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.


Triple Recall Day

I used to be able to look at any plant in my large garden and both the common and botanical name would just come to mind.  Now as often as not I have to search hard in my memory for the more obscure ones but you'd think I would remember my very most favorite ones.  This is an achillea and I am not a fan of achileas but this one I adore. Most fade and look drab but this stays a vibrant yellow even when dried.  I always wanted a huge patch of them and each years for years I have patiently divided and nurtured it until I now have a huge patch of them and this spring I couldn't  remember the variety.  I kept trying and trying and it just wouldn't come but today it finally popped into my head.... "Parker's Gold"

One nursery describes it as "Achillea millefolium 'Parker's Gold'
Large heads of golden flowers cover this plant in summer.  It grows to a height of 3 to 5 feet with ferny foliage.  Great cut flower, either fresh or dried. Plant in full sun in well drained soil.  Drought tolerant and deer resistant.  Hardy in zones 3-8.
Now it is every bit that wonderful and should be loved by every gardener,

Another name I had been searching for was for a plant that wanders wherever it wants in my garden and is HUGE.  It is a biennial and self seeds but isn't invasive and I just let it grow even if it is an awkward spot.  I knew it was either thermopsis or verbascum but never took the time to look it up... but today it came to me that it is indeed verbascum.  This one is seven feet tall and is about to bloom and right on the path in the veggie garden. They are here and there everywhere.  I love their wooly grey foliage and beautiful flowers.  

Finally the last name I recalled today was for my absolute most favorite plant of all.  You think I would remember that name... no.  I love this clematis so much I have tried to plant it FIVE times.  I had a huge plant of it for years at the back of the garden and tried to move it by the house when I closed the nursery and it died. So I have tried to get it established with four other plants I purchased.  I finally have one plant that is doing beautifully  and is three years old and should bloom this year.  It is a late bloomer - late July until fall.  A second plant is almost as healthy and might bloom this year.  One is still struggling and one died.

It is Duchess of Albany when I move I will try to take one of the plants with me.

I love all the small flowering species  clematis.  It takes forever to get them established but the wait is worth it and they will thrive with little care and ramble over fences and up trees...

Right now a purple clematis is blooming on the deer fence near the lavender... what a sight the pair are...but guess what..... I can't remember its name... maybe it will come to me!!!!!!


Finding the right words to sell....

I am so ready to sell the farm and move to town but the only problem is DH and I continue to work on him to no avail.  Actually he would move if I found a place near a winery, bakery, gourmet restaurants and walking trail.  I actually know of such a place but it is one million dollars.  Since selling will not be that easy with this old house I try to think how to make it sound a bit better... like a delightful 114 year old country cottage.  But anyone that watches HGTV knows a 114 year old house has no end of problems... And I want to sell because I know it won't be long until the drain field needs to be replaced ($3500) and the big maples need to be pruned ($2500) and the well pump needs replacing and etc. etc. etc.  It is really a money pit but that would hardly be what you want in an advertisement.
And then there is our road which we own and is 1/2 mile long..  We have to have it graded, graveled and the snow plowed when necessary,  In the spring it gets muddy and wet and   full of ruts when the snow  melts.  Even with a 4 wheel drive winter is a problem..  Here is DH stuck halfway down the road.

But Donald Trump Jr. just bought a 4+ million dollar house and his drive is described  as "a long and picturesque private lane that runs alongside a field.  I will definitely remember that when I want to describe our "lane". Sounds just like our road...right????

But on the positive side it does have its own forest....and speaking of which remember this spring when I laboriously cut up all those strips of old carpet and drug them into the forest???  I only have two large weedy areas where I wanted the carpet to keep the trail clear   without spraying.

And it works... I know they are just weeds but in bloom they are full of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and later other birds feast on the seeds..


The sour cream rolls roll on....

Another granddaughter came to visit last month and she is the third to learn the art of making Gma Krueger's sour cream rolls.

Skylar is only twelve years old and a born baker... I was so excited at what a quick learner she was.

I had mixed the dough the day before because it has to be refrigerated overnight.  A whole pound of butter is cut into the flour mix.  Mixing the dough is relatively straight forward but the tricky part is rolling it out..

This dough needs to be rolled out and folded again and again and again until there are multiple buttery layers.  No short cuts here if you want flaky rolls.

As an added challenge you have to do it quickly so the butter in the dough stays chilled.  Skylar was a whiz and amazed me with her skill and speed. 

Here I am pulling one batch out of the oven and Skylar is behind me with the next pan ready to bake.. and in no time we had a mountain of sour cream rolls.

Last summer granddaughter Sydney came with her beau Tanner and they learned how to make them...

And in the fall Alaska granddaughter Leigha came for a visit after her graduation from nursing school and she cooked non stop while she was here including sour cream rolls. In fact she became so attached to my favorite apron that I sent it to her for Christmas last year.  The sour cream rolls will roll on...............  If you look closely you can see the layers.

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