Another Great Book For Holiday Giving


I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of foraging. But of course, I only love the idea if I can safely identify the plants I am foraging for–and then I need to know what to do with them. Not everything can be tossed willy-nilly into a salad (or should be. Some things are far tastier prepared in other ways).

Well, of course my favorite publisher, St. Lynn’s Press, has come up with the perfect solution! I was delighted to discover The Scout’s Guide to Wild Edibles  by Mike Krebill in my mail on Monday. I  immediately sat down–before my coat was even off–and began paging through it. It’s that good.

First of all, it’s a perfect size. You can easily take it outside with you on a hike or a longer camping trip without feeling that you’re lugging a heavy field guide.

Next, although it is compact, it manages to pack a lot into its small size. There are photos of the plants, not drawings, which is important to avoid misidentification. And there are photos of several stages of plant growth, so that you know what to choose.

When a plant like poke weed, which can be toxic in some stages, is suggested, not only are numerous photos of the right stages of the plant shown, but other hints for avoiding the wrong stages are given, such as avoiding leaves with any purplish color in them, and changing the cooking water at least twice.

And, once you have found the plants, there are some wonderful sounding recipes listed, including one for a garden weed quiche he called GAZP, microwave purslane pickles, dandelion donuts–you get the idea. There are some very creative ideas here.

Both common and botanical names are given for the plants, there are numerous appendices of plant parts, for types of cooking and preserving, of phone apps and other foraging references–this is a complete book in a compact package!

Krebill’s background is equally impressive. He has been a science teacher, run a nature center, and of course been involved in scouting.

This really is a complete book. I am totally impressed.


A Different Way of Seeing

About 10 days ago, I posted about my zygocacti. I had a few photos of them and I asked the question about whether they were Christmas or holiday cacti.

One of my helpful readers commented that she thought mine were all holiday cacti, and that she never sees true Christmas cactus sold anymore. That makes sense.

I believe that the type that I have can be pretty easily manipulated to bloom right about now–just when we gardeners and gift givers are going to want them–by controlling the temperature and light that they receive.

I have always appreciated my plants because they are totally carefree for me. I admire the way the buds are generally a different color from the blooms. And I love the long bloom time that they have on even small plants.

But this year a catalog made me notice something entirely different. First of all,  the catalog had numerous zygocacti, all named varieties, (which I didn’t realize existed), some of which they were selling together as a trio in one pot. Interesting.

Next, I always just thought there were maybe 4 colors: red, pink, white and some undefined orange color. Oh, my mistake! This catalog is calling some of these plants yellow, and some of what I would call “white” ivory.

I am famous for seeing numerous colors in a single flower–in a tulip petal, or a rose, for example. I am not sure how I missed this.

Finally, the catalog points out that the pistil/stamens combination on some of these plants are like fireworks! Oh my!

To read up on some of this magnificent language, you can go to Logees and search for Christmas cactus. And while they are one of my favorite plant vendors, they had no idea that I would be featuring them in this manner.

It’s That Time of Year–Be Alert!

Yes, today is what’s commonly known as “Black Friday” in the United States. It gets it’s name because supposedly so many folks go shopping that the retailers are able to move their books from the “red” (or debt) column into the “black” column.

A long time ago–ever since I worked in retail–I gave up Black Friday shopping. For one thing, I rarely found great bargains. For another, it just added a “not nice” aspect to the whole holiday season. And that was not how I wanted my season to begin.

I know lots of people make it a tradition with their family and friends. For those of you that do, enjoy, have fun, and especially after our turbulent political season, please be nice to each other!

But since many of you will be on the roads before dawn and out after dark, I chose to post this particular topic today.

November is the month with the highest number of automobile-deer collisions. And I can think of no better way to quickly ruin a day out with family and friends than to collide with a deer. Even if there is only property damage to the car and no injuries (except perhaps to the deer) it is going to leave everyone shaken and in no mood for the festivities that were planned. And that’s the best possible scenario.

So please–if you plan to go out shopping today–or when ever during this busy holiday season–be alert and stay alert.

That also holds true for holiday visits and all those holiday gatherings. December is also a prime time for deer-auto collisions (never mind auto collisions of other sorts).

Let’s all try to stay alert and safe on the highways this season so we can gte back into our gardens next spring!

Wordless Wednesday–The Story of a Tree


I planted this tree in 1997. I bought it as a tiny sapling, on close out, the prior year. I had  originally planned to make it into a bonsai.

After a nearby dogwood showed signs of decline, I decided that I would plant the maple instead and let it grow up as the dogwood declined.


I am not sure what I was thinking about when I planted it in this narrow spot. Talk about wrong place! Nevertheless, the tree has thrived and has found a way to cope.

And despite the presence of the above ground roots, don’t think that the tree is compromised. I have talked about my rock ledge many times. This is how trees in my yard have to cope. All of our trees look like this .

A Voice of Reason

Thanksgiving for those of us in the United States will occur in 3 days. Perhaps our Canadian neighbors have gotten it correct in holding it earlier, in October. For one thing, we here in the United States would have more time between holidays.  And we might be able to take a bit of a breather as well after our hectic election seasons, no matter who we all supported.


So forgive me if I turn my thoughts to garden books that might make great gift books for the holidays. Once that I have read recently is Jan Coppola Bills Late Bloomer: How to Garden with Comfort, Ease and Simplicity in the Second Half of Life.

The book is a gem published by St. Lynn’s Press. I am so partial to their books–I have not come across a bad title yet. And while I will tell you that St. Lynn’s kindly provided me with a review copy of this particular book, I have purchased several of their books on my own and loved them all equally as well. I encourage you to check them out. Their web site can be found here.

While this book, dedicated ostensibly to gardeners who might be considered more mature (hence the subtitle “in the second half of life”), quite honestly I found much practical wisdom in the book for gardeners of any age seeking low maintenance, beautiful and sustainable gardens.

Bills is upfront about the fact that she is an organic gardener and won’t use chemical pesticides or herbicides–so you know that right there I am going to love this book! She also advocates many sustainable practices such as using fall leaves to enrich the soil, using water on the property wisely, (and as our droughts seem to rotate around in different parts of the country, I think all of us can get better at water use!) and perhaps most interestingly, intensive planting to crowd out weeds.

This is something that I have been attempting in my gardens for years. She tells several stories about how she was called to potential clients gardens to thin out the overcrowded mess, only to find examples of beautifully planted gardens. She tells of one garden where the garden was flourishing and lushly planted and the only places where she saw weeds were in a spot where some overgrown hostas had been removed. She pointed out to the homeowner that by removing the plant material, she had left space for the weeds to grow, and suggested dividing some of the other hostas to quickly fill in those spaces so there would be no more room for the weeds. It’s a great lesson, and not one that only “mature” gardeners need to hear!

The other thing that Bills talks about is tools that every gardener needs but she doesn’t necessarily talk about ergonomic tools for the older gardener. Because she is still a working gardener, she clearly doesn’t need these. Someone picking up this book may be looking for suggestions on tools for working with arthritic hands or backs. Those are not here. But that is the only shortcoming, if you can call it that.

I definitely recommend this book for lots of examples of gardening smarter, not harder. And don’t necessarily be put off by the title. There is much wisdom here for gardeners of all ages.

A Lucky Spider?

Once again, I have a spider hanging beneath the backsplash of my kitchen sink. This happened 2 years ago and the spider was there from October until nearly April, I believe.

It’s hard  to believe, but I was once a huge arachnaphobe.  All you had to do was to mention the word “spider” and it would raise goose bumps on my arms.

But since I became a gardener–and a serious organic gardener at that–I know that spiders are the good guys in the garden. So I definitely always leave them alone outside.

I also tend to leave them alone in the house so long as I know where they are. I have a few exceptions to that rule. No spiders in the bedroom–but we tend to have few of those anyway, thank goodness.

And of course, I always give my “house” spiders a firm talking to. I tell them that so long as I know where they are and they are not in a spot where they are bothering me, they can stay. If, for some reason, that changes, I will have to squash them like a bug.

And most of the spiders behave nicely. Every so often, one runs across the stove or something while I am cooking and sadly, that one has to go. But those are very few and far between.

They say that spiders can even hear the vibrations from our feet when we walk into a room. I don’t doubt that. And if that’s so, why can’t they “hear” my little lecture?

All I know is that I have very little trouble with “misbehaving” spiders. And that suits me just fine!