It’s in!

Today, my new-new keyboard came in! And by mail, too, so I didn’t have to drive to town to pick it up. 😄

Here is a comparison.

The top keyboard (the one already full of cat hair!) is the French keyboard my husband ordered for me by mistake. The bottom is the English keyboard that came in today.


That extra key next to the left Shift key is gone, as is the extra key by the Enter key, which I am quite happy about. The arrangement of keys by the Enter key is also back to what I was used to. No more keys with a third symbol on them I couldn’t use. The Alt key on the right of the space bar is now just a regular Alt key again. The new edit key, MS Office shortcut and emoji keys are still there. I’m amused that the emoji keys have different symbols on them.

The physical differences are minor, but it’s amazing how much of a difference it makes in my ability to touch type. Everything “fits” my hands better.

The French keyboard still works perfectly fine, and I was intending to give it to my husband. However, he went and bought himself a gamer keyboard that also came in today. (Discovering that things can be purchased through Amazon on payment plans is a bit too convenient!) The keys and letters light up, which is something I would love on my own keyboard. Lights won’t wear off. However, I am not willing to give up the ergonomic design for it!

I like being able to type without pain!

So the French keyboard is now set aside as a backup, available to use the next time we have a keyboard die on us. Which is more of a thing for me, since I’m the only one that can’t use the other back up keyboards we had!

The Re-Farmer

Morning flowers and not quite enough!

Look what I found blooming this morning!

This is the flower of an apple gourd. Usually, the flowers are some shade of yellow, leaning towards orange or white, but these are almost brown in colour!

While doing my morning rounds and tending the garden beds, I can’t push back on a feeling that everything is really “wrong” this year. Added to that, I’m seeing people in my zone 3 gardening groups posting pictures of how far along their gardens are right now, and they are WAY ahead of ours.

So I just went and looked at garden posts I made around this time, last year. I did a tour post on July 3 or last year, but mostly I compared to posts closer to 1 year ago today.

This year, our purple Kulli corn is starting to grow more enthusiastically, but last year’s purple Mountain Morado corn, which was also started indoors and transplanted, where producing silk by now.

Last year, we had bush beans starting to bloom, and the King Tut purple peas were blooming and growing pods, in spite of the heat. This year, even the first bush beans we planted with the Kulli corn are not yet blooming, and the peas are really just starting to actively grow. The King Tut peas we started indoors are much larger and climbing the chain link fence, and there are a few flowers on those.

Our summer squash is all pretty small, though some are starting to bloom, anyway. Last year, I posted a picture of our first yellow pattypan squash that was of a size we would normally harvest.

Last year at this time, the Crespo squash was looking as big as the Giant Pumpkin plants are this year, and just days later, things were starting to eat it, but this year’s Crespo squash is still quite small.

This year, our beets are just a couple of inches high. Last year, we had lush leaves we could harvest for salads, and had to use a row cover to keep the critters from eating it all.

This year, we have a tomato bed that was started indoors very early, and those determinate varieties are growing fruit. Of the tomatoes we started indoors at about the same time as what we started last year, the Yellow Pear are starting to bloom but nothing on the Chocolate Cherry yet. Last year, the cherry tomatoes already had sprays of fruit forming.

So it’s not just in my head. The garden really is far behind, when compared to our own garden last year. A summer of heat waves and drought, no less. This year, things that should have been planted before last frost didn’t, because everything was under water, and even things that needed to wait until after last frost date were a bit on the late side.

We’ve got rain and hotter temperatures coming up, with a possible thunderstorm tonight. Conditions that are actually better than at this time last year. I hope this means that what we’ve got will start catching up soon, though from the looks of the melon patch, I think we’ve lost most of them. Especially the Kaho watermelon, which has actually gotten smaller instead of bigger, and it looks like something ate a few of them.

At least most of the potatoes are finally coming up, though there are some blank spaces. As these are in groups, I think they ended up in water for too long and rotted before they could sprout.

There is little I can do about things. All I can do is be glad for what growth is happening, and pray we will have another long, mild fall to make up for the cold, wet spring.

We do the best we can.

In other things, while putting the kibble out, I’ve started to leave some in front of the pump shack door, and on the metal table in front of it (where the skunks can’t get at it). As I came around towards it, I saw the black and white kitten, the tuxedo and a tabby looking kitten, just as they say me and dashed into the pump shack. Which is encouraging, as I was concerned most of the litter didn’t make it. I also saw the tiny little calico, playing in the big branch pile, by itself.

Yesterday evening just kept getting hotter and hotter, but I decided to head out and see if I could get the new clothes line up. I was able to remove the tightener from the old line, then had to set up a step ladder at the post opposite the laundry platform, to be able to reach the pulley. Then I walked both ends of the line back to the laundry platform.

Except… not.

100 feet was not enough.

I got to about 10 feet short of the post. Which means I’m about 20 feet short in clothes line.

I don’t want to start splicing ends, so I’m just going to get another 150 feet. They sell them in 50 ft rolls that are still attached to each other. I’ll get 3 rolls and should have roughly 30 ft extra. Plus I’ll have a spare 100 ft of clothes line. I don’t mind having extra. I’m sure we’ll find a use for it at some point.

I was also able to finally undo and re-wrap the excess cable from our StarLink dish. When my brother helped install it, there was still a lot of snow on the ground, so he just quickly wrapped up the excess and used zip ties with screw holding heads (I forget the proper name for them) to hold it all together against the outside wall. It was pretty tangled and messed up. I finally picked up more of those zip ties. After removing what my brother used, I re-wrapped the cable nice and neat, making sure there was slack available in strategic places, just in case. Since I didn’t want to leave holes in the wall, I use the same number of zip ties that my brother did, then screwed them into the same holes as before.

It looks much better now!

Unfortunately, in the few minutes it took me to do that, I was just baking! The hottest part of the day has been hitting well after 6pm.

Keeping that in mind, I tried to go to bed early last night, so that I could get up much earlier and get things done before things got too hot.

Instead, I ended up having a sleepless night with all sorts of distractions, issues, and just plain not being able to fall asleep.

Which means that right now, when I should be doing things outside, I’m sitting here typing, and trying not to fall asleep on my keyboard. I’m feeling to tired, I actually feel ill.


Well, at least I got some things done this morning, but right now, I’m feeling pretty useless.

We’ll see what I manage to get done before the thunderstorms start. If they even hit us at all, rather than going around like the often do!

The Re-Farmer

Soil tests three and four

Well, I finally got around to doing two more soil tests.

You can read how the first two tests went, here, here, here and here. (Links will open in new tabs)

One of the areas I tested was the soil under where we planted potatoes last year. The other sample was from the northwest corner of the garden area, where we will be planting blocks of corn and sunflowers, and where no one has ever tried to grow anything before.

Here is the potato bed soil. We tried the Ruth Stout method of simply putting the potatoes on the ground and topping it with a thick layer of mulch. Straw mulch, in our case, because that’s what we had. In the fall, I had removed the mulch to find the potatoes, turning the soil a bit in the process, then put the mulch back again. Though I’d done nothing to the ground other than put mulch on it, the soil was quite soft and easy to dig into to get the potatoes. It was still very soft when I dug down to get my sample.

As with the other tests, the soil is very alkaline. That green is darker than the darkest green on the scale, which is a pH of 7.5. Like all the other soil samples, our pH is probably 8.

The orange is potash (potassium), and the blue is phosphorus. Both tested at about the medium range; almost, but not quite dark enough to rate a “high”.

The purple is nitrogen, which is as low as it goes!!

Now for the soil that has had no amendments of any kind.

This area gets very hot, with only a couple of hours of shade at sunrise. There is more grass and green at the south end of this area, but in the north corner, even weeds have a hard time growing.

I think we can see why!

As with the other samples, the soil is very alkaline. There is some potash (the colours appear darker in the photo than in real life), but basically nothing for phosphorus (blue cap) and nitrogen (purple cap)! And we’re going to be growing corn there!

Have I mentioned how glad I am we were able to buy so much garden soil?

I think I’ll be mentioning it more than a few times, over the summer! 😀

The Re-Farmer


As we work on clearing, cleaning and reclaiming the yard and planting our first garden beds, I’ve been keeping a close eye on details to keep in mind for the future. Things that will help us decide what needs to be done next, what to change or what to keep the same.

This morning, I found myself making a lot of comparisons.

The cutest one is the cucamelons.

This is the largest one that is developing, with my fingers giving an idea of just show small these are!

Isn’t that just the cutest thing? 😀 This is the first one big enough to start seeing the patterns developing.

