Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grettings from My Parking Spot!

Our lease agreement includes access to a parking space.  I don't own a car, so I'm putting the space to better use.  The spot gets great south-facing sun for most of the day so it's perfect for my sun oven and new solar dehydrator.  (More on the solar dryer some other time.)

I wasn't sure I would able to use the sun oven and dryer at the new place, so I'm really happy that this arrangement is working well so far.  Response from the neighbours has all been positive too.

Yesterday my herbal decoction simmered all day, while my homemade fruit and nut bars dried nicely.

I love that I'm reducing electricity use and not adding extra heat to my AC-less apartment!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Greetings from the Allan Gardens Conservatory!

I travelled out of town this weeken to attend the funeral of a dear family friend.  It was a bittersweet celebration of a beautiful soul who left us too early.  The ADG came with me and since we were at the mercy of the bus system,  we dedcided to spend a night in Toronto and play plant nerd tourists for a day.  Our hotel was right across the street from the magnificent Allan Gardens Conservatory, so that was our first stop after breakfast. 

I envisioned this as a kind of whet-your-appetite side trip leading up to the main event of the day, our trip to the Toronto Botanical Gardens.  Instead it turned out to be a real show stopper!  For all you plant plantophiles out there, if you're ever in T.O. this is the place to visit.  The domed palm house is just stunning.

The Toronto Botanical Gardens were quite lovely too, but they just couldn't compete with the dramatic lushness of the Conservatory.  Granted the conservatory is a climate-controlled greenhouse and the botanical gardens are all outdoors and struggling in this hot, dry summer.  I did enjoy the Herb Garden with its healing plants and the Nature's Garden.   The main building also houses a wonderful library .

Access to both these locations is free (the TBG appreciates donations) and I think they make great options for a frugal staycation.

Unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera on the trip, so I don't have photographic evidence of all the gorgeous plant life I saw.  Guess I'll just have to go back and visit these places again! 

Image Source

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Greetings from the Fletcher Wildlife Garden!

One evening a week, most weeks, I volunteer at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden.  This shot was taken a few steps away from the Butterfly Meadow  where our crew is working hard planting many native species and nectaries, weeding out invasives like DSV and making sure newly planted sections are getting enough water in this drought.  I have to come to really enjoy and look forward to these few hours each week of physical labour, getting to know the fellow volunteers and checking in on the plants that I put in the ground, to make sure they are thriving.  I love to hear the excited gasp of someone who discovers a caterpillar on a milkweed plant, or when someone can identify a bird by its song alone.  I love the time I get to spend with the plants, working with them and observing them.  And I love the end of the evening, when we pack up our tools as the sun is setting and I walk out of the garden back to my bike, tired but feeling content, peaceful and grateful to be a small part of an important project.

If you want to follow the goings on at the garden, check out their blog and photo blog.  It's a real treasure in the heart of the city!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Greetings from my Kitchen Counter!

Switchel- "A pleasant and wholesome liquor"
"Ma had sent them ginger-water. She had sweetened the cool well-water with sugar, flavored it with vinegar, and put in plenty of ginger to warm their stomachs so they could drink till they were not thirsty. Ginger-water would not make them sick, as plain cold water would when they were so hot."  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter

This has become my new favourite treat of the summer.  Switchel is an old-timey beverage traditionally made with molasses, ginger and cider vinegar mixed water.  Yes, you read that right.  Vinegar.  Also, known as 'haymaker's punch', it was thought to be a healthful, restorative drink especially for field labourers working all day under the hot summer sun in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Check out this article, for an excellent history of the drink and how it came to be.  There's a recipe too.

My 21st century version goes like this: 

I mix some powdered ginger with a finger or two of local maple syrup or honey.  Then I add a finger or two of one of my many herb infused vinegars.  Pictured above is my dandelion flower infused apple cider vinegar.  I've also made it with my mugwort vinegar and nettle vinegar.  I think my violet flower infused vinegar will be lovely too and plan to try that next!  Oh, and my lemon balm vinegar too!  Don't use white vinegar, ACV is best. To this mix I add a sparkling mineral water from Quebec.  I taste a little and adjust the vinegar to sweet ratio as needed.  I'm not a huge fan of super cold drinks so I may or may not add ice.  And that's it!

I know the addition of vinegar probably makes the whole thing sound highly suspect, and it might not be to everyone's taste, but I am seriously addicted to this drink.  It's sweet and tart and refreshing and I find it a wonderful alternative to soda and juice.  On the really hot days, especially after I've been working in the garden or out wildcrafting, I crave this drink and get excited about going home and making me some switchel!