Monday, January 31, 2011

It's the "S" word......

OK, enough is enough. We're now waiting for yet MORE snow. 15-22". Yes, it is January up by Lake Ontario, and yes, when I was a kid I remember snowbanks up to the power lines and Dad having to shovel a tunnel out the front door so the dog could get out, but I'm in no hurry to relive that part of my childhood. In fact I wasn't that crazy about the snow and cold then. Well, I guess my hopes for an early spring are shot. We sure got an early enough winter though. I think an early spring is a fair trade-off.

The storm is only supposed to be one day, and the ice is not supposed to be anywhere near us, but I ran out today, while the sun was shining (it was so cold though, the sun wasn't even warm), and got some extra bags of animal food...just in case. My own shelves are pretty well stocked.

I do hope this winter has not been too hard for my berries, horseradish and asparagus. And I just put in a new blueberry bush in last fall.....

As the snow is supposed to start tomorrow (lake effect) then the storm on Tuesday night into Wednesday, I should be climbing the wall by Wednesday morning. So I'll be taking that day and doing some cooking, I think. See what I can come up with. Better than looking at all that white crap coming down.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Let's Make Croutons!

Don't throw away the bread that is going stale. Use it for bread crumbs or CROUTONS! Great for salads, and much better than the ones that come in a box, homemade croutons are great in salads, as snacks, in soups...where ever a good crouton is warranted. They're simple to make, and you can make them to taste.

Here is a picture log of the last batch I made, just a few days ago.

 Start with simple ingredients. Cubed bread...slightly stale, olive oil, unsalted butter and a mix of herbs and seasonings of your choice. I used oregano, basil, salt and thyme.

I first melted the butter in the olive oil. How much you will use of each will depend on how much bread you have. I had about 1/2 of a small loaf of bread cubed and I ended up using about 1T+ olive oil and 3 pats of butter. When melted, add all seasonings and give a quick stir. I used anywhere from a 1/2t to 1T of seasonings. Again you will adjust amounts and seasonings used to taste. Then stir in the bread cubes and continue to stir until coated. Continue to stir so that bread browns, but does not burn. At this point, it is not too late to add additional seasoning, so it is important to taste your work!

 When croutons are seasoned and browned to acceptability, remove from pan on to a surface where they can cool  and dry a bit further. Blot any extra oil. When cool and further dried, store in zip bag or other container. As these croutons will not be dried out like commercial types are, these should be stored in a cool place, or even refrigerated. You may also spread out on a cookie sheet and put in low oven to remove further moisture.


Sunday, January 23, 2011


Among the new links to the left, you'll see a podcast and a newsletter link. Both are free and you can subscribe to the newsletter from the link.

Please remember that I do not share email addresses with anyone, so go ahead and sign up. It's free!

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's Catalog Time!!!!

If you're lucky enough to live in a decent climate where it is always or almost always growing season, it probably isn't that big of an issue. However, if you live in a "not so decent" climate, you're lucky if your growing season is 6 months, and you're going stir crazy with all the seemingly endless snow, then seed catalog time is exciting.

Ok, so why is it so great when the mailbox starts overflowing with the things? In the midst of a long, cold winter, seed catalogs are the first glimmer of spring. True, it might be a spring that is still 4 months away or more, but it is a sign that that winter WILL come to an end. Maybe not fast enough for most of us, but and end, none the less.

Catalog time is a time to cozy up at night, with a favourite hot beverage and decide what this year's garden will be producing for the family this year. It's a time to decide what new vegetable or fruit will be tried this year, as well as discovering the new seeds that the companies are offering this season.

Catalog time is also a time to see what "new toys" are being offered to the gardener, as well as books, publications ans periodicals that we just might need on our shelves.

Unfortunately, our wish lists are usually bigger than our garden space or our budget. At times maybe both. But I's catalog time...nothing but happy dances!

Seriously however, when the catalogs do come, it is time to start buckling down and making real decisions for the garden. What do you need or want? What worked well last season and what didn't? And if this is your first garden, you;re probably just concerned about what you want to grow, let alone all the other points to ponder.

But for now, take time to enjoy the paper gifts coming in the mail. Read, wish, plan, then....order!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


At some point, there will be cooking workshops online as well as recipes available. I like to create my own concoctions or improve upon existing ones.

This is a roasted chicken that I did the other day, using a rub that I created. The only thing I would have done different, probably, would be to tie the legs, but it really wasn't necessary. It just would have looked better in the picture.

This roasted chicken was turned into a recipe I created called Twice Roasted Chicken, which can then be used in salads, sandwiches, snacking.....whatever. And yes, it is actually roasted twice by the time it is done.

