T is for Time

Now is the time for gardeners to hop from foot to foot in anticipation, to check and re-check the spring plantings. Will all the bean seeds break ground? Can the potatoes make their way to the surface? What if an outbreak of slugs devastate the baby chard?


Of course, I’m talking about other gardeners being tense, not me. I’m totally calm. I’d say I’m as cool as the proverbial cucumber, but that’s a vegetable I detest so I won’t compare myself to one. Let’s say I’m as cool as an alpine night. That’s chill!

No, you won’t find me hovering over the zucchini seedlings or measuring the progress of the onion sets. Neither will you see me drumming my fingers on the calendar. I’m not impatient for the first harvests. Not I.

I’m sympathetic to ordinary gardeners, though. I understand that they are on tenterhooks in keen anticipation of early yields and in wary dread of pests and blights. If I weren’t so alpine chill, I’d be on tenterhooks, too.

Even as I use this arcane expression, I wonder – what are tenterhooks and why, oh why, would anybody be on them? Once again, I am grateful for the Internet and how promptly it supplies enlightenment. I seek an answer and I find an answer.

Apparently, back in the seventeenth century, there were woolen mills aplenty and these mills were surrounded by fields of wooden frames called tenters. Each tenter had hooked nails all around its perimeter. After wool was woven into cloth, it was washed. To keep it from losing its shape, the cloth was stretched on the tenter and hooked onto the nails. Wool has a natural tendency to shrink, so as it dried, the cloth was under tension, held in place by the hooks.

Therefore, on tenterhooks means under tension. This meaning has expanded to include the concept of tense anticipation.

On the tenters and on tenterhooks first appeared in print in the seventeenth century. Authors used these expressions in the same way we use the idiom today. I wonder if it was used by the common folk first, then used by authors, or did the authors use the expression and the common folk liked the imagery and picked up on it. Either way, it has persisted long after those old mills.

These musings lead me to wonder about idioms. We have – which came first, the chicken or the egg – and I further ask – which came first, the author or the idiom?

But I digress. Neither tenterhooks and woolens nor authors and idioms have anything to do with gardening. Still, this detour allowed my mind to think of something other than my garden. I need that because the time to first yield seems to stretch out to infinity.

However, I’m not in a state of tension and suspense. I’m not on tenterhooks. I want to make that perfectly clear.


Time, tenterhooks, teal, train, turtle – the list of t words goes on. Did you know that t is the second most common letter in the English language? Here’s a video about t for those learning their letters:


S is for Spring Fever


My spring fever is raging this year.  No, no, not that kind of spring fever. I’m talking about the sudden frantic rush to get the garden tilled and harrowed, indoor seedlings sprouted and potted, compost distributed, rhubarb picked and processed, and each crop planted out in good time.

Last year, the early spring weather was kind to me. It allowed windows of fine weather between spurts of rain so I could prepare the ground at a leisurely pace. All three sections of my garden were tilled, prepped, and primped by May 1.

This year, the climate showed its mean streak and the weather sabotaged me week after week. On any day that it wasn’t pouring rain, the ground was too sodden from the previous days of rain to be tilled. When the rains finally let up, the rush began. Even so, here it is, May 10, and I’m only two thirds of the way through my ground preparations.

Sigh. I lie. I’m not really at the two thirds mark, but I’m telling myself that little white fib to keep my spirits up. It’s not a big falsehood because I’m definitely more than half way to the finish line. I’m pretty sure I’m past the half way mark. Probably. Sigh.

Spring is in full acceleration. Weeds that sprouted only yesterday (or so it seems) have leafed out, bloomed, and erupted into seed. Yes, I’m talking about YOU, dandelions and bittercress. Of course, this outburst of weeds demands its own share of attention. So does the lawn, which is lush with spring rains and warmer temperatures and grows rampantly.

Still, despite my fever to get the ground ready and keep the lawn from growing so tall it chokes the mower into silence, I know everything will work out. I’m sure everything will work out. Pretty sure.

I must concentrate on the successes. The rhubarb is waist high and vigorous this spring, a pleasure to behold. Already, I’ve picked, processed, and canned three kettle runs.  That’s three times seven for 21 litres of this glorious vegetable. It is an excellent year for the rhubarb.

On the living room window sill, squash seedlings are bursting forth in their little pots of soil – zucchini, vegetable marrow, spaghetti squash, and pumpkin. Unlike the chard, already claiming its space in the great outdoors, the squash expect to be pampered indoors, then slowly hardened off before they will brave the open garden. For now, they are loving their hot window ledge.

Spring, spring, spring. It is a time of anticipation, a time of new life and new growth. What gardener doesn’t feel thrills at the sudden explosion of green vegetation dotted with red, yellow, blue, or white flowers, magnificent banquets for bees. The songs of sparrows, warblers, and wrens express what we feel.

To quote and enhance the words of that most famous poet, Anonymous, “Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, the birdies know what joy this iz.”


Young readers can hear a sparrow sing as they learn about the letter S in my video for kids:

Global Warming? Don’t Care!

Here I am, not caring an atom about global warming, or climate change for the nit-pickers among us. After all, I’ll be nothing but a whiff of crematorium ash by the time the rising tide laps at my front door. Indeed, milder winters, which we’re already enjoying – that’s enjoying – are nothing but a plus for us living north of the 49th parallel and on the west coast of North America. Can’t tell you how nice it is not to have to scrape ice or shovel snow when we have an easy winter.

Pay no attention to the number of times I ride my bike or walk instead of getting into a fuel-burning mode of transport. That doesn’t make me a Carer. I don’t care.

Want another reason why I don’t care? Of course you do, and I’m happy to share. Get this – it’s February, and we’ve got magnolias in bloom, a sure sign of anPspMagnoliaPink1CrpBCri15Fe23other mild winter. The flowering plum tree in my neighbour’s yard is a fireworks-burst of pink, the crocuses have been feeding bees for weeks, and daffodils glow like miniature suns in every rock garden. February, people!

Ignore the fact that I’ve been composting and recycling for more decades than I care to count. The reason I continue to compost and recycle is purely a question of habit. It’s a simple rut. It’s not because I care about global warming. I don’t.

Take notice, too, of how a warming of my home turf increases the growing season for my garden. What gardener can’t thrill to that result? I dream of the day when the Lower Mainland has the climate of today’s California, and I can grow crops year round. I get delirious thinking of the trees I’d plant – almond, avocado, citrus – wow! If it got even warmer, I could grow mango. Pardon me while I swoon for a moment.

Don’t count it against me that I’ve been growing my own food for many years, either. Even though I’m saving the planet the fumes from tractors, reapers, and transport trucks, I shouldn’t be branded an eco-warrior. I’m not. I don’t care about the toxins or the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Couldn’t care less.

My only complaint against global warming is its pace. This last winter, we had two nasty spells of icy weather – five days in a row of seriously sub-freezing temperatures, then another six. It killed off almost all of the hardy plants I was hoping to nurture through the dark season so they would produce tasty, early shoots. Only one survived. One lonely Brussels sprout plant stands green among the blasted remains of its brethren. Tragic.

Now that I think about it, the Lower Mainland of British Columbia needs to become California-North now. Right now. Or sooner. Sooner would be good.

Pay no attention to my going-paperless office. Ignore my water conservation habits. Turn a blind eye to my instinctive worship of the four Rs – reduce, re-use, recycle, repair. If you ever imagine that you see me doing anything to save the planet from global warming, you will know you are dreaming. Or hallucinating. Probably both.

Now, I must dash. I have an evergreen shrub to plant. And I’m not planting it to help clean the air. Wherever would you get such an idea?