Monthly Archives: September 2014

Creamy Leek & Potato Soup

soup

As a thank you to our neighbour who kept our dogs alive while we were out of town showing Ethan off, I decided to have her over for lunch.  There isn’t an excuse to serve tomato soup from a can or tuna sandwiches, so I decided to put on my apron and see what I could create in the kitchen.  I was torn between a creamy roasted tomatillo soup (my tomatillo plants are dying fast since the nights are getting pretty chilly, so I really wanted to use them up before they went to mush), but the colder nights had me leaning towards a creamy potato soup, in which I could use up the last of my red skinned potatoes that my grandparents sent me home with.  I scoured Pinterest for interesting soups and finally settled on a creamy leek and potato soup.  I had never worked with leeks so this definitely caught my interest. I only needed to pick up a little carton of cream and the leeks and everything else I had on hand, including the chicken stock which I had made myself just last weekend (also a first which I should have blogged about).

I pulled the stock out of the freezer and started chopping my ingredients!  My recipe is a bunch of different soups combined as I have an issue with following recipes exactly.  I’ll try to recreate it here for you.

Finely chop up two leeks using only the whites and pale greens (reserve the dark greens to freeze for resting under your thanksgiving turkey to add flavor to your gravy).  Once your leeks are chopped, you may, like me, discover you’re supposed to some how wash the darn things, so put them in a colander and rinse the little pieces.

Cook your leeks with 2 tbs of butter in a pot for approx 10 mins. Add salt and pepper (a few pinches of each). Don’t brown the leeks, just cook until they begin to be transparent.

Add 2 cups of water, 2 cups of chicken stock and 4 peeled and diced potatoes.

Simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes start to soften. Take your potato masher and mash up approx half of your pot, leaving some nice chunks of potato.

Now, the fun part, I realized that I now had a giant pot of the soup base and not enough cream. This ends up to be a good thing, I reserved half the pot (cool and freeze in ziplocks) for future use. All you will need to do is re-heat and add cream another day (cream based soups tend to separate when frozen, so add cream later).  I only bought a small 237ml carton of cream, which I now added to the newly reduced amount of soup. Stir and season to your liking.

I served my soup with a plain crusty bread which I also baked this morning and we enjoyed this lunch out on the front porch while we exchanged our gossip and news about our children.

The Mighty Oak

oak

It’s been a busy few weeks and I’ve been neglecting my blog, so I’m going to try hard to get back into it.  A few weeks ago, Hubby, Junior and I went down to visit my grandparents.  As noted before I had been on the hunt for some trees that could find a new home in my yard.  My grandfather climbed up onto his old yard tractor, gave us a tour of his garden, insisting I take a basket of beans and potatoes home with me, and we soon found ourselves wandering the property in search of seedlings.  Sumac, Maple and some oak seedlings soon filled the bucket of his tractor.

When we got home, Hubby and I planted the oak trees first and chose the prime spot, of the middle of our yard, for a foot tall seedling.  I’m hoping that one day it will grow to be a mighty oak, and will shade our yard in all hours of the day and be a host for birds and squirrels.

This past weekend Hubby and I took Junior to visit Hubby’s grandparents who live over 6 hours away. They haven’t met Junior other than in social media posts and pictures so it was a great visit where all branches of the family came to meet our little man. Hubby’s aunt and uncle who hosted us during our visit took us on a tour of the city which included a short walk to a long forgotten lookout over the city. The lookout itself was overgrown, and a crumbling cement wall was all that was left of what must have been a popular place for locals and tourists alike. Trees, including many oak, towered over the hills obliterating any hope of a view, but the walk was still relaxing.  Since Junior had fallen asleep in the car, Hubby found himself carrying the car seat, and when walking back to the car, an acorn, fell from an oak tree, bounced on the hard packed earth and into the car seat with Junior.  We pocketed that acorn, along with a few extra and will try to plant them.  Soon our yard will be filled with trees with history of their own to tell.

I’ll let you know how it goes with Junior’s acorns.

How to Grow an Oak from an Acorn

1. Collect acorns in early autumn. Acorns are best harvested in the early-to-mid autumn before they have fallen from the tree. Choose acorns that are free of worms, holes, and fungus. Suitable acorns should be brownish with slight tinges of green remaining, though the appearance of acorns can vary based on the type of oak tree they come from. A good general rule is that acorns are ready for picking when they can be removed from the cap without tearing them.

2. Perform a “float test.” Put the acorns that you’ve harvested in a bucket of water. Allow the acorns to settle a minute or two. Discard any acorns that float – these acorns are bad.

3. Hibernate the remaining acorns. Take the “good” acorns out of the water and dry them off. Place them in a large zipper bag with damp sawdust, vermiculite, peat mix, or another growth medium that can hold moisture. Put the bag in the fridge for a month and a half or longer – as long as is needed to germinate the new oak.

4. Keep an eye on the growth of your acorns. Even when stored in the refrigerator, most acorns will begin to germinate in the presence of moisture. The root end may begin to crack through the shell around early December (late fall, early winter). Whether or not the root has cracked through, the acorn is ready to be planted after about 40-45 days of storage.

5. Plant each acorn in a pot or container. Obtain fairly small 2 inch (5cm) diameter gardening pots (or, if you prefer, large styrofoam cups or milk cartons), for your plants. Fill these with a good quality potting soil (some sources also recommend adding milled sphagnum moss). For watering purposes, leave about an inch of space at the top. Plant your acorn just below the surface with the root facing down.

6. Water your seedling. Water your plant until water comes out of the holes at the bottom of its container. In the coming weeks, water frequently, never allowing the soil to dry out. In this stage of their life, keep your seedlings indoors. Place them on a southern windowsill, where they can absorb the winter sun. You may not notice rapid above-ground growth right away. This is because, during the first stage of its life, the plant is developing its taproot below the surface of the dirt.

