For a few years, I thought bluebells were lovely spring flowers & welcomed them into our beds & borders. And no wonder:
Each stem bears a profusion of bellflowers.
The bells dangle & shift delicately in the breeze.
Deer ignore the blossoms.
Bluebells are just so darn pretty.
Great masses of them are even prettier. Have you seen the blue carpets of English woodlands in bloom?
In the Pacific Northwest, we have similar growing conditions to the UK. Bluebells grow just as well here but aren’t as welcome. (preference is for our native Camas.) It’s becoming more apparent to me how thuggish bluebells can be – overwhelming whatever they’re grown with, especially other bulbs – – like Camas. 😦
It’s a pity something so pretty can be such a bully.
This spring my challenge is to clear one bed of as much bluebell as possible. Here’s a “Before the dig” photo:
I do like the lush spring foliage of the bluebells, but can you see any of the perennials? Those plants are hidden from sunshine by masses of bluebell leaf.
A pitchfork worked well in the moist soil. Great clumps of bluebell came out. Apparently, bluebells don’t leave their survival to seed dispersal alone. Each bulb can produce offsets, forming dense clusters. Clever.
Check out how deep some bulbs were! The bluebells in this photo had only just reached the surface of the soil! That’s a loooong climb through darkness. Imagine how much energy the bulb had stored in order to grow that much stem in search of sunshine!! (If only we could harness that energy!)
Then… I started noticing how some of the shoots were creating replacement bulbs closer to the surface. Isn’t that clever, too? Another great survival strategy.
I wonder how deeply a bulb can be buried before it just cannot reach the soil surface & re-establish itself?
And THEN…. I noticed how some bulbs were sending out ‘runners’. This is certainly an effective way of increasing its distribution in the bed! These bluebells are determined to take over.
There were masses of new starts– baby plants, that likely grew from the seeds that fell last year. I tried my best to get them all. But just think about it — my digging has likely exposed more of the seed bank to the sunshine. More bluebells are about to sprout.
There’s no way I dug out ALL the bulbs. Many stems broke off, leaving the bulbs deep in the ground. Hopefully depriving the bulb of this year’s leaf will starve it enough that it won’t grow next year. What are the chances?
I’ll continue to pull any that I find this spring. For now, the bed is clear enough that the other plants have access to the sunshine & a chance to grow.
I guess we’ll have to wait until next spring to see how well the effort pays off…
Back in the 60’s Mom was a member of the Silver Valley Ladies Club.
These days a Ladies Club seems very old-fashioned. I’ve no idea what their official mandate was, but I figure it was equivalent to the currently popular Book Club: women gathering to socialize & complete projects.
One of the projects that Mom & her peers created was the 1967 Canadian Centennial Friendship Quilts. Actually, they nixed the outdated quilt idea and chose to make the trending bedspread instead.
Each bedspread consisted of 24 personally embroidered squares. For just one lady, it seemed a daunting task to embroider that many squares, much less sew them all together into a finished product. So what the club did was divide and conquer.
Each month the club gathered. Each member brought a square of embroidery she’d completed. Together there’d be enough squares to create a bedspread. It was sewn together & the finished product would inspire the excitement to do it all again the next month.
By the end of the year, every member of the club had a Friendship Bedspread. Pretty cool, eh?
Mom cherished hers – – so much so that she could barely bring herself to use it. I remember her stretching it out on the bed so I could check out each personalized square.
Mom had embroidered a rose on her square – – rose was her favorite scent.
Evelyn (+ Claude) Fox lived just south of us. They were one of the first young families to homestead in Silver Valley. They and Claude’s folks had filed claims in 1952. Building a farm from scratch was tough going. To make ends meet, the Fox brothers returned to Slave Lake for winters to work their sawmill.
That same year (’52) the Franks & the Frostads also worked their land.
Jessie (+ Aron) Derksen homesteaded in Silver Valley in the early years (’53). I wonder if Jessie was a founding member of the Ladies Club?
Helen + Jake Dyck filed for a homestead in 1953, shortly after my grandparents, Elsie + Joe Seekins. It took a year or two before they brought the whole family out. So started the ‘clans’.
Helen’s daughter Ruby wed Harry Fox, of the ‘Fox Brother’s Sawmills’. I recall babysitting Ruby’s son Tim and still tease him about that.
Jessie’s daughter Sharon wed Helen’s son Harry Dyck. Sharon had the best strawberry patch out of anyone I knew.
