Sunday, May 16, 2021

Rhubarb, the First Rose, and Learning Something New

 


This year's first prize for a rose in my garden goes to an unknown floribunda. She surprised me today with this bloom and I noticed several others showing a bit of colour. I pruned her severely in the spring, and although she's not as tall as she sometimes gets, there are plenty of buds.


Rhubarb, either you like it or you don't. We do. Our rhubarb plant is huge this year and I pulled many stalks this week. Several years ago I learned that one should pull out the stalks rather than cut them, and that has solved the problem of the plant going to seed so early. 
I canned six small jars of rhubarb sauce for the pantry shelves, and also roasted rhubarb with frozen strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries from last year's garden along with maple syrup for a flavourful compote. I notice there are quite a few packages of strawberries left so I will make a point of using them up soon. Already green berries are forming on this year's plants! And who wants to eat frozen strawberries when fresh ones are available?


I had some leftover pastry in the freezer which I thawed and rolled out to make a skimpy crust for a rhubarb custard pie. We enjoyed it for dessert at noon, and each had a little sliver after a light dinner. The custard makes the rhubarb quite mild. A hint of nutmeg and vanilla add to the satisfying flavour. 


Our tenants have set out a little table of sweet red bell peppers to dry in the sunshine for the past couple of days. I was curious to know what they would do with dried red peppers. When I asked they said they would grind them to a powder to make paprika. Well. 

How is it that I was never curious enough to find out what paprika was made of? I did a little internet research and discovered that hot paprika is simply made from hot peppers and sweet paprika from sweet peppers. In some languages the word for bell peppers and paprika is the same. 

So that's my new bit of knowledge for today. 


After doing a bit of weeding this afternoon I clipped a rather wild looking bouquet from what's currently in bloom - pale violet columbines, dark blue cornflowers, and a few last stems of bluebells. Sprigs of lemon balm and vinca provided the green. 

It's been a beautiful weekend of sunshine and we've thoroughly enjoyed it knowing that a bit of cooler weather and some much needed rain are in the week's forecast. I have a walk planned with a friend and some sewing I plan to do. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Two Views: Cultivated and Wild

 


Many people have heard of Butchart Gardens, created from the lands surrounding the home of Robert and Jenny Butchart. Robert manufactured cement and there were large deposits of limestone on the site. In 1909, after the quarry was exhausted, Jenny expanded her vision to add the Sunken Garden to the property. Millions of people from all over the world come to see the gardens and marvel at its beauty. 

One highlight is the dancing water fountain, seen above through the tulips. What most people don't realize is that on the other side of that deep pond lies another park - the Gowlland Tod Provincial Park. Both Butchart Gardens and this park lie along Tod Inlet. 


Tod Inlet is a popular place for boaters, dog-walkers, and people wanting an easy stroll close to nature. Here one can see the crumbling foundations of the industry that provided the funding for Butchart Gardens. Old cement pilings, dock ramps, hydro-dam remains, and the outlines of the homes of the workers who lived and laboured on the site. One crumbling chimney stack is visible, both from the gardens and the inlet.

Now the inlet is quiet. People throw sticks for their dogs to catch. Boaters lounge on the water. And all around are tall trees reflecting in the water and casting green light along the forested shore. Herons pick their way along the mud flat at the end of the inlet at low tide. Kingfishers call and dart from water to tree. Gulls soar, bank, and land on the water. There are a couple of spots in the park where one can catch glimpses of the dancing fountain, but it's a natural place once again.


On Saturday we met our children and grandchildren at the entrance to the park for a socially distanced, outdoor walk. It was lovely, but we were all chilled after a couple of hours. Above is the first photo of all of our grandchildren together. They had such fun together; exploring and playing.


The next day, Sunday, Tim and I visited Butchart Gardens. The tulips are astounding! Huge swaths of colour fill the beds. In a few places the tulips were finished, in others they were at their peak, and in others they had yet to fully open. I love the underplantings of the clouds of blue forget-me-nots, and in some places the interplanting of white narcissi. So very lovely. 


