Welcome reader to my blog - a mixture of this and that. Now that we are living in a retirement community in downtown Columbia, MD my personal gardening activities are somewhat curtailed. I still enjoy visiting gardens, reading, watching wildlife on my walks, traveling, and occasional food commentary. Please leave a comment if you feel inspired to do so. I read every one of them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

December Hiatus

Since I've been MIA in recent weeks I think it's best that I take a December hiatus.  Look for me to return in January.  Why?  Too many other things to do. Plus there's not much happening in the garden, the birds are happy, and though I'm reading I don't feel like commenting on them right now.

Enjoy the holidays with your family and friends.  I know I will especially because it will be the first Christmas in three years that Sarah will be home.  Now that's something to celebrate.

Hope you have something to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving!

Merry Christmas!

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Harvest Monday



One night last week after reading about Daphne's greens I harvested some tatsoi and some baby bok choy for dinner.
 Daphne described making soup with the tatsoi by using bouillon.
 I used beef bouillon and added some soy sauce.  I sliced up the tatsoi and
 divided it between two bowls.  I poured the hot bouillon over the tatosi, sprinkled on a bit of grated fresh ginger, green onions sliced and topped it with some chow mein noodles.
 We ate the soup before I thought to photograph it.  Sorry. It was really good.
The bok choy went into the stir fry.

See what others have harvested at Daphne's Dandelions.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Looking for a Good Read

I am very particular about the books I read.  Bottom line: they have to be good. But good for me may not be good for you.  A good read for me is usually an historical fiction that is believable.  Case in point and one of the best: "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society".  That is one of my all time favorites and I have read it twice already and will likely read it again. 

I do enjoy a mystery now and again and if it's also historical fiction, even better.  A recent example of such is The Conjurer's Bird".  That one had me spellbound and I didn't figure it out ahead of time.  Another one that can fall into the mystery category is a series by Alexander McCall Smith featuring a lady detective in Botswana.  I've read those twice now and thoroughly enjoy them all.

I also pick up non-fiction titles from time to time.  The last one I read was about Warren Jeffs of polygamy fame and presently serving prison time for the rest of his life.  The book "Prophet's Prey" was a look into the life of the Mormon cult he led and his capture and trial.

I've just returned from the library but with none of the books I went looking for.  I keep a running list of books I hear about from friends and from interviews on NPR.  I should just go online to the library to request these titles and will do that next time.  I did come home with three unknowns:  "The Sheen of Silk" by Anne Perry (a mystery with historical bent), "Mutiny" by John Boyle (historical fiction), and "Love on the Line" (not sure what category).  Don't know which one I'll read first but I won't finish "White Oleander" that someone gave me.  I was desperate for a book and started that one but got only so far before deciding this was not for me.

What books are you reading?  Any good reads lately?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Addendum To Thursday's Post

The chicken chili was so good last night.  I didn't need to add any additional salt.  I froze a good portion of it to thaw at holiday time for lunch when there are more people here to serve and kept  4 cups to have for lunch tomorrow and next week.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

White Chicken Chili

I made up this recipe after a friend shared hers with me.  For today's post I've modified it to use vegetables from my garden preserved by freezing.

Ingredients:
Chicken - I had the leftovers from cooking a whole chicken in the crock pot on Monday.
Canned cannelli beans - I used two cans drained.
Cream of Chicken soup - 1 can
Frozen zucchini
Frozen green peppers
Onion chopped
Chilis - 1 small can
4 cups chicken broth plus broth left from the crock pot
Spices: cumin, garlic powder, worchestershire sauce.
I will add salt once I taste it since the chicken had been salted already.

 Onions, zucchini, peppers visible in the broth into which cream soup has been added.  The brown circle is the congealed broth leftover from cooking the chicken with the fat skimmed off.

I put all of this in the crock pot on high since its already 2 pm and I hope its done by 6 pm tonight.  I'll add an addendum once its done.

Everything in the crock pot before its stirred.  As the zucchinis thawed I was able to chop them up.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The State of the Garden After Frost


 The garden has a different look these days.  Instead of flowers the interest points are seed pods and the promise of growth in the Spring.  These ferns have the most interesting formations left after their leaves have dried up and almost disappeared.
 The hibiscus leaves behind an interesting pod.  I wonder where the seeds will show up next spring?



