Sunday, May 29, 2011

On Progress and Mirth

There is so much to do outside.  Maintenance, projects, weed-whacking - there are days where it's hard to prioritize and decide what to tackle first.  We've had so much rain that I've fallen behind in my progress.

I've been battling a row of badly-planted grapevines that,  albeit productive, are growing in a bad location and are being slowly choked out by Jerusalem artichokes, wild asters and a plethora of other unidentifiable weeds.  Today, aided by the thoroughly saturated ground, I was able to pull out the metal posts that made up the support fence with extreme ease.  They were hammered about 2 feet into the ground, and I had initially put this on Eric's "Honey-Do" list.  When I wiggled them today and found how easily the posts moved to-and-fro, I decided to tackle this job myself.  Armed with a pair of fence building (or in this case, dismantling) pliers, I cut the metal wiring, recycled it, and proceeded to pull out all the metal posts.  Job done.  Next time Eric is busy with the bush-hog, he can mow this area easily, and we'll have one less eyesore on the horizon. Progress, indeed!

With our heavy rains, our clay soil is thoroughly saturated.  I was actually getting worried as I was weeding my dandelions and burdock.  I've never experienced this before, but as I was walking on the grass, I could actually feel the ground moving beneath my feet, and hear what could best be described as water squishing in and out as I weeded, and not just under my feet, but in my general proximity.  This got me thinking about leda clay and the mechanics behind soil liquifaction. If we didn't live on flat land, I'd be worried about quick-clay slides that our region between Ottawa and Quebec City is prone to.  The upside of this ground saturation was the ease at which the metal posts came out, but still, it can stop raining any day now.  We're good for a while.

On a completely unrelated note, I've been fighting elecampane (Inula helenium) for years now.  This plant can easily reach 6 or 7 feet in height, and has a couple of not-so-charming properties.  When run over with a mower, it can stop the mower dead in its tracks with its masses of fibrous leaves.  Even the bush-hog has a hard time with it, and I can always tell when Eric runs over a patch, because it really bashes the blades of the bush-hog around.  At the first sign of frost, the plant wilts into a dark, slimy mess.  In doing a bit of research, this is what Pliny said about it:

"Let no day pass without eating some of the roots of elecampane,
to help digestion, to expel melancholy, and to cause mirth."

Well, hell! That's what I'm missing in my life - mirth! And here it is, right under my nose all this time.  I'm going to have to give this elecampane plant a second chance after all.  I'll be sure to let you know just how mirthful I become.  (And in doing some more sleuthing, I found that researchers at the Cork (Ireland) Institute of Technology have proven that an extract of elecampane is 100% successful against the MRSA superbug.  Fascinating, isn't it?)

What's not so fascinating is that I have this stuff all over my lawn!  If I had a way to control it, I'd happily plant a few plants in the garden.  I guess that all depends on the level of mirth I attain.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Banishing Burdock

It's been raining for what seems like weeks now.  When the glowing orb so commonly referred to as "the sun" makes its rare appearance, we run for the mowers and attack the lawn.  The window of opportunity is so slight to get this task completed, it takes precedence over most everything else.  We mowed the lawn about a week ago, and with all this rain, it's due to be cut again.

The dandelions have sprung up and are seemingly taking over.  But they look so pretty, and once they've bloomed, they take a back-seat in the garden.  After a while, everything seems to blend together, grass or dandelion, it's all green at the end of the day.  I've stopped wearing my glasses outside, and I have to say, I enjoy the blur that results when I don't wear them.

One of the biggest thorns in my side (pardon the pun), are these wonderful burrs.  Did you know this plant was the inspiration for Velcro?  That, and the word Velcro is a portemanteau, made up from the word velour and crochet (which means "hook" in french)?  And don't you feel like a better, more interesting person with that nugget of information bopping around in your gray matter now?

The burdock plant shown in the first photo is sometimes mistaken for rhubarb plants by the uninformed.  Certainly, the leaves are as large as a rhubarb plant when left to grow unchecked, and easily crowd out most everything around it.  The plant's stalk can grow to a height of 7 or 8 feet in our fertile soil.  I have been fighting this plant for years now, but now we're down to the final battle.  This year - it's them- or me.

