Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Toys for Chickens

We've opened up the coop's chicken door a few times in the last few weeks, when it was a little milder. The chickens don't seem even slightly interested in going outside at -6 C (20 F or so). And we don't want them to get cabin fever, now do we? So we've done a little reading on keeping them amused and one thing that came up in a few places was suet holders stuffed with vegetables. Now, we have some suet holders because we love to feed the wild birds. So we tried hanging one from the roof stuffed with some lettuce that was going 'off'. A hit! It's hanging by string so it moves and swings about ten inches off the floor. Then we tried some chopped cabbage from the root cellar. Another winner! Today, is was some dried bread crusts stuffed in the little box. Tomorrow, maybe some Kabocha squash peeled and cubed, with the seeds. We just want the hens to be happy, don't ya know?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Christmas Thing To Do

As we were sitting amid all the splendor of our little Christmas at home, it occurred to me that I had a Kiva credit. What a wonderful way to spend some time Boxing Day! If you are not familiar with Kiva, it is a non-profit agency that co-ordinates micro-loans to small business people around the world. Kiva works with many field agencies in many countries. I have a penchant for supporting women entrepreneurs, (I currently am helping two Norah's in different parts of Africa) and Farmer Man likes to support farmers. Loan amounts start at $25 which you can put into your 'account' with Paypal or a credit card. You then peruse the list of people waiting for a loan to come through. It's really eye-opening - a woman in Latin America asking for $300 to buy more sodas for her little store, a man in Eastern Europe looking for $500 for maintenance for his truck so that he can take on more transport work. There is info on each borrower and a complete breakdown of the loan and repayment terms. Kiva has a very low default rate, the money comes back into your account and you can choose to withdraw it or re-loan it. You get updates regularly and, well, it's just a great thing to do! So we spent some time choosing who we would re-loan our funds to - wish we had enough money to loan some to everyone on Kiva's list!! Maybe that's what we'll ask Santa for next year! Check it out - it feels good!

Dark Days Challenge Meal Week 6

Well, The Berks are back and (mostly) in the freezers. Fortunately, it is cold enough that the bit that wouldn't fit are still frozen. Some serious freezer re-organizing must go on now that the holiday madness is over! First meal, Christmas Eve, was pork chops seasoned and roasted, served with a mushroom sauce (okay, not so local) and just a massive serving of scallop potatoes! The package had four chops but Farmer Man only cooked two because they were huge! As is, I could only eat half of mine! The other two will be a nice respite from turkey sometime between now and New Years! Also coming up, probably this Sunday: home-raised bacon and farm fresh eggs for breakfast before Farmer Man settles in for some serious football!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays!

We wish all our family, friends and fellow locavores a Happy, Healthy and Very Merry Holiday Season! May your New Year be full of wonderful, local food!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

December 21, the shortest day of the year. The start of winter. It was a gorgeous, foggy morning here, with ice crystals coating every thing. The sun rose far off to the south. Cold, minus 20 C (about minus 8 F) this morning. Little wind, which always makes the day better! And we keep trying to remember: the days just get longer now........

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Meal

Crazy as it may sound, Farmer Man and I have not sat down together for a meal this week. Too crazy with differing work schedules, errands and to-do's. We have eaten locally produced food, though! Porridge with local organic oats, spelt and golden flax from Windy Hill Farms. One of the advantages of living on the Prairies is local grains, wheats and legumes. Never thought to take a picture a picture of breakfast, however. Next week things should calm down, and at least on Christmas Day we'll be dining together!

Friday, December 18, 2009

We Love Our Herb Pot!

Nothing gets us through the winter like our herb pot! It's three years old now, and everything is doing fairly well. It sits outside by the fountain all summer and comes back inside quite early in the fall - often around Labour Day. I don't want it to get any frost which can happen almost anytime by the end of August around here! There is rosemary, sage, tarragon, oregano and lemon balm in this pot. Nothing grows much during the winter so we can't clip is wholesale, but used sparingly is will get us by until it starts to grow again as the days get longer.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Extra Insulation

Not only are we wearing tons of extra layers these days, but Farmer Man also added an extra layer to the sunroom. We love our little sunroom: we hang out there in the spring and fall, start seeds there in late winter and it's the only natural light onto our kitchen. In the winter, it is really toooo cold to enjoy. So, the last couple of years, Farmer Man has piled straw bales around and it really helps! The bales probably keep the temperature five degrees higher than it would be otherwise. We're still not really 'hanging' in the sunroom these days, but it keeps the plants happier!

Think Spring!

