Monday, July 14, 2014

Garden Update - Mid-July 2014

It has been a busy summer so far. The growing season is a couple weeks behind due to one of the harsher winters we've had in a long time.  
However, the garden is slowly coming along nicely.

 Fresh picked greens for dinner  - spinach, baby kale, arugula, three types of lettuce

Garlic is picked and drying.

 I've used as much space as possible this year for growing our own food.  Red/Green lettuce growing in window boxes.

 Savoy cabbage, dinosaur kale and Zinnias, started indoor by seed, growing in planters.
 Mystery yellow blossom, from squash, zucchini, pumpkin?  Most likely planted by the squirrels.  Will soon find out what it is.

 Lemon balm and lemon thyme growing in planter

 Purple pole beans in raised bed

 Mixed greens growing in raised bed : 
Arugula, spinach, tasoi, bok choy, red/green lettuce

 Gold fish are thriving and keeping mosquitos away.  This is their third summer in the rain barrels and are doing very well.   In the winter I bring them inside and keep in a fish tank.

Dinosaur Kale growing in my front flower bed.   
Using every inch of space for growing our own food. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rhubarb Spring 2014

Rhubarb is the first thing that is ready for harvest in my garden.  This year has been a fabulous year for Rhubarb.   We had a bumper crop and have made quite a bit with it as well as put several bags into the freezer too.

Some things I've posted about Rhubarb in the past ......

Some things I've learned about rhubarb  
Rhubarb Muffins
Rhubarb Pie 

and some new recipes to share....

Some new recipes I found over at the Canadian Living Magazine web site are delicious !

A Rhubarb Coffee Cake made with buttermilk.   It has a crunchy nut streusel topping.  I left the nuts out of the recipe as I didn't have any on hand at the time.  This coffee cake is very moist and super delicious.

The coffee cake freezes well and have baked up a couple extra for the freezer. 

Gluten Free Rhubarb-Strawberry crumble.   Recipe called for just strawberries.  However I used mostly Rhubarb and added a quart of sliced fresh strawberries.   I also added some orange zest.   This dessert was served at Father's Day dinner.  Both Fathers (husband and his 90 year old Dad) love rhubarb - especially if it's served with ice cream !

Gluten-Free Rhubarb-Strawberry Crumble

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Saturday, June 14, 2014


 My favourite colour is Blue.
   It has been since I was young. 
For me, it's a colour that brings calm.

I did a search on the colour blue and was it interesting to find out a few things about the colour.  Even more interesting, was how a colour can describe your personality.

The color blue is the color of trust and responsibility
This color is one of trust, honesty and loyalty. 
It is sincere, reserved and quiet, and doesn't like to make a fuss or draw attention.  From a color psychology perspective, blue is reliable and responsible. This color exhibits an inner security and confidence. You can rely on it to take control and do the right thing in difficult times. It has a need for order and direction in its life, including its living and work spaces. 

This is a color that seeks peace and tranquility above everything else, promoting both physical and mental relaxation. It reduces stress, creating a sense of calmness, relaxation and order - we certainly feel a sense of calm if we lie on our backs and look into a bright blue cloudless sky. It slows the metabolism. The paler the blue the more freedom we feel.  

Blue is conservative and predictable, a safe and non-threatening color, and the most universally liked color of all, probably because it is safe and non-threatening. At the same time blue is persistent and determined to succeed in whichever endeavors it pursues.

Try doing a search on your favourite colour and see what you come up with.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Love of Lace

I have a love for lace and over the years have collected numerous lace doilies.    A number of these were given to me from my mother, grandmother and from friends as they began downsizing their homes.  A number of them I have crocheted myself.   

My collection had grown and I no longer knew what to do with all these doilies and couldn't bear to part with them.  

I had a large open space above our couch in our living room that looked empty and bare.
So I decided to create some wall art !  


I used two used stretched canvas on 23.5 inch square wood frames.  
The canvases were then primed and painted with an acrylic folk paint found at a craft store in my favourite colour - Blue.   The shade I chose is called "Midnight" by "Folk Art"

 The fun part was arranging the doilies on the canvases, deciding which ones to choose and where best to place them. 

After a time of arranging and re-arranging I finally had the pieces in the places where I wanted them. 

I next hot-glued each doily in it's place.

