Garden Gnome Ecosystems

Creating a sustainable system for gnomes to play in.


First Food from the Garden

first garden salad

Well, first garnish.

Thinned basil seedlings over my standard salad – greens, apple, cheese, and honey mustard dressing. The flavours went together surprisingly well. Or maybe I was just so excited to be eating something that I grew that I pretended the flavours went together well.

First Garden Salad


  • 2 handfuls of greens
  • 1/2 an apple, chopped (with a few chunks missing)
  • 2 slices of cheese, chopped
  • 3 spoonfuls of lime juice for apple-chunk-dunking, and too-thick-dressing-thinning
  • 1 spoonful of this dressing (I made mine with mustard powder, which is why it needed thinning, and the resulting dressing was very citrusy)
  • Basil sprout snippings


  1. Layer in a pretty bowl.
  2. Wander outside and take pictures of first garden salad, because it’s finally warm enough to go outside without socks!
  3. Eat salad.

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Roasted Corn Quinoa

My mom is a great, if not slow, cook. She was also vegan for a couple years of her life, so it figured that many of the recipes we ate often growing up were vegan ones. Every once in a while dad made burgers or chili…and I’m still not a fan of meat.

When I first started trying to live grain-free, I was also keeping legumes out of my diet; none of my favourite recipes fit the bill. I made roasted corn quinoa to serve with pan fried fish and veggies a couple nights per week, since fish was the only meat I could successfully cook and eat in less than 30 minutes. I make a mean roast chicken too, but that takes planning and time. I’m a university student. Other than crockpot meals, I don’t do much meal planning. At that time I was a sickly university student who didn’t enjoy food, because it didn’t like me. I didn’t do meal planning

Sometimes I’d get lazy, and just make quinoa and corn. And then I’d eat the entire batch with the help of my husband. If there were, by chance, leftovers, usually they’d be gone by the time I woke up, because my husband ate them cold for breakfast.

It’s a step up from instant noodles, peanut butter sandwiches, and Kraft Dinner, but almost as easy.

Grab your trusty cast-iron pan, and set it to medium heat.

Wonder why you still keep the corn in the downstairs deep-freeze when quinoa and corn are staples. Fetch corn. Call it a work-out for the day.

Measure corn, and allow to thaw (I sometimes run it under hot water to speed up the process.

Measure quinoa, and rinse. Rinse again.

Add some coconut oil to the pan, and then the corn. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir occasionally.

roasting corn

Add quinoa after the corn starts to brown.

toasting quinoa

Stir occasionally. Once the quinoa is toasting and popping (about a minute) add the broth.

adding the broth

roasted corn quinoa

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and let it be for about 15 minutes. Wash the dishes from last night, when you were writing an essay, snacking and leaving your mess everywhere. That’s just me? Oh.

simmering roasted corn quinoa

At this point, you could start pan frying some fish, or put the veggies on to steam. They fit into this space quite perfectly.

Or you could just eat the quinoa, and reminisce about being a university student, and eating all of whatever one dish you made. Om nom nom.

roasted corn quinoa

Roasted Corn Quinoa (slightly adapted from Mark Bittman’s Quinoa and Corn, found in How to Cook Everything)


  • 2 tbsp coconut or olive oil*
  • 1 1/2 cups corn; if frozen, thawed
  • 3/4 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper


  1. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add oil.
  2. When oil is hot, add corn and salt and pepper. Stir occasionally until corn begins to brown.
  3. Add quinoa and let cook until you can hear some popping, about one minute.
  4. Stir in broth, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low and cover. Cook undisturbed for about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is soft.


*the coconut oil makes this dish seem a little sweeter, and there is a hint of coconut flavour – something my family loves – but the olive oil might be a better choice if you want a truly savoury dish, or if you don’t like coconut.