Butchart Gardens is a National Historic Site of Canada, and is still owned by descendants (a great granddaughter) of the Butcharts. We received a letter from her last week, with complimentary passes to the gardens, because we are year-long pass holders and the gardens were closed for part of the pandemic. Such a lovely gesture. We, and I hope, many others, will be renewing our passes so as to help this lovely place survive. 

Two views, two visits. I'm glad we can enjoy both the wild and the cultivated. 


Friday, May 07, 2021

Friday: A Changeable Day in May

 


This morning I walked to the library to exchange books. A few blocks along I realized I'd forgotten to tuck a mask into my pocket, so I returned home. While there I also changed my jacket for the wind was sharp and chill. On the way home I took a slight detour along the Bog - a wonderful park area in the midst of suburbia. Those dramatic skies held their water until I got home and then let loose with hail and lashing rain. 


The song of Redwing Blackbirds filled the air. Bright flashes of red show when the birds fly, and they always seem to elude my camera. This one was on the path just in front of me and stayed long enough for me to get this shot. 


After the rain and hail the sun came out, diffusing warm light in the garden. Wild violets are somewhat invasive, but they have restricted themselves to just one area of the garden so far, so I let them be. 


This weekend I'm looking forward to spending some time with this magazine. After my long walk this morning (about 4 miles in all), I sewed during the afternoon, working on projects that need to be finished before I begin others. I have a couple of lap quilts to get to the long-arm quilter, a baby quilt to bind by hand, and a small doll quilt to quilt and bind by hand. I enjoy the hand stitching and don't find it at all tiresome. 


We've been enjoying the fresh salads from the garden with spinach, radishes, and herbs. A squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and some salt and pepper are all that is needed to dress this produce. 

This weekend is Mother's Day - Covid-style once again. Contact with family will be minimal at best. Tim and I are planning a walk around Butchart Gardens on Sunday. I am so thankful for my own mother, and for all she is to me and the rest of her family. From her I learned to keep house, cook, sew, and love. She's a perfectionist and what she does is very well done. There have been many challenges in her life, especially early on, but she has demonstrated grace and faith throughout. 

Happy Mother's Day to those who will celebrate this weekend. 


Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Garden Musings

 


Outside my window pale yellow and orange are fading into grey as the sun sets below the Sooke Hills. It's been a lovely day, sunny, but cool enough for a light jacket. I spent a few hours this afternoon in the garden, transplanting some tomato starters (into deeper pots) and setting a few hardier tomatoes into the garden under cover. 

Garden work is so satisfactory. I find that I must do fulfill my inside chores before going outside, for if I do not I will spend all day puttering in the garden. 

The fig tree is leafing out and I always think the new acid green leaves look like butterflies about to fly off, or old-fashioned nuns' caps like in The Sound of Music. 


I've attempted gardening almost everywhere we've lived, although I soon learned that it was fruitless to do so in the jungle. I once planted several rose bushes along the front porch. They did well for awhile, but then the leaf cutter ants came along and decimated the plant entirely overnight. Amazing creatures they are, cutting and carrying off pieces of leaves far bigger than themselves. 

Outside one of our jungle homes impatiens grew in a lush heart-shape around a group of trees alongside the drive. I loved seeing it from my kitchen and dining room windows, and mourned when it was regularly cut down by the maintenance crew. However, it wasn't long before it grew up and flowered once again, bright shades of pink, fuschia, red, and orange. 


This oh, so fat bee and his mates have been buzzing about the flowers lately. The rosemary bush is blooming and another sort of bee loves to congregate there. 


At another home, this time in the mountains outside of the capital city of Quito, I was able to garden more successfully. Lemon and avocado trees were already established in the garden and how we enjoyed them. Lemon trees are amazing for they fruit and flower at the same time. I learned there to plant judiciously, for everything grew year round and needed constant trimming back. There was no dormant season. 

