Sunday, July 29, 2007

Speaking of Organic

…is this not one of the prettiest works of nature that you have ever seen? Wow! How can you look at that color, a bounty of the finest, and not be overwhelmed and thankful? Freshly picked today, our small vegetable garden is offering this kind of reward on nearly a daily basis. Whole Foods or Wild Oats has nothing on us! You want organic? This is organic.

According to, “organic” is “…of, marked by, or involving the use of fertilizers or pesticides that are strictly of animal or vegetable origin: organic vegetables; an organic farm”.

I am very much in favor of things being natural, grown in a safe environment. We were raised on a small farm with my grandparents, and although we were not aware of the terminology, by golly, they were original organic farmers! Manure was spread and worked into the soil in order to fertilize the vegetable garden. Any foliage or vegetable trimmings went into a mulch pile which would then be turned back into the soil. Milk came from the goats that grazed in the fields. There were no fertilizers or pesticides other than what Mother Nature provided.

After I married and as my children were being born, we moved to a farm. My mother and her friend would visit and helped me put in such a large garden that only on a very limited basis did I frequent a grocery store. Tomatoes, beans, corn, potatoes, cabbage, onions… were grown and harvested, and hundreds of quarts of vegetables were either canned or frozen each year. We knew organic.

Terms such as that of organic tend at some point to get a little out of hand. It’s like any new buzz word that becomes known and is then taken a bit too far. (Did anyone else ever become nauseous after hearing the word paradigm 100,000 times?) We have not gone beyond the laughing mode as yet when we walk up and down the aisles of a grocery store, as it appears that now nearly everything is being labeled “organic”: cereal, milk, butter, peanut butter, coffee, oil, sugar… you name it, it is organic! Just today we heard 'organic furniture'. I’m waiting for the first Organic Internet or maybe the next time we drive up to a gasoline pump, would we be surprise to see it labeled organic?

And today, well actually yesterday, my husband and I prepared fresh beets, grilled squash, zucchini, and eggplant, a few tomatoes and a small amount of cottage cheese, organic of course, a nice Pinot Noir, organic, and that my friends was a fine dinner. Once a farmer... guess it remains in one's soul.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Vacation, part 2: Vancouver, BC

When I think of Vancouver I am reminded of cruise ships, as this is where my husband and I embarked upon our very first cruise to Alaska years ago, a wonderful first experience we highly recommend.

The Vancouver area has a population of over 2 million people and is the third largest in Canada. The city itself is the largest in the British Columbia province and covers 114 square kilometers (44 sq miles). It is surrounded on three sides by water and nestles against the Coast Range. One of the most well known parks is Stanley Park, but our destination the first day was something very special.

As stated in the July 21 posting, we left Blaine, WA and traveled across the U.S./Canadian border where I-5 became highway 99. About thirty minutes later we approached the beautiful city of towering buildings which seemed to rise from the water.

We easily located the place we were staying, parked the car, made our way to breakfast and then to a bank to exchange some currency. 93 cents Canadian to $1.00 US, a $2 dollar service fee for the exchange, and we walked to the bus stop. The fare was $2.25 per person for use within one and a half hours. That did not appear to deter anyone, as the bus was full.

We got off the bus at Chinatown and within the block turned right into a courtyard and this was the beauty before us, a park adjacent to the garden, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen classical garden, the first of its kind to be constructed outside of China.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen is known as the father of modern China and in 1912 was the first President of the Republic of China. This place was named in his honor.

Within this business district and inside these high white walls exists another world, a maze of walls, twists and turns, garden "rooms", offering peace and tranquility and a philosophy of the Chinese people.

We were offered a tour with a guide, a volunteer. Julian was an 89 year old Chinese gentleman who charmed us with his stories.

In the background, the mystical sounds of the flautist gave us a sense of the sounds of nature and contemplation. Julian told us that the garden was based upon the 1300-1500 Ming Dynasty and that we must first understand philosophies prior to visiting the garden.

He spoke of respect for elders, Chinese ingenuity and secrets not shared with others; of the Japanese borrowing from the Chinese culture, such as reclassifying penjing as bonsai or speaking of Japanese Koi when in fact, Koi was a gift from Persia to Confucius' son 2500 years ago; of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism; the basic elements of plants, rocks, water, and architecture; of achieving balance and harmony with opposites, the yin and yang of Taoism.

