Saturday, July 31, 2010

Recovery and Flannel

Did you have that horrible summer flu that's going round?

The one where everything aches -- throat, head, eyes, bones, skin -- and it's hard to breathe? The one where you set the thermostat to 80, crawl under two quilts and a wool blanket but still can't get warm?

I did too. I'm better now.

Not quite 100%... but my eyes are focusing, I can swallow without wincing, and standing up doesn't seem as difficult as it did. I'm even getting a little work done.

stack of flannel fabric waiting to be cut up

neatly cut flannel blocks waiting to be sewn

Monday, July 26, 2010

Garden Colors

The white coneflower is blooming.

The red crepe myrtles are putting on a show.
Red cottoneatser berries have replaced the pink cottoneaster blooms. The white hydrangea are blooming, finally. The pink and white yarrows are almost finished, and the white tall phlox are mostly surviving even if they are losing their blooms. Phlox are perennial, so the plants will come back stronger next year.

The red nasturtiums are annual though and didn't survive the lack of watering, but the red and pink portulacas -- annual moss roses -- are thriving (and okay, yes, there are some pale yellow ones too, but that's to help tie in the yellow tones in the pink and yellow roses).

And the White butterfly bushes are blooming.
So is the purple butterfly bush. Can you guess what color it was supposed to be? Last year it bloomed pink. And last year I moved everything pink or red to the front garden... or so I thought. The red daylilies cheerfully and perversely blooming in the back garden where I could swear I had planted yellow hyperion daylilies might also argue against me.

I don't think the purple looks too very bad though. The humming birds and butterflies are loving it. If I add a couple more spots of purple maybe I won't need to move the huge bush and it will look like I meant to add a touch of purple...

... Come to think of it, last year all those lovely moundy (pink) mums edging the walk had a suspiciously purple tinge to their blooms.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stick Horse

What do you do when your little sister has a stick horse and you -- the boy with the cowboy hat and the Spin and Marty obsession -- have no horse?

If you happen to complain to your aunt you might get told "Well, why don't we find a stick and make one?"

"Can we do that, Mommy? Can we?"
"It just so happens," his mommy tells me, "that I have sticks set aside specifically to be making stick things with."
"Can we, Mommy?"
"We can." said his mommy and I.

Which is how I ended up inventing new stick horses yesterday.
Which led to a trail ride up to the blackberry patch.
Which is how I got streaks of blackberry "Indian paint" on my cheeks and a fern "feather" in my hair while a small cowboy whooped and rode his horse... that is, until the littlest cowgirl got tired and I became a horse myself.

"These aren't real horses you know." She said, waving her stick horse.
"They're not?"
"No. They're not. They're pretend horses." She was emphatic, serious, and so cute.
After a pause she added, "I'm getting tired."
Which is how I ended up carrying the littlest cowgirl -- and her horse -- all the way back down the mountain trail while the other two children ran ahead whooping and riding their new stick horses.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ronde de Nice Supper

bounty from the garden

Those lovely large squashes on the right side of the colander are Ronde de Nice. An heirloom summer squash -- okay, basically a round zucchini. They're supposed to be picked when they are the size of golf balls. Clearly that didn't happen.

When they get to be 3-4 inches they are described as being excellent for stuffing...I had to assume that roughly 6 inches across might also be good for stuffing. So I found a few recipes, merged them, and four hours later (including the run to the grocery -- how could I be out of olive oil?) I had made... wait for it... "the best dish you've ever cooked."

Too Big Baked Stuffed Ronde de Nice

First they have to be hollowed out. Slice off a big lid (like you would for carving a pumpkin, but smooth) and scoop out the seeds. Scoop out the flesh until the sides of the squash are only about 1/4 inch thick. Set aside the flesh to be chopped up and add into the stuffing later.

Pour a little kosher salt into each hollow squash, pop the lid on and carefully shake it so the salt coats the insides. Then turn them upside down so the moisture drains out as they sit waiting to be stuffed.

The stuffing begins with olive oil in the bottom of the cast iron skillet and four or five sprigs of fresh rosemary. Just strip off the leaves and add to the pan. Finger shred a couple huge leaves of Genovese basil in as well. Plus a whole clove of garlic, rough chopped (that means barely chopped and wonky).

A package of ground turkey, some dried sage, a little ground black pepper, a sploosh of onion powder... this was the point at which most recipes called for sausage, but I had ground turkey defrosted, so ground turkey and assorted sausagey seasonings is what I used.

After the meat cooks through, most recipes want you to lower the heat and add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste. Well, I lowered the heat but I happened to have some of my cheater spaghetti sauce still in the fridge... Waste not Want not. Why open a new can of paste? In it went. (That would be tomato paste with some oregano, thyme, garlic powder, and a bunch of basil in it.)

