Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Greetings


From Our House to Yours......Happy New Year!!




This photo was taken on a snowy evening, a couple weeks before Christmas, when we received a foot of snow in 24 hours! Much of it melted before the holidays, but enough was left on the ground to give us a white Christmas. It is snowing again now, as I write, with more snow in the forecast for the next several days. Tonight we are attending a New Year's Eve gathering with friends, but tomorrow I look forward to settling in next to the wood stove, and browsing the huge stack of gardening catalogs just waiting for me. It will be a day well spent.


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My best wishes to everyone for a great Year in 2010....and your best garden ever!




Monday, December 28, 2009

Dreaming of a Pink Christmas


Oh, this poor neglected blog! I have been so busy enjoying the delights of the season, that I have written nary a post in the month of December. So...to remedy that before the month slips away, I am posting a few photos of my Christmas tree and the vintage pink, aqua, and silver ornaments with which it is adorned.




The past 2 years I have chosen a Blue Spruce, from a local tree farm. I like it for it's lovely bluish hue, which nicely complements the pink, silver and aqua ornaments I hang on it. But the needles on these are very sharp, so you must exercise caution when trimming the tree! (Click on the photo to enlarge.)

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Shown in the photos below, are a few of the ornaments which I have been collecting for a number of years. I love the color and patina on these ornaments. The oxidation, crazing and loss of color simply adds to their vintage charm! :-)




































This last ornament, a vintage stenciled one in hot pink expresses my sincere (though somewhat belated) sentiment to all my readers....Merry Christmas to each and every one!



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Joy to the world...
the LORD is come.
Let earth receive her King!




Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Heirloom Squash Update


In my previous post, Squash Roundup I shared about growing two new heirloom squashes this year. At the time I made the post, we had yet to taste test these two varieties, and I promised to update you after we did.....so here goes!




The two varieties are Marina di Chioggia (green, on the left) and Australian Butter Squash. ( pale orange, on the right) I like how they looked here....displayed in the natural light near a window.






Marina di Chioggia, up close and personal. This is a good sized squash, and nice looking too, with it's dark green warty surface, along with a turban shaped bottom. Taste? In a word, disappointing. Lacked the sweetness we like and the texture was moist and fibrous.






Australian Butter Squash. The description of this squash in the seed catalog had my mouth watering! "Sweet, dense, deep orange flesh that is dry with a very small seed cavity. When roasted, it's custardy, silky-smooth texture is scrumptious instead of or alongside potatoes with roasted meat and fowl or in a melange of roasted root vegetables sparked with herbed olive oil, balsamic vinegar and citrus zest." Whew! It is a beauty with it's lovely pale buff-orange color and pumpkin shape. This was my largest...11 inches in diameter, and weighing in at almost 10 lbs! But in spite of it's physical virtues, the real test comes down to TASTE. Again.... a disappointment. :-( We like our squash sweet with smooth, dry flesh (which the catalog claimed) but found it not sweet enough, too moist, and not at all smooth textured.


Perhaps these two varieties will develop more flavor and dryness in storage. (one can hope?) But the bottom line is that they will not be making a repeat appearance in our garden next year. We will stick with our all time favorites: Sunshine, Butternut, Buttercup, and Sweet Meat. These have never disappointed, and are always a delicious treat!


UPDATE!! January 20, 2009 - After a couple months in storage, the flavor and texture of both of these squashes improved immensely! The texture is smoother and drier, and the the sweetness also developed, especially so in the Marina di Chioggia. So in all fairness, I must say that both turned out to be great tasting squash after all....they just needed a little more time to mature. They will probably make it back on the roster for next year! A good plan would be to eat the other varieties first, and save these for last.


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'Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure."


George E. Woodberry



Sunday, November 1, 2009

Farewell, Favorite Garden Shoes


It was a sad day in September when my favorite garden shoes came to the end of their long and useful life. I've owned these flip flops (we used to call them thongs back then) since the seventies! They came along with me when I packed up and moved to Idaho in 1978.



They sat in my closet for many years, and I started seriously wearing them around 1990. If you do the math.....that is nearly 20 years of use!! They were the cheap old firm rubber kind, having nylon straps with a piece of leather sewed unto it. I probably paid a dollar or two for them. I had worn them so long, they had actually formed to my feet....similar to a pair of expensive Birkenstocks. (Which, BTW, I also wear, and have been through several pairs while still wearing these flip flops!) These were soooo comfy to slip on, as I headed out to work in the garden on a summer day. As you can see in the above photo, the toe strap of the left shoe finally gave out, and just below it is the fatal wound that finally brought them to their end.





Look at the bottom of these shoes!! They are worn down to the third stripe of color, the light blue.... completely worn through the black and the medium blue color layers. Here you can see, from the bottom, the fatal wound.... caused by using the shovel while wearing said shoes, a move I now regret, as it shortened their lifespan by who knows how long?






A side view shows just how worn these babies were.... the layers were dinged up, separated and worn down. Not pretty, but as comfortable as an old friend. Farewell, favorite garden shoes....you will be missed!







Shown above are the 'new kids on the block'....a pair of Tevas I forked over 20 bucks for, to replace my old favorites. I chose the ones with a small blue stripe on the side, in memory of the the old pair. I could tell right away that these are not going to last long! They feel soft and mushy on the feet, and just make me miss my old ones all the more. Guess I'll head on over to Ebay where...maybe, just maybe...someone might be selling a pair of sweet vintage seventies flip flops, in black with blue stripes!



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Old friends are best. King James used to call for his old shoes; they were the easiest for his feet.

~John Seldon




Friday, October 23, 2009

Squash Round Up


I was pleased with the squash harvest this year! Anyone who has grown squash knows what a space hog it can be, and this has presented a problem in our moderately sized kitchen garden. So 2 years ago we added three squash rings at the edge of the raised bed garden where the vines can roam, and this spring we added a 15 x 30 foot square garden, dedicated mostly to winter and summer squash, with one row of tomatoes and a row of sunflowers along the back edge. (This has been dubbed 'Steve's Garden', since dear husband did most of the work in it, while I was laid up during the better part of the spring and summer with a frozen shoulder.)



Above photo showcasing this year's harvest. From the top: Dark green Marina de Chioggia (heirloom), Butternut (the largest one near bottom was 12 inches long!), Blue-green Sweetmeat, Orange Sunshine (hybrid), 2 Green Buttercup (only one vine of these came up), Pale orange Australian Butter Squash (heirloom - the largest of these was 10 inches in diameter.)

Buttercup, Butternut, Sweet Meat, and Sunshine varieties are favorites from years past. All have delicious sweet, dry flesh. It was our first year to grow the two heirloom varieties, and we have yet to cook one of them for a taste test.


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[This quote dedicated to my Dad, a North Dakota farmer.
Thank you, Dad.... for your example!]



"Our deep respect for the land and its harvest is the legacy of generations of farmers who put food on our tables, preserved our landscape, and inspired us with a powerful work ethic."

James H. Douglas





Friday, October 9, 2009

Frosted Flowers


Another gardening year is drawing to a close, with the arrival of a very early frost on September 30th. I ventured out into the frosty morn to grab a few photos of the icy beauty displayed on some of the flowers.





A pair of chilly yellow Cosmos.






A pot of Cherry & Ivory Swizzle Zinnias, started from seed. These were new for me this year, and I so enjoyed them! The frost just added another dimension to the happy red and white flowers.





Black-eyed Susan, with icy center cone.






Laura Bush Petunia, edged in frosty white. These have become a favorite of mine the past few years. They are prolific and hardy, a non-hybrid type with smaller flowers and a nice fragrance. I save the seeds each year.





Pink Cactus flowered Zinnia.






A yellow Calendula...hanging it's head in the cold.




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"By the breath of God, frost is given...."

Job 37:10




Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Beautiful Bells


It has been a good year for peppers in my kitchen garden. Today I harvested these bell peppers....in a rainbow assortment of colors. They are not only sweet and tasty, but pretty as well!





I grow several varieties each year, including Big Bertha, Peto Wonder, Super Heavyweight, Orange California Wonder, and Golden California Wonder.






They are in various stages of ripeness....some still green or with green streaks.







A portion of my pepper harvest is sliced and frozen, to be used in one of our favorite dishes....Fajitas! These will not only taste great in the winter, but their cheerful colors will be a sweet reminder of the summer garden.




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Gardening gives me fun and health and knowledge.
It gives me laughter and colour. It gives me pictures
of almost incredible beauty.

- John F. Kenyon



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Summer Memories


We were blessed last week with a visit from dear daughter and our two grandchildren. I just have to share this photo that my daughter took of three year old Annabelle, standing in the doorway of our house. In the foreground is a pot of Salmon-colored Alaska Nasturtiums, tucked under the porch to escape the summer heat and blooming anew...now that the nights are cooler.





Something about this picture just tugs at my heart. Maybe it's the lingering sweetness of an entire day Annabelle was able to spend with Nana. Or those bare feet...and the memory of her contagious laughter as she ran away when sprayed with the hose, as I was watering the flower garden. Or when we removed her wet dress, and she quietly sneaked herself into the five gallon bucket of water without me seeing, and my surprise at looking over and seeing only her head peeking out! Or her delight in eating one after another of my Super Sweet cherry tomatoes and mini bell peppers, fresh from the garden. Or maybe it's that bittersweet feeling one gets when summer is waning and you know these warm sweet summer days will soon be drawing to an end. I guess maybe it is all those feelings, and so many more that this photo evokes in me, and why it so squeezes this Grandma heart of mine.




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"Those gasps of astonishment, those shrieks of pleasure, those sighs of delight, lost long ago when your children grew wise and wordly ~ are suddenly given back to you by your grandchildren. What seems to be the same small hands clutch yours, dragging you from one excitement to another."

Author unknown




Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Roasted Tomatoes


This year I'm using a new method to preserve those extra tomatoes from the garden, which are plentiful this time of year. Since I no longer do canning, I had been just cutting up the tomatoes and freezing them in quart size bags. But since trying my first batch of roasted tomatoes, I am hooked on the intense flavors and the compact size of the finished product!

Here are the simple instructions.....





Put some Extra Virgin olive oil on the bottom of the pan, add sliced tomatoes in a single layer. Sprinkle with seasonings of your choice and more olive oil. I use oregano, basil, minced garlic and a little salt. (Dried herbs work well here, because they help absorb the juice from the tomatoes.) The recipe said to cook at 400 degrees, but since I used a glass pan I did them at 375 degrees. Cook for somewhere between 1 hr to 1 1/2 hrs. You will have to watch them towards the end, because when the juice cooks off they can burn easily, but you want them to caramelize and brown a bit.





This is one of my favorite black heirloom tomato, Nyagous, ready for roasting. They have a darkish red color with green shoulders....and the colors inside the tomato are even prettier! Since these are a fairly small tomato, I just quartered them. With larger tomatoes, I cut in chunks, and cherry tomatoes get halved. I'm always trying new tomato varieties, so this is a good way to use up those that don't quite live up to my taste standards, because even a mediocre tomato tastes great after it's been roasted.





Same tomatoes as above, after roasting. Can't you just smell that wonderful aroma? I did plenty of sampling as they came out of the oven. The intense, concentrated tomato flavor is comparable to those expensive sun dried tomatoes you can buy.





Two 11 x 16 pyrex pans yielded one quart of tasty product for the freezer. The roasted tomatoes can be used on pasta or meat, as a bread spread, salad dressing ingredient... or simply as a spoonful of fresh garden tomato taste in the dead of winter.

bon app├ętit!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wildflower Bouquet


This past weekend we pulled our camper up to our favorite camping spot, about 20 minutes upriver from our house. I am recovering from a frozen shoulder, so I spent the afternoons and evenings at camp, and then cheated by driving home to sleep in my own bed, which is far more comfortable, at this stage, than the camper. It felt so good to get out and enjoy a little bit of Summer, as Fall will shortly be nipping at our heels. When I arrived at camp, these flowers from Dear Husband were there to greet me. Hey, so who needs a dozen roses and FTD?




These are a special gift from my man....and they are beautiful to me.

(Shown here in front of a huge mossy rock at our campsite, which actually had ferns and a tiny fir tree growing out of it!)






Included in the bouquet: Indian Paintbrush, Bluebells, Wild Aster, Queen Anne's Lace, Verbascum, Goldenrod, and one Cat-tail......all in a lovely plastic water bottle vase. :-)



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"Every gift which is given, even though it be small, is in reality great,
if it is given with affection.”

Pindar ~ Greek Lyric Poet





Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Green Grasshopper




This lovely green grasshopper caught my eye in the garden this week, as it poised on a pink Hollyhock.


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The Grasshopper

by Conrad Aiken


Grasshopper

grasshopper

all day long

we hear your scraping

summer song

like

rusty

fiddles

in

the

grass

as through

the meadow

path

we pass

such funny legs

such funny feet

and how we wonder

what you eat

maybe a single blink of dew

sipped from a clover leaf would do

then high in air

once more you spring

to fall in grass again

and sing.



Friday, August 7, 2009

Hollyhocks in the Cottage Garden


There's not many flowers that represent the Cottage garden look to me more than Hollyhocks. They are a personal favorite of mine, because my Mother and Grandmother both grew them.






I love the color on this one....the closest to red I've seen on a Hollyhock.






I don't remember planting it in this spot, so it must be a volunteer. Volunteers are always welcomed in my garden. :-)





Echinacea 'Magnus' (which I did plant) is in the foreground of the Hollyhock, and makes for a pleasing combination, with it's reddish central cones echoing the red tones of the Hollyhock.







A wider view of this particular grouping of flowers includes pink Mallow, a white Hollyhock, and some volunteer Black Eyed Susans. Don't you just love how unplanned combinations can sometimes turn out to be the prettiest?




Wednesday, July 22, 2009

First Tomato of the Season


Last week brought our first ripe tomato in the garden. I am so behind on this blog, it is already old news, since I have picked several more since then!



The first ripe tomato this year was the heirloom Nyagous. It is in the 'Black' tomato category, as you can see by the darker shoulders, which have a greenish tint to them. It really is a beautiful tomato, hails from Russia, and the taste is wonderful! It must be picked while the shoulders are still green for proper firmness.






Here it is on a salad plate. You can better see the richness of the colors in this photo. It is a perfect salad size tomato and grows in clusters on the plant. Since picking this, I have also picked several full sized ripe Goliaths.



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In an earlier post entitled Tomato Trials I stated that I was sticking with the 'tried and true' this year. Well, that was my true intention....until I checked out a book from my local library called The Heirloom Tomato by Amy Goldman. If you haven't seen this book, it is a great read! Even if you only gaze at the beautiful photos of all sorts of heirloom tomatoes, it is well worth your time. After reading Amy's description of each tomato included in the book, I ended up adding several new heirloom varieties to my tomato line up again this year. Hey, a girl can change her mind... right? :-)


Currently growing in my garden are: Paul Robison, Juane Flamme, Green Zebra, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Purple Russian, Speckled Roman and Black Brandywine. (I only chose ones rated as having excellent flavor). I'm also trying a few heirloom cherry tomatoes......Black Cherry, Aunt Ruby's German Green Cherry, and Matt's Wild Cherry. So, stay tuned for a report later on in the year!



Saturday, July 4, 2009

Poppy - 'Falling in Love'


The last 2 years I have been trialing a new Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) from seed called Falling in Love from Park Seed Co. The description is as follows.... "a bright large-flowered mixture of semi- and fully doubles in shades of red, carmine, crimson, scarlet, and rose.....plus coral, pink, and white in solid and bi-colored forms. This Dutch introduction offers rich, watercolor shades hard to find elsewhere in the garden. Cupped and rounded, the 3 inch blooms look like silk, and arise very heavily on plants 9 to 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide."





Here is a nice group of fully double coral colored ones.






This bicolor pink semi-double is pretty and refreshing.





A close up of a rose colored double form.







A single stem of a red and white bicolor, blooming amidst the other flowers.






Same flower as above, photographed from below with the summer sky as a backdrop.
(This is my Red, White and Blue photo for this year. Happy Fourth of July to everyone!)




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My conclusion about Falling in Love poppies? For me, they didn't really live up to their lofty description. Although I find them pretty, I prefer the old fashioned single Shirley Poppies I have grown for many years, for several reasons. They are taller, bear more and larger blooms, which hold on the plant longer and bloom over a longer period. I love their translucent , delicate, papery petals that just have more of a cottage look to me.... and, as whole, make a greater impact in the flower garden. And the best thing about Shirley poppies? They self sow so freely, a trait that I am fond of... which these didn't seem to do.

Sounds like I will need to do a post dedicated to the Shirley Poppy someday. :-)