Poor Popina.  With her unfortunate long fur, she brings these burrs home with alarming frequency.  Actually, she's more of an ally, considering each burr I pull out of her fur will never see the great out-of-doors again.  I gave up wearing anything with laces years ago; it became prohibitive snagging burrs all the time.  Don't get me going on polar fleece either, because it's a veritable magnet as well.  Some burrs also have microscopic little splinters that dig into your skin.  Just like thorns of a cactus, you can feel them, but you'd need a magnifying glass to properly see them and tweeze them out.

So this is the year I have declared a full-out war.  No burdock plant will go unchallenged.  I might not get each one pulled out by the roots, but I promise to maim, harm and otherwise render useless each and every one of these infernal weeds this year.

Spurred on by the rumour that Canadian Tire intends to phase out their iconic Canadian Tire money, I went to buy Fiskar's Deluxe Weed Remover.  (Did you know the Fiskars company was established in 1649?  That's 362 years ago!)  This particular weeder was 25% off, plus I had a wad of Canadian Tire money burning a hole in my pocket.  This is just the sort of superfluous item I'd love to spend my hard-collected Canadian Tire money on before it expires.  Years from now, as I look over our pristine lawn, I'd like to think back on the day I got a free gardening implement.  Sure, I've got other hand-weeders, but this weeder seemed to talk to me.  I need a work-horse, a Sherman Tank, the missing link that will help me win the war on weeds.

I have to apologize to the long line of people behind me at the cash, but with all due respect, I did pay with actual Canadian Tire money in full dollar denominations.  I didn't have to count out hundreds of 5c and 10c bills (although I was tempted), but just smacked my 40 coupons on the counter and smiled heartily at the cashier as she rolled her eyes.  I bet she's waiting for the day Canadian Tire finally decides to do away with this obscure rewards system in favour of something more modern and easy-to-use.  For some bizarre reason, I was given 10c back in Canadian Tire money, quite ironic since I was trying to get rid of it in the first place.  Even more ironic was the fact I was given a 5$ Canadian Tire gift-card as a bonus.

So, I feel good about my new weeder.  I like the 25-year warranty, the fact it's made in Finland, and it's tough stainless steel claws.  It's nice to have good ammo, and it's even better when its free.

Maybe one day, when it finally stops raining, I can actually get to use it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Bug Story

Besides mosquitoes that descend upon us in droves, and the odd black-fly that always manages to get under your glasses while your hands are dirty, preventing you from doing the whack-and-smack, we're reasonably critter-free when it comes to the bug department.

Or so I thought.

Eric took a little drive down to Lancaster, Ontario the other night.  We occasionally like to drive down the 401, partly because the roads are much better than the third-world potholed excuse for pavement we have here in Quebec, and partly because the gas is way cheaper.  It might also have something to do with a particular Dairy Queen, (make mine one mini Skor Blizzard, please!), but let's not go there for that.  Focus on the roads and the cheap gas.

Well, the other night, Eric had a passenger drive up with him.  Yup.  A bug so huge, that when Eric ran into the house and requested a flashlight and a pincher-type tool we use to reach things in out-of-the-way places, I thought he was over-exaggerating.  I mean, this is not the tropics, our bugs are pedestrian and ordinary.  This thing could have worn a seat-belt, it was so big.

Let that be a lesson.

I need to preface this by saying that I am not squeamish.  In fact, I enjoy digging and sleuthing and turning over rocks in search of creepy-crawlies.  Had I been in the car with Eric when this bug crawled in, suffice it to say I'd be hitch-hiking down the highway if I knew this baby was still in the car with me.

Without any further ado, let me introduce you to "Claws" the Giant Water Bug:
This baby was 4" long, and by that I mean the body.  I am not including his pincers.  That's pretty, well, impressive, for lack of a more appropriate term.  I had nightmares about this bug all night long, as I tossed and turned and itched myself in my slumber.

These bugs are attracted by bright lights (hello, Esso station?) and inflict a bite that is considered as "extremely painful" if I believe everything I read on Wikipedia. Thanks, but no thanks, I'll take my mosquitoes, my black flies, my deer flies and my horse flies any day over this Giant Water Bug.

Who needs Jaws when we've got Claws in the water?

And it goes without saying we didn't hurt the monster bug.  He terrorized us much more than we terrorized him.  He's probably taken up refuge in our ditch, or has made his way over to the Petro-Canada gas station by now, where he can surprise other unsuspecting drivers.

A Spring Update

Here we are nearing the end of May.  Spring has suddenly sprung, and if I go back one year, I was already complaining about the heat and humidity.  Not this year. Everything is slow to get started, except for the dandelions that shot up about a foot in the past week.  Don't they look pretty though?

We've had a lot of rain so far this year.  The fields are still too wet to plow and plant, and we've had some torrential downpours and record flooding in Quebec, albeit not in our vicinity.  It has also been cold, and tonight we have a forecast low of just 10C.

Traditionally, the Victoria Day weekend is our "planting weekend".  We have the Monday closest to May 24th off as a statutory holiday, and this date also coincides with our "frost free" dates.  Lots of planting goes on during this long weekend, and garden centers and nurseries are hopping with buyers.

Our garden and grounds are in a state of flux, as evidenced by the photo above.  Friday night was spent planting 25 trees the Ministry of Agriculture gives us to add to our wind-break.  We'll plant these alongside the 170 we added to our hedgerows four years ago.  We picked an unfortunate time to do this, as the mosquitoes were out in spades.  I think I counted 60 bites the next day.  They're real buggers, these mosquitoes, and they love me.  I always joke people around me don't need insect repellent when I'm around, as the mosquitoes will naturally gravitate to me.   I broke down and sprayed some citronella bug repellent on my clothes.  This slows them down somewhat, but they bite nonetheless.

Getting back to the trees!  To get them properly rooted, we plant them in pots using potting soil supplemented with bonemeal.   This way, we can control the water, the weeds and can keep a good eye on the trees while they establish themselves.  In the fall, when we have access to the fields after harvest, we'll plant them in their permanent place in the hedgerow.   Invariably, some will die, but we have a few spares we're keeping in the garden to replace them.  We've topped a few with the bush-hog, I took one out with a whipper-snipper (and never heard the end of it...) and Cooper actually chewed one off as we were planting.  One second - a tree in the ground - the next second -  a stick, as Cooper made off with it, running gleefully through the fields.

So that was our planting weekend.  The rest of the time was spent cutting the grass, as the grounds were just about dry enough to get the tractor out.  I use a regular mower around the general proximity of the house, but Eric gets the John Deere TLB 110 out for the rest of the property.  The tractor has a bush-hog attachment, but it doesn't groom as well as the mower does.  It takes forever, because there are lots of trees and what-not to mow around.

We also managed to burn one burn-pile that's been an eyesore on the property for years.  These burn-piles are a necessary evil unless you own a tree shredder, or have the luxury of bringing in a tree service to do the dirty work for you.  So it's one down, two to go.  I'll be happy when these piles are gone, and I hope we'll never have to start one again.   We have a lot of Manitoba Maples (Acer Negundo) on the property, which are more of a scourge than a tree.  If only someone could hybridize the Manitoba Maple for its rapid growth, and cross it with a Sugar Maple for its beauty and fall foliage, you'd end up with the perfect tree.  We still have a few to cut down, but we're more organized about it now.  Our municipality shreds the trees, but they need to be 4" or less in diameter, and we need some method of bringing them to the municipal grounds, because there is no branch pick-up as with most communities around here.  We need to borrow our neighbour's hay-trailer since we don't own one ourselves, and our window of opportunity on that request is narrow since it's in near-constant use.  Planning is the key.

The to-do list is still so long, if I had to enumerate everything on it, I'd run screaming from this infernal place and never return.  We don't drive ourselves crazy with things that need to get done outside.  Besides, it's covered with snow 6 months during a good year.  We've learned to look the other way, for our sanity's sake if for nothing else.

The crab apple trees are in full bloom, and this morning I noticed 2 canaries sitting in the trees.  It was a sight to see, the bright yellow contrasting against the pink.  This particular tree is full of bumble-bees, and was just humming with life as I took this picture.
Here's another crab apple tree, but this one's white.  The pink ones are more common in this area.  This particular tree was FULL of blooms, I've never seen it have this many.

