Category Archives: garden
March is a mixed up month. I never know if spring is really here or if winter is just gearing up for her grand finale. The days get longer but if it’s grey they can still seem gloomily short, in my opinion. As a result, one day I feel like eating salad for dinner – celebrating the sprouting tulips and sunshine – then the next day stew is on the menu, to ward off the damp and cold of a frosty day.
It is said that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. In Canada those little lambs aren’t the ones eating ivy, though, for the snow could still be on the ground.
A silly aside here – does anyone else remember the old song, “Mairzy Doats”? The story goes that one of the songwriters was inspired when his 4 year old daughter came home singing her version of a nursery rhyme, simple cute jibberish to his ear. He wrote:
Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wouldn’t you?
The lyrics of the song’s bridge provided a clue to undoing the code:
If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”
Then we can translate the final line as
a kid’ll eat ivy, too; wouldn’t you?
But that’s a matter more for the month of April, don’t you think?
To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the month’s maelstrom of emotions, I decided to focus on the gentler lamb image and find something “springy”. More light, more new things – that’s what was needed. I found it in my Tower Garden.
Now I plant lettuces and herbs inside and get to watch them grow in the wonderfully cheery tower brightened by LED wands. It’s a delicious sort of magic being able to eat homegrown lettuce in the month of March, without having to brave the whistling winds and half-frozen dirt that comprises my garden plot at the moment.
It’s still a bit early to plant my seeds for the outdoor veggie garden. Experience has taught me that I’ll end up with leggy shoots that can’t stay up in the continuing winds of later spring. Their stocks will mold or break in the damp outside world and I’ll have to start over. For now, I am just plotting out my plan, choosing which seeds will be featured and how everyone will fit in the space.
In the meantime, at least I can feel nourished by what is to come; I don’t have to subsist solely on the stock of the winter larder, or my winter spirit. Having a bit more colour in my diet helps me notice the colour in the world. It cheers me and brings back my sense of humour.
On that note, I’ll close with the other quote I found about March. It sums up my sentiment quite nicely.
March is the month God created to show people who don’t drink what it feels like to have a hangover. – Garrison Keillor
When I was a kid, I was weird.
- I liked wearing a flowery embroidered purple tunic with just about anything (it was my favourite top).
- I wore horizontally striped socks with skirts.
- I carried a book bag years before any of my schoolmates. What I thought was cool never synced up with what was considered cool.
- I was a complete clutz, not coordinated at all.
- I was taller than most of the boys in my class, and I didn’t wear a bra until senior high school.
My mom always let me be me. She would check with me as I got older sometimes, maybe offering another alternative for consideration, but she supported my final decisions.
Mostly, I liked being weird. I have always enjoyed quirky things, new adventures; they attracted me. It’s a lot of why I became such a foodie, wanting to try new tastes and understand how to incorporate them. Becoming a sommelier was a perfect fit – it’s a bit of a nerdy pursuit, learning all that history and geography and tasting wine but then spitting it out.
When I took up gardening, I found another weird way to express myself. Just like that embroidered top, the flowers that attract me are unique:
For some people, all this is just too much of a difference. It can scare them away. I have been very fortunate to find some wonderful friends over the years, but often I’ve encountered folks who just don’t know what to do with me, or how to respond to all my weirdness.
I remember asking my mom one particularly tough day at about the age of 15, “All of this is just a phase, right? It will pass, I’ll grow out of it, won’t I?” Without hesitating, she answered, “No dear, it’s not a phase. You’ll have to learn to live with it.”
I think back then I figured she was kidding. It took me another few years to realize that I was born NOT to fit in. The more I tried to be a part of the cool crowd, the more they disliked me. I should have connected the dots, knowing that my tastes were different. Once I understood that others who had similar (equally weird) tastes were my tribe, then I stopped trying to explain the differences as a way of being accepted.
On this Mother’s Day as I strolled through my garden, and as I crafted the olive-wood smoked oil & vintage balsamic vinaigrette for our salad with dinner, I was thinking of my mom and her encouragement of my true self.
She was always a traditional Mom, making great cookies and putting notes in my lunch and sewing my Hallowe’en costumes… but the best thing my mom did for me was help me understand who I really am.
Thanks, Mom. Cheers!
Easter is a beautiful celebration, full of colour, warmth and love. The decadence of spring signifies the transition from the bleakness of winter just as Easter brings the end of Lent. People seem to breathe more deeply at Easter.
This year with Earth Day following Easter I felt a certain symmetry. My reverence for life was reaffirmed in my love for our planet.
At Rabbit Hollow we have a natural affinity to Easter – bunnies are our thing. Beatrix Potter’s Peter is the perfect mascot, with a sense of spirit and (once learned) a sense of responsibility.
Rabbits are a good symbol for us – we are all about foraging, nibbling a little here and there, and enjoying the love and abundance of family and the community at large.
We don’t have the wild bunnies here anymore that lay around when we first moved in, but our friendly sentinels greet me daily in our garden. I honour their presence every Easter. How? Well, with chocolate of course!
Especially with it being Earth Day, I wanted to honour all creatures. Ella and I had extra outside time today. I planted more bulbs and watered the early seeds, all the while thinking nurturing thoughts. I was thrilled to see a coyote out midday, cruising the field, and we spotted two deer in the orchard. Everyone was making the most of the day.
