Monday, July 5, 2010

More Garden...Volume 2

Dinner last night: venison roast, and corn, peppers, and onion. All cooked in the middle of the garden. : )

This was my view across the street last night:

Canteloupe vines, with a rogue tomato growing in the middle of the patch.

Baby canteloupe.


The start of next year's woodpile.

Spinach, now bolting. We'll be planting Bloomsdale long-standing again.

Sunflowers, about 4 ft. tall ~ due to be 8 to 12 ft fully grown.

Remember this? This is the same vine, after a harsh winter pruning this year, and growth this year only.

Baby grapes.

Spearmint, in its infancy. I planted it along a rocky ridge that happens to hold soil in an attempt to curb its vigor a bit. I didn't dare plant it into one of the "regular" beds.

Raspberry brambles (the black ones) all the way down the line.

The other raspberry patch, complete with weeds and a maple tree in the middle.

Mutant raspberry: most produce on last year's canes. This one is producing on a first year cane. And they are huge.

One of my altheas, taken about 7 this morning. I also have a blush pink one, and a dark mauve-y one with a dark purple center.

Mulberry tree, they ripen a delicious dark purple and are actually SWEET. I'm used to them being a little more tart.

This one also likes to eat the mulberries, but isn't quite tall enough to reach without some assistance.

My nemesis: poison ivy. Not only does it spread with wicked abandon along my woodline (and in between my raspberries), but it also becomes a climbing vine when it meets a tree or fence. Evil stuff.

Tall phlox.

One child prefers to play rather than work in the garden. And that's ok.


Pumpkins, weeds, and a whole lot of volunteer tomatoes from last year's patch.

Peas, some of the last.

Peppers and tomatoes ~ early.

Tomatoes and peppers now.

Garden June/July 2010

Here are some shots from around the garden:

Lazy day!

Clematis. Last year they were solid orchid, this year they have developed the darker bars in the middle of the flowers.

Onions: red, and sweet (granex-type).

Peas ~ in the beginning.

Peas ~ now. They're about done, they prefer cooler weather.

Gypsy peppers.

Bell peppers.

Rainbow mix peppers ~ these are turning dark purple.

Digging for 'taters.

Happy okra ~ it loves the heat!

I have a helper that prefers more to play in the dirt than actually help in the garden...

Cherry tomatoes. We have an affliction at this house: no cherry tomatoes have yet to make it inside the house. My children tend to eat them immediately.

Chicory patch. Eat the young leaves in a salad. You can also dig the root, chop into small pieces, roast it in your oven, and grind it up to add to your coffee. Num, tastes like New Orleans.

Chicory typically has lovely blue flowers, like someone took a daisy and squared off the ends of the petals.

A few early potatoes and young turnips.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Everything in Moderation

Lately I've been noticing comments left in foreign characters. I have learned that a lot of those users are spamming advertisements for sites that I have no wish to promote. I don't want to block them entirely, as I do have some Korean friends, but I also want to avoid the junk.

I am currently moderating all comments left; if it takes a day or two for one of yours to show up, that's why.

Off to do some gardening with what's left of the day.

~ JH

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Quiet Place

Today we are just spending some time as a family and reflecting on our Siberian Husky's antics -- he passed while sleeping last night. Our daughter, who is 4, is starting to "get it"; our son doesn't seem to grasp the concept well. He will still randomly call for the dog, as will our daughter. For that matter, both my husband and I have called both dogs at some point today before catching ourselves.

We buried Meeshie in the back yard before the kids were up this morning, in a quiet corner near the woods he loved so much. Our daughter has made 4 treks out there so far today to "make sure he's ok".

I know that he was "just a dog", but he was also family as far as we're concerned. I've had him longer than I've had kids, and he's always been there as far as the kids know. He will always be the only large dog I know that:

a) was scared of tree frogs
b) while peeing on a bush, was startled by a bird (who was startled by the "shower")
and fell over mid-stream
c) "kissed" you by bumping noses rather than licking, and
d) chased laser pointer lights like a cat

I'm going to miss that stinking dog. He was a good boy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cooking Venture -- Pasta Sauce

It's been a while since I posted a recipe. Here's one that I have thrown together that comes out surprisingly well. This pasta sauce starts with a creamy garlic base and then gets the tomato added in. It's not a super thick consistency like a marinara or hearty garden-style pasta sauce, but the flavah is fab-o plain jane, or with chicken or shrimp.

