August 31, 2014

Labour Day labours

My son came home with 2 bags of fresh corn from the local farm produce stand.   They have delicious and very fresh corn.  Sometimes there are people milling about waiting for the shipment to arrive and the estimated time of arrival is announced on a blackboard.  They stock 3 types, peaches and cream, yellow and white.   You'll see people crowding around the peaches and cream type and a few at the yellow corn bin.  They white corn bin is usually ignored.  It's our favourite kind though.  The cobs and kernals are a tiny bit smaller than the other varieties but the corn is so sweet and tender that it's well worth it.   I didn't even bother cooking any of the corn for dinner.   I just started blanching it, cutting it off the cobs and ended up with 12 packets for the freezer.  Corn season will be done shortly and like beans, home frozen corn tastes so much better than commercially frozen.

Once a year, the grocery store gets in 25 lb boxes of plum tomatoes for a low price.  This year they were $6.77 a box.  That's cheaper than I can get them at the farmer's market or at the farm gate.

25 lbs is about 1/2 bushel of tomatoes.  I picked up 2 boxes of tomatoes or 50 lbs.   My daughter had dropped off some canning jars that someone had given her, that she decided she no longer needed, so I had plenty of jars, including the ones from last year's tomato canning.  I started canning on Saturday afternoon and after 21 jars, called it a night.  I'd finished up a whole box and the rest weren't so ripe that they wouldn't last until the next day.   I added all the tomatoes that were ripe in the garden to the pile.  There weren't enough to do a whole load by themselves, but enough to make a different in the final jar numbers.

  I realized as I was loading the canner with the second set of jars that I was using the ones my daughter gave me and a lot of them seemed to be pre-metric sizing.  They hold 1 pint instead of 500 mls and are just slightly smaller. 

  I've got 42 jars of tomatoes put up this year,   really 43 but one jar leaked.   It seems like there is always one that misbehaves.     There are 2 1/2 jars of tomatoes leftover but my canner is large and I didn't feel like keeping it boiling for another 45 minutes or more, for 2 measly jars.    Instead, I'll use them and the jar which leaked, to make tomato sauce for dinner tomorrow. 

My shelf is up on the wall.  All I need to do is paint the buttons to hide the screws.  I may add a little bit more brown paint to dirty up a bit of the scuffed areas which show a bit too much white for my liking.   My son pointed out the disconnect in furniture styles.  The shelf is over my computer desk, which is a 1930's dining table.   Definitely mixed eras, but I love my shelf, so I don't really care.

August 26, 2014

The Yarnoire search continues

 I've been looking for fibre storage for ages.  Specifically, I've been looking for what I've been lovingly calling a Yarnoire.  An armoire cupboard of sorts, to hold lots of fibre and hide it adequately.  I'd probably hide it from myself with the put it in a safe place syndrome, but currently, my homework fibres are starting to be decorating elements in my living room.  The big problem is that I don't want a cheap mds armoire and my tastes are way out of line with my budget.  It seems I can zero in on every single armoire which starts at $1600 and goes way up from there.  There are obviously very few deals where I've been looking.  While open shelving works, Kevin, the exploring, naughty kitty also likes open shelving and bats the fibre bags down to play with them, hence the desire for a lovely closed armoire.

We were wandering through a thrift store the other day and I took  a quick gander down the line of dining tables and 1980's hutches.  There was this little chest of drawers with tacky hardware and a coat of teal paint.   It was pretty enough and I opened the drawers and it seemed sturdy.  I had hubby check it out and he declared it sturdy enough as well.  The drawing point for this chest of drawers, besides needing fibre storage, was the price.  It was priced at $35!  It was obviously wood and not fibre board or mds.   After thinking about it for about 2 1/2 minutes, I went and paid for it.  One of the workers helped hubby load it into the back of the truck, when I was told that for a little chest, it was really heavy.   It's not really that small either, but it looked tiny when it was dwarfed between two huge and ugly china hutches.

A good look at it in the daylight shows that we might have gotten a deal with this purchase.  It really
is heavy.  While there is a very thin sheet of plywood on the back, it covers up the original wooden slat back.   Two of the 3 drawer locks are there, though metal plugs have been put in two of the lock key holes.  I checked the drawer joints as they can tell a lot about how a piece is made. I had to look up this particular joinery type because I'd never seen it before.  It turns out it's a peg and scallop joint or a Knapp joint.  It was patented in 1867 by one Mr. C. Knapp.  It was a mechanized alternative to  hand made dovetail joinery.  By 1890 it had fallen out of fashion as mechanized dovetail machinery had been developed, which appealed to the Colonial Revival style which was fashionable at the time.  By about 1900, the dovetail had completely replaced the Knapp joint.

