Octagons.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may recall that I work in a library (although, as of very recently, I switched branches in the city, transferring from the one that I worked at for nearly eight years).  I’m not a librarian or a library assistant so front line customer service isn’t part of my duties, but I still get a chance to talk to some of our patrons…and sometimes I just can’t help smiling at what they have to say.  Take this morning, for example:  a young mum asked me for books about shapes for her three-year-old girl.  We browsed the board book spinners and came up with some great titles, including a really sweet one featuring Snoopy (I’m a total softy for Snoopy and naturally assume everyone else is as well).  I thought I had the search wrapped up tidily as the mother flipped quickly through the books, but she turned to me with a sheepish grin on her face.  “These are great,” she said, “but my daughter is really interested in octagons right now.  She just loves octagons.”

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Well, I don’t blame her, really – octagons are very attractive shapes and quite satisfying from a mathematical perspective.  And the word is seriously fun to say aloud.  But I have yet to see a board book featuring octagons.  Actually, if anyone out there is writing board books for a living, please throw some octagons into the next “shape” book you pump out, would you? (I found this rather interesting title at work a few weeks ago, and if it exists, octagons shouldn’t be a complete stretch).  I know a certain three-year-old who would be really impressed….

If you have children, what words or concepts most captivated them when they were toddlers?  Do you remember any ideas you were fixated with as a child?  I can’t recall if I had any obsessions with certain words when I was that age (my Mum might remember!) but I know that even as I got older, I was constantly trying to reinvent the English language – it wasn’t that I mispronounced words (although I occasionally did that, and still do), it was that I was always deliberately making up new words, and renaming things around me.  The various cats we had over the years had so many inventive-yet-utterly-ridiculous monikers, it’s no wonder they never came when they were called.

Oh, wait….   😉

Clipart credit.

Flowery Prose gets crafty: a catgrass centrepiece.

I’m not a particularly crafty person (see Exhibit A, above), but last year’s Easter-themed e-newsletter from Jim Hole’s Notebook featured a fun project I just had to try out for the upcoming holiday.  Because you still have time to grow the anchoring plant of the centrepiece, I thought I’d share!

Have you ever planted catgrass for your feline companions?  For that matter, have you ever planted it for your own consumption?  The term “catgrass” refers to either the popular juice plant wheatgrass or oatgrass (Avena sativa, which can also be juiced).  The kind I’ve planted for the centrepiece is oatgrass – the same annual cereal crop that produces the seeds that make up your breakfast porridge.  Oats are a very old cultivated crop, domesticated for over 3,000 years (and probably enjoyed with cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins for nearly that entire time).  If you’re not keen on porridge, you can sprout organic, untreated oat seed and combine the greens with mesclun for a delicious salad.  Oats are usually palatable for people who suffer from an intolerance to wheat (it’s also interesting that oats will grow where wheat will not, in poor and acidic soils).

We know why we like to eat oats.  (Actually, some people really, REALLY like oats – the plant has a bit of a reputation as a natural aphrodisiac!).  But why do cats like catgrass?  It’s probably just that they like the sweet taste and slightly crunchy texture, although cats may benefit from the roughage and the vitamins in the grass.  Green oatgrass is a source of chlorophyll, which can freshen nasty tuna breath – always a good thing for those of us who have to live with it.  😉  Offering catgrass to your cat as a tasty alternative may also save your houseplants from certain destruction…possibly.  Regardless of why cats like it, catgrass is cheap and fun to grow – and it makes a fine Easter centrepiece, don’t you think?

If you get a chance to make a catgrass centrepiece (or any other holiday craft with plants), comment with a link to a photo of your project!  I would love to see it!

(Too bad this handsome gentleman lives 800 kilometres away – I’m sure he’d really, really like my centrepiece). 

Photo credit – R. and H. Mueller

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Oatgrass takes about three to five days to germinate, and then it grows like crazy.  You don’t need to cover the seeds when you sow them; as well, the crop is surprisingly drought tolerant once it shoots up.  Keep it growing for a few weeks, trimming (either with scissors or with the assistance of some feline incisors) regularly to manage.  Start a new batch every month or so – don’t let it get too mature, as flower heads and other bristly plant parts may actually be damaging to a cat’s digestive tract.  Grasses are actually very difficult for both humans and cats to digest properly – which is why we soften them by juicing, and why cats sometimes vomit after ingesting.

Interestingly, oats are listed on the Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System site as a crop with toxic potential:  apparently if oat hay is left outside in damp conditions, a dangerous chemical change in the stored nitrogen may occur, resulting in illness or death for livestock that eats it.

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Check out these sites for more information about oat grass:

Related posts:  Mmmmm is for microgreens.