Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chefs in the garden

There's a new initiative at Haliburton Farm, a gardening and cooking school called Terralicious. Yesterday Harry and I attended one of their Chefs in the Garden event. We did it as an early anniversary thing and also to support our neighbours. From 11:00 am to 1:00 pm we took part in a tour of the organic garden, a cooking demonstration by a local chef, and a gourmet lunch--complete with wine.

It was fun to walk across the road and try something new. The kitchen in the once decrepit house has been transformed into an elegant demonstration kitchen, complete with mirror above the cooking area and a camera over the stove connected to a flat-screen TV. The chef was a young man who owns two restaurants in Victoria and who focuses on using fresh, local organic and sometimes raw food.

Here's Cosmo demonstrating his sprouted almond pate, which we had wrapped in a kale leaf (I think) and presented beautifully.

He also took tiny patty pan squash fresh from the garden and sauted it in sage and lavender butter. Another course included tiny purple and white potatoes with artisan cheese garnished with calendula flowers. Then there was a dish of local spot prawns in a curry sauce. (I'm beginning to sound like one of those waiters in an upscale restaurant, aren't I?--Sorry!)

Lunch was served on white linen cloths set with flowers in the shade. There were about a dozen people taking part, all ages. I sat beside a lovely young woman who came with her little baby. The older women in the group had a great time holdling the baby while she ate her lunch.

It was a wonderful to sit down with new people and talk and enjoy special food on a summer's afternoon. Here's the dessert--berries with a kind of pink sauce made of raw cashews, and just look at those little violas. Beautiful and delicious.

I liked learning about Cosmos's philosophy of eating and cooking, using fresh, local ingredients. One thing he talked about was an 80 / 20 ratio of eating: 80% nutrition (read greens and salads) and 20% comfort food. It makes good sense to me.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Haliburton Farm

Just across the street from us there's a little side road with no name that leads to Haliburton Farm. This is a working demonstration of sustainable organic farming, operated by a society on land that they lobbied to keep from being sold for a housing project. The local government bought the land and donated it to the society to use as a demonstration farm. This place has grown in leaps and bounds since we first moved here three years ago.

At that time the road led to a chain link fence with a sign saying: CRD Water - No Trespassing. On one side was a derelict house and on the other a small stunted cherry orchard. There were a couple of tilled fields behind the house but nothing else. That first winter we used to go down to the orchard and let the dogs run around. Since then big changes have taken place.

The diseased cherry trees have been removed (except for a few), greenhouses have been built and the soil amended and cultivated to create fields. Now when we go down there we see crops growing--flowers, berries, vegetables, buckwheat, herbs, and more. The Haliburton Community Organic Farm Society produces organic crops and sells veggies, flowers, seedlings, and seeds from its rustic cedar farm stand. And it leases some of the land to three farmers who grow organically and sell to local outlets, restaurants and at neighborhood markets.

These are a bunch of totally committed farm folk. Ray and his wife are at their plot of land every single day from early in the morning to late at night. Last year they made $30,000 from sales of their crops (not a huge amount but pretty credible). Plus they produced 7 tons of compost.

It's just so cool living across the street from Haliburton Farm. A couple times a week I wander over with my canvas bag to see what's available. I've bought seedlings for my garden, home baked bread, sunflowers, and all kinds of seasonal vegetables. Their fresh salad green mix is incredible--freshest ever. Usually the greens are less than a couple of hours old. Last summer I discovered purslain, a delicious succulent green with a nutty flavor that's chock full of Omega 3s. This summer we've discovered Terralicious, a new gardening and cooking school that's operating there. Tomorrow I'll tell you more about that.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

B is for Blackberries

Blackberries are a big part of my summer. All through July as we walk with the dogs or drive around, we're scouting out the best blackberry patch. We have a few that we return to every year to pick, but we're always on the lookout for more.

Some people hate blackberry vines in their garden but I've left room for one patch in a corner so I can go out and pick a few for my cereal. I like their soft mauvy-pink blooms and the strength of their stems. And I like watching the way the buds turn to flowers and then to little green berries.

Looks like the bees like them too.

My favorite thing of course is the fully-ripe berry with its intoxicating scent and wild flavor. Around the end of August we set aside a couple of days to pick the berries and make jam, plus at least one pie. They're ripening early this year. I even found a black one and it's only July.

You can find a lot more ABC Wednesday posts here.

Not complaining about the weather

Here on the west coast of Canada our summers are usually cool and wet, with an occasional spell of warm sunny weather lasting two or three weeks. It's actually very unsatisfying summer weather because all winter long we wait for those three weeks and so the ratio of sun to waiting is pretty low. But not this year. Since the middle of May we've had warmth and sunshine just about every day. By my count we're into our tenth (!) week of summer. Unheard of.

Up to now we've all kept kind of quiet about it. People might mention quietly (or even under their breath) about the great summer we're having. But nobody really wanted to speak about it too much--for fear of jinxing this run of sunshine.

