It’s Tuesday and I’m posting from the city, nothing unusual there.  Only this time it’s dead quiet in my house.  I’ve been up for an hour and I’ve done nothing but have a cup of tea and poke around online.  The kids, you see, are not here.

We dropped the boy and the girl off at camp on Sunday.  To make a day of it, we left Northbrook a little earlier than we needed to and first had a great brunch at a terrific greasy spoon in Kirkfield.  Then, even though we were full, but because we were creating a new tradition, stopped for a cone at Kawartha Dairy in Minden.  The kids were in good spirits – the girl was beside herself at the new adventure ahead, the boy a little more subdued but still excited.  I however, despite long anticipating the break from parenting in general, and preparing meals in particular, was feeling very…churned up, all day.

We arrived at camp in the early afternoon.  The counsellors line the road and cheer raucously when you pull up – a wonderfully welcoming gesture.  After checking everyone in we dropped the girl at her cabin first.  I was suprised at the brevity of the goodbye, and grateful for my sunglasses as I left the cabin teary-eyed.  Everyone held it together as we installed the boy in his bunk and had another quick goodbye.  I am of course grateful and proud that the kids were able to be hugged, kissed and dropped off without event – the alternative would have been awful.  While a little part of me wanted longer hugs, and at least one more kiss, mostly I was glad to see the kids so eager to get started at camp.

Here they are over the weekend practicing with their new paddles:

About 20 minutes down the road I turned to the WorkHorse and told him that we’d just left our babies in the woods without us and we needed to turn around and go get them.   Once again, the WorkHorse’s sense of calm prevailed and we carried on back to the city.  He was kind enough not to mind each time I asked him “what do you think they are doing now?” for the remainder of the day.

Now I’d be lying if I said that I thought about my kids all day when they are at school or camp in the city.  Truth be told, I barely think of them between drop-off and pick-up.  I’ve got exactly six hours each day to run various businesses, get to the gym and run the household – there’s no time to think of the kids then.  But now that they are away from me and I have no way to know how they’re doing, if they’re happy, and what they are up to, I find myself thinking of them constantly.  It’s hard to believe it’ll be almost two weeks before I put my arms around them and hear all about their experiences at camp.

In the meantime, I’ve committed to curing my kitchen fatigue by not cooking a meal for the remainder.  Can it be done?  Last night we actually went out and sat on a patio for a really nice meal at a local gastro pub. I’ve got to admit it’s awfully civilized to be sipping a glass of pinot grigio with one’s husband of a Monday evening!  We’ve got plans for some dinners out, long weekends at Northbrook and a long-anticipated culinary experience next weekend.  I’m not exactly sure what we’ll eat at Northbrook, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to involve picking up nice prepared meals in the city before we go.  Once I return to cooking I’ll get into these beauties, straight out of the garden (well, via two weeks curing in the sun):

For now though, those onions will have to wait.  It’s take out sushi tonight 😉


The beginning of the leaving

I know I’m late posting for the week when I’m working at it while also packing up to go back to the farm!  As I had expected, last weekend was all about the boy’s birthday party and guests.  Here’s the tank cake I made for him – he was thrilled.Image

And while it was mostly tank cakes and swimming, there were a few moments for the garden.  We made our first batch of refrigerator pickles and I took advantage of the beautiful light from the sunrise to get this arty shot of them.Image

They look pretty good, non?  Guess what? They tasted fantastic!  And, since the cucumbers, dill and onions all came straight out of the Obsession – they were extra satisfying!

Elsewhere in the garden I cleared out some yucky old lettuce and planted some new, plus kale for a second crop.  I would have waited to plant it but for some great advice I received from reading another blog.  I also tucked in some more basil and some more beets.  I love how much the garden is ever evolving – it makes it a constant source of satisfaction (/disappointment, as the case may be).

Sunday’s sunrise was spectacular.  The WorkHorse called me up from the basement (the laundry never sleeps) to see it.  Imagine a perfect, neon orange tennis ball slowly rising from the horizon into a grey sky – it was incredible.  I never manage to do any sunrise justice, but here’s my best shot of it.


See?  I told you I couldn’t do it justice.  Just imagine it about 1000 times better than this photo and you’ll begin to get the idea.

