Author Archives: Amanda

Living a simple quiet life on the Gulf Islands, BC.

These Moments

I had a moment this morning where I jumped out of bed at 6am, after my farmer husband trundled off to work, and I thought “The Tomatoes!!” We had left the trays of dehydrating tomatoes on the back deck, drying out all night. Now they are tomato flakes, after I scraped their sorry brittle remains off of the trays. Still edible. Still useful for soup and sauces on those cold winter nights. But not what we intended.


The internet is a funny place where we get to show the best of our little lives. I don’t have a picture of me scraping crusty tomato flakes off a tray at 6am, with fluffy hair and bleary eyes. We show a slice of our lives here, and though I try to remain true to facts, it is only a slice.IMG_8623

While much of our summer days are spent at the beach, going for hikes, and staring in awe at our lush gardens. (Haha!) The other part of our summer is spent processing the food we try to squirrel away for the winter. This is not always very exciting. And sometimes it’s backbreaking. In the photo above, I’m cleaning and stripping the garlic, getting it ready to hang. When it has dried out a little, I try to cram it into a corner of my already-cluttered counter. Growing food to keep for the whole year is wonderful. Storing it for that whole year while you use little bits at a time, is annoying.IMG_8841 IMG_8843

Gabrielle helps me separate the seeds from the pods. Her tiny fingers are expert at this.IMG_8845 IMG_8969

I often wonder what she will remember of this. What impression she will have of her life here. Will she remember it fondly and with joy? Or will she remember all the chores her mama made her do? Will she run off to the city just so she doesn’t have to weed another garden or knead another hunk of dough?IMG_8976 IMG_9083

We choose to live these little lives here. Simple. Small. And hope that in these days piling together, we are doing her right. And maybe she will choose a different path, but trying to give her a wholesome start, maybe that’s we can offer. Maybe these chores, these smells, this life, is what will always remind her of home.

The Time it takes to Slow Down


(photo curtesy of Hans Tammemagi)

A friend got bees this year. Her very first hive and the wax is clean and fresh. The bees are buzzing and enjoying her copious flowers. But this way to get honey, it is much slower than simply buying it at the store.IMG_8637

This is our year supply of garlic. We planted it from cloves we saved from last year. We put the cloves in the ground in October and finally, after 9 months of gestating in the ground, it is ready to be hung, dried and eaten. But how much faster is it to go to the store and buy a couple heads of garlic at a time? And garlic is one of the easiest things we grow. It still requires watering, mulching, weeding, and then when it is finally time to harvest, we clean it and hang it. Time. It takes time to add quality to our life.

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We had a day off together recently, which happens rarely because when Marc is working I am home and then on weekends we do a switch. After packing up our backpacks, we went on a hike and found a geocache. We explored. Even this, with a four year old, takes time. We stop and talk about the trees we see, the bugs we see, the slugs. We examine the dam a beaver built, and imagine we are ducks enjoying the copious duckweed. We provide offerings to the trolls who must live under the bridge. All this exploring is incredibly valuable, but again, it takes time to slow down.IMG_8827

Our skies were overcast for several days because of the forest fires raging near us. The lighting was eerie but when the rain came, it made us that much more grateful.IMG_8829 IMG_8831

This photo above is us showing Gabrielle how to make pasta. When pasta is so cheap from the store, it seems counter-intuitive to make it. But the difference in quality, the difference in flavour, is vast. IMG_20150617_151905

And some garlic scape pesto to go with it, well that just sounds divine.IMG_20150621_211225 IMG_20150621_211257 IMG_20150625_104346

Gabrielle lives in a world where she expects the seeds she stuffs into the soil to pop up. She sits down at the dinner table and expects us to know where the food on her plate comes from. Her life is slow and she is often told that now we must wait. IMG_20150627_063917 IMG_20150629_110047 IMG_20150629_141044 IMG_20150706_133953 IMG_20150708_104354 IMG_20150708_114109

Above is the very last of our onions. They just barely lasted until we pulled up our crop this year. I breathed a sign of relief and cut the final onions into a salsa fresca with our tomatoes that are just ripening on the vine.

Jam all the fruits!


I really really wanted to u-pick strawberries this year. But there are no u-picks for strawberries on Pender Island, which meant I had to get to Victoria with my child, and allot enough time to pick. The only time this happened, happened to be the very last day u-pick strawberries were open. The berries were wizened and sparce but we went, dang it! And we got enough to make the strawberry jam I’d been craving.IMG_8576

But when it came to u-pick raspberries, I didn’t have the same staunch determination. I bought a flat of berries from a local farm and was done with it.IMG_8578 IMG_8581

My car smelled amazing on the ferry ride home.IMG_8586

I may be a hippy in many things, but with this batch of jam, I used regular pectin and lots of sugar. IMG_8588

In a day, I made raspberry, strawberry and blueberry jam. It was like a jam factory at my house and it smelled delicious. On the way home from picking the strawberries, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up pectin and more canning jars, an elderly lady behind us in the line asked me if I was actually going to make jam. She lamented that none of her grandchildren were interested in jam-making and the “old ways of doing things.” She was amazed that young people were still doing this. I told her that I thought all the “young” jam-makers I knew live on Pender Island.

She said she was 92 and her husband was 101. And I wondered quietly how much knowledge we were losing about the “old ways.” And then on the heels of that thought, I wondered how the heck I got here! Why was I making jam with my kid on a tiny island instead of buying it from the store? What attracts me to the old ways of doing things?


By the way, the jam turned out wonderfully.


Finally we can sail again!

Every Spring or Summer we get the boat ready for another season of sailing, as much as my on-call schedule will allow. And every year Marc and I wonder if boating will become easier with Gabrielle. And what will be the new challenges of cruising with a child. One year, we tried to go out in lumpy seas when she was quite small (under two) and she protested vehemently. One year she was fairly easy to string up in a jolly jumper but whenever it came to docking or anchoring, she required immediate attention. The result was that every time we were pulling into a dock or an anchorage, it was to the symphony of a screaming baby.


Last year, the couple times we actually got out to sail, she fell asleep every time the engine was on. This year is another new chapter. She’s model 4.5 Sailing Fantastico. She insists on helping us steer.


But she looks behind us when she steers. She was pleasant and curious when we put up the sails and shut off the engine. She didn’t mind the heeling over as well sailed.


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But she is firmly into the destination and not just the cruising aspect. When can we get off and explore? So we aimed our sails for Prevost Island and off we went. IMG_8696 IMG_8704 IMG_8710 IMG_8717 IMG_8740 IMG_8743 IMG_8762

(Above is a weird goat sheep creature we saw on the island. We assume it’s wild and roaming around. We were perplexed by the horns and the breed.)

We hiked around the island for a couple hours. Model 4.5 is terrific at hiking with very little whining. We appreciate her strong legs and her repaired heart. Our biggest challenge throughout our sail and explore was her aversion to wasps right now. She was stung for the first time a week or two ago, and since then there has been a lot of trepidation around these tiny insects. So we are learning new parenting skills at how to teach her about real risk vs. perceived risk. Real Danger vs. Perceived Danger. I wish so much, as I have many times before, that my particular kid came with her very own manual.


Sailing is my happy place. I feel like it fills up my soul. I hope the summer is giving you time for the things that replenish your soul too!

Bug Crazy!


Maybe I started it. Maybe I am the one to blame.

Gabrielle has been capturing bugs and keeping them in containers for a few months now. Imagine my horror when the earwigs were still alive after 3 weeks of kind captivity, only to find out that they can live for 3-5 years!

But I mean, they say that kids learn by example. And I do keep approximately 70,000-100,000 bugs in a box. Outside.

Anyway Brie’s fascination with bugs didn’t stop with keeping them herself. She heard about the Bug Zoo and it was all over.


We had to wait until the opportune moment. We had to wait until we had a day where there was something else we had to go into town for, that she wouldn’t want to do. I know! Vaccinations!


The Bug Zoo became a bargaining chip and it worked well.

My mom also came to visit recently and she overcame any hesitation and suited up with me to go into the beehive.


The funny thing about taking a picture of people with bee suits on, it really could be of anyone.

Happy June-ing!