Gathering Season

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There I am in the tree

 

The apricots are beginning to ripen here in the Okanagan and so a few days ago a friend I and headed to our favorite picking site.  The area is the site of the first apricot orchards in the Penticton area and many of the trees have long been abandoned.  The owners of the land are either absentee owners or owners who cannot be bothered with the old trees and fruit.  Luckily for us, this situation provides free fruit for us each year and I always look forward to seeing these old trees showing their strength by producing fruit long after anyone has pruned, watered or cared for them in any way.

As you can see in the picture above, I was  able to climb one of the trees to get at the really good fruit that remained intact after the deer harvested the low fruit. It made me feel like it was really summer as I stood in the tree balancing while reaching for the best of the golden fruit., just as I had when I was a kid raiding the neighbours trees.  I picked about 30 pounds of apricots and am in the process of dehydrating a second batch.

Today I am going to make apricot chutney which I love with Babotie , a South African sweet curry dish made with ground beef that I serve in the winter.  I am looking forward to sharing it with my children so they too can prepare the comfort food of their childhood when they are away at university this winter or living in the north.  The recipe for this favorite meal came from a family friend that  we spent many a weekend and holidays with.  They had three girls all about the same age as our three children and as we shared our lives, traditions and many meals together we came to have favorite foods we shared. One of the couple being from South Africa and wanting to enjoy some ‘comfort food’ from home caused  Bobotie to be a regular on our menus.   Preparing and eating Bobotie brings our family back to a time when we shared many good times together sleigh riding, hiking, skiing, swimming, bike riding and sharing special events  and meals together with our good family friends.

I found a simple recipe for chutney on My Recipes that I will use but one of  my favorite sites for preserving and canning these days is Food In Jars, so I looked up apricots and came across a unique way to use apricots.  Check out the description given for roasting apricots with honey and spices and then preserving that mixture in jars.  I am going to give it a try and afterward will post the quantities and names of spices I choose to use.  For now, here is my Bobotie recipe and you can find the chutney recipe by clicking on the My Recipes link.

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My first batch of dried apricots

 

Bobotie

1 kg ground beef

1 slice of bread

1 cup milk

1 medium onion

1/2 c raisins

1/2 cup blanched, sliced almonds

3 tsp. apricot jam

3 tsp. fruit chutney

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. herbs

2 tsp. curry

1 tsp. tumeric

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. oil

3 eggs

4 bay leaves

Method

Place milk in a shallow bowl and place slice of bread in to soak.

Chop onion and saute briefly in large frying pan.

Add beef and continue to stir until it begins to brown.

Add spices and mix thoroughly.

Add jam, chutney and jam, raisins and soaked slice of bread.

Stir mixture until all ingredients are well blended.

Place beef mixture into oven proof casserole dish with lid.

Add eggs to milk left from soaking bread and whisk.  Pour over top  of beef mixture, sprinkle almonds and lay bay leaf on top.

Cover and bake at 350F until custard is set.

Remove lid and allow the custard top to brown by cooking a further 10-15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve with rice and peas.

Dance Tunes remind me of my friend Derrie.

Dance Tunes remind me of my friend Derrie.

This morning I felt like listening to some soothing classical music. I chose Chopin. Immediately upon the first note I found myself transported to many different places and thinking of several people. Music, much like literature, is magical in the way it allows you to revisit other times and places and I think I could choose music that would suitably personify every joyful as well as painful moment in my life.

As a very young child I was exposed to music made by my family.  My biological father’s side of the family was quite musical, in an unschooled, country kind of way.  They did not have a lot of extra time or cash for leisure or entertainment so making music together was their form of entertainment.  My father’s mother played the piano by ear and at a young age was thrown into the dance hall music business when her father required someone to accompany him at local dances.  He played the fiddle and she played the piano while the locals danced the night away.

Whenever I hear fiddle, mandolin, banjo and piano music it takes me back to a time that I can hardly remember because I was so young but the music does something to my psyche that allows me to recall late night barn dances and early mornings when us kids would head out to the barn to eat the leftover take-out Chinese food and scavenge for the coins in  the straw that had dropped out of the frolicking adult’s pockets. The singing sound of a good fiddle reel can bring me to want to jump up and step dance or dissolve into a puddle of tears, neither of which I have much explanation or control over.

Classical music pieces also stir up memories and stories for me.  This morning as I listen to Chopin, I think of my dear friend Ester and her daughter Kristi, both whom are extremely talented pianists. Movie-like scenes form in my mind, of their dreamy, other worldly look and demeanour, as they escape into a magical relationship with the keys and notes.  Listening to these pieces makes me feel, in some small way that I am  connected to them and their world.  My story becomes bigger because I have been witness to their musical gift.  I am connected not to only them but also their families, their friends, their farm and of course the forest that we would often visit on our walking forays after an evening of music, conversation and fine food. I can picture Ester’s parents which causes another set of stories to unfold in my head, especially those of their resilience, resourcefulness and faith, as they have made their journey through  life-threatening escape, young love, family, hard work and finally, an old age surrounded by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on a beautiful farm nestled away safely along side the mountains.