We've got tulips popping up in all sorts of places.   Unfortunately, nothing in the garden was well organized, and I'm going to be paying the price for that for the next few years.  Putting in mulched beds with proper edging is one of my many gardening goals for the property.
These tulips are growing in a bed of goutweed,  the most invasive plant I think I've ever come across.  When I joke about napalm, it's only partly in jest.  I don't think I'll ever get rid of this stuff, unfortunately.

Slowly, things are getting cleaned up outside, and it takes strategic planning and constant maintenance to bring things up to par.  My goals this summer are to properly edge all trees so we can easily mow around them, get the bloody burdock eradicated, mow and seed and mow and seed, so we have a semblance of a proper lawn in the next few years, and then we'll see about adding proper garden beds and other features.  Right now, we're still in the ripping out stage of things, rather than the planting stage of things.

This lilac is also in an unfortunate spot, growing up against the foundation of the little barn right beside the house.  Right after I took this photo, a little ruby-throated hummingbird buzzed by to check out the blooms.  A Baltimore oriole was singing in the trees behind me, and weeds or no weeds, it's something to behold.
These prehistoric looking shrubs are seabuckthorn (Hippohae) which produce masses of orange berries in the fall.  The berries have 15 times the amount of vitamin C than oranges.  The branches are very thorny, and picking the berries is quite the task.
I love the evening sky.  It's crisp and clear and the fact the sun sets later is a nice departure from the winter months.  I love seeing the contrails of the planes overhead as they make their way to Europe.  I love the song of the robin, as he says good-night.  I smell the heady aroma of the crab apple trees, and regale in everything that is spring - dandelions included.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Sourdough Experiment

I am pretty excited about the opening of a Bulk Barn near our house.  This means I won't have to travel too far to buy things like spelt or rye or other specialty flours, so I've been poring over recipes and books and checking out blogs for inspiration.

The other night I was salivating over this blog entry over at The Reluctant Homesteaders, and figured now would be opportune to give sourdough bread another try.

I've made sourdough before, and don't remember what happened in my life that my starter bit the dust, so I used the original recipe I found at Robin Hood flour and gave it another chance.  Robin Hood's sourdough starter is called Sherwood, and I won't repeat the recipe here, because you can get it at the aforementioned link.  I don't even want to link you to the actual sourdough bread recipe, because the photo of the bread is SO DISMAL I'm embarrassed for the people at Robin Hood.

Oh. Okay, okay, you wanna see this sad excuse for a loaf of bread?


I mean, reallyREALLY?!?  That pathetic excuse for a loaf of bread looks like it spent 2 days in a plastic bag on the grocer's shelf before being abandoned in the trunk of a car.  It looks deflated and battered, not at all indicative of what a crusty, fragrant, glossy loaf of sourdough bread should look like.  It's like the poster-child for the bread that didn't quite make it off the shelf and had to be transformed into croutons, or - shudder - breadcrumbs. 

Wow.  Well.  I feel better now that I've gotten that out of my system.

So about a week ago, I dutifully put together the sourdough recipe.  I mixed everything up, and grossly underestimated The Power of the Yeast when I used one of my Corningware dishes.  After about 2 hours, I went into the kitchen, and my starter was pouring out of the dish and spreading out of the counter, like something out of a Twilight-Zone-kitchen experiment gone wrong.  Had I not caught it in time, I think the mass would have been pouring down the front of my kitchen cabinets and taking up residence in my kitchen drawers.

I am dutifully stirring and nurturing my starter.  I've given some starter to my Mom, who said she'd also give sourdough bread-baking another try, and I've found a recipe that uses the starter discard at The Yumarama Bread Blog to make pancakes and waffles.  I'll let you know how things turn out when I finally get around to making a loaf.

Maybe I'll even have a pretty picture to go along with it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Rainy Day

It's been pouring off and on for about a week now.  If I trust Environment Canada's data reports, we had 59mm of rain over 3 days last week.  The forecast is pretty dismal for the coming week as well, so we'd better batten down the hatches or start building our ark.  Either that or start a fish farm.

