Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Books everywhere

I am a self-confessed Book-A-Holic.  I could eat them for breakfast.  I love books.  I've always loved books and as a child spent many happy hours in far off places vicariously living an adventurous life.  It's the stories and the ideas and the imagination but it's also the feel of the shiny new cover and the pages still crisp with potential - almost impossible for me to resist.  DH knows that when my favourite magazine or a new book shows up in the mailbox I am suddenly ready for a cup of tea and a little sit-down.

I have books in every room of the house.  They are stacked in piles and loaded into baskets.  They grace the top of a long stretch of cabinets in the living room and adorn one end of the buffet.  They're in the bathroom - a little rumpled from the humidity while reading in the tub - they're in the car, under the bed - well - almost anywhere.

The subjects range from historical fiction - my favourite escape - to gardening, canning, farm animals, politics (those are DH's) prayer, home-schooling, counselling advice, Christmas decorating, organizational skills, herbs and foraging, renewable energy, website building (need to read those yet!) leadership, Do It Yourself type books... and more.

I love old cookbooks especially the ones that were compiled by church groups or organizations. Just reading them is a great study in the culture of the time it was written.  Any recipe that starts with 1lb of butter would probably not make it into a cook book in 2012!  I was tidying up today and most of what I put away was books. I may need an intervention soon!

Last winter when I had some time on my hands I started building a library - OK - it's actually a large-ish walk-in-closet.  I've got the plaster patching and the painting done.  The wallpaper is almost done - it's a most gorgeous cabbage rose flowered wallpaper that comes with a great story (for another time)  The hold-up is my lack of carpentry skills.  I am great swinging a hammer in the barn where my crude attempts to hit the nail aren't really on display for all the world to see - at least the animals haven't complained but I am not skilled enough to handle constructing the shelves I want.

I'm not even sure all the books will fit in there so I will be doing a selective de-cluttering when the books are ready to move in.

My love affair with the actual printed editions has made me quite sceptical of any digital reader.     How could it possibly compare to reading a REAL book.  I resisted for a really long time and still feel a bit like a traitor to my love but here is my full confession.

It all started with an email - maybe I shouldn't have read it.

The email contained a link to a page where you could download a FREE app for devices that allowed you to read books on your computer or tablet or even your phone. The  Kindle Reader App is available here.  It's free and simple to download.  It came with a few free books to get you started - most of which I didn't read but I did have a look to see how things worked.  I wasn't really impressed.  If I had to pay only slightly less for an e-book than for a REAL book I would pay the extra and get the REAL book every time.

There is one exception and it includes the word FREE.

Amazon has some FREE books - the selection changes every day - but since I have better things to do with my time than spend hours looking for them I wasn't really using my Kindle Reader very much until I bumped into another FREE website  I signed up and was able to choose the genres that where the most interesting to me and voila - they show up as an email every day.  I just click on the ones I want and download them straight to my Kindle app from Amazon.

I have downloaded books on gluten free baking and cooking, homesteading, gardening, canning, hydroponics, organic food, farm animals, historical fiction and lots more.  The convenience comes when you want to travel - I have taken baskets of books with me when I went camping and stuffed my luggage while travelling to the point of hurting myself.  Could I really go on vacation without a REAL book in my hands??  Probably not but this should cut down on the weight considerably.  

That's my helpful hint for the day!  Bet you'll love it!  

I've downloaded my freebies for today and I'm saving them for a camping trip that's coming up soon.  Now it's off to read a REAL book for a little while with a cup of tea!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A few of my favourite things...Beautiful old kitchenware

My collection of flour sifters...

One of my favourite things to do on a Saturday morning is to head off to yard sales with my family.  A summer morning when it still a little bit cool with the promise of lots of heat by noon is the perfect kind of day.  Over the many years we've discovered the best places in the city to get the best deals.  When the kids were little we shopped for kids clothes and toys.  Now we've discovered new things to search for - or rather OLD things to search for.

My love of well worn antiques is nothing new.  My home is an eclectic mix of new, old and dragged-off-the-side-of-the-road or yard sale furniture and accessories.  I get a thrill of fixing something up that someone else considered trash.  A coat of paint sometimes or just re-purposing something makes it new to me!

My greatest love is kitchenware from back-in-the-day.  

Rolling pins and hand-cranked egg beaters...

Old jars re purposed to hold spices and tin measuring cups...

 Enamelware kitchen utensils and some butter pats for working the whey out of the freshly churned butter...

Biscuit cutters and tart pans...

A replacement of a set of measuring cups given to my by my next-door-granny as a child that stared this obsession with beautiful but functional kitchenware.  I dropped my original set as a young bride and cried many tears over it's loss.

A berry picker, an old fashioned wind-up alarm clock that I borrowed from my Mom in order to teach my son how to tell time - she never did get it back!

What is this fascination I have with these tools?  It reminds me of quilting bees and bake sales.  Of being given a set of measuring spoons embossed with the local hardware store logo as a gift for my hope chest from my granny - along with those measuring cups.  Canning and gardening and eating Granny's chilli sauce with roast and biscuits, drinking tea out of real china tea cups...all these things are things are treasured memories of being a child.  I enjoy having them around me as reminders every day of a life that seemed simpler and quieter - something to strive for when I get stressed out over the garden or the kids or life in general.

