Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The GOOD, the BAD and the BEST about Living in the Countryside

A few weeks back, some friends and family are asking about the changes we have to make when we moved from the city to the country. I told them, ask me in a month or so. Its been seven weeks and now I have a good sense of the good, the bad and the best of  country living. Let me start with....

... THE GOOD ...

  • Life is basically simple. No need for fancy wardrobe (except for going to our day jobs. By the way, contrary to rumors, hubby and I are still working full time!). Jeans, T-shirt and rubber boots are essential. Sunblock and hat are my usual accessories.
  • I can dance in the rain to my heart's content and no one will mind. Oh well, maybe my ducks who love the rain as well.

  • We learn to communicate with our "pets". You will be surprise to know that each and every hen in the coop has her own character/attitude. Like any other female species, they can be very competitive even without the presence of a rooster.
  • My two inseparable ducks, Katniss and Peeta are role model for what "relationship"  is all about. They are totally opposite in character but they make a perfect team. I can watch the two of them all day and learn a lot about what partnership is all about.

  • We hang our clothes outside and let the wind and sun dry them. I can't remember the last time I did this! No, I don't hand wash our clothes!!! I will not go that far. That's what washing machine is for.

  • The nearest mall is about 45 minutes away. So we go to Country Store instead. Love it!  

  • The country atmosphere and our access to fresh veggies and fruits made me want to cook more than I should. There is no doubt in my mind that cooking is my passion and how I wish I can do this full time.

Honestly, living in the country is not as rosy as it sounds. There are things that I wish different. So let me tell you ...

... THE BAD ...

  • Spiders, frogs and chipmunks are the "bane of my existence"! I am scared of  big spiders and frogs so you can just imagine how many times I called hubby to shoo them away to clear my path. The hardest part is during  early morning following a rainy night. There's a good walk between the main house and chicken coop and there will be tiny green frogs on the grass joyfully leaping on top of my boots. If only my scream can kill them!
  • Oh the chipmunks, Grrrrr! They are cute but what a nuisance! They eat my tomatoes (oh yes, they like them ripe!), uprooted my peppers and oregano, ate the duck feeds and the list goes on. We are learning how to humanely trap them. Good luck to us!
  • Some of our chickens are old already (they are from the previous owner of the house) and we were warned to expect that some of them will die this year. We buried one on our 2nd week here. I hate funerals!

  • It is foggy in most mornings. We are near the lake so this is expected. No harm really but it makes me want to stay home.

  • There is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS something to do for me and Jayvee! The work never ends. Since we both have a full-time day jobs, we need to find time to do the chores at home. So far we are enjoying them. Ask me  again after a year :-)
  • No wonder I caught dear Jayvee napping several times even in the most uncomfortable position!

I am saving this for last. These are the reasons why we chose to be here.

... THE BEST...

  • It is so serene and peaceful! Our property is sandwiched between acres and acres of cornfields (NOT ours!) The neighbors' houses are at least a kilometer away so you can practically run naked in the backyard if you want to. We've never tried it yet. :-)

  • I can have many chickens in the backyard and no one will complain. Nothing beats a really fresh free range eggs for breakfast!

  • Our water is from dug water well so we don't pay monthly bill. The water makes my skin and hair smooth. No need for hair conditioners.

  • During spring, summer and fall, the weekend farmers market is my happy place! You get to know the baker (our Gerry bakes the best potato rosemary bread), the butcher, the farmers and even the coffee connoisseur.
  • There are always pleasant summer visitors in the yards. Beautiful butterflies, dragonflies and even fireflies at night. When we were pruning the trees, we found different kinds of birds' nests.

  • At night, we would sit by the porch and look at the stars shinning brightly. There are so many of them! I would always look for the brightest one and know that one is my dear Papa shinning from heaven.

  • Every weekend is like a mini vacation. We would do all our chores in the morning so we can enjoy the sun (on good days) and the booze!

  • We wake up thanking God for the beautiful and promising sunrise. Every morning is different. Alive, vibrant and bold.

  • I never get tired of taking these sunset photos from our backyard deck. There are days the sunset is calm and peaceful and others are fierce as if burning the skies. But always, they are dramatic and romantic. They make you feel loved ....

  • It is always fun to invite friends for a barn-themed get-together lunch. No fuss, no frills. Just pure fun and lots of laughter!

By and large the summer edition of The Good, the Bad and the Best is pleasant and exciting. We will see what's in store for the next seasons. Will there be coyotes instead of butterflies? How many inches of snow do we have to plow before we can feed the chicken in their coop? How are we going to make the chickens and duck warm during the winter months? What are the recipes I'm going to invent in the kitchen when the leaves change its colors? .... Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Settling In ....

