Monday, December 22, 2014

Starting to think about Root Cellars

In terms of keeping our harvest as long as we can, 
we used to do a lot of freezing.
We experimented with different sized veggies and what would thaw out better.
We learned what froze well and what certainly did not.

One day, a pipe in our basement exploded over our large chest freezer.
That was the end of freezing that year.

We lost so much was heartbreaking.
But like most things in life - I chose this sad event to be a learning experience.

How can we save our harvest in other ways?

Last year was an experiment in air drying and preserving.
We have dried some veggies and lots of herbs.
We dried seeds for planting next year.
We put stuff in jars too!
Pickled jalapenos, dill pickles, beans, salsa, wild leeks, 
ramps pesto, strawberry jam, mint jelly and maple syrup.

Ever since the freezer died, I've had my mind focused on root cellars.
The idea of storing things with no electricity.
What a concept!!!

View from the roadside

Across the street from our house there was a lot for sale.
It used to have a small home that fell into disrepair.
The western border of the property has a steep incline.
Built right into the side of the incline is an old rocky root cellar.

I have passed by this structure for a few years now, but decided to take a closer look. 

The above shot looks straight into the cellar, showing both sides and the back.
The structure has long been unused.
It is missing its roof and door.
I imagine what it must have looked like way back when.

Can you see the bright green moss?
It grows off of the sand or mud that was inserted between the rocks.

The above image shows how the original builders of this root cellar used preexisting rock.
See the big one at the bottom of the wall?
I wouldn't want to have moved that one!

See that swirl in the middle?
I imagine there was a piece of wood supporting whatever roof was on this structure.
The sand hardened over time and stayed long after the wood rotted.

I don't think this design is necessarily the best concept for a root cellar.
That being said, someone obviously used it at one time.
Since it is still there (for the most part), I'm going to say the design was very sturdy!

I'm going to start some research on the best home made root cellars 
so that we too can enjoy zero carbon footprint food storage.

In terms of our home, there are a few places I thought would make good cellars.
Over the last few years...I have been monitoring each area.
Upon further inspection, the temperature and moisture levels fluctuate a little too much for my liking.
Perhaps an exterior food storage option is the way to go?
Only time will tell...

What is your favorite method of storing your food?

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Little Potato Company Product Review

Surprise, my first product review!!!

On a very unsuspecting day, Handsome Husband declared I had a package.
I had a momentary panic attack...
Was this something I had ordered online that he wasn't supposed to know about?!? remembered I don't shop online...

So I opened the box...

No way!!!

The Little Potato Company sent me two kinds of potatoes to review 
and come up with some cool recipes.
I have never used this product this was all new for me.
I have friends that swear by these potatoes.  They won't buy any other kind.
So needless to say, my interest was piqued...


Although the cooking instructions did not mention clay bakers...I thought I would give it a try!
Usually I throw everything in a soaked Romertopf clay baker and bake for 90 mins.
This time, I put the dressed chicken in the baker...and in the last 20 mins I threw in
The Little Potato Company's Baby Boomer potatoes.
The result was amazing!
Even though adding the Baby Boomers mid way through the cooking process
made for an extra was well worth it.
The chicken was given to us by a friend who grows meat chickens, the onions and spices from our garden.

These little cuties were soft, tender and full of flavour.
The absorbed a great amount of flavours from both the chicken and 
the spices on the dressed chicken.

The ability to reheat or recreate leftovers is a deal-breaker for me.
Luckily, these potatoes kept on winning me over.
I give you...spicy taters and eggs!
Breakfast of champions...
soft boiled eggs from our girls served up with local goat cheese and fresh tomatoes.
The potatoes were leftover from the clay baker dinner.
These Baby Boomers re-fried up like a dream!
I added cayenne and chili powder.

Another way I served these Baby Boomers was a trip to the East.
Curried Chicken and Veggies

Leftover chicken from the roast, baby boomer potatoes, onions and paddypan squash leftover from the garden.
I fried up the onions and the potatoes for 10 mins, then added the squash.
Simmer for another 10 mins.  Then I added curry, parsley and cilantro.
I used dried cilantro but really wished I had fresh herbs on this one.
Top with plain Greek yoghurt and enjoy warm.



This was actually my first dish made with the fingerlings potatoes.
I wasn't sure what to I went with simple to start.
In this case, I made maple flavoured bacon wrapped pork tenderloin.
Served with a spinach side salad and oven roasted potatoes and carrots.
I roasted the veggies on a stone tossed in olive oil, S & P and roasted for 30 mins at 400 degrees.
The carrots were from our garden and while they were small, they were tasty.
The fingerling potatoes tasted amazing.
Tender and tasty yellow flesh...I almost forgot that I grew potatoes this year!
(All of this cooking...I needed a cool beverage

The piece de resistence...Potato, Caramelized Onions and Rosemary pizza!
Original recipe was found in the Inspired magazine.
Heat 4 tsp olive oil over medium heat in a pan.
Add 1 cup sliced onions and cook until soft and golden brown.
This is where I deviated from the original recipe.
I roasted The Little Potato Company Fingerlings in a small dish at 400 degrees for 20 mins.
I made some homemade pizza dough in the bread maker.
After the potatoes cooled, I sliced the potatoes thinly and arranged them on the rolled out dough.
Then I even spread the caramelized onions and remaining oil on the dough.
Next I sprinkled dried rosemary from the garden and Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 425 degrees for 16 mins.
Enjoy as a side dish, fun appetizer or a savoury main meal.
Trust me...this dish WILL impress!


RESULTS:  I really enjoyed this product!
Although I advocate growing your own food and being food self sufficient...
if you can't grow your own veggies (whether you lack the space or you physically can't manage a garden) ...this is a great product for you.
The potatoes come already scrubbed so they couldn't make it any easier to use this product.

Thank you to The Little Potato Company!
I really appreciate this opportunity to test these wee potatoes.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Critters who ate our garden this year...2014

Japanese beetles....

I know everyone was talking about them...but I didn't really pay attention.

Then one day, I noticed my concord grape leaves looked like lace...


Eventually I did look them up on Wikipedia.
I wanted to make sure they were what I thought they were.
The write up is interesting...although depressing.
They are attracted to just about every plant.
You can use a soap/water mixture...which I will be trying out next spring!
I will try to post my results of a few different types of mixtures too.

This past year, I just reached out, picked it up and squished it.

Black Horsefly...

These things weren't eating my garden...but they were REALLY horrifying!
They are a relative of the horsefly...which is already big and scary.
These suckers are TWICE the size of a regular horsefly!!!
They are jet black all over and probably the worst looking thing I've seen
since moving to the country.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Celebrating the first snow...

It was fall...

Then, after two days of wasn't fall.

Not at all.

The third was frigid...
But it was beautiful.

Fresh fallen snow...pure and perfect.

We stacked wood.
We have been stacking wood for a week now.

Owen's baby sled turned into a kindling hauler.
Chopping your own firewood creates a crazy amount of bark and other burnables.

We weren't the only busy ones...
Beavers seem to have found one of our last few ash trees.

So beautiful.

After all that work in the cold...
it's nice to sit down in front of the fire
Chili with cornbread muffin in hand.
Enjoying the best part of being outside in winter in Canada.
Warming up indoors.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Seed Saving...Round 2

We have saved seeds before...
Last year we did tomatoes as well as white corn and broccoli seeds.
Tomato seeds, in my opinion, is only for the advanced seed saver!
(psst....its really gross)

We saved tomato seeds this year too.
Mainly because I really enjoyed the heritage Black Kris tomatoes we nabbed for free.

We also saved cantaloupe and honeydew melon shown above.
The melons were purchased for a family naturally we snagged the seeds. 

We are also trying our hand at radish seeds...which was really the result of forgetting to harvest them.

I think we have enough radish seeds now...each wee pod you see has at least 3-8 tiny seeds...

It is time consuming, but easily done while watching a movie on the couch.
Not too hard at all.

We chopped the heads off our Gigantius sunflowers...
not sure if these beauties will become winter feed for the chickens?
Or snacking for us...or for re planting next year?
Only time will tell....again, I think we have enough...

Butter crunch lettuce seeds?  Sure, why not?

One of the kinds of lettuce that came from our mesclun mix...'s all good.

Added bonus of seed saving?
You can take them to a seed exchange and its like money!
You can exchange for any other seed you want!


So if you are lax one week and some of your veg goes bolting on you (sends out flowers), don't fret!  
Get excited about what you can do with all of those seeds...

It is our goal to never buy seeds or plants again...sorry Burt's Greenhouses...
I'll always refer people to your business and your advice has been invaluable.

But we are DONE with seed buying!
(insert evil laugh here)

What were you able to save for next year?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Girls...

So its been a few months since we got the new fancy chickens.
I thought you might want to get to know them better!


Our first little girl to get injured.
She had most of her tail feathers peaked out in the beginning.
Now she tries to steer clear of the big girls...and often times Pigeon keeps her safe.
Aptly named Eagle, the noises she makes sound very bird of prey-ish!
Still waiting to see what colour her eggs will be!
(she is our easter egger)


(Formerly Dark Rainbow)

A very sweet, shy girl.
She keeps her distance mostly.
I've spent some time just sitting in the coop and she'll come around to peck mosquitoes off of my pants.
You can't really tell from these shots, but she is by far our puffiest hen!
She ended up with a new name as Owen felt Dark Rainbow was too long.



