Villandry and Gardens to be Jealous of…

Hard to believe but the Chateau of Villandry was once up for demolition.  Fortunately Joachim Carvallo and his wife Ann Coleman, a Spaniard and an American, bought it in 1906.  Pretty remarkable that they took this on but take it on they did.  They refurbished the buildings and uncovered and brought back to life the gardens.  And what an amazing place it is.

Villandry 3 2015

So of course it was a must on our list.  It was well worth the trip.  They have acres of formal gardens, both vegetable and flowers.  I can’t lie, I’m envious of how well their veg patch is doing given theirs seems to be surviving without rabbit damage.  Unlike ours!

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The formal part of the garden “spells” out tender love, passionate love, fickle love, and tragic love.

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I do wonder how the family, who still lives there, find ways to enjoy the gardens.  I would find it difficult to have to stay out of sight until the masses have left.  But it would be a wonderful place to stroll with a glass of wine.  There are lovely spots to find whether it be the stone watchdog or the graceful swan swimming by.

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But my favourite spot was the sun garden.  I much prefer the gardens that follow the English cottage garden, rather than formal, straight, and narrow gardens.  Letting the flowers and plants do what they are meant to do naturally.

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One thing I really enjoyed while in France was the wonderful food you can get at the tourist stops.  At Villandry they had a restaurant that used the veg from the kitchen gardens.  I had a smoked duck fillet salad with roasted pine nuts and a violet vinaigrette for a dressing.

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It was delicious.  It was such a great day with the kids.  We created so many good memories on this trip that will last a lifetime.

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Time to Start Enjoying the Bounty of the Garden…

We were lucky to have a good friend take care of our gardens with her kids. She even sent pictures to us! I got a kick out of that. 😄

Despite seeing the photos it was surprising how well some of the plants were doing. The tomato plants and pepper plants struggled a bit when we planted them. The pepper plants didn’t seem to like the Epsom salts at first. What difference a few weeks make! The peppers are thriving and the tomato plants shot up big and strong and we will have a bigger harvest this year than last.

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I love how tomatillos look like lanterns whilst they are growing.

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I never appreciated how beautiful the flowers of vegetables can be until we seriously started growing them. Green beans have one of my favourites.

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Our son helped make a delicious black currant, gooseberry, and apple crumble. So good! Our little bushes are bursting this year much to my husband’s delight, he loves the tartness of these berries.

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Our flower garden survived the huge hacking we did to reclaim the garden. It seems counterintuitive to do that but the proof is in the pudding. The garden is happy and thriving sharing a beautiful bouquet of blooms.

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It’s turning into a great year. 😊

Walkabout As My Veg Grows

I get so excited when our garden comes alive and the blooms burst forth.  There is satisfaction to see the veg we plant flourish, especially the seeds we plant as there is always some breath holding until they poke up through the soil.  For the most part our garden is doing well.  The only issue is our tomatoes went into a bit of a shock because even though I kept an eye out on the nightly temps in the weather reports, the reports were wrong and it got much colder than it was supposed to.  It looks like most of them will recover as I really prepped the soil with nutrients but I will have to switch out some with the leftover plants we still have in the greenhouse.  It is hard not to worry over them like a mother hen.

Walk with me through our garden…

Garden 1 2014

Our black beans are half an experiment this year as half of the beans that we planted were from beans we harvested.  So far so good!

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Good old Brussels Sprouts.  Once these are ready to harvest I have a few recipes to try for my husband.

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I always look forward to the pea flowers.  So delicate.

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I was beginning to wonder when the potatoes were going to poke through but they finally did and they are growing strong.  We just picked one kind this year and gave each bit more space to see if we get a bigger harvest.

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These did very well this year.  Usually we lose about half of the seedlings but fingers crossed most will keep going.  Which will be great for our homemade stock.

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I think something has been nibbling the tips of our onions as there are quite a few that are suspiciously flat topped.  I’ll have to keep an eye on them.  Haven’t seen any telltale footprints though.

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This flower is so aptly named.  Jumps up everywhere but it is pretty and edible so I let it.

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We find the strawberry plants everywhere and we dig them up and put them back in the strawberry patch.  A bit like herding cats…

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I think these are ready to start cutting and make some crumble or tarts.  Which will make our son very happy.

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The weather needs to clear as we have a boatload more pepper plants to get into the ground.

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Life is good.  🙂

 

 

A Feast for the Eyes – La Boqueria

Was there ever a point in your childhood when you were let loose in a candy store?  You were overwhelmed and couldn’t believe all the treats swimming before your eyes?  Not knowing which way to look and didn’t want to miss anything.  This is exactly how I felt when we entered the La Boqueria in Barcelona.

This place is insanely fabulous.  It was lively, bustling, ingredients everywhere, I mean you need it just look and you’ll find it.  All fresh food waiting to be taken home.  The hard part was it was look but don’t touch for us as our kitchen was over 3000 miles away.  I felt so inspired and could have just started cooking right there.

La Boqueria has roots going back centuries.  It began around 1217 as a meat market and just stuck around for centuries until the early 1800’s when it was finally recognised as a legal market.  It “officially” opened in 1840.  We heard a few people mention the market and just said it was a place to check out.  As we like food off we went.  So glad we did!

