Saturday, December 31, 2011

A fresh new year

I have always felt an urge to greet the new year with a clean home, and a clean barnyard. The first is quite simple to achieve, I was up at 5AM, bucket in hand, scrubbing away the remnants of 2011.

The second is harder to accomplish.  We have spent the last week cleaning out the sheep barn, mucking out the donkey stalls, ensuring that fresh straw greets the cows. Today we are cleaning out the chicken coops. I just completed the first one, and I am pleased to report that the chickens are currently nestled in their fresh pine shavings.

We will do a dump run later today, and a decluttering of house and outbuildings. Now is the time to give things away! It's amazing what you collect over the course of a year. An extra whiteboard, an old Formica table, burlap sacks.... it's nice to gift others with the objects that you no longer need. With each freecycle your space is a little bit cleaner and your heart is a little bit happier.

I usually create three piles. One to keep and put away where it belongs, one for freecycle or goodwill, and one to sell.  In the beginning, there is chaos but as you sort and declutter things begin to fall into place and before long order is restored.

I wish you and yours a very happy New Year, and hope that you life in 2012 is heart happy!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A warm hug on a cold day

I adore soup. On a cold and blustery night there is nothing more comforting than a bowl of homemade soup and a loaf of crusty bread with butter.  As you sit cozied up with a bowl, the warmth creeping into your tummy, it feels like a warm hug from the inside out.

Better Farming magazine this month ran a wonderful story about the Ontario Christian Gleaners,  last year volunteers working for Ontario Christian Gleaners produced 2.2. million servings of soup from waste food that would otherwise have ended up in the dump or been plowed under.  Volunteers spend hours chopping produce by hand and it is then dehydrated to be shipped to orphanages around the world.  What an amazing way to take what would end up in landfill and turn it into food!
Soup is a full meal, and for hundred of years we have created soup recipes from all sorts of interesting foods. Cabbage soup, cold soups, there are some very unusual soups out there! 

Last night, I made one of my favorites. It's simple and can be made in less than 30 minutes. It pairs nicely with a hearty bread. We ate ours with a fresh loaf of pumpernickel.

Red Lentil Soup

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2.5 cups of red lentils
  • 1 tetra pack of chicken soup broth (make your own if you have time, but this is a good standby!)

Boil the cauliflower. While that's boiling, cook the lentils. (3 cups of water to 1 cup of lentils. Usually they take 15-20 minutes to cook, check your package) 

Add one large can of crushed tomatoes to the cooked lentils. Drain the cauliflower and add the soft cauliflower to the lentils and tomatoes. Add the chicken broth.  Add 2 teaspoons of dried garlic, and about 3 tablespoons of Vegeta seasoning. (This is awesome stuff!)  Salt and pepper.  Now use either your blender to puree in batches or use a handstick blender to puree it all together.

If it's too thick add a little water.

Serve with grated sharp cheddar cheese on top.

From me to you....a warm hug.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

As you stand in the barn in the very early morning hours, it's quite easy to imagine why Joseph and Mary chose a stable so many years ago.  There is something comforting about the soft rustling of the animals, and the smells of the barn all mixed together.

Without much effort you can envision Mary with the newborn Jesus sitting in the hay. The sheep would have been curious as they often are. Wondering what this new thing was, can you eat it? What does it smell like? If anything I am sure Joseph would have to shoo away the nosy ones.

People often ask us why we chose this lifestyle. "why on earth would you give up your lovely house in the city to move to the middle of nowhere and have to do so much work?"

It's hard to explain. But standing in the barn on a cold snowy December morning, it's quite simple to feel.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A little bit country

I have begun to change the look of things around here. Not simply with Christmas decorations, but I suppose I am starting to make the transition from city to country.

When we moved in a year and a half ago, I just plunked all of our furniture and decorations into the farmhouse.  Sure, in some cases it didn't quite fit right, but I had far too many other things to worry about. (Like where on earth we were going to put 80 chickens!)

Now that the winter months are creeping in, I am looking about and thinking of ways in which we can make changes to our decor. 

The bathroom renovation absolutely must happen this winter. In speaking to Wilson next door, I told him the tub was leaking.  "really?" he said, "I put that tub in back in '58. It's leaking already?"  I agreed with dear Wilson, and asked if he warrantied his work. No such luck. 

The vanity has been found (an old sideboard), the sink selected (a nice hand hammered copper sink) and I am now searching for the flooring. I have my eye on a river rock floor, something like this
Sadly I have yet to find a Canadian distributor, and I really do not like the idea of having to create each stone by hand.

I know that other major renovations will have to wait a few years, but I can begin with our furniture and our accessories. I spotted these lovely cushions on Kijiji, handmade out of old bean sacks. They inspired the new bedding, and the rustic tin artwork above the bed.  I have convinced my dear sweet fireman that he should make us a new bed frame out of old barn boards. 

If I could just convince him to make me the matching night tables and dresser that would be perfect. Baby steps!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree!

The smell of fresh pine has a way of transporting you back to a moment of childhood.  I stood in the centre of the tree farm breathing deeply. We were on a quest.

To find the perfect Christmas tree is no easy feat. It can't be too tall, or too short. Too fat, or too skinny. It has to have the right amount of branches, and the right overall look. It must of course have a branch right at the top for the angel to perch on.

Sadly, there was no snow this week - it felt a bit odd to be traipsing around the tree lot in the mud. Not exactly festive.

We walked for about a half hour, pondering our possibilities, but we still hadn't found our tree. It was getting late, and we decided to walk back to the entrance and have a look at the pre-cut trees.  And then we saw it. Right by the entrance. Our tree.

My dear sweet fireman began to saw away, and within moments he had it hoisted on his back.

It is amazing how they always seem so small until you cut them down!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Let's start with the front door...

I decided it was time for a little bit of holiday decorating, with Christmas only weeks away I need to get myself into a festive frame of mind.  We are going tree hunting on Saturday, but in the meantime I could at least drag out some of our decorations and get a move on.

I decided to begin with the front door. It's a small area and relatively simply to decorate!  I began by finding the wreath, which thankfully last year I put away in a box labelled "wreath".  Very helpful.

Then I began to walk about the yard looking for items to put into the planter. It's amazing what you can find only steps from the door! The colours, textures and amazing differences in greenery were quite lovely.  In minutes, I had an interesting array of plants to add to my Christmas display.

A wee wooden sled finished the look.

Now, to begin the holiday baking....