73) Indulge Me (Images that make me happy)

I’ve been lost in my iPhoto files tonight. I’m just gonna throw a bunch of images atcha. They make me happy. I hope they make you happy, too!

copper vignette flower shadows poppies through door hopkins moonrise berry cheescake with sweet peas spinach loaf with nasturtiums hydrangea and St John's wort sweet peas and onions blue-green glasssnow on lantern sunset pumpkin hallowe'en costumes window shadows on stone peeling arbutus bark

Wow! Fastest post I’ve ever “composed.”

Sharing with these generous hosts: Green Willow Pond, DIY By Design, The Style Sisters, Common Ground, Rooted in Thyme


72. Not Knot(weed)!

The garden tour committee came around to inspect our garden this week. We spent a very pleasant hour together, and they were able to answer some of my questions:

“I want to know the names of my enemies. What kind of weed is this?” “Snapweed.” (Okay, that makes sense.)snapweed

“And this?” “Sorrel. You can eat it.” (Great, salad greens that grow wild.)

sheep sorrel

“Any suggestions for horsetail?” “No, you cain’t get rid of it, no-how.” (They didn’t talk like hicks, but that was their message.)horsetail

When we got to the dye garden, which I hadn’t inspected for a few days, there were these robust emerging shoots. “What is this?” they asked. “I don’t know. I don’t recognize it.”indigo emerging

And then, later, while walking along the road, I met my friend, who was pulling her hair out over the weeds she was tugging. “This Japanese Knotweed comes from across the street. All I can do is pull it out, and leave it to die and dry out. You can’t ever get rid of it. It grows through concrete.” I was reminded that I heard about this scourge a couple of years ago. The weed that is stronger than concrete.knotweed

It was emerging from the gravel in a suspicious attitude. In my visual memory, its segmented emergence looked eerily similar to my mystery weed in the dye garden. I hurried home to dig it all out as fast as I could.

Fortunately, I got distracted by general tidying-up in the dye garden. First planted three years ago, it appeared to me that it’s going to be amazing this year. The tansy that I got from the ditch across the street is already lush and green.dye garden

The madder, an ancient (red) dye plant, cannot be harvested (roots and stems) until after the third year of growth (this year). It’s looking promising. See the prickly edges on the stems and leaves? madder emerging from the soil

For some reason, deer and slugs don’t like it. In fact, of all the dye plants and medicinals, only my sumac tree seems to be highly attractive to deer, and only the woad (blue dye) and marigolds are attractive to slugs, and they’re so prolific that I am happy to share them with the ruminants and gastropods.

Even the elecampane, which is both a medicinal and a dye plant, is growing for the first time this year. We keep seeding these plants, but finally, something germinated, a year later. All in its own time. It grows to four or five feet tall.

elecampane emerging

As I was about to dig out the highly invasive knotweed in my dye garden, I cunningly observed that the evil clumps were located right beside the sticks and rebar I had used to prop up the indigo last year. The light was dawning in my head. I unfurled a couple of the tightly-clamped leaves at the tip. What, what, what???? I think this is Indigofera tinctorium! I had absolutely no idea this plant was a perennial in this climate. It hails from ancient India, although all continents in the southern hemisphere grow it now.Indigo rising from the earth

A huge mistake was averted. And I am so relieved that it’s not knotweed. And so excited that the indigo will be awesome this year!

I have plans to include a sowing of Japanese Indigo (Polygonum tinctorium) too. My friend gifted me seeds from her indigo garden. Of the 100 seeds I planted and placed for several weeks on a germination hot mat, only eleven valuable seedlings resulted.japanese indigo seedlings

I just want to point out that good plants come from Japan, too.

For other posts on the dye garden and weed control, see here, here, here, and here.

Sharing with: Home and Garden Thursday, The HomeAcre Hop, Coastal Charm

71. Garden Puttering

I can’t imagine a more pleasant way to spend a few hours on a cool, overcast winter afternoon, than working in the garden.

We recently had snow (unusual for this region). While it offers a lovely perspective for the yard, when it slides off the roof, I fear for trees and shrubs that are beneath the roof’s dripline. When we put the roof on, we didn’t think snow would be a problem.feb snowfall

snow falling off roofA rhododendron and a beauty berry were damaged, but I’m sure they’ll survive.

I’ve been brutally pruning – our fruit trees, grape vines and other woody shrubs.severe fruit tree pruning

For the three-year-old grapevines in particular, I cut most of the vines right back, although I left some to populate the highest wires of the privacy screen.severe grape pruning

A real benefit of winter is that I can see how and where the trees and shrubs are growing, without foliage to conceal the branches or vines, and so I can trim accordingly.