The trellis I made for these is just cotton yarn. It is working very well, except for on thing.

The cats.

When I am out there and the boys come over for some attention, they will plow their way through the trellis, pulling tendrils off in the process, then look at me all confused over why I’m flipping out at them. 😀 They also try to lean and rub against the strands of yarn, only to flop over onto the plants. !!!

We already know that this location doesn’t have enough sun for cucamelons. If we grow them in the future, they will be planted somewhere with full sun. Our original intention was to plant them against the chain link fence for them to climb, and the cats are showing us exactly why that’s a very good idea! If not there, then we will have to make sure to have trellises that are sturdier, with strands much closer together. Not because the cucamelons themselves need it, but because of the cats!

Here is another comparison. These two squash plants, with the mottled leaves.

They look pretty much like the same kind of plant, don’t they?

Now look at the developing squash.

They’re completely different!

I’m looking forward to being able to start harvesting these. My favourite way to eat them is raw, with dip. No need for anything else, when they’re at just the right stage. 🙂

It was looking at the chokecherry trees that I am really seeing what a difference even minor changes in conditions makes.

This first one is at the south side of the garden where the squash beds are.

This one gets sun in the mornings, but for most of the day, it is shaded by spruce and maple trees to the South and West of it. It is not crowded by other trees. It has quite a lot of berries that are looking big and juicy (well… as much as chokecherries can be! 😉 ). Even last year, during the drought, it had larger berries. While I do not specifically water this tree, I do sometimes water the little patch of flowers and raspberries on one side of it, and the black current bush (my sister confirmed what it was for me) on the other side, so it does get extra water from that. While is has larger berries, it also ripens later. As you can see, the berries are still very much on the red side of things.

This next one is the chokecherry tree that is engulfed by lilacs.

This one gets full sun for most of the day, though it does get slightly shaded at the end of the day, by the trees my mother left to grow after she moved the raspberries they’d self-sown in between, years ago. This whole area gets quite dry, and we do not make any effort to try and water anything here.

The berries themselves are noticeably smaller than in the previous tree, and there are less of them, but they are also ripening faster.

Then there is this tree, right nearby.

This is the top of a young, small tree that was self-sown and allowed to grow (rather than get mowed over, like all the other saplings) in a grassy band between the old garden area (with the row of trees mentioned previously) and the lilac hedge. It might get some shade towards the end of the day, but otherwise gets full sun. Our first summer here, it did not produce fruit yet, and I wasn’t even completely sure what kind of tree it was. Our second summer, it had a few berries. This year, it has matured enough to produce quite a lot of berries. With full sun most of the day, not at all crowded, and little moisture, the berries are still not as big as the ones closer to the house, but the clusters are dense and ripening quickly.

You can see how this tree is situated in the background of the next photo, below. This next chokecherry is also among the lilacs, but on the edge of the hedge, not in the middle of them.

Here, it gets no shade at all. It has lots of berries that are already ripe. As you can see, though, some of the leaves are turning yellow. Only a few branches are like this, not all of them. It’s not stopping them from heavily fruiting! Like the other two along this side of the old garden, the berries are not as large as the trees nearer the house.

This next one was a surprise find, along with the Saskatoon berries. This area had been full of spirea that I had pulled up. It’s starting to grow back, so I’ll have to do it again, as pulling them up has been a good thing for other trees. The Saskatoons thrived this summer, and we discovered another chokecherry tree among them.

This area is under spruce trees, both living and dead, getting very little sun. In the above photo are the berries on the North side of the tree, where it gets even less sun. As you can see, they are just turning from green to red here.

This next photo is of the same tree, but on the South side.

That little bit more sunlight sure makes a noticeable difference in how fast they ripen!

Again, while I have not really been watering these trees, they are near the horseradish, and with the spirea taken out, wildflowers have come up and I’ve been watering those. So they will have benefited a bit from that, too. Mostly, though, being under the spruces as they are, they don’t get the full heat of the day, so the soil doesn’t dry out after a rainfall as quickly, either.

Then there is this one…

That’s a chokecherry in the middle of the photo. I had cleared a path to the junk pile you can see part of, to try and find useful pieces of wood in it, but that’s as far as I got so far. The tree itself is not crowded by other, large trees, and is shaded only in the morning hours. It’s surrounded by spirea and thistles, so we can’t get at it right now, but it appears to be just loaded with ripe chokecherries.

