Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Spring Fever

Posted by Lee McKenzie and Janice Carter

Too much rain and flooding in southern Ontario and colder-than-average temperatures on Vancouver Island have delayed gardening season this year. With springtime finally strutting her stuff, Lee and Janice are anxious to get outdoors and get their hands dirty.

Lee:
I live on Canada’s beautiful west coast where it seldom snows and things stay green all year, so I always feel a little guilty when I complain about the weather. But the cool temperatures and grey skies we’ve had this spring have caused a lot of grumbling among the island’s avid gardeners. Recently, our (im)patience has finally been rewarded with blue skies and warm weather.

Strawberries were one of the first things I planted. Handy Man built this raised bed for me, and this will be the first year we’ve had them in our garden. We’ve also planted rhubarb, so I foresee some yummy pies and fruit crisps later this summer.

Lee’s raised strawberry bed
Janice, I know you’ve had some “interesting” weather as well. What’s happening in your part of the country?

Janice:
“Interesting” is an understatement, Lee. According to the weather pundits, southern Ontario had more rain in April than the entire year before. Well, that may be arguable, but we Canadians do like to tell our weather stories, don’t we? The unusual rainfall sated the rivers, creeks and streams flowing into the Great Lakes which fed into Lake Ontario. Our cottage on Garden Island is situated at the junction of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and this narrowing caused a lot of flooding. Normally we arrive on the island in early May to plant our veggie gardens but this year, we were unable to reach the island due to this.

Flooding on Garden Island
Those barrels in the photo are holding down the remnants of docks that haven`t (yet) floated away. Fortunately some repair had enabled us to access portions of the dock and we finally got started on our gardens.

Lee:
Omigosh, Janice! The old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” has never been truer. We should never underestimate the power of Mother Nature, should we? So glad to hear your gardens are high and dry again, but I hope there wasn’t too much property damage.

On my side of the country, we’ve been lucky enough to hold onto some of last year’s crops, like this flowering kale.

Last summer’s kale flowering in Lee’s garden
It’s hardy enough to withstand cool west coast winter weather, even a little snow from time to time, and I get to harvest it year round. It flowers in the springtime, and bees—those friendly pollinators—love it! It will soon be replaced with new starts, and I have to say I’ll be a little sad to see the end of all those sunny yellow flowers. We also grow bush beans, beets, potatoes (red and fingerling), tomatoes, onions, peppers, and a variety of lettuces and herbs. I also scatter tomato plants throughout flower beds that get lots of sunshine.

What do you plant in your veggie garden, Janice?

Janice:
We plant the usual kitchen garden veggies too, and I keep my herbs in pots on the cottage deck for easy access. The main garden is in the meadow in the center of the island. As you can see, it`s still a work in progress.

Janice’s garden on Garden Island
Every year we try something new. One of our recent discoveries was tomatillos, which flourished to the point of taking over the whole garden. But roasted, they made great salsa verde and sauce for Las Carnitas, Mexican-style pulled pork. Another year we had poblano peppers. We also like eggplants, though they can be finicky. But full disclosure here, Lee. I`m not the gardener in the family—my husband is and he`s always finding new and exotic plants like haskap berries that produce a blueberry-type fruit. In spite of the late start, I`ve no doubt we`ll have some kind of garden this year.

My sister-in-law, though, not so much. Her garden was a tad too close to the shoreline and I doubt she`ll be able to resurrect it.

A “lakeside” garden
On a final note, we`re still enjoying the daffodils in the meadow—all planted by same Type A husband!

Daffodils in the meadow...a sure sign of spring!
Say, I don`t suppose you`d send along a recipe for that strawberry-rhubarb crumble.

Lee:
I’m happy to share! Scroll down for the recipe for my favorite fruit crisp.

I love your meadow garden, Janice, and especially the daffodils that appear to be growing wild. Sad to see your sister-in-law’s garden, though. That would definitely bring on a bout of spring fever.

