In preparation for (Canadian) Thanksgiving next weekend I've been trying out cranberry sauce recipes.  Giant Tiger, of all places, had whole fresh cranberries for a great price so I got a bunch.  The sauces both turned out deliciously well, although the relish was a bit "juicy" like a smoothie, next time I'll leave it on a rougher blend setting.  But the combonation of apple and cranberry was a fresh tangy new sensation that I'm going to try in many recipes from now on!  I won't be limiting these sauces to the holidays :)

Whole Cranberry Sauce (Left)
2 cups cranberries 
2 cups water
1 cup honey or raw sugar
Cook berries until the skin pops open, about 5 or 6 min. Bring to a boil, add
honey, and boil 2 minutes. Let stand several hours, then refrigerate.

Quick Cran-Apple Relish (Right)
4 c. (1 lb) fresh cranberries
2 apples, quartered and cored
1/3 lemon, with peel
2 c. raw sugar
Wash cranberries and apples. Remove the seeds from the lemon. Put cran
berries, apples, and lemon through food chopper. Add sugar and mix well. Chill.

Both recipes are from Farm Journal's Country Cookbook 1959


everlasting mixed container

Thrillers, fillers and spillers - the recipe for a great mixed container!  And this 3-plant combo has been one of the toughest while still looking lovely containers I've ever grown.  I planted the container way back in May, it filled out well by August and as you can see still going strong now although getting a bit stringy/leggy.  The thriller is a striking orange/red Lantana, the filler a neutral Coleus and the purple double Petunia makes a good contrasting spiller.  These were all arbitrary picks based on what was going in the trash at the greenhouse I worked at but I must say these hybrids are real toughies and kept their incredibly vibrant colour through the weeks of baking summer sun!



I came across an interesting design website: Pantone's Colorstrology.com that connects your birthday with a colour.  I'm not usually one for horoscopes, and the text part of this website was just like that - so broad they could apply to anyone.  But I did love the aesthetic appeal of assigning a colour to each day of the year.  I looked up my birthday (Aster Purple) and the date (Elderberry) which are both really charming, a bit ethereal and not colours I'd usually choose to work with.  The main words associated with the Aster Purple were unusual, instinctive yet rational and the main words for Elderberry were: refined, poetic with a highly aesthetic nature.

Instead of taking these associations literally I used the colours and words to inspire my choice of flowers at the farmers market last week!  The Aster Purple inspired by my birthday was the first thing I spotted (instinctive) and not the typical daisies or roses that were also available (unusual).  When I displayed them I made a very simple bunch in a few clear jars (rational) but then tipped one jar on an angle (unusual).  Elderberry was also a great inspiration both conceptually and in colour.  I chose flowers with very fine textures (highly aesthetic nature), a hydrangea with a quiet elderberry colour but opulent association (refined) and muted grey-greenery for some slightly whimsical contrast (poetic)


Book Review: Wicked Plants

Creatively designed little books entice me the way picture books did when I was a child - there's something so deliciously satisfying about a book with enchanting pictures.  Wicked Plants  is a morbidly informative little book that I love but find a little unsettling detailing all sorts of poisonous plants from those used by the KGB (Castor bean) to those found at home (White Oleander).  

The deranged behavior that led to the Salem witch trials may have been caused by ERGOT (Claviceps purpura), a fungus that grows on rye and causes wild hallucinations.

Last year I heard about Neil Gaiman's idea for bringing reading to Halloween night: "You know, there aren't enough traditions that involve giving books." and I loved the idea so much that I want to remind you again!  #allhallowsread encourages book giving and reading as a ritual on more occasions.  In honour of this new tradition and because I love halloween-y things I'm reposting this review of one of my favourite books: Wicked Plants.  Its an eerie compliation of botanical facts driven by interesting characters and intertwined with gorgeous etchings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs using a technique that dates back to the 1600s!  (more info). Working from life, photographs, and antique botanical illustrations, she sketched each of the forty plants in the book before etching them into the copper plates.  Its a perfect creepy little halloween gift!

