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Voice In The Garden

Updated: 2018-01-29T05:05:00.565-08:00


There Was This, and Now There Is This


23 years ago, There Was This: a beginningAnd Now There Is This(Monday morning stroll through the north garden) allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> [...]

An Overplayed Hand


Because of the ice storm we experienced, our friends across town asked if we needed assistance with the cleanup_ helping right fallen trees, cutting branches, and stacking logs and brush that would be hauled away at a later time.Conveniently, they have a man who works for them once a month in the garden, and has done that now for several years since he lost his job at the plant where he had worked. Our friend said, “he has a family and really needs the work and charges $100 for the day. If you could use him, I know he would appreciate it. Also, if you want you could feed him lunch.” $100 for 6 hours amounts to a healthy $16.66/hour, but that would be helpful for us all. Agreed, and she would call to make the arrangements.Jamie arrived at 8:30 and to our surprise with another person in tow, and without first having asked if he could bring someone else. He was a young lad, his nephew, and so we thought why not, two more hands would be helpful and he could probably use some money for Christmas. My husband and I worked right alongside, and the morning went smoothly and with good progress despite the young man (whose only job was to pick things up and stack) would pick up a few things, then stand back and watch until urged by his uncle to do a little more.When we called it a day, and Jamie said he could come again tomorrow and also the following week for a few days, we were pleased and thankful. We handed both him and his nephew their money. Jamie looked at the folded currency, counted it, looked up at me while shaking his head and said, No.  What’s wrong?With indignation, he said, Not enough! I want $30 an hour.What?$30 an hour. That’s what I get when I do other jobs.We were told it was $100 for the six hours.They told you that?! No! No!Astonished and silent as my husband and I looked at one another. We said we would go get more money, turned and started toward the house and heard him say, “Wait, for you I will do it for $25.”After they were paid and they left, we called our friends and told them to call him and say we wouldn’t need his services any longer. They were appalled, embarrassed… could not believe what had happened. My friend said, Teachers don’t make that much! Electricians don’t make that much! We are so sorry.  Listen, it is not your fault. We all make mistakes. But this person clearly overplayed his hand.As of today, three trailer loads gone and the place is beginning to take shape. A little bit each day, one day at a time, and she will be looking great once again. Patience. [...]

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Seasons greetings


Psalm 19:1
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Seasons greetings!
May your New Year be filled with much joy, 
good health, and many blessings!

Winter Storm


December 1 evening skyafternoon December 5Tuesday, Dec 6, a dustingWednesday morning it began to rain, a gentle one, but with temperature at the freezing point, ice began to form and it continued throughout the day. 31 °F, water sidled its way around and to the ends of the already formed icicle, elongating and fed to exaggerated growth. The following morning the rain had stopped, and we awoke to a beautiful winter wonderland, but yet untold was the continued damage of what was ahead. Our hope was that the worst was over.Five days now without power, night time temperature in the mid 20's, the thick ice clings and branches are heavily burdened. Snapping and popping, but a loud hollow thud signaled large branches plummeting from the weight of the ice. Surprisingly heavily ice-laden ornamental grasses stand erect. Tree limbs splayed and touching the ground, severed tops of many, an oak broken in half from the weight of its foliage, while some trees were literally uprooted, and all of this with no wind. Reported: it was the worst storm in 46 years. The highways had been impassable as Douglas Fir, oaks and soft maple trees lay stretched from one side to the other and with power lines mangled among them and dangling from utility poles. On the first morning we cleared the branches from our long driveway to the street and sawed and removed as much of the trees as possible in order that vehicles had access. Much like crystal, the sun reflects and dances upon the surface of the ice that encapsulates the branches, grasses, and all plant life for that matter. Thankfully the last few days offered several hours of sunshine amidst the chilling 32 degrees and with that some melting of the ice. Dec 13, the Super MoonDec 14the Oaktree service will have to remove this top some 30 ft highthis old maple got hit hardDec 15Dec 16Laburnums uprooted and will try to stake this one with guy wirestop of the Beechfavorite lilac uprootedit took down the deer fenceanother beautiful maple grown from a seedlingice sculptureCoral Bark disasterfruit trees look fineYoshino cherryneighbors greenhouse"yes, it's a sad, sad situation"ice aglowI can't hold this up much longerevening, Dec 17Sadly, the photos do not represent the reality of what we have experienced. As I sat writing yesterday just before sunset, the sun peaked through the fog and it appeared as someone had flipped a switch and in one amazing moment had electrified the entire garden. With a single stroke the sun painted a magical and sparkling fairyland.Once the ice is gone, cleanup will begin. One day at a time is our motto as branches and limbs will be cut into smaller pieces, stacked and hauled away. Trees are resilient and with proper care and pruning now (cleaning jagged ends and tops), most of them will respond by spring and over time be beautiful once again. [...]