I took several photos as we went round and I wanted to share them with you.

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We have nothing like this where we are.  Maybe that’s a good thing in that you’d never get me to leave but on the other hand to have all these ingredients near by would be wonderful.  The things I would be able to cook!

As the days get shorter….

When autumn arrives it is so striking how quickly night falls.  I wish we could hold onto the longer days with the cooler crisp weather.  Instead it is time to start saying goodbye to the garden and get it ready for winter.  We were lucky this past weekend, the weather was absolutely perfect.  We had a number of tasks to complete but it makes it easier with the warmth of the sun.

We needed to clear out the tomato beds.  Given the blight that is prevalent in the area we can’t compost the plants.  It seems like such a waste but we have to bag them and bring them to the dump.  Each year we get some but we’re getting better at combating the blight.

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Those tomato cages can be quite flimsy and bend easily but man some of them did not want to come out of the ground.  I was hauling off on them like I was trying to pull up a tree root!

We did one round of peas this year but a few strays tried to give it another go in the bed.   If your season is mild enough you can get two harvests but by the time the plants grow large enough our winter gives them what for and we don’t have much luck.

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As we had already harvested the black beans we had the kids clear out the bed.  Except the one lone kale.  Have no idea where that came from!  That bed has never had kale planted in it.  But up it grew anyway.

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The butterfly weed is going to seed.  Wonder where it will pop up next year.  I generally let it spread as it has such a pretty orange bloom.

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Our hops are taking over their little area.  We really need to transplant them to the back corner of our garden and let it just go crazy.  The poor trellis is crying uncle at this point.

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I’m convinced the pepper plants don’t realise it’s autumn!  They are still going strong.  I’ll have to cart a bunch to the community kitchen as our freezer is quite full and there is only a little space for some frozen peppers.  The leaves aren’t as green but there is a bounty of hot peppers.

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It will soon be the Brussels Sprouts turn to shine.  All they need is a good frost.  Though this is the only plant that produced decent sized sprouts.  The other 4 grew pea sized ones.  Usually they do so well.

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It’s time for our bushes to turn colour.  I love the red that the blueberry bushes turn.  So vibrant.  Hopefully they will have a good slumber over the winter so they can give us more than a handful of blueberries that we got this year.

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It was just lovely being outside in the garden without melting in the heat and humidity.  Wish we could slow this time of year down.

Love our Farmer’s Market…

The weather this weekend was glorious, absolutely perfect.  When it’s like this we love to start our weekend by taking the dogs downtown, eat our breakfast outside while people watching, and then heading over to our farmer’s market.  There is a booth that always has dog biscuits and water.  Let’s just say all the dogs that come know where to go.  Those of us on the other end of the leash get pulled along!  It’s this time of year that the market really comes into its own.  Tables start to groan with all the veg.  It is so beautiful with the range of colours.  Usually my husband will hold the dogs at one end while I make my rounds so I took some pictures this time as I worked my way through.

I love it as most booths use organic methods and are small local farms.  One farm has been off the grid since 1979!  I also found out they only cultivate 1 out of 45 acres which surprised me as they sell a ton of food.

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We also were able to get into the garden and harvest a ton of tomatoes.  We planted 51 plants this year so I will be making a lot of sauce when it gets cooler.  This is perhaps a third of what is growing currently.  Of course I’ve been eating them off the vine as well.  🙂

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Bacon Dressing and the Revolutionary War

Are you a loyalist or a patriot?  We were asked that when we went to the kids camp for lunch.  Little did he know!  My husband said pacifist but apparently back then if you said that people just assumed you were a loyalist and were treated with suspicion.  Now my husband doesn’t have any American history in his family but I do.  My mum is American and people have been coming over nearly every generation in this family since the early 1600’s.  Including me.  So it makes for an interesting genealogy.  There was a good number of my family that had to high tail it to Canada as they were loyalists.  They came back down about fifty years later.   You know, when it was safe.  🙂

Not sure if the gentleman playing the father of the camp noticed my Union Jack on the back of my phone!  But we were served anyway.  Lucky us as the kids did an amazing job.  They made blueberry jam, butter, cornbread, pickles and soup.  The soup was tasty but a bit much on a very hot day.  So I was wilting a bit at the end.  Loved the butter and the jam.  So yummy.  We were impressed with everything they did.  And it was hard work keeping the fires going so they could boil the water and keep the tavern guests fed.

After a hot lunch it seemed like a good idea to do a cool dinner.  I had some bacon to finish up.  I know, tough problem to have.  🙂  But didn’t want it to go to waste.  I thought I would have a go at some bacon dressing.  Once I started cooking the bacon the dogs got very focused on what I was doing.  Boy were they optimistic!

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To make the dressing I scraped the bacon fat into a bowl and added some olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.   I think I put a bit too much vinegar in.  It was tasty but either less vinegar or more bacon drippings.  Which would mean cooking more bacon.  But it had a brightness to it that went well with the salad.

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The genius of salad is you can tailor it to the individual taste.  My husband likes beets and onion on his and he’s not a fan of blue cheese.  So for his I added some jarlsberg.  I love blue cheese and bacon together.  A great combo.

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Very filling on a hot day and I just love all the fresh flavours of the veg.