Although classical music can stir fond memories it also has the ability to take me back to the days when I somewhat unwillingly studied music. I wanted to take piano lessons and my Mom was so keen to do all she could to give me opportunities she never had as a child, that she enrolled me with a teacher when we did not even own a piano.  I remember walking home from school and hurrying over to the neighbours house to use their piano to practice. Soon after my Mom bought a piano from my grandmother and I was set.  The only problem being, I had already lost interest in practicing because it cut into the time I could play outside with my friends.  I was a competitive swimmer and I swam every morning and everyday after school so there was not much time left for leisure activities when the swimming, homework, chores and piano practicing were factored in.  Nevertheless, my Mom was a firm believer that quitters never get anywhere in life and so I stuck it out.  I learned to discipline myself to practice early in the mornings so that I could squeeze in friend time as well as piano and all my other activities.  I was diligent and the hard work did pay off.  I was able to get my Grade 8 Royal Conservatory Certificate and although I do not have my piano with me at this time I still love to listen to many of the composers and pieces that I begrudgingly learned as I grew up. I look forward to a time when I will have my piano and perhaps be able to take more lessons. Mom was again right, the hard work and not quitting paid off.

Yesterday I was reminded again of the power of music to transport us to happier times.  We received a short note in the mail from my partner’s widowed mother.  She wrote of the latest event in her life which was so touching.  She had recently been to a musical performance that she said  took her down’ memory lane.’  She recounted how the music caused her to relive the love she had shared with her husband before his death and asked us what music might perhaps do the same for us one day.  I found it so heartwarming that she would share such precious memories with her son and I.  What a beautiful gift.

Another genre of music, (country) that I could not stand when I was younger has since grown on me. Country music used to make me think of the ridiculousness of the lyrics and often caused me to be very sad.  I had no explanation for this pervading sadness and still don’t.  Now, country music makes me remember my parents on Friday nights, twirling around our living room or that of my aunt and uncle’s, dancing to the tunes of Stompin Tom Connors, Hank Snow, Hank Williams and Buck Owens.  I think of my Mom singing along to Jim Reeves when we lived at my grandparent’s house and remember when she was young.  I thought my mother was so beautiful, a super-model of sorts. I admired her fashionable hairstyles, her glamorous outfits and the nail polish she would carefully apply at the kitchen table.  I used to think I must have been adopted because I thought I did not possess any of her striking good looks or feminine mystique.  Sadly, life has taken its toll on my mother and although she is still striking with her intense blue eyes and long lean physique, she is tired and hurt, especially after the death of my oldest brother.  She still enjoys a good country tune though and I love to mix her a White Russian or pour a glass of red wine and put on some country tunes in order to transport her to happier times.

Country music also reminds me of my three children.  Funnily enough,  it is the genre of choice for all of them.  George Strait singing, I Wanna  Dance with You, reminds me of when my son would crank that tune and drive me crazy.  When I would tell him to turn it off he smugly reply, “come on Mom, doesn’t this remind you of Pa whistling away in Gram’s ear while they dance?”  Another country song that I cannot hear without thinking of my daughter, Regan, is People Are Crazy, by Billie Currington.  I can pinpoint exactly where we were the first time she played it for us.  We were driving between Penticton and Vernon on our way to my son’s hockey game in my parent’s truck.  When she put the song on I was immediately taken, probably because I saw such pleasure and joy in the faces of my daughter and my Dad.  I still love that tune.  Old Taylor Swift songs remind me of my youngest daughter and all the driving we did in her high school years.  When I hear those songs I can picture us speeding along the Hope Princeton highway on our way back to Penticton or racing toward Vancouver to try catch a ferry so we can be on the island with our family and friends for holidays.  I learned all the words to her early music and Hanna and I would sing away to pass the long hours of driving and to soothe our homesickness.

My Chopin playlist has ended and the house is quiet now.  I am going do some long neglected paperwork, bake a treat to bring along to a friend’s presentation tomorrow night and finish the mincemeat I started yesterday.  I’ll need to be focused and stay on track so I think I better choose my music wisely.  I’ll need something that doesn’t stir too many memories and is not too distracting otherwise I might find myself engulfed in an unproductive, nostalgic fog again and that just won’t do. Perhaps a little ‘Saturday cleaning  and chore music’ would be suitable; Billie Holiday or Thelonnius Monk? I’ll have to see.

Weekend Adventure in Fairhaven

Doors are for people with no imagination.
-Derek Landy

Bellingham Harbor

Bellingham Harbor

Bike riding at Lake Padden

Bike riding at Lake Padden

Thanksgiving weekend is over but it was one of the best weekends I have had in a very long time.  Remember in a previous post I spoke about experiencing time in different ways?  This past weekend it seemed to be all kairos.  Three days seemed to be three weeks.  We began by travelling to the USA to visit friends and stay at the spa in Fairhaven.We took our time and drove the scenic route along through Blaine and Ferndale.  I saw quaint, perfectly kept heritage houses, a beautiful state park and even an oil refinery.   I have never seen an oil refinery and although it is not something I wished to see it was interesting to see exactly what it looks like and how it certainly is a threat to our environment.

