Secret Wool Society at Commonwealth Collector’s Club!

I’m so thrilled to have been chosen as one of the 45 artists and sellers to be featured at the Commonwealth Collector’s Club on September 13th! I’ll be set up there with some of my wall weavings, as well as a few other new products. If you’re local to the Calgary area, come by and introduce yourself!

CCC September 2015 poster_web

What I’m Baking: Sour Cherry Clafoutis

I love cherries. Sweet, juicy, delicious cherries! Up until a few years ago I wasn’t crazy about sour cherries. Mainly because I’d only had the unbelievably tart ones that are not even palatable unless covered in piles of sugar. Then one day I was picking saskatoon berries at my local U-pick and noticed that they had a sour cherry u-pick section. I grabbed a fat dark red cherry off of the bush and stuck it in my mouth, expecting to regret that decision. But to my surprise, it was a little tart, but also very sweet! I immediately decided I needed a sour cherry tree/bush for my own yard, and was happy to find that they sold young bushes at the u-pick, so I ended up taking one home that day.

My cherry harvests from that bush have been pretty minimal since I planted it – maybe a handful or two every season. Last year I decided I wanted another bush because I was a bit disappointed by the lack of harvests from the first bush, so I ended up planting its star-crossed lover on the opposite side of the yard (the varieties are Romeo and Juliet). But luckily this year I got the first decent harvest from the older bush (the newer one gave me a grand total of 3 cherries). And luckily I had picked all of the cherries 2 days before the giant hail storm that wiped out most of my garden!

So I decided to make sour cherry clafoutis, my favorite summer dessert, using Martha Stewart’s recipe. If you like butter and eggs and sugar and sour cherries (who doesn’t?!), you will love this recipe.

Sour Cherry Clafoutis

Here are a few notes on the recipe:

– I kind of fail at making traditional pie crusts, but this recipe works for me because of the egg yolk which keeps the crust from crumbling and making a terrible mess. It will crumble a bit, but you can stick it back together. And if you use tart pans that don’t require you to make fancy pie edging like I do, your tart will look great.
– It is a really simple recipe but you do need a little planning ahead since the dough needs to be refrigerated for at least an hour before you bake it. I usually make the dough either the day before or else as soon as I get home from work in the afternoon (if I’ve remembered to bring the butter to room temperature beforehand).
– The only thing that sucks about this recipe is having to pit the cherries. I have this cherry pitter from Lee Valley which seems to work pretty well, but if you’re pitting a lot of cherries at once, I recommend you do it outside because things will look like a murder scene when you’re finished.
– I’m pretty sure this recipe would work for other fruit and berries. Specially, I’m thinking raspberries or plums.

I’ve learned recently that the newer sour cherry varieties are bred to be sweeter than traditional sour cherries, which would explain why I wasn’t really crazy about sour cherries up until the last few years. I’ve also pruned my cherry bushes to be more tree-like and this has been great so far. I’m always really hesitant to planting trees in my back yard because it is such a small space, but the cherry trees will probably be no bigger than 7 or 8 feet when fully mature, so they are really perfect for my space.

I’m going to use the remaining cherries for sour cherry lemonade, or perhaps a boozy drink with gin. But I would love to hear about any recipes you’ve had success with!

Five Minutes and It’s Gone!

You’d think it was a sharknado that had gone through my garden. I’d even waffled with photoshopping in a bunch of sharks, but then decided against it. I’m trying to make the damage somehow funny, but it isn’t really working. This is actually the result of a flash hail storm. In August. Sigh.

Hail Storm August 2015

It could have been worse. And truthfully, not everything was pummeled. Just mostly everything. I’m sure some things will bounce back, but I’m pretty sure I can kiss any squash or pumpkins goodbye, as well as my corn and some of the tomatoes. My precious tomatoes.

I guess it serves me right for getting all cocky and telling people “Oh we’ve been lucky this year, we’ve missed every hail storm and even the funnel clouds missed us!”.

I haven’t surveyed the damage at the community garden yet, but I did receive an email from a gardener there telling me to expect disappointment.

So I’ve decided the next garden project will be building a greenhouse dome over my entire yard.

Cedarbrae Community Garden July 2015

I’ve gone and done it again – I’ve completely neglected my community garden plot. I pretty much predicted I would do this, but there was some small bit of hope that maybe things would be different this year. With the neglect aside, the garden has been doing really well.

