Growing Your Own – Just a Little Longer

Here in Bear River, Nova Scotia, the deadly night frost arrived  a couple of weeks ago and that was the end of tomatoes, beans and zinnia for this year! Continue reading

We’re Having a Heatwave

The end of July in Bear River is going out on a heatwave. I’m thinking that a 24 hour snowstorm would feel good right about now. I love that summertime brings, well, summer, but I find the heat tiring….it’s hard to sleep and hard to be outside. Continue reading

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

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.


Leeks, Peas, Beans and Celery Grow


Oh my sore neck, my sore knees. Oh my back!

Yup! It’s planting season again. I love the idea of it, growing our own food, but I am always surprised at the amount of work that’s involved.

Veg Garden
I have a huge supply of bamboo-like sticks from the miscanthus giganteus that I grow every year. If you want some to plant, I’d love to share. Bring your axe.

Today I planted climbing beans, chard, spinach, lettuce, beets, leeks, carrots, edamame, bush beans and celery. Whew!  I had previously planted broccoli, snow peas, zucchini and pumpkin.

Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard from transplant.

The asparagus is producing and the redcurrant and raspberry canes are doing well. The garlic is tall and green.

The garlic was planted last fall. It will be harvested in July.

Most years I’ve had to replant the zucchini up to 3 times as it got eaten down by who-knows-what. This year I grew little squash plants from seed first and I’m hoping that action will save me from having to replant.

The pumpkin, squash and zuccinni haven’t minded the transplanting. I’m shocked.

I haven’t had much luck in the past with lettuce or spinach….it gets eaten by slugs or critters. I’m trying to out-smart the wildlife and we’ve been eating ‘premium’ salads out of the greenhouse for a few weeks now. Still, hope springs eternal and I planted seeds out in the garden today.

Garlic in the distance.

It seems crazy to be planting so late – June 4. But the season has arrived late this year. My peonys aren’t in bloom yet and the lupins just started to colour-up today. From photos of friends in Ontario, I see that we are 2 weeks behind.

Snow peas start to climb. The cloth covers broccoli plants. I’m trying to hide the plants from the cabbage moths so I won’t have little green worms eating my broccoli!

We’ve had lots of rain and my two enormous water collectors (4′ x 4′ x 4′) are full…a good thing to have at the beginning of the season.

Tomorrow is the final push when 45 tomato plants go into the ground. Maybe this will be the year that I will finally grow enough of them to can for the entire year.

Our little greenhouse
Our little greenhouse is a wonderful place for starting seedings and now for growing an eggplant or two and red peppers.

It is a lot of hard work and I am sore, but it also feels wonderful to be so close to the soil and to handle living plants, and to smell the fragrances of the lilac and to enjoy the chirping of birds.

This lilac shrub is 2 or 3 years old. It smells so beautiful right now.

On my hands and knees today planting my 6th garden here it occurred to me that the message of Spring is that we all get a fresh chance to get everything right or at least to tweak our approach.

After rototilling the garden was a blank canvas.

Oh yeah, and then there are the plant sale flowers that are still patiently waiting for their turn.

Solomon's Seal
Solomon’s Seal. This garden bed is planted for my mother and grandmother. I put in flowers that they grew and loved.

Garden Must-Do List for 2015

The growth cycle is back and I swear, if you stood still outside you could hear plants growing and reaching and stretching to celebrate another green, green spring.

A week ago a neighbour's cat appeared. That's a wild cherry tree in the back. This soft green was shortlived.
A week ago a neighbour’s cat appeared. That’s a wild cherry tree in the back. This soft green was short-lived.

It is miraculous that such beauty and lushness can return after such extreme depths of snow and cold. But gardeners tell me that this year the perennials are so juicy because that steady melting snow provided a constant supply of moisture and insulation.

Like January, spring brings a real sense of new beginnings. For gardeners, it’s another chance to “get things right”. I have a list of things I want to be more attuned to in the garden.

  1. Reassess the amount of flower beds EVERYWHERE. Reduce down to only flowers that I love. (And saying that, I dragged home another 10 from our village plant sale last week) cropped-p1210531.jpg
  2. Be more vigilant with weeding. One of my favorite flower beds is riddled with goutweed and although I can never get rid of it, I can at least make spaces around the plants to hoe it and decapitate the goutweed!
  3. Spend time everyday checking in with all the beds. Last year I lost all the zucchini plants from squash borers laying eggs in the strong, healthy stocks and eating their way out. I had innocently ignored the insect activity that preceded the disaster. vegetable garden One week later these healthy plants keeled over one-by-one.
  4. Plant twice as many tomato plants as I think I’ll need for when we have a sunshine shortage this summer. You can never have too many tomatoes. I canned them last summer and was sorry to run out of this more-delicious-than-anything-canned ingredient for sauces, soups, casseroles or just plain in a bowl.

    I'm growing 6 different varieties of Tomatoes in the greenhouse.
    I’m growing 6 different varieties of tomatoes in the greenhouse.
  5. Make an effort to get rid of duplicate flowers. Why do I need a dozen clumps of the same sibierian iris? (OK….cause they are spectacular, I love the colour, I can’t paint it enough………..)

    I think I’ll have to post about “Iris paintings I have known”. lol
  6. Plant a few fast growing trees to get some shade happening.

    Ancient Apple trees in their glory, surrounded by goutweed.
    Ancient apple trees in their glory, surrounded by goutweed.
  7. Get rid of the stump from Cordelia the weeping willow who blew over in 2011. It’s time baby. And I planted clones of her all around the pond which are really taking off.

    Cordelia's stump is still attached to one root. She needs a backhoe.
    Cordelia’s stump is still attached to one root. She needs a backhoe.
  8. Tighten up the flowering area and let 1/2 the lawn grow wild.
  9. Paint more flowers 😉 I painted a lot of tulips this winter – from the grocery store. You can see them on my painting site.

    The beginning of the first round of painting my own blooms 2015.
    The beginning of the first round of painting my own blooms 2015.

Autumn in my Garden

Every season here is visually stunning. This morning I took these photos walking around through our garden in Bear River, Nova Scotia. Everywhere I turned I saw a gorgeous palette of rusts and greens and yellows and magentas. It is almost too much to take in.The beauty here is unending.

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
― Lauren DeStefano, Wither