Friday, 28 October 2011

shadows, hibernation, and green tomato cake

With one week to go before Daylight Savings Time (Nov. 6, everyone!), we look forward to an extra hour of sleep and brace ourselves for quickly darkening days.  The skeletons of many trees have been laid bare.  The edges of afternoon shadows are sharpened in the thinning light- (when we actually have enough sunlight to create shadows...).  The rains are upon us- time for wool socks and rubber boots.

volunteers pull spent tomatoes in the cold rain

leaf mulch contributes excellent organic matter to healthy soil

Our garden work is focused on tidying up the spent crops, and tucking in for the Winter.  Our job, as Stacy says, is to be "soil farmers"- through the work of composting, mulching and planting cover crops, we hope to build excellent soil fertility for next year's growing season.

second generation of volunteer Summer fava beans

sprouting cover crops of rye, clover, vetch and buckwheat

We are nearing the end of our harvest and enjoying cool weather crops of parsnips, beets, carrots, rutabagas, spinach and kale.  But our tomatoes have sadly expired.  With the especially cool Summer, our tomatoes suffered and we were left with tubs of hard, green globes.  Thanks to some internet research, we found a recipe for 'Green Tomato Cake', as an excellent way to use up those piles of unripe tomatoes.  Here's an adaptation of that recipe:

Green Tomato Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp coriander
3/4 cup chopped crystalized ginger
2 1/2 cups diced green tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9x13" pan.  Mix first 4 ingredients in large bowl, until thoroughly blended.  Mix next 6 ingredients (dry) in smaller bowl.  Fold dry ingredients into sugar/egg mixture until well-mixed.  Add ginger and tomatoes; mix just until tomatoes are evenly distributed.  Pour batter into greased pan.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 30 minutes before cutting into squares.  Enjoy!

Celebrate Learning Week: tours of The Orchard Garden

The Orchard Garden is participating in UBC's Celebrate Learning Week with
a hands-on gardening workshop followed by guided tours and light, seasonal

To register for our workshop:  Putting the Garden to Bed (focused on compost,
mulching, and planting garlic) see the following announcement... Workshop is limited to 12 participants so register early!

Hope to see you there!

Monday, 17 October 2011

poetry in the garden this friday

with so many large stories looming in the world these days, we invite you to the garden to share some of the small stories within this season of ripening and letting go:  curling leaves, persistent slugs, blue skies, rotting tomatoes- to notice the beauty and peace within this growing space. 

Please join us this Friday, 10/21, 3:30-5pm in The Orchard Garden for a poetry working group.  
This informal sharing/writing group will be led by poet and UBC Okanagan Professor, Dr. Veronica Gaylie.

We encourage you to bring a poem and snacks to share.  
We will provide hot herbal tea from the garden.

We look forward to seeing you there!


I don't know if I've ever loved Fall as much as I did on Friday, Oct. 14.

The morning started with a large group of volunteers helping us plant garlic, harvest and chop vegetables, and set tables with platters of homemade baked goodness.

At 1pm we had sunny blue skies and a large group of Orchard Garden supporters and new friends join us for a harvest celebration like none other...

Tasty treats made by our team featured produce from the garden and included delectables such as pumpkin bread, rhubarb crisp, kale chips, a pear tart with raspberry jam, kohlrabi pesto salad, and apple tarts with caramel sauce made by our neighbors, the Agora Cafe.

Julia, Stacy and Susan played violin and accordion.  Babies danced.  People pressed fresh apple cider, arranged Fall foraged bouquets, and shelled beautiful beans.

Every morsel of food was devoured as the sun sat lower in the sky and plates were scraped clean.

Thank you to the land and to our wonderful community for creating such a warm celebration.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

seeds in the garden workshop

finding the mature strawberry seeds

October 13 marked our second workshop in the garden (the first was last month's fantastic bean pickling!), and a commitment to offering a series of workshops through our inaugural Field School program.  We aim to host monthly workshops (with the exception of December) led by students on our team.  The seasonal themes will be based on what is most relevant to the garden at that time.  In mid-October it's all about seeds, as the garden prepares for Winter and the next growing season...

sprouted fava beans & shelling beans in the pod

Nicotiana (tobacco)

blue skies!

We were blessed with a spectacular Fall day and an abundance of seeds not soaked in rain.  The workshop participants had an opportunity to explore the garden and collect their own seeds and fruits. We discussed what a fruit really is (a vessel housing a seed- can be dry or wet and in many formations; all flowering plants have a fruit of some kind), and the need for patience and close observation when searching for tiny seeds.  The main learning objective for this workshop was simply to become familiar with plants and where their  seeds are found, and hopefully to stimulate personal discoveries through this exploration.

looking at buckwheat


getting close-up

tiny treasures

threshing buckwheat

This was not a technical seed-saving workshop, but rather an introduction to the many seeds that can be saved and the reasons to do it.  Food security (independence from industrial seed companies) is obviously at the top of the list, but it's also important to understand that by saving your own seeds, you are almost guaranteed that the specific plant is happy in that specific environment (including microclimates, soil types, nearby insects, animals and fungi, watering frequency and even the gardeners who tended it throughout the season), and as such should thrive and bear fruit again.
As this workshop was geared towards educational opportunities and curricular connections, we also looked at the ways seeds can be collected, dried and saved in the classroom and incorporated into lessons in math, history, social studies, science, poetry, nutrition, and home economics.  We also wanted to remember the many foods we eat that are made from seeds: sprouts, chocolate, coffee, bread, crackers, peanut butter, oils, beans... and the list goes on.  For our snack in the garden we enjoyed seed crackers, avocado, pumpkin seed butter, homemade raspberry jam, honey, coffee and soymilk (all made from seeds!).

Stay tuned for our next Field School workshop in early November and also our evening Apple Preserving Workshop next Monday, October 24.

Most of the photos in this post were taken by Julia!  thank you :) And thank you to the very knowledegable participants who contributed greatly to our discussions.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

the season of yielding and gratitude

Withering petals, curling leaves, drying seed pods:  Autumn has many lessons to teach us as the garden begins closing shop for the Winter.

Fruits are ripening, seeds are maturing, daylight is waning- cool nights are upon us.  Beets, carrots, rutabagas, turnips and parsnips are in their prime right now.  Apples and pears are putting on bulk and sweetening with the cold air.  Green tomatoes that failed to ripen in the barely-there Summer are rotting on the soil.  Plants are doing their best to ensure survival and propagation, as are the animals gathering nuts and seeds; building nests and homes.  There is a simultaneous energy of collecting/building/ripening and softening/yielding/surrendering.

Autumn has always been melancholy for me.  As I get older I enjoy the romance of decay, the meditation of frost/woodsmoke/rain clouds...  the elegance of dry grass... the opportunity to fall silent....