Monday 21 September 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Spelt Cookies

These cookies are soft and gooey. Perfect paired with a glass of milk.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup natural crunchy peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp molasses
1 egg
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup light spelt flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Preheat oven to 350F. Prep cookie sheet. I like to lightly butter my pan.
In a large bowl beat together the butter, peanut butter, sugar, molasses, cocoa powder, and egg until smooth and creamy.
Stir in the flour, baking soda, and baking powder until smooth.
Spoon dough onto cookie sheets.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
Makes about 15 large cookies.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Milkweed Cordial

Our home smelled wonderful this morning while making this!
~Milkweed cordial~
6 cups of milkweed flowers (stemsw trimmed)
4 tablespoons of lime juice
2 cups of sugar
6 cups of water
Rinse flowers after stems have been removed.
Place them in a large pot with the rest of the ingredients.
Bring to a light boil over medium heat. Let boil for about 40 minutes or until it reduces by about a cup.
Strain the cordial.
Can or refrigerate.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

The arrival of Una-Mae & Gem.

We have been preparing for our first baby goats.
Mira, one of our three Nigerian dwarf goat does, was nearly ready to give birth.
With the due date fast approaching, Andrew and I have been working to prepare for the birth and arrival of new kids.
On Sunday morning, Andrew put together the frame of a birthing pen in the covered space between our two goat barns.
Every day I've been watching, looking for signs of Mira going into labour, but not much had been changing.
Her udder grew large about a month ago and she was very round, but there hadn't been any new changes lately. The due date was another week away.

Yesterday was hot, so in the evening we decided to go to our neighbours for a swim. We had a great visit and refreshing swim before we headed home around 6:00pm to do evening chores, starting with the goats.
I went around to the goat barn behind our home and there Mira was cleaning a fresh little baby while she was pushing another out!
I called to Andrew and the kids and then started to help clean the first baby.
Auren ran for some towels.
Mira was birthing standing up so as she pushed out the last baby I lowered it down to the ground.
What a feeling!
I was so excited and happy, I just wanted to cry.
And all three of our own kids got to watch Mira birth the second baby!

I set the second baby in front of Mira for her to clean.
She did such a great job with the first kid that I didn't want to interfere too much.
I sat with a towel and helped dry the kids off.
As soon as both babies were dry they started searching for Mira's udder and were both nursing in no time.
Mother Nature astounds me.

Andrew finished putting together the kidding pen so that Mira and her new little ones could settle in for the night.
~ Gem ~
~ Una-Mae ~


Wednesday 1 July 2015

Easy Spelt Dutch Oven Bread, by Kira

Easy Spelt Dutch Oven Bread
Two cups of warm water
1 tablespoon of yeast
2 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup ( you could also use sugar)
1 tablespoon of salt
6 cups of light spelt flour (this will work with a bread flour or a mix of wholewheat and all-purpose)
In a large bowl stir the honey into the water until it has dissolved. Add the yeast and let it rest for about 5 minutes or until the yeast becomes foamy.

Slowy stir in two cups of flour and the salt; mix until combined.
Add the remaining flour small bits at a time.
Once the dough is too hard to stir with a wooden spoon, use your hands (this will be a little messy and sticky, but that is ok).
Once the remainder of the flour is mixed into the dough, cover and let it set for at least 3 to 4 hours ( longer is better on cool days).
There is no need to knead the dough for long.
Just long enough to incorporate all the flour.
As the covered dough sits on the counter, the gluten will develop.
When you are ready to bake your bread, preheat your oven to 425°C with your Dutch ovens inside.
I have been using a Dutch oven for years to bake my bread and they are wonderful!
They help hold the moisture in for the first half of baking and make the bread perfect.
It gives you a perfect crumb on the inside and a crisp browned crust.
While the oven is heating, spill your dough out onto a floured surface.
Separate the dough into two.
Work the dough into two soft rounds.
Don't knead too hard.
You don't want to break all the air bubbles inside.
Once you have the dough shaped, let them rest.
When the oven is up to temperature, score the tops of the loaves with a sharp knife.
You can get fancy here or keep it simple with a few lines across the top.
Carefully remove the lids from the Dutch ovens and place the loaves inside.
Place the lids back onto the Dutch ovens and put them in the oven for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes remove the lids and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes until dark golden brown.
Remove the loaves from the oven, let cool, and enjoy!

Saturday 7 February 2015

On the Edge

Like many communities on the Canadian Shield, 
Haliburton is best known for its wild highlands and countless lakes.
An economy once based on forestry now relies largely on tourism to support it.
And though the local population chides the seasonal urbanites, it is the urban influx of capital that helps maintain the economic stability of the region.
The story is the same throughout much of Ontario and many other regions throughout North America.

As prosperity appears to be on the wane, 
it is the least self-reliant communities that feel the pressure most.
Having to import most of the products we need means having to come up with the capital, 
which must also come from outside.
Tourism is one product that can bring the cash in, 
but then the fortunes of the community are bound to one industry.
It's not unlike the towns where the one big employer packed up and left leaving the community in tatters.
Tourism works fine provided there are tourists.
But as more communities turn to tourism to replace traditional industries, 
the competition for market share heats up.

For those who see the status quo remaining in place indefinitely, 
there really should be no cause for concern.
Once the global economy starts producing well again, everything will go back to normal and the tourism dollars will continue to prop the community up.
But what if it doesn't?
What happens if urban disposable income collapses and the tourists stay home?

