Gift ideas for gardeners.

I periodically write online content for Farmers’ Almanac and recently did a story that may help out with last minute shopping for the gardeners on your Christmas list (or any time of the year, really!).

One idea I should include is the valuable (and valued!) gift of time – helping someone weed their overgrown beds, turning compost, mowing the lawn, pruning a tree and so on.

Do you have anything to add?  What gardening-related gifts would you like to give or receive?  This doesn’t have to be small stuff – dream big if you like! 

 

 

 

Tuesday tidbits.

An itty-bitty Tuesday tidbits this week!  (Say that three times fast.  On second thought, don’t…just don’t).

  • On Christmas Day of last year, I heard an absolutely breathtakingly beautiful instrumental version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” on CBC Radio and after some hunting on the ‘net to find out more about the artist, it turned out he was from Didsbury, a small town here in southern Alberta. I promptly ordered Jake Peters’ CD “First Christmas: A Musical Journey,” and the musician himself sent it straightaway to me.  It is not only a musical journey, but a magical one! Peters’ website features the album in its entirety so you can enjoy it as well…and perhaps order a copy if you love it as much as I do.
  • Although I pumped out more non-fiction work than I ever have before, 2018 wasn’t the best year for me as far as my fiction-writing goals were concerned: I had exactly one story published (and only two new ones were written and are currently sitting in reading queues somewhere).  I am delighted that Canadian speculative fiction publisher Polar Borealis took on my SF work “The Heir” for their 8th issue.  If you’re interested, you can read the entire publication online here.

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A gratuitous photo of Smudge and her BFF, the printer.  
  • Waaaaaay back in March of last year, I claimed I was going to amalgamate my blogs The Door is Ajar and Flowery Prose and I did just as I said I would…well, insofar as my recent pretty much nonexistent posting schedule has allowed.  But now I’m going to separate them again! It probably seems a bit arbitrary but it comes down to content and I likely shouldn’t have made the change in the first place.  So…if you want to read my book reviews (aside from the select few I will still write here on FP), please head over to The Door is Ajar and subscribe…I’d love to see you there as well!  Thanks so much!
  • Finally, from the files of WHAT I OVERHEARD AT THE LIBRARY, PART 358:  It’s mid-afternoon; I’m working in the picture book aisles. A young boy of about five years old is announcing with bold authority to anyone who will listen, “I am Batman!” He captures the attention of another boy his age, and jumps up on the nearest chair so he towers over his new friend.  He squints down at him and points gleefully. “Sucks to be you!” he shouts.  Someone’s clearly filled with holiday spirit….  😉

Tell me something fun (or funny) or exciting or wonderful that’s going on in your life!  

 

Sunny side up.

Children’s books are often clever and amusing – especially the titles.  Summarizing the plots of published books based only on their titles (and not the actual content) can be a pleasantly entertaining diversion, especially if the eggnog’s been spiked.  😉  

The Sword in the Stove by Frank W. Dormer

Not sure this particular restaurant deserves its 3 Star Michelin rating.  But it may have earned a spot on the TV show “Forged in Fire.”

The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey

The contents of my dryer’s lint trap aftersomeone who shall remain anonymous forgot to check their pants’ pockets for Kleenex.  Actually, “dreadful” doesn’t sufficiently cover the pleasantries educed by such an incident.

Veggies with Wedgies by Todd H. Doodler

Now, that just sounds super uncomfortable. And, really, is Doodler the author’s real last name? Seems a tad suspicious.

The Funny Bunny Fly by Bethany Straker

Someone is clearly having an identity crisis.

Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament by Anne Renard

An intensive step-by-step guide to dealing with scab. For children.  I mean, the book is for children, the scab is on the potatoes.  I think.

Who Has the Biggest Bottom? by Marijke ten Cate

There are some questions you just don’t ask a lady.

Secrets of the Vegetable Garden by Carron Brown and Giordano Poloni

A revealing, salaciously dirty tell-all: turnips and beans and carrots reveal the skeletons in their closets.

Pants on the Moon by Chloe and Mick Inkpen

My brain automatically drifted to the “other” sort of moon.  And then sort of stayed there.  I need to read this book to be sure I’ve got that all wrong.

Give Please a Chance by Bill O’Reilly and James Patterson

No, really, please do.  Imagine….

There’s a Nightmare in My Closet! by Mercer Mayer

What happened after I fired my professional organizer, and asked Stephen King to hire me a new one….

I Don’t Know What to Call My Cat by Philip Ella Bailey

Princess Ladida Fancydarling sounds about right.

You Are Not My Friend, But I Miss You by Daniel Kirk

Not passive-aggressive, much.

Do you have any to add?  Please share! I’ll take eggnog recipes, as well…. 

Recipe: Cocoa-Chili Roasted Pumpkin/Winter Squash Seeds.

As I speak, there is a roasted butternut squash-parsnip-carrot-sweet potato soup going on in my house.  (My take on this recipe, in which the OP probably didn’t spatter hot soup all over the backsplash and the outside of the front door and the neighbour’s Hallowe’en decorations even though she was really, really careful and wore an apron and a welder’s helmet and everything).

