Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

I was going a little stir crazy yesterday. Nasty winds, blowing snow, nothing to do. Well, plenty to do. Cleaning comes to mind since it looks like a bomb went off in this house of mine. But, why clean when I can putz around the kitchen and make an even bigger mess?

Pumpkin Bread Recipe
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine flour, salt, sugar and baking soda. Separately, combine pumpkin purée, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup water, and spices. Stir all ingredients together. Last but not least, stir in those yummy walnuts. Bake in a bread pan at 350 for about an hour.

* I have thoughtfully adjusted this recipe for all you normal people who don't live in the mountains. For high altitudes: Decrease sugar by 3 tablespoons, decrease baking soda by half, bake at 375 (and cross your fingers.)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mountain Gardening: Tulip Bulbs

My fall bulb order arrived today. I had a feeling it was coming because my foiler of plans, Mother Nature, was putting on quite a furious winter show.

Gale force winds, rain, sleet. She even threw in a clap of thunder, or two, for good measure.

In spite of all the drama, she's not fooling me. She's not my problem when it comes to bulbs. It's those pesky critters.

They think Tulip bulbs taste just dandy!

And, so this year, I'm making it harder for those little buggers to dine and dash.

I'm surrounding my tulips with daffodils, allium and frittilaria. Rodents hate the smell of these bulbs.

Placing wire mesh over the bulbs generally keeps the critters at bay.

If I'm feeling really energetic, I might mulch some sharp gravel into the soil, too.

This hurts their little paws, so they give up rather quickly.

It also improves drainage. (Up here, in the mountains, our clay soil can get pretty soggy...)

Spring blooming bulbs are ideal for mountain gardens because they only need moisture during bud and bloom. Once done flowering, they're quite content in a waterwise landscape.

Above, that Black Beauty is a Queen of Night Tulip.
Yellow and red is a Monsella Tulip. Together, they are pretty striking. The pink flowers are Replete Daffodils and these big balls are Allium.

October is a great time to plant bulbs in the mountains. While we do get a few days of awful weather, we also get our fair share of perfectly gorgeous cool autumn days. Besides, those early storms are just a happy warning that ski season is about to begin.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Corn Picking Moon

The Corn Picking Moon (named by Native American tribes) is often the brightest full moon of the year.

Farmers call it the Harvest Moon because it's almost like a second daylight, allowing them to work well into the night, harvesting crops.

Harvest Corn Side Dish Recipe
(My Grandma used to make this.)
  • 18 oz. sweet corn
  • 1.5 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  • 6 oz. skim milk
  • 1.5 cups minced onion
  • 1.5 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 Tbsp. melted butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Stir together: corn, egg, milk, onion, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup Swiss cheese. Place in a shallow baking dish. Create a topping with the melted butter and bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top of the casserole. Cover with the remaining Swiss cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Heirloom Hyacinths

Delft Blue Hyacinths
(Not an Heirloom)
This hybridized Hyacinth is available just about everywhere.

I wish my friends could be a little more thoughtful (and be born in various months during the year.) Six of them are celebrating birthdays, this month, right about the time I would selfishly like to spend all of my money on fall-planted bulbs. :) According to the stars, Librans (that would be me) aren't even supposed to get along with worry-wart Virgos so I've no idea how I've accumulated so many!

Of course, there's lots of things I don't know. Like the fact that bright-blooming Hyacinths are being hybridized to extinction. I discovered that while I was roaming around Google this morning, trying to find some birthday presents.

At one time, Hyacinths were more popular than Tulips. And, for good reason. They bloom longer, are much hardier, and fill your spring garden with an intoxicating, sweet perfume.

Rare Hyacinth Bulbs:
* I'm buying mine from Old House Gardens. They specialize in heirloom bulbs. It's my first purchase, so I can't recommend them. But, I do admire their love of odd bulbs.

General Kohler: Born 1878
The oldest, surviving double Hyacinth.

Marie: Born 1860.
One of the rarest. Now considered 'commercially extinct.'

Gypsy Queen: Born 1927.
Naturalizes 'effortlessly' in dry, southwest gardens.

Hollyhock Hyacinth: Born 1936
Blooms later in spring than most commercial Hyacinths.

Curing the Winter Blues..
At about $1.00 a bulb (for commercially available Hyacinths) there's no reason to short change yourself. Buy an extra dozen and store them in the 'frig. Hyacinth bulbs are easily 'forced.' Meaning we trick them into thinking it's spring by keeping them in a cool dark place. Come January, after 12 weeks of cold storage, forced Hyacinth bulbs will happily bloom in a sunny window.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bush Clover

Bush Clover
Flat ground rarely exists in a mountain town. So, think about that when you're fertilizing your lawn. Nitrogen will run off ~ down the hill, and into streams. Fertilizer encourages invasive plants to grow thick and strong and ultimately clog up our pretty, babbling brooks.

There's an upside to run off, too...

As we ride our horses along the trails in Park City, we see the fun results of dedicated gardeners living atop the many hills. Wildflower seeds are running downhill, too, sprouting in the most unlikely places.

Which is why we are currently blessed with fall blooming, Bush Clover.

It’s a graceful plant, ultra xeric, with a weeping, mounded habit. Pretty pink flowers begin to bloom in late summer and will continue until the first hard frost. It absolutely loves dry, infertile soil and hot, hot sun. (Which is probably why it made the great escape from their well-sprinkled gardens!)

Bush Clover: Lespedeza thunbergii 'Gibraltar' and Lespedeza thunbergii 'Pink Fountains' are 2 great varieties for Southwest xeric gardens. USDA zones: 4-8, grows to approximately 4-5 feet in a waterwise garden. (If you give it a drink, it will surely die.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sweet Autumn Clematis

If I owned a garden shop, I'd time all deliveries for Monday afternoons.

Seeing as how Mondays are almost always the most annoying day of the work week, a happy little package with the words 'Live Plants!' printed on the box is guaranteed to be the highlight.

It certainly was for me... My very own Sweet Autumn Clematis arrived yesterday afternoon.

I discovered her at my seed collecting class. I walked around the corner and this jumbled mass of white, star-shaped flowers stopped me dead in my tracks.

So I waited and I waited... and then I waited some more... Hoping for the perfect photo opportunity.

I finally gave up on the idea that the people who had discovered the pretty bench nestled inside this magical arch of flowers would ever leave. So, you'll just have to take my word for it.

Admittedly, I'm not a big fan of white but this is the most delicious flowering vine I've ever met!

Thousands and thousands of dainty little blooms adorn this 30-foot climber.

Oh, that's our Jack in the Bean Stalk,* says the instructor.

Sweet Autumn Clematis (USDA zones 5-9) blooms after most Clematis flowering vines are done for the season.

Bonus: It can grow 20 feet in a single season. I can't hardly wait....

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Slow As Snails Tomatoes

There are tons of tomatoes that happily grow in a high altitude garden. Unfortunately, I had a helper (aka meddler) who thought he was doing me a big favor by removing what I had planted (wonderful short-growing heirloom tomatoes) and filling my raised bed with traditional tomato plants. These foolish little seedlings thought they had all the time in the world...

There is so much bad news in the local paper* that I often wonder why I subscribe. Take this morning, for instance, when a sneaky little note in the corner of the front page warned that night temperatures would drop to 24 degrees (F). Oh, I know there are plenty of bigger problems in the world than frozen green tomatoes but I had sort of crossed my fingers that we'd have a long, leisurely autumn since it snowed in June. This is why containers are oftentimes a mountain gardener's best friend.

If you have an abundance of good fresh tomatoes, freeze them whole. Just wash, dry, and put them in freezer bags. They'll retain their flavor ~ great for all sorts of recipes (too squishy for salads.)

[Bake in 400 degree oven]
  • 6 green tomatoes, cut in 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2/3 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1.5 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1.5 cup Parmesan cheese
Mix beaten eggs, milk, and water in a shallow bowl. Mix bread crumbs and Parmesan in a separate shallow bowl. Dip tomato slices into the egg mixture, then into the bread crumbs. Arrange tomato slices on a cookie sheet and bake uncovered in 400° oven for about 10 minutes. Flip all of the tomatoes, to brown on the other side, and bake for 10 more minutes.

*Helpful Hints From The Headless Herald
(We have nicknamed our local paper the Headless Herald. It's just that bad.)

However! It makes a fabulous weed barrier. Lay down 6 sheets of tiresome local reporting and cover with 3 inches of mulch. By next spring your weed problems will be gone and you'll have a sweet little garden bed where passers by can stop and smell the roses.

Ripen green tomatoes by wrapping them in newspaper.
Remove the stems, wash and dry. Then individually wrap each tomato in a piece of newspaper and store the tomatoes in a dark, cool (55-60°F) spot, like your basement, where they will slowly ripen.

** Growing times: Lots of great veggies will happily grow in high altitudes. Read the fine print to determine how long they take to reach maturity. Planting Marigolds around the garden bed helps chase away critters who dine and dash.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bright Whites

I had a hot date last weekend, so I let my daughter dress me. That's because the sartorial gene skips a generation. If I have to spruce up, beyond jeans and a t-shirt, I get very confused.

It was going pretty well, too! Right up until he confessed he's a serial killer. (He enjoys killing defenseless wild animals during hunting season.) That's when I decided it was time to call it a night.

I'm not real big on hunting. I'll happily challenge any yahoo that calls this a sport. Sport would be hand to hand combat with a moose. Hiding up in a tree, with a rifle, is not what I call a fair 'fight.'

But, I digress.

I had L dress me because she'll always put me in something that makes me look pretty. And, it's pretty much always something I'd never choose for myself.

She does that in my gardens, too. She squeezes a bit of bright white into my too (pink and) blue gardens so things really pop.

When you live in ski country, you get your fair share of white ~ pretty, fluffy snow for months on end. So, white is the last color I'm thinking about when I plant a garden.

Even so, I gotta admit that when you look at the gardens, what you see is L's choice of white. And... later... you start noticing my blue.

So, the thought for today is not about planting a white garden. Heaven forbid! Plant blue; it's prettier.

But, if you'd like a garden that is as entertaining to you as it is to passers by, turn a friend, sibling or child loose at the local nursery.

You'll come home with things you never thought you needed. And, when they're blooming, they always make you smile.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sedum: Autumn Joy

Autumn is upon us. I can always tell when the phone rings, and it's Kathleen. We're fall birthday girls and email addicts, so we rarely 'talk' to one another. When birthdays roll around, it's time to pick up the phone, check flights to Chicago and make big plans.

Certain plants remind me of certain people and so it is with Kathleen and Sedum. Each year, this fall perennial bursts into bloom right about the time she and I reconnect, every year.

She works all season long, growing bigger and bigger, overshadowed by all the summer-blooming perennials. Her buds are covered with rambling bumble bees... and then, like clockwork, she opens up right about the time everything else has tired out.

There are lots of kinds of Sedum ~ and if you want my advice I think you should one of every kind. Fall-blooming Mums are nice but she is pretty breathtaking in comparison. Not fussy about soil, drought-tolerant and a pretty sweet roadside diner for migrating butterflies.

Speaking of migration, she's off on another adventure. This time an African Photo Safari. I live vicariously through K's travels.

Sedum blooms from August to September, adding luscious color to the fall garden. Pale green foliage resemble the leaves of a jade plant. Taking their cue from deciduous trees, the rosy pink flowers mature to a lovely brick red before the first hard frost.

It takes a long time to grow an old friend. ~ John Leonard

* Deadhead in spring.
** The Royal Horticultural Society gave Sedum telephium 'Autumn Joy' the Garden Merit Award. USDA zones 3-10.
*** Me: 10/16, Kathleen: 11/6 - send us birthday cards! It takes our mind off the fact that we're growing old.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Chamisa - Rabbit Brush

Rabbit Brush (Spanish name, Chamisa) is an ultra-xeric, native shrub in high plains deserts.
I was justifying my blonde hair, big time, the other day when I was talking to Karen. She's forcing Wunx to acknowledge she's growing older whether she likes it or not. I had happily logged the date into my 2008 calendar. Some might say I'm disorganized. I think I'm just a full year ahead of you people.

One need not consult the calendar to know what time it is. When Rabbit Brush is in full bloom, autumn is upon us.

That's why Bad Dog and I were sweating our way to the uppermost area, in the above photo. Our mission? To collect a few seeds.

Rains are coming more frequently, now. Evening temperatures are downright chilly ~ meaning snows are just around the corner. So, I'm madly collecting seeds to toss into the wild areas of my 'backyard.'

For all I know, rabbits don't even like this stuff. But, Rabbit Brush is a healing herb that gives clarity to situations, offering a clearer perspective. (So, I'm planning to give some to Wunx for her birthday.) It helps those who cannot see the forest for the trees. (I'll be growing some for myself, too.)

Have you ever noticed how instructions for growing wildflowers almost always start with 'clear the land of all weeds and cover the seeds with 1/8 inch of soil'? Who, exactly, does that in the wild?

My simple plan involves scattering seeds and crossing my fingers. It might work. And, then again, it might not. But since it doesn't involve any hard work, on my part, I'm quite fond of this approach. With any luck, this fall-blooming, ultra-xeric bush will flower in my yard, too.

PS: I'm more responsible than I sound. The only time I collect seeds in the wild is when I encounter an entire mountain brightly blooming with one over-abundant species.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Benny's Contributions

I'm pretty fascinated with the Human Flower Project. This website collects all sorts of great stories about how we interact with growing things. One of their most recent articles praised elephant poo as the best fertilizer on Earth. Hmmm... I thought to myself. Wunx was ahead of the game on that one!

This is Benny. He's been swimming around my kitchen for almost a year, now. He keeps me company while I'm washing the dishes. Lately, he's been feeling a bit lonely because the dishes have been piling up since Tuesday.
In the late afternoon, he fluffs out his fins and rams himself, head first, into the side of his flower vase home. (I used to think he was retarded but now I know he's just looking for a fight. He sees his reflection in the glass, when the sun shines through the window.)

Benny & I get along famously because he likes a dirty 'house,' too. He's a teensy bit more manageable than keeping an elephant in the backyard.

Betas love still, dirty water. He'd prefer it be dirtier than I let it get but others are clamouring for his contributions. So, once every two weeks I move him to a new apartment and pour his old water on my plants.

There are a million and one ways to fertilize without spending a dime.

Benny is a pretty messy guy, but the Azaleas are madly in love with him.

"You never yet met, I bet, a pet as wet as they let this wet pet get." ~ Dr. Seuss

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Russian Sage

What's the most fragrant blue bloomer you can stick in your garden... that won't die no matter how hard you try?
I discovered Russian Sage quite by accident, on a hike in Zion National Park. We were hiking up to Angel's Landing.

And, I do mean up ~ as in up and up and up some more until you get to the top. That's where you use what little energy you have left to say, 'Oh, wow, what a view,' take a quick picture, and then hike back down.
I'm not really big on up. Especially when it's 106 degrees (F) outside and the person I'm hiking with will not stop complaining. But, that's actually how I met one of my favorite late-season bloomers.

While my hiking buddy was sound asleep in our air-conditioned hotel room, I was wandering the little town of Springfield. There I, quite literally, bumped into this tall, lacy, blue shrub. It gives off the most lovely fragrance when you brush up against it.

And, since it's blue. I had to have two!

So, I got up the nerve to knock on the gardener's door to find out just what kind of plant could flourish in triple digit temperatures, in ground that was dry as a bone.

"It's impossible to kill it," she said. "Oh, yeah? You don't know me," I responded. But, she was right. A long tap root on the mature plants helps it find enough water in the driest conditions.

Pretty Russian Sage peppers my garden in all the wrong places. I purposely plant it near walkways and porches so people can't avoid bumping into it. That's when it gives off it's strong fragrance, generally stopping people in their tracks. Pair it with Coneflowers and Rudbeckia.

If you're feeling really wild and crazy, plant some Pineapple Sage, too. This beacon for hummingbirds really does smell like pineapples ~ though it requires more water and will reseed itself at will. It's a wildflower from the high mountain elevations of Mexico.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Of Rocks & Hard Places

I love flowers more than just about anything but even I get bored with gardening once in awhile...
A couple of summers ago, I attended a lecture by Aron Ralston, a talented athlete who lost his arm in a horrific climbing accident. He has a remarkable sense of humor. As he walked up on stage, he announced he'd be giving a lesson on how to be a pirate (i.e. Captain Hook.)

Inevitably during the Q&A, he gets a person in the audience giving him a hard time for taking risks. If he could be content watching tv in the safety of his living room, he'd have two good arms to show for it. Ralston's comeback to such comments is pretty inspirational: I don't call that living, he says. I'd have to agree.

Contrary to popular belief, I do not have a death wish. In fact, I have a very low threshold for pain (which is probably why I never got remarried.)

I am ultra, ultra cautious about doing things where I can get hurt. I don't do things to scare myself. I do things that frighten other people. I was chatting with an old friend who called me to catch up. Her Labor Day activities consisted of checking out a new restaurant.

My day started out with mountain biking in the morning and racing a horse back to the stables at a dead gallop, last night, when a lightening storm hit without warning. Ellen threw a fit.

"Well, of course, I was scared," I said to her. "That's why we were running so fast!"

When I hung up the phone, I felt kind of sad. I have changed, I thought to myself. More than I care to admit. I have nothing in common with my old friends and that pains me beyond words. There have been many days, lately, when I miss them. Yet, when I'm with them I have nothing to say.

Ellen thinks I am lacking in common sense. I believe I am suffering from an overly-optimistic attitude.

When I first moved to Park City, I emailed Gurney's and Burpee ~ the only garden companies I knew. Both said nothing grows here. So, I visited the local nursery and she told me very little grows here, too. (Which kind of makes me wonder why she doesn't put that damn place up for sale so I can embark upon my dream career!)

I have discovered that everything grows here, including me.

Nighttime temperatures are beginning to plunge. But, we've got 6 good weeks of planting ahead of us. And, so I look forward to the rustle of autumn.

Flowers are tougher than you think. (And, so are you.) Dig a hole. Plant something risky. And, mulch, mulch, mulch.

PS: If it dies; it died tryin.' Toss it in the compost pile and do it again.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Happy Camp Hideaway

Cabin #9
Happy Camp

Happy Camp Hideaway is a real gem along the Oregon coast. Eclectic little (reasonably-priced) cabins are tucked into a small bay just outside of Netarts, OR.

They even allow dogs!

There is absolutely nothing to do in Netarts and that's the whole point.

Don your comfy clothes and wander the beach toward tiny little town of Oceanside. (About 2 miles.)

Along the way you'll discover the sand dollar beach. 'Tis a vactioner tradition to collect as many of these dollars as the tide drags in... With any luck, you'll find a few in pristine condition.

Once you reach civilization (Oceanside) have a spectacular lunch at Rosanna's.

And, then mosey your way back to Happy Camp to watch the setting sun.

Scavenger Hunt:
40-odd paces past the 'big white hotel' in a grove of trees lies a secret staircase that rises from the beach. An ancient log does it's best to point you in the right direction though, in recent years, high tides have jostled it's position.

Climb the scary stairs to find food, company and best of all, a good selection of local wines at the one, the only, Josie's Market.

* Tell them 'Kate' sent you. It won't get you a deal but it might get me a freelance project. I've been trying for years to get them to build a better website! :)