Add the chopped up flesh from scooping out the squashes earlier. I left the bits with seeds out; I thought it would look better, and I wasn't sure if (given the maturity) they would still be tender enough to eat.

When that all began to look cooked down, I turned off the burner. Most meat stuffings are supposed to cool for a while now. Mine didn't. I was hungry and I knew it still had to bake.

More fresh basil leaves, and a whoosh of bread crumbs... the time to take this photo showing the mini-bread-crumb-mountain was pretty much all the cooling this stuffing got. Mix well, add some grated Parmesan, the nice "fresh" Parm, and we're ready to stuff.

The squashes will be sitting in little puddles of squash water. Turn them right side up and wipe out the excess salt. Fill with the meat stuffing. Put the lids back on, and pop them in a baking pan with an inch (or so) of water. I put a couple extra sprigs of rosemary in my baking water to infuse it for added flavor (...and because it was pretty and I had cut too much extra).

They bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes with their lids on. Then move the lids to the side and bake for another 20 minutes until the top is goldeny and the squashes are nice and tender.
... and serve...
They are just as good, better even, the second day after you discover that one stuffed squash is actually three meals. They microwave beautifully to re-heat.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Bombus impatiens to be exact. The Common Eastern Native Bumblebee has a range from Florida to Maine, across to Kansas and Tennessee, even as far as the Dakotas; and it has been introduced in California and British Columbia since the failures of Western Native Bumblebees. Although most likely found as a wild bee, they are raised commercially for use in pollinating greenhouse tomatoes and the Maine blueberry crops. Bombus are particularly fond of blueberry blossoms and will fly to visit them even on cold or misty-rainy days. They are vegetarian, eating only nectar and pollen. (Pollen is actually a protein!) Like most bumbles the Common Eastern Native Bumblebee produces no stores of honey for the winter. Unlike honeybees who survive the winter on their honey stores, the social colony of 300-500 bumblebees will die in the fall. The newly mated bumblebee queen is the only survivor. She goes into hibernation in the ground emerging in the spring to begin a new colony.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Note to Self

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Mockers stir up a city,
but wise men turn away anger.
A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man keeps himself under control.
An angry man stirs up dissension,
and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.
For as churning the milk produces butter,
and as twisting the nose produces blood,
so stirring up anger produces strife.

Proverbs 15:1; 29:8, 11, 22; 30:33 (HCSB)

Friday, July 16, 2010

If You Were Thinking of Building a Lawn Chair....

... because you wanted something different than the ergo-plastic Adirondack-wanna-be lawn chairs everyone else has from Lowes, and Walmart, and K-Mart, and Krogers, but that's the only outdoor furniture you can find already made that's half decent and anywhere near in your price range [pause for breath] What would you choose?

The literalist's Lawn Chair?

A tempting pun but I suspect it's higher maintenance than I'm looking for. Moss in a shady spot might be more along the right lines -- if I want a green chair.

Something elegant though, like this one from a Garden Design magazine. Of course that involves buying a chair and covering it with moss....

So maybe something more like this?

Okay, not seriously, because 10 or so years is a long time to wait for lawn chairs, even cool grow-it-yourself ones like these from Pooktre but it's so tempting. Check out their website.

What I'm really trying to decide between is this classic British seaside folding deck chair. Which I totally think I could make myself -- after all, I do have my own electric drill now -- with minimal effort.

Nobody this side of the Pond seems to have these, so short of importing and freighting them from Jolly Old England, I'd have to make it myself anyway if I want one. And I do love the look.

I'm also liking the very different look of these romanticized Adirondack style chairs
which I found at Victorian Trading Company. My reaction to the photo was "That would look great on my patio." My reaction to the (with shipping, over $800 each!) price tag was "HAH! Not for two bits of scroll on some one-bys! I could make six for that price."

So I'm not sure if I want to make these because I really would like them in my garden or just because I'm sure I could make them for so much less. You know, if you don't count the cost of the power saw -- I wanted one of those anyway.


Photos in this post are images from the internet I copied to my inspirations file. I am ashamed to say I have forgotten where I found most of them. If you recognize the photo please leave a comment I would love to acknowledge all my sources. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Poetry of Bees

"All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
Odor of basswood upon a mountain slope,
A scene beloved of bees..."
--Theodore Roethke
“Morning is the best of all times in the garden.
The sun is not yet hot.
Sweet vapors rise from the earth.
Night dew clings to the soil and makes plants glisten.
Birds call to one another.
Bees are already at work.”
-- William Longwood

"Listen! O, listen!
Here come the hum the golden bees
Underneath full blossomed trees,
At once with glowing fruit and flowers crowned."
-- James Russell Lowell

