December 13, 2009

Merry Christmas


from the Wildlife Spa & Nursery! 

This morning the world's fluffy and white, the fawns are in their fuzzy winter coats while they munch on things in the yard, and everything looks like a greeting card.  While finishing my seed catalog perusing, and straining & warming oils for the last batch of this year's sweetgrass soap, I've set a jug of kaluha liqueur to work and may even put up some colored lights...this is my card this season.  

Wishing everyone a warm Happy Christmas & Winter Holiday, and a gentle, peaceful New Year.

*This graphic (by Céline Jolly) is too nice not to use twice.

December 11, 2009

Earth stood hard as iron

---We've had more than a week of circum-zero weather, with only the merest dusting of snow, which is hard on the plants if easy on the driver.  The ground was hard enough on Sunday to put the chains on the tractor without fear of tearing up the lane, and tomorrow I hope to get the last of the picking up around the greenhouse done so plowing won't be hampered when the snows commence in earnest.
In about a week, it will be time to make the cider for wassailing the fruit trees.

November 27, 2009

From the 10-cent bin

Who knew coins could be found with garden related images? I found these a couple of weeks ago, carnations and iris and birds, butterflies, leaves and grain and a woman planting.... and a dragon to watch over them all.

November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Greetings

Here's another of those lovely old postcards from Aunt Vera's book from last Christmas... I like the combination of the two holidays (and the black kitty of course, as I've just lost my Minnie.)
Hoping everyone has a good Thanksgiving!

I am realizing I have much to be thankful for, even amidst all my loss... good friends, wonderful place to live, lovely memories... and new friends and memories being made!  One nice new thing is the re-design of the nursery homepage, done by my friend Céline Jolly of Bordeaux.  I've mentioned the Chickadee below, but do check out the new homepage!

November 7, 2009

Chickadee Presents

If you've read me at all, you know I love Chickadees, and that they are special to me since I was a little girl.  Today I received two lovely Chickadee presents, and have to show them off right away. 


Gorgeous, aren't they?
I've been needing to print new business cards, and ...ooh, how pretty!
Thanks, Lez!

November 6, 2009

Craft Faire Craze

If it's November or December, it means craft fairs & Festivals every weekend, or nearly so.  I'm doing three such weekends this year; the Cow Creek Crafters this weekend, down canyon from me in the firehall; my own Holiday Market (the one I organize for our Farmers Market) in town, and the Waldorf School one in Sandpoint.
Soaps, lip balms, sachets, creams, jellies, vanilla sugar, rosemary plants, handpainted silk scarves, ---------and that's just me!  Today I scored more Huckleberry Tarts from Katka Kate, a lovely bowl of veggie soup by the Mennonite cooks, some dreamy sugar cookies, a beautiful handmade thank you card (for a marvellous prayer shawl made for me), and little stones with footprints painted on: one grizzly, one elk.
Plus laughter, jokes, hugs, tall tales, garden stories, and music--accordion, guitar, violin, cello....what a marvellous day.  Tomorrow there will be more folks at the fair and I will investigate salsas, huckleberry-pepper jelly, and enjoy the other crafters and the shoppers.  And hope to sell a boatload of soaps!  Then Sunday, the Harvest Festival at church, and Monday, when it is drier, more of the outdoor things that must be done right away.

October 18, 2009

Soaping Again

Finally getting back into the swing of things... my recent soap binge includes an Espresso kitchen scrub bar, red apple with Kootenai valley apple cider, lovely lemon (lemon eo, lemon peel wax, a touch of litsea), and Evergreen, a mix of conifer oils and a swirl of green. 
Coming up: rose, patchouli-rose, lavender garden, jasmine (with pure jasmine wax), rosemary-orange and a winter version of flower shower. 
Pictures when they happen; my beloved Olympus died, and the new camera came with a manual for a totally different camera, so I am flying a titch blind.  Sort of fun, really.  And I'm taking anything like that I can get, nowdays.

The weather has warmed back up and I hope to get a slew of outside stuff done tomorrow--install a replacement greenhouse door for the one that came apart in my hands, for one; tractor maintenance; last-ditch planting; mowers away, back blade on.... the recent snowfalls are warning shots, I know.