By far, my favorite little girl.
She is very motherly and protective of all of her coop sisters.
She herds in the young ones and alerts them to any approaching big girls.
She is always at my heels.
I'm sure she thinks I'm the mother hen.
On another note...if we were to ever order new chicks...I would
not hesitate to get more Silver Laced Wyandottes.




Our beautiful blonde girl.
Insert blonde joke here.
She is quite puffy but sometimes she doesn't seem to know what to do with all of those feathers!
She is hilarious to watch...quite daft and dizzy at times.
She hops straight up in the air to catch bugs in the evening.
She was the first of the little ones to start getting her mature comb.
Her grown up chicken voice sounds like a's hilarious!


You're welcome to drop by and meet the girls anytime!
They love visitors...and have learned quickly that people means treats.

All in all, the new girls settled in just fine...

PS.  our hen that rules the coop is Clover...
She is the one hen that lets me pet her without fail.
She is hilarious...

Sadly, we lost one of our first hens.
It was the strangest thing.
She was fine in the morning, but by 6pm, she was struggling to breathe.
It took less than 5 mins for her to pass away, once we noticed she was ill.
Now we have 7 hens in total...and will probably add more this spring.
We were sad about the passing of Birch...
but its times like these when we get to teach Owen about life and death.
Not my favorite aspect of parenting...but how else are our children supposed to learn?



Our easter egger was the first of the new girls to lay an egg!

The wee blue tinted egg is on the to one of our regular hens eggs.
The big girls tend to lay an extra large egg per day on average.
Not sure what class she's laying right now...peewee?

Friday, October 24, 2014

What to do with all those Apples...

One bright and sunny Thanksgiving weekend day...
We picked a 10lb bag of apples.
It didn't really take us long...I probably could have picked the whole bag myself in 15 mins.
Seriously...not a difficult task...until you go to store these things!

I know you can store apples in a cool dark place for a few months into the winter.
I just hate the thought of one bad apple in the middle of the bag...rotting away...

So I went straight to keeping as much of the bag as I could with minimal waste or spoilage!

While I've made applesauce before...I've never jarred it for future use.
This was an awesome feat for me!
It usually smells so good when its boiling down...we eat it right away.
3 jars of applesauce now live in our food storage area.
While one can live without is a nice sweet addition to any pork dish.
Owen even likes dipping his potato latkes in applesauce!
Plus no preservatives or weirdness when you make your own...

Another first for me was the apple chip.
Slice thinly and sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar.
Like the tomatoes,  I tried both the dehydrator and the oven method.
Both worked well...but the apples took over 14 hrs in the dehydrator.
I must have sliced these apples way too I finished them off in the oven the next day.
Owen seemed to really like them at first!
Then that trailed off....must have gotten a few cinnamon heavy chips...

Ok...anyone with a little person these days knows that movie...
These are peeled and sliced apples in a freezer bag...
perfectly portioned so that all I have to do is pour them 
evenly into a baking dish and add crisp topping.
Dangerously easy...

As nothing gets truly wasted at this house...I present to you...the chicken treat!
Once I had peeled, cored and chopped my fingers sticky...I took out the bowl to the girls.
They loved this sweet treat!

What do you do with your apple harvest?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Apple Picking and other Fall things...

Over Thanksgiving (second weekend in October here in Canada)
we spent the weekend with my mother and her man in Brighton.

Brighton is a fantastic place to be in the fall!
Historically, it's major industry was APPLES!
They have an Applefest celebration in September.
They block off the streets to showcase everything to do with apples.

Naturally, we thought this was the place to go apple picking!
Turns out it was a perfect day to pick apples and
Everyone else had the same idea too!

I love the shapes and colours of fall...every size, shape and colour of squash...
Get them now, for they store really well in a cool room most of the winter!
No hydro required.

The funky blue one is a Blue Hubbard squash...I'm seriously tempted to grow these things!

Of course the pick-your-own farms have the usual silliness for family entertainment...

I do love a good apple pun!
(get it...MACintosh apples...)

We love Macs because they are good for just about anything!
Pies, crisps, freezing, baking or just eating plain.

Cricklewood Farm also offered pick your own pumpkins!!!

But better still...they had PICK YOUR OWN FALL RASPBERRIES!
I had no idea such a thing existed...

So, of course we set out to pick one very large pint!
Super sweet...those cool nights does a berry good.

The last time I was at Cricklewood Farm with Owen, was an equally great weather day.
We did the enormous corn maze which changes every year.
The farm was NOT this busy though...but the staff handled it beautifully.
What a great place to stop and spend an afternoon!!!

Also, a guy showed up driving THIS...I was dying to steal it!

I highly recommend this place if you are even close to the area of Trenton or Brighton Ontario.

Stay tuned on a post dedicated to everything we did with 10lbs of apples!!!