Sunday, April 28, 2013

Growing Like Weeds

The bean plants are now staked up, and are literally taller than the window.

Tomatoes and herbs

The lettuce bowl has already had a "haircut" or two to garnish potato salad, and egg salad sandwiches.

Peppers are a little slower growing, but they're coming along.

Cucumbers are getting along like a house on fire. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spring At Last!!

Yesterday when I checked the weather report, I got the best news I've had in a long time: all this week and in the 14 day trend, the temperature is supposed to stay above zero, even overnight!! Yahoo!! Spring is finally coming to the north!
Yesterday I shovelled the last clinging bits of snow off my balcony and swept it clean, then dragged our patio glider (still in it's original box) out of our closet and assembled it. I'm going to do my damnedest to enjoy this short season between when the snow stops flying and when the black flies become cloying.
It felt so glorious to sit out in 14 degree weather this morning and enjoy my coffee in the sunshine, in my shirt sleeves. Oh spring, you have been eagerly awaited!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


I grew up with recycling my whole life. At first it was just the blue box, but we always had a composter in our back yard. Then our town brought in the green bin program, which I am in love with. The municipality picks up your food waste each week, and once or twice a year, they dump a big load of the garden gold it produces behind town hall on a farmer's market day, and people come with assorted bins and pails and barrows to take home their share.

Up here, there is no green bin. There is no blue bin even.

An outdoor composter isn't really an option for us right now as apartment dwellers, and in Moosonee it's impractical anyways. Most of the year the waste would freeze rather than break down, and when it's not frozen it would attract nuisance animals. No thank you. So I looked into indoor composting solutions. Vermicomposting is one of the cleanest, quietest and most self perpetuating ways I know of to compost indoors. No need to keep purchasing enzymes or cultures that will eat the food and keep smells at bay, no machine that turns the compost regularly, just a colony of happy worms munching away on your garbage. As an added bonus, up to 2/3 of what goes into the worm bin should be "brown matter", which is high in carbon, alongside your "green matter" which is your food scraps and coffee grinds. Shredded paper makes fabulous brown matter, and acts as a bedding for your worms. So not only am I diverting a lot of my kitchen waste, I would also be taking home a significant portion of the waste paper from the public school, and turning it into plant food. Sounds great, all systems go, right?

The trouble was the worms. Most people breeding Red Wrigglers for the compost trade are small backyard businesses, not set up for the logistics of shipping much beyond their immediate communities. And those that are wouldn't ship to Moosonee (especially in February when I was asking) for fear that the worms would freeze in transit. Besides, paying $40 for a half pound of worms seems a bit excessive to me. I put the project on the back burner.

Last week however, I noticed a compost bin while supply teaching in the Junior Kindergarden class. The next time I was in the school I was asking the teacher about it, and she said that yes, there were worms in the bin, and in fact, they were thriving, and some would need to be separated out soon, because there was just more worms than needed to handle the scraps that class was producing. Would I like some?

So, thrilled at my discovery, I finished the fishy crackers I'd brought for snack, and scooped up their container of worms, raided the paper shredder and made off gleefully clutching my new treasures.

The bin pictured above is my new worm colony, and it lives in my laundry room. I'm so happy to have found some worms!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

And Eggs...

Because egg shells are great for starting seeds in too. Fill with soil, plant your seeds, write on the side. It's pretty sweet. And the egg shells give all kinds of great calcium to the plant. Again, when you're ready to replant you can plant the whole thing, just give the egg shell a squeeze to break it up, and the roots will push out on their own.


I saw this on pinterest, and it was so great that I had to share. Once I'd tried it myself of course :) Make seed starter pods out of toilet paper tubes. Great way to reuse things we might otherwise throw out, in a way that helps us live greener more sustainable lives. Happy earth day!

Cut a toilet paper roll in half so you have two shorter tubes. Take one of the rolls and squash it flat, then open it and squash it in the other direction so that when you open it again it'll be mostly square-ish. Then on one end make a small slit about half an inch deep along all four fold lines. 

 You end up with a box with four flaps. Fold them together tucking the ends under one another so it makes a closed box bottom.

 Three toilet paper tubes yields 6 little planters to start seeds in.
 A view of the bottoms all folded up. If your slits are too shallow, you will have an open hole in the bottom, which is ok as long as it's not too big. If your cuts are too deep the flaps will overlap and your box will have a hard time laying flat (see middle left box). I had to unfold it and trim the flaps down.
Once I filled my little boxes and planted seeds in them I labelled them directly with a sharpie, and placed them in the little plastic "Jiffy" greenhouse. The toilet paper tubes are much easier to label than the netting and peat pucks that come with the greenhouse. I covered it with the plastic bubble to help it germinate as I normally would with one of these kits. When your seedlings are ready to be replanted, you can simply open the bottom to help the roots out, and then plant the whole tube.


