Friday, July 31, 2020

Dead March in Saul please

So Ellen and I, plant doctors, correctly diagnosed the squash vine culprit. When the rain stopped this morning, I went out to survey the remaining stem. Too late. Bust it open and here's the critter

All God's creatures. I guess. Well this is one of a few I found, having a gourmet feast. Gone now, to where they may supply lunch to a few birds. Far from my patio.

 It's annoying that I'd succeeded in protecting the squash from landscapers and squirrels, and they had in fact driven their roots through the bottom of the pot and into the ground, as hoped. So the operation was a complete success except the patient died.

Then I moved on, repotted some tomatoes. And went on hoping.

I think gardening is best for people with great optimism and short memories.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Breads of all nations, breadmageddon, end times for squash

Baked a big recipe of white and oat bread, mustard seeds on top, some of which you see in this extravagant shot, before the whole wheat flour arrived. More in the freezer.

I made a note to bake banana/walnut/chocolate chip bread today since I finally got my hands on whole wheat flour. Then I thought well, the kitchen's already hot, why not get ahead of the cornbread needs while I'm at it. So I did.

Yet another cornbread recipe, this one with no butter, but with sugar, milk and oil. I was a bit dubious when the batter was so liquid I poured it into the pan, which is why it's an artisanal shape -- it escaped the parchment paper and went rogue. 

However what counts is the crumb, seen in both breads here

And the taste, under way here
It's moist but not heavy, so that's okay.

In the garden, a setback on the squash front. Overnight it went from thriving, covering the fence and climbing trees, to a sad little heap of yellowing stems, on the ground. This is the  sole surviving bit. It's less than a quarter of the plant from the day before.

I suspect something attacked the roots. The nearby tomatoes are fine, so it may be a squash borer or some such specialized bad guy.  That kind of sudden collapse suggests it.

So after flouncing about and sobbing a bit I thought I could make the best of it. At least, now they had nothing growing on them, get my craftsman-made planter boxes safely off the fence and on the deck, ready for whenever they show up to replace the fence. I also took down the temp gauges which were attached, while I was at it.

I had my friend who made and installed the boxes (and built the deck) come and move them. He has a special drill bit for the screws. He was over and done in no time. Refused to be paid. So he and wife D will be recipients of a bit of baked goods. That'll teach him.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Serendipitous salad

The pot of chives that keeps on giving, In its tenth year of neglect, out all winter, no change of pot or soil. It doesn't care.

A dandelion has planted itself in the pot, they're getting along fine.

And now I have a little green salad to insert into an upcoming Hammond Cheese lunch sandwich. 

However terrible the news, after we've done our bit to help, there's usually a little something as a reward.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Eating the shore

This latest salad of pink beans, tricolor orzo and farm asparagus reminds me of Sunset Beach at Cape May, where there's a wide expanse of colored pebbles and quartz, Cape May diamonds.

I've often been reminded of beans while moseying about there, collecting interesting stuff to bring home.

So today I may not be at the beach, but I can experience it on a plate.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Tomatoes ahoy!

Here's the patio Roma plum tomato patch

And here's the cause of great excitement

Little toms!

Seen early this morning. There are a lot of flowers in there so I'm hopeful. Roma are my favorite tomato for everything, sandwiches, sauce, chutney. I have big plans, so I'm hoping for a good harvest. If the squirrels don't get there first.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Dragonfly friend

We have many species of dragonflies and demoiselles in central NJ. Seeing them in crowds, zooming about early morning above the wet grass, sun picking them out like fireworks everywhere, is a seasonal morning  treat.

They eat a lot of insects that would otherwise be dining on people. They're beautiful, many colors and designs, and they pose long enough for pictures. Here's a visitor on the front path a few minutes ago

Definitely a fan here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Three bean salad and variations

The beans are standard as long as I include kidney beans to vary the color. Some fresh picked Thai basil and thyme, minced. Then the dressing. Ah, that.

I haven't had any apple cider vinegar for ages and I've been working through the other, fancier, stuff, some made by me by allowing wine to turn, some given.

 The sherry vinegar was excellent, the Pinot grigio terrible, like battery acid, inedible, and today I'm using what's left on the shelf, mixing black cherry not made by me, and white likewise. I also have black cherry balsamic, ew, not a fan, given to me. Not including that.

Sugar also goes in this dressing, not pictured, as real photographers say.

It's okay but I need to put apple cider vinegar on my shopping list. I love malt vinegar but around here it's considered gourmet (!) and comes with a gilt-edged price tag.

So here's several hot weather easy meals.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Iced tea for heatwave time

Afternoon tea today

Lemon ginger sun tea, cornmeal oat caraway seed muffin, split and spread with chive labneh, boiled egg.

Outside heat index 110f. Inside, cool and serene. But not in thinking and writing mode.

Except to ask if you're following the Passage Bookstore weekly presentations on Zoom of authors and books? Very good indeed. Ann Patchett with interesting reading suggestions, as well as discussing The Dutch House. Miss Manners showing us actual conversation with Liam name escapes me, excellent interviewer, John Muir Laws on nature journaling with Amy Tan.

 Just a great series and they're recorded so you can find them on the Passage Bookstore website, if you missed any. Really worth your time.

Sun tea cooking

I only have loose tea, so I improvised a teabag with cheesecloth. 

Afternoon tea will be iced today. Splash of lemon juice, chunks of fresh lemon. NO sugar, can't drink tea with it.

Monday bee working in the squash blossom

This is when I believe I planted something, when the bees show up to work in it. Bees all over the squash blossom today.

While my breakfast oatmeal simmered on the stove, I cleaned and refilled the bird bath, put out suet in the feeder.

Now we're all ready for another hot day.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Sunday morning and the sprinkler is running

Sung to Summertime.

 The animals approve the sprinkler I organized. I just step out while the kettle's on, early morning, start it, and instantly rabbits and other people who like a bit of running water to drink, show up and wait at a safe distance.

Very glad it's in place right now, heat index up to 110f today, not a time to be wrangling garden hoses.

It's a good sound.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

High anxiety then perfect calm, averaged out

For three months I've been trying to complete the legalities of driving my new car. The final stretch was the inspection.

Well,  they've changed the laws, now exempting inspection for cars until year five of their model. Everyone else two years. The decal on the windshield declares your status to every passing police cruiser and can cost $$$ if it's either not there or outdated.

This puts me in the Nonconformist group. Having to get the decal but not eligible for the inspection which the dealership has to do in order to issue the decal. And not a new car, which would simplify it. 

Three visits, two phone calls to the dealership before they grasped this. And found that after all I had to go to Motor vehicle with all the dox, including the vital green and white card the dealership lost from my windshield on a previous visit, which is required to get the decal in exchange.

 After I bellowed I'M NOT LEAVING WITHOUT IT, the manager stopped mansplaining an entirely different subject he assumed I was talking about, and did a vague gesture at searching.

 The tech did a bit better. Guys. They kept saying we didn't take it away.. trying to get me to leave. I ended up throwing all the car doors open once I figured out how to, still learning the car, and found it stuffed between the passenger seat and doorframe. Red hot glare at them all,  the manager ran back to his office, and the tech and I burst out laughing.

Then I called weeks later, as requested, to see if they had the decals, they said yes, come right over, they arrived. I explained mine should read March 2023. Long silence. Then consultations. Then they realized I had to wait for the State agency to reopen in July.

That gave me and a lot of people three weeks before the deadline to get four months of backlog processed. After scenes of mass confusion and people camping overnight, they extended the deadline to September for March and later people. Our tax dollars at work. 

So today, despite great anxiety, motor vehicle being an ordeal at the best of times which this isn't, and a cool day for waiting, I went to a less traveled station.