If you're still not convinced you can preview the book here
Available in the St. Catharines, Guelph, Hamilton and Toronto Public libraries under the call # 581.65 Ste


mod podge mini pumpkins

The farmers market had some fantabulously coloured mini pumpkins and so my fall decorating has begun in ernest!  Kimberly posted a charming tutorial on her Bugaboo Blog explaining how to make this mod podged mini pumpkins for fall and halloween decor.  I wanted to make something I can place out now for festive colour that will also have a more  sinister feel as we get into October.  I picked out pumpkins in great white, orange and green and used tissue paper that has a darker essence with rich purple/gold on some and black letters on others but isn't distinctly halloween-y so I can put them out now.  Kimberly covers her whole pumpkins in tissue, but I wanted the vivid original colours to be hilighted.


ready to go tomatoes

It's harvest time on my tomato balcony and I have many juicy beauties, each with different tastes, consistencies and even colours!  I wanted to combine all these flavours, so I chopped up a few of each tomato into a glass bottle along with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pecorino cheese, garlic, rosemary, basil, oregano and fennel - all from either my garden or the farmers market.  This great mixture can be poured over leaf lettuce, other vegetables, rice, couscous, or pasta for a variety of quick "slow food" on the go options!


Heirloom Tomatoes

Its been nothing but these sweet juicy treasures all month (and summer) Earlier in September I went to Linda's farm for her annual Tomato Bash, then this week we had another smaller Heirloom Tomato tasting at the Niagara College greenhouse :) I also handed in my integrated pest management research proposal on .. guess what topic? .. heirloom tomatoes!! I think it will be an interesting and worthwhile crop to investigate.  

An excerpt from my research proposal:
  • The definition of “heirloom” is hard to pin down but the most broadly used definition is a plant that is more than 50 years old, and is open pollinated - able to reproduce, true to type by seed. While most have been cultivated generation by generation outside of the commercial seed trade, some have been created more recently by cross pollinating two open pollinated heirlooms to make a stable cultivar such as L. esculentum 'Green Zebra'  Both determinate and indeterminate tomatoes are represented among the heirlooms. Determinate varieties are primarily suitable for retail planters or hanging baskets and indeterminates are more suited to food production greenhouses.

    Ontario is already a major producer of greenhouse tomatoes with an already established infrastructure and supply chain. Today there is an increasing demand for local, sustainable, flavourful food - heirloom tomatoes can combine current trends and consumer needs with conventional production facilities.
I want to grow greenhouse tomatoes that have been selected for size, shape, degree of ripeness, color, variety and flavour not just shelf life and uniformity!


accidental living roof

This green roof self seeded on a neglected garage in my neighbourhood


Growing for Biodiversity

Today I went on a field trip .. literally .. to a field (and nursery).  St. Williams Nursery and Ecology Center is a native plant hotspot!  They are leaders in the areas of natural restoration and biodiversity, producing 300+ wild type, source identified native plants as seeds and seedlings.  They primarily wholesale to conservation / restoration landscapers or consult on naturalization projects but to answer @joshgcreative's question: home gardeners can purchase a Biodiversity Garden Starter Pack in one of three styles suited to southwestern Ontario habitats: Shady Woodland Garden, Sunny Wildflower Meadow, Wet Meadow.


A Walk in the Cemetery

Today's horticulture field trip was to one of the oldest places in St. Catharines -- Victoria Lawn Cemetery, overlooking the Welland Canal, is over 150 years old and home to a number of historic figures' remains.  Its also a lovely place for a walk with a wide variety of century old trees, gardens and ruins.  You can get a walking tour map here


Moss Rocks!

#gardenchat continues to be an interesting way to spend a Monday evening, and a worthy endeavour information-wise!  This week's chat topic was Moss Gardening, hosted by David Spain of @moss_rocks and @helenyoest.  A few of my favourite quotes from the chat: " "Mosses collectively provide more carbon offset than all the trees in the world" .. "Moss is not too bad when you're planking!" and "fairy gardens beg for moss!" -- its all in the transcripts :-)  I fell in love with David Spain's moss garden but this week's #gardenchat also gave me an opportunity to look back at a few of my mossy crafts:


Runway to Real Way


a polyvore set inspired by @consigningwoman -- close approximations of all these items available at:
http://www.consigningwomen.ca, right here in St. Catharines .. click the images below to see!



