This afternoon, my mom and I arrived in the town of Venlo. We’re here because we decided on a whim a few months back that we really wanted to see Floriade together. So we planned a trip around it. Despite being a bit weary and jet-legged, we spent the afternoon exploring the town. There are lots of signs and planters (like the one below) welcoming people to Venlo and the once-a-decade horticulture event! There is lots of shopping in the downtown area (including some cute home and garden stores), as well as quaint little bars and cafes. Despite the chill to the air, we enjoyed a cup of tea in the sunny town square, watching the world go by. Resting up now since tomorrow is going to be a big day. Stay tuned!
By all current social measures, I can safely be placed in the category of “geek.”
I’m a librarian.
In junior high and high school, I was a “drama freak.”
I have won Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and have been known to wear a Princess Leia T-shirt.
I can fix your average computer.
I have played D&D and Magic, and read the entire Dune series.
And yes, I know what a tribble is.
In college I would still get sucked into heated discussions debating the finer points of cataloguing books. Then I’d mentally step back for a moment, listen to myself and my classmates, and think, “This conversation would make no sense and hold absolutely zero interest to anyone outside the library community. What a bunch of geeks we are!”
Since then, my geekdom has been laying somewhat dormant, only showing itself amongst trusted friends and family. I thought I had mainly gotten past it. I might never be “cool,” but maybe I could be “normal.”
I lost all hope, however, this last weekend at the Calgary Horticultural Society Garden Show. I was choosing some wildflower seeds from one of the booths and found myself gushing over the discovery of prairie crocus and shooting star seeds. I mentally observed myself spouting Latin with my fellow attendees, and imagined the eye-rolling that would occur if my brother were present. “That’s it. I thought. I am truly a geek.”
But then I had an “ah-ha” moment: we’re all geeks about something. We’re just used to using the term only about certain “somethings.” Think about it for a minute. Do you know someone who gets teary-eyed looking over the shiny chrome of a souped up car or motorcycle, and roll your eyes when they start listing off details of its construction and styling? Do you know someone who can rattle off baseball or hockey stats faster than his own Social Insurance Number? Would you call them geeks? Or someone so deeply versed in rock music they can identify a song, with artist, by it’s first riff? Do you dare use the label on them?
Simon Pegg, a guy who knows a little something about being called a “geek,” had this to say:
“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”
Hmmm. What’s that you say, Simon? I have a license?? Why thank you, I believe I’ll use it. I’ll spout Latin, and babble to my baby seedlings. I’ll drool over new tools and ask for compost for Christmas. I will embrace my inner geek, and, I’ll wager, be the happier for it.
Besides, normal is a setting on a washing machine.
Live long, and prosper.
Five sleeps until I slap down a measly ten bucks (twelve at the door) and enter my first-ever, real-deal, not-just-a-trade-show, horticultural fair! Out East, everyone’s done with Canada Blooms already, and out West you’ve been enjoying the dirt for weeks now, but here on the Prairies, we’re just getting started.
Looking over the lineup for the weekend, I’m thinking I could spend all day just sitting at the speaker stages: so many good professionals, and so many topics I’m interested in. That might be for the best if it keeps me from spending too much time (and hence, money!) with the many vendors, although I will make time to go see the children’s activities. I want to see the beehives from the Chinook Honey Farm in action, and find out what a seed bomb is. And I can’t miss the competition gardens. Hmmm…. I’m going to be very tired on Sunday.
They say one sure-fire way to really get ahead financially is residual income: get something done that will continue to earn you money even when you have moved on to the next project. Like writing a bestselling novel or Top 40 hit and letting the royalties roll in while you focus on the next masterpiece. Or getting paid every time your movie reruns on TV, or dividends from investments, or a share of the profits from the well you let the oil guys dig in your back yard.
None of which have happened for me. Nor am I getting into network marketing: been there, done that, not going there again, thank you very much. But I did get a pretty sweet payoff this spring from some long forgotten work.
I’d been craving something fresh to eat, like not-from-the-grocery-store’s-cold-storage fresh, like peas or radishes straight out of the ground, but I knew they’d still be a few weeks away, at least. Just as a began to grumble, I remembered I had actually done something about this annual hankering: I planted parsnips last year! So out I went to the sleeping veggie patch with my dearly missed garden fork, moved aside some leaf-filled garbage bags, and dug in. Guess what? There they were!
