Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Well the big day is finally here and yes, we have a white Christmas with several inches of snow. It's beautiful!

Currently it's a little before 6 am. I got up at 5 to finish stuffing Steve's stocking and to light the fire in the furnace to warm up the house. We'll need a fire for the morning but the heat from cooking a 30 lb turkey will likely mean opening windows later on.

We spent yesterday afternoon driving in some nasty conditions to take a little girl to her dad's place for Christmas. It did give us a chance to hit superstore for some cereal and milk though so that was good. The trip took twice as long due to blowing snow and icy roads but it still wasn't too bad and having snow tyres on the van sure made a difference. Besides, it's nice to be of help to people, especially at Christmas.

We had just settled down to watch a movie on the laptop in the living room when who should come sprinting through our yard but Santa! Yes, the real Santa (who is in remarkably good shape) dropped off a sack of presents labelled Do Not Open Until Christmas and then took off up the street before anyone could even think to yell Thank You. Kate was thrilled! We told her several weeks ago that Santa was not real and you know what? She doesn't believe us! Well, what's one more year of innocence right?

I can't wait for the kids to see their gifts...maybe that's why I'm up so early. Besides enjoying the warm glow of the lights from the tree. Watching the cats running around like idiots is fun too. Sadie, our old black cat decided to climb the wood pile in the basement at 5am and send half the kindling crashing down in a big avalanche which scared everyone awake. So I fed the cats and gave then their new catnip covered scratching post which so far seems to be appreciated. Now Susie is careening around the house chasing whatever moves.

the kids will be up soon and the fun will begin. We have church from 10-11 and then friends over for dinner at 5 so it's going to be a long but enjoyable day.

From our little family her in Greenwood, Nova Scotia Canada, We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope that your New Year is filled with Love, Peace, and happy memories.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Traditions

Our family extends Christmas gift giving to include having one present from under the tree on Christmas Eve. Usually it's new pj's or something like that. Gone are the days when they'd have matching plaid pj's with the feet attached. Sigh. Nope, now they're man sized, taller than me (Chris is at least) and independent. Little boys grow up so fast. Just look at our son John! Married to a lovely wife with 3 beautiful daughters. Oh how the time flies.

And here we are on Christmas Eve. Cookie delivery day to our friends and neighbours. I've been awake since a little after 3am and I'm tired but I think that stress is preventing me from sleeping and I'm SO tired. Maybe if I write this little entry and think happy thoughts I'll be able to slow down my brain and get back to sleep for a couple of hours.

The gifts are all bought. I have a couple of time consuming service projects to do today and a bunch of cookies to bake and deliver along with some holiday bread. And the guys have a 'men only' breakfast and ball hockey game this morning so it's going to be a fun but busy day. We are supposed to go for a sleigh ride with our friends the Comeau's today too but not sure how we can fit everything in with a trip to Digby to take a little girl home to her father's for Christmas. I'm sure it'll all work out. And if Steve comes then we can spend time together.

Speaking of Steve...I was reminded that he has a built in sense of humour that a lot of people don't see. His snoring woke me up at about 2 this morning and our conversation went like this.

Liz: Steve roll over. *shove*
Steve: Why?
Liz: Because you're snoring really badly.
Steve: Maybe I need more practice then. Zzzzz

I love my husband!

Here's the recipe for my

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies/Chocolate Snowflakes as we sometimes call them, that we're giving to our friends this year.

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate squares , melted
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
    Mix together the melted choc, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs until well combined. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt then gradually add the flour mix to the chocolate mix until there are no floury lumps. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

    Heat oven to 350. Take enough dough to form a 1 inch ball and roll in the icing sugar to coat thickly. Place on a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes. Cool and eat! Also good to give away and fun to make with kids.

    Another kid friendly recipe is this one for Tiger Butter
    * 1 cup Dark chocolate wafers, melted
    * 1 cup White chocolate wafers, melted
    * 1 cup Peanut butter, natural smooth works best

    Mix the peanut butter together with the melted white chocolate and pour into a square glass dish. pour the dark chocolate over it and gently swirl a knife through it to make stripes. Chill, break into pieces and serve. You can also use orange coloured chocolate in place of the white if you wish and adjust the peanut butter to a half cup for a firmer consistency. This recipe easily doubles, triples and more. For our holiday baking I do 2 lbs semi-sweet chocolate, 2 lbs white chocolate, 1/4 lb orange chocolate and 2-3 cups of natural smooth peanut butter. Use parchment paper to line pans for easier removal.


    From our Family to you and yours, we hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and a New Year filled with peace, joy and love for your fellow men.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stress isn't good when you're sleepless

It's raining a little today and warm but cooling down. It was 10 degrees this morning but right now it's cooled down to 5 degrees. All of the teens and adults are suffering today. Meghan had 7 or 8 girls over for a sleepover last night and consequently none of us got any sleep. At 4am there were still little girls bouncing off the walls so I have decided the following...NEVER AGAIN!!!!

Please remind me of this fact the next time Meghan asks me.