It's said that joinery of this style easily dates a piece of furniture. So I'm guessing that this is an Eastlake style chest from the latter part of the 19th century.  It's probably Oak, though I don't really know anything about identifying wood. I'm going on the fact that I read that much Eastlake style furniture was made of oak and walnut.   You know, oak is light coloured, walnut is dark.  At $35, it was a  real bargain.  I've priced replacement hardware, both originals and reproductions.  It's going to cost me more to replace the hardware than the price of the chest itself.  There there is that teal paint.  That might be a job for next spring.

I'm still looking for my Yarnoire though.  As pretty as this little chest is, it won't hold all the necessary fibre.

August 23, 2014

Farewell my friend

Toby was a pound rescue who came in with a box full of what looked like purebred Newfoundland puppies.  He had a Newfie tail, and webbed feet, but was obviously sired by some sort of collie by the looks of him.When we brought him home, he was 16 weeks old and had rarely been outside.  He was afraid of almost everything.  He was great inside and with the family, but outside, even a bird call he'd never heard before would send him running back in to safety.   The neighbour used to babysit a huge yellow Labrador Retriever and one evening she asked if we'd like to go with them for a walk.  Toby walked carefully by the Labs side and soon started imitating his behavior.  It was really interesting watching Toby suddenly not be quite so afraid of things.  After that evening, he was quite the brave little dog. 

While he enjoyed agility work, his favourite thing in all the world were tennis balls.   He was a mouthy dog and chewed them after he'd played with them for a while. We never pursued flyball for that reason.  He didn't just want to chase the balls, but when he was tired, he liked to chew them.  The expensive ones would last forever but once a week, the two of us would climb in the car and go grocery shopping.  Beside the grocery store was a dollar shop.  I'd pop in there, pick up a packet of cheap tennis balls.  I'd leave them in the car and he'd stick his nose in the bag, just touching the packet of tennis balls and not move the whole way home.   He'd carry his packet of tennis balls into the house or wait excitedly until he got one to play with.

He was a good was a good pet.  He was good with people and kids.  He never did figure out that he was bigger and stronger than the cats though.   While I never had to do formal obedience training with him, he learned so quickly that it seemed he was well behaved without training.  His house manners were impeccable.    When we lived in town, the neighbours once asked me if he actually was able to bark as they knew we had a dog, but had never heard him bark in over 2 years.  He did bark, when it was necessary but only then.  He was active up until the last couple of weeks of his 13 years.  He will be sorely missed.

August 19, 2014

Tape trims, masking tape and sweet endings...

 The shelf is almost finished.  It's taken two coats of each colour, with drying time in between.  The edge between the yellow and blue shows that even with masking tape, I'm only adequate at painting straight lines.  Not bad, but not perfect.  Now, to get brave enough to sand it down and apply the glaze.  I took the leftover ivory paint from the livingroom walls and mixed it with the leftover very pale yellow paint from the bathroom.  It's not quite as yellow as the photo shows.  I didn't want the back of my shelf to blend in too much with the wall, but didn't want a large slab of blue on the wall either.

I'm teaching a couple of friends to tablet weave later this week.  I'm using a 10 card, simple backwards and forwards design, which accommodates the continuous warping or fast warping method.  I thought I should brush up on some skills and make sure my pattern draft was accurate.  There are 2 metres of the green and white trim here.  I used an inkle loom and it really isn't worth spending the time warping it up for a small sample.  It doesn't take all that long to weave off the whole length.  I could have done another 1/2 metre or so but broke a warp thread and it wasn't worth tying on a new one for that short extra bit.  I mean, it really is just a sample.

 The inkle loom is made of Walnut and is  quite heavy.  That means that it doesn't move at all when in use.  It's beautifully finished and works like a charm.  I've been playing with the two shuttles to see which I prefer.  I've a couple of other styles as well, which I'm hoping to have tested by the end of this length.  I didn't put as much warp on the loom, so the tape should be a tad shorter than the green one.  It's pretty though.    I'm also playing with arborite cards which Maureen's handy husband made.  They have a slight curve in there, but it's a non-issue.  They work beautifully.  I only have a few though, so I'll have to see if there are leftovers after the fact.  I'd hate to see them languishing in some drawer someplace, when they'd be awesome for wider project experiments.

