Saturday, July 18, 2009

Loving and Losing Dallas...

Today is my first day without my sweet dog Dallas. He hasn't always been in my life, of course, but since I adopted him over twelve years ago, he's been a constant and reliable presence. I've had good moments and bad in the last twenty four hours. Moments where I am weeping for what I have lost, but also smiling and laughing when I think of those times I never want to forget.

I have had several dogs, all precious to me, but Dal is one of two that stand out as truly great, great dogs that I have been lucky enough to call my own. But today, this post is all about him... and me, and how blessed I have been to have known and loved him...

For the past few months, his mobility has declined. Nonetheless, he graciously allowed me to help him move about -- something the independent and healthy Dallas would have struggled with. We all have life's lessons to learn and I know that this was his. His lesson is also mine, for as much as I am always there for others as a shoulder to lean on, I am this strong, stalwart rock of a person who struggles with allowing others help when I truly need them the most.

Anyhow, over the past few months, medication has helped Dallas to a degree, but it became apparent this week that he no longer could get up on his own. A decision had to be made...not easy, as anyone who has been there knows.

A phone call was made last Monday, but the appointment was set for today, actually. I needed time to work through it, and I also sensed that perhaps he would try to pass on his own. He did try...a few times, I thought he was at that point. He just couldn't quite seem to get there, and he was struggling with pain. So, on Wednesday, I called the vet's office and moved the date to Friday.

Then, not wanting Dallas to see me cry, I went outside and saw Dave (who is doing some work on my house at the moment) and told him the news. Although I haven't known him too long, he has watched my morning routine with Dallas as he has arrived for work over the past month: I would slide Dallas outside on his dog bed, help him up to relieve himself, then gently help him back down to the bed. Then, (since he could no longer enjoy a walk) he would have fun watching the kittens as I sipped my morning coffee.

Dave said, in such a kind way, that Dallas had been hanging on for me. Until then, I wasn't quite ready to let him go. Once I made the decision, it was as if he knew, and he began to go downhill. I knew in my heart of hearts that Dave was right.

To tell the rest of this story, I need to digress a bit and recount when Dallas first came to live with me. My yellow lab, Muldoone (the other dog I mentioned earlier), had died a few months before. Eventually, I found Dallas and was certain he was going to be my next dog. However, once Dal arrived, the wound from losing Muldoone opened up again, tears flowed, and I wasn't sure I made a good choice. I actually contemplated returning Dallas.

As I laid on my couch, sobbing, Dallas gently crept up next to me and licked my tears away! I knew right then that he was a "keeper".

Yesterday, in the wee hours of Friday morning, I woke up because I heard Dallas wimpering for me. I had been sleeping on the floor next to him all night, so I gathered him in my arms (he's not a small dog) and kissed and cuddled him, as he seemed to want me to do. I looked deeply into his eyes and knew he couldn't fight any more, or continue to hang on for me. I told him it was OK to go...

Then, those tears that I had been fiercely keeping in all week and didn't want him (or anyone else) to see, opened like floodgates, and I just sobbed, and sobbed, and sobbed. Once again, even though this time, he was in his last hours of life and his last hours with me, he licked away my tears -- and, I let him...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday Mews

Posted by PicasaOn certain Mondays, I have featured a post called Monday Muse. It's obvious that today's title is a play on words, once you see this very cute photo!

My cat, Lola, had kittens on May 12th. I knew she had at least three, but she promptly removed them from the birthing chamber (aka "cat house") to a safer spot, as cats are known to do. I left for vacation two days later, and when I came home, the kittens were still nowhere to be found. It seemed as though she was regularly producing milk and that something was nursing. However, try as I might to find the kittens, I couldn't seem to locate them...

Just as I had given up hope and thought the kittens were probably dead, Lola emerged with her brood. That was three weeks ago, and the kittens are just beautiful, friendly little bundles of fur!

Since Monday Muse always has a poem accompanying it, here is my little verse I sang to the kittens:

"Pretty little kittens, playing with each other...Which is a sister and which is a brother?"

From the top of the picture, counter-clockwise, we have Silver, Micah, Willow, and Rosie.

Silver is the boy and the others are girls.

I thought I had homes for two today (Silver and Micah), but they backed out at the last minute. They are missing out on two very sweet kitties. I will keep trying, although I am keeping Willow. She is too special to part with!

And, Lola will be spayed shortly (in case you were wondering)...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June Recap

June can be such a swing month here in coastal Virginia! Although I have only lived here for five Junes now, prior to that, I have vacationed here on Chincoteague Island since 1992. My favorite month to travel here was, guess -- June!

I refer to June as a swing month because one can never tell what the weather will be. Mostly, it's just a gorgeous, gorgeous month to be here. It's warm, but not too warm. The humidity is generally lower than July or August. The breezes off the water make for delightful living.

June seemed have mixed reviews, weather-wise, according to many of my fellow bloggers on the Blotanical site to which I belong. But, I am not complaining...

Actually, let me back up a bit. May was atypical -- very cold and rainy. It was NOT conducive to gardening for the most part. When I WAS out there, I was overly focused on my tomatoes (as anyone who reads my blog knows!), to the detriment of other crops. For instance, while my lettuces were coming along nicely, I wasn't succession sowing more seeds. Then, there was a wonderful vacation to Cape Cod that took me away from the garden. Before I knew it, June had arrived.

June on my little island was the perfect combination of sun and rain that has made my garden thrive. While we've had some torrential storms mid-month that resulted in the demise of my lima bean crop -- save for one lonely seedling -- it mostly rained at night. How cooperative is that? The daytime temperatures ranged from the 70s to the low 80s, with a few hotter days thrown in here and there. Low humidity, ocean breezes...bliss! Nothing like the blistering heatwave of 95+ degree weather that kicked off June, 2008!

So, as such, I was able to finally get more lettuce seeds sown, including a packet of mizuna, which is my favorite salad green. It's all looking good, as are the dandelion greens -- goose food, but I actually like them, too.

As we turn a new calendar page today, my hat's off to a beautiful month of June, now past. Here's to July -- may you be as glorious!

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Anticipation...It's Making Me Wait!

It's keeping me the Carly Simon song goes! So far, I have picked five ripe tomatoes, with lots of greenies on the vine.

We have Brandywine....
(top photo)

Black Krim....
(second photo)

Japanese Black Trifele...

And last, but not least, Patio...

One in a series of postings about my greenies! Still working on my skills in posting photos...and getting text to match up!

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Goose Games -- Revisited!

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If you didn't read yesterday's post, Silly Goose Games, read it first! Then, read this...

