A New Season has Begun

“For goodness sake!,” Jabber complained, “Can’t you post something upbeat?”

Yes, can.  Will.  Jabber can only be serious for a certain time period.  After that, well….it’s time to go back to fun and silliness.  Of which she has an abundant supply.  Evidently.

I, being 111, find it important to scatter in a LOT of fun and stop to smell the roses.  Of which I have none thanks to the dreaded Witches Broom disease which annihilated all of my beautiful Knockout Roses in the past couple of years.  Sigh….makes me sad to think about them.  Oh well, Hydrangeas will take their place and produce some pretty flowers this year.  But not for a while.

I do have some other blooming things to show……

Spring is springing around the Harpeth–we’ve already enjoyed the daffodils, the tulips are in bloom

and so are the red bud trees.  Here is a pretty one in our back yard.

See?  The little leaves are emerging!

Way high up, leaves are beginning to show in the tall trees behind our house…

And you can see that the Bradford Pear trees have already leafed out–they’re the green ones in the above picture.

The dwarf Japanese red maple tree has returned this year, despite a very cold winter–I’m glad it survived so well.

And the Laurel bushes are in bloom….

The prolific (and un-killable) mint has shown up again, soon covering all those leaves we raked into this bed last fall.  It’s almost planting time!

Not that I’ll be doing a LOT of planting, but a few flowers and herbs in pots will suffice to spruce up the area and the deck.

Meanwhile, our Miss Spicy Royal Red Paprika is ‘blooming‘ herself….she knows now very well how to come UP the steps from the yard, but is still fearful of going down by herself.

We don’t encourage it, either–we have stairs inside the house and are hoping to keep her downstairs for a while.  Housebreaking a puppy takes a while and even though we have seen great improvement, we’re not totally confident about her yet.  She’s never been upstairs–it will be a new adventure for her.  But not for a while.

Spring is springing and doing her thing.  It’s pleasurable for me to take the pictures and spend a few minutes sharing them with you.   Appreciating the beautiful day and the emergence of a new season and growth is important!  Take the time to look at your area and enjoy the new beginning!

An Update on Audrey III

“Has she come into the kitchen yet like the lizard?” Jabberwocky laughingly asked.  Then, more seriously, “I mean, she HASN’T, has she?”  Jabber is ascared of animals AND man-eating plants, too. 

See here for post about Audrey:  http://harpethview.com/2014/07/22/audrey-iii/

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No, no.  She’s stayed outside, quit her twirling about round and round and finally settled in one spot at the top where she continues to send out branches.  The top ones have encircled themselves now…….

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In a very pretty loop, I might add…………

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So, I do believe the danger of Audrey III has passed—at least for this growing season. 

P.S.  No sign of Leon anywhere, either.  (See previous post.)  This is a very good thing.  Bob the Painter arrived today to paint the garage and remarked that when I called yesterday about Leon the Lizard, Bob heard sheer ‘terror’ in my voice on the end of the line.  We laughed.

I still don’t want Leon to return, though.

Herb Harvest and Philosophy

“Oh boy, here we go…” Jabberwocky mumbled under her breath, “You’re about to say something YOU think is profundatory, aren’t you? An’ nobody is gonna’ get it.  You really ARE 112.”

Not quite.   Soon.  I feel qualified to have opinions.

“You always have had opinions.” Jabber muttered.

Of course.

So here is the herb harvest and what to do with it:

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Parsley, basil, rosemary, tarragon, dill and thyme grew in pots this summer surrounded by mint which comes back every year, and spreads, whether I want it to or not.  So I gave up trying to control the mint and just cut it in the spring and set herb pots in the midst.  That is my herb garden, nicely contained in that only herbs grow there.

Now it is time to harvest some of these herbs for use during the coming seasons.  One easy method is to cut, wash, and trim the herbs and place in ice cube trays, fill with water and freeze.  Once frozen, you can remove the cubes and place in a plastic bag.  Use these herbs for soups, sauces, casseroles as you wish—right from the freezer.  I do this with some of the herbs.

