Today

My day so far:

Woke early because a spider was crawling up the side of my torso. Flicked him off and rolled over, but the birds were singing, so I didn’t get back to sleep. In case this anecdote hasn’t informed you already, spiders don’t freak me out… which explains my affinity for the Wizard Howl.

Baked these grain-free vanilla cup-cakes.

Frosted them with this home-made nutella.

But first I blanched a bunch of hazelnuts… which is ridiculous. Spend a little more and buy them blanched. I tell you what.

Ate two cupcakes. I justify it that by the time everything was done it was nearly noon.

Then I mowed the lawn and puttered a bit in my garden.

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Spent some time petting and crooning love songs into the ear of my beloved Oliver. (He’s a cat, btw.)

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Picked great mounds of plantain leaves (yes, the yard weed), washed, chopped and covered it  in olive oil in a jar. After several weeks, it’s supposed to be useable for an amazing skin salve for bug bites and i know not what. We shall see.

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And the day’s not over yet. 😉 I have great plans for more gardening and working on a painting later this evening. My aunt has commissioned two paintings from me, the cost of which almost exactly covers the amount I still owe her on my car loan. Perfect! I love that even though I am not waking up to an alarm and groaning my way out of bed to head to work every morning, I am still able to earn my keep while I’m home. I’m not growing rich by any means, but my time is my own and I love it.

In the heat of the morning…

It’s hot today, folks. I know, I know… those of you who live in the southern states are laughing a little hysterically at me, but trust me, it’s hot. It was 92* in the shade, and we live without air conditioning, so chew on that for a moment. 😉

This morning when I got up, it was already hot. And sticky. SO very sticky. My bed sheets feel damp and clingy because of the humidity. Blech. IMG_0005

For breakfast, I wanted a green smoothie. It’s what I have for breakfast most days lately, and I looooove them. I nearly always start with a heafty handful of baby spinach, one of chopped kale, half and avocado, a good long slosh of almond milk and… whatever frozen fruit I have that sounds good to me.

I’d forgotten that we didn’t buy spinach the other day because mom’s in coming on in the garden. I opened the fridge looking for it, and when I realized  there was none I kind of stared in glum denial…

Yes. I had to go outside in the blazing sun and PICK spinach for my breakfast smoothie. This isn’t a big deal unless you know me and getting up in the morning. It’s not a pretty thing. But actually, it was a nice stretch, bending and hunkering a good 15 minutes in the wet, steaming row of baby spinach.

And it’s sooooo much cheaper than the grocery store… currently organic baby spinach is running $6-7 a pound if you buy the big box of it. Several pounds costs us less than $2 for seed. Take THAT, world. 😉

It was worth it, the heat and bugs and grogginess and all. I had a scrumptious, nutrition dense and highly refreshing blackberry-strawberry ‘green’ smoothie, and even shared some with my dad, who said it looked disgusting and sucked it down in a flash.  IMG_0007

Planting Garlic

Every summer when I see local farm stands advertising fresh garlic, I wonder why I didn’t grow any myself. It’s supposed to be easy. The thing is, I’ve been told to plant it in late fall, and I don’t typically plant anything but tulips that time of year, so I simply forget. This year, I managed to remember in time! Sadly, all of my efforts to find local garlic came up empty, and I ended up buying a few heads of garlic at the grocery store. I know that some garlic is treated with some chemical to delay it’s sprouting, so I’m just hoping that this is not that garlic. Whenever we buy it for cooking it certainly doesn’t seem like it has a problem sprouting. 😉
I’m not a garlic expert, so I’m not going to pretend I am and tell you just how to grow it. I will fill you in on what I did, according to what I gleaned from books and friends.*

I found an area among my herbs that was the perfect size (planting it in the middle of your regular garden is a bad idea when your dad’s favorite thing about gardening is hooking the plow up to the tractor and obliterating everything.), and using a potato fork I cleared all the weeds and roots and broke the soil up, since it hadn’t been tilled in a couple of years. Then, using the corner of a hoe -a la my grandpa- I scratched 3″ deep trenches about 4″ apart.

Forgot to take my camera with me, so I’m reduced to internet thievery. This is not my picture, but it gives a good idea of what I did. And honestly, a blog post with no pictures is boring. 😉

My foster siblings had all discovered me outdoors by this time, so with my directions they planted the cloves 3-4″ apart, sprinkled a light layer of dry cow manure over them, and pushed the loose soil back over the rows. Then we shook hay loosely over the rows to mulch (I know from other crops that a good layer of hay keep the ground warm, and the root vegetables keep growing, or at least keep from freezing, even with a foot of snow over them. Digging carrots in January, people. Think about it.) And that was it! I was really pleased that the kids all wanted to help, hopefully it’s just the beginning of an interest in gardening for them. And we shall see what my grocery-store garlic does over the winter months! Hopefully by spring I’ll see signs of life.

*Something that occurred to me recently is how our source of knowledge on every topic is becoming more and more reliant on the internet. I have two shelves full of gardening book, so this is completely silly. I’ve pledged to myself that when I have questions, I will check my books first. And if there’s time, I will also ask experienced friends; after all, a huge part of the pleasure in friendship is discussing things like that. The internet is an amazing and useful resource, but I want to keep my sense of ‘real life’ wide awake.

