A diary of the projects, hurdles, rewards and family life at we recorded at Wise Acres, our former homestead in Horsefly, BC. (Careers and teenagers have forced us back into the city, at least for a little while.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Getting ready for the sheep

The last few week-ends have seen us pretty busy, preparing for the arrival of our three ewes. We decided to purchase them from Greencroft Gardens, mainly because she had three, in three different colours and was asking a very good price. They have been with the ram for some time, so we are hoping that they will be pregnant, due to lamb in the spring.

We picked an area close to the house, to fence off as a starting pasture. We wanted to be able to see them from the house, so we can monitor how things are going. We are hoping that Violet, will keep the predators at bay, but we have also been looking into getting a llama. We'll have to see. We have also been trying to get rid of all of the lupine stalks and pods as they are apparently toxic to sheep...damn that Miss Rumphius :)

Rainer from Big Bear Ranch stopped by yesterday to bring us a bale of his organic hay. We're so lucky to have them closeby...I've no idea how we would have gotten it onto our property otherwise and positioned where we need it.

Rainer is also a wealth of information. He warned us about cougars and told us about watching a cougar clear a six foot electric fence with a goat in its mouth. Wow...those cats are amazing...I hope he's right that they are usually scared off by dogs.

So we are almost ready for the arrival of our sheep...just need to work out a watering system and finish a gate.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I've always thought highly of her...

but seeing her put the holiday lights up this past weekend, I think we can all see why so many look up to Joanne.

Seriously though... isn't she awesome?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chocolate Bannock

A few weeks ago our neighbours Wendy and Wally were in town, and they had us over for an excellent meal. One of the highlights the bannock they made by putting the dough into a frying pan and settling it into some coals for a while. I've not had bannock before (theirs was delicious), and some Googling found me several recipes, but theirs was the easiest - 2 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 2 cups of water, in coals for 19 minutes. (I remember a Sesame Street segment about bannock, where they cooked the dough draped over a stick over the fire - I can't find it on YouTube though.)

It's burning in season in the Cariboo - when it's wet and cold enough to minimize the risk of the fire going out of control. This is why Wendy and Wally had a pile of embers in their yard, and also why we've had two opportunities to make the bannock since.

Our last version mutated into a dessert because the embers weren't ready by dinner time. Here's our recipe for Chocolate Bannock:
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 1/4 cup of cocoa
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  1. Mix the dry ingredients, except the chocolate chips

  2. add the water slowly, mixing it until you can knead it without it sticking (a flour-dusted countertop helps for this)
  3. flatten the dough out - it should be quite a bit larger than your smaller pan
  4. sprinkle the chips out over the centre
  5. fold the edges back toward the middle, hiding the chips - we worked it at this stae so no seams appeared - don't worry if a chip pops it's head through the dough, itll be okay
  6. dust and/or grease the smaller cast iron pan (we dusted) and lay the dough in it

  7. carry the two pans out to the fire, which at should now be a big pile of embers into which you've raked a flat bowl to fit the pan

  8. place the small pan in the embers, then lay the larger pan upside down over top to keep the embers out (note: the camera flash strips the photo of the redness of the embers)

  9. rake the embers over the pans, and start the clock - 19 minutes exactly (now how many recipes have you read that include a step using a rake?)
  10. when the time is up, use a rake to pull the pans out gently (to avoid getting embers in the pan), then carefully get the bannock out onto a dish

  11. cut up the bannock and serve (optionally, with ice cream)!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

About Coffee - the organic, fair-trade kind

We love strong, dark coffee. Our coffee makes most coffee-drinkers cringe. We ran out of our stock on the weekend, and had to buy some Starbucks French Roast - it was way too weak for us.
Sure, this may seem like a blatant product-plug, but really, we were so relieved to see that the holiday on Tuesday hadn't delayed the delivery (I ordered Monday, we got it Wednesday), and just relieved to have good coffee again, that I want to tell the world!

Sidenote 1 - As much as we'd love to be self-sufficient, our coffee-growing aspirations are unrealistic in the Cariboo.
Sidenote 2 - yes, we are addicted. In a heart-aching and heart-warming kind of way.

Last spring we discovered an excellently dark-roasted coffee at (what was then) our local organic food market. The roaster is called Max Voets, out of Vernon (that's almost local, right?), and the brand is Tribal Java. Specifically, the roast we get is Ancient Ritual.