It's hard to drink tea from a tea cup in a hammock but you get the idea!

Quote taken from an old cookbook: "Thank God for tea!  What would the world be without tea?  How did we exist?  I am glad I was not born before tea!"  - Sydney Smith

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gardening Summer 2012

It's the middle of summer and I have hit the high-peak-allergy-time of the year for me.  Every year for about a month I am miserable despite all the natural and unnatural remedies I have tried.  I take more pills and swig down more apple cider vinegar in this month than the rest of the year combined which has the side effected of a very muddled brain and thus - my posting schedule drops off.

At the same time of course this is the busiest part of the summer with a full house in the barn and more ducklings and quail hatching each week and a garden that needs attention.  Yesterday we spent most of the day working in the garden which had been sadly neglected in the heat waves we've been having - think weeds 4 feet high in some places.  DH and I chopped and cut and mulched and it is looking much better.  I figure a few more hours on my part and I will be caught up - finally!  The picture below is what the "garden" looked like when we moved here two years ago.

The front garden - first year on the farm

The first summer I looked out the front windows at the total disaster of the previous owners garden and half-heartedly picked some weeds but mostly I just didn't have any time with moving and life situations at the time to do anything.  It was full of perennials planted willy-nilly, weed trees and a mess of stones, gravel and weeds.  I was able to move many of the perennials out and we chopped down and dug out many of the trees in the fall.

The garden - Second summer at the farm

Summer number two I started waaaaay too late and was stuck with a soaking wet garden that needed roto-tilling before I could even plant a thing.  A neighbour kindly came and tilled it for me but tilling with the wet conditions turned the garden into a concrete block when it dried out.  The few vegetables I did manage to plant struggled horribly and  produced better than I deserved but certainly not plentifully.  We watered most of the summer just to keep things alive which meant filling buckets from the cistern and carrying them to the garden.  Oh-JOY.

The garden - third summer at the farm

Year Three:  that would be this year.  Oh how spoiled I am!  I have a hose now - no more lugging buckets.  Early in the spring we added load after load of cattle manure left behind by our babysat winter cows. We've been adding top-mulch of any kind to the garden by the barrow full as we clean out the chicken and duck pens and finally things are looking up.  I planted a little less than half the garden space - the rest was still being green mulched (that's code for covered-in-weeds-that-I-didn't-have-time-to-pull)  I planted huge sections green beans, beets, carrots, peppers and tomatoes.  I decided to stick to basics. All of those are doing well - a bumper crop on all fronts but still not nearly enough for our family for a whole year which is my goal for the future.

It got me thinking about gardening for the long term as I pulled and planned. I've gardened in the past when we lived in town.  My gardens always looked respectable and produced relatively well.  In other words I am not a COMPLETE newbie and I still had a hard time.

Besides roto-tilling the wet garden I added manure that was not completely composted.  I may as well have bought a bag of weed seeds and sowed my garden with them.  That was a bad idea.  In the city I added cattle manure to my garden that came in a plastic bag from the garden centre - this stuff came from the poop pile in the barnyard.  Yeah - not the same thing at all!  I would guess it needs at least two years of composting before you use it.  Tomato bugs have invaded my patch and eaten plenty of the top leaves off the tomato plants.  I've been picking them by hand - shiver - they are as big as my middle finger and green - YUCK.

The garden - third summer at the farm

As I've mentioned before my garden is right smack in the middle of my front lawn for all-the-world-to-see.  I will admit to vanity - 4 foot tall weeds are embarrassing!  Someday soon it will look nice but it may be a few more years.  That however is not my main concern - getting the garden to a place where it produces useful amounts of food is my goal. Gardening takes time and effort and even with all the best ingredients and techniques you still do not control the weather or the bugs.  If gardening teaches us anything it's that we're NOT in control!

I read a post on one of my favorite forums lately about a young mom who with her husband had moved to their homestead about a year ago.  They were working their "be-hind-ies" off trying to get things done and she was concerned about getting the garden started and how DH wasn't getting to it (because he was building, digging, plowing etc.) or spending time with the two young children because he was so busy.  I felt sad for her.  I know the feeling.  There will always be too much to do - imagine how much more-so if your life depended on that garden!

The garden - third summer at the farm

I would tell her that YOU HAVE TO PRIORITIZE and slow down!.  I've had to prioritize.  I have written plans on pages and pages of things I want to do.  DH has his own priorities.  Some of them are simple, some require help from outside sources.  Some just require lots of time and there's still only 24 hours in a day.

My garden could have been bigger.  We could have had more animals.  We could have decided on no vacation this year. We could work from sun-up to sun-down.  We could stress and fret and worry about it.  We try not too.  I remind myself often that I am doing all I can do.  I still need breaks and even if a huge garden is ideal it is not ideal if I wear myself out trying to get it ready and take care of it.

So I simplify.  I grew less and learned more.  I had less animals but learned more about the ones I have.  I tried a few new things and did some old things better than last year and occasionally I grab a book and sit in the hammock and remind myself that this is the life I always wanted!

It's so beautiful and peaceful and perfect in it's own imperfect way.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love living in the country!!