Finally, there is this one.

This is the top of a chokecherry tree among the cherries. I can get close to it, but not enough to be able to harvest it until I clear away the cherries around it; mostly cherries that had been killed off by last year’s horrible spring, and the bits that are now growing up from the bases. They create a formidable barrier!

This tree also gets shade in the morning hours only. Our last two summers, I don’t recall seeing any flowers or berries at all. Last summer, I’d cleared away the old wood pile, which turned out to be a much, much larger job than I expected. You can read about it in this series of posts (all links should open in new tabs, so you won’t lose your place!); parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

Did I mention it turned out to be a really huge job?


So while there is still lots to clean up to work our way into the spruce grove, what has been done so far made a big difference. I’m thinking that, had the cherries not been so damaged by the previous spring conditions, they would have improved, too. Mind you, the one cherry tree I kept because it managed to actually produce a few berries, and is not at all crowded, did not produce even a blossom this year.

It’s amazing how the same type of tree, while not really all that far apart from each other, are so different based on even minor changes in sun, shade, moisture, etc. When it comes time for us to plant more food trees, the differences among these chokecherry trees is providing us with a lot of information.

Comparisons can be very useful!

The Re-Farmer

My new toy

After bringing my mother home from the hospital yesterday (I called her this morning and she is doing well today, and did not have any episodes during the night), I’d gone to the hardware store in her town to pick up the paint we needed to finish the replacement door for the sun room.

I also got myself a new toy.

Since I am cutting so many slices from the lilac wood, and plan to do more with maple and cherry that I’ve set aside. I even have a couple more branches of lilac waiting outside, so I decided it was worth the splurge. With the kittens in the basement, I’m not as comfortable using loud power tools. I have hand saws that are done the job, but when I saw this saw – and its affordable price – I went for it.

This is a fine toothed, fine bladed pull saw. I hoped that it would cut more smoothly than the saws I was already using, so of course I had to test it out.

On the left are the round slices I’d cut using a regular carpenter saw, which is what I had that worked the best at the time. To the right are slices I cut using the new saw, in the miter box at 45 degrees. None of these have been sanded.

It’s hard to see, but the cut edges with the new saw are smoother than the other ones. They also didn’t leave that jagged edge that sometimes happens at the very end of a cut. The larger saw also left occasional black marks that need to be sanded away. So, right off the top, the new saw will save me on sand paper. I also splurged on sheets of sand paper in grits starting at 50, up to 220. The slices I cut with the old saw needed that 50 grit, but the new slices don’t need to be started with such coarse sandpaper.

There were a couple of other benefits I noticed. The sawing itself is quieter, which means less noise to disturb the babies nearby. It cuts faster, and with less vibration, so things are not being shaken off the shelf on the work table quite as much. 😀

The blade is so much thinner, there is less loss of wood as sawdust, and it’s easier to cut thinner pieces. However, this also means the blade bends more easily. Since it’s shorter than the other saw, I had to take greater care while sawing in the miter box, as the blade would sometimes bend and hit the inside of the miter box rather than go through the slot. After a while, because the piece of wood I was working on was wonky in shape, I started to use the miter box just to start a cut, then take it out and hold it in my hand to finish the cut. After a while, I didn’t even do that, and just eyeballed the angle and started it without a guide. I don’t know that I would have been able to do that with the other saw. Previously, I’d used the vice to hold the wood, but this branch had too many bends in it for the vice to be able to grip it.

As before, I use the last 3 1/2 inches of the branch to make lengthwise cuts in the miter box, and found an unexpected problem. Cutting the wood lengthwise resulted in sawdust clogging the teeth very quickly. I kept having to pull the blade out, remove the sawdust in the teeth, then make a few more passes before I had to do it again. So while cross cutting went faster than when using the other saw, cutting lengthwise took longer.

Of the branch I brought downstairs, I’ve now cut the two thickest sections into pieces. There are more smaller branches I’d taken off to work on later. I’m still thinking of what to make with the pieces I’ve already cut, but the smaller pieces will be of a size and weight suitable for earrings, so I know I will be making at least a few of those.

My new toy will make it much faster and smoother to cut the pieces to size. I hadn’t planned on getting a new saw, just for this project, but now that I have, I’m already glad I did. Definitely worth it.

