Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Month: November 2012

How to strain lumps out of paint

This post has no photos because I didn’t think it was as brilliant an idea to blog about before I did it – but it worked so well I have to share it.

So you have lumpy paint. Lumpy paint is a pain in the neck, and also fugly to take a picture of. (Bonus, if the lumps are pigment – mine were making nice blueberry smears until they were well-rolled-in.)

You can roll that lumpy paint on the wall, and when it’s dry, use a low-abrasive sanding block, like a really old coarse grit one, to knock the bits off the wall, but don’t rub too hard or you’ll mess the otherwise smooth finish.

Still, I betcha don’t want to roll lumpy paint on the wall. You’d rather filter it, right? But you either don’t have a screen sieve of the right gauge, or you don’t want to use one from your kitchen. So here’s what you do:

All 10-pound potato sacks have a nylon screen window. If you don’t have a 10-lb bag of potatoes, go buy one or ask your friend or neighbour for the bag. Do it.

  1. Cut the window out, leaving a good margin on the paper bag edges. 
  2. Take some packing tape and tape the window around the top edge of the paint can, on the pouring side, of course, not with the handle in the middle. Don’t tape it too hard because you might need to remove it after pouring. You don’t even have to tape it at all, but it helps.
  3. Tuck the edges with tape or your fingers to make the window slightly cup.
  4. Pour the paint s l o w l y into the paint tray, through the nylon screen. 
  5. If you’re not emptying the can, then as you upright the can, remove the screen and pinch the corners together. Place the screen on the lid of the can or support it above the can so that it can drip. You can use your brush to encourage the lumps to give up the last of their good paint. 

At the end of your painting, you can throw the screen out. In the environment, especially an aerobic environment (not a lot of landfills, though if the landfill is smart and harvests its methane, that’s to be encouraged), the paper will biodegrade, and so will latex or linseed oil base paints – these will be digested by fungi and bacteria. Even petro-chemical-derived paints biodegrade, but it is certainly preferable that we return to using paints made in a traditional way. Also, keep in mind that biodegradation is a process that works on organic compounds; the minerals – like zinc and titanium – in the pigments stick around. And even if there was no other use for them than paint – which there very well could be – they can’t be mined again. Which is why it’s important to recycle old paint rather than throw it away (such as if you can’t be bothered dealing with lumpy paint).

That means the only other thing that remains is the nylon screen, which is problematic, long-term. The thing that frustrates me the most is not that we use nylon screens for our food packaging – nets and screens are rather efficient – but that we use them to hold down mats of sod on slopes. So the sod that turns into a grassy, weedy hillside will be perpetually encased at the surface and root level by a nylon net. I bet that will be impossible to remove, let alone that it traps and maims a few field mice and other animals. Landscaping ought to be more ecological.

Backyard birds and water in winter

I enjoy looking after the birds out back. I even passively look out for birds out front, it seems, as the Virginia creeper produced berries that the starlings raided one day, but enough remain that the house sparrows come and get some from time to time. Winter is bird feeding season, and The Great Backyard Bird Count is on. This year, the GBBC has gone global, so readers anywhere in the world can contribute to this citizen-science initiative: uploading your data on birds leads to scientists knowing where they go and where they pass through; this in turn has positive results for conserving habitat.

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Red pepper jelly – Gelée de piments rouges

You have to read past the big roll o’ fencing to find out more…

On Monday morning, I had planned out an awesome Homestead day. The weather was beautiful so I was only lacking one person and one tool (a post-pounder, an auger, or a sharp-shooter) for finally replacing my rustic-unchic front fence. This is the kind of fence I want, minus the barbed wire, but instead, I’ve got a roll of this –> which should look something like this when done. I’ve got nice round cedar fence posts from the country, rather than square city posts.

Instead, being one person too short (yes, I am one person and, at 5’4″, too short, but here I mean too few), I mucked about with what remained of putting the garden to bed for winter, and covered the rose bushes. Yes, I have rose bushes. I barely deserve them. (So rarely does one have what one deserves!) In so doing, I got stung by a wasp on the fleshy part of my left hand. That put a stop to further garden work – and then the sun went behind the clouds.

It also put a stop to chopping, so I didn’t tackle the red pepper jelly until today. These beautiful red “piments rouges” peppers – which doesn’t translate into pimentos, which are stumpier – came courtesy of the grocery store, which is so kind as to give me, the bunny lady, their trimmings and vegetables destined for la poubelle. I gave a few peppers to the rabbits (they were not so spicy as to be a problem) before I thought to make jelly out of them. Red pepper jelly is a great addition to any cheese or cold cut sandwich.

