We’re having a mosquito year! Heavy spring rains and flash flooding in some areas have brought out the nasty little critters in thick swarms. It’s impossible to avoid them when you’re outdoors, even in the city, where they are not usually a huge problem due to mitigation measures. On a hike out at Brown-Lowery Provincial Park earlier this week, my husband and I added a slightly frantic waving arm/slap routine to our walk and it ended up being quite the upper body workout. The views were worth the ridiculousness, though.
This amazing natural area just outside of Calgary is one of my favourite places to visit – the views are incredible in any season and in any type of weather. The Rocky Mountains to the west, rolling grasslands in the south and east, and even a view of the city’s downtown when you gaze north – it’s all eye candy from the trails, and depending on the time of year, you’ll catch a myriad of wildflowers in bloom, numerous bird species, and maybe even some wildlife (we’ve seen moose and deer, and a few small mammals such as squirrels). I took this photo about three weeks ago, when the aspens were just leafing out and their foliage had that brand-new-straight-out-of-the-package brilliant yellow-green colour and the snow pack was still high on the mountains (that actually hasn’t changed much – the peaks remain pretty white).
#Throwback Thursday post looking back on a visit to Abraham Lake, near Nordegg, last September. I still can’t find the appropriate adjectives to describe the beauty of this place….
#ThrowbackThursday post to a trip my brother, my hubby, and I took out to the Nordegg area last September. This part of Alberta is truly spectacular and I am longing to do some more exploring.
A glance back at a winter hike taken in late February….
I hope the start of 2020 has been good to you!
What’s growing (nothing outside – other than the snow piles):
Catgrass (I’ve planted a mix of wheatgrass and oats). I swear this stuff germinates in five minutes. If you ever feel like your green thumb’s gone bust, just plant some catgrass and your confidence will be restored almost immediately. My personal assistant Smudge is cut off after only a few good gnaws, as she has an exceedingly delicate digestive system and I hate cleaning upholstery.
Droolicious books I’ve been gawking at:
Urban Botanics: An Indoor Plant Guide for Modern Gardeners by Emma Sibley and Maaike Koster (illustrator)
Whether you’re a dab hand at growing houseplants or you’re captivated with the idea of growing them and want to know more so you can actually get started, this book is worth a gander or two. Or more: While the text offers up plenty of well-researched information and will likely lead to rushed trips to the nearest garden centre to scoop up a new Dracaena or Philodendron or an entire shopping cart full of succulents, the illustrations by Maaike Koster are absolutely glorious, pure eye candy at its most delicious.
The Embroidered Art of Chloe Giordano
A co-worker mentioned Giordano’s Instagram account to me and after just one glimpse, I was highly motivated to track down this gorgeous book. Thread-painted woodland animals – what could be more beautiful? Even if you don’t embroider, you can’t help but be amazed at Chloe Giordano’s insane talent and creativity.
Getting out and about:
One snowshoe trek is in the books! In early December, my hubby, my brother, and I earned “Braggin’ Rights” out at West Bragg Creek. Braggin’ Rights is 8.7 kilometres (5.4 miles) long, but we linked up via Snowy Owl and Old Shell Road, which added a few more K. Even though the bulk of Braggin’ Rights is in forest, the snow changed texture as we progressed from the cooler morning to the warmer afternoon, luxurious powdery crystals becoming sticky and heavy and clinging to our ‘shoes. I’m hoping we can get out several more times during the next eight months of winter*, but scheduling is a bit wonky with work, so we’ll see….
*I exaggerate, but only slightly.
(Old Shell Road)
What fun things are you doing this early in the new year?
One of my very favourite trips this summer was into the Castle wilderness, in the farthest, most southwestern corner of the province (it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to the state of Montana in the south, and British Columbia in the west). My niece, my hubby, and I spent a couple of days camping out there in late July, and we hiked Table Mountain. It’s only 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) to the summit, but your elevation gain is 700 metres (2,297 feet) and it’s on rough, slippery terrain, so it was a challenge my creaky knees and I were a bit nervous about. We took our time getting to the top and it was incredible! (And incredibly windy…you really didn’t want to stand too close to the edge as a gust could easily take you over).
An open meadow view above the treeline….
On the Table.
One of the most rewarding hikes I’ve ever done, and in fantastic company! ♥
If you’ve ever spent any time in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, you have probably visited the town of Banff, located in the National Park that bears its name. My hubby and I don’t travel to the townsite often even though it’s not very far away, but we decided to make the trip a few weeks ago so we could summit Tunnel Mountain, which overlooks the town. Instead of driving and worrying about where we would park in the busy tourist-filled town, we took a commuter bus operated by On-It Regional Transit. For ten dollars each way, we were able to board the bus near our home and
relax enjoy the incredible scenery nap all the way to our destination and back. The On-It buses operate between Calgary, Canmore, and Banff and have a regular weekend schedule with several routes running during the summer. It’s definitely a great option if you don’t want to drive from Calgary and back.
As for Tunnel Mountain…we had fun doing this quick trek under cloudy conditions. It’s a short peak, relatively speaking, topping out at 1,692 metres. (It’s a 4.3 kilometre trip return, with a 300 metre elevation gain). Despite the name, the mountain doesn’t actually have a tunnel. When the Canadian Pacific Railway was working to push tracks through the area in 1882, they wanted to blast right through the mountain. While it was a shorter route than what was eventually constructed, it would have been far more costly, in dollars and labour, to build the tunnel. So the mountain doesn’t have a big hole in it…but the name has stuck. (The mountain’s Indigenous names include Sleeping Buffalo, Iinii Istako, and Eyarhey Tatanga Woweyahgey Wakân).
