Monday, December 31, 2012

how much garlic is enough?

"Eat it. Love it. The odds are that garlic
will love you in return. Can you say that about thyme? About sage?
About arugula? About your child?"
 CHESTER AARON - The Great Garlic Book

Derek and Robin gifted us with this:

We gifted Derek and Robin with this:

"I can't get enough garlic."


Monday, October 1, 2012


Today on my walk, I went from here:

To here:

In two steps.

Call me grateful.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Oh, come on. A few posts ago, I mentioned that someone swooped in and stole 300 hives from a Saskatchewan beekeeper. Bummer.

This morning, I heard that a B.C. farmer just had over 2,300 kilograms (that’s over 5,000 POUNDS!) of potatoes yanked fresh out of his fields – plants and all. If you’ve ever dug potatoes, you’d know that it’s next to impossible to just pull out a potato plant with all the spuds still attached. Anyway, a football field’s worth of ‘taters has gone missing.

I was still scratching my head, when this evening’s news announced that someone in Quebec has made off with a massive haul of maple syrup – what may actually add up to many millions of dollars’ worth. Ten million pounds of syrup was stored at the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers’ warehouse and they’re not yet sure how much syrup the thieves got away with. I haven’t even heard of “The Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve”.


Better microchip the bees, install infra-red cameras in the field and put in an alarm system in the back corner of the basement where all the mapl .. uh, onions are.

Didn’t know we’re sitting on so much gold.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

the writing on the wall

Banksy, the elusive urban scrawler says, “Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.”


Free for the viewing. Sure miss those gritty art school days.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

island boy

I guess I'm going to talk about Cecil again. When you live and work at home (and I'm usually confined to 24" of the same counter space day after day from May to November) your world - my world, gets pretty small. So, having almost only one neighbour close by becomes part of that small world. The good part is that I love Cecil to death and even though I initially think, "Damn, I've go so much to do right now," I end up laughing and trading stories with him and thoroughly enjoying his camaraderie.

When Cecil ambled over the other day, I didn’t tell him that my daughter, Morgan, who lives in the Caribbean in the Turks and Caicos, had flown up (“Buddy Pass”) for a 4-day visit. On her way to the airport in Provo, she passed the local Wednesday Farmers’ Market. Actually, in this case the apostrophe should be Farmer’s, as there was only one vendor. He had dried conch hanging up for sale in the tent. He also had corn grits and noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia) that she quickly bought, along with the dried conch and stashed it in her suitcase inside another suitcase (so she can take off-island clothes home with her from her 4 day shopping jag).

David Bowen admiring Headly Forbes' dried conch on Middle Caicos 

After arriving at the farm, Morgan spewed out the contents of her luggage to get at the conch. “Oh no!” she cried. “The noni fruit exploded.”

“What’s a noni fruit?”

“People use it for all sorts of medicinal things like cancer and diabetes – it’s amazing – I thought you’d like it.” (Huh?) “Oh, man, it’s all over my clothes.”

She picked up the plastic bag that held the liquid oozing fruit and gave me a whiff. “AAAAhhhggg” It smelt like two-day old road kill – or worse. “Throw it outside in the woods – yuck.”

Then she started sniffing her clothes from the duffle bag. “EWW!”  Then another one, “EWW!” Then the first one again, “EWW!” Then, “Oh, no, some of it got on the conch!”

Next day on the porch . . .

“So, Cecil . . . do you like dried conch?”

His eyes lit up and then he closed them. “I LOOOVE conch – dried or fresh or any way I can get it. Why? – you got some?”

At that moment, Morgan came out to the porch carrying her bag of conch. She handed Cec the dried, flat cephalopods and he started to laugh and couldn’t believe his eyes. He immediately pulled out one of the solid hunks and wrestled an end off with his teeth and started to gnaw on it.

“Gonna take some time before the flavour comes out,” he informed us. “Whoever made this knew what they were doin’ . . . ohhhh, I’m gonna make some conch chowda – Helen loves it too.”

And he did.

Monday, July 23, 2012

trust buddha, but lock up your bees

Tom works like a fiend from May to November. We both do. We don’t entertain, go away or have dinner before 9 p.m.

Two days ago, it was a scorcher (almost 35C or about 100F) and Tom was taking boxes of honey off the hives. He came home for dinner, and headed to a yard an hour and a half away to move 15 colonies out and got home at 4 in the morning. He extracted the next day and repeated the night move again.

The hives need constant monitoring and nurturing. They get split in the spring and re-queened if necessary. Depending on the spring, they may need supplementary feeding. Thousands of new frames need to be made and old boxes scraped and cleaned. Electric fences have to be built in each yard to keep the bears out. Summer is lifting heavy boxes in hot weather, extracting honey and bottling. Selling it all is a whole different and time-consuming scenario.

Often throughout the season, the bee yards (15 – 30 colonies at a time) are moved – at night. We do this with buckwheat, apples, cranberries and this year, canola. When the season is over, every colony is medicated as organically as possible for mites. This involves several trips to the hives. If this isn’t done, there’s a good likelihood that the bees will die over winter. Then they’re all wrapped to help insulate and maintain a more constant temperature during the cold months and unpredictable spring weather. Then we start all over again. Did I say Tom loves his bees?

Just recently, some poor beekeeper in Saskatchewan lost 150 of his 3,000 hives. Well, he didn’t LOSE them; someone came along and TOOK them.

As a matter of fact, they didn’t just load up Bill Termeer’s colonies and run. They actually took out the production frames INSIDE the colonies, along with the queen, and all the brood that would have been future bees for gathering honey. THEN, they put in old, dirty, empty frames so Bill wouldn’t discover the theft right away. He’d keep seeing frames in the hives and then a week or so later, when he’d actually go inside the hive and pull out the frames to check the activity, he’d be stunned to find 150 empty, bereft hives.

They didn’t give him any money or even leave clues to where they might have gone. To me, that’s not quite the same as kidnapping, but it comes pretty close.

“Oh, I see you have some nice looking kids. They’re out of diapers, they look healthy and happy, and I want them. Don’t mind me.” . . . SWOOP. “Here, I’ll leave you a couple of dolls.”

Mr. Termeer didn’t have any insurance on his bees. I don’t know a beekeeper who does – I bet it wouldn’t be cheap. He’s left wondering why, if perhaps another beekeeper was in trouble financially, or had his/her bees die off, why there was no dialogue or request for help. Beekeepers are pretty close knit, forthright and sharing with their knowledge. They’ve all known the hot, heavy and sometimes disappointing seasons. The RCMP is going to analyse the pollen to help narrow the location where the replacement frames came from.

We have friends from out of town that sometimes visit us at the Farmers’ Markets and they get to listen to our ‘schpiel’ – our bee banter. Brian says that he loves to hear Tom talking about the bees. “It’s so interesting,” he muses, “and if you can’t trust a BEEKEEPER, who can you trust?”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

counter productive

. . . a single black basalt mortar and pestle. That’s the only thing on my kitchen counter .  . . in my dreams.

I long for minimalism. Instead, I am drowning in stuff. Because of ‘renovation’, I have no closets. NO CLOSETS! Take a look around and imagine that you live with no closets. Bills? Shoes? Shopping bags? Spare hardware? They’re all at the front door alongside boxes of glass jars to be filled, pails of honey, a bronze bee door knocker, pail of sugar to mix for the hummingbirds, castor oil, vitamin E, and vanilla extract for products, plastic tomato clips, fish fertilizer . . . get the picture?

Oh, I have a few kitchen cupboards – heavy oak honey-coloured panel doors that were crafted by a former owner of our house. In fact, when Wally came to visit after we first moved in, he practically wept when he told us about how he made those doors. I didn’t dare tell him that I couldn’t wait to replace them.

My vision is wall to wall, floor to ceiling closets. European and sleek, seamless edges and a sliver of a stainless steel pull tab for opening and closing. Shelving and drawers are concealed inside to hold everything that is now spewing out and multiplying daily, as our busy season envelops us.

My present six-foot 60’s-style flowered arborite countertop’s inventory is (from south to north): wood bread box topped with assorted wax pieces for the salves, various product samples (honey ginger, cherry honey, grain mustard), an array of vitamin pill bottles, 4 quart basket of peaches, mixer, electronic scales, fresh mint in a bowl of water, fresh parsley in a glass of water, bowl of soap bits from shaping last batch of soap, Brita water pitcher, a honey glass from the Cayman Islands filled with jujubes that my brother’s friend brought, cooking utensil jar #1, cooking utensil jar #2 and #3 (tall, medium and short stuff), olive oil, Tom’s wine, my wine, bowl of new tomatoes, bowl of old onions, crock of assorted spices, bag of taco chips, . . . and a black basalt mortar and pestle.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I wish I knew

Cecil Cartwright, our 85 year old neighbour across the street is a “Conky Joe” – a white Bahamian. His grandfather jumped a British naval ship in the Caribbean (how long ago would that be?) and keeps us laughing with stories about Long Island in the Bahamas where giant roosters haunted graveyards, kids’ pets were mules and pigs and living in caves during the hurricanes was standard. Big and gentle, he comes over for visits with a hoe as his cane, scraping off the weeds as he goes down his driveway. He lost his driver’s license a few years ago which is the kiss of death if you happen to live in the country.

Cecil’s 83 year old wife, Helen woke up blind as a bat two years ago and now has Alzheimer’s. She slips out of the house occasionally, and starts calling for TOM! until I realize she’s yelling, “MOM!”

"MOM!”, “MOM!”, “MOM – WHERE ARE YOU?” Oh dear. Last week, it was wildly windy and I was working out in the front garden. I heard, TOM! (MOM!) and looked up. Helen was in a pink furry bathrobe that was flapping open and shut in the breeze revealing a white slip. She was weaving towards the road with a long wooden staff assisting her journey, her long matted hair trailing out behind her, looking all the world like Gandalf the Gray. A guy who was cutting their grass rescued her and gently led her back to the house.

You can’t keep a good woman down. Even after she lost her site, Helen liked to CUT THE LAWN! Cecil would start the lawnmower and she would weave and bob in wild designs through the grass. Every now and then the mower would slam into a rock or stump and shriek to a halt. Cec would start it up again and away she’d go.

The other day when I was putting out the garbage by the road, Helen came wandering down her driveway with a handful of sticks. She didn’t know where she should put them. Then she started to cry. “There’s been a death in my family. I just found out my mother died.” I said I was sorry, but she kept going on and was so despondent that I told her that maybe she had just forgotten that her mother had died a long time ago. “No,” she said, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

Poor Cecil. He hears this ALL DAY. And dear Helen – she LIVES this all day.

Alzheimer’s is funny – meaning insidious. On one hand, many of us strive to live in the moment, but many people with this very sad condition keep living a moment that may be one of their worst.

My mother had Alzheimer’s. She always knew us (and never looked for her mother) but didn’t know that you’d just been in the room 2 minutes ago. She loved music and when she was in the later stages, I downloaded a ton of 40’s music that she could listen to on a little IPod machine that the nurses could turn on. When we first played it for her, I told her that I was going to play a song and ask her who sang it. I’d never before heard the first song I played for her, and asked her to Name That Tune. “I Wish I Knew”, she said. I thought she didn’t know the name, and looked on the IPod. The title was “I Wish I Knew”. I was amazed. 

I played the next one and I could see she was trying to remember it. She looked at me and gave a little smile and said, “I wish I knew!”