The trick about treating

Let the games begin!

I am very ambivalent about Hallowe’en, have been since I was about ten.

As a parent, when our eldest was 3, we were being pressured by family and friends (seriously), to take her trick or treating.  Let me get this straight, I thought at the time.  My child who is normally in bed and fast asleep by 7pm is supposed to be dressed up in something cute, walked up and down a subdivision road so she can beg at doors of strangers for candy…which I wouldn’t normally ever give her.  This makes a lot of sense, not.

I had to admit, however, that I’d enjoyed trick or treating, dressing up and begging for candy from strangers just fine when I was 5 or 6, quite a lot actually, so I felt guilty denying her the opportunity.  Hubby took her out with my sister-in-law and our wee nephew.  After 4 houses, she was too tired to keep walking, at which point he picked her up and carried her house to house, so she would have enough candy.  !!!! is basically what I said when they got home.

She did of course go out trick or treating every year after that with great enthusiasm, joined after a couple of years by her sister and my nephew’s little sister.  We don’t live in a trick or treat area – houses spaced far apart down long driveways, no streetlights, etc.  So we took them to my sister-in-law’s parents home on a cul de sac in the village, where we all enjoyed hot dogs first and my sister-in-laws parents seeded their treat bags with candy before sending us out the door.  I enjoyed the family time of those years, a chance for the young cousins to all be together, and yes, a few chocolate bars for myself.

But I hated the temper tantrums about costumes, the whiny voices as greed trumped tiredness – just one more house, we haaaave to, the firecrackers.  The year that the school no longer handed out UNICEF boxes for the kids to collect pennies was the year I felt most “done” with the whole thing.  Or maybe the year that one kid dipped into the other kid’s stash of goodies, and was caught, but took the line that her sister got more, it wasn’t fair.  Grrr.

Goth fairy-my great grandmothers dress, thrift store everything else

So after a chat with my husband in which we did not see eye to eye (and still don’t on this one), but in which he generously allowed me to put my foot down, I announced some years ago that once the girls reached high school (grade 9, age 14) they would no longer be going trick or treating.  I thought I’d already heard whining, but I was in for much, much more.  I repeated my reasons over and over:  teens taller than the homeowner begging with pillowcases at the door are intimidating.  Teens out after dark in unsupervised groups look like trouble, might in fact BE trouble, and are likely to be treated as such.  There are other ways to enjoy junk food and the company of friends, and you’re old enough to organize them.  I am happy to help with that, if you want.

Teen 1 solved the problem nicely by offering to take her sister and younger cousins around when she was 14, while we enjoyed adult time indoors.  When she was 15, she offered to help a friend who lives on a busy trick or treat street to hand out candy at the door.  And the last two years, she’s been invited to a party organized by a friend just down the road, whose parents have similar views to my own, meaning the party is over by 9pm, has adult supervision and corny games, which they hugely enjoy.

Nickelback (do you have to be Canadian to get this one?)

Teen 2 reached her non-trick-or-treat age this year.  She stressed about it for most of the summer:  cajoled, whined (not really), made snide comments, the works, to no avail. I waited it out.  About three weeks ago, she announced that she wanted to organize a traditional Hallowe’en party.   Pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, etc.    So we did.  She planned her menu (home made pizza, veggies and dip, candy corn parfaits and junk food), her activities – pumpkins, apple bobbing, cookies on a string and a monster mash dance off.  She decorated the house (our black cat got tangled in fake cobweb, and did not appreciate my laughing at her).  She and her friends shopped for their costumes at thrift stores.

cookie on a string, with a less than helpful partner

Among others we had a goth fairy, Batgirl, a character from Hallowe’eentown, a donkey, Miss Scarlett in the library with a knife (my personal fave), a pussycat, and Nickelback.  No off the shoulder costumes, no street walker look alikes.  No commercially made costumes, except the pussycat ears.

Candy Corn Parfait

My end of the deal was the pizza fixings and the candy (lots please) for the prizes.  She made the candy corn parfaits from a recipe she found online.  It is mostly pudding, with chocolate cereal for crunch.  I have never bought chocolate cereal in my life, and wasn’t about to begin, so we compromised with chocolate cookie crumbs which I sometimes use to bake with.  I haven’t bought instant pudding mix in years either, having found out how to make it from scratch, but in the interests of independence and quantity, we bought the packets.