Here's a better view of the nests, minus the geese. Phoenix's perfect nest is on the right, and Sydney's heap is to the left. Yesterday, it's as if Phoe knew she was the topic of my posting. She fashioned her nest as huge as she could get it and was stealing the straw from around Sydney as Syd sat there, dumbfounded. I ran to get the camera to capture the shot, only to have the "change batteries" light come on...

This shot was taken this morning!

I've decided that I need to take the eggs today. The weather has turned and it's just too hot to leave them in there much longer. The girls will not be happy, as they have stopped laying until the winter...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Silly Goose Games...

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Who hasn't played the childhood party game, Musical Chairs? You know, the game where there is always one less chair than child. When the music stops, you scramble for a seat, or else you are out of the game. We've all been in the situation where we were vying for the last chair with another child and we would BOTH try to squeeze our butts on and squeeze the other butt off.

Well, it appears the girls are playing their own version of this game!

The goose coop pretty much had one nest because the girls had their egg laying so well coordinated that they laid on different days. For the record, geese lay every other day, so it worked out brilliantly. That is, until they both decided they wanted to sit on a nest - sadly, on eggs that will never hatch because there is no male. One nest, two get the picture.

Solution: Add more straw. They made another nest, and all seemed fine. NOT!

Phoenix, the perfect goose, made the perfect nest. She would greedily reach over and steal straw from Sydney's nest to make hers bigger and better. Poor Syd was left to nest on a pile of straw, but that didn't stop her.

New Problem: When Phoenix gets off the nest, Syd (who apparently covets the perfect nest, too) will get off her meager digs in favor of the other one. Lots of squawking ensues...but they seem to work it out somehow. They either both crowd onto one nest, or Phoenix knocks Syd off her nest -- or, she gives up, lets Syd stay in that spot, but proceeds to steal the straw from the formerly perfect nest and fashions a new perfect one from Syd's straw heap. Back and forth, back and forth...

Other Problem: Not only are they playing musical nests, they are now playing musical eggs, too!

I let them each have an egg, thinking they would share. NOT!

They each would prefer to have both eggs! When I get them off the nests to exercise and eat (if not, they will go lame from sitting too long), whomever goes back to the nest first claims the best nest and will roll the other egg over and sit on both. More squawking ensues when the other goose returns and finds they no longer have an egg.

Solution: Ever the peacemaker between these birds, I must reach under, steal an egg from one girl and give it to the other.

Now, each has their own egg, their own nest...happy geese!

Until tomorrow.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Summer's Eve Dinner

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Ordinarily, I don't gravitate toward steaks on the grill, such as this T-Bone. I'm much more inclined to want a juicy London Broil or flank steak. However, I spotted these steaks and they looked so good that I just salivated in anticipation. I just had to have them! Earlier in the afternoon, I made a log of bleu cheese butter and topped the steaks with a hefty dollop. The asparagus, also cooked on the grill, was a gift from my mother. My parents have a vacation home on the island and couldn't use it when they needed to return back home to Pennsylvania. I obliged and took it off their hands. Smile!

It was delicious!

Given that I cook by instinct and don't often follow a recipe, I will give you my best approximations of how to replicate this dinner. However, I encourage people NOT to totally follow a recipe. Cooking should be about what you like to eat, not someone else's idea. I firmly believe recipes are jumping off points for creating something that's your own. So, use this as your guide and change it as you wish!


I marinated the steaks for about two hours in approximately one cup of red wine (always use a wine that you consider good enough to drink!!), about a quarter cup of sherry vinegar (you could substitute red wine vinegar), and a few shakes of Lawry's Season Salt. I have just about every herb and spice under the sun to choose from, but I thought a classic steak just didn't need a lot of fuss. For those who don't have Lawry's, you could reasonably approximate it by adding together sugar, salt, paprika, turmeric, and onion powder. I contemplated adding in a pinch of Hot Spanish Paprika (Pimenton), in addition to the Lawry's, but didn't. In addition, I added about 2 tablespoons of olive oil (not too much, unless you are a closet pyromaniac -- it will flame up when the fire hits the oil!)

Bleu Cheese Butter

Soften one stick of butter (I use unsalted), which is the equivalent of 8 tablespoons, until it is just workable. For this recipe, you should use whatever bleu cheese you prefer. I happened to have gorgonzola crumbles handy, so I blended in about a quarter cup. You really want to incorporate it into the butter well. The idea is to meld the two flavors. Chives (optional) -- 2 T. finely chopped and added in as you are blending in the gorgonzola. Then, I gently incorporated about another quarter cup of some Danish bleu (I ran out of Gorgonzola), crumbled into larger chunks. Even if you are using the same bleu cheese, I would divide it up: one for blending in, one for the chunk factor! You definitely want to have some really nice chunks of cheese in this butter! I then roughly shaped it into a log, wrapped it in plastic wrap to shape it further, and chilled it until ready to use.

Asparagus on the Grill

Toss the fresh asparagus with some olive oil (not too much, but enough to give it a good coating) and the juice of half a lemon. Sprinkle with some coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. You may add some chopped garlic at this point, if you like. Arrange the asparagus in a single layer on the foil (Important because you want it to cook evenly). Thinly slice the remaining lemon and arrange on top of the asparagus, then completely wrap the asparagus with the foil to essentially make a sealed grill packet (don't leave a venting hole). Grill on direct heat for about 25 to 30 minutes, assuming they are of average thickness. This will need to go on the grill before the steaks!

To Serve --

Arrange steak and asparagus on the plate. Top steak with bleu cheese butter. I was lazy and added some commercially prepared steak sauce. However, I often will reduce my marinade down into a sauce. The key is to boil hard (after all, it was exposed to raw meat!), taking care not to burn it, until it reduces and thickens. You may need to help it along by adding in some pan searing flour (I use Wegmans), Wondra flour, or cornstarch. I also like to add in a tablespoon or two of butter at the end, because it gives the sauce such a wonderful texture.


(P.S.: The dogs did -- they split a steak of their own!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Call Me a Fanatic!

Yes, I am blogging about tomatoes again! I can't help it -- I've already tasted my first fruits of the season and I want more. NOW! Patience is NOT one of my virtues, but I suppose I will need to summon some to wait just a bit longer. There will be plenty more to come, I know it!

Unlike zucchini, no one ever seems to complain when they have a bumper crop of tomatoes! Why is that?

So, on a more exacting note, I went out to the garden with a measuring tape, paper and pad in hand to record tidbits of information about my 15 tomato plants thus far. For the record...

