Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fresh Garden Salsa

from our garden
27 September 2011
Today's harvest. I think I'm making some salsa tonight! 

I'm making things up as I go, using standard salsa ingredients:

8 tomatoes, coarsely chopped 
2 jalapeño, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced 
4 green onions, finely chopped 
2 capsicum (any colour), finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 white onion, finely chopped

I might add some red onion also, and more garlic to taste. We have some nice looking orange capsicum in the fridge, which I'll add - and whatever else of interest I might find in there. Results to follow....

Thursday, September 22, 2011

photo album

our garden 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dear Garden

I've really let you go wild since we returned from Australia..., this happens; we'll get back on track soon. We left you right when you were giving us your best, it wasn't fair to any of us.
I haven't been well,
I know you understand,
and this is why you've been entertaining me with your unrestrained beds bubbling over with yellow tomatoes and bumble bees. I've photographed your best sides this year - we'll just leave the mess to the memory.

You've always look nice (to me anyway), and I can see the progress we've made this summer. You'll be back in spring - fresh. Besides, some of your plants were meant to be left alone this year, like your  foxgloves: I wanted them to seed themselves in your new soil along the side of the house, ...and they are. The Clematis too, they need time to adjust to you, and you to them.

You have survived the drought of 2011: both by mother nature and myself, my neglect. Sure enough though, the autumn rains have come and all your damp loving shady perennials out there are soaking it all up. They'll be fine.
Thank you for the rudbeckia show, a September favourite, never failing. They're beautiful (and the last of your blooms).

Your autumn preparations are underway, vegetables out, daffodils in. I'm already excited to see you next spring.

Yours truly,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

ramblings on recreational trails

Along the McIntyre on my way to work
with flowers for my desk.
The other day R and I were driving down east John Street, we had just past the Junot lights and were travelling along side the shared bike lane. R made the comment that he rarely sees cyclists using that lane, continuing our on-going conversation that follows all the letters to the editor in the Chronicle lately.
We're both in favour of the bike lanes, but regularly - as with all things - discuss all angles (which is one the many things I love about us). In this case, along John Street, I can see why he wondered about users - they are a little scarce, and I know why.
First, what the shared lane there does is give people the choice: to either follow the straight forward commuter route, or connect to the recreational trail. Personally, the decision is simple: recreational trail. As I explained to R,

 "The reason you don't see as many riders using the shared lane here is because anyone who really rides in this city is in behind there (pointing beyond the houses south of John) riding along one of the best stretches of recreational trail in the city."

It rolls like a coaster along the McIntyre river bends. It's a quick trip, a fun one - there's no better way to begin your day. That was my route to work...., *fond memories* ...sigh.
If you've got wheels under your seat, (or under your feet), this trail is the one to ride. It would be a beautiful walk, but I haven't walked it since 8th grade at EQ - and people are all over it with dogs and children, so you have to be aware. That's what bike bells are for.
faces along the trail
April 2011
I stop for photos along this stretch of trail often..., sometimes I ride it back and forth a few times, then stop to take photos... . There's the river, the sunshine through the trees, bends in the path and wildflowers, but what I search for with my lens are the faces. The faces have been there for years - for as long as I've taken this path. I've never seen the person who draws them despite being there are all times of day, at all times of year. They reappear after rainstorms wash them away, and are in predictable locations, but are still each different every time - as faces are.

I remember feeling heartbroken when I learned the city was moving the trail that follows McVicar Creek behind the 55+ Centre on River Street. They were cutting down trees. Thankfully I attended the Streamwalk, and heard all about the rehabilitation and conservation that has actually gone into the project - and though a few of my favourite trees are now gone, most remain, like this group standing a little too close to the old trail:
Along McVicar Creek
They're still accessible as the old trail has been adopted as a detour, smaller and hidden in the new plants protecting our pretty urban stream. The new recreational trail still has a charming flow, curving with the creek, with new trail-side trees that will someday, hopefully, stand too close to the trail.

