27 December 2013


I received this lovley book from my sister and her husband for Christmas:

I have been wanting to learn to do stranded colourwork for a while now, and this finally pushed me over the edge into actual experimentation.

I knit English style, so it was a bit tricky to figure out how to tension both strands, but I did get something that works quite well.

I made two tablet cases in a day: one lined, one not. I am very pleased!

24 December 2013

Cooking poultry the Apple Jack Creek Way

I’ve decided that I vastly prefer dealing with all the cutting and chopping and butchering of a chicken or turkey before it is cooked. We can’t eat a whole bird in a meal, and even if we could, having to face that pile of bones and meat after dinner is just depressing, in my books. Who wants to be wade through all that after having had a nice meal? But I can’t stand to let meat go to waste, and the cleanup has to happen somewhere along the way, so I came up with an alternative.

Basically, I do all the scrounging and scavenging before I cook the bird. I looked in the Old Green Cookbook (this is absolutely far and away the best cook book ever – if you like cooking real food with real ingredients, hustle over to Amazon and buy a used copy, it has *everything* in it!) and found out how to debone a chicken, then I just got out my big peasant knife and a cutting board and went to work.

The bones, wing tips, and all the other yukky bits go outside – because the chicken hasn’t been cooked, it’s okay for the outside animals to eat off the bones. They can’t have cooked bones, and the outside dogs and cats really can use some extra protein at this time of year, so the fact that I could toss them the remainder of the carcass without worry was actually a fairly big reason I started doing this. (Our outside dogs gladly scavenge what the hunters leave behind during deer season, so they are quite accustomed to raw meat. This is not the case with all dogs, so just because ours can handle it doesn’t mean yours will – consider yourself warned.)

The drumsticks come off intact (there are people here who will be happy to eat a roasted drumstick at some point) so those stay whole. The rest is just taken apart bit by bit, small pieces of meat that don’t come off cleanly get dropped into a bowl and the neater, larger pieces are laid out on a cookie sheet. Today, the drumsticks, one chicken breast, and one thigh went in the freezer for another day, and the remaining breast meat was sliced thinner and laid out flat on the cutting board.

All the small pieces then go through the meat grinder with a bit of bread crumbs (and today I tossed in some crumbs from the bottom of a Vegetable Thins cracker bag, for seasoning) and then the ground meat is mixed with some seasonings and liquid smoke to make a chicken meatloaf type mixture. This is an idea I got from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, a fascinating book from 1860, which refers to this kind of preparation as forcemeat. It is actually a really handy way to use the small bits and leftovers of meat while vastly improving the appearance – you don’t have all these tiny chunks, you have a very presentable, shapeable mass of meat that cooks up nicely and holds whatever seasonings and additions you might wish to add. With veggies or spices as appropriate, it is a really handy addition to a lot of recipes. Skim through Mrs Beeton’s book, and you’ll get plenty of ideas!

What I do with it when I’m preparing poultry is to ball up the forcemeat and pack it into the centre of the chicken breast, which is then folded around it. If necessary, some big skewers will hold it all in place, or I could tie it with butcher’s twine and make a roll. Today, it all held together nicely by itself so I plunked it into a Corningware dish, put a bit of olive oil on the breast meat so it won’t get too dry, sprinkled everything with poultry spices, seasoning salt, and ground pepper, and it’ll go in the oven tomorrow for roasting.

See? Now when it’s time for dinner there’ll be a lovely chicken roll, easy to slice and serve, and when it’s time for clean up, the Corningware can go straight into the dishwasher, the leftovers can be sliced and put into Tupperware, and that’ll be it.

And today, the dogs and cats are having a Christmas Eve feast of fresh, farm raised chicken. Everybody’s happy!

19 December 2013

What does your Brave Girl look like?

My counsellor asked me that this week.

“What does your Brave Girl look like?”

I thought for a minute.

She has a sword in her hand, held up high. And a leather shield … embossed with the horse of Rohan.

Then I knew.

She looks like Eowyn.


Eowyn, who faced the Nazgul king and said NO.

Eowyn, who was wounded, and spent a long time in the Houses of Healing.

Eowyn, who became well at last when she opened her heart to the love that was offered.

Yes, that is what my Brave Girl looks like.

There’s a shawl design in the making now, for her: it will be called Shieldmaiden’s Courage.

It’ll be awhile … it’s big.

15 December 2013


Our tree is family history. It's not perfect, things don't match, but it tells our story. 

Merry Christmas, from Apple Jack Creek. 

Tree day!

The Boys took the truck, the chainsaw, and the snowshoes and headed out Christmas tree hunting this morning. After much wading through deep snow they found a gorgeous tree ... Very tall (I hear there is a family bylaw requiring trees to be over 8'), lovely branches, very snowy!

It has been raining in the house for awhile now, and lights are being installed. I am supervising, for the most part, from my position on the couch ... I've got the full blown flu-style exhaustion going on just now, so I am trying very hard to pace myself. I do one small thing, like reheat leftovers and eat lunch, then lie down again with my knitting. Being horizontal or mostly so seems to help quite a bit. 

