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Showing posts from August, 2015

Late Summer Seasonal Salad

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This is the best time of year in the garden, because just about everything is ripening at once. It makes from some excellent eating in August and September. To wit:


The burger was great, but the salad? This might be the best salad ever. It's at least the best salad you could make with all seasonal produce in the waning days of summer. 
To make it, you need a bed of young (and therefore less peppery) arugula and beet greens. Thinly slice a fennel bulb, a couple radishes, a small red onion, and a small apple (we used our last Summer Rambo, a variety that ripens in August on our heirloom 4-in-1 tree). Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fennel fronds. 
That's all there is to it — no dressing required, really. It's so flavorful just the way it is, and it's crunchy, juicy, and awesome. We're looking forward to repeating it with other fall apples (I picked a Macoun today!), so this is likely to be on our plates until we run out of fennel.

Flower Friday: August 28, 2015

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This is the last Friday of summer vacation, so it could be the last Flower Friday for some time. Good thing all of my favorite colors of snapdragons re-bloomed for (at least) one more show:

Snapdragons

Mean Martha

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Since Dolley's death, there has been a major shake-up in the henhouse. Though apparently benevolent, Dolley must have been in charge of the whole operation. We never heard her squawk much at the other birds, though she did try pecking at the little girls through the wire in their separate run before they were all integrated. She died before we had a chance to see how she would treat the young pullets.
Enter Martha:

Dolley left a power vacuum that Martha was quick to fill. (Martha has always been the most skittish, so this may have been a defensive move that bore a lot of fruit for her.) She terrorizes the young birds, stabbing at their tails and chasing them away from food, water and treats until she gets bored or needs to go lay. The henhouse has been much louder lately as she squawks and bullies her way through the day. 
This is all totally normal behavior (for chickens), and since no one is bleeding or hurt, we've mostly let it go. But the other thing that happens in the (…

Flower Friday: August 21, 2015

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Glad I made it outside to cut flowers yesterday before today's downpours came and crushed a bunch of our cutting bed plants. Here's what I'm enjoying in the vase this week:

hosta, snapdragons, and zinnia

black-eyed Susans

rose, Chinese forget-me-not, lavender, and yarrow

Plight of the Blue Jay

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How loud does a blue jay screech? Extra loud, if he's stuck in your three season porch:

We've had a lot of birds take up residence here this summer: woodpeckers, chickadees, catbirds, cedar waxwings, and cardinals have all moved in, in addition to the usual robins and sparrows. Kirk even saw a humming bird in the perennial border, though it was too fast for us to get a photo. I think they all took advantage of the power vacuum left by Fletch's absence, and somehow they all manage to get along despite the presence of many blue jays.
In case you're not familiar, blue jays are mean. I've seen them keep crows at bay, and they screech and scratch and generally bully anything else with feathers. 
And we have a lot of them this summer, picking away at some of our grapes and pole beans. 
But how did one end up inside? Cooper must have caught it and dragged it in through the cat door. He then proceeded to play with it for what must have been most of the afternoon:

If you l…

Flower Friday: August 14, 2015

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There are still lots of flowers going strong in the cutting garden, and they seem no worse for wear as the ride out the dry spell we've had this August. This is one time where the deep afternoon shade is a blessing, but in general I think most flowers would enjoy a sunnier location. Alas, they will always play second fiddle to tomatoes and beans, and so must learn to adapt to less than optimal conditions.
Anyway, I really love blue flowers, so I was excited to have enough blooming at once to make an all-blue bouquet:

Chinese forget-me-not, bachelor's buttons, and lavender 
I also grabbed a few other really bright flowers for a different room. That zinnia grew with a crazily bent stem so it looks a little funny, but I like the way the yellow center exactly matches the other yellow petals:

Zinnia and black-eyed Susans
I almost put some pale pink snapdragons and baby's breath in that blue bouquet, but decided against it. Pink and blue always makes a pretty combination, but I…

Jeepers Creepers

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At the beginning of the month I saw this guy in the peas when I was pulling weeds:

It's not all that easy to identify a caterpillar, and nothing that popped up on my go-to online identifier seemed quite right.
In the meantime, I found another one nibbling away at our corn:

As that will not stand, he was promptly fed to the chickens, and I haven't seen any more around. But I did finally have a chance to do a little more research, and I think this is a Yellow Wooly Bear, which, as it somewhat confusingly turns out, isn't always yellow. They come out toward fall and eat whatever they find in their paths, which makes me not at all sorry that I fed the two I found to the chickens. 
Well, maybe a teensy bit sorry, since it grows up to be a pretty cool looking White Tiger Moth if you let it. But most not sorry, since I like to eat corn and other things that I worked hard to grow.

Making French Cornichons

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When we have made enough sweet gherkins for the year, it's time to switch to sour little cornichons: 

These are far less involved than the gherkins because they're a refrigerator pickle. This recipe lasts pretty well forever (unless you lose power for several days and have to dump the contents of fridge, I guess). French cornichons are small and sour and totally delicious with cheese and other charcuterie-type delights. 
The only tricky part about making them is remembering to pick the cucumbers when they're still tiny — the size of your pinkie finger is ideal. In the quart jar I have above, some are more the size I would use for gherkins. For whatever reason, all the really tiny ones are facing the wall in this photo. 
Anyway, I think I've perfected my cornichon recipe, so give it a try if you're up to your ears in cucumbers: It's a great way to slow down your yields for a week or two since you won't have to harvest giant cukes later.
Cornichons (For 1 pint…

Summer Strawberry Shortcake

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Summer tends to make us pretty lazy in the cooking department. When we're enjoying really great ingredients from the garden, we don't have to do much to them to make them taste good, so there's just a lot of lightly steamed vegetables, refrigerators pickles, and some easy stir fry and curry dishes. You don't have to think about recipes so much as just pick some things and eat them.
Today, though, I have a real recipe, with actual measurements and everything. Though our first round of raspberries has just ended, our second round of strawberries has just begun, in a stroke of truly excellent timing.
We have several varieties of strawberries, but Seascape is definitely my favorite:

These are an everbearing variety, so instead of giving us just one big flush of berries in June, they give a small batch early and then have a second bloom that provides a steady supply of berries from August through early September. The second round is even better, because the warmer temperat…

Flower Friday: August 7, 2015

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Today's Flower Friday is a tale of two cutting gardens. On one hand, we see the happy mayhem of just cutting whatever happens to be blooming and throwing it into a mason jar:

Baby's breath, phlox, black-eyed Susans, zinnia, bachelor's buttons, penstemon, hosta, and snapdragon. 
On the other hand, we see the result of some carefully controlled color selections. When I first started planting the cutting garden, I chose perennials in a range of sunset colors: orange, peachy-salmons, golden yellows, plus deep purples and blues for contrast. I also tried to choose seeds forannuals that fit that scheme this past spring as well (though looking back, I can see that some things didn't bloom).

Anyway, the idea was that anything in bloom at any given time would look good together. I guess that's true of the first bouquet, but below is a primo case study of what I was going for with that sunset color scheme:


Echinacea, yarrow, roses, foxglove, and Chinese forget-me-nots.

In t…