Monday, December 2, 2013

'twas a Frosty Morning

Frosty mornings are just a prelude to the mighty winter that lays ahead. Grass is often white, crunching under foot, easy to slip on I remind myself. On Saturday I drove to Mahone Bay, a beautiful historic town here in Nova Scotia, and as I parked the car at the old school, the scene above took my breath away. One man had a black belt and the others white...bare feet on slim flip flop soles, looking all the world like ghostly warriors on the icy grass, weapons held high or wielding. Bright morning sun beamed down... and for just a minute, I was transported; held in awe.

The garden has had its ups and downs of frost, snow sprinkles and icy patches. The soil heaves up a bit, then settles down, crunchy on top..soft below. We await the big white blanket.
I am happy for the greens we are still harvesting from the cold frame covered raised bed...oh so happy!
Baby chard, bulls blood beet leaves, one lonely but delicious hot radish, tomatoes from summerhouse, parsley, bronze fennel, greens from baby garlic, baby spinach, tom thumb lettuce, baby leaves of celery, mustard greens, tatsoi, pak choi and a few tiny brussels sprouts which didn't grow very big this year (the stink loves them as treats).
Included in that gratefulness, the fact that in spring we planted three tomato plants in the summerhouse incase we were wiped out by blight as we were in 2012. The Captain suggested, in honor of Christmas, we put tiny ribbons at the top of each one. Nope..they are too precious to be decorations.
These are Inca, shaped like a pepper and almost hollow inside but bursting with flavor!
The dependable pumpkin and squash are turning into hot flavorful soup, so all and all, it's a joyous few weeks heading into Christmas still using what we grew in the garden. Merry merry to you and yours.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Garden Catch UP and a Thankyou to Cobble Hill Farm

A gift from Cobble Hill
Yesterday started off with the Captain arriving home from the post carrying a beautifully scented box! I knew who it was from immediately...Staci at Cobble Hill Farm in Rock City NY. You see, she had a blog give away and Big Allie chose my name. I never win anything so you could have knocked me over when I saw Gardeningbren first winner. Staci, thank you so very much. The product is wonderful and the smell divine (lips smelling of Lime Margarita balm as I type)))) and even after two hours still soft and supple. Can't wait to use the soaps. Good luck on this new venture although I don't think it is about luck but hard work and great marketing. Your product will sell itself because of its quality as it did at your recent craft show. Bravo and sincerely, Thank you!

Scent is a wonderful gift isn't it, even the damp and rotting vegetation in the garden this time of year. Today, with the rain pouring down, there is a scent reminder to make sure clean up is done before the snow arrives. Generally we don't tidy too much in autumn, trying to leave seeds for birds on as many plants possible, but I found we had a rodent highway running from the woodland along the perennial bed under the picket fence into the hoop frame inside the garden. Here is where Mr. or Mrs. thought they were going to enjoy snacking through the winter, enjoying a warm protective environment. Note the special groceries not yet brought inside.
Because of this, much was cleared and while we were at it, bulbs were planted out for spring. More Orange Emperor Tulips!! I am very partial to Ballerina as they smell of oranges but was not able to get any this year. Scent much a part of a garden, memory and life. The Baptisia Australis can't take the cold nights and we have had a few frosts so it was cut down. Doesn't the garden seem bare now.
Meanwhile in the raised beds most of the beets have been removed, but will leave some for early greens in the spring.
Pak Choi Rubi in the foreground has done very well and also the Tatsoi middle back. I planted the latter too early I think as it is ready now and looks outstanding. Asian meal tonight! In this bed you might notice the arugula has been trimmed, and Speedy Veg Winter greens variety are ready to snip for salads.
We are pleased about the winter squash/pumpkins. If I had a farm, or a huge field, I would grow more. There are tons of varieties! One I love is Long Island Cheese. I baulked at the nine dollar price on the one bought at the local market last year but surely if one seed produced a pumpkin that cost nine dollars...and that pumpkin produced a hundred seeds, and that seed produced a plant that fruited two pumpkins...then surely a thousand dollars is to be had if only, I had a field!!
Long Island Cheese and blue Hubbard squash
The summerhouse holds a few tomato plants that are still producing and 'the Stink' our spaniel, enjoys having a Mexico Midget when they ripen, but he misses his green beans that is for sure. The pole beans are blackened and almost all pulled up but he still walks to the wall expectantly..surely there is one bean left on the trellis he says with his brown spaniel eyes.  My year buddy...I'll grow extra for you and more Mexico Midgets too!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Autumn Quince

It's quince time again, the fruit filling the kitchen with it's wonderful, incredible aroma. "Oh For a Quince Tree" I wrote last year... yet still have not planted one. Autumn is when I lament this fact, but blessed to have friends like Naomi and Pete who live in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia and share from their one tree. You can see on the blog link above how the fruit glows from N & P's dining room window. Why this tree is rarely available and little grown on Canada's east coast is beyond me. Most of Canada's early settlers knew the rich pectin and flavour made jelly and jams set. I found out by mistake, much pectin is in the seeds so don't cut the core out if you want 'the jell effect'. Tangled Garden in Wolfville, has three Quince trees on the property so I would suggest late October to early November the best time to see the fine specimens glowing in autumn's low light. There is a nominal fee to enter the garden; don't miss stocking up on jelly for the coming holidays.

My favourite recipe for using quince is the one mentioned in the blog post last year, because from that point, put in jars, the fruit is ready for anything including cake making and sauces not to mention using hunks of it on bread or pancakes. Basically the recipe advises roasting individual quince in foil, lined up like soldiers until you can just get a fork in. Peel and cut up the next day (leaving the core as its done it's job) if you are fed up with quince by then which I usually am! Then pour over a simple syrup with orange juice and slivered peel baking to a 'treacly state' so says Sarah Raven in her book...Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook. (There is a Canajan version re measurements.)

So here's my lot roasted and cut up the next day ready to go into the oven with the syrup mixed in. I know, it doesn't look that appetising. I added six cloves as well.

Then it was on to the baking and this is what came out about forty minutes later and just to say this is an untouched photo. It really does go this wonderful color...sticky and "treacly" as the chef and gardener states.

After that, it was into the Kilner jars. I also use jars that can be boiling water processed and others that are commercial jars and have the rubber inside the lid and don't have to be processed as long as there is keen attention to temperature and sanitation. These work great if you can find them at a local 'container/packaging' company. Mine was Richards in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Yes, it tastes as good as it looks!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Odorous Bulb Fest

Avondale Sky Winery, 80 Avondale Cross Road, Newport Landing
Ever since reading Liz Primeau's book "In Pursuit of Garlic", An Intimate Look at the Divinely Odorous Bulb, I've been a little envious she attended the famous Gilroy Garlic Festival in California. "If only we had a garlic festival here in Nova Scotia". Well, my wish came true! Avondale Sky Winery hosted the first ever Avondale Garlic Fest this past Saturday and my goodness, it was wonderful. Being keeners, we were pretty well there just after it opened but already people were starting to enjoy the vendor offerings.

Contests included submitting favourite garlic recipes to be published in a cookbook, and competing for largest garlic bulb and largest clove. One farmer won that hands down using garlic she obtained through William Damn Seeds which I suspect is the variety 'Music". We were impressed!
The Winner of the largest garlic bulb and clove!
The prize a woven braid of garlic.
There were jewellery makers, organic food produce sellers, glass makers and painters but I am rather partial to the metal works from A Twist of Iron as we have one of their early fire pits in our own backyard. This time of year, as the evening nights cool, you are most likely to find us sitting around it, having a hot bowl of soup or a glass of wine. In spring and fall, we use ours a lot.
Firepits and seasonal decorations
Avon River Metalworks
The food area was packed solid so failed to get a photo. A highlight, with a reasonable wait time, was the food truck, Tin Pan Alley. If you follow this link, there is a menu for the event, served by a lot of local folks. No wonder this event is recognized as an "Incredible Edible Picnic Site". There are other picnics happening in Nova Scotia this time of year, so you could follow the link to find out if there is one near you.

Needless to say free wine sampling was a big hit. The winery was in fact a church, moved to the site from Walton, a nearby town. It is so beautiful, still mostly original inside with it's warm wood and carved font. Many people left with a wine purchase or a gift from the busy shop inside, a great place to visit at any time of year.

By the time we left, the parking lots were full, and cars were lined up right down to the main road. Try not to miss it next year. It was stinkin fun!

****Update...just found out my gf Naomi won for her recipe "Roasted Onion and Garlic soup" which will go into the book. Am so so pleased. High five N.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Where Has the Time Gone?

August flew by so quickly and now here it is September and what do I have to show for it? Well a few photos...that's a good place to start and how about a bit of a catch up on the garden? A highlight are the White Acorn squash, each a porcelain beauty bright against the dark soil of the fall garden but looking quite smart on a black napkin don't you think! The flesh is surprisingly mild though and white inside as well so the question remains, grow for beauty or taste. I would like both please ;-)

Technically it isn't autumn yet, but goodness, it certainly smells and looks like it. The brights are so brilliant and the darks so deep, the camera just doesn't like the challenge of making a good photograph. So here are some of the best from the last many weeks.
Dragon Tongue, yellow wax bean (both shrub) and Fortex pole bean
Beans were late getting going but they have been cropping well. My favourite pole bean is Fortex because even when mature, they are still tender. My favourite bush bean is a French Filet called Tremblant from OSC . It's a great cropper for our climate here in Nova Scotia, and delicious. They hang like chandelier earrings from the plant.
Most of the carrots have been dug up, lettuce mostly gone, but the Brussels Sprouts have a lot of growth, even though the sprouts are small. This purple variety is called Red Ball and they are growing in my raised bed.
The garlic is cured, cleaned up and in their open wire baskets for our use, but below shows where we hung them after removing from the ground. Old garden rakes make great hangers; who doesn't have a rusty one with prongs missing they just don't want to part with!

Please note the long garlics with the scapes still on. There is discussion on whether removing scapes makes the bulb bigger and I think indeed, in poorer soil it certainly would. But this garlic is quite large and as large as last year's crop. The variety is Susan Delafield, a hugely tall and later maturing garlic so at least for this variety, I would leave some scapes on as long as possible as I use them (after being whizzed in the food processor) in my salad dressings and also boil up the scape ball with new potatoes.

The above bed inside the fenced garden is still producing well but as I mentioned, the carrots are gone and that section was seeded this week with Dwarf Pak Choi and Red Kitten spinach and germinated in two days with the lovely cool weather we have been having. It is certainly time to scatter some radish seeds, any of the cool crops we planted out in early spring like arugula, mache, tatsoi. Then, when the weather gets even cooler to frost, cover them with a row cover, or cold frame lights, and you will enjoy the crop for an extended period.

So a final photo of the wildness of the late August garden.  As the hummingbirds head down south may I make a kind reminder to keep your feeders full, helping them on their journey as well as the other feathered migrant garden workers who don't spend the winter with us yet are extremely valuable to us for their strong work ethic.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Inspired by the Chester Garden Tour

It's always inspiring to visit other gardens whenever possible so even though it was hot enough to split rocks yesterday, my friend Sher and I set out at eleven to cover as much territory as possible. Seven gardens were showcased in Chester, Nova Scotia presented by the gardeners and the Chester Municipal Chamber of Commerce so thought I would share a few of the highlights.

Our first was a well established garden, overlooking Marriot's Cove. What inspired me was the enormous dedication of the couple who have so lovingly worked turning a hay field into a peaceful retreat for over twenty years.
Overlooking the Cove
The gentleman of the property came out to introduce himself, passing by one of the two enormous wisteria in the gardens. Is that not awesome!
The many fruit trees began as an experimental orchard and even though aged, they were loaded with maturing pears, peaches and apples. What I wouldn't give for even a small orchard. Next garden ;-)

We decided to take our lunch in the gazebo at Lordly Park where Niki Jabbour was offering a "Question and Answer" period and so we had the opportunity to pick her brain! Folks really enjoyed having a quiet question time by my estimation and I think Niki was pleased to sit in the shade and offer good sound advice. Everyone received free copies of Gardens East Magazine which was a bonus. the blue sandals.

A garden that really spoke to my veg and flower garden soul was at the Hackmatack property. It's cottage style with a large "X" pathway, pulled you to meander through and admire the combination of vegetables and herbs surrounded and studded by masses of flowers including lots of beneficials. I read the X in the pathway is symbolic of the blue cross found on the Nova Scotian flag...nice.