The Re-Farmer

Another taste test, for comparison

For those new to this blog (welcome! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂 ) we have made a couple of attempts at making mead. If you want to read more about how that went, you can visit here for the first attempt, and here for the second. Both links are for bottling day, but have links to the entire process as well.

Today, I decided to open a bottle of each batch to compare them. Both of these bottles were kept in the fridge, so no additional fermentation would happen.

Both meads are very clear (any cloudiness in the photo is of condensation on the outside of the bottles), but the one on the left, bottled 6 months ago, has sediment – lees – on the bottom. All the bottles from this batch do. This means that it, potentially, could continue to ferment. Given that these are corked bottles, we don’t want that. There is a potential for bottles to explode, which is why they are being kept cold.

Mead Baby 2.0, bottled almost 2 months ago, is clear on the bottom.

The older mead is lighter in colour, too. This is likely because the honey to water ratio was lower in this batch, which was made in a 5 gallon carboy, while Mead Baby 2.0 was a 1 gallon batch. We had a 5 kilo bucket of honey for the first batch; about 11 pounds. We probably should have added 15 pounds of honey for the big carboy, but didn’t have that much. For the 1 gallon batch, we weighed out 3 pounds of honey for it.

I decided to take a hydrometer reading of both. I still don’t quite understand what it’s telling me, though the fact that these were both refrigerator cold would likely have affected the reading, too.

In pouring the mead into the test cylinder to get a reading, both meads were effervescent, bubbling up as though lightly carbonated. By the time I poured the tested mead into glasses, though, there was no carbonation left.

My hydrometer has 3 readings on it, and part of my confusion is that the scales on the hydrometer don’t match what’s on the printout it came with.

When we bottled the first batch, the Potential Alcohol by Volume reading was at only 1%. Today, it’s at 4%, which put the specific gravity reading was 1.032, and the Balling/Brix reading at 8. (My hydrometer says Balling, the printout says Brix)

Mead Baby 2.0 had an AVB reading of 8% on bottling day, and today it’s at…


Specific gravity is at 1.062 and Balling at 15.

I should probably test them again after they reach room temperature, but… I just don’t feel like it. LOL Still, the fact that the reading changed for one, but not the other… it might mean fermentation is still happening, albeit very slowly.

So how do they taste?

The first batch has a light, almost crisp flavour and an aftertaste that I would definitely attribute to our using bread yeast. Also, it doesn’t taste like something with 4% AVB. I would think it’s closer to that 1% when we bottled it.

I don’t really like it.

Mead Baby 2.0 is REALLY sweet, almost syrupy, and much smoother. It tastes a lot like Port.

I like it better than the first batch, but… not by much.

Keep in mind, though, I don’t really like alcohol in the first place. I’m far more interested in the making of it, than the drinking of it. 😀

The flavours should continue to change with time, however. There are 2 bottles of Mead Baby 2.0 in the root cellar. One will be opened at 6 months, the other at 12 months, so I will likely do another comparison, then.

The next time we get a bucket of honey, we plan to make a batch using fruit. Hopefully, that will help resolve some of the fermentation problems we’ve had.

The Re-Farmer

A new path, and comparisons

What a lovely day today!

Okay, according to The Weather Network, it’s -17C/1F with a wind chill of -27C/-16F, but I’ve been outside for the past while, in full sun and sheltered from the wind, and it was feeling downright tropical out there! Unlike yesterday, this morning I had all sorts of cats to greet me while I did my rounds.

On the down side, when I got to the van to head into town, I discovered a frozen present on the roof, all down the side door of my van, and even on the ground, from a cat in the rafters. I saw Nicky the Nose in there earlier, when I double checked to make sure the van was plugged in. Nasty bugger shat all over our van!

Ah, well. I meant to get a car wash before taking it in to get the brakes done, anyhow. :-/

Heading to town today, we were glad to find the roads had been plowed of drifts – though my daughter did have to fight one to open the gate! The high winds we’ve been having have really hard packed the snow. It was still blowing a lot on the roads, coming almost directly from the north, but here at home, we have trees, and the house itself, blocking most of the north winds. There’s just that one gap between the maple and spruce groves that acts as quite the funnel!

Continue reading

Warming, and comparisons

The temperature outside is not the only thing was was warming up today. This is what I saw when I looked out our bathroom window this morning.

