Sunday, 27 August 2017

A busy weekend and a full pantry


I'd planned to go to a local SCA demo called Middle Ages on the Green and life decided to intervene.   First, the menfolk decided to start shingling the garage.   I wasn't 100% comfortable about going off to play while they were slaving away on the roof and having to cook their own supper, but I thought I could toss something in the crock pot for them, or make sure I was home early enough to solve that problem.


 Then 50 lbs of tomatoes dropped into my lap on Friday.  I knew that my play day on Saturday was to be put on hold.   After running around doing errands in the morning, I spent the afternoon and part of the evening, canning.   That was blanching, chopping, heating, crushing, bottling and hot water processing all those tomatoes for hours and hours.   Thirty seven jars later, I considered that I didn't think I did quite so many tomatoes last year.    We'll be eating tomatoes all winter!

I also had some blue prune plums, the kind with the yellow flesh and dark purple skins.   I turned them into jam as they all ripened exactly at once.   I wish I had a photo of the before and after of this jam.  The before was this ugly yellow mush with dark flecks.   As it came to a boil though, the dark flecks of the peel, started to dissolve and the plum jam ended up a beautiful dark ruby red/purple colour.  Sooooo very pretty and incredibly tasty too.

I was at Westfield again today.  I was in the Misener house, which has an awesome wood cook stove.   I was going to make gooseberry jam but after all that canning, I was plumb tired of processing.  Instead, I dug up some carrots and beets from the Lockhart garden and tossed them in a pan with a piece of beef and some potatoes.  I brought them home for dinner so that the hardworking shingling menfolk had supper, but I still got to get out and play.   Those freshly dug carrots and beets were so delicious!  It was crazy busy today at the village though, with lots of interesting people out.  The day just flew by. 

Monday, 21 August 2017

Kitty update, Victorian knitting project

Kevin and Phil made friends fairly quickly.   After about 3 days of ignoring one another, there was a day of sniffs and growls, then a day of sniffs.  That night they were playing, chasing each other around the house and general wildness.   After a day or two of hard playing, Kevin's cranky leg gets sore and he starts limping again, so he takes it easy for a day or two until he's good to go again.   If I'm not around to provide Phil with a lap to sleep on, the two of them sleep on my bed.

I made some pickles last week at Westfield, in the Misener house.   The beets and cucumbers from the Lockhart garden were ripe.   The beet recipe was strait out of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, I had to adapt the pickle recipes somewhat as I didn't have a crock to store them in.  I didn't run them through a hot water bath, so they are refrigerator pickles.

 I decided to do start another knitting project as I wanted a shawl or wrap to wear in the cooler weather at Westfield.   This pattern is in the November, 1864 issue of Godey's Ladies Book (vol. 69).  I downloaded a facsimile and was able to print out the pattern instructions.  Someone has very nicely put the instructions on Ravelry as well.  The article in the magazine says the original was made with a varigated violet and black centre and fringe with black and gold contrasting stripes.   It says solid colour yarns are cheaper than the varigated colours and natural colours are the least expensive.  You can use any weight of yarn for this and the article points out that if you use strong yarns, it is suitable for charity knitting.   This is an easy to knit, utility shawl, but it isn't mindful, careful knitting.  It's garter stitch, garter stitch and more garter stitch, with a few increases tossed in.

I was originally thinking that a cream or light grey shawl with brown and grey stripes would work nicely.   However this white tweedy yarn was on sale - super sale really, with a packet of 5 skeins for a bit less than the price of 2 skeins.   That really made the choice of colour a moot point.   However when I knit it up, the white had no life to it.   It is a cold, dull white and the black bits just looked unappealing.    So into the dye pot it went.   I decided on blue though, in an attempt to minimize the black bits.    I was going to use woad or Japanese Indigo, as I have lots ready to use in the garden, but I didn't have enough time in one stretch available.  Instead I used acid dyes and I'm pretty happy with the way the colour turned out.   I have a lovely grey marl for at least one of the stripes. I might still go with the brown for the other.    I only dyed 6 of the 10 skeins I'd purchased for this project, so I have 4 left to dye another colour, if I need one for the stripe.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Fox attacks and new kitty!

The other evening we found a pile of feathers and were missing a chook.   It was under the treed area, but I'd seen the eagle hanging out there in the early summer, so I thought it might be a hawk strike.  A little odd for under the trees though.   The next evening, my son yelled and ran outside.   Two red foxes had a chicken and were trying to run off with it.  This was the mess they left behind.  The chook was saved though she's missing most of her tail feathers and a few more besides.    The foxes tried twice more that evening and we managed to stop them all.  Finally I was able to round up the girls and get them into their coop.  I kept them there for 3 days in hopes of getting the foxes to move on.  So far it seems to have worked.   We thought we were down 2 chickens in all, but we heard one who was hiding in a hedgerow and she came home shortly after we called to her.

The orange cat who was lurking about for the past couple of weeks turned out to be two tiny cats, obviously siblings.  One day, the cat on the right came up the the back door and started crying loudly, trying to get in.   He turned out to be quite friendly and he let me give him a quick once over.  He was super skinny.  You could clearly feel the vertebrae and his sides were hollow.   His coat was strawlike and very coarse.   Of course I fed him.  The next day, he came with his brother and I fed the two of them for a couple of weeks.   They started to look healthier or at least less starving.  The one on the right, who let me pet him started staying around here but the second cat, came and went.   Then the brother just disappeared, leaving his brother here, alone.  Our orange deck kitty would sit on our laps and purr and purr for as long as you'd let him.  He'd cry at the door when he wanted food, water or just for some company.  He'd sit on the windowsill all evening until it was too dark to see.   

Phil outside
One evening we were around the campfire and there was some animal making weird noises in the nearby bushes.  It was unsettling enough that we cut our campfire time short and moved inside.   Our orange deck kitty started crying at the door and them moved to any window he could find and cried at those too.   I guess you can see where this is going....   We scooped up the orange kitty and moved him into the garage for a couple of days, until I could get him to a vet.   He was happy  as anything in the garage, not panicking to get out and loved having people visit him.   We figured he was just about 5 or 6 months old, due to his size, but after a thorough check up, where he was vaccinated and declared not likely to be a risk to our own house kitties, he's moved inside.   The vet said he's just a tiny cat, about a year old, who has had a bit of a rough life.   He's going back in a couple of weeks to get those dangley bits removed.   

Phil is another kitty who likes to sleep on wool blankets
  Al named our little orange kitty Phil.  Phil seems to have adjusted quite nicely to being a house cat.  He's gained a bit of weight and his fur is getting soft and silky.

  We never did figure out what animal was making the odd noises but it was just before the fox attacks, but we'll never know for sure.   Phil's brother comes back once in a while but he is much more feral than our new baby.    I guess in all this was a lucky week.  Lucky in that so far we only seemed to have lost one chook in the fox attacks and lucky that a sweet, feral kitty chose us to save him.




Monday, 7 August 2017

Loons, rugs and mindless knitting

This rug has taken forever to weave off.   It is made from multiple wool yarns, plied together and wool fabric, cut into strips, in the Shaker rug tradition.   I'd cut half the fabric into strips, divided the strips into equal piles and set the second pile aside.   This was so that I'd know the half way mark and be able to end on the same pattern, so that the rug would be symmetrical.   However, I set the still whole piece of wool fabric aside and started questioning myself when I realized that I wouldn't have enough of the rag strips.   It took me a while to weigh options and decide on how to finish it.  I was almost halfway done when I found the remaining fabric, sigh.. I made some changes that are fine, but I'd have preferred my original design.  None the less, it is finally done.

I threaded the loom in a diamond twill pattern, knowing that I'd have several viable treadling options.  The Shaker style rug was done in a tabby weave.   This one, with a recycled duvet cover is the diamond twill.  The multi-coloured warp shows nicely on the nearly solid rags.

2 rugs down on the 11 1/2 yard warp.  I forgot to write down the length of the first rug, so I've only got a vague idea of what is left to weave off.  I'm thinking 3 more rugs at most.     I'm weaving hems for all these rugs.   It's easy to hem them up on the machine and  I think they are more durable than fringed rugs.
We were on a day trip to visit more of the Lake Erie towns.   This is the harbour in Port Rowan.  It's  a lovely little town, much bigger than we'd anticipated.     This loon was bobbing about in the lake, ignoring the fishermen and tourists enjoying the somewhat grey, breezy but very comfortable day.

