Friday, August 28, 2020

Friday Five - As Summer Wanes


Dahlias are old-fashioned flowers that bloom in such a variety of sizes and shapes. I find their symmetry and forms simply amazing. This week I took a walk around Butchart Gardens and the dahlias are in full bloom. So many bees buzzed around these flowers, too - you might see them in the centre of several photos. 

The dancing water fountain is always fun to watch.

Peach season is in full swing. They are sweet and juicy and so delicious with yogurt for breakfast. Zinnias brighten up the garden and I clip small bouquets for various corners in the house. 

I don't preserve as much food as I used to, but a few pints of peaches and some butterscotch peach jam now sit in the dark cool room downstairs, ready for winter enjoyment. The peach jam is made with brown sugar which gives it the butterscotch flavour. I think it will be delicious melted and poured over ice cream or cake, and also spread on toast. 

We've been eating outside these days, enjoying the lovely soft evening air. Soon it will be too cool to do this. Summer is so short and I'm hanging onto every bit that I can. 

Are you taking advantage of these waning summer days, or are you eager for autumn's arrival?

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Of Food and Flowers and Pie Crust Success


In my garden today the Rudbeckias shine their bright faces, oblivious to all that is going on in the world. 

A fat pumpkin is growing more golden each day, maturing with a few scars and bumps as all of us do. This one has escaped the bed and sits fatly in the path between the raised beds. It will make some delicious pies and soups in a month or so. 

Zucchini is prolific, and so versatile. This week I made a Cheesy Savoury Zucchini Bread and it is delicious. I made two loaves and froze one. It's a quick bread, great with soup, or sliced and toasted and covered with cream cheese or chopped tomatoes. 

On the same site JustCrumbs, I found these zucchini tots - also delicious. I know that some people complain about too much zucchini, but I love it in almost every form, although I don't bake sweets with it. 

Dahlias are such amazing flowers, so symmetrical yet in such variety of form. This is an unknown dinner plate variety that stays in the ground year round and comes up faithfully each spring. 

Since returning from our little trip to the west coast of the Island, I've been puttering in the kitchen. With the fallen apples from our trees I canned 4 pints of applesauce. Green beans are frozen for vegetable soups. Today I'm cooking beets. Late summer is such an abundant time of year. I'm happy to report that I've had a few ripe tomatoes at long last, but the squirrels seem to like taking bites from them. Grrrr! 

Pie crust has been my nemesis for years. I've tried all the tricks - ice cold butter, grated - lard - shortening - ice water - you name it, I've tried it. My pie crusts were tough and almost inedible no matter how lightly I tried to treat the dough. A couple of months ago I watched one of Canada's premier bakers offer her take on successful pastry. It's revolutionary. Anna Olsen is a genius! She mixes a small amount of vegetable oil into the flour before cutting in the butter. I was skeptical given my past attempts at pastry, but it works. Success! Hooray! 

My most recent pastry bake was a Peach Cherry Galette. Pastry rolled to an approximate 16 inch circle, topped with peeled and cut peaches, pitted cherries, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup flour, leaving a wide border for folding in. Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees until the pastry is golden and the filling bubbly - 45-60 minutes. Towards the end of the baking I sprinkled some leftover almond praline over the fruit. 

There will be more pies in the future and I think my husband will be quite happy about that! 

Edited to add: I've lived in a few different countries and found that flour differs considerably. The quantity of ingredients that Anna provides work well in Canada. 

Have a most wonderful day!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

A Few Days on the Wild "Wet" Coast


Vancouver Island lies roughly parallel to the mainland of North America. Between the continent and the Island are many smaller islands and islets. Land is almost always visible from anywhere in these waters.

However, the west coast of the Island faces the open ocean, with a clear view to nowhere. Japan and the Asian continent lie far across the waves. The Pacific Rim National Park stretches along the coastline and includes the West Coast Trail, the Broken Group Islands, and the Long Beach Unit. It's this latter section that we visited. 

The road climbs up over several mountains and winds in tight curves through narrow passes and along enormous Kennedy Lake to arrive in the Park. It's difficult to reserve a spot to camp in the Park itself - our son and his family reserved in January. We stayed in another private campsite with our camping caravan/trailer, about 15 minutes drive away. 