The fields are saturated and too wet for planting right now.  This was supposed to be a "corn" year, but it's looking like it's going to be a "soya" year instead.  We can't even take the tractor out and get the grounds mowed because we'd leave deep trenches in our clay soil.  With all this rain, the grass has been growing, and with it the dandelions, the plantain, and my nemesis, the burdock, have all grown by leaps and bounds.  I've been trying to eradicate the burdock for about 9 years now, and I finally think I am on the home stretch.  If all else fails, well, there's always napalm to try...

Popina didn't really win the gene-pool lottery when she was born here, given the fact she has long hair.  She's been coming home with burrs in her fur for weeks now, and it's a pain to keep her brushed and burr-free.  She's a bit of a high-maintenance diva, yet manages to be a tomboy through and through.  She has an incredible prey drive, and it would have been impossible to keep her in the house as I had hoped to do.  She also thinks nothing of getting wet:

I love the look on her face in this photo.  It has BUGGER OFF written all over it.  Is it any wonder my house sometimes looks like a train went through it with 3 cats and a dog who get into messes like this?

She's a good little girl though, and gets busy trying to tidy herself up for her photo shoot.  Eric grabbed a towel and dried his "girlie-girl" off, as he's dubbed our little Popina.  His other nickname for her is "The Sniper-ette".

With the rain, we've had a lot of interesting storms roll through.  Here are some stratocumulus clouds that were part of a squall line:
The sky was pretty amazing, and it's hard to believe, but we didn't get a drop of rain from this system.
The storm front went right by us, and within a few minutes, we had beautiful, clear skies again.  It didn't last for long, but we're taking all the blue skies we can get right now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Spring Walk with Cooper

Part of the challenge with our infernal climate is the severe variation in temperature. We can experience -30C in the winter just as easily as we can have +30C in the summer, with oppressive humidity to boot. We've seen drops of 20C in a matter of hours. Most days aren't as drastic as that, but suffice it to say the swing in seasons is quite diverse.

With each season come fresh discoveries and renewed memories. I wonder if I would become blasé about the consistency of nature if I lived in a climate that stayed the same all year long? Each season here is a marvel all its own.

Cooper and I are back to our regular walks now that the fields are dry again.  These photos were all taken on May 10th, 2011, and with Blogger being down recently, I nearly forgot to post them.  Alas, they are descriptive of our late-start to spring, so here it goes:
My favorite daffodils are finally blooming!

So are the pink daffodils outside the kitchen window!

Cooper's anxiously circling me as I inspect the flowers in the garden, because I said the magic word:  Jawannagoferawalk?
You can tell Cooper is smiling here.  My little Holstein, I call him.  He is totally in his element when we go for our long walks.

Look, we found some raccoon tracks in the mud:

It looks like they have opposable thumbs.  (Actually, they don't!) It's no wonder they can untie the bungee cord you keep putting around the lid on your garbage can.

On our rounds, we stopped to check out my favorite tree:

I love this glorious elm.  It's my favorite for miles around, and sadly, one of the last remaining elms in our local area.  The trees are just beginning to bud, and show just how far behind we are this season.
Everything is so, so green.  The horsetails glow among the blades of grass, and the setting sun serves to brighten things even more.

The red osier dogwood contrasts against last year's phragmite, which stands out against the green of the pine.

Cooper's always a few paces ahead of me, following his nose.  There is so much to smell, with those raccoons, the coyote and all his scat (you have no clue how many plastic bags he eats!), and the ducks and geese that fly overhead.  Some fly so close to us we can hear the woosh-woosh of their wings.

During clear summer evenings, we often get lucky and red bi-plane from a local airport does acrobatics in the skies above us.  I lie down in the grass and stare at the sky.  I watch the plane's loops and rolls, and can just  imagine how much fun it would be to sit in an open cockpit and do a barrel roll.  I imagine what things were like during the barnstorming era as I lay in the grass with Cooper by my side.  Things haven't changed that much, have they?

The sun sets amongst the aspen trees, and we slowly make our way home.  The sky is bug-free, a nice change from summer, and the air is cool and crisp.  Birds chirp, jays squawk, and the robin sings its carefree song.