Above, the wisteria is blooming on the garden shed. Just now as I walk to and fro with plants, shovel, clippers, and buckets, I catch a whiff of lilac here, and sweet wisteria there. It's such a lovely time to be out there. 


From inside my house yesterday I watched an Anna's Hummingbird alight in the lilac bush. They usually take off after a brief stay, but this one remained long enough for me to go get the camera and take several pictures. Even then he hung around for awhile. 

The usual date for setting tender plants out into the garden is after mid-May. With an eye on the calendar and the temperature, I started squash and cucumber plants indoors today. Already growing outdoors are carrots and beets, Swiss chard, radishes, red onions, and spinach. 

I have a new flower bed this year, and in it are cosmos and foxglove. I'll transplant zinnias and sunflowers as they sprout. Sweet peas are a favourite of mine and I started some seeds indoors and some out. Something came along and nipped the outdoor plants right off at the ground and left the green growing tendrils lying on the dirt. What could have done that? I've netted the ones that remain and they seem to be doing fine. 

What is it that is so satisfying about gardening? Being outside with a purpose is what I like - I'm not one to lie about in the sunshine. I do enjoy a cup of tea and reading a book in the shade, but I find that my eyes stray often to the garden beds and I'll soon get up to pull that weed that caught my eye. 

I know that many of my readers garden. What is it that you find fulfilling about gardening? 

Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday: Food, Flowers, and a Good Book

 


Spring, for me, brings a renewed interest in cooking. I crave fresher, lighter meals with lots of fresh vegetables. Asparagus is one I've learned to appreciate. It's not a dish that we had when I was a child, yet alongside the road where I walked on my way to school, an asparagus field flourished and many stalks escaped outside of the fence and were free for the picking. Any asparagus we did eat was usually canned and I found the flavour strong and the texture mushy. 

These days I usually roast asparagus coated with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt. Patricia Wells, in her cookbook, Vegetable Harvest, suggests braising it with rosemary and bay leaves, then letting it brown just a bit. I did that recently and was very pleased. 


Roasted carrots with cumin, and roasted broccoli are so good with toasted almonds, a squeeze of lemon juice and some lemon zest on top. Underneath the vegetables is a thin layer of Greek yogurt. No other dressing needed. At room temperature or cold I could make a meal out of this dish. 


Rhubarb is flourishing in my garden. I made a pan of Rhubarb Almond Crumble Squares that tasted delicious. The recipe is found here on the Canadian Living site. Tomorrow I plan to make a Rhubarb Cream Cheese Pie. Do you enjoy rhubarb? What's your favourite way to prepare it? We enjoy it stewed with some yogurt, as well. Simple and delicious.


I finished this book and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It's the story of Mary, the middle sister of those five Bennet girls, told very much in the manner of Jane Austen, but in a more modern style. I thought the author did a wonderful job of evoking Austen's writing without imitating it. 


Beautiful Mountain Cornflower (centaurea montana) is blooming just now. The green foliage is so pretty and I just love the blue and pink flowers. It self seeds and comes up throughout my garden, but is easy to pull up if not wanted. 


We had rain last night and when I went out this morning such freshness filled the air. Birds sang and the last raindrops clung to leaves and flowers. White strawberry blooms show good promise of berries in a few weeks. I netted the plants against the invasion of birds and bunnies. Lilacs are opening. I have a vaseful on the dining room table and their sweet scent floats on the air as I walk by. 

This morning I baked Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies from an old recipe, then went out into the garden to work for a bit. I'm moving a bit slowly today as I received my first C19 vaccination yesterday. A sore arm, body aches, and a headache convinced me that I should just take it easy for a bit after lunch. I watched Escape to the Country, edited some photos, and took a wee nap. By tomorrow I expect I will feel just fine. 

Happy Weekend, my friends.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Thoughts on Decorating a House

 


Good morning. Outside my window the wind is tossing the just-opening lilacs. Puffy clouds move steadily across the sky. It's a much cooler week than last, and there's been needed rain. The colour of the week is green, green, green. The blooms in my garden are mostly blue - bluebells, blue mountain cornflower, and blue forget-me-nots. A few pink tulips and white candytuft add a bit of contrast. I'm enjoying clipping a few blossoms here and there for bouquets in the house. 