What also inspired me was the way some of the other gardeners used art in the garden particularly, a new garden built on a slope so, one had to be very sturdy indeed as the heat was about 33 c.
Gardening on a steep slope
This made me smile and was a clever way to use stone and brick we thought. The Canadian Flag in terracotta and limestone.
 There's a garden we always look up and admire when we're on our boat coming into Chester by water. The rose in the first photo was taken there. The long bed is a mass of pink petunias which never fails to bring a smile.
The house was clad in roses as well as the arbour and fence. It just made me sigh with beautiful.
Smokebush with possibly Robin Hood Rose
Last but not least by any means, was a very fine garden on Sophie's lane. Two fantastic Brugmansia were growing by the gate, outstanding in beauty and fragrance!
One would have to have a greenhouse to store those over winter, and the gardeners at this estate do have one..a fantastic greenhouse in fact where tropicals grow and food is harvested for the table year round.
The handout contained a quote by Hugh Johnson..."No two gardens are the same, No two days are the same in one garden."  When I think of the variety of gardens we visited, not all included here, this quote is resoundingly true. Each and every garden from grand to modest, inspired, awed, taught, and filled us with the pleasure of that gardener's gift of sharing.
The Tropical Greenhouse at Lobster Point was stunning!
2007 when the sound of trickling water welcomed you on entry.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Onions and Strawberries

Well, I went out to the garden for onions and found strawberries! Oh how wonderful...they are starting to ripen. Late winter, when blog friend Marguerite was visiting, we both bought some chocolate balsamic vinegar from Liquid Gold in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My first thought was UGH...cannot imagine it. Taste test...divine. We were shocked! The card attached said it would go well with strawberries so we, she and I, bought a small ..very small vial to try. Well tonight's desert made the Captain blink with surprise and then the yum factor kicked in. Think next time a small micro shave of white chocolate would just up the presentation and when I do that, will post a photo * Posted below the 24th:
Strawberries, shaving of white chocolate and chocolate balsamic vinegar
 but easily substituted with chocolate sauce ;-)
So it is full steam ahead here and I bet it is in your garden as well. The greens are so....much. Compliments of Niki who has the Year Round VeggieGardener Blog, I got to try a few new varieties this year, two of which are Thai Oak Leaf and Bronze Arrow. What I liked about both of these..they were a good sub for Romaine (Ceasar salad) at this time of year, not easily bruised, crunchy, very very tasty and beautiful. Ta DAH:

That's green wave mustard to the right of the above photo and good ole Lollo Rossa in the back ground. That red lettuce by the way, is a champion and if you haven't grown it, do try.  Rossa means red in Italian and Lollo is not an Italian word so it is likely a family name. Think Gina Lollobrigida ;-) (Grazie Carla)

The fact that garlic scapes and baby garlic are ready now at the same time these three robust lettuce are in season...seems a perfect pairing. The Apache red Onion adds that bit of mild heat to the salad plate as well. Can you taste it? Dragon breath for sure )))) Love it!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Garden Catch Up

Even with absence and neglect, encouraged by days and days of rain with a few of sunshine here and there, the garden leapt ahead taking care of herself. Weeds have leapt as well, but that's another story ;-) So to tell you about a lovely little lettuce we grew this year, new to me. It's an English heirloom butterhead, uniquely small for single servings (for foodies, this would make a great presentation). Why I bought the seeds...well the packet from Burpees said these would form medium tight central heads, even in hot weather and would ignore the heat when fully mature and resist bolting. So far, this little lettuce has been a star. It isn't just the bright lime greeny color, the taste is perfect, your usual butterhead with a creamy but crisp texture. The seeds were planted out mid March under hoops and plastic row cover, with great germination results.

One precious lettuce makes a single serving but why stop at one when you can fill a basket?
I am sure you will agree, this lettuce looks great in a garden, and so, I hope you give this a try or if you grow another variety that is a star in your garden, would love to hear about it.
Other greens have been shining as well. The Mizuna in the foreground was going to flower on one of my foraging days but it still tastes fine. Sutton Seeds Rubi Pak Choi was also a star this year, and we have finished the lot of it, so have seeded more. Guess it depends on the season whether it will thrive this late  but the package says it will. We might have a cold summer yet! Bulls Blood Beet leaves are also thriving and the Scarlet Kale is doing particularly well.
However, not to let you think neglect is always a good thing. My peas were all stolen; some rotted no doubt. Oh yes, they sprouted, but then, snip. The sprout left to wilt, the pea gone from the ground. Then there were the beans. The only ones to grow well have been Fava's (Windsor/Broad). I tried Garbanzo this year, so hopefully the second planting will survive. The pole beans have not done especially well either, but will write further on those. Have tried red noodle again, and they seem to be hardy so far, but it's earwig time and the slugs, I don't even want to talk about them!!!

