Beating The Winter Blues

Weeding And Snacking

Though winter days can make me feel groggy, this week has been a real high. On Saturday, hundreds of local people of all ages met at our island’s oldest community church and marched together. Some went on to catch the ferry into Seattle, others returned to work or home, but all seemed similarly filled with hope and even joy at finding so many kindred spirits. Seattle’s Womxn’s March drew an estimated 175,000 people, and several million people worldwide marched as well, together in spirit if divided by distance. As far as I know, every one of these marches was peaceful, without arrests or violence. I’m guessing that’s mostly because these marches were all FOR something, not just against, though heaven knows there’s plenty to be against these days.

Everywhere I looked I saw signs reminding us about the many, many causes we hold dear; human rights, the health and safety of the planet, economic and social justice, protecting and valuing diversity, health care, public education, social safety nets for the elderly, the disadvantaged, the poor and the vulnerable. Seattle’s march was led by Native American women who remind us every day that mother earth deserves respect and every kind of protection. I think of that every time I work in my garden, seeing my little patch of green as part of the safety network for plants and critters as well as people.

Messy And Tidy

As I weed and edit in my garden, I find myself leaving a lot of what definitely looks messy. Those battered, fallen logs often shelter slumbering bee larvae and sagging plants can be protecting butterfly cocoons. I’ve found dormant frogs nestled in heaps of old leaves and little bats hiding in deep cracks in leaning dead trees.  However, while some kinds of mess looks naturalistic, others just look like crap. As I age, I’m experiencing the twin pulls of appreciating order and valuing the wild. I do get daily pleasure and satisfaction from seeing the winter garden’s bones cleanly against autumn’s fresh mulch. I also love noticing that my garden is a haven for all kinds of creatures as poison neat gardens can never be.

I’m choosing to resolve this tension by keeping the more visible parts of the property and garden tidy while filling the wooded areas with a good assortment of healthy native plants and pretty much leaving them alone. Each autumn, I tidy the beds, leaving only seedheads that attract birds, and spreading a thick new blanket of mature compost or digested dairy manure (my new favorite). Each winter, I work in the uncultivated areas, weeding out ivy, invasive blackberries, holly, and Scotch broom. On certain days, I do sweeps for Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), which is all too happy to cover a woodland floor, as well as Daphne laureola, which I sadly acknowledge as an invasive weed even though I admire its wonderful whorling leaf pattern and winter fragrant flowers.

The Bad And The Worse

Hairy bitter cress or jumping Jesus is always on my hit list and I try to catch it early, because this is one little pest that can really spread fast. The lacy little rosettes look harmless and even rather pretty but they are definitely in the pull-it-when-you-see-it category. The nickname comes from its ability to fling its seeds far and wide at the slightest touch and its knack for getting at least some of them in your eyes. It can also be born pregnant, in that its seedlings can bloom and set seed before they even break ground. A mature plant may produce a thousand seeds, each of which can sprout in just a few days. In winter when my hands are too cold for finesse work, I pluck the tiny seedlings with tweezers, especially when they appear in gravel.

Bindweed is another personal nemesis, though I rather enjoy the struggle. There was a large, well established weed patch under an old cedar when I got here some twelve years ago and I’ve been mulching and pulling it ever since. I deep mulched the area with almost a foot of coarse wood chips, which smothered out the old growth ivy in just a season. The bindweed is still with me, but I’m slowly gaining ground and have even started planting into the border between the disaster area and the garden proper. Pulling bindweed is my winter jam on grey days, when I need a hit of Vitamin D badly enough to get out and yank weeds even though it’s seriously cold out there.

Gluten Free, Vegan Granola Bars

Homemade snack bars are my favorite power source when working on chilly days. Crunchy, flavorful and only slightly sweet, these bars are a yummy, healthy alternative to commercial bars that are often packed with sugar. You can make a batch in about ten minutes and store them in the freezer for months (they should last so long). The only hitch is that you need to make the granola first, but I always keep some on hand because it’s kind of addictive when served with yogurt and some fresh fruit.

Oil Free, Sugar Free, Gluten Free Granola

8 cups gluten free rolled oats (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup each of:
walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds
flax seeds, hulled pumpkin seeds, hulled sunflower seeds
unsweetened coconut flakes (Bob’s again)
* dried tart cherries or raisons

Spread oats on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F until light brown (25-30 minutes). Toast nuts and seeds by kind, allowing 5-7 minutes for smaller ones and 12-15 minutes for larger ones. Toast coconut flakes for 8 minutes. Cool toasted ingredients, then mix and store in a covered container or freeze for up to 3 months. * Add dried fruit as you enjoy the granola or the dry ingredients can absorb their moisture and make them too hard.

Gluten Free Snack Bars

1 cup peanut butter or any nut butter
1/2-1 cup brown rice syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup organic puffed brown rice or puffed millet
2 cups granola (see above)
1/2 cup dried fruit

Combine nut butter and brown rice syrup a large heat-proof bowl and place it in a warm oven for a few minutes to soften. Stir in other ingredients, adding more of what you like, but leaving mixture a bit sticky (too much dry stuff makes the bars crumbly). Line a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with waxed paper and push the mixture into it, wetting your hands to pat everything down evenly. Cover with more waxed paper and chill for at least an hour before cutting into pieces. Keep bars in the freezer for up to three months. Makes about 26 bars.

This entry was posted in composting, Garden Prep, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living, Weed Control and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *