Thursday, October 29, 2009

Have a Hideous Halloween

* Edward Gorey was a brilliantly talented American artist-illustrator who might appreciate me using the term: RIP (1925-2000).

Buyer Beware

They all look the same, lounging in the field. But, they were bred for different purposes, so buyer beware...

Jack O’Lanterns were hybridized to ward off evil spirits and provide a riotous good time when you steal them from the neighbor's porch and smash 'em in the street.

Heirloom Variety Pie Pumpkins are prized for their firm texture and sweet flavor. (Jacks are bland and watery.) The best pie varieties are Small Sugar, Winter Luxury and Rouge Vif d'Etampes.

If you're going to all the trouble* of making a pumpkin pie from scratch, you're obviously a romantic. So, purchase a Rouge Vif d'Etampes. It was the prototype for Cinderella's carriage and is sometimes sold as the Cinderella Pumpkin.

But, that means the time to make your pie just went from 4 hours to 4 months because you might have to grow this pumpkin yourself. I’ve never seen a supermarket sell anything but Small Sugars, though these are quite tasty, too.

Pie Pumpkins are good for more than just pie. Click here for a fabulous Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe with gingersnap cookie and pecan crust!

* Canned pumpkin purée is one of the few items where canned product quality is about equal to fresh - though I've found NO documented cases where a can of pumpkin purée warded off evil spirits with any success.

* Rouge Vif d'Etampes means Deep, Red Pumpkin - which is a little misleading, since it's red/orange. Oh, how the French love to toy with anyone who can't speak the language...
* Buy seeds from Burpee - they invented this pumpkin, back in 1883.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hell's Half Acre

Yes, it's snowing.
Yes, that's early.
Yes, I'm none too thrilled.

Was trying to be kind to a California Gardener this a.m. asking about high altitude gardening. Perhaps I should have just sent him this photo.

Some days I'm not sure what I enjoy more ~ gardening? Or, complaining about my garden.

Question: What's your growing zone?
A: Zones? What zones?
We don't need no freakin' zones!
(Not indoors anyway.)

Such troubles are bound to happen when you evolve into a gardener vs. being one of those rare individuals who had a lifelong plan and followed a logical path to achieve it.

You know the type... they search high and low for perfection before making a commitment. They scan the horizon, authoritatively place hands on hips, and finally proclaim: Now this spot... Right here... this would be ideal for a garden.

As opposed to me. Who spotted a house with lots of sun and a pretty view, saw that my horses could live right down the road and happily announced: Works for me!

Q: Soil conditions?
√ Slow to drain
√ Slow to warm
√ Like concrete in the summertime!
(If that's music to your ears, you're stuck with clay soil, too.)

Which leaves me to wonder... If I lived in a hospitable area where I had nothing to complain about... Whatever would I do to pass the time?

PS: I wanted to to paint you a happier picture, Steve, so, this last photo is for you. During the five, blissful months that we do have summer, it is a glorious summer, indeed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pink Tuesday

Doubtful I could endure winter without the happy blooms of Alstroemeria.

Or, pink Cyclamen gracing my indoor garden.

Yeah, yeah. I know it's still October but the weather never lies.
In the midst of a winter snowstorm here, today.

Windowsill African Violets don't seem to mind...

Look closely.
Ms. African Violet's kid sister is hiding somewhere in this photo.

Monday, October 26, 2009

iCameras and My Discomfort Zone

If I'd had my wits about me, we would have hiked in lower elevations to enjoy the last of the lovely weather.

Enough with the music already. Isn't it about time Apple invented the iCamera? As in a tiny contact lens I wear in my eye? All I gotta do is blink... to capture the world around me. [Simply plug the digital camera cable into your ear to retrieve the data.]

Now that's a convenient piece of technology I could get my head around.

What we discovered while hiking Guardsman Pass was enough to make a grown gardener cry.

Doubtful even a fancy gadget like the iCamera would have lit my fire on last week's Friday Afternoon (hiking) Club when I took 2 - as opposed to my usual 200 - photos.

That's because we encountered snow.


This, of course, had Bad Dog delighted. And, I'll admit I was thrilled to finally have a witness to his insanity. He likes to lay on his back and slide, head first, down snowy hills. (Just like this cute pup!)
Summer, it seems, went by in a blink. The shoes are off the horses. The blooms are off the rose.

