Oh no!! Don't grow!!!!

You probably don't remember how  I lamented last fall that I missed my usual source for amaryllis bulbs for holiday blooms.  Then it turned out I was able to find bulbs early  Dec. at a Walmart closeout and they bloomed when I came home from heart surgery in late January. Too late for the holidays but I enjoyed them immensely into February during my recovery.

Every year I try  to get them to go dormant with no success.  But this year I watered the foliage until it wilted of its own accord and seemed dormant.  I figured if I started watering them in October I would have blooms for the holidays..

Then mid July with no water and no encouragement  the darn things  just started growing and I'm distressed as it is way too early for holiday blooms but what do I know.

And when we got home from Norway they were looking terrific and if all goes well I will have amaryllis for a holiday but it will be Halloween instead of Christmas.

So now if I buy more bulbs at the usual time I can still have them for December.  And if I get more at closeouts in early December I will have blooms again for February and if I get the ones growing now to go dormant again I can have blooms for March and if I continue I will have blooms every month and pots of dormant bulbs under every bed and in every window.

Now that I know the secret to get them to go dormant I will try again and again. 

Things are looking up for selling the farm and may be doing it earlier than I thought... Again my careful planning may be all for naught.



 It has been a good while since I posted and it was for a good reason... we took a travel package to Norway.  We have always traveled on our own and never with a group but I have to admit that a group tour was the best way to see Norway.  We traveled by bus, ferry, cruise boat, and train and it was all spectacular.  We were especially lucky we were told because except for one day and one evening, we had beautiful sunny weather and I seldom needed more than a light cotton sweater.  But on this particular day it was indeed raining and I am soaked but we were on a ferry and I was determined to be out on the bow of the boat to see everything.
This photo is of a tiny town where we took a cruise boat up this fiord and I took this shot as we leaving and climbing a mountain on a narrow road with one hairpin turn after another in a very large bus.  Most of the time I tried not to look down as the only guard rails were a row of stones....and not very big ones.
  I know if sounds grandiose to say the scenery was breathtaking but honestly it was just that.  I especially loved traveling through all the farm country and smaller towns.  Ninety percent of the houses in towns and villages were white and all looked freshly painted.  Our guide told us that in early days white paint was the most expensive to buy and so to have a white house gave the appearance of being prosperous... True???

But there were many mustard-yellow houses that I loved and it was considered a royal color.  The remaining  houses were shades of grays and red/brown. Only saw one green house in all the miles we traveled. Having a yellow house with lots of gingerbread trim is now on my bucket list.

We ate lots and lots of cod and salmon and the bread and cheese were to die for.  At the wonderful fish market in Bergen DH ate a sea urchin....a first for him.  I settled for tiger prawns.  The dessert I liked best was Kvæfjordkake....a classic Norwegian dessert  similar to English trifle and Italian tiramisu  in that it was constructed in layers but one of the layers was a meringue.  I found the recipe and will definitely make it.  A café was opened on the island of Hinnøya in the town of Harstad  in the 1920s by Hulda Ottestad and her sister who were from the neighboring area of  Kvæfjord.  She is given credit for making the cake a famous Norwegian classic.

With only a glitch of a strike in Amsterdam airport that fouled our reservations and some lost luggage it was a grand time and I managed to climb on and off the buses and boats countless times and wander cobbled streets without falling once... but so good to be home again.


I love cooking for friends....

I love cooking for anyone actually but especially friends and this special friend Cristina  loves to cook as much as I do.  For years and years we've gotten  together on Sunday afternoons with our husbands  and played bridge and had dinner.  Not as often lately because they started going to CA in the winter and her mother has been sick and required trips away.  So to have our "usual" Sunday get-together was  special. 

I didn't get a picture of the table setting  but it was fall colors as that is where we are headed now.    The menu included broiled halibut, crispy rice cakes (made with a mix of brown rice, wild rice and white rice), sliced tomatoes from the farmer's market and a side dish of spaghetti squash mixed with kale, caramelized onions, chickpeas and grated parmesan cheese.  For dessert I baked cannoncini and filled them with Italian cream and wild huckleberries.  They were pretty sad looking when I was first learning how to wrap the puff pastry on the molds but now I can do them very quickly.  Its a great dessert because you can do the pastry the day ahead and it's not too sweet and you can fill them with anything.  I did some filled with peach sherbet and berries...