Buckwheat Pancakes

buckwheat pancakes with saskatoon berry jam

I spent three years with a very angry gut, and a string of doctors telling me I must be pregnant.  I’m not an elephant.  It’s been three years.  I’m not pregnant.  I gave up on the medical system, did some research, and went back to the doctor with a list of things I wanted tested.  We ruled out celiac disease, and a host of other issues.  The doctor told me I was perfectly healthy.  I wondered how someone so healthy could spend so much time curled up in pain.  I decided it was time to change my diet.  I tried to cut all grains and sugars from my diet, along with most carbohydrates. I jumped into the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.  I felt amazing.  I didn’t even really go through the awful achy stages I was warned about.

I didn’t think I would ever eat pancakes again.  I’m not a fan of veggie burgers, tofurkey, and any other food that pretends to be something it’s not; why make pancakes from anything but wheat flour?  I didn’t really feel the need to make muffins and breads from almond flour. I tried once, and ended up with a mess of muffin crumbles we ate with a spoon. I was happy to give up breads and baking, because I felt so much better without it.  I just ate an entirely different diet.  Fresh fish with buttered veggies.  Quinoa and corn with veggies.  Veggies.

Then I found a recipe for buckwheat pancakes. I made my own buckwheat flour, because I just couldn’t wait to try the pancakes – the Vitamix works almost as well as a grain mill for this. Just freeze the grains, add to the Vitamix, and grind on high-speed for about 30 seconds, or until the buckwheat looks like flour. After that, the pancakes came together as easily as any wheat pancake I’d ever made.

buckwheat flour

buckwheat pancakes

They were delicious, simple, and grain free. They even looked like pancakes. I ate them for breakfast, and made them into sandwiches. I’d added something to the rotation that the bread loving husband wanted to eat.

buckwheat pancake open face sandwich

And then I fell off the wagon.  My gut was happy enough I could handle an occasional plate of fettuccine, or a few crackers and cheese, or even chocolate chip muffins.  I’d have a hotdog at a BBQ, pasta at the in-laws, and cookies at workshops.  I’d promise myself to eat some veggies when I got home.  School and life caught up with me, and I resorted to buying crackers, instant noodles and Kraft Dinner for the last-minute dinners.  And then my angry gut started to sneak back in, and my energy went out the window. I want to get back on track.  I haven’t, yet, but I still make the pancakes.  We like them better than regular pancakes.

A few days ago I worked up the confidence to try pancakes in my cast iron pan.  I’d read that the trick to cooking in any pan that isn’t non-stick is letting the food sit in one spot, and resisting the urge to check it, or scoot the food around. Success!  The pan was almost pancake free at the end of cooking. Abandoning the non-stick pans we received as wedding gifts (they’ve been great in the process of teaching my husband to cook) is just one more step towards getting back on the healthy, sustainable lifestyle wagon.

cooking buckwheat pancakes

Here’s the recipe, adapted slightly from the Hodgson Mill recipe, found on


1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp melted butter or margarine
Coconut oil for frying, or your favourite frying oil


1. Pre-heat heavy frying pan to medium or electric skillet to 375 F. Grease with coconut oil.

2. Mix dry ingredients; add egg, milk, and butter or margarine.

3. Check frying pan for readiness by flicking a few droplets of water into pan. If they dance and disappear almost immediately, the pan is ready.

4. Pour batter by 1/4 cup into hot frying pan. Cook until bubbles pop and stay empty around edges. Flip. Cook until golden brown on both sides.

Eat up! Or refrigerate, and make sandwiches later.

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Temperate Climate Permaculture: Permaculture Plants: Stinging Nettle

Looking for a plant to keep bicycles from plowing through your garden?  Or something to caution your kids about?  Try Stinging Nettle.

My mother used to feed us Stinging Nettle every spring.  I have yet to discover a way that I enjoy eating cooked greens of any kind, but the soup he talks about over at Temperate Climate Permaculture sounds delicious, and the information is so thorough.

I must find a way to grow some nettles in the neglected corner of my yard that sits between the garage and my neighbour’s fence.

Temperate Climate Permaculture: Permaculture Plants: Stinging Nettle.

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Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Late last year, I posted one photo about making bread.  Last time we went grocery shopping we bought bread.  It was time to make bread – that grocery store stuff scares me.  How can 100% whole wheat bread be fluffy?