The weather gods are still smiling on us but their smiles are getting a bit rigid now. In fact it's getting hot (and even a bit humid). Yesterday it was over 90 degrees in Cowichan Bay right on the ocean. Last night at 11:00 is was 85 in the bedroom and not a whiff of a breeze. The forecast is for it to be over 100 in Seattle tomorrow.

The sound of fans, sleeping under sheets, keeping to shade with a frosty glass, heading for the lake or river to cool off. Ahhh summer in the style of the rest of the country. I'm still loving it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Utensils Photo Hunt

I've spent a little while exploring memes and have chosen a few to participate in. This one is PhotoHunt, hosted by TN Chick. There is a weekly list of subjects and if you want to take part you go on a photo hunt for an image relating to the subject. I found this meme by way of a lovely photo of a cup and saucer posted by lissa on her blog, The Memory of Rain. Go see her photographs. They're stunning.

Anyway, this weeks subject is "utensils" so I took a couple of photos of the utensils at my favorite coffee shop, the Caffe Fantastico. It's a laid back place where all kinds of people from all walks of life gather to talk and drink their excellent espresso. You can see two of the barristas working hard in the top photo.

I think I was supposed to post this on Saturday, but I didn't. So here it is today.

Today's flowers - Lace Cap Hydrangea

Well since I'm always taking photos of flowers I thought I'd join this meme. The idea is to post a flower of the day on Sunday.

Today's flower is a Lace Cap Hydrangea. When we moved into our house three years ago this bush was a stunted little thing. But a bit of care and extra watering has made big changes. This year it's full of beautiful lacy mauve and blue blooms. I love the way you can get two or more colours of flower on the same shrub with the hydrangea.

If you'd like to see other folks' flower photos, check out Today's Flowers here.

Lost in Luminara

This was the tenth year of the Luminara festival of lights in Victoria's Beacon Hill Park. It's our favourite time of the summer, the end of July, when the grass goes golden in the park and the weather is warm. For weeks ahead of the event artists and regular people too work to create lantern installations to be placed around the park. Some of them are in the middle of the lakes and ponds, some are under trees, others in the fields and meadows.

At Luminara everyone brings a lantern and many people dress up in their best midsummer night's dream costumes. There are fairies and clowns in white face, glitter masks, feathered hats and capes, dancing clothes. People crowd into the park--families with babies, kids with glow sticks, young people, old people--all in a festive mood. The park is transformed into a magical place. And there are performances too--music, dance, shadow puppets.

So last night, after a barbecue with our friends, we all went to the festival just as the sun was setting. This is the best time to see the installations and the lanterns. It's also the most crowded time. We rushed out of the house with our lanterns (solar powered garden lights) and though there were some dark clouds in the sky we were sure they'd blow away--Right?

Well, no, actually. Not right. Shortly after we arrived, it started to rain. Then there was lightning and thunder, and even a sunset rainbow. Soon it began to pour with rain, dousing all the candles in the lanterns and ruining the paper installations. It was so sad to see all the hard work melting away. Some people left but there were still big crowds milling around looking at the lights and having fun.

There were five of us and somehow when I stopped to take a photo I got separated from the group. I turned around and couldn't see the two lanterns that my group was carrying.

I was lost. And we hadn't set a meeting place, and nobody had a cell phone. And I had no purse, no money, and no identification. After walking around for about half an hour looking for them I decided to go back to where the car was parked, but I couldn't find it. Eventually I went to a nearby hotel and phoned my friend's house to leave a message. Then I stood outside the hotel in the rain and waited for about an hour. When they arrived home she got the message and drove back to pick me up and take me home.

Let's just say it wasn't the best Luminara festival we've ever attended. But it did serve as a reminder not to go to festivals without cell phones, rain coats and money!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's a dog's life

Somehow the day slipped away and I didn't manage to get in the evening walk with my dogs. I feel so guilty when that happens. But not guilty enough to take them out in the dark.

Even though they're both Border Collies they are very different. And each has a special way of making me feel guilty. This is Geordie's most effective way.

He puts on his most appealing look. It's the same one he uses when he watches you eating a sandwich. After a while if nothing's happening he'll head off to sleep in the closet.

Maggie now, she uses different tactics. She keeps walking to the door and then looking back at me. After a few times of trying this if I still haven't responded, she'll flop to the floor and give a noisy sigh.

When I feel guilty, I remind myself that their lives are better than probably 99 per cent of the dogs in the world--maybe even North America. After all they did get nice woodsy afternoon walk with a friend Sue and her dog. So a dog's life is really not so bad.

This is Maggie on a better day playing her favourite game of "I've got the stick and you can't get it." She loves this game more than anything in the world, except maybe flyball.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A is for arbutus leaves

ABC Wednesday is a meme that interests me and Round number 5 is just beginning today. I thought I'd use it as a focal point for life on Haliburton Hill. So I'll start by focusing on arbutus leaves. We have a gigantic arbutus tree in our front yard, and it's really beautiful with its curling red bark and glossy green leaves. These trees are native to the west coast of North America, growing only within about a mile of the ocean.