We catch the half-moon in the sky above the barn:

Suddenly, despite the fact we've been out for nearly 2 hours, we are both invigorated by our adventure.  There was so much to discover, so much newness around us, that it's hard not to get caught up in the beauty of spring.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Kitchen Before and After

Many older French-Canadian farmhouses have a separate little addition to the side of the main house.  We call this the "summer kitchen" because this is the room where workers would have been fed while working the fields, thus avoiding dirtying the entire house with their clothing and footwear.  It could also be closed off during winter months so there was one less room to heat.

We're not quite sure what came first - the proverbial chicken or egg problem - was our kitchen the first part of the house to be built, or was it added on at a later date?  It is reasonable to assume that an entire family could have lived in the kitchen and the upstairs room in days of yore, and then built the larger, main part of the house as things settled.  Remember, we're talking in the vicinity of 1850 here.  Land needed to be cleared and planted, trees needed to be cut and milled.  Rocks were needed for the foundations, probably accumulated as the fields were plowed.  We're reasonably sure there was a wood stove in the kitchen at some point in time, as well as a staircase that went upstairs, so the summer kitchen could have served as a stand-alone building.

Based on the amount of time Eric spent fixing the foundation, he believes the summer kitchen was added on at a later date, possibly as the original homeowners became more prosperous.  It's a feasible theory, certainly.  We know that our house had 2 kitchens, one located in the living room that was gutted, and one in the kitchen we now use.  Previous owners had begun extensive renovations, and the kitchen was the first thing on their agenda.  Had the kitchen not been finished, Eric would have really been tempted to bulldoze the house to the ground and rebuild from scratch, but the first steps had been done...

Here's how the kitchen looked when Eric bought the house:

In retrospect, had I had the opportunity to redo the kitchen, I would have done many things differently.  But some things you choose, and some you don't, and the kitchen falls into the latter category.  The cabinets, floor and all appliances were spanking new, so we played the hand we were dealt.

It's not such a bad hand:

Life could be a lot worse.  I love my kitchen.

(Did I mention I love my kitchen?)

I love the colour of the walls.  Sico's Chinese Lantern, number 4081-61.  That was Eric's doing.  I have the number memorized because I've repeated it to visitors so many times.  I even keep spare paint chips in the drawer below the wall-oven to dole out.  It's going on 8 or 9 years since we painted and I still love it.  In fact, when we have to repaint, we'll probably opt for something along the same lines.  It's nice in the morning when the sun comes up through the picture window I've dubbed my wide-screen TV.  It's a nice contrast in the summer when everything's green outside.  It's nice in the winter when the snow blows, because we need all the warmth and colour we can get at that time of year.  It's nice when we have our candle chandelier over the dining table lit.  I can't say enough nice things about this colour.

One thing that I would love to change is the stainless cook top. Stainless is a pain to keep clean, and those coils?  What's up with those coils?  Maybe I've been spoiled by Ceran cook tops for the past 20 years or so, but really?  When the pot of pasta boils over (and it will...) you're stuck removing the element and drip pan to clean up the mess.  It's just not my idea of practical.  We've priced new cook tops.  What I liked rang up to nearly $3,000. Ouch.  Can't justify that expense.  I always joke the first thing I would do if I won the lottery is rip the cook top out and put it at the street so someone can pick it up.

Since there are windows on three sides of the kitchen and thus ample light, I'd have put in a semi-gloss wood floor, rather than a high-gloss wood floor.  With 3 cats and one dog and muddy paws, every little speck of dirt shows.  Again, if I won the lottery?  Heated tile!  Granite counter tops!  More hanging cupboards! A butcher block island!  A gas cook top!  A bay window with a farm sink centered!  Oh my, my needs are many, aren't they?  Just let a girl dream a bit, dammit!   

Now, for a blast from the past, here's a look at what remained of the "other" kitchen in what is now our living room:
See the plumbing on the left-hand wall?  There was a counter with a sink and shelving here.  I have no clue where the fridge or stove was, and it's not really like it was a planned kitchen anyhow, just something that developed over the years as people introduced electric stoves and fridges and "all of them new-fangled modern thangs" into their lives.  The wood stove was also probably a cook stove at some point in time, but the only wood stove we knew was the one above.  We called him Wilfred. We were afraid Wilfred was going to burn the house down one day, so Wilfred was replaced by a high-efficiency EPA-certified wood stove manufactured in Austria by a company called Rika.  We bought Rika's Esprit model, and we're very happy with it.

