Apple blossoms are absolutely everywhere on our property at the moment, making massive amends for the intensely dull brownness that pervaded our landscape just a few weeks ago. May is one of the very prettiest moments where we live, and we are doing our best to simply enjoy it. An early ‘summer’ (still more than a month away officially) catapulted us outdoors with a frenzy, providing a partial excuse for my absence here recently. Mastering the art of gluten free baking and family meals being perhaps the best excuse that I have. More on our favourite gluten-free finds very soon, but in the meantime, some shots from a walk through our old (as in much neglected) orchard and woods today.
Tag Archives: nature
In the past week, my older boy turned 15. I can’t even begin to contemplate what the next birthday will be like, 16 being a number that seems a little larger than life at this point.
Gluten free pancakes and noisy balloons were served up for breakfast before school.
Walks in the wood revealed moss-covered stones and the last tiny patch of snow.
Reggie started retrieving from the pond again, in earnest.
And looking just as sweet as can be afterwards (yes, I’ve fallen hard for this young dog since he joined our family last summer).
We have even started moving a few precious young plants out into the garden; youngest son is seen here planting some of his kale plants in the small bed outside our front door.
So many jobs to do now that the warmer weather is here. One at time, that’s all we can do.
A busy winter has turned into an equally busy spring. We’re navigating the waters of going gluten free for one family member (which means we all will, more or less), and experimenting with old favourites like chocolate chip cookies. Verdict: these were very nice, but just not the same as what we’re used to. Now there’s a shocking finding.
Not one to be left out, Reggie has food allergies of his own. No rice, if you can believe it. Or turkey. He’s taken to walking around with his food bowl when he wants to be fed (which, as he’s a Lab, is pretty much all the time).
Now that it’s getting warmer out there, the chicken coop has had a big clean-out and a fresh load of straw.
My husband also added chicken wire to the windows, which really need to be open now.
The first day out after winter for our Americaunas was quite funny. At first they all piled into the tiny open air enclosure that housed Esme when she had eight tiny chicks; at one point, all three roosters and six hens were stuffed in there like a phone booth challenge. The ground was still largely covered in icy snow, so it’s hard to blame them. As the sun warmed the ground, they got a bit more adventurous.
We’ve started some outdoor projects, including a partial rebuild of an old picnic table that still has life in it and picking up where we left off at the tree house last year. Oldest son loves getting to bring out the Dremel, which he’s using here to trim off old nails sticking out of planks from the picnic table.
My wonderful new desk/shelving unit in the kitchen is nearing completion. Still up: painting of the doors and the beadboard behind the counter top, finishing of the counter/desk surface (maple boards), blackboard paint for the magnetic notice board. Nearly there…
In the meantime, getting out for walks and even on our bikes as the weather gradually becomes more consistently spring-like is awfully nice after a long winter. I don’t have a companion picture to support this, but husband and youngest son had their last ski of the year and first bike ride of the year all on the same day.
A lone cardinal appeared at our window every morning for what seemed like weeks in late winter, insistently tapping, and then one morning he didn’t return. But spring is finally here.
The trees on the horizon bronze with sunlight in the early morning, the light much warmer than it’s been for months.
Birds lingering at the tops of trees, calling out, this one a red-winged blackbird.
Our youngest is suddenly drawn to the outdoors for extended periods on his own without warning, unwilling to come in for meals or other routine activities. It’s hard to mind, really.
We’re suddenly knee-deep in seed packets and plans for planting, instead of snow and ice. The evenings are still cool though, so the woodstove will remain busy just in the evenings for a little while yet.
And this boy is one year old, today! Happy birthday Reggie!
Our first eggs are here! My youngest helped me to take out the food and water the other morning, and as he’s prone to snooping around, he was rewarded with the first eggs laid by our Americaunas since taking on Esme and her eight (then) tiny chicks last September. We were warned that Americaunas are unreliable layers compared to other breeds, and in the deep freeze that we’ve experienced this season we knew not to expect anything.
I guess the warm spell that we just had gave Esme and the other girls the right signals. This picture does not do these pretty blue-green eggs justice, but it’s all I could get as everyone here was very enthusiastic. I’m hoping to have more egg news to share soon.
Sunday was a perfect day. Fresh powdery snow, mild temperatures, bright blue skies. Somehow we haven`t really managed to fit skiing into our winter this year. Perhaps the snowshoes that get us around our land so effortlessly have made the preparation required for a ski less attractive, perhaps the really cold days we experienced when we could ski put us off. I`m not sure, but it doesn`t matter.
This past weekend, we made up for it with a wonderful ski outing on a local trail in the most perfect conditions. Our youngest, chronically tired this year, went shooting off ahead of everyone. He tired for the return trip but not before enjoying the peace and quiet of gliding through the woods and a few fun hills along the way. His grumbling disappeared as we finished up our circuit, ready to head home for a well earned snack.
