Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday's Freebie: BHG's Orchid Manual

Brassia Rex Christine ~ my most 'exotic' orchid
Do you grow Orchids? I avoided them for years. Thinking they were too high maintenance. The only person I knew who grew them kept all of hers on a kitchen counter, near a north facing window.

When they're not in bloom, they're the ugliest things. Or, so I thought. 

Gangly stems stretch to the sun as new buds begin to take shape.
Once I embraced the challenge of getting orchids to re-bloom, I totally changed my tune. These days, I'm as excited with the green shoots and buds as I am with the stunning flowers.

Orchids keep me company while I'm washing dishes.
This is my kitchen window. It faces west. Whatever orchids are currently in bloom take up residence here. No sunlight reasons behind that. Simple selfishness! Inspecting those intricate blossoms takes my mind off the fact that I'm standing there, washing dishes.

Lady Slipper Orchid

Which brings me to this week's Freebie  ~ a book I absolutely positively DO NOT want to give away. (I promised I would give it away, therefore I have to.) I learned a few new tricks by reading this book.

BH&G's Orchid Gardening book is everything you've ever wanted to know about Orchids.

From basic care to DIY orchid soils to creating an orchid hospital when some of them require life support. (Plus, some hand holding when it's time to throw that baby into the compost pile and start all over again. :)

I have one copy of this book to give away. Please leave a comment if you'd like to be in the drawing.

* Better Homes & Gardens gave me a collection of plant-related books to read, review and give away.

Hence, the 'Friday Freebie' thing, which will continue with something new for the next few weeks. If you're not big Orchids, pop over next Friday to yak about Herbs.

** To be completely fair in selecting a winner, I have my neighbor draw names out of a hat. (Gives me a fine excuse to hang out over at her place and eat all of her cookies.)

CONGRATULATIONS TO LAST WEEK'S WINNER: Melospiza. I'll be mailing you the Yes! You Can! canning and preserving book. Just as soon as you send me your address. :))

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Window Sill Gardens


Geranium (I'm a total sucker for this peachy keen color.)

Micro-mini Roses

A delightful mess of my favorite indoor flowers ~ colorful Kalanchoe

You know what I love about flowers? Everything.
How when they start to smile, they put a smile on my face, too.
How could anyone look at this crazy mess of blossoms and still feel grumpy?

To meet more Wordless Wednesday participants, click here!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ortensia Blu and a Recipe, too.

Hi, Everybody ~ I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine. Laney is a Connecticut gardener who recently combined her 3 great passions ~ gardening, cooking, and the wonders of Italy. Her online store ~ Ortensia Blu ~ sells gourmet goodies imported from Italy.  I'm always on the prowl for fab Italian recipes so I invited her to do a guest blog post and share a favorite recipe with us. Buon Appetito!

'Ortensia Blu' means blue hydrangea.
{From Laney} Gardeners and cooks have a lot in common ~ we enjoy working with our hands, we're tantalized by the scents and fragrances in our gardens. It takes patience and time until we can celebrate our finished product. I’ve found that there’s a huge crossover between gardening and cooking – with many of us wearing and enjoying both hats (preferably brimmed straw ones!)

Ortensia Blu is the fruits of my labor. A new online store that brings together Italian specialty food products I’ve had a great time sourcing in Italy, plus recipes I get a thrill out of creating and preparing for my family.

What started it all is a simple blue hydrangea, which in Italian is called ortensia blu.

True blue Hydrangeas prefer acid soil, turning pink and purple in western alkaline soil.
Actually I have a yard full of blue hydrangeas ~ my most favorite flower that I’ve planted and nurtured every place that I’ve lived. Aside from ones bought at the garden center or even the grocery store, many of them were gifts, since planted in the garden with fond memories of the givers.