Tina + Dick Remple also claimed a homestead in Silver Valley in ’53. They lived a few miles northwest of us beside a steep coulee. That coulee made the most incredible tobogganing slope. I barely remember their older kids who hung out with my Uncle Rick. Tina + Dick also fostered siblings Corena, Nancy & Jerry Moses. They were great friends of ours.
Justine + Bill Remplemoved to the Valley at the same time as his brother Dick (+ Tina). They built homes within a mile of each other.
The Morrison contingent claimed land about a mile further on past the Remple’s. Astrid (+ John W.) Morrison helped out at their sons’ 3 homesteads.
Verna + Doug Morrison set up house in ’54 in what was basically a granary. Like many homesteads, the granaries were built first. Folks lived in them during summer, then moved to town each autumn, after the harvest. Once there was something more like a real house, families were able to stay on their land year round.
Aganetha + John Dyck accompanied Helen (+ Jake) Dyck on their adventure. In ’55 they moved to the Valley with 8 of their 11 kids. They were all hard workers but knew how to have fun along the way.
Aganetha’s daughter Mary wed Dick Fox, (of above-mentioned Fox Brothers Sawmill fame). Mary + Dick lived a few miles southeast from us. Mary’s daughter Kathy and I were in school together from kindergarten through grade twelve. Kathy still lives in the area. Last year, when Dad sold our farm, I was in the Valley at the same time as Mary’s celebration of life. I learned Mary favored roses, same as Mom.
Aganetha’s daughter Susie wed Dwayne Frostad. (Son of Myrtle & Earl, homesteading in ’52) The Frostads were one of my favorite neighbors to visit. Susie had 5 daughters, all fun kids. My brother Mitch was in the same grade as Bonnie Frostad. Once he named a new milk goat after Bonnie, intending it to be a great honor.
Aganetha’s daughter Helen wed Jessie’s son Gordon Derksen. Helen hosted the first telephone in Silver Valley. Folks would drop by if they had a desperate need to get in touch with the outside world. Helen was a great tailor. I chatted with her son Melvin last year. He’s still a Valley resident. He echoes Helen’s laugh & wicked sense of humor.
Ruby + Len Lofgren started breaking their land in ’57, then moved onto it in ’60. Ruby homeschooled her kids for a year. Then Len took the new job of school bus driver. He drove the Silver Valley kids, including my Uncle Rick & Aunt Star, to the Fourth Creek School. It wasn’t until ’65 that our local school opened.
Jantje + Dries van Norel emigrated from Holland to Silver Valley via Lethbridge. Her accent was so strong that I was never able to understand more than a few words of any comment she made. Her tone of voice was always kindly though.
Jantje’s daughter Betty + Corny Knoot set up their home across the yard from her. They farmed the land across from the original Lassiter Camp (the post-war, federal project that surveyed & made the cut-lines delineating land parcels.) That camp eventually became the home to the Silver Valley Community Hall, where the Ladies Club held their meetings.
In 1964 Betty Knoot started Alberta’s first chapter of the Girl Forest Guards. The group met up at the hall, eventually becoming co-ed as the Junior Forest Wardens. Many of my camping skills developed through that club.
Irene + Jim Hale were the first homesteaders in Silver Valley to successfully make a living raising bees. Their biggest challenge was all the bears. Most farmers kept some fields in clover to improve the soil. I was always thrilled when Hales rented a patch of our field for hives because they paid us in honey. So sweet.
Donna + Rolly Boucher came to Silver Valley in 1961 along with the Hales. Their kids were our age, too, so I enjoyed visiting, but my earliest memory was that Donna made the BEST cookies. Later on, she became a school bus driver, which I thought was pretty cool. Even cooler was that Donna was the first adult I knew to go back to school & graduate high school. Many homesteaders hadn’t the luxury to graduate high school, much less go to college. (My Dad followed her example years later)
Audrey + Bill Rehaume filed their land claim in ’62. Back in the day, roads were pretty bad. Sometimes Audrey arrived at Ladies Club meetings driving their trusty tractor.
Jean + Andy Scarrow decided to homestead after his sister, Audrey Rehaume, passed on the adventure bug. They settled on a parcel of land just north of my grandparents’ place. Our families used to visit & play cards. Neighbours played a lot of card games back then. Electricity hadn’t come to the Valley yet, so there was no zoning out for nights on end, watching TV.