St. George, Utah and Zion National Park


Yesterday I wrote about St. George, our downtown walk about and beautiful Snow Canyon. Following our return from Snow Canyon we dined on the patio, watched the lizards across the road, the sun set, and we drank in the silence.Morning breakfast at the Egg and I, and we both agreed it was an excellent choice. As we were finishing our meal, a mother across from us, stood and told her young son to hurry up, we are going to be late. As I watched them go outside, she grabbed her right ankle, pulled it toward her buttock for one second, and the son did the same; she pulled the other ankle up, one second, and that was again mimicked by her son. Left arm up, right arm up and she was off... running. I had a chuckle as I recalled many years ago (in my younger days), a group of us would run in a 5K or 10K most weekends. Once we decided to have breakfast before the event. It was a cold and blustery day and with a wind chill below zero. About 20 minutes into the race I began feeling nauseous... and yes, I did_ a lesson learned. While it was slightly overcast during our visit to Snow Canyon, today the sky was relatively clear as we headed toward Zion National Park. We were told by several that the park had become so popular that it is generally bumper to bumper, so we decided to head out early. By the time we reached the park the temperature was 5 C (41 F) so it was cold in the canyon. As the morning progressed 9 C (48.2) felt a bit better except for the occasional wind. And to our great surprise, we were able to drive and pull aside to take photos with ease. Elevations in the park range from 3,600 to 8,700 feet. Court of the PatriarchsThe GrottoWe were now at the end and turnaround point. As we stood engulfed within the narrow perimeter of walls of towering cathedral-like structures, we were somewhat stunned at the amount of vegetation growing on the rocks.        The photographs don't really tell the tale_ the scale of what we experienced. Look at the cars at the base of the mountain relative to the surrounding in the last two photos. We returned to St. George by mid afternoon and a very pleasurable 16 C (60.8).  Enough chicken and salad for another evening meal, and tomorrow we fly.Mt Hood[...]

St. George, Utah and Snow Canyon


Dixie Drive, Dixie Highway, Dixie University... makes one think you are in the south, and you would be correct, but in southern Utah.Self-sufficiency and economic independence was the goal as Mormon settlers moved south of Salt Lake City due to a milder climate. Over a period of years families with varied skills were called to move into a number of settlements in order to "grow cotton" (the Cotton Mission), and although somewhat successful for a period, difficulty with the Indians, a lack of irrigation knowledge, malaria, increased process and operations, tithing, taxes, poverty... eventually led to the abandonment of it.St. George, Utah was named after Mormon Apostle George A. Smith, founded by Apostle Erastus Snow as one of the cotton missions in 1861, and was called Dixie by Brigham Young, who was then the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church).As we drove past Dixie University, my husband read the sign "Founded 1911", and to which he responded: "105 years old, no 115, no... "Me: "I'm not going to fight with you. You are doing a great job all by yourself." (smile)As you get within about twenty miles of St. George, the flat and nearly barren desert of Nevada transitions into a gradual climb, and the highway snakes it's way beneath the mammoth canyon walls until you reach 2880 feet in elevation. Rainfall is less than 8 inches per year.We arrived, settled in and enjoyed the view outside our unit. As best we could tell, the only things stirring were a couple lizardsThis sprawling city is surrounded by a network of highways, ease of access, and new construction in all directions. The city population is over 80,000 and the county is estimated at over 155,000 and growing, and we were delighted with what we saw. Our first morning was breakfast at a place we have never been_ Cracker Barrel. Eggs and bacon were good, sausage_rather spicy, while the gravy was tasteless (didn't need it anyway) and the grits were not properly cooked. As we might say, "been there twice now, first and last". But all was well.A lightly overcast day, we walked about the beautiful and friendly city_easy access, wide streets, no paid parking, clean, inviting... very welcoming, including the crisp and chilly air.  The St. George Tabernacle (opened in 1876) was covered with scaffolding and with sand blasting underway, there was no access.The clock was made in London We made our way to Brigham Young's winter home which was occupied by him for only about three years. According to the Elder that showed us around the house, Brigham Young had 55 wives and 56 children. (Later I read he even married women who were already married.) He was a skilled cabinet maker, carpenter and painter, and all the wood trim and furniture in the house was made of pine (the only wood available and hauled from Pine Valley), and was hand grained to look like hardwood. The fireplace itself was hand painted to look like marble.The servant's roomThe wife's roomBrigham Young's roomHe dined on the right, work table on the left, and at times seldom left the room due to health issuesSt. George TempleFollowing a return to our lodging and a lunch reheated from a so-so Mexican dinner of the previous evening, we decided to shop for our evening's meal: a roasted chicken and salad would work perfectly.Snow Canyon State Park (originally Dixie State Park and later renamed after Lorenzo and Erastus Snow), northwest of St George in red-rock country and just a short jaunt from our lodging, was our afternoon adventure. From sand dunes, petrified dunes (a slight reminder of cow patties) and Navajo sandstone, to ancient lava flows and cliffs of burnt orange, sienna and white, it is a natural wonder and a site to behold... along with the thrill of seeing a roadrunner. Jenny's CanyonSagePetrified Dunes   Continued... here. [...]

Evening Window


Rain and wind,
fog, then sun
the evening glow
fullness of fall begun.