I live in a part of the country where hydrangeas grow beautifully in the summer and I’ve turned some of the lovely white and pink ones to a gorgeous blue by adding aluminum sulfate to the soil. Kate says my soil here is more acidic which is why blue grows so well. I planted white ones a few years ago that I’ve kept pure and pristine, though they have the slightest hint of blue in the center so I guess Kate is right.

Pink and purple hydrangeas ~ as well as yellow, red, orange, white and all the shades in between of the many other plants, flowers and shrubs complete the color palette of my garden.

As much as I love all of the colors I see, my heart beats just a little faster and my mind calms a bit more when I gaze out at my beautiful ortensie blu.

I’m not too much of an indoor gardener so I have to wait several months until my hydrangeas bloom. In winter, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. So, I thought I’d share one of my recipes with you that’s simple to prepare, smells amazing, looks terrific and tastes fabulous.

Click here to find more recipes at Ortensia Blu.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ~ January, 2012

I love it when GBBD lands on a weekend, when there's plenty of time to take stock of what's going on.

Outdoors ~ weirdness abounds. I was taking pictures out there, this morning, without a coat on. It's that warm. In January. In a ski resort.

Up close & personal with my favorite Kalanchoe
But, since it is January I hope I can get away with playing up my indoor garden..

By some bizarre stroke of luck, ALL of my Kalanchoes burst into bloom last week.

I squeeze all the colors into one big pot so it has a garden bed effect.
I take full credit for this though it's not from a good gardener's tender loving care. This sunny window is filled with a bunch of rebellious and horribly root bound houseplants crying uncle.

I don't have the nicest house but I do have a killer view.
I'm not very kind to my houseplants. I only re-pot them when they threaten suicide. I figure if there's no where to grow 'downstairs' (in the potting soil) then they'll get bizzy 'upstairs,' and gift me with lots of pretty flowers.

A few fab re-blooming Orchids. Hopefully more, next month.
I'm even worse with my Orchids. They're on crack 24/7. :) I soak them every Sunday in a diluted water/organic fertilizer mix. Which inspires fanatical blooms though I doubt they're all that healthy.

Micro-mini Roses
I was just delighted to see everything blossom this week because I had a garden friend visit on Friday and that window was a joy to behold.

African Violet
My one and only African Violet is putting on a pretty show.
I wish I could photograph her properly (her petals sparkle!) but I don't have a good enough camera... I used to have an entire window of these pretty violets until somebody (I'm not naming names, though it could be me) left them out on the deck on a freezing night.

One of the very few freezing nights we've had this year.

Winter has not yet arrived. I'm beginning to wonder if it ever will.

It's disturbing to me that the trees are not dropping their leaves. (Leaves are shed to ensure a tree's winter survival so the fact that they don't feel compelled to drop their leaves seems odd. Perhaps you know what's going on? If so, please fill me in.)

And, I'm doubly worried about the fact that they're budding. In January. Isn't that strange?

I'll leave you with a pic of my favorite houseplant, Auntie Edna...

She's still radiating happiness and I have high hopes she'll keep this up 'til Easter.

Happy Bloom Day, Everyone!

Pay a visit to Carol @ May Dream Gardens to visit more flower lovers for this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day monthly meme.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday's Freebie: Yes! You Can!

That jar o' jam was not that hard to do.
My daughter is going back to school to become a registered dietitian. (Big applause for L! That's a hard choice to make... going deep into debt with student loans, putting adulthood on hold and heading back into the classroom because her first degree was just not lighting her fire.) I'm very proud of her for making this decision. And, of course, this new path is prompting all sorts of food, nutrition and dietary discussions.

I sort of made the resolution ~ (made it in my head, but I guess, now, I'm declaring it) ~ to grow more and store more during this upcoming garden season. I've avoided this like the plague! The idea of canning and preserving? Good Lord... I truly have become my Mother.

But, I just finished reading this book and it's got me kind of excited. Because it's a modern day bible on how to freeze, dry, can, sugar and ferment my way to nutritional bliss. (Ferment had me really excited but I'm sorry to say there was no how-to on Dandelion Wine.)

