Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

My Explosion of Kleenex Needs Bees


Our Red Sparkle apple tree is a giant riot of white. It makes me happy, many times a day. From afar it looks like a kleenex box exploded all over it. If number of blossoms correlates to number of fruits, we’re in for a crazy yield this year again – last year was 100kg+. Now all we need is those pollinating insects to do their thing. Fruit trees rock. I want more.

Extreme Gardening

The scope of my ambitious gardening project that has been tackled head on in the past week is taking its toll on my body. No, really – it’s fantastic in theory and I have really nice drawings from a winter of planning. Really. But what I didn’t plan so much on is that moving trees, shoveling gravel and soil, digging out fence posts, hauling soil, planting hundreds of plants, raking, moving rocks = sore to the core. A bonus is that I don’t think I’ll ever have been in such good shape to start the coming waterskiing season. Thankfully, the goal of creating a diverse and abundant infrastructure of perennial edibles that can be enjoyed for years is taking shape. I saw the baby white asparaguses poking out as I moved their crowns into permanent homes around the landscape. Flemish white asparagus with a belgian beer….soon enough my kitchen will reap the rewards of my soreness. Soon enough.

An added bonus: I’ve met more neighbours in the past two days converting my front yard of lawn-hell into something useful and productive than I have in the past year living here. Who knew gardening was so social?

Seedling Tray 1

My February of revising seed catalogs seems to quickly have passed. And now, here we are, mid-March. Some of my online orders have been making appearances at my door. Time to seed stuff? Already? Wasn’t it -30 with 3 feet of snow two days ago?

These little trays of jiffys are quick and easy, although I’m resolved to settle on a reusable tray that I can fill with sterile potting soil. Not only because I’m cheap and would love to eliminate the consumables here, but because these little netting thingers didn’t seem to break down in my previous garden reliably, so I’d end up picking some out in the fall.

This tray: greek oregano, sweet basil, chervil, lavender, wild thyme, savory, marjoram, sage, dill, and cayenne chili. I don’t think I’ll be able to produce enough herbs this year to satiate my garden design plan, and I wouldn’t mind a few herby-house-plants too. I also seeded some wild chive and artemesia frigida for some ‘moist stratification’ action. Haven’t done this one before. Basically seed, moisten, stick in garage to freeze and thaw a bunch of times prior to them being ready to go.

Seeding is exciting – so much promise of wonderful things to come.

My Edible Garden Taking Shape

Garden planning is at the bottom of the list of things I thought I’d ever get hardcore about. But it has consumed me. We bought a very average city lot in this area, which is 115 x 48 feet or so, and although I knew I’d have more room to garden, I didn’t realize how much. So I’ve been engulfed with the possibilities. Enraptured by the variety I didn’t know was available, largely due to a lot of new cultivars that have been bred to be hardy to our area that simply didn’t exist when I was a kid.

My mission: edible plants, featuring many native edibles. Barring very few exceptions [peonies], it made no sense to me to plant things that didn’t produce food. I also did not want to till my front and back yards into a vast sea of dirt for tidy rows of staple vegetables. Thankfully, my idea is not an original one, and in fact, there’s a company in town that specializes in such garden design. I’ve read most every book in the library on the topic of garden design. I’ve got a plan to scale that’s evolving more slowly as weeks pass. Edible it will be, and I’m hoping it can produce like crazy.

Now if only spring would arrive.

Biggest blog break…ever?

Thanks for the prod, Des – and yes, everything’s good. Barring perhaps the January lull of food inspiration. But it’s February now, and that lack of inspiration is changing like the weather and the length of day. It’s time to get my seed catalog orders in. Which means it’s time to do some extensive garden planning – something I was unable to do last year amidst the renovation, travel, etc that consumed my life. This year will be the year of setting roots in my new gardens that will be ten times the space we had at our old place. So much to do. So much to look forward to.

The actual reason for my absence wasn’t because of hours of plant research – but because of a new arrival in our family. I now have two lovely daughters. Thankfully, this little one is the opposite of the last, and we have a peaceful little sleeping newborn around the house rather than a second round of colic hell.

So I’m here. Planning. Setting roots. Doing lots of homework. Many food adventures ahead this year, and I want to be ready…

Chard, My Way

There’s a soft spot in my heart for chard. So under-rated. So under-appreciated. Among its many attributes: it’s healthy for you; it’s easy to grow from seed; it’s super-prolific – a few plants growing more than most people need; it’s hardy; you can harvest it from early spring to late fall. It’s an easy go-to green that makes you feel like you did something nice for your body when you eat it. And it tastes good too.

Chard leaves. As with most greens, preferably picked in the cool of the morning. Pick far more than you think you’ll need, it cooks down big-time.

Start on high heat with an ounce or so of water to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pot. Once steaming, cover, and let cook slowly over low heat, until completely wilted and dark green. I leave the lid off when done, and cook off any excess liquid. I suppose you could pour it off. Add some good butter, salt and pepper. Toss. Alternatively, good oil, salt and pepper. This is a good place to use extra virgin canola oil, in my opinion. Yes, you heard me right: extra virgin canola oil.

Ah, my very own horseradish monster

There are pros and cons to inheriting someone else’s gardens when you move. A pro for me? This gigantic horseradish patch behind my garage. It’s large enough to eat my small child, so we have to be careful.

I eat a lot of game, as you know, and my favorite condiment with game is easily prepared horseradish. Needless to say, I will eventually be posting on my first attempts at making and canning the stuff for my winter supply. I’ve read about it, and talked to some folks that have made it, so I know enough to…let’s say…be cautious. But if you have a tried and true recipe to share – please do!

On another note: as I slowly get my life back in order after a crazy year, I am resolved to get back to my blogging self. More tomorrow. Promise.

4 Garden-Inspired-Courses and a Guest

garden lettuce w belle farms olive oil and riesling vinegar vinaigrette

soup: garden beets, lovage, chard, carrot, red onion, parsley

herbes de provence roast chicken with garden kennebec, norland and yukon gold

quickie moelleux with quickie garden raspberry jam

The Wines:
2007 Chateau de Lancyre Rose, Luberon France [88-91 pts]
2003 Chateau de Carles, Fronsac, France [91-93 pts]

My NEW Garden Salad [uh...salad from my NEW garden]


As promised, a salad. A pretty notable salad as it’s the first produce out of my new garden – baby spinach, lettuces, dill, mint, lovage, and wild chive. Added a few pecans and a boiled egg, and MAN. I don’t eat enough salads.

I’ve missed my garden. So much.

Merry Herb Season!!

Is this what you thought thyme would look like having emerged from 3 feet of snow, after a winter with -30C temperatures? Not I. There’s still lots of snow, but the thyme is against a south facing wall, and gets exposed in February. Last year, I couldn’t believe that it looked essentially as good as new. This year, I was prepared for it, and am making good use of it.

If things go as they did last year, the thyme will dry out and seemingly go dormant for a month or two prior to starting this year’s growth. So I’m making hay while the sun shines.

It pleases me to no end to post about gardening, and to get excited about fresh seasonal foods grown in my backyard. So inspiring. March to me screams fresh sage – as it’s the first to sprout new leaves in my herb bed. Oregano follows closely behind. So fresh herb season has arrived, and will carry on until next year’s winter snow shuts my supply and inspiration off, yet again.