Basically, finishing the kitchen was easy.  A bit of molding, some new lights, some paint, and the job was done.  We still need to change out all the windows, but they've still got a bit of life left in them yet.

That wasn't too hard now, was it?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nancy's Potato Chip Cookies

I was recently forwarded an email newsletter from Great Balls of Yarn, a chain of wool shops (doh!) in Florida.  I know, I know, whodathunk?  Florida and knitting go together like, well...oil and water, maybe?  At the bottom of the newsletter, the good people at GBY shared a cookie recipe.  This was the reason my friend forwarded me the email - she said the recipe had my name written all over it.

No, my name's not Nancy - but I am giving credit where credit is due.  Nancy makes one heck of a cookie.  The newsletter - from a wool store that credits itself as being a Gourmet Knitting Store - said Nancy's Potato Chip Cookies were the best.  Well, a challenge like this was too great for me to turn down.  I had to try them!

What more can be said about these?  They're quite innocuous looking, a tad bland, in fact.  But once you bite into these little gems, the first impression is of a good, nay, very good, shortbread cookie.  Then you get to the surprise, as the crispy little salty bits of potato chips delicately infuse your palate.  The two tastes together can only be described as sublime.

In keeping with the Snicker Doodle recipe, the beauty of these cookies lies in its simplicity.  A few simple ingredients that result in a superlative cookie.  These are so good, they're going to be part of my Christmas cookie arsenal this year.

I used Cape Cod potato chips, just like the recipe called for.  Next time I am going to try Miss Vickie's, because I think part of the success of these cookies is the "greasiness" of the chips.  I think lighter chips, such as the Lay's or Pringles of this world, would not be as successful.

So don't thank me - thank Nancy, the doyenne of cookie-makers who frequents Great Balls of Yarn.  And thank Great Balls of Yarn for knowing a good thing when they taste it, and for sharing it with the world.

Nancy's Potato Chip Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 cup sifted flour
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup crushed Cape Cod potato chips

Cream together softened butter and sugar until fluffy.

Fold in the sifted flour until smooth.  Add vanilla and chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Flatten slightly.

Bake at 325F for 15-20 minutes.

Yield:  about 30 cookies.

My notes:

As always, the success of this recipe lies in the butter.  Don't consider using salted butter, and don't even entertain the idea of using margarine.  Again, weigh your butter if you have a trusty kitchen scale.  1 cup of butter = 227 g.

I crushed the potato chips in a Ziploc bag using my rolling pin.  Next time, I am going to use the potato chip bag instead, as the Ziploc bag is now effectively toast.  (Yes, I like to re-use Ziploc bags, okay?  No need for it to end up in a landfill if it's held romaine lettuce, or some bread.  Lecture over).  I wondered how finely I needed to crush the potato chips?  In the end, I'd say the largest bits were about 1/8" big, and still recognizable as bits of potato chips.  All that to say, don't grind them into powder using a food-processor.  Part of the goodness of this recipe is the surprise crunchiness, and that would be lost if you crushed the chips into oblivion.

I am in love love love with my Wilton Even-Bake insulated cookie sheet, so much so that I recently bought a second 14" x 16" cookie sheet.  If you're in the States, this baby might run you around $20 at Target, but being Canadian, (we enjoy being screwed on US goods), I ended up paying something like $35 bucks.  The sticker shock nearly killed me, but I am sure it will last a lifetime.  These will be the last cookie sheets I will ever need to buy, of that I am positive.

I line my cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In the spirit of environmental friendliness and in keeping with my little Ziploc rant above, I use and reuse the same parchment paper for cookies until it starts to look tattered.  No harm done making a little thing last a bit longer.  Every little bit helps.

Next time, (oh yes, there will be a next time!), I think I am going to drizzle a bit of melted chocolate on the top.  I think that chocolate could only enhance these little babies, but even without, they are divine.

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