Right now she is playing outside with another friend and I'm enjoying some peace and quiet. I got 6 loaves of holiday bread baked and I'm going to make a few more batches later this afternoon but for now I think I'm going to take it easy. And maybe have a sandwich. I'm feeling a little stressed as we haven't received some of the money we were supposed to be paid before Christmas so presents are a little lean for the boys. They really just want a larger TV for playing their games on but it looks like it'll have to wait. Of course, maybe after Christmas there will be some smokin' deals too. I guess it could still come in the mail tomorrow, the money that is, and lets hope so. If not...well I'm going to get Chris a capo for his guitar and a new anti-pull collar and leash for Jordan's dog so she stops pulling him for miles every time he walks her. Each of the kids got things for each other too so there are presents under the tree to open for everyone and my Dad sent a really nice delivery of Hickory Farms stuff, sausages, crackers and cheese, and lots of candy. All the treats we love at Christmas, so we're going to get chubbier over the next week. And we can't wait! Bring on Christmas Eve! Yum!

Our friends the Wolfs very kindly came over with a gift for us and we are looking forward to making our rounds on Christmas Eve with treats for everyone. And looking at the holiday lights. It's going to be fun! We have been invited to a sleigh ride and caroling too so with the hockey game and breakfast in the morning we're going to have a very busy day!

I'm off to get more work done now. Hope you're all having a great day with as little stress as possible.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Oak Logs

Remember back a couple of months ago when Steve and I went and cut some big oak logs? We've had them stacked beside the garage for a while and now our friend Stephan has loaned us his hydraulic log splitter which is AWESOME! Watching it split those 200 lb wet logs is a sight to behold and definitely appreciated by those of us who otherwise would have struggled with a maul, splitting wedges and a 5 lb sledge hammer. Hours of back breaking work reduced to minutes. As much as we love doing things by hand the old fashioned way, it doesn't mean we don't appreciate the modern conveniences like log splitters and high speed internet.

Being able to identify the various trees in winter and summer is important to homesteaders, as is knowing what the various woods are used for. Things that the old timers take for granted such as Ash is used for tool handles (long wearing and less splinters), sugar maple for floor boards (used in bowling alleys) and cherry for furniture due to it's unique colour and finishing qualities. Just because you can tell them apart in the summer doesn't mean you can once all the hardwood's have lost their leaves in the winter but close observation of bark, twigs and buds can tell you what you're looking at. This is important for those maple trees you want to tap in the spring before the leaves unfurl or when cutting hardwood trees for firewood in the winter. You don't want to be burning furniture grade wood when there's other more suitable firewood available.

I have a little book that was originally published in 1973 called Trees of Nova Scotia. It lists their habit, leaf style, bud and flower information and also commercial uses. Such a handy little book. Next I want to look for books on identifying mushrooms and berries.

So...what are you hoping to get for Christmas?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Burnt Pea Soup

After church on Sunday we had a lovely little potluck. I took my big pot of pea soup got a little singed on the bottom but still went over ok. The buns were a huge hit I guess...there weren't any left by the time I got there :) and the cookies were pretty much gone too. We made Pfeffernusser, a German spice cookie rolled in powdered sugar for the dessert.

Monday was busy. The kids are home from school and getting under foot a bit, bt they had friends to play for a few hours so that kept them out of trouble. We also went caroling to a local nursing home with some folks from church so that was fun. The kids all sang beautifully.

Tuesday was a day of meetings and more food. Our Kung Fu potluck was really fun. Lots of good food, fun team games and then we watched the karate kid movie. The terminals on my van caused some problems, namely it wouldn't start, but when we got home Steve was able to clean them up for me. It's tricky on that van because it has side terminals, is mounted below the fuse box and underneath a strut. Awkward to say the least.

Today is Meghan's sleepover. At 6pm the crowds will descend. In the meantime we're heading out to buy stuff for Meghan like pizza and food colouring. Meghan's buying so that's good. Our friend Jennie is coming soon to make cookies so we've got to get going.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Cookie Recipes

We girls are baking oodles of cookies this afternoon. Here's our list so far...

Gingersnaps, Gingerbread People, Chocolate Crinkles, Lemon Ice Box, Scottish Shortbread, Peanut Butter, and Shortbread Pinwheels plus Sugar Cookies that the girls can decorate. For candy we're just sticking to sponge toffee, tiger butter and fudge.

Of course it will depend on what mood takes us when we get started baking in a few minutes.

Every year we take Christmas Eve to deliver cookies to our friends. With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year then we can deliver some of our cookies at church to our friends there and save some gas. But the delivering of the cookies is one of the highlights of Christmas for us. Right up there with doing a secret elf project where we deliver treats anonymously to friends and neighbours.

Kate is complaining...time to go cook!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Vanilla

Well the weather is cooling down to right around freezing I think. Possibly a few degrees below and there's even a chance we might see some snow on Sunday. Maybe we'll see a white Christmas after all. I had a very busy day doing visiting teaching, errands, mailing photos to the grandparents of the kids and just a bunch of other little things that seem to have taken the whole day. Steve and I popped over to the movie theater for a movie (3 musketeers) and found that if you buy a pass it costs about $5.50 per movie so if you skip the popcorn it's actually a cheap date! And convenient since it's less than 5 minutes fro our house.

