Of Gardens And Sewing

As much as it pains me to admit defeat, I’m throwing in the towel on the pumpkins. The squash bugs have won that battle.  I got one good pumpkin picked before they destroyed it, and managed a photo of one that was being turned to mush on the backside by the bugs.  Those fifteen days I was in Europe set the stage for a mass takeover of pests that I could not reverse.  But, it’s okay.  I’m still calling this year’s garden a win, and every year I learn a bit more and get better at how I manage growing food.

I did get several jars of green beans canned, and a good dozen or so jars of pickles made.  I picked lots and lots of zucchini.  I got three butternut squash, one field pumpkin, and four delicious cantaloupes (we are SO growing those again next year!).   There are two watermelons looking pretty decent still out there, and many, many large tomatoes waiting to turn red.

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Next year I will use the deep mulch method again (it helped dramatically with the weeds!) and double down on the diatomaceous earth and Neem oil early on.

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As for the rest of this year, I have carrots, beets, and parsnips going in now, and at the end of the summer I’ll put Kale and Chard in again, along with some brussels sprouts starts. And THIS year I have floating row covers so I can hope to avoid little critters munching down my plants!

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September will once again see a massive basil harvest and several solid days making pesto ravioli. Tradition!

I’ve also been trying to get back into the craft studio on the rainy days (when I can’t get work done outside) and work on finishing up projects that have been languishing (Shepherd Sweater, anyone?) and working on my skill set (I need to work on fitting and finishing techniques).

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I cut out another Washi tunic in cotton jersey, hoping to give it a bit of Alabama Chanin flair.

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The animals in the house LOVE when I work on crafty things.  It’s their cue to hover.

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Three big dogs piled onto the tiny round carpet in the studio. They’re pretty good company, actually, when I’m not tripping over their gigantic-ness.

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The tunic is coming along nicely; I added a ruffled edge to the neckline and left the waist with a ruffled raw edge as well.  I’ll be adding cap sleeves and hemming it  next.

Swimmy Days

My littlest fish has finally found her fins and enjoying summer’s heat from the cool of the pool

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Now that she is taller than the water is deep she has found her confidence, and is even enjoying splashing and underwater swimming.

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Today she enjoyed having the whole pool to just herself (and me) since her sisters are at a sleepover with the Girl Scouts at the Baltimore Aquarium tonight.

This is what summer is all about!

Garden Inspiration

When we were in Europe one thing I really enjoyed was all the green space. There were public parks full of trees, herbs, and blooming flowers, even in chilly Scotland. The open air markets all sold fresh-cut flowers and herbs and it was a delight to the senses. Maddie and I noticed especially in France that it seemed as though everyone was walking around with a fresh baguette and an armful of flowers.

When we got to Germany, my friend Diana’s deck was full of fresh herbs growing in pots, and it inspired me to bring some of that feeling back to the states with me.

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Community herb garden in Greyfriar’s cemetery in Edinburgh

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Flowers at Holyrood gardens in Edinburgh

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At Stratford-Upon-Avon

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At Borough Market in London. I’d love to grow lavender on that scale!

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In Wiesbaden, Germany

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Rose Garden in Eltville, Germany

Once I was home I realized that though I have herbs and flowers growing here, they are off in the vegetable gardens to attract the bees to pollinate the tomatoes and squash plants.  I decided I needed more herbs on the back deck, closer to the kitchen, and flowers wouldn’t hurt, either.  The roses in Germany seriously make me want to plant rose bushes everywhere; I’m not sure how that’ll work out, but I’m going to slowly add more of them all around. If nothing else, the bees will be happy!

I also wanted to put some smaller potted herbs in the kitchen on the windowsill, but unfortunately I can’t because of this:

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This:

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And to a lesser extent, this:

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At any rate, I bought some oregano, thyme, and rosemary to start, along with some flowers.

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It’s a start, anyway.  I’m going to add lavender, cilantro, and basil this weekend. Then I’m going to spend time pulling out the Virginia Creeper that has once again taken over everything out front so that I can start planning fall planting.

Yep, I said it.  It’s just about that time again.

Scout Day!

I got to have a pretty perfect day yesterday. We finally managed to get our schedules to align, and Lisa, Trina, Brittney, Jenn, and Susan all met here so we could ooh and aah over Scout!

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Just look at that cutie!

