Sunday, December 14, 2008

Baby It's Cold

The Northern Front did sweep through and bring Arctic air. It arrived on Friday night, and the temperature went from something like 2 degrees to minus 20. Today we reached a "high" of minus 27.3. Yesterday it was so cold that my car wouldn't start. I plugged the block heater in and after about 3 hours of heating it started, though not with command start, but with the key in the ignition. Last night was the Christmas party for the hardware store, and I went, though it was with some trepidation since the temp was about minus 33 and I knew that if my car broke down either coming or going it would be a cold cold wait until the motor association found me on the highway. Needless to say I did not stay very late.

Today we are enjoying being inside. Here is Kylie and Miranda trying to share the "extra large dog bed" in front of the fire.

I spent a little time outside with the yard animals -- I checked on the llamas, who seem relatively comfortable in their heavy coats. And I gave the horses their daily oats and molasses ration, even increasing it since the extra sugar helps keep them warm. I also tried to pry out the iceballs that have accumulated inside their hooves. It looks like they're walking on the chopines that Venetian women used to wear -- they're raised about 1.5 inches off the ground. It's hard to pick the ice out, since it's packed in and in this temperature there's no breaking up the mass of hay, snow and ice that's in there.

I'm glad to report that the water in the house has not frozen this year -- by this time last year it had frozen 5 times! My good luck this year is in part due to the way I insulated the water pipes this time, in addition to putting an extra layer of wood on the outside of the house in front of the pipes to prevent the wind from blowing the arctic under the house. As well, I've let the furnace in the barn run to prevent the water freezing from the well. Last year I was trying to be all efficient and eco-conscious and frugal, and set it to the lowest setting. This year, the thermostat is set to "O" but it starts to come on anyway, and according to my mercury thermometer it's maintaining a very warm 50 degrees, so I've let it remain, even though it's a little high to make the greenhouse gas people happy.

I've finished my brown cotton "viking" sweater. I wore it last night and got lots of unsolicited compliments. Even some twenty-somethings who wanted one. I've started a new pair of socks, this time out of an alpaca superwash, and a new cardigan from some Stacy Charles "Aura" I ordered from Elann last month. On the socks, I'm doing the toe-up style as always, but this time I'm doing 1x1 rib on the sole, and plain on the top. It makes the bottom extra cushy and gives a nice hug to the sock.

Friday night I made a chicken tajine for supper. Maybe not authentic Moroccan style since I made it up, but still delicious:

Brown 3 chicken breasts in a cast iron dutch oven (this is my way, obviously if you were Moroccan or trying to be you'd use a tajine)

Then add
one large can of diced tomatoes (mine were Unico "Italian Flavor" I noticed after opening)
a large tbsp of turmeric
two or three chopped cloves of garlic
about 1 1/2 tbsp of ginger
some salt
about a tsp of cinnamon
a handful of sliced almonds (or pine nuts)
about 3/4 cup of raisins
a tbsp of brown sugar

Stir it up a little and flip the chicken breasts so they nestle under the liquids. Add a little water if the liquid doesn't cover the meat.

Bake it covered for about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours at 325 F.
Serve with couscous, or as I did, with white & wild rice cooked in orange juice and water. The chicken is so tender and the flavours are amazing. The almonds give it a crunchy texture. Yum!

We're going to cozy up to the fire now and do some reading. Here's Cricket and Mister on the day, I mean DOG bed.

Stay warm wherever you are!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Northern Front

This is a cold front moving in from the North. Right now, at 9 pm, we're having high winds, and the temperature has dropped from plus 5 to minus 9 within two hours. We're expecting either freezing rain or some snow overnight... and at sunset we could just see the front coming.

I miss my garden. I know it has to sleep for the winter, but I miss all the quiet excitement of new growth, and the smell of damp earth, and the colors and flavours and scents it gives. I was intrigued by a device called an Aerogarden that I saw advertised. I checked it out online, and found that there are several models to choose from – however they mostly come from the USA (although you can find one of the smaller versions at Canadian Tire, just not at my locations out here in the country). I decided I wanted to try hydroponics again, so I dusted off my copy of The Hydroponic Gardener, and built this little garden.
I used my pond pump, two plastic containers that stack, some pex pipe, two brass elbows, one copper tee and two plugs, plus some cleaned pea gravel. I drilled holes in the base of the top container, and holes in the pex pipes that I cut to fit, and voila! A container garden!
I planted it with lettuce, basil, nasturtiums and spinach last Sunday, and already seeds have germinated. I’ve added a full spectrum light to supplement our short daylight. Missy's checking it out.

I want to supplement not only my diet, but the diet of the animals too-- my birds and hens both love fresh lettuce and this way I'll be able to pick it for them as often as I want.

In the meantime, we're all inside getting cozy by the fire while the wind tries to blow the house down.

Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough curl up together on the sofa.