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?

Tuesday tidbits.

First things, well…yeah.  Let’s smile together.  Maybe even guffaw together.  Click here to see the finalists for this year’s Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.  And then tell me which one is your favourite pic in the comments.  (I am indecisive; torn between “Have a Headache” and “Crouching Tiger, Peeking Moose”).

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Calgary cookbook author Julie Van Rosendaal’s Out of the Orchard: Recipes for Fresh Fruit from the Sunny Okanagan (2016, TouchWood Editions, Canada) is perfect for this time of year. Although the sweet, juicy B.C. peaches are finished (no worries! – I have a bunch stashed in the freezer for any and all occasions), the apples are still rolling in and on for extremely budget-friendly prices.  If you look around, you’ll still find the plums, as well, and of course, the pears are just coming on.  I seriously would like one of everything in this cookbook – I have no idea where to begin.  Weeeeellll, maybe I do.  Page 43, “Peach and Pumpkin Muffins.” Happening this week, in my kitchen.  And for supper tomorrow night: “Roasted Carrot Soup with Apples and Sage.”  Or…how about…”Curried Sweet Potato, Carrot, and Red Lentil Soup with Ginger and Pear.” That’s for Thursday night.  I’m gonna be busy….  If your bookstore or library carries this cookbook, I’d highly recommend tracking down a copy – it will quickly become a favourite!

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I meant to write about this much earlier this year but things sort of got away from me (they always do!). Alberta author Diane Mae Robinson has accomplished the impossible: she has made English grammar both accessible and adorable for children of all ages with The Dragon Grammar Book: Grammar for Kids, Dragons, and the Whole Kingdom. Using examples from her previously penned Pen Pieyu Adventures (ho boy, I’m in for it with that sentence!), this is a cute, useful, and educational book.  While the major appeal is for kids, I think it may actually serve adult ESL students as well, especially if they enjoy fantasy stories.  This is a fantastic resource (and if you want to own a copy, you can get the e-book free for your Kindle on Amazon.ca right now.  If you don’t live in Canada, I think the freebie is also offered up by Amazon in other countries, so just search for the book or the author on your respective site).

Even if you don’t garden in the United States, this is a delectable treat: the American Horticultural Society has digitally archived all of its issues of The American Gardener magazine from 1920 to 2016.  You can peruse them all here.  The opportunity to access documents like these is one of the best, most positive things about the Internet!

And, from the “Yes, I Published Another Article and Yes, You Are Stuck Hearing About It” Department, I…um…recently had another article published. Well, four more articles, actually.  We’ve got “How To: Mulch 101” and “Plants for Fall Colour” in the Fall 2018 issue of The Gardener for Canadian Climates, “Check Your Pulses” in the autumn issue of Archive, and “Wabi-Sabi Garden Design” in Herb Quarterly (Winter 2018).  This may be why I blog so irregularly and somehow forget to reply to all your wonderful comments until two months (or occasionally six) after you’ve written them and then you get the WordPress notification and you’re, like, huh? what is she talking about, anyway? – and then you do a search and realize this was thirteen blog entries ago!

Wow.  Someone is clearly in need of The Dragon Grammar Book. Or less caffeine, more sleep.  😉

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!  

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.

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.  

Flowery music.

A song I hadn’t heard in eons came on the radio the other day and I got to thinking about song titles and then that somehow morphed into thoughts about the garden, as pretty much everything does…  At any rate, this post is the result of my brain meanderings, and hopefully some fun for everyone who participates.

Let’s come up with songs that have “flowery” subjects in the titles!  It’s a chance to perhaps hear some tunes we haven’t in a long while, some awesome ones and some maybe a bit more middling….  😉

THE RULES: Songs must have a variation of the words “garden” or “flower,” or the name of a specific flower, vegetable, fruit etc. in the TITLE.  (Not in the lyrics).  Otherwise, everything and anything goes (well, except the really offensive stuff – let’s keep this above board). 

Go ahead and post the title of the song and the name of the artist in your comments. I will try to track the song down on You Tube and put a link to it up on the actual blog post.  This may take a few days, especially if we get a lot of selections, but I will work on it as quickly as I can.  I think WordPress has a playlist feature as well so if this takes off nicely, I will see about setting up something more permanent to put in the sidebar at some point.

I’m hoping everyone has a “flowery” song or two (or more) to suggest – have fun submitting your choices and having a listen!

I’ll start us off:

Seal – Kiss From a Rose

Fran Healy – Buttercups

Scott Mackenzie – San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) 

Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand – You Don’t Bring Me Flowers 

Poison – Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Nana Mouskouri – Roses Love Sunshine

Tom Petty – Wildflowers 

Your turn!  🙂