Monday Zen: Pulling Weeds

In a previous post I mentioned that my vegetable garden has been sprouting through the spring in a particular state of ambiguity. 

As all the little seeds I deliberately planted in May began to germinate and grow, so did the variety of weeds and volunteer plants begin to emerge from the soil.

In many cases it was difficult to tell them all apart, good from bad, wanted from unwanted.

In one particular case, the case of the neat rows of deliberately planted carrots versus the scattering of rogue dill weed, the new shoots looked virtually identical in their one and two leaf stages.

Unable to tell the guests from the squatters, I left them all to be — carrots, dill, and a small assortment of other little plants turning the raw soil into a lush gardenscape of green sprouts.

Then this past weekend something interesting (though not unexpected) happened.

The dill began to mature into delicate, blue-green thread of delicate feathery leaves, while the carrots began to mature into paler green wisping fronds.

In the matter of a couple days I could suddenly tell one from the other. Amazing! At last! And I knelt at the edge of the garden box and acutely began to pluck the invading dill from those neat rows of young carrots.

Pulling weeds is not particularly interesting, but gardens, weeds, and all that sprouts in the spaces of those efforts makes for a well worn analogy for many aspects of living a well-cultivated life — pun intended.

Being able to pluck the weeds from your own life, be that from the emotional or physical or whatever spaces of your day-to-day seems simple enough advice.

But then again, just like the frustrating ambiguity I encountered with my carrots versus dill problem, sometimes deciding which bits are the weeds and which are the germinating seeds that you’ve planted deliberately is not always one hundred percent clear.

The mind, the heart and the soul are fertile soil for ideas and thoughts and emotions, some purposefully cultivated with care and attention, while others drift in with the wind and grow of their own accord.

Either can flourish, but it’s up to us with patience and practice to weed the gardens of beings and ensure what grows inside us is meant to be there and will yield the fruits (or veggies) that we want to harvest at the end of the process.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this process lately, both literally as a gardening practice and metaphorically as an act of self-care — and somehow coincidentally both tend to lead me to be on the ground on my knees in my backyard, hands covered in wet soil.

Campfire Club

Ahhhh… outdoor campfire season is upon us once again. I do try to get outside and warm myself by some flickering flames year-round, but from May through October it is always a little more favourable to casually cooking and gathering around a pit of hot embers.

So I did last night.

Sadly alone….?

Or maybe…advantageously alone.

Reluctant to waste a great opportunity to enjoy a perfect Monday evening in spring, I rather took it as an opportunity to indulge in two of my pastimes. Not only did I light a fire and enjoy a small outdoor cookout, but I tried my hand at recording some more video footage of the whole experience.

I hardly need an excuse to set up a grill experience on my firepit. I mean, it helps immensely to have someone to share it all with, but even our small family seems to struggle to converge our precious free time with great weather and perfect opportunity. Sometimes you just gotta get out there and do your thing, even on a lonely evening. All that said, it never hurts to add another reason to break down those barriers (and create a positive space to fill in my over-planned life) by planning to share those lonely backyard fires with someone… anyone, and if I can’t convince my family, friends, or neighbours to wander by for reals why can’t that “anyone” be with my internet friends?

I’m gelling this whole multimedia creation process, the effort to make more videos and record a podcast to accompany this blog, and part of that gelling means turning sparks of inspiration into creative opportunity.

So, a new video series… a series of one so far… called the Campfire Club:

And if nothing more, I think a good chance for me to break out my firecraft skills at least once per month, record some grilled eats over those hot coals, and share the fun here in a format that transcends words.

If only I could let you taste it, too.

Creative Cooking: Rolling & Wrapping

Yesterday I wrote about my philosophy of hacking the grilled cheese sandwich: that it was part of an effort ย to learn to fix (or improve a recipe) by taking it apart, breaking it, and trying to make it better. Hacking it.

Not everyone thinks about food that way, however. So I thought I’d start a simple (probably irregular) series of inspirations for how readers can do their own creative cooking.

Today? Food wrapped or stuffed or rolled into other foods. Think of the list below as a recipe prompt or the seed of a bigger idea from which you can cook something interesting. Start with a prompt, add your own spices, garnish, and cook style. And make some notes about what you’ve just created!

Now donโ€™t overthink it. Hack that recipe.

Meats up.

A bit of chicken or steak, wrapped in ham or prosciutto.

Floured chicken slices wrapped around some spicy chorizo or other sausage.

A marinated beef strip twisted around a different kind of marinated beef strip.

Fish, fileted or whole, wrapped in bacon.

Get cheesy.

Roll thin slices of spiced chicken breast around a soft cheese before baking.

Stuff homemade burger patties with chunks of cheddar and swiss before grilling.

Shred salty parmesan into ground sausage and cast iron grill into breakfast rounds.

Baked potato halves double cooked with cheddar and some kind of smoked meat.

Veggie Out.

Peppers cored and stuffed with spiced ground beef bake savory single servings.

Fish stuffed with nuts, peppers, onions, mushrooms or even citrus fruit.

Eggplants stuffed with crumbled meats and spices are a creative cook’s dream.

Big or small mushroom caps are perfect baking receptacles for a variety of fillings.

Comment or tag me on social media with your creative cooking creation. If you send a picture and a recipe, I'll happily feature you with credit in a future post! #CreativeCooking

May Long Weekend Gardeners

It’s a sunshiny Flourishing Friday and on this upcoming Monday Canadians across the country will be celebrating our role in the Commonwealth and thinking fondly of dear Queen Victoria’s Birthday for Victoria Day, a Canadian statutory holiday celebrated on the Monday preceding May 25 in every province and territory, and … well, actually … mostly just having a day off from work, to be honest.

What the May Long Weekend more typically marks is the official start of summer weather, at least on the Canadian Prairies, where campers and gardeners and adventure seekers who have been hibernating for the long winter will emerge and begin the short seasonal sprint to warm weather fun.

For me, for at least a few hours this weekend, it means finishing the planting of my vegetable garden.

As of right now many of the heartier, stubborn, perennial, or fall-planters are already in the ground, and in some cases sprouting.

My garlic and onion patch has made a clear effort to get ahead of the spring rains and is aggressively showing it’s greens.

I transferred my rhubarb plant from my now-101-year-old granny’s garden about fifteen years ago as literally the first thing I ever planted in this space, and it has also decided to make its annual appearance on time and in force.

If you are a fan of this sour-stalked vegetable, or understand that it is an excellent baking balancer to sweet-fruited deserts, you won’t be surprised that of nearly all the garden products we grow this little plant has the longest queue of friends inquiring about “is your rhubarb ready yet?”

I’d like to write that my carrot patch is thriving, particularly after I spent a bit of time and money installing a low-flow irrigation system a couple weeks ago and covering the whole bed in bird netting to keep the swallows out.

While I’m sure a subset of the little green sprouts in the photo above are actually carrots, they are easily confused with another vegetable which I made the mistake of planting about five years ago that has never exited the garden fully: dill weed. Dill is lovely in small quantities, but each dill plant produces about ten thousand seeds and some of those seeds sprout this year, some sprout next year, some sprout in spring and others sprout in mid-summer. Some of those dill plants are a meter-and-a-half tall and easy to remove, while others grow barely taller than the carrots and hide in the foliage until one day you are delicately untangling their crowns from the other vegetable tops, spilling seeds into the soil in the process.

I’ll let a couple grow. I like dill. But about 99% of what has sprouted needs to be removed as soon as I can tell them apart from the neat rows of carrots that I planted.

At least they are well-irrigated, I suppose.