The Saskatoon Farm

ImageImageImageImageToday theyardtherapist rambled a little further south toward Okotoks, AB and stopped into The Saskatoon Farm for a little lunch and to pick up some fresh from the earth vegetables. I have been out many times this summer to sample the menu at the cafe and to purchase produce and neat little items from the gift shop which carries unique jewelry, art, kitchen gadgets, baking and so much more.  Today I toted my camera to take you along with me to enjoy the sights of a true working farm and garden center.  I have been fortunate to be able to ride horseback through the mountains of Utah and study up close the flora of the SW uplands as well as hike through botanical gardens from Halifax to Puerto Vallarta and then to Vancouver Island, but I have to say that nothing I have seen has diminished the beauty of the summer in the prairies this year.  The farm had the most stunning mass planting of Amaranthus caudatus (Love lies bleeding) I have ever seen.  Never one of my favorite plants in the past, they have managed to convince me that it is a new must-have in my garden.  The Saskatoon farm cafe is open year round and if you like buffalo, or would like to try it I recommend you try it here.  The farm features a buffalo jump (no longer in use of course) which offers you a pretty view to the river.  The vegetable stand is reasonably priced and the produce truly freshly picked at its peak.  I make a trip out at least once a week to get whatever is in season, the very best way to cook and to eat.  So join me for a little stroll around the farm and get out there yourself whenever you need a break from your day to day.  (Who doesn’t need that!).  Enjoy!Image

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A Day In the Countryside

Today The Yard Therapist went rambling around the countryside in search of a P.nepalensis ‘Miss Willmott’.  After checking at a few garden centres I found myself just outside the  Calgary southern city limits at Countryside Landscaping and Garden Center in well, the countryside.  From the moment I parked in the lot I knew I was in for something special.  Now this garden center doesn’t just sell plants, it shows you how a lush and gorgeous garden is created and what aImage joy for the senses it can be. From the entrance to the perennial shop it is a one beautiful example after another of what YOUR garden can be like with proper thought and care.  Charming courtyards and a luxe outdoor kitchen, of which they would happily design for you, along shade dappled paths remind you of why you garden or why you would want to in the first place.

Kim has a special talent for terrariums and they have a full stock of essential items in-store.  She let the cat out of the bag that they will be running workshops on this popular revival of a Victorian indoor plant display coming soon.  You can learn more about Countryside at www.csgcl.com/.  I recommend you drive out and take a look around.  And by the way, they had my ‘Miss Willmott’!  I had given up hope!ImageImageImageImage

You have Grown Some Herbs, Now What? Harvesting and using your Herbs

No gardener, new or experienced, can walk away from the garden centre without a few herb plants, myself included.  Somewhere in our collective subconscious we understand the value to growing and using our own fresh herbs and feel compelled to grow them in our garden or windowsill whether we understand it or not.  I would rush home with visions of using fresh herbs in culinary masterpieces to delight friends and family or a cupboard full of infused oils and dried leaves for restorative teas to be enjoyed through the long dark days of winter.  Usually I ended up like many of us with good intentions, growing a few straggly plants that had bolted before I even thought to harvest them.  Not this year! Last year I had such great success with Rosemary officinalis, I expanded my assortment to include Basil, French Thyme, Greek Oregano, Sage, and Peppermint.  By the way, whenever you see the term officinalis it designates the plant as historically catoragized as medicinal in use, herb or not.  Herbs and their uses have been surrounded by myth and folklore through the ages.  In medieval times, herbs were planted during different phases of the moon.  Women who were trained in their use were sought for their ability to use them for healing or could at the flip of a coin, be burned for a witch.  Fortunately for us today, knowing the benefits and uses of herbs can only be a good thing.  For a complete history and folklore about your favorite herbs, The Yard Therapist recommends visiting www.ourherbgarden.com.  It’s fascinating reading, and will confound you as to the superstitions and folklore surrounding their uses, medicinal, culinary or otherwise.

Getting back to modern-day, I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed slipping out into the garden and snipping whatever I wanted to use that day.  With fresh herbs, the pungent scent and aroma are due to the oil still infused within the stems and leaves of the plant.  That is what gives your special dish that unbelievable aroma and taste.  Well worth doing my friends!  Now we are in the twilight of summer and harvest is upon us.  This includes herbs to be stored and used through the fall and winter.  There are many gizmos and gadgets for drying and preserving herbs, but this gal still believes the old ways to be simplest and best.  I would recommend drying for sage, thyme, savory, dill, oregano, rosemary and marjoram.  These are herbs with a lower moisture content and therefore not likely to mold before they are dry.  There are two ways to dry:  air or oven.  When harvesting make sure you wash your herbs thoroughly and dry by placing on a paper towel and blotting with another.  If you air dry, strip the lower stems of leaves and tie into bundles of 4-6.  They can then be hung upside down in a warm, dry place for 1-2 weeks.  They can be placed in a paper bag with holes and tied shut or not depending on where you are placing them to dry.  The bag method may take a week longer but be sure to check that no mold has formed halfway through the drying process.  The longer you take to dry the herb, the more oil remains making air drying the  preferable method.  In a hurry or out of time?  Place cleansed herbs flat on a baking sheet and place in 180*F oven.  Leave the door slightly open for ventilation and let dry for 3-4 hours.  (whatever is needed to fully dry).  Herbs with a higher moisture content such as Basil would do best with the oven drying method.

When your herbs are dry, place them in a lidded jar or ziplock bag.  It doesn’t really matter as long as it is airtight.  Use within 6 mos to a year.  To use them in a recipe crush them (I like to use a mortar and pestle) and add to your recipe the last half hour of cooking.  To make an oil infusion simply add clean herbs, stems and all to your favorite oil (mine is olive) but corn or sunflower oil works fine also, into a lidded jar and refrigerate or keep in a cool spot until use.  To make a fancy herb butter a la $$$$ restaurant, add herbs to softened butter, mold or shape and refrigerate until needed..