Impressed on my memory are my morning trips down this path. I didn't have a camera back then, but took the time to take it all in, remember it, appreciate it. I knew life would change and I wouldn't always take that route, it was inevitable. I did well though because it's all still there, even the sounds of the songbirds and the way the sun - when still low on the Giant's horizon - would dapple through the trees. I don't even have to close my eyes.
Evenings too are beautiful along this trail, but my memories of evenings aren't just of returning from work; rather all the evenings spent with Hannah when she was young, learning to ride her bike, and inline skating for the first time.

Back then I lived in a location that allowed me to take the recreational trails to work in less time than it took me to drive. I'd ride most of the way with my feet up, with my camera around my neck and a coffee in my hand; I’d arrive relaxed and refreshed.
between the university and college
along the McIntyre
There’s no road rage on the recreational trails in Thunder Bay. People say good morning, smile, comment on the beautiful day, on the falling rain. Or snow, and when it does snow I’ve always found that the trails are cleared before the streets are, not to mention clean with fresh snow on the trees around. Who doesn’t love fresh snow on trees?

It’s just a really nice way to travel around this city. From Current River to Westfort the recreational trails connect to commuter routes, and in many areas weave through residential streets connecting them to commercial areas, the hospital, and the university.
to McIntyre Centre
along the McIntyre
In recent years the city has been stalling information signs: some about the urban streams, other about wildlife - birds in particular - that can be seen along the way. The people do that too, I've found. Not only are good mornings and comments on the weather welcome, but people seem to strike up conversations about things they've spotted along the path. Maybe it's because I've always got my camera in my hand, and they think I'm out hunting for the perfect shot (which I always am)..., I just think it's nice that people take the time to stop.
Drivers are always in too much of a rush, and the only talking your generally hear on a Thunder Bay street is that of jeering at jerk drivers who don't know how to use a turning signal. I find that stressful, even in little doses. Little does of these recreational trails can take away that stress. 

I'm trying to come up with a short 300 words to use to describe the recreational trails for The Walleye and find myself stumped. I could go on forever about so many little things - things that mean something to me, that I love about so many places along the way. Where do I begin? Where do I end? Pick up a map, throw a dart at it and ride there by trail? Go for a walk in your backyard..., because there's probably a trail nearby...?
...they make my heart go boom, boom, boom?

 ..and on that note I'm going to take a break.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Mushroom Hike at Hazelwood

atop a highest hill
near Hazelwood
11 September 2011
It's been a hot, dry summer here in Thunder Bay, which aren't exactly ideal conditions for fungi to produce their fruiting bodies, but that didn't stop a few mushrooms from appearing for the Mushroom Hike at Hazelwood Lake on the weekend. Hosted by the Lakehead Conservation Authority, and guided by Dr. Leonard Hutchinson from Lakehead University, R and I were among many others in attendance for the first hike of the day.
When I was talking with my mother earlier, making arrangements with her to take Hannah to hockey so that R and I could attend the hike I sent her into a panic with the word "mushroom", which might have been a little over the top, but understandable if you've known someone who has had a severe reaction to eating the wrong mushroom (which she has), or if you've had a severe reaction to eating anything (which I have).
I've never eaten the wrong mushroom though, and I have no intentions to go out picking any to eat anyway - which I reassured her with. I only want to take pictures of them, not eat them. For now I'll leave it to the grocers and farmers to find me my mushrooms. I'm just not that brave or confident with my identification skills (yet).

Dr. Hutchinson had some great suggestions for identification, including having at hand a good guide book. I do have one - the very one he had with him - somewhere around here..., and once I find it I will bring it with me for our next mushroom hike..., after a good rain.

