Pretty things I may die without

I’ll admit it, I was supposed to be working on a document for a coaching client, but I was spending a few minutes with The Pioneer Woman – do you know about that blog?  My dear friend Cathy introduced me to it some time back and it has become a go-to site for me.  Beautiful pictures, great food and lots of gardening advice.

Anyway, when I was lurking this morning I discovered some very wonderful things that have suddenly become more or less necessary to my survival.  First, look at these garden markers:

and then, if you’ve recovered, have a look at this baby…

Read ’em and weep.



Farming in the city

Even though it’s Tuesday and we’re all entrenched in the work/school week, my head and heart are still at the farm.  Yesterday, the kids and I planted the watermelon seeds after school.  They are now in the front window (orchids, schmorchids) soaking up everything the southern exposure has to offer.  With a little luck we’ll be enjoying juicy watermelons in a few months!

I spent my early morning hours today deciding which tomato plants I want to reserve from Springbreak Farm.  I thought I was only going to get 3 tomato plants, but I’ll admit, I was dazzled/sucked in by the 100 varieties on offer.  I mean, I need a good eating tomato (Box Car Willie) and a good sauce/salsa tomato (San Marzano).  Then of course I couldn’t pass up a vining cherry tomato (Matt’s Wild Cherry), which I think I’ll run up a farm fence post.  But what about the yellow tomatoes?  I chose Yellow Perfection to check off that box.  And of course I couldn’t pass up a striped tomato (Mr. Stripey – chosen mostly for the name) or a purple tomato (Cherokee Chocolate).  Is it wrong that I’m hoping at least one of these won’t pan out?  Because otherwise we’re going to have a whole lot of tomatoes to eat!

And finally, today we picked up the last of our winter farm boxes.  Here’s what’s on tap this week:

Lintzaer Delakatess potatoes
Jerusalem artichokes
shell beans
sweet potatoes
dried onions
dried parsley

The winter farm share has been a wonderful experience.  We’ve tried all kinds of new things.  The vegetable phobic child discovered kale chips, and truth be told, we all ate more veggies than we normally would have.  We also got to experience what’s locally available in winter.  Not only did we eat our fill of root vegetables, but we also loved the jams, pickles, cornmeal and other odds and ends made by local growers.  I loved the beets we ate most weekends.  The kids loved the carrots. We had many big trays of roasted vegetables, plus soups and whatever else we could dream up. On the downside, it was probably more radishes than we’d want to eat, and Jerusalem artichokes will rot even the toughest of stomachs – but it was great to learn those things.     It’s been a real pleasure to eat from farms so near to our own and we look forward to resuming the box again soon.

Here’s the last box.  I tried to prop-style it up for you, but you can’t really capture the joy of the brand-new farm box.  If you’re wondering if you should try an organic vegetable box, I wholeheartedly encourage you.  Bon appetit!

Dirty Business

Nothing was cleaned this weekend at Northbrook.  The laundry has piled up, and apart from a scandalously quick sweep of the floor, the house was horribly neglected.  Not much came out of the kitchen either, I’m afraid.

This weekend was dedicated wholeheartedly to the Obsession.  Friday afternoon I spent some time cleaning up the perennial beds around the pool and the front porch.  I should have done this in the fall, of course, but let’s not dwell on that, shall we?  It was a big ‘ole mess of leaves and dead plant material for me to push aside.  That project was interrupted by nightfall and a trip into town for dinner at our favourite local place, The Silver Spurs.  If you’re ever in Woodville, Ontario and want a good, homemade meal – you’ll want to head on over to this place.  Order the burger or the ribs, you won’t regret it.

Saturday began with a workout and then back into the garden to continue cleaning the beds.  And, something exciting happened.  I got over my nervousness about the John Deere riding mower and trailer.  I put on my big girl panties and took that machine firmly in hand.  I can’t believe I waited so long!  Not only can I haul all manner of gardening materials around the farm, but it’s also pretty fun.  On the upside, I’m pretty sure I’ve upped my cool factor with the kids.  But on the downside?  I think this means I’m going to have to tackle the grass this summer…

Just in time for the beds to be cleaned and ready to go, John from The Glen Road Organics showed up with the first load (of three!) of our soil, compost and mulch delivery.  Oh happy day for the Garden Obsession!  Once the first load of soil was dropped we got to work with the shovels.  Shoveling this much dirt is the kind of thing you think you can imagine, but then you really can’t.  Fortunately for me, the WorkHorse did the lion’s share of filling the raised beds, but the kids and I were definitely in on the project too.