It's been three weeks since we moved to our new house. There are still plenty of boxes to unpack but we are making progress in making this house our home! We are slowly but surely adopting to the life in the country and loving every minute of it! There are always, always, always something to do! Oh, the grass  grows so fast and hubby can't keep up mowing so he jokingly decided we will get some goats next year. The chickens and ducks know me by now {more stories on this later}. Let's just say that we are living our dreams and we thank God everyday for this wonderful blessings!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cherry and Lavender Jam {Yes, I can!}

Canning food is something that I've always wanted to do. On my to do list this year, this item is written on my fall schedule. But since I have a basket full of delicious fresh cherries in the refrigerator, I decided to start canning  now.

I wanted my first fruit canning experience to be special so I looked in the garden for something that will enhance my recipe.

The lavender plants are  blooming ... hmmm ... why not? .... Here it goes ....

Oh la la! Tres agreable! Tout simplement delicieux!

Cherry and Lavender Jam

4 cups of pitted fresh cherries (I used vista cherries)
1 large lemon  (zest and juice)
2 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
3 tbsp fresh lavender flowers (optional)

Carefully prepare jars for canning. I followed this procedure from Country Living. This recipe can fill 2 small jars.

Chop cherries in small pieces (not to small so that you will have big pieces of cherries when you spread the jam on your toast)
Combine the chopped cherries, lemon zest and juice and lavender in a large non-reactive sauce pan.
Cook in medium heat while stirring occasionally. Bring to boil.Cook until cherries are wilted and completely soft.
Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
Bring to boil for another 5 minutes. Stir while cooking to prevent jam from sticking to the pan.
Turn off the heat when the jam appears a bit thick and looks like it is beginning to gel.
Transfer the jam into clean and dry jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace and cover tightly.
Cool at room temperature then keep in refrigerator. Good for a couple of months.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

I am NOT moving again .... unless....

Moving. is. stressful. Period.

Our moving date is less than a week away. Hubby and I can't contain our excitement about the new house in the countryside. We've made plans on the look and feel of the house including new breeds of chickens we want to add to the existing coup.BUT, before we can do that, we have to finish packing all belongings we accumulated in the last 10 years. And there's a LOT! In fact it is overwhelming. I had a couple of "breakdowns" already. Part of it was due to exhaustion but more so because I am struggling to part ways with things that hold so much memories - pots and pans that  witnessed my experiments is the kitchen, books (lots of them!) that entertained me during the long winter months, Christmas decorations the once gave life to the bare tree, old tea towels that are now so comfy to dry your hands with .... the list goes on and on! 

How do you say farewell to these inanimate things?

I found this piece from one of my favorite lifestyle bloggers Jenni Epperson.

I may be parting ways with a lot of things that are not at all beautiful but most of them were once upon a time useful. I am not saying farewell. I will just say THANK YOU for all the memories these things brought to our lives. Memories that I can bring  with me ....

I am not moving again .... unless ....

Monday, July 7, 2014

Cherry Clafoutis {from the orchard to the table}

One of the perks of summer in Ontario is the abundance of cherries and nothing beats the joy of picking our own cherries from the orchards in the Niagara region. Last Saturday, the weather was gorgeous so Jayvee and I drove to Cherry Avenue Farms to have our fill and more!

Cherry Avenue Farms is a 126-acres-fruit-orchards. You can pick your own cherries at the beginning of summer, peaches and plums in August and nectarines and pears before the fall. We've been here a couple times and each visit never fails to perk me up .... just like the high you get on Christmas morning. But instead of presents, you get the gifts from mother nature.

You are allowed to eat while picking so you can just imagine how much we consumed  ... it was like walking in the garden of Eden but nothing is forbidden, eat all you can! Yes, even the fruit of tree in the middle of the garden :-).

With a bucket full of cherries, surely, our kitchen will be busy in the next couple of days. As soon as we got home, I made cherry clafoutis. I will never get tired of this delicious and so easy to make dessert which I first tasted during a luncheon meeting in Paris many years ago. My French counterpart gave me the recipe. Since then, I made minor adjustments {like the addition of lemon zest for more flavour}. The sweet custard like base and the sweet and tangy cherries surrendering its juices to the cake is a real treat on its own or with a cup of tea.

Cherry Clafoutis or Clafouti is a rustic looking French country dessert from the Limousin region. Traditionally it was made with the first sweet cherries of the season, and the cherries were left unpitted so their kernels could release their delicate almond flavor as they baked. {info source : Joy of Cooking}

Cherry Clafoutis

1 pound fresh sweet cherries, rinse and pat dry {whole or pitted}
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk
3 eggs slightly beaten
3 1/2 tbsp melted salted butter + extra for lining the pan
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
zest of 1/2 lemon

Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Butter the cake pan generously.
Place the cherries in the bottom of cake pan.
In a bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt.
Add milk and eggs one at a time, whisking gently.
Add melted butter and vanilla extract and lemon zest.
Mix until the batter is completely smooth.
Pour batter on top of cherries.
Bake for 15 minutes at 400 F then lower heat to 350 F and cook for another 20 minutes or or until the clafoutis is puffed, set, and golden brown around the edges.
Serve immediately with a dusting of icing sugar. 

Amusez cuisson mes amis! Bon apettit!

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