Tiny House

I have succumbed to the TINY HOUSE MOVEMENT.  Tiny homes are here to stay and I want to be a part of the action!  My new tiny home is being built now and completion date is forecast for spring 2016.  EXCITING!!  I feel like the Target lady on the Christmas ads on TV!

I’ve been watching tiny homes for ten years on social media, in fact, I built one in 1999!  I disguised it as a playhouse for my daughter, but it was really a tiny house – as I put a full sized door on one side so that it could be used by adults when my daughter was no longer interested in it.  Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 4.23.22 PMTurns out, the door remains hidden under the siding, because she never lost interest and the playhouse was sold with the house.  Seems the new buyer was also enthralled with the tiny house too, because he wouldn’t close if the playhouse wasn’t part of the deal.  No problem though, the footprint of the house was 12′ x 14′ with a height of 12′ so it would have cost more to move it than it would cost to build a new one.

That is exactly what I have decided to do.  The new tiny home will be built on a trailer as so many tiny homes are.  The trailer is 8′ wide and 12′ long.  You can follow along with me here as I document the building of the new tiny home, which I intend to rent out to people that would like to try the tiny house movement and see if it would work as a temporary or permanent lifestyle!  We already have some bookings for the tiny home in spring 2016!  How exciting is that?

 

Pellet Stoves vs. Wood Stoves

The debate is on – pellet stove heat or wood stove heat.

Raccoon

I have been carrying cord wood down into my basement for the past almost 30 years that I have owned this old house.  Last fall (2014), while carrying my quota down to my stone walled basement, I realized that, while I love wood heat, I can’t stand the work that goes with it.  My son has pitched in the last couple of years to lighten the load, but it’s still dirty, it leaves a mess on the lawn, it leaves a mess in the basement after the winter is over.  It brings in spiders, mice and this past winter, get this…..I left the trap door (that is my wood chute) open overnight by accident and a raccoon decided to come into the house!  Fortunately, the coon was locked in only a portion of the house and didn’t have access to the whole house.  Made clean up a lot easier!  And because there wasn’t any food in that side of the house, the raccoon left and I locked up the chute!

Even without the raccoon incident, I’ve been getting fed-up with carrying wood in….and wood, in my neck of the woods sells for about $100./cord and that’s a face cord.  So it’s not that much cheaper than oil.  Why do I bother you may ask?  Why don’t I just fill the oil tanks and forget wood heat?  Well, I would use solar or wind if I could, I’m just that kind of person, but Canadian winters are cold, really cold.  Wood heat is a nice heat, for some reason, it’s just more comfortable than oil heat.  So, my alternative is a pellet stove, the supply is more renewable than oil.  Let’s not even talk about the most recent spill in California.Oil TankWhich brings me to the next part of this series, after consideration and debate (with myself), I decided to buy a pellet machine.  Makes perfect sense to me…..I love to bake, I love to make soap, so I figured that making pellets is an extension of that creativity.  I went online and researched which pellet machine to buy.  I talked on the phone with pellet machine manufacturers, I emailed back and forth with others that make their own pellets.  I guess that’s why I haven’t been on here updating my blog!  Anyway, I came to the conclusion about which machine to buy, and where I was going to buy it.  I went on Alibaba and contacted the company and had it shipped.  I drove to my port to pick it up, brought it back, un-crated and started it up.  It wasn’t as easy as baking, and it wasn’t as easy as making soap, but I finally have my pellet machine working.

Polka Dot Soap

Polka Dot Soap

I have a unique and very renewable ingredient that I use from the farm and am experimenting with other options as well.  If you are thinking about using or manufacturing pellets – contact me and I’ll help if I can.  If you are looking to buy pellets, let me know, because since I am already in business, I have purchased a system that is large enough for commercial application and intend to manufacture for sale.

Now, I am actually looking forward to NOT carrying in wood this winter, a pellet stove operates on one bag of pellets a day for an average house!  :)

 

Maple Syrup Workshop

Have you wanted to learn how to make Maple Syrup but were afraid to ask?  You’re not alone!

Maple Syrup - First Jar!

Maple Syrup

I have been making syrup for a few years and have had to learn by trial and error (and some advice from friends more skilled than I).  My friends have agreed to help me operate a Maple Syrup Learning Event to be held at the farm.  I will host a limited group of 8 people and teach you all you need to know to make Maple Syrup the old fashioned way (but I have knowledge of some high tech versions – if you decide

Sap buckets ready for Spring!

