Monday, July 31, 2017

To do or not to do, late July question

Yesterday was one of those not too hot, not too humid days, perfect for just about anything.  I was out on the patio, reading and loafing and watching birds, and wondering if I should seize the day and go to the Preserve.  Lately it's been either too wet or too hot for it.

Then I realized that right where I was, was just fine.  And a goldfinch, in full mating kit, flew by and that settled it.  Little toad hopping around the deck. Chatting with neighbors.  Surprise visit from one friend to introduce a new neighbor.  Going to the Preserve would have erased all those possibilities.

And the current reading fitted right in. 

I do have a tendency to not just sit there, do something, when it might be better now and then to just don't do something, sit there.   So, for once, I did.

Today too hot for what I'd planned, and I had to cancel. I don't do well in heat this year.  But home works, too. 

As you see, I'm sending this to the mailing list as well as the usual publishing.  After this, I won't send every post to the mailing list, just, about weekly, send out a general link, so you can click, get onto the site easily, and just browse, scroll back to catch up, too.  I am not planning to reduce the actual mailing list, though a couple of people thought that's what I meant, just reduce the number of posts I send to it.  

The reason for this is that for some people it's a bit too prolific, and they feel bad just deleting.  This will be, I think, a nice compromise, where I write as often as I need to, but you only need check in less frequently.  The reason I suggested you try to sign up to follow by email feed is so that you can choose to continue to get all the posts when published.  But for some people, that's proving to be a bit tricky, phones not all being compatible with blogger feeds. 

There are a lot of readers who follow the blog in other ways, not on the mailing list, which I created for people not familiar with blog following. There's Bloglovin, email, and Twitter, where I often put up current links on my account.  Up to the right there you'll see buttons for all these options.

So, not wanting to lose anyone, and not wanting to annoy people with email input when they're already busy, I'm trying this.  Let me know if you encounter any hitches on the way. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Real toads in imaginary gardens

I've been watching a few videos about gardens, they all seem to be English gardens, and discovered the designer Rosemary Verey, whose book I borrowed from the libe.  She covers a bunch of gardens she designed or had a hand in, including her own, and the pictures are lovely.  Not so much the text, which is rather a dreary list of plantings and name droppings, but nonetheless, it's always possible to learn a bit from garden books.

And I discovered there's a series of videos on YouTube, along the same line as this book, same Rosemary, same gardens, and she strolls about with their owners and staff (!) you need staff for these marvellous places.  So I recommend any of the above.

It's fun to see these amazingly successful areas, particularly when they spread over many acres, and much $$. My tiny little patio would probably take up less room than their toolshed.

But, like seeing elaborate cooking shows, you are a bit inclined to rush off and try something.  In the case of the gardening, I just ran out and cut down the dying daylily foliage and carted it out to the woods to be good for the wildlife.  It did improve the area.

Some of the principles are useful though, even if you don't have rolling acres and hot and cold running gardeners.  Such as having a vertical element in even the littlest plot.  Or remembering to have plants higher up, for interest.  As in my houseplants.  I have several hanging ones near the floor standing ones, and it does look much better than a group on the floor like a flock of quiet sheep. Outside I have the boxes I got built to sit on the fence, and they're planted with various things, a bit empty at the moment, but later there will be more to look at in there.

Out front I have the Russian sage, which comes back year after year and gives a lovely vertical element out front without being so dense as to block anything else.  Not that I'm any kind of expert, just pleased to find a touch here and there that works for me.

And groundcover, which does away with the problem of  weeding almost entirely.  A lazy gardener, I like to have some work done for me.  Groundcover, my local nursery told me, works as a mulch for potted outdoor plants over the winter, which is why my plants survive, when unprotected pots don't.

They talk a lot about color and design and blocking and succession, and I don't notice much about scents except in passing. There I take issue.  My front path is a scent walk, not visually exciting, but interesting when you pinch and sniff as you go.  Tarragon, rosemary, Thai basil, English thyme, lavender, now starting with a new flush after the harvest, regular basil, it's so good to experience them.  I invite neighbors to take some, too, since some of them are great cooks who don't grow herbs.  And the Russian sage, is taller than I am, dense with flowers and bees, and smells heavenly.  

They also rarely acknowledge the birds and animals in their gardens, which I find a major gap.