Oona was thrilled because Lisa brought Alston along to swim. Neve and Emily hung around for all the food we had out. The rest of us were just so happy to be in each others’ company again and get some baby cuddles while we were at it.

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Brittney!

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I think Trina actually wins the award for “most smitten” with Scout.  It made me happy to see her getting to hold and snuggle him.  Almost as happy as it makes all of us to see Susan in this brilliant new phase of her life.

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He’s such a happy little thing!

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Lisa getting snuggle time.

I’m sad I didn’t manage any pictures of Jenn while she was here, but I am trying to mastermind another visit with her soon.  It’s such a treat to have friends like this that you can go months without seeing and then all fall back in together like it’s been no time at all.

Buffalo Cauliflower

Yes, I am posting a blog this evening about snack food.

During the last share-dyeing marathon, our friend Trina made me a big batch of Buffalo Cauliflower. Have you seen it? I’ve noticed it here and there on Pinterest and Facebook, but I’d never tried it. I was afraid I’d be disappointed, and then I’d want to make a big batch of Buffalo wings, and that just wouldn’t do my waistline any good.

But my friends, hear me: Buffalo Cauliflower is gooooooood.

I ate at least half a head of cauliflower myself and didn’t feel any of the greasy, over-stuffed, I-shouldnt-have-done-that, blergh that I usually feel.

That was months and months ago, and we now eat it at least twice a week here.

This is how we do it:

Chop up a head (or more!) of caulfilower into bite-sized pieces, and toss them in a big ziplock or similar.

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For one head, I usually melt about 3 TBS of butter. Then I pour it in the bag with the cauliflower and shake it up.

Next, add hot sauce.  I like to use Frank’s brand, since that’s what is used in authentic Buffalo wings.  But, I’ve had it made with Texas Pete as well.  It’s a matter of taste.

As for how much sauce to add….well, that depends on how spicy you want it. I add enough that when I shake it all up it makes the cauliflower a nice even orange.

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If I had to guess, I’d say I use about 1/4 cup.

Then I spread it all onto a baking sheet with parchment paper (or foil) and bake it at 400 for about 15 minutes, or until I can see bits of it starting to brown.

I like my cauliflower to still be kind of crunchy.

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Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Welcome to your next addiction!

Remiss!

I’ve been remiss!! I haven’t posted in ages. I don’t have any great excuses, but I’ll try:

1. Re-entry has been more difficult and lingering than expected

2. The garden went bonkers and I’ve been spending a lot of time out there

3. One of our routers failed and out internet was suuuuuuuper slow for a few days

4. Sabine and Orzo went expeditioning and were missing for nearly 24 hours

Seriously, though, since we;ve been back Neve has been crazy restless and can’t seem to get back to a place where lounging at the pool or reading on a hot summer day is okay. She wants to be on the go and seeing things.  I know how she feels, though I have enough “Have to do’s” that I don’t have much time to be restless.  As for Maddie, she was in California all last week and Mexico the last several days.  She’s going to have an even more wicked vacation hangover!

The garden indeed went bonkers.  I’ve made jars and jars of refrigerator pickles with all the cucumbers, and I’m running out of ideas for zucchini.  I think I may make up a large batch of tomato-zucchini sauce and pressure can it this week.

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Lots and lots of butternut squash are coming in; hopefully the billions of squash bugs won’t kill them.  I’ve been going out every day and knocking them and their eggs into a bucket of soapy water.  I’ve used Neem oil.  I apparently UNDER used teh diatomaceous earth so I will try that again.  Yet every time I’m out there, I swear I hear them laughing and saying “We are legion! You cannot destroy us!”

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Lots of green balls!!!

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Baby Boo pumpkins!

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One of several cantaloupes.

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Little watermelons!

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Connecticut Field Pumpkin

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Sunflowers!

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There are also Long Island Cheese Pumpkins, Acorn Squash, Lumina pumpkins, and lots of basil.  My pepper plants seem to have failed while I was in Europe, which sucks.  But everything else is growing well.

We did have a scare last week with the power company.  We have a power-line right-of-way bisecting our property. It’s never been a big deal because it’s mostly over the stream anyway, and having them bush hog that muddy, sinky area every few years is just fine by us.  But last week I saw a crew come in with chemical sprayers.  I had no idea what they were spraying, and I ran out and told them they had to stop.  Unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish, and they were having  hard time understanding the crazy white lady waving her arms and shouting about honeybees. I managed to make them understand “NO” and that they had to leave.  I then called the power company and found out they were spraying Round Up.