Yesterday, I made bread. Four loaves: three in the freezer, on tempting me in the fridge. If I don’t give in to the temptation of gluten-y, yeasty, nom-y bread, this should last us another three months. Just to be clear, I love bread, but my gut does not. My husband, on the other hand, eats bread sandwiches three times a day – two pieces of bread, one on top of the other – and doesn’t feel a thing.

Molasses in wintertime

First mix honey, molasses, salt and butter. If it’s wintertime. In summer, I’d start the yeast first, but since the butter, molasses and honey did not want to move, I started with them.

Bubbling yeast

Mix yeast and water. Let sit for a little while. (I was still pouring molasses).

Combine the yeasty mixture, and the sugary/buttery mixture. Stir, stir, stir. Not pretty. No picture.

Dump bread onto counter. Knead the bread. I have to stand on tippy-toes to reach my counter. A dream house would have a baking counter, designed for short people. I stand on tippy-toes. Also, my abs still hurt today. Kneading bread is a full body work-out for a short person like me. That and I’m out of shape. So yeah, no picture of me kneading dough in my pajamas.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread rising

Pour some oil in the bowl, plop the bread back in the bowl, and turn a few times to cover – this way, the dough doesn’t dry out. I usually cover with a damp tea towel too, because my cat really likes bread. And beer. Anything with grain and yeast. Not sure why, since they’re supposed to be carnivores.

Let it rise until doubled in size, or when you stick a finger in half an inch or so, the dough doesn’t spring back (slowly, but springing just the same). Start supper.

Punch it down. This part is fun. Rip the dough into four equal parts. You could weigh them, but I just guess. Let them sit for a few minutes. Manically finish making Pad Thai. Shape into loaves (tuck the edges under, until you have a smooth top).

Second rise

Let them rise again, for about an hour (longer if your house is cooler, less if it’s warmer). Somewhere along the way, preheat your oven to 375 (F). Discover husband doesn’t like Pad Thai. Proceed to eat entire pan of Pad Thai, in hopes that this will keep me from eating fresh bread.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped. Cool for a few minutes in the pans, on a wire rack, then pop them out and leave them to cool. Allow husband to feed me pizza and beer. ANGRY gut.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Slice bread for a pretty picture, and give in and eat a slice. Nom nom nom. I will regret this.

Here’s the recipe:


  • 4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 4 cups water (lukewarm)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 lbs, 4 oz. whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 lbs. white flour


  • Combine yeast and water.
  • Combine butter, molasses, honey and salt.
  • Mix yeasty water into butter, molasses, honey and salt.
  • Gradually add flours (depending on altitude and time of year, perfect amounts might vary)
  • Dump onto counter, and knead, knead, knead.
  • Coat bowl in oil, return dough to bowl, cover dough in oil.  Let rise until doubled.
  • Punch down, divide into 4 even parts, let rest.
  • Shape into loaves.
  • Let rise for approximately 1 hour in buttered pans.  Preheat oven.
  • Bake at 375°F for 35-40 minutes.

adapted very slightly from:

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Dark Chocolate Cranberry Granola Bars

Sometimes it takes a really long time to discover that things you think are scary, are in fact, ridiculously easy.  And very tasty.  On Saturday, instead of working on an essay due today, I overcame my fear of making granola bars, and I made these:

Dark Chocolate Cranberry Granola Bars

Yesterday, I ate all of them in an essay writing frenzy.  Om nom nom.  Thank-you Pinterest for a wonderful cranberry chocolate granola bar recipe, found on the first search.

Today, instead of working on an essay due tomorrow, I thought I’d share the recipe.  If I ever manage to grow chocolate, cranberries and rice crispies in my garden, it will be a great use for those foods.  Until then, I’ll have to resort to shopping for the makings of these granola bars.

I adapted the recipe slightly from the one at Baked by Rachel, by using dark chocolate chips in place of mini chocolate chips, and lining the pan with parchment paper instead of greasing it.  Her site is super cute.  You should just pin the recipe from there.

