Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.


Carpe Diem Berry Farm

A bit of morning magic

Columbines after the rain


Secret garden entrance





Raspberry farm




Statue is called #4 with tree fort in the background


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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.

Bodacious red wine chocolate blackberry cake

Juicy blackberries from our berry farm, red wine and chocolate give this cake a rich flavour punch.

The blackberries are the last of our berry crops and one of the most beautiful. Their size and juiciness is a marvel enjoyed by us and our bear visitors so picking as soon as they are ripe is important. This very Naramata cake recipe combines our berries with red wine and was a perfect late summer cake for my good pal Janet’s birthday.

Succulent blackberries before picking.
Mis en place for the red wine cake with my new antique cupboard from Arundel, England in the background.

Lips that touch wine will never touch mine. Come on, who wrote that nonsense. I suppose they don’t like cake or chocolate either.

I sent The Handyman off to the Naramata store for a bottle of red with a good price point for it’s cake ingredient fate and he came back with a $10 bottle which I was worried was too good to be true…even for a cake. Surprisingly, Bodacious was pretty darn good in the cake and in the chef’s glass.

This recipe makes one three-layer 6-inch cakes that served our party of 10 perfectly with no left-overs.

Red wine cake

  • 1  1/2 all purpose flour
  • 1/2 plus 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Droste, amazing chocolate…)
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (never skip the room temperature step…if you don’t have time…put the butter in a bowl in a warm water bath in your sink to soften it up)
  • 1  1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup full-bodied red wine

Pre-heat the oven to 350F and grease and flour three 6-inch cake pans and set aside. I did it the hard way and used my one and only 6-inch pan and made the cake in three batches.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium until smooth. Add the sugar and mix on medium-high until the butter is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the red wine, while taking sips from your wine glass in between, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds.

Evenly divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 23 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Blackberry ganache ingredients.

Blackberry ganache

  • 3 cups whole fresh blackberries
  • 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 cup chopped good quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Place the blackberries and granulated sugar in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high until the berries start to break down and expel their juices, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the juice through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Discard the solids.

Place the chocolate in a heat-safe bowl and set aside. Reheat 6 tablespoons of the blackberry juice in the saucepan until it begins to simmer (reserve the remaining blackberry juice for finishing the cake). The simmering juice smells amazing p.s. Pour the hot juice over the chocolate. Let sit for 30 seconds, then whisk until combined. Set aside until the ganache cools to room temperature but is still spreadable.

Once the ganache has cooled, whisk to loosen it and stir in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

A Naramata evening walk while the cake cools. This view of the lake is on our regular walking route. Never gets old.

Some assembly required

Once the cakes have cooled completely, level them and choose which layer will at the bottom. Generously brush the layers with the remaining blackberry juice. Place the bottom layer on a cake plate or serving dish. Spread about 1/3 cup of the blackberry ganache with an offset spatula. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat with the ganache, finishing with the final layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with remaining ganache and top with the whole blackberries.


This is an excellent cake from a few standpoints. It’s relatively easy to make as the filling between the layers and the icing is one recipe. It looks great with the blackberry topping and doesn’t involve mad piping skills. Verdict on the taste was a 10 at the party it was served at…”rich, moist, earthy and chocolatey”. I will make this one again.

This recipe comes from fellow Canadian’s Tessa Huff’s amazing book, Layered. Every cake I’ve made from this book has been stellar. Her easy to follow instructions will make you a better baker. As Tessa says, “layer cakes are the ideal vehicle for both creative expression and deliciousness…And let’s fact it — everyone loves a layer cake…It’s time to toss the cake mix and canned frosting and reach the height of your cake-baking potential!” Cheers to that.

I heart Carpe Diem berry farm blueberry heart tart


It’s purple rain at our Naramata berry farm and throughout British Columbia as blueberries come into season. What better way to celebrate than with a blueberry tart recipe?

My first step was to pick. Your’s may be to pick up a couple of pints at a farmer’s market or the grocery store.


You can adorn the tart with icing sugar if you like but I was happy to celebrate purple and leave it as is. The blueberry heart tart is also known as Nicole’s wedding tart at our house or more recently, Gone in 60 Seconds.

This recipe involves three steps: The pastry, a gourmet crumble and the blueberries and cream filling.

For the pastry I elected to use a Pâte Brisée, which is a wonderful flaky pie dough that works well as a dough to line tart shells. Although there are many methods to make it either by hand, with a mixer or a food processor, I find the later is the easiest.


Ingredients for pastry dough

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Combine salt and flour in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the butter in cubes and pulse after each small batch. Add the water and mix only until the dough comes together. It is important not to over-mix. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten and place in the refrigerator for at least a few hours or preferably overnight.

Roll out the dough, place into your tart pan, perforate the bottom of the dough with the tines of a fork and blind bake. Preheat the oven to 325 F and top the pastry with parchment   and add rice or beans all the way to the edges. Bake with this faux filling for 15 minutes, the remove the rice or beans and return the shell to the oven for another 15 minutes until golden brown and evenly coloured. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling. Just before assembly, brush the tart shell with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water) and bake for 5 minutes.