The point of this? (Besides the fact that there is soup happening and it’s perfect for these chilly evenings when snow is threatening).  The squash seeds!  Don’t throw them away.  Grow them in your garden next year or roast them.  I did the latter, and decided I’d use a familiar flavour combination in a new-ish way:

Cocoa-Chili Roasted Pumpkin/Winter Squash Seeds

Do this first: preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius).

Then throw the raw seeds that you just scooped out of your squash (ew, that sounds a tad impolite – my apologies) into a small saucepan.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Turn the heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes. Drain the water from the seeds and pat the seeds dry with a paper towel.

Lay the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  Now comes the tricky part – adjusting the measurements that I sort of winged in the first place.

For 1/2 cup seeds, add:

1 teaspoon butter or ghee or coconut oil, melted

1//8 to 1/4 teaspoon baking cocoa powder

1/8 teaspoon chili powder

1/8 teaspoon salt*

Stir everything together on the baking sheet and pop in the preheated oven.  Roast for 10 minutes then take the pan out and stir the seeds.  Place them back into the oven for another 10 minutes, then remove.  Cool completely and then dig in.  You may need to make a few batches of these until you get the heat that you want (or just add more spice during or at the end of roasting). I’m a wimp, so this is sufficient on the pepper scale for me.  I think more than one person might consider that the addition of a bit of ground cayenne might kick things up nicely as well….

If you don’t like chocolate (difficult to believe but I’m told it’s true for some folks), I have a lime and chili roasted pumpkin/winter squash seed recipe that you may enjoy – check it out here.

*There are metric conversion tables available here. 

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Enjoy!

A new member of the family.

Family and friends and those I’m connected with on Facebook already know about her, but I haven’t yet mentioned her to all of you!  I am absolutely delighted to introduce Smudge!

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My hubby and I want to give a huge shout-out to Tails to Tell, the rescue we adopted her from – they do amazing work in southern Alberta and we are so happy to have the opportunity to provide a home for one of their long-term residents.  Smudge had lived at the shelter for nearly her entire life – she had been brought there as an approximately two-month-old kitten (someone found her dumped at the waste transfer site near Crossfield, Alberta).  She is just over two years old now.

After an initial period of shyness and much hiding, she now follows us everywhere and practices this style of devastatingly adorable art daily (sometimes several times per day):

How am I supposed to withstand that kind of onslaught?  “Yes, your Ladyship, I’ll get on that yesterday!”

Those of you who have ever spent time with a cat will completely understand.  We are utterly smitten with Smudge.

 

In the garden: pleasant surprises.

I finally finished my garden clean up this past weekend.  I don’t have perennial beds at our new home; my new garden space is a combination of containers on the balcony and a plot at the nearby community garden. Clean up was easy: I had no issues with diseases with my container plants so all the soil was dumped into a large covered tote and left on the balcony for use next season, and the pots were all scrubbed and put into indoor storage so they don’t freeze and crack.  Clean up at the community garden was also a cinch: our garden committee encourages members to leave plants in place and chop and drop them in the spring.  (I am a huge fan of this! Keeping the dried plants in place over winter helps prevent a bit of soil crusting, as the garden is fully exposed during chinook winds and freeze and thaw cycles. The plants may also provide a safe haven for beneficial insects such as ladybugs, and the sunflowers in some of the other plots may be useful for hungry birds).  I did pull the pumpkin and zucchini plants, as they were beset with a vicious case of powdery mildew.

My garlic is planted at the community garden and mulched and hopefully snug for the winter, and I sunk a large container of alpine strawberries into the raised bed there in the hopes that they might survive. (I don’t have any in-ground spaces like I used to).  I’ll winter sow some more strawberry seeds outside in early March as insurance.

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I haven’t had a lot of time to review this year’s gardening season.  It was a challenging one, as far as the weather was concerned. Spring wasn’t gradual and wet; instead, we were blasted out of the gate with mid-summer-like heat and no rain.  Some direct-sown seeds refused to germinate, even with supplemental irrigation. Our summer was hot and filled with forest fire smoke, and we had a couple of severe hailstorms that handily trashed plants in mere seconds.  Many gardeners I talked to fought multiple insect infestations, but aside from the cutworms early in the season, I was fortunate in that regard. And then, just as everyone was still hoping their pumpkins would ripen on the vine and they would get some tomatoes that were a colour other than green, we were hit with two weeks of snowfall and bitter cold in September.

One pleasant surprise in my garden (besides these) were the ‘Le Puy’ lentils I grew for the first time.  The plants are pretty, resembling some of our common vetches so much that I thought perhaps I’d get in trouble for harbouring weeds.  The deer find them attractive, as well, which definitely reduced the quantity I was able to harvest.  Compared to some of my other plants, the lentils didn’t seem to require much care – a regular watering schedule was the most important thing, and they made it through the heat better than my sweet peas and sugar peas.

I quickly realized that the timing of harvest is critical with lentils.   The pods must be picked when they are dry, but if you wait too long (a scant few minutes, it seems!), they shatter, blasting the seeds across the soil or the entire garden or into the parking lot in the street adjacent.  I swear I could hear them pinging off the streetlights before I got to them.  😉  I still managed to collect enough to enjoy a decent snack (this recipe is easy to prepare and delicious!).

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Were there any pleasant surprises in your garden this growing season? What about any old favourites that were once again reliable?