Recent Kitchen Acquisition

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I’ve been working really hard to curb my crazy spending – a lot easier when there aren’t any stores around except practical stuff like groceries, gardening and hardware, haha – but I have bought a few items recently that I have enjoyed using. One being a used Bodum citrus juicer. I love the design of Bodum’s products, and for 1/3 of the price I couldn’t really complain. And everyone loves fresh orange juice! Sexy photos of sliced oranges after the jump.

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Lemon Boy and Oregano Pasta Sauce

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At the start of the season I bought 3 Lemon Boy tomato starters and planted them in the enclosure. They have been steadily producing for the last month and we banged together a pasta sauce the other night using the lemon boys, some tomatoes from our greenhouse plants, and a bunch of oregano and holy basil we collected from the garden.

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Squash and Zucchini, Finally

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So waaaaay back in May I bought some zucchini, squash and cucumber starters from the grocery store and crammed them all into a planter on the side of the house and left them there. For many weeks they did nothing. They looked like they were barely hanging on, and I was almost on the verge of scrapping them for something else, but it was too late in the season by that point so I just left them alone. And good thing I did, because over 3 months later they have exploded into growth and are producing veggies!

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Reflecting on 9 Months of Homesteading

As we head into the 9th month of living in our home on Gabriola I want to reflect on the projects we have taken on, and think about what was a success and what failed utterly (thankfully not much).

Projects Undertaken:
1. Painting the entire house interior top to bottom – Success! Goodbye butter yellow, rust red and creamcicle orange! Hello grey errrywhere…
2. Painting the entire house exterior top to bottom – Big success! It looks so much better!
3. Replacing exterior light fixtures, brown swirly toilet, dated ceiling fan, etcetc – Success but remains unfinished. It’s the little things that make such a big difference, and updating these fixtures made things a lot easier to look at. I scoffed a bit when I saw there was a ceiling fan in the living room, but once the hot weather hit we had it on every day. Next on the list are new light fixtures in the halls and over the dining table.
4. Updating the guest bedroom – Success! I love the headboard we put in here, though we’ve only used it once… for our island friends who were too drunk to drive home hahaha.
5. Purple bedroom – this purple looked good at the time but it didn’t stick around for long… I’ll post the new bedroom as soon as I can get decent photos. Hint: it’s DARK.
6. Deer proof garden plot: SUCCESS. Everything in here has done so well, it’s the only area of the yard that hasn’t been pillaged at one point.
7. Cedar planters made with pallets – Ongoing. We have stalled out a bit on this area of the yard in favour of working in other areas, but we have managed to get it close to the top and recently acquired a pile of reclaimed deck boards to finish more of the walkways. Most of the plants in this are have thrived.
8. BUNNIES – SUCCESS! I am absolutely in love with the 3 angora bunnies I adopted this year, and with the hutch we custom built for them. Once it gets cooler I’ll be all ready to start learning to spin their fibre, as I have already collected a number of bags of fluff.
9. Chickens and chicken coop! – Success. We started with Bubble and Squeak, then added Patty, Selma, Mulder, Scully, Flip, Pickles, and Butters, then finally Britney. The chickens are all healthy and happy, though we are still sad about the loss of Patty.
10. New chicken coop – ongoing. This is a fun project, and we have big plans for turning it into another fenced garden area as well.
11. New pantry – SUCCESS I want to live in this room.

Garden Successes and Failures:

