Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Canning Shenanigans...Canninagans!

Hello! I had a bunch of computer work to do today, and photos that needed to be uploaded, so I thought I would take a second to write here as well.
Things are going good here. Still no word on our car - our mechanic has narrowed it down to some timing problem inside the engine, but doesn't want to take the engine apart, so he's going to find someone else to do it.
On the bright side, though, we did some canning this week! We started with dill pickles, which were pretty easy, and lots of fun to do. Although I think next time, we could get the jars a little fuller, I think we did pretty good for a first try. And the jars look so pretty!

Since they were so easy and fun, I thought I would do peaches the next day. Sarah and I had been to a local orchard, and split a bushel of seconds to do our canning with. And now I've learned my lesson. I will not be buying peach seconds next year, no matter how cheap they are. The ones that weren't mushy and filled with ants were rock hard and tiny. I did about a quarter of the half bushel (about 20 peaches) and then gave up. I was blanching them to get the skins off, but, I think because they weren't ripe, they wouldn't slide off like they were supposed to. They kind of mushed off and tore and shredded. Then they weren't free stone, so they didn't come off the pit easily, either. So between the stuff that stuck to the skin, and the stuff that stuck to the pit, I had about 1/4" of mush. Luckily we had some Ontario peaches which were big and juicy, so I used those up as well, and they worked just like they were supposed to. The skins came off easily and they were easy to slice up. Then I almost canned them in salt water instead of sugar - luckily I had recruited Jai by that point, and he stopped me before I got too far! When they were finally finished, hours later, I ended up with only two jars of peaches, and I was feeling pretty discouraged, although I know they will be yummy later.
We had a big pot full of sugary peach water left over, and I didn't want to dump it, but couldn't think what it would be good for. And then I remembered the ice cream maker! We bought it on sale 90% off in the sidewalk sale at Home Hardware last summer, but never used it. We took the sugar & peach water, and some home-grown frozen strawberries that we blended with some of the rock-hard peaches, and dumped the whole thing into the ice-cream maker. Twenty minutes later, we had the most delicious peach-strawberry sorbet this planet has ever seen.

And then it was all worth it :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

There once were two Ladies...

Hello again! Another week has passed...

We've both been working a lot. Here's Jai in the Summer Toy Factory:

The weather this week has been beautiful - I would even venture to say Perfect. These are the kind of weeks we have to store up and savor later. I have been taking lots of pictures outside, partly just as an excuse to be out there, and still be doing something semi-productive (heavy emphasis on the semi.)

Our car has been in the shop all week because for some reason it won't start. They've had it all week, and still can't figure out what's wrong with it, so it looks like they will have to tow it to the dealership in Middleton for further testing. Big sigh. Anyway, that's meant that I've had to drive the big brown truck to work all week. If it wasn't so darn expensive, I would want to drive it all the time. It's a lot slower, and a lot noisier, but somehow it's a much friendlier drive. You're high up, and bumping around all over the place, and for some reason when you drive a big old farm truck, lots of people wave at you as you go by. So that's been enjoyable, if a little hard on the pocketbook.

Jai made a delicious tomato soup, right out of the garden the other night, with homegrown tomatoes, leeks, and basil. I'm a little disappointed in our tomato crop this year, I was hoping for a lot more, but the ones we got are mighty tasty. I'm hoping to get some pesto made up this week, and to sun-dry (well, oven-dry) some of the paste tomatoes. The more food we can store away, the better.

I've been continuing to work away in our own shop as well. I've made some new books using vintage photos. These two some of you out there might recognize:

That is my Step-Dad, Errol, when he was a little boy, and my Grandma and her twin sister when they were little girls. So, I just spoiled the surprise, but if either of you are reading this, I do plan on sending these books out to you. Jai and I were wondering if this is a service someone might like - I can take an old favourite photo of a family member, and turn it into a customized photo album/journal cover. I don't really know if that's something we could sell or not, but I thought I'd put the idea out there...
I also did a book cover titled "Jimmy's First Day" which is based on an old photo I found in the antique store in Bear River. Fun!

And last but not least, my latest masterpiece:
The words say:
There once were two Ladies who set sail in a small boat on the vast Sea. They didn't know their destination, so they followed the path of the Moon for night after night. Eventually they reached the end of the Earth, and stopped to look over the edge.

This is my first real Automata, and I love it! The photos turned out pretty good, but the best part is turning the crank, and watching it come to life.

"An inventor is simply a fellow who doesn't take his education too seriously."
~Charles F. Kettering (1876 - 1958)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A is for Automata

Hello! This week has flashed by! It seems I sort of took a break from doing work, and let myself have a week of playing in the shop. Sort of a mini summer camp. Stephen didn't have any work for me this week, and it seemed to take all the urgency out of my own work! So what I did instead is teach myself about building automata. Fun!
I started with this book, and built the basic tester box and cam gears that he recommends. It is such a great book, and everything was pretty easy to follow so far.
I've only started diving into the different mechanisms and movements, but I thought I should start building an actual piece, so I get some practical use out of all this knowledge. So this is the first stages of my first automata.

When you turn the handle, the waves roll up and down and the boat rolls up and down and side to side. I have started on the box that will house this, and the whole thing still needs to be painted, but I'm already in love with it. I'll keep you updated as I go. Speaking of which...