We arrived just in time for our massage treatment and then had time to relax in the beautiful room looking out to the harbour of Fairhaven.  We were treated to champagne as well.

In the evening our friends picked us up and we went out to a restaurant along Lake Washington know for its local fare and great service.   The fire oven pizza appetizer was divine as was the wine.  I could not finish my Pumpkin Fettuccine with Chanterelles after sampling the risotto from someone else’s dinner.  I did however find room for the flourless chocolate cake with was ‘to die for.’ We returned back to the room after a wonderful evening of sharing food and stories with friends. The king size bed provided the perfect haven for a good night’s sleep.

On Saturday morning we started with a stroll along the boardwalk over to Wood’s Coffee and then a leisurely walk to our favourite breakfast place, Tony’s Coffee.  In speaking with our server we discovered that Tony’s has been in existence for 30 years.  Tony himself was there cooking away in the kitchen when we were there.

Oasis on Fairhaven city lot

Oasis on Fairhaven city lot

IMG_1902it was a wonderful experience, walking along the historical waterfront and through the  streets downtown.  As we were walking and taking in all the sights and shops we came upon an old red house right in town that tweaked my interest.  It basically had a tiny little bit of a yard at the front, right next to the sidewalk. I was amazed how with a little imagination they had created their own oasis right there on the street.  The owners had a greenhouse as well as several flower beds brimming with sunflowers and fading Autumn Joy Sedums. I thought they did a great job of using a little imagination to get the feel that they had a large lot to grow food and experience beauty in flowers and shrubs.

This got me to thinking about an oases I had created in the past.  We had a 60 foot by 120 foot city lot and my Mom used to joke with me that I was living like I had 40 acres on a matchbox lot.  When I look at pictures of it now ,I guess that was partially true.  We raised chickens, grew apples, raspberries, rhubarb, figs, lavender, vegetables, sunflowers and had a pet cat .As well we  maintained a lawn, a large native Dogwood tree and several very large Douglas Fir trees. Oh, I I can’t forget my two clotheslines.  I was living my dream right there on that tiny lot.  I have always thought that I would like acreage but when I look back at what I was able to do with such a small space I wonder if it is necessary or wise?

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rhubarb, sunflowers, raspberries, chicken coop and clotheslines
My City lot Oasis

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After we had our fill of the ‘city’ we venture off to Lake Padden to do a little mountain biking in the woods. As we climbed the road up toward the lake we were awed by one property, so much so that we backed up and took pictures of the layout.

The property was approximately half and acre and the owners had done a fantastic job of utilizing the space in order to grow food and keep livestock.  The yard was layer out with several areas for specific things.   One shed had a sod roof with blooming Sedums  spilling off the sides. the building  was a chicken house/garden shed.  On one side of the shed was a fenced chicken yard complete with a black goat, (to keep the chickens company?) and on the other side was a fenced garden area with grow boxes for producing vegetables.

Next to that was another area that looked like the fruit growing area.  On the outside of the fence there were blueberry bushes and on the inside of the fence were fruit trees.  Inside the fruit tree area there were several beehives for producing honey, very clever.  Below the fruit area  was another outbuilding with a metal roof and another fenced area for more vegetable as well as a cutting flower garden. Again, I was reminded what a little imagination can create. These people have created a site that is not huge but is perfectly able to provide them with much of their own food.  If find yards like this inspiring.

yard at Lake Paddenb

   yard at Lake Paddenb

 

Lake Padden is a beautiful little lake with many bike, walking and horse trails around it. It was a gorgeous sunny day and so the park was scattered with runners, walkers, dogs and bikers.  There was even a couple getting married on the little dock.  After a fairly vigorous ride through the horse trails and around the lake we quickly changed and departed to get over the border and head for the ferry.  At the last minute we decided to try a different crossing and again, spontaneity paid off, as we pulled up to the border and only had one car in front of us.

After a quick drive to Horseshoe Bay we went through the toll and were told we had missed the ferry that was just docking.  Not to be dissuaded we simply parked and headed into the village.  We looked around and decided that since we had nearly two hours we should have an early dinner.  We chose a restaurant on the water where we were able to observe several families and individuals loading there boats after spending a day in the city.  These were most likely people living on Bowen Island and we marvelled at their organization and routines.  They loaded their boats with everything from groceries to garden rakes and headed out onto the waters to carry their cargo to their island homes.  We had a great time dining and creating our own stories for these people.

After arriving home in the evening it was early to bed only to begin preparations for family and friends to join us for Thanksgiving day celebrations.  We planned a bonfire, hotdog roast and some sweet treats for the day, a walk to the beach and then a full scale turkey dinner in the evening.

We felt as though we had experienced enough to have been away a week and really it was only overnight.  I thought about how our mindset had allowed us to experience time like we had as children on summer vacation. It really is true that our perspective creates our experience.

Tomorrow I will post about our unique celebrations to mark our gratitude for all the goodness we have in our lives.