You know that summer is getting a little long in the tooth when you see this…these are poppy seed heads at one of the community gardens I belong to. And yes, the sky really was that blue when I took this shot a couple of days ago. 🙂
We’re nearing mid-September and the nights are downright chilly, but there is still a fair amount of summery colour lingering in Beaulieu Gardens at Lougheed House. To read a bit about this historic site, which dates to 1891, click here. And if you get a chance to visit Calgary, be sure to stop in for a tour – the mansion is gorgeously appointed and the grounds feature a spectacular variety of plants during the growing season.
Thanks to a lovely and extremely generous gift of veggie seeds from my friends Angie and Lisa, I finally grew turnips for the first time this year. I hadn’t previously given this crop a go, as turnips are one of the vegetables my hubby hates the most – and believe me, he hates nearly all vegetables equally, so this is saying something.
I yanked a few of the sizeable roots out of the garden last week and was thrilled that they were pretty much perfect for turnips…sort of beautiful, even, especially if you squint a little and overlook the flea-beetle-bitten leaves. Okay, that may be going too far, but still…colour me impressed. The phrase “low-maintenance” doesn’t even begin to describe how easy these things are to grow. I’m sure it helped that our summer weather was so rainy and chilly, but I’m going to claim it’s because I’m just such a good gardener. 😉
So…hit me with your favourite turnip recipes! (Or if you hate them like my hubby does, chime in so that he doesn’t feel so alone, LOL).
I see turnip puff in my future!
The package from Burpee Seeds classified this sweet pea as “High Scent,” which immediately captured my attention and imagination as I stood in front of the racks of seeds in the garden centre in early spring. Sure enough, they didn’t falsify such a claim. These sweet peas smell like all the deeply delightful Lathyrus odoratus cultivars – whatever they were – of my childhood. I’m growing them out on the balcony and I keep stepping outside for a sniff. I may be a little obsessed.
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. ♥
What a strange growing season we’re having! Our spring was so cold and wet that I direct sowed my veggies almost two weeks later than usual – a huge difference when you consider that we have, on average, 117 frost-free days in the city. (I didn’t start anything indoors this year or do any winter sowing). June was pretty much a blur of rain – I’m not certain we actually saw sunlight for the entire month. To this date, July has been considerably more moderate as far as temperature and drying are concerned…and my potatoes are kind of blissed out at the moment. I’ve got foliage going on like nobody’s business – I just hope there are a few tubers forming under there. A gardener in the Alberta Gardening Facebook group recently remarked that her potato plants were over five feet tall and those that commented echoed her claim – this is clearly the year of giant potato plants in our province!
And yes, those are hula hoops forming the tunnel in my raised bed…you can see how I set that all up here. I’m a big fan of the hula hoops – they’re cheap, sturdy, and they liven up a public space with their colours! (I’m not sure what our community garden leader thinks of them, but she hasn’t sent me a cease and desist letter so I’m guessing they don’t offend too many sensibilities). Instead of row cover fabric this year, I put up fibreglass screen. Its purpose is two-fold: we have deer that like to jump the fence of the community garden and nibble, so this saves my beans; as well – and more importantly – we are plagued by frequent hailstorms in this part of the world, and this keeps most of the icy stones from shredding my squash. I could combine this set-up with row cover fabric in future years – a good idea if I decide to plant cabbages and want to thwart flea beetles, or if I get seeds into the soil early and need a bit of protection against the cold – but for this year, the screen without the poly has been a satisfactory choice.
Did you plant potatoes this year? And do you use hoop tunnels in your raised or in-ground beds?
And…just for fun – what is your favourite way to make potato salad?
This was one of those days where the SPF in your sunscreen isn’t high enough, and even the fish are too hot to bite. A gentle, lazy float on Lake McGregor as hundreds of fluffy clouds roll above….
A couple of sweet treats for the start of the week!
A crazy beautiful cookbook:
You could acquire Marit Hovland’s Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature and actually make the recipes – I would highly encourage it! But, really, this cookbook is the most deliriously glorious eye candy you’ll have the pleasure of perusing in absolute ever, so you should spend some quality time simply ogling. A celebration of baking, organized seasonally and inspired by Scandinavian ingredients and design, Bakeland is so pretty you’ll drool. I have no decorating skills so I’m going to stick to the Spice Cake with Cinnamon Almonds. Because chocolate icing is possible for people like me.
If you want a preview of some of the book’s insanely gorgeous food photos, click here. (2018, Greystone Books, Vancouver)
Eat some berries:
If you’re cleaning out the freezer and you find a package of frozen raspberries, make this sauce. I reduced the sugar by a smidge (which is, of course, a completely technical cooking term). Then eat it out of the saucepan (ahem!) and pretend it’s summer already. Do. It.
Do you have any tidbits to share? – for example, projects you’re working on, new things you’ve learned, delicious or interesting new foods you’ve tried, delightful books or TV shows or movies, or a piece of music or art you’ve created or enjoyed?
Flashback to mid-summer last year and a public planting found in a playground in the Beltline area of Calgary. That mix of foliage textures and the pop of lime green, yellow, and pink-purple (possibly combined with the fact that it was crazy late in the evening and I hadn’t eaten supper yet) made me drool.
Pretty much any colour is making me drool right now….the absolutely bananas weather has given me a serious case of cabin fever!
Flashback to summer blooms! This beauty is the heirloom sweet pea ‘America’, grown on my balcony last year.