Art Compensation

I do a variety of art projects for no better reason than when I dabble with paint or mosaics or mixed media the world slips away and for a few blissful moments it feels like I am in conversation with The Universe.

Once the conversation ends I am left with a piece of what could loosely be called art that sometimes makes its way onto a wall or a shelf in our home. More often than not, the piece ends up being recycled for a second go around in another “conversation” to come.

Sometimes I like the pieces well enough, but too many accumulate and I end up donating a few to a thrift store. I confess that on a few occasions I have returned later to see what they have priced my work at and if it sells. I don’t know if that is weird, pathetic, completely narcissistic or all three. Don’t judge me.

A couple weeks ago I was in one of our local thrift stores when I spotted a mosaic piece I had made well over a decade ago. For years it had hung by the wood stove in our kitchen on the farm. When we moved into town, almost five years ago, I had donated it, not to see if it would sell, but simply because I was purging for the move.

I frequent this thrift store often and hadn’t seen the mosaic hanging there before, so I knew it hadn’t been there the whole time.

Plus the frame had been scuffed and damaged since I donated it. I figured someone bought it, hadn’t loved it much and then donated it again, or maybe it had just been kicking around the back storage room all these years and had suffered damage that way.

The only thing I knew for sure was the sticker read $3.99 and I felt sorry for it. I grabbed it off the wall like I was rescuing a puppy from a dumpster and carried it over to the till.

The ego part of me was hoping the salesperson would say something complimentary about the mosaic or perhaps marvel at the surprisingly cheap price tag attached.

“What? 3.99? There must be some kind of mistake. It should be at least 39.99!” but all she said was, “That will be 2.79 please.”

I handed her the two toonies I had ready and she quickly deposited a loony and a couple dimes back into my hand.

“Actually that’s not right,” I told her, trying to return the change. “It’s 3.99.”

She stared at me for a long moment, looking a bit like a deer in the headlights, before cautiously saying, “Um, it’s Senior Tuesday so I gave you your 30 percent discount.”

Well.

Bad enough my art was abused, rejected twice and mockingly priced, but now here I was finding out I look a full ten years older than I actually am.

But then I thought, hey, that’s what happens when you enjoy a lifetime of summers gardening in the sun. I can almost buy a pack of garden seeds with that buck seventy-nine savings. AND I get a mosaic piece I know for a fact cost at least twenty dollars in ingredients to make, all for a mere two dollars and seventy-nine cents.

Perspective.

It’s everything.

The Best (and Quickest) Way to Thin Seedlings and Harvest Greens!

Thinning seedlings–whether in the garden or in pots–is a painstaking process. Make it simple by using scissors instead. It’s like giving your garden a haircut!

Using a pair of clean garden scissors to lop off the tops of plants seeded too closely together not only quickens the task of thinning, but also ensures the roots of the plants you’re keeping aren’t disrupted by pulling up plants around them.

With greens, such as lettuce, garden scissors are once again the tool of choice. Create a “Cut and Come Again” garden of greens by snipping off the tops for a fresh salad, while leaving enough leaves to start the growing process over again. When harvested in this way it is possible to get three or four cutting harvests instead of just one!

Herb Scissors are also an excellent tool for harvesting sprigs from your herb garden.

You could say great gardeners get snippy with their gardens!!! But you probably won’t because that’s a groaner of a pun. My apologies.

I can’t leave on that note, so here is a picture of a fabulous garden I saw while on a garden tour a couple of years ago.

What Was Tulip Mania?

While debates continue to rage about the precise details and magnitude of what became dubbed Tulip Mania, the term refers to the astronomic rise and collapse of tulip prices between 1633 and 1637 in the Netherlands.

Starting around the mid 1500’s botanical finds were the equivalent of today’s latest gadgetry. Instead of lining up all night outside a box store for the new smart phone or what-have-you, buyers lined the docks waiting for a glimpse of an incoming ship loaded down with flora wonders from afar.

As tulips gained popularity investors became interested and prices sky rocketed. Forty tulip bulbs were recorded as selling for 100,000 guilders at a time when skilled craftsmen were earning around 300 guilders a year. In other words forty tulip bulbs sold for the equivalent of over 333 years of wages and this at a time when living into your late forties was a remarkable feat, especially given that between 1635-37 there was an outbreak of the bubonic plague in Holland.

And it wasn’t just the people who were battling disease. So were the tulip bulbs. Ironically, unbeknownst at the time, it was a virus that caused certain tulips to develop the unusual two-toned streaky patterns that were so coveted by growers and buyers alike.

Just before the collapse, one tulip bulb Semper Augustus featured red and white streaked petals and carried a price tag of 10,000 guilders for a single bulb!

As is the way of things, it was likely greed that became Tulip Mania’s undoing. When buyers refused to show up at the annual bulb auction, panic ensued and prices plummeted. Though it should be said that it is not known if buyers were turned off by the inflated prices or if they were simply staying away out of fear of catching the bubonic plague. Whatever the reason, tulip mania came to a crashing halt.

I am sure those left holding the bag of bulbs in the aftermath felt cheated, but at least they had the bulbs. When the stock market crashes you are left with a pile of worthless paper, or these days, mere marks on a screen. When the tulip market crashed the bulbs could still be buried in the ground like treasure and reward the grower with a stunning springtime show year after year.

As those who love a garden know, there is no greater wealth than that.

Spring flowers in park

Seeds Springing Up

It’s -20 C, white skies and snow is swirling about the rooftops as I look out our apartment window, but spring is coming nonetheless. Seeds have started springing up all over town and even in some unlikely places.

Yesterday I was at the Homesteader Health Food Store in Fort St John and came across this rack of seeds from a seed company in Barrhead, Alberta called Harmonic Herbs that I had never heard of before.

 

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It is always nice to see dedicated non GMO, open pollinated and heirloom seeds being offered, wherever you find them. To have seeds designed for the prairies-which our region mimics in so many ways-is an added bonus. And to have it offered at a local source is even better. I think most people want to shop local, but we don’t always know what’s out there and sometimes it just gets easier to go online.

It’s interesting just how much people are buying online these days. Back in the day the Milk Man delivered dairy goods, the Bread Man dropped off baking and people showed up at your door hawking everything from encyclopedias to vacuum cleaners. Then came mall mania and everyone went out to source their own goods and home delivery for many things became a relic of the past.

Now we have come full circle-sort of. People are getting pretty much everything delivered right to their door. Some things come from local sources; I have heard of bakeries in Toronto that now deliver door to door. However, a lot of stuff comes from places like Amazon or from companies far away.

As I said, I think people want to buy local, they just don’t always have the time or energy to track things down. That’s why whenever I spot something local and garden related, I like to post it here just in case anyone doesn’t know or is interested. Please feel free to do the same.

So far I have only bought a miserly pack of Golden Detroit beets (at Canadian Tire) for my community garden beds. As much as I love regular beets, I love the golden version even more. They look beautiful roasted, tossed in a salad or just as a pretty vegetable side dish. Best of all they don’t bleed all over your hands when you’re cutting them up.

As much as I love golden beets, I won’t be filling all four beds with them. It is time to look over my plans and figure out what other seeds I need to buy.

Wow. You know you’re a complete garden geek when just typing those words gives you a case of the giddys.

mature woman chooses  seeds at store

Oak Trees Go Nuts in Their Fifties

For the first twenty years of an oak tree’s life they don’t produce a single acorn. Many oaks wait until they are around 50 before producing their first large crop.

White oaks will produce mature acorns in a single season, but black and red oaks produce acorns that take two full years to mature.

A 100-year old oak will produce over 2,000 acorns per season, but only one acorn in 10,000 will become a tree, which means it takes all the acorns from five massive oak trees to produce a single offspring.

What happens to the other 9,999 acorns?

Squirrels, birds, deer, bears, mice, raccoons, chipmunks and opossums are just a few of the more than 100 vertebrate species in North America that depend on acorns as part of their seasonal diet. In urban areas the acorns are often collected and tossed into compost bins or even landfills. Acorns that aren’t consumed or tossed don’t always receive the right conditions to germinate and end up simply rotting their way back into the earth. But when the right conditions occur, voila! Another magnificent oak tree is born.

Sprout of oak from an acorn.

The life expectancy of an oak tree varies hugely depending on conditions and species. They can live as little as 80 years or stick around for centuries. An ancient oak on the Pechange Reservation in California is estimated to be between 850 – 1,500 years old. The normal lifespan is usually falls somewhere between 200 – 400 years of age.

What was the First Vegetable to Sprout in Space?

The very first vegetable to ever sprout in space was the spud. That’s right, the lowly potato earned high flying status when Space Shuttle Columbia tested the production of seed potatoes aboard the shuttle in October 1995.

germinating potato

If you are interested in learning more about growing potatoes on space missions visit NASA’s post Space Spuds to the Rescue and learn about recent developments in  growing Quantum Tubers™

 

Biggest Tree in the World

Title for the biggest tree in the world goes to the cashew tree Anacardium occidentale.

Yup, the very same tree that gives us those scrumptious, expensive, calorie rich cashews.

The cashew tree has a unique growing habit somewhat similar to the Egyptian Walking Onion. As the branches grow they often become so weighty they bow down and touch the earth, sending down roots wherever they make contact.

In Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, this growth habit has resulted is one cashew tree that has spread itself across 7,500 square meters or 80,729 square feet; the equivalent of almost two acres.

In other words, you can’t see the tree for the forest.

This grove consisting of a single tree produces 60,000 cashews every year.

Did you know cashew trees also produce cashew apples? Find out more about them here!

Cashew apple on the tree

Miracle for a Dime

“Now seeds are just dimes to the man in the store, and the dimes are the things that he needs. And I’ve been to buy them in seasons before, but have thought of them merely as seeds; but it flashed through my mind as I took them this time, “You purchased a miracle here for a dime.”

Edgar A Guest penned the above lines. The English born American poet lived between 1881 – 1959. I am not sure when he wrote this poem but his lifespan gives you a loose idea of the economics of the time period he lived in. Here in 2016, 135 years after Edgar’s birth, you won’t find seeds for a dime.

mature woman chooses  seeds at store

Having said that, I did pick up some flower seeds the other day for forty-nine cents a package, which is only five dimes. It was in a discount bin of-I’m assuming-expired seed, but for five dimes I took a chance on a miracle.

They say most seeds are viable for three to five years, but I am always hearing of people discovering ancient seed in a tomb and managing to get them to germinate after a few thousand years…which is a lot more than three to five. Keep them in a cool, dry, dark place and most seeds last a very long time.

That said, Rhoda Cutbush of the U.K. managed to resurrect the Crimson Broad Bean after discovering three seeds in a tobacco tin in the corner of a garden shed…hardly the most temperature controlled environment. You can read the post about it here.

Rhoda Cutbush

 

Rhoda Cutbush: Shown here with a handful of the Crimson Broad Beans she helped rescue from extinction is Rhoda Cutbush of England. Rhoda passed away in 2003 at 98 years of age. Photo Credit: Garden Organic

I wonder how the first people felt when they discovered plants produced seed that in turn produced more plants. What a mind blower that must have been. It is still a mind blower. I don’t know of a single gardener who doesn’t think so, even after decades of seeding. You never get jaded. You always look at those specks in your palm and think of all the potential packed in such tiny packages.

And the faith! You drop the seeds into the potting soil, water and patiently wait for the promise to be delivered. There is no overt evidence that the Bonnie Best tomato seed really is a Bonnie Best tomato, but you trust that it is true.

Yesterday I started my tomatoes, cucumbers and an assortment of flowers. Some packets cost three or four dollars and when I opened them up I discovered a mere dozen seeds hiding in a corner. Others were so generously filled I was able to start all I needed and still have plenty to store away for next year.

Tree of Money - Vector Illustration

People store up investments and savings and even gold and silver, but the greatest riches lie in seeds. Open pollinated, non GMO, heirloom seeds that make a miracle out of every planting. You can’t eat gold, but tomatoes and broad beans are a different story. Its a reality that the folks at Monsanto were clever enough to recognize. If that bothers you there are lots of ways to protest; write letters, join rallies and boycott GMO products to name just a few.

However, the biggest and most radical thing you can do to stop the food giant in its tracks, is to simply save your own seeds. It’s a lot better for your blood pressure too. Letters and rallies can make you crazy, but planting and harvesting your own vegetables is all about health and spending quality time with nature. It is the most peaceful and productive of protests.

Saving seed

Winner, winner, vegetable dinner!

If you are interested in saving seeds Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth now in its second edition is a great read…

seed saving book

If you can’t save your own seed, but still want to grow your own vegetables, it makes sense to keep at least a years supply on hand from your favourite open pollinated, heirloom seed supplier. To find such suppliers check out the Online Catalogues tab at the top of the page.

Thanks for reading this and happy planting!

Close-up of child holding dirt with plant

What is that Nub on a Peanut?

A shelled peanut consists of two perfect halves with a little nubbin on the end. If you thought that little tag’s only purpose was to end up as bag crumbs think again! That little nub holds the key to all life…for a peanut that is.

Peanut

The nub is actually the peanut’s embryo. If you planted the peanut (instead of roasting, toasting and tossing in salt) a new peanut plant would grow out of that little nub and the seedling would draw nourishment from the big peanut part to get it started.

How cool is that?

Transplanting Peas…Who Knew?

Planting seeds

If you subscribe to Growveg.com you will have already received this video on how to start peas in a gutter for easy transplanting into the garden. If not, click on this link and check it out. It’s a great idea for getting a jump on the season and avoiding having mice eat the seeds or birds scratch them up onto the surface in their search of worms (that was always my biggest problem). It would work for sweet peas too and who knows what else? The roots are minimally disturbed using this method. Check it out!