I finished the book I gave a sneak preview of, earlier. I'm pretty happy with it, and have set myself off on a new tangent for book-making as well. It seems every new idea leads to a hundred others! Oh well, I suppose I wouldn't have it any other way :) Although at some point, I'm going to need to start selling some of these pieces!
Other than that, life is going well here. We've been eating out of the garden as much as possible, which is super fun. I love going into our yard and harvesting food. My fingers have an almost permanent blackberry stain on them because I just can't get enough. I'm going to have to read up on getting our blackberry bushes to expand down the fence line. I'm too impatient to wait for them to do it on their own. More blackberries, please!
We're starting to see some local corn in the markets, although ours isn't ready to eat yet. This is a shot of our beautiful popcorn and kidney bean patch. The kidney beans are meant to dry on the stalks, but Jai just couldn't resist opening one up today and trying it out. They were pretty and red and Jai thought they were tasty, but I didn't really like the flavour. I think I'll wait.

And last but not least, our sunflowers are finally blooming. They look beautiful and majestic out there, and I'm glad we planted them where we can see them from the house this year. I can't wait until there are enough blooms that I feel like I can cut some and bring them inside.

And so, in short, I feel I can sum up the week with a quote:
Procrastination isn't the problem, it's the solution. So procrastinate now, don't put it off.
~Ellen Degeneres.
Well, all right, if you say so...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rural Living

Hi! Wow, I can't believe it's August 10 already. Everyone here has been talking about that inevitable shift that seems to happen, when you realize we're heading into Fall. Not that we aren't still having beautiful, hot sunny days. This is actually, I think, my favourite time of year. The days are warm, but not muggy, and the nights are cool enough to be comfortable for sleeping. The gardens are ready for eating out of, and life seems to be teeming. Crickets chirping everywhere, chickadees flying about, and bumblebees busy, busy, busy. Unfortunately there's still some of those biting insects around, but everything else is so nice that even they don't seem so bad. Plus, it's blackberry season, which might be the best part of all.

This week has been pretty full. On Friday, Jai and I packed up the car and headed down to Mahone Bay, where we met with Lynn from the Trees Gallery. She runs a very nice, higher end Gallery for Wood and handcrafted Tree-related products. And now she carries a whole lot of our stuff, as well. The more observant among you (or maybe just my Mom - thanks Mom) may have noticed that our Etsy store shrunk by half over the weekend, and that is why. Anyway, with any luck, that could be the start of a very positive and beneficial relationship.
Also, we stopped in at Windhorse Farms to pick up some lumber. They are in New Germany, and they are a woodshop that mills and sells FAS certified Eco-friendly wood. All of it is selectively logged, and some of it is even brought out by horse. PLUS (as if they even needed more in their favour!) they have beautiful wood that you don't see in a commercial lumber yard, and their prices are very reasonable. We love those guys! I picked up a couple of beautiful spalted boards to make into some new meditation benches and book covers.
Here's a sneak peek at my latest book project:
I have been having SO much fun, sourcing out old photographs with a little bit of character in them, and creating drawings from them. In addition to the whirligigs, I thought I would do a few special book covers, and that is a shot of one of them, in a partially completed stage. The cover of that one is done now, but I have to get the paper cut for the pages, so I'll post another shot when it's finished. Also, I dug out some of my favourite photos from within our family, and have started up covers using them, which I am totally loving. I don't know if I'll be able to sell those, I might be too attached, but I'm totally enjoying making them.
And we couldn't resist picking up this Zing Zong. It's an early Button Spinner, made from printed tin. It's got angled holes in it, and it sounds just like an owl when you get it going. The string needs to be replaced, but I love how it looks. Plus Zing Zong is so much fun to say :)

Last night was deliciously fun, we went to a backyard barbeque hosted by our friends Brandon and Jo. Those guys sure treated us! They made chicken fajitas, and sangria, and amazing fruit salad. I went back for thirds, it was so good. It was the perfect night for an outdoor event, and it ended with a fire under the stars, and excellent company. We even had S'mores, toasted over the open fire. We all agreed that rural living agrees with us 100% (of course, we're all ex-city livers, so I suppose we would!)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

More Sights of Nova Scotia

My Mom and my Aunty Janet were down visiting for a couple of days, so we managed to take in some more Nova Scotia sights. On the first night, we went to Hampton Beach, where we take all of our visitors. (Yes, this could be you, too!)
It's a ten minute drive, over the mountain, from our house.
And I think it has the most amazing, spectacular, jewel-like rocks of any beach.
I've only seen the tide out as far as this once before, and it was at this time of year last year, so there must be a seasonal low. I really like in this picture how you can see the two rain storms happening over the Bay (one on each side.)
And on Sunday, we toured the French Shore, as far as Meteghan. This was the first time Jai and I had ever been to Smuggler's Cove, since it was closed for the season last time we were in the area.
That big dark spot is the cave the smugglers used to hide their loot during the prohibition. I wish the tide had been out, and we could have gone exploring, but it was a very pretty spot, all the same.
We toured the docks of Meteghan,
and, of course, some of our favourite antique stores :)
So thanks for the lovely visit, guys!
I did still manage to get some work done still, too. A brand spankin' new whilrligig:
I really like this one.
Jai thought this side looked like amoebas, but I was thinking booby-gears. Hmmmm...
Gotta run, Jai just walked in the room with a tray full of steaming-hot home-made pizzas. Yum! Enjoy your week!