And what have you been doing they ask!!!

Pruning and pruning and pruning I say!!!!!
And DH is getting to help every step of the way.  This is a fabulous climber on the chicken house but it has not only grown over the roof, it has grown under the eaves and just about this big on the inside of the coop.... I have been running around like a mad woman with clippers on my belt and both the loppers and the power saw in hand.. If you look back at the barn another big rose bush has completely blocked the window.  I started on it but there is a big yellow jacket nest by the window...

 Here is the climber  all nice and tidy and ready to set the new growth for next year's blooms. It still needs a few cuts high on the roof but DH can reach that better than I can.. It is DH's job to follow behind me and rake and clean all the pruning and haul them to the county clean green operation.  He has made many many trips already and will make  many more before I'm done.

Today it was 95+ degrees so I quit early and will blog.  It is supposed to be that hot for the next few days so I might take a break for a few days  and do some cooking and other inside chores.

 Another huge task finished this week was taming this autumn clematis. This is the before picture.  I have written often about my love/hate relationship with this vine.  Here it has engulfed the lilies, rhubarb, and the mahonia.  In addition it has gone over the roof of the wood shed and is heading toward the garage.  But (and a big but) it smells absolutely heavenly in the spring when in bloom, birds nest in it and also the birds go crazy over the seed heads in the fall.  So I keep it... and it is pretty easy to cut back... Whoever buys the farm will probably get rid of it..sadly.

The trees you see behind it are saplings of Hawthorne that need to be cut down. I do have one Hawthorne tree about 100' from these that I did plant.   I did not plant these.  The problem with planting things that fruit for the birds is that the birds spread the seed everywhere.  These are under a power line and need to be gone...next week.

Then there is the beauty bush I planted 35 years ago behind the antique farm wagon... It is indeed a beauty and if you look closely at the bottom of this picture you can see one of the wagon's wheels peeking out.  This has to have a major pruning  about every 4-5 years/

Below is a picture of the wagon when we got it and when I planted a tiny little beauty bush behind it.  You can see how sparse the garden was then.  Even though we are zone 4 and have only about 12" of moisture a year, we are blessed with very heavy rich clay soil and if you plant carefully things will grow and thrive.  My garden receives NO supplemental watering except for the veggies.

Our veggie garden has an deer fence all around and a divider besides  and one side is DH's corn and on the other side I grow squash for the chickens, a few veggies and mostly clematis on the fence. The purple clematis on the right is early and just finishing and the white center one is in full flower.  The duchess on the left is quickly spreading over the old gate and will bloom into September.  There are species clematis for every season.  The sunflower are courtesy of the birds...

 I can't remember if I posted this but it was taken last month when the purple clematis was in full flower at the same time as  the lavender in the foreground.

If we move into a place that has even a tiny patch of earth.....the clematis and peonies are coming with me.


Our very own huckleberry hound!!

Yesterday we  went to pick the huckleberries. We drove about 90 miles round trip on dusty dirt roads  to the top of some mountain. The hillsides were steep and the brush was thick.  I fell, stumbled, tripped,  nearly spilt my berries and managed to end up with about a cup of huckleberries. The area had already been picked and the berries were sparse.
With mine plus what DH picked and what a friend added to my container I will have enough for a batch of freezer jam.

Now I remember this as a fantastic experience from when I was a kid.  But when I really thought about it, when I was a kid I didn't actually pick any huckleberries.   I just ran around and played with my cousins and the adults pick huckleberries.  None the less I developed a love for them.

Huckleberries are specific to our area and are quite different from blueberries... much tarter and juicier.   Huckleberries  only grow wild at very high altitudes. All attempts to domesticate huckleberries have failed  but you can buy ones picked by commercial foragers for an outrageous price... last year it was $70 a gallon (which is about enough for two pies). They pick in prime areas controlled by the forest service who limits the number of  commercial pickers and the amount which can be harvested.