For as long as I can remember I've loved the colour blue. Blue for my wardrobe choices, blue for my home decor. My mom always thought I looked best in pink, and my family tells me red suits me. I do wear those colours, but when I'm shopping for clothing or fabric I naturally gravitate to blue. 

In my home I've flirted with green and pink and yellow, but here, too, I remain faithful to blue and cool greys, whites, and beiges. There are so many shades of blue, from sea glass turquoise to rich teal to crisp navy. I love them all. 

I recently replaced the curtains in the living and dining rooms. The procedure took much longer than I'd planned because I did a lot of thinking about what I wanted and then what I wanted took a lot of work. I found some panels at Home Sense in a cotton jacquard from Portugal. They were just to be gathered onto rods, but I first thought of putting grommets into them. Then I thought about lining them. In the end, I ripped out the seams down to flat panels, lined them, and used shirring tape and hooks for hanging them. 

It was difficult to get a proper photo with the light from the window, but you get the idea. I'll keep trying. Perhaps at night.  I had some navy blackout curtains before, and I prefer these softer looking ones. 


While at a consignment goods store in Oak Bay (Good Things) I saw a whole set of Royal Crown Derby Mikado Blue porcelain for sale, individually priced. I indulged in four dinner plates and love the way they look on my china dresser. 

I recently skimmed through "Decorating a Room of One's Own" by Susan Harlan. It's a series of imagined interviews with literary characters such as Jane Eyre, Miss Havisham, Marilla of Anne of Green Gables, and others. It's witty, and in places very funny, but it got to be too much after awhile. Perhaps it's a book to pick up and read in bits and pieces.

In the introduction, Harlan writes "In the end, decorating a house is a lot like writing. You are arranging things in relationship to other things in a precise and thoughtful way in order to create something beautiful." That's an excellent way to describe both writing and decorating and the quotation went into my journal immediately.

Do you have a most favourite colour? Do you enjoy decorating your home and arranging things to suit you?

Thank you for your lovely comments on my last post, especially from readers I've never heard from previously. I wasn't eliciting praise, just setting out a thought I've been having. I don't plan to stop blogging, but I wonder if I'm repeating myself over and over. 

Also, Betsy J in PA - I can't find a contact for you, and you can find my email by clicking "my complete profile" on the right hand side of the blog under my photo. Also I'm on Instagram as lorrie.orr.creative and you can message me there. I'd love to answer your questions.


Friday, April 23, 2021

Friday Favourites: Rhubarb, Spring Blossoms, and a bit of Music

 




Along the street where I walked yesterday (pushing Iris in her stroller), this tree stopped me in my tracks with its abundant blooms. Pinks from blush to fuschia filled every branch. I just had to stop and take a photo. Are they not marvelous? 


Our walk took us to the park where we played on the swings for a bit and then we walked to see the ducks. We had no food with us so the ducks soon lost interest in us. The play of light on water is mesmerizing. I'm so glad that I can spend one day each week able to care for this one grandchild so that her mother gets a bit of a break. 


I don't often speak of my husband on the blog. He works in long term health care administration and this pandemic has increased his work load (along with that of many others) exponentially. It seems that outbreaks occur, requiring his attention, on so many of holidays and days off. Christmas Day, Family Day (February), and Easter required phoning in to numerous Zoom meetings because of cases. Last Sunday to Monday I planned a little local getaway and it felt like a tiny escape. We stayed in a local hotel where every precaution was taken, swam, walked in the sunshine, and had a very relaxing time. I love the above photo because it says much about my husband. He's curious about many things, with a very analytical mind, and loves the ocean and nature. 


 
I read about this cookbook in the My French Country Home magazine and decided to order it. My preferred way to cook is Western European/Mediterranean, although I like Mexican and some Asian food, as well. I tried one recipe (below) and have marked a few more to try.