They're unique in that they keep their leaves in the winter but drop about half of them every summer. As a child I spent August on one of the gulf islands and I just loved crunching through these leaves. When we moved up here to Haliburton Hill the Arbutus and its leaves was one of the draws for me. I liked the natural look and the sound of the dry leaves on the ground. It made me feel like I was on summer holidays.

Things are a bit different now that we have the new garden out front. The falling arbutus leaves are messy. They take away from the pristine look of gravel paths, dark earth and green grass.

These leaves are a big part of my life right now because I've been spending quite a few hours trying to rake them out of the ground cover.

And it's not easy to do because they're very brittle and they break when you try to rake them.

After struggling with this for a while, I've decided to just wait until they're all down some time in August and then do a big clean up. You can't win against nature except by going with it. Arbutus leaves are my Zen teachers this week.

Check out other ABC Wednesday postings here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ruby Tuesday

These photos were trying out the macro lens on my little camera for objects other than flowers. In case you can't figure it out, they're of a fire hydrant. Happy RT to all. See more red photos here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mellow yellow Monday in Mazatlan

I'm not actually in Mazatlan but I thought it would be nice on this warm, sunny day to post some images from our visit there last year. The old town in Mazatlan is just full of brilliantly colored walls and doors. Here are a few yellow ones that caught my eye.

You can see more mellow yellow photographs here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Geordie and his shadow

This is Geordie on squirrel watch. He sits in the back yard gazing up at the cedar trees that tower above the front of the house, hoping to catch sight of a squirrel. When he does he grabs his deflated soccer ball, gives it a good shake and growls like he's caught one.

It's all in his head of course. We can't even say the word "squirrel" without him going bonkers.

I like the way there's a shadow dog on the grass beside him, also watching for squirrels.

Please visit Hey Harriet for more shadows.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


It all started when we decided we'd try to rent out our house for the five months that we'll be away in Mexico this winter. I thought I'd take some photos of the interior to put together an ad. This required some fairly major tidying of all the rooms. At our house things tend to get left where they were last used for a while--until someone feels moved to do a tidy-up.

So yesterday was spent tidying and putting things away so the rooms would look nice for a photo. The only thing is--when I tried to put things away I found that I had to jam them into closets and drawers that were already full of stuff. Some of this stuff hadn't been moved or used or even looked at since we moved into this house three years ago. (!)

Yes, I admit that I have a problem: I have strong pack rat tendencies and so does my husband. But it's so hard to clear out things that once were special, even if you don't really want or use them any more. How can I get rid of that darling paper mache hippo that was given to my by my dear friend? And once you've decided you don't need or want it any more,what do you do with the stuff?

I actually do know the drill. Go through a room, pull out things that you haven't used in a year. Make three piles: give away, throw away, sell. It's all very straightforward. Yeah right. When I begin this process I find myself sitting in the middle of the floor looking at old photos, or deciding to tear up some old clothes to make a quilt, or pulling out my drawing materials and feeling bad that I haven't done anything with them for such a long time. Then I just have to close the door and think about what to cook for dinner.

But this time I'm really going to begin a process to simply get rid of the stuff that is doing nothing more than cluttering up my life and my space. I'm starting by posting some photos of piles of stuff. Maybe this will be enough to get me started. Any helpful hints will be much appreciated.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer reading?

Reading has been a big part of my life for many years now, but lately I just can't seem to find time to do it. This surprises me since it's summertime and I'm not working much. I had this idea that my summer would include time to sit in the sun and get lost in a book. Maybe it's the garden project, which still takes up a fair bit of time with raking, weeding, and watering. Or maybe my life is just getting busier somehow.

In any case my stack of summer reading just keeps getting bigger and I'm not really finding time to dive in. Every time I go to the library to pick up a book that I've put on hold I find a few more books I want to read. This stack is an eclectic mix and I don't really know if I'll get to any of them. (And it doesn't even include the book that my book club is going to discuss in August--Night Train to Lisbon).

I think I'll take this stack apart and set them here and there around my house so that it's not so overwhelming. Then maybe I'll be able to pick one up at random and sink in. The Diana Athill childhood memoir looks enticing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What do you do at a music festival?

If you've never been to a music festival here's a pocket guide on what to wear and what to do while you're there.

Wear your brightest tie die clothing,

or (if you dare) your bathing suit and shorts.

Don't forget your sunscreen.

Bring along your "low-rider" chair and make sure to wear a big sunhat.

If you like the music, stand up and clap along.

If the music moves you, dance--by yourself,

or with your honey,

or with your kids.

Rest in shade when it gets too hot,

or take a group dip in the river.

Sleep even.

Sit on the grass and play with the baby.

Hang out on a blanket and visit with a friend.

Go shopping for ethnic crafts.

Eat a treat like a mango on a stick,

and most important of all--have fun.