Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Gander around the Garden

Yesterday morning I got up and found that my DH had been up very early and been very busy in the garden. The heat here is heading towards scorching....39 - 40 deg. C. the only time to get in the garden and do some work and watering is early morning or late night. I, on the other hand, stayed in bed until after 8 and then headed out and decided to take some pictures and get some inspiration for a backyard blog topic.

I came up with a few pics that show the best of our back yard garden. I tend to focus on the back yard, as the front yard is a disaster except for three planters which are looking pretty good.

The rest of the yard is ....well...not good....however....we will be getting it Xeriscaped in September. Unfortunately it is sloped and has no top soil of any quality and is full of rocks...small ones. So...water rolls off, nothing grows...and it looks like this!

In any case....back to the rear end of the property.....our sanctuary during the summer.
I have previously posted about this....but it's always fun to revisit. 
Because it is flat, it has a nice patch of green lawn, not too big and bordered by two terraces, the lower one with a large cedar tree and 2 large fir trees and crammed up against one fir tree is a rather spindly looking pine tree. On the upper terrace is a peach tree and a transplanted apple tree. Each terrace has it's own snowdrift spirea, a beautiful sight in the spring/early summer. When we bought the house almost 10 years ago, there was a lot to be done in the back yard. The previous owners had not done a lot and had done too much. In otherwards we had to thin trees and bushes out, sift out many rocks and gravel, and add compost, topsoil,  plants and a vegetable and herb garden.  As the stories came from the neighbours, it seems that when the excavation was done for the house, basically all the soil was put in back and front with no regard for making it usable.'s been a laborious task, but in my husband's case, almost a labour of love. There are still things to be done and redone and it will be an ongoing project. One thing that is a blessing is that the previous owner built the terraces stacking stones for the retaining's held up pretty well. The fence side of the garden is also made with a stacked stone retaining wall. A portion of it came loose this last winter, but DH managed to get it back to some semblance of order and it has stayed put. On the terraces, the rocks have provided a great area for creeping plants and herbs....they also have provided homes for field mice and my imaginative mind has thought of stories that could be told about the little mice that poke their heads out when we're not looking. 

What pleases me is that friends and family love to relax on our deck and enjoy the peace and tranquility (unless of course the neighbours next door are having a pool party, which thankfully isn't frequent!!) and in the evening our night scented stocks perfume the air sweetly. It's a place I love to sit and read in the glow of the porch light on a sleepless night in the summer.  Those that visit and cook, enjoy the fact that they can partake of our garden herbs and produce during the summer months. Myself, having had a herb farm in my previous life, have found pleasure again in growing my most beloved of the herbs from scratch and also trying to keep alive those that are perennials. DH's passion is tomatoes.....he was never able to grow them on the coast. In fact it takes a wizard (or a good greenhouse) to grow tomatoes on the coast due to the blight. Here in Kamloops, it's a cinch!! They are so prolific that we are able to make and can our own tomato sauce and freeze many tomatoes and also have lots for salads during the summer months. We are lucky to have family here in Kamloops who also have a large garden and fruit trees so trading is frequent. 

This is the view of our garden from the deck.
Those are wine grapes in the front....DH has actually made some wine, which is presently bottled and stored to age at this point. We are growing Cab Sauv and Marechel Foch presently....we have had some that have not wintered over very well....this is our second batch. 

Looking over top of the grapes we have many tomatoes, rhubarb on the right, squash on the left and some corn stuck in the middle and raspberries at the end. Tucked in between everything at the end are peas and beans and a couple more squash plants...or are they pumpkin???
 This is a view of our raised beds (and the sprinkler) which contain mostly greens...i.e. arugala, kale, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, mesclun and there are also some carrots and beets coming up....and some peppers. The rock pathway you see, is actually the rocks that were removed from the garden to make the garden.....there are still more.

...and here are the raspberries....they are soooo prolific. DH is out there every second morning picking at least two large containers full....and then he freezes them on a cookie sheet and then into bags for the freezer. We have had enough to make our annual batch of raspberry lavender vinegar and probably enough for raspberry lavender jam. We did have a lot of strawberries the last few years, but this year for some reason, the transplants mostly all died. We've had just a few for breakfast and that's all.
My zucchini plant where I've harvest one large one already and there are many more, as is usual with zucchini!