As it turns out we discovered that Morris just loves huckleberries and thought the day out was almost as good as his vacation at the ocean.  You can see that he could easily reach out and nip them off the bushes but no.... he wanted someone to pick them and hand feed them to him.  He would sit and stare at the bush being picked until that very thing happened. He would move in closer and closer until his nose was about in your hand.   He went from picker to picker and begged like a baby bird... he is indeed a huckleberry hound.


Pretty in purple......

  I've been obsessed with the lavender the last couple weeks.  It is especially lovely this year  and it's all over the garden and beyond.  I have so much of it because when I had the nursery every time I planted a  propagated rose I planted 3 lavender plants  around it so the deer would leave it be.  Deer do not like lavender or most furry, grey or  strongly scented plant such as sage, etc..  It worked but over the years the roses in the wild part of the garden gradually died off from neglect and the lavender thrived so I have huge patches of it here and there and everywhere.  It's blooming time varies in different areas of the garden so I have it over a long period of time. The variety is Hidcote and it is the darkest purple of the lavenders....
For years a group of ladies from a local church used to come and pick laundry baskets of it  and dry it to sell at their Christmas bazaar.  But as they aged they finally were unable to scramble about the garden. But the lavender continues to grow and thrive. 

This year I have picked baskets and baskets of it and it is drying in the barn and will give bunches of  it as gifts all winter... I have even invited friends in to pick as well and we haven't even made a dent in it
The flowers in this bouquet look blue but actually are shades of purple.  They include lavender, salvia, and perovskia.The mauve flowers and the small maroon flowers are two of my favorite perennials.  Can you identify them???


Some things just can't be hurried.

When I had my hair short it looked okay the first couple days after it was cut.   But in two weeks I looked like a shaggy dog.  It seemed my hair grew an inch a month.  I was sure that in a year I could get it into a pony tail but apparently not.  It has been a year and a half and I can barely get it clipped backed without wisps working loose... So I figure at least another six months anyway.  Hair is one of the thing that can't be hurried and if I want it long I have no  choice but to be patient.  I'm grateful for all the things   in my life that have taught me patience.

Patience is something which must be learned and practiced. Embroidery was probably the very first thing that taught me patience... It has to be stitch by stitch and nothing can hurry it... stitch by stitch.  I always love the rhythm of it.. It always calmed me and freed me of  anxiety.
I really miss it.

Gardening is another passion that requires patience. Things grow and bloom in their cycle and I just have to be patience and wait.  I have blogged about how I wanted the clematis "Duchess of Albany".  It has taken 5 plants and 3 years but yesterday I had my first bloom..  All I had to do was to persevere and be patient.  The largest plant is loaded with buds.  The next larger plant will bloom next year and the smallest plants will require more patience.

My love of cooking is another exercise in patience. . Instant pots are all the rage now but I am not an instant pot gal.  I like putting my ingredients together and putting them in the oven at a low heat and being rewarded with taste and flavor that just can't be hurried..... time and patience.

Of all my samplers on my walls my favorite is " Yard by yard, life is hard.  Inch by inch it's a cinch."   Time and patience. I enjoy the anticipation of waiting for something I saved, worked or wished for. 

For me patience is perserverance and an attitude.   Yesterday I was rewarded for  patiently persuading DH for the last four months that we needed to sell the farm and downsize... Now he finally admits that it was indeed time so now we can move ahead with the process.  But I had to admit I was running out of patience on this one... husbands just can't be hurried....at least mine can't!!!!  Time and patience.


I want my pies to be posh!!!

We fell in love with pot pies in England and a  couple years ago I set about that fall  experimenting with the making of the whole winter's pot pies for the freezer...  All in all it was wildly successful but there were a few issues.  First some vegetables work better than others.  It has something with the crystallization when you freeze and thaw them. Many become mealy or mushy once frozen and thawed....As I'm working on my ingredient list for this fall's batch of pies I am paying particular attention to the veggies I choose.  Not only do I want veggies that hold up better, I want different veggies for each batch of pies. 90% of pot pie recipes call for peas, carrots and potatoes no matter what protein  is used....how boring in that????

