Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas My Egg Noggin' Bloggin' Friends

Every year I make my Christmas cards. I am sending you my egg noggin' bloggin' friends, an electronic version.

Hope you find time away from the rush 
to enjoy the spirit of Christmas 
and "CHILL."

Single Serving Egg Nog
3/4 cup whole milk
1 egg, well beaten
2 ounces your favorite CHILLed liquor (rum, bourbon, brandy, cognac, kahlua ...)
1 rounded tsp confectioners (powdered) sugar or other sweetener
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Ground nutmeg

In a small bowl beat the egg. Add the milk, liquor, sugar and vanilla. Whisk until well combined. Pour into a CHILLed glass and sprinkle with nutmeg. Then enjoy and CHILL yourself for awhile.

After the rush, I certainly owe some of you a much needed visit. That puppy Mojo is also keeping me busy! I do find myself already longing for the garden and I am certainly planning new beds and plants to try in my head - no visions of sugar plums here! I really can't wait to get back at it. Enjoy your holiday everyone.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bloom Day: December, 2009

There certainly is not an abundance of blooms around here. The 50 mile an hour winds that brought in Winter blew most away, among a few other things. But inside, cozy and warm, a few have decided to peek through.

A traditional Poinsettia.

An African Violet.
I have four. Two are in bloom, and two are not.

The one above belonged to my husband's grandmother. I spotted it during her funeral "party." I unashamedly asked for it. I had lost my own grandmother's violets during my move to Colorado. This way, I still have a violet from one of our grandmothers. It is special to see it happy and blooming.

But the biggest bloom here in my garden right now is PUPPY LOVE! I am proud to introduce you to Mojo, my newest friend and lucky charm. He has a "taste" for plants, but I am confident he will learn the difference between edible and admirable. He will be a great gardening companion.

Bloom day is hosted (and created by) Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Let's See A Show of Hands

Now that the weather is turning here in the North Country, the hands are drying up and becoming chapped.

(photo taken from Burt's Bees web site

My favorite remedy has always been Burt's Bees A Farmer's Friend Hand Salve. It works especially well in the summer after a long day in the dirt, too. A little gooey going on but after several minutes it absorbs well.

I have also read good reviews about Badger Balms. I think I just have to try their healing balm that is certified organic. I prefer natural products just as I prefer a natural garden.
(photo taken from Badger's web site

Both would make for great stocking stuffers. Let's see a show of hands - what is your favorite remedy?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Old Friend

I spoke with an old, dear, true friend the other night. It was so great to talk with her. I hadn't spoken with her in a long time. She has also started a garden in her new home - which I've yet to see and must plan to visit soon. Her garden sounds beautiful. I miss her. I also miss my old garden in Maine - another old friend of mine that was dear - and unlike my friend, probably won't visit again. I wonder how it is doing ...

Has the baby clematis I planted grown up and overtaken this rustic trellis as planned? Did the nasturtium reseed itself and creep in? Have the foxglove advanced their magic purple towers?

A place in my heart still resides there, still in the woods, much like the dangling bleeding hearts that by now must hang heavy with overloaded branches.

Why didn't I take some of this irreplaceable iris?

Does this "lady" still spread her skirt to catch the morning dew?

Even with the excitement a new garden has to offer, thoughts of my old garden "pop up" from time to time. I hope the new care taker is indeed
taking care.

It was the first garden of mine in which I spotted a hummingbird moth,
and a green bee.

I suppose I am just "wining" like these 'snaps in wine.' I suppose we all have gardens we've left behind and that we think about now and then, or even try to recreate. We may have transplanted some parts of them in our new gardens just as we transplanted ourselves.

And I suppose we all have old, dear, true friends. Like the friend I should call more often and visit soon. Thyme is a short plant that creeps along the ground and before you know it, will take over.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Picture a Potager

"What I want is a potager!," I explained to my husband, "not just a vegetable garden." It will have to look as good as the food it grows. That is what I set out to do this past Spring - start my "potager." A trip through the Ontario province of Canada helped illustrate my vision. The country side was dotted by proud farms - rightly so - with geometrical rows of crops, arrangements of flowers, and shrubs all surrounding stately, brick homes. I had never seen such beautiful farms. I found more inspiration in two books, "Designing the New Kitchen Garden" and "Four-Season Harvest." (I love books.)

I confess I haven't grown a vegetable since I was a little girl growing up in Wisconsin. I couldn't eat green beans for years for all the beans we picked! (And then froze so we could eat them all winter long, too.) Fortunately for me then, my old labrador loved all food - including green beans. Fortunately for me now, my taste for them has grown back. I guess I just didn't get around to starting that vegetable garden before we moved again, and then again. Now, I'm not sure how I ever got along without one!

So, I am a beginner really when it comes to gardening vegetables. But I sure do have a taste for it so it can only get better from here. The idea of a potager intrigued me because it could be ornamental and beautiful - a focus of the garden, and also grow a good amount of food (and flowers) in a small space.

First, I decided where I was going to begin. And that was in the back, back yard. Ideally, a kitchen garden should be right outside the kitchen but that just wasn't going to work for me. Not the best sun, not the best site with a deck that we plan to turn into a four-season room - future construction. So I decided between the tool shed and the compost - easy access to both to tend the garden. I love "making the journey" back to my little potager before dinner. It is a "passage" to great food. A ritual. Here's the spot before ...

Here's the frame work I started with ...

I really want the raised beds to be made from stacked stone but I don't have the budget for that right now with all the other garden projects I've got going on so we just framed the beds with wood temporarily. I love stone. I want to see it age and grow with the garden, to feel permanent. I have allowed for the thickness of the future stone walls in my layout. Here the "framed" beds are waiting to be filled up (viewed from inside the shed).

I placed a thick layer of newspaper in the bottom and started filling. I had a nice pile of old sod that broke down over the winter to start with as a base. Then mixed in some compost, potting soil, peat moss and top soil.

I will add more "flat" beds to either side of the raised. This year I only made two. Eventually I will add an edger of brick or pavers, maybe some hardscaped paths in between, some evergreens for winter structure. I used temporary posts and string to get the straight lines. Some fencing left here by the previous owners became makeshift tomato cages and some old curtain rods became support posts - whimsy.

Things got off to a good start and then just kept on growing!

Many people had terrible tomatoes here in the Northeast this past season. But we planted heirloom tomatoes we bought from Cross Island Farms (a local organic farm). They did very well and tasted divine ...

My husband wanted to plant red cabbage to make sauerkraut. Note, never plant red cabbage as a "divider" in your raised bed. I thought it would be pretty with that purple color and all. Well, next year it will have a nice "flat" bed all to itself. Positive outcome - the sauerkraut is delicious and I will never be able to eat canned again - oh, and I can't say I was a big sauerkraut fan to begin with, but I am now - that's how good it is!

The other advantage to these raised and flat beds is that I can keep track of what I plant in them and then rotate the plant families each year, i.e. Apiaceae or carrot family (carrots, celery, parsley, etc.) , Solanaceae or nightshade family (eggplant, pepper, tomato, etc.), to reduce the chance of disease and pests.

I planted flowers in the flat beds this year because I had the seeds already and I wasn't sure of everything I wanted to plant just yet. More veggies will be in these beds next year but flowers will still be a mainstay to attract the bees, beneficial insects and birds. Most of the beds are edged in marigolds (rabbit deterrent) and nasturiums. Above are cosmos, sunflowers, and zinnias.

So, this first year we had a truck load of tomatoes - cherry and slicing, herbs, green beans (yes, green beans), cucumbers, cabbage, lettuces (still going!), and peas. Next year we'll add more. Maybe brussel sprouts, some squash, swiss chard and kale, beets ... I can't wait to experiment growing vertically. I can envision an arbor and blue berry bushes. I see a cold frame over one of the beds, or a row cover. Rhubarb will be planted next to the compost. We'll tuck some strawberries in there, too. And let's not forget cover crops! I'll be busy planning and sketching all this winter.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pumpkin Compost Pie Anyone?