This is one of the many volunteer sunflowers that come up in our garden and in this case, my basil bed. They come, we think, from the bird seed that is dropped from the feeders and from previous sunflowers.....such a nice bright addition to the garden...and eventual feed for the birds!
 Here is the above plant and one beside that has not bloomed yet.

 My basil bed, covered with wire to deter the feline otherwards, Chloe. She has tried her best to navigate through the wire but without success. I have basil which I have grown from seed which I got from Richters Seeds in Ontario. The green basil is Stella, the red basil is Rosie and on the far right I have lemon and lime basil and some Thai basil tucked in the corners. I have some Sweet Salad Basil in pots at the end of the bed which aren't seen. So far, it's doing well, loving the heat so fingers are crossed!!

My DH's pot of various heirloom tomato plants and some grape tomatoes. I have some basil tucked in there too

  Summer Savory on the left and Lemon Verbena on the right.  I really didn't think my Lemon Verbena would make through the winter but it the garage with very little water. It surprised me last year's hard to believe that this plant actually grows to almost tree size in least that's what I've been told.

 Now....a little quiz....this is a picture of a multitude of leaves but there are three plants....grapes, lemon catnip and tomato. Where is the lemon catnip??

This is Chauncey's outside water bowl and yes there is water in it. It has a centre piece with holes in it that I have taken out and I will replace in the winter for flowers or whatever.  In the meantime, Chauncey and Chloe have a pretty bowl to call their own!
 This is the bottom tier of the our two tier you can see the rocks have been stacked to create the retaining wall...remarkably they have proved very resilient! You can see a planter there beside the peony and it's sitting on a stump that used to be a Manitoba Maple Tree which we had removed along with another one on the top tier.
 As you can see there are quite a few shady spots on the terraces due to the trees, so I have a planter of fuschias which seems to be doing fairly well. There's also one of two peonies....a plant which I like initially with the blossoms, but then they look so mucky when they die off. Quick removal with the clippers is almost mandatory.
 This is a view of the terrace above the garden.
Left to right...another peony, winter savory, Basil mint, French Tarragon (which surprisingly enough winters over in our climate) and another planter with Rosemary in it....under the wood is the other grape vine...and you can just see a few leaves of our apple tree. 

  This is a view of one side of our patio with a clothesline running through it!! Those are hops climbing up and over the roof of the patio. We cut them back every year to the ground and they start sprouting in early spring and grow so fast that we are constantly trimming them back....but....they are such good  shade plants and privacy barrier. I have been meaning to pick the flowers to dry for a sleep pillow....I've picked, dried, but have yet to make a sleep pillow....maybe this year.

 These are our beautifully perfumed Night Scented Stocks. So perfect to have beside the patio....and the scent is only at night when the air cools down. Lovely!
This is the inside of our hops and the planters located underneath them. They are shade loving plants for the most part. The first time I
put these planters here, I filled them with geraniums and then wondered why they never bloomed....well...I quickly realized the problem and have since never varied from shade loving plants and they work beautifully.

Yet another view of the above....

.....and here ends my gander around the garden....a lot of pictures, a few words and it shows a place of peace for us....morning, noon, night and sometimes even very late evening.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Getting back into it...with joy

It's been a long time hasn't it?
But I feel that it's time I got back to the blogging least for this blog. I have another blog, more health oriented (my health!) but I feel that I need to get back to the photographs and observations of this blog. I was rereading portions of it recently and realized that it was something I had enjoyed doing very much.

I sort of blame Facebook for my lack of participation in the blogsphere. It's so easy to have quick thoughts and jot them down, take a picture, create a story and post it quickly to Facebook and wait with trepidation to see what reaction will come from all of my 49 friends ;-). It's too easy, one really doesn't have to think much...although I did sometimes....because what you think and what you write don't always come out same way on Facebook. They do have an editing feature on the posts, but anyone can see what you edited out so that's pretty much useless. If it was a lengthy post, I usually wrote it in One Note first to edit and then copy and pasted into FB as a "Note". 

