Monthly Archives: July 2020

Manipogo Provincial Park

Our second summer camping trip was to Manipogo Provincial Park. The park is a mere 130km from our home and it’s pavement all the way to the entrance of the park. The park itself is a rather standard provincial park with big lots and plenty of room between campsites. Campsites range from very private all treed to open lakeside. There is electric and nonelectric sites. None of water. There is a dump site near the ranger station. There is also a simple little concession with ridiculously high prices because there is no competition. An ice cream cone and milkshake was $11. We didn’t buy anything else.

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We really enjoyed the stay except for the mosquitoes. The wind was blowing straight west on the first day and it felt like it was carrying every mosquito in the province to our campsite. We did not have a campfire or take the canoe out the first day because the bugs were so horrible. Even with repellant, they were crawling in our hair, up our noses and under our clothing making us absolutely miserable. We almost packed up and went home. I’m glad we didn’t. The wind shifted from the north west the next day which given our location was over water before coming to us and the number of mosquitos, though still bad was at least bearable. With a heavy dose of repellant and a hat we could go walking. There was a brief downpour and nonsevere thunderstorm the first night which further encouraged us to stay inside the travel trailer. All around us across the lake severe thunderstorm formed and boomed but always far away. Who needs mountains for scenery when you can have thunderheads?

Manipogo has a very long peninsula and a sandy beach. That area is off limits to dogs, presumably due to nesting shore birds although the number of people walking the beach would have the same negative effect. They did have a specific area where dogs could swim and Misty really enjoyed that. I almost accidentally joined her, she was having so much fun. We had several long walks around the campsite which is Misty’s very favourite thing to do. We decided to spare her the canoe ride given her lack of enthusiasm for canoes compared to walks. She remained with the cat in the trailer with the air conditioning on.IMG_8798

Canoeing was different from our previous. The launch site leads into channels in the reeds and is very shallow. The water is murky and full of baby fish. It’s also full of lots of pond scum and all kinds of water plants so my husband spent most of the ride cooing with delight over example after example of his favourite water vegetation. Not my idea of fun, but fun vicariously to be watching him.

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There is absolutely nothing near this park so except for actual camping stuff there is absolutely nothing to do. We slept a lot. I kind of astonished myself by sleeping 12 hours the first night, ten hours the second night and taking several long daytime naps. We read a lot. There was no internet, no cell service, so there was very little to do but sleep and relax and we certainly did a lot of that. I guess we needed it.

We also noticed another considerable improvement in my husband’s mobility. Last trip getting in and out of the trailer was awkward for him. This trip he had no issues navigating the stairs. We also found getting him in and out of the canoe much easier this time, almost back to normal. That was the best part of the trip for me, seeing yet more improvements since the stroke.

The big adventure my husband had was he went picking Saskatoon berries which were in high gear. While he was picking, he was approached by a boy about five who enquired about the berries. My husband gave him the run down about how nutritious and delicious the berries are. The boy tasted them and ran off squealing with delight. It turned out the family was a full time, three generation RVing family stuck in Manitoba by the vagaries of COVID19. None of them knew about the joys of Saskatoons.  We later saw the entire family out picking by the bucketful and the children with their fingers and mouths stained purple. We ate fresh berries and once we got home I made a pie for him.

And of course there was the big beautiful endless Manitoba sky.

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Zucchini!

It is a fairly common reaction to say something about zucchini and get back a groan. You plant a single plant and end up with enough zucchini to overwhelm you. How much zucchini bread can one family eat?

To me, zucchini are a wondrous bounty to be embraced. I have a developed a good system for growing zucchini in pots and I start six plants for myself each year. We love eating fresh zucchini. We eat it almost every morning fried as part of our breakfast. I also use it spiralized and sliced into a vegetarian lasagna. The beauty of zucchini is it blends into whatever dish it is part of taking on the flavour around it. If you fry it with turkey bacon it takes on the turkey bacon flavour without adding calories or salt. And so I am always delighted to get more. IMG_2028

I also like to set the bounty of summer aside to enjoy over the winter. The easiest way to do this is a simply loose pack freeze. What could be easier? Slice the Zucchini and freeze it on a cookie sheet and then once it is frozen, put it loose into freezer bags. Later, when the ground is frozen, I take handfuls and throw zucchini into soups and stews. They cook down almost to mush and readily blend into broths enriching them. If you leave the peels on, that will add a bright dash of color to any dish. Personally, I peel the green zucchini but not the tender skinned yellow variety. To make it invisible in your soup peeled and grated works perfectly.

