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.


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