What to do with all that Squash and Pumpkin?

I’m not sure why, but this summer I forgot to grow my pumpkins! There are still pumpkins and squash at the local farmer’s markets so I’ll be making these delicious patties again.

In 2013, I grew beautiful winter luxury pumpkins and dumpling squash. I love the flavour of squash, but there’s only so much baked squash a person can eat. And if I turned all the pumpkins into pies…well that’s not a great health move either.

This pumpkin has another month to grow.
This pumpkin had another month to grow.

Because they are the same family, anytime a recipe calls for squash, you can substitute pumpkin.

Which is what I did using this recipe that I found online.

I made a few changes to it. I left out the flour, instead substituting it with ½ cup of corn meal and ½ cup of oat flakes. I added fresh basil leaves too.
I baked the pumpkin first and then scooped out the pulp for this recipe. I used about 2 cups of pumpkin.

Then, instead of frying it, I baked it in the oven. I put parchment paper on a cookie sheet and then spread a thin layer of olive oil on the paper. I baked it in the oven for 30 min at 350, then turned them and baked another 5 minutes.

The flavor is out of this world. It’s kind of like a potato latke. So, a dab of apple sauce or chili sauce tastes wonderful on top. Tomato sauce works too!

You can freeze these patties for those evenings when you need to throw together a meal in a hurry.

Meanwhile, here are some photos of the gorgeous hoarfrost that will soon end when the temperatures continue to drop.

Kale growing out of the old cold frame.
Cabbage waiting to become Borscht soup.
Cabbage waiting to become Borscht soup.

Roasted Tomato Sauce and Zucchini Boats and More Food

This post from 2010 describes this month and the harvest so well, that I’m reposting it. That summer the harvest was amazing! this summer my yields were way down because of the drought and I couldn’t water as much as I wanted. As it is, our well is half full or empty and it has never been that low. The water table is down and this summer we received 1/3 the rain of average summers.
We don’t have a friend with a cow anymore, but still order lots of bulk food with friends and neighbours. And tomorrow, I’m planting my 100 cloves of garlic for next year.

My life has been reduced to harvesting our organic, homegrown vegetables and cultural immersion! Hey, I’m not complaining, but if anyone had told me 3 years ago that I’d be immersed in more food and visual delights than I could fit into a day, I wouldn’t have believed them.

The third batch of tomato sauce started like this.

I’ll tell you about the food and then bring you a full cultural report in a few days (I promise!)

Before we moved here we knew that we’d want a vegetable garden, but I never dreamed that I’d be baking all our bread, making all our yogurt and soft cheeses, freezing up vegetables galore or lying in bed at night thinking about root cellars.

I make 6 loaves at a time and freeze 5.

We haven’t had a frost yet but the nights are getting very cool and the garden foliage has started to change in the last couple of weeks. It’s hard to see it come to an end…I’ve barely had to go to a grocery store this summer because of the garden and the farmer’s market in Bear River.

Those yellow vegetables are cucumber. “The Greenman” had unusual vegetables ‘just for fun’.

The tomatoes just keep on coming and thanks to a great tip from my friend Cheryl, who grows gorgeous flowers and tasty vegetables, I have roasted the tomatoes whole in a deep pan with slices of zucchini, green peppers, garlic and onion. The flavour is so much better than boiling down the vegetables. The house is filled with cooking smells and I’ve run out of space in our stand-up freezer so now I’m practicing new canning skills too!
Larry and I are vegetarians so this bounty from the garden is really welcomed.

I froze lots of beans. This year I remembered to plant them in succession to keep them coming.

There are other ways to bring down the grocery bill while eating like kings. Bear River has a long tradition of organizing food buying groups and we belong to several different ones. We are members of a cheese co-op and although the cheese is not organic, we are able to buy havarti, cheddar and mozzarella at close to 1/2 the prices in the supermarkets.

Cheese keeps for a long time when it’s purchased fresh.

A couple of times a year another food buying group purchases organic flours and dried beans and rice at reduced prices from Speerville Mills in New Brunswick.