"The wild bee reels from bough to bough
With his furry coat and his gauzy wing,
Now in a lily cup, and now
Setting a jacinth bell a-swing,
In his wandering."
-- Oscar Wilde

“One after one; the sound of rain, and bees
Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,
Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky;
I have thought of all by turns..."
--William Wordsworth

"There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance."
-- Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Is it crazy to have a dwarf antique apple orchard in your tiny south sloping suburban back yard? Maybe. But I went ahead and planted one anyway. In two rows, the front row has four apple trees and the back row has two apple trees in line with a holly bush and something I think is some kind of spirea. Dwarf trees need to be staked but they're great space savers because they can be planted as close as 8 feet apart. I positioned the orchard in the back corner of the yard for two reasons:

1) That's where some of the best sunlight space was for them, and it puts all the fruit together since the blueberry hedge and the raspberry patch are just to the front of the orchard.

2) Perspective, a technique borrowed from Japanese gardens. Smaller trees look like they are farther away creating an illusion of greater distance. Since the orchard trees are dwarf they will grow only 8 to 10 feet tall. Hopefully, when mature, these trees will then appear farther away than they really are making the back yard seem larger. That's the plan anyway.
I planted them late last fall, getting them in the ground just before it froze -- I was planting them during our first snowstorm. This spring they bloomed and most of them tried to set apples.The Grimes Golden and the Arkansas Black didn't bother with trying to fruit in their first year. The Cox Orange Pippin, and Washington Strawberry tried but gave up and dropped their fruit. The Pound was doing well but the tree is still to young for the weight of those big apples and they dropped too.
So all that's left are three small Yellow Transparents clinging tenaciously. Since the Yellow Transparent is an early apple (August) I have great hopes -- I might actually get ripe apples my orchard the first year! Most dwarfing stock helps the apple trees to fruit earlier, but the general rule of thumb is still 2-5 years before you can expect a crop. Though I don't suppose anyone but me would call three apples a "crop" anyway. :D

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Truth of Wrong from Right

In the eyes of the Ranger
The unsuspecting stranger
Had better know the truth of wrong from right
'Cause the eyes of the Ranger are upon you
Any wrong you do he's gonna see
So when you're in Texas look behind you
'Cause that's where the Ranger's gonna be

I'm spending some time with my Dad this week, and we're having one of our semi-annual Walker, Texas Ranger marathons. He's got season three on DVD now.

It's not high-brow or literary, and it's certainly not British or in any way Anglophile... and you're right, westerns really aren't my thing. But Dad loves pretty much all westerns and truth be told, when it comes to Chuck Norris at least, I'm all right with that.

Sure, the female characters are typically one-dimensional but that's okay because the male characters are generally a little one-dimensional too... and they treat the women with courtesy and respect or they get kicked in the head by a Texas Ranger. [On the one hand I object to the excessive use of force, but on the other hand I'm tempted to take a few karate lessons myself -- common courtesy is a dying art. ]

The plots are naive, the dialog predictable, something always blows up, someone always gets shot, and the good guy always saves the day. Which, right there is why I like watching Walker with my Dad.

We sit there sharing time together. Sharing a belief that it is possible for the good guys of the world to triumph. Sharing a hope that the bad guys (real-life bad guys) will lose. That there are heroes drawing a line in the sand and defending it. That somewhere on this planet and in this country there are still genuinely good people willing to stand up and fight for honor and decency and justice.

It might be simplistic... okay, it is simplistic, but sometimes a dose of simple, a dose of old-fashioned straight shooting, a dose of knowing wrong from right is exactly what we need to see in this world.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Last Puppet

Remember this puppet? She was that last one waiting to be repaired/remade for VBS. [Okay technically there was another puppet but it was in really rough shape, I scavenged parts off it for the other puppets and all that's left is a disembodied head.]
Anyway, she's had her cosmetic work done and went back to church yesterday with:

new hair
... in pigtails...
total body remake
... skinny arms, elbows, new hand, an actual body...

and eyelids.
Now don't tell, but I also took off the monkey ears and left them off. Doesn't she look better that way though?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Your Inner Tree

"The Bible doesn't call us to be more motivated or more productive workers. The relevant image in Scripture is fruitfulness. Not busyness. Not even productivity. A godly person, the Bible says, is like a tree planted by rivers of living waters. Trees are not frenzied or frantic. They do not attend seminars on "releasing the redwood within them." They do not consume vast amounts of caffeine to keep up their adrenaline. Trees are unhurried. They are full of activity, though most of it is unseen. Mostly, a tree knows from where its nourishment comes. It is deeply rooted. It is not easily distracted. A tree has learned to abide. Abiding in Christ is the great antithesis to sloth. Abiding is effort-filled but is the place of nourishment and renewal." - John Ortberg