I met the local Watkins lady while picking up a package for Harvey today. She seems nice and I can stock up on liniment and vanilla (Watkins makes great vanilla). Mmmm...vanilla. When I was little I though there were only two real flavours. Strawberry, Chocolate, and plain. I though that 'vanilla' just meant plain. Now I know that real vanilla is delicious. Love those beans! All the best things come from beans. Green beans, vanilla beans, cocoa beans. Yum! This is what vanilla beans look like before drying which turns them the familiar brown colour. These beans are from Costa Rica and are actually the seed pods from a type of orchid.

Christopher tested for his sash in Kung Fu tonight and passed. Now all 4 kids are officially members of the club. Class is tomorrow and I'm not sure what else we have planned but I have lots of baking to get done and some cleaning to do too. Maybe I can do the latter when Steve takes the kids to Kung Fu.

It's late so I'm going to go. Hope you are all safe and warm. I'm going to light a small fire in the furnace for a couple of hours to warm up the house again so we're good. Haven't used a 1/4 cord of wood yet which is good. The wood supply always looks huge but then you start using it and it dwindles quickly!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

From small and simple things are great things brought to pass

I was going through a bunch of my stuff today and stumbled upon one of my favourite inspirational quotes.

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

- Mother Teresa (1910-1997)





This is a copy of the video that I'm sending out with my Christmas eCard this year and I wanted to share it with all of you too. And also this heartfelt wish that we all find greater spiritual strength, peace and happiness in the coming year. That we may all be able to gather with loved ones over the holidays and celebrate what a miracle it is to have family and friends who love us for who we truly are, and may we strive to love our fellow men as Jesus would have us do. I know this sounds like a Sunday message but I just feel that somebody out there needs to hear it today. We live in an age of miracles that we fail to see every day and one of those miracles is YOU.

This is without a doubt one of my favourite songs of all time and I love Sarah McLachlan

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Well, the flu took down almost everyone in the house over the weekend as you know and so far only Meghan and I have escaped. Steve had to take time off work which is incredibly unusual for him. Kate is feeling well enough to go back to school today which is good because her Christmas concert is tonight. Meghan's concert was on Monday.

The good news is that we have the other van up and running at last so I now have wheels! Yay! In 10 days our other insurance expires so I've got to arrange for a new windshield for the white van and get it inspected with new insurance.

Oh one note about vehicle insurance...it turns out that our rates are different in NS than in BC. We were originally paying in BC about $950 per year for PLPD which is basic insurance for business use. Here the same insurance is costing us $323 per year. Our business liability insurance is the same, we paid about 5 times the amount in BC that we have to pay here. I'm not sure why the difference. Maybe less claims and accidents here but we're pleased to save the money either way.

It's now 10 days to Christmas. And the big question (besides 'what am I getting') is will we have a white Christmas? So the good folks over at the Weather Network did some figuring and have analyzed historical weather data to determine the chances of having a white Christmas for different cities in Canada. Here's the list...

CityAverage chance* of a White Christmas
Yellowknife100 %
Whitehorse100 %
Iqaluit100 %
Kenora100 %
Goose Bay100 %
Quebec City95 %
Winnipeg95 %
Saskatoon89 %
Thunder Bay89 %
Regina89 %
Edmonton79 %
Ottawa79 %
Charlottetown63 %
Fredericton58 %
Montreal68 %
Moncton63 %
London63 %
St. John's63 %
Sarnia32 %
Sydney47 %
Saint John41 %
Kelowna42 %
Halifax47 %
Calgary47 %
Toronto37 %
Vancouver21 %
Victoria16 %

So far it's been above normal here in Nova Scotia as far as temperatures go. Although we saw that 17 inches of snow several weeks ago we haven't had a single flake since and it's only just starting to push into below freezing temps. We lit the furnace for an hour or two each of the last couple of days and this evening I'll likely build a small fire for the evening too. With the sun out during the day it warms up the house a little so that I don't worry about heating until supper time.

Ok well I'm getting the kids off to school so that I can go out shopping for a gift for Steve and some butter for making cookies today. I'm going to stick to just a few kinds that keep well...chocolate crinkles, Scottish shortbread, gingerbread men, and we'll see about sugar cookies. I've got to get things packed up and mailed to the Grandkids today if possible too.

Have a good day!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's been a busy weekend

I got to take my first trip to Halifax on Friday, but only for a half hour. Steve and I left before 7am and went to work together. This allowed us to get the car insurance sorted out in person with the broker so now all I have to do to have wheels is get new tires and a battery plus plates for the other van. Maybe tomorrow. It was nice to share the long drive together and since Steve's sick with the flu and a wickedly sore throat he appreciated the company. He took it easy on Saturday and spent half of today in bed missing the latter half of church which is unusual for him so you know he's not feeling well.

We got new tyres on the old van so now we have good snow traction hopefully with our mountain and snowflake rated tyres. Yay! We also had the activity and craft day which 18 women attended and we got a bunch of crafts done plus 2 lap quilts tied for different sisters at church who could use the love and cheer from a little huggable quilt. All in all we had a nice relaxing time and a nice luncheon and we ate loads of good cookies! And I'm glad all that planning and cooking is done!

Oh and I have to add that Chris and Jordan did a wonderful job of looking after a dozen little ones and kids for nearly 3 hours. They were both heroes! I promise to not ask you to babysit again this year!

