Fall Arrived Today

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Technically Fall arrived last week on the 23rd, but today it finally *felt* like Fall.  I stepped out the door to head out on my daily walk and a very brisk north-east wind sent me immediately back inside to fetch my newly knitted hat (I haven’t made the matching mitts yet, better get knitting soon).DSC03606

I tied double bows in my shoelaces (dang things keep coming undone), grabbed the camera and headed down the driveway.  Immediately, my eyes were stunned by the colours offered up by the various tree types.  Maples, Oaks, Sumacs, Birch, Aspen and Poplar to name a few, each showing off what Mother Nature intended this time of year.  Golden yellows, scarlet reds, tans and browns all competing for my attention.  Most of the trees were still green, with sections that were just starting to turn while other trees were already in full colour mode.   They were all such vibrant shades in the bright sunshine against the clear blue background of the sky.

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Walking along the winding road, the swampy woods on either side were silent, save for the wind rushing through the tree tops making the birch leaves dance madly.  In mid summer, the sounds of warblers and thrushes dominate, but as we head towards winter, the summer avian visitors have left for warmer climes leaving the chickadees, bluejays and woodpeckers to forage in the waning warmth.

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I walked along, stopping every few steps to snap photos (96 in all, thank goodness for digital photography) of various plants, the sky, compositions of light and dark and everything in between.

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From low slung shrubs sporting bright orange berries, to the lush moss growing on the smooth rocks up on blueberry hill that sprang back to life after a days rain to dazzle me with its emerald green hues.

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Truly a marvelous landscape we get to enjoy in the northern hemisphere.  I often long (ok, complain) for a sustained warmth year round, and even though I am a diehard summer girl, something about Fall makes the cold winters ahead bearable.  Knowing that in only a few short months after the last leaf falls, new growth will soon emerge to start the cycle anew.

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For now, I walk along in the brisk, silent northern air marveling at every new sight I come across and thankful that I live in such a beautiful country, where I can walk free and in peace.

Enjoy your own little piece of paradise, wherever that may be.

Deborah

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2015 Summer Vacation

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*Hello*!

Can you see me waving?

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No, not the loon (who seems to be waving) but me! ;)

Long time, no chat everyone!  Totally my fault though as the past year has been nothing short of controlled chaos (and I use that term loosely).  Last summer hubby and I started getting our house ready for sale, meaning de-cluttering, purging, building a new bathroom, gutting and renovating the original bathroom and sprucing up the property.  All that effort eventually paid off, even if it tried our patience (and bank account) as we sold promptly this past March in 3 days.

After that it was on to the next challenge, finding someplace else to live.  We bought a lovely 1+1 bedroom condo apartment on the 8th floor overlooking Lake Ontario, and located about a km from our previous home.  Once we took possession, we then spent a week priming and painting over very garish colours and moved in at the end of May.  I spent a month trying to organize things to suit the new space, especially the kitchen, I probably spent the majority of time in there trying to find a good fit for what I use, when I use it, etc.  After that, it was on to figuring out what furniture that we brought with us would work and tossed what we couldn’t use.  We had already tossed our sofa and chair set prior to moving as they were well loved but no longer suitable.  So after living in the space for a month or so we decided what would best fit the space and then went furniture shopping (ugh, there really needs to be a better way to shop for furniture than walking into a big box furniture store and being immediately corralled by salespeople), anyway, we selected a sectional sofa and a new chair and got the heck out of dodge.

With the condo somewhat settled, it was time to split the big city and head north.  Prior to the end of June, we had not been up that much due to all the moving ruckus.  My vegetable garden was in place and growing nicely and wasn’t in need of much attention until later in the season but we did make sure to set up the automatic timer/watering system and let nature take its course so to speak.

So I packed up the car with a LOT of stuff.  Not just food and the usual household items needed everyday, but all my fun fiber stuff.  My small Cricket loom, knitting needle case, yarn galore, a very large tote full of alpaca fiber that I want to card for spinning and some already spun yarn ready for the next new *hobby*…dying with natural materials as well as planned sewing projects.

I then spent 2+ months spinning, weaving, swatting mosquitos, knitting, sewing, dying yarns, swatting mosquitos, kayaking, gardening and swatting mosquitos…which were really brutal during the later half of June through to the end of July.

DSC03409August saw my busiest month in the garden as it was starting to pump out tomatoes by the ying yang, there was a lot of processing to be done.  Over the span of a month, I probably roasted a good half bushel of cherry tomatoes (slice into 1/4″ slices, layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast at 225F for about an hour and half – awesome on pizza or in any pasta dish) and canned up jars and jars of stewed tomatoes and pickled Serrano/Jalapeño peppers.  I also made 2 batches of my Chipotle Peach jam, one for me and one for my daughter.  I  had also wanted to make more blueberry jam, but I was too late in going picking (others that were on the ball picked all that there was in the wild patch nearby) as well as we had a very dry summer so a lot of the plants were shriveling up from the heat and lack of rain.

DSC03404During the past couple months, I started dying skeins of handspun yarn with natural materials.  Birch and Oak leaves, Marigolds (seen here drying in the sun) andDSC03373

Tansy flowers (which are highly abundant weeds here in the north, like Goldenrod), Onion skins provided a lovely shade, which I dubbed “Antique Gold” as that is what it reminded me of,  take a look at the skein to the right of the bright yellow one and see if you agree.  DSC03369I then tried 2 attempts with a plant called “Phragmites australis” aka Common Reed.  It grows along roadsides and highways all over Ontario and is actually considered an invasive species by our government, so I did my part of hacking off the flowy flower heads to use as a dye.  I had seen someone else (on the internet no less, so it had to be true right?) attain a lovely shade of green using this plant.  What did I get?

Gray – with very, very faint hints of green and red streaks running through it (really strange actually), but very cool looking (the skein on the left in the above photo).  Apparently, so I am told, I need to harvest the flower heads in July, I had picked them in August so that is the only difference between what I had seen online and what I actually attained.

If it is one thing I have learned about dying with natural materials, is that you are never quite sure what you are going to get when you pull the skein out of the dye pot…take the vivid yellow skein of yarn that I dyed with Marigolds…talk about bright!! It is almost neon yellow, clown yellow I call it.  I saved the dye liquid and over-dyed another skein that was dyed with oak leaves earlier and it came out a similar colour to the onion skin dye.  After that, there was still colour left in the pot, so I placed another skein of yarn in and came out with a nice, mellow yellow that is similar to the Birch leaf dyed skein (Birch leaves give a gorgeous, clear, sunny yellow colour).

DSC03473All these variations of yellow dyed skeins are destined for a weaving project, which will be the subject of another post down the road a while.

If the above doesn’t sound like I wasn’t busy enough, I spent some time carding up the aforementioned tote of alpaca fleece.  This is what it looks like before carding (middle of photo), and this is what it looks like after (on the left). DSC03482Nice, fluffy tubes of fleece (called rolags) ready for spinning.  Carding takes all the fibers from a fleece and arranges them neatly in one direction, easier to spin that way, plus it gets out any remaining bits of hay, dirt and dust.  This needs to be done on a nice calm day so you can sit outside and have all the bits float away outdoors instead of covering the inside with alpaca fuzz.

Not to be forgotten, my Cricket loom got a workout in July when I cranked out 6 scarves destined for gifts this Christmas.  DSC03218Nor did my knitting, I am currently working on a sweater made from Cotlin (blend of cotton/linen) yarn, but it has been on the back burner the last couple weeks as we had a spell of hot weather that makes it uncomfortable to try and knit a large item in the heat so I switched to a pair of socks and now finishing up a hat made from yarn that I spun ON MY NEW WHEEL!

11947550_10155969213730291_964574286738722593_nIsn’t she just gorgeous?!  She is lovely and old and estimated to be over 150 years but doesn’t look a day over 30.  She spins like a dream too, a nice, smooth and even action.  Then I went and did something stupid, I was trying to get the full bobbin off the flyer and snapped the flyer in half….I then spewed out a string of very un-lady-like verbage which would make many a sailor blush.  So the flyer has just been replaced by a fellow I found nearby to the southern home that makes and repairs spinning wheels and I am back in business.

Now don’t think I just sat on my tush and knitted, spun and wove all summer.   I also did some heavy lifting, in the form of wheelbarrow-fulls of sand and dirt.  We had a pile of sand that I had started to sift and relocate as where it was situated, the fella that plows our driveway in winter kept heaping snow laced with driveway gravel on it.  So I painstakingly sifted about 2 yards of sand and wheeled it over to its new home off the side of the driveway (after depositing more on our beach along the way).  This was a 2 year project as where it was located, could only be done after mid-August or you were swarmed by skeeters, plus, if it rained, well, that made pushing the sand through the home-made sieve really challenging.  With the stretch of hot sunny weather a couple weeks back, I managed to get the rest of it sieved and moved….then, last week I had 2 yards of dirt delivered….for…. my new garden bed!!!

DSC03385I am so excited!  Hubby built another raised garden bed for me, a twin to the existing one which basically doubles my gardening space.  We spent this past Sunday morning moving dirt and filling her up, she looks beautiful and I am so excited for next Spring’s planting and will spend this winter getting my seed selections and layouts done – woo!

Well that pretty much gets you all caught up on my summer antics, there was more, but these were the highlights.  So what did you do on summer vacation?  Would love to hear what you all had going on so leave a message below!

Deborah

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad

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One very busy day over the summer when I was back south for appointments, I didn’t have time to make a veggie wrap (my favourite go to lunch item on the run) in the morning so I popped in to Denninger’s (a local  deli/European food market) to rummage through their prepared food aisle.  I came across this salad and after scarfing half of it down in the car (the other half saved for dinner), I vowed to recreate it.  Now that the apparent heat wave of summer is over, I can turn the oven back on for roasting fall veggies.  So here it is.  Awesomely good for you too.

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Roasted butternut squash and kale salad

Ingredients

1/2 of a small butternut  squash (peeled, seeded and cubed)
4 large kale leaves, washed, trimmed from stem and chopped into bite size pieces
½ cups dried cranberries
¼ cup sunflower seeds (roasted)
2 tbsp Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1 bottle of Honey Mustard Dressing ( I cheated and bought one)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Toss squash cubes in 1 tbsp olive oil and roast until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool to room temp.

Toss kale in remaining olive oil and roast for 5 minutes, any longer and you will have kale chips (which are yummy!), let cool to room temp

On a large plate, arrange kale, add cubed squash and sprinkle cranberries and sunflowers over all.  Drizzle dressing over, add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a crusty loaf of bread.  Makes one large salad!

Deborah

p.s…..a “what I did on summer vacation” post is coming soon…so stay tuned.

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