Prairie gardening viewpoints: guest post.

I am delighted to announce that I have another guest on the blog!  If you’ve been following this series on Flowery Prose, you’ll know that I’ve been posing a few questions to Prairie gardeners, inquiring about their experiences gardening in such a unique, challenging climate.  I want to find out what they love about gardening in Alberta, what they find difficult, and what inspires them about growing.  Whether you live on the Canadian Prairies or you’re much further afield, I’m sure you’ll find ideas and solutions to consider for your own gardening endeavours.

Please allow me to introduce Krista Green!

Where do you garden in Alberta?

My husband, our 3 children and I live on 4 acres south of Calgary near Black Diamond. We were able to move out of town to this small piece of land 4 years ago.  Having a big backyard with lots of space to garden has been so amazing!  I am loving it so much!

As a child I grew up in the country where we always had large vegetable gardens.  Helping out in the garden and learning to weed was a part of my childhood.  I lived in Vernon, B.C. until I was 14 (such an easier growing climate!) and really fell in love with gardening when I was around 10.  That year I planted some pumpkin seeds, starting them indoors.  I remember transplanting them into our garden there.  They ended up a huge pumpkin patch growing so many pumpkins!  I was hooked.  I want our children to have this same opportunity to experience gardening, growing from seed and its reward. 

What challenges do you think we face as gardeners in this province?

As Albertan gardeners we face so many challenges!  Working within a very short growing season, cool weather, chinooks that can be so hard on perennial plants, deer and rabbits eating our plants, along with alkaline soil and water in much of the province to name a few. 

I am always so encouraged when I am able to talk with other Albertan gardeners who grow successful vegetables, herbs and fruit and who understand these challenges. 

It was for this reason I decided to start my blog with gardening tips specifically for our climate.  This May I began my blog Zone 3 Vegetable Gardening with the goal of encouraging and helping other gardeners who desire to grow their own food in the cooler gardening zones.  When looking for gardening tips and help, almost all of it seemed to come out of the warmer zones and it was difficult to know how to adapt for our Alberta climate.  I have so many ideas and plans that I want to share with you to make your gardening more fun, successful and organized!  Subcribe to my blog and be the first to find out what these are!

How can we overcome those challenges?

As an Albertan gardener I find it necessary to start things like flowers, tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers indoors early in the spring to offset our short growing season.  I direct seed many vegetables such as carrots, peas, green onions, spinach, potatoes, beets and radishes at the end of April or beginning of May.  This means these will be covered in snow a few times but I have found I have stronger plants that mature earlier by doing this.  If I do lose some of the plants to the cold I just re-plant, but most years everything pulls through.  I wait until after the May long weekend to plant the remainder of my vegetables such as beans and even into June to transplant my sensitive plants like my cucumber and squash.  Some years my last frost is around mid June so I need to keep an eye out.  I often end up covering parts of my garden during frost warnings in late May and early June.  To read more about how I protect my plants from frost you can read my article Protecting Your Plants During Frost.

What inspires you about gardening?

Gardening feeds my soul.  In the garden I feel at peace, I pray, I hear the joyful songs of the birds, I notice and am thankful for the buzzing of the bee.  The breeze feels as though it blows life’s worries away.  In the garden life is simple.  Seeing the miracle of the growth of those tiny seeds I planted never ceases to amaze me.  Feeding my family healthy and organic produce from my efforts is so satisfying!  The smells, the sounds, the feels, the sights of gardening, they all inspire me!  It is difficult to put into words how it fills me up and grounds me.

What types of plants are you most passionate about growing?

Definitely vegetables!  And herbs.  And fruit.  Well I guess you could say anything you can eat.  I enjoy growing flowers as well but personally don’t find them nearly as satisfying to grow.  I am passionate about creating a lifestyle less dependent on others.  I love growing our own food and learning all about sustainabillity!  We have twenty-two chickens and plans to do fencing for sheep and possibly goats one day soon.

What gardening (or gardening-related) projects do you have on the go this year?

My biggest gardening related project this year has been my blog and my Instagram account.  Computers are not my thing at all so there is a huge learning curve there!  We also redid our deer fence this spring (I say we but that was really all my husband who did that).  We switched from mesh netting to wire as the netting was torn.  My husband built me a raspberry bed as well this spring.  I hope to add another each year until I have a large raspberry patch.  I would like to lay down cardboard this fall and top with a thick layer of compost to create a new perennial flower bed for next year as well as a large in ground potato garden.  I am also hoping to experiment with growing herbs and veggies indoors under grow lights through the winter.  We will see how that goes!

Did you set out with any gardening goals in mind for the growing season?

Some of my goals this season were to help my children plant and maintain their own little vegetable gardens.  Having them home more due to COVID has allowed them more time to work alongside me in the garden, which I love!  Another goal was growing brassicas.  Something fairly new to me.  I harvested some small broccoli and my first small cauliflower and am still waiting on the cabbage.  Trying a few new things, experimenting and learning are always goals for every growing season.

