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Archive for December, 2009

Come see us

We’ll be signing books tonight (Thursday, Dec. 17) at My Granny’s Attic Antiques  Holiday Open House, from 7-9 p.m. at 9230 Pflumm in Lenexa. Hope you can drop by and say hi.

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One of my favorite things about the winter gardening break is that it gives us time for fanciful daydreams. Would a mini greenhouse be possible? Should I try again to make my own sugar from sugar beets? Maybe we should grow  mushrooms!

It is the season to indulge our wildest imaginings. Anything is possible, in the dull gray and brown months of winter.

With that in mind, I’ve been looking through the offerings for garden gifts. Okay, I’ll skip the shamelessly self-promotional message. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, move your eyes slowly over to the color image in the right rail. Now relax. Relax completely. You are getting sleepy….Concentrate on the image and move the cursor toward the…Oh, well. You get the idea.)

Here are a few things I found that could brighten up a gardener’s morning:

EasyBloom plant sensor. This is a gadget that uses data from your plants to help you with your plant doctoring skills. According to descriptions and reviews on Amazon–where it sells for $38.49–you put the sensor, which looks like a plastic flower, into the ground in the space where you plant or want to plant, inside or outside, for a minimum of 24 hours. It records the sunlight, water, temperature (but apparently not the soil aciditiy). From there, you plug it into your USB port and an online reference either recommends what to plant or tells you what’s the problem with the plant(s) you already have there.

This might be especially good for somone with a new home or a beginning gardener. (But beginners beware. You’ll still need to know how to read nature’s signs when sunspots knock out your wireless signal.) Then again it’s always good to have hard data to back up your own suspicions. Maybe it would have saved the rosemary plants I’ve killed over the years.

Mason bee house–The tubes in these cool-looking things, offered at Gardener’s Supply Co. for $14.95, hold the eggs to be laid by mason bees. Mason bees are said to be much better pollinators than honey bees, whose numbers have dwindled the past few years due to mysterious causes. Downside: No honey. Bees not included (but I’ve seen them at garden centers).

Compost Crock–for $29.95 also from Gardener’s Supply. If you’re looking to decrease your footprint and increase your yield by composting kitchen scraps, this may be the thing to get. It holds a gallon of vegetable and fruit scraps (no meat, please). And it has a charcoal filter for odor control. What a crock!

Mushroom kit–What can you grow when there’s no sun? Mushrooms, of course. Not the kind that sprout spontaneously in your teenager’s room, but the edible kind! Amazon comes through with an amazing variety of reasonably priced kits: Blue oyster, shiitake, turkey tail, reishi, maitake, morel (!). They run from $20-$40.  There’s even a Children’s Mushroom Garden, which makes a great science project and an even better book title.

Seed Savers Exchange–Gift membership in this organization costs $35 and entitles the recipient to 10 percent off Seed Savers purchases, the member yearbook and magazine. And it helps the planet. Seed Savers is dedicated to preserving rare and heirloom varieties that might be lost otherwise.

There, that should be enough to get you started. But if not, there’s always the gag gift:

Posted by: Roxie

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Done, done, done!

Cold drizzle is falling outside as I write this, icing up on the back steps and sidewalk. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll actually get some of the predicted snow instead of the miserable ice storms that seem to be the norm.

It’s good to be finally, finally done with the garden.

Mike did the last chores of the garden season last weekend. He spread on a layer of horse manure (he’d already done the compost layer the week before) and put in the garlic that will stay in the ground for a head start in the spring.

The manure always turns out to be a monumental chore. It usually unfolds something like this:

Early November–I bring up the subject and we talk about where we will obtain the manure. We have a friend from our church with horses, but that means renting a pickup truck to haul it. And Mike balks at  asking a favor.

Later November–I ask again. We discuss  Craig’s List, where we got manure last year. But the trouble with that is, if you have someone else haul it over, then there’s the question of how big a pickup load they’ll show up with, and whether the manure is aged and crumbly (like good dirt) or all clumpy and hard.

This year, we met a farmer at the BAD SEED who offered to sell us a load and haul it herself (she had a sample of it on hand and it was great). But she would have had to come all the way from St. Jo and it would have been hard to orchestrate with our schedules.

Post-Thanksgiving–I start talking pointedly about long-range weather forecasts and the need to get the manure tilled in and garlic in the ground before we have a long bout of freezing rain and rock-solid soil. Time’s getting short. Let’s just do it, already.

So it was back to the rental pickup idea.

Now we try hard to be good global citizens. We used cloth diapers on our little ones, canned our own food, etc, etc. But no matter how you try, it seems the best intentions for a small carbon footprint can be sullied by circumstances beyond your control.

This year’s pickup truck was a gigantic Dodge–so tall I could’ve used a step ladder to get in. It had a cab extension (which my daughter loved). It also had a dashboard feature that tells you the mileage you’re getting. I think maybe someone should tell Dodge this is not such a good idea. That truck usually got a whopping 12 miles to the gallon. Every time we drove it, a baby bird cried.

It did, however, get the job done. And just in time for the first false snow alarm of the season.

And how much did this all cost us? Well, here’s another thing. Sometimes it works to your advantage to be the crazy old people who save drawers full of useless papers. Mike had a card from the rental car company that promised a freebie after five rentals. And this card was so old that every time he brought it in, the rental staff would gather ’round in awe, as if they’d been presented with an illuminated folio from 17th century monks.

But honor it, they did, despite–or maybe because of–the crazy knit cap he was wearing with the Viking horns.  So a truck that normally would have cost $75 for one day was only $45 for three. That makes it five dollars cheaper than we paid  the Craig’s List sellers.

Of course, the average small garden doesn’t need a pickup load of manure. Usually a couple of sacks from the garden store will do. But it pays to shop around. And it’s definitely cheaper than the bags of chemical fertilizer.

Come see us

We have two more books signings coming up. The first will be this weekend at the Kansas City Store on the Plaza (314 Ward Parkway.) We’ll be there from 1-3 pm Saturday.

The second one will be  7-9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17 at My Granny’s Attic Antiques and Collectibles Holiday Open House, 9230 Pflumm in Old Town Lenexa.

Posted by: Roxie

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