We Have Worms!

March 29, 2019

Yippee, we have worms again! Not the intestinal kind, but the composting kind, the vermiculture kind – red wigglers.

Composting with Worms_Grade 3 Science Project

When Christopher was nine years old, we bought a small package of composting worms while travelling through Saskatoon SK on our way home from a holiday. He was about to go into Grade 3, and the worms would be a great Science Project – Composting with Worms. (And yes, his mother was perhaps little too enthusiastic about science projects, and perhaps a tad too over involved. Perhaps.) On getting home, we did our homework and soon our worms were happily reproducing and eating away at our compostables.

Besides the Science Project, I also wanted worms to be able to compost year round. Our family of five vegetarians produced prodigious amounts of kitchen waste over the winter, which when added to the frozen compost pile, resulting in a rather stinky heap come melt time in spring. The worms allowed us to compost kitchen scraps inside all year long. The outdoor compost pile was reserved more for garden waste and less for kitchen waste.


1999 Kelsey Composting Science Project

Over the years, our little vermiculture project grew and grew. It served as a basis for more than that first Grade 3 Science Project. In fact Kelsey went on to be a composting expert, expanding her composting knowledge year by year. She was the recipient of two Sustainable Development Awards at the Provincial Science Fair. A grand thing for our lowly worms. As our worm population grew, I gave away many a worm composting system to interested friends.

Alas, over ten years ago we decided to get out of worms. At the time, we had ample composting space at the Ponderosa. Since we were travelling back and forth from the city weekly, we decided to take the compost to the Ponderosa and get rid of the work of maintaining a worm composting system.

A worm composting system is not very labor intensive, but it does take some time to maintain a good worm bed. I can’t say I miss my worms, but I do miss the poo! The worm poo that is. Worm castings are like gold. They are nutrient rich and a great source of humus. They are fabulous for starting seedlings (mixed with potting soil). Since I am now starting all my own seedlings, I decided its time to start making worm castings again.

Rubbermaid container with holes drilled on the bottom and along the sides for aeration and drainage

Today, my sister Sheryl arrived with a welcome present – a small tub of red wiggler worms from Amanda (Trevor’s girlfriend, lucky guy to have a girlfriend with worms!). Luckily I still had my worm bins, including a small one used for display at Science Fairs. The perfect size for my new small family of worms.  My worm bins are just Rubbermaid containers that have holes drilled on the bottom and around the sides for aeration and drainage. The lid also has holes in it. Then all you need is something underneath to capture any excess liquid.




1999_ Christopher and Kelsey doing the newspaper shredding

Shred up some newspaper (thanks Ken and Theresa for the ongoing supply of newspaper). This task brought back great memories. The kids used to do this task for me in our kitchen on McInnes Place. I didn’t meed much today to fill the small container, but we used to have to shred a huge amount to fill to large bins. They had a lot of fun doing it too.

Worm bed ready with damp newspaper and eggshells for grit

Moisten the newspaper until it is like a damp sponge. Fill the worm bed, adding some grit for the worms (they are toothless and need something to help break down the organic matter in their stomach). Previously I used ground egg shells. Luckily Sheryl had some for me. As we no longer eat eggs, I will have to figure out a more vegan option (maybe sand?) or rely on Sheryl for egg shells.

On top spread a layer of kitchen scraps. I emptied the contents of my compost pail into the food processor to create nice finely chopped organic matter as a special welcome treat for my new house guests. While they are getting established I will try and keep their food finely chopped so that they can eat more, poop more and reproduce as fast as possible.

Lastly, my lovely worms were added.  They wasted no time burying into moist bedding to escape the light. As an active worm bed produces a fair bit of liquid, I placed the container inside another similar container without drainage holes. As the bed gets too damp, I will add dry shredded newspaper to absorb some of the water, keeping liquid runoff to a minimum.

My worm bed is safely tucked away under my kitchen sink, as my basement is too cold for them. They prefer a temperature around 18 to 22 C. When they outgrow this small container, I will get Ken to build me one to custom fit this space.