Others I like to dry.  This morning I picked some of each:

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The mint I’ll use for iced tea (it’s washed and I placed in glasses of water.) 

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Heat water, place the herbs in the hot water with the tea bags, cover and steep for about 5 minutes.  Discard bags and herbs.  Wonderful mint-infused iced tea!

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To dry herbs, simply group in bunches and lightly tie together with kitchen twine.  Hang to dry for several days.

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It’s handy to dry my herbs on the wine rack in the kitchen—they have a lovely aroma which is a nice scent by the kitchen table.

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Once dry, one can grind with a small herb pestle and mortar like this:

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Or simply use one’s fingers to crush the herbs.  I like to keep mine in these:

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But if you don’t have these, then an empty spice jar will do just fine.  Be sure to label.  These are so nice to have on hand for cooking—and to think you grew and dried them yourself is a plus.

“Ok, where is the ‘losophy in all this?” Jabber inquired, impatient to get to the point.

Waste not, want not. 

Aside from that, how do you think people acquire wealth anyway?  By spending their money on things which could be obtained in a less expensive manner and/or for less money?

Of course not. 

(Please do not give me a cynical retort here.  I know all the cynical retorts.  In fact, I likely invented some of them.  I’m 112, remember?   I’m talking about people like you and me—people who were not born with silver spoons.  And not born yesterday, either.)

Spices, like many items, are quite expensive today.  Go to the store and price them!  For minimum cost, I had “decorative” plants all summer—acquired them at a good price early in the spring, simply planted in pots (obtained at yard sales, of course!) with dirt which I did purchase—a little fills many pots—and watered.  If one is going to have ‘greenery’ in one’s yard or on one’s deck, it makes sense to plant something one can eat! 

It took about 30 minutes to cut, wash and hang all these herbs to dry—and I will have additional cuttings this season.  That likely is the equivalent of spending close to $20 or more in herbs. 

As it has always been, so it is now:  Waste not.  Want not.  Plan ahead.  Be organized.  Take time to take care (of yourself, your family, your friends, your things, your life, your money). 

Save the pennies and the dollars will grow.  Even in your 100’s………years, that is.

At the very least, you will have excellent spices on hand to flavor your foods!  Happy Harvesting!


What’s Up?

Aside from weeds, what else is up in your gardens or pots?

I planted ours very late this year.  Trying to keep costs at a minimum, but still have some color on the back deck in pots, I dug up some sweet potato vines which had ‘wintered over’ inside their pots.  Chopping the larger sweet potatoes (yep, they become sweet potatoes and no, I’ve never eaten any), I replanted a piece in several pots, covered with soil and watered. 

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(Security’s new ball is always close by.)

These sweet potato vines are both purple and lime green—very colorful and seem to live “to infinity and beyond!”

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It is very easy to root sweet potato vines—just cut off a few leaves and stick in water.  In a couple of weeks, each leaf will have roots.  Plant in a pot and voila! a new plant will grow.  If you have patience, this is a great way to save some money for the ‘viney’ look you may want in your pots.

Of course, I did buy a few geraniums and ‘spikes’ to add to the pots.  Below, some caladiums (I think that’s what they are—if you know better, let me know please) came back up—actually they were trying very hard to poke through the soil in their pots whilst still in the basement.  They got a new home and some plant food and seem quite content.

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In the largest pot, below, I place a planter; you can see the edge of it at the top of the pot.  After placing it inside, I discovered a bird had a nest below in the pot.  The bird and I were ‘at war’ but that seems to have ended.  I think the babies grew up and flew off.

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Stumbled/tripped across some information for keeping bugs off the sweet potato vines—actually it is a spray one concocts for black spot on roses.  Since I was spraying the roses today (every 2 weeks, but I think my roses are gonners even though I’m trying to save them*), I sprayed some of the solution on these vines as well.  Sweet potato vines tend to get ‘buggy’ and the bugs eat holes in the leaves making them not-too-attractive.  This should solve the problem providing I spray them every few days.

