Gardening Nightmares, Gathering Dreams

by Miche Genest

Last year’s grass is long, yellow and plentiful in our Whitehorse backyard, and the new green shoots are already showing underneath. It really is time to rake away the old and prepare for the new. But I’m getting ready for a trip overseas, there’s so much to do, and the inevitable looms — I will not get to the raking.

Every year it’s the same — we have great plans for the yard. We’ll build a food forest! Sow some grains! Cause passersby to stare in wonder at the glory of our garden!

And every year, I might manage, latterly, to stuff armfuls of old grass into the compost bucket, fill a few pots with edible flowers, and maybe cut down last year’s stalks of Artemesia tilesii in the otherwise empty garden boxes. Then it’s time for the trip to Scotland, or the long hike, or the paddling trip. And instead of staring in wonder, passersby shake their heads.

My husband offers words of comfort: “We’re not gardeners. We’re gatherers.”

Right. So, we’ll gather.

Those who are gardening-challenged can always gather…dandelion flowers!

By the time we get back from Scotland, the dandelions that have colonised the yard will be in flower, smiling brightly between leaves of grass. We’ll have dandelion fritters for dessert. The spruce tips will be young and green in the higher altitudes, and this year we’ll make a special day trip just for picking. I’ll make spruce tip and juniper butter, spread it on freshly baked bread and pile hot-smoked salmon on top.

And, you heard it here, I will roto-till the garden box outside the fence, dig in a whack of compost, and plant the rye I’ve ordered from Salt Spring Seeds. If all goes well, we could be gathering grain in the fall.

Gathering has to be my kind of gardening — for now.

Fresh spruce tips add a lemony note to spruce tip and juniper butter.

Spruce Tip and Juniper Butter

2 oz (56 gr) butter, softened

1 Tbsp (15 mL) fresh spruce tips, finely chopped

1 tsp (5 mL) juniper berries, crushed

1 Tbsp (15 mL) garlic scapes, finely chopped

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Spread on fresh bread and top with smoked salmon and sliced red onion.

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