Spearville Mills.

Still another group we’re in buys organic and fair trade nuts and dried fruit from Rancho Vignola in BC.

I’ve also started making my own yogurt, cream cheese, ricotta and butter from the creamy milk of a local cow. It is dead easy to do and if you want the instructions,  just ask and I’ll post the information.

Blue lake runner beans take longer to mature, but the flavour is superior to the bush beans. I save the seed year after year.

And of course, there is the fantastic fair trade coffee that we buy from Sissiboo Coffee here in Bear River. Yum, yum!

All of these ways of food preparation and shopping have reduced our dependency on the 2 big box grocery stores in Digby, who still don’t seem to understand that people want to buy locally grown produce. It means too that our grocery bill is reduced. We wouldn’t be able to eat this much organic food if we couldn’t grow it ourselves or buy it with others. And by eating food from crops that are rotated and without insecticides etc as well as fresh, I know that the nutritional quality of the food is better.

Brocolli is STILL producing. The side shoots are like small heads.

The downside and the upside is that all meals are made from scratch. This is fairly labour intensive and wouldn’t be possible if I still worked full-time in the city.

Roasted tomato, onion, zucchini, garlic, carrots and herbs.
I scooped out some zucchini boats and added a mixture of uncooked rice and roasted tomato sauce with chopped, fresh spinach. Top with feta and mozzarella cheese. Pour in an inch of veg water. Bake, covered at 375 for an hour.

We still didn’t get it together this summer to build a greenhouse to try our hand at winter gardening, but maybe next year. “Fingers crossed”.

I like my dry goods to be visible.

I also went a little crazy last night and ordered some spring flower bulbs to plant out this month when I plant my garlic. The gardening season is drawing to a close, but it’s not over yet.

I’ve saved this year’s biggest bulbs for replanting to harvest next summer.

Garden, Painting and Summer in Full Swing Flashback

This post from Aug 9, 2013 is about a lush, rain filled summer. This 2016 summer is not. Drought and heat sum it up. What is the same is the insect explosion. 😉

—————————-What crazy weather this summer. We had record breaking rainfall in June and July and hot, hot, sticky days alternating with cold. These conditions have  played havoc with the garden and the insect populations have exploded. This is good news for black flies, earwigs, cucumber beetles, potato bugs and snails. Sigh. It is also good news for birds and their numbers seem up.

I’ve painted more flowers than ever before and haven’t even scratched the surface of what I would like to achieve in that theme.

Flowers to paint
Flowers to paint

This week the weather has shifted.  The nights are suddenly chilly and the warm daytime sun has allowed full outdoor activity again. Suddenly the vegetable garden is looking lush and strong. I see my favorite pumpkins starting to form – winter luxury pumpkins  that taste out of this world as pies or as vegetables.

The vegetable garden at the beginning of August
The vegetable garden at the beginning of August

The green beans are flowering and the tomatoes are green and growing.  Larry staked them this afternoon as you can see from the photo in the header. The potato plants are like bushes, in spite of those striped potato bugs that I flick into soapy water when I remember to!
The weather is still always the wild card and teaches both flexibility and acceptance to this gardener.

The rain has accelerated the growth and height of all the perennial flowers. Those tiny plants I put in 4 years ago are crowded now and exploded into bloom.

This is an exciting time for me to paint.

Green Willow Studio
Works in progress at Green Willow Studio
The Newest Painting
A hot July painting in the studio.

The summer has been filled with other important cultural details 😉 such as:

Visiting Susan Geddes' studio in Annapolis Royal.
Visiting painter Susan Geddes’ studio in Annapolis Royal.
Listening to Caleb Miles after hours in Bear River.
Listening to Caleb Miles after hours in Bear River.
Swimming in Bear River.
Swimming in Bear River.
Watching fireworks at Cherry Carnival.
Watching fireworks at Cherry Carnival.
Harvesting a year's worth of garlic to eat and to plant for next year.
Harvesting a year’s worth of garlic to eat and to plant for next year.

