Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Chervil or Other Herb Vinegar

Oh look, more chervil! This really will be the last though; it's either pulled out or going to seed at this point.

You could use other herbs for flavoured vinegar too. I keep meaning to try it with chive blossoms, which I'm told make a nice pink vinegar. This one was pink too - you see some occasional red leaves on the chervil plants, but I was surprised that my vinegar turned pink as all the ones I used were green.

Tarragon is another herb suggested for flavouring vinegar, as are rosemary, basil, thyme, or mint.

I recommend using plain white vinegar for flavouring. When I first tried making flavoured vinegars I invested in pricey fancy wine and other vinegars. I expected them to add subtlety and richness to the flavour, but in fact I thought they just tasted muddy. Too much going on, flavourwise, especially if you then plan to blend your vinegar into a salad dressing.

2 cups (2 125 ml jars)
2 weeks - 20 minutes prep time

the infused vinegar waiting to be strained

The infused vinegar waiting to be strained, above. The chervil really shrinks down, so don't be shy about packing it into the jar. Below is the finished vinegar.

the finished vinegar

4 cups lightly packed chervil leaves
2 cups plain white distilled vinegar

Wash the chervil very well, and cut off and discard the roots and any damaged or discoloured leaves. Wash again and drain well - it should be quite dry. Pack into a clean 1 litre/quart jar; fill the jar, in other words.

Pour the vinegar over the prepared chervil. Cap loosely (finger tight) and set aside in a dark spot for 2 weeks.

Before straining and bottling the vinegar, run through the dishwasher: the jar(s) into which you are going to put the strained vinegar, the lid(s) thereto, the strainer, a canning funnel (or other funnel that will allow you to transfer the vinegar to your jar), and a broad spoon possibly slotted.

Using these utensils, strain the vinegar into the jar(s). Use the spoon to press the chervil leaves and extract as much vinegar as possible. Cap them with the lid(s). Keep the vinegar in a cool, dark place; given the relatively small quantity I made I'm keeping mine in the fridge.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Sorrel, Chive & Mustard Salad Dressing

Here's one that's short and, well, not sweet. Zingy, sour even, but very lively and refreshing on crunchy greens. So far it looks like being a great early summer for greens and we have mad quantities of lettuce coming along in the garden, much of it self-sown. Lots of moisture and not too much heat will keep it tender and delicious.

And here's my annual entry in my ongoing argument that you should eat more (some!) sorrel. I'm happy to report that when we cleared out the overgrown bed in which our sorrel resides, a reasonable quantity had survived. We've re-settled it, and while I don't expect a bumper crop this year I hope next year it will be back to normal.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Sorrel, Chive & Mustard Salad Dressing

1/2 cup packed sorrel leaves
2 tablespoons packed chives
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise - light is fine
1/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and roughly chop the sorrel and chives. Drain well and put them in the bowl of the food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until the herbs are finely chopped. Scrape out into the serving container and pass with a tossed green salad. Half an hour in the fridge before serving to allow the flavours to blend is not a bad idea.

Last year at this time I made Stracciatella with Sorrel & Spinach.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Rhubarb-Almond Crisp

Fruit crisps are so simple to make but such very satisfactory desserts. This one is particularly nice, with almonds and sherry. (If you don't want to use sherry, use some fruit juice instead but I have to say sherry and rhubarb really go together beautifully.)

We all agreed that this would have been amazing with some vanilla ice cream, but we managed to choke it down without it. It was a bit on the zingy side - I used the half cup of sugar in the rhubarb but if you prefer things a little sweeter you could add a bit more. I also didn't put in the minute tapioca and found it just a tad on the juicy side. I think it would help to add a bit, but if you don't have it, don't worry about it.

