Friday, February 28, 2014

Seed Saving...a first for Us!

Let me just start off by saying we are
an experimental family.
We dabble, we attempt.
Occasionally we have a success!
Normally that's just the result of trial and error.
Often a lot of error.

I like the idea of saving seeds.
I really had no idea where to begin.
To be honest, the whole concept seemed too big to grasp.
It was intimidating.

Husband and I started researching on the web...
in newspaper articles and books.

We took it one seed at a time.
Each plant requires a different plan.
Some plans are as easy as separating seed pod from plant 
and then drying the seeds.

Other plants require a much more thought out process.

Ches was much more ambitious than I was this past year.
He decided to try tomato seeds.

Tomatoes keep their seeds in a gooey substance that actually inhibits the seeds from growing!
You have to force the seeds to germinate by making them start to mold.
Separate seeds from fruit and place in a mason jar.
Fill partially with water and place a porous cloth (or in this case coffee filter)
and secure with elastic band.
Let seeds stand in liquid for a week and then a mold will form on the surface of the water.
When ready to dry the seeds, remove from scummy water and discard the mold.
Dry seeds as per normal.

I'll be sure to let you know if this well researched method pays off in the spring...

All in all we did a great job last year in seed saving.
Peas, jalapenos, broccoli seeds, white corn kernels, purple, yellow and green beans.
Other jars in the above image show dried herbs (not seeds) like lavender, thyme and oregano.
Very important spices in our household!
The lavender is used for tea and respiratory ailments.
The thyme and oregano are staples in our cooking.
We even dried chunks of jalapeno flesh (the red stuff on the right)
...still haven't used it for anything...
but you never know...

We have a couple of black walnut seeds from a past neighbour's yard.
We also have a couple of peach and plum pits (the wild plums I wrote about previously)...

I finally found some rose hips in Pres-Quile Provincial Park in Brighton.
I dried them for tea making purposes...they contain obscene amounts of vitamin C.

The above picture shows something we never did before...
Broccoli seeds!
They form a bizarre little pod with tons of small black seeds inside.
We dried the pods on the screens,
then removed the seeds by hand.

See how small the pods are???

The seeds are totally tiny!
We've never let a broccoli go to seed this past year was a treat.

I'm sure as the seasons go on,
we'll learn more about seed saving.
This past year was more fluky than anything intentional.
I feel it is important to be able to save your own seeds.
Food self sufficiency becomes more and more important as our 
food supply continues to let us down in terms of safety.

Speaking of seeds!

I plan on bringing the some of my seeds to the seed swap on Mar 4th in Tamworth.
The Tamworth and Erinsville Grassroots Growers Assoc.
featuring local celebrities like 
Karen ten Cate of Bumblerock farm, 
John Wise of Wiseacres organic farm in Centreville 
and Brian Burt of Burt's Greenhouses!

Nothing gets me going more than gardening talk in the middle of winter!!!!
Plus we'll be planting our "tropical" seeds this tomatoes and peppers.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Decorating on the Cheap! PILLOW EDITION

I have the spring fever...perhaps a bit early but it is what is it.

I have decided not to fight it...instead I am embracing it.

We have been cleaning up our house.
The inside gets neglected over the summer months.
Don't get me wrong, I keep the place clean.
But the finer details get ignored until the cold weather sets in.
What I mean is that we are filtering out the junk.
The stuff that piles up in corners until you just don't notice its presence anymore.

One of the things that I stopped noticing was the amount of kids stuff. 
Anyone with kids in their lives knows what I am talking about.
I absolutely HATE throwing good things away.
(and I don't use the word hate very often)
I would rather re-purpose than turf anything if possible.
I am not a fan of being a consumer.

Historically, making old things into other things is not a new concept.
Canada's earliest settlers would use old clothes to weave mats and carpets,
 sewn into quilts, or cut up for use as rags or patches.

These days I have been scouring Pinterest in an effort
to find cheap and hand made ways to re-purpose stuff AND decorate our home.

So this post is dedicated to re-purposing kids pillows!

We had several flying around....spiderman, shrek and sesame street.
Owen says he's too grown up these days.
That removes the guilt of taking away perfectly good pillows.

But that's the best part!
I'm not really taking anything away...
just finding each thing a new role.

While the cold wind whistles outside and the thermometer hangs steadily at -20 degrees Celsius, 
I settled down with a crochet hook and a ball or two of yarn.

