Saturday, 28 May 2011

I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover...

I enjoyed a little R&R at my parents' house in the Annapolis Valley this past weekend. Muffy bolted out of bed at 6 am on Saturday morning, upon hearing the backyard birds sing. "That sound is beautiful! Look Mommy, it is summer here. Look at all the leaves and flowers!" He then proceeded to wake all inhabitants of the house with the exciting (and very loud) announcement that June bugs were mating on the deck! I think this escape to the sun was in order. The ubiquitous fog in our area has us all going a bit snakey. I left home to a temperature reading of 11 degrees Celsius. An hour later I was donning shorts and a tank top in 28 degree sunshine! It's like another world down here!

I deserve the break! I've been a busy little bee this past week, working like a mad woman on that garden of mine! A big thank you to my sweet mother, who has been helping me out with the house and Chi-Chi and Muffy. With my dear hubby vacationing on the other side of the world, I've been forced to take things into my own hands if I ever want to get those seeds in the ground. Although I most certainly miss his company, I have to admit that I'm missing his muscles right now! Although I'm very active and pretty fit, I simply don't compare in productivity when it comes to manual labour! I've been shovelling, shovelling, shovelling, shovelling heavy wet soil. Each night I find myself hitting the pillow with aching, twitching arms and shoulders. I'm proud to say that progress has been made. In retrospect, I would have done everything differently, now that I'm reading up on no-till gardening.....but live and learn I suppose.

On Friday I planted my first row of Jerusalem artichokes and a small patch of rhubarb! I've been busy designing a garden layout in preparation for the upcoming week. My two sweet boys will be helping me out in this area. Although these two little monkeys certainly know how to get into mischief, I've found them to be very respectful of the garden space. Chi-Chi in particular, is so very careful with his planting - approaching the task at hand with such seriousness! This year I'm trying out edamame - a favorite snack of my little Chi-Chi. Involving the wee ones in the garden and allowing them to take some ownership for it is truly the best way to encourage healthy eating and veggie consumption!

The boys and I visited the Wolfville Farmers' Market at their new location on Saturday. What a great space with such a positive, energetic vibe. We picked up some fresh organic asparagus and broccoli - yum! I had to control my urge to buy everything in sight as I know I've got a box full of goodies headed my way from Taproot Farms early this week.

Since reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle just a few weeks ago, I've had food on the brain. I was scanning my posts from a month ago and immediately spotted the image of the fresh fruit I had purchased for Chi-Chi's birthday party. Certainly, a much better option than chips and cheezies, but all those items were certainly not local, shipped from lands far away, burning up fossil fuels to arrive on our plates. Perhaps I should have opted for apple slices and nova scotia blueberry muffins instead? It's been an interesting exercise to examine my shopping habits outside of my local CSA box, looking for areas of improvement.

So, do you think some good luck with sunny skies might be headed my way? Check out all the four and five leaf clovers the boys and I found during a nature walk this morning in the fields surrounding my parents' home! This is only half of them. Seriously, this has to be a sign (:

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Mud Pies Anyone?

I actually had someone look at this "scene" and ask me if I'm putting in a pond for my ducks. That about sums up the very sad (and very very waterlogged) state of my great garden expansion project. The soil in these parts is not exactly ideal. Long before we purchased this property, it was mined for topsoil in certain areas. Because of the abundance of clay, we had to bring in some garden soil if we had any hopes of sprouting some seeds. Up to it's axles in mud, the dump truck simply could not unload a reasonable distance from the garden site. Over zealous to get this project started, I made a HUGE error and hired a Bobcat to ferry the soil to the site. In retrospect, I should have either waited for things to dry out, or sucked it up big time and pulled out my wheelbarrow (a near impossible feat I realized after just one load). The crawlers on the machine tore up the compacted clay and voila - I've got a huge mess on my hands. Oh experienced gardeners out there - any wise words of wisdom?

On to happier topics....I'm loving this sweet sign that my little chicken boys created. I was impressed with the collaboration that took place on this project. They are getting prepared for Friday, "egg day", as they anxiously await the sound of coins jingling into their piggy banks.

I found myself visiting Value Village this week in an effort to escape the rain and fog. I picked up these sweet retro Pyrex dishes. It's difficult to find plastic-free storage containers in such small sizes so I was pretty pleased with this find. Of course, they bring back warm fuzzy childhood memories so I enjoy using them for that reason alone!

Despite my sink hole problems, I'm celebrating the first sprouts from my garden. These are turnip greens, which I'm trying for the first time this year. I fell in love with them last year as they were a fairly regular offering in our CSA basket from Taproot. They are so tasty lightly steamed with a dab of butter. Yum!

Just a bunch of randomness today - as my mind contemplates that sink hole solution! Instead of fresh garden veggies, I may very well be serving mud pies to the family this summer.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Creepy Crawlies

I have to admit, one of the things I love most about having wee ones is the opportunity to step back in time in a sense, and relive my own childhood. Their curiosity and enthusiasm for learning is truly infectious! Inspired by my two budding scientists, I recently initiated a nature/animal study that I was certain would be a hit. I purchased a painted lady butterfly larvae kit from Boreal a few weeks ago. I was so happy for find a Canadian supplier for live specimens. (I just ordered the larvae and food and picked up the containers at a local pet shop) The mail man knocked on my door and handed over a package containing approximately 80 tiny little caterpillars. Although I only purchased 30, they obviously sent along afew extras in case of death! I split up the kit in order to share the experience with as many as possible. Chi-Chi's primary class, Muffy's preschool class, my sister's family and my nephew's primary class are all caring for and studying the caterpillars as they undergo the metamorphosis to butterflies! With Chi-Chi being in French Immersion, we are also learning the French vocabulary associated with the project.

