren, Fern + Mama, by Kira


Auren is amazing with his lego, it's not even regular lego it's lego technic.
There are pulleys, pins and gears. He can sit for a long stretch of time creating space ships, vehicles, robots and docks for parking them in.
But to get this little boy to sit and try to read? No way.
He digs his heels in and rolls his eyes the whole time.
It's not that he can't; he just doesn't want to. Auren has other things on his mind.
I had intended on teaching him to read this winter, but once the snow disappears there is no way he is going to want to be inside!
He is only five. Do I need to rush it? Maybe I just need to find the right kind of reading materials.

Then there is sweet Fern.
Most days when it is time to get dressed, she heads for the dress-up box for either the 'home dress' (a well weathered comy dress) or a tutu and her wings.
She is longing for spring when she can frolic outside in these outfits again.
Fern is defiant and does not take 'no' lightly.
Fern has sat in the time-out chair many times over the past couple of weeks.
I'm not sure this works for her but it gives me a moment to gather myself.
She spends a lot of time looking at books and playing with her miniature animals and fairy figurines.

Together these two can be great - a perfect team.
Playing, pretending, building, helping one another.
Or they can be driving their mama bonkers. And lately it's has been more of the latter.
When they are getting along they love to dress up.
Auren usually a superhero or Darth Vadar.
Fern is a little more unpredictable and can be either a princess or Darth Vadar.
They play lego together, make forts and love to help me in the kitchen.
When they are not getting along, I like to get them dressed and send them outside to work it out.
When they are out, its not long before they are on an adventure around the yard.
But it has been a little too cold to do this lately.

We have been cooped-up inside for nearly two weeks!
The weather has been so cold here. And it has taken a toll on all of us.
When the cold broke we went out!
We started with the screened porch.
Christmas is still out there and it's been watching me for months.
The kids and I sorted all the wrapping and packaging.
Bagging up the recycling and took out what we could burn.
Meer and I sat In front of the outdoor wood stove and burned.
It felt so good to have that cleaned up.
Auren wandered the yard and forest snowboarding and climbing trees.
Miss Fern took the time to catch up with Lexie Bun (the bunny), her ducks and the chickens.
Lily pad (our dog) was frisky chasing chickadees and nuthatches away from her pig bones.
The two kids made their way over to the woodstove once they were soaked and chilly.
We sat a while and talked about Spring, duck eggs, toads and animal mating. (Possibly a few too many nature documentaries.)

We all went inside refreshed, clear headed and everyone was, for the most part, calm and patient for the rest of the evening and even into the next day.
How a little outdoor time does wonders.
And oh how I love these little rug-rats!