Monday, February 9, 2009

Bag Lady Serves Dinner

I'm going to participate in VP's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner meme, but first I want to share some photos from a class I taught on Saturday at Project Grow, a local community gardening group. "Fun with Winter Seed Sowing" is my favorite class and I'm always excited to present it. This time, I also included a hands-on sowing session. This meant a little extra prep work sorting out supplies and tools (soil mix, plant labels, seeds, milk jugs, peat pots, spray bottles, pencils, spoons, scissors, and the handyman's secret weapon, duct tape). The night before class, I drilled about 250 holes into milk jugs (~10 holes each on 25 milk jugs) and pre-soaked some 75 peat pots (3 per person). Because we're really living the high life here at Garden Faerie's Musings, I can tell you.

Here's what Sandy looked like all loaded up. The trunk was full holding the milk jugs (big black plastic bag and two paper grocery bags) and visual aids (peach plastic bag).

The front passenger seat held the container of the moistened soil mix for the pots, while the floor held a bucket of dry soil mix (for topping the sown seeds), plus some extra soil mix just in case. (As an instructor, you learn to be prepared for contingencies!)

In the back seat you can see my wheeled three-drawer plastic cart which held supplies, another bucket of soil mix...

... and a huge bucket containing the pre-moistened peat pots.

I really wanted to take photos while people were sowing, but my attention ended up being needed to assist here and reassure there, demonstrate techniques, answer questions, engage in friendly banter, and "approve" the duct tape seals around the jugs.

People seemed excited about the idea of winter sowing in general and about their seeds in specific, so that was very gratifying. And on the way home it was so WARM (48F y'all!), I drove with the windows down!!!

And for those of you interested in my own winter-sown flats, I added two more the previous weekend during balmy temps of 42F! I only wore cotton pajamas and a fleece robe outside and I felt overly warm! The snow has melted off the earlier trays, but is still on the ground in the background.

Now, on to VP's meme. As usual, timing is not my strong suit. I believe my dinner should have taken place on February 7, but no matter. My table is set for February 9. And fear not. This slight delay just means reduced traffic congestion and slightly warmer temperatures.

And, I must stress, this shan't be a dinner as I'm not that great a cook. It will be more of an afternoon tea or Kaffee und Kuchen, similar to what I hosted in early December. In case anyone is a bit peckish for non-sweet treats, I'll also make hummus and triangle flatbread chips. (If those were the only food of mine you'd ever tasted, you would swear I were Martha Stewart!)

I would also use retro cool dishes, if I had a complete set, something along the lines of these (which I photographed in an antiques mall)!

Now, guests. Paul James is first and foremost. Not only does he know a lot about gardening, so it would be fun to have a good natter about plants, but he's also funny, practical, and irreverent, and he loves talking about food. (Hey! I said I don't like cooking, not that I don't like food!) I've sung his praises in an earlier post, so I won't babble on again.

Next, Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), a pioneer in garden design, and a woman who earned her own living at a time when that was unusual. She was also a writer, painter, and plant aficionado. I just know she would have a blog, if she were alive today. I'd like to find out more about how she grew up, and what compelled her in her work. And, I must pose an admittedly pointed question: what was her beef with the color fuchsia? You see, one of my favorite heirloom annuals, love lies bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus), went out of style in the early 1900s after Jekyll declared her distaste for fuchsia flowers and banned them from her own gardens. She was such a trend-setter, people followed her lead in their own gardens, and love lies bleeding fell out of fashion.

And finally, Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1986), a painter and lover of the natural world who captured the beauty of the landscape on canvas. Also an avid traveler and independent thinker, with whom I'm proud to share a birthday. I was unfamiliar with most of her work beyond the red poppies until I surreptitiously attended an exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum while visiting friends some 10 years ago. I loved her landscapes, especially the abstract. The "From the Lake" series is my favorite, though the scenes of Lake George also speak to me, as do the series of leaves and of cottonwoods. I'd love to talk to her about her travels, especially in the southwest, but also of her time in NYC and Chicago, and most of all, I want to talk to her about her own life journey. She is clearly someone who followed her own muse, and I admire her for it.

So cheers and guten Appetit!


  1. I will drive all night to come to this dinner with you and meet Paul James! One of my favorites for sure. I love the color of dishes you have. Remind me of a garden.