I think this topping would be lovely on other fruits too: apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, well yes all the stone fruits really, pears, blueberries... yes, okay; almonds go with most fruits. Note too that if you get the right oats this could be gluten free, if that matters to you.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time
plus a little time to cool

Rhubarb-Almond Crisp

Make the Topping:
1/2 cup Sucanat or very dark brown sugar
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds

Mix the first 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the butter, which should be soft enough to work easily, and cut it into the mixture until it reduced to the size of small peas or smaller. At some point I tend to use my fingers to work it in; also sprinkle over the almond extract and work that in too. Mix in the chopped or sliced almonds.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Finish the Crisp:
6 cups sliced rhubarb
1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup sherry OR apple cider OR orange juice
1 teaspoon minute tapioca

Wash, trim, and slice the rhubarb. Put it in a shallow 8" x 10" baking pan. Toss it with the sugar, sherry, and tapioca. Spread the topping evenly over it.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until the rhubarb is tender, the mixture is bubbling steadily around the edge, and the topping is lightly browned.

Last year at this time I made Leeks & Asparagus.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Asparagus with Onions & Mushrooms

This was very simple and straightforward; also very good. I only used half oyster mushrooms, and half regular white mushrooms, but the oyster mushrooms were particularly good and I recommend using all oyster mushrooms if you can. They are admittedly more expensive. For all its simplicity, though, I think this is a rather special dish.

Like Carrots & Asparagus with Sesame or Sunflower Seeds, this has a foot in 2 seasons; the onions are from last year and won't be around much longer but the asparagus is so new and fresh. Cut the onions fairly large, as they should be as prominent in the dish as the asparagus and mushrooms. They may be getting old but they still have what it takes.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Asparagus with Onions & Mushrooms

500 grams (1 pound) asparagus
225 grams (1/2 pound) oyster mushrooms
2 large onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons water

Wash and trim the asparagus, and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Trim the mushrooms and cut them into slices. Peel and cut the onions into coarse slivers.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a minute or two, until they have all separated and softened slightly. Add the mushrooms and turn up the heat to high. Continue cooking, stirring the vegetables frequently. When they are about half cooked, add the asparagus. Pour in the soy sauce and water, and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the asparagus is just tender and the liquids have evaporated. Serve at once.   

Last year at this time I made Pork Loin Stuffed with Spinach & Mushrooms.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Spring Cilantro Soup

You could make this all summer, but it is particularly appropriate for right now. And yes, this is my third recipe for cilantro soup. I'm not quite sure what the fascination is, other than cilantro makes a very tasty soup. So do lots of other things! This one is lighter, simpler and more suited for spring than the other two.

I somehow managed to ignore the fact until this year, but cilantro is about the earliest herb to sprout. The first wave is quite mature and even looks like bolting soon. That supposedly early spring herb, dill? I'm starting to see sprouts big enough to identify, provided I'm sticking my nose right in the bed. The chervil started up about the same time as the cilantro, as did the parsley and chives, but I haven't even planted basil yet. I suppose I could, but it won't go outside for another week or two at any rate. Summer savory, likewise. It's funny, I always think of cilantro as being a late summer herb, to go with tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and all that crowd. It does pop up in waves so it will be in the garden then too but in the meanwhile it makes a zippy spring green.

4 servings
30 minutes prep time

1 medium onion
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon bacon fat OR vegetable oil
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups unsalted chicken OR vegetable stock
1/3 cup dried corn OR 3/4 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 cup yogurt
the juice of 1 lime

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the bacon fat or oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until softened. Add the garlic, flour, Cayenne, and salt. Continue to cook and stir, until the flour is well absorbed coats the onion pieces. Slowly mix in the chicken or vegetable stock. Stir in the dried corn and let the soup simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (reduce the heat to medium).

Meanwhile, wash, dry, and chop the cilantro.

Just before serving the soup, whisk in the cilantro, yogurt, and lime juice. Bring the soup back up to steaming hot, but do not let it simmer. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Cheesy Rhubarb (or Raspberry) Bread Pudding.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Salmon or Trout & Spinach Pie

Well this is the last of the spinach, I'm afraid. The deer broke into the garden the next day after I made this and ate the lot. Fortunately we had picked and frozen about two thirds of it at that point but I am still annoyed.

Not too much to say about this otherwise. It was really delicious and well received by all, and leftovers heated up very nicely. We had some lovely asparagus from the garden (the deer don't seem to like it, hurrah!) with it, but a good soup or salad would also go well. It's a pretty complete thing in itself, though, which is good because it is a bit time consuming. On the other hand, it's one pound of fish to feed 6 people, again. Which at the price of fish can only be a good thing.