Today we got to see more of Nova Scotia. We went out to Caledonia to pick up a bike for Kate for Christmas and met a lovely lady who's invited us to come back with the kids for a visit in the summer. She has a big lake on her property and it's beautiful out that way past kejimkujik national park. I bet it's lovely in the summer. The bike is for Kate for Christmas and it's raspberry coloured with 5 gears and hand brakes for her to learn on. Now she needs some crash pads and a helmet.

The big news of the weekend is that I've been called as the Relief Society President. So now I oversee all the programs for the women in our little branch of the church. Sort of like the 'mother' of the branch. I'm overwhelmed about being responsible for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the families in our area but at the same time I know the Lord will help me and guide me and I'm excited to be able to be of service. We might just be a little branch now but we're mighty and getting stronger every day.

Here's my thought for today, Sunday. In a world where greed, envy, starvation, abuse and selfishness are rampant we can sometimes just want to sit and weep thinking that there's nothing we can do about it. The problems can seem overwhelming. So many faces needing our help and us without the means to do all we'd like to do. But don't be discouraged. By helping just one person you make a real difference in their world. There is a wonderful story that's told...

Once there was a great storm that washed thousands of starfish up onshore. As an old man walked the beach he saw a young boy picking up stranded starfish and quickly returning them to the sea.
The man approached the boy and said, “What are you doing? The sun is rising. What difference does it make? They're all going to die anyway.” As the boy rose from gently tossing back yet another starfish he said, “I made a difference to THAT one…”

And that's the lesson to all of us. We can all make a difference to that one person who needs us.

I hope you all have a wonderful week and I'll write again tomorrow.

Elizabeth

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nasty Nasty Weather Today.

Well, we finally got some nasty weather. It's incredibly windy with intermittent heavy driving rain. This, my friends, is a good day to stay indoors with a nice fire. Speaking of which I might light a small one. No, on second thought it's still 19 degrees inside so it's warm enough. We had a small fire last evening and it warmed the house right up. If we had a woodstove though I'd light one just for the comfort of watching a fire burn. There's something primeval and comforting about having a fire burning in bad weather, don't you think? It's still true that the heart of a home is the hearth. That's why everyone hangs out in the kitchen!

Today's weather is basically bad. 50 km/h winds packing gusts up to 80 km/h. Rain. 16 degrees. So far no power outages or trees down and it's unlikely that will happen but I'm ready if it does. The kids have a half day today so they'll be home early and Steve is hopefully working a normal day and will be home in time for dinner.

In the US the EPA's attempt to ban almost all wood burning stoves in favour of so-called more efficient models has me a bit worried because Canada often follows the lead of the Americans and even if they do not, the lack of availability of a good stove will drive up prices. And I'm going to need one for the new house. I love a woodstove for heating, cooking and during emergencies. I was just reminded about this because with this nasty weather it's the perfect day to have a big pot of stew simmering slowly. Maybe I can find the slow cooker instead.

Here's the article from Natural News. Take it with a grain of salt.

Traditional wood-burning stoves are still one of the most cost-efficient, sustainable, and renewable sources of energy production that families can use to heat their homes. But the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not a huge fan of them, as was evidenced by its recent decision to push those who use traditional models to convert to EPA-approved -- and oftentimes much more expensive -- alternative models.

Throughout history, civilizations have relied on the burning of wood to cook food, warm water, and heat places of dwelling. After all, trees are an abundant and renewable source of wood, which means that the costs associated with obtaining energy and heat from burning wood are minimal. This, of course, is why many cash-strapped folks today are turning to wood-burning stoves rather than their local utilities.

But the EPA is now expressing concern about the 80 percent-or-so of wood stove users that still rely on non-EPA approved models. Most of the wood stoves manufactured before 1990 do not contain the EPA's certification stamp of approval which, in the eyes of the agency, means they are an unnecessary contributor of excess environmental pollution.

This is debatable, of course, as EPA-approved models can still emit excess smoke just like the others, and may not necessarily provide any pollution-reducing benefits at all. Because of their altered designs, many of the new EPA-approved models do not work as well as the older models, either, especially when used in severely-cold weather (http://www.energybulletin.net/51578).

Most wood-burning stove companies in the US actually went out of business shortly after the EPA established its original certification requirements for wood stoves back in the 1990s. Many of the companies simply could not develop a complying product that actually worked. Today, the EPA is once again revisiting these New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) guidelines in order to push even more people away from the old stoves.

At the same time, EPA spokeswoman Alison Davis recently tried to whitewash the agency's position against wood stoves by claiming that the EPA is "not in the business of telling people how to heat their homes." No, it is actually in the business of restricting the types of wood stoves manufacturers are allowed to produce and sell, which ultimately does tell people how to heat their homes by robbing them of their freedom of choice.

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/034179_EPA_wood-burning_stoves.html#ixzz1fxHTc6eL But take it with a grain of salt.

Here's a beef stew recipe I really like but I mostly adjust it depending on what I have on hand. Here's my usual beef stew recipe:

1 lb beef cut into cubes. dredge in seasoned flour and fry until brown in hot oil (2 tbsp). Add bouillon, worchestershire sauce, burgundy if desired, crushed garlic and herbs to taste (rosemary, thyme, bay) Simmer covered for 1 hour. Add 10 cups of cubed vegetables such as turnip, rutabaga, potato, celery, carrot and 2 large onions. Simmer again for 20 minutes until veggies are soft and serve with dumplings or crusty bread. This is the one you serve your kids.

