Archives: garden

i’ll say it just this once…

baby-moon.

With only a month and a half left before our baby’s due date Steve and I decided to take some advice from our friends who have children, and go on a mini-vacation just the two of us (before we lose this privilege for what many claimed would be an eternity). It was also really just a great excuse to escape from the city for some real relaxation: no computers, no phones, just good food, pool side swims, afternoon snoozes and time to enjoy the fleeting moments of summer and life as just the two of us.

Not wanting to go too far we looked into a few inns around Niagara on the Lake but opted instead for something a little more out of the summer wine country tourist trap area and alas we came upon Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario!

Taking only the country back-roads it took us just less than 45 minutes by car from downtown Hamilton to reach this little 100 something year old country estate and oasis.

The grounds of the inn were quite beautiful, and included tennis courts, croquet course, heated outdoor pool, vegetable garden, pond, 12km of wooded trails (for hiking or biking), plus a spa with free access to their sauna, hot tub, and steam room.

They had a gorgeous vegetable garden that Steve and I drooled over at length.  Purple plum tomatoes, bell peppers, purple kale, and pumpkins ripe on the vine already!

A little pool side reading that I had picked up from Mixed Media (thanks Dave!).

I frequently get told that I’m carrying small so as luck would have it I could still fit into this dress and I think I may have just made the cut for the Langdon Hall dinner dress code (dinner at Langdon Hall was a formal affair: no denim or shorts, and a suit jacket is recommended)!

The food was devine, delicate and ornately beautiful. We sampled some snow crab with edible flowers, raw elk with oyster (Steve sampled that), duck, beef, dessert or a choice of sampling from the cheese cart of exclusively gourmet Canadian cheeses, and then again more dessert.

A three course dinner came with our hotel stay plus a gorgeous country breakfast in the morning. If you so fancied you could get a seven course meal with wine pairings, as well as pairings of scotches, brandy or cognacs to go with your gourmet cheeses and dessert sampling platter.

I have to admit this was an extravagant visit and we will likely not indulge in something so exquisite again for a long time. I don’t think I would’ve been able to comfortably camp this summer so a fancy hotel was our ONLY alternative -right?  I am sure that we’ll make up for it for many years to come when our summers will be spent camping and exploring the far reaching corners and wilderness of Canada and the US -sounds pretty dreamy to me!

*Langdon Hall Country House & Spa, 1 Langdon Drive, Cambridge, Ontario, 519.740.2100

seedy saturday

On Saturday we attended Seedy Saturday!  This is where we’ve been happily getting our seeds for our vegetable garden for the past three springs.

This year there were seed vendors, give aways, door prizes, seed swaps and a lot of families and like-minded garden enthusiasts.

The best part about the day is the seed swap, where you can exchange and/or pick-up free seeds. I find it a little hard not to be greedy or over ambitious with garden plans when there’s such a variety of free seeds right in front of you -it really is like being a kid in a candy store.

The most unique find of the day were these purple Jerusalem artichoke tubers.  I’m interested to see how these will look like once they’re in the ground and blooming.

There was a sweet stack of vintage garden catalogues and books that you could give a small donation for and take home for further perusal.

 

Seedy Saturday is put on by the Hamilton Community Garden Network.  This year it was held at Ryerson United Church at 842 Main St. east.

 

in the nick of time (i hope)

I know that garlic is supposed to be planted in mid October but since the weather has been so mild I hope that it’s alright that I just planted our garlic last weekend!  Last fall when we went to Tregunno Seeds for some bulbs, garden supplies and garlic. Unfortunately we saw the last bunch of garlic walk right out the door 2 minutes before we had a chance to buy any.  It took me a little while to figure out that you can buy any good sized organic garlic from the farmer’s market and just plant that.

So last year was my first time planting garlic.  By the time I had my garlic ready to go it was so late into the fall that the ground was frozen.  I had to do some serious soil thawing and maneuvering to get the cloves in the ground.  As a result this year we harvested tiny miniature garlics (but man they were potent!).

Lesson learned garlic goes in the ground before the ground freezes!  I hope that I was still in time for a better garlic harvest for next year.  Can’t wait for the garden again in spring!

whole garlic, ready to plant, planting garlic, mid fall, November

cloves of garlic, ready to plant, planting garlic, mid fall, November

cloves of garlic, plant 2 inches from the top, planting garlic, mid fall, November

cloves of garlic, ready to plant, planting garlic, mid fall, November

planting garlic mid fall, garlic stick marker for garden

edible garden

I love that Hamilton’s City Hall has an edible garden.  Purple cabbage, kale, parsley, and Swiss chard fill the garden beds out front of the shiny new refurbished City Hall.

Hamilton, city hall, exterior, edible garden

Hamilton, city hall, garden, cabbage heads, cabbage patch

After passing the cabbage patch out front of Hamilton’s City Hall, I biked past a small splatter of chalk messages to the late Jack Layton on the sidewalk.  It was a very sweet tribute to Jack from local Hamiltonians.  Still, nothing can compare to the overwhelming and touching response to the recent passing of NDP leader Jack Layton in front of City Hall in Toronto.

Remembering Jack Layton at Nathan Phillips Square

Crowds gather in front of Toronto City Hall, Nathan Philips Square, to read chalk drawn messages dedicated to Jack Layton.

