Archive for the ‘dear diary’ Category


This is not the post I was planning to write today, but I just lost almost half of the vegetable garden to a bad hailstorm:

The dog, one of the cats, and I were all outside when it hit, and we are all fine. I stupidly thought I had time to take the dog for a short walk on my neighbour’s property before the rain hit – and I was sure it would just be rain! The skies were dark, but the thunder and lightning seemed quite far off. I made a sprint for home the minute I realised that the odd noise I was hearing was hail hitting the trees behind the field across the road. I called the dog and ran for it, but only made it half-way up the trail to the road before the hail storm hit, and hit hard. Carter and I stood in the middle of the hedge to avoid the worst of the hail. Next time the Environment Canada weather forecast says,

“Severe thunderstorms are imminent or occurring in the area. These storms may produce large hail, damaging winds or heavy rainfall. Remember that some severe thunderstorms can also produce tornadoes.”

I won’t go out!

Drift of hail at our front door:

The zucchini and winter squashes were the worst hit – the plants were just smashed to pieces:

The peppers aren’t likely to recover, but I’m hoping that the tomatoes will – most have damage to the leaves like this, but the plants were strong and growing well before the storm, so they can stand to lose a few leaves:

The potatoes will hopefully be OK, but I’ve probably lost the beans…

It’s really quite disheartening.

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Goes here:

Needless to say, we don’t park our car in the garage. Even in the summer when it’s not half-full of firewood, it’s full of gardening tools and equipment, and usually a rototiller on loan from a friend. One day maybe we’ll have a barn or shed for the tools, but in the meantime we clean & organise the garage once a year in the fall to make room for the firewood.

This will be our third winter heating primarily with wood. We have the oil furnace automatically set to go on for an hour first thing in the morning, to heat up the house as we’re getting out of bed, and then I light the fire in our heat stove. For the rest of the day, except on the coldest, windiest days of the winter, the stove is (just) enough to keep the house at a livable temperature. The furnace goes on again for an hour at dusk, when the outdoor temperature drops significantly.

The first year we heated with wood, we bought 6 (face or stove) cords and had about a cord left over at the end of the winter; however we started heating late, since our stove was on back-order and wasn’t installed until the middle of October. The second year we bought 7 cords of wood and ran out at the beginning of April. It was a very dry winter (very little snowfall) and our neighbors all said they were burning more wood than usual – the lack of snow meant less natural insulation around the foundations of houses.

This year I didn’t want to take any chances, so we bought 10 cords. Once stacked it will run the length of the garage, in a pile as high as t! can reach and three rows deep. I won’t be doing all the stacking myself, though it’s nice to know I could if I needed to. I’m managing about a cord an hour, with regular breaks. Most of my elderly, retired neighbors still stack their own firewood (everyone heats at least partly with wood out here, as it’s about half the price of oil). It’s a good job for a day like today when I want to be able to see what I’ve accomplished; having the wood safely stacked in the dry garage provides a wonderful feeling of security, “No matter what happens, at least we won’t freeze to death!” my subconscious mind says as I’m working.

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I would like to introduce the newest member of our household:

He’s about 11 weeks old, and we got him via a “Kittens free to a good home” ad in our local online agricultural newsletter.

He’s playful, curious, fearless, exceedingly social, and cuddly. Everything a good kitten should be.

We’ve had him almost 3 days. He and Saash are getting along reasonably well. We’re slowly getting him used to Carter, and Carter used to him.

I would like to introduce him to you, but I can’t. He doesn’t have a name yet. We’re working on it.

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I won two Second Place ribbons at the Stormont County Fair!

One for my zucchini loaf with raisins:

I am particularly pleased with this one because it’s my own recipe, not one from a book or website.

And one for my peanut butter cookies:

One of the judges congratulated me particularly on this placing because, apparently, it is a very competitive category!

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Perfect day

Yesterday was a just-about-perfect day:

  • We spent the morning at the Farmer’s Market, catching up with our friends and buying yummy organic food from them
  • We spent the afternoon snowshoeing in the fields behind the house with our dog
  • We spent the evening (and well into the night!) playing cards with our neighbours, the dairy farmers up the road.