Garlic Cream Tomato Sauce
1/2 stick butter
1 to 2 tsp minced garlic (depends on how strong you like it...)
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup parmesan/asiago/romano cheese blend, grated
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup white cooking wine
1 T basil, dried -- use fresh if you've got it!!
1 tsp parsley (or a little more if it's fresh -- chop it coarsely).
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste -- remember that cooking wine already has salt in it
optional additions include:
chopped fresh tomato (canned tomato, drained works OK too)
onion or green onion
bell pepper strips -- I like the red and yellow ones' flavor best in this sauce
chicken -- grilled or sauteed, it's great in this sauce
shrimp -- if you want something more special than chicken
a tiny amount of fresh spinach, just wilted (Do not use canned! Ick.) It doesn't take many leaves to be "enough".

You'll also need a box o' pasta. I have used linguini and penne with this sauce, and either works just fine. Regular spaghetti doesn't have enough "tooth" for my liking to go well with this flavorful sauce.

Here's how you do it:

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the buttah. Add the minced garlic and cook briefly until the color starts to change and you can smell that it's cooked. Garlic burns easily if you're not watching it, it doesn't take long to cook it.

Add the sour cream and cheese blend, stirring until combined and heated through. I generally use a whisk rather than a spoon just to make sure it's good and smooth. Add the milk and white wine; stir until blended. Add the basil, parsley, tomato sauce, and salt and pepper (to taste).

Simmer over lo to med-lo heat (depends on how hot your burner is) for about a half hour, stirring frequently to prevent burning on the bottom. Cook your pasta in a separate pan while the sauce finishes up.

If I am adding bell pepper strips or onion (or both), I generally add them at the beginning of the simmering process and let them enjoy a hot-tub experience for the full half hour. This lets their flavor really penetrate the dish while softening the veggies. Add the spinach at the end, as it does not take long for the leaves to wilt. (You don't want them completely mushy and slimy, they should still have some body to them).

If I add chicken, I use either diced or strips of pre-cooked chicken -- I do not cook the chicken in the sauce. I don't know that it matters, but I want to ensure that it's done all the way through and depending on the temperature of my simmering sauce, it doesn't always get thoroughly cooked. I wait until the end and add the chicken to the sauce just to heat it through.

Shrimp is a whole other ballgame. If adding (uncooked) shrimp, I add them the last 2 minutes and watch carefully to make sure the shrimp are not over-cooked. Shrimp cooks very quickly; as soon as you see that it is opaque and almost completely pink, remove the pan from heat. The residual heat in the pan will finish the cooking process and leave the shrimp tender without making them rubbery. If the shrimp are completely bright pink, they chance being over done by the time they sit in the pan and are served a few minutes later. If you're using pre-cooked shrimp, add them right at the end to just warm them and try to prevent that unfortunate rubbery texture.

** note -- do make sure the shrimp is fully cooked before consuming it. This is not a fusion recipe of Italian cuisine and Japanese sashimi.**

Other notes:

I'm a basil junkie. I could bathe in it. (I'm sure there's a 12-step program for people like me, but I'm reveling in my addiction at the moment). Accordingly, the amount that I put in the sauce may be too much for the average palate. As always, put in what you like in the amount you like it. I view recipes as a loose framework that give you the opportunity to let your own creativity and personal style shine through.

The sauce thickens as it cools, so don't despair if it seems a little thin initially.


To Pee or Not To Pee

To Pee, or Not To Pee? THAT is the question. At least, it is in our household.

I have supreme bragging rights on my son, A, who has been in cotton undies for a whole month now. He stays dry 99% of the time during the daytime -- I can count his "#1" accidents during the last month on one hand, and have fingers left over. Even as recently as the New Year, A would/could not do this. We've tried the cotton undies before and had very messy results. We're just so glad that something is finally clicking with him about the toileting, even if it's taken 6 1/2 years to do it.

