Lichen the mystery.


I am struggling to ID this colourful lichen, so I’m calling out for assistance: is there anyone out there familiar with lichens in Alberta (or perhaps North America) who can help me with a name for this?  While hiking in Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park this fall, a group of us found a prolific brilliant yellow growth on several trees in one particular location.  (This was above the upper falls, en route to the Ink Pots).  It actually looked as if the trees were glowing, like they had been spray painted gold.  There was a trickle of a mineral-laden spring nearby and we wonder if that has something to do with the unusual growth on specimens in just that area, but we really can’t explain it.  I am familiar with old man’s beard lichen and wolf lichen (and know that the latter can sometimes be bright yellow in colour) – but this doesn’t appear to be either of those.  Thanks in advance if you can help out on this one; even if I don’t get a positive ID, it’s still a fascinating find.


Alberta snapshot: Seven Sisters Mountain.


I don’t know what season it was when Captain John Palliser and the other members of the British North American Exploring Expedition (more commonly known as the Palliser Expedition) worked their way through the Crowsnest Pass at some point between 1857 and 1860, on their mission to survey a massive chunk of western Canada. If it was in the autumn, with the aspen trees putting on a brilliant show, they were probably especially awed, as I was a few weekends ago, at the magnificence of Seven Sisters Mountain, first named The Steeples by one of the explorers.  Almost one hundred years after the expedition passed through, in 1951, a daring Swiss-born mountaineer named Bruno Engler became the first person to successfully ascend the Seven Sisters, “with considerable difficulty“…and, as this account from 2014 shows, not too many people have attempted it since.  Staying on the ground to admire the impressive “steeples” seems much safer and very, very pleasant.


Late bloomer – really late.


I can’t say I’ve ever had anything blooming in my garden at this time of year – and this is the only plant that is. It’s November 16th and there is a single Scabiosa caucasica ‘Perfecta’ flower merrily swaying in the frosty, foggy breeze.  How sweet and beautiful is that?

Post-Flowery Friday.


The autumn-sunlit seed heads of Clematis occidentalis, growing wild among the aspens at the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area south of Calgary, Alberta: so fascinating!

Flowery Friday.


‘Autumn Joy’, indeed.  As always, I am delighted by this ubiquitous Sedum (I mean Hylotelephium) – it is seriously the very last plant blooming in my garden, bravely weathering multiple heavy frosts and more than one snowfall.  But this might actually be it for the year.

Do you grow any Sedum spp. (ahem, Hylotelephium)?

Recipe: Lime and chili roasted pumpkin seeds.

I posted this recipe way back in 2012, but I recently made it again and updated the photography on the original entry (which also explains how to properly save pumpkin seeds, if you’re interested).  This is a really easy recipe, and it has just the right amount of spiciness (you can omit the cayenne pepper if you prefer a bit milder flavour).


Lime and Chili Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds from one pumpkin

3 tbsp freshly-squeezed lime juice

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp salt (if you have coarse salt, use that)

1/2 tsp chili powder

pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius).  Combine all ingredients except seeds in a small bowl.  Carefully wash pumpkin seeds in cool water, removing all of the extra bits of pulp.  Dry the seeds thoroughly between several layers of paper towel and transfer to the bowl with the lime and chili.  Combine thoroughly and spread seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast seeds in preheated oven for 10 minutes, then remove pan and stir the seeds, spreading them out once again in a single layer. Place in oven for another 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool.  Enjoy!

What is your favourite recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds?

October blog fun.


It’s been a snowy, blustery, busy autumn so far!  I hope things are a bit quieter (and warmer) in your neck of the woods and you’ve been able to enjoy the changes of the season.

I’m playing it short and sweet on the link front this month:

These examples of typewriter art are fantastic!   Did you learn to type on a manual or an electric typewriter, or have you never used one at all?

Alberta-based macro photographer Adrian Thysse recently posted some stellar images of fungi found in our province.  Take a close look (see what I did there?) here.

Many of you may already be following the excellent blog Garden in a City – Jason’s post about not cutting down perennial plants at the end of autumn is both timely (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) and valuable!

And here’s another great post about end-of-season garden clean-up.  What are your thoughts?  Do you wait until spring to do these sorts of tasks?

Thousands of lantern slides from the 1800’s and early 1900’s have been digitized and posted online at various sites – you can check out the databases via this link.  Incredible examples of an early form of photography.

Check out these amazing photographs of bird’s nests and egg specimens, collected over the past two hundred years and exhibited at several zoological institutions.

Stuff I’ve posted elsewhere:

A book review for Alberta author Eileen Schuh’s latest novel, The Shadow Riders.

Plus…a couple of my articles have been recently published:  “Four Centuries of Gardening” in the 2017 Old Farmer’s Almanac, and “Fall Cleaning Hacks with Herbs” in the Fall issue of The Herb Quarterly (both on newsstands now).  And…upcoming…my short story “The Beauty of Mount Sagitta” (featuring pterodactyls!  And rare plants!) will be a part of the super-toothy anthology Sharkasaurus! from Fossil Lake.  Yes, all those exclamation points are absolutely necessary….


Clip art credit.