My red Brandywine is the tallest, at 47 inches. This is closely followed by the Pineapple at 46 and the Green Zebra at 45. The Champion, a yard sale purchase, is 40 inches tall, while the Oxheart is 38 inches. Several are 37 inches -- Mr. Stripey, San Marzano, and Big Rainbow.

The Tomato Runt Award goes to the Patio, at 28 inches. But, this little gem has 16 green tomatoes just waiting to ripen and end up on my plate! It is just producing its heart out!

The Sweet 100 cherry tomato is next, with 15. This is followed by 11 greenies on the Champion (one on the verge of ripening!) and 10 each for the San Marzano and Mr. Stripey.

I predict a bumper crop! I can almost taste them...

Nearly Grown -- Duckling Update!

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Tess's remaining six ducklings are nearly full grown. Seriously, they are almost as big as she is!

Baby mallards all look like females for a period of time before the males get their distinctive blue-green head and other markings. At first, three of the ducklings were getting a white edge on their wings, similar to females. I was convinced that meant there were possibly three males and three females. However, a day or two later, I noticed that the remining ducks had the white feathers, too. So, either they all are females, or it's still too soon to tell!

Today, Tess and ducklings showed up with a seventh in tow! It's also a mallard and is a little darker than the others, so it's obvious it's one she picked up along the way and not one of hers. She's been a good mother and apparently has adopted this little "orphan".

Very sweet!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Breakfast is Served!


My morning routine has changed a bit lately...Dallas, my beloved oldest dog has arthritis that has gotten quite severe lately. He is on medication, though, but still requires more help from me than before.

Since he can't go on long walks anymore, I help him outside and we take a short stroll around the front yard. Then, I sit him down on his dog bed that I have brought outside and we enjoy the morning a bit together (weather permitting, of course!). I sip my coffee, he growls at my cats (Lola and Zane), we watch the ducks together -- it's all good!

Last weekend, I decided to have breakfast outside. Of course, Dallas wanted some, too, and I obliged. Unfortunately, the eggs aren't from the geese because they tend to upset my stomach (see earlier posts), but the chives are from my garden!

I love fresh chives mixed with my eggs and a bit of cream cheese! For every three eggs, use about 2 ounces of cream cheese and about 2 tablespoons of chopped chives. I usually allow the eggs to cook and set up a bit before adding in the cheese, but for creamier eggs, add the cheese as soon as you begin cooking the eggs. Add more chopped chives for garnish -- and a side of whatever you like.

Dallas liked the bacon, by the way!

Problems uploading pics -- need help Blotanical friends!

Yesterday, I uploaded a picture to my blog using Picasa, the default vehicle for posting to Blogger, and was leisurely writing my post when suddenly, the picture disappeared and was replaced with an error message. Subsequent attempts at posting photos since then have failed.

I am NOT a computer geek in the least, and have found that Blogger and Picasa are not really that helpful in solving the issue.

So, my questions are:

Has anyone else been experiencing issues similar to this recently, indicating it may be a general Blogger problem?

Does anyone have any idea what may have happened and how to correct it?

How else do people post images to their sites?????


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Red Warty Thing...

Posted by PicasaNo, it's not some symptom of a sexually-transmitted disease (but, I suppose it might be), this is a gardening blog, after all! It's not even Scooby, pictured above, who thinks he is my duck -- although his face certainly has red, warty things all over it. Poor thing!
This post is actually about an heirloom winter squash with the unglamorous name "Red Warty Thing". But, not having worked all of the kinks out of using Picasa to post my photos, it wasn't cooperating with me today to post more than one. I thought Scooby's photo was much more interesting! It's merely one of those strange coincidences that I happened to find the squash at the garden center around the time Scooby decided to "relocate".
First, the squash...Red Warty Thing is described as highly decorative, although to me, it sounds like a teenager with a bad case of acne! However, it is also apparently quite edible with "finely textured, sweet tasting flesh". Each squash may range from 12 to 20 pounds, when mature, which takes about 100 days. It requires consistent moisture so I will need to be diligent about watering because I plan on growing it in a container.
Now, back to Scooby. One of my neighbors (let's call him "Mr. S") bought two Muscovy ducks with the intention of fattening them up and eating them. He kept them in his son's yard, who happens to be my next door neighbor. Easter came and went, and the birds did not become the holiday meal, as intended. It turned out they were molting and the concensus was the resulting pin feathers would render them too difficult to pluck. So, they both lived another day, and another, and another.
Then, Mr. S. had the idea to mate the ducks. He planned on letting the babies hatch out, start his own flock for future consumption, then eat the parents. So, unaware of their impending fate, Scooby and his mate apparently did what ducks do and now she is on a nest. However, she wouldn't tolerate him being around at the moment, and has thrown him out!
Always intrigued by my geese when he lived in the yard next door, with nowhere to go, he ventured back over my way. First, he hung out by the fence, just gazing longingly at the girls. When they wanted nothing to do with him either, he decided to hang out in my front yard, under the shady maple trees. So, there he is, every morning, around 6:00 when I emerge to start my day...
Oh, and by the way, Mr. S. has now grown fond of the ducks and has decided not to eat them!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Carrot Thinnings!!!

A few days ago, I harvested these "Nantes" carrot thinnings from my garden to use in a salad of greens (also from my garden, of course!). Each was the perfect length to use as baby vegetables -- about the length of my index or middle fingers.
I am definitely a fan of the more vibrantly colored carrots such as this for the interest they add to my cooking! While these little carrots would also be great steamed and served either in a ginger or brown sugar glaze, try them my favorite way:

After steaming the carrots, I add butter and whole cumin seeds, then toss them together -- so simple! The problem is that I don't really have a recipe per se. I am one of those people who cook by instinct. Even when I attempt to follow a recipe, I often find myself changing it in some way.

Here's my unsolicited advice:

When you bite into a whole cumin seed, it's such a different taste from the ground version, so substitution is NOT permissible! They are, to me, both sharp and peppery, with a "green" undertone. So, just chew a few seeds to get a feel for it before you add to your carrots. Unless you are a big fan of spice, you might find that adding whole cumin to your carrots is best as a "less is more" experience (as opposed to "the more, the merrier!") because you want the cumin to enhance the taste of the carrots, and not overwhelm.

OK - I could have said this a lot simpler: add a pinch or two!
So, the next time you are tempted to thin your carrots too soon, have patience and wait just a little bit to harvest these little edible gems! However you choose to eat them, I'm sure they'll be great!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Muse - (Five)

Beyond the Garden Gate (first verse only)

Step into my garden
Step in and you'll see

A measure of peace
And tranquility...

Are you kidding me!!!!!