If so, have you been able to accomplish them?

I would say yes.  My children each have a beautiful veggie patch and are enjoying eating carrots, lettuce and peas from them daily.  My eldest is getting better at recognizing weeds.  (I’m thinking she doesn’t realize the weeding chores that will likely go along with this skill!)  I tried growing okra for the first time.  That was a big fail.  I’m going to try again next year but in the greenhouse. 

What are your plans for your garden for the future?

I hope to continue to improve my soil each year.  I have very alkaline soil and that is always a battle for me.  I want to build a cover for at least one of my raised garden beds to grow my brassicas under.  To expand my garden!  Can you ever have enough gardening space? 

Thank you so much for this opportunity to do an interview with you Sheryl!  You inspire and encourage me in my own gardening experience.  I hope I will do the same for others.

Krista, it’s been a huge pleasure to interview you for Flowery Prose! Thank you so much for your insight and ideas – I know you’ve offered a ton of wisdom and support to many gardeners through your blog (Zone 3 Vegetable Gardening) and social media and I wish you continued success!

Flowery Prose turns 8!

Well, Flowery Prose The Blog turned 8 years old a little while back and I meant to write a little something to celebrate, but somehow it was overlooked, and here I am, a few weeks-ish late.  I would like to offer a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who generously and kindly gives FP a read, and/or stops in to comment – you all rock and I’m very grateful to you!*

Just for fun, I thought I’d share my top three favourite posts I’ve done so far – I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them.

The Don’ts of Bird Photography  Timing is very important when taking bird photos.  You’ll see what I mean.  (Be sure to click on the image in the link for full, glorious effect).

Bookmarks. Since I wrote this post (and transferred to another library branch in the city), I am delighted (bewildered?) to add a child’s pink one-piece swimsuit to the list.  I am not joking.

Fun with Search Terms, Flowery Prose Edition.

Why not celebrate with me and put a link to your favourite post that you’ve done on your own blog in the comments? 

*even if things get supremely busy and I don’t get around to replying for weeks on end and then pretty much the season is over and done with or whatever I’ve written about is completely irrelevant and yet you are still so patient and wonderful and I truly appreciate it

 

Fun with search terms, Flowery Prose edition.

clip art of a search icon

I love the WordPress feature that keeps track of the search engine terms that have led readers to our blogs. Some of them are obvious and you can definitely pinpoint the exact entries you’ve written that came up in the search (and hopefully assisted someone with their query)…but others are just plain entertaining!  I have a habit of plugging in as many words as possible into search engines to narrow down the possible hits, so I can only imagine what someone on the receiving end might think of the weird stuff I come up with.

Here are a few of the search terms that have been logged on Flowery Prose within the past year, the ones that got me giggling the most. I really hope something I’ve posted helped these folks out, as well, but I’m not entirely convinced of that….

saskatoon berry alcohol shot

Yes, please.

hula hooping sitting on bed

I’m not that flexible…or creative. I might somehow throw out a hip.

what if I eat a spittle bug

No biggie, it’s three percent of your daily recommended intake of protein.  And the spittle gives it a smooth mouthfeel.

prose soup

Is that like Alphagetti noodles?  Do you add veggies?  I might want that recipe.

prose on parenting

*looks to see if anyone has dropped off any kids at my house and left them there without my knowledge*

nose ill

I think this was supposed to be “Nose Hill,” one of my favourite places to walk in Calgary.  I can’t say I’ve ever written a post about “nose ills,” but if there’s a call for it, I can definitely make something up oblige.

covering raised veggie bads (sic) at night

I’m glad I’m not the only one who had veggie bads this year – I can’t believe only three of my carrot seeds germinated out of an ENTIRE package.  Maybe I would have had more success had I covered them at night.  Things to note for next year.

same look like winter cress but not

Occasionally my hair gets this way before I put the anti-frizz cream in.

speak about flower

Ask my hubby; I do, ad nauseum.  This may be a search term I’m actually qualified to write about.  If not qualified, I can certainly babble endlessly about it.  I have also been known to expound at length about flour, as well, but that’s another story….

Check your search terms: do you have any silly or unusual ones you’d like to share?  

Clipart credit.

 

Garden art.

Other than a few large, rather attractive rocks that somehow migrated to my perennial beds (either during the last glacial event or when the landscapers didn’t want to hit them with a lawnmower), I don’t have any garden ornaments on display.  As I garden in a public space, it’s probably not a good idea for me to pick what type of garden art everyone in the apartment complex should be subjected to – I’m sure I’d get it wrong in at least one person’s view.  Like all art, opinions regarding garden ornaments are deeply personal, but as this blog post from Three Dogs in a Garden serves to illustrate, the line between huh? and what on earth?! is a fine one, indeed.  I wonder what my landlady would do if I plunked Bigfoot down in the Shasta daisies…?