The city week has been dedicated to getting the boy and the girl packed up for their first trip to overnight camp.  I’ve been very busy labelling, labelling, labelling then packing, packing, packing.  And, while I’m delighted at the two-week vacation from parenting (and probably cooking), I’m also beginning to feel some real pangs of …. something I can’t quite identify.  I’ve been thinking about the fact that one of the major aspects of good parenting is preparing our kids to leave us.  Kind of crazy, isn’t it?  We birth them and raise them – and if we did a good job, they just walk on out and live their lives.  The WorkHorse and I are big believers in summer camp – it instills a confidence in kids that they can manage without mum and dad.  All the same, I’m wistful as we prepare to drop them off on this adventure.  Perhaps it’s the beginning of the leaving that’s rattling me.  I shall have to console myself with many wonderful meals in restaurants, time with the WorkHorse, the blissful quiet and maybe even the odd letter from the kids.

And, at this very moment, I just may console myself with a couple of these beauties.  Until next week…


Before all else

When the sun popped over the horizon this morning I dragged my butt out of bed to see it coming up over the forest at the back of the property.  You know what I thought?  Sunrise is the best advertisement for living I can think of.  What could make you want to embrace life more than a perfect sunrise?  It’s the visual proof that we get to start again every day – a symbol of our daily do-over.  I’m no expert, but I think watching the sunrise should probably be incorporated into most kinds of therapy.

But now it’s 7:10 a.m. and I’ve been up for about an hour and half.  It’s a big day at Northbrook – the boy’s 9th birthday party.  This year he wanted the exact same birthday as last year.  That’s my boy, all change, all the time!  So, in about 4 hours we should have 20 people, ages 2 to 68, plus a dog, here for swimming, frolicking, and eating ribs and tank cake.  Yes, you read that right.  I made a tank cake.  Pictures to come.  Before then, I’ve got cleaning up to do, quinoa salad to make, the ribs to get cooking and so much more.

But first, I’ve got just a few more minutes to myself.  The morning sun is streaming across the dining room table and my second cup (vat) of Irish breakfast tea is perfect.  It’s cool for the front porch this morning so I’ve been catching up on some of my favourite blogs.  Do you read Orangette?  Molly Wizenberg is a foodie and blogger who can really write.  The writing is wonderful.  I also stopped by The Pioneer Woman to see if there was anything new about gardening.  Not much today, but Ree Drummond takes pretty pictures of her ranch and her food, and it’s always worth a visit.  I’m also loving The Museum of Forgotten Pickles for all kinds of gardening advice as well as Tend, which my friend Tanya told me about.

I’ll post from the city after the weekend with garden updates, assuming I survive the party.  Here’s hoping.


It had to happen.  The bloom wasn’t going to stay on the proverbial rose forever, was it?  The first bits of adversity have hit the Northbrook Obsession.

For starters, the long-anticipated nasturtiums have been attacked by a colony of little black bugs who are snacking through the leaves at an alarming rate.  I tried spraying them off with the hose which was effective for a few hours, but I’ll need a soap and water solution this weekend.  There are too many to squish, regrettably.

Actually, buggy was the main feeling of the farm this week.  In some cases I was glad to see the bugs, namely the bees buzzing around the veggies.  Mostly though, I was just itchy.  Every time I ventured outside I found myself covered in every manner of insect – the most annoying of which were the microscopic pests that look like dust..that is until they start crawling up your arms and legs.  There were small white ticky looking things (praying I don’t have Lyme disease), spiders, slimy grubby looking things and more.  Every thing I picked up outside of the house displaced a large moth and I’ve got more than my fair share of mosquito bites too.  Sounds delightful, doesn’t it?  I don’t know if it was the heat, my being cranky or just July, but buggy was definitely the theme.

The culinary disappointment of the weekend was the batch of pesto I made, only to discover that the basil had gone very bitter.  All of it, no less.  I’m not sure why this has happened – I’ve been pinching off the tops of the plants so they don’t flower…any ideas?  I’ve planted a new row so hopefully I’ll have a late summer pesto solution.