Back in August I went to the Muskoka Beer Festival! (full post here) It was a fun day and a great start to cultivating my beer palate.  Now that I'm back in school and walk by the Niagara College Brewery every day, and my next door neighbour is a self styled beermaker I'm sure I'll continue to learn about brewing :-)
I wanted to repost this section because it was so informative and interesting...

I started off my day in a sampling class taught by Roger Mittaga veritable professor of beer while I could still think and write (relatively) coherently!  I chose Weizen is Knowing (a discussion of wheat beer styles) because I was pretty sure my favourite drinks were all wheat beers, but was completely confused by the category.  I took quite a few pages of notes, but here's the basics of what I found out...

Wheat Beer (White Beer) is just as the name sounds - beer that is brewed with a large proportion of wheat and pale/hazy "white" in colour.  Most are top fermented and unfiltered which leads to a cloudy appearance, and some are "bottle conditioned" meaning the suspended yeasts cause a secondary fermentation after being bottled.  But beyond that its a broad category that is difficult to define.  Breaking it down further Roger explained the two main types of Wheat Beers are influenced by their region of origin.

German Weissbiers are cloudy, unfiltered, medium amber coloured brews with a light body, spritzey taste and aromas/flavours of banana and clove produced by the yeasts they contain.  Also known as hefeweizen or hefeweiss (the prefix hefe means yeast) in reference to the unfiltered appearance.

Belgian Witbiers are also hazy, unfiltered, light bodied beers but paler straw yellow in colour and with a more citric/tangy taste.  The aromas/flavours are of orange peel and coriander, added to the beer in the form of gruit.  This style is sometimes just called wit, the Belgian word for white.

Wheat beers that we sampled: St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat AleGarrison Blackberry WheatMuskoka Summer WeissMill St WitKLB Raspberry Wheat Ale and mentioned but not sampled: Blanche de Chambly

Knowing which wheat beer you want is only half the story -- the rest is in using an appropriate glass and a proper pour.  Along with those two basics, its good to note that the unfiltered sediments in wheat beers can settle to the bottom of the bottle, so it should be inverted before serving or gently rolled upside down, between your hands.  I feel empowered to properly enjoy my favourite brews!  All in all.. a fantastic day!  Cheers!

If you are, like me, thirsty for more knowledge check out Roger's website, blog and classes at:


Recycled Couscous Peppers

You may remember these vividly coloured peppers and flowers from last month's farmers market decor post ..
or this gypsy peppers recipe from last year .. because today's post is recycled :)


A locavore is born!

Dispatches from rural France, where my friend Brent has just begun a 15 month international journey .. 
.. in which he discovers the wonder of "freshness" and roosters!