Yes, Sydney and Phoenix looked really calm and composed in this still frame. However, they are anything BUT when it comes to the garden! They couldn't wait to sink their serrated little bills into this romaine that I was tempting them with to get this shot.

In actuality, Phoenix (on the right) has never ventured past the gate into the garden or out of the yard. In fact, she has never even been out of the yard since she came here as a baby last year. She is in some ways the more timid of the two -- although she is the one who will go after someone she doesn't know or doesn't like (she will bite -- not me, of course).

Syd, on the other hand, sees the prize (aka, lettuce) and she will charge her way through the open gate! Before I can grab her (carefully, to avoid those sharp claws of hers that have scratched me to the point where it looks as if I have attempted to slit my wrists!!), she will make mincemeat out of anything green and frilly she can latch her bill onto.

When she was hospitalized last year after swallowing the nail, she learned that her greens were kept in the small refrigerator in the surgery room. I have been told numerous stories of her hanging out (they would let her out to walk around) by it, just so she could make a beeline for those tasty morsels when some unsuspecting vet tech would open it to retrieve their lunch. She had the moves of a pirhanna attacking its prey -- a real feeding frenzy!

It's not that Phoe doesn't enjoy the greens, too...she is just a bit more mannerly!

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

First Tomatoes!

Have you figured out yet that I am crazy for tomatoes!

In my post last Tuesday, I gave an update on their progress and mentioned that I was already fortunate enough to harvest some from my Patio hybrid.

The top picture was taken about a week and a half ago, and the tomatoes are long gone -- and were delicious, I might add. There were three all together. Two were sliced and served with a homemade vinaigrette and feta cheese, then sprinkled with some fresh thyme. The remaining one became part of a BLT sandwich. Yum!

My Patio tomato is typically the first to produce, and it will just keep producing throughout the summer! Currently, there are six green tomatoes on the vine (OK -- this might be stretching it...two are really, really small) and fifteen flowers (I counted, no exaggeration!). I only planted one this year instead of my usual two...I might need to go out and buy another one!
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Friday, June 5, 2009

Assessing My Garden Thus Far...

Today, it is just raining torrentially! It seems to me to be a good day to stay inside while Nature waters the garden for me and take stock of my garden's progress so far...

First, here are some tomato photos that I promised would be forthcoming in Tuesday's post. Without a doubt they are, as usual, the biggest success in my garden. I most definitely have a green thumb as far as raising tomatoes is concerned! The top photo is a long shot of the tomato bed, although it's hard to gauge just how tall they really are from this view! The next photo is my Brandywine and, again, the photo doesn't do it justice in terms of how large it actually is at this early point in the season, topping out at well over three feet tall! The last photo is the Patio tomato, which is not leafing out much and seems to be rather gangly. However, I have already harvested three tomatoes from it.

So, back to the focus of this post -- assessing my garden so far.

The other successes:
1) The leaf lettuces, romaine, and chard grown from seedlings have done very well and have fed me and the geese quite well!

2) The fava beans are a pleasant surprise! Twelve seeds, out of thirteen, sprouted to my delight. Flowering is almoist finished and a few pods are forming. Can't wait to harvest these soon!

3) The carrots seem to be doing well and are ready for thinning.

4) Onions, so easy to grow, are doing nicely!

Mixed Review:

1) Greens planted from seed mixes seem to be heavy on the arugula (which I do like), but lean on other types of greens. An aside -- Phoenix actually likes it, but it's too spicy for Syd!

2) The red lettuces and Swiss chard (Lucullus) planted from seed seem to be rather slow-growing -- but, hey, they ARE growing!

3) I think I will go back to growing beets from seedlings purchased from my local nursery. Germination of the Detroit Dark Red seeds has been marginal at best.

4) Some of my pepper plants appear to be stunted by the cold spell we had shortly after they were planted. Overall, though, I think they will thrive and I will have a good harvest as time goes on.

The disappointments:

1) I love fresh peas and before I left on vacation, they seemed to be progressing nicely and I was looking forward to a good harvest upon my return. However, while I was gone, they just seemed to shrivel up to nothing! I'm not quite sure what happened, but I suppose I will need to get my fill of peas from another source. Actually, I can plant a fall crop, but I think I will try something other than 'Alaska'.

2) Only one edamame seed (out of about 15 planted) has sprouted.

3) The Dandelion Ameliore, planted especially for the geese, has not materialized! I bought four packs of seed from The Cook's Garden last fall and the one pack that I planted last year didn't germinate either. So, I called them and they located my order and shipped more seeds out to me. I will plant these shortly and see if they fare any better. Keep your fingers crossed!

Now, I move on to plans for the "Summer Garden"! But that's a whole other post...
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Duckling Update...

This is Tess, the mallard, and her six surviving ducklings who were featured in my blogpost dated May 3rd.

The very next morning, she was down six babies. Sad, but it's how nature works...perhaps that why they hatch out so many to start. Shortly after, I noticed that Tess was limping, but still faithfully making the journey from the glade to my front yard to feed her babies. Then, the visits stopped...

I walked down to the glade to investigate and she was there with the remaining ducklings. For about a week, I brought corn to the glade for them to eat. Then, just before I left for vacation, they returned and Tess's leg seemed no worse for wear. My friend, Sharon, reported that she brought them daily while I was gone. My neighbor, Lou, also reported that they were also visiting her new pond and wreaking havoc on her young water plants. I gathered that we did not share the same fondness for Tess and babies!

The ducklings still have much of their fuzzy down but they are starting to get their wing feathers. They are still targets for predators and I will feel much relieved when they can at least fly away from danger. But, Tess has been a good mother to her remaining young and hopefully will keep them safe a bit longer.

As you can see, they all look like they are females...but all mallards do at this age. When they are a bit older, it will be easier to distinguish males from females. By then, they will probably have long departed from my yard -- for this year! Undoubtedly, those that survive the winter (and hunting season) will be back next spring and I will have a bumper crop of ducks who sing for their supper. Better stock up on corn now!

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tomato Tuesday!!

How does my garden grow? Very well, thank you -- especially my tomatoes!

Shortly before vacation, I planted Mr. Stripey, a tomato near and dear to my culinary heart. With that addition, the count stands at 15 plants, with two new ones to be added shortly -- hybrids Mountain Pride and Bush Goliath. Then, I think I might be finished. However, I admit that this represents a down-sizing from other years when I often have 20-plus plants in the ground!

Early May in coastal Virginia was NOT conducive to tomato growth! While it was warm enough here to plant them, we literally had nine days when the sun did not shine! Although they were well-watered with all of the rain we had, the plants literally showed no visible growth. When I was on vacation, the weather changed for the better and we had the right combination of rain and warm sun that made my plants thrive (plus great care from my friend Sharon, who tended the garden, geese, and cats while I was away).

