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Archive for the ‘stuff we do’ Category

Curiosity got the better of me and I set aside the nuts from the black walnuts I’d husked in the ink making process. While I know the nutmeats of the black walnut are edible, I’d never tried them. Considering how expensive all nuts are getting, it seemed worthwhile to see if they any good since they are easy to get for free. (or at least for the time you have to put into getting the actual nuts) I had already collected and stripped them, for the ink, so a chunk of the work was already finished.wanuts1

While the husks were soaking, the stripped nuts were laid out on cardboard to dry and cure. They sat for a bit over a month and then I spent some time each day over the next week or so cracking them and collecting the nutmeats.

It is not a fast process and the larger ones were much easier to get the meat out of than the smaller but I ended up with a total of about 4 cups. blkwalnutmeats1.jpg

While I read that you can do a light brine soak to soften their flavour, I decided to go ahead and use them in their natural state. Since the idea was to see if we liked the taste, it only made sense to experience it in it’s unaltered state.

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I used a Southern recipe for a Black Walnut cake and went with cream cheese icing. It turned out well but it also turns out that we don’t like the taste of black walnuts! Even my father, who can always be depended on to eat even the worst of my baking failures, wasn’t much interested. My mother almost spit out the one bit she did try and said the taste reminded her of gasoline. I…have to agree with her somewhat. There is a happy ending however since the friend who gave me the walnuts to begin with did like it and was happy to take away free cake.

 

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We’ve been continuing to add to the garden, even if I haven’t been all that good about posting the details. One of the major additions was a group of hardy kiwi plants two years ago. They are gendered so we have six females and two males. (one male can pollinate over ten females) All have settled in and are growing, with several doing better than others. They flower and fruit on the second year wood, so we did see a small number of flowers and the berries set in late May. kiwi1

The only problem was that we had no idea when they would ripen or what they would look like when they did. As a result, I spent nearly four months doing regular squeeze checks for ripeness until they turned in mid-September. They were well worth the wait and were sweet and delicious. Easily the best kiwi I’ve ever had.kiwi1kiwi2

They are shade tolerant so we’ve given them the west run of the south fence. The thing with the kiwis is that they are quite vigorous growers and you have to be pretty severe with the pruning, if you want them to maintain a shape. I’d like that fence to be as covered as possible so we attached some support grids to the fence and have been attempting to espalier them along it. It’s going well, but each year I’ve ended up with a chunk of pruned off twigs. Last year, I discovered that the trimmed bits are capable of rooting so this year I made a serious attempt at propagation. I’ve got around 10 survivors in gender marked pots. The plan right now is for me to bury the pots for the winter and we’ll see if any make it. If it works, we’ll finish the west fence and probably add them along the east run as well since the fruits are so tasty. I’m also hoping to be able to share with friends and family.kiwi1

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This may not look like much but it’s the start of making a new batch of walnut ink. I made the last one around 10 years ago and it ran out this year. It’s not a complicated process. I just took the hulls off a whole lot of walnuts and added water. You have to take the time to remove the nuts because if you don’t squirrels will chew into the tub to get them. (yes, I did learn that one the hard way) It’ll soak for a few weeks. Then I’ll strain it and ditch the hulls. After that, it’s just a matter of letting it evaporate to concentrate it down. The last batch never completely hardened, but was a very thick sludge, right to the point where it ran out.

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The warm brown tones of the finished ink are a colour range I’ve found it to be very useful for both writing as well as antiquing paper and fabric. To keep it that way I’ll have to be careful not to expose it to iron since that will oxidize it and turn it black.

This is a much larger amount than I’ve ever tried so there might even be enough to try some light fabric dying, but we’ll see how much is left after the straining.

Due to the number of nuts I ended up with, I’m also going to see how they are to eat. The nuts have been washed and are spread out upstairs to dry and cure for another couple of weeks and then I’ll get cracking!

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One of the things I did in the past year was upgrade to a Nikon slr camera. I’m still figuring out all it can do but it’s already much easier to work with than my old point-and-click.

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Pretty much all I do is one-of-a-kind so I try to make sure to photograph everything before it gets put out for sale. That is another thing I have to catch up on for this year. At least I did shoot all my 2016 jewellery, so while this necklace has found a home, I have a record. The antique pocket watch piece had such a beautiful, natural oxidation that all I did was add the co-coordinating drop that I found in the salvaged stash and add a chain. I have to wonder if it’s original watch had fallen into salt water and then just got left for a decade or two. I’d love to know more about the stories of the pieces I find, but they mostly stay mysteries!

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IMG_6723Working with the stuffies, I’m always on the hunt for quality pieces in good condition. At times, I come across known characters that qualify. The problem with using them is they are often a bit too identifiable for just parts. Because of this, I’ll often just leave them behind, but it’d hard to resist when I come across a great one in pristine condition. When I got my hands on a group of vintage trophy supplies, I was able to try an idea I’d had for a while. I don’t agree with hunting for sport, so real trophies are a bit icky, but I did like the macabre humour of doing it with stuffed animal heads. Making them was fairly simple, I just took off the head, sewed the neck closed, to give it a more finished look, and altered the back slightly so it would sit properly against the plaque. Some even got engraved plates, if there was room. I’ve got a few others made so far, but Ernie is my favourite. As a child, I sympathized much more with Bert and had a few snickers at the thought of him finally snapping and Ernie ending up as TaxidErnie!

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IMG_6683A few years ago we put in a group of haskap berry bushes. They were sad little sticks when they went in but have done extremely well. We got our first good round of fruit this year and while they are not quite as sweet as blueberries, they can be swapped in for them in any baked good. (the photo is one I took just before picking this spring) Being so happy with them, we had added a few more this spring, but kept the numbers low since they can be a bit expensive. That’s why I was pleased to find a group of them in an end-of-season clearout for a local garden centre. We had been thinking about opening up a new bed for strawberries and finding enough haskaps, at a great price, to finish filling in the row means no more waiting to move them. There were enough to give us a final count of two dozen, and to run the length of the bed to the east of the house. So the strawberries will be shifted to their new bigger home, and we’ll have full rows of both for next year! (and I’ll have to find a few more recipes for using our crop)

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tentafterThis is the last of this group of altered paintings and was the one that I felt a bit bad about using. It is the strongest of the group and I think it might have been a students piece or study. I even did some googling of the signature, just in case they had gone on to become a known name, but nothing came up. At any rate, it had come into my hands and was fair game for being “improved”. My first thought had been to alter the people but decided the better option was to explain their situation a bit more. (and putting clothes on him would have made it far less funny) Now they have something to look at and the painting has much more of a narrative going on. It was also the hardest to match the brushwork style of, but I think I got very close. The reflections were especially challenging, but worked out. The colour mixing and paint texture also matched so well that the fact it was altered is surprising most of the people who’ve only seen it in this state. It’s acrylic on canvas, and nicely stretched, so I opted not to frame it but to simply go with the black wrap around the outside. Keeping it down to only it’s modest original size should make it easier for someone to find a spot for this bit of slightly creepy fun. (and that person might be me since I really do love how it turned out) tentbefore

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