We arrived in Paris, safe and sound and then trekked south to a smaller town named Portier. From there we were picked up by our host family and driven several kilometers away into a small villiage named St. Germier and we now reside in a little villa of houses on the outskirts of that which is named La Grois.
When we arrived we were jet-lagged and sort of spooked: We realized that we were in very foreign territory and we don’t have a single friend for miles and miles. Furthermore, we’re out in the boonies and everything is significantly more quiet and spacious than what we’re used to in Toronto. I was a little scared because we were to stay away from home for so long – this is by far the longest I’ve ever been away from home before! I felt isolated, even with Jessica, afraid that I would never feel comfortable here and instead would just wait and wait and wait to come back home. And to home for what? We left our jobs and we don’t have any idea of what we would do when we arrived back home.
It sucked a little at first, but it subsided once I began to learn about our new home. Basically we live in a farmhouse which is incredibly self sustaining. Almost all meals are made with vegetables grown in the gardens here, which is something I was particularly hoping for. Grown here are carrots, celery, onions, garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, raspberries, grapes,  walnuts. There’s more, but I don’t know them all yet. Also herbs, such as basil, mint, chives. There’s somewhere around 20 hens/roosters which produce roughly 3 eggs every 2 days. Oh!  And you know that “cock-a-doodle-doo!” noise that we learned about roosters in books when we were kids? They actually make that noise in the morning! It’s hilarious!! I always thought that was made-up or something. Anyways. I’m fixated on the food because it was only just recently that I’ve learned about the difference in quality of certain fruits and vegetables based on what happens to them between the time they’re picked and the time they’re put on my plate. I learned that when I can eat something such as a tomato that’s just ripe and just plucked from the vine, it tastes so different than from when I bought it in the markets in the city! And the proper term is “fresh” but the word is used so much and so hard in restaurants that I really never knew what was meant by it before. But really, fruit that is fresh seems to have this quality of being more alive. The taste sort of jumps out in a way! And it’s so delicate too because the freshness declines rapidly after it’s released from the plant. If you freeze it and thaw it, it’s gone. Trying to preserve it in anyway will keep it eatable for a long time, but that aliveness goes. Anyways, I’m addicted now and I only ever want to consume foods that come directly from the source – as much as possible anyways.

Brent has been a friend of mine since 10th grade, when our neighbourhood friends overlapped and I've run into him at least once a year or so ever since.  
I'm so proud to have the friends I have -- creative, engaged, thinkers who are always up to something interesting!  Every time I log online I see fabulous photos and intriguing writing about my friends travels and journeys through life.

you can read the full text of this post, and the rest of his blog here: http://brenthuras.wordpress.com


Iced London Fog Float

This drink is a bit of a process, but totally worth it!   Before heading to a market that featured HomeTown Ice Cream .. I made a pot of London Fog -- Earl Grey tea steeped in steamed/frothed milk with vanilla syrup (or in my case, honey) and chilled it while I was at the market. From the lovely Alexa Fraser, a cup of Earl Grey Ice Cream (@HometwnIceCream) and when I got home I dropped a scoop or two into my iced London Fog.  Its like any other ice cream float and a really refreshing treat but also highly unusual .. in a good way!


#gardenchat 9.12 -- Growing Up

Today's #gardenchat was hosted by the lovelies @susanlmorrison@sweetrebecca, authors of the book Garden Up! I've been wanting to check out #gardenchat for a while and today's topic: Vertical Gardening seemed apropriate.  This morning Cassiopeia and I chatted about @LifeOnTheBlcny's tutorial for a Vertical Pallet Garden and then we briefly discussed living walls in class.

The first time Vertical Gardening piqued my interest was in highschool when Patrick Blanc created la Robe Végétale for Jean Paul Gaultier.  Then last year I saw a number of large scale living walls during the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities bootcamp and the Landscape Ontario trade show.  Ever since, I've been trying to find a scalable way to bring a living wall into my home.  To get a real Patrick Blanc wall effect, I'm going to try the stopmotion project video -- but if you're looking for a quicker, simpler piece of living decor, the #gardenchat consensus is woollypockets (pictured below)!  I do wonder though, if I could make something similar myself?


Where were you on that day?

I was on a camping trip, went into the woods .. and when I came back the world had changed.

I didn't see it in real time like most people did, Canterbury Hills (the outdoor ed centre where we were) had no television, no internet. Other than some phonecalls home and one to a student's parent in NYC I had no idea of the enormity of what had happened. Our teachers drove up from the school with VHS videos on the morning of 9/12 so I saw the first 24hrs as a collective stream, not piece by piece. It was a very surreal perspective.