Such is the crazy yin and yang of my life right now. Bean plants thriving in the intense sunshine, and the heat that creates in my window sill in the foreground. Giant mountain of snow (and more falling today might I add) in the background. Starting to get a little squirrelly for spring here. At this rate I'll be engulfed in an indoor jungle before it's ever warm enough to put my plants outside. We had a huge dumping of snow on Friday. Enough to rival any we've had the rest of the winter. The kind where I had to shovel a foot and a half of snow off my porch. Very disappointing.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Avocado Pasta

This pic is from the first time I made it, with bacon and shrimp

I have a new favourite pasta recipe!!

The sauce:
-1 whole avocado, peeled and pitted.
-1-2 tbsp of oil (to help your blender/processor out. use more for firmer fruit, less if nice and soft)
-juice from 1/2 lemon (and some zest if you want to get all fancy)
-1-2 cloves garlicsalt and pepper to taste
-the recipe calls for fresh basil but I didn't have any.(yet!)
whip it all up and set it aside to let the flavours mingle. It will be quite thick.

For the rest:

I like something like rotini or shells because they seem to hold sauce better. Use somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 bag of pasta, depending how saucy you like it, and how many veggies the sauce has to coat as well.. Lately I find I use about equal parts of vegetables and pasta. Tonight, it's green beans and broccoli (thrown in to cook with the pasta in the boiling water), and then zucchini and mushrooms tossed in after the pasta's drained. I also like it with raw baby spinach, and minced red onions look really lovely against the green of the avocado. I like to sneak as many veggies into my diet as I can. You can add left over cooked chicken, shrimp, ham, bacon (I have tried bacon and shrimp so far) or just leave it like that. Stir in the sauce and eat- yum. It's creamy and rich.. hits the spot like the ultimate comfort food but way less calories than alfredo or something. Eating leftovers the next day I prefer to eat it cold like a pasta salad.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April is Ugly.

Photo by Paul Lantz
This is what our main street looks like at the moment. The part with the church in the snow could be out of a Christmas card (which is bad enough in April), but those sloggy, muddy, pot holed roads are just awful. Back home my brothers pay good money to go to a mud bog and watch trucks rip themselves apart on courses that look just like this. We get to see it happen daily, and pray that it's not our truck that drops an axle in the slime.
Anyways, this is what our main street looks like. There's a suite of offices (the building with the lions club symbol), the church, and further down the street is the OPP and the LCBO. Out of the frame to the left is the post office. On the other side of the street, behind the camera is a restaurant, grocery store, college, public school and hardware store. And that's about it! Looking forward to the road drying out and the graders being able to cut through the frost enough to actually level out the surface. It'll make getting around much easier. Right now a 5 minute walk takes a 5 minute drive. Not exactly a time saver.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Green Babies

Are growing like you wouldn't believe!! Also, I found my digital camera and got it working again, so you can expect slightly better quality photos than the iPod photos I've been using for the last year or so.

Beans and Cucumbers in one windowsill

More Beans in the Laundry room window

Sunflower seedlings!! My favourite flower! I just hope it warms up in time for me to transplant them outside.

This scruffy looking bowl is a salad mix... apparently.... I remain optimistic yet skeptical. I think it got too much sun early on and bolted tall and leggy.

Assorted seedlings that are still small enough to stay in their pods for now... Tomatoes, thyme, a few sunflowers and a bean plant

These are mostly herbs. They were started at the same time, but they grow more slowly. The full row closest to the back are peppers. They are apparently also slow.

And this is the little garlic bulb, that I first planted in the egg shell. I can't get over how tall it is now!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Grow, Green Things, Grow!

It feels so good to be involved in the process of growing your own food. Especially when, as you can see through my window, the rest of my world is one sickly, muddy, snowy mess. The little bits on green on my window sills and the pussy willow buds on the trees are the only indication I've had that this is indeed spring. And the greens are artificially started and I feel the pussy willows may be lying to me.