This evening as we sat down for our tea and a wee treat, I turned to my Easter chocolate. Are you like me – feet first? My Foodie book of etiquette says it’s disrespectful to eat a bunny’s ears first.
It was a lovely day, a wonderful weekend. I look forward to more warm spring days, so the bees can keep working and the blossoms can bring fruit. There is much to do if we are to help keep our planet going, and the renewal of spring is the perfect reminder to inspire me.
May your garden grow well, may the sun warm your face and may you have time to stop and smell the flowers.
Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest. – Beatrix Potter
I am a product of my upbringing. The tales of root cellars where everything was preserved, my Grampa’s stories of living during the war when things were rationed, and the prevalence of farm culture from both my parents’ prairie life – all these elements combined with those Little House on the Prairie volumes in my head to make me thrifty in the kitchen.
Gramps used to say when I refused the last morsel, “Can’t be wasting!”, and I would capitulate. It was like referring to those starving kids in Africa. I often wondered, would they eat sandwich crusts?
This time of year is when we work to save and store. It’s the end of harvest of course, so it’s a mad dash to make sure as little is wasted as possible. Some of the bounty doesn’t get used – it’s impossible to eat it all, even when we share. But I am heartened when I remember my farmer neighbour’s words that everything going back to the ground helps the soil for the following year. Mother Nature provides.
We dried fruit and canned chutney and jam and made hot sauce and kimchi and infused vinegars and oils. I baked bread and pies and bread pudding. I roasted squash and tomatoes and put them in the freezer. my last effort is to plan menus for the next couple of weeks so we can use the last of the arugula, green beans and green tomatoes.
It can be exhausting. I have new admiration for the pioneer housewives and their fortitude in the face of such a daunting task: providing a variety of flavours for a household through a cold, dark winter. Before there were OXO cubes, Heinz ketchup and Classico pasta sauce, there were women who kept everyone from losing their minds over endless bowls of turnip soup and boiled potatoes with mutton.
Perhaps the return of Outlander on TV has given me my second wind… are there any other fans among my readers? If Claire could manage to survive in a kitchen-of-old, then surely I can do it too.
My inspiration this weekend is to use the last of the apples and some quince with my final trimmings from the mint to make a sort of preserve that I’d like to use for both sweet and savoury purposes. My plan is to make it on the sweet side, and then when I want to use it say, for roast pork, I’ll sauté some onions and add in the apple mint preserve with a bit of cider vinegar to get more of a chutney or Branston-pickly kind of condiment. (If anyone has any experience with a similar recipe, I’m all ears.) I shall post up the recipe once I’m happy with the result.
And perhaps I’ll make a batch of Millionaire Shortbread in celebration of the Outlander premiere on Sunday. Since Claire and Jamie will be in the New World, it seems only fitting that we encourage that spirit of entrepreneurship, don’t you think? (wink)
I came in from outside tonight with my fingers all coated in saskatoon and raspberry juice, and read Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney’s post about harvesting berries – I took it as a sign. So, here I am contributing my handful of harvest ideas and memories to her theme for this week.
I live in the Okanagan, western Canada’s fruit basket. We have an edible fence in our front yard, with tayberries, golden and red raspberries, white currants, and two kinds of gooseberries. We also have a cherry tree that is over 60 years old, the only one left from the original orchard that surrounded our farmhouse. Late June our harvest begins with the currants and saskatoons, then it’s non-stop eating till the first frost.
As I stood out there tonight, picking and eating (you know, “one for the bowl, one for me”), I thought of how fortunate we are. To live in a place where all summer long I can eat my fill with the dogs nuzzling at my feet – it made me think of the phrase “an embarrassment of riches”.
When I was a kid growing up in Calgary, berries were much more of a luxury. My parents tried to grow raspberries, but we only ever managed a few handfuls for a harvest. My mom would buy them occasionally but they were doled out like gold coins. Perhaps that is part of why they taste so good now.
My favourite way to eat berries is by the handful right off the bush, but if I’m cooking them I want to make sure I can still taste the full impact of their flavour.
- Our golden raspberries are more delicate in taste than red ones, but in Raspberry Financiers they shine. These are delicious for brunch or afternoon tea, and they make a delectable hostess gift.
- Gooseberries have great taste but they are tough to deal with. The prickly bushes put up a good fight for their bounty, and their stems and tails are rather gnarly to eat. I like to make syrup by simply boiling the fruit with a bit of sugar and then I strain it for syrup – yummy on pancakes, ice cream, or even in salad dressing.
- Currants are good for syrup too, and you can take things a step further and make mostarda. This Italian condiment is a great savoury match for roasted meats and cheeses. You can use this recipe for cherry mostarda for currants too.
As a foodie, I am all about the flavours of life. It amazes me that Mother Nature can offer us so many variations on a theme. I mean really, your imagination has to be good to develop the sweetness and range of colour in blueberries and golden raspberries and then head all the way through the spectrum to the different but equally delicious tangy gooseberries and currants.
I have been fortunate to have flavour memories from other parts of the world, but I’ll save that for another post. Today I’m just going to stay grateful for the bountiful flavours of home.