We don't need no stinkin' walls...

No walls, no paint, no flooring... why do things in a sensible order?? 
Although the living room looks the same as it did last spring (i.e. no drywall, still has crappy green carpet on floor), I went ahead and bought new living room furniture.   I sold the furniture I had in Saskatoon before I left, since it wasn't worth the cost to move it home.  So, for the past three years (THREE YEARS?!?  It's been three years??  Yikes!), all I've had is a hand-me-down hand-me-down love seat in a horrible burnt orange colour - the one that appears in a lot of the pictures posted here.  It was my parents', back in the day (we're talking mid 80s here), then they gave it to my sister, who then gave it to me.  Now, I'm happy I had the use of it for the last three years (!!!), but I'm even happier it will be going far, far away very soon. 

After looking at a number of stores, I ended up ordering a couch, love seat and chair from Stoney Creek Furniture.  They have a HUGE selection, and while their prices are a bit more than other places, the service and selection cannot be beat.  

And more important:  they sell furniture from Canadian manufacturers. 

Another reason I bought there was the VAST fabric selection:  I knew I wanted a dark grey couch and love seat, then some sort of brighter fabric for the chair.  The sales staff spent literally hours with me, making sure I got exactly what I wanted, without any pressure to buy.  And it arrived today!

Sorry for the crappy pics, but all the furniture is shoved to one end of the room, until I can organize a bit more :)

The couch:

 End profile:

Wonder where I got the colour scheme pf grey and cream from???

 I haz new couch.  (He needs a new haircut!)

And the chair!!  It swivels!!!!

Yeah, crazy green fabric!  But I love it.  I never would have picked it out on my own, but it goes great with the rest of the furniture, and won't clash with the kitchen and dining room.

This furniture is well made, Canadian-made, and should last almost forever.  And when the sales clerk realized I was in the middle of renovating, she went one step above and beyond any other furniture store I have even dealt with:  she sent fabric swatches to help me with the rest of the decorating.

Now, if I only had walls....

CSA Basket 10 of 10

Due to circumstances beyond my control*, there will be no picture of the last CSA basket. It's rather fitting, in that I'm ending the same way I began ;)

I actually got the basket last Friday, a week ahead of schedule, as that was the last week of the CSA.  But, as far as I can remember, the basket had squash, potatoes white and sweet, radishes, peppers, salad mix, carrots, celeriac, turnip and apples... and grape jelly!!

The radishes, peppers and salad mix became lunch, the taters and carrots ended up in the turkey shepherd's pie and I still have the rest of the food.  The apples and jelly will be eaten as normal, but I have no plans for the rest.. yet.

Being that it's the end of my first CSA year, I'm thinking about how it went, and if I'll do it again.

And I wish I had a definitive answer, but I don't.

I like the connection the CSA gives me, the link to my local farming community.  I like the fact that my money is going directly to the farmers.  I like the fresh, healthy, local food.


I found a lot of food to be repetitive of what I was growing in my own garden.  I found that the quantity I received (although plentiful for the money spent) wasn't enough to either keep me in fruit and vegetables for two weeks, nor enough to preserve for winter.  And, although this speaks more toward my own need for stability and control and not toward any lack in the CSA, I found the whole "Surprise!" thing slightly frustrating.  At least with my own garden, I can see what's getting close to harvest, and plan accordingly. 

So, what am I going to do going forward?

Although I haven't ruled out the CSA for next year, this year taught me that what I really need is a source of local food that does two things:

1. Supplements what I grow myself, and fills in the gaps.
2. Provides large quantities at one time for preserving.

Which, when you think about it, describes a Farmer's Market, not a CSA. 

I do have an idea in the back of my mind, though, about approaching the farm about a "Preserver's CSA":  I give them some money up-front, and plan to receive, for example, larger quantities of items I don't grow myself - fruits mostly, but also cucumbers and squash (since I can't seems to keep them alive here) and maybe a few other items, like corn. I think the benefit to the farm would be knowing they have a guaranteed sale, instead of waiting for me to show up at the Market,  and the fact that I won't show up at the Market and buy the entire bushel of whatever they were hoping to sell that week :)

I still have a few months to figure this out, and I might just pop over to the farm one of these days and sound them out about this. 

And maybe they still have some grape jelly....

* I spent last weekend at my parent's house, cat-sitting while they went and had fun at a cottage for Thanksgiving.  Thus, no camera and no photo!

How can I afford to eat a $30 chicken?

I've been thinking a lot about those chickens that will be moving into my freezer in a few days. You see, I don't make anywhere close to a six figure salary, and with the dogs, the mortgage, the renos, etc...  I'm not destitute by any means, but I'm also not dripping with cash.

Kinda like most people.

So how can I, how can any of us, afford sustainable, humane, local meat, that costs 2-3x as much as grocery store meat?