Here is the ‘recipe’—non-toxic and safe for children and animals:

1 gallon water

1 aspirin tablet

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon Miracle Gro soluble plant fertilizer

1 Tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap

Place apple cider vinegar and aspirin tablet in a container and let tablet dissolve.  Then pour aspirin/vinegar into water, add soap and Miracle Gro, mix well.  Spray with one of those pump sprayers lightly onto your plants.  For roses, the directions say do this every 2 weeks for black spot.  This is the first time I’ve tried it on sweet potato vines, but it should work for them as well.

An empty large jug of white vinegar is a good way to save/mix this spray.  Keep it in the garage and label so you know what it is.  I don’t have to use much of it each time, but I do use it often.

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**Roses:  I have “Knockout” roses which have contracted “Witches’ Broom” disease I fear.  If it is that, there is nothing which can save them.  So, I’ve a plan to replace them all this fall—PLUS the soil. 

You can read about Witches Broom here:

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/roses/rose-rosette-disease.htm

 

Audrey III

“It’s a vine! for heaven’s sake,” Jabber explained to me, matter of factly.  “Look, it’s just looking for a place to grab on and continue to grow.”

Sure.  That’s right, you just go ahead, Weeders, and agree with Jabber.  But take a look at these pictures, all taken from the same angle at different times of the day and THEN tell me this thing isn’t threatening!  Look how it keeps trying to reach out and GRAB something!  Reminds me of the musical, “Little Shop of Horrors,’’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Shop_of_Horrors_(film)  except this one is right next to my kitchen window.

Below, 8 a.m. July 22, 2014  (look at top of the vine)

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Below, about 9 a.m.

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Below, 10 a.m.  yes, she was looking right at me!

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Audrey the III, that’s what it is!  Searching for something to latch on to!  See photos below and then tell me it isn’t Audrey III.

11:20 a.m., Audrey III is reaching for the house. 

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“Wait a minute here……….” Jabber FINALLY noticed what I’ve been trying to tell her all long, “That thing is moving!”

Not only that, she seems to turn counter-clockwise about 180 degrees every 4 to 5 hours.  And her tip opens, then forms a circle, then opens again, reaching, reaching……..and she’s growing, too.

It’s 12:45 p.m.  Do you know where your plant is?

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Here is a close up of Audrey III

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Audrey III LIVES.  Do you think she’s an alien?

Surprise!

Surprise Lilies, that is.  Anyway, that’s what my mother used to call them. 

They are rain lilies, over 100 years old, from my grandmother’s garden.  They are bulbs.  They winter over nicely in or out of the pot under the house.  All they need is a lot of water and some sun……….

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This one was actually planted last week—about 6 days ago.  We had a heavy rain during the week, cool weather, and a lot of sun.  Surprise! Lilies like that.

It looked like this, only this morning earlier:

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I am always amazed by how things grow so quickly under the right conditions.

 

Living in a Cartoon World

We had our Bradford Pear trees trimmed back earlier this year.  This in order to prevent them from splitting when a mighty wind came along.  These trees are notorious for splitting.  Ours had become quite tall.  They are over 20 years old and most don’t last that long.

 
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Here is a second one in the yard:

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You can see the very TALL trees behind the Bradford Pear trees…..

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These other trees tower over our house and they DO worry me sometimes as they can bend and sway in the wind when a storm comes up.  But they aren’t our trees……….

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I chuckle when I look at our trimmed trees—they are growing sprouts at the top.  Soon they will have branches and be full—it is amazing how much they can grow in a short while!

I think they look like cartoon trees—maybe from the book “The Lorax”? 

"Unless someone like you…cares a whole awful lot…nothing is going to get better…It’s not."   Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax

(That book was written in 1971—and it certainly pertains to today’s world.)

