Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A BIG Announcement!

It's an exciting time!  Spring is finally upon us.  The days are getting longer and the air is warmer.

It's the time of year that makes gardeners go craZy!!!

I have been thinking about the posts I should be posting.   I would have already started my seedlings in egg cartons.  I would be booking the roto-tiller from our local equipment outfit.

I would be grinning from ear to ear but it's springtime and I'm a little bit sad this year.

(And that's when I finally segway into the BIG announcement.)

We have made the decision to move...

It's the first house we bought as a family. 
It's the only house my wee son Owen has ever known.

But the truth of the matter is we have an opportunity to get a patch of land further into the country side.  (Even away from town life.)

We are approved to purchase my sister-in-law's home in the Desert Lake area.

It has a promising property that is begging to be explored!!!

It comes complete with frog pond...

It already has a garden roughed in!  (The big "bush" in the middle is concord grapes!!!  they stand as tall as a 6' man!)

There is already composting facilities...which we'll need to clean up.

There is a fenced area that used to be home to chickens.  PERFECT!  We were already wondering where to put the chickens!!!  The fencing just needs some love.

We have a small dock that gives access to Holleford Creek that runs into Holleford Lake!  It is a wonderfully under-fished lake!!!  When I took this pic it was 1pm one day and all I could hear was the thundering sound of frogs...

The back of the property features nice standing woods and a firepit area.  We'll be able to camp out in our own backyard and forage beyond the trees! 

I was standing in the yard....absorbing all the wonderous nature...when I got caught guard, drifting off thinking about chickens...I HEARD a chicken!

Turns out it was the "chicken of the woods" a ringed neck pheasant.  The beautifully coloured male and a brown coloured female close behind.

I can't tell you how excited I am for the move.   All we have to do is sell our home and move into this natural paradise.  I will be sad for our old home.  It gave us great memories.

What makes me even sadder is that I may not get a garden in this year.  Not knowing when our closing date is, its hard to plan out what your doing too far in advance.  You all can look forward to more posts about gardening and foraging...just in a limited fashion until we sort out what's happening on the home front.

And of course we'll stil be cooking until then...so the recipes will stil be coming!

This new adventure with our family will start off a brand new series of posts about starting a garden from scratch.  I'll also document how the grounds transform over time and with great care for the environment.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2 Meat-free Recipes Just for You!

Although I don't grow black beans, they are something I really love to use in my cooking.  Especially since I've been trying to integrate vegetarian meals into my famil diet.  Luck for me, our home grown tomatoes and black beans are wonderful eating companions!

In light of the whole "Meat-free Mondays" thing I mentioned in a previous post, I thought I would add a few of my favorite dishes using both black beans and the tomatoes we grew last year and froze.

For the record, black beans are a great source of vitamins and nutrients.  The website called the world's healthiest foods (or whfoods.com) says "The amazing protein-plus-fiber content of black beans. From a single, one-cup serving of black beans you get nearly 15 grams of fiber (well over half of the Daily Value and the same amount consumed by the average U.S. adult in one entire day of eating) and 15 grams of protein (nearly one third of the Daily Value and equivalent to the amount in 2 ounces of a meat like chicken or a fish like salmon). You won't find this outstanding protein-fiber combination in fruit, vegetables, grains, meats, dairy products, nuts and seeds, or seafood. The almost magical protein-fiber combination in legumes--including black beans--explains important aspects of their health benefits for the digestive tract, the blood sugar regulatory system, and the cardiovascular system."

First we have a big feed of vegetarian burritos!

Burritos are an easy and quick way to feed your family healthy, nutritious food.

I fry up some onions and garlic in a frying pan.  I add black beans, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, chili powder and cumin.  S & P to taste.  Then I add some pre-cooked brown and wild rice.  (I always keep some cooked rice in the fridge in case)  FYI beans and rice served together make up a complete protein!  Livestrong.com says "Beans and rice combined provide all of the B vitamins except B12, including thiamine (41 percent DV), vitamin B6 and niacin (23 percent DV each) and 8 to 9 percent of thiamine and pantothenic acid. Beans supply 230 micrograms (mcg) of folate; rice has 128 mcg, for a huge total of 90 percent of the recommended daily value."Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/96675-nutrition-beans-rice/#ixzz1okGgEzC6

Then comes the fun part!  I lay out the ingredients in small bowls so it feels like a buffet!  (Plus i don't have to build everyone's burrito...)  I shred cheese, chop lettuce and spinach, chop tomatoes, chop orange peppers (thats just what I had on hand, you can use any flavour or colour).  I use white tortilla wraps (because I find the whole wheat kind breaks easily)  I also set out some home made salsa and ranch dressing for those who want it.

My husband Ches made home made salsa back in September when all of our veggies were ripening at the same time (or so it felt like it).  Everything went into the salsa and placed in jars. 

Next you fill the wrap and roll it.  Bibs may be required but at least you'll know its all good stuff.


Another recipe I made was Southwest soup.