Easy.  And while I'm not taking part in the October Unprocessed Challenge, I am going to be posting a bit more on food, especially frugal food, this month.

Today's frugal food post is again poultry related.  And of course, since it's Thanksgiving here, it's all about turkey!

My sister is hosting Thanksgiving this year, and she cooks her turkey ahead of time.  This year she did two birds, and had no interest in the carcasses.  Disclaimer:  she often makes soup, but she had just roasted a turkey a few weeks ago and made a big batch of soup, so decided she wasn't interested in turkey soup again this soon.  (Note:  roasting a turkey, especially if you are feeding 6+ people on a regular basis, is not just a holiday thing!)

She asked me if I wanted them, and of course, I jumped at the chance.  Free food!

This was what I did yesterday:  put each carcass in a stock pot and added fresh water, a bay leaf or two, a few peppercorns,  and onion and a carrot to each pot.  They simmered just until the bones fell apart.  I strained the solids out, and put the stock back on the stove.  I sorted through the bones, picking off all the meat, and tossing the bones and veggies back into the stock.  I added a splash of white vinegar (probably about 1/2 a cup) to the stock, then simmered it for another few hours.

Huh?  Why do I do stock in two parts?  I find if you simmer the meat too long, you get mush.  And I also find if you don't simmer the bones long enough, you get poultry-flavored water, not stock :)

By doing it in two parts, you get nicely-textured meat, along with rich, flavourful stock.  And adding the vinegar is supposed to help leach some calcium out of the bones, making it even more nutritious.

I ended up with around 8 L (~34 cups) of stock and enough meat to fill a 2.3 L (~9.5 cups) Corning-ware dish.  That is a lot of meat - and it was free.  Even if these weren't, um, "hand-me-down" carcasses, doing this with your own bird is also essentially free.  It's meat that would be thrown out - and what a waste!!

And this is what will become of all this free food:

1. 8 cups of stock, plus 1/4 of the meat, plus veggies and pasta = turkey soup for lunches this week.
2. 8 cups of stock, plus 1/4 of the meat, plus veggies and rice = turkey soup for the freezer for future lunches.  Rice tends to freeze better than pasta, thus the pasta for eating now, the rice for eating later.  If you have some wild rice, it is great in turkey soup.
3. 16 cups of stock frozen for later use.
4. The rest of the stock will be thickened with a rue and some seasoning to make "gravy".  This will be added to the rest of the meat, then placed in an oven-proof dish.  Topped with some veggies and mashed potatoes (either sweet or regular), and hey presto, you have turkey shepherd's pie!  I came up with this dish the one year I roasted a turkey whilst living alone - you get REALLY creative after a while trying to use up that much meat!  I'll use sweet potatoes (from the CSA) for this - I love the combo of turkey and sweet potatoes.  If you were doing this with Thanksgiving leftovers, stuffing makes a great addition too.  This also freezes really well, as long as it's in a sealed container.  Then simply toss in the oven to re-heat for a quick supper later on!

So, two free turkey carcasses results in about 24 "extra" meals, for the cost of a few hours of time (most of which is letting the stock cook) and some cheap pantry items like potatoes, pasta, rice and vegetables.

Maybe about $5.00 worth of food?  For 24 meals?

You can't get much more frugal than that.

So see if you can't score a turkey carcass (or two) this year.  And if you don't luck out at Thanksgiving, well, Christmas is coming...  

Sustainable vs. frugal - the chicken edition.

While most of my produce this season has come from either the CSA or my own garden, there is one thing neither can provide - meat.

So,  I just ordered my first batch of sustainable meat:  chickens from Chez Nous Farm.

Pasture-raised, certified organic chickens. 

After a bit of phone tag, I managed to speak to Mr. Chez Nous and placed my order for five chickens, which should be ready in about two weeks.  I'm lucky to have a farm like this so close - less than 15 km away, and close to my parents, close to the Garden Club meetings, and on an alternate way to work, so I can combine trips to make going there even more economical. 

As an aside, the closest slaughter house he can find that handles organic birds is in St. Jacob's, Ontario - a day trip away just to get the birds slaughtered.  The farm's quota is 300 birds per years, which is a bit much to be slaughtering on the farm, hence the use of a slaughter house.  This drives home just how fractured our food system is.  And why the cost of local, sustainable meat is so high.  

High, as in over $5 a pound.  There is a slightly cheaper option, but it's over 50 km away from me, and driving that far to save about 50 cents a pound is, well, not on.  And while the birds they sell are organic, I don't know the farmer.  I can't drive to the farm, talk to the farmer, see farm pictures on Facebook.  I can't stop off and see if they have some garlic to sell, and maybe some kale.  I can't chat with the farmer about the crappy spring, and how you really can't till wet clay, no matter how late in the year it's getting and how much you NEED to get your plants in!

What is personal contact worth?  What is keeping local farmland worth?

To me, it's worth my CSA share and chicken at triple the price I can get it for at the grocery store.