Sap buckets ready for Spring!

to go into syrup production commercially.)  Maple Syrup season is short – four to six weeks and this will be a weekend event.  If you are interested in just coming by for the day – let me know – but look below at what you will miss out on!

Arriving Friday night, to a gourmet meal and delightful conversation.  Saturday will start with breakfast, then collecting the syrup and starting the boil.  Finishing off with another gourmet meal and more conversation.  I have a hot tub on the farm and can book a Registered Massage Therapist if you’d like to pamper yourself after all that work!

A Maple Syrup event wouldn’t be complete without a pancake breakfast, which we will celebrate with on Sunday!

You will learn all there is to know about making maple syrup and leave with syrup that you have made.

You can contact me by email or let me know in the comment section below, if you and your friends would like to participate in a fun filled weekend at the farm!

Organic Gardening

Well, it’s been a while….what a crazy busy summer it’s been!

 

I have a new organic garden and because of the delicious foods that we have grown this summer, I’ve decided to share my farm space with people that would enjoy gardening or perhaps don’t have the space to garden. A friend of mine told me that she loves to garden but the soil at her house isn’t rich enough and she doesn’t want to spend the time and effort to enrich it, so she has become my very first customer!

 

So, it will look like this……

 

A garden plot 20’ x 30’ fenced, it has to be fenced or the deer will eat everything. Over the almost 30 years of being on this farm, I have learned that the deer don’t recognize a garden as human space, the deer have the nerve to think you planted those pumpkins just for them!

 

I will provide two rain barrels to make compost tea or just catch rain water.

 

I will have available for purchase top soil, compost soil, and straw.

 

Fall is the perfect time to prepare your garden for spring planting or, if ambitious, fall planting (garlic) for next year’s harvest.

 

I would invite other farm bloggers to encourage neighbours to come out and plant their own gardens. There is something very satisfying about growing your own food and having it come out of the garden and to your plate within minutes.

Peach Freezer Jam

My mother used to make this jam and my children loved it!  I’ve never made peach jam, so after seeing this year’s peach crop, I decided to not let another year go by without giving it a go.  Here we go:

I bought the jars and boiled them, I left them in the hot water while I prepared the jam.  And here’s how I prepared the jam:

I bought a case of farm fresh peaches from a farmer’s market near my farm.  I did the hot water method of “peeling” them – (side note: Boil a pot of water, drop the peaches in (just a few at a time, try four because you don’t want the water to stop boiling) for 45 – 60 seconds, then scoop the peaches out and drop them into an ice water bath for 45 – 60 seconds.  The skin will slide right off.)

The ingredients look like this:

About 8 peaches (depending on the size) will make 4 cups of mashed fruit

1 cup of honey and one cup of sugar

juice of one lemon

about 4 inches of a dried vanilla bean

a little pinch of salt to enhance the flavours

I took the “peeled” peaches and with the steel blade in my food processor, I pulsed the peaches until they were chopped but not a puree.  I, then, mixed four cups of chopped peaches with one cup of honey, one cup of granulated white sugar, one half of a vanilla bean, (I sliced open the vanilla bean and scraped the seeds into the peach and honey mixture, then threw the bean skin and seeds into the pot), the juice of one lemon.  While this is heating over a low heat, I mixed in the pectin*, I just stirred the powder in and kept stirring until the mixture came to the boil.  The full, rolling boil is important because you want all the sugar to melt and all the flavours to blend.  After a five minute  full rolling boil, turn the heat off and get the jars out of the hot water.  The mixture should still be boiling, or very close to it when you put the mixture into the jars.  Fill the jars – leaving about a half inch at the top to allow for freezing expansion, wipe the top of the jar and put the lid on.  I flip mine upside down to cool, this is what I do with my maple syrup when it is cooling too.  You will hear the jars “ping” – that’s the vacuum seal happening.  I keep this jam in the freezer, it will keep up to a year, but once the jar is open, the jam should be used within a month.  But this jam is soooo good, you’ll have it finished tout suite!

