Andrew and I are trying our hand at growing garlic for the first time this year. Last fall we dutifully cracked garlic bulbs into cloves and got them into the ground before the last frost. Over the winter snow buried the garden, garlic moved off my radar, and we let nature take its course. In the early spring we were delighted to see that almost all our garlic made it through the winter and was thriving.
Having something come up in the Spring before you’ve even planted the rest of your vegetable garden was a great treat. The early growth of garlic made me get excited for the coming growing season and start planning what else we were planting this year.
This week we started cutting the scapes from our garlic. They are pretty and so far we’ve just used them as decorative items. They also have a lovely subtle garlic smell. I’m hoping experiment with different ways of cooking the scapes — adding them to a stir fry seems like the easiest option and will probably be what I try first.
Now that the scapes are cut we’re entering the homestretch and in a few weeks we’ll find out how our first foray into garlic has gone. Fingers crossed for a bountiful year.
Years ago I helped teach Sunday School at the church my family attended. The lesson plans often included a bible story followed by a short craft. I vividly remember a small child laughing at my attempts to make a craft and pointing out how superior their craft was. Needless to say my confidence in my crafting abilities is pretty low. Despite this I’ve taken on a few small craft projects in recent years – often as presents for Andrew.
I also started learning to knit a few years. My first project was a small scarf. I watched YouTube videos, pulled out lots of stitches, and eventually managed to knit a scarf that included knit and purl stitches. It wasn’t perfect but I learned a lot and felt awesome for knitting something.
Not wanting to get too fancy for my second project I decided I would knit a blanket — blankets are just like huge scarves for your lap right? Two years later I’m finally putting the finishing touches on this seemingly eternal knitting project. I get marks for preserving, right? I think I’ll pick something much smaller for my third knitting project.
I love finding local places that are unique, offer a great product, and owned by friendly people. I think supporting local businesses and your local economy is important. The “Living Local” series is inspired by this affection for local places and local products. The series will highlight some of my favourite haunts, tasty eats, and miscellaneous local goodness.
If you hadn’t already guessed Andrew and I are beer drinkers. We recently sampled two beers from OutSpoken Brewing a microbrewery that recently opened in Sault Ste Marie. Outspoken currently has limited storefront hours and sells by the growler and howler. Your first growler is $20 and refills are $12-13. We picked up two growlers from OutSpoken, one of Anvil Red Ale and one of Rabbit’s Foot IPA.
Surprisingly I enjoyed the Anvil Red Ale more than the IPA. It was subtle, smooth drinking, and a lovely amber colour. Andrew and I are looking forward to trying more selections from Outspoken — especially since they recently introduced expanded hours.
I recently sampled “Revenge of the Ginger: Kickin’ Ginger Red IPA” from Double Trouble Brewing. Admittedly, I have a not so secret love for gingers and IPAs, so the name of the beer is what inspired this purchase. I’ve previously tried and enjoyed Hops & Robbers by Double Trouble. As an added bonus the image on the can of a bearded ginger man appears to be in the likeness of one of the Double Trouble founders.
The Revenge of the Ginger poured with minimal head and had a cloudy amber hue. There was a very subtle hop finish and I would tend to place this more in the amber beer category than an IPA. There was a ginger smell to the beer which was accompanied by a smooth ginger taste. The ginger flavouring in this beer overpowers the hops and makes this more of a spiced ginger beer than an IPA. A great option if you like ginger beer, but might be a disappointment if you were looking for a strong hitting IPA. I still enjoyed it but it was definitely not what I was expecting.
Every year at around this time many of the open spaces at Oslicken Acres become awash in colour. Hieracium aurantiaca more commonly known as orange hawkweeed or devil’s paintbrush come into bloom and green fields become tinged with orange. Part of the daisy family devil’s paintbrush is a perennial plant that is often considered a weed or invasive species.
This bountiful flower grows abundantly in Northern Ontario and can often be found in meadows, ditches, and anywhere with lots of sunshine and grass. The name ‘devil’s paintbrush’ was apparently coined by farmers who see it as being troublesome and aggressive in nature. The plant also emits a substance that chokes out other plants from growing too closely – another strike in the invasive species box.
Despite this I think the devil’s paintbrush is beautiful. I love the look of the back field before the grass is cut and it is overgrown with the tiny orange flowers. We aren’t trying to grow anything other than grass in that area so the flower isn’t really an intrusion or bother. Andrew has often picked devil’s paintbrush, daises, buttercups and other wild flowers to make small flower arrangements. These arrangements are beautiful even if they are made up of what many people consider weeds. One man’s weed is another man’s bouquet.
Little Miss Amongst the Devil’s Paintbrush
I wrote earlier about the beers from Black Creek Historic Brewery in our beer of the month club delivery. The other featured brewery, Kichesippi Beer Co., in this month’s delivery is also from Ontario. Located in Ottawa the name of the brewery means ‘The Great River’ and prior to 1855 the river running through Ottawa was known as the Kichesippi.
We tried two beers from Kichesippi, the cleverly named Heller Highwater beer and the Wuchak Black. Heller Highwater is brewed in the style of a Munich Helles lager and the pun in the name won me over immediately. A pale yellow colour and fairly mild tasting with subtle depth. ‘Hell’ in German means light and ‘helles’ translated as noun means ‘the light one’ the colour and bubbly nature of this beer do it’s name justice. This is a perfect patio or dock sipping beer.