Timeline Revisited


Five months have passed since last we spoke It was springtime and life began anew Summer came early, fruits produced, labor rewarded, Nature: now tis time for rest and renewal garden southGinkgo bilobaDavidia involucratain the ground you gorestingFennel, Walla Wallas, Tete Noir, Brunswick, Early Jersey WakefieldMay 5Laburnum anagyroidesMay 12 Purple of SicilyRufoustake thatMay 21_Full Blue MoonMay 24: 'Purple of Sicily' ; 'Snowball'never seen this before_ something brought it upMay 28_Early Jersey WakefieldR. 'Brandy'_ May 27helloCauliflower crust pizzaI ensata DiomedesSuyo long, eggplant Kazakhstan, Armenian, Rosa Bianca, Purple Podded beansBull's Blood Beets = Moroccan Beet Saladour favorite_ Rosa BiancaAugust 17_ Sturgeon MoonPineappleAugust 2Dilly beansFermented Armenian, Suyo Long, garlic, carrots, cauliflowerjust a tea roomGelber Englischer Custard Squashleft, clockwise: Armenian, Suyo Long, Rosa Bianca, Gelber Englischer, Bull Nose Bell, Kazakhstantomatoes and applesauce_ apples so sweet, no sugarstuffed Bull Nose BellAugust 17 Sturgeon Mooncracked concrete removeda more natural lookSeptember 14September 15September 16_ Full Harvest MoonSeptember 30, 2016[...]

Passage_ March to April


Although June is the prime month for the gardens, and as we continue to ready for the summer season, the transformation always amazes.first of Marchyesterday  March 23, Penumbral lunar eclipsepeach blossomsOsmanthus delavayithe Tea RoomClematis 'Blue Bird' Golden crowned sparrowlettuce and spinachsay salad?Acer shirasawanumMalus 'Prairifire'Pear blossomsRosa rugosaDavidia involucrata... and the Aspen leafing out    Cercis canadensisFothergillayesterday outside my husband's office window    "Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away."  ~ Charles Caleb Colton[...]

Cottage Pie and a Happy St Patrick's Day


Since 20% of my heritage is British and Irish, a Happy St. Patrick's day to ye.  May luck be our companionMay friends stand by our sideMay history remind us allOf Ireland's faith and pride.May god bless us with happinessMay love and faith abide. ~ Irish BlessingCottage Pie (or Shepherd Pie made with Lamb) from Diana's kitchen2 pounds russet potatoes (or parsnips), peeled and cubed 1/3 to 1/2 cup half-and-half4 TB Unsalted butter5 young chives, diced1 egg, slightly beatenSalt and pepper to taste1 TB olive oil1 onion, chopped2 carrots, peeled and chopped3 stalks celery, diced2 garlic cloves, minced2 TB fermented Tomato Conserve or 1 TB regular tomato paste1 1/2 pounds lean local grass-fed ground beef, i.e. sirloin4 ounces crimini (or white) mushrooms, trimmed and chopped1 TB Worcestershire sauce 3 sprigs fresh thyme2 fresh bay leaves ½ cup beef stock3 TB Madeira ½ cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed and drained½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, drained1 TB cornstarch1 TB water Boil potatoes until tender_ 10-15 minutes. Drain the potatoes. Place the pot back on the stove over low heat to evaporate any excess water. Add half-and-half and butter and mash potatoes until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Temper the egg with a bit of the mashed potatoes; add to the potatoes and combine thoroughly. Add the chives and combine.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions, carrots, celery, and garlic until tender_ 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with just a touch of salt and pepper. Add the tomato conserve and mix evenly. Push vegetables to the side. Add the ground beef and cook until beef is no longer pink_ about 10 minutes. Incorporate the vegetables and beef and add the mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, bay leaf, beef stock and Madeira. Taste for any additional salt and pepper. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Mix 1 TB water with the cornstarch and stir into the pan to thicken, about 1 minute. Mix in peas and corn. Transfer mixture to an oven-proof baking dish and spread evenly.Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal and prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a fork to create a bit of texture. Bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to cool for at least 15 minutes. [...]

Beef Carbonnade (Beef and Beer Stew)