These doilies also have special meaning - there are parts of my grandmother, mother, friends and myself woven into these collages.   
Now I can enjoy the intricate work of these pieces instead of having them 
shut away in a box.

The finished result .......

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Simple Knitted Shawl

At a recent Knitters Guild meeting our guest speaker for the evening was a mother daughter team from "Black Sheep and Ewe".

You can check out their website at for products and their event schedule.    They participate in events both in Canada and the United States

I bought two or their "bling shawl" kits at a very reasonable price.   The one shown in the photos is called "Perseids" - a composition of 65% dralon, 31% wool and 4% payette.  It also had sequins attached throughout the yarn which gives it some fun "bling".   The "Bling Shawl" kit came with two balls of yarn - enough to make the "Bling Shawl" or the "Bling Cowl" - both patterns were included.

The patterns are simple which a beginning knitter would be able to complete.

The second bling shawl will be posted as soon as it's finished.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Spring Night Hiking

Boardwalk on Roberts Side Trail
About a month ago, I joined up with the local Naturalist Club and we went out on a night hike to see the salamanders.    I have seen salamanders before, but never in the wild.

We met at about 8:30pm on a Saturday night and hiked in 300 meters off the road along Roberts Side Trail, which is part of the Bruce Trail in the Silver Creek Conservation area.

A wide boardwalk was built on this section of the trail to protect the habitat of the endangered Jefferson salamander.    There was still snow on the ground in and around parts of the trail.

There is a brief time period each spring where you can see the salamanders.  They live underground for 11 months of the year.  Each Spring they surface and head to the pond to mate and lay their eggs.    At first we didn't see any Salamanders, but as the night grew darker we found them crawling towards the pond.   We we fortunate that night and not only did we see the endangered Jefferson, but also a yellow spotted, red back and rare albino Jefferson salamander.  The later the evening became, the more salamanders we saw and we had to be careful with each step we took, so as not to step on any as they were making their way to the pond.

The salamanders allowed themselves to be picked up.  They don't bite, however, was told they do secrete a liquid from their skin, that can make you sick if it is ingested. 

The next weekend I went out again and it was difficult finding any Salamanders as they were already in the pond and we found egg masses laid underwater. 

It was quite an amazing site to see these small creatures.  This was also the first night hike I had been out on and is quite different from daytime hikes.  At night you need to rely on different senses, ie hearing and the motion around you as it's difficult to see very far even with a flashlight.   You need to be very aware of your surroundings as it is very easy to get lost if you're not sure of where you are going.  You hear different noises in the woods at night too.   The screech owls are out and even some racoons decided to have a fight in a tree near by. 

Jefferson Salamander
Jefferson Salamander
Jefferson Salamander

Yellow Spotted Salamander
Red Back Salamander
Part Albino Jefferson Salamander

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Trying to Get Ahead

Do you ever get frustrated, the more you try to save, scrimp, budget, it feels like you get further behind?   You think, what more can we cut out of our budget when we've already cut out so much, such as; cable, scrutinizing every utility bill to cut out any extras, cook from scratch, don't eat out, stay-vacations, re-use/re-purpose, garden, coupon, etc. etc..  Here's some links to a number of  cost cutting measures we've taken over the years.   I am always looking for more tips and tricks and ways to save even more.

Life throws you curve balls.  During the last month, natural gas in our area went up 40% !  Yup ! 40% !   Our furnace uses natural gas to heat the house and our hot water tank runs on natural gas.   Fortunately the days are getting warmer, and mother nature has given us an abundance of free wood from fallen trees this winter due to the ice storm last December.  We have a few months to gather wood, split, chop and stack to get ready for the fall/winter.  We already keep our house temp quite low during the winter - 62F during the day when we are home and 56F at night and when we're not at home.  We rely on heat from our wood burning insert in the fireplace to help us through and wear extra clothes to keep warm - socks and slippers ! 

Gas prices in our area have also increased and it's taking about $10 more to fill up the car each week, just to get to work.  The news tells us that prices will be even higher by the summer.   Food prices have also increased.  Other costs, such as insurance, telephone, etc. have been inching their way up too. 

Last month I also got a rather large car repair bill on my 10 year old car.   Repairs are still less than the monthly payments would be for a new car, so I will be hanging on to this one as long as I can.   Unfortunately, a car is a necessity as public transit it very limited in our neck of the woods and moving is not an option.  Today, we were also hit with a large unexpected furnace repair bill too.  