Here's my fancy recipe with the veggies served as side dishes. And yes, I borrowed this recipe from Gordon Ramsay, the chef. This is the one you'd serve your mother-in-law.

  • 3 tsp goose fat
  • 600g beef shin, cut into large chunks
  • 100g smoked streaky bacon , sliced
  • 350g shallots or pearl onions, peeled
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms (about 20)
  • 2 garlic clove , sliced
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 750ml bottle red wine , Burgundy is good

FOR THE CELERIAC MASH

  1. Heat a large casserole pan and add 1 tbsp goose fat. Season the beef and fry until golden brown, about 3-5 mins, then turn over and fry the other side until the meat is browned all over, adding more fat if necessary. Do this in 2-3 batches, transferring the meat to a colander set over a bowl when browned.
  2. In the same pan, fry the bacon, shallots or pearl onions, mushrooms, garlic and bouquet garni until lightly browned. Mix in the tomato purée and cook for a few mins, stirring into the mixture. This enriches the bourguignon and makes a great base for the stew. Then return the beef and any drained juices to the pan and stir through.
  3. Pour over the wine and about 100ml water so the meat bobs up from the liquid, but isn't completely covered. Bring to the boil and use a spoon to scrape the caramelised cooking juices from the bottom of the pan - this will give the stew more flavour.
  4. Heat oven to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2. Make a cartouche: tear off a square of foil slightly larger than the casserole, arrange it in the pan so it covers the top of the stew and trim away any excess foil. Then cook for 3 hrs. If the sauce looks watery, remove the beef and veg with a slotted spoon, and set aside. Cook the sauce over a high heat for a few mins until the sauce has thickened a little, then return the beef and vegetables to the pan.
  5. To make the celeriac mash, peel the celeriac and cut into cubes. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Tip in the celeriac and fry for 5 mins until it turns golden. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir in the rosemary, thyme, bay and cardamom pods, then pour over 200ml water, enough to nearly cover the celeriac. Turn the heat to low, partially cover the pan and leave to simmer for 25-30 mins.
  6. After 25-30 mins, the celeriac should be soft and most of the water will have evaporated. Drain away any remaining water, then remove the herb sprigs, bay and cardamom pods. Lightly crush with a potato masher, then finish with a glug of olive oil and season to taste. Spoon the beef bourguignon into serving bowls and place a large spoonful of the celeriac mash on top. Garnish with one of the bay leaves, if you like.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Little Drummer Boy from Winnipeg, Canada

Winnipeg teen's 'Little Drummer Boy' becomes YouTube hit | CTV News

Check it out, it's nice to see teens really getting involved in Christmas and not just the getting of presents. I've seen some great new music this year and will post more tomorrow.

Here's the Youtube video.

The Calm Before The Storm

We reached a balmy 16 degrees yesterday. Amazing! Warm but drizzly for the next couple of days and then sunny but cooler temperatures for the rest of the week. Not quite time to start singing "I'm dreaming of a green Christmas.." but we're 3 weeks away and the weather is still gorgeous.

We got great news today. If you've followed our blog for a while you'll know that we left behind in BC all our animals, including our especially beloved goat Soo who was named after one of our WWOOFers Byung Soo from Korea. At the last minute we decided it would be better for her to stay on the island and not take a 3 week road trip in her kennel. Well, our famous little 'I think I'm a dog' goat just had twins and they were named Hansel and Gretel. Mom and babies are doing extremely well and I'll see about getting some more pics. Oh how I miss that dear little goat! This is Gretel and she's a blue eyed Nigerian Dwarf, just a few days old.

There's not a whole lot going on today. Steve's feeling a bit under the weather, the girls have their youth group tonight and Meghan has a parent teacher interview at 8:15pm. They'll be home for lunch as it's a half day today and tomorrow so Jordan, Meghan and Kate will all be home in an hour. I'm thinking Steve might come home early also.

I've got the necessary supplies for Saturday's classes except the etching cream which I'll need to go to New Minas for. I need a big craft store like Michaels for that. And maybe a few more sheets of cardstock. Lunch is going to be soup and sandwiches. Cheap and easy to prep. in advance and I'll make some cookies or something too. I've got to get that done today so the girls can help me this afternoon.

Apart from that, it's a nice restful day of laundry and regular household stuff.

The calm before the storm no doubt.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Weather Outlook for Winter 2011/2012 in Canada

For those interested, I found an aerial photo of Greenwood, NS. It's from a real estate page which is why the property for sale is outlined. CFB Greenwood and it's runways are at the top and we're just off the bottom of the picture in the sub division on the bottom left. The mall is in the middle. So we're right by civilization...can't wait to have a farm again but love our current house and are very blessed to have such a wonderful home and family.

