Monday, June 29, 2009

It's A Dog's Life

Daughter and son-in-law are gone for a couple of days to attend a reunion of his side of the family. We're dogsitting our two granddogs while they're away.

Tucker is a Cardigan Welsh Corgi and Maisy is a Golden Retriever. They are both suffering terribly and missing their home.

Tucker is stretched out by the back door, not because he's waiting for his parents to come back and rescue him but because it's the coolest spot in the house. And with that fur coat he has to wear, he needs a cool spot.

This is Maisy, sound asleep, in the busiest traffic area of the kitchen. As you can see, she's very upset and full of anxiety.

Our dog, Zoey, is saying, "Will somebody please open the door so I can get outta here? I'm not used to having so much company."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Everybody Doesn't Eat On A Quilt?

This morning I found a comment from my daughter on my blog post of yesterday. It said, "Mom, you should explain to everyone why you display your foodstuffs on a "quilt!”

Wha . . . ? Huh? I read the comment again. And once more. Just as I was starting to think that one of us (probably me) had finally gone off the edge, it dawned on me what she meant.

I frequently have a quilted tablecloth on our table. And when I take pictures as illustration for a blog about food or a recipe, I sometimes set the dish or finished product on the table (with quilted tablecloth covering it) to take the picture. It never occurred to me that anyone would think I regularly set our food on a bed, or couch, or nap time quilt! ("Oh, don't mind the apple pie on the quilt on the couch there. Just push it out of your way and sit down.")

So, you ask, doesn't a quilted tablecloth get dirty, messed-up, slopped on? Oh, ya. But it's also very washable. And this one does have a stain on it. Right in the middle of one of the white (of course!) squares where I dropped a blob of salsa. But, hey, things that you enjoy having in your home and using are meant to be . . . well, enjoyed and used!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Red, Ruby 'Barb

I still haven't gotten my fill of the stuff. Made a Rhubarb Upside Down Cake last night. Here's the recipe in case you're like me and think you still need some rhubarb as a spring (summer?) tonic.


In the bottom of an 8 x 8" pan, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Combine 3-1/2 cups sliced rhubarb with 2/3 cups sugar in a mixing bowl and then place rhubarb/sugarmixture on top of butter in pan. Set aside.

For the cake batter, mix 3 (more) tablespoons softened butter, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 egg. Then add 1-1/2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup milk. Mix well. This will make a stiff batter.

Spread the batter over topping in pan. (Distribute blobs of the batter as evenly as you can over the rhubarb and then smooth it out . . . without making yourself crazy.)

If it looks something like this, you're doing fine.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate.

The cake part is very flavorful, so moist! Pieces are great as is or in a bowl with milk or whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (yeah!) which makes it quite the treat.

I went to a meeting last week at a gal's home in town. She had rhubarb plants in her backyard like I have never seen before. There must have been 100 or 150 of 'em. (Well, at least fifteen or twenty. Really.) They were as tall as I am. (Okay, so I am slightly vertically challenged . . . but still.) I commented that I'd never seen rhubarb like that. She said she didn't think of them as rhubarb plants but rather as a privacy fence!

This is my one, lonely, but lovely rhubarb plant, just after I nearly snatched it bald this morning. It was grown out on both sides way over the marigolds on the left and strawberry plants on the right. (Last time I planted new strawberry plants, I had these few left over and [foolishly?] stuck them in the rhubarb bed.) Also pulled stalks that were hanging into the walkways, front and back, because my weed-whipper man couldn't get near the sides of the garden bed.

Ah, yes, if only ALL crops would grow as easily and plentifully as good ol' rhubarb. Time to get some put by in our freezer for winter usage. Nuthin' like a little spring tonic in January or February.

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Spinach Is Bolting!

We like spinach. We really like spinach. I'll put a bowl of baby spinach leaves on the table, a plate of cheese slices, another plate of sliced cooked meat of some kind and a good veggie dip. We make little spinach "sandwiches" by stacking two or three spinach leaves together, placing a slice of cheese and a slice of meat on that, then topping with another two or three spinach leaves. Dip this little sandwich in the dip and . . .mmm, mmm, good! A bowl of fresh picked radishes with salt and that was our dinner last night.

Where was I? Did I get side-tracked? Oh, yeah, our spinach. Even though we've only had two good harvests off our bed of spinach so far, the plants are starting to show signs of wanting to bolt. Too *#!% hot! So to talk our spinach crop into producing for us over a longer period of time, today I knew I had to take serious measures.