October 17, 2009


One beautiful lesson in the past month or so has been the amazing kindness of people who care about you.  Sweet, exquisite things.  People brought me food, hugged me, listened to me cry--cried with me--told me how much they loved Mom--the darling ladies at the nursing home thanked me for letting them care for Mom! My vet clinic sent me flowers.  Marsha, my market buddy, came a few mornings after Mom died and brought me flowers and food--cleaned my kitchen so I could eat--and started the process of putting me back together.  She had known without me getting to the phone that I was in need.  My best friend from highschool, and her parents, were a haven for me.  My friends in the internet held my hand virtually--including on long scary drives in the dark to the emergency room.  I have been upheld by all of these, and it has meant more to me than I can possibly say.
Thank you.

October 14, 2009

In Which October is Really November

Whoo, cold weather indeed followed that wind, it got down to about 9F for several nights.  That's more than a month early... and really hard on the plants.  I have hoses that need a day or so to warm enough to coil up, at two places.
It has warmed up, snowed more, and rained buckets all day, keeping me inside.  I'm working on decanting and flavoring herb vinegars (Viet cilantro, lemongrass plus--something? garlic?), soaping, details for upcoming holiday markets and craft fairs, and trying to keep from thinking.  Some cranky hours fighting with software, servers, diagnosing error codes and downloading updates made things worse, not better... but I got a little present via the 'net today, and an 'r u ok?' message, so that makes me forgive all the computer argh-ick.

This is the present:

Thanks for that, Lez!

October 4, 2009

Cold Front

Windy today, with huge winds expected by dark.  They say on the radio the highway to the Coast is blocked by blowing dust and they don't know when it will re-open.  Here in my little clearing, it's windy--but they say 40-50mph winds tonight, ugh.  I'm glad not to have to go down to the road, I would likely be knocked down by the wind at this rate, it is so open out there.
I have to finish bringing in the tender plants I want to save for winter, and make an assessment of what will go in the ground and what will winter in the greenhouse, and what will go to the compost pile.  It was a rough summer and there is much to be done before the snow flies--well, lands, as it's already snowed up above me on Black Mountain.  The folks to bring in are: lemongrass, Viet coriander, the Mexican salvias, a pot of petunias for the scent, the rosemary and her kids, whatever lemon eucalyptus are left, and the green tops of the sweetgrass to process before hard frost.  Anything else will have to get shoehorned in between the scented geraniums and the grape sage, when I get them moved to the back porch.  Oh, and the orchid cactus.  And probably something else, but my brain is pretty mushy still.  Better go zap a cup of coffee and suit up against the wind!

September 25, 2009

Goodbye, Mom

I lost my Mom last week, after a short sharp decline and many awful nights in the emergency room.  I had cared for her for the past several years, and I was able to be with her right up to the end; she died in my arms. She was 82, and it wasn't really unexpected, given her other health problems, but it is terribly sad and now I am truly without family.  But I have great friends here, and they are helping me mourn her.
She taught me as a little girl that the Chickadees were my birds, calling me, "Hi Judy!" and my first word was flower, from following her about in the garden.
We baked together, gardened together, read and discussed and laughed and cried together...and somehow I can't believe she will ever really be gone from me.

September 1, 2009

Dry Spell

When your heart's occupied with disaster, it is hard to think creatively, or even feel like speaking, let alone writing.  Summer became a cascade of bad things for my Mom, with several visits to the emergency room and now she's in a nursing facility. 
This year's theme seems to be Renunciation: not only did I have to let the gardens go this summer, I've let this writing go, and I wish I had captured some of the nicer days here.  Maybe there will be some easier days this fall, when I can tend to the gardens, to this site, and to myself. 

June 25, 2009


Summer stormed in with a windstorm that has barely stopped for days now. The wind blowing the meadow looks pretty, like a silvery-gold sea, but it is hard on the gardens. We've had a few bouts of rain, a couple intense, but all that moisture has been vacuumed up and blown away by the constant wind. This is quite unusual for here; wind in the winter, yes, wind in the summer, no. This is very stressful on plants, and makes the extra-necessary watering problematical. Where does sprinkler water go when it is blowing hard? Not where you want it, and to some degree, just AWAY. I've been trying to cope by watering early or late, and soaking when I do, but everywhere I turn things are wilting. Up until lately it wasn't warm enough to warrant shade cloth over the lath house, and now it is too windy to manage putting it up!
The plants that are faring best in this drying weather are the thicker leaved ones (succulents like sedums and Lewisia, the woody and dense-leaved Lavenders, and the tuberous rooted things like Lilies.) The strawberries have stopped setting (I wonder if the bees can even hang onto the flowers when it's like this?) and everything is gritty.
Of course I made that worse yesterday by mowing the yard with the tractor; the lawnmower battery was dead and I couldn't stand the tall weeds one more minute and there was the 6' mowing deck and though I'm not Norwegian, the whole 'Norwegian Bachelor Farmer' thing hooked me and before I knew it, I had rather swathed the yard. I promise, I am taking the battery to town today and will get it charged or a new one, tractor tracks aren't that lovely out the front door. . . :-)

June 16, 2009

Soaping Weather

A stretch of rainy weather that prevented any outdoor work getting done got turned into a soaping streak; some new essential oils & colorants collected recently added to the fun. This week's work includes:

  • Sweetgrass & Spruce--infused sweetgrass and spicy Black Spruce essential oil make this outdoorsy, manly soap fragrant and inviting. I used to use white spruce but the black spruce is even "moreso".
  • Sweet Orange--sweet, juicy, cheery orange oil and luscious orange peel wax
  • Pink Grapefruit--mmmmm sweet and sunny.
  • Lemongrass & Lavender--I'm loving lemongrass more and more. This time it is paired with French lavender and the result is crisp, clean, & fresh.
  • Avocado-Chamomile--unscented, soothing, gentle. One of our richest soaps.
  • Wild Wind (Black Vetiver)--deeply dark soap tinted with charcoal, scented with the deeply manly vetiver and a touch of sweet orange.
  • Chamomile Goatmilk--golden chamomile infused oil, chamomile tea, and creamy goatmilk.
  • Chamomile-Lavender Goatmilk--a new lavender from Eastern Europe begged to be added, and there's hardly a kindlier combo than Lavender and Chamomile.
Pictures as soon as I've taken them; and here's a sneak at what's coming next:
Cardamom--spicy, rounded, warm scent, a spin-off of our popular hand cream.
Striped Lavender--because there's more than one kind of Lavender
Lovely Lemon--our highly popular lemon wax soap, amped up with folded Lemon eo
Northern Lights---signature scented soap
Rose/Rose/Rose--triple threat rose soap, with eo, wax, and infused oils
Lavender, Peppermint, and Eucalyptus goat milk soaps
Evergreen & Cedar forest scents

June 10, 2009

Cottonwood Time

One of spring's pieces of magic here is Cottonwood weather, when it is warm and balmy enough finally for the downy seed fluff from the Cottonwood trees to pour out across the air. We've had a few false starts, but today it began in earnest.
Lazy, slow and swirling gently like summer snow, it makes the day feel like you're in a Cottonwood snow-globe. The down floats everywhere, gathers in the grass like foam or a warm snowfall, and blows about on roads in little rolls like fleece. Swirls of it in the air are mesmerizing and it is very easy to lose a half an hour immersed in the experience.

June 1, 2009

Funny weather

Spring has been slow and cool, leaving many plants far behind their usual progress by this date. For example the peppermint has just appeared, while we've harvested the last of the rhubarb already. Several other groups of plants have lagged behind; balloon flowers just emerging, the species peonies just finishing, and even a few Pasque flowers still blooming, a full two months and more after they started. Week before last we needed long coats and thermoses at the market, Saturday we needed shade and ice water. The heat is finally driving things out of the ground, meaning watering is suddenly in full swing too. Like flinging open a door stage left, Summer has just arrived. The Rosa Primula is in full glory, some of the rugosas have started, and the antiques are budding; but the lavender is stubbornly clenched. Going to be confusing all season, I expect.

May 18, 2009

Back to Work!

Spring is lurching along, finally warm in a huge blast of sudden warm weather. The plants and I are astonished. We've been a solid 3 or more weeks behind, which made being under the weather myself seem not so urgent-------and now it's a flat-out race for the gate. It's good to be able to dig again, and to finally wave 'good morning' to little familiar faces: pineapple mint, lime balm, variegated lemon balm, orange mint, columbia lilies, shooting stars. . . all popping up in just the past two days. And the robins are singing the goodnight song now promptly at 8pm, reminding me to come inside and eat dinner. I went back out to close up the greenhouse and move pots of newly dug plants and startled a doe and her lass, inspecting my handiwork!

May 11, 2009


They say time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once; if so, she needs to work on her game.
This has been a bad week and it's only Monday: continuing freezing weather, emergency dentistry and now The Min, office kitty extrordinaire, had a gran mal siezure this morning, really scary.
She's napping on my lap now and we are wondering how to deal with this new development in the life of a 20-year old cat. Her vet isn't sure she could tolerate anti-seizure meds, and I don't think they would slow the progress of what is likely disautonomy. And don't look that up unless you have iron guts. Needless to say, everything looks a shade of gray, to match the weather. We're hoping for some sun to bring on the gardens, and to make a sunbeam for Minnie.

April 26, 2009

April Snows, April Flowers

The weather is its normal fitful self, 75 degrees one day, thunderstorms at midnight with hail, then wind and clouds. . . and inches of snow an hail. To celebrate the opening of the Farmers' Market, one supposes! But there are hyacinths in bloom, snowdrops, forsythia, drumstick primroses, the lovely furry Pasque flowers. And robins singing, chickadees greeting me, the great horned owls murmuring in the dark. I am really beginning to think they will raise a family here again, the summer I had enormous baby owls about was magical and I look forward to a repeat.

The start & stop weather makes it a bit hard to be in the garden digging, hail banging about the ears is no fun, so transplanting and soaping get tended to, garden planning & re-planning, and shipping plants starts tomorrow!

April 10, 2009


This week's springs work includes setting out some new strawberry plants; I like to renovate the beds every few years with new stock, and this year I am going to put in new Honeyoye (to replace those in a bed that got eaten by quack grass) and new white fruited alpines.
The latter I divide until I have a nice long row, but I've decided that rather than always do from one seed packet (or sometimes, even from seed from one fruit!) I should intersperse with fruits from another grower. I am trying not to put all my berries in any one basket, so there are now going to be back up beds and stock in waiting, plus different sources of genetic material, especially after the Musk fiasco (voles eating a bunch one year, and disease decimating most of them the next year).
So, it will be interesting to see if there are discernable differences in fruit and habit in the white fruited ones---or if, as I suspect, they are all basically the same, just going about under a range of names. I have grown out several strains of red fruited alpines, and can't see or taste any difference, really.
Unless I see evidence to the contrary, in the future, from me at least, they will just be called 'White Fruited Alpine' and 'Red Fruited Alpine' and let go at that. I can see that after many years, there could be selection at various hands to merit the different names (Ivory, Pineapple Crush, etc.), but in the garden here I haven't seen any difference. I will be sure to note any I find, here.

April 5, 2009

Vanilla Bean Extravaganza: Beans Galore

I got some amazing Vanilla beans recently, and have been experimenting in the kitchen with ways to get the fullest YUM quotient from them. As the varieties were new to me, I first put up some in sugar and let sit for a week or so, then tested in coffee (and also just off the spoon, of course, need you ask? It's the Swedish Way). I have generally used Madagascar vanilla, a nice deep rich complex vanilla and the easiest for me to come by, and what I have made extract from in the past. The new ones are:

  • Bourbon: has a wine-like top note, and raisin-y mid notes. Rich and aromatic. On the tongue: shouts "Cookies!"; would be good for making extract.
  • Indonesian: Creamy, floral. Sweet, classic "vanilla" taste with almost marshmallow notes. This would be marvellous in a cream anglaise or vanilla syrup.
  • Tahitian: Fruity, almost grapelike notes. Highly aromatic, intensely floral taste.
I was expecting I could choose one to be an addition, or even a replacement, for my Madagascar--but I think I want to use all 4 kinds now!

For true vanilla extract, you need 13.35 oz vanilla beans per gallon of alcohol; this translates out to (generally) about 8 beans per cup of vodka (get not the most expensive, nor quite the cheapest; the cheapest has some rough edges even vanilla can't round off). I usually go more like a dozen per cup. Split and chop the beans, wiping the knife on the rim of the jar to get all the delicious little seeds into the extract. Cover with the vodka, stopper tightly, and set in a dark warm place for at least 6 weeks, but you can go longer--it gets richer and nicer as it ages.

A third or half of a bean simmered gently in cream or milk for a pudding recipe will flavor and scent it amazingly; and a bean per jar of sugar is just the thing for sweetening your berries or coffee, or a piece of toast. You won't even need butter, which is almost sacreligious for me to say.
  • I got enough extra beans to share the wealth; they will be listed on the availability page with pricing. As they are comparatively light and fluffy, they can ship in a bubble envelope.

April 2, 2009

Blooming today

(Besides the crocus outside!): Rosemary Tuscan Blue, Grape Sage and Texas Hummingbird Sage, Pulsatilla patens, Asarina procumbens, Primula cortusoides, frondosa, auricula & denticulata, Arabis Red Sensation, Lobelia, dwarf Narcissus and Salvia roemeriana---all in the cold (heated a bit) greenhouse. The Salvias have been blooming basically all winter.

March 30, 2009

Postcards from 1913

My mother and I spent a lovely winter afternoon not too long ago going through some of my great-aunt Vera's scrapbooks. One was mostly photographs and clippings, the other a wonderful collection of postcards from circa 1911-1913. The art on many of them is fantastic, detailed and splendid compared to the styles mostly in use today. As I work on scanning them in to pass on to family members, I couldn't resist posting a few here today. Of course I gravitate towards the floral ones, but Vera's family sent her lots of cards, and collected more for her, and her scrapbook covers a full year of seasons and holidays. Quite the trove.

March 29, 2009

So Springy!

(In the greenhouse, at least). The Equinox has come and gone, and the snow is still with us: 7" of new this morning. Made the elk very frisky in the yard this afternoon! As most everything in the big greenhouse is almost as frozen as the gardens, chores today included transplanting, seeding, filling flats for more of both, and working on the spring soaping rush. I hope to get photos posted tomorrow of some of the new things: laundry stain removal soap, a variant on the carrot yogurt formula, and Rosy Sunrise, a milk soap-scape with a lovely rosy fragrance. The Farmers Market starts in just a month, amazing to think it will really be warm by then.

March 19, 2009

Spring Updates

It's still snowing every day, but it is also now melting every day, and yesterday I saw my first crocus! The snow is melting off the raised beds, and while the soil in them is still frozen below the top 1/8", it's a start. Lavenders looking good, some of the Primula not so much. . . just have to wait and see if that's the tops only. The equinox is tomorrow--the snowiest one in memory for me, not including days in ND.

The catalog is all finished and in the mail--and transplanting has begun in earnest, plus propagation. This week also marks the start of spring soaping--starting with stain removal sticks and some milk soap, plus fragrance testing for "think spring" varieties. I'll post pics when I get new batteries in the camera.

March 15, 2009

Soaping News

I'm testing spring scents for the upcoming season, mostly single flower scents and a few 'manly' ones to balance them out (not to say of course men don't love flowers, but to balance the sweetness of the floral scents with some tang and spice).  I'm planning on fresh, bright looks for the bars, as the love for flowers and spring is universal.  Thanks to the reviews & suggestions of many soaping friends, so far none of the scents I've chosen for trial has seized--an utter miracle as far as soaping floral scents goes!!  Usually the best laid plans for soaping them lead to SOS (soap on a stick) and a hasty wrestling of an unruly pot of soap into the mold. 

So, watch this space for news and photos of our soaps for Spring 2009.

Shipping to start soon!

The spring rains have really begun in earnest, after a week of near zero weather.  The snow is disappearing finally.  Soon, after the ground thaws and can drain (right now the lane is 4" or more of squelchy mud on top of a frozen base and trucks can't get in (or out!))--we'll be able to start digging and shipping.
The availability list has a few items on it from the cold greenhouses, which wintered over and are in some cases starting to flower.  Soon we'll be adding plants from the coldest house which has no heat, and then from the gardens, which are starting to appear from under the snow.

We are really behind last season; usually we are able to start digging things like the strawberries by now, but they still can't even be seen.  This will mean a sudden mad rush of work and amazement when we can finally get to the ground and see what has wintered, what has volunteered, and what surprises the Nisse may have left.

