First off, Merriam-Webster set me straight. Again. The plural of cactus is — are you ready? — cactuses, cacti and yes, cactus.

It was approaching Christmas, in the late 1970s. I had just returned to my homeport of Seattle after a 3-month voyage aboard a research ship. I lived aboard the vessel, but for the holidays, I wanted a break from steel bulkheads. But where to go? 

A few years back, we hosted The Dinner. So, it was my job to make gravy. Easy-peasy. I’d made enough gravy in my life to fill a hundred gravy boats. (Google “gravy boat”).

When I go to the grocery store, what do I get? Food? Well, yes. And questions. This last week, I was corralled in the coffee and tea aisle with a couple good ones. So let’s dive in, shall we?

As we enter the holiday season, when each calorie seems to double when you’re not looking, cooking takes center stage. I can only speak for myself, but it seems that, in the fall, I chop, dice, shred, and grate more than usual. Maybe it just seems like that because I’m spending more time indoors.

My food dehydrator has been working overtime lately. Today, it’s tomatoes and bananas. Kale is next. As I researched how to dry kale, however, I cam across and article that listed kale as one of the most contaminated foods in the United States. How can that be?

 October is a buy time in the garden. So today I want to cover two topics: harvesting potatoes and overwintering potted plants.

What do red bell peppers, broccoli, and papayas have in common? They’re uber sources of vitamin C. But there’s another source of vitamin C. Here’s a hint: It’s located right at our doorstep.

My artist-friend Kate hopped over to the island last week for a visit. She was in search of old fishing floats, on which she paints nautical scenes, blending starfish, octopuses, seaweed and other ocean subjects with watercolors. By the end of her stay however, Kate was complaining of a mild…

Fall is in the air. The signs are all around us: Puffins have departed for the open ocean, salmon fishermen are hanging up their gear, the top of Barometer is topped with gold, and I haven’t seen a bumblebee since September 10th. 

 Winston Churchill once said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

Ah, September in Kodiak. There is so much going on: School and salmon, bumblebees mating (I cover that at the end), house cleaning (catching up after our stretch of sunny weather), harvesting and sowing. 

During a normal Kodiak summer, our Emerald Isle is a refuge for travelers escaping the heat of Texas, Florida, Iowa and the like. But when Kodiak tied the all-time record of 86 degrees F. last week, even our B&B guests requested fans to cool down their rooms.

There’s a saying that we can live four weeks without food, four days without water, and four minutes without air. Today I’d like to talk about water, or the lack of it, and how it affects plants.

In 2017 we spent a month in southeast Australia. One weekend, we drove from Melbourne south to the Mornington Peninsula, home to historic Heronswood Gardens. The grounds are world-famous, for its Fork to Fork restaurant, and for its status as the first public garden in Australia to be certif…

Clock time is a human invention. Unlike natural time, like the rotation of the earth and a leaf flowing down a river. Still, it’s August and we can’t help but notice that the sun rises and sets on a different notch in the trees now, compared to June. During August, we will lose 2.3 hours of …

KODIAK — Do you remember the song “Edelweiss” from the “The Sound of Music?” Written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, “Edelweiss” turned out to be one of the most beloved songs in the musical.

KODIAK - This time of year, you can see them standing alongside our roads. Out-of-towners gesturing and aiming their smartphones over fences and at sides of buildings. Listen carefully and you might hear comments that go something like this:

KODIAK — The skiff dropped us off at the mouth of an un-named creek. The same creek we’d visited the day before and spent hours photographing a beautiful, light chocolate female bear. The afternoon was overcast, just right for photographing bears. Brad Josephs, our guide for the next few day…

KODIAK — Orange hawkweed is not just a pretty flower. It’s terrorizing home gardens and wild spaces from Alberta and Alaska to Oregon and Australia. 

KODIAK — Marty picked rhubarb the other day and carried the tote full of trimmed stalks to the front door. “The plants are really healthy and big this year,” he said jubilantly. “But so are the slugs.”

