|Trout lily aka dog's tooth violet. Gorgeous flower, not sure which name is less ill-fitting. My favorite herald of spring.|
Friday, April 19, 2013
No one ever did call me a liar. Since my last post, I've sweat, planted, watered, dug, shovel-banged my shins about 4 times really hard, and spread mulch. Lots and lots of mulch. Though I have mother nature to thank for all the perennials below that have greeted me this spring, I have done a lot or work in my vegetable garden as well. Back again, under the grow lights, or already seeded in the beds RIGHT NOW are: peppers (ancho, cayenne, habanero, jalapeno, pepperoncini, yellow bells), tomatoes (Cherokee, hillbilly, Japanese black trifele, yellow grapes), tomatillo, edamame, seminole and sugar baby pumpkin, Charentais melon, black garbanzo beans, French filet beans, chard, asparagus, herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley, peppermint, rosemary), rhubarb, raspberry, strawberry, arugula, mizuna, radish, beets, carrots, lingonberry, and peas. The only thing not accounted for are the cornichon-type cukes - just because I forgot. And that pisses me off. But yes, I'm very pleased with all the work I've done thus far. I'm definitely turning around the years of neglect my gardens have felt. And now a visual of the perennials...
I snapped this photo just 4 days ago thinking I'd get to post them in time for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. I didn't get a chance too on the 15th, but now the hostas are all up!
So happy about this. This big old dying silver maple is gone, leaving a lovely view of the creeping phlox from my living room, more sun for my vegetable garden, and a throne for the kid. Below: blue anemone
Above: fox's grape Below: checkered lily
Above: hostas working their way through dried leaves always reminds me of babies cutting teeth. Below: euphorbia rudolph.
If there's one thing I can do really well, it's hellebores! But who can mess those up?
Above: the blue anemone in full bloom (not as lovely as when they're just opening I think). Below: great things in store with the peony, clematis, allium budding.
Above: fothergilla...ah, fothergilla. Is there any medium-sized shrub with great fall color that is more perfect? Below: one of my 5 lingonberries in bloom. Pretty flowers, tart and tasty fruit. Is there another small-space fruiting evergreen shrub more perfect than the lingonberry? No and no.
Posted by Wendy at 5:12 PM
Friday, January 18, 2013
They must have thought I was crazy at one point. Or a glutton for heat, mosquitoes, and blazing sun. Or looney for exiting the shed each night after dark, shovel in hand. What the hell was I digging all night long anyway? Or maybe they just thought I was obsessed. But I'm not the only one though, right? Hello, gardeners?
Something has happened to me though. In the past few years, my vegetable, shade, perennial, slope garden have all gone to crap. It's part laziness, and mostly trying to keep too many balls in the air. After discovering a passion for getting my hands dirty, came blogging about it, then writing about it for publications, then an even bigger project with all its related parts. But no more. This year I'm committed to getting back into the dirt. I'm going to dig and dig all night long starting in march. I'm going to buy a gallon of bug spray because I'm going to be out every day. I'm going to be out there taking extreme close ups of every freaking pollinating element in every freaking flower that blooms. Oh, and will they ever bloom. Because every two weeks, I'll be out there spraying with fish emulsion. I'm going to have my local high school deliver a gazillion bags of mulch. I'm going to turn that crank on my freaking compost tumbler every day. I'm going to do all kinds of soil tests. And I'm going to post pictures. Lots and lots of pictures of roots orange and white. Of fruits yellow and red. Of leaves green and purple. They will roll their eyes at me once again, and I will stand tall, sweating and dirty, with bug eggs in my hair, trowel in hand, thrilled about what I will create.
