Attending the Canadian Heritage Breeds Urban Farm Show (November 2014)


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chicken show

As you may know, Brian, Chayton and I are currently planning for, and preparing to get chickens this coming spring. We set up the coop last fall and are now spending the winter reading up on heritage breeds and sourcing out local breeders.

chicken show

chicken show

Last November, we headed to Red Deer, Alberta to attend the 2014 Annual Canadian Heritage Breeds Urban Farm Show. This is an annual three-day show and we were excited to attend and do a little hands-on research on chickens. The event included a heritage livestock display, a Fancy Pigeon and Racing Homer show, a trade show area, competitions, silent auction, children’s activities, Chicken John’s petting zoo, and a banquet and awards ceremony for those participating.

What is a heritage breed? According to the CHB website:

Giving a concrete definition of the term ‘heritage’ can be a difficult task. The broadest definition of a heritage breed of livestock is: a breed that was developed and used on farms, ranches and homesteads before the advent of modern industrial agriculture. With a few exceptions, they are breeds that thrive in outdoor situations, are able to forage for some of their own food and have a long reproductive lifespan. Our heritage breeds range in age from mere decades to several centuries of history, but common among them all is a unique adaptation to both the farms they come from and the farmers who keep them.

chicken showchicken show We ended up going on Sunday afternoon when things were starting to wind down but we were still able to view most of the chickens. We are just learning about heritage chickens and are amazed at the incredible diversity of the breeds. It was even more exciting seeing the birds ‘in real life’ rather than just in books. They were all so beautiful (some were quite comical) and I can see how collecting and raising heritage breeds can be both fun and addictive!

chicken show

chicken show

I took a lot of pictures and decided not worry about trying to document the names of each breed this time around (there were so many) but rather just enjoyed their beauty in the moment knowing that there would be plenty of time later to learn each of their breeds/names.

chicken showchicken show

Sadly, the pictures are taken through the cages but I hope they are enough to give you a taste of the wide variety of heritage breeds. At the show, the chickens were grouped by their size (small, medium and large) and then further grouped according to their breed.

chicken show

chicken show

We also saw ducks, geese and pigeons.

chicken showchicken show

chicken show

There was also an area at the back with birds for sale.

We really enjoyed attending the show and look forward to attending more shows in the future. We are now in the process of making the final choices and ordering our chicks for the spring. In just a few months, a matter of weeks, really, we will be starting our coop! In the meantime, these pictures are enough to enrich our research and learning about heritage breeds of chickens. I hope you enjoyed them, too.

chicken showchicken show


kale & wild rice casserole


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kale and wild rice casserole

I found this recipe on Tieghan’s Half Baked Harvest – Made With Love food blog a few months ago and wanted to share it with you. I had a fresh block of gruyere cheese in the refrigerator and wanted to cook something that would warm the tummy on a cold, dark winter evening. This kale and wild rice casserole was perfect and I will definitely add Tieghan’s recipe to our list of family favourites.

Kale and Wild Rice Casserole


  • 2 large bunches of Kale, leaves torn
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or veggie broth)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or canned coconut milk
  • 4 cups cooked wild rice
  • 1 1/2 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large sweet onions, sliced into thin rings
  • salt and pepper

kale and wild rice casserole


Grease a 2-3 quart casserole dish. Set aside.

Heat a very large skillet (the largest you have!) over medium-high heat. Add all of the torn kale to the skillet and add 1 cup of water. Cover the skillet and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the kale is wilted. Once the kale is wilted and all of the water has been absorbed, remove the kale from the skillet and set aside.

Return the skillet to medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When the skillet is hot, sprinkle in the mushrooms in a single layer. Don’t stir them! Let them sizzle until they have caramelized on the bottom, about 2 minutes. When the bottoms are caramelized, toss them once and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Continue to cook without stirring for about 5 minutes. Now add the butter to the skillet and cook until the butter begins to brown. Once the butter is browned reduce the heat and add the garlic, thyme and nutmeg and cook for about 10 seconds. Now add the kale back to the skillet with the mushrooms, garlic and spices and toss well.