 The Autumn Joy sedum has turned a muted burgundy.  I took cuttings of this lovely plant and stuck them in new spots.  I hope they reward me next year for my efforts.
 Even the obedient plant has pods and next year there will be more plants.
 The foxglove's new seedlings are bright green among the brown leaves.  I left them where they seeded themselves for now.  Next spring I'll have to decide if they need to be moved to other locations.
 The frost took care of the marigolds.  I saved seeds from these for next year.  They worked so well in the vegetable garden and as filler in the perennial garden this fall.
 The mums are going fast.  I hope they survive another winter.


 The greenest part of the perennial garden is the herb triangle.  Most of these will be green through the winter.  The sage is great to have for turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
 I hope the rosemary lasts.  This was a new planting this year.
 This compost bin is full as is the one by the vegetable garden.  It won't be long before I can shovel out from the bottom to nourish the beds.
 In the vegetable garden the garlic is up,
 there are some lettuce leaves to be cut,

 the bok choy is growing slowly but I plan to wait for Sarah's arrival home from China so she can prepare it for us along with
 the tatsoi, another Asian green.
 The shadows are long through the trees mid-day.  The sun is low in the sky in the south and will get lower for 6 more weeks.
Time for the gardens to sleep and dream of the next spring.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard

I raided the freezer to make a pasta sauce this week.  I pulled out frozen red peppers, frozen zucchini and a bag of frozen tomatoes.



 First I sauteed an onion in olive oil, then added the frozen vegetables.
 I cooked down the vegetables until they softened.
 I added pepper flakes, salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons of molasses.
 For a change from basil I added fresh oregano.
 Once everything was cooked down I used the stick blender to puree it all.  I left some lumps.
 It was a spicy sauce for angel hair pasta.

See other recipes at Robin's Gardener of Eden.



Monday, October 31, 2011

Minimal Harvest

I haven't posted on the harvest because there have been none.  But Sunday I picked these two kinds of green leaf lettuces for salad for dinner.  There's not much else out there because the spinach which is usually a prolific fall crop has done nothing.  There are some small bok choy plants that may be usable once they get bigger if they can do that with the light failing and temps falling.


See what other gardeners have harvested this fall week at Daphne's Dandelions.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind (sans camera)

Sometimes you just have to be satisfied with seeing something and not sticking up a camera to capture the scene for all to see later.  That happened to me yesterday on four different occasions.

No. 1
At breakfast there was a thump at the window and I looked up just in time to see a bird fly back to the beech tree and sit there stunned.  Now I have decals on my south facing windows that are supposed to warn the birds of the clear barrier between them and me but they don't work as well as they should.  Last week it was a nuthatch but it didn't make it off the deck where it flopped after hitting the glass.  I had to toss it into the woods the next day.  For awhile I kept a tally of the birds that have hit the windows and it includes a falcon and a cedar wax wing.  But I digress.

Yesterday, the bird survived and I realized that no wonder it had hit the glass.  It was a new comer or should I say returning resident who spends its summers in cooler climates and only deigns to join us here in Maryland when the weather at its summer house gets too cool.  Yes, if you figured it out: the juncoes have returned.  The one in the beech tree sat there a bit and then was joined by another and together they flew off.  I didn't see them again yesterday so maybe they decided to move farther south but I know the ones that choose to stay here will be here soon because after all snow is on the way. Oh, wait not just on the way, on the ground.  We got a dusting this morning! 

No. 2
I had a pile of mulch leftover from some new beds that landscapers made for me.  I ordered the mulch and got too much.  I knew snow was on the way and I was bound and determined not to have that pile be there for that weather event (or I wouldn't hear the end of it from Dan!)  I managed to get several loads moved on Wednesday until it rained.  So yesterday was the afternoon to get the rest moved.

I heard them before I saw them.  They were in the woods to the east and it was quite a din even from a distance but I didn't know what they were.  I went back to spreading mulch, but the din of chirps and cheeps almost a clattering sound of silverware landing in the drawer grew louder still and I looked up to see the black shapes flitting from tree to tree then gathering into a cloud swirling around settling into another set of trees.  Individual birds didn't stay put for long and flitted from one branch to another.  They weren't eating.  Then they went silent and took to the air and settled again in a group of trees and the din would start softly and gain strength.

