Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bountiful blackberries of August

The blackberry bushes are groaning, heavy with fruit during this last week of August. It was amazing to watch the progression of ripening this year, from small green berries transforming to a soft pink then continually deepening in colour and growing in size. We have two areas of our property covered with dozens of bushes; the first is along the path leading to our beach and a second massive bush growing over the rock wall between our back lawn and our west field. Kerry and I had to severely cut back the unbearing "sucker" branches, which stretched out up to fifteen feet in some spots, in order to reach the branches with fruit.

Amazing the difference in size --and flavor---of the small blackberries growing in the sun down on the path to our beach versus those growing in the shade over the rock wall. The smaller berries, growing by the beach got 2 months of sun and are super sweet, the large ones, which grew slowly in the shade, are tart, juicy and dissolve on your tongue. They are so big, they are falling off the vine into your hands when you touch them. So big, they look grape-like. 

On the large bush, growing over the old stone property-dividing wall, the berries are in all stages of ripeness, from huge and plump and ready to pick to small and green and weeks ago from enjoying. 

We had a family picking session last night with Max, dad, Kerry and cousin Miles. Everyone got a little pricked by the long, thorny vines last night, as we all reached for the biggest, juiciest looking berries. Talking with my friend Kathy, last night, she was in the midst of making blackberry jelly with some of the berries she picked at her family's cottage. As Miles said, "Blackberries taste like summer."

One has to practically climb into the prickly bushes in order to reach some of the ripest berries. 
Pants and long sleeves are required.

--Monica Forrestall

Monday, August 9, 2010

The surprising gourmet delights of a small town farmer's market

To market, to market to buy....buttery and flaky chocolate croissants made by a French baker, organic string beans and beets by a female farmer committed to producing great vegetables, new potatoes, a pecan pie and some amazing, locally roasted coffee beans...when did our local farmer's market get so deliciously veggies, fruit and beyond?

Just a few years ago, Annapolis Royal's Farmer's Market (in its 30th year) seemed to be mainly produce, flowers and a vendor with organic beef, but these days the varied and down-right delicious vendors offer everything from baked goods (Max can't pass up the chocolate croissants) to roasted coffee beans that make the smoothest, most delicious coffee to a man who has a table of folk-arty birdhouses he fashions using old license plates. 
My market bag in the car, loaded with my Saturday morning shopping; new potatoes, organic beets, a baguette, a pecan pie, and a bag of ground coffee beans. 
I read recently (in the Locavore book I devoured) that Farmer's Market's, in the smaller Canadian communities, have begun to be the social gathering place that churches used to be. 

Getting to market early is of prime importance if you have something in mind that you absolutely want---the fresh blueberry pies ($3 each!!!!!) go FAST, and there is a lineup at the bread baker's table at least 4 people long till everything sells out. Some surprising items are two tables of local winemakers wines; one who specializes in fruit wines and a second who makes fabulous whites and dessert wines. 
One runs into everyone there, and after people have secured their goods, they stroll about and catch up with friends. As much as I love the farmer's market in our Tribeca neighbourhood, it is nothing compared to this market, where I can even buy a jar of homemade Jewel jam (made of four local fruits) from a girl I used to waitress with in my college days (delicious Sandy!). Getting to support local farmer's and artisinal food makers makes every thing I buy, that much sweeter to eat. I love it! 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Favorite new gardening tool---A Garden Knife

For those waging a war against a particular kind of weed, I've found the best new weapon. I'm obsessed with a new gardening tool I was sent to test---OXO Good Grips new Garden Knife. It's the first garden knife I've owned. I wielded this sturdy stainless steel knife against my arch enemy weed---the Asian Knotweed yesterday and came out victorious. It's the best tool I've ever used for deeply cutting into the earth and removing the root structure, along with the stem and leaves of this persistent weed. I love that it comes with a safety sheath with belt clip too, to keep it handy, yet not accidentally digging into my thigh when I drop to the ground in a weeding frenzy. Ahhh my little weed friend, you have met your match!

--Monica Forrestall

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hovering Hummingbirds make Beach Rose Cottage a stopping spot

The bright red Bee Balm flowers AND the two hummingbird feeders my son Max and I put up are attracting several of these hovering miraculous beauties around our house. One red-throated male hovered outside of the kitchen window this morning starring in at me for a few seconds. They are tough to photograph! 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Everything's Coming up Roses!

July is rose month in Nova Scotia. Everything is either just past blooming, in full bloom or about to bloom.  Here are a few of the roses from around our little house "Beach Rose Cottage", which I am deliriously gathering by the armload and filling up every vase and container in sight with.
The jaw-dropping American Pillar Rambling Rose climbs up our 1940's era workshop.

"Big Pink" climbs the old workshop.

A curtain of Dorothy Perkins pink roses cover a living room window.

Morning sun on the blooming roses.

Max and me with Big (American Pillar) Pink on July 13th.