October Colors in the Garden

Burgundy mums are my favorite. Pink is nice, I’m sure yellow is cheery and all that, and orange is perfectly suitable for blending in with pumpkins and whatnot, but deep wine red is just so satisfying. And the smell! Not specific to any color, obviously, but I’ve been known to stand for a long while with a branch of mums in my hand, rubbing the leaves and inhaling deeply. I do this in the garden, in the flower shop, and once at a boutonniere work-shop, where my co-worker thought I was sniffing glue.  Anyway, let’s put that moment behind us… Last year, while working at the greenhouse, potting up mum cuttings for the fall season, I brought home a few extras, grew them on and planted them in my garden for a nice little autumn display. We had such a mild winter, one of them came back this year! That very rarely happens for me. I don’t mind a bit.

Second week of October, and still no frost. The Impatiens are grateful.

A new hosta I put in this summer. I wish I knew it’s name, but it had no tag when I got it. I find I am growing addicted to hostas, something I never would have believed could happen. They are just LEAVES after all, just a bunch of GREEN with pathetic flowers that don’t do much for anyone. Well… that mature clump does look really eye-catching… and those giant blue ones… and the tall neon-green… and those itty-bitty variegated ones with bright yellow stripes! Yeah. I’ve been bitten.

Clickety-clickety for a loooot of pictures, and more plant gushings than you ever wanted to read.

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Lunch

 

Blue potatoes, Spanish Spice peppers and yellow summer squash, fresh from the garden. We still haven’t had a frost, which is very surprising, heading into the second week of October.  I obviously didn’t eat everything pictured here, but I did slice up half an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic with half a diced pepper and sauteed until the onion was soft. Then I pushed the onions to one side of the pan and put in a few slices of chicken breast, and after turning those I laid thinly sliced squash over everything, salt and pepper and put a lid on everything until the squash was tender and everything was ah-mazing. I’ve had good squash and I’ve had disgusting squash… this was probably the best yet.

Jamie Oliver: My New Foodie Nerd-Crush

 

As a friend of mine, who cheerfully gushes along with me, says “He’s so adorkable.”

Just this past week I stumbled across Jamie Oliver’s TV show Jamie at Home. I don’t even remember how I found it, but I’ve been watching about ten episodes a day ever since. Love it. He’s a lot of fun, has a lot of passion for what he’s doing, so down-to-earth, and most importantly, his food is real. The very fact that a good part of his show occurs in his garden immediately made me see him as a ‘real’ person.

I’m afraid he’s already made me into a bit of a cooking-show snob, because when I decided to give The Pioneer Woman’s show a try, it lasted about15 minutes and I couldn’t take it any more. Sorry, Ree… you are a wonderfully entertaining writer, but in front of a camera is not where you were meant to be. I love you anyway. Someday, I will win a free Kitchen Aid from you.

Back to Jamie. He’s been around for quite a while, right? I’m pretty sure I’ve even cooked some of his recipes from Food Network’s website. I think I had heard of his efforts to get healthy meals into the schools. Did you know he owns a restaurant where they train teens from rough backgrounds into chefs, and give them the chance to actually work there after they are done training? Pretty cool. And also, if you need a good laugh, look up the names of his children. But don’t judge. He claims his wife named them.

And now I must leave you… softlyyyyy… (Ten points to the first one who knows why I just did that.)

Time to go check the mail.

Because I ordered two of Jamie Oliver’s cook-books. And.. and… they just might get here today. *grin*

As a parting gift, I give you Jamie Oliver, making English Onion Soup. The best part is his monologue whilst crying over the onions. Totally made my day.

 

Of Autumn Blooms

The nights are cool (and mosquito-free! Yay!) and the colors of my outdoor world are definitely changing. The leaves aren’t turning yet, but Autumn Joy sedum is no longer beautiful pale heads of broccoli, but a soft rose-pink. Aster, wild and cultivated, are everywhere, billowy and fragrant. And my Sweet Autumn Clematis, which has completely consumed the 12′ windmill in my garden is starting to pop the masses of tiny white stars open. It took a few years to get established, but it is now one of my favorite fall plants and I can’t imagine a flower garden without one!

This photo is not mine, I couldn’t find one on my computer and it’s too dark to take one now, so… yeah, I stole this picture. This one is growing in the same form as mine, it’s AMAZING. Just when the greens of summer become tired and everything starts to look dull and dying, the fresh, pure white beauty comes out to say hello. Along with the dusty pink sedum, pastel pink anemone and purple asters the yard perks up again.

 

Rosemary as an Ornimental Herb

I’ve tried several times to grow Rosemary in my herb garden. The problem is, in my climate, rosemary does much better in a clay pot so the roots are in warmer soil during the day, and my herb garden is far enough away from the house that I just don’t remember to water ANYTHING out there. So rosemary normally dies on me.

This year I decided to just mix it in with my other container plants. It is pretty, a nice textural contrast, and a great color contrast when combined with purple foliage. It’s right outside my patio door with my other highly needy containers and gets watered almost as regularly as everything else. Rosemary is a Mediterranean plant so it never needs to be soaking wet, either.

 

Another herb that I’m going to do even more with next year is Pistou basil. It’s teeny, adorable, and with the right amount of space and light, each plant forms a perfect little sphere, like an herbal topiary you didn’t have to work for.

This is several plants in one pot, so the shape is a little kooky. I did see perfectly round plants this spring in the greenhouse where I work. The flavor of this variety is wonderful, and since the leave are so tiny it’s a cinch to just strip them off and toss them into your salad or sauce or whatever you want, no chopping involved.