We didn't make it too far down the trail before R and I had to turn back - he had a flight to catch, and I had a hill to climb. While we were there I did manage to find a few fungi to photograph. It was difficult to get too close to Dr. Hutchinson (the group was a little too large in my opinion), and at first I was really enjoying listening to him. He spoke about the different types of mushrooms, how to identify them by spores, and which grow under particular tree species: basically a how to on hunting mushrooms using the forest around you. I'll remember that when we're at the tree farm (one of my favourite mushroom hunting grounds).
What became rather unfortunate early on were people scattering through the forest picking mushrooms and running back to the professor on the path. Rather than leaving the mushrooms where they were growing - making that connection between species and forest, the majority of the group were crowding Dr. Hutchinson on the path making it difficult to both listen and look. Patience ... why is it so difficult?
We waited for the professor by a pair that R found, and had to protect twice (once unsuccessfully) by an eager picker, but had to give up and leave before the Subaru turned into a pumpkin - our time was up, and it was clear the swarm around Dr. H wasn't going to going to allow him to move freely down the trail.
Our time was up, but I was happy with what I got, both in pictures and in the little extra bit of confidence I now have in identifying mushrooms. Dr. Hutchinson made it seem much less daunting, and hopefully I'll be able to label all my photos properly. Though my mushroom hunting will still be motivated by my camera in the forest, at least when I'm filling paper bags at the market I'll have a better idea as to where my mushrooms grew.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dear Garden Diary

We've been eating a lot of tomatoes.
R's been experimenting with homemade ketchup recipes,
which become experimental barbecue sauce recipes, for testing on our guests invited to Porkfest(s).
I've got salsa plans for the next abundant harvest; and, you know, nothing says welcome home like having our favourite tomato, basil, and feta salad fresh from our backyard since we've returned from Australia.
Garden, you've been tomatolicious this year.

Three weeks ago I saw my first Aussie bees.
lavender, Barbara's garden
Mildura, Victoria
Yesterday, R saw his first hummingbird.
It was beautiful as it hummed in and out of the blooms below us.
We had been standing on the back balcony, enjoying
(and sharing with the dogs)
some beans that have climbed to balcony floor.
(Any stalks that dared to go beyond that has been chewed loose by a dog.)
We were discussing the garden,
and its future plans,
when the hummingbird flew in to enjoy some scarlet runner blooms and thriving nasturtiums.
semi-double blossom
Mounding Nasturtiums
 As wonderful as it was to see, I felt a little sad for the little bird - because of what he could have enjoyed. Leaving the garden at high season makes keeping on top of things very difficult. There were a few Nicotiana blooms left, which he did find, but I know what he could have had - a hummingbird version of Porkfest. Without deadheading and feeding, most of the potted plants are overgrown and exhausted. It was a hot dry summer, and new plants suffered a little stress. There should be so much more still blooming.

I'll take what I can get though, especially the Nasturtiums. They've rambled their way under and through R's newly constructed back deck and make me smile.
The nasturtiums pop up everywhere in the garden, and make up a great deal of the jungle. The heaping, heavy tomato plants make up the rest. Peas went to the dogs, and apparently carrots now too...
Clifford enjoys a carrot.
The tomatoes remain ours, so far safe from the four legged family members.

As for the garden's future plans: they mostly involve finding new and better ways to separate human space and gardens from dogs. The dogs require space, and deserve some places of their own to run and play outside. The dogs need grass, and more than our downtown yard provides - well, the yard space would be plenty for the dogs if it weren't taken up by so much garden. We can't share it, and have to reclaim some clean human grass.
Strangely, our plans are to create even more garden space. There will be less human grass space, which will be fine: I just want some place to sit in clean grass, and smell my garden, not the dogs. Garden photography has been a precarious activity this summer, as the dogs have had free roam while the dog run is under construction (holding all the soil we had delivered in the early summer).
In the end, a new fence and a new construction project for R - and possibly some new tools. A sod cutter will be brought in to remove what's there, new soil will be added, the garden beds will be created and treated, composted and lasagna(ed) for the winter, and will be full of tomatoes, peppers, and rambling zucchini next year.
To make way for a much longed for wood fired pizza and bread oven, the Caragana will move to the new garden gate, and face the clean human grass. To make way for the garden gate the Potentilla and oat grass will be removed. Another garden gate and small fence will close off the side of the house and protect the side garden, currently full of blooming foxgloves.
The dogs will have a full grassy area within the dog run, and while we all love the basketball court it is sadly under-used - the dogs need that space more than we do right now. They'll also have free run of the newly named "dog forest" which will be lighter on junipers, allowing for great for leaping and dodging dogs. R also wants to widen the path to the dog run by moving all the rocks that line the dog forest back toward the fence. I think he's crazy, but will stand by my man.