Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Cleansing Power of Flame

We are now returned from our visit to Mom's, which lasted a little longer than expected. Dave did heaps of pruning, and wheel-barrowed loads and loads of manure from Lady's field to the veg garden, as well as moving loads and loads of compost in the same direction. He also dis-assembled the raised beds; we decided that it was too hard to use them given the amount of soil improvement still required. Besides, Dave couldn't use his rototiller in there with them.

Dave taking latex paint sampleI spent most of my time income working, plus helping somewhat with the yard work. Dave had a bunch of brush to burn, so we spent one day doing that. Then another day was spent searching for the source of some latex paint that poured down from the subdivision uphill from us and into the drainage ditch, straight through Mom's property. That was an exercise in futility.

Mom and I had a girls only trip into Victoria. We investigated a (new to us) sports store for Mom's curling equipment, where she purchased a new pair of curling shoes. Then onto Artworld to stock up on glassine bags for my art. Then we headed over to Winchester Gallery on Royal Oak to view a printmaking show, which was really excellent; lots of styles & techniques represented, from Canadian & international artists, historical and contemporary. We'd been to the Fenwick Lansdowne exhibit there at the end of 2007 which we both immensely enjoyed. For lunch, we decided to try the Italian deli next door, called Ottavio. They have a café beside their deli, specialty foods & bakery, which serves wonderful soup, salads, sandwiches, and a antipasto plate full of delicious deli meats and cheeses, olives and fruit. Mmmmmm! Too bad Dave decided not to come with us, he so missed out!! Off to Costco for stocking up, then we dragged our pooped selves back up the Malahat and collapsed for the evening.

We also made a little excursion up the hill (just off of Thain Road, which is the road that borders one of the sides of Mom's property) to the world's best chocolate, at Organic Fair. Check out their site - you can order online. I recommend the Chiapas if you like chocolate with kick. The bars are thick and rich, and you need about one square (savoured slowly) to satisfy even the strongest chocoholic cravings. They also make a lovely powdered hot chocolate, but beware - it's not the chemical, over sweetened stuff you get from the local store; it's hard core chocolate in a mug. Best made with whole milk or cream, if you can manage! Anyway, we had a very nice visit with the proprietor, who is also the chocolatier, and learned a little about their business. They're very interested in permaculture, and are in the process of setting up woody herbs and perennial food plants, along with an organic veg patch and free range, heritage breed chooks. Here's a little blurb from their website intro:

Organic Fair Inc. is an artisan crafter of exclusively organic, fair trade and biodynamic products. Many of our organic gourmet ingredients are sourced directly from the growers themselves. Our lovingly handmade products, grown by fairly paid farmers, offer tantalizing flavors and fragrances that all of your senses will enjoy.

We are passionately committed to making products that are good for the planet, good for people and good for your tastebuds in the most infinitely pleasurable way. We believe organic and fair trade should be both delicious and gourmet simply because they can be.

We grow many of our raw ingredients on our organic farm in beautiful Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where you can drop by and visit us. From our dark chocolate bars to our spiced coffee and even our lip balm, they are all created right here on our farm. By us, for you.
So if you find yourself on the Island, and needing to have a foodie day, check out Organic Fair, along with other great foodie stops in the Cowichan Valley.

Anyway, we had so much fun burning the brush pile, we decided to finally tackle the, um, rustic sheds that were beside Mom's property. They were built when the property wasn't properly surveyed, and haven't been used in at least a couple of decades. They were smothered in blackberry vines, which, while we certainly enjoy blackberries for winemaking, were infected with some kind of rose-disease, and we didn't want them to harbour it in case it infected our raspberries eventually. Besides, they were so out of control and overgrown, the productivity was very poor, and it was hard to get at what berries were there. So we started by tearing down the doghouse at the end closest to the road, and piling the bits up on top of the blackberries at the other end of the shed line. Burning that was day one. Day two consisted of emptying and knocking down the other sheds. One of them wouldn't budge though; it was working towards falling, but was being pretty securely held in place by an old split rail fence. So we burned it in place. Was that ever a hoot! The flames ROARED! We were careful to keep it under control though; we kept the roof and sides wetted down to cool the fire, but not so much to douse it. Most of the wood in the sheds was cedar, so you can imagine how well (and hot!) they burned. You, too, can enjoy the cleansing power of flame:

There was lots of scrap metal and nails left over after the burn, so a couple of days later we picked over the ash for the bits and took a load to the metal recycler. Unfortunately, that was my downfall. I was stooping rather than squatting, and I then sat and worked on the computer for a few hours (I'd been income working in the evenings), which sealed my fate. I really pooched my lower back. The unfortunate thing is that I can stoop without any trouble and without pain until much later, and of course, squatting is comfortable, I just don't think to do it.

Ghost Cherry TomatoesDeciding that being a lump wasn't good for my back (somewhat erroneously), Dave & I went to Victoria's Seedy Saturday event. The event was quite large, held at the Conference Centre right downtown, with lots of turnout, lots of vendors, and about 10 or so presentations during the day on various aspects of food gardening. We picked up some seed packets (I love the tomatoes from Two Wings Farm, especially their ghost cherry tomatoes, my all time favourite cherry tomatoes: they're translucent pale yellow with a delicate peach-fuzz, and such a beautiful delicate flavour). I picked up a salsa tomato ("Apple of Novi Sad") and a jalapeño pepper for my Aunt Jean's salsa recipe, and a heritage winter squash called "Marina di Chioggia" (Dave read online they're supposed to be delightful barbequed, and is a traditional gnocchi ingredient, as well as a wonderful pie squash) from them, too. We also picked up a couple of sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke) tubers; yes, we know they become a weed, and yes, we understand they're not that palatable, but we wanted them for the perennial sunflower aspect. We're planting sunflowers, sunchokes, cardoon, poppies and hollyhocks in the burn patch, with the hopes that they'll all really like it there. So after a couple of hours of perusing & being jostled aggressively by backpacks and shoulders, my aching back and I decided to take Dave to Ottavio's on Oak Bay. He agreed - fantastic food. This time we also treated ourselves to gelato ... mmm. Mine was lavender (VERY lavender, almost too much for a full scoop) and Dave's was Panettone (which literally was Panettone; he'd been expecting a flavour, but it was actually bread made gelato - kind of a weird combination, but not bad).

So all that running around really knackered me - I spent the next three days in pain, flat on my back, recouperating. We came home Wednesday, delayed by those three days. But we came home to beautiful sunny weather and my first spring bulbs up: snow drops & a patch of gorgeous glowing golden crocus under the pear tree (I'll have to take a shot of that!).

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