Incidentally, I'm cutting back on sending to my mailing list.  So if you don't want to miss any posts, be sure and sign up for email.  It's up there on the right, just enter your email, follow the steps it gives you, and that should work.  Let me know if you have a problem, and I'll see what I can do.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Babies abound!

I have to say that propagating succulents is one of the slowest motion hobbies there ever was.  You do one stage, wait six weeks, do the next stage, wait another few weeks..not for the impatient.

Anyway here's the update:  of the six leaves I started, three have resulted in new plants, so tiny you need a magnifying glass to see them.  

So a fifty per cent germination rate, probably not too bad as these things go.  I hope the new plants get big enough to actually see soon, since I have plans for them.  Interestingly, there were two leaves per pot, and one per pot survived.  I wonder if they fought it out in some vegetal way, to determine who would propagate?

And on the subject of babies, I noticed recently that the red bellied woodpecker, mainly the male, was at the feeder almost incessantly and today found out why:  he brought his baby to sit on the branch above the feeder, and proceeded to ferry suet up to him. 

I guess it was easier to bring the baby to the food, now he's fledged, than to bring the food to the nest/cavity.  It must be in the trees right outside my back gate, since that's where he routinely vanished with suet recently. And since it was almost exclusively the male doing the foraging, this father is a good provider.  I've noticed the same with cardinals, too, often the male coping with young learning to feed themselves.

This brings to six the number of young families being provided for by my feeder, very good to know.  Word probably got around that this mix was a good one.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Texts and plants and sari happenings

So late last night, text from neighbor saying he's stuck, far away, in hospital, can't get home as scheduled, will I add in the indoor plants to the outdoor watering I was doing.

So this am I went and did that, and in the house, to my amazement, his little dog appeared.  I assumed someone had taken her.  So checked with another neighbor who often does dog care for him, and yes, she was up on it, no problem, then talk went on to other things.  In the midst of this, a third neighbor comes out, says, oh good, wanted to catch you to show you some stuff.

At this point I had had enough heat, and she came into my house, and unfolded two wedding saris.  One she wants me to have, she's moving, downsizing, no longer wears the sari anyway, all Western now.  

This one is from one of the days of the wedding, not the main day. As you see, Marigold approves it, instantly wanted to sleep on it.

The one from the main wedding day she showed me, too, and I suggested she get it made into a coat and sheath dress, partyish, but Western enough to wear here.  She figured that was a good idea, will get it done next time in India.  It's brilliant fuchsia, with embroidery and beading, and many yards of fabric, as saris are.

So here's the diy.  It's now a lovely portiere, no cutting, since I though it wouldn't be right to cut it. There's yards more fabric folded away behind there. I can see it from my bed, so it will get plenty of admiration. And the portiere I had there is now on the spare room bed, and looking pretty fine.  

That was another friend who moved away, it's old linen, with Italian cutwork, really a banquet cloth, but works fine this way.  It had been badly stained, and I just washed it in Synthropol, and it came up fine.  Couple of detail pictures

 So just another Saturday in the neighborhood..for other adventures of the day, go here

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Succulents and sweet potatoes

You know how you mean to buy a small thing for years on end, manage fairly hopelessly without it, and finally say, this is silly, why don't I just do this?  After all, if God hadn't intended us to buy gadgets we need, why did she invent Amazon?

In this case it was two things, one an apple corer, something I've never owned. I used to have an old fashioned potato peeler the kind you can't get now, and used that.  When that bit the dust, I tried to do it with a knife, but with pitiful results.  So instead of nice apple rings I've had apple chunks, which are okay, but there are times you want those rings.  The other was apple related, a replacement for the apple slicer I wore out.  They arrived today, together with two little items I'm told relate to oranges, but I have no idea how.  They're orange colored, like rings, just right for toys. Duncan has been booting them around the place since they arrived.

So, long story short, I was able to make that sweet potato and apple casserole thing again with the authentic apple slices, and it worked a treat.  I included chunks of hot Italian chicken sausage.  Really good. Probably better in the fall than on a blazing July day, but you go to the kitchen with the ingredients you've got.  

Tossed the potatoes, sausage and apple rings with olive oil, mustard seeds, bit of cornstarch, small spoonful of molasses, some curry powder, homemade, the Veach stuff, sprinkle of kosher salt.  50 minutes at 400F, then stir them about a bit, and ten more minutes same temp with a tinfoil hat (!)

