30 November 2010

True colours

Dull, damp days are sometimes the best for seeing the true colour of things. Round these parts, the Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a common weed tree.* There are many of them growing on our property, of all different sizes. As its Latin name suggests, it isn't a cedar at all, but a juniper. This becomes obvious when you see a young female tree like this one:


At this time of year, the red cedars turn brown and I love the contrast of the blue juniper berries with the brown needles of the tree. The larger brown growth at the bottom left of this picture is the dormant form of the cedar apple rust gall, which blossoms into sinister life during summer rains.

Since we've been in Canada, we've always bought Christmas trees, as I didn't think that the red cedars, with their brown coloration, would make good specimens for the living room centrepiece, despite having so many that we would hardly miss one. But I read an article a while ago which promised that once placed in a warm room, the trees revert to their summer green. So, this year, in another attempt at self-sufficiency, we're going to give one of these 'weeds' a chance to take the stage as our Christmas tree. We'll see if it works!


*I'm still getting used to the idea that we own enough land for it to be possible for a tree to be a weed...

21 November 2010

A taste of winter

It hasn't been quite as mild as last November, but it has been warmer than average and sunnier, too. It had also been fairly dry, but on Tuesday this week we had some significant rainfall (over an inch), as the bars in the graph below indicate.The line shows the highest temperature for each day.


On the following day the wind got up and our greenhouse suffered the loss of one of the plastic panels on the west wall:


And of course, it would be one of the ones at the highest point of the structure. Mike got it back up again today, but it wasn't a fun job, as the temperature didn't get above 1°C/34°F.

We also spent some time in the chicken coop this weekend, shoring up its rodent defences and sweeping off the largest cobwebs from the roof. Seems we've still only got one chicken laying - and I still haven't worked out whether it's a new hen or one of the original set.

16 November 2010

Roasted winter veg


Swede (or rutabaga), beetroot, carrots and leeks, roasted in olive oil for about 50 minutes (the leeks for about 30). A warming winter side dish with a lovely range of colours. All lifted from the garden this afternoon.

I hated swede when I was a kid. We never had it at home, but it was often on the menu at school. Mum always threatened to serve it up for Christmas dinner. I think it must have been the way it was cooked: boiled and then mashed. Roasted, it's a completely different vegetable.

12 November 2010

Going equipped

My old hiking boots, bought years ago in England, have finally given up being impermeable after providing me with stalwart daily service through three Canadian winters. I've had to invest in a replacement pair and have gone for these monstrous beasts:


They're so heavy that I feel like someone's turned off the gravity when I remove them. But they're sturdy, warm and waterproof, so I hope will do the job. Not that they need to be, at the moment; the weather's been gloriously mild, dry and sunny. Will probably regret typing those words any day now. ;-)

And, in chicken news...tada!


The last egg before this one was laid on October 22nd. Three weeks of no eggs: most upsetting. Let's hope that this is the start of a more productive period. Not sure if it was from one of the new hens or one of the old ones - I'll keep a closer eye on them over the weekend to see if I can work out who's responsible.

05 November 2010

Exotically local

Charlotta's post about her Jerusalem artichokes (which from now on I'm going to call sunchokes, for reasons of brevity and linguistic pedantry) reminded me that I had yet to investigate whether my May-planted specimens had produced any tubers.

I was pleasantly surprised - in the first six inches of my row I harvested two and a half pounds (over a kilogram) of sunchokes:


I've been reading about sunchokes having unfortunate digestive effects on people, so thought it best to introduce them in small quantities at first. Mike had found wonton wrappers in a local Asian food store in response to a request from Child #2 for steamed wonton dumplings. One of the recipes I'd been looking at called for water chestnuts, for which sunchokes seemed a fair substitute.

Ingredients:

1 lb (500g) side of pork, minced (from our meat CSA scheme)
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
3 small sunchoke tubers, finely chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons cornflour/starch

c.80 wonton wrappers

Once everything is chopped, mix all the ingredients together. Then comes the fiddly part: foming the dumplings. I found it easier to work with about six to eight wrappers at a time, keeping a damp piece of kitchen paper over the rest of the pile.

Put a teaspoonful of filing inside each wrapper:


Moisten the edges and then draw the corners together:


Put the dumplings on plates, covered with damp kitchen paper, until you're ready to cook them. I used a lightly-oiled regular stainless steel steamer on top of a pan of water, but you could also fry the dumplings. In the steamer, they take five minutes (I initially thought this wouldn't be enough time to cook the pork, but it was). I did them in batches of ten at a time.

I served up dipping sauces of chilli jam and a mixture of hoisin sauce, honey and rice wine vinegar. I was concerned that 80 dumplings might be too many for a family of five, but I need not have worried!


The principle ingredients for this dish all came from the County. Even the wonton wrappers were only made in Toronto. Inspiration from China: ingredients from Ontario. Love it.