Sunday, February 28, 2010

Things to do at the Jarvis House when you are snowed in!

These are signal flags from the historic lightship, the Nantucket.  On the right are the numbers, and on the left are the letters.  They needed some hemming and repairs for the return of the ship to Boston later on in the month.

A week before the snow started, 

I washed them and 
dried them outside.

I used the Charles Chapman book, Piloting Seamanship and Small Boat Handling, 1963, to identify the flags,
and then checked off the flags on a printout from the Internet.
I replaced and made uniform the lines and clips and wooden toggles, some of which
I cut from dowels and sanded, then
hot glued and hand sewed to the lines.
I reinforced this Coast Guard flag, but kept the original ragged edge inside the mended portion.

 The lines were threaded through the bindings and reinforced at each end with hand sewing.  Fortunately I had a spool of very strong thread.  Wind can really do a destructive number on ships' flags.
While I was repairing signal flags I alternated with the repairs to items that I am bringing to the Greenlawn-Centerport antiques Exhibit.  Here are drawers to a really nice chest.
I rewired and polished brass vintage desk lamps, and 
 primed and re-painted wrought iron garden pot holders, and

plant stands, which I painted white later.
With so much snow all around the garden, I had to sweep it away so that the winder birds could get at food.

I cube whole wheat bread loaves, and
fill up the suet baskets and seed holders.
This silly arrangement actually works very well.  It is the wrought iron bottom from my metal birdbath, and a large plastic planter dish.  The seeds are kept off the ground and the Cardinals and squirrels love to sit inside the dish and stuff themselves.
Seasonal creeks and ponds appear in the Jarvis House Garden. 
In the mud room several pairs of boots, which I got at a tag sale, are alternated as they dry.  The corn broom is really perfect for sweeping off the snow from the back stone steps, and for bopping the 100 year old boxwoods, releasing them from the unusually heavy snow.
Sorry this was so long, but a lot has been going on around here.  The groundhog was right.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine's Day Chocolate Vegan Cake

This is a wonderfully rich chocolate cake recipe, that was in a local health food store handout.  It is a vegan chocolate cake, and tastes like it should be outlawed!
If your Valentine loves chocolate try this out.  The ingredients are simple, and the cake bakes well in a spring form pan.
The first dry ingredient is  2 1/2 cups of unbleached flour.  I didn't even sift the flour and the cake still came out very fluffy and light.
Next add 2 cups of granulated sugar.  ( I know that this sounds like a lot, but I just spent 1 1/2 hours shoveling the snow from the apron of my driveway!)
 Add 1 teaspoon Sea Salt,
then 1 1/2 teaspoons of Baking Powder.
Add to the dry ingredients 2/3 cup Cocoa.
 Blend dry ingredients until the mixture is a light tan.
 Make two large wells and two smaller wells in the dry ingredients.
Add 2 cups water to one well, and
2/3 cup Canola oil to another well.
Add 2 teaspoons of Vanilla to a small well, and 
2 teaspoons white Vinegar to the last small well.
When the wells are filled filled,
blend all ingredients into a smooth rich chocolate batter, and brush the inside of a spring form pan with the Canola oil.
 Bake in a 350F degree oven for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  This is a loose batter, so I placed a baking sheet under the pan in case it leaked out a bit.  This did not affect the cake.
After the cake has cooled, remove the spring form pan. and 
place a peper plate on top and flip over the cake to remove the center section of the pan.  
Then flip it back on to a cake plate with a doily, and using a plastic doily stencil, sift confectioners sugar on top.
Nothing beats this cake for taste and ease of baking.  It doesn't even need icing.  You could add whipped cream if you have to, but I prefer it just this way.
Since I love a good cup of tea with desert, I looked for something that would reflect the Valentine spirit.  This strawberry cup was the closest that I could come. 
The mark  on the bottom of the cup and saucer reads, "Strawberry  Fruit Garden collection, Roy Kirkham, fine bone china, England, 1990."

Happy Valentine's Day to all.

Vegan Chocolate Cake2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2/3 cup cocoa

2 cups water
2/3 cup Canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons vinegar

Bake a 350F degrees for about 40 minutes in a spring form pan.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Warmth of a Wood Fire

This is the wood burning stove that has been in the Jarvis House for many years.
I get a lot of complaints about the ugliness of this stove, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  After thirty years, it works perfectly.  The logs can be loaded from the side and the pull out ash tray is convenient too.
Out in the way back of the Jarvis garden I have been sorting fallen limbs and twigs.
  About a year ago I started separating limbs that had a diameter too large for my chipper to handle. I thought that my adult kids could cut these up with chain saws and use them in their stoves.
After reorganizing my small garage barn, I needed to re-position my vice so that my car wouldn't hit it as I pulled in and out of the building.  This is the first year that I have been able to put my car into a garage, and I wasn't good at doing that.  My friend Rich helped me attach it to the side of the workbench, well out the way.  Suddenly I could use a bow saw to cut up these limbs!
I found a very small electric chain saw at a sale that had never been assembled. My son, Kevin,  and my friend Rich got it together and warned me about the dangers of using a chain saw.  I wear protective goggles and gloves when I use it, and only on the largest diameter limbs, otherwise I use the bow saw.
 Since the limbs have been outside for a while, they are brittle and dry.  I can snap some of them between this forked tree avoiding cutting them at all!  A little leverage works well.
 I cover my wood piles and log rings with tarps 
weighted down by old window sash weights.  The wind has been really fierce this winter and the weights have worked to keep the wood covered and dry.
Even on the coldest days, you can pick up smaller twigs that have blown down from the garden's old trees. I pile them on a  patio table that has a round slate top, then I 
snap them into smaller pieces and store them in a covered garbage pail near the log rings.
Three of the most important tools that I have, when I am sawing wood in the barn, are two real hair brooms, one push broom and one fox tail broom, and a metal dust pan.  I think that these are probably 30 or 40 years old each.  They work perfectly and pick up the chips from the chain saw and the sawdust too.  I'll match these up to any synthetic and plastic brooms for excellence, and they last longer.  Grab them if you see them at a garage sale.  
I use old oriental carpets to protect the floors, and a canvas carrier to bring in twigs.  Yes that is a Chinese fishbowl that I put kindling and egg carton in to start the fires.
Henry Ford said:

“Chop your own wood, and it will warm you twice.”

when you pile it into your wheelbarrow,
and bring it in from the way back, 
when you bring it into your barn, or stack it in a log ring or wood rick, and just the idea of looking at a fireplace or snuggling up to the stove, even an ugly one, wood warms you.
  The best warmth is when you get your regular fuel bill from the natural gas company and it isn't quite as high as you thought it might be, and how you feel independent just in case of an ice storm or power outage which can happen even in suburbia.
I have been very careful about having my stove installation certified by an inspector and  I have my stove pipes and chimney cleaned out regularly.  When things were made in the good old USA, they were made to last and they worked well.  I just do not have the time or the money to buy what is now made out of country.  I say the money, because newer tools just don't last very long.  I hope that if I take care of my chain saw it might go for a while, I know that the brooms and the wheel barrow will be around a lot longer than that!