There are plenty of people in this community who would prefer to be prepared for change.
It's a common movement in many small towns across the continent.

Food               Energy            Manufacturing

Cheap food, cheap goods, and cheap energy all come from jurisdictions far away from here.
Far away from most small communities.
Even Southern Ontario, rich in quality farmland, grows mostly corn and soy solely to feed livestock.
A considerable amount of food is imported.
Manufacturing has long been gutted.
Energy is based on tenuous international relationships and unwieldy infrastructure.
It's no wonder that community groups have been formed and are working to fill a void should the system at large fail.

Season Extension, Abbey Gardens
In Haliburton, the focus has been on food and agriculture.
Should the food system, as it is, be disrupted, food would be scarce at best.
Even now, food is not reaching everyone who needs it.
Poverty is a glaring issue in many rural communities and access to healthy food for all is inadequate.
Developing food system reform has the potential to both prepare for future changes as well as address the uneven distribution of good food.

The tragedy is that at one point in the past, there was at least some elements of self-reliance when it came to food, energy, and manufactured goods.
Skills were broad and well honed, good land was in production, and most importantly, the infrastructure needed to grow and process food were in place.
Gaps were filled by well-established inter-regional supply lines linking neighbouring communities.
The push towards globalization has, over the period of only a couple generations, eroded the potential of small communities to be self-reliant.
Instead, we rely on cheap labour elsewhere, and cheap energy to get the goods to us.
In essence, we depend on corporate imperialism and polluting energy sources that will eventually doom us if continued on as is.

And for what?
To make food and goods affordable?

Somewhere along the way we have been fooled into exchanging self-determination for convenience.

Even now, as cheap as food really is, many families still cannot afford to feed their families well.
(Food is really a scapegoat, as the real drain on incomes comes from the predatory practices of banks, utilities, insurance companies, governments, and everyone else trying to get into your wallet.)

Haliburton Grain CSA Rye

Now that our vulnerabilities are becoming clear, more people are engaging in the movement to reform the food system.
The first challenge to overcome in a community like Haliburton is getting over the repetitive insistence that we cannot grow food on the Canadian Shield.
We certainly will not become a capital of corn and soy production, or known for expansive feed lots.
But an accumulation of small scale enterprises has the potential to reach a critical mass capable of feeding the community.
The soil here will not withstand cash crop rape, nor is the land suitable for mechanization.
But we don't want to repeat the failures of the past.
There are agricultural systems that grow soil over time.
There are crops that will thrive in this climate.
There is hope and innovation.

There is a history of farming in Haliburton.

Once we have found our mettle, the next step is to collaborate.
Reforming local agriculture doesn't begin at step one and end at the twelfth step.
It must happen concurrently.
Each part of the puzzle must be put in place at the same time in order for it all to work.
A storeowner cannot promote local produce if there is no supply.
The farmer cannot grow a crop if there is no market.
The bakery cannot mill flour from grain that has not been cleaned.
The restaurant cannot sell meat that has not been processed in an appropriate facility.
Despite all of the organizations promoting and supporting local food, it still takes individual entrepreneurs and their families to undertake the risk of building up a new food system.
And even then, everyone must co-ordinate and take the risk together.

And that is where we are in Haliburton;
standing on the edge.
Lacking faith in the status quo is not enough to forge change.
Watching from the comfort zone is not an option either.
What it will take is a collective willingness to step forward,
despite the risks.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

A Return to Firewood

Collecting firewood was a novelty when we first moved here over ten years ago.
It was an opportunity to spend some time in the forest, exploring and hunting for dry wood.
Running a chainsaw was a new experience, and splitting wood by hand for the stove made me feel like a real woodsman.

Each year I would find new ways of getting the wood in.
We bought an old tractor at the end of our first year and put it to work hauling wood.
It pulled a trailer, a dolly, and eventually, just the whole logs.
Each year it took less time to do, and I thought I had everything all sewn up.

But we grew.
And growing means adding more to the chore list.
Firewood could be done after all the the other jobs.
So it fell to the bottom of the list.

And then it didn't get done in time.
A wet Fall and rutted trails meant that the job wasn't so easy anymore.
The standing dead trees and dry windfall had all been harvested.
Splitting wood by hand still made me feel like a woodsman,
but with a sore back.

Last year was by far the worst.
The time we set aside for firewood was taken up by making a living to pay the bills.
A hard choice for sure.
So we gathered our wood using snowshoes and sleigh throughout the Winter.

Last Winter was pretty tough.
I vowed to never let the firewood lapse again.
But I did,
until the very last minute.

Two very large windfall Ash trees, and a back route to our woodlot saved us.
And so far, this Winter has been merciful.
We have firewood.
I only hope it is enough.

In truth, the firewood novelty has yet to wear off.
Spending time in the forest gathering fuelwood is still a beautiful experience.
It's honest labour that you can feel really proud of at the end of the day.
Especially if there's a big pile of wood to show for it.

Fuel is of such tremendous importance on the homestead.
Using our own woodlot means that we are directly responsible for our heating fuel.
There's no calling the utility company or turning up the thermostat.
It's one of the few acts of self-sufficiency that we can manage on our fledgling homestead.

Having said that, we need to reset our priorities.
Our Winter fuelwood needs to get done sooner than it has been.
Working for money can wait.
I need to get out into the forest.