I steamed some that very night, with just a bit of butter and nutmeg. Oh. My. Everything I’d been hoping for.
We’ve had three meals with parsnips, and there’s enough still in the ground for a couple more. Plus the spinach and lettuce planted in the cold frame one mild February day should almost be big enough to start doing their job in my kitchen.
It almost feels like cheating, getting fresh veggies out of the ground this early, but you better believe I’m doing parsnips again, and leeks this year too. I’m happy to do a little more work this spring. This kind of residual income is almost as good as money in the bank.
Yesterday I toured around the spring One of a Kind Show & Sale not once, but twice. I was there in the morning for the media preview and then I returned that evening with my husband (and some money). We brought home a few goodies (edible, wearable and for the house), including a wildflower seed kit from Kluane’s Creations. I had a fantastic chat with the woman looking after the booth. She explained how these little kits are put together. Various community groups of men and women with intellectual disabilities (and their assistants) work on different aspects of the product, from the kiln-dried markers to the little seed pucks. The materials used to put the kits together is organic, biodegradable or made from recycled materials.
I love the spirit and whimsy of the product, as well as the fact that the company is providing meaningful jobs to people in its community. I can’t wait to plant my wildflowers!
The One of a Kind Show continues throughout the weekend, until Sunday at 6 p.m.
Last week I wrote up my annual Canada Blooms preview where I highlight what I’m excited to see. Really, I look forward to the whole shebang, so it’s always hard to narrow down what I’m going to write about. Personally, when I get a chance to stroll around the show, I’ll be looking for ideas for my new garden (I moved in October), and in the marketplace, I hope to purchase some interesting seeds and maybe a plant or two.
This year is also a little different for me because I’m speaking on two separate days about 2012 gardening trends. My first presentation is this Friday at 3 p.m. on the Unilock Celebrity Stage. The second one is next Thursday, March 22 at 11 a.m. I’ve been busy gathering all sorts of interesting and quirky ideas to share. But I thought I’d try to get a little pre-presentation audience participation.
I have two pairs of tickets to give away. They get you into both Canada Blooms and the National Home Show, which run from March 16 to March 25 at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto. To win, please leave a comment below telling me what you believe to be the best or the worst gardening trend. Two responses will be selected at random Wednesday, March 14, 2012.
Contest closes March 14, 2012 at 12 p.m. EST. Open to all residents of Canada, except those in Quebec. Not open to any Transcontinental Media employees, their families, or any other persons with whom they reside. Good luck!
‘Tis the season for spring garden shows. They always occur at the perfect time of year: those last weeks of winter that seem to drag on the longest, when you can’t wait to get outside and start digging and pruning and clearing. On the roster is the Ideal Home & Garden Show, which takes place this weekend at the Careport Centre in Hamilton. I’ve never been, so I’ll be checking it out since I’m new to the area. Apparently there are over three acres of exhibitors, as well as full-scale displays, like an old shipping container converted into a little cottage living space—I actually dream of plunking one of these in my own garden someday. There is also a lineup of speakers, including Jane Lockhart from W Network’s Colour Confidential, and Lynn Crawford, host of the Food Network’s Pitchin’ In and author of a book by the same name that was published in January.
If you live in Hamilton or the surrounding area, I have two sets of two tickets to give away for the opening night’s Charity Night this Thursday (March 1) from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. There will be live music, a charity auction to raise funds for various community organizations, a stage segment by Reena Nerbas and Boo from Boo’s Bistro, one-on-one advice and a huge door prize. You also will get the opportunity to return to the show over the weekend.
To enter, simply leave a comment below, telling us what gardening inspiration you hope to see at the show. Two responses will be selected at random Wednesday, February 29, 2012.
Contest closes February 29, 2011 at 12pm EST. Open to all residents of Canada, except those in Quebec. Not open to any Transcontinental Media employees, their families, or any other persons with whom they reside. Good luck!
I’ve been gathering trends and quirky gardening ideas for a presentation I’m giving at Canada Blooms March 16 and 22 (full schedule is here). This afternoon I realized I had three on the go that start with the letter P and a blog entry was born.
One thing I loved about the Toronto Island Garden Tour last summer was how the residents reused so many old objects in their gardens—from bathtubs to chunks of concrete. This brings me to my first P. What better way to use an old pallet, than to turn it into a garden? I saw this idea on Fern Richardson’s Life on the Balcony blog where she provides step-by-step instructions on how to put it all together. I hope to try this in my own garden if I can find an old pallet somewhere!