The Weather Network has just released their predictions for how the winter weather will shape up overall in the coming months. And here's the nitty gritty...colder up north, warmer for Altantic provinces and more snow for BC which will be a little cooler than usual. Deep cold spells and distinctive chinook spells for Alberta mean that their temps are going to be fluctuating quite a bit this winter. But we'll see. Even with a milder winter here in southern Nova Scotia it doesn't mean that we won't get snow or be below freezing, what it does mean is that as a mean temperature it's going to be warmer. And that's certainly nice for us. What we really need though is an early warm spring with good even precipitation to make the farmers happy. For planting crops each week that we're early getting them into the ground is a blessing. But of course there are always unpredictable frosts and snowfalls in the spring. That's gardening in Canada. In a perfect world though I'd like to have my seedlings out enjoying the sun under their covers at the end of March. Maybe earlier if I'm super lucky. But most of my main crops won't be ready to seed out into the main garden until May. And with my corn it could be later still because it won't germinate in cold soil. But there's no point in worrying yet. We'll just have to do what we can when spring comes.

Here's the link to the weather network's report.

I'm busy getting ready for the big activity on Saturday. I have to make soup and buns for 30 people plus plan activities and crafts for everyone. It's going to be lots of fun! I'm going to get some cookie baking done today too. Hope you're all having a great week and not feeling too stressed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Organic vs. Convetional Growing

Just had to post this article again although I'm sure some have read it already.

Study: Organic Farming Outperformed Conventional Farming in Every Measure
Written by Paul Hanley, The Star Pheonix
Thursday, 29 September 2011 12:57
PDF Print E-mail

The results are in from a 30-year side-by-side trial of conventional and organic farming methods at Pennsylvania's Rodale Institute. Contrary to conventional wisdom, organic farming outperformed conventional farming in every measure.

There are about 1,500 organic farmers in Saskatchewan, at last count. They eschew the synthetic fertilizers and toxic sprays that are the mainstay of conventional farms. Study after study indicates the conventional thinking on farming - that we have to tolerate toxic chemicals because organic farming can't feed the world - is wrong.

In fact, studies like the Rodale trials (www.rodaleinstitute.org/ fst30years) show that after a three-year transition period, organic yields equalled conventional yields. What is more, the study showed organic crops were more resilient. Organic corn yields were 31 per cent higher than conventional in years of drought.These drought yields are remarkable when compared to genetically modified (GM) "drought tolerant" varieties, which showed increases of only 6.7 per cent to 13.3 per cent over conventional (non-drought resistant) varieties.

More important than yield, from the farmer's perspective, is income, and here organic is clearly superior. The 30-year comparison showed organic systems were almost three times as profitable as the conventional systems. The average net return for the organic systems was $558/acre/ year versus just $190/acre/year for the conventional systems. The much higher income reflects the premium organic farmers receive and consumers pay for.

But even without a price premium, the Rodale study found organic systems are competitive with the conventional systems because of marginally lower input costs.

The most profitable grain crop was the organically grown wheat netting $835/acre/year. Interestingly, no-till conventional corn was the least profitable, netting just $27/acre/year. The generally poor showing of GM crops was striking; it echoed a study from the University of Minnesota that found farmers who cultivated GM varieties earned less money over a 14-year period than those who continued to grow non-GM crops.

Importantly, the Rodale study, which started in 1981, found organic farming is more sustainable than conventional systems. They found, for example, that:

. Organic systems used 45 per cent less energy than conventional.

. Production efficiency was 28 per cent higher in the organic systems, with the conventional no-till system being the least efficient in terms of energy usage.

. Soil health in the organic systems has increased over time while the conventional systems remain essentially unchanged. One measure of soil health is the amount of carbon contained in the soil. Carbon performs many crucial functions: acting as a reservoir of plant nutrients, binding soil particles together, maintaining soil temperature, providing a food source for microbes, binding heavy metals and pesticides, and influencing water holding capacity and aeration. The trials compared different types of organic and conventional systems; carbon increase was highest in the organic manure system, followed by the organic legume system. The conventional system has shown a loss in carbon in recent years.

Organic fields increased groundwater recharge and reduced run-off. Water volumes percolating through the soil were 15-20 per cent higher in the organic systems. Rather than running off the surface and taking soil with it, rainwater recharged groundwater reserves in the organic systems, with minimal erosion.

Organic farming also helps sustain rural communities by creating more jobs; a UN study shows organic farms create 30 per cent more jobs per hectare than nonorganic. More of the money in organic farming goes to paying local people, rather than to farm inputs.

With results like these, why does conventional wisdom favour chemical farming? Vested interests. Organic farming keeps more money on the farm and in rural communities and out of the pockets of chemical companies. As the major funders of research centres and universities, and major advertisers in the farm media, they effectively buy a pro-chemical bias.

Still, the global food security community, which focuses on poor farmers in developing countries, is shifting to an organic approach. Numerous independent studies show that small scale, organic farming is the best option for feeding the world now and in the future. In fact, agroecological farming methods, including organic farming, could double global food production in just 10 years, according to one UN report.

What's True in the News?

I'm glad that some of you took the time to comment about yesterdays post. It's such a complex situation that it cannot be solved by rhetoric, protest, or any single means. It's a problem that's multi-faceted and will take time or divine intervention to fix. The point I want to stress is this:

It's about personal responsibility. You make the choices and deal with the consequences. Sure, some people are dealt a raw hand, but you just have to do the best you can with what you've got.