This year, one quarter of the potager will belong to my 8 year old who has decided to grow an all yellow garden. Yellow bell peppers, yellow carrots, yellow tomatoes, etc. (perhaps she's a little crazy too). Other new things I'm trying are black garbanzo beans, and a Seminole squash - a Florida native, just like my husband. Part of this renewed frenzy for the upcoming season comes from the seed catalogs coupled with the annual wintertime amnesia that always helps me to forget last year's failures. Today my seeds came in and one need only shake the little packet to feel its power to compel. But part of this energy is a renewed focus on what caused all the related distraction in the first place - the actual gardening.
This year, my mail man will once again hate me for my regular packages from Wayside and Bluestone. The inside of my house will again be neglected until November. My neighbors will once again think I'm crazy. And it will be awesome.
Posted by Wendy at 10:53 PM
Sunday, December 16, 2012
We're really into Christmas:
- I shop early so I can have as close to a full month as possible to feast in the holiday festivities.
- The radio is on Christmas music with Delilah 24/7 beginning the day after Thanksgiving. Ah...Karen Carpenter. Looooong agoooooo, and oh so faaaarrrr awayyyyyyyy...
- I sing the gospel Christmas songs in my car with the gusto of any church choir singer (at red lights, I've been known to shut my eyes and clap to the beat as well).
- There are numerous traditions we have created as a family: annual viewing of x-mas cartoons from the 70's, the Winter Lights Festival, each family member choosing a special ornament every year, everything related to the tree and special treats for Christmas.
- I would holepunch "believe" in a card tucked into the lunch of my older daughter (a la Polar Express), that she would happily clutch all day.
- There is great "Christmas magic" that my husband speaks of. The talk increases about Nana, my husband's mother whom we lost several years ago. Her angel sits on the top of the tree. Her embroidered drummer boy ornament hangs carefully in just the right spot on the tree. A black and white photo of her and her two sons by her own Christmas tree is dusted off and sits on the bookcase for the season.
- And then there's Santa... He always knows what my kids want. Last year, he knew my little one wanted a pink shirt that said "I heart music", and he found one for her. That's pretty miraculous and cool (and so are iron-on transfers from Michael's). He wraps their one special present with brown paper, and he always uses the same special lettering.
My older daughter is 14, and whole-heartedly believed in Santa until she was about 10! Now this is an intelligent, well-adjusted, outgoing kid. Street-smart and savvy as well, but yet, she truly believed in Santa and all the X-mas hoopla. If you're a parent that went full hog with the Christmas/Santa stuff like we did, you may have wondered exactly when enough is enough. I don't know if no one told her, or if they did and she just didn't believe them, but when your older child is helping you bake cookies for Santa, and you're discussing where you should leave the milk, part of you feels kind of deceitful and kind of guilty. Part of you feels sorry for promoting this whole thing and you wonder, gosh - is this harmful to make your pretty big kid think Santa has had several sips of milk and ate all his cookies? Then just before you get a chance to figure out how you can gently let her know it's all been a well-meaning, but elaborate trick, she finds the truth out for herself.
For my older daughter, it was really very, very devastating. Without being too melodramatic, it may just have been the end of her innocence. The year after she found out, she wanted little to do with Christmas. She refused to take a photo with the mall Santa. She was not interested in the tree. She watched, but was cool about the claymation shows that typically make us all tear up. She was either silent or sarcastic when we talked about Christmas magic with her little sister.
The following year, she stood as her sister bonded with the mall Santa, and I got a nice photo out of it, but there was no talk about the Christmas magic.
Fast forward to today. As a teenager, she is fully aware that there is no Santa. However, the kid once again loves Christmas. She opens the Christmas storage bins and carefully unwraps the ornaments from their well-worn paper towels, that she is equally careful with. She regales us with stories of each ornament she picked out. She seems to remembers exactly what she was thinking when she originally chose each ornament. She gets upset if we even entertain the idea of not following Nana's recipe for Santa's cookies. She looks forward to the special lettering on "Santa's" gift (and will be really happy when she finds the gift card to Urban Outfitters this year).