We enjoyed hot weather (not too hot) a couple of days before leaving, but once we got down to the ocean, the temperatures dropped to 22 degrees, then to 17 degrees for most of our stay. Fog and cloud rolled in, followed by drenching rain and strong winds.

We put on our rain gear and enjoyed the scenery. The Wild Pacific Trail offered the views in the above three photos. 

Someone amplified the out-of-bound warnings. We saw no wolves, bears, nor cougars.

The Amphitrite Lighthouse is active, and can be accessed by road. It's not open to the public, but the trail passes close by. There is a webcam of the waters around the lighthouse, and I see that today the water and sky are blue, and there is no fog, very unlike our time there. 

This area was known as the Graveyard of the Pacific; several thousand ships have floundered and sunk in the waters stretching from the mouth of the Columbia River in the USA to Cape Scott on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Shifting sandbars, rocks and reefs have claimed many lives over the past few hundred years, and likely before Europeans first explored the area.

This is part of an unnamed wreck that sank in the late 1800s. Rusted iron and weathered planks of Douglas Fir are all that remain. 

On the other side of the Pacific Rim Reserve is the more sheltered water of Grice Bay. We drove down the narrow road one evening as the sun was setting.Tim wandered to the water while I took photos where blues and greys melded in tranquil harmony. 

On our last evening there, in the drizzle and wind, we went one last time to Long Beach. Lovekin Rock stands ominous and dark, and swimmers and surfers are warned to stay away from the rock because of strong rip currents. Driftwood lies abandoned by the waves on the sand. It is a place of many moods, and this particular moment felt full of mystery and shadowed loveliness. 

We enjoyed our time seeing this part of our Island, in spite of the inclement weather. Our son and his family were in a tent trailer and decided to pack it in two days earlier than planned. We helped them pack up in pouring rain. It was so crazy that it was funny. 

And now the summer is almost over. Tim returns to work on Monday and I begin in-service on August 31. How will this school year look? 

Friday, August 14, 2020

A Quick Friday Five


Summer is flying by and we're making the most of it. In the past 10 days we've taken the boat out to Portland Island, just an hour away. The first time we took family, the second time our tenants who came from a country in the Middle East where things look very different. 

A group of fat seals eyed us very closely and slid into the water just after I took this photo. 

Queen Anne's Lace is blooming everywhere - along roadsides and trails, and in the midst of clearings. It's such a pretty weed.

Our first outing was with Miss Iris and her parents. Here she is trying on Nana's hat. She soon took it off and handed it back to me. 

Dahlias are blooming in my garden, and tall stalks of white phlox. A parsley plant gone to seed provided some green in a bouquet. 

This Secret Rose slumbered for a few weeks, but is now covered with large, beautifully scented blooms. 

And one extra photo - of a quick bouquet in pink and white clipped this morning - phlox, rose, cosmo, zinnia, snapdragon. 

Have a most wonderful Friday and a good weekend ahead. It's supposed to get hot here, for two days. We could do with some heat. I have not yet had one ripe tomato and I'm beginning to wonder if I will get any at all this summer. It's rather discouraging, but I'm trying to focus on the good in the garden - wonderful zucchini, beets, carrots, blueberries. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

In the Mountains


Have you noticed that Blogger keeps tweaking things on their new edition? Little things, but I think it means they might be listening to bloggers. 

We've been away for a week, not far from home, camping in our little trailer/caravan. Our site was a short walk from the ocean, but we spent most of our time in the mountains, a 30 minute drive away. 

Strathcona Provincial Park is in the middle of Vancouver Island, and has delighted visitors since 1911, making it the oldest provincial park in BC. Many lakes and alpine tarns dot the landscape, along with rivers and streams, meadows and mountain peaks. 

Whisky Jacks, also known as Canada Jays or Grey Jays swoop down at the first sign of food to alight on outstretched hands. This Jay seems to be looking at Tim as if to say, "Where's the food?" 

The blue Stellar's Jay isn't quite as friendly, but forages on the ground and flies into the cover of trees for safety. They are the only crested jays west of the Rocky Mountains. 