Both Andrew and I were weary about the Wuchak Black – described as a Cascadian Dark Ale or a Black IPA – it boasts a pitch black colour with a hop flavour. I love hops. Andrew loves dark stouts. Rarely have we found a beer that mixes these two components well. But the Wuchak Black seems to have pulled it off. The Wuchak pours a dark black that is slightly opaque and has a lovely hop smell with a hint of malt. It is an excellent balance of hop and stout – not too heavy and the hops aren’t overbearing. For a beer were both apprehensive about this was a pleasant surprise. Kitchesippi is wisely selling this as a seasonal offering. The Wuchak is more suited for a cozy evening next to the fireplace than a sunny day in a lawn chair.
The past four years Andrew and I have planted a traditional style vegetable garden. Long rows of vegetables marked with wooden stakes. We have tons of space outside so the idea of having a huge chunk of lawn taken up by a garden wasn’t a concern.
The row garden reminds me of my grandparents who planted a huge garden year after year, even when it made way more produce than two or one person needed. I remember sitting on the concrete step at the back of their house looking over the garden, watching them work, and hiding in the shade of the house from the hot sun. My parents also planted a row garden for years which I remember helping plant throughout my childhood and youth.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a row garden. It’s based on the straight lines and style of growing used by larger scale farmers and has been used by countless families for years. Andrew and I have routinely been excited about planting our garden in the Spring and I love to see the veggies grow throughout the summer. But inevitably we get busy, weeds flourish and the garden becomes neglected. Maintaining a row garden takes a lot of time and effort.
This year we decided to try something different. Inspired by a book I got out of the library we have planted a couple of 4×4 square foot gardens. We are still planting some potatoes, squash, pumpkins, and zucchini in the old garden. But everything else has been planted in the new square foot gardens.
These compact beds are supposed to make gardening more manageable and challenges the idea that row gardening is the only way to plant veggies. Andrew made the square foot gardens out of trees from our property and we planted the gardens together. The planting took way less time and considerably less physical toil than the large row garden. The ease of planting has me already loving the process and I hope the upkeep and yield are as rewarding. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.
For Christmas I gave Andrew a membership to a beer of the (every other) month club. Since January we have been enjoying the bi-monthly surprise of craft beers delivered to our door. This month’s selection included two beers from Black Creek Brewery.
Located at the Black Creek Pioneer Village heritage site the Black Creek Historic Brewery opened in 2009 and employs the techniques, tools and recipes used by Ontario brewers in 1860s. In the 1860s there were 155 registered breweries in Ontario.Black Creek Historic Brewery is the first to recreate the brewing processes of this era.
Each batch is created entirely by hand, uses no electricity, and much of the equipment is made from wood and cooper. The beer ferments in wooden casks, barley is shoveled by hand, and filtration is done in the ‘old style’ using barley husks.
For those interested in learning more about brewing in the 1860s you can visit the Brewery as part of the Pioneer Village and they run a program where you can ‘brew with the brewmaster‘ for a day. A visit to the Brewery is an added cost ($4.50) to admission to the Pioneer Village and includes tours of the hop garden, cooperage, mill, brewery, and beer samples. For those living further afield the Brewery maintains a blog, The Black Creek Growler, which is filled with interesting historical and beer related facts.
The two Black Creek selections we received from were ‘Brilliant’ and ‘Marzen’. What struck me most about Brilliant was the cloudy nature of it. The old style filtration process means that the beer is almost akin to unfiltered beer and has a dense slightly opaque look. As far as taste goes the Brilliant was light, kind of sweet, and fairly smooth drinking. In contrast Marzen was red in colour, had a fruity smell, and a delightful hoppy malt taste. The Marzen falls under the brown ale category of beer that would have been brewed in the 1860s. It was a neat experience to try ‘historically brewed’ beers that were made on a historic site.
I love the idea of perennial vegetables. You plant them once and are rewarded with food year after year. Perhaps the most well known perennial vegetable is rhubarb. It grows in abundance, requires minimal maintenance, is almost impossible to kill, and can be made into a multitude of tasty treats.
We were lucky that Oslicken Acres came with three well established patches of rhubarb when we moved in. The one patch had a trailer parked on it temporarily and it is still thriving. From this year’s harvest I’ve made rhubarb desert and rhubarb cake. I’m hoping to try a rhubarb nut loaf in the next week or two.
Last year we started to plant additional perennial vegetables and created our own bed of asparagus. I had no idea asparagus was a perennial plant until a friend mentioned it. It was great to see the spears of asparagus poke out of the ground this year – and a relief that they survived the winter. Since this is only the bed’s second year we haven’t been able to eat any of the tasty morsels yet but are anxiously looking forward to when the bed is mature enough to harvest.
After doing some reading I’m hoping to plant some wild leeks in the future – another tasty perennial treat that requires little upkeep.
Spring has sprung on Oslicken Acres. The flowerbeds we created last year are thriving and many of the bulbs we planted in the fall have come up. The emergence of tulips and daffodils in the spring are always heartening after a long winter.