Your turn: what types of garden art/ornaments do you have in your garden? Feel free to post links to your photos/blog posts in the comments!  

FPSGNormandeau

This little statue can be found in the Shakespeare Garden at the Silver Springs Botanical Garden here in Calgary.  Photo taken in July of last year.

Floral notes: November 2016.

nov

Somehow we’ve already reached the eleventh month of the year…I must have had either a wicked caffeine buzz or slept through the rest of the months because I have no idea how we arrived here so quickly.  Time doesn’t just fly, it moves at warp speed.  (“Warped” speed may be more apt in my case).

If you’re in need of a five-minute breather (yup!), I’ve rounded up a few links you should/will definitely! enjoy:

“The Hidden Dangers of Botany” will have all the avid gardeners giggling and nodding in complete understanding.  We totally do this, don’t we?

They aren’t flowery, but these absolutely incredible photographs of wild horses made my jaw drop.  The word “breathtaking” doesn’t do them proper justice.

And here are some equally outstanding photographs of birds eating, fighting, looking after their young, and generally just looking spectacular doing their thing.

Finally, the photos from the finalists for the 2016 Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards are hilarious and charming.

Some stuff I’ve posted elsewhere:

A super-yummy Pumpkin Pancakes recipe on Grit.com.

A bunch of book reviews (should really be book “mentions”) on The Door is Ajar:

Annnnnndd….my flash fiction story “The Architect” was just published online by 365 Tomorrows.  Plus, Herb Quarterly‘s Winter 2016 issue (on newsstands now) includes my article “A Garden Bounty: Propagating Herbs By Cuttings and Layering.”

Hope your week is amazing!

Clipart credit.

Dictionaries and potential literature.

clip-art-categories-clip-art-basics-animals-clip-art-awareness-ribbons-kzmebs-clipart

On my other blog The Door is Ajar, I recently reviewed a book by Joe Fiorito, Rust is a Form of Fire (you can read my post in its entirety here).  In his introduction to the book, Fiorito acknowledges the influence of George Perec and his book An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris (1974), as well as a literary movement Perec was a part of: Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (usually known as OuLiPo).  OuLiPo – which I had never heard of until reading Fiorito’s book – encouraged writers to see “potential literature” everywhere, and used what I’d consider restrictive writing exercises to create new, bold works (sometimes out of old ones).

Consider N+7.  This was a way to alter existing text by replacing every noun (N) in a work with whatever noun followed the original seven (7) entries later in the dictionary.  Another procrastination tool or super good fun?  Maybe both!  I don’t believe in writer’s block, but if you do (and you’re suffering from it), this might be the way to get the words flowing again….

At any rate, mulling over the possibilities of N+7 got me thinking about dictionaries, mostly about how no one really seems to have a print copy of them anymore.  If you need to look up the definition and usage of a word, you just plug it into whatever word processing software or search engine you regularly use and in a microsecond, you have it right there in your face. You don’t even really need to know how to spell the word – there are so many ways to retrieve it even if you come up with merely a close approximation.

We have print dictionaries at the library, but they are circulating less and less, and the beautiful hefty reference copies are rarely taken from the shelf.  I love print dictionaries and have a few at home; although a search engine is way more efficient, sometimes it’s just plain pleasant to turn the pages of the print copies and pore through the entries.

So, with dictionary in hand, here is an excerpt from my book review of Fiorito’s Rust is a Form of Fire – the original is first, followed by the N+7 version.  Please note that I am using N+7 without taking into account proper nouns and pronouns.

Over the course of three days, he spent several hours sitting near the intersection of Victoria and Queen in the bustling metropolis, and recorded all of his observations of the scenes around him:  snippets of conversations, what people were wearing, what they were drinking or eating, what the temperature was, interesting features about buildings around him…you name it.

Over the court card of three daydreams, he spent several house arrests sitting near the intertrigo of Victoria and Queen in the bustling mew, and recorded all of his obstacles of the scent-bags around him: snoods of conversions, what pepperboxes were wearing, what they were drinking or eating, what the temple was, interesting federations about bulbuls around him…you name it.

Potential literature?  Perhaps –  I did learn a few new words in the process!  And I must apologize for my juvenile sense of humour, but the “obstacles of the scent-bags” makes me giggle. Might be the title of my next short story….

Do you still use a print dictionary?  

Do you use writing exercises to inspire new work?

Clipart credit.

Garden horror.

Procrastination is totally a good thing.  You always have something to do tomorrow, plus you have nothing to do today.

                             ~Some random Internet meme I found while procrastinating on social media.  

Shhh….don’t tell anyone…I’m supposed to be working on an article due in a couple of days.