 

*Pectin – I debated whether or not to use pectin.  I am pretty careful about chemicals, I shop at Whole Foods, and farmers’ markets – I buy organic options when I have the choice.  So pectin was a bit of a wild card.  I did my homework and decided that because pectin is derived from a plant source and according to the research I did on several websites, it is perfectly safe for human consumption.  But here’s the thing with the pectin – it’s used to thicken the jam, so if runny jam it okay with you, why go to the expensive and bother of including it in your jam.  I used it and quite frankly, my jam is a little to thick for my liking.  Next time, I’ll either cut it in half or leave it out completely.

 

Cold Process Soap

I couldn’t wait to get home with my new treasures to make Cold Process Polka Dot Soap and a new soap that I am calling Raspberry Kisses.

Polka Dot Soap

It was a lot of fun to make!

Cold Process Soap

Cold Process Soap

I expected this soap to “settle” a little, but it was pretty close to seizing when I got it into the mold.  My peach soap tried to seize also – note to self – watch these two fragrances!

All in all, these soaps were fun to make – along with my Maple Syrup/Honey soap, and it will all be cured in time for the Market Season!

 

 

 

 

Polar Furnace – Do They Work?

This is an un-retouched photo of my farmhouse in the winter – it really is blue cold!  That Disney movie “Frozen” ya, I live there.  Right now I heat with wood and use oil as a back-up.  I don’t think I’m too different from other Canadian folks that are concerned with heating costs, but also I have concerns about the renewability of the resource we are consuming.

Farm House in Winter

Farm House in Winter

Right now, the wood I buy is delivered to my back door from a dump truck, I usually buy 15 or so face cords (a face cord is a stacked pile of wood 4 feet high by 8 feet long and a piece of wood is anywhere from 12″ to 24″ long.)  When it gets dumped in the driveway, I carry EVERY stick of wood through my kitchen and downstairs to the forced air furnace.  It takes DAYS and it is mind-numbing, back breaking work.  I have decided NO MORE!  When my children were at home, they would help me carry the wood down – each day after school they would each carry 50 pieces of wood before they started their homework.  I still want to heat with wood, partly because, to me, it’s environmentally responsible, but also, there is nothing that feels like wood heat.  I want to buy a polar furnace that can be loaded once a day with enough wood to burn 24 hours.  From what I understand, you don’t have to burn woods that have a high BTU – you can burn any wood at all and the polar furnace will take 4′ logs.

UPDATE:  So, I ended up resurrecting my old wood chute.  When the children and I used to put the wood into the basement in the 80’s, we had a wood chute.  Many years ago, the side porches were put back on the house and that construction covered the wood chute, in order to make this an easier job, I had a finish carpenter open the floor to the side of the basement so the wood could be loaded in.  Now, I don’t have to carry each piece of wood through the kitchen and downstairs.  It certainly makes the job easier and when the wood is in the basement, I re- align the floor and cover it with a carpet and put the furniture back in place!  No one even knows that the hatch is there!

I digress, the title of this post is Polar Furnace – Do They Work?  I don’t know, I am still using my wood/oil combination.  I would ask my readers for their opinions and ideas – please comment below.

 

 

Four Types of Homemade Cold Process Soap

I dare to say that I am desperately waiting for the maple syrup season to begin.  I have a new maple syrup evaporator arriving for this season and I’m super excited to get going making maple syrup.  In the meantime, while waiting for the right conditions for maple syrup, I have been entertaining myself with making some soaps.  I started making cold process soap over 15 years ago.  I retired all my equipment about ten years ago, so I got it all out and started looking over my notes.

Well, I got started with a Clementine Buttermilk soap.  This is an old favourite recipe of mine – it never lets me down, although the scent is new for me.  This Clementine buttermilk will be ready in about six weeks.

Clementine Buttermilk Cold Process Soap Winter 2014

Clementine Buttermilk Cold Process Soap Winter 2014

Then I made a Vanilla/Amber and used my homemade vanilla ice cream as the liquid.

The next night, I made a buttermilk recipe again and scented it with Lily of the Valley.   This turned into a very pretty white soap.

Next came a whipping cream base scented with peach, I layered this one so that the bottom half was white, the next layer was gold/yellow and the top was a pink peach tone.  This picture is right out of the mold, first slice, before any trimming is done.  I like to smooth the edges of my soaps – when the soap dries, the edge can be sharp and unpleasant, when trimmed, it rolls in your hands.  Sometimes I cut these down into travel size bars, that way you can take your favourite soap with you when you travel and not feel bad about leaving a bit behind.  The travel size is also wonderful in a guest bathroom – you can change it out after your company leaves!  And use it seasonally, Christmas Soaps at Christmas etc. – this Springtime Peach is wonderful….when?  Springtime, of course!