In the meantime, my seedling starts are doing fine in the sunroom with added light from grow lights. We repotted some this week (peppers, sage, thyme, celery, stevia and lemon balm), using a mixture of soil from my garden and worm castings from sister Sheryl’s worm bin. The tomatoes, eggplant, watermelon and cantaloupe were planted this week but have yet to germinate. Next week I will start the brassicas.

Vicky repotting seedlings




I can’t wait for the grandkids to meet my worms. Hmmm, maybe they will be interested in doing a Science Project with Baba. A whole new generation to work with!

Posted in Family, Gardening | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Holistic Holiday at Sea

March 3 to 14, 2019

20190306_Ken Divina

We have just returned from a most amazing holiday. I know I had decided I would not travel in the winter any longer (see Snow or Sand), and I did stay home this winter for two weeks while Ken went to Mexico. Then, last fall a link to the Holistic Holiday at Sea appeared on my Facebook feed and I was intrigued. Imagine a cruise to exotic ports, vegan food, and a stellar lineup of health, wellness, fitness, animal rights, meditation, yoga and cooking experts all in one place.  I let Ken know, if he wanted me to travel, this was a holiday I would consider. Sadly it was booked up for this year and we went on a waiting list. In January we got an email saying 30 spots had opened up. We booked immediately and were soon on an epic vegan adventure.

Due to our last minute booking we were unable to get a good price on airfare and decided to drive instead, after all, we are retired. While the car trip was bum numbing, we did get the opportunity to see the southern states, visit friends and relatives, and make a stop at Disney and Graceland. (If you are considering this option, I did the books when we returned and found that adding driving and the extra 13 days to the trip made it about equal to airfare. But our car is  fuel efficient, averaging 5.5 l/100 km or about 50 miles per gallon. Not factoring in the wear and tear on the vehicle travelling over 9,000 km)

The cruise was aboard the MSC Divina, and amazingly, half the over 4,000 passengers  were vegan. That in itself was mind blowing. Every meal, every lecture, every class, we sat next to kindred souls and we met so many amazing people from all over the world. They ranged in age from babies to over 80. Some came for the speakers, and some came just for a holiday without diet concerns. Most of us attended copious lectures, and some just enjoyed the pool and ship amenities.


While at sea, our days were full of lectures from world class experts. Below are a few of them:

20190312_Klapper Campbell Esselstyn panel

Question and Answer Panel with Dr. Micheal Klapper, Dr. T Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn


  • Experts in health – Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. Michael Klapper, Dr. Ron Weis, Brenda Davis RD, Virginia Harper
  • Wellness experts – Nelson Campbell, Dr. Ilana Newman (Korean Hand Therapy), Dr. Will Tuttle
  • 20190308_Kim Campbell Ken Darlene

    Book Signing with Kim Campbell

  • Expert Chefs  – Kim Campbell, Chef AJ, Ann Esselstyn, Jane Esselstyn, Rip Esselstyn, Juleanna Hever, Jessica Porter
  • Elite Athletes – Matt Frazier (No Meat Athlete), Robert Cheeke, Giacomo Marchese
  • Animal rights experts – James Aspey, Dr. Jonathon Balcombe

20190306_T Colin Mary Cambell

This was a celebrity lineup for me, and they were very approachable. We even had the very great pleasure of having dinner one evening with Dr. T Colin Campbell and his wife Mary. We got to chat with Kim and Nelson Campbell (PlantPure Nation and Healing America pioneers), Dr. Will Tuttle (author of The World Peace Diet),  Dr. Jonathan Balcombe (a Canadian ethologist and author of What a Fish Knows) and Dr. Michael Klapper.

20190308_Will Tuttle Darlene

Dr. Will Tuttle


With this amazing lineup of speakers, I was busy from morning to night. My days started at 7 am with yoga or meditation, and ended after 10 after the last keynote speaker and a quick stop to the pool deck to sample the vegan snacks at the evening dance party (vegan ice cream, pizza, Notcho Nocheez and sushi -amazing).

We also got to see the new documentary Eating You Alive and meet one of the couples featured in the movie.


