Monthly Archives: January 2014

Surprises in a Winter garden

snow on garden

Just another snow fall!

After several heavy snowfalls and abnormally cold temperatures, punctuated with warm spells and heavy rains, it was more than optimistic of me to be expecting anything to have survived the past five or six weeks of winter weather. But still I looked, and surprise, surprise! Several stalks of Brussels sprouts that had been overlooked in the late Fall, as well as leeks which had been mulched, were still hanging on. Amazing!

Leeks in winter

Heavily mulched leeks survived the cold quite well

A sad looking stalk of brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts in winter

They made for a great supper of sprouts au gratin and a leek and potato bake.

Dish of sprouts & dish ofleek and  potato bake

Sprouts au gratin & a leek and potato bake. Yum!

As for the chervil, well it just won’t quit. It is the most determined little herb I know. For anyone not familiar with it, it has a delicate flavour, similar to anise, that goes well with fish. My friend who grew up in Belgium uses it to make Chervil soup, a favourite from her Granny’s kitchen. Chervil has a feathery leaf and tiny white flowers which develop into deep burgundy coloured seed heads that are quite attractive.

Chervil in Winter garden

Chervil growing in January ~ one determined little herb!

This year’s array of seed packets arrived at the local farm supply store this week. We save most of our seed from year to year, ergo we save $$$. Plants are designed to reproduce and it’s easy to save seed and seeing how few seeds are in those little packets it makes so much sense. Of course this is not the time to be thinking of saving seed but soon annual seed swaps and ‘seedy’ Saturdays will be happening. Great places to get acquainted with local suppliers. Seed produced locally is more likely to thrive because it has had a chance to adapt to local  climate conditions.  It’s certainly worth checking out what’s happening close to home, especially as many of the smaller nurseries produce their own catalogs which list a broad variety of seed including many heritage varieties.

One other surprise that came with the snow was visual evidence of the numerous  visitors we’d been having; some less welcomed than others. We did have our suspicions. In fact to be honest, we pretty well knew but were choosing denial as our default position until a myriad tracks in the snow underlined the fact that rats had become regular visitors to the feed shed. Fortunately, these track-ways also indicated where best to place the traps, but never in the same place twice. Rats are very, very smart. This much we have learnt. They also have a weakness for hazelnut/chocolate spread (but then don’t we all?) Seems to work better than peanut butter which seemed to work better than cheese or sardines. This best filed in ‘Information I Hope I Never Need to Use’ folder!

To end on a much more positive note: other tracks revealed that an otter had been to visit and had taken time to check out the various outside pens and shelters before spending time ‘belly-boganning’ on the front slope that leads to the beach. It was fun to imagine him/her slithering along on a self-guided tour then playing with joyful abandon as otters do, before heading off on another adventure. Snowfalls do have their advantages. Must remember this as we prepare for yet another sou’easter, due to arrive sometime tomorrow, bringing with it another 15 to 20 cms.


Looking Forward ~ Thinking Back

winter garden

winter garden

Looking out at the stark landscape which only a few months ago was a dense mass of tangled greenery, it requires a certain leap of faith to believe that the earth will turn and the land become a benign, benevolent garden once again.

Tomatoes ripened off in January

Unripened tomatoes

Unripened tomatoes gathered in October

At this time of year, any small link to gentler times is a gift and tonight’s supper was certainly a tasty reminder of the wonderful garden I have the privilege of tending; pasta sauce made from the last of the tomatoes I have been ripening off since last October. Several of the cherry tomato plants went in way late and then dawdled along producing massively healthy vines but not leaving themselves enough time to ripen. By the time of first frost they were loaded with green fruit, so green in fact that I doubted they would ripen, but bagged and stored in a cold room over time they did, with almost no waste. Perhaps not as sweet tasting as straight off the vine but way better than store bought, and the sauce, it was delicious.

NOTE: I used several brown paper lunch bags, rather than one large brown bag to store the fruit in. These enabled me to sort the fruit into various stages of ripeness and also eliminated excessive weight on the fruit. I also reminded myself to check the fruit regularly in order to remove any ripened or moulding fruit. If one tomato develops mold or turns soft it can ruin all the surrounding ones as well. This I have learnt the hard way in previous years.

Another gift from Summer is the Blackcurrant jam. I love its tangy sweetness as well as the fact it reminds me of my childhood days in England. Blackcurrant bushes were ubiquitous there and the juice was considered a great cure for colds because of the super high vitamin C content. I don’t much enjoy making the jam, even though it is easy, but during these deep freeze days it tastes like a little bit of sunshine, especially when slathered over some homemade bread.

Blackcurrant Jam

Blackcurrant Jam

It won’t be long before green thumbs start to itch, seed catalogues begin arriving and plans begin to percolate, so let me put in a good word for Blackcurrant bushes. They are easy enough to grow, the bushes are sturdy and resilient and they usually bear very well.