  2. P.S. Forgot to mention on your winter sowing class. I tried this once I read your instructions. Prior to that I have never heard of it. I will be eagerly awaiting the results. Thanks for the info.

  3. And I would come up from Atlanta if you could resurrect Gertrude! On second thought, why don't you and Gert come here? It's been in the high 60's today and the same forecasted for tomorrow! We definitely don't have Florida or California weather, but it is the perfect weather to light the firepit and eat dinner outside! Would I score any point with Jekyll that I'm not a big fuschia fan, either?

  4. When I saw your title, Monica, I thought we might be eating out of garbage cans; glad that's not the case, LOL. Coffee and kuchen sounds wonderful to me!

    I would love to come to this party, if for no other reason than to meet Paul James! I remember the earlier post you did about meeting him; I'm sure he would make this a lively party. I'm not familiar with Gertrude Jekyll, though I've seen her name on other guest lists, but I'd like to know, too, what's wrong with fuschia!

  5. Nom, Kaffee and Kuchen!! Haven't had that in some time - I sure do miss my friend Oleg who knows how to set out a spread like you do.

  6. This is a wonderful post and I would love to come to dinner. I couldn't help thinking that the only dirt that is seen in my car is from my shoes..Well..last summer, I tried a few things and at least got some container plants going. I never should have waited till the age of 50 to take an interest in gardening. I could have used a more youthful body to do the work...Michelle

  7. Monica, wish Rose and I could have taken that class! But I assure you we will pick your brain at SF. I am so impressed with how organized you are.

    I can really see your trays now that the snow has melted. Before it was a little difficult and it did look like a grill. :} Can't wait to see those sprouts coming up.

  8. Duh! I forgot to say anything about your party. I have always like Paul James and remember your great post about him. I think I have seen a program about Gertrude and I know I have seen her mention in gardening books. She would be interesting to talk to. I have always like Okeefe's work. So simple, yet capturing the beauty of nature. Great choices!

  9. I would love to meet Paul James so count me in for the dinner. Sounds like it will be a fun night and lots of laughs. ;)

  10. Oh I feel such an idiot. I really don't understand what you did with the milkbottles with holes in and the duct tape!


  11. I've come to you from Weaver of Grass, then through another! I, too, am an avid gardener. I have gardened since I was a child. I have gardened the garden of places I rented! It was wonderful when passers by remarked on a colourful show.
    Now we are in Ireland and have 5 acres. Difficult to get under control but we're getting there. My husband Jim and I visited Gertrude Jekyll's garden with the horticultural society. It was wonderful and I'd definitely agree to having her as a guest.

    Lovely blog.


  12. Is the Lake George the one in Australia? If so, I was there this time last year as my sister lives off 'Lake George Road'.

  13. Anyone who's prepared to feed me Kaffee und Kuchen is a friend for life ....when can I come?!

    I have loved Georgia O'Keefe's work for a long time and would adore to meet Gertrude wouldn't take me THAT long to get to you from the UK! - but bear in mind that I'd definately blag a lesson on winter sowing whilst I was with you!

  14. Dear Monica.....I am just starting to sow my seeds in the greenhouse. I have a heater in there so it gives them a good start.....
    I love the photos of your car full of all the necessary....I am glad I am not the only one who abuses their car....

    Jekyll is also one of my longtime favourites....lovely dinner party....I think you will have a lot of people popping over.....

  15. Wahhhhh I can't sow any seeds yet and seeing your post has made me want to do so, so much!

    So glad you invited Georgia O'Keefe - I'm having problems with my flower painting for my garden course and I'm sure she'd be handy for a few tips. I seem to remember a lot of fuchsia in some of her paintings though - do you think she'd hide that fact from Gertrude Jekyll or would they have a 'discussion' about it? ;)

    I don't know your other guest, but will have a bit of a google now you've introduced us.

    A great post Monica - I'm still chuckling over your preliminaries even though I can remember an equally stuffed car from when I used to do science days at schools!

    Thanks for taking part - now where's that kaffee und kuchen...

  16. Monica,

    ...and a good time was had by all and all day long. A good class and coffee and dessert (?) with a stellar guest list! Paul James makes me smile!


  17. You're living the life of Riley! ;-) And you must have been a girl scout at one time or other re the prepared thingy. ;-)

    Gertrude would be on my list too, I recently bought a book about her.