 After missing the building, which is nothing like the picture on their helpful website, and having to go all over the Eastern Seaboard to find a u turn, divided highway, heavy traffic, I got there.

And the hardest part was done. Ten cars ahead of me, nothing to the several miles of lines last week, at every agency in the State, friendly inspector with an islands accent, reggae music going, few minutes while he sorted the dox, and now I am legal till I'm basically too old to notice.

That little postage stamp size thing on the windshield is the cause of turning the rest of my hair white. Note the spare mask hanging from the mirror. It's the thing now.

Then home, perfect afternoon on the deck, reading Gish Jen, dozing, watching turkey vultures dancing in the sky. 

So, all in all, it averages out to a Pretty Good Day.

And I'm going to stitch hexies this evening after my Centering Prayer meeting, excellent timing for it, come to think of it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Veggie futures bright

This morning's patio stroll, three steps each way,  found flowers which promise a harvest.

Brand new Roma tomato flowers just starting. It looks as if the roots did, as hoped, go through the bottom of the pots to get established deep enough. The plants got a good start  in potting soil.

And the squash is booming.  Likewise in pots but judging from its healthy growth, also rooted through the pots into the ground.

This one is in a race against time. The HOA is replacing all the fences sometime this summer, after our all thinking it would be postponed to next year.

 So the squash is in danger of losing its support and possibly being trampled. I have few illusions about the dainty boots of the construction workers,  having had to rebuild my plantings several times after "improvements" have happened.

And I have to get the boxes attached on top of the fence, my custom built items, removed to the deck before the marauding fencers arrive.

However, let's enjoy what we can while we can. And let's hope there's enough advance notice to take whatever precautions I can think of.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Yogurt cheese returns

I like to make yogurt cheese, aka labneh, when I remember.  Best with whole milk yogurt. Strained overnight in the fridge in a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl.

Then you get a supply of great cheese, similar texture to cream cheese but I like it better. It's sharper and less waxy to my taste

And the whey that drains off is good in soup, so that's in the freezer now.

Today I sprinkled freshcut chives over.

Then lunch was a Swiss cheese chive omelette, with a cornbread oat walnut muffin, spread with labneh.  Nice on a hot summer day when you can't be pestered to start cooking.

I've added in violets and other edible flowers at other times. It's very appealing.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Honesty harvesting

After the large rainstorms and wind yesterday I went out to see how everything fared. Mostly fine, the tomatoes blown around, and I propped them up for now with a bench. 

I noticed the honesty is mature enough to collect. Usually I cut the stems then remove the seed husks and collect the seeds. But I had a great, lazy, idea.

 Just husk them in place, drop the seeds back into the pot, where I would have planted them anyway. Then cut.

I noticed that the Japanese maple, prized by me among other things,for its dye, has dyed a nearby seedpod.

And here's this year's addition to the honesty collection.

Now in place with all the previous years, in the downstairs bathroom, the Little Gallery.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Some sort of toffee stuff

I made my own version of Heath Bars this evening, adapting a recipe for toffee. Equal parts butter, sugar, chocolate chips, pinch of salt and a shake of walnuts.

I followed the recipe, cooked it to hard crack stage etc.using my trust candy thermometer, but  it's halfway between hard toffee and fudge. It's very good, not complaining. It's just not brittle.

 The mixture didn't go the dark  amber it's supposed to. It's possible it's a function of the fat content of the butter. I don't know. If any reader does, please enlighten me.

 I spread the chocolate chips around the hot toffee after I'd poured it into the foil, and they melted pretty well. I walnutted half the candy because sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.

And it belatedly occurs to me that since we were visited by Tropical Storm Faye today and the humidity is almost unbreathable, that definitely may have played a part in the process. I hadn't thought about it before.

But you can't go far wrong with butter, sugar, chocolate and walnuts. And a pinch of salt.

Anyway Handsome Son is visiting tomorrow and will be glad to sample, I expect.

Haven't had candy since I made chocolate bark for Valentine's day. 

