Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.



Meet you at the market – Penticton revives the town square of old


Joy Road Catering is one of the must-visit stalls at the Penticton Farmers Market. Run by the Okanagan’s top catering chefs, Cameron Smith and Dana Ewart, they sell their signature galletes, wood-fired oven breads, cinnamon buns and these beautiful tarts.

One of the largest and most successful farmer’s markets in British Columbia is in my hood and has become one of our greatest weekly pleasures. Today’s last outdoor market of the season is a time to reflect on the growth of the combined Downtown Penticton Association Community Market and the Penticton Farmers Market and the growing appeal of farmer’s markets across North America.

This beet “pumpkin” reminds me of volleyball Wilson in one of my favourite movies of all time, Castaway.

A trip to the market is much more than about the food that will fill my wicker market basket. It’s about community, identity, pleasure and as food writer Michael Pollan puts it so well, “about carving out a new social and economic space removed from the influence of big corporations on the one side and government on the other.”

Still life in leeks.

There is a lot more going on at the Penticton markets than an exchange of money for food. Sitting with my Backyard’s Beans coffee, in a returnable china mug, I look around and see a pair of talented musicians signing an old Joan Baez tune. Someone else is collecting signatures on a petition. Kids are everywhere. Every second person has a dog on a leash. Friends are meeting up and blocking foot traffic as they exchange hugs. Someone is taking photos of the cabbages. I overhear a discussion on leek soup recipes between farmer and customer. I see strangers talking to each other in line.

I read a study that calculated that people have 10 times as many conversations at the farmers’ market than they do at the grocery store. Like going back in time, the market has taken on the function of a lively new town square reminiscent of old world markets from centuries past. How great is that?

Still life in green and purple.
Parsnip hair…genius.

The rise in popularity of my local market and markets across the province is not just anecdotal. The latest stats from 2012 show that total economic benefits of all farmers’ markets in British Columbia was greater than $170 million, a 147-per-cent increase from 2006. The study said that the five most important factors market shoppers consider are nutritional content, where it’s grown or produced locally, in season, whether it’s grown or produced in B.C. and animal welfare issues. I think a sixth factor should be added, the mre intangible benefit of farmer’s market shopping –the chance to see people, meet friends and have meaningful exchanges with the farmers that grow our food.

Lemon tart love.

Willis showing off his apple juggling skills which involves a knife spearing as his grand finale. Don’t try this a home…






Bird’s eye look at Carpe Diem berry farm

This is my hood for context. Preserved Light is an amazing photography company.

This is a part of our farm in our first year of production with some blueberry picking happening. Can’t wait until next year when our crop should triple. Thank you to our lovely customers at Legend Distilling where our raspberries are happily at home in their Farm Berry Vodka, Nummer’s Gourmet, where they are baked into nummy treats and the Bench Market that sold them fresh or incorporated in their fruit salads.

Concentrated appleness and soul-soothing aromatic cinnamon, cloves and vanilla bean…What is this sorcery? Apple butter and my new mission to make the lost art of making it found.

Apple butter thickly laid over a heavy slice of bread warm from the oven is a pioneer staple that deserves a revival in the orchard-rich Okanagan Valley.

Apple butter is a highly concentrated form of apple sauce produced by long, slow cooking of apples to a point where the sugar in the apples caramelize turning the apple butter a deep brown. Originating in the Middle Ages at monasteries with apple orchards, the secret to making this delicious preserve came over to colonial America with the settlers. Apple butter originated as a way to store apples without refrigeration, before canning was available. Groups would get together for an all-day affair that involved big kettles filled with apples, cider and spices that required constant stirring with big wooden paddles.

Everything you would ever need to know about the historical methods of making apple butter and a recipe to make your own with original methods can be found on the skill cult blog. It’s author encouraged me to try to the historical version but a bit leery on the food safety question, I decided sterilizing jars and finishing off with a good hard boil in a canner  was a surer bet.

FullSizeRender.jpgMy recipe is a modern version using a crockpot, an apple peeler (can peel by hand) and an immersion blender (can use a blender or a whisk) and requires no all-day wooden paddle manning.  Maybe I’m missing out although I’m happily married to my swain, The Handyman…

Here is where the fun came in, or the ladle was too large, in theory, at least, to be handled by one person, and it was customary for the girls and boys in pairs to take turns in stirring. The lady always had the choice of a partner to assist her when her turn came, and whichever swain she selected was regarded by the others as her favourite beau The Conquest of Missouri, Joseph Mills Hanson, 1918

Step One: Apples

Karolina and Doug from Forest Green Man Lavender farm in Naramata kindly gifted me a beautiful box of these lovely Gala apples. Any sweet apple will do or you can mix different varieties.

Step 2 Peel

Peel, core and slice your apples. This handy gizmo does all three licketty-split. 

Step 3 Fill your crock-pot

Fill your crock pot to the brim. The apples will settle quite a bit as they cook and soften.

Step 4 Add sugar and spices

Add 1 to 2 cups of sugar (to taste),( I made some of it brown sugar for flavour), add 1 tsp. or 2 tsp. cinnamon (depending on the size of your crock pot), 1/4 tsp ground cloves, pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp allspice and one whole vanilla bean pod. Just sprinkle these ingredients on top of the apples. (Remove the vanilla pod before loading into jars)

Step 5 Cook on low for about 10 hours 

If you peel your apples in the evening, leave the crock pot on low overnight with the lid slightly ajar to let steam escape. In the morning, use an immersion blender or transfer your applesauce into a blender to smooth out the mixture and then replace in the crock pot. Remove the lid for the last hour or so of cooking to thicken the mixture. (It will thicken a bit further after it cools.) Let it cook to your desired consistency. It will turn a nice scrumptious carmel colour.

Step 6 Water bath can your apple butter.  Sterilize your canning jars, fill them leaving 1/4 inch head space, wipe rims clean, place your lids on and place in a canner filled with boiling water and boil for 15 minutes.

Your house will smell amazing during the long slow apple cooking. Apple butter on raisin cinnamon bread is match made in heaven.
My last step was to drop off some jars at Karolina (pictured above with her rescue pal) and Doug’s lavender farm from whence the apples came. Thanks guys! I left with 20 pounds of beautiful Anjou pears. Mmmmm so it begins. Pear tarts? 


Nonna’s super secret tomato sauce recipe and the trip to Keremeos …(Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 5 out 5)

Keremeos in British Columbia’s fertile Similakameen Valley is bathed in sun and heat for 181 frost-free days resulting in the best tomatoes in the world and a price that will blow your socks off.

Top down to take advantage of the sun on the first day of fall, The Handyman and I head out from Naramata past Almost a Ranch, Foggy Mountain Ranch, Cedar Creek Ranch and the infamous Crazy Zach’s junk/antique on the way to the “Fruit Stand Capital of Canada” on our annual pilgrimage to bring home some summer to store for greyer days ahead.

I always feel a bit like Toad from the Wind in the Willows out for adventure on days like this…
One of Zack’s treasures in a tomato red.


Harvest days.

A still life in gourds.
There is something about the light in the fall…
These 40 lbs. of vine-rippened beauties cost a grand total of $9.98. Add in some Walla, Walla onions and red Russian garlic and your total is somewhere around $16 bucks.

Nonna’s secret tomato sauce recipe

(Disclaimer…I am not Italian and do not have a Nonna but if I did this would be her recipe…I have made this basic but lovely tomato sauce for years and it pays homage to Keremeos’ bounty. This makes a lot of sauce at one time and takes advantage of Farmer’s Market tomato prices.

  • 20 lbs. of perfectly ripe tomatoes
  • 3 or 4 large onions chopped
  • 4 to 6 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 cup of Similkameen honey
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • splash of olive oil (if freezing your sauce, omit if canning)
  • If you are freezing your sauce you could also choose to add in peppers, mushrooms…Don’t add in if canning as the additional fresh vegetables will change the pH so it’s unsafe for water-bath canning…

You can either can or freeze this recipe. If canning, omit the olive oil (very important) and follow standard canning direction adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each quart jar after filling. This ensures that the sauce will be safely acidic.


Soften onions and garlic in a splash of olive oil (if freezing sauce) or in a small amount of water in a heavy large pot. (I actually use two large pots, dividing the onions and garlic between them, as one won’t hold 20 pounds of tomatoes.) While the onions are softening, begin preparing your tomatoes.

Add tomatoes in batches to a pot of boiling water for about minute and transfer to a cold water bath (I use the sink). This will make peeling easy… the skin will just slip off. Take a paring knife and cut out the stem end and remove the peeling skin and discard. I then give each tomato a bit of squeeze to eliminate some of the juice so you will have a nice thick sauce. Add the peeled, squished tomatoes to the onions, bring to a boil and then simmer.

Once all your tomatoes have been added to the pot or pots, add in your seasoning reserving the fresh herbs until the sauce has finished cooking. Simmer on low for two to three hours until your sauce reaches your desired thickness. Be sure to taste and adjust your salt and pepper if necessary.

If you like a smooth, uniform sauce, add the cooled sauce to a blender for 30 seconds or so. Add about three cups to each freezer bag and place all the bags on a cookie sheet (to prevent leakage in your freezer) and freeze. Remove the cookie sheet after your sauce is frozen. If you prefer to can your sauce, load your jars, add the lemon juice and place in a canner and boil for 35 minutes. (Do some canning research if you haven’t canned before so you know how to sterilize your jars and so on…)

Tomato-coloured pot not necessary but awesome right?


Fictional Nonna would be so proud.

I gave my love a cherry that had no stone

Balaton cherries ripe for the picking which I did just after I took this shot.

In a karma exchange I acquired 30 pounds of the most beautiful sour cherries known to man from Forest Green Man Lavender Farm in Naramata. I started some white lavender from cuttings for the farm in the spring and traded for these coveted puckery babies. The farm takes names every year for these Balatons, which originally hailed from Hungary, and they sell out. The catch, which really wasn’t a catch at all, was I had to pick them myself.

This was my view as I picked cherries.
I’m a big fan of the raspberries and blueberries we grown but don’t you agree that cherries are the prettiest fruit going?

Then it got messy. Hot tip…wear something red.

Cherry pitting the old-fashioned way. It took about four hours to pit the 30 pounds. I did it outside and the deck looks like a CSI episode.
This is about 15 pounds of cherries.

I made four pie fillings and froze them and then went on a jam-a-thon with a recipe that couldn’t be any easier. After pitting all the cherries they went into two large pots. I added the zest and juice of two fresh lemons to each pot and cooked them until wilted and soft, which takes about 20 minutes.

At this point, measure how many cups of cherries you have, including the juice and add them back into the pots with 3/4 cup of sugar per each cup of cherries. I added a dash of Kirsch to each pot as well because more cherry flavour is cherrier and one package of pectin crystals. The jam may have jammed without the pectin but I didn’t want to take any chances.

While the cherries are cooking, stick a small plate in the freezer to use to test the doneness of the jam. Remain on alert and stir often. Once the jam appears a bit thick and looks like it is beginning to gel put a small amount of the jam on the frozen plate and return to the freezer. After a few minutes, when you nudge it if it wrinkles, it’s done. If not, cook it some more and re-test…

Load your jam into sterilized jars. You can either decided to store your jam in the fridge and use it up within several months or boil it in a canner for 10 minutes, which I did as it’s pretty hard to use 24 jars in a few months. No half measures here.

I marked my jars with a Wine Glass Writer pen which is super cool. I can wash my label off and recycle my jars without dealing with the left-overs of a sticky label. Genius. Wish my hand-writing was prettier.

Carpe Diem berry farm blueberry ginger lime sorbet I say

What to do with soooooo many blueberries? 

Adding fresh lime and ginger zings up the blueberries in this summer sorbet in the most amazing way. You need a bit of technology to make this one…a blender and an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker I highly recommend getting one. There are a million ice cream and sorbet recipes to choose from and it’s easier to make than you can imagine.

Makes 8 1/2 cup servings.


  • 5 cups fresh, washed and stemmed blueberries (I picked my own from our farm but it’s blueberry season and they are everywhere at the farmer’s markets and supermarkets.)
  • 1/4 cup honey (Penticton Farmer’s market purchase)
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 6 limes)
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger



Add all ingredients to a blender and liquefy about 2 minutes until the mixture reaches a deep purple colour. Refrigerate for about 2 hours until cool. Taste and add more sugar if you desire but I like it a bit tart so didn’t add any more sugar.

I store my ice cream maker vessel in the freezer so it’s ready when I am.

Follow the instructions of your ice cream maker. Run the ice cream maker for 20 to 25 minutes — until the sorbet thickens to soft serve consistency.

Loaf pans work great to freeze and store your sorbet in.

Transfer to a container and freeze for 4 hours or overnight. Scoop and serve.


Five things I learned while harvesting lavender

“Forgiveness is the smell that lavender gives out when you tread on it.” Mark Twain. It’s also the smell that my badly abused running shoes now surprisingly give off when I tread with them on after three days of harvesting lavender at Forest Greenman Lavender Farm in Naramata.
  1. Despite a setting of almost unreal bucolic beauty taken even father into a dream state by its heady scent and the background buzz of a million bees, lavender harvesting, like other farm-work, is hard-work. Bend, employ your hand and wrist to gather stocks, saw them off with your mini scythe with its serrated edge, repeat several more times, gather together into one big bunch, wrestle an elastic band twice around the bunch and repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat…on the hottest days of the summer so far this year.
Note bent-over position

2. You learn a ton about your fellow harvesters and harvesting with interesting, smart people with great stories is an antidote to 34 degree heat. Topics of conversation, in no particular order, included: Naramata gossip, farming, football, antique shopping in France, tai chi, swimming, children, pesticide practices, recipes, American politics, British politics, writing, travel, sciatica, tendonitis, knee replacements, house renovation, recipes, cherries, bee hives, ski instructing, mountain guiding, tragic accidents, cycling, triathlon, the English Channel, ancestry, dogs, raspberry farming, wine, helicopters, fire fighting, the olympics, compost, lavender and a story about the lavender farm’s co-owner’s middle-of-the-night chase after an escaped chicken disturbed by a fox that ended with an descriptive image of Doug with a chicken under one arm and a 22 over his other shoulder returning home buck naked.

Author of The Butcher, The Baker, the Wine and Cheese Maker — An Okanagan Cookbook, Jennifer Schell, dropped by long enough to get a taste of the harvesting experience and to add some fresh topics of conversation to boost our flagging spirits.

3. Bees are big fans of lavender, especially when most other Okanagan Valley crops are no longer in bloom and numerous apiarists have cleverly placed hives near the lavender farm. As we worked, bees would move from the plant being harvested to the next, in their quest to make lavender honey. The Handyman, who also came to harvest, was worried. “What’s going to happen when we reach the very last plant? There are going to be a great many very pissed off bees on it.” Fortunately, we left before that eventuality.

The background buzz in the field was incredible.

4. I am a miser. The harder I work for a buck the less I am willing to spend it. This goes for the income from our raspberry farming as well. Money earned from writing is much easier to spend on a lunch out or a drink at the lovely distillery at the end of our road.

Six a.m. was the loveliest time of the day at the farm before the big heat made us swoon.

5. This sounds completely romance novel mawkishly sentimental, but experiences like harvesting lavender at Doug and Karolina’s farm with The Handyman, our friend Bill and new friends made in the field, makes me love Naramata all the more. A last snippet of conversation to dispel the barfiness…”Doug, I think the best place to fart is in a lavender field. No one would notice.” Doug’s measured response, “I completely disagree. I think the contrast is too great. A much better place to pass wind would be in a sewage treatment plant where it would go unremarked, in my opinion.”

In hysterics…the ultimate raspberry

Not considered the most beautiful plant for most of the year…for one brief month this ugly duckling is a swan.

Christmas excited, our first Carpe Diem berry farm raspberries are ready for picking. Not even exaggerating here…I get into things. Pyjama-clad I head into the patch with my coffee, weigh scale and pint baskets and am in an early morning heaven. It’s just me and the birds… Any marred berries I eat. (Stream of consciousness: “When the harvest really gets going will I be like the I Love Lucy chocolate assembly line scene and come in dripping in horror-movie red juice? Ah, maybe I’ll make jam…”)

Pints destined for The Bench Market.

Day two. Same excitement. Pyjamas, coffee, scale, baskets and RAIN. Now I know I’m a farmer. Rows of perfectly ripe berries and it’s pouring. Sure, you can pick in the rain but it doesn’t do the berries any favours. Their already short shelf life is shortened more by moisture.

Dripping in rain.

While waiting for a dry spell to get back outside, I browse through MyNaramata, our communities top-notch, on-line, hyper-local source of news and read about the cherry growers and their real issues with rain while listening to the sound of an Apocalypse Now number of helicopters outside my window.

“In the last three weeks before cherry harvest, it is important to keep the cherries as dry as possible to prevent splitting,” the article says. “Rain collects in the well on the top of the cherry, is absorbed into the cherry causing it to swell and skin to split. Enter the helicopters which hover to blow the water off.”

As The Handyman and I share a similar quirky sense of humour he is immediately game for a photo session with our raspberries and his remote-controlled helicopter. I send the photos to MyNaramata as a Photo Friday submission.

Blowing the rain off the raspberries.


IMG_0207Snickering and general joviality all round.

MyNaramata publishes my photo. The editor has a laugh.

Early Saturday morning the phone rings.

“Hi, my name is Mark and I have a question about the helicopter you used to dry your raspberries.”

“Sure, I’ll pass you on to the pilot…”

“The pilot is there? Great, that’s fantastic.”

(“Hey Maverick, the phone is for you. There is a guy who has a question about your helicopter…”)

“Hi, I want to know what helicopter you have there. I was looking at a double rotor one like that in New Zealand but it’s priced at over $200,000. What is the make of yours? Where did you get it? How much was it?”

“Mmmmm,” says Maverick politely but grinning madly. “Not sure if you’ve looked at that photo closely but it is a remote-controlled helicopter we were using there as kind of a joke.”

“(Big pause)…(laughter)….Oh my God (laughter), you’re right. Wow, you got me. (Laughter).”

In the meantime, I’m overhearing the discussion and am doubled over in hysterics…eyes streaming, the biggest uncontrolled yet stifled laughter of the year. I’m trying not to be audible as I don’t know if the guy is dying of embarrassment or not. Turns out it he is a good sport and enjoyed the joke himself. The photo was really small and he was fixated on the rotors without clueing in to the scale problems.

He owns a two-seater helicopter himself and has an interesting story I want to blog about… if he’ll let me…



On being a young farmer…out standing in her field

This rustic bench is near her farm office yurt and is a favourite spot for evening mojitos made with help from her purpose-grown mint patch.

“Farming should not be a romantic idea because it’s very far from being a romantic pursuit,” says Michelle Younie, owner of Somewhere That’s Green Edible Landscapes in Penticton and the farmer of Valley View Farms that provides produce for the Hooded Merganser Bar and Grill. I re-visited Michelle’s own farm recently and was blown away by the changes in a few short months since my last visit. Her farm is not only productive, it’s beautifully tended, practically weed-free and the produce is super-charged.

She found her vocation early in life and took her interest to another level by working on farms in Italy. “I was always obsessed by food and learning about growing it. My very first day on the farm in Italy I helped make 500 jars of tomato sauce…how perfectly Italian is that?” says Michelle. The recipe involved basil, carrots, onions, garlic and tomatoes and it’s still her go-to tomato sauce.

“My three months in Italy with its olive groves and vineyards convinced me that this is the way I want to live.”

What a lovely bunch of cabbages. These were planted in February and thrived in our mild winter.
Michelle says she will never do without a greenhouse again. The one in the background was constructed by her dad and crops just kept from freezing in late winter with a propane heater.

“Although it seems like the in thing to do these days it is a lot of hard work and a labour of love,” she says. “I had a friend who bought five acres thinking she was going to grow hops. She didn’t even have a watering can when they first started out. They are still in the process of planting the hops and converting the land, even if it’s all a bit overwhelming. Having land is a lot more work than people initially expect and some of the romanticism dies once you get your hands dirty.”

Michelle’s advice is to start small like she did with an eight-foot by eight-foot garden and work up from there. “Take everything in steps. There is a lot to learn.”

Mulch is a must in our hot and dry climate.

Michelle has learned to grow what people will order. She sells out her produce to a list of customers who come to the farm weekly to pick up their orders. “Nothing goes to waste. If there is anything left over it goes to the rabbits my partner raises.”

Much of the discussion on my second visit to Michelle’s home farm, this time with the lovely ladies of the Naramata Garden Club, centred on bugs. “We host volunteers from around the world for six to eight weeks every summer and a German girl’s worst nightmare was her job of picking bugs by hand. I’m so desensitized now that it seemed funny.

“Overtime you get a balance and some bug damage is acceptable. This year my issue is cutworms and I’ve had to re-plant some things. I need to let the chickens out more to take care of them.”

Lovely straight rows of carrots.

Michelle says there is a desire to learn about food growing again that was lost to the last generation. She is doing her part. “My nephew was with some of his pals and one of them found a big worm and was squeamish about it. He said, ‘You should keep it, take it home and feed it to your chickens.'”

Prettiest farm I’ve ever seen.


Described as a “stone-cold killer of mice” Missy is  the friendliest farm cat ever.
Onions in the foreground of the chicken yard.

In addition to her work on Valleyview Farm and on her own farm, Michelle consults teaching you where and what to plant in your yard with a focus on edibles. Her services range from designing and planning your edible landscape to building, planting and maintaining it for you.

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