Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Apple Pie Muffins

I had some apples languishing in the fridge that needed using up so I decided to make Apple Pie Muffins.  My family loves these but I hadn't made them in ages.  E particularly likes the name and takes delight in having something "just like pie" to nibble on.

The secret to their goodness is in the crumble topping pictured here - it takes a somewhat ordinary apple muffin into the apple pie level.
Here's the recipe in case you too have some sad looking apples on hand.

Apple Pie Muffins
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 egg
1 cup sour milk (milk and lemon juice) or buttermilk
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tsp vanilla

2 cups diced apples

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp melted butter

Mix the topping and set aside.  In another bowl mix the dry ingredients. In small bowl mix the wet ingredients.  Combine wet with dry and then add apples.  Mix until just mixed.  Put in muffin tins and put some topping on each muffin. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Clivia Blooms

I love it when this blooms.  Such a beautiful colour.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Good Friends

On Sunday E and I stayed home while W and S went mountain biking.  I thought E and I would go strawberry picking because we haven't been yet this year (and we are pretty serious about strawbery picking) but, when I phoned one of the picking places, I was told that there was no U-pick this year.  I assume it is due to a poor crop because of all the rain we've been having.  There haven't been any ads in the paper for U-pick either so I emailed my friend in the next city up the road to see if she knew of any U-pick spots.  In the meantime, E and I decided to make good use of an unexpected day at home to do some cleaning and some woodcarving and take some time to read together on the deck.  E enjoyed one of the popsicles that he had made and I read aloud The Cricket in Times Square.
When my husband arrived home his arms were loaded with goodies from my friend.  Since she is also a gardener and a lover of fresh, homegrown food she must have felt how keenly we were missing our strawberry patch and fresh berries.  S had stopped off at her house to pick up some Cleavers for tincture for a friend of mine and she sent along a big bucket of strawberries and a bucket of picked flowers.  Well...what can you say about such a generous friend other than to give thanks to have such a person in your life.  She knows that when I say I am missing strawberries that it isn't Just the berries: it's the ritual, the mark of the season (Strawberries proclaim, "Here we are, now Summer can begin!".), the scent, the fresh taste, the smell of jam simmering, the red fingers... it's Everything about them that we are missing.  And how lucky am I to have a friend who wants to share some of her own homegrown Strawberry joy with my family!!
We used her homegrown strawberries for strawberry shortcake and It   Was   Divine!
The flowers were promptly arranged in a vase and looked and smelled delightful - oh how we love the scent of sweet peas.
As we ate our shortcake and smiled at the flowers S said to me, "You have Good Friends!" and I smiled and said, "I know.".  Thank you sister of my heart.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

To Mulch or Not to Mulch?

I am such a big fan of mulching.  I can't quite recall when I learned about this but I'm not sure how I ever managed a big garden without it.  For me, this is BIG information!  I want everyone to know about mulching simply because I think more people will enjoy gardening more if they don't have to deal with as many weeds.  I took some photos a few weeks back when I was mulching my home garden - they aren't great because it was in the evening but they'll give you an idea of how it works in case you haven't seen it before.  (or you could click here to see some better pictures of it at my old garden)

Here are some of the tomato plants.
First step is to put down newspaper, this will eventually break down into the soil but in the meantime it will help keep your weeds down this season.
Then I just put grass clippings on top of the paper - all around the plants.
This helps to keep the soil moist and add organic matter into the soil as well as keeping weeds from sprouting.  I hope you will give this a try, it makes so much sense and you will spend far less time weeding.  Truly, I think you will also wonder how you ever gardened before mulching.

I've even been mulching at the garden I have in town and since it is a large garden I've been trying to get lots of mulch.  It's taken me several weeks but I've got a good layer on most everything now.  We live on a VERY steep property but that hasn't stopped me from mowing it in order to get enough clippings for mulch.  My family just shake their heads at me as I head down steep banks with the mower.
There is my mower down at the bottom.
Then trudge back up with my bag full of clippings to do it again.  And don't even get them started on riding into town with garbage bins full of clippings.  If any one has any tips on other good mulch materials I would love to hear about it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gardening and Composting

I've always loved compost and this year I am really missing my old three bin system.  Since we are here temporarily I won't build another yet and have been making do with two black plastic compost bins.  I can see why so many people are discouraged by these systems - I ended up with two bins full of rotting, smelly vegetable muck.  I know this is my own fault because I was so used to a slap-dash, little work method of composting in my three bins that I didn't take the time to use these bins properly and layer brown with green.  But...I am a slap-dasher and don't want to have to have compost be a lot of work, I like the throw-it-in-and-let-it-rot method.
Anyway, I still wanted to use the rotting veggie muck that my black bins produced so I dug some trenches in my beds and added it in, I've done this before with veggie matter and it always works well.  It is called trench composting and it is great for an Impatient Gardener such as myself - I feel as though the organic matter gets into my soil right away thanks to a little help from my worm friends.  Recently I've been looking through this wonderful book and decided to try out one of their ideas. 
A Honey Hole. Perfect for using up the smelly veg muck and improving the poor soil here.  I dug some holes  in a new spot where I planned on planting tomatoes, zuchinni and pumpkins then I filled the holes with the muck, covered with soil and planted.  Honey it. 
This book also waxes eloquently about Comforter Compost and Grow Heaps (which I am a big fan of but I've never had a name for them before)- basically a "heap" of organic matter that will decompose into gorgeous soil while your plants grow in it.  Last year I made some hills of decent soil, organic matter and manure on top of the poor soil here to plant some pumpkins.  Several months ago I tossed an old pumpkin out onto one of the hills and a last week I noticed this.
New pumpkins growing from the rotting old pumpkin.

So many more gardening things to talk about - planting tomato prunings, more nettle tea tales, mulching mania, weeding in the rain and my crazy tomato addiction.  Hoping you all have been enjoying your time in the garden too, would love to hear what's ready in your garden.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Homemade Calzones (AKA Pizza Pockets)

The other day we were trying to think of something yummy we could make to give to our friends.  W came  up with the idea of calzones which we hadn't made in ages.  Brilliant.  I made  up a big batch of our favourite  pizza dough and then put together a batch of calzones for our friends as well as some for us.  We used to make these often to take on beach days and camping trips so I am particularly pleased W reminded me of them just in time for summer. 
We just roll balls of dough into circles.  Put on a spoonful of tomato sauce.  Put on our preferred toppings.  Fold  in a half and crimp the edges and then put a couple knife slits in the top and bake for about 12-15 minutes at 400.  They freeze well so you can make them in big batches when you have time.  We just take them along to the  beach still frozen and they are thawed by the time we want to eat them.  They are also delicious with other kinds of filling like brocolli, rice and cheese.  W has decided he is going to make some with baked beans, potatoes and cheese - sounds like a great combo to take on our next camping trip!

Wild Rose Buds

It's that time of year again - the wild roses are just coming out in bud up here.  Soon we will have loads of them.  I've picked a basket to send along to a friend tonight just in case she feels like making some garlands with them.  You can see an example of the garlands we make with them at the bottom of this post.  I love to bring a little bit of the outdoors in all through the year and these have been a springtime favourite for years - I put them in pretty bowls or teacups and have them throughout the house.  Last year I also enjoyed making wild rose bath salts with them - shown here.

Shaggy Mane Soup

My folks came to visit this past weekend and so while S and W were at a mountain bike race E went out mushrooming with my mom (he has become such a mushroom lover since first finding these Shaggy Manes)  and I went hiking with my Dad on the High Rim Trail.  When we got back from our hike E and my mom had a basket of Shaggy Manes so I decided to make some soup while Evan fried some in butter so that my parents could try them.  I chopped some potatoes into little cubes and simmered them in broth until they were soft.  Then I melted some butter in a pan and added some milk and water to make a bit of a roux. (Although I sometimes skip this step and just let the potatoes add the creaminess).  I added the potatoes (mashed just a bit but still with some cubes left) and broth to the roux, added the rest of the mushrooms that E had fried in the butter and let it cook for a few minutes.  Then I turned it off and added some chopped fresh dill and salt and pepper.

They had picked a few that were too far gone to use (not inky yet but getting there) and so I threw these into a garden bed with some horse manure in the hopes that we will have our own patch of Shaggy Manes right in our garden this Autumn.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Heigh Ho Heigh Ho...

Heigh Ho Heigh Ho, it's off to work I go...

I've been spending quite a bit of time working at a garden in town.  It has been quite a blessing for me for many reasons - I've been able to spend more time gardening in a lower area where things can actually grow well, I've got some useful experience with growing on an even larger scale (250 tomato plants, 3000 corn plants, 30 cages of potatoes and much more)  than I am used to, I've learned to drive a tractor properly and...I've been the lucky recipient of some early veggies - a very nice bonus of working for a gardener who is even more impatient than I am and also owns a greenhouse.

Early rutabagas.
And today...early peas.  So good!  E was over the moon.  He misses being able to wander out and graze in our old gardens.
I know a lot of people take a lunch along when they go to work but here's what I take.
Because once I'm done working on the big gardens then I spend some time working on my garden that is also there.  The newspaper is put down on top of the dirt and then the  grass clippings go on top for mulch.  These do a fantastic job of preventing weeds and I'm really not sure how I ever managed to keep up a garden before I learned this.  I have buckets of finished compost and a little unfinished compost that I dug into the beds too.  I've also started transporting containers of nettle fertilizer and I'm hoping that I manage to NOT spill this in my car. I do so love to garden.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Old Radios

We had a very busy and fun weekend.  We also went to our first auction and it was quite interesting.  I found, as a thrift store shopper, that things were going for more than I like to pay but S could not resist a few things.  He bid on a set of small old radios and, with that success, decided to bid on the big radio too (this one is as tall as the door handle on the door).  He has always loved old radios and we are now getting quite a collection.
And then he bid on some old bowls for me...and even my kicking him in the shin as he bid didn't stop him from getting them. ;-)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Comfrey, Calendula, Chamomile and Nettle Salve

When we were at Pike Place Market we saw a man selling salves. Evan has been quite enjoying his comfrey salve and so when I saw that one of the salve tins was marked comfrey, calendula, chamomile and nettle I knew we would have to make some.  I always have jars of dried chamomile and calendula on hand, we have a nettle patch down our bank and my generous friend had just let me come pick as much comfrey as I wanted from her house (and she helped me pick it!) so we had everything we needed.  I dumped it all in a pyrex dish, poured olive oil over top, put a lid on and then put it in the oven on low since I already had a big batch of granola on the go in there.
Several hours later I took it out of the oven and let it sit overnight and then strained it for a gorgeous green healing oil.
Add a bit of beeswax and there you have it...a healing salve. 