In the midst of a sub-zero cold spell, what's been brightening the mail box are new seed catalogues. This is early - we usually don't start to see catalogues until January. It seems slightly surreal because we haven't even done Christmas. We haven't had much time to peruse them, but just knowing they are there gives us a warm, festive glow!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dark Days Challenge Meal

This week, being very busy, we went for a one pot meal. There is definitely a recurring theme to our meals right now: potatoes, onions, winter squash and carrots, all things in our root cellar. For this week's meal we got a lovely little beef roast from the local butcher shop. We're very fortunate to have a couple of great butchers in our small city featuring local products. Local beef and pork are not hard to find for us in the middle of cattle and grain country! Grass-fed, free-range and organic are all possible, but it was convenience that had us grab what we could this week. A simple pot roast, surrounded by veggies including some delicious Kabocha squash, a little extra water in the pot and some fresh herbs cut from the pot made for a simple and delicious dinner. And lots of leftovers for sandwiches! If you haven't checked out the Dark Days Challenge at the (not so) Urban Hennery it is well worth it! The re-cap each week has tons of awesome recipes and great tips on sourcing local food!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chicken Integration!

The new coop is finished, and just like that The Girls and The Chicks are moved in! Buddy has gone back to where he came from, Rocky rules the roost and everyone seems to be settling in much better than we anticipated. We had debated about how to join the two flocks, but the weather made the decision easy! We did try to put a bamboo fence between the two but it didn't want to stay up; the two flocks mixed when the fence went over and everyone seemed to be getting along fine. We hung out a while last night after we got everyone in: we wanted to check the temperature, break up any fights or whatever needed doing. Not much needed doing! This morning, too, I sat up there a little while and every thing seemed quite calm. I was just up there again, early afternoon, and there seems to be a little jocking and pecking for position but there are no feathers strewn around or other signs of violence - so fingers crossed for a peaceful transition!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Kitty in a Box!

As Christmas nears, parcels and boxes are wrapped and shipped. As we're getting organized, boxes and wrapping are left around overnight, sometimes. Blondie the cat decided one was perfect for a little bed overnight! Sweet dreams, kitty!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chickens in the Snow

It's chilly - but The Girls and Rocky decided to take a little stroll in the snow, anyway. We've got to be careful about letting them out in colder weather - they may go even though it may not be good for them. They can freeze combs, wattles and toes as well as have respiratory problems. However, I needed to get into their little coop to clean and collect eggs and refresh water. I don't think they will be staying out long!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Do You Need Cute to Get You Through?

If you need cute, cute, cute everyday plus great recipes and country living tales you must check out Farmgirl Fare!! This award winning blog is packed full of all kinds of good things. It's one of my fav things to do every couple of days, just to bring a smile to my face. She's got wonderful archives of past photos so you can literally watch some of her critters as they grow up. Well worth a visit!
This photo is copyrighted by farmgirlfare.

Dark Days Challenge Meal

On Sunday, the only day Farmer Man is home early from the Christmas tree lot, I had a local meal waiting. Something warm and filling! Lamp chops from our friends at Logan Farms, topped with canola oil and red onion (from the root cellar, as are all the veggies). I slow cooked the lamb until Farmer Man arrived home and then broiled them a few minutes to crisp up the onion. Steamed carrots and more of the red onion, and spaghetti squash pancakes! The pancakes were a medium squash, which produced about 2 1/2 cups of spaghetti when baked. I combined that with about 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese (not local, admittedly) and chopped in some fresh sage from the herb pot. Fried on both sides to brown them up and yummy! Served with a little Swiss chard relish my sister made and some sour cream. Very warming after a cold day at the Christmas tree lot!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is Winter Here to Stay?

For the first day of December we got a good blanket of snow. It's actually a little late for us this year (we're not counting the freak snow earlier this fall!) But everything is clean and white, very pretty! Driving is a little hazardous but our truck has four wheel drive, so we're okay. Plus, Farmer Man grew up around here - he's very comfortable driving in snow and snow storms! This is the day we know the gardens are finally put to bed for the winter. It's a little funny catching up on my blog reading this morning: at Green Frieda she's planting her winter garden of lettuce, radish and other goodies! When we start seeds, after Christmas, we usually start a flat of lettuce for our own use. May have to start that flat early this year!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Does a Farmer Do in December?

Sell Christmas trees! A farmer is the perfect candidate for the job! Available (not a whole lot else going on), known to be hardworking and reliable (ask the chickens - Farmer Man gets it done every day at about the same time)! Not looking for a long term position, decent pay - nothing extravagant. He's perfect for the job! Good with people, generally happy and helpful. Keeps him out of trouble for a month!