I spend an abundance of my time looking up at the sky. At the end of each day is a collection of moments where I paused and admired the dynamic atmosphere above, and obliged to it’s grounding prophecy. The speed at which the harvest clouds travel across the sky, the way the sun says goodbye everyday, the bounty of constellations that scatter themselves ubiquitously, and everything in between. I am in awe.
It’s all so inspiring. To say my heart is full is a restraint on my passion. I have been seduced by the spectrum of nature; I want to paint it, photograph it, write it, tend to it, and nurture it. It’s an elating experience, but if I might say, a little overwhelming.
My horoscopes says, “You’re most likely to thrive if you weave together a variety of styles, and methods. The coming weeks will be a highly miscellaneous time, and you can’t afford to get stuck in any single persona or approach.” Leos, do you feel me?
So, I’m taking my cues from the stars and the sky; Embracing their diverse energy, and compelling charisma. I’m preparing the ground for planting, and filling it with bundles of spring flowers and garlic. I’m enrolled in horticultural studies, and engrossed with ideas and expertise about farming, and homesteading. I met an artist, and for the first time in a long time, I spoke about my art. I’m writing, and setting goals to broaden my horizons. I’m exploring my new surroundings, and taking in this glorious season. I’m shovelling manure, and picking rocks out of the field. I’m looking at the sky, and feeling the ground beneath my feet. Did I mention I’m making curtains for the living room, dining, room, and kitchen?
It’s an exciting time to be alive, and these may be the best years of my life, and only my belly can compete with the fullness of my heart. The wood stove is on, and it’s time for the savoury goodness that I have a penchant for after the first frost. Our leftover Thanksgiving turkey became soup, and also found its way into pies. As I write this our leftover apple pie sits on the counter, and we have the remains of a Shepherd’s pie in the fridge. It’s been a good week for eating.
Fall is Nova Scotia is a captivating time. The colours are so rich, and here in the Valley the trees are laden with heavenly apples.
In the spirit of the season and my husband’s undeniable love for pastry I made us our very first pie in our new house with the freshest, localest, apples. His favourite variety is Gravenstiens. They’re excellent eating, and baking apples that grow well in the Annapolis Valley microclimate. Firm, crisp, juicy, and slightly tart, they make a perfect pie.
I always follow the directions on the shortening box for the pie crust, but I make one exception. Whenever I’m making pastry and the recipe calls for water, I replace it with my good friend, vodka. I learnt this little trick from a pastry chef, and have never looked back. When you substitute vodka, it evaporates much more rigorously in the oven and leaves lots of little air pockets that reveal themselves in a melt-in-your-mouth, flakey crust.
5 or 6 good-sized apples, skin on, but sliced thinly
3/4 cup brown sugar, and a little more for sprinkling
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 pinch salt
2 tbsp butter, pea sized pieces
2 tbsp flour
pastry (9″ double crust)
Pre-heat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl combine all your ingredients, and coat well. Place contents in your prepared pie dish lined with pastry. Top pie with pastry and make holes for steam to escape, or follow along in the photos above to make a lattice crust. Cut pieces using a ruler to ensure uniformity. When pieces are in place to your satisfaction use a wet pastry brush to conceal any imperfections, but coat the entire surface. Sprinkle sugar lightly, but thoroughly on top. Place in oven and cook for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and cook for 50 minutes, or until crust is sufficiently browned.
Our pie was so good, and tasted just like the season. I took the apple cores (sans seeds), and little bits of left over, raw pastry and fed them to the chickens. Our newest, and very entertaining addition to our little homestead. Last week we brought home six laying hens that are about 18 weeks old. They are just beginning to lay eggs, and our first two eggs had double yolks!
So far, their favourite treats are grapes and earthworms, and I think they are settling in nicely. We moved the rabbit hutch into the chicken barn, otherwise known as the Tiltin’ Hilton, and Betty and Wilma have free range of the barn as well as the run outside, but somewhere to go if they want to be away from the hens. They’re loving it, and neither the birds or the bunnies seem to mind each other. They even share their grapes.
Kenny did a tremendous job getting the barn ready for the girls, and his talents will never cease to amaze me. He poured cement, repaired the roof, reinforced the structure, installed windows and an opening/closing chicken door, made and installed two doors, made the nesting boxes as well as their run and sleeping perch. All this, and introduced solar power! The Tiltin’ Hilton has never looked so good, and we haven’t even replaced the siding out the outside yet! Hopefully, that’ll happen soon, but we are just waiting on our lumber order to be able to get started.
We made another exciting addition to our family and adopted the sweetest kitty we call Murray, or Murray Purry, and sometimes, Murr the Purr. He spent five whole months at the shelter before we took him home, and I wish we had got to him sooner. He’s just the sweetest guy, and is getting along great with our other two cats, Jean-Luc and Sidney. He loves naps on the couch, going for walks with me in the field, and having canned pumpkin for breakfast. He was having some tummy troubles when he arrived at the SPCA and the staff their found that pumpkin helped him, and he loves it! He scarfs it down in the morning even faster than Kenny and I over a that apple pie. He’s truly an wonderful enhancement to our clan.
Our boys are never far behind, and love to take interest in our new endeavours. They’ve been very curious about the chickens, but of course, perfect gentlemen. They’re a welcome distraction when we’re working out in the field, and I’m so delighted that they like their new surroundings. I really can’t imagine life without them.
All these moments in our life come and go like well-formed clouds gleaming in the sky. I’m so glad to be able to take the time to savour, and become exhilarated by them.