I thought that this back corner of the yard would be an ideal spot for my compost. Those lattice panels were left in the garage (now turned office/workshop) when we moved here. I thought I would put them to good use. The picture above was taken the year we moved in. I read somewhere that you should not place a compost near mature trees because they would drain all the nutrients - but everywhere I've used my compost, BIG things have happened so I'm not worried about it. In fact, in the heat of summer that Silver Maple and evergreen shade the compost nicely.

This year I'm offering my compost as a buffet table for all my feathered and furry friends. Why shouldn't they feast on Thanksgiving, too? Here, the table is set ...

I used the lattice panels to make three "bins." We used pipe driven into the ground and strapping to secure each panel in place. I try to put "green" stuff in one bin, "brown" stuff in the other, and use the center bin for "mixing." I don't make it complicated. I am certain I mix up green and brown. But all in all it it seems to work. I empty my kitchen scraps in the center, add some stuff from the other bins, turn it each time. In the Spring, I will empty the center bin and spread it around my beds then start all over. I stash my grass removals here - from when I make new beds - any flowers that have fallen over or need cutting back, weeds that have not yet gone to seed, grass clippings, house plant clippings, old potting soil and all sorts of yard and garden waste. The compost is directly across from my shed and in between are my vegetable beds. The layout works out really well. Here was an initial early sketch to give you a better idea ...

Let's see what goodies we have placed out for my friends ...

Petite pumpkin appetizers among the Sunflower stalks ...

A grand Zinnia biscuit!

Some delectable greens I am sure Mr. Rabbit has his eyes on.
(I just harvested some of these for myself today!)

Squish jello mold with sprigs of Black-eyed Susan and Cone seeds - yum!

Gourmet gourd ...

Butternut squash - one of my favorites!

Who could resist some dried Sunflower drumsticks?

And of course, there is pumpkin pie with Nightshade berries for dessert!
It looks like someone tasted dessert before the main course, hmm?

My little friends should be as stuffed as I'll be this Thanksgiving holiday. We'll see what surprises pop up in the Spring, too. Hope all of you who celebrate, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I certainly am thankful for great family & friends, all the little things ~ creatures, for discovering blotanical, and meeting and sharing my garden with fantastic gardeners -
all of you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Heavenly But Not Blue

I love Morning Glory, specifically, Heavenly Blue Morning Glory. It was so well presented in Kiki's post, Awake With Charm & Spirit, "The Color Essence of Blues." She followed up with another post "Blue Essence Invitation" inspired by Diana, Elephant's Eye, asking other garden bloggers to share their blues.

I am certainly not blue! But sure would like more blues running through my garden. As I mentioned before I am trying, really trying, to stick to this color scheme: BLUE, orange, reds/burgundy throughout my entire garden. I don't have much blue to share right now, because my garden is so young. I can tell you what I've recently planted: Monkshood, 'Stainless Steel,' that I am hoping will spread into a beautiful patch of blue; Globe Thistle 'Ritro', which I expect to rise to the occasion and offer nodding heads of blue next summer; Allium bulbs 'caeruleum' that I can't wait to see pop up; Sea Holly 'BLUE Glitter' - which really does glitter blue and that I unfortunately did not snap a photo of (next year); BLUE Spruce, BLUE Star Juniper, BLUE Fescue ... which I will keep you posted on. But what I do have to share right now, and was absolutely amazed by, is Morning Glory 'Heavenly Blue!'

You may remember the "Nice Driveway" post with the custom built trellis as a privacy screen. Well, the vine that you see covering the trellis is Morning Glory 'Heavenly Blue.' I had planted some older seeds that really didn't come up and then ran across a young plant (about 4" - really) at a local nursery. I just plugged that baby into the ground and look what grew in three short months to this incredible size ...