Dark Chocolate Cranberry Granola Bars 2

I’m going to make them again tomorrow.  I’m probably going to make them every Sunday for the rest of semester, and twice a week during midterms.

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Potato Pancakes

Every time we go out for breakfast I order potato latkes.  And then I kick myself for spending money on shredded potatoes served with applesauce and sour cream.

We don’t do breakfast out often, mostly because who actually wants to get up and put pants on on a weekend?  Not me.  Coffee gets my other up and running, but not me.

I didn’t make potato pancakes on a weekend.  I made them on a Wednesday, to cope with the sick that I just can’t kick.  It’s been a month.  I’m done.

Anybody else spend countless hours on Pinterest, pinning recipes they’ll never make, especially when feeling a touch under the weather?  My unwritten New Year’s Resolution is to try all the recipes I’ve pinned.  There were some green onions lurking in the crisper, and I’d stumbled on these just a couple days before.


Pile o' Potato Pancakes

I didn’t have any applesauce, or sour cream, or even Greek yogurt.  They were still yummy.  They were simple to make.  Perfect greasy, healthy comfort food.  Except all the shredding, but I’m probably the only person in Canada who loves shredded food – shredded cheese, shredded carrots, shredded potatoes – and doesn’t own a food processor.  Where would I put it?  And when the power goes out, I’d be heart-broken.  It’s the box grater for me.



3 potatoes
3 slightly beaten eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 cup shredded carrot
1/3 cup green onion, tops and white, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
chunk-style applesauce

oil for frying (I tried olive oil and coconut oil – the coconut oil won in my opinion)


1. Peel and shred potatoes.  Submerge in cold water as you go, to keep them from browning.

2. Mix it all up, except the applesauce.

3. In a frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat.

4. Drop heaping teaspoonfuls into pan, flatten into 2 1/2 inch circles, and fry until golden brown (2-3 minutes).  Flip.  Fry until golden brown on that side too.

5. Serve warm with applesauce (and sour cream or Greek yogurt)

adapted from:



Calico Potato Pancakes

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Rain in Late November

That sounds like a heartsick song to me, but the weather today was certainly melancholy enough to warrant such miserable writing.

The rain though, was a strange thing to see; by now, it’s generally snow or nothing here.  Today it rained all afternoon, leaving tiny icicles on the tree in my front yard and a slippery sheen on the roads, then switched to snow, and covered the glossy streets with a deceiving, pretty layer.

Almost two weeks ago, it was ten inches of snow keeping us inside and off the roads.  Instead of gardening we made bread.

And took pictures of the evidence that some animals don’t seem to mind the snow.

Discussions of workshops on gardens in the spring persist through winter, but that much snow has me thinking about finals, finishing up a semester, and Christmas break.  Jack, ever the helpful animal, thought he could pitch in with the last few essays.

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Salsa and Jack the Cat

First post.  Let me introduce you to the cat, and the purpose of the blog.  I’ll be writing to track my success and failures, because I’ve failed again to keep a garden diary, and I just might do this if it yields a searchable catalogue of what to do right next year.

My first attempt at canning.  I canned salsa, with the help of Jack, the earless cat.  Or attempted to – the salsa is delicious, but the seals might not be quite right, so we’re eating 3 pints of salsa this week, and leaving one can out to test my seal.

We started with the recipe for Traditional Salsa from the Ball website, and followed it exactly.  The salsa simmered, the jars were hot, lids went on,and off again because we forgot to bubble the jars.  Back on with the lids – but I only cleaned the top edge of the jar, perhaps this is a problem – and into the the canner the jars went.  The salsa came out full of bubbles, with the solids jammed against the lid, and the liquid all at the bottom with a fine layer of solids at the bottom.  A quick google search says I might have let the salsa cool too much between the pot and the canner which broke down the pectin that holds it all together, and that’s why the food floated.  But bubbles?  Bubbles are scary.

At least it’s a high-acid food, and we won’t all die of botulism.