Archives: garden

city hall’s backyard garden

If you’ve happened by Hamilton’s City Hall out back on Hunter Street you may have noticed its backyard vegetable garden. I’ve been admiring it since spring.

The summer that Jack Layton died I remember City Hall had its edible garden out front on Main Street as well as another one in front of the Farmer’s Market on York Boulevard (see my post on that here). I hadn’t seen an edible garden run by the city in a long while so I was pretty pleased to see one up and growing again this summer.

I love it when public spaces get used for practical purposes like this.

City Hall Edible Garden

city hall urban edible garden City Hall edible garden yellow zucchini

The garden is beautifully planned and you can tell that the people (or person) in charge of this mini master-mind of a vegetable garden knows their gardening stuff. Zucchini; both yellow and green, carrots, kale, cauliflower, cucumber, tomatoes, and beans are all growing harmoniously, climbing up triangular trellised teepees and flowering their vegetable fruits in abundant beauty! Nothing is over crowded and everything is growing symbiotically, which is more than I can say about my own vegetable garden.

There have been days when I’ve seen people stop at the vegetable garden; a mom with a stroller, an elderly man with a market cart, plucking a zucchini or two. I wondered if the garden was just free-for-the-taking but later I heard that its harvest is to be donated to local Hamilton Food Banks.

City Hall back garden

On the particular day I took these pictures a city staff member from the horticultural department was out harvesting the garden crops. I got to talking with her and she said that unfortunately a lot of the veggies were picked over so they didn’t have as much of a harvest to donate to the local Food Banks as they had planned. The worker said she hoped that the people who were picking the vegetables were those that might’ve needed a little extra help in accessing fresh produce. Even with the crops picked over, I still felt she had collected a nice harvest of carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, kale and zucchini.

City Hall carrots edible garden city hall edible garden harvest

 

 

rhubarb

This is the second year that we have been able to harvest the rhubarb from our relatively young backyard rhubarb plant.

The stalks were hearty and we were able to take from it several bunches from late May until the end of June.

To keep up with this seemingly non-stop supply of rhubarb I needed to find an easy recipe to start using it up -and fast!

On Pinterest one day I came across this quick easy-to-make recipe from a food blog called Feed Me Phoebe.

rhubarb yogurt cake

Rhubarb Yogurt Cake (recipe from Feed Me Phoebe)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain full-fat yogurt, well-stirred
  • 1cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large pinch sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup rhubarb, chopped into ½-inch pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly oil a 10-inch round spring-form cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl whisk the yogurt, sugar, salt, and almond extract until smooth. Pour the oil into the batter slowly, whisking until smooth. Add the eggs and whisk the batter again until smooth.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl and fold it into the wet batter until just combined. Pour the batter into the cake pan and scatter the chopped rhubarb on top.
  4. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean and the top springs back lightly when touched. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then lift it out with the parchment paper and allow it to cool on a wire rack.

We’ve made two rhubarb yogurt cakes so far this season and they never last in the house for longer than a day or two. We’re constantly sneaking in pieces pre-breakfast, throughout our numerous coffee and tea time breaks or whenever we happen to be just passing by the kitchen.

Rhubarb plantSince Steve is the keeper of our backyard garden, he did all the rhubarb stalk collecting. Especially since he’d read up on how you’re not supposed to just go in there and chop down the stalks with a knife or scissors like I would’ve done. Instead he gracefully twisted and snapped them off before passing over a large and heavy bunch to me.

Rhubarb stalks

rhubarb picking

Someone once told me not to pick fresh rhubarb after the end of June -increase in toxicity? So by my books I’ve about a day or two left to get in all my rhubarb chopping for the year. It freezes well so we’ll still have plenty throughout the summer if I have any sudden urges to make my mom’s rhubarb cake recipe (click here), which involves a simple cake batter, a package of strawberry jello, and mini marshmallows!

 

 

spring seedlings

Since the second summer we’ve been at our house we’ve had a backyard vegetable garden. It’s a small urban one because our yard is pretty teeny, but so far it has done the trick!

We’ve been able dabble with growing garlic, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, and some herbs.

backyard garden garlic scapes

weathering seedlings

We did a quite a bit from seed this year but with multiple work and home projects on the go we also needed to supplement with a few purchased seedlings that we acquired from the Mustard Seed Co-op’s Seed Sale from a few weeks back.