I'm a little behind on posts, but I'll try to catch up. Easter here in the Moose was absolutely lovely. My folks came up for a visit, and it was so very nice to see them. We picked them up from the train on the Thursday, and took them back to the train on the following Tuesday. While they were here they were a big help around the house. Dad levelled out all our crooked cabinet doors, fixed our leaky toilet and hung a curtain rod for us, and mom sewed up the curtains to hang from it, as well as a table cloth out of a set of sheets I loved but don't have a bed that size any more. It's little things we could have done ourselves, but it was nice to have their help and it made them feel important and gave them something to do while they were here and we appreciate it.
Dad and I put together a big turkey dinner for Monday (since Andrew had to work Sunday) and it was a big success even without as much of a vegetable selection as we're used to. It was a slow week for veggies at the store. Things like that happen up here. It was still delicious.
They brought up care packages with them, both from themselves and other friends and family members. We told people that coffee is expensive up here, and so we got inundated with the stuff! 15 cans of coffee were sent our way, mostly the tall Costco cans. And that's after my folks and Andrew's folks held back a few cans for their own use! We probably won't even manage to drink it all before it expires, but Andrew will take some to work with him, and we'll make sure it doesn't go to waste. Mom brought me up one of her extra sewing machines, and Andrew's mom sent up some seeds, soil, and peat pots. It was such a welcome gift... I was craving the sight of green things growing, as you can tell from my earlier post about the garlic (which by the way is growing beautifully). I've got little green house style seed starter kits, old margarine, coffee and yoghurt containers and little pots full of tender young green things growing in every window sill and sunny spot, and I couldn't be happier about it. The bolus of fresh vegetables and herbs will be a welcome addition to our diet too.
I have been taught how to play euchre in the past, but was never a confident player. It comes with experience, which I certainly got that weekend. We played hand after hand, and literally wore out a deck of cards. I went from dreading being asked to play the game to looking forward to getting together with another couple so we can play again.
Mom and I went for a nice walk with a pair of pruners and collected pussy willows which grow on the verges of the road. I was surprised to see them, and more surprised to see the downy soft buds open on them already. To me they are such a happy symbol of spring, that I couldn't help but bring some inside. They're standing now in my dining room in an old milk bottle. It's my kind of scrappy beauty. I love it. Between little touches like the pussy willows and the curtains I must admit this place is looking pretty cozy and pretty homey. There's three more rooms that could really use curtains, but it's really starting to look good. I was proud to show it to my folks.
It was also really good timing to have them here. With Scout leaving on Wednesday, having the bustle of house guests was a good way to avoid dwelling on the empty space left by the little fur ball. Though I must admit that the first few quiet moments I got up to see what kind of trouble he was getting into, only to realize he wasn't there.
All in all it was a lovely weekend, and I was so glad they made the trek up to our corner of this white and wild world.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


It is April, right? Right? Come on Mother Nature, get it together.

Final Words on Scout

That's the last picture I took of my boy right before we loaded him on the train and sent him towards his new home. I have had a very heavy heart, and I think I'll miss him for a long time and remember him always. I kept the collar we found him with (he had outgrown it anyways) and now my teddy bear wears it, along with the collars of other dogs who have had special significance in my life, and a tuft of hair from a dog who's collar wasn't mine to keep. Each one of them has helped me become the person I am, and so I remember them this way.
I received a lot of flack from a lot of people over letting him go. People here, and on my facebook page, and people in "real life". Trust me, I was harder on myself than any of you were. Technically the landlord tenant act should have protected us, but it wasn't a chance we could afford to take in a town with incredibly limited rental spaces. The only rentals in town, (and we looked into it, believe me) are owned by the same doodlebop who owns our unit, or are a shared accommodation type of arrangement. We agreed that we don't want to start our married life with room mates. I have had to share kitchen space with someone else all my life so far, and for once, it was really important to me have my own. Also, not many people are willing to let you move in with a destructive 3 month old puppy. There is housing available through the health unit for staff, and as a part timer, Andrew wasn't guaranteed housing, but he could have applied for it anyways. We looked at the fine print though, and you're not allowed to operate a business out of their housing. That means I couldn't do massage. That just won't work either. We even looked into buying a home. Even though the only places available up here at the moment aren't exactly dream houses, it would be our own place where we would have been free to do whatever we wanted, and be able to keep our puppy. Unfortunately we're about 2 years away from being able to even afford a 5% downpayment at the rate we're going now, and don't have the credit score to let us borrow a down payment from a line of credit or some such. That's really risky business anyhow and I'm glad we didn't try to go down that road. We really had to make the choice we made, but it still hurt to make it.
Yesterday, I got some news from his new people though, and it has me feeling much better about the decision. Scout is keeping his name, and now lives with two other huskies, on an 8.5 acre property outside of New Liskeard. His owner loves winter sports and goes skijoring and scootering with his other two dogs. He's already getting Scout used to the idea of wearing a harness and dragging a light stick or plastic bag on a leash behind him. Which is exactly what I was going to do with him, so this makes me happy. The best news of all though, was that he'd taken Scout to the vet. He tested positive for parvovirus, but they caught it fairly soon and he's being successfully treated and expected to make a 100% recovery. If we had kept Scout up here, the only thing we could have done was encourage fluids and watch as he worsened through intense diarrhea and vomitting and hope and pray that his little immune system would see him through the natural course of the virus without him becoming too dehydrated. It would have been terrifying, and we might have lost him. I'm so glad that he's in a place where he can receive the care he needs. It was an important lesson. He will have a great life, and when we are ready to get a dog again, I will make sure we take one in right before a mobile vet comes up, or we head south.
In some ways, life is hard up here. I'm glad this lesson wasn't any harder than it had to be.