Pretty sure that’s Big Jim in the empty water bowl. 😀

Also, they are absolutely shredding the piece of Styrofoam I’ve got partially holding up their cat cave roof! 😀

We’ve taken advantage of the warming temperatures with a quick trip into the city last night, and a trip to finally do our bigger shopping today. We’re skipping our usual monthly Costco shop this month, because of how things worked out for the holidays, but it was still worth driving into the city to get at least a modestly large shopping trip in.

Among the things we picked up today was 5 large bags of kibble for the outside cats. Going to the city to buy those alone saved us about $50-$75, if we’d bought it locally. The price range is because the stores are often out of stock of the lower priced varieties. The savings in cat food alone more than makes up for the cost of gas to drive to the city.

I had to buy a memory card. A 16 Gig card in the city cost me just under $16. A comparable card locally? Almost $25.

So it was worth the drive in, even as messy as it was out there. We were above freezing today, and everything was melting like crazy on the roads. It’s going to cool down again, starting tomorrow, so I’m glad to get the hours of driving out of the way, before everything freezes up again. Temperatures are expected to drop again, starting tomorrow, though not the deep freeze we recently had.

It should be interesting to see how the deep freeze will affect our electricity bill. Our billing cycle is mid-month, so there is a calendar overlap. Our first bill, just over a year ago, was over $300, going up almost $100 each cycle over the next few months, topping out at just under $600. During this time, the hot water tank had finally died and we were heating water every day for washing. Comparing the costs of our energy usage a year later, the bill only went up about $25 in the same time period. It should be interesting to compare the time period after we got the new hot water tank, and were no longer boiling water for hours, every day!

The Re-Farmer

A visible difference

While walking around the maple grove with my daughter (and finding mushrooms growing on trees!  Will post those later…), I found myself looking at the lonely little Colorado Blue Spruce near the main garden.

Here is how things looked about a month and a half ago.

This first picture was taken at the very end of June.


On the left, you can see three sad looking trees, grouped together.

This next photo was taken on July 2.


I cut away two of the three trees, and pruned the dead branches on the remaining one, hoping it would survive, and maybe even thrive.

Well, this is how it looks now.

As you can see, the new growth filled in vigorously!

It’s even looking blue. 😀

Here’s a closer look at one of the branches.

Here, you can really see the older, greener, needles contrasted with the new, bluer, growth.

It is already becoming a happy little tree, instead of a sad little tree. 😀

This is exactly what I was hoping to see – and faster than I expected!

This is a tree with the potential to grow 65 ft tall, with a width from 10-20 ft, though I have read they can reach 135ft high and 30 ft wide. They can grow anywhere from 12 – 24 inches in a single growing season.  This is a tree that needs space!  It’s unfortunate that the three of them had been planted so close together.  There are others that I hope I can clear up around and salvage.  This one, at least, might actually make it!

This makes me happy. 🙂

The Re-Farmer


I must admit, I’ve been very spoiled for the last decade or so.  Today was one of those days of realization.


I went shopping for Easter.

When we were living in the city, it was such a simple thing to run out to the grocery store.  We’d found stores that carried things, or varieties of things, no one else did. All of them were relatively close. By far my favorite grocery store was one I went to to get those things I’ve never seen carried anywhere else. Like Knorr bouillon cubes. A common enough item, normally – so long as all I want is beef, chicken or vegetable. This store? They had the cubes in mushroom, basil and garlic, fish stock, and more. When I made meals in a jar, I could include cubes in a mix and match of flavours.  I can’t even find those at the Knorr website!


stock photo

Then there were the salts. Such a variety! Smoked salt, Persian Blue, Hawaiian sea salt, red wine, black sea salt, French Grey, Fleur de Sel…

Today, we actually found both Fleur de Sel and smoked salt – and the price tags on them were rather shocking!

This particular favorite grocery store specialized in European imports – mostly Italian and Polish (the only place I could find a Polish cream fudge). They had the biggest selection of olive oils and pastas in the entire city – vinegars, too, I’m sure – and were voted best deli, year after year.

Then there where the cheeses. Oh, so many varieties of cheese out there! And I’m talking about just in a regular grocery store, never mind places that specialized in them.

In our Easter baskets, I would try to include some new or different cheese, at least 2 types of salt, tiny bottles of different kinds of fancy olive oil, infused vinegar, and even try different kinds of stuffed green olives – though our favorite turned out to be dried and salted black olives.  When I wasn’t able to bake bread for our basket, my favourite grocery store had a number of wonderful varieties, baked in their own traditional Italian wood fired oven.  I just had to make sure to be there shortly after they opened, because by noon, their daily bread inventory was decimated.