Sprinkle the flour over the kale and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk and chicken broth, bring to a boil and cook 2-3 minutes or until there is a thick sauce. Add the cream and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the cooked wild rice. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Now wipe the skillet and add the olive oil, cook over medium-high heat. Add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.Continue to cook until the onions are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle half the cheese over the casserole and then add the onions and the remaining cheese. Bake the casserole for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the onions are crispy. Serve!

  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Total time: 50 minutes


Half Baked Harvest – Made With Love food blog

kale and wild rice casserole

here comes the chicken coop (a work in progress)


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August and September were busy months here at cabinorganic. It started with a phone call from Grandpa Danser. He was bringing the backhoe and ‘chicken coop’ over from Clive (about an hour away) that weekend. I was so excited! I had spent the last few years fantasizing about having our own chickens and was waiting for the right moment to start setting up the coop. This was definitely it. Yes, it was finally time to get moving!

The process actually started a few years ago when Grandpa Danser offered to pass along this sturdy shed to us to use as a chicken coop. We were happy to put it to good use but a few things kept us from getting started right away. The first was that I was pregnant and super busy working and commuting to the city everyday. Then, once Chayton was born, there was just no spare time to start new projects.

Until now. Suddenly, the time was right.


Grandma and Grandpa Danser arrived with the backhoe and trailer early one Autumn day after a long, slow ride to Pigeon Lake. Riding behind on the trailer was the shed. It needed a little work but I could already envision happy chickens moving in and making themselves right at home.


Grandpa parked the trailer in the yard and got straight to work with his backhoe, clearing a patch of land next to the greenhouse for the coop and leveling it.


We took down quite a few trees but many were already dead or dying so it was nice to clear them out. Both Grandpa and Brian spent a few weekends cutting up the trees with the chainsaw and burning the smaller branches on a giant burn pile. We now have a gigantic wood pile for winter fires.

working in the bush

I brought Chayton out everyday in his blue wagon to watch the action. He loved climbing on the piles of branches and crawling through the mud. He loved visiting with Grandma while watching Grandpa and dad work.

ChaytonHe also especially LOVED sitting in Grandpa’s backhoe.

Chayton and dad in backhoe

site for coop

Once the site was ready, Grandpa unloaded the shed. Then he and grandma spent a weekend carefully removing all of the slate shingles, re-papering the exterior walls, and then putting them back on again. This was a delicate and tedious job as the slates were very fragile and kept breaking. There were some shingles missing so whatever was left was used for the front and sides of the shed while the back was covered with tin. Grandpa also installed a ‘new’ (used) window- (a larger one that can open), put tin flashing around the bottom of the shed to keep predators out, and cut a pop hole for the chickens.

chicken coop

shedOnce the slate shingles were in place, Grandma carefully washed them in preparation for painting.

shedNext, Grandpa put in some posts for the chicken yard and later he and Brian began fastening some chain link fencing to it. The men also worked on the interior of the shed. Grandpa insulated the floor with styrofoam, laid plank flooring over that, and then put a layer of concrete over that for easy cleaning. The walls and ceiling were insulated and extra ventilation was built in.

shed interior

interior of shedHere’s Grandpa Danser hard at work and truly in his element. I love spending time with this creative and hard-working man.


shed interior

[There’s a side story here concerning the concrete floor: When I went out to check up on Grandpa, he proudly opened the door to show me a perfectly freshly-laid concrete floor. Lucy had followed me out as we were on our way for a walk. She was so excited that she ran into the shed! She immediately knew that something was wrong and turned and ran out of the shed but not without leaving a circle of dog prints in the concrete. I cried out in horror but Grandpa Danser just laughed heartily and simply went to work, smoothing out the floor again. Later, we scratched in Chayton’s name and the date on the threshold.]

Meanwhile, Brian began painting the trim, door, posts and gate a glossy black.

chicken coopHe built a wooden frame above the fence posts and installed some clear plastic roofing that Grandpa Danser had rescued from being thrown away. It has some screw holes in it but we can easily cover those.

