When Life Gives You Bananas

Ever since I’ve built my DIY compost bin, I’ve been a bit of a produce scrap monster.  Other than collecting it at home, and at the office, I also now have a co-worker bring me HER scraps (I didn’t ask, honest!!)…in return, I’m going to give her a bag of compost when it’s good and ready!  But being winter, everything is just freezing pretty much as soon as I throw it onto the compost pile.

Canadian winters – at least the last few years – can be quite unpredictable.  Gotta love global warming.  One day, it can be a blizzard, or an ice storm and -25 Celsius…two days later it can be 5 degrees and melting.  The last few days have been really mild – although they did include a pretty horrible attack from the ice queen – and now most lawns are completely melted.  My front yard is mostly still all snow, but my back yard has large spots of grass.  So when I got home tonight, I seized the moment!

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When I tossed all of my donated scraps in the compost after work, I noticed a large area at the top of the yard where the snow was completely melted, and copious amounts of still un-raked, beautiful nitrogen-rich maple leaves were just laying there, begging to be collected!  So I hunted out my rake and piled those suckers on top of the frozen scrap heap! These leaves have been sitting there so long, they’re already well into the decomposing stage, and I’m hoping will continue their process, providing heat to the rest of the material and give it a little boost in the right direction!

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I also got a bit of a treasure in today’s bag of scraps – bananas!!  Seven frozen and thawed, mushy bits of perfection!  Needless to say, those did NOT make it to the compost pile…but rather, ended up directly in my oven in the form of Coconut-Banana Cakes/Loaves (I only have 1 loaf pan, so the other one became a cake lol)!  YUM!  I even healthed-up (Edie-ism!!!) the recipe I found – replaced the sugar with honey (in lesser amounts) and substituted the all-purpose flour for whole wheat.  Couldn’t help myself…had a piece straight out of the oven!  I do believe I’ll bring her one tomorrow, a little present for her generous donations to my compost!

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Waitin’ Out Winter

Being that I’ve just begun seriously attempting to homestead, here in town – I’ve been doing a lot of thinking as to just exactly what I’m supposed to do now that it’s cold, there’s snow everywhere, and I can’t garden.

I don’t have the space for indoor gardening, whatsoever – and I have no livestock.

So besides reading and learning, and reading some more…what am I supposed to do until the snow melts and I can get a spade in the ground?  It’s not even technically winter yet, and I’m already a little sad that I have so long to wait to really get my hands dirty.

So here’s a rudimentary list of some of the things I’m hoping will make the time pass this Winter, and will (fingers crossed) help keep the cabin fever at bay!

Garden Planning:

I want to sketch out (to scale) my yard, and plan out my garden beds.  Do I want to plant right in the ground, or do I want to do raised beds?  Do I want it all together in one spot, or do I want to break it up in different parts of the yard based on sun/shade/grade?  Will I have some in pots as well?  What herbs will I grow? What vegetables do I want to grow?  How much of them do I want to grow?  How am I going to preserve and store them for next Winter?  How am I going to incorporate flower gardens into the mix?  I want everything I plant, flowers included, to have multiple purposes.  …Oh, and find the best source for organic seeds, and start ordering!!

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Scope Out My Surroundings:

Okay, I know that probably involves at least SOME outdoor time, but I’m going to save it for the milder days.  I want to scope out the wilder areas of town – trails, wooded parks, etc. – where foraging might be possible.  Find out where the right kind of pines grow to get the big pine nuts and save thousands (okay, not thousands because honestly I’ve only ever bought pine nuts once, they’re so fricken expensive!)…learn to harvest my own.  Find out what other wild things grow around here that I can forage for and cook up for the fam!

