I enjoy looking after the birds out back. Even out front, as the Virginia creeper produced berries that the starlings raided one day. Enough berries remain that the house sparrows come and get some from time to time.
It’s good to have plants that produce food for birds, and also a water source. Since September, pairs and trios of chickadees come by, and I’ve seen many different warblers come and have a prolonged drink in my pond. My pond is what makes my backyard home to so many creatures, besides myself.
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 welded wire, which should look something like this when done. I’ve got nice round cedar fence posts from the country, not square city fence posts.
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. 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, in case you didn’t know, 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 before 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, it also has a recipe for (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 drying out, on the old side, so they were 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.
It’s a good thing I haven’t updated in a month, because the posts would have been obsessed with squirrels. (No squirrels for you! Trust me, I’ve got pictures.) They are under strict (oh well, not so strict) rationing of two to three chestnuts per day.
The two boys – Rufus and Clyde – know me well. Clyde dominates Rufus, but Rufus seems to be more like a pet. 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. The swiss chard is surviving, as it usually does, but its days are numbered. I’ll be eating more of it in the coming weeks. The rabbits are getting peevish about getting old 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 ones in the kitchen are turning red. Continue reading
This is a long-running “lifestyle” blog about the pleasures of living like a farm kid in an urban context. You’ll find a wide range of topics that pertain to food, crafts, energy efficiency, and DIY. There’s a big focus on ecology and wildlife because this has brought me a lot joy – but this is also the greatest potential we have of restoring some balance to nature where we live.
Given that, I’ve turned my attention to providing more content for people to switch traditional lawns over to native landscaping and green driveways and things that will support climate readiness, drought and flood-prevention, and increased habitat for biodiversity. Comments and questions are welcome!
If you’re in the Montreal region, you can also use my “Rewilding” service to landscape your property using native plants, convert to a green driveway, and prevent your windows from killing birds.
My mission is to engage you to appreciate ecological resilience and encourage you to take steps to live closer to the land. I want people to increase the beauty, biodiversity, and climate-change readiness our towns, cities, and regions. That begins with homeowners, small business owners – people who own property. Change the way we typically do things, and we change the world.
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