We are still working on the #2 aspect, though. If he's in briefs, this is not such a big deal (even though it is very messy). We took a gamble and lost when we combined boxer-style undies and a pair of shorts one day. He was at home when we became aware that that combination was not a good one. Nothing some good ol' Chlorox can't handle, both in the laundry and on the floor.

Overall, A has done an outstanding job with keeping himself pretty clean. As frustrating as the streaks of fecal material (and sometimes a little extra) are in his underwear, his daddy and I also realize that A really can't help some of it. Some of it. There are times when he knows he has to go, and will bypass the bathroom to go hide in his closet to do his business. Z and I are still trying to figure out a way to effectively discourage this activity, short of super-gluing our child to the toilet seat. The last option, while effective in one regard, does have its obvious limitations.

We are still having some issues with overnight bed-wetting, which happens 3 or 4 days out of the week. Z and I finally went out and got some nighttime pants, for nocturnal use only, just to save us from washing blankets, sheets, pillows, and mattress covers every single day. Our aging septic pit can't handle large quantities of water, we have to space out showers/baths, dishes, and laundry over the course of the day. Adding two more laundry loads per day was maxing out our system, so it was the better part of valor to suck it up and buy the disposables for overnight use.

As wonderfully as A has been doing, his sister has decided to take a very different course. She has started peeing in her panties again. We're not entirely sure why she is regressing all of a sudden. I'm wondering if my going back to work about a month ago has anything to do with it, since that is about the time we started having these issues. K was totally embarrassed this weekend -- twice -- because she peed herself in public, so we're hoping that will help solve the situation.

The first time she did it, we were working with the youth. I had told her to go to the bathroom as soon as we reached the building and she ignored me; then she peed in her pants about 10 minutes later. I did not have a change of clothes with me, so she had to stay in the (tile floored) bathroom by herself for 3 hours. I couldn't have her sitting on the carpet or upholstered seats in her wet pee clothing, and I wasn't going to let her run around naked in front of a bunch of teenagers.

The second time was during church the next morning; the ladies teaching her class had no choice but to put her in a "baby diaper" (K's words, not mine). K was especially miffed because they were boy pants with Spiderman on them.

Let's hope that did the trick.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Garden

Things have been so nuts after I started working. My poor flowerbeds are still completely wild. My grand plans to have most of my garden dug up and planted have been thwarted by rain on my available evenings to veg with the veggies.

But I persevere. I'm good like that, yo.

So THIS weekend was nice, because I am very nearly caught up to where I thought I'd be at this time of spring:

My beds are mostly dug. I have one more that I will be putting sweet potatoes and yellow straight-neck squash in that has not been started yet -- the sweet potatoes grow below the ground and the vines on top deter squash beetles. Companion planting at its finest.

I was trying to figure out what to do about peppers and tomatoes, because my neighbor's bad kitties got into our sunporch area and knocked all my pots off of the windowsills. So much for seedlings. God blesses over and abundantly, however, because even though we never said anything to our neighbor, he showed up this afternoon with six pepper and six tomato plants that were leftover out of his garden. He didn't have room for them, so he gave them to us.

As of today, my peas, turnips, onions, potatoes, carrots, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, and early corn have all been planted, along with some mammoth Russian sunflowers. I plan to add some late corn, okra, canteloupe/muskmelons, pumpkins, some bush and pole beans, and some winter acorn squash to the mix, as well as the above-mentioned sweet potatoes and yellow summer squash.

Most of my herbs are also started, although I need to plant the sage, summer savory, and chives in their permanent home. The dill, oregano, and parsley are gaining momentum. But I'm having a dickens of a time getting any rosemary to grow! I must have gotten a bad seed packet or something, because none of the seeds I tried to start early in pots have sprouted, and neither have any of the seeds scattered outside. I might have to break down and buy some rosemary that's already started.

We're supposed to be getting rain for the next three days, then a short break, and rain again next weekend so I think my planting days are over for a little while. All that good rain will just make everything that's already in shoot up.

All I want now are two or three hens, and I'm good. I just need to convince my husband that hens are a good thing. (You don't need a rooster for a hen to lay eggs; you do need a rooster if you want chicks). : ) Maybe if I promise not to give them names like Queen Latifah or FifiTrixieBelle, he'd be more apt to consider it...