I just want to tell half these people protesting to "Suck it up, buttercup" but that would be counter-productive and frankly, I have better things to do. It's not that I disagree entirely with what they are doing but I do disagree quite a lot. We haven't seen them protesting about injustice in the rest of the world, it's only when it directly affects their affluent lives that they care. What about the billions of people who live under oppression every day on our planet? Who can't get gov't support or food stamps or even an education. Who have no running water or a safe place to sleep? What about those who can't follow the dictates of their hearts without fear of arrest or death?

Anyways, enough of that. It's too much of a nice day to be dragged down into such discussions. It's sunny right now and 10 degrees outside but looks like it's going to cloud over pretty soon. Chris missed his bus when his alarm failed to go off this morning (due to a 6am power failure) so he's my slave for the day. I'm not doing anything that interesting, just normal household chores. This whole week looks pretty calm in fact and hopefully will give me a chance to get some things caught up.

We had family pictures taken yesterday by our friend Somer who is a professional photographer so with luck we'll have prints back for Christmas mailing and you can see how lovely we all look in our casual clothes (except Kate who insisted on dressing up). The tree is up and now almost totally decorated. Cookies tonight mean it'll be done I think. And there's some friend trouble brewing for Meghan so it'll be good to keep her distracted.

Today's thought for the day is about the News. Would you consider the things you hear on the radio to be fact? What bout in the paper? Do we assume that there must be someone there doing their own fact checking or do we cross reference and try to get different perspectives or more details. I was thinking about this because of a CBC Radio show called "This is That". They basically produce a satirical radio show once a week. We were listening to it last week with the kids in the car. Here's the episode. CBC.ca | This Is That There's a great non-story about how one U.S. town is claiming that Manitoba is stealing 'American Wind' to power their wind turbines. It's really funny. But of course some people don't realize that it's satire, it's not real. A journalist from a large oil magazine recently referenced a This is That story to support his claim that the oil sands aren't that bad. So much for fact checking. That's what made me think that getting the real news can be tricky.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grow Up!!

Normally I wouldn't post something controversial on a Sunday. After all, Sundays are a day of peace and rest, the Sabbath for much of the world. But since freedom to choose life and liberty or oppression and death is core to many religious traditions the world over, I thought I'd sneak this in here.

When people heard that we lived with no running water and no flush toilets for 2 months when the well ran dry, they were shocked and amazed. We just made do.

When people heard that we had plenty of running water but this time flowing over our fields, septic tank and all across the property during some flooding and were back using our composting toilet for another 2 months they were shocked. We just made do.

When the power went out for days at a time we heated using our ancient wood stove and baked cornbread inside it, albeit a bit sooty, and made chili or stew in a pot on top, people said we were true pioneers, but really we were just adapting to the situation. And didn't really think it was a big deal.

In our modern world we take things for granted, no doubt. We forget that running water and flush toilets are a convenience not a necessity though if you live on the 18th floor you might argue that fact. And many people who are not preppers or rural farmers take for granted that if life has gotten better for their parents then they are entitled to that too. Regardless of the fact that their parents have worked hard for their possessions and taken years to get their current standard of living.

In the LDS church our leaders have for years counseled us to avoid unnecessary debt and to work hard. To aspire to things but to work for them and be patient. That it's ok to have hand me down furniture when you're starting out and gradually upgrade. You don't need to have the same level of comfort as your folks have, they started out simply too. And I believe that.

So in that vein of appreciating what you have, working hard and following wise counsel....

Here's the controversial video. Thanks to Danny Muise for the link.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Getting our Christmas Tree

We love real trees. And so this year we are getting a nice 5-6 foot Balsam Fir hopefully. As long as it doesn't cost too much in which case we'll be going to the Quick Mart for a $15 little pine tree. I've heard there's a place where you can cut your own tree and they have cookie decorating and a bunch of activities too so I'm going to look into that as well.

I think that having a Christmas Tree Farm would be nice. Fun at the holidays and quiet the rest of the time. But as I don't know about the trimming necessary I'll have to do a bit more research.

Restaurant Review.

Steve took me out again last night. We went to a restaurant in Middletone simply called The Restaurant. I hear it had a different name originally but now it's under new ownership for the past 5 or so years by Peter and Bev Terauds who live locally. They, and their staff are very nice. So we went to eat and both decided on ribs with a choice of 2 sides. The selections include steamed veg, brown rice, fries, roast potatoes, caesar salad etc and we both ordered the roast potatoes and salad. Well, the food was fast, we spent the time looking at the local artwork for sale all round the walls. My ribs came with Apple Jax sauce, and yes it was sweet and mild, Steve had a BBQ sauce which he liked and the ribs were very tender fall off the bone and just use a fork type of ribs. The Caesar salad was delicious! The house made dressing was a nice garlicky and creamy dressing on a very cheesy salad. The roast potatoes were fine too, dressed up with herbs and not over salted or over roasted. We even shared some of their house made cheesecake and it was both creamy and tasty, served with real whipped cream (out of a can but still real cream) garnished with shaved chocolate. The crust was crunchy so it was obviously not sitting around for long. Our waitress, whose name I believe was Laverne, was very nice. The atmosphere was relaxed with nice music playing and we never felt rushed even though we later found out that they closed at 7:30 and we were there well past 8:30 chatting to the owners about some land they have for sale. The prices are good, about 20% less expensive than say Kellocks in Berwick and other comparable restaurants yet still very nice food. They also have a good selection of Nova Scotia wines and source a good percentage of their ingredients locally. They're open for lunch 11:30 -2:00pm and dinner from 4:30-7:30 Monday through Friday and open for dinner only on Saturdays from 5-8pm. They have good parking located on the side and they're located right opposite the Scotiabank and beside the Save Easy grocery store at the corner of Main and Commercial Streets in Middleton, the heart of the Annapolis Valley. Their phone number is 825-6099 and they take reservations and also offer take-out. The selections include burgers, fish, pasta, soup and salads and some very tempting desserts. Over all we'd give this restaurant an 8.5 and possibly higher...I want to go back and try some more of their food today for lunch. I think we've found our favourite restaurant. So there you go...another restaurant review. Steve was very nice to take me out for dinner again and we had a nice relaxing time, were home and in bed by 9pm, sigh, yes we're sad old people...maybe we lived in Qualicum Beach too long! lol