Rhubarb – Success. We have a bunch stored in the freezer for pie filling.
Raspberries – Big success, we ate them fresh, dehydrated some, and froze a bunch.
Kale – Success. We will have kale for ages, the bunnies and chickens love it, and so do I. Soon we will try out making our own kale chips.
Tomatoes – Big success. Both with the lemon boy starts I bought, and with the plants we grew from seed.
Calendula – Big success. We dehydrated several jars of flower heads before letting the rest go to seed for next year.
Fennel – Success. We didn’t end up harvesting the fennel for anything, but I look forward to collecting and storing the seeds.
Cilantro – 50/50. It bolted right away so we didn’t get much in the way of leaves, though we got hundreds and hundreds of seeds. I threw a whole mass of them into the cilantro planter and they are currently growing back.
Nasturtiums – 50/50. It took us a while to get the placement of these babies right. The chickens pecked them almost to death so we moved them into the enclosure, but then they didn’t like the soil, so we moved them to a planter with better dirt and now they are thriving. The flowers are so peppery!
Broccoli – Fail. We gave up on these pretty fast after letting them flower when we should have been cutting them back. Will try again next year.
Cauliflower – Double fail! We planted a patch that was doing well until some silly deer came by and munched a load of it off. Then the mice got to them, and in trying to deter rodents we sprayed too much tea tree oil around them and they died. We tried a second batch and they essentially suffered the same fate. Next time they must be in an enclosed area, I suppose.
Cabbage – Moderate success. We only had 3/6 actually produce a cabbage, but J used them to make a cabbage soup.
Peas – Fail. We had a few peas off our plants but not enough to actually do anything with them. Our attempt to grow a second batch failed when they got pecked by the chickens.
Mint – Success! We dehydrated a ton for peppermint tea.
Lemon Balm – Success! Same as the mint!
Edamame – Fail. These babies didn’t grow very big at all, likely because they were not getting enough sunlight.
Chick peas – Fail – they were doing great until a deer ate them all haha
Comfrey – Success!
Cat nip – Success!
Oregano – Success! We harvested the existing oregano from the lower garden and have like a 10 year supply of the stuff.
Rosemary – Success!
Lavender – Success!
Strawberries – Success!
Amaranth – 50/50. The ones isolated on the deck are doing great, but all the others we planted have been eaten by deer. Jerks!
Artichoke – Success! The Jerusalem plant is doing really well, and the 3 cardoons we have are all growing happily.
Leeks – Fail. We tried to grow them from seed but they didn’t get bigger than blades of grass, and the bunch of starters we bought also didn’t do anything. Likely due to not enough sunlight.
Zucchini and Squash – Success! This was a surprise success, because for AGES they did nothing. Just sat there small and barely hanging on, but then all of a sudden a few weeks ago they exploded and we will have a bunch of big zucchinis and some squashes. Neat.
Sorghum – Probably a fail. These were easy to sprout, but have not really performed since we put them in the ground. The neat thing is the deer don’t like them. Maybe that makes it a success haha
Quinoa – 50/50. Again, easy to sprout, but these plants didn’t do much for a long time. Once they started growing that pesky deer came and ate the heads off all of them. We have a second batch going within the enclosure that looks much happier though I’m not sure what they will produce.
Walla walla onions – Mild success. We got a bundle of onions, but they were all pretty small. Again, not enough sunlight. We did pickle the ones we got, though.
Blackberries – An accidental success. These things are everywhere though we didn’t plant any. We’ve made jam and included them in our wine which should be interesting.
Plums – MAJOR SUCCESS. We didn’t even have to do anything, we just had plums coming out our ears for days. We made spiced plum jam, plum chutney, plum wine, plum puree, canned whole plums, and dehydrated plum snacks.
Apples – Almost a success – the two trees are growing their apples as we speak. There will be lots, and they are almost ripe… hello apple sauce and pie filling!
Blueberries – Fail. Only one plant produced (the other has done nothing) and Squeak ate all the berries off it haha.
Mullein – Success in the works. The seedlings grew like mad and have been planted in the lower garden to get big. The chickens have pecked them a fair bit, but soon they will be in their own area and the mullein will come back.

There may be more that I’m forgetting about… it was an ambitious year, garden wise. Lots of finding our footing, lots of experimenting, and some harvest. Not enough to live off of, but it was a strong start to what will hopefully be an ongoing project!

Book Review: Reading Lolita in Tehran

readinglolitaintehranRead for: FABClub Monthly Memoir from way back in May, 2013

Rating: 3.5/5

So this was the monthly memoir selection over a year ago, but I never got around to finishing it at the time. I started it, but got distracted and it sat on the shelf until recently. I was reading Prisoner of Tehran at work and really enjoying it (is it horrible to really enjoy reading about someone’s traumatic experience in prison during a revolution? Regardless, I was very interested). The hotel nurse came by one day and donated a pile of books to the women residents, and top of the pile was Reading Lolita in Tehran. I said “Oh, I started this a while ago but never made it to the end” and the nurse said it was one of the best books she had read recently, and suggested I take the copy and finish it. So I did, and read Reading Lolita and Prisoner of Tehran sort of in tandem, Prisoner during the day and Reading Lolita during the night. I finished them around the same time, and thought it was neat to read two very different accounts of the same events simultaneously.

Reading Lolita is a very interesting memoir that differs from Prisoner of Tehran as Nafisi tells her experience with the Iranian Revolution from her position as a literature teacher. She has students that were arrested and spent time in Evin Prison (where Prisoner takes place), but for much of the memoir Nafisi chronicles her journey through literature including Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, and several others. She assembles a group of female students and holds book club style meetings at her house where they all get to know each other and discuss the books they aren’t allowed to read in school. I liked the first section where the group discusses Lolita, though for the majority of the middle of the memoir Nafisi reflects on the revolution from a more personal and professional standpoint as the regime began to impose more and more rules on the school where she worked. For the final section of the book we get back to the women’s only class with the students reading Jane Austen. The book is very well written, though a bit more academic than I would have liked. Nafisi is obviously a very intelligent and well read woman, and for those reasons I enjoyed reading about her viewpoint of the revolution. Overall I thought the book was fairly dense and slow moving though, which is why I only made it partially through on my first attempt. Iranian Revolution aside, I thought it was interesting to read a literary analysis of the books mentioned by Nafisi, particularly Lolita as I really didn’t care for that book when I read it (though strangely I did enjoy the movie adaptation). It’s always neat to read about someone else’s experiences with literature.