The Boy brought the boxes of decorations up from the basement and Princess Girl put a bunch of things out on shelves and doorknobs, The Reluctant Farmer and The Smaller Boy brought home a load of firewood, and The Bigger Boy has now gone on a dump run (I did have to help him get the car unstuck ... Freezing rain on top of snow is yukky!) and I'm back in my comfy spot for a bit. Soon it'll be time to make dinner, so I have to build up some energy. :)
More tree updates soon!

12 December 2013

When the brain is on overdrive

Lately, my brain is on overdrive: scattered, frazzled, hard to focus on anything, trouble remembering things, the usual. After effects from the relapse, I am sure.

My family have been wonderful about helping out – The Boy has done chores for me so I can stay inside and rest, and everyone’s tried hard to help me feel better. I appreciate all their efforts, very much.

I’ve been doing my fibre arts work as a coping strategy: I can’t focus well, though, so I have a bunch of projects on the go and I keep switching from one to another, it’s like being in kindergarten and going from one station to the next! I have a sock in progress out of some stunning yarn from Mayhem and Chaos, the Elizabeth Zimmerman sweater, which is now getting a lace border added to the hem, some mittens, and a hat that I am inventing as I go. Oh, and some merino/silk on a spindle, because, hey, merino and silk makes any day better, much the same way a cup of tea improves even the worst day at least a little bit.

I was at a knitting party last night, working on the hat, and I explained that I had been feeling very scatterbrained and so although I’d looked at a bunch of patterns and even started one or two of them, following a pattern just wasn’t gonna happen so I had to make something up myself.

It was pointed out to me that for most people, feeling scatterbrained means they need to follow a pattern, not that they immediately go off and design something brand new right out of their heads.

Yep, I have a weird brain. :)

But it’s a cool pattern, I think it’s gonna work well. Yes, I’ll publish it when I’m done … if it really does work out as planned. I’ve decided to call it Ekaterin, for Ekaterin Vorsoisson Vorkosigan, from the fantastic universe created by Lois McMaster Bujold. It seems like the kind of hat she’d wear.

Linen stitch. Integrated i-cord. Variegated hand dyed yarn. I think it’ll work.


ETA It’s posted on Ravelry now!

01 December 2013


An online friend recently got a couple of new birdies, and as I read her posts about them I kept thinking … I miss having a bird. I have had finches and budgies in the past, and I always thought they were sorta like decorations only they moved and had a bit of a personality. The small parrot family birds, though … way more than decorations! Little packages of personality and charm and chirp.

So I asked my husband one night if he’d care if I got a bird. He said as long as it stayed in the south wing (which is ‘my’ part of the house) he didn’t care. (Now, when he found out today that I actually DID get birds, he does not remember the conversation … I think he didn’t think I was serious, and just kinda blew it off. Oh well, I did ask!)

Right. So I had permission (well, I thought I did … now I will just have to earn forgiveness), the next step was information. I read about different birds on the web. I messaged my friend with the new birds, and she gave me lots of practical information and sent me links to more web pages. Then I posted on Kijiji (like Craigslist) that I was looking for a bird.

Eventually, I heard from a lady who had two male lovebirds, over 10 years old (they live 10-20 years, so these are senior birds) that she’d inherited from her mother and she was thinking they’d be happier elsewhere. Friendly guys, if territorial about their cage, and they came with everything I’d need. Deal! I went and picked them up today.

They are Kiwi and Melon - Kiwi is obviously the green one, Melon is blue with a cantaloupe coloured forehead.

The house they came from apparently had indoor smokers … everything smelled awfully of smoke, so I got rid of the rope perches, washed everything, put in natural wood perches from outside, and wrapped up a couple of the wooden toys in newspaper, if the stink goes away, then I can use them again. They’ve been on a seed-only diet, so it’ll take some time to transition them to healthier food, they don’t even seem to recognize snap peas or cut up grapes as being edible, but I am sure they will figure it out eventually.

They spent a bunch of time climbing the bars of the cage and cheeping loudly, they are now settled on a perch together and preening, making the occasional chirp. When they get going they are LOUD BIRDS but hopefully once they calm down and get the hang of some of the enrichment toys I plan for them (mostly ‘foraging for food by ripping apart packages with food hidden inside’ type things) I suspect they will be happier.

For the next bit they have to just stay in the cage, everyone has to get used to the change … but they are right beside my chair here and looking out at me and I am happy. :)

And for my mom, who worries about zoonotic illnesses, handwashing and clean cages are important to reduce trasmission risk – and they’re no riskier than the chickens we have outside. :)

As for why I felt like birds would be good for me right now … my friend with the new birds put it really well:  “Birds need things humans need. And its easy to forget for both. We need sun, and air, we need water both for drinking and bathing. We need nutritious food AND treats. We need to be willing to try new things. And we need exercise and playtime. And sleep. I think when humans and birds have those things they are both much happier. And birds have no other purpose but to live and play. You don't have a 'working bird'. Birds are not 'mousers'. They are for the living.”

I’m hoping Kiwi and Melon can teach me something about living.