Today, the Calgary Horticultural Society posted a fabulous link on the Canadian Gardening Facebook fan page to pothole garden pictures, like this one. The freshome site profiled Steve Wheen, who has been planting these little gems around East London. Steve writes on his blog, The Pothole Gardener, that the project stemmed from a university course, meant to be part art project and part mission to show how bad the roads are, among others.
This pink John Deere tractor, posted by Ethel Gloves on Facebook earlier today, isn’t really a trend, but it made me smile. And completed my trio of Ps.
Have a good weekend!
There’s just something about a field of lavender you have to love.
Is it the intrinsic serenity of a sea of royal purple blooms, with rows upon row of long, thin planting beds undulating like waves? Is it the sweet perfumed aroma that magically mitigates anxiety and insomnia? Maybe it’s just the simple proof that a landscape can, indeed, look as magical as a painting by Monet.
To me, it’s a combination of all of the above. Whether it’s the colour or the aroma or the taste, I’m often infusing aspects of lavender in my day-to-day. Imagine my excitement, then, when a trip to France took me to the heart of lavender country for a lesson in cultivation history and the distillation process at Musée de la Lavande.
Just outside of Saint-Remèze a quaint town in the Ardèche department of south-central France, this lavender museum sits in a small stone building flanked by fields of lavender harvested for essential oils – three types of lavender, in fact: fine, the most fragrant, is used for the essential aromatherapy oil; aspic, also called spike, is more medicinal and works well as an antiseptic; and lavandin, a serendipitous hybrid of fine and aspic lavender brought to us by the bees, very easily grown and often used instead of fine lavender in essential oils.
In this Saint-Remèze museum, you’ll learn the history of harvest (from hand to sickle to machine) and essential oil production (how lavender + water in a copper distiller yields our favourite fragarance) through film, expert guides, hands-on demonstrations and interactive displays, but if just one museum leave you craving more, don’t worry! Just slightly southwest of the Musée de la Lavande lies relaxing the Routes de la Lavande, which both boast a sea of blue in a more-than-130-kilometre route – stop along the way for a breath of fresh (fragrant) air, for photo opps against that blue-purple backdrop and, of course, at museums, distilleries and shops for more information.
Lavender blooms from mid-June to early August, so time your tour accordingly. And, if your schedule permits, hit the Montélimar Lavender festival, Couleur Lavande, on the second weekend of July.
France is for foodies – that just goes without saying. So when you visit a country where “gourmet” simply feels like the standard, and tour a countryside famed for its fresh local fare, you may gain a few pounds, but you’ll surely have eaten like a roi.
In France’s Rhône-Alpes region, the vegetation is verdant. From veggies to lavender to olives to grapes, the tradition of cultivation predates the founding of France itself, dating back to Roman times, so the mastery of these ingredients is all but built into the population’s DNA. And it’s evident in the food they prepare, which is served up like art on a plate.
Eating my way from Ardèche to Drôme (considered the gateway to the South of France), I enjoyed food fresh from the ocean and from the land, often prepared at Michelin-star restaurants, but my all-time favourite meal in France was tucked in a tiny 18th-century farmhouse-turned-restaurant/guesthouse called Le Mas des Faïsses.
Using ingredients from their 18 surrounding hectares of gardens, terraces and orchards, Yvette the gardener and Robert the cook create seasonal, original recipes maximizing whatever’s in season, including even edible blooms like daylilies.
A floral centerpiece that turned out to be a garden-fresh salad, a pudding of pureed fresh veggies, and a selection of young goat cheese (from local goats) were just some of the stages in this five-course luncheon…
…but most memorable was the beet pancake of the main course. Delicious-looking, no? I had been thinking about it pretty regularly since I returned from France and finally thought to try my luck at obtaining the recipe to share with our gardening readers. And since, in this part of France, they’re as generous as they are gourmet, Robert sent us his recipe and let us all in on the secret to the alchemy of his famous fresh fare.
500g grated beet
1 sliced onion
1 tablespoon tamari sauce
1 teaspoon of Provençal herbs
Mix all ingredients
Pre-cook the steaks in a blini pan
Put aside in an oven-safe tin to use immediately or wrap in plastic film to refrigerate or freeze for further consumption.
Cook in oven at 250F for approx 30 minutes.
Serve with salad and roasted potatoes, fresh pasta or green beans.