Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wild Fermentation

New exciting pickles and a bowl of monstrous beets which are stumping me. Maybe I'll channel my Russian roots and make kvass.

By now you've probably heard of Sandor Ellix Katz's Wild Fermentation and his new encyclopedic The Art of Fermentation. It's been our bedside reading for a couple years now and I'm finally starting some kitchen science. Burdock, dandelion, garlic scapes, carrot, and some hot dried peppers, brine pickled.

Curious to see how the burdock comes out. It feels woody so far. No one, not even the internet, can tell me when is the best time to harvest burdock root. I was so dazzled by their huge size, but I suspect they're too old for eating as the plants had already gone to seed. If you know the answer, message me urgently.

I'm a little bit frustrated by the lack of exact measurements in any recipe book or website. It seems that fermenting, like bread making and so many other kitchen arts, are a bit secret and magical. You learn by doing and then you teach by word of mouth like a gnostic cult. It's a little bit exciting.

Friday, August 22, 2014


High on the list of things I'm grateful for are my girlfriends who are like sisters to me. But there's nothing in the world quite like a real flesh-and-blood sister who becomes, in spite of age and sometimes whole continents of separation, a friend. My sister from Victoria spent two weeks back home, two weeks of shameless child spoiling on her part, all-night conversation with me, in which, with our sides aching from laughter, we relived our unusual childhood, decried injustice, solved the world's problems, and were very silly. And for the boys, there's nothing like a single, doting auntie. Together they dug up pirate treasure, did science-experiments, built robots, jumped into waterfalls, and made unusual Star Wars cakes. Which were eaten by the goat. Goat burger, anyone?   

We also have my youngest sister spending the entire summer (+) in this remote rural place in between studies and world travel. We're just so crazy lucky to have this precious, precious time together before life throws these girls on to new adventures.

It's been a summer to remember, and not just because it was the coldest summer in memory...or because I had the ethical dilemma of throwing my kids into freezing cold water for swimming lessons or letting them fail. We also had a tick infestation. Gah! Gross. It's over now, fortunately, and the MNR assures us that we're not in a lyme disease zone. Only the animals were affected. Still, we had a few panicky weeks of continuous bathing. Apparently our small dinosaur/guinea fowls are tick predators, so that's a comfort. Come to think of it, the ticks disappeared around the same time the guinea fowl started roaming.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

One Straw Revolution

 This is now an outdated picture of Will's garden, which changes every day. Will is getting super geeky (in a good way, dear) about soil composition, microbes, and the science of deep mulching. We just read a splendid book The One Straw Revolution by farmer-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka. His philosophy and farming are beautiful, and perhaps the beginning of a one-garden revolution for this little Canadian family.

 Will's chicks sprouted pin feathers and grew monstrous: oh my goodness, guinea fowl! They're like a pack of roaming dinosaurs. Beware all insects, frogs, small mammals....they will hurt you.

And on grooveshark these days:

Dervish (Linking you up to our current favourite album, hope it works....) 

I forgot how much fun they are! We haven't listened to Irish music for years, but it's the backdrop to this summer. Lizzie and Angela check out "There Was a Maid in her Father's Garden" because we have to learn it.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

World Cup Feva

Soccer in the rain...the English blood runs strong in this child.

Hugh is my first child to really care about clothes. Last time I went to St. Joe's, our local thrift shop, he asked me to pick up gold clip-on earrings.  "But not the girly kind"...My boys were never big gender stereotypers so it's anyone's guess what he meant by girly.

Apparently these are piratey, not girly

I don't often shop at Wal-mart, the superstore everyone loves to hate. In my circles shopping at Wal-mart is considered unenlightened. But when I do I always come home with something nifty, and I don't just mean budget toilet paper. This time it was international soccer jersey t-shirts for the boys. (Five bucks. You can't argue with cheap and awesome.) In doing so I accidentally created three new fans: England, Brazil, and Blue. Matthias wears a blue jersey so any team wearing blue gets his support. 

Actually we are pretty middling World Cup fans. We begin enthusiastically, taper out, and then return with a bang for the semi-finals. I keep pointing out the mohawks and cool hair and neon soccer shoes of 2014, but nobody finds it as fascinating as I do.

The boys are playing "real soccer" this summer, and Will plays for Madawaska United! (Barry's Bay has a soccer team!) Kicking the ball around after supper has become a family hobby. So soccer is gradually taking a bigger place in our life, and I'm quite thrilled about that.


Will and I cheer for Argentina. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Colours of Now

A freshly painted scarlet red door. A soccer-playing, novel-reading, goat-wrangling, music-composing, never-sleeping boy who is NINE! (William's sacred animal, painted on his poster, is the night owl.)

All this long, snowy, grey spring I made flamboyant cushions for the house. When I sew I tend to make endless variations of the same thing. We have limited seating here, so I wanted large floor cushions for little people chairs. They are also useful for whacking your brother's head....not too painful, just heavy enough to send him sprawling without actually damaging him. (I don't know this from personal experience mind you. Just the word on the street.)

Will is slowly goat-proofing our property with these beautiful wattle fences. I love baskets, so to me this is perfect: an extended basket all around the house! Thirty foot baskets! They're slow to make, unfortunately. We are still probably one year away from my requested shit-free zone around the house.

Most of our goats have lovely personalities, but we have one crazy goat who tries to barge into the house. She waits off to the side and as soon as the door opens a crack, she rams in, head down. It's seriously intimidating. Especially to guests under four feet tall. But the boys love it, let me tell you! Up goes the cry: GOAT IN THE HOUSE! They dance around in delight while Will or I throw her out with some robust Anglo-Saxon language. (Which the children quote back to us later. Woops! No point in denying...) You can see why I'm anxious to get those fences done. I need peace, man!

Monday, June 2, 2014


The unwrapping of our very first goat cheese was the big thrill of this week. I can't remember if I've rhapsodized on the loveliness of our goat's milk, but it's enough to say that it doesn't taste like goat! (Which is pretty bloody fantastic.) It tastes sweet and fresh, I'd say something between milk and coffee cream. So it's no surprise that the cheese is also sweet.

Cottage cheese (quick, unfermented, ricotta-like) can be made in under two hours but we hung ours overnight yielding a firm little loaf with a rubbery texture like true mozzarella. (The Italian kind that doesn't melt, just bakes.) 

 We used lemon juice for the curdling, so it was a lemony-salty-peppery goat cheese. It got six thumbs up from the Pembertons, plus an extra five from Rafe. It tasted amazing with maple syrup and pears. Or as Hugh would say, "pretty funking amazing"....

When I say "we" made cheese, by the way, I mean our agricultural labourer, Will, who's now the master dairy man. Rafe is weaned, so I guess he's no longer competing for that title.