And this did stop me in my tracks. So beautiful, so simple, yet so elegant, I am yet captivated.

We have visited many gardens over the years, but I must say this was one of the
most fascinating and pleasurable ones I have encountered.

Should you like more information you can visit

Saturday, July 21, 2007


This is the time of year that many families travel and take their summer vacation. Generally we wait until school is back in session to take a trip, but made an exception this past week when a friend visited from Minnesota.

We spent several days relaxing and enjoying our garden and then ventured northward toward our destination of Vancouver, BC. I will not bore you with the details of getting there, but will only say that we spent one evening at Birch Bay in Blaine, WA. Or as my husband and I may say on occasion, we spent two nights there, our first and last. My apology to those who live there for I mean no harm, but we see no reason to ever go back... and the local residents may also prefer that. ;-)

Our thoughts were that Blaine is located at the northwest corner of Washington... within close proximity to the Canadian border... the largest part of our drive would be behind us, and more quality time could be spent touring Vancouver.

Dinner at the best spot was mediocre and out of whack considering the price. Well, let us be positive and simply say that the view of the water was very beautiful and calming, and the three of us continued to enjoy our time together.

The next morning as we headed out we saw no signs for I-5, so we stopped at a gas station to ask the best way to cross the border. We were directed to go straight down the road, cross over the bridge and we would be there. We did as instructed, but there was nothing to be seen. So we found another establishment and were told to turn right at the stop sign, left at the next sign, back into Blaine, right, right, another right... there were no signs to be seen. We stopped a motorist who pointed toward the direction we should take. Finally! a sign for I-5. It was for SOUTH only!

After 25 minutes of asking directions, circling around a town with a population of 11,000, we finally made it to I-5 north and were headed to Canada. All I could think of was the Kingston Trio and "Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned and his fate is still unknown... poor ole Charlie... he may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston (Blaine)... he's the man who never returned".

I will post again soon on our experience in Vancouver.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Our Independence

July 4, 1776, the greatest day in the history of the United States, was the day of declaration and proclamation of independence from Great Britain.

John Adams wrote to his wife:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

But it was on the 4th of July that Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was adopted by Congress.

Today is a day that many families get together to have outdoor picnics and barbecues, play softball and gather to watch fireworks. It truly is as John Adams suggested.

Hopefully this is also a day that we all stop and think about this great country in which we live and give thanks for all those who sacrificed their lives, in addition to the young men and women who today continue to give of themselves, so that we may enjoy the freedoms we have been given. We should remind ourselves to take a moment in our day, look around at what we have, and be thankful. We are truly blessed.

Monday, July 2, 2007


When asked, "Which are your favorite herbs?", the ones which immediately come to mind are basil, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, garlic, cumin, tarragon, cayenne... and one which can sometimes be forgotten, but high on our list, is lavender, and not just any lavender, but English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia.

There is Spanish lavender, French lavender, Yellow lavender, something called Lavandins... all that come in various shades and colors and an array of heights, but L. angustifolia 'Hidcote' is overall number one in my book. Compact, highly fragrant, and brilliant dark purple flowers make this a special part of our garden.

Full sun and good drainage are requirements, and after it blooms cut back the spent blossoms... not much to satisfy in a plant which offers so much joy.

Placement along a border or at the edge of a path allows the wonderful scent to permeate the air as you brush past it as you stroll along in the garden.

Many enjoy drying the flowers and using them in arrangements, potpourris, or as decorative upside down bundles hanging in a country kitchen. Honey, aromatherapy oils, lotions and soaps all come to mind, but we offer a few of our favorite uses.

I'd rather be in the garden, but if you must work inside, try crumbling a few dried flowers on the carpeting and vacuuming over them so you enjoy a most pleasant scent as you work your way throughout the house.

Consider a simple recipe sometime this summer: Blanche some fresh green beans on high heat in boiling water for just a few minutes. Drain, dry, and then quickly saute the beans in a little olive oil, blanched almond slivers, and freshly ground pepper for a few moments longer. (We like a little diced garlic too.) Sprinkle just a few fresh lavender blossoms over the green beans, combine gently and quickly and salt with some kosher salt. What are you waiting for? Serve.