Drying Comfrey

My poor long-suffering husband.  He's been with me through many changes in our 20 years together.  He puts up with an awful lot of my "wackiness" as he jokingly calls it.  He has long since gotten used to me having herbs and "weeds" hanging around the house to dry and has grown accustomed to eating "weeds" in his dinner.  Recently I have been drying things for a friend too and so there is even more goodness around the house.  Last week I picked comfrey with a friend and brought home two boxes stuffed full.  I filled the drying line that I usually use.
I filled the sheet on the floor that I use to dry nettle.  As I was laying a second sheet on our bedroom floor to fill he casually mentioned that he "would like enough space to be able to get up out of bed" without trodding on comfrey leaves.  Imagine that...wanting to be able to get out of bed without stepping on Stinging Nettle or fuzzy Comfrey!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Seattle Getaway and Trader Joe's

Last weekend we decided to head out of town (well, out of the country, actually), we wanted to visit family in their newly purchased house in the U.S. so we would be able to see their new property and picture them in their new home.  We had  a visit (and I ate some Salmonberries for the first time in years) and then headed furthur south to the city of Seattle.

The boys had a fun visit (and their first ever visit) to a Lego store and I had my first visit to Trader Joe's.  Oh, how I wish we had a Trader Joe's here, what a delightful store (with delightful staff too).  My first visit there I bought a package of dark chocolate pretzel bark - who could resist right?  It was on sale for 99 cents!
We ate it to tide us over between meals (Yes, chocolate hand-dipped milkshakes at Dyck's Drive can be considered a meal!)  while we played tourist and checked out  the Museum of Flight,  the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the Pacific Science centre (love the butterfly room), the Washington Park Arboretum and much more.  The combination of sweet dark chocolate and salty crunchy pretzel was delicious so of course I had to go back to get more.  Lovely husband drove me back to the store and  Only 1 Left!  Horrors!!  You can only imagine how happy I was when a friendly staff member phoned their store furthur up the road and found out they had plenty more.  And I do mean plenty.  Somehow I managed to restrain myself and only buy...ahem,  14 packages.
Not to worry, I don't plan to eat them all at once.  I'm sure I can store them in the freezer and make them last - for a little while at least.  Anyone else a Trader Joe's fan?  I'd love to know what I should try next time we go to one.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cleavers Tincture

We've been finding all sorts of good things growing just now and have been making sure we make time to harvest some of this goodness.  I have been gathering cleavers wherever I have been able to find them for a friend of mine.  Cleavers are good for all sorts of things and they have long been regarded as a valuable lymphatic tonic.  I wanted to make some into a tincture for my friend.  It is so easy to do and tinctures are so potent and easy to take. 

Just gather your plant material (tinctures can be made from all sorts of different plants).
Chop and then put in jar.
I like to fill the jar all the way to the top.
Then add your chosen alcohol.  This is the first time I've tried using gin.
The next morning you may need to add a touch more alcohol to make sure it is filled right up.  Then...just  store it in a cupboard and wait 6 weeks ( I like to shake it whenever I remember) and that's it.  Strain (although I quite often am lazy or forgetful and just skip this step) and it is ready to use.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wild Gardens

Not that you would know it from any posts that I've been doing but there has actually been an incredible amount of gardening going on lately...just not so much at our house.  I've been working hard at a garden in town and enjoying it very much.  It is a huge huge that I get to use a tractor to get around. ;-)  (I can't tell you how much I like that tractor.)  I've been enjoying working in the greenhouse as well and am now coveting my own tractor and greenhouse for when we get our own farm.  All that to say that things have been very busy around here indeed and I have had very little time to share any of it here.  So, I thought I might play a little catch up starting with some photos from last week.

Last week when we had time to spare we went on a couple walks on this property.  We found some lovely wild things growing. 

Lady Slippers.
Elderberry in bloom (this year I am going to dry and save some of the blooms as well as the berries).
Columbine, wild strawberry, lupins, mushrooms, miners lettuce and lots more.  Little baby larch trees too, with the softest needles.
The boys even found some shaggy manes already, and I had thought they were only an Autumn mushroom around here.  Delicious!  SO much wild food growing up here but it still didn't stop me from spending this afternoon planting more vegetables and preparing more ground for planting.  You would think after spending 6 hours this morning gardening in town that I would have been tired of gardening but, for me, there is Just Something about time in the garden that energizes and restores.  I love it and I am so glad it is finally warm enough to plant things up here at our home.