While I was moseying about during the cooking time, I took a look at my little succulent hopes, in their little clay pots, noticed yesterday the original leaves all shriveled and sad looking and wondered if I was cut out for propagating.  

When, suddenly, I gave a shout ROOTS!  whereupon Duncan flew off the counter and vanished, assuming I was instructing him to get down.  And there they were, teeny little roots!  and another leaf had an  even teenier little plant started.  Hope returns, now that two of the six are under way.  The excitement is great.  Great hopes for more succulents. I must find out what these were.  Doesn't take too much to get me all enthusiastic, I admit.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Honesty, in short supply these days, but I'm doing my bit

A bit of gardener's larceny a few months ago led me to snap off a twig of honesty, in a border outside my condo,after the seed cases were started, and bring it home to sit in a bud vase in the kitchen until yesterday.  Then the seed cases had gone a dark gold color, indicating time to pop the casings.
Which I did, and saved the seeds for planting, and the cases for inclusions in future papermaking, and the resulting lovely everlasting for an arrangement with an air plant.

Here you see some with casings still in place, some without the casings, showing the lovely silvery inside.  Heap of casings on the left, for papermaking future, and heap of seeds for immediate planting.  I put a couple of cases in with the seeds to remind me what they are in case I forget between finding the trowel and the pot and the seeds and getting them together.

A threefer.  The honesty plant, lunaria, and some people call it money plant, has a purple flower until it fades and is replaced by the seed cases.  

I had some growing outside a few years ago, until they were all chewed up by chipmunks, which reached up as far as they could and bit through the stems.  When I plant these seeds, I'll put them in pots that are much harder for chipmunks to get into.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Blistering hot, so sun tea, hot biscuits for afternoon teatime with blueberries

The weather this week is all about blistering heat and storms, well, they do tend to go together around here.  I watered my flowers anyway, just in case.

And figured it would be hot enough to make a batch of sun tea, to have iced, very ladylike, with my newly baked hot biscuits with sunflower seeds in them, 

to be spooned over with blueberry sauce of some kind, not yet made. 

The tea will probably be ready tomorrow, if I remember how this is done.  No rush. It's summer..

Reading a lot as well as all the other stuff that goes down chez Boud, and I'm noticing too many refs to bucket lists.  I really object to this, oh oh, here comes a hobbyhorse from the paddock, neighing and prancing and ready for me to jump right up.

For one thing it tries to make a game of dying, and older people see little to laugh about there (!) and it makes life into some sort of exercise in list making, frantically crossing things off before you go, as if any of us every know when that will be.  Can't help thinking it's a kind of Facebook mentality, or Instagramming to the nth degree, sounds a bit sad, really.  I know people who are fine with it, good for them, really, but I find it works against the notion of allowing life to come in, rather than grabbing at it.

But, since I always like to seek balance sooner or later, before I fall off my horse completely, it is nice to look back and be really glad of the things that you took a risk and actually did, even if they didn't always work out just as planned.  

Like learning the violin at age 47, and being encouraged by six year olds who were a year ahead of me. And playing in an actual orchestra a couple of years later.

And taking a big risk and entering art in juried shows. And accepting invitations to do solo shows, this is a very fear inducing thing, but so glad I did. 

And creating workshops of a kind I'd never seen, to teach other adults to be fearless the same way, in art.  And following the mantra: when it doubt try everything!  Likewise, you don't have to know everything in order to move forward.  You'll learn as you go.  In fact, this is how art works, as well as a lot of other things in life.

Okay, horse is slowing down now, good boy, old Paint, off you go back to the paddock to tell the others what she's banging on about this time..

Which is mainly, it's nice to live without feeling you need to list and plan your life ahead of time!  Life plans are great when you're very young, I had one in my twenties.  Nothing in it transpired, but a lot of much better stuff actually happened.  So there's that.

There's an organizing and planning industry, and good luck to them, but I can't help feeling their keenest clients are people who might do better to just hang loose a bit.  Observe the Shakuhachi effect.

Off to tea now.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Yukon Gold, wildflowers and baffling squirrels

This morning was a perfect, not too hot day, just right for July tattie liftin'.  Translation:  digging up the Yukon Gold potatoes I grew in a container, from a  potato with eyes.  Typically I get one or two meals of homegrown potatoes from my container efforts, and an unlimited sense of satisfaction from being able to do it. The foliage was starting to yellow, which usually means spuds are up.

