Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Deer's Breakfast

I don't care how many times it happens, it's always a magical experience to see a deer.  The other day, this beautiful animal was out having a good old nosh of the wild apples along Willow Lane.  Don't worry though; I managed to collect enough to make a decent batch of wild apple jelly!  


Checking out the neighbourhood.




That's a big mouthful of apple!


Crunch, crunch ... and it's gone.




She stayed for about 15 minutes just happily eating.


Wait ... is someone taking pictures? (:


Wild apples are everywhere along the pathway.


In this last shot, you can just see the hail which had begun to fall.  She whipped her head around, then suddenly pranced away into the woods. She knew the hailstorm was imminent. Smart lady! :)

Fall Colours

Just a few images of Fall at Willow Retreat.

Molly swimming 2

A certain young lady taking a cool dip.


Abundant crop of apples this year. These are Northern Spy: perfect for making pies. :)

B Camp Fall

The way in to one of our campsites. Beautiful by day; mysterious and otherworldly by night.

Canned Produce

Just a few of the goodies we've put up in the root cellar. Jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys and even marmalade!

Canoe Pond Fall

The pond in shades of autumn.

creek september 6

No shortage of water this time of year!

creek september 13

Avalon Woods are full of hidden brooks and streams.

Fall Colours 3

Glorious highlands in full colour.

Fall Colours 5

The garden at peak colour.

Fall Colours 8

I love to see the hillsides ablaze with orange and red.

H Camp Fall

The way in to our second campsite, named for the fairy hawthorn that stands guard at the centre.

misty fall

The Mists of Avalon Woods ... here there be dragons.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Time flies

Wow, it's been such a long time since I posted an update! So much has happened since the end of Avalon Gathering. Let me bring you up to speed.

We had house guests until the end of August (Hannah and Jacob, our volunteers from Utah) and they were a big help. They also gave us an excuse to be tourists for a couple of days! We visited the Gaelic College, where we browsed tartans and toured the weaving room.  Then we took them to the Lobster Galley in St. Ann's for dinner, where Hannah sampled her first lobster: she loved it. Here is a picture of the newlyweds on the beach at Margaree Harbour:

Hannah Jacob Margaree Beach 4

As well, we drove up the coast to Gampo Abbey, which is a working Tibetan Buddhist Monastery just north of the National Park.  It was really interesting, and we were lucky enough to be able to take meditation instruction with one of the monks.  As Hannah and Jacob are Mormons, I wondered how they would react, but they were very open-minded and joined in the meditation session with everyone else.

Of course, eventually we had to get some work done!  So Jacob went with Paul to learn how to use a chainsaw, and how to split firewood (important skills for a young husband), and Hannah went with me to do some long-overdue weeding of the vegetable garden, to pick raspberries and blackcurrants, pick herbs for drying, and to learn how to plant out tomato seedlings.  She also helped me split and transplant a couple of old, under-achieving rhubarb plants.  Here is Hannah with the baby tomatoes:

Hannah tomatoes 2

I'm pleased to report that they are now two feet tall and giving us baskets full of lovely big tomatoes! 

Hannah tired

Hannah after a long, exhausting day.  Never let it be said that we don't work our volunteers hard here at Willow Retreat!

The guys also got along really well with Molly, who was pleased as punch to make two new friends.  Who wouldn't love this kind of attention?

Hannah Molly

It was great to have some help around the place, and especially from two young people who were so willing and cheerful.  We even broke open the marshmallows around the evening fire! 

Hannah Jacob marshmallows

After Hannah and Jacob left for home, it was time for me to get busy preserving all the lovely ripe fruit that Hannah had helped me pick.  I made raspberry jam, blackcurrant jam, blackberry jam, oregano jelly and lemon balm jelly.  Later, I tried my hand at making marmalade, but it turned out runny, so I have to re-make it.  The herb jellies came out well though.  Next year I'll have to beg, borrow or otherwise acquire some mint, as it's one thing I'm missing in the herb garden. 

herbs 3

Herbs hanging to dry.  From left to right, basil, two bunches of winter savory, St. John's Wort, and oregano.

mystery herb

A mystery herb, which I still haven't been able to identify. It has oval-shaped, wavy-edged leaves, purple flowers, and smells like apples.  It is not apple mint though.  Anyone?

dried oregano

Here is some oregano after being dried.  Just crumble the leaves from the plant and discard any flowers and stems.  It's now ready to go into an air-tight jar for storage.

Speaking of which, I repurposed an empty cable spool to make a herbs & spices carousel.  Here is what I started with:


I then painted it with white primer:

spool 2

When that was dry, I used green paint from a spray-can (it gives a much better finish on cardboard than a brush could) and left it overnight to dry, then painted the lettering using acrylic paint and a small brush:

herb carousel

Et voila!  :)

herb carousel full

Of course, Molly supervised the entire proceedings:

Molly sleep

Okay, I think that's it for now.  More to come!