Cedarbrae Community Garden

The good thing is that this year has been fairly good in terms of weather. It has been mostly warm and rainfalls have been pretty frequent. So the gardens have been generally happy. I actually hadn’t realized how well the community garden was doing because it had been a couple of weeks since I’d seen it. I walked over one evening and discovered that I already had a few zucchini that were on the verge of being too large for my liking, the kale and swiss chard were exploding, and the bush beans had a million flowers (some plants even had tiny beans!).

Cedarbrae Community Garden

I really need to keep on top of this garden now. Luckily it is virtually weedless, so I don’t need to do much to it in the way of weeding. But I do need to water it occasionally, and most importantly, I need to be harvesting from it frequently.

Cedarbrae Community Garden

I’ve been thinking a lot about that gardening space lately and whether or not I want to continue growing there after this season. On the one hand, it is very convenient because it is pretty much within seeing distance from my front door. And it also gives me extra growing space that I don’t have in my own back yard. But on the other hand, I do have to pay a fee to use it (and unfortunately the fees went up quite a bit this year), and I’m not convinced that my yields are offsetting the cost of the plot, also factoring in the cost I put in initially for the seeds (although fairly minimal, I do need to take it in to consideration). The other thing I’ve been waffling with is whether or not it is fair for me to have a plot at a community garden when I have the space in my own yard to grow vegetables. There is a wait list every year for the community garden, and I get priority since I’ve rented in past years, but it might be time for me to let someone else, who may not have access to another growing space, to garden there. Alternatively, I have been wanting to convert some of the space in my front yard to food gardens, so if I do that I would have the equivalent to or more space than the community plot. As well, I’ve recently been considering something like a yard-share which would give me access to growing space in a residential backyard in exchange for some of the crops. I can’t believe I’m already planning for the next growing season!

Do you grow in a community garden? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Is it your only growing space? I’d also love to know if you find it to be cheaper than buying fresh produce, factoring in the cost of the plot fees.

Mid-July 2015 Garden Update

I have been so delinquent in blogging lately, and I have a couple of excuses (I’ve been busy, I haven’t felt motivated to sit at the computer, blah blah blah), but it is time for an update – and a lot has been happening around the garden lately. The garden has truly gone insane – I can’t enter my backyard without being attacked by monster plants. This is a good thing though, it also means that I am finally harvesting.

Pea Flowers

The pea flowers are so pretty.

There have been a few small harvests, like rhubarb, strawberries, honey berries, radishes, herbs, etc. But this week is the start of when I have to really keep on top of things, especially summer squash. Yesterday I went out in the backyard and made the first squash harvest, mostly young squash (I like them when they are young and tender). Then later that evening we walked over to the community garden, which I haven’t actually seen for about 2 weeks, and discovered 3 large zucchini. I mean, they weren’t so big that they are inedible, but they are about 3 times the ideal size for me. Now there is a large pile of squash sitting on my counter waiting to be eaten. And I know I have about 10 more in the garden that will be ready in a few days. Remember how I said I really need to keep on top of things right now?

Lettuce

Lettuce growing nicely in an old wine box. It’s growing slowly in the shade, but I’m okay with that!

Along with the squash, I’ve been picking at the alley raspberries and the peas growing in the backyard, and I also finally harvested the remainder of the garlic scapes.

Garlic Scapes

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the front yard. I mentioned awhile back that my front yard is not exactly where I want it to be. But I’m actually really looking forward to doing something with it. First thing, we’ll start removing the remaining grass. There actually isn’t a lot of grass left, so doing a little bit at a time won’t be so overwhelming. I’ve just got to figure out how I want to incorporate edible growing space in the front. I was thinking about raised beds, or even some more galvanized steel livestock tanks, but I’m just having a difficult time picturing how it will all work. I’d like for it to be aesthetically pleasing, but also functional. I’m actually planning on writing a longer post about the front yard, that will actually include photos, so maybe I’ll wait to talk about it.

Clematis

I usually kill non-alpine clematis, but for some reason I’ve kept this one alive for many years. It is currently in full bloom.

Aside from the small-ish harvests and planning the front garden, I honestly have been spending most of my time indoors working. It’s been good, but I think I’m definitely ready to tackle a few outdoor projects. What have you been doing in the garden, and what have you been harvesting?