Without a Word (Wednesday)

July 24, 2013 - Pincherries

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I feel like a squirrel.

I started dehydrating the blueberries (gathered at the Muddy Road last weekend) yesterday. The manual and a couple of website mentioned that it’d take 12-15 hours to dry but by bed time, they still weren’t ready so I let the Excalibur run throughout the night. The dehydrator stopped at roughly the 24-hour mark.

Some of the berries were shrivelled this morning while others kept their almost perfectly round shape (though they were of course, hollow). They now have a flaky texture. A couple that I taste-tested where a bit gooey, like store-bought raisins. Maybe I left them in the dehydrator too long?

I guess I’ll find out because I’ll sure be needing a lot more if I’m hoping to save enough to last me through the winter. The photo shows the entire yield from the harvest (minus about a cup, which was used in a morning smoothie).

July 23, 2013 - Dried Blueberries

Blue and Saskatoon

I keep meaning to post an article, especially when we come back home from a weekend at Muddy Road.  There is more to tell than what I’ve been sharing, it’s just that there are plenty of other things that have been occupying my time so the stories turn out hurried or non-existent.  Today will be no different because some tussah silk on the drop spindle and season 1, episode 4 of Game of Thrones awaits me.  Sorry about that.

We had some friends out at Muddy Road last weekend.  Our first time squeezing a group into the shack.  It was messy and overrun by kids the entire time, but fun.  There were a few pleasantries in the berry department too.

First, Dad told me about a decent patch of wild strawberries that probably started a few years ago by the generator shack.  He hasn’t mowed the lawn that far down in at least that amount of time.  A couple of weekends ago, I mowed in the areas that used to be maintained when I was younger but are now left to their own devices.  In front of the log cabin, beside the greenhouse, at the horseshoe pit, and near the generator shack.  I guess Dad wanted to outshine me so he decided to clear all the way down to Claire’s property.  And so he stumbled across the strawberries.  Good for him for having cleared lawn.  And good for us for having access to strawberries for breakfast without having to drive the ATV.  I hope this patch grows far and wide!

Some of the blueberries are now ready for harvest!  If there’s one sure step I can make in transitioning to self-reliance and wild, it’s gathering enough berries to last us until next year.  We got our hands on a small chest freezer a few months ago, and it’s ready to be filled!  The berries were far and few last summer, it was so dry, but this year seems promising.  I snuck away Sunday morning to check out one of my regular spots (twenty-ish feet away from the shack) and didn’t stop picking until a couple of hours later.  One of the containers:
July 21, 2013 - Blueberries

Fortunately nobody showed much interest in eating them for breakfast (though I did show up at the table only near the end), which means I was able to overpack our 9-tray Excalibur dehydrator this morning!  It smells like blueberry pie in here!  It’s a decent start, I feel until our holiday next weekend, where I will pluck those plants dry (and collect some leaves and perhaps even roots, too).

The absolute highlight is the discovery of what I believe are two giant saskatoon berry trees!  Also known as serviceberry.  There is still plenty of research to do on the matter, so don’t quote me on this, but if it’s true, this will go down as one of the most exciting additions to Harvest 2013.  We have a few bushes of a smaller variety on the property that we’ve been nibbling from these past few years, it’s that what they actually are.  Dad only knew them as plum berries and I had never bothered to learn the proper name.  After giving the kids the grand tour of where the bushes could be found, the last one being behind the log cabin, I looked near the end of the driveway and spotted a much larger tree with the same coloured berries.  Now this is where the non-responsible harvester in me took over (we all have those sides to us, don’t we?).  With a small bowl in hand, I picked and taste-tested (I know).  Picked and taste-tested (I know, I know.).

Although the smaller bushes’ fruit have more of an oval shape, the larger variety berries are rounder (like the images shown on Google).  The veins on the leaves also differ.  The crown bottoms on both fruit varieties are the same though, and not only do they taste almost the same, but also both have the same kind of pits inside (I KNOW!).  Safety first, we didn’t end up serving them for Saturday morning breakfast.  I guess it’s a good thing, because although it’s mentioned in “Edible & Medicinal Plants of Canada” that the plants were eaten fresh, there happens to also be a warning about the leaves and pits containing “poisonous cyanide compounds” that only cooking or drying can destroy.

June 20, 2013 - Saskatoon Berries

My guides aren’t very helpful and I wonder what these toxicity precautions are all about?  Not that I mind making jams, pies, and muffins if need be but I would like the added option of on-the-spot fresh.  Worse case scenario, personal experience confirms that the consumption of 50ish fresh berries is perfectly safe for me, anyway.

I SAID I KNOW!!

Happy Birthday to Me

…Happy birthday to me.  Happy birthday, happy birthday.  Happy birthday to me.

Note that my birthday isn’t until Friday, but I wished for a niddy noddy and fibers, made it happen with a couple of Etsy purchases, and now both packages are here with me!

I did put some effort into creating my own niddy noddy, seeing as how they’re fairly straight-forward.  A lot of the tutorials found online use PVC piping.  Wouldn’t you know it though, Home Depot doesn’t carry the plastic T connectors that were needed…  Effort was also put into searching local shops, with the exception of  Yarns and Such.  Actually, I made a phone call during regular hours but the store was closed (holidays I imagine) and downloaded their online catalog without luck.  With that, I browsed Etsy until I came across theknitstore.  And there they were:

July 9, 2013 - Niddy Noddy and Spindle

Not only a niddy noddy, but also a drop spindle (it’s always good to have a spare) in the same listing.  Both are made of maple.  The nice feature about the niddy noddy is that it’s interchangeable with the other two rods (not shown in the picture) so it can measure 2 yards, 1 1/2 yards, or a 1 yard skein.  They are unfinished but at a total of US $23.95, shipping included, I won’t really complain.  Really, I’m just happy to have the niddy noddy so I can take care of one of my second spinning project, which has been sitting on its spindle for, I’d say, at least a year.