 

beefy tomatoes

Beef eater? Beef cake?  Beefsteak? It doesn’t matter what the name is of these tomatoes because one thing is for sure, they are definitely beefy.

beefsteak tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes, backyard vegetable garden, raised beds

We used an old pair of jeans cut into rags to tie up our massively growing tomato plant.

homegrown, beefsteak tomatoes, backyard garden

I swear some of these beefsteak tomatoes from our garden are the size of 5 pin bowling balls. They are huge, delicious, fresh and juicy.

beefsteak tomatoes, sunday morning breakfast

Fresh cut garden tomatoes go perfect with a Sunday morning breakfast.

 

 

watching the garden grow

One of our favourite things to do in the evening is to sit out back and watch our garden grown.  It’s amazing to see the fruits of our labour blooming and growing so quickly.  I love picking things fresh from the garden and incorporating them into a meal for that day.

antique metal garden chair, backyard relaxing, red brick wall

potted asian eggplant

homegrown, backyard vegetable garden, tomatoes

kale leaves, backyard vegetable garden

homegrown peppers, backyard vegetable garden

snowpeas, homegrown vegetable garden, backyard vegetable garden

melon plant, backyard garden, baby melon

Check out that little baby melon growing. So cute!

zucchini flowers

I love eating batter fried zucchini flowers. My favourite summer time savoury treat. I make a batter mixture of flour, water, garlic salt, pepper, and some grated cheese of whatever I have lying around. This time I threw in some of the herbs that I've been growing in the herb boxes in the backyard. Then I coated the flowers with the batter mixture, and pan fried them in olive oil on medium heat until golden brown and crispy.

pan fry zucchini blossoms, fried zucchini flowers

panfried zucchini blossoms, zucchini flowers

 

 

backyard delights

This weekend I had my ultimate Korean bbq dream come true.  My friend Vern had suggested a Korean bbq themed backyard party at our place.  Such a good idea!

I made Japanese gyoza dumplings of 3 varieties (chive, dill, & garlic scapes).  I picked the  herbs right from our garden to complement the ground pork, chopped cabbage, and crushed garlic gyoza mixture.

 japanese food, homemade gyoza, dill, chives, garlic scapes, pork dumplings

 japanese food, homemade gyoza, dill, chives, garlic scapes, pork dumplings

I gathered this year’s first home grown bouquet for a table centrepiece. I threw in some fresh mint, lavender, and even some little yellow blossoms that came from our bok choys (they’ve already shooted and started running hence the blossoms).  So far I’m loving the early summer harvest of fresh flowers, & delicious herbs.

garden picked fresh flowers, mint, lilis, lavender,

Here’s mine and Vern’s combined spread of a mixture of Japanese homemade tsukemono and Korean pickles and sides, plus the pan fried gyoza, fresh cold tofu with grated ginger, green onions, and soy sauce (super refreshing).  The table was already ram-packed, and the bbq’d meat was still to come!

Korean BBQ side dishes, gyoza, tofu, tsukemono, pickles

Vern brought Kalbi short ribs, that she marinated Korean style for 2 days.  I put together Japanese yakitori chicken sticks, marinated over night in a reduced version of soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and sake.  I saved the left over marinade to glaze on top while bbq’ing.

calbi, short ribs, yaki tori, Korean BBQ

calbi, short ribs, Korean BBQ, fresh garden lettuce

Fresh picked lettuce from the garden to wrap meat in, after dipping in sauces and adding kimchee or pickles.

yakitori, Japanese food, chicken stick, green onions, BBQ

pork belly, Korean BBQ, fresh garden lettuce, kimchee

Homegrown lettuce with samgyupsal (bbq'd pork belly), dipped in a savoury sesame oil sauce, with kimchee, and baby sugared dried anchovies.

Korean BBQ, calbi, side dishes

Hite Korean beer

black sesame, goma, icecream, strawberries, mint, condensed milk, dessert

Dessert black sesame ice-cream with garden fresh mint, strawberries and condensed milk.

inosculation

This weekend we finally bought our replacement to a tree we uprooted last year that we called the weed tree.  It was a strange hybrid of lilac and some type of unruly weed.  Half the tree had real lilac flowers, while the rest had some cheap variety of imitation blossoms -minus even the sweet smelling fragrance of a true lilac.  My guess is that the lilac bush’s trunk was somehow spliced with the fast growing weed tree’s trunk at some point during it’s early growth.  Apparently the grafting of two different species of tree or bush is not entirely unheard of, and as I’ve just learned, this is called inosculation.  Anyway, the weed tree was non too pretty, grew like crazy, was prone to lilac mold and had a bad root system.  It had to go!

lilac tree

cutting down a tree

The replacement to the old weed tree, is a sweet mangolia that already has plenty of buds, and looks as though it’s just about to bloom.  Magnolia trees aren’t cheap.  This set us back about $140 including tax.  But for some peace of mind, it did come with a one-year, stay alive warranty.  I’m going to keep a close watch on this magnolia -sleep with one eye open, and an arm chained to it’s trunk.  I’ve heard of people thieving expensive trees; a friend in town once told me that their newly purchased Japanese maple was dug up and stolen out of their very own backyard!

suacer magnolia bud

saucer magnolia tree

magnolia tree

I can’t wait until our magnolia tree starts to mature.  Even as a small shrub, I’m still in love with it, and it already adds a whole new feel to the backyard.

 

backyard planning

We were so excited to sit in our backyard after the long winter that we put on our winter coats, poured some pints, and grabbed our new gardening book, Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail that I picked up from Mixed Media.  We can’t wait to start up our vegetable garden, and get working on our landscaping project for this year.

 

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