In fitting with the end of Ontario’s Local Food Week, The Co-op is having their big grand opening celebration this Saturday June 7 from 12-6pm with a whole slew of local producers/vendors, face painting, live music and kids activities.

Mustard Seed Coop spring seed sale

mustard seed spring seed sale strawberries

 *Mustard Seed Co-op, 460 York Blvd. 289.492.COOP, @mustardseedcoop

friends of the aviary + cootes paradise

Two weeks ago Omi learned how to say peacock. Well, he actually says it so it sounds something more like “peatock”. In any case, I took his new adaptive use of the word as motivation for an impromptu visit to Westdale’s Friends of the Aviary, which is home to a lovely male and female peacock.

The aviary had a small crowd of weekend family visitors that casually checked out the various hens, roosters, chicks, peacocks and other fowl in their large outdoor cages. It also has an indoor coop for a variety of parrots and other small feathered friends. You can pay a small donation to help support the volunteer run aviary and enjoy the garden grounds on your visit.

Westdale Aviary peacock

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Attached to the aviary grounds is the Churchill Park Community Gardens. For a small yearly fee you can till and sow your own garden. There were a lot of fairly large plots and even some espaliered fruit trees. I  know a few friends that have been successfully growing their bountiful cornucopia of vegetables there yearly and they love this little spot of land.

IMG_7075

Churchill Park Community Garden

Right by the gardens is the Ravine Road Trail entrance to Cootes Paradise. Although we were somewhat ill prepared for a proper hike, we figured we could handle a little four by four stroller trekking on the trails while taking in some of the changing spring forest landscapes.

Welcome to Cootes Paradise

Ravine Road Trail cootes

At first the trail was mostly brown and leaf covered with little sign of spring. But then as we got further into the forest and trail we started to see bright green patches of spring time growth. I don’t know what these large green leafs were. At first I thought maybe they were lilies but they seemed too big. The leaves were huge and looked almost like giant lettuce leaves or swiss chard.

cootes paradise spring

As we walked further along, the trail headed uphill towards a ridge that overlooked Cootes Paradise Marsh. As I looked across the tree line I could see little speckles of pink and red that dotted the tree branches. They were the little red and brown buds on the trees just before the fresh and new leaf greenery were to appear.

cootes paradise

This was from two weeks back, so I bet this weekend if you were to go, the forest would be lush with bright fluorescent green bursts of new leaves and forest foliage!

spring tree buds

I love that despite having lived in Hamilton for five years there are still plenty of places to discover and explore. With every season each of these places take on a different look and beauty that can be rediscovered again.

So looking forward to consistent warm days and the planting of our own backyard and community garden!

lilacs

During the depths of a blustery and cold winter hike at the Royal Botanical Gardens, I vowed to make a return visit come spring to frolic in the fragrant blossoms of, non other than, the lilac.

So a few weekends back we packed up Steve’s grandma’s quilt, picked up some take-out sushi plus a couple of coffees from Mulberry and headed to the RBG Lilac Dell for a picnic.

There are over 600 varieties of lilacs at the gardens, all blossoming simultaneously amidst the crab apple blossoms, dogwood and redbud trees.

There were a lot of other picnic goers enjoying the spring dreaminess of the gardens.

Before leaving I enthusiastically stuffed my nose into a few lilac blossoms, drinking in their fragrant smells and paying the price in sneezes later that evening.

Admission is $12.50 per adult (plus tax). I know it seems like a lot but if you make a day of visiting all the parks and gardens of the RBG then it’s definitely worth it  (the admission covers entrance to all 4 gardens!). I always consider the admission to be like a donation, cause I mean, gosh, these gardens and spaces are so beautiful and I’m just happy that they’re around!

doors open

I know I’ve posted about Treble Hall about a million times already but I finally got to see it on the inside -yay Doors Open!

I’d love to see more spaces like this in other similar downtown buildings (especially the ones that line Gore park). I’m sure there are a lot with gorgeous city views and even some with untouched attics with all sorts of Victorian treasures.