Second no matter how smooth and thick my  sauce was when I froze the pies, when I thawed and heated them the sauce became watery.  Apparently it is  a similar thing but with crystallization of the thickener because other people have googled the same problem.  It was suggested using rice or tapioca flour as a thickener,  I will try that this year.  They still taste great but I want smooth and thick sauce!!!

Previous years I made chicken, turkey, seafood, pork and beef pot pies.  This year I am dropping the turkey and adding lamb pies.  I usually freeze turkey dinners and doing turkey pot pies was too similar.  There was a definite correlation between the depth of flavor and the number of ingredients....  more ingredients....more flavor.  Even more so when I added two meats... like pork loin with pork sausage for example.

I want to try some different toppings than just plain crust  and found a recipe for a parmesan crust that would be great on a chicken pot pie... maybe a polenta topping or a cornbread stuffing topping... will explore this a bit more. How about a mashed celeriac topping... yes indeed! Also I have been on a quest to add more legumes to our diet so here is another opportunity.  I will add chickpeas to the lamb pies for sure and maybe lentils to a couple others.

After I spent the day banishing my reciprocating saw I crawled onto my bed and relaxed with a clipboard and starting listing possible ingredients for this year's posh pot pies. I always have lots of soups in the freezer but the pot pies are our favorite winter treat... Stay tuned for my pies as I make them..


Favorite garden tool

 Of course I have my favorite gardening tools like my clippers and "short person" gardening fork but right up there is this reciprocating saw which has made my garden chores so much easier over the years..  I use it to loosen soil for planting something new, for cutting something loose to transplant it and for pruning and heavy cutting of anything.  You can put a 12" blade in it and stick it right into the ground to rout out a stubborn tap-rooted weed or loosen soil around a fence post you want to pull up.  Most men just don't realize all the potential of this tool. They just use it for building and cutting wood.

I have a grove of sapling bird cherry trees that the birds have planted and they have suckered and thrived because they are over the drain field and I need to get them out.  They have a trunk about 3-4" and would take forever with pruning saw by hand. There are about 40 of these trees and I figure it will only take me a couple mornings to clear them.   I will cut them off at ground level and spray any new growth as it appears.... a technique I recently saw on BBC's Monty Don getting rid of Japanese knotweed.   I swear this tool was invented for women and should be sold as such.  Think of it as a electric knife on steroids and we all have used electric knives in the kitchen... .right?   Same principal just a bit larger... Plug it in and go - go - go....

I realized today I should not only be teaching granddaughters how to bake sour cream rolls, I should be teaching them to use power tools as well.  I was my dad's only child and he was never quite sure how to entertain me when I visited him... finally  he would take me fishing which I hated or  take me out to his shop and let me play with power tools.  I loved that and have been eternally grateful.


How often do you need a centerpiece of hot pink, orange, yellow and lime green... Not often and luckily I had all those colors in my garden.

I purchased this tablecloth at the thrift store last winter because it was such nice cotton and planned to cut it up to replace my raggedy kitchen towels.  But when I was setting the table in the gazebo I drug it out.

We hadn't eaten out there for a year or so.  It gets harder and harder to get everything out and back to the house.  But it was the perfect weather.

I wanted to make polenta "stacks" so I got out my polenta maker.  A gift hand carried all the way from Italy several years ago by one of my dearest friends,  Cristina.  I had to get a special adapter to use it on our electrical system.

After I cooked the polenta I let it firm up in a loaf pan and cut it in slices.

Then just before dinner I sautéed the slices in butter and olive oil until they were crisp on the outside.  Then I put down one slice and spread it with a mix of pesto and ricotta cheese and topped that with another slice.  Then I topped that with a fresh corn relish with red peppers, cilantro, and sweet onion and finished it with a tomato on a skewer.  It was so festive and delicious
and perfect with barbecued ribs.
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