The good news from the garden was the emergence of cucumbers.  Only the pickling cucumbers were ready to start harvesting and they are wonderful to eat.  So good, in fact, I wonder if any will make it to the pickle jars!  The WorkHorse is very keen on pickles, so we’ll have to make sure we do that.

I harvested about half of the onions as the tops started to fall over.  They are now curing in the city back yard this week.  They were smallish, but hopefully will be tasty.  I suspect I should have thinned them more.  So many learnings….

As for our bird tenants, the first nest has been abandoned – presumably the babies were ready to fly.  As for the second nest, when the WorkHorse took the fern down we were treated with a view of an hours-old baby bird, still pink and disoriented.  It was an amazing sight.  The next day, the baby had been joined by its siblings.  Here they are:

Next weekend will be consumed with the Boy’s birthday party, so not much gardening is likely to take place.  But I do have plans for those little nasturtium-killing $%^&*#s!


The miracle of…potatoes

You know what gardening is?  It’s a miracle, that’s what.  This was my revelation this weekend when I picked sweet, beautiful peas and tender potatoes for dinner on Saturday.

How could it be that just a few months ago we built boxes, threw in some dirt and seeds and are now eating fresh wonderful food?  Well okay, it wasn’t a casual as all that.  I’ve definitely hovered and fretted over the vegetable garden.  But I’m struck by how much things want to grow – all living things want to live and reproduce, and mercifully, it’s showing in the garden. Here is some photographic evidence…

Here is the chard we took when visiting the Master Gardener – I love the colours of it.  I think I’ll always grow it just to look at.

The peas are wonderful.  We didn’t get many plants (the birds enjoyed snacking on the seeds immensely) and I was late getting them in, but delicious all the same and definitely worth the wait.

And yes, after weeks of fretting and whinging about them, I was thrilled to see that the nasturtiums have bloomed.  They’ve brought just the hit of colour the garden needed.

I’d love to bore you with pictures of teeny tiny cucumbers and fledgling tomatoes, but all that can wait for another time.

Before I sign off, in the category of miracles and the will to live – here are the newest residents of Northbrook farm, happily living in one of the ferns.  Another family is expected in a neighbouring fern shortly and I for one, can’t wait to welcome them.



The vegetable garden continues in it’s mid-season state.  Much is growing but not much is ready yet, save for the lettuce and chard.  The weeding continues to be manageable.  I realize that I am, for the moment, satisfied with the garden.  It occurs to me that this is akin to being satisfied with one’s body – such a fleeting sensation that it must be truly savoured!  I know that next week may bring me disappointments, garden pests, raccoon damage or just plain failure, but for this moment I’ll just enjoy it the way it is.

Of course this doesn’t stop me from dreaming up the fall projects!  The WorkHorse and I are going to build the exterior beds so that we’ll have all the room we need for next year.  I’ve learned a lot so far this summer, and one thing for sure is that we need more space to do everything we want to do.  Eventually this garden will have exterior beds and a fence – modelling a traditional four-square kitchen garden.  The fence may not happen for another year or so, all in good time.   The exterior beds will be home to herbs, some of the prettier veggies like the chard and maybe the carrots and perennial flowers, leaving the center beds for the vegetables.  We’ll leave the bed at the back so we’ll have room for the things that need more space.  I’m having just a little luck with pumpkins and zucchini back there and one sad watermelon hangs in the balance.  Mostly I’m growing insane weeds.  The bindweed and I are fighting it out, but he’s winning I regret to say.  Here’s a picture from that bed.  Don’t be fooled by the small quantity of weeds here, this was the area I weeded – the rest of the bed is a haven of bindweed.

There are a few edible flowers growing in the middle.  I’ve had little success growing flowers of any kind from seed.  Next year I’ll start all flowers indoors and transplant them.

The other exciting development in the vegetable garden was the first evidence of tomatoes!  Have a look at the vining cherry tomato plant we’ve got growing up a fence post:

If that’s not happy news I don’t know what is!

Don’t get the idea there’s much gardening going on at Northbrook these days.  Mostly life looks like this:

End-of-year pool party at Northbrook:

The boy and my niece on what she called ‘the jumpoline’.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful shot my brother took of the the girl in the sand pit.  I love how wild and beautiful she looks here.

If only every week could be filled with tiny tomatoes and jumpolines.