Tuesday, June 30, 2009


My son and daughter in law purchased a house about a month ago. To help with the mortgage they are turning the basement into a one bedroom suite. They took the basement right down to the studs, added a bathroom, changed some doorways...and the work continues. They had some leftover 2X4 in 14 foot lengths as well as some old fir 2 x6 in eight foot lengths which Art planed, sanded and turned into a picnic table and bench seat. Just waiting for me to paint it and make some cushions..add them to the list..

I love them and we dine al fresco under the grape vines...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fruit Trees

I was so lucky to find a house that was well looked after, both inside and outside. Although the house needed some upgrading it has "good bones". And the same applies to the outside. I moved in with two established green houses, a neat and tidy yard and quite a few fruit trees. I added outside veggie and flower gardens with plans for more. My goal is to plant a green type fence for privacy made up of small trees, roses, lilacs and other flowering trees and plants. And making my veggie garden big enough to grow corn and beans. My ultimate dream would be to grow enough wheat to make my own flour but that's a long way off.

But, today I want to show off the fruit trees.

The tree king in our back yard is the cherry tree. It was well pruned in the past and is basically disease and pest free, but it's a fight between me and the crows to see who gets the fruit first. Unfortunately this past week we had some torrential rain storms and some of the cherries split, but the chickens love them. Last year I made about 8 jars of jam and froze tons. It was so nice to have almost "free" cherry deserts like pie, crumble, cakes and muffins during winter.

Every king needs a queen and in my backyard the queens are the three plum trees. Two Italian purple plums and one yellow plum. Last year I made plum jam, plum chutney and again froze a bunch which I used in desserts throughout winter. Of course we ate lots of them too.

There are three hazelnut trees which bears love. The year before we moved in the bears broke many of the limbs which meant no nuts but this year I see a fair amount of fruit so...again it will be a battle with the bears, chipmunks, and the crows to see who gets to eat these tasty little morsels.

I think this is a walnut tree and for the first time it has fruit, I counted about 10 walnuts, maybe these are pecans??? We will have to wait and see.
And two apple trees..my least favorite and the most problematic. Lots of fruit which is full of worms...the bears, chickens, and any other critter is very welcome to them.
But honestly, I need to find out how to care for them without using any pesticides and if anyone has any information please let me know.
In the meantime I'm patiently waiting for the cherries..

Friday, June 26, 2009

Around the garden

Do you have a favorite garden area? Mine is this little spot right at the front of the driveway. It's quite small and without exotic or difficult flowers but somehow it really makes me smile and happy.

On Wednesday I wrote about the heavy rain but I may not have mentioned the strong winds that went along with the rain. It flattened my Lavatera, some of the stalks were broken off but with a strong stake and string I should get it upright again.

And I bought a floating cover today and some seeds. I won a $25.00 gift certificate to a local nursery at my last garden club meeting. Those little root maggots, cabbage loppers and the like will not get the best of me..I hope.

The sun is shining today and will hopefully shine all weekend so I can spend my time in the garden. I hope the sun is shining in your part of the world.

Happy Friday everyone.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rainy day blahs

After a month with almost no rain we are getting buckets today. No gardening (which also means no watering, yay) but I'm happy to be in the kitchen making raisin bread and biscotti. It's quite cool and the house needs warming up.

Pretty simple, I'm using my regular bread recipe and adding honey, raisins and cinnamon to it.

The biscotti are also really simple and oh so delicious, taken from my trusty, Betty Crocker's New Cookbook with substitutions here is the recipe for Orange Almond Biscotti:

1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tbs orange zest
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups all all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds (I used toasted walnut pieces because I didn't have almonds on hand)
1/2 tsp pure almond extract (my addition because I like it)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (my addition and you guessed it, I like 'em)
-Heat oven to 350 F.

-Beat sugar butter, orange zest and almond extract.
-Stir in flour, baking powder, salt, walnuts and cranberries
-Shape dough into two equal rectangles, 10 x 3 inches on un-greased cookie sheet.
-Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
-Cool for 15 minutes
-Cut on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices, place slices cut side down on a cookie sheet.
-Bake for about 15 minutes or until crisp and light brown, remove from cookie sheet and cool.
-Drizzle melted chocolate if desired. I dunk my cookies so no chocoloate drizzles for me...

Enjoy with tea or coffee.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


The turnips..what a waste if time. I finally pulled all the turnips last night and will likely not grow them again unless I invest in floating row covers. I love small, young turnips lightly sauteed in butter, so investing in a floating row cover might be the way to go, I'll give it some thought.

The chickens are all doing well, they are so funny. I've never seen a chicken run, I laugh every time..Here Art is letting them out for some free ranging..

Proof that poppies have weed like tendencies..they are growing amidst rocks at the back of the house which gets very little sun and is never watered. But so pretty.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Raw Milk and eating locally

A little while ago in an effort to eat locally I started buying my milk from a local organic small farm. The farm is about a 2KM walk for me and my dog. The milk costs $2.50 per litre. At first I thought, yikes, that's pretty expensive, almost 4 times as much as a 4 litre jug at the supermarket.