Meanwhile, Security is busy in her own world with a ‘new’ ball she recently rediscovered in the yard:

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She can play, all by herself, for a while as she chases the bouncy ball around the deck.  Security is 12 1/2 in human years—and does quite well for a ‘lady of a certain age.’  She can be very entertaining with her antics.  A long time ago someone told me that standard poodles can be clowns.  While Security would bristle at such a label, I think she IS at times.

Sometimes I live in a cartoon world!

Some simple tips

Three simple ideas which may make your life a little bit easier:

image  Use bungee cords to keep a patio umbrella closed.

We have a long and narrow back deck which seems to be in a ‘wind’ tunnel.  Even with the umbrellas lowered, the wind would get under them and pull them up.  Sometimes the wind blows so hard this umbrella is lifted up out of its stand (at the base under the table) and threatens to topple over, taking the glass-topped table with it.  And I don’t need to explain what a mess that might be……..

TMWLH often was asked to take down the umbrellas (there are two on our deck)—what pain to have to take them down, then put them back up all summer!

Solution!  Use bungee cords to keep the umbrella closed!  A wind can’t easily pick up the umbrella and lift it for a flying adventure now.  And the bungee cords are so easy to put on and take off.  This has truly solved a dilemma for us.

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A very clever cousin of mine (also very thoughtful) sent me a unique singing birthday card.  Inside she signed the names of herself and her husband—on heart-shaped STICKERS!  This way, I can simply remove the stickers and put new ones inside with our names if we wish to reuse the card.  I had never thought of this method to recycle those EXPENSIVE, but oh-so-unique birthday cards! 

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Finally, this isn’t so much a unique idea as a reminder—about two weeks ago I decided to plant some lettuce seeds.  It is fall and lettuce likes cooler weather, generally—but I seldom remember to plant it late summer/early fall.

Lettuce seeds are very tiny and I had two packages which had been partially used, but still had some seeds in them.  (The packets had been around for quite a long time.)  I also had a pot on the deck in which I had nothing growing, but it did have soil.  I simply sprinkled the seeds on the soil, covered with plastic wrap, left in the sun (it had plenty of moisture in the dirt) and left it alone. 

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Now I have lettuce coming up!

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How simple can this be?  I didn’t even get my hands dirty by covering the seeds with dirt. 

Reminder:  now is a good time to plant your garlic bulbs, too.  I think I’m going to plant some in a pot this year and leave it on the deck for the winter as well.  (Make sure it is a plastic pot if you get freezing weather.)

Living in the Tropics?

With the rain, high humidity and heat, it’s felt like Nashville is ‘the tropics’ in the past few weeks.  The sun came out today so I took some pictures of plants which are loving this weather—most of them, anyway.

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My herb garden—the mint has taken over and I quit fighting it some time ago.  Actually, it’s rather pretty in a wild, untended sort of way, with the pots of basil, dill, thyme and rosemary interspersed.  (I harvested the Basil yesterday.)

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Our yard slants so that water runs downhill from one side to another every time it rains.  We also have several trees.  Between the two, grass doesn’t grow in many places, so we’ve had rocks put in most of the backyard area to cover up what would be mud.

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Turned the outside pot upside down.  This allows the inside pot to drain and gives some height to the plant.  Below one corner of the yard with the French Flower Cart.

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The deck plants are thriving, especially the sweet potato vines.

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And, on the side yard with the walkway………

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My Knockout Roses aren’t doing very well—I treated them about a month ago with food and some spray to help them along, and they’ve recovered just a bit. 

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But the Hydrangeas have bloomed and are lush and green now.

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My “French” metal sculpture with a garden Angel:

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And yet another lettuce growing from a cutting.  I’ve been amazed that it does grow in the heat as I always thought lettuce was a cool-weather plant.  Not these!