The party was a lot of fun.  For all of us.  There was plenty of candy for each kid, plus some leftovers.  Being 21st century kids, they used their phones to video each other apple bobbing, but apart from that, they could have been kids from 100 years ago.  A simpler time.  And not any less fun for all that.

Late edit:  maybe not 100 years ago – instant pudding, pizza, and Nickelback didn’t exist, lol.

How I spent my day off

A completely erroneous title – anyone who farms and has an off-farm job doesn’t have days off, they just switch hats.

We’re getting a lot of rain these days – it’s not called the Wet Coast for nothing.  I’m happy to have no end to my list of indoor things to do.  The following pictures describe how I spent a rainy day at home last week.  Just the fun stuff.

First off, I got some chicken backs out of the freezer (I bag these in pairs when I’m piecing chicken for home consumption), and put them on to simmer up for soup stock.

Next  I got the tomatoes started.  These are from my elderly neighbour – my crop is in the little metal bowl.  This is the second batch of tomatoes he gave me, and he’s had about 4 times what he’s given me for his own kitchen.

Matron of Husbandry who blogs at Throwback at Trapper Creek wrote a post a while back about a “glut” sauce she makes when she’s in tomato overload.  It’s a recipe from Joan Gussow Dye, and I found it numerous places on the web.  Matron had the best picture of it though.  I’m a sucker for pictures with recipes.

It took a little while to get 6 pounds of tomatoes chopped, along with some onion, celery and red pepper, but once done, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, it went into the oven to roast, freeing me up to get started on applesauce:

Except that right after I brought the buckets inside, I realized I needed to get the crockpot going with the soup I was planning on for dinner.  The chicken backs had been simmering for about an hour, so the old hambone, split peas, onion, carrot and potato went into the pot, and got topped off with about 6 cups of stock poured directly from the stock pot.

That was dinner taken care of.  Now what was I doing with those apples?

The apple sauce used about 10 lbs of apples.  I had to leave the rest of the bucket for another day.  As soon as I had the apple sauce cooking down, I pulled the tomato glut sauce out of the oven, to cool down before freezing:

The glut sauce had only used about 2/3 of the tomatoes, so I froze most of the rest of them (whole, skins on), and the few remaining rejects got chopped up and stewed to make a topping for crostini to go with the soup later.  The chicken stock I hadn’t poured into the crock pot had cooled enough to skim.  I strained it into containers to freeze – about 1.5 litres (3 pints).  Picked all the meat off the carcasses – not a lot there, I’m getting better at piecing chicken, obviously – about 2 cups worth, which got put in the freezer next to the stock, ready for a future soup or stew.

The apple sauce made 2 litres to freeze, plus enough for dessert at suppertime.

The soup was wonderful, and fully appreciated by the kid with the sore throat.

Our  freezers, which were already pretty packed, are now filled to busting.  Guess we’ll just have to start eating.  Which is of course, the point of it all.

Reader Appreciation Award

I’ve been following another Canadian blog for a few months now – Wuppenif – where the topics frequently match my own interests; food, family, gardening, green living, and the like.

Just recently, to my suprise and delight, she nominated Sailors Small Farm for a Reader’s Appreciation Award!  Thanks, Wuppenif!

And if you’re curious about the name of her blog, go check it out, it’s a nice little story.  And aren’t you curious about Beets for Breakfast?

The rules for receiving this award

Just so I don’t miss anything out:

1. Provide a link and thank the blogger who nominated you for this award.

2. Answer 10 questions.

3. Nominate 10-12 blogs that you find a joy to read.

4. Provide links to these nominated blogs and kindly let the recipients know that they have been nominated.

5. Include the award logo within your blog post.

My Q&A

Your favourite colour? blue – blue jeans, hubby’s blue eyes, blue skies…
Your favourite animal? cat – I love their independence which can switch to soppy affection if they choose.
Your favourite non-alcoholic drink? Tea – orange pekoe
Facebook or Twitter? Facebook.  I don’t get the point of Twitter.
Your favourite pattern? Umm??  Plaid – I have Scottish ancestors.  Or maybe you’re asking about life patterns?  I used to love the bathbookbed routine when the kids were very small. A decade ago.
Do you prefer getting or giving presents? Giving.  Homemade.
Your favourite number? seven
Your favourite day of the week? Sunday.  It’s the only day when I have the same day off as the girls, and sometimes even my husband.
Your favourite flower? Daffodil.  I’m half Welsh.
What is your passion? stewardship of the land we’ve been blessed with for our lifetime

Blogs I’m Nominating (in no particular order):

Throwback At Trapper Creek – self sufficiency, farming, food, family and photography, relatively nearby in Oregon.  The blog I go to when I need answers.