July 9, 2012 - Spun

The roving and (finished) spindle were gifted to me in a personal swap by a girl named Angelica, who happens to be the owner of ArachneFiberArts, another Etsy shop.  I then plied it with a KnitPicks yarn from my stash.  I can’t wait to turn this baby into a skein!  And then afterwards, I’m going to keep on spinning!

July 9, 2013 - Rovings (part 1)July 9, 2013 - Rovings (part 2)

Those are all superwash, except for two in the second image.  The top left is a tussah silk and the bottom one with the pink is an Icelandic roving.  I’m still very new to spinning and don’t really know much (/anything) about fibers so it’ll be exciting to see the distinction of all three types when it comes to drafting.  The whole lot was purchased from dyeingforcolour, located in Trenton, Ontario.  I’m not going to say how much money was spent but I will emphasize that knowing how to spin yarn is a valuable skill but I can’t learn unless I’m willing to invest

These are among some of the material things that will make this soon-to-be 31 year-old girl feel like a woman.  Ok, so there is one more thing that will be arriving later this week but I’m not saying anything more until it’s here.

Rainy Day Rhubarb Harvest and Preparation (and Cantaloupe Vanilla Jam, too)

Scrolling through my Facebook wall, I see a lot of complaints about today’s weather.  Dark and gloom, ongoing rain, and a need to turn on the furnace upon waking.  It’s not that I mention them and their sentiments with judgement.  I would have felt the same if I was at the cottage and wanted to be outdoors, if I didn’t need some downtime to crochet, or if I hadn’t been waiting for all the heat to disappear so I could turn on the stove for some canning.  I took Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round by Marissa McClellan out of the book shelf and flipped through it every day this past week, waiting patiently. While I’d like to focus my efforts on either cultivating or wildcrafting the main ingredients for this year’s preserves, how can I say no to “Cantaloupe Jam with Vanilla?”  Especially, when coincidentally, Beege bought a cantaloupe at the grocery store last night.  Besides, the heavy rain prevented me from going out to collect. Cantaloupe is not the first fruit that springs to mind when a canner’s thoughts turn to jam.  However, for the melon lovers in the crowd, I beg you not to skip this one.  When you combine cantaloupe with a bit of sugar and vanilla, it ends up tasting like the best exotic Creamsicle you’ve ever had.  As a Creamsicle lover, I find this feature highly enticing.  By design, this recipe makes a fairly small batch.  I find that one smallish melon or half of an enormous one yields just the right amount. I used an entire enormous one, there was no way I’d be satisfied coming out with only 3 half-pints, and tweaked the rest of the numbers for an increased yield of two jars.  This one is going to be delicious, I can feel it.  One jar will be donated to the Harvest Moon Potluck and Auction event being held later this year and the rest are for ME! Regardless of the rain, I did go out to the garden to pluck ten pounds of rhubarb afterall.  It sometimes seems like a waste to get the water bath going for just one batch. July 7, 2013 - Rainy Day Harvest Let me tell you, it was one thing to have to hold an umbrella while harvesting and removing the leaves from the rhubarb stalks, but it was definitely more challenging to neatly stack ten pounds on a lawn chair and then carry the pile inside the house.  It really makes me wish I had a harvesting basket.  I used to consider it a luxury item.  After today, it’s turned into a need. I thought I’d make a batch of Rhubarb Syrup as an alternative to the gross pancake syrup Beege tends to buy (I always go for actual maple syrup but he doesn’t view things the same way).  It’s still loaded with sugar, but compared to Aunt Jemima’s Original ingredients (corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, water, cellulose gum, caramel color, salt, sodium benzoate and sorbic acid [preservatives], artificial and natural flavors, sodium hexametaphosphate), the rhuburb syrup will do just fine.  I hope I don’t give off the impression that my eating habits are perfect.  They’re far from perfect.  But I do make an effort and I do know the difference between natural vs Aunt Jemima.  Until I can figure out the whole sugarless jam and jelly thing, there will be some sugar overload involved. I thought I could try the Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam with Earl Grey using one of the boxes of Bernadin N0 Sugar Needed Pectin I bought last week.  Then I thought, if there’s any jam I’d rather have sugar in, it’s a rhubarb flavoured one.  I don’t know how much apple juice would do the trick.  Perhaps it would, it’s worth a shot in the future, or at least some research on the internet, I suppose. I followed the formula to almost a “tea.”  It’s sans Earl Grey.  Get it?  Hehe.  There are 8 half-pints to that batch so surely Harvest Moon will be given one or two of those as well. I’m considering dedicating one of my Etsy shops (either gatheredroots or dreadlocklove) to surplus stock.  It’s just not possible for us to consume everything that’s made.  In fact, I believe we still have some of the rhubarb-mint jam from last year.  Among others…  Not only that but there’s also the I-have-my-eye-on-a-spinning-wheel-and-need-to-raise-some-funds reason.  So is there an interest for homemade preserves? And finally, I can’t be the only one to still have Cantaloupe-Vanilla on the mind, so I almost quite literally froze my ass off outside trying to get a photo. July 7, 2013 - Cantaloupe-Vanilla Jam Take my word for it, it’s even much more stunning in person. Edited to add:  I got nothing else done today.  The dishes are piled sky-high on the counter!