First snow

First snow of the year

Just last weekend we were outside doing a final clean up of a felled tree and the attendant firewood before the snow flew. And fly it did, a proper snow on Monday, November 17th. A full two weeks ahead of last year, which was already early for where we live. Last year’s snow was heavy and never left; this year’s start to winter has been pretty fierce, but it looks as though it was a little too early. We’re promised a melt and warmer temperatures at least one more time before winter truly settles in.

Boy walking in first snow

That first snow is so special to children and I loved watching my youngest son through the window as he gingerly made his way outside for a first play before school on Monday. Making the year’s first snowprints.

First snowprints in November

That first day was pretty, almost magical, every branch in sight feathered with the stuff, the air only just cold enough for a snowfall. By the next day, the temperature had dropped and the wind was biting, but blue skies returned. Along with shoveling routines.

Boy shovelling snow

Snow does have a way of transforming ordinary objects into something otherworldly. It makes you look at everything afresh, even an old, much-patched aluminum canoe.

Silver canoe in snow

Meanwhile, our chickens are tucked up for the long months ahead, just getting on with business as usual.

Rooster crowing

P.S. I can’t even begin to imagine what the residents of Buffalo, New York are doing with the epic snowfall they’ve just been walloped by.

Coriander: the harvest that can wait

Bowl of coriander seeds

Pulled from the garden at the end of the season and left to dry out fully for a good few weeks, our coriander has finally arrived on the kitchen island for final harvesting. I know it would be far easier to find a large bag and leave the plants suspended inside of it, but it’s surprisingly relaxing to pluck the small, dried seeds and drop them into a bowl. My husband started the process a while back, and I was reminded to pick up the task again when it came time to close our screened in porch for the season.

I wasn’t organized enough to save any of the leaves of these plants, known as cilantro (or Chinese parsley), but I did season many meals with them during the summer months. Cilantro is one of my favourite fresh herbs, and coriander is definitely a favourite store cupboard choice. I love that they come from the same plant, one that is delightfully easy to grow.
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Chickens at feeding rock

November is here. Frosts are more frequent, the cold is creeping in. We lost some of our flock to a turkey vulture or buzzard.

First one of the young roosters on Hallowe’en. Esme, the original mother of the flock, and our family favourite, went missing. We had to assume the worst. And after several days of keeping the flock cooped up, we lost one of our older roosters.

We won’t let the remaining ten chickens out until we’ve had a good hard look at how we can keep our free ranging flock a little safer. We had it safe for a little too long and it’s hard getting used to this new reality.
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Firing up the Ironheart: The first woodstove meal of the year

Beef stew with Guinness

It’s official, Ironheart weather is here (that’s woodstove weather, if you’re not familiar with this particular British export). We’ve had a couple of burns already this year, and yesterday I cooked our first meal of the season in the stove.

Jamie Oliver’s Beef & Ale Stew, which lends itself beautifully to a slow cook in the Ironheart, stretched over about three hours. A 350-degree conventional oven works fine too (and is what Oliver created his recipe for).

The recipe calls for stout or Guinness, and I’ve always used Guinness and love its particular flavour. The only modification I make is to add some spuds, as I can’t imagine a beef stew without potatoes (though Oliver seems particularly inclined to beef stews which include everything but).
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