Sunday, June 30, 2013


Rhubarb is one the earliest treats harvested from our garden in June.

- rubber gloves
- heavy plastic sheeting
- leaves
- Portland cement
- sand
- mortor or cement colourant, if you want a colour other than the light grey that pre-mix concrete produces (Lee Valley Tools has this stuff as well as Michael's Craft Store)
- Chicken wire or one-centimetre-square wire mesh
- wire cutters.
1. To make the stepping stones, choose an area that will remain undisturbed for several days. Any level surface - a driveway, concrete patio, bare patch of soil or even the grass - will work.
2. Cut a peice of plastic sheeting larger all around than the leaf (or another desired shape), and place it on the ground. Put the leaf in the centre of the plastic, vein-side up (Photo 1).
3. Mix Portland cement with sand in a 2:1 ratio, adding . With gloved hands or a shovel, move concrete onto the leaf, spreading it almost to the edge of the leaf to a thickness of approximately 2.5 to 4 centimetres; press firmly to eliminate air bubbles (Photo 2). If you're using a small leaf or several leaves to create an imprint only, spread the concrete to form the shape you want.
4. To ensure strength and durability, place chicken wire on the concrete to within five centimetres of the edge, overlapping pieces if necessary. Shovel concrete on top of the chicken wire (Photo 3), again spreading to a thickness of about 2.5 to 4 centimetres and pressing firmly to eliminate air bubbles.
5. Gently lift the plastic up around the design (Photo 4), smooth edges with gloved hands or a trowel to ensure an even look, and place earth or gravel up around the form to support it while it cures.
6. Cover with a second piece of plastic to keep the concrete from drying out. Allow to cure for at least 48 hours, then lift the stepping stone from the plastic (the plastic peels away easily) and turn it over to see the walking surface.
7. Remove small pieces of vein or leaf with a hose turned to jet spray. If you've made the stepping stone in hot weather, much of the leaf will have already decomposed. You can place the stones in the garden immediately, but avoid stepping on them until the concrete has completely cured - curing time depends on the type of concrete mix used, but it usually takes five to seven days. Spray with water frequently during the curing period. Make sure the stones are set firmly in the ground and they won't move when walked on.

My favorite rhubarb recipe has to be a simple rhubarb crisp topped with vanilla ice cream.


4 c. rhubarb, sliced in 1" pieces
2/3 c. sugar
1 T. grated orange or lemon rind (opt.)
1 t. vanilla
dash salt
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. butter

Combine cut rhubarb, sugar, and grated orange or lemon rind in a casserole dish.  Mix brown sugar, rolled oats, flour, and butter to a crumbly consistency.  Sprinkle over rhubarb mixture.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.  Serves 6.

Iris in June

Numerous colors and varieties of iris burst into bloom as June progressed.  Many had been shared by friends or purchased at local garden sales, often the color unknown until they came into bloom the year after planting. 

One of my mother-in-laws favorties , a peachy-pink,
from her garden in southern California
Siberian Iris

Friday, June 28, 2013

Participation in The Impatient Gardener's Garden Appreciation Society

One of my favorite bloggers, Erin at The Impatient Gardener, has started The Garden Appreciation Society, claiming:

 "Too many of us are "tight" with the beauty that our gardens produce. We only allow ourselves to enjoy it in situ. The goal of The Garden Appreciation Society is to allow ourselves to enjoy the fruits of our gardening labor in more places.  I won't make you take a pledge, wear a funny hat (unless that's your thing) or take hours away from your weeding gardening time. All you have to do is snip a few flowers or a few leaves, or SOMETHING from your yard and bring it inside to enjoy in a different way. Snap a picture of it, post it on your blog, a photo site (i.e. Flickr, etc.) or even Facebook (make sure you have that photo's settings on public so we can see) and then link it up.  It's not about floral design or photography. It's about enjoying our gardens in a new way."

I've cut some red lilies and added white allium and blue campanula to create an arrangement celebrating the Fourth of July.  I took some photos and will try to upload them to her website along with the other contributions for week 7, following the directions at:

Success!  My photo is the 9th photo uploaded on week 7 of Erin's challenge.  I find Erin's arrangements particularly inspiring as she gardens a few hours south of me in zone 5a in Wisconsin, so have similar plant material to work with each week.   Hoping more gardeners will join the fun as the season progresses.   This was just the encourgement I needed to harvest some of the bounty to bring the outside into our home.

Garden at Mealy's displaying yard art for sale

We visited Mealy's in downtown Ely admiring the yard art for sale displayed in a lovely garden with plenty of seating available to test out as I sat with my mother-in-law contemplating the many items I could picture in my garden.    
A birdbath surrounded by iris and lilies?
Rock cairns?
(constructed by drilling holes in stones to thread onto metal rods)
Haitian steel drum turtles?
A colorful metal birdhouse with a few bright flowers to complement it?
Or possibly ,my favorite, a kinetic spinning flower in my favorite colors?
(Alas, the price was a bit steep!)

Journey to the Boundary Waters near Ely, MN

After over 8 hours driving northwest from our home, we arrived in Ely, Minnesota, for another week long family reunion at Fenske Lake cabins after 5 years.  Bordering the Boundary Waters, it's a beautiful spot to relax canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and even spending a bit of time in their sauna at the end of a long day.  If a few of us had a good day fishing, we would dine on fresh Northern and Bass.  No wonder so many folks we've met over the years in Minnesota and Wisconsin look forward to journeying "up north".   The only thing disturbing our blissful visit were the voracious gnats, leaving lumps far worse and longer lasting than the mosquitoes we remember from years ago living in the Twin Cities.

Some of the highlights of my trip included searches for gardening inspiration.  The hardy plants growing in the zone 3 climate were2-3 weeks behind ours in zone 5a with the lilacs and iris just bursting into bloom.

I couldn't pass the "Greenhouse Open 10-6" sign too many more times without following what appeared to be Wiley Coyote pointing the way up that winding road.  Along the way we passed a boulder with pictographs (mimicking the Native American pictographs the in-laws were paddling off to see on the cliffs above Hegman Lake.)   In the distance were several small greenhouses and a sign advertising YARD ART.   Lots of birdhouses, both rustic and colorful were offered for sale along with some bat houses.  Old telephone poles had been carved to resemble totem poles.   Numerous pine stools, including a "foot stool" with legs standing on wooden feet, we're availbe for sale. Rock cairns of various sizes had been constructed-the smaller ones by the wife and impressively large ones by the husband who has access to a front loader.  No glue or metallic rods to hold the stones in place, but careful selection and balancing of the stones resulted in cairns stable enough to survive windy days.

Approaching greenhouses
Rock cairns
Rock Cairn
Rock cairns made by carefully balancing stones
(no glue or rods supporting structures)

Totem pole carved from old telephone pole
Another totem