Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Gardening to keep my balance

I transplanted the Roma tomato seedlings which were outgrowing the egg carton, and I think about 100% germination.

New potting soil mixed with old, screening to guard against squirrels.

Watering through the screening breaks up the stream and works like a fine spray, so it doesn't dislodge the teeny plants. I'll separate them further in a while. If they succeed, my friends next door will get some.

Speaking of which, the squash are steaming along, and if I train them towards the neighbor's patio, they can harvest them and cut out the middlegardener.

I'm literally tending to my own patch, to do my bit, for a small area of peace on earth.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Meanwhile, back at the farm

Strawberries and raspberries in. Open from noon to sold out. I got there at five after, was in long line, distanced, masked. Everyone except the farm people.

Got to chat briefly with a friend in line, once she told me who she was behind the hat and mask and glasses, and the farm owner. And came away with strawberries and raspberries, probably best for jam this year, not a great fruit season up to now.

Just a brief fairly normal interlude. Grateful that the noises I hear are farm and landscape equipment.

Handsome Son is expected this afternoon with groceries, and a plan for tea and snack while he's here.  We meet on the patio, haven't yet been in each other's homes since shutdown. So the weather has to cooperate.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Lemon balm, yellow sorrel pesto

Haven't made pesto in a while, and since I was unable to get strawberries today, short supply because of late frosts, farmgate closed, despite website seemingly saying strawberries available today, oh well, drive home.

And noticed the lemon balm in pots on the patio  growing furiously. Also some yellow wood sorrel on the patio, definitely unsprayed.

 Since I have no parmesan to include, I thought a bit of sorrel would add that tang. Which it did, very much.

 So I added in a bit of coconut milk to take the edge off, which it did. And since I had no cheese in the mix, a pinch of salt.  It seems pretty good.

We'll see how it works on pasta. If I like it, it's pesto. If not, it's soup flavoring.

The pesto is flattened into a recycled Ziploc bag, frozen. I can break off the exact amount I want when I'm ready for it. And I blended a couple of cups of water to get all the pesto out of the blades. That gets frozen, too, for soup. Then there's no waste and you just clean the blender as usual. 

This stuff is supposed to help with agitation, as is sorrel, seems appropriate for many reasons right now. 

I don't want to talk current affairs here, but we're all so crushed by the sadness, that I just mention it so that you know I'm not in denial. But I don't want to add  the burden of yet another opinion. I'm trying to find out how I can help, though. Not just sitting!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Candy roaster squash under way

So as of today, here's the arrival at the surface of the candy roaster squash plants.


And inside, in a pot in the kitchen

I had to revert to old blogger to get photos. New blogger isn't working with photos today. 

Friday, May 29, 2020


The Roma tomatoes have sprouted! This morning no sign, this afternoon a cast of thousands. The excitement is uncontained.

These were old seeds, not sure how they'd do. But,  as you see, they were undaunted.

Now to keep them alive. Damping off is the next challenge. But meanwhile I'm happy.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Sage in bloom

Look at those flowers. I must study the botany of sage.

Rescued from the mower

This bearded iris grew totally lopsided, and today my neighbor thought it was a matter of time before it was mown. He'd lost one that way. So he cut it and brought it to me.

It's elegant now that it's not lying in the grass.

Road trip!

All the way to the bookdrop

 at the library

 in the next town! I was actually nervous about driving, doing so little of it these days.

But we did it, and returned the books which I wanted out before I forgot they weren't mine and lost track of them.

My nervousness was not helped, on the way home, by a loud clang,a flash, and an alert on the dashboard to tell me: routine maintenance due soon. What drama queens design these ideas? I nearly went off the road with shock.

However, home again.  Breathing quietly.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Planting new life, to honor Memorial Day

It's the holiday to honor war dead, for readers from other countries, for whom it may not be familiar.  We have a pathetic apology for leadership in the White House right now. But we still have plenty of people with principles and courage, doing their best to seize back our levers of power.

Meanwhile, still under isolation, we're marking the day in different ways.

Mine is to honor life, otherwise what were our forces fighting for? And today it took the form of planting seeds.

Thai basil, descended from the plant an Indian friend gave me years ago when they moved away, and I've grown it and saved seeds every year since. Italian basil likewise from saved seed. One more if my donated squash seeds, to see how it compares with the outdoor start. Roma tomatoes, from the collection of a friend who died and whose seed collection I've shared around, to people with real space for gardening. Roma's my favorite of all tomatoes, makes great sauce and jam.

So, the kitchen is more populated than ever, and this is good light,  also a place where I will be sure and see how they do. And the pots are full of memories.

I hope you have a good day.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

There's also non-food

Just to show I don't think exclusively about food, I've got some recommendations of things to watch and read.

For years I never mentioned food in here, figuring nobody would be interested, I'm not some famous chef whose name sells high end equipment, just a person who likes to eat well, nothing special.

 And for a long time I used this,  originally general purpose, blog as a place for friends all over the globe to check in as Handsome Partner's health deteriorated until they finally got to follow along our path through home hospice till his death, then the online memorial I organized. This saved them calling when I needed to keep the line open for doctors, nurses, physios, and saved me  from giving out the same bulletins over and over.

 I got very grateful notes and emails from people who said that usually people are excluded from hospice if they're not family, and it was comforting to be allowed to know more. I never showed him, to preserve his privacy, after hospice was declared, showed what he could see instead.

 But before that, I would post pictures of him looking at books and letters from blogistas, and enjoying having the Dollivers around, and the cats, and sitting out with me on the patio in good weather.. He enjoyed our meals till very late in his life, though I had to be inventive to make food he could navigate as a quadriplegic with very limited use of his hands. The goal was good food, presented to be eaten with a fork or spoon,  one handed, but still adult meals.

Then once in here, I mentioned something I'd cooked and I was surprised at the response. People did like it. I still don't teach in here, or make very specific suggestions, just talk about what I've done, and include the spills along with the thrills. So it's more fun knowing that people enjoy.

I'm really a desert island person: I'd make art, grow things, cook, on a desert (or dessert!) island, anyway. It's not about an audience. But appreciative readers are definitely welcome. Especially people who suddenly pop up and say, oh, I just thought I'd mention I've been reading in here for years!  I have no way of knowing who follows via anything other than the follower list on blogger. But there are several other ways of following which don't refer back to me.

So thank you all.

Now, what I've been reading.

I invested in the Kindle complete and very funny, works of E.M.Delafield, all the Provincial Lady books, also finally started reading Cider with Rosie, then installed Laurie Lee's whole autobiography, three volumes. And you see Basho and Jane Austen there in my permanent  holdings, says she grandly. All very much worth reading.

And I found Monty Don much more interesting and less irritating in his series now on YouTube, on the Secret History of British Gardens, than in  his gardening series. He's still a bit over the top and spraying superlatives all over, but the production is high end, and he's properly miked.

  It's a four part series, one episode per century of gardening history, architecture, design, and plant discovery, starting in the 17th century.  Unfortunately too late to cover the best of them all, Cecil, Elizabeth the first's minister, adviser and great garden designer, who brought Tradescant, great plant explorer  and propagator, into his circle. Tradescant already had a flourishing career, but Cecil's nod didn't hurt. Anyway, this series is good stuff.

Then there's the vlogging couple who do videos on castles in Wales, much less sophisticated, one camera, couple of handheld devices, but very good, because they're engaging people, not at all acting for the camera, just being friends showing you interesting buildings and their history. I follow their YouTube channel Mostly Castles.

So that's some of what I'm doing.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Planting for the squash harvest

Nice gentle rain today, warmish, so I decided to celebrate the holiday with the first squash planting. Candy roaster squash courtesy of kind friend who saved and gave away seeds.   Just a few of them in this pot.

I can't safely put them in the ground in the small amount of unoccupied space I have, because the landscapers will weed whack them off as soon as look at them. And putting them in an unprotected pot (5qts fills this pot, in case you wondered how far 5qts goes, answer: not as far as you hope) is an invitation to squirrels to plunge in and destroy everything.

Soooo here's the result. Trying to get string around and tied when the screening kept leaping up was one of those I could use a third hand kind of things. So clothes pins first, pinning to the rim, then string.


