The winter blues.

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It was a sparkly, frosty day here in Calgary – but just look at that brilliant blue sky over this young elm tree!

I was recently doing a bit more reading about the origins and history of Dutch elm disease, which has decimated elm trees worldwide. (This information at this link is particularly fascinating).  We are fortunate here in the province of Alberta that, due to rigid pruning restrictions and strict monitoring, our elms are currently free of the disease. Hopefully this tree and its kin stay healthy and thrive into old age. ♥

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!  

 

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?

Junction Hill hike.

We didn’t do a whole lot of hiking this past summer – I ended up working most weekends and things just didn’t pan out as we had hoped.  Our trip to Junction Hill in early June ended up being quite the adventure,* but the scenery was utterly worth it. I have never seen so many shooting stars (Dodecatheon conjugens) and calypso orchids (Calypso bulbosa) blooming in one place – it was simply breathtaking!  This isn’t a popular hike by any stretch and so the area is largely undisturbed, allowing the wildflowers to blanket every inch of the ground on the lower slopes. In case you’re in Kananaskis Country and want to try this trek for yourself, be forewarned: this isn’t some little hillock that you can casually saunter up and back from.  It’s a certifiable mountain with a highly inappropriate name.

So, this…found at the beginning of our hike.  Not ominous, at all.

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Wildflower bliss!

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And one of the exceptional views from the summit….

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*1. Ticks! We had a tick removal kit from the Central Alberta Lyme Society (CALS) and this very useful information from Alberta Health.
2. Don’t underestimate the need to wear properly-fitted hiking boots.  My new pair are super comfortable and I thought they were suitable, but I should have tried harder to get something that didn’t encourage my toes to crush themselves into the tips of the boots on the descent. Here are some tips for a proper boot fit.

Alberta snapshot: Banded Peak trail.

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If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know that aside from a couple of cases – absurdly weird filter here; and cropping here (because, trust me, you don’t want to get close to this sort of wildlife) – I don’t edit my photos.  They are all straight out of the camera (excepting the resizing, of course).  But I decided to take this one to the point of ridiculously soft…like an oversized fuzzy fleece blanket to snuggle under and sleep away this Autumn-That-Thinks-It’s-Winter. Conveniently, the Comfort Filter™ hides the fact that there was already a lingering skiff of snow on the ground as we wandered this beautiful trail outside of Bragg Creek, Alberta.

Tuesday tidbits: food and other assorted ramblings.

I have realized the benefits of carrying around a couple of folded brown paper bags in my book bag. (I don’t usually carry a purse. You can’t fit enough books in the ones I own so they’re pretty much useless to me. And if you’re going to carry around a ginormous purse, you may as well lug a sizeable, sturdy book bag, right?).  You never know when you might be strolling around and see seeds that need collecting or just enough ripe rose hips for a cup of tea or a leaf that needs identifying or pressing….  I’m certain my neighbours just shake their heads when they see me toodling around. At least I’m entertaining to others!  Do you forage in your neighbourhood as well?

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The apple trees on the property where I live have produced like mad this year so I’ve been picking and processing over the past few weeks.  I’ve made a bunch of unsweetened applesauce, a carrot/applesauce blend, some jars of apple jelly, and infused a few slices with whole cinnamon, allspice, and anise in vodka in preparation for the winter warm-ups that will certainly be required within the next few months.  (Perhaps sooner: we have snow in the forecast for this week!).  I wanted to make this apple jam but it will have to wait until next year; sadly, I cannot hog all the apples to myself.

Juicy, sweet freestone peaches from our neighbouring province, British Columbia, have been so inexpensive this year – I suspect they had a bumper crop over there!  I mixed up a bunch as pie filling and froze them for use later in pastry or over top of ice cream, breakfast oatmeal, etc..  But I also made this peach barbecue sauce, which was fantastic!

And…I made blueberry soup.  I didn’t know that was a thing, but apparently, it’s a common dish in Sweden.  You can eat it either chilled or warm (we opted for the latter).  If I had enough blueberries in the freezer, I could see eating this every day – it’s so delicious!  The recipe I used isn’t quite traditional – I was eager to try this one because it has maple syrup and cardamom in it.  If you’re nervous about fruit soups, don’t be – this is a great breakfast meal and not too sweet. Actually, it sort of makes your tummy smile. Which is weird, but comforting. And comfortable, at the same time.

If you remember this entry I posted I about the non-book items our public library carries, you’ll recall that I mused aloud-ish about trying out a musical instrument.  True to my word, I carted this splendid item home on the train late last week:

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Now to find some good beginner keyboard tutorials on You Tube!  Or, I’ll just have some fun and mash all the buttons for the “crazy noises” feature that the machine sports (those are the librarian’s words, not mine, but it’s the description I would have used as well). My neighbours will be elated with my efforts to learn new skills. I can already hear the knocking on the door, the broomstick tapping on the ceiling. If I can just get them to time it to my playing, we’ll have a band and we can go on tour tomorrow.

And, in the “Endlessly Bragging” Department, I have not one, but two, articles in the Fall 2018 issue of Herb Quarterly magazine: “Rock Your Garden!” and “Dooryard Garden Design.” The magazine is out on newsstands all across North America.

Share any new recipes you’ve tried recently or let me know what new ideas or fun things you’re working on this week!