Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's Time For: Chicken Pinata!

Winter has set in early this year. With daytime highs currently around -10 C (12F) The Girls and Rocky will not be going outside much. We don't want them getting bored and pecking at each other, so we look for ways to keep them amused! We'll use various means, but because we had some stale bread, we started by installing the Chicken Pinata! It's a square holder for suet blocks, which we hang from the ceiling, filled with bread. I think they knew what was going on - can chickens remember things? They crowded around as I got it organized and some of them were jumping up to peck at it while it was still in my hand. Made attaching the string rather difficult! They immediately crowded around, pecking at it! A good time was had by all - hardly a crumb was left when I returned a couple of hours later. We'll fill it with various things throughout the winter, not just leftovers and stale food. During the summer, the chickens get lots of fresh garden vegetables, and the yolks of their eggs are a gorgeous, deep yellow. We always see the colour fade as the amount of fresh veggies decreases. So, we'll put carrot peelings, hunks of squash and such into the Pinata, and I'll start a flat of lettuce soon to use. As Cindy Lauper says: Girls Just Want To Have Fun!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

If You Build It....

Love this! From a link on eBrandon, if recycling if fun, people will do it! This is from, it's someplace in Europe and it's about making recycling work. This is such a fun, inventive idea - and it encouraged people to recycle their bottles way more than the conventional collection method. Check it out here!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Warm Winter Wishes

We've been saving our pennies for some time now. We wished to ensure that we could be warm all winter - no matter what. And today, we made it happen! We had installed a high efficiency wood stove. Now, winters are very, very cold here in Manitoba. We are outside of the city of Brandon and during storms, power can be a little unreliable here. We could, literally, freeze to death in some freaky, wild blizzard, worst-case-scenario. Did I mention that it can get really, really, really cold here?

There was a wood stove in the house when we took it over. It could not, however, be insured because it wasn't up to current code. It was big, had no windows, was leaking and wasn't very efficient. We may still have to increase the hearth around the new one a bit, but we will be able to insure it. And is this little stove ever beautiful: full glass door so you can see your fire, cook top so that we won't starve to death in our freaky scenario, awesome little ash drawer! It stands up on a pedestal so the fire is at eye-level when we're seated. We can supply a fair amount of our own firewood from our shelter belt: natural dead fall and some pruning of the willow and maple, mostly. We can purchase some oak and other woods quite readily. Of course, we could get into a whole, interesting discussion about burning wood and the environment, but our alternative here is existing electric base boards. Expensive to run and absolutely no good for anything during a power failure! What our little stove means to us: a little wintertime peace of mind!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Help Some Great Causes By Voting!

I'm not much of a pop drinker, and I must confess in a taste challenge I prefer C*** to P****, but I've got to give kudos to Pepsi. They've got a program called Refresh Everything Canada where they are offering grants to great causes. Check out the website here. Fun thing is: we the people get to vote! Voting is open until December 31st. You can vote for up to ten causes every day. There are grants available of $5,000, $10,000, $25,000 and $100,000. There are categories like Health, Arts & Culture, Food & Shelter, The Planet, Neighbourhoods and Education. What's near and dear to your heart? Animal welfare? Composting programs? Music? Internet training for seniors? There are soooo many great ideas vying for the grants. You can also search for organizations near you that are competing for grants, helping to support great projects in your area. My favourites? SIFE Brandon, whose looking to develop a community garden here in Brandon at the $25,000 level. And Craig Street Cats, in Winnipeg, who work to spay and neuter and care for feral cats at the $100,000 level. I came across the Refresh Everything Canada website through Craig Street Cats' website, which I've been using for some advice on my own little feral cat population. I'm also voting for 'Keep Eagle's Fire Running', a Portage la Prairie group looking to upgrade the youth centre there and Big Brothers Big Sisters Winnipeg. There's a few other animal welfare and composting programs I'm voting for, but I can too easily use up my ten votes a day on all the great causes. Check it out, sign up today and start voting!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Round Up Time!

It was time for the pigs to go to......well, Disneyland is the way my blogging friend Bill at 'Word....from Willow Garden' puts it. I kind of like that expression, yet I know it's no holiday for the Berkshires. Taking the pigs in is always a hard day. Even though they've been raised as livestock, always with the intention of filling the freezer, it's still hard to send them on their way. Pigs are really incredible creatures, each with his or her own personality. We've been their guardians and keepers for a number of months, their care and feeding a large part of the everyday routine.

Transportation proved a bit of a problem this year: our usual method was not available. After some phone calls we found a nice man named Dennis who would move them for us. Our pastured pigs proved a bit of a problem, as always. Pigs are often, of course, in pens which are connected to chutes or walkways that would lead to a loading dock. Without chutes and in an open field, our pigs were a little too free to run around; it was hard to herd the pigs into Dennis' trailer. Eventually, the deed was done and off they went. Soon, some beautiful Berkshire pork will fill the freezer; meat we know has no hormones, no antibiotics and is filled with the nutrition of our organically grown vegetables. And all just in time - as we're having a blizzard today!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Dark Days Challenge Is Back!

Yes, it's that time again! The 4th Annual Dark Days Challenge is set to begin early in December! If you're not familiar - the Dark Days Challenge is hosted by Laura, over at the Urban Hennery. It's a challenge to eat local food during the long, cold nights of winter, when Farmers' Markets are largely over and done. You source local ingredients, cook a meal, take some photos and then blog about it! If you don't have a blog, you can still participate by sharing your meal in the comments section of each of Laura's summary posts. Laura knows this is hard - all she asks is one meal a week! And she's extended the ingredient search area beyond the usual '100 Mile Diet' to 150 miles. Your ingredients should be SOLE: sustainable, organic, local and ethical.

This is going to be our second year participating. We can hardly wait! The weekly summaries were so much fun. You learn so much from people who are all over North America. The ingredient searches are fun, the recipe adjustments are amusing (salt and pepper, really, are not local for anybody!) and some fabulous recipes are shared. We learned a lot about how people are preparing to be more self-sufficient and are freezing, canning and storing. Should be some good eating! Hope you'll join us!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Christmas in November?

My Christmas cactus is, once again, a little ahead of schedule. It has done this ever since we moved to Manitoba. I believe I understand why: a zycocactus is triggered to bloom by short days and cool temperatures. Here in the North, in Canada, our days get short early in the fall so there is one trigger. Second, I keep this little cactus in the sun room, which is not very well insulated. We had some very cool, frosty nights early in September and the sun room is always cooler than the rest of the house. So, voila! Full bloom by the middle of November. I'm not really complaining - it's gorgeous any time of year. And if I was really uptight about it I could move the plant into the main house and keep it a little warmer a little longer. As is, we carry on and enjoy it whenever it does it's thing. And we know, we'll probably be able to enjoy a second set of blooms sometime in March!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

First Snow!

We've been away for a wee bit, and returned home last night to the first snow of the season! The drive from the Winnipeg Airport home to Brandon seemed to get more, ummmm, interesting with every passing mile. What started as a few wet flakes turned into a bit of a blowing, snowing mess! Now, this isn't an unusual time for the first snow; I'm not sure statistically when we get it but folks around here always think it's a good thing if it's not snowy for Halloween. Because we've been away, there are still a few things undone - like carrots and beets still in the field. They need to come out and go into proper storage before it freezes solid and there's three feet of snow covering them. Fortunately, the forecast looks pretty good the next few days and this snow should melt away and we'll have a window of three or four days to dig them! Everything else is pretty much done - except getting the pigs off to 'Disneyland', as blogger Bill Stearman would say over at 'Word...from Willow Gardens'. That's a chore that will probably be accomplished next week.