Sitting on the heather bank, weeding and trimming the winter heather, was what my friend reminded me is called “flow.” I’m in the moment. There are new birds arriving every day, their songs from the trees and rustlings under the leaves and grasses feels friendly. Every dip of the trowel, pull of the crab-grass, or snip of the shears produces a visible improvement. As every gardener knows, it’s therapeutic. trimming heather

Working outside reminds me of all the people who contributed to this garden: somehow my mother’s speaking to me – “use some lime to sweeten the soil” and her rhubarb root almost emerging seems to have some of her DNA in it. All the WWOOFers’ hands and personalities are ghosting the yard to remind me of them: where I worked today, Tim energetically carved out the lower pathways and mulched them, Johann planted 90 little heathers, everybody pulled blackberry. Everywhere I look, they’ve all come back to This Green House in the products of their industry. Our son and daughter moved some big rocks into place, and D and I went out to the quarry to get more today to finish the hardscaping by the patio. I call this middle section “the rockpile,” and I’m keen to cover it with rock plants, because it is not our garden’s prettiest corner or most elegant transition. rock pile

Thrilling is what I call the way the moss and ferns are filling in between the big stones, just as I’d hoped. ferns between rocks

This year, the pressure is really on. I have agreed to host in the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden Society‘s fundraiser private gardens tour in June. This year’s theme is “artists in their gardens.” I confess to feeling anxious about the prospect of a hundred or so expert gardeners looking at my amateur efforts. I hope the dye garden (for dyeing fabrics), the rooftop veggie garden, the fledgling medicinal garden, and the xeriscape/native garden will provide some interest to my visitors. I will report back, you can be sure.late winter cleanup

Now, I just have to plant some more eye candy and native plants, get all my plants to show off, get rid of the lumber and pallets, apply facing stone to the greenhouse, keep up with the weeding, and build some garden furniture. Whew! Nothing like a deadline to get me going!

First seeds planted in the garden this week: Peas, lettuce, Little Tokyo turnips, and spinach. The pea brush (to support the peas) in the garden comes from the dessicated branches from our Christmas branch.pea brush

Sharing with these fun parties:

Boogieboard Cottage, One More Time Events, Nifty Thrifty Things, Little Red House, Amaze Me Monday, Cozy Little House (FEATURED!), A Delightsome Life, Savvy Southern Style, The Brambleberry Cottage, The HomeAcre Hop, The Charm of Home






Review of Robin Hood Nutri Flour Blend (Gluten-free)

cooked gluten-free mini pizzasAlthough we have no issues with gluten (I’m a total bread-head), so many people are choosing to go gluten-free. And then there are those who have real food sensitivities, or even worse, celiac disease.

Social culture here on the Sunshine Coast very often revolves around shared food/potlucks. Book clubs, artists meetings, newcomers’ events, parties, and more intimate get-togethers shared with just a few people, all seem to involve food.

I would like to develop some good recipes that everyone can eat together, so when I saw a new Robin Hood product, Nutri flour blend (Gluten free), I hoped it would produce an acceptable pizza dough and cinnamon roll. As a former home economics teacher, I understand nutrition theory and the chemistry of food, and can experiment knowledgeably to develop recipes.

The ingredients listed are rice flour, sugar beet fibre, potato starch, and tapioca starch. Like most gluten-free flours, it has a granular texture.

First, I tried a sweet dough for cinnamon rolls, using Robin Hood’s breakfast bread recipe. I know that it’s not going to be anything like a gluten-based dough, so when the dough was the consistency of a muffin mix (sticky, and definitely not stretchy), I wasn’t concerned. There is still yeast in the recipe, as well as 4 eggs, so I thought the steam generated by the liquid in a hot oven and the CO2 generated by the yeast would help to rise the dough. The recipe calls for two risings, like a real cinnamon bun recipe. The recipe suggests that after a 1-hour rising, the dough should be doubled. It was not.

The dough needs to be spread with moistened fingers, although I quickly got tired of that mess and used two sheets of parchment paper and a rolling pin instead.

I used melted coconut oil to spread on the dough, then, in an effort to make a roll that is not all butter and white sugar (not good for us) I filled it with a fruit lax recipe from the BC Cancer Agency, to which I added lots of cinnamon. (It’s much like the dates in date squares, or matrimonial bars.) Here is the simple and delicious recipe:

pitted dates 125 mL (1/2 cup)
prune nectar 310 mL (1 1/4 cups)
figs 125 mL (1/2 cup)
raisins 200 mL (3/4 cup)
pitted prunes 125 mL (1/2 cup)

Simmer dates and prune nectar until dates are very soft. Put date mixture in a food processor and add figs, raisins and prunes. Blend to a smooth paste. Store in the refrigerator. Use on toast, crackers, ice cream etc.
Yield = 2 cups
1 tbsp = 45 calories & 1.0 grams of fibre
*If a thinner product is desired, more prune nectar can be added

I used the parchment paper to help me roll the dough around the filling before cutting it with a sharp knife.rolling gluten free cinnamon buns

The resulting rolls and twists looked great, and when I baked them (at 400 degrees), they smelled just like a yeast dough smells. But, the bad news is that they were tough and chewy, and did not rise. I wondered why we were even pretending they would rise with yeast. The Nutri flour just does not have the protein structure to hold those air cells when baked, even with four eggs in the recipe.gluten-free sweets

Second experiment: For the mini-pizzas I was taking to a dinner party, I used the recipe on Robin Hood’s site. I’m not noting it here, because I didn’t like the results for pizza dough, either, although they were more palatable than the rolls/twists. To form the pizza, I rolled the dough into 1.5″ balls, gluten-free pizza doughthen pressed them with a pan between two layers of cooking parchment to a 1/8″ thickness.pressing gluten-free pizza dough

As per the recipe, I brushed olive oil on the dough, then pre-baked the crust until golden.oil on gluten-free pizza dough

The resulting pucks were hard and difficult to bite. I would recommend just a 5-10 minute pre-bake (not until “golden”) before putting the pizza toppings on and re-baking.mini gluten-free pizza

I will keep experimenting with other flour blends and no-gluten pizza mixes, and will report back here when I find a better solution for pizza dough.

If any readers have had better experiences (especially with rising) with your gluten-free pizza crust or sweet buns, please let us know. I know some commercially-baked products are more palatable, but they are generally expensive and I always prefer to produce food from scratch.



70. Sentimental Cabinet Re-do

george in his workshop (Thanks to our son, Brendan, for the photo of Grandpa in his workshop)

My father-in-law, who passed away in 2010, had this cabinet in his workshop, housing tools and hardware.grandpa's cabinet before

I think it had been a china cabinet before it was banished to the basement, replaced by a plywood built-in china cabinet that has since seen the wrecker’s ball. One door glass was missing, and it had paint and grease stains all over. But, I loved the sweet shape of it, with its cutlery drawer up top. The maple (?) top and frame had a gentle patina of its own. Plus, can you even believe those jaunty red accents?

Lucite handles, red-painted interior:grandpa's cabinet drawers

When the old folks passed away, we were able to claim a few mementos. In our efforts to live more simply, we couldn’t fit many into our “final” home. This cabinet did come home with us, though. We have very little “wall” space, but I had a corner in mind for this little gem.

I started by washing off the spider webs, sawdust, grease, etc. then letting it dry.

While I could have milk-painted it a colour, it already had that interesting red, and I needed to consider what else we had in the space. I set about refinishing. As I mentioned in my posts about refinishing the old university math doors, the most efficient way of stripping, for me, was to simply scrape the finish off.stripping paint

I used “Safe Strip” for the groovy bits, scrubbing with a toothbrush and rinsing it with water. That left a stain of its own, but it was warm and interesting. That’s the thing with re-finishing – you kind-of have to go with the flow – you never know how it’s going to turn out. (“Refinishing is like a box of chocolates….”)

After I stripped, rinsed and let dry overnight, I sanded. First, with an orbital sander with course (80) grit, then gradually to hand-sanding with about 300. I was surprised to discover, after all that, that there were still stains aplenty. Decided to just embrace them, rather than cover them up.

I repainted the shelves red. If I’d had my druthers, I’d have used red milk paint, but the supplier here on the coast has recently gone out of business.

Then, applied 2 coats of satin Varathane on the wood, lightly sanding in between coats. It looked soft and fantastic to me, albeit stained. I thought about using Miss Mustard Seed’s dark antiquing wax to improve the antique look, but decided it had enough ageing all by itself.grandpa's cabinet Collage

I reassembled the handles, doors, drawers, and got a new glass door cut. Used some leftover Naugahyde from our banquette to replace the green felt in the top drawer.drawers in cabinetbanquette:nook

I’m happy about the outcome, love it, in fact. The jury’s still out on whether it suits its new location. Kitty, the dog, is a little confused, because that’s where she used to get her food and water. Even old dogs can learn new eating habits!cabinet before & after

Because it’s Chinese New Year, the Asian vignette, with its red and gold accents, seems perfect.view of nookcabinet at bottom of stairscabinet at bottom of stairs2

Here it is in place at the bottom of the stairs.cabinet in place

On a daily basis, this cabinet, like so many other sentimental items we surround ourselves with in our home, reminds us of our loved ones, some gone from among us, and some, thankfully, still with us. countertop vignette


Sharing with: Little Red House, Coastal Charm, Mod Vintage Life, Cozy Little House (featured!) My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, VMG206, Savvy Southern Style, Knick of Time Interiors, Elizabeth & Co., The Brambleberry Cottage, The Dedicated House, Common Ground, Miss Mustard Seed, The Cottage Market, Boogieboard Cottage, Nifty Thrifty Things