But, of course, I still haven't won the lottery, and I need to stretch this chicken as far as I can.

So, I'll roast a chicken.  And along with some potatoes and onions and veggies from the garden, get 4 meals* out of that.  I prefer dark meat, so each leg is two meals, leaving all the white meat for leftovers.

I'll cut the remaining meat off the carcass, and toss all the bones into the stock pot, along with veggie scraps and some seasoning.  This makes stock.

Half the stock goes in the freezer, and half, along with the meat picked off the bones and some of the left-over meat, makes soup.  Of course, I'll add pasta or rice, and some frozen veggies, all of which will cost less than $1.00 total for another 4 meals.

Since there is a lot of left-over meat, I'll add some more veggies and a rue, make a quick batch of pie dough, and have a chicken pot pie, which can be frozen for another time.  And results in another 4 meals.   And all for an additional cost of under $2.00.

That frozen stock can be used to make a risotto, or more soup - maybe a nice curried sweet potato and chickpea soup.  Another 4 meals, for the cost of the sweet potato from the CSA basket and some dried chickpeas - maybe $2.00 worth of ingredients?

At the end of my $30 chicken, I've added maybe another $5.00 worth of ingredients, and eaten 16 meals - all tasty, nutritious and mostly local.

$35.00, 16 meals.

Just over $2.00 per meal.



AND frugal.

*For me, meal = serving.  I'm the only human here, so a roast chicken that will feed four people will feed me for four meals.  Sorry for any confusion this causes you :)


This, my friends, is my big ugly horseradish plant.   I started it from a small plant in 2010, and have let it grow undisturbed until now.

Why now?

Because I put a beef roast in the oven, of course.

So, without any more thought than "yum, beef and horseradish", I decided to go dig.

And dig.

And dig.

These roots go down forever.

After about 15 minutes with the shovel, this is what I had:

I think I went about this all wrong (gee, really??).  I didn't want to harvest the entire thing, just enough to get some to eat with my roast.  Of course, one should wait until a heavy frost, or early spring to harvest, and then harvest the entire plant at the same time, re-planting some of the roots to grow again next year.

But why follow the established way of doing things...

After some more hacking, the plant looked like this:

 And this was my harvest:

After a quick rinse:

After peeling:

There is a fibrous outside to the root, which is slightly darker than the inner portion, but nothing I have read said to discard this portion, so...

If I was harvesting a lot, I would have dug out the food processor and used that.  But for the few roots I had, I decided just to grate them.  Oh, and all that advice you read about doing this outside?  Yeah, it's good advice.  Onions have NOTHING on horseradish in the tear department.  Oh well, live and learn.  And cry.

After grating:

There seem to be a lot of different ways of making horseradish - some with straight vinegar, some a 50-50 mix of vinegar and water, and some with a salt and/or sugar brine.  For my first attempt, I chose straight vinegar, just enough to make a slurry.  I ended up with almost two 125 ml jars of horseradish, one of which will go with my roast, and one which will go to the neighbour. 

This is not preserved in any way, but it will keep in the fridge for a week or two, or in the freezer for long-term storage.  And yes, I'll be digging up the rest of the plant after a good frost, and making a larger batch.  Using the food processor.  Because this is what happens when I use the grater*:


*no horseradish was contaminated in this incident. 

CSA Basket 9 of 10

The second-last CSA basket!  I cannot believe it's gone so quickly!!

This week, we got the end of summer mixed with the start of fall...

The last of the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, kale, radishes,  green beans, onions, apples and pears, potatoes both white and sweet, beets and a fantastic squash.  The Katy-head did not come from the CSA :)

I think the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and radishes will join some dressing and feta cheese for the last "Greek" salad of the year, and the rest will get eaten as part of some nice hearty fare over the next week or so.

The Katy-head is for decoration only :)

$500 Challenge - September edition (and yes, I do know it's October)

Oops!  Late, again.  I didn't forget about he challenge this month, I just forgot to blog about it!

Maybe because I cheated a little.

Or a lot.

Or, since it's my challenge and I get to make the rules, not at all ;)

You see, this month, I spent.... nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.

But, what about the challenge?

Oh, I still got something.  These, to be exact:

Both quart and pint canning jars, about 24 of each.  Free!  And while these are canning jars, of course, I also use them a LOT for storage.  For dried foods, for bulk purchases like grains and bean and other legumes, for storing soup, stock and sauces both in the fridge and freezer - I can always use more jars.

So, this month's "purchase" does fit the challenge... sort of :)

Where did they come from?  An old friend of my Mom's mentioned she was cleaning out her house, and was getting rid of a lot of stuff, including these jars.  Boxes and boxes of jars.   Mom jumped at the chance to take them, and gave the excess to me - thanks Mom!!  And there are still more, if I need them!

September costs (jars): $0.00
Balance: $78.04


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