The other day the skies opened up with once again, another torrential downpour, with lightning and thunder booming around us.  I was in the store filled with fabrics, yarn and craft supplies.  While I was there only for some thread and piping cord, a couple of skeins of cotton yarn jumped into my arms as I waited out the storm.  

I knew that with the day trips we'd be taking, that a mindless knitting project would come in handy while I was in the passenger seat.   I've been knitting dishcloths and I learned something interesting.   I can knit the first 3/4 of the dishcloth without any issues.  I hardly even have to look down while knitting, except for the decreases on the last half.   But, when I get half the decreases done, I need to stop because suddenly I'm looking down too much and I instantly get horribly car sick - as in pull over if I holler.   So I've been knitting 3/4 in the car and tucking it away until I get home to finish.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Two weeks crammed into one post!

 I've been making jam.   In the middle of July, I brought home  container of strawberries, my son brought some and so did hubby.  In the end there were 4 lbs of strawberries in the fridge.   After my son made cheesecake and we gorged on a bunch, I still had enough left to make a batch of jam. 

I'd looked at our market, but the vendor from Niagara with all the baskets of fruit, isn't there this year.   We were going to do a run down to the area to get apricots, but my sweetie found some locally.  I was thrilled to be able to make a batch of apricot jam.   I used pectin and was checking out recipes.  To my surprise, the recipe on the Canadian Certo packet insert is different than the U.S. recipe on their website.  Not just a little different either.  There was more fruit and a smaller fruit to sugar ratio for the same amount of pectin in the U.S. recipe.     Presuming the product is the same, I mean it's pectin, then that means the info about making sure you keep the fruit and sugar amounts exact isn't actually that important.  Obviously you need enough pectin for it to gel with the lesser cooking time and you need enough sugar to keep the beasties away, but there must be some flexibility.   I tried the U.S. recipe.  It's fruitier, not as sweet and way better than my previous apricot jam which was good to begin with.

There is also cherry jam - so yummy.   I found some frozen cherries in the back of the freezer.  I tossed them into the food processor a bit at a time and pulsed them until they were chopped up finely.   Jam is a great use for that bit of uneaten frozen fruit.  This batch is pretty and so tasty.   The bread is gluten free from the freezer section.  It's by Little Northern Bakery and it is really pretty decent for a gluten free bread.  So much so that the two little sections in the store freezer are often nearly empty or empty of the loaves.  It is so much better than the big name gluten free bread - really so much better.

We took a day trip on Saturday.  We went to Port Stanley but just kept on driving.  It was a little too touristy for us.  Just down the road though was Port Bruce.  We parked the car and took a trip over the sand dune to the lake.   I'd taken my shoes off and ouch, the heat off the sand was unbelievable.  The sand is  quite dark in colour.   It was absorbing the heat something fierce.   I had to put my shoes back on or walk in the water, which was a little too pebbly for my tender tootsies.   However, with a pair of water safe shoes, the beach would be great.   It wasn't crowded at all, despite it being a gazillion degrees out side - hmm, maybe 30° with a humidex of something more.   It was pretty and picturesque.  The water seemed clean and I'd definitely go there for a picnic and some beach play.   The town is tiny though.  I think it had only a cafe and an ice cream stand.  

We ended up in Port Burwell where we toured the HMCS Ojibwa, a retired diesel submarine.  Most of the inside of the submarine is controlled, so despite the fact that the technology is very old, we could look but no photos were allowed.  I'm standing at the back of the boat, looking toward the front.   It was an hour long tour, which was really interesting and well done.   The tour guide had the coolest Doc Marten boots on as well.

Today, at almost stupid early, the guys came from the eco metal recycling place in Hamilton to remove our oil tank.   They were here at about 7:30 am and were gone by 9 am, along with our old oil tank.   I hardly saw them, though there was a bit of grunting and gentle cussing when they had to haul it out of our basement.   At noon, the tree service dumped a chook playground in the driveway.  There were 4 of them sitting in various spots on or in the pile of logs only 10 minutes later.  

I've been hunting around for something called Gum Tragacanth - used in candy making.  So far I haven't found any locally or reasonably close.  This will take more research...