And I’d thought this gardener hadn’t been busy during December…

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Japanese White Pine in training since 1950. Country of Origin: Japan. Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection

I am still a gardener in search of a garden of sorts. Much uncertainty remains in 2013 but I don’t mind it at all anymore. Every single day is a huge opportunity for me now and my health continues to improve as do my spirits. Whenever I plant a seed something grows. So I’m tossing them everywhere right now and I’m sitting back to see what germinates.

I am a guerilla gardener of the heart.
This is my time
—to live a bit as a wildflower.
Finally.

Palm Leaf, Sabalites species, around 50 million years ago Chuckanut Formation, Whatcom Co. Washington. Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

A large part of this seed planting campaign of mine has involved seeing and speaking with very old friends of mine. Doing so really helps me to remember more of who I used to be and who I want to be again now. Illness broke me down but it didn’t kill me. I lost a lot of momentum but if you know me you also know that I can be a tiny force of nature when I am at my best.

My high school friend Elise Krohn, herbalist and native foods specialist. Wild Foods & Medicines Blog 

Recently I made a brief overnight trip to Seattle to see two of these old friends. I attended the book re-release party for a publication an old friend of mine had contributed to, and additionally I spent time in the other friend’s home getting to know her husband and small son. Since the three of us attended the same high school together it was an über supportive trip. My sudden wellness after so many years brings them much happiness too and I like to be that in their lives right now. It helps my healing too. Dare I say that it helps us grow much stronger together.

I have grown a lot during the past two months and it will be showing more and more in the months to come.

Elisabeth C. Miller Library

Of course I had to stop by the library dedicated to nothing but horticulture at the University of Washington too. Luckily it wasn’t open long enough for me to go crazy making lists of things.

Center for Urban Horticulture
Seeing the Center for Urban Horticulture in winter was a beautiful treat too since I’ve only ever been there during the warmer months.

Sometime before Christmas I tidied up out front. I guess I was tired of the Doug fir debris in the house.

Oh and the seeds, the lovely, lovely piles I was unable to get to last year. They are very much on my mind now.

There were those dark and lonely moments too. So I took pictures to remember them by in the future. Then I quickly forgot about them.

Something about spending my first Christmas alone after a decade-long relationship was exhilarating and it allowed me to really toss out more emotional baggage. I can do this on my own now if I choose to and that feels really good to me. I don’t feel I was ever really given that choice.

I watched the fat cat sleep a lot. Maurice is old.

The neighbors had their old cherry tree cut down. That was exciting for a day.

Visions of children playing in gardens appeared to me on a walk. I love this city.

I started a wide scarf for myself using organic cotton yarn on one of my knitting looms. Most materials bother my skin a lot so it was fun to go to the yardage store to pick the yarn myself. I felt so empowered—for lack of a better word.

I watched the fat cat sleep a lot with his little buddy Mona too. December is when the part-ferral cat is not very ferrel. It is always a cute process to watch as she becomes needier and needier. Before you know it she’s wrapped up at your feet while you type a blog post at 1am.

Somehow I sewed a few Christmas tree ornaments. This one looks a bit like my interests of cooking and gardening slammed together. A green ravioli. I was clearly not thinking.
I also tried to rescue my old Christmas tree houseplant but it was neglected so much this past year I will need to nurse it back to the fine specimen it used to be so that wherever I am next Christmas it will be ready to shine again.

Luckily a friend gave me some forced Daffodil bulbs just before he went home to Scandinavia for the holidays. Normally I would have had a huge floral arrangement but times are tough and I was working solo on the annual Christmas Eve dinner so this worked out well. It was perfect and so much better than nothing. (It smells great too even if it makes me sneeze. Yes, those of us with allergies must choose our battles.)

Then there was that goose I stuffed and roasted. It was amazing and I was so proud I made it through the whole experience on my own.

I also made a really simple cabbage dish with apples and spices. It went perfectly with the sausage and cornbread stuffed goose. Overall the more simple the food the happier my body is when I eat it. I am still in awe of my ability to consume goat milk products in moderation.

