"Don't wish me happiness I don't expect to be happy all the time....It's gotten beyond that somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor. I will need them all." Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

My etsy shop

I am so excited to share with you that my etsy shop is now open. As I mentioned before I was having troubles with my older smart phone as it would not work properly with the etsy app. To make a long story short I kept trying until one sweet day it worked. So come by for a visit and make yourself at home.
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Saturday, 23 May 2015

What's in the tree?

The centre tree is a western hemlock and leaning into it from the left hand side is a much smaller hemlock. The arborist, J is in the largest hemlock about halfway's up. He has a dark colored backpack on that you may or may not be able to spot. While up there he freed the top of the smaller hemlock and then he cut it down when he was back on the ground. He also took down the second tree that was blocking the sunlight in the garden and then he bucked nearly everything up. J is from off island but he conducts himself in a professional manner that gives me peace of mind and that is why I hired him. Now it's up to me to get this watermelon smelling wood split up so it will dry in the summer sun. This wood gives me satisfaction visualizing it in my soon to be woodshed. It means freedom, peace and practically speaking warmth and for that I am filled with gratitude.

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Monday, 18 May 2015

Oyster mushrooms and preserving the harvest

I was introduced to oyster mushrooms (pleurotus ostreatus) when I first came to this island by my neighbours who are mushroom experts. They brought some over along with some other mushrooms as a welcome gift. That was sixteen years ago or so and each year around this time I watch for oysters when my little girl and I are out walking in a nearby forest. Oyster mushrooms fruit on dead, sick or dying red alder trees. Sometimes I have smelled them before I actually saw them. They have a scent that to me is a blend of forest earthiness and the salty sea. I use a pocket knife to remove them and I leave part of their short stem behind. I believe that doing this encourages a continued harvest. It's typical for me to return to the same tree for several years and then after that point the tree is rotted out and they are unable to fruit. There really is no poisonous look a like's here in the Pacific Northwest. Hypsizygus ulmarius, ( which currently has not been found in B.C.) is edible but apparently it is not as tasty. It's gills stop before the stem. In contrast the gills in oysters always run at least part ways down the stem. Omphalotus nidformis which grows for the time being in Japan and Australia look very different to my eye but it is touted as a look a like. However it has a rusty brown spore print which is very different from the white to lilac spore print of the oyster mushroom. So I always make a spore print, (lay a mushroom gill side down) on black paper which takes overnight. You can never be to cautious with wild mushrooms and peace of mind is knowing 110%. The only time I have ever gotten sick from an oyster mushroom was when I ate a popsicle at the same time while slicing raw mushrooms. My hands and the popsicle never touched each other or my mouth but they came too close. Since then I never eat while handling raw mushrooms and I always wash my hands and kitchen utensils after I am finished. I store oyster's in the fridge in a glass Pyrex bowl with the lid ajar as plastic bags make them slimy. I use a dampened rag to wipe off forest debris. The idea is to get them as little as wet as possible. I always end up harvesting more than what we can eat so I preserve them. One method that I have tried is dropping them into salted boiling water for a minute or two before freezing but it destroys their delicate taste and I have never done it again. A better way is to sauté them in oil. First I slice them into the size I want which is bite sized. Then, I sauté them in an uncovered frypan with oil until the water is drawn out. After they have cooled I measure out 1 cup amounts and put them in bags and freeze. But the best method is drying. I slice them approximately 3mm thick or so and put them in a food dryer I have hanging above my wood stove. When they are done I store them in the freezer. To reconstitute I soak them in warm water or grind them into a powder. I add them into soups and stirfry's. They are a gift from the forest and they enrich our lifestyle through the simple joy of forest walks and in our diet where their earthiness adds variety.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A lady's axe and some history on a stump

I've had the Fiskars x15 axe for about a year now. I use it regularly to split my kindling and it works very well. Not only is it lightweight and vibration-free but it holds a sharp edge longer than my splitting maul. I gave the Fiskars a trial run at something a little more challenging when I decided to fall a tree with it. A western hemlock was growing on the top of a 8-10 foot high Douglas fir stump. This stump is a piece of history. Sometime between 1888 and 1893 the section of island where I live was logged to make pasture for 300 sheep. The logging was done the old way by hand and trees were felled with axes. They began by making two notches on opposite sides of the tree. A springboard is a narrow board about 3 feet long with an iron toe which was placed into the notch. The picture above is of one of these notches on this particular stump. Most of the stumps in the area have either been demolished through further land development/clearing or the stump has disintegrated to the point where the notches are gone. Two fallers wearing caulk boots each stood on a board opposite each other and using razor sharp, double bitted axes together made an undercut in the tree. The undercut is a wedge shaped piece cut out of the tree which determines which direction the tree is going to fall. Finally, they made the back cut which is made on the side opposite the direction of fall. They made this cut by pulling a large crosscut saw together back and forth until the tree fell. This is one of two trees I mentioned in an earlier post which is blocking sunlight in a large corner of the garden. There are two other trees as well but because my daughter's swing is attached to them they will stay for now. Before I began I waited until the little angel was fast asleep and I replaced my long skirt for a pair of pants. Instead of a springboard I used a ladder to get to the top of the stump where I stood and chopped the tree down. Although falling a tree with an axe is physically demanding the slowness allows me to methodically note slight variations in the tree as it shifts before plummeting downward. I'm pleased with all the light in the garden and the Fiskars x15 is a good all around axe to have around. I'm going to intentionally disconnect and I will post again after the weekend.

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Saturday, 9 May 2015

For Mother's Day

My living grandmother taught me to knit. My late grandmother inspired me to design this knitted baby bootie pattern. She knit and crocheted a lot of booties and they were all made in love for other's. It was my tribute knit in loving memory of her. It became a special gift for a special baby. Since then I knit the pair above. Do you know a new or expecting single mom who could use some joy in her life? This pair will fit a newborn to 9 months. If you do email me with her contact details and I will mail her this pair. Motherhood is a blessed journey. An invitation into the sacred. Sleeplessness, and cheerios stuck in kitchen chairs are a part of it too. I am very thankful for my own mother and my grandmother's. I will celebrate Mother's Day with a thankful heart that now I too am a part of that circle.

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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A robin's nest(s)

I found the robins nest in the eaves of my shed. It was partially built when we located it and each day we checked on the progress. One day a single blue strand appeared woven into the outer edge. That probably came from the blue tarp that I have over my firewood that leaked last winter. Does this robin like blue? Curious I pulled some blue plastic threads off the broken end of the ragged tarp and set them in a visible spot. Would she be interested? This robin wasn't and the next blue thing was an egg. Then a squirrel moved in and the egg disappeared. There is a simple, delightful book for toddlers called, Have You Heard The Nesting Bird?" By Rita Gray. Of course you all know that the nesting bird is quiet. In this book the nesting bird is a robin. The book shows what's going on at the nest and it also introduces other common birds and their calls. Maybe the robins in my shed needed to read this book. I'm leaving you with a picture of a robins nest we found on the ledge of an open window at a cottage where I am working. We've been peeking at the babies each day. Isn't birth a precious gift?
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Saturday, 2 May 2015

In the garden

My garden is overgrown. Herb's have tumbled over like spilled paint into and over each other. Two trees on the edge of the garden are casting too much shade and the only thing growing in that corner is moss. Lots of it. But even there springing up like polka dots of color are flowers. They toss their manes in sea breezes and sway like a mother lulling her baby to sleep. Our footsteps wind around these free spirits, forget-me-knots who bloom with careless ease and smirk at boundaries. Birds found the soft soil where we planted the peas. They danced and traipsed uprooting most of the seedlings. I covered the remaining ones with netting but I need to plant more. We watched a pine siskin gather dried stems scattered randomly in winter winds from last years garden. She filled her beak and flew up high above the tangled garden into the secrecy of the evergreen bough's. I sit in the warm dirt with my daughter who is holding the pink, wriggling worm in her growing hands and share with her the mystery of contentment so easily found here. The sunlight twinkles around us bouncing off the new yellow-green maple leaves from the swaying tree that watches over the garden. I see the weeds gathered in clumps around me laughing. I realize the imperfections of my garden and the wind tugs on my hair and I wonder what could be better than this? My garden reflects the chaoticness in life right now. Yet in the midst of the swirling winds of needs and demands I have perfect peace. "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you." Isaiah 26:3
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