Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Moving on...

Even the late season daffodils' (poeticus and decoy) blooms have faded, before I could even get out there to take a picture.  Same with the cherry tree, who looked beautiful one Saturday, and the next was making a pink mess of the sidewalk.

Next up are the irises, now waving their buds proudly above their heads.  Some of the blue ones are already bloooming.  These are the same ones that my neighbor gave me, and when I divided I gave some to the neighbor across the street.  Quite strong smelling, their scent has now replaced the hyacinths' (my favorite!).  Making a note now, though I'll probably not remember to do it, to mark the colors on the ones that I was given from other gardens so that I can divide the ones I really like in the fall.

Lamium, epimedium, hardy geraniums, foamflower, pigsqueak, ragwort, and lungwort are all blooming like crazy - they soon will be followed by tickseed, alliums, and coral bells whose buds are nearly ready to open.  Not sure why my hellebores and trilliums haven't been blooming year after year - got foliage, but no flowers.  Maybe they need fertilizer.

The steeper slope on the west side of the house has now been completely covered in cardboard and mulch, instead of weedy wildflowers.  In the fall (or next spring, depending on how I feel about it), I will start planting perennial shrubs.  Right now I have to come up with some sort of a plan so I know what I'm looking for.  I don't really want anything that grows taller than 5' up in the back along the neighbor's retaining wall .  I do like the beautyberries I have in the other end of the bed, but I think I may go with some red twig dogwoods which I won't have to prune for the first 3 years anyhow.  Cornus 'Arctic Fire' only gets about 4' high with a 4' spread.  I was thinking of interspersing those with Ilex 'Sky Pencil' which grows taller, but with only a 1' spread.  I don't want a full hedge of that, though.



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

On Seasonal Allergies

Not much keeps me from getting outside to work in the garden, but this year seasonal allergies have me cowering indoors trying to escape from tree pollen for the past few days.  It's a relatively short season, thank goodness, but I am more miserable this year than I have been in years past.  From the sound of it, a lot of other people here at work are suffering too.  We're sniffling, sneezing, and coughing in a symphony conducted by the waving tree limbs. 

As airborne delivery is not the most efficient delivery method for propagating your species, male trees must launch extra pollen into the air to increase the chances of pollinating a flower on a female tree.  The size and weight of the pollen is what allows it to remain airborne, rather than the heavier pollen that requires pollinators (insects, birds, bats) to move it from one plant to another.  These small light capsules of genetic information unfortunately find their way into our mucous membranes, triggering a immune system response in some people - the severity of which varies by person and day.

Landscape planners often choose male trees because they do not create messy seed pods and fruits, or stinky flowers; however, this predisposition towards planting male trees also increases the amount of pollen in the air.  The oak and maple trees in my neighbors' yards can quickly cover my silver car in pollen, turning it a funky shade of yellow.  Temperature also has an effect, stressed plants tend to go into reproduction mode, and produce more flowers and pollen.

In any case, I'll be over here cursing the trees instead of hugging them, for at least another week.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Black Garlic

A friend of mine generously gave me a package of black garlic from Trader Joes.  The entire garlic bulb is slow-cooked (for at least a month) and produces cloves that are soft like roasted garlic.  The color is a deep dark brown: the color you'd expect from the inside of a vanilla bean or very good dark chocolate.

I finally tried a bit of it yesterday, and the flavor has notes that struck me as similar to balsamic vinegar - particularly the thicker and not quite so acidic Aceto Balsasmico de Modena, not exactly the stuff that was ubiquitous in the '90s.

I ended up putting a clove in with spinach and a bunch of fresh garlic that I'd sliced and browned in olive oil.  Rather tasty.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Missing things from my youth

I'm missing a few foods from my youth that are no longer made, or at least that I can no longer find.

Weaver Chicken Roll.  One of the things Grandma always had in the fridge when I was there for lunch.  Discontinued long ago, I know, I went hunting a while back.  The Thumann's chicken roll is no substitute for this, the flavor and texture is all wrong.  We'd have a few slices of WCR on 2 slices of Wonder bread (which is back in prodction), with Hellman's mayonnaise and a slice of yellow American cheese.  I think that Grandma usually got deli sliced cheese when she got the cold cuts, though I could have a flawed memory and it could have been a Kraft "cheese" single which is what we always had in the fridge at home (though Mom always got the white singles).

Weaver Chicken Croquettes.  I was hoping to stop at the store and pick this up for dinner tonight, but discovered this is also discontinued after Tyson bought the company.  I might try the Goya chicken croquettes, but the shape is all different, and they don't come with the small tubs of light yellow gravy.  I love croquettes SO much, but honestly, I don't feel like going through the hassle of making homemade ones tonight, so I may end up heating up some of the Tyson chicken patties I already have in the freezer, and drown them with some poultry gravy.

Iced Spice Cookies.  Grandma always had these on hand too.  They were brown, about 3" across and about 1/8" thick -  roughly flower-shaped, with a small hole in the middle, and a sheen of white glaze.  Not soft, but not super crispy either.  Very spicy with clove, cinnamon, and ginger flavors.

I guess it's because the holidays are coming up and I miss Grandma that the chicken roll and cookies popped into my brain after I looked up the croquettes...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fall Cleanup on Aisle 4

On Saturday, we gathered up a bunch of the leaves in the backyard, as well as the leaves that the neighbor in the rear was going to put out at his curbside.  Of course, this was Mr. You-need-to-use-chemicals-on-the-lawn, and he couldn't figure out why I would want his leaves... "They'll sour the soil" he said. 

I've learned to disregard most of what he says on the topic of gardening and lawn care.
We piled up the leaves and I (hubby disappeared into the house) proceeded to run over them with the mower, tossing each bag of chopped leaves up into the main bed of the veggie garden. right up to the top of the concrete block .  So, we now have a 3-4 inch deep layer of chopped leaves on top of the dirt.  I also scattered eggshells I'd been saving all over the bed before topping it off with the leaves.

I have no idea where this myth of leaves "souring" the soil came from. Everything I have been reading indicates that chopped up autumn leaves is an excellent mulch.  There are two blogs I peruse quite often that have wisdom on this topic.  Their gardens are GORGEOUS.

Kevin Jacobs at A Garden for the House says "No room on your property for a big pile of leaves? Then shred the material, just as I do. Shredded leaves can be used immediately. You can till them into the soil, or, if you have a no-till policy (like me), just dump them onto your garden beds as mulch." Take a look at these links for where he uses these shredded leaves:
http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2014/10/why-i-save-my-autumn-leaves/
http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2014/11/yard-work-leaf-mulching-the-rose-beds/

Margaret Roach at A Way To Garden says "LEAVES make great leaf mold when composted to add organic matter to beds. Maybe start a leaves-only compost pile, and use the proceeds as mulch next year? Running over dry leaves (and other dry non-woody material) with the mower to shred will reduce the area needed, and speed its breakdown."  http://awaytogarden.com/garden-chores-november-2014/

Take a look at this video from Fine Gardening magazine.   The short article that accompanies it states "A two- to three-inch layer of leaves spread over a garden plot gives several benefits. Leaves hold down weed growth, add organic matter, and protect garden soil from compaction caused by rainfall."

Here's another article that says "Leaves can be used alone as a mulch but tend to blow away in windy locations and can be washed from beds during heavy rain showers. Leaves do best as a mulching material when they’re shredded. Non-shredded leaves and grass clippings can form a thick mat that makes water penetration nearly impossible.  If you don’t have a shredder, don’t worry. Leaves can be shredded using the lawn mower." http://www.organiclandcare.net/education/olc-articles/mulching-save-money-using-leaves-mulch

Even the Scott's fertilizer company endorses mulching leaves into the lawn, though you won't catch me using any of their products on my grass & weeds.  I ran over whatever leaves were left on the lawn with the mulching mower.

I'll follow up on this experiment in the spring.

In other news, on Sunday I finally dug up those calla lily tubers and put them, the gladiolus corms, and amarylis pots to bed in the basement.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Winter is coming?

Tomorrow I'll be saying "Winter is here."  The temperature is predicted to drop from mid-60's to mid-40's.  There are some last minute gardening chores to be done (yeah, those callas haven't gotten dug up yet), but I'll be pretty much done with the outdoors until the February thaw - hence the name change on the blog.  I'm making lots of soup already!

Mind you, this is a rough stab at the recipe, as I make soup the old-fashioned Grandma Konecko way - I taste it as I go and adjust as needed.

Chicken Soup

For the base:
  • Roasted chicken bones (I recently used a 3 lbs pack of chicken backs, which I was very happy to find.  I often use saved bones left over from spatchcocking whole birds, but it takes a whle for me to get enough for a pot of soup)
  • 2 quarts chicken stock/broth/water
  • 12 whole peppercorns
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 medium yellow onions, quartered
  • 2 stalks celery, broken into pieces
  • 2 carrots, broken into pieces
  • 4 whole sprigs fresh dill
  • kosher salt to taste
Simmer together for a couple hours, then strain out all of the solids - return the stock to the pot

To finish:
  • chicken meat (I pick it off the roasted bones, but you can use about 1/2 lb chopped cooked breast/thigh meat)
  • 2 more stalks of celery and 2 more carrots, chopped relatively small 
  • a few handfuls of egg noodles, fillini, or other pasta
  • kosher salt to taste
  • a sprig or two of dill, chopped (leaves only)
Cook the celery and carrots until they begin to soften, add chicken, and noodles (my husband likes "homestyle" where the broth gets a little starchy - Mom and I always made the noodles separate and added later).  Finish with some fresh dill after taking off the heat.

Monday, November 3, 2014

First Frost

Undeniably, the wheel of the year rolls around.  The cars had a light coating of frost this morning. 

I pulled up my gladiolus bulbs a couple weeks ago, they're all cured and ready to have the tops lopped off to make their trip down to the basement tonight.  The amaryllis are heading down too.  I have to dig up a lot of calla lilies this weekend - the foliage has started to yellow, it is time.

Daylight savings time (what a hoax) is finally over.  It is nice to see the sun up before 7 PM, but I fear the time is coming when sun will not be up by the time I get home.