Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Garden of My Very Own: Backyard Invasion

I made a discovery a few weeks ago in my backyard. The tanged mess you see below is what I have decided is properly wild grapes.

Often wild grapes don't produce fruit, so intent on producing more plant instead. This plant, however, has some fruit. Whether or not it will be worth keeping or not is to be determined.

This mess overtaking the edge of the woods by the second driveway, though, has no fruit and is generally just highly invasive and thus, destructive. It's death is, while not yet planned by exact date, imminent.

Then there's this fun three-leaved vine growing into the back  corner of our yard off an otherwise lovely tree. We have purchased poison ivy killing spray and hopefully, can get rid of it before we all end up covered in rashes.

In the meantime, the deer are being just as invasive as the vines. They ate all but three of the apples from our tree, forcing the husband to pick them prematurely if he was going to get any apples at all. They also have now feasted on the tomato plants so much that I'm not sure they will be able to produce anything before summer's end. It's a shame.

Next year, I guess we'll invest in chicken wire fence. And then electrify it...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Garden of My Very Own: In the Vegetable Garden

I'm getting impatient for produce here at my garden (and a little sick of swiss chard, to be honest). Some things are doing very well. The chocolate mint plant, for example, has exploded in growth.

The front herb/pretty edibles garden is mostly florishing, with a good amount of that swiss chard and good production for the lettuce and kale. The savory and oregano are doing as well as the chocolate mint, but the rosemary and thyme aren't bushing out as much as I'd like. In the background, the parsley has gone native and just taken the place over, which I'm good with. It looks gorgeous. Still, the spinach and cilantro plants have just out-and-out died and the basil and argula are tall but shrinking, with the chamomile staying in its small upright form, though I've heard that it's supposed to be ground cover.

In the side garden, there is one sole pepper on one of the two pepper plants that's been there for a month and is still not-yet-ripe. There has been one zucchini and a bunch of half-finished cucumbers. The beets look ripe, and we'll pull them as soon as we decide on a recipe.

Out back, there have been two ripe cherry tomatoes, both very small, and one green tomato that has since been plundered by the wildlife. So it grows.

But it just isn't growing fast enough.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Really Good Espresso

There is yet another birthday-related loose-end I have yet to tie up. My official birthday present from the boys and myself: my very own espresso machine, plus a bright orange miniature cup and saucer with which to use in it.

All of this came from the 60 percent off clearance table at Tuesday Morning. We  saw the espresso machine at that particular store on a different day but with a much higher price tag, and after the husband did some internet research to make sure the company and model would make a good cuppa joe, we went back out to the same store expecting to pay a lot more money. Then, there it was, sitting there at 60 percent off. The cheapskate in me (which is a substantial portion of my personality) swelled with happiness.

What's more, true to the research, the machine does a good job. To make my first home-brewed espresso, I used grounds from the Gevelia espresso blend. Gevelia is my almost-exclusive brand for coffee. Their grounds never make a burnt coffee and always has a smooth taste.

I'm not a big fan of plain black Cafe Americano. I don't really enjoy coffee by itself. However, adding milk to plain coffee in the American sense, it's a bit watered down. Thus, up to now, unless I paid the price for a coffeehouse beverage, I had to mix my beloved Gevelia Chocolate Mocha coffee with a vanillla creamer (and this is still what I do at work) to create a coffee with a flavor I enjoy drinking.

My real coffee love, though, is the cappuccino, which pairs frothy milk with a bold espresso, allowing me to taste both flavors in equal measure. Now, for the first time in my life, I can make it at home. What's more, I can use the milk froth function on the espresso machine to make my son foamy hot chocolate, which is an added bonus we both enjoy.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Garden of my very Own: Flowering Fauna (part 3 in a series)

Now that the rain has started here in Ohio, it doesn't seem to want to stop. That is bad news for my more than a little damp basement, but it is apparently good news for the garden.

Indoors, my little potted catnip plant is blooming in the humidity.

Outdoors, the yuccas are finishing their few weeks of bloom. I had never seen a yucca before moving into the new house, but I definitely know what they are now, considering there's yucca in the front garden, the side yard, out by the road, and back at the fence side behind the garage. They are all over the place, and I just love their tree-like festivity.

There are lighter pink and big poofy white hydrangeas in the front yard.



Whereas, in the back yard there are bright pink ones, festooned in ferns.

Another variety with white-striped leaves and small purple buds surrounded by white blossoms. I can only assume they are hydrangeas. I have other ideas of what they might be.

The entire yard is covered in lilies. Some are school bus yellow, while others are varying shades of yellow and orange.

Hidden half-beneath an azalea bush in the backyard, is this vibrant orange lily, complete with funny-looking stem off of which the leaves extend.

