Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Let there be vegetables!

Our garden is in bloom! The vegetable garden is full of flowers and vegetables are not far behind. We have cucumber, watermelon, bean and zucchini flowers in bloom.
Bean Flowers, Cucumber flowers, watermelon flower.
I went out on Sunday morning and found honeybee's hanging out in the zucchini flowers and 2 japanese beetles making coitus on a leaf.
The other day I went out to water the garden and found a large dragon fly sitting on a tomato cage.
We are pretty blessed to have such an array of wildlife in our own back yard. This summer alone we had a duck family, 2 Robin families, too many toads to even count, frogs, an abundance of bugs and spiders and not to mention the recent groundhog we had to shoe away with mothballs. We really do have the best of both worlds when it comes to country living and urban... I love our little suburban town!
Our Duck Family, one of many toads in the grass, teen robin hanging in the nest.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cooper's Hawk Vineyards

A new local winery opened last week and we decided to stop by for a sampling. The winery is called Cooper's Hawk Vineyard and they have 4 wine's so far, 3 of which are from their own harvest. Their Cabernet Merlot grapes were purchased off site but the wine was made in house. We stopped by with the kids in the car (Megan was sleeping) so I ran in and sampled 3 of 4 and purchased 2. I grabbed the Riesling and the Cab. Merlot. I wanted to get their unoaked Chardonnay but didn't grab it. I told aaron they were all pretty good so he ran in and tried the Rose... which was the one I didn't try. He loved it and grabbed a bottle of that as well as the unoaked chardonnay. I was rushed during my tasting and had been eating fresh local blueberries in the car so I didn't have much of a fresh palate to really gage the flavours of the wines. We have drank the Rose already which was made from Cabernet Franc grapes. It was a tad sweet, perfect for a summer afternoon, and very fruity. It was clean and crisp and well balanced in spite of its sweetness (3). I will definitely post once we do a proper tasting of the others.

2010 CHV Authentic Cabernet Franc

This Rosé was made from hand picked Cabernet Franc from a single varietal estate vineyard and was pressed and fermented cold and clean with a brix of 22, allowing natural residual sugars to balance with natural acidity. No additions or corrections were used in the making of this delicious light, crisp, fruity wine.

Tasting Notes:
Strawberry with a hint of orange zest and mint.
10.9% alc./vol. 750 ml
White Wine/Product of Canada, Vin Blanc/Produit du Canada


Recently a friend of mine has been offering up some plants form her garden for me to plant in mine. Last week I planted some strawberry plants which are still alive... much to my surprise. I also gave her some oregano and thyme. This week she offered to give me some pepper plants as well! I of course said sure. The strawberries hopefully will yield some fruit next year and the peppers should yield this season. I will be getting the pepper plants next wednesday and plant them on Thursday. I am such a fan of plant and seed sharing. I know there are local seed sharing each spring in my area but there really should be more plant sharing. I have to imagine that people split their plants often, not only vegetable but ornamental plants as well, or simply have too much vegetables/fruits for their families needs and could share with neighbours and friends rather than just throw them away. Last year we gave plenty of butternut squash, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes to neighbours and friends and will do the same every year. Anytime I split ornamental plants, such as grasses and hostas, I offer them to friends and neighbours, there is no need to waste good plants! Lets all share more often the fruits of our labour!

Hot Hot Hot!

The temperature yesterday got to a whopping 37 degrees celcius... whew! Thankfully we have the pool outside and the AC running inside. My Mom came over and we and the kids spent the afternoon in the pool. As the the chickens, man did I run around frantic for a while making sure they didn't overheat. I have read plenty about chickens dying from the heat and yesterday was definitely HOT! I found a great link on a BYC thread of a page about keeping your chickens cool. From the link I followed a few of their suggestions until the chicks stopped panting. I wet a towel and covered the open part of the run to add shade and some evaporation cooling. I also wet the ground, put in a water/ice bath, put a bucket of ice in front of a fan, threw down frozen watermelon for them to eat and put in a plastic bin with an ice pack at the back and placed the sand box inside it to create a cool room. I also just threw down some ice into the run and put a plate of ice in the cool... needless to say, I quickly ran out of ice. Today I am a bit more prepared since it is suppose to be another scorching day. I have large zip lock bags full of water freezing in the freezer, a big bag of ice from the store and 3 ice packs ready to go for this afternoon. I have already wet a towel and placed it on top of the run and have the fan going. I may also wet a second towel and place it on the floor of the run to create even more evaporation cooling... with the fan blowing and ice bags lying around it should keep the breeze a cool and the chicks comfortable.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What's with all the racket?!

I was quietly pulling weeds in the vegetable garden when my Mom said "the chicks are making an awful racket over there." I ran over and boy were they ever! They were running after each other jumping, flying, chirping, bouncing and sliding in the grass all fighting over... a big juicy WORM! I had wet the grass to help keep the ground cool and apparently a worm came up and the chicks went CRAZY! It was the funniest thing. When I told Aaron about this he decided to pick up some mealworms on his way home. The chicks go nuts for them. Owen even held a worm to give to the chicks. I couldn't believe how crazy they went over these things. It will definitely be a regular treat for them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Local Raspberries+Ice cream maker=YUM!

We purchased local raspberries on the weekend and planned to make jam. Once we thought about it.. we really don't eat much jam so we decided to make some ice cream. We made 2 different kinds out of a recipe book called The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovits. We made a Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream and a Raspberry Sherbet. They were both flippin' flappin' amazing! Very simple ingredients and easy to make. The Raspberry Swirl we made the vanilla base and added the raspberry puree swirl by putting 1/2 of the ice cream in the container and squeezing in the raspberry with a squeeze bottle in swirly rows within the ice cream. Then added the second half of ice cream on top and repeated. It seemed to work well. Most books just tell you to layer the ice cream and the swirl portion but I thought this worked well to actually create a real swirly look. As for the sherbet, we were suppose to remove the seeds of the raspberries but our food mill doesn't have a thin enough mesh so we left them in. I think it is great with the seeds. The seeds add a bit of tartness to raspberries that would then be missing from the sherbet had we removed them... it makes it a tad difficult to scoop into a cone since the scoop breaks apart easily due to the seeds, but it is just finiky... I have eaten 3 cones with the sorbet already so it is definitely scoop-able.

Now both the ice cream and the sherbet are made with regular sugar and the ice cream made with full fat cream and eggs. We have never tried the "corn starch method" since we don't believe in eliminating fat to lose weight (Aaron follows the "Primal diet" 5 days out of the week). I do think we will try it since they speak about it boosting the flavour of the cream and other ingredients. I also think I may try making something with stevia rather than sugar since it is more natural.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


We transfered the chicks from the brooder to the coop over the weekend. Aaron put up the fence for their free range area but they are limited to the run area for now so they don't "fly the coop". The fence has yet to be stained but we thought we should let the wood weather a bit before staining it so the stain really sets in.
We also added some more ventilation to the coop since it only had one small vent in the front. We added 4 more vents in the back of the coop to allow better airflow and we can cover as many as we need to come winter. Then, yesterday a thunderstorm came through the area and the new venting we added didn't have enough of an overhang and the storm just happened to be blowing in the perfect direction to get in the coop. I ran out and covered the vents with a tarp during the storm so not much water blew in but we will also be extending the overhand a bit to keep this from happening again. We also noticed a small leak at the hinge of one of the nest boxes. Aaron went out last night to get some weather stripping and will install it to stop the leak.
We have also decided that we will be adding to our existing coop to make it larger as well as elevate it off the ground. Basically we will be adding another larger, taller house off the back of the existing coop and raising it off the ground making one large coop! With this said, we don't want to do too much to this existing coop since we plan on taking the back off and expanding it.
Here is a rough drawing to give an idea:

(click to enlarge)

The Chickens seemed to be getting a bit cramped in the brooder and were happy to be outside with more space. We placed them in the coop and they all ran into the run straight away. Come night fall Aaron had to shoe them into the coop but in the am they had been on the roosts. Their second night they were placed on the roost and in the am they were on the other roost... so they definitely were moving around and roosting. In our reading we found that many people suggest to place them in the coop and keep them in there for a few days so they know to go back there at night. For us, the summer heat has been wicked so we didn't want to keep them in the coop during the heat of the day so we didn't follow that method. Since we only have 4 birds it was easy to scoot them into the coop at nightfall. The third night, come nightfall they all made their way into the coop. They didn't roost but instead they huddled in the corner behind their waterer.

Cute Story... yesterday in the morning it was raining (before the T-Storm rolled in) and they didn't come out of the coop until it stopped. They kept poking their heads out and step back in when they felt the rain. Once the rain stopped they finally came out only for it to start sprinkling again and they all raced back in the coop and continued poking out to look.
During the T-storm they all hid in the covered part of the run and huddled together.... such social cuddly birds!


A few years ago Aaron had mentioned a weed called purslane to me and how it was suppose to be very good for you. I wasn't very interested at the time but recently I have been hearing more and more about it. I follow another blog and it was mentioned there and I realized we had it growing wild all over our vegetable garden. It is a ground cover and we have it all over the place. It turns out Purslane is a local weed here in Ontario and is actually known for have many therapeutic uses as well as nutritional value. Purslane is five times richer in omega-3 fatty acids than spinach, and is also high in vitamin C.
Key Benefits:
  • Purslane is known as an excellent source of vitamins A, C and E and the essential amino acids. Reports describe Purslane as a "power food of the future" because of its high nutritive and antioxidant properties.
  • Purslane leaves contain Omega-3 fatty acid which regulate the body's metabolic activities. Purslane herb is known to have one of the highest known concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acid in any plant.
  • The stems of Purslane herb are known to be high in vitamin C.
  • Low in Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol
  • High in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper, Manganese, Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6 and Folate

Therapeutic Uses:

  • Purslane is widely used as a potherb in Mediterranean, central European and Asian countries.
  • Purslane is also widely used as an ingredient in a green salad. Tender stems and leaves are usually eaten raw, alone or with other greens. They are also cooked or pickled for consumption.
  • Purslane is used in various parts of the world to treat burns, headaches, stomach, intestinal and liver ailments, cough, shortness of breath and arthritis.
  • Purslane herb has also been used as a purgative, cardiac tonic, emollient, muscle relaxant, and in anti-inflammatory and diuretic treatments.
  • Purslane is popularly preserved for winter by pickling Purslane in apple cider vinegar with garlic cloves and peppercorns.
  • Purslane appears among a list of herbs considered to help benefit conditions such as osteoporosis and psoriasis.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Back to mmmmm.

Now that we are no longer expecting children or nursing we have been drinking wine again! Its really nice to cook a nice dinner and cork a bottle of wine and sit together as a family and enjoy the flavours of a good wine. I decided to rummage through our stash and notice that many are drink now or a year past their prime. I figured this meant we should start having a bottle or two per week. I really missed wine... and beer. We have been having a few brews per week as well, maybe 4-6 drinks per week... not to sound like some drunk. We did drink some wine from Sanson Estates which is a local winery. They have an Autumn Harvest Vidal which is fantastic. Then there is a Bacobama, after Barack Obama of course. It is a blend of Baco and a white wine which makes for a light red with easy drinkability and perfect for summer. I often find reds difficult to drink in the heat of the summer and prefer a nicely chilled white. this Bacobama gives the perfect balance.

Autumn Harvest Vidal 2008 - $12.95

I really don't think I have ever visited Sanson Estate without someone coming in during my time there and buying

a couple of bottles of this wine. It seems to be a staple for Essex County locals. Vidal is actually a hybrid grape

that was designed to survive Canada's inclement winters but it found a niche as icewine – actually celebrating

those same cold months. Harvested a little late in the fall, after the fruit has had time to accumulate extra ripeness

this wine shows round, honeyed aromas of pineapple and peach that carry to a soft, round, full palate.

It's simply an easy-to-drink, slightly off-dry, unoaked wine that is great on its own or will compliment

a surprising range of foods – anything from pan-fried fish to roast fowl to spicy.

Bacobama - $13.95

Wine for Change! Bacobama is a unique blend of Baco, with just a hint of white wine to offer you a lighter red.

Softer notes and slightly on the off-dry side, this wine is perfect for the first time red wine drinkers or try chilling

it 10 minutes in the fridge for an easy drinking glass of wine. This product is produced from red and white grapes

grown and fermented at our Amherstburg Ontario Winery.

It's coming along.

The vegetable garden seems to be growing quickly aside from the cherry tomatoes. Everything else seems to have BOOMED! We will definitely get lots of vegetables... just later than usual. It's a shame we didn't get around to planting until so late in the season but some is better than none.

Beans (heirloom) Cucumber (heirloom) Butternut Squash (heirloom)

Zucchini (heirloom)
Watermelon (heirloom)

As for the San Marzano tomatoes we purchased form the market... they are going to yield plenty of fruit for our family.

A Day Outdoors

The Chicks got to spend Saturday outside. They seemed to be enjoying the grass. Although, they hid from the dog inside the enclosed area of the run. The dog just stared at them the entire time they were in the run. Once they are full grown I think our run will be small for them so will only be used when we are away. The chicks went back to the brooder in the evening but should be ready to stay outdoors in a week or so, once they are completely feathered.

I had mentioned in another post that one chick hadn't seemed to roost... well, here they all are up on the roost.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I hate weeds!

I spent 30 minutes pulling weeds from our small front flower garden the other night. I mean, really? I won't even speak of our lawn and the dandelions which have taken over! When I met Aaron he was a bit of a lawn guy; competing with the neighbour with who had the better manicured lawn and such. We have moved from that neighbour but if she were to see the state of Aaron's lawn today... she may just faint! We live across from a park with a large man made pond and a small field and those weed seeds just float on over to our lawn and gardens. Aside from the weeds, all of our plants which were planted last year have survived their first year. The second and third year are often the true test of whether they are truly stable and thriving. They all seem to have plenty of new growth and I have even trimmed up the yews, mainly to get them to grow up instead of just out, but it was trimming none the less.

Friday, July 8, 2011

So far so good.

It is day 4 having our chicks and they are all doing very well. They eatand drink wellandseemto be quite happy little chicks. I had been a bit concerned about them not roosting the first day and was informed that they may not roost for a while. Turns out I spoke too soon since the following day they were sitting up there. We have given them a pie plate of play sand to use as grit and for dust bathing. They have been eating it so we decided to give them grass clippings which they loved. I also gave them a dandelion today and some dandelion greens... they loved it! They went right for the flower and pecked away at it. From what I have been reading I do believe we may have gotten lucky and have 4 hens... no Roo's. There is one that I would say I am only 75% sure... but I am 95% sure about the other 3. I would hate to have to give any of them away since they are all so sweet. They come to our hands and want to be rubbed under the belly. They are so sweet and adorable! I wish we didn't get them sooner! People don't seem to understand how truly beautiful chickens are... especially as chicks! I just adore them.

Here are some more photos for your enjoyment!
"I'm the king of the castle!"

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

They're Here, They're Here!

Aaron brought home our 4, 2 week old Barred Rock Chickens last night. Honestly, they are simply adorable. What sweet little birds. They don't do a whole lot aside from eat, drink, peck and kick. They occasionally take dust baths which is pretty funny to watch. They like to huddle up together and nap. So far we have been able to keep their brooder at a decent temp for them, between 85-95. They are in our garage and so it is a bit tough to get the temp down during the hot days so we got a fan for at the back of the brooder to create a breeze for them. During the day we will be turning their heat lamp off or else it would be cooking in the garage. The heat during the day in the garage is my main concern for now, I will be keeping a very close eye on the temp of the brooder. If it gets to hot and can't be controlled they will be coming to the basement in our storage area. I am picking them up some grit today and aside from that I think we were well prepared. We haven't held them much yet since we want them to get accustomed to their new homes before bothering them too much. When we put them in the brooder they went straight for the food. They hadn't drank in the first 15 minutes so Aaron dipped their noses in the water to let them know it was there... we had read to do this. They have all been eating and drinking very well. They seem to be adjusting well to their new surroundings.

The kids were pretty excited to see the chicks. Owen was trying to get as close as humanly possible while Megan pointed and tried grabbing at them. We of course didn't let them touch them... not for a few days at least. I am heading out today to get pump hand sanitizer as well so that when anyone touches the chicks or their things we wash our hands immediately. Not only for our safety but for the chicks as well. Cleanliness is very important in preventing disease and other issues in chicks, so I have read.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


We get our chickens today. It felt like this day would never come. The coop is set up, although some venting modifications are still needed. We also set up the brooder last night. We used our old Dog crate. We are using the deep litter method and purchased medicated feed. We will be getting a red heat lamp tonight and clamping it to the door of the crate. On BYC I have seen a few different dog crate brooder methods and think this setup will work well. Since we are getting 2 week old chicks I don't think we will have a problem since at this age they are a bit more hardy that the day olds. For our first time I think this is a great way to go. Here is a great site with the basics on raising baby chicks.