Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Come see us - at the Cranberry Market in Guelph, Nov 14

We'll be vending at the beautiful Cranberry Market held Fri, Nov 14 at the Trillium Waldorf School in Guelph.  Please drop by to see us, and tour this lovely school facility and support local artisans of natural and handmade goods.  We'll be there with our handmade soaps, herbal salves and other botanicals, plus new journals and eco notebooks we've been making. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thanksgiving walk in the woods

Our tradition is to have a family hike in the woods over the Thanksgiving weekend.  Since we are still under renovation here, we decided not to drive out too far for our hike but rather to stay close to home this year - enjoying a nearby neighbourhood park with it's wooded trails.  We found the last sweet wild raspberries to nibble on, gorgeous coloured leaves, the tiniest acorns, fungus and forest mushrooms, logs to balance on, a spider web glistening in the sun, leaf piles to jump and stomp around in, a shady place to stop for a snack.  Sometimes the most special places are the most simple and close at hand.  We just need the time to look and explore.

First frost

It's happened.  The first frost.  A light frost, but it was a frost.  So beautiful, outlining each and every leaf edge.  The garden is largely cleaned up and put to bed for the coming winter, but the first frost is still an "occasion" to remind us that we are really nearing the end for this season.  A few peppers and tomatoes were sheltered and are still available for harvest, and the kale, mustard greens and New Zealand spinach are hardy enough to survive this first frost, but we know that we are entering the time of slowing rhythms, hunkering down, and going inward (literally and figuratively) as we move into winter.  And we feel ready.

Marigolds for happy chickens

In the past weeks, since the garden is basically harvested, we've let the hens have the run of the yard.  They love the freedom!  Usually, during the growing season, we give them plenty of room to run in their extended pen and short stints around the larger yard to eat bugs and greens while still corralled in temporary chicken fencing so they don't devastate our veggie garden.

But now, with the whole yard as their domain, they are happily running about eating the last greens, dandelions, worms and odds of vegetable remains.  They love their dust baths, most recently a farourite spot has been under an old red wagon since it's the dryest place in the yard with our recent weeks of damp weather.

The funniest thing was how interested they all were in eating our marigolds.  We have loads of the African and French marigolds planted throughout the garden as companion plants to our vegetables.  Many of these are still blooming in the late fall and just now starting to go to seed.  The tall yellow marigolds are more than 2 feet high and so the hens stand below and jump up with long stretched out necks to taste the flowers.  It was so curious to watch how intent the hens were on eating these marigolds that I did some reading about marigolds and chicken health, and realized our hens know what they are doing!  Marigold extract is commonly added to commercial chicken feed, mostly to add darker orange colour to the egg yolks, but also to provide carotenes, flavonoids, and other nutrients.  Folk tradition talks commonly of feeding marigolds (fresh or dried) to hens or lining their nest boxes with the petals to repel fleas and mites.  Marigolds have natural antifungal and antibacterial properties so can be made into a tea or salve to heal chickens when they are dealing with skin irritations.  They aid in skin tissue repair, blood vessel growth, and are a toxin remover.  Amazing!  And so wonderful to watch nature follow it's own intuition.  These smart hens!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Soap Making session

Each week I try to have at least one day dedicated to my soap making endeavors.  This fall the weeks seem especially busy, still trying to harvest the last of our garden, plant garlic and clean up the beds before the snow flies; still trying to finish canning the last jams, making applesauce, drying herbs; not to mention the huge barn renovation that is still looming over us in the backyard - trying to make the most of these long fall days to get it all done.  But soap is what I do as well, so I try to eke out time each week to make a few batches, getting things ready for the holiday sales that are fast approaching. 

Here are a few photos of the process - measuring, weighing, heating, cooling, taking temperatures, mixing, blending, adding essential oils and botanicals, pouring into molds, and then curing...

This is what my day looked like today, 4 batches made and 2 more to go.  All made in small batches on the kitchen stove, measuring and prepared by hand.  A few new varieties today as well, just for the holiday season - a Honey-Ginger soap; and a Winter Forest soap (lemongrass, lavender, balsam fir, cedar); and a few new men's bars coming to the etsy store soon.  Please check out our soaps there or plan to come to the Oct 21 market at Fertile Ground CSA pick up from 3:45-6:15 pm (right in this neighbourhood) or our Little City Farm handmade holiday sale Nov 29 from 10 am-2 pm!

Cozy fall breakfasts - Maple & Apple Baked Oatmeal

It's mid October and getting chilly around here!  We haven't had frost - yet... but the nights are cold and we've had the woodstove on a handful of times already in the past few weeks.  I even used a hot water bottle last night!  Mornings are especially chilly getting out from under the warm nest of blankets, and so, on the mornings when we need an extra special warm up we've taken to creating some cozy breakfasts in place of our regular yogurt and granola.  Since we are in southern Ontario, in peak of apple season and still enjoying the maple syrup of this year's harvest, we love to combine apples and maple into many of these warming breakfast dishes.

Cozy simple healthful and hearty breakfasts we love - and plan to have lots of this fall and winter.  These are some of the favourite ones we have served often in our B&B, and for our own family on chilly mornings:

~ warm quinoa with bananas, currents and maple syrup
~ warm oatmeal (oats soaked overnight) with apples, cranberries & cinnamon with organic cream
~ giant baked apple pancake (our favourite huge German pancake baked in the oven)
~ potato-greens frittata (with spinach, chard or kale, over fried potatoes, topped with eggs and cheddar)

And maple-apple baked oatmeal.  Here's the recipe:

Maple-Apple Baked Oatmeal
1/4 cup butter
2 cups whole oats
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup milk or rice/soy milk
1 large egg
1 large juicy apple (we like Empire) chopped or shredded
dash of cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts) and /or hemp seeds/sunflower seeds for the top
serve with organic cream, yogurt and/or maple syrup

1) Soak oats overnight in the milk to help provide optimum digestability.
2) Preheat oven to 350F. 
3) Add butter into large cast iron frying pan or baking dish and heat in oven until just melted.
4) Combine all the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir well.
5) Pour into cast iron pan or baking dish, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with chopped nuts/seeds.
6) Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes. 
7) Serve warm with organic cream, plain yogurt and more maple syrup as desired.

Enjoy a warm and cozy morning!