20190305_Buffet signWe have done many holidays, all inclusive resorts and cruises before. While we always find enough to eat, it is sometimes a pain constantly inquiring on what you can or cannot eat. Since going veg at 21, this is my very first holiday where food was not an issue. Vegan sit down breakfasts, lunches and dinners as well as a vegan buffet for breakfast and lunch. The food was healthy and tasty, for the most part. There were oil free options as well. The meals were prepared with very little salt, so at first I found the food a bit bland. I decided to resist the salt shaker, and over the course of the cruise my taste buds adjusted. One of our table mates introduced us to a product called Benson’s Table Tasty, an amazing salt substitute. (So far I have not found a Canadian source but I am looking) For those interested, there was also vegan processed foods -cheese, Beyond Meat burgers and tacos, and vegan pizza available. And I do confess I did stray from my no oil diet a few times and enjoy some of these.


20190307_Cartegena parrot up close

We set sail from Miami, Florida. The ship had 3 full days at sea, which were days jam packed with speakers for me. We ended up taking our lunches on the pool deck just to get some sun. While in port, there were no speakers scheduled, and we got off the ship to explore and enjoy some relaxing time at the pool.

20190307_Cartegena Sloth

Wild sloth in tree in a park in the center of Cartegena

  • Ocho Rios, Jamaica
  • Oranjestad, Aruba
  • Cartagena, Columbia
  • Colon, Panama
  • Costa Maya, Mexico
  • Cozumel, Mexico

20190307_Cartegena Tucin


Instead of chocolates on our pillows at night, we found a variety of vegan swag – magazines, cookbooks, sea salt, lotion, etc.

All in all a very good holiday, and highly recommended if you are looking for a cruise. Though I have to admit I had a few guilt pangs as a cruise is not the most environmentally friendly holiday option. And since I went just for the speakers, it would not have mattered if the holiday had been Chicago in January or sunny Aruba. I was content to be “back at school”, filling my notebook with notes and enjoying the company of like minded people.

20190306_Aruba Health Sign 2

20190227_Darlene Phyllis Harry

with cousins Phyllis and Harry

As a reward for sitting in the car for so long, we got to pick up firebricks for our Kitchen Queen Woodstove in Knoxville, Tennessee (saving shipping fees); enjoy a day long visit with cousins Phyllis and Harry in lovely St. Pete Beach, Florida.

20190227_Ken Wayne Duet

We also spent 3 days in Fort Myers with friend Wayne. Ken had a good fix of karaoke.

20190315_K and D with Mickey Mouse


20190315_Darlene with GoofyBefore heading home we stopped to say hi to Mickey Mouse and Goofy at Epcot (thanks to our workaway friend Heather) and visit Elvis’s Graceland in Memphis. We were able to find some great vegan food at Disney – Overnight oats and a hot veggie wrap for breakfast; and a veggie korma for dinner. Graceland was a whole nother ball game. In the diner they did offer a Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich; however it comes grilled in bacon grease. Yeach!

20190317_Elvis Poster


We also utilized Vegvisits, an Airbnb for vegans. Although there were no accomodations that fit our schedule, we did find a lovely fellow vegan in Miami who allowed us to park our car at her place, as the dock parking was full (and reviews for private lots around the dock we sketchy). She drove us to and from the dock and even made us the most amazing lunch when we returned. We also drove through a raging blizzard and glare ice roads in Iowa, and got a four hour detour around the Smokey Mountains due to landslides. But that’s all part of the adventure. 


Posted in Food, Fun | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

2018 Year in Review

Another year gone, in a blink of the eye. How fast time goes by. It was another busy year for the Porters.

Ken Darlene Sox and Hanna July 2018

Last year I reported that, five years after ground breaking, the house was essentially finished. So we spent 2018 sitting on the front porch enjoying the view. Ha Ha, that’s a good one. While we did spend a bit more time enjoying the view, we did get a whole lot of work done as well. It’s been especially wonderful not to be living in a construction zone, no more sawdust or tools in the house. And it’s been nice to get Ken going on some of my ‘Honey-Do’ list projects.

Kayaking on the lake. Photo by Maxime

One of Ken’s projects was an entertainment unit for the TV room upstairs. We were using an old bedroom dresser, but he built a fantastic one using leftovers from the other construction projects. It looks great and adds more storage (you never can have enough storage, lol).


