Our last days in Quebec were spent at Forillon National Park, where we enjoyed views along the Atlantic and hiked the Les Graves trail out to the Cap Gaspe lighthouse. We were joined by a friendly porcupine and an inquisitive moose. We absolutely positively did not hear bears in the brush. We missed seeing the coastal drive west along the St. Lawrence river in daytime but we did end the trip with one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in my life.
The drive from Gaspesie National Park to the Gaspé peninsula and the Percé rock was absolutely stunning. Every bend in the road revealed the glory of fall in all its splendour - yellows, oranges, reds and greens.
We arrived in Gaspé in the late afternoon and after checking into our hotel headed to town for dinner and to view the famous Percé rock with its large natural arch. Early the next morning, only two of us managed to roll out of our warm, comfortable beds to head out in the misty drizzle to see the sun rise over the Atlantic. Unfortunately, we missed the sun as it peeked out for a handful of seconds as it rose over the horizon but we soaked up the quiet, gray atmosphere as we explored to peninsula - together, alone - while the rest of the town slept.
During our trip to Florida, we went on the hunt for alligators and found one at the Wakodahatchee wetlands. Can I just say that the dark, still waters and forests dripping in Spanish moss are a bit scary? I mean, who knows what is lurking beneath those lily pads and high up in the trees. Be that as it may, it was still gorgeous and so much fun to explore.
Florida was a pleasant surprise! I’d never really thought about traveling there - it was never on my list of places to visit - but an opportunity arose to drive down with a friend for a short vacation last winter. With my sister along for the ride, we arrived two days later and a strange thing happened. I relaxed. As we approached the house and pulled out the key to open the door, I looked around and my breath eased out. Tension seeped out of my shoulders and all the stresses of life disappeared. The warmth of the Florida sun was heavenly and the magic of a new unknown place to explore was exhilarating.
Within moments of our arrival I mused to the others that I now understood why Canadians fled to warmer climes during the winter months. I mean, sunshine and sundresses, ice cream and seabirds, swimming in warm waters and walks on the pier in the middle of winter? When everyone back home was enduring -20 degree temperatures and digging out from yet another winter snowstorm, we were sleeping with the windows open to allow the sea breezes in and eating dinner outdoors surrounded by palm trees, skittering lizards and fragrant flowers.
And though the reality of winter would be ours again in seven days, I learned the immeasurable value of a week of summer in the middle of winter and was determined to enjoy every minute of those seven days of summer!
Last fall, just before the first frost, we held a harvest dinner challenge at the farm. Everyone that participated had to make a dish with ingredients sourced only from the garden and farm (with the exception of cheese and cream). We all enjoyed delicious harvest dishes on a table decorated with homegrown flowers.
The menu included:
- Cold tomato starter soup - similar to Spanish salmorejo/gazpacho
- Jalapeno pepper appetizers with bacon, onion and cheese
- Zucchini sticks with cheese and salsa for dipping
- Carrots with raisins and apple (popular Finnish dish)
- Potato and bacon casserole
- Broccoli and leek casserole
- Leek casserole
- Roast with potatoes, carrots and onions
- Homemade pickles
- Spelt bread
- Butternut squash (pumpkin) pie with spelt crust for dessert
And to the second half of our garden update from last summer - more vegetables, a few fruit and some flowers. Enjoy!
Melons - Cantaloupe and Watermelon
We planted organic 'Heart of Gold' cantaloupe and organic 'Sugar Baby' watermelon and ended up with fairly small but delicious fruit. The long summer definitely helped in ensuring that our fruit had enough time to ripen before the first fall frost. Yum!
Onions and Leeks
The onions were amazing!! All summer long we watched them grow and were thrilled with their progress. I watched many videos on how to hang onions together (like in the old days) for use during the winter. So many plans. Turns out that we ended up eating them all straight from the garden, even before the season ended. We planted 'Red Globe' market onions, 'Sweet Spanish Utah' large globe onions, 'Parade' onions, organic "Giant Musselburg' leeks, and organic 'Runner' leeks. Apparently I took no photos of the leeks :( We will definitely be planting onions again this year!
Peppers - Jalapeno and Green
We harvested a lot of jalapeno peppers and quite a few green peppers this summer. We were actually very surprised at the number of jalapeno peppers and how well they grew in our climate. I assumed that they grew better in a warmer climate...
