Sunday, November 29, 2020

Olson Hospital Face Mask

The contoured Olson Hospital Face Mask pattern was designed by and for medical professionals and health care workers, to be used when other surgical and N95 masks are not available. The masks supplied to hospitals are supposed to be left with an unfinished seam at the ear loops so it can be custom fit to each worker receiving the mask.


Olson Hospital Face Mask

Color coordinated ear loops
Due to Covid-19 and a high risk person in my household, I have been sewing 100% cotton face masks since June 2020. I wasn't happy with the amount of disposable masks thrown in the garbage. On top of that, they were uncomfortable on my ears and my glasses always fogged up. 

I tried 4 different mask patterns: the first was designed and approved by a nurse; I loved the string tie behind the head instead of ear loops but the mask pressed on my nose ... the second, a pleated version similar to the paper disposable types; I liked nothing about this mask! ... the third, a contoured mask in several different sizes; did not have enough coverage, it was fussy to fit and pressed on my nose. I was not happy with the comfort or fit of any of the first three patterns I tried. Then I made the Olson Hospital Face Mask pattern. I just love it... comfortable, snug fit, contoured, a nose wire channel, filter pocket, optional ear loops or behind the head string or elastic.Finally, I started to batch sew!!

I sew the masks on my Grandmothers' 1948 Singer Straight Stitch sewing machine. I feel my Grandma and my Mom with me when I work on that machine. It's a workhorse!!

My 1948 Singer from Grandma

New fabrics
I have sewn seasonal fabric masks for Halloween and now Christmas. The masks I personally wear are coordinated with my outfit and have become a wardrobe accessory! When possible, I try to color coordinate the ear loops with the mask colors.

Halloween Edition 2020

A friend told me where to get an N95 'Filti' fabric for making mask filters. This fabric goes out of stock often and as far as I am aware, is only available at one Textile Shop in Canada. I have just ordered my third batch and it will arrive hopefully this week. It is now recommended that the 'filti' fabric be sanitized in a 150F oven between tinfoil with a bowl of water for 30 minutes. This method prolongs the use of the fabric rather than washing.

With new provincial guidelines now in place ... it is suggested that homemade masks have a high thread count, a cotton face covering with a filter ... the Olson mask with 'Filti' filter is a good, comfortable option for protection. All the Covid-19 protocols still apply ... don't touch your face, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer, keep a safe distance and wear a mask with filter in enclosed areas.

Until next time ... Bon Appétit ... stay healthy, be safe, wear a mask and take good care!

'Designer' Olson Hospital Face Masks and photos by Sally Rae

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Organic Garden Cleaning Crew

Secure hen house and caged run with removable cover

I do not use pesticides on my vegetable garden. So after over 30+ years of gardening the same raised beds, the bugs are multiplying and are very happy ... making me unhappy and my soil very frustrating to grow anything. 

I grew up in a market gardening family business on the prairies. When I would complain to my Mom about my Denman bugs, she would always say; "When grandpa took the garden out ... the chickens went in to clean up." I had chickens in the garden about 7 years ago but within a few weeks predators took out 2 of my hens. It was fenced to keep deer out but not the raccoons, eagles, hawks and mink. Ever since then I've wanted a chicken tractor type enclosure that would fit on top of my raised bed garden boxes. This would make it much more secure to predators. We still had the small hen house it all just needed to be updated and pieced together to work in my garden.

Hardware cloth covered run with rain panels on top
The small hen house from 7 years ago was put on a dolly with four 8" pneumatic casters. The wheels rotate 360 degrees, so moving it around the garden is a breeze for one person! The house also got a fresh floor of plywood installed, a bit of insulation for the walls and a second nest box with a cute door for me to access the eggs easily. I added a hanger for their feeder and a small door was cut out with a ramp installed outside for access into the run. Two turnbuckles attach the hen house and the run together.

The caged run is 2"x2" wood construction with half inch hardware cloth. I read somewhere that; "chicken wire keeps chickens in. If you want to keep predators out hardware cloth with a small grid is the way to go."  It is more expensive but well worth it. The section of the run at the hen house is 3' in height, the rest is 2' and it sits on top of the raised beds that are 4'2" wide by 13' long. It needs to be manageable for two people to lift and move it. We had old corrugated fiberglass panels removed from the greenhouse laying around so they make the perfect cover to keep the rain and possible snow off the ground and the birds. They are light and easy to move on or off when needed.

Hen house and access doors
The doors and gates are all secured with hasp closures and carabiner clips. The cage run is held tight onto the wooden garden box with rubber bungee cords hooked into large eye hooks that are screwed into the side of the raised beds. Now this is chicken security!! One friend called it my new 'Chicken Emporium' ... I kinda like that!

The first garden box I had the hens clean up in the 3 photos above, was the bed for the garlic that was finally put in a bit later than usual on October 20th, 2020. They did a great job aerating the soil, eating bugs and slug eggs and leaving a bit of fertilizer behind! After cleaning three of the garden boxes, it was time to move 'The Chicken Emporium' up closer to the house. Their water was freezing over night and it was quite a bit hiking up and down to the garden several times a day. I really enjoy having them closer to the house now so I can visit them more often. I've left some of the big, old broccoli plants in the garden to pull for them and have some winter lettuce in the greenhouse that they love!

Goldie, L'il Red and Buffy - Inside, happy and secure
Now that they are up near the house, they get moved to a new grassy patch every week or so. Along with hen scratch, broccoli plants, fruit and vegetable scraps and warm oatmeal with blueberries on the cold mornings, I think they are spoiled, happy hens! I just love chickens and I'm thrilled to have a small flock again... even more thrilled that I know they are safe as I can make them!

My new flock are three older girls, I got them mainly as my organic garden cleaning crew, the eggs are a bonus! In the photo at right, inside the run... the buff colored hen far back is a Buff Orpington who I've named 'Buffy (the Vampire Slayer)', she lays beautiful brown shelled eggs. The other two girls are Americaunas who lay pale blue shelled eggs. The lighter, golden one in front is named 'Goldilocks' and the one behind her is 'Little Red Riding Hood'. Yes... I name my chickens, always have... so, for short they are Buffy, Goldie and L'il Red. A week or so after I got the hens, Buffy started molting... feathers everywhere and now she looks a bit like a plucked chicken. They also stop laying when they molt and as the daylight hours shorten. For now, Goldie and L'il Red are still laying so we get about 4-5 beautiful blue eggs a week.

The beautiful eggs are a bonus!
The girls on the high roost
We don't use a lot of eggs, so they have supplied us well. And it makes me smile to look in the fridge and see blue eggs!

They will spend winter up by the house so I can keep their water fresh and tend to them as the winter rolls in. In the Spring, before planting the garden they will be moved back into the garden and put to work scratching around and having a bug feast on the early spring bugs. The first garden bed they cleaned this fall had Proteknet insect netting over it this summer and in May I found three Large Yellow Underwing Moths trapped inside. They are the culprits of the climbing cutworm so I was happy to get the chickens in there to find any eggs and pupae. I wrote a Post about the climbing cutworm Pupae in 2016 and will write a post in the Spring about the Moths that I found. I'm so happy to finally have a secure 'Chicken Emporium' and my new organic garden cleaning crew!!

Until next time ... Bon Appétit ... stay healthy, be safe, wear a mask and take good care!

Photos by Sally Rae 
'Chicken Emporium' design coordinator - Sally Rae 
'Chicken Emporium' construction assistance and supervised by Sally Rae

Monday, November 2, 2020

Chestnut Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Chestnut Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

A few times per week I prepare a meatless meal ... I made these 'Chestnut Stuffed Cabbage Rolls' for Thanksgiving Dinner and they were filling and delicious!

I grow two varieties of early cabbage; Tiara and Taiwan. Both are very tender yet crunchy. They are an incredible addition to stir fries, salads and soups. Their tender leaves were perfect to make this meatless cabbage roll recipe. 

If you give this recipe a try, please let me know in the 'Comment' section below...

CHESTNUT STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS      Yield: 16-18 cabbage rolls


6 oz. roasted, peeled and cooled chestnuts (*see directions below)
⅓ cup small diced parsnips
½ cup small diced carrots
1 small early or savoy cabbage
½ yellow onion
1 tsp. avocado oil
2 oz. white wine
½ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. poultry seasoning
¼ tsp. coarse black pepper
1 Tbsp. white wine
¼ cup vegetable stock

  *To roast and peel fresh chestnuts; Preheat oven to 425F. Thoroughly wash the chestnuts then with a sharp paring knife, cut an 'x' in the skin on the round side of each chestnut.This keeps them from exploding from internal pressure and makes them easy to peel after roasting. Arrange on a bake sheet and bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the skins pull back and the nutmeats soften. Remove from the oven and pile the hot chestnuts on an old towel. Wrap tightly and squeeze until you hear a crackling sound. Then let them sit a few minutes. Pull off the dark shells and the papery membrane to reveal the yellowish white meat. Allow to cool.

For the cabbage roll filling; Peel parsnip and carrot, small dice and steam 20 minutes. Steam the whole cabbage 20 minutes. Peel onion and finely dice. Sweat onion in a pan with avocado oil. Add chestnuts, cook a few minutes. Add carrot and parsnip, reduce heat and cook 2-3 minutes.

Deglaze pan with wine and season with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Separate and set aside 16-18 whole cabbage leaves and enough to cover both the top and bottom in the baking dish. To a food processor; purée the chestnut/carrot mixture and the rest of the cabbage. Use a #30 scoop (a generous 2 Tbsp.) to divide the mixture into 16-18 balls. Place a ball in the middle of each leaf. Fold sides over and roll up.

Place rolls in an ovenproof dish lined with cabbage leaves, cover with cabbage leaves. Pour over 1 Tbsp. wine and
¼ to ⅓ cup of stock and bake at 350°F until warmed through.

Until next time ... Bon Appétit

Recipe by Sally Rae
Photo by Sally Rae

Monday, October 5, 2020

A Time to Give Thanks

I have so much to be Thankful for ... Denman Island is a safe and caring community, I can grow our own food 12 months of the year, what I don't grow I can buy from local organic farms, we have a beautiful spacious property with stunning ocean/mountain/island views. I'm thankful for the warm dry home that we built, wonderful neighbors we can rely on, a year 'round abundant water supply, four-legged friends who enrich our lives, provide companionship and entertainment ... we have each other for love and support, and between us skills in; cooking, baking, sewing, gardening, hair cutting, dog grooming, building, massage therapy ... to name only a few!

Garden and greenhouse harvest October 5th, 2020
We have remained safe through the Covid-19 pandemic and are happy to stay at home. I am thankful that although our Island is small we have a Medical Clinic, doctors including TCM, a fire department, first responders, paramedics and home support workers. I am thankful for our General Store, Post Office, Hardware Store and the Farmer's Market. Last but not least, I'm thankful for my family, dear friends, clients and neighbors.

As we all prepare for a different Thanksgiving weekend this year, I wish you thankful thoughts, good health ... and a beautiful celebration dinner. From our home to yours we wish you a happy, safe Thanksgiving ...

Until next time ... Bon Appétit

Photo by Sally Rae
Produce grown by Sally Rae

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Storm Season and Garden Clean Up

Mercury cukes and Borghese tomato  

After a rainy, cold June... the hot, dry September produced some bountiful harvests. My tomatoes are slow to ripen because I had to restart seeds after losing 2 trays of seedlings to damping off. The outside tomato plants are struggling and probably won't produce much... but in the greenhouse some are starting to ripen and they are beauties! Also the Mercury cucumbers in the greenhouse are going to be hard to live without in the coming weeks of cooler weather.