Kimberley’s Kitchen – my talented cousin, an increasingly famous confectionista, we inherited similar values regarding food and family.

Greening of Gavin –  A fellow ex-sailor Down Under blogs about his family’s journey to reduce their carbon footprint.  Veg garden, chooks, soap, cheese, beer, solar panels, rainwater collection and tons more.

Polyface Hen House – 7 women who work or live at Polyface Farm (home of Joel Salatin), each blog a different day.

For the Love of the Soil – young organic farmers on PEI, with small kids and busy lives.  Farming, family, politics, and roller derby.

Morning Joy Farm – young farming family in North Dakota, pigs, turkeys, chickens, cattle. Plus kids, education, food politics, recipes.

Chism Heritage Farm – farming to heal the land, raising great kids, working full time off farm, and blogging to share the learning curve.  This is the guy who convinced me to start a blog.

To Sing with Goats – a young woman with incredible energy and a lot of plans.  Goats, cows, chickens, turkeys and recently sheep.

6512 and Growing – they live at 6512 feet above sea level in Colorado.  Wonderful writing style about family, food, home schooling, and more.

Little.Farm.Growing – also Colorado, this mom/farmer/teacher/writer chronicles their efforts to grow their farm despite droughts, floods, grasshoppers and too many plates in the air at once. Great sense of humour.

High Heels in the Barnyard – wife of a former Polyface apprentice blogs about their Salatin style farming methods, music, food events, micro-brew, and how this city chick is growing into her life on the farm.

The Wild Ramp – a local farmers market in Huntington WV, lots of great posts on food issues in general, as well as farmer profiles in the local area, recipes and more.


Walnut tree in June

We planted the walnut tree in 2000, complete with ceremony, best clothes and a blessing bestowed by my Dad.  It commemorates the day we took over ownership of the farm, a special day for all of us.  We thought for a long time about what tree to plant, and decided on walnut because of it’s longevity, productiveness and the fact that my Dad loved walnuts.

The big crop

We’ve had good and bad crops from the tree over the years.  A squirrel visited us one year and scooped the crop just before we were ready to pick, and we’ve had a few years where the crop was just small.  About half the time though, the crop has been pretty good for a small tree, and this was one of the good years – 146 nuts.  We probably missed a few on the ground, but it was still a pretty good haul.  The tree is still a teenager after all.

Always use gloves. Speaking from experience.

Knowing when to pick them has been an art slowly acquired – too soon and the green covering is impossible to get off, too late and the nuts are lost in the grass and potentially to the dratted squirrel.  We timed it perfectly this year, albeit in the pouring rain (we picked the nuts the same day we picked apples for juicing).

146 walnuts

Our read alouds in the evenings during the Christmas holidays will be punctuated by the cracking of nuts as the basket and crackers get passed around, the shrapnel being tossed into the fire.  I’m looking forward to it.

Apple harvest

We’ve been discussing getting a cider press for some time.  We have 4 old heritage apple trees that are still producing amazing crops despite decades of neglect and hollow trunks.  Every year, we have a glut of apples to deal with – many of the windfalls go to the chickens, and some years I get time off in the right part of the season and make quantities of apple sauce – but really neither of these makes much of a dent in the apple supply.  We got a dehydrator and dried apple rings have been popular for school snacks, but again, a year’s supply of apple rings is only about 30 lbs of apples.  We borrowed a friend’s juicer and tried juicing them, but the machine is old and took forever, clogging frequently.  We kept coming back to the cider press idea.  And then….

I shop weekly at a farm stand a couple of miles away for things we don’t grow ourselves.  Almost right across the road from the market is a farmer who will do custom juicing, including ultraviolet pasteurizing.  I’ve been driving past that sign for years.  I’ve even bought juice from his operation at the farm stand.  I’ve been on a farm tour there and seen the juicing room.  And I never really had that lightbulb moment.  Don’t say it.

