Winter’s Promise – seedpods in the winter garden

My winter garden may seem lacking in colour after the frost and snow has had it’s way, but I see so much promise in the seeds that hold the breath of spring inside them.

014 copyThese tiny coriander seedpods will scatter through out my garden and grow into delicious green cilantro as soon as spring is here. I let them spread freely as they are easy to weed out in places where I don’t want them.

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Calendula pods will seed themselves and spread there beautiful orange and yellow blossoms  – I infuse their petals in almond and coconut oil to make a body butter for the dry winter months

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Lavender are some of the bees favourite flowers – they literally hum in early summer as I hang my laundry out right next to them. We have two top bar beehives on our property in the village and four more on a local organic farm. I use lavender to make eye pillows and a gorgeous body oil. They seed themselves in the garden and I pass them on to my neighbours and friends knowing that our bees will find them.

042 copy.jpgThese faded ladies are stunning in the summer garden with their rich pink petals and bright green leaves. ‘Rosa Rugosa’ flower at least twice if we’re lucky, in the early summer and again in the fall. They do not spread by seed but can be propagated by clipping their suckers.

009 copyOregano spreads itself freely and you have to keep an eye on it as it can be a bit invasive. It is however another favourite of the bees and delicious in the kitchen.

027 copyMilkweed have the most interesting pods and of course the monarch butterflies love them.

043 copyPretty pretty cosmos – flower of the sun – all inside those tiny pods waiting for the spring

006 copyEchinacea – one of my treasured medicinal plants, and beautiful too.


A snow cradle:

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Bulk bin shopping – what is the best reusable bag for holding flour?

011 copyOver the years I have received many questions and suggestions about the use of my reusable food bags and also my food storage ideas and questions about buying bulk food. Most of the time I can offer an answer. However, the quest for reducing plastic in our daily lives is my journey too and I am also learning. I discover new ways of doing everyday things by talking to others, reading books, blogs – the usual way we share information today – but very often this journey is just a bit of common sense and ‘trial and error’. Like many of us I am a very busy person and because of this I am guilty of neglecting my blog writing here. I always do take the time to answer questions from my customers though because I am very passionate about finding ways of reducing plastic and other waste and I think it is critical that we learn to live with less impact on our weary planet. So, it occurred to me that I should use this space to discuss the questions and ideas which come to me and tips from my own lifestyle. I welcome you to add your ideas in the comments.

A question which has been asked so often is: ” What is the best fabric for holding flour?”

I use three types of fabric to make reusable food bags: Lightweight rip stop nylon or natural silk for bulk food and cotton for produce.  Even though as a textile artist I prefer to use natural fiber I opted for the rip stop nylon because it weighs the same as plastic and so will not add weight to your purchase, it is extremely strong and durable so it will last you for years and fine dry foods like flours and spices will not leak through the weave. The silk bags, which came later, are a natural biodegradable option which many of my customers prefer, but it does not hold flour as well in my opinion. It’s not that it leaks all over the place, but it does gather a very fine dusting of flour on the outside of the bag. We have to remind ourselves that before plastic came along flour was sold in cotton bags and the same leaching occurred. Taking this into consideration, you can decide for yourself which fabric is best. There are pros and cons to everything. In my opinion, silk can hold flour, but nylon does it best.

003 (2) copyTwo Kootsac bags holding white flour – silk bag on the left, ripstop nylon on the right – I ‘slammed’ both bags down quite hard on the board and as you can see in front of the silk bag is a sprinkle of flour and the nylon bag has nothing.

Another point is that these bags are designed for carrying your food home from the bulk bin section of the store. Once at home your food should be stored in a glass jar or other suitable container. These bags are not designed for storage. After use they should be washed, dried and put in your shopping bag for the next time you need them. The aim is to reduce unwanted plastic coming home from the grocery store.

I hope this article has answered the question clearly. I welcome your comments and suggestions.



Microgreens and pea shoots for fresh little greens all winter

Microgreens - peas - Kootsac

Pea shoots with seeds saved from our summer snow peas

This is something I have been resisting for years – growing indoor edibles, because it seemed kind of a waste of electricity and maybe used more energy than it was worth. But, living where we do means that we rely on trucking produce in during the winter months. Though we try to eat as much of our own homegrown winter storage vegetables like potatoes, squash, garlic and carrots, and we can get local onions, beets and other root vegetables, greens are a different story. When I started to see tiny bags of micro greens for sale in stores at quite high prices I thought I’d give it a try.

We have a grow light to start our seedlings in the spring and we set it up on a table and created a little indoor gardening station, with a bag of Sunshine mix, an assortment of mostly recycled containers, a spray bottle for water and of course seeds. Some of the seeds are seeds saved from our own garden, like the peas, cilantro and cress, and I can see a lot of potential for saving other seeds this summer. Though we purchased soil this year, next season I will make my own as I usually do from compost, peat moss and vermiculite. We also have a small heat mat just for sprouting seeds when it is really cold, and a timer to control the grow light.