Basically, after the whole bird is done, I let it cool, take all the meat off and in the same pan, re season and roast again until brown. And the meat is still moist. (Just right for me as I don't like juicy chicken.)

I'll be writing up the recipe and will link to it.

For now, here is a picture of the whole bird.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Time to Check the Seeds

Next week, I guess it will be time to get my older seeds out and see what is still viable. That way, I'll know what I don't have to get this year, anyway. It is snowing yet again, so maybe this will be a nice diversion.

I plan to post a how to on You Tube when I do this little project, plus a photo log on the blog.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On Barn Cats

The Barn Cat. The little creatures that everyone thinks about when they do think about the barns on the farm. Most farms do have them. The pictures above are of 2 of mine...Splash and Tansy. They have no interest in coming in the house and seem quite content outdoors. They don't bother the birds much at all, but mice, moles, shrews and such are a different story.

Unfortunately, many barn cats come to us, and friends of mine with barns, by way of being dropped off. It seems that when you have a barn or out buildings, you become the target for every idiot that decides to throw a cat out the door of their car. But, they do pay their way.

There are many myths about barn cats, but there is one that I want to address, and that is on feeding your barn cats. Many feel that, if they feed their barn cats, they won't be good mousers. This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, stop feeding your barn cats, and you will end up with no barn cats. If no one fed you, after awhile you'd simply leave. And many do. 

My cats are fed twice a day, morning and late afternoon. This doesn't stop them for doing their job at all. Late spring, summer and fall especially, they are still doing their job, with full bellies. And I have noticed the difference since they've been here. Fewer mouse problems in the winter, when they are most likely to go into buildings or make a home someplace in our classic summer car when it is put away for the winter. No, you don't need to starve your barn cats for them to do what's expected.

Feed them and they'll do a better job....and stay. And if you're afraid that they'll get birds that come to your feeder, then instead of putting the feeder on a tree branch, use a tall shepherds' hook. They can't climb it. Don't leave anything by it that will allow them to climb high enough to reach the feeder. Don't put near picnic tables, chairs or anything that your barn cat can climb on to get to the feeder.

And when at all possible, spay/neuter your barn cats. When you need to replace them, many places now have cats that they are specifically looking for barn homes for. They may be feral or just not people friendly. But you really don't need to "breed your own".

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Forum is Up Too!

The NCH forum is up too. There are many topics to participate in, so please feel free to sign up and jump in. Link to the left!

We're On Facebook

I just published the Facebook page for NCH. A bit sparse, I grant you, but it is finally up. Link is to the left for easy access!

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Forum

There will be a new forum for NCH available in a few days. Please feel free to join in and exchange information, ask questions, and converse. Please note that while I want everyone to enjoy the forum and utilize it extensively, spamming, scamming, heated arguments, extreme language, intentional misinformation and the like will not be tolerated and could cause expulsion from the forum......permanently!

Watch the blog for posting of the link. It should be up in a few days, as I stated. Then, join in and have fun!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Keep Watching.....

The New Century Homesteader will be offering online workshops and programs for international audience in the near future, as well as podcasts and You Tube clips. Dates will be listed both on the website (in development), this blog and on Twitter (@nchomesteader).

Also, podcasts and clips will be accessible on the blog.

So, keep watching and I'll start getting things up, probably in February. Until then, there will be weekly updates.

Getting a Jump on Spring

I couldn't resist, and stopped in an area greenhouse that is open year 'round here. Tough to find around here. Some plants were on sale...actually quite a few were, and there sitting amongst the sale items was one rosemary tree that was left over from Christmas. It was a beautiful plant and the price was excellent, but I have always had problems keeping rosemary of any form in the house. After talking with a couple of the employees (and finding out even the "pros" have problems keeping it in their house) I decided to take it home.

So, now I have a rosemary tree sitting in my window. After having no luck in keeping smaller rosemary plants in a southern window in a cool room, or a southern window in a warm room, I decided to put it in an east window in a moderate room. Not heavy sun (when we have it), but lots of light. I can only hope I can keep it going. I've tried everything else in the past. If this doesn't work, then I'm out of ideas. But I'm optimistic! It needed some trimming, so I already used some of the fresh trimmings in my turkey soup. And bringing it home, the truck smelled wonderful! A friend had gone out with me and commented on how good it smelled every time we got back in. It does look like the dirt in the pot will need some loosening, as it is getting really packed down. (I had to do the same with my meyer lemon tree and ornamental pepper plants as well.)

Everyone cross their fingers for this little rosemary tree (and me). I really want to be able to set it outside in the spring.