I single crochet enough stitches to cover the front of each pillow.
Then, very simply, I single crochet.
Row after row.
Single crocheting means the stitches have very little gaps.
That also means you don't have to line the project.
(You can if you like...or if you have spare fabric laying around)

The brownish pillow was made using single crochet for 7 rows then a double crochet row.
Alternating until the entire pillow was covered.
The back of the pillow is the same.
The 2 halves are joined by single crocheting a row around the entire pillow.
I ended up sealing the pillow up inside the cover.
That method is problematic if you plan on removing it for washing.
You would have to undo a side in order get the pillow out.
(I'm fine with that, as the pillow if for me...but if this was a gift...I would consider making an opening)
The linen coloured pillow was made with single crochet stitches as well as a front post stitch.
I adore the post stitch as it makes it look like a cable knit sweater!
The pattern goes like this:
row 1 single crochet.
row 2 single crochet.
row 3 single crochet 7 stitches then front post stitch 1, single crochet 1, front post stitch 1, single crochet x amount of stitches until you are 10 stitches from the other end, front post stitch 1, single crochet 1, front post stitch 1 and single crochet 7.
row 4 single crochet
row 5 repeat row 3
row 6 repeat row 4
alternate the entire front of the pillow going between row 3 and row 4.

For the back of the linen coloured pillow, 
single crochet many rows (same length as the front) until you are 2 inches from the top.
Finish off.
Single crochet another panel but only a few inches long.
Both panels with sort of overlap each other.
The button holes were easy!
I single crocheted 11 stitches, then chain 1, single crochet x amount until you get to 12 stitches from the end, chain 1 and single crochet the rest until finished the row.
Single crochet 2 more rows.
I bought 2 wooden buttons from Michael's craft store for about $2.00 total.
You can use a needle and the same yarn to attach the buttons.
Just line them up approximately where the button holes fall.
Single crochet around the front and back panels and VOILA!

Some pretty stylish pillows I might say!

This pattern was completely made up by me.
Feel free to share, pin, copy and distribute this pattern.
Please link back to this post though...that's all I ask!
(oh yeah, that and please send me pictures of your lovely creations!!!)

Stay tuned for more ways to re-purpose the clutter in your home!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bloggers to Discover...

I thought I would take this opportunity
to share with my readers
some of the blogs I have discovered lately.

Blogging in a vacuum sucks.
(no pun intended)

I find inspiration from my environment...
from my friends and family...
from the good and the bad experiences in the garden..
and from books and magazines.

I also search the web for inspiration.

You just never know what is going to tickle your fancy
or float your boat
or whatever...

Here goes!


For the nutrition-conscience folk out there
who want to experiment with the Paleo diet.
(or those who already do the Paleo thing)
This gal blogs the most amazing recipes for the WHOLE family.
(she has great contests too!)

Kathryn of


A Canadian photographer transplanted in New York takes the 
most beautiful photos of people in her community.
It really is a love song to humanity sang in photos.

Alley O'Shea by Arden Wray of


A delightful blog about urban homesteading with great recipes and tips.
Her aim is to live a simpler more sustainable life in an urban environment.
I say YOU GO GIRL!!!

Martha of and her daughter


My favorite urban forager Becky Lerner!
She is a blogger, author and plant reiki practitioner.

Becky's latest novel!

She forages for food, medicine and smokeables.
How cool is she????  Check out her blog...
NOTE:  I usually stick with foragers that operate near my area...
If I can't find it in my area..I don't want to know about it...
but Becky is so good that I overlook the fact that she's in Seattle.
(I avoided the Paw Paw Ice cream she posted...mainly out of jealousy
that paw paw do not grow in Ontario)

Hey Readers!
Are there any blogs out there you are reading lately?
Please let me know in the comments...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Cookbooks through the ages....

Have you ever come into some "free stuff"?
I mean, has someone ever showed up on your door saying "Hey, I've got this stuff I don't want want it?".  Free, no charge, absolutely gratis?

A friend of ours is a great source of "free stuff".
He is able to get some pretty bizarre stuff too.
Once, he came to us asking if we could use an antique chick warmer....cast iron...
Among other things, he has brought  free fence pieces, an antique camping lantern, a weed whipper, 5 boxes of mason jars, canned goods, a short...this man is a treasure.
He knows such a cross section of people, that his knowledge and resources are broad.
A family friend of his died recently...leaving her husband to get rid of a lots of stuff before he down sizes into a retirement villa somewhere.  We were gifted 3 boxes of cookbooks.
That is how I came across some of the oldest cookbooks I've ever seen.
I thought I would share some of the most interesting of the bunch...and there were lots, trust me...

The above cookbook must be some sort of classic, circa 1964.
Every proper American household wouldn't be caught without its box of Bisquick.
Personally, I've never used Bisquick...not sure why...but I'm sure there is a good reason.

The title of the above cookbook was enough to make me do a double take and read on past the front cover.  "Cook not mad?!?!  What the heck is this all about..." I caught myself thinking.
Rational Cookery refers to extending your valuable ingredients for large families.
Often times, the average Pioneer family would have 5-6 children at any given time.  Add to that mix, any hired hands that also lived on the property.
People travelling in the back woods would stop in and ask for overnite lodging and a meal.
Figure your harvest would have to feed up to 10 people at any given meal.
The above book is a reprint of Canada's first published cookbook.
Reprinted in 1972, the original was first published in 1831...there is much more than cooking advise in these pages.  Inside there are tips for dying woolen and linen fibres,
common recipes for sickness, how to make bread in a clay flower pot
(which you know i'll be trying one of these days),
drying and preserving flowers and plants, how to get stains and mould out of cloth and
how to dress a calf's head (which I won't be trying...ever).

This little gem was published in 1963.
Apparently "teens" needed help planning an appropriate menu to serve when having a gathering.
Thank goodness Five Roses Flour Co. is here to help!
Inside are several themes including Boston Bean Bash, Pizza Platter Party, Mexican Dude Party and a "Kookie" Cookie Party for a sleepover with the girls.
Each theme includes an appetizer, a main dish and either a dessert or a beverage to serve.
There's even a contest at the back...if you win, you'll be crowned "The Young Baking Champion of 1963" and receive a $1500.00 educational grant.
There was also a baking questionnaire in order to qualify for the contest.
I have to admit...I couldn't answer half the questions...

This booklet struck me as a collection of college food...
It's extremely basic and trusting the average reader's kitchen consists of ketchup, salt and pepper.
This one is circa 1958 and features a cake and dessert section larger than the main dish section.
The best part is the beverage section!!!
Inside this leaflet are recipes for Cherry pink float, Chocolate marble float and Spicy mocha float.
The only disturbing thing is that every recipe uses the product called PET instant (which by the inside cover advertisement implies it is a milk powder).

A truly rare find...a Robin Hood Flour recipe leaflet from the War Ration era.
Basically this book displays every conceivable way you can extend meat with flour products.
Tons of dessert crumbles and meat loaf recipes.
No date attached to this pamphlet...but, when I searched Google,
articles came up in the Ottawa Citizen dating back to 1943. 

A preserve cookbook straight from the masters, Consumers Glass Co Ltd.
Sadly the pages with the pickle recipes was stuck together...of course.
No published date was listed, but a quick online search reveals Dominion Glass Co Ltd began in 1913 but eventually changed its name to Consumers Glass in 1989.

A friend of mine recently took a college program called Sustainable Agriculture.
Basically this is a course for people who want to run their own small scale farm or who already have a farm and want to operate it more efficiently.
She told me about a unit on jarring & pickling.  She warned me about the dangers of using a recipe that has not come from a safe source...meaning, a reputable source...not necessarily from your old Aunt Martha.
The problem you face is f you don't get the measurements or procedures correct,
you could be in for a hefty helping of botulism.
The only way to avoid this problem, if to get recipes from "Trustworthy Sources".
Bernardin fits the bill.  So does Consumers Glass.

This cookbook was dedicated to the Essex Methodist Church.
In memoriam, as the church was destroyed in 1907...same year as the cookbook was published.
There is a wonderful forward all about the hardworking ladies of this church.

The back page has an ad for Salada Tea out of Toronto.

Is it weird that I have a Salada tea box in my basement holding blankets?
The phone number listed is only 4 digits long....

Unknown published date...but seriously?
There are repeated ads for Zam-buk soap that cures everything from eczema to
frostbite to cold sores.  Zam buk dates back to 1906 but is still produced and used today in South Africa.   
Pep is also advertised within...for colds and coughs.
It didn't come to me with a cover...
so I have no idea what this publication is called or where it came from.

Front cover

Back cover

No indication as to who published this or when.
A simple handbook on how to do loads of things, not just cooking, much like the Cook Not Mad book.
The back cover reveals at least the advertising comes from Sharbot Lake.
Another quick search reveals that Chamberlain's Cough Remedy dates back to the early 1900's.

I had to finish off with something I found in our own cookbook collection.
(Of course I had to clear some out in order to make room for the new additions)
Now that I've found this classic...I just might enjoy next summer a touch more!

Does anyone else like historical cookbooks?
(or is it just me...)