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May 27th, 2011

What’s on my rhododendron?

This moth was on my tomato cage this morning. I grabbed my snap shot camera and caught a couple of shots on the rhododendron before it flew away. Is this a good moth, or a bad moth? Is it even a moth? (It’s body is thick and fuzzy.) Maybe it is a butterfly. (It’s colorful, I’m seeing it during the day, and it surely looks like there are clubs on the end of the antennae.)
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Update! It’s a butterfly–a skipper butterfly. Thanks Denise Foley and Bill Johnson!

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May 13th, 2011

yep, I decided to garden again.

I really thought about not having a garden at home this year. Fed up with rabbits, baby groundhogs, and spinach leaf miners, I harvested the last of the onions, and went back inside for the winter. At the most, I was going to plant one envelope of wildflower seed someone sent me with a book promotion.

I never even cut back the dried out stems of the lilies. Doug Hall suggested I tell people I did this on purpose,  for Winter Interest.
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When our landlord came to mow the lawn, I felt a sense of guilt. At the very least, I could go into the yard and remove the dandelion crops from my garden beds. And take down my failed baby crib/chicken wire lettuce jail. And pull out the giant stalks of dead zinnias.

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Once we started digging in the dirt, I was hooked. Since I never bothered with seed starting, we got some basil plants from a local plant sale. We got them in the ground and I longed for straw mulch. And compost. That is how I found myself driving out to the Rodale Institute this morning, on a quest for more plants. I love the drive out to Kutztown.  When I see this field, I know to make the turn off 222. It’s the second time I’ve been to the farm this week. We were shooting stuff for the Aug/Sep issue there on Wednesday. Not a bad work week!

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There were already a lot of shoppers when I got there. I said hello to Maya, Eileen and Coach and started to browse. They had all sorts of peppers, tomatoes, eggplants and herbs for sale.

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The herb selection was amazing. I think I got dill, rosemary, thyme, cilantro and summer savory. I’m not sure. Every plant was greener and smelled yummier than the next. I kept sticking things into my flats.

loPottingSuddenly I had a full flat of seedlings. I had to ask where a plant pig such as myself could leave the first flat while I started the second flat.

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Tomatillos! Peppers! Red pear tomatoes! Chard! The lettuce seedlings I vowed never to grow again looked crispy and cool. I intend to grow these red and green leaf lettuces  in a vertical planter, far far away from the neighborhood rabbits and groundhogs. So now I’m back in the growing-my-own-food game. I can’t wait to go home and start digging.

The sale is done for today, but go out to the Rodale Institute tomorrow between 10 and 4 and see what they have.

Don’t miss  this event: 10:00 – 11:00 Q&A with the editors of Organic Gardening Magazine

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May 5th, 2011

Spring visit to Chanticleer garden

So I went to Chanticleer on Monday night. There was a reception for the new Chanticleer book by Adrian Higgins and Rob Cardillo.

I kept straying from the tour because I was distracted by the plants. Wishing I had my big camera with me, I walked around the garden a few times. We’ve had so much rain this spring, and it’s been so gray. It was nice to saunter around a garden in the late afternoon sun. I took over 100 snapshots, trying to inhale all of spring in one day. Why can’t you photograph smell? I kept looping back to the woodsy areas to smell the earth and look at the fiddle heads. These shots don’t do the garden justice, but maybe they will entice you to visit the gardens yourself. You’ll want to buy Rob’s book of quality photos as a reminder of your visit.

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April 28th, 2011

Notes from the Last Week of April

Snapped this right before the thunderstorm this morning on my way to work. I’m afraid today’s rains might have knocked off all the blossoms. We’ve moved away from the yellow parade, which started with witch hazel, then forsythia and daffodils. Now everything is pink and purple on my morning commute.

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Thanks for all of the good feedback on last week’s eggs entry. E’s dad showed me a quicker way to color the eggs. He didn’t wrap them at all. He filled the pan with yellow and red onion skins, and nestled the eggs into them before he filled the pan with water. He even let the eggs cool in the pan of water, so the eggs got a rich deep color. I was going to wait an entire year to post this, since Easter is over. Think of this entry, a few days after Easter, as if you are picking up your film from the drugstore and seeing your pictures for the first time.

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Here’s one of the marbled eggs from my original batch, hidden outside by the Easter bunny.

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Here’s one of the leftover goose egg shells from our April eggs feature. We had a bunch of wiggly eyes, so he was spared from the compost pile, and added to the egg hunt. It was a good weekend for an egg hunt, and for being outside. I even tried my hand at a cartwheel or two.

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And finally, a gratuitous gnome. For several months now, we’ve had a “gnome war” with E’s folks, hiding them in each other’s houses. I didn’t remember to hide them until we were leaving for home, so I just stuck this fellow by their garage door. I have a feeling he’ll be back in our garden by the end of the summer.

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April 21st, 2011

Color Your Eggs with Onion Skins

This morning I dyed eggs with onion skins. A few weeks ago, Eric’s parents told me how their mothers used to dye eggs in onion skin, and polish them with olive oil. It was fun listening to them reminisce, so I gave it a try.

01_Ingredients

Step 1: Gather ingredients. You’ll need eggs, onion skins, small pieces of cloth to cover the egg, and rubber bands or string. You can save your onion skins for a few weeks before you need them. If you forget, like I did, you can ask a grocery store for skins. (I got mine from the Rodale kitchen. Thank you, Leah!)

02_SoakClothSkins

Step 2: Soak. Soak both the onion skins and cloth in warm water. It makes the onion skins softer and easier to wrap around the egg. It’s best to use big pieces of onion skin; it makes a more uniform cover for the egg.

03_WrapSkinCloth

Step 3: Bundle. Wrap your eggs in the onion skin, and then in the cloth. Secure with string or rubber bands. I tried tucking loose pieces of onion skin around any uncovered spots on the egg. Since I’ve never done this before, I wondered if the rubber bands would leave any sort of mark, like they do when you tie-dye.

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Step 4: Cook ‘em. Layer the eggs in a saucepan. I chose a pretty one, for the photo. Then I realized I needed an inch of water above the eggs, and had to switch pans. This is the danger of being a photo editor. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat. If you are using large eggs, let them sit for 15 minutes.

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Step 5: Rinse. Here are the egg bundles after 15 minutes. They floated to the top of the pan, and I lost one rubber band in the process. You’re supposed to remove the cloth and skin right away, and rinse with cold water. I am a wimp, so I ran cold water over the still hot bundles for a few seconds before I freed my eggs. Then I rinsed them a few seconds more to stop the cooking.

07_Rinse

It worked! Also, my mystery was solved—the rubber bands did not leave any lines or marks. Some of the eggs I covered in small bits and pieces did not actually dye the egg. It gave these eggs a marbled appearance.

08_LightOliveOilCoatStep 6: Polish. Dry the eggs, then apply a light coat of olive oil with a soft cloth. This one is a bit extra shiny; I wiped it more thoroughly after the photo.

09_EnjoyStep 7: Enjoy! I packed these back up to take to Eric’s parents. They should be okay in the fridge for up to a week. These eggs may be a part of an egg hunt before they are turned into egg salad. This was pretty easy, and fun. Next year I want to try some with red onion skins.

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