But therein lies the problem....I like to think about what I write...take my time and edit. I think the word I would use is *compose*. A lovely word that says it all. It appeals to the musician in me.  A composition of written word...isn't that what a writer does? I have long harboured the opinion that I have a writer hiding deep inside me wanting to get I think that going back to blogging is the answer for now with the occasional foray into Facebook Note.

I think a quick update is in order on what I've been up to in my life.....if you're interested in any lifestyle and health issues that I've had, go here otherwise, I'll try to keep this blog more on a 'what's happening and what I think about it' type blog with some pictures, humour, pathos and observations. How does that sound?? update.....

I left you in 2012 and since then we have been blessed with two new grandsons, one with our daughter T and her hubby D in May 2013  and another son for J & his wife C in December 2013. Both are lovely, funny and wonderful additions to our family along with the two other grandsons.....yes, all boys!!

I have retired from the Kamloops Symphony, but am still very much involved with them as a volunteer and audience member....a role with I really enjoy. Many people have asked me if I miss playing at all, and I have to say It's such a blast being on the other side of the stage looking and listening from the audience point of view. So it was a good decision.

Life in Kamloops is pretty much the same as when I left, except I'm absolutely positive that the summers are hotter and the winters maybe not as cold. Climate change???
Our garden is still doing very well and my husband has become a master at growing tomatoes and making his "world famous" tomato's a link to a photo essay I did on FB about his tomato sauce making process.

We have lost one of our beautiful felines.....Putz...our mommy cat.    She had been in failing health for some time and suffered a blood clot which was very painful for her and not something that could be guaranteed to be fixed. As she was about 18 years old, we decided to let her go and be without pain. It was a difficult decision, and her daughter Chloe (a year younger) missed her a lot, as they had been together since Chloe's birth. 
We had her cremated and buried her ashes in the catnip patch with a memorial rock in the shade for Chloe to lie near in the heat of the summer days. 
We still have Chauncey our busy little Bichon.
However, he's getting a little less busy these days as he gets older. He was 13 years old this year. He still goes for walks with DH and sometimes the distances are lengthy but he manages quite well. Walks are shorter and early in the heat of the summer. He still goes to his favourite kennel when we arrive on the coast to visit the kids....he's been going there for 11 years....they love him to bits and he has now graduated to the "seniors" section. A lovely little room for he and another senior small dog where they can retreat when the activity in the kennel gets too Although, I do notice that his barks are in a lower register when he comes home after an extended stay in the kennel, due, no doubt to joining in with a lot of barking, greeting and saying goodbye to other residents during his stay. It usually takes a few days of quiet time with us at home to get things back to normal.

I have been pretty busy with sewing projects as well....enjoying making some very creative crazy quilts for the two newest grandchildren. 

I have redesigned my workroom, having moved it up from downstairs, thereby purging a lot of craft ideas that I have not tackled in a while. I have turned my downstairs room back into a bedroom and turned the upstairs bedroom, which is somewhat smaller, into my computer/workroom. I'm finding solace and peace in sewing and anything connected to least until my back gives out, which is when I take a break. I even became a little obsessed with buttons, cleaning, polishing and creating "buttons with attitude" with the most unusual striking buttons, which I then posted on FaceBook. The benefit of having my computer in the same room is that I can go to the BBC3 radio website and listen to endless hours of classical music .....a perfect partner to my creative urges.

I won't dwell on any health issues here as I do have another blog for that....however, suffice to say, I have finally come to my senses and am looking after myself, trying to enjoy my senior years with dignity, comfort and good health. Here's to enjoying the aging process!!!

I think that's it for now. I have a few ideas percolating around in this noggin of mine to talk about here and I'm also open to ideas as my days unfold.


Sunday, July 29, 2012


So DH and I decided to do something a little different for a meal yesterday.
Normally we are fairly conservative...well, DH is conservative, I tend to be a little more adventuresome at times.

Anyway....our local supermarket had a special on pork back ribs and as I had seen a few rib recipes and DH had sampled some ribs recently, we decided that we would bite the bullet and try BBQ'ing our own.  

We were initially surprised at how long it takes to cook them on the grill, however, we set up our times, and in the end, it was still a late dinner but that wasn't a problem, because we had a late lunch! 

The recipe we chose (recipe meaning basically the rub) was entitled Memphis-Style Ribs which is available on the Simply Recipes blog . It was suggested (after applying the rub) to "marinate" several hours or overnight ( we chose about 6 hours) then  to cook 4-8 hours at 220 deg. (we ended up 3 1/2 - 4 hours at 275 deg).
 A few pictures.....

This was right after we applied the rub....note the dryness.....

These are within minutes of applying the rub...note the subtle changes in texture....the moisture is starting to appear.....

This is after the 6 hour "marinating" time...note that the dryness has pretty much disappeared and there is a definitely moisturized coating....almost a glaze with spices.

The final product after nearly four hours of grilling off the flame at about 275 - 300 deg. F.

They were quite delicious and very tender, nearly falling off the bone, which makes eating it sooo much easier. We served it up with steamed baby potatoes and coleslaw (from a homegrown cabbage!!)

So now we have done this, we are in a position to change up the add our own take on spiciness so to speak. There are pros and cons to removing the inner membrane, we left it on with no ill effects. It's not a difficult dinner to make, just time consuming...although once you put on the rub and let sit in the fridge, you're free to do whatever, and then grilling it is basically a "check back once every hour" thing to flip the ribs. No basting required (with this recipe anyways) as the the fat bastes least that's what the recipe says....and it seemed to work.

So....I would consider this cooking experiment a success.....and there is some left over for tonight!!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I am still around!!

Yes....I am still here, albeit somewhat battered and bruised and hot and tired....but here nevertheless.
We are going through a rather hot period in the summer (isn't everyone??) which is peppered with thunderstorms and lightning and unending heat.  I say unending, although, looking at the weather forecast, there may be a drop in temperature by about 3 degrees over the next little while....woohoo! I shouldn't grumble though, because a few degrees is better than no change. We were away when the heat attack struck and when we arrived home it was 39 deg. Celsius....which is nothing if you live in Arizona, or Texas, or even some parts of eastern Canada....but for was close to a knockout punch!! We now luckily have a portable air conditioner, as we are not blessed with central, as a friend said, the bedroom is now feeling somewhat like a meat locker!!! Cool!!!! (literally)

It's been a busy early part of the summer with trips to Portland, Alberta, White Rock and Langley and a visit from our family, but from here on in, we're pretty much around home, tending to the garden and catching up on reading and other things.

Lots to talk about in the days to come, so I'll close this for now and head to bed to curl up with a book. Chaunce is shaking his head and stretching...."Time for bed Mom, get a move on!!"

Talk soon

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Basil Time!!! Can you smell it??

So the weather has been relatively normal....and my basil survived until now...and probably later if I had let  it. The thing is...our climate is so dry up here that tender plants like basil seem to last a bit longer than in a wetter climate (like the coast).  However, there were signs that the night time coolness was taking it's toll....brown spots on the leaves, I thought that yesterday I would pick it all and then sort it today. 
And I have done that.
Picked Basil - unsorted....this is about 1/3 done.
I usually pick pretty much everything and then go through it all piece by piece and separate the good stuff from stems and the tatty stuff which I set aside for basil broth. What is basil broth you ask??'s the broth that I get when I boil the stems and tatty leaves of the basil plants in water ( I guess one could call it an infusion) and then strain it (thoroughly) and freeze it. It's a wonderful way to season soups and sauces. The good basil leaves I usually grind up in the food processor and add olive oil, pack it into smallish containers, top with plastic wrap and the lid of the container and freeze it for winter pesto. Please note that I rinse everything thoroughly to get garden dirt and dust off  before making the broth or the ground basil.

Here is the sorted basil (about 1/3 done)    

...and here are 1/3 of the basil stems and tatty leaves.

 The whole process is somewhat soothing....the scent of the basil on my fingers, the sounds of the birds etc in the yard as I do it on the back deck for the most part, it's quite a calming experience.  All in all a job well done and will prove to be fruitful in the winter...and tasty too!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Update after the summer.....