A number of our readers have real gardens, or actual land, and probably look affectionately on my tiny little efforts, but I bet they get how thrilling it is to pull out potatoes from the earth.

And I replanted one potato (there are probably other tiny ones I never found) in the hope of a second crop this year.

Meanwhile, back at the feeder, I realized that if squirrels hate the smell of essential lavender oil, and won't go near plants which have it on cotton balls strewn around, or in feeders same thing, that maybe they would be deterred from my feeder with the lavender bunch thing I made.  They have recently discovered the feeder, and one of them cracked the code of how to swarm down the s hooks and knock the feeder off. 

They still can't open it and eat the food, but having the food on the deck puts the birds off, since most of them prefer to feed high off the ground, safer in mid air.  A bird's default safety move is to fly upward.  This is why when you get a wild bird into the house, they bat around at ceiling height, and daren't come down far enough to escape through the doors and windows you've obligingly opened for them. 

So here's the lavender thing in place, and it definitely put off the squirrel who came out to check, ate off the deck then ran.  But it also worried the red bellied woodpecker and the nuthatch, both favorite visitors, who are nervous about this object hanging near the feeder.  I hope they'll get used to it and return to feed. They keep checking but not settling on the feeder.  

I believe birds don't have a great sense of smell, so that's not the problem.  They do get skittish about new objects, though, and want to test and see if they're safe before feeding. They're vulnerable when feeding. 

Since we were the original owners of this property, bought from the builders, and have never sprayed anything, ever, the patio has developed into a miniature nature center. 

I help it along by saving seeds and replanting, from wildflowers I grew years ago, and the cherry branch you see here is a native cherry, growing happily, doubled its size this year, and will give shade soon. And what's left of the old cherry still gives blossom for bees and cherries for the wild birds.  In winter, birds and squirrels also chew on the branches, and if anyone knows why, please tell me.  They specially like the little thorns on the twigs.

We see toads, dragonflies, butterflies, all kinds of birds, as well as pesky chipmunks (they chew through wires and water pipes) and squirrels.  The groundhogs are numerous, but don't get onto the patio, can't climb nor squeeze under the fence.  

And I've observed four different families of wild birds feeding young on the patio.  Downy woodpeckers -- the baby got himself attached to my window screen and couldn't figure out how to get free, so he climbed up to the top, and sort of fell into flight from there-- cardinals, bluejays and starlings.  Oh, and a family of plain old sparrows, where, I noticed it was the male who fed the baby endlessly.

Yesterday I cut back the lavender which had finished blooming, and saved the cuttings for future use in paper making.  Drying out now.  And I collected dead flowers off daylilies, with a view to possible paper making.

All's well with field and fen!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Sweet Potato Two Ways, Fireworks Finally! 6WS

Noticed an interesting recipe involving sweet potatoes and apples, so I thought this would be good to serve to Handsome Son this evening, before we depart for the finally scheduled fireworks.  Rained out last weekend, but hoping to happen this evening.

So, the sweet potato thing is a casserole, seen here prepped, not yet baked, and I used Granny Smith apples, figuring sweet potatoes sweet enough to balance it, and there's sugar in the recipe, a lot of it, which I omitted, but I did put in a bit of molasses, into the sprinkled topping of flour and spices.  There's cinnamon and nutmeg among the sweet potato slices, too.  Sweet potato nuked to done, peeled and sliced. Apples peeled and sliced. We'll see how it comes out.  It will go with roast chicken drumsticks.  I think I'll just roast the chicken with salt and pepper, no need to get all fancy with that.

After fireworks, tea and dessert, a sweet potato walnut bread.  You will notice that I had a plethora of potatoes, and I'm tired of making banana bread, so I figured substituting the sp for the bananas would work, similar texture and liquidity, etc.  And to my surprise, it did. 

Really good with a spoonful of plain yogurt on top.  So I'm wondering what other subs I can make to this recipe.  Readers suggestions welcome on this point.  Or any other, come to think of it.

This is either a way of echoing the main dish in the dessert, which I would say if I were one of those fancy cheffy type people, who write cookbooks and pose for pix brandishing a wooden spoon, or a way of using up sweet potatoes interestingly, which is what I actually say.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fourth of July According to Cats

Marigold and Duncan agreed to go all out to celebrate the Fourth this year.  As long as it didn't involve moving off the sofa.

