Monday, 22 August 2016

Well it's August 22, 2016 and I am ashamed to say I have not been updating as I promised.  But as I read one of my older posts about the great garden layout my husband built me using bricks, I decided to try to make a conscientious effort to blog about what I said I would.

So today I will discuss my garden and later tonight I will post some pictures.

Not only do I use the garden in the back to grow vegetables I have also converted our front beds from flowers to vegetables.  This spring I dug up and transplanted perennials to the farthest area of our backyard and sewed beans, peas, basil, garlic chives and rosemary in their place in the front.  The beans included pole beans and low growing bush type bean plants.  Even though we still have our CSA share with Rock N' Horse  Rock N' Horse Farm (and we get fabulous vegetables, meat and eggs from them) , I still like to grow my favorite vegetables - green beans, peas, carrots and tomatoes along with favorite herbs like basil, thyme, sage and rosemary.

So even though we have had a drought here in southern Ontario I am happy to say that this new location in my front yard for vegetables has done spectacularly and I plan on doubling one of the beds to grow more vegetables. When I take the pictures and post them later today I will explain more about my future plan to grow vegetables in this upcoming fall and winter.  I am going to use Niki Jabbour's book that I bought a few years back to fall/winter garden -

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live 

You can get this great book at Year-Round-Vegetable-Gardener-Matter-Where

I will also post a whole bunch of recipes that I have used successfully, or modified/created my own for all the herbs and vegetables I do have.

I discovered a cool website/blog and am ecstatic to see tiny house living is going great in Ontario -  tinyhouseontario I am looking forward to the posts from this site.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Greetings world.  Its been more than a couple of excuse at all for neglecting my blog.  I am still a 'farmgirlwanabe' but work, life and a new hobby have taken over my time.  But still that's not an excuse.  I hope to start blogging regularly about food, farms, etc as well as my new hobby which is making arctic gauntlets for family and friends.  Will post soon something more substantial than just a greeting...

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Well it has been a long time since I took up my 'pen' to write in my blog.  Life got very hectic the past few months as I had a series of health issues which culminated in a prolonged visit to the Emergency department at our local hospital.  However, things have settled down and I am able now to get back to my goal of blogging.

I want to share a picture of what my wonderful husband did for me two years ago so I could maximize our limited backyard space for vegetable production.  Our backyard slopes down from the read to the back of the house.  We have maybe 1-2 inches of topsoil - the rest is rock (in our neighborhood the builders had to dynamite out the basements as we are on top of the Canadian shield outcrop).

Back in Alberta, he had built for me 100 square feet of vegetable garden using up on 2 feet of our yard - he built me two tiers of 2X30 and 2X25 raised beds along the side and back fences.  This is when I started to practice Sqare Foot Gardening as written by Mel Bartholomew. 

Here we decided instead of along the fence we would maximize more space by building three tiers of beds and cutting the property diagonally across the back - here is a picture.  This way instead of trying to dig into the ground to make the beds, he built the tiers above.  The little popsicle sticks mark my seeds that are planted using the square foot methodology.  This way I can differentiate between weeds sprouting and vegetable sprouting (especially for vegetables I have never grown before)

Here is a picture of the other side of the yard where he built me a little patio.

This is what the vegetable area looks like when all the plants have grown:

You can see the pea plants and tomatoe plants are taller than me. The small plants in from of the peas and tomatoes are basil plants.  The peas and tomatoes are supported vertically to maximize the garden area,

Tomorrow I will show you what he has done on the other side of the yard with more raised  beds.  Also this year we are planting potatoes in black sacks, and carrots and zucchini in half barrels.

I can get maximum production within a limited space.  The rear of the  backyard is north and the beds get a lot of the sun during the day - the tomatoes did fantastically that year (2010). They did so well that our black lab would jump in and eat the perfectly ripe tomatoes before we got a chance to harvest.  This year we decided to plant the tomatoes in the front so that we could eat them instead of the dog.

Anyways more tomorrow...

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Wednesday February 15, 2012

So the two heritage breed pork bellies are thawing out in the garage along with the commercial 5 lb chunk of belly.  There are so many reasons for making our bacon.  We control the sugar and salt, we don't use any preservatives but we immediately freeze the bacon once its been roasted and smoked.  I can make lardons which are small little rectangles for stews etc, I can cut thick slices or thin slices as and when I need it.  My husband likes thick chewy bacon while my kids like thin.