Just before Thanksgiving last week (we do it earlier in Canada), my husband had to nip into the farm stand for a last minute purchase of one or two things (onions – I didn’t grow NEARLY enough).  He came home with the onions and asked when the farm across the road had started doing custom juicing.  YEARS AGO??? he nearly (actually) shouted…he obviously had the lightbulb moment.  In my defense, he’s had the juice I’ve bought many times, and known where it came from – he could have spoken up sooner.

So he made a phone call, booked a date, and told me, with a beaming smile that our problems were solved – he had just committed us to picking 200 lbs of apples the day before our juicing booking.  And the very day he made the phone call, it started to rain.  Of course.

full yellow bucket = 20 lbs. full metal bucket = 15 lbs

Sunday was a full day.   After church and lunch, we climbed into our old sailing gear and got going on apple picking.  It went really fast, which surprised me.  2oo lbs in about 3 hours, just the two of us.  We picked an extra 50 lbs – 25 for our neighbour and 25 for me to make sauce.

Yesterday, my husband dropped the apples off with the juicing guy.  Today he went to pick up the 64 litres of juice (32 jugs).  Amazing.  Delicious!  Cold, it tastes tart and refreshing.  Heated up, it seems sweeter, and perhaps even tastier.

This cost us $1.75/litre (including the plastic jugs, which aren’t really optional): $.85 for the jug, $.90/per litre for the processing.  We plan next year to send a bunch of apples to the juice guy so we can use the juice to make hard cider. When he heard that, the guy told my husband that he has large 50 litre jugs that can be borrowed to transport bulk juice for that kind of thing, which will save on plastic jugs – cheaper and better for the environment.

2 dozen jugs of juice in the freezer

The 200 lbs to make the juice really only cleaned off one tree.  Cider will take care of another tree.  My pantry, my neighbour and the chickens probably use another tree.  That leaves one tree worth of fruit.  We clearly have a need for some other way to use the apples. And we know what it is.  Pigs.

Three little piggies will be coming to seek adventure (and apples) here at Tyddyn-y-morwr this spring.


Help a food community

I live on the West Coast of Canada.  I buy my produce and meat in two on farm shops locally, and at the farmers market during the summer.  While I do buy some things direct from the farmer, like a side of pork occasionally, for the most part, I appreciate the convenience offered by the market and the two farm shops.  Each of the shops sells primarily their own produce, but will sell other products on consignment from other growers.  It’s a win for everyone that way.

Through the blogosphere, I’ve “met” many other farmers, food producers, and local food advocates.  One such is the blogwriter for the Wildramp Market, way the other side of the continent from me, in Huntington, West Virginia.

Why would a small market out in WV be interesting to anyone outside that area?  Because we’re all on common ground.  Local, sustainably produced food, available and accessible to everyone – isn’t that the goal of so many of us in the business of local food?

Wildramp Market is a great model with a ton of potential for duplication.  The market is run by volunteers, and product is supplied by local farmers and food producers – it can and does change from week to week with the seasons.  There’s a lot of heart and soul, time and energy going into that little market, and success is snowballing.

To that end, they’ve entered into a fundraising challenge, hoping to be able to develop some needed infrastructure (like a cooler).  They’re in the last few days of their fundraising effort, and only need about $300 to meet their modest goal.  They’re not asking for millions.  Just a few dollars here and there from people who want local food to be in the shopping baskets of the average consumer.  If, like me, you’re one of those people, check out the link below, and read Wildramp’s story in their own eloquent words.  I donated a few dollars a couple of weeks ago, and have watched the balance of pledges growing steadily every since.  Go check out the link.  Kick in a few bucks.  Help the cause of local food.

Where’s the Beef?

A more or less annual event is taking place this Friday at our church:  The Chili Cook Off.  There’s a trophy of sorts, as well as glory and honour for the winner, and to be a taste tester, you buy a voting form and go around sampling all the different pots of chili.  It’s a delicious event, my husband’s favourite church function of the year.

This year, if you’re submitting a chili, it cannot contain any beef.  Yup, no beef in the chili.  You can make it vegetarian or with chicken, but no beef.

If you’re Canadian and reading this, you’ll be surprised that I was surprised by this announcement.  If you’re from elsewhere, here’s the scoop:  we’ve had a major beef recall over the last 3 or 4 weeks that escalated from a few stores, a few labels and only ground beef the first week to basically all cuts of beef from a particular processing plant in Alberta, bought within the last 6 weeks and sold in almost every grocery chain in Western Canada.