--Monica Forrestall

Friday, April 16, 2010

Beach shell craft hostess gift

                                                   My Max and his little crab.

Every day on our little stretch of beach we collect shells, even if it is just one or two beauties slipped into a pocket. And everyone who travels to visit anyone this summer who lives on the beach will undoubtably do the same thing. It's a universal beach-visit activity. But then what to do with the shells, once the suitcases are unpacked and these sandy, sometimes smelly things emerge? Fill a jar? Fine, but why not create a gift for your hostess or yourself?  Last summer I picked shells and crab legs and stones off of our beach with my son Max, and by the end of the summer we had quite a collection. I had several very plain wooden picture frames on hand and used one of them to made this charming ode-to-summer picture frame.
How to: The plain unpainted wood frame can be bought anywhere. I chose one that had no molded or relief decorations, as it is easier to attach things to a flat surface. There can be picked up anywhere, even second hand at yard sales, keep your eyes peeled. Mine I bought at Pearl Paint in New York for about $13. I carefully washed the shells with soap and water and let them air dry completely. Then I planned out my design, with a crab shell body at the top and used a symmetrical pattern of matching shells at the top. I took the shells off carefully and set them on the table next to the frame, then warmed up my hot glue-gun and got busy glueing the shells in place. Within less than a half hour my project was complete, and just needed to sit and allow the glue to dry completely.
I chose a complimentary photo of a very happy summer moment to showcase the new frame. Doesn't Max look sweet here?

--Monica Forrestall

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Airing your clean Laundry

Is there anything better than the fresh aroma of fabric after it's been blowing in the ocean breeze?
When we have guests over for dinner, even if my linen napkins are clean I make a point of hanging them up outside for a hour or so, before dinner. It's a small touch, but when guest lifts a napkin to wipe their mouth and breathes in fresh salty air,  I know that aroma is brings the ocean inside.

Friday, April 2, 2010

"Memory lets us have roses in December"

A (little altered) quote from James Barrie that speaks of the passion of gardeners.

These are the fragrant roses from Beach Rose Cottage I remember and can't wait to tend, smell, fill our house with come summer.
Pretty "Topaz Jewel" pale yellow rose under the kitchen window is surrounded 
with a few round stones collected from Delaps Cove. The yellow rose, according to the Victorian-era language of flowers, symbolizes friendship and devotion. 
In early July the peonies and tall white rose bushes along our driveway are in full bloom. Don't they look stunning in a creamy white pitcher? Look for white stoneware pitchers at yard sales and junk shops all over the province. Chips on the edge of spouts won't matter when used for a vase, but make certain there are no cracks, because it definitely needs to hold water!

The large rose bush that climbs the garage in full bloom July 27th, 2009.
To put it in perspective, the bush reached around 12 feet last year.
Close up of the pink roses in full bloom.

Beach roses (left) and American Pillar climbing rose (right)
There are so many roses in July, the vases are filled and I use teapots and creamers to hold buds.
Three different rose varieties that bloom around Beach Rose Cottage in July: Ballerina Rose (left), Dark red (center) from large bush out front and pink with white center (left) from climbing bush in backyard.
The white rose bush on the east side of the house has roses that start as pale peachy color, and when they bool they become creamy white all over. 
A small white bush in the side garden has delicate, and impossible to believe fragrant blooms.
My pink rosebush on the side of house that blooms in early August was so full, the stems were dragging on the ground this year. 
So in mid-August I put a trellis, bought from a woodworker up the shore road, behind this rosebush to prop it up, and then supported some stems to climb up around the living room window. The joy of peeping out through fragrant roses on curling vines will be something to look forward to indeed. 

This deep red rose bush (above) we planted ourselves in the backyard under the large picture windows overlooking the back lawn.
On the side of the house, next to the "Capt. Samuel Holland" climber rose bush I planted in August 2008, I rooted several stems (greens stalks right in photo) from our large pink rose bush. Since buying rose bushes can be expensive (they usually start at $20 each) learning how to root cuttings from thriving plants is a very economical way to spread beautiful rose bushes all over your property. Many seemed to take. I can't wait to see how many survived the fall and winter and will reward us with roses in the future. I am learning, gardening is about the future and enormous patience.
I am trying to root more stems/branch cuttings from the big pink rose bush, next to our old 100-year old chicken coop way in the backyard. 

Here's looking forward to a summer of roses, roses and more roses than ever.
---Monica Forrestall

Monday, March 1, 2010

Anticipating Summer at Beach Rose Cottage

As the weather starts to warm up, I am anticipating wonderful times at the cottage.
Here are some happy memories from last summer.

Having friends over for dinner is a joy! Here our simple table is set and ready for company.

Simple details like an elastic shell embellished napkin ring, woven place mats and modern organic shaped dishes help create an updated beach feel.
So many roses in the month of July, I run out of vases and teapots and creamers come to the rescue holding brilliant buds.

Monica Forrestall