Saturday Morning Poultry Auction

poultry auction

My poor Hubby probably wasn’t too impressed with me as I woke him up early to attend a local poultry auction this morning.  I know he wanted to go, but he came home late (or should I say early) and a good nights sleep was not attained, an 8am start time on a saturday is not a fun thing. But he knew we were going so it was all fair game! 

We had attended one previous auction, one that we stumbled across on one of our country drives, and we just caught the tail end of it. We had followed the auction signs for the fun of it and eventually found ourselves outside an old community hall, the parking lot full of activity. Honking geese were being loaded into pick ups, and boxes of bunnies were grasped tight by little boys in blue jeans running for their cars, already arguing over what to name them. Hubby and I sat in and watched peacocks and ducks, all stuffed in boxes, get shoved across a makeshift table to the auctioneers waiting hands.  We nearly bought ourselves a duck that day, as we got caught up in the excitement, but common sense prevailed.  

But now, with a country house in our name and a garden and shed in our near future, we don’t need to listen to common sense when it comes to poultry anymore. Okay, okay, maybe a little. We attended today’s auction knowing it was a “research only” event since we still haven’t decided what feathered friend we should try raising.  We met up with a co-worker and her son who live nearby, and with our Tim Horton’s coffees in hand we previewed the many boxes of hens, geese, bunnies, and roosters. Every sort of country folk attended. Beards, suspenders, plaid, and mesh backed caps seemed to be the dress code.  I spotted a few pekin ducks in a box, lot #25 and was determined to stay to see how much they went for. We settled in and between Hubby, co-worker and myself, Junior was happy to bounce from lap to lap while the auction began. 

The very first lot of 3 chickens sold for mere dollars, and each box that followed were jaw dropping deals. Hands flew up in the air and the auctioneer drummed on, calling out numbers frantically and watching the crowd (don’t even think about adjusting your hair at one of these as you might soon enough find yourself the proud new owner of a box of ducklings).  The gentleman beside me bought a big turkey for $26, and a box of 8 little chicks for $4! Hubby kept swearing he would bid, especially when boxes of cornish hens and ring necked pheasants passed under the auctioneer’s hands, the temptation was strong but he withheld.  We made it to lot #8 before Junior was done with it, a whole hour and 15 mins in.  I will never know what the ducks sold for in lot #25, but with the prices we saw, we won’t have much to worry about next year when the time is right to buy. 

Our research continues and the pros and cons will be weighed… meat chickens, heritage egg layers or ducks. Sigh.. oh to be rich and have a barn so I could get some of each! 

Til Death Do Us Part

cemetary

Out here in the “sticks” there isn’t much for a bored mother of a 4 month old to do from home.  I could pull some weeds, check the mailbox for the 3rd time in a day, or whip up a nice food dish that will ultimately rot away in the back of the fridge, a forgotten victim of our very deep stainless steel appliance. But as we’re trying to save money, anyway we can, trips to town are limited to save on gas (and boy oh boy, one can spend alot in the dollar store if let loose with a debit card, so I avoid unnecessary trips when at all possible). Junior and I packed up the stroller with Ollie the colourful stuffed octopus, some bottles, spare diapers, a blanket, bottled water…. well, you get the point. I’m surprised I didn’t have a pack mule to carry all the baby stuff on… anyways, we packed up the stroller and we did what strollers are meant to do… strolled.  We strolled up the gravel road to the highway, which thankfully wasn’t that busy as it was mid afternoon, and we strolled up the road about a kilometer to a little cemetery that we pass on our way into town.  I’ve never strolled a cemetery before, and I thought I better do this before Junior is old enough to think I’m a complete wacko with my mother/son outing choices.  Once there, we passed many rows of shiny granite head stones and further back, under mature pine and oak trees, we found the older stones engraved with family names that I now recognize as local roads in the area. It’s an amazing thing to think of, that a town, a township, and county, doesn’t consist of just roads and land divisions, it really is made from families. Real, dirt-under-the-fingernails farmers, from mothers of 8 children, to that guy who delivers milk, and even that old lady who wears the same flowery dress to church each Sunday.  As I passed the stones and connected them to the road names in the areas, I pictured generations of families, homesteads and parish communities.  I wondered who these many people were, what legacies they left. My own family has a road named after us, and many of my family still live there, an arms reach from the original farmhouse that raised many a rigid country kid. Now, Hubby, Junior and I, live on a road named after the farmer down the street. This farmer is a true testament to the enduring perseverance of generations of men in the dying world of farming.  This farmer has teenage daughters, and although they all work tirelessly in the barns, shoveling, milking, and herding the holsteins, they will most likely go on to marry gentlemen from the city, or pursue great careers, or even travel the world (or all of those things). This farmer has voiced this possibility, not with any fear, but with a calm certainty. His daughters do not show any interest in carrying on the farm, and he seems fine to see them stretch their own wings.  He will eventually have to sell the cows, auction off some machinery, and live out his days in his farmhouse, which has housed many of his forefathers, and one day there will be nothing left of his name but the sign at the end of our street. Strolling this cemetery brought me to feel a surreal connection to our little town. We probably won’t have a road named after us, and our house can’t really be called a homestead, but the land we stand on is not just ours, it belongs to the many families before us that toiled hard through history, and we should be so very honoured to be a small part of it.  

And to lighten up this very serious post…. on my way home from the above mentioned cemetery, I was passed at high speed by three very large tractor trailers carrying “processed organic waste”.  I gagged, as each truck passed me….what the heck is “processed organic waste”?  It didn’t smell like manure… it was human…. it was disgusting!  I came home and showered. haha.