But, am grateful for what is growing and we aren't tired of salads yet. Here is a link to take you to the simplest and most lovely dressing ever made especially perfect because of the Maple Syrup. Early greens are seasonal to the tapping of maple trees here in Canada.

Enjoy the crunch. Happy Gardening.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Visiting Wonderland

Tick Tock Tick Tock...Wonderland..New York...Central Park..oh what a great visit! A week away, 'time out' from the garden to explore a city I barely know and a park that covers over 800 acres. Kwanzan and Yashino Cherry, Callery Pear and Eastern Red Bud (Cercis Canadensis with it's amazing bloom along the tree trunk) were outstanding. A tapestry of pink and white froth covered the landscape; Magnolia petals fluttered to the ground; emerging lime green buds shone from the overhead branches of maple, oak and American Elm. It wasn't just the canopy of trees that thrilled, but also the faces of the many people who passed by, smiles lighting up, reflecting a perfect day. We are each a gift I thought, celebrating our uniqueness, but also, celebrating what we hold in common, the pure pleasure of a beautiful spring day in a most magnificent garden.

And there was Alice, waiting to be discovered, near the Conservatory Water. A bronze child with the likeness of the sculptor's daughter, cast perfectly. I can't imagine her any other way but as she is, sitting with her long arms, high forehead, and well rubbed nose. Don't you agree she is perfect!

I felt like Alice that first day in New York...pulled on one hand by coach time tour constraints, my heart longing to cover every part of Central Park right there and then. The Mad Hatter whispered.... "back on the bus"!   Two afternoons found me back there, each visit as wonderful as the first introduction.

May I make a shameless plug for Showcase Productions. It was truly a pleasure, being part of their Spring in NYC Theatre Tour. (Don't miss "Kinky Boots" if you go!) Showcase Productions is a Not for Profit Society who raise funds through tours and productions, which help students pursue their goals through sponsorship and scholarship.

But back to the tick tock tick White Rabbit racing through the woods, time did not stand still for the garden back home. The electrical conduit hoops over the second raised bed have worked quite well as you might recall this was the first year I tried to extend the season there. It worked equally as well as the first raised bed covered with the Lexan and cost less... plus, I put it together myself..ahem..ahem.
The photo shows dwarf Kale..last year's. Looks kinda sad but I am getting early greens from them and this will continue for awhile until they want to make this year's seeds. Kale are biennial...that means..first year greens, second year the plants will still have greens but will want to make seeds. But they won't do that for a month yet I hope. Scarlet Kale has already germinated inside the picket fence garden..more say about that in another post. Behind the Kale sticks are spinach seeded late last year and this year. There's also some Asian Choy and Cabbage gone to flower, carrots, arugula, garlic and some mizuna here and there and new sprouts which you can't see. So, ripped out the old stuff from last year after the above photo was taken...and this is the bed tidied up below, seeded with Albino Beets, and Red Red Oak Leaf Lettuce (Thanks N for the seeds).
So much has germinated in a short time. I am rather thrilled with the Red Pak Choi which enjoys cool weather, as well as beets and Purple Mizuna. The chard has also germinated and Lolla Rossa Lettuce should be ready to pick and thin in about two weeks. All of these are under the hoops in the fenced garden, seeds in the soil mid March. As I have greens germinating too close together, they will be thinned and potted up or replanted elsewhere. (click on highlighted words to follow links) Cold frames are a great place to start your seeds to transplant early as they are pretty well 'hardened off' when you move them out of their environment.

purple mizuna
It's truly a glorious time of I do hope you have had a few minutes to throw some seeds on your soil...push those peas in the ground (soak first in the house to awake them). Remember Mr. Radish..he loves the cold, and Ms. Spinach..oh she does as well. Alice says..."it's all a wonder!"