One thing I forgot to mention about the mixed breeding of these two piggies - I had mentioned Landrace and Duroc but remembered today there is some Berkshire as well.  It should make for a delicious bacon, pancetta and my first venture into lardo and guanciale -  the latter being the italian word for cured jowls and the first being cured back or belly fat.  There is a city in Italy, Carrara in the northern part of Tuscany where Lardo de Colonnata is made - its a white salume made from the back fat of pigs cured with salt, herbs and spices and placed in chiseled boxes of marble - the same marble that Michelangelo used to sculpt David  (LaCucina Italiana, October 2009, p. 40).  It is cured and stored in these marble chests for up to 6 months.  Then it is sliced thinly like proscuitto is and served simply on freshly made bread.  I dream of the day when I can visit Italy and sample some of this delicacy.

You see a lot of people have a sweet tooth but I have a fat tooth and a salty tooth  - hence my love for charcuterie - cured, roasted, smoked or dried. Pork in particular.

Now I have been told by our local italian barber/hairdresser that cured jowls or guanciale is the ultimate in cured pork meats.  I have a few jowls now in my freezer and will be using Michael Ruhlmans and Brian Polcyn's recipes from their book Charcuterie.   I will thaw some out and cure at the same time as I cure the pork bellies.  Different recipe as it will use garlic, peppercorns and thyme and unlike the bellies it will be hung to dry in our garage as its still cold enough to be like the inside of a fridge.

Tomorrow I will write about making an easy tasty soup starting with a homemade simple broth that is full of nutrients and vitamins and proteins.  And again its simple because it is made over night - the broth simmers over night in a large stockpot in order to squeeze out every flavor from the bones and veggies.  I make the broth each friday night and my son eats soup made from the broth every schools day when he comes home - so far this school year he has not been sick one day.

Anyways tomorrow or Friday depending on how long it takes the bellies to thaw I will take pictures of the process and maybe even a video if I can figure that part out (a good family friend has promised to show me how to do the YOUTUBE upload and then link the blog to the videos.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day - and what better way to celebrate than to prepare for making my home made bacon.  This past weekend we picked up 4 pork bellies (2 per pig) from our local farmer which I mentioned last post - Rock n Horse - I am excited because the 2 piggies came from a cross of Landrace and Duroc - two breeds that are said to be  exceptionally tasty for bacon and meat.  I normally dislike pork chops because I grew up where our mothers were worried about trichinosis in pork so the pork was cooked hockey puck solid - and I never learned how to cook it otherwise.  But the farmer's wife said try their pork chops and we did last night - unbelievable - tender, and so tasty!

I took a cast iron pan and put it in the oven at 450 degrees F - I put a bit of crushed rock sea salt and fresh coarse ground pepper on both sides of the chops  - a couple of pinches each side - as the oven heated up I let the pork sit there with the salt/pepper mixture.  Once the oven beeped I put the chops in the pan and into the  oven for 3 minutes.  When 3 minutes was up I flipped the chops and put them back in the oven  - now these chops were a good inch or more thick.  Why the cast iron?  Well it sears on the bottom and the 450 degree oven also  helps to cook the pork faster - this is how my husband and I learned to make pizzas in under 5 minutes - try it as it really works and for some of us on the verge of anemia it helps to get the extra iron. 

I could do it on the stovetop but I prefer the overall heat in the oven - I left it for another 4-5 minutes to make sure the pork was not pink inside - overall about 10-12 minutes. Took it out - let it rest in the pan for about 3-4 minutes and then served  it - delicious. 

I forgot to mention - we got 4 chops - two went in the oven in the cast iron pot and the other two I diced and made my garlic/pepper sauce for them - all of my family loves garlic and pepper - its so simple -for two diced chops take 3 minced/crushed garlic cloves, then mix 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp sea salt, - you also need 1 tbsp soy sauce and either 1 tbsp oyster sauce if you want it more  like chinese or 1 tbsp fish sauce if you want  more like thai. I use peanut oil but you can use any vegetable oil except olive oil - olive oil can flare at high temperatures

Stirfry the garlic until golden but  not crisp, add the pork and sprinkle the dry mixture and stir fry at high temperature so the diced pork gets a bit crispy, flip and flip - and for me diced means it is bite size for me - probably 1 inch  by 1 inch.  OK once the pork gets a bit crispy and I mean just a bit add the soy sauce, stir fry for another 2-3  minutes, add the oyster sauce or the fish sauce, stir fry some more for another 1-2 minutes - and you have delightful peppery garlicky pork. Make sure its not pink inside - every stove top differs a bit so cook until its stops being pink inside. Again delicious - family could not decide which they liked better - the oven cast iron fried pork or the stir fried pork. 