This summer I’ve worked hard at painting and I’ve been blogging that experience. My writing energy is there now…I guess because I am so involved with the act of painting. If you paint too or are interested in the process, please join me at http://floradoehler.ca

And thanks for reading!

The Secret Garden and the Willow Trees

There is a very special place that I go to when I need to be in nature, or when I need a quiet moment. Behind the vegetable garden we have about 1/2 an acre that we let grow wild and that contains our pond.


This piece of land has a few intentional plants like lilies, iris and about 7 willow trees. But the rest of it is a chaotic riot of tangled wild flowers (weeds really) that grow about 4 feet high.pond09 pond08

We have a couple of paths cut through it and walking them is like being a child again in my grandmother’s garden. Hidden from view and right in the middle of the natural world. Frogs croak, seagulls and crows soar above. Bees buzz all over the flowers.



The pond itself has 8 large goldfish that wintered over. Animals wander through and drink from the pond. There are dragonflies, butterflies, birds and a host of insects.  It’s a nice place to decompress and to marvel at the complex beauty of the natural world.


pond12I planted the willows 4 years ago and they are already taller than me. In a few more years there will be a willow grove at the end of the pond providing magic for us and no doubt for the next caretakers of this land.


My Typically Untypical Day

Today, July 6, 2012,  was a mash up of events and high drama.

This morning as I raced the cat to the veterinarian’s, I passed by fields engulfed in fog. The air was mercifully cool and the earth was warm and moist.  On the drive I listened to music from the Al Andalus Ensemble who play a “fusion of flamenco, jazz, contemporary with definite flavors of the Middle East.” This music is not only great for muting the sounds of a howling cat, it also is an inspiring CD to paint by. My friend Erin introduced me to this music as she found it helped soothe her beautiful twin babies back to dreamland.

Our Fluffy cat wants to turn into a wild one. In the last month she has spent more and more time outside, prowling through the garden, sitting and peering into the edge of the wild wetland next to us where the pheasants sometimes live. She comes in to eat and quickly wants outside again. The neighbourhood has free ranging cats and they criss-cross the yard searching and exploring. I assume she hangs out with them. It’s hard to know because they move in and out of the tall grasses like spirits.

I belong to an Insight Meditation group in Bear River. We meet on Wednesday nights and I haven’t missed many sessions in the 2 ½ years that we’ve met. I enjoy it a lot — it has helped me in many ways including with my approach to painting. When I got home this past Wednesday, Fluffy was nowhere to be found. In our 4 ½ years here, she has never stayed out all night.

Insight Meditation in Bear River.

I stayed up until the wee hours periodically going outside with a flashlight and bathrobe, calling her and freaking out and generally NOT practicing any meditation strategies. Finally I went to bed with a list in my head of many terrible scenarios that may have befallen our sweet (and she really is sweet) kitty. After a few hours of sleep it was morning and she had still not returned. I composed an email to 10 of our neighbours, complete with photos in case they saw her. I pushed ‘send’ and immediately got my first response from a friend offering to bring her 3 children to help us search. I thought how amazing it is that I actually KNOW the neighbours and have their emails and that I live in a place where it feels OK to ask for help and to receive it.  Such is life in a small village.

Larry and I finished our coffees and went out to search again. When we opened the door, she was standing in the driveway staring at us! She wouldn’t come when we called and looked a bit spacey. I scooped her up  and felt astonished that she was there in my arms. And she briefly went limp in my arms and felt lighter. In the house she sniffed at her food and water and wanted out again. “You’re grounded!” She listlessly accepted and left the room.

I figured she was tired from her ‘all nighter’, but by lunchtime I realized that it was more than that. She wouldn’t eat or drink at all. I took her temperature which was slightly high. That’s how she and I came to be driving through an early morning fog to the veterinarian’s this morning.