Soups and stews are among our favorite things to prepare, and a byproduct is that leftovers are generally better the following day as the flavors meld even further overnight. Should I ask my husband what he would like for dinner that I haven't fixed in awhile, on many occasions he will say how about a pot roast. Several months ago rather than a regular pot roast, I made a beef carbonnade that was absolutely delish! A thick stew of beef, onions, herbs… cooked in our own dark beer_ a porter, and with fresh vegetables. And to be certain I still knew how, this for last night's dinner... Beef Carbonnade (Beef and Beer Stew)  from Diana's kitchen 4- 4 ½ lb beef (local grass-fed chuck roast), cut into 2″ cubesKosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1⁄4 cup unbleached flour1 teaspoon paprika2 TB extra virgin olive oil2 TB unsalted butter2 TB bacon fat (from 3-4 slices bacon)1 large onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)4 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer1 cup beef stock2 TB molasses 2 TB organic apple cider vinegar3 sprigs fresh thyme1 sprig fresh tarragon, chopped (optional)3 bay leavesAdd carrots, potatoes, parsnips, mushrooms…   Dry the beef with paper towels. In a paper or plastic bag, mix flour, paprika, half teaspoon each of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the meat and toss to coat evenly. Heat the oil and butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the beef on both sides and uncrowded in small batches, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside. Add the bacon fat and onion and cook until caramelized_ 20-30 minutes. Add the garlic, stir to combine, and cook another minute.Add the beer and scrape the bottom of the pot to incorporate the fond. Add the beef stock, molasses, vinegar and herbs, and then the beef. Bring it all to a simmer on the stove. Cover the pot with the lid, slightly offset. Bake until beef is tender_ 2 1/2 - 3 hours at 325 F.(Note: at this point it can be refrigerated overnight once all has cooled to room temperature. Any excess fat will be solidified and easily removed for a healthier meal. Simply reheat the next day and continue.) Add the vegetables, combine and bake uncovered for another 40-45 minutes until they are tender. Remove the thyme and bay leaf.Serve with a nice crusty bread just in case you like to sop up any of the delicious sauce remaining on your plate.(Oxford Dictionary: Mid 17th century (denoting a piece of meat or fish cooked on hot coals): from French, from Latin carbo, carbon- 'coal, charcoal'.)  [...]

Take A Look At Me Now


Yes, take a look now for if the ominous color of the morning sky and forecast of thunderstorms prevail, the Magnolia stellata, Thundercloud Plum and many other blossoms in full bloom will soon be gone.    Garden_ northForsythia "Fiesta"Daphne odora 'Marginata' P.J.M. RhododendronAubrietaHelleboreTrilliumHelleboreGarden_ southThe Painter LadyEuphorbiaBrassicas soon to be plantedSpiraea 'Bridal Wreath'don't even think about getting into those beetsThundercloud Plum[...]

Merry "Full Cold Moon and Cioppino" Christmas


From our home to yours, a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!Not since 1977 and not again until 2034, the Full Cold Moon this Christmas Day.      Last night, Christmas eve, we had a special meal_ a fish stew, aka Cioppino. I must say, it was delish! We made some earlier in the week with mussels, and yesterday decided instead to use fresh clams.  I would also note that wild Pacific Cod is readily available, about one-third the cost of halibut, and a favorite mild white fish for this. Cioppino or Fish Stew from Diana’s kitchen3 TB olive oil3 TB unsalted butter1 large onion, diced2 celery stalks, chopped1 fennel bulb, choppedSalt and pepper4 garlic cloves, minced1 -2 teaspoons fennel seed that has been toasted and finely ground3-4 bay leaves4-5 fresh thyme sprigs2 TB dried basil (or cube of freshly frozen basil, thawed and chopped)1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce1 large lemon, juiced6 cups canned tomatoes with juice (1 quart and 1 pint)1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice2 cups dry white wine* 12 clams, scrubbed and debearded (discard any that have already opened) and/or 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded (discard any that have already opened)2 – 2 ½ lbs skinless wild U.S. Pacific Cod (or halibut), cut into 1 inch pieces1 lb large shrimp, uncooked, peeled, deveined (or 2 lbs Dungeness crab, cracked and cleaned)1 lb Pacific northwest razor clams, cut in pieces (add any clam juice into the broth)  2 TB chopped fresh parsley Heat olive oil and butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, fennel, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper and sauté until soft_ 7-10 minutes. Add garlic, fennel seed, bay leaves, thyme, basil, pepper flakes, Old Bay and cook for another minute. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, tomatoes with juice, clam juice and wine and bring to simmer; cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the flavors meld. * Should you decide to use clams, add them now and cook covered for 3-5 minutes until the shells open. Remove the clams and set aside. The same goes for mussels. Discard any clams or mussels that do not open. Add the fish, shrimp (or crap meat), the razor clams, and cover and simmer for just a few minutes and until the shrimp is pink and the fish is opaque. Add the clams back in and heat through. Taste for any additional salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Remove the bay leaves and thyme. Stir in parsley. Serve:  dividing fish, shrimp, clams, mussels… into large bowls. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil if you like, and serve with a crusty sourdough and a glass of red wine. Cook’s notes: you can make the broth ahead of time, refrigerate and then bring back to simmer and add the seafood as above. Remember to not overcook seafood.[...]

Still Hanging On... and Thanksgiving


Winter is here. Yesterday morning the landscape ground covers felt their first light blanket of frost. This morning's low is 31º F,  and below freezing temperature is forecast for the upcoming week. Cedrus atlantica "Pendula" (weeping blue Atlas Cedar)The wind and rain have come, and most of this is now history...       Cedrus atlantica "Pendula" ... but some of the foliage is still hanging on.Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood' with birch in the backgroundA star of the November landscape_ Ginkgo bilobabeautiful copper of the Fagus sylvatica 'Tricolor'Ginkgo bilobaWe wish you a Happy Thanksgiving here in America, and for all those family and friends both here and abroad, be safe and be grateful_ thankful in all that is given.  [...]

The Last of...


The last of the tomatoes_ green and red, cucumbers, jalapeno peppers, figs...

Tomatoes and Suyo Long
Fried Green Tomatoes!
Tomato, garlic, basil, S & P, Evoo_ my base, frozen in containers for future use
Spicy Stuffed Jalapeno_ individually frozen_ appetizers 
Turkey and Orzo Stuffed Peppers_ individually frozen for winter dinners

Nature's Palette


Fresh Fig and Pecan Bundt Cake


Brown Turkey is the single fig tree we have. In years past the fruit ripens toward the end of October and is a relatively short season. However, due to the unseasonably hot summer we have experienced, figs have been in abundance since September.   We eat fresh figs right off the tree; broil them with a little goat cheese; make fig jam, fig sauce, freeze them for our morning drinks, and of course share with friends and family. Generally dessert is not an option for us as we tend to steer away from sugar. Additionally most recipes have too much sugar for our personal taste and when using fresh fruit there is a wonderful natural sweetness that should not be masked. Stevia is an option sometimes used in limited amounts if sugar is required in a recipe and our neighbor Don introduced us to Organic Sucanat some years ago. Raw unfiltered honey is always a go-to. My husband loves this cake_ not too sweet and nice and fruity.  And the pecans were a gift from my friend Susan who brought them to us fresh from North Carolina. Fresh Fig and Pecan Bundt Cake from Diana's kitchen 2 cups organic spelt flour1 TB baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 13 TB unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/2 cup organic Sucanat 1/4 cup Stevia 3 fresh eggs, room temperature 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 cup yogurt 3 cups roughly chopped fresh figs, divided 1 cup pecans, choppedPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a Bundt pan.In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.In a large bowl, cream the butter, Sucanat and Stevia. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add and combine the vanilla and yogurt. With the mixer at low speed, add dry ingredients in 3-4 increments and mix until well blended. Stir in nuts. Gently fold 2 cups of figs into batter.Spoon the batter into the bundt pan, line the top of the batter with the other cup of figs, and gently smooth the top with a spatula. Bake until golden and a cake tester (flat toothpick) comes out clean_ about 50 minutes. Allow it to cool about 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a wire rack to complete cooling. Cook’s note: the additional one cup of figs may or may not be added. I chose to do so because of the quantity of figs being produced by the tree. Moist, fruity and such a treat.  [...]

Senegalese Chicken and Peanut Stew


Senegalese_ from Senegal on the northwestern coast of Africa. Senegalese cuisine is a blend of local Wolof traditions and Portuguese and French colonists' influence. Chicken, lamb, beef, fish, eggs are used in cooking while pork is generally not served due to the large Muslim population. One of Senegal's primary crops is peanuts. Also grown are tomatoes, beans, black-eyed peas, rice, sweet potatoes, onions... and various other fruits and vegetables. Last evening we had a roasted chicken for dinner, the majority of which remained and is perfect for this dish. We like the spice, the slight tartness of the lemon and the overall creamy quality. Rich and full bodied, there is nothing else required when you make this delicious stew unless you would like to add a crostini and a nice glass of white wine. We always look forward to the summer garden so additional vegetables can be added. Asparagus, spinach or kale, fresh cabbage... all come to mind, and last night my husband suggested digging and adding a few fresh parsnips. He is so clever.  Senegalese Chicken and Peanut Stew from Diana's kitchen1/4 cup unbleached flour1 1/2 pound cooked chicken, cut or torn into bite size chunks2 TB butter1 medium onion, diced3 garlic cloves, minced2 TB Curry powder1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper2 TB coconut oil1 quart organic free range Chicken broth1 quart diced (crushed) tomatoes with juice3 carrots, sliced2 small sweet potatoes, sliced thinly or red-skinned potatoes1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained1 cup fresh spinach or kale, chopped (any tough stems discarded)1/2 cup Peanut butterzest of a lemon1 can coconut milk1 lemon, juicedlarge handful cilantro, choppedSalt and black pepper, if neededroasted peanuts, garnishPlace the flour in a deep bowl or plastic bag; cut or tear the cooked chicken into chunks and toss with the flour until the chicken is coated.Heat butter in a large Dutch oven, add onions, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and cook several minutes longer. Add curry and cayenne, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Push everything to the side of the pot, add the coconut oil and heat to medium. Add the chicken and stir until it is coated with the oil. Bring the onions and garlic into the mixture and combine.Add the chicken stock, and with the wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pot until all combined. Add the tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and chickpeas. Simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are done, and stir often to avoid any sticking. Add the spinach, stir in the peanut butter, lemon zest and coconut milk. Heat to combine. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed. Finally add the lemon juice and cilantro, combine, and serve. Add roasted peanuts to the top of each bowl to garnish if preferred.Crostini: Coarse bread and thinly sliced, brush extra virgin olive oil on both sides. Arrange slices on a cookie sheet. Bake until slightly brown, a few minutes on each side at 375 degrees F.Cook's note: if you have added additional vegetables as we sometimes do, a bit more chicken stock may be necessary[...]

Full 'Blood Moon' and Lunar Eclipse


Saturday night, the moon appeared in a dress rehearsal preparing for a spectacular event_Lunar Eclipse of the Full Blood Moon.  Last night she put on quite the performanceAnd this morning riding high in the skythe goddess took her bow[...]

August, September and A Visit From Blogger Friends


Listening to the sound of thunder as we worked to put the summer fruit and vegetable gardens to bed yesterday, we kept hoping, praying for the rain that has been continually forecast but never appears. Thankfully we awoke to a bit of the promise this morning.Our summer has been hot and dry and with record heat in June and July, and unless the rainfall picks up substantially, we will not come close to the average annual rainfall of 46 inches.January (2.39), February (4.16), and March (3.06) yielded 9.61 inches, while April (.51), May (.54)  and the lonely first day of June with .3, totaled 1.35 for the quarter. July and August offered 0 and excluding the slight shower overnight, September has offered .4. Third quarter looks like less than half an inch with a year-to-date_ 11 inches.The vegetable garden has been winding down for some time. Farmers market spokesman indicated that which we have experienced: the unusual heat brought about an earlier than normal harvest and now most things are gone, whereas in prior years we have harvested such things as tomatoes well into October.We still have sweet peppers on the vine, but most turned their color in August. Green beans are long gone and earlier this summer the heat took it's toll on the majority of brassicas with an unbelievable infestation of aphids. I sprayed with Neem oil, but those buggers just moved to the next plant; once the cabbage was removed (most of which had to be tossed), they began working on the Brussels sprouts and then the broccoli.We would have loved to have a few more of our favorite Armenian cucumbers, but with the colder night temperature _ 40's_ the vines have powdery mildew developing, as do the squash and zucchini. Nearly all have been pulled and discarded. Even the tomatoes say we are done. The remaining apples were picked from the ground and trees, and the deer were happy to partake of some of them. Most of the vegetable plants have been dealt with and we are looking at a rather sparse slate so early in the year.A few of the raised beds have been prepared for fall planting: garlic will soon find its way into the soil; newly planted lettuce is coming along, and the kale continues as does the fall cabbage. And despite the heat of the summer, the flowers continue to color the landscape. Drought tolerant plants, ornamental grasses, and established shrubs say no problem.Devastating wildfires in the Pacific northwest have consumed more than one million acres, while over 7 million acres have been destroyed in 5 states. The loss of lives, homes, wildlife... is unimaginable. Although we did not have many fires in our area, we did experience days of low visibility and terrible air quality especially as winds shifted from the northeast.The good news is that most of that is behind us and we continue to do what we do and deal with the hand dealt. The landscape garden thrives as these most recent photos show. Friends and family are in our lives and we are blessed with each day.Speaking of special: blogger friends from Tennessee traveled out of their way to visit us here in early September. We prepared a special lunch of fresh wild Alaskan salmon (made into cakes) and lots of goodies from the vegetable garden. I have a few photos below, but you might also want to visit Larry, the Big Dude's site and enjoy his journey across country with his beautiful wife Bev and sister-in-law Pat.Ipomea Grandpa OttHydrangea LimelightThe devastating northwest fires gave way to some beautyfall AstersEggplant (Rosa Bianca) gratinPennisetum orientaleAugust leaves begin [...]

Fresh Heirloom Vegetables _ Gazpacho


Despite the record heat we have experienced this year, the positive side of summer is always the vegetable garden. Although this year the vegetable doth protest.Brassicas don't tolerate the heat very well, and couple that with extreme dryness_ the aphids have a field day. Interestingly the heirloom tomato plants are vibrant and healthy, but have been much slower to ripen than in previous years; we have had one or two here and there, and finally the first 20 pounds were harvested the middle of August.Walla Walla onions were cured and stored in July. The Orange bell peppers have been gradually turning color throughout the latter part of August, and to say the least, the cucumbers have gone gangbusters.With all ingredients available, it seemed time to make something special. Fresh raw vegetables mean Gazpacho. Sliced, diced and blended into a cold, refreshing and nutritious soup, it is perfect on a hot summer day. Serve as an appetizer, lunch, dinner, or at the end of a meal as you might find in Spain, and yes, Gazpacho's origin_ Spanish.Recipes abound and to suit ones preference: use stale bread or no bread; smooth and silky puree or slightly chunky, pass the tomatoes through a sieve (to remove the seeds) or not; add water or no water... but one thing is certain_ fresh! vegetables! yes, a liquid salad! Organic Heirloom Vegetable List:Tomatoes: Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Brandywine, and San MarzanoSweet Peppers: Orange Bell and Bull Nose BellJalapeno Pepper: TravelerSweet Onion: Walla WallaCucumber: Suyo Long and Armenian (no need to peel these)Gazpachofrom Diana’s kitchen 4 pounds fresh vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes, peeled and chopped 1 cucumber, chopped 1 sweet red or orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped1 sweet (Walla Walla) onion, chopped 2 jalapeno, seeded and minced 2 garlic cloves, minced 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 lime, juiced 1 TB balsamic vinegar 1 TB Worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon cumin 1-2 teaspoon kosher salt (taste test)1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepperfresh basil leaves, choppedFill a pot halfway full of water and bring to a boil. With a paring knife make an X on the bottom of the tomatoes. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for 15 seconds, remove and transfer to cold water for about a minute. Drain, peel and core the tomatoes. Chop.We hand chop all the vegetables and place them in a large mixing bowl with the tomatoes. Add the remaining ingredients: olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, cumin, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Transfer portions of the mixture to a Cuisinart or blender and pulse 5-10 seconds at a time to desired consistency (we prefer a more rustic soup). Return the mixture to a glass bowl. Stir, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or better yet, overnight. Serve with a slice of crusty bread or a crostini spread with some avocado. Simply delish!Cook’s Note: One of our favorite cucumbers is the Armenian that we used in our first batch. No need to remove either the skin or seeds. And today I used the Suyo Long for a second batch, seeds and skin intact. Can hardly wait for tomorrow.[...]