First off, I mulched the whole bed (in picture below I'm only half done with the job) with fresh grass clippings in an effort to hold more moisture in the soil.

This mulching also keeps the spinach leaves almost totally clean when it rains as no mud splashes up on the underside of the leaves. (My mama didn't raise no dummy.) Then we put what we call a "riser" on the spinach bed with a shade cloth cover fastened to the top of that. The shade cloth gives cooler temperature loving crops relief from the heat and sun of the day. Air still circulates through the cloth and rain falls right through onto the plants.

This shows the shade cloth covered top that can be propped up and out of the way when I want to harvest.

This shot is looking down through the shade cloth cover at the mulched bed of spinach.

I hope you'll be much more comfortable and happy, you little green plants, and will give us a lot more delicious, crunchy, healthful spinach. And don't even think about bolting now, okay?

To celebrate a day of hard work in the hot, hot sun, we had root beer floats out on the sun-shaded deck.

Boy, did they hit the spot! (Burp. 'Scuse me. Root beer always makes me burpy.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lovely Lupine

At the back of our yard, behind some trees, is a cleared, graveled space where we have our wood working area, storage for things we don't want visible from the house, etc. Just past that, and before our woods line begins, is a short, steep slope that's grass and weed covered. About three years ago, a couple of lupine plants popped up there which we were glad to see. Lupine grow wild up here and I think they're beautiful.

The next year there were a few more and now this year we have a very respectable stand of them. Lupines can be shades of pink, purple, or white but, so far anyway, all of ours are this lovely purple color. They make nice bouquets when brought in as cut flowers. So, so pretty.

We had an absolutely gorgeous day today weather-wise. I didn't check although I'm sure in the sun it was well into the 80s but we had very little humidity (yay for our side!) and a wonderful breeze all day long. Both Roy and I ended up getting more sun on exposed skin than we maybe should have. That's what happens when you're wearing turtlenecks well into June and then all of a sudden a tank top is too warm.

I got lots of weeding done in the garden and flower beds around the deck. Most everything is now under control . . . except the strawberry patch. Seems that the straw I used for mulch had oodles of oat seeds in it and now the whole patch looks like a healthy stand of grain. Ugh. Sometimes ya can't win for losin'. It's going to be a struggle to get those robust green shoots out that have come up right through the heavy straw mulch. But it's all part and parcel of having a garden and growing things . . . and I do love doing that.

Not relating to much anything in particular, I want to share a quote I recently came across by Todd Rowe, Director of the American Medical College of Homeopathy. He said:

"Hearing a call and not following it creates disease within each of us . . . Healing happens for us to the extent that we identify what we love and live that in our lives.”

Time to shower, climb into bed and get rested and ready for another good day tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Hills Are Alive . . .

. . . with the sound of . . . potatoes growing.

Got out in the garden this morning before the no-see'ums were awake and got all the potatoes hilled up. Good job, Mama Pea!

Can you make out the three little, itty-bitty gumball sized tomatoes in this picture? They're cherry tomatoes in a bed that I've got covered with a cold frame. We open up the top during the day but are still closing it at night to try to keep the overnight temperatures from dropping too low.

This is the bed of California Poppies that I started inside and thought I froze by putting them out too soon. As sad as they looked for a while, they're getting nice and full and starting (just starting) to bloom now.

Now why I ask you, don't people plant chives as "flowers?" You could hardly find a prettier blossom than a chive blossom. And they bloom for a long time outdoors on the plant and hold up very well when cut and put in a vase inside.

Lastly . . . ta-daaaah! Our first harvest of spinach this year. Dinner tonight? Homemade Bean Soup with Ham and homemade cottage cheese with chives and cherry tomatoes (NOT from the garden) on a bed of fresh spinach leaves. (If Agnes had shown up today [she was AWOL again], we might have had a yummy dessert, but no such luck. Darn.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Buggy, Muggy Monday

Oh my gosh, do I itch like crazy. Almost drive-you-out-of-your-mind crazy. I have bites on every part of my body. Go ahead and name a body part. Yup, I have one there. Maybe two.

I just came in from trying to hill up the potatoes. They got super-tall (overnight, I think), about a foot high, and really need to be hilled up for the first time.

But the no-see'ums are so bad out there this afternoon that I quit and ran for my life after doing just the one row above.

The temp today made it only into the low 70s but we had about 110% humidity with a low, low pressure system making it very gray and miserable all day. You felt sweaty, but cold at the same time. And the bugs . . .eeeeek!

I was gone all morning, didn't get home until noon. Made us a quick lunch; smoothie for Roy and apple slices and peanut butter for me. I had started the laundry before I left this morning so worked some more on finishing that up. No hanging out on the line today; too hoomid! Then we stacked some wood Roy had just cut.

Went to get some things in a storage shed and had to spend some time doing a bit of sorting there just so we could get at what we needed. That shed HAS to be torn apart, sorted, cleaned, and organized this summer. I just don't know exactly when we'll get to it. But it's a must-do.

Took a quick tour of the garden and discovered these.

Whoa, wadishes! Our first produce from the garden this year. There are also scallions big enough to eat and I could have stolen some baby spinach leaves if I'd wanted. I love radishes. I love, love, love radishes. Wonder what it is in radishes that my system craves? Sulfur? My daughter would say it's dirt. Ever since she was small she's always maintained radishes taste just like dirt. (Wonder who force-fed her all that dirt so she knows what it tastes like?)

Look, look! My poor, little half frozen window box impatiens are coming to life.

Okay, so they're not exactly lush and gorgeous at this point but considering the fact that two weeks ago I was sure they were gonna shrivel up and die, I'm pleased as punch that they are looking this good now.

I'm hoping we're in for a change in the weather for tomorrow . . . less humidity, please. Warmth will be fine but could we have a nice, gentle breeze to keep the bugs away? 'Cause I sure could use a whole day spent out in the garden. Finishing up those remaining five rows of 'taters will be first. Then on to a kajillion other spots that need attention.

Gotta go rustle us up some dinner. Can't wait to crunch into those radishes.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Reading Summer

A summer of reading is a fantasy I've had for a couple of years now. Just recently I shared it with my husband. His immediate reaction was, "Uh . . . wouldn't it make more sense to want to plan 'a winter of reading?'”

Nope, sorry, that's not what I have in mind. My yearnings for a summer of reading started by being in the library in the summertime and observing seasonal people (those who have cabins or second homes in our area and spend part or the majority of the summer here) checking out big stacks of books. Adults, teens and kids leaving with book bags and armloads of novels, biographies, history books of the area, bird identification books, wildflower books, big, interesting picture books . . . I could just imagine them back in their summer abodes, or sitting on their tranquil docks jutting out into the water, taking advantage of vacation days and weeks devouring tome after tome. Reading, reading, reading as much as they wanted. (Jealousy took root in my heart.)

Yeah, that's what I want to be free to do. I never have enough time for reading. Just about the only time I do read is if I can get in bed early enough at night to have a half hour or so to lose myself in a book before the sandman hits me with something heavy. So to face the prospect of giving myself the whole summer to read? Maybe it's the feeling I had as a child in the summer with no responsibilities. My idea of heaven on earth.

Of course, this means I would have to forego putting in a garden that summer. (WHAT?! I can see my incredulous family and friends looking at me in disbelief. Mama Pea NOT put in a garden??) Truth to tell (and please don't publish this in the paper yet), I have been thinking seriously of letting the soil lie fallow next year. Yup, cover it with compost, mulch, grass clippings, till it in a couple of times, put back nutrients without taking anything out. Let it rest, replenish, gain fertility.

Okay, so I would still have to plant out one garden bed in lettuce for our fresh salads, one in spinach because we both crave that dark, green, vitamin and mineral-filled stuff, one of radishes because I'm addicted to them (I know, not what would turn the average person on, but they're cheap and harmless), and one bed of scallions. But that's only four beds as opposed to the 27 I normally plant out. Nothing in the field garden, nothing in the pumpkin/squash patch. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Emp-ty.

I'd still have the raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, flower borders around the deck and window boxes to take care of. Granted I would have enough outside work to tend to, but that would be minimalistic compared to my usual workload in the summer time. For me, gardening is a huge time-consumer (although I truly love it) and something that takes most of my energy and work hours. I wouldn't (be able to) forsake my inside duties, of course. That's a given.

Oh, oh, oh! I'm really thinking about it now. Hours spent in the hammock reading, the hours right after dawn on the deck with a book and my morning latte, afternoons by the lake with a novel and thermos of iced tea, late nights reading on the couch with the doors and windows open and a cooling breeze wafting through the house. If I hadn't been in the garden all day, maybe I could even stay awake long enough and late enough to finish several chapters at a crack . . . or even the whole book!

Would I get my fill of reading in a summer's time? How long would it take for me to feel satiated and/or wear out my reading glasses? Would my butt give out from sitting on it so many hours a day? What an interesting experiment it would be. My Reading Summer. Fantasy or reality? By gum, I'm seriously contemplating doing it next year. By gum, yes, I am.