So now that we had this wonderful pork I can't wait to try the bacon that came from the same pig.  I bought a 5 lbs pork belly from the butcher - regular commercial pork - its my 'base' to test against this new found treasure of heritage naturally stress free raised pork.  We saw the piggies about 3 weeks ago - big and happy and well fed.  Tomorrow is wednesday and I will start to defrost the bellies (they were frozen when we got them).  I will be making two recipes - maple syrup for my north shore quebecer husband and simple bacon for this ol prairie chicken.  It takes up to 7 days to brine the pork belly - my friends and co workers think its lots of work - eckh - no - it sits in a cold garage or a fridge for 7 days - all you have to do is take 20 seconds every second day and flip it - but more about that later.  And making it in winter is perfect because up here in NE Ontario the temperature of the garage is like a fridge (we have had a pretty nice winter with the lowest being -17 celsius). 

Ooops almost forgot - I also got the jowls from the pigs but I'll write tomorrow about that and I also still have to write about confiting pork.  Oh this bloggin is fun...

P.s. I tried to fix my email problem  - I think I got it figured out - and a family friend said he would help me wih the video aspect once I wanted to get that started.

so this little piggie went to the market... this little piggie stayed home....

Monday, 13 February 2012

February 13, 2012

This is exciting - my first ever blog - I have joined the twenty first century and jumped in to partake of the blog world.  But before I write my first blog post I have to thank Sam of Cathartica Farm at   She made my day, my month, my year and even the past few years as she became my blog's first follower before I even designed it afer registering a few weeks ago. 

I am a 40 something cancer surviving prairie chicken born and raised on the Canadian prairies.  I studied Stats and Agriculture at university and upon gaduation went off and found a job to pay the bills.  I specialized in beef cattle production, dreaming of the day when I would own my own little herd of black angus ( way back when before they were as popular now - back then every farmer out west was into the big exotics and no one was interested in the beautiful, friendly and very tasty angus).  But Life has its own way and I never worked in the field except for one short 5 month period after my second child was born.  There were no jobs in the field back then, all my classmates went back to school to do a Master's and because I had been orphaned at 17 and 18  and ran out of money to continue I had to go find a job. I worked in a field related to agriculture but never again got my hands, boots, jeans dirty. 

But I kept the dream alive as much as I could and its still burning bright inside of me.  I got married, had two kids and am still working towards the dream of having my own little 5, or 10 or maybe 50 acres. 

While I work to pay off debts and save enough to put the kids through university when they get to that age, I am doing and learning everything I can for the one day when we make the big move.  Having studied animal science and production I know what the 'big corporate farms' do and how the store product gets to their shelves.  So I do everything I can to raise our family chemical free and to make everything from scratch but not just plain 'ol fare - having lived in the wonderful metropolis of Montreal, Quebec with all of its wonderful restaurants I strive to prepare and cook our food so it tastes like it  would if it was served at great restaurants but at a fraction of the cost.  At the same time I learn everything I can for us to live 'off the grid'.

I will write about preserving food including canning and dehydrating, easy fast ways to make great soups and meals from scratch, making charcuterie including, bacon, pancetta, sausages, cured  meats and fish as well as SMOKIN! all of latter,  sqaure foot gardening to maximize your garden space and also vertical gardening to take advantage of key areas of sunshine,  supporting CSA and your local farmer that raises heritage meat and vegetables to help keep the vital genetics around, and once in a while I will write about knitting, crocheting, carpentry, dogs like labradors and norwegian elkhounds,  the outdoors, and  soccer (am a referee).

As an aside I wills sometime  also write about what it was like to be orphaned as a teenager in case there are some kids out there who are currently undergoing what I went - losing someone you love from either cancer, heart attack or stroke.  Unfortunately i saw all three and if  sharing my experiences can help someone then so be it.

I will also fine tune my blog as time goes on so I can have videos to show techniques, as well as pictures and have tie ins to other like minded people.

For those who is live in NE Ontario check out the local farmers - there are quite a few into raising heritage breeds and farming without fossile fuels (horses and mules) - Rock n Horse is one of them

So join me for the ride - it will be fun - I will try to make you laugh and learn about great food on the way.