Saturday, 23 February 2013

Raspberry Jam that will curl your toes with delight

Social media can be a wonderful thing. It brings the big-old-world we live in a little closer... and in this case, right to my front step. 

Front Step Farms (smartly named!) was first discovered my yours truly purely by the grace of God Himself! I'm almost sure it was a tweet from some other Ontario local food lover. After taking a quick look at their recent tweets, I simply "followed them" and began to learn about the incredible operations they have forged over in Maple, Ontario.

One thing lead to another, and so the story goes... I became obsessed with tracking down some of their jam. 

Front Step Farms proudly grow, pick and preserve their goods and are crossing their fingers for some wholesale action in the near future. Their youtube videos show that they are constantly thinking ahead for growth, planting row upon row of garden goodies. Last year their peach jam sold right out. They also have famous pickles. I think I smell a road trip coming this summer once our baby is born. We have family that lives in Barrie... and I know we'll want to stock up on their goods. 

They are even experimenting with making raspberry wine. BOOM! 

One of Front Step Farms claims to fame is their raspberry jam, and this baby-sprouting lady simply HAD TO try their jam. Thinking innocently about how I could get my hands on their goods... I tweeted that I wanted to try their "toe curling" jam... and their responded in saying they were actually heading to Niagara in the next week or so, and that they could bring me some. WHAT!?

I say toe curling because that's exactly how I envisioned it... (and even labeled my jars accordingly after trying some).

My own personal label for their Raspberry Jam 

I did a double take when they privately messaged me on twitter with their phone number, and a genuine request, wanting to give me an opportunity to try the jam. 

WOAH. This kind of customer service in 2013? ... unbelievable. SO THANKFUL. 

Wanna know what else was unbelievable... this.

Front Step Farms - Raspberry Jam

If you have ever wondered if there is such thing as "the best raspberry jam ever" ... there is. 

It's from Front Step Farms. 

The wonderful farmer (who's name I didn't get because seconds before his arrival at my front step, my husband's chin-up bar DECKED me over the head) was quick to tell me it was his pleasure to come by and let me try their jam. 

The swift and shocking blow caused me to crawl to the front door, tears streaming down my face. 

apologized for the strange welcome, and assured him that I don't usually cry over jam being delivered to my door.  It still hurts... 5 days later.      :( 

I think the jam slightly helped eased the pain.      :)

4 Simple ingredients:
LOADS of Raspberries (and I mean they really jam them in there) ;)
Lemon Juice

These super heroes wanted to take tablespoons to the jar... I almost let them, because of how darn cute they are... almost.

I highly recommend you get your hands on a jar of this jam. Get yourself some crusty, bakery fresh bread (or gluten-free alternative)... or better yet..... a large spoon.... and dig in. 

You will thank me later.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Supporting GREAT ideas Part One

I tend to rally around people or products that are GREAT ideas. It's kind of a natural thing for me. I am a promoter, I sound the bells when I hear of something, and I like to draw a crowd.

Here are some of my favourite finds lately:

 Estelle VanderHeide and her MANY brainyac ideas on her blog. She is a wonderful woman, a gifted teacher, and I am privileged to call her a good friend. She is someone who I appreciate because of her realness, transparency, strength (and weakness!) I took a photography course this past winter, and was able to apply everything I was learning within that day or week. She gave this course her heart and soul. It showed every time she taught it. My notes are rich with inspiration, tips and tricks.  It was a really relevant course for me. I kind of related it to learning CPR. (of course not as life-saving...) but my take on it is this: If you are faced with a quick, split second moment of making a photo happen, you want your instincts to kick in... not panic or fumble-fingers. You want to get the shot, and get a good one at that. You want to be able to easily and almost instinctively know what to look for. Estelle taught me the essential lesson of the "rule of thirds" and I am still practicing... definitely have noticed I am personally enjoying my photos more. I am thankful for her giving heart, both of her time/talent... as well as her treasure. She's the kind of a friend who will see something at a store, and just pick it up "just because it reminded me of you". I've been on the receiving end of multiple heart-felt and thoughtful gift's. Its heart warming knowing someone is thinking of you, and gives out of love.

 ReCap Mason Jars from - When these babies were introduced on my eyes nearly jumped out of my head. This was a product that I know we would use, daily... and was something that I had even thought of doing (but didn't have the skill-set, nor the burning desire) that Karen Rxepecki dreamed-up and gave birth to. It was SUCH a great and proud feeling when I saw their idea go from just that... and idea.... to getting cast, to getting a logo, to being assembled (by her family and friends!) and being shipped to my door. The moment they arrived, I put them to work, and snapped a photo of my newly found treasures. Since then, we've "given away" 6 of the 10 we bought, and I cling to the remaining 4. We bought them for 40.00 (+7.00 for shipping)... so $4.70 each... but since then, they have jumped to almost $10.00 each (but still TOTALLY worth it)

. You can buy them here:

Tenota Tea Note Cards from my friends Dave and Cassie. Cassie and I met while we both attended University at Waterloo in the early 2000s. She and I had mutual friends, and I always found Cassie to be a compassionate listener. She also loves the colour green (I knew that first hand because it was leaping of the walls in her humble room at Waterloo) and she was/is a compassionate listener. I say compassionate because she truly has a gift for listening, feeling a person out, and literally adding to your life, by simply listening. She grew up to be a counselor  so her talents are being put to terrific and essential use. Dave and my hubby Peter worked together at Muskoka Woods Sports Resort for a few summers, and were roommates  Dave and Peter both grew up to own their own Personal Training Businesses. Dave is the owner of Green Fit Health and Peter the owner of More Fitness.... and they have more in common than I think they realize. I know Dave well enough to know he is a savvy business man, and anything he and Cassie put their hands to prospers. Their budding business Tenota has already brought hundreds of people joy, through simple personalized notes attached to a hand-chosen tea. Their teas (and their idea) is both warming and 100% lovely to give and receive.

Monday, 11 February 2013


Stephen has been such a helper in the gardens over the past 5 years. He is a hard worker. He asked to help. And he has never complained about "going out and working in the garden". He sees it the way I do (I think...) Its not really work. Its more like a labour of love. I am so thankful I have these years to instill that love for sowing and reaping. For putting in a decent amount of work, and standing back and saying "we did this!" and teaching him the principals of nurturing and caring for our earth. He understands so much. I learn more from him. To stop. Get down on your knees or belly. and watch the ants carrying out sand. Watch a spider spin a web. Take care not to step on the dandelions. And take frequent breaks.  :) 

Hard working hands. I love them.

Snow Day 2013 - Love!

He has SEEDS on his mind :)

Friday, 8 February 2013

Tom Thumb Popcorn

For those of you who scored some of the Tom Thumb Popcorn from us at Seedy Saturday... here is the down-low on how to grow it, and our own "take" on the seeds from the hot-hot summer of 2012.

My little man helped put them into the brown paper sacks....

He was diligent at making sure none split onto the floor (hard to go with popcorn!) is the online store where we bought some of our seed last year. Click on the link, and it will take you to their website.

Here is what I have to say about the growing details:

We grew two varieties... the 2 inch strawberry did not fair as well as Tommy did :)

Make sure you water your corn, like they recommend... our field was not really near an kind of consistent water source (other than up lugging white pails out to it with the trusty Gator ... see below ... which we did from time to time...) But as you know, our summer last year was ridiculously hot and dry... and I believe the corn may have suffered as a result. I should say however that the corn did grow exactly as it says online. Perhaps I am just used to the big-ol-GMO variety of corn that we are all growing to hate.

Anyways, hope you enjoy watching it grow as much as we did. I would recommend growing it in blocks, rather than rows, to encourage good pollination. 

It is really fun to give as gifts once dried out. Our son gave some out at Halloween to his buddies in the neighbourhood, and we have enjoyed popping it in our SaladMaster pan :)

Our water-luggin' Gator... 

Site where we planted the corn (to the right)

Monday, 4 February 2013

That Garden ITCH

I've got the itch. Maybe it never left actually. I've just suppressed it with indoor plants, reading blogs of other fellow Niagara grower and following along with Linda from Tree and Twig as she lives out my dream in Wellandport, Ontario doing her thing.

Anyway. Here is the low-down about what I have been brewing up for this 2013 growing season.

I had a really productive and good chat with my partner in all things green, Julia. (more on Julia soon).

 We grew a pretty impressive shared garden on her land in Vineland last summer, and this year we have been sharing ideas and brainstorming what we'd like to do differently this summer. She is also expecting her second baby... only 3-4 weeks apart from us. So she totally is in the same boat as me.... kinda excited to be gardening with a newborn cause they won't be a mover and a chaker quite yet... but also mildly freaking out because we both recall the exhaustion and demands of a newborn. Her son is 2 (this month!) and my son is 5, turning 6 in October. Both our children have consumed their weight in dirt, yearly...

 and are no strangers to getting their hands on a shovel and "helping". (see other posts of my amazing helper).

 We both have full intentions of sharing our harvest like we did this past summer... but I think we are looking for some "help" as well this summer. We discussed how we can con our friends into coming out to the farm, and lending a useful hand with the duties... and bribe them with a share of the harvest. Julia is also an INCREDIBLE cook... so I threw in the idea of having a BBQ every once and a while... and I think she took the bait. :)


I drool EVERY TIME she says she is a) cooking b) bringing something over at lunch hour c) talking about what she made for dinner for her fam-jam d) talks about her dilly beans. Mouth-gasm.

We also had a great idea last year, which we hope to implement this year... weigh our harvest, and see how much we a) grew b) how much money we SAVED (and basically earned) from growing our own fruit and veg.

We are both planning on attending Niagara's Seedy Saturday (THIS SATURDAY!) and making way with a few seeds we didn't manage to harvest from last years crops... and.... also give diversity to our current seeds, and ... well... rub shoulders with other fellow garden nerds. I have a list that my son and I put together...more on that when we get out seed stash in a few short days.... SK is pretty pumped about having his own veggie box this summer! (he choose box number 3 as "his" and has chosen what he wants to grow. I am proud of his selection. He thinks diversely about what he wants to grow, and sensibly and thoughtfully considered his garden speaking about proper spacing.

He's 5.

SK age 4, at Vineland Garden

I will post on this specific amazingness as it progresses, but I am thrilled he has the garden bug like his 'ol mamma :)

My other enthusiastic urban gardening friend Laura has already pre-planned going together! Woot! I always have a good time with Laura. I am hoping she is a browsing kind of a mood... I tend to like mulling over the tables and displays for a while. I also like nuzzling up to someone with dirt under their finger nails (that's how you know they are legit in the area of gardening) and just picking their brains for a little while.

Anyways... if Laura wants to leave after an hour....  I'm totally fine with being abandoned, and left to fend for myself. (ie: bum a ride from someone going back to St. Catharines!)

Here are some photos of my gardens of the past here in Niagara.

April 2012

Fall 2011

Seedlings 2012

Seedlings 2012

May 2012
Front Yard Garden - Far Back - Ground Cherries, Middle - 2 green pepper plants
closest to me - 3 Current Cherry Tomatoes
June 2012 - Same post as above

My home in Niagara - view from front door
Dino kale, fennel, beets, volunteer melon (likely from compost heap, and...something I forget cause I successively planted 3 different crops  in that spot) Maybe beans..?