(I wasn’t asked or compensated to provide a review of the On-It service – we just loved it so much I wanted to talk about it!). 🙂
There is a brand new story up at Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction, the online flash fiction magazine I publish six times a year. Check out Ed Ahern’s bittersweet “The Spring” here.
We have a very cool art exhibit going on at the library branch where I work, a sample of multi-media work by children participating in art classes at the Wildflower Arts Centre. These kids are aged 5 through 14 and it is amazing to see such talent! Paint, charcoal, fibre, paper (collage and mâché)…the creativity is fantastic!
Reading highlights for the month: the hilarious and action-packed YA novel The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, by F.C. Lee. Think Chinese mythology meets California high school – it has Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibes but it’s way loonier and, quite frankly, a bit more juvenile. But it’s silly good fun and I can’t wait for the next book…hopefully it is published soon.
Another YA offering: M.T. Anderson’s Landscape with Invisible Hand. I laughed, I cried, I despaired. I think I was supposed to eventually feel hopeful, but that’s actually the point where the tears appeared. This is a satirical (and just plain devastating) story of an alien invasion of Earth that has some startling, wayyyyyy too-close-to-home consequences.
Early in the month, my hubby and I took a tour of the Coutts Centre for Western Heritage, near the town of Nanton, Alberta. This amazing place is the family homestead of Dr. Jim Coutts (1938 – 2013), a prominent southern Alberta lawyer, businessman, and art collector – and in addition to all the artifacts and buildings onsite, it boasts the most incredible gardens filled with predominantly native prairie plants. Truthfully, I hope no one noticed me while I was wandering around the grounds, because I believe my lower jaw was firmly positioned somewhere around my ankles and I may have been drooling a little. If you happen to find yourself in that part of the province during the growing season and plants are your thing, make it a must-do pit stop – it really shouldn’t be missed. And, if the gardens aren’t enough (what!?), the place boasts what is likely the only example in Canada of a camera obscura built from a 1920’s-era grain bin.
These. Poppies. Seriously.
Re: my vegetable garden. Things are just sort of making an appearance, finally, after thousands of days of rain. I have golf ball-sized kohlrabi! I have really diminutive turnips! I have the smallest, most perfectly round pumpkins you’ll ever see…the kohlrabi are actually larger and at this rate, it will be about a year before I can harvest them, LOL. The zucchini fruit might be more than five centimetres long next week…we’ll see. I’m heartened by this new grand emergence of things but…um…cautious. The weather has been WEIRD…it’s mid-August already and we occasionally get frost(!) at the end of the month, so you can see where I’m coming from. I am harvesting dill and parsley and potatoes right now, which is delightful (especially as those three things go really well together at suppertime). And these supremely pretty bush beans, ‘Dragon Tongue’, are just coming on now. I simply want to gawk at them – they’re almost too gorgeous to eat!
I was very rushed before the growing season began this year and I failed to get a handle on them as the months flew by. Next year, I am planning to do more winter sowing – it truly provides the jump start often needed in this climate. If my personal assistant, Smudge, deigns to allow me to do so, I’ll start some seeds indoors as well…but she has an annoying habit of constantly snacking while at work. 😉
Smudge’s Sage Advice: It’s important to actively track your prey in case it goes somewhere. Even if it can’t, really. ♥
Flowery Prose has sort of been languishing on the backburner for the better part of a year now as I’ve been tackling a zillion other projects…and while this has been going on, I’ve completely broken all the rules of good blogging. Blogs that are worth their salt are built on the interactions between writer and reader. Although you’ve all been utterly fabulous and continued to read and comment whenever I’ve managed to squeak out a post (which has been less and less often as the months have gone by), I have, sadly, completely failed with regard to responding to all the fantastic comments I’ve received, as well as reciprocating by reading your blogs. I not only need to issue a huge apology, but I need to take action. So…effective immediately, you’re going to see a re-energized Flowery Prose. I am also going to make a far greater effort to spend time finding out about what is going on in your part of the world, via your blog posts. Please don’t expect huge strides, as I’m still swamped with projects. But I am going to make a change. Baby steps. Thank you so much to all of you for sticking around this entire time, even when there was a whole lot of silence on my end – I am deeply grateful for your kindness!
It looks as if I will have to fire my research assistant…this is the fourth time today I have caught her sleeping on the job…. 😉
The Central Library here in Calgary and the local writer’s group Loft 112 have a cool little thing going on…they’ve set up a Short Story Dispenser, conveniently located near Luke’s Café on Level 1M. While you’re sipping your tea or coffee, you can indulge in a randomly-selected one-minute, three-minute, or five-minute short story that is released from the dispenser at the touch of a button. The stories have been written by both international and Calgary-based writers – and I’m absolutely delighted to say that two of my five-minute stories are currently stuffed somewhere in the dispenser, waiting for someone to read them. If you live in Calgary and area, Loft 112 is still looking for more stories to fill the machine, so take a look at the call for submissions and have fun with it!
I recently found a little gem of a book by a southern Alberta-based writer, Joyce Moore: A Guide to Alberta Outdoors – Rides, Hikes, Birds, and Beasts (Bayeux Arts, Inc., Calgary, 2009). It’s a brief but lively collection of nature/outdoors columns that were syndicated for several rural newspapers in the 1990’s. She writes about ranching in the Highwood River area, the undertaking of several challenging and stunningly beautiful mountain treks, and observations of birds and other wildlife found in the Rockies and the foothills. A one-lunch-break read, and a fascinating look at our beautiful province by a woman who clearly loves and respects the environment.