Make it Yourself

Clothing Swap!

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A week ago, I hosted a clothing swap!  The intent was to subversively reject Black Friday, which has turned out to be today.  Those who attended my swap were too polite to speak up about my error!  Just goes to show how in touch I really am with consumerism.  In any case, I wanted to write about the experience because we had a lovely evening.

The idea of a clothing swap is to trade clothes you no longer want with other people.  The number of items you bring does not have to equal the number of items you take home.  The clothes are piled in the centre of the room, and you take what you like.  Anything that does not find a new home is donated to charity.

For our swap, I invited many people, but only a few were able to make it.  It was nice to have a small gathering.  Since there were just four of us, we could really help each other through the process of selecting clothing that looked nice on us.

When people arrived, we enjoyed some of the (ridiculously numerous) snacks that I had prepared and drank wine and homemade hard cider.  When we determined that everyone had arrived, we dumped the clothes into one large pile on my rug.  It was like a treasure hunt searching through the clothes mountain.  I tried on a lot of things, and kept several.  We each started our own ‘stash’ where we put the things that we wanted to keep.  I found some really neat things, some that I would have picked up in a shop and many things that I likely wouldn’t have even tried on otherwise!

It was a wonderful evening filled with conversations and laughter with lovely people that I’m glad to call my friends.  It was nice to choose clothes I liked without having to worry about the price tag or the environmental impact of my purchase.  For all of us, what we brought to the swap were bags of clothing we were planning to get rid of anyway.   I got rid of far more than I kept.  And what I did end up keeping were things that freshened up my wardrobe in unexpected ways!  We all enjoyed ourselves so much that we plan on having another gathering in the springtime!

How to host your own clothing swap:

  1. Set the date – if you’re trying to coordinate it with a special event day, be sure to check your calendar!
  2. Invite your friends!  I invited lots of people, but the party ended up being small.  I would say, smaller is better.  Although I’ve not hosted a large clothing swap, it might get ugly if people were fighting over the same items!
  3. Find a full length mirror to set in the shared space, near where the pile of clothes will be
  4. Create a ‘change room’ (We used my bathroom), but most people just changed in the common space.  I wore a tight tank top and just changed in front of my friends.
  5. Prepare some snacks
  6. Gather.  Explain the process.  If there are disputes over who should get what item, have a vote – the person who is voted to look the best in the item of clothing takes the prize!
  7. Have fun!!!
  8. Take remaining items to your local thrift store, so they can find a new home.

 

 

Our Candy-free Halloween Party

Last year I wrote about what I wished Halloween could be for our family.  I dreamed of a day when we could enjoy the spirit of Halloween in community without the abundance of candy and general tone of consumption.  I wanted it to be filled with joy, excitement and good wholesome fun.  This year, with the help of a friend, we were able to realize my dream!

Our gathering went like this:

4:00 – Gathered and greeted each other
4:15 – Made Halloween lanterns using recycled jars, tissue paper, wire and watered down white glue
4:45 – Ran Races, including a monster eyeball race (carry an olive on a spoon), three legged race, and potato sack race.
5:05 – Played Games, like tossing a beanbag through a pumpkin’s mouth, pin the tail on the cat and a spider ring toss.
5:30 – Pot Luck Dinner
6:00 – Bobbing for apples
6:15 – Pumpkin Pinata that was filled with raisins, fruit leather and non-edible treats like pencils, erasers, stickers and stick on moustaches!
6:30 – Spooky forest walk where we followed the trail to view the candlelit pumpkins each family carved and brought with them and the children carried their Halloween lanterns!
It was a busy evening for me, being the one to direct the action.  But it’s what I love to do.  Sometimes I struggle with the balance between being the leader and being the mom.  But Rob was there with me, so he could be there for the children when I was otherwise occupied.
The races were a riot!  There were no prizes, and that was fine.  The best part was that the adults wanted to be part of the fun too!  One of my friends requested an adult sack race – what fun!
The pinata was a great success!  The boys and I made the pinata the week before Halloween by using paper mache over a balloon.  We were sure to make it strong since we knew there would be lots of children wanting a turn!  We painted it orange and added a traditional pumpkin face.  The children had a great time taking turns to whack it.  Seems we made it strong enough, as it was the fourth round through all the children when it finally burst!  I will never forget the look in the child’s eyes who burst that pinata.  She was so excited and pleased with herself!  The children were each given a small bag to collect one of each of the things that had fallen.  They were so wonderful about it.  There was no pushing, shoving, crying, or any other negative feelings.  I saw children sharing and helping each other choose what items to take home.  It’s amazing what candy frenzied sugar greed does to an atmosphere!
The children really loved bobbing for apples.  This is a holiday tradition that isn’t done anymore for ‘safety’ reasons.  I’m not too sure what the safety concerns are…drowning?  swapping germs?  eating healthy food?  This was reported to be my children’s favourite part.
The forest walk at the end of the evening was particularly magical for me.  With the ‘work’ done, I was able to be more present to enjoy the experience.  The children’s lanterns flickered down the path as we stopped to admire each others pumpkin carvings.  The children enjoyed seeing the pumpkins so much that we decided to walk to trail twice!  This was a beautiful shift for me from what is usually a rush to knock on a door to trick-or-treat, completely ignoring the pumpkin sitting to the side of the stoop.  We were able to enjoy each others artistry!
Despite the rain and cold damp evening weather, after the last family had left, we decided we needed to do it again next year!  Perhaps next year will be bigger and better!  Getting more people involved will help to diversify the event, and take a bit of the performance pressure off of me.  I am ever grateful to my friend for helping me put this together and hosting this party.  Not only that, but her willingness to contribute and participate full force in my vision was amazing.  I hold deep gratitude for all who attended as well.  Those families willing to step into the edges, making bold choices to diverge from mainstream culture.  Halloween night this year was everything I had hoped for and more!  I feel truly blessed…

Apple Grape Fruit Leather

This past week when visiting friends, we were offered some of the grapes that were growing as a carport.  What a beautiful gift to be given!  I took a bag full.  They also offered us some apples from a tree that had split and fallen down.  I’m amidst so much processing of food at the moment that I didn’t take too much of either offering.  What I did take however, I turned into something wonderful!

I juiced the grapes and then poured the remaining mash through a strainer, mashing it with a spoon to extract as much juice and fine pulp as I could.  I ended up with 24oz. The remaining pulp was enjoyed by my chickens!

Then I took 24 apples, cored them and put them through the food processor, mixing them with the grape juice to help the processor blend the fruit better.  I blend the fruit until it is very smooth, like a store bought applesauce texture.

This makes for a thinner and more flexible end product.  I poured the mixture (done in two batches) out on Excalibur teflex sheets to dehydrate at 145˚ for 45 minutes to warm it up, then at 115˚ overnight.  This technique drastically reduces drying time, but doesn’t heat the food enough in the initial 45 minutes to ‘cook’ it, so it remains a raw food.  The result was great.  If I were to make it again though, I would use less apples for the amount of grape juice I had, just to make it taste more like grapes.   If I didn’t have too much to do already, I’d be out there foraging for more grapes and apples!

Mushroom Innoculation

At our party last weekend, we had intended to do grafting and mushroom inoculating, but didn’t get to the latter.  Rob has been working on evenings this week to complete the task, which is not difficult, just time consuming.  Amassing the items required for the job was the most tedious part.

We have been collecting wax for a while, getting a bunch of old beeswax from a friend (which inadvertently attracted a swarm!) and kept it for this purpose.  We didn’t want to make waste of a paintbrush by covering it with wax, so my husband and eldest son had a good foray around the yard looking for a brush substitute.  They settled on a dried Queen Anne’s Lace flower.  It worked well!

The process went something like this:  Find the appropriate type of healthy wood for the mushroom spawn you have – logs should be at least 6″ in diameter.  If the wood is old and dried out (in other words, older than a couple of weeks or stored in the sun) it needs to be soaked over night.  For our sawdust spawn, we drilled holes in the wood 7/16″ wide and 1/2″ deep spaced 6″ apart in a diamond pattern.  Plug the holes with spawn by pushing it in the holes with a dowel.  Cover the hole and spawn with wax to protect it from weather and insects.  Find a shady spot for the logs.  Wait.

Blackberry Chia Seed Jam – Only 3 Ingredients and Ready in 20 minutes!