Zucchini can also replace cucumber in any relish or pickle recipe. I have already made zucchini relish with great success. This year I tried one jar of pickled zucchini to which I added some hot peppers from the garden. Hubby dearest loves a hot pickle so it this works out I’ll be making many more jars next year. It sure holds that lovely yellow color better than a cucumber.

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Finally, this year I also tried drying zucchini. Stocking up for the pandemic meant freezer space was at a premium. I have been trying drying a lot of things and so far it has worked very well for green peppers, mushrooms, and turnips. Zucchini seems to dry very well. It has held its shape and I suspect will be nearly as good in a soup or stew as the frozen product without taking up freezer space. Never let it be said that zucchini produces too much. The limits are only your own imagination. There is so much more than just Zucchini bread you can do with it.

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Nature on the Prairie – Rapid City EF2 Tornado and Minnedosa flooding.

Life on the prairie can be tough some days. Nature can turn from benign and lovely to vicious in a few moments. Two years ago our community in Alonsa Manitoba was devastated by an EF4 Tornado. Many people turned out to help us with clean up and rebuilding. This year the towns of Rapid City and Minnedosa have been hit hard. My husband and I stayed in Rapid City twice. We intend to go back and so it felt like the charming little town that we think of as a special place to go, has been flattened by the same forces that pummelled the RM of Alonsa two years ago. (Storm buffs and weather geeks take note. This storm broke the record for the tallest storm reaching higher up into the atmosphere than any other recorded storm.)

The same system brought flooding to the small charming prairie town of Minnedosa. About a week before this storm my husband and I drove into Minnedosa to the Co-op because the Tuftex we needed for my greenhouse was on sale there and out of stock at our local Co-op.

We were really enchanted by the lovely town. It had some gorgeous structures, and this pretty river running through it. We spent an hour driving around including the campground. (Tuftex strapped on our roof.) What an exceptionally pretty spot, we thought. We’ll have to come camp here this summer since we can’t travel with this COVID thing. It is heart breaking to see what happened. I am so very sorry, Minnedosa.

If you have an account on youtube please consider subscribing. Brittany & Anna are hoping to get one thousand subscribers on youtube to be able to enter another phase of youtube and raise money for local recovery. If you can please share.

 

 

Building a Greenhouse – Part 3

I am beyond excited to be able to say I have a working greenhouse now.

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Today I got the last bit of double wall polycarbonate cut to fit and in place. I installed the temperature control vent hinge thingies for the top vents. I then proceeded to repot my long root bound aloe vera plant in my new greenhouse. Installing the polycarbonate stuff turned out to a lot easier than I expected. Many thanks to this guy for the know how. His tips worked like magic and I probably couldn’t have succeeded without his timely video. The multi tooth saw blade he recommended cut through the Tuftex like a hot knife through butter.

I was able to neatly and easily use ten panels of Tuftex to cover by 7×8 greenhouse. The primer job was compliments of hubby dearest who took it upon himself to paint for me.

There were a few tricky spots. The door didn’t want to fit right. That was my fault as I didn’t count on the extra space the hinges I picked required. Some work with my saw and an old fashioned hand planer fixed that. I added two vent hinge thingies that should open and close the vents on top depending on temperature. They need adjusting yet. For now they are set at the widest possible because it is really hot outside and even hotter in the greenhouse.

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As I have said before, a greenhouse has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I am so excited and so happy to finally finally at long last have my very own greenhouse. I do have some small things left. I need to add clear calking to a few spots. I need to fix the bottom which currently has grass in it. I need to install a nice big black rain barrel full of water to help regulate the temperature. These are details. In the meantime I can just take pride in my 99% finished product. Final cost was just under $1100. I have two full sized panels of Tuftex leftover but I have other plans for those.

Next project? A third deck on the southside of the house and a patio door from Dick’s office area so it can double as a sunroom. We are waiting for a permit from the town before we can start that.IMG_2023

Happy Canada Day!

Belleville Canada Day - 123Dentist

Canada is currently going through many of the same ugly nonsense about the evils of our nation going on in the USA. Our founders were not perfect but they had a great goal and they started a nation with the hope of great things. Just because some Canadians were left behind for a while does not negate with the greatness of the founders’ lofty and high ideals.

I do not accept that Canada is flawed, systematically racist, patriarchal and beyond redemption. I do not accept the title of white colonizer and oppressor nor am I filled with guilt for the color of my skin or for sins committed by others mostly from long before my birth. I am a fourth generation Canadian citizen. I don’t feel I have to explain myself to anyone or apologize to anyone for that fact. I embrace a paraphrased dream of Martin Luther King Jr when he said: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin (or the languages they speak or do not speak or their birth place or their treaty status or their ethnic/ancestral homelands) but by the content of their character.