Would you like this book? 
I have a copy to give away. 

Just leave a comment and promise me faithfully that you'll truly follow through and cook up a batch of freezer jam. Or, some other delightful thing.

"Yes! You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too" is a modern step by step guide to preserving food. Written by Daniel Gasteiger.

Cold Springs Press gave this book to me to read and review.

I give it 2 thumbs up and now I'm giving it to you. Just leave me a comment.

* Update 1/31/2012. The drawing has now ended. Congratulations, Melospiza, winner of this truly great book.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Mexico Centennial Ride

Since we're head over heels in love with New Mexico we decided to kick off the new year in fine form ~  by joining the New Mexico Trail Riders for a 3-day horseback ride.

The wild, wild west is alive and kickin' ~ down New Mexico way.
Coming from back east it seems weird that a state would be celebrating their 100th birthday. Seems like that should have happened a long time ago. (Minnesota has already celebrated their 150th.)

We saddled up at the historic San Acacia Schoolhouse.
But, everything is different out west. Where there is a rich history, but not a very long one. New Mexico became the 47th state to join the union, on January 6th, 1912.

What's left of the original San Acacia Church
And, the locals are such a proud bunch they've coordinated huge celebrations all over the state.

This last weekend, I discovered that the people are as warm and wonderful as their weather. Winter doesn't really exist this far south. Even with snow on the ground, we enjoyed blue skies and balmy temps.

We were filmed riding to the top of Indian Hills, the geographical center of New Mexico.
And, I gotta tell ya... I am so glad that I joined them for this ride! Because the first few weeks after the holidays are usually such a let down.

De-Christmas-ing the house. Shutting off the outdoor lights. Glaring at the bathroom scale and trying to forget the buckets and buckets of scrumptious holiday treats that found their way into my greedy little hands...

This time of year everyone is committed to one kind of diet, or another. We're all making pledges to do this, that, and the other thing better than we did in year's past.

And, I suppose I could should be doing that, too. But, I just can't bring myself to be that kind of a nazi this year.

And, I hope you've decided to be kind to yourself, too.

Because life is too short to be worrying about such things. Let's just resolve to have fun.

One very cool Grandma.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Hoop House Dreams

Just imagine the goodies I could grow in a greenhouse...

On the morning of NYE, I met up with a new blogging friend @ the local coffee shop. Because it's pretty much the only show in town. [There. I said it. New Year. New Me! In 2012, I might throw 'nice' right out the window and be all critical over things I normally never bitch about.]

I often wonder if other people standing in line at the Roaster are doing the same darn thing I'm doing...

Patronizing that place simply because they're local. They couldn't make a decent cappuccino if their lives depended on it. 

Greenhouse Fever: I'll take this one!
Cold coffee aside, it was a fun morning of sharing seeds and talking gardening. A fine time to dream since we're 6 months out from planting season.

Deb's also an alpaca rancher. I have a blurry vision of what alpacas are all about. My horse tends to race past them at a dead gallop because she's certain sure they're gonna eat her. So, I'm excited to pay a visit to Sunrise Ranch (without my horse) to see what these cuddly critters are all about.

I'd be A-Okay with a not-so-fancy hoopie house, too.
We discovered we're both dreaming of hoop houses. To extend our mountain growing season (which gets weirder and more volatile every year.)

This could work.
I'm actually way past the dreamy stage. I'm deep into OCD. As in obsessing night and day about the bennies of a hoop house.

Is this inspired by skyrocketing food prices? Driven by mounting food safety concerns?

Oh, hell no. This is all about the zen-y aspect of puttering in a greenhouse, playing with baby seedlings, all year long. I'd be in 7th heaven.

So, here we go. I'm officially declaring that this is the year. That a hoop house, a high tunnel, a greenhouse or something similar gets built in 2012. {Resolution #1.}

And, I'd be totally cool with this one. (Provided they'll take a bouncy-type check...)

Now you're talkin'