Category Archives: garden

My door to the world

I am a sentimental and nostalgic person. I love symbols and traditions and fairy tales. Smiling at the whisper of a fairy’s wings or the twinkle of a star is often the highlight of my day.

 

Our lovely home and garden in the Okanagan is my sanctuary. We have a beautiful expanse of space with my wild gardens. I say wild in part because there are wild blossoms courtesy of the wind and birds, but also because I can’t seem to be disciplined enough in the dirt to create a formal structure. Like my life I suppose – elements of a framework but never enough to close the box.

 

My original plan was to have the flowers in my raised beds but when you plant heirlooms in a windy place, well…

Ella doesn’t mind that sunflowers pop up wherever they like…

I am inspired by quirky things, and I love to cheer for the underdog. (Another reason my gardens look so unkempt- everyone gets the benefit of the doubt until they demonstrate more evil than good.)

The back garden is full of artifacts and artful tokens. Some are simple junk, retrieved because I loved the memories they evoked or wanted to ponder the ones they contained. A few pieces I created, and a few I inherited. All of them add to the natural character of our place with a worldly sort of homey-ness.

My homemade heron sculpture
A scale from a junkyard now measures time in the garden…
A thrift store bunny is now an ambassador at Rabbit Hollow

We always envisioned a sort of gateway to the world even though we had no intention of a fence. Our original vision was for a moongate, inspired by our honeymoon visit to Bermuda with many of them showcasing the sunsets. We talked of an arch, but that became the passage from the garden to our harvest table. When we rebuilt the front door to our old farmhouse, I knew I had just the thing.

There are so many expressions about doors, with many of  them seeming appropriate for 2020:

  • getting one’s foot in the door (what the virus did around the world)
  • closing the barn door after the horse has bolted (what happened in some regions as the pandemic struck fast and hard)
  • having the wolf at one’s door  (the financial situation for so many after the pandemic lockdowns)
  • don’t let the door hit you on the way out (what I’d like to say to the virus)

You might say I ought to have left the door open to foster a spirit of hospitality and welcome. I’ll add an expression to the historic list to defend my case – a sort of “be prepared for any occasion” idiom: 

Never leave the door ajar on a windy day.

I am heartened to see the door when I look out the window now. It announces the rest of the world is out there, waiting. It keeps out the negative energy as it makes me smile, thinking of all the good times it brought into our house. And it’s there for us – day and night, through every kind of weather – ready when opportunity knocks.

Who knows when the winds will change and the world will return to one that allows for more work, more hugs, more visitors through our doors. But in the meantime, I’ll watch out the window and remember…

When one door closes, another one opens.

 

The view from one corner of the garden, out to the world.

 

Surviving, one bake at a time

I’m going on a bit of a rant – if you’d just like the foodie part of this tale, skip over the section in italics. I won’t mind, really.

It’s been 65 days since the covid-19 pandemic was officially declared. Hubbie and I went into self-isolation then, having already started to prepare for some of the challenges.

We are movie fans; you’d think we would have seen the signs. But then the characters in the movie never see the signs until it’s too late to do anything.

I’m a mostly optimistic person. Our lifestyle was already one that involved trying to be grateful and make the most of moments, so we looked for the positives:

  • Canada is a relatively safe place, with universal health care and plenty of infrastructure
  • We live in a smaller community where there were initially no outbreaks
  • Spring is traditionally slow for our business, so the initial lack of work was manageable

Following the movie analogy though, everyone knows that a Polly Anna story doesn’t sell. And Mother Nature loves that guy Murphy.

You know the rest of the story after this point – it hit the fan. Once we passed into the third month of this with no real end in sight, I decided that I need to regroup. I can’t listen to more news or read more articles or see more memes – I need a chance for my brain to focus on something else, something that involves an accomplishment. A bit of that will refuel me for what comes next.

I am so very thankful one of my passions is something as essential as food. It’s easy to lose myself in the garden or the kitchen.

At Rabbit Hollow we have the garden and the kitchen together in summer!

Spring is the beginning of gardening season – my grubby green thumbs could not be luckier. I have weeded my heart out and transplanted all my seedlings, the first time ever on schedule. But the garden takes months to deliver its bounty.

My real saving grace has been baking. Okay, and working out – ‘cause someone has to eat all those goodies once they come out of the oven 😁

I have to give a shout-out here, to Matthew & Erika and their team at Bread Ahead Bakery in London. I stumbled upon them early in the lockdown and quickly became a “breadaheader”, watching their live Instagram baking tutorials. I learned about sourdough and pastries, got recipes for numerous classics, and found a way to mark my days with the accomplishments of treats to share with my guy, and anyone else whose doorstep was willing.

Sourdough – and amaretti
Sourdough – and cinnamon buns
Sourdough, and chocolate chip cookies (are you getting the theme here?)

It may sound silly that following baking videos kept me sane, but it’s true. The sense of community I feel with food is truly magical. Cooking and eating allows us to experience all our senses, and sharing food is the most basic gesture of gratitude and respect.

What is my point to all this rambling? Honestly, I’m not sure yet. But I do know that food brings people together – even when they have to be apart.

I wish I had the finances to provide meals or even snacks for those less fortunate. All I can manage is to offer smiles to friends and loved ones, and share my passion in hopes it will spark someone else’s fire. At least in sharing we have a sense of camaraderie. If we are all in this together for the pandemic, why not be in something together that offers hope and a smile?

So, I’ll get up tomorrow and decide what I’m cooking (after I work out 😉) Tonight my chef hubby and I filmed our dinner prep on Facebook and it felt good, to wave at friends and share little tips. Life finds a way to persevere.

We will keep going, a few weeks at a time, just like they tell us now. Where will it lead? To the table, for another meal, more sustenance. Each season has its purpose. I have faith that in practicing my skills I will find a way through.

Does it seem logical to anyone else that if Murphy’s Law is consistent, then if anything is going to go right, it will do so at the best possible moment? As Matthew kept saying in all those tutorials, “Practice, practice, practice!”

Busy baking away in my first online cooking class. Boy, were those doughnuts good! 😋

Lions and lambs and lettuce

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.

March with lion and lamb

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.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

march with cocktail humour

No Dear, it’s not a phase

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:

 

Crown Imperial

I can’t remember the name of this one, but my mom suggested it 😄

Lily of the Valley

 

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!

 

 

All Ears

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!

(Okay, maybe a Peep or two for food measure)

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

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