Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Little Brother

Nineteen years ago today I thought was just going to go trick or treating with some friends but soon discovered I was also getting a brother for Halloween 1990. For all the years since then and all the years to come, thank you for making me laugh, putting me in my place and teaching me lots of lessons. Happy Birthday little brother!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Apple Festival 2009

While we were on Saltspring Island we were lucky enough to attend the 2009 Apple Festival. For as long as I can remember September and October were apple months. My parents had 3 apple trees and now we have one big apple tree so there is always lots of apples. The festival really was a learning experience and a great opportunity to peak into the orchards of people who have been successful in making a living off the apples.The whole festival is spread out all over the island however you start at the community hall for a little background information. There is whole bunch of tables out that display the over 350 varieties of apples grown on Saltspring Island and almost all of them are grown organically. So after our brief introduction to Saltspring Apples we grabbed our map and decided to hit the road. There were about 18 farms that were participating although not all were apple farms.

We started at a small farm that had a really beautiful orchard. The owner was very friendly and showed us a couple of the little tricks he uses to keep the orchard looking great and taught us about the importance of harvesting at the optimal time. We carried on stopping by some more smaller operations but it was just so interesting to see that everyone has their tricks. Some prune the trees every year and feel that is the best for production while others let their orchards go wild for a year or two and feel that is what the orchard needs.

People were growing their trees in all sorts of different ways too. Some grow them in neat, sometimes even labelled, rows. Some grow them wild, with trees dispersed around their property. And even one grows his as a living fence. He was really interesting to talk to about the whole living fence concept and I have to say the apple fence looked really nice.While most people choose to sell their apples at road side stands or at the weekly markets, the next couple farms we visited chose to use their apples for juice. I juice fruit in my own home but nothing like this. I think watching these juicers in use was one of my favorite parts. We also got to taste the juice that came out of the machines and there is nothing as sweet and delicious as real apple juice. All the juicers that we saw in use during the festival were antique and everyone says that they wouldn't use anything else. I don't blame them, those old machines were pretty darn efficient.
As you may have guessed, a lot of apples are needed to make enough juice to make any kind of profit. I love this picture. This is the garage at Beddis Castle and this is after half a day of juicing.
I'm amazed at how many apples come from this small island. Many of the farms provide their apples to grocery stores and markets not only on Saltspring Island but also on Vancouver Island and the mainland.
Another big highlight for me was visiting Apple Luscious farms. The owner, Harry Burton, is a big part of the apple community on Saltspring and is the driving force behind the Apple Festival. I felt like I was meeting a celebrity and I was so impressed that even with all the stress of the festival itself, Harry is a truly lovely person and really knowledgeable. I wish we had gone to his place first though. He was sold out for some of the apples I really wanted to try. At his farm he had tasting tables for all of the 200 or something varieties of apples he grows on his own property. He also had live music and a really interesting (and delicious) cooking demonstration that combined organic apples with local organic cheese.
If you are ever on Saltspring Island, even if it isn't the Apple Festival, make a point of visiting Harry's farm. For information on Apple Luscious visit and more info on the Apple Festival is available at

The Saltspring Island Apple Festival is now officially on my list of summer festivals that I must attend. This years festival is barely over and I'm already looking forward to next year!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Recipe: Cranberry Relish

I first made this fresh alternative as a way to have cranberries without all the sugar of cranberry sauce. From the first try it was a hit. I made it again last night and it was equally popular. Here it is just in time for Thanksgiving!

You will need:
1/2 bag of fresh cranberries
1 naval orange
1/2 pomegranate
1/4 cup of chopped candied ginger
1/4 cup (or less) of sugar
handful of pecans or walnuts (optional)

Begin by chopping the cranberries in a food processor (don't puree, chop) and transfer to a bowl. Add in pomegranate seeds, chopped ginger and sugar. Slice the orange and just break little bite size pieces of the flesh into the bowl and add nuts if you are using them (a lot of people have allergies so I don't often use these anymore). Stir combine and refrigerate until use.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Camping on Saltspring

This past weekend Jon and I decided it was time for a getaway so we packed up our car and headed over to Saltspring Island. It was my first trip to Saltspring and after this weekend I'm pretty sure we are moving there some day. It was a beautiful weekend, sunny during the day but really cold at night. We camped at Ruckle Park, which is a beautiful walk-in waterfront campground. It was dark when we arrived but we had a beautiful bright moon out. The moon was so bright we set up camp by moonlight only.The next morning was beautiful. The first thing I saw when I stuck my head out of the tent was the beautiful sun rising up over the water. It was a great way to start the day. We decided to go to the Saturday market at Ganges Marina. It was really cool to see the beautiful arts and crafts and the delicious produce and baked goods. We ended up buying some bread, beets, carrots, soap, fudge and Jon bought himself a nice leather belt and for me a beautiful abalone necklace.
After the market we had breakfast and wandered around the marina checking out some of the shops. By noon though it was getting pretty warm and we were really overdressed so we headed back to the campsite. Driving back to it in daylight (because when we arrived we could barely see in front of the car let alone anything else) was great, we could see all the things we had missed before.
It was really nice and sunny when we got back to the campsite so we decided to change into t-shirts and explore the beach. I haven't explored tide pools since I was a kid and I found a renewed pleasure in petting anemones and looking for crabs. We found a ton of anemones, a couple crabs, a starfish and even a couple jellyfish. I was really hoping to see orcas and otters but no such luck. It was so peaceful to sit in the fall sunshine listening to the waves on the rocks as the salt air blew across my face and through my hair. I truly love the west coast.

After a short nap in the sun and a walk on the beach we headed back to Ganges for some gelato. There is a really great mostly organic gelato place called Saltspring Gelato, we've bought their stuff at grocery stores before but it's fun to try different flavors and window shop while eating gelato.
Saturday night ended up being quite windy so we had dinner early and hunkered down in our tent for a wild night. We actually thought the wind had blown the fly off a couple times but we made it through unscathed.
Sunday we packed up the tent and headed off to the annual Apple Festival. I'm going to do a separate post about the apple festival because it was that cool. We also visited Mistaken Identity Vineyard which is new organic winery on the island. It is beautiful place for a picnic and their wine is pretty good too. We also stopped by Saltspring Woodworks on the way to the ferry. They had some really interesting and beautiful things on display. It think it really inspired Jon to do some more woodwork of his own.
It is fall on the island and everyone knows it. From the wreaths on the doors to the apple goodies or stunning fall colors. Saltspring was great escape and I left this island feeling refreshed and with an even greater love for the west coast. I think Saltspring is worth a visit for anyone and I can't wait for my next trip back.