Last month I needed to get new glasses.  In an attempt to be frugal, I opted to just replace the lenses and keep my old frames and still the bill was big !   While waiting for my new lenses to arrive, I was using an old pair of glasses a couple of prescriptions old and it certainly was a frustrating feeling being in somewhat of a "blurr".   Even though it was only less than two week wait, I was so excited to see clearly again !

Then, Microsoft decided to not support Windows XP anymore and my 10+ year old faithful desktop computer could not support any upgrades what-so-ever.   I was fortunate and found a very good used laptop for a very very reasonable price.

My seedlings I planted indoors in recycled/re-purposed paper have not done well and just recently been attacked by aphids too.   Where these little critters came from indoors is somewhat of a mystery.  Most likely hibernating in some of the plants I brought indoors last fall.

I wonder how others are able to make ends meet and still are able to take nice vacations couple times a year, drive new cars and live in bigger houses, have lots of toys, etc., etc.  Maybe they are not able to make ends meet and are living on credit ? 

I know there are many who are not as fortunate as we are now and if you throw in  job losses and major health scares, which we have also had - it makes it so much more challenging.  I do know what it's like to wonder where your next meal is coming from as I was also a single parent for a number of years raising two small children on my own, working on minimum wage with a couple of part time jobs on the side as well.   Hard work is not foreign to me.   But you do what you have to do.

Yes, life has its challenges !    

All this to say, all the sustainable and frugal living skills I have learned over the years, just kick into full gear and we just keep on going.  Check out the side bar folders on sustainable living, frugal living, gardening, finances, recipes etc. for lots of ideas.

As my granddmother and mother always used to say.....

"When life hands you lemons...... make lemonade "

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Some Random Things

The temperature here is getting warmer......slowly.  Last night it was still hovering around  0 C.   During the day it is warm.   Today was a sunny warm day (over 15C) and I spent most of it outside.  Tomorrow is back to work and will be shut indoors for another week.   Weather is calling for rain all week...  April showers bring May flowers !!

Today I visited our local nursery.   Had a nice chat with the owner and was told the growing season here is about three weeks behind the usual.   I bought 10 x 15 kg bags of organic sheep manure for the raised vegetable beds and worked them into the existing soil.

Earth Day was on Saturday and there were a number of activities happening in our community.   Our small local mall had numerous displays from local conservation groups including a display for our local Halton Hills Chapter of the Bruce Trail Conservancy.   I spent Saturday morning working at our booth, meeting various people and introducing them to the Bruce Trail.

This week I....
  • Cleaned out the flower beds and raised vegetable bed
  • Cleaned up the last of the ice storm damage from January
  • Worked in 10 bags of sheep manure into the raised vegetable beds
  • Transplanted some perennials
  • Cooked a turkey today, which will do for a few meals for the week plus a nice big pot of soup
  • Knitting something for myself - which isn't too often.   A nice soft shawl made of soft wool/acrylic from Turkey.   It has a little "bling" to it with sequins in it, which is fun!
  • Made a big pot of Chili and froze some for future dinners
  • Re-routed the rain gutters so they empty into the pool under the tarp to save on water when it comes time to open the pool sometime in June.  With the week of rain forecasted, it should help on the water bill this year.
  • Rounded up another 25 things to purge - for the "purging challenge".   Bag is ready for the Diabetes folks to pick up next week. 
  • Planted radishes, peas, tatsoi and spinach.   When the temperature reaches at least 10C can plant the lettuces, kale, etc. 
  • Took a first aid course at work and am now first aid certified for another three years. 
  • We chipped up alot of the branches that fell from the ice storm for mulch around the raised beds and in areas around the house where the grass won't grow. 
  • Pumping off the top water from the pool onto the freshly sewn grass and clover seed.
  • Was approached this week to help with a "teach knitting lunch/learn" during lunch hour.  Would be a nice break during the day to do what I love to do.
  • Cleaned/vacumed and washed "winter" out of my car.  Scrubbed/washed the carpets to get all the salt stains out.   My 10 year old car looks almost new (inside !) 
  • Decorated some spring planters for the front door.
A shawl for me :)

Planted Radish, Tatsoi, Spinach and Peas

Wood chips between raised vegetable beds.   Rhubarb is coming up nicely.

Wood chips placed between raised beds.  Garlic is coming up nicely

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