Saturday, December 24, 2011

The day before.....

This year we are having three separate celebrations for Christmas. Tonight, Christmas Eve, we have our daughter Jessica and her fiance Darcy for dinner. They are spending Christmas Day with his family so we are reviving a tradition that my paternal Aunt enjoyed: the Christmas Eve feast.

Our celebration tonight will include a beautiful prime rib roast with roasted potatoes and root vegetables, but mostly it will be a celebration of a new commitment that was made right before my birthday. Not that this was a surprise, but it made me stop and think about life when Jess told me that they were engaged. I really don't think I am old enough to have a daughter her age, but DNA doesn't lie.

James is home from the big city and off visiting his old friends in the neighbourhood. He is spending the Eve and the Day in Victoria with family there so will be with us again on Boxing Day. I think the tradition of gorgeous leftovers will rule the day so not much planning to be done and lots of time for visiting.

So Christmas Day will be Gerry and I. First time ever we have been alone. But really, we won't be alone. We share that day with so many memories and so many loved ones that are no longer here that the house will be full.

The hustle of Christmas's past where little children waited breathlessly to see what Santa would bring are gone now until a crop of grandchildren arrive (and it should be a while really!) But in the meantime, I try to continue the traditions I grew up with. The turkey was taken out of the freezer yesterday to thaw slowly in the very cold garage. Turnips, carrots, and parsnips all wait their turn in the roaster. The dressing was long ago learned and will accompany the turkey. Cranberry sauce was made at Thanksgiving so it had time to age gracefully in its glass jars.

We will take some time to talk together, to plan our upcoming year. We are goal setters, so those will be mulled along with cider, both making the house an optimistic and comforting place. All in all, it will be the kind of celebration that seems so rooted in the short days and long evenings of our Canadian winter.

But mostly we will be grateful. Grateful for wonderful children, for great family, and lots and lots of amazing friends. We wish you all the very best of the Holiday and for 2012. Take time to reflect and to ponder and to just be glad that you are where you are.

Best wishes


Saturday, December 10, 2011

My husband loves a Tart!

Well our dirty little secret is out. My husband loves a tart. Butter tart that is. Today signals the first day in several that I will devote to carrying on the baking traditions that my mother taught me. Starting with butter tarts, I will also do her shortbread cookies, her carmels, and retrieve from the freezer the light fruit cake that she taught me. It will get a luxurious bath in some amaretto before being served. My personal favourite, it pairs with a cup of tea better than just about anything out there.

But it is butter tarts that really figure prominently in my memories of important women in my life. My grandmother and mother passed down their butter tart recipe to me and now to my daughter (and hopefully my son!). Even my Auntie Doreen, who wasn't really noted for her baking, made my mom's tarts for her Christmas celebrations.

Our very, very good family friend, Joyce Roggema, had a secret butter tart recipe that was coveted by all who tasted it. Her passing this November left a void in our lives that is only made a little less bittersweet by the tasting of the tarts that were her special gift.Shortly after my mom died, Joyce sat me down and said "You have a mom sized hole in your heart right now, and I have a daughter sized one....maybe we could help each other out." It brought so strongly home to me that it is the people in our lives that make it worthwhile. I miss her and her daughter Janet hugely...and now that they are both gone, butter tarts are what we celebrate their memory with. (Although I can never eat Mac n Cheese without thinking about dear Jannie).

It is that tradition, the raisins floating in their pool of butter, sugar and syrup, that connects us still. So today I made the first batch of our tarts. Gerry could hardly wait til they were cool to test and both Darcy and Jess have been eating them as well. I am off to the store to get more pastry and corn syrup. I think there is at least one more batch of tarts in our future. Will have to be if I am to keep some ready for James when he comes home from school.

And just because I don't want to keep the secret all to is the recipe:

1c raisins (soaked 5 minutes in boiling water then drained)
1/2 c butter
1 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup corn syrup
2 eggs (whisked in a bowl)
2 tsp vanilla

Mix butter, sugar, syrup, eggs, salt and vanilla in a pot. Heat enough to melt the butter and to incorporate all the ingredients. Distribute the drained raisins into 24 tart shells then pour syrup mix over top. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Often I cook them for 5 extra minutes just cause they seem to need it.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Decking the Halls.......

Contemplation of our lives comes easily at this dark and insular time of year. Warm lights, candles and fires comfort us when darkness comes in the afternoon. I am looking around the house and wondering about decorating for the holidays.

I have always loved the lights of the Christmas tree and can remember as a small child falling asleep under the spreading branches of a heavily scented pine or fir. Now considering that we lived in Saskatchewan at the time, I am sure the tree wasn't quite as majestic as my child-mind remembers it, but for me it was magical. The twittering lights blinking, the angel winking at the top. We even had a stuffed Santa doll (which I found about a week ago sorting through my Mom's decoration boxes) to cuddle and dream with.

This year will be quite different. Mom is gone. That is a big enough hole but one that isn't as raw as it was last year. Both of the kids will be spending the 25th with different families as they grow up and away. So it will be Gerry and me on the day, and to be honest, I am looking forward to it. I don't mind the peace of an empty house and we have both been so busy for so long that it will be lovely just to spend some time with him.

In the meantime, I have been tasked with managing the holly sales for the farm where we keep some of our beehives. It has been fascinating work! Long a closet farmer, I am getting a real (albeit safe) taste of what the farming life is like with its uncertain weather, uncertain markets, uncertain schedules, and uncertain crops. How amazingly determined true farmers are to carry on in the wake of all that.

My work began late....beginning of November, and I have been scrambling to organize pickers, set up shipping schedules, learn all about the flower auction system in Burnaby, market the product to various local and wholesale distributors, and ultimately learn about the harvesting from the amazing woman who has been doing it for 19 years! Watching her and the other pickers work has been the greatest of educations.But doing all this amongst 14 acres of holly got me wondering about its history as a symbol of many midwinter holidays and festivals, so a trip down google-lane confirmed what I thought--holly is midwinter's sacred plant.

Long associated with rituals and celebrations, holly has an ancient history. Druids wore holly around their heads when heading into the forests at winter solstice as it symbolized death and rebirth. Ancient Romans used it to celebrate Saturn during Saturnalia, and for early Christians, holly was thought to have the power to drive away evil spirits. The Green Knight of Arthurian legend was described as not having a sword but carrying a solitary branch of holly as his weapon.

In flower essence literature, holly is said to be one of two most primary of essences. good to "heal the inner being and stimulate the basic loving nature of the human soul" ( Holly has also been used as a Celtic sleep spell and a bag of holly leaves and berries were thought to increase the ability of men to attract women.

So if you are in the stores, gathering up treasures to pass on to loved ones over the holidays, take a close look at the holly and wonder. Wonder about its history and stories, wonder where it comes from, wonder who it was who picked it. Then buy some and pass it along. Read or re-read the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- make it one more tradition for a child to remember while falling asleep under the tree. Then tuck up close and enjoy the love of family and friends. The holly will be there to remind us that out of darkness comes life.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Summer wrap up

 Well, it's been a while since I blogged. Summer evaporated in a flurry of gardening, work and ultimately a wedding! Many nights I'd slump exhausted onto the couch after gardening or canning or just a hectic day at work and think "I really should blog that!" But it didn't happen. Oh well.

Our bees have buzzed along all summer, swarming a couple of times due to our over management. We captured all the swarms (beginners luck!) and went quickly from two strong and one weak hive, to five moderately strong hives. The weather this year meant poor nectar output from flowers so none off the beeks we know will have extra honey for sale. For our bees it means that we will feed them sugar water for the next four or so weeks to build up their stores in the hive in hopes they can survive the winter.

We have learned a lot from the bees this year. First of all, read everything you can about beekeeping but be aware that bees will do their own thing -- apparently they haven't read any of the books on how they should behave. Second, there are a lot of opinions out there about how to keep bees. Figure out which one works for you and your goals then stick to it if it seems to be working for the bees.Third, and most importantly, bees are an amazing way to unplug oneself from the hectic computer world and just get grounded again. Gerry has taken to coffee breaks amongst the bees and I try to sit watching them when I get home from work for at least a while. I can feel my pulse slowing as the bees come and go from the hive, some with huge pollen nuggets in neon yellow and green, sometimes grey depending on the source. Some standing guard against the ever pesky wasps and ants, others just out for their evening ablutions flight. Every one of them has a purpose. Every one of them is secure in their place in the hive and that the tasks they perform are vital for the survival of their hive. I can almost feel myself rooting to the spot as one or two investigate me to see if I am a threat and that sense of connection brings me a calm joy.

We have learned a lot from the garden as well this year. As all years, it started out with tremendous hope and excitement. Which seeds do we choose? How do we best fill the small raised beds we had constructed early in the season? Which foods do we most want stored in our cellar for the long winter ahead?

I spent a few days and many evenings tending the small seedlings then bigger plants. Interplanting heritage tomatoes with beans, carrots, beets, a tomatillo and multiple varieties of greens. Weeding was a breeze with the raised beds and healthy soil with which we filled them. Seeing it fenced and fed, I was happy with my garden's progress. We had many early summer meals full of collard greens, bok choi and swiss chard. The Kale grew steadily awaiting the first frost for its true elegance to emerge. The tomatoes were almost as tall as I, with small but plumping paste, red pear, yellow pear and german tomatoes growing. We ate beets, sweet and oozing and had just started collecting the pole beans that had been so promising all season. But there were dangers lurking.

We went away for the long September weekend, happy to visit Gerry's parents in the north of BC. A long lovely drive through the Cariboo and Chilcotin country sides, a couple days of family vists, left us feeling quite refreshed and happy. This week of wedding visiting ended late Sunday evening before Labour Day when we arrived home tired but rejuvenated. The morning broke with Gerry meeting me in the hall...breaking some bad news. The deer in our neighbourhood, always a pest but mostly controlled during the summer, had taken our absence as opportunity. Breaking down the chicken wire fence that surrounded the garden, they proceeded to use all my labour and love as a salad bar. The results were devastating. Everything destroyed. Well the Tomatillo remained untouched (I guess deer don't fancy salsa verde) but otherwise a complete write-off. I felt like crying and to be honest I have only been out there once since it happened.

The garden taught me not to take anything for granted. That life is tenuous even in a subdivision but it is also strong.  I am reminded of a quote from Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park: "Life will find a way". And all life finds a way, any way, to survive.

The summer is quickly coming to an end. You can feel it in the coolness of the night air, in the dewy mornings that quickly evaporate into warm languid afternoons. Next week we will mark one year without my mom. We will mark a year of sadness, a year of construction, a year of hope, of change, of destruction, of love and of family. As I write, our cellar is full of last years pickles, this years jams, jellies and preserves. We are now empty nesters with kids in college. We are now newlyweds with all the hope and joy that brings. We are now a larger family after our wedding, strong in its commitment to each other. All in all, for our family, Life did find a way. And for that I am eternally grateful. Now if someone could just do something about those deer!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rhubarb to the Rescue -- Blog from a Dreary Sunday

Well, it goes without saying that I should be outside doing one of the many projects that I have set for myself this Spring. But, let's face it, Spring just isn't cooperating. We have had one of the wettest, dreariest, and coldest Springs in a very long time. Considering the tremendous flooding and tornadoes being experiences in other parts of Canada and North America, it just doesn't seem right for me to complain.

This particular Sunday, we woke to a heavy rainfall and I had to act fast to rescue my bedraggled seedlings left out overnight to start to acclimatise to their new reality. Some, I'm afraid, may not make it through their soaking. Sigh.

With Gerry buried in a new firmware project and me up having tea and a bagel by 7am, I decided to boost my spirits. As the grey set in closer and closer, I began chopping rhubarb for chutney. I had a few early stalks from my own garden and had also purchased some at a local produce market. Rhubarb is the early riser in the spring garden and first sight of what Jessica calls its brain (its clump of new leaves forcing themselves to the surface) really signals Spring for me.

Of the things I preserve during the year, I particularly love rhubarb chutney. It's peculiar and beloved balance of sweet and sour, savoury and candy wins over most people. But mostly its the bronze peculiarity amongst the jewel tones of the jams, jellies and canned fruits that convinced me that it is my favourite canned item of the year. Rhubarb chutney has no pretense. It's the vegetable among fruits and it declares it proudly. It survives quite nicely thank you in recycled Cheez Whiz jars, not needing the special handling of a lot of preserves (as long as those jars have their snap lids still usable).

The recipe comes from a distant family member, no longer with us, so concocting this preserve every year reminds me of all those dear to us who no longer share this reality and is a way to honour all that they left us. I have written it into my copy of "The Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes: by Marvin Levinson, one of my favourite preserving cookbook and left to me by my Dad because he loved the book and would have loved the preserve.

Within the half hour, the whole house smells like vinegar, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. The pot of potent liquid happily gurgling on the stove, transforming from a brash liquid to a gelatinous condiment that we feast on all year. 

Rhubard Chutney:

4c chopped rhubarb
2 c chopped onions
4 c white vinegar
4 c sugar
2 tsp ginger
4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
4 tsp salt

Cook onion and vinegar for 15 mins. Add remaining ingredients and boil until thick. Bottle.

It does seem very liquidy when you first combine everything in the pot but patience, as in most things, pays off in chutney making. Allow the pot to simmer slowly on the stove for as long as it takes to thicken. I tend to make a triple batch at a time so this simmering can go for a couple of hours on low-med heat. Trust me. It is worth the wait. Opening a bottle of homemade chutney to accompany a roast pork, bbq steak or piece of chicken is a truly pleasant feeling.

That glugging contentedly on the stove, I chopped the rest of the rhubarb and built a crisp for dessert tonight. Combining with the vinegar-ry shock of the chutney cooking, the sweet bready smell of the crisp tried its best to attack us. Luckily, no one seems hungry at the moment and the cooling crisp is safely cooling on the counter. So I guess that a rainy Sunday isn't the end of the world. Life siddles by and we hug as much of it as we can.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Snowbirds and Lemons....a sure sign of Spring

Every year, Spring heralds the return of many species that migrated south to flee the cold, damp and dreary Canadian winters. The re-appearance of song birds and sparrows, bats, and insects confirm that those of us who stayed have survived another season. Here at the homestead we are especially blessed to welcome the return of that most gregarious of seasonal returnees, the Canadian Snowbird. These inveterate travelers, lured by the strong scent of lush Canadian flora bursting out of hibernation, flock in droves across the Canada/US border late March or Early April. Our particular mated pair of Snowbirds arrived first week of April, bringing with all kinds of glorious citrus from California.

So lemons and oranges are currently in abundance here and it only seemed fitting that I celebrate these fruits. One summer, a neighbour and I, who shared a love of all things lemon, spent the season ferreting out the "best" lemon dessert we could find. Pies, tarts, hard candies, preserves all were sampled, collectively scored on their lemony-ness and that peculiar combination, most important in a lemon dessert, their balance between sweet and sour. I decided then and there that lemon curd, properly made, was likely the most heavenly thing I had ever stumbled on. I've loved it ever since.

So this morning, armed with a bumper crop of gorgeous California lemons (picked from a neighbour's tree by Gerry's Mom and Dad) I made my first ever batch of this yellow miracle. I used a recipe from the Lifestyle section of the UK's Guardian newspaper. I love the way their food writers write....very enticing. Here is the link for the particular recipe I used.

While this delightfully perky conserve was cooking, I quickly popped 12 tart cups into the oven. I know, I know. I didn't make them. But they were leftovers from Christmas when the tart count rises higher than any human can deliver so I buy the shells.

After the tart shells cooled a little, and the curd was well cooked, I ladled a small globule of golden curd into each shell and then poured the remaining curd into a well sterilized glass jar. Nigel says it should last two weeks in the refrigerator. Judging by the reaction of the quality control crew (Gerry, James and Jessica) I doubt that it will last that long.

For me, it heralds the new season and celebrates the return of our own two Snowbirds. After their visit, they headed farther up north where they will open their nest, build a summer garden and prepare to enjoy the glorious Canadian summer...not too hot, not too cold, but as Goldilocks says....just right. At least for us.


Friday, April 1, 2011


Well, not much has been happening around the homestead lately. Between work travel and crappy spring weather, being outside hasn't happened much. I did however attend the final Seedy Saturday of the year last weekend and really stocked up on beans, squash, beets, hot peppers and leafy greens such as kale, swiss chard, and collard greens. Now to just get some decent weather to plant things.

Leeks have gone in to some window boxes and my new fruit trees seem happy in their locations. The peach tree is well ahead of the apples in bud and the tea bushes remain unmolested by the deer. Luckily our ad-hoc fencing seems to be working.

The tomato seedlings have all been transplanted into pots and the dining room now has no room for dining as they all crowd around the two aerogarden hydroponic set ups we have. The grow lights from these units helps to keep the seedlings from getting weak and leggy. There is one heirloom tomato growing in the aerogarden and its strong summer tomato scent drifts through the house anytime it is given a little shake to help pollinate the masses of blooms it currently has. There are at least five tomatoes edging towards ripeness on it and the first taste of spring will come from inside the house for us.

I also have a bunch of herb seedlings just started as well as hot peppers, Hungarian Hot Wax, Piri Piri, and a brown mexican pepper. Can hardly wait to experiment with them in cooking.

Outside, I have noticed on azalea in bloom but the rhodos planted last year have been assaulted by some bug or other. Will have to feed them well to increase their strength against whatever critter is snacking on them. The garden make-over is on hold temporarily due to weather, illness, and some past uncertainty with my job but we should be able to get going in the next couple of weeks.

It poured here all day today but the weekend is looking a bit more favourable. Am hoping to at least get a half a day out in the yard.  Gerry's parents arrive next week on their journey home from a winter in the South. I hope it is at least nice enough for them to enjoy their visit.

And we still await our bees. Hopefully they should be ready within the next couple of weeks. In anticipation, Gerry and I opened a bottle of mead on the weekend and dreamt of a new batch coming from our own yard,

Cheers to Spring.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Duck, Duck, Gooseberry

This being the first weekend of Spring, it was certainly nice that it didn't pour with rain. Both Saturday and Sunday were mixed sun and cloud with quite a nice 10 degree C temperature. I had a huge to-do list waiting for this weekend: prepare the area along the south side of the house for apple and peach tree planting; get the front beds dug under and begin to plan what will be planted in there; and finally, plant the two gooseberry bushes I purchased one day when I was at the nursery for mushroom manure.

Saturday dawned sunny (at least as sunny as it has been in quite a long while) and dry. I quickly ate my traditional breakfast of toast with liverwurst and a couple cups of tea. Pulling my hair back into a pony tail and donning my most expendable clothes, I ventured out to greet Spring. I have to say, it was glorious. Birds were trilling in the trees and watching greedily as I upended the earth revealing all manner of woodbug, earthworm, and even the occasional snail. I started with the peach tree. I have purchased a varient new to me "Frost" which claims to be leaf curl resistant and a heavy producer....GREAT. Exactly what I was looking for. With my tools and bone meal/lime mix at the ready I dug into the ground.

To my surprise, the soil along side of the house is significantly deeper than the 1/4 inch I find in other parts of the yard. The ever present black plastic still needs to be wrangled however, and I quickly find myself cursing whatever landscaper thought it was a good idea to lay it down, seemingly over the entire yard.

The weather cooperates with periods of sun and periods of cloud, so I don't get too overheated doing the really heavy work and in short time, I have a peach tree ensconced in a new home. As I have done my job very well the soil is begging for more, so I add three of my six Blushing Maiden tea bushes around the outside of the area of the peach. I am hopeful they will make good companions.

Two similar efforts and two hours later, I have planted both the Cox Orange Pippin and the Courtland apples down slope from the peach. My heavy lifting gardener is bringing me a load of stone and soil when he gets back from holiday so that I can build small terraces around each of the trees thus saving the water and soil from running away down hill, and potentially giving me space to do more plantings.

I have to say, sitting on the chair observing my work definitely gave me much pleasure but I knew that my back and my butt would be singing a different song by morning!! The last thing we had to do before nightfall was put up some deer detering fencing, otherwise the trees would be stripped bare of bark by morning.
All in all, I was very very pleased with my day.

Sunday dawned, first day of Spring, and I wasn't nearly as stiff as I thought I might be....but I was definitely more tired starting out. I didn't have much left on the list so I focused on the Gooseberries. Well on one Gooseberry.

I walked around the yard looking for a spot with a good amount of sunshine and at least a six foot space for the berry to fill in. We had taken an old deck down in the very back a few years ago and had just left the site bare except for some grass and the intrepid St. John's Wort to fill in. It would be perfect. So I dug a hole 3x the diameter of the pot of the Gooseberry, added half a bag of well rotted mushroom manure, a small scoop of the lime/bone meal mix and popped the little bush right in. Watering it in well, I was done! 

Now I don't know how many of you know anything about Gooseberries. I have never eaten one, nor even see a bush in full production. But I do know they are prolific, they are extremely winter hardy (my Finish variant pictured here claims it is hardy to minus 45 degrees Celsius!) and are soooo thorny event the deer won't touch them. Gooseberries are a good source of Vitamin A, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron and Ascorbic acid, so they will be a good addition to our diet both fresh and prepared.

That bush (and the one still sitting in a pot awaiting its final home) will provide a lot of fruit in a good year. So, a quick internet search revealed several appealing recipes for gooseberry chutney that I want to try. Gerry has also said that he ate some amazing gooseberry pie at the home of childhood friend Richard, so we will definitely put that on the menu. And of course there is always gooseberry wine!

Overall, I think it was a good welcome to Spring....and the yard definitely looks good compared to its previous winter dowdiness. There are Thrushes and Robins picking through the upturned soil. I saw two large ladybugs crawling soo very slowly along the branches of an azalea, and soon we will add bees to the mix. Winter was long and dreary but this weekend made up for it all in one go. It is good to be alive, to be fit enough to enjoy the work, and to live in a place where we don't have to worry so much about war, famine, violence, or disaster. Mingled with they pleasure with my work, I also grieve for the people of Japan, of Christchurch, of Libya and of Yemen. There welcome to Spring is not nearly as joyful as mine. This most of all is what I wish for them.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

The humble Blushing Maiden

In our quest to try to provide more foodstuff ourselves from our medium sized suburban lot, we have had to learn a lot about exactly where the things we love come from. Tea and coffee are often the furthest travelers to our table and so I took it upon myself to find out more about growing tea.

Now, there is a new tea farm here in our Cowichan Valley ( but his bushes are too small yet to produce marketable tea so I figured if he could grow tea, so could I. The first hurdle was finding a supplier. Called the local nurseries first and had no luck at all. Even left a standing order at one in case they found any and never even got a call back. Then, when I got an email from Bob and Verna Duncan about my bare root apple trees, I thought, heck why not ask. Surprise, surprise, not only did their supplier have some but they had an inventory that was just being prepared for sale. Yesterday Gerry and I drove to their 1 acre citrus-growing mecca and picked up six little Blushing Maiden (camellia sinensis) tea bushes.

Being a variant of this area's ever-present camellia bush, these little beauties are hardy to Zone 7 (we are a Zone 7/8 border I think) so planting outside against the house should provide a great growing area. They also like acidic soil which we have and sun or partial shade. Sounds perfect so far! But the greatest bonus I have found to my Blushing Maidens is that they flower in the fall, when all the other blooms have gone. Apparently bees love their small pink blooms. So here we are satisfying my need for a closer to home tea supply and the need for lengthening the nectar season for my soon-to-arrive bee colonies -- all with something that doesn't require too much effort to make successful.

These bushes grow to about 4 ft. and for green tea all you do is pick the young three end leaves off each branch (early spring and late summer) and steep some in boiling water. Of course, if you have other herbs in your yard, they also can be steeped to give a combination green/herbed tea.The variations for this type of tea are potentially endless as I am converting a formerly ornamenetal flower bed into a herb bed.

In order to get a black tea (the kind I prefer most of all), the leaves have to be allowed to oxidize and dehydrate (thanks to Wikipedia for such a complete and procedural description of the variations in tea leaf processing). There are a variety of teas that result from different curing or "fermenting" options including white, yellow, red, black, and oolong. Amazing really when I thought these were all different types of tea plant and not just the way in which they are processed after picking. Sounds like there will be a lot of experimenting to find the method that we like best.

On a day when the news is devastatingly awful and we lament for the lives lost in Japan and Christchurch and Libya, six little Blushing Maidens give me hope that life is full of good surprises and optimism.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In the beginning.....

...there were seeds. This year, I am growing more heirloom and saved seeds instead purchasing started plants at a nursery. Nursery stock is just too expensive and I can't get the wide variety available in seed form. Gerry and I have already been to one Seedy Saturday and have two more to go before the end of the month. These great events provide a wide variety of seeds, plants, and learning as well as connecting you with the amazing people growing things in your community. Here in the Cowichan Valley we are especially blessed by the numbers of people who are passionate about small scale food production and their efforts pay us all big dividends.

So far I have planted Amish Paste, Purple Calabash, Red Pear and Yellow Pear tomatoes and a green Tomatillo. The Purple Calabash apparently can thrive in shade so I will give a couple to my daughter downstairs to put out on her deck. I love tomatoes for their variety and their versatility, even though I am not terribly fond of eating them raw. Put them in a sauce or salsa however, and I'm in!

The seeds have gone into little window sill starter greenhouses that I found a Buckerfields and I am going to experiment. Two of them are placed in close proximity to the Aerogardens that provide our winter fresh tomatoes and herbs (and the great picture of a tomato blossom in March that leads this blog posting) while one will be put in an actual windowsill. I want to see if there light from the Aerogardens really gives plants a boost.

My heavy lifter (gardener) was here today scoping out the cedars that I want removed and this weekend I will gather a couple bare root apple trees for planting. Bob and Verna Duncan at Fruit Trees n' More are the growers from whom we purchased our Meyer Lemon, Desert King Fig and Bearss Lime trees last year. This year, they are providing a Cox Orange Pippin, a Courtland apple and six Tea bushes. I have been looking for these Tea bushes for a while so that we can replace store bought tea with home grown. I am just ecstatic about finally finding a supplier -- Yea Bob and Verna! Tea bushes are actually the camellia sinensis bush and I know of another grower in our area who has planted them. I am going to put them along the house so that they have some protection from weather.  I will have to bring in soil to boost the pathetic skimming of it that is on our property otherwise the trees will stress out and likely die. Sometimes living on rock just isn't easy.

If you are ever in the Deep Cove area of Sidney BC, check out their place. They have a citrus orchard that will amaze you and even sell marmalade made from oranges, lemons and limes grown on their propety! All this from a moderate zone climate that has lots of winter! Amazing.

After the difficult spring and summer we all had last year, I am looking forward to a season of life, growing, warmth, and joy.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Fermentation -- Alive and Bubbling

A friend of mine recently turned up her nose at my endeavor to make kimchi -- that bastion of Korean cuisine that ferments numerous vegetables, spices and salt into a savory staple. She thought a) it was way too much work and b) that fermenting anything just meant that it was rotten.

On the contrary to my contrary friend, fermentation is an ancient practice of preserving and improving foodstuffs. In fact, our bodies crave the healthy bacteria that form when food is fermented.

While many more people have likely tried making homemade wine (fermented grapes) or beer (fermented barley) recently, there is a bit of a renaissance around my community in fermenting other foods. Recently the Eco-Village  ( put on a course for making Sauerkraut and Kombucha. Kefir and yogurt is made by many, so it isn't really much of a stretch to try out kimchi.

When my daughter and I went to northern Japan in 2001, it was kimchi not sushi that was most predominant on the menu. Not only is kimchi inexpensive to make in a market where food is very costly, but it is incredibly flavourful, easy, and great for your body.

Fermented foods, according to Sandor Katz my fermentation guru, "are quite literally alive with flavor and nutrition" (Wild Fermentation pg. 5). And he is quite right. The flavour from fermented foods is unparalleled. A good sauerkraut can enliven even the dullest mashed potato. It is a tonic for the body carrying massive vitamin C and microbes that help supply vital cultures to your digestive system. Come on now, many of you already eat live culture yogurt from the store so don't be afraid. Add to that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization confirms that fermentation improves the bioavailability of minerals in food They are, quite basically, more available to be absorbed by your body (Wild Fermentation pg 6).

Fermented food is not rotten. It is transformed. Yes it takes some time and preparation. But it is not wasted labour. A spoonful of sauerkraut daily energizes me.  The fact that I can produce it on my counter with limited effort, watch it transmutate from shredded cabbage to something quite other is remarkable.

A jar of kimchi now sits proudly beside my sauerkraut, bubbling away while all else in the world seems dormant. The smells from it are wonderful. Heady with garlic, ginger and chilis, it is a creative concoction of chinese cabbage, bok choy, leeks, daikon, red radish, and carrot -- all things that can be grown in my garden and preserved for the long winters without fresh. It is a fragrantly welcome addition to our sufficiency lifestytle.

Here is the recipe for Kimchi as given by Sandor Katz. His book Wild Fermentation is a gem of information on fermenting all types of food and a really good read.

Baechu (Cabbage) Kimchi: Timeframe 1 week or longer

For 1 quart of Kimchi:

Sea Salt
1 lb/500 grams Chinese Cabbage
1 daikon radish (and/or red radishes)
1 to 2 carrots
1 to 2 onions and/or leeks and/or a few scallions and/or shallots (or more)
3-4 cloves garlic
3 to 4 hot red chilis or 3-4 tsps of chili flakes depending on your taste
3 tbp fresh grated ginger

1. Mix a brine of about 4 cups water (non-chlorinated) and 4 tbsp of salt. Stir well to dissolve.
2. Coarsely chop the cabbage, slice the radish and carrots and let the vegetables soak in the brine overnight.
3. Prepare spices. Grate the ginger; chop the garlic and onion; remove seed from fresh chilis. Kimchi can absord a lot of spice so play with it.
4. Drain brine off vegetables, reserving the brine. Taste the vegetables. If too salty, rinse with cool water. If you can't taste the salt, sprinkle with a couple teaspoons of salt and mix.
5. Mix the vegetables with the ginger-chili-garlic-onion paste. Mix everything together thoroughly and stuff it into a clean quart-size jar. Pack it tightly into the jar, pressing down until the brine rises. If necessary, add a little of the brine to submerge the vegetables. Weight the vegetables down with a smaller jar or a zip-lock baggie filled with brine. Or if you think you can remember to check the kimchi every day, you can just use your (clean!) fingers to push the vegetables back under the brine.
6. Ferment in your kitchen or other warm place. Taste the kimchi every day. After about a week of fermentation, when it tastes ripe, move it to the refrigerator. An alternative and more traditional method is to ferment kimchi more slowly and with more salt in a cool spot, such as a hole in the ground, or a cellar or other cool place.

Give it a try. I am sure you will be pleased with the results!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Staff of life

In my family of origin, bread was our religion. My maternal grandmother only ever bought a commercial loaf called "Hollywood Bread" and there was great angst when we could no longer find it available. My paternal grandmother considered a thick slice of homemade white bread with butter and jam as dessert and ate it with a smacking gusto that remains one of my favourite memories.

In a long-ago post, I began a sourdough starter trying, finally, to get one to work. Using the methods outlined at I now have to lovely living starters, one white and one whole wheat, in the kitchen. I try to make two loaves a week from them and experiment occasionally with other things such as pancakes, cinnamon buns and, for the last couple of days, I have finally gathered the courage to do an artisan loaf.

What does courage have to do with bread you might ask? Well, artisan bread is a real commitment. While my humble daily loaves take a maximum of 20 minutes to put together (not including the 10 minutes spent the day before making the sponge or baking time), an artisan loaf requires some attention on each of four days. For the complete process see but basically you make a wet dough on day one, let it rest overnight in the fridge. Day two, fold it in half and put back into fridge. Day three take it out in the evening and each hour for 4-5 hours stretch it out and fold it, then put back in bowl to rest. Then after 5 stretches, put into a banneton (a very odd looking wooden oblong bowl) that gives artisans that distinctive oval shape and ridged crust. and set back into fridge for its final sleep. Morning of day 4 bake in a steamy oven at 420 F for 15 minutes and 410 F for 30 minutes. Voila, an artisan bread with the romantic name of Pain a l'Ancienne! Doesn't that just scream for a good cheese and red wine by the fire?

Ok so maybe the work load isn't that tough but just try remembering the stretch and fold routine while you are engrossed in a good book or movie!

Anyway, it turned out. Not exactly as pretty as the bakery loaves (more John Merrick than Angelina Jolie) but a good honest loaf. Now to figure out what to slather on it??

For those of you who prefer to gather your culinary expertise from a good book, try Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. It is a treasure-trove of bread varieties and methods. It was gifted to me by a friend from Honeymoon Bay and remains one of my favourite cookbooks. Not for the faint of heart but worth the adventure! 

Monday, February 21, 2011

In anticipation of bees

I have always been fascinated by bees. Their ability to transport their tiny bodies, laden with the pollen of summer flowers, on wings too tiny for flight is, truly, awe inspiring. Bees, in fact, shouldn't be able to fly at all. In 1934, it was recorded that bees defied all the laws of aerodynamics. But there they were, humming busily between the calendulas, apple blossoms, and bee balm, blissfully unaware that they should be treading about on the ground.

It wasn't until last night watching "Richard Hammond's Invisible Worlds" (and the groundbreaking slow motion photography of Michael H. Dickinson that sorted all this out in 2006) that I learned what a feat of aviation marvel bees perform. During flight, their bumpy half-drunken flight, they actually use short choppy high speed flapping and twist their wings so that both the backward and forward motions create lift. For their body size, their flapping is outrageously fast. Nothing short of amazing!

But really amazes me about bees is honey. I love honey. Its gooey goldenness on a spoon was used by my mom as a cough suppressant when I was a child. An evening of laboured coughing was invariably met by a spoonful of sweet goodness to be sucked. I don't actually know if there is any medicinal benefit to honey in this use, but the slow coating of my throat seemed to help. I would drift off to sleep comforted at least.

For my children, when they were young and wouldn't swallow a pill, I would often crush it up and hide it in a thick dollop of honey on a spoon. One upping Mary Poppins' spoonful of sugar, I felt much better giving the kids something a little closer to the garden than the factory.

So tonight, I extend my affair with bees on their terms. I enrolled in a beekeeping course and have been looking to the first night for weeks. I have a spot picked out for the first of possibly several hives right along the drainage ravine that runs beside our house. It is thick with blackberry brambles and promises a sweet and dusky honey reminiscent of a forest in late August. If you ever had the chance to be in a Pacific coast forest late summer, you know the smell I, musky, and above all blackberry scented.
As part of my overall yard revamping, my adopted children will gain a place of honour and we will have to spend many a day pondering their needs, their society, and their work. And while the payoff of honey may take until next year to really flow (pardon the pun!) we will likely have a little reward by early Fall this year.  They will also be the deciding factor for future plantings. Everything in the little land around our house will now be chosen with their bee friendly nature in mind.

Then the big decisions will come. Mead or gifts? How much do we hoard away for ourselves? What can I do to take out the sugar and substitute honey in my baking and cooking? What kind of jars would be best to give away at Christmas. Like the bees, I will be flapping quite hard here for a while.

(Thanks to IslandMoments Newsletter Jan/Feb2010 for the gorgeous bee picture at the top of the blog!)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Magic Geranium Day

Today the sun is out. After a long and sometimes oppressive winter, hope and energy have returned. The song birds woke me up this morning and I have been like a windup toy ever since.

Noticing that it is threatening to take over the small hydroponic operation we have going, I have made a basil marinade for some  pork chops that will be bbq'd for dinner tonight. Then I excavated the kitchen counter from the miscellaneous build up of things that should be elsewhere and sorted and cleaned up parts of the garage that were beginning to take on a life of their own. The sun really is my "Magic Geranium" (If you have never read this story, you really must look it, and its author Jane Thayer, up READ ALOUD FUNNY STORIES)

But sunny days are for outside work so I called the gardener who does my heavy lifting to tell him of seven junipers that have to go to make way for plants that produce food. There will be fruit trees down the east side of the house and on the west side of the back yard where we removed a rotten old and unused deck. The fig tree we bought last year will find a place of honour in the front garden and a new herb bed is brewing in my mind. Some serious planning will have to occur to fend off the voracious deer but I think we can win that battle. The lemon tree (now sitting in the garage with the lime waiting for an end to the -3 overnight temperatures) is full of buds that give hope for a fragrant and delicious summer.Can you imagine the joy of a hot day paired a Hendicks gin and tonic and a garnish of your own lemon and lime wedges?

This week the local food security org in town ( is coming to start the design of my vegetable garden. We are going to revamp an overgrown and unused part of the yard for some raised beds and my bees. Hopefully they will be coming mid to end of March so I need to have a lovely site created for them. I can hardly wait for the hypnotic drone of my little workers and the sweet glory that they create. There will be at least one batch of mead bubbling away by the fireside for us this winter. 

This year I committed to seeing how far along the self-sufficiency path two full time jobs, my feeble elbows, and our astronomy hobby (for which we spend our entire summer vacations travelling) would allow. I want the work of self-sufficiency to be sustainable too. Much too often I have started something and made it so much work it was un-sustainable considering our life.I want to avoid this and see just how much we can do for ourselves.The sunshine today just affirms that it was the right decision.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Sustainability Debate

I have read a couple of interesting articles lately with a sustainability focus. Matt Ridley suggests at ( that a move towards self-sufficiency romanticizes sustenance living and ignores the fact that specialization in product and food creation has brought real benefit to the global population.. Balance that thought with "One Local Family" ( -- blogging a year in the life of the Levitch family of Scotsdale Arizona who have committed to buy everything they need from local shops and vendors for 365 days. The Levitch's aren't giving up electricity or anything, they are just committed to supporting their local shop merchants, restauranteurs, and farm markets in order to keep a vibrant economy alive in their area.

Then there are those who are giving up the creature comforts of life -- in the 70s they were the back to the landers, and now they are typically the "off-griders". Evidence of this continuing trend is more than amply supplied at the Off-Grid Living blog ( forums. Off-grid living does mean giving up electricity and returning to a way of life focused on sustenance and simplicity. Then, for those of us interested in food as our passionate endeavor, there are both the 100-mile Diet and Slow Foods movements to consider.

Here at the Modern Sufficiency "headquarters" (really my desk in the living room), we have decided that we don't want to go back to life without Google, the KitchenAid, coffee or the propane fireplace (my elbows just couldn't take it). But we DO want to know where our food comes from and attempt to increase the quality and health benefits of our food. And we do enjoy the "work" of considering what we cook, eat, buy, and grow. And we are looking for ways, sustainable ways (I mean we both still work outside of this) to achieve a closer to home diet.

It is immeasurably pleasurable to me to have a carboy of mead bubbling away beside the propane fire; to have the sourdough starters (one whole wheat locally sourced and ground by me and one that is made with your basic supermarket white) springing to life on the bookshelf beside the kitchen table. The breads that come with these starters is better than anything we can buy.

I love our homemade sauerkraut and am assured of the nutritional whallop of all the fermented foods that I make. On the other hand, I don't think I am willing to make sausages without a tiny bit of preservative to ensure I don't poison everyone. After all, Saltpeter after all has been used for centuries to preserve foods for long periods of time.

Today in our southern windows, we have two Aerogardens (small hydroponic growing appliances) sprouting heirloom tomatoes and saved-seed hot peppers for early spring consumption.

So it doesn't have to be an either/or choice. You don't have to give up on your sustainability goals because you don't have a woodstove or become Amish to achieve them. Producing something for your family that is edible, wearable, or tradeable doesn't mean everything has to be hand grown, hand sewn or produced by your own hand. But some of it, quite a bit of it, can be.

It can be as simple as changing out some of your landscaping to include food producing plants. An apple tree in the yard is beautiful both to look at and to provide fruit that is miles ahead in taste from the long distance travelers in the supermarkets. Or you could, like us, try your hand at making your own pastrami and cheese.

Sustainability is a mindset -- a mindset that is aware that the global spice trade made our food more enjoyable but requires a transportation system that sometimes harms the very places sending us those fragrant additives. It is a mindset that says, yes, I can grow a few tomatoes on my deck in the summer and then buy and preserve an area's bounty in glass jars in my basement for consumption during our long winters. It is one that seeks some balance between the rampant consumerist culture that we live in and our romaticized notions of our forebearers life of sustenance. It is also one that says: "I am tired tonight, let's go to the local burger joint for dinner. I will deal with the weeding tomorrow."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Smokin' Good Day

Today is the day! The pork belly and the pork loin chunks that we cured with salt, pink salt and maple syrup are ready for the smoker. As suggested in the online recipe we used, we cut some pieces out of these pre-bacon beauties and fried them up. The loin made a back bacon that was delicate, slightly sweet and a great consistency. The pork belly bacon fried up like a dream. Because we cured the meat and drew a lot of the natural water out, it didn't shrink AT ALL in its cooking. We had left the rind on (I love the rind) and that crisped up beautifully. This bacon was left a week longer than suggested in its cure and had a strong maple flavour that was perfect with the meat.

Both of these meats went into our Big Chief Smoker for 8 hours over a hickory chip smoke. Because both of these meats will be cooked fully before eating, the internal temperature of the meat (suggested around 140) is only to ensure the meat takes on the smokey flavour. We don't worry about the temperature preferring instead to taste it as we go.

Then I had a brainstorm. Out on the deck I have had a brisket soaking in corning mixture and it is right on time to eat as corned beef. Well, since the smoker is out, we are making it a pastrami instead.

To do this, you take one corned beef (can be a store bought one if you haven't had time to make it yourself....after all, it has to sit for a minimum of two weeks in the brine to make it "corned"--but really the store bought varietys cannot compare to one you do yourself) and soak it for four hours in cold water. This is to remove some of the salt as the smoking process will condense the flavours and intensify the saltiness. Change the water at least once during this time.

Once you have soaked the beef sufficiently, then make a pastrami rub (there are lots of recipes for this on the web). Here is the basic ingredients: 1/4c kosher or pickling salt, 1/4c paprika, 3 tbsp brown sugar, 8 cloves minced garlic, 3 tbsp black peppercorns, 3 tbsp coriander (seed or powder), 2 tbsp mustard seeds. Grind the peppercorns, coriander (if it is seeds) and mustard seeds into course mix. Add to the rest of ingredients and rub liberally onto the corned beef.

When that is done, put in the smoker until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. This internal temperature ensures that the meat has absorbed as much of the smoke flavour as it can. If your smoker cannot get the temp up that high (like mine) then after about 8 hours in the smoker, put the pastrami in the oven at 325 degrees and cook til a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees internal. This way you are sure to have killed off any nasty bacteria that may have formed during smoking.

Cool the pastrami when done and slice paper thin. For this a meat slicer is best but you can use a very sharp knife.

The one website I read suggested using a very gentle smoke wood such as fruit wood or maple so not to interfere with the flavour of the pastrami. Since we are already doing bacon and it needs a stronger smoke (we are using hickory), we are just going to give it a try for convenience and see. Nothing like a little experimentation to make life interesting.

None of these things are difficult to accomplish. They merely take forethought and planning. The efforts are well rewarded by incredible smells wafting through your home and yard. You might even meet some of your neighbours as they follow their noses to your front door.  Not only do you know what is going in to your food, but you have the immense pleasure of saying, YES, I did make this myself. 


Friday, January 14, 2011

Right tool for the job

So this week has been interesting. Huge dump of snow early on paralyzed us "wet-coasters" so we had a snow day on Wednesday. Took some time to read Leading Change by John Kotter. He emphasizes a few things that are so important in working through organizational change, but communication and leading by example are my personal mantras. This blog and our 52 week pledge towards better self-sufficiency fulfills both of those for me personally and gives me thinking time on how to better do it professionally.

Being snow-bound, and frankly a bit lazy, I didn't plan a lot for the week but one project needed to be done. I needed a compost pile. Having separated out kitchen food scraps from other garbage for a couple weeks now, the old ice cream bucket under the sink was full and starting to smell. The weather provided ample excuses for not getting to this task sooner but I wanted to stall off the compost walking outside by itself.  The bin just had to be done.

I have had compost piles in the past. Usually elaborate affairs with three sections so that you can turn one section into another to keep the compost cooking and giving yourself a progressively more decomposed pile. Well, my elbows just can't take that kind of strain anymore. Years of hauling firewood for heating has left me with tendonitis that flairs up if I barely think of digging or carrying. I wish I could claim it was tennis elbow but nothing nearly so romantic as that blew them out.  So how to have a working compost without the strain.....simple! Keep it SMALL.

While I was in town today signing up for a beekeeping course, I scooted to the local HomeDepot and bought a 2ft high 5ft long piece of stucco matting. This matting is really wire mesh but very sturdy and with much smaller openings than traditional chicken wire. I also grabbed a bag of small plastic zipties (or wiretires or zap straps or whatever people call them) and from then it basically put itself together.

Opening the mesh, it unravelled to the point where I could take the two ends and set them against each other. Then, using the zap straps, I joined the two sides to form a tube from the mesh. VOILA, one small, easily manoeverable and easily emptied compost bin.  I took it down the hill to where I am going to have some raised garden beds built, put it on the ground and emptied my old compost pail into it. Since there isn't more than a 1/4 inch of soil on the ground around my house, pegging the thing to the ground also posed a problem. Temporary fix? Weigh it down with some old wood lying around. Will hold out until I can figure out if it will stay in a wind or fly away like Dorothy's bike or at least until is has more mass inside of it.

And on the subject of right tools for the job. A quick pop in to the Cowichan Green Community Store today ( netted me a fabulous little under-the-counter-smell-free composting bucket. Its much nicer than the ice cream pail as it is long and skinny as opposed to short and wide. Perfect for that crowded spot under the kitchen sink. Perfect! I think for this year, I will keep track of how much goes in to my compost (and stays out of my garbage) just to see. At least I will have some lovely homegrown (or is than home-decomposed) fertilizer when I get the new beds built.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A meaty weekend

This past weekend was the first in our self-sufficiency challenge and our focus was meat. The kids bought Gerry a "Jerky Gun" from for Christmas and it was the first test drive of it. This great tool was much sturdier than I expected and didn't have any learning curve at all (compare that to the pasta maker attachment on the KitchenAid which took a good three batches of pasta before things started to resemble the form they should).

We took two pounds of freshly ground beef (thanks again to our KitchenAid attachments) and added some paprika, garlic, salt, pepper, pink salt (a combo of salt and sodium nitrate), and chili flakes. That mixture sat overnight and then was pushed through the jerky gun in two batches. Using the tube shape, we formed long rolls of jerky meat onto oven racks and then left those overnight again. Next day, Gerry dried them in the oven on 170 degrees for 5 hours. Next time, we will check them after 3 hours. Our question...dried or cooked. This pepperoni is definitely cooked.

We dried them a bit too long and next time will reduce that to keep some of the chewiness. Now a word about the sodium nitrate. I know, I know. Homemade items are supposed to help keep  us from additives. But we have tried sausage making without it and I am not about to poison the family cause I didn't use a tiny (and I mean five pounds of meat you only need add 1 tsp of's Instacure). Nough said. You can try it without but I am not that experimental.

Next, I put together the pickle for a good corned beef. One of the great gifts I ever received was my dad's pickling book " The Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes" by Leonard Levinson. Not only great recipes but also great historical snippets about all things pickle. The never fail recipe is for much larger batches of corned beef but I always scale it back to enough for one meal and maybe some sandwich spread afterwards.

Starting with a fresh beef brisket, I give an 8 min full boil to water, sugar, pickling spice, and bay leaves and once this elixir is cool, pour it over the brisket (to which I added a few whole cloves of garlic). The mix has to cover the meat entirely. You can use a weight (plate, rock in plastic bag etc) to hold it under. After covering the pot with two layers of plastic wrap and adding the lid, this then sits outside (Nature's refrigerator works well this time of year) for two weeks. After the two weeks there is a big decision to make......corned beef (which you just then boil until cooked) or pastrami, which is smoked then sliced. Haven't made my mind up on that one yet....but I have time. There is nothing, I mean nothing, like fresh corned beef. Whatever it is you buy in the store cannot compare.

The final experiment of the weekend was bacon. Yes,BACON. When I picked up the brisket at the butcher's I also grabbed a piece of pork belly. Now make sure it is fresh pork belly and not smoked or brined.The recipe is simple. Salt and pink salt (we use Instacure) rubbed thoroughly into every side of the pork belly. Then 1/4 cup maple syrup (can also use honey) rubbed overtop. This is then slid into a ziplock bag and put into the fridge. Voila, two weeks later, bacon. Well, maybe not completely bacon, but it can be eaten at this stage. Best to taste a bit at this point anyway to see how the salt level is. If too salty, soak for an hour in cold water then taste again. If it works for you, you can either slice and fry at this point or put into the smoker....we will be smoking ours using our Big Chief smoker and some hardwood chips.

Will keep you posted on how these projects all turn out. 

The New Year's resolution still stands.....we are working on seeing what we can make at home, what we can do without, and how we can improve our lifestyle by considering these things.

The Complete Book of Pickles and Relishes