I found the recipe easily enough in my collection of cookbooks from yesteryear – which are, bar none, the best cookbooks if you’re into the idea of local food. When I cannot find a pickle or preserve suggestion in my mother’s old stash, I go straight to Jehane Benoit’s Encyclopedie de la cuisine canadienne. Between this book and Mrs. Appleyard’s Family Kitchen, I have the historical stories and recipes of my entire region’s local food prior to the globalization glut that landed cantaloupe on every restaurant breakfast plate in the month of March, and the concomitant assumption that the food supply chain takes care of everything so that all we have to do is choose. — hobby horse ends here for now.

The recipes are diverse and simple. On this page, you can see quince (coings), mint (menthe fraîche), parsley (persil), lemon verbena (vervaine), and sage (sauge) jelly. Most if not all of these will be eaten with cheese or meats, so it’s no surprise that they’re on the same page as red pepper jelly. However, they also have (swoon) currant and elderflower jelly (groseilles aux fleurs du sureau). I’m half-Danish, and when I first had elderflower juice in Copenhagen (København) it struck a chord with me that I knew this and I’d had it before, though I could not say how or where. But as Swedish venture would have it, one can now get it at IKEA. And you can get elderflower or elderberry tea at the Polish bakery.

So I’m making the jelly today. The peppers are on the old side, so they were drying out – which made them fabulously easy to de-string and seed, though more difficult to chop. The wasp-stung hand had some work to do. Presently I’m waiting for the four hours to elapse for the peppers to sit in salt. Did you know that Windsor is next to Detroit, where they have a huge salt mine? It’s worth seeing the Time photo essay. Yet despite the Windsor mine being in Windsor, Windsor Salt is headquartered near to me, in Pointe Claire, QC. (And since I’m showing sugar here, I have a blog post on that.)

When the pepper jelly is done, I’ll probably update this with another photo. Though this one, with the ingredients, is more illustrative than a Bernardin jar with pretty red contents.

…et voilà: 

Early November activities

I haven’t updated in almost a month, and that is a good thing because the posts would have been obsessed with squirrels. (No pictures. Not for now, anyway. Trust me, I’ve got pictures.) They are under strict (oh well, not so strict) rationing of two to three chestnuts per day, given out to two or three squirrels. The two boys – Rufus and Clyde – know me well. Clyde dominates Rufus, but Rufus seems to be more like a pet. Occasionally, a smaller squirrel comes by and I chuck it a chestnut that it fails to notice, because squirrels are not super-scenters like dogs are, it seems.

We had our first frost a couple of nights ago, and the swiss chard is surviving, as it usually does, but its days are numbered and so I’ll be eating more of it in the coming weeks. The rabbits are getting peevish about receiving expired tomato leaves, but I’m also giving them juicy wilted nasturtiums. The green tomatoes are in a box in the garage, still on their vines, and the green ones in the kitchen are turning red.

I canned the sauerkraut as soon as I saw a bloom on it, and I cooked down two of the three pumpkins. The third became a Jack-o-Lantern for Hallowe’en. It’s on the table on the back patio, and both Rufus and Clyde have had fun chewing it – on the outside and from the inside!

There is one house sparrow, a little male, first-year it seems, who broke his leg and so he’s not that able to perch – he must hunker down on his foot. He comes with the other groups of sparrows and gets his fair share of millet seed. He is more flighty than the others since he must be defensive about his disability, but I hope he will be OK over the winter with enough food and water. I watched him strategize having a bath in the pond yesterday. Today the first red Northern Cardinal came by.

And as for myself, now that I’ve put the garden away for the winter (unless I can find a someone to help me install a fence before the ground is too frozen), I structure my day to get the most work I can do underway. There was a time in my life where, I kid you not, I had “1063 actions to do under 54 projects.” Those days are over! I have something like 7 underway now: I have a quilt to finish blocking and bagging. I have mittens to knit, and after that, a sweater and a pair of socks. I have to find and get a job. I am writing a book. I have pitches to prepare, though I only ask myself to send out one this month. I have a day this week at the House of Commons and a day at the Assemblée Nationale to advocate for woodland caribou and other concerns. And I have to look at getting a financial advisor.