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Explore My Town:

So I’ve been living in this area for over 4 years, but never really explored this specific town since I only really worked here before.  I would drive here, put in a day’s work, maybe do some banking, go home.  Other than the immediate areas around where I’m working, I haven’t really explored all of the good things this town has to offer.  I want to know what my resources are – small towns are great for little shops, and these little shops usually have little treasures if you’re willing to take a peak inside!  Google is my best friend, and while browsing the other day, I found out we’ve got this little health/natural food/products place right near where I live – and they just so happen to carry things like cocoa butter and Shea butter…both things I’m going to need for some of the homemade natural products I want to try and make…skipping ahead…

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Make My Own Products:

Although I want to eventually be able to make all of the products my family uses, I’m going to take baby steps in this direction and try to really master one or two things before I attempt new ones.  One thing I love, is Blistex medicated lip balm…I don’t love that I don’t know all that’s in it.  I want to make my own using natural products like beeswax, coconut oil, and essential oils.  I also want to learn how to make a basic liquid castille soap base because it seems to be the main ingredient in a lot of homemade products, such as laundry and dish detergents, shampoo, and body wash.  I’d like to go one step further and MAKE my own castille bars to start it with.  …I’ll start with the lip balm I think.

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Learn To Scratch:

I know, that one sounds a little funny.  But I’ve truly got an itch… to learn to do a lot more scratch cooking!  I know how to make bread, but I never make it (laziness)…that needs to change.  I don’t use mixes for cakes and pastries, but I barely bake anymore (not really good for us anyway!)…but I want to learn the bigger stuff.  Like making my own pasta, and churning my own butter, and making my own cheese, and steeping my own vanilla (and possibly extras for gifts!) and other extracts.  My next purchases (if Santa doesn’t bring them first) are going to be a manual pasta machine, and a mason jar butter churner. (I really should set up an affiliate account with Amazon before attaching links, but this is just to show what I want to get!)

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Go Paper Free:

Just in the kitchen for now… stop buying paper towels (the hard part will be weaning off Hubby) and start using cloth napkins, towels, and rags instead.  Save the trees man!!  I know, they can go in the compost (but do you really want the bleach and chemicals in there?) – but the amount of water and energy needed to make just one roll is insane!  (Same with toilet paper, but that’s for another post!)  …my first stop will be Hubby’s t-shirt drawer for all his old stained work shirts – they’ll make the perfect rags.  Next stop will the the thrift stores – find the biggest bath towels I can find and cut them up in small hand towel sized pieces, sew up the frayed edges and voila…paper-free-towels and napkins.  Our place is too small to host dinner parties, so more formal cloth napkins are wasted on us.

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Start Getting Healthy:

I know that’s not really “homestead related” in the broad sense, but I stop and think about it, it actually is!  If I’m going be a land owner – if I’m going to tend to acres of gardens and animals, I need to be in my best possible form.  I can’t be bent over gasping for breath if a goat gets loose and I have to chase it around the yard, or if I have to make multiple trips back and forth for a multitude of reasons.  I can’t be worrying about my health when I have so many other things to think about.  So right now, BEFORE the land and the animals, is when that needs to happen.  And that’s the part of my life where I procrastinate the most.  Letting myself go is the worst thing I’ve ever done for myself, and for my family.  And I need to remedy that while I’m still young enough to.

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I’ll probably think of a million other things I want to do, but in the spirit of my new-found will to be organized, I’m going to try my best to just stick to the list above…and to master it all, perfect it all…and best myself at every turn.

Here goes….bring on the snow!

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Looking Back…

Laying in bed at the end of a very busy day (post to come tomorrow), and just reminiscing about this time of year, three years ago.

We experienced an ice storm like I’ve never seen before.  It was a Christmas we’re not about to forget!

It came so fast, and left so much carnage behind. People without power for days, burst water pipes, and thousands in damages for many people… it’s crazy how something so beautiful can also be so fatal. I guess Mother Nature really is the original Femme Fatale.

 

Pine-ing

Oh, the whether outside is frightful, but the fire’s so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go……..

Well…not really.  I mean yeah, it’s a little “fresh” out there,to say the least…but there’s no fire, unfortunately.  (How I long for a wood burning fireplace!!)  And I’m trying and trying, but that Christmas Spirit is still being frustratingly elusive…

We picked up our Christmas tree the other day.  From the grocery store.  Not very festive.  It was a spur of the moment, ‘oh we should get it now’, purchase after we walked out with the grocery cart, but still I thought it would help in changing my mood.  Now it’s sitting in our living room, naked as a jaybird.  It’s looking a little forlorn and needs a little bling, a-sap!