6 servings
2 hours - 45 minutes prep time
also allow a little resting time (15 minutes)

Salmon or Trout & Spinach Pie

pastry for a double pie crust
500 grams (1 pound) fresh spinach
3 green onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup 10% cream
2 large eggs
450 grams (1 pound) raw salmon or trout

Make the pastry and set it aside, wrapped up in parchment paper, until wanted.

Wash and pick over the spinach; wash it again and drain it well. Chop it. Set it aside. Wash, trim and slice the green onions.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and flour and mix in well. Add the green onions and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are soft; 2 or 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook it until it has wilted down completely. Slowly stir in the cream, a bit at a time, to make a smooth sauce.

Once it has thickened a bit, remove the pan from the heat. Let it cool down while you roll out about 60% of the pastry on a sheet of parchment paper or a floured board to fit the bottom of a 9" pie plate.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Beat the eggs into the cooled spinach filling. Chop the fish into large bite-sized pieces and arrange half of it over the pie crust bottom (now in the pie plate). Scrape the spinach filling over it, then arrange the remaining fish on top.

Roll out the remaining pie crust and place it over the pie; pinch the edges sealed and trim off any excess pastry. Cut some slits or poke some holes in the top crust with a fork.

Bake the pie at 350°F for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the pastry is nicely browned. Let the pie cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Good warm or at room temperature.

Last year at this time I made Chicken, Asparagus & Mushroom Casserole with Wild Rice and Wild Leek Chimichurri.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Oatty Apple Butter or Jam Turnovers

I've had this recipe for so long I no longer remember where I got it, but I'm pretty sure it came directly out of one of my antique Canadian cookbooks. (Directly apart from the fact that I had to fiddle around a lot to figure out the correct quantity of buttermilk, which wasn't given and took me a number of attempts to determine. Also I cut the original recipe in half - it made enough for an army.)

I certainly consider this a classic of old(ish) time Ontario cooking. Originally, it was made with dates, and if you want to use half a cup of dates cooked to a paste with the same amount of water instead of the apple butter or jam, you absolutely can.

There are still a few (not very good) commercial versions of this kind of cookie around, but they are not nearly as common as they used to be. It's also too bad that they don't seem to be made at home very often any more either. They seem pretty plain, I guess, compared to the chocolate-laden goodies that tend to prevail nowadays. I really like them though, and recommend them highly. They are more cakey than crunchy (they don't contain the amounts of butter or sugar required for that) and are fairly substantial. I would absolutely eat a couple for breakfast, I have to admit.

They are also very quick to make, in spite of what looks like a slightly fiddly technique. The batter couldn't be simpler, and you just spoon things out in layers to get the apple butter (or whatever) partially covered, giving the effect of a slightly sloppily made turnover.

24 to 30
1 hour - 20 minutes prep time

Oatty Apple Butter or Jam Turnovers

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup soft whole wheat flour
3/4 cup Sucanat or very dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg beaten
1/2 cup apple butter or other jam

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter two cookie trays or cover them with parchment paper.

Stir together the dry ingredients. Beat together the cooled melted butter and eggs, then beat in the buttermilk. Mix into the dry ingredients.

Drop about two thirds of the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared cookie trays. Space them well apart. Place a teaspoonful of apple butter or jam over each cookie. Spoon the remainder of the dough over the cookies.

Bake at 325°F for 20 to 23 minutes. Let cool and keep in a cool, dry tin for a few days. They will freeze quite well for longer keeping.

Last year at this time I made Wild Leek Chimichurri

Friday, 12 May 2017

Potato, Onion & Cheese Casserole

Quite a lot like the classic Scalloped Potatoes, but this has rather more onion flavour, especially if  you add the chives. You could be even a bit more generous with them if  you like.

I used the last of our German Butterball potatoes for this, and they were very appropriate for it. Russets would be fine though.

As with Scalloped Potatoes, this can be assembled in advance and baked just before wanted. Be prepared for it to take a fair bit longer to cook in that case. Par-boiling the potatoes does speed up the baking some, but this is still a slow dish to make. Nice for a cool spring day, but it looks like we are finally about to warm up.

