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The fairy gardener
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jim Edminster
2017-12-26

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There was snow on the ground here in Chicago in early December. Did you get all your bulbs in? If not, pot them up and put them in a cool part of the basement or garage for early spring. Do not save bulbs unplanted—they'll die.

I've gathered, with neighbors' help, many bags of leaves, mostly oak, for my grassless yard. It looks like a woodland floor now. The 3 ( not so ) feral yard cats, Smudge, Sweeney and Orion think the leaves are fun to chase imaginary rats through. ( They've gotten rid of all the real rats! ) The 5 or so inches of leaves will reduce themselves to several inches of mulch and dirt by spring. They won't bother the 406 spring bulbs I planted at all, nor the older bulbs from previous years. ( One of the tulips this year was one I found on the athletic field of the school I teach at. )

Hints and nudges:

1 ) If you practice indoor composting of food scraps and are tired of the gnats that your undersink can seems to generate, toss the can. Use a large re-sealable plastic food storage bag. No bugs!

2 ) If you feed the birds in winter, don't forget water for them. If it doesn't snow and it's below freezing there's no open water for them. Consider an electric heating bowl for water. ( I did see spatties pecking at snow. ) Old bread and cookies are fine for birds and squirrels but no chocolate which is often poisonous, at least to mammals.

3 ) Do you notice ( as the writer pats himself on the back ) that none of the plant catalogs or gardening mags are showing the old-fashioned single-plant-surrounded-by-bare-dirt scheme of former years?

4 ) You can compost or just throw out on the yard eggshells, tangerine and banana peels and any other organic residue that is not obviously edible.

5 ) I'm guerilla gardening with rose-of-Sharon and Virginia creeper vine seeds. No, I don't care if they're not native; neither are you!

6 ) Plants to consider for spring: Korean fairy bells ( shade ), 'Jackman's Blue' rue ( sun ), 'Ruby Slippers' oakleaf hydrangea ( sun or shade ), 'Sun King' aralia ( shade ), 'Pink Frost' Japanese Joe Pye weed ( sun- partial shade )

7 ) What they call Hedgerow plants in England we call partial shade plants. The grow well at bases of bushes: primroses, violets, sweet cicely, yarrow, fritellarias.

Screaming noodles is this month's recipe:

Ingredients: Wide egg noodles, salt and pepper, 2 tabsps olive oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 teasp dried basil, 1/4 teasp red pepper flakes, cup cot. cheese, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 10 cups baby spinach, 1/2 cup chopped parsley.

To do: Boil 4 qts water in large pot; add noodles & 1/2 teasp salt, cook till al dente, ( save 1/2 cup cooking water ); heat oil, gar, gar, bas, pep, 1/2 teasp salt in saucepan over med heat till sizzling ( 1 min ); add cottage cheese, parmesan cheese and broth to saucepan for 2-4 minutes till thickened; stir sauce into noodles. Add saved water if necessary. Stir in spinach till wilted, about 30 seconds; add parmesan, salt and pepper.

We may have a difficult time with green Xmas trees this year. The city is fussing that they can't go in the garbage. Nor can branches or unbagged yard waste. What to do? Temporarily you can use the trees as bird feeders but what the?

Oh, for heaven's sake—go sit in front of the fire with a cat or two ( or even a dog ), a glass of wine and watch Game of Thrones or read a book. It's winter!


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