Confused begonia

This plant flowers every couple of years. Usually in January, very welcome when the weather isn't.

But here it is in July. Search me.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Reading, light and thoughtful

As well as the Medici history, other reading is happening all the time. Aside from an excellent YouTube audio production of Pym's Excellent Women, after an equally good one of Colin Firth and Greene's The End of the Affair, oddly dated but still very good.

Aside, after  interrupting myself, from these accompaniments to knitting, stitching and cooking, I've been reading ebooks on Hoopla.

 This one edited by Clara Parkes, whose Daily Respite emails are a great start to the day. You can sign up, free, really inventive messages daily. Google on her, she's lovely. Anyway, this is a collection of essays on stash by knitters who can write

And some light mysteries and a romance, which I transfer to Kindle, easier on the eyes, and a lot of fun.

So this is how I keep my mind ticking over. More or less.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Three Bean Solution

So when I put orzo on my shopping list that Handsome Son has been taking care of for a while now, I was thinking of the plain white stuff in a cardboard box. He produced this

not being familiar with plain orzo. This is pretty fancy, three colors, three vegetables or something. So I tried a mixture of it and white beans. Okay, not exciting but edible. You did know it's good to boil canned beans a bit to ensure they're tender? I boiled orzo and beans together, 10 minutes, worked fine.

Then I thought this is pretty dull. And today three bean salad happened. Well, three beans plus three color orzo. I didn't have red onions so I minced half a white one, made the dressing with a lovely mature sherry vinegar, olive oil, fresh ground black pepper, sugar. And it's a whole lot more interesting.

And very welcome on a steaming hot day.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Question for plant experts

This savage feller showed up out of the ground cover, and I'd like to know what it is, if anyone can help. It's very thorny and has tendrils galore. In fact it was trying to lasso the Russian sage, which is how I found it as I was tying up the rs and got stabbed in the process.

I've pulled it out but would like an id. Not wild grape which we have around here.
Very unfriendly, probably a defense against animals.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Crackers, cheese and the Medici

Rattlin' good history of Alessandro de Medici, perfect with strong cheddar cheese and fresh baked crackers this evening..

The crackers I adapted from several ideas. I used oat flour and AP, quarter cup of one, one and three quarters  t'other. Olive oil, quarter cup, warm water, three quarters cup. Half teaspoon each salt, baking   powder.

 Tossed a merry old mix of fresh picked thyme, mustard seeds, caraway seeds, celery seeds, cayenne, kosher salt, and whisked, then kneaded, the lot together.

 Rolled it out to about fit the baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Then I scored it with a pizza wheel into crackery squares. About 20 minutes at 425f. 

It works a lot better to mix the seeds, which can be anything you like or happen to have lying around, into the dough rather than applying them to the surface as some recipes do. I get plenty of seeds rolling about underfoot that way. I'd rather capture them in the dough.

I did apply coarse seasalt after the rolling and cutting, though.

And cheddar, crackers and an exciting history of the Medici clan go well together.

The baking was, as so often, interrupted by neighbors wanting plants id'ed as to weed or not.

 I went out in me pinny, pointed firmly at the massive specimens of weeds including a sturdy mulberry tree, around here a terrible nuisance, planted by birds. Bird poop containing fruit seeds is a great package for successful planting, comes complete with its own fertilizer. 

Squirrels too, bury acorns and I pulled out two white oaks this morning. I also explained for the zillionth time, that rosa rugosa is not a lovely desirable plant but the spawn of Satan, a big mistake introduced to create cattle proof hedges.

 It went mad and became a target for eradication before it choked everything in its path. It makes titchy little flowers and titchier  little fruit, eaten by birds, then pooped right into your favorite shrub. It  must be ruthlessly hauled out of the specimen azalea bush.

Anyway this convo took place at top speed, since my crackers were in the oven, and I needed to see how they were doing. Since they were a few ideas put together, all with different oven settings and timing, I wanted to keep checking.