Cucumbers, Cucumbers, ah_ Pickles


Over the years we have grown various kinds of heirloom cucumbers, but the Armenian and the Suyo Long are by far our favorites_ both burpless and heirloom varieties, and the seeds are available through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.We use both cucumbers in fermenting, but the Suyo Long is perfect this time of year for making Tzatziki Sauce to accompany those wonderful zucchini fritters. A great snack, as a side dish, an hors-d'oeuvre ... cucumbers offer versatility and at only 16 calories in 1 cup, we look forward to a refrigerator well stocked from the garden vines.  Cucumbers in Vinegar and Water1 1/2 lbs cucumbers, sliced1 cup white vinegar2 cups water1-2 teaspoons Stevia (to taste) or sugarMix vinegar, water and stevia in a glass bowl. Add the cucumbers, refrigerate and allow to marinate overnight. Cook's note: depending upon you preference, vinegar to water ratio can be 1:1, 1:2, 1:3Other variations include adding a garlic clove and/or sliced onions.Cucumbers and Cheese  cucumbers, slicedParmigiano-Reggiano, slicedWe enjoy an array of cheese and crackers, but why crackers? For a nice twist and a quick hors-d'oeuvre, try a slice of Parmigiano-Reggiano served atop a cucumber slice that has been marinating in the vinegar and water.Cook's note: we have tried several kinds of cheese, but this is a favorite, as together it offers a nice balance of slightly sweet and sour with a little bit of salty.Korean Cucumber Salad3/4 to 1 lb cucumber, sliced2 TB Rice vinegar2 tsp soy sauce1 tsp dark sesame oil1/2 tsp kosher saltpinch cayenne (optional)Whisk together all ingredients and pour over sliced cucumbers. Refrigerate and allow to marinate 1-2 hours, and it's just as good the following day. Makes a great side or snack. Fermented Cucumbers_ PicklesAnd not just any pickle, but the good old fashioned Dill pickle that we seldom see anymore. No vinegar!  Fermentation is ancient_ as old as life itself.We're talking about a simple water-salt-garlic solution (and any other spice you might employ) that is allowed to naturally ferment and create live cultures_ probiotics_ that good bacteria we need in our gut. Studies show probiotic foods as helpful in keeping our digestive system in balance and combating problems with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), lactose intolerance, vaginal yeast infections, Chron's disease...In the past our fermentation had been limited to making sauerkraut, but we began fermenting cucumbers several years ago after having acquired Sandor Katz' book The Art of Fermentation, a rather in depth presentation _ the history and science behind all things fermented, should you be so inclined. Another book in our library is The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods.If you want to get right into making the pickles, here is Sandor's recipe for Dill Pickles from his website, and this from Mark's Daily Apple if you want to make just a quart _ same principle but useful for those with small gardens, no large vessel for fermenting, and a way to see how you like the process. This can be done in a gallon or quart jar, but due to the quantity of cucumbers, an old fashioned crock is our preference.  This is the latest combination of spices we have used, but do whatever combination of spice that suits your palate. 3 TB sea salt6 cups water4 teaspoons coriander seed2 teaspoons black peppercorns4 whole garlic cloves, smashed2 fresh bay leaf (optional)2 dried chili pepper(optional)2 fresh dill heads2 grape leaves CucumbersWe prefer c[...]