Now, here’s the thing.  I know the claim is that RoundUp is safe for insects and animals.  I know that there are scientific studies that say that it is safe at least in the short term.   But I also know that we don’t actually know what’s causing Colony Collapse, and that RoundUp has been mentioned a lot as a possible co-suspect along with other herbicides and insecticides.  Either way, I didn’t want them using in on my property (or near the wild blackberries, dammit!). Unfortunately, the gentleman in charge at the power co op basically accused me of being full of it. Fortunately, he agreed that they won’t use it on my property in the future.  Good news, I guess? Anyway, reason 8,472 not to buy a property with any right-of-ways on it!

I’ve been keeping a close eye on out hive, and so far, so good.

As for the dogs……

After grocery shopping all day yesterday I came home and discovered that both Orzo and Sabine were missing.  Now, Orzo, I wasn’t surprised.  He has his mom’s wanderlust, and no matter what ways we have tried to keep him in, he finds a way out (when the power guys came through I saw him jump clear over the fence with no running start).  But Sabine……

Sabine has never, never, EVER left the property. The handful of times that I have found her outside the fence she has been waiting next to it to be let back in.  For her to be missing was very, very upsetting.

The good news is that this morning they reappeared, seemingly dumped off here by a white work truck that then drove away. Sabine went straight back to the sheep and Orzo went into the garage and hid under the work desk in there. He’s been hiding under the deck since. I have no idea what happened or where they were, or why. As for Paul, he’s reconsidering the location of the cameras we have and will be adding more.

Orzo will be getting neutered soon and we’ve decided to get him microchipped as well (and more than likely Lucy as well, though she’s quite happily a house dog now).

So there’s my overly long excuse for not posting in a while.  I promise to do better now!

Weeding and Purging

This past week has been a mix of monsoon-level rain and dreadful heat and humidity. In short, it’s not been a great week to be outside working on anything.

Yet here we are.

A bad storm whipped through on Thursday night, taking down a big tree on our neighbor’s property and sending it crashing into our fence. I hadn’t realized anything was amiss until I spotted Sabine out of the pasture.

Sabine NEVER leaves the sheep.

Paul spent Friday evening and the better part of Saturday cleaning that mess up. We didn’t bother saying anything to the neighbors. It was all the way in the back where they can’t see it, and why open that can of worms?

The recent storms also took down the patio umbrella, which fell onto the grill, knocking it over and breaking its burners in the process.

There was a lot of cleanup going on this weekend, to say th and least. The upside to all the rain, however, is how easy it made weeding (and stump removal! Paul got a whole lot of stumps pulled out of the pasture!).

With me being gone and no weeding being done for 16 days, the garden certainly had some issues.  Thankfully, though, he deep mulch method really seems to have kept it from getting out of hand entirely. I was able to go in and get much of the weeds taken care of fairly easily. I also picked a good number of zucchini and cucumbers. I’m keeping my eye on the squash bug situation, though, because despite liberal applications of Neem oil before I left th country, there are what feels like an unmanageable amount of the little bastards all over everything.  I sprayed more neem in the evening after the bees had gone in for th night, and have been picking them off as much  I can, but I have so very many plants and only me to manage it. So, fingers crossed!

While I was away the blackberry and raspberry bushes exploded ( the Japanese beetle population did, too, but that’s another story).  I’ve been picking buckets full of blackberries almost daily. If I were better organized this year I might have made some blackberry-infused vodka, or some jam. But alas, my plate is full of other things at the moment.

Like purging!

I came back from Europe with an eye to getting rid of all of the things in my closet and getting a smaller amount of better quality items.  It took me an entire day, and I have very little to wear now, but it’s done. My closet looks so much nicer and cleaner, and Goodwill is going to have quite the windfall!

I haven’t stopped with my closet; I’ve been turning a critical eye to the rest of the house as well. My in-laws gifted us their good China now that they’ve moved into a condo. We didn’t have anything even close to “good” dishes, so I want to make room for it. It’s a lovely pattern with colors that remind me a bit of the Polish pottery my friend Celeste collected when she lived in Germany.

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Squash sh plants and sunflower stalks as far as th eye can see!

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So so happy to see my hydrangeas blooming. Last year I got zero.

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This year’s inaugural strawberry shortcake – hopefully to be followed by many more.