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.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Strange Wet Fall

Too much rain!  That's the complaint this fall.  We heard it from the farmers where we had a hay ride last night for the community picnic.  They lost almost all of their pumpkin harvest due to rain.  Other fall crops have suffered.  I see it around my yard in the spinach which is slow to grow because its too wet for the new seedlings to the moss and weird mushrooms.  Someone else on the hayride said they need to change the state flower to mold.



Where are the bright yellows and golds, the russets and reds?









This is the time of year to enjoy the colors of the trees but this year the leaves have come down fast.  Many leaves went right to brown after the heavy rains of September and with the heavy rains last week they have come down.  The woods are opening up fast with the loss of leaves.  It's a muted coloring to the fall.  So strange.






Thursday, October 13, 2011

Using the Garden Bounty

Here's a post to inaugurate Robin's new weekly THURSDAY KITCHEN CUPBOARD at The Gardener of Eden.

Though I'm not a canner I do like to use my vegetables and freeze that bounty in many different ways.  Here's a wonderful stew that I had in fact last night from my frozen supply.

MEXICAN VEGETABLE STEW
(Originally for "Quick Vegetarian Pleasures" By Jeanne Lemlin [Harper Perennial, 1992] as reprinted in The Baltimore Sun about that same time)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large onions, diced
1 tsp ground cumin
3 cups chopped tomatoes or 28 oz can
8 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
2 carrots sliced thinly
3 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into sixths then 1 inch chunks
2 cups freshly cooked kidney beans or 15 oz can, rinsed and drained
2 cups fresh or canned corn
grated cheddar cheese (optional)
corn or tortilla chips (optional)  

1.  In a 6-8 qt pot, heat the oil and saute onions, garlic and cumin stirring often: 10 min.
2. Add tomatoes and their juice, vegetable stock, salt and pepper.  Bring mixture to a boil.
3. Add carrots cook 15 min then zucchini and cook 5 - 10 min then add kidney beans and corn and cook 2 more minutes.
4.  Remove 2 cups and puree, then return to pot.  This thickens the stew. 
5.  Taste to adjust seasonings.
6. Serve with broken chips on top and a sprinkling of cheese.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Harvest Monday - October Surprise

I really didn't expect to be writing a Harvest post today.  Among my garden tasks for the day was to plant garlic.  Afterward I decided that with the cool nights, lack of direct sun and eventual frost, it was time to take down the green peppers and chop them for composting.  As I did this I discovered that there were quite a few green peppers both New Ace and Cubanelle on the plants. And I was pleasantly surprised by how blemish-free they are. Now these are not huge but they are usable.  So I'm open to suggestions as to how to use all these.  Recipe ideas?
See other Harvest posts at Daphne's Dandelions.

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