What style of cooking do you prefer?


Our rhubarb has exploded with the warm and sunny weather we've enjoyed for the past 10 days or so. I was intrigued by the addition of rhubarb to a chicken dish in the cookbook, so I tried it last night, with a few variations. I don't know how much the rhubarb actually adds to the dish other than a hint of tart. The broccoli is the last from our winter crop and the plants are now in the compost bin. 


In my garden I've begun using forget-me-nots as underplantings under the roses. I hope I don't regret it, but for now they are well controlled and ever so pretty with their clouds of blue. 

My father celebrates 87 years tomorrow and it makes me very sad that we have not seen my parents for ever so long - since last August. If things go well with vaccinations, and people behave, perhaps we can make the ferry trip at the end of May. Our vaccines are scheduled for next week. 

Our summer-in-April weather is ending this evening with rain moving in. We need the moisture. Plans for the weekend are loose, but there will likely be some house-keeping and gardening. 

Thank you for reading my blog. Sometimes I think I've run the course here, but then I think about the friendships made and the interesting blogs I read, and I keep on. Have a most wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

This and That, Woods and Shore

 


Our current high pressure ridge brings day after day of blue skies and warm sunshine. I know it won't last long and I'm enjoying it immensely while I can. Trees are leafing out at a tremendous rate - that bright acid green that is so beautiful in springtime. 


On a recent hike around Matheson Lake my eldest daughter slowed on a certain part of the trail saying that in previous years she had seen Fairyslippers (also known as Venus' Slippers) (calypso bulbosa) growing along the mossy bank. We were rewarded by finding several of these showy little flowers, along with other wildflowers, including a Western Trillium.


 Perhaps most magnificent were the woodland clearings carpeted with Fawn Lilies. How beautiful they are. 


We noticed this bird on our walk on Sunday by the shore and commented on its manic behaviour. It moved so quickly and jerkily that it was difficult to photograph. When I got home and looked in my bird book I read, "This fairly large shorebird often runs frantically in many directions while pursuing small prey." Yes, we thought, that describes it to a "t", so we're almost sure that it's a Greater Yellowlegs. 


Another group of smaller shorebirds, Long-billed Dowitchers, we think, were much less frantic, but bobbed their heads up and down as they fed. The trusty bird book called this a "sewing-machine" motion, again, very apt.

(note: I'm no bird expert and am always open to suggestions and corrections if I'm wrong.)


A little rowboat made a pretty picture with the water rippling around it.


Ikea Canada has published an e-book called Scrapsbook. It contains ideas for using bits and pieces of leftover food scraps in innovative ways. You can download the book for free and it's interesting to read. Many of the ideas are things I already do, but I was intrigued by a couple of recipes. One is seen above, with leftover meat, vegetables, and herbs/stems rolled into a thin phyllo pastry roll which is then coiled and baked. They were fun to make, and very tasty. I used some ground turkey patties, butternut squash, spinach stems, onion, and a variety of herbs in mine. 


My recent reading stack. The 13 Clocks is a fanciful tale, a spoof on a fairytale and very easy to read. After beginning The Girl From the Channel Islands I debated stopping because I wasn't taken by the author's writing style. However, I'm glad I kept on for the story picked up and became very compelling. It's based on true events during WWII. Who Speaks for the Damned was an excellent mystery and I will be looking for more C. S. Harris books. A Deception at Thornecrest is another Amory Ames mystery, very lighthearted and fun to read. The last book in the stack, The Other Bennet Sister, has not yet been opened. 

Since our weather is so wonderful I'll be spending the day in the garden. A little bit of weeding, some transplanting and clipping, and possibly seeding a few more vegetables. Enjoy your day!

Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday Favourites: Hatley Gardens

 




No one answered the door to let this little girl enter Hatley Castle. Perhaps the butler was off having a cup of tea in the kitchen and chatting with the cook. Well, let's take a stroll around the gardens, instead. 


