Growing Garlic: Harvesting Scapes

Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes

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.

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Crafting and Never Ending Knitting

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.

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Living Local: OutSpoken Brewing

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.

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Around The Apple Trees

The property we now call Oslicken Acres has some interesting stories attached to it. As we spend time in the house and around the land we sometimes get a feeling of that history coming to life, as well as physical reminders of those who came before us.

A year or so after moving in I noticed a little clearing visible in the forest beyond an open field area. Upon closer inspection I found in that clearing a stack of rocks and a small plastic box. On the bottom of the box was stamped the words “Cremation Services”. The box was laid back on it’s spot on the rock pile where it now remains.  It’s still a mystery as to who is eternally resting there.

It has also been said that one of the couples who owned the property are
buried under an apple tree here. There are a number of apple trees on the property so we try to avoid digging near any of them! We also have a section of trail through the forest that is consistently a number of degrees cooler than other areas around the property. If our cat CC sees us walking in that direction she will often begin caterwauling, which we have to assume is a warning for us not to proceed. We have never heeded the warning, and so far we are still ok, but we wonder what she knows that we don’t!

We also have a regular visitor to our home in the form of a small bird. There are a lot of birds around but this particular bird seems to desperately want to come into the house.  It repeatedly flies up to our bedroom window and flaps it’s wings against the glass. This has been happening off and on for the last few years.  It’s very likely that there’s a simple explanation for this behavior, but I often wonder if a former resident is trying to return to the home that they know.

There is something satisfying and comforting to me that our time here is just a small blip in even the short history of the settlement of this property. Many have come before us and experienced similar things. And many will come after.

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Ginger Beer Meets IPA

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.

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Beautiful Weeds

IMAG0770aEvery 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.

IMAG0768a

Little Miss Amongst the Devil’s Paintbrush

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Kichesippi Beer Co: Heller Highwater and Wuchak Black

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.

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Serious Issues Require Serious Reflection and Action

We live in a world with many issues and problems. This isn’t news to most of us. If you look at things from a high level you’ll see international conflict/war, poverty/hunger, environmental issues, political corruption and numerous other important issues to consider. Environmental problems are vast and include oil spills, invasive species, oceans filling with garbage, nuclear plant failures, carbon emissions, endangered species etc. The list goes on and on, and for most of us it can quickly become overwhelming thinking about these issues and what we might be able to do to help remedy the situation. We know these problems exist and we want to help correct them but often feel helpless to really make a difference.

Many of us try to make daily decisions to limit our contributions to the problem somewhat. We recycle what we can to divert garbage from landfill, we don’t litter, and we don’t spray hazardous chemicals on our lawns and gardens. Maybe some of us even grow our own organic vegetables, drive an electric car or have installed solar panels to reduce reliance on outside energy sources. Individually this helps in a small way and we feel better for knowing we’re making an effort to improve the situation. But many of us also have a nagging feeling that what we’re doing isn’t really enough. That as a society we need to do better, but the problems seem so overwhelming that we don’t know where to begin or how to make real difference.

And often this is where our thinking/action on the subject ends. The problems seem so big that it often seems we’re helpless to affect any real change. We leave things in the hands of our government and the big corporations who create the products we buy, the power we consume, and the food we eat. Unfortunately our capitalist society and governmental systems reward short term profitability over long term sustainability. Corporations have an obligation to create shareholder value, in many cases at the expense of the environment. Government officials act in a way that is most likely to get them voted back in when the next election rolls around. That means doing what the most powerful lobbyists push for – those with money – and guess what; that’s those big corporations fighting for shareholder profits.

So as consumers in a capitalist society what can we do? One of the most powerful methods is to vote with your wallet. Buy the organic vegetables that were grown without the use of pesticides/poison. Avoid purchasing products that have excess packaging or packaging that isn’t recyclable. Stop buying products/services from organizations that you know have poor track records when it comes to the environment or other societal implications. Avoid purchasing products containing hazardous chemicals (cleaners, pesticides etc.). Buy products from those who have the overall health of our world embedded into the mission of everything they do and who support full disclosure product labeling so we know exactly what is in the products/foods we buy and how it affects us and our world.

If enough people were to take these steps it would eventually start to affect the profitability of the offending organizations enough to force them to change their ways. Perhaps this seems like a simplification of the problem/solution, and yes there are many complicating factors, but at a basic level we do have the ability to influence things if a critical mass of people were to embrace these types of choices.

I warned you this would be a serious post and I don’t profess to be any better than anyone else out there when it comes to our household’s dealing with these issues. But it seems to me we need to do better for the sake of our world.

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Row and Square Foot Gardens

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.

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Historical Beer: Black Creek Brewery

IMAG0729For 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.

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