6 to 8 servings
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Potato, Onion & Cheese Casserole

1 kg (2 pounds) potatoes
500 grams (1 pound) onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon mustard
2 cups whole milk or light cream
300 grams (10 ounces) old Cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped chives (optional)

Wash the potatoes and put them in a pot with water to cover them well. Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on their size. Transfer them to the sink and run them under cold water until they can be handled. Peel them and slice them.

Meanwhile, as the potatoes cook, peel and slice the onions. Heat the butter in a very large skillet, and cook the onions gently until softened and translucent. Do not let them brown much. Season them with the savory, salt, and pepper, then mix in the flour. When well combined mix in the mustard, and the cream a little at a time to make a smooth sauce. Simmer for a few minutes until thickened. If this is done before the potatoes, remove it from the heat. Actually, remove it from the heat whenever it is done.

Grate the cheese and chop - mince, really - the chives, assuming you are adding them. Unless you just can't get them, I would suggest you do.

Layer 1/3 of the potatoes in a shallow casserole dish, such as a 8" x 10" lasagne pan. Spread them with 1/3 of the onion sauce. Sprinkle evenly with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, finishing with the final layer of cheese.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. Let rest 10 minutes or so before serving.

Last year at this time I made Jerusalem Artichokes with Bacon, Onions, & Mushrooms.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Asparagus in the Style of Peas

There are definitely threads of ideas that lead me from one recipe to another. This one is basically the same sauce as I used for chicken a few days back, but this time it is used on asparagus. The good news - no chervil. I do like this technique for making a sauce, although it is rich, no question.

I based this dish on the recipe I found here; Asparagus Disguised as Peas. I've simplified it a bit. In particular I adapted it to be made in one pot. I also thought the amount of liquid was too low to cook the asparagus but my sauce was a bit too thin, so I am calling for more like the original amount. Nobody really minded it being thin though, and if you serve it with something to soak it up it will especially not be minded. I can see this being served over toast, for instance. If there are enough leftovers, I would suggest running them through a food processor and serving them as soup. Not likely though.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon rubbed savory
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup 10% cream
450 grams (1 pound) skinny asparagus
2/3 cup water or chicken stock 
1 green onion
2 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf

Cream the butter, flour, savory, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

Whisk the egg yolks and cream together in a another small bowl. Set aside.

Wash and trim the asparagus, and cut it it into pieces about as long as the stalks are wide (short, in other words).

Bring 2/3 cup of water or chicken stock to a boil with the washed and trimmed green onion, parsley, and bay leaf in it. Add the asparagus and cook until just tender; about 4 minutes.

Lift the asparagus out to a serving dish with a slotted spoon. Remove and discard the onion, parsley, and bay leaf.

Mix a spoonful of the cooking liquid (stock) into the bowl of butter, flour, etc to form a smooth paste. Then mix it all into the cooking water, stirring constantly until it thickens. Whisk in the egg yolks and cream. Continue cooking and whisking until the mixture thickens; don't let it boil though. When it thickens add the asparagus back in, and mix in well. Bring back up to steaming hot, and serve.

Last year at this time I made Rhubarb Chutney.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Poached Chicken Breasts with Fines Herbes Sauce

Fines herbes: that's just a fancy French way of saying "more chervil".  Yes, when I get a bee in my bonnet it buzzes around for a while; also most of what is currently growing in the garden is chervil. Fortunately some parsley and chives too, and between them that is 3 out of the 4 herbs in the classic French combination. The fourth is tarragon, which it will not amaze you at all to hear, I don't have. Not sure it would be up now, even - maybe someone who does have some could enlighten me? Never mind; I declared my 3 herbs to be a quorum and proceeded.

This sauce is a fairly classic supposedly French sauce too, although I've mostly found versions of it by perusing 19th century English cookbooks. On its own, it's rich but fairly bland. Just what the Victorians ordered. The fines herbes give it some oomph, but they are still subtle. I served it with chicken breast; other options would be a nice, firm white fish, salmon, or salmon trout, or I could see it served over poached eggs on toast for a kind of creamy Eggs Benedict. (Use a vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian, if desired.) Ours went over noodles and (from frozen; our peas aren't that far along) peas.