No camera, no binoculars but my guess is they were grackles.  They never crossed the pipeline easement which runs east and west on the north edge of our property and along our driveway at its steepest part, so I never saw them closely, but they had the shape and color of grackles.  I have seen those long masses of birds flying together so maybe this was the beginning of such a mass.  A gathering of the species as they moved through the woods. The strangest part of all this was the instantaneous silence. Who was the conductor cutting off their sound?

No. 3
Yesterday was also a day to put away hoses and pots and the shed is the repository for those things over the winter.  I pulled out the snow shovels while I was at it and brought them to the garage.  Best be prepared.  As I approached the shed there was a flash of blue.  Aww - the bluebirds.  And not just one, or two but three.  They did nest in one of my boxes this spring and summer, but they disappeared for a time and now every once in awhile I get to see them again.  They stayed on the top of the shed roof until almost the moment I reached the door.  They are so much braver than other birds on my approach.  I guess that's something to do with their comfort zone.

No. 4
Inside and ready to relax after a task done, I sat on the window seat in my bedroom with my feet up.  Something caught the corner of my eye and I turned to look at a chickadee on the stone window sill.  If it looked in the window it would have seen me a foot away but it was so intent on opening its sunflower seed and finding bits of other seeds on that stone that I could sit there and get such a close encounter.  What a tiny scrap of a bird and such a lot of work to open a sunflower seed.  It didn't stay long because it had to go back to the feeder for another.

Okay so maybe the last one was the only close encounter, but can you blame me?  It was such a catchy title!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thank You, HolleyGarden!

HolleyGarden is a gardener in Texas with a marvelously green thumb especially with roses.  She's transforming her land as an artist creates a painting.

Earlier this year I sent her some irises and she returned the favor by sending pavonia.  Then this fall I sent her orange day lilies and in lieu of plants she sent me canned goodies.  They arrived yesterday while I was gone.  I found the box in the vestibule when I got home at 8 o'clock last night.




Thank you HolleyGarden!  What a treat these will be.  If you love to smell the roses, you will have to visit her blog.  You can almost get their lovely scent from her posts.

[This is my Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard post and you may find others at Gardener of Eden or Spring Garden Acre]

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Leaf Composting


 Do you remember that pallet of stone I got in September?

After I emptied it I thought I'd re-purpose it as a leaf composter.  I rolled it to a spot along the glen that was clear of plantings and started to fill it last weekend with leaves.

Now the only part of my yard that I consider lawn is on the southside of the house between the deck and the glen garden, not more than 20 feet wide.



So the only part I will rake is there.  I did it Sunday and then again today.



 The re-purposed composter is filling up.  I hope it results in some nice leaf compost for the flowers and vegetable beds next spring.

P.S.  I guess you can pick out the photos that were taken this summer,  can't you?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Kitchen Cupboard

I came across a recipe for curry recently at Rock Recipes and filed it in the recesses of my brain to try some day.  Well, Wednesday was the day, except I didn't follow his recipe I went to this great book

and found a crock pot recipe that required less preparation time.
I had on hand tomato seconds from the farmers market,

 

sweet potatoes,

and these potatoes from the store purchased I don't know how long ago. You see I had to toss some of the potatoes in the compost bucket.


 Here's the recipe:



 I went with the small potatoes and tossed out all the mushy large ones.  Potatoes and cubed sweet potatoes went in crock pot along with 2 carrots chopped.
 Tomatoes chopped and added using fresh instead of canned ones.  I could use frozen ones next time.
 Chicken tenderloins cut up instead of the chicken breasts with the spices including the addition of a teaspoon of curry.
 Stirred it up with a cup of chicken bouillon poured over it.  Now it's ready to slow cook for 6-8 hours.

The house smelled delightful all day.  I added 2 tablespoons of flour to 1/2 cup of milk to thicken the sauce.  Here's the  crock pot with two servings removed.  There is a lot of sauce.

 I served it over rice and had peas on the side.


It is really a stew and it was fine though we both needed to add more salt and ground fresh pepper to flavor it more.  I made notes on my recipe that next time I will use boneless thighs, forget the celery seed, add more curry, salt and pepper and possibly add onions.  I think the long cooking process of the crock pot dilutes the seasoning and possibly a second seasoning needs to happen in the hour before serving.  I'm going to have it again tonight and see how the extra salt, pepper and curry helped it that I added before refrigerating the leftovers.

See what others are cooking or preserving this week at Robin's Thursday Kitchen Cupboard

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