As I glance out the window and write this column, my world is awash in a sea of white. As a counterpoint to winter, seed catalogs are spread out across the dining room table. The colorful illustrations of tempting veggies and favorite flowers are a sharp contrast to all that white. Dishes made with frozen roasted pasta sauce and canned pears with cinnamon basil or fennel fronds are testament to the fact summer was once here and will come again. I am especially interested in this year’s Native Gardeners’ Companion catalog, with a physical store in Winona. Native plants draw the pollinators that make our fruit trees produce and fill our space with hummingbirds and butterflies. Our own garden club member, MJ, is featured in the latest issue.
Seed Savers is my favorite catalog. I am always drawn to the brightly colored zinnias and sunflowers in their collection, as well as their native plants. In my mind’s eye, I can see the monarchs, colorful against my red gift zinnias and goldfinches, feasting from the sunflowers last summer. A visit to Seed Savers, near Decorah, is well worth your time, as well. In summer, their Heritage Farm is alive with many of the varieties offered in their seed catalog.
Next to the promise of summer in seed catalogs, sits my Kindle. Listening to audio books downloaded from the SELCO library system is a pleasant way to spend a few winter hours. Lately, I have been listening to a book titled Elle and Coach: Diabetes, the Fight For My Daughters Life and The Dog Who Changed Everything, written by Stefany Shaheen, Elle’s mother and Mark Dagostino.
Barnes & Noble describes Elle and Coach as “The true story of a Type-A mom, struggling to take care of a daughter who has Type I diabetes and of the incredible service dog who changes their lives for the better. This book does a wonderful job of describing the life of a child with diabetes and how it affects her entire family. Her mother talks about the struggle to get Elle through each day, working with teachers and camp directors, waking her up each night at 1 a.m. to check her blood. Elle reads short parts of the book from her journal, telling of how hard it is to constantly prick her finger with a needle.
My husband has ordered a new device, made by Abbott, called a Freestyle Libra. It has a sensor about the size of a quarter. Each sensor has its own device that easily pops into his arm. He can scan the sensor with a small handheld monitor and the readout shows right away if his blood sugar is within the normal range. He originally learned about the device from YouTube. Online, he watched instructions on how to insert the sensor, and comments from people who were already using it. The sensors need to be changed every two weeks and the cost is reasonable, as it is not covered by insurance in this country. Lu says that it is great to not have to stick himself 10 to 12 times a day!
This book also describes some of the cutting edge research and devices now in use, and hopefully to be approved yet by the FDA, such as an artificial pancreas. Coach and Gilbert will not be replaced, because no matter how good the technology, service dogs will pick up on lows and highs when devices for some reason do not. And of course, there is always the matter of insurance paying for the new technology.
Gilbert has spent the winter napping, enjoying walks, and tasting dog treats with one of his favorite ingredients, peanut butter. Gilbert is a magnet in public. People stop by and admire him and share their dog stories. Children, especially, gather around him, enjoying his antics as he carries out commands, such as bowing down, circling right and left, and shaking hands. Of course, Gilbert always gets a treat for good-naturedly showing off!
Gilbert’s Dog Treats
1 cup flour
1 cup crushed corn flakes
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup peanut butter (Lu uses crunchy)
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup milk, or enough liquid so the mix holds together.
Chill for at least an hour, so not too sticky to roll out with baking. Cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes.