Monthly Colorado Gardening Chores

I have a love/hate relationship with monthly Colorado gardening chores. There are days when I’m out there sweating and grunting and thinking, “Why do I do this?” Then other days I love the hard work. I always love planting seeds and pruning and harvesting. But I don’t always love hauling dirt, mowing or turning over hard clay soil. But, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Garden tools in wheelbarrow

This is a new page for Colorado Backyard Gardener. Over the next year I will add to it, making suggestions and adding the ones you give me to this month-to-month chore guide. It will be particular to Colorado, what chores us Front Range gardeners typically do in any given month.

As I add to this page, I will work to keep it arranged and organized in a manner that is accessible to my readers.

Gluten Free Peach Almond Crisp

Gluten free peach almond crisp is a must in our family. Why? We love peaches and we freeze peaches and we love anything crisp. Oh, and I ADORE almonds. When you make this recipe, feel free to choose your own word: crisp, crunch, cobbler. Whatever! I just like a TON of the topping. So my recipe errs on this side, the side that has more calories. Sorry. But if it matters, this recipe is gluten-free! And even if you aren’t gluten-free you will still want to make it this way. Trust me. (I say trust me a lot.)

My daughter and her husband are coming to visit for Thanksgiving. She is gluten-free so we have been learning the art of baking and cooking without gluten in the Flanders family. (She doesn’t like it when I announce to people that she is gluten-free. Sorry Jenna.)

I decided to create a recipe using the gluten-free flours I already have on hand, trying it out again on a student of mine who is coming over for dinner. Both he and his wife are gluten-free. I often use my students as guinea pigs because students are hungry. Thus, they forgive me easily even if my recipe is horrible. But this recipe is WONDERFUL because 

Signs of God

You see signs of God not abandoning the world in Jean Vanier’s L’Arche movement.

You see signs of God not abandoning the world in the catholic worker.

You see signs of God not abandoning the world in Martin Luther King.

You see signs of God not abandoning the world in the everyday work of Christians which are not in any way calling attention to themselves, in the family who cares for the child who will never be a success…in the people who think they have all the time in the world to teach children who have trouble learning how to read.

Our world is filled with God’s presence through people who do the small things, the neighborly things that help us discover what God’s peace looks like.


Excerpt from video: What is a “Christian?” Stanley Hauerwas reluctantly defines Christianity and talks about the signs of a baptized life and identity. – TheWorkOfThePeople.Com

Dormant Wood and Mentoring

There is a lot we can learn about mentoring from observing the dormant wood on a clematis vine. Mentors grow weary. Yes, I am afraid it is true. So do teachers, pastors, CEOs and parents. There are days when we all find ourselves on the verge of losing heart. Coming alongside the people God gives is a call to be a servant. And last time I heard, being a servant is hard work. That is why I am drawn to my backyard garden. It is there I often discover rich metaphors that help me better navigate the call to love and serve others so that they and I might become more fully human.*

One of my clematis vines grows a community of beautiful purple flowers in June. The vine itself is over six years old. At the end of each season many gardeners cut their clematis vine to the ground, which for some varieties is a mistake. It took many years of my studying this particular vine to know about its way. For the first two years I cut it to the ground at the end of each summer. For certain, new shoots would emerge from the soil the following spring, but the growth was not cumulative nor was it prolific.

This is me and that vine after I learned to NOT cut it to the ground. This was in 2007, the year my sister died from cancer/suicide. This plant reminded me that I can still hope in the midst of grief and death.

Yet, this particular clematis is of a variety that requires that the gardener allow the vine to go dormant and the old wood to cling to the fence over the winter months. Come spring, when the weather warms, new growth will emerge from the dormant wood of last year’s vine. Through trial and error, I learned that my vine preferred to be left intact; desired that its old wood be understood and experienced for its life. So I stopped cutting it back. I allowed the vine to be as it wanted over the winter months. And in the spring it brought forth branches and blooms in ways I would have never imagined.

My most treasured verse in scripture comes from the book of

This fall I’ve been working to save seeds to share with my Colorado Backyard Gardener friends. Why? Seeds make me hope. Thus I suspect that by sharing my seeds I might plant some hope.  It’s that simple.

Seed Packet Wall Art

I love seed packets and I decided to make some seed packet wall art out of my favorites. I am not the best at being crafty. So I purchased two already made memory boards from Hobby Lobby. Apparently these boards are easy to make. But I’d rather it be easier than easy. When we became empty nesters I turned one of our bedrooms into a garden room using my mother’s prized bed. This bed was very hard for her to not have when she moved into assisted living. So I turned this room into a place where she could nap on the days she is with me. Here are a few pictures of the very simple room, including the seed packet wall art.  Enjoy!

Who doesn’t like something that is free? The Denver Botanic Gardens has free days throughout the year. I highly recommend taking advantage of this. Just meandering around there is a great way to get some gardening ideas or just a great way to stare at beauty and nurture hope. And if you have never visited the Denver Botanic Gardens you may want to check it out on November 8th. Why?

It will be the last time that you can see the Chihuly exhibit for free! I have been four times to this exhibit and each time I see something new. I just love it. There are unusual glass sculptures all over the gardens. It will be beautiful in November, even when all the other plants in the gardens are dying off. Trust me.

And do keep in mind that while all gardens are to be enjoyed, don’t let the grandiosity of this one spoil the enjoyment of your own pots and dirt and growing things. I have to keep that in check myself!

Date: November 8, 2014
Event: Denver Botanic Gardens Free Day
Sponsor: Denver Botanic Gardens
Venue: Denver Botanic Gardens
(720) 865-3501
Location: 1007 York St,
Denver, Colorado 80206
Public: Public

When Life Is Hard

We all have days when life is hard. These can be normal ordinary days when we have simply too much or too many: too much laundry, too many children vomiting, too many emails to return. I might have too much weight to lose or too many friends to please. It can get more serious than this when I have too much grief to bear to or too many lonely nights to face. But in all cases big and small, too much is just…well…it’s just too much! And too many is the same — too many.

On this Alzheimer’s journey, I have my days where it all feels too much, when life is hard. Lately I’ve noticed Mom is wearing the same clothes every day, rarely changing them unless she is prompted. Showers on her own initiative are fewer and farther between. And just a few weeks past, for the first time EVER, she forgot my name. Her forgetting only lasted about five minutes. But it was the longest five minutes of this journey thus far. I hate this so much. The ambiguous grief feels too much.

Is there something that feels too much for you? I think we need to give ourselves permission and admit that life can sometimes just really be hard!



Stop and notice I am not saying BUT.  I am saying AND.

And, according to my mother, when something is hard I don’t always have to “take it like that.” In other words, sometimes I make it harder than it needs to be at the moment. In the following conversation, my mother taught me that it is sometimes VERY APPROPRIATE to not take life so hard when life is hard. She didn’t know it at the time and neither did I, but in this dialogue, she tells me how to live well during these days/years of Alzheimer’s. Read this endearing post written by my mother over a year ago, transcribed by me.

Bacon Wrapped Apricots With Sage

When I invited my friend Priscilla to share a quick and easy appetizer recipe for this blog she sent to me one of her favorites: Bacon Wrapped Apricots With Sage.

She wrote, “People literally close their eyes and drool when they bite into these.”  I had two thoughts about her statement: (1) bacon is so good that of course this recipe makes people drool, and (2) Priscilla is the kind of person who is able to settle people, making them feel welcomed and at home in her home. They are so much at ease that they are willing to drool in front of her!! This is like