In the back, what I thought might be a honeysuckle bush has blossomed into, upon googling, I discovered were likely flowers in the olive family, likely either tea olive or sweet olive. They smell like honeysuckle to me.

And the vine that shares an arbor with the white wisteria vine we thought was clematis has also produced blooms. We had no idea what to make of it until we found one at a local arboritum. It apparently is in the honeysuckle family. Who knew?

Meanwhile the one tree beside the back deck that wasn't a lilac has bursted into color. I think maybe it's a hibiscus. Those sure look like hibiscus to me.

Below the hibiscus(?), a late blooming red rose bush is showing its color, and throughout the yard there is a proliferation of hostas not yet in bloom, just one solitary hosta in the front that's decided to come out early beside the brown-eyed susan's who have only just started winking at me.

Near that, a big daisy has popped up, tall as the fence it stands beside, and I'm sure there are more surprises yet to come before fall hits.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Life After Life

I've been trying to get my hands on a copy of Jill McCorkle's new book Life After Life since before the official release date. I really didn't know much about it other than that it was written by her, but that was enough information for me. I'm been a fan of McCorkle's writing since I listened to her read at the annual Chautauqua Writer's Festival a few years ago. I went with a poet from my MFA program. We two were there on a sort of scholarship, and I was in the group run by Ron Carlson, who was a great chap. I loved my group, but I had a slight twinge of longing to be in the group McCorkle ran after I heard her read. The story she read was poignant and emotional but amusing and light. She had a delightful southern accent and a way of speaking that invited the reader to sit down and stay awhile. Carlson was gruff but no less entertaining for that. I learned a lot in the few days I worked with him, but I fell in love with the writing of Jill McCorkle in that auditorium, right there in the middle of a town that seemed to have emerged from another century entirely.

I'd never heard of her before then I'm sorry to say, but I began buying up her books when I found them thereafter. Due to the home demo, I don't have the dough set aside to spend on pricey hardcovers during their first publication run, so buying Life After Life was out of the question. Thus, I made a point of eyeing the new book arrivals whenever I happened to be in the local library. Finally, last week I hit pay dirt.

Life After Life is about just that. In the wake of a "failed" suicide attempt, thrice married Joanna becomes a hospice volunteer in her old hometown to honor her deceased husband. Her and a wacky cast that make up the old folk's home and the town surrounding it fill the pages of this surprise of a novel. Each chapter introduces us to a life and one by one we read through them, slowly understanding how each one fits together, culminating in an unexpected ending whose warning bells, placed throughout the novel, are easy to miss. It is a story of deaths but in those deaths is the story of life.

In short, it was a darn good book and you should read it too.

In other news, as I type there is a hole in the wall leading into the kitchen. Home demo has began and it means that I no longer have to walk outside to get to the refrigerator. Note that after sledgehammering the hole in the wall, we found that it used to be a doorway whose frame is still there, with the previous owner's names, the contractor's name, and the date the wall went up (1960), as well as a heart with the initials of the husband and wife inside it, written in pencil, waiting for us to find it.

In the background is the former door leading to the second set of basement stairs, which are no longer there, replaced with plywood and a bit of elbow grease.

Progress. It happens slow, but it happens.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Swiss Chard Sautee

To finish up old business, despite the fact that Google Reader still seems to be working at the moment, it was supposed to die yesterday. I have already provided a button on the left to follow me using bloglovin. Note that now there is also a button to follow me using feedly, if that is your preference. Feedly seems to be winning the RSS race to become the next Google Reader, so the option is there if you want it. This is an equal opportunity RSS blog.

Now on to the fun.

And that fun revolves around Swiss Chard. Below is the lovely plant growing in my front garden. It's big and lush and beautiful, and frankly it looks delicious. It's been growing so fast in all the rain we've been having that I have been able to try out a little side dish sautee twice now.

Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan

Click the link above for the original recipe. It was a fairly quick one. Just chop the stems and leaves.

Then, stir fry to stems for a while (under 10 minutes) with the sauce ingredients and then add the leaves and wilt. Add some parmesan cheese and voila.

Between the first attempt and the second, my husband learned that his grandfather enjoyed swiss chard. Boiled. Can't say that I'd recommend that or that we will ever convince my mother-in-law to try swiss chard again, not after a childhood bogged down with the taste of it after extensive boiling.

In our version of swiss chard, it has a strong, tangy flavor and a bit of a crunch, as long as you don't overcook it too much, as well as a great color. I'm not a huge fan of wine-based sauces, though, so the next time we subbed a half and half mix of cranberry pomegranate juice and balsamic vinegar for the wine. We paired the chard with baked salmon. Delightful.

In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm making it again tonight.