Dr. Doelle’s clinic faces an Ocean Bay and the yard is filled with beautiful perennials planted by his wife  Gilbert who manages their organic market garden, Wild Rose Farm

Dear Fluffy’s temperature was now up to 105, on the high side for a cat. She got an antibiotic injection that slow releases for 10 days, we’ve got some protein paste to smear on the roof of her mouth until she starts eating, we’ve got flea medication for when she’s feeling better, and she’s down 2 lbs. The speculation is that she has an infection from another cat’s scratch….which could be from an outside cat or from her step-brother, Lucky. She’s resting and drinking again. So far, so good.

When Fluffy and I got home, Larry was outside with a couple of guys unloading 12 bales of hay for garden mulch. It’s been very dry outside and we want to conserve our well water usage as much as possible. If I put more straw on my vegetable and flower beds, there will be less evaporation. Inside the house, a couple of people had left messages on the phone about Larry’s enamel jewellery class.  On google chat I updated our daughter in Spain about the cat and read about her weekend plans on the Mediterranean.

After a quick lunch, I drove to Annapolis Royal to a show-and-tell workshop about using Liquitex acrylic paints and inks and mediums. Oh it was so inspiring to see some of the neat things you can do with their line of art supplies. I can’t wait to buy some of their air-brush medium and inks for monoprinting.

I came home with ideas, groceries, flour for bread and best of all, Larry made supper.

So now we cross fingers that Fluffy will be feeling better soon. The vet said to call him on the weekend if the cat doesn’t improve.

I have left out a bunch of stuff, like the email from a guy in New York wanting to do a Japanese reality show episode in Bear River or arranging the construction of a plywood box to ship a painting I sold to a family in Florida, or Larry loading the car for our booth in Annapolis Royal tomorrow or ordering more plastic sleeves for displaying matted paintings……there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things that each day brings in Bear River.

But now it’s time to wind down. So I’ll pet the kitties goodnight, wish for rain (after the market tomorrow) and I’ll be very thankful for antibiotics and flea treatment; and for husbands who make supper.

Organic Gardening on the Kitchen Table

In 2008 on a drive to Gilbert’s Cove on St. Mary’s Bay, Larry and I dropped into the Wild Rose Organic Farm and met owner Gilberte Doelle. I wrote about it in this blog and all winter we wondered how her non-heated greenhouse was faring. When she recently held an organic gardening workshop at her farmhouse, Larry and I jumped at the chance to learn more. The workshop participants sat around a gigantic kitchen table in the farmhouse Gilberte shares with her veterinarian husband and several sons, cats and dogs.  The llamas and cattle and chickens are out in the barn. In a naming coincidence, Gilberte lives right across the road from the lighthouse at Gilbert’s Cove in St. Mary’s Bay.

Lighthouse at Gilberts Cove last July.

If you attend the Belliveau or the Annapolis Royal farmers’ markets in the summer you might have seen Gilberte Doelle selling her organic vegetables and herbs.

Gilberte is totally passionate about every aspect of organic gardening such as seed saving, preserving the earth, vermiculture (worms), crop rotation, companion planting, and growing nutritious food year-round….even in the winter in her unheated greenhouse.  She really “knows her onions” as my mother would have said, and her workshop was jam packed full of information, with lots of gardening tip handouts, many organic seed catalogs, and the offer to help each of us plan out a garden.
Gilbert is big on companion planting (planting two species together that help each other in a symbiotic way.), compost,  green compost,  compost tea, rotation planting, and French intensive gardening beds.
The Greenhouse is hot and humid and smells like Spring!
There was so much information I couldn’t begin to cover it all in a blog post, but I experienced more than a few “ah-ha!”moments that I would like to share with you.
  • raw zucchini can be grated and frozen on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and then bagged in the freezer for future soups and sauces
  • cheese can be grated and frozen for future use in cooking. (Ok, that’s not really about organic gardening….but really useful anyway!)
  • a 12′ x 12′ plot can feed a family of four
  • sprinkled wheat bran on wet potato leaves will deter potato bugs.  The bugs will eat the bran, bloat, and die
  • creating a new garden plot without digging is possible by placing directly on sod 6 inches of straw, hay or shredded newspaper.  Add 6 inches of finished compost and plant transplants.
  • planting sweet alysum in your vegetable patch will  attract wasps that eat aphids.
  • determinate Tomatoes are bush and don’t require staking
  • indeterminate Tomatoes are vines and need to be staked
  • clover is wonderful to plant as green manure because it can be easily tilled
  • never plant buckwheat as green manure because it needs a very strong plough/disc/harrow to turn under as it’s roots are thick and deep
  • soil with a lot of shale (like everywhere around Bear River) is acidic, so just lime the soil every other year
  • keep it simple and prop up floating row covers (fabric that is IDENTICAL to interfacing) with tomato cages. These covers will warm the soil by 5 degrees and can extend the season in both directions. Put in place 2 weeks before you plant anything to pre-warm the soil
  • in May, during the declining moon, take a Willow branch and put in in a pond to get it to sprout roots.
Gilberte (second from left) shows us how the floating row covers (the white fabric) warmed the soil.