Peach jam, with sadly floating fruit.   Since I've still not managed to replace my food processor, I chopped these peaches by hand.  I think the pieces were still larger than they should have been.  In hindsight, I'd have run the peaches through the grinder.  The good thing is that the jam tastes just fine.  It just looks a bit ugly.  For family use though, it will be fine.  If I go to make more jam this year though, stop me.  There is plenty in the pantry: apricot jam, peach jam, raspberry jelly, strawberry jam.  Plus, there is almost a kilo of currants in the freezer.  I really don't think I need more jam this year.

August 15, 2014

This week in colour

 Despite the cool weather, the garden veggies are ripening.  We've been eating fresh tomatoes almost daily for several weeks now.  The beets are awesomely sweet and tender, making me wish I'd  planted many more.  I'm really the only one who likes them though, so there are enough for me.   The cucumbers are late this year because they either didn't germinate in the cool weather or seedlings were eaten by a very small bunny, finding his way under the fence.  Finally, the third time was a charm, though we won't get tons, we're getting enough to have a nice taste of fresh cucumber now and then.

I asked my sweetie to put up a couple of shelves over my desk.  After much discussion about whether we would attach them to the wall or have it free standing, I let it be his choice.  After a brief discussion about what it might look like, this is what I received.   There was a complaint that it would have been cheaper to purchase an antique shelf, after I tallied up what the milk paint would cost to finish it.  However, I've been using leftover paint here.  Not quite the same finish, but it's looking pretty good.   Just a bit more painting to do, and I'll post a finished photo.

Playing around with greens and yellows, plus slogging away on my homework.  It takes me longer to spin up the fibres I dislike.  Soy silk was one of those.  However, when blended with some Merino, it turned out to be something quite yummy.  It still took a bit to spin, because I ended up blending a bit more than I'd anticipated, plus other chores got in the way.  It's so soft and lovely.  Because there is about 60% Merino, I was able to use a long draw, which was also a nice change.  So far, all the man-made fibres I've used have required a short forward draw with lots of twist.  A bouncy, squishy, soft longdraw yarn was almost like a holiday.

I plied the green yarn with a chartreuse merino that I had on hand from a previous experiment.   It's quite nice and took a while to spin up, because I got carried away with the blending process.

August 10, 2014

Garlic Harvest and more socks

 I harvested the garlic last week.  It took about 3 days to dig it all up, wash it and start it drying.  Most of the heads of garlic are a normal size, but there are a fair number of absolutely huge ones, with a very few overly small.  In all, it was a really good garlic harvest.   It seems to be one crop that does well, regardless of the weather conditions.  Being cooler and with regular rain seems to be a bonus for the garlic this year though.

After digging it up and rinsing it off with the hose (I did it at the base of the new apple tree, so it was watered in at the same time and I wasn't wasting water), I lay out the garlic on the deck table to start drying.   There is a fair chance of rain in the forecast for the next few days, so I tied it up into bunches and either hung them up or laid them out on the laundry rack to finish drying in the garage.

Not only is there enough to last us the winter, but I'll have lots to give away to my kids as well.  I should weigh the garlic because there is a lot and it's heavy.  Maybe over 5 lbs of it!  The string I used to tie the bunches and hang it up with is handspun rayon leftovers from my Master Spinner level 5 homework.

The potato chip socks I started to take on holidays are done.  The stripes match perfectly; another serendipitous striping sock yarn.   They're rather sedate socks but being made of Kroy, they should be hard wearing, even if that yarn is much lighter than it normally is.  This was some of that yarn which was on sale for super cheap, but even if it's a mill mistake, I think it's nicer than regular Kroy.   I'm trying to figure out what to put on the needles next.  I have yarn for a stranded  colourwork sock project set aside, plus some solids for undecided projects. 

August 05, 2014

Holiday Monday Day Trip

The August holiday is sort of the holiday that isn't.  It isn't an official holiday so everything is open and only some of the people have it off.  My sweetie is one of the lucky ones who had a 3 day weekend.  He dragged me out to Stratford for the day where we wandered through antique stores, (nope, I didn't purchase anything!) and then for a walk through the park, along the riverbank.  It's a lovely park, full of people using it.  There were kids playing, people sitting at benches, on blankets and picnic tables, with picnics, coffees or just reading and enjoying the day.  I saw a crazy tourist getting awfully close to the swans, trying to get the perfect photo.  I'm not that brave!

 I dragged the big girl camera out because a heavy camera that takes good photos won out over the camera phone convenience.  I saw a female  duck just hanging out.

 Nearby one was strutting about .  That little bar of blue is so pretty.  Funny, when I look at the photos I took, there were lots of female ducks but not so many males. I'm pretty sure these are Mallard ducks.

This swan arched it's neck for a pretty photo op although I think it's really looking for some sort of interesting tidbit of food.  Swans are huge, with monsterously large webbed feet.  They can be cranky too, although there were no young cygnets around so that would help.  As well, these swans aren't wild, so they are used to people. 

The big boys were out playing with their toys.  There were 4 or 5 remote control sailboats out in the water.  They launched them from the full sized boat launch, which was a bit amusing.  They looked so sweet out there on the water though, playing tag and racing along.  It was fun to watch.

August 02, 2014

1852 Isinglass Jelly

From the Ladies New Book of Cookery comes a recipe for Strawberry Isinglass Jelly, to differentiate between a calf's feet jelly and a preserve type jelly. After a recipe for how to clarify Isinglass, which is from a fish's, often a Sturgeon, swim bladder, there is a recipe for how to use it to make a jelly from strawberries.  It mentions how to substitute other fruits at the end of the recipe.

I'd been looking at these, along with baked puddings and thinking about trying some of these recipes.  The pushing point for this experiment was a phone call from my friend Maureen, who offered me several old jelly moulds she wanted to get rid of.  I had no idea what I was getting into, but the box of  lovely stoneware moulds set of a flurry of activity of researching.

 This is one of the moulds and a very pretty one.  It holds two cups and see the crazing on the upper top of the mould?  The crazing is different on both sides, so I knew it wasn't all the way through and likely not a weak spot.   However, the glaze is possibly cracked and I'm just guessing that the glaze might be lead based.  So I don't mind using it once but not often, just in case.   But it's awfully pretty ...

The recipe called for boiling up 3/4 pound of sugar in 1 pint of water, which makes a simple syrup.  I halved the recipe, which turned out to be 1 cup of water and 6 oz or 3/4 cup of sugar.  The whole recipe calls for 1 quart of strawberries.     I had a bunch of cherries which needed to be used up, so I chopped them in half and poured the syrup over it.  I had more than half a quart of fruit, for the half batch of jelly but the recipe mentions that other fruits used this way might need more quantity for flavour.   It says to let them stand all night, so I tossed them in the fridge.  I actually let it set an extra day.   I didn't have the couple of tablespoons of currant juice to add, so I left it out but I did have lemon juice.  The big kicker here is finding Isinglass.   I know that it can sometimes be found at brewing stores, being used to clarify wine but was that the same type of preparation that would be for making a jelly?  I've no idea.   Anyway, I substituted gelatine, which I found out was available in the 1860's.

Gelatine comes in powder and leaves.   I can only find the powder here, either in packets or bulk and it's a lot cheaper to purchase in bulk.  1 tbsn of gelatine will gel up to 2 cups of liquid, though some sources suggest limiting it to 1 3/4 cups liquid.   It need to be soaked in cold water before using and then mixed with hot water to dissolve.  I had 1 1/4 cups of cherry juice/simple syrup and a 2 cup mould.   I soaked 1 tbsn plus 1/2 tsp gelatin in 1/4 cup of cold water.  I then added 1/2 cup hot water to the gelatin mixture and mixed it really well.  The soaked gelatin was thick and gloppy, so I needed a wisk to mix it well.  Then I stirred in the drained cherry syrup and poured it into the mould, which I lightly oiled with sunflower oil.

After a few hours in the fridge, I ran a bit of warm water over the outside of the mould, loosened the edges with a knife and popped it upside down onto a plate.  How pretty is that?

Taste-wise?  Ick.  It was way too sweet and not nearly fruity enough for my liking. Next time I'll use the secondary instructions which say to just toss some sugar over the fruit and a bit of water, let it sit and drain it.  It also says any juice can be used this way, which would be even easier and probably more tasty as well.  I've got to get some white plates for stuff like this.  It would look so much prettier on plain white.

Recipe as written in the book -  Water, 1 pint; sugar, three-fourths of a pound: 15 minutes (boiled together).  Strawberries, 1 quart; isinglass, 2 ounces and a half, water, 1 pint;  juice, 1 larger or 2 small lemons.

 It also calls for egg white, but nowhere in the directions can I see where it is called for and this part of the recipe doesn't mention the currant juice that the instructions call for either.

I used 1 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar (boiled for 15 minutes).  Cherries, 3 cups, gelatin  1 tbsn plus 1/2 tsp, 3/4 cup water, divided, juice of one lemon.

Easy to do, pretty to look at and well worth other experiments.