July 23, 2018 view of lake side landscaping

We also worked on outdoor landscaping. We finished the terraced bed and paths on the lake side, which will be planted with strawberries and herbs in the spring. We cleaned up the bed in the middle of the driveway turnaround and we finally leveled the huge pile of top soil from the house excavation, which will be made into another flower/shrub bed in the spring.

Green house and expanded garden area

The garden expansion was completed in 2017, so 2018 was the first year with the larger garden. Part of the new garden area is taken up by a 12’ by 16’ foot greenhouse Ken built this spring. The greenhouse and expanded garden area will enable us to extend the growing season and grow more, moving us closer to self-sufficiency.



Canned goods

We harvested, ate or preserved almost everything the garden produced this year filling our larder with lots of fresh, frozen, dried and canned goods. Now that all the hard work is done, we get to enjoy using that produce all winter – frozen raspberries, saskatoon and sea buckthorn berries, canned grape and cranberry juice, dried apples and gogi berries. Frozen string beans, corn, snap peas, red peppers and leeks; dried zucchini slices (excellent in stir fries!), herbs and greens (for smoothies). Canned tomatoes, salsa and pickles. And I still have my own onions, garlic, winter squash, pumpkin, carrots, beets and potatoes.

Shelling Beans

We experimented with a few new items this year, with mixed success – dry beans, popping corn and sweet potatoes. The popping corn and lentils will not be repeated next year. Did you know that each little lentil grows in its own pod!!! Until we figure out an easy way to shell, we will not be growing our own lentils. We will; however, grow more dry beans and chickpeas and give growing sweet potato in the greenhouse another go.

Dutch Kiss

We did some traveling this year as well. In January, I spent three weeks in BC visiting the kids and grandkids. In February, Ken was off to Mexico for two weeks in the sun. In May, both of us enjoyed a K.Porter Travel group excursion to Amsterdam and England.

Matt, Nora, Kelsey and Jacob Oct 2018 


In October, we travelled to BC to spend Thanksgiving in Kamloops at Kelsey, Matt, Jacob and Nora’s house. Christopher, Emily and Astrid travelled down as well, so it was a fun time with three toddlers.

Astrid, Emily and Christopher October 2018

The big pile of leaves in the front yard made the best playground. We also celebrated Jacob’s third birthday while Astrid was there. Then we travelled to Vancouver to spend a few days at Astrid’s place.





The Grandkids – Katie, Nora, Jacob, Astrid, Tyler

The kids all visited us at the Ponderosa this year, as well, in August. Everyone, except Matt who could not get holidays, was out. This big ol’ house sure came in handy with everyone visiting; our three kids – Kerry, Christopher and Kelsey; two of the

Katie, Tyler, Astrid and Jacob driving Gigi’s tractor

spouses – Emily and Megan; all five grandchildren – Katie (10), Tyler(9), Jacob (3), Astrid (2) and Nora (1); and two of Kelsey’s school friends – Miranda and Jen. It was a lot of fun and I hope we get to repeat it again next year.

Lucas planting tomatoes

We had a few more Workawayers (travelers that work for room and board) at our place this year. Lucas, from Belgium, was with us for seven weeks this spring to house/dog/cat sit while we went to Amsterdam and England. He stayed after we got home to help put up the greenhouse and plant the garden.



Maxime (with Sox), Sandra and Emilie

Sandra, Maxime and Emilie from France were with us for the month of July and helped out with the garden and landscaping.




Vanessa making German Seed Bread

Vanessa ,from Germany, was here for three weeks in September and helped with the garden.







Heather and her ukelele

And Heather, from the UK was here in October to housesit and take care of Hanna and Sox while we went to BC.

We enjoyed our time with these stellar young folk, who we like to think of as our rental kids. I love the exchange of ideas, and I hope they learned as much from us as we learned from them. They certainly inspired me to work towards living the vegan philosophy more fully.

Best news for Ken was that he got back into playing slo-pitch this year with a team out of Brandon. He played a few tournaments with them and looks forward to playing more next year. Both of us took up Pickleball this year as well. It’s a great sport. We really enjoyed the camaraderie and exercise.

