Sunday, June 12, 2011

Good-bye, Fortune Workshops

This is my 85th and last blogging post. It comes to almost 3 years of sharing my activities and thoughts. I always enjoyed it.

As a good-bye offering, I would like to present this photo of the former St. David's church just north of St. Eugene, Ontario. Like the other 1,100 little churches in Ontario, no longer supporting itself with service to a community, it has gone on the real estate market. Now it belongs to me.

... and I totally love it, ancient carpets, lack of plumbing, peeling paint, bulging, cracked brick walls and all. I can so relate! It is an appropriate project to end my blogging days.

Everyone asks: what will you do with it? This church will get a transformed purpose to serve. Right now it is storing my gardening equipment and undergoing a mild facelift to keep the exterior from falling apart. Then, slowly, it will be surrounded by gardens. The inside will be left "as is": open concept. Then, some very gentle activity, worthy of its 110 years of existence.

Good-bye dear readers and God bless!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

4 months in India

Just a few days ago, I landed at Montreal airport. It was a long (30 hour) trip from 33 degrees in Pondicherry, India to minus 4 here. Now, I am emerging from the 10 1/2 hour time change and sorting through the pictures taken during my stay.

What did I do during my winter-long participation? I never really left the community surroundings because I was fulfilled with my activities there. Early on in December, I began to teach the children of the workers, who were living in their own village on the property. They all came from the Orissa province in the north and now enjoyed a life of relative security and comfort. Without the school, the children, aged 5 to 15, would be left on their own to roam and wait for their parents to return from work. The community yoga teacher, Raju, who spoke Hindi, was my partner in teaching English, mathematics and crafts. Every morning at 10, the children assembled for a short yoga class given by Raju, then they had a break to drink a glass of milk (from our own 2 cows!). Raju helped me to communicate with the children aged over 7 to begin learning new sounds and a new alphabet. We had so much fun together and I learned at least as much as my students. Their way of life was a mystery to me! We created some School Rules to help our life together function.
#1 Keep the schoolroom tidy
#2 Pay attention to the lessons
#3 Help each other
#4 Keep school materials and toys in the school
#5 Be happy!

During the rest of the day I was busy helping to create ornamental shade gardens in different areas of our property; there was much to learn about the needs of of tropical plants and trees.
My favorite tree must be the frangipani, because of the shape and the seductive scent of its flowers at night. Here you see the sample, planted in front of my house as a 20cm stump in December!

I was also baking cakes for our community restaurant and participating in retreats, practicing practically, being a member of a new humanity that loves, cares and shares. So the 4 months flew by without ever a thought to posting in this blog. Now I'm back and plan to report regularly about my gardening adventures and my new home in Hawkesbury, Ontario as of April 28th.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Saturday Openair Market

Join me in a stroll through the open market, found every Saturday on the oceanfront promenade in Empuriabrava, Spain. The weather was a nippy 12 degrees and a strong cold wind (Tramontana) made up for the bright sunshine.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fast Forward to Spain

Right now, it is raining in Empuriabrava, Spain. Time to write about the past week spent in the Pyranees mountains in the province of Cerdanya, staying at a lovely accomodation, just south of the border to Andorra. Our host, Hugh, took the time to show us around his huge property and explain the long-term vision for this location: a center for respite and well-being. Much care is given to provide delicious organic meals and a relaxing, casual atmosphere.

My son and I took some long hikes into the neighboring valleys, where we first came across the local breed of horse on the steep pastures, wearing bells around their massive necks!.They wear the bells so they can be located when they break out of their fencing to look for better pastures. These sturdy creatures are bred for their meat, but also serve to pull wagons and occasionally for riding.

On our way home yesterday, we stopped at the city of Puigcerda, which hosts a traditional annual horse fair, honoring the best examples of this breed, as well as mules, donkeys and miniature horses.

