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Grow and Show

Perhaps it’s because I am now in charge of the garden and not one of my mom’s minions, but I am now a proud gardener. 

As a kid I used to begrudge my time in the garden – it always happened when other summer activities were in full swing, like long weekends when friends went swimming or camping. I was planting or weeding or harvesting. 

Planting wasn’t too bad, but it sure took a long time to see the results of one’s labour. Weeding was the worst, as it seemed to be a losing battle. (I still feel that way most days but I’ve learned to feel the worth in anger management therapy. ) Harvesting was fun as it was the payoff – but it’s like cycling downhill… there is another side to it. 

All downhills have an up, and the garden harvest has to be eaten. Since it tends to be ready in large quantities at once, this means processing what you can’t eat right away. I still have a vivid sensory memory of the yucky taste in my mouth after sucking the air out of blanched snow peas and beans. (The freezer bags came with a short straw to do your own “vacuum sealing”. It was a good concept but I have since learned squishing the bag is just as good. )

Now I take pride in every little victory, and I check every morning to see the changes. (It’s funny how it took me many miles in life before I could fully appreciate short spans of time.) I suppose this is just another way of stopping to smell the flowers, isn’t it, Mumsy?

So, here’s my “grow and show” for this week:

The first cucumber! Now if only my lettuce would catch up.

Basil! To go with …

Tomatoes! The red plastic is working. This black krim in the greenhouse is the first to bear fruit (with the plastic they are supposed to bear more fruit earlier.)

My pride and joy – the Pink Gilbert grape vine that grows over the stone wall and makes the perfect picture with the window Martin made. I finally got its shoots thinned today.


Cheers to all those gardeners out there, and to the many eaters that share in our harvest.  Here’s to a bountiful season!

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A Day Off in the Garden

There is no such thing as a day off in the garden. If you are not yet a gardener, be forewarned – gardening is not for the faint of heart, or back. That said, the rewards are beautiful and often delicious. 

I am working on the vegetable garden finally, now that things have warmed up and it’s stopped raining. Unfortunately that meant the weeds got a really good head start. 

I was about 1/3 of the way through at this point – can you see the mounting pile of pulled weeds over the fence? The purple flowers are what we used to call “puff balls” when I was a kid; they are like dandelions on steroids. This specimen was 3-1/2 feet tall!


It took me a whole afternoon to get through half the plot and pull the weeds out. Another thing about gardeners is they rarely if ever have a temper – pulling weeds might be some of the best anger management therapy around. 

Tilling our soil is like digging in cement at the beginning of the season, so this year we decided to get smart and just put some more “good dirt” on top. 

In comes 3 cubic yards of Garden Mix from Dogwood Nursery, to the rescue!


Another afternoon was spent getting the rest of the earth tilled and the dirt moved into place. We finished by laying the sprinkler lines, and toasted with cocktails to our good luck that no hoses had leaks and we could quit for the day. 

So now all I have to do is plant the veggies. Writing all this down I realize that sounds a bit ridiculous. I’m not exactly selling this to a newbie, am I ?

One last note: even herbs can get to be more work than you expect. Be careful what you wish for. 

My herb patch is in the foreground – notice the wild grass and the lemon balm? This is despite me digging out the weeds every spring.


I have come to love the more wild style that is euphemistically known as an English garden but every year I make my “notes to self”. This year’s addition is to plant lemon balm in a container. It has infiltrated every other herb growing in the patch. 

May your labours be in love as mine are – it’s the best revenge, to love what you do. 

Something for Everyone


I grew up on the Prairies, and my parents both came from families that had been on the Prairies for generations.  I believe that part of my heritage links me to an innate sense of country living. Not only existing in small towns where the community is smaller and more intimate, but also coming from an environment that was more harsh and unforgiving than bountiful. Not to mention that I grew up with relatives who had living memories of the Depression, wartime and rations. As a result, I am always conscious of waste, and thinking of ways to avoid it.

Today my kitchen project was simple: making sweet potato chips for “the troops”, our two dogs. Both Simon and Ella enjoy treats just as we do, but junk food is no better for them than it is for us. A crunchy sweet potato chip is a nice way for them to have something without any processing except dehydration. (Seven hours at 130F works perfectly. )  There is no mess ; Simon sometimes leaves a few crumbs, but Ella is a master at clean-up, being a Labrador. The only catch is that the ends of the potatoes are too small to use for chips, due to the tapered shape. We do have a compost, but why not use the ends in another way?

sweet-potato-chips-and-ends

I had an epiphany one day while making the chips and thinking of what to put in our salad for dinner. How about roasting pieces of sweet potato and adding them to the salad?  It worked like a charm. I put the pieces on a baking sheet with some olive oil and herbs & spices (whatever strikes my fancy that day).

I love my exotic spices. This time I used Aleppo pepper on some pieces, and Aniseed Myrtle on others.

I love my exotic spices. This time I used Aleppo pepper on some pieces, and Aniseed Myrtle on others.

About 20 minutes in a moderate oven and presto! We can just as easily leave them in the fridge for another meal if need be. At least all that food isn’t wasted.

I suppose you could say this is another way to look at the concept of “nose to tail” cooking, in the vegetable world. I’m proud that I have kept something out of the compost – yay me! Somehow the lack of guilt I feel makes the salad taste better.

Is perfect food bad?

perfect peppers

As a foodie, I like to consider myself close to the earth. I enjoy knowing where my food comes from, and I’m lucky enough to live in a region where lots of stuff is local. There is a fruit orchard on one side of us, a huge vegetable garden out back and an organic vineyard on the other side. We are neighbours with Paynter’s Fruit Market , a beautiful farm stand operation that is owned by a 4th generation farmer in the Paynter family. Blessed? Yup, I think so.

So, you won’t be surprised when I tell you I like my carrots with a bit of dirt on them, and a blemish on my tomatoes is not the end of the world at all. Does that mean I am suspicious of “perfect” food? Perhaps. It seems to represent the industrial production methods we have come to link to all that is bad in the food world – pesticides, GMO’s, lack of care for the workers, animals or plants… But how about if a larger scale operation worked to use the good methods, like beneficial bugs instead of pesticide and heirloom seeds instead of GMOs, and using local labour…

Check out this story from Vancouver, posted recently by a great blogger who talks a lot about local gardens and food. This story details a PR makeover for greenhouse veggies that are seen as “too perfect”. What do you think? Is this an OK deviation from supporting “the little guy”? It seems they are trying to downplay their beauty – an understandable position for a Canadian company – we like to apologize for our success – and educate people about their efforts to be on the right side of the good food debate.

follow "The Green Man" blog for more interesting garden and food news

follow “The Green Man” blog for more interesting garden and food news

I will still do my best to support the small business in my neighbourhood whenever I have a chance, but I don’t mind knowing that there is an awareness to use the same old-fashioned wisdom on a larger scale 🙂

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