Monday, August 18, 2014

In Season

This weekend I stopped by one of the many farm stands down the road from us.

Whatever it is, be it the first ripe strawberries of late Spring, or crisp apples in Autumn, the anticipation of local fruit and vegetables being in season is always a wonderful thing.

And right now, there are countless things available to enjoy. I love being able to shop for all my produce and know that it's been grown in my own neighborhood. We live in the Niagara Green Belt, where perfect climates allow for us to grow a vast array of delicious crops.

This week, the board with the list of local produce available exceeded 25 items! 

Here's what came home in my basket.

Peaches are ripe for the picking and boy, do we love a ripe, juicy peach! Tonight we're going to try them grilled and drizzled with honey.

Strawberries are still available too. These barely make it home from the stand.

Roasted is really the only way I will eat brussel sprouts, though I have occasionally had them in a salad. I also want to try some refrigerator pickles, so I picked up some fresh dill and lots of garlic!

My Roma tomatoes are simmering on the oven with lots of garlic and fresh basil. I'd like to pick up at least another bushel and can some as tomato sauce and pizza sauce. And with all the tomatoes and peppers available, I think I might even try some salsa this year!

We also love blueberries! 

Some garlic and pretty, purple potatoes.

And lots of fragrant Basil, which was enjoyed that night with fresh mozzarella on homemade pizza.

They also had these white Begonias. They are beautiful, full baskets with pretty hanging blooms. And they were only $10!

I have a cabinet with shelves I'd like to bring in to use in our cold cellar. It will be perfect for all the canning I've been dreaming about doing!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Front Yard - Landscape

I'm quite thrilled to show you how we've made on in our front yard.

Truth be told, I wasn't sure how we were going to pull it off. Neither Ryan, nor myself, are in any way professional landscapers, and aside from enjoying gardening, we have little experience doing any sort of landscape design.

However, after finally deciding to decommission our existing septic system, and hook up to town septic lines, our front yard was utterly destroyed. To be fair to the crew, they did their best to work around my well established lilac bushes, and they even managed the save a small white pine we had planted when we first bought the house. But everything else had to go. 

We literally started from scratch.

The entire front yard was scraped and leveled. This was a huge amount of work. Because we were on a tight budget, we did everything ourselves, except this part. Our neighbor luckily has a small excavator, and was able to do this for a very reasonably price.

After that, we were on our own. Once we had a blank slate, we mapped out where our new walkway would go, and where the sod would end and gardens would begin. We put in a large flagstone walk, which allowed for access to the front door from both the main drive, and the extra parking space. We had no idea how hard this would be.

Next we built up beds for gardens. We more than tripled the amount of garden space, which once established, will provide a great deal of privacy. After gardens were put in, the entire front lawn was given a layer of top soil, and we laid sod. Our property is on an angle, and no matter how hard we tried to come up with a symmetrical design, something curved and free-flowing worked much better.

Finally came the planting, which was my favourite part. I think I visited over 20 garden centers in the area. I had a very specific list of perennials that I was looking for.

After the work was finished on the yard, we decided to spruce up the house a little. We've never really done anything to the exterior, and as I mentioned before, our budget was small. But, a little paint on the eves and shutters went a very long way. It'll look even better in a couple weeks once the new roof is installed.

Spending money on your septic is so unrewarding. If you're going to invest a large amount of money in your home, you hope to at least have the benefit of enjoying the results. However, now, each time we come home and walk up our front walk, we do just that! It's so nice to have a yard and gardens again.

You can see here that we still need to install our edging posts around the extra parking space. I'm also on searching for two larger lanterns to mount on either side of the door, and a new fixture for above it. I think this will bring more balance to the entrance.

My goal was to create a full, multi-levelled garden that blooms throughout the year. Once matured, the garden will have entirely filled in. All of the lower front plants are wild Geraniums and a couple varieties of Anemonies which spread and have beautiful white blooms. In the back, for height, I planted Dogwood and Vibernum bushes. These will get quite large, and create privacy. There is also a white Magnolia tree, a Peony tree, and a dwarf Cypress tree planted.

I grouped varieties of Hydrangeas together to create more of an impact. I also have a few varieties of Peonies planted to break up a the design a little, and flowering Woodruff as low ground cover.

Here you can see how established my Limelight Hydrangeas are, to the right of the house. I'm looking forward to seeing the entire garden established.

Between the houses here is where my Lilac bushes are. Unfortunately they are now quite sparse. I've planted a new Lilac in the back corner, as well as another Vibernum, which in time, will fill out this empty space.

This is my Mother-in-law's garden. The landscape design was done years ago by some of Ryan's best friends. I love how it's evolved and filled out perfectly over time. I used many of the same plants like the Dogwoods and Anemonies and Woodruff.

Now I just have to patiently wait. 

Monday, August 4, 2014


I brought home an armfull of local Gladiolus (Gladioli?) for on the table.

They're make such a striking arrangement with their long stalks and beautifully crimpled blooms.

They remind me of a Monet painting. 

I've been so enjoying Monty Don's French Gardens, a BBC series in which he travels around in an old 2CV and visits the famous gardens of France. In one of the episodes, Monty visits Giverny, Monet's famous flower garden, and the inspiration for so many of his paintings. The Gladiolus, in all of it's grandeour, makes the perfect subject to paint.

Friday, August 1, 2014

An Afternoon in the Strawberry Fields

The boys and I spent an afternoon a few weeks ago picking strawberries at a farm down the road from us.

I had planned on picking them before we went to the cottage, so when I wasn't able to get around to it, I was afraid that by the time I got back, the season would be over.

Fortunately, though they weren't picking any more for the stand, I was allowed to head out and see what I could find.

Luckily for us, the plants were still full of plump, ripe berries, sweet from the summer's sun.

We took our time filling our baskets, sampling a few here and there. Is there anything more wonderful than a just-picked strawberry?

Next to a buffet of delicious berries, the golf cart ride out to the back field was a highlight for the boys.

Most of our berries were canned as Strawberry jam, but a few pints were frozen for a couple special desserts. Maybe a strawberry pie or a crumble?