New Growth

Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Jason Landry, 2012
Greens, Jason Landry, 2012
Swiss Chard & Greens, Jason Landry, 2012

I’ve grown various herbs and cherry tomatoes in the past, but this is my first year of branching out and really trying to learn something about gardening. I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but it’s satisfying work and I love watching the various things grow and change as time marches on.

A Nice Loaf of Bread

Fresh-baked bread, Jason Landry, 2012
Fresh-baked bread, Jason Landry, 2012

The weather has been unsettled on the west coast this spring. That, and a number of other distractions, has meant we haven’t been able to get out to Gambier Island or many similar destinations. Even the kids have been asking to go camping.

Having been cooped up for so long, my thoughts have turned to bread, and inspired by my late friend Kris, I’ve begun making it for the family. Kris always modified the white bread recipe found in the Edmonds Cookery Book—a New Zealand classic—and so I have been doing the same. So far, I have a nice 50% whole wheat loaf which is perfect for sandwiches. In time, I’m going to try adding a variety of seeds and grains; like barley, rye and flax.

The venture has been successful enough that I no longer have a need to purchase a standard loaf from the supermarket. It’s easy to make, allows for experimentation and is a joy to do. I only wish I had started sooner.

This weekend, I’m planning on getting a sourdough starter going and trying my hand at good, old-fashioned country loaves. If all goes well, I may never need to buy bread again1.

  1. OK, presumably I will buy bread at some point, just not very often.

Bigleaf Maple Syrup

Bigleaf maple sap flow during the 1970-71 season ranged from none to 16.9 gallons per taphole and sugar content of the sap from 1.0 to 2.6 percent. Sugar content also varied seasonally, with the sweetest sap flowing in late January. The sirup was very flavorful, although not as strong in typical maple flavor as that made from eastern sugar maple. Sirup production appears quite feasible as a hobby. The possibility of commercial production should not be ruled out as additional local experience is gained.—USDA Forest Service Research Note, 1972

This past fall, my wife was wondering why people don’t tap the Bigleaf Maple trees that you find out here on the west coast. I was born and raised in Alberta and didn’t have a lot of experience with Maple trees, so I just always assumed that you needed Maple varieties that are found in eastern and central North America, you know, like Quebec and Vermont. Thankfully, my wife doesn’t make assumptions and after a bit of research she discovered that some folks actually do tap Bigleaf Maple trees and that there has been a bit of a resurgence in recent years.

We’ve got some Bigleaf Maple trees on our property on Gambier Island, and we’re both dreamers, so this got us thinking about producing our own maple syrup —commercial production is out of the question based on the number of trees we have available.

To learn more, we went to the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island last weekend so that we could attend the 5th Annual Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival at the BC Forest Discovery Centre. It was a great event with presentations on tapping trees and producing syrup.

So it begins, Jason Landry, 2012Big, but not a Bigleaf Maple, Jason Landry, 2012Using tubes to keep the bugs out, Jason Landry, 2012
Taps & trees, Jason Landry, 2012

We picked up supplies and hope to tap our first trees next season. Having to get to and from the island means it won’t be economically advantageous to start with, but once we have a cabin built and can spend a bit more time over winter, the costs should come down considerably. Regardless, it’s going to be interesting and fun.

Speaking of fun, we also took the opportunity to explore the area and had a wonderful time. It was a nice little holiday in the middle of winter.

Cowichan Shipyard, Jason Landry, 2012Maple Bay, Jason Landry, 2012Looking West, Jason Landry, 2012
Exploring the Cowichan Valley, Jason Landry, 2012

Burns Night

Every Burns Night, I find myself thinking back to 1998 and my trip to Scotland. Shortly after arriving in Glasgow, I embarked on a 4-day hike along the last half of the West Highland Way, from Bridge of Orchy to Fort William. Almost every other hiker we saw was having their gear trucked from hotel to hotel, but we carried our packs and tent across the moors up and down the passes of the highlands. It was a tiring, amazing experience through a beautiful landscape.

Cock-a-leekie soup & bannock, Jason Landry, 2012Cock-a-leekie soup & bannock, Jason Landry, 2012
Cock-a-leekie soup & bannock, Jason Landry, 2012

Tonight I made a very simple version of Cock-a-leekie soup and bannock. The kids and I ate a comforting meal, listened to The Tannahill Weavers and talked about visiting Scotland to do a little camping, hiking and exploring. My son had two bowls of soup, my daughter said she loved the music and I have no doubt they would both enjoy Scotland. I love dreaming with my kids.

Hot & Buttered

Hot buttered rum, 2011
Hot buttered rum, 2011

With the holidays quickly approaching and cabin trips on the horizon, I figured I’d get a jump start on the food and drink planning. I say planning, but I mean testing. First up was hot buttered rum. Using a slightly modified version of this recipe, I’ve made a first go and it’s going down nicely. Your move, Winter.

Taking Back Control

Broccoli orecchiette, Rohan Anderson, 2011
Broccoli orecchiette, Rohan Anderson, 2011

Whole Larder Love is a wonderful blog by Aussie photographer Rohan Anderson. It’s an outlet for him to share his passion for producing, harvesting and making rustic food. It’s wonderful, and the photography will make you daydream. At the moment, he’s preparing for summer and working on a book for a Brooklyn-based publisher. If I could pre-order it now, I would.

With all the exposure that has been coming his way, it was only a matter of time before ABC (Australia’s version of the CBC) paid him a visit and shot some video. In the interview, he talks about exploring and understanding the food we eat — consider the seasons, eat what’s seasonally appropriate, take control of where your food comes from… These aren’t new ideas, but they are practiced by few and fewer still do it as beautifully as Rohan manages.

Bacon & Eggs & Bliss

Bacon & Eggs &amp Bliss, Tofino, 2009
Bacon & Eggs & Bliss, Tofino, 2009

This is quite possibly the best breakfast I’ve ever had while camping. I can still remember how excited I was to eat it. If you’re wondering about the colour of the eggs, my wife cooked them in bacon grease and water. Amazing, right?

The Well-Fed Backpacker

The Well-Fed Backpacker, June Fleming, 1986 Edition
The Well-Fed Backpacker, June Fleming, 1986 Edition

I picked this up tonight at a fundraiser for our neighbourhood school and it looks like it’s going to be very handy. One really interesting idea is the one-liner — choose one item from up to six different columns and cook them together in one pot. Here are some examples:

Quick rice, tuna, freeze-dried peas, curry sauce mix and flaked coconut.

Couscous, precooked hamburger seasoned with sloppy joe mix and grated Swiss cheese.

Quick brown rice, canned or dried shrimp, freeze dried green beans and teriyaki sauce.

If you think these sound good now, just imagine what they would be like after a long day on the trail.