 We'll see how this works.

 The place I set it is where another pot used to be, so the ground is free of other plants. The roots will go through the bottom of the pot, the vine will sprawl around and climb the fence. At least that's the plan. I may add add duct tape. I bet Monty Don doesn't have to use duct tape, but we won't mention it.

And as long as we're nosing about, here's a shot of most of my outside storage closet. You can see the floor because at the moment my stepladder and big broom are next door, conscripted into the Great House Painting. The deal is that neighbors can borrow anything in here as long as I know where it is, and bring it back once the job's done. On the left, a bit out of range, is a crate of spades and hoes and rakes.

And now that I've been laboring outside in the rain, it is stopping and sunshine is breaking through. 'twas ever thus.

Paneer 101

Diy cream cheese. I spooned  the last of the whole milk yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl, lid on, and left it overnight in the fridge.

And here's how it went this morning, ending in the last of the lentil bread with a spread of cream cheese for breakfast

Nothing wasted. The whey will go into soup.  The crumbs from breakfast lentil bread out for the birds.

Damp and warm this morning. After I tossed out the crumbs, I stood at the window breathing the lilac scent and the smell of damp earth, listening to the birds arguing, and was glad all over again that we chose this house.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The season on the move and dangerous liaisons

This morning, the honesty is developing the seed pods I planted them for. See the seeds developing in there? Eventually I'll have the seeds to replant and the silver disks to add to my collection.

The sage is blooming again, doesn't happen every year, and of course partly sprawls right across the gate where it's likely to be beheaded if I forget and sweep open the gate from the other side.

And the lilac, from two doors away, the scent drifting into my bedroom this time of year. From this close, it's powerful. I get a lovely waft of it when I sit out to read and knit and stitch. Which I did yesterday.

Under a blanket. I was determined to have Tea Outside. Complete with nut tart, which was very good.

In the course of making those caramel nut tarts, a dangerous thought occurred to me. The caramel was just a stage short of toffee. You don't want it hard crack for baking.

 But I thought, having mentioned Heath Bars, my favorite: I can make my own Heath Bars! This could be my undoing. They're just thin hard toffee in a chocolate covering. I can make that. I have a candy thermometer, even. Annnnnd, I can sprinkle sea salt over the covering before it hardens. I can add chocolate bits to the shopping list.

Longtime readers will remember when I made a batch of Pop Tarts. Really a pastry jam sandwich with water icing to decorate in lurid pink, a bit too much color there. They were wonderful, and I have refrained from making them again, not exactly a nutritional powerhouse.

Back to the Heath Bars. Rationalizing busily, I could make just a small batch, quite harmless, really, and I'm Worth this space.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Field notes

Azalea madness

Pavement art by local homeschooler

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Updates and new capers

Update on the HASfit  workouts: I'm faithfully doing them every three days, and picking different ones each time, to stay interested. At first I could only do the weight related reps for a limited number. And now I can do the whole workout just as shown. Weights no problem. So that's an advance in strength and stamina. Just to encourage anyone who's trying them.

And that yogurt pizza dough I made recently and froze part of as a kit? It thawed fine, tasted as good. So a second pizza worked.

And I wanted to see if it would be good for tarts, and to use my rarely used muffin pan. So I made a batch but this time used whole milk yogurt, and it was light-years easier to handle than the fatfree which was all I had in the house last time. And this time I refrigerated it while I had lunch, that soup in the background. Tomato, kidney bean, macaroni

I had no fruit for making jam, wondering what to make tarts with exactly, and thought, aha, nuts! Looked up recipes for caramel nut tarts. They all involved a tart tin which I don't have and anyway I really fancied the individual tarts. So I went ahead, halved the baking times as a guess, which worked. You prebake at 375f, then fill, then bake again at 400f.

Whole yogurt instead of cream, into the caramelized sugar, which took a lot longer than the 10 minutes in the recipe to turn color. Into it went the yogurt, honey (local, raw), butter, vanilla. They did warn that when the cream/ yogurt was added there would be a big reaction, and there was, but I was standing back. Then all the nuts, I had cashew and walnuts, but I expect it could be any old nuts, and spooned it into the tarts. 20 minutes at 400f and done.