We intended to do just a short hike to Lake Helen McKenzie, however, once there, we thought we'd go a bit further. The Kwai Lake Loop is 15.6 kilometres and although we'd begun our hike in the late morning, we estimated that we could do the loop and be back by 5:00 pm. The trail became more challenging as we went on with masses of roots and muddy patches to navigate.

We were surprised to see a ranger station on Forbidden Plateau. It's situated in a beautiful spot with an alpine tarn in front and meadows beyond. A view of the mountains would be visible on a clear day. 

In the winter, the cabin is covered with snow, and to access the cabin for inspection, the maintenance crews digs down to walk directly into the top floor. There are three bedrooms, a common area and small kitchen in the cabin. Every kilometre of the trails is walked by crews at least once a year to keep everything in good repair. 

We sat beside Kwai Lake to eat our lunch of crackers and cheese. A few campers had pitched tents alongside the lake. It's a peaceful and magical spot, full of quiet beauty.
From top left to right: Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), White Bog Orchid (Platanthora dilatata): Middle row: Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatas), Subalpine Daisy (Erigeron peregrinus): Bottom row: Arctic Lupin (Lupinus arcticus), Fringed Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia fimbriata), Menzie's Burnet (Sanguisorba menziesii)

Along the way I stopped to take photos of some of the many wildflowers growing in swaths in the meadows and beside the trail. They are mostly small and delicate, but en masse provide waves of colour in the meadows. 

Wild blueberries are just beginning to ripen and we picked a few as we went along. They grow singly, and it would take a long while to fill a bucket with them. 

Our return path on the loop was much easier than the ascending portion. The trail was longer, but smoother and easier to walk. We passed Lady Lake, Battleship Lake, and a multitude of unnamed tarns like the ones above that lie in natural terraces formed by glacial erosion eons ago. 

We were back at the car shortly before 4:30, quite pleased with our spontaneous long hike. We stopped and picked up food for dinner and enjoyed it thoroughly. Hot showers, a relaxing evening, and we slept well that night. Before retiring we walked out to the ocean once more and caught the evening light illuminating the waves on the point. 

Home again now. Tim is on vacation this week and we're puttering around home, enjoying the relaxing change of pace. 

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Six on Saturday: Views, Tarts, and Garden

On these wonderful warmer summer days, I've been walking earlier than usual to avoid the intense sun. This week I climbed up Christmas Hill for a wonderful view over the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The mountains in the distance are on the Olympic Peninsula of the USA. The band of fog lies where the land meets the sea and is a typical feature of high summer weather. 

While up on the hill I watched a hummingbird whirring from blossom to blossom. She stopped for a few seconds and I was able to get this not-so-great photo. 

Some years I like to try growing different things in the vegetable garden. This year it was onions. They took little work. A week or more ago the tops fell over, all of them, overnight, it seemed - a sign that they were done growing and could be harvested. I pulled them up and laid them on a table to dry for a week. Yesterday I braided them and hung them for further drying in the barbecue shelter. I'm rather tickled with the effect. This amount of onions should last us for a few months, at least. 

Using garden produce is the theme of meals around here. I made a zucchini tart - pastry with goat cheese spread on top (mixed with herbs and lemon zest), then thinly sliced zucchini that had been salted and left to drain for an hour. Brush the top with olive oil and bake for 50 minutes or so. Sprinkle with more fresh herbs. Lovely for a light meal. 

The figs are ripe! We don't harvest huge amounts of them - but we're learning how to prune to increase the first harvest and hope for more in the future. We will get a couple dozen this year. Mary, from A Breath of Fresh Air posted a recipe for these lovely fig tarts yesterday and I immediately pulled out some frozen puff pastry to thaw. Crispy, not-too-sweet, and a perfect dessert. 

We enjoyed them with a daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter last night. They signed up for Disney Plus over the summer and invited us to watch the musical Hamilton after the 8-year-old went to bed. We enjoyed it very much, but I've been doing some research about the historical accuracy, just to keep things straight in my head. 

A work colleague invited me for an outdoor visit this week. She clipped a beautiful rose for me as I was leaving. Orange and blue make a striking pair. And I leave you with the words of our Provincial Health Officer, who closes each update with "Be kind, be calm, be safe. 

Of Spare Rooms and House Guests

  If you've ever read L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables , you'll remember the importance of the spare room. It was a long-...