I should mention here that while Grandma, Grandpa and Brian were hard at work on the coop, I was busy taking care of Chayton and in the kitchen rustling up some hearty meals for the crew.

chicken coopHere is the chicken coop as it looks today (only today it is covered in snow!). There is still some work to be done. Brian has already installed the electrical power but still needs to paint the interior and install the heat lamp, nesting boxes and roosts. We also need to finish the pop hole door, the exterior fencing (top half) and paint the exterior (a vivid deep red).

I love how almost everything about this project is made from recycled and reused materials. From the new window, the tin, the metal poles, the plastic roofing, the fencing, and even the shed itself.

I also love how our family was able to spend time together working on this project as a team. Grandma and Grandpa were able to spend quality time with their grandson and many happy memories were made. By early spring next year, this coop will welcome baby chicks who will quickly grow into happy, healthy egg-laying hens. I can’t wait!

chicken coop

pumpkin bread



pumpkin bread

It’s pumpkin season and this recipe is a moist and flavorful way to enjoy your freshly roasted pumpkin puree. I tried this recipe for the first time today and love how the bread turned out. This recipe is actually a variation of the zucchini bread recipe that I use from my 40th Anniversary Edition Betty Crocker Cookbook.


Pumpkin Bread

2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 -16 oz can)

1-2/3 cups sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 eggs

3 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour (I used spelt flour)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ cup coarsely chopped nuts

½ cup raisons, if desired

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottoms of 2 loaf pans (I line mine with parchment paper as well).Mix pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs n a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into pans. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides of the loaves; remove from pans. Cool completely before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days. Enjoy!

pumpkin bread

Happy (Belated!) Halloween


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Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

~From “Spirits of the Dead” by Edgar Allan Poe


Hello Dear Readers!

It has been a while since I have been able to post regularly and I thank you for your patience with me. If you have just discovered this blog recently, Brian and I had a son 15 months ago and Chayton has been keeping us very busy. However, at this stage I am finally (finally!!!) starting to get some free time (“me time”) here and there and I am really looking forward to catching up with you all here at cabinorganic.

Halloween costume, lion costume

I have some exciting projects to share with you, including the setting up our chicken coop and the creation of a rock garden. I have also continued to cook and experiment in the kitchen and look forward to sharing many new and tasty recipes with you. Also, we picked baskets of baskets of berries this summer and fall and made our favorite jams, jellies and syrups.

boy and pumpkin

As I write this, Chayton naps nearby, birds are visiting the feeder just outside the window, pumpkins are roasting in the oven and Brian is outside hanging the Christmas lights. Later, we will rake the leaves in the front yard and take Lucy for a long walk in the woods.

Autumn is always a busy time around here as we prepare for the cold and snow. With Halloween come and gone we can now focus on enjoying the arrival of winter from the comfort of the cabin. Take care, everyone!




more details on building the raised beds in the Medicine Wheel garden


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raised beds

I must apologize for the long delay in getting this post up, especially to the four readers who wrote in early spring asking for more details on building the raised beds in the Medicine Wheel garden. My eleven-month old son is finally taking longer naps -and I am also now able to stay up past his bedtime- so I can now get back to one of my favorite things: blogging and sharing my life with each of you.

In this post, I will go into more detail on how we got the dimensions for the raised bed boxes for those who are interested in building their own. Click here if you need to refresh your memory on the previous post that we did two summers ago on building the raised beds. If you would like your raised bed circle to be smaller or larger you can use what we did here as a guide and plug in your own measurements. On the other hand, if my dimensions suit you just fine, then skip to the end where I will just give you the basic details in a nutshell. Please note that later this summer (or early next spring), we plan to build the second row in the Medicine Wheel garden so this is a work in progress! The next boxes will be a bit shorter and wider and we will be sure to include the dimensions for that when we do it.

How We Calculated the Dimensions for the Boxes:

There was a bit of math involved in getting the dimensions for the layout of the beds. I started with some rough sketches of what I envisioned. As you can see, it looks like a pie. All I needed to do was figure out how large of a pie it should be, how much space I wanted in the center, and decide how wide I wanted the walkways to be in between each bed.


I started from the center and decided that I wanted a 10 foot diameter for the center circle. From there I knew I wanted the row of beds to be 4 feet long. I also knew that I wanted the walkways to be about a foot and a half wide, or 18 inches.