We did plant some red and yellow peppers but they didn't have time to mature. At least I think so. We ended up with all green peppers. No complaints tho'. We planted organic 'Jalapeno' peppers, organic 'Sweet Sunrise' peppers and 'Chesapeake' peppers.
Squash - Butternut
We planted organic 'Waltham Butternut' squash. They grew beautifully and were ripe just in time for our harvest dinner.
The organic 'Rainbow' swiss chard we planted grew really well. The colours were amazing but we didn't really know how to eat the plants - we hadn't eaten any in the past. The internet is great for learning new things and for finding great recipes and we all enjoyed a new vegetable on our dinner tables this year.
Our tomatoes were our biggest disappointment. The plants grew really well until they didn't. We watched in sadness as each plant down the rows turned brown and died. We did harvest some cherry tomatoes and some of the larger tomatoes that we picked green and allowed to ripen on windowsills did fine but the rest had to be thrown away. We planted organic 'Beefsteak' and 'Brandywine' tomatoes, as well as organic 'Cherry Bomb' tomatoes.
We planted organic 'Dark Green Zucchini' summer squash and some leftover zucchini seeds that we don't know the names. We had zucchini coming out of our ears, there was so much and we didn't even have pigs on the farm this year to feed the leftovers too. Lesson learned - plant fewer zucchini plants this year.
In addition to the fruit and vegetables, we planted a number of flower bulbs that our mom couldn't use in her own garden as they were planning on moving and wanted to preserve them for the new house. We had a gorgeous collection of dahlias and gladiolus, as well as one lonely ginormous sunflower that sprouted on its own in the middle of the garden.
We hope you've enjoyed these posts on the garden. Let us know if you have any feedback on what we did wrong - we want to learn from our mistakes! Those tomatoes, in particular. Any advice would be very welcome.
A garden update - finally! It doesn't matter that it's the end of February, right? We've actually been promised a beautiful day - 12 degrees and sunny. Unheard of in Canada this time of year. And it's snowing in Rome. Strange happenings!
This post is the first of two updates on our garden from last summer and includes half the veggies that we planted. As we were complete novices at gardening, we had some great successes and a few spectacular failures. Your feedback and advice is greatly appreciated.
Welcome to our garden!
Beans and Peas
Our beans and peas grew really well this summer and we ended up with more than we needed. We planted a wide variety - Blue Lake pole and bush green beans, 'Alaska' heirloom peas, 'Sugar Snap' peas, - and some unknown seeds from mom. In some areas, there wasn't enough support for the climbers and towards the end of the summer some of the beans were overly large and not very tasty. Lessons learned.
We planted Merlin beets and they grew really well. I'm not sure if we were supposed to top up soil around the beets as they grew out of the ground and some grew a bit too close together but they were plentiful and delicious.
Our broccoli was all over the place. We planted a lot ('Green Sprouting' organic and Belstar organic) and some flourished while others flowered. Perhaps it was the crazy hot and cold swings we had last summer? The wet conditions? The soil? Or we planted too early? Hmm. Lots to learn.
Our carrots were a success even though the first batch was a bit fat and short. We planted organic 'Nantes' and organic 'Rainbow Blend' carrots. The colours were amazing and the kids loved eating them straight from the garden.
Our cucumbers grew well in the spring and early summer but withered away by August. Perhaps that is their normal cycle? They were the best tasting cucumbers I've ever had! We planted organic 'Marketmore', organic SMR 58 Pickler (not an exciting name) and Calypso cucumbers.
The hot weather that lasted through the end of September and early October was the saving grace of our eggplant (and melons). If it had been a normal late summer, the eggplant wouldn't have had enough time to grow to an edible size. Even then some of them didn't grow large enough but we did get enough to enjoy the 'Black Beauty' eggplant.
So much delicious and beautiful lettuce - one of our favourites and a great success in our garden. We planted a variety - 'Iceburg' crisphead, organic 'Paris Island Cos', organic 'Red Salad Bowl', organic 'Baby Leaf Blend' - as well as organic 'Regiment' spinach. We enjoyed the lettuce through the summer and will definitely be planting more this year.
We hope you've enjoyed this first post about our garden adventure. We welcome any answers, advice and feedback you have - we have plans for another garden this summer. Stay tuned!
Read all about our seedlings and garden plot here.