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Front Yard

Back Field


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First Egg

This morning when I went out to let the chickens out of the coop into their run, like I do every morning around 10:30 or 11 am, I found our first egg sitting in the sawdust on the floor of the coop! It was all I could do not to race back to the house waving it in the air and shouting “Egg! Egg!” at the top of my lungs. As it was I did call t! quite loudly to show him our prize:

It’s small, which is normal. Young chickens start by laying smaller eggs, and “ramp up” to larger eggs. Here’s a comparison shot with an egg we bought from Hans at the market last week:

I’m hoping that the hens will start to lay in the nest boxes I made for them out of a couple of wicker baskets (I didn’t have enough spoons to build boxes out of spare plywood).

I need to try to find a couple of wood hen eggs to “seed” the nests with in hopes that they will figure out where they are supposed to be laying. Last time I went looking, I hit four different craft shops and the closest I could find were a couple of round wooden doll’s heads – since I know some people use golf balls as substitute eggs, the shape might not matter overly much.

Doesn’t that look like a cozy spot to settle down and lay an egg? The chickens didn’t seem to think so. They scattered the shredded paper all over the coop and knocked the wooden ball under the feed bin. Every morning I search for it and put it back into the nest box in hopes that they will eventually get the right idea.

So our little flock is doing well. Their diet of organic layer mash is supplemented by all our vegetable peelings and any other food scraps that they will eat and are safe to give them (pretty much everything except tea bags and leftover chicken):

And Chief, the head rooster, has been spotted doing his thing with the hens, which bodes well for some of the hens eventually raising their own chicks.

For now, I’m just thrilled that it looks like we’ll have our own fresh eggs all winter, and probably enough to pass on to family, friends and neighbors as well.

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Wake up, drink tea. Check email.

Take the dog for a 4.5k jog. My neighbors wave at us as they slow down to drive by on the gravel roads. It’s -0.5°C when we leave the house and +0.7°C when we get back.

Change into work clothes.

Put on a load of laundry.

Disinfect kitchen worksurfaces, sinks, and chicken-butchering tools.

Kill, hang, bleed, skin, eviscerate, wash, and chill two chickens.

(Get t! to hang the laundry out on the line while I am elbow deep in chicken guts).

Disinfect kitchen worksurfaces, sinks, and chicken-butchering tools.

Put on a batch of bread dough for tonight’s supper of home-made pizza and a loaf of bread.

Knit a couple of inches of the sock I’m working on.

Bring the laundry in. It’s sleeting out.

Close up the chicken coop for the night.

Mop/disinfect the kitchen floor (post chicken-butchering) while t! takes the dog out for his evening walk.

Make and eat pizza for supper. Yum. Put bread in for second rise.

Watch an episode of something on DVD (we don’t have TV reception or cable) while the bread bakes.

Post to blog.

Fall exhausted into bed.

Tomorrow: Farmer’s market for groceries, possibly flea market for tools & other things. Chores. Cleaning out and re-organizing the garage in preparation for stacking our winter firewood in it.

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We slaughtered, plucked, dressed and wrapped our first chicken today. It took 4.5 hours start-to-finish. There will be a photo essay once we have… ahem… refined the process somewhat. Important notes: 1. Starve the chickens for 24 hours prior to slaughter. 2. Cut the entire head off to make sure it bleeds out properly. 3. Get better at plucking and dressing.

After the chicken was wrapped for the freezer and I had thoroughly cleaned all the tools & work-surfaces, I desperately wanted to order pizza for dinner. Am having a hand-made-by-a-local-and-bought-at-the-farmer’s-market Jamaican patty instead, and will follow it up with the lentil-beef soup I made for the crafting weekend. And a whiskey.

The crafting weekend was fabulous. There will be a full post about it tomorrow.

Also, I need to change my banner photo to an Autumn-theemed one.

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In a month’s time, I turn 40.

I’ve spent the last 9 years not paying too much attention to my age, nor doing very much to mark the passing years, but turning 40 seems significant, somehow.

I’ve got a vague inkling of an idea of something I might want to do to mark this birthday, but I’m still trying to decide if I actually do want to do something special, and if I do, to work out the details of what.

I will probably blog about it on and off for the next month.

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