Kootsac microgreensStarting top left: cress, mixed brassicas (mostly mustard family), and peas

So far we have tried: peas (saved from our own snow peas grown in the Kootenays for over 20 years), cress (both summer and winter), broccoli, mixed micro greens and sunflowers seeds purchased from West Coast Seeds , mizuna, cilantro, basil and beets. By far the best have been the pea shoots which take about a week to sprout and then grow fast They are quite substantial greens and they will grow another two or three cuttings after the first one before they start getting tough and stringy. Cilantro and basil take longer to grow but are quite a treat on curries and pasta dishes – I plant them much closer together than you would normally. Most of our greens are eaten on top of rice bowls which are a staple for us.

microgreens - KootsacCress and two week microgreen blend from West Coast Seeds and in the background peas which are growing again after the first cutting

Since these little greens are grown in very little soil ( 2 to 3 inches) they will deplete the soil fairly quickly. If you want to grow them for longer, as in the case of the peas, herbs, or if you want baby greens, I have discovered that making a herbal infusion of herbs such as nettles, oatstraw or comfrey makes a nutritious treat for these little gardens. I dilute the tea with water before using.

Kootsac microgreensMixed microgreens and young peashoots in recycled containers

Honey bees – fall forage

Noticing our honey bees foraging in the garden not far from their hives.

Fall asterFall asters always attract pollinators and our bees love them. Aster comes from the Greek word for star, and they really are stars in the fall garden. Reliable long lasting blooms and food for bees in the late season garden.

Bugbane- 'Cimicifuga'Bugbane which used to be called cimicifuga but has been renamed Actaea, is one of my favourite fall blooms. I have moved it around my garden quite a bit until it finally came to rest right in front of my kitchen window where it receives afternoon sun only. It seems very happy there. In full sun the blooms would appear earlier and then literally fry in the sun, so I moved them to this shadier part of the garden. Now I can enjoy seeing the beautiful blooms and watch my honey bees forage as I do the dishes. It is very fragrant and as the long fronds sway in the September breeze you can smell them from quite a distance.

Fall sedumThere are many varieties of sedum, or stonecrop,  but this variety of fall sedum which flowers in my garden in late August through September, and sometimes until the snow flies, is my favourite. All of the pollinators love it, and on a warm fall day they are jostling for position on the  tiny star shaped flowers. I grow these in many areas of my garden, especially for my bees.

My Precious Seeds

September brings harvest, and my most precious garden treasures are my seeds. I am always charmed by the beautiful pods of beans that I pluck and shuck every Fall from my garden.

This year for the first time I tried growing lentils. I was surprised that they came in such tiny little pods. Nothing like the beans I grow and shuck every year. Look at the difference in size:

From left to right: Snow peas, which I call the Kootenay snow pea because they have been grown here for well over 20 years, (I grow them every year from my own seeds), a variety of Dragon’s Tongue which I call Jack Harvey beans after the restaurant I worked at who grew them, Orca beans, Black Coco beans, beautiful big white Italian Roma beans, and above them the tiny French lentils, and on the far right, the French fillet beans ( our favourite summer green bean for fresh eating.

Jack Harvey beans are the yummiest bean for making baked beans. I do them in the crockpot and next time I make them I will post the recipe. They are chunky, buttery and delicious!

Small Things

This is where I live: in a small village on the Slocan Lake in the mountains of the Kootenay region of British Columbia, Canada.

New Denver, Slocan Lake

View from Idaho Peak – New Denver on Slocan Lake in the summer

This beautiful landscape and all the other lands I have ever lived in provide inspirational sustenance for the way I live my life. The small things living inside this landscape touch my being every day and it is through these daily interactions with nature that I find guidance on how to live my life. Nature is my motivation, my teacher and my muse. It is the small things in nature that are constant reminders that smallness is important, that small things matter, that small things grow into big things, that a landscape is made up of little miracles, and that the world can be changed by small things, one action and one individual at a time.

Butterfly on Idaho Peak, BCButterfly on wildflowers, Idaho Peak above New Denver, BC

It was this concept of small which motivated me to create my very first Kootsac bags in 2007. I was on a mission to reduce as much plastic in our household as I could and those little plastic bags that kept coming in with bulk bin food and produce were driving me crazy. In an effort to at least reuse them I would wash them and hang them out to dry on the back porch. We would walk into a wall of them every time we went out the back door, and we had bags of plastic bags. I began to think about how many plastic bags were used and thrown away in other households all over the world. My mind boggled. I searched for reusable bags to replace them and when I found none available for sale I went to work designing and making my own. I called them Kootsacs because they are little ‘sacks’ made right here in my studio in the Kootenays.

Morgen in her studioMorgen in her fiber art studio

Kootsac bags are made with lightweight ripstop nylon or natural silk for bulk food bin shopping, and in unbleached cotton muslin for produce. Cotton produce bags are printed with my original screenprint designs of butterflies and bees – a reminder by these small delicate creatures that the earth needs our care and protection.

Butterfly produce bag‘Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair’. ~ Kahlil Gibran~