I wrote a recent post about Hatley Castle, built by a coal baron in the early 20th century. The gardens were closed last time we visited, so we tried again. There isn't a lot blooming yet, but signs of life are everywhere. The Italian garden is formal, with gravel paths, a beautiful stone pergola (where the little girl's mother had wedding photos taken a number of years ago), and four statues representing the four seasons. I believe the photo is of autumn, with sheaves of wheat in her hand. 


In other, more natural areas, streams trickle down to a large pond. I'm not certain what the flowers are, but they fit in well with the mossy stones lining the stream. 


A narrow section of the pond is linked to an island by an arched bridge. The look reminded me very much of Monet's garden in Giverny. Alas, there were pirates about and we had to swordfight our way to reach safety in the gazebo on the island. Sadie was a good captain and guided us all well. 


Grape hyacinths, hellebores, and daffodils carpeted the woodland area of the gardens. Yellow and blue are such a great combination, especially against all the green. Perfection! 


Many Canada Geese live near the garden and consider themselves the owners, I think. They honked furiously when we got too close, and I wonder if nesting has made them protective and a wee bit cranky. 

Our spring has been very chilly, but this week things are different. Temperatures in the 20s have made gardens spring to life. The sweet peas that I planted on March 17 are finally erupting from the ground. I really wondered if they were rotting and would ever come up. Last night we ate dinner outdoors for the first time. How lovely it was to sit in the early evening sun and relax. 

Weekend activities will include gardening, that's a given. And hopefully a few more meals outdoors. Any plans in your corner? 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Spring's Ache

 


 "Spring won't et me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again."
Gustav Mahler

Outside my window just now a tiny Anna's Hummingbird flits about the cedar hedge. Tree and hedges sway in the wind. I know it's a chilly wind in spite of the bright sunshine for I was outside thinking I might garden this morning. I think I'll wait until later. A glorious week of warmth and sunny skies is in our forecast, and I couldn't be happier. 

Hendersons Shooting Stars (dodecatheon hendersonii) bloom in a naturalized lawn we pass on our evening walk. They look as though they are ready to take off into the wild blue yonder. 


In the woods just a bit further along, Fawn Lilies (erythronium oregonum) look like stars facing downwards. Most of the ones I see are white, but there are pink and yellow varieties, as well. 


Taking a photo like this requires crouching low to the ground, and I use the tilt feature on my camera to view it. 

Both the shooting star and the fawn lily are native to North America. The shooting star occurs naturally on southern Vancouver Island, the only place it's found in Canada. 

"Spring is nature's way of saying, "Let's party!"
Robin Williams


In my own garden this morning there are many promises being made. Lilacs and columbines form tight buds, blueberries will soon flower, and irrepressible mint is making a great come back from dormancy. Lemon Balm, strawberries, cornflowers and more are bursting with life. Soon there will be an explosion!


"Pretty? Oh, pretty doesn't seem to be the right word to use. Nor beautiful, either. They don't go far enough. Oh, it was wonderful - wonderful. It's the first thing I ever saw that couldn't be improved upon by imagination. It just satisfies me here" - she put one hand on her breast - "it made a queer funny ache and yet it was a pleasant ache. Did you ever have an ache like that, Mr. Cuthbert?"
said by Anne in L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables


I go out of my way to see this tree on my walks. It's awash with swoon-worthy blooms. This is its high season, lush with soft white and barely pink petals. I can't get enough of it. Like Anne above, it makes my heart ache with its beauty. 

"The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing...

For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not yet visited." 
C. S. Lewis (The Weight of Glory)

This ache of beauty, this longing, reminds me that we are spiritual beings with a desire for something beyond ourselves - for God. It reminds me that that I am merely human. 


One last prunus branch reaching up in evening light to the sky. It's truly a wonderful world, complex and full of brokenness, but utterly magical. Spring magic is some of the very best there is. 

What kind of promises is spring making in your corner? 

Rhubarb, the First Rose, and Learning Something New

  This year's first prize for a rose in my garden goes to an unknown floribunda. She surprised me today with this bloom and I noticed se...