My garden is a little more structured than yours, Janice. I love to collect vintage garden ornaments to tuck in odd corners and amongst the plants. The latest addition is this quirky concrete gnome. It might not be easy to see, but he’s feeding a little bird he’s holding in one hand.

Happiness is a vintage garden gnome
And the focal point of our garden is the folly that Handy Man built about eight years ago. We wanted a shady area to sit and entertain, so he designed this based on a photo I had seen in a magazine.

Lee's folly
Janice, I would love to invite you for tea, along with our fellow Heartwarming authors and our wonderful readers. Since that's not possible, I'll share my fruit crisp recipe with all of you.
Lavender-Flavored Fruit Crisp

3 cups blueberries
1 cup cranberries
1/2 to 1 teaspoon food-grade lavender
3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or chopped cashews, thinly sliced almonds, etc.)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the blueberries, cranberries, lavender and sugar, and pour the mixture into a lightly buttered 8-inch-square ovenproof pan.

To make the topping, combine the oatmeal, flour, brown sugar and nuts. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the oatmeal-flour mixture.

Sprinkle the topping in an even layer over the fruit.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until filling is bubbly. Cool slightly and serve warm.

Lee’s note: Blueberries and cranberries are chockablock with antioxidants, but any combination of fruit—strawberries and rhubarb or raspberries, blackberries and peaches—is delicious.
Happy reading, everyone! And happy gardening!

Until next time,
Janice and Lee

Janice Carter
@JaniceGCarter
For Love of a Dog
Harlequin Heartwarming, September 2017








Lee McKenzie
www.LeeMcKenzie.com
His Best Friend's Wife
Harlequin Heartwarming, January 2017

28 comments:

  1. I loved all of your photos, ladies. Here in Charlotte, we went from winter to summer. I'm missing spring this year.

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    1. I love spring too, Jill, and although we Canadians tend to complain about weather (or maybe I should say, the ones I know!) I too would miss spring, in spite of its ups and downs. Spring in Charlotte - now that would be special!

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    2. Jill, I wouldn't have guessed that Charlotte had much of a winter, but I've never been there. Some day, I hope to change that. For the most part, I thoroughly enjoy the west coast's temperate climate of never (usually) being too cold in winter or too hot in summer.

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  2. Thank you for sharing the pictures of your gardens, ladies. Janice, I'm glad that your cottage wasn't damaged by flooding. Lee, thanks for sharing the recipe!

    I couldn't help but notice that both your books have dogs on the cover (and in Janice's case, in the title, too!). Those are my kind of books!

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    1. Fortunately none of the cottages were affected by the high water, Kate. And yes, dogs are pretty special, aren't they? :)

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    2. Kate, in case you decide to the recipe, the lavender adds an almost indiscernible something special, but it works almost as well without it.

      All of my books have animals of some kind. This book also has a geriatric golden and a small flock of chickens.

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  3. Oh wow...that folly is gorgeous! I would love to take my laptop and a big pitcher of iced tea in there and do some writing. Just beautiful. Love the pictures and recipe, Janice and Lee. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. I think we should try to take Lee up on her offer, Stephanie, don't you? And yes, that folly could set the creative juices flowing.

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    2. The folly is a special place, Stephanie. Great for entertaining, for writing, for dinner a deux, for solo sitting and pondering the universe. I love to sit there in the evening with a few candles lit and dusk settling in, and it's every bit as cozy with morning coffee and birdsong.

      Many people expect it to have glass windows, but it's completely open except for the cedars we planted behind the back wall. Glass would turn it into a greenhouse ;)

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  4. I'm certainly up for tea in Lee's folly. Love the strawberry and vegetable beds. Good job!

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    1. I look forward to this summer's harvest from that strawberry bed, T.R. It's super easy to water and all of the plants are easy to reach. I'm happy I found the design, and even happier that Handy Man built it for me :)

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  5. Janice, we had some record-breaking rainfall here in the Pacific Northwest this winter, too. So much mess and destruction. And we're not exactly strangers to the rain here. Your gardens sound lovely, Ladies! I'll be there for tea, too. Especially if Lee is serving some of the fruit crisp.

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  6. Carol, where in the Pacific NW are you? Victoria had more snow this winter than usual, but we're also protected by the rain shadow created by Washington's beautiful Olympic Mountains. Which means, typically, less rainfall than Vancouver and Seattle, and temperatures a few degrees warmer. One of the reasons for the city's many gorgeous public gardens.

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  7. In our 35 years of coming to the island, we've never seen the water this high so hoping it's a once in a lifetime thing, Carol. Our garden will definitely be well behind Lee's but we're hoping for some harvest! On the upside, lots of blossoms on the pear and apple trees so there should be lots to pick this year.

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  8. I am gushing over the folly, the vintage gnome and the strawberry bed. Hmm. Road trip up to your neck of the woods? I'll bring tea, but nothing can top that fruit crisp. I think I'd have to order the Lavender on line, though.
    I Loved, Loved, His Best Friend's Wife and can't wait to read For the Love of a Dog. I'm right there with Kate, if I'm not writing about dogs in my books, then I have to read about them.

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    1. You're on, Catherine! The folly is open and the kettle is on!

      You might find lavender in a health food store or a higher-end bulk food store. I also grow it in my front garden because bees love it but the deer won't touch it!

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  9. I am so jealous of your fabulous gardens. My strawberry plants have yet to produce a strawberry. I'm getting a little concerned about them, but my asparagus is doing great. And Janice, you're speaking my language when you talk about tomatillos, salsa, carnitas and peppers. I live right off of the Salsa Trail and we have some of the best salsa and Mexican food you can imagine!

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    1. Okay, now my mouth is watering. I've never met a salsa I didn't love! about half of my strawberries are flowering already, so I have high hopes!

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    2. LeAnne, you're so right about the Mexican food and condiments! I guess it's a blessing that that The tomatillos are so bountiful as I can freeze the salsa for us to enjoy all winter. We tried strawberries one year but the chipmunks kept beating us to them.

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  10. Beautiful photographs and thanks for that recipe. Your gardening talk made me think that our farmers' markets will be opening soon. One of my favorite things to do in summer is to wander around the one held in the evening--music and wine and all kinds of tents to go along with the produce. Enjoy your gorgeous scenery!

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    1. I love farmers' markets, Virginia! We have several around town. Wonderful places for picking up fresh and mostly organic produce, unique handmade arts and crafts, etc. One of my favorites that's held on a weekday evening has at least half a dozen food trucks and a beer garden serving locally-brewed craft beers.

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    2. Living in a big city makes one appreciate Farmers Markets so much, Virginia. We have a local one once a week and everyone is there from 3-7 p.m., eating to go suppers, listening to local musicians, sampling homegrown and also, trucked-in produce along with baked goods! Spending most of the summer at the cottage is my consolation for missing that market. And yes, thank you, we will enjoy the scenery, even the high water. :)

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  11. I also enjoy what people define as a garden. I grew up where my mother's garden produced all the vegetables we ever ate. She grew 1200 pounds of tomatoes (no, I have the correct number of '0's) per year and enough potatoes to last until the new ones came in. My garden is my perennial bed out front. No veggies. Lovely photos, ladies. Very illustrative.

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    1. M.K., thank you for sharing this. 1200 pounds of tomatoes. All I can say is, wow! When I was growing up, we grew our own potatoes and kept them in a root cellar. My mother and grandmother would spend days making jams and jellies, and canning all sorts of fruits and vegetables and (one of my favorites) dill pickles!

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  12. Love your gardens, ladies! And I've never eaten rhubarb pie.

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    1. Oh, Patricia. I can't imagine life without rhubarb pie and vanilla ice cream. Must confess, though, that I love rhubarb even more when it's blended with fruits like strawberries or apples.

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  14. Lee and Janice, I'm late to pop over but, as a fellow gardener, I loved this post! Loved all the pics too and feel bad about that terrible flooding. I planted dinosaur kale this year and can't wait to see how big it gets. I haven't tried this variety before.

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