Sally's Outdoor Salsa 1lb. 13oz.
Last week I picked the first and largest of my 'Sally's Outdoor Salsa' tomatoes, weighing in at 1 lb. 13oz. Not a record breaker compared to last years ginormous specimen that tipped the scale at my record of 2 lb. 5 3/4oz. I couldn't wait to slice into this beauty, the photo below, a single  'slice' dwarfs a Portofino Brioche Hamburger bun cut in half! For sure I saved seeds from this one! I had too many cabbages to use and left two of the early Taiwan Cabbage out in the garden. When the rain started I didn't want them to split so I picked them. 

A slice compared to open hamburger bun
Of course the slugs and earwigs had a good time with them in the garden that long. Also under each, about 4-6 little cabbages had started to grow at the base. They looked like big Brussels Sprouts!

Taiwan Cabbage
This past week we had the first big wind and rain storms come through our area. There is still so much to get done with garden clean up. Next week we are predicted to have sun and more sun with temperatures up to 8 degrees C. above normal. What a crazy year in many ways!!
September Seascape Strawberries
 The strawberries are still producing... this plate of berries were picked on September 19th, and today I ate a few while working. With the warm, sunny days next week, I expect to pick another small bowl of beauties! 

2 lb. Earlichamp melon

Today in the greenhouse, the last 'Earlichamp' melon released from the vine... a beauty at 2 pounds! The sweet aroma is incredible. If you noticed, I'm struggling a bit with the new Blogger format. I will eventually figure it out but there are a few glitches in this post, sorry, this could be a steep learning curve for me!!

 Until next time ... Bon Appétit and Happy Gardening!

Photos by Sally Rae

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

September ... Already?

I'm still trying to wrap my head around flipping the calendar to September! It seems the years fly by quickly anyways but so far 2020 has been a bit weird, learning to live with and through Covid-19! A certain amount of isolation is normal for most Denmanites, many of us have been very happy to just stay home. We are very fortunate to have 12 acres to roam, distance from our neighbors and quiet roads to walk. Even more fortunate to grow most of our own food. 
Tomato and melon side of the greenhouse 'jungle'

I made good use of the greenhouse this year... with 5 varieties of tomatoes (Celebrity, Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Yellow Hawaiian and Borghese), 3 varieties of small salad cucumbers (Mercury, Diva and Patio Snacker), a Partenon zucchini (that I rescued from the garden slugs in May),  Earlichamp cantaloupe, Cream of Saskatchewan watermelon and between all that, lots of flowers to bring in the pollinators. Into a small, sunny corner on August 9th, I added Little Gem Romaine lettuce and Celtuce from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. for winter harvest.
First small cantaloupe - September 1st.
I found the first 'Earlichamp' melon had released itself from the vine yesterday. It fits into the palm of my hand and smells amazing! Unfortunately the Cream of Saskatchewan Watermelon had a rough start and by the time it germinated and got going, it was a bit late so I doubt there will be any fruit to sample this year. 
The cucumbers have been incredibly prolific, between 10-17 small cukes every week! I pulled out the 'Patio Snacker' quite early on because it was my first time growing that variety and I was not fond of the spiny skin nor the flavor. The Mercury and Diva are my long time favorites and are more than enough for me to keep up with!

All my tomato starts were late because I lost 2 trays of seedlings to damping off when I transplanted them. The Borghese is from a friend and are mainly used for sun-dried tomatoes. They are small, meaty, oval shaped and grow like a cluster of grapes. In my household these will make a perfect addition to 'Roasted Tomato Sauce'. In mid August I did a severe pruning of the tomatoes... removed leaves for air flow, cut off all the smaller fruit, any new blossoms and shoots. I still have hope that I will get a crop from the greenhouse but the ones outside, in the garden are looking pretty sad. 

Huge Seascape Strawberries
The winter lettuce crop is looking good and is a first time experiment for me. Also for winter harvest I've recently put more cabbage plant starts in the garden... 2 Lennox (110 day) cabbage that will be used in January for my sauerkraut and this year I'm trying 4 Tiara Cabbage for fall harvest. I plant Tiara as an early (45 day) cabbage. They are so delicate, sweet and crunchy it will be hard to live without them on the menu, so this year I'm trying a second, later crop. 