I was tempted to go back to the supermarket milk, after all, I also want to live frugally as well as green, organic, self reliant, ect....

But as I was walking to buy my milk today, with my dog, with the birds singing, with very little traffic, the sun shining down on my shoulders, and a light breeze to keep me cool I came up with some reasons why I will continue to buy milk from the little farm just down the road from me.

- I don't have to buy a gym membership.
- I'm not producing any pollution.
- Walking keeps me healthy and less of a burden on our Canadian Health Care system.
- My dog is healthier and doesn't require as many visits to the vet.
- $2.50 does not seem like a lot but it helps to keep a local farm in business.
- No trucks, ships, or planes were used to get milk to my table.
- It keeps me sane and out of the psych ward.

Some folks have no problem with raw milk but I prefer to pasteurize my milk. It's really very easy.

Before you start make sure you sterilize your milk bottles and tops.

Heat the milk in a double boiler for 30 minutes to 63C, stir the milk to ensure the milk heats evenly.

Cool very quickly in an ice bath.

Bottle your milk in sterilized bottles.

Full details on how to pastorize your milk can be found here.

What are your reasons for eating locally?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The chickens

Well the chickens are settling in, they have graciously given us 9 eggs, we are thrilled.

The chickens it seems have grabbed every one's attention.

And their clucking is surprisingly soothing as we sit and watch them scratch at the ground.

One surprising thing.. that is not so soothing, they poop, alot. Who new that such little thing could poop so much.

I'll have to use one pair of my shoes just for the chickens and leave them in the garage..

Swiss Chard

The Swiss chard I planted is ready for harvesting, all at once, all two rows of it. Way too much for us, so I will freeze it. I didn't pull the plants because Swiss chard grows all year in my area, or so I've been told. I imagine that at some point the plant will stop producing many leaves so it will be at that point that I'll use the frozen chard. It can used much like spinach and I'm looking forward to sauteing it with garlic and olive oil, using it in ravioli, in soups, with beans..my mouth is watering.

So, first, wash the chard really, really well. I add some salt to the water to kill any unwanted little critters.

Bring a pot of water to boil and as you wait for the water, roughly chop the chard. Add the chard to the water and boil for two minutes. Quickly place the chard in cold water and then into a strainer.

Divide the cooled and strained chard into zip lock bags.

Label and freeze.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Andrew

How time flies. My beautiful little boy is now 29, who would have thunk it?

Love you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The chickens are here

The girls were picked up this morning and I'm sure I'll be talking about them for some time to come.

They will be in their enclosure for the next week so they can familiarize themselves with their new home and then let out to roam the backyard.

And look they already laid two eggs.

Now..should I name them? Bettina, Giuliana, Alessia, Iolanda, Colleen and Lili...

Thursday, June 11, 2009


My daughter-in-law new to Canada from Mexico made home made tortillas today. It was tough enough dealing with the cold weather but without her traditional foods she was really like a fish out of water. Powell River, as lovely as it is, does not offer much in the way of fresh, traditional tasty Mexican ingredients at a reasonable price. Lili tried to explain how good fresh tortillas are but until today I had no idea. Absolutely fabulous, I can't wait for more.

I am Italian, from the Oderzo, a little town near Venice and polenta is a popular dish. My mom used to make, and still does, huge pots of it. It would simmer in the pot for some time, the polenta would always stick to the bottom of the pot and go crispy and brown. My mom would empty the pot and then with a fork she would loosen the crispy polenta that stuck to the bottom of the pot. In my dialect, crostole (probably misspelled) di polenta, we went crazy for these tasty little morsels. Well that's what fresh tortillas bring to mind.

The right type of flour is very important and after some searching we found it at our local grocery store. Maseca is a type of corn flour.

There is ratio of water to flour but Lili knows by touch when it's ready.

Little balls go into the handy dandy tortilla press.

Then into a hot nonstick or heavy cast iron pan, no oil. Sorry didn't get a picture because we ate them as fast as they were coming out of the pan, all we have now are 5...

And here you have it, the final tortillas, all 5 of them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I thinned out my turnips yesterday with the idea that I would pan fry the little ones. I planted an early variety, Turnip Early Snowball. On close inspection I found they were all infested with
the cabbage root maggot.


Picture courtesy of http://www.gardenguides.com/pests/pestinfo/rootmaggot.asp

maggots on a root

Not much can be done at this point but if I plant turnips or any cole veggie, like broccoli, brussels sprouts, bok choy ect. I will need to invest in floating row covers so that the adult fly can not get close to MY seedlings to lay it's icky eggs.