Leona + Mason Ritchie won their homestead draw in 1963. Their land was half way between Ruby Fox and Helen Derksen’s. I remember Leona leading the 4 H Sewing Club when I was in my teens. She hired me for my first paid job outside of babysitting: picking rocks! Sometimes it seemed like young fields sprouted more rocks than anything else. Rocks were hard on the farm machinery, so we moved them out of the way.
Evelyn (+ Benny) Frank had one of the early homesteads but were ‘summer farmers ‘ until they moved the family out to the Valley full-time in ’65. Evelyn became our local hair stylist because she was confident enough to try more than the classic ‘bowl’ haircut.
Doreen + Marvin Peterson’s application for a homestead in Silver Valley was awarded in 1963. After the 3rd summer, they stayed on the land full-time.
To be honest, I don’t remember who Maggie Rinke was, even though she embroidered a square on Mom’s Centennial Friendship Bedspread. Something tells me she was related to the Rehaume’s… maybe. Silver Valley was such a small community, everybody knew everyone else. My memory is to blame for drawing a blank. I wasn’t even in kindergarten in ’67, so that’s my excuse.
Mom tucked her friendship treasure away, covering the bed with the old chenille bedspread that she wasn’t as worried about getting dirty or wearing out. I have vivid memories of laying on top of the bed staring at the rows of chenille & slowly pulling out tufts in a pattern creating road maps on the blanket. Mom knew what she was doing. Even then I was a creative child.
late breaking news, a friend has tracked down & shared the great cookie recipe 🙂
1 cup butter
1.5 cup brown sugar
4 cups rolled oats
2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
Melt butter, mix in all other ingredients, pour into pan and press flat. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then cut into squares while still warm.
“Danish Butter Cookies” is one of my favorite Christmas baking recipes*. I like to use it as a warm-up for some of the more serious baking.
1 cup butter 1 cup sugar 1 egg 2 cups flour
TIP: The key to this recipe is to have the ingredients at cool room temperature.
If the butter is straight out of the fridge, it’s too cold. BUT too warm isn’t good either.
Forget about microwaving the butter for just a few seconds to take the chill out. The result is lovely, smooth dough which mushes into a mess in the oven.
I’ve learned to keep my hands out of the dough for the same reason.
STEP ONE – Cut the butter into small pieces. Add the sugar. Mix well.
STEP TWO – Add the egg, beating until the mixture is light & fluffy.
More beating is better than less. When I think it’s enough, I do it some more just to be sure 🙂 Using the electric mixer is super easy, so I’m not exhausting my arm like I’d be using a spoon.
STEP THREE – Slowly blend in the flour.
Slowlybeing the trick to stop the flour from flying all over the room when the mixer paddles hit it. No need to over do it.
The dough should be firm & a bit crumbly. I usually feel like I’ve added too much flour, but this is the way it needs to be to go through the cookie press well.
STEP FOUR – Pre-heat the oven to 375 F.
STEP FIVE – Fill the cookie press with dough.
Yup, I’m tempted to use fingers to stuff it all in faster, but a spoon is best for keeping the dough cool.
Pack in as much cookie dough as possible, pushing out air pockets.
Screw on the top handle & click it a couple of times until the dough oozes through the cookie-form disc. Click once or twice more to prove it flows smoothly. Break off the excess & return that to the bowl for later use.
STEP SIX – Press cookies onto a ungreased cookie sheet.
One click –
The cookies will spread out only a little bit during baking so they can be arranged fairly close to each other on the pan.
It’s the quick flick of the wrist when shifting the press that breaks the dough cleanly between cookies. If the dough is too warm, it’s not as easy. When it’s all working, it’s like magic. It makes all that prep work worth it 🙂
If it’s just not working & I’m getting really ticked off, I take a zen moment & eat a little cookie dough. An easier option is to roll a teaspoon of dough into a ball with my hands & place on the cookie sheet.
Not as fun, but it works. Less angst.
STEP SEVEN – Bake in a 375 F oven for 8-10 minutes.
Yeah, that doesn’t seem like much time, but it works. I watch through the window until there’s just a hint of brown along the edges. The cookies at the very front of this pan are over-done.
STEP EIGHT – Cool the cookies on the pan for a few minutes to let them stiffen. Then shift them to a cooling rack.
Enjoy some yourself while they’re still warm 🙂
* I copied the original recipe into my cookbook so long ago that I really don’t remember who or where it came from. I can’t take credit for the list of ingredients, but I’ve embellished the instructions through many failures & successes.