We ambitiously thought that we’d make it out to about three or four stops for this year’s Door’s Open but really only made it out to just this one. I figured there’s plenty more time to explore throughout the years.

The weather was so beautiful we spent it mostly walking around and enjoying the spring blossoms and parks.

 

Last year we made it out to a few more Doors Open destinations. One of my favourites, which didn’t make it onto my post from last year, was the most amazing cottage house. First off, I love cottage houses, and second, any house with nooks that look like these you just gotta love.

Not to mention it had a fabulous garden. If we had more yard and sun I’d aspire to live like this cottage set-up (solar panels on the roof, a wall of rain barrels, compostable toilet and giant backyard garden).

Just a 10 minute walk away from downtown it felt like a little country getaway.

plan b

We don’t always, but when we can we try and by local and/or organic.

This winter we decided to buy a winter share with Plan B Organic Farms. It’s the second time we’ve ordered a share with Plan B. What I like about it is that it cuts down on trips to the grocery store, and it helps us decide what meals to make for the week.

With Plan B you have the option of buying entirely local, or with a mix of international and local organics goods. You can get a weekly or bi-weekly share, and you can order a small or large box. They can deliver directly to your home or you can check to see where they do free local drop-offs in your neighbourhood.

We opted for a small bi-weekly box for 10 weeks (we added on an order of coffee and eggs too), which we pick up at a local store a short walk from our house.

Plan B has been perfect for this winter stretch, as it’s helped to tide us over until things get hopping at the local farmer’s markets for spring and until our summer garden gets into full-swing.

We make a lot of soups and enjoy having fresh pea sprouts on our lunchtime sandwiches and garnished on salads.

seedy sunday

This Sunday Steve and I did our annual visit to Seedy Sunday. It’s always an exciting time of year because it gets me thinking about spring with the anticipation that in fact winter will not last forever.

Before heading to the exchange we took stock of our seed inventory.

Steve sketched up a little map of our garden boxes to figure out what we plan on growing in our garden this summer. He even made a list of specific seeds to purchase to fill in the gap in our inventory. But despite this list and our amply stocked inventory, when I got to the seed exchange, as per usual, I reverted back to kid-in-candy-store mode and went seed crazy.

What made me really happy, despite being surrounded by seeds and promises of spring, was that this year’s exchange had a little coffee stall from Homegrown Coffee! It offered the perfect afternoon kick, which is just what I needed.

I indulged in my second coffee of the day and with our new seed purchases we hit the road.

last harvest

We had a wonderful harvest of tomatoes this summer.  Well into the fall (pre-frost) we still had a ba-gillion tomatoes on the vine. We gave a ton away, ate some, and sauced a few others.

fiesta forever…

I would say that we’re no traditionalists when it comes to baby showers and other such celebrations.  So when my sister and friend offered to plan a “baby shower” they made sure it would be as unorthodox of a shower as you could get.  We went with the theme of a fiesta! I couldn’t have thought of a more fun and colourful way to celebrate.

Collaboratively we gathered up, bought and made fiesta decorations for the house and yard which were fabulously vibrant.  Everything looked so beautiful! The weather cooperated and it was proper summer hot and breezy.

Setting up pre-fiesta, with morning sun shining in.

frida kahlo drink coasters, fiesta wedding, fiesta baby shower

Loved the Frida Kahlo drink coasters!

Lavender, mint lemonade with lemon ice pucks.

We had a tub of cold cerveza, Mexican pop, and sangria. And of course a party would also not be complete without… tequila!

Since we already had our friends and family in attendance, and since there was great food, drinks, and lovely decorations up -Steve and I had thought to ourselves why not combine this baby-fiesta with non other than a SURPRISE WEDDING!! And that’s just what we did.

It was one of the funnest things I’ve ever done.  I loved seeing the expressions of shock on everyone’s faces, followed by tears, exclamations, and hooting and hollering.  We had such a fabulous day celebrating AND not to mention I felt content having escaped the pressures and stress that all come when you plan an unsurprise wedding.  There were people that of course we would’ve liked to have invited and would’ve travelled from a far to celebrate with us but this surprise wedding really made everything so simple and brought it back down to the basic crux of the matter -we got married and we had so much fun doing it!!

fiesta wedding, surprise wedding

 

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