KODIAK — I stood on the lawn near the compost bins and faced a group of summer school students. They were on a field trip from Main Elementary School to learn what makes good garden soil.

KODIAK — Michael Jordan knows a thing or two about winning and losing. “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career,” he says. “I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And…

KODIAK — Most folks know rhododendrons as big, leathery-leafed shrubs with rounded clusters (called trusses) of stunning white, yellow, pink, red or purple blossoms. But there are also dwarfs a few inches high, such as our dark pink Kamchatka Rhododendron, which thrives on rocky alpine areas…

KODIAK — Bedding plants are making a colorful splash at local retailers. That, plus the appearance of salmonberry blossoms and longer days, signals the beginning of the gardening season. Before you transplant those tender seedlings outside though, remember this: While you might enjoy a warm,…

KODIAK — Don’t you just love wiggling your toes in soft, green grass? Me, too — until the day I went to a park and watched some kids playing Frisbee. They leaped high to snatch the Frisbee and then touched down on the grass. Barefoot. I cringed because I knew the lawn had been treated with c…

KODIAK — It feels odd to be writing about snow in April. After all, it is spring, verified by the fact that we are now experiencing 15 hours of daylight. I guess that means that any snow will melt more quickly, right? 

KODIAK — Forcing plants in late winter is a fun way to get a head start on colorful flowers and fresh veggies. Forcing involves producing crops out of season through replicating the conditions necessary for plant growth. You might recall my description of forcing a poinsettia in a dark close…

KODIAK — Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the US. Played with a wiffleball on a court half the size of a tennis court, it’s popular with paddles owners from ages 6 to 100. That includes me. So I was pleased when, during a recent stopover in Tucson, Arizona, a friend invited…

KODIAK — Last fall, I came across a wonderful definition of food: “God’s love made edible.” I must have taken it to heart because I vowed to grow more food, not for us, but for pollinators such as bumblebees and hover flies. Food as in flowers, specifically crocuses, primroses and orange, ye…

KODIAK — I’ve had the pleasure to read, or should I say, listen to Michelle Obama’s new book, “Becoming.” It’s a delightful insight into the life of the former First Lady. I especially enjoyed learning the story behind her keen interest in children’s health and gardening. 

KODIAK — I was in the grocery store the other day to grab some almond milk and zucchini. An acquaintance came up to me and asked, “Is it too early to start tomatoes?” We chatted a bit and parted ways. Later, while in line at the post office, another gardening question came up. When I returne…

KODIAK — Between 1750 and 1850, dedicated plant hunters fanned out across the world looking for plants they could sell. They found wondrous new species by the score. It was a risky business, fraught with dangers. If it wasn’t malaria or yellow fever, one could succumb to starvation or get tr…

KODIAK — It’s nearly March. Can you smell spring? We’re almost there, folks. There is still a smidgeon of winter left and as the saying goes, it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness. To put in another way, it’s better to plant flowers than curse the weather.

KODIAK — February 18 is President’s Day. Makes me ponder about Thomas Jefferson’s gardens at Monticello. Thomas Jefferson wasn’t just a gardener extraordinaire, he honestly liked to eat vegetables which, he said, “constitute my principal diet.” His role in linking garden and kitchen into a t…

KODIAK — In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blacklisted romaine lettuce several times. The culprit: E. coli outbreaks. The last alert advised consumers and all food service establishments to stop buying romaine immediately and to throw away any remaining lettuce, even if…

KODIAK — Welcome to January. Folks that live Up North understand things like slipping on cleats to go for a walk, passing up tired, grocery store salad greens and pouring over seed catalogs. It’s too early for spring bulbs to sprout, though you’ve considered placing binoculars on the window …

KODIAK — One morning last week, I stepped outside onto the front deck to take a few pictures of a dirty window because the cold left frosty, fern-like shapes all over the glass panels that encircle the deck. And, I was loving the pink clouds. I’m trying to do what feels right. What are you u…