Dr. Esseltyn at VegFest

I am still hosting plant-based cooking classes in Winnipeg, so if you are looking for some good plant-based recipes, check out Ponderosacooks.wordpress.com. To keep up with what’s happening in the plant-based revolution, I attended several on-line forums, a talk in Winnipeg by Dr. Michael Greger, and volunteered at Winnipeg VegFest where I got to meet Dr. Caldwell Esseltyn and his wife Ann.

Along with others in my meditation group, I volunteered at Siloam Mission and made two of the biggest pots of Red Lentil Carrot and Coconut Soup you ever saw – enough for 600 people. As well, I stay busy volunteering at the town perogie bees and working with the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Museum.


The latest news at the Ponderosa is that we have a new boarder for the winter. My sister Sheryl’s kitten Booksey is staying with us. Hanna is now six and Sox is five, so it’s been a while since we had a youngster around and we are having fun watching his antics. All three animals are getting along nicely.



As you can see, life on the Ponderosa is never dull. We enjoy our twice daily walks through the bush with Hanna (and sometimes Sox as well); growing, harvesting and preserving our own food; cooking delicious vegan meals; building things, spending time with the kids and grandkids; and, helping others out. Life is good and we are grateful.

The moon and Mars over the Ponderosa – July 2018. Photo by Maxime

From our house to yours, we wish you Happy Holidays and all the very best to you and your family in 2019.

Posted in Family, Fun | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A New Boarder – Booksey

December 15, 2018

We have a new boarder staying with us for the winter – my sister Sheryl’s kitten, Booksey. Life got a lot more interesting since he arrived. Hanna is now six and Sox is five, so its been a while since we had an energetic young one around.

Booksey was named by Sheryl’s granddaughter Penny as that is how she used to say Spookey when she was little (she’s big now – she’s 5!). And its a fitting name, as Booksey is jet black with white markings. He (we are pretty sure he is a male) is a friendly little thing.



Now that Hanna and Sox have adjusted to him, he enjoys tormenting them and they enjoy wrestling with him. Both of them are quite gentle with him.





Hanna even allows him to eat her food, which is really unusual as she is very protective of her food.







Posted in Fun, Pets | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Entertainment Unit

November 5, 2018

One more project ticked off the list – an entertainment unit for the media room.

The media room is a loft room upstairs. It was our bonus room. Our original plan did not have a room above the sunroom, but the structural engineer we worked with suggested we add it. And we are so glad we did. We spend a lot of time in this room during the winter months as heat rises, making it a warm and cozy place. It also has nice light from the south facing windows and a view of the lake through the west windows. Its big enough for a crowd to hang out in for a sing song or for several mats for a yoga session. And now a super nice entertainment unit with plenty of storage space.

Ken made the unit with leftover supplies from building the house – the carcasses are made from maple plywood leftover from the livingroom cabinets, the shelves are made with leftover MDF from various projects,  the cabinet doors are made from hardwood flooring leftovers from the upstairs floors, and he finished the tops of the main section and the side cabinets with arborite leftover from the kitchen countertops. And we found the cute little door pulls at a second hand building material store.

Phase 1 – base and main section

Phase 2 – side cabinets

Phase 3 – Ta Da! All finished


Posted in upstairs, Woodworking projects | Tagged , | 1 Comment

2018 Garden Update

November 2, 2018

Garden asleep under the snow

The snow is on the ground this morning. Not our first snow fall, but I think this one might be here to stay. The garden has been worked up and is ready for a winter’s sleep. I am sad to see the end of the garden season but excited to be able to see how far the fruits of the season will last into the winter.

The garden this year got of to a later start than usual, due to both weather and a vacation. However, it was a pretty good summer with lots of sunshine and warm weather. Having the ability to pump up nice warm nutrient rich water from the lake helped to make up for a lack of rain.