We order about 10-12 pounds every two months or so, and with shipping this comes out to about $12/lb, which is quite reasonable, we feel, for organic and fairly-traded coffee. And it shows up at our post office down the street!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Michael Pollan interview - Mother Earth News

I just came across this great interview with Michael Pollan and thought I would post a link to it:

The Michael Pollan Prescription: How to Eat Better and Avoid the Industrial Diet

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Celebrated food writer Michael Pollan talked with Mother Earth News about easy ways to eat well and opt out of the broken food system.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

YAVIP*: About Lard

*Yet another vegan-inappropriate post

It has been another typical weekend at Wise Acres - we had a visit from Nanna, cut down trees, piled logs, burned brush, pounded fence posts and rendered lard... whoa there - rendered lard?

A theme that's making its rounds lately (at least for us), is that the healthiest food was what our grandparents ate, including only unprocessed fats: butter, olive oil and lard.

We've being slowly moving back to butter (and getting organic as much as possible - its so pricey!) but hadn't moved away from shortening for baking, etc. However, our research indicated that the store-bought lard wasn't any better than shortening (see Wikipedia references below).

Last weekend one half of our favourite hog farmers was spending a day rendering, so inevitably we asked about buying some fat for ourselves. (I saw "we", but I think Joanne considered this project exclusively mine!) Gigi, when I picked up the 10+ pounds of "kidney fat" (what I see in Wikipedia is also called "leaf lard"), gave me some straightforward instructions:
  1. cut or grind the fat to smaller chunks

  2. place them into in 1/4 inch of water, in a heavy steel or iron pot
  3. start heat high, but lower it way down once it's warm
  4. as clear liquid appears, filter it through a sieve and cheesecloth into glass containers

  5. refrigerate and freeze as necessary

This picture shows the lard at different stages of solidification, from oil-like to it's snow-white lard-as-we-know-it-ness.

Rather than store the lard in mason jars as many appear to do, I chose to use larger pans, and I plan to cut the blocks into 1-lb blocks (or close) and freeze what we don't immediately need.

Nanna made her world-famous Chicken Plait tonight, and fried the chicken and mushrooms in the fresh lard. Yummy.

Some interesting snippets from Wikipedia about lard:
  • Cooking fat obtained from cattle or sheep is known as suet or tallow.
  • Toward the late 20th century, lard began to be regarded as less healthy than vegetable oilsolive and sunflower oil) because of its high saturated fatty acid and cholesterol content. However, despite its reputation, lard has less saturated fat, more unsaturated fat, and less cholesterol than an equal amount of butter by weight.[2] Unlike many margarines and vegetable shortenings, unhydrogenated lard contains no trans fat. Despite its similar chemical constituency and lower saturated fat content than butter, lard typically incites much consternation and disapproval from many people in the English-speaking world.
  • Lard can be obtained from any part of the pig as long as there is a high concentration of fatty tissue. The highest grade of lard, known as leaf lard, is obtained from the "flare" fat deposit surrounding the kidneys and inside the loin.
  • Lard may be rendered by either of two processes, wet rendering or dry rendering. In wet rendering, pig fat is boiled in water or steamed at a high temperature and the lard, which is insoluble in water, is skimmed off of the surface of the mixture, or it is separated in an industrial centrifuge. In dry rendering, the fat is exposed to high heat in a pan or oven without the presence of water (a process similar to frying bacon). The two processes yield somewhat differing products. Wet-rendered lard has a more neutral flavor, a lighter color, and a high smoke point. Dry-rendered lard is somewhat more browned in color and flavor and has relatively lower smoke point.[6][7]
  • Industrially-produced lard, including much of the lard sold in supermarkets, is rendered from a mixture of high and low quality fat sources from throughout the pig.[8] It is typically hydrogenated (which produces trans fats as a by-product), and often treated with bleaching and deodorizing agents, emulsifiers, and antioxidants, such as BHT.[4][9] Such treatment makes lard shelf stable. (Untreated lard must be refrigerated or frozen to prevent rancidity.)[10][11]
Other interesting related items:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

First snow fall

Wow, two posts in one day...maybe I do have too much time on my hands ;)

We had our first snowfall of the season last night and it looks so beautiful. The girls were out playing in it before school this morning at 7am and managed to scrape together a snowman last night with the first few flakes.

Thought I would share some photos...

Waiting for the school bus this morning...

Guest Post from JHY

This morning, we received a comment on the blog, from a close family friend that I thought was worth sharing as a 'guest post'. Bobby, or JHY as I call him, is really part of our adopted North American family...because most of our 'real' family was still in the UK, my parents adopted a few families that throughout my childhood, we celebrated holidays with and became 'family' through so many shared experiences and I would include Bobby in that group. Originally a co-worker of my Dad's, Bob is from the US, New Jersey to be exact. When I was a wee little girl, I must have watched a lot of episodes of the Jeffersons, because one day when Bobby was visiting I walked up to him and said "Hello there, you Jive Honky Yankee" and since that day he has been known as JHY. Anyways... he introduced us to beautiful New Jersey tomatoes and cantaloupe, the Jersey shore, was a great friend to my Dad and never forgets my birthday... so here is what he had to say...

"First time that I have ever taken a look at a "blog". You must have too much time on your hands! Interesting observations from an ex-city person. But, I gotta tell ya. Yep, Ray was one hell of a guy, not only from his hands on mechanical abilities, but I believe more importantly his ability to provoke conversation about the vast amount of subjects in which he was interested -- that's one reason I had to get him to China! If "you" recall the days of the Kennedy Clan and how each Sunday they gathered round the dinner table and each week one was chosen to discuss a subject -- well Ray gathered his extended family around whatever table that was present and discussed all sorts of things. And, his family was provoked to think -- about all sorts of varied subjects - past, present and future. Not many families do that today, or ever did!

He is also the person with whom I learned to water ski -- on Lake Simcoe, while at that time California was one of my sites to visit.

He still provides lots of fun, stories, and wonderful memories for many of us that were lucky enough to know him.

These interesting observations of the family in Horse-what come to me via a computer, and take me back almost a century in my life.

Grandpa lived on the farm down the road from our farm, which my Dad bought from him; and my other Grandfather -- the UK/Hull and Orono, Canada guy, also bought from him. There he had horses, cows, pigs, a BIG garden, and Grandma cooked on a wood stove. She is the one who killed the chickens -- Ma is the one who taught my boys how to kill chickens with an axe.......... Hay was brought in on a horsedrawn wagon -- yep I got to ride in it. Dad would cultivate corn with the horses, and sometimes go to the house and leave me on the cultivator -- the horses knew to go the 1,000 ft or so across the field, turn and come back, that little pre-scool kid had nothing to do with what they did!

All of the local farmers used to get together to help each other gather wheat sheeves and thresh (at each different farm) -- which resulted in BIG pile of straw on which to play. I got to start driving the 1943 Ford tractor at age 10, brother Garrie at age 8, he was taller and could reach the pedals.

We would go about a mile and half down the road to Wilson's dairy farm and get our milk in a can -- it wasn't until I went into Princeton to school that I got to taste that - ugh - pasturized milk.

I walked a mile to and from the bus stop, and rode 7 miles into Princeton to school. (It wasn't until high school that the bus picked me up at the bottom of the farm lane. (Ma had taought there before getting pregnant with me.) Ma had her own Nursery/Kindergarten -- The Farm School with 30 - 50 children and a Summer Day Camp (RoGaPeKi -- the boys/brothers names, coined by me) with about 150 children and 30 on the staff.

I also got the "opportunity" to mow our cemetary with a reel mower and then !! Grandpa bought a reel type mower with a motor on it -- wow! .50 cents an hour and he would bring over a glass gallon jug of water to "refresh" me.

Today I still have a 1/3 Acre garden over there, and I still "jar"/can my own tomato sauce and Red Tomato Chili (from a recipe written in one of our maid's handwriting -- yes we had maid/s. Ann, was the only black person at my wedding.) By the way, I was in the first class of the "Princeton Plan" in about 1948 when the schools were intergrated and we white kids were sent down to the black school.

Over the years, although the main crop was apples (I, of all the pickers, was the only one who could pick 100 bushels a day off the tree - at .10 cents per or 200 per day up from the ground at .05 cents a pop - $10 bucks for 10 hours.), we also had at times, chickens, pigs, sheep, ponies, horses, cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, rabbits, pigeons, and Lord knows what else. We, as did Grandpa and the neighbors, killed most all for food and or sale. (Just recently got my first deer with a crossbow in Ohio.) Lots of deer around here, in fact NJ is so overpoplulated that the kill limit is -- unlimited. (Destructive to farm crops and vehicles.)

Last year, while deer hunting over at the farm, I heard the scream of Fisher Cat for the first time -- they are evidently being crowded out of the Northern areas and into our area. (Blood curdling)

What was the question?

Love from,
JHY/Uncle Bob/Bobby "