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But still, something about the smell of pine just adds a bit of that proverbial holiday warmth to the room.  This weekend, it’ll get a little color!  A little twinkle.  Maybe that’ll help…

I also planned on having done some holiday baking already, but a few days ago my oven decided to stop working.  Joy.  So much for the smells of brown sugar and cinnamon and vanilla filling the house (grumble grumble grumble)…  But lo and behold, a friend and co-worker is selling one for only $70!  So this weekend, I will also have a new-to-me stove, and hopefully get a batch or two of cookies and few loaves in there!! 🙂   I’ve got some bananas not-so-patiently waiting in the freezer, and I’m thinking maybe an apple-raspberry loaf…YUM!!  Some orange-cranberry muffins maybe??  Oh… and can’t forget the DELISH-looking loaded baked potato soup recipe from The Comfortable Coop that I’m going to attempt this weekend!!! 🙂  I can just smell the house already!!!

All is not lost… there’s still 17 sleeps before Christmas… still a little time to find that Christmas Spirit I’ve so been pining for!!!!!     …Let it snow let it snow let it snow!!

Welcome Winter

Welcome Winter, here overnight it seems.  I’m sure we’ll have green grass again before week’s end, but last night was the first substantial snow fall of the year for me.

To anyone who knows me, the fact that I’m not a fan of the season is no mystery.  However this year I vowed – to myself mostly – to embrace our Canadian Winter.  To not complain about the cold, or the snow, or ice, or sleet, or freezing rain, or slush, or cheeks that sting from the frigid air, and nostrils that stick together when you try to breathe outside…. nope.  I’m going to ENJOY Winter this year.

Well… of course all of this is still easy to say since it’s still rather mild outside.  I might change my tune once we get a couple of -20 or -30 Celsius days.  But for now, I stand firm.  Father Winter, welcome!!

This morning, I had to sweep 4 inches of wet heavy snow off of my car.  Hubby had been good enough to shovel two “paths” for my tires down the driveway (what a sweetie lol).

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But I have to admit, the fluffy stuff covering everything was in fact very pretty – mesmerizing almost!  Like a clean white sheet on the bed, fresh from the line.  A blanket of snow seems to almost erase all of the ugliness.  Covers up the post-Autumn dullness and transforms it into a magical fairy land.

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Sunrise in my backyard this morning

Lets hope this way of thinking stays with me for the next five or six months!

Mother Nature Willing

Our weather here in Southern Ontario has been a little wonky to say the least.  It’s late November now, and I just experienced my first snow yesterday.  It didn’t stay, which I’m completely okay with.  I’m not a big fan of Winter, to be truthful.  I grew up in Northern Ontario, where it wasn’t unheard of to have consistent -30 & -40 Celsius weather.

 

Nobody bats an eye, it’s just considered the norm.  A 5 hours drive South, and it’s not QUITE as cold and QUITE as consistent, but we do still get those days once in a while.  You would think growing up with those temperatures, I would be used to it.  Nope.  I should have been born in warm climate – I could really do with no cold or snow or ice… *shudder*.  But then again, I’m not a fan of those pesky mosquitoes and black flies either… and spiders…don’t even get me started!!  So if having winter is what keeps them at a bearable minimum (barely!)… then I guess I’ll choose the lesser of evils, and deal with the frigid air.  Sigh.

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Our Rotti – Sherman – LOVES the snow and could spend hours playing in it!

Contrary to many beliefs, we Canadians do not live in igloos and have regular polar bear hunts.  Sorry to disappoint! haha

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Gotta love those drifts!

So with all of this wonky weather Mother Nature has been plying us with, I’m really hoping for some decent weather this weekend.  The plan is to get my compost bins built and my hard cleaned up – and as good as my intentions are, it’s not exactly a rain-or-shine activity.  So I’m hoping for dry-ish, mild-ish weather.  I’ve been so excitedly looking forward to it however, that I may just end up doing it even in the rain (no promises, I change my main like I change my socks!)

So fingers crossed that I’ll have a great post on Monday morning, with pictures of my proudly finished bins and clean yard!!  Have a great Friday everyone!!

(All images above were taken last year at our old place in the country)