Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Whenever I take the time to pick out some paper, tune up my printer, go through all the image adjustments, test prints, and finally make a print of one of my photographs, it's eye opening. It's almost like the photo never fully existed until it was printed. It's as if that digital file is only a blueprint.
So it's great to see a publication that we've contributed to make that same leap. We've been featured in Pure Green Magazine a few times, but this one is special. It's volume one of the new print edition.
Our feature in this issue is all about our adventures in cider pressing. The research, picking up equipment, sourcing apples, and pressing took up a lot of time in the fall, but it made for a great story we wanted to share in the magazine's first print edition.
Celine, the editor, had mailed me a copy, but it was taking a while. So I decided to drive downtown Hamilton to visit a friend, Dave, who owns Mixed Media, a great little art supply, stationery, and creative book shop on James St. North in Hamilton. He had a fresh stack of the magazines out and I nervously took a first glance. I was quite impressed.
Great paper, great design, and great company was found inside. In fact, another friend, Paul Riss and his wife Rachel have their enviable Orono, Ontario home featured in the article before ours.
Pure Green Magazine is definitely worth a read, and, in fact, if you still haven't finished your Christmas shopping, what's better than a subscription to a good, local, well designed magazine?
Friday, December 16, 2011
One of the books we've been referencing a lot this year is Self-Sufficiency for the 21st Century. It's a perfect companion, and inspired by The Self-Sufficient Life, a book we looked at in August. While the Self-Sufficient Life is an amazing guide to living a simpler life, we live in a time where we can make use of technology to help as well. And that's where Self-Sufficiency for the 21st Century picks up.
I find that a lot of our modern technology tends to be more of a distraction than a true necessity. It makes me sometimes dream of living a hundred years ago, on a homestead in the British countryside, milking a cow each morning. But then I quickly realize that for every annoying piece of technology, there's a very helpful piece as well.
Self-Sufficiency for the 21st Century has lots of basic plans, like the ones we used to build our smoker, but it also has many of other projects that incorporate modern tools and techniques to keep you off the grid. The heat sink for a greenhouse with a solar-powered circulation system is something we're going to to integrate into the next, more permanent greenhouse we build.
Plans for next year, ones we hoped to make this year but were a little too busy, include the root cellar and the solar dryer. The charcoal clamp is another use for an old steel drum to make charcoal for the barbecue, our exclusive outdoor cooking fuel.
There is a bit of overlap in some of the other homesteading books we have, but there are lots of unique projects that make it a valuable resource, in fact, our copy of the book is all wrinkled from spending time outside.
Take a look at the videos below that I found via the publisher's site. Dick and James, a father and son team, seem to be doing everything right.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
When we started planning our garden at the beginning of the year, we had no idea we'd still be at it in December. Planting garlic in October seemed really late last year. But here we are, digging our potatoes in December.
I read lots of differing opinions on when to dig potatoes. Most sources said to dig them up before they sprout again and try to start another cycle. But I decided to listen to my dad who said "I've never seen them sprout."
My dad had already dug up most of the red potatoes, but the rest of the Yukon Golds, the Banana Fingers and Purple Peruvian potatoes all needed to be dug up. We got them all out except for the Purples.
We're leaving them in the field for a reason. They're horrible. They're a perfect case of the illusion that everything that's an heirloom is better. Although beautiful and thoroughly purple, they were always left untouched when we cooked up a selection of potatoes. I don't know what was wrong with them, but their texture reminded me of leftover fries reheated in a microwave.
It feels awful to leave them out there, as if we're wasting food or something, but I know I'm not going to pick them when I go to the basement looking for food. The hours that would go into digging, picking, drying and storing is better spent elsewhere.
While digging potatoes is a whole lot of fun, my help for the afternoon was quickly distracted with dirt clods, or weeds that have been pulled up and are hurled across a field like giant lawn darts.
But really, whatever distracts the kids from lying around inside is fine with me.
I did some reading on how to cure and prepare the potatoes for winter. So right now they're drying in the basement before I move them to a more humid area for storage. Since we didn't build a humid root cellar, I think I'm going to build a shelving unit, drape it in plastic, and put some shallow pans of water underneath. If you have any methods you've used to store taters over winter, let us know.
Friday, December 2, 2011
A mild fall gave us lots of time to work with before we had to pull our root vegetables. In fact, most of our potatoes are still in the ground. We never thought we'd still be gardening in December.
We planted our carrots too early this year. I had worried they would get too big and "woody", and while yes, there were some as big as my forearm, the majority of them were pretty nice. We didn't even have nearly as many wacky-shaped oddities as I had expected (and a little bit hoped for).
I've heard that supermarket carrots grow pin-straight based on the soil. Choosing the least-resistant option gives the straightest result, so some growers put them in sandy soils. I don't know much about soil, but I know that sand itself has no real nutritional value. And any nutrition that hits it is probably artificial and runs down through it quite easily.
These carrots, on the other hand, are the most delicious carrots I've ever eaten. Maybe they just taste better because we grew them, but I'm pretty sure they'd beat any supermarket competition in a taste test. And they look better too.
If you follow our blog, you may have heard us talk about wanting to build a real, hillside root cellar. Well, you may have noticed we didn't build one, so we're going to have to store these another way.
Carrots like being stored at temperatures just above freezing with lots of humidity. And that perfect environment is found just under the earth's surface. I might find myself digging a hole in the yard in the next few days, filling it with carrots and sand and topping it off with a wooden lid and straw.
If you've stored carrots successfully in a creative way, let me know. I'll keep you posted on what we end up doing.