Right now it sure seems like the bugs are winning...the only plants that so far have not been affected by some sort of bug are: all my squash plants, cucumbers but I did loose one to a cutworm, potatoes and tomatoes.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Green Houses

I don't think I posted pictures of the veggie plants I'm growing in the green houses for some time. Mostly because I've neglected them and the weeds were taking over. All the plants in the greenhouses were started from seed, are now weeded and doing well, for the most part. Just like last year the eggplants are suffering from flea beetle infestation. I'm using Green Earth Rotenone Insect spray with some success. I hate to use anything but the greenhouse seem full of little pesky bugs. I'm really thinking about taking the large one down and just using the area as an outside veggie garden next year, hmmm!!!

And thinning out the green onions which I'll use for some salmon salad, really delicious.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pender Harbour Blues Festival

Friends from Britannia Beach emailed Saturday morning inviting Art and I to join them at the Pender Harbour Blues Festival. My back is still really sore so yeah...a much needed break from the garden.

We took the 9:30am BC ferry from Saltry Bary to Earls Cove.

Looking up towards Jarvis Inlet as we make our way to Earl's Cove.

Pender Harbour is a beautiful place, made up of small coves and little communities.

After some sight seeing we met up with our friends at the Garden Bay Pub for lunch and music.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bean dip - accidental

As some of you may know I have high cholesterol which I'm trying to control by changing my diet rather than using pills. Beans and legumes are really good at reducing cholesterol because they are high in fibre and low in fat, so I started adding more beans to my diet. I buy dried beans and cook them up every week. I leave them in the fridge and add a hand full to my salads. I tried this with white canellini beans...

They are unlike the other beans in that they cooked much faster and were really mushy. Not at all suitable for salads. But now what, I didn't want soup, it's really too hot now. So to the Internet I went and found a bunch of recipes for white bean dip. Excellent!

This now brings me to the second part of my story. Did I mention that I like to have a glass of wine now and again? Well I do, but I can't drink on an empty stomach so I usually have cheese, crackers, pate, salami or some other type of high fat, high cholesterol snack, that's what got me into trouble! But.. Ever tried a raw veggie and dip platter with wine? It's ok but...cheese and crackers are so much nicer.

Enter the white bean dip, it's excellent on crackers and with a nice glass of wine. It's not necessarily low in fat because it does take quite a bit of olive oil but it has 0 cholesterol and it's not something I eat every day, nor do I drink wine every day, really...

This a general how to recipe, I don't have exact amounts because..well I came upon it by accident and I had to improvise.

Soak white cannellini beans overnight in lots of cold water.

Then boil them gently until cooked, about 45 minutes but check for doness before that. Take a bean out of the pot and squish it with your thumb, if it's hard in the middle, keep cooking.

Process the beans in a food processor with chopped garlic, parsley. lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and chili flakes. I had about 4 cups of cooked beans and added (about) 1/2 cup of chopped parsley, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 tspn of chili flakes, 1 tsp of salt and some pepper. You may need to add more oil or lemon to get the beans to a dip, I chose to add more lemon juice but it's up to you, just taste and amend as you go. Remember that the dip is much stronger after it sits for a few hours.

Then head out to your favorite shady spot, the cherry tree for me, and enjoy.

Off to the cabin..have a great weekend everyone.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Seeking comfort from the heat...

I work full time from home and my office is in the attic..it can get pretty hot up here. I finally had to get the fan out because it's getting unbearable..but not just for me.

Crazy Daisy is now a happy cat.

Seeking shade

The temperature is heading towards 30C and our yard has very little shade. Last year we spent long hot days under the grape vine but in an attempt to harvest grapes this year we severely pruned the vine. Soooo where to now?

The cherry tree looks good.

But no seating...Art to the rescue. With plans from Lee Valley and some ingenuity (we don't want to spend any money).

Art built this.

Now it's my turn..I have to make some cushions and we'll be set.

Monday, June 1, 2009

In the garden

We are having a stretch of beautiful hot weather and I spent all weekend in the garden. My back is really killing me but the garden looks good. I still have more to do but garden chores are never really done are they??
My radishes are all done, they were delicious, I'm going to try to grow some more but it might be too hot.

I am feasting on lettuce with no clear end in sight. You don't know how thrilled I am to walk right by the lettuce display in my grocery store.
For lunch today I made a salad with my home grown butter nut lettuce, dried cranberries, walnuts, calamata olives and feta cheese. I drizzled a little olive oil and red wine vinegar over the salad and grilled some left over polenta. I was pretty much finished with lunch when I thought about taking a picture, next time I guess..

The top picture shows Yukon Gold potatoes, Italian green beans and parsnips, and the bottom picture shows Swiss chard, Spanish Onions, carrots, green onions, lettuce and turnips.

And look at this picture, fried egg flowers, they are so cute and if anyone in Canada wants the seeds just drop me a line, I'm glad to send them out, but I'll need a self stamped envelope.

And finally a picture of the new flower bed done on the cheap, 75% of the perennials were started from seed, 20% were bought at the end of last season for a buck and 5% were 10.00 or less. Some of the more established plants were already here when we moved.