Book review: Countertop Gardens by Shelley Levis.

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Countertop Gardens: Easily Grow Kitchen Edibles Indoors for Year-Round Enjoyment – Shelley Levis (2018, Cool Springs Press, Quarto Publishing Group USA, Minnesota)

If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know that we have teeth-chatteringly, bone-chillingly long winters here in Alberta.  Six months isn’t an overstatement, and it can stretch even further than that on occasion.  Accordingly, our growing season is short (and often brutal).  Planting outdoors is a challenge…one that we never back down from but occasionally must grin and bear.  Given the vagaries of gardening in our climate, growing edible plants indoors is a very tempting option.  Yet…growing plants indoors isn’t foolproof – there are so many factors to consider, such as heat, humidity, light, and space.

Fortunately, Shelley Levis has come to the rescue for situations like this with Countertop Gardens! This indoor gardening manual is chockful of inspiration and ideas for turning your indoor living spaces into miniature edible gardens.  From microgreens to herb gardens to simple hydroponic systems, it’s all here.  And there are some surprises, as well: have you ever considered growing mushrooms, potatoes, gingerroot, or tomatoes in your kitchen?  Try them all using Levis’ tips!  She also examines some of the most popular grow-light countertop garden kits available on the market today and discusses ways to maximize their use – practical information whether you’re thinking of buying one or already own one.

Countertop Gardens is a fantastic starting point for anyone wanting to grow fresh food indoors all year ‘round – definitely a recommended read!

*The Quarto Group generously provided me with a review copy of Countertop Gardens. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Wildflowers of the Mixed-Grass Prairie by Johane Janelle.

Wildflowers of the Mixed-Grass Prairie – Johane Janelle (2017)

Here’s a fantastic resource for anyone interested in identifying the wildflowers growing on the western Canadian Prairies! Alberta-based photographer Johane Janelle has created and published a beautiful and useful brochure listing more than 70 wildflowers found on explorations on the mixed grass prairie.  The detailed photographs (arranged by bloom colour) assist with easy, quick ID, and Johane also lists the flowering period for each plant, as an additional aid.  The brochure is folded and laminated so it won’t crush or dampen during hikes.  It’s now a staple in my backpack!

Click here for a photo of the brochure, from the photographer’s gallery (don’t forget to check out her other work while you’re there!).  You can order the brochure directly from Johane by using the Contact Form on her website.

Calgary snapshot: BUMP (Beltline Urban Murals Project).

FPBUMPNormandeauI love this idea so much!  One of Calgary’s oldest neighbourhoods, the Beltline, has invited local and international artists to paint murals on the walls of some of its buildings – they call the project BUMP (Beltline Urban Murals Project).  They are holding their inaugural mural festival this weekend, but as I cannot attend, I took a walk around this morning and checked out some of the artwork on my own.  (I didn’t get to all of them – but as they are permanent installations, I am excited to make more trips to view the others).

The one in the photo I’ve posted is a definite stop-in-your-tracks-and-stare kind of work.  The artist is Faith 47 (XLVII), originally from South Africa, but currently based in Los Angeles. You’ll notice the words on the left-hand side of the work: “Fortes et liber.” The provincial motto of our province, Alberta, is “Fortis et liber” (strong and free).  There have been comments on social media speculating as to why the word “fortes” is used in the work instead of “fortis” (and worrying that there may be a misspelling). I haven’t yet seen a statement from the artist so I’m curious, myself.  I checked the meaning for the Latin “fortes” and came up with “fortune,” or “luck.”  An interesting mystery!

The website for the BUMP festival is here, if you’re interested in taking a look at photos of some of the other work (a few of them are still in progress).  It’s a great initiative and I hope the community will continue to add installations in years to come!

 

 

Peekaboo pumpkin.

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I’m a newbie pumpkin grower (I grew them once, years ago, with mixed results) and so I’m rather proud of these little ‘Algonquin’ plants that have – so far – weathered extreme heat and hail and powdery mildew.  I am anxious for the fruit to ripen before frost hits. Last night, our temperature dropped to a brisk 4 degrees Celsius (39.2 degrees Fahrenheit), so I’m feeling a tad worried about the number of frost-free days left in this growing season.  ‘Algonquin’ is a heritage cultivar, and the fruit is quite small and elongated, not round.  You can check out a photo and description here.

Do you grow pumpkins? 

Recipe: Lime and chili roasted pumpkin seeds.  

Book review: The 2016 Long Lunch/Quick Reads Anthology, edited by Lisa Murphy-Lamb et al.

“Book Review August and Possibly Part of September” doesn’t really have a zippy ring, but here goes….  I should note that all of the books I’m going to post about over the next few weeks have been read in the past year and a half, and there is quite a eclectic jumble of genres, audiences, etc..  If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll already know that my reading tastes are pretty wide-ranging.  I hope there will be something here that will pique your interest!  

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The 2016 Long Lunch/Quick Reads Anthology – Edited by Lisa Murphy-Lamb, Paul DiStefano, and Doug Neilson (2016, Loft on Eighth Calgary)

This collection of twelve stories and poems from both established and new Calgary writers is a delicious treat (pun intended!), a showcase of talent born out of the Loft 112 Creative Hive, a local writer’s group.  Put on your walking shoes and explore the city of Calgary, from the hidden spaces of the Calgary Stampede and the end of childhood, to a park bench by the cancer clinic, a suddenly crowded lane in a swimming pool, and the foot of a graffiti-scrawled underpass downtown. It’s all a bit gritty, unsettling, and heart-wrenching – you’ll see.  Standouts (for me): Doug Neilson’s devastating “Hymenoptera,” “At This Confluence,” the eloquent, elegant series of poems by Jessica Magonet, and poet Diane Guichon’s urban snapshots, “Sidewalk Litanies.”

Library loans.

We have a few slightly more “unusual” items available to borrow at the public library here in Calgary, including pedometers, electricity usage monitors, and – at one of our branches – musical instruments of all kinds, which is crazy exciting (and I really ought to take advantage of the opportunity at some point. I can’t currently play any instruments, but what better way to find out which one I would like to take up?).  I know some libraries throughout the world will lend out garden seeds, tools, and household appliances, among other useful items.  At one library in a neighbouring town in Alberta, you can even borrow snowshoes during the winter months.

Does your local library lend out items other than books (print and electronic), audio/visual materials, and access to streaming services and other online content such as newspapers and educational courses?  Have you ever used any of the “additional” items offered?