26 February 2013

Before the storm

There's a storm system heading our way, but today was mainly clear and mild, with snow melting all around. A hole had opened up in the ice covering the stream by the pond, so I dipped my camera down into it and pressed the shutter button without being able to see what I was recording. It feels like you're walking on solid ice, but underneath my feet the camera captured a secret world of ice and water, invisible from above:

The skies have been striking today. First thing, it was all ripples and waves:

By mid-morning, there was an unusual stippled effect to the clouds:

And now it's all going grey as the weather system gets closer. Tomorrow, I doubt we'll see the sun or blue skies at all!

25 February 2013

Last of the carrots

I pulled up the last of the 2012 carrots from the greenhouse today. A modest 300 grams, but good to still be getting fresh vegetables in this hungry time of the year. At the weekend I will be sowing peas out there, so there won't be a week of the year when there isn't something actively growing.

23 February 2013

Seedy Saturday 2013

I blogged about the first Seedy Saturday event I ever attended back in 2011. This year I was one of the vendors at the same event. How quickly things move on! I got involved this year because I met one of the organisers when I had my farmer's market stall in Wellington last summer. You never know what is going to happen when you take on something new, do you? Always a good reason to try different ventures, I think.

I took along some herbs that I started from seed in late December. All except the basil had got to a reasonable size. I also had a box of home-collected herb seeds and some jars of the marmalade I made last month. I had some eggs to give away too, since we're not allowed to sell them apart from at the farm.

I tarted the marmalade jars up a bit with some cloth covers and twine. I wasn't sure that I would sell any of these (I thought they were bordering on the dangerously twee myself) but they were all gone in the first hour and a half!

I had a great time, talking almost without a break to people with a wide range of gardening experience but all with a strong enthusiasm for growing their own food or flowers. It was exhausting!

17 February 2013

Thoughts of Spring

After a hesitant start, the winter seems to have got into its stride now. The barnyard is a mass of ice and is becoming challenging to navigate.

I've enjoyed the sunshine we've had this week but am looking forward to some warmer weather so that I don't have to keep carrying jugs of hot water out to the chickens to defrost their water supply.

Inside, my onions and leeks are emerging well. I'm never going to get tired of seeing those first few green signs of the growing season to come.

I've just finished reading Folks, This Ain't Normal by Joel Salatin. It's an interesting read for sustainability nerds like me, although I can't say that I agree with everything he has to say (and I did feel as though I was being shouted at quite often). On Wednesday lunchtime I read the chapter on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (which was quite enough to ruin my appetite). On my way home I passed these cattle and I had to stop and take a photograph. After reading about conditions in the feedlots, it was so good to see these animals enjoying their hay.


12 February 2013

Flat as a...tortilla

I do try to resist getting new kitchen gadgets, but we eat a lot of shop-bought tortilla wraps and I thought it might be better to make them myself. Not least because the ones from the stores contain a long list of 14 ingredients, including carrageenan which is under suspicion of being a carcinogen (although the name suggests to me that it is in fact a species of leprechaun (which I also would be reluctant to eat)).

Therefore my birthday request this year was for a tortilla press, because, enthusiastic though I am, I can't face the effort of rolling tortillas out by hand. As today is pancake day, it seemed like a good opportunity to try it out.

It is a very simple low-tech device, made of extremely heavy cast iron. You make the dough (2 cups of flour (half wholewheat, half white), ¼ cup vegetable oil, pinch of salt (I forgot to add that, actually) and enough warm water to bind everything together - I did all this in the food processor as though I were making pastry), let it rest for half an hour, then it's time to play.

You have to encase the dough with plastic to stop it from sticking to the press. I cut a freezer bag open down the two sides and folded it over the lump of dough. Two cups of flour makes about 12 tortillas this size (6 inches in diameter).

Then you shut the top down, press down with the lever, et voilĂ !

I cooked them in a non-stick frying pan at a fairly high heat for about a minute each side.

I had a couple for lunch as quesadillas, with cheese and slices of pickled pepper inside.

But the true test was in the evening, when I gave the children the same thing for their tea. "You have to make these again!" was Child1's comment, while Child2, who invariably won't eat the cheeseless 'crusts' of quesadillas made with shop-bought tortillas, said "I would eat these without cheese". The dog, who usually gets to gobble down Child2's leftovers, was the only one destined for disappointment.

Not bad for a foodstuff made with three ingredients! I'd love to try making them with proper corn masa harina - but first I'll have to find a supplier...

09 February 2013

Digging out

Yesterday was the first snow day that the children have had this winter. It snowed steadily with a strong easterly wind and we were all glad that we didn't have to go anywhere.

This morning is clear and bright, perfect for digging our way out of the house. After a rather self-indulgent day yesterday of comfort food and curling up by the fire with a good book, it was a relief to get outside this morning and do something energetic. I quite enjoyed shovelling the snow from the front steps of the house and from in front of the garage door, the barn door and, finally, the door of the greenhouse.

The solar panels had been caked in snow since last Saturday, as it's been pretty cold this week. Not prairie-cold, but in the minus teens on the centigrade scale, so cold enough!. Yesterday's wind actually helped out with shifting the snow on the panels: there's less on them now than there was before the storm and with any luck today's sunshine (with the promise of some slightly warmer temperatures) will clear them off a bit more.

The weather broadcasters were saying "it's going to be the worst winter storm since February 2008" and I felt quite a seasoned old hand when I recalled that we were here for that storm. The front of the house today looks just like it did back on February 7th, 2008. Well, except that today I cleared all of the steps, not just that rather small passage on the left which was all I'd managed in 2008. I must be getting better at this snow-clearing business!

UPDATE (2pm): As I'd hoped, the temperature has gone up to a balmy -5°C/23°F and with a cloudless sky the snow is beginning to slide off the panels. I love watching that happen. (Yes, I'm very easily entertained.)

05 February 2013

It must be Predator Week...

We've seen barred owls a lot this winter: one swooped in front of the car just the other day. I've seen this one near our pond a few times, but the dog usually chases it off before I get a chance to snap a photo. This evening the owl came quite close to the house and I went outside and inched my way towards it, without the dog handicap, taking pictures as I went.

Lovely, isn't it?

03 February 2013

Walk on by

Keep going, Mr Fox. Nothing to tempt you here...