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The only potted plant not thriving is the Jade plant.  This is because it has been perpetually attacked by squirrels.  Thankfully, Jade plants regrow—insert the gnawed stem back into the dirt, or even just a leaf, and it will grow.  I’ve moved it to the safety of the deck and sprinkled lots of hot pepper flakes.  I hope this keeps the critters away!

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How is your garden growing this year?

Pesto! Presto!

“Top of the very wettish afternoon to all of y’all.

“Yes, ‘tis I, Jabber, back to explore the wonderful world of pesto.  Homemade variety.  Yes, do make the stuff, and freeze the stuff for the winter months when I’m warm and locked in the house for weeks on end, goes quite well with tomato soup, Italian pastas, and all that.”

Jabberwocky!  What are you doing?  This is MY blog and I’M the one who made pesto.  I’ve even got pictures.  Just stop taking over here, will you?  And you are NOT locked in the house for weeks on end!

“Well, Lady, if you’re going to go all possessive about YOUR pesto, I’ll just sit here and watch….”

Yes, well…..

Weeders, (I actually did weed this morning, during a break in the monsoons, and while I was at it, the Basil beckoned me and well, next thing I new, I was hands deep in pesto and what not……) I’ve never had Jabber take over like that before, so naturally, I’m a bit befuddled. 

“Not so unusual…”

My basil plant had grown very tall and was forming those little toppy things it does when it has decided to throw off seeds, so it was time to trim it back and harvest the basil.  Not that I hadn’t been doing same most of the summer for salads and such, but today, since it’s raining, I decided ‘twas a good day to make pesto.

Very simple:  (Recipe makes about 1/2 cup pesto.  I doubled this as I had enough Basil to do so.  Adjust as you need.)

Harvest, wash, dry and pull off leaves.  A few stems won’t hurt, either.  You will need 2 cups, roughly chopped. 

(I didn’t ‘roughly’ chop.  Actually, I didn’t chop at all.  That’s what food processors are for, right?  But I did ‘tightly pack’ and no, I have no idea why I keep putting words in apostrophes.  Wait……….I’ll check……..

You still here?  Oh, of course you are.  I’m checking and you don’t even know it, do you?  Nevermind……

I just looked it up.  I think I’m using apostrophes where I should be using italics.  But I’m not sure.  Oh this bloggy business can get complicated!  So one of you English major types, please let me know, will you?  I want to be Englishy Correct—sort of like Politically Correct, you know, but different.  And I’m NOTHING if not different, that’s for certain.  I digress……….back to the Pesto….)

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Toast about 1/2 cup of pine nuts in either the oven or in a pan on the stove.  Watch them!  They burn easily.

What?  No, no, do not watch them burn!  Watch them and keep stirring them around until they are lightly toastedy-looking (see picture below) BEFORE they burn.  If they burn, you can’t use them.  Well, you could, but you wouldn’t like the pesto, which would sort of ruin the whole point of this, wouldn’t it?  So just be careful with the pine nuts, Nuts.

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Peel 3 garlic cloves.

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“Lady, you can’t count.  There are seven garlic thingies there!  Are you tryin’ to confuse them?”

Well, I SAID I doubled the recipe and yes, I added one additional garlic clove.  I happen to like garlic.  Pay attention!

“Am.  But you can’t count.  Or be Gramama-ish correct, either.”

The word is ‘grammatically’ Jabber.  Grammatically.

Measure 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup olive oil.

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Process all of the above in a food processor. 

Add pepper to taste.  You could also add salt, but I usually don’t because it’s tasty without it.

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Store, tightly covered in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Which is why, of course, I put mine in ice cube trays, freeze, and then remove and keep frozen the cubes of pesto in a tightly sealed container. 

image I spray the trays with Pam before filling.  Otherwise your ice cube trays may be permanently green.

Keeps for months!   And, as Jabber said, it is terrific with a variety of dishes mid-winter when you are wishing for summer to get here.

Pesto?  PRESTO!

This is a SOUTHERN LIVING magazine recipe.  Sorry, don’t know the date on it.

 

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