Cold Process Springtime Peach Soap

Cold Process Springtime Peach Soap

 

Nanaimo bar soap was next and I scented this with Creme Brulee, Nanaimo bars have kind of custard smell, so I thought Creme Brulee worked well. I think Nanaimo bars, a favourite dessert, might be known as a Canadian treat.  I’ve never seen it in my travels outside of Canada.  Because of the layering and scenting, it was a fun soap to challenge!

This week, Dara Howell proved herself to be the best in the world when she won the Gold Medal at the Olympics in Slopestyle Skiing.  It was an amazing accomplishment and one would have a better chance of winning a lottery than to win a gold medal at the Olympics!  Our whole town is proud of Dara Howell and her accomplishment.  Personally, it made me want to do something very “Canadian”, so I made a Maple and Honey soap!  I used honey from my own farm and maple syrup that I processed last year here on the farm.  It’s layered soap – honey on the bottom and maple on the top.  This picture shows what a cold process soap looks like in the mold.  I’m pretty excited about this one and expect it to do very well at the Farmers’ Markets this summer!

Maple and Honey Cold Process Soap

Maple and Honey Cold Process Soap

So, I know I titled this four types of cold process soap, but included six.  If you would like the recipes I used, comment below, if you would like a custom soap made, comment below and I will work with you on that.  And if you would just like to share your story, comment below!

Maple Syrup

If you are any where in the north, and by north, I mean north of Atlanta!  My farm is in Ontario and we have had a LONG, COLD winter.  My horses have spent more time in their blankets than out of their blankets in the unheated barn!  And, it’s been my experience that when you have a farm, and particularly if you have animals on the farm, you check the weather constantly.   I check my weather app in the middle of the night!  This morning for the first time in months, the temperature is hovering just below freezing and that means that we will all go into a frenzy to set up for maple syrup season!

Sap buckets ready for Spring!

Sap buckets ready for Spring!

Washing pails, making sure you have enough lids, and the wire that holds the lid, checking taps and of course, making sure your trail to the pails is clear enough to get to the sap.  I use a snowmobile to pat down the trail.  I use a Yamaha Rhino with a 100 gallon plastic container in the back to bring the sap from the maple forest to the place where I boil. I will make sure I have gas in the Rhino and rinse out the 100 gallon container.

Maple Syrup Evaporator

Maple Syrup Evaporator

I have a new maple syrup evaporator with stacked stainless steel pans.  I had it build with the pans stacked so that while the sap is boiling down, the residual heat will pre-heat the fresh, newer sap, saving a lot of time and heat.  The two pans are piped so that as one batch is finishing, the next batch is ready to drop into the boil pan.  My evaporator is lined with fire-brick, so I will check the fire-brick and make sure that it’s in good repair for this season.

Spring is in the air!

Maple Syrup - First Jar!

Maple Syrup – First Jar!

Building A Sugar Shack

Maple Syrup Evaporator

I have been making maple syrup and am quite looking forward to this season (2014).  On my property, in addition to a large maple forest, I have an old barn that was built decades ago – well before my ownership of the last 27 years.

In this barn, I have raised pigs, and I have raised chickens.  (There is nothing like fresh farm eggs!)  This particular barn has been idle for quite some time now, but I have decided to save it from falling into the ground and it is going to become my sugar shack.  This is what my pig barn looks like now, but soon it is going to be a complete maple sugar operation.

First, I will jack up the building, support it with steel I-beam and re-build a foundation underneath it.  Then straighten the walls.  Next the windows and doors will have to be addressed – I don’t think I will go to the expense of putting in windows, I kind of like the way the building has its’ 100+ years of character……and besides, a sugar shack shouldn’t be airtight.  In fact, a sugar shack needs a lot of ventilation.  There’s alot of evaporation that happens in the maple syrup production process.  I was advised, when I first started, to NOT boil the sap inside my kitchen because the kitchen walls (and everything in the kitchen) ends up with a sugary coating.

 

I know I can’t get this project complete before this season, this has been a long, cold winter, with an over-abundance of snow delivery this year!  But I can got it worked on over the summer months and have it ready for the 2015 season.

My new evaporator is going to have it’s first season outside.  We have manufactured three of these evaporators.