Gilberte gave us some seed catalogues of companies that are partially or completely organic and that grow their seeds in a climate similar to ours. Here are some links for you:

Greta’s Organic Gardens (Ottawa, Ontario)
No GMO’s, organically grown, heritage seed

Annapolis Valley Heritage Seeds (run by Owen Bridge.)
Open-pollinated, no GMO’s, organically grown near Middleton, Nova Scotia

Terra Edibles (Foxboro, Ontario)
Open-pollinated, heritage vegetable, herb and flower seeds

Johnny’s Selected Seeds (Winslow, Maine)
No GMOs, some organic seed, cover crops, tools and supplies

Hope Seeds (Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia)
Rare and heritage seed, locally-grown seed, some organic seed

West Coast Seeds (Delta, British Columbia)
Certified Organic seed, no GMOs, no treated seeds.

The water containers warm up in the daytime and slowly release their heat throughout the night.


Here are some more organic gardening sources:

The Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network site has all kinds of information about how to farm organically and has directories about where to buy organic produce. Their database displays weed and insect information.

Seeds of Diversity is a Canadian organization that encourages seed saving and exchanges across Canada. Their database is loaded with descriptions, stories, history, cultivation details, and real gardeners’ comments on 19,000 cultivars of Canadian garden vegetables, fruit, grains and ornamentals. When you sign up, they’ll send you seeds!

Gilberte is a generous teacher. Imagine this. She even shared with us her own market garden crop rotation notes and diagrams of the last 5 years! It was interesting to hear her rationale about why she planted what she did and what she learned from it. I couldn’t help but wonder if it had occurred to her that a participant could steal the ideas and systems that she has spent years of trial and error developing. Not only had it occurred to her, she downright encourages it!! “Feel free to use my garden layout in your garden this year”. For me this is further evidence of the generosity of spirit that Larry and I continue to encounter in rural Nova Scotia. We see it with the artists and we see it with the musicians. We see it with neighbours and we’ve seen it with the skilled trades people who have worked on our house. People are keen to share their knowledge with others and that negative thinking that says that sharing knowledge means giving up the power you might have over another; well all that rarely surfaces here.

These beds were developed on-top of the sod and are planted in a French intensive way.
These beds were developed on-top of the sod and are planted in a French intensive way.

Our last piece of the workshop was to tour Gilberte’s greenhouses. They are all home made, each a design improvement over the previous one. We were there in mid-March with snow on the ground, but in Gilbert’s unheated greenhouse (!!) the plants were bravely showing. She had harvested a few bags of Chinese stir-fry greens and I snapped up a bag. Let me tell you ….these were soooo delicious.

Delicious greens in March.

Gilbert has drawn inspiration from Eliot Coleman who has written a book about growing vegetables in a homemade greenhouse in the winter.

Gilberte was able to feed her family cool-loving, organic salad greens all winter long and she might be persuaded to have a winter greenhouse workshop next fall. I hope so! If you are interested too, please give her a call at (902) 837-4181.