March 4, 2009

2009 Catalog online

(Update: catalog mailing pushed back (not only is the weather uncooperative, [9F this morning], neither is our printer, nor the commercial printing machine we took the master to. With good luck going forward, they should mail out by the end of the week. Apologies for the lateness of this.)

Our 2009 catalog is online (finally!) and the pdf version available too. There are lots of new plants this spring, and we have been able so far to keep prices at about last year's level. Look for updates soon too, on the availability page, (no updates yet!) as the snow hasn't melted back off the beds yet; there are more surprises to come!

February 11, 2009

Queen of Delphiniums

I have always loved Delphiniums, that's not news. What is news, is the fabulous gift of species Delphinium seeds in many varieties from one of my favorite seed catalogs, JL Hudson. Depending upon the crop I get, and how they like this climate, there should be several new entries in the plants catalog next season. These I have not grown before: D. glaucum, occidentale, and virescens, so they will be especially welcome to the test beds. In the cold greenhouses, I've got D. zalil popping their heads up from a short winter nap in their plug trays, and D. ramosum if my little map is correct (and my glasses clean!). I always think I prefer the big doubles with their powerful color, but then when the species bloom, I fall for them immediately too. The dinky D. nudicaule with even reddish stems and roots to go along with their cheery red flowers caught my heart last spring; wonder which one it will be this year?

February 2, 2009

What you don't see

With the snow covering everything, it's hard sometimes to remember what's going on underneath.
While I try not to think about voles, I am happy to think of plants slowly snoozing along getting ready to burst forth, while I begin the seed sowing for the year.
Catalog editing is coming along too, and plans for some new plant ranges for spring.

I've been doing some sketchbook work for myself on more art-related things, and in that vein, here is a link to a post with some lovely photos on one of my favorite topics, Blue. This floret is from one of my Summer Skies Delphiniums, a long time favorite.

January 18, 2009

Mystery Tomato

I was given a packet of tomato seeds (many packets actually!) by a kindly fellow gardener recently.  This package is all in Japanese, which I don't read, and neither does she.  If anyone does read Japanese and can tell me what this package says, I would really appreciate hearing from you.  Clearly by the photo, it is a yellow cherry, but I would love to know the name, and anything else about the variety that can be gleaned from the package, which looks like it must be very informative.  I tried looking up the UPC/Escan code, and all I found was that it was packed in Japan.  Duh! 
(Click for bigger image.)

January 17, 2009

Book Reviews: Winter Reading

Winter allows more time for reading than the rest of the year, and I have been checking out books from the library and purchasing some as well.  The stack I'm reading right now includes: Landscaping with Herbs by James Adams, Fragrant Gardens: How to Select and Make the Most of Scented Flowers and Leaves by H. Peter Loewer, An American Cutting Garden: A Primer For Growing Cut Flowers Where Summers Are Hot And Winters Are Cold by Suzanne McIntire, the Pocket Guide to Herbal Medicine by Karla Kraft & Christopher Hobbs, and High and Dry, Gardening with Cold-Hardy Dryland Plants by Robert Nold.

The herbal medicine book is great: serious, thorough, very detailed, well documented.  Not a coffee-table book, nothing airy-fairy, and definitely a keeper for the home research library. Interesting too to have a window into the differences in views of herbal medicine in the US and Germany.

An American Cutting Garden doesn't have pictures, a pity, and is not terriffically up to date on varieties, but it has good growing information, nice harvest lists, and personal observations.  If you are looking for conditioning tips, there aren't too many here.  But any book that recognizes the need for different information for northern gardeners is a plus.

Lower's book is thin, a pocket guide really though it is too large to carry conveniently.  Luscious photos (in a higher key than reality supports; I'v never seen Hesperis that color!), some less common plants included, the list of roses is brief, but that's more me than him!

High and Dry, Nold's book on alpine plants is another book with the author's opinions on view, and he has a great "in person" writing style. Alpines are a growing passion of mine, and this book makes me want to go on a market-research spree. Very detailed observations from a lifetime of gardening, and photos you want to chew on.  While his definition of high and dry is a bit different from mine (in our mountains, things he says won't make it in dry areas, do---but our "dry" is far wetter than Colorado's, I guess).  This I have from the library but will have to get.  (I recommend his book Penstemons too.)

I will update this post when I have read some more!