Eggplant 'Rosa Bianca'_ Grilled and Stacked


It deserves a post of its own.Solanum melongena 'Rosa Bianca' is clearly our # 1 choice when it comes to wonderful and beautiful. We have tried a number of heirloom eggplants over the years and have enjoyed them all, but this is our 5th season for this variety.S. melongena Rosa BiancaGorgeous lavender fruits streaked with colors of creamy white shading, this Italian heirloom has tender skin, great flavor, and did I say beautiful? Plus, the shape is perfect for roasting or grilling thick slices.80-90 days to harvest, and as with all eggplant, they love sun and heat. Know the seed is slow to  germinate, but as gardeners we know patience is a virtue and with great reward.Grilled Eggplant and Heirloom Tomato Stack with Balsamic Reduction from Diana's kitchenHeirloom tomato, thickly sliced (1/2 to 3/4 of an inch)kosher salt and freshly ground pepperfresh mozzarella, sliced, about 1/2 inchfresh basil, thinly slicedRosa Bianca eggplant, unpeeled and thickly sliced (1/2 to 3/4 inch)1 egg, slightly beatenPanko or bread crumbs2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oilbalsamic reduction (see below)Slice the tomatoes and sprinkle each with a little kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and set aside on a platter. Slice the soft mozzarella cheese, sprinkle with basil and put it aside.Dip each slice of eggplant into the egg, then into the panko, and transfer to a heated frying pan with olive oil. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper and saute until golden brown, several minutes on each side and until slightly fork tender and maintains some firmness. Remove and transfer to a plate for assembly. Assemble: grilled eggplant, slice of mozzarella with basil, tomato, mozzarella, and top with another grilled eggplant. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Um... reminds me of a portobello mushroom. Balsamic Reduction1/2 cup balsamic vinegarPlace the vinegar in a non-reactive saucepan. Heat on medium-high until it begins to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the vinegar becomes a syrupy consistency, 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.It will become slightly thicker when cool; if it is too thick, I add a touch more balsamic; if it is too thin, put it back on the stove for further reduction. 1/2 cup of vinegar should yield slightly over 1/4 cup. Keep it stored at room temperature. [...]

Hawk Haven


Over the past 20 years our landscape has greatly matured: trees and shrubbery we have planted have provided an abundance of cover and a wonderful habitat for wildlife in our garden.All kinds of birds frequent throughout the years: Dark-eyed junco, Nuthatch, Robin, Varied thrush, Mountain quail, Cedar waxwing, California quail, Sparrow_White-crowned and Golden-crowned; American goldfinch, Spotted Towhee, Grosbeaks_ Evening and Black-headed; House finch, Wild Turkey, Woodpeckers_ Pileated, Northern Flicker, Red-breasted Sapsucker; Lazuli bunting, Black-capped chickadee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Hummingbirds_ Rufous, Anna's, and Allen's; Mourning dove; Peregrine falcon, Osprey, an Eagle; Hawks_ Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Sharp-shinned_ adult and juvenile, and the Cooper's Hawk. Yesterday, as I sat at my desk working on the computer, a dark shadow swiftly passed the window_ less than 6 feet off the ground. I knew it was not likely a turkey vulture_ having never observed them flying that low. I quickly stood up and looked in the direction of flight; it had landed within the heavy foliage of the Magnolia stellata in the center of the garden. Could I manage a photo if I quietly tiptoed outside?outside my studio windowBut as soon as I stealthily traveled across the patio and into the path, it flew upwards to the top of the dead Madrone_ a Cooper’s Hawk. He/she_ it sat there with a watchful eye as I took the photos. Beautiful bird and with amazing eyes! Interesting that the hummingbirds were attracted to it.This morning (again while at my computer) I was startled by a thud at my window. There he lay on the ground, upright, in a resting position, but not moving. And as I looked around the garden and glanced upward, there was the Cooper’s Hawk again surveying the landscape from atop the Madrone. Breakfast? I couldn’t let it happen.Immediately I went outside, and yes, eyes open and in a resting position, the Mourning Dove was still alive and attempting to recover. As I stood there, the hawk flew off in the same direction as yesterday so I came back inside.Persistent_ it flew back to the Madrone, then down into the dogwood before it took off again. My husband came in a short time afterwards to say the hawk had flown right past him and into the south garden_ on a mission_ surveilling the landscape.   taken from inside the housein the DogwoodIt must be eating well as lately we haven’t seen the rabbits, squirrels or the chipmunk. [...]

July Forecast _ Hot


Yes, June 2015 was unseasonably hot (weeks of 90 to 100) and will go down in the record books as being the hottest June ever recorded! Our average June high is 73 degrees F.And July forecast_ continued HOT. We cannot recall August type weather so early in the season. Funny how one looks forward to 80 degrees following 100! Is it possible that August will give us back our June and July?Despite the heat, the gardens have done surprisingly well, and another nice surprise this month is the Blue Moon, a second full moon.The Full Moon of July 1 ushered in the red sky warningFull Moon    little visitorFresh vegetables harvested, leftover chicken, Quinoa...  casseroleMourning Doves are everywhere amidst the treesLovers foreverDivided, potted, traveled north, positioned... ... and planted my cousin's (removed the lawn) drought tolerant deer resistant garden."I think I love you"Suyo Long formingSuyo Long harvest6 1/2 pounds of wild plums from our Thundercloud PlumCeanothus Marie SimonR. BrandyR. Graham ThomasMs Robin's nestsouthern garden facing northView southsit a spellArmenian cucumberKorean cucumber salad: whisk 1 TB rice vinegar, 2 tsp dark sesame oil, 2 tsp soy, pinch cayenne, salt to taste; pour over 2 lbs sliced cucumbers, and allow to marinate for several hoursCucumbers and carrots fermentingDahlia Fascinationjust a Hosta but slightly sunburned Oriental lily timeVitexJuly 30: blistering record setting 105 degrees F (82 is the average)July 31: another record setting 105 forecast Full Moon ( Blue Moon)[...]