    Kaffee und Kuchen will do me fine and so will the hummus!

    BTW K&M museum is truly one of the very best, so glad you had the opportunity to visit it!

  18. Tina,
    Yes, Paul James rules! unfortunately, those aren't my dishes (though I have some similar casserole bowls), they were photographed in an antiques mall. If you have any questions about WS, let me know.

    I have these sneaky suspicions that Gertrude might in fact be a little, um, serious for the likes of me, but I'm taking my chances. Google love lies bleeding and get back to me about not liking fuchsia! :)

    I try to make my headings funny or intriguing, so I'll take it I succeeded! ;-) And I have been known to curbside shop (my perfectly fine Weber grill was procured in this manner), but I have yet to dumpster dive!

    Germans do know how to relax, which is really handy, frankly!

    It doesn't matter when you start gardening (I was in my 20s) old age and extra blubber tend to catch up with you. Sometimes it's hard for me to get up! My car, Sandy, has always been a "working gal" is has never been truly clean since I got her.

    Because I don't have any assistants, i *have* to be organized, or most of the stuff in my life wouldn't get done! I do like O'Keeffe's seemingly simple style, which conveys complex ideas and emotions.

    I'm definitely going to need to pull out both table extensions and rustle up some extra chairs as Paul sure is popular!

    No need to feel stupid--I really didn't explain winter seed sowing in detail because people would get tired of it as I mention it a lot. For details, look here and here.

    Thanks for stopping by. I hear Ireland is wonderful! Also, the Lake George in question is in New York state.

    Ah, "blag"--a new Britishism, hooray! (It's the same as natter, right?) Feel free to stop by any time.

    I've never had a greenhouse, so I envy you. I can see I'm going to have to find a lot more seating for this little party!

    You can SO sow seeds already if you winter sow! :) Apparently Gertrude was also a painter, but I suspect Georgia was a little more adventuresome.

    I do throw chocolate (Dove squares) when people answer my "quick quiz" questions correctly. I like to make sure people stay awake!

    Better than a Girl Scout (I did go to a few meetings as a child but I never officially became one), I'm GERMAN. Ve like to be organized, ja, mit everysing in its place und ve like to be ready fur anysing!


  19. You have obviously packed that car for such journeys before Monica :) It must take
    some strategic planning !

    Kaffee und Kuchen -now that sounds seriously delicious. I am not at all familiar with your guests with the exception of Gertrude Jekyll, but will have to find out more about the other two who sound most intriguing. I do like that painting - such vivid colours.

    I too think that Gertrude would have been a blogger, despite her very poor eyesight. She was a most determined woman !

  20. Hi Monica, well I am late to your late party, it seems so right! I don't know which sounds like more fun, the winter sowing class or the dinner, oops, lunchey thingey. Like Tina, Paul is a fave of mine too, from my home town of Tulsa, OK even. We would speak the same language.

  21. Zjess, I know that you are German and that they are frightingly efficient. ;-) I live next door to them, remember? ;-)

    But a girl scout and German? Now that's really scary. :-D

  22. Hi Anna,
    If you haven't found a link to Paul James (it's a common name and a TON of Google hits show up), here are links to his bio and TV show. I'm sure you'll be able to find info on Georgia O'Keeffe as long as you remember both Fs in her last name! :)

    Arriving late for a late dinner party seems quite appropriate. I've set an extra place setting for you, but you're going to have to fight Paul for the last piece of Stollen!

    I've been in Holland much more recently than I've been in Germany. I loved your country. As I'm from northern Germany, Holland looked very similar. :)

  23. LOL, the title sure caught my attention. I wish I could attend your class. Can't wait to see the results of your winter sown seeds.

  24. Hi Monica, I didn't get invited to any dinners but I'd be happy to be a fly on the wall:;0

    I probably don't have a lot of 'info' to share, but I could serve dessert or do some house-cleaning just so I could get a glimpse of Paul James...and, learn anything possible from you, and your distinguised guests.!

    Yesterday I read a post that was up, then I guess you took it down. It was about you leaving your job and venturing out with all of your other projects. I hope everything will work out just the way you'd like it to! (Sorry to leave this message, since you deleted the post, but I really thought the post was superb!)