2 servings
30 minutes prep time

Poached Chicken Breasts with Fines Herbes Sauce

Organize Yourself:
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup each finely minced fresh chervil, chives, and parsley
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh tarragon, optional

Cream the butter, flour, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, and set aside. Wash and pick over the herbs, drain them well, and chop them very finely. Set them aside as well. 

Get Cooking:
2 150 gram (5 ounce) skinless boneless chicken breasts (OR equivalent white fish)
1 cup unsalted chicken (or fish) stock
2 bay leaves
1" piece of lemon zest (no white pith)
1/2 cup 10% (coffee) cream
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons lemon juice OR tarragon vinegar

Put the chicken pieces and chicken stock (or fish, etc) into a largish pot with the bay leaves and lemon zest, and simmer gently for about 10 to 12 minutes, until cooked. Use this time to cook your noodles or generally get ready whatever else you plan to serve.

Remove the cooked chicken to a serving dish. Remove and discard the bay leaves and lemon zest. Be sure the chicken stock is just simmering gently, then mix a spoonful of stock into the bowl of butter and flour. Mix well to a smooth paste, then whisk it into the chicken stock. Let it simmer for a minute as you whisk the egg yolk into the cream. Whisk that into the chicken stock as well. Watch and gently whisk the sauce as it thickens; do not let it boil or even simmer again. Once it is thick and steaming hot, remove it from the heat and whisk in the herbs and the lemon juice or vinegar until the herbs are just wilted. Pour it over the chicken and serve at once, preferably over some starchy thing that will soak it up a bit. Noodles, toast, or rice all seem appropriate. I am less certain about mashed potatoes, but maybe.

Last year at this time I made Buckwheat Porridge.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Spinach with Chervil

This is just a dish of sautéed spinach, but the addition of chervil and chives or green onion gives it a surprisingly different and unusual quality. Apart from the fact that you will probably have to grow the chervil yourself it is very easy...

2 servings
20 minutes prep time

Spinach with Chervil

4 to 6 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 or 2 green onions or equivalent amount of chives
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh chervil leaves
1 tablespoon butter or bacon fat
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and pick over the spinach, and let it drain; chop it if you want it in fairly fine pieces. Clean, trim, and chop the onions or chives. Clean, trim, and chop the chervil.

Heat the butter or bacon fat in a large skillet. Add the spinach (which should be fairly dry but with a bit of lingering dampness; if not, throw in a tablespoon of water) and the green onions (if using) and cook until wilted, turning frequently. Once they are done to you liking, mix in the chervil and the chives if that is what you have instead of the onion. Mix them in until just wilted, and serve at once. The whole cooking process is not likely to take more than 5 minutes - most of the prep time is in the cleaning of the spinach.

Last year at this time I made Buckwheat Porridge.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Garden Chervil

One of the great pleasures of early spring is to wander through the garden seeing what plants have survived the winter and can be gleaned for early greenery. Last year we planted chervil for the first time. As not unusual with things planted for the first time, it just sat there as we didn't do anything with it. Well, it flowered and went to seed, and the seeds dropped, and germinated in the fall. They overwintered nicely and now last years' herb bed is awash in chervil plants.

Chervil is one of the traditional French fines herbes, along with tarragon, parsley, and chives. Parsley and chives are also shooting up in the garden already. I don't grow any tarragon, as I can't stand the stuff. It's odd: I like almost everything licorice or anise flavoured, but tarragon is the loathsome exception. Chervil is, if anything, more strongly licorice/anise flavoured, and I like it very much so far. I've put it in a mixed salad, and one other thing, the recipe for which I will post on Friday.

The flavour of the fresh chervil is delicate, bright and clear, but it fades considerably with drying. It does not seem to be readily available either fresh or dried; I think it is one of those things that if you want it, you must usually grow it yourself. Mind you, while it is a different species than the invasive wild chervil, it plainly can become a self-inflicted weed. The good news is that although it prefers a moist, cool spot with a bit of shade, it is quite tolerant and easy to grow. It may bolt more readily in a hotter, drier location such as the one it has in my garden, but it could be succession planted if you were able to give it that much attention. I think I will be happy to let it wander around the garden at will, mostly available for picking in the spring and fall. It's not as hard to weed out as it looks either. The roots are deepish, but the leaves spread out from a single tap root and it can be ripped out in clumps.

The flavour is very distinct. A little bit will brighten up a salad, or use it in sauces with fish, chicken, cheese, eggs, or other protein dishes not too heavy in flavour. I think it would be a bit lost with beef, pork or lamb, but maybe, if deployed carefully. Delicate vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, peas, carrots, potatoes, and zucchini will go with it well. In any case, it will lose flavour if cooked, so chop it finely and add it to your dish at the last moment.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Spring Garden and Life In General Update

Oh look! It's a sign of life! Here, I mean. The garden is full of them and has been for a while. Above is our spinach, which spent the winter under plastic and is at its peak right now.

Well when the lights go out here, it's usually a sign that things have taken a turn towards the soap opera-ish, and that is indeed the case. Two weekends ago, we took my mother-in-law and her housemate down to Windsor where they will be moving in June. They've been thinking about this for a while, but were not planning to move until the fall or next spring. However, exactly the unit they want came available, and they have been struggling more and more with the fact that this house and its location are much less than ideal for them as their health deteriorates, and they are both having to face the fact that it really is. That's a lot of work suddenly dumped into spring planting season, but okay.

However, we came home to a message that my father's partner Trevor fell on Saturday night and broke his hip, and spent the night on the garage floor. By the time I called he was in surgery, and he seems to be about as okay as you can expect, but this is certainly a spanner in the works.

Add in a long trip to Toronto with MIL (for a medical appointment that gave her bad but not unexpected news), that involved passing the worst car crash I have ever seen in my life and a forgotten vital item that had to be shipped down by taxi at great expense, along with the failure of my back-up hard drive which took with it only one file, but the one most vital for me to keep this blog organized and happening, and things have been exasperating all around, and what's more I don't see it clearing up for at least a month. So, while I have a few posts in the works, things will continue to be pretty quiet on the blogfront.

 Earliest peas are planted and mostly coming up nicely. There are a few gaps, because we planted some older peas that we are going to leave to go to seed and they were not particularly new, most of them. This is the year we are going to do lots of seed growing, plant breeding and so forth, because we won't need our usual amount of saved vegetables next winter. We hope.

That's because we have decided that we want to go to Spain for 3 months and walk the Camino de Santiago again, on the route from Seville this time. We are a little nervous that family crises will prevent it, but we figure we are not getting any younger or fitter, so now is the time to do it. In addition to everything else on the agenda this summer we want to start doing a lot more walking in order to get ready. I'm not sure how this will affect the blog, but it's fair to say it definitely will.

The other items on the agenda this summer include finishing gravelling the garden paths. Mr. Ferdzy has made a good start on them already. Also I'm making good progress on getting a weedy, disastrous bed re-dug and cleaned out. In between, we are both working on ripping out our big bed of strawberries. They are supposed to be moved every 3 years and that one has been there more like 6 years. Oops! The old strawberry bed will then have the asparagus moved in, and the old asparagus bed will be grassed over.

That's part of our intention to downsize the garden a fair bit. We have to concede that as we have gotten better at growing vegetables, it produces (in most cases) more than we need, and even more importantly we just can't keep up with maintaining it. Especially if parents are going to persist in getting older and it sure looks like that's the plan.

We've been moving a lot of things around in the garden generally; that's the new gooseberry and currant bed above. The old one was old when we moved in, 8 or 9 years ago or whatever it has been, and it too will be removed and grassed over at some point.

A side view of the garden. The dandelions have just bloomed in the last few days so it is time to plant potatoes. Our spinach and earliest peas are the greenest things in the garden at the moment.

In spite of the fact that it was a mild winter the leeks look pretty ratty; worse than usual. That's because the deer broke into the garden late winter and ate all greenery standing: the Swiss chard, the Brussels sprouts, the cabbage and cauliflower greens, and the leeks. They have never eaten the leeks before! Either they were particularly hungry or we have an adventurous gourmet deer in the herd. Annoying either way. However, they are recovering and carrying on. As are we all; what else is there to do?