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 are a couple of pictures 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