So here they are, partying it up and joyfully celebrating

And that was exhausting, so now they're recovering

Happy Fourth, Everyone!  better times on the way... and when they arrive, the Dollivers will stage a Grand Return to Your Screen.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Chapter Two in the Succulent Saga, and more kitchen thrills and spills

So the little leaves I collected the other day having developed a dry, sort of calloused end where they came off the plant, it was time to move them onto potting mix.  They talk about using trays for this, but I figured with this small a number, just move them right into pots and see what happens.  

The fiber is coco fiber, comes in a compressed little brick, looks quite tiny, until you hydrate it and now you have a bucket of material to work with.  They say put it in a container without mentioning what size.  I'd heard that this stuff is surprising, so I used a large bucket, just as well.

So here are the three pots with two occupants each, just doing nothing for a few weeks, I guess.  I found another great idea for my next adventure in this, a box garden.  You cover the top with hardware cloth, the box being filled with potting fiber, and insert tiny succulents through the meshes, in a tasteful design, or just random depending on your mood.  

All I need is a bit of hardware cloth, to get going on this. I have a wooden box.  Once this gets rooted and under way, it can be hung on a wall or somewhere. So that's a future experiment.  There will be plenty of chicks from the hen and chicken flock in the strawberry pot, plus I can swipe some leaves from neighbor, and we'll see what else I can add.

They suggest attaching the hardware cloth (you know that half inch galvanized mesh stuff you use for fences, not really cloth), and then inserting the mix through.  But I see no reason not to fill the box then attach the hardware cloth, then all you need do is insert the plants. When I try it I will no doubt find out why they say to push the mix through after attaching the hc.

I repotted a big crown of thorns plant today, way too tall and leggy and spiky looking.  I don't much like doing this, because those spikes are really deadly.  But I just cut off the tops a few inches below the top foliage, and stuck them into a pot of soil.  No special attention given.  Then I read up on how to do it, and found that real gardeners do all sorts of things I never have.  But I notice that my crown of thorn plants don't seem to mind, in fact I keep trying to give away the extras I end up with.

The repotted stems look pretty good already, given that they're just precariously pushed into the soil.  They'll root pretty soon. The parent plant and rootball are just lying around outside in the groundcover at the moment, and I realize I can pot that up again, because new leaves will push out of the stems again.  These plants have a lovely pink flower, very small, very pretty, and often in the middle of the winter just when you can use a flower or two.

I also realized that my Autumn Joy sedum is a succulent, duh, hadn't thought of that. So I'm trying a few leaves taken off that, too, and see what comes of it.

Meanwhile back in the kitchen, that same cookie sheet which refused to release the bread rolls did the same with a batch of sugar cookies, even though I had remembered to grease it.  Very annoying.  But when stuff happens, reframe the issue, which I did.

I chipped off the cooked cookie crumbs, and used them as a crumble topping for a nice holiday dessert, for Handsome Son, visiting last evening.  

Local blueberries, cookie crumbs, then some fake whip (you have to have some bad food at holidays), and it made a dessert which vanished at warp speed.  I also resolved to use parchment paper from now on for that baking sheet, which is far too expensive to be doing stuff like sticking.

Something weird about having the Fourth on a Tuesday, though.  All the other holidays are now celebrated on the nearest Monday, so this is one that can't move, and nobody seems to remember what day is which and when the holiday is.  I was amazed to find the library open today, and mail delivery, and ordinary things happening.

My plans for the Fourth are to loaf about, mainly.  Very hot again. 

Enjoy your Fourth, or your fourth, depending on which it is for you.  May the Fourth be with you...

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Good wishes of various kinds to us 6WS

It's July 1, so white rabbits to us all.  This one looks as if he's not so sure about this

and it's Canada's 150th, so great good wishes to all our Canajun blogistas and families.  

Live long and prosper!

and we're on the cusp of the Fourth of July in the US, fireworks of every possible kind going off at the moment....wishing us all a peaceful weekend, with good outcomes of all kinds for all of us.

Since the weather is wall to wall torrential rain then suddenly sun, then suddenly rain, our local fireworks are postponed to next Saturday, if we all live that long. 

Meanwhile, I've been improving the rainy hour with a bit of felting, and you can see more here