Category Archives: Community Garden

Christmas 2018

I am not sure you know this, but our family Christmas tradition is to share stories rather than gifts purchased. The Christmas stories are collected, and every 5-10 years or so a new ‘Brown Family Chronicles’ is published. We are currently working on the 4th volume.

Hungarian plum dumplings, known as szilvas gomboc, are a delicious dessert, meatless main dish, or side dish. I know this for a fact… 

One afternoon this past summer Diane’s friend called to let me know his plum tree was ready for picking.  Off I go to Parkville. It’s too bad Diane is away visiting her kids so we won’t get a little visit.  On the other hand, if she were home I may not have gotten the plums!

After a nice chat with Don, I climb the tree, which turns out to be two trees actually.  Soon I have two five pound pails and a couple of brown paper bags full of mostly ripen fruit. Back I go to the property to share the haul with our volunteers.  Several have little more than enthusiasm for food storage skills so we have been making jams, apple sauce, pickling cukes and having a lot of fun in the outdoor kitchen.  I have done no preserving of food for several/many years but find myself really enjoying the time in the kitchen. I am getting to know our niece Alesha, Maddy (Cecilia’s Swedish friend) and Iliya (our Jamaican friend living on the property).  Our plan is to perhaps make plum jam and can a few pints of plums. 

David & tony building the “Bear Paw Cafe”, our outdoor community kitchen

David Koblos is a ‘regular’ volunteer.  He has spent 2 summers with us now, learning and teaching us all. This year he started in May, shortly after Tony retired, and stayed until the first week in September.  He has a wonderful sense of humour and a passion for Earthships.  He always has a story to tell and a way of interacting that is truly authentic. 

David was born in Hungary and has lived in many different country and speaks several languages (beautifully).We can’t imagine building our Earthship without him. 

One of the best parts about the Bear Paw Cafe is people sharing their family recipes and even better… making them for sharing. Well… the minute David K. hears of the plums he is eager to share his family tradition of making szilvas gomboc

A typical Hungarian dish; we are assured by David he knows the recipe by heart.  It will only take a few minutes.  We can have them for dinner!  An excellent idea; given it is almost dinner time… David harvests about five (okay maybe six) pounds of potatoes from the hugel closest to the kitchen.  “How delicious these will be with such fresh potatoes”. As the potatoes cook David assembles the rest of the ingredients.  Iliya appears with a rolling pin! We have so many plums; it would be good to make a large batch. The dough is first a little too dry then a little too wet, then a little this and then a little that…Soon there are several people in the kitchen helping.

Several hours later with the plums nicely tucked inside the perfected dough the cooking begins.  Dinner is served… I can’t recall exactly the time, but for sure the solar light in the kitchen came on…The dumplings are delicious and enjoyed (for several meals actually), by our volunteers and Tony and I as the minor modifications and adjustments to the dough have resulted in dozens and dozens of dumplings, not the typical 18 the recipe below suggests.  I couldn’t say this recipe is exactly as David made it, but it seems close!

Hungarian Plum Dumplings (Szilvas Gomboc) Recipe (

  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield – 18 Hungarian plum dumplings


  • 5 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled, mashed and cooled (don’t use leftovers)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 18 damson or Italian prune plums, washed and pitted
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 1/2 cups very fine breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar

Steps to Make It

  1. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, eggs, and salt. When well combined, add flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.
  2. Place a large pot of salted water on to boil.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/3 inch. Cut into 2-inch squares. Place a plum in the center of each square and fold in half, pressing out all air and sealing the edges. Moisten edges before crimping if necessary to seal.
  4. Carefully drop filled dumplings individually into boiling water. Repeat until all plums are in the water. Cook 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet, add breadcrumbs and brown. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  6. Using a slotted spoon, remove dumplings to a colander to drain. Place skillet back on the heat and add dumplings, coating with buttered crumbs.
  7. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

These dumplings were truly delicious!  They are easily reheated too, by frying the leftover dumplings in a little butter or olive oil the following day.

We have had such a lovely time this year at theDoighouse.  So many guests, volunteers, new friends and old have come to visit and have shared their time, patience, laughter and enthusiasm.  We would not be doing what we are doing without you! 

Thank you!

Social Permaculture Reflections

Susan recently achieved her Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) through Oregon State University.  Amazing course!  Amazing instructors and cohort.  Her final project was to design the layout of the Doighouse community gardens, orchard, personal, social and teaching spaces.  Here’s an example of the overall plan.

theDoighouse site plan.

Social Permaculture Reflections:

The goal of theDoighouse is to create community; using space and place as a way to bring people together to learn, to laugh and share our collective experiences. Continue reading Social Permaculture Reflections

Hugel gardening

This is my second hugel kultur garden.  It’s a whopping 79 feet long, 6 feet wide, 3 feet deep and about 4 feet high.  We haven’t watered the squash or the potatoes since early spring!  Don’t the plants look super healthy?

How it was built:
We started by digging a 6 foot wide 79 foot long trench dug down about three feet.  Once the trench was completed, a couple of layers of logs were place length wise covering the entire bottom of the trench.   Continue reading Hugel gardening

Our Garden Box

One of my projects at Capilano University has been to create a community garden on campus.  The garden is an amazing space, one that brings people together to grow things, share gardening knowledge and a quiet space to relax; these experiences are helping to build the campus community for students and employees along with our neighbours in the surrounding townhomes.

The garden was officially opened on Earth Day in 2013 – with Tony and I planting our first community garden box a few weeks earlier.

We learned a lot that summer including:

  • consistent water is important
  • knowing what plants to plant together – and which do better apart
  • planting things you love to eat
  • eat what you plant!

In the fall of 2013 I planted 16 garlic cloves; today we harvested them.  YUMMMM…. I know it’s not going to be enough for our use for the whole year – garlic is a real favourite at our house – I’ll have to supplement with organic garlic from local farmers’ markets.  But I am ok with that.

We planted carrots, beets, corn, scarlet runner beans, squash, hot peppers, red peppers and kale.  So far this year I’ve learned…

  • pick frequently
  • 3 sisters planting for beans, corn and squash works
  • it’s fun to sit in the garden and eat what you picked

The garlic is drying in the garage, as soon as it is dry enough, I’m going to braid it.  I’ve been busy watching youtube videos to learn how.  Here’s one that I really enjoyed by the

This fall (2014) I plan to plant more garlic,closer together, using some of this garlic.  Cool – a closed production loop.

We’re seriously considering an in-door greenhouse in our passive home, having a community garden is building the knowledge we’ll need to have to grow food successfully.