Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Contest

The Spring Contest is finally here. Like us on Facebook for your chance to Win! 

Thanks to PrairieWind Creations for these two lovely pieces we get to give away. They look so beautiful in person. PrairieWind ship World Wide so you can enter the contest from anywhere and still win! If you're not local for using the gift certificate I will donate it to the food bank. 

They look awesome in person, I'd love to have either in my Windows. You will too. They'd also make a wonderful Mothers Day gift. Check out PrairieWind for more unique pieces.

Happy Almost Spring

It's Spring. You'd never know it if you were looking at the weather here in Nova Scotia though. It's warming up for sure, -2 at 7am and schools are closed for a snow day. At least it's not the -11 we are going to get a few nights this week. It snowed 2-3 inches overnight again plus freezing rain so the roads and sidewalks are really slick which is why it's a snow day. Most of the kids are bussed to school and this isn't a good morning for driving. However the ducks are out like idiots sliding down the piles of snow that slid off the greenhouse roof like 6 year olds with no fear. They're whooping and hollering in their ducky voices and generally having a good time as they slide down and clamber back up again. The roosters however, have stayed indoors so far. 

Spring marks the beginning of warmer and happier days after the dark chill of Winter. It does for me anyways. More outside work, fresh air and exercise. Plus just feeling the sun on your skin is something most of us northerners can relate to. Life seems to just have a more hopeful outlook.

Tomorrow, being the first full day of spring, means a new contest. I'll post it here before it goes up on Facebook and Twitter. Prizes include a veggie strip maker from Pampered Chef, an original Stained Glass piece from Prairie Wind Creations, and one month of veggie box delivery. Let's celebrate he beginning of another growing season by celebrating Spring 2017!

It's a busy week for us so I should go. Have a wonderful week no matter where you are and keep your loved ones close. 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Vegetable Noodles

Driving ice and snow against my windows has me very grateful for my wood stove and good local food. A warm meal on a yucky night is one of lifes comforts and pleasures. We're pretty frugal as you know but every now and then we treat ourselves to a new tool. Our mantis tiller, our soil blockers (read more tomorrow) and our veggie spiralizer. Tonight's menu, stir fry with sweet potato noodles. Yum! The spiralizer turns veggies into fettuccini, spaghetti, or broad noodle-like slices. It's a good way to include more veggies in your diet and something fun for kids. They also make very even slices for making pie or soup. Tonight we are making sweet potato noodles and a pineapple lemon pork stir fry. Mmmmm. Cooking sweet potato noodles is easy. Toss with a couple tbsp of olive oil, add 1tsp kosher salt, sauté for 5-10 mins, tossing every few mins to prevent sticking or burning. Tongs make this easier as does dividing the noodles into batches. The only hard thing about making sweet potato noodles is not eating them all before you serve them. So delicious and simple! And great local sweet potatoes from Keddy's. 

In spite of this winter weather, plans continue for a great 2017. The wood is purchased for the bunny hutch. I'm hoping to work on it tomorrow with the girls as a Spring Break project. And we will start painting our signs too. Having the covered space of the greenhouse to work in is wonderful. Given the weather, I think it's a good night to go to bed early. Let the wind howl and the storm rage, Spring is coming and I'll keep looking forward. Goodnight my friends. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom Week 4 - Hay Box Cooking

Hay boxes are a marvellous way to slow cook food and save 75% of your fuel. They've been around for a long time and are just one way people have used insulation from earth or other sources to slow cook food. Simply put, you boil your ingredients using whatever heating method you have and then you cover your dish or pot and place it in an insulated box and leave it go continue cooking using the stored heat. My method is pretty simple. I sauté the meat for a few minutes and then turn off the heat and add the onions. They cook slightly as the pan cools. I then chop the rest of my veggies and add them to the pot or dish along with either stock or water and seasonings and I turn the heat on again. Once it's come to a full rolling boil for 5-10 minutes I turn off the heat, put on a lid, and place the pot inside my hay box which is on a level surface. A recent addition to my kitchen was a Pampered Chef Rock Crock. Its a pot that feels like stone but is safe to use on the grill, stovetop, oven and microwave. When using the Rock Crock I bring it slowly to a boil over medium heat so that the Crock has a chance to heat up. I'll leave it to simmer for 5-10 mins before I tuck it away in the hay box. The box can go anywhere that's not in your way. I cover it and then just leave it for hours sitting on the floor or counter.  The heat of the pot and food stays trapped and slowly finishes cooking resulting in veggies that keep their shape and meat that turns soft and delicious, all with no need to keep using power or fuel to cook it. Because there's no outside source of heat you don't need to worry about keeping it away from things that will melt like you do with a traditional slow cooker and it doesn't need to be by an electrical outlet. There's no reason why you couldn't have a good tightly fitting lid on your box then pack the whole thing into the car, go for a hike and return to a hot cooked meal trail side. 

My small hay box is simply a wooden crate lined with straw and covered in a pillowcase also filled with straw. I like straw because it's hollow stalks are good insulators and it saves hay to be fed to animals. I have an old pillowcase that's filled with straw and closed with a couple of clothes pins. You can use hay, straw, ground corn husks or whatever you've got.

Ok so my pot is now in the hay box. I must admit that I couldn't resist lifting the pillowcase after a few minutes and the Crock is still simmering away. Perfect! Cooking with no added heat. 

Update: Dinner was delicious. I'd use a little less water next time because there's no loss like there is from regular cooking methods so it doesn't cook down. Giving the meat time to soften and mellow was a great idea on the cheap blade roast I cut up the second time I used this method. It works to cook stew best rather than a whole potroast, but the money saved by buying cheaper cuts and slow cooking is worth it. Also the slow blending of flavours was wonderful. I think it's why stew tastes even better the second day, the blending of flavours. This time I also added bouillon cubes, tomato juice, pepper and Italian seasoning and it was so delicious we all sopped up our bowls with fresh crusty bread. Sigh. Yum. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom Week 2. Fence Posts

In our area there are to different types of post available, treated and untreated. I think that's common for most of the world. The treated posts typically are using the same chemical preservatives as pressure treated lumber and unlike their very noxious predecessors the modern day pwood preservatives at a lot less harmful to the environment. Natural posts are made from local wood, typically low value softwood such as pine cut to 6 or 7 for lengths and sharpened on one end with a chainsaw. 

Here are some of the pros and cons for posts.

                             Treated.                                     Untreated.  

Price.            $5-7 depending on size.                 $1.50-2 or make your own. 

Life span.      5 years+ depends on moisture.      2-5 years. Will rot faster in moist soil. 

Pollution.       Some chemical leaching                Little to no leaching

Ease.             Easy to use.                                   Some variation in size, may split. 
                      Harder to hammer nails.                 Easy to hammer nails when fresh, harden with age.

One of the main things to remember is that your fence wire will outlast the posts do you'll be doing repairs. The same amount of initial labour goes into both types of fence, it's just a question of spend more money now for treated posts and only do repairs once every 8 years or save money and repair every 2 years. 

Making your own posts does allow you to save money, use rot resistant species, or treat your posts by charring them. Charring forms a natural rot resistant layer that can easily double the life of a post and is worth looking into if you have the room. Some people also dip their posts in used oil or tar, but I'm not sure that's a method I want to try in my veggie garden. 

Whatever you decide, I hope this little bit of wisdom has been helpful. Happy Wednesday!