With this being possibly, probably the last of the gorgeous late Autumn days I'm worried...

With winter a comin'
and, the weather a drizzlin'
Whatever shall I do?

I need a hobby. A goal. A plan! A purpose! Or, at the very least, a ticket to New Zealand.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Hobgoblin of Little Budgets

Seems a tad ridiculous that I'd be planning (planting?) for the holidays when I haven't even figured out my scary Halloween costume...

But I couldn't resist when I spotted Amaryllis bulbs on sale for 5 bucks.

I s'pose I could just give everyone on my Christmas list a bulb. They come in cute little boxes. Except that giving just the bulb is a clear indicator I'm a 5 buck cheapskate.

So, I planted these bulbs today, in high hopes I'd be dazzling folks with bright, red flowers when I gift them to friends two months from now. In full bloom they should look like they're worth way more than 5 dollars.

Maybe even 10.

* Ralph Waldo Emerson's: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" was a jab at uncreative people.

I realize my Amaryllis bulbs aren't all that creative. But, they're affordable. And, they're gorgeous. Therefore I think they'll do the trick.

PS: If I were growing them for myself, I'd simply sprout them in water. Amaryllis bulbs forced in a vase vs. soil tend to bloom in half the time. (About 4 weeks vs. 8.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Leaf Peeping in City Creek Canyon

Last week's Friday Afternoon [Hiking] Club took us along a civilized route, down in the Salt Lake City valley.

Few trees have shed their leaves in my neck of the woods. But, that's mostly because Park City doesn't have any 'woods.'

I sometimes miss the majestic deciduous trees we find in the valley.

Those big old trees who carpet our trail with crunchy sound effects, providing a colorful canopy for autumn adventures.

Which is why I'm glad this trail is only a hop, skip and a jump from my door.

Now if only we could figure out how to hike City Creek from bottom to top, without screwing up.

Everybody else seems perfectly capable of doing this. Not sure why it's beyond our level of comprehension.

Though I did have to laugh when we hit the same dead end to our trail as we did last year. That's when it all started coming back to me.

So, we waded across the creek to a different trail ~ just like we did last year...

New Do!
In honor of leaf peeping, it being my birthday, and... perhaps the beginning of [yet another] midlife crisis... I dyed my blonde locks to match the fall foliage.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Death of the Garden

The last of the Pincushion Flowers, blooming late October

Cushion Spurge: Not sure what I love more about this gal ~ pretty spring blossoms or colorful fall foliage.

A for Effort: Primrose is budding!

Cerise Yarrow gets a late start, blooms well into November (unless, of course, the weather ruins her plans.)

Ghosts of Coneflowers Past

Friday, October 16, 2009

Daycation to Antelope Island

Barren and beautiful, Antelope is a large island surrounded by the Great Salt Lake.

An important GLOBAL resource for migratory and nesting birds.

Home to year 'round residents, too.

Chances are, you eat Great Salt Lake salt every day.

One of the Morton Salt company's largest facilities is located in Salt Lake City.

* Guest photographer while Kate wastes her weekend horseback riding.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day: What's Cookin' in Your Garden?

Blog Action Day (10/15/09) invited anyone, and that means everyone, to talk about:

What Climate Change means to them.


It's taken the USDA 16 years (?!) to publish a new growing zone map. Perhaps they didn't want to stir up trouble. This new one confirms what savvy gardeners have known for quite some time. Our gardens have warmed up, most by a full growing zone:

I'm a 2!
What are you?
The bright red spots over Utah are the reason I gamble with gardening zones. I used to be a USDA zone 5. These days, I have good luck growing USDA zone 7 flowers.

My Utah mountains have leapfrogged from zone 5 to zone 7. I can plant prettier flowers than ever before!

Which are subsequently destroyed by armies of grasshoppers, pine beetles, and bugs that never visited this high altitude garden before.

One step to reversing this trend is easier than you might think. Do you know the environmentally friendly move that's more helpful than...?
  • Changing your light bulbs
  • Driving a Prius
  • Conserving on water
  • Recycling most anything
What could it be?

Planting a tree!

"The net cooling effect of one healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day." - U.S. Department of Agriculture

There are tons of valid, complex reasons for climate change but here's something that's fairly easy to fix: Brick, mortar, asphalt... the concrete jungles of our cities warm the earth. Trees cool it down. Trees, and other greenery, would happily grow on the rooftops of any structure we build.

"One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people." - U.S. Department of Agriculture

Now if someone could please invent house shingles that are tiny solar panels I think we'd be A-OK.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

283 Bulbs + 5 Blisters = High Hopes 4 Springtime

Up Close & Personal with a Tulip

Final tally: 283 flower bulbs.

Those 3 extra Tulip bulbs traveled from Amsterdam to Park City, Utah ~ stowaways in Sandy's suitcase. And, I was ever so grateful.

I planted those special 3 in the center of a HUGE circle of Daffies and Allium bulbs. In the high hopes that this bad-smelling bulb strategy might outsmart the infernal critters snooping around for tasty tulips.

Jonquils and Hyacinth

I went a little hog wild this year. Ordered most of them from the same company. Imagine how delighted that company must be, assuming all sorts of future profits from this big spender bulb-aholic!

Alas, they will be sorely disappointed. This was a one time deal simply because I was lonely. I traveled the entire month of September. Realized I was missing my gardens when I found myself pulling weeds at our cabin on the Oregon shore.

That inspired me to busy myself on the airplane, writing a great big bulb order.

Now, I assume you know the do's and don'ts of great big bulb orders, right? Send it off immediately! Before you have the good sense to think about the cost and all that hard work. :)

This one's for you, Jan!

Perhaps this is the needlepoint pattern I should try my luck at this winter?

That could take me 'til April and beyond... :D

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fondue and a Fancy Cup of Tea

Clementine Clove, Genmaicha, and Lavender loose teas.

It's my birthday on Friday. And, it just so happens I'm friends with two of the luckiest people in the world. Oh, not 'cause I'm their friend - Good Lord, No! - that could be a con, not a pro.

They're lucky because they enter contests and they win! Quite often! Very foreign territory for me. Back in high school, I won a pair of false eyelashes at Louie's Lift a Gift ~ our nickname for the local drug store. [Mom wouldn't even let me wear them.] And, that's it. My less than 15 minutes of fame.

In spite of entering writing contests, pure luck sweepstakes, lottos, horse races, blogging battles and photo essays... I come up short each and every time.

Fortunately for me, they don't. They recently won dinner for 8 at a fondue restaurant ~ which prompted them to throw a birthday party for moi!

Steeping loose leaves in your own special mug makes for a truly civilized spot of tea.

If that wasn't marvelous enough I was gifted with a little somethin' I'd wanted for quite some time: a top o' the cup tea infuser and 3 oh so fragrant blends of loose tea.

Wisconsin Trio Cheese Fondue

Start with:
6 oz. shredded Gouda Cheese
6 oz. shredded Fontina Cheese
3 Tbsp flour
* Toss shredded cheese and flour together for better fondue texture.

Stir in:
3/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tsp chopped shallots
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbsp chopped scallions

We finished off the night with chocolate fondue. I won't provide that recipe because it's so tasty it might make you weep.

Grow A Tea Garden:
Camellia sinensis: The 'Real' Deal

Plenty of herbs blossom happily in your garden, from which you can make herbal tea. 'Real Tea' comes from a pretty flowering shrub called Camellia sinensis. Ms. Camellia's leaves and leaf buds make black, green and oolong teas. Great for container gardening. USDA zone 7.

Oh! And, by the way...
I've been swilling tea for decades because it's loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants. Chances are you do, too.

I recently learned... drinking tea matters not unless you steep it with lemons. Yep, lemons. Apparently without the lemon juice your body can't absorb those ultra-amazing antioxidants. Let's file this one under "Now ya tell me."

Monday, October 12, 2009

After the Swarm: New Victims!

Mini-Roses can live forever in a sunny window.
Many varieties survive transplanting outdoors.

Last Halloween, I had my very own killing spree! Bumped off every flowering houseplant that had graced my sunny window. L pleaded clemency for a couple of the extra special ones. The rest of those bug-filled urchins were tossed, unceremoniously, into the compost pile.

I have a big, wonderful, sunny, south-facing bay window. [Keeps me sane in the winter time.] In it, I can grow pretty much everything, including bell peppers and lettuce when I'm feeling cranky about produce prices.

African Violets prefer to hang out in the kitchen, where it's cooler.

I spend all winter putzing with the flowers in that sunny window. I scoop 'em up at the local supermarket ~ most of the ones I murdered last Halloween had been living in there for years.

That window is a great incubator for bugs, too. Annoying, conniving, practically impossible to eliminate, indoor houseplant bugs. They can easily reach swarm capacity if you're a lazy housekeeper such as myself.

The more the merrier Mini-Roses.
Couldn't decide on a color so I ended up with two!

I made a valiant effort to win this war. Tried a number of homespun bug remedies. But, I'd let the situation get too far out of hand. So, I threw in the proverbial towel, sent the plants (and the bugs!) to the sweet hereafter.

Now that winter is on it's way... I'm starting over!

Ugly Bugs:
- Aphids: Persistent little green, brown, black bugs that collect on new plant growth.
- Mealy Bugs: White fluffy stuff collecting on plant stems.
- Scale: Hard brown shell hides a despicable character inside.
- Spider Mites: Tiny webs appear on flowers and leaves.

* There are lots of chemical bug pesticides but some can also kill your cat.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Overkill on the Daffodil

Yesterday was the 185 bulb day.

Before you rush to congratulate me on all that hard work I should confess that 60 of them were Grape Hyacinth bulbs (Muscari.) If those little buggers take more than 10 seconds to plant... well, then, I might be doing a wonderful job but I'm doing it all wrong.

I look like a lunatic out there, marching around with one of those tall, green, garden stakes. I poke a hole in the dirt, drop in a bulb. Cover it up. Move a few inches down the garden path and do it again. Oh, I suppose there are easier ways to plant bulbs. But Bad Dog keeps thinking that garden stake is a stick I intend to throw. He keeps me company the whole time I'm out there ~ with the high hopes I might toss it.

125 Daffies: big ones, small ones, wild ones and more.

"Why so many?" Asks my well-meaning neighbor. You think that's too many? It's not nearly enough!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Steam & Fall Planted Bulbs

Morning Ice on Sedum

Steam and fall bulb planting? What could possibly be the connection...?

Think about it for a moment and I bet you'll land on the logical answer.

Early morning view, from my deck. Snow remains in the higher elevations, melts in my garden as the sun rises.

The landscape glistens with the reds and golds of late autumn but that is not what I was thinking about when I shot this photo. I was half-heartedly hoping those grey clouds slithering over the highest peaks would turn this into a rainy day.

Back to steam and fall bulb planting. Give up? Oh, come on! I just gave you a great hint!

It's about me running out of steam...

Been playing in the mud for 6 fun months but the weather is changing, now, and so is my burning desire to dig more holes.

Only this year, I premeditated lazy. Ordered bulbs early. Ordered a lot. They're here and there's no point in whining. Somebody's gotta plant them & I suppose that somebody will be me.

Today's chore includes a truckload (well, not really, but it feels like it) of:
* Grape Hyacinths
* Pheasant Eye Daffodils
* Red Devon Daffodils

And! Vuurbaak! These glorious red, rare, bordering on gaudy but that's a good thing heirloom Hyacinths are goodies I purchased from Old House Gardens. I love that joint. (They did not pay me to give 'em a plug, though I'm just shameless enough I would probably work for bulbs...)

Why red? Because everybody else will be planting purple, that's why.

Fun Facts to Know & Tell!

- Heirloom Hyacinths are an endangered bulb.
- They come in all sorts of spectacular colors.
Plus, they have a lovely fragrance ~ much nicer than the purple, pink, white hybrids big retailers sell.

I buy from big retailers, too. I'd need to win the lottery before I could fill my entire garden with heirloom bulbs. In addition to those bargain bulbs I like to support the cause and purchase a few heirloom bulbs to brag about.

Last year I planted Gipsy Queens (I did not spell that wrong. The plant owner did.) A luscious apricot Hyacinth. Here's hoping Ms. Vuurbaak is just as delightful.

Vuurbaak Hyacinth: Man, with a name like that she has to be a legit heirloom. Been around since 1948.

Gipsy Queen, my apricot beauty from last year was born in 1927.

* When I say 'born' think of it as the original Hyacinth bulb is Great, Great Grandma and the bulbs with the same name we buy right now are members of a proud, authentic lineage who have not been putzed with or futzed with in any way, shape or color.
** Because heirlooms flower bulbs naturally create offspring - new bulbs (clones?) each year.

Click here to discover why heirloom bulbs are so wonderful.