Since my return on the 24th, I have harvested 3 tomatoes from my Patio plant, with several more green fruits on the vine. My Japanese Black Trifele also has some green babies poking out from spent blossoms! All of my plants have blooms or buds that should bloom shortly. The plants are lush and green and gorgeous! True to form, my Sweet 100, so small when planted, has grown exponentially (with tons of blooms already) along with the Japanese Black Cherry (absolutely puny when transplanted from a styrofoam cup)!

I've had a bit of help, though, from my geese. Confused??...I'll fill you in. The girls are not too particular about where they poop, including in their watering hole (aka, a fairly large kiddie pool). So, I am certainly not going to let that beautiful, wonderful manure tea go to waste and have put it to good use fertilizing my tomatoes with it. Typically, I change the pool water every other day (it will become a daily event shortly when the weather heats up). With this sandy soil here, I water the base of the plants first to saturate the ground. Then I religiously pour a bucket full of manure tea close to the base of the stem of each plant. This way, the tea ponds a bit on the surface, then sinks in slowly for maximum benefit. I should note that when I planted each tomato, I added in a bucket of goose manure into the surrounding soil.

So, now you know the secret to my beautiful tomatoes! Photos in the next few days...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday Muse

I wasn't gone from blogging -- just gone on vacation! Now, I feel that I need a vacation from the vacation! I left on May 14th, traveling with my friend Sue -- and three dogs between us! We drove from Virginia to Mystic, Connecticut, which is about an 8 hour trip. Two nights there, then a relatively short drive (about 2 hours) to Cape Cod. We rented a very cute house in Dennis, close to Route 6A, for those who are familiar with that area. After a week on the Cape, we drove back to Mystic overnight, then home on Sunday the 24th. It was a good decision to wait a day and travel when traffic was a bit lighter on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend.

I envisioned doing some posts during the trip, but it turned out the internet was down at the house we rented, so that thought went out the window! Last week, try as I might, I couldn't seem to get the time to post. I suppose I should back up and say that the trip almost didn't happen. In the picture is my sweet boy, Dallas! We have been a pair for twelve years, having adopted him after my yellow Lab, Muldoone, passed away. About 3 or 4 when I adopted him, he had been at a no-kill shelter for nearly a year and a half! Now, nearly 16, he has become very arthritic. So, I put him on some medication (Metacam) and it helped for a bit. I needed to add a pain pill, and then right before vacation, I added an injectable medication I was taught to administer called Adequan. I was not certain I would be able to take the trip, but because he responded so well to the medication, I decided we could after all. However, I will admit that the long car rides have set Dallas back a bit and he is recuperating. But, his spirits are excellent and he is now allowing me to help him get up and move about -- something he wouldn't do before. I also have arthritis (rheumatoid) and he is a big dog, so by the end of the day, I am worn out from helping him and everything else I do throughout the course of the day. Much of last week was spent just getting him into a comfortable routine, then crashing -- hence, no blogging.

So, to make a long story short, Dallas serves as the inspiration for today's Monday Muse --

I Think I Know No Finer Things Than Dogs

Though prejudice perhaps my mind befogs,
I think I know no finer thing than dogs;
The young ones, they of gay and bounding heart,
Who lure us in their games to take a part,
Who with mock tragedy their antics cloak,
And, from their wild eyes' tail, admit the joke;
The old ones, with their wistful, fading eyes,
They desire no further paradise
Than the warm comfort of our smile and hand,
Who tune their moods to ours and understand
Each word and gesture, they who lie and wait
to welcome us -- with no rebuke, if late.
Sublime the love they bear; but ask to live
Close to our feet, unrecompensed to give;
Beside which many men seem very logs --
I think I know no finer things than dogs.

--Hally Carrington Brent
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tomatoes for Tuesday!

Have I mentioned yet that I am addicted to tomatoes? Well, I am, absolutely! Every year, I pledge that I won't plant as many as before, but I do. I can't help it; I'm drawn to tomatoes as a bee is to honey, as a flea is to a dog, as a get the idea. But, tell me, one person does not need 20+ plants -- do they???? I NEED them...I don't know how to can, but I freeze or give away what I don't eat.

I already have planted those tomatoes that were part of my Burpee live plant order a few weeks back and they are doing well. Otherwise, I have gathered them along the way. For instance, I planted a few tomatoes I purchased from James, of Solitude Farm, who comes to our little Farmer's Market in town. At a yard sale the other week, I snagged another one for a song (not really, you don't want to hear me sing). Yesterday, I traveled to the mainland to Thomas Gardens Nursery and found some gorgeous specimens I just had to have, seen in the photo.

Here's a record of the new additions--

From James, these are all new to my garden:

Aunt Ruby's German Green Tomato (80 days; heirloom; indeterminate). Described as succulent and sweet, with 1 pound fruits. It can be prone to concentric cracking. The reviews are either love it or hate it, and production seems variable. But, I love green tomatoes, so I will give it a try.

Japanese Black Trifele (75 days; heirloom; indeterminate). Actually, it is not Japanese in origin at all. I have read that it hails from Russia by some accounts, Estonia by others. It's a beautiful teardrop-shaped, burgundy colored tomato with greenish-black shoulders. Fruit are small, just 6 ounces, but it is said to produce well, resists cracking, with a delicious, smoky taste.

Japanese Black Cherry (hybrid). Also not technically Japanese, as this plant has US origins! It is described as a high yielder, with huge clusters of fruits having the typical smoky taste of a black tomato.

From Laura's yard sale:

Champion (70 days; hybrid; described by one source as determinate, but indeterminate by another). Almost seed-free, these are said to the the ultimate sandwich tomato. They should thrive in my Southern garden, tolerating both heat and drought. It produces 12 ounce red, meaty fruit. This is also new to me.

From Thomas Gardens:

Pineapple (90 days; heirloom; indeterminate). Having grown these before, I can give them the thumbs up. They are mild in flavor for a yellow tomato and are quite prettily ridged. It's a beefsteak type, with few seeds, and with good yield.

Patio (hybrid) I always have one or two patio tomatoes in my garden. They also lend themselves to a container garden because they are compact in size. Fruits are small, but flavorful and it yields and yields and yields!

Green Zebra (86 days; termed a "created hybrid"; indeterminate). Quite possibly, my favorite tomato, ever!! Love it, love it -- I describe the taste as "zingy" -- and it's just so pretty! Fruits are quite small, just 3 ounces, but perfect for Caprese salad! I have had mixed luck with it though...two years ago, all three of my plants just wilted. They weren't necessarily planted next to each other either!