I wrote recently here about comfort food (not my first post on that topic, and definitely not the last), including a brief reference to a cinnamon breakfast loaf. I promised to come back and post the recipe, and today is the day.
My baking older son, pictured here, made the original version of this recipe from the hilarious and tasty cookbook, Bite me. I`m providing the original, very indulgent recipe first, followed by the more nutritious but still deeply delicious version that I concocted last weekend.
Cinnamon Swirl Breakfast Bread, from the cookbook Bite Me
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp melted butter
1) Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 9×5-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2) For the batter cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt just until moistened and the flour has disappeared.
3) For the cinnamon swirl, in a small bowl, stir together sugar and cinnamon.
4) Spoon half of the batter into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Pour remaining batter over the top. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar and drizzle with melted butter.
5) Place the loaf pan on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drippings. Bake for 55 minutes. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes before removing. Serve warm.
Healthier Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Breakfast Loaf
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cottage cheese (but sour cream, low-fat yogurt or ricotta would work equally well)
1 cup pumpkin puree (I actually used roasted squash)
2 cups spelt flour (I love spelt for its high fibre content and it`s much less gloopy than plain whole wheat flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup finely ground nuts (walnuts are a good choice)
The method is pretty much the same as in the original recipe, but with the additions and changes noted above, which really come down to reducing the butter and sugar, swapping out the plain flour for fibre rich spelt, and adding pumpkin or squash puree, as well as ground nuts to the topping.
I was very interested to see what my older son thought of this version, having first tasted the butter and sugar laden original. I was thrilled when he gave it two very enthusiastic thumbs up, declaring it ‘absolutely delicious’. For our after-ski snack on Sunday I paired slices of it with apples sauteed with cinnamon. Generally, I think this combination – particularly with the sauteed fruit – makes this a much more appealing option for breakfast (empty carbs aren’t really a great idea, as we know) or tea-time.
After a balmy break from the cold yesterday, the landscape was scoured by wind all day today. At times there was driving snow outside the window, but this wasn’t from the clouds above; the wind was so strong it was whipping the snow from the ground and driving it across the fields.
I was happy to potter around the kitchen in the morning, roasting cauliflower with leeks and potatoes to add to a squash-based soup (the squash, from my garden, was pre-roasted yesterday), and baking a large batch of banana bread with the many overripe bananas in the fruit bowl. (Speaking of cauliflower, I’m keen to try the mashed potatoes with hidden roasted cauliflower from My Sister’s Pantry.)
One of the mini loaves was sprinkled with chocolate chips (for the teenager here) and one was chock-full of dates and walnuts (for the grown-ups). Youngest son favours the plain variety.
It was the kind of day where I was glad to be inside, looking out, especially after a bracing walk with the dog (no, I didn’t take my camera this time!). And now that we’re plunging back down into deep cold again, I think we’ll be happy to burrow inside for a few more days.
With the thermometer reading minus 22 this morning, I knew it was going to be a cold walk with Reggie. First up was water and feed for the chickens, whose coop is visible here through a frosty pane of glass in our garage.
It’s pretty cold in that coop, but the chickens don’t seem to mind.
Walking around to the house to place more wild bird seed in the little feeder in the little wood at the back, I came across some animal tracks. We were positively buried in snow for a while here, and after a recent thaw when we lost a lot of the snow, we’re now surrounded by hard packed, crystalline stuff that doesn’t give. Our modern snow shoes, with spiky teeth, are now needed for their grip more than the buoyancy they can give us in deep snow.
Waiting patiently for me outside the chicken coop, Reggie was ready to go and get moving.
He was ready to explore when we got down to the pond.
Everything in the world here seems to be furred in ice crystals, including any plant life hovering on or around the stream leading out of the pond. The water, amazingly, was still running in the stream this morning.
We paused for a few moments to take in the sun as it came higher over the woods and the pond.
It was just as we turned to head home that I noticed our shadows cast so perfectly on the opposite bank of the stream, the angle of the sun just right.
Feeling the cold biting my hands after taking them out of my warm mitts so many times to take pictures, it was time to high tail it back across the field and up the hill to the house, pausing for just one more picture when we crossed the other stream on our way back.
We’ve been wrapped up inside for the rest of the day.
Looks like it’s going to be a true white Christmas here for us, and we’re grateful for it. It’s not uncommon now to have rain or just a general lack of snow at this time of year, when once it was pretty much a sure thing. This year, we’ve got storms out of the way and just have the peacefulness of a lot of snow blanketing the ground to enjoy.
Warmest wishes to you and yours for 2013.
This boy wakes up every morning with his Santa hat on, ready for the day. This morning he was thrilled to see huge, fluffy snowflakes outside the window (this, following days of freezing rain).
Looking outside quietly he suddenly said, “I could watch these all day, but I’m not going to. I might as well go and play!” I need to remember to approach my day this way.