I am such a lucky woman now.

Oh, and then there were those funny faces I made with my eldest niece Chelsea when I spent some quality time with her, her younger sister Lindsey, and their childhood friend Emily. How quickly my little women have grown up!

I am still making faces apparently today too. Not sure what this expression is about but I think it has something to do with my hair being in pigtails. At what age are pigtails inappropriate on a woman? I have no clue. Maybe I don’t want to know. Believe it or not but I was actually thinking about how the wear my hair when I get back out there in the dirt soon. It’s growing and I am so happy to have it long again.

See, I do think about a lot of other things.

December was one hell of a month but I tossed out so many seeds in so many places—here, there, everywhere. I’m surrounded by good fertile opportunities and I’m really excited about so many new things happening in my life. Best of all, the soil in my heart no longer feels so barren. I am happily growing again and am feeling more at peace than I have in many years.

This gardener had a beautiful Christmas and I hope you did too! 
Here’s to watching it all grow again in 2013! 
 
Let’s bring back our heirlooms, the all-time favorites and producers,
 but let’s not forget we should always be open to the new stuff too. 
 
Like maybe this blogger might finally release another book. 
Booyeah!

Happy Blogoversary! Amateur Bot-ann-ist Turns 5 and Ficurinia Celebrates with Some Prickly Pears

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Usually I’d post a Wordless Wednesday post here but today is special so I will forgo that formality.

Today my blog turns 5 and I wanted to celebrate. The cheesecake is not yet complete, but the prickly pear sauce for it is, and now you can all hear about my relationship with the prickly pear…

First off, that’s not Pepto-Bismol pink. This is no shy fruit color. It will stain you and stain you well. It’s Barbie pink, hot pink, not understated pink, and it’s loud and proud.

Tasting of apple and watermelon, it’s really a strange fruit. Not sure if these were unripe or older fruits though since they happened to taste more of Aloe vera to me, but they tasted of prickly pear and that’s all that matters. Tasting subtly of prickly pear is the way to go. (Yes, I eat Aloe vera too.)

I will have pics of the chèvre cheesecake that will be drizzled with this stuff up here tomorrow and I’ll include a recipe with it.

So for now, just enjoy the warmth your computer screen is giving off because you’ve stopped to look at my blog. I am happy you’re here and grateful too.

Here’s to the next 5 years!!!

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Ficurinia is Sicilian dialect for prickly pear and I chose it as an online name years ago because of a story my father used to tell me about my Sicilian-American grandfather.
As a boy, his family had driven to CA to visit my Grandma Virginia’s brothers. Once over the Oregon/California border my grandfather was looking for every opportunity to stop and eat prickly pear cactus fruits. My father told me that as he sat in the car, pulled over next to the highway, he watched as his dad chowed down and other cars passed them. It embarrassed him that his father was acting like such an “immigrant” and he was ashamed. Later in life, after he’d lost his father, he regretted having felt that way.
I never knew my grandfather since I was born after he died. This story about him always fascinated me though and I wanted to eat the fruit myself to see what it was that drew him to it. During my 20s when I had the opportunity I fell in love with them too. Though I don’t eat them often, when I do, I think of my Grandpa. I think of him eating them while stationed in Italy during WWII and I imagine him eating them along the highways of CA whenever I go in search of seeds.
Through the prickly pear I am firmly connected to what I can only call the most mysterious and special part of myself. I am a gardener and I love plants and it is a gift that comes from somewhere deep inside of me. When I close my eyes to look into the still darkness it is the prickly pear I see and it is the image connected to the tie that binds me to the earth. I should add that it connects me to the kitchen too. But more on those activities later…
Salvatore Amato, soldier (October 31, 1944).
My Sicilian great-grandfather Frank Amato, my Grandma Virginia, my father as a baby, my Grandpa Sam. (Looks to me like someone might have been working in his garden that day.