Some easy and yummy ways I have used my herbs this year is to add a few sprigs of fresh mint to dishes of chocolate frozen yogurt with a dark chocolate sauce.  Add to olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and caramelized onions for a fresh and frankly the best, pasta sauce going.  Add a spring of rosemary to lemonade.  Easy!  Refreshing!  Fantastic!  Add mint to hot or iced teas or make mint tea by steeping the leaves in a tea ball.  Most herbs have a well-defined health benefit. Burn dried sage  leaves inside your home to purify and sweeten the air, no chemicals or artificial perfumes which are harmful to inhale.  Here’s to herbs and to your good health!

French Thyme

 

Design Principles – Inner and Outer Manifestations or What You Can Learn from your Garden

“You conceive your world with the mind and create it with your hands.” –  Chris Widener

The Yard Therapist once took a design class where each student was given two twigs, a focal flower and a design in an L-shaped pattern to follow as closely as possible.  Given the structure of the exercise you would have expected 15 replicas of the pattern and yet they varied distinctly in the vertical/horizontal height of the twigs placed to define the frame of the design.  Our instructor continued by stating she could tell each of us what type of dwelling we inhabited. True to every one of us, those who lived in two-story or infill housing designed with the vertical component positioned higher than those of us living in bungalows who consistently chose a lower height to frame the design.  This would support the theory that we outwardly manifest the subconscious over the conscious.  I believe that to be true….to a point.  This year I began to see a distinct correlation between the order of my garden and my inner thought processes.  Trees were uprooted and relocated.  Additions of hardscaping allowed for more privacy and new plants were carefully chosen and placed to create a different rhythm and focus.  I finally got around to composting and mulching the whole garden and have religiously fertilized my tomatoes and flowering plants.  Was this the result of a conscious or subconscious decision?

In my work world I always defer to the unimpeachable design principles, whether it be a store setting or a garden landscape, but in my own garden I found I puttered randomly, adding or deleting on whimsy rather than the thoughtful consideration I placed on the projects I was employed to create.  This year I finally got around to caring for what was mine, ergo, placing value on something intensely personal.  This is significant in that in doing so, I finally assigned value to endeavors that benefited myself on par to those I performed on the behalf of others.  Self actualization comes to all of us at different times and in different venues.  Mine was found on my hands and knees digging in the dirt of my backyard.  I finally let go this year of what did not work and began to follow my true passion, opening the door to a revelation I have read about many times but never really came close to achieving.  By allowing myself true devotion to my real purpose and desire, a key was found and the door opened for a more Unified, Harmonious life where Balance and Unity allows me to find my Emphasis.  Employing Similarity and Contrast bring order and excitement to my days, creating a pleasing Rhythm and sense of Proportion to all that I endeavor.  Did I bring this TO my garden or did my garden bring it TO me, evolving as I worked closely and in Harmony with nature?  I believe it to be a little of both.  I set out with a plan and determination and as I worked things began to fall in to place, in me, and in my garden.

If you ever find your garden, or yourself in a little bit of chaos, I gently recommend you refer to the design principles to restore Unity.

DESIGN PRINCIPLES:  Use as needed.

UNITY:  the quality or state of being one; the state of those who are in full agreement.  Unity’s main goal is Balance, which is turn creates Harmony.

BALANCE:  a state of  equalized tension; a steady position or condition that is symmetrical.

SIMILARITY and CONTRAST:  using related and unrelated components to create interest and appeal.  Similarity without Contrast = an uneventful view.

EMPHASIS:  an accent or focalization, used with Scale and Proportion to present a dominant feature.

SCALE:  a number of similar objects arranged from highest to lowest.

PROPORTION:  the relationship between objects which are part of a whole.

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Drip-lines (not the kind you hear at the bar or your cousins wedding)

What IS a drip line and why should you care?  The term drip line refers to the area surrounding a tree or shrub where water absorption is at its greatest potential, the farthest extension of its lateral roots.  Ever see your neighbor (who may or may not be a drip) in his bermuda shorts, socks and sandals mindlessly watering his tree trunks or maybe you have done this yourself?  Unfortunately naughty one, this is will not greatly benefit your tree and is a terrible waste of precious water.  A good way to gauge a drip line of any tree or shrub is to determine the farthest branch surrounding your tree.  The area below is a reasonable estimation of the drip line for that tree so water well and deeply to establish healthy roots (but that’s another story)….and know you are managing water resources wisely.

Are You Phototropic? Growth, Stimuli Response and Adaptation

Have you ever grown a window garden and observed how the window side of the plant, if not rotated (by you) will actually grow toward the light?  This is a phototropic response to the stimuli, which in this case is light.  Plants can not  move themselves to their optimal environment but they will, however, adapt their growth to improve their conditions.  This is a hormonal response by the plant to ensure its survival.  The Yard Therapist wonders if we don’t have this in common with our botanical friends.  Sunflowers are heliotropic, meaning that they will turn their heads to follow the sun from east to west each day.  The Yard Therapist would find this most tiring without a continuous supply of mojitos and a lounge chair.  Not knowing a whole lot about human physiology I still can not help but correlate this tropism to the human tendency for Seasonal Affected Disorder (SADD) which may or may not be hormonal to my limited knowledge  on the subject.  It is indeed a direct response to the stimuli, lack of light, in which we humans (who by the way can move themselves into their optimum environment) i.e. a two-week winter vacation in a tropical (light filled) setting.  Plants thrive in adequate sunlight and will in fact seek it.  Let this be a lesson to us my friends to turn our faces to the sun and follow the light………