After that was done and lunch was dispatched, there was the rest to get working on.  The WorkHorse enlarged the bed next to the crappy shed, but I had to load up the extra discarded sod and the loosen the earth (think breaking rocks in the Gulag) before I added some of our shiny new soil to build up the beds and improve the quality.

I was just getting started.  I loaded up the trailer on the mower with more soil and then got to work on the front porch beds.  John and Mary from The Glen Road Organics advised raising up these beds as well.  Since we’ve already got perennials in there, this meant digging up everything, loosening the soil, adding new soil, and then putting things back.  While I was at it, I sliced and diced some of the plants.  A good few years back my stepmum Carol, who is the best gardener I’ve ever met, showed me how to mercilessly divide a hosta – and I think I did her proud this weekend.  I divided things I can’t yet identify.  Here’s hoping I like them, because they’ve multiplied in the garden!

We had to get back to reality early this weekend.  The WorkHorse was racing and one of the kids was celebrating the birthday of a dear friend.  I snuck in some Sunday time by getting up before the sun and sorting my seeds over my morning tea.  Since lots of things are going into the beds next weekend I did a new draft of my planting plan.  I’m sure it won’t look a bit like I think it’s going to, but even a half-baked plan is preferable to just winging it, I’m pretty sure.

On the agenda next weekend?  Planting the early veggies, continuing the front and pool beds, and a trip to the garden center for a few more packages of seeds and hopefully asparagus crowns.  I’m kind of counting the sleeps before I can get my hands in these beautiful beds!


Dirt and duck eggs

Brrr…. a chilly Monday at Northbrook.  We’ve stolen an extra day since holiday gatherings kept us in the city for the first half of the weekend.  Plus, the WorkHorse has started up cycling in earnest, and there were races to race.

This weekend I finally got my hands into a project I’ve been positively itching to get at for months now…cleaning the windows.  Now I know this doesn’t sound exciting, and it really wasn’t a delightful task, but having looked out through grimy windows for the past 9 months has been driving me nuts.  While I’m not completely finished I am now reveling in a gloriously clear view. My efforts were rewarded with a beautiful sunset last night.  The light hitting the back fields was truly stunning.  Maybe I should have grabbed my camera, but sometimes I think it’s better to just take purposefully something in than to be distracted by trying to capture it.

The Garden Obsession was not forgotten this weekend, despite a limited stay. We pruned one of the lilacs within an inch of its life, but I’m hopeful we’ll reap the rewards in a few weeks with a lovely blooming lilac – my favourite scent in the world.  We also had a visit from John and Mary of Glen Road Organics this morning.  They came to have a look at our raised beds so they can estimate how much soil we’ll need.  We thought about grabbing soil from the farmed fields, but realized that the soil quality might be poor and also chemical-laden.  Mary confirmed that the soil in the fields is quite depleted.  My obsessive reading of the gardening books tells me that gardeners grow great soil, not plants. So, we’ll start with great soil and see what we can grow from there.  John and Mary are also going to hook us up with some compost to improve the quality of the beds around the house and pool.  I’m more excited than I ought to be about a big soil delivery…

In the city this week it was all about the kitchen.  It was a week of big kitchen yields.  Here’s what was cooking in the city this week

Macaroons (really a meringue/macaroon mix) – without the chocolate

Passover brownies – with nuts and without – chocolate chips in all

Matzo bark – the young cook burned her fingers badly on the caramel, but they were almost worth it

Peas with spinach – one of my favourite sides

Blueberry muffins from the Barefoot Contessa

Chocolate swirled banana bread – truly delicious

Frittata – with ham, fontina, asparagus, shallots and zucchini

Leek, potato and zucchini soup

So, as you can see, it was a productive week in the kitchen!  This has resulted in a not-at-all productive kitchen weekend at the farm.  Fortunately there are lots of leftovers.

The big discovery of the week was duck eggs.  We got them in the farm box this past week and had no idea what to do with them.  Fortunately an internet search led me to and I learned that duck eggs are perfect for baking.  They are larger and richer and lead to fluffy, rich baked goods.  The duck eggs went into both the blueberry muffins and this morning’s waffles – and they did not disappoint.  Plus, they were beautiful to look at.

With just a few hours until we’re city bound, there is laundry to do and lunches to dole out.  I always hate to leave, but at least I’ve got my city orchids to enjoy while I’m home.  I’ll share them with you here.  Until next weekend…