I know, I's been a while....
Life is busy, and my mind is at times (more often than not) squirrelly.....
Quick update:
  • We are new grandparents...again, a beautiful baby boy weighing in at 9lb14 oz on August 14.  Mother and son are now doing well and we will see them up here on Canadian Thanksgiving.
  • Had a wonderful time in Osoyoos, BC, visiting wineries, having moonlight swims in the lake and thoroughly enjoying our yearly reconnect with friends who holiday at the same time every year.It was incredibly hot for September the high 30's Celsius so I spent a lot of time in the air conditioned room catching up on my reading and snoozing....I don't do high temps very well!! We had our daughter and son in law staying as well for a few days,to get some well-deserved rest and relaxation!We came home with a fair bit of excellent wine from some new (to us) wineries, some new estate wineries and of course our favourite Desert Hills. We also made our yearly stop at Tickleberry's  for the best ice cream ever!....and ......the ladies went for a Spa Day followed by lunch...I had a pedi and my tootsies are quite colourful.  The pedicure included a foot massage....and really!!....I had no idea that a foot massage could feel soooo good!!  Bliss!!
  • On our way home from Osoyoos, we picked up some tomatoes and apples and thus when we arrived home (after unpacking etc...) DH made 2 large batches of his "world famous" tomato sauce, and we made 3 large apple pies. Also, I managed to pick up the ingredients for my mothers recipe of Cucumber Relish and so we made about 18 pints of that....and in amongst all the chaos of preserving we had to clean up the garden, harvest tomatoes (still more to do) pick basil (still more to do) and in general try to make order out of the well watered (by helpful brothers) garden that had become quite overgrown in our absence of only a week!! Of course, after a mighty windstorm last night, further cleanup and repairs are necessary.....sigh!! 
  • It is also the official start of the symphony season this coming weekend...and yes, I am still playing in the orchestra. (Note: on the Home Page of the orchestra...there is a slideshow of pics on the right....the one with the timpani player and the hornplayer behind him?....the hornplayer is me!) It's a great concert .....Nordic Sojourn with challenging music and a wonderful soloist. I have had my head down (no...not sleeping!!) listening to much of the music to get it into my head and know my part. Our rehearsals start on Thursday night, with two more on Friday, one on Saturday and the concert Saturday night.
  • As for health issues....nothing new there...just the usual, arthritis, back, fibromyalgia.....etc..etc...and I am working on acceptance of me as I am, not as people want me to be. It's complicated and not something I really want to go into here....suffice to say, I don't want weight to be the focus in my life any more....I do want healthy living and happiness to be the focus. I may talk more about this at some point....just not now. 
  • Our dear little pooch, Chauncey the Bichon, is suffering from knee problems and back pain. He will at some point have to have surgery to correct the knee problems and we are dealing with the back pain with an doggie anti-imflammatory. So.....he gets more lifting rather than jumping, but he still loves his walks with DH and he quite enjoyed Osoyoos, after all he got to walk at least 4 times a day!! 
I do believe that's all for now....I know I continually promise to keep this updated and I will try.....but then...I had a good nights sleep...I'll promise anything after a good night's sleep!!

Seriously though.....I will try to do better!!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday morning.....

I have written about Mondays on my other blog but this is about a summer Monday morning....or at least an early summer Monday morning.

I could not get myself out of bed before 9 this morning........
However, once done, and after DH headed out to his workout.....I grabbed a large coffee and the paper and sat out on the deck/patio for a while, read and absorbed the ambiance of a young garden, a robin picking at the strawberries and the cackle of the magpies. It was lovely, not too chilly or breezy....just perfect.

I then headed in to make up my breakfast bowl of strawberries from the garden (picked by DH before the robin has his share), French Vanilla thick yogurt, chia seeds,  a dusting of Kashi Go Lean and topped with a small spoonful or two of cashew butter. It was delish....and I read my book of the moment whilst eating.....The Strangeness of Beauty by Lydia Minatoya.... Reading while eating is supposedly a no-no, but it works for me!!

I then grabbed my second cup of coffee and headed down to sit at the computer for a while.

All in all....a good start to the week.....:-)