Gotta run to Kung Fu. I'll update later and let you know how our tree hunting worked out.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Sustainable Energy Island

El Hierro is a small island in the Canaries. Previously believed to be the westernmost part of the world, it is a roughly triangular volcanic island that's currently undergoing a series of earthquakes and new land formation, which is why I was reading about it. I think that's interesting. But when I got poking around I discovered something that's right up my alley, self sufficiency in power. This small island is home to approximately 11,000 residents and tourists so the demand for power is relatively predictable and stable. Through a grant of 54 billion Euros and using both hyrdo electricity and wind turbine generation, they should be completely self-sufficient in electrical power by the end of this year of all goes according to plan. And that's without extensive conservation practices. Here's the little blurb Wikipedia has about it...

According to the Ministry for Industry, Tourism and Commerce, El Hierro will become the first island in the world to be energy self-sufficient. This will be achieved through a €54 million project combining a greater than 11 megawatt wind farm and two hydroelectric projects.[20][21][22][23]

The project, created by the local Gorona del Viento El Hierro consortium with financial aid from the European Union, will construct five wind turbines capable of producing 11.5 megawatts of wind power to supply electricity for approximately 11,000 residents, an additional number of tourists, and three water desalination facilities. The hybrid wind/pumped hydro storage system will store surplus wind power by pumping water up 700 meters (approximately 2,300 feet) to fill the crater of an extinct volcano. When winds are calm or when demand exceeds supply, water will be released from the crater to generate 11.3 MW of electricity, filling an artificial basin created at the bottom of the extinct volcano. Water in the lower basin is then pumped back up again to the upper reservoir when there is excess wind power.[23]

The closed-loop hybrid wind/hydro system, to be tested by the end of 2011, is expected to save approximately US$4M per year (calculated with January 2011 oil prices) currently spent on about 40,000 barrels of crude oil imported annually, and will make the island completely self-sufficient for electrical energy.[23]




That looks pretty cool and shows some thinking outside the box. Here's a pic of how the system should work including de-salinization of the water and you can see the current Diesel generating station which will be taken offline. It's in Spanish, since the island is itself, Spanish territory but hopefully you get the point.

So what can we learn form this little island? After all, we don't have that kind of money to spend. What we can learn is this...look at what resources you've got, figure out your needs, and look with an open mind to see if there are unique ways of accomplishing your goals. These guys certainly did. And may their rocky shores be blessed for it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Handy Farm Devices And How To Make Them

As you know, many libraries, organisations and private citizens are in the process od digitizing old books that are not covered by copyright restrictions. This makes them available for free and easy access on the internet, and for we preppers and farmers who are trying to combine the best of traditional ingenuity with modern techniques, it's such a terrific source of knowledge. Books like "The Book Of The Farm" and old cookery books a=provide an insight into everyday domestic life and farming techniques. Well, now I'd like to add to your collection by suggesting this book to add to your collection.



Have a look and see if there's anything in there that inspires you to go ahead and build something that you can use. Or maybe you just want to keep it for a rainy day. Either way it may prove useful while not taking up much space in your computer.

I'm going to finish my order to West Coast Seeds today. Not actually buying them, just finishing up the order form. I recommend that if you use this company you sign up for an account because then you can save your cart as you go along which means you can take your time.Today is going to be cooler than the 17 degrees we enjoyed yesterday but as Chris is home today he's going to help me clear up the little tomato garden by the side of the house and plan the flower and veg garden for next year. I'm using vegetables and flowers to create a micro-climate and some privacy from my neighbours, things like runner and pole beans, sunflowers, and corn. They're all fairly heavy feeders so I'm going to spend the rest of the nice weather putting down manure and leaf mold in preparation for spring planting and the greenhouse, which will go in in March probably. The greenhouse will be my usual poly tunnel but with more permanent wood framing on the end to give a good wind-resistant result. The soil isn't that great here so we're debating about also adding some raised beds and filling with bought in soil...but that's big expense for a garden we'll only use for one or two years. I guess that as long as the lawnmower can still fit between beds then it'll be fine. First things first. Clean up the side yard and measure.

Hope you enjoy the book and have a great day.
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