I kind of knew about the recall.  I saw a headline in the paper at work one day, and a colleague mentioned she’d bought some beef that she now couldn’t use.  I’d had a smug moment when I was able to say that I’d only been buying pasture raised, local beef for the last couple of years.  With our freezer full of home grown chicken,  30 pounds of sausage from a neighbour’s pig, a couple of packs of chops that are all that remains from the lamb we bought last year from a local farmer, we really are pretty immune from food scares like the one affecting everyone around us.

So even though I registered the fact that the recall had happened, since it didn’t affect my purchasing decisions or what was in my freezer, I basically moved on and forgot about it.  I don’t go near the meat department of the grocery store, so I didn’t see half empty refrigerator cases which might have reminded me.  I haven’t eaten at a McD’s in about 5 years, so if they have notices posted about the safety or otherwise of their hamburgers, I haven’t been there to spot them.

Consequently, when the organizer of the cook off reminded me in an afterthought kind of comment – oh, don’t forget, don’t use beef in your chili – I was taken aback.  Why? I asked.  It was her turn.  Duh.  There’s a meat recall.  I know, but my beef is from a local cow, processed just a couple of hours from here, it’s fine, I assured her.  She gave me a look over her reading glasses.  Maybe so, she said skeptically, but even if we let you bring it, no one would eat it – it’s just too dangerous.

Dangerous?  Up to now, I hadn’t really taken on board just how big this meat recall had become.  It reminds me of my Navy days when we learned that the reason mine warfare is so successful is because you only have to threaten your enemy by saying you’ve mined an area, you don’t actually have to place a whole lot of mines.  They will still have to proceed very cautiously, sweeping in advance of their shipping to clear the area of potential mines, which they have to do whether you’ve placed 2 mines or 20.

Of course people feel threatened by the food system when recalls like this happen.  We’re trapped behind a mine field we created for ourselves.  When the meat from a couple of hundred cows is mixed together so you can’t tell which one contributed the e coli, that’s a mine.  When you package up that ground beef, and send it out to a dozen national grocery chains, where no one has any idea who bought it or from which outlet – that’s a minefield.  Meat from healthy animals you raised yourself to your own high standards,  or from a farmer you trust, processed with good sanitation and by careful hands, in small batches, or one carcass at a time – that’s no mine field.  That’s a clear channel.

I’m lucky to live where I have local alternatives to big industry meat.  I’m lucky to be able to afford to pay for those choices, though I should add that by doing so, I’m making other choices about what I won’t be spending money on.  I keep using the word luck, but it’s really about choices.  Some of us have more than others, true, but everyone should exercise their right to choose as much as they can.  The almighty dollar is what drives the big ag food machine.  How people choose to spend their food dollars is what determines what goes on the grocery store shelves.  If enough people refused to buy a certain product or food, the store would soon decide to use the shelf space for something else that people will buy.  I realize the big flaw in this is the issue of scale – it’s just not practical to suggest that a city of 500,000 can all find a local farmer to buy their side of beef or pork from, even if they wanted to, or could afford it.  But I stand by my argument.  The way food is processed has to change, and the only way that will happen is if the money stops flowing toward the model currently in use, and people start agitating for something else.

I sold out of chicken this summer, oversold in fact –  customers got two that were meant for family consumption.  My neighbour sold out of pork.  Our products are not cheap in comparison to the grocery store price. So why do we sell out?  Because there are plenty of people out there who understand the value of what they’re paying for.  I buy pasture raised beef for my family from a local farm.  It’s not cheap, but to paraphrase the L’Oreal commercial – we’re worth it.  And the bottom line? My family can have chili made with beef, without any fear.  That’s our choice.

Want to know more about the big beef recall?  Here’s a link to the government page:

Pear Production

Two people, four hours, 10 gallons of pears, 3 dozen jars.  “Can” it be done?

Yes!  We did it!  Total was 24 quarts.  In Canada we buy juice, milk, etc in litres, but we can our pears in quart jars, despite Bernardin’s efforts to label the box correctly – go figure.  Did you spot the jar that says “Newfie Beets 1998” on it?  I’ve been using that jar for 14 years, and the label still hasn’t come off in the washing/sterilizing/boiling process.  What it does tell me is that I’ve been using at least some of my jars for 14 years.  That’s good eco-practice, for sure.  It means the jar is as old as one of my kids.  hmmm.

Two jars didn’t seal, but that’s ok, we put one in the fridge and ate the other one last night for dinner. Yum.