Thursday, 15 August 2013

Friday, 21 June 2013


Budding Marigold!
Thought I'd share some more recipes today, some nice, simple and fresh things for summer.

This one is my Mom's original recipe!! Thanks, Mom!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

I felt like sharing some of the recipes I put into my cookbook which I made a while's nice to see these individually, I I'd like to share one or two now and then. To be honest I do not know where this recipe came from, I certainly did not make it up!! And anyway it's all about the illustrated title, for me! :)

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Gardening Tools and Compost Advice

Little 'page of gardening tools' I put together to use some of those spot illustrations I created for Rooftops Montreal/ Alternatives (orignal post about that here, and the place where they've used some of the illustrations here) the project has been suspended for a while anyway and the work was volunteer-based I hope they won't mind if I play around with the images and post some here on my blog.
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Here is some excellent, clear, simple information on how to compost from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, of River Cottage, of the River Cottage BBC tv series (of which I am a big fan!) that I just read about in the River Cottage cookbook. Great for those like me who have little-to-no experience with real composting, and especially carrying it through from tossing scraps on there to producing a finished product you can proudly spread on your garden beds.

Over to you, Hugh:

"Once you've got the hang of seed-packet gardening, the only really essential information you need to know is how to keep your soil in tip-top condition, year after year. However good your soil, vegetables will take the best of the nutrients out of it on an annual basis - and on an annual basis it has to be put back in. How do you do that? For the organic gardener, who wants to avoid chemical fertilizers, there is a one-word answer to this question: compost.

Your garden and kitchen activities are sure to generate a considerable amount of vegetative waste. Your job is to make sure it isn't waste at all, but goes back to feed the plants that feed you. You can start a compost heap in any quiet but reasonably accesible corner of the garden (you'll need to be able to drive a wheel-barrow up to it!), but it is a good idea to give it a little structure, rather than just make a big mound that slopes away at the edges. A three-sided structure, with "walls" of wood, corrugated iron, or straw bales, is simple to put together and will do very nicely. Don't make the base dimensions too huge or you'll never get any depth: about a yard square will do for an "average" household (as if there is such a thing!). A "floor" again of wood, or thick sheet plastic, will help retain moisture and heat. Moisture and heat, incidentally, are what composting is all about: any vegetable matter will eventually rot down into a form in which it will be welcomed back by the soil, but in a well-managed compost heap that stays warm and wet (but not too wet), the whole process can be speeded up considerably. Speed is important, because the faster you can make good compost, the more goodness you can put back into your soil at the end of the gardening year. If you generate enough waste and manage your heap well, a pile started in March can be dug back into the soil in November.

For this kind of efficiency, bulking out your heap with dry materials is essential; it will also improve the texture of your finished compost. Straw is good for this, as are wood shavings, dry leaves, and even shredded newspaper (a particularly good way to incorporate newspaper into your compost is to mix it with grass cuttings, which anyway have a tendency to rot to an unpleasant slime if piled on undiluted). The bedding from your hen house, be it straw or wood shavings, with its bonus of rich chicken dung, is an absolute must for the compost heap.

Just about anything of vegetable origin can go on a compost heap: the only thing to avoid is anything too coarse or woody that might lag behind the pace of decay of the rest of the material. Those with large vegetable gardens (who are forced to take their composting pretty seriously) sometimes address this problem with the aid of a powered compost shredder: it shreds coarser stalks down to a manageable size that will bring them in line with the rest of the pile.

Incidentally, one of the great dilemmas of the vegetablel gardener who also keeps pigs is which vegetable leftovers to save as piggy treats and which to throw on the compost heap. Last year, I was so generous to the pigs that, while they thrived, my compost heap actually lost weight. This year, I am trying to be a bit more even-handed; leafy waste and peelings all go for the compost, while thick cabbage and bean stalks, which are a bit coarse for composting but very nutritious, all go in the pig bucket, along with any starch and dairy leftovers.

An important aspect of compost is knowing when to finish it. Keep piling on the waste until your pile is about a yard high, ideally a bit more. Then stop. (Meanwhile, start a fresh heap somewhere else - right next door to the first one if you like.) You now need to turn the finished heap: use a pitchfork to move as much material from the bottom of the pile to the top and vice versa: or at the very least try to move the top layer to the middle by forking the stuff at the bottom and piling it on top. Cover the turned heap completely with an old bit of carpet, plastice sheeting, or a thick layer of straw. Leave it for about a month, then turn it and cover it again. It will be ready about six months after that. I look on the end of August as a cut off point: any heap finished before then should be ready for digging into the soil the following March/ April. Heaps finished fom September onward will need a good dose of Spring sunshine the following year to complete the process, but can be used for top-dresing your soil or digging in with late plantings of zucchini, squashes, spinach and salads. You can buy products, usually liquid, called compost accelerators, to speed the process even further. I've never tried them, but my dad swears by them.

Finished compost should be dark, rich, crumbly and pleasant-smelling - "like a good christmas cake," my dad says, though I'm not sure I'd go that far."

(Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the River Cottage Cookbook, pgs 42 - 43)

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Ragnarr Radish

Whatever is eating our radishes seems to have a sense of humour..!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

I like this

Illustrations by the author's wife, Susan McNeill

Introduction to 'The After-Dinner Gardening Book' by Richard W. Langer:

"The conversion of our apartment from a normal, barren city cave to a tropical jungle began quite by accident one bleak winter day. I was sitting huddled in pajamas and two dressing gowns, a wool scarf around my throat, tending to a particularly tenacious New York cold. My wife, Susan, in complete innocence had left beside me a large warm glass of freshly sqeezed lemonade with honey and set off to the local pharmacy for aspirin. I myself sat unsuspecting, half-heartedly reading a spy novel. Dutifully I took a slug of the lemonade, almost choking on two seeds which had slipped seditiously into the brew. That, I think, was the exact moment it all began.

There was no saucer, and to put the seeds back into the lemonade would only be to court further disaster. Of course I could have gotten up and disposed of them in the kitchen, but such exertion seemed uncalled-for. With only a moment's hesitation I reached over to the bedraggled begonia on the window-sill, abandoned by the previous tenant, and put the pits in the pot. After all, I told myself, they're organic, maybe as they rot they'll fertilize the poor begonia - in its condition nothing could hurt. Then I dozed off until Susan returned, totally unaware of what fruit my innocent act would bear....

A few weeks later my eye happened to rest on the lone flowerpot and observed a new sprout. Excitedly I called Susan over, congratulating her on rescuing the begonia from the elements of destruction, New York soot being not the least of these. She looked for a moment, then told me,
"It's been invaded. My flowerpot's been invaded."
"Nonsense," I replied.
Thereupon she pointed out what I, even without any botanical training whatsoever, should have noticed. Where as the begonia leaves were somewhat wrinkled and roundish, the new leaves were long, flat and shiny. Suddenly, from the dregs of memory floated up a page out of my Biology 101 textbook: seed leaves. With elaborate erudition I explained how seed leaves, the first two leaves on a new plant, never looked like the rest. I couldn't explain why, being unable to recall the next page in the text, but for a while anyhow her invasion theory was eliminated.

The next two leaves appeared ten days later. They were long, flat, and shiny. Slightly shamefaced, I mumbled something about going out for some pipe tobacco, but made my way instead to the local flower shop. As I stood in front of the florist's window debating how to present my problem to him, the obvious answer appeared behind my reflection - in the form of a lemon tree bearing a $9.95 label. I had grown my own tree from seed!

Proud as a new father, I paced up and down before the shop window, letting the tree grow in my imagination until it well shaded the beach bungalow on the tropical island to which I had transported us. Reluctantly giving up the idea of getting cigars to pass around to friends, I headed for the five-and-dime. There I purchased the largest pot they had and several pounds of sterilized soil - newborn plants must be sensitive and all that. Digging out the lemon tree with Susan's nail file, my first miniature gardening tool, I transplanted it to its new home. When I called Susan over to inspect my handiwork, I was rewarded by a fit of giggles. Well, granted the pot, about 20 times the size of the plant, did look somewhat underfilled, still....

Continuing to sulk at dinnertime, I ate in silence, oblivious to everything except the thought that when "the old cold" as Susan had dubbed the lemon tree, started bearing fruit, I'd have the last laugh.

We had fresh mango for dessert. After one bite I stopped suddenly.
"A pit."
"Impossible. How could I miss something that size?"
"No, no. I mean, where is it?"
"I threw them out."

It was one of those moments I was glad ours was an older apartment, without a convenient incinerator chute. I dashed to the kitchen, where I rooted around in the garbage like a pig for truffles, rising at last triumphantly with two beautiful mango pits.

Excusing myself hastily, I ran down to the five-and-dime, bought two more pots and three huge bags of soil, and returned to Susan's despairing "Oh no!" Then I began my new career as New York's only plantation manager in earnest."

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Coffee Hanky!

Here is the second hanky I've worked on so far. Coffee-time theme with little forget-me-nots around the edge. Based on an actual enamel coffee pot of my mom's.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Beet Hanky Variations

Hankies are something I've begun to use in lieu of Kleenex when I can, when I remember, it seems like A Good Thing To Do, (using something reusable not something disposable) but also, they tend to be just so beautiful and cute!
I have a large collection of cute ones inherited from my Mom and my Grandma, some from my Mom's childhood; little illustrated fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme hankies, and some white linen ones that have been hand-embroidered and edged with hand-made lace (made by my Grandma...a long time ago!). And because the designs I've been admiring on these hankies are so varied and so beautiful, I have been inspired to make up some of my own, again to someday be printed at Spoonflower if I create a nice little collection of them which could then be printed on a yard or two of very thin fabric (the 'Cotton Voile' one!).
Here is the first one, depicting some lovely beets!! And a variety of edging colors/ choices and background color options...if you're out there reading this, and have an opinion...let me know which one(s) you like the look of!



Monday, 3 June 2013

Solomon's Seal

HB pencil & digital

Original just pencil sketch
Solomon's Seal, or King Solomon's Seal (genus Polygnatum) is plant that grows outside my front door, and is one of the first to come out with full leaves and lovely little flowers in spring. I have been eyeing it for a while with a mind to try and capture those graceful upturned leaves and those delicate little groups of white flowers. I had some fun getting the shapes down, and then even more fun with creating a colored image in photoshop (top)!
This plant also has an intriguing name, which prompted me to do some reasearch.
According to Wikipedia, a seal is "a device for making an impression in wax, clay, paper, or some other medium, including an embossment on paper, and is also the impression thus made." Interestingly, "The seal-making device is also referred to as the seal matrix or die."
In many ancient legends, the Seal of Solomon was a magical signet ring (a kind of personally unique ring with an engraved face, which could be used for seal-making, as a way to 'make your mark' on something, so to speak - show authenticity of a document, for example - at a time before personal signatures were developed and common) possessed of course by King Solomon himself. The ring/ seal was said to have great powers, such as granting King Solomon the ability to command demons, and also to speak with animals. Usually nowadays the ring is depicted with a pentagram or some form of the Star of David, with other circles or dots or intricacies sometimes added around the edges.
Apparently the roots of the King Solomon's Seal plant have many flat, circular scars, or impressions, on them marking where leaf stems have been in previous years. These purportedly cause the roots to look as though they have been stamped with a seal, or a royal seal...though no one knows quite why Solomon's name has been attached to this plant; apart from perhaps because his particular seal was so famous in the ancient legends. One article I read said that it is perhaps because Solomon was said to know about the diversities and virtues of plants and roots and so "set his seal upon (the Solomon's Seal plant) in testimony of its value to man as a medicial root."
Another cool thing about this plant is that apparently if you cut the roots open crossways, the cut root face possesses a pattern which looks very much like (a) Hebrew character(s)....this is another connection to King Solomon, who showed up in Mediaeval Jewish tales and who,"also called Jeddiah" (Wikipedia), "was, according to the Book of Kings, the Book of Chronicles, Hidden Words and the Qur'an a king of Israel and the son of David. The conventional dates of Solomon's reign are circa 970 to 931 BC."
"The Hebrew Bible credits Solomon as the builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem and portrays him as great in wisdom, wealth, and power, but ultimately as a king whose sin, including idolatry and turning away from Yahweh, leads to the kingdom's being torn in two during the reign of his son Rehoboam. Solomon is the subject of many other later references and legends, most notably in the 1st-century apocryphal work known as the Testament of Solomon. In later years, Solomon also came to be known as a magician and an exorcist, with numerous amulets and medallion seals dating from the Hellenistic period invoking his name." (Thanks, Wikipedia)
Not to leave out a major important and interesting aspect of this plant, let me tell you that the root of Solomon's Seal has some medicinal properties for sure, in fact it has several medicinal actions; there are many ways you can prepare and use the root, it definitely has a wide variety of medicinal uses. You can read in detail about that here.

Composting Revisited

Here's that composting poster again, this time with real hand-drawn type! Feel free to save and print this out if it would be helpful to you :)
(original post with some more detailed information on composting here)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Getting to Know Geraniums Pt. 2

HB pencil & paper...hanging out with a geranium and a begonia yesterday.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Here are some images from a personal project I was working on the the winter...I had it in mind to put together a large series of images to be printed on a tea towel altogether, using the amazing fabric-printing resource Spoonflower. I may yet finish this project, but I am excited about a new fabric-design project I've begun very recently. For now, here are some little images of things!
Mostly watercolor, little bit of digital here and there.
black walnut bough
globe artichoke

sugar snap pea

 the now-obsolete Canadian penny!