New for 2018:

  • This was our first year on the garden expansion plot. In general, the new plot produced well, except for the cucumbers. The tomatoes seemed to love the sheltered nestled between the greenhouse, raspberries and trees. I think this space will be great for a rotation of heat loving plants. The soil quality was decent this year but should be much better next year. The space was heavily mulched this year and the mulch tilled into the soil this fall. I expect the added organic matter to improve the soil structure.
  • Greenhouse in the new expanded garden area

    Our greenhouse was built late this spring, with plants going directly into the ground in the greenhouse in early June. We planted tomatoes – plum, slicing and cherry, peppers -both hot and sweet, eggplant, sweet potato, watermelon, cantaloupe and basil. I love the greenhouse space and most everything did really well in the space. The eggplant harvest was disappointing. I had 3 plants and only 1 produced, providing us with 3 eggplants. The tomatoes loves the space, but the harvest from inside the greenhouse was not much better or earlier than the harvest from those planted outside. It might due to the great location for the outside tomatoes this year. The peppers and basil really loved the greenhouse (also did very well in the hothouse). I think next year we will plant more peppers in the greenhouse and less tomatoes.

  • Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

    We tried sweet potatoes for the first time this year. There is still no commercially available sweet potato variety suitable for Manitoba weather. However, I thought growing them in the greenhouse might be viable. I started slips from organic sweet potatoes purchased at the grocery store. They grew well in raised crates we made in the greenhouse, with the foliage trailing up trellises on the north wall. We were quite excited to harvest them and discover if our experiment succeeded or not. I must say I was disappointed in the harvest. I planted 6 slips from 3 sweet potatoes and harvested 2 gallons of skinny potatoes. Our biggest mistake I think was to wait too long to harvest. At the end of September, before we headed to BC, the plants were still growing nicely

    Sweet Potato Harvest

    in the greenhouse. Instead of harvesting them then, we decided to wait until we returned, thinking the soil temperatures should stay warm enough. However, when we harvested the potatoes they had soft spots which I think is due to colder temperatures than they like. One week after the harvest, I decided to use them up but the entire batch turned black when cooked and I threw them out. I will try again next year with a few changes – plant more slips and harvest earlier.



  • I tucked one watermelon and one cantaloupe

    8 inch Watermelon

    plant into the corners of the greenhouse, hoping they would vine around the bottom of the tomatoes and peppers. They grew pretty well and we harvested 2 nice sized watermelon and 1 exceptionally tasty cantaloupe.





  • One last lettuce harvest in November

    We also tried growing a fall crop of greens in the greenhouse in October. I planted spinach, tat soi, and arugula in tubs and got 2 cuttings of them. Although it is now November and we have had plenty of snow, frost and cold this fall, my last feed of greens is still growing in the greenhouse and will be harvested any day now. I will try for an early green harvest next spring.





  • Garlic Harvest

    2018 was also my premiere garlic year. I planted garlic last fall (cloves, garlic bulbs and garlic seeds) and had a great harvest of 65 large heads of garlic.  This fall we planted the garlic for next summer – cloves, bulbs and seeds again. I moved the location and am hoping for another good harvest.



  • I tried growing dry beans as well this


    year – black beans, kidney beans and chickpeas. I planted them amongst the corn. Since beans are nitrogen fixing and corn is a heavy nitrogen user, I figured they might compliment each other. It worked pretty well, although the beans seemed a bit shaded by the corn. I was quite surprised that the black beans did not produce black colored beans. I am pretty sure the seeds I planted were black. The kidney beans look like kidney beans. I was surprised to find that the chickpeas grow in tiny pods with one seed in each pod. I pulled all the bean pods off in late September and they have been drying in the shop. This winter I will shell them all and cook them up. Not sure the chickpeas will be any good as they appear small and dark colored.

  • Popping Corn

    As a lark, I purchased some popping corn seeds. The plants did not grow well and I only managed to save 3 small cobs that looked like the seed might be mature enough. I am drying these now, but it does not look promising. Not sure if it was the location planted or if our summer is not long enough




  • I have always grown loads of calendula in my garden. Its a self seeded flower with bright yellow

    Calendula petals

    and orange blossoms that grows easily and prolifically and totally fills my garden with gorgeous color. This year, I decided to harvest the blossoms and make calendula lotion. The petals pull off easily and I dried a couple large batches. I batch of dried blossoms (about 2 cups dried) I used to make a calendula lotion. (Covered the dried blossoms with melted coconut oil and let sit in a warm location for 1 week. Drain off the blossoms and mix the infused oil with a mixture of cocoa butter, shea butter and olive oil.) The second batch of dried blossoms I am storing to make a second batch of calendula lotion later in the winter.