There is a little Cardinal Vine to the left - in case you look at the larger version of this photo and see the odd leaf shape. I was just amazed by this vine this past season. Just look at this beautiful foliage and coverage ...

However, I did not get many blooms. I have found that here in the "North Country" this particular Morning Glory seems to bloom very late. Any comments on that? Is there a secret I should know?

But what blooms there are, well, are, just heavenly ...

All that remains is what I describe as a "tree trunk" - and it's amazing, too ...

Hopefully, at least a few seeds dropped and will surprise me again next year. But I did plant a Dutchman's Pipe Vine, Aristolochia Macrophylla, a perennial and a host plant to the beautiful Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly. This is the vine that I really had planned for this trellis.

And if heavenly just isn't enough, I have been honored with this award by both Anna at Green Tapestry, weaving a green and beautiful garden for sure, and Noelle the AZ Plant Lady!, a true desert oasis that is always in bloom. Both of these blogs are so well worth visiting and getting to know.

This is something to sing about - and certainly not the blues - maybe a snappy New Orleans jazz kinda tune! Thank you so much - it truly is a surprise and I am honored. Now I must pass this along with these words of advice: Post this award on your blog along with the name of the person who passed it on to you and link to their blog. Then be sure to leave them a comment to let them know that they have been chosen.  Choose blogs which you have recently discovered and you think are great and pass it on to them.

And I'm going to stop there because "7" is lucky! And I feel lucky and thankful, but not blue.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Garden Blog is Never Finished

Much like my garden, it seems my blog will never be "finished." I think I have changed the layout about six times already. Well, I am new to blogging and of course, must explore all my options. At first it was too plain and the green too bright. And the "violet" color wasn't quite right - but I should stick with violet because it's in the name, right? Then it seemed too garish and the background too loud. Then it seemed too busy with a flourishing background AND flourishing title. Then the title just didn't seem subtle enough and the background was still a bit too frilly.

If I have learned anything about design - it's that less is more. So now I am back to plain.

This has been much like designing a new perennial bed ... Those yellow flowers clash too much against that red bee balm ... Hmmm, I could use some more blue foliage to deepen that purple patch right there ... That spot looks kinda empty, maybe I should add a ground cover there ... I need something "spikey" there ...

I hope you will still enjoy my blog even though it's "in the making."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Deck the Window Boxes Fa La La La La La La La La!

I love to add evergreens to my window boxes and outdoor containers. It is so much nicer to look at during the long winter months. I tend to find a lot of stashed peanuts come Spring that always make me laugh - those Blue Jays! A lot of places charge you incredible prices for fresh Christmas greenery. If you have your own woods, you can cut your own. If you don't, you can go to the public dump and make a haul like I did.


I like to do this now before Thanksgiving (which I love to celebrate BEFORE Christmas). I like the greenery for Thanksgiving - it's festive. But another more practical reason is that the dirt is not yet frozen and I can add greens without an ice pick.

Here are some baskets I'm getting ready to fill.

And following is the finished "decking."

Basket on back deck picnic table.

Wall basket by back door.

Symmetrical baskets leading from front porch steps.
I have left the Dusty Miller and some of the dried flowers -
they just looked "silvery" and in the spirit.

Basket by front door.

Front window box.
(I didn't have the heart to pull out those Straw Flowers
- they are still blooming!)

Even the shed gets a "window decking!"

I also filled a half wine barrel by the "nice driveway" with greens. Every year is something different as I never know what I'll find. Last year I happened across a neighbor who cut back a LOT of yews! And I added some Dog Wood branches from a sorely neglected shrub that I wanted to rejuvenate. Some Winter Berry would be really nice but I hate to cut it from the side of the road - the birds like it, too. Someday I will have my own Winter Berry to borrow from - it's on "the list." This was a jolly FREE project - 'tis the season!


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