I am proud of the ideals Canada stands for and I am proud to celebrate Canada Day and to thank the founders for this great nation. And if you don’t like it, tough.

1867 competes with 1812, 1608 and 1982 as ‘founding’ dates ...

Home made Yogurt and Ricotta from Powdered Milk and Frozen Starter

The whole COVID-19 thing has really made me reevaluate my dependence on stores for the fresh foods I love. I already make just about everything from scratch. I started doing this because it was so hard to find low salt anything in processed food when my husband first got diagnosed with hypertension. After I developed a wheat allergy, it became even more important. During this pandemic, the stores ran out of things like toilet paper and then many items were severely limited or missing altogether. Here I am trying to avoid going into stores more than once every two weeks and milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt were limited to one brand and one small container each trip!

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Today’s batch of yogurt from powered milk. Hubby dearest likes to add a little jam and some grated unsweetened coconut. As you can see it is nice and thick like Greek style.

Hubby dearest and I are big yogurt eaters and for many years we bought the largest pail of plain yogurt whenever we went to town. The problem was we often ate all the yogurt before our next trip. Plus the cost of good yogurt by the bucket was just plain prohibitive even before the pandemic. I decided to learn to make yogurt by the pot at home. Turns out, it’s really easy! You need milk and a good pot and a most critical, a good thermometer. I am also lucky because my old oven oven can actually be set for 38C (100F) for incubating. I start with 4 litres (about 1 US gallon) of milk plus 1 cup of skim milk powder (homogenized fresh milk is what I personally get the best results from.) I heat it to 77C (170F). This is the hard part because you have to “mind” the pot. The heat has to be low and the milk needs to be stirred as the temperature rises to avoid scorching on the bottom. I generally do this while I wash up the supper dishes so I am in the kitchen anyway. I then let the milk cool down to 39C (~100F) and stir in about one quarter cup of high quality starter yogurt from a brand I like. Generally this is done before bed. I leave the pot overnight and by morning I have a large pot of fresh yogurt.

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Yogurt is a bit tricky. Sometimes it takes a little longer, sometimes it comes out watery. I started adding the extra skim milk powder to reduce the watery low yield end product. Even good yogurt that comes out right will always have a little whey. However I am prepared for that. I ordered this lovely strainer and if I leave even thin watery yogurt in it for a couple of hours I get really nice Greek style thickness. If I want really thick yogurt, say Balkan style, I leave it even longer. I can even get to a cream cheese consistency if I keep pouring off the whey and leave the yogurt sit in the strainer for about twenty four hours.

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My yogurt strainer for converting thin yogurt to Greek or Balkin style. The fine mesh also works well for straining the ricotta from the whey.

Watery yogurt with lots of whey is not such a bad thing. The whey can be used to make smoothies or added to bread instead of milk. Hubby dearest likes whey smoothies. I’m not such a big fan of them. To me they have a bitter sour taste. I don’t put whey in my bread because we often eat meat with bread and we don’t mix those in one meal. However, if I take the whey, bring it to a boil and then let it cool and strain it, I get ricotta cheese. I really like home made ricotta.

Yesterday, I decided to try making yogurt from ingredients that can be stored long term. For starter I used a small single serving package of plain yogurt in a cup which I froze months ago in the lead up to the COVID-19 lock down. I used all powered skim milk for the yogurt. And it worked! No powder milk taste. The disadvantage is it was only about half yogurt and the rest was whey. No fear. After straining, it was nice and thick and the whey made a lovely ricotta. (Four litres of milk from skim milk powder made according to directions with one additional cup of powder made 2 litres of Greek style yogurt and just over a cup of ricotta cheese.)

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Fresh spinach from my garden that will become part of my ricotta lasagna after another washing.

I have lots of fresh spinach and basil from the garden and some lovely rice based gluten free lasagna noodles (since I allergic to wheat). We are going to have a vegetarian lasagna for supper. Next time I will add more skim milk powder. Now I know I can successfully keep the ingredients for yogurt in storage for months ahead and make it whenever I want to. Pandemic shortages will not prevent us from having fresh yogurt when we want it.

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Ricotta curds after straining.

What have I learned from this? I can freeze yogurt starter and I can make yogurt from powered skim milk. I will add extra skim milk powder to reduce getting a watery product next time. I might try adding some butter too, to put back some fat. Yogurt starter can be reused over and over again but I personally prefer to only reuse my own starter a few times as I find the flavour drifts. To be really “preppie” I suppose I should have dry powdered starter on hand. That is readily available ordered on line. I’ll consider it.

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One of several herb plants awaiting dishes including the large leaved fresh basil.