But I’m thinking about Garden Horror instead.  (See yesterday’s post if you are blinking at the screen and thinking I’ve finally totally lost it).

So, ahem, I thought of a few titles for as-yet-unwritten Garden Horror novels (which also ties into yesterday’s post – please do go check it out if you haven’t already).  Of course, these may sound eerily (see what I did there?) familiar to some of you:

The Slug Also Rises

Apocalypse Bough

Close Encounters of the Larval Kind 

The Drawing of the Tree 

The Turn of the Yew

The Tell-Tale Bark

The Call of Kudzu 

Okay, I must be getting back to work…the ball’s in your court.  What Garden Horror titles can you add to my list?  Make me laugh – the article I’m at this very moment feverishly churning out at a breathtaking rate of speed is about plant propagation, and we all know how very unfunny that topic is.  

Title.

A couple of weeks ago an editor e-mailed me a response to a piece I had submitted, of which the gist was: I like what you’re doing here, but your title doesn’t quite fit the situation you describe in your work. Either change the situation or change the title – it’s up to you.  Of course, I took the easier (but possibly more stressful) route and spent a day and a half agonizing over potential new titles, one of which was ultimately affixed to the published work.

Coming up with suitable titles is probably one of the most difficult parts of writing for me. If I’m writing an article – about composting, perhaps, or dividing perennials or buying garden tools – I tend to simply give a really brief statement about where I’m headed with the content. So far, I haven’t had to apply the heavy-handed sass that might yield that special click bait edge. “10 Deadly Secrets Your Lawnmower is Harbouring” isn’t really the sort of thing I write.  Yet.  These are lean times.

11954368581269955423JicJac_Push_Mower.svg.med

I usually fare better when it comes to fiction, because the story tells me what it wants to be called (yeah, that doesn’t sound quite right now that I read that back but we’ll go with it).  Because I often write humour, my titles have contained puns (“Johnny Cache Steps Out”), snippets of clichéd sayings (“…If You Were the Last Man on Earth”), or slang (“Sheeple”). Still, the titles are usually coughed up at the end, when I’ve gotten the text down.  The only time it can get a bit shaky is when you have to scramble to meet a deadline and your story is ambiguous with its choice.  You don’t want your title to come across reading like a label hastily slapped on a shipping container (well, I guess it depends on the story).

Blog posts are even worse.  Take today’s title, for example.  It’s short and to the point, and definitely conveys what the writer wants it to, but it’s lacking a certain grittiness that would just nudge it over the top.  I’d chew on it a little bit more, but I’m suddenly inspired to write some horror flash fic about lawnmowers….  (Garden horror – that could seriously be a sub-genre, am I right?).

Are titles a struggle for you?

Clipart credit.

PSA: regularly back up your computer files.

IM000453.JPG

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it on the blog, but I play golf…horribly.  Even so, I love the game and I’m fortunate to have two amazing playing partners who totally indulge the fact that I can’t hit a ball to save my life (even though I’ve taken lessons and have played for many years).   At any rate, if you play golf with friends and family, you’ll know the term “mulligan.”

So…nearly a month ago, my computer’s hard drive experienced “catastrophic failure” (the tech’s words – did he know how melodramatic that sounds?) and could not be resurrected. The machine was in the shop for three weeks so I really just got it back very recently, with a brand spanking new hard drive and a freshly-loaded OS.  I had to install new software and try to remember all my settings and bookmarks and all the fun stuff that made my computer mine.  While that has been annoying (and is still a work in progress), what I’m really doing is breathing a sigh of relief.

Because I backed up my files.  (Well, nearly all of them, anyway).  If you’ve ever read interviews with famous writers and photographers – and the not-so-famous ones –  you’ll find that a piece of advice they always dispense to newbie or wannabe creatives is to back up your work.  They’re totally right about this.  There is no mulligan when your computer just decides to catastrophically fail in the middle of something you were doing.  I really had no warning when mine bit the dust, it just quietly shut itself down and never came back up. No raging against the dying of the light here; it was all very dignified…and surprising.  I lost the work I was doing at the time, of course, and I’m kicking myself because it would have been so easy to just have a flash drive in the port and click on “Save” every now and then.  I may have lost a few sentences rather than entire paragraphs.

It’s solid advice, and could save a ton of regret later on.  Even if we’re not writers or photographers, how often are we backing up the work we do on the computer – the household budgets, the tax documents, the personal correspondence, the music or the movies or the e-books, the photos of our families and friends and pets?  Are any of us backing up the files on our phones on a regular basis?

How do you back up your computer files – and how often do you do it?  Do you use an external hard drive or other smaller storage devices such as flash drives or even CDs or DVDs?  How about the cloud or a service such as Dropbox?  Do you print your photos or other documents on paper?  Do you store any of your backups off-site (away from your residence), as is often recommended?