Take a large pot and add onions and garlic with a bit of oil.  Simmer until translucent. 
Add a dozen or a dozen and a half of frozen tomates (we had both red and yellow tomatoes).
Add some water and simmer until the tomatoes are all thawed.  I always add a tsp of white sugar to lessen the bitterness of the tomatoes.  Then I add black beans (I use canned and then rinse thoroughly) and corn (frozen from last fall), as well as lemon or lime juice.  Next you add the yummy spices that give it its southwestern flavour.  Chili powder and cayenne...1/4 tsp each or more depending on your taste.  Or go the easy route and add taco seasoning...but you can't control the salt as easily with this method.

You can simmer this soup all day if you like and serve with corn bread (aka johnny cake) or sprinkle with bits of seasoned taco chips.

So now you can enjoy some meatless alternatives that really don't feel like alternatives.

Try something meat free today! (start planning for this Monday...)

And as always, check out my facebook page for Small Purse, Big Garden...it has loads more recipes, photos, links and helpful tips for growing and cooking your own food, living green and living a bit more gently on this earth.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cam & Michelle Mather

There are many reasons why I would want to feature Cam & Michelle Mather on  my blog.  They are wild about gardening, they live off the grid, they operate a zero carbon publishing business...
...and they are amazing people.

I first met Cam & Michelle when I worked at the Land O Lakes Tourist Association (LOLTA).  I was asked to attend a meeting with the publisher of the Tourist guide.  The meeting was held at their home, as that is also where they run their business.  It was an amazing morning of coversation over Michelle's homemade muffins and tea, mixed with wood stove smells.  They are wonderful hosts and have a wealth of knowledge.  These folks moved from their urban environs to a place much more removed. 

They live in between Parham and Tamworth (45min north of Kingston) on a property filled with trees, ponds, rocks and wildlife they call "Sunflower Farm".  Depending on the time of year you visit, you'll know exactly why they do.  They have spent the last 25 years reducing their impact on the planet and work hard to share their knowledge through their books, DVDs, websites and workshops.  Sunflower Fam is also entirely powered by the sun and the wind.

I asked Michelle if I could pick her brain about living in the country and living off the land.  (not off the grid...that warrants a whole other interview!) 

Describe where you live.
Michelle:  14 kms east of Tamworth on 150 acres of trees and ponds

Describe how you live.
We are self-employed, earning our living with a hodge podge of activities such as publishing books, writing articles, offering workshops, selling garlic and vegetables, etc. etc. etc.

Something that really intrigues me...how far away is your closest neighbour?
4 kms to the east of us

What is your favorite thing about living out in the country?
The peace & quiet.

Whats the least favorite thing?
The distance to things when we really need to go places.

Do you ever forage on your property?  (If so, what?)
The only thing we forage is blackberries. We don’t trust ourselves to identify unsafe mushrooms and haven’t really found anything else.
(I'd love to have a peak around your place!!!)
 Give me a brief history of your property:
In 1886 this property was deeded by Queen Victoria to the original owners. The house was built in 1888. We know an elderly man who was born in this house and he comes for a visit every summer.
What were your reasons for chosing the property?
We loved it. We loved the house, the land, the location and the price!

Do you feel more like pioneers or farmers (neither or both)? 
We feel like pioneers in terms of living off the electrical grid.

 Now tell me about that garden!  How big IS it?
About ½ acre.
So, what do you do with all that food?
We eat it, we freeze it, we sell it and we give it away. Last summer for the very first time we set up a stand in Tamworth on Saturday mornings to sell our excess. This year we are going to run a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) where members will purchase a share of our bounty for a set price and receive a basket of food once a week during the growing season.

What is the weirdest thing you've ever grown?
Peanuts! And okra!

What is your favorite thing to grow?
I LOVE growing strawberries because they are one of my favourite things in the whole world…. There’s nothing like picking a strawberry, warmed by the sun, and popping it right into your mouth! I also love growing lettuce and tomatoes and all of the ingredients of a salad. I love being able to walk into my garden, grab the ingredients of a salad and making it and enjoying it.
(That's one of my favorite things too!)

What is it that makes you so excited about gardening?
One of the best things about growing our own food is knowing that we are doing so organically. We are so spoiled with such good quality produce over the summer months that it is very hard to buy anything at the grocery store during the off-season.

Who has taught you the most about gardening? (your gardening guru)
Without a doubt, my father was my gardening guru. In fact Cam dedicated his gardening book “The All You Can Eat Gardening Handbook” to my father since he was such a huge influence on both of us!

It's nice to see that kind of knowledge passing down through generations!
I've mentioned it before that your All You Can Eat book is one of my all-time favorites.  (but it's worth mentioning again!)

Not only does Cam & Michelle run a publishing business, they also advertise their bed & breakfast ( http://www.cammather.com/off-grid-retreat/off-grid-retreat/accommodations ) at Sunflower Farm using as much of their own produce as possible, they offer seminars on independant and sustainable living (  http://www.cammather.com/off-grid-retreat/upcoming-workshops-at-sunflower-farm )

They also recently finished a new book called "Little House Off the Grid" (available on Amazon.com)

In amongst all that, Cam manages to publish a blog of his own hilarious brand of excitement.

I truly thank Michelle Mather from the bottom of my heart for sharing with me.
I look forward to seeing your adventures at Sunflower Farm and attending Cam's local workshops.