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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Snapdragons


This snapdragon has been reseeding itself in my garden for the last few years. Often it lands in the middle of a stone path and it fills me with satisfaction that it found a home that I leave it to flourish. This year it landed in a crevice between my patio and the house. I’m not sure how I feel about there being enough dirt to grow a plant but I do love this color of snapdragon. Bright, festive and rich. A perfect color for the end of the summer season (sigh!). Where will it makes it’s home next year I wonder?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

BUTTERFLIES - flowers with wings


Who doesn’t want herds of butterflies floating and darting in their garden? For most gardeners they are the cherry on the sundae. I’ve noticed that each year we do have more and more varieties stopping by for the pollen buffet. Personally, just as in our human society, the more types of people / butterflies in our environment, the better off we are.

This seems to be the most prolific time for these beauties. We are lucky to witness their precious, if fleeting, lives. Many butterflies live for only a few days, some a few weeks or months, very few for longer. Below are some tips I’ve found to be successful.

Water – have locations in your garden where there are shallow, still puddles of water. Even better are mud puddles as butterflies obtain nutrients and salts from the mud.

Basking Points – have stones in the sun where the butterfly can warm itself and dry the dew off its wings.

Mass Planting – butterflies are nearsighted, plant in groupings of 3 or more so they create a stronger impact for your butterflies to notice. It also happens to look better for garden aesthetics!

Staggered Blooming- - Ensure you have butterfly inviting flowers blooming all season long and in areas that get five to six hours of sun a day. If the plants can be sheltered from the wind it’s that much better for our delicate friends.

Have fun watching the show!


Note- these are excerpts from my garden guide found in my Etsy store http://www.prairiegarden.etsy.com/

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Harvest: Ratatouille

Hmmm…ratatouille…
There is something mysterious about this dish. I think I must have had an amazing ratatouille at some point in developmental years because I have been on the search for a good recipe in my adult years. Nothing has met my expectations.

This year I am trying again. I am basing this effort off of a recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables by chef and restaurateur Alice Waters. As ratatouille really is just sautéed vegetables I have decided not to procrastinate in cooking and am making the dish the same day I picked up ingredients at the farmers market. Alice Waters reccamends, for optimal visual appeal, to sauté the vegetables separately and combine at the end. If Alice reccamends it, I’m doing it. As would be expected leftovers are better than the first day, so I wonder if the clarity colors of the vegetables degrade over time?


I did add some thyme to the sautéing of the onions and I did not do a bouquet garni but just added the basil as a garnish. Cheated on the fresh theme and am using canned diced tomatoes. I am growing 7 different types of tomatoes this year but not one is considered a good cooking tomato. Unfortunate planning on my part and something to add to the growing list for next year. One of the cans is from an Italian purveyor called Rienzi and labeled hot and spicy Italian cherry tomatoes. I didn’t find them especially spicy and added the chili flakes that are optional in this recipe.

I served it with parmesan because let’s face it, everything is better with cheese, and some toasted crusty fruit and nut bread from the Red Hen stand at the market (this is my favorite of their loaves). As I scooped the first, then second, then third spoonful of ratatouille in my mouth I had to smile….at long last we have a winner! Thanks so much Alice! If leftovers are even better, I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse: Trellis & Nylons


Just repurpose those nylons destined for the garbage (or sitting in the corner of your closet looking for a good use) by cutting them strips and use them as ties. Vines can be delicate, especially once fruit begins to form. Heavy cucumbers and tomatoes can truly weigh down a vine and I’ve found the standard options of string, plastic coated wire or tape can occasionally cut into the vine, especially in a good wind. Nylons are a perfect option. They are strong, flexible and soft enough to cradle the vine.

I must admit, in this business casual world I don’t find many opportunities to wear hose (ah, poor me...). However my mother is old school and has a plethora of abandoned hose looking for useful purpose. She has given me enough to last my garden for several years to come!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

THE HARVEST: Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato

So looking forward to a BLT…. However the weather has been too cool and the tomatoes too slow to ripen. I grabbed a few hopefuls (Italian Costoluto Genovese Heirlooms) but they were not quite ready. So on the windowsill they have gone.

But I could hold out no longer. I grabbed some cherry tomatoes, fried some bacon and layered them onto fresh greens, mayo and toasted slices of multigrain baguette I picked up at the farmers market yesterday. Yum! So worth waiting for…well almost waiting for that is.

Friday, August 14, 2009

PlanTrivia: Thistles

I had a thistle plant growing along my sidewalk and loved the large rhubarb like leaves that grew. They stood out and appeared Jurassic. Loved it. I also had great plans to use the leaves as a mold to create handmade stepping stones. This project will have to wait until next year because once the spikes began regularly grabbing at me as I walked by I decided it had to come down. I expect some pain in the art of gardening (mainly back pain) but when a plant draws blood; it’s time to make hard decisions.

One of my favorite books is in Door County’s Wildflowers, A Field Guide For The Curious by Frances M. Burton and Aurelia M. Stampp. It’s full of wonderful information and I adore the tidbits of historical data. It makes me feel connected to the past and nature. Here is what I learned;

Thistle is an Old Saxon word meaning “to stab”. The thorns are a defensive mechanism as it's nectar is especially sweet, insects and wildlife flock to it. Only flying insects can safely take a taste. Thistles are a favorite of birds too. Goldfinches love the seeds and all birds use the fluffy down that is attached to the seeds to build their nests.

In herbal medicine thistles have been used to treat convulsions and rheumatic joints. Apparently once striped of it's spines the young leaves are edible in salads or cooked. The roots can taste like Jerusalem artichokes. *


Historically American colonists used down from thistle seeds to stuff quilts and woodsmen used it as tinder to start campfires. Fiber obtained from the inner bark of the stem can be used to make paper.

This can be a very useful plant….a plant located much deeper in the garden bed than along the sidewalk that is!

*PLEASE NOTE: this is not a post advocating it’s consumption. Never pick roadside plants for eating and the only plants you should consume are plants you have carefully chosen, are known to be edible and you have personally cared for so you are aware of any chemicals that made have been used in its growth.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tourist for a Day: Door County Wisconsin - Bailey's Harbor


Well, I’ve been planning to put together an entry on DoorCounty Wisconsin. It’s one of my favorite places to go. My family has been going to Door County Wisconsin every since I was about 7 years old. When we began going to Sister Bay (one of the many villages along the peninsula) there was just one, may-be two restaurants. When they put in the first tennis court it was a very big deal. The atmosphere has certainly changed over the years.

For anyone going I wanted to put together a list of my favorite places I’d love for you to seek out. Turns out, that list is quite long and I’ve decided I had better give you the information piece mail, perhaps by town. And it’s also too much for me to bring to you in one entry. So…over the next few weeks I’ll drop in an entry here and there for you. Fall is one of the most popular times to visit “The Door”…hint, hint…

Nita’s Garden Gate http://www.nitasgardengate.com/
Nita has a wonderful garden. For her, digging and setting up a pond and waterfall seems to be a quick afternoon project. She also has nesting birds every time we come up, by the photos you can see it was spring (see photo at the top of this entry).

I have some Robin’s nesting at the entrance to my garage. Nita clued me in that with robins I can come and go freely without danger to them or me. What a relief as they apparently have two broods every summer and she advises they will be there until October.

I purchased an ancient looking (but new) bird bath. Perfect for my tiny garden and it only took a few days for the birds to place it on their regular daily route. I just rearranged my home office so I can look out at it and see the birds sipping the water and taking turns having a bath. I wonder if they are really as patient as they seem with each other. They appear to line up and as one leaves another takes it's place. One day I even saw a robin and a sparrow in the tiny bath at the same time. Neither seemed to mind. I was amazed, perhaps it's not so uncommon?

Be sure to check out Nita’s garden art, fountains, bird feeders and more.

Espresso Lane
Truly some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. They get their beans from Alterra, which is a Milwaukee Beanery. If you haven’t tried Alterra Coffee yet, you’re missing out.

Espresso Lane has great homemade egg sandwiches. One afternoon I picked up a delicious tuna gouda sandwich on the way to meeting my brother and nephew at the Whitefish Bay State Park.

On a nice day, sit on their porch and Wi-Fi in to catch up on your emails. Great view of Lake Michigan.
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