On first glance, I was skeptical the project would be a success. The larvae were no bigger than a tiny ant when they arrived. Wow! These little guys are big eaters and have been growing steadily each day. Muffy comes down each morning and exclaims how much they grew overnight. They are certainly developing into some big, juicy caterpillars so I'm expecting they will soon start forming into chrysalises.

Like all little boys, Chi-Chi and Muffy have caught caterpillars in the past. After a short observation, we've always released them since we were never able to determine what proper food to provide. This will be a wonderful opportunity to view the entire process in an up-close and personal manner. Once we observe the adult butterflies for a few days, we will be releasing them into nature.

Well, at least our little caterpillars make us feel like SOMETHING around here is growing! My garden, which now resembles a pond after all this rain, certainly isn't! Let's hope for some sun soon!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

There's No Business Like Egg Business

Nothing quite says spring like the sight and sound of a new baby chick. We've currently got 7 new little feathered friends peeping and pooping in the garage! As I mentioned in my last post, we are in the midst of building a small barn. The barn will serve a number of purposes, including home to our growing flock of fowl...and other exciting plans I have rattling around in my head. It appears hubby may be on a different page on the matter. I spyed a sketch he prepared of the floor plan which alloted the vast majority of space to his surfboard and other miscellaneous storage, with a corner scratched out for my gardening supplies and livestock. Those surfboads might have to make room for the pony I'm dreaming of. (:

With "my little pony" remaining a mere childhood dream at this point, I'm focusing on our flock of chickens and ducks. I have to admit, it's pretty easy to get caught up in the excitment of learning about and acquiring new breeds. On Easter morning, I had the whole family up bright and early, on the road to Silverlane Farm Shop in New Germany, Nova Scotia. The Easter Bunny was so accomodating this year and came to our house a day early (what great service). I was on a quest to acquire Cuckoo Maran chicks for our little flock. These hens, known as the "chocolate layers", produce eggs of a deep chocolate brown. I became fascinated with them and was so thrilled to find a Nova Scotia source. We also purchased a few more Americauna chicks to add to our flock of green layers. Sometimes I wonder what Chi-Chi and Muffy will think of me when they look back on these days.....dragging the family across the province to source out my coveted birds. Perhaps they will think that Mommy is just like her Maran's, a little "cuckoo".

Anyway, a growing flock inevitably leads to a growing supply of eggs in the fridge! Since we've got a bit of a surplus, I decided it might be a good idea to start sharing the goods. I have a lovely neighbour who expressed an interest in purchasing a dozen eggs every couple of weeks. We agreed that although I don't feel compelled to take her money, it would be a good learning experience for the boys to start a little egg selling endeavour. Both boys assist me in caring for the birds and collecting the eggs so it's not a stretch to say they have earned the funds. We agreed that every second Friday, she will pop by the house to pick up her eggs. It's a nice way to stay in touch with a neighbour, and a great way to start teaching the children about earning, saving, spending and financial management. Underneath this apron of mine, I'm still an accountant (:

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Stuck in the Muck

The only living creatures around these parts that are NOT complaining about our recent wet weather are the ducks. While I'm huddled up inside next to the wood stove, Lovie, Ducky and Puddle are happily splashing and waddling about in the rain and fog. This trio seems oblivious to the fact that their pen has turned into a sink hole of muck! Each trip to the coop has me wading up to my ankles in the brown stuff.

I have to admit, spring is often a very frustrating season for me. This recent streak of precipitation has left me longing for sun and chomping at the bit to give my green thumb a work out. The season brings about so much hope, anticipation and possibility, yet everything is on hold for the time being. I'm currently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver as part of a book club with Taproot Farms, my local CSA. I've had my nose between the pages every spare moment from waiting in the car at school pick up to stirring the tomato sauce on the stove.

Has anyone else read this book? It's been out for awhile, which just goes to show how far behind I am on my reading list! She has me so inspired! Not only do I want to deepen my commitment to eating locally grown food, but I also want our family to produce more of the food that graces our dinner plates. I've always had a small back yard veggie plot to complement the offerings from our CSA. The morning after starting this book, I was out in the yard turning soil over, preparing for my great garden expansion. I need to take baby steps and I have to continually remind myself of this (or hubby does that for me!!).

Yes, this rain has me impatiently playing the waiting game. Other efforts to expand our little hobby farm include the building of a barn....errrr church....barn. We purchased a 150+ year old church from rural Nova Scotia to be relocated on our property. The building was no longer needed or wanted by the parish, and we are so thrilled to provide it with a loving home! Those old hand hewn beams make a girl weak in the knees they are so gorgeous. As I run my hands over them, I can't help but wonder about the lives of those who built this structure so long ago. Would they believe it's now standing 300km away from the original location? Our expanding flock of chickens and ducks will be moving into the barn to more spacious and luxurious accomodations.

With outdoor projects moving at a snail's pace, I'm focusing my efforts indoors - in the kitchen to be more specific. Inspired by Kingsolver's book, I just ordered the supplies to make my own mozzarella for our homemade pizza. The success and ease of my yogurt has me feeling pretty confident it will be as simple as she says. I ordered it from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company and I'll be sure to let you know how it goes! I'm thinking this would be the perfect use for delicious milk from Fox Hill Cheese House, conveniently located down the street from my parents' house (they are so lukcy!).

Happy Mother's Day to everyone! I'll be spending mine tilling my new garden beds (hopefully) and enjoying some time with my own mommy, with a visit to Port Williams. All I really want for Mother's Day is some sunny weather.....and one peek outside seems to indicate I might just get my wish (: