In front of our house stand three majestic maple trees whose leaves turn brilliant red, yellow and orange each fall. Set against the bright blue sky on an incredibly mild fall day, I couldn’t help but lay down in the pile of fallen leaves with the kids enjoying the crunching sound under me, the smell of fallen leaves and the colours. A day of gratitude to remember in the cold of February.
Last week I had the opportunity to lead a soapmaking workshop with a small group of youth from the Sackville Community Garden. Using organic sunflower oil and dried calendula (a type of marigold with excellent skin soothing properties) from their garden we made a small batch of a lovely mild soap.
This was a first for me – I have never given a soapmaking workshop before. I have learned that my workshop space is not particularly well suited to having a group of people! I did enjoy the process and got a rare chance to experiment with a new recipe AND make soap in a rectangular mold for the first time (oh how it is so simple compared to round molds)! It remains to be seen how interested the youth were – their willingness to participate in the process – well, they were a bit stoic about the whole thing but maybe they’ll come to appreciate it later on.
Sunflower oil contains a high percentage of high-oleic acid oils which makes the soap much slower to harden than I am used to – after 48 hours they were still easily ‘smooshable’ when removing them from the molds.
This soap also contains a small amount of annatto seed infused in the lye, giving the soap a lovely light yellow colour and tiny reddish flecks. I can’t wait to try it out and compare it to the super-secret-and-highly-coveted Anointment soap formula.
Oh it has been so long. Life has caught up with me again and in the day-to-day-ness of it all, I’ve fallen off the blogging wagon. I think of it a lot, if that means anything!
We’ve had a full spring – and spring came early, which means we’ve had lots of projects happening around this old farmhouse including the arrival of our spring chicks! We have eight baby laying hens that for a month lived in a cardboard box in our mudroom with a heat lamp shining over them night and day. Their yellow fuzz quickly gave way to “grown up” feathers and while the kids were enamored with their new feathered friends I was relieved that the cats and dog didn’t give them the time of day.
A weekend’s worth of work (thank you Kent and Steve) on Jeff’s behalf means the chicks are now living in a corner of our barn that my brother has dubbed “the Taj Mahal” – it’s a pretty sweet hen house complete with wood paneling and vinyl flooring (scrap, I might add). We were able to reuse a door that was removed during our renovations. The chicks, who are largely un-named except for two – Brown Betty and Ginger – seem pretty happy in their new homes. We’re hoping to have daily egg deposits by September.
The bees are out! With high temperatures last week the bees were out looking for pollen, and unfortunately for it being March and all, there was none. We’ve put out “sugar water” feeders for them, which they enjoy by the dozens. Jeff also made up peanut-buttery looking “pollen substitute” from a combination of brewer’s yeast, soybean flour and water. This will provide important food for the larvae as they hatch to ensure our colony gets a good start to the season – otherwise the baby bees would hatch and starve to death, jeopardizing the entire colony.
The south-facing willow trees are already covered in fluffy pussy willows so blooms aren’t far behind – let’s home for a bumper honey yield this year and a successful colony!
For the last few years my brother has been tapping his trees, collecting sap and making maple syrup in small quantities (2-3 litres) for our own use. This year we were so excited to collect our own sap from four very large and mature maple trees in our own backyard. On a good day these four trees will produce 20 L of sap which will translate to about 500 mL of syrup. We boiled down the sap on the weekend over a wood stove in my brother’s garage. Next year, we’ll plan a party around sugarin’ time!
Last week we had RECORD high temperatures that caused the sap flow to stop and many of us feared the season was over. My brother’s trees were producing “cloudy” sap, an indication that the buds were formed and that the sap was no longer useful for sugaring. Our own trees, however, seem to have restarted, so there is still hope for the seaon!
Another “before” and “progress”. Here is the barn that will house our chickens this spring. Jeff worked very hard stripping the old shingles, reframing windows, lifting and leveling the building, re-sheathing and re-shingling. My husband works so hard! He is amazing.
The barn looks fantastic, I can’t wait to show you “after afters” once we get the great lights up that I gave Jeff for Christmas. Sounds like a weird gift, I know, but we’re a practical bunch…
Did you experience that weather yesterday? I hope whatever life had in store you were able to get out and enjoy some of that sun. Honestly, even the Tantramar breezes were warm, that hardly ever happens. It truly was a LARGE day if ever I saw one.
We made the best of the afternoon with a bit of a bike ride. It’s a little cumbersome in winter boots and mitts, but it was still amazing. Spirits were lifted, dogs were walked, babies strolled and the kids stretched their legs.
It may not yet be the Spring Equinox, but wow, what a magnificent taste!
I am up early, usually before (or at) 6 am. I have a routine to adhere to in order to get the day started on the right foot and get all the kids where they need to be by 7:30! If I’m first dressed, then I also walk the dog first thing and actually find that early morning is my favourite time of day. The magic and anticipation of a day just beginning with pink, orange, purple and blue on the horizon. The quiet of the neighbourhood, the glow of my front porch light. I love all of it. I actually feel a little sad when the sun comes up and the magic disappears into the business of the day.
Did you all see the Harvest Moon this week? It was astoundingly bright, big, orange and impossible to miss. Fall is here, the Equinox is coming. We’re getting organized and back into routines. Waking up to dark mornings and heavy fog on the marsh that lifts to reveal sun and warm afternoons. I’m wearing a fall jacket when I head out to the bus stop in the mornings now with my daughter. I’m wearing shorts and a tank top when she comes home again.
We’re preparing for the change of seasons, slowly and in small ways. I am looking forward to the steady stream of contractors wrapping up and leaving me with a quieter home again. I’m settling into the rooms, thinking about hibernating with a wood stove and pumpkin pies. I’m thinking about sewing projects and actually heard myself utter the words “stocking stuffers” today while shopping at the local health food store and signing the kids up for skating lessons.
Around our yard and home the colours of Fall are popping up everywhere.
:: The pumpkins are ripening on the vine. I’m looking forward to one pumpkin pie after another all season long! The butternut squash are looking equally healthy. Squash soup and tomato pie, here we come!
:: Anna’s sunflowers are showing their faces to the bright afternoon sun!
:: Our raspberries are better late than never!
:: We managed to harvest a very small amount of honey from our backyard hive. The hive smells strongly of goldenrod and aster, so does the honey in fact. It tastes delicious on toast!
:: This yarn turned into this scarf. I also see that my skin is changing as I get older.
:: Hand-hooked in Sackville, NB by heartandhook. Purchased at The Crofter on Bridge Street. Love. It’s living on my fall coat right now.
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