 But I never put a neighbor off, especially this one, who's shy and not sure about asking.

So, the weeds are fixed, the crackers are baked and Alessandro dies on page two, not bad going since it's his bio. I guess everything else will be flashback.

As was this blog post, come to think of it.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Happy Fourth, says nature

Nature is  great company. Big rainstorms last night, and everything's happy and washed. The maple tipped a leaf full of rain down my neck while I was focusing. Good morning to you too!

The daylily, the plant goes on for decades while each blossom lasts barely a day. You can see all stages in this picture. Descendants of my daylilies are in bloom all over the neighborhood. It's a natural parable.

Seeds gift of Quinn, the candy roaster squash

Japanese maple rescued from a neighbor
and flourishing

And, back among humans, doing my part toward a more perfect union. I'm finding that even small gestures supporting people of color, especially women, is proving to be significant.

I just found out yesterday that a tweet of mine,congratulations to a woman who'd just landed a significant public radio job (replacing a mediocre white man who had to be fired for inappropriate behavior) was very important to her.

 She's kept it as encouragement on tough days. She tweeted it again to say so. Just one little tweet from an old white lady she doesn't know from Eve.  One thing that mattered was that I wrote it immediately on seeing the announcement of her hire. The timing didn't escape her.

So you never know. My part at this point is to encourage and back up people whose lives continue to be a struggle, despite their obvious talent and fearless work ethic.

Just sayin'.  Rock on, blogistas. Stay safe. Stay well. Find stuff to love.

Friday, July 3, 2020

The Verdict on the Wandering Blueberry Cake

The cake now corralled and in the right blog, handsome son has now left after a visit, involving tea and the aforementioned AWOL item.

Here's the verdict on the cake

Not a bad review.

Oops, wrong door

Today's Happy Fourth before the Fourth got into

So please go there. Nice stuff. You'll like it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Happy Canada Day, and White Rabbits, eh?

Happy Canada Day to our Canadian and Canada-adjacent blogistas.

White Rabbits, too.

I did dull but strenuous stuff this morning, cut back the foliage from the very feeble iris this year, brought the Thai basil out front so neighbors can pick. Note the qtips and read on 

Witnessed the almost frightening advance of the squash plant. It had set off across the gate so just yesterday I turned it back and tied it in a new direction. Whereupon it said Ho, that's how you want it? I'll show you. And proceeded to commandeer the top of the fence. All the growth you see at the top is since yesterday

The tomatoes really like their new watering system

And I did the annual Riddling of the AC Condenser pipe. This is below grade, for some "reason" and if you fail to riddle out the buildup of debris that drifts in over the winter, the AC will drain through the living room ceiling. I riddled out a bit of debris and water began to flow out very obligingly.

 That bit of screening covers the mouth of it and the tile behind keeps the screening in place. Simple, works a treat. The various other visible pipes and lines are not related. The actual condensation pipe is underground and not visible here. 

If I'd held off a couple of hours, my neighbor would have done it. I met him later, and  he said he was about to do his, did I want him to do mine, too. But I was done. In a hot humid place like this it's vital to remember to do it. Some people have elaborate hoses and pumps and things.

Then we got talking about the caterpillars that have eaten his kale and broccoli, and I looked and saw just sad little skeletons, where there were plants last week. I don't think he knew about putting collars to interrupt the caterpillars' climb. 

He also has squirrels digging merrily in the house plants he put out for the summer. There I could help, and I gave him some qtips soaked in peppermint essential oil to put in the pots. As you see above in the Thai basil. 

 I've had some success with it. It's not the stuff you get in the baking section, but the real thing, much more pungent.

The best deterrent for squirrels is a pair of nesting Carolina wrens with young. They take no prisoners. I've seen them run squirrels off, one tiny bird pecking furiously at his head, one likewise at his tail. 

We had a squirrel free season up to a couple of weeks ago, and then I knew the pair that nested near here must be done with child rearing when the squirrels came back, ransacking the feeder.