The Seascape Strawberries are in full swing of their second crop and if the weather stays dry, they will continue to produce and ripen into late October. They never disappoint ... huge, juicy and sweet!

Thai Double Blue Butterfly Pea
Another new and unusual seed from Baker Creek was the 'Thai Double Blue Butterfly Pea' ... it was a bit fussy to germinate and an expensive, rare seed. I have seen this flower used to make a blue colored tea that when an acid (lemon juice) is added, it turns to pink. The tea is said to 'refresh the brain and boost its activity and function'. It is also used to color rice and desserts, so I was really excited to find and try to grow this plant! I have it in a pot on the deck, near the door so I can keep a close eye on it. I have been saving the flowers to use later. It is hardy in Zones 10 and 11 so I'll try to overwinter it in my sun-room.

It's time to start planning your garlic bed for this winter. If not already done, sort your seed and get a bed ready for mid October planting. The long weekend weather looks to be sunny and warm here on the Island, so I'm going to take advantage of the great outdoors and start on some garden clean up for fall. I've said it before and I'll say it again, one of my big 'beefs' is hauling huge, unruly, slimy squash plants out of the garden once the weather turns to fall. I'm ready to do that with the summer squash now ... in the sunshine! With the Partenon zucchini in the greenhouse I'll have fresh zucchini for a while into fall I'm sure!

Until next time ... Bon Appétit and Happy Gardening!
Please be safe, stay healthy, wear a face mask and take good care...

Photos by Sally Rae

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Summer Spiral Slaw

Second crop of Seascape Strawberries
Hot summer days just scream fresh salads! The temperature in our house is bearable with the cross breeze from the ocean, but most evenings I really don't want to turn on the stove or oven. Right now the garden is producing lots of summer squash (multi-colored patty pans and several varieties of zucchini), cucumbers (Mercury and Diva in the greenhouse and Corentine in the garden for fermented dill pickles), early cabbage (Taiwan and Tiara), huge 'Easter Egg' radishes (that are surprisingly mild and not fibrous), scallions, 3 colors of bush beans, broccoli, figs (Desert King), fresh herbs (lovage, dillweed, oregano, rosemary), red romaine lettuce, Uncle Robert's purple potatoes, the end of the snap peas and the second crop of Seascape strawberries are starting. The garlic is cured, cleaned and cut with seed set aside for October planting. A busy time!
Garlic ~ cured, cleaned and trimmed
Taiwan Early Cabbage

I've given away a few of the fresh, early cabbage heads and one friend commented... "cabbage was on my shopping list, coleslaw is my favorite salad." Hmmm, that got me thinking because coleslaw is not a favorite of mine... BUT ...the early cabbage I grow is so sweet, delicate and tender that I snack on it while cutting or preparing it... so why not try a slaw with a twist (sorry, couldn't resist the pun!) 

Summer Spiral Slaw
With my favorite little spiralizer machine I 'zoodled' some yellow patty pans that got a bit big, a big radish, a seedless cucumber and a few carrots for texture and more color. I broke the vegetable noodles into  4-6" long pieces, tossed in some thinly sliced scallions and thinly sliced Taiwan early cabbage. 
Put the vegetable mixture into a bowl and poured over a recipe of my 'Paleo Vegetable Salad Marinade' posted last December. Let it sit for a few days and OMG, delicious!! Great as a side dish but I also drained some and used it instead of relish on a turkey burger, outstanding!! 
Instead of getting bored with the same old marinated vegetables, I gave this salad a summer twist with cabbage instead of cauliflower and spiralized all the other vegetables  that would have normally gone into the marinade (carrots, zucchini, cucumber, plus the addition of radish). Voila! ...a fun summer make over!

Until next time... Bon Appétit and have fun reinventing your salads!
Please stay healthy, be safe, wear a face mask and take good care...

Photos by Sally Rae
Recipes by Sally Rae