To get the dimensions for the beds, I calculated the circumference of both the center circle and the outer circle. The inner circle gives me the length of wood to cut for the narrow end. I simply subtracted the total amount of space needed for the walkways between each bed and divided what was left by the number of beds I wanted to have.

circumference = pie (3.14) x diameter


center circle: c = 3.14 x 10 = 31.4 or 31 ½ feet

outer circle: c = 3.14 x 18 = 56.52 or 56 ½ feet

I wanted 10 paths at 1 ½ feet wide: 10 x 1.5 = 15 feet in total

Center circle: 31 ½ – 15 = 16.5 feet (left for the narrow end of the beds)

16.5 divided by 10 beds = 1.65 or about 1 ½ feet for the narrow end

outer circle: 56 ½ – 15 = 41.5 feet (left for the wider end of the beds)

41.5 divided by 10 beds = 4 feet for the wider end

Then it was time to cut the wood and get building. We bought 2 x 10 untreated spruce. I chose untreated wood because I did not want any chemicals leaching into my garden soil and into our food. We cut the lengths for each bed: 10 pieces at 1-½ feet (narrow end) 10 pieces at 4 feet (wider end) and 20 more pieces at 4 feet (sides of the boxes)

Cutting the ends on an angle gives the boxes a finished look with no gaps in the corners. Brian is an engineer and did some quick calculations to get the angle: 36 degrees. You could also just use a sliding bevel. Lay your pieces out and use the sliding bevel to record the angle. Then take the sliding bevel to your miter saw and adjust the tilt of your blade to match the angle. Click here to see what a sliding bevel is and how to use one. The magical thing is that all of your cuts will be at the same angle so you only need to adjust your miter saw once. See the picture below: the narrow and wider ends are the longer pieces and the side pieces fit inside. This is the tricky part where you really don’t want to be in a rush: make sure you are cutting you angle in the right direction. I made quite a few mistakes before Brian came and took over so my boxes are actually a bit shorter than planned! It’s worked out all right in the end because we just made sure all of the boxes were the same size.


Once the pieces were cut, Brian screwed them together with deck screws. Then using the 10 feet center circle as our guide, we arranged the boxes in a circle, making sure that we had about 1-1/2 feet between each box for the walkways. This was not exact but once everything was in place it all looked beautiful.

raised beds

In a Nutshell:

Use 2 x 10 spruce

Cut 10 pieces at 1-½ feet (narrow end)

Cut 10 pieces at 4 feet (wider end)

Cut 20 more pieces at 4 feet (sides of the boxes)

Arrange a box on the ground and use a sliding bevel to record your angle for cutting the ends.

Transfer this angle to your miter saw and cut your ends so that they will fit nicely together.

In the center point of your garden space, measure a small circle with a ten-foot diameter.

Place your boxes around this circle with a 1-1/2 foot space in between. raised beds   I hope this helps! I would love to hear how your own raised beds turn out!    

Easter eggs… cabinorganic style


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soy sauce eggsOur son, Chayton, is just going on nine months and so I didn’t feel the need to decorate fancy eggs or prepare many Easter treats. In fact, at his play group Easter party last Tuesday, Chayton was more interested in the paper bag holding his treats than the actual treats (and yes, he ate a few pieces of the bag!) However, I still needed something special for us to enjoy Easter morning. After all, it is Chayton’s first Easter. So I decided to make soy sauce eggs.

These are simple to make and taste wonderful. Usually, you make the soy sauce chicken marinade and cook your chicken in it first. Then you throw in a few hard boiled eggs (shelled) to soak up the sauce. At that point the sauce is diluted with juices from the chicken and so you have to marinate the eggs for a few hours to get dark, salty eggs. I found that I didn’t have to soak these eggs very long at all before the eggs got real dark- almost chocolate brown. To get solid dark eggs, peel all of the shell. For the marble look, crack the shell all over and soak them in the marinade with the shell still on. Marinate for half an hour or until your desired color. If you’ve cooked chicken in the marinade first, marinate for an hour or two.

soy sauce eggs

Soy Sauce Chicken & Eggs

I recommend using one-quarter of this marinade if you’re only making soy sauce eggs.