San Marzano (85 days; heirloom; indeterminate) This plum tomato is regarded as the ultimate for sauce. Grown originally near Naples, Italy, it does well in warm climates. The first year I grew these, I had terrible problems with blossom end rot. I fared better other years and can attest that they are delicious and produce very well.

No doubt, this will NOT be the last tomato post! Gotta go, dirt beckons...

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Make Way for Ducklings!

Here, on Chincoteague Island, ducks rule! They are everywhere -- people even stop their cars to let them cross the road. We coexist with them and as a result, the wild ducks have become semi-tame.

Before I moved to the beach full-time a few years back, I made the house available to vacation renters. Somewhere along the line, someone apparently started feeding the ducks. So, my first spring here, ducks started showing up at my door -- literally! One I named Fiona was so bold that she would bang on it with her beak! Over the years, some have come and gone -- such as the sweet Daisy and Dartagnan, who were such regal older ducks.

This little duck mommy is called Tess and these are her twelve -- yes, twelve -- ducklings who showed up at my house on Wednesday. Tess had been coming here with her mate, Ted. Then, I noticed that they started showing up separately. What that meant was that she was on a nest somewhere. I don't know if the mallard males sit for females when they need to eat or stretch their legs. If so, that would explain why they no longer came together.

In any event, it is now Sunday and all twelve have survived to this point. There are many hazards to these darlings -- snakes, cats, and most of all, gulls. In fact, one gull swooped down while they were feeding that first day, but I let out a scream and it flew away. My cat, Lola, has watched them curiously, but has not made a move toward them. I am hoping the fact that she will soon have kittens is making her maternal in some way toward Tess. I think the reality is that she just feels like a big whale at this point and doesn't have enough energy to do anything more, which is fine by me. In actuality, neither she nor Zane, my other cat, have ever brought home "presents", which I appreciate!

Two other mallards, Dirty and Diana, were recently trying to look for a spot in the backyard to nest. That attempt lasted about two days, thanks (or no thanks, actually) to Syd, now nicknamed "Syd Vicious"! She would have no part of these interlopers and relentlessly chased the two from the yard until they finally gave up. Phoenix was terrified of them and kept her distance! (FYI, poor Dirty, who has been coming here for about three years, got his moniker because his face always appeared to be dirty. When I was finally able to get close enough, I could tell that the "dirt" was actually color variations on his facial feathers. But, by then, the name had stuck!)

Back to Tess...she has been faithfully bringing her babies here several times a day to eat. Then, she travels with them about 200 feet to what I would describe as a marshy glade. In this sheltered spot, the ducklings can swim and are much safer from cats and gulls.

In any event, I will keep everyone posted about their progress!

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Foraging for the Geese!

I suppose that we are all trying to be a bit more frugal these days, tightening our spending belts whenever we can. Last summer, when my geese were babies, they foraged on grass and weeds in my yard, supplemented by greens from my garden.

Over the winter, I needed to continue to include greens in their diet, which meant purchasing them from the grocery store. I was lucky enough to have a steady supply of commercial dandelion greens -- their favorite -- for Sydney and Phoenix, brought down from Pennsylvania. This was supplemented with spring mix. Since the grass died back at some point, it turned out to be quite expensive to feed them over the winter!

My lettuces are just beginning to fill out in the garden. The girls get very excited, waiting at the garden gate for me to bring them out little bites of red or oak leaf lettuces as treats! Unfortunately, I am beginning to think that my dandelion ameliore seeds I planted a few weeks ago are not going to germinate -- or else, they are the slowest growing greens I have ever encountered!

Now that the grass and weeds are growing again in the backyard, the girls are quite content to "graze". But, what I have been doing is creatively supplementing Syd and Phoe's diet with "found" objects -- by that, I mean the common, ordinary dandelion that we all love to hate in our yard and the equally dreaded chickweed! With certainty, I am sure to be the only person in the neighborhood who doesn't dig out their dandelions. Instead, I selectively harvest some of the leaves, much like we harvest the outer leaves of lettuce in our gardens! Chickweed (on the right in the photo) is my friend, allowed to run rampant in my front yard!

Phoenix also favors a favorite childhood weed of mine. The father of the family who lived next door to me growing up introduced us to eating a wild sorrel that grew in the yard. He was Bulgarian and I am not sure of the exact spelling in that language, but phonetically, we pronounced it "kee-sah-lits". They have a taste that I can only describe as somewhere between bitter and tart. Syd doesn't seem to care for it at all, but Phoenix gobbles it up! Both girls crave what I think is wild parsnip, which is supposedly toxic to many animals -- but apparently not to geese!

It's free, it's plentiful, it's healthy -- and it will get me over the hump until my garden greens can feed my geese (and me!)!
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Muse

I am slowly reading my way through the vintage gardening book, Gardening on Nothing A Year, by Mary S. Griffith. Each chapter begins with a poem and peppered throughout the book are these very sweet little sketches.

The poem that precedes Chapter IX is today's Monday Muse...

A Perfect Lady

I knew a girl who was so pure
She couldn't say the word Manure.
Indeed her modesty was such
She wouldn't pass a rabbit hutch;
And butterflies upon the wing
Would make her blush like anything.

The lady is a gardener now,
And all her views have changed somehow;
She squashes greenfly with her thumb,
And knows how little snowdrops come;
In fact the garden she has got,
Has broadened out her mind a lot.
--Reginald Arkell

Of course, this is not a practical look for any gardener, but I think it makes a cute accompanyment for the poem! Oh, to be sooo stylish in the garden -- though the heels would surely be hazardous!

In reality, I wake up very chipper, which is fortunate because I hit the ground running...let the dogs out, make the coffee, run outside to let the geese out before they wake the neighborhood, come back inside, feed the dogs, feed the cats, THEN I get to pour a cup and perhaps drink it before it gets cold -- sigh! THEN, it's out to the garden to give it a morning drink...dressed in whatever happened to be handy enough to throw on!
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Refurbishing Shea's Herb Garden

When I got this house, one of the first things I did that following spring was put in an herb garden. The perfect bed was already there, just in need of some SERIOUS attention -- it was totally overgrown with crab grass! But, it had a lot going for it since it spanned the length of the side of the house, was about a foot wide itself, and received great sun because it faced due south. I battled and battled with that crab grass to get the bed ready for planting!

The herb garden sprang to life over Mothers' Day weekend, 2001. I had three dogs at the time: Dallas (whom I still have); Taylor, my collie (now deceased); and Sheamus (my Bouvier des Flandres mix). I recall that the weather was just gorgeous! Dallas and Taylor were on teathers enjoying the shade of the maple trees in the front yard. Shea, who tended not to roam and who couldn't run too fast if he did, was content to hang out with me while I planted.

We had a great weekend at the beach house and went home to Pennsylvania on Monday. The next day, Shea stopped eating and refused to get up. I knew he needed serious medical attention. To make a long story short, it took four very strong neighbors to lift him in a blanket and get him into my van. He ended up at the emergency room of the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital in Philadelphia. Despite their wonderful efforts (I can't say enough good things about that place!!), sadly, Shea didn't make it.

However, since I had that last great weekend with him "helping" me plant the herb garden, it is still fondly referred to as Shea's garden, in his memory!

This rosemary plant was one of the originals in that garden. In actuality, it has grown over the years into quite a large shrub that has been cut back, shared with others, and has added wonderful flavors and aromas to my cooking. When I say large, this is an understatement. It could easily be seven feet in length and nearly five feet tall -- no exaggeration! This winter, however, half of the plant has died! So, I got out the pruners last week and clipped off as much of the dead wood that I possibly could. The remaining plant is still quite large and hopefully, will be OK. I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

Unfortunately, this was not the only garden casualty. My two chive plants did not return this year! In addition to using them in my cooking, I find the flowers to be quite lovely! So, a rootbound chive that has been making its' home in a container for quite a number of years was finally freed from constraint! I used a hand saw to slice through the dense roots and made several plants out of one. In fact, ever thrifty, I bartered a piece of chive plant with my neighbor, Laura, in exchange for a zucchini plant!

Now, I have pruned the rosemary, replaced the chives, and have added in a French tarragon plant. Otherwise, the sage is stalwart (like the rosemary, I can use it all winter), and the oregano is coming back nicely. I'm not too sure about my thyme plants (I plant the English and lemon varieties), but I have a spare ready to plant, as I use a lot of this over the summer. Basil -- my other summer staple -- should be able to be planted in a week or two.

Like vegetables, one can never have too many herbs...So, I have had this idea fermenting in my brain all week about wrapping the herb garden around to the front of the house! Stay tuned -- that's a whole other post!

Gotta go...dirt beckons!
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Burpee Live Plant Order Has Arrived!!!!

Package in the mail today -- no mistaking that it was from Burpee when it said "Live Plants Inside"!! When I placed my order a few weeks back, I specifically asked the customer service representative when my order would be delivered because, very shortly, I will be going on vacation to Cape Cod (yea!). I certainly didn't want my live plants arriving while I was gone! She said they would arrive around April 20th. They came today, on the 21st -- close enough! I have always had good luck ordering from Burpee. The plants have aways arrived healthy, but then, my location in Virginia is about four hours away. Native Pennsylvanian that I am, I like supporting a company from whence I hail (Burpee is located in Warminster, in the eastern Philadelphia suburbs), even though I live elsewhere now.

My order consisted of tomatoes and peppers.

For tomatoes, I chose the Burpee Heirloom Taste Collection, which includes: Brandywine (I love the large, beautiful leaves); Black Krim (so pretty and tasty); Big Rainbow (new to my garden); and Supersteak (ditto).

The catalog describes Big Rainbow as "yellow streaked with scarlet", 85 days, indeterminate. The fruits are large -- 16+ ounces! Supersteak is also indeterminate, 80 days, and described as "the original 'giant' with beefsteak taste and meaty texture. The fruits are huge at 32+ ounces. Yum!

My taste in peppers has evolved over the years, from favoring the mild to the more spicy. Now, DO NOT expect me to eat a habanero -- I will NOT! But, I am now more receptive to heat.

I ordered 3 plants (this is what you had to order) of Tangerine Dream, considered a sweet pepper, with three inch fruits and having some heat at the stem end. This will be my perfect "popper" pepper, stuffed with some spicy pepper Jack cheese, drizzled with olive oil and roasted in my oven! So good...

My next choice was Ristra Cayenne Hot Hybrid Pepper(also, three plants). Who could resist a plant that is a "super producer" of peppers that are a foot in length? They are billed as good drying peppers because of their thin walls. I love this, because I can use them fresh when harvested, freeze some, and dry them, to crumble into chili in the fall and winter!

OK...the problem is I need to get busy and clear out the rest of the garden to get these babies planted!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What I am Growing Today -- Artichokes!

Last week, while driving home from Virginia Beach, I stopped at a little garden center called "Bloomers". When passing by before, I always had one excuse or another for not stopping -- in a hurry, it wasn't planting season -- you know how that goes. But, it was a gorgeous day and their display of lush, green plants was enticing me to stop. So, I did. My dog was in the car (coming back from the vet's) but it was wonderfully breezy, so I lowered the windows to let him enjoy it. He didn't seem to mind, as he was sleeping peacefully in the back seat!

Almost immediately, I gravitated to the artichoke plants! Anything with large, toothy grey-green leaves is bound to get my attention. Looking down, this is what I saw...doesn't it seem as if it has a little baby face, eyes closed in slumber? Perhaps I have an overactive imagination, or am just a glutton for a sweet new plant! Home, it came (along with some French tarragon and thyme).

Years ago, when my garden was new, I tried to grow globe artichokes. The plants were very young and didn't last through the winter, despite mulching for protection. However, at some point, I noticed the neighbors behind me were raising some in their tiny, but very sweet garden (mostly flowers and herbs). Hmmmm....that must mean they can be successfully grown here!

The plant I selected is at least a two-year old plant, or it would not have a bloom. Hopefully, this might mean that it is a bit sturdier than its' predecessors. From my research and past experience, it should do well in our sandy soil, as long as it is watered sufficiently. I will plant it in a spot where it will get a bit of shade from our hot summers and a break from the wind in the winter.

For the record, Santa Cruz, California, is regarded as the globe artichoke capital of the world. Brought to the area by Italian immigrants, they thrived in the temperate climate of the area. The edible portion of the plant is actually the immature flower bud, and we actually eat the thick base of each flower bract, in addition to the heart or base. If not harvested, the bud will bloom into a thistle-like flower (artichokes are closely related to thistles). In areas with a longer growing season than mine, the plant can be cut back for a second harvest.

Wish me luck!
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Proven Theory!!!

In my post, dated March 27th on Succession Planting, I noticed that many blog writers were commenting about the absence of tomatoes in the White House Garden. Based on my observations of the plot, I posited that what was publicized at the moment was the "Spring" garden -- minus tomatoes, because it was too early to plant them in D.C. at the moment. I gave full confidence that tomatoes would be present in the "SUMMER" garden.

Tonight, on the national news, President Obama exercised the new First Dog, Bo, on the White House lawn and made this quote: "Portugese Water Dogs like tomatoes...Michelle's garden is in trouble!"

Sounds as if there are definite plans to have tomatoes in the garden. Hence, a proven theory!!! Should be able to plant them up there in a few weeks!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Muse -- II

This is the poem that is inspiration for this week's Monday Muse:

The Country Store

Far our beyond the city's lights, away from din and roar,
The cricket chirps of summer nights beneath the country store;
The drygoods boxes ricked about afford a welcome seat
For weary tillers of the ground, who here on evenings meet.

A swinging sign of ancient make, and one above the door,
Proclaim that William Henry Blake is owner of the store;
Here everything from jam to tweed, from silks to ginghams bright,
Is spread before the folk who need from early morn till night.

Tea, sugar, coffee (browned or green), molasses, grindstones, tar,
Suspenders, peanuts, navy beans, and homemade vinegar,

Fine combs, wash ringers, rakes, false hair, paints, rice, and looking glasses,
Side saddles, hominy, crockery ware, and seeds for garden grasses.
Lawn mowers, candies, books to read, corn planter, household goods,
Tobacco, salt, and clover seed, horsewhips and knitted hoods,
Canned goods, shoe blacking, lime and nails, straw hats and carpet slippers,
Prunes, buttons, codfish, bridal veils, cranberries, clocks and clippers

Umbrellas, candles, scythes and hats, caps, boots and shoes and bacon,
Thread, nutmegs, pins and Rough on Rats, for cash or produce taken,
Birdseed, face powder, matches, files, ink, onions and many more,
Are found in heaps and stacks and piles within the country store.

--Author Unknown

Growing up, I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder "Little House on the Prairie" books and the TV series, too. This poem reminds me so much of the Olsen's general store. This is where the townfolk went for every day needs, traveling to the larger city only a few times a year perhaps.

I suspect that everyone has known a store like Olsen's or the one in the poem at one time or another. For me, it was O.W. Houts & Son, referred to by those who knew it simply as "Houts", located in State College, Pennsylvania, where I lived while I went to graduate school. This little grocery stocked local produce in the summer, had the best coffee (a blend I swore by called Scandinavian), wonderful fresh meats (cut to order, if you so chose), and little gourmet treasures for the creative cook! The attached store was like an old fashioned mercantile, a veritable treasure trove of the unusual and hard-to-find!

Sad to say, Houts is now closed. I suspect its' demise was linked to the arrival of the Wegmans grocery store chain and others to the area. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Wegmans and make a beeline for it when I go back home to Pennsylvania for a visit. Although I don't get back to State College that often, I was devastated to hear the news. Why couldn't they coexist? It had a very loyal following, or so I thought. Tragic to lose this little gem!

How many other little gems like this have been lost? I think shops like this harken back to a time when communities depended upon themselves and were self-contained. I am very heartened, though, that the slow foods movement seems to be taking hold with the popularity of Barbara Kingsolver's book and others like it. It's wonderful that people are trying to be more frugal and self-sufficient in other aspects of their lives as well. I am all for a resurgence of this type of lifestyle.

I live on a small island five miles offshore, connected to the coast by a causeway and a series of bridges. It is 13 miles to the highway and "civilization", so to speak. However, the mainland is still very rural and has only just begun to be touched by "development" as many areas know it. The nearest "urban sprawl" is an hour away -- and I like it that way.

On our little island, though, we have our own little community of merchants that I try to support on a daily basis. We have a few book stores, a great wine & cheese shop (Hi, Kathy!), a pharmacy, a hardware store, several fishmongers, and so on. Even though I have my own vegetable garden, I am a weekly visitor to our small, but loyal, farmers' market. I can buy fresh Chincoteague oysters from my next door neighbor, who is a waterman. Our little island grocery store is lacking in some areas (like its produce), but this is where I buy most of my meats.

The constraint of geography has made me a more local consumer and I am glad for it. For those of you who live in more urban areas, my message with my Monday Muse is next time you are on your way to a large chain store, search out the little gems in your area instead. Support you local businesses, run by people like you and me who are trying to get through these tough times, too!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Worm Wars!!!

Quite suddenly, my geese have developed a taste for protein! Their favorite meal du jour?



Let the battle begin! This might get ugly!

How did it start? I will tell you...Ordinarily, the geese swim in a large plastic kiddie pool. However, once it got colder and the water began to freeze, the pool was likely to crack. So, instead, I picked up two large rubber basins to use during the winter months. They proved to be low maintenance and they had an added benefit...their wet bottoms attracted worms. Beautiful, fat worms for me -- or, I should say, for my garden!

Now it seems that the goose girls are on to me. When they see me changing their water, it's as if I have sign hanging over my head that says "FREE LUNCH!!!"

It's unfair! It's two against one! They can wolf them down faster than I can pick them! However, I would not be a good goose mom if I didn't let them have a FEW, right? They need a balanced diet and if that includes protein...

I have a solution! To paraphrase Marie Antoinette..."LET THEM EAT SLUGS!!"

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring Garden Up-Date

It's always so exciting to see new life in the garden, when you realize that the seeds you have planted have germinated and have begun to grow! I was so amazed by this the first year I had my garden -- and I never grow tired of it.

My shelling peas (Alaska) have poked through the earth and are an inch or so long. If I look very closely, I think I see something starting in the carrot (Nantes) bed. I have diligently kept these moist because if this is what carrots like (they do), then this is what they will get! All of my transplants are doing well: leaf lettuces (Salad Bowl and Red Sails); a nonspecified type of romaine; Swiss chard (Bright Lights); and a nondescript mesclun mix (called "European").

In between the lettuce and mesclun transplants, I have scattered seeds. Thus far, the arugula is the most productive. Not so much for the red lettuces (Outredgeous and Silvia)! Likewise, no sign of life for the beets, chard seeds (Lucullus), or the dandelion greens for the geese.

However, most of all, I am excited because I have finally seen life in the fava bean section! Five daring little shoots have pushed through the ground at this point -- eight more to go, if I am to have 100% germination. We shall see! I've heard they can be temperamental. Keep your fingers crossed!

About half the garden is planted at this point. The other half still needs to be cleared -- and I need to get busy because I anticipate my tomato and pepper live plant order from Burpee very shortly.

But, wait -- oh, no! What about the beans, the cukes, the Brussels sprouts, the edamame, the bok choy? The gardener's perpetual dilemma -- what if there's not enough room to plant all that I want? Somehow, I suppose I will find the room -- or expand my garden!