19 July 2014


Transformations are going on all around the farm. The Easter Black Swallowtail caterpillars which were eating my dill plants a month ago are now gorgeous butterflies:

The barn swallows have fledged and are learning to fly. This morning the adult swallow seemed to be giving the four youngsters a pep talk in the barn.

Two robin broods have already been hatched and fledged in the barn this year and now there's another four eggs being incubated in another robin nest in there. I'm not sure if it's the same robin or a different one.

My chicks are growing rapidly. At two months old they look like half-sized versions of their adult selves. They enjoy running outside in the evenings after I've put the adult
chickens away.

It's interesting to have different varieties of chickens this time, instead of the Buff Orpingtons we've always reared so far. The Welsummers have particularly attractive plumage (I very nearly wrote 'foliage' then!):

12 July 2014

Works of art

I'd noticed signs for the Quilt Show around the county in previous years, but had never attended it before. With Mike's mum staying with us, it sounded like the sort of thing she might enjoy so we went along to it this morning.

I was amazed at the scale of the event - quilts as far as the eye could see, taking up the entire floor space of the arena in Wellington.

I know nothing whatever about quilting, but even as a complete ignoramus I could not help but be impressed at the intricacy of the designs and the time commitment that each quilt represents. They really are works of art and I have huge respect for the creators of these pieces. I loved the way that they varied from the very traditional to the more modern and abstract.

The vendors' displays were beautiful, too.

It was almost enough to make me want to take up quilting.

05 July 2014

Fire and ice

It's that time of year when the sky lights up with fireworks and the humidity drives people to seek comfort in iced desserts.

Today I harvested two pounds of gooseberries and turned half of them into ice cream. I have found a local supermarket that sells 35% whipping cream with no added ingredients (hurrah!) and today they were selling them at half price. I bought four pints and used two of them to make this and a batch of vanilla.

The other week I was called upon to make a lactose- and gluten-free iced dessert. I thought it would be hard, but it was quite straightforward: easier than a custard-based version anyway. I started with quartered strawberries and sugar, letting them mash for a while, then blended those to a liquid and pressed it through a fine sieve to remove most of the pips.

I used two cans of coconut milk (the highest fat one I could find) and heated them up to make sure the oil and solids were smoothly combined (they tend to separate in the can). Then I stirred the coconut milk into the strawberry mixture and froze it in the ice cream maker. It certainly looked pretty.

I melted half a cup of cocoa, a cup or so of sugar, and a bar of 75% chocolate in another can of coconut milk and then stirred in two more cans and some vanilla extract for the chocolate version.

Apparently they went down well!

21 June 2014

Bursting out

The leeks I sowed in the greenhouse towards the end of last summer never got big enough to eat, but they did survive the winter and I left them there in the spring. In recent weeks they have been sending up flower heads and I was happy to let them, thinking it would be good to gather some leek seeds for the future.

This was how the biggest flower head looked on June 6th.

It's been ballooning every day since and today, finally, the flower head broke open.

A slow-motion firework.

20 June 2014

Dill weed

The dill is taking over the greenhouse and in the last week I've been pulling the plants up before they flower and set more seed to perpetuate the problem. In the process I noticed that there were some black swallowtail caterpillars on some of the plants. I made sure that I left those plants in place. It's quite amazing to watch how rapidly the caterpillars will chomp their way through a frond of dill.

But I think it would take a lot more than half-a-dozen of these creatures to deal with my superabundance of dill.

12 June 2014

Exercising democracy

We became citizens of Canada just a week or two after the last Ontario elections and there hasn't been an election at any level of government since then. Today's Ontario election was the first time I have had the opportunity to vote in this country. It's something that's easy to take for granted, but after living here for seven years without a vote, I have come to realise how important it is to have that small role in a democracy. When I didn't have it, I felt excluded from a significant part of local, provincial and national life.

Our polling station is 10km (6 miles) away - so it's not like being in a city where you can just stroll down the road to cast your vote. I decided to make an event of it and rode my bicycle to the town hall in Hillier. It's a nice route, as much of it is along the old railway line and consequently it's fairly flat (important as this was also my first bike ride this year. Shameful, I know!).

In one short stretch of my journey I encountered three separate snapping turtles, all scraping out hollows along the edge of trail and laying eggs in the depressions.

Definitely not something I've ever seen while going to cast a vote in England!

10 June 2014

Nature walk

I spent an informative and enjoyable two hours exploring the Quinte Conservation Area today in a small group led by Tamara Segal of Hawthorne Herbals. She walked us around the Creekside Loop Trail and talked about a huge range of wild plants, some native, some European invaders, and their uses as both food and medicines.

Just for my own benefit, here's the list of plants we heard about: wild sorrel; wild grape; wild strawberry; mullein; motherwort; plantain; nettles; wood nettles; garlic mustard; sumac; linden; ground ivy; parsnips; wild geranium; burdock; elecampane.

I had no idea that parsnips have become naturalised here - I've not spotted them in the wild before, but they were all over the place at the conservation area. Because it is a conservation area, we didn't actually do any harvesting, but I know quite a few of these plants are growing around our place and will now keep an eye out for the others!