No pictures of the caramel making, needed all focus on the boiling sugar and safe addition of other ingredients.

The pastry made exactly 12 tarts, using my crumpet tin as a cutter.

Interestingly, despite the sugar, this is quite a healthy dessert, what with yogurt and nuts and an absence of salt. Anyway that's my story. But I also refer to Heath Bars as Health Bars, so there's that.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A bit fraught, but bravely smiling through..

The last couple of days have been, well, reminders of how I'm a helpless prawn of fate, but so brave and plucky, and my arm is getting tired from all this back patting.

I had an appointment at the auto dealership for today to get my temporary tags replaced and State inspection decal attached and generally get legal. There had already been a 60-day grace period added to the statutory two weeks for newly purchased cars, which was almost up. Despite nervousness and multiple instructions from handsome Son to remember my mask and gloves, and walk about outside while waiting, I was all set with all dox.  Then suddenly the motor vehicle folks announced on Twitter yesterday another 60 day grace period. Whereupon I canceled my next day's appointment, figuring probably safer in July, if hotter, and I'll have located the AC by then.

Mentioned this to handsome Son last evening as he delivered groceries in exchange for dried and folded laundry, still no lead on a dryer. And he said, oh I spoke with them today about my inspection and they said the State is out of decals. The vital thing you need officially on the windshield to show you're legal. Just as well I canceled. Evidently the State is not printing decals, probably because all the nondealer inspection stations are now covid test sites, I guess they thought no need. Never mind the thousands of other locations to get inspections, I guess. But it might explain the additional grace period.

Moved my routine doctor appointment from Wednesday to late June, seeing no reason to check in and tell her I'm perfectly fine, when she can't do any of the tests and measurements and prodding and  what's the point. Her nurse agreed but insisted If That Changes Call Us. Which I undertook to do.

So far so good. I thought fine, I'll use the time saved on these trips  to open the outside faucets  for the season and set up the hose and water the thirsty plants. Spent an exciting time finding and getting the hose screwed on to the faucet outside. Then I trotted upstairs to turn on the shut-off to that line, kept off in winter. Did I mention that the builders put this shut off behind the water heater in the back of a tight closet, in the dark, upstairs?

 And first it wouldn't turn, long time since I shut it. Then all of a sudden it swung open, I could hear water starting down the line and next it appeared on me, the wall and the floor. Quickly forced it shut again, mercifully it stayed shut and I called  Greg the plumber. Who was in the office, just around the corner, got here, masked, gloved and cheerful . And fixed the shut-off sharpish, tightened up the hose bib on the patio and handed me a great big invoice.

But I rationalize my peace of mind is worth it. I have plenty of flood experience in this house and I didn't need one originating from the back of a closet, behind the water heater. Brilliant builder design. I wonder if they do this stuff on a bet.

So now the plants are watered and admired. The iris, first ones, descendants of some originally planted decades ago in a friend's grandmother's farm, are almost done, see those lovely cast shadows

And the chives have flowers. I usually clip them long before they flower, so this was a guest appearance.

The little knitting experiment narrated over on kept me calm and breathing and distracted while I waited for Greg the plumber.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Ficus goes to camp 2020

Since the weather seems finally to have left the frost zone, and there will be rain later this week, yesterday seemed like a good time to haul, drag, rassle, heave, the eight foot 45 year old ficus out to her summer quarters. I first got her as a little thing, sat her on the back seat of my very small car to come home. And now she towers over me.

She seemed heavier than last year. Well, she's taller. And I'm a year older. So there's that. She can tolerate sun better than the others who stay indoors. The spot she's in gets half a day dappled sun, then shade, which has worked for her for years.

Here she's waving to her indoor friends. See her, by the fence? The living room feels twice as big now.  Outside she'll put roots through the base of the pot, and develop healthy new growth. In fall I'll have to cut her free to bring her in, and she'll do well for several  months, until she starts demanding outside again. Meanwhile the birds instantly start perching on her, and the wind and rain will groom her foliage.  It feels right.