  • Grapes

    Fruit harvest. Our 3 year old grape vines produced really well this year – about 14 gallons of fruit. We ate a lot and made grape juice with the rest, canning 16 quarts of juice. The apples produced their first big harvest. We ate some and made apple sauce and apple cider vinegar with the rest. The saskatoon bushes started to produce this year and we got a bit off them. But the harvest of wild saskatoon was exceptional this year. We ate tons of it fresh during the season and froze the rest for winter enjoyment. I planted one lone scraggly gogi bush this spring. It didn’t look like much but boy did that plant produce. It had a constant supply of ripening gogis from the end of July to the end of September. We ate some fresh and I dried the rest for the winter. It wasn’t a big harvest but an impressive one for the first year. I tied up the plant this year as it is pretty floppy, but next spring I plan to make it a proper trellis to grow on. Once again the raspberries and sea buckthorn were prolific.

  • Pumpkin and Squash harvest

    I planted baking pumpkins this year. I used my last squash from 2017 in July of this year, so decided to plant less squash (butternut, hubbard and summer sunshine). The harvest was good and once again my sunroom has a pile of squash and pumpkins for winter use. I am looking forward to trying all sorts of pumpkin recipes including pumpkin chia pudding, pumpkin pie and perfecting a whole food plant based pumpkin cinnamon roll.

  • Tried growing leeks this year. As leek stems should be covered to keep them nice and white, I reused the almond milk containers the tomato transplants were in. I cut off the bottoms of the cartons and placed the tube around each leek transplant. Then I mulched the containers with about 6 inches of sawdust. The leeks, started from transplants, grew really well. As a bonus, the sawdust kept the weeds out.


  • Potatoes, carrots and beets

    Root Cellar:

    • Carrots –  Last year’s experiment of storing them covered in saw dust in the root cellar was a complete success so was repeated this year. We have about 30 gallons stored.
    • Beets – We have 10 gallons stored in the root cellar for winter, also packed in saw dust. I
    • Potatoes – The harvest was not as good as last year but with 20 gallons in the root cellar I think we will have enough.
  • Freezer: We added a new freezer last fall so this is our first year with the extra freezer capacity.
    • Snap peas –  for stir fries
    • Green Beans
    • Greens –  kale, chard, tat soi and spinach
    • Corn
    • leeks – sliced, blanched and ready for use in soups and stews
    • peppers – diced and frozen for stir fries
    • Raspberry Puree – seeds removed as it takes up less room this way. Used to flavor kombucha
    • Chokecherry puree – a wild berry also used to flavor kombucha
    • Sea Buckthorn – used in green smoothies for a great antioxidant punch
    • Saskatoon berries
    • Cranberry – wild highbush variety used to make juice to flavor kombucha
  • Dried:
    • Greens – chard, kale, spinach, beet greens, nettle – whatever we couldn’t eat during the season was dried and then powdered for use in green smoothies. This is my second year making my own green powder.
    • Zucchini – I had 5 zucchini plants, both golden and green, that produced prolifically, as zucchini is want to do. I picked the small ones every couple days and what we didn’t eat fresh, I cut into penny slices and dehydrated. I did a test run using the dried zucchini in a stir fry and it worked great. They hydrated up without getting mushy.
    • Apple slices – these are great for snacks or to grind into a powder to make apple sugar
    • Tomato- dried tomato slices to use as sun dried tomatoes
    • Crushed jalapeño peppers
    • Red pepper powder
    • Tomato powder – I canned several quarts of tomato puree and dried the pumice left after putting the cooked tomatoes through the mill. It powdered up into a flavorful powder.
    • Herbs – oregano, basil, thyme, sage, lemon balm, lemon grass (grown in a pot in the greenhouse), chives, parsley, cilantro, dill, stevia, coriander, tarragon, peppermint
    • Kale chips
  • Canned goods


    • Tomatoes – diced and puree
    • Salsa
    • Dill pickles
    • Beet pickles
    • Grape juice
    • Cranberry Juice – from wild high bush cranberry
    • Apple Sauce
    • Borsch – beets, carrots and onions in tomato to be in used as a base for borsch
    • Dandelion honey – with inspiration from Lucas, we made a delicious vegan honey

Thanks to the help of our workaways for this year, Lucas, Sandra, Maxime, Emilie, Vanessa and Heather, we were able to not only grow more, but also eat or preserve pretty much everything we grew in the garden or could pick wild. I am excited to see how far into the winter the produce will carry us. Our goal is to become more  self sustaining every year.

Posted in Food, Gardening | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

2018 Workaway – Heather

September 22 to October 19, 2018

We had our last Workaway of the year come to housesit for us while we visited the kids/grandkids in British Columbia. Heather is a delightful young lady from the UK. She comes from Nottingham, home of Robin Hood (or more precisely, Derbyshire – but we Canadians pronounce this badly so Nottingham it is).

We spent a week with Heather showing her the ropes of off grid living. We showed her how to clear the solar panels from snow and use the generator, just in case. Who would have thought that she would need to do both in October!!! There was some snow before we left, but she had plenty more while we were gone. Early October turned out to be snowy, damp and cold.  She had plenty of opportunities to climb the scaffolding to clear the panels. Lucky for us she was a hearty soul and enjoyed the slower cold weather pace. She had previous experience working a wood stove so she managed to stay warm and toasty.

Heather enjoying our first snow

Before leaving, we introduced her to our small community by helping out at a perogy making fundraiser. She charmed the locals with her friendly manner and turned out to be an expert perogy maker.

Making the potato balls

Pinching perogies – her first one was perfect!

Part of housesitting at the Ponderosa is cooking for yourself. My pantries, fridge and freezers and full of great vegan staples, but there is not much around for convenience food. Liking to cook is essential, and Heather, a fellow vegan, enjoyed perusing my cookbook collection and trying out new recipes. She even made her own bread and vegan cheese. Making stuff from scratch is my passion and I was so happy to have someone else who shared that passion. And when we returned from holiday, she had  fresh apple muffins, a delicious curry and fresh bread for us. How sweet is that!!!

Delicious homemade bread

Her prime task was to keep Hanna and Sox happy, a job she managed with flying colors. Hanna loved her and was soon spending her nights happily curled up in her bed. She got plenty of walks and stick throwing in as well.

Hanna and her best friend Heather

She took full advantage of the freakishly early snow and made a SnowKen and Snow Darlene.  (Take a good look at the picture below. SnowDarlene is wearing my wooden shoes from Holland, wearing a pot on her head, is stirring a bowl full of goodies and has a jar of my English Baked Beans as well. SnowKen is playing Heather’s ukulele and carrying a hatchet. She captured us perfectly!)

SnowKen and SnowDarlene

Yes, Heather plays the ukulele and Ken was very impressed with her vocal talent as well. He was in heaven with someone to jam with in the evenings. My favorite was Jason Mraz’s song I’m Yours.

Ken and Heather Singsong

When we returned from out trip to BC, it was glorious to find a clean house (she was previously a professional house cleaner), and a happy dog and cat. The day after we returned I managed to dislocate my shoulder and was ever so happy to have her pitch in and help Ken harvest our sweet potatoes from the green house and plant the tulips and garlic.

Sweet Potato Harvest

Getting her Garlic Growers Certificate

Heather’s previous work experiences included 2 years working at Disney World Florida, and I was pretty worried that our home in the woods may be too much for her. Its a long way from Disney to  the Ponderosa. However, she seemed to thrive in this tranquil location.

We are delighted to have had Heather stay at our home for 4 weeks. Besides being a talented songstress and musician, she is sharp, witty and bright and has a deep compassion for every creature living on our planet. I enjoyed cooking together and our environmental and ‘vegan’ talks. Ken enjoyed your willingness to play Scrabble and sing all evening with him. We wish you well in the rest of your Canadian adventures. Come back to the Ponderosa to visit us.

Posted in Workaway | Tagged , | Leave a comment