19 March 2015

Springing up

The snow is going...so slowly...but it is going.

Outside enough has melted to reveal some bulbs starting to emerge.

 On the living room windowsill I've got a small army of herbs growing. I'm hoping to take these to the Seedy Saturday event in Trenton in a few weeks.

I've dug my way through to the greenhouse from the small barn and have sown peas, parsnips, lettuce, leeks and some onions in one of the beds in there. The water is still frozen, so currently the most effective way of watering the seeds is to dig up more snow from outside and sprinkle it over the bed. Effective but not necessarily easy!

20 February 2015

Regular February service

February seems determined to compensate for a relatively snowless January. It's been cold too, with an average temperature so far of -14°C/7°F (the month usually averages -6°C/21°F here). The temperature hasn't been above freezing since January 24th, and isn't forecast to do so in the next two weeks.

I seem to have spent a lot of time digging out the driveway and my 'eggs' sign: it's a bit of a miracle that the chickens are still laying (some of them have even gone broody in the last month!).

I'm reading Naomi Klein's book about climate change, This Changes Everything at the moment. I'm sure that this cold spell is one of those unexpected side effects of global warming, but right now I'm finding it hard to get upset about the idea of a bit more warmth in my life!

23 January 2015


Last winter was so snowy that the chickens didn't get outside for a solid three months. I'm looking back at last January's posts and remembering how horrendous it was. There is snow on the ground now, but only a few inches and there is even some grass visible at the moment. When it's very cold or windy I don't open up the back of the barn for the chickens, but today is milder and some of the hens ventured out to take the air.

The lake has been looking very pretty, reflecting back some clear blue skies of late.

But it's difficult to walk along our western fenceline at the moment, which is just a solid sheet of ice.

27 December 2014

Ontario feijoada

I love dishes which combine meat and beans: cassoulet, Boston baked beans, any kind of slow-cooked meat and beans. When I read about the Brazilian national dish, feijoada, in Jamie Oliver's new book Comfort Food, I had to try it, particularly as I had some leftover pork belly slices which I didn't use at Christmas and the remains of a smoked pork picnic shoulder joint. Not to mention a load of the black beans I harvested this year! The end result was lovely: garlicky, rich and definitely worthy of the comfort food label. I had to adapt the recipe to suit my available ingredients and I'm noting them here for future reference, as this is a dish I guarantee I'll be making again.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Stage One
2 cups black beans, soaked for at least 5 hours
1 ham bone, stripped of meat
1lb/450g pork belly slices (with rind)
4 cups water

Stage Two
1 onion, diced
2 tsps smoked paprika
9 inch chorizo sausage, sliced into 1-inch lengths
Any leftover ham, sliced into small pieces
5 cloves garlic, crushed
salt & pepper

I used my pressure cooker for the first stage: slice the pork belly pieces into narrow strips and fry them until golden. Add the beans, water and ham bone and cook at high pressure for 15 minutes. (If using a regular pan, cook for an hour, or until the beans are tender.) Then remove the bone and transfer everything else into an ovenproof dish with a lid, with the remaining ingredients. Cook at 300°F/150°C for four hours (or use a slow cooker if you have one). By the end of the cooking time, most of the liquid should have been absorbed or evaporated, leaving a thick, glossy coating on the beans and meat. Serve over brown rice.

20 December 2014

Coup in the coop

After several months when the two Buff Orpington roosters seemed to get along just fine, each with his own little harem of hens, there was a big fight the other week and now the younger of the two is Top Bird. The Welsummer rooster, one of the 'hens' I bought this year, doesn't seem to have been affected by this change in status of the other two.

We had a few days with snow on the ground when the chickens wouldn't go out, so I tried a trick I read somewhere of hanging up a cabbage for them to peck at while they're cooped up indoors. They didn't know what to make of it until I cut a small wedge out. Then they got the idea and they seem to have enjoyed it!

The Ameraucanas are happier about going out in an inch or two of snow than the Orpingtons. It's funny how the one white Ameraucana doesn't look particularly white when you see her against the snow.

The snow has nearly all gone now, so all the chickens have been enjoying being out in the orchard over the past few days.

It's supposed to get quite warm on Christmas Eve (8°C/46°F!), but we might get snow on Christmas Day, as a storm moves through and pulls in colder air from the north. Like the chickens, I will be quite happy watching it from inside.

01 December 2014

December harvest

The temperature is forecast to drop to -11°C/12°F tonight, so I seized the opportunity of digging up some Jerusalem artichokes while I still could!

There isn't much left growing in the greenhouse, but I did get three bok choi plants and some coriander for our evening meal. The chickens are finally getting their act together, with a respectable clutch of six eggs today. We have eight nest boxes but for some reason they only lay in two of them - and they aren't adjacent. Who knows how a chicken's mind works?

I've spent the last couple of weeks taking advantage of some of the milder days by digging over the beds in the lower vegetable garden and adding chicken manure to two of them. This year, for the first time, I'm covering the beds with a winter mulch.

I had some leaves bagged up from 2013 and there is still a fair bit of old hay in the big barn, so I've used both on different beds, as a mini experiment to see how it goes. I'm hoping it will suppress at least some of the early weed growth in the spring.

16 November 2014

First snow

Today was the first day that the new hens had seen snow on the ground. They peeked out at it but decided that it wasn't something they wanted to investigate at close quarters.

We've been getting a few more eggs of late - two or three of the Ameraucanas have been laying for a month now, and this week we got the first dark brown egg from one of the Barnevelder or Welsummer hens. The Ameraucanas lay a double-yolked egg every so often - the one on the left of this photo, much bigger than the one on the right, will probably have two yolks.

The snow is very pretty, but I'm not sure I'm mentally prepared for winter yet...