In the end, all the deceit that I felt perpetuating this Santa business was worth it. As a teenager (and hopefully as an adult), the image of the generous old Caucasian guy in a red suit is gone, but what remains is many lovely family traditions and the magic of Christmas. For all those concerned about allowing your kids to think Santa is real, I would say it is thoroughly worth it.
We take turns choosing a theme for the tree each year. It was my teenager's turn this year. Her rule was only glass ornaments, but each person could choose 1-2 ornaments that didn't fit the theme if he/she really wanted them there. I chose a cheap plastic Santa ornament that is hollow in the center. I think it was originally one of those M&M's tube toppers. Each year, I pluck a needle or two to place inside the ornament. The hole in the bottom is covered with tape. There are needles from the last...13 or so trees inside the cheapo plastic ornament. It's all about the traditions we create.
Posted by Wendy at 11:44 PM
Saturday, December 1, 2012
Kabocha is a perfect fall/winter pumpkin for cooking. The slightly sweet and nutty taste along with the smooth texture and dry water content makes it a great substitution for any recipe that calls for pumpkin.
Above: Kabocha (steamed and mashed) pecan waffles with maple syrup
Below: Irish oatmeal with sauteed kabocha, pecan, brown sugar, golden raisins and a drizzle of coconut milk. Holy yumminess!
Below: a savory curried kabocha and pork for dinner. Another favorite not pictured: a pureed soup of kabocha, sauteed leeks, ginger, some cream and parmesan.
Below: a beautiful and just-sweet-enough Sankaya, or Thai coconut custard. Recipe on Wai Sek - my Asian foods blog... and also soon to be published in Heirloom Gardener magazine.
How could you use this versatile Asian winter squash in your own recipes?
Posted by Wendy at 12:07 AM
Sunday, November 11, 2012
This root is most commonly known as Jerusalem artichoke or sun choke. Though it is not a plant native to China, it has been cultivated there for over 300 years now. Fittingly, the Chinese also call it "gwai geung", which is translated as "devil's (or "ghost's" - with devil or ghost meaning a foreigner) ginger". By the looks of the simple stir fried dish above, you can see how it might resemble ginger. To make this sort of nutty, sort of beany tasting side dish, scrub the roots very well, cut into pieces, and lightly stir fry in oil. Then, add about 1/4 cup water, stir, cover, and steam for another few minutes until crisp-tender. This dish is finished with some spring onions and sea salt.
Above: some little reject roots, too small to use. Below, the bases of the very tall stalks. To harvest Jerusalem artichokes, dig them up carefully as you need them anytime between fall and the middle of the cold season. These plants are very hardy and while a frost may damage leaves, roots are fine underground.
Sometime before the ground freezes hard, harvest all the roots and be sure to save some roots to replant for next year's crop. Replant roots immediately in rows about 1 foot apart. Jerusalem artichoke plants spread. Spring brings new growth and summer brings cheery yellow/orange flowers. A beautiful and tasty plant!
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Have you ever seen such a thing?! This is a winter melon, aka wax gourd, next to a full-size basketball!! The wax coating will help keep this melon fresh for months. Winter melon is mild and really juicy - perfect for adding to a light and tasty soup. White inside, once it's cooked, the winter melon takes on a beautiful translucency and the flavor of whatever it is cooked in. This is the melon that banquet chefs will carve in a bas-relief fashion, pour soup into and steam whole for a pretty darn showy presentation. Honestly though, I'm not sure what kind of steamer this particular winter melon could be cooked in!
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Scamp is still alive and kicking after last year's ordeal with rupturing a disk and requiring the $7,000 surgery. It was such a melodramatic, emotional, stressful time if you recall!!!
The vet thinks this good ole boy is oooold. But probably not yet 9. Kind of a sucky deal since the rescue said he was 3!!! I don't think it was intentional though because they have labeled other dogs old - even the younger-looking ones. Either way, we adore this supersweet, gentle, adorable old guy. We have just celebrated his first year being a member of our family. He enjoyed the birthday party planned for him by my 7 year old.