This crumble recipe is gourmet with the addition of Kirschwasser which gives it a lovely cherry flavour.

Crumble ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar (sometimes called sugar in the raw)
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 cup ground almonds or almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Kirschwasser

Preheat oven to 325F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the butter into pieces and place all the ingredients in a bowl and rub the mixture between your hands. Spread on the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp. Cool completely. Store left-overs in the freezer for future use on ice cream or muffins.


One cow contains the cream and the other the milk.

Ingredients for blueberry filling

  • 2 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 2 plus 1 teaspoon egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 heavy cream

In a saucepan, combine the blueberries and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and boil for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, water and cornstarch in a bowl and gradually stir into the berries and simmer 1 minute until thickened. If the juice is still watery and another 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch in a tablespoon of the juice and stir in. Remove from heat when thickened.

Use a paring knife and split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a medium bowl. Add the egg yolk and remaining sugar and whisk together. Add the milk and cream and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the blueberries and take a moment to celebrate the colour.

Some assembly required

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Sprinkle about 6 tablespoons of the crumble in an even layer over the bottom of the pre-baked tart shell. Spread the blueberry filling on top. Place on a sheet pan and bake 30 to 40 minutes until just set. If you shake the pan gently, the middle will jiggle a bit under the surface until it cools, when it will firm up. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Sift on some icing sugar if you like. We served our’s with whipped cream.


Farm to table.

If we build it I hope they don’t come or I had a raspberry farm above the Naramata Bench

IMG_0634Undaunted by our farmer’s market plant sale fail, the Handyman and I pulled out the 75 pinot gris grape vine fail and planted 100 raspberry canes in their place last spring. A second 100 will be joining them in a few weeks to add to an existing 25 raspberry bush patch, 50 blueberry bushes and a smattering of blackberry bushes and voila, Carpe Diem Berry Farm is in business with about 300 bushes. Success guaranteed as I’ve got them pretty much pre-sold to a local coffee and lunch spot, a distillery and a baker. Any left over will be sold at the farmer’s market, a u-pick day or two or frozen for winter sales.

IMG_1397What could go wrong?

My confidence was momentarily shaken when a flyer arrived in the mail from the Raspberry Industry Development Council. Actually I was pretty horrified.

IMG_7287The included  2016 raspberry calendar seemed at first glance to be a handy planting, care and maintenance guide. It in fact detailed what pesticide or herbicide to apply when for what. Malathion, Capture 240EC, Black Label Zn, Ignite OR, Dipel WP… were to help me with hard to control weeds, crown borer, bacterial blight, weevils, caterpillars, leaf rollers, two-spotted mites, botrytis, rust, root rot, fruit worm, spur blight and the new scourge of spotted wing Drosophilia. The chart includes this warning (among others): “Some chemicals are toxic to bees.” Nope. My plan is grow my berries organically and herein lies the challenge.

Another, “If we build it I hope they don’t come,” aspect are the bears that frequent our property. This may require some electrification.

Here is part of the plot prepared for the new canes. You can see some of the blueberry patch at the top of the photo.

After careful research, we decided on a symphony of berry varieties. The first to go in last spring, ironically, were the 100 Encore raspberry canes. Developed by Cornell University, Encore is the one of the latest summer fruiting varieties available. It produces large, firm, slightly conical berries with very good, sweet flavour. This spring we are adding 100 Prelude, also patented by Cornell. These are the earliest summer fruiting variety available. The fruit is medium-sized, round and firm with good flavour. The plan is to offer local raspberries when no others are available.

Seems crazy to order canes from Strawberry Thyme in Ontario when we live in prime berry growing country but they had the varieties we were looking for.

IMG_4200After carefully preparing the rows by digging in lots of compost, we planted these “dead sticks”, watered them in well, turned on the irrigation, mulched the rows and waited. In about two weeks we were rewarded with new growth and happily counted the live ones every day until all 100 showed leaves.

We’ve been careful with site maintenance keeping the grass mowed and raked between rows and surrounding the patch and keeping our tools clean in an effort to reduce pest problems. Our well draining sight in the dry Okanagan should help with any root rot issues.

Taken this morning, this photo shows nice proof of life after the winter
The blueberries are looking very healthy also

Hope springs eternal. If you don’t succeed…try, try again. Never give up. Never surrender….Here’s proof…

FullSizeRenderIn a ballsy move, I’ve bought a case of berry trays.

I welcome any comments from organic farmers about how to keep all those nasty pests away from my raspberries. There doesn’t seem to be much online about how to avoid the scariest new threat to local raspberries of the spotted wing Drosphila with organic measures other than monitoring for their presence with traps and sticky tape. Stay tuned. I hope not to be writing another “One Broke Girl” post about our latest venture.

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