This recipe looks so easy and great I had to share it!

Old World Garden Farms

There is nothing like picking wild blackberries. The anticipation of the red plump berries turning into a dark, luscious, sweet treat makes our mouths water.

Wild blackberry canes growing next to our farm. Wild blackberry canes growing next to our farm.

We are very fortunate to have a batch of wild blackberry plants right next to the farm. Unfortunately, it is on the edge of a wooded area and right next to an even bigger patch of poison ivy.  As many of you know, I get poison ivy extremely easy. So this week, I put my protective clothing on (jeans, long sleeve shirt, boots and gloves) in the mid-summer heat to pick the ripe ones off the vine. The gloves serve a dual purpose as they also protect me from the thorns sticking out of the bush, designed to protect the delicate crop.

After we pick the berries the first thing we do is make a cobbler and…

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For the Love of Garlic Scapes – 10 Ways to Use Them!

Our garlic scapes are now coming fast and furious!  They are a wonderful byproduct of growing garlic, since by harvesting, the garlic bulbs grow much larger.  In the interest of making no waste, we use every single one!  I get asked a lot what we do with them all, so I thought others may have the same question!  Here is a list of 10 ways we use garlic scapes:

  1. In stirfry!  Slice them into pieces a few centimeters long (about an inch) and throw them in!
  2. Grill them whole on the barbeque or by using a grill over an open fire.
  3. Make garlic scape pesto.  I have used this recipe in the past, and it turned out well.  For me it was nice to cut the raw garlic bite with a bit of spinach and parsley.
  4. Pickle them!  Use a favourite pickle recipe or lacto-fermentation method.  We used a favourite pickled bean recipe and they turned out great.
  5. Throw sliced scapes in with roasted vegetables.  Chop a variety of root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.) and scapes into 1 inch pieces/cubes.  Cover root vegetables and scapes with olive oil or cut chunks of butter on top of the mix, sprinkle on some salt, and other spices (cayenne and thyme are two of our favourites) if you like,  and roast at 350˚ for about an hour.
  6. Chop finely and use in place of garlic.
  7. Blend into a paste by adding some oil and use as a garnish on soups or to flavour dips (like hummus) and dressings.
  8. Chop coarsely and add to soups or stews.
  9. If you don’t have time to deal with them all, they freeze very well and can be thawed and used later in all of your culinary delights.
  10. I saved my favourite until last…most of our scapes end up as garlic scape powder.  It takes up far less space to store than the scapes themselves, and I haven’t bought garlic powder in years!  To make it, se blend the scapes in our food processor, dry them in the dehydrator, then when they come out dried, we blend them again to make a powder.  To vouch for it’s awesomeness, it sells for over $25 per 100g!

Black Walnut Syrup

We lost another one of our maple trees this past year, leaving not much chance of maple syrup production.  We had heard about tapping black walnut trees, and since we have two nice sized ones have been dutifully collecting sap.  Alright, so perhaps I haven’t been that good at keeping up with it, but Rob has, and in the end we have gathered quite a lot of sap.  At the beginning of the season, we decided that it would be too much work to boil all the sap down into syrup, so we fed it to the children as a refreshing and healthy drink.  We had both Maple and Black Walnut sap running at the same time, which was lovely for comparison sake.  I would describe the Maple sap as quite sweet with a sugary flavour, whereas the Walnut sap was a more ‘earthy’ flavour, and less sweet.  I preferred the Walnut sap, as it offered a more ‘adult’ flavour.

Then the sap really started to flow, and we had more than we could drink…the fridge was filling quickly, so we decided to boil it.  It has been several weeks of temperatures fluctuating around 0, so we’ve had quite a bit of volume in recent weeks.  This morning, we finished boiling the sap down to a syrup, and the result is amazing!

Once boiled down, it looks the same as Maple Syrup.  It thickened nicely, and seems to have boiled down quicker than the maple.  The flavour reminds me of caramel corn; buttery and nutty.  I would also claim that in its syrup form, it also retains a more refined flavour…one I could get used to!  There is no doubt that I’ll be tapping our Walnut trees again next Spring!!

If you’re interested in tapping your own tree, here is a great article on how to do it yourself.