Solid Perfume Pocketwatch

While I was in Muskoka I found all the ingredients I need for this Solid Perfume Pocketwatch craft recipe from DesignSponge!  I didn't want a "perfume" so much as a calming "scent" evocative of the heat, vibrance and smells of cottage country .. instead of the traditional essential oils I chose: Sweet Orange, Citronella and Cedarwood which together with the warm essence of beeswax remind me of summer fruits, natural mosquito repellent and cedar docks baking in the heat.  As long as I get the ratio right the scent should actually be quite well balanced -- high sweet notes from the orange, medium bright citrus notes from the citronella, lower warm notes from the beeswax and a grounding rich woody cedar base.  I'll keep you posted for how it turns out .. and a simple, no work, silver polishing trick! p.s. the Beeswax is from Lavender Hills Farm via the Gravenhurst Farmers Market :)


IPM (Integrated Pest Management)

A term like IPM might sound foreboding, but I can tell already from our first week of school that the concept of Integrated Pest Management is an important, current and relevant topic.  So far, every single class we've had has touched on IPM in one for or another.  This may be a wordy post, but I can't overstate the importance of IPM and I want to share what I've been learning :)

IPM is a holistic, whole systems approach to managing pests that focuses on prevention of pests instead of eradicating them after they show up - it is better for the environment, and human exposure.  Just like people, healthy plants in a clean environment are less likely to get sick than stressed out plants in a filthy environment.

As a grower, I'm interested in IPM for a number of reasons (reducing chemical use, minimizing crop shrinkage, better working and environmental conditions) but I think Integrated Pest Management is important for the home gardener as well :)  Today I'm going to introduce the basics, and I'm sure you'll be hearing more over the semester and year!

The IPM approach to pest control minimizes chemical pesticide use by using proactive environmental and cultural strategies, as well as maintenance and sanitation to keep the plant healthy .. "preventative medicine" if you will. The next step is inspection and early monitoring of any pests or problems (stressors can eventually lead to pests).  Once a problematic pest is identified, all options are considered.  First physical, behavioural, environmental responses are considered, then biologicals (predatory insects and organisms) or organically / biologically derived insecticides.  If those don't work -- responsible use of synthetic chemicals is a last resort but can be an important component of integrated pest management (I'll be explaining why in a later post).  The last, but very important step is keeping records and evaluating the response actions.

What does this mean for the homeowner?  Here is how you can apply the basics of IPM at home


Back to School

This is hopefully my last "first day back to school" .. however terrifying that concept may be, I'm hoping to graduate in April.  Its been a very long, continuous journey for me -- and not always good!  Gr1 to Gr12 I went to St. Mildred's Lightbourn School, a private, all girls school which was an experience unto itself.  From there I went to Lakehead University where I spent 3 years rapidly switching majors (Outdoor Rec, Geography, Geology, Biology, Forestry, Environmental Studies, Natural Sciences) or dropping out to work more interesting jobs.  Skip ahead to September 2009, after two years off I started at Niagara College where I'm still studying and loving Greenhouse Technology.  That's the better part of 20 years going back to school in September!  I have no idea what its going to be like to leave that behind in April so I'm not rushing into it this year .. eep :)


Star Dove Treats

Cassiopeia was showing me fabulous custom cakes made in the home bakery she assists her sister with: StarDove Treats "In the fall of 2010 my sister, Roxanne Green, began making custom cakes professionally after graduating from the Wilton School of Cake Decorating." A few months later Cassiopeia teamed up with her sister "We balance each other well; our different strangths make things easy."  I was browsing the incredible cake pictures on their facebook page when I stumbled upon something AMAZING ..!!

8/10/2011  6:27:48 PM  Kate ->  Cassiopeia
8/10/2011  6:28:02 PM  Cassiopeia -> Kate
  isnt it epic? that cake its 6 batches of brownies

CASSI: This is by far the neatest cake we've done yet! Princess Belle is 1.5 ft tall, SIX batches of brownies and took FIVE hours to bake. Doing this for a little girls first birthday was a stuggle and a half but the out come was more than worth it. We love new designs and have never turneddown a challege. 
(insert super hero pose that doesnt need to be in the blog)


Tree & Twig Heirloom Tomato Bash

update: 9.07.2011 ||  Check out what other people have to say about the Tomato Bash!
@crackersblog 's lovely article for the Appetizer -- Field Trip: Linda's Annual Tomato Bash 
@eatingniagara has great pictures and a writeup here: Tomatoes101