There was just so many places we could go to, with so many regional and ethnic varieties or foods available, it was awesome to try new things, any time we could afford a little extra.

My older daughter and I were chatting recently about this change in availability, and the surprising things we found ourselves missing. She mentioned that for some reason, she’s suddenly started to crave century eggs, of all things.

Trying to shop for our Easter basket was a good illustration of how much things have changed.

We could have gone to our usual grocery store, a 15 minute drive away. We’d have a choice of 2 stores in this town. One of them is a Sobeys, so it’s got most of the same inventory a city store would have, which isn’t too bad. Selection is limited due to the relatively small size of the store. The other grocery store is part of a local group of grocers, so while it’s even smaller and has less variety of some things, it also carries things the big store never will, but are more desirable for living in this area.

Neither are places we’ll be able to find fig infused white balsamic vinegar.

For our Easter basket, I liked to include extra special things. So we didn’t just include salt. We would have a unique salt; usually two different kinds.  There would be a type of cheese we hadn’t tried before, or one we would get only for special events.  One or two types of olives would be included.  Even the horseradish paste was available in a variety of types.

For our first Easter after our move, I knew we weren’t going to be able to match our usual baskets, but I still wanted to find some special things.

Which we weren’t going to find at our usual grocery store.

I knew I wasn’t going to find it in the next nearest town, where my mother lives.  They have even less variety in the one grocery store.

We could probably have found all these things in one of the many regional or ethnic grocery stores in the city, but did I really want to drive the hour and a half to one of the stores I found online, hoping it would have what I wanted?  No, I did not.

In the end, we decided to try the town I’d been taking my mother to the hospital to, all last week.  I’d helped my mom do some shopping there on the last day we went in, but I was focused on her, not the stores, so I didn’t notice too much about how they were.  Still, one of them looked big enough that I thought we’d find some interesting things.

Which meant a 40 minute drive to go grocery shopping.

So we made a day of it, taking some time to explore the main drive and check out some shops.  Which was good, because we found one really awesome place we’ll be coming back to, for sure.  When we have money. 😀

We also got to see a film crew turning a street corner into a Christmas scene.  Looks like a movie production was taking advantage of some unique architecture.  No clue what movie was being worked on.

When we did start on the actual grocery shopping, there was nothing there I couldn’t have found in the town nearer to us.  In fact, they had even less – except for a surprisingly large section dedicated to products imported from the UK.  Which was cool, because we found some flying saucer candy.  I haven’t seen those in at least 15 years!

So we went to the second grocery store.  While we got a couple more things, the selection there was even more sparse.

It wasn’t until after we got home and I started getting ready to make the pickled pink eggs that I realized I was out of an ingredient I needed, which meant we ended up going out to the closest town, after all.

What used to be such a simple thing now requires significant amounts of driving, with not much chance of finding what I actually want.

Now, none of this is actually essential in general, and certainly not for our Easter basket.  It doesn’t need to be fancy.  The basket isn’t as important as what it is for, and what the contents symbolize.  Plain table salt is just as acceptable as any other kinds.  So is any easy to find cheese.  Olives, olive oil and vinegar are our own additions, not traditional.  They aren’t necessary at all.  We’ve just become used to being able to do more, simply because we could.

Not so much anymore.

Now, if we want to have the same things, we have to plan on a day trip to the city and be prepared to drive to several different stores – once we find them, in the first place!  There is no equivalent to our favourite grocery store out there at all – at least not all in one place.  From what I’ve been able to find online, we’d have to visit at least 2 different places, and they are at almost opposite ends of the city.

As much as I enjoy things like (affordable!) fancy salt or le pleine lune cheese, they’re not worth all that extra time, gas or money.

And so, we will do without.

Even when it was easy to get these lovely little treats, I appreciated the fact that we could get them at all.  After all, I did grow up here in the sticks, when even less was available locally than now.

Still, I will readily admit, I was spoiled by the availability in the city.

I don’t know that I can say that I miss it, exactly.  I certainly do, but as the luxuries they were, purchased only when we had a bit of room in the budget.  They were never every day things.

I can definitely say that now, when we do find some of this stuff, I appreciate it even more.

The Re-Farmer