Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Good Morning

The blossoms are fading on the apple and plum trees, tender green leaves taking their place. The ladies of orchard are putting aside their party dresses and donning work-a-day clothes. Soon they will fade into their surroundings, occupied with the business of making fruit, but there are glories still to come.  Japonica is blushing in the garden and the first red tulips are opening to the sun.  The pear trees have not yet blossomed, nor have the May trees tipped their fingers with tiny, perfectly formed rosettes. The double flowering cherries have yet to shake their flounces to the breeze.  

Along the edge of the water this morning, patches of naturalized forsythia brought bright sunshine to the undergrowth and salmon berry flowers, deep pink with yellow centres waved from twig ends dancing as a breath of wind passed by.  A family of tiny brown rabbits breakfasted on new green grass, shooting back into the shrubbery at the first sign of movement.  Wary creatures:  they know that eagles are circling above, looking for food for their own offspring.

In a farm orchard along the road, a fawn - spotted and still wobbly-legged - stood by its mother in the dappled shade.  So well was it camouflaged that I didn't see it at all until I was right beside it.  In the field opposite, several black lambs chased each other in the morning sunshine, calmly watched over from a distance by their breakfasting mothers and by one enormously pregnant goat, so round that I was amazed her legs could support her weight.

What a precious time of year this is!  So much life poised on the threshold; a tangible, constantly changing reminder of renewal.  

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Good Morning

I left the house early this morning, just as the sun was peeking over the tops of the western hills. 

The sky was still golden as I made my way along the back roads beside the estuary, and the dew was so heavy on the grass that I thought at first it might be frost. Dew and sunlight made an earthbound aurora, every droplet catching light, as rainbow hues danced back and forth across the fields.

Four does grazed mid-field, far enough away from me to remain despite my presence. I could trace their course across the field in the spangled grass. They raised their heads from time to time to check that I was staying put, then returned to grazing, their ears turning and twitching with each new sound; at rest, yet always aware of their surroundings

Hundreds of robins are telling us that spring is here. They were everywhere this morning; red breasted, merry presences on each and every patch of grass. They stood, heads tilted to one side, bright eyes regarding the world around them as they listened, intent upon the smallest of sounds to alert them to the presence of the worms and bugs that make their breakfast.

In the bay, the water, warmer than the air above, rose into mist, wrapping boats and ships in gauzy veils before rising to wreath the hills around it. Not a ripple marred the surface. It was burnished gold by the morning sky.

In a farm field further down the road, the first lambs of the season leaped and played for the sheer joy of it, chasing one another -still clumsy leggѐd - through the wet grass while their mothers observed from a distance, content to watch them play while breakfasting in peace. 

Maples edged the field, near the fence, and I saw them back lit: the fat golden buds at the ends of the branches glowing like embers.

The sun has long since risen higher in the sky and the golden hour of morning sunrise passed us by, but still I hold it in my mind - a keeper of images better than any camera will ever be. I can close my eyes to draw upon it when need be; a well of peaceful memory.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Prelude to Spring: Butchart Gardens

We don't get much cold weather where I live, but for a few days every year the temperature drops as Winter passes by on her way elsewhere.  Usually her visits are accompanied by low, dove-grey clouds so woolly looking that you feel if you could just stretch your fingers upward a few more inches you'd be able to feel their texture, downy-soft upon your finger tips.

Those soft grey clouds bring snow:  Wet snow, in flakes often as large as quarters, that swirl down from above in graceful pirouettes before landing, surprisingly heavily, upon the flowers still blooming in the gardens.  For a brief, magical time the landscape - which often starts showing us spring in January - is dressed in white and in icy diamonds that reflect light in scattered rainbows when the sun breaks through the clouds.

Unused to the cold, islanders hunch their shoulders, tucking their hands into the pockets of inadequate jackets, or simply choose not to go out at all.  So sad!  They're missing an almost magical time, made all the more special by its rarity.

This year, the weather is different.  For several days Winter left her soft grey coat hanging elsewhere and instead brought clear blue skies and unusually low temperatures.  They brought a different sort of magic to our watery landscape, turning the waterfalls and freshets that run down our rocky hills into fanciful sculptures; magical castles and constructions of ice wrapped around the plants that grow at the edges of each small stream, kept bright and glistening by the water still trickling from above.

In the midst of this bright blue weather, my friend Laurel and I chose to visit Butchart Gardens.  The gardens are one of my favourite island places.  I have an annual pass and go there quite often, grateful that - unlike many other gardens in Canada - they choose to remain open year-round. There's beauty there in every season and I enjoy all of it, but the quiet months of winter bring their own special pleasures.

In November, Butchart Gardens offers greenhouse tours, guided by their knowledgeable gardeners, demonstrating how planning and plant propagation are carrying on behind the scenes even while much of the garden is dormant.

In December, we are treated to an amazing Christmas light display.  It takes weeks to construct and is accompanied by outdoor skating, live musical performances, a carousel, and even fireworks.

My favourite of the winter-time displays comes in January though, when Butchart Gardens opens its doors to the Prelude to Spring.  It's an indoor display; a garden bursting with spring bloom, including flowering trees and shrubs, a water feature with some huge koi and a pretty bridge, and several lovely spots in which you can pause, sit, and enjoy the view.

Here is some of what we saw. Click on any of the images to be taken to a slide show of larger views.

After we had enjoyed the indoor garden, Laurel and I headed out into the bright sunshine to enjoy the Japanese garden and Rose gardens with their light dusting of snow, frozen ponds, and ice jeweled streams and fountains.

There was much more we could have seen - the sunken garden, the Ross fountain, the carousel - but we'll save those treasures for the next time Winter comes our way.   For now, we have these bright images, and the memory of scent, and texture, and crisp, clean air to carry us through the grey days.

Friday, 17 January 2014

News of the Day

Here are some of the links I've shared today on my Aunt B's Kitchen on Facebook, B on BalanceTwitter, and Pinterest.

On my blogs:

Franklin Becker's little beet salad recipe from Food Republic.

The ultimate taco salad from Cherished Bliss.

Cowboy caviar from ChinDeep.

Slow roasted salmon with cabbage, bacon, and dill from Serious Eats.

BBQ glazed meat and potato cupcakes stuffed with mozzarella, from ChinDeep.

Rosemary pork white bean soup from OneWorldPlate.

101 dosa varieties from Methi Adai.

Sweet beer bread from Jana Klaner Matson via LoveFoodies.

Chocolate tea time loaf from Cozycakes Cottage.

18 daily habits that make life in the kitchen better, from The Kitchn

Benjamin Franklin - A Founding Foodie, by Tori Avey of History Kitchen.

Health and Fitness:

Eat to beat the winter blues, from Epicurious.

6 nutrients for healthier hair from Health Magazine.

Scientific American reports Researchers Find New Genetic Clue to Lupus, from Huff Post Healthy Living.


Take 30 seconds & think about what makes you happy, from WeeklyPositive via Hooplaha.

Child's Play:

Play date: Crayon art, from CBC Parents blog.

DIY play food: Tacos, from Munchkin and Bean.

Vancouver Island:

Tetsuo Kovama, master of the ancient art of Japanese fabric dying and woodblook printing will instruct a five-day workshop November 22 - 26, 2014 in Duncan.