4 cups mushroom soy sauce

3 cups water

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup sugar

5 thin slices fresh ginger

4 star anise

3-pound whole broiler-fryer chicken

spring onion


Heat soy sauce, water, wine, sugar, ginger root and star anise to boiling in Dutch oven. Add the chicken; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low.; cover and simmer 30 minutes or until done, turning the chicken and stirring the mixture 2 or 3 times.

Remove chicken from soy sauce mixture; let chicken stand for 20 minutes. Chop chicken with cleaver into 2 -1 inch pieces. Arrange pieces on serving platter in the shape of a chicken and garnish with spring onions and/or parsley.

Once sauce has cooled a bit, place hard boiled eggs (shelled) in the mixture and allow to marinade until desired intensity. Enjoy!


Tlusty, L. (1981). Betty Crocker’s New Chinese Cookbook. New York,NY: Prentice Hall General Reference.


Lucy’s ‘twin brother’ in California


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Lucy and DelenaI received a few unexpected reader comments regarding Lucy back in late January. First, Vicky commented on how much Lucy reminded her of her own border collie, only that her coloring was different. Around the same time, Whitney in California wrote…

 I was searching the web for currants to plant in our California front yard when I came across your pictures of Lucy. She looks EXACTLY like our dog Austin who we adopted from a local rescue group. Austin – like Lucy – is a gorgeous silky brindle and whenever we take him on walks people ask what breed he is. We just say Big Hairy Dog because we have no idea his lineage. We were told Australian Shepherd and Chow – but we can’t believe there’s any Chow in him. We had him tested and nothing definitive came up. I’m writing to ask if you know Lucy’s makeup. Austin and Lucy look like they could be from the same litter!

We exchanged pictures and yes, Lucy and Austin look like they could be brother and sister! What makes this so surprising is that we both get constant comments on how beautiful our dogs are due to their unusual brindle coat. Whitney, her husband and Austin live in California but one never knows.  I’ve often heard it said that we all have a twin, or ‘doppelganger’ somewhere in the world. It appears that Lucy’s twin has found her! I’ll post the pics below. See if you can tell these two gorgeous dogs apart:


Whitney also has a blog called Burbette’s Feast and I am dying to ask her a few questions, such as:

Is your blog named after Babette’s Feast (my favorite movie of all time)? and

Do you keep bees? I’d love to hear more about it!

And of course, more posts on Austin, please!

black bean brownies


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black bean brownies

These are everything a brownie should be: moist, ‘fudgy’ and full of flavor! There is no flour in this recipe, which makes them both wheat-free and gluten-free and you can’t even taste the beans as they hide in among the chocolate chips. I’ve used both black beans and adzuki beans, which I soak over night and then cook up in a slow cooker here at home. My young friends gobble these up and I have to admit,  these don’t last long here at our home!

Black Bean Brownies

2 cups black beans or adzuki beans (canned or freshly cooked at home)

2 eggs

3 tablespoons canola oil

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup raw cane sugar (or natural sweetener of your choice)

1 teaspoon instant coffee

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use 1 cup to make this extra ‘chocolate-y’)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Blend all ingredients, except the chocolate chips, together in a mixer or blender. Stir on the chocolate chips. Transfer to a greased 8 x 8 baking pan (I also line it with parchment paper). Bake for 30 minutes and allow brownies to cool before serving. Enjoy!

black bean brownies

potato and pea curry


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potato and pea curry

A very simple and quick curry for every day. I served this on a bed of coconut rice and garnished it with caramelized onions.

Potato and Pea Curry

4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds

2 tablespoons ghee or canola oil

2 onions, sliced

2 closed garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons ginger, grated

1 teaspoons turmeric

salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup frozen or fresh peas

2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

Heat the mustard seeds in a large dry pan until they start popping. Add the ghee (or oil), onions, garlic, ginger and cook, stirring, until soft. Add the turmeric, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin garam masala and potatoes. Stir until coated.

Add the water and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are just tender. Add the peas and stir; simmer, covered for 3-5 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked and the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the mint and serve hot or warm. Enjoy!


Stephen, W. & al. (1996). The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook. NSW, Australia: Murdoch Books.

potato and pea curry