In the afternoon we spent a few hours at the Roman thermal baths in Dorres, France. Then it was just a few more hours via Perpignan to get back "home" to the Costabrava.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Easy Rosehip Jam

This is the perfect time of year to use those bright crimson seedpods from your rosebushes for a delicious and very healthy product. When I look at recipes for rosehip jam, it surprises me that people are willing to do so much painstaking work and add so much sugar. If you have a Passevite (get one now!) it will make the job so easy.

(Top Photo)First, collect the hips by cutting them off the tip of the branch, which you hold with a good protective glove (those prickly branches could spoil your enthusiasm!).

(Photo #2)Here you see a 10" colander filled with 1 kilogram (2 lbs. 4 oz.) washed and picked over rosehips. Cover them with water in a saucepan, place a lid on the pan and cook gently for about 20 minutes. From time to time, stir and mash the fruit.

(Photo#3) Now put about 1/6 of the mixture in the Passevite (using the medium-sized sieve) and let this gaget do the hard work of separating the seeds and stems from the fruit. Throw out the debris after each portion has been pressed through the sieve.

(Photo#4)You will get at least 2 cups of very thick rosehip puree. If you are not a fan of jams, freeze the puree in portions (for example in an ice cube tray). Use the frozen portions in your smoothies, to add zing to a gravy, or for a wonderful mousse dessert. If you get more puree because you had more cooking water, it is fine: you will just need to cook the fruit a bit longer to get the jam.

(Photo #5) Now cook the puree with only 1 and 1/4 cups sugar for about 7 minutes, stirring constantly because it is thick. If your puree is more liquid, then you must cook the jam longer and it will get darker. You will know the jam is ready when you drop some in a glass of cold water and it holds together at the bottom of the glass.

Sterilize 2 small re-cycled jam jars (350 gram capacity) by washing them with boiling water and placing them upside down on a clean tea towel to dry. Have them ready before you cook the jam!

(Photo#6)Pour the finished jam in the jars and screw the top on tightly. When they are cooled, you will hear a popping sound as the vacuum inside pulls the lid down. Add a label with the date.

This jam makes a perfect Christmas or birthday present for those health-conscious friends!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Garden Story

There is a row of apartment buildings in Hawkesbury that have only a strip of lawn and a row of honey locust trees in front of them. I asked the property manager whether he would object to my creating some perennial gardens.

He gave permission and I started in May by stripping a 12' by 9' area of the lawn and putting a 5" rubber edging around it to keep the grass out.

In June, I got some help to ram in 2 t-bars to hold up my trellis for the honeysuckle ("Lonicera"). In front of that, I planted a dappled willow ("Salix integra") and, in front of it, three Sedum. Behind the trellis, to one side, I sunk a perforated tin pan with two wild summac saplings. They have to stay in the pan to keep their pesky runners from invading the whole flowerbed. I love their foliage and brilliant crimson leaves in the fall. In the empty spaces, I added some campanula for next spring.

Later, in July, I put in lots of Cana lilies and snapdragons (the garden supply stores were throwing them away!). This project was so much fun that I went ahead and made two more flowerbeds.

Now it is time to say good-bye to my gardens for the season. The Canas have to be dug out and stored in peat moss, the salix cut back and the snapdragons composted. I will leave the sedum: they stay gorgeously maroon in the winter snow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September ATC

The title I gave this month's ATCs is "Starry Nights".

As I was cutting down the poppies in my garden and collecting the seeds from the pods, I noticed how the "lid" on each pod was star-shaped, Interestingly, the number of "rays" on each lid was not the same, even though they all came from the same type of Oriental Poppy. The lids from the Icelandic Poppy are altogether different: much smaller and many more rays.

After all the pods were collected and emptied, I removed the lids and painted them silvery gold. Then I glued them to a piece of ATC-sized black paper and drew a line